Why Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Why Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Why Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Comparing value to cheap

cheap vacation

Photo credit: 401(K) 2013 via Flickr

Everyone likes to save money; that’s a given.  We search for deals and steals and feel good when we find a bargain.  But are we always getting the best value?  We tend to stop and think about this when buying something like say, a camera.  We want a good deal, but we probably don’t want the cheapest camera.  Why?  Because we care about having good pictures of our families and the cheapest camera probably isn’t going to do that.  So instead, we may watch for a good deal on a quality camera, trying to save a little money but getting a good value overall.

Many more people, though, don’t necessarily think about this when traveling.  One of the most popular searches for vacations on the internet is something along the lines of “cheap vacations” or “cheapest flights.”  Is the cheapest vacation truly a good value?  If you save money but end up being miserable, or even just mildly unhappy, was that vacation a good investment?  Probably not.

I’ve got an example for you.  I was taking my family on vacation and we were looking for a flight.  We saw some deals and thought, “Well, it’s just a flight.  We’ll look for the cheapest deal.”  It meant flying on an airline we’d never flown on and not getting to pick our own seats.  Hmmm.  Well, why not, we’ll try it, we thought.  Bad idea!! So bad!  We ended up in the least comfortable seats on the plane – the row before the exit row, which means the seats don’t recline at all.  To us, this mattered (especially to my husband)!  The service was lackluster, and to top it off, we had a 3 hour layover each way, which with two very small children is just not a great idea.  It would have been worth it to pay for a flight where we could pick our seats, have a shorter layover (or none at all) and had a decent flight to start off our vacation right.

Another great example is when considering a cruise.  I often hear people saying they want the cheapest cabin possible.  If they have cruised before and have tried this and say they love it, that’s one thing.  But for those who have never cruised and are just admiring the price, they may be in for a surprise: those interior rooms are tiny.  And not only are they tiny, but they are dark, as there is no source of natural light anywhere.  Because I work with families a lot, the thing that needs to be considered here is: Are you willing to save a few dollars in exchange for stuffing 4 of you into a room much, much smaller than your average hotel room?  Are you going to fully enjoy your vacation in that close of quarters?  Or is it a better value to move up a category and enjoy not only the activities on the ship and in port, but also enjoy each other when all four of you are not sleeping mere inches from each other and annoying each other at every turn?

It’s not to say the cheapest trip will never be a good value, just that it needs to be looked through thoroughly and evaluated.  Like anyone, I’m a big fan of saving money.  Just be sure the good deal you are getting is actually a deal you will enjoy.

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Disney Springs: Downtown Disney Expansion Announced

Disney Springs: Downtown Disney Expansion Announced

Disney Springs: Downtown Disney Expansion Announced

Disney Springs

Copyright Disney 2013

Disney has officially announced an expansion for Downtown Disney in the Walt Disney World resort.  If you’ve been to Downtown Disney in the past, you know it’s already got a nice selection of shops and dining.  But this new expansion will take to a whole new level.  Featuring new and unique shops and dining, an enhanced lakefront area and a bubbling spring throughout, this new expansion will double the number of shops, restaurants and other entertainment, resulting in a total of more than 150 establishments.

Disney Springs will be comprised of four neighborhoods.  According to Disney, those are:

  • The Town Center, which offers a sophisticated mix of shopping and dining along with a promenade where guests can relax, refresh and reconnect.
  • A colorful and thriving commercial district called The Landing with inspired dining and beautiful waterfront views.
  • The family-friendly Marketplace that will continue to delight guests of all ages by combining new experiences, such as an over-the-water pedestrian causeway, along with classic Disney favorites, including an expanded World of Disney store.
  • West Side that provides an exuberant atmosphere with lively entertainment, along with a series of new elevated spaces that provide both shade and an overlook to the activity below.

 

Disney Springs Marketplace

Copyright Disney 2013

Construction is scheduled to begin in April and will be completed in 2016.  However, the new areas will be opened in phases along the way.

I always recommend families make time to visit Downtown Disney during their vacations, but now with Disney Springs growing in such size, it may become a “must do” more often.  Find more details on the Disney Parks Blog and see more concept art.  What are your thoughts on this expansion?

