Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 1

Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 1

Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 1

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I just returned last week from an awesome experience on the Disney Cruise Line sailing to Alaska! I thought I’d share our experience here, to give you a better understanding of the Disney cruise experience and hopefully help those who are a little unsure if a cruise is right for them decide if they’d like to make the leap and try it. I promise, you’ll love it!   As this was a business trip for myself (being a specialist in planning Disney vacations, it’s my jobs to stay up on all the best Disney has to offer to better help my clients), it was put together fairly last minute – just 3 weeks before sailing.  For that reason, I didn’t have big shore excursions planned, but we did explore the Alaska ports and had a great time visiting Alaska!  I’ll break this down by day, one post at a time, so please check back to see the whole trip.

 

Disney Wonder: Day 1

We spent the night at the Westin Bayshore, near the port, which was comfortable and suited our needs just fine for a brief one night stay. The Starbucks downstairs made for an easy, economical breakfast choice, and then we decided to kill some time by walking right out of the lobby and onto a path by the marina to see some boats. As we rounded the corner, we saw the Wonder in the distance. The kids were so excited! I have to say, seeing it in person for the first time IS very exciting. As my kids yelled out about going on that boat, a couple standing near by told us they just got off the same ship that morning and that it was the best trip ever.

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Checking In with Disney Cruise Line

At noon, we checked out and grabbed a taxi to Canada Place. As we got out of the taxi, our luggage was taken from us to be checked, leaving us just our carry-ons to get into the boarding line with. Ok, so it turns out this line is huge. And long. I’d done a lot of homework about this Disney Cruise, but I was not prepared for how long the check-in process takes.

I’m not sure that it takes as long in Port Canaveral, or if it does, I haven’t really heard about it. But in this case, we stood in one huge, snaking line to have our luggage scanned. Then in another line to wait for chairs in the waiting area for the US Border Control. Then we got up when it was our row’s turn and stood in line for the Border Patrol to show our passports.

Then we moved to another room where we did the actual Disney Cruise Line check in. They checked our passports and took our photo, then handed us our Key to the World cards. And finally, after that, it was time to board!

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As you enter the ship, crew members ask your last name. Then, they announce each family to the ship: “Please welcome to the Wonder: The Tinius family!” and then everyone claps and cheers. It’s a great way to celebrate boarding such a pretty ship.

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At this point, it was a little later than I had planned on. I needed to stop by Guest Services to ask for tickets to the tea party and to drop off the pillowcases we wanted autographed. We were able to get those tea party tickets, which was great (they’re free!) and our pillowcases went off to get signed.

Our Room

Our room was ready already, so we headed there to drop off our carry-ons and check it out. The room is nice, with plenty of space for our family, although smaller than what we are used to in a hotel. The verandah is fabulous, though. I can’t really imagine cruising in a lower category room after this! I loved having a full view of the outside the whole time, plus being able to step out for fresh air or relax in the chairs.

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One thing I love about the Disney Cruise ships is that the rooms have split bathrooms like this.  One bathroom has the shower and a sink.  The other bathroom has a toilet and a sink.  This makes SO much sense for families trying to get ready!

Beach Blanket Buffet

After we dropped off our stuff, we headed straight up to the Beach Blanket Buffet to grab some lunch. There were some salads and rolls, pasta and fried rice, fruits and vegetables and, of course, desserts. We sat outside because it happened to be a gorgeously sunny day in Vancouver. The kids rushed through the lunch because they desperately wanted to swim before we set sail. This being an Alaska cruise, I had already told them it may be too cold on other days to use the pool, so this swimming time was goal number 1 for today.

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And yes…my daughter has lunch of olives, cheese and bread.  Sometimes that’s how buffets go with a 5 year old!
The pool, it turns out, is nice and warm (it steams on cold days!) and they had a blast playing around in the Mickey Pool. The slide, of course, is a big favorite. On a tropical sailing, I imagine the line for the slide gets very long. It was already half way down the stairs today, and this was not even a hot day.

Disney Wonder Mickey Pool

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The kids finished swimming (or rather, I asked them to be finished) and I got them showered off and dressed. At 4pm, we did the required safety drill, and then we went straight up from there to deck 9 for the sail away party. Because we went straight there, the kids got to be front and center for the show, putting them right in front of the characters. They loved it!  I definitely recommend heading straight to the party area after the safety drill if you want a great view.  Or, if you can’t do that, head up one deck higher and grab a view overlooking the party. And then… we were off and sailing!

