Family Spring Break Planning Tips

The warm glow from a family vacation lasts long after you’ve returned home. With spring break here,  below are some tips for planning a fun and memorable getaway with the kids.

First, decide what type of vacation you want to take. You’ll have lots of company if you’re traveling during a school vacation week, so start planning early and take advantage of the expertise provided by a travel advisor from Travel Leaders.

For example, if you’re thinking about Disney World, let your travel advisor book your stay at a Disney resort. It’ll give your family perks like the ability to get earlier access to the most popular rides. If a cruise is on your vacation bucket list, your travel advisor can help you decide which excursions to go on as a family, and which ones you may want to skip so that you can enjoy the ship at a time when there are fewer people onboard.

Mexico and the Caribbean have excellent choices for all-inclusive resorts that offer amenities for the whole family, from kids’ clubs and waterparks to spas for the adults. Your travel advisor can help you explore all the options.

Once you’ve booked your trip, it’s time to get down to packing.

If you’re flying to your vacation, space in overhead bins is likely to be at a premium. Make sure that your luggage meets the airline’s size and weight restrictions for both carry-ons and checked baggage.

The Transportation Security Administration allows each passenger one quart-sized bag of liquids and gels that are 3.4 ounces or smaller. But medications and certain items for children are an exception to the 3-ounce rule. Infant formula, breast milk and juices for infants and toddlers, as well as ice packs to keep them cool, are allowed through airport security checkpoints in higher, yet reasonable quantities. Just make sure you keep them separate from the items in your one-quart bag.

When traveling with young children, make sure they’re wearing comfortable clothing. If your child is young enough, consider giving him or her a ride to the security checkpoint and gate in a stroller. It’ll help keep them in tow and keep your stress level low.

Children age 12 and younger never have to remove their shoes or lightweight jackets at airport security, and they don’t need their own TSA Precheck boarding pass. They can go through the TSA Precheck with any qualified adult with whom they’re traveling. If you’re traveling outside the United States, children under 18 don’t need to get their own Global Entry, as long as they’re with a parent or legal guardian.

For help planning a family vacation, contact us today

Mixology Class Aboard the Disney Dream

Traveling as an adult aboard the Disney Dream doesn’t only mean indulging your inner child.  There’s plenty to engage the travelers who are there to relax and unwind without the kiddos.

Disney is always known for its fantastic entertainment from first run movies, extraordinary live performances and deck parties.  And they also intrigue adults with top notch dining experiences at Remy and an entertainment district with lounges and nightclubs to suit any taste.

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a Mixology Class at Skyline.  We learned how to mix 4 different cocktails and got samples of them all.  My favorite was an elderflower margarita – yum!  Did I take my knowledge home and try it out on my husband or friends?  Not yet.

Disney also offers Mojito & Caipirinha Tasting, Tequila & Margarita Tasting, Champagne or Wine Tasting, Beer or Bourbon Tasting – basically almost anything you can imagine.

 The seminars do vary based on ship and itinerary and a nominal fee does apply. 

Recipe:

  • 2 oz reposado tequila
  • 1 oz St-Germain Elderflower Liquor
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake vigorously.  Strain and serve with a lime wheel slice as garnish.

Romantic Fine Dining at Disney’s California Grill

Disney World is best known for family-friendly character dining but there are actually a lot of great romantic fine-dining options available. One of my favorites is the California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

This restaurant offers the perfect ambiance with sophisticated décor and an amazing view from the top of the world. I would highly recommend a window table and if you plan things just right you will be able to see the fireworks show while you are eating. How cool!

One of the best parts about the dining experience is that there is an onstage kitchen and the staff prepares the meals.  The menu offers fresh seasonal ingredients. The wine list … is never ending! There are over 250 wine to choose from, plus craft beers, ciders and signature cocktails created by some fantastic mixologists.

So drop the kids off at the kids club, put on your best dress, and head out for an adult evening.

Time for a Romantic Dinner at Blue Bayou, Disneyland Resort

Romance is in the air for this experience!  Enjoy Nighttime in N’awlins!  Stepping down into this truly unique setting where the bayou is, literally, by YOU!

