Posts Tagged With: Disney

Walt Disney World – The Basics-Where to Stay

The last time we talked, we were just starting a series on the basics of Walt Disney World.

(check out my previous post on the basics, “When to Go“)

Today, I want to talk a little bit more about the basics, “Where to Stay”.

OK, so you have nailed down the best time to go, now it’s time to start planning.  Where in the “World” could you stay??

Off property vs. On property 

The first thing we probably need to discuss is staying on “property” or off “property”.  What do I mean by that?  There are more than 20 unique resort hotels right on Disney property.  So, what are the advantages to staying “on property”?

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages:

Disney Quality

Like with all things, Disney’s quality service doesn’t stop at the turnstiles to the parks.  You can expect the same Disney touches right in their resort hotels.

Time

By staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, you will be able to spend more quality time with your family and friends.  Since you will be close to the magic, you can come and go as you please.  This is ideal for taking those mid-day breaks that “the kids” so desperately need.  [Shh, don’t tell anyone, but I look forward to these too]  🙂

And, so you will be able to maximize your time in the parks, on most days one theme park will open early, or stay open late.  These Extra Magic Hours are available to Disney Resort hotel guests only.

Convenience

When arriving at Orlando International airport, you can skip baggage claim, and take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express service.  This service provides complimentary transportation for you, as well as luggage delivery service right to your resort hotel room.

While staying at your Disney Resort hotel, you could also make your way to all 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, and the Downtown Disney shopping district via Disney’s complimentary transportation system.  The options include monorails, ferryboats, and motor coach transportation.

Not interested in using Disney’s transportation?  Rather drive yourself?  Disney also provides free parking at all of the theme parks, to all resort hotel guests.

Did you pick up something large and bulky?  Don’t feel like hauling it through the parks, and all the way back to your hotel?  Not to worry, Disney has you covered.  Many of your purchases can be delivered right to your Disney Resort hotel.

Worried about traveling through the parks with a large amount of cash, or credit cards?  While staying at a Disney hotel, you can charge that large bulky item directly to your room.

Resort Entertainment

While at your resort, watch for opportunities to catch a movie under the stars, experience a Character Dining Meal, or visit the resorts child activity center.  (All of these available at select resorts).

Choice

By booking a package, and staying at a Disney Resort, you will also be able to take advantage of the very popular Disney Dining Plan where you can save while enjoying a variety of dining experiences.

So, doesn’t it cost a fortune to stay at a Disney Resort?  Luckily Disney offers a wide array of options to fit any budget.  Disney classifies their resorts into one of several categories.

We’ll look at each:

Disney's Art of Animation Resort

© Disney

Value Resorts

Resorts in this category range from a typical standard room that sleeps 4 (about 260 square feet) to family suites that can sleep up to 6 (about 520 square feet).  The distinctive characteristic in these resorts is the larger than life icons you will find throughout.  They also offer you an experience big on fun, but small on cost.

  • All-Star Movies – Find yourself immersed in larger than life icons that salute classic Disney films
  • All-Star Music – As the name implies, this resort is all about the love of Music
  • All-Star Sports – For the sports fan.  You will be feel part of the “BIG” game
  • Art of Animation – Disney’s newest resort invites you to become a part of your favorite animated films.
  • Pop Century – Whether it’s larger-than-life Cell Phones, Rubik’s cubes, or Big Wheels, you will find it here.  You will feel like you stepped back in time at this fun resort.
Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort

© Disney

Moderate Resorts

Resorts in this category offer rooms that sleep up to 4, and range about 314 square feet.  These resorts offer a little more space, and comfort for your family.  The resorts in the category invite you to escape to enchanting, wonderfully affordable locales

  • Caribbean Beach – Feel like you are relaxing in the Caribbean as you visit this tropical beach side paradise set upon the 45-acre Barefoot Bay
  • Coronado Springs – An American Southwest themed Resort hotel that evokes the spirit and romance of Spanish-colonial Mexico
  • Port Orleans-French Quarter – Inspired by the romance and pageantry of the historic French Quarter in New Orleans
  • Port Orleans-Riverside – Enjoy the picturesque waterfront while surrounded by the tranquility of the Louisiana Bayou
  • Cabins at Fort Wilderness – The cabins provide all the comforts of home and offer an American Frontier theme
Disney's Animal Kingdom Kidani Villas

© Disney

Deluxe Resorts / Deluxe Villa Resorts

There are a vast array of room options available within this category.  Standard rooms range from about 340 square feet, and can go up to around 440 square feet.  No matter the option, you can experience the ultimate in luxury, style and service at each of these Deluxe resorts.

