Black Homeschool Travel: November in the Bahamas

by Nicole Huffman

A large part of our homeschooling experience includes traveling. As the holidays are quite difficult for me, I jumped on the opportunity to go on a cruise to the Bahamas instead of suffering through another painful holiday with people who simply tolerate my existence. My son and I had a great time learning more about the Bahamian culture while on this beach hopping expedition. It was not lost on me that there was a time when our ancestors were traveling the Atlantic in boats, and it was not by choice. I also will not forget that people gave their lives so that my son and I could enjoy God’s beaches just like other citizens. We had a wonderful time learning more about Black History around the globe while enjoying activities that we never could have experienced once upon a time.

In the following video, I give my detailed review of my first cruise with Royal Caribbean. This was my 6th overall cruise, 6th ship, and 3rd cruise line. We traveled on the Enchantment of the Seas. Choosing this ship is not something I will ever again do. It was an extremely unsettling experience, and I have nerves of steel when it comes to any type of travel. I highly recommend that people avoid this particular ship. You can hear more about it in the video.

Quick Synopsis of My Grades

Ship (Aesthetics)- A

Ship (Amenities)- A

Ship (Accommodations for inside cabin)- A for look; C for size; C for bathroom amenities- there was an issue with the toilet not flushing toilet paper without having to pour water into the bowl to wash the paper away from the sides.

Ship (Comfort)- F— I felt quite unsafe on this ship, and I have been on smaller vessels as well as one during hurricane season. This was the first time that I thought we were not going to make it to our first port. This was the first time I felt safer on an excursion’s tender boat, sailing in the ocean, than I felt on a ship.

Crew- A

Food (Presentation)- A

Food (Quality)- A

Food (Taste)- D-

Entertainment- A+ for the headline singer; F- for the coontastic comedian

Upselling of Products- F. I felt attacked as soon as I was about to enter the gangway- before boarding the ship. It was over-the-top sales-y. There was even a professional photographer in the water at CocoCay Beach. He was taking pictures to later sell for $20 a piece.

Excursion- A+ for Nassau’s Blue Lagoon Dolphin Encounter; C for RC’s private island at CocoCay. The beach was nice; the food was much more flavorful than what was served on the ship; but it was very loud and too commercial.

Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival

I hear a great deal of talk about how RC is so much better than Carnival, and how it is a top of the line cruise ship. That was not reflected in my experience. Carnival’s grades were all A’s and B’s in the above mentioned categories (except for the Liberty’s aesthetics, I give that a C-). Nevertheless, I am more than willing to give RC another opportunity to prove me wrong. It just will not be on the Enchantment of the Seas.

12 Ways to Have College Application Fees Waived by @NowWithNicole

Cutting College Application Fee Costs

Whether you are completing a common application, or applying to an individual school, the following are at least 12 ways that you may be considered for an application fee waiver.

1. You’re enrolled in or eligible for the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch program.

2. Your family income meets the Income Eligibility Guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service for your state.

3. You’re enrolled in a program that aids students from low-income families.

4. Your family receives public assistance, i.e. TANF.

5. You live in federally subsidized public housing, a foster home, or you are homeless.

6. You’re a ward of the state or an orphan.

You received a fee waiver from one of the following test administrators or organizations:

7. SAT

8. SAT subject test

9. ACT, Inc.

10. National Association for College Admissions Counsel (NACAC)

11. Realize Your College Potential Fee Waiver

12. Individual College Fee Waiver. Most of these options consider income, for the individual college waiver, however, you should apply for these regardless of your income.

10 College Planning Tips by @NowWithNicole

10 Quick Tips to Get Your Student Started

  1. Guidance counselors may be biased and unhelpful when it comes to helping your child prepare for college. You may need to seek outside assistance from a professional.
  2. The student should create an Education Resume that includes a professional e-mail address, GPA, class rank, and has these minimum four sections: 1) classwork (highlight honors, AP, college courses, etc.); 2) community service; 3) awards and recognition; and 4) ACT/SAT scores. Also include any work history, however, the focus should be on the academic record.
  3. Your child needs to have more to show than  grades and test scores if she wants to be competitive for acceptance and/or scholarships. Scholarship committees in particular like to see well-rounded applicants.
  4. Students should start looking for scholarships as early as their 8th grade school year. Some awards may be received long before the child is a senior.
  5. The essay matters- a lot. It can win you a scholarship that your grades and test scores alone would not. It also provides students the perfect opportunity to discuss matters such as reasons they could not participate in non-academic activities, whether there were any health or family issues they had to overcome, and anything that could explain a season of struggle in their grades or lower than desirable test scores. It also is vital that they use this time to showcase their personalities. 
  6. Start planning Letters of Recommendation early, after freshman year is best. Make sure your kids know how important it is to have good relationships with their teachers when it comes time for those letters. Colleges and scholarship committees prefer to see an endorsement by someone familiar with your child’s school work, work ethic, and/or community activism. These tend to be more impressive than a letter from the senator- unless of course the senator really knows your child. 
  7. When interviewing for internal or alumni related scholarships, encourage your student to at least act as if the school is his top choice.
  8. The future college enrollee should file her FAFSA on October 1st and apply for schools even if she doesn’t have ACT/SAT scores. Some schools are “first come, first served” when it comes to financial aid awards.
  9. If your child is interested in attending the University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M University, admissions officers have said that the automatic admission of the Top 10% is now more like the Top 6%.
  10. Search Eventbrite for college planning events. They have tons of them.