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Kids Club

Right after that, the kids demanded we go check out the kids clubs. We wandered through during open house time, then I checked them in so they could play on their own for a bit.  My daughter declared the Oceaneer’s Club to be her preferred destination, primarily for the play structure, while my son declared the Oceaneer’s Lab to be his home base, primarily for the computers and science tables.  It turns out that over the course of the cruise, both kids generally liked the Club more than the Lab.  My daughter liked that it had a dress up chest of princess dresses, and my son liked the nook for playing the Wii with other boys.  However, both areas had some really great activity programming, so, for example, my son did love the Lab when making flubber or making pizzas, etc.

Oceaneer's Lab

Oceaneer’s Lab

Oceaneer's Lab

Oceaneer’s Lab

Oceaneer's Club

Oceaneer’s Club: Huge pirate play structure with slide

Stage of the Oceaneer's Club

Stage of the Oceaneer’s Club

Dress up play area of the Oceaneer's Club

Dress up play area of the Oceaneer’s Club

 

 

We had late dining, so around 8pm I went and grabbed them and we headed to Parrot Cay for our first dinner.

Parrot Cay

 

At this point, the ship had a bit of roll going on, side to side, but not too bad. I had taken Bonine ahead of time, just in case. So far, so good, although the motion made me a bit nervous to eat too big of a dinner. In any case, this was the tropical menu tonight. I chose the Jamaican Chicken Tenderloins as an appetizer, a garden salad, the Jamaican roasted chicken and the Sticky Date Pudding Cake. These were all fine, although I can’t say I was totally wowed by any of them. It seems this tropical menu doesn’t’ tend to be a favorite among Disney Cruisers, so I wasn’t surprised. The kids chose Mac and Cheese and a Mini Hamburger, and Mickey Bars for dessert.

Jamaican Chicken Tenders

Jamaican Chicken Tenders

Jamaican Roasted Chicken

Jamaican Roasted Chicken

Kid's Mac and Cheese

Kid’s Mac and Cheese

The infamous Mickey Bar

The infamous Mickey Bar

 

When we booked this cruise, I chose to request to be seated with another family vs requesting our own private table.  Traveling without my husband, I thought it might be nice to socialize with some other parents. 🙂  Disney does a good job of trying to match you with a family with children with ages near yours.  In our case, we were sat a table with a nice family of 3 from Orlando, with a boy the same age as my son who happened to love all of the same video games.  You can just imagine the liveliness at the table with these two boys bonding over everything!  It was a great experience for my son.

Because it’s a late dinner seating, by the time we got back to the room, it was already 10pm. We got ready for bed, the kids watched a bit of TV and then they fell asleep very quickly. I, on the other hand, took a little while to get used to the creaking and rolling of the room. I did fall asleep after a little while and after that slept pretty well. It just takes a bit to get used to that feeling! My understanding is that this night and the following day have the most movement due to the ship being in unsheltered waters. Once it enters Tracy Arm, it’s generally a very smooth ride.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

 

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Staying at the Beach Club at Walt Disney World Resort

Staying at the Beach Club at Walt Disney World Resort

Staying at the Beach Club at Walt Disney World Resort

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We recently returned from our latest visit to Disney World, and this time we chose to stay in a Lagoon/Pool View room at the Beach Club.  We’d visited the Boardwalk area before, of course, but we hadn’t stayed in a resort there. Upon arrival, the first thing I noticed was the fresh, clean scent of the lobby.  Each of the resorts has it’s own distinct fragrance in the lobbies, in case you didn’t know.   The lobby is very open, with seashore décor and it lets out on the opposite side onto a walkway that looks upon the lagoon. We were given our room number and directed to the elevators.  Up on the third floor, we followed signs to our room.  To be honest, it was a bit of a maze, as the resort is very long and the hallways wind around.  We went allllllll the way to the very end of the building and were so pleased to find that we had rooms at the very front of the resort directly overlooking the beach and lagoon, looking across at the Boardwalk.

