Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Transportation while at Walt Disney World


So your trip’s finally here and you’re ready to enjoy the theme parks, Downtown Disney, water parks and more.  You’re all checked in to your hotel, whether on or off Disney property.  How are you going to get to all of those places from your hotel?  The answer will be very different depending on where you are staying and how you got to the Walt Disney World Resort in the first place.  This post looks at how to get around after you’ve arrived and checked in to your hotel.

If you decided to make the drive from home in your own car (or a rental), you certainly could just drive from your hotel to wherever you’d like to go.  This is the route we personally go, even if we stay on Disney property as it really is the fastest way to get where you are going.  You also don’t have to be on anyone else’s timetable for drop off/pick up.  Having your own car also lets you explore other places in the Orlando area and can be a time and money saver over taking a taxi, bus or hiring a car service.  If you are staying on Disney property there’s a bonus-you get a parking pass that lets you park at any of the four Disney theme parks for free.  Considering that parking costs $14 per day, that’s a nice savings.

What if you’re not staying on Disney property and don’t have your own car?  Many hotels in the Orlando/Kissimmee area offer shuttles-usually free-to Disney’s four theme parks as well as Universal Studios and Sea World.  These usually run on a set schedule and can vary from one drop off in the morning/one pick up in the evening to every hour.  If you use your hotel’s shuttle make sure you check the schedule beforehand and just be sure of one thing-don’t miss the last one at the end of the night or you’ll be forking over some of your vacation money for a taxi to get back to your room.  Which is also another option when staying off property-you can take a taxi to and from the parks and other places you’d like to go.  While taking taxis can be a bit more costly, you do have a lot more freedom in your schedule to go where you want when you want.  Another option is the local bus service.  In Orlando, that is the Lynx bus system.  The Walt Disney World Resort is currently accessible through Links 50, 56 and 111; Universal Studios is on Links 21, 37 and 40.  Check out the Lynx website for schedules, maps and a trip planner.

If you are staying on Disney property, you have many different options available to you.  Of course if you have your own car, you can drive everywhere and it will be the fastest way to get to and from most places on Disney property (depending on what resort you are staying at).  You can also take a taxi, though again it is an added expense.  Another option is the Disney bus system which is complimentary for guests staying at a Disney resort.  Every Disney hotel has bus service to all four theme parks, both water parks and Downtown Disney.  Most of the time you shouldn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes for a bus.  It is advisable if you are going to use the bus system to build some extra time into your schedule to account for any delays, especially if you are trying to be on time for a dining reservation.  Some resorts, like the three All-Star Resorts, sometimes share bus lines so you may have extra stops to wait until you reach your resort.

If you are staying at Disney’s Port Orleans (French Quarter or Riverside), Old Key West or Saratoga Springs Resorts, these offer ferryboat service to and from the Downtown Disney area.  Even if you did drive a car, I’d recommend taking the boat at least once for a relaxing, scenic ride-especially since sometimes the parking at Downtown Disney can get a little crazy, particularly on the weekends and during peak seasons.  At Downtown Disney, there is also a boat that will take you from the far end of the West Side (near the House of Blues) to the heart of the Marketplace side and back again.

If you are staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan or Dolphin, boats are available to and from both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Epcot is also within walking distance from these resorts.  Hollywood Studios is as well, though the walk is a bit farther...but it is along a waterway and can be a nice way to de-stress after some time in the park if your feet aren’t too tired.

Staying at Disney’s Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground?  Water launches are available to and from the Magic Kingdom from these resorts.  The last way to travel by boat in Walt Disney World is from the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) to/from the Magic Kingdom using the ferryboats.  

Disney also has a monorail system with three separate lines.  The first is the Resort Monorail line which travels around the Seven Seas Lagoon stopping at the Grand Floridian Resort, Polynesian Resort, Transportation and Ticket Center, Contemporary Resort and the Magic Kingdom theme park.  If you’re lucky enough to be staying at one of these Deluxe resorts on the monorail line, it makes getting to and from the park easy and quick (great for those mid-afternoon breaks for a relaxed lunch back at the resort or at the hotel pool!).  You could also walk from the Contemporary (and Bay Lake Tower) to and from the Magic Kingdom, and quite often it may even be faster than taking the monorail.

The second monorail line is the Express line which only goes between the Transportation and Ticket Center and the Magic Kingdom around the loop that encircles the Seven Seas Lagoon.  If you are driving in to the Magic Kingdom, once you park you can take either the Resort line or the Express line, though the Express of course will be much faster.  While Disney usually tells you it will take the same amount of time to get from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom whether you take the ferryboat or the monorail, the Express monorail is normally faster.

The third monorail line offers round-trip service from the Transportation and Ticket Center to Epcot.  If you are planning to visit both Magic Kingdom and Epcot the same day, you could park your vehicle at either theme park and use the monorail to go between the two.  If you are staying at the Grand Floridian, Polynesian or Contemporary Resorts, you could take the Resort monorail to the TTC (or walk to the TTC if you’re close enough), then switch to the Epcot line.

All three lines of the monorail system are free, regardless if you are staying on or off Disney property.  All complimentary Disney transportation is available from one hour before theme park opening times up to one hour after those parks close.  Buses to and from the Downtown Disney area continue to run until 2am.

