Dear Delta: Unaccompanied Minor Edition

A few hours before I was Comic Con bound,my nephew departed after a six week stay with us in the PNW. After some drama at the Delta counter, we were able to send him back home although he was really rooting for another screw up to stay longer…

Well he almost got stuck at JFK inside the flying metal tube because the flight was delayed almost 2 hours. As he blissfully jetted through the stratosphere, my cousin – his mother – was unsuccessfully getting through to the Delta counter to ask for instructions to pick up her child. Even though we knew of the delay, no one ever gave us after hours support at the final destination to retrieve the kid after he landed.

In SJU, the airport counter closed before the airplane arrived. No one was there to ask for ID, to verify his mom was who she said she was, or to close out the protocols for flying as an unaccompanied minor. At 13, my nephew is extremely resourceful and self-sufficient but is still a child. His mother had to charm TSA and security to get to the gate, a risk in itself, but she managed to get to him without him even realizing the panic and chaos that had ensued on his behalf.

To avoid any other families from having to go all Taken on your company, we suggest you take a look at how the unaccompanied minor policies are followed at each airport counter. You need some serious amendments or at least some consistency because the treatment we got was disconcerting, condescending and not helpful. The safety of the children has to come first, and the price to secure the status of UNMN should not be squandered this way. The $150 USD each way were not worth the experience, and feel more like a nickel and dime situation than a genuine attempt at safety and comfort for all involved.

Customer care will help us figure out some compensation but man, stuff like this shouldn’t just happen. If I hadn’t had the foresight to stay behind and arrive at San Diego for Comic Con a day later, the cost to redo the entire itinerary would have been in the thousands! Maybe your staff doesn’t care about the collateral damage but we do. The cost could have been way higher if something would have happened to the child…on his own at an airport after midnight.

Sincerely,

Me, Gold Medallion and ex-airplane engineer

Sunlan Star Wars Lego Exhibit – Portland, June 1 to Sept 1

We went to North Portland for brunch at Miss Delta’s (which was closed for a staff event) and we ended up at Radar. While we waited, we walked around the corner and found this gem at Sunlan:

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Made as a tribute to Ira James Newell, the friend that helped him build all the Lego Star Wars sets featured on the shop’s windows, Dennis had this collection set up for the enjoyment of the public. My 13 year old nephew wanted to see an AT-AT Lego walker and when we saw it he was overjoyed!

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Please swing by, enjoy this display, and sponsor the store. 🙂 Star Wars geeks must spread the word!

Carolina Bound: 4 Days Visiting The North and South

When our Man of Honor decided to get married it offered us a chance to visit the Carolinas, a place we had not considered exploring in our many travel lists. Set for Memorial Day Weekend 2017, the wedding was to take place in Greenville, SC, a town serviced by the local airport GSP. For reasons beyond our control, tickets to land there connecting through ATL (we fly Delta) were about $400 USD more total for two people so we had to fly to neighboring CLT (Charlotte, NC) to save some big bucks. Because of this we decided to make an adventure out of our predicament and hit both cities in before and after the wedding. Two states in 4 days. Who knew?

We started the trip in Charlotte, after a long nap and a red eye flight schedule I vowed to never attempt again. Leaving from the West Coast means you sacrifice your beauty rest and we couldn’t risk driving and falling asleep at the wheel so we booked a night at the airport Double Tree. Nearly starved by the trek, my husband found a Cuban restaurant called A Piece of Havana that served mofongo  and arroz congri, a savory Latin American meal reminiscent of my grandmother’s cooking. The guava ribs were delicious and we can’t wait to try the recipe at our next BBQ. Afterwards we went to the local AMC 22 theater and watched Baywatch to mellow out for the evening. Worth every penny.

