PhotoPass+: The Pros and Cons

PhotoPass+: The Pros and Cons

PhotoPass+: The Pros and Cons

Who doesn’t want awesome pictures of their family vacation?  You’ve probably packed a camera, plus you’ve got your phone camera, maybe your spouse has one, too.  You’ll snap shots as you go, recording memories.  But sometimes you’ll forget to capture that iconic shot you meant to get.  Or yours will turn out fuzzy.  And worse, you probably aren’t getting everyone in that shot (who’s taking the picture?!)

Disney’s got a solution for that: It’s called PhotoPass.  And just in the last year, they’ve added the “plus” portion, as in PhotoPass+.  PhotoPass uses special cards that are scanned by professional photographers in the park each time they take a picture for you.  They are positioned throughout the parks, ready for all of those iconic shots.

 

To obtain those photos, you have a few options.

First, you enter the card numbers at the PhotoPass website to upload the pictures to your account.  Then, you can buy the photos for a (honestly, very expensive) price each.  The other options is to pre-purchase a PhotoPass CD or PhotoPass+ CD (also available as a digitial download), for a much better price, giving you access to every single photo that was taken by the photographers.

I decided to try PhotoPass+ on my latest trip to Disneyland.  The “plus” version includes not only all of the photos you have taken by the photographers but ALSO all of the ride attraction photos available (such as at Splash Mountain and Radiator Springs Racers) AND the photos taken at character dining locations.  At $69.95 when purchased at least 14 days before your vacation ($149 for Walt Disney World), this is an excellent deal.  That’s because a single photo download costs $14.95, ride photos are around $20, and the photo packages at dining locations can be upwards of $40.

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Yes, my husband is pretending to read a book.  No, I don’t know why.

Once I ordered it, Disney sent me a package that included my voucher for my special PhotoPass+ card, as well as a CD of stock photos and my special code for redeeming my free CD or digital package of downloads once I returned.

After arriving at my resort, I wanted to see if I could get my voucher exchanged for my card before my morning in the park – no need to waste time in the morning, in my opinion.  Knowing that one location to use this card is at character dining, I stopped into Goofy’s Kitchen to see about trading it in.  They could do a photo for me, they said, and give me a receipt to get it added to my card later, but they couldn’t give me a card at that location.  Darn.

The next morning was a park morning, and if you know me and the methods I recommend, there is no time to be wasted upon entering the park.  But I had paid for this card, so now I would just do my best to get there first.  The rope drop came a little early and I sped down to photo shop on Main Street.

I got to the door and – it was locked.  Nooo!  I looked up ahead and saw an internal rope holding back the crowds – it was not yet 9am.  So I sent my family up to the rope and told them I’d meet them at the first ride once I had my pass.  I, and a few other families, waited at the shop door.  And waited.

A janitor informed us it would not open until exactly 9am.  9am came, the internal rope dropped and my family went off to the first ride.  The shop door was still closed.  Five minutes later, the shop did finally open, but the cast member seemed unsure how to redeem the vouchers, so it took two employees to help those of us waiting.

Finally, I got my PhotoPass+ card (which is on a lanyard, but I’d not wear it on my neck – lots of people have lost it this way), and continued out to find my family.

The rest of our day was much smoother – using the card was easy (I had used regular PhotoPass cards in Disney World, the main difference here was that you only get one and can’t collect multiples).  We took some lovely shots along the way.

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sierra and cinderella

Having the card was a good reminder to take all of the opportunities for photos.  Where we may have blindly walked by something before, now we were looking for the photographers and stopping for some good family photos.  I really liked that aspect of the card.

We ran into one other issue the following day.  The only ride with a photo capability that ALL of my family wanted to ride was Radiator Springs Racers.  Therefore, this ride was going to be the one that partially made the “plus” in PhotoPass+ worth it.   We were lucky enough to ride this ride twice with almost no wait – once first thing and once later with a fast pass.  But both times, the camera wasn’t working, which meant no ride photo for us!  That was pretty disappointing.

On the other hand, we did enjoy a character breakfast at Surf’s Up with Mickey and Friends at the PCH Grill, and the photo package from that was great!  We got both the physical prints (two 8x10s and two 4×6, the larger photos in a cute cardboard frame), and the digital downloads.  That part of the deal was very worth it, as in the past we have declined to purchase the photos because of the price of the package.