 

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Technology vs. A Personal Touch: When a Human is Still Better Than a Computer

Technology vs. A Personal Touch: When a Human is Still Better Than a Computer

Technology vs. A Personal Touch: When a Human is Still Better Than a Computer

technology is not always better

Photo credit: Jami3.org via Flickr

I love technology.  I really do.  I may have a slight addiction to the internet.  So trust that I understand how great it is to have so much information at our finger tips.  For years, technology has been growing all around us, letting us get a whole lot done for ourselves that we may not have done ourselves before.  But as so much has become automated, there comes a time when you step back and think, is the tech version always the right choice for me?

Here’s the thing.  You start thinking of needing a vacation, so you head to Google.  You type “cheap vacations” or maybe “Caribbean vacation” and what happens?  A gazillion results pop up.  Alright, so now you start sifting through all those results.  What do you find?  More lists of places, more prices, more deals, more everything.  So what you’ve got is thousands upon thousands of options and it takes forever to sort through it all to find what you really wanted.  What if you had a an expert to do that for you?  A real person?  Someone to listen to you say, “So I’m thinking of going on vacation.  Maybe the Caribbean” and knows to ask in return, “What kind experience are you hoping for?  What did you love about your previous vacations?  Do you like more of a relaxed beach experience or a more adventurous experience?  What’s your ideal budget range?”  And so forth.  See, in that little bit, a travel consultant can narrow a lot down, and then spend their time researching to find the very best options.  You just saved yourself hours and hours and hours of research – for free.

What actually got me thinking about this was fashion.  Fashion is everywhere online.  I can read about the latest styles, see magazine websites with outfits put together, browse endless online shops.  I could, in theory, learn about being stylish on the internet.  Is there a real life alternative?  Yup!  It’s called a personal stylist, and it makes quite a difference.  I happen to know an excellent one.  Her name is Jennifer Saul, and she is way better than the internet.  Why?  Because Jen will get to know my personal tastes, my lifestyle and my budget, and she will help me find clothing and accessories that are exactly my style, every time.   A personal stylist saves her clients time and even saves them money by helping you avoid those items you buy that then hang in your closet for years, never to be worn.

Examples are everywhere.  What if you want to buy or sell a house?  Certainly, there are homes for sale by owner, and you can scout out houses on your own online.  You can search Craigslist and many other sites.  But there’s a reason that real estate agents exist, and I suspect most of us are using one to complete these transactions.  Why?  Because they are experts in this field, trained to help get you through all the information you need and their job is to help their clients find the best house or make the best sale.  Despite the fact that you COULD do this yourself, you probably aren’t, because you value the knowledge a real estate agent has, the time they’ll save you and the advice they can give.

So while we love browsing Pinterest for new craft ideas and Foodgawker for new recipes, consider that a vacation is a large investment.  You can spend hours upon hours to DIY and take the chance on it turning out lovely (like that one recipe you tried) or seriously awful (like when you tried that really cute Christmas craft that looked absolutely ridiculous when you were done with it).  You can take your chances googling “cheap vacation” or “Hawaii hotel…”  Or, you can have a travel consultant whose job it is to know the industry and get to know your preferences and travel style, take care of it all for you.

 

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Spotlight On: Restaurant Marrakesh, Epcot

Spotlight On: Restaurant Marrakesh, Epcot

Spotlight On: Restaurant Marrakesh, Epcot

disney23

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of dining in Epcot when in Disney World.  The restaurants, by far, are the most diverse and interesting to eat at.  Restaurant Marrakesh is not one of the most popular restaurants in the park, but that’s a shame.  It’s an overlooked gem that you should definitely try on your next trip to Epcot.

The Morocco pavilion, like all of the pavilions, is gorgeously constructed.  From the fountain in the middle to the street shops, it’s all very authentic and lovely.  After enjoying the ambience on your way, step into Restaurant Marrakesh for some amazing Moroccan food.

