Best Value for Disney World Accommodations

To experience Disney World at its finest, choosing the right accommodation means everything. You might be asking yourself: “Why does it matter what hotel I get if I’m spending most of the day at Disney World?” Your “home away from home” can make your vacation more fulfilling and allow the magic of Disney to continue even after you leave the park. There are two types of hotel options when it comes to staying at Walt Disney World: First, you have the Disney area hotels that are close to Disney World but not on Disney property. Second, there are the Disney owned and operated on site hotels that get you right in the action day and night.

Briefly consider Disney area hotels. We know that Disney World sits on 47 square miles of land and has 4 theme parks and 2 water parks. You could be close to Disney World by staying off site but still be 45 minutes from the Disney theme park of your choice. While these hotels are wonderful, you end up losing precious Disney time just trying to get to certain parks. I prefer Disney on site hotels as they offer free transfers between the airport and hotel, free access to Disney transportation to get you from one park to another, and extra magical hours where, for resort guest’s, one theme park opens 1 hour early and another stays open up to 3 hours after park closing time.

Disney offers 4 different types of hotel experiences on site and choosing the best selection for your family helps make the trip much more exciting.

Value Resorts:
These are wonderful properties which I would equate to a Holiday Inn type hotel. They offer 1 king or 2 double beds. They have several swimming pools and a large food court. These hotels work well if you plan on spending the majority of time away from the hotel. Two of the value hotels offer family suites that will sleep up to 6 people, but you can usually get 2 rooms with connecting doors for less money than the family suite.

Moderate Resorts:
These resorts offer 2 queen beds and some have a trundle bed that can sleep a fifth person. The rooms are larger than the value resorts and they have more pools and food options.

Deluxe Resorts:
These resorts are the best of the bunch, rated 5 stars and have several transportation options (three are on the monorail system). They also have 2 queen beds and most rooms will sleep up to 5 people. They offer fine dining as well as the quick service food court. These rooms are very large.

Disney Vacation Club Resorts:
The Disney Vacation Club has condominium type accommodations. They offer a full kitchen, living room areas and are 1-3 bedrooms in size. You can have food delivered to your condo but there are no grocery stores on Disney property. These are the most expensive accommodations, but are the best suited for larger families. You do not need to be a member of the Disney Vacation Club to stay at the condos.
Carrosel_Kids

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4 Benefits of Travel

4 Benefits of Travel

4 Reasons Why You Should Travel

There are many excuses why you may not travel. It could be work commitments, financial pressure, or a fear of new and different experiences. This, my friends, is what I call the excuse bug. Despite the fact that these very excuses were most likely used by the baby boomers themselves, it is now one of their biggest regrets. From a survey of 2,000 baby boomers, “one in five boomers [said] that one of their biggest regrets is not traveling enough….” Among other major regrets one might have at the end of his or her life, not traveling enough is a regret that can easily be remedied. Here are four reasons why you should travel and avoid the regret altogether:

1. A Boost of Happiness: We can all get caught up in crossing items off our checklist, and that may leave little room for fun and relaxation. Vacation is a time where you finally get the chance to relax, enjoy family time, and do what you WANT to do, not what you NEED to do.

2. Stress Reducer: While not all vacations are stress free, travel can be a source of liberation if it is well-planned. Having a travel agent work the schedule and details of your trip gives you a greater chance of a stress free vacation. Then, for at least a little while, you can forget all about the stresses and problems that are happening at home. Taking a break from the “have to do’s” will help us gain a better perspective of what we can accomplish. Not only will we be able to perform better, but we can handle future stress with greater capability.

3. Increase in Energy: Think of your body as a vehicle that needs fuel. Once it runs out, you need to fill it up. While your body needs food and water to keep it fueled, positive travel gives you the strength to tackle the tasks of adulthood.

4. Enhance Meaning in your life: Travel is educational. It is also life impacting and eye opening. We come to see purpose and meaning by immersing ourselves with other cultures, gaining gratitude for our own homes. New experiences give us new ideas, altering our perspective on not only how we see the world, but how we see ourselves and those around us. There is also ample opportunity to create new friendships and strengthen relationships already formed.

Life will always be busy, so get rid of the excuse bug and get out there! Give yourself the boost of happiness, the stress reducer, the increase in energy, and the enhanced meaning in your life that you deserve.

