Tips and Tricks for Celebrating at Walt Disney World!

Yesterday was my dear husband’s birthday, so it seems like a great time to talk about celebrations!

Disney World vacations are kind of a big deal. Whether you’re traveling for a first visit, birthday, anniversary, reunion, graduation, or just for fun, there’s always something to celebrate. Disney likes to know about all of your celebrations to share in your joy and excitement. This starts immediately with the planning phase of your trip. When you book your trip, you are able to notify Disney of any celebrations during your trip. If booking with a travel agent, they are able to note these for you. EVERYONE is celebrating something at Disney World. I try not to let anyone go to Disney without some sort of button. Available celebrations are:

  • Birthdayimcelebrating
  • Anniversary
  • Engagement
  • First Visit
  • Honeymoon
  • Reunion
  • Wedding
  • Graduation
  • Personal Triumph
  • Other

The “other” option won’t let you free text, but you’ll know you’re celebrating something! For birthday and anniversary, you also have the option to provide an age or # of years married for anniversary.

Additionally, I like to call Disney Dining after I make reservations for my clients to make sure their celebration is noted on their dining. We celebrated my birthday a few years ago at California Grill in Contemporary Resort. In addition to a wonderful meal, our table was set especially for us and decorated with some Mickey Confetti (which I won’t lie, I took some with and stashed it in my purse!)

Button, button, who’s got the button?

Once you arrive at your Disney resort, a cast member will provide you with a special button just for your celebration. There are available buttons for almost every situation listed above. For birthday buttons, there is a space to add a name for cast members and other guests to wish you a happy birthday during your entire trip. I wish I would have kept count of how many times I was wished happy birthday. It was well over 100 in our 5 night vacation. I even took the button off for awhile, too! If you are not offered a button on check in, ask for one! You can’t be celebrated if no one knows about it! Sometimes there’s an oversight on the cast member checking you in, but typically it’s park of the whole magical process. If you don’t want the recognition for whatever event you’re celebrating, stash your button in your luggage and take it home as a keepsake!

If you’re not staying on Disney property or you didn’t get a button on check in, head over to City Hall in Magic Kingdom. There are similar locations at EVERY theme park to get a celebration  button.

What does the celebrating at Disney get me?CG dessert

Buttons are meant for recognition and allowing others to celebrate with you. Don’t expect anything for free, but I’d suggest wearing them throughout your vacation. During our stay, we had 5 dining reservations (2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 2 dinners). Our first dinner: California Grill came with confetti as well as a free dessert. The breakfasts were just standard meals, lunch came with a birthday card as well as an embarrassing rendition of happy birthday sung by the entire restaurant, and the last dinner was just a run of the mill meal. It was definitely more than I was expecting, but appreciated nonetheless. It’s also worth noting that we were NOT in Disney’s Dining Plan which makes giving a free dessert much easier. I have heard stories of people celebrating honeymoons or anniversaries receiving free champagne from some of the signature restaurants.

I had a great client celebrate her birthday while on the deluxe dining plan and she received a birthday cupcake or a candle or something special in her dessert at every restaurant (even sometimes a cupcake at breakfast!) It was a really special experience!

Having a special celebration listed on your reservation or wearing a celebration button may give you an advantage for making magic! I’ve heard stories of guests receiving room upgrades for celebrating a honeymoon, getting chosen for special events around the theme parks because of a kid’s birthday button, and just a little extra pixie dust by getting VIP seating for a parade or fireworks. Don’t expect any of these things and remember, kindness gets you everywhere!

What can I do for my loved one’s celebration?

Disney has many opportunities to provide additional ways to celebrate your family and friends during your Disney vacation. Disney World Floral does room and gift delivery for any celebration. You can choose from a pre-made gift basket or create your own through Disney Floral and Gifts.  You can also order a cake for delivery either in your room or for one of your dining reservations. Un-decorated cakes are available at a handful of restaurants and can be ordered when you arrive for your reservation. If you are dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table, they have some special options for cake and unique gifting options as well!

