About Dana

I am a lover of any type of travel: in particular any place Disney. I am a travel agent who specializes in Disney destinations, Europe, all-inclusive resorts, and cruises.

Photo Tour of a Stateroom on the Disney Fantasy

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In September 2014 we sailed on the Disney Fantasy. We had a Category 4E Stateroom, which is labeled as a Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with an oversized verandah. The name of the room is misleading, because, generally speaking, the family-sized staterooms are larger than a typical ocean-view stateroom. This room gets its extra square footage from an extra-long verandah.

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IMG_9771We really enjoyed having this balcony–the extra exterior space was really nice. We are only a family of 3, so we didn’t mind the extra space being on the outside. There was a full lounge chair and two other chairs and a table. A

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The interior of the room is the same set-up of a standard verandah stateroom with a queen-size bed and a day bed. There was only space for 3 to sleep. The bathroom was the same set up as a standard Disney Cruise Line bathroom. It is a split bathroom: one room with a toilet and a sink, and another room with a tub/shower and another sink.

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If you are a traveling party of three or fewer people ,this stateroom is an excellent choice, especially if you enjoy your own private lounge chairs!

Cruising with toddlers on Disney Cruise Line

Many people believe that Disney cruises might not be great for the under-three-crowd. This is mainly due to the fact that the youth programming and pools are reserved for those who are potty trained and, in the case of the kids clubs, over three years old.

My son has sailed twice on the Disney Cruise Line as a toddler and we have felt there was so much for him to do.

If water play is a big deal for your little one, consider the Dream or the Fantasy because their under 3 water play area is much larger and more interactive than on the Wonder and Magic. On the two newer ships there is a Finding Nemo water play area which has lots of jets and sprayers and a tiny slide. My son loved it.994090_10202768222595451_1688082238_n

While the kids’ clubs are not available for the under 3 crowd, there is a nursery on-board. We used it for when we wanted to dine in the adult-only restaurants and there is a nominal fee. The crew members were very attentive and took great care of our son. There are some times set aside, called Open House, when anyone can go in and check the Kids Clubs out. They are usually in the morning, we took our son to the Oceaneer’s Club and he had a blast playing in Andy’s room.
10649706_10205548212253455_1670637871412902353_nAs far as filling your time on sea days with a toddler– we found we were never without an activity. There is almost always a character greeting somewhere on the ship. There are also activities in the D-Lounge (Family Club Lounge) for babies and toddlers with a Disney Junior theme. One morning Jake came in to play. There are also free arts and crafts activities usually each sea day. One day we made door hangers and two other days we made memory pages, we really enjoyed these crafts and we had free souvenirs.
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There is also miniature golf up on the sports deck. What better place for your child’s first game? There is a movie theatre that shows Disney movies throughout the day. We didn’t have a chance to do either of these things, but they were on our list!

Dinner time is where you really need to be prepared. Dinners are long and a toddler’s attention span is not long enough to accommodate. We brought along a bag of trains and cars and brought it to dinner every night. They actually allow you (and encourage you) to draw on the table cloths, a habit I had to break my son of once we were back home, he drew train tracks all around our table and it kept him occupied all throughout the meal. Whatever you child is into, bring that with you. Playing at the table is encouraged and it also keeps you engaged with each other.

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Try your best to get the early dinner seating, if you do not get it when you book, be sure to request to be put on the wait list. You can also check, when you get on board, if there is availability. The timing is better for the toddlers and then you can either have an early bed time or enjoy the show for the evening. My son really enjoyed the shows, so our nightly routine was: eat dinner, return to the stateroom and give him a bath and have him wear his pajamas to the show. As soon as the show was over we went back to the room for bed.

A big tip for excursions: plan easy half-day excursions and go at the time of day that is best for you little one. My son is an early riser, so the morning excursions worked best for us. We did tours and visited the beaches on our Caribbean cruise and it was perfect. Be sure to pack some sand toys for the ports and Castaway Cay day– your toddler will be so happy and you won’t have to pay for over-priced beach buckets on the boat or island.10696314_10205548214613514_8521274491992487395_nCruising with a toddler does require a different strategy and extra planning.  You should definitely read your on-board Navigator well and just remember to enjoy the moments with your little one while he or she is still so young– these years never come back!  We had our best vacations aboard the “Mickey Boat” (as my son calls it) and can’t wait for our next one.

