Holidays at Disney

If there’s one thing that Disney does right it’s holiday celebrations. From New Years to Christmas and every holiday in between there is always some type of event or celebration in honor of that holiday. And while some holidays mean there will be a potential for higher crowds, the experience of the parks for the holidays is something everyone should experience.

Christmas

The Christmas season is probably the most well-known Disney celebration there is. Disney normally decorates for the Christmas season the first weekend after Halloween. It is started in the middle of the night and done in phases. Because Magic Kingdom hosts Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party there is a need to get that park ready first. From that point, all parks and resorts decorate as well.

Wilderness Lodge Christmas Tree

Wilderness Lodge Decoration

From park entrance to rides to shops to restaurants the decorations are fantastic. There are wreaths, trees, lights, garlands, bows, candles, Christmas songs, Christmas smells, and even Christmas costumes for the characters. And that’s even without attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

Magic Kingdom Christmas Tree

Magic Kingdom Decorations

And if you are there for Christmas make time to visit the Contemporary, the Grand Floridian, and the Wilderness Lodge. The decorations at these resorts are intricate and the details are amazing.  And you HAVE to see the full size gingerbread house in the lobby of the Grand Floridian that serves as a small shop that sells cookies and other treats.

Gingerbread House

Grand Floridian Gingerbread House

Fourth of July

My husband and I visited Disney during Fourth of July weekend a few years ago and I was very impressed by the patriotic displays both with decorations and fireworks. Disney celebrates America’s independence with honor, dignity, and amazing flair with their shows, parades, and fireworks. We stayed at Magic Kingdom for their fireworks show our first night (July 3rd) because we also wanted to see the Disney Studios celebration the next night (July 4th). While initially a thunderstorm caused the fireworks celebration to be delayed, sticking it out through the storm was completely worth it. The music and fireworks were breathtaking. From our view in the hub I could spin around and see all 360 degrees of fireworks, and even enjoy the fireworks that were shot of from the front of the park in conjunction with the main show. I’ll admit that when the show was over I was wiping tears from my eyes.

The show at Disney Studios was more contemporary and involved fireworks synchronized with music from all different time periods, from the 40s through present day. The atmosphere for the show was both patriotic and fun and we were definitely glad to have made both shows

Disney studios fireworks

Disney Studios Fireworks

Easter

Easter is a busy time at the parks with many families visiting as part of spring break vacations. But Easter celebrations also fall in line with the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival so you get not only Easter decorations but also the spring setting brought with the beautiful topiaries and displays throughout Epcot. The hotels around Magic Kingdom have displays of intricate Easter eggs made of chocolate or other foods and the Easter Bunny makes an appearance at Magic Kingdom. And, if you forget to pack your own, you can order an Easter basket to be delivered to your room!

 

Disney is a celebration no matter when you visit, but if your trip happens to fall during a holiday period, you can bet that you will find your trip has a little extra magic.

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What Is the Magical Express?

Are you flying to Disney and worried about how you are going to get from the airport to the resort? Don’t! Disney has a plan for that to ensure that from the moment you check in at your home airport that they can help you limit your travel stress.

What is it?

The Magic Express is the shuttle bus service that carries guests from Orlando International Airport to all Disney Resorts 24 hours a day – 7 days a week. They also provide return service at the end of your vacation (though that trip it’s often referred to as the “tragical express”).

ME Bus Front

The front of the Magical Express

How does it work?

When you book your trip, you will need to ask your travel agent to include Magical Express as part of your package booking. You will need to provide flight information (once you have it) to ensure that they have you on the schedule and factor your travel party into travel needs. When you land at Orlando International Airport you will make your way to the Magical Express area, where you will check in and wait for your bus. Each bus travels to multiple resorts and travel time from the airport to your resort is about 30 minutes (depending on traffic).

ME Airport Line

Sign for lines at Magical Express area in Orlando International Airport

What is the cost?

Using the Magical Express is free!  There is no cost for traveling back and forth between the airport and the resort.

What about my luggage?

When you book the Magical Express, you will receive yellow luggage tags prior to your departure. You will place these on your luggage before checking your luggage at your departure airport. From there you will not touch your luggage until it is delivered to your resort room (with some exceptions). Disney will pull your luggage at the airport and deliver it to the appropriate hotel.  The time from landing to luggage receipt is approximately 3 hours.

