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



App
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 
Epcot 
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
Fantasmic!
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
DINOSAUR
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.


Desktop


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!!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Memory Maker: Step by Step Instructions!


Disney has a service they call PhotoPass. Basically, they station professional photographers all over the parks who are ready and willing to take your photo with their camera. It's great because everyone is in the picture and it's a high quality image. You can then choose to purchase individual images in either print form or digital. One of the products within Photopass is the Memory Maker. This is a pay-one-fee type of product that gives you digital downloads of every photo you pose for during your vacation. Even ride and dining photos!

As a huge fan of photos, I love the Memory Maker! It is well worth the cost to me. And I love enhancing the photos afterward, adding fun borders and stickers, cropping them, changing to black and white. So much fun stuff you can do with them!!

Here is a How-To for when you go home!!

If you are a resort guest, the photographers will scan your Magic Band and all your photos will show up in your My Disney Experience account. Simply log into your account and go to the drop down menu. Choose "My Photos" under photography. It will look like this:



If you are not a resort guest, You will have to manually link the photos. Just enter the code from the back of your park ticket or the PhotoPass card the photographer gave you. Then it should look like the above photo.


If your photos have watermarks on them, you need to activate your Memory Maker. Click any photo then click "Download." It will ask you if you want to activate your Memory Maker and inform you of the expiration date. Say yes. Now you can start customizing and enhancing!

Here is what your screen will look like:


Click any photo. It will open like this:



Most important to note first is the expiration date on the lower right. This is the date you need to download by or you will lose that photo forever. The date will vary from day to day as the photos expire 45 days after they were taken.

Along the right hand side you'll see all the options. First you need to click "Create a Copy." VERY important. You want to keep your original images. Once you make a copy, click on one of the suggested borders or use the drop down menu to browse other categories.



Click whatever one you like. If you try one and don't like it, just click on another.


Once you find one you like, click "Save and Close" on the top. The photo will close and take you back to your menu. The new enhanced photo will appear on the screen with the rest of the un-nhanced photos. You can then go back to the same original imagine and do the same thing but add a different border, crop, turn it back and white. Just make sure you make another copy first. Disney is always changing the borders to coordinate with the season and social events. So many cool fun things!! Continue on with the rest of your photos for that park and then move on the the next.



Play around with it and have fun!! There's no limit to how many photos you can create in your account!




When you're 100% completely done, go back to your home page. On the upper right hand side you'll see how many photos you currently have and buttons underneath. Click "Download" to download all the photos to your computer. This MUST be done before the photos expire or you will lose them forever.


Once they are downloaded to your computer, they are yours to do whatever you'd like. You can print at home or upload to any online photo processing site for printing. You can share on Social Media too.

Here are a few more cool photos from my Memory Maker over the years!







Questions??? Post them below!!!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Restaurant Spotlight: Tusker House!


It took me 12 trips to finally book us a reservation at Tusker House and I couldn't believe I'd over-looked it for so long!

Tusker House is a character buffet restaurant in Africa in Animal Kingdom. The theming and decor is really beautiful, like an African marketplace. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy are decked out in their finest safari attire and come to every table for some fun, photos, and autographs.





Now let's talk FOOD! My favorite part! The breakfast buffet is filled with traditional breakfast fare such as sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, pastries, quiches, and the ever-popular Mickey Waffles, but there are also traditional African dishes such as bobotie, plantains, basmati rice, and coconut sweet potato casserole. YUM! The lunch and dinner buffet is jam-packed with various meat dishes- salmon, chicken, pork, as well as potato, rice, and vegetable dishes, all with an African flair. And don't worry about the little ones. They have corn dogs, mac n cheese, fruit, and other dishes that are sure to make them smile.

And oh my the desserts!!! You better save room for those!

While I was perusing the buffet on my second trip up, I witnessed a Cast Member showing a family around the buffet, pointing out which items were vegan and which were not. I thought that was pretty cool. Disney definitely knows how to cater to its guests. :)

Tusker House serves a variety of beverages, non-alcoholic as well as some alcoholic options. I so need to try that African Margarita! #NextTime

Just make sure you get a good night's sleep...or Goofy will mess with you if you fall asleep at the table ;)



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Magical Express!!