As you can see, there are lots of options.  I personally always recommend staying on property as I find that it is much more convenient whether or not you have a car while there thanks to the multiple transportation options that Disney offers-all included in the cost of your stay.  That’s not to say staying off property is not a viable option-it certainly is and once you have arrived on property those boats and monorails will move you around as well.  If you are staying on property and are not sure of the best way to get from one place to another, check with the concierge desk in the lobby-they’ll be happy to help you map out a route.  

How do you like to get around while at WDW?

If you’d like a quote for your own magical Walt Disney World vacation, check out my Facebook page or website for a free, no obligation quote.  My services are always free, plus I can assist with WDW itinerary planning at no extra cost.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Current Walt Disney World Specials-Fall & Winter 2012

As many of you are aware, I not only love visiting WDW, but I am also an independent travel agent specializing in...that's right, WDW!  Walt Disney World has some great specials out for the Fall, Holiday and Winter seasons.  This blog post will list the current specials running through March 2013.  If you're interested in a quote, whether for just a room, room and tickets, or a full package, you can contact me at quote@enchanteddreamvacations.com or click on the link to my website in the right sidebar.  You can also click here to go directly to my "Get a Quote-Disney" page and fill out your information so I can get you a complete quote.

PLAY, STAY AND DINE ... AND SAVE UP TO $600 AT THEWALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT

Now through Dec. 31, 2012, purchase this 5-night, 6-day Walt Disney Travel Company room, ticket and dining plan package at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels for arrivals most nights Jan. 2 – March 7, 2013, and save up to $600*.
Booking Window:
Oct. 10 – Dec. 31, 2012
Travel Window:
For arrivals most nights Jan. 2 – March 7, 2013
Sample Pricing:
Buy this 5-night, 6-day room, ticket and Disney dining plan package at a select Disney Moderate Resort in a Standard Room for stays most nights Jan. 2 – March 7, 2013, and pay a package price of $2,429 for a family of 4. That's a savings of $633!
Ask about packages in other Resort categories.
*Prices based on 2 Adults, 1 Junior and 1 Child. Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same package. The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Tickets valid for one Theme Park per day and must be used within 14 days of first use. No group rates or other discounts apply. Advance reservations required.
Offer excludes campsites and 3-bedroom villas and is not valid at Disney's Art of Animation Resort – The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms.
Excludes gratuities and alcoholic beverages. Children ages 3-9 must order from children's menu if available. Some Table-Service restaurants may have limited or no availability at time of package purchase.

SAVE UP TO 35% ON ROOMS AT SELECT WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT HOTELS THIS WINTER

Offer Details:
Disney Value and Moderate Resorts
For stays most nights Jan. 2-17 and Jan. 21 – March 7, 2013:
  • Save up to 30% at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney's Port Orleans Resort – Riverside and Disney's Fort Wilderness Cabins
  • Save up to 25% at Disney's All-Star Sports Resort, Disney's All-Star Music Resort and Disney's Pop Century Resort
  • Save up to 15% at Disney's Art of Animation Resort – Family Suites
Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts
For stays most nights Jan. 2-17 and Jan. 21 – March 7, 2013:
  • Save up to 35% at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Disney's Beach Club Resort Villas, Disney's BoardWalk Inn & Villas, Disney's Polynesian Resort, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (standard view rooms), Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas (Kidani/Jambo rooms), Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, Disney's Old Key West Resort and Disney's Contemporary Resort (including Bay Lake Towers)
  • Save up to 25% at Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort (including Villas)
Ask about other great rates Jan 18-20, 2013.
Booking Window:
  • Book Oct. 10 – Dec. 31, 2012
* The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Length of stay requirements may apply. Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same room. Additional per adult charges apply if more than two adults per room. Excludes 3-bedroom villas and is not valid at Disney's Art of Animation Resort - The Little Mermaid rooms. Advance reservations required. No group rates or other discounts apply.

SAVE UP TO 30% ON ROOMS AT SELECT WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT HOTELS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

Offer Details:
Disney Value and Moderate Resorts
For stays most nights Nov. 1-3, Nov. 11-16, Nov. 24 – Dec. 1 and Dec. 10-22, 2012:
  • Save up to 25% at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney's Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Save up to 20% at Disney's All-Star Sports Resort, Disney's All-Star Music Resort and Disney's Pop Century Resort
  • Save up to 15% at Disney's Art of Animation Resort – Family Suites
For stays most nights Nov. 4-10 and Dec. 2-9, 2012:
  • Save up to 20% at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney's Port Orleans Resort – Riverside and Disney's Fort Wilderness Cabins
  • Save up to 15% at Disney's All-Star Sports Resort, Disney's All-Star Music Resort and Disney's Pop Century Resort
Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts
For stays most nights Nov. 1-3, Nov. 11-17, Nov. 24 – Dec. 1 and Dec. 10-22, 2012:
  • Save up to 30% at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Disney's BoardWalk Inn & Villas, Disney's Polynesian Resort, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (standard view rooms), Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani/Jambo standard view rooms and 1-bedroom villas), Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and Disney's Old Key West Resort
  • Save up to 20% at Disney's Contemporary Resort (excluding rooms with a view of Magic Kingdom® Park), Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort and Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani/Jambo club level rooms and 2-bedroom villas)
For stays most nights Nov. 4-10, Nov. 18-19 and Dec. 2-9, 2012:
  • Save up to 25% at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Disney's BoardWalk Inn & Villas, Disney's Polynesian Resort, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (standard view rooms), Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani/Jambo standard view rooms and 1-bedroom villas), Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and Disney's Old Key West Resort
  • Save up to 15% at Disney's Contemporary Resort (excluding rooms with a view of Magic Kingdom Park), Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort and Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani/Jambo club level rooms and 2-bedroom villas)
Booking Window:
  • Book Sept. 30 – Oct. 31, 2012
* The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Length of stay requirements may apply. Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same room. Additional per adult charges apply if more than two adults per room. Excludes 3-bedroom villas and is not valid at Disney's Art of Animation Resort – The Little Mermaid rooms. Advance reservations required. No group rates or other discounts apply.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fall Decorations in the Magic Kingdom