ME Luggage Tag

Magical Express Yellow Luggage Tag

What about when I go home?

The day before you depart you will receive travel paperwork that provides a pickup time for your return Magical Express trip. Pickup time is normally 3-hours prior to your airplane departure time and you will be picked up just outside your resort. The day of your departure you can use the resort airline check in (following hours of operation) and check your luggage. Disney will get it to the airport and ensure it is loaded on your return flight. You can then travel to the airport with no worries, spending time at the parks before you leave, if you desire.

Are there any limitations?

If you arrive at Orlando International Airport after 10:00 p.m. you will need to pick up your luggage from the carousel and take it with you to the Magical Express. The bus driver will load your luggage for you and unload it at the resort.

What if I do not receive my yellow tags?

Never fear! Sometimes the mail has troubles and you will not receive your yellow tags in time. If this happens, no worries. When you arrive at the Magical Express area at Orlando International Airport you will provide the Cast Member with your bag check confirmation tag (received when you initially checked your bags). They will enter that into their system and still have the ability to pull your luggage and deliver it to the resort.

What if my bags don’t arrive at my resort room or I get the wrong bags?

It happens (in fact it’s happened to me). If you arrive at the resort and have found the wrong bags in your room or after that three-hour window still do not have your bags you should contact the resort front desk who will connect you with a Cast Member who specializes in the Magical Express system. They will track your bags and assist you in making sure you get your luggage or are taken care of.

 

If your vacation does not involve leaving Disney property, the Magical Express is a great opportunity to take care of your airport transfers with minimal hassle. It’s also a great way to start and end your vacation with a little bit more Disney Magic.

Review – Art of Animation

If you are like me your Disney hotel room is normally just a location for you to keep your bags, sleep, and grab a shower. When I go to Disney my focus is visiting the parks, not being at the hotel. However, as my two boys have grown, the standard value resort didn’t provide the space that we needed to be comfortable when we did spend time in the room.

Cue, the Art of Animation Family Suites. With a separate bedroom with a full bathroom, a double sofa bed, a kitchen table that converts into a double bed, a small kitchenette area, and a second full bathroom, the Family Suite offered exactly what we were looking for.

We were already familiar with the layout, so when I booked the vacation we chose the Cars Family Suite. The Cars buildings are closest to the main building, pool, and bus stop. It meant a shorter walk to get drinks in the morning or at the end of a long day.

Positives

Indoor Corridors – If you are like me, indoor corridors provide you a bit more sense of security. Not only does it mean that your hotel door doesn’t open directly to the outside, but it also provided a noise barrier from other guests, so when they came back late or were noisy leaving in the morning, we didn’t hear it as much as we have in other hotels.

Layout – Having a separate bedroom with the queen bed was nice. On this particular trip, we found ourselves with a bit more down time hanging at the hotel. Instead of feeling like we were on top of each other even in the hotel room we were able to spread out a little and have a few more space. And it had two full-size bathrooms! Talk about a win!

Refrigerator – Disney has placed refrigerators in all hotel rooms (or at least most of them). In the Family Suite, the refrigerator was a bit larger than the standard dorm room size, so we were able to store more items in there during the week.

Kitchenette – Having a separate kitchen sink was fantastic. It allowed us to rinse out our refillable mugs and dry them while still leaving the bathroom sinks for brushing our teeth and washing hands. There were also paper towels, and if we were coffee drinkers, the ability to make coffee in a separate area would have been nice.

“Kitchen” Table – I am one of those parents that gets their children’s homework when they will miss school for a trip. So, having a decent size table with chairs for my boys to sit at and complete their homework was nice. And the fact that it provided us a third bed option so they didn’t have to share a bed made for peaceful nights.

Dining-Murphy Bed

Transportation – At first, I was concerned that only having the bus as an option for park transportation would be a negative. But Art of Animation doesn’t share a bus with any other resort. There is a dedicated bus for the resort and they cycle as frequently as they do at other resorts. Additionally, if you find the Art of Animation bus full, you can board a bus for Pop Century, and make the short walk across a footbridge to your hotel.