If you’ve never had Moroccan food, it’s got a fabulous mix of spices, usually containing a little cinnamon which is surprising to a lot of people upon first taste.  The combo is delicious, though, so don’t be afraid to try it.  Here’s a quick snapshot of the menu:

Restaurant Marrakesh, Epcot Menu

APPETIZERS:

Appetizer Combination for Two – Beef Brewat Rolls, Chicken Bastilla, and Jasmina Salad

Moroccan Salad Combo For Two – green pepper and tomato, marinated olives, carrots, potatoes, and cucumber salad

Harira Soup – traditional hearty soup flavored with tomatoes, lentils and lamb

Beef Brewat Rolls – baked layers of thin pastry filled with seasoned minced beef, eggs, fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar

Seafood Bastilla – baked layers of thin pastry filled with grouper, shrimp, mushrooms

Chicken Bastilla – baked layers of thin pastry filled with minced chicken and almonds, sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar

Goat Cheese with Crispy Bread for Two – mixture of cheese and kalamata olives served with red pepper sauce and balsamic vinegar reduction

Mussels Casablanca for Two – steamed mussels served with capers, tomatoes, and light saffon cream sauce

Assorted Mediteranean Salads for Two – Falafel, sundried tomato hummus, roasted eggplant puree and tabouleh

 

MOROCCAN SPECIALTIES

Couscous – the national Moroccan dish – , steamed tiny semolina pasta
— Beef
— Lamb Shank
— Chicken Couscous
— Vegetable Couscous
— Couscous M’Rouzia: braised beef served with prunes, balsamic vinegar, honey, sesame seeds, and eggs

Shish Kebab – grilled tenderloin of beef with rosemary roasted potatoes and vegetable medley

Roast Lamb Meshoui – lamb shank braised in natural juices served with roasted eggplant puree, zucchini, and tomatoes $27.99

Lemon Chicken – braised half chicken with garlic, green olives, and preserved lemon

Chicken Kebabs – brochettes of chicken breast, olive salad and dried fruit sweet couscous

Mogador Fish Tagine – marinated fish with olives, lemon confit, potatoes, green peppers, and chermula sauce

 

ROYAL FEAST

Choice of one appetizer:

Jasmina Salad
Lettuce, tomato, olives, feta cheese in mustard vinaigrette

Seafood Bastilla
baked layers of thin pastry filled with grouper, shrimp, mushrooms

Choice of one entree:

Lemon Chicken
braised half chicken with garlic, green olives, and preserved lemon

OR

Roast Lamb Meshoui
lamb shank braised in natural juices served with roasted eggplant puree, zucchini, capers lemon confit and tomatoes

OR

Couscous with Seven Vegetables
National dish – steamed tiny semolina pasta served with seasoned vegetables

And for dessert: Assorted Moroccan Pastries

MARRAKESH FEAST

Harira soup – a hearty soup with tomatoes, eggs, lentils and beef.

Beef Brewat Rolls – baked layers of thin pastry filled with seasoned minced beef, eggs, fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar

Marrakesh Mixed Grill (Tenderloin of Beef Shish Kebab, Lamb Merzuez Sausage, Marinated Chicken Kebab) served with roasted potatoes

Assorted Moroccan pastries

DESSERTS

Bastilla – crispy leaves of pastry topped with vanilla cream and sprinkled with toasted almonds

Marrakesh Delight – fresh fruit salad topped with mint ice cream, toasted almonds and orange blossom water

Moroccan Symphony – Assorted Moroccan baklavas

 

Definitely try the Chicken Bastilla.  So good!  If you want to try a lot of things, the Royal Feast is a fabulous option.  If you’re on the dining plan, you can choose this option with a slight up-charge.  Last I checked, it was about $7.  Definitely worth it for how much you get to try!  The Moroccan Symphony for dessert allows you to sample several Baklava and was the best dessert on the menu, in my opinion.

And!  Not only do you get delicious food here, you get entertainment.  There is a belly dancer that performs for you, and after she does her set, she invites people down to dance with her.  Sometimes adults, and quite often children.  The children are absolutely adorable to watch, and if you have a kid who likes to dance like mine does, this is a great experience for them.  She performs once during each hour, usually not until after noon during lunch seatings, and after 5pm for dinner seatings.  This isn’t a meal to rush through, so do plan to visit this restaurant when you aren’t feeling the need to rush right out to catch a particular show or ride.

Have you eaten at Restaurant Marrakesh?  Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

 

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Is the Disney World Dining Plan Really Worth It?

Is the Disney World Dining Plan Really Worth It?

Is the Disney World Dining Plan Really Worth It?

