Thursday, July 28, 2016

Latest Disney Updates

Fall is a magical time at Walt Disney World and on Disney Cruises as Disney offers special experiences for the holidays and the great Food and Wine Festival.

The Magic Kingdom offers two special parties: Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. These events require a special ticket. The Parties have a special parade, stage show, fireworks show, and treats available throughout the Parks

If you want to make these parties even more special, you can purchase tickets to a special dessert party:

  • HalloWishes Fireworks Dessert Premium Package, available during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, select nights from Sept. 2-Oct. 31, 2016. This frightfully fun package begins with reserved viewing of Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Halloween Parade on Main Street U.S.A. and is followed by a private fireworks dessert party at Tomorrowland Terrace. Enjoy Halloween-themed confections while you take in the spectacular Happy HalloWishes fireworks.
  • Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party  Wishes Fireworks Dessert Party, select nights from Nov. 7- Dec. 22, 2016. They can enjoy Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade with reserved viewing on Main Street U.S.A., as well as fantastic views of Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season fireworks while enjoying festive treats at a private dessert party at Tomorrowland Terrace.
A valid ticket to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is required to attend the fireworks dessert parties or to make dining reservations on event nights.

Disney Cruise Line also gets in the festive spirit with special themed sailings.
Thrills and chills await youat every turn during Halloween on the High Seas, thanks to not-so-scary parties, eerie entertainment and bewitching décor – including an evolving Halloween tree that transforms throughout the cruise. Sail dates include:
Disney Magic – Oct. 2-29 , 2016
Disney Dream – Sept. 2-Oct. 31, 2016
Disney Fantasy – Sept. 3-Oct. 29, 2016

And, during Very Merrytime Cruises, you  can delight in seasonal magic at sea as they discover a jolly fusion of holiday-themed entertainment, activities and décor. Sail dates include:
Disney Magic – Nov. 5-Dec. 23, 2016
Disney Wonder – Nov .10-Dec. 23, 2016
Disney Dream – Nov. 7-Dec. 22, 2016
Disney Fantasy – Nov. 19-Dec. 24, 2016

Epcot's Food and Wine Festival is a crowd favorite for many Disney visitors.
Culinary notables Geoffrey Zakarian, Maneet Chauhan, Duff Goldman, Elliott Farmer, Masaharu Morimoto and Graham Elliot will step up to the stove to host their first festival special events such as seminars and culinary demonstrations. Other chef icons like Robert Irvine, Cat Cora, Norman Van Aken, Elizabeth Falkner, Buddy Valastro and Jamie Deen will return to entertain foodies and inspire their palates at premium events that include Party for the Senses grand tastings featuring reimagined entertainment.
For a second consecutive year, ABC’s Emmy-Award-winning lifestyle series, “The Chew” will arrive to produce a full week of programs on the show’s exclusive Epcot festival stage.
And, for the first time, you can enjoy the following festival experiences at Walt Disney World Resort hotels:
  • “Brunch with a Twist at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa” — a sumptuous 5-star, 5-course meal prepared by the resort’s award-winning chefs
  • “The Secrets of Flavor at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort” — a three-course lunch that gives your Clients a ‘sensory-food connection’ at Yachtsman Steakhouse
  • “Culinary Adventures with a Master Chef” at Disney’s Contemporary Resort — a hands-on chef’s table experience in a professional working kitchen
  • “Behind the Scenes at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto” at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort — an entertaining tour of the whimsical Trader Sam’s, followed by lunch and a special mixology session
Ever wish you could visit Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios with minimal crowds? That sounds like a dream come true to me. Well, now you can with Disney Early Morning Magic.

Disney Early Morning Magic - Fantasyland has been extended at Magic Kingdom. Guests can enjoy breakfast at Pinocchio Village Haus and experience a trio of favorite Fantasyland attractions – Peter Pan’s Flight, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Disney Early Morning Magic – Fantasyland takes place Tuesdays and Sundays from 7:45-10 a.m. through Sept. 27, 2016.

Beginning Aug. 1, 2016, a select number of Walt Disney World® Guests can experience Disney Early Morning Magic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Guests can experience Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, Toy Story Mania!, Pixar Place character greetings (with Woody and Buzz), and Mickey and Minnie on Commissary Lane and Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight – all with little to no wait before the park opens. And to get fueled up for the rest of the day, they can partake in a hearty all-you-care-to-enjoy breakfast at ABC Commissary from 8-10 a.m. Disney Early Morning Magic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios takes place Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:45-10 a.m.

Please note Disney Early Morning Magic will be offered on different days than Extra Magic Hours. Disney Early Morning Magic requires a separate ticket - $69 for adults and $59 for children ages 3-9 (plus tax), in addition to regular theme park admission.  Extra Magic Hours are a perk for guests who stay at a Disney resort.

