By: Jen Spihlman
May 18, 2018
Are you a Harry Potter superfan? Do you know which house you are in? How about the form your Patronus takes? Do you love Quidditch? Do you want to taste Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice and Gilly water? Do you understand the meaning behind the phrase “Always?” If you answered yes to these questions, then you must head to Universal Orlando and explore The Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter!
When you first step into Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley, you will get goosebumps! You will feel like you just stepped into the books or movies. Universal Orlando Resort, under the close guidance of JK Rowling, has truly brought the stories to life. I’ll begin with Hogsmeade…
As soon as you cross into Hogsmeade, you will see the Hogwarts Express off to your right. Most of the day you’ll be able to get your picture taken in front of it with the conductor! You can then head to the post office and mail a letter back home with a Harry Potter stamp and the Hogsmeade postmark! So cool!
You’ll definitely want to check out Honeydukes and all of its wonderful sweet treats, and you’ll find a Butterbeer stop right outside! When you need a quick meal, head to the Three Broomsticks and experience it just like Harry, Ron and Hermione! Don’t forget to walk into the bathroom and see if you can hear Moaning Myrtle!
If your stomach can handle it, you have to take a turn or two on the Dragon Challenge. You can ride the Chinese Fireball or the Hungarian Horntail! Each dragon is a completely different ride!!
To give yourself a little break, head over to the Flight of the Hippogriff, a family-friendly roller coaster. You’ll even go past Hagrid’s hut!
The castle, which houses Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, is the crown jewel of this Harry Potter World. While waiting in line, you get to walk through the castle and experience a little bit of life in Hogwarts. You’ll see the pensieve, the sorting hat, the fat lady and more while you wait to board the ride. This ride is fast and jerky as you fly through the air! You get to see Quidditch, spiders, dementors, and so much more!!
Once you are out of the castle, head to the Hogsmeade Station and board the Hogwarts Express to take you to London and Diagon Alley. The Hogwarts Express is so REAL! You will feel like you are really riding it with all of the Hogwarts students. Make sure to watch the window as well as the door to your train car to see everything. And make sure that you ride the Hogwarts Express in both directions. Not only is Kings Crossing fully themed, but the ride is different each way!
In Diagon Alley you can explore so many places – Ollivanders (did you know you can buy an interactive wand and perform “magic?”) Borgin and Burkes, Madam Malkin’s, and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes (so real!) You can grab a meal at the Leaky Cauldron and then finish that up with Butterbeer ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s. So delicious!
Gringotts Wizarding Bank, with a HUGE dragon on top that periodically breathes fire, is the home of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Your entire wait in line is spent exploring the bank. It is incredibly detailed and the goblins are so lifelike. The ride itself is pretty amazing and you meet Bellatrix and Voldemort!
Once you pass through the brick wall and return to London, you can check out the Knight Bus and see if you can find 12 Grimmauld Place!
There are so many wonderful places to explore in both Harry Potter Worlds! Fans of the stories will be more than satisfied!!!
By: Anna Trosper
May 16, 2017
“Mystery” may not be the first adjective that comes to mind when you think of Orlando, but I have managed to discover some great hidden treasures in that city! Discovery Cove in Orlando is the rarely spoken about travel destination that I believe everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
Right from the start, I knew that my family would have a great experience there. You walk into the lobby and are greeted by their mascot- an armadillo! The little guy would run amok around the area and cheerfully interact with guests.
For the foodies, food and drinks (adult beverages included) are all-inclusive during your stay. We began our stay at Discovery Cove by hitting the beach, which is never crowded- only a certain number of people are admitted daily.
My favorite area of the park had to have been Grand Reef. Though the water is chilly, you are able to snorkel alongside beautiful sea life! Sunscreen, wetsuits, and snorkel gear are all provided by the park.
Another huge draw to the park is their Dolphin encounter, which you can purchase a ticket for along with your park ticket. While I didn’t experience the dolphin encounter, it always receives rave reviews and guests absolutely adore the chance to interact with dolphins.
If relaxation is what you’re after, the Serenity Bay pool certainly has what you’re looking for. A beautiful, lagoon-styled freshwater pool, it’s fit for just lounging by the water or floating about in bliss.