Just wanted to put a quick post up of some of the fun Fall decorations along Main Street in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World for those who have not seen them:
Right side of entrance

Left side of entrance

Daytime
Nighttime

The Confectionery
Town Hall
The Emporium
Town Square Theater
A look down Main Street toward the castle-you can see those Mickey pumpkin heads along the street on the posts

Pumpkin Mayor and his wife in Town Square


Pumpkin chef 


Pumpkin ball player

As you leave...not that you'd want to of course!
 The decorations are subtle but add a nice touch all along Main Street.  It's really cool at night when all the Mickey pumpkin heads on the posts are lit up.  They actually go from a pale glow to really bright and then back to the pale glow again, kind of like a slow pulse.

Gotta love the holidays at WDW!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

In Depth-Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

I wrote a blog entry a couple of months ago about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, giving an overview of this really fun event held at Walt Disney World for several nights in the Fall. Last weekend I was up in WDW and went to the Party on Friday night, so I’ve brought back a more in-depth report along with pictures and video to share.

First off, as you approach the parking toll booth at the Magic Kingdom, you’ll see these great big blow-up Mickey head pumpkins advertising the Party:

As mentioned in the previous post, even though the Party doesn’t officially start until 7pm, they will let you in as early as 4pm with your Party ticket. There are cast members on hand to put a plastic Party wristband on your wrist (the CM who did mine insisted it had to go on the right wrist) so other CMs would know you were there for the party. The wristbands come into play once 7pm rolls around...if you have one on, CMs will continue to let you ride rides and enter areas deeper in the park while guests without the wristbands are directed to the front of the park to the exit. Between 7-8pm as I walked from land to land, there would be lines of CMs checking for wristbands before they would let you continue on.

When you first enter the park, be sure to pick up your trick-or-treat bag from a CM before you go past the train station. Even if you miss them there, bags will be available at the entrances to all of the trick-or-treat stations throughout the park. This year’s bag:

You should also get one of the Party brochures-it has a map showing the locations of all the candy stations, a schedule of events (and their locations if applicable) as well as the locations of Party-specific merchandise for sale.

So let’s start off with the yummy stuff-CANDY! One of the best parts about MNSSHP is that you get to trick-or-treat throughout the Magic Kingdom. There are 11 locations in the park where you can satisfy your sweet tooth. Nine of these are single stations, usually with two CMs passing out candy. The other two are “Trick-or-Treat Trails” where you wander along a pathway and you’ll have three or fours stops along the trail where candy will be passed out. And when I say the CMs are passing out candy, I mean they reach in to the barrel, take out a fistful and plop it in your bag. They’re giving out so much candy, you may wind up taking a second (or even third) bag to fill. Some guests come prepared with their own large bags since they know they’re going to leave loaded down at the end of the night. And you can go through each candy line as many times as you’d like throughout the night. Disney literally has trucks filled with candy waiting to be unloaded throughout the night! Here’s where you can find the sweet stuff...plus a so-so pic of the light thingy they have to mark the entrance to the candy stations:

Next up-Character Dance Parties. There are two dance parties, one in Tomorrowland at the Rockettower Plaza Stage (Stitch’s Club 626) and the other at The Diamond Horseshoe in Liberty Square (Woody’s Happy Harvest Roundup). Here you can dance with the characters and get some fun action pics with them. There are DJs playing music, and the kids look like they’re having a fantastic time. Some of the characters have some pretty choice moves, too.

On to the Villains’ Dance Mix & Mingle where Disney villains perform on stage, then come down to meet the audience and take pictures with guests. They are not out for very long after each show so if you want to meet and get pics, be ready!

One of my two favorite parts of the Party-Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade. The parade runs at 8:15pm and again at 10:30pm, starting in Frontierland then making its way through Liberty Square, around the circle in front of the castle, then up Main Street.

But right before the parade starts, one of the most anticipated moments of the evening arrives-the Headless Horseman precedes the parade, riding along the parade route to the delight of the guests.  Here's some videos I took...if you don't want to be "spoiled" you may not want to click (on the other hand, the Horseman really is cool!  Oh, and I hope the videos work, this is my first time posting videos...):
video
video


Once the parade starts, you’ll get to see the characters dressed up in their Halloween costumes plus floats that place the Disney Villains center stage. The Haunted Mansion characters are prominently featured including a cool routine by the Gravediggers.
video






The 10:30pm parade is normally less crowded than the 8:15pm parade since many families, especially those with very small children, tend to leave after the fireworks. Even if you’re not a parade person, I still highly recommend the Boo-to-You parade as it’s one of the best ones WDW does during the year. Just don’t blame me if you get the song from it stuck in your head. Really. Oh, and keep your candy bags ready for Goofy’s candy crew at the end!

