Friday Five: Our Top 5 Disney Souvenirs

Everyone’s top 5 Disney souvenirs might be different but here is a list of our favorite take home goodies:

  1. Everyone needs a set of Mickey Ears! I have my very first pair from when I was 6 years old and my latest pair (from Magical Vacations, LLC that I proudly earned) in my office today. You can get the original Mickey ears or show your special personality with a Star Wars R2D2 to Minnie Mouse or Winnie the Pooh ears!  There are so many designs to choose from that it can get overwhelming.  The cost starts at $13.95 (for a baby set of Mickey ears) and goes up from there – most are around $20.00 so not a bad price for a souvenir plus you can even have your hat monogrammed! They can be found at Magic Kingdom at The Chapeau on Main Street, Hollywood Studios at the Five and Dime, and in Epcot at Mouse Gear.
  2. My other annual souvenir is a Disney World Christmas ornament.  In fact the kid’s teachers get them often as Christmas gifts with a gift card and they LOVE them. One of my favorite places to get these is at Ye Old Christmas Shoppe (Magic Kingdom) and the Days of Christmas Shoppe in Disney Springs. These can be personalized as well if you’d like for a small cost but worth the memory every time we decorate the tree!
  3. All kids (and maybe some adults) need to have one autograph book/pen in their “memory box”. Character meals are our favorite times and places for these and are great mementos that are personalized by each Disney character that comes to your table. There is even a place for a photo to add once you are home. My daughter loves to look at hers every once and awhile. You could even save some money and create your own autograph book before you go with all the great scrapbooking materials out their now.  Be creative!sil
  4. One of my favorites is the silhouette drawing because my mother had them of my sisters and me and I grew up always seeing them, which brought back great memories each time I passed them on the wall.  Now, I have my two and mine on a wall in our master bedroom and they are so special to me. To capture the sweet innocence of a young child is just precious!   These great keepsakes take a short amount of time (less than 5 min for my two) and are only around $12 each.  You can get them on Main Street or Liberty Square in Magic Kingdom, France in Epcot, or Disney Springs.
  5. Pin trading is another one of my kid’s favorite keepsakes from Disney and it is so popular. You can buy a small starter set or just a few pins to begin with and put them on a lanyard, and then you trade with cast members and people around the parks.  Some are worth more money and are special editions. I have a friend that went on Ebay before their last trip and bought a huge bag for a fraction of the price to take and trade.

Ok – so I was arguing with my kids and we really have more than 5 so I’m just going to add one from each….Olivia says that the ride pictures are in her top 5 but I thought that was really just Memory Maker so not a souvenir but she made a good argument. The candid photos are one of our favorite things to pose for and we have a few in frames around the house!  Lastly, Jordan (my animal lover) says you can never have enough stuff animals and he does about every Disney character in some form. They can start at about $10.00 and go on up but everyone needs at least one Mickey and Minnie!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

These are just a few keepsakes that you can get from Disney World to help make those magical memories last for a lifetime. I hope you get to make some soon and if you’d like to get started planning your Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, please feel free to use the contact form below.

Monday’s Magical Tips: Disney World with Picky Eaters

Picky eaters can drive a mom (or dad) crazy!!  Trust me, I know with 2 of my own.  However, you are in Disney World and they will try their best to make everyone happy,  🙂

I thought that I would name a few of my picky eaters favorites to help you on your next trip:

Magic Kingdom:Tonys-Town-Square-Restaurant-in-the-Magic-Kingdom-in-Walt-Disney-World

  • Tony’s Town Square (Italian – spaghetti or just butter noodles if wanted)
  • Casey’s Corner (hotdogs, etc)
  • Crystal Palace (character buffet)
  • Golden Oak Outpost (chicken nuggets, waffle fries, etc..)
  • Liberty Tree Tavern (American, burgers, etc…)
  • Be Our Guest (my son says they have the BEST mac-n-cheese EVER!)
  • Pinocchio Village Haus (one of our favorites!)
  • Gaston’s (HUGE cinnamon rolls-not a meal but really good)
  • Cosmic Ray’s (a little bit of everything)

Hollywood Studios:

  • ABC Commissary (cheeseburgers, salads, nuggets, etc…)
  • Sci-Fi Drive In (kids favorite with American usuals)
  • Hollywood Brown Derby (hubby’s favorite but kids love Filet Minion too!)
  • Backlot Express (a lot of everything)
  • Mama Melrose (Italian – huge portions to share)
  • Pizza Planet (you can’t go wrong with a cheese pizza!)

