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Monday, January 19, 2015

Five things you should know before you plan a Disney Vacation

I have the best job in the world. I plan Disney vacations- meaning, I help people make lifetime memories with their friends and families they will never forget. Of course, there's plenty of work in the middle- budgeting, choosing a hotel, dates, etc.- but in the end, it's all about those happy memories that you'll only get at a Disney theme park.

I talk to a lot of families planning trips, and answer a number of questions-you'd be surprised how many of them are similar. No complaining here- its a big reason why I have a job. There's just so much to Disney- from dining plans, to time saving tips, to park transportation- that it is so easy to get lost, or lose some of the details. It's silly to go all in on a Disney trip alone when you can have expert service, for free!

That being said, I've put together a list of five things you should probably know before you think about planning a trip.

Five things you should know before you plan a Disney Vacation Item Number 1:
Your Dates Do Matter. 

No, this isn't a message to your husband about buying you flowers and taking you to a nice dinner...although that's always nice! No, this is about selecting dates for your Disney vacation. There are peak seasons- meaning you may or may not have to wait a longer time than others in line for rides. Restaurants may fill up. There may be different events going on- like Star Wars weekend, or Epcot's Food and Wine Festival (my favorite!). There are times when select rides are usually shut down for refurbishment. And let's not forget Mother Nature- there's time when Florida/California get hot, and there's times where it may be freezing cold where you are at and you can't wait to get to the coastal sun! Needless to say, your dates do matter.

Disclaimer: You may be pigeon holed into your dates already- maybe your kids summer vacation, you or your husband may have specific vacation time off from work, or something else. And if that's the case- then ok, no problem. Any time you are going to Disney is a good time. But if you have flexibility, there might be some better times to visit than others.

Five things you should know before you plan a Disney Vacation Item Number 2:
There are specific advantages to each hotel category at Walt Disney World.

There are three hotel categories at WDW- value, moderate, and deluxe. They are priced in a manner than makes sense- value is cheaper, deluxe is more expensive.

In a nutshell, here are my reasons for picking a resort from each category.

Value- You are on a budget. You know you are going to spend every waking moment in the park, and you really just want to take your family to Disney. All beds are doubles. All restaurants are quick service. Look, the other option if you really want to save money is to stay off property. However, let me tell you, this is not something I recommend. By staying off property, you'll lose the immersive Disney experience, and first class service. You'll also lose the bus transportation that runs all day (and night). There are some wonderful options in this price category if you are looking to save some cash.

Moderate- You want to a hotel that is a little less crowded. They take it up a notch for themeing in some of the room options. They are also typically located closer to the theme parks, so your bus ride may be shorter. Rooms are a little larger, the pools have a slide. There are restaurants you can sit down at. They have queen beds. If there is a battle in your battle to stay in a nice resort, but the other person wants to save a little money, then one of these options are for you.

Deluxe- You want a larger room. You want top of the line theme-ing, and awesome food options in your resort. On top of that, you'll receive first class transportation options. Most of the Deluxe options reside on the Monorail... which is a super cool way to get around. It's typically much quicker and is extremely easy to get a stroller on. Another one of the Deluxe resort options feature a safari outside your room- zebras, giraffes, and more. Most rooms are also closer in walking distance to the lobby. These hotels also feature excellent pools.

Five things you should know before you plan a Disney Vacation Item Number 3:

There is no guarantee that Disney will release free dining or other promotions each year.

Look, as a Disney travel expert, I have a number of tools at my dispersal. I know historically when Disney will release a discount, and I could guess a timeframe for dates. That being said, Disney comes up with new promotions, release them at different times, and they don't always match up exactly with what they have done in the past. Often I will get a client requesting a trip and ask me for free dining. The problem is, if Disney has not released the promotion yet, that's not something I can promise as part of your trip, and you'll have to plan on paying for it. Just consider it a nice bonus if Disney just so happens to release free dining for your trip dates. Even better, if Disney were to release a promotion and you have already booked your trip- I automatically contact Disney and get it applied to your trip, if you qualify. 

Five things you should know before you plan a Disney Vacation Item Number 4:

Dining on Disney property can add a new experience to your vacation.