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So would I get this package again?  Over all, I think the value is there if you plan ahead well to use it.  I think it will be more useful when we return to Disney World on our next trip, as there are more PhotoPass photographers and opportunities for pictures.  I enjoyed some of the photos we got from this trip, but some were definitely subpar quality.  You can see a few here that were not exactly fabulous:

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Mmm, yeah, I’m pretty sure those shadows completely ruin the effect going on there…  And the previous one is really really flashed out.

But most of the photos were much, much better quality!

If you think you’ll want some ride photos (and have family members who ride the “big” rides that have photo capabilities) and if you plan to do any character dining, you’ll easily find this package to be a good value.  Throw in all of the other photos you can capture on the way, and this is definitely a good way to capture memories.

 

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Why Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Why Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Why Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Why you need travel insurance

photo credit: Gary Knight via Flickr

You’ve just put down a big chunk o’ money on your next big trip, when your travel consultant asks you if you’d like to purchase travel insurance.  More money??  After all that money you just paid?  Well, that’s exactly the point, actually.  How much did you just invest in your vacation?  And if something goes awry, are you willing to lose it all?

It’s all very well and fine to think that nothing is going to happen…until it does.  If you are traveling with others, the chances increase, as well.  Travel insurance covers many things from trip cancellation to trip interruption, lost luggage to long trip delays at the airport, medical coverage to evacuation.

Maybe that all sounds like a lot that you think doesn’t apply to you.  But let’s take a look at some of the reasons your average traveler might find it necessary:

  1. You’re all packed and excited to leave – and then one of you comes down with a flu that makes it impossible to travel.
  2. You arrive at your destination…your bags don’t, and will take at least a day to arrive.  What will you do?  Travel insurance will cover a set amount for purchasing necessary items to tide you over.  And if they were completely lost, travel insurance covers that as well.
  3. Got a connecting flight?  You’ve landed, but the next flight has been cancelled.  The next flight isn’t until tomorrow morning.  Now what?  Travel insurance will cover food and hotel stay.
  4. No one wants to think of it, but it happens.  You’ve arrived at your glorious destination, but two days into it, your mom ends up in serious condition in the hospital.  You need to go to her, but not only are you losing out on the rest of the trip you paid for, the return tickets are far more than your original tickets.  Trip interruption is covered under your insurance and will cover these costs.
  5. You’re going on an awesome tropical vacation – but a hurricane is now shutting down the airports and you can’t get there.  Travel insurance has you covered.
  6. You are in a foreign country when you are accidentally injured on one of your adventures and need to see a doctor.  Where will you seek good medical care, and will your own medical insurance cover it or are there exclusions, provisions, etc?  With travel insurance you can have the policy become your primary medical so you don’t have to worry about who pays AND have access to a 24 hour helpline, in English, that can quickly help you find a reputable doctor and help you get there.
  7. You become severely ill or injured and adequate medical care is not available in your location.  You need medical evacuation (extremely costly!), and travel insurance covers this.
  8. You unexpectedly lose your job before your vacation – what now?!  Coverage for work related reasons can be added to the policy, or in some states, is already covered under the policy.

 

These are just a few of the reasons to consider travel insurance.  We all hope that nothing will go wrong before or during our travels, and many times, of course, nothing does.  However, the peace of mind you get from insuring your large vacation purchase is quite valuable in and of itself.  And should something unfortunate occur, you know that you will not lose the investment you have made, and that you will have assistance in your time of need.

 

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Polynesian Resort Review – Walt Disney World

Polynesian Resort Review – Walt Disney World

Polynesian Resort Review

Lobby of the Polynesian Resort

The Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World sits in the Deluxe category and is what many refer to as one of the “Monorail Resorts.”   The resort is spread out among several buildings, and the center focus is the beloved Volcano pool.  But what sets this resort apart is it’s extreme convenience, especially for families with younger children.