How has travel benefited you?

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Why Today We Are In the Golden Age of Flying

Many harken back to the period of about 1945 to 1975 as the “Golden Age of Flying.” I say, “au contraire” – today (right now) things are much better for fliers. Here are ten reasons why:

1. It’s way faster. In the 1940s, an average intercontinental flight had at least a 12 layovers in airpots that offered little more than a snack bar. Now, you can fly from Los Angeles all the way to Sydney, Australia non stop.

2. You won’t smell like an ashtray when you land. Airplane cabins used to be smokier than the air in a casino until lighting up on planes was finally banned in 1980.

3. Flying is actually cheaper. According to the Department of Transportation airfares are about as low as they’ve ever been (excluding 2009) when adjusted for inflation. Airlines for America reports the inflation-adjusted fares fell from about $442 in 1979 (which is when airlines deregulated) to about $275 in 2014 — a nearly 38% drop.

4. You can find airfares on your own. It takes less than a minute to check the costs of dozens of airlines for any given city pair and dates. You can go to kayak.com on your computer and check every airline but Southwest. So, by checking two websites (southwest.com and kayak.com) you’ll find the cost for every airline in the world. Imagine trying to book a flight even just 20 years ago when there was no internet — you had to call the airline or physically visit its office. And comparison shopping could only be done by a travel agent, who would have to look through each airline’s printed schedule. A travel agent is still your best bet for complicated international travel.

5. Today’s airports are far more enjoyable places to spend layovers. Many airports now have shopping malls. Or, with your computer you can visit facebook, play games or watch movies.

6. You can travel in comfortable clothes. Many people lament the loss of being required to dress up (like you were going to church) but I, for one, can’t imagine wearing a suit and tie on a transcontinental flight. If you aren’t old enough to remember, there was a time when you had to fly in formal attire, but you can now wear pretty much whatever you want on a plane.

7. You are far less likely to lose your luggage. Thanks to improved technology, the number of mishandled bags fell 61%, from 18.88 bags per thousand passengers in 2007 to 7.3 bags per thousand passengers in 2014 according to the International Air Transport Association. That’s less than a 1% chance you’ll lose your bag. But if you’re paranoid, there are now plenty of gadgets that will help you track your luggage in case the airline does screw up.

8. Luggage has gotten smarter. One of those gadgets helping protect your bag is, your bag itself. There’s been a rise in the production of smart luggage. You can now get a bag that weighs itself, tracks itself and will even charge your cell phone.

9. You don’t even need to check a bag. Lot’s of people now fly with only a carry-on. And, you can also just wear a jacket that is a bag. Travel jackets have in excess of 30 pockets. The only problem is finding the right pocket where you’ve put something. Or use an app, like DUFL, that will deliver your pressed clothes to your hotel before you even arrive.

10. There are lots of ways to entertain yourself on a plane. Fliers in the 1950s were stuck with almost no way to keep busy. Not long ago airlines showed only one movie. Now, if you’re flying international, you have dozens to choose from. And, yes, there’s Wi-Fi. Nearly all airlines now provide some form of in-flight internet. Some airlines are even starting to provide fliers with free Wi-Fi.

Added bonuses you can get: Boarding passes sent to your phone, luggage tags you can print at home and security lines bypasses by signing up for memberships with Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck.

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Disneyland vs. Disney World Price Comparison

A vacation to a Disney Park creates memories that last a lifetime.  We have compared side by side the differences of visiting both Disneyland and Disney World using on site (Disney owned) and off site hotels and resorts.  We compared several hotels both on site and off site and averaged the prices for high, low and mid-season rates.  The infographic below shows our comparison of the different ways you can visit Disney parks for a family of four staying 4 nights and departing from Salt Lake City.

Disneyland-VS-Disney-World1

It is interesting to note that the on site hotels (Disney owned) are some of the best vacation values. Only the Disneyland off site option has a lower average cost. Disneyland is a closer destination and has lower airfare costs, but when you want the full Disney vacation experience an on site hotel at Walt Disney World vacation may be the best overall value.

Carrosel_Kids

 

Data was taken using vacation packages sold through Funjet Vacations and Southwest Vacations.