‘Club Villain’ Returns to Disney’s Hollywood Studios September 2-October 29, 2016

Back by popular demand, Sunset Showcase presents Club Villain, a special-ticketed event filled with fabulous performances, delicious food, bewitching cocktails and enchanting encounters with some of the greatest Disney villains.  The mysterious Dr. Facilier is host of Club Villain, welcoming his guests and friends from the other side to his parlor of mystical mishaps, with musical numbers and a wicked mix from his house DJ. Also stopping by to socialize are those divas of evil, Maleficent, Queen of Hearts, Cruella De Vil and the Evil Queen. 

Club Villain provides a spellbinding evening for you to enjoy fiendish concoctions from the Potions Bar, savor culinary delights from New Orleans and beyond, mingle with the villains and dance the night away! Club Villain returns Fridays and Saturdays from Sept. 2 – Oct. 29, with an additional offering on Halloween, Oct. 31. This two-hour show experience will take place at 5:15pm and 8:30pm nightly inside the Sunset Showcase. Guests can check-in 30 minutes prior to the right of the entrance to Rock 'n' Roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith. 

The price is $129 per person (tax and gratuity included) and includes decadent delicacies with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages . Advance reservations are recommended and can be made up to 90 days in advance by calling 407-WDW-DINE or online at A separate ticket admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is required.

A new larger  Bippity-Boppity Boutique opens at Disney Springs
Fairy Godmothers-in-Training will continue making magical transformations for Guests ages 3-12. Girls can choose a hairstyle then add make-up, nail color and accessories – even a Disney princess costume. Boys can join in the fun too, as they’re transformed into gallant knights.

Magic Kingdom Ride Closures

  • Swiss Family Treehouse Through September 24, 2016
  • Liberty Square Riverboat August 1 - 7, 2016
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad August 8 - November 18, 2016
  • "it's a small world" August 22 - September 15, 2016
Hollywood Studio Closures
  • Pizza Planet - Late 2016
  • Muppet Vision 3D August 15 - 22, 2016
Animal Kingdom Closures
  • DINOSAUR through October 16, 2016
  • Dino Institute Shop through October 16, 2016
  • All Star Sports Grand Slam Pool October 10 - December 2, 2016 
  • Flying Fish reopens August 14, 2016
  • Pop Century October 16 - December 4, 2016 with Computer Pool closed October 31 - December 23
  • French Quarter Quick Service Restaurant closed through Fall 2016
  • Wilderness Lodge including Cubs' Den  remain closed - including the Hidden Springs Pool (the leisure pool at The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge), beach, marina, playground and more. In addition, certain pathways, like our nature trail, will be unavailable, and surrounding views may be altered. However, the recently renovated Silver Creek Springs Pool will remain open and boat transportation to Magic Kingdom park will continue to be offered.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tips for Disney's Hollywood Studios

Happy Travel Thursday!  Today we discussed tips for Disney's Hollywood Studios.

For 2016, large parts of Hollywood Studios are under construction as Toy Story Land and additional Star Wars Attractions are added.

Quick Service Meal for Two: Fairfax Fare has some good barbecue platters. It is across from the Beauty and the Beast show. 

Single Rider Line: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster has a single rider line that is sometimes open. It is located by the Fast Pass entrance.

Characters: Three key areas are the Toy Story Character area across from the Toy Story Mania ride, Launch Bay,  and the area around the Disney Junior Live On Stage Show. The Toy Story Character Area is a nice air-conditioned way to wait inside to see Woody and Buzz Lightyear. The Area around Disney Junior Live on Stage has characters standing outside. Launch Bay has two Star Wars Characters. As of 2016, Launch Bay also hosts a special character meet and greet for Disney Visa Cardholders. Be sure to visit the Disney Visa Meet and Greet first to see which character is there.

Air Conditioning (Nap) Breaks: The Great Movie Ride is a nice longer Air Conditioned ride – napping would be a little hard. The Frozen Sing Along Celebration provides a great air conditioned environment. It is very loud so you may want to consider bringing ear phones for the little ones.

Be Sure to Check Out:
  • Toy Story Mania the ride: A fun, 3D game
  • Star Tours
  • The Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Fireworks Show - It's amazing!

If you have kids between the ages 4 - 12 who love Star Wars, take them to sign up for the Jedi Training Academy. It's a 20 minute show where they can train as Jedi knights in front of an audience.  Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost located between the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! and the 50's Prime Time Café. Registration begins when Disney's Hollywood Studios opens for the day.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tips for Magic Kingdom

It's Travel Thursday so today we discussed my tips for Disney World's Magic Kingdom:

Quick Service Meal for Two: Cosmic Rays Starlight Care in Tomorrow land has a large rib and chicken combo platter.