25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Booking Air Travel

Homeschool Travel Tips

If you are interested in giving your child a worldschool experience, one that is not bound by four walls a city, a state, a country, or a continent, here are a few travel tips to help in your research. These are especially relevant for international flying. They do, however, work for domestic travel as well.

25 Questions Yourself Before Booking Air Travel

The answers to the below questions will affect your costs

  • Who is the carrier and does it matter?
  • Is it a big carrier who is also using a regional carrier?
  • What days do you want to travel?
  • What time of day are you leaving and arriving? Pay attention to time zone and full day changes.
  • What is the travel season in your departing city?
  • What is the travel season in your destination city? Peak, high, low, or slow?
  • Should you just book two one-ways?
  • Are you traveling non-stop?
  • If you have connections, how many connections are there?
  • Will you make your connections if there is a delay?
  • If you have a connecting flight, how much time will you be on layover?
  • If your layover is overnight, where will you stay?
  • Will you be up to getting on and off the plane and waiting for your next flight? Will your travel companions?
  • Is your flight refundable?
  • Are you allowed to pick your own seat?
  • Do you get to pick your seat at the same time you make your reservation?
  • What are the luggage rules for your rate class?
  • Is there free food service for long haul/international flights?
  • Is there free beverage service outside of water for long haul/international flights? Super side eye to British Airways….
  • Are you booking through a 3rdparty site? If so, who are you paying, the site or do they take you to the airline’s website for direct booking?
  • Can you get the price cheaper if you make some changes to any of the above choices when picking your flight?
  • Do you want to make changes to any of the above in order to lower your price?
  • Is your end goal the absolute cheapest price or the lowest cost that has everything you would like in your flying experience?
  • Are you comparing apples to apples or apples to oranges? Price will always be dependent upon the above listed questions. If the price is different, but the dates or travel season or time of day are different, you are not comparing apples to apples.
  • Have you talked to anyone in the travel industry about the price?

Free Travel Research Sites

Some free sites to consider for research purposes. I always encourage going directly to the website after visiting these sites:

Google Flights. Google flights is a got base whether or not you choose to go to another site to book after you manipulate the dates in Google’s system. I would highly recommend using it to begin any research.

SkipLagged.com. I like this site because you can simply type in your city of origin and travel to “anywhere,” and it will populate possible destinations for you. This is not a feature that is available on all research sites.

Travelocity.com. I primarily use them for hotel research, because they have an easy to use system with great filters. After going to their site, I then go to the actual hotel website to book. It’s usually cheaper. When it is not, it’s a matter of a $1 to $3 difference. I am more comfortable booking directly, because if I have a problem with my reservation, it is easier to deal with the actual hotel than a third-party and the hotel.

Expedia.com. I use this site for the same purpose as Travelocity, however,  I prefer Travelocity because of it’s clean, not overwhelming set-up. There truly is such a thing as information overload.

Subscription Sites and Apps

Out of personal preference, I do not endorse subscription services for finding flights. I believe with enough legwork and time, you can find the deals on your own. Thus, this post is based upon you doing your own research. If a travel subscription is something you would like to try out, however, here are some options:

SkyHi– They also have an app.

Skift– They also have an app.

FinalPrice– This is the link to their app.

FlyGlitch

Airline Specific Subscription Services

United- Economy Plus Subscription 

United- Baggage Subscription

Spirit Airline $9 Fare Club

Frontier Airline Discount Den

DISCLAIMER: The information listed in the free and subscription resources is subject to change at any given moment. Always do your research.

Tips and Information on Flying Basic Economy

American Airlines– from The Points Guy

American Airlines– from American’s site

United Airlines

Tips on Seat Selection

Seat Guru

A Quick Tip. If you want room between you and travel companion during a long haul/international flight, depending upon the airplane’s configuration, you can skip a seat when you make your selection. Also, keep in mind bathroom breaks and whether you want to be disturbed if you’re sleeping, or you want to disturb someone else or suffer if s/he is sleeping, when choosing your seat.

Another Great General Resource for Air Travel

The Points Guy