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View from Beach Club Disney World

The rooms have a seaside feel to them, with accents of shells and ships, and in white and blues.

beach club room

On top of that, we had rooms directly next to the stairwell exit which lets you out on a small path that in about 10 feet connects to the 2 minute walkway to the International Gateway entrance for Epcot.  What does this mean?  It means that instead of trekking the hallways of the resort, we simply exit and walk two minutes to get into Epcot.  Very handy for evening dining or to pop in for a snack from the France Pavilion! We also preferred using this exit to walk to the pool, because the walk takes you right along the beach before curving back in to the pool area.  Entering this area, you are required to scan your Magic Bands to prove you are a resort guest.  This pool is fantastic and Disney wants to make sure they keep it from getting overcrowded with non-Beach or Yacht Club resorts guests. Speaking of the pool – it’s named Stormalong Bay and it’s pretty amazing.  First of all, it’s huge.   It’s got several different areas and it never felt crowded while we were there.  Second, it’s not just a pool – it’s also a lazy river, a sand bottomed play shallow area and has two waterslides, one big and fast and one small for little kids.

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Pirate Themed Waterslide

The pirate ship themed large waterslide is fast and fun with lots of twists and turns.  It was near impossible to get my son to leave this area when it was time to go back to the room!  My daughter, who is 5, was too afraid of the big slide, but luckily on the other side of the sidewalk from the pool, where the stairs are for the large waterslide, there is a small kiddie pool with a fun pint sized waterslide.  She spent her entire pool time here, up and down up and down, ever tiring of it!

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Quick Service Locations

There are two quick service locations that we used several times here.  Hurricane Hannah’s is poolside and kid’s meals ordered here come in sand pails!  The other is the Beach Club Marketplace, which is a combination of a gift shop and a food service area.  It has meal options but also sells small grocery type items, like cartons of milk, cereal boxes, juice, soda, lunchmeats and more.  It’s a good place to grab a few things to keep in the room.

Kids' meals from Hurricane Hannah's at the Beach Club Resort

Beaches And Cream At Disney  Beach Club

It’s also home to Beaches and Cream, famous for their huge and delicious sundaes.  We didn’t manage to be brave enough for the Kitchen Sink sundae, but we did try a few others and they were fantastic. If you are so inclined, there is a table service meal located at Cape May Café, although we didn’t try it out this trip.  It’s a character breakfast option and then a Clam Bake for dinner. The resort is right next to it’s sister resort, the Yacht Club.  It’s also right across from the Boardwalk Inn, which means a quick walk over the bridge gives you access to several restaurants and shops along Disney’s Boardwalk.  The Boardwalk Bakery is a favorite for an afternoon treat, and they also serve breakfast and lunch items.

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Ending The Day

In the evening, you’ll find all sorts of street performer acts out on the Boardwalk, and it’s lit up beautifully. From the Beach Club, you can also see some of the Fantasmic! fireworks each night, as you can see the Hollywood Tower of Terror of Hollywood Studios from here.  We were able to see these from our room.  To the left of the resort, you can see some of the fireworks from Illuminations at Epcot, although the view is partially blocked.  Of course, it’s just a quick walk into Epcot from here, so if you are back at your resort before 9pm on any given day and have park hoppers, by all means just walk in and watch the full show! Overall, we really enjoyed this resort.

The one downside is that the International Gateway is about as far away from Future World as possible, meaning you are a distinct disadvantage if you plan to head to Test Track or Soarin’ first thing in the morning.  I’d plan to either get Fast Pass+ reservations for both (on different days – they are both Tier 1 attractions and you can only get one on any particular day) or take a taxi to the front gates (just a few minute ride) to have the same advantage as the other guests lining up for rope drop, if you plan to ride one of them standby.     See ALL of the services offered!

3 Reasons a Deluxe Monorail Resort at Disney World is Worth It

3 Reasons a Deluxe Monorail Resort at Disney World is Worth It

3 Reasons a Deluxe Monorail Resort at Disney World is Worth It

Grand Floridian

So maybe you’ve seen these deluxe monorails resorts at Disney World, and wondered if they’re actually worth it.  They absolutely are, and here’s why:

 

First of all, the three resorts on the monorail line are the Contemporary Resort, the Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian.  Now that we’ve covered that, let’s look at the top three reasons to stay at one of them!