Epcot:

  • Electric Umbrella (burgers, salads, nuggets,…)
  • Garden Grill (inside The Land where Soarin is)
  • Sunshine Seasons (food court style)
  • Coral Reef (popcorn shrimp are always a kid’s favorite)
  • Each of the countries have something that a child could find to eat I think…

Animal Kingdom:

  • Rainforest Cafe (right outside of the park on the left)
  • Tusker House (character buffet)
  • Restaurantosaurus (burgers, salads, nuggets…)
  • Pizzafari (again it’s pizza!)

I hope this helps some who have a hard time with the wee little ones.  Also, note that every restaurant (counter or table service) have vegetarian and gluten free options now available.  What is your favorite “picky eater” eatery??  Let us know!

And if you are ready to get started planning your Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Disney Springs New Boathouse Restaurant


IMG_8759The old Downtown Disney is slowly turning into Disney Springs.  As a veteran of West Side and the Marketplace, I must admit that I was a little sad with all the changes. (I still long for the Adventure’s and Comedy clubs) However, I do like the new additions with the smart tech parking decks (see last post) to the great new dining options.

IMG_8762One new options is the new Boathouse Restaurant which offers upscale, waterfront dining.  The atmosphere is nicely nautical from regattas trophies, boat motors everywhere, and phenomenal artwork throughout.  Disney always has that attention to detail so make sure you walk around to soak it all in.  Hopefully you will be lucky enough to get to dine in one of the “boats” – how fun!!  If not, then no worries since every seat has a great view of the water.  I personally like the outside, dining area- if the weather will cooperate.IMG_8763 2

The menu made it hard to choose from all the great choices and a bit pricey however, the meals are good size so you are able to share many dishes.  My sister and I halved the Stuffed Crab BLT sandwich which was a special for the day and it was incredible.  It got two thumbs up from her as well who knows her crabs being from Annapolis!  I can’t wait to go back for the surf n turf!IMG_8761 2

IMG_8802 2

The best “show” is outside of the restaurant which is the new Amphicar which is a car AND a boat!  You can experience your own cruise experience with a guided captain for a 25 minute boat tour of Downtown Disney as it floats on the water.  The aqua-car has seating for four with the price tag of $125 and you can purchase the tickets in the gift shop.  We stood for a while and watched the Captain drive a family into the lake with a splash.  It was fun to cheer them on from the shore as they floated away from the dock.  I believe that this is the only place in the world to ride in these great vintage vehicles so don’t miss seeing it while around Disney Springs!

Lastly, do not forget the gift shop. I have to mention the ducks.  Yes, I said ducks.  They are in every “theme” you can think of and only $20.  My kids LOVED the ducks and they were fun to see all the many different ones to choose from.

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If you are ready to eat at the new Downtown Disney/Disney Springs restaurants or float away in the Amphicar then: Please contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, please feel free to use the contact form below.

Friday Five: 5 reasons to get excited for Disney holidays!

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So it’s Saturday, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late for the Friday Five. Today I’m talking about why I LOVE the holiday season in Disney World. Disney starts the “holidays” early – the 2nd week of November. All of the full holiday decor will be out after Thanksgiving, but if you want to get a taste of things without the crowds and the price of Christmas and New Years, there is plenty of good time and availability to travel. Here are some of my favorite things about the holidays in Disney:

