Travel

Disney Springs announces phased re-opening May 20th!

photo from Disney Parks Blog

We have all been waiting anxiously to hear from Disney about re-openings and yesterday we received some great news with the announcement of Disney Springs beginning a phased reopening on May 20th!  When Disney Springs begins to reopen on May 20th, they will limit the number of shopping and dining locations during this initial phase. Even though everything will not open at once and there will be limited capacity for visitors, it is a ray of hope towards all of us getting our Disney fix in the future.  

With this phased re-opening we will see increased cleaning procedures and expect face coverings requirements by cast members and guests. There will be a limit on capacity to Disney Springs as well as limited parking and operating hours for the stores and restaurants that are part of this opening.

While we are all still (anxiously) waiting for an announcement from Disney about the re-opening of parks and resorts, this is a step in that direction. Disney is continuing to monitor conditions and follow the guidance of government and health officials as they work on plans for how they can reopen Disney Parks and Resorts safely for guests and cast members.

Even with the Disney Parks and Resorts being closed, we are still booking travel for when they reopen! Visiting in fall or winter 2020 is a great way to get away and enjoy some family fun, especially for all of the essential workers who have been keeping us safe during this outbreak.They deserve a much-needed rest and vacation! In additional to this year, 2021 is going to be an AMAZING year at the Walt Disney World resort with several new rides and attractions, as well as the 50th Anniversary of the Magic Kingdom in October! Packages for 2021 are not yet available BUT by booking your room now, you are locking in your 2020 room rates before the prices increase for 2021!

Contact me today and we can start planning your next vacation! And don’t forget to also follow me on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on the latest Disney news and offers!

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Disney Cruise Line Update!

Disney released their latest news regarding Disney’s Cruise Line sailing on Monday April 27th. This latest update from Disney’s Cruise Line impacts sailings on Disney’s ships the Magic, Dream, Fantasy and Wonder.

* Cruises on Disney’s Magic are canceled through July 2, 2020.

* Cruises on Disney’s Dream and Fantasy ships are canceled through June 18, 2020.

* Cruises on Disney’s Wonder is canceled through June 30, 2020.

Disney is doing the best they can to accommodate the guests impacted by these cancellations including offering future credits for up to 15 months from their origional booked date of sail.

I am still waiting on official word from Disney regarding park and resort openings, as of this posting they are still “closed until further notice”.

Follow me FaceBook & Instagram to stay up to date on the latest Disney news! I am also still booking guests for later in 2020, contact me today for a free, no obligation quote.

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What does a travel planner do when no one can travel?

As we all know, the world is in the middle of a pandemic which is shutting down schools, businesses, travel and in some instances cities. The travel industry has been largely impacted and we have seen unprecedented closures like Disney Parks and Universal Parks, cruise lines docked and resorts closing their doors. All of these closures are not just a disappointment for families counting down to their vacations but also are costing families additional time to rebook or cancel and extra money in some cases as well as putting a lot of stress and pressure on customer service reps for the businesses trying to help accommodate guests as best as possible while still worrying and caring for their own families. So how can booking through a travel planner help in times like this? Let me share with you what I, as well as other travel planners, have been doing since rumors of closures and quarantines started (before actual closures began).

Since talk of the coronavirus began, I started watching the official announcements from all of the vendors where I book clients vacations. It’s been important to watch for official updates and not stress about the rumors, my social media feeds are still full of them and they drive me crazy because they unnecessarily cause more stress and frustration to the public. I receive official updates from Disney Travel, Universal and SeaWorld which are where all of my currently booked guests are headed. I also receive updates from my affiliated agency, Academy Travel, who has direct points of contact at each of these places and can get updates directly from them as well.

Disney Parks rarely, if ever, close for an extended period of time so news of Disneyland and then Disney World closing for several weeks was major news! Unfortunately I do have guests that were only a few days from traveling and then received the news that their vacation needed to be rebooked, I have many guests anxiously waiting to hear if they will need to rebook their upcoming vacations. The first few days after the announcement, the wait time to reach a Disney agent to rebook or cancel was over 3.5 hours and that was IF you could even get through or if the call didn’t drop after waiting an hour or so. Since my guests booked with me, they didn’t have to wait on hold for over 3 hours or keep trying to get through. All they had to do was let me know what they wanted to do and I did the rest. Please know, that once I was able to get through to Guest Relations and Customer Service cast members, they were still very helpful and I appreciate all of their hard work during this time also!

Since many people are not planning their next vacation with everything going on right now, I’m taking advantage of this time to do additional training, become certified for other cruise lines and resorts and working on additional items that will be helpful to my travel clients. I’m taking virtual tours of places I haven’t traveled to yet and finding new places to recommend to my clients. I’m also staying up to date on new announcements with the companies I work with currently on changes or offers for future travel.

