By: Nicole Bowles
October 10, 2017
Waiting in line for a character is an exciting time, because kids can’t wait to meet their favorites. But, waiting can be boring, and you may get hot. Here are some tips for passing them time and having a memorable experience:
First, listen to the character attendants and the PhotoPass photographers. They are there to help everyone have a memorable experience.
Please leave your stroller outside of the line, and make sure your child has used the restroom before you get in line.
How do you get more time with the character? Have an autograph book or something the character can sign (please note, not all characters sign). You don’t need to buy one from the parks, you can always purchase something before you go. Many people bring picture frames for the characters to sign, or they purchase the character book and have the character sign on their page. (Put your name and address in the book. If you lose it and it gets returned to lost and found, Disney will mail it to you.)
If you would like the character attendant to use your phone or camera to take pictures, please have it ready to go, hand it to them, and ask them. Let the PhotoPass photographer take pictures and try not to stand in front of them. If you don’t have Memory Maker, it is ok. You may purchase pictures individually. You don’t have to purchase the pictures, but your phone or camera may miss that perfect shot the photographer got.
When you are about the second or third family in line ready to meet the character, make sure your MagicBand or park ticket is ready to go, and get your autograph book out and the marker/pen ready to write (take the cap off and put it on the end of the pen or click the pen, some characters cannot take the caps off).
This is important: Turn to the page of the book you would like signed like a bookmark. Why? Let’s say you are meeting Mickey. When your child steps up and to meet Mickey, the first thing Mickey does is interact with your child. Mickey assesses the situation and if your child is running up for a hug, he will hug him or her. For shy children, a pat on the back, etc. So, while this is happening, the autograph book has now closed and your child or you or the character attendant will have to flip through your book for a blank page. Put a pen or marker in it!
After the hug, Mickey will sign the autograph book or whatever you brought. He will not sign it to your child personally, just his name. He will then hand the book to the character attendant so it is not in the picture. After the picture, there are hugs goodbye. Now, make sure you get your pictures on your MagicBand or park ticket from the photographer. If you don’t want them, just let the photographer scan your band or ticket anyway, they have to put those pictures somewhere and it makes things easier on them.
Remember there is only one Mickey, Goofy doesn’t have a fan in his head, and when Sofia leaves, she is really going to feed Clover. Keep up the magic! Character meet and greets are something your child will remember for a lifetime!
If you have any more questions about a character meet and greet or if you would like help planning your Disney vacation, I would be glad to help you. You can contact me at email@example.com or my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nbowles.wft/ Always use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner Agency to book your vacation!
By: Anna Trosper
October 3, 2017
You have planned the big vacation and have finalized all the details. Resort, park tickets, dining reservations, flights (if flying) and rental car. However, if you will be driving to Orlando or driving from the airport to your resort, you will need to plan for one more little thing. Toll Roads! Florida has many and you need to be prepared.
The Florida Turnpike is also known as the Ronald Reagan Turnpike. If you will be driving to Orlando you will most likely take this turnpike and will have a few tolls to pay. This is the main interstate into Orlando.
Some of the interstate highways are toll roads and you will have tolls to pay. If driving from the airport to your resort you will most likely encounter three toll booths to get to your resort. Tolls can range from $1.00 and I have paid up to $3.00. You can pay 3 different ways: cash, SunPass or Toll by Plate (This costs the most). If you are prepared you won’t have to pay this higher priced option.
If paying by cash, you will pull into the lane marked cash lane and pay. If you need change they will give it to you. However, if you have exact change, they have lanes for this too. You just throw the change into the collecting bin and keep on going.
Another payment option is SunPass. SunPass is a prepaid Florida tolls program. To use it, you buy a SunPass device called a “transponder” that attaches to the inside of your windshield. When you drive through a SunPass toll plaza, the toll is deducted from your prepaid account. This option gives you about a 25% discount. If you are going to be in Florida for a while, or will be visiting multiple times a year, this may be a great way to pay your tolls. If you are only going to be visiting for a few days, this may not be the most economical choice.
