Hakuna Matata….it means no worries!

Happy 2018.  It is with great happiness that I am typing away this morning, thinking back on all of the blessings life has offered our family this year.  That is one of the wonderful things about the new year, it is a great time of reflection.

The picture above is from this past summer, and even though it is hard to tell, I had just been in the middle of a heavy downpour.  Quite typical for Florida.  One minute it’s raining cats and dogs, and the next, a beautiful skyline.  This was one of those moments.  Most people don’t smile when they are soaking wet…..right?  But in this picture, I was “beaming”.  I didn’t care that my hair was messy and my clothes soggy.  I didn’t care that my makeup was not photo ready.  I was not worried about filters and looking just right.  I wanted to capture this moment, my emotions, how I was feeling on the inside.  God was speaking to me, and I knew what I needed to do.  I have learned to listen to His gentle nudge.  Let me explain what went on prior to this photo…..

We were at Magic Kingdom, enjoying our first full day of vacation, when the storm clouds rolled in.  We didn’t have much time to think and then BOOM, the rain came down.  To say we were soaked would be an understatement.

We tried to take cover, but so did everyone else in the park.  After getting out the ponchos and umbrellas (see….this is why you always pack them!!!), we made a dash while I pushed Gabe in his wheelchair and Katie and Sydney ran in front of us, trying to find a dry spot.  It was no use.  Everyone there found the closest spots, so we just decided to go back to the resort.  We were fortunately at Cinderella’s Castle, so not too far away from the monorail, and after some moments of “what in the world are we going to do?”, we made it to the covered monorail area and hopped on the monorail.  Whew.  What else could we do but to laugh???  We were all soaking wet, shoes squishing, but, knew better than to complain.  We were safe, we were together, we were happy.

The rain stopped about the time we got off the monorail and began walking back to the resort (of course it did….after all that effort).  We. Just. Laughed.  We heard so many people around us complaining, and I get it.   But what could we do about it?  Nothing!  What has God told us?  What will worrying do?  Will it add a single minute, hour, day to our lives?  No!  So, I sent Katie back with the kids to our room, and I went to get us some snacks and drinks from the resort lobby.  It was during this walk back that I had a little short talk with God, taking in all the absolute beauty that was surrounding me, and thanking Him for allowing me the opportunity to be in this moment with Him, and also with my family.  I stopped to take this picture and sent it to my husband.  I was filled with an overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t name….more than happiness, more than excitement.  I continued to feel it during so many moments during that trip, and also at some point each and every day.  Because of Him.

This past summer,  a family friend’s daughter found out she had a brain tumor.  Two months after this happened, her mother, a friend of mine, spoke of this situation.  I know I won’t quote this exactly right, but this is what I took from it.  After going through her procedures, and, after time, coming out of it feeling more alive than ever, she struggled to find the word that she was feeling.  Yes, she was thankful.  Yes, she felt gratitude.  But there was more.  She knew there was a word she was trying to label all of this with, and she just couldn’t figure it out…..Finally, God spoke to her and said “Joy”.

I heard this story about a month ago, and ever since then, I have thought of that word endlessly.  Finding Joy, Appreciating Joy, Recognizing Joy…..Then yesterday, as I listened to our pastor speaking, he discussed the idea of “joy”.  I was pleasantly surprised that our sermon focused on this tiny word.  I say pleasantly surprised, but at the same time, I have also learned, that is how my relationship with God works.  When there is a lesson He wants me to learn….He keeps it on my heart.  So, for over a month, at least 3-4 times a week, I thought of our friend’s daughter.  I thought of “Joy”.  And I smiled.  I would think of God’s blessings, and I would smile.

In his sermon, as we discussed joy…I thought of this word…. Such a small word, but with great purpose.  He said that Pleasure + Meaning = Joy.   Things began to make sense to me.  There may be some that do not agree with this “definition”, but for me, it completely resonated with how I have always felt inside when someone spoke of the word “Joy”.  It was like I had been waiting my whole life for this definition, for an understanding of a feeling inside that I had when I am at complete peace, but it’s completely more than peaceful!  There is more happiness involved, there is purpose and excitement.  It is joy.  It is a look on my face that my husband knows all too well.  He says I get a tiny smile on my face….where I look like I am almost daydreaming, but I am completely in the moment.  It is joy, and I usually have that look when I see my kids loving each other, or a moment when I see something of beauty in the world.  My insides begin to stir and I almost feel that I am going to erupt!  And…it’s with joy.  The moments when you are ever so thankful to just be alive and where you are praising God for another day…and for me, I have this stirring inside of me and have never been able to put a word on it.  Finally, the word, so simply and true.  Joy.  A feeling that I can recall from moments when I was five years old to moments just yesterday….Joy.   Something that is a gift, given to me from the One, because of my moments of Solitude with Him.  How exquisite, how precious, and how rewarding, to know that I serve someone who will pay it forward to me, in such humbling ways.