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge – An amazing African lodge-style hotel set on a 43-acre wildlife preserve
  • Bay Lake Tower – Set near Magic Kingdom, this resort promises to deliver some of the most dramatic views of Walt Disney World
  • Beach Club – A New-England style lakeside hotel with a sand-and-surf motif
  • Boardwalk Inn – An elegant lakeside hotel fashioned after the seaside buildings of 1940’s Atlantic City
  • Contemporary Resort – A modern lakeside hotel located within walking distance of Magic Kingdom
  • Grand Floridian – A Victorian-style hotel that conjures the splendor of the Sunshine State’s golden era
  • Old Key West – Enjoy the leisurely romance of the Florida Keys
  • Polynesian – From the thatched roofs to the koi ponds, this resort celebrates the spirit of the South Pacific
  • Saratoga Springs – Inspired by the historic Saratoga Springs, the New York retreat famous for it’s spa and horse racing
  • Wilderness Lodge – Captures the adventurous and romantic spirit of the grand National Park Service lodges found in the Great American Northwest
  • Yacht Club – A Martha’s Vineyard-themed hotel on Crescent Lake with authentic nautical details

Other Deluxe Resorts

  • Dolphin – Inspired by Florida itself, this resort was designed by award-winning architect Michael Graves
  • Swan – The sister resort to the Dolphin, also designed by Michael Graves, sits across the lake from the Dolphin

Wow!  That’s a lot of places!  As you can clearly see, there are so many options to choose from!

Interested in hearing more about any of the Walt Disney Resort hotels?  Drop me a line.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time…sleep tight!  🙂

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Walt Disney World – The Basics-When to Go

So, you have decided that it is finally time for you to take your little Pirate or Princess to the “Most Magical Place on Earth”.  But now it’s time for the decisions to be made.

When is a good time to go?  Where to stay?  How many days do I need to be there?  What is there to see?  Wow!  The possibilities are endless!!

Never fear!  I’ve come to help.

Over the course of my next several posts, I will start a series:  Walt Disney World-The Basics

So, let’s start this off with one of the main questions that I’m asked….

“What time of year is the best time to go?”

Well, the answer to that is a resounding….”It depends”.  What?!  It depends?!  That’s right.  It depends.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors involved in timing the perfect trip for you and your family.

  • Crowd levels, “When are the theme parks most crowded?”
  • Temperatures, “How HOT does it really get in the summer?”  
  • Rainfall, “If I don’t get the timing right, is my time and money going to be washed away by all the rain?” 
  • Special Events, “Are there any special events that I don’t want to miss at Walt Disney World?”
  • Holiday Seasons, “What are the Parks like during the Holidays?  Does Disney do anything special?” – OK that one is a little crazy….If there is one thing that Disney does well, it’s “Special”.  Especially at the Holidays!

Crowds

So, let’s start with Crowds.  The general rule is, if kids are out of school, expect larger crowds in the Parks.  Most parents try to avoid taking their children out of school to go on vacation.  OK, so that’s summer, right?  Well, not necessarily.  Families tend to travel any time their kids are out of school.  That also means all major holidays will show larger attendance numbers.

Below is a chart showing historic crowd levels over the course of the year:

Just as you would imagine, the summer months are among the busiest.  But if you look, even busier than the summer are the holidays.  From President’s Day in February to Spring Break/Easter in the spring, to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, the holiday periods are among the busiest days of the whole year.

So, if you are looking specifically to avoid the crowds, and have the luxury of traveling while kids are in school, it looks like September, or early December would be right up your alley.

Temperatures

While crowds are a factor, how about temperatures?  If you are someone who doesn’t mind crowds, but can’t stand the heat, when are the best times for you?

Well, I have you covered there as well:

If you are someone looking to avoid the heat, you will want to stick to the October – April time frame.  During this period, highs are generally in the mid 70’s to mid 80’s.  On the other hand, if you will be spending your evenings in the Theme Parks, or enjoy the pools or Water Parks, perhaps lows in the 40’s and 50’s might be a little chilly for you.  Keep in mind that these are averages, and as a wise man once said, “Averages are only the mid-point of the extremes.”  What does that mean, who knows.  It sounds good though.  🙂  Actually, what it means is although these are averages, weather is unpredictable and you may be faced with an “extreme” condition.  A few years back, my family traveled to Walt Disney World the first week in December.  Coming from Ohio, we are used to cold winters.  While attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, they were pumping in fake “snow” on Main Street.  While we knew it was fake, we had to stop and think about it because we were freezing and thought for a second that it could actually be real.

Rainfall

OK.  How rainy is it in Florida?  Will all of the “magic” be washed away?  As you would expect, the summer months generally see the most rainfall.