MinnieBoxThe Minnie Box

Magical Vacations, LLC offers a special gift (for qualifying packages)! It’s called The Minnie Box. This special box is just a little added bonus and is the signature of our little family. As with every travel group, there are minimum dollar value requirements, but it’s pretty reasonable. The Minnie Box is different for each family. I received one before departed for our vacation as a special surprise including a special welcome and happy birthday from one of my favorite Disney Characters, Gaston! This also included a specialized Magical Vacations itinerary to help you get through the most attractions in the least amount of time. Did you know that a “good” day at Disney is about 8 attractions? Our first Magic Kingdom day, we got through 14 (including a few repeats) which is an incredibly successful day. We also enjoyed lunch at Be Our Guest. We also received some special Pixie Dust to sprinkle on our already Magical trip!

Let’s celebrate!

Ready to get started planning your 2016Disney World CELEBRATION 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!

Planning your Spring 2016 Disney World vacation

spring2016 (1)

The holidays are over and guests across the country (and really around the world) are planning their 2016 vacations. It’s really the perfect time to talk about spring! This guide is specifically for guests traveling in March, April, May, and early June. There is a guide for early 2016 travelers which covers January, February, and March (there is some overlap in March in “early” and “spring!)

There is plenty of time to plan for ANY of these travel dates, whether it’s grabbing a dining reservation, planning FastPasses, or having the perfect warm weather getaway in the Orlando sun!

The spring months are really a great time to travel for several reasons. Outside of the peak spring break weeks in March through Easter, crowds are very manageable. We were happily surprised to have a very “dead” day in Magic Kingdom at the end of April 2015. Most spring breaks are clustered before Easter, although you may see some after March 27th into the first week or two of April,but I wouldn’t expect to overcrowd the parks!

As March and April hit, Disney begins to extend park hours into the 10 and 11 pm hours. This is a great way to maximize your money and your park time and also leans well to having a nice mid-day break from the action, whether it’s to get in a bit of swim time, check out Disney Springs, or just rest your feet!

A few busier times to note for this time of year:IMG_4982 (2)

  • Most of March (beyond March 8th for spring break season through April 2nd)
  • Star Wars Half Marathon: Dark Side – April 14-17
  • After June 5th as kids start to end school (Florida schools typically end about a week later, so if you have an early release, take advantage!)

 

While all months of the year see rain in the Orlando area, these months are not considered peak rainy season. That being said, you’re likely to see a touch of rain here or there (sorry, I can’t control the weather) but hopefully it will be minimal!

Crowd Calendars

Below are projections of crowds for early 2016. Click the images below to see the images larger! These are subject to change. Please don’t be concerned about a “red days”. You will have a magical experience no matter what time of year you travel. Typically it’s not “wall to wall” crowds!

March 2016 Crowd calendar

March 2016 (Click to Enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 2016 (Click to Enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2016 Crowd Caneldar (Click to Enlarge)

May 2016 Crowd Caneldar (Click to Enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 2016 Crowds Calendar (Click to Enlarge)

June 2016 Crowds Calendar (Click to Enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Money

Save up to 30% on your resort stay for travel dates in April, May, and June and up to 25% off of resort stays in February and March!

Book By
February 28, 2016

Valid Travel Dates
February 22, 2016 through June 11, 2016

Important Details

  • Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same room.
  • The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited.
  • Moderate and Deluxe suites may be available at a lesser discount.
  • Additional per adult charges may apply if there are more than 2 adults per room at Disney Value, Moderate and Deluxe Resorts.
  • Upgrade to a room and ticket package with minimum 4-day Magic Your Way theme park tickets, and receive one more complimentary ticket day.

Like all promotional rates, there are exclusions which include the usual suspects – Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation, Bay Lake Tower, Villas at Grand Floridian, the campsites at Ft Wilderness, and all 3 Bedroom Villas. This promotional offer also excludes Port Orleans French Quarter.

Refurbishments

This time of year is not often considered “peak” for refurbishment as Disney tries to provide the least amount of guest inconvenience. While you’ll still see some closures before the summer season, it’s typically reasonable! We’ve seen things closed like Test Track, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and a few days of update on its a small world, but it’s not too bad!

  • Boardwalk & Boardwalk Villas exterior repainting (through May 5)
  • Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House Soft Goods Rehab (Jan 1 – May 20)
  • Art of Animation Sprayground (kids splash play area) (Jan 3 – March 11)
  • Soarin’ (Jan 4 – Summer 2016)WL
  • Pizza Planet (Jan 11 – Late 2016)
  • Planet Hollywood  (Jan 6 – summer 2016)
  • Typhoon Lagoon annual refurbishment (Jan 3 – March 12)
  • Beach Club Villas Soft Goods Rehab (Jan 22 – August 17)
  • Flights of Wonder (Jan 25 – March 17)
  • Wilderness Lodge & Villas (multiple refurbishment projects running through 2017)
  • Flying Fish Cafe (Feb 1 – Sept 30)
  • Bay Cove Pool at Bay Lake Tower (Feb 1 – March 18)

Thankfully, only Soarin’ is the only attraction with a “major” impact on guest travel!