One of the great perks of staying at a Disney resorts is the FREE transportation all around property and also Magical Express!

Magical Express is the free shuttle service that picks you up at the airport, takes you to your Disney resort, and then at the end of your trip, it takes you back. I love free, so it's a huge perk in my book!

Before you leave home, you'll receive a packet in the mail from Magical Express. It will contain directions for how to find the Magical Express counter at Orlando Airport as well as bright yellow luggage tags. The tags go on your checked bags before you check them at your home airport. I'll explain those later!



Hop on the plane and soar off for your awesome vacation! The magic starts the second you step off your plane at Orlando International Airport!

When you get to Orlando, you'll be in one of the 4 terminals. You'll need to take the tram to the main terminal. It's easy to find. Just follow the masses. :) Once you're in the main terminal, you'll be on level 3. You need to go down to Level 1, B side,  where all the car rental companies are and the other shuttle services. There will be a great little map in your Magical Express packet.



Simply follow the signs to the check in counter. If you have your Magic Bands on already, simply scan them. If not, you'll need the voucher that was mailed to your house. A Cast member will scan it and direct you to the line for your resort.

Oh, and your luggage?? Don't even worry about it! Those yellow tags mean Disney will grab them from baggage claim for your and whisk them away to the resort. No need for you to fetch them! (It may take up to 3 hours for them to arrive at your resort, so make sure you keep anything of importance with you in your carryon, or just leave the tags off. But if you leave them off, you'll need to fetch your bags from baggage claim at Orlando Airport.)

Once your bus arrives, a Cast Member will escort you to it. If you have suitcases or larger items like a stroller, they will need to be stored in the bus's storage compartments underneath. When you're all set, take a seat and get ready for a fun ride!

The trip from Orlando Airport to the Disney property takes approximately 35-40 minutes, depending on traffic. And the buses often stop at 2 or 3 resorts, so if yours is last, it will take a little longer. But don't worry! Disney has you covered! They show a fun video during your ride. It's extremely informative and shows you all the fun things you'll be experiencing during your vacation. The ride just flies by!

Once you arrive at your resort, gather your belongings and any larger items that have been stored underneath the bus.

The night before you depart, a packet will be delivered to your room with important information about your Magical Express pick up time. It is usually 3 hours prior for domestic flights and 4 for international. Make sure you're there for your pick up time. They cannot guarantee you a spot on a later bus if you miss it.

As far as your suitcases go, you can check those at the Resort Airline Check in desk at the resort. No need to lug them onto the bus.

There you have it! I love Magical Express! Questions??? Ask away!!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Park Passes- Explained!

Disney offers guests several options when it comes to park passes. And it can be kind of hard to decide which one is best for you. Here is a breakdown of what each pass is :)

Base Ticket

This ticket gets you into one park for each day of your pass. For example, if its a 5-day pass, you can go to a Disney park on five separate days. You can go to the same park every day or a different one. You can do two at one, three at another, and so forth. But here's the important part. You can only go to one park each day. Once you enter one park, you can leave, but you can only return to that park. For example, if you go to Magic Kingdom in the morning, then leave and go back to the resort for a nap or swim, you can only return to the Magic Kingdom that evening.
This pass is a great option. There is so much to do and see in each park that there really isn't a need to leave. It's perfect for first-timers and families with young children.

Park Hopper Option

If you add the Hopper to your park pass, you have the ability to "hop" to other parks in the same day. So if you start your day at Magic Kingdom, but decide it's too crowded, or you just need a change of pace, you can go to a different park for the rest of the day. Or you can go to all four of the main theme parks in the same day.
This pass is great for veteran park-goers who know what they like and what they can skip. It's also great for short trips, when you want the option to hop around so you can do more parks in less days. But it's a pricey option. You need to make sure you will definitely use it several days of the trip to get its full value.