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Orlando Trip Planning Aids

It all started with Walt Disney World, but today there’s a lot more to do and see in Orlando.  Yes, there are theme parks galore:  four in Disney World alone; plus Universal Studios features two theme parks; then there’s Sea World; and also Legoland.  In addition, you can visit the Kennedy Space Center, and on May 4th the Orlando Eye opens.  A handy tool in planning an Orlando stay can be found at the website visitorlando.com – a great source of information.  It also has discounts available for restaurants, hotels and several attractions.

Walt Disney World:

Four magnificent theme parks on 48-square miles of land – Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  On property are also 23 Disney resort hotels, two water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon).  Whereas Disneyland in California is a weekend getaway, Disney World will require at least a full week.

Lasts year, Disney started a new program at the Walt Disney World Resort called “My Magic Plus,” which will enable you to plan your entire vacation before leaving home.  You can reserve your free “fast-pass” options 30-days in advance of your vacation.  Fast-pass lets you reserve a time for up to three rides – show up without waiting in line.  If you are staying at a Disney on site hotel, you can start reserving 60-days prior to travel.  You can reserve three fast-passes per person per day.  After you use your three fast passes, you can reserve three more at any of the fast pass kiosk’s located throughout the parks.

Guests staying at a Walt Disney Resort hotel will receive a “magic band.”  The magic band is programmed to contain your room key, Disney admission pass, your fast-passes and your dinner reservations.  You can actually set up your “magic band” to charge all your purchases if you would like.

Get the ball rolling by registering at startyourdisneyexperience.com.  From this website you can select the color for each family member’s “magic band” and have them sent to your home prior to your vacation.  You can also sign up for your fast-passes, make dinner reservations and, for select hotels, pre-register and bypass the front desk by going straight to your room.  Your magic band will be your room key.

You can also get an app for your smart phone that will show you your fast-pass reservations, wait times and the different attractions.

Universal Studios Orlando:

Here you will find two parks:  “Universal’s Islands of Adventure” and “Universal Studios Florida,” of which the former is home to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.”

Add a second week to your vacation and get an “Orlando FLEXTICKET,” which will give you park to park admissions at Universal, as well as “Wet n’ Wild,” “Seaworld” and “Aquatica.”  Purchase a ‘FLEXTICKET PLUS” and you can add Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay (about two hours away).

Kennedy Space Center:

Located about an hour outside of Orlando, but well worth the drive, the space center offers several tour options, as well as astronaut experiences.  Also on display is the space shuttle Atlantis.

The Orlando Eye:

This will be a 400-foot tall observation wheel (like a giant ferris wheel, but with enclosed gondolas) similar to the London Eye and the Las Vegas High Roller.

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THREE WAYS TO GET A SHORE EXCURSION

Shore excursions have become a major travel commodity over the last fifteen years.  Most cruises themselves, due to furious competition, have become so low in cost, the cruise companies have had to turn to other ways of making money, and these various trips at ports-of-call have become one of the major ways for them to stay solvent.  But, of course, this has resulted in additional competition for them.

There are basically three ways to get a shore excursion:

1. FROM THE CRUISE SHIP

This is definitely the most expensive option, but it is also often the most reliable.  Shore excursions purchased from the cruise ship will usually be marked up anywhere from 33 to 50-percent by the cruise line – that will be their share of your money.  However, if there is a sight-seeing or adventure on which you have your heart set (like:  “This is why I’m going on this cruise!”), you really should purchase it from the ship.  They will have contracted with this provider many times, so you can be reasonably confident about what you are getting.  This provider will also want to make sure you have an enjoyable excursion in order to insure that the cruise company will keep using them.  Plus, you can be sure, no matter what happens, the ship will not leave port until your shore excursion has returned.

2. WHEN YOU DISEMBARK

When your ship is docked at a port of call and after people who have purchased shore excursions onboard have been escorted off the ship, everyone else will be allowed to disembark.  Usually, there are people near the dock vying for dollars, who will escort you on a trip.  Sometimes, they might be the same providers who are guiding groups who purchased the excursion from the cruise ship.  This is almost always the least expensive way to go on a guided or escorted shore excursion.  I’ve done this, and it’s always worked out to be okay . . . for me; but, you have no guarantee; and if the car, van or bus breaks down, you definitely have no guarantee that the ship will wait for you to get back.

