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

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Rafiki’s Planet Watch to Reopen this Summer at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

One of my daughters’ favorite places to visit at Animal Kingdom was Rafiki’s Planet Watch and she was sad when it closed earlier this year. I’m super excited to share that Rafiki’s Planet Watch, the Affection Section and the Wildlife Express will fully reopen this summer. The area will include a few new enhancements and join the celebration of all things “The Lion King.”

We are really excited to learn that Rafiki’s Planet Watch will still include the animal encounters as well as new experiences that draw from Disney’s rich heritage of wildlife animation, featuring a celebration of “The Lion King.” My daughter is interested in working with animals when she gets older and really enjoys seeing the importance that Disney places on animal care and conservation in their parks and around the world.

Rafiki’s Plant Watch is the perfect place to see what conservation efforts Disney is working on as well as learning more about some of the animals at Animal Kingdom. You will absolutely want to check this out on your next visit to Animal Kingdom Park.

Please contact me if you would like a FREE, NO Obligation quote on a Walt Disney World Resort Vacation. My services are free for my clients. To stay up to date on Disney Park news and offers, please follow me on Facebook and Instagram at www.facebook.com/KristieRyan.travel or www.Instagram.com/KristieRyan.travel.

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Top 10 Places or Ways to relax or wind down at Walt Disney World.

Vacation should be all about relaxing and enjoying time with people you care about. A Disney vacation may not always seem relaxing because there is just so much to see and do but there are ways to sneak in little breaks and some relaxing. Here are my top 10 places or ways to relax at Walt Disney World.

  1. Ride a slow or quieter ride. Riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (People Mover) at Magic Kingdom is a great way to sit and enjoy the views and relax for a little bit. One of my favorite attractions for relaxing is the classic Carousel of Progress at Magic Kingdom where we learn that there is a “Great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day..” If you are at Epcot, I recommend riding Spaceship Earth and enjoying this slower moving ride that takes you throughout history or Living with the Land located by Soarin’.
  • Take in a show. There are so many shows at each of the Disney World parks that you have lots to choose from. This can be a great way to get inside out of the Florida heat and relax while watching Broadway level shows.
  • Find an out of the way place to sit and relax. When you are at Animal Kingdom, there are so many little paths back by Asia where you can get out of the crowds and relax a little. At Epcot, when you travel through the countries be sure to explore them. Many of them such as England, Japan and Morocco have little walkways or alleyways that are not as hectic and allows you to relax while enjoying beautiful gardens or buildings. Hollywood studios seems to be a little more tricky right now because there is so much construction but head over towards Echo Lake and there is often some quieter spaces to enjoy. At Magic Kingdom be sure to enjoy the Main Street Plaza Garden where there are greenspaces fenced in on both sides of Main Street with views of the castle. This is one of the best places to let little ones stretch their legs and for families to relax.
  • Ride the Monorail. Hop on the monorail and enjoy riding the loop OR jump off at each of the three resorts and explore! The theming at Disney World Resorts are amazing and you will not be disappointed in checking out the Grand Floridian, Polynesian or the Contemporary. If you catch the monorail at Epcot you will have to switch monorails at the Ticket and Transportation Center to get to these resorts. Added bonus, the beach at the Polynesian is a great place to watch the fireworks from Magic Kingdom or the water parade at night. The Contemporary has a viewing deck that has an incredible view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks also.
  • Take a boat ride. You can take a boat ride from Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian,  Polynesian or Wilderness Lodge. You can also enjoy a nice relaxing boat ride from Wilderness Lodge over to the Contemporary. When staying at Port Orleans French Quarter, Port Orleans Riverside, Old Key West or Saratoga Springs resorts you can travel by boat to Disney Springs. The resorts of Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, and the Swan and Dolphin Hotels have boats traveling to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
  • Utilize the Baby Care Centers. When traveling with a little one, be sure to utilize the Baby Care Centers located in each of the Disney Theme Parks. These centers give you a little more privacy and comfort during those hot or busy park days to feed or change little ones.
  • Swim and play at your resort. Don’t forget to take a day or at least a few hours to enjoy the pools and activities at your Walt Disney World Resort. All of the resorts have multiple pools, each with different theming to match their resort and are staffed with lifeguards. An added bonus is that there are typically activities that go on near the pool for kids of all ages lead by Cast Members. At night, most of the main resort pools will have poolside movies which is the perfect way for families to relax and unwind after a day in the parks.
  • Resort Hop. Have a few hours of down time? Book a dining reservation at another of the Disney resorts so you can check them out OR just head over to the other resorts to take a walk around. This is how my family usually gets an idea of the next resort everyone wants to stay at. We take a few hours one day and pick a couple resorts to check out. That helps us see what each has to offer in person.
  •  Head to a Water Park. Disney World has two water parks both themed very differently but equally fun, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Enjoy the wave pools and find a beach chair to soak up the sun and relax. There are plenty of attractions for all members of the family, from the lazy rivers to big water slides. It’s the best of both worlds because you can enjoy various attractions with your family and then chill out and relax in your beach chair by the water.
  1. Plan a “down” day. If you have time in your trip, have one day where you don’t have anything planned. If you have a park ticket for that day, you can wake up that morning and decide where to head and not worry about fast passes. I know, the horror – how could she say that lol, but there is something to be said for taking a spontaneous day once in a while. My family usually takes one day of our trip and doesn’t get a park ticket for that day. We can decide to swim, explore, head to Disney Springs or do all three. The beauty is that it helps to recharge our batteries because we are typically a rope drop to park close kind of a family.