I know there is no dollar menu to be found at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. I know some families maximize their budget on park tickets, souvenirs, or staying at a resort. We could probably add airfare to that list.

But, if there's any way you can fit it in your budget, dining at Disney can take your vacation to a different level. From singing dinner shows to steaks you can cut with a plastic fork, Disney offers a dining experience that you can't recreate elsewhere. On top of that, you can save time in the parks. Would you rather wait to meet Mickey and Minnie in a never ending line or maybe uses up one of your Fastpass+ options, or wait to meet Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, AND Goofy, all the while sitting in an air conditioned restaurant and eating all you can ribs, chicken, ice cream, and a number of other options. Really, for that reason alone, dining in Disney restaurants makes sense.

Five things you should know before you plan a Disney Vacation Item Number 5:

Disney has probably changed since you last visited. 

Sometimes it's a small change. Maybe your favorite restaurant has changed menus. Maybe a ride is closed- or an attraction has been added. Park hours are always changing. A new event could have been added, like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (what do you mean... I have to leave the park early if I don't have a Halloween Party ticket!!?). There could be new resort options. Then there is the My Disney Experience website and app, which has totally revamped dining reservations, fastpass selections, and more. Disney is changing every year, and it's my job to stay on top of those changes- so you spend less time wondering, and get the experience you want.

As I started this post- I love my job. My services are 100% to anyone planning staying on Disney property for a Disney Vacation. From dining advice, to maximizing a budget, to being on call almost 24/7 to the number of questions that you may have- I'm here to help. And guess what- you may not have a bunch of questions. You might just want to go to Disney, and don't need a lot of help. That's ok- I can book your vacation, and save you the hassle of spending the time quoting your trip, or applying discounts when they come out.  As mentioned above, the other plus is I'm here to help 24/7- if you book a trip with Disney directly, there's not someone like me who will help you out in any situation.

So there you have it. My five things you should know before you go to Disney...until my next top 5 comes out!

Thinking about planning a Disney Trip? Send me an email at krystin@dreamsunlimitedtravel.com or visit me on facebook at Facebook.com/DisneyTripExpert


Disney Dumbo Valentines Day Project






I love going to Disney theme parks. I love watching Disney movies. I love planning Disney vacations. I also love doing Disney crafts with my children. I also enjoy decorating for holidays. 

You could say that a Disney Valentines project with my children is my "At-Home-Disney" equivalent of scoring the perfect seats for a fireworks show over Cinderella's Castle...ten-twenty minutes of pure fun and joy with my children (although no offense Prego, the spaghetti I made for dinner tasted nothing like any of the items I could find at my favorite Magic Kingdom restaurant, the California Grill).  


You can find the original instructions and template for this project here. One of the reasons I love completing Disney-inspired crafts with my children is that it helps pass on my love of Disney to my kids... plus, I am also getting a decoration item that I will cherish for the rest of my lifetime.

Anyway, let's get started. The reason I picked the "Dumbo's Trunk of Hearts" is that it didn't require a bunch of crazy items to make. For some odd reason, I did have the googly eyes already (I bought them on clearance at Target after Halloween). However, I don't think they are essential. You could easily draw your own set of eyeballs. 

Let's begin. You'll need glue, scissors,  construction paper, markers. Googly eyes are a bonus.


You'll also need a little helper. This is my 5 year old Martha Stewart named Klarabelle. Klarabelle loves to cut, so I put her on cutting duty. 



After you cut all of the items out, you'll want to trace them on construction paper. I traced Dumbo's head on gray, his hat on yellow, and the hearts on gray and pink. Keep those scissors handy- if you are lucky like me, this is another project your little one can cut out.


You'll notice my daughter is helping in all of these pictures. I also have a one year old and a three year old, each a boy. While it doesn't require it in the directions, you may want some toys nearby to keep their attention span. Apparently one aspires to cook, the other wants to be Godzilla.


Below you'll see I had Klarabelle practice. There are a few things you'll have to draw on Dumbo's head for the Valentine project. You'll have to draw eyelashes, eyebrows, and a few lines on his trunk. I drew a couple of eyeballs on a piece of paper and had my daughter practice the eyelashes before we did them fur reals (just trying to stay hip before I'm old enough to pop one).


