Travel

Walt Disney World opens up 2021 reservations!

This morning, June 24th, the Walt Disney World Resort officially opens up their booking system for 2021 reservations through September 26, 2021! While June is typically the month that we can begin booking resort packages for the following calendar year, this year seems even more special since it’s been so long that any of us could enjoy the magic of Walt Disney World. There is so much to look forward to over the coming year, but there are also changes to how we enjoy the parks and resorts with added safety features in place as well as how we plan and navigate the property.

In 2021 we will see a lot of changes to how we experience the parks and resorts. When we start booking for 2021 today, there will be no park hopper passes or dining plans to be offered. This is still partly due to the response from Disney for the handling of safety measures for COVID-19 and the new Park Reservation System. When guests are booking their 2021 vacation packages, they will need to log into their My Disney Experience account and link their reservation so that they can go in and select their park reservations. While it may be difficult to know which park you want to attend a year from now it is extremely important to do this immediately so you can be sure to have a reservation, the good news is that those park reservations can be modified at any time, based on availability. Disney is expecting to bring back park hoppers and dining plans at some point in the future when they can safely accommodate them, until then we need to make plans without them. Disney will also be proving a “Know before you go” link with up to date information for guests before they travel.

We will also see an upgrade in the My Disney Experience app which will move some of the functions of the Magic Band into the app! With the upgrade, guests will be able to by pass the front desk at check in with the online check in process, unlock their resort room (at Disney resorts), chat with a guest services cast member, check in for dining reservations and order food online at select dining locations, scan their park tickets and check out from their resort without stopping at the front desk. With this upgrade, Disney has announced that they will not be providing complimentary Magic Bands for guests with check in dates January 1, 2021 and later. Now, if you are like me, you may have several Magic Bands and might be wondering what to do with them! The good news is, Magic Bands will still be available for purchase and any Magic Bands that you have linked to your My Disney Experience account will still work, they just are not sending out complimentary ones in 2021. For guests that don’t have a Magic Band and don’t want to purchase them or guests not wanting to use their smartphones for everything, Disney will be providing a free Key to the Kingdom card which will act as your park ticket and room key.

October 2021 marks the 50th Anniversary of Magic Kingdom and while details have not been released at this time, we are all excited to hear what Disney has in store for this celebration! Currently we are not able to book past September 26, 2021 so packages are not available yet for this celebration, but they will go fast once they open for booking so it’s going to be important to watch for announcements.

Travel over the next year will look different than it has in the past with mandatory face coverings, social distancing, recommended cashless transactions by using credit cards, gift cards etc as well as how we book and navigate the Walt Disney World Resort. It is important to stay up to date on all of the guidelines and changes happening with the Walt Disney World Resort for your upcoming stay. Now, let’s start planning and RETURN TO THE MAGIC!

Be sure to follow my blog for continued updates and send me a message if you would like help booking your next Walt Disney World Resort vacation!

Travel

Disneyland working on Phased Reopening Plan

Disney has announced a planned phased reopening of Disneyland starting with the reopening of the Downtown Disney District on July 9th. Just like it’s Orlando counterpart Disney Springs, Downtown Disney located in California’s Disneyland property, will reopen in phases. On July 9, 2020 guests visiting Downtown Disney should expect limited capacity, parking and operating hours. Guests will be directed to self-park in the Simba lot, with operating hours from 10am to 8pm.

Pending state and local government approval, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park will reopen on July 17, 2020. Again, this is still pending approval so the date is not yet fully confirmed. In addition, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel are planned to begin reopening on July 23, 2020.

It feels like forever since we have been able to enjoy some Disney magic but we are getting close to returning to the magic! What’s the first thing you plan to do when Disneyland reopens?

Travel

Fun in the Sun, exploring Southwest Florida

Sunset after the rain on Naples Beach

If you are looking for a vacation destination for the whole family or just adults looking to relax, southwest Florida is the perfect destination! With beaches overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, golf course galore and lots of outdoor activities to choose from, there is something for everyone in your group. Southwest Florida includes many cities but today I’m going to focus on my favorite 3 cities to visit; Fort Myers, Sanibel Island and Naples.