Theming – The theming of the entire hotel is phenomenal. I’ve stayed in the Little Mermaid Standard room and the Cars Family Suite, and walked my way around the entire property. In true Disney fashion, you are transported into the movies that are represented at the resort. You can hear Timon and Pumba, imagine Lightning stopping at Luigi’s, and see Sebastian singing with the fish in the sea. It truly was phenomenal the details. In our room the dressers looked like rolling toolboxes and the light covers were orange road cones. It is probably one of the most well done resorts I’ve stayed at.

Sofa Bed

Sofa bed. Notice the road cone light and the artwork

However, while there are many positives, there were some things that left some room for improvement (because let’s be honest, being at Disney it’s hard to say anything is negative).

Areas for Improvement

Food Court – I certainly do not expect five-star gourmet dining experiences at the Art of Animation I was disappointed with the layout of the food. Like most of the food courts there were separate lines for each of the main options (i.e. pasta/pizza, grill, chicken, dessert, etc). Unfortunately, because of the layout, when the food court was busy all of the lines seemed to run together and become confusing and congested. The lines to pay for your food also formed into the same area, adding even more to the confusion.

Secondary Pools – The Big Blue Pool is the main pool for the resort. The Nemo themed pool offers swimming areas for older guests and a splash pad area for the younger guests. However, The Cars Family Suite area and the Little Mermaid areas each have their own pools. Unfortunate, we found them to be less than stellar. While they provided a quiet getaway if you didn’t want the hustle and bustle of the main pool, but they never seemed quite as “good”. They didn’t provide the space for play that my kids were looking for. They were good, just not GREAT.

Conclusion

Overall my experience with the Art of Animation resort has been fantastic. It has become my top recommendation for clients when they are looking for a price friendly resort but want a top-notch Disney resort experience.

 

Considering a Disney vacation? Contact me for a no obligation quote for your next vacation. I can be reached via e-mail: travelkaren@comcast.net.

 

The opinions expressed in this post are mine and I received no compensation for this review.

Saving For Your Disney Vacation

I often hear from clients, friends, and anyone who knows how much I love traveling to Disney how expensive trips are. Of course, Disney vacations can be expensive I tell them, but with good planning and taking advantage of the savings opportunities Disney vacations can be more affordable.

Have you heard about the Disney Vacation Savings Account? The Disney Vacation Savings Account is an online savings account that allows you save for your vacation while also earning a bit of spending money as well.

How Does It Work?

When you create a Disney Vacation Savings Account you are asked to select your desired trip month and year and your goal date is then set based on the final payment date. For instance, if your desired trip is in October 2017, then you will need to reach your savings goal in August to make your final payment in September.

You are also asked what your goal savings amount is. This can be however much or however little you think you might need for your trip. The money you save can be used towards tickets, resort, dining plan, memory maker, and airline travel booked through Disney.

Once you’ve set your goal savings amount you then choose how frequently you want to make deposits to your account. You can choose monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly and then based on the amount and the deadline it will calculate how much is being deposited each time.

Once you have entered your account information you are set.

Pros

You don’t have to think about putting that money aside. Once set up the deposits are made automatically. The only time you may have to make changes is if your financial account information changes.

–For every $1000 you spend from your savings account, Disney will send you a $20 Disney Gift Card. This gives you some spending money for your trip.

–You can get a refund without penalty. If you decide to cancel your trip or have saved more money then you end up needing for your vacation, you can request a refund of those funds with no penalty.

–You can’t access the money quickly. This account can’t be used as an “emergency” account to pay for those last-minute fixes (i.e. broken A/C or car repairs)

Cons

–Unlike a standard savings account, these accounts do not earn interest. So, if you use this instead of a bank savings account you will not earn any interest while your account has a balance.

–If you need immediate access to the money, the refund request may take a bit of time to process. So, if you are looking to have an “emergency” fund in conjunction with your vacation account, this is not account for you.

 

Saving for your Disney vacation is easier with this option and definitely something to consider!

 

I did not receive compensation for my review of the Disney Vacation Savings Account.

