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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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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The Best Family Hotels in Cancun Riviera Maya

Cancun and the Riviera Maya have become one of the best destinations for family travel.   Families are flocking to this destination because of the all-inclusive vacation experience and plenty of things to do for all ages.  You can explore ancient cultures, swim with whale sharks, swim in a cenote, take a thrilling zip line ride or snorkel in the beautiful blue water.  There are several good hotel/resort options in all price ranges to choose from, but there are three hotels that stand out for a great overall value for a family all-inclusive vacation experience.

3. Azul Beach: This 5 star all-inclusive hotel is a smaller hotel located on a great beach.  It is a boutique hotel that is kid-centric, but inspires romance. Azul Beach just recently signed an agreement from Nickelodeon to operate their kids and teens program. This beachfront hotel caters to families and couples in an intimate and refined setting.

2. Azul Fives: This is a 5-star hotel that is perfect for larger families.  At this gourmet all-inclusive hotel  you can purchase a studio to a 3 bedroom unit.  This resort caters to the five senses.  It offers 9 restaurants and 5 pools. One of the highlights is their cenote where you can often see spider monkeys.  One of the unique room categories is the Sky Suite that is located on the upper floors and has stair access to the roof with a Jacuzzi hot tub, bbq grill and plenty of space for the family to spread out. This is the perfect hotel for all ages.

1. Generations Riviera Maya: This 5-star hotel is meant for all generations.  It is an all-butler hotel geared for families and extended families.  Your butler can reserve beach cabanas, special themed meals in your room and so much more. You can purchase studio to 3 bedroom units, many with either swim up accommodations or access to walk out plunge infinity pools.  All 144 units plus the 4 gourmet restaurants at Generations have a beach front view.  One additional perk is that adults have access to an additional 11 restaurants at the El Dorado Royal located next door.  This is the perfect resort that balances kid time with adult relaxation.

There are several amazing family hotels in Cancun and the Riviera Maya to choose from.  These are three choices that provide an exceptional family experience.

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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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NORWAY IS COOL by Don Shafer

Norway is not just cool as in really great, but a super place to cool off after waking up in the morning and thinking you’ve died and gone to Phoenix, which is what everyone seems to be feeling in and around Utah.

My wife and I just got back from cruising around Norway on the Grand Princess (a cruise we booked through the leading Utah travel agency, namely, Columbus Travel) and one of the places we visited was Longyearbyen, a village on a very northern island at about 80-degrees latitude, which is way beyond the Arctic Circle.  The high temperature that day was a sunny 39 – not celsius, fahrenheit.  By the way, that sunny was for 24-hours.  Yes, at midnight, 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. (I kept getting up to check) the sun was hanging in the sky.  The sun never got lower than about what we experience at 6:30 p.m. this time of year.

We also stopped in Stavanger, Gravdal, Honningsvag, Tromso, Hellesylt/Gieranger and Bergen, where temperatures never got above 75 and were usually in the 60s.  For someone who doesn’t take the heat very well it was heaven.

Bergen is a city about the size of Salt Lake in a beautiful fjord bay.  When we got off the ship we road the funicular to a mountain overlooking the gorgeous city splashed in the valleys of the mountains surrounding the bay.  Positively breathtaking.

The day before, speaking of sights that take your breath away, we disembarked in the morning at a village named Hellesylt and were whisked by motorcoach up the mountains of the fjord and then back down in the evening for reembarkation in the town of Geiranger.  On top at midday, the ski lift was running and the snow was 12 feet deep.  Spectacular views everywhere up there, including a the sight from high above Geiranger that is included in about every arrangements of photos from the Norwegian fjords.

We had taken off on our 14-day cruise from Southampton, and getting there was an electrifying experience – one that had a happy ending due to employees of Delta Airlines.  I have to take my hat off to Delta, because just a couple of years ago I can recall many a radio show guest railing about how their service had fallen to new lows of indifference and rudeness.  Not so anymore!  Everyone was not only friendly, but helpful to the grandest extent.

