Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Disney is only for kids??? NO WAY!!!!!

So far, I have visited Disney World, Disneyland, or sailed on the Disney Cruise line without my children 8 times. And let me tell was awesome!

There is a HUGE misconception that Disney vacations are only for families with kids. That is SO not true! There are so many amazing things to do that aren't even designed for kids. And yeah...we have a ton of fun doing the kid stuff without them, too!

So here's a list of awesome things to experience without the kids!

~ Epcot's World Showcase.  Let's be real here. Despite Disney's efforts, World Showcase is just not that exciting for the kids. My kids have always enjoyed it. They loved exploring each country and it's shops. They love filling their passports and participating in the KidCot stations and the Agent P Adventure, but many do not. During the trip with just me and my mom, we spend an entire day in World Showcase, eating, browsing, seeing all the films. It was an amazing day. With my hubby, we try all the fun drinks. I love the atmosphere. I love to just sit and relax and soak it in.

~ Bars, Lounges, and Beverage Stands. I openly admit I enjoy adult beverages, and Disney has some amazing ones in 3 of their parks- Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. (Magic Kingdom is a dry park except for the sit down restaurants.) Plus all the unique options at Disney Springs and the resorts. So many fun options! And how about the Disney Cruise Line? They really have some great places with yummy offerings!

~ Adult Only Pools on the Disney Cruise Line. Yep. Every Disney ship has pool areas only for adults, where you can rest and relax in the sun and some drinks, and no kids.

~ Adult Only Entertainment on the Disney Cruise Line. There are all kinds of shows and games that are only for adults. Trivia, interactive games, comedians, etc. SO much fun!

~ Signature Dining Experiences. There are restaurants at Disney World and on the Disney Cruise line where children are not allowed. Victoria and Albert's at the Grand Floridian is for those 10 and over only. Also, Remy and Palo on the Disney Cruise Line are for adults only.

~ Tours. Oh my! So many fun tours to do, and many are not for kids or only for those 12 and up! Backstage Magic, Keys to the Kingdom, Backstage Magic Trains tour, Epcot Sea Adventures, Wilderness Back Trail Adventure, plus many more! On the Disney Cruise Line there are several port adventures that young children are not allowed to participate in.

In general, we enjoy going without our kids because we can go at our own pace, sit and relax instead of running off to the next attraction. We don't mind waiting in long lines because we don't have kids complaining or in need of entertaining. There's no one complaining about the heat or how much their feet hurt. There's no one asking for every souvenir they see. We can ride Tower of Terror 10 times in a row if we want (though we only made it to 5). We can eat at all the unique places without worrying if they have something the kids will like.

But with all that said, every time I'm there without my kids, I can't wait to plan the next trip so we can have a great family adventure :)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Character Autographs!

One of the most fun--and most inexpensive--things for kids to do in Disney is collect character autographs! Almost every character they encounter will be more than happy to scribble their name for you. Some even drawn pictures! And it makes the whole meet n greet experience even better.

Most importantly, you need an autograph book! They are sold in every gift shop on Disney property. There are simple books filled with blank pages. They hold the most autographs. Or there are photo/autograph combo books. These are the ones I like! One side has a blank page for signing, the other a clear sleeve for you to place a photo of you and the character. These books do hold less autographs though. There are lots of other options for autograph books, if you don't want one from Disney. There are tons of websites that sell them. There are even hand-made ones on sites like etsy. Or a fun notepad works, too. If you want to get creative, make your own!!

Next, make sure you have a signing implement on hand. Something thick works best, like a Sharpie or fat pen. Characters sometimes have a hard time holding small pens, pencils, or markers.

After you've waited patiently in line and it's your turn, have your book open to the page you'd like the character to sign on and hand them your pen or Sharpie. Face characters (like princesses, who do not have a full mask or "head") will often ask your name and chat while they sign. It's a fun experience. They always do autographs first, then pose for photos.