Characters: When you enter Magic Kindom, all the way to the right is a building that hosts the talking Mickey Mouse. Fantasy Land houses a Princess FairyTale Hall where you can greet two Princesses. The Circus area of the new Fantasy Land also has an area to meet the classic characters.

Air Conditioning (Nap) Breaks: The Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree,  Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, and Carousel of Progress are attractions that are rarely busy and offer seating in an air-conditioned theater. It’s a Small World and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor are two of the longer attractions rides that can help cool you off. If the weather is nice, If the weather is not too hot, the Walt Disney World Railroad offers a 15-20 minute ride circling the park. You can stay on as long as you'd like so it offers a great opportunity for a little nap.

Be Sure to Check Out:

-          Disney’s PhilHarMagic – I think this is the best 3D show at Disney World.

-          Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom – A game you play throughout the park. You can pick up the cards needed to play and receive instructions at the Fire House located to the left as you enter the park.

-          Wishes Nighttime Spectacular – This is a fantastic fireworks show. You can view it from the beaches at Fort Wilderness, Grand Floridian, and the Polynesian and the California Grill on top of the Contemporary Hotel. Reservations at the California Grill may be hard to get, but you can always go up for a drink.

-          A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas – You initiate this game in Adventureland near the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It offers five set adventures and works more as a guided story than a game. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Tips for Epcot

Today's Travel Thursday is all about Tips for Epcot

Quick Service Meal for Two: The Tangerine Café has a great combination plate. Seats are usually available at the tables right in front for  great people watching.

Single Rider Line: Test Track has a Single Rider line right next to the regular line.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tips for Animal Kingdom

For this week's Travel Thursday, I explore my tips for the Animal Kingdom:

Quick Service Meal for Two: The Flaming Tree BBQ offers a great combination platter that can easily feed two people. It’s a bargain if you are on the Disney Dining Plan and even if you are not.

Single Rider Line: Expedition Everest has a single rider line that is a little tricky to find. As you are looking at the ride – go all the way to the building that houses the gift shop and look toward your left or just ask the staff person standing out front.

Air Conditioning (Nap) Breaks: Both the Festival of the Lion King show and the Finding Nemo the Musical shows are excellent and a great spot to cool off.

Characters: Adventurers’ Outpost is an indoor greeting area that hosts Mickey and Minnie and offers a Fast Pass. DinoLand and Discovery Island also have areas where Disney characters will be available.

Be Sure to Check Out:
  • The Dinosaur Play area – A great place for kids to run around.
  • If you are tired of navigating the crowds, take the Wildlife Express Train out to the Petting Zoo or go to the Flights of Wonder Show. It’s a nice break with some real animals.
  • Wilderness Explorers - Patterned after the Wilderness Explorers from the movie Up, this interactive adventure focuses on learning more about the animals and cultures featured in the Animal Kingdom. When you sign up, you receive a booklet highlighting 32 different badges. They discourage you from trying to get all the badges in one day. Throughout the Park, stations are marked with a symbol noting which badge you can receive at that station. The Wilderness Explorer guide will teach you a little bit about the animal or culture the badge is highlighting and then gives you a small challenge or question to complete. It's a great way to highlight all the animals and add an educational component to a fun day at the Animal Kingdom.
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris - This is a great ride through the African Safari. Take advantage of Animal Kingdom's evening hours and schedule a Fast Pass for sunset.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Is It an Adventure or a Vacation? How to Decide What to Do While Traveling

For today's Travel Tuesday, I discussed how to decide what to do while on vacation:

The first decision when planning a vacation is to decide how we were getting to where you want to go. Are you driving, taking a train, or flying?

If you're taking a train or flying, you want to make sure you know how you're getting from the station or airport to your hotel. Most cities have several options you could choose. Public transportation, shared troubles, or private transfers.

Public transportation can be a bus, a train, or a hybrid of both. To investigate that, the best place to go is the airport's website. Not the airline, the airport. The airport website will indicate what are the public transportation options leading into and out of that airport.

If you want a shared shuttle, the first thing to check is to see if your hotel offers a free shuttle to the airport. It is sometimes listed on the hotel's website or you can call the hotel directly and ask. Shared shuttle service like Super Shuttle should also be listed on the airport's website.

If you’d like to travel with only your own party, then you have private car options. This includes taxis, Uber, or car service. Taxis or Uber can be arranged at the airport. Car service is better if you arrange it in advantage. You can choose between sedans, limos or larger vans.  

