Saturday, November 28, 2009


by Laura Mims

Spectromagic is a beautiful semi-nightly parade in Disney’s Magic Kingdom park in Walt Disney World. Focusing on the night aspect, the parade uses over 1 million points of fiber optic light to create a magnificent magical display. Don’t miss Chernabog fanning out his wings from The Night on Bald Mountain Fantasia sequence and also the most powerful villain in The Kingdom Keepers series.
There are also beautiful butterflies and even Scorer Mickey all lit up in hundreds of thousands of sparkling lights!
Watch for the lights to transform from multicolor to beautiful pristine white with the flick of Practical Pig’s paintbrush from one of Disney’s Silly Symphony episodes. Many other traditional characters also join Mickey at the end of the parade. The music score is written by John Debney and you will be humming it as you leave the park that night.

When looking for a place to view the parade, my favorite area is Main Street. Depending on how busy the park is, find a spot on the sidewalk 1-2 hours before the parade starts to get prime seating. While waiting, you can enjoy the Main Street atmosphere. One of my favorite spots is to sit in front of the confectionary store while waiting and smell the sweet sugary scent of cookies and candy while enjoying Main Street music. You can even make friends with other guests waiting with you! The second best spot, and generally less crowded is to find a place in Frontierland or Liberty Square. Sometimes, during busier periods, there is a second showing, which will usually be less crowded. Check your park guide map for parade times.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Planning for your Walt Disney World Trip

To me planning for a Walt Disney World vacation is almost as exciting as going to Disney World….ALMOST! When my husband and I decided to take our 3 little boys to Disney World, I had so much fun planning the trip! Before the trip my husband told me “Your being obsessive”, but once we were at Disney World all he could say was “Thank You!” We saw many families stressed, and overwhelmed, but thanks my knowledge of Disney and planning in advance for the trip we had the time of our lives!

When my husband and I first decided to take the boys to Disney World, the first thing we did was sit down and looked at possible dates. We decided to go to Disney at the end of June. We knew it was going to be hot and crowded, but I was determined this was going to be the best vacation ever! We booked our trip using the buy 4 get 3 discount that Disney was offering. This means you buy 4 nights of hotel and tickets and get 3 nights of hotel and tickets free! We were excited to save several hundred dollars off our vacation right from the beginning. (Disney is offering this awesome discount again!) If you use a WDW Travels agent for your vacation, we will provide discount monitoring; this means that your reservation will be monitored daily for any new Disney discounts that might decrease your cost. If we find one, we will have it automatically applied to your reservation and will notify you of the new cost of your vacation! Once our trip was booked I then ordered Disney’s vacation planning DVD. I don’t think this DVD has been taken out of my vehicle, my boys watch it all the time when were driving, they love reliving Disney World.

One of the things I did for my boys and I do for my clients who have small children is to make a Disney World countdown calendar. I make this on the computer using a regular calendar template and just add images of Disney characters. The days that we are going to Disney World have Mickey heads on them. Every night before bed we crossed off that day, my boys loved to do this and this way they could visually see how much longer we have until we leave for Disney!

When you are vacationing at Disney, I highly recommend using one of the Disney dining plans. The plan that I most often recommend to my clients is the regular Disney dining plan. With this plan you get one quick service meal, one table service meal, and one snack per person in your party per day for a fixed price. The dining plan allows you to order what you want, without having to worry about price; it’s all been paid for in advance! If you are using a dining plan that offers table service meals, reservations for these meals need to be made in advance. Advanced dining reservations are available 180 days prior to check in for your trip. We at WDW Travels will be happy to make all of your dining reservations for you. Character meals are often a highlight of many children’s Disney vacations. If your little girl has her heart set on eating in the castle with Cinderella we need to make these reservations as soon as possible. Dining at Disney restaurants can add so much to your Disney vacation.