Park Hopper Plus

This option allows you the ability to hop as well as access to both of Disney's water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, plus Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and both mini golf courses: Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland. You get one admission per day of your park pass. So if you have a 5-day park pass, you have 5 admissions to the water parks and other entertainment options.

This is a great option for longer trips when you can take full advantage of it. It's not worth the money if you are only able to use it once or twice. If it's a shorter trip, you can always purchase a one-day pass for the water parks. And you can hop between them, no extra charge!

One more thing I'd like to mention. The length of your park pass is not tied to the length of stay, like the dining plan is. You can stay 7 nights but only do a 5-day park pass. If you get the Hopper Plus option, you can use those options on your non-park days.

Questions?? Ask away!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Nothing else can describe it...


The Magic Kingdom is a wonderful place! From the moment you step into the park, you are whisked away to another world where everything you've ever dreamed is possible. Adventure, fantasy, a future filled with amazing things. It's all there waiting for you...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Follow your Dreams!


Walt Disney struggled for many years before he became the man he was destined to be. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Have you seen the new Disney Springs?

Disney Springs, formerly Downtown Disney, has always been a shopping and entertainment district full of cool shops, yummy places to eat, and fun things to do, such as a bowling alley and a movie theater. It's a great place to hang out on a non park day, or in the evening when you've had your fill of the parks.

When I was there in Dec 2015, they were in the middle of a huge expansion. Some of the improvements had already been completed. I was a huge fan of the bridge that connected one part to the other...eliminating the long walk back to the bus stop. But there were walls up and you couldn't see what they were doing with the expansion.

My next visit was Nov 2016, after it was all completely done, and WOW. Just wow!

The old Downtown Disney was divided into three areas: the Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and the West Side. The dance clubs in Pleasure Island closed years ago and the area only held a few restaurants. It was pretty dead. But they took that entire area and completely transformed it. It is now two distinct areas called The Landing and Town Center.

The old bus stop is gone and now there is a brand new one that is more centrally located. You are dropped off at Town Center, and if you are familiar with the old Downtown Disney, you will definitely see you are not in Kansas anymore! It's absolutely beautiful. Very elegant with high end shops to satisfy every shopaholic.

If you head to the right, you eventually hit the Marketplace and it all starts to look familiar again! All the shops and eateries you know and love are still there :)

The Landing and West Side are filled with amazing eateries. So many to choose from! Which makes it so hard to decide!

Parking has always been a huge problem at Downtown Disney, but not anymore. Disney Springs has  two huge parking garages for those that have a car. They even have digital signs outside telling you how many spots are free! So cool!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Live out all your fantasies at Disney World!!


Fast cars and rock 'n roll in your ears! Rock 'n Roller coaster is the perfect way to let your inner rock star out to play!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Resort Spotlight: Port Orleans Riverside ROYAL ROOM!


I had the extreme pleasure of staying in a Royal room during my last Disney World trip! It was everything I'd hoped it would be!

Royal rooms are located in the Port Orleans Riverside resort. It's a moderate resort. The resort itself is beautiful, sitting alongside the Sassagoula River. Half of the resort, Magnolia Bend, is made up of opulent mansions, while the other half, Alligator Bayou, is rustic cottages. I'm sure it's not a surprise to know the Royal rooms are located in the Magnolia Bend section ;)




But here's a little more info about the resort! The main building, the Resort Center, is where the registration and concierge desks are located, as well as the gift shop, lounge, food court, and Boatwright's Dining Hall, a sit down restaurant. There are surrey bikes for rental and you can book a carriage ride through the resort and it's sister resort, Port Orleans French Quarter.



Ol' Man Island is the main pool area with a pool-side bar, water slide, hot tub, and lots of lounge chairs.

There are 4 bus stops throughout the resort, one of them outside the resort center. There is an internal bus system that constantly circles the resort if you need to get from one area to another. There is also a boat that takes you to Disney Springs and back.

The buildings are just beautiful with gardens and fountains, flowers and trees. I love the grand staircases.







The room is stunningly beautiful. I don't know what else to say about them, so just take a look :)









Interested in booking a Royal Room for your next Disney World vacation, contact me today!!