My Fall Disney Experience

A Disney vacation will NEVER disappoint. Here are just a few things I enjoyed on my most recent visit …

Enjoying some fabulous wine with dinner at California Grill on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Incredible views of Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom! Staying for the fireworks is a must!

Breathtaking sunset at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, overlooking Disney’s Boardwalk. Perfect night for a stroll.

Just experienced my favorite new ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Slinky Dog Dash at Toy Story Land. Try it at night! The lights are incredible.

This is one of hundreds of options you can choose from when you have Disney’s Quick-Service Dine Plan, the Barbacoa Beef Rice Bowl at El Mercado de Coronado Food Court at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Yum!! Your meal through the Dine Plan also includes your choice of a beverage or a dessert.

Fall is a great time to enjoy Epcot. The Food & Wine Festival is a perfect blend of live music, scrumptious bites from all over the globe, and an excellent selection of wine.

Two Days in Russia

Cruises are a popular way to discover the beauty and history of Europe’s Baltic Sea region.  I recently had the opportunity to cruise the Baltic Sea on Cunard’s luxurious Queen Elizabeth, visiting a variety of ports in seven countries during my two-week cruise.  By far, the highlight was the two full days we spent in St. Petersburg, Russia.

St. Petersburg was founded by Russian czar Peter the Great in 1703, and served as the capital of the Russian Empire until the Russian Revolution of 1917.  Built at the mouth of the Neva River, St. Petersburg is known as the Venice of the North because it is crisscrossed with rivers and canals, lending a maritime flavor to the city. 

The city boasts a rich heritage, with beautiful baroque palaces, stunning Orthodox cathedrals, and world class museums, such as the Hermitage.  Here are some of the key sites that any visitor must see:

  • The Peterhof Palace, Peter the Great’s stunning summer palace.  Located on a bluff overlooking the Baltic Sea, the Peterhof is Russia’s answer to Versailles.  Don’t miss the dozens of active fountains on the palace’s grounds, including the Grand Cascade and Samson Fountain, which features 64 interconnected fountains flowing down the side of a hill – with absolutely no pumps required for its operation
  • The Peter and Paul Fortress, containing the mausoleum of the Romanov dynasty, as well as a fascinating military museum.
  • The Hermitage art museum, founded by Catherine the Great, with an art collection rivaling the Louvre or Prado.
  • The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, a massive example of traditional Russian Orthodox church design, as well as St. Isaac’s Cathedral, with one of the largest domes in the world, coated with pure gold.
  • The Catherine Palace, located nearby, which features a reconstruction of the famed Amber Room, a large reception room covered completely in local amber. 

Russia can be a difficult country to visit independently, with the typical cost of a visa running over $300, but the visa requirement is waived for guests traveling on a cruise and taking an authorized shore excursion.  I chose to explore the city on a privately guided excursion, which offered me the opportunity to see more and avoid the long lines at major attractions.  As an added bonus, I had the opportunity to chat more with our driver and guide, and learned much more about what life is like for typical Russians.

St. Petersburg was a pleasant surprise for me, and I highly recommend a visit to anyone interested in learning more about history, discovering heritage, and experiencing a different culture when traveling.

Calling all Toy Story fans!!! Have you heard?

Toy Story Land opened at Disney World on June 30, 2018!!

This new park is located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and is full of adventures for kids and grown-ups alike.

Take the entire family for a ride on Slinky Dog as he twists and turns around curves, hills and drops. Hang on tight as you swirl around in the Alien Swirling Saucers. And always a fan favorite, Toy Story Mania! Head inside Andy’s room and blast your way through this 4D arcade. All these rides are bound to be popular so don’t forget to reserve your Fast Pass.

Keep your eye out for all of your favorite Toy Story characters like Woody, Buzz and Jessie. Make sure your bring your autograph book and camera to commemorate your experience.

When you are ready to book your Disney vacation and experience this new land for yourself just let me know.

To infinity and beyond!

Image Info: ©Disney●Pixar Slinky® Dog is a registered trademark of Poof-Slinky, Inc. and is used with permission. Jenga® Pokonobe Associates. All Rights Reserved. Tinkertoy® is a registered trademark of Hasbro, Inc. Used with permission. 2018©Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Dine & Meet Disney Characters!

Meet the Junior Characters during a memorable breakfast buffet or Minnie and friends at seasonal dining parties

Disney Junior’s Play n Dine invite you to experience a fun-filled meal with the popular Junior stars!!
Eat, play and laugh along with a few of your favorite Junior friends during this breakfast buffet experience. 

Mingle with Minnie and her fabulous friends at special parties throughout the year.

