Wishes Travel Blog

It's so Magical...the perfect place to find a little extra pixie dust for your Wishes Travel Disney Vacation!

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Breckenridge’s All-Season Resort Town Perfect for Families

Town of Breckenridge

A Traveling Suitcase Blog by Noreen Kompanik

I’d been to Breckenridge, Colorado, a renowned ski resort town years ago. But, it wasn’t until returning on a recent trip this summer that I rediscovered this hidden paradise in the Rocky Mountains. I also came to realize what an incredible destination this is for families. And not just in winter. This magical town oozes fun and frolic year-round. And for those into the outdoors, Breckenridge is a nature-lovers nirvana.

Breckenridge is perched at an impressive 9,600-foot elevation just 80 miles southwest of Denver. Getting around is a piece of cake due to the free downtown trolley.  And for those coming outside ski season, gondolas still run practically year-round taking visitors up the mountain for spectacular panoramic views.

The scenery here is breathtaking. Numerous alpine streams converge on the town. Stately conifers line the steep mountain slopes, and bluebird skies provide a stunning contrast to the year-round snow-capped peaks.

Breckenridge

Only one small word of caution about the elevation. It’s important to keep hydrated and families may experience a little shortness of breath for a day or two until the body acclimates to the altitude. After all, it’s nearly twice as high as the Mile High City.

Where to Stay in Breckenridge

Accommodations range from hotels to vacation club villas or vacation-home rentals. Villas or vacation homes are perfect for families giving that home-away-from home feel and convenience.  And grocery stores are nearby.

Bogart House

Our lodging was The Bogart House, a magnificent 5-bedroom, 5 ½ bath that could accommodate up to 16 guests. The home was spacious and luxurious with spectacular mountains views, gas fireplaces, and an outdoor hot tub. Staying just steps from the heart of Breckenridge, walking to restaurants and activities couldn’t have been more convenient.

We had the opportunity to tour Grand Colorado on Peak 8, a luxury slope-side ski-in-ski-out vacation club resort. Accommodations here range from fully-furnished studios to 4-bedroom villas. The resort and grounds are stunning with killer views. And I’m not sure we’ve ever seen so many hot tubs on one property. It was impressive.

Marriott Mountain Valley Lodge

Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge is another great four-season family choice. Sporting an alpine-like setting, the vacation club sits on a pristine lake in the heart of picturesque Breckenridge. From studios to two-bedroom villas, the location can’t be beat for families. And the slopes are just a gondola ride away.

Where to Play in Breckenridge

Aside from winter skiing and snowboarding, there’s the thrill of whitewater rafting in nearby Clear Creek, one of Colorado’s most popular rafting destinations. With only Class 1 and 2 rapids, it’s the ideal way to introduce big and little kids to this exciting outdoor adventure. The scenery is spectacular and everyone comes off the trip with big smiles.

Biking in Breckenridge- Breck Tourism

Wellness is a way of life in Colorado. And families into hiking and biking will love that Breckenridge has over 50 miles of interconnected trails for year-round adventure. Treks range from easy to difficult. It’s highly recommended to start early as mountain thunderstorms sometimes roll in after lunch.

In summer 2017, Breckenridge Ski Resort launched Epic Discovery, with its mountain of adventures for the entire family. Outdoor activities include zip-lining, alpine slides, challenge courses, rock-climbing walls, interpretive trails, mineshaft maze, tubing, an alpine coaster, and much more. And all this fun at 11,000 feet above sea level!

Epic Discovery-Breck Tourism

Where to Dine in Breckenridge

Breckenridge has its share of pizza and burgers that kids love. But with 23 new culinary spots opening in just the past year alone, whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here.

 

Canteen Taphouse

The Canteen Taphouse and Tavern in the heart of town is a fun choice for families. Inside and outdoor dining is available. The menu features modern comfort food with a perfect rustic ambience with, you guessed it, canteens lining the walls. And it’s located in one of Breckenridge’s oldest main street buildings. Food here is really good with plenty of great choices for adults along with a Lil’ Shredders kids menu.

Giampietro is another great stomping ground for food. The Italian pasta and pizza house menu is extensive. Pizzas here are downright amazing, with choices of New York Style or Sicilian Deep Dish.

One of our favorite restaurants in Breckenridge is the casual and elegantly modern Blue River Bistro. This top-notch eating establishment not only serves up tantalizing entrees, but prices were much less than we expected for an award-winning restaurant of this caliber.

Blue River Bistro-Breck Tourism

Open for lunch and dinner, adults will love the classy chef-inspired entrees and great selection of wines, craft beer, and cocktails. The children’s menu is classic kiddie food but we loved the “mocktails” offering much more than the usual “Shirley Temple” twist.

There’s no doubt that Breckenridge’s nickname as the “Playground of Colorado” is well-deserved. With the wide range of outdoor activities, four distinct seasons, approachable accommodations, majestic scenery, and friendly townsfolk, it’s a perfect family destination any time of the year.

Adventures by Disney Costa Rica –  Our Amazing Introduction to Family Adventuring

One of our biggest family goals is to share the love of travel with our children and turn them into global citizens.  Past trips to the US and British Virgin Islands as well as Quebec City and Montreal were wonderful first forays.  But, we were ready to immerse our kids in a culture where English wouldn’t be the first language. We wanted their experiences to be truly foreign. Our main challenge was to find a way to do that without the infamous “I’m so bored, I don’t want to go to another museum” eye roll or the “yuck what is this food, I want McDonalds” arguments.