Epcot, France Bakery

Photo by rickpilot_2000 via Flickr

The dining plans at Disney World profess to offer you a great value, but do they?  Is a dining plan the right choice for your family?  The answer is, for some people, the dining plan is absolutely a great value; find out here if you are one of them.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll be looking at the Standard Dining Plan.  We’ll look at the Quick Service Dining Plan and Deluxe Dining Plan another time.

There are two ways in which the dining plan provides a value.  First, there is a set cost for each dining plan.  The idea is, if the amount you’d spend normally would exceed the cost of the dining plan, then you will save money by purchasing it.  Let’s take a look at how this works:

The 2013 Dining Plan is $56.94 (peak season) per person per day.  This includes 1 quick service, 1 table service and 1 snack each day, plus a refillable resort mug.  To compare costs, we can look at some menu items to see what we’d be purchasing during our stay.  Let’s say we’re going to eat at Sunshine Seasons for our quick service today, the Princess dinner at Akershus in the Norway pavilion, and we’ll get ourselves a delicious Napolean from the France Pavilion.  I’ll pick the Spicy Cashew Chicken  at Sunshine Seasons for $9.99  , the buffet at the Princess dinner is $55.37 (price changes seasonally), and my snack of a Napoleon from Boulangerie Patisserie costs $4.50.   You can see we’re already at  $69.86.  We’re already over the daily price for the dining plan.  But wait – there’s more!  The dining plan includes dessert and basic drinks (soda, milk, tea, coffee, etc) with each meal, which we haven’t included with our lunch here (this particular dinner is a buffet and does included dessert) added in to our total, so there are more savings to be had.  Ok some of you are thinking there is no way you’d normally pay for dessert.  Fair enough, except, if it was more or less free, consider how fun it is to try new desserts everywhere you go!

Maybe you aren’t sure if you will always get savings with the plan or if some days you might just break even.  That brings us to the second way that the dining plan provides value: peace of mind.  Let’s go with that – what if you only break even?  Why have the dining plan then?  Well, if you are like many people, sitting down at expensive restaurants (and let’s face it, the Disney restaurants are expensive) while on vacation can lead to sticker shock each time you open a menu.  You may see an item you really want but then tell yourself you should order the cheaper item.  Maybe your husband always wants to order the most expensive steak and you tend to bicker over it (ahem…personal experience here perhaps…).  Having the dining plan means that you have already paid for your food.  When you sit down and you open that menu, it doesn’t matter what you choose – you can freely order whichever entrée looks good.  You can get any dessert you’d like.  You can get your $30 plate and he can get his $50. Or maybe, you’ll get that $50 plate now, too, because why not??  It’s already paid for, already done, and there’s no need to stress over the prices or experience sticker shock each day.   So the second value in the dining plan is peace of mind and reducing stress.  And in the end, shouldn’t your vacation be filled with as little stress as possible?

Not everyone needs the dining plan… those who eat very little, or those who really enjoy bringing their own food into the parks and perhaps cooking in a condo rental for dinner won’t find value in it, of course.  And you can certainly just pay as you go for each meal.  But if you’re on the fence and you’ve never tried it, give it a go and see what you think.  Once I tried it, I never wanted to go without it again!

 

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Why Taking a Vacation Without the Kids is Good for Your Marriage

Why Taking a Vacation Without the Kids is Good for Your Marriage

Why Taking a Vacation Without the Kids is Good for Your Marriage

Bungalows on Bora Bora

Bungalows on Bora Bora. Photo by Reza Ahmeds.

I know, I know, a lot of what I write about is family vacations and traveling with children.  I plan a lot of family vacations, and I fully believe in the magic of them.  BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t know how important a romantic getaway can be for a married couple.  In fact, I think a romantic getaway without the kids can be healthy for the family as a whole.

Sometimes, moms and dads need to just get away for a bit, to recharge and reconnect.  Yes, family vacations are awesome and the memories you build are incredible.  But it’s time to consider making room in your travel plans for a romantic getaway – just the two of you.  Why?  Let’s take a look at some of the findings of a recent study from Traveleffect.com.

 

Traveling inspires romance: 72% of respondents said that traveling inspires romance and 83% of couples who travel together say romance is still alive in their relationship.  Almost two thirds of couples believe that traveling helps couples stay together longer.