When planning your Disney vacation, you may wonder which parks do I go to on which days? Are some parks less crowded than others on certain days? Well the answer to that is yes, some parks are less crowded that others on certain days. If you use a WDW Disney travel agent, we will be happy to provide you with itinerary planning. This is a custom guide for your vacation so you can spend your time having fun! You can sit back and relax while we do all the work for you! We will recommend the least crowded parks for each day of your trip. So you can spend more time riding the rides and less time in line waiting.

Planning a Disney World vacation can be overwhelming to say the least. When do I book? Where do I eat? Which parks are the least crowded? How do I get from the airport to my hotel? What are fastpasses? What about child/rider swap? We at WDW Travels will be glad to answer any and all question our clients have. We provide each client with itinerary planning, discount monitoring, advanced dining reservations, and a care package tailored to each clients individual needs. The best part is you never pay any fees, for our magical service its FREE!!

The night before we leave on our Disney Vacation, Mickey Mouse visits our house. He usually just leaves Mickey shaped confetti and a note. My boys just can’t figure out how Mickey gets in our house with all the doors locked! This night usually rivals the night before Christmas, no one can sleep because we are so excited about what the next day will bring!

Monday, November 16, 2009

7 nights of "Magic" on Disney Cruise LIne

We just returned from our first ever Disney cruise aboard Disney’s Magic, what a magical week we had. It all started back in March when we booked, at that time I was researching everything I could, then the summer was busy with other travels and what-not so the cruise got put on the back burner. About 2 months before we were to set sail I went in to planning mode overload, which I always do before a big trip, with a family of 5 and 3 of them 5 or under you must plan well!!! I started packing lists, eyeing over message boards and all that normal stuff, then the week we were scheduled to leave for the drive down was upon us. Where did the time go? We stayed close to the port the night before we were to leave because I had plans of getting upgraded, so the morning of Halloween we all got up, dressed in our matching shirts and headed to the port, I was amazed at how many people were already there at 10am, but luckily I was able to get my upgrade to a 1 bedroom suite w/ concierge (Cat 3), of course we had to pay for it but it was worth every penny!! We were traveling with my parents and they upgraded too to a veranda on deck 6. Even though my parents were not in a suite the Cast Members were very nice to let them be with us and board first and go to the welcome reception and all that fun stuff! The best thing I believe about the whole cruise was right when you step on board, they asked what our family name was, and I told them and then to my surprise they announced us by name and everyone clapped, that was such a special treat to us, we felt like royalty.

The ship was beautiful and pretty easy to figure out where to go , of course they were never short of Cast Members who are more than happy to assist you. While at our welcome reception we were able to sign the kids up for the kids clubs, make spa/salon appointments and meet with our concierge, Lynda. Lynda was able to book Palos for us since we missed out doing that before we left, she also took note of special requests and any questions we had.

After ,we headed up to deck 9 to check out the food, and boy was there plenty of it, so we filled our bellies and hung out for a little while. It was almost 1:30, the time when you are able to go to your staterooms so we headed to deck 8 midship to check it out. We were thrilled, it was huge, a large living room, a large bedroom a huge veranda ,2 bathrooms, lots of closet and storage space, it was a dream come true, it even had a door bell!

4 o’clock, life boat drill, was very quick and orderly! After putting the life jackets away it was time for the sail-a-way party on the pool deck, how fun was it to be sailing away with Mickey and the gang! As soon as the characters came out I got all teary eyed, this is what it was all about!!!! It was a great party, very lively and energetic, as was everything on board.

Since it was Halloween we went back to our cabin to get in our costumes and go to the Welcome Aboard Show and then Trick or Treating! Dinner was after that, we chose late seating at 8:15, that night, after the long day and no naps my almost 4 year old feel asleep at dinner and my 5 year old probably could have too. Our wait staff was great, they made a bed for him so he would be comfortable, needless to say, after dinner we all went to bed to get a good sleep for our day in Key West.