After researching options, we chose an Adventures by Disney vacation as the best way to accomplish this. Adventures by Disney provides family-centric group-guided vacations worldwide.  Each experience is carefully crafted to ensure both children and adults experience the amazing cultural aspects of the trip in ways that appeal to the whole family. We took advantage of Disney’s early booking rate and secured our travel dates about a year in advance and then anxiously awaited this vacation.

The trip was well worth the wait!  Our 7-day, 6-night adventure took us through 4 different regions of Costa Rica.  We traveled by plane, boat, and bus experiencing many of the unique locales and micro-climates the country is renowned for. Here is a brief summary of our adventures in each region.

 

Shopping in the San Jose Markets

San Jose

We chose to fly in a day early to experience San Jose on our own since it wasn’t part of the scheduled itinerary. But was the embarkation point for the Disney adventure.  Since we weren’t required to check in until evening, we spent the morning touring on our own. Our exploration of San Jose included the National Theater, National and Gold Museums, as well as many fascinating markets and shops. It was an excellent introduction to Costa Rica.

 

Landed Safe and Sound

Tortaguerro

We were filled with excitement traveling to the remote region of Tortaguerro via yes, a puddle jumper! Our hotel for this leg was Laguna Lodge, a rustic eco-lodge poised on a sliver of rainforest nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the National Park, accessible only by water.  From this embarkation point, we toured the Sea Turtle Conservancy and embarked on a several-hour open air boat ride adventure. The wildlife was absolutely amazing. We saw multitudes of tropical birds, lizards, caiman crocodiles, a small family of sloths, 2 species of monkeys, and even a large boa constrictor!  The humid tropical night at the lodge was filled with the sounds of whirring fans and rain drumming against the tin roofs – one very unique experience!  Our next morning’s departure by covered boat felt like a real-life jungle cruise as we ventured upstream to our awaiting bus ready for our next destination.

Monkeys, and Sloths, and Lizards – Oh my!

Arenal

We spent 2 incredible nights in the Arenal region and could have extended it to a full week.  Here is where our two Little Adventurers became true dare devils braving White Water Rafting and zip lining excursions. The rapids were only Class 1-2 so the kids felt safe during the experience.  For a Go Pro of the experience click here:   PuraVida

 

Zip lining was another story – whipping 40 miles per hour through tree tops and clouds while the wind whistled in our ears and monkeys laughed in the trees below! And to top it all off, we returned to our amazing bungalows at Arenal Hot Springs to take in the amazing view of the Arenal volcano and enjoy a relaxing soak at the Tabacon Hot Springs.

Whhhheeeeeee made it!!!

Click here to see us on the Arenal_zipline!

Guanacaste

By the time we arrived in Guanacaste, our kids were rarely seen outside the pack of other Junior Adventurers, only coming to us when they needed something.  We loved watching them develop friendships that have continued on past the trip with the help of texting! Guanacaste was a fabulous way to end the trip as we spent our last day together sailing by catamaran to a private bay. Here the entire group relaxed on the beach, paddle boarded, snorkeled, or cannonballed from the 2ndtier of the pontoon into the waters below.

Swimming, Snorkeling, and Cannonballs!

There are so many more aspects of this spectacular trip I could talk about. Things such as how Disney hosts Junior Adventure night with Disney guides giving adults their own time to enjoy a private dinner and make mojitos. Or how our kids learned to spot different species of snakes (safely), or birds.  And even how our kids have started to learn Spanish in anticipation of future travel!

Adventures by Disney has been an amazing vehicle to transform our kids into more adventurous travelers. They have now become fanatics for Disney vacationing outside the parks. Since this experience, our family has signed up for 2 more Adventures trips and booked a Disney cruise to the British Isles.  I can’t wait to tell you all about those experiences as well!

Since our trip, Adventures by Disney Costa Rica has made an itinerary change. They still visit San Jose and Guanacaste, but the Tortaguero leg has been eliminated.  Instead, activity offerings in Arenal have been expanded, adding a journey to the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge and a rainforest gondola ride. Zip lining and white-water rafting in Arenal are still included.

Rates and Dates can be found by clicking hereLast Chance Offers are available on 2018 trips if you book immediately.  Disney provides an Early Booking Offer on 2019 trips of up to $500 discount per person on select dates when you book now through July 8. Airfare is not included in Adventures by Disney pricing, but  can easily be added independently or through Adventures by Disney’s air department.

Come Adventure with us soon!

When Dinner Becomes Something So Much More……

“I never called my work an ‘art.’  It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment” – Walt Disney

Have you ever been out to dinner with your kids and heard “I’m bored.”  “When is the food going to come out?”  “I don’t want to sit here anymore?”  Let’s be honest, we have all heard this at one point or another.  After a long day in the parks, or maybe a nice relaxing afternoon by the pool, sometimes all you want as an adult is to sit back and enjoy your dinner but feel like you can’t because you need to keep your kids entertained while they wait for their food.

Well parents, have I got a trick for you!  Two words…..dinner show!!  That’s right, entertainment for the kids (and you) while you eat.  So long “I’m starving!” and “Can we leave now?” complaining from your kids because they will be engrossed in the spectacle before them!  Side note: I am totally aware that dinner shows are not the Fairy Godmother’s magic wand that will turn your child into a perfect little angel  for two hours, but Disney magic has been known to perform some miracles!  Here are three shows that the kids and adults in our family have thoroughly enjoyed.