An FYI...certain characters do not sign autographs because they are physically unable, like Mike and Sully, Buzz Lightyear, Baymax, and Beast.

Young kids, maybe up to age 4, don't really "get" what's going on with autographs. I suggest waiting until they are older and really understand. My daughter had no interest until she was five. She noticed other kids getting autographs and just had to do it too! Not to say some younger kids won't be interested, but honestly, if they are real little, it might be better just to focus on them meeting and interacting with the characters.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Why I love the Disney Dining Plan!

There is tons of debate on the web as to whether or not the Disney Dining Plan is worth it. In my opinion, it varies from person to person and their individual vacationing style. I personally love it, and here are my reasons why!

- It's all paid for ahead of time.

The Disney Dining Plan is a package addition and needs to be paid in full 30 days prior to arrival. That means all my food is paid for and I don't have to worry about it when I'm there. I've done trips without it and honestly, it's a big pain to pay for my food every time and worry about not going over budget. (PS- gratuities for tase service restaurants are not included. That needs to be paid at the time of service.)

- Snacks!

One of the most fun parts is all the great snacks you can try. Pretty much anything under $6 is considered a snack credit on the dining plan and there are so many wonderful things. You can even use snack credits for items during the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot.

- The ability to order the most expensive meal on the menu and not feel guilty for spending that much $ on one meal.

I'm a money-saving budgeter. Even when I try to splurge and not think about the cost, I do. I can't help it! But when we have the Disney Dining Plan, I can order anything I want with no worries.

- I like to save $.

The Disney Dining Plan can definitely save you some money. Many will say it doesn't for them, and that is true. If you are a light eater and share meals, don't like to order dessert, or if character and family style all-you-care-to-enjoy type of meals do not appeal to you, the plan is not the best option. But we love to eat! And we love buffets and family-style meals. If you have kids aged 3-9, you definitely save a nice chunk of money! The kids plan is really cheap! And new for 2018, adults aged 21 and over can order an alcoholic beverage with every meal! That's a great perk!!

And if you need a quick run down of what the Disney Dining Plan is, here you go!

There are 3 plans to choose from:

The Quick Service Dining Plan includes 2 counter meals per night of your trip for each person on the reservation, as well as two snacks per night and a refillable mug for the resort’s beverage station. Counter meals consist of a non-alcoholic or specialty beverage, or an alcoholic beverage for guests over 21 years of age, and an entrée. These meals are ordered at a podium and are ready within a few minutes. You can choose from a wide variety of restaurants with varied cuisines. Snack credits can be used on a variety of things, such as popcorn, soft pretzels, ice cream bars, beverages, coffee, etc…

The Disney Dining Plan includes 1 table service meal per night, 1 quick service meal per night, 2 snacks per night, and a refillable mug for the resort’s beverage station. Table service meals include most character meals, buffets, and a la carte restaurants all around Disney’s parks, resorts, and Disney Springs. Meals include a non-alcoholic or specialty beverage, or an alcoholic beverage for guests over 21 years of age, and an entree and dessert. Gratuity is not included. Guests must pay that separately. Signature meals use two table service credits. Quick service meals are ordered at a counter and when ready, presented on a tray. They include a non-alcoholic or specialty beverage, or an alcoholic beverage for guests over 21 years of age, and an entrée. There are many locations all around the Disney property. Snack credits can be used on a variety of things, such as popcorn, soft pretzels, ice cream bars, beverages, coffee, etc…

The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan includes 3 meal credits per night of the package that can be used for either counter meals or table service, as well as 2 snacks per night and a refillable mug for the resort’s beverage station. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Top 5 Thrill Rides!

I'm a big fan of thrill rides!! How about you??? Here are my top 5 Disney World thrills!!!

