Giving the gift of a Disney vacation for Christmas!

FullSizeRender 3

It’s the holiday season and as moms and dads (and grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles and all sorts of family members) are trying to find the perfect present for the loved ones in their lives. This is the time of year that I start getting requests to make some magic to give the gift of a Disney vacation for Christmas. And WHAT a gift it is! While none of these guests are actually traveling at Christmas time, it gives something for the kids to look forward to in the new year!

Giving a Disney vacation for Christmas is quite easy as Disney World only requires a $200 up front and final payment is due 30 days prior to arrival, so you can plan for a spring vacation and only worry about a small amount out of pocket around the holidays when money can be tight! You can also gift the gift of a Disney Cruise which is a a bit more up front cost as deposit is based on your overall cruise cost.

For those looking for this kind of magic, it’s a really fun experience to gift the experience of Disney because everyone is excited and then the kids can be a part of the final planning process – choosing FastPasses and MagicBand colors for Disney World or looking at what is available for excursions or shipboard activities for for Disney Cruise Line. It helps build the excitement from all angles!

But Melissa, what do I give my kids to open? There are so many options! My favorite idea is a scavenger hunt around the house (if you have more than once child, it lets them all get involved with the fun!) For example – “If Ariel lived in our house, where would she sleep?” with the next note in the bathtub.

Another popular and well received option are little gifts they can use during the trip – family t-shirts, a special costume to wear, a special countdown calendar or paper chain, or something else unique!

Do you have a special idea planner for your family to surprise them with a Disney vacation? I’d love to hear about it!

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)

With time coming closer to the holidays, I’d love to help plan 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!

40 of the Best Walt Disney World Dining tips!

wdwdiningtips

There is so much available for your Disney World vacation and even so many information on my blog alone! Today, I’m dedicating information to Disney dining tips. These are tips that can be seen in the 200+ posts both Dawn and I have compiled over the last 2+ years. This is the most up to date information I have available to you and I’m confident these tips will help you on your Disney World adventure!

In no particular order…
1. Research, research, research! The more you know, the better your trip!

2. If cost is an issue, know when the best deals are and try and find a set of travel dates that have dining or package promotions to help you save a few dollars. Be flexible in resorts to be included in the promotional rates!

3. STAY ON PROPERTY! It’s the only way you can a dining plan which can save you up to 15% on food costs!

4. Think about using a travel agent. We know how to get the best discounts, when discounts come out, and are actively looking to save you time and money! Plus, we are FREE to work with!!!

5. Think about your budget. Now think about adding about 20% more to it to make it a more reasonable number for Disney. You can definitely do Disney on the cheap, but if you’re thinking about cost the whole time, it makes it less fun for the adults!

6. Look into the dining plan and what it includes. See if it’s for you (or how you can get it for free!)

7. Make sure Disney knows about any celebrations during your stay! You’ll get a few freebies and some recognition as well. At dining locations, you may receive a free dessert to celebrate!

8. Children under 3 are free in Disney. If you’re thinking about a vacation before or after your child turns 3, you’ll likely save at least $300 if you go when they’re 2! This includes dining! It’s HUGE in terms of cost savings, especially if you are thinking about dining at any character locations!

9. Similarly, Disney considers 10 year olds Disney adults. That means there’s a price break between 9 and 10. Park tickets don’t make a huge difference, but dining does!

10. Plan for a day off. Disney can get exhausting. Make sure you take a break during your trip. It’s a great day to get in a long meal outside of a park like a dinner show, signature dining, or a leisurely character breakfast!

11. Plan at least one table service dinner. Even if you’re not on the dining plan, it’s a good experience!

12. Try new food! You’re on vacation. Don’t be afraid to book a unique restaurant or menu item (especially on the dining plan!)

13. Ask your server for suggestions. They’ll give you a good opinion or at least tell you the most popular menu items.

14. Save room for dessert! There’s some awesome options on all the menus.

15. Don’t be afraid to book dining at a resort. While it takes a bit longer in terms of transportation,
some of the best dining locations are outside of the theme parks! PLUS, you don’t need a park ticket!

16. Bring snacks to the park. You can also bring your own water bottles. Anything except glass and alcohol is allowed into the parks! If you have a place to store it or are fine carrying it, you’ll save a ton of money!