Limited Time Experiences!

So what makes this time of year unique? A few really exciting things this year.

Symphony in the Stars This popular limited time fireworks experience in Hollywood Studios is returning on a nightly basis. As of January 5, you’ll also be able to book a Fireworks Dessert party! (currently scheduled to end in early March but may get extended based on popularity)

Growing Star Wars presence in Hollywood Studios. On December 1st, Disney opened Star Wars Launch Bay, updated Star Tours to include scenes from the new film, updated Jedi Training academy featuring a new villain and updated experience as well as a new themed stage, and new character meet and greets – you can visit the dark side and find Darth Vader or the light side and find Chewbacca! These experiences are available EVERY DAY instead of just limited time during Star Wars weekends!

Minnie’s Seasonal Dine at Hollywood & Vine. Each season, Minnie will host a character dinner at Hollywood & Vine which can be coupled with the Fantasmic dining package. This experience will allow you to meet Minnie and her friends (the holiday version came with Goofy & Mickey). In winter, you can “dine with the stars”! Plenty of good reservations are still available. As of March 21, the experience will change over to a “spring” themed experience (booking is not available fg2for this time-frame yet, so there’s still a chance to get a great character dining experience during peak travel time!)

Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival. This annual experience continues to grow (excuse the pun). This year the Flower & Garden Festival is extended to 90 magical days and begins on March 2nd and ends much later in May than in past years! You can see your favorite Disney characters made into gorgeous topiaries and nosh on some tasty food in the “fresh kitchens” around World showcase. This is a huge change in experience from several years ago as the kitchen experience continues to grow! I can’t wait to see what’s new this year.

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 2016 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!

A room with a view at your Disney World resort!

Disney World offers so many available resorts and room options that it can be hard to choose.Something that many guests (including me) consider is a room with a view! Disney allows you to book in many different booking categories in each resort which often makes the process of dissecting all of your options even more challenging – once you’ve decided on a resort or two to look into, you now have an additional 4 or more room views to choose from.

Each resort has a “standard view’ or “standard room” which means different things at different location. At the Yacht & Beach Club as well as Wilderness Lodge, a standard view typically overlooks the parking lot or a service area. At Pop Century, your standard room can overlook the lake toward Art of Animation or the parking lot. At value resorts (and to a certain extent moderate resorts), it’s more about location than it is about view out your window since you won’t have a private balcony. And a standard room at Port Orleans French Quarter is typically of the grounds or walkways based on the general layout of the resort. Having a room with a view is most important in the deluxe resort and deluxe villa category because you have that balcony to sit out on (or escape the quiet and darkness of a child taking a nap). It’s a nice place to have coffee in the morning or to check on work (yes, work on vacation)!

So you want a room with a view, it depends on what type of view you want (and how to ask for it)! All Disney resorts accept room requests which starts with online check in and the basic options. You (or your travel agent) may call Disney reservations via phone and make verbal requests as well. Some of these requests would be along the lines of “room facing Magic Kingdom/Contemporary” at Wilderness Lodge or “room near walkway to Epcot” at Beach Club. Generally, keeping in more generalities instead of making a request for a specific room is most effective because if that room is not available, you’re leaving the room assigner with limited information of why you choose that room.

The best view in the house - Magic Kingdom from your balcony (view from Contemporary resort but similar views available at Grand Floridian & Polynesian)

The best view in the house – Magic Kingdom from your balcony (view from Contemporary resort but similar views available at Grand Floridian & Polynesian)