Always ask to be seated on the water’s edge!  You will spot passenger boats from inside Pirates of the Caribbean as they sail through the eatery.

Looking around, you are surrounded in the essence of New Orleans as overhead strings of colorful balloon lanterns cast an enchanting glow, dotting the darkness where crickets chirp, frogs croak and fireflies wink while providing amazing ambiance like none other.

When I visited this beautiful restaurant, it was so dark (and romantic), I wasn’t sure how I would be able to read the menu.  To my surprise, when you open the menu, it lights up!  Talk about a little Disney magic!  I will never forget my experience here.  We loved waving at the boats on the ride, and the food was simply amazing.  I ordered steak that melted in my mouth!  Best ever.

So if you are looking for a little romantic escape on your next adventure to Disneyland Resort, check out this restaurant, you won’t be disappointed!!!

Going to Disney? Make a Stop at Animal Kingdom!

There aren’t many places in the United States where you can see elephants, rhinos, giraffes and zebras, but you can on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom. You may have to wait on the road for a few minutes as a group of antelope cross the trail ahead of you. It’s a true Safari experience that you won’t want to miss.

If you go in the evening you can experience the Nocturnal Encounters. You will venture out onto the savanna for a nighttime safari tour. You can expect a little more movement and possibly spot some animals feeding.

While at Animal kingdom you can enjoy American, Asian and African inspired dishes. The entertainment is endless … attend a  broadway-style musicals,  meet beloved Disney Characters or catch one of the animal shows. Plus, there is shopping!

      

You also don’t want to miss one of the newest attractions, Pandora, a one of a kind experience. I highly suggest the Avatar flight of Passage and Navi River journey.  These rides are UNBELIEVABLE …  your surroundings are simply breathtaking.

There is SO much to do at Animal Kingdom! It’s a very unique experience and you don’t want to miss it.

Family Spring Break Planning Tips

The warm glow from a family vacation lasts long after you’ve returned home. With spring break just around the corner, here are some tips for planning a fun and memorable getaway with the kids.

First, decide what type of vacation you want to take. You’ll have lots of company if you’re traveling during a school vacation week, so start planning early and take advantage of the expertise provided by a travel advisor from Travel Leaders Group.

For example, if you’re thinking about Disney World, let your travel advisor book your stay at a Disney resort. It’ll give your family perks like the ability to get earlier access to the most popular rides. If a cruise is on your vacation bucket list, your travel advisor can help you decide which excursions to go on as a family, and which ones you may want to skip so that you can enjoy the ship at a time when there are fewer people onboard. Mexico and the Caribbean have excellent choices for all-inclusive resorts that offer amenities for the whole family, from kids’ clubs and waterparks to spas for the adults. Your travel advisor can help you explore all the options.

Once you’ve booked your trip, it’s time to get down to packing.

If you’re flying to your vacation, space in overhead bins is likely to be at a premium. Make sure that your luggage meets the airline’s size and weight restrictions for both carry-ons and checked baggage. Make color photocopies and digital copies of important travel documents, including your passport, the front and back of credit cards and health insurance information for you and your children. If you’re traveling internationally, bring a copy of your children’s immunization records. For safekeeping, pack all copies in a separate location from your identification.

The Transportation Security Administration allows each passenger one quart-sized bag of liquids and gels that are 3.4 ounces or smaller. But medications and certain items for children are an exception to the 3-ounce rule. Infant formula, breast milk and juices for infants and toddlers, as well as ice packs to keep them cool, are allowed through airport security checkpoints in higher, yet reasonable quantities. Just make sure you keep them separate from the items in your one-quart bag.

When traveling with young children, make sure they’re wearing comfortable clothing. If your child is young enough, consider giving him or her a ride to the security checkpoint and gate in a stroller. It’ll help keep them in tow and keep your stress level low.

Children age 12 and younger never have to remove their shoes or lightweight jackets at airport security, and they don’t need their own TSA Precheck boarding pass. They can go through the TSA Precheck with any qualified adult with whom they’re traveling. If you’re traveling outside the United States, children under 18 don’t need to get their own Global Entry, as long as they’re with a parent or legal guardian.

For help planning a family vacation, contact us today!