Fort Meyers Florida is known for its beaches and family friendly attractions. You can visit Thomas Edison and Henry Ford’s winter estates that are now museums that honor both men and their work. Enjoy a day at Fort Meyers Beach and soak up the sun while playing in the warm gulf water or walk among the butterflies and their favorite flowers at Butterfly Estates. If you are visiting in January or early February you will want to visit Manatee Park and see the migrating manatee. At Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, there are miles of elevated boardwalk where you can see lots of native animals such as alligators, woodpeckers, herons and so much more. Want a mini vacation inside of your vacation, than you can book a 3.5 hour (approximate) boat ride to Key West on the Key West Express where you can hang out for the day or book your return trip a few days later and enjoy “island life” for a while.

Just a short drive from Fort Meyers is the beautiful Sanibel Island. You will soon catch yourself doing the “Sanibel Stoop” as you search for the perfect sea shell along the beach because Sanibel Island is one of the best places for shelling. This island is famous for its abundance of sea shells but also for its beautiful sunsets, lighthouse and beach. It’s a great place to stay for a week or just visit for the day with boating, fishing, shopping and lots of relaxing. Check out some of the local cuisine at places like The Island Cow with its super fresh seafood or the Over Easy Cafe for some delicious breakfast and lunch options. If you want to relax and enjoy the beauty of the island, be sure to visit the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This wildlife refuge takes up one-third of Sanibel Island and is a fun way to spend your day.

Last but certainly not least is Naples Florida, which has been a family favorite in my family for generations. Naples offers several family friendly hotel options as well as more upscale and luxurious options. Historic downtown boasts several art galleries, boutiques and shops while a short distance away is Tin City which is a more unique and eclectic shopping area with shopping and restaurants by the water (some of my favorite little shops are located here). Make sure to allow some time to visit Naples Zoo and also the North Collier Regional Park which offers nature trails, soccer & softball fields and is home to Sun-N-Fun Lagoon which is a six acre water park! You won’t want to miss catching the sunset on Naples Pier, but get there early because it is a popular place to watch the sun go down and the sky light up with beautiful purple, pink and golds.

Summer is approaching and now is the perfect time to start making plans and booking vacations for the future. No matter where you end up spending your vacation, be sure to check out some of the local favorites in addition to the traditional tourist stops. Some of the best finds are the small businesses and mom and pop shops and restaurants that may be off the “tourist”path.

I am an authorized travel planner for Disney, Universal Orlando and various cruise lines, proud to be affiliated with Academy Travel. Please check out my Facebook and Instagram pages if you are interested in more travel information.

http://www.facebook.com/KristieRyan.travel http://www.instagram.com/kristieryan.travel

Travel

Halloween at Walt Disney World!

Watch out for the Headless Horseman at Magic Kingdom!

Tomorrow is Halloween so what better time than now to talk about one of the best special ticket events that Walt Disney World offers, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! This special event happens on select nights starting in late August and runs through actual Halloween night. At Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or MNSSHP for short, there are so many things to do that it’s hard to pack them all into this event. Here are a few of the top things to do or experience while at this party.

  • Dress in your favorite costume! This event is one of the only times adults are allowed to come to a Disney Park dressed in costume and many people put a lot of effort into their look! We have seen families themed like the Incredibles, a couple dressed as Carl and Ellie from Up! and my own family got in on the fun as Monsters Inc. If your someone who doesn’t enjoy dressing up in costume, no worries, costumes are not required.
  • Trick or Treat! It is a halloween party after all so of course you need candy. When you enter the party you will receive a map of the trick or treat stations as well as a bag to put your treats in. The lines do get long but the cast members are great at keeping the lines moving and they do give out pretty generous helpings. Since this is Disney, they are good about food allergies and offer different options to those guests with food allergies.
  • Watch the Cadaver Dans Barbershop Quartet perform in the streets of Frontierland. Their shows are entertaining as always, if you haven’t see the Cadaver Dans I highly recommend taking a few moments to watch them perform, you won’t regret it.
  • Catch the show in front of Cinderella’s Castle hosted by the Sanderson Sisters and starring their villain friends! This is one of the best shows I have ever seen at Walt Disney World, entertaining for the whole family and full of villains you don’t see onstage often.
  • Boo – To – You Parade is something you definitely will want to watch. Scope out a viewing spot early, I like to hang out in Frontierland or near the bridge where the parade crosses heading towards Main Street. Not only will you see some of your favorite Disney characters dressed in their halloween costumes, but you will also see some of the guests from Haunted Mansion make an appearance. The ghost dancers from the Haunted Mansion ballroom waltz through the parade, the gravediggers make their way through complete with shovels as part of their performance and this year the ghost bride even joined the parade. While you are watching the parade be on the lookout for the Headless Horseman, he just might make an appearance too.