If you prefer land- or in this case, sky-dwelling animals, Discovery Cove even offers its very own Aviary. My kiddos absolutely adored their aviary. You’re given bird feed, and they just fly right down and land on your arms!
With the price of the Discovery Cove tickets, you also receive 14 consecutive days of access to Sea World and Aquatica, Sea World’s water park. It’s a great deal!
I totally recommend booking a trip to this hidden gem, especially for you animal lovers. Your money will definitely not be wasted. If you would like more information or think this sounds like the vacation for your family I would love to talk with you. Contact me by email or my Facebook page.
By: Meg Kline
May 11, 2017
Are you looking for a way to meet your favorite Disney Princesses while skipping the long lines? Akershus is a hidden gem located in Norway in Epcot’s World Showcase. This dining experience is straight out of a fairytale and is fit for a princess.
My family and I had dinner reservations and we made sure to arrive earlier than normal so as not to miss out on our reservation. I had a pink tulle Disney Princess dress tucked away in my stroller for my 15-month old daughter. I quickly changed her into the dress and matching headband before we were called for our reservation.
When you enter the banquet hall you immediately feel like royalty! As my eyes quickly scanned the hall I noticed Belle waiting for us in her yellow ball gown. I was filled with joy that my daughter finally got to meet my favorite Disney Princess. A cast member called us over and we posed for a perfect picture with Belle. I was able to scan my magic band and the picture was automatically sent to our Memory Maker package. We were seated for dinner in a less crowded area of the hall tucked away in the back corner which was nice with two young children.
The great thing about dining at Akershus is the option of an appetizer buffet along with your plated meal. The buffet features Scandinavian seafood, imported cheeses, sliced meats, salads, and fresh fruit. It was great to sample everything and even my children enjoyed the new flavors and textures.
Now onto the main course! My husband ordered the Tradisjonell Kjøttkake which is Norwegian Meatballs, he absolutely loved them! The meatballs are served with Mashed Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, and Lingonberry Sauce. I, on the other hand, love seafood, so I ordered the Skalldyrsgryte, which is a creamy casserole style dish with mussels, shrimp, and scallops. I was in heaven and enjoyed every bite. My son ordered the cheese pizza and enjoyed his meal. My daughter, who was 15-months old at the time, was able to order he own entrée and she loved the mac and cheese. Dessert was served family style with 3 options that pleased all 4 of us. We were served 3 large portions of each dessert. A chocolate mousse, a rice pudding, and an apple cake. This was a great way to end our already enjoyable meal.
Our character interaction at Akershus was so magical and definitely an experience I will never forget. The characters are subject to change and you never know who you will end up meeting. We had the pleasure of meeting Belle, Cinderella, Aurora, Snow White, and Ariel. Each princess gracefully made their way over to our table and allowed us to have wonderful conversation with them. We posed for pictures and even signed autograph books. My son and husband both had hearts in their eyes after each one walked away.
I was left with another emotion and even shed tears! Ariel made her way over to our table and chatted with my son and posed for a beautiful picture. She then knelt down to my daughter and was face to face with her on her level. My daughter completely fell in love with Ariel before our very eyes. Ariel was so sweet and kind to her, she touched her arm and spoke so soft and sweet. Ariel was at our table longer than any other princess and we really had quality time with her. She even came back around to us two more times! On the last time she kissed my daughter on the cheek and I was brought to tears. The magic is real and I will never ever forget that moment.
Akershus is now on our must do list for dining and I always recommend my clients to give it a chance when booking dining reservations for them.
If you have any questions about Akershus Royal Banquet Hall or any other Disney related topics Visit Megan’s Facebook Page for more information!
By: Tiffini Hensley
May 9, 2017
Although there are many fantastic restaurants located in Universal Orlando’s CityWalk, arguably the best dining experience that can be had is at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen. Situated between Hard Rock Café and Islands of Adventure, the restaurant is a sight to behold before you even walk through the doors! The restaurant has a fun steampunk style atmosphere, and the backstory about Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome and her chocolate emporium fits in perfectly to the surroundings. You can even read more about her story on the menus while you’re waiting to order!