3. FROM OTHER PROVIDERS

Since shore excursions have become such a big deal, as you can imagine, providing them has become competitive.  There are non-cruise line-related companies that have arisen to provide shore excursions.  Companies such as shoretrips.com, shoreexcursiongroup.com or cruisingexcursions.com, etc. (you can find them through an internet search engine).  Larger travel agencies like Columbus Travel have started offering to find shore excursions for clients who are interested in saving some money – they virtually always cost less than purchasing them from the cruise line.  The agents have developed a history of reliability with these shore trip providers, so you will have more assurance of reliability.  The big advantage to these “other providers” is that you will probably save some money.

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Pluto’s Tips For Making The Most Of Your Disneyland Vacation!

1- Arrive at the park a few minutes before opening. The first 3 hours the park is open are the least busy hours of the day. It is amazing how many rides you can do during this time.

2 -Take the train to New Orleans Square for Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Big Thunder Mountain. It is quicker than walking up Main Street.

3 – Start at the back of the park and work towards the front, most people do the opposite.

4 – Utilize the free Fast Pass system to make reservations for future ride times. The most popular rides that run out of fast passes first are Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, Radiator Springs Racers and Soaring Over California. These rides will also have the longest lines later in the day. You can have your fastest walker take everyone’s park pass to get the fast passes, while the rest of your group holds space in line for the next ride.

5 – People start leaving the park to go home after the fireworks. If you stay from the end of the fireworks until closing you will have shorter lines.

6 – There are smart phone apps that show the current wait times for the most popular rides. There is also a board to the top and left of Main Street that has the current wait times as well. For the California Adventure Park the board is straight ahead as you walk towards Paradise Pier.
Normally the least busy times to visit Disneyland are Jan 5-March 10, April 27-May 20 and September 8-Sep 30.

You are entering a magical place so relax and enjoy every minute of it!

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Save a TON of Money on Southern California Vacations

Southern California is one of the most popular destinations for residents of the Intermountain area.  It is easy to drive to or not too expensive to fly to.  With summer coming up here are tips on how to save a bunch of money on Southern California vacations.

AIRFARES ARE GREAT!

With the entrance of Alaska Airlines into the Salt Lake Market introductory airfares are lower than they have been for a long time. Alaska Airlines will start flying Salt Lake to Los Angeles in June and fares are as low as $150 round trip.

BIG SAVINGS ON THEME PARK ADMISSIONS

Theme park admissions can be a big part of your vacation costs.  Here are ways to save hundreds of dollars on theme park admissions

Southern California CityPASS is the only multi-park pass that includes the 3-Day Park Hopper Ticket with Magic Morning for Disneyland® and Disney California Adventure®.  It also includes one-day admission to both Universal Studios Hollywood and SeaWorld San Diego. You can also add one day at San Diego Zoo/Safari Park and/or LEGOLAND® California to your CityPASS, exclusively on citypass.com.

This combined pass is much lower than buying all of these theme parks individually and right now it is on sale:

Adult ages 10+   $328 $428 combined price. You save $100 or 23%
Child ages 3–9 $284  $398 combined price. You save $114 or 29%

For more information and to purchase go to: www.citypass.com/southern-california

Go Los Angeles Card is an attraction pass that gets you into 37 Los Angeles attractions for one low price. Just some of the attractions included:

  • Universal Studios
  • Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood
  • Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour
  • Hollywood Movie Star Homes Tour
  • Knott’s Berry Farm
  • Hollywood Museum
  • Pacific Park – Santa Monica Pier
  • Six Flags
  • LEGOLAND® California
  • Red Line Tours of Hollywood

 

You can chose 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7-day cards.

Rates start as low as $62 for a 1 day child pass to $254 for a 7 day adult pass

For more information: www.smartdestinations.com/los-angeles-attractions-and-tours

The San Diego 3-for-1 Pass offers unlimited admission to the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego’s Safari Park and SeaWorld for up to seven consecutive days all for less than the price of one day’s admission to each park. 

