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.

I’m planning a destination wedding in 2+ years. What should I be doing now to plan?

The hardest part for most wedding couples is finding the perfect destination. When you have 2+ years to plan this allows you to take your time, and with the help of their knowledgeable travel specialist, find the perfect destination for your special day. Will it be a beach in Mexico? A chateaux in France? Or a wine estate in South Africa? The possibilities are endless!

Here are a few other things to start thinking about:

  • Destination Options. Consider where you and your fiancé have traveled in the past and what you liked or disliked about those experiences.
  • Wedding Party. Who do you want as your attendants? You want to give them plenty of advance notice to save for the trip.
  • Guest List. You want to send out save the dates early to give your guests plenty of time to save and plan for the trip. Will you be inviting children?
  • Ceremony. Consider if you want a religious ceremony and if so, which denomination. Do you want to get married on the beach? In a sheltered area? On the ship or in port?
  • Location of Guests. Consider the airports that your guests will be flying from. Does it make sense to choose a destination with nonstop flight options for most of your guests?
  • Cruise or Resort. When considering resorts or cruise ships for your wedding, you’ll need to consider the demographics of your guests.  Are they couples, families with children, singles (young or old), elderly grandparents, disabled guests with special needs and any divorced couples. Any of these things could affect some of your choices.
  • Vendors. Your wedding will have endless picture perfect moments so you should book a photographer early.  The music really sets the mood so look at DJ, band or playlist options. Who doesn’t enjoy a good meal … review meal options for your guests and consider tastes and allergies of your guest list. Decorations are also important if you have a theme in mind and you can work with your agent and wedding coordinator to set the tone.

A knowledgable travel advisor can be your guide through many of these questions and help match you to the right kind of destination wedding experience.

Advice From Couples Who Tied the Knot in Mexico.

While planning a wedding is always stressful, throwing one in Mexico comes with its own sets of challenges. Before you decide to jet off to tie the knot here’s some advice from real-life brides that will guarantee a successful out-of-town celebration.

See the venue in person. 
Many resorts are now offering a “Test Drive” package where the bride and groom can visit the resort prior to the wedding. 
This will give the wedding couple a chance to see the resort, meet with the wedding coordinator, and check out possible wedding locations. It’s great to put faces with names and discuss details in person as sometimes there are delays in email responses.

Arrive early.
The wedding couple should arrive at the resort a few days before their guests do. In Mexico there is a residency requirement that must be met and it varies by hotel so make sure you know what yours is.

Add an extra day.
Once your guests leave stay an extra day or two so you can relax and unwind. You will be busy with pre-wedding activities and visiting with guests that you will want a day to relax before you head home to the daily grind.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.
You and your guests are going to remember the beautiful sunset during the wedding ceremony, not the centerpieces, bouquets and place cards. So if you can, cut out these details and keep it simple!

You won’t necessarily save money.
There’s a big misconception that hosting a wedding in a location like Mexico will save money. 
The truth is, even if you have fewer attendees, you’ll probably end up shelling out more on an entire weekend’s worth of events. But it will be a wedding full of memories for everyone.

 

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.

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!

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.

Wedding Destination Test Drive

Picking the perfect destination for your wedding can be very stressful and with all of the options on the internet, very confusing. Not only does it need to be the perfect destination to start your happily ever after, it needs to be the perfect destination for your guests. Have you ever thought of taking a wedding preview trip? I can help you weed through all of the destinations and resorts out there and when we find one that just might fit the bill you can take a short trip to the resort and check it out!! How perfect would that be?

While in destination you can look at the different wedding venues, meet the wedding coordinator and if you are in Mexico or the Caribbean, take in the tropical beauty that surrounds you. Some resort chains offer special package prices that allow you to get a sneak peek of what’s in store for your destination wedding. And you can sample wedding linens and cake options., yummy!

Let’s schedule your wedding test drive and getting the planning underway!

 

Halloween with Mickey!

When you think of Disney you probably think about rides and characters and food. But did you know that during the year they have special events and one of the events that takes place during the fall is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? This annual event takes place on select nights and promises to be a frightfully fun evening! Everyone gets to put on their favorite costume, even your favorite Disney characters, and trick-or-treat around Magic Kingdom! You do need to purchase a separate ticket for this event and for guests who do not purchase a ticket they are asked to leave Magic Kingdom at 7PM. Bummer! Magic Kingdom is decorated with pumpkins and grinning ghosts so be on the lookout. And don’t worry, this event is called not-so-scary and that means children of every age can enjoy in the fun. Be ware, while Disney encourages you to be creative they also value safety and good judgment so there are rules that must be followed.