First up is a favorite to everyone who stops by Germany in Epcot: Biergarten!  When you walk in you feel as though you stepped into a town square in Germany and you know something fun is about to take place.  This restaurant hosts a buffet of wonderful German dishes from wurst salad to pork schnitzel to apple strudel and everything in between.  Of course you can also order a half liter or liter of a tasty adult beverage to raise high during the “Ein Prosit” toast as you yell “Ziggy Zaggy, Ziggy Zaggy, Oi Oi OI!” The entertainment is not constant during your meal so you can get up to grab food and eat while not missing a moment.  The show is a little different each time but there has always been lots of dancing (kids love this part) and even some friendly competitions (anyone up for some yodeleing?).  Our girls ask to go back every trip because it is so much fun and the adults never hesitate with that request!

The second dinner show that we attended was Disney’s Spirit of Aloha at the Polynesian.  It was so much fun walking towards dinner and being stopped to receive leis and a family picture!  Once we were escorted to our seats, we ordered drinks and then sat back to relax as this was a family style dinner.   The luau began and my daughter’s were in awe of the dancing and singing.  This was great to keep the kids occupied before dinner came out.  Generous portions of pulled pork, roasted chicken, and veggies were devoured by everyone in our group when the luau took a break for us to eat dinner.  Once dinner was over the show began and they had the kids up doing the hula, adults dancing to a love song, and some very impressive fire tricks.  By the time everyone finished dessert and the show ended, the kids were asking when it started again!  One tip is that I would suggest sitting on the main floor during this dinner so that you are closer to the action.  This is about a two hour extravaganza, so plan accordingly!

One last recommendation, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ!  Now I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, but I am so glad that we booked this dinner.  It is located at the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness and I found out when we got there the campsite area is so large that we had to wait for a bus to take us from the parking lot to the pavilion!  With that said, make sure you allot extra travel time for this outing.  This dinner was exactly what the name said: you are in an open pavilion, sitting at picnic tables, eating your BBQ favorites.  The BBQ is buffet style with hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, ribs, macaroni and cheese, and corn on the cob. As I told you, BBQ favorites!  There was a show country-western band that started playing and had the kids up dancing and watching an impressive cowboy rope display but the best part was that Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip and Dale were all out on the dance floor with the kids!  When the band stopped then all five characters headed over to a designated area for pictures.  The interaction was so much fun and the kids almost fell over when they were told that dessert was Mickey ice cream bars and a variety of other ice cream sandwiches that you could just go and grab out of the ice cream carts!

One last reminder, most dinner shows last two hours or more when you factor in the travel time so be sure to plan accordingly!  There is no way that you can be at Mickey’s Backyard BBQ for the 5:30 PM show and back at the Magic Kingdom by 8:00 PM.  These do take a chunk of time out of your day and unless you are already in a park or at a resort close to a park it will take some time to travel so plan your evening wisely!!!  Hopefully a dinner show will bring the same magical experience to your family as it did ours!

Best wishes!

How to Have a Fantastic Cruise Experience: Book with a Boutique Travel Agency

A Traveling Suitcase blog by Noreen 

When my husband and I cruised the Mediterranean a few years ago, I used a large online cruise agency out of New York to book our adventure. I knew which cruise line we wanted based on the itinerary and cruise reviews, and was mostly shopping for the best value, which was why we selected that particular agency.

We got a price we were happy with and the cruise was booked. All documents were in order and several months later, we were off to the Med! While the agency rep did her job, I had to do most of the research on my own regarding port visits or questions about the cruise itself. And trying to connect with my husband, who was in Afghanistan at the time with extremely sketchy internet service and his sometimes inability to open documents I sent, there were times the planning process was frustrating.

The rep sent a link to the Celebrity cruise line home page and some “general” information, but, truth be told, that’s where the assistance ended. Not because she didn’t want to help, but, not surprisingly, she hadn’t taken many cruises herself and wasn’t all that familiar with our port of sail. And being from a huge travel agency, her responsibility was basically booking the cruise. I did my homework, relied heavily on reviews from past cruisers or information provided online by the cruise line. Thankfully, the trip went without a hitch and we had a wonderful time.

A few years ago, while talking with long-time friends, it was suggested we all take a trip together, preferably a cruise. As usual, I was asked to the lead for planning. When all was said and done, we had 15 people interested in cruising to Alaska. But this time, I knew I didn’t want to use a massive travel agency. Instead, I opted for a smaller boutique agency whose dedicated agent – Kristy at Wishes Travel  provided much more personalized attention. And it made all the difference in the world for a spectacularly successful cruise and one very happy group of passengers!

Cruising with a larger group changes everything.  And not hard to figure, there are a lot of factors to consider. Cabin types, cabin locations, beverage packages, dinner seating, shore excursions, and more. And information about the port the ship departs from, such as where to stay and how to get to the port the day of departure.

Several of our group had cruised many times, for others this was their first cruise. There is no “one size fits all” with this many people-all with decidedly different personalities, needs, desires, age ranges, and yes, a few quirks.  And each family with their own set of questions and concerns.

Travel agents can’t provide first-hand experience concerning every corner of the globe or every cruise ship. But an agent that travels often has a deeper appreciation and understanding of what travel entails and the decision processes needed to ensure a happy and successful vacation.  And an agent who has a more personal relationship with her clients is able to garnish welcomed feedback about each cruise or vacation for future planning. And that’s helpful to everyone.

Our group decided on a seven-night cruise to Alaska on Celebrity Infinity departing from Vancouver, British Columbia. We opened a closed-group Facebook page for members adding Kristy from Wishes Travel. Communicating as a group was so much easier when questions with answers and information was available in one place where we could all share.