  1. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This event occurs several times per week in Magic Kingdom. It requires a special ticket to enter, but it’s truly magical. What’s not to love? Snow on Main Street, Christmas Carols throughout the parks, special character meet and greets, an amazing set of holiday fireworks (set to Christmas Music), and an amazing holiday parade. Plus free cookies and hot chocolate (grab it from Crystal Palace so you can sit down and enjoy it!)
  2. Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree! Everywhere you look there are Christmas trees. Between all 4 theme parks and the resorts, you’ll find uniquely themed trees that are larger than life! These also become an additional photo opportunity (even in the resort). We got some great family photos in Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge after some appropriately timed dining reservations! Take time to marvel at the detail.
  3. Life-sized Gingerbread House. In true Grand Floridian fashion, you can find a life sized gingerbread house FullSizeRender 5with little details unique to each year. It is truly amazing to see. Similarly, you also have amazing edible displays at Beach & Yacht Club, Contemporary, and Boardwalk. Take time away from the parks for a little bit of an amazing experience
  4. Candlelight Processional. This event in Epcot is free with park admission but doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving. A celebrity narrator tells the story of Christmas with a huge orchestra and choir. It’s truly a way to get into the Christmas spirit. Seeing Neil Patrick Harris as a narrator is on my bucket list (maybe someday). While the event is free, you may see yourself waiting a long time to get a coveted seat. To guarantee a seat, book a Candlelight Processional dinner package at one of Epcot’s restaurants. It will give you an opportunity to sit and enjoy the whole show. Out of the budget or can’t snag a reservation? You can stand behind the stage and still catch some of the show (we stayed for about 15 minutes before my toddler had an “I’m tired” meltdown). Life still happens in DisneyIMG_4280
  5. Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. I saved the best for last! This is my favorite Disney World
    holiday tradition. I can guarantee you that a few tears where shed the first time I experienced the floor to ceiling lights, snow, and carols all around. It’s nothing short of magnificent. Photos, videos, and words just can’t do it justice. You’ll be able to see this amazing experience beginning the 2nd week of November and through the holidays. It does get crowded the first few days and Christmas through New Years so there may be specific walking paths. Both times I visited in 2014, it was open walking. I sat on a curb for awhile and just reveled in the beauty!
A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 or 2016 holiday Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

The New Downtown Disney Parking Garage Finds Your Spot!

How crazy is it to get excited about a parking garage but I actually was when we were just there and I don’t think that I am alone. 🙂  The whole area of Downtown Disney is turning into Disney Springs and a lot is happening!

The Orange Garage for the West Side of DTD

The Orange Garage for the West Side of DTD

The first of two garages is open and I finally got to experience it first hand.  The smart technology is awesome!  As you enter you will find a sign to your right that tells you how many spaces are open on each floor!  The first floor was being used for valet (unless they change it in the future) and the main walkway down is on the second floor which is where we parked.

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Then as you reach each floor, the rows will tell you how many are open there as well.  Each parking space has a little green/red light above it to show if it is empty or full.  The only problem I found with this is that we came upon an open, green light and there was actually a motorcycle in the spot so I guess it did not “trigger” the light system (you can see hanging down in the picture).  However, it is a nice touch!

Inside the garage

Inside the garage

There are well marked stairs, escalators and elevators along with plenty of personal to help get you where you need to go.

IMG_8849

Marked well and easy to follow

Also, they recently had the opening of two new walkways that will give guests a direct connection to the West Side.  These new bridges are accessible on the second floor of the Orange garage.  You will come out from both of these at the intersection of Splitsville and Planet Hollywood and can take the bridge to your right towards the Marketplace or go left at the new huge Starbucks for  Splitsville and the many others on the Westside.  We went to the right because had dining reservations at the new Boathouse (it was wonderful) and came upon the Aquacar.  It was too cool and caused crowds but I will save that for another post.

Build another one for the Marketplace!

Building another one for the Marketplace!

Although the construction traffic is a inconvenience at the moment know that it will be worth it in the end and go experience these enhancements for yourself-you will love them.  There is so much new to explore so we hope your next visit is just around the corner and if not then we can help!

Just ask for your free quote today to get started planning your 2015 or 2016 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, please feel free to use the contact form below.

Memory Maker Magic

I can not say enough about the new Memory Maker package!  My husband and I are it’s greatest fans and we most definitely use it to it’s full potential!  We have over 300 pictures from one trip!  This photo service gets everyone in the picture at all the prime locations which is so nice to have all four of us in all our Disney photos.  Once the picture is taken, the photographer asks for one Magicband from the party (my kids would take turns using theirs) and he/she “zaps your band” and they magically appear in your Disney PhotoPass account.  My husband would see how long it would take for them to show in our account from his iPhone as we walked away from each attraction.  They were pretty fast to showing up and impressed us!  Then you download the pictures and videos to share and print them out at your convenience.