General

  • Disney reserves the right to deny admission to or remove any person wearing attire that is considered inappropriate or attire that could detract from the experience of other Guests.
  • All Guests may dress as their favorite character, but may not pose for pictures or sign autographs for other Guests.
  • Costumes must be family-friendly and may not be obstructive, offensive, objectionable or violent.
  • Costumes may not contain any weapons that resemble or could easily be mistaken for an actual weapon.
  • Costumes may not contain sharp objects, pointed objects or materials that may accidentally strike another Guest.
  • Guests who do not adhere to these guidelines may be refused entry into, and/or removed from, unless his or her costume can be modified to meet the above standards.

For Guests ages 13 and under:

  • Costumes and some masks may be worn, as long as the mask does not cover the entire face and eyes are visible.

For Guests ages 14 and older:

  • Layered costumes or costume props that surround the entire body are strongly discouraged and may be subject to additional security screening.
  • Costumes may not reach or drag on the ground. (e.g.,full-length Princess dresses)
  • Capes may be worn if the length does not go below the waist.
  • Themed T-shirts, blouses, sweatshirts, and hats are acceptable.
  • Acceptable accessories include: transparent wings, plastic light sabers, toy swords, and tutus. Headwear may be worn as long as it does not cover the face.
  • Masks of any kind may not be worn.

I know, rules are never fun, but you don’t want to be kicked out of the party! If you are traveling during this special time you don’t want to miss this event! And remember, nobody does it like Disney.

Honeymoon Hopping

The Hawaiian Islands, how do you pick the right one for your honeymoon? Easy, you don’t have to pick just 1 island, you can hop to multiple islands!! Each island offers something different and I am here to help you find the perfect fit. Let’s explore a few of the islands….

O’ahu

In so many ways, O’ahu is ideal for the first-time visitor to Hawaii. Within a fairly compact area there are many iconic activities and attractions associated with the Hawaiian Islands: Pearl Harbor, Waikiki beach, Diamond Head, pineapple fields, surfing beaches, just to name a few. O’ahu provides a unique town and country experience. The energy and excitement of this city is just a short drive from the true country experience or nature excursions and working ranches. O’ahu appeals to clients who are active and energetic in both body and mind. This area is rich in culture, arts, history and cuisine. (Don’t forget to try Spam- it is very popular in Hawaii!!!) You can take surfing lessons, paddle an outrigger canoe and if you travel north you can go horseback riding.

Maui

This island is ideal for travelers seeking variety and spontaneous adventure and offers countless experiences that reflect its diversity of landscape and culture. Get up early and bike down Haleakala Crater, the sunrise is amazing and you won’t be disappointed. Take a drive along the road to Hana—this is about a 50 mile drive, but it takes you about 2 1/2 hours and the views are amazing! You have to share the road with fellow travelers so make sure one of you keeps their eyes on the road! Whale watching is a popular excursion on this island and if you go between mid-November to mid-May there are amazing opportunities to see the humpback whales. If  you visit during the summer months the whales will be up in Alaska so keep this in mind if whale watching is on your list.

Kauai

If you have not been to Hawaii before I’m certain that the Hawaii you envision looks and feels like Kauai. This island personifies the ideal of tropical paradise and countless movies and TV shows have been filmed here. On Kauai you will find white sand beaches, lush rain forests and groves of coconut palms. If you are seeking the ultimate romantic destination, whether it’s for a wedding, vow renewal or honeymoon, or are seeking a respite from your busy, over-scheduled life then Kauai is the island for you. For the more adventurous  you can hike through Waimea Canyon, kayak down one of the many rivers, zip line over a rain forest or explore the Napali Coast on a Zodiac raft.

Hawaii Island

Better known as the Big Island- This island offers just about every type of landscape associated with Hawaii. On the Kona-Kohala coast you will find black lava fields spreading out below as your plane lands.  Surely you don’t think of this when you think Hawaii. You will also find snow, yes snow, on this island in the mountains of Maunakea and Maunaloa. Typically when clients first visit this island they will visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, with a stop at the Kilauea Visitors Center and Thomas A Jagger Museum, and then ending with a drive along Chain of Craters Road. Taking a helicopter ride over the Big Island would be a great way for you to see the contrasting landscape, fiery lava flows, volcanic steam, lush rainforest, rock lava plans, black and white sand beaches and stunning valleys, waterfalls and coastlines only visible by air.

When you are ready to honeymoon island hop let me know!

Summer Salad … Disney Style!

Summer is upon us!  If you are like me you’re always looking for a new dish to bring to all of your summer gatherings. Well you are in luck! I have one to share with you. And not only can you make this at home, you can also overindulge in it when you dine at 1900 Park Fare at the  at Disney World.

Broccoli Slaw

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb Broccoli florets
1/4 cup Cashew Halves
1/4 cup Cooked/diced Bacon
1/4 cup Red Onion- small, diced
1/4 cup Raisins
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 tbsp Sugar
A Dash of  Salt

Directions:

  1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a 4-quart pan.
  2. Add Broccoli florets and cook for approximately 3 minutes or until barely tender. Cool thoroughly in ice water. Darin completely.
  3. Cut bacon into small pieces and cook in sauté pan until crisp. Drain off excess grease and cool.
  4. Add small red onion.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the diced red onion, raisins, mayonnaise, sugar, and cashews.
  6. Add the thoroughly cooked broccoli and cooked bacon.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Mix gently but thoroughly.
  9. Refrigerate until served.