Convenience

Just as it sounds, these three resorts are along the monorail loop that connects to the Magic Kingdom as well as the Ticket and Transportation Center, where you can hop on the monorail to Epcot.  In a land of huge, sprawling parks and resorts, having easy access to the parks from your resort is a big deal.  You’ll save yourself time, and you’ll probably enjoy a monorail more than a bus (and I can pretty much guarantee your kids will think it’s awesome).

You also get a few other convenient options for getting to the Magic Kingdom.  All three resorts have “Friendship Boats” from their dock to the Magic Kingdom.  The Polynesian is also directly next to the ferry at the Ticket and Transportation Center.  And the Contemporary has it’s own walking path to the Magic Kingdom – a few short minutes of walking directly to the theme park.  Can’t beat that!

Views

All three resorts offer views of Cinderella’s Castle directly across Bay Lake.  It’s magical in a way that is hard to describe until you’ve seen it.  From the shores of these resorts, as well as rooms with theme park views, you can see the nightly fireworks as well.  The theme park view rooms at the Contemporary often an even closer look over much of the Magic Kingdom!

The Atmosphere

Hands down these are some of the most luxurious resorts on property.  Some of the most popular restaurants in all of Disney World reside at these three resorts, and if you stay at one, you have constant, easy access via the monorail to the other three.  You’ll also easily access the gorgeous spa at the Grand Floridan.

The themes of these resorts are outstanding and each has a completely different feel, allowing you to fully immerse in the magic.  You get the combination of fantastic pools, lush landscaping, beaches, lake views and Magic Kingdom views that simply can’t be found anywhere else!

It’s not hard to see why these resorts can demand a premium for a stay here, but the end result is well worth it!

 

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The Best Pools in Disney World

The Best Pools in Disney World

Best Pools in Walt Disney World

Oh, you thought a hotel was just a place to sleep?  Not in Walt Disney World.
If your family likes to swim, you’ve got some great options at the Disney resorts.  Let’s take a look at the best pools in Disney World:

1. Stormalong Bay at the Beach Club and Yacht Club

Sand bottom and sand play area?  Check.  Lazy river?  Check.  230 ft water slide?  Check.  This pool is more like a mini water park and has something for everyone.  It’s massive, and it’s by far the best pool on property!

 

Stormalong Bay

via SolGrundy on Flickr

Stormalong Bay

via Elizabethtable4five on Flickr

2. Volcano Pool at the Polynesian Resort

With zero depth entry, perfect for little ones, a volcano towering over the pool that also houses a water slide, tropical flowers surrounding it, and directly next to the beach with views of the Magic Kingdom, the setting of the pool is absolutely magnificent.  It’s a small piece of paradise.

 

Volcano Pool at the Polynesian

via Jared422_80 on Flickr

3. Fuentes del Morro Pool at Caribbean Beach Resort

This pirate themed pool, with a Spanish inspired fortress, cannon water sprays and two waterslides, will keep any pirate at heart entertained.  It’s also a zero depth entry play, perfect for the smallest family members.  There’s also a shipwrecked themed splash play area with mini slides!

 

Caribbean Beach Pool

via Mommy Musings on Flickr

4. The pools of the Art of Animation resort

These three pools make the list for their diverse themes.  Of these, my personal favorite is the Cozy Cone pool, made to represent the movie Cars.  The other two pools are inspired by Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid.   The Big Blue Pool, themed for Finding Nemo, is actually the largest pool of property and features underwater speakers.

 

Cozy Cone Pool

via Paul Attobelli on Flickr

Art of Animation Pool

via Paul Attobelli on Flickr

All of these pools have so many facets that are hard to capture in just a few pictures!  If your family loves pools then finding the best pools in Disney World should be a top priority for you. If you are still not sure which resort is right for you, or don’t know how to plan your trip to have enough time to play in the Disney pools, I’m here to help!  Feel free to contact me with any questions.

 

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Dining with the Princesses: A review of Ariel’s Grotto

Dining with the Princesses: A review of Ariel’s Grotto

Dining with the Princess: A Review Of Ariels’ Grotto – Disneyland

Ariel's Grotto

Listen here parents: If you’ve got a little girl who loves princesses, this post is for you.  If you are planning on hunting down the princesses for photos and autographs in the parks, I’m here to tell you that Ariel’s Grotto is going to be of huge benefit for you.  Yes, even at Disney prices.  This place has some good bang for your buck!