Favorite Attractions at Disney World for Kids 8-12 Years of Age

During my recent trip to Walt Disney this past September I found out how beneficial it is to purchase the Park Hopper Pass.

I got to experience so many rides during my stay that you won’t want to miss when you make your next visit.

Here are my top rides from each park for school age kids:

Magic Kingdom
In the Magic Kingdom I narrowed it down to 2 attractions. One is the climbing adventures of Swiss Family Robinson’s Treehouse. There is so much to hear and see every step you take. This is a self guided tour that takes you up to the crows nest! I can’t wait for you to experience the view! My other favorite ride in Magic Kingdom was the Pirates of the Caribbean. The calming boat ride takes you back in the day of pirates. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for all the different treasures along the way!

            

Animal Kingdom
While in Animal Kingdom I went straight to the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Walking the trails to get to the ride was so eye catching it’s hard to concentrate on where you intended to go! The guides sure put on a show in case you miss all the animals right beside your jeep! Yup, we had 2 adult giraffes and a baby cross right in front of us. You won’t want to miss this exciting adventure!

            

 

Hollywood Studios
As I made my way to Hollywood Studios I was met by Star Troopers securing the premises! Surprise character visits can show up anywhere! As I looked ahead I saw this huge, colorful roller coaster. And there is was, the newest attraction, Slinky Dog Dash. This is such an exciting roller coaster you’ll want to get back in line to ride again! I highly recommend adding this ride to your Disney Experience!

         

Let’s set you up with a Park Hopper Pass … it’s time to head to Disney!

Merida from Brave is my Favorite Disney Princess!

Merida has become one of my favorite Disney Princesses! She’s passionate, feisty and so much more. Her fearlessness and adventurous spirit is just so inspiring to watch. Merida is not your typical princess when it comes to love as she has no desire to marry her prince charming and live happily ever after. She yearns for her freedom and she will do just about anything to gain it … like turning her mom into a bear.

Without saying too much, in case you haven’t seen the movie, Merida overcomes some head budding conflicts between her and her mother throughout the film. This is very symbolic to me, and a big inspiration to show that you can change; your expectations, your fate, your actions, your flaws, and still be you. Her character development throughout the film is by far one of my favorites of all the princesses.

If you haven’t seen Brave please add it to your watch list. 

The Disney Dining Plan … Is It Worth It?

This is one the most asked questions I get from clients who are planning to Walt Disney World.  A few things they wonder … Does it actually save me money? Are there a lot of menu selections? Are there plenty of locations for us to choose from?

The Dining Plan is something that I HIGHLY recommend. Here are a couple of reasons why…

  • Prepay & Save. You are going to buy food at Disney so why not prepay for it and save a few dollars. By purchasing the Dining Plan you will make your vacation package feel more “all-inclusive.”
  • What’s Included. The Disney Dining plan comes with 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal and 2 snacks per person, per day. Trust me when I say that this is more than enough food, you will not go hungry.
  • Convenience. By purchasing the Dining Plan you take away the constant need to pull out your wallet. There is nothing more stressful then the feeling that you just keep constantly spending money.

The food at Disney World is a bit on the pricey side and if your child doesn’t finish their meal, and you just spent $13 on a hot dog … you might get upset. And did I mention that the $13 does not include your drink? Who wants to be upset while they are at the happiest place on earth?

The savings, inclusions and convenience are well worth the money. When you’re ready to head on a magical vacation add the dining plan and I bet you’ll never look back.

Avatar Flight of Passage

One of Disney’s newest attractions at Animal Kingdom Park is Pandora – The World of Avatar.   Without a doubt, my favorite ride at Disney World is the Avatar Flight of Passage. This ride is a 3D flying simulator attraction within Pandora. You ride a mountain banshee and take in the breathtaking views of the beauty of Pandora on a rite of passage.

The ride itself is only 5 minutes long … I highly suggest using a FastPass as this is a VERY popular ride.  I was still left speechless and amazed by how realistic everything was. I highly recommend making the Avatar Flight of Passage part of your Disney world experience!


The Magic Bands are Truly MAGIC!

Heading to Disney? If you have not yet tried out the Magic Bands I highly suggest that you get one for you next trip!

Your Magic Band has arrived … YAY! Just the packaging alone will get you pumped up for your trip. Now … what do you do with them?     