There are two kinds of SunPass transponders. The SunPass Portable is $19.99 plus tax and attaches to your windshield with suction cups. It is removable and can be used on any vehicle with a windshield, including motorcycles. The SunPass Mini Sticker is $4.99 plus tax, and permanently attaches to windshields. It cannot be used on motorcycles. Both require a $10 minimum balance to activate.
You can buy your SunPass online or at retail locations throughout Florida. Retailers include Publix Super Markets, CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens and AAA South offices in Florida. Transponders are available at all Turnpike service plazas, Turnpike gas stations and SunPass Service Centers.
To activate your SunPass, you will need to put a minimum of $10 in your prepaid account. You can activate online at 1-888-TOLL-FLA (1-888-865-5352), at a SunPass Payment Center or a SunPass Service Center.
Finally, the most expensive option, but very convenient if you forgot cash, is paying by Toll-By-Plate. Where this all-electronic tolling system is in effect, you can pay by this method. A camera takes a picture of your license plate, and you will be mailed a bill for your tolls plus a $2.50 service charge. Most major car rental companies have programs that allow customers to utilize this Toll-By-Plate electronic collection system. The tolls and service fees will automatically be charged to the credit card used to rent the vehicle.
I hope this helps you get a little more prepared for your trip. If you have any questions or would like help planning your trip to Orlando please contact me, I would be happy to help! I have been to Orlando quite a few times and have driven all over the area so I know how to get you where you need to go!
Thank you and safe Travels!
You can visit my Facebook page for more tips and travel information. I can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me an e-mail I would love to talk with you.
By: Tiffini Hensley
September 28, 2017
When many people think of Florida, they automatically think of either a beach or a theme park. But what if I told you that can visit paradise for a day when you are visiting central Florida? That’s because when I think of Discovery Cove, the first thing that comes to mind is just that – paradise.
Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort that allows you to feel like you are on a tropical island, surrounded by nature. A day there can be as relaxing as you’d like, with package options either including a 30 minute dolphin swim or not. Additional add-ons include SeaVenture, swimming with the sharks, feeding the rays and an upgraded drink package. Even without any add-ons, there is still plenty to fill your day in paradise!
Recently, my son and I visited Discovery Cove with the 30 minute Dolphin swim. Here is a review of our fun-filled day.
Although the park didn’t open until 8am, we made sure to arrive by 7:30am to start the check-in process so that we would be in one of the earlier dolphin swim groups. Our time slot was 9:30am, so that gave us time to go put our stuff in a locker and grab some breakfast before we needed to meet our trainer. At Discovery Cove, your meals, snacks, and beverages are included throughout the day. For breakfast, there were multiple options for even the pickiest of people.
After breakfast we grabbed wet suits and lathered on the sunscreen that they provided us. We then met up with the rest of our group who would be interacting and swimming with the dolphins at 9:30am, so we could get our directions. Upon entering the water, we were lead through a series of meet and greet poses with our dolphin, before our deep water swim portion. Overall, we really enjoyed our dolphin interaction!
After our dolphin swim, we opted to head over to the Grand Reef, since we were already in wetsuits and were somewhat “used to” the cold water. At Discovery Cove, the different water areas are kept at optimal temperatures for the marine life, so that means that the Grand Reef and Dolphin Lagoon are a chilly 76-77 degrees Fahrenheit, while the freshwater pools of Serenity Bay, Freshwater Oasis and Wind-away River are maintained at 85-86 degrees Fahrenheit. Grand Reef is incredible, with free swimming rays and colorful fish everywhere you look or snorkel to.
Towards the back of the reef, the sharks swim about in their enclosure, safely behind slanted glass, so that you are still able to swim down and feel like you are swimming right there with them. For those brave souls, who want an even more thrilling interaction, be sure to add-on the shark swim encounter.
Our next stop was lunch! Similar to breakfast, there were many yummy choices, and since my kiddo had trouble choosing between two options, we simply chose both, since it’s all you care to eat!
With our tummies full, we opted to change out of our full wetsuits for more comfortable vests, re applied more sunscreen, and then headed toward the aviary to feed the birds! The aviary is home to many colorful and “talkative” birds who are not the least bit shy to hop up on your arm to nibble from your cup of bird treats. This aviary is unique in that guests who are swimming along in the Wind-away river go right through the aviary, and even have the option to exit the water to feed the birds before getting back in to swim some more. We took advantage of this after our treat cups were empty and hopped into the warm relaxing water. Other areas in the freshwater side of the park include the ability to get up close to marmosets and swim right next to the otters (who were behind glass)!