Toothsome is separated into three sections: full-service restaurant, bar, and confectionary. On a recent business trip to Universal Orlando, I had the pleasure to eat at the Savory Feast Kitchen for dinner. Toothsome doesn’t accept advance dining reservations, so the wait times can get rather long throughout the day. If you’re willing to be flexible, there are times of the day that offer lower wait times. For our dinner, we went later in the evening, around 9:30pm, so our wait was approximately 15 minutes. We were seated upstairs on the second floor of the restaurant at a table offering beautiful views of CityWalk.
I knew before I even opened the menu that whatever I had for dinner was going to be overshadowed by one of their huge delicious looking milkshakes. What I didn’t know was how hard it would be to decide on which meal to choose because they all sounded marvelous, and the menu had options to suit anyone’s tastes. I chose the Croque Monsieur, and I must say it was among the best I’ve ever tasted. The perfect way to compliment a fabulous meal at Toothsome is with one of Jacques’ Specialty Milkshakes, which are a masterpiece in and of themselves. If ice cream is not what you are in the mood for, there are plenty of other delicacies, such as chocolate flourless cake and crème brulee.
After we were sufficiently full, and just thinking that the fun of Toothsome was ending, we were lucky enough to meet both Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome and Jacques! They have been known to wander around greeting guests and stopping for a photo, however they don’t guarantee it.
Overall, we enjoyed our unique dining experience, and I look forward to heading back to Toothsome next time I’m at Universal Orlando. If you are ever in town and find that you don’t have time for a full meal, make sure you stop by to check out the confectionary for a little something sweet, just so you can take in the sights and smells of Toothsome Chocolate Emporium!
If you’d like to see additional pictures and videos from my visit to Universal Orlando, 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.
May 4, 2017
By: Anna Trosper
Whether you are searching for your next vacation adventure or you already know where you want to go, a Wishes Family Travel agent can help you make sure your vacation will be a thrilling adventure. Traveling is fun but it also has its challenges. Your travel agent is more than a friendly voice, she or he is there to guide you throughout your entire trip.
Finding the right travel agent makes traveling that much more enjoyable for you, as the client. Using an agent takes the stress of research and planning off of your shoulders. Travel agents are trained to find the perfect destination and resort to meet your wants and needs. We are there to find that just right all –inclusive resort or even that great family friendly destination. Whatever your needs are, a travel agent can create a memorable vacation tailored to your wishes. The more you use your travel agent the more she learns about you and your likes and dislikes. The better your Travel agent knows you the better she or he can create that perfect vacation. This also comes in handy throughout the year when travel deals and promotions are released. Your Wishes Family Travel agent knows your interests and can alert you as soon as that great deal becomes available. Wouldn’t it be great to have a wing-man in the travel industry?
We are also known as “life savers” from time to time! We all dream of that perfect vacation but let’s face it, sometimes things just happen that are out of our hands. Weather delays at airports, missed flights, sickness, and storms – you can spend hours on the phone trying to madly rearrange your travel plans. But if you book with a travel agent, make one call to them and they go to work, working for you! They will inform the resort of your status and rearrange your itinerary as needed and do everything in their power to make an unpleasant experience as bearable as possible.
Wishes Travel Agents are in the know! With their training and travel experience, they know what rooms have the best views, they know if there are construction notices, and they even know about upcoming events that you may want to attend. A Wishes Family Travel agent is Trained Traveled and Trusted – we have the experience, knowledge and connections to find just the right vacation spot that fits your personal tastes and desires. If by chance your Wishes agent does not know the answer, one of our well trained agents do! We all bring multiple experiences to the table. You see, at Wishes Family Travel you are not getting one agent you have a whole team behind you. We work together, sharing information and tips. We are a team! We stay in touch, we travel together, and we train together. I say a team but to me it is more like family!
Why not use a Travel Agent? Wishes Family Travel agents are concierge level agents. Our services are free to our clients that book their vacations with us. You are not out a dime and you will get all of this added value to your vacation. You can use them as much as you want or as little as you want. If you want them to do all the planning? It’s done! If you like to do some of the planning, no problem! And if you’re the type that likes to be in charge of all the planning? Well, you still can! But wouldn’t it be nice to have the back up if you needed it?