I am thankful to get to do what I love as a way to not only help support my family, but to help others plan a vacation that will be meaningful to them. Even though these are difficult times, this will pass and we will be back to traveling (hopefully soon). If you haven’t booked with a travel planner in the past I encourage you to look into it, we are here to help take the work off of our guests so they can relax and enjoy! Please check out my FaceBook and Instagram pages for more information about my travel services, and please know that there are no hidden or extra fees for my services. Stay safe everyone!

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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!

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H20 Glow Nights Party at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon

We are heading quickly into summer and what better way to celebrate the warming temperatures then to check out this great offer from Walt Disney World! On select nights between May 30th – Aug 24th, Typhoon Lagoon Water Park will host the “H20 Glow Nights Party” from 8 pm to 11 pm. This special ticket event has fun for the entire family to enjoy as Rex “The Dinosaur of Ceremonies” and his Toy Story pals turn this watery world into an electrifying nighttime celebration with special lighting and entertainment.

Dance the night away on the sandy beaches by the Surf Pool or meet your Toy Story friends Buzz, Woody and Jessie. There will be yummy specialty themed bites and drinks you can treat yourself too as you enjoy the lit up scenery around you. For the adults in the group, head over to the 21 and up area at “The Wharf” for entertainment and some refreshing adult beverages.

During this special ticketed event, guests will receive a special Glow wristband to wear as they enjoy all of the Typhoon Lagoon attractions with shorter wait times. Tickets are on sale now and range from $54 to $59 (plus tax). Tickets are limited so be sure to purchase your tickets in advance.

Travel

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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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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Benefits of staying at a Disney World Deluxe Resort

So I’ve been a little radio silent on my blog because I was headed to Disney World! Disney World is my absolute favorite family vacation spot and my mom and I just got back from our first Mother – Daughter trip. Since it seemed like a special trip, I wanted to stay someplace neither of us had been before so I booked our room for Disney’s Wilderness Lodge which is one of their deluxe resorts. Over the years I have stayed at Value, Moderate, Deluxe and off site resorts but this turned out to be one of my favorites.

It’s no secret that it’s not cheap to travel to Disney World but I will say I have always found it to be worth the price! It’s been a while since I stayed in a deluxe resort so I thought I would highlight some of my favorite points for staying at a Disney Deluxe Resort.

  1. Transportation. Wilderness Lodge is across the lake from Magic Kingdom and has both boat and bus options to Magic Kingdom. There is also a boat that takes you to Disney’s Contemporary resort which is a nice peaceful ride. The Contemporary is always a must stop during our travels because the monorail comes into the building which is always a fun feature for the kids. The Grand Floridian, Contemporary and Polynesian are all on the monorail loop that takes you to Magic Kingdom. Animal Kingdom lodge is closest to the Animal Kingdom theme park and boasts their own Savannah where you can see the animals from some of the rooms.
  2. Rooms are often more “roomy”. All Disney resorts have a split bathroom where the sinks are separated from the rest of the bathrooms for ease of families getting ready. The deluxe resorts have two sinks and full closet for clothing and luggage storage. An added bonus are the balcony’s which are large enough for you to sit outside and enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning or relax in the evening after a day in the parks.
  3. Pools. All of the Disney resorts have pools and they are all so much fun! The deluxe resorts boast a zero entry (or beach entry), water slide plus plenty of lounge chairs to chill out in. At Wilderness lodge, the pool area is just a few steps from Geyser Grill, an outdoor lounge area where you can purchase drinks as well as a quick service area for the family to get snacks and drinks while cooling off.
  4. On site dining. Many of the moderate and deluxe resorts have an onsite restaurant in addition to their quick service “food court’ area. Animal Kingdom Lodge has Boma – Flavors of Africa and Sanaa both of which feature African meals. Wilderness lodge has Whispering Canyon which has fun interactions with the cast members, always make sure to ask for ketchup and Artist Point where you can dine while meeting Snow White and some of the seven dwarfs. At the Contemporary you have three choices for sit down dining; California Grill, The Wave and Chef Mickey’s where you can enjoy a buffet style meal while meeting Mickey and his pals! At the Grand Floridian you have the most choices as they boast four sit down dining restaurants. If you are looking for more upscale and fine dining, you will want to get reservations at Citricos, Narcoossee’s or Victoria and Albert’s which is a AAA Five Diamond Award winning restaurant. If you are looking for characters, you will want to get a reservation at 1900 Park Fare where you can meet Mary Poppins and friends while enjoying breakfast OR Cinderella, Prince Charming, her step mother and evil step sisters during dinner sittings. The Polynesian Resort has Kona Cafe and ‘Ohana, both feature a Hawaiian or Polynesian flair to their food. When you book ‘Ohana for breakfast you can enjoy your family style breakfast with Lilo and Stitch and friends. One of our always must do meals.

Regardless if you decide to stay in a Value, Moderate or Deluxe resort I highly recommend staying on Disney property so you can completely immerse yourself in the Disney experience. If you need help planning a trip to Disney World, contact me and I would love to help! I am affiliated with Academy Travel and Mickey Vacations which has received the designation of Earmarked DIAMOND from Disney Destinations this year! This is the highest designation that Disney Destinations can bestow to a travel agency.

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