17. Share meals. Share meals! Seriously. For quick service/counter service meals, start with one meal for every 2 people. You can always go back and get another or one or get a snack to share. Don’t throw away the expensive food!!! Look at appetizers and meals to share for table service meals. If you made a reservation and you’re not that hungry, don’t be afraid to share a meal. The only place you can’t share are buffet meals. Via Napoli does not allow sharing on the dining plan, but you can share if paying out of pocket.

18. Even if you’re not using a dining plan, purchase at last one refillable mug. You  may share (just be aware that with the chips inside the mugs, you can only refill every few minutes). It’s still a worthwhile way to save money for soda and coffee drinkers!

19. Bring your refillable mugs to the parks! While you can’t officially refill them, it’s a great way to share one of the large fountain drinks from counter service meals. You can also fill them with water from the water fountains or ask for some free ice water at any counter service (a word of warning that Orlando water doesn’t taste the greatest!)

20. Download the My Disney Experience app to your smart phone. If you’re looking for a last minute dining reservation, keep checking while you’re in line for attractions. People tend to cancel some big ticket items 1-2 days before the experience so they don’t get charged the cancellation/no show fee. We’ve gotten some great reservations on short notice!

21. Use pre-park opening reservations to your advantage! Most character breakfasts inside the park allow you to enter the park up to an hour early so you can enjoy your character time without missing the best park time (as the first 3 hours before the park opens are the best in terms of crowds)

22. Take a break for lunch outside the park! Whether it’s quick service or a sit down meal, it’s nice to be out of the hustle and  bustle for an hour or two!

23. Be aware of Extra Magic Hours. Late hours at Epcot offer you additional dining options and early hours will take away your pre-park opening dining reservations! 

24. Fall brings some early park closures to the general public for special events. Check the park hours on Disney’s website for days that close early due to special events. Disney did offer the opportunity to book dining during these special events with a party ticket in 2015!

25. Make your dining reservations as soon as possible. This has become extremely competitive in the last 2-3 years. Resort guests can make reservations 180 days in advance (this is for your entire vacation, not just one day). If you don’t have a resort reservation, you can make reservations 180 days in advance (but you’ll have to do it each day).

 

26. If you’re booking inside 180 days from your arrival, consider adding park hopper tickets to your package – it will allow you to flexibility to come and go as you please and open up additional options to find dining reservations you may not have been able to grab!

27. Explore the new dining options in Disney Springs. It seems like new options open up every IMG_8759couple of weeks. There are some amazing signature dining options and more on the way! I can’t wait to try them!

28. Don’t try and do too much. Don’t plan every second of every day. 3 Dining reservations every single day of a 6-7 day trip is probably too much!

29. Really enjoy each country of World Showcase in Epcot. They are really interesting and intricate. Try snacking around the world and sharing different things from each country!

30. Watch Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from different vantage points while dining – California Grill, Ohana, Narcoosees!

31. Be cautious before booking a dining reservation the night you arrive. Flights get delayed, things happen.

32. Try a character meal! Even if you are dining as adults, it’s fun to watch kids faces light up.

33. Eat at off peak times. You’ll definitely be able to tell peak lunch and dinner times by the amount the crowds dwindle. If you can take advantage of that, you’ll get more for your time.

34. Stop and enjoy the cupcakes.

photo 2(2)

35. Disney buses run until the last guest is out of the parks. You won’t get left behind! So if you book the last dining reservation before the park closes, you’ll still be allowed to dine and have a way to to get back home!

36. Eat a decent breakfast. Even if you plan on enjoying some food at the parks, don’t go on an empty stomach and then get lost in running from ride to ride. Whether that’s a scheduled meal inside the park or grabbing food at your resort, fill your belly!

37. Pack some simple breakfast foods in your luggage. Pop Tarts and granola bars are easy grab and go things to get you to the parks early!

38. Think about club level service. Breakfast, snacks, hot and cold appetizers, happy hour drinks for adults, desserts, and after dinner cordials. It won’t be all of your meals, but we were able to keep full throughout our stay. They will fill your water bottles for free too. We LOVE club level service!!