The next day we caught wind of an event called Speed Street named after the racing events taking place in Charlotte Motor Speedway during the holiday weekend. The city close off certain downtown streets to host visitors and entertain them free of charge. The highlight of the event, the Coca Cola 600, was set for Sunday at 6pm but my husband decided against attending because it was going to eat into the wedding post activities. Our college pals were all there for the big event and we had decided to improvise meet and greets while we had the chance. Next time, I promise we’ll make time for some track time but for now, the NASCAR Hall of Fame will have to suffice. 🏁🚥🚘

The Hall of Fame is in the downtown area and costs $20 per adult. They have special pricing for students, seniors and children some including the audio tour and food combos. The museum has about three floors of hardcore fun, history and interactive displays for fans of all ages, giving guests the opportunity to experience the racing culture and early beginnings. This bootlegging sport is a part of the Americana, of the mainstream, and has so many sponsors and driver types that it is hard to not find a champion. Since 1993, I have been sponsoring this sport and I credit it for most of my automobile and racing engineering knowledge. As a fan of #24, back when it was driven by Jeff Gordon, I cannot describe how awesome it was to be in the Hall of Greats, amongst the artifacts of legends. Pretty neat family fun, extraordinary yet relevant to modern times. I highly recommend taking a gander. “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity.”

After a quick lunch at Mimosa Grill, we headed out to Greenville to meet up the crew and start the wedding countdown. The expressway was riddles with collisions and slowdowns, taking about 2 hours to arrive to our destination: The Hyatt in Downtown Greenville. What we saw was an unexpected sight for PNW eyes: Flanked by tech and manufacturing companies, the likes of BMW and Michelin, the bustling city benefits from a mix of charm, culture, history and a booming young middle culture. It is tucked in a very bucolic area with rivers and forests worthy of hikes and camping. Totally felt like a cross of San Antonio, Portlandia and well, the south.

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Strolling down Main ST gave us an opportunity to take breaks from the 85°F weather inside ita many breweries, distilleries, mom and pop shops, and epicurean retreats. We were amazed of the cosmopolitan nature of our surroundings, especially in a place we didn’t expect to find Afghan cuisine nor a 24/7 outdoor and challenging scavenger hunt for kids! There’s something for everybody in Greenville, and I’m not exaggerating. When were getting into the valet area we spotted the WWE team setting up for an episode of Monday Night Raw in the nearby events center.

If you ever find yourself in this area make sure to visit Dark Corner Distillery, Sip Wine and Whiskey, Mellow Mushroom, Sticky Fingers, Aryana, Sushi Murakashi/The Orient and the Roost (we did brunch here). There are so many good food choices you cannot go wrong. Some places were pricey but it was because a beer pint was $7 bucks a pop and they didn’t have flights to sample local offerings easier. Outside seating is available almost everywhere with room for kids and pets to join in on the experience. 😍😍😍🐶🐶

I wish we had done more exploring but catching up with friends took up most of our time. Between shopping at lululemon, hunting down local beers and tracking the groomsmen (we were there for the groom) we had a lot on our plate. People mentioned the zoo and a park at the end of Main ST which we saw right before our departure. Guess Cookout, Waffle House and Krystal will have to wait for our next adventure.

Enjoy the pics!

Cirque du Soleil – It’s French Canadian Eh

A long time ago, in a country far to the north of where I grew up, a man had a vision: to bring art, the circus acts and wonder to the masses by including elements of technology and folklore. The show transcended taming lions or showcasing freaks, it focused on the struggle of the human spirit and skipped the animal cruelty portion, introducing a concept that was new and novel to the Western world. (Check the Wikipedia link for more info.) In this magical and colorful world of Cirque du Soleil you become a part of the show as they break the theatrical “fourth wall” to address and entertain the audience. Each individual character is designed to provoke a reaction and convey an element of the theatrical performance. Their gift for costume design is legendary and a must see during your lifetime which is an easy thing to do because they are a worldwide traveling circus. Woop woop!

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Luzia

My first show under the Grand Chapiteau or Big Top was Varekai. This was one of their traveling shows, years after they had established permanent venues in Las Vegas and other locations in North America. The top was bright red and the spectacle of Icarus’ rise and fall was colorful and full of soulful music. The acts ranged from jugglers, magicians and gymnastics to flying couples using silk ropes and harnesses to delight us with aerobatics. It was one of the most captivating experiences I had had until we saw the show Ka at the MGM Grand. Their ability to create a moving, floating 3k ton+ stage was a true feat of science and engineering only matched by the beauty and myth of the story it helped elevate. There wasn’t a person I talked to that didn’t feel cajoled to see a show after meeting me. It’s that good!