By the time we were finished talking to the trainers who were feeding the marmosets to get them to come out and play, it was already nearly time to leave. We were so bummed to wrap up our day in paradise, after having such an amazing day! As we were packing up to leave, we did remember one thing that made us perk up a bit! Included with your day’s admission to Discovery Cove is 14 days of unlimited visits to SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica!
If you’d like to see additional pictures and videos from my visit to Discovery Cove, please check out my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/thensley.wft. If you’d like more information, or to start planning your next vacation, please contact Tiffini@wishesfamilytravel.com
By: Sari Palmeri
September 26, 2017
Over the past few years, cruising has become my family’s favorite way to vacation. We love that there is something for everyone onboard the ship, and being able to see other places without flying there is an added bonus. Different cruise lines sail out of different ports, and being able to sail out of a local port without flying saves a lot of money! I am lucky that I have two ports conveniently located a short distance from my home – New York, NY and Cape Liberty, NJ.
Every time we cruise from either of these ports we are able to drive in the same day, take a car service, or even have someone drop us off. We don’t worry about baggage fees, how much our luggage weighs, or airport delays. When we used to fly to other ports to cruise, we always flew in the day before in order to avoid any unforeseen problems like flight cancellations for bad weather. Cruise ships wait for no one!
Having the two ports so close, there are multiple options which cruise lines to sail with. For 2017 and 2018 sailings the choices are Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Disney Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruise Line, Holland America, Oceania Cruises, Cunard and many more. Some of the destinations available out of these ports are the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Eastern Caribbean, and Southern Caribbean. The further you go, the longer the itinerary.
There are a few drawbacks to sailing from a Northern port. In the colder months you may not be able to use the pool until you get into a warmer climate. Also, it takes longer to get to the Caribbean destinations so unless you can be away for more than a week, you may be limited to what destinations are available to you.
Personally, I’ve sailed to Canada, Bermuda, and been to the Bahamas many times from these two ports. We want to try some new destinations, but we have specific availability due to the kids’ school schedules and end up on similar itineraries. With numerous excursion opportunities at each of the cruise lines private islands, you can still have completely different experiences going to the same destination multiple times.
Cruises are always picking up new itineraries and trying new destinations. For example, Disney just announced that they will be going to Bermuda from New York, NY in the fall of 2018 for the first time! There are many ports around the world, and there may be one close to you! I can help you find the best port to depart from along with the best destinations and itinerary for your vacation. Contact me at email@example.com or find me on Facebook!
By: Christina Szewczuk
September 21, 2017
The room is booked, the tickets are bought with decorated Magic Bands in hand, FastPasses and dining reservations have been made by your fabulous Wishes Family Travel Agent… You are on your way to Disney! But… there are still 30 more days. Now what? As the excitement mounts, there are a multitude of things you can do to make the wait a little more fun.
One way is to make a Countdown Calendar. Here I am going to show you how to make this cute calendar. (Shown below!) Its easy and inexpensive to make. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be – there are no rules! You can dress it up with bows, rhinestones, glitter – whatever you can think of. As a great man once said “ if it can be dreamt, it can be done”. (That was Walt Disney in case you didn’t know.)
Here is what you need:
- 1 frame, 5×7 or larger (I got this 5×7 one at a dollar store)
- 2 small suction cups
- 1.5 in hole punch
- Standard hole punch
- A few pieces of letter size cover stock (white or lightly colored so you can print the numbers on it)
- A piece of scrapbook paper or colored cover stock for the background (I recommend a one color piece so it isn’t too busy)
- Scrapbooking or printed images to decorate background (the ones pictured are from a scrapbook pack purchased at a craft store, but you can get some images online and print them too)
- Glue stick or spray adhesive
- Begin with the background piece. Cut it to fit the size of the frame, as you would with a photograph.
