Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: Dreams VillaMagna Vallarta

Laura and her family were looking for a fun place to get away in Mexico. We settled on Dreams VillaMagna Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico because its kids' program, great price point, and beautiful campus. Here's what Laura said when she returned: 

Okay, Angie, all I have to say is BEST TRIP EVER!!!!!!!  Thanks so much!  The plane and transfers were great and we could not have asked for a better resort.  The people were amazing and made you feel welcome, special and at home.  I thought we were getting a tropical room but they ended up giving us partial ocean.  We had a jacuzzi on the balcony that we put cold water in and used a couple of times.  The pools are magnificent--especially the infinity one!  Julia (the 3 year old)  preferred the "Big Girl Standing Julia Pool"  for reasons you might guess.  The entertainment was unbelievable as well.  Likewise, the food was healthy and fabulous!  I would recommend this to anyone.  It was a fabulous value for the money! The only complaint was the sun.  Probably a bad time of the year to choose to go, but that is nobody's fault!  I am going to attach some pix for you.

Explorer's club was wonderful.  We only used it for a couple of hours, but the kids had fun.  They printed a schedule of activities each day which also included the kids club activities.  The kids chose to do a spa hour and pinata breaking.

Fernando, one of the bell boys pictured below did a great Donald Duck imitation for the girls--almost daily.  Other activity directors helped us learn jewelry, making crafts, etc.

We took a side trip to Las Caletas and swam with the seals, held monkeys, snorkeled, etc.  Great place.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: Iberostar Cancun

Ellen and her extended family were looking for a great vacation for 8 adults and 6 kids ranging in age from one to eleven. The  resort needed to be close to an airport and have kids' programming. We selected Iberostar Cancun. Here's what Ellen said when she returned: 

The trip was fantastic.  We could not have asked for more with the resort.  I don't think anyone ran across a crabby employee.  They were all friendly and courteous.  There were many families with children of all ages, so having someone as young as Nolan wasn't out of the norm.  

The pool, grounds, and children's water park were clean and well cared for.  I think the rooms could use a fresh coat of paint, but that is minor compared to the service we received.  We typically went out before breakfast to leave some towels under an umbrella or two, otherwise it would be tough to find a spot with some shade.  We are early birds, so that wasn't an issue!  We all kept an eye on the two youngest while the four oldest (8 - 11 y o) moved from pool to pool.  The beach was a lot of fun for the boys as well.  The water was rough, but an adult was always with them.  We went out 3 different nights to look for sea turtles and finally saw three on the last evening when some of us went out around midnight!  One pool had a volleyball net, polo nets, and basketball hoops.  The kids visited that each day for awhile.  There were also ping pong tables set up outside that we enjoyed.

We dined at all of the restaurants.  This was the best food, even on the buffets, that I have enjoyed at an all-inclusive resort.  My sister and her husband, both well traveled, agreed.  They felt like this was the best all inclusive resort they had visited.  At the gourmet restaurant, our server mentioned he could arrange for hamburgers or chicken nuggets for the kids if they would rather eat that (instead of lamb or duck).  Pretty sure my kids never wanted to leave.  

I wasn't sure how my go-go-go kids would do with this type of vacation but they ranked it as the best we've had so far.  The resort had different activities scheduled throughout the day.  My kids shot airsoft guns, did archery, did a scuba dive demo in the pool, and played soccer on the beach.  There were many many other activities offered as well.  No one participated in any of the kids club activities.  I also can't speak to the night time shows.  We never attended any but I know they had a kids show scheduled daily at 8pm and a show for adults scheduled daily around 9:30pm.

We scheduled 2 off site activities.  We snorkeled one morning at Puerto Morelos.  It was REALLY enjoyable and I'm not one to love swimming with fish.  It was about a 30 minute ride from our resort and included lunch.  The other activity was a day trip to Xel-Ha.  This was Adam's highlight and another fun day.

El Rey ruins is a short 1 mile walk from the resort.  My family didn't end up going but my brother's family did.  They were gone for about 2 hours, including walking there and back.  My mom went with them and it ended up costing around $10 total for that outing.  They really enjoyed it.  

Negatives (MINOR minor minor!!):  
We were unable to get rooms side by side for all of us.  We ended up 2 side by side on one floor and 2 side by side on another floor.  That worked out just fine - we would have contacted you if it was really an issue.  I think we wanted rooms side by side IF we ended up going out after kids were all asleep - throw my dad in with the older kids, my mom with the younger two.  We still could have done that but we were all so exhausted it didn't matter :).

There are 3 elevators for the resort and it feels like there could be 1-2 more.  1 was out of order at some point during each day.  This was an inconvenience, but certainly didn't ruin our trip.

Again, EVERYONE was pleased with your communication with us and the package that you put together.  It was such a wonderful time.  Thank you for all of your help!

Lucky for you - Iberostar is offering a Kids Stay Free promotion for travel August 16, 2015 - December 23, 2015.  At Iberostar Cancun, one child stays free for two adults. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Trips with Angie Cruise Special: Oasis of the Seas

The Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas is one of the largest cruise ships sailing the high seas. Check out this video for all the great features. 

The exciting news for you is that I have a few cabins left in a group I reserved over a year ago. You get the benefit of last year's rates for this year's cruise. 

On November 7, 2015, the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas leaves Fort Lauderdale and visits Haiti, Jamaica, and Mexico. 

Interior cabins are $639 per person double occupancy. 

Balcony cabins with a view of the Boardwalk/Central Park are $769 per person double occupancy. 