My other favorite part of the Party is the Happy HalloWishes fireworks spectacular. It starts at 9:30pm and can be seen from just about anywhere in the park. I would recommend a location to the right of the castle near the bridge to Tomorrowland-if you plant yourself right smack in front of the castle, some of the lower fireworks may be blocked by the castle itself. It’s a fantastic show, and many people believe only the July 4th show is better (though I can’t comment on that myself as I’m not crazy enough to brave the crushing July 4th crowds to see it). The finale really is totally amazing!

One thing to note-if you are one of those people who loves getting pictures with the characters, you’ll love all the character greeting opportunities throughout the night. You’ll even see many characters that are not normally seen anywhere else in the parks, or are rarely seen-like all Seven Dwarfs at the same time. And if you want that coveted pic with all seven of them, get there early (they meet just outside of Splash Mountain) and be prepared to wait--seriously, an hour wait is not out of the question. But you’ll probably never get all seven of them at once at any other time. Another really cool character meet are some of the lady ghosts from the Haunted Mansion. They come out and sit on a bench on the lawn of the Mansion-just behind where the haunted carriage is parked-and converse with guests. They are hilarious so make some time to go check them out.

And of course, one of the great perks of the Party is shorter ride lines. Since this is a separately priced event and ticket availability is limited since they cap the number of available tickets, the lines are much shorter-like 5 minutes for Space Mountain, Winnie the Pooh and Splash Mountain (even though the night I went was hot and muggy!). The longest line I saw all night-and on a Friday night, one of the busier Party nights-was Peter Pan at 20 minutes...which for Peter Pan is actually a pretty decent wait time since it routinely sees 45-60 minute waits during regular park hours, even at slower times of the year.

Some tips for the Party:
-Don’t be in a rush for the candy lines. Early in the evening, the lines will be very long. While they generally move along at a steady pace, the later in the evening you go through the lines, the shorter they will be. Lines for the candy trails move faster than the single stops.
-Arrive early. Remember, they start letting Party guests in at 4pm. Make sure you use your party ticket to enter, not your regular ticket so you don’t waste a day on your park ticket.
-Stay late. The Party ends at midnight, and the later you are there, the fewer guests that are there resulting in even shorter lines for rides, candy and character meets.
-If you do stay until the park closes, don’t head out immediately to the monorail or ferry...they will be jam-packed and stay that way until just after 1am. I sat on a bench out in front of the park and just people-watched until the line at the monorail was almost gone, then took the last monorail of the night back to the Transportation and Ticket Center. It gave me a chance to rest up without being shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of other people on a very warm and humid Florida night, then I leisurely made my way back to my car.
-If you don’t want to stay until the park closes (or are just too tired to make it that long), leave before the second parade ends. Once that parade is done, a flood of people leave making the monorail, ferry and bus lines just plain crazy.
-Dress up! It’s a Halloween celebration after all...you’ll see lots of guests of all ages in costume, you might as well join in the fun!

I do highly recommend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. If you are going to be at WDW in September or October, it’s a great separate event to add to your trip and one you won’t soon forget.

Happy Halloween!

Have you been to MNSSHP or would you like to go? If you’ve been, what’s your favorite part, or what’s your favorite tip?


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Best Times of the Year for a Walt Disney World Visit


Now, as I’ve stated before, I don’t have any kids of my own (just a godson) so when it comes to travel, my DH and I can go pretty much any time of the year...theoretically (DH’s job limits when he can take his vacation due to projects).  And I’ll tell you right up front-the best times of year to head to Walt Disney World are NOT when the kids are out of school.  Because most parents are not willing to take their kiddos out of school for a vacation, families tend to visit WDW during Summer vacation, Thanksgiving break, Winter break and Spring Break-making all of those times of year super busy with huge crowds and horrible lines.

If you have the luxury of being able to travel at any time of the year, here are your top choices for a less crowded, more comfortable Disney vacation:

Fall: mid-September thru mid-November...especially the month of October
As the kids return to school, crowd levels start to drop, and the later into the Fall season it gets, the temperatures start to drop as well.  No, it’s not cold-not even close-but temperatures do start to fall off from the crazy mid-90s that are so common during those crowded summer months.  While September might still see highs reaching up to 90, the average high in October is 84 and in November that drops further to around 78.  Lows are much better as well, falling from the low 70s of the summer to the mid-60s in October and even upper 50s in November.  One of my favorite times of the year is the last couple of weeks in October-cooler temperatures, much lower crowds plus Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is taking place as well as the Epcot Food and Wine Festival so there’s an opportunity to add some extra magic into your vacation!