You’re going to Disney World– A Christmas Morning Surprise

We are taking my son to Disney World in January and we haven’t told him yet. I decided it would be fun to surprise him on Christmas morning.

So how, exactly, do you surprise your child on Christmas morning with a trip to Walt Disney World? I decided to wrap items all up in a box and let him discover what’s in store.

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The first thing I put into the box was a countdown calendar. With a preschooler, I knew I needed a simple count down. I went to Pinterest, typed in “Disney countdown calendar printable” and this was one of the first ones that popped up. I printed it out, matted, and laminated it. I’m going to have him mark the days with the Mickey shoes post-it notes. IMG_0652

Next thing in his box are stickers and an activity book for the plane ride and his autograph book. My son is no stranger to Disney characters and he absolutely loves collecting autographs from them. I made the autograph book for him and personalized it to our character meals and Fastpass+ schedule. IMG_0655

The last items I placed in his box were new Disney shirts I ordered from the Disney Store’s website. I always wait for clearance sales and discounts to stock up on new park attire.

IMG_0657I am so excited for this trip and I can’t wait to share in his excitement as we do the final countdown!

 

Touring Tips for Christmas Week at Walt Disney World

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and everyone wants to go to Walt Disney World. If you are planning a visit the week between Christmas and New Years, you will be witness to Disney World’s peak crowd days.

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Don’t get stuck with these crowds getting into the park–get there early!

These are my tried-and-true tips. Prior to my full-time travel agent career, I was a teacher and was locked in to traveling during peak times, and I have witnessed the Christmas crowds first-hand.

  • Arrive Early Whichever park you are visiting, arrive 30-45 minutes prior to the posted opening time. Many times they will let guests in prior to the posted opening time. If the park has Extra Magic Hours in the morning—take advantage of them.
  • Stay Late If mornings are not your family’s thing, then take advantage of the Evening Extra Magic Hours.
  • Extra Magic Hours will be listed on the Times Guide given to you in your check-in packet.
  • Afternoons and early evenings will be the most crowded at the parks. Plan on taking in shows or having a table-service meal during these times to help avoid the crowds. The parks will also have dance parties, characters out and little entertainment acts all around—take a moment to enjoy these little magical encounters.
  • Schedule at least one sit-down meal each afternoon or evening. It will give you a break from the crowds, time off your feet, and a good meal.
  • Park Closures The week between Christmas Eve and New Years Day there are often times when the parks close. The Magic Kingdom is usually the park that reaches capacity quickest. There are four phases of closure and those staying at Disney Resort Hotels are the last to be denied admission.150983_10200192428162200_1217758663_n
  • Take advantage of all the extra things the Disney resorts do for the holidays and possibly have a non-park day to take in these special displays. This will give you a break from the crowds. This is also a nice afternoon activity in case the theme parks get too crowded. Read more about the resorts’ Christmas decorations in this post.
  • Fastpass+ Schedule your Fastpass times early in the day so you can quickly get more throughout the day.
  • A Must-Do List Have everyone chose their must-do for each day and make it a priority to accomplish that must-do for each person. This way everyone gets one guaranteed favorite.
  • Utilize Touring Plans’ app: Lines and the Optimizer. Pick out which attractions you wish to see and this app will tell you the best way to tour with the most minimal waits.

223096_1977679130431_3178507_n Lines will be long, you might not be able to see the pavement at times, but just remember why you are there—to make wonderful memories with your family!

Touring Disney Resorts at Christmastime

Not only is Christmas in full swing in the theme parks at Walt Disney World– it’s also important to not forget about the resorts. Each Disney World resort hotel decorates for the holidays in unique ways that match their themes.

To get the most for your time here are some tours you could do during a break from the parks.

15792_10200192422122049_498719298_nMonorail Resorts
Hop on the monorail and check out the gingerbread displays at the Contemporary and the Grand Floridian. The Grand Floridian is home to a life-size gingerbread house that contains a store where you can buy gingerbread items shaped like roof shingles. There is a majestic Christmas tree in the Grand Floridian’s lobby that is the perfect background for a holiday photo. There are chairs for taking pictures and a Photopass photographer is there throughout the day to take family photos.

Bay Lake Tour
Take a boat from the Magic Kingdom to either Fort Wilderness Campground or Wilderness Lodge for some rustic Christmastime decorations. Wilderness Lodge is host to a floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree, which adds to the resort’s already wintery theme. Fort Wilderness Campground is a special place to visit during Christmas. Many of the guests camping decorate their campsites for the holidays and it’s fun to walk around and take in the creative displays.

