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.
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Going Away for the Holidays

There are almost 3 months until Thanksgiving and you can almost smell the roast turkey and Thanksgiving trimmings. Halt- Thanksgiving?! Already? Well, if you want to travel for the holidays- whether that is Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Year’s- not only is it the right time to think about it now, but it’s time to talk to a travel agent about booking your holiday vacation.

Home away from home:  The holiday season is by far the busiest time for airlines, hotels, and cruise lines. Hotels are running at premium prices and the airlines rack up costs during this busy time, but people left and right are booking like crazy in order to book their holiday vacation. And it is easy to see why! The stress of preparing and cleaning up dinner, getting the house ready for guests and relatives, and kids running around the house all goes away when you are on vacation. This is also an opportune time because kids are out of school and many jobs give their employees time off. The holiday celebrations during vacation are longer than the one day holiday you would be spending at home, giving your family more time to bond over the holiday break. It’s a win-win situation all the way around.

When to book: More often than not, the longer you wait to book a vacation for the holiday period, the more expensive it can become and the less chance there will be availability.  After August, your chances of going to your number one choice destination decreases, especially for popular vacation spots such as Hawaii or Cancun. While you may still find great deals and prices up to a month before, remember that space on board a flight or cruise may already be full. In reality, the later you wait, your pickings will be slim and you may not like the leftovers.

Where to go: Popular destinations to head to during the holiday vacation are just about anywhere that is warm and sunny. These places include Hawaii, Puerto Vallarta, Thailand, Jamaica, Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Florida. But Christmas away from home doesn’t have to be so tropical. If you can’t stand not to have snow on Christmas day and you would cry without having a traditional Christmas tree, then head to Quebec City, Canada; Manhattan, New York; Reykjavik, Iceland; or Barcelona.

Make this year’s holiday season unforgettable. It is a perfect time to start new traditions or enhance the old ones. The memories you create walking through the streets of Italy, sunbathing on the shores of Cancun, or riding Splash Mountain at Disneyland won’t get hidden behind the buffet of past traditional Thanksgiving dinners. This time, it’s going to be a memory your family will talk about for years to come!

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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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MY FAVORITE HAWAII BEACHES

I love Hawaii. I love everything about Hawaii. I am constantly trying to figure out how I can get back to the islands. In just two months time I will make a return trip to Hawaii. In fact, this upcoming trip will be my 165th visit to Hawaii. My first trip was when I was a 16 year-old surfer boy from California. It was love at first site…and first wave!

I particularly enjoy the beaches. It’s beach heaven. I want to share with you some of my favorite Hawaiian beaches. This is not a complete list, but just a few to get you started.

Waikiki Beach Oahu. Crazy, chaotic, and crowded. I have sometimes referred to Honolulu and Waikiki Beach as the “Tijuana of the Pacific.” Yes, it is crazy, but I love this beach. There are so many activities and a great place for “people watching.” Ask your hotel which nights “Sunset Movies on the Beach” are shown on a big screen right on Waikiki.

North Shore Beach Oahu. A seven-mile stretch of beach on the windward side of the island where the winter surfing championships are held. It’s a great place for whale watching during the migratory season. This area is also home to Pu’u Mahuka Heiaum Oahu’s oldest ancient religion shrine. Be sure to stop at one of the many fresh shrimp trucks for lunch. The Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck and Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, both located near Kahuku, are the most well known with their garlic and butter shrimp being popular.

Lanikai Beach Oahu. This picturesque beach with pristine sand and turquoise water, calm waves, and a lush tropical garden environment it is perfect for couples and families. Located near Kailua and less than an hour’s drive from Waikiki. Presently there are no washrooms or facilities available.

Poipu Beach Kauai. A beautiful beach on the southern part of the island. Calm water with facilities and food service available, it is perfect for families. Easy accessible from many hotels.

Kauna’oa Beach Hawaii. Located on the Big Island, Kauna’oa is a secluded crescent-shaped beach in a serene tropical setting located on the west side of the island not far from the Mauna Kea Hotel. The beach is popular for swimming and snorkeling, but parking is limited. Be advised, this beach is limited to just 25 persons at any given time. It’s best to arrive before 9:00AM.

Punalu’u Beach Hawaii. You will recognize this beach from photographs. Punalu’u is the Big island’s famous black sand beach and home to the endangered green sea turtles located on the east side of the island. It’s a great pace to camp, picnic, relax, and snorkel.

Kaanapali Beach Maui. Okay, it is “hotel row” and the many areas of the beach are narrow due to hotel construction, I still love this beach. Kaanapali is a great place for swimming and paddle boarding and one of the best places in all of Hawaii for whale watching during the winter months. The area offers a wide variety of hotels and restaurants.

Hawaii no ka oi! (“Hawaii is the best!”)

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The Best Cruise Lines

Ever wonder which cruise line is best? Each cruise line has certain things that they do best. Cruise Critic has unveiled its editors’ picks for the best cruise line in certain categories. Whether you’re looking for ocean or river cruises from family to adventure, you’ll see which cruise lines are doing best in this year’s Cruise Critic Awards. Click here to see results.

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The Getaway Guru’s Favorite European Destinations

There are over fifty countries to choose from when planning your European Vacation. That can make planning a little overwhelming when deciding where to go! The Getaway Guru (who is always here to help) has chosen the top twenty cities that you MUST check out on your next trip to Europe. Check out the infographic for his top picks, as well as his favorite things to do in each city!

Top 20 European Cities (3)

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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.

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

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My Favorite Destination – BANGKOK

I’m often asked what my favorite place to visit is.  I always answer this question with a question, viz., “What is the purpose of the trip?”  For excitement; something exotic, but very safe; great food, world famous beaches, deluxe hotels, and a friendly and welcoming people, it’s an easy call — Thailand.  No other place on earth exerts the same power over people.