 

Interested in a no obligation quote, contact me via e-mail: travelkaren@comcast.net

 

What Are You Looking For In a Vacation?

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When it comes to vacations there are so many options to choose from that sometimes it can be overwhelming and make you not even want to go anywhere. Knowing what you are looking for and the experience you want to get from your getaway is important to understand when beginning your planning process.

Stay or Go

In recent years, the trend of planning a “staycation” has increased. A staycation is when you enjoy time close to home, not booking flights or hotels and taking advantage of the opportunities closer to home. This may be a national park, a theme park, a beach, pool, or other activities. There are some great upsides to a staycation.  You’ll probably save money. You aren’t paying for overnight stays or transportation. You can eat meals at home, instead of eating all meals out.

If you take a true vacation you have an opportunity to see the world, or at least a new location. You not only get a change of location, but can take yourself away from some of the stressors of everyday life. You don’t get your mail, can ignore phone calls, and can relax from the everyday stress. Vacation often finds people participating in experiences that they would not normally do if they were at home (parasailing, scuba diving, hiking, etc) because those opportunities aren’t available around their house.

Relaxing or Active

Another decision you should make before booking your trip is whether you want a relaxing vacation or an active one. Many people enjoy a vacation where they can truly put their feet up and not do anything, escaping completely from the responsibilities of every day life. Some people what a vacation where they are constantly on the go, with activities and events their entire trip. And others look for a vacation that is a mix of both, allowing for down-time while also ensuring they get to enjoy activities. The type of experience you are looking for may dictate the location you choose for a vacation. For example, the beach is a great place to go when you are looking to relax, while a theme park or large city is a great place to go when you are looking for an active vacation.

All-Inclusive or Pay-as-you-go

Many travelers are turning to all-inclusive options when booking their vacations. All-inclusive vacations allow you to pay for all aspects of the vacation (food, drinks, lodging, and associated fees/taxes) in the cost of the vacation. It ensures that you know the price upfront to help with budgeting. When you book an all-inclusive vacation package you are able to budget for the specific cost, with only souvenirs or other last minute costs occurring during the actual vacation itself. Pay-as-you-go vacations meant that at booking you pay for the basics. You may book lodging and transportation, but pay for food and activities while on your vacation. While this gives you flexibility in your vacation activities and planning, you are not able to budget as strongly as you can when booking an all-inclusive vacation.

 

Knowing what you want out of your vacation is important to make sure that when your vacation is over, you have nothing but positive memories.

 

Let me help you figure out the best vacation for you! Contact me to being the process!

The McCormick Scottsdale

Set on the shores of Camelback Lake, the McCormick Scottsdale overlooks the McCormick Ranch Golf Club and McDowell mountains. With splendid views and warm Southwestern hospitality, the lakeside hotel is convenient to Phoenix and Paradise Valley, Arizona. Downtown Scottsdale is just minutes away with world-class shopping, art galleries, and dining options.

Book by May 31 to receive complimentary breakfast with your stay!

Contact me for more information and to book now!

 

Savings on Travel to Caribbean and Mexico

Variety is truly the spice of life. Lucky for you, Meliá’s collection of all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean offer a full range of distinctive vacation experiences. Looking for a luxurious getaway for two or a fun-filled family vacation? There is a Meliá resort for you.

Meliá Resorts – these retreats are internationally known for their consistently friendly service. So if your family is looking to be treated like royalty, you can choose from Meliá Resorts in Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos, Punta Cana, and Jamaica.

Gran Meliá in Puerto Rico is a sophisticated gem. Located on a lush peninsula minutes from San Juan, this��hotel offers elegant spacious suites and unsurpassed RedGlove Service.

Paradisus Resorts – these idyllic luxury resorts in Cancún and Punta Cana blend in beautifully with their natural surroundings. Couples, families, and friends will all enjoy a truly distinctive experience in these special getaways.

The Reserve – all-new, all-inclusive boutique style resorts in Punta Cana providing exclusive accommodations specially designed with families in mind.

ME by Meliá – the ME by Meliá resort experiences in Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos and Cancún are ideal to take a break from the norm. Guests can expect to be immersed in contemporary design, international cuisine, the latest technology, and cutting edge music.

Contact me to book your trip now!