While today’s blog varies from my normal topic of something related to Disney information, it absolutely has everything to do with WHY I am in this position to begin with.  I was 100% led by God to seek out this position as a travel specialist.  It has been by the overwhelming joy that I have felt inside me as I help guests that I know, this is what He wants me to do.  Joy.  So, simple and so meaningful.  So purposeful.  And exactly where I am supposed to be.

Happy 2018, may all of your dreams come true!  debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com

For the First Time in Forever…(Part 5)

Wrapping up my blog series, today I will jump into using FastPass + and MagicBands, two of my favorite things from WDW!

Fastpass+

A question I get asked regularly is “What is a FastPass+?”.  Essentially, it reserves a spot for you on a ride/attraction.  The best thing?  It is FREE!  You can choose your FastPass+ selections 60 days prior to your trip, and when choosing, it gives you a choice of time frames to select from (if mutltiple time slots are available).  You will have an hour window in which to physically complete your FastPass+.  Each guest is given three FastPass+ selections per day, and upon completion, you can even select a fourth!  If you are a park hopper, the fourth one can be inside a different park, but the first three MUST be completed within the same park.  So, if you are NOT a park hopper, then the fourth one will be completed within the same park as well.

As mentioned before, FastPass+ can be booked at 60 days out from your trip via the My Disney Experience App, or website, or can even be done from inside the park at one of the kiosks on the day of your trip.  This can be done once your tickets are purchased AND if you are staying on property during your trip.  The selections are then stored in your app,  MagicBands, or also on your physical park ticket.  I would have to stress that it is highly recommended/critical to book FastPass+ in advance for those highly sought after rides and attractions.  This summer, Pandora debuted during my trip.  I regret now NOT taking the time to check it out, as the lines were 240 minutes long every single day, for MOST of the day,  during our trip (it debuted the day before we arrived).  No one wants to spend that much time in line, when you have planned so many other things to do while at Disney.  There is no guarantee you will get exactly what you want, but the chances are much higher if you are able to book at your 60 day window.

You use your MagicBand Mickey Head (see the one in my picture above) to meet up to the ride’s RFID Mickey Head as you walk into the attraction opening.  There will be a line for FastPass+ and for Stand-by.  It always feels SO GOOD (but honestly, I have also felt a little guilty!!!) going in on the FastPass+ side, knowing that at most, you may only have another 10-15 minute wait for a ride, as compared to some coveted rides where there is a 90-120 minute wait in the Stand-by line.  You can arrive 5 minutes early or 15 minutes past your “selected time”, which, in theory, gives you more than an hour to complete the ride.  Things happen, and this is one nice option to have.  Having pre-selected times for rides also allows for the opportunity to do other things while waiting for your next ride such as grab a quick bite to eat, pose for some pictures, do some shopping, or simply rest!

The great thing about using a company like Magical Vacations, is that it is OUR JOB to book these reservations for you.  So, if you were to use me as your specialist, we would discuss together some choices that your would like to have for your trip, and then after I have them selected for you at your 60 day mark, you get a quick email from me stating which ones are confirmed!  Even as a specialist, we can’t guarantee to get 100% of what you want, but we can take the stress away from having to try it alone.

MagicBands

The next most popular question I get asked is “what are those colorful bracelets everyone wears?”  Why, in fact, those are MagicBands!  That is what you see in my image above.

MagicBands are fantastically designed by Disney to incorporate a vast amount of knowledge in one piece.  They double as:  room keys, credit cards, park tickets, food reservations, park photos, and FastPass+ selections.  You can store ALL of this information into your MagicBands, for every single person on your trip.  No more carrying a separate card for your room, or only getting “two” as we do at hotels.  Every member in your party can have access to the room with their own customized MagicBand.

As I stated above,  it also stores credit card information.  So, you don’t HAVE to carry a separate wallet unless you want to.  Just like with the room keys, anyone in your party can have access to using their MagicBands for payment.  You choose a PIN password for payment info after touching your MickeyHead on your MagicBand to the one on the payment sensor.  Done!  This way, if you were to lose a MagicBand, your payment information is still secure via PIN password protection.

The park photo storage option is probably one of the most clever ideas invented for this handy wristband.  When you enter a ride using your MagicBand, the ride then has knowledge that you were on the ride, and at premium photo opportunities with specific rides, you will have your photo taken.  After the ride, you can view your photo on available screens, and near them are, guess what, more of the Mickey Head sensors.  You place yours to theirs, and voila!  The photo is now stored as yours and will pop up on your app using your Memory Maker package, which can be purchased as an add-on for your trip.  You can also pose for pictures throughout the park, such as character experiences, and those photographers can link their photos to your package using Mickey Heads from their devices.