Because of the number of passengers in our group, Kristy was able to coordinate with a Celebrity representative who specifically worked with group bookings. Not only did we receive excellent competitive prices for the cruise, Kristy was also able to obtain onboard credits for each family.  As a group, we were able to be seated together for dining. The rep could also suggest meeting places on board and the location for the best views when the ship sailed out of Vancouver Harbour.

Though the majestic and breathtaking glaciers and whales we saw in Alaska were the highlight of our trip, as we sailed back to our port of Vancouver on the last day of the cruise, we were invited by the ship’s Captain to join him for a private tour of the bridge. And the Captain loved chatting with four of our group members who just happen to be retired Naval Officers.

Working with a boutique travel agency has a multitude of benefits, but the one that made the difference with all of our travelers was the superb, patient and personalized service we received and the ease of having our questions and concerns answered and addressed quickly.  You just won’t get this with a larger travel agency.

And oh, by the way, we’re planning another group cruise in 2018, this one to the Mediterranean.  And back by popular demand, Kristy and Wishes Travel will once again be working with us to create yet another “magical” experience!

 

 

Character meals – Good food and good company!

“It’s more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like, ‘What about lunch?’”

– Winnie the Pooh

I am obsessed with character meals at Disney!  What could possibly be better than eating wonderful food and having your favorite characters walk right up to your table to interact with your family?  It really is hitting two birds with one stone because, let’s face it, you have to eat so why not see Mickey at the same time!!  There are many character meals that you can choose from at the various resorts and parks, but here are some of our favorites!

Looking for a princess?  There are three different locations that we have dined at for lunch and/or dinner with our favorite tiara-wearing friends.  Located inside Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella’s Royal Table is an absolute blast!  You meet Cinderella before you even sit down, which always gets the kids super excited.  When you make your way to your table there is a magic wishing star for you to take home and your waiter will hand out wands or swords (based on the child’s preference) to each young prince and princesses for another souvenir!!  This is a sit down restaurant where everyone will order from a menu, but while your food is being prepared, various princesses come to your table to sign autograph books, take pictures, and interact with your family.  The princesses change based on availability in their royal schedules, but before your meal is over, four of them will have stopped by to spread kindness to their royal subjects!

Aukershus Royal Banquet Hall is located in Epcot and also hosts an assortment of your favorite princesses.  Here you will be greeted by Belle and then feast with an appetizer/salad bar and also order your meal from a menu of traditional Norwegian-inspired dishes.  Just like at Cinderella’s Royal Table, the princesses vary but you know that four will stop by your table during your meal and there is also a parade with the princesses that is fun for everyone to join!

At 1900 Park Fare we have enjoyed a generous spread at an all you can eat buffet with Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella.  You begin by taking a picture in the lobby and then all five characters stop by your table to say hello.  The character interactions at this dinner always make for one of our favorite dining adventures of the trip.  You have to experience Cinderella’s stepmother and step sisters for yourself to truly understand how much fun it is!

Time to move on from the princesses and find some other characters!  Our forever favorite with the “Big 5” (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto) is Chef Mickey!  We still love going to the Contemporary and enjoying the buffet while these Disney favorites are walking from table to table.  For us it is always a great way to start our trip because the kids get to see Mickey and Minnie right away; plus, they love the all you can eat dessert bar!  I absolutely adore when they start to play the “celebrate” song and everyone takes their napkins and start waving them above their head.  Such a silly thing to do, but my girls have been doing it since they were babies and it is fun to watch them get more into it every trip!

Crystal Palace is located inside the Magic Kingdom and is another all you can eat buffet with your friends from the Hundred Acre Wood.  Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore are ready to bounce and give hugs to your family while you enjoy an air conditioned break during your day at the Magic Kingdom.  Now I know a buffet can stress people out with characters, but we have found that it is best to watch one character come out and scope out their path because all of the other characters take the same route.  This helps you figure out how much time until a character navigates his way to your table so you can go fill your child’s plate with a third helping of Mickey mac and cheese!!

A recent first was heading to the ‘Ohana Character Breakfast at the Polynesian.  This breakfast was served family style with eggs, breakfast potatoes, fruit, bacon, sausage, and other yummy surprises.  The Stitch juice was absolutely fantastic and even our picky eaters drank it up and kept asking for more!!!  In between bites Mickey, Pluto, Lilo, and Stitch all stop by the table for pictures and signing of autograph books.  There even was a parade for kids to go around with the characters around the restaurant.  Like I said, this was a first but definitely not a last for our family.

There are many more character meals that are offered throughout the parks and resorts, but for right now these are the ones that my girls hold near and dear to their hearts!  Determine what characters your family wants to see and find out if you can book a meal with them, because meeting a character in air conditioning when you are fed is so much more magical than out in the Florida heat with hungry kids!!

Preserving Memories with Disney’s Memory Maker

A Way to Make your Wishes Come True Blog by Jamie

“They say if you dream a thing more than once, it’s sure to come true.” – Sleeping Beauty

How many of you have dreamed about your Disney vacation?  You can picture it all playing out in your mind: Mickey stands in front of Cinderella’s castle with nobody else in sight (Seriously, where is everybody!?), and your child and Mickey run towards each other ending with them embracing in a slow motion hug. Yes we have all dreamt of this happening, but let’s be honest, our Disney vacations are not Disney promotional commercials!  Sorry to break it to you but few Disney vacations end up picture perfect, but what if you could get the perfect picture?  