Travel agents can also help you save time. In today’s world everyone is so busy and, let’s face it, sitting down at a computer and doing research on a destination can be extremely time consuming; especially if you are unfamiliar with that destination. Planning a Disney trip may sound simple but with Advanced Dining Reservations, Magic Bands, My Disney Experience and Fastpass+, who has time to keep track of all that? But who can keep record of all those dates, times and when things have to be done? Your travel agent!
So, if you are planning a vacation, or just want to talk about it, I would love to help you. You can contact me at email@example.com or please visit my Facebook page and be sure to like and to click to get notifications to keep up on all the latest news and travel tips. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
May 2, 2017
Long gone may be the days of drive-in movie theaters, but you can still experience the fad from the 50s at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Entering the dining area of the restaurant truly feels like you’ve been transported back in time. Car-shaped booths facing a movie screen are surrounded by a twilight setting with mountains in the distance.
My family was lucky enough to score a car pretty near to the screen, which was showing scenes from classic sci-fi movies of the time. I was a little nervous that those scenes might scare my three year old, but luckily he was enthralled by the cool booth to pay very little attention to the show.
The regular car-shaped booths seat two to a bench seat, so if your family likes to chat during a meal, you’ll find it a little hard to do here. I enjoyed it because I sat with my older son, and it was nice to just spend a little time with him.
Each table area has a small lighted area so you can see your food. Overall, the restaurant is dim since it is supposed to evoke the feeling of watching a movie at night. If not being able to see very well around you bothers you, then you can do what I did – I turned on the flashlight on my cell phone to read the menu!
Sci-Fi Dine-In features a variety of American foods – from burgers and fries to pasta and steak. Prices for entrees range from $14 to $32, so it is a meal you’ll want to budget for if you aren’t using a Disney Dining Plan. We were on the plan (and in case you’re wondering, it’s one table service credit per person), so my husband and I both opted for the Flame-Broiled New York Strip Steak. It was topped with a garlic-herb butter and cheesy-horseradish potatoes. It was delicious, and I ate as much of it as I could while trying to save room for dessert.
And dessert … oh my. The desserts at Sci-Fi may have been my favorite of this vacation. My oldest son and I decided to get two things since we were sitting side by side and could share. While he went for the Warm Glazed Doughnut, I opted for the Housemade Sci-Fi Candy Bar.
The doughnut wasn’t just a plain old doughnut. Oh, no. It was topped with warm cinnamon apples and vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce. It was seriously the best doughnut I’ve ever tasted.
But for me, the candy bar was hands-down my favorite. It kind of reminded me of a Kit-Kat bar – with layers of sponge cake and this crispy “pearls” and then covered in chocolate. But it was super, super sweet – so just a few bites would do.
We all really enjoyed the blast from the past for our lunch during our day at Hollywood Studios, and the food fueled us up for the adventures of the rest of the day. We may have entered feeling like creatures from the black lagoon, but I left feeling like the 50 foot woman.
If you’d like to learn more about dining options at Hollywood Studios, or discuss your vacation plans, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my Facebook page here.
April 27, 2017
What is a good age to take your kids to Disney? This is a question I hear a lot, especially now that I’m a concierge agent. Well, I have been traveling to Walt Disney World for many years and have taken my daughter every year since her birth. Actually, her first visit she was only 6 weeks old.
Six weeks old? Yes, it seems young, but the trip was still enjoyable. She responded to lights and music and we were still able to do quite a bit of all the parks. It was the years that followed that Disney became even more magical for me. I already loved all things Disney, but getting to see the parks through my daughter’s eyes was a whole new experience and still is.
As a toddler, my daughter loved the shows and the characters. We spent many hours playing in the special play areas in the parks. The one I remember most was in Dino Dig at Animal Kingdom. We were there for hours digging up fossils – she just didn’t want to leave.
Her interests changed as she got older. One year it was all about meeting every character. I honestly don’t think I rode a single ride that year. You may think this sounds crazy, but we loved it. My daughter was happy and we have some awesome pictures from that year. Another year was about the themed restaurants. She had walked by them before but now wanted to try them. Her favorite to this day is 50s Primetime Café.