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Luzia

The show itself is more music and pantomime than worded script so it is very good for kids and introverts like me who can let their imaginations run wild. Even though the last show I watched didn’t captivate me, the engineering behind it did impress me almost as much as Ka’s. Sitting inside the climate controlled tent with my refreshments at hand, I had to wonder what the future held for this production of Luzia (it was a bit hard to follow because the stage was too busy to be enjoyed from close range) and how it would influence the performances that will follow it.

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Luzia.

Recalling how much more we enjoyed the simpler and not as technical Cirque at the Symphony, I think this franchise is very well cemented and timeless so it won’t need incredible feats of engineering to continue to shock, awe and inspire the next generation. You just have to peruse their offerings and there’s sure to be a show that flies your fancy. Check out the Cirque website for tickets and showings. Do not miss an opportunity to experience the modern circus, Canadian style!

Enjoy!

Big Book Sale by Friends of The Seattle Library

With prices ranging from $1 to $4 based on the type of book or media selected you cannot go wrong visiting the Exhibition Hall at the Seattle Center to secure rare finds. They have graphic novels, movies in DVD, audiobooks, old and rare collections, and even never used or lightly used books! Thanks to social media and nerdy patrons, the event was a success. There were so many patrons they had to close the doors and form a queue just so they could process sales faster.

I wss impressed with the selection and quality of the used items. As part of the library’s collection and/or consignment, the offerings were endless. For example, they had Books for early 1900s, The Office BBC series and vinyl. Paying with cash or credit was a breeze as they have many tellers to charge you after thr table volunteers count your loot and tally up the check. I got 10 books for $20. All brand spanking new and from this decade. 🙂

Running Friday to Sunday, take advantage of this sale. It is a book lover’s paradise.

Enjoy!

Metal Earth DIY: Cinderella’s Carriage

Disney made a deal with the makers of Metal Earth to design DIY model kits based on their most popular characters and films. These are available for purchase on site at the Disney parks or can be found in museums, online and in certain novelty stores. Favorite designs include Star Wars Star Destroyers, R2-D2, X-Wing, The Black Pearl, 3D Castles and Cinderella’s Carriage.

The models can be put together using tweezers and pliers since the manufactuter touts that “no glue is required” to join the pieces. Sadly, the Cinderella’s Carriage model my coworker got me as a gift didn’t live up to that expectation. The undercarriage got fatigued and broke off as I was putting it together and although salvageable, other components buckled and broke off resulting in the loss of many valuable pieces and aesthetics.

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Metal Earth, Cinderella’s Carriage. 

Ironically, we ended up needing to glue some of it together. To add insult to injury, the instructions were not super easy to follow nor sequenced optimally so some improvisation was required. Read the entire manual before commencing to ensure success. After 6 hrs of hard work the final product was ready for display. Yay! It came out looking good but not great, and I have the scars to prove it. 😦 The part holder edges are extremely sharp!

Many of these Metal Earth kits will have you cursing rather than enjoying your evening without the appropriate tools or approach. Check Amazon for tool kits specially made and marketed for this hobby. Not recommended for the faint of heart or people with kids under 3 due to small parts. Rated 14+.

Enjoy!

Emerald City Comic Con

The ECCC is a Seattle area based event where comic artists and all things geek coincide to give puny humans a chance to experience cosplay, sci-fi and nerd/geek culture. Film and TV stars along comic book legends honor guests with their presence, charging for photo ops and autographs. Woop woop! This is how I met Kyle Reese aka Michael Biehn and Hellboy aka Ron Perlman! Brings lots of cash or prepay for the many meet and greet experiences. Just remember, you will need a badge or ticket to attend if you buy sessions online that don’t include the price of admission.

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Main Floor. Copyright MrsEnginerd 

Lines can get brutal but not as bad as the San Diego Comic Con or other major outlets. Panels do become full and have wait times so bring snacks and entertainment. Featured themes include everything; from the role of females in movies and video games to up close and personal Q&A with your favorite movie and TV stars.