  • Summertime Dine runs from June 4 – September 2, 2018, and it’s a beach-inspired bash celebrating the sizzle of summer!
  • Halloween Dine runs from September 3 – November 8, 2018, and it’s a happy haunting with a spooktacular Halloween feast that’s frightfully delightful.
  • Holiday Dine runs from November 9 – January 6, 2019, and you can deck the halls at this dazzling dinner party filled with holiday cheer and the joy of the season!

You are always invited to meet Minnie and some of her famous pals for lunch and dinner celebrations serving up seasonal deliciousness.  And by the way, the party gifts make great souvenirs!!!!

Would you ever consider going to Disney World alone?

One of the biggest trends in travel in the past few years is catering to solo travelers.  Maybe they don’t have friends or family who can afford the price tag, the time off, or have the desire for travel.  

But that shouldn’t mean that a single traveler shouldn’t be able to customize a perfect trip that will fill their soul and make them happy.

Some things to consider when traveling as a solo:

  • Will I be safe?
  • Will I have fun alone?
  • Will I have a chance to meet other people?
  • How will I handle things if something goes wrong?

Now, when I ask these questions again in the context of a solo trip to Disney World the answers for me are very easy. 

  • Will I be safe?  Yes!  Disney is known to be a safe and secure.  Always take precautions, stay alert and stay sober, but that is the same advice I’d give to couples or families traveling anywhere in the world.  Disney makes some people feel safe and is great for single travelers.
  • Will I have fun alone?  Yes!  It is pretty hard not to have fun at Disney.  Try the single-rider lines, go to your favorite attractions and skip those your don’t care for, decide where and when you want to eat without making it into a 20 minute debate.  In fact, you might have MORE fun traveling in Disney alone.
  • Will I have a chance to meet other people? Yes!  At the resort, in the pool, at the restaurants, in line for attractions, at shows, watching parades, you name it.  You are surrounded by people and folks on vacation tend to be friendly.  Smile and strike up a conversation and be receptive to those around you who try to engage with you.
  • How will I handle things if something goes wrong? We have your back.  You can purchase travel insurance, the cast members at Disney are trained to help and we are but a phone call away.

Our travel specialists have years of experience with Disney World and can give you insider tips to make the most of your Disney Vacation.  If you want to go to see the new Toy Storyland, & Pandora or classics like Space Mountain, our trained team of Authorized Disney Travel Planners will help you organize an amazing solo Disney adventure.

Summertime at Disneyland Resort!

Discover lots of fun no matter when you visit California!  Every month of the year brings different highlights and festivities, so let’s take a look at what is happening this summer!

  • Disneyland’s summer hours are the longest of the year.  In fact, you could go right away in the morning and stay until midnight if you don’t get too tired!
  • Most of the Disneyland attractions will be open, except if closed for occasional maintenance.
  • New attractions open at the beginning of the summer, and you can be among the first to enjoy them!
  • Summer is the best time to see Fantasmic! (twice per night) and World of Color at California Adventure Park.  Parades will typically run more than once per day and fireworks go off every night.

With the longer hours, this does tend to bring in more crowds, so plan ahead and wear your sunscreen!

 

Honeymoon in Croatia? Who would of thought?

France or Italy or Greece are classic European destinations for a lovely honeymoon, but Croatia? That destination may be considered random, or is it?

Located just on the other side of the Adriadic Sea from Italy, Croatia has as many attributes as the popular Europe destinations have. There is wonderful ancient architecture, beaches and national parks but Croatia has so much more that makes is special.

First of all, Croatia has very comfortable temperatures all throughout the year. With the worst average lows reaching only 50 degrees in the winter and an average high of 80 degrees in the summer, you can enjoy Croatia most of the year without having to bundle up too much. May and September are the best time to visit.

Another offering Croatia provides is white sand beaches and clear water from the peninsula of the Zlanti Rat Beach which attracts huge crowds to relax in it’s beauty or if you are into a more private beach Stiniva Bay on Vis island.

The ancient city of Dubrovnik is the heart of Croatia. It is surrounded by an ancient wall, Dubrovačke gradske zidine that was built to protect this seaside city. It is recommended to go to the top of the wall to experience some of the best views of the city.

If you wish to enjoy some nature that Croatia has to offer, Croatia has 8 national parks great for hiking and camping. Plitvice Lakes National Park is even on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. There is also a fun fact that Croatia is proud of, (TV show) Game of Thrones was filmed there.

So why else should you go to Croatia? There are so many other reasons why. Being a seaside city, of course the seafood is AMAZING. Fresh oysters and octopus are specialties of the region. And for the wine officianatos, the white wines coming out of Dalmatia are to be tried and enjoyed.

And finally, do not forget the summer festivals. Croatia hosts some of the most famous music festivals in all of Europe, Ultra Europe, Outlook, Sonus and fresh Island. And for high end entertainment, there is yacht week to be enjoyed in the summer.

