Friday, February 12, 2016

Hollywood Studios: An Update on Star Wars

Over the next few years, Disney's Hollywood Studios will add more and more Star Wars attractions as the new land is developed. Here's the latest updates: 

Star Tours has a new journey inspired by the Force Awakens. It’s playing for all rides.

Launch Bay located in the Animation Courtyard near the Disney Junior Show offers:
·         A 10 minute video with exclusive interviews with the makers of Star Wars
·         A Character Meet and Greet with Chewbacca or Kylo Ren
·         Four galleries of Stars Memorabilia
·         A Game Center to play Disney Infinity
·         A Gift Shop  

Disney Visa cardholders have access to a special character meet and greet. You’ll get a longer with the character and a photo. The character is a secret so it’s best to head to that Meet and Greet first if you want to see both characters. Because each group gets more time with the characters, the Disney Visa line tends to move more slowly.

Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple - Kids aged 4 - 12 can battle Darth Vader in a light saber duel. This is an included activity, but availability is limited. You sign by going to the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost. To find it, walk down the main walkway into Hollywood Studios. Take the first right down the street in between the two gift shops. Keep following that road past Hollywood and Vine and the 50s Prime Time CafĂ©.   A little warning: This show cancels for even a drizzle. If the weather report isn’t looking good, you may want to try for another day.

Star Wars: Path of the Jedi is basically a trailer for the Force Awakens.

Symphony in the Stars is a fantastic fireworks show at 8:00 pm nightly. The fireworks shoot off directly over the Chinese Theater. There’s a fun dance party before the show begins.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Flying 101: What to Expect

First thing to know about flying is that almost all tickets are electronic now. You will receive a confirmation code from the airline.  Once you get this code, you can go online to check your seat assignments. Some airlines like Spirit Airlines charge for seat assignments in advance. Other airlines charge for seats with extra leg room such as the Emergency Exit row.  Be sure to also check the immigration requirements if you are traveling internationally. A great resource is the State Department website:

For most airlines, you can check in up to 24 hours in advance online. You can confirm your seat assignment and potentially prepay for baggage. If you have trouble checking in for an international flight, it may because the airline needs to confirm your immigration documents before a boarding pass will print. 

It's very important that you review the baggage policies of the airline you are flying. Many airlines charge additional fees for both check bags and carry-on bags. A checked bag is a bag that you check in at the counter at the airport and it’s loaded into the bottom of the plane. The carry-on bag is a bag that you carry on to the plane to store in the overhead compartment or underneath the seat in front of you. All airlines have restrictions on the size that both these types of baggage can be. If you are traveling internationally, it's important to check the baggage requirements on all of your flights. Smaller airlines may have more restrictive weight and size policies.
When you get to the airport, be sure you have with you your confirmation code for the airline and the documentation you need to travel.

For international travel from the United States, it is important to have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months past the date of your return. For domestic travel within the United States, you must have a government issued photo ID that is valid. Most people use their driver’s license.

When you check in the at the desk for the airline you are flying, the customer service representative will give you a boarding pass and the claim tickets you will need for your checked baggage. It's important to put the claim ticket in a safe place because you will need them if anything happens to your luggage.

Going Through Security

In the United States, the TSA has several requirements for being able to pass successfully through security. The first one is 311.  You can only bring on liquids as if they are in containers less than 3 ounces. Gather up all those three of containers and put them in a quart size - no larger - Ziploc bag. You take that out and put it in a bit and then put the rest of your luggage through.  You are also required to put laptop or any large electronics in a separate bin. If you are carrying a water bottle, make sure it’s empty.  I find it effective to open the top when you put it in the bin so that the TSA agent can clearly see is empty. Otherwise they may ask you to take out the water bottle show that is empty and that can just slow you down getting through security. In the United States, you will go either through a metal detector or a radar machine that takes your picture to make sure you don't have anything dangerous in New York love. Sometimes they also swipe your hands to test for explosive residue. For a full listing of all the TSA requirements - click here.

Finding Your Flight
Once you clear security, look for the large TV screens. They will list the flights and the gate numbers where you can find your plane.