Here are just a few amazing ways you can use your Magic Band while on your Disney World vacation:

  • Disney’s Magical Express: On the way to catch your Disney Magical Express transfer from the Orlando airport to your resort have your Magic Band ready to pull out of your carry-on bag to put on so they can scan it to find out which resort you will be transferring to. The Magical Express area at the airport is on the bottom level and clearly marked so finding it is very easy!

  • Magical Express Check In: Checking in with the Disney cast members at the Magical Express desk. Easy as 1-2-3 . . . they scan your band, your reservation is displayed for them and they direct you to your Magical Express motor coach for your 1 hour transfer to Disney World.
  • Resort Check In: You’ve arrived at your resort – what’s next? Simply find the front desk check-in area to scan your Magic Band with the front desk cast member. If it’s early in the day and you want to visit one of the parks or maybe Disney Springs you can drop off your luggage and head out for some fun. They will send you a text when your room is ready and your Magic Band is now your room key. How cool is that – no more misplacing your key card or it not working because it got demagnetized or something.
  • Dining at Disney: Now it’s time for breakfast, lunch or dinner so you try the food court at your resort. You order your quick-service meal or maybe a snack and head to the cash register to pay for it. They will ask you if you’re on one of Disney’s Dining Plans and if you are they will scan your Magic Band and you are on your way to enjoy your meal. It’s so quick and easy – almost like an all-inclusive vacation! This is also the way it works at Disney’s sit-down restaurants and snack carts. When you scan your band at any dining establishment they will print you a receipt showing how many meal and snack credits you have left for the rest of your stay so you can plan ahead.
  • Your Ticket to Magic Kingdom: Here I am scanning my Magic Band to get into the Magic Kingdom! My granddaughter and I went through security and up to the entrance to the park and scanned our Magic Band at the koisk (they can be made smaller for little ones) and we were in! I didn’t have to worry about digging thru my purse for our park passes or paper tickets. Can you feel the stress of getting in and out of the parks become much easier?
  • Souvenirs Purchases: You can also use your Magic Band to pay for any souvenirs you purchase during the day/night at any of the parks or Disney Springs as long as you have set-up your account with your resort.They will even deliver your package to back to your resort if you don’t want to carry it around the rest of the day.
  • Memory Maker Photo Package: Another amazing perk of your Magic Band is using it with your Memory Maker photo package. Whenever you have a photo taken with one of Disney’s photographers in the parks or you have a video or picture taken during one of their rides they will scan your Magic Band and it will go magically to your MyDisneyExperience account you have linked with your Magic Band. This is such an easy way to keep track of your vacation photos and my favorite perk . . . everyone (even Mom) can be in the picture!

If you’re not convinced yet … give me a call and I will share more with you.

Holiday Fun at Disney!

The holidays bring plenty of EXTRA fun at the most magical place on earth … Disney! Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is the happiest haunting on earth. You’ll enjoy plenty of treats and the park will be full of halloween themed entertainment and Disney Characters. And then there’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party which is a very jolly holiday party. All the Disney Characters wear special holiday attire and many of your favorite attractions take on a holiday theme.

  • If you want to attend the parties, you need a separate party ticket. Your park ticket WILL NOT get you access to the party.
  • If you are only going to the party that day (say you’re spending the rest of the day by the pool or one of those “other” attractions in Orlando), you DO NOT NEED a park ticket in conjunction with the party ticket, only the party ticket is needed. This is great if you want to do something off property during the day and still experience the party at night.
  • You are allowed in with that party ticket after 4pm (even if the party doesn’t start until 7pm). If you have the party ticket, they give you a wristband when you come in so that everyone knows you can stay for the party.
  • The tickets go up in price the day of so best to buy in advance (mine was $10 less by getting in advance).
  • If you order them well in advance, they will send plastic generic cards. If you order them a week or two out (if there is still space) they just load them on to your Magic Bands.
  • Dining reservations leading up to the parties will be hard to get. Any restaurants from 2pm on are typically full in Magic Kingdom on party days.
  • If you are staying OVER Halloween you can see the park transform from Halloween to Christmas. November 1 is the last day of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. The Christmas decorating begins immediately after to prepare for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party which begins on November 8. How cool would it be to hit both parties in a week!!