There are Disney PhotoPass Photographers everywhere through out the parks to capture all the memories of your family smiling together in front of Beast’s Castle, hugging Mickey and Minnie Mouse and much more.

Hey, who's on your arm?!!

Hey, who’s on your arm?!!

The attraction shots and videos are awesome and I admit that we do pose for them – granted not as lavishly as some that I have seen on the internet but still we do have our fun moments. Our favorites have to be the photos of us whizzing by on Expedition Everest, plummeting down Splash Mountain and my hubby’s new favorite is the slow-motion video as we zoom around a corner on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Magic Shots are a new Disney Magic touch that Disney does so well.  You can have Chip or Tinker Bell in the palm of your hand as well as Olaf and his snow cloud right beside you.  Dining Photos are now available as well at select restaurants and dining experiences which is nice to have added!

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Your downloads will even include some great pictures of characters around the parks and of certain attractions.  So, if you are planning a trip any time soon I would love to help you order yours before you go or help plan your trip.  The price for the  Memory Maker in advance will save you $30 at the price of $169.00 but once you are at the parks it is $199.99.

Then get ready to have fun and SMILE!

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation and make great memories with your Memory Maker? Please contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, please ask me how!

Tips and Tricks for Disney World’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Reservations

 

Bibbidi Bobbidi what? Disney World has 2 Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique locations: one in Downtown Disney and the most coveted reservation inside Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom. As all in park attractions and distractions, valid theme park admission is required.

So what is it? One word for it is AMAZING! Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (BBB) is a makeover for princes and princesses ages 3-12. There are varying packages and prices based on your budget, but the experience is excellent nonetheless. Your princess will be paired up with a fairy godmother to make her dreams come true!

Some tips and tricks to get you in the door, choosing the best reservation and preparing before arrival:

Making your reservation:

  • Booking begins 180 days prior to your arrival. If you are an advanced planner and have your Disney World resort reservation or package reservation made by that point, you have some advanced opportunity to book more than 180 days out. This gives you a chance at a reservation before the park opens. It’s an amazing experience to see Cinderella’s Castle and take some photos.
  • Booking your boutique reservation must be done via phone using the specific boutique phone number. These cast members can also help you book dining if you’d like some personalized help planning your vacation (or use a travel agent to take care of everything for you).
  • Phone lines open up at 7 am EST, so chances at the first reservation go early. Set an alarm!
  • If you’re not sure what package you want, you can tell the cast member helping you it’s a bit TBD and make your final decision upon arrival. It’s still best to do your own independent research beforehand so you know what you’re getting into.
  • If you call too late and no boutique reservations are available, check Pirates League – there’s a Mermaid package available for girls. While it isn’t the princess makeover you may be hoping for, it’s still a fun experience!
  • You can make a Pirates League reservation for your swashbucklers at the same time. Just make sure you have enough adults to split between the two.
  • Make sure to mention any celebrations – birthdays are a BIG DEAL at the boutique!!

Planning your day:

  • Think about a princess lunch or dinner reservation on the same day you have your makeover. If you have base tickets and want to your meal to be in Epcot, you’ll have to use the Downtown Disney location for your makeover.
  • The three great princess meals are: Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom), Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot), and 1900 Park Fare Happily Ever After Dinner (Grand Floridian). 1900 Park Fare does not require park admission to dine so it’s a really great opportunity.
  • If you don’t want to add on a costly character dining experience, add some princess FastPass+ options. Magic Kingdom is the only park that has the service with the option of Anna & Elsa or Cinderella & Rapunzel. You will find several princesses in Epcot (just no FastPass+ option)

Saving money:

  • If you still want the experience but want to save money, bring your own costume! No one is stopping you. Your princess will still enjoy her time. Costumes are also based on availability so if it’s Anna or die, you better find one online and bring it with!!

Other additions:

  • With many memories to follow your experience, I highly recommend Memory Maker (What is Memory Maker?) It will capture all of your princesses memories for her boutique experience as well as any princesses she meets afterwards and throughout your entire trip.