In the Magic Kingdom area, you can book rooms with a “theme park view” which is a direct view from your balcony of Magic Kingdom. This is a specific booking category at Contemporary & Bay Lake Tower, Polynesian Village, and Grand Floridian and obviously comes at a bit of an advanced price. Something can be said for being able to open your curtains or step out onto your balcony and see the entire fireworks show or wake up to Cinderella’s Castle. If that price tag is a bit steep for you, can book in a lower category and use the public viewing areas in any of those resorts to get the same view (but I’m happy to watch in my PJs and then draw the curtains and crash into bed!) A lesser known option (and one of my favorites) are the standard rooms at Wilderness Lodge – requesting a room that faces Contemporary/Magic Kingdom. Some of the upper rooms will allow you to see most of the fireworks at Magic Kingdom. While there’s no music piped into your room, it’s still a great way to catch the magic every day. For the best views, book a club level room because that will put you on the 7th floor and you have a club level concierge to speak with to appropriately make your room requests in a manner that they will understand and help assist. Please be aware that all room requests are not a guarantee, so if 30 people requests that same view, only 8 of them may be accommodated because of availability.

Panoramic view of Bay Lake View at Contemporary Resort

Panoramic view of Bay Lake View at Contemporary Resort

Staying in the Magic Kingdom area, you also have the option to book a lake or lagoon view depending on your resort. These rooms are often peaceful with the view of the water (At Contemporary & Bay Lake Tower it’s a view of Bay Lake) and at Grand Floridian & Polynesian Village, it’s a view of Seven Seas Lagoon (some of these rooms may offer you a glimpse of Magic Kingdom but not enough for Disney to classify it as a “theme park view”).

Part of the 'courtyard' view area at Wilderness Lodge

Part of the ‘courtyard’ view area at Wilderness Lodge

At Wilderness Lodge, your options are completely different – you can choose from woods or courtyard views which offer you views of the tree-lined area of the resort or toward the center of the resort overlooking the pool and courtyard. Some of these rooms can be quite noisy as an upgrade, but they did a really wonderful job designing the resort (as well as all of the resorts), so many guests truly enjoy the experience!

In the Epcot resort area, you typically have an option of standard view (as mentioned above), garden or woods view (which is typically landscaping/vegetation), as well as lagoon/pool view. These rooms will either overlook the resort’s pools at either Yacht & Beach Club or Boardwalk Inn/Villas (based on the resort you are staying in) or Crescent Lake which is the waterway separating these resorts. Boardwalk also offers a “Boardwalk View” which is of the bustling area with shopping, dining and nightlife. I’ve been told these rooms can get quite noisy (we haven’t booked one simply because of that fact – we prefer to “get away from it all” when we get back to our room in the evening!)

What about Animal Kingdom Lodge? There are lots of options available! You have the standard view (again, service
area or parking lot) as well as pool view and my favorites – Savanna and Arusha view. This gives you direct viewing area of the animals that live on the property. Typically the animals available are based on the area of the resort you are staying in so if your daughter loves giraffes, make sure you know where they are on property and make the best room choice and appropriate room request. This is a great resort for families with little ones or those that want a day or two off from the parks as it gives you a lot to look at outside of water or the parks if you’re not going inside that day!

Do you NEED a room with a view? Definitely not. We’ve stayed in standard view rooms and stepped out onto our balcony and had a big tree blocking it or looked down at the convention center but those were trips where convenience of resort location mattered more than being in the resort. As we become more seasoned (and let’s face it, more spoiled) with everything Disney has to offer, view and location are both important so we typically opt for the view. I have a kiddo who doesn’t like fireworks at the moment (hopefully as she gets older that will subside), so if I can see them from my balcony it’s a huge bonus to me (or if we can slowly introduce them to her at a distance without a huge boom, it’s a win!) We’re also a family that takes breaks during the day, so going back to the resort and having a nice place to rest is important as well! If you are choosing a deluxe resort, it’s worth the consideration of choosing a room with a view!!

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 2016 Disney World vacation and finding your perfect view? 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!

Planning your early 2016 Disney World vacation

Early 2016

With the new year not far away and the holidays upon us, it’s time to talk about how to plan for early 2016 Disney World vacations. This guide is specifically for guests looking to travel in January, February, and March (through the week of Easter).

For January travelers, time is a bit short, but there’s still plenty of time to grab dining reservations, FastPasses, and plan a perfect Disney getaway following Christmas to get away those winter blues!

January and February are a great time to travel for many reasons – first it’s not often crowded as many families have kids back in school after a long break. It’s also a time of year that’s not very hot so it makes park touring more comfortable. If you’ve got younger child, this is great for you as well because park hours are not often extended as they are during more popular times of year which means you could in theory see a fireworks show around 8 or 9 pm without stretching the limits of bedtime too far!