Tower of Terror

The second you walk up to the Hollywood Tower Hotel inside Disney's Hollywood Studios park, you know something isn't quite right. The ambiance is creepy, the place is a mess. You shouldn't be there, but you keep moving toward it. And you know you're in for something scary. Once you're seated in your elevator, anticpation swirls because you don't know what's going to happen!

If you don't know, Tower of Terror is a drop ride, but this one goes up and down multiple times with no rhyme or reason. It's all random. Every ride is different. One second you're free-falling, the next, shooting back up. Non-stop thrills!

Rock n Roller Coaster

Combine a super fast car with blaring rock n roll and twists and turns in the dark and you have Rock n Roller Coaster, the second thrill on our list from Hollywood Studios. Visit the "band" at the recording studio then dash off to their concert.

Your ride begins by speeding zero to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, flattened to your seat as Aerosmith tunes blare from the speakers. Zoom through a florescent city illumintaed with black lights as your stretch limo swirls through corkscrews, then finally dropping you off at the red carpet, hair a mess, heart racing.

Space Mountain

Travel through space at lightning speed! Board your spaceship and blast off through the sky, dotted with a million stars. You're in space and it's dark, so you can't see the dips and turns coming. It's non-stop thrills as you fly through the galaxy. All you can do is hold on!

Space Mountain is a classic Disney attraction, having opened in the Magic Kingdom in 1975, just a few years after the park opened. Despite it's age, it's still one of the most thrilling rides on property.

Flight of Passage

Pandora is a beautiful land, filled with unique plantlike and animals. What better way to explore it than by soaring on the back of a Banshee? And actually feel it breathing underneath you! Join the Na'Vi as you fly fast and slow, over hills and oceans, mist in your face, soaking in everything that makes up the amazing planet of Pandora.

Flight of Passage is an immersive experience, similar to Soarin' at Epcot, but way more intense. This is Disney's best display of 4D thrills. You feel like you're there, a part of Pandora!

Expedition Everest

As you enter Anandapur, an eerie feeling decends over you. Something's been here and it wasn't very happy. But you brave the wilderness anyway in search of the Yeti. High up in the Himalayan mountains, you board a train with your team and gear, ready to face him. But he finds you first, and doesn't like that you're there!

Expedition Everest is a great coaster filled with hills and turns, broken pieces of track, thanks to the Yeti. He sends you falling backward in the darkness through the mountain, an amazing coaster experience.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Need a break? I got ya covered!

A Disney World vacation is magical and amazing and exciting...but it is also tiring. I won't even try and tell you it's not.

Many people will take a break midday and go back to the resort for a nap and/or swim. That's a good idea, but sometimes not. There is travel time to consider, plus the time you spend there. It takes a big chunk out of your day.

I have another idea! You can rest and relax, right inside the parks!

I know what you're thinking. Stephanie has lost her mind. How can anyone relax in a busy theme park?

Disney World is great at creating spaces all throughout the parks where families can find a little peace and quiet. It sounds too-good-to-be-true, but it's not. Some of my favorite moments during a Disney vacation are when I sit (usually with a snack or beverage) and just people watch and listen to the sounds around me. The music and laughter. Smiles everywhere. There are benches and other seating everywhere, some more quiet than others. So definitely take advantage!

Here are a couple of my favorite spots for resting while in the parks.

Side streets off Main Street at the Magic Kingdom. My last trip, I bought some cake pops at the Main Street Confectionary and found a little wrought iron table and sat for a while.

The gardens in the Hub at the Magic Kingdom. These are relatively new, and are so so pretty. You'd think the Hub would be very busy, and it is, but the gardens are pretty relaxing.

The fruit bat exhibit on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Animal Kingdom. I could watch those cute little guys all day.

World Showcase pavilions in Epcot. TONS of great places to sit and relax. I love to feel like I've been transported somewhere else. The sights and smells, the music.