Getting on the plane.

Systems for boarding the plan vary by airline.  Some airlines call people up by row numbers. Others assign you a boarding group and will call you about that boarding group number. Your boarding group number can be found on your boarding pass so just look for that. Southwest assigns an order to boarding the plane as they have open seating once onboard. You'll be assigned a place in line.  The first person on the plane is A1. Once you're on the plane you can choose any seat that's available. During the flight, most airlines will serve you a free soft drink. Don't count on snacks or food being available. International flights tend to have more food available.

Friday, February 5, 2016

What's the best age for Disney World?

I’ve personally been to the Parks with kids from 18 months and up.  I don’t think there’s a “too young” age, but some parents had a different take. 

One parent said being potty trained was required before they took the kids to Disney World. The consensus seemed to be that 5 years old was a great age - the child has enough stamina to enjoy a full day at the Park and things are still magical. Every child is different so here’s  a few considerations as you make the decision for your family: 

- For infants, you’ll have to think through their routine. Heating up a bottle may be challenge inside the Parks.   Pre-ordering diapers, wipes and food from a grocery delivery service or even Amazon is a great way to save on having to transport everything to Florida yourself.  You are allowed to bring food in the Parks. Each Parks has lockers near the entrance where you can store small coolers. 

- Children under 3 years of age do not need a ticket. Children over 10 years are considered adults for ticket pricing purposes. I help many clients plan trips just before those big birthdays to maximize the cost savings. 

- Height may matter more than age. Some of the rides have height restrictions. It’s a good idea to take a peek at the rides your children would really want to ride to make sure they are tall enough to ride them. This goes for the Water Parks as well. 

- What do your kids like?  A big part of the “magic” is when the child recognizes a character they love from books, movies, or TV shows.  

What do you think? Is there a perfect age for Disney World? Weigh in on Facebook
When it comes to Disney World - one thing many people struggle to decide is what age is best for a Disney World visit....
Posted by Trips with Angie on Sunday, January 31, 2016

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Choosing a Family Resort in Cancun

Traveling with your family to Cancun, Mexico can be a fantastic adventure or a total bust. Different ages have different needs. I help travelers figure out is which resort would be fit their needs. Most family all-inclusive resorts have a kids’ program for kids aged 4 -12. Luxury resorts tend to set themselves apart with the programming and amenities they offer to the under 4 and over 12 children.

Here are some tips and recommendations for choosing a great resort for your family:

Under 4 years old
The big considerations here are food and activities. Does the resort offer in-room babysitting if you’d like an evening out? Is there open play time when you could accompany your toddler into the kids’ club to play with the toys? Does the resort offer baby food or would you need to bring your own?

One resort really stands out to me for how they accommodate families with young children: Azul Beach.
Azul Beach offers a terrific set of baby amenities: Strollers, Cribs, Bottle sterilizers, Bottle warmers, Changers, Baby monitors, Pack n' Plays, Sterilizers, Baby baths, Baby robes, Baby sleepers, and High chairs.  Gerber baby food is available in all restaurants and room service. Natural baby food can be prepared with previous request.

For couples who want a boutique atmosphere with babysitting available and a play area for kids - Beloved Playa Mujeres is a great option. It's a small, quiet, all-inclusive resort that just happens to allow children. 

4 -12 years old
This is the age where many of the resorts offer great options for kids in this age group. Kids’ Clubs offer supervised programming.

One distinction between some of the resorts is if the resort has a water park on site. For instance, Sandos Caracol Eco resort in Playa Del Carmen has a water park with 17 slides and various water games. Plus they just opened an Aqua Wark for adults and teens with five new water slides.

Another great kid-friendly property close to the airport is Iberostar Cancun.  I’m offering a $25 - $225 credit if you book a vacation to Iberostar Cancun through me visiting between July 9th and July 19th.  