This summer I tried the Disney memory maker and will admit that I am upset that I never purchased it before!  Disney PhotoPass photographers are not only with characters but also stationed throughout the parks just waiting to take your picture!! In the past we would have the Disney photographers use their camera to take some pictures but then have them use our personal cameras so we didn’t have an additional cost to purchase their shots.  Let me tell you why this was a mistake that I will not make again!

In the past I have gone online after a vacation to view the pictures the Disney PhotoPass photographers and maybe purchase one of the pictures or use the photos to create a memory book, but it was always so expensive and I loved every shot, which made choosing just one a very hard task!!  Even with the Disney photographers taking the same pictures on my camera they were not the same as the Disney pictures, which always looked so much more clear, crisp, and professional.  

Enter Disney Memory Maker!  For $149.99 I get every single picture that is taken during our vacation. The price goes up to $169.99 if you do not purchase before your vacation and if you have an annual pass the Memory Maker is already included!!

Here is how it works. You purchase the Memory Maker and then anytime you see a Disney PhotoPass photographer, you ask them to take your picture.  When they are finished, you hold out our Magicband, and they scan it to link those pictures directly to your My Disney Experience. An added feature is that when you are riding Seven Dwarfs, Splash Mountain, Expedition Everest, Frozen Ever After, and every other ride that takes your picture, it automatically gets linked to your Magicband. You can view the pictures on your my Disney experience app and then download all of them or select your favorites.  You can also download from the My Disney Experience website or you can order a disc (for an additional cost) with all of your pictures along with a gallery of Disney photos from around the parks, hotels, and various events throughout the year.  

There is an added bonus to Memory Maker and that is magic shots!  Oh my this was a pleasant surprise when we found out about these!!  When your Disney PhotoPass photographer finished taking your picture, ask if they have any special magic shots that they can do. Your photographer presses a button on his or her gear and will ask you to pose in a certain way. You will think that he or she is nuts until you check out your My Disney Experience app later on and see that they had you pointing at Pascal sitting on your sister’s head or holding Tinkerbell in the palm of your hand, or posed you to be in a snow storm with Olaf!  They are priceless and all of our favorite photos to look at when our trip comes to an end.

Do you need another reason as to why to order Memory Maker?  Videos!  Watching a video of your family ride Buzz lightyear, reliving the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, having the trolls from Frozen form a pyramid in front of your family, or Tinkerbell flying over your daughters as they stand in front of the Epcot ball: all of these special touches of the MemoryMaker will keep the Disney Magic flowing when you get home from your vacation. As I said, I wish I would have purchased it when it first came out for our family vacation but now I know how amazing the MemoryMaker is and am telling you so you don’t miss out on all of the special moments you can bring home!  

So you might not have the moment of your child rushing across the an empty Magic Kingdom to meet the character of their dreams like you see in the commercials, but you can bring home the moment of your child meeting that special character and every other magical moment that has a Disney PhotoPass photographer near by!

 

Best Wishes!

Jamie

Adding that special touch to your Disney trip – the hotel room

A “Ways to Make your Wishes Come True” Blog by Jamie

 

“All you need is faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust”

 

On our most recent trip I found myself wanting to add an extra wow factor for my girls.  I knew they would get this at the parks but I was looking for something new that would blow them away.  On our last surprise trip, my mom and I spent hours before we left trying to whip up decorations that we could use to decorate our hotel room.  This ended up taking hours to make it look how we wanted and costing way more than we thought.  Plus keeping the kids out of the room while we set it up was more of a hassle than anything else because it was late and they were sleepy and didn’t want to hang out in the lobby.  Our original idea was that it would be cheaper to do it all on our own rather than seeing what Disney could do, but in the end we decided it wasn’t worth it!  Enter Disney Floral & Gifts to whip up a surprise for when you return to your room after a long day at the parks!

 

I went on the Disney Floral & Gifts website to see what they offer and could not believe the variety!  Since we were going to be there for the holiday party I focused on the Christmas themed packages but was delighted to see that they had everything from birthdays to anniversaries, mother’s day to fourth of July, or even just a welcome to Disney package!  Within each category the prices can range from $17.95 to over $500, so make sure you know what you are willing to spend because there are always special add-ons and you don’t want to go too Disney crazy!

 

Since I said that, I guess I need to let you know that I definitely went Disney crazy, but it was worth every penny!  I scheduled the surprise to be setup while we were at Mickey’s Christmas party to keep the holiday festivities going at the hotel!  We arrived at our room with an adorable door banner hanging to greet us.  My girls were already freaking out because they had not seen this on any other doors so were curious what would be inside!  Once the door opened the delight continued as there were luminaries in the front entry with holiday signs and cutout Mickey’s scattered on the floor to greet us!

 


As we walked in the excitement continued when the girls saw their bed.  There were gifts pouring out of the most adorable Santa bags and a personalized letter from Mickey and Minnie thanking the girls for coming to celebrate the holidays with them!  The candy, the personalized pillowcases, the snowflake blanket, the photo props, it was all just so magical for them as they could not believe that they night could get any better.  Every detail was thought of and executed with Disney perfection.

To say that I found my wow factor is an understatement because coming back to the room and seeing the smiles on my daughter’s faces made this one of my favorite Disney days ever!  One of the best parts about this surprise was taking the Santa bags, door banner, luminaries, and everything else home and using them to decorate for the holidays.  Being able to see these items every day reminds us of our amazing trip and how lucky we were to spend a fabulous weekend in Disney celebrating the holiday season!

Next time you are looking to add a special touch to your Disney trip I would hands down recommend checking out Disney Floral & Gifts as they take away all of the worry and make your wishes come true!

 

Best Wishes!

-Jamie

 

Long ago, in a galaxy, far far away….