What better way to spend the evening than riding some of your favorite Magic Kingdom rides while dressed in a costume, trick or treating, seeing the Sanderson Sisters, watching a parade and then you can finish off the night by relaxing and watching the special firework and laser light show that is done at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. If you didn’t have a chance to go to the party this year, you can start planning now for next year. This is an event you won’t want to miss!

If you are interested in booking for next fall so you can attend the party, contact me and I would be happy to help you book your family adventure! http://www.facebook.com/KristieRyan.travel http://www.instagram.com/KristieRyan.travel kristieryan.travel@gmail.com

Travel

Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, do I need one?

I was on a Disney Fan Facebook page recently and saw a debate about using a Disney Vacation Planner when planning your upcoming Disney vacation or if it’s better to just do it yourself. The comments ranged from “it’s great to have someone else do all the work” to “I don’t want to lose control of my trip” and even “I’m not going to pay someone else to book my vacation when I can do the same thing online myself”. This isn’t the first time I have seen or heard these comments so I wanted to share a little about how an authorized Disney Vacation Planner can help, even if you are a seasoned visitor to a Disney property. Here are the top 4 things that I typically talk to potential guests about using my services.

Training: To become an authorized Disney Vacation Planner, you are required to go through Disney’s training course and pass all of their testing and criteria. You are also required to stay current on any updated training that is provided. Many of the agencies also have requirements regarding training and even traveling to the various Disney properties so that you can provide firsthand knowledge and experiences to your guests. There are many training tools and information sharing that we have access to so even if I personally haven’t run into a particular situation, I can pretty quickly find someone to help me to get my guest an answer.

 Customized Experience: An authorized Disney Vacation Planner can be as involved or as “hands off” as the guest prefers. For example, a first-time visitor to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida can easily get overwhelmed with the planning. There are multiple parks, resorts to choose from, tickets, dining, FastPasses, special events, waterparks and it’s all spread out over miles of property. This can be very overwhelming for a guest who may not know where to begin. As an authorized Disney Vacation Planner, I can help narrow down all of these items until we create a vacation that is perfect for your family. After booking the package, I am available to my guests anytime a question arises. I send reminders to be sure they are aware when important dates such as dining opens or FastPasses can be scheduled. I can help with the booking of dining and FastPasses also.  For a more seasoned guest, I may only be booking their vacation package and they may choose to book their own dining and FastPasses or may just ask me for recommendations. At the end of the day, this trip is about finding what is the best fit for your family based on budget and availability and tailoring how involved I am to what the guest is comfortable with.

Advocate for the Guest: Once a guest has booked their vacation, my job doesn’t stop there. In fact, my job isn’t complete until after the guests have returned from their Disney vacation. On a regular basis I am watching for discounts that may be able to be applied to any of my guests’ packages, I will spend hours on the phone getting these discounts applied (if applicable) so that the guest does not have to make the call into Disney Travel themselves. If problems arise, I do my best to resolve the pieces in my control. For example, if a flight is cancelled due to weather I can’t change the flight but I will call into Disney and see if we can cancel that dining reservation you are now going to miss and see if we can reschedule it or what options we may have to make situation a little better.