Balcony cabins with an ocean view are $899 per person double occupancy. 

Taxes and fees are an additional $119.88 per person. 

Email Angie@TripswithAngie.com to reserve your cabin. Cabins must be booked by July 1st. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

WDW 101: Using a travel agent to book a Disney World vacation

Can a travel agent get me a deal I can't get for myself online? Is it cheaper? Is it more expensive? Which one to use? What is the benefit in using an agent?
Disney has one price. This means every website or travel agent that sells a Disney vacation has to sell it for the same price. The flights can have some variation as that is considered separate so you’ll different pricing on packages that include flights. I focus on what is the best value for your vacation dollar. Is it really a better deal if you are 40 minutes from the Parks in two double beds if for $100 more you could have been two queen beds walking distance from Epcot? 

The benefit of using an agent is having someone who is in your corner helping you figure out the best options for your family, answering your questions, and providing support and assistance throughout the whole process. 

As to which one to use, I hope you’ll consider using me. 

Are there additional costs? If better deals come after I've booked, are you able to change/update reservations without additional cost or penalty?
I do not charge any fees. If the deals come out before your final payment, I can usually update your reservation without an additional costs or penalties. It just depends on the terms and conditions of the package you booked. 

Do you know from experience or does Disney give you a guide?
Both. Disney has a special training program for travel agents called College of Knowledge. I have graduated from that program. I also visit Disney World frequently so I have my own personal experience to use as well. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Review: Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay Jamaica

Over Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I headed down to Secrets Wild Orchid, an adults only luxury all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Since it was only a two night trip, we maximized our time at the resort by:
1. Arranging VIP arrival service. A guide met us as we exited the plane and escorted us through immigration and customs. We went to a private lounge while someone went to make sure our transfer was there.

2. Arranging a Private transfer - Transfers to/from the resorts are included in many all-inclusive resort packages. We used Best of Jamaica. 

We arrived at the resort, checked in and headed to lunch. A room wasn't available until after 3 pm. We had our suits with us so we just went to grab lunch. We really liked there was an a la carte option for lunch in addition to the grill and the buffet. The menu was wraps. 

I had a jerk chicken wrap and it was very good. 

We had a great time at this resorts. The highlights were: 

-  The fun pool atmosphere. The bartenders at the pool bars were great. The entertainment staff organized fun games like poolside trivia, a male "beauty" pageant, and water aerobics. 

 - The night time entertainment. Almost all the restaurants are grouped together. They offer lots of outdoor seating plus a stage for live music after the sun goes down.

 The air-conditioned night club or the open-air piano bar keep the party going past 10:00 pm. 

-  The jacuzzi tubs in the rooms. These were the best jacuzzi tubs I have ever seen. 

- The location. The resort is only ten minutes from the airport. You see planes coming in for a landing now and then, but you can't hear them. 

- The snorkeling. I really enjoyed the snorkeling. You swim out to the reef with a guide. He dives down to bring up a couple sea creatures and points out all the different fish. We even saw a sting ray. 

As with any resort, there are some trade-offs 
- The beach. This is a man-made beach so the sand is coarse with broken shells. If you are looking for a beautiful long beach with white powder sand - head to Negril. 

- The time share salespeople. We quickly figured out that claiming your resort credits triggers a time share sales pitch. We weren't bothered at all since we didn't claim them. 

- The Peacocks.

 These birds are near all the restaurants. They are SO LOUD. They woke us up around 5:30 am both mornings. We didn't see them on the Secrets St. James side so maybe we will stay over there next time. 

- The dinner menus - Our experience at two dinners wasn't great. The service was slow and inattentive. The food was average. We were impressed by the breakfast buffet and love the room service continental breakfast. I had a great turkey burger at the beach front grill. 

The Secrets St. James property right next door. It's a mirror image for the main areas of the resort. The St James is closer to the Spa and tennis courts. Wild Orchid is closer to the restaurants and nightlife. 

We investigated the Preferred Club accommodations. The swim up suites looked great - you have an ocean front location and share a pool with the other swim up suites. 

The one thing we didn't like was that the Preferred Club pool didn't have a swim up bar. Instead, there's a regular bar in between the Preferred Club pool and the general swim up pool bar for the resort. But those bars had swings so that's a win!

Overall, I can't wait to go back. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

WDW 101: What unique activities, classes or tours are offered that the non insiders don't know about?

What unique activities, classes or tours are offered that the non insiders don't know about?

One of the most overlooked opportunities is the activities available at the Parks or the Disney tours available during different times of the year that take you Back Stage. 

A couple examples: 
Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage - You cruise the Seven Seas Lagoon as the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular lights up the sky. 

Kids Only events - Kids 4 -12 can take part on special events like a Tea Party or Pirate Cruise just for them - no parents. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

WDW 101: What are the best ages to truly enjoy the parks?

What are the best ages to truly enjoy the parks? 

Let's see - I'm 37.. so 37! 

I am guessing you are asking about the under 18 crowd. Here's my take: 

Under 5 years old  - Witnessing their excitement, joy, astonishment makes all those emotions contagious. They may not remember the experience. Depending on your kids' temperament, the experience could be a little overwhelming. 

 5 - 8  years old is a fun age because the magic is still real. They can manage around the Parks a little easier and start to ride some of the "real rides"

8 - 11 years old remembers it, has an agenda and you'll likely have to turn over the map. 

Over 12 years old really depends on your kids. Some kids still love it. Others find it a little boring since there aren't a lot of roller coasters. 

Once I know more about your kids, I will recommend the best options.