 

Traveling is more important than gifts: Nearly two thirds of respondents said that travel is more likely to create romance than large or small gifts.  Only 15% of respondents felt that big gifts like jewelry were as important.  There’s something to remember for your next anniversary, Valentine’s Day, etc!

 

Traveling helps improve intimacy: Three quarters of couples who travel say they have a good sex life, whereas only 63% of those who don’t travel said the same.  Of those who said their sex life improved after travel, 40% said the improvement was permanent.

 

Life gets a little crazy and we can easily get disconnected from our spouses in the midst of it.  A romantic vacation is a great way to step outside of everyday life, enjoy each other and experience new things together.  Doing so allows you to refresh, reconnect and create new, happy memories.

It’s traditional for a couple to take a honeymoon to celebrate the beginning of their marriage.  Most would agree that the honeymoon is a wonderful bonding experience.  Why is it that so few of us consider repeating that experience through more romantic vacations over the years?  There are so many beautiful destinations just waiting to help keep up the spark in your marriage – now is the time to start planning to get away with the one you love!

 

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5 Things You May Not Have Thought of Packing for Disney World

5 Things You May Not Have Thought of Packing for Disney World

5 Things You May Not Have Thought of Packing for Disney World

Epcot Spaceship Earth

Planning your Disney World vacation?  You may have thought of all the usual items to pack, but there are a few more unusual things to consider for this vacation.  Add these 5 things to your bag before you head to Disney World and be a few steps ahead of the rest!

 

1. Band-Aids

If you’ve never been to Disney World, you may not realize just how huge the parks are.  You will do miles of walking each day!  Combine that with shoes you may not be wearing right now at home or new shoes you bought for vacation, and it’s a recipe for blisters!  Bring a long a few bandaids for a quick fix so you can get on with your day.

2. Phone number bracelets or tattoos for your kids

Losing your kids is not very likely, but it’s always good to be prepared.  Cast members at Disney are trained to watch out for lost children and bring to the lost child center to wait for you.  That said, it’s much faster for the cast members to locate you if your child has a phone number on them.  Older children may not need this, but this is especially important for preschoolers and early elementary kids.  You can make the bracelets yourself at a craft store or order some online and several sites sell personalized temporary tattoos.  Be sure not to use the child’s name on either, as you don’t want any strangers using that info.

3. Gum

Sound strange?  Gum is everywhere, right?  Not in Disney World!  You won’t find gum to purchase anywhere on property, so if you are a gum addict, make sure you bring enough with you!

4. Rain ponchos

Do yourself a favor and bring a disposable poncho for each member of your family.  You’ll be so glad you did!  There are two reasons this comes in handy: 1) Florida is famous for it’s random downpours.  If you get caught in a sudden rainstorm, you are miles ahead of the crowds rushing for cover and trying to buy expensive ponchos in the shops.  2) Use it for Kali River Rapids.  I promise you’ll be glad you did!  If you’re following my vacation itinerary advice, you’ll probably be riding this in the earlier morning before it’s all that hot outside, which means it won’t be all that hot out yet.  And yes, this rides gets you completely soaked otherwise.  Getting splashed may sound fun – getting full out drenched in your street clothes and then having to walk all over the park?  Not as fun.  Slip the poncho on right before you ride, and walk off with just a few sprinkles and splashes on you.

5. Filtered Water bottle

You will, of course, be thirsty with all that walking and heat.  You can, of course, buy bottled water in the parks for a pretty penny.  You can also drink free water from water fountains and get free ice water in cups at the restaurants.  So what’s this about a filtered water bottle?  Well, many people don’t like the taste of the Florida tap water.  If you aren’t from that area, it kinda tastes like sulfur and chlorine mixed together, in my opinion.  Thus, having a filter inside your water bottle gets rid of some of that taste making the free water that much more pleasant.  You can find them in stores or online at Amazon.