Over 12 years old

Here is where the programming starts to change. Some resorts will have scheduled activities for teens. Others have a teen area and the resort offers a lot of activities teens would enjoy. For instance, Moon Palace Cancun has a flowrider, mini-golf course, Wired teen area, and lots of water sports. Here's video I took when I stayed there: 

Hard Rock Cancun has a music program where teens can check out DJ equipment or guitars. They can join a program where they form a band with other guests. 

Azul Fives has a rock climbing wall, teen area and organized teen activities.

Sorting through all these options can be a little overwhelming. That’s why I’m here to help. Remember - my vacation planning services are free if you book through me. I’d love to chat with you about your next vacation. Click here to schedule a time.

Happy Traveling! 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Choosing an Adults Only Cancun Resort

The Cancun and Riviera Maya areas of Mexico offer a lot of options for adults only all-inclusive resorts.
Whether you are planning a fun group trip or a romantic getaway, here's a few important differences to consider when choosing an adults only vacation:

Do you want a large family resort with an adults only section? The benefit of staying in an adults only section of a larger family resort is that you may have more options for dining and entertainment.  It’s also important if you are traveling in a group with families.  For example, Finest Playa Mujeres is shaped like a U where one side is adults only including an adults only pool and beach area. 

One bed or two? 
Many adults only resorts are geared towards couples. If you are planning a girls’ trip or a guys’ getaway, you’ll want to double check the room layouts to make sure those who want to share a room don’t have to share a bed. Live Aqua in the Cancun Hotel Zone offers both king bed and two double bed options.

What kind of vibe are you seeking? 
Some resorts are quiet and zen. Other resorts offer more activities around the pool or nightly entertainment.  Blue Diamond is a small, boutique, quiet property. Hyatt Zilara offers nightly entertainment and activities by the pool plus it’s walking distance from some of the clubs and restaurants in the Cancun Hotel Zone.

Which type of resort interests you most? Would you want a quiets/zen vibe or something more lively? Does an adults only section of a family resort work for you? 

If you have questions about these resorts, feel free to email me or click here to set up a time to chat - it's free. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

What's the difference between Cancun and Riviera Maya?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between Cancun, Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, or Playa Mujeres? I've got you covered.   

These are all areas people generally lump together as "Cancun" since that is the main airport. 

Here's what you need to know about each:

Cancun - The "Hotel Zone" is a 14 mile strip of high rise hotels with shops, clubs, and restaurants less than 15 minutes from the Cancun airport. The beaches are nice and you have a lot of variety of all-inclusive resorts. The resorts are compact and you can easily walk around to explore the area. 

Playa Mujeres is an exclusive area north of Cancun where all-inclusive resorts are beginning to develop. One of the main attractions is that the beaches are sheltered by the currents around Isla Mujeres so they experience less seaweed than other beaches. Playa Mujeres is a 30 - 45 minute ride from the Cancun airport.

Riviera Maya - This is a general term for the 88 mile stretch that begins at Puerto Moreles and stretches south to Punta Allen. The big difference between the resorts in Cancun and the resorts in Riviera Maya is that the Riviera Maya resorts tend to be more spread out with low rise buildings versus the high rise buildings in Cancun.

Within Riviera Maya, different cities have different personalities:

- Puerto Morelos is sometimes referred to as a fishing village because of its great access to water activities. The Marine Natural Park here has great tropical fish and coral. Puerto Morelos is about a 30 minute ride from the Cancun airport.

- Playa Del Carmen is a charming town. Fifth Avenue is a main pedestrian walkway offering nightlife, dining and shopping. This is one of the few areas in the Caribbean where you can stay at an all-inclusive resort on the beach and then walk into a town. Playa del Carmen is about a 45 minute - 1 hour ride from the Cancun airport.

- Tulum is a beautiful area close to some of the major Maya Ruins in Mexico. Tulum is an hour and a half ride from the Cancun airport.

Depending how long you are staying in Mexico, the type of excursions you want to experience and how important the beach is to your stay, we can narrow to the right fit for you. 

For short trips, I recommend the Cancun Hotel Zone since you don't want to lose a lot of time for the transfer. 

If you love history - I recommend heading all the way down to Tulum so you'll have easy access to the ruins. 

