These are a few of my favorite Walt Disney World things…

I get this question a lot – “what are your favorite XYZ thing in Walt Disney World”? I have things that are near and dear to my heart – some of which tug at the heartstrings, some which are just the best of the best in experiences, other things that we save for special occasions.

Resorts

This is an easy one for me and we have two. #1 – Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary resort. Walking access to and from Magic Kingdom, many rooms with a view of the fireworks from your living room or balcony and the monorail steps away to get to other parks. Easy to get to parking lot for those that access to a car. Great set of resort rooms from the studio when it’s just the 3 of us traveling up to 1 and 2 bedroom villas when we are traveling with family. The 1 and 2 bedroom villas have a ton of bathrooms as well (2 full baths in a 1 bedroom and 3 full baths in a 2 bedroom). I am not as big of a fan of the main Contemporary building – the feeling of the two resorts (even though they have the same amenities) are completely different. Bay Lake is quiet which I love and need after a busy day in the park. I also like that the hallways aren’t horribly long like they are at some other resorts.

Resort #2 – Standard Club Level room at Wilderness Lodge. It’s not just Wilderness Lodge – it’s this specific booking category. Because it’s a small resort and the addition of Copper Creek Villas there are very few club level rooms. It makes the experience more intimate. I love the club level floor. We request a room facing toward Magic Kingdom and you’ve got a nice view of the fireworks in the evening. The club level offerings are robust here and it just feels like home. The sights, the smells, the everything! It’s my favorite overall place.

Dining

This list can get a bit long, so I’ll try to keep it short. This list also changes and adapts based on the time of year and why we’re traveling (and who is with us). And you will find very little character dining here – we prefer to see characters in the park with the photo backdrop and dining for us is all about the FOOD

  • Garden Grill (Epcot) – Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner are all good!
  • Via Napoli (Epcot)
  • Teppan Edo (Epcot)
  • Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge) – Breakfast & dinner are both good meals
  • Trattoria al Forno (Boardwalk) – Breakfast (the best character dining meal – I’d eat here even if there were no characters)
  • Boathouse (Disney Springs)
  • Art Smith’s Homecomin’ (Disney Springs)
  •  Ohana (Polynesian) – Dinner (this is becoming a little less of a favorite in recent years but still a good meal)

Do we eat other places? ALL THE TIME! But these are my core go to locations. I’m just about 20 dining locations short of dining at every location in WDW!

Magical Extras/Special Experiences

This is the easiest answer – Magic Kingdom fireworks dessert party – Garden plaza view. DSC_0282For $59 for adults and less for kids, you’ve got a quick little dessert buffet followed by a protected place to watch the fireworks in Magic Kingdom. Happily Ever After with the projection technology, needs to be seen inside the park and with kids, it’s much easier to be seen in this protected space and the soft hub grass to sit in while you wait. We’ve had a photopass photographer come in and take photos while we wait too! It’s also a nice protected space after the fireworks end as most of the guests in the park head toward the exit and go nowhere fast. We just sit and relax and let the crowds clear first.

Special events parties – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party. This is my favorite special event. It’s an expensive add but we LOVE it so much. Dressing up as a family in Magic Kingdom, trick or treating, the best parade in all of WDW (RIP Spectromagic & Main Street Electrical Parade which may have ranked higher if still running), and a great fireworks show! And in our house…we love villains. This event runs on select nights in September and October.

What are YOUR favorite things around Walt Disney World??

MinnieBox

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

I’d love to talk to you about my happy place so you can think about starting YOUR collection of memories! Whether it’s a first time, the first time as a family, a celebration, or it’s something you’ve been putting off because it’s overwhelming, we can do this! My planning services are 100% free for guests who book a package with Magical Vacations! Talk to me about a free, no obligation quote today!

 

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This holiday season, collect memories, not more things!

