Friday, June 30, 2017

Universal versus Disney - What's the Difference?

Universal works a little differently than Disney in a few areas. 

Park Tickets
 This is similar as you have a single park per day option or a two Parks in one day option. You must have the Park to Park ticket to ride the train between the two Harry Potter worlds.  Both Disney World and Universal have an option to add on visits to a Water Park. 

Meal Plan
If you are staying at one of the Universal hotels,  you can add a meal plan that includes one full service meal (entree, drink, dessert), one quick service meal (entree and drink), one snack and one non-alcoholic drink. The pricing is built into the package. 

You can also purchase basically a coupon for $19.99 plus tax that includes a quick service meal, one drink and one snack. This can be a savings depending on what you are ordering. For instance, we had lunch at Three Boomsticks. My entree and drink were around $17.99. If I had purchased the meal plan coupon,  I would have gotten an extra drink and snack for free. 

Fast Pass
Universal does not have an included fast pass option. Instead, they have Express Passes. The pricing depends on how busy the Parks are expected to be. You can choose between an Express Pass and an unlimited Express Pass. The Express Pass is good for one time per ride. The Unlimited Express Pass can be used an unlimited amount of times on each ride. When you use your Express Pass, you go to a separate faster line - just like using a Fast Pass on a ride at Disney. For the shows, you are able to enter the theater first.  Currently, none of the Harry Potter attractions qualify for an Express Pass. 

Single Rider Lines
Most of the rides have a single rider line - including the Harry Potter attractions. Thought I do recommend going through the main line once for the Harry Potter attractions. 

Memory Maker 
Universal also has an option for an included photo pass - Photo Connect Start Card. This is really just for photos at the entrances and photos from the rides as Universal doesn't have photographers around in the Parks the same way Disney does.  Pricing depends on how many days you'll be there and if you wanted an printed photos included. If you just want digital, we bought an annual photo card for $100. One feature I love is that it connects to an App on your phone so you can see your photos right away and share them on social media. You still have to physically go to the photo booth at the ride and have the photo linked to your account. 

Disney Springs
Universal has its own version of Disney Springs - Citywalk. Actually, I think Citywalk was the inspiration for Disney Springs. Citywalk has a great restaurants, nightlife, movie theater, and mini-golf. We have found that the best full service restaurants are outside the Parks at Citywalk or the resort hotels. 

You have to pay for parking both at the resorts and the Parks. 

Perks for Staying at a Universal Hotels
Universal has two categories of hotels: Moderate/Value and Deluxe. 

The Moderate/Value hotels are Cabana Bay and Sapphire Falls.  

The perks for staying there are: 
- Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter 
- Complimentary Shuttle to the Parks 

The Deluxe hotels are Loews Hard Rock, Loews Royal Pacific, Loews Portofino Bay 
The perks for staying here are: 
- An unlimited Express pass for each guest. 
- Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter 
- These resorts are close enough to walk to the Parks. They also operate water taxis that connect the resorts to CityWalk and the two Parks. 

The Unlimited Express Pass is a huge perk here if you are interested in going on a lot of rides. 

Feel free to contact me at to plan a great Universal vacation for you and your family. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

2017 Eat to the Beat Concert Line Up

Eleven new-to-the-festival bands, including Kenny G., Squeeze and 10,000 Maniacs, join 21 fan-favorite musical acts for a diverse lineup of pop hit makers to rock America Gardens Theatre stage throughout the festival’s 75-day run.

Other new acts to appear are: The Hooters, Baha Men, Lauren Alaina, Mark Wills, American Authors, Devon Allman, Postmodern Jukebox and Blue October.

Guests also can tune into their favorite returning bands that will include festival opening act Delta Rae.  Concerts take place at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. daily.  The lineup (subject to change and included in Epcot admission) includes:

Friday, June 23, 2017

How to Travel Together and Stay Friends Webinar

Traveling together in a group can be stressful. I am here to help. Hopefully my 30 minute training will help outline what you need to consider when booking a group: 
  • Vacation options ideal for groups 
  • How to make decisions 
  • The important conversation you must have 
  • How to save money 

I'd love to help you plan your next group vacation, schedule a time for me to call you: or email me: 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

3 Ways to Upgrade Your Disney World Vacation

Visiting Disney World is a magical experience, but the crowds can be a little less than magical. Disney offer tours, parties, and experiences to help you escape the crowds and enjoy the Disney Attractions, Fireworks shows, and get up close to Disney World Wildlife.
If you'd like my guide to escaping the crowds at Disney World, click here. 