1238229_566078386813330_787701002_nEpcot Resorts
Exit Epcot via the International Gateway and check out the resorts on Crescent Lake. Each resort has a unique holiday tradition. The Beach Club is host to a candy carousel. The Yacht Club’s lobby is home to an intricate train display—if you have a train lover, this will be a winner. The Boardwalk Inn’s lobby always has a creative and entertaining display.

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All of the Disney resorts have beautiful decorations that match the theme of the resort. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a beautiful tree and you cannot beat the backdrop of the savanna to your Christmas tree. If you have some free time, hop on a bus from a park to a different resort than where you are staying and check out their holiday decor and how it represents that resort’s theme. The nostalgic Christmas decorations at Pop Century are one of my favorites to go and see.

Prioritizing our must-dos in Disneyland Park

Our last full day at Disneyland started with an early breakfast at Storyteller’s Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel. This breakfast is hosted by Chip and Dale and features all kinds of critters, in addition to the chipmunks we met Koda and Meeko.

IMG_8260 The characters were fun and the food was incredible. It was a buffet with an omelet station and lots of boxed cereals we took for snacks for later.IMG_8268 IMG_8302 Once we finished breakfast we headed to Disneyland. We had made a customized Touring Plan on the Lines App from http://www.touringplans.com. We had lots of things we wanted to do and with it being Easter week and high crowds we needed some guidance.

We started out with the Jungle Cruise. We had an excellent skipper and Anthony loved all of the surprises throughout the ride.IMG_8339 Next we headed to Tomorrowland and rode Buzz Lightyear. This is one of Anthony’s favorites and the one is Disneyland is better because you can remove the shooters from their perch.IMG_8350 Afterwards we trucked it over to Pirates of the Caribbean– in my opinion this one is superior to the one in Walt Disney World…. and it has a steeper drop– it wasn’t too steep as I’m a wimp about drops and found this one to be fine.

Our next stop was to go The Matterhorn Bobsleds. On our way we stopped at the grotto next to Sleeping Beauty’s castle. My sister could not believe that there was a Snow White scene next to Aurora’s castle. She was thinking the three fairies would be a better fit. IMG_8366 The Matterhorn Bobsleds are a Disneyland icon and a unique attraction. My husband and sister rode this and I hung out with Anthony as he napped. They liked it, although it was a quick ride. My husband said it’s similar to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in intensity level.IMG_8368 One of my main objectives of the day was to head over to Big Thunder Ranch. This is a covered hoedown area and it was hosting a Springtime Round-up featuring classic characters in their Easter outfits and popular Disney bunnies. Click here to see our review of this. This was one of our favorite places-not many people seemed to know about it and was the only place in the park without crowds. Afterwards we got to meet Jessie- she was a lot of fun!IMG_8396 After lunch and a few more rides we decided to head out of the park for an afternoon break. As we were walking by the castle, Alice and the Mad Hatter were walking by completely unattended (which would never happen at Disney World). Alice stopped at Anthony’s stroller and complimented his outfit and the Mad Hatter told him that he looks like a chimney sweep because he still had his Easter hat on. It was completely random magic–sometimes the best kind there is. IMG_842452872020095 We headed back to our hotel for a mid-day break, nap, and to start packing to fly home.IMG_8436 Dinner that evening was at Goofy’s Kitchen. I was really looking forward to this one as there is a huge variety of characters and heard good things about the food. The food was fine, but they charge this as a premium character meal. I do not think the buffet was worth the premium price tag.

There were lots of characters: Goofy greeted us at the door, we met Aladdin, Minnie, Chip, Dale, the Mad Hatter and a few more. We had the least amount of character interaction here. They seemed very rushed and sometimes skipped tables. I much prefer the other character meals we had.52872020098 IMG_8474We ended the night early since we were all exhausted from the long day!

This is part of my trip report on our April 2014 visit to Disneyland, Califorina. To read more posts about this trip, click here.

 

California Adventure with Cars, Monsters, and Mickey!

We started the next morning early at California Adventure.  This park has an Extra Magic Hour, just for resort guests unlike Disneyland’s Magic Morning, which is for anyone with a 3-day Park-Hopper.