A few busier times to note for this time of year:IMG_4982 (2)

  • Disney Marathon weekend – January 8-10 (this does not have a huge impact on overall crowds, but it’s noteworthy
  • MLK Jr weekend – January 15-18
  • President’s Day weekend – Feb 13-15
  • Valentine’s Day – Feb 14
  • Princess 1/2 Marathon weekend – Feb 19-21 (this has a bit of a larger impact than the marathon weekend does, but crowds subside quickly after the event)

If you’re hoping for a little bit warmer weather or extended park hours, March is a great time for you. It’s also a great time to take advantage of kids spring breaks! While it makes for a bit more crowded park touring experience (and sometimes more expensive flights), you’ll still have a fantastic vacation experience! The week of Easter is typically the busiest time of the spring break season.

The first three months of the year are not considered part of the “rainy season” in Orlando. The area was built on a swamp, so you may see a few drops here and there (sorry, I can’t control the weather), but hopefully it will be very minimal!

Crowd Calendars

Below are projections of crowds for early 2016. Click the images below to see the images larger! These are subject to change. Please don’t be concerned about a “red days”. You will have a magical experience no matter what time of year you travel. Typically it’s not “wall to wall” crowds!

January 2016 Disney World Crowd Caneldar

(Click to Enlarge)

 

February 2016 Crowd Calendar

February 2016 (Click to Enlarge)

 

March 2016 Crowd calendar

March 2016 (Click to Enlarge)

Saving Money

polyPromotional rates have expired. Look toward the ends couple of weeks for a new promotional which may include SOME of these travel dates!

Refurbishments

The only “downside” to this time of year is attraction closures for refurbishments and renovations to resorts. Below is a list of all of the known attraction closures during the first three months of the year:

  • Disney’s Polynesian Resort  is scheduled to continue refurbishment. It should be the end of this major refurbishment!TL
  • Caribbean Beach Resort (Jan 3 – Feb 28;  Some public areas may have some construction noise during the day)
  • Soarin’ (Jan 4 – Summer 2016)
  • Splash Mountain (Jan 10 – 14)
  • Pizza Planet (Jan 11 – Late 2016)
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (Jan 15-Feb 11)
  • Liberty Square Riverboat (Jan 18-22)
  • Mad Tea Party (Feb 22-26)
  • Planet Hollywood  (Jan 6 – summer 2016)
  • Typhoon Lagoon annual refurbishment (Jan 3 – March 12)
  • Ol’ Man Island Pool (Port Orleans Riverside) (Jan 11-Feb 29)
  • Wilderness Lodge & Villas (multiple refurbishment projects running through 2017)
  • Flying Fish Cafe (Feb 1 – Sept 30)

Thankfully, only Soarin’ is the only attraction with a “major” impact on guest travel!

Limited Time Experiences!

So what makes this time of year unique? A few really exciting things this year.

Symphony in the Stars This popular limited time fireworks experience in Hollywood Studios is returning on a nightly basis. As of January 5, you’ll also be able to book a Fireworks Dessert party!

Growing Star Wars presence in Hollywood Studios. On December 1st, Disney opened Star Wars Launch Bay, updated Star Tours to include scenes from the new film, updated Jedi Training academy featuring a new villain and updated experience as well as a new themed stage, and new character meet and greets – you can visit the dark side and find Darth Vader or the light side and find Chewbacca! These experiences are available EVERY DAY instead of just limited time during Star Wars weekends!

Minnie’s Seasonal Dine at Hollywood & Vine. Each season, Minnie will host a character dinner at Hollywood & Vine which can be coupled with the Fantasmic dining package. This experience will allow you to meet Minnie and her friends (the holiday version came with Goofy & Mickey). In winter, you can “dine with the stars”! Plenty of good reservations are still available. As of March 21, the experience will change over to a “spring” themed experience (booking is not available fg2for this time-frame yet, so there’s still a chance to get a great character dining experience during peak travel time!)

Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival. This annual experience continues to grow (excuse the pun). This year the Flower & Garden Festival is extended to 90 magical days and begins on March 2nd! You can see your favorite Disney characters made into gorgeous topiaries and nosh on some tasty food in the “fresh kitchens” around World showcase. This is a huge change in experience from several years ago as the kitchen experience continues to grow! I can’t wait to see what’s new this year.

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 2016 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!