VIP Tours

Disney VIP Tour Guide

With the help of your own VIP Tour Guide, maximize your fun with minimal fuss for the Disney vacation of a lifetime! The team at Disney VIP Tour Services will plan the most efficient, enjoyable way for groups up to 10 Guests to see and do all that's on your list. Just tell your VIP Tour Guide what you'd like to see and they'll customize your day your way.

With special perks like door-to-door transportation from your Central Florida accommodations, preferred seating during select entertainment offerings and expedited entry to FastPass+ attractions, you'll spend less time waiting and more time soaking up the magic of Walt Disney World Resort.

Pricing ranges from $300 - $600 per hour for a minimum of 7 hours. Pricing changes by how busy the Parks will be. Park Admission is not included. The tour guide can accommodate up to 10 guests.

Star Wars Guided Tour 

Experience the epic Star Wars saga and all the Star Wars adventures Disney's Hollywood Studios has to offer with the all-new Star Wars Guided Tour. This seven-hour guided tour allows Guests to experience all the Star Wars offerings with an "all-in-the-know" tour guide to transport you to that galaxy far, far away.

This guided voyage includes:

  • A Star Wars "all-in-the-know" tour guide.
  • Priority boarding for Star Tours - The Adventures Continue.
  • Encounter two Star Wars characters  at Star Wars Launch Bay.
  • An in-depth, insider's tour around Star Wars Launch Bay
  • Screening of "Star Wars: Path of the Jedi."
  • Enjoy Star Wars-themed menu items during dinner at Backlot Express.
  • Witness 2 live stage shows—Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away and March of the First Order—from a reserved viewing area.
  • A spot in the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party, which includes themed sweets and specialty beverages, as well as reserved viewing for the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show.
  • Younglings ages 4-12 on the guided tour package can also train in the way of The Force in Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple.
  • Personalized souvenir of your tour to commemorate your adventures.

The Star Wars Guided Tour costs US $129 per person (tax and gratuity included). Tours will be offered on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays with an early afternoon start time.

VIP Viewing Locations

Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, and Epcot offer dessert parties with a special fireworks viewing. The dessert party includes specialty desserts and beverages.

FerryTale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Cruise features decadent sweets, specialty beverages (with and without alcohol) and one-of-a-kind views of the world-famous Magic Kingdom fireworks.

Get Up Close to Disney’s World’s wildlife

Dive or snorkel in the Caribbean Coral Reef at The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion

Explore an underwater wonderland at Caribbean Coral Reef, a 5.7-million-gallon, man-made saltwater ocean. Offering a snorkeling experience like no other for Guests who are not SCUBA-certified, this 2.5-hour experience at Epcot includes approximately 30 minutes of actual snorkeling time at The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion.

Epcot Seas Adventures - DiveQuest lasts 3 hours, and you'll spend approximately 40 minutes on your actual dive. You'll also tour the massive backstage infrastructure that filters and maintains this vast manmade ocean. You must be SCUBA-certified to participate.

Get Up Close to the Animal  Kingdom Savannah

Wild Africa Trek is an immersive experience that offers Disney's Animal Kingdom Guests a unique opportunity to enjoy unexplored areas of the Harambe Reserve and have an "up close and personal" experience with intriguing African wildlife species.

This three-hour experience led by specially trained guides begins in the Safi River valley where expedition harnesses will allow Guests to cross precarious rope bridges and enjoy up-close views of Nile hippos and crocodiles. The journey continues along the edge of a magnificent, wide-open African savannah, where Guests board a specialized vehicle to enjoy an exclusive safari, including a stop at a private safari camp. This 30-minute respite allows Guests to continue premium animal viewing and enjoy African-inspired food samplings.

If you have any questions, please email me or set up a time for me to call you

Monday, June 12, 2017

Take Your Vacation to the Next LEvel

A vacation in an investment of time and money. Below are some investments you can make to help take your vacation to the next level:

Your Transportation

·       Fly nonstop even if it means driving to a different airport. We frequently drive to Orlando to take a nonstop. The 90 minute drive is usually less than a layover.