There are TONS of great attractions that are peaceful and gentle...the perfect place to relax for a bit!

it's a small world (Magic Kingdom)
Carousel of Progress (Magic Kingdom)
Walt Disney Railroad (Magic Kingdom)
Tomorrowland Transit Authority (Magic Kingdom)
Spaceship Earth (Epcot)
Living with the Land (Epcot)
The America Adventure (Epcot)
Beauty and the Beast Live (Hollywood Studios)
Voyage of the Little Mermaid (Hollywood Studios)
Finding Nemo: The Musical (Animal Kingdom)
Wildlife Express Train and Rafiki's Planet Watch (Animal Kingdom)

And if you have little ones, there is a Baby Care center in each park, giving guests a quiet place to change a diaper, feed or nurse baby, or just to get out of the heat and sit for a bit.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Planning timeline!

When is the best time to start planning your Disney World vacation? What comes after you book it? When do you do what?

These are questions I get a lot :) So here's my suggested timeline!!

7 months or more prior to travel: Select a date and contact Fairytale Journeys by Stephanie for a quote on your vacation package. Book the reservation with a minimum of a $200 deposit. Begin researching Disney restaurants and make note of any that sound interesting to you. Create a My Disney Experience account and link your resort reservation. Customize your Magic Bands.

6-1/2 months prior: Finalize your dining selections.

6 months prior (180 days exactly): Book dining reservations. Online reservations open at 6:00am EST on the dot, whereas the phone lines open at 7:00am. If you book your package with me, I'll do it for you!

4-6 months prior: Research the parks and all the attractions. Make a list of your must-do attractions. Familiarize yourself with the park layout by studying the park maps. Watch the planing DVD. Make a countdown chain. Put away money each week to pay for the trip. Purchase Disney gift cards periodically to use for souvenirs.

2-1/2 months prior: Finalize your Fastpass+ selections. Choose 3 per day to book ahead of time. I can help you decide by offering advice on which attractions need them most.

2 months prior (60 days exactly): Resort guests can book Fastpass+ online at 7:00am on the dot. If you book with me, I'll do it for you! If you are able to, pay off your balance. If you plan to rent a car, stroller, or ECV/scooter/wheelchair, reserve it now. If you haven't yet, make sure you customize your Magic Bands in My Disney Experience.

6 weeks prior: If you need to make any changes to your resort package, do it now. This is your last chance to change resorts, add a dining plan, alter the length of your park pass, etc... without incurring a penalty fee.

1 month (30 days exactly): If you are staying off Disney property, book Fastpass+ online at exactly 7am. Pay your vacation package in full. Start packing. Have your suitcases out and toss things in whenever you think of them.

2 weeks prior: If you'd like a grocery delivery, set that up now. You should have received your Magic Bands, Magical Express packet, and resort voucher booklet by now.

1 week prior: Pack. Make sure you have all of your travel documents in your carry on bag, including your Magic Bands. If you'd like to add Memory Maker, do so now if you haven't already.

24 hours prior: If you are flying, check in online for your flight. If you are flying Southwest, make sure you do it exactly 24 hours to the minute to ensure the best boarding group number possible. Print boarding passes, if you desire. (You can also print at the airport.) Finish packing. Attach the yellow Magical Express tags to your checked bags.

Morning of departure: Double check to make sure you have everything, including any medications you need. Then enjoy your vacation!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fastpass+ Explained!

Disney World has what they call Fastpass+. It's a way to hold your place in line at all of the most popular attractions so you only have to wait a few minutes to experience them instead of possibly hours. The service is free to all park guests and can really help maximize your time in the park.

The Fastpass system has been around for years but the original system worked a little differently than what we have now. The new system has a lot of pros and cons, many people loving it, many people hating it. I personally love it.

First of all, you need to create a My Disney Experience account, either on Disney's website or on their app. You cannot use Fastpass+ without an account. 

Desktop version

Next you need to have a valid park ticket linked to your account. If you have a resort package, the tickets will be included and the entire package needs to be linked to your My Disney Experience account. If you are not staying at a Disney resort, you need to purchase a park ticket and link it to your account.