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We have STUFF in our house…stuff, stuff and more stuff and the last thing I need to put under my tree is more STUFF! So this year, we’re collecting memories! We’re counting down the days until our next Walt Disney World vacation! To us, the stuff will come and go and thinking back to my childhood, what do I remember most? Is it tearing open who knows what at age 4 and 5 and 6? NO! It’s traveling as a family and visiting new destinations and having new adventures. So this year, we’re taking new adventures and doing new things in our home away from home.

I challenge you to do the same! Give the gift of travel to your family! We collect Mickey hugs and castle selfies, and laughter, and another ride on its a small world. And it makes my heart full more than any sort of item under my tree.

Travel is good for my soul, it gives us something to look forward to! It gives my husband IMG_9748a break from his busy, high stress job, and gets me out of my house and my office. It allows my daughter to continue to broaden her horizons, enhance her interpersonal skills at the ripe old age of 4. She brings sunshine to other guests and cast members and she has since she could talk and teeter around. It allows her to be social (which she is by nature). She also learns patience by waiting in line!

And truly, it’s just our happy place. We love our Disney bubble. We love being in the middle of the magic. We love the relaxation it now gives us. YES, Walt Disney World is a relaxing destination for us – we enjoy the parks, we enjoy the shows and the characters and sitting poolside and having our meals prepared for us every day.

MinnieBox

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

I’d love to talk to you about my happy place so you can think about starting YOUR collection of memories! Whether it’s a first time, the first time as a family, a celebration, or it’s something you’ve been putting off because it’s overwhelming, we can do this! My planning services are 100% free for guests who book a package with Magical Vacations! Talk to me about a free, no obligation quote today!

Walt Disney World: Back to Basics

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It’s been a long time since I had some time to write so it’s time to go back to basics! Let’s talk about the basics of Walt Disney World. This is the perfect way to plan for a first time visit or the first time in a long time visit.

Packages vs. room and tickets ala carte

In almost every single scenario, having your package bundled together is the best thing for you. First, it’s the ONLY way you can include a dining plan and second, it gives you the most protection of your money. Disney packages require just a $200 deposit to confirm (which can include as little as your room and tickets but as much as dining plan, travel insurance, and more!) If you purchase items ala carte, you’re going to pay a one night + tax deposit on your room space, separate purchase for your tickets (which is non-refundable), Memory Maker (non-refundable), and you don’t have the option to include travel protection insurance in case something happens. With packages, you can add travel insurance which protects your entire package and in many cases, you stand to lose less if you have to cancel your plans for the unexpected.

So what is a package?

  • In the most basic form it’s room + tickets booked together
  • Guests can also book a “ticketless” package – if you aren’t planning on going into the park, are an annual passholder, member of the military, or have old non-expiring tickets from a trip long ago, you can book room + dining together and skip the ticket portion
  • Packages can include the optional additions of dining plan, travel protection insurance, Memory Maker, or even flights!

The Resorts

What do the resort categories mean?

Disney has 4 unique resort categories with their own pros and cons…

Value Resorts. These are the most cost effective options out of any resort category. This isBoardwalk Across the water.JPG best for guests that are looking to save money on their resort experience. Keep in mind that these resorts are at many times host to youth sporting events and international tour groups so it can effect your resort experience if you’re planning on spending any significant amount of time at your resort, this may not be the best place for you. These are resorts are great for those that are going to be spending all day in the parks and not thinking about a resort break in the day – essentially a place to sleep and shower! The exception to this rule is Art of Animation which have family suites and can feel a bit more robust in terms of offerings and experience than the other value resorts.

Moderate Resorts. These resorts offer additional resort amenities on site. Some notable upgrades from the value resort experience – larger resort rooms (some of these resorts sleep up to 5 guests), water slides at the main pool, additional on site dining options, and covered bus stops (so if it’s raining or really hot, it’s a nice feeling of relief to be out of the elements). These resorts are more middle of the road in term of pricing and many first timers find this resort a comfortable starting point in terms of price point and resort experience.