Winter: First two weeks of December, most of January and the first two weeks of February
The Walt Disney World Resort area cools down even further with highs in the low 70s and lows in the upper 40s to lower 50s in the winter.  Yes, some may think this is a bit chilly for being outdoors in the evening, but it’s a chance to bundle up and cuddle with your sweetie while wandering under the magical lights of Disney.  And with these being some of the drier months of the year, the daytime hours are simply phenomenal with sunshine aplenty and cool breezes without sweating through your clothes.  As far as crowds go, the first couple of weeks in December are pretty nice with low to average crowds.  The later it gets in the month, the more crowded it will get as schools start to let out for their winter breaks.  After the first week in January, crowds go down again and stay low through the first couple of weeks in February.  A really fantastic time of year to go if you can swing it-especially in December while the fantastic holiday decorations are up!

Spring: Late April thru the first three weeks of May
While the weather has started to warm up again, climbing toward the mid- to upper-80s for highs with lows in the mid- to upper-60s, crowds aren’t too bad...though May will be better than April.  Be careful though-rainy season is about to start and sometimes starts to hit a bit early!  A plus for this time of the year? The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival!

With all that said, what times do you absolutely not want to be there?  Most of the summer, particularly the months of June and July, is just stinkin’ hot & humid (can you say 90%+ humidity?  The Florida summer can!) and the crowds are pretty much all over the place.  Especially bad?  The 4th of July and the days surrounding it (but if you are there then, be sure to see the fireworks at Magic Kingdom--totally amazing!).

Another bad time is mid-March through mid-April.  That’s the window for school Spring Breaks and Easter Breaks and since the weather is still pretty nice at WDW then, it’s a popular time for families.

Even more popular and the absolute worst time of year to visit due to wall-to-wall crowds? From about December 22nd thru January 2nd.  Yes, the weather is phenomenal.  Yes, the holiday decorations are sensational.  Yes, there’s holiday parades and lots of fun to be had.  But there will be so many people in the parks, you’ll get hardly anything done.  If you’re just there to soak up the ambience of the season-great.  But if you want to ride the rides, meet the characters and so on--you’re better off picking a different time of year to do it.

While there’s always going to be exceptions with the weather (anyone there January 9, 2010? I did the Disney Half Marathon that day and we had SLEET, snow flurries and very chilly temps--and the next day while clear and sunny, the temps were in the teens and 20s that morning!) and the crowds (you never know when a convention or sports gathering will pop up when you weren’t expecting it), the general guidelines I’ve laid out here are a pretty good gauge for planning your visit dates.  If you are a family and you’re limited by school schedules, try for a Fall Break visit if you have one (NOT Thanksgiving weekend-that’s another crazy busy time!) or as late into August as you can go.

One cool thing about going during an off-peak time of the year?  You’ll most likely be able to score either a discounted room, package or maybe even a free Disney Dining Plan since Disney puts these promotions out to entice people to book during slower times of the year.

Don’t forget-I can help you plan and book your vacation for free!  Check out my website at www.enchanteddreamvacations.com and use the Get A Quote page to request your free quote.

When’s your favorite time of the year to visit Walt Disney World?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Romance on Your Walt Disney World Vacation


It’s not just rides and kids and craziness-yes, you can find romantic spots at Walt Disney World.  Here’s a sampling of ideas for finding romance while vacationing in one of the most magical places on earth...I’ve picked out a few for each area.

Hotels
Coronado Springs-a sprawling layout with beautiful buildings and landscaping and a 0.9 mile loop trail around Lago Dorado-perfect for a nice long walk together at night around the lake; there’s also hammocks by the beach to share
Polynesian-with it’s lush tropical setting, you can walk along the beach while watching Wishes fireworks
Staying at a Value resort?  Even at Pop Century, you can stroll along the lake down the pathway at night while reading all of the trivia signs.  Pretty much every resort at WDW has pathways that are great for just wandering.

Rides
Magic Kingdom-Peter Pan-fly through the air in the night on a ship for two; find an out-of-the-way bench to sit, cuddle and watch the fireworks; Haunted Mansion-cuddle up in your doom buggy for two; how about a nice, slow ride on the Liberty Belle Riverboat?  And if you’re there for the Halloween Party, trick-or-treating together in matching costumes.
Epcot-The Seas-cozy up in a clam-mobile for two for a ride through the dim, underwater world of Nemo and friends; Spaceship Earth-sit back and relax together on your dark journey through Spaceship Earth; and wandering the World Showcase at night is a favorite for many couples.
Hollywood Studios-during the holiday season when the Osbourne Lights are up, stroll hand in hand under the twinkling lights together
Animal Kingdom-meander along the tree-lined paths of Discovery Island hand in hand; check out the hidden trails around the park.  If you’re lucky enough to be at Animal Kingdom after the sun goes down (or at sunset), the entire park is a romantic place to be with all of the trees and low lighting.