·       Upgrade your seats on the plane. Many airlines now offer extended legroom seats for purchase. On Southwest, you can usually upgrade your boarding position by paying an extra fee at the gate. I used to view the flight as an annoyance. Now, I view it as the beginning of the vacation so I try to make it as comfortable as possible.

·       Upgrade to a private nonstop transfer to your resort. This is important for all-inclusive vacations.  A regular transfer could have multiple stops or you may have to wait until it fills up to leave. After spending 45 minutes waiting in a van, I decided I would always upgrade to the private transfer.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Six New Must Do Experience at Disney World

Disney World is constantly evolving.
Check out these six new Must Do Experiences. 

1. Watch “Happily Ever After” Fireworks - This new nighttime fireworks spectacular is performed nightly at Magic Kingdom® Park.
2. Explore Pandora - The World of Avatar - You know I had to include this.
3. Enjoy “The Music of Pixar LIVE! A Symphony of Characters” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios - This special event showcases a selection of unforgettable soundtrack favorites from Disney•Pixar “Cars,” “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “Toy Story” and “Up,” performed by a live orchestra and includes appearances by beloved Disney•Pixar characters like Woody, Buzz and Jessie. This 40-minute concert is presented three times nightly at Theater of the Stars, following regular daily performances of “Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage.” Right now, it's only scheduled through the summer.
4. Explore Additions to Star Wars Launch Bay - Replicas from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” have been added to  Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney’s Hollywood Studios®. Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular returned earlier in 2017 to light up the sky. Be sure to "meet and greet" BB8.
5. Slide Through Miss Adventure Falls - This family-friendly raft adventure just debuted to at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon® Water Park
6. Watch the “Disney Movie Magic” Projection Show - This new projection show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios transforms the park’s iconic Chinese Theater with special lighting and state-of-the-art projection mapping technology to put you right in the middle of a high-energy celebration of films from the Disney family of studios. There will be dozens of movies highlighted, from Disney classics like “Mary Poppins” to contemporary blockbusters such as “Pirates of the Caribbean,” the Indiana Jones adventures and this summer’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”

I hope you get a chance to check these out. If you do, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Disney Construction Update

Disney Refurbishment Update as of June 2017

Magic Kingdom

  • Monorail is undergoing refurbishment now through June 30th 
  • Hall of Presidents is closed until June 29th 
  • Liberty Square Riverboat will be closed August 1 – 10th, 2017
  • Splash Mountain will be closed August 28th – November 16th


  • Mission Space and Advanced Training Lab will be closed until July 28th

Walt Disney World Resort Updates Undergoing Construction

  • Art of Animation
  • BoardWalk Inn & Villas
  • Caribbean Beach Resort - Old Port Royale Food Court, Shutters at Old Port Royale, Cabana Pool Bar and Calypso Trading Post are closed until June 30th
  • Coronado Springs
  • Grand Floridian -  Fitness Center will be relocated to Salon 9 starting June 12th
  • Old Key West – Exterior Mainteance and Painting through July 27th
  • Pop Century
  • Wildnerness Lodge - Teton Boat and Bike Rentals & Boulder Ridge Cove Pool closed through July 1st. Roaring Fork Snacks is closed through July 1st. Trout Pass Pool Bar closed through the summer. Cub’s Den is closed.
  • Yacht Club – Captain’s Grille has been relocated to Ariel’s through September 30th.
If you have any questions, please email me:

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Alaska Cruise: Round Trip or One Way?

We recently sailed on the Carnival Legend round trip from Seattle, Washington. Two years ago, we took a one way cruise from Whittier, Alaska to Vancouver so I thought this is a good time to highlight the differences between a round trip and one away itinerary.
The big differences are time in Alaska and ease of travel.
Time in Alaska
Sailing one way from Alaska feels like you jump right into Alaska. You immediately see the great landscapes. We even saw otters swimming next to the cruise ship in Whittier.   Many itineraries feature longer time in port. Some one way itineraries add visiting a glacier to your first Sea Day. We visited the Hubbard Glacier on our one way cruise.
Hubbard Glacier

Bucket List: Swimming with Whale Sharks

Snorkeling with whale sharks is a top bucket list item for many people.

Is it on your list?

UnCruise Adventures offers an incredible Baja itinerary that includes snorkeling with these "gentle giants".