Deluxe Resort. This is my favorite resort category. You add even more to the available amenities from the moderate category and you’ll find stronger theming throughout the rooms and resorts (NOT Mickey around every turn – just stronger central themes – like African Safari, Yacht Club, a tropical oasis, and more) These rooms are larger yet – most of which sleep a total of 4 guests and some can sleep 5 (or more in suites). These resorts Beach Club Inside roomalso have additional dining options (at least 2 if not more choices to dine on site), things like watercraft or tours available in the resort, a room with a view (theme park, savanna, fireworks, etc.) and often special park access – whether it be a different way to get to the parks besides a bus – boat, monorail, walking. The key to most of these resorts is location, location, location! We also feel a little bit more of the warm fuzzies when it comes the guest experience.

Deluxe Villas. These are similar to deluxe villas in amenities. The difference in these are the room layout and overall size. These rooms come in different sizes – studio (similar to a standard hotel room), 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, and 3 bedroom grand villa. This is more like condo living. Studios have a microwave in room, and 1 and 2 bedroom villas have both washer/dryers AND a full kitchen inside each unit. It makes it feel a bit more like home plus the same benefits of the deluxe resorts above!

Theme park tickets.

Choosing your park tickets can be a difficult piece of the planning puzzle for everyone. Single day tickets, park hopper tickets, park hopper plus which includes water park access. I like the convenience of park hopper tickets for my family so we can go back to a favorite park and open up additional options for dining.

Park hopper tickets are incredibly important during the fall and winter months when Disney hosts some special events in Magic Kingdom which limit park hours as well as dining in that parks. Additionally, days without parties become VERY crowded (over the last 2 years it’s been almost unbearable on non-party nights like holiday crowds on mundane October Saturday night)! Park hopper tickets allow you to start your day in Magic Kingdom on a party night and hop somewhere else for the evening. And on the other side, start in another park in the morning and hop one night to Magic Kingdom to see the amazing fireworks show!

Water park tickets. When is this a good option? Disney water parks are amazing and a great heat relief. It’s also a really great addition for guests with longer stays as well. It’s a nice way to do a little bit of relaxing and do a little less walking than a normal park day. And with park hopper tickets as a park of your package, it’s a very inexpensive addition!

Dining plan

Disney has 3 dining plans for 2018: Quick Service, Plus Dining, and Deluxe Dining. Regardless of your choice, each member of your traveling party will receive a refillable mug to be used at your resort. It can actually be refilled at any resort during your stay. No refills at the parks though!

The quick service dining plan provides you with 2 quick service credits and 2 snacks for each night stayed.

  • Each quick service credit comes with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage whether you use it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner

PLUS dining (or the Disney dining plan) provides you with 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and TWO snacks for each night stayed.

  • Quick service credit comes with an entree and  beverage (it can  be alcoholic OR photo 1(2)non-alcoholic) whether you use it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Table service credits come with an entree, beverage (it can  be alcoholic OR non-alcoholic) and dessert. No dessert will be offered if you choose to use a credit at breakfast.
  • Table service credits can also exchanged for a buffet or family style meal.

The Deluxe Dining Plan provides you with 3 credits which can be used for either table service or quick service and 2 snacks for each night stayed.

  •  Quick service credits come with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage.
  • Table service credits come with an appetizer, entree, beverage (it can  be alcoholic OR non-alcoholic), and dessert. No appetizer or dessert will be offered if you choose to use a credit at breakfast. (This is an appetizer per person – not for your entire group so if you have a group of 4 you will receive 4 appetizers)
  • Table service credits can also be exchanged for buffet or family style meals.

Dining plan makes your reservation a more “all inclusive” type of vacation. Cost wise, it’s close to “break even” in terms of paying as you go vs. using a dining plan (we often end up saving money with a dining plan. I also like the convenience of the dining plan so everything is paid in full ahead of time vs. spending a ton of money on a package and hen spending a ton more money on food (because people really under estimate how much money food actually costs once inside the Disney bubble!)

MinnieBox

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

So that’s a primer of the basics of Walt Disney world? So what’s right for you? I’d love to talk about your next Walt Disney World vacation! My planning services are 100% free for guests who book a package with Magical Vacations! Talk to me about a free, no obligation quote today!