What’s so convenient about it?  If you’re spending time at the Magic Kingdom, you can get there and back in a snap.  The Polynesian lies on the monorail route, but what less people realize is that it also is right next to the Ticket and Transportation center, where the monorail hub is.  If you stay near this section, you can walk just a minute or two and hop on the monorail going directly to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, as well as pick up the ferry between the ticket and transportation center and the Magic Kingdom.  You can also, of course, take the monorail on the longer route from the main monorail stop at the Polynesian, and you can also take the much smaller boats from the dock at the Polynesian to the Magic Kingdom.  All of these options mean less travel time and less wait time when heading in and out of those parks, at opening, for an afternoon break and at close.  Being able to get in and out quickly, if you want to take a break, is incredibly valuable for families traveling with children.  In fact, this reason alone is popular reason for booking this resort.

This resort also features two well loved restaurants on property, Ohana, which features a character breakfast in the AM and a family style Polynesian dinner, and the Kona Café, well known for the famous Tonga Toast at breakfast.

The Volcano Pool is a fun theme for all ages and features a zero-depth entry, which is perfect for young children.  This allows little ones to play and splash without being overwhelmed.  There’s also a (very small) water play area nearby.  The Volcano features a waterslide, which is actually much faster than I anticipated.  It’s a tunnel for most of the ride, so the combination of dark and fast means it may not be a good fit for very young kids or those afraid of the dark, but is otherwise a very fun aspect of the pool.  One thing I loved is that the pool is bordered by the “beach” of the lagoon, meaning you can step out of the pool and into the sand for some sand castle play or to lounge in hammocks or lounge chairs on the beach.

Volcano Pool at the Polynesian Resort

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Speaking of the beach, this is a prime location for viewing the nightly Magic Kingdom fireworks without being in the huge crowd in the park.  You can see them directly across the lagoon, and the music is piped on to the beach so that you can enjoy the full experience.   There is also a small electric water parade that floats by nightly.

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The overall theme of the resort is lovely.  I love the tropical waterfall at the entrance and beautiful tropical garden in the middle of the lobby.   There are beautiful flowers along the winding paths inside the resort, as well as another small waterfall and stream area.  Disney always does an excellent job with themes, and this resort is no exception.

 

The rooms are nicely sized for a family.  Five can fit in these rooms, as they are equipped with a sleeper sofa.  The rooms were remodeled a few years ago, so feel contemporary and clean.  Each has it’s own balcony, something I always appreciate in a resort.

I’ve heard some people say that the resort is dark.  It’s true that the resort is painted in darker tones and that the rooms are furnished in dark woods.  However, none of the people I traveled with felt that this resort was too dark, either outside or inside.  It’s not bright and colorful but the décor matches the theme perfectly.

All in all, I could not have been more pleased with the Polynesian as a choice for my family.  The location wins hands down, and I love the tropical flowers and waterfalls all around.  Plus, having a beach to watch fireworks from is a major plus.   There are many great resorts within Walt Disney World, and I’d be happy to help you decide if this one is the best match for you.

 

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Blue Bayou Review – Disneyland

Blue Bayou Review – Disneyland

Blue Bayou Review – Disneyland

 Blue Bayou Disneyland

Blue Bayou is quite possibly the most famous restaurant in Disneyland.  If you’ve ever ridden the Pirates of the Caribbean, you’ve seen it as you glide through the first part of the ride.  I’ve heard many people remark that they’d love to eat there someday, and I’m here to tell you, do it!  Plan for it on your next Disneyland trip, because it really is a great experience.

Blue Bayou – Disneyland vs. Disneyworld

One big difference between Disney World and Disneyland is the comparable lack of sit down restaurants in Disneyland.  For those who really enjoy a nice meal in a restaurant, there just aren’t as many choices.  And as such, I think a lot of people just go with the flow and eat the quick service options.  But if you are someone who really enjoys good food, Disney theming in your surroundings and nice place to cool off while you eat, you will like Blue Bayou.

Blue Bayou Reservations

Scheduling a reservation is a must.  If you’ve booked your vacation with me, this is one of the things I’ll take care of for you, of course.  But just showing up hoping for a table?  Unless it’s a super low season, I wouldn’t chance that.  When we arrived for our reservation, there was a line of people trying to get in for lunch and all of them were told there were no openings.

Inside, the restaurant is set to a nighttime Louisiana theme, along the bayou, complete with hanging paper lanterns and fireflies over the water.  If you are lucky enough to get a table along the railing at the water, you’ll see the boats drift by as well.