An agent blog by Naomi

Do you love Star Wars? Then Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the place for you! Our family loves Star Wars, and in the days leading up to our latest Disney vacation, that’s all our boys could talk about. Hollywood Studios truly provided the ultimate Star Wars adventure for our young padawans.

The Jedi Training Academy was at the top of their list of adventures for our day. We arrived at the park about 45 minutes before opening so we would be near the front of the line to enter the park. They let people through the gates early, and we were able to get in line to sign up very soon after arriving at the park. Even with being so early, the line was already quite long when we reached the spot to get registered. We waited in line over an hour, and by the time we got to the front, the earliest available time slot was 1:10 in the afternoon. Since we had lunch reservations, we opted for a later show. While we were waiting in line, some members of the First Order were on patrol. The boys were wearing storm trooper zip-up hoodies which they noticed, so they came over to say hi! They approved of the jackets and were glad to discover that Big Brother was wearing a Vader shirt underneath. They wanted to know why Little Brother was wearing a Chewbacca shirt. They were suspicious that he was sympathetic to the Resistance. Their visit helped pass the time!

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In the mean time, we took in Star Tours. We also spent some time exploring the Star Wars Launch Bay where we were able to meet Chewbacca and Kylo Ren.

 

 

We also ran into some Jawas while we were in the Launch Bay.

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After checking out the gift shop at the Launch Bay, we were able to watch the March of the First Order. Captain Phasma leads her troop of stormtoopers right down Hollywood Blvd. It’s quite a sight to see!

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The boys loved checking out the Speeder. You can find it across the walk from the Jedi Training Academy and Star Tours.

We also took some time to catch Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away. This uniwue stage show combines clips from different films in the Star Wars saga with live appearances from some of the series’ most beloved characters. It shows a number of times throughout the day, giving you plenty of opportunities to catch it! You won’t be disappointed!

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While we waited for the show, the boys enjoyed a little snack and a drink to cool off with in these adorable BB8 sippers. They are a little pricey, but they make great souvenirs and hold quite a bit of beverage surprisingly.

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And while all of those things were great, the highlight of the day by far was the Jedi Training Academy. Little brother decided at the last minute that he didn’t want to participate this time, but big brother had a blast. He learned to use a light saber and was educated in the ways of the force.

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And then he got to battle with Darth Vader! It was awesome!

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If you have a Star Wars fan between the ages of 4 and 12, the Jedi Training Academy should be on your must-do list. He and little brother are still reenacting the training he received that day. It will truly be something he will never forget. And I will never forget the look of joy and accomplishment on his face when his battle with Vader was finished.

As you can see, Hollywood Studios has much to offer to Star Wars fans of all ages. It is definitely worth spending a day at this park to take it all in. We didn’t get a chance to see Star Wars: Path of the Jedi or the feature in the Launch Bay theater.  We also weren’t able to see the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show because it had been temporarily replaced by the holiday spectacular Jingle Bell! Jingle Bam! We hope to catch it on our next visit in the spring. But what we did experience was definitely a treat for our little padawans! Mom and dad enjoyed it, too, and I think you will as well!

Naomi

 

Note:  This was originally posted on Naomi’s family travel blog, Mouse Loving Browns.  Read more about her family’s adventures by visiting :  https://mouselovingbrowns.wordpress.com

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas……..

A “Ways to Make Your Wishes Come True” Blog by Jamie

“If you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” – Cinderella

img_3912Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  I mean, I start planning Christmas in the summer.  You think I am joking? Just ask any of my family members!  To me Christmas is not only about finding the perfect gift but also being able to enjoy beauty of the season with loved ones.  It has always been a dream of mine to celebrate my favorite holiday in Disney World and that dream has finally come true!

We surprised our daughters early one morning and whisked them away for a long weekend of holiday festivities.  Since we were just in the “Land of the Mouse” this summer, we talked to the girls about how we won’t be able to do everything but will still have a fabulous time!  Once we were off the magical express and completed the quickest check in possible at our resort, we hopped a bus to the Magic Kingdom because this mom could not wait to see the decorations!!!  (Note: we went in mid-November so the resort decorations were gradually starting to go up but not to the full extent and it was the last weekend of food and wine festival so Epcot was not decorated.  Now I need to go back some time in December!)

img_3619Stepping off of the bus and walking towards the Magic Kingdom, I think I was more giddy then my daughters because I could already see the garland and hear the Christmas carols!  My words and pictures in this blog cannot do any of the decorations justice because it is the whole atmosphere that still gives me chills on how absolutely amazing this experience was.  Heading onto Main Street USA was breathtaking with a gigantic Christmas tree, wreaths and garland hung from every building, beautiful window displays, and even the cast members wearing holiday attire.

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I had to contain my excitement to take pictures of everything because the girls wanted to get on some rides ASAP!  I knew we had Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in a few days where I could snap away which meant I left Main Street USA and headed to the tea cups!

Before I get into Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, let me say that we did stop by Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Disney Springs during our trip and the decorations were unreal!  img_3593The giant tree with animal masks at Animal Kingdom, the light posts in Hollywood Studios with a Christmas tree on each one, the chandeliers hanging from garland at Disney Springs.  Honestly everywhere we turned it was breathtaking.

You know it is pretty cool when my 9 year old (who normally cringes when we say it is picture time) posed in front of each enormous Christmas tree because she could not believe its splendor.  One day I will go back and see Epcot and the resorts all done up for the holidays, but honestly if everything would have been completed I might not have had the anticipation of getting to the parks to see the décor if it was around every corner.img_3951

Now to the main event, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!!!  Yes you have to pay extra for this event but oh my goodness was it worth every penny!!!!!!  Like the blog I wrote on the Halloween Party I don’t want to give too much away because if you are going to go I want you to feel the awe that we did, but here are my highlights of the night.