Each person will get to choose their color of MagicBand as part of your package, and it will be needed to get in to the parks or to access your rides.  You will also have the physical tickets that can be used should a MagicBand become lost.

MagicBands are also waterproof, so there is no need to take them off when swimming!  Did I mention they are FREE?  MagicBands have become such an integral part of the Disney system, I can’t imagine now not using them.  There are MagicBands that can be purchased if you would rather use them than the standard solid colors, and you can also buy add-on waterproof vinyl images from sites like Etsy (like I have shown on mine).    You can also buy accessories such as MagicBandits to slide onto your band.

I would love to give you a FREE custom quote on a magical trip.  If this sounds like a trip of a lifetime for you, please let me help make that happen!  Contact me at:  debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com to get started!

 

For the First Time in Forever….(Part 4)

Today’s topic in my blog series is how to choose the right park ticket for your family’s vacation.  Of the choices and options that we have discussed up to this point, this is one of the easier ones, I feel.  It is easy to narrow down the days that you will need first, so let us jump right into that.

Tickets:  How Many Days?

Every Day

I have been that person before!  I remember being so excited for our first trip back after so many years and wanting to cram in AS MUCH time as possible in the parks.  If this sounds like you, then you might want a park ticket to be equal to the number of days you will be vacationing OR one day less.  For example, if you are staying 6 nights and 7 days, you would want the 7 day ticket option IF it made economical and physical sense that you could be in the parks all 7 days.  Some people have a late or early flight on their arriving or departing days, and that takes away one day immediately.  So, the first option to decide will be narrowed down to how many days can we REALLY physically be in the parks and get our money’s worth out of it?

Not “Every” Day

I have also been this person.  When you choose a Disney World, Disneyland, or Universal vacation, you go into it knowing there will be a fair amount of walking, while definitely having the time of your life.  There are vacation goers like myself who know that you will need to write in a day to relax at the resorts, which is exactly what we did during our last trip.  We took one day, spent it at the pools, lounged around, right during the middle of our vacation week, and we truly felt it recharged our batteries.  We still watched the fireworks from the Polynesian beach during the evening, and we definitely still felt we were vacationing at Disney.  But, it gave us some peace.  It gave us time together.  We moved as fast as turtles that day and enjoyed every minute of it.  We had our lunch by the pool, supper in the room (the best pizza I have ever had in my life!), and just laughed and enjoyed each other.  So, for our 8 days and 7 nights we were there for this trip, we didn’t do an 8 day ticket.  We did 6 days worth of tickets.  One reason was what I just stated, taking a day to relax.  The other reason was that we arrived later in the evening on our first night, and it wasn’t physically worth it to pay for a ticket, when we were already jet lagged and just needed to rest so we could be ready to go the next day.

Tickets:  Park Hopping vs No Park Hopping

The idea of park hopping is that your ticket allows you to visit more than one park per day.  So if you started your day off in Magic Kingdom, but really wanted to end the evening at Epcot for their Illuminations fireworks festivities, you could do that.  If you even wanted to park hop over to another park that had Extra Magic Hours that evening (later than normal “business” hours), you could do that, too!  It gives you the most flexibility with your ticket as far as seeing more in a day.  Your Disneyland Park Hopper would allow you to venture into both parks in the same day, while your Disney World Park Hopper would allow you to venture into all four parks in the same day (if you chose to, but I can only imagine, that would be exhausting, even though exhilarating).  Universal has a system called Park to Park, which is essentially the same idea, just a different name for their brand.  They offer a Single Day ticket,  with the Park-to-Park option for their two theme parks.  The price of park hopping is higher than having a one park per day ticket, but each family has to determine the value of that dollar and what they want to accomplish during their vacation.

Tickets:  Water Park Options and More

Park Hopper Plus

There is also the Park Hopper Plus option at Disney World, where you can add on the option of other very popular Disney World attractions to your ticket.  You can also buy those separately, but this allows you to work them into your park hopping options.  With a 3 day Park Hopper Plus ticket, for example, you would get 3 visits, or with a 4 day Park Hopper, you would get 4 visits.  The exception to the rule is a 1 day ticket allows for 2 visits.  The attractions offered are:  Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Complex, and Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course.   These attractions are amazing!  You could easily take a day alone to hit the water parks, and then another day to try out some rounds of golf and head over to ESPN!

Multi-Day Ticket

Universal offers a new water park called Volcano Bay and it has been a huge hit with tourists.  Tickets can be purchased separately for this or you can combine them into a Multi Day ticket with a 3-Park Ticket, giving access to all three parks. 2-Park Tickets allow access to Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure each day. 1-Park tickets allow access to 1 Park per day.