I recently visited Ariel’s Grotto with just my sister.  Yes, that’s right, two grown women with no children in tow eating at a princess character meal.  But guess what – no one seemed to look at us strangely, so I’m going to guess we’re not the first adults to do a character meal sans children.

When you first arrive, you’ll check in at a podium and likely be given a pager.  When your pager buzzes, you’ll be asked to go down the stairs to the restaurant.  Here, you’ll encounter a small line waiting for a photo with Ariel.  She appears here in her blue dress.

Our Ariel was quite charming.  She wanted to know where we had swam from that day.  When we told her, she said she understood why we were on our legs now, as our fins must be tired from such a long swim!

Ariel’s Grotto Menu

After your photos, you’ll be seated at your table.  The menu is not huge but has sufficient options.  You’ll be choosing a soup or salad, a main course, and the dessert is brought for the whole table to share.

Ariel's Grotto Menu

Bread was brought to the table right away.  This may be some of the prettiest bread I’ve ever seen.

Ariel's Grotto Bread Flower

To start, my sister and I both opted for soup, since it was such a cold day.  My sister had the clam chowder, which she deemed delicious, and I had the butternut squash bisque.  Also delicious!  I make butternut squash soup for my family at home, but this one was decidedly better.  I enjoyed the spices that were used in this version – very holidayish.

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We both chose the Citrus Glazed Chicken Breast which comes on a bed of udon noodles in broth.  For blogability sake, we probably should have ordered different dishes, but hey, this is the one that sounded best to both of us that day.  It was quite good.  My chicken was a little overcooked, but otherwise had nice flavor.  My sister’s chicken was cooked just fine.  The broth was good and the noodles were perfect consistency.  Overall, we’d both recommend this dish to others.

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While dining, a trumpet herald is played and each princess is announced.  They are announced one at a time, with a space of about 5 minutes between each.  This allows them the make their rotations around the tables neatly and in a timely fashion.  Compared to other character meals I’ve done, this was far more organized.  Usually, a character meal has characters milling about the room already when you arrive…they make a point to try to get to each new table, but there never seems to be much order to it.  And if it’s time for one to go on a break, you may see them leave while you sit eating and you have to wait for them to come back on shift if you want to meet them.  Here, they appear to seat tables on a scheduled rotation, such that all tables seem to arrive within 20 minutes of each other, they have all the princesses come out within 5 minutes of each other, make their rotation, leave, and then the tables finish up and clear out.  Then they start the process over again.

The Disney Princesses We Met

We had four princesses at this lunch: Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella, and Belle.  To see all of these princesses in the park would normally take a quite a long time waiting in lines, so this is a great way.  When you include Ariel, that’s five princesses while you eat lunch (something you have to take time for anyway)!

princess meeting collage decorated

The princesses came around to each table and in their usual way were lovely and charming and make nice conversation.  You can take multiple photos with each, and if you are doing autographs, you can ask them to sign your book, and then they move on to the next table.

Once you’ve finished your meal and seen all of the princesses, it’s time for dessert.  The waiter will bring you a platter of goodies with a chocolate dipping sauce, much like a mini fondue.  It was all quite good, but we were pretty full already so we ate the fruit and asked for a box for the rest.  The other mini desserts made for good snacks later in the day.

Ariel's Grotto Dessert

While you’ll pay more to eat here than many other lunch options, for those with a princess lover in the family, you certainly can’t beat the experience anywhere else in Disneyland.  Be sure to make reservations, though, as this restaurant does fill.  Reservations open 60 days in advance.  As always, I take care of dining reservations and so much more for all of my clients!

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Dining in Disneyland: Quick Service Beyond Burgers

Dining in Disneyland: Quick Service Beyond Burgers

Dining in Disneyland: Quick service beyond burgers

Could be just me, but when I head to Disneyland or Disney World, I’m hoping for something a bit healthier and more interesting than burgers and fries for every meal.  In Disney World, many people realize up front that Epcot offers some more unique dining options.  But what about Disneyland?  Because Disneyland caters more to locals, percentage wise, than tourists, it’s overall dining options are less.  But fear not – if you don’t feel like downing burgers and pizza for your whole vacation, you’ll have some great alternative options.  And you don’t have to do a sit down restaurant every time to achieve this either!  In fact, Disneyland has some very interesting quick service options, if you know where to look.

