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Alternative to Microsoft Streets and Trips?

I can’t handle being called an anti-Microsoft person — that would be like being called a Universal Mom over a Walt Disney World Mom. But with Jim retired from Microsoft due to his disability, I have been given lots of new found freedoms over the past two years. We all have iPhones for one.  I cannot begin to tell you how horrible it was 12 years ago to be forced to use early adopter alpha beta gamma whatever they call it – I called it junk – Windows smartphones. The only thing they did good was let me play Bubble Burst.

On our last two cross country trips we used a laptop and Microsoft Streets and Trips. It lets you plan a trip from A to B, but “budget” in hours of sleep or rest and add stops to your itinerary. It had its problems — the biggest being no one goes on vacation on DAY ONE. We need to be somewhere by June 25th, 2012 – not DAY FOUR. I don’t know if they have fixed that bug from previous versions yet – fingers crossed.

But back to the original question — before I spend money on the 2011 or 2012 version of Microsoft Streets and Trips – is there an alternative?  Are you guys using anything I should look into?

Jolly Holidays Thursday

The whole reason for us being here this week instead of a week that would have been way more convenient for school schedules and vacation schedules is because Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure does not start their holiday festivities until the second week of December.  Don’t ask me why.  It’s a tragedy that we have had annual passes to these parks forever and have never gotten to enjoy their Christmas offerings because they start them so close to Christmas.  I say get on the ball, Universal Studios.  The rest of the known world has their holiday decorations up at the crack of October.  What nerve you have waiting until CHRISTMAS to decorate for CHRISTMAS!!

So here we are, just in time for the holiday happenings at Universal, so that’s our plan today.  Except when we get there, the only time the Macy’s parade is marching is at dusk, just before the park closes.  Well, we don’t want to stay that late.  We have to be up early tomorrow to be on an airplane.  And the Islands of Adventure park ONLY has Christmas in Dr. Seuss island.  We can be done that in about 15 minutes.  So disappointing.

Anyway, we head in to Islands of Adventure for the Grinchmas celebration.  The stage show, new this year for the 50th anniversary of the story How the Grinch Stole Christmas, doesn’t start until noon, so we are way early for that.  We do the rides, we meet the Grinch, and the girls run into a few of the Whos from Whoville, who are wandering the area, telling people to be careful of the Grinch.  The Whos seem reluctant to pose for pictures, so I more or less took a few pictures of the kids talking to the Whos.  We putzed around a while, and Eilis got to ride the roller coaster, and then we went back for the stage show.  It was cute.  That’s all.  I wasn’t bawling my eyes out from the warm and fuzzy Christmas sentiment.  It was more like the Jim Carrey version of the Grinch, where you don’t much like the Grinch, even after he’s good.  But Eilis got to go up on stage and sing with the Da Who Doraze part of the show, so that was cool.

As a side note here, some woman passed out behind me.  The way they seat the show, all the kids can go up front and sit with one adult from their party close to the stage.  The rest of the adults have to stand at the back.  It was crowded and pretty hot, and an elderly woman fainted behind me with about 10 minutes left in the show.  She was still laying on the ground, appearing to be unconscious, when we exited the show, and the medics were walking over, confused about where to go.  I don’t know if they got lost, they didn’t call them right away, or it took them that long to get there.  Whatever the story, I hope they were able to get medical attention for this woman and she has recovered fully from her ordeal.

We rode a few other things, then had lunch at the rib place that Jim is so fond of.  We started to head out of the park at about 3:30 to head to Jim’s mother’s house for dinner.  We skipped Universal altogether, since the only thing I really wanted to see was the parade, and they had it so much later than I had hoped it would be.  There was not a line for ANYTHING that we wanted to ride at IOA today – even the roller coasters were a 5 minute wait.  I know when we go back after Christmas we won’t be so lucky, so I’m glad we got to take advantage of the short lines this trip.