First, our Disney magic moment.  While we were waiting to take a picture under the tree the girls were approached by a Dapper Dan member (this is the barber shop quartet that perform up and down Main Street USA).  He asked the girls if they would say the pledge of allegiance during the flag retrieval ceremony.

img_3683The girls agreed and the rest of us teared up while they recited the pledge of allegiance with confidence into the microphones that were hooked up to the speakers for everyone to hear.  How my kids get picked for stuff like this I have no idea but we take advantage of Disney magic opportunity that comes our way!

img_3709The inflatable candy canes became my children’s mission.  Yes there were characters everywhere dressed in holiday clothing and characters that you can never meet any other time then at this party, but my girls could have cared less because every inflatable candy cane meant cookies and hot chocolate, while characters meant long lines and missing out on said cookies and hot chocolate.  Insert mom rolling eyes and being a little sad that we were missing these amazing character opportunities, however everyone was smiling and having a fabulous time so we waved to the characters from a far and proceeded to the next candy cane!

img_3738A show in front of Cinderella’s Castle is always a treat but the Christmas show was one for the ages!  My husband staked out a spot for us while the girls went on Buzz Lightyear multiple times in a row because there was no line, and he had us front and center.  The songs, the characters, the dancing, the lights, it was spectacular and everyone in the crowd was singing along to “Feliz Navidad”, “All I want for Christmas”, and many other holiday classics.  Ten minutes after the show with Mickey and friends, we watched a Frozen show where Elsa lit up the castle and I seriously had tears in my eyes with how absolutely beautiful it was.  img_3803

My point here: do not skip out on the shows!  The Frozen show only occurred once during the party but the Mickey and Friends did run multiple times and the later shows were not nearly as crowded as the first one!

The parade.  Oh the parade!  My next blog will talk about how we had the best seats in the house for the Christmas parade, but for now let me tell you this parade is one of my top moments ever in all my Disney visits.

img_3865As I said, I love Christmas, so seeing Main Street USA decorations fully lit and the holiday floats making their way down the street was nothing short of magnificent.  Watching my daughters wave to the characters (especially my 7 year old who I don’t think stopped waving during the entire parade) brought tears to my eyes (yes, again) but that wasn’t even the icing on the cake.  When it snowed on Main Street that is when I lost it. This was the most glorious moment that is a once in a lifetime experience with my little girls and I just stood there soaking up every bit.  This parade made all of the planning worthwhile because I have never in my life experienced something so spectacular.

img_3716I am going to hold off on the fireworks until my next blog, but I can say this, yes they were every bit as mind-blowing as everything else at the party.  Each family is going to have a different experience with the party and I will say it was so much more fun having the girls the ages they are (7 and 9) because they were able to stay up later without as much of a fuss as when they were younger.  If you are a Christmas nut like me then going to Disney World for the holidays needs to be on your Disney bucket list.  I still have quite the Disney bucket list for my family and I don’t know how any of them are going to top this, but I cannot wait to find out!!

 

Best Wishes,

Jamie

Why You Should Book a Disney Cruise to Baja, Mexico

A Traveling Suitcase Blog by Noreen

San Diego is my hometown and it’s rare that we get a Disney cruise that sails from here. I had the opportunity a few years ago to take an unforgettable cruise on the Disney Wonder with my daughter-in-law through the Baja region of the Mexican Riviera. But at that time we had to sail from a much busier Los Angeles area port.

Word flash from Disney is that Disney Wonder is currently undergoing a transformation injecting even more Disney magic into every detail of the ship….AND we thought she was absolutely gorgeous WHILE on our cruise!   Now that she’s adding some rare West Coast cruises sailing out of none other than San Diego, I’ll guarantee these cruises will sell out fast. And here’s why.

First of all, it’s Disney.   And Disney knows how to do cruising right. We’ve sailed on a number of different cruise lines over the years and to be honest, the attention to detail, service and amenities are guaranteed top notch with its award-winning Disney cruise ships. Now add Mexico into the mix and you have the makings of one incredible cruising experience.

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Guest arriving in Atrium

One step inside the Wonder and we knew this was going to be a memorable experience. The ship’s interior can be described as casual elegance as we enter the massive atrium filled with happy passengers. Cabins are tastefully decorated with plenty of room to move about and store personal items. Having a veranda allowed us to be lulled to sleep by gentle ocean breezes.

Stateroom with Veranda

Stateroom with Veranda

Disney’s rotational dining is nothing short of brilliant, allowing passengers to dine in three separately-themed restaurants. As an added benefit, crew members travel with their assigned passengers to each dining location. We also took advantage of the optional adult-only Italian dining option at Palio and were just as impressed with the quality of food and the service as in the main dining areas.

Adult dining at Palo

Adult dining at Palo

Entertainment aboard the Wonder was so spectacular; we likened it to being at a Broadway play. And there’s something incredibly magical about the Sailing Away party on deck with Disney characters, music and fanfare. The myriad of recreational activities, pools, theatres, lounges and clubs easily satisfy passengers of every age range. And we could hardly wait for the Personal Navigator delivered each day to our stateroom listing activities, show times and every bit of information we needed about the ship’s happenings and ports of call.