However you decide to plan your vacation, remember to be in the moment and enjoy making memories with the people you love.

Please contact me if you would like a FREE, NO Obligation quote on a Walt Disney World Resort Vacation. My services are free for my clients. To stay up to date on Disney Park news and offers, please follow me on Facebook and Instagram at www.facebook.com/KristieRyan.travel or www.Instagram.com/KristieRyan.travel.

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When is the best age to start taking your kids to Disney (or other theme parks)?

This is a question that as an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner I seem to get a lot. Often as I’m speaking to potential clients they will say “I would love to go but we are going to wait until my youngest can appreciate or enjoy it.” I get it, Disney and other theme parks are not cheap so of course you want to make sure that each family member enjoys themselves and lots of fun memories are made. What I like to encourage people is to keep in mind that often the parents or other adult relatives on the trip are the ones who will have the memories of their kids first time seeing the castle, or that first ride on Dumbo; those are the memories that last a lifetime. An added bonus of traveling with an infant is that at Disney Parks kids under the age of 3 are FREE!

What has helped to shape my opinion on this topic is that our daughters first trip to Walt Disney World was when she was three years old and to be honest, seven years later she still remembers some things about the trip but she LOVES seeing pictures of her first trip and us telling her the stories. Yes, there are challenges in taking younger kids; they get overwhelmed and over stimulated more easily, they tire out faster, they often haven’t learned impulse control so when they want to eat, rest, see something or do something they don’t understand that you may have to wait. The first trip with our daughter wasn’t all sunshine and roses trust me, she has always seemed to know exactly what she wants and is willing to do or not do, would get over stimulated easily with all the lights, people and sounds, needs downtime to chill out plus she is pretty stubborn so when she says she won’t take a picture in front of the castle she is not kidding, she seriously means it (and still does today lol).

The biggest advice I give people who are considering taking young kids to Disney (or other theme parks) is that you know your child better than anyone. What works for one family may or may not work for your family and that is okay. I knew that as long as I gave my daughter time to swim, run, explore at her own pace and rest when she was tired that we would have a great time. Did that mean that I did not get to ride Haunted Mansion because she was too nervous (and they didn’t have the rider switch option yet) sure, but I had a better time making memories of her and I riding Dumbo and her cracking up at me because I was nervous and she wasn’t (I’m terrified of heights, she is not). It was more about the memories of the first time her and my husband had a sword fight in the shop outside of Pirates of the Caribbean, still a tradition today with them. The memory of seeing her face light up when she walked onto Main Street the first time and saw the castle lit up for Christmas or how she laughed when we rode Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom because it seemed like a giraffe was going to try to get into the car with us. I never got a picture of her looking at the camera in front of the castle, but I do have a few pictures of my husband and I looking at the camera and our daughter with her hands in front of her face because she did not want to take the picture….it’s still one of my favorite pictures of my family because it’s an honest picture of our first Disney adventure as a family.