Restaurants
Downtown Disney-Fulton’s Crab House-delicious food on a replica riverboat; request a seat by the window, or outside if the weather’s nice (beautiful at night when the boat is all lit up)
Grand Floridian Resort-Victoria & Albert’s-the ultimate in luxury dining-you even have your own maid and butler for the approximately 2 to 2.5 hour meal.  V&A’s is a AAA Five Diamond award recipient and the cost is a reflection of the exceptional evening-anywhere from $135 per person for the main dining room up to $210 per person for the Chef’s Table--which MUST be booked the moment your advance dining reservation window opens if you have even a sliver of hope of eating there.  Oh, and bring your dressy clothes-there is a mandatory dress code (men must wear dinner jackets with dress pants, women a dress or dressy pant suit, no exceptions).  A huge splurge, but if you’re going all-out, V&A’s is certainly a must do.
Epcot-Mexico’s San Angel Inn-try for a table next to the water, then you’ve got the dim lighting, water view plus the volcano in the distance as you dine under the starry sky.
Epcot-Coral Reef Restaurant-try for a table next to the aquarium at a late seating (kids like to wander over to see the fish so a later seating=less kiddies).
Disney's Hollywood Studios-Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at DHS-sharing a seat in your drive-in car in a dimly lit room while watching cheesy B-movie clips in the glow of the dashboard lights...quite romantic indeed!
Magic Kingdom-Dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table-if you can score a table by the window, even better.  For the ultimate "pop the question" evening, Disney even has an engagement package available here.

And more
-How about a horse-drawn carriage ride? They are available at Fort Wilderness and Port Orleans-Riverside and cost $45 for a 25-minute ride...advance reservations are recommended, though you may be able to just walk up and score a ride if a carriage is not already reserved during slower times of the year.
-Walking the Boardwalk at night-the lights, the ambience...and don’t forget the Boardwalk games where you can try and win a prize for your sweetie.  For a nice LONG walk together, after a day at DHS, take the pathway from DHS to the Boardwalk...it follows along a waterway, then up toward the Epcot resorts and the Boardwalk.  Very romantic at night!
-Taking Disney transportation?  Whenever possible (especially at night), take the boats and sit in the back, outside (if it’s a boat with an inside to it).  A couples’ favorite is the ride from Downtown Disney to Port Orleans-Riverside down the Sassagoula River, again especially at night.
-Did you know Disney has their own florist?  You can have special gifts delivered to your room for your sweetheart!
-There’s always spa treatments for two...time for that couples massage!
-The Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party at the Magic Kingdom-scrumptious desserts laid out in a buffet for this separately-priced ($35.99) event held most nights that the Wishes fireworks display is shown at the Magic Kingdom.  A limited number of tickets are sold (and they sell quickly!) for this intimate party with a prime viewing location for Wishes.
-Feel like splurging?  Try a specialty cruise, whether it’s a fireworks cruise or just to celebrate a special occasion with your sweetie.  You can do these as a group or if you really want to splurge (to the tune of a few hundred dollars), get a boat all to yourselves.  These are available for Wishes (on the Seven Seas Lagoon) or Illuminations.

These are just a sampling of ideas for romance while at Walt Disney World.  All of the parks are wonderful to walk through hand in hand at night when everything is lit up so beautifully.  Be sure to explore those pathways in each park or resort that you think go nowhere-most are quiet and very lightly traveled so you have a good chance of having them to yourselves...and even if they do go nowhere, you’ll probably find a good place to hang out alone for a bit.  And remember-take your time, enjoy your surrounding and just relax-after all, you're at Walt Disney World with your special someone.

What do you like to do for romantic activities while in the World?
Want to plan your own romantic Disney getaway?  Check out my site, www.enchanteddreamvacations.com where you can get more information on Disney vacations and request a quote!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

Traveling to Walt Disney World in the Fall is a great time of year. Temperatures and humidity start to drop (well, at least a bit) making it less of a sweat-fest (especially at night)...plus there’s all sorts of fun events going on. My favorites are The Epcot Food and Wine Festival (which I’ll post about soon) and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom (MNSSHP for short). This year, the Halloween Party is being offered on select nights between 9/11/12 and 11/2/12. On nights the party is held, the Magic Kingdom closes early to regular guests, then from 7pm until midnight opens for party guests to enjoy the festivities. *TIP--as long as you have your MNSSHP ticket with you, they’ll actually start letting you in as early as 4pm!

MNSSHP is a separately ticketed event so it is not included with your regular park admission. Depending on when you go, tickets will cost anywhere from $50.95 plus tax for ages 3-9/$55.95 plus tax for ages 10 and up up to $64.95 (3-9)/$69.95 plus tax (10 and up). The earlier in the season you go, the less expensive it will be...the closer to Halloween, the more expensive. Halloween night itself is the most expensive night and always sells out ahead of time...sometimes quite early! If you buy your tickets in advance, it is cheaper for almost every single date as compared to buying them at the park. I do recommend buying ahead of time as many dates do tend to sell out--there are a limited number of tickets available for each party so the park doesn’t get too crowded. After all, that’s one of the perks-smaller crowds so you can have plenty of time to enjoy all of the rides and entertainment!

So what’s there to do during MNSSHP? In addition to the park being decorated for the occasion, how would you like to trick-or-treat your way all around the Magic Kingdom? Candy stations are set up throughout the park, and they even give you a trick-or-treat bag when you enter the party to collect all your loot! And from my experience, the cast members are pretty generous while filling your bag. Run out of room in your bag? They’ll give you another! And you can go through the stations as many times as you’d like.

There’s also the “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade. The parade is shown twice each night...I would recommend the second one since it’s usually much less crowded--you should be able to easily get a curbside spot for the second showing. Of course the parade is Halloween themed...plus, all of the characters are dressed in costumes! Be sure to keep an eye out for the grave diggers!