Tickets:  Annual Passholders

This is my final ticket option I will be discussing with you today.  Annual Passholders are an amazing option if you find yourself having the ability to vacation at your favorite Disney or Universal destination several times a year.  There are several different tiers when deciding which annual pass is right for you.  I am an annual passholder, and for me, one benefit I love is the shopping and dining discounts we receive in the parks from being a passholder.  There is even an app that honors passholders, and gives discounts on merchandise.  Just like everything else, this is not an option for everyone, and you must decide whether or not this is something that would be worth your money.

Tomorrow’s Topic:  MagicBands, FastPasses, and more!

I would love to give you a custom quote on a Disney and/or Universal vacation package that allows you all the flexibility that you need on a dream vacation.  Please email me at debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com and let me get started for you!  I would love to give you a free Minnie Box customized for your family!

 

 

For the First Time in Forever….(Part 3)

Continuing my blog on big decision making for the first time at Disney (or the first time in a long time at Disney), I am moving on to what to pack in your daily backpack.  While there will be many travelers who won’t need a full backpack for their days in the parks, there will be just as many who will, and if you were anything like I was, I went to the internet searching for what the “essentials” were when trying to be prepared.

Before I begin with what to pack, it is just as important to first discuss geography.  This was a key element in not only what to pack in my backpack but how much for each of my trips.  For our trips in which we stayed at a value resort and a couple of the moderates we have stayed in, and we were a further bus ride away from “home” for the week, I would stuff our backpacks until I couldn’t even fit another penny inside.  I wanted (and needed) everything to be inside because if we forgot something, we would either have to buy it (if possible) at the parks, or we would have to just be without it for the day.  Especially for those days at our value resorts, for me, anyway, when I didn’t plan to return for several hours.

Now, for our trips when we stayed at the Polynesian, and were a short monorail ride away from being “home”, it wasn’t as much of a let down if we forgot something.  We were a little closer should we “have” to go back.  I also split my days up a little more as well when we stayed there, and didn’t have to pack my bags as full.

Finally, for days when we have traveled to Universal….since we have always been staying at Disney when we visit Universal, I usually just take a few “hip packs” with us and cram as much as we can in there.  Universal has great travel lockers to store backpacks in, whereas Disney allows the backpacks on the rides.  So, we had to be prepared for a different feel while at Universal, and we took just the absolute essentials with us on those days.

So, now that our geography lesson is over, we can jump right in.  To make it a little easier to follow, I divided up my list into categories.

Electronics

  • Phones:  make sure they are fully charged and storage ready to handle taking plenty of photos.
  • Portable electronic chargers and cords
  • Waterproof phone case/bag, for the water rides OR those pop up Florida showers….speaking of…..

Weather

  • Ponchos:  I can NOT stress enough that you must be prepared for a Florida shower.  It will happen!!!
  • Travel Umbrella
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip Sunscreen (a must for me)
  • Water Misters
  • Bug Spray
  • Jacket: for those traveling during the slightly cooler days/nights

Health

  • Moleskin/Blister band-aids:  This is about as important as having a poncho!  Even the most prepared family (us) will have someone end up with a blister on the first day of the trip.  We have now learned for our blister prone people, to begin our trips with these on as a preventative!
  • First Aid Kit
  • Germ-X
  • Neosporin
  • Wet Wipes
  • Tissues
  • Travel Deoderant
  • Body Glide
  • Hair brush/ponytail holder
  • Baby powder (because your feet/body will stink after a bit and no one wants to sit next to you during a show when you smell of sweat!)
  • Travel perfume/cologne

Snacks

  • Water/Water bottles:  There are many water fountains available for a quick fill up.
  • Snacks:  Fruit snacks, granola bars, cheese crackers
  • Gum: Disney does NOT sell gum in the parks so if you want it, you will need to bring your own inside!
  • Some type of breath mint
  • Flavor packets:  A hit with my kiddos.  I would bring a stash of sugar free lemonade or fruit punch to add to their waters.

Park Essentials

  • Park maps, even though you can look via your smartphone, it is always smart to have a backup, and sometimes easier.
  • MagicBands, Park Tickets
  • Bitbelts for your MagicBands:  I have never had a Magic Band fall off, but this was just an extra added measure of safety.  You definitely don’t want your MagicBand to fall off and lose it!
  • Autograph books and pens (optional but SO fun!)
  • Lanyards with trading pins (optional to wear/do)
  • Ears to wear (optional, but again, when in Rome….)
  • Cash/Credit Card:  While you can have everything programmed to your MagicBand and pay that way, technology fails us sometimes and just like the park maps, it is good to have a backup.
  • Hidden Mickey’s…..ok, so you can’t “carry” this.  But there is a Hidden Mickey’s book you can buy AND an app you could download.  We loved searching for them while waiting for a ride or while on our way to our next restaurant.