The menu is definitely higher priced that your quick service options, but the food is also substantially more interesting and higher quality.  The menu was just recently updated, including new (delicious) sweet potato biscuits in the bread bowl.  We had to request a refill of them to keep everyone at our table happy!

Blue Bayou Menu

The most famous menu item is the Monte Cristo Sandwich.  Ok, now I realize that doesn’t sound very fancy.  But this is unlike any I have seen.  And it was AMAZING.  Seriously, my husband and I both ordered it and we were talking about it all day, that’s how good it was.  It was almost like eating a beignet sandwich, it was so fluffy and crispy all around!  It came with two dipping sauces, raspberry and vanilla bean, which were a perfect compliment to the flavors of the sandwich.  It came with a spear of fruit, too.  It wasn’t just like grapes and strawberries, either, it was interesting fruit!  And, it was preceeded by a really delicious (and nicely presented) salad.

Blue Bayou Salad

Monte Cristo at Blue Bayou

You may think this looks big enough to share, and you’d be right.  The only downside of this restaurant is that there is a split plate fee of $15, so sharing may not be worth it to you.

And, of course, I’ve always got kids in mind when eating at restaurants.  The kids menu here was a nice departure from the constant mac and cheese or chicken nuggets found at the quick service locations in Disneyland.  My daughter had the baked chicken and pasta, and my son had a steak.  Yes, the kids menu has steak!  He loved it.  You can see that the kids meals also came with a nice portion of grapes.  Not shown here is the appetizer for the kids which is included in the price, which was a nice plate of carrot and celery sticks with ranch dressing.

Blue Bayou - Kids meal

Blue Bayou Kids Meal

The only slightly negative note I had regarding Blue Bayou was that service seemed very slow.  So to that end, do plan on using this restaurant as a nice, cool break in your busy Disneyland day, and don’t book it at a time when you hope to rush off to do something else.  Give yourself time to enjoy the ambiance and the delicious food!

 

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Disneyland Hotel Review

Disneyland Hotel Review

The Disneyland Hotel Review

Disneyland Hotel

Last week, I took the family to Disneyland, and I chose to stay at the Disneyland Hotel for the first time.  We loved it!  The Disneyland Hotel is the perfect accompaniment to a Disneyland Resort experience.  It’s quintessential Disney in so many ways, and it keeps you in the magic your entire stay.

This hotel just finished a major remodel just over a year ago, including a major change to the pool area.  The pool, in fact, was the main reason I chose this hotel.  My kids LOVE pools, and because we plan our park days around an afternoon break, pool time is always a part of our day.  This pool gets a major thumbs up from me for being perfect for families.

Great Pools & Lifeguards

First of all, there are two large, pleasant pools with a bridge over them for families to swim in.  There are a ton of lifeguards on duty at all times, and there are free life vests for your use.  This allowed me to feel very safe with my kids swimming around me or even with me sitting on the edge while they swam.

Disneyland Hotel Pool

Disneyland Hotel Pool

Monorail Themed Water Play Area

Second, there is an additional monorail themed water play area with THREE water slides.   There is a very small slide perfect for tots and young children as well as a medium slide that both let out into a very shallow splash area.  The splash area also has a waterfall from the top of the structure and a bubbling fountain area for kids to splash around in.  The third water slide is a full sized, fast and winding slide that lets out into a small pool.  At first, my kids were afraid to try it, but by the second day both of my kids were rushing to get to it.  What’s great is that because of the life vest, my 4 year old daughter was able to go down the slide, splash into the pool, and the current would float her over to the stairs to get out herself.  There is a lifeguard always on duty right there, and he or she also will throw a tow line to any tots who may be a little slow to float to the edge.  I felt perfectly safe allowing her to go up and down herself because of this.

Disneyland Hotel Monorail Slides

Now, this slide area is surrounded by lounge chairs and umbrellas, which means when mom or dad is not sliding with the kids, they can easily keep an eye on them while relaxing in a lounge chair.  Would you prefer to lounge with a drink in hand?  No problem  – a server comes around to take your food and beverage (alcohol or not) order frequently.  We loved being able to have a little down time while the kids splashed!