An added bonus...preceding the official parade start (for both showings), the Headless Horseman rides down the parade route! I do lament, though, the early days of the party when he would actually ride through at a gallop. Now he comes through at more of a trot...I’m guessing there must have been some safety issues that came up and so Disney made the change.

Of course, what would a Disney holiday party be without a special fireworks show? The regular Wishes fireworks display is replaced during the party by the Happy HalloWishes fireworks show. If you though Wishes was amazing, well...think again. *Viewing tip-don’t sit directly in front of the castle as it will block some of the fireworks that go off lower in the sky. Try to find a spot toward the right side of the circle that’s in front of the castle instead.

There’s also special music and lighting throughout the park (be sure to check out Main Street later on in the evening), plus lots of character greetings. And since it’s a special party, you’re going to see characters you would not normally see during a typical day at the Magic Kingdom...like all seven dwarfs at the same time (a very rare occurrence!), Gaston, Lotso, Jack Sparrow(!). Also, there are dance parties at different locations in the park.

And don’t forget--you CAN dress up in costume, and in fact a large portion of the guests who attend the party do dress up. It does add to the fun!

The big question everyone asks-is it worth it? To me, most definitely! Even for me as an Annual Passholder who lives just a few hours away (so I can pretty much visit whenever I’d like), I love going every year. Lower crowds, unique entertainment just for the Halloween holiday, trick-or-treating through the park, special photo opportunities with seldom-seen characters...for me it’s a no-brainer. If you’re heading to WDW for vacation and looking for something “different” but don’t want to miss any time in the parks, this is a great option. You could even save visiting the Magic Kingdom for just the party and not use a day on your park passes--after all, if you get there at 4pm when they usually start letting party guests in and stay until close, that’s 8 hours of time in the park! Best advice--go during the week if you can--weekend parties are a little more crowded and remember, the closer you get to Halloween, the more crowded the parties get.

Don’t forget, if you’re a DVC member, Annual Passholder, etc--check to see if there are advanced-purchase discounts. They usually do offer them each year for the party.

Additional tips:
-Keep checking the weather report for your planned party day. While it usually is still warm at that time of year, you never know...it could wind up being a bit chilly or hot and humid--so especially if you’re dressing in costume, make sure you are prepared (including a poncho if it looks like rain is a possibility)
-Whatever you plan to do during the day, make sure you take a break in the afternoon to rest and relax so you can enjoy the entire party--the longer you can make it during the party, the more you’ll be able to do (without crazy lines!). I usually sleep in a little, maybe visit one of the other parks for a couple of hours, have lunch and a nap (or maybe some time in the pool), a leisurely dinner and then head to the party
-Eat dinner before you head to the party. While several of the restaurants will be open during, why waste time in them when you’re paying extra for the party?
-If you want to get pictures with the Seven Dwarfs, get in line early---like before 6pm. Their line will probably be over an hour long ALL night as it is almost impossible to find them all together at any other time. Jack Sparrow also has long a long wait, though sometimes late in the party as people start to leave you can get lucky with a shorter line.
-As mentioned before, the second parade will be less crowded--a lot of families, especially those with very young children, will leave after seeing the first parade and fireworks show.

If you do go, don’t forget to bring your camera. Between the decorations, parade and characters, there’s lots of great shots just waiting to be taken. The Disney PhotoPass photographers will be available at the party as well.

And most importantly if you decide to go---HAVE FUN!

Have you ever been to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World? Do you plan on going this year?

Monday, July 30, 2012

$200 Disney Gift Card Giveaway

Another fantastic Disney gift card giveaway from Chip & Co and Sunshine Rewards!  Be sure to check them out!

$200 Disney Gift Card Giveaway

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oz the Great and Powerful trailer

If you haven't seen the trailer yet for Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful, head on over here to the Apple Trailers page and take a look! It looks like it's going to be fantastic...just have to wait until March 2013 before it's released. I'll definitely be going to see this one!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Never say never when it comes to a Disney contest-I won one!

Yup, you read the title right.  I had entered the Hess Express Splash of Summer contest on Facebook and I was one of the 30 winners!  My prize...FOUR Florida Resident After 2pm Annual Disney Water Park Passes!  WOO-HOO!

I'm one of those people who pretty much never wins anything.  Never won a 50-50 raffle in any of my bowling leagues...never won anything past 3 out of 6 numbers once or twice on lotto tickets I bought...and all those online contests over the last 15 years or so--nothing.  Until now!

No blackout dates...can be used any day of the year after 2pm...for a whole year from first use...at both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon...I can't wait to use these!  Just think...spend all morning in the parks, have lunch, then head to one of the water parks for the rest of the afternoon to cool off and relax in the water.  Considering a single-day water park ticket runs about $55 and some change nowadays,  I'm loving this win!

So when you see a contest to win something Disney online, go ahead and enter!  You never know what might happen.....


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mr. Food Disney Vacation Contest!

I'm always on the lookout for contests that feature Disney prizes, especially those where you can win a trip to Walt Disney World!  Here's a good one from Mr. Food's website- the Mr. Food Disney Vacation Contest.  You could win a 5-day/4-night Walt Disney World vacation for four!  There's also ten runner-up prizes of $50 Disney gift cards.  You never know...and you can enter every day for more chances.  Would love to see one of my blog readers (or myself LOL) win something!