We LOVE Disney: Disney Vacation Planners are often some of the most passionate people about Disney and Disney Vacations! This is a labor of love for many of us, we get paid from Disney via our agencies and never directly from a guest. We do not, and are not allowed, to charge guests for our services. Disney Vacation Planners are typically frequent Disney travelers themselves and stay up to date on parks, rides, attractions, entertainment and resorts so they can help you create the trip that best suites your family.We do this because we are usually the ones at the parks before rope drop, checking wait times and FastPasses on the My Disney Experience app, are always looking for the next time we can plan our own Disney vacation. I enjoyed helping family and friends make plans for their Disney vacations and I was always on the various Disney sites to find out about the latest news and offers so this is my dream job. My family has traveled to the Walt Disney World Resort over 10 times in the last seven years because we love it so much, so often that my pre-teen can navigate through the theme parks like a pro and is now starting to help me make our family plans.

For me, the decision to become an authorized Disney Vacation Planner was a dream come true and I am grateful every day that I am affiliated with Academy Travel, an EarMarked Diamond Travel Company, which is the highest honor Disney Travel gives to an agency. I am proud to be an authorized Disney Vacation Planner and helping others plan their dream vacations and make memories. Disney has so much to offer with theme parks, cruises, adventure travel options and much more so if you haven’t been on a Disney vacation before or if it’s been a while, I would love to help you plan a trip of your dreams. Contact me for a Free, No Obligation quote and let’s start creating your magical adventure together!

http://www.facebook.com/KristieRyan.travel

Travel

Disney Skyliner Takes Flight on September 29, 2019!

On Sunday, September 29th the Disney Skyliner gondolas will take flight and begin transporting guests around the Walt Disney World Resort. Disney Skyliner connects Epcot and Hollywood Studios to 4 resorts, Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach and the new Riviera Resort. Travel the sky and see some amazing views in cabins decorated with some of your favorite characters and themes such as Mickey, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters Inc, Coco and more!

It’s always a great time to book a Walt Disney World Vacation, contact me for a free, no obligation quote!

Video courtesy of Disney Park Blog
Travel

Family Fun when cruising to Key West

It’s no secret that Florida is my absolute favorite state to visit; from the historic towns, beautiful beaches and theme parks, to the multi-cultural experiences, nature and the clear blue and turquoise water traveling through the Keys. While my family does spend a lot of vacations in Orlando, I was excited when we took a Carnival Cruise that had Key West as a port of call. The hubby and I had visited Key West a few years before our daughter was born and fell in love with the island vibe that the people and scenery give off. We had been anxious to go back and were excited to share Key West with our daughter.

Being the southernmost point in the continental U.S., and only about 90 miles from Cuba, it is a town brimming with energy, beautiful colors, gorgeous waters and history. There is so much to do whether you are traveling with adults or a family with kids. Duval Street is full of shops, bars and restaurants. Stop by Sloppy Joe’s Bar and hang out in one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite places. You will hear music pouring out of the many bars and restaurants as you walk up and down Duval Street. Since we were on a cruise, we only had a few hours to explore but here are some of our favorite places to visit in Key West when you are only there for a short time.

Key West Aquarium – Don’t underestimate this aquarium based on its size, it may look smaller than some other aquariums but it is one of the best aquariums we have been to. They have some unique sea life that that we hadn’t seen anywhere else and the staff members are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. My daughter spent over thirty minutes talking to a staff member about a rare sea animal they had on display. She was so excited that the staff member never made her feel rushed, took her time in answering questions and gave her so much information about the waters surrounding the keys. This was definitely one of her favorite places to visit.

Key West Shipwreck Museum – If your kids, or you, are fascinated by shipwrecks then you will want to make time to stop at the Key West Shipwreck Museum (located near the aquarium). Here you will enter a recreation of an 1800’s wrecker’s warehouse and see some incredible artifacts discovered in the waters near Key West. If you stop here, don’t forget to climb the stairs to the top of the museum, the view is breathtaking!

