Disney’s Magical Express

There are plenty of benefits to staying at one of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels but one of the best benefits is being able to use Magical Express.

Disney’s Magical Express is a complementary bus service that takes you from Orlando International Airport/MCO to your resort. This can save you the cost of renting a car, figuring out where to go in Orlando and possibly renting a car seat as well. It is nice to let someone else take care of the driving when you are on vacation. If you are flying with luggage you don’t have to worry about picking up the luggage at the airport on arrival, if you are using the special yellow tags. The yellow tags go on the luggage when you are at your home airport. Then when they are delivered to Orlando this luggage will be pulled aside and claimed by Disney who will then transport it to your resort. One thing to note your luggage can take a few hours to arrive so always keep your valuables, medication, electronics and anything you will need in the next few hours (like swim suits or shoes) with you.

Another thing to keep on you or in your carryon is your Magic Band or your RFID park tickets. You can scan the bands when you arrive to get on the bus and this can make the check in a lot smoother if you aren’t digging through your bags to find the bands when you arrive.

Alternatively, you can claim your own luggage as long as you do not affix the yellow tag and take it yourself to the Magical Express area in the airport. If you are arriving after 10pm and before 5am you must claim your luggage and take it to the Magical Express Welcome Center. International guests must also claim their luggage. Once you have landed you will proceed to the Magical Express Welcome Area which is located in Terminal B on Level 1. There aren’t many signs up for it but don’t be afraid to ask airport employees for directions.

You will be directed by Disney Cast Members to the appropriate line based on resort locations. The bus will likely be dropping off other guests at multiple resorts so it does take a bit of time. I suggest if you are going to book a restaurant or special reservations for the same day that you give yourself at least 4 hours minimum from landing to get to a reservation as it takes time to get checked in and to the parks as well.

Any luggage and carryon suitcases, stroller, and car seats must be stored under the bus. Now just sit back and enjoy the video as you make your way to a magical vacation.

To make reservation on the Magical Express you can sign up for when you book or your Travel Agent books you. You can call once you know your flight information and it can be added to your reservation. This assures that you will receive the yellow Magical Express tags for your luggage.

Of course Disney won’t leave you hanging, so when it is time to get back to the airport you will receive in your resort room a time to get on the return bus. It is important to factor in extra time when flying home as the traffic to the airport can be unpredictable and it does take time as the bus may stop at multiple resorts. It might seem way too early to arrive before your flight but no one wants to take that chance. Bring this paper with you to the Magical Express as the driver will ask for it to assure you are on the correct bus.

Another way to check in for the return trip to the airport is to use the Resort Airline Check-In. Here is a link that shows which airlines participate and if you are eligible to use it. This is extremely convenient and is one less worry for your trip home.

Disney’s Magical Express is a great service that will save you time, money, and hassle. You will love the feeling of freedom knowing your luggage is in good hands and you can sit back and enjoy the ride.

There’s a Dole Whip For Everyone: Dole Whip 101

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you know we adore Dole Whip.  But do you know and love Dole Whip?

Maybe you don’t even know what a Dole Whip is!  Let me teach you the ways of The ‘Whip.

First of all, you need to know that Dole Whip is a dairy free, gluten free, frozen soft serve dessert that will change your life.

The Dole Whip soft serve comes in Pineapple, Vanilla, and Orange flavors.

How is it served?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  You can get it  in a cup (you can even swirl two flavors if you like), or you can take it to the next level and get a float.  That would be your choice of Dole Whip flavors swirled in a big tall glass of fresh pineapple juice. Amazing!

Now, if you’re a float purist you can get the vanilla flavor served in a cup of Coke or root beer.  That’s good too.

Dole Whips and floats are served at Aloha Isle in Magic Kingdom and Pineapple Lanai at the Polynesian Village Resort.

Now, if you’re REALLY looking to up both your Dole Whip and your adult beverage games, head over to the Epcot Refreshment Port during Food & Wine Festival and snag yourself a Dole Whip with Creme de Cacao White.