Miscellaneous

  • Lots of Pennies!  Pressed Pennies are the cheapest souvenir you can purchase at Disney!  Take some shiny pennies with you and store them in an old medicine bottle.  You can even do Pressed Quarters.  Our kids have LOVED doing this and you can even purchase books to store them in permanently after you are home.
  • Glow Sticks:  Super fun for fireworks time.  Glow bracelets and necklaces are even nice just to have around your kiddos during the evening hours.
  • Towels:  I always pack one with us, to dry things off or to sit down and watch a parade.
  • Change of clothes/socks:  This is truly optional.  I, myself, have not done this for all of my trips.  Socks, YES, but not clothes.

Now…..there were two backpacks pictured above…..one was mine, and one was my daughters.  A lot of times, we will split up the items, so mine isn’t so heavy.  Somedays, she would take her camera with her, so she could capture those great quality photos.  She really loves taking pictures and is honestly, very good at it.  So, she needs a bag with her to carry it around and a backpack helps.

Keep in mind, I don’t carry ALL of these things ALL day long.  I spend some time each night before we go to bed getting our bags ready for our morning or our next day.  It would be too heavy to lug ALL of this around all day long, however, as I mentioned before, I DID do this when we stayed at one of the value resorts, simply because I was stubborn and didn’t want to take the 30 minute bus ride back and then back again.  Plus, waiting for the bus, both ways.  I felt it would take too much of my day, and we had things to do.  So, I hauled it around.  I was honestly glad I did then, but I would do it differently now.  Plus, I also have another child who wants to carry things with her, and we can split things up a bit.

Also….leave room for some souvenirs, unless you have time to have them sent back to your room.

I have two more thoughts for this series, and tomorrow, I will jump into Park Tickets.  What to buy, how many days, what are the options, etc.

If you would love a FREE custom quote on a Disney or Universal trip,  please feel free to email me at:  debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com

 

 

 

 

 

For the First Time in Forever…..(Part 2)

Today I will be discussing “food” at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  I could go on and on about this topic, for my palette waters every single time I think about particular desserts I have sampled or meals I have engaged in.  I have never once been disappointed in food that I have encountered while vacationing.

So what are the food options while vacationing at Disney?  Many.  Today’s blog won’t go into specific restaurant choices and things of that nature, but more so, helping you make the decision on whether or not choosing a dining plan is the right decision for your family.  Then, if you do choose a dining plan, helping you understand the differences and understanding better which would be the best fit for you.

No Dining Plans for Me!

Let’s begin with the option of not choosing a dining plan, which I have done before.  Even with this choice, there are many options and ways to experience food while vacationing.  Whether you are using a dining plan or paying as you go, you can make ADR’s (Advanced Dining Reservations) at 180 days out from your trip.  I highly suggest this if your family is looking to book some coveted character meals or there is a restaurant that is on your “to do” list.  Again, at Magical Vacations, we can take of all of this for you, so you don’t have to think about it!

Disney is gracious enough to allow food and drinks into the park, which gives people the choice to bring in their own snacks.  I have done this, and it is a fantastic option to have in my purse or my backpack.  Especially for those times when you are in between meals or waiting in line for a ride and just need a quick pick me up.   If you choose not to bring in your own snacks and drinks, there are food options to be found everywhere at the parks and back at the resorts.  Just follow your nose and it will lead you to one!  Prices are honestly better than what you would find at a professional ballgame or a concert and the food you get for your money is incredible.   If you bring your own water bottle in with you, there are many water fountains to be found for you to get a quick fill up as well, which saves from buying fountain sodas.  Let’s face it, we need that water on our vacationing days anyway!

If you made ADR’s as mentioned above, then you will have a little bit of comfort knowing where your next meal is coming from.  If you didn’t make ADR’s, you will need to make the decisions depending on what park or resort you are at, as to which dining location you will choose for your meal.  Choose wisely according to the time of day, as certain locations fill up quicker the closer you get to normal dining times.  If you didn’t make ADR’s, just keep in mind that you may need to allow some “wait time” to go along with your meals.  Even with quick dining options, there is a bit of a wait with the lines.

Also, many resorts have rooms with mini refrigerators, coffee makers, microwave ovens, and toasters.  It is a nice option to have for those who would like to have at least one meal in their room per day.  There are several businesses that delivery groceries right to Bell Services at your resort for a slight fee.  Again, a great option to have if you want to have a stash of snacks available to take to the parks with you or know that you want to eat every breakfast together in your room.   Room Service is also available and I can say, the pizza we ordered from the Polynesian this past summer might have been the best pizza I have ever tasted!