Preparing for your arrival:

Disney has several policies all princesses must adhere to for their reservation:

  • Each princess must bring their own comb or brush to the appointment
  • Hair and nails must be clean
  • A parent must be with the child during the entire makeover process
  • Arrival 10-15 minutes prior to the appointment is ideal to choose a package (if applicable), pay for the package, and get set up.

The experience is unlike any other! I wish it was around when I was younger to transform into a princess. I guess Disney will just be getting more of my money as my daughter gets older! (As if there was any question!!)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Disney World Historical Discounts + Planning a 2015 Disney World Vacation

 

For all of you advanced planners, coupon clippers, and deal watchers, this post is for you! It’s historical Disney World discounts. This post will also tell you how much you can plan to save and coming in a future post, an overview of traveling to Disney each month and what you can expect to pay each month as a family of 4. This will be the ultimate guide planning your Disney World vacation.

To start, let’s talk about “rack rates”.

Rack rates are the non-discounted rates you can book at any time. The last two years, rack rates have been released for the next calendar year the 2nd week in July. In 2013, rates were released in June. I would expect rates to be released again in July of 2014 for 2015 vacations. Disney allows reservations up to 365 days in advance after rates are released. Check out the crowd calendar to see when crowd levels and prices are lowest.

Predicting a discount

Rates are released, now playing with numbers, how do you choose your travel dates? Below are the general public and Disney Visa cardholder discounts that were available in both 2013 and 2014 and the date they became available in each year respectively.

Travel Dates Discount Available Date available
January – Beginning of Spring Break Season 2013 15-35% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 10/3/12

10/10/12

January – Beginning of Spring Break Season 2014 Stay, Play Dine – discounted package-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 10/3/13

10/7/13

January – week before Easter 2014 5%-35% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 10/3/13

10/7/13

Mid February – early June 2013 (excludes week of Easter) 15-30% off room rates + discounted tickets-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 12/27/13

1/3/13

Late February – mid June 2014 (excludes week of Easter) 5%-30% off room rates + free day of park tickets-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 1/2/14

1/6/14

Late April – mid June 2014 10-25% off room + Free Memory Maker-General public 2/6/14
Mid June – mid August  2013 5-30% off room rates + discounted tickets-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 3/28/13

4/2/13

Mid June – late August 2014 10-35% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 3/13/14

3/17/14

Mid August – September 2014 10-25% off room + Free Memory Maker-General public 2/6/14
Mid August – September 2013 5-30% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/6/13

5/9/13

Mid August – early October 2014 20-30% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/2/14

5/7/14

September 2013 Free Dining-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/6/13

5/9/13

October – December 2013 Free Dining (ended 12/22)-General public 8/1/13
October – December 2013 15-30% off room rates (ended 12/23)-General public 8/1/13
October – December 2014 Free Dining (blacked out 10/4-10/25; 11/2-11/8; 11/21-12/11)-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/2/14

5/7/14

 

So now you know what discount is available, you can make your decision on what saves you the most. A few important notes:

  • If more than one discount is available, make sure you choose the best one for your family. A great example is free dining and room discount. If you are traveling with less than 2 adults, planning on staying at deluxe resort, and/or have a short stay, the room discount may be greater than dining savings.
  • With ticket discounts or a free day of park tickets, just do a quick check to see how much one more day would cost, sometimes it’s under $10!
  • For free dining discounts, as long as your arrival day is within the travel window, your entire vacation will be covered. If you are booking a room rate discount, your entire vacation will need to be within available travel dates.
  • Be willing to do a split stay if your travel dates are set in stone. This way you can take advantage of some great discounts. Just make sure you book the same room type if you are planning on staying at the same resort.
  • Don’t count on a certain discount even if historical information points towards it. Free dining in 2014 is the perfect example – previous years had very few blacked out dates and 2014 blacked out almost the entire month of October.

When should I book my vacation?

If high demand dining experiences like Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Table, pre-park opening character meals, evening meals at California Grill, etc. are on your list, I highly recommend booking before your 180 days window opens (this means 180 days prior to your arrival). For those looking to budget for your vacation, book early and start paying things off on a monthly or quarterly basis.