When we left Salt Lake City on June 20, severe thunderstorms around New York City, where we had a change of planes, as well as a fire at the FAA center in New Jersey, caused a three-and-a-half-hour delay in take off.  They wouldn’t let them take off because they weren’t going to be able to land.  Needless to say, we not only missed our connection but one scheduled to leave two-hours after the one to which we were assigned.  We got to New York City four hours late, about six minutes before the last scheduled flight of the day to London’s Heathrow Airport was supposed to leave.  We got off the plane and the only Delta agents in this particular concourse were helping passengers board a flight to Puerto Rico, and they were inundated with problems.  JFK was a madhouse – I mean way further out of control than it’s normal madness.  Thousands of flights had been cancelled that day and everything that had arrived was late.  There were many thousands of passengers who didn’t want to be there running in every direction.

I shouted:  “We were told on the plane there would be someone here to help us and we need help!”  A Delta gate agent (Luis Hernandez) offered:  “I will try to help you.”  He spent 25-minutes on the phone getting us on that last flight of the night to London, which was being delayed.  Then he personally escorted us to the gate where we boarded a bus for a trip to another terminal.  We took off at 1:15 a.m. (six-hours-thirty-minutes after we had been originally scheduled to depart) and landed at 12:45 p.m. at Heathrow (five-hours-thirty-minutes after we were originally supposed to be there).

After getting our luggage, we were met by representatives of Princess Cruises and whisked, along with 15 other late arrivals from JFK, to the ship, which sailed within five minutes after we set foot onboard.


But wait, there’s more!

We arrived back at Southampton at the very pier from whence the Titanic sailed just a little more than 100-years earlier.  Hmmmm.  If we had only known.

It was the day of the “Ladies Final” at Wimbledon.  The “Gentlemen’s Final” was the next day and tickets were going for five to seven thousand pounds.  “Self,” I said, “we could go on at least three or four more cruises with that much money.”  So we saw some live theatre whilst in London town, as well as a day at the British Museum.  The shows were fantastic:  “Sweeney Todd,” a Stephen Sondheim masterpiece, “The Lion King,” something my wife has been wanting to see for several years, and lots of fun, and “The War Horse,” a truly unique and wonderful production.

Oh, by the way, there are some seven-day cruises to lots of Scandinavian destinations this August – Royal Caribbean starting at $649, Holland America, $899 – if you want to cool off yourself.  There’s a 14-day Celebrity with introductory pricing for $1400 that goes to Iceland as well as many of the ports we visited in Norway.

We are still suffering from vacation and jetlag disorientation, but we are already discussing some possibilities with the money we saved by watching Andy Murray lose on a tely in a London pub whilst enjoying a dinner of fish and chips after a delightful afternoon of “The Lion King.”

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Cruise Deals: Which Cruise is Right for You?

Swimming with stingrays in Grand Cayman, zip lining in Jamaica, snorkeling in Cozumel. Sounds pretty great, right? These are all things that my sister enjoyed this spring when she went on a cruise in the Caribbean. That clear blue water and the shining warm sun seems like something that could never be affordable. Surprisingly, cruises are not that expensive especially when you find great cruise deals online. There are so many different cruises to experience and you can make one happen if you search out the right cruise deals.

Alaska Cruise Deals
If you want to do something different, look for cruise deals for Alaskan cruises. You can hike through glacial waterfalls, enjoy wildlife excursions, go on dog sled rides and so much more. If you are interested in this, there are tons of cruise deals online that will point you toward an affordable price.

Disney Cruise Deals
Disney Cruise Line is a great option to take if you love Disney or if you have young kids. Depending on where you go, you can experience snorkeling, hiking and kayaking on Disney’s private island or stop at Disney World along the way. Sounds good to me! There are so many cruise deals online for Disney Cruise Lines. Experience the magic of Disney and find some of these great cruise deals before it’s too late.

Cruise deals to the Mediterranean
On this cruise, you will find yourself surrounded by beautiful cities like Florence, Venice, Istanbul, Barcelona and Rome. These European cities are ones that everyone should experience. Europe is a magical place and you should take advantage of great cruise deals that you find for the Mediterranean region. As you look for cruise deals, consider us as it’s the perfect travel agency to book your trip. You can book it online or come into our location and talk to a travel agent face to face. Set up an appointment today and we’ll get you going where you want to be.

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What’s your dream vacation destination?

Everyone’s got a destination on their bucket list. Or maybe just a favorite place you keep “trying” to get to. Share with us what your destination is. And more importantly, give us the pleasure of helping you cross it off your list.

Bon voyage!

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