The best advice I can give to someone not using the dining plan or ADR’s is to be willing to be flexible.  You may really want to eat at a particular location, but it may be busy at the time that your stomach is growling, and you don’t feel you can wait 30 more minutes.   Make choices that won’t leave you hangry!  We all know what that feeling is like and it doesn’t make for a fun vacation!

Now let’s jump into the different types of dining plans for Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Dining at Disneyland with Vouchers

Disneyland offers a “Dine in the Magic” voucher system.  Guests pay in advance for dining that they anticipate they will enjoy while on their trip.  While it may not necessarily be a money “saver”, it does give you peace of mind that the food portion of your trip is taken care of.   Vouchers will expire at the end of the year and are non-refundable.

A slight difference between this plan and the one we will discuss at Disney World is that you do not have to purchase vouchers for everyone in your party and the vouchers can be for any length, not the exact length of your stay as it is at Disney World.  Also, ADR’s at Disneyland are 60 days in advance, a difference between this and the 180 days at Disney World.

There are four different plans and I will quickly discuss each one of those.

Donald’s 2 Day

  • Adult $106/Child $64
  • 2 Character Dining Vouchers, 2 Dining Certificates ($15 for adults/$10 children), and 2 Snack Vouchers

Goofy’s 3 Day

  • Adult $159/Child $96
  • 3 Character Dining Vouchers, 3 Dining Certificates ($15 for adults/$10 children), and 3 Snack Vouchers

  Minnie’s 4 Day

  • Adult $219/Child $132
  • 3 Character Dining Vouchers, 1 Premium Character Dining, 4 Dining Certificates ($15 for adults/$10 children), and 4 Snack Vouchers

Mickey’s 5 Day

  • Adult $272/Child $164
  • 4 Character Dining Vouchers, 1 Premium Character Dining, 5 Dining Certificates ($15 for adults/$10 children), and 5 Snack Vouchers

Please note: Child rates are for young ones ages 3-9 years old. Vouchers may be used at any Full Service or Counter-Service restaurant. Vouchers can not be used for alcoholic beverages, room service, holiday buffets, Downtown Disney restaurants, and merchandise.

Next, we will move on to our final point, the Walt Disney World Disney Dining Plan.

Dining at Disney World with the Disney Dining Plan

There will be some similarities between this plan and the one from Disneyland.  Dining plans offer peace of mind, knowing that if you have made ADR’s, you know where your next meal is coming from AND you don’t have to have extra cash prepared for anything except for gratuities at table service restaurants.  The cost of the dining plan was figured into the resort package.  Many people like the idea of knowing that it is already taken care of before they get to their vacation.  While you will still have to decide between what quick service meals you would like and what snacks you want to choose, knowing that you have particular types of meals covered on a plan allows families to decide just how much to eat at other meals.  The Dining plans are offered for those staying with their DVC (Disney Vacation Club) points or who purchased a Magic Your Way package.

Once again, remember that table service dining reservations can be made at 180 days prior to your vacation.  Take advantage of that option.  We missed Be Our Guest on the trip with my mother, and it was the ONLY restaurant that she wanted to go to.  During this particular trip, we booked everything at three months out, so instead of having 180 days, we only had less than 90 days and it was already taken for our vacation dates.

Here is a breakdown of cost for the 2018 Dining Plan options:

Quick Service Plan

  • Adults $52.49/Children $21.75 per night
  • 2 Quick Service Meals, 2 Snacks, 1 Refillable Mug per person

Quick Service meals to me are similar to fast food.  While it can still be a meal you eat together at the table, you order at the counter and pick up your own food.  The refillable mugs will be included with each package and are really great to have.  You can use them at your resort to get a quick drink to take back to your room, or as my kids would do, make several trips back and forth to refill!

Standard Plan

  • Adults $75.49/Children $25.80 per night
  • 1 Table Service Meal, 1 Quick Service Meal, 2 Snacks, 1 Refillable Mug per person

Table Service meals are just like eating at a regular sit down restaurant.  You have a server, they come and take your order, and gratuity is considered to be something given at the end of the meal.  The servers/cast members REALLY do a great job with their guests and always interact with the families in a fun way.  We have used this plan the most and feel it gave our family alot of flexibility with meal options.  Since we were given a table service meal each night that we were there, it allowed for great character dining experiences which my children still talk about.