I believe my daughter was 8 when she was finally tall enough for the big rides. This was a huge time for her and exciting for me. We rode everything and she loved most of it. Dinosaur terrified her, but she fell in love with Expedition Everest. It’s now her first choice on FastPasses.
My daughter will be 10 on our next trip and has been enough that she is helping plan – she chose our resort and our restaurants. She already has the list of FastPasses when our 60-day mark arrives. It has been wonderful to watch her grow and change over the years, but she also helped me love Disney in a whole new way. Sometimes we just need to see the world through a child’s eyes; it is the purest and sweetest form of joy.
April 25, 2017
So you have packed your suitcases, planned your days and you are ready for the parks! Or are you? The planning days are long, while the vacation days are short. What do you bring to the parks? Where do you start? You may ask yourself “Am I taking too much? Am I taking too little? What mishaps should I plan for?”
So what should you pack in your “in park” backpack? By “in park” backpack I mean the backpack you are going to carry all day. This is a very important part of your planned day as it will be your “everything but the kitchen sink,” but yet you do not want to pack as if it feels like you are carrying the kitchen sink.
Backpacks should not either be too large or should not be too small. When going with my family, we use an average of 12-by-15-inch with right amount of compartments.
*Keep in mind that your bag is checked by security at each park and all zippers must be opened for the search *
1. A small wallet: If you do not have a MagicBand, you’ll want a small wallet for carrying around your tickets and cash. Do not waste space by having a wallet that can also carry all your other cards including reward cards. Keep it simple. (Wristlets are great for in the parks.)
2. Cell Phone charger with portable battery charger: This is probably one of the most important things for me. I love to take videos, go live, snap, post and comment. This will drain a battery real quick!
3. Sunscreen and Lip Balm: Florida sun can be brutal. Make sure you have enough for each day and store in a Ziploc in case of spills.
4. Snacks: My family and I love the dining plan and use it to its fullest. However, sometimes in between meals when we may have used our snack credit for that day or would like to save others for future park days during the week, we bring an assortment of snacks and goodies. Some easy snacks to carry in your backpack are Goldfish, granola bars, pretzels and other easy pre-packaged snacks.
5. Hand Sanitizer: I love the small bottles at Bath & Body Works or Target by the check out. They come in a portable that has an adjustable strap that allows you to hang on your back pack.
6. Sanitizer Wipes: Along the same lines of sanitizing, I like to throw in travel wipes. Being at the parks and on the go, you are not always by a bathroom or washing station. If you are taking a snack break, you want to eliminate park germs so you can continue a healthy trip!
7. Water Bottles: The best way to do this is to bring an empty sports water bottle. Preferably a Sport Water Filter Bottle. Quick Serves will provide a free cup of ice water at any counter serve location. This is a great and easy way to keep your water bottle filled and your body hydrated.
8. Hat & Sunglasses: The sunglasses are a must for me. I usually bring hats for the little ones, but getting them to wear them is not always a success. This is where the added sunscreen applications are needed!
9. Rain Poncho: Yes, you will need these! Sun showers are very popular in Florida, so being prepared will keep you dry in the long run. Dollar stores are a great place to purchase ponchos. They are light and easy to pack.
10. Autograph Book and Pen/Sharpie: A fun experience for all!! You can make your own book or buy one in the park, just be sure to not to forget as this is a sweet memory to be remembered.
11. First Aid: There are small kits that can be found at local stores that do not cost that much. I like to add adult and kid Advil in case the heat or rides cause headaches. Disney does have first aid stations but having some on hand can make it a bit easier so you can keep the flow of the day going.
12. Extra Gallon Bags: I like to keep my electronics in these for added protection.
13. Hard copies of your itinerary: It is always a great idea to have a backup. As we all know, we cannot always count on technology. As your agent I will always make sure you have a detailed itinerary to print prior to your travel.
14. Mist Bottles, fans, cooling towels: Keep cool as much as you can, your mood will thank you!
Having the essentials will make your park days more enjoyable and more cost effective. Being prepared will keep your day on a magical path of pixie dust.
If you would like to learn more about planning a WDW trip please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
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I would love to share more tips and look forward to planning with you!