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum – This was the actual residence of Ernest Hemingway for more than 10 years. Take a guided tour through this beautiful home that was built in the 1800’s. Explore the lush gardens and don’t be surprised if you see a cat, or several! There are more than forty cats that call this their home and are believed to be the descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s cat. You may also notice something a little different about these friendly felines, many have 6-toes due to a gene called the polydactyl gene which causes cats to have kittens with 6 toes. Sailors believed these cats to be good luck and are they still roam the grounds of Ernest Hemingway’s home today.

Before you head back to the ship, don’t forget to take a few pictures at the iconic landmarks. The Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S. Monument is located at Whitehead St. and South St. This iconic buoy is popular so give yourself time to get your picture and get back to the ship. This monument is located at the far end of the island on the opposite side from the cruise ship docks. Head over to Mile Marker 0 on Whitehead St. and take a picture to show you made it to the end of the highway. If you happen to be staying in Key West overnight, you will want to head to Mallory Square to catch the sunset. This waterfront square is full of shops and restaurants and is the most beautiful place to watch a breathtaking sunset. There are plenty of street performers and people watching to do as you wait for the sunset (you may even see a chicken or two).

Unfortunately we only had a few hours to explore Key West this last time so we didn’t get to enjoy the festive environment of Mallory Square at sunset or a lot of other activities but we know we will be back! Key West is truly a one of a kind destination and there is so much to experience that I hardly scratched the surface with this post. If you haven’t been to Key West yet, now is the perfect time to plan, you’ll be happy you did.

“Gypsy Chickens” roam free in Key West. It is common to see chickens and roosters roaming around the city.

Have you visited Key West? Drop me a comment on your favorite place or activity that you experienced.

Travel

From infants to grandparents – traveling to Disney as a family.

More and more it is becoming common to not just travel as an immediate family (parents & kids) but to travel with extended family also. This usually means there will be multiple generations on the vacation and it can seem difficult to keep everyone happy. With a Disney Park vacations, there truly is so much that every age can enjoy together. Here is a list of a few of our favorites!

  1. Take in a show – Did you know that there are several live action shows throughout the Disney theme parks? Check out strolling entertainment like The Dapper Dan’s in Magic Kingdom to the Citizens of Hollywood in Hollywood Studios. These incredible performers put on a show the whole family can enjoy. Want to get out of the Florida sun for a while? Head to an indoor show such as Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage in Hollywood Studios or Festival of the Lion King or Finding Nemo – The Musical in Animal Kingdom.
  2. Character Meet & Greet – Meeting your favorite character is not just for kids. Take the family and meet Mickey & Minnie, a princess or your favorite Disney character. The characters love to interact with kids of ALL ages, not just the little ones! Bounce like Tigger for a cute family pic or flex your muscles in a picture with Gaston. The entire family can get into the picture. Be careful if you meet Edna Mode in Hollywood Studios, she WILL critic your outfit. After all, she is a designer darling.
  3. Enjoy rides together – There are several rides that a family can enjoy together that are friendly for everyone in your group even when traveling with very little ones. In Magic Kingdom everyone can enjoy Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, Jungle Cruise, the Enchanted Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean and more! In Epcot, be sure to head over to the World Showcase and in Mexico the family can enjoy the Gran Fiesta tour – starring the three Caballero’s or in Norway check out Frozen Ever After to watch Elsa bring the ice and snow to life. One the most fun places for my family in Epcot is The Seas with Nemo and Friends where after riding in a clamshell and finding Nemo you can explore a 5.7 million gallon saltwater aquarium, play among Bruce and his friends while you learn about sharks or talk to everyone’s favorite Sea Turtle Crush in Turtle Talk with Crush.
  4. Go for a swim – Don’t forget to make time in your vacation plans to enjoy the pool area at your Walt Disney World Resort. There is so much fun to be had hanging around the pool with your entire family while you relax and enjoy each others company. Many of the moderate and deluxe resorts have water slides and plenty of room for everyone to splash, swim and play.

Regardless of who you might be traveling with or how many people are in your travel party, be sure to be in the moment and enjoy yourself. Let the photopass cast members take family pictures so you have a family picture to cherish for years to come. You can either purchase your photo pass picture from Disney or you can ask the cast member to take a photo using your camera or phone, they will be happy to do so.