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Copyright MrsEnginerd – Game of Thrones Panel with Sir Loras

The cool thing is that if you forget to dress up or choose not to you can still people watch and enjoy the conferences! And FYI: The promenade behind the comvention center is a good place to people watch, right across from the main hall, as this is the point of access for attendees. ❤❤❤

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Cosplayers at ECCC 2015. Copyright MrsEnginerd

Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2017, ECCC is full of surprises. They will have Stan Lee, Jamie and Claire from the hit Showtime series Outlander, and Tom Felton from Flash and Harry Potter fame. You can check their webpage for more info on past and present attendees to know more or less what to expect. Some cosplayers will agree to pictures and usually the 501st Legion is available for photos, accepting donations for their favorite charities or selling items made of local Star Wars fans. 😀

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Main stage at ECCC, R2 and C3PO. Copyright MrsEnginerd

Usually held in March or April, this event is a good addition to a personal, business or family trip. Tickets go on sale in late January or early February so get yours ahead of schedule to avoid counterfeits or overpaying through resale outlets. Passes are available for one day or the entire weekend. Plan accordingly cause they can get pricey as the cost varies by day.

Enjoy the movie previews, screenings, costume balls and the many booths on the floor. Wednesday to Sunday geek fun is on the horizon for me as I got tickets for Sunday, March 5th 2017. It has grown to be a not to miss event these past years.

Resistance is futile.

10 Tips to Optimize Your Disney World Resort Vacation

Not all Disney vacations are created equal and if you are on a budget, these tips may help make your visit a magical and less expensive one:

1. Resort stay vs outside lodging

This one will depend on your idea of convenience and budget. Staying off site requires a rental car, paying for parking and driving to and from the parks. (See below.) The Resort stay includes airport transfers and transportation around Walt Disney World  which saves time and money. At $92 USD a night, the All Star Resorts are the cheapest fare. Unless the hotel you chose outside the resort has shuttles and airport rides included with the hotel nightly rate, your best bet is going with Disney Resort accommodations.

You get exclusive extra park time and perks for being a Resort guest, like the MagicBand. Do the math carefully and choose wisely.

2. Rental Car vs Airport Transfers

At a cost of $60 to $90 USD for a family of 4, it is best to rent a compact or economy car than to pay the fee. However, if you don’t have a Shuttle at your offsite hotel paying for parking will dimish the savings. The Disney Hotel/Resort stay includes transfers to and from the airport via the Disney Magical Express, and to the parks via internal trams, monorail and boat. You just need to book the pick up and drop off time in advance. The staff will yake care of checked luggage at the airport delivering bags to your room within 3 hrs of arrival.

3. Standard parking vs Preferred

Standard parking is $20 USD a day per park but you must take a trolley to access the main gates from the parking lot. Preferred runs $35 USD a day per park and is within walking distance to your vehicle. If it rains, both options will get you drenched if you don’t have a poncho or water resistant shoes and outerwear. Unless you have to make frequent trips to the car (park reentry is allowed) the extra cost is not warranted. Make sure to leave earlier or later than the guests who exit after the fireworks and traffic will run smoothly for both options.

4. Book your FastPass+ and restaurant or special event reservations in advance

You can reserve FastPasses six months in advance of your visit. Only three passes per day per guest are allowed. Check approximate wait times and book passes for the most popular attractions way ahead of schedule. Frozen Ever After, Peter Pan’s Flight, Dinosaurs, restaurant reservations and some special events sell out days and even months before. Planning ahead is the key to successfully navigate these parks especially during summer/high season and spring break.

5. Take advantage of the return policy

So your kid threw a tantrum and you caved in purchasing an item that got discarded or ignored 5 minutes later…Don’t worry! Keep the tags on and the receipts and head on to any store or kiosk to return or exchange the item. However, some sales are final and excluded from the return policy hence check or confirm the item is eligible before completing the purchase. This works well for people who buy impulse souveniers and realize they can’t truly afford them. Unworn, unwashed items with tags will be accepted. Mickey ears with tags and no visible wear can be returned too. Another alternative if you are on a budget is to buy souveniers in the cheap stores outside the resort and sneak them in and give them to your kids. Win-win.