Bangkok, the “City of Angels” and capital of the Kingdom of Thailand, is an exciting, colorful and vibrant city of over 12 million people.  Bangkok is the “Venice of the East” with more than 300 canals (“klongs”) that crisscross the city.  In one day you will find yourself taking an automobile taxi, “tuk tuk” three-wheeled open-sided taxi, and a water taxi; and we haven’t even talked about the above ground Skytrain and below ground subway.  Board a long-tail boat and explore the many klongs that wind through the city.

Bangkok is a modern city paired with antiquity.  It is a city of contrasts with a long history, world class shopping, colorful night life, night markets, street vendors, entertainment, and delicious cuisine.  Between modern shopping malls, and tall skyscrapers, you will find the traditional and spiritual side of the people with the many temples gracing the city.

The Chao Praya River cuts through the center of the city.  No visit to Bangkok would be complete without an evening dinner cruise along the river with the temple and palaces illuminated.  Other popular activities include a food and walking tour of “Old Bangkok”, a bicycle tour, spa visit, Muay Thai kick boxing, the famous flower market, and a stroll through the Chinatown market.

Not to be missed wats (“temples”) and historic areas include the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha, Wat Po and the reclining Buddha, and Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn.  Bangkok and all of Thailand is a shopper’s paradise with large indoor shopping malls, including the popular Siam Paragon, MBK, CentralWorld, Terminal 21, and Siam Center; to street vendors and night markets that offer everything imaginable.

Dining out is a national pastime and the Thais take their food seriously!  Thai cuisine is famous around the world and what better place to enjoy the wonders of Thai cooking than right here in Thailand.  Fine and casual dining right along side street food is all available and is reasonable priced.  Consider enrolling in a Thai cooking class.

One visit to Bangkok is never enough.  There is a power to Bangkok and the Kingdom of Thailand that brings you back.  You will find both Bangkok city and the country one of the most exciting, exotic, and adventuresome places you will ever visit, and you, too, will start planning your return trip.

-Larry Gelwix

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Jamaica – A Caribbean Paradise!

There are generally two different perceptions of Jamaica based on “how you visit” Jamaica. Many people visit Jamaica as a port of call on a cruise ship, while others take a land vacation and stay for a few days.  Most people that visit on a cruise ship sometimes state they would not like to go back, while those that take a land based vacations rank it among their top travel destinations.  Why is there such a big difference of opinion?

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Visiting by Cruise Ship:

People generally remember the first 30 minutes and the last 30 minutes in port.  Unfortunately, this first and last impression is generally not a good one for Jamaica. While most people report that they enjoyed the destination and activities, most only remember the swarm of vendors as they get on and off the ship and at some points on certain tours.  Many that visit Jamaica on a cruise ship would not care to go back.  The port of call experience that many have does not accurately represent the great destination of Jamaica.

Visiting by Land:

When you choose to visit Jamaica on vacation your impression can be totally different than those that visit by cruise ship.  In Jamaica, you have friendly people, good food, amazing beaches, fun activities and some of the best all-inclusive resort hotels in the world.  Many that visit Jamaica on vacation would chose the destination again and again and it usually is one of their top vacation destinations.

My Experience:

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I have been fortunate to visit Jamaica by both methods above.  The first five times I visited by cruise ship.  If you had asked me a year ago (before I visited on an actual vacation) about Jamaica I would have told you that  Jamaica is one of the most beautiful tropical destinations I have ever visited, but I would never choose to vacation there.

Now, I have taken two land based vacations to Jamaica in the last 6 months.  My view of the destination is 100% different now.  I received some of the most attentive and friendly service by hotel staff I have ever experienced at the Sandals Montego Bay and Hyatt Ziva/Zolara hotel resorts, along with some of the best food anywhere in the world!  If you have not had authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken you are missing out on a great meal.  The activities available are some of the best of any destination in the world.  I personally enjoy the Jamaican Bobsled Experience and Bamboo Rafting.

Jamaica is similar to Hawaii in that the flight time is about that same,  there are great beaches, a good selection of activities and excellent food.  One major difference is although the price points are similar to Hawaii, in Jamaica you get an all-inclusive experience where all of your meals, drinks and some water sports (at resort) are included.

My Top Jamaica Hotel Recommendations:

1 – Hyatt Ziva/ Zolara: 5 star (my rating) all-inclusive with a family section (Ziva) and a adults only section (Zolara)

2 – Royalton White Sands: 5 star (my rating) all-inclusive that is perfect for a family vacation

3 – Sandals Royal Caribbean: 4.5 star (my rating) – Sandals can be a little pricy but you won’t find better service anywhere in the Caribbean or Mexico.

4 – Riu Ocho Rios: 4 star (my rating) –  This is a big resort with a great beach and close to many of the activities on the island.

5 – Holiday Inn Montego Bay: 3.5 star (my rating) – This is a basic all-inclusive hotel without the bells and whistles of the above hotels but perfect for the value minded traveler.

My Favorite Jamaica Activities:

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1 – Jamaican Bob Sled Experience: A fun rollercoaster type experience through a tropical rain forest

2 – Bamboo Rafting: A leisurely float on a bamboo raft – perfect for couples

3 – Dunn’s River Falls: Probably the most popular activity on the island. There are some pushy vendors here, but the Falls them self are beautiful and fun to climb.

4 – Rose Hall Great House/ Haunted Night Tour:  Learn about Annie Palmer and why the house is said to be haunted.

5 – Spirit of Reggae Tour: Visit Bob Marley’s home town of Nine Mile.

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Jamaica is a Caribbean island paradise that I hope to visit many, many more times.

By Mark Faldmo, Jr
Contributing – Rayleen Myers
Columbus Travel

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