Now you can pick out 3 Fastpasses for each day of your trip. Which means you must decide which park you will go to each day of your trip. You can still use the Hopper option if you choose to purchase it, but you do need to decide ahead of time at least one park you will go to each day. I recommend using the Fastpasses for the most popular and newest attractions, such as 7 Dwarves Mine Train, Frozen Ever After, Soarin', Flight of Passage, Na'Vi River Journey, Expedition Everest, Peter Pan's Flight, and Splash Mountain during the hotter months. Or slow-loading attractions such as Rock n Roller Coaster, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Space Mountain. Also, a good use is the popular character meet n greets such as Princess Fairytale Hall, The Character Spot, and Mickey Mouse at Town Square.

Here is the list of all the attractions that currently have Fastpass+:

Magic Kingdom 
"it's a small world"
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Enchanted Tales with Belle
Haunted Mansion
Jungle Cruise
Mad Tea Party
Meet Ariel at Her Grotto
Meet Cinderella and Rapunzel at Princess Fairytale Hall
Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater
Meet Tinker Bell at Town Square Theater
Mickey's PhilharMagic
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
Peter Pan's Flight
Pirates of the Caribbean
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Space Mountain
Splash Mountain
The Barnstormer
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Tomorrowland Speedway
Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid 
Tier 1 
Frozen Ever After 
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
Soarin' Around the World
Test Track
Tier 2 
Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
Journey Into Imagination with Figment
Living with the Land
Meet Disney Pals at the Epcot Character Spot
Mission: SPACE
Spaceship Earth
The Seas with Nemo and Friends
Turtle Talk with Crush

Hollywood Studios 
Tier 1
Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
The Great Movie Ride
Toy Story Mania
Tier 2
Disney Jr. Live on Stage
For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
MuppetVision 3D
Star Tours
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Voyage of the Little Mermaid
Animal Kingdom 
Tier 1
Avatar Flight of Passage
Na'vi River Journey
Tier 2
Expedition Everest
Festival of the Lion King
Finding Nemo - The Musical
It's Tough to be a Bug!
Kali River Rapids
Kilimanjaro Safaris
Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
Primeval Whirl
Rivers of Light
Magic Kingdom is the only park that does not separate into tiers. You can choose your three Fastpasses from the entire list. But in the other 3 parks, you can only choose 1 from tier 1 and then 2 from tier 2, or all three from tier 2.

Resort guests can book 60 days prior to check-in. Non resort guests can book 30 days prior to check-in. A HUGE perk to staying at a Disney resort, especially if you want to ride some of the most popular attractions where the wait times easily reach triple digits (in minutes). As a travel agent/travel planner specializing in Disney vacations, one of the services I provide is booking Fastpasses for my clients. I get online and do it for them so they don't have to worry about it. 

Fatspasses are booked with a one-hour availability window, for most attractions. Some shows only have a 15 minute window, which grants you early seating in the theater before guests in the standby line. 

After they are booked you can view them in your My Disney Experience account either on a desktop or the app.



Once you arrive at the park, you an enter the Fastpass line at any time during your hour. So if your Fastpass return time is 1:30-2:30, you may enter the line at 1:30 on the dot, but not a minute sooner, and have til 2:30. If you are unable to get there by the ending time, the Fastpass will expire and you will not be able to use it. When you approach the line, you must scan your Magic Band (resort guests) or park ticket (non resort guests). The scanner will illuminate green if you have a valid Fastpass, red if you do not. You may have to scan again at the end of the line. This prevents line jumpers from hopping over from the standby line. 

After you have used all three of your pre-booked Fastpasses, you can go on the app and book more! You can book them one at a time.

The Fastpass+ system is a great way to minimize your time waiting in long lines and ride your favorites faster :) If you'd like help with this or any thing else Disney, book your trip with me!! I'll do all the work and you just enjoy!!