It just so happens that my favorites are in California Adventure, so we’ll start there.  I’ll post again another time about options on the Disneyland side.

Here are my favorites and some examples of the food I had on my last trip.

Pacific Wharf Café

First up, something fresh and tasty from the Pacific Wharf Café in California Adventure.  You can get all kinds of delicious bread bowls here (and the bowls are fresh baked all day long).  I chose the chicken salad, which was super fresh, cold and delicious on a really hot day.

 Pacific Wharf Cafe Disneyland

 

My husband had the classic clam chowder in a bread bowl.  Too hot for me in that weather, but he loved it!

Pacific Wharf Cafe Disneyland

If you like sourdough, this is the ideal lunch for you.  The bread was amazingly fresh with that perfect amount of chewiness in the crust.  The only downside of this quick service location is that all of the seating is outside.  While this isn’t always an issue, on a 95 degree day like this day was, it would have been nice to get into some air conditioning for a little while.

Flo’s V8 Cafe

Another great option is Flo’s V8 Cafe.  Not only is the theming adorable (come on, who doesn’t want to eat inside of the world of Cars?), but the food was quite good and a nice alternative to all the fried stuff out there.  I had the Citrus Turkey Breast meal:

Flo's V8 Cafe

You get to pick your sides, and I had coleslaw and baked beans – both were good.  My mom ordered the Porkloin with a Cola BBQ Sauce:

Flo's V8 Cafe

The amount of food for the money makes this a very good deal.  Plus, the theme inside is fantastic, and there is plenty of seating.  On a hot day when you’d like to have a good meal but enjoy it in cool air, this is an excellent choice.

Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta

And my third favorite option was a bit of a surprise.  We ended up at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, because the kids wanted pizza.  When I first walked in, I wasn’t impressed.  But then I saw they make the pasta dish right in front of you, to order, and a little hope returned.  Turns out the pasta was delicious!

Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta California Adventure

Look at that tasty dish!  I opted for pine nuts and tomatoes and cheese on top, but you can customize it the way you’d like.  Added bonus – this location was the least crowded of any of the dining options on our last trip.

I’ll be returning to Disneyland shortly, so stay tuned for some more dining updates in the near future.  And to keep up on the latest tips and info, subscribe to the monthly newsletter by clicking below!

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It’s Only a Hotel…

It’s Only a Hotel…

It’s Only a Hotel…

Disneyland Hotel Pool

 

This is what I hear people say sometimes.  It’s only a hotel.

 

“We don’t need anything fancy, it’s just a place to sleep at night.  It’s only a hotel.”

 

“We’re there to be in the parks, we don’t really care where we sleep.  It’s only a hotel.”

 

You probably shouldn’t tell my kids that.  They’d look at you like you have three heads.  They love hotels.  Absolutely adore them.  They always ask about what hotel we’ll be staying in.  See, to them, a hotel is not “only” a hotel; it’s a super cool place to stay.  It might have cool elevators and it might have a balcony to see things from.  It might be really tall or it might have all these little separate buildings with winding paths.  It will certainly, if it’s for our family, have a super cool pool, if they have any say in it.

My kids love to arrive at a hotel, to guess where in the hotel we’ll be staying.  They love to put the key in the door, open it and see which bed will be theirs.  They check out the bathroom, they check out the TV.  They, of course, immediately want to see the pool.

A hotel is only “just a hotel,” if you plan it that way.  But if you want the hotel to be part of your adventure, it can be.  It absolutely can a big part of what makes your family’s vacation magical.

What got me thinking about this is that the other day, I asked my children whether they liked Disneyland or Disney World better.  You may have seen me post their replies on my facebook page.  My 4 year old daughter immediately replied that her favorite is Disneyland because of the super cool monorail slides and doors that open and close by themselves.  If you are racking your brain trying to figure out what ride that is in the park, don’t bother – she’s talking about the Disneyland Hotel.