Enjoy!!

 

Mandy Visits Puerto Vallarta

In June 2016 my husband and I took our first trip to Puerto Vallarta and we had a blast! On our flight down we upgraded ourselves to first class and this is the way to go. If you have never done it I highly suggest you try it. All you can eat and drink, bigger seats and more leg room. We stayed at the RIU Jalisco and were told we had the best view in the hotel- full ocean view! It is such a treat when you come from a cold weather state to open your shades in the morning and see the ocean and hear the waves. The hotel is very large so there could be a lot of walking depending on where your room is located. The food is yummy, the hotel is clean and the staff is friendly.

When I am in a new location I like to take a tour to really get to know the destination so one day during our vacation we did this. Puerto Vallarta is not as Americanized as other Mexican destinations which allows you to have a more cultural experience. We visited a church that was built by the local residents who donated whatever material they had at home to build it. It was gorgeous! We also visited a flea market where we did a little bartering for our souvenirs and then visited a fourth generation home where organic tequila is made. I am not one to drink tequila but this tequila is yummy! Nice and smooth:-)

During one of the evenings we did an excursion called “Rhythms of the Night” and I highly recommend this tour.  I would describe it as Mexico’s version of a luau- you take about an hour long boat ride, where you are served unlimited snacks and drinks,  to the cove of Las Caletas. You dine under the stars at your own private beachside table bathed in the soft glow of candles. After dinner you walk over to the theater and the show begins. The dancers tell the story of ancient civilization through movement and music. Take my word for it, you don’t want to miss this show!

When you are ready to plan your adventure to Puerto Vallarta let me know, I am happy to help!

 

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Mandy goes to Disney World

In May 2016 I was fortunate enough to travel to one of my most favorite places…Disney World!! I am that girl who walks through the parks with a big smile on her face just happy as can be. I stayed at the Grand Floridian and wow, this hotel is nice! From the fragrant flower bouquets, friendly staff and being right on the monorail, this place has it all. Just a quick ride on the monorail and you are at Magic Kingdom, the happiest place on earth. While at Magic Kingdom I went on 2 of my most favorite rides- Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World.

While at Disney I also did site inspections at a few other hotels and one of the hotels was the Caribbean Beach. At this hotel they have pirate rooms and they are cool! If you have any little “pirates” in your family they would love to stay in one of these rooms. Something to keep in mind though is that if you are tall, this room type is not for you. There is no room for your feet to hang off the end of the bed and therefore you might not get the best night sleep. These rooms are also located in the last buildings at the hotel so it is about a 10-15 minute walk to the lobby.

Another hotel we visited was the Wilderness Lodge. If you like the rustic, outdoor feeling then this hotel is the perfect fit. We ate at the Whispering Canyon restaurant where they serve western fare. Be ready for a rowdy crowd and the foolish, outrageous and amusing behaviors from the wait staff.

When you are ready to plan your next Disney World vacation I would be happy to help and share of my hints and tricks with you!

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Mandy Visits Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach

The Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach resort in Cabo San Lucas is gorgeous. It is a very large property and very spread out but there are golf carts running nonstop to take you where you want to go. This hotel has more of a Mexican feel to it, different from the contemporary resorts that are becoming more common. The Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach resort is not within walking distance of town so you would need to take a taxi if you wanted to check out exciting Cabo. There is a sky pool at this resort with absolutely amazing views and it would be perfect for a private party. There is also a chapel where you could have a legal wedding ceremony.

Rooms- very spacious with full kitchens

Beach- located on a private beach but it is not swimmable. However, you can take a courtesy shuttle to nearby Medano beach which is one of the best swimmable beaches in Los Cabos.

Overall impression- beautiful, large property, amazing views

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Mandy Visits Breathless Cabo San Lucas

Breathless is new to Cabo San Lucas and is located on Medano beach which is the safest swimmable beach in Cabo. You are also just steps away from the infamous Cabo San Lucas nightlife, restaurants and shops. All suites have private balconies with ocean or marina views. Breathless is more of a “party” hotel and what I like about it is that it is two separate buildings, one for the active nightlife and the other, quieter one, for sleeping. There is no swim up bar at this hotel but the infinity pool overlooking the ocean is gorgeous.

Rooms- if you have a room with a king bed it is positioned towards the balcony so the first thing you see when you wake up is the water. The rooms also have tablets that allow you to order room service and watch Netflix if you have an account but the tablets must stay in the room. All rooms also offer free Wi-Fi.

I was not able to check out any of the restaurants but there are 8 of them along with 4 bars/loungers.

Overall impression- clean, great location, friendly staff.

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