- Take your decorative images and place them down to visualize how you want them. I made a graphic with some wording “Days Until Disney” and chose a few of the images in the scrapbook pack. Make sure to leave room for the suction cups and numbers to hang. They can be placed in the corner as shown or the center – wherever you think they look the best!
- Once you lay it out the way you want it, glue the pieces down with the glue stick or spray adhesive. I do not recommend using regular school glue or a “glue all” type glue. Since it is wet glue, it usually creates wrinkles in the paper. Let dry for a while. Once dry, set it in the frame the way you would a photo and replace the glass.
- You can count down from 99 to 0 with this calendar. So you need to make two sets of numbers with digits 0-9. I chose to do two different colors, one set of red and one set of blue, to add some more color. Type the numbers into whatever word processing program you use being careful to space them about 2”-2.5” apart so there is room above, next to and below each number. You want to leave ample room so that when you go to punch it out with the hole punch, you are not cutting into the other numbers.
- Print the numbers out onto the cover stock and then punch them out using the 1.5” punch. Leave a little more space at the top so you can punch a hole with the standard punch for hanging on the suction cups.
- Attach the suction cups to the outside of the frame.
- Hang your numbers and enjoy!
My kids really liked this project. It was simple enough to hold their attention and
was relatively inexpensive to make. They loved taking turns changing the numbers. I
let them do it at dinnertime to get them to come to the table!
I would love to see how your calendars turn out! If you have any questions or problems or if you would like help booking your vacation, please contact me at
Christina@WishesFamilyTravel.com. For fun, tips and Travel News, follow my
Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cszewczuk.wft.
By: Anna Trosper
September 19, 2017
This has to be one of our family’s favorite beach towns. Whenever we go to Orlando to see the big cheese himself, Mickey, we always plan a day to drive to Clearwater. It is a bit of a drive, about one and a half hours, but so worth it! Clearwater is a great family beach destination not only for the beaches but also for the great little beach town. It’s a fun and casual place to hang out.
Clearwater has white sandy beaches for miles and clear gulf waters. Add some warm sunshine and a beach towel and what more could you ask for? Clearwater Beach is a great beach for families with children who want the beach adventure without the large waves. I recently returned from my yearly trip where I took my 8 and 2 year old nephews and they had the best time ever. They could play in the ocean and not get knocked down by big waves. You can take a floaty into the water and not get taken out to sea. You just relax! Isn’t that what a vacation is for anyway?
If you are not the beach towel type you can rent chairs, umbrellas, and small cabanas for the day. Don’t worry, they have plenty! You can rent a paddle board or go parasailing over the ocean, too. There is so much to see and do you will fall in love with this beach town.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is also a great place to visit when in town. Do you remember the movie “Dolphin Tale” staring Winter the world’s most famous dolphin? Well, this is where Winter lives and where they made the movie. Our family loves it and the kids still talk about meeting Winter. It is a great way for the family to spend the day.
If you like to shop, this is the place for you! This little beach town has many quaint gift shops on the main strip. Just what you’d expect from a beach town. Need a new swimsuit? This is the place to find the perfect one!
Clearwater Beach always has something to do no matter what time of year you visit! You can see the former World Series Champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, during spring training at the beautiful Bright House Field. You can also enjoy nightly sunsets at the Pier 60 Festival where sunsets, music, magic and fun create lasting memories. Come out to watch the National Superboat Championships or the Ironman competition. And be sure not to miss the internationally recognized Clearwater Jazz Festival! This goes on all summer long. There is always something special to do at Clearwater Beach.
If you would like to plan a day, or even stay a few days, in this great beach town I would be happy to talk with you and help you plan a great trip. I will make sure you don’t miss a thing and that you don’t forget your sunscreen!
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and please visit my Facebook page and like it to keep up on all the latest travel information and promotions. I look forward to talking with you and sharing some of my great travel and beach tips with you.
By: Tiffini Hensley
September 14, 2017
Nestled among towering palm trees and next to the monorail pool at Disneyland Hotel, you’ll find a unique quick service dining location called Tangaroa Terrace.