6. Bring your own snacks

This one was new to me and it is the tip that ends up saving you the most. Fill a backpack or bag with goodies and you won’t need to spend $3 USD on water or snacks plus you won’t have to worry about alergies or nutritional content. Meals run $10.99 USD and up for adults, $7.99 USD for kids, which adds up fast for a family of four. Water and soft drink bottles are permitted too. No alcohol please. (All the parks except Magic Kingdom sell alcohol starting at $7 USD.)

Bring your own poncho. Most dollar stores sell them and they are waaay cheaper than buying them onsite.

7. Stroller rental vs bringing your own

This one depends on a few factors. If you have a 5 or 6 year old that doesn’t have a stroller, you may want to rent one so they can take a nap or walking break. If you have your own stroller, and you don’t want to carry it around, the parks offer one and two seat vehicles for rent from $15 USD. Packages may be available for longer stays; check online for details. During the high season these sell out quickly. Make reservations promptly.

8. 4 Day Magic Tickets vs Park Hopper

Until the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend, Disney is offering a 4 day Magic Ticket that retails for $279 USD plus tax. This special puts park entry at $70 USD per day and comes with black out dates in April during popular Spring Break dates. You can visit one park per day, with reentry privileges, within 14 days of activating the ticket during your first park admittance. The park hopper is at least $60 USD more expensive but allows you to hop between the parks at your convenience. The hopper is a good bsrgain for those.who only wany to bist for 2 or 3 days and have been there before. Book online and ask a reservations castmember for more details.

9. MagicBands vs regular ticket card

The MagicBand comes included with your Disney Resort package as it doubles as the room key. You will be able to charge purchases to your room and access the park with the band. However, the option to use the band for just park entry is available. Basic color bands are available for purchase at the main ticket booths for $13.99 USD. Character and limited edition bands retail for up to $27.99 USD each. The new band will be activated to your account and the room key capability transfers as well. Castmembers will ask you to scan the card or band to tie pictures, FastPasses, and payments (hotel guests only). If you want a collectible and functional souvenier, splurging on MagicBands is an alternative. If you are okay keeping track of the cards for each family member, skip this one.

Remember to use the same finger when logging into the entrance scanners.

10. Take your own pictures

In most character spots and greet areas there will be a Disney Castmember willing to take a picture with your device. You can also take your own candid shots and won’t be penalized or scolded for choosing to do so. The photographers are very understanding and aware of this rule and only ask that you move along as quickly as possible in an orderly manner. Have your cameras ready for maximum efficiency. Selfie sticks are not allowed inside the parks; leave them at home. Memory Maker, the Disney photo service, runs about $60 USD a day or $170 for the entire stay and allows you to print and download pictures and videos for personal use. You have 30 days to decide if you will purchase this add on and the photos will be yours for life! Expensive but worth it if you are a horrible photographer or don’t have quality image devices.

Feel free to ask for more tips or advice in the comments section. 🙂

Enjoy!

Disney’s MagicBand

For those not aware, the Orlando Disney Resort implemented a wireless ticket and enhanced stay system that stores your Disney hotel, payment method (charges to room, doesn’t work to pay if you stay off site), FastPass+, meal plans and pictures that also serves as an admission token. Called the MagicBand, it is meant to be an accessory and collectable item as it comes in many colors, patterns and Disney themes.

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You can customize your band with many extras like you would Crocs (for lack of a better example).

Around the park you will see the Mickey ears logo in the locations where you have to use your MagicBand for access or payment. It is so convenient that I was able to leave my purse at the hotel, one less worry if it got lost or stolen. (It happens.) Tap the Mickey to the Mickey and voilá! You are done!

For my stay at the Disney Pop Century, the gave me a plain grey band upon check in because I booked less than 6 days before arrival. If you do this in time, you can order your favorite color band or upgrade to one of the limited and park editions before checking in. They will be delivered to your home and come in a personalized kit. A good way to surprise the kids. You can also use it for entry into the parks without a resort stay. The ticket window has a few basic options so you can upgrade your paper ticket experience for the MagicBand.

I loved being able to purchase a usable memento of my trip. Keep track of the expenses though as the My Disney Experience app will not tally it up for you and will only track tickets, pictures, add on packages and FastPass+ (3 total per park per day).

Enjoy!

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