Meeting Disney Characters

Next up, nothing says Disney like having characters show up in the lobby!  Right while we were checking in, Goofy appeared in the lobby and played with all of the children waiting.  He posed for pictures, messed around and stayed a good long time.  This was far more interaction than you might get posing for a picture in the parks!  We saw him one more time on another day on our way into the hotel in the afternoon, and he once again played around with my kids.  Other characters do stop in, though we didn’t happen to see them.  There’s no set schedule, so you can’t be sure who you’ll see, but plenty of people have reported other characters stopping by.

Disneyland Hotel Characters in Lobby

The Rooms at The Disney Hotel

So what about the rooms?  Perfect!  The rooms are plenty big, with big windows letting in natural light, a desk area, a comfy chair and a daybed couch.  You can fit 5 in these rooms if you’d like to.  The room has many Mickey themed touches throughout: the faucets are Mickey heads, the lamps on the wall area held by Mickey’s hands, the carpet has Mickey like swirls.  But the most magical touch is the very special headboard, which lights up a castle and fireworks complete with  “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” playing when you push the button.  The kids thought this was super magical and turned it on each night.

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There are quite a few categories of rooms you can book.  We were in the Fantasy tower and were upgraded to a fireworks view on the 9th floor.  I had no idea how amazing that would be – it looked like the fireworks were literally exploding right in front of our window!  I didn’t capture any photos of that, but I wish I had just so I could show you how great that was.  I also toured two other room categories so that I’d be better able to help my clients.  The first was a Deluxe Pool view, which you can see here.

Disneyland Hotel Pool View

And the second was a Downtown Disney view, which was so fun because you can see a lot of the rides from here, and of course, you’d have a perfect view of the fireworks as well.

Disneyland Hotel Dowtown Disney View

I also got to take a peek at the Concierge Lounge.  You can book a Concierge level room, or you can add it to a suite booking.  They serve food in here all day long, with 4 changes of food ranging from breakfast foods to dessert.  There are also free drinks (like sodas and bottled water) all day, and alcohol for free at night.  This lounge also has a perfect view of the fireworks, and they pipe the music in while you are watching so that you can get the full experience!

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Disneyland Hotel Concierge Lounge

Convenience

I should add that, although I have seen various reports that if you don’t stay in the “right” tower, it’s a lot of extra walking,  I don’t agree.  All 3 towers are very convenient, with an extra minute at most between any of them.  So don’t worry too much about which tower is “closest” to Downtown Disney!  The entire hotel property lets you out right in Downtown Disney, which is a convenient walk to each of the park gates, or if you are going to Disneyland park, extremely close to the monorail that takes you directly into Tomorrowland.

Last, the early entrance that resort guests get every morning is extremely helpful.  You may already know that I don’t advise going to the parks with extra magic hours in Disney World, but in Disneyland it’s a bit different, and there is a definite advantage to having early entrance.  This is especially true for California Adventure when you are trying to get to Cars Land.  If you use the early entrance, you are only competing with the resort guests (which is still plenty) to get on the rides before the lines get crazy.  This is MUCH easier than when you are competing with everyone in all of the many off property hotels!

So there you have it – a tour of the Disneyland Hotel!  I highly recommend this hotel for your next Disneyland stay.  There truly is a difference to staying “onsite” at Disneyland, despite how many options there are offsite.  The service, the magical touches, the views, the pool….it’s very much worth it!

 

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2013 Disney World Free Dining Offer

2013 Disney World Free Dining Offer

2013 Disney World Free Dining Offer

coral reef dessert disney free dining

YES!  It’s back, everyone’s favorite Disney World discount.   Free dining is being offered for Sept. 2 – 25, 2013 when you book a 5 night, 6 day Magic Your Way room and ticket package.  Why is this such a popular deal?  Well, let’s not kid ourselves – Disney restaurants are fairly pricey.  The dining plan at full cost already can be a good value, but when it’s free??  That’s a lot of savings.

Consider this:  You spend $12 on a quick service lunch, then sit down to dinner at a character buffet for $45.  Along the way, you get a tasty pastry at one of the bakeries for $4.  That’s $61 on food, per person, per day.  And with this offer, you’d get that for FREE.

September is a low crowd month, as well, so you reap the benefit of less people in the parks during your vacation if you travel during this discount window.  The peak summer crowds have passed as kids go back to school, which means if you can travel now, you get to enjoy all the parks have to offer with less time standing in line.