This hotel was pretty fabulous.  The rooms were modern and done up in dark woods and blues.  There were hidden Mickey’s everywhere, much to my children’s delight.  There is even a magical headboard: when you press a button, it lights up with twinkling stars over a castle and plays “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”  At night, we could see the fireworks from our window.  And the pool is absolutely fabulous, with a monorail themed waterslide section with three different levels of slides.  Oh, and it has automatic doors in the lobby, something that apparently thrilled my four year old.

This does not disappoint me in anyway way.  I didn’t sit there and think, “Really??!?  I took you all the way to Disneyland and what you liked best is the hotel?”  I actually think it’s pretty great – not only did my kids have an amazing time in the parks, but the magic just kept on going… in the afternoon for swimming, in the evenings with twinkling headboards at bed time, and in the mornings as we saw characters greeting children in the lobby.

The next time you are thinking of going on vacation, maybe take a second and think about the hotel.  You can make it “only a hotel” – or you can make it one of the main magical components of the memories your family makes together.

 

 

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Planning a Trip to Disney World

10 Things You Might Not Know About Planning a Trip to Disney World

10 Things You Might Not Know About Planning a Trip To Disney World

Snow White at Disney World

1.      Disney World is big.  Really big.  There are 4 main parks, 2 water parks, 32 resorts, over 100 restaurants, and over 130 attractions.  It has its own transportation system.  There are a lot of aspects to consider in your planning.

2.       The sit-down restaurants are very popular and some book up the morning that reservations first become available for your dates.  In fact, reservations open 180 days in advance.  Do be sure to reserve all of your dining early in your planning.

3.       There’s a lot more here than the rides.  Fine dining, fireworks cruises, princess makeovers, parades, firework spectaculars, shows, tea parties, character meetings…the list goes on and on. Your trip can be extra magical by planning for more than just rides.

4.       You don’t have to wait in long lines.  You just have to know how to avoid them. (More on that in a bit).

5.       Your vacation package can be changed up until 45 days before you travel, meaning that if Disney releases a new discount, it’s possible that you can get it applied to your existing reservation.

6.       It’s a LOT of walking…even preschool aged children may benefit from a stroller…heck, even kindergarten aged kids!  Disney’s strollers are NOT always the best option, though… there are some better places to rent through.

7.       There are three levels of dining plan: Quick Service, Standard and Deluxe.  Be sure that the one you are booking is the right kind for you – price may not be the only factor in that. 

8.       You may need more days than you think!  You could stay at Disney World for a month and still likely not do every single thing that is offered.  5 park days is the absolute minimum I recommend.  If you want a little relaxation thrown in, some non park days thrown in the mix can be really nice.

9.       There are many seasons at Disney World, pricing wise and crowd wise.  School breaks are always the most crowded and most expensive.  If you can manage to go sometime other than these breaks, you’ll find it a little easier on your wallet.

10.   It takes many, many hours of research to plan a really smooth, enjoyable Disney World experience.  Or, you can have a Disney expert take care of all of it for you!

Remember how I mentioned not having to wait in long lines?  Just one of the things I do for my clients is creating entirely customized park touring plans to help them avoid the long lines.  And all the rest on this list?  I take care of that, too.  It’s common to think that it’s “just Disney World” when you first come up with the idea to visit.  But if the sheer volume of information starts to get overwhelming and too time consuming, the entire experience can be easier and more magical by having a professional take care of you and your family.  Feel free to contact me for more information!

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    Disney World Transportation: How Do I Get Around?

    Disney World Transportation: How Do I Get Around?

    Disney World Transportation: How Do I Get Around?

    Disney World monorail

    photo by Tanya Saul

    If you are staying on property at the Walt Disney World resort, there are many transportation options available to you.  Let’s take a look at how you can get from here, to there, anywhere inside this giant resort!

     

    Disney World By Bus

    This is the most popular form of transportation in the parks.  A bus system circles the entire complex, with dedicated buses for each resort that go to each park and Downtown Disney.  In front of your resort there is a bus stop.  Simply wait at the bus stop for the bus that shows your destination on it’s reader board on the front.  Hop on board and away you go!  When you want to return, head outside the park to the bus terminal, and look at the sign for which waiting area is for your resort.  Go to that waiting area and wait for a bus marked with your resort to pick you up.  The buses run on a regular schedule and tend to come approximately every 20 minutes.