Looking for that mix of a resort experience and exploring a town, I recommend staying near Playa del Carmen.

Are you considering a Cancun area vacation? Planning a birthday trip in 2017 and want to see if this area is right for your friends and family? Have questions about the different areas?  Click here to set up a free 20 minute chat with me.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Heading to Disney World in March or April 2016? What You Need to Know

Going to Disney World in March or April?  Some great special events will be waiting for you. 

The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival kicks off March 2nd  and runs through May 30th. The Festival features seminars, special displays around the Park, and a concert series. 

While it's not as robust as the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, the Flower and Garden Festival also features special booths through the World Showcase with food, beer or wine to try. 

The Garden Rock Concert Series offers free concerts at the American Garden Theater inside Epcot. Here's the lineup: 
•  March 6-8: Gin Blossoms “Hey Jealousy”
•  March 13-15: Pablo Cruise “Love Will Find a Way”
•  March 20-22: En Vogue “Free Your Mind”
•  March 27-29: STARSHIP starring Mickey Thomas “We Built This City”
•  April 3-5: The Orchestra starring former members of ELO “Evil Woman”
•  April 10-12: Village People “Y.M.C.A.”
•  April 17-19: Jon Secada “Just Another Day”
•  April 24-26: The Guess Who “These Eyes”
•  May 1-3: Taylor Dayne “Tell It to My Heart”
•  May 8-10: Little River Band “Reminiscing”
•  May 15-17: Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am”

Love Baseball? The Atlanta Braves Spring Training games start March 1st at ESPN Wide World of Sports 

April 14th - 17th is the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon.  If you need a bib, email me. I may be able to help. 

New Dining: 

  • Jungle Skipper Canteen is a new table service restaurant at  Magic Kingdom® Park. 
  • Tiffins is a new signature table service restaurant rumored to open this spring at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. 
  • The wonderful California Grill is now serving brunch

New Attractions: 
Rumor has it that the new  Frozen attraction in Epcot may open in the end of April. The new Rivers of Light show at Animal Kingdom is also scheduled to debut in Spring of 2016. Animal Kingdom will also extend hours so you can experience the Kilimanjaro Safaris at sunset. 

Kylo Ren will begin appearing at Star Wars Launch Bay in Hollywood Studios. In addition to Kylo Ren, you may also come across a garrison of First Order Stormtroopers or the heroic Wookiee, Chewbacca, holed up in a secret Resistance base. Stay for the   “Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular” fireworks show in the evening. 

Beginning Feb. 7, 2016, a new interactive experience, based on the hit Disney Channel movie “The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar,” will debut at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park at Walt Disney World® Resort. This experience will be available  through end of March.   The Lion Guard Adventure allows young Guests to become honorary members of the Lion Guard as they explore the park in search of five main characters from the popular TV movie – Kion, Bunga, Fuli, Beshte, and Ono. 

Theme Park Closures: 
Magic Kingdom: Jungle Cruise closed March 1st - 3rd 

Epcot: Soarin’ is closed through the summer 

Hollywood Studios: Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show and nearby locations around Streets of America will be closing on April 2, 2016.  Pizza Planet is closed through the end of 2016 

Animal Kingdom: Flights of Wonder and the Boneyard are closed through March 17th 

Typhoon Lagoon: Closed through March 12th 2016. 

Hotel Refurbishments 

  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort Bay Cove Pool is closed February 1st - March 18, 2016. 
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Schoolyard Sprayground is closed until March 11, 2016. 
  • Flying Fish Restaurant is closed through September 30, 2016. 
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas are undergoing renovations through Spring 2016. 
  • Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is undergoing general construction and the East Pool is closed through Spring 2016. 
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Villas is undergoing multiple projects. Certain pathways, including the nature trail, will be unavailable. The Hidden Springs leisure pool area (the leisure pool at The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge), resort beach, playground, Marina and Recreation fire pit will be unavailable.

If you'd like to learn more about how to Escape the Crowds at Disney World, click here to request my free guide.  

If you are ready to book a Disney vacation, click here to schedule a free 20 minute consultation.