So if you are looking for a “new” destination, Croatia has all the old world and new world charm to entertain all of your senses.  

Trends in Destinations Wedding Customization

You want your destination wedding to be something that you and your guests remember for years to come. There are so many ways to customize your wedding, YOUR way! 

Here are just a few ways you can begin customizing your BIG day:

  • Technology: a few ideas that are flourishing include custom Snapchat filters, social media hashtags and 3D printing.
  • Decorations: a very popular trend is to blend luxury accents while still maintaining a down to earth vibe.
  • Adventure: couples are choosing destinations that provide unique opportunities for themselves and their guests such as: catamaran cruises, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, ATV Tours and so much more.
  • Family Affair: couples are allowing children which creates a more family friendly event and pushes their guests to take that family vacation they have been talking about for years.
  • Unique Destinations: instead of choosing a beach head to the Canadian Rockies, Iceland or rent out a castle in Europe.
  • Bring Home with You: incorporate your home town into the ceremony or reception.
  • Travel Tips: provide customized maps for guests. Include your favorite spots so guests know where to go when they are not attending wedding related festivities.
  • Gifts: bring along gifts that represent you and spouse for all your guests (Ex: You play games – bring a personalized deck of cards for everyone).
  • Menus: customize your menu for your guests to include some of your favorite foods.
  • Local Culture: hire local vendors to bring a taste of the local culture to your celebration.

Let’s start customizing your destination wedding so it’s everything you’ve ever dreamed of and MORE!

Decisions, Decisions. Should I All-Inclusive on my trip and why?

There are so many components to consider for your trip and two of the major ones to think about is food and beverages when you are there. How do you decide?

The first thing to consider is what destination are you going to? If you are thinking of Mexico, or the Dominican Republic or Jamaica, the all-inclusive inclusions at each property are designed to wow the client and be a memorable representation of what each resort is about. The level of food quality and beverage quality is designed to be so amazing that if you choose to not leave your resort on your vacation will leave a smile on your face. Karisma resorts has Gourmet Inclusive offerings that you won’t want to miss. I have stayed at these resorts and the food is immaculate. The HardRock (Riviera Maya) is also known for it’s generous resort credit’s that is standard for every room. Resort credits are exclusive to every property and they do have rules for how to use them, but different amenities may include couples massage on the beach, romantic dinners on the beach, or even equipment rentals.

For Mexico, Dominican Republic and Jamaica there is true VALUE in having the all-inclusive option added. Aside from value, there is convenience meaning your do not have to bring your purse or wallet to the beach and usually you can eat and drink what you like, as much as you like and it is all taken care of already. The value still remains even if you day trip or leave your property.

However… There are always exceptions to the rule. Puerto Rico and Aruba are the top 3 places where experiencing the culture of the area is experienced by getting out and dining at the actual restaurants of the destination. Food is the soul of many of these destinations and experiencing the true flavors will always be a pleasant memory and make you want to come back. Aruba and Puerto Rico are especially wonderful destinations for that.

The attributes for not doing all-inclusive is that everything is close in the city. It is inexpensive and easy to get around via taxis and public transportation. What is really fun about Puerto Rico is the amazing local foods that you find in food trucks on the street!

Deciding to do all-inclusive or European plan starts with the destination you are at and deciding what is going to provide you with the most memorable experience with the most ease of accessibility.

Helpful Honeymoon Planning Tips for the Groom!

Let’s be honest here.  The groom’s responsibility list can be short and sweet for most.

If the HONEYMOON is on your short list, let me help you out with a few tips that the bride may want you to know!

  1. Work the honeymoon into the wedding budget! Lots of times, when discussing the wedding budget, things like flowers, velue, gowns and tuxes are at the top of your priority list, but don’t forget to include the honeymoon into your figures!  Your big trip can also lead into some big numbers, so plan ahead.  This is a big trip, and one that cannot be repeated, you only get one ‘first honeymoon,’ so make it count.
  2. Upgrade appropriately!  Because this is your honeymoon, this is the time to splurge for that beachfront suite, or that over the water bungalow, or perhaps it’s just first class airfare that you are seeking?  This is the trip for pulling out all the stops, don’t hold back (and see #1 for budgeting)
  3. Don’t wait until the last minute to plan! Start your honeymoon planning early, basically as early as you start your wedding planning.  Most bookings through a travel agent can take a deposit and some form of a payment plan, just ask!

With these thoughts in mind, let us help you plan your perfect honeymoon getaway!

Live Aqua in Cancun

Beautiful Resort … A Must Visit!

Beautiful relaxing resort that fills the senses with different essential oils burning throughout the resort on different floors and even in your room! Clean beautiful beaches and great restaurants! Breakfast buffet was tasty with lots of great options! Perfect for a quite get away to relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, or a great retreat with friends!