Deluxe Plan

  • Adults $116.24/Children $39.90 per night
  • 3 Meals (any combo of table-service and quick service), 2 Snacks, 1 Refillable Mug per person

I always think of my husband when I think of the Deluxe plan.  His favorite part of our Disney trips has easily been the food.  We tried the Standard Plan once with him and he was still hungry, while I was very full and had not finished my food!  However, he could easily finish mine for me and fill up.  The Deluxe Plan is great for those families who come to Disney for the food.   They know the food is excellent and they want to take every opportunity to take part in each course!  It allows families quite possibly the most flexibility in their dining options because you have choices on your meals.

These are JUST the basics that cover the Dining Options.  There are so many other things in which I can cover to help you navigate your way through the Dining Plan choices, and I will in a future blog.  I know when I first learned about the dining plan, I was very overwhelmed!  However, I will gather some helpful tips and share those with you at a later date.

In my next blog, I will discuss what to pack in your backpack for a day at the parks!  If you have decided to make a magical dream come true, please contact me to let me help you make that happen: debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com

 

 

For the First Time in Forever….(Part 1)

There are so many questions for those that have never been to either Disney World or Disneyland before.  While it can be an overwhelming process, I am hoping to ease that for you with a blog series meant to help those who have never been, and have alot of questions!  For today, let’s discuss two big items:  First…….

Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland (California)

Walt Disney World, located in Orlando, Florida, spreads across over 30,000 acres.   Disneyland, located in Anaheim, California,  covers around 100 acres with the expansion of Star Wars Land.   The difference between the two in itself is mind-blowing to me!

Walt Disney World is home to four parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom) and currently twenty five on site resorts, ranging from value resorts to luxurious deluxe accomodations.

Disneyland is home to two parks (Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park) and three on site hotels.

One of my MV travel specialist friends best summed up how to decide between which park to vacation at:  Time.  What do you have time for during your vacation to Disney and what do you hope to get out of it?  You can easily squeeze in a great Disneyland vacation in 3-4 days, covering both parks, and have an amazing time.  It would allow you to spend around two days at each park.   Or, if you  have more time to spend, you could adventure to Disney World, and spend  8-10 days there, soaking in the Florida sun, while taking in all Disney World has to offer.

Next, moving on where to stay:

Resort and Hotel Options

As mentioned earlier, there are a variety of resorts available, depending on your budget.  To say that Disney vacations are only for those who have money to blow, is not necessarily true.  I, myself, have always felt that I have budgeted well for our trips, no matter where we stayed, and we have stayed everywhere from the value resorts to deluxe accomodations.    If you are flexible with your dates,  I can help you find that dream vacation in the resort of your choice!  Here is a short breakdown of resorts.  Keep in mind, there are many levels to each resort.   There are standard rooms, rooms for more than 5 guests, preferred rooms, rooms with a garden, pool, or standard view, villas (even treehouse villas!), and other options that will deviate the cost.

Disney World Resorts

Deluxe resorts are priced the way they are for a variety of reasons, but I’m going to give you my own personal story and why we chose a deluxe resort to purchase through Disney Vacation Club.  Deluxe resorts typically have better location and accessibility to the parks.  Remember my son, and his walking condition?  We needed to use a wheelchair and having a resort that was on the monorail loop of pickup and dropoff was a necessity for us, even if it meant paying a little more upfront.  It saved us time, which saved HIM time and fatigue from being on his feet.  So, on the monorail loop, we are just two very short stops away from Magic Kingdom.  On the other end, we are a three minute walk to the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center) and could once again, take the monorail to Epcot from this location.   On top of that, deluxe resorts are all beautifully themed with fantastic decor and you truly feel you are swept off into another time, another place just by spending time at your resort.  Each resort has amazing food and gift shops, some offer beach access, and most offer truly unique character dining opportunities.  We have always agreed to spend a “day” of our trips just at our resort, relaxing, and taking in all it has to offer.  A day to reset our batteries, and to spend a day in the sun, letting the kids swim while we relaxed as well.  We felt it was our own private getaway, just being there.

Moderate resorts are typically priced middle of the road, although, certain times of year, there are only a few hundred dollars separating them between either the deluxe or the value, depending on when you travel.   Their amenities and proximities are nice and I have always been pleased with what I had when staying at the moderate resorts we have chosen.  Again, Disney never disappoints.  Depending on which resort you choose, while you will not be as close to the action as you are on the monorail loop, the moderate resorts offer some unique themed rooms (pirates, princesses, etc), amazing food, and family friendly pools for down time.  It may take a little longer by bus to get to your park destination of choice than what you would experience riding on the monorail, but again, being “middle of the road”, the experiences I have had, were always handled promptly and never alot of waiting.  These resorts are spread out, and can allow for some great outdoor and indoor activities, as each resort also has their own theme, as did the deluxe resorts.