We got to see the newly-created Buena Vista Street without a mob of people, and it was absolutely breathtaking. IMG_7943 IMG_7968 IMG_7933 IMG_7951

 

We immediately went to Carsland. Craig and my sister, Jessica, went to Radiator Springs Racers. Anthony and I had breakfast at Flo’s V-8 Cafe.  After we enjoyed Carsland with minimal crowds. While Jessica and I rode Radiator Springs, Craig brought Anthony to Bugsland.

Once we finished with those lands we went over to the Monster’s Inc. ride. This was so much fun. You ride through Monstropolis in a taxi car and experience the story of Monsters Inc. My son is a huge Monsters fan so we rode this two or three times.  Then we met Sully!
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After our morning we went over to the Paradise Pier Hotel for Mickey’s Surf’s Up Breakfast. The buffet was far superior than the Plaza Inn. There weren’t as many characters, but we had amazing characters here too.
52872020053 IMG_8202Daisy and Minnie loved Anthony. They came up and sat right next to him in our booth. Daisy was full of hugs and Minnie helped Anthony eat his breakfast and drink his milk. Each one spent 5-10 minutes with us. We were one of the last customers in the restaurant which I think is what resulted in so much time spent with Anthony.
IMG_8086 IMG_8101After our meal, we headed back to the Disneyland Hotel and everyone took a nap! After nap time, it was time for our date night!

Craig and I had dinner at Carthay Circle restaurant–which was outstanding. The bread, appetizers and entrees didn’t disappoint.  Our waiter was outstanding he was full of tips and information and was a true Disney fan, which is always a treat.

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After our dinner we headed over to Disneyland and had Dole Whips for dessert.

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We then rode the monorail from Tomorrowland into Downtown Disney and walked the short way back to our hotel.

This is Part 4 of my trip report to Disneyland. To read the other posts, click here for the Table of Contents.

Our first night in California Adventure

IMG_7762 After brunch at The Plaza Inn, we headed back to the Disneyland Hotel. We rested and went for a swim. After our afternoon off we headed over to California Adventure.IMG_7776 We had dinner at Paradise Pier: we got pizza and hot dogs from around the boardwalk area. Then we rode King Triton’s Carousel. My son loves riding the horses on any carousel and he didn’t seem to mind that these horses were all sea creatures. IMG_7807We literally walked right into the Pixar Pals Parade, so we stopped and let Anthony enjoy the characters from one of his favorite movies: Monsters University.

After the parade we walked into Carsland. We were impressed from our first glimpse. We rode Luigi’s Flying Tires and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. We met Mater and Lightning McQueen and had ice cream at the Cozy Cone Motel. This new land was most definitely the highlight of the trip. Now when we watch the movie, we say… it’s just like Carsland!

IMG_7819Once we called it a night we exited through the Grand Californian Hotel as a shortcut back to our hotel. 
IMG_7929This is Part 3 of my Trip Report on our trip to Disneyland in April 2014. To read the rest of my report, click here to go to the table of contents.

 

Day 1: “Brunch” at Plaza Inn

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After our adventures in Toon Town, we made our way over to the Plaza Inn for the Minnie and Friends Character Breakfast. We prefer to have a late breakfast (this was at 11:00) to take advantage of when the parks are less crowded when they first open. Thus breakfast is more like lunch and it’s usually less expensive than a lunch sit-down.

We had never eaten here before. I had purchased character meal vouchers before our trip that included the meal, tax and gratuity. When I checked in, they gave me my “coupons” and then when we walked in we “paid” with them immediately. I was confused as to why we paid first, since at all the buffets we’ve had at Disney World you pay at the end. Well, the reason why here: the food is cafeteria-style–even the drinks. So there is not much service involved. They may clear plates occasionally.

The chef did come to our table due to my gluten allergy and brought me out everything from the kitchen since he was concerned about cross-contamination. My food was basic, I thought it was good. I had gluten-free Mickey waffles, fruit, eggs, and bacon.

My husband and sister said that the food from the buffet was pretty mediocre but that wasn’t why I wanted to come here anyway.

IMG_7616 IMG_7618 IMG_7619The reason I wanted to visit was because of the large number of characters this breakfast has. We met The Fairy Godmother, Chip and Dale, Susie the Mouse from Cinderella, Max from Goof Troop, Tigger, Eeyore, Minnie, Rafiki, and Captain Hook. That’s ten characters! And the interaction was phenomenal. It helped because since it was the end of service (having an 11 am ADR) there were not many people in the restaurant so the characters spent a lot of time with Anthony. IMG_7545The Fairy Godmother visited first, I think  I was more excited to see her than Anthony was. Cinderella was my favorite Disney movie growing up.IMG_7570Minnie got lots of hugs from Anthony, she is one of his favorites.IMG_7583Anthony had NO IDEA who Rafiki was since he had never seen the Lion King, he was more interested in the Pooh characters. (PS- I am now in good standing as we own Lion King and he has seen it several times since this trip and now loves it.)IMG_7658Anthony has loved Eeyore since he was a little baby. And would not stop hugging him here.