So, if you think you may be up to traveling to Disney with a young child, toddler or infant, here are my top five pieces of advice.

  1. Plan, Plan, Plan….but don’t be afraid to change your plans based on what your kid(s) really need. I am a planner, it gives me less stress and anxiety to have a plan and an idea at least of what we will be doing each day before we leave (also makes packing easier). With that being said, even as my daughter gets older, we still have days where one of us may be tired or just in the mood to do something different so we change up our plans as we go. It’s okay to have some flexibility.
  2. Use the Rider Swap option for the rides that your little ones cannot or will not ride. This way the adults can still enjoy the ride with older kids or other family members.
  3. Utilize the Baby Care centers at each of the Disney parks. These are especially nice for nursing mothers on those hot summer days as well as gives you a little more privacy to change or feed a baby in a more relaxing environment.
  4. Take Breaks. Plan some down time at the resorts and enjoy the pool or hop on the monorail or a boat from a park to a resort for a nice relaxing ride. Get a Mickey pretzel, Mickey ice cream or some popcorn and sit down to relax for a while. In Magic Kingdom, the Main Street Plaza Garden is a nice grassy, fenced in area where you can spread out to relax and little ones can stretch their legs and move around.
  5. Bring Snacks. Did you know that you can bring your own snacks into Disney Parks? Bring some fruit snacks or goldfish crackers and a few bottles of water so when you are waiting in line your little ones can have a snack.

Most of all, plan your vacation in a way that YOUR family will get the most enjoyment. Spend some quality time together and enjoy seeing the Magic that a Disney Parks vacation has to offer!

If you would like help in planning an upcoming vacation to Disney Parks (Disney World or Disneyland) please contact me for a free, no obligation quote. My services are free to my clients and I would love to help you plan. Follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KristieRyan.Travel or Instagram at www.Instagram.com/KristieRyan.Travel.  

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Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is opening ahead of schedule on May 31 at Disneyland® Resort in Southern California and August 29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios® in Florida.

Concept Art for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

This is incredible news as the projected opening date for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was not expected to be until late Fall however it was just announced to be debuting early because of high guest interest in experiencing this new, immersive land.  It is expected to open in phases so on opening day for phase one, guests will be able to live their own Star Wars story and take the controls of the most famous ship in the galaxy aboard Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Guests will also be able to sample galactic food and beverages as well as explore merchant shops and more.

Phase two will open later this year, with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance which is expected to the one of the most immersive and advanced attractions ever imagined and will put guests in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance as well as blur the lines between fantasy and reality. 

A reservation will not be offered or required to experience Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at the Walt Disney World® Resort in Florida. A valid theme park admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is required to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge after its opening on August 29, 2019. Capacity will be limited and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be open during Extra Magic Hours. During Extra Magic Hours Guests staying at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels can spend extra time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios enjoying select attractions.

Guests planning to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Park between May 31 and June 23, 2019 will need valid theme park admission and will be required to make a no-cost reservation, subject to availability, to access the land. Information on how to make a reservation will be released soon. Guests staying at one of the three DisneylandResort hotels during these dates will receive a designated reservation to access Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge during their stay (one reservation per registered guest); valid theme park admission is required.

More details are expected to be released soon so please be sure to follow my blog so you are notified of the latest news and updates!

Contact me for a Free, No Obligation quote to book a Walt Disney Park vacation and experience this one of a kind attraction! http://www.facebook.com/KristieRyan.Travel