Pluto "begging" to a guest

Pluto “begging” to a guest

Regarding those ports of call, I must admit that I love Baja. There’s something about Mexico that’s the real deal. The people, the food, the crystalline azure waters of the Pacific, world-renowned sport-fishing, diving, snorkeling and stellar surfing make this a popular destination. And if nothing else, Disney Wonder gives passengers what I call a Mexican Riviera “sampler platter” in their ports of call. It mixes the flavors of Mexico with the magic of Disney. And if you’re fortunate enough to sail during whale-watching season which usually ends in April though whales have been spotted as late as May, you can view them from the rails of your ship.

And if you’re on the fence, it might help to know that our dollar’s been consistently strong against the Mexican peso. Another great reason to book that cruise.

Ensenada

El Arco at High Tide

El Arco at High Tide

Californians flock to this coastal town just 80 miles south of San Diego. And no surprise when there’s so much to do and experience here. Ensenada boasts a vibrant waterfront with 8 blocks of fascinating shops, boutiques, bazaars and top notch award-winning restaurants. And you’ll never find street food more reasonably priced or better tasting than here. Even famous American chef, Anthony Bourdain is a huge fan of Baja cuisine. His immensely popular Travel Channel show, No Reservations uncovering the best culinary cuisines of the world, featured Ensenada in one of its episodes.

The beaches of Ensenada are perfect for swimming and sunbathing and San Miguel is noted for its challenging surf spots. Horseback riding is popular along the mild waves of Estero Beach. The area is also home to resident populations of dolphins and sea lions, and teeming with reef fish which makes it a favorite with ocean kayakers, snorkelers and divers alike.

La Bufadora, one of North America’s largest marine geysers, or blow holes, shooting water 100 feet above sea level is located just one hour away from the port. And the calm waters of the Baja coastline here are ideal for kayaking.

For culture and history lovers, the Museum of History (Museo De Historia) and the Estero Beach Museum celebrate the fascinating history of the Mexican people through a variety of age-old artifacts and wondrous folk art. History lovers can tour Spanish colonial missions dating back to the 1600s .

Ensenada

Ensenada

Valle de Guadalupe, one of North America’s fastest growing and most intriguing wine regions is a mere 20 minutes from the port. The best way to experience this beautiful valley producing some incredible wines is on a wine tour that gives visitors an in-depth into Mexican winemaking and an opportunity to taste some pretty spectacular wines.

Cabo san Lucas

Cabo has earned its reputation as one of Mexico’s premier destinations. We call it the place where “desert meets the ocean”.  Situated on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, Cabo is known for its beaches, water sports and nightlife. And definitely don’t forget suntan lotion. The sun shines an average of 350 days here. Year- round temperatures range from the low 70s in winter and spring, to the mid-90s in August and September.

What makes Cabo so appealing? Perhaps it’s the whispers of Spanish conquistadors and plundering pirates from long ago still echoing within the harbors and along brick-lined streets of Cabo’s quaint Mexican communities. And it’s also the draw of the iconic El Arco, “The Arch”, a natural archway in the sea cliffs that is undoubtedly Cabo’s most photographed site. Whatever it is, it’s easy to get hooked!

With its 18th-century Spanish colonial architecture and laid-back local scene, San Jose del Cabo, provides the authentic old Mexican atmosphere encompassing a fascinating historic town with courtyard restaurants, charming architecture, boutiques, and a beautiful church facing the traditional town square.

Views from the Corridor

Views from the Corridor

The Corridor, a 20-mile stretch that connects San Jose del Cabo with Cabo san Lucas is home to some of the most beautiful beaches and championship golf courses in the area. Swimming, snorkeling and world-class diving are all popular here due to its calm crystalline waters.

The place where you find all the action including kayaking, jet skiing and sailing adventures is Medano Beach in Cabo san Lucas. A myriad of fun waterfront bars and tantalizing restaurants are located here along a fantastic beach noted for sunbathing and water sports. Medano Beach also provides ringside views of the Disney Wonder and other cruise ships just anchored just offshore.

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Lover’s Beach

One of our favorite activities was a guided kayaking adventure to Lover’s Beach facing the Sea of Cortez.  Locals say that if you only have time for one beach then this is it. Lover’s Beach sits adjacent to Land End, the implausibly beautiful tip of the Baja peninsula where the land ends dividing the deep blue churning waters of the Pacific from the warmer calmer Sea of Cortez. Rolling waves ripple ashore into the deep, soft sands of this iconic beach. Snorkeling is popular around Pelican Rock, a giant boulder just off the beach, so named for the hundreds of deep-billed seabirds that roost there. Fascinating natural stone spired rock formations line both sides of the beach area.

On the Pacific side, Divorce Beach is found through a gap in the rocks, and is so named for its rough, dangerous churning waters. Swimming off all the beaches on the Pacific side is dangerous due to swift sea currents and powerful, booming surf. But the vastness of the ocean which lies ahead adds an element of reflective and wild remoteness to the visit.

Cabo’s Marina District is where you can take water taxis to Land End’s famous arch. Fishing boats, sails and snorkel tours also depart from the marina. If you’re into shopping, the Marina District borders downtown Cabo’s colorful shops and restaurants serving world-famous Baja shrimp, lobster and the freshest seafood available.

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The Thrill of Zip Lining

For those into high adventure, the desert terrain is perfect for4-wheeling, dune buggies, and camel rides (yes, as in real camels). And for adrenaline junkies, zip line tours range from moderate to extreme including a good bit of rock climbing.

 

 

Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a longer cruise, Disney cruising to Mexico is a must-do. Honestly, there’s nothing like it. It’s an unforgettable travel experience you won’t want to miss.

Noreen

 

 

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