Although this is technically a quick service restaurant, it is a location that my family must try every time we are at Disneyland. What makes this restaurant so unique? The food! During breakfast, there are many fabulous choices, ranging from traditional platters and wraps, to my personal favorite, the French Toast. I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “What’s so special about French Toast?” This version of French Toast sets itself apart by being topped with a warm banana, caramel sauce and powdered sugar, which makes this a mouth-watering combination, when coupled with either bacon or sausage. For the kids, or the kids at heart, a popular choice is the ever-popular Mickey waffles.
One of my personal favorite times to indulge in breakfast at Tangaroa Terrace has been after a RunDisney race. Since many of the races will end right outside of Downtown Disney, Tangaroa Terrace is a close by option to get your carb fix after the race, and before you head to either rest at your hotel or to the theme parks!
For lunch and dinner, the options are every bit as delicious. A couple choices that are especially delightful are the Hawaiian cheeseburger with sweet potato fries and the Kalua pork flatbread. For the kids, they have a variety of options, ranging from a burger to a salmon dish.
In addition to the fantastic food, Tangaroa Terrace is situated in a prime location at the Disneyland Hotel, right next to the pool and in between the three towers (Adventure, Frontier and Fantasy) of the Disneyland Hotel. The restaurant has seating options both inside or outside or you can even get your food to go so that you can eat back in the comfort of your hotel room. The versatility of seating options has helped make this restaurant a favorite in my family, since my son can keep an eye on the pool while eating to make sure he’s not missing out on any of the fun.
For those moments that you find yourself kid-free, located right next door is another fan favorite, Trader Sam’s, offering snacks and cocktails, with the same tiki vibe!
So next time you find yourself at Disneyland, be sure to take the time to check out a unique quick service option outside of the parks, at Tangaroa Terrace. Your tummy will thank you for it!
If you’d like to see additional pictures and videos from my visit to Disneyland, please check out my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/thensley.wft. If you’d like more information, or to start planning your next vacation, please contact Tiffini@wishesfamilytravel.com.
By: Becky Criswell
September 12, 2017
Last year I had a fantastic vacation with friends, staying at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort. It was my first time there! I enjoyed the atmosphere in the Royal Guest Room, and the Disney magic that I experience every time I stay on Disney property.
We spent the week park hopping, eating at our favorite restaurants, and spending late nights shopping in Disney Springs. On our very last night I had the opportunity to do something I never thought I would be able to do. Thanks to my gracious friends who had earned a free night at any deluxe resort, I was able to spend the night in a theme park-view room at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. Talk about a WOW moment when we checked in and I first got a look at our room and view.
If you have never visited the Grand Floridian, I can tell you that just stepping into the lobby will take your breath away. The pristine, classy Victorian atmosphere feels both welcoming and luxurious. The grounds are well kept, the pools are inviting, and if it weren’t for the monorail calling me to the Magic Kingdom, I would never leave! Our room was in one of the outer buildings, and was spacious and beautifully decorated. When I drew back the curtains and stepped out onto the balcony, I teared up with excitement when I saw the beautiful lagoon and the direct view of Cinderella Castle. This may not mean much to everyone, but for a someone like me who holds such a special place in their heart for Walt Disney World, it was a dream come true!
After getting settled in the room, we changed into our pajamas and decided to have a true girl’s night and take full advantage of the unique experience. We ordered room service for dinner and my glazed salmon and sticky rice, which happened to be the special of the evening, was outstanding! Our food had arrived just in time for us to set up and dine while watching Wishes from our balcony. I had seen Wishes several times from inside the park and from the top of The Contemporary. It is always fun to have a new perspective, and it did not disappoint. It was an enjoyable evening I will never forget.
When we woke up in the morning, we immediately stepped out on the balcony to take in the calm morning view of the Magic Kingdom before anyone arrived for the day. We woke up just as the sun was rising over the lagoon. It was fun to watch things come to life as the morning progressed. The monorail started running, the water taxis started cruising, and eventually we saw families heading to the parks for a day of memories.
It was hard for us to leave our room. It was a truly remarkable experience. I would encourage anyone to experience this at least once. Even if you are staying at another resort, consider doing this for one night! You won’t regret it! If you want to find out more about staying at any of Disney’s wonderful resorts, contact me at email@example.com, and visit my Facebook page!