39. Enjoy Club Cool in Epcot. Get a free beverage and try the different flavors of Coke around the world!

40. Think about a dinner show! Disney has 3 on property and they’ll all really fun! Two credits on the dining plan or a decent out of pocket charge, but it’s a great way to take a nice long break!

Whew! Did I forget anything important?

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 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!

Planning your 2016 Disney World Vacation around Special events

Disney offers many special events throughout the year Whether it’s a specially ticketed event or something free with park admission, if are looking seasonally for dates, this guide will help you choose the best time to travel to hit your favorite special event (and perhaps even more than one!

At a glance

Click the calendar below to see when special events run. Detail about each event and dates for 2016 (if scheduled) are below. Remember, until Disney releases official dates, nothing is a guarantee. Going based on historical information is helpful, but not an absolute – major events like Flower & Garden Festival, Food & Wine, and the Halloween & Christmas parties are often regular staples – generally longstanding events will continue!

2016 Disney Calendar of events

 

January

Disney Marathon – this event is officially scheduled January 6-10, 2016. Most events are sold out at the time of this post. See RunDisney.com for complete event details.

February

Disney Princess Half Marathon – this event is officially scheduled for February 18-21, 2016.Most events are sold out at the time of this post. See RunDisney.com for complete event details.

March

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival – this annual event is TBD but starts in early March (typically around the start of Spring Break season) through the middle of May. Previous years events have included over 100 toparies around both Future World and World Showcase, Outdoor Kitchens with special foods from around the world only found during this festival, Flower Power Concert Series each weekend, and HGTV stars each each weekend.

Each year, Disney does have some Easter offerings and with Easter falling in March this year, you’ll see things like a meet and greet with Mr & Mrs Easter Bunny in Magic Kingdom, Faberge eggs in Grand Floridian, and an Easter egg hunt through Epcot World Showcase.

Aprilfg1

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival continues (see March for complete details)

May

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival ends (see March for complete details)

Star Wars Weekends – on select weekends in May and June, Hollywood Studios turns into a Star Wars fan’s dream. With special dining experiences, parades, character meet and greets, and very special Star Wars guests and cast. Each year becomes bigger and better than the last. I can’t wait to see is 2015 brings. Events are held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of each weekend. Events typically begin in mid May and run through mid June.

24 hours of Disney – The last few years, Disney has offered a 24 hour of Disney World event (which expanded to Disneyland in 2014). This typically is the kick off of summer so look somewhere before Memorial Day weekend (the last 2 years were May 24 and May 22). Magic Kingdom is open for 24 straight hours with special events, character meet and greets, parades, and more. It’s a great use of a single day of park tickets!

June

Star Wars Weekend continue (see May for full details)

Frozen Summer Fun – this event has Frozen taking over Hollywood Studios with a welcome parade with Anna, Elsa, and the gang, a special set of fireworks, and Olaf’s summer cool down. A great little addition to summer for princess lovers. No word if this event will span into 2016 as Hollywood Studios is going to through a major transition very soon.

Sounds of Summer concert series held in Epcot during the weekends of the summer months. Taking the stage are some moderate headliners from the 60s through today. A worthwhile stop for a seat during the weekends!

July

Frozen Summer Fun & Sounds of Summer concert series (see June for full details)

August

Frozen Summer Fun  (see June for full details)

September

September 1st brings around Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! This 2 month event is held at Magic Kingdom and allows entry into the park at 4 pm. and events run until midnight. Feel free to dress up in your favorite costume and trick or treat around the park. Meet some of your favorite Disney characters and some that are only available at this event! You’ll have a separate parade and special HalloWISHES fireworks! The event is typically held 2-3 times each week and separate ticketed admission is required.

Night of Joy is another specially ticketed event that occurs on 2 consecutive nights during the first week of September at Magic Kingdom. This is a concert series with Christian Rock/Contemporary groups. It’s always well attended. Guests can buy a one or two day ticket for this special event. Check park hours for complete details!

In late September, Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival begins. This is free with Epcot admission. The event gets bigger each year but also inflates crowds each year in that park. It’s a great use of your free dining snack credits and a great opportunity to sample food from around the World as many new ethnic booths pop up each year. I could easily spend 2+ full days just enjoying the culture, food, and drink for each of these booths and still not be able to try everything!