The ports were fine, we had been on many cruises in the past so they were all familiar to us and we just did our own thing for the most part. In Key West we walked all the way to the Southern Most Point and went to the Butterfly Conservatory which was amazing. In Grand Cayman we did the Island Tour with stops in Hell and the Turtle Farm. Cozumel was our only bad weather day, rained most of the morning, let up for a little while so we ventured out to get some good food at Pancho’s Backyard then back to the ship. Then it rained most of the day after that. The cruise director and staff wasted no time in putting together dance parties , extra trivia’s, games and other events for those who stayed on the ship instead of venturing out in the rain.
Our last port of Castaway Cay, their private island was wonderful, beautiful beach and good food, too bad the water was pretty cold for my liking. We had two days at sea which were wonderful, both days we dined at Palos for brunch, it was sooo good the first time we had to go back. We hung out by the Mickey pool a bit which the kids loved and it was the perfect size for them.
We also fit in naps every evening before the shows so the kids could make it all night. We also put our littlest one who is almost 2 in the Flounders Nursery and he loved it, they were soooo good with him in there.
Our Cruise Director, Clayton was the best I had ever had, such personality and love for his job. The shows were amazing, having seen many Broadway plays, I rank them right up there with them, Disney really knows how to do it. The Cruise Staff was superb, they hosted many dance parties and trivia’s which we tried to attend, my personal favorites were the High School Musical Dance Party and the Disney Tunes Trivia! There was a Tea with Alice which I knew about before sailing and was excited to get in to that, my daughter wore her Alice dress and enjoyed “tea” (which was actually apple juice) and cookies with Alice.
Pirate Night was a hit, it was great seeing so many guests dressed in pirate costumes, and of course our family was some of them! Unfortunately the weather was not on our side that night so they could not do the fireworks and deck party, however they did do them the next night and it was fabulous. Disney is the only cruise line that does fireworks from their ships. Our dining staff was wonderful, especially our waitress, Jessyca, she was so good with our little one, when he got bored, she would just walk him around the dining room and he loved it! Doing the dining rotation was different but we liked it, Lumiere's was my favorite, though my daughter liked Animators Palate the best because the colors changed, Parrot Cay was festive and colorful.

Being in concierge really had a big impact on our trip, having the extra space and the personal service was really really nice, we now know we can not doing anything else. So I suggest, if you can swing it, do it, you won’t regret it, I would be happy to elaborate more on the benefits, just message me! Another exciting thing we did for the first time was the art auction, so now we have started our Disney art collection and are anxiously waiting for our two new pieces to arrive!
I could go on and on about our cruise, but to sum it up in one word, MAGICAL!
Remember Disney is offering many new destinations, along with a brand new ship debuting in 2011, contact WDWTravels for details and we will be happy to get you started on your magical vacation! Thanks for reading

Monday, November 9, 2009

Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort

I just got back from another wonderful weekend at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. What? You didn’t know that Disney had a resort outside of Florida? This is one of the “Best Kept Disney Secrets”.

Set amongst the palmetto trees, pines and live oaks is the most relaxing Disney vacation you've ever taken. Located on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is a beautiful Disney Vacation Club resort. Not a Member? Not a problem! Rooms and villas are available for cash reservations to anyone. The main resort is on its own little island –Longview Island- in Shelter Cove on the Broad Creek marsh side of the island. This is where all of the villas and main lodge are. There are several types of villas to choose from: studios, 1 bedroom villas, 2 bedroom villas and 3 bedroom grand villas. Studios sleep up to 4 people and have a queen size bed and full size sofa sleeper along with a kitchenette. The larger villas sleep 4, 8 or up to12 people, have full kitchens, washer & dryers in the room and living comfortable living rooms. We just had a group of 8 in a 2 bedroom villa for a birthday party and it was great. We’ve also stayed in a 2 bedroom with only 4 of us and enjoyed being able to spread out a bit. The grand villas are often booked by large groups or families for birthdays, reunions, and holiday get-togethers.

What is there to do at the resort? As much or as little as you would like to do. There is a great pool with slide, hot tub, ping pong tables, shuffle board, horseshoes, basketball, pool table and a playground. That’s just the “stuff”, there are also activities scheduled all the time. Some have small fees, some are free. There are arts & crafts, nature photography classes, kayaking trips, dolphin tours, nature walks, magic shows & ghost stories and more. Several nights a week there are campfires with silly campfire songs (Disney style of course) and s’mores! That’s just at the main resort, there are more things at the Beach House.