Next, you'll glue the items together. I'd recommend a glue stick if you have it. I think one of my kids ate my last glue stick. Someone eats a marker one day, glue stick the next. This is no reflection on my cooking. 





Next, I just cut out a few different sized hearts. These were kind of hard for my daughter, so I cut some out quickly for my daughter. Using the markers, she applied a few designs. You'll glue these hearts stacked on top of each other, and then glue them on top of Dumbo's trunk. It will appear as if Dumbo is blowing hearts out of his nose!





Let the glue dry... and WA-la!  You have your very own Dumbo Valentines Day project completed.



As a Disney trip planner, I have found that a very large percentage of my clients are booking a trip for the same reasons as me- to create happy memories with my family in the magical world of Disney theme parks. Unfortunately, I'm not able to spend every waking moment in fantasy land (a double entendre!). But I am able to turn off the television, shut off the iPad, and spend fun time with my children at home too!

As always, if you or someone you know would like to plan a Disney vacation- for free!- simply contact me at Krystin@dreamsunlimitedtravel.com 



Thursday, January 8, 2015

How Do Your Services Work?

I get this question all the time. People just don't quite understand what exactly it is that I do. I plan Disney vacation packages for families- although sometimes I feel like the CIA. Well don't worry- I can tell you exactly what I do.

First of all, let me emphasis that my services truly are free. No fees. No surcharges. Disney pays me a commission on what I book so you don't have to pay me a dime. Imagine how many people go on a Disney vacation each year. Now imagine how many people need help, or have questions. Disney would have the largest work force in the world if they hired enough people to plan and assist in guests vacations. Instead, there are travel agencies and travel experts like myself that are here to answer those questions for you. I am very fortunate to say that I am employed with one of the absolute best agencies, Dreams Unlimited Travel. Also please note- I am not a travel agent that will treat you any different if you are spending $2,000 or $20,000 on your trip- I am not motivated by the commission or money I make. My passion is making people happy, and ensuring they have the trip of a lifetime.

That being said. I also don't have a book of special prices- I will find you the same package price that you would get if you went on disneyworld.com or called Disney yourself. So why would you want me planning your vacation, even if it's free? 

For one, there are a million options when it comes to even thinking about planning a trip. Want to know how much a trip may cost? Here's where we start:
-Party Size of your Group
-Ages of your Group (yes, there are different prices for certain ages)
-Potential Travel Dates
-Preferred Resort
-Days of Park Tickets (and do you want to park hop, have your tickets expire, etc.)
-Tickets to special events (like Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party)
-Dining (there are different plans that fit different needs)

And I try to do all of this while staying within a specific budget. Of course, sometimes that doesn't always work- for example, if you have a large group or family, sometimes you'll need two or more rooms...you can't fit eight people in a room that Disney only accommodates four in.

After I book your trip- for a price that accommodates your checking account, we move on to the fun trip planning.

I'll try to make sure you meet specific characters, while spending the least amount of time possible waiting in line. I want to make sure you utilize the MyFastPass+ system, so you don't miss out on a ride because you spent 4 hours waiting to meet Elsa and Anna. I'll give you specific advice on which restaurants to visit or avoid, and make reservations for you, if you desire. I'll help you navigate the My Disney Experience website and app on your phone, which can be confusing.

There's also some troubleshooting I can do for your Disney vacation. Sometimes it's the good stuff- Disney comes out with a discount for your dates, then I spend hours waiting on the phone to get you the discounted price. Sometimes my clients don't even know they qualify- so getting an email saying you saved hundreds or thousands of dollars is certainly a fun surprise. Other times its the not so good stuff- maybe you have a medical issue or family emergency before or during the trip. I'm able to provide specific on what you should do and what your best options are.

I provide an almost always available contact for something that is a very large purchase. Purchasing a Disney vacation is exciting, but it's also a risk. If you are going to invest thousands of dollars in a trip, you want to make sure you have the trip of a lifetime...no matter if you go once every thirty years, or two times a year. My job is to make sure each trip is memorable for the right reasons. And I love every minute of job.

I plan all Disney properties- Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland, Adventures by Disney, as well as Universal.

So, what is it that I do? I work for you, for free. I make sure your trip is best trip you'll ever have.