A painting class you can organize before you travel for a group of yours!

Your Guide to Genealogy

Are you looking to do some genealogy work or go back to an area where your family came from?  Let me help you.  I just went to France on the Mediterranean to visit areas where my husband grew up.  On the fiftieth anniversary of landing in New York, we went to New York City and visited the pier where they arrived.  On the sixtieth anniversary, this year, we went to the city that they lived in at the time when they left France.

I have assisted many people set up their trips to visit areas where their ancestors came from.  Usually it is renting a car and traveling to the areas that they have already discovered.  Sometimes, they are going to see what they can find while they are there.  You can do this on your own or I can set up a driver/guide to assist you with this.

If genealogy is a passion for you, let me help you fulfill that passion.

 

Keep Calm and Hula

E komo mai l ka palekaiko- Come on in to Paradise. This is how I would describe Maui. A dormant volcano, endless tropical beaches, supreme golf options and lush rain forests make Maui a genuine jewel in the Pacific.  The accommodations are just as varied as the landscapes and I explored many hotel options on my recent trip to Maui. I know I can find the perfect resort for you! There are many condominium options available with all the comforts of home to high end luxurious resorts with no service or amenity left out.

There are so many activities available with many opportunities for you to get out and explore this amazing island. How about the Drums of the Pacific Luau? This is one of the most popular events on the Valley Isle complete with a traditional imu ceremony. Enjoy the all you can eat buffet and the open tiki bar that serves soft drinks, tropical fruit punch and Mai Tai’s for anyone who is over 21.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!

Haleakala Crater- Experience an unforgettable bike ride from the summit of Haleakala to the sea of Maui. Your day begins with an early morning pick up so I would suggest booking this tour for the day or 2 after you arrive. There is a bit of a time change so my guess is you will be up before the birds and ready to go! You do need to make a reservation for this excursion and I am happy to help with that.

Whale watching- From December to April the whales are in residence in Hawaii and Maui is the perfect island for spotting them. You might even spot them from your lanai while you are sipping your morning coffee. How cool!

E lei ke aloha- Aloha today, tomorrow, always.

Comparing All-Inclusive VS European Plan Resorts

All-Inclusive

When you think of heading on a warm weather escape you probably think all-inclusive—all meals and drinks included in your package! Most travelers go with this option as it takes away the stress of trying to figure out where to eat, wondering if the food is safe and what the cost will be. If you’re planning a destination weddings, an all-inclusive resort may be your best choice, it makes it easier for your guests that are not well traveled or adventurous. Most all-inclusive resorts in have many restaurant options to choose from. There are buffet style and specialty options, plus room service is typically included with all-inclusive plans.

European Plan

A European plan typically means that your accommodations only are included. You can sometimes find a rate that includes breakfast. If you choose this plan you will need to budget for tips, meals, drinks, activities and taxes. This is a good option for the more adventurous traveler, as they can get outside of the resort and explore the local cuisine. For your less experienced traveler this option may be more intimidating. You will pay room service as well.

Together let’s figure out what plan is right for you.

Family Friendly All-inclusive Hotel Options

Planning a destination wedding is a great way to have a fun, multi-generational family getaway. There are a lot of really great options out there, but there are definitely some options that will be better than others.

Now Resorts are part of the AM Resorts family. This is a great option for families of all ages.  There are quite a few resorts out there that offer a children’s program, but not every resort has a teen program. Now Resorts have the Explorer’s Club area for children 3 – 12, and they offer supervised children’s programs including a playground, game room, rock wall, arts and crafts and a weekly camp out adventure and a theater. The Core Zone is for teens between the ages of 13 and 17. They can enjoy pool tables, ping pong, and video games. They also have different activities on the beach and evening entertainment that is geared specifically for teens.

       

Hard Rock all-inclusive resorts are another great option, but I’m going to concentrate on Hard Rock Riviera Maya. The nice thing about this resort is that it’s two resorts in one, offering an adults only section and a family friendly section. If there are adults in your group who would prefer to be in an adult friendly environment, they can stay on the adults side of the resort. The family friendly side has a kids club, as well as a teen lounge. Also new to this resort is Camp Woodward, where kids can find endless activities, including skate-ramps, trampolines and foam pits. This resort also offers Resort Credits up to $1800, which you can use towards select tours, spa treatments and upgraded amenities!

   

Another resort brand that I enjoy to work with is the Royalton Resorts, which is part of the Blue Diamond Resort chain. Not only does this brand make planning a destination wedding extremely easy, they also are a great option for families of all ages. The Royalton Punta Cana offers access to an awesome water park, and they have a kids club and teens lounge. This resort also has guaranteed connecting rooms that can hold up to 8 guests!

    

There are quite a few other options you can go with, but these are a few of the resorts that I would highly recommend. Let’s start planning today!