The good news is, even in the summer, the rain doesn’t last forever.  In most cases, the rain passes fairly quickly and you can move on with your day.  If you are looking to avoid that possibility, however, Spring, Fall, or Winter may be the time for you.

Special Events

While we all know that Disney doesn’t do anything unless they can do it “special”, there are many special events that are run all year long.

Some of the special events include:

  • Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival – March-May
  • Star Wars Weekends – June
  • Sounds Like Summer Concert Series – Summer
  • Night of Joy – September
  • Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – October-November

Holiday Events

The holiday season is among the most magical time to be in Walt Disney World.  There are many families that plan their annual trips around the holiday season solely to experience all that Disney has to offer during this amazing time.

Disney’s annual holiday events include:

  • Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party  – September-October
  • Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – November-December
  • The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights – November-December
  • Holidays Around the World / Candlelight Processional – November-December

runDisney

Are you a runner?  If so, Disney has something for you.  Several times a year, Walt Disney World plays host to thousands of runners as they compete in several endurance challenges.

Some of the challenges you may choose to take part in include:

  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January
  • Disney Princess Half Marathon – February
  • Expedition Everest Challenge – May
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend – September
  • Disney Wine & Dine Marathon – November

So, all this to say, “What time of year is the best time to go?  It depends.”  One thing is for certain, no matter what time of year you choose for your family, there is so much to see and do.  You will have a wonderful time!

Interested in hearing more about any of these events, or planning out the perfect time for you and your little Pirate or Princess to be part of the magic?  Contact me today for your no obligation quote.

And, make sure you stay tuned for the rest in the series, Walt Disney World – The Basics.  See you soon!

Categories: Destinations, Walt Disney World | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Single Digit Dance

Today at my house we  are doing the “Single Digit Dance”

What in the world is that, you ask??

The Single Digit Dance isn’t so much a dance, as it is, well, celebration of reaching another milestone in our “Countdown to the Magic”.  As our countdown officially stands at 9 Days, we are now in “single digits”.  🙂

So, how do you celebrate a ridiculous, made-up, never before heard of event??  

Of course you break out all of your Disney gear, and wear nothing but Disney Shirts, Mickey Ears, sandals, and shorts to work.  You listen to nothing but Disney music at home, work, in the car…..

Alright, maybe that’s a little over the top.  People would think you were weird or something.  (Well, or at least more weird than normal in my case)

At any rate, here are some things you could do to prepare for your upcoming trip:

Countdowns

If you haven’t already started an official countdown, now is the time to do it.  Nothing makes the final days move faster than marking them off the calendar.

There are many different ways you could choose from to do your countdown.

Some people make construction paper chain links.  Each night your children (or you, I promise I won’t tell) can tear off a link at bedtime.  It’s a great visualization for younger children to get an idea of how many days are left.

Others may choose to do something more elaborate, like creating a wooden countdown peg board with mini Mickey heads with the numbers 0 – 9 on them.  Each day, they could change the date. Although this approach would take some time to set up, it would be a fun craft for the family to work on, and you could use it year after year.

We typically print calendars that count down the days.  On the day we travel, I print a little mickey image.  The kids look forward to marking the days off, and at any point, if you ask them, they can tell you EXACTLY how many days are left.

Then, of course there are electronic countdowns including several apps for the iPhone.

Getting Ready . . . For the Fun of it

We generally take this opportunity to get our Disney nerd on.  This is when we break out all of our Disney music and Disney themed games.

Now is also the time to watch Disney movies and home movies from past trips.  Time to reminisce by looking over pictures and scrapbooks from days gone by and anticipate making new memories.

Getting ready . . . For the Necessity of it

While this time can certainly be fun, it can also be stressful.  There are many things to remember to take care of, a list of things to do, and thousands of things to pack.

Here’s a brief checklist of items you should consider:

  • Begin packing – the earlier you can do this, the better.  Nothing is worse than starting your vacation exhausted because you were up all night the night before packing
  • Renew your prescriptions (make sure these go in your carry on luggage.  See the link below for my post about the Magical Express)
  • Check the Orlando Weather – this may assist in what exactly to pack.
  • Which brings up the next point…keep packing
  • Confirm all your reservations – Airline, Hotel, Car Rental, Dining – better safe than sorry.
  • Make sure that friends, family and neighbors know that you will be gone, and how to get in touch with you in case of emergency
  • Make sure you do the laundry you will need while on vacation – You don’t want to be doing it the night before.
  • Re-Check the Attraction Refurbishment schedule – this has been known to change over time.  It’s best to be prepared if your favorite attraction will be closed
  • Charge the batteries for your Camera, Video Camera, iPod, GPS, etc.
  • Continue packing
  • Stop your mail & newspaper
  • Make arrangements for your pets
  • Pick up some Disney Gift Cards – this is a great way for the kids to feel that they “paid” for their souvenirs.
  • Do Online Check-in (if staying on Disney property) – You can do this up to 10 days in advance of your arrival.  By doing this, you can recapture some of the time you would normally spend standing at the counter when you arrive at your resort
  • Did I mention Packing? – Don’t forget Park Tickets, Magical Express Vouchers, Airline Boarding Passes, Passports (if going on a cruise)

Enough of the “Necessity”, I want FUN!