Bonus tip:  Not sure you want to buy a new water bottle for each member of your family just for this trip?  You can also have bottled water shipped directly to your hotel before you arrive!  Costco has very reasonable prices for this (far cheaper than buying water in the park).  Simply ship it directly to your resort, using this info:
Name + Reservation number

c/o Name of Disney Resort

Resort Address

Date of arrival (You can also write HOLD for guest if you’d like)

 

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Flying With Kids: How to Avoid Melt Downs

Flying With Kids: How to Avoid Melt Downs

 Flying With Kids: How to Avoid Melt Downs

Flying with kids

photo credit: [email protected]

Ok, parents, let’s talk flying.  We’ve all been on those flights with screaming children.  And then, when we have children and it’s time for our family vacation, we immediately think of those same flights when we consider flying with our own.  It doesn’t have to be scary to take your kids on board, though.  With a little prep, you can minimize the outbursts and arrive at your destination without being exasperated and hiding your face as you exit the plane.
First, think about the schedule when you are choosing a flight.  Are your kids going to do well being woken up at 4am to go to the airport or will that set you up for full on meltdowns later in the day?  Also consider your lay overs.  The ticket may be cheaper, but a 3 ½ hour layover is a long time to entertain children in an airport.  Consider non-stop flights when possible, or choose a shorter layover to avoid this.  Also, I’ve heard others recommended to fly when the children will normally be sleeping.  If your kid is the kind who will conk out anywhere, anytime if he’s tired, then that’s a good plan.  But if he’s anything but the most perfect of sleepers, I’m not sure I’d choose that route: kids are excited about airplanes, excited about the destination and all that excitement means they have no intention of closing their eyes for their normal nap or night time.  What you may end up with instead is an extremely over tired child, and we all know what that means!

Second, food.  Food works wonders with kids.  Gone are the days where the airlines serve you complimentary everything.  In fact, on my last flight, the flight attendant told me that the cookie I was getting was the last time the cookies were being served on flights – only soda from now on.  Sad!   Feed your kids before boarding the plane, or if a normal meal time is shortly after take off, you can buy some food at the airport and bring it on board.  Pack lots of little snacks in your carryon.  If you have too many, you can use them at your hotel…too few might mean your little one is hungry with nothing left to eat for another 3 hours on the plane.  Non-messy snacks work best, for the sake of you AND the flight attendants.  Consider granola bars, crackers, fruit leather, squeezable fruit pouches, etc.

Third, be prepared with lots of entertainment.  This, of course, depends on the age of your children.  If you have an iPad or similar device, this is a gold mine.  Games and movies can occupy a child for quite a long time and works for a large age range.  Coloring books and crayons will occupy many children.  Small toys can be fun to play with on the trays.  I adore the little sticker books you can get to make various picture scenes.  A  great source for tiny activity books is here: http://store.doverpublications.com/by-subject-children-dover-little-activity-books.html  Many are just a $1 each!  And one of the best tips I received some years ago was to buy a small assortment of toys at the dollar store and stash them in your carry on.  Bring out a new toy every so often and your children will be delighted – something new!

A little prep goes a long way in making the beginning and ending of your family vacation much more pleasant.  Flying with kids doesn’t have to be torture.  Just think carefully about your flight schedule, snacks and entertainment and you’ll be fine!

 

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How Far in Advance Should I Book My Disney World Vacation?

How Far in Advance Should I Book My Disney World Vacation?

How Far in Advance Should I Book My Disney World Vacation?

Disney World Electrical Parade

If You Wait, Your Options Are Limited

I find that it’s very tempting for some people to wait until Disney releases a set of discounts applicable to their travel dates before booking.  However, doing this puts you at a disadvantage in some cases.  Disney World is a vacation that many people book far in advance, meaning that if you wait too long, you’ll have less choice of rooms and resorts.  Even more important, though, is the lack of dining reservations left when you book too late.

What’s Too Late?

So what’s too late?  I always advise my clients to book at least 6 months in advance when possible.  Why?  At 180 days before your arrival date, you’ll be eligible to make dining reservations.  Popular character dining and themed restaurants are often completely booked up right after this window of opportunity.  For some, this may not matter much, but if you know that your kids really want to dine with Mickey and friends, or you and your spouse really want that dinner at California Grill while overlooking the Wishes fireworks show, you definitely want be set to go at 180 days in advance.

Coming soon is the new MyMagic+, which will also best be used with some forethought.  One of the features of this new program is that you will be able to reserve times at a set number of attractions per day 60 days in advance.  Again, this means you need to have a reservation in place to take advantage of this.