Value resorts are the least expensive of the resorts at Disney World.  They offer over the top, larger than life, statues and replicas of favorite Disney characters.  When our children arrived for the first time at a value resort, the first thing they noticed where all of the enormous statues and replicas.  It felt very real and personal to them and reminded them of why they wanted to be on this trip.  We encountered great food, great swimming and, as with every resort we have stayed, fantastic service from Disney cast members.  Value resorts are the furthest away by bus from most locations, so while you are definitely saving money by staying here, you will spend just a bit more time each day geting to and from the parks.

The biggest and most important question you have to ask yourself when choosing a resort would be this:  What is more important to me/my family:  My time in the parks/proximity to my resort, or the value of the dollar I will spend?  Once you know that, choosing a resort is a much simpler task.

Disneyland Hotels

The Grand Californian is the “grand” daddy of the hotels at Disneyland.  It is the closest to the parks and has immediate access to California Adventure park.  It has more of a craftsmen theme, with lush woods and stone.  It has character dining, restaurants, an arcade, several pools, as well as a spa.  It has over 700 rooms and suites, including rooms that are handicapped accessible.  When it comes to cost, it is typically the most expensive of the three hotels.

The Disneyland Hotel is the original hotel of Disneyland California.  It houses more of a classic feel,  and has over 900 rooms and suites, including handicapped accessible rooms.  This hotel offers many types of themed rooms including:  Pirates of the Caribbean, Adventureland, Big Thunder, Mickey Mouse, and Fairy Tale.  Character dining is also available here, as well as many other restaurants and lounges.  There are several pools for the family, and the proximity to Disneyland is just a monorail ride away.  The Disneyland Hotel is the middle of the road in cost of the Disneyland California hotels.

Paradise Pier is also just a monorail ride away from Disneyland.  With over 400 rooms and suites, including handicapped accessible rooms, Paradise Pier is the most budget friendly of the three hotels at Disneyland.  With a unique roof top pool, character dining, and panoramic views of California Adventure, Paradise Pier is an amazing option with its beach themed rooms.

What I always found so magically intriguing was that Walt Disney himself walked on the grounds of Disneyland.  There is so much of him there.  The history alone makes the trip worth while.  While Disney World encompasses so many of his visions and what he also had plans for,  there is something quite magical about knowing that he was there, once upon a time, in Disneyland.

Please let me help you in making your dreams coming true and adding some magic to your world.  I would be happy to give you a custom quote to see what options would suit you best for your dream getaway adventure!

Email me at:  debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com

In my next blog, we will discuss Disney Dining Options!

 

 

 

I’ve Got Gadgets and Gizmos a Plenty

There are many of us out there, like myself, who find this time of year quite overwhelming.  I love the holidays.  I love the lights, the movies, the music, the decorations.  I REALLY love the food!  I love spending time with my family, reminiscing about the past, remembering our loved ones who are no longer with us, and telling stories about each other until we are laughing so hard we have tears in our eyes.

What I love the most, are the memories that are made.  Those are the things in life that you can not put a price tag on or place into a shiny, sparkly box.  The older I get, and the older my children become, I realize how quickly time passes us by, and I wish I could just hold onto those moments, like during the holidays, where everyone is so happy to be around each other, all sharing stories, living and loving life together.

A sweet guest of mine made the choice to not buy traditional “presents” this year.  She said her children want for nothing, they have everything they need, but she really wants to give them something that they can look back on year after year and say, “we did this together”.   So, we booked her family a cruise to Disney’s Castaway Cay, and she has created the cutest Disney scavenger hunt for them for tomorrow morning, as they open boxes and gather clues such as new beach towels, sunglasses, bathing suits, Disney movies, etc.,  to figure out their grand finale present.   She said she has felt so fulfilled knowing that her family will still receive “something” at Christmas, but she is truly giving them memories that will last a lifetime.  Together we detailed their flight in, where she will be spending one night at Walt Disney World before shuttling to Port Canaveral and hopping aboard the Disney Wonder to set sail for several glorious days and nights this spring.    This, she said, will be the kind of Christmas she will continue to give her family.  A memory making Christmas that allows for hopes, dreams, excitement, and love to fill her family’s bucket for the rest of their lives.

I have debated myself, year after year, saying “no” to presents and taking our family away for the holidays.  She has inspired me to make that happen.  Maybe it will be Christmas next year, or maybe for a different holiday or festivities in which we would normally celebrate with a variety of presents that our children don’t really need.  But the memories….that is what we truly hold onto.  That is what I want to give to my family….years and years of memories, that as we go through life, we have many stories to share and bonds to create, as we travel together, learning more about each other, and appreciating each other for who we are.

If this story has inspired you, please contact me, and let me help add some magic to your future holidays and celebrations.  It’s never too late to make memories.  debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com

Thoughts and Ideas from a Dedicated Disney Dreamer and a Specialist with Magical Vacations, LLC