OK.  I’ll end with some things you can do to keep the excitement going over the last week or so.

Now is the time to make sure you have your itinerary locked down.  We always begin with what parks are we touring on what day.  From there, we make a list of the “must-do” attractions.  These are ones we want to make sure we see.  Now, starting with this list, we make a list of the first 3 – 5 attractions we want to see when we arrive at each park in the morning.  Nothing is worse than taking the time to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn so you can beat the crowds, then upon arriving at the park standing and staring at a map trying to figure out what you should do first while the masses head to the attractions.

With these thoughts in mind, I’m sure you can have a magical experience.

Are there things you do to prepare for your trip that I didn’t mention?  Rituals that your family has as your vacation approaches?  I’d love to hear them!

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Categories: Cruises, Destinations, Disneyland, Walt Disney World | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Passport to Happiness

So last week we had an exciting mail day!  I know…I know.  Really?  Mail?  Exciting?  Doesn’t mail just mean bills, catalogs, credit card offers, and other junk?  Sure…usually.  That day, however, was one of those rare days when you get something special.  You immediately run to the house to show your spouse.

So, what was it that caused today to be one of those days, you ask?

Well, that day we got this:

Your passport to happiness  :-)

Ok, I still don’t get it.  What exactly is that?

Well, I generally look as this little packet as my “passport to happiness”.  It is the travel vouchers and luggage tags from Disney’s Magical Express, needed for my upcoming trip (16 days, but who is counting) to Walt Disney World.  Receiving this in the mail each time we travel is, in my book, a vacation milestone.  Once I receive this, I know that my trip is imminent, and I can start to get excited and start the official countdown.

Not familiar with Disney’s Magical Express?

What is Disney’s Magical Express

If you are staying at one of Disney’s resorts during your vacation, Disney provides complimentary round-trip shuttle service from the Orlando International Airport.  Disney’s Magical Express also includes luggage delivery.

By using this service, you can step off the airplane, and head directly to the Magical Express bus for your transportation to your Walt Disney World Resort hotel.  There is no need to wait for, or transport your luggage.

How it works

After you have secured your flight arrangements, contact your Vacation Planner (me of course 🙂 ) with your flight info, or of course if you have decided to do something crazy like do all of the planning yourself, and not use my services, you can contact Disney directly to reserve your spot on Disney’s Magical Express.

Approximately 3 weeks prior to your departure, Disney will mail you your very own magic envelope (and you too can begin celebrating).  Inside the envelope, you will find your travel vouchers and luggage tags.  When you are checking in at your departure airport, make sure that you have attached the luggage tags to your bags.  If you do this, you won’t have to worry about your bags again.  The next time you will see them is when they are delivered to your room at Walt Disney World.

An important side note here.  When packing, make sure you pack your travel vouchers in your carry-on bag.  You will need these vouchers in order to board the Magical Express motor coach.

Now, back to your trip….

When you arrive at the Orlando International Airport, you can pass right by the baggage claim area, and make your way downphoto credit:  Disney to Level 1 of the Main Terminal (B Side).  At the Magical Express check-in, they will check your vouchers and direct you to board the correct motor coach.

Now, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and let your vacation begin.  As you travel on board the motor coach, you will be treated to a cute video that will give you all the highlights of Walt Disney World.   This is one of our family favorites, and something we look forward to each trip.  To me, it is the official start of vacation.

Disney’s Magical Express will transport you to the front door of your resort.  All you need to do is check in, and start soaking in all the Magic.

But wait, what about your luggage ??

Disney’s Magical Express service will collect your bags and deliver them directly to your room within 4 hours of the time you check in at the resort.

Time for another Public Service Announcement:

Something else you will want to keep in mind is since you will not have your luggage with you when you check in to the resort, you will want to make sure that you pack anything that you will need for the first couple of hours in your carry-on bag.  (Medicine, park tickets, reservation numbers, etc).  

So, on your next trip to “the World”, don’t stress out about transportation from the airport.  Sit back and let Mickey handle the driving!

Have questions, or comments?  Feel free to contact me.

Categories: Destinations, Walt Disney World | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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