If you are looking for high demand reservations like free dining, it may be in your best interest to book a low cost room only reservation to get your dining choices and then book your free dining reservation online as the deal comes out. 2014 Free dining brought phone wait times of 5-6 hours and phone is the ONLY way to update an existing reservation or to book a Disney Visa cardholder discount. While Disney’s web site is very slow on the first day of a free dining discount, you can at least hold your reservation t no cost if the payment system is causing issues (as it tends to when website volume is extremely high)  Get a sure thing! The best part about room only reservations is that you are required to pay 1 night’s room plus tax (at a value resort this can be about $100). It’s kind of cheating the system, but your room does go back into the pool after you cancel. If you wait at least 2 weeks after a major discount has been released, wait times can be less than 5 minutes to nothing. Your dining reservations are not tied to your reservation number, so you can cancel without losing your other reservations!

Room rate discounts are not as competitive as major discounts like free dining. Wait times are typically less than an hour and most important for locations like Port Orleans Riverside which have rooms that sleep up to 5 guests.

Regardless of your discount and your resort choice, be prepared to be flexible. This may mean upgrading your room view/category to receive the available discount or changing resorts completely (often in the case of free dining). It’s best to have a backup plan and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices and if working with a travel professional, be available via email or text message as things are changed.

Saving time AND money

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

10 Beginner Mistakes to avoid when going to Disney World

 

It’s time to plan your Disney vacation! Whether your traveling in 2014, 2015 or beyond, it’s important to do a little bit of light reading and research before your arrive. Avoid these 10 mistakes often made by first timers to create your perfect Disney World Vacation:

1. Planning with short or no notice. Know the important milestone days for ANY Disney World Vacation. These include:

  • 180 days prior to arrival: Window for dining reservations opens up!
  • 60 days prior to arrival: Time to book FastPass+ reservations (if you are staying on site). You can also check in online
  • 45 days prior to arrival: Final payment is due for package reservations
  • 30 days prior to arrival: Time to book FastPass+ reservations for those staying off site; This is typically the last day you are able to customize your MagicBands prior to shipping

2. Not budgeting enough for your vacation. Think about the type of accommodations you’d like to have, how important location is on Disney property, the cost of park tickets, and the cost of food once your arrive! All of these things should be calculated into your overall budget. Transportation to and from the Orlando area should also be part of your mental budget. Don’t starve yourself once you arrive because you didn’t plan for the cost of food!

3. Not reading reviews or asking friends and family about restaurants. I think everyone should have at least one table service meal. It’s a fun way to enjoy a different side of Disney! Whether it’s a character meals for the kids, or a quiet table at one of the many restaurants in Epcot, there are very few bad meals in Disney World!

4. Traveling during peak times (especially when no discount is offered). I understand your kids are off during Christmas break, but so are everyone elses. There’s a reason that Disney doesn’t offer discounts at certain times of year. There are also reasons why big promotions like Free Dining are offered at other times. Don’t pay more than you have to!

5. Wasting FastPass+ reservations. Magic Kingdom has almost 30 options for FastPass+ so how to do you choose? First, start with the most popular attractions and then decide which ones are best for your family. Make sure that your kids are tall enough for attractions with height restrictions and that they won’t be too scared to ride them. Now that Disney resort guests can book additional FastPasses after the initial 3 that all guests are given each day, it’s more important to use your FastPasses and EARLY!

6. Not preparing your legs. I log an average of 9 miles each day when I’m at Disney World. While that’s over the course of 10-12 hours, it’s still a lot of steps every day. A busy day with park hopping is well over 11 miles. Get your legs, hips, knees, and feet ready for Disney several months before your arrive.

7. Wearing crummy shoes. Wear athletic shoes with good support. I don’t care if socks and shorts looks goofy, you’ll thank me when you don’t have blisters!

8. Sleeping in. This may be the biggest mistake I can think of! Wake up early. I know it’s vacation, but you can get more done in the first 3 hours of park opening than any other time of day. Be at the bus stop one hour prior to the park opening which should get you to the parks about 30 minutes prior to park opening (on earlier, depending on your start and end location)

9. Not taking breaks. Don’t try to be a superhero! It’s not possible to go all day every day from 9 am – 10 pm (or later). Yes there’s lots of things to do in Disney, but you need to relax and rest up for the next day.