Walt Disney World vacation pricing for 2020 is due to be released on June 18, 2019. Head over to my Facebook page and let me know if you would like to be notified when I can assist you in booking a 2020 Disney World vacation! http:// www.facebook.com/KristieRyan.travel

Travel

Make time for golf during your stay at the Walt Disney World Resort.

There really is so much to do at the Walt Disney World Resort outside of the theme parks. Did you know that the Walt Disney World Resort is home to four incredible golf courses? Each of the courses are rated 4 stars by Golf Digest and boast gorgeous greens and landscaping.

Disney’s Palm Golf Course is an 18-hole championship course located at the Shades of Green Resort in the Magic Kingdom resort area. Play among lakes, tropical sands, palm trees and sloping greens. This course will challenge the novice or the pro in your group with 9 holes that have water hazards and 59 bunkers throughout the course.

Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course was designed in a classic tour style and is the longest of the Walt Disney World golf courses. Not only will you be playing among majestic magnolia trees, this course features elevated tees, spacious greens and water hazards. Located at the Shades of Green Resort in the Magic Kingdom resort area this course is great for serious golfers as it boasts 11 holes with water hazards and 97 bunkers. Not only is this course beautiful but it is certified by Audubon International as a Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary.

Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course is the third course located at the Disney’s Shades of Green Resort in the Magic Kingdom resort area. This is a 9 hole walking course that allows you to test your skills. The holes range from 132 to 517 yards from the white tees. Three of the holes route around a deep canal and beautiful pond. This course is also certified by Audubon International as a Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary.

Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course was designed in a classic country-club style that winds through the pastel villas and gorgeous landscaping around Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa in the Disney Springs area. This amazing course has 18 holes featuring elevated bunkered greens and a 7th hole that will test your skills with its challenging island green. The Lake Buena Vista golf course has hosted the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and USGA events.

Rental equipment is available at each of the courses including clubs and golf shoes. This is the perfect place for the traveler who is a golf enthusiast but isn’t able to bring their clubs on vacation, to test out another brand of clubs. Junior US Kids Golf rental equipment is provided complimentary at the courses. If you love to golf, make sure you leave some time in you vacation plans to golf on one of these amazing courses.

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‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

One of my favorite traditions is having breakfast at ‘Ohana with our favorite alien, Stitch! ‘Ohana, at the Polynesian Village Resort, is always where my family enjoys breakfast on the last day of our vacation. It has a south seas, family friendly vibe, where everyone is your “cousin” and you enjoy a family style meal in a tropical setting of warm woods, lush plants and impressive tiki gods.

Enjoy the “Best Friends Breakfast” featuring Lilo and Stitch where Stitch, Lilo, Mickey & Pluto greets guests, takes pictures and signs autographs. Enjoy a family style all – you – care – to – enjoy meal of waffles, eggs, sausage,potatoes, fresh fruits, assorted breads and the most delicious juice we have ever had. Kids get to participate in a parade with their Disney “cousins” through the restaurant.

Dinner at ‘Ohana is full of delicious all – you – care – to – enjoy Polynesian cuisine. Guests age 21 and older can enjoy wine and tropical alcoholic drinks from the full bar. During dinner, children can participate in coconut races – using brooms to sweep coconuts across the restaurants hardwood floors. Everyone is invited to dance the hula and relax to island music during a celebration of birthdays and anniversaries.

Both breakfast and dinner seating books up fast so advanced dining reservations are highly recommended. The Disney Dining Plan and Disney Deluxe Dining Plan are both accepted at ‘Ohana. Dining reservations can be made 180 days in advance.

Interested in booking a Walt Disney World Resort Vacation? Contact me for a free, no obligation quote! I am affiliated with Academy Travel, an agency that has received a Earmarked Diamond designation from Disney Destinations. Earmarked Diamond is the highest designation that Disney Destinations can bestow upon a travel agency. My services are free to my clients, contact me by email or via my Facebook page; Kristieryan.travel@gmail.com or http://www.facebook.com/KristieRyan.travel