There are several things that make this easier than you may think.   First, Disney only requires a $200 deposit on vacation packages, with the rest due 45 days before arrival.  This makes it easy to book far in advance without having to pay a lot on the spot.  Second, Disney also allows reservations to be moved to the new discount rates when they do come out, subject to availability (and if you are before your 45 day final payment window).  This means that if you are hoping for a free dining plan promotion, you don’t have to wait until it’s released to book your dates; you can book now and apply it when it comes out later.

Don’t Stress Planning Your Disney Vacation!

If the idea of figuring out your vacation so far in advance and tracking discount codes as they come out has you a little panicked, don’t worry: I’m here to help!  When I help you plan your Disney World Vacation, I recommend all of your best options, get it booked with deposit for you, and then I’ll carefully plan your itinerary using the least crowded parks each day, matching your restaurant choices to your days in each park, secure your advance dining reservations for you right on that 180 day mark (early in the morning, I might add!), and keep an eye on the discounts, getting your reservation moved to the new discount if it applies.   And, of course, I also offer theme park touring strategies and so much more!

So if you want to plan a vacation to Disney World, contact me early so we can get you the best experience possible!

 

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Hawaii For the Adventurous – It’s not just beaches!

Hawaii For the Adventurous – It’s not just beaches!

Hawaii For the Adventurous – It’s not just beaches!

Hawaii waterfall

Hawaii waterfall

Why Hawaii?

So you wanna get away.  You need some sun in your life and now.  Someone suggests Hawaii and you roll your eyes.  Sure, everyone knows Hawaii has great beaches, palm trees, relaxation and sunshine.  But to you that’s just so….normal.  Dull even.  You’re not a sit on the beach kind of person, you’re a let’s go DO something person.  But hold up – don’t pass on Hawaii just yet.

Many people think of Hawaii as just a collection of beaches, all the same, no matter which island you go to.  That’s just not true at all.  In reality, the islands are full of interesting adventures and cultural experiences.  If what you are looking for are exploration and adventure, there are some perfect Hawaiian spots for you.

Exploring The Big Island

One of the best islands for exploring is the Big Island of Hawaii.  Today we’ll focus on this location.  The Big Island contains more natural environments than almost any other place its size on the planet – lush rainforests, rocky lava plains, beaches with white, black or green sand, tide pools wiggling with life, shallow coral fields, deep-sea fishing grounds, rolling grasslands, snow-capped mountains, a fiery erupting volcano.  Clearly, this is an excellent choice for nature lovers, and so much more than a beach.

What To Do 

There are over 150 miles of hiking trails, the best of which are Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  You can trek alone with a guidebook in hand, or take a guided hike with an expert.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park entrance

The sites are not to be missed.  The volcanoes in Hawaii are active here, and the views can be spectacular.

Halemaunau Crater Volcanoes Hawaii

Halemaumau Crater Volcanoes Hawaii

You can also hike plenty of beautiful, lush landscape, trekking to waterfalls and streams and more.

Hiking Hawaii

Stars, Stars, and More Stars

Perhaps you are a fan of astronomy.  It’s no secret that you can see the stars far more brightly, and in greater number, out on the islands.  But for those who truly enjoy stargazing, the observatory atop Maunakea is waiting for you.  On top of the tallest sea mountain in the world, 13 telescopes representing 11 countries are watching the skies.  Guided tours offer transportation, parks, dinner, access to the mountain summit, detailed narratives about the history and cultural significance of Maunakea as well as night viewing.

Maunakea Observatory Hawaii stargazing

 

Like horses?  How about a horse ride with the Hawaiian cowboys?

Hawaii horseback riding

 

And there’s still more.  Take a boat out to view the amazing site of lava flowing into the sea, visit a local market to sample the best of the tropical produce, or explore the petroglyphs in Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve.

Lava flowing into sea in Hawaii

Hawaii fruit

Hawaii petroglyphs

And then, visit a beach.  Oh, I know I said this wasn’t about beaches, but these aren’t your usual beach stops.  No, these are something far more interesting.  Stop by the unusual black sand beaches and beaches made of lava flows.  It’s unlike any beach you’ve ever seen

Hawaii black sand beach

Hawaii beach lava flow

 

You see, Hawaii is so much more than just beaches and palm trees.  If resort beaches aren’t your style, there is a whole different Hawaiian world waiting to be explored.  We can work together to plan you something as adventurous as you’d like.

 

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