When you book with The Enchanted Traveler, you’ll not only get this deal but all of the other free services I offer.  This is my favorite deal of the year, so don’t miss it!

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Keeping Up with the Travel Industry

Keeping Up with the Travel Industry

Keeping Up with the Travel Industry

Travel agent conference

 

See this?  Travel consultants, as far as the eye can see!  All of these people are planning amazing trips for their clients – if you aren’t using one, you are missing out!  This photo is from a Home Based Travel Agent Forum in Las Vegas this past week.

I headed out to learn from the best in the travel industry and meet important contacts at hotels, cruise lines and tour companies.  Travel consultants make it a priority to stay educated on all areas of the business and conferences like these are an integral part of that.  Never underestimate what a travel agent knows and who they know!

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I loved meeting up with Fernando of Starwood Hawaii.  The Westin Maui is one of my absolute favorites, and it was great to get a chance to talk to him.

 

I met some fabulous agents out there as well.  It was especially great to find other young professionals, with creative businesses and interesting niches.   Anyone who thinks travel agents are outdated just hasn’t met the new generation.   We are a passionate group of travelers with distinct specialties who are determined to keep up to date on the travel industry and continue to explore the destinations we serve to give our clients the best possible travel experiences.

 Young travel agents

Plus, you know, I got to pet this adorable Wallaby.

 Las Vegas OSSN 2013 063

Wallaby petting + education + meeting awesome agents = excellent experience!

 

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The Changing Role of a Travel Agent

The Changing Role of a Travel Agent

The Changing Role of a Travel Agent

using a travel agent - passport

What’s that?  You thought travel agents went extinct?  That’s ok, I don’t blame you.  We all heard about how once the online vacation booking sites came alive, travel agents suffered.   What once kept them so busy – taking orders for vacation bookings – could now be done online.  Sort of.  Close enough, people supposed.  So what happened to the travel agent?  They evolved.

The new breed of travel agent, (some, like myself, calling themselves Travel Consultants instead), are not order takers.  Travelers today want so much more, and that’s what we do.  What can an online booking engine NOT do?  Well, for starters, it can’t personalize your trip.  It can’t offer expert advice on your destination.  It probably won’t even tell you that the pool is currently being refurbished at that resort and you won’t even get to go swimming.  It offers you a DIY experience, which was pretty cool at first – but as some travelers are finding, it lacks that personal touch and the one on one expert experience.

Travel consultants, today, are specialists.  They come in all kinds of flavors.  African safari experts?  Yup.  Bird watching tours?  Yup.  Europe independent travel planners?  Uh huh.  Adventure tourism?  Of course.   Destination weddings?  Indeed.  And in my case: a family vacation consultant, specializing in Disney destinations and tropical getaways.  The key is that these agents spend their time perfecting their knowledge of these specialties, which means that when you are seeking an experience that falls into their category, they are 1000 times better than an online booking engine.  The KNOW the products and destinations, and they will help find the absolute best fit for you.  They study in special courses, they visit the destinations, they have contacts at the properties and destinations, they travel to conferences that speak to their topics, and they stay current on all of the latest news.

No longer simple order takers, a travel consultant will talk with you to develop an understanding of your travel tastes and vacations needs.  She’ll help you select the best resort, best flights and best activities.  She’ll save you the time taxing chores of endless hotel and flight shopping, of reading hundreds of conflicting reviews, and she’ll still find you excellent values and deals.  She’ll offer touring tips, make activity reservations, spa reservations, dining reservations and more.  She’ll take care of all of the bookings for you and make sure you are prepared for stress-free travel.  And once you are on your way, she’ll be your go to contact – not a call center, but a real person you have a relationship with, to answer your questions, or solve any problems that arise.

So are travel agents extinct?  Not at all.  The industry has just undergone a significant change, and on the rise is the new, improved Travel Consultant.

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Spotlight On: Whispering Canyon Cafe

Spotlight On: Whispering Canyon Cafe

Spotlight on: Whispering Canyon Café

Whispering Canyon Cafe

photo credit: Mike Miley via Flickr

There are what can seem like endless dining options in Walt Disney World.  But often, new visitors focus on restaurants inside the parks, forgetting about or not realizing there are some awesome options at the resorts themselves.  Got kids?  My kids absolutely adored Whispering Canyon Café at the Wilderness Lodge.  And getting there can be lots of fun!