October

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween continues through October 31st. (See September for complete details of the event) Typically the event will expand to 3-4 nights per week during the month of October.

Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival continues. (See September for complete details of the event)

The Tower of Terror 10 Miler event is hosted in Hollywood Studios. This fun run is in early in the month of October and often sells out quickly due to its popularity. It’s an evening event with an after party at Hollywood Studios. For full details and dates, visit RunDisney.com

November 

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party begins in early November. As Disney removes Halloween themed decor, they bring out the Christmas decorations! Similar to the fall event, Magic Kingdom closes early for day guests (7 pm). Guests who have purchased tickets to the Christmas Party are able to enter the park at 4 pm and have special events like a meet and greet with Santa, special characters, parades, holiday Wishes and an amazing show projected onto Cinderella’s Castle. This event is held 2-3 times each week through mid-December.Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2014

Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival ends in mid-November (see September for complete details of the event)

The Wine & Dine Half Marathon is held in Epcot. This event is gaining popularity each year and ends with a party in World Showcase with food and beverages for all the competitors. See RunDisney.com for complete details and dates of the event.

Candlelight Processional is an event around holiday time in Epcot. This is a special event does not require separate admission to Epcot, however at most times of year, choosing a Candlelight Processional dinner package is your only way to get seating to this event. Many of the restaurants in Epcot World Showcase offers this dinner package and does guarantee your seating for the event. The event itself is beautiful. A large choir and 50 piece orchestra accompany a celebrity narrator who tells the story of Christmas. It’s a bit different each day. The complete schedule changes each year, so check out Disney’s web site for complete details.

The Osborne Family lights are held annually in Hollywood Studios along Hollywood Blvd. This is an absolutely gorgeous display of lights where you feel like you are transformed into a magical place surrounded by millions of lights! This is free with admission into Hollywood Studios. This is often a crowded area as there are showings of this light show each evening. If the weather is nice, it’s a great place to take a break and have a seat. It’s another event not to be missed!

December

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas parade ends in mid-December. As Christmas break crowds begin to increase, the events end. Guests are still able to see the holiday parade during normal park hours, but some of the other special events are not available. (See November for complete details for this event)

Candlelight Processional continues through the end of the year. (See November for complete details for this event)

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!

 

Friday Five: 5 Things in I’m looking forward to in 2016 at Disney World

It’s Friday, time for another edition of Friday 5. Today we’re looking forward to 2016 as we’re just a few more sleeps away from 2016 package rages being release (June 22nd).

1. The completion of the transition from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs. This has been a LONG time coming. I can remember walls going up several years ago. Each trip, things look a little bit better, and the completion of Disney Springs is scheduled for 2016. Hopefully all of the horrid construction on Buena Vista Drive will also be complete for those that are driving and for those trying to get there around dinner time with long, long bus waits due to traffic jams!

2. The opening of the new Frozen ride. Disney announced at the closing of Maelstrom in October that the location would be reimagined to a Frozen themed right in the Norway pavilion of Epcot. Whether you are excited or annoyed by the change, I’m excited to give some more kid appeal to Epcot World Showcase. The scheduled opening is May 1, 2016. I’d expect lines to be absolutely insane for the foreseeable future. Get your FastPasses early and often!

3. The completion of Polynesian Village. Another long project that was a big mess for a long time! The Polynesian Village & Villas will be complete in early 2016 (no official date). I’m so excited to see the completion of the resort and check out the DVC rooms for ourselves!

4. Hollywood Studios transition. Lots of things seem to be in transition at Disney including Hollywood Studios. The addition of another Toy Story Track (big WOOHOO from this girl!) Lots of empty buildings as well. It’s in need of a facelift. In conversations earlier this year, a Disney exec said a name change is also on the way. I have no idea of speculation what it will be! My husband and I have been trying to think of interesting options and I have nothing!

5. More changes for 2017 and beyond! Who knows what other projects will be upcoming! Disney is always innovating with unique options to keep people like me excited and returning year after year. They never disappoint either! 2014 brought the addition of the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. 2015 had a handful of transitions started and Starbucks locations opening in all 4 theme parks now (Animal Kingdom JUST opened!!)

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 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!