Be sure to check out Mr. Food's free e-cookbooks while you're there-I see some yummy looking recipes in them!

Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

$100 Disney Gift Card Giveaway

$100 Disney Gift Card Giveaway

Another great giveaway posted on Chip & Co's page!  Make sure you check it out, you never know!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Disney World ticket prices going up June 3, 2012

In case you haven't seen it yet, ticket prices for Disney World will be going up Sunday June 3, 2012.  To see the full list at Disney's site, click here.  At least parking didn't go up.  As usual, the more days you get on your pass, the less it will cost per day.  Disney also listed resort pricing...remember, these are rack rates-always check Disney's site or your travel agent for any discounts that might be out there (Florida Resident, Annual Passholder, military, etc).  You can almost always find a discount out there or the free dining promotion.

At least the Florida Resident Annual Pass is still quite affordable, especially since residents can do the monthly payment plan.  **cheer**

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Epcot-Drinking Around the World...nah, DESSERTS Around the World!


You may know that there is a popular pastime for adults while at Epcot known as “Drinking Around the World”.  It involves going from one end of World Showcase to the other, stopping to try an adult beverage (read “alcohol”) in each country-something unique to that country.  Me?  I used to drink alcoholic beverages back in my early 20s but haven’t really touched them in the last 15 years or so (I don’t like how alcohol makes my head feel like I’m detached from the world).  So what’s a non-drinker like myself to do when invited to drink around the world?  Why, turn it into DESSERTS Around the World instead!
Just like with Drinking Around the World, Desserts Around the World works best if you share with others.  That way you can try more desserts (YUM!) and not fill yourself up after just a couple of stops.  Everyone has their favorites-chocolates, frozen desserts, pastry-type desserts and so on.  Here’s my personal picks for desserts in each country:
Mexico-I’m a sucker for a churro.  Fried dough covered in cinnamon sugar?  Sign me up!
Norway-School Bread-A yummy sweet bread/roll with vanilla custard inside, then topped with icing and toasted coconut.  It’s not super-sweet but is just right and a really yummy snack (and it will fill you up pretty well if you eat the whole thing by yourself).
China-Cinnamon Apple Egg Roll-Egg roll exterior, but the inside is filled with cinnamon-sauced apples.  Yum!
Germany-OMG...can you say “caramel”?  Germany’s Karamelle-Kuche shop has all sorts of yummy caramel desserts-from caramel applies to hard caramel candies.  My favorites (right now-I LOVE caramel so these choices can change pretty quickly as they introduce new desserts) are the caramel-marshmallow pinwheel (try sucking on it after putting it in the refrigerator for a while!) and the chocolate cookie with caramel filling (also has caramel drizzled on top).
Italy-I may be the odd one out here, but I prefer raiding the chocolate candies from the store out front (right hand side as you’re looking at the pavilion-Delizie Italiane).  But then again, when I eat a meal in Italy’s restaurants, there’s never any room left for dessert. 
United States-okay, this is a toss-up.  Traditional?  Gotta go with the funnel cake at the funnel cake kiosk.  Fried dough topped with powdered sugar?  Perfect!  My other choice here is at the Liberty Inn counter service restaurant-the S’Mores Mousse Brownie--and yes, it’s as good as it sounds!  When I first ordered it I was wondering just how bad could a counter service dessert be?  And then I took a bite...and devoured the rest without offering to share with anyone.  Good thing my friends had ordered one as well.
Japan-Kaki-Gori...basically a sno-cone though this is called “shaved ice”.  Love the strawberry flavor.
Morocco-I can honestly say I’ve never had a dessert from Morocco.  I’ll have to remedy that by stopping in to the cafe to see what’s available.  I’m not a baklava fan...anyone have a dessert favorite in Morocco for me to try?
France-hmm, desserts in France...with Boulangerie Patisserie, how can you pick just one?  Everything I’ve tried there so far has been delicious.  If I had to pick a favorite, I’d probably go with the Creme Brulee, followed by the Chocolate Mousse...and Chocolate Eclair...oh and the Cream Puff.  But a tip for those of you who will be in Epcot during the Food & Wine Festival--get your Creme Brulee at the F&W kiosk instead.  It’s not just regular Creme Brulee--it’s MILK CHOCOLATE Creme Brulee!  Oh YUM!
United Kingdom-another country I haven’t had a dessert in, though I’ve heard the Sticky Toffee Pudding at the Rose and Crown is pretty tasty.  Adding that to my list of desserts to try this fall.  
Canada-For me, Disney disappointed me when they removed the Beaver Tail kiosk from Canada.  Beaver Tails are fried dough in the shape of a beaver tail, topped with your choice of maple and chocolate, strawberries and whipped cream, apples and cinnamon, chocolate hazelnut and sugar...and my favorite-cinnamon and sugar.  Unfortunately, the kiosk has been gone for many years and every time I pass by I lament this fact.  Fortunately, Le Cellier has MAPLE Creme Brulee.  Unfortunately Le Cellier is now a Signature Dining restaurant and is still pretty expensive so no maple creme brulee for me...at least not every trip.
Have you ever tried doing Desserts Around the World? Which are your favorites?