You have now been initiated into the guild of The ‘Whip.  Welcome.

Disney Dining Plan

Often a cause of confusion, the Disney Dining plan is (to me!) one of the best benefits to saying on property. I thought it might be helpful to put a recap of the three most popular plans here!

Quick-Service Dining Plan

2 Quick Service meals and 1 snack per person per night of your stay. Each meal includes an entree, non-alcoholic drink, and dessert (except for breakfast). For 2013 the price is $41.99 per night ages 10 and up $16.03 per night age 3 to 9. A quick service restaurant at Disney is one where you walk up to the counter and order your food, then take it to a table of your own choosing. This plan is great for people or families who like the idea of being able to eat when/where they choose and when they feel like it as opposed to planning meals in advance.

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Disney Dining Plan (sometimes referred to as Standard Dining Plan)

1 Quick Service meal, 1 Table Service meal (in a restaurant) and one snack per person per night of your stay. For 2014 the price is $60.64 per night ages 10 and up and $19.23 per night age 3 to 9 during value and regular season. This is Disney’s most popular dining plan, and for good reason. I like the idea of one sit down restaurant meal each day as a way to escape the heat and have a nice relaxing meal. Also, character meals are at sit down restaurants only, and I consider those a MUST do, at least once! Keep in mind, dining reservations for sit down meals must be made in advance. Some of Disney’s most popular restaurants book up very quickly, but there are great meals to be had even if you are planning a last minute trip.

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Disney Deluxe Dining Plan

3 meals, 2 snacks per day. The three meals can be any combination of counter service and sit down meals as you please. In 2014 the price is $109.53 per night ages 10 and up and $29.86 per night ages 3 to 9. The Deluxe dining plan is good for people and families that are big eaters or foodies. A lot of the value of the Deluxe dining plan comes when you plan on dining at some of Disney’s 2 credit “Signature restaurants”, since meal allocations would be used up quickly for those on the regular dining plan.

All meal plans include one refillable mug per person good for non-alcoholic beverages at your resort only. For more information on Disney’s Dining plan, see here!

Walt Disney World Fall/Winter Refurbishments and Closures

Here is a newly updated list of refurbishments for Walt Disney World Resort as of October 2014.

Magic Kingdom:
Island Supply – Location Closing October 23, 2014

Walt Disney World Railroad September 29 – November 7, 2014

The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour- September 29 – November 7, 2014

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin- November 10 – 21, 2014

Haunted Mansion- December 1 – 19, 2014

Splash Mountain- January 4 – 30, 2015

Cinderella’s Royal Table- January 5 – March 6, 2015

Liberty Square Riverboat- January 23 – 27, 2015

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid- February 2 – March 6, 2015

Harmony Barber Shop- February 2 – March 30, 2015

Hollywood Studios:
Fantasmic! –November 19 – 21, 2014

Animal Kingdom:
Pangani Research Center – Aviary and Hippo viewing closed- September 2 – November 14, 2014

Affection Section October 7 – November 10, 2014

Kali River Rapids January 20 – February 2, 2015

Typhoon Lagoon:
Closed for Annual Refurbishment October 26, 2014 – January 3, 2015

Blizzard Beach:
Closed for Annual Refurbishment January 4 – March 14, 2015

Downtown Disney:
There is a lot of construction work going on at Downtown Disney and roadwork done. Expect delays when driving.

Resorts
Polynesian Village Resort:
General Construction-The east portion of the beach (near the Transportation and Ticket Center) and Sunset Point are being refurbished and are unavailable. Guests may see or hear work in progress. December 2013 – March 2015

Great Ceremonial House – Lobby The atrium is being reimagined to highlight the cultural elements of Polynesia and provide more expansive views. At certain times of day, there may be some noise and alternative paths of travel may be needed throughout the Great Ceremonial House. March – December 2014

Trader Jacks Merchandise Location Closure June 16, 2014 – TBD

Nanea Volcano Pool and Slide The main pool and slide will be closed for enhancements. Guests who stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort while the main pool is closed will receive one complimentary ticket for each member of their party to visit Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park during their stay. July 28, 2014 – early 2015