Tips & Tricks for Planning your FIRST Disney World vacation

 

The first Disney trip is a big deal. Whether it’s the first time going as an adult and planning yourself or the first time for your kids, each experience is different and deserves specialized care! While many of my general tips apply to all Disney guests, here are some that are especially for those first time travelers!

  • Travel off peak when possible. While there’s not much left for “slow” times and empty parks, staying away from holidays, Spring Breaks, and summer (essentially when kids are out of school) will make you feel more successful in the parks with less overall crowds.
  • If summer or spring break is your only option, don’t sweat it. You can still enjoy Disney while when crowds levels are higher. You can enjoy FastPass+ to the fullest by staying on Disney property which will allow you to skip the line for even more of your soon to be favorite attractions!
  • Plan ahead. Once you have your dates, get them secured. Discounts can ALWAYS be applied at the time a new promotion is released. It’s just a phone call or online request away. Packages require a $200 deposit to book and is 100% refundable 30+ days in advance, so if things change, no problem. When planning ahead, you get bonuses – 180 days in advance you can book all of your dining and 60 days ahead you can select all of your FastPasses!
  • Work with someone that knows Disney. You will save time, money, frustration, and stress by working with a travel agent. I’m always here to help if you have general questions or are looking to get your Magical experience started! I’ve found that once a person starts with a good travel agent, they continue to use him/her for future trips or refer friends. That’s a really good marker of a great person! You should not be another page in their book! I work mostly with first timers or repeat guests who are referrals to me, but don’t take my word for it – check out some of our amazing Guestimonials!
  • Try at least one sit down restaurant. Your feet will thank you and it’s fun to get a different experience and a break from the go, go, go atmosphere of Disney. Whether you want to use a dining plan or not, just try something. I even like trying something in a resort instead of a theme park. It gives you an opportunity to explore a resort for a future stay without feeling out of place (I didn’t know you could tour other resorts on my first trip!)
  • Use FastPass+ to your advantage. Whether you have base tickets or park hoppers, make sure take advantage to all the free things Disney offers as part of their package. Each ticketed guest will receive 3 FastPasses each day. Disney resort guests have the opportunity to earn more once inside the park. Check out the complete details of FastPass+ and learn strategy.
  • Customize those MagicBands. I always feel bad when I see a family with all gray bands walking around the parks or playing in the pool. Learn how to get to your customization page and get creative! Remember, these are FREE by staying at a Walt Disney World resort!
  • Children under 3 are free! If are thinking about Disney travel in the near future and your son or daughter is under 3, think about travel sooner rather than later. Children under 3 years of age are free. Free park tickets, free dining at buffets, and are able to eat off your plate at other restaurants. They also don’t count toward the total guests in your room . For a family of 5, this is huge. Once you hit 5+ in a room, you lose many hotel options. If you would have asked me 3 years ago if I’d take my under 3 year old to Disney, I would have told you no way, but having done it TWICE in under 2 years, I’d absolutely recommend it. Life is easier in diapers than it is with a recent potty trained kiddo and I really like having a mid-day break and kids force your hand! It makes the days less strenuous. If you want to do some big kid activities, learn more about Rider Switch or just bring along grandma or grandpa!
  • Children under 10 cost less! Once again, if you are going to travel in the near future, 9 years old and 10 years old make a huge difference. At 10, kids are considered Disney “adults” and pay adult prices for food and park tickets. You will save quite a bit of money by traveling before (or near) the age your child turns 10.
  • Tell Disney (or your travel agent) about any celebrations. This includes everything from first visit to birthday, graduation, anniversary, etc. Anything you can think of.  Even if travel doesn’t fall specific on a birthday or anniversary, you can still celebrate at Disney! You’ll get a little something extra. While it’s typically just a button, you never know what kind of fuss Disney will make over your special celebration.
  • Do your research! Know what resorts have to offer and know where each one is. Typically there’s a reason that one hotel is cheaper than another in each resort category. Make sure you know the details before you make your final decision!
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 FIRST 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!