Across the road is Disney’s Beach House. This 3 ½ acre complex offers access to the beach, along with another pool, restaurant, arcade, ping pong table, splash area for kids and Surfmen’s Station, a place to relax out of the heat and watch the game or some cartoons.

If you’re looking for more to do, consider bike riding (bring your own or rent at the resort) or fishing (poles & bait available for rent), and of course Hilton Head Island is known for golf & tennis. Great golf deals can be found by calling Last Minute Tee Times and there are public tennis courts just down the road that are nicer than some private clubs. The resort also has a relationship with Palmetto Dunes Resort and their courts can be used for a fee. Check with the front desk for details.

Need something to eat? There are several options at the resort: Tide Me Over offers Carolina cooking, sandwiches, burgers, salads and breakfast all day long and Signals at the Beach House offers sandwiches, salads, drinks & treats. There are also tons of restaurants all over the island to try. Several are walking distance at Shelter Cove, others are easy drives. Another option is to stock up on groceries at the Publix or Piggly Wiggly and take advantage of the full kitchen in the 1, 2 & 3 bedroom villas. There are also grills available for your use at the resort if you’d like to cook out.

Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is a great place to get away for a relaxing weekend or a weeklong vacation and it’s a great place to get a refill on Pixie Dust when Walt Disney World is just too far away.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Character Dining at Walt Disney World

Character Dining at Walt Disney World is like the bonus, the lagniappe or the Buy-One-Get-One deal you get when you are a guest of the Mouse. Most people expect to see the charaters in the parks, wandering around here and there or at a Character Greeting spot. When you dine in the Magic Kingdom at places like Cinderella's Royal Table, or The Crystal Palace, the characters come to you, with no waiting in line!

When my family and I visit, I like to create a challenge for myself; see as many different characters as I can at the different restaurants of Walt Disney World parks and its resorts. Here are a few of my favorites (and the favorites of my kids as well!):

Chef Mickey's at the contemporary Resort - My kids and I both loved this breakfast buffet! We always take a great family picture before we a grand breakfast. They serve all of our favorite breakfast food and BONUS...we get to see the Fab Five - Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy.

Cinderella’s Royal Table – Located inside Cinderella's castle, this is the quintessential dinner for the princess lover in the family. The fact that you're eating dinner inside Cinderella's castle is enough for most people, but then you add the princess experience before dinner and BONUS! Every prince and princess coming to eat dinner is greeted in the vestibule by Cinderella herself. Everyone gets a photo with her, in her larger-than-life throne.

Akershus Restaurant in Norway at Epcot - Princess Storybook Dining. This was a favorite of my princess and well as all of the adults in the party! Akershus is a great restaurant serving unique native dishes, that we hadn't eaten before. The food was delicious and BONUS! We saw all of the princesses! We were greeted by Aurora, Jasime, Ariel, Belle, Cinderella and I'm sure I'm forgetting someone.

Hollywood & Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios – You want to talk about a party for kids? You must see this one! The characters from Playhouse Disney dance around the dining room, encouraging the kids to get up and dance and sing along. Oh, yes...the food is really good too! This is a buffet restaurant that offers a substantial salad bar, many tasty entree offereings and even a kids' buffet. My kids loved the ice cream bar also. Even though I miss seeing Hollywood Mickey and Minnie visiting this restaurant, the Playhouse Disney characters really make this restaurant a party for kids of all ages. The BONUS here? The party of course!

These are jus a few of our favorites. We have experienced almost all of the Character dining opportunities at Walt Disny World, and we're looking forward to the rest of them becoming a part of our future trips. If you are like me, you are always looking for ways to add value to your vacation dollar. This is one of the esiest ways I've found! Every one of the Disney restaurants that offer Character Dining will be a BONUS for your vacation. You'll get a great meal and a great experience all rolled into one!