     

    Disney World By Monorail

    There are 2 parks and 3 resorts on the Monorail line.  The resorts in clued the Contemporary, the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian.  If you happen to be staying in one of these fine resorts, you’ll be able to take the monorail to either Magic Kingdom or Epcot (via a transfer at the Ticket and Transportation Center).  If you are not staying in these resorts, but plan to visit one of them for a special meal or just for fun, you’ll be able to enjoy the monorail coming from Magic Kingdom.

    The monorail also has a line from the Ticket and Transportation Center.  If you are staying off the property or are parking a car in the parking lot here, you’ll be able to ride the monorail from this stop into the Magic Kingdom.

     

    Disney World By Boat

    There are several boat options throughout Walt Disney World.  From the Ticket and Transportation Center, you can take a Ferry across the lake and to the Magic Kingdom.  If you are staying at the 3 resorts on the monorail loop, or you are staying at the nearby Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds, you can also take a “Friendship Boat” (much smaller than the ferry) to the Magic Kingdom and back.

    At the Boardwalk area resorts, including Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club, you can take a Friendship Boat to Epcot or to Hollywood Studios.

    If you are staying at Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Old Key West or Saratoga Springs, you can also take a boat to Downtown Disney.

     

    By Rental Car

    If you’d rather drive yourself from place to place, you can rent a car.  If you are staying on property, parking is free at both the resorts and the parks.

     

    By Taxi

    Sometimes it’s easier to get somewhere fast via Taxi.  For example, traveling from resort to resort does not normally have a direct bus route.  If you are staying at the Beach Club but want to have breakfast at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary resort, you would have to take a bus to a theme park, followed by a bus to the Contemporary.  This can take a while, and may be impossible early in the morning before the buses are up and running.  In this case, taking a Taxi would take just minutes and be your best option.

    MEARS is the official taxi provider for Disney World and can be contacted at   407-699-9999.

     

    As you can see, there are plenty of transportation options once you are inside of Walt Disney World.  Many people opt out of a rental car, saving money, because it’s so easy to get around for free!

     

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    Is a Park Hopper Ticket at Disneyland Worth It?

    Is a Park Hopper Ticket at Disneyland Worth It?

    Is a Park Hopper Ticket at Disneyland Worth It?

    California Adventure Gates by Loren Javier

    photo credit: Loren Javier via Flickr

    Short answer: yup.  And here’s why:  The merit of a Park Hopper ticket at Disney World may take a little more consideration (which I’ll lay out for you here in an upcoming post), but Disneyland is much easier to think about.  This is primarily because the Disneyland Resort is much smaller than Walt Disney World.

    Why the Park Hopper Ticket Is Worth It

    In Disneyland, you have two parks that are literally next door to each other.  When you go to enter the parks, you are in a middle walkway area with gates to Disneyland Park on one side and California Adventure on the other side.  So in this case, you could literally hop and skip (or, you know, just walk) between the two parks.  For Disney World veterans, this is kind of amazing since getting between parks in Disney World take a little more navigation and time.

    Having Park Hopper tickets for Disneyland gives you a lot of flexibility.  Want to hit up Fantasyland and Adventureland in Disneyland Park in the Am, followed by a character meal at Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure for lunch?  Sure!  Really like the night time portion at California Adventure?  You can spend most of your days in Disneyland, but hit up California Adventure each evening.

    And did you know that the Fast Pass systems are not connected between the parks?  This means that with a Park Hopper ticket, you could go in to California Adventure at opening, grab a Fast Pass for Radiator Springs Racers, head over to Disneyland, get a Fast Pass for Space Mountain, rides a few rides, use your Fast Pass at Space Mountain, then head back over to California Adventure to use your Radiator Springs Racers Fast Pass.  It’s actually close enough to make that do able.  Just remember to get back to the right park in time for your Fast Pass window!

    Do you absolutely need Park Hopper tickets?  No, you can certainly stick to one park a day if that’s more your style.  If you’ve only got two day tickets, for example, you may prefer to spend just one full day in each park, especially if it’s your first visit.  But if you’ve got more days, or if you have traveled to Disneyland before and have a decent idea of the rides you like most in each park, it can definitely be a valuable add on.

     

     

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