                     

Specifically for the Halloween Party

  • COSTUMES. Costumes are allowed and recommended. Many attendees wear costumes … even adults. Group costumes are very popular! Disney does have rules for the costumes. Click here for details.
  • CANDY. You get a LOT of candy so it’s best to bring a back pack or two per family. You get candy as you exit rides and they have candy stations throughout the park. I brought home a large ziplock and I wasn’t even trying to collect.
  • CHARACTERS. Some characters only come out for the Halloween Party – this is the only time of year to get pictures with all Seven Dwarf’s (over an hour), Jack Skellington (this wait is long). Ariel and Eric are together, Belle and Gaston and other “couples” appear who don’t typically appear together.
  • MAP. Be sure to grab a map. The Trick or Treat locations are marked by orange pumpkins and character locations by Mickey’s black silhouette.
  • CAST MEMBERS. There are cast members EVERYWHERE so just ask questions. I asked them about what character’s were a must see and where they were very helpful.
  • PARADE. Find your spot early. The Boo to You Parade is great – headless horsemen is pretty cool!
  • PIN COLLECTORS. For the pin collectors, there is a Not-So-Scary Halloween Party pin that you can only get at the party, plus other speciality souvenirs as well ONLY available at the party.
  • MEMORY MAKER. They will sell Memory Maker for ONE day, this gives you an option during the party to pay for one day to get the spooky magic shots! (similar to mine below)
  • DANCE PARTIES. You can attend the Monstrous Scream-O-Ween Ball and other dance parties. The characters will actually come out and dance with your kiddos. It’s worth it to go to see the joy in your child’s face when they are dancing with the characters!

If you LOVE Halloween or Christmas you should absolutely add these parties to your bucket list! It’s awesome to see the park all decked out for these holidays!

Group Travel to Walt Disney World

Planning for a large group trip to the most magical place on earth is only half the battle! Surviving the trip with several people, and many opinions and all different eating and sleeping patterns for many age groups is a completely different animal.

Here are some of my helpful tips when planning a group (large or small) trip to Walt Disney World: 

Follow a Schedule but be Flexible:
Having a plan and a schedule is a must, but make sure you do not over-schedule your days.  If the schedule is too strict, it becomes frustrating and hard to follow, especially if you fall behind on times, and end up missing important things on your agenda.  Be flexible!  If everyone is showing up 15-20 minutes late for your meeting time, be prepared to adjust a few things for the remainder of the day to stay happy and realistic.

Wear the Same Color:
Seriously.  You don’t have to be twinning, but the same color shirt makes life so much easier when at a theme park.  People are everywhere, and when you can spot the same blue/yellow/green (whatever color) colored shirt, you can gather much more quickly.  Bright colored shirts do work best.  If you are the one organizing the shirts to be ordered ahead of time, put the names on a spreadsheet, sizes next to it and order in bulk.

Appoint a Leader:
Most of the time, the person planning the trip, by default, becomes the leader during the trip as well.  You really need one person sort of in charge of the timeline, the schedule, the reservations, and the point person if problems arise during the trip.  Grab a co-leader to help if you need assistance getting the messages out to the other group members, maybe it’s via text, or calling.  Work together as leaders to corral everyone before a show or meal and help keep each other calm and happy.

      

Remind Everyone of Meet Times Each Day:
It’s always good to have a printed/emailed schedule for the entire trip, but daily reminders of what is happening that day and/or the next day, before going your separate ways that night are good.  Designated meet-up times are important for group photos, communication of any last minute changes, or problem/issues.

Plan for Everything to Take Longer:
If a normal meal will take you 45 minutes to an hour, add on another hour to that.  For groups to be seated, brought their drinks, appetizers, food, desserts, etc always takes so much longer.  Relax and enjoy the experience and understand that basically everything takes about twice as long as normal.  Communicate that to the group as well, so they are just as relaxed and are expecting it to take longer also.

Good luck in your group adventure to the most magical place on earth. I have helped many groups, multigenerational families, and my own family and friends take wonderful trips, and we not only survived, but we had a ton of fun! I can help you too!

      

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.

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.