Purchase through Columbus Travel and Southwest Vacations:

  • Adult (ages 10+) $152.00
  • Child (ages 3-9) $121.00 

 

Go San Diego Pass offers access to nearly 50 attractions a few of which include:

  • SeaWorld San Diego (Only on 3, 4, 5, and 7-Day Cards)
  • LEGOLAND® California
  • San Diego Zoo
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park
  • Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
  • Flagship Cruises & Events
  • Natural History Museum
  • Fleet Science Center
  • Knott’s Berry Farm
  • Belmont Park Unlimited Rides

 

For more information go to: www.smartdestinations.com/san-diego-attractions-and-tours

RECOMMENDED HOTELS

In Anaheim:

Non Disney hotels

  • For families, Desert Palms is 1 block from Disneyland and has suites that will accommodate up to 8 people. Entrance offers free parking.
  • For honeymooners, Sheraton Anaheim Hotel is 1 block from Disneyland (for offsite hotel, but I prefer on site for honeymooners)
  • Tropicana Inn & Suites across the street from Disneyland offers free continental breakfast.

 

The 3 Disney hotels are the nicest and they offer all of the Disney amenities

  • Paradise Pier hotel best value
  • Disneyland Hotel on monorail
  • Grand California Hotel private entrance to California Adventure Park

 

Recommended hotels in San Diego

  • Bahia Resort Hotel – Secluded on its own private peninsula in San Diego & world-famous Mission Bay Park, the Bahia Hotel surrounds you with sun-drenched sandy beaches, tropical gardens, and delightful hidden waterways. With a playground, swimming pool, and water sports available, guests will love this family-friendly retreat.
  • Dana on Mission Bay – Located just minutes from downtown San Diego, Mission Bay Park is a 4,600-acre wonderland, the largest park of its kind in the world. Cool breezes, tranquil waters and soft sand beaches make San Diego’s Mission Bay the ideal place for all types of recreation to explore.

 

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Costa Rica – Little Known Paradise!

Costa Rica is a traveler’s paradise!  Unfortunately, most people don’t even know where this country is and what it is has to offer.

Costa Rica is located in Central America between Panama and Nicaragua. Costa Rica is a little of the Garden of Eden and Jurassic Park all rolled into one.  It offers incredible beauty, jungles, cloud forests, black and golden sand beaches, volcanoes, rugged rivers, and some of the most friendly people in the world!  Costa Rica has much more than just beauty. It offers all sorts of activities from bird watching, wild life viewing, sightseeing through its pristine jungles, exciting adventures such as zip-line excursions through the jungle, whitewater rafting, volcano hiking, and much more.  Costa Rica is spectacularly beautiful and it offers the vacation experience of a lifetime!

The two most interesting locations to vacation in Costa Rica are the Arenal Volcano area and the Central Pacific Beach area.  These two areas can be combined into one vacation where you can have it all — from dense rain forest to sandy beaches.

The Arenal Volcano has been erupting since 1968 and provides one of the most unique vacation experiences available.  Most of the small hotels and lodges in the area provide spectacular views of this amazing volcano.  Some of the more unique activities in the area include Tabbacon Hot Springs where you can swim in the volcanically heated waters of the Tabbacon River, hike the slopes of the Arenal Volcano, take a leisurely walk on hanging bridges and view the different layers and wildlife that the rain forest has to offer.

The Central Pacific Beach area is one of the most diverse and interesting ecosystems you can visit.  Here you can see mangrove forests where Scarlet Macaws feed, tropical dry forests that are home to toucans, colorful butterflies, and monkeys. You can take the Pacific Ariel Tram from tropical dry forest to tropical rain forest and see all that these environments have to offer; take a boat ride on the Tarcoles River to view many species of birds and see 15 to 20 ft. long crocodiles; or you can just relax on pristine uncrowded beaches.

If Costa Rica is not on your dream vacation list it should be!  Costa Rica is a unique travel opportunity that offers activities for all activity levels and is a vacation destination worth considering.

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A Utah travel agency’s must-see islands

When people think of their dream vacation, they usually think of a tropical paradise. With the help of tripadvisor.com this Utah travel agency presents a list of the top 10 must-see islands.

10.   Maui, Hawaii, United States

 

9.  Anguilla, Caribbean

 

8. Madagascar

 

7.  Santorini, Greece

 

6.  Sri Lanka

 

 

5.  Ischia, Italy

 

4.  Easter Island, Chile

 

 

3.  Galapagos Island, Ecuador

 

2.  Bali, Indonesia

 

1.  Ko Phi Phi Don, Thailand

 

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