Wilderness Lodge:
Silver Creek Springs Pool-The main pool and slide will be closed for enhancements. During this time, the leisure pool at The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge will remain open. Guests will also have the opportunity to visit either the Main Pool at Disney’s Contemporary Resort or the Meadow Swimmin’ Pool at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Complimentary transportation will be provided to both of these neighboring resorts. September 3- November 27, 2014

Trout Pass Pool Bar- September 3 – November 27, 2014

Beach Club Resort:
Guest Room Renovations- Guest rooms will be refurbished with new hard and soft goods. Guests will not be accommodated in the affected areas but it is possible that some noise could travel while work is in progress (between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily). October 13, 2014 – August 22, 2015

All Star Music Resort:
Intermission Food Court -Note’able Games Arcade will serve as a temporary location for grab-and-go meals such as sandwiches, salads, and bakery items. Transportation will be provided for Guests who wish to dine at Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort or Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort. Pizza and other items available for in-room delivery daily from 3pm to 1am. –August 1 – December 20, 2014

Note’able Games Arcade- July 26 – December 20, 2014

Walt Disney World Swan:
Guest Room Renovations-Renovation work is scheduled to take place between 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily. No guests will be accommodated in the renovation area as to minimize impact on the guest experience.–August 20, 2014 – TBD

As always these are subject to change at any moment without notice.

Big Hero 6 headed to Disney Parks

Disney has recently announced that starting November 7th, 2014 the stars of “Big Hero 6” will be doing a character meet at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

At Walt Disney World you can meet Hiro Hamada and Baymax at Hollywood Studios inside The Magic of Disney Animation. This meet will be replacing the meet with Wreck it Ralph and Vanellope.

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Photo courtesy of Disney©

In Disneyland Park they are meeting in the Starcade in Tomorrowland and you can also see and extended sneak peek of the movie at the Magic Eye Theater.

The movie is an action comedy adventure about brilliant robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who finds himself in the grips of a criminal plot that threatens to destroy the fast-paced, high-tech city of San Fransokyo. With the help of his closest companion-a robot named Baymax-Hiro joins forces with a reluctant team of first-time crime fighters on a mission to save their city.

The movie will be in theaters on November 7, 2014.

Candlelight Processional 2014

Disney has released the dates and celebrity narrators for the 2014 Candlelight Processional at Epcot. Candlelight Processional takes place in the American Gardens Theatre and is a narration of the Christmas Story. It is accompanied by a 50 piece orchestra and choir and is sure to get you in the spirit of the holiday season.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Celebrity narrators tell the biblical story of the birth of Jesus to a packed audience starting November 28 and ending December 30, 2014. There are also American Sign Language interpreters so that all may enjoy. On days that the show is on there are 3 different showings at 5pm, 6:45pm, and 8:15pm.

  • Jodi Benson- November 28 and 29, 2014
  • Neil Patrick Harris- November 30 to December 2, 2014
  • Jonathan Groff- December 3 and 4, 2014
  • Whoopi Goldberg- December 5 and 6, 2014
  • TBD December 7 to December 8, 2014
  • TBD December 9 to December 11, 2014
  • Joe Morton- December 12 to December 14, 2014
  • Chita Rivera- December 15 to December 17, 2014
  • Ana Gasteyer- December 18 to December 20, 2014
  • Marlee Matlin- December 21 to December 23, 2014
  • Isabella Rossellini- December 24 and 25, 2014
  • Blair Underwood- December 26 and 27, 2014
  • Steven Curtis Chapman- December 28 to December 30, 2014

As the rest of the narrators are announced we will update the list. In addition you can purchase the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package. Similar to the Fantasmic Dinner Package you will pay the price for your dinner or lunch and get preferred seating with no extra cost. This saves having to get in line early for the Candlelight Processional as seating is first come first serve. A large number of the restaurants in World Showcase participate in this dinner package. To see a list go over to Disney’s website to check availability.