What’s special about the Whispering Canyon Café?

So what’s so special about this restaurant?  First of all, it means taking a visit the gorgeous Wilderness Lodge.  With a geyser, waterfalls and a soaring lodge style lobby, it’s pretty amazing.  The Whispering Canyon Café is located inside, just off the main lobby.  Here, you’ll find a casual menu to please most anyone in your family.  But what’s really fun is that the servers here are lively and entertaining, playing around with you and messing with your kids.  They have a hobby horse parade for the little ones in the middle of your dining.  And if you want to see something really funny, just ask for some ketchup – trust me.

Whispering Canyon Café menu

And the food?  Delicious.  One of the most popular options is the all you can eat Family Platter, with your choice of three: Kansas City-style Smoked Pork Ribs, Herb-baked Chicken, Hand-carved Oak-roasted Beef Strip Loin, Citrus-crusted Market Fish, Western-style Sausage Sides for Sharing: Seasonal Farm Fresh Vegetables, Herb-crushed Yukon Gold Potatoes, Cowboy-style Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob.  You also get the dessert sampler with Whispering Canyon Chocolate Cake, Jalapeno-Lime Cheesecake, and Apple-Cranberry Buckle.

This restaurant is also well known for its milkshakes, and one of the best things about them is that they are one of the included beverages if you are on the dining plan, which is not true of most of the restaurants!

How to get to the Whispering Canyon Café

So what about getting here?  Easy.  There is a boat that will take you from the Magic Kingdom to the Wilderness Lodge!  This just adds to the fun if you’ve got kids in tow – a boat ride and a fun restaurant?  Win/win!  If you are coming from elsewhere in Walt Disney World, first take your transportation to the Magic Kindom, then go the boat docks to catch the boat over to the Wilderness Lodge.  But this is also a great choice as a lunch and afternoon break for a Magic Kindgom park day, or a nice little escape for dinner before re-entering the Magic Kindgom for some fireworks.  Or, end your day by heading over the to nearby Fort Wilderness Campgrounds for a campfire and some s’mores with Chip and Dale!

 

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Disney World Planning: Why The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Disney World Planning: Why The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Disney World Planning: Why The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Crowds at Disney World

Hoping to avoid some of the crowds? photo credit: rickpilot_2000 via Flickr

You want to experience Disney World to fullest, skip the crowds, avoid lines, skip the cranky children and have an all around wonderful time.  Yet, you hear people complain about how long they had to wait, impatient children and meltdowns, and you’re worried about how this trip might turn out.  Actually, there are many ways to avoid the famously long lines in the park and make your day much smoother, and today we’ll talk about one of those.

You see, it seems many people who travel to Disney World are of the mindset that a vacation means sleeping in.  Many people don’t arrive at the parks until after 10 or 11am, after they’ve leisurely gotten up and had breakfast and/or have also driven in from somewhere offsite.  What this leaves is a nice little gap in the opening hours for you and your family to get on the rides first.

To beat the crowds, I advise my clients to arrive 20-30 minutes before park opening at any of the four major parks.  If you do this, you will see a fairly large sized crowd waiting with you, but don’t worry – this crowd disperses quickly once inside the large parks and is nothing like the crowds that you will see later in the day.  The key is to use every moment wisely once you enter: now is not the time for shopping or eating a meal.  Head straight to the rides and save the browsing for a later part of the day.

You have about two hours, with the first hour being the absolute best for no to low lines, before the major crowds will start flowing in.  If you use this time wisely, you can accomplish a large amount of rides before lunch.  (I always give my clients a theme park touring strategy to better enable them to skip as many lines as possible, with a customized itinerary of rides).  By about 1pm, the crowds will be out in full force, and this is the time that most rides will have those longgggg lines you’ve heard about.  NOW you can shop, browse and eat and leave those long lines to the throngs of late arrivers.  Or, as I often advise my clients, head back to your resort for a swim, to shower and freshen up or take a little nap.

Once late afternoon and evening arrive, you can head back to the rides, as more people start leaving the parks again.  Many of them are now tired of waiting in all those long lines and have had enough.  But you?  You rode a bunch of ride this morning, had a great afternoon, and are now ready to go until closing!

 

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