A little pre-research into activities before you leave can go a long way. First, what do you like to do? Are you looking for outdoor activities, roadside attractions, great restaurants, festivals, sporting events? What would be the most interesting to you?

If I haven’t been to a city before, I have a go-to list of topics that I google:

·        The dates, the city, and “festival” or “fest”

·        “Must See” and the name of the city

·        I always check if there is a Hop On/Hop Off bus. Even if you don’t want to take that type of tour, the routes will show you the most popular tourist attractions.

·        Restaurants

o   I watch a lot of food shows so I visit to check for restaurants that have been featured on TV.

o   For more high end restaurant options in the US, visit the James Beard foundation to check for award winners at your location.

o   For international restaurants, the Michelin guide is a great resource.

o   I also google to see if cooking classes or food tours are available. It’s a great way to learn more about the local culture. We took a cooking class in Australia and it was a great way to meet local residents.

·        Sporting events – I check the major sport team schedules.

·        Local newspaper – I search for the major newspaper in that area and check the Things to Do or calendar section.

·        Excursions – I check the local tourist board to see what the popular activities are in a given area. Is there snorkeling? Zip lining? ATV tours? That’s a great way to get an overview of what’s available.

What’s your favorite activity on vacation?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

What to Expect when visiting Disney World

Recently I got a great question about the logistics of visiting Disney World. For today's Travel Thursday, I reviewed  a few key things you will need to know when heading to Disney World.

1.  You can bring food and drinks into the Parks. You cannot bring large coolers, but there are lockers where you can store smaller soft sided coolers as long as they are smaller than 24" long x 15" wide x 18" high.  It will be inspected as you go into the park.

2. Disney Transportation System - If you drive to the Magic Kingdom, you will park at the transportation center. Then you will have to board a boat or the monorail to head to the actual Magic Kingdom.  If you are coming from a Disney Resort, you will go straight to the Magic Kingdom. For the other Parks,  the Disney Resort buses will pull up in one particular section near the park. There is a separate section for motor coaches and shuttles that go to non-Disney  Resorts. If you are staying at a resort that is not a Disney Resort, you'll need to head to the group bus section.

3. Park's Opening Ceremonies - Pay close attention to the opening times of each Parks. The parks can open as early as 15 minutes before the posted time as they start a special opening ceremony called Rope Drop.

4. Strollers - If you want to take a stroller on any time of Disney transportation, you must be able to collapse it. When using the stroller within a Park, you will utilize the stroller parking areas. As you can see below,  A LOT of strollers are parked together so you may want to consider adding some unique additions to make your stroller stand out: a large bow or luggage tag. In Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, you can buy a balloon and tie it to your stroller. Be sure not to leave any valuables in your stroller.

You can rent a stroller for use within the Disney Parks.
  • If you rent from Disney World, it is $15 per day for a single stroller that accommodates a child up to 50 pounds or a double stroller that accommodates up to 100 lbs. Strollers cannot be removed from the parks. When visiting more than one park in a single day, simply present your rental receipt at another park to obtain a replacement. This can be a hassle as many parents relay on the stroller to transfer sleep children back to the resort.
  • If you'd like to rent a stroller for the entire visit, you can use a stroller rental company like Magic Strollers, Orlando Stroller Rentals or Kingdom Strollers. The stroller will be delivered to your resort and waiting for you.
  • A third option is to ship a stroller via Amazon to the resort a couple of days in advance. Be sure to check the resort's rules and regulations. Some resorts that also have convention centers like The Contemporary may charge to accept a delivery.

5. Baby Care Centers - If you are traveling with small children,  each of the Parks has a baby center. This is an area with a private nursing room, changing tables and unisex bathrooms, feeding area with high chairs, a main lounge with a TV, and a kitchen with microwave, oven and sink. Here's the locations:
  • Magic Kingdom: Off Main Street near Crystal Palace
  • Epcot: In the building between Test Track and Mexico
  • Hollywood Studios: In the Guest Services Building immediately to your left as you enter the Park
  • Animal Kingdom; Building just past Creature Comforts

6. Smoking is only allowed in special areas within the Park. The areas are marked on the Park map.

7. Dress codes - Costumes are not allowed for adults.  One  cute way I've seen people get around that is to dress in  a color theme of a character  For instance, I saw a woman wearing a pair of yellow shorts a blue v-neck shirt,  and then had a red bow in her hair. She gave the impression of Snow White without breaking the rules. Be sure your attire covers all the private areas and does not have offensive logos or wording.

8. Prohibited Items - No Selfie Sticks. Nothing with wheels including those wheelie shoes. Strollers and Medical Scooters are the only exceptions. Balloons are prohibited at the Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge. No folding chairs. No weapons. No alcohol.

As always, if you have any questions, please email me or set up a time to chat.