Podcast Episode 27: Christy’s Universal FAM

This week we take a little detour as Christy tells us all about her training trip to Universal Studios Orlando!  We learn all about the resorts, the dining, and the amazing attractions Universal has to offer and how it compares to Disney.  Find out which coaster Christy thinks is the best one she’s ever ridden.

Happy listening!

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Top 5 Dishes I Want To Try At Epcot Food & Wine 2015

I’m headed to WDW this weekend and I’m planning on going to the Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival.  Here’s a list of all the things I want to try while I’m there.

5.  Apple Maple Spiced Latte, iced.  It’s going to be hot so iced coffee is the way to go.  Apple and maple are such a fantastic Fall combination so this sounds amazing to me.  You can even get it with a shot of Bailey’s if you’re so inclined.

4.   Belgian Waffle with berry compote and whipped cream.  Waffles, fruit, cream.  Need I say more?

3.  Cocadas.  This is a Brazilian coconut candy.  I am a coconut fiend so this definitely appeals to me.

2.  Kalua pork slider with sweet and sour Dole pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise.  I love pineapple and pork together.  Such a fantastic combination.

1.  Warm chocolate pudding with Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur Custard.  I’ve never had warm pudding or Irish Cream custard, but it sounds like a recipe for deliciousness to me!

Are you going to Food & Wine?  What sounds good to you?

Don’t Wait In Long Lines!

Continuing the theme of common questions we receive as a travel agents, one of the things people want to know most is how they can reduce the time they spend waiting in lines at Disney. It’s actually not that difficult! With a little bit of planning you can avoid those 60 minute plus wait times and breeze through the line. How? Here’s how!

1)Time of year One of the biggest factors in wait time is how big the crowd is expected to be in general. Disney has three designations for their ‘seasons'; value, regular and peak. These seasons correspond with crowd levels. For example, peak times would be the week of July 4th and the week of Christmas, when most people have time off of work and school. Value season is time when less people are expected to visit the parks: January, September, and parts of other months. The good news is that in addition to lower crowd times during value season, Disney usually offers extra incentives and discounts to stay during those times. It’s win-win!

2) Rope Drop Even visiting at one of the busiest times of year doesn’t mean you’ll be forced to wait in long lines your entire trip. Getting to the park as soon as it opens (called “rope drop”) can make all the difference. During the first hour or two of the park the wait times are usually very low and you can often accomplish much of your ‘to do’ list before others have even woken up at their resorts. Then you can relax and enjoy a nice breakfast while you watch the droves enter the parks, knowing all that you’ve already accomplished that morning. Sounds nice, doesn’t it!

3) FastPass Plus One of my favorite things about Disney is their new FastPass Plus system. Unlike other parks who charge for their line jumping services, Disney’s FastPass Plus is available to anyone who has purchased a park ticket. Guests staying on property are able to make three ride reservations at one park per day 60 days before their trip. Guests staying off property are able to make those reservations at 30 days prior to their trip. Guests purchasing their tickets the same day are still able to make those reservations, at kiosks in the park. The reservations are for a one hour window, leaving enough flexibility for an unexpected snack or bathroom break if needed!

4) Extra Magic Hours If you’re staying on property you’ll be able to take advantage of Disney’s Extra Magic Hours, where one park per day is open either an hour early or a few hours later for guests of Disney resorts only. The morning extra magic hours magnify the benefit of “rope drop”, because if people don’t like getting up early, they especially don’t like getting up even earlier! Extra magic hour mornings are one of the very lowest crowd times, even during busy times of year. If you’re more of a night owl, don’t lose hope! Even when the park is normally open until midnight sometimes the extra magic evening hours at Magic Kingdom can go until 3 am! As you can imagine, this is also a very low crowd time and you can even sometimes ride your favorites several times in a row with little or no wait. Keep in mind that crowd levels at a park with Extra Magic Hours are expected to be higher overall during the day, so you may want to plan on doing just the extra hours, not spending the day there!