IMG_7668We ran into Peter Pan on our way into breakfast and he told us to tell Captain Hook about a  surprise Pan has for him later. I believe he and Hook were discussing this topic during breakfast. IMG_7685Anthony’s a huge fan of the Goofy movies so he recognized Max immediately and was full of hugs.IMG_7748Again, mom was more excited to see one of the mice from Cinderella than Anthony was!

IMG_7755We had met Dale earlier in the meal. When Chip came over it was towards the end and  Anthony was ready for a nap so he just sat on the carpet. Chip sat right down next to him and then out of nowhere Dale came running over and Anthony was so incredibly happy.

While the food was not stellar, the characters and how much time they spent with our son will be the reason we return here. I mean where else will you see Captain Hook and the Fairy God Mother in the same place?  I definitely recommend a later seating to maybe get some extra character time.

This is Part 2 in a series on my family’s trip to Disneyland. Keep a look out for Part 3 next week! If you would like to read other posts from this trip report, click here to go to the Table of Contents.

Disneyland Trip Report: 1st Morning in Disneyland Park

My husband, son, sister and I were lucky enough to visit the Disneyland Resort in Spring 2014. Spending four nights at the Disneyland Hotel, we checked in late on Monday night after spending the day at Sea World. We were all so excited to be in Disneyland and the Disneyland Hotel was spectacular. I shared my review of the hotel in a previous post.

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Early the next morning we made our way to Disneyland Park. It was Magic Morning. This is not to be confused with Extra Magic Hours. Anyone who buys a 3-day park-hopper ticket gets a Magic Morning, where they can enter Disneyland Park early. We did not realize this wasn’t exclusive to just hotel guests like at Walt Disney World and were shocked to see an enormous crowd of people.  IMG_7331 If you are a Walt Disney World vet you will be a little shocked when you see how tiny the Sleeping Beauty Castle is. I find it charming and it is actually an attraction. There is a walk-through of the castle that tells the story of Sleeping Beauty.

During Magic Morning only certain areas of the park are open, so we were kind of “stuck” in Fantasyland. We started out with the carousel, my son, Anthony loves any and all carousels and this one was no different. IMG_7348 One of my favorite things about Fantasyland in Disneyland Park is the fact that there are so many attractions that are unique to that park. We made it a priority to ride these first. Pinocchio’s Daring Journey was the first of these we rode. It’s a typical dark-ride attraction that retells the story of Pinocchio  and it’s adorable.IMG_7356 After riding Pinocchio, we walked past the Anna and Elsa meet and greet. Olaf was on top of the building talking and that was good enough for Anthony. No need to wait in the 300-minute line.IMG_7367 IMG_7369 We rode the tea cups, which are the same as Disney World’s, however they are uncovered. Next, we went and visited Mr. Toad. There are many Disney fans who are upset that this attraction is no longer in Disney World due to the addition of Pooh, so we had to go and give this ride a whirl. IMG_7392 The Storybook Land Canal Boats are a favorite of mine. You hop into these little boats and go through Monstro from Pinocchio and are transported to a land where you float by miniature recreations of the classic movie stories from the Disney catalogue. IMG_7407Another attraction unique to Disneyland is Casey Junior… yes you can ride on Casey Junior. We were actually in the monkey cage. Casey Junior’s tracks go by Storybook Land so you see the miniature scenes from a different perspective.
IMG_7420 The last objective for the morning was to visit Toon Town. Yes, they still have one! My favorite part of Disneyland in general, but specifically here, the characters are around to hang out and play. There are no scheduled meet and greets, no photographers, and sometimes no lines!  IMG_7452 We had so much fun with Goofy and he spent a long time entertaining Anthony. IMG_7467 Anthony loves dogs, and he loves Pluto and chased him around spontaneously. IMG_7478 Lastly, Toon Town has Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. We drove in taxi cars and spun around trying to get away from the “dip.” IMG_7510This is Part 1 in a series on my family’s trip to Disneyland. Keep a look out for Part 2 next week!