10. Not researching anything. Disney is NOT a fly by the seat of your pants type of vacation. You’re not sitting on the beach. If you don’t have time to do research or just don’t want to, find a knowledgeable travel agent who knows Disney to help you (hint: you are reading a blog of one right now!)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Top things to add on to your Disney World vacation package

 

When booking a Disney World vacation, you have many different options to customize your experience. The most basic vacation would be a room only reservation which is exactly what it sounds like. A room reservation with no tickets. Adding base park tickets to your reservation makes it a package reservation.

Not all “add-ons” are created equal. Some require a package reservation, while others are available with or without a Disney World resort hotel reservation. Here’s a breakdown of each item, cost, explanation, as well my opinion on the value of worth.


Park Hopper Passes. This cost is variable based on a number of factors including number of days of park tickets, number of children and adults, and any active promotions (including free or discounted days of park tickets). This add on allows you to visit any and all 4 Disney World theme parks in one day. This is a great option no matter what kind of trip you want to have! This may be too much for those with kids under 5 (although some families love to park hop no matter what the age!)

Water Park Fun & More. This cost is also variable based on number of days of park tickets, number of children and adults, and if you are also included park hoppers. Without park hoppers, the cost of adding this option vs. one day of water park tickets is more costly. If you add park hoppers plus water park fun & more, you may get more for your money with the ability to visit both water parks, Disney Quest, golf, and mini golf. Unlike theme park tickets, these tickets are per use, not per day meaning you can take a day off from the parks to golf in the morning and visit a water park in the afternoon.photo 2(2)

Disney Dining Plan. This is another option that requires park tickets to add this to your Disney World package. Disney offers 5 different dining plans, however the three most popular are: Quick Service, Plus Dining, and Deluxe Dining. Cost is variable based on the dining plan you choose, any available discounts at the time, number of nights stayed, and number of guests in your room. For more on the the Disney Dining Plan, review Flavorful Friday. The dining plan will be coming to you FREE this fall! Click for more tips and tricks regarding Free Dining at Disney World.

Memory Maker. This amazing new add on does not require any sort of package or even a reservation to a Disney World resort. This can be ordered through a travel agent or from Disney’s web site. Guests staying offsite can order Memory Maker. Rather than scanning your MagicBand, you are given an RFID enabled card to store all of your vacation photos. The great thing about Memory Maker is that for the $149 advanced price ($199 if purchased after your arrival), you receive an unlimited number of photos uploaded to your account. You are instantly able to share with family and friends and able to download them all to save forever after your trip. For more on Memory Maker, check out what it’s all about as well as all the must take photo locations around Disney World.

Travel Insurance. Another option that doesn’t require a package reservation, but understandably, this is for Disney resort hotel guests only. Disney offers travel insurance for all guests staying in their resorts to recoup the cost of their likely very expensive vacation in case of unforeseen issues. The details are spelled out clearly as well as the coverage. I suggest travel insurance to everyone I work with, and although I’d guess only half the people I work with elect to keep it, it’s a peace of mind I like to have on my trips. Kids get sick, adults lose jobs, life happens, luggage gets lost. It’s better to have the opportunity to reschedule your vacation than lose some of your hard earned money! Cost is $75.95 per adult (children are at no cost).


Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
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While this isn’t technically part if any Disney World package, it’s something to consider in your budget when making your reservation. BBB has 2 locations in Disney World: Cinderella’s Castle, and Downtown Disney. Both locations have Fairy Godmothers transform your child into the princess (or prince) they’ve dreamed of. Cost varies but starts at $54.95 (and goes well over $200 for the top of the line package). It’s an experience that is not forgotten. Plus, add more photos to your Memory Maker package with this one of a kind experience. Sessions take 30-60 minutes depending on the package you choose and the time of day you are scheduled.

Overall each add on feature has its pros and cons. My favorites are definitely Memory Maker and Park Hopper Passes. It’s something that I plan on adding to all of my vacations going forward based on the way we enjoy traveling. While each family is different and sometimes budgets put a cap on what you can do, it’s always nice to know your options!

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!