Podcast Episode 136: Character Dining Overview

One of the most popular activities you can do at Disney is to have a character meal!  This is a great way to see your favorite characters without standing in line and while having a delicious meal.  Join us as we talk all about the character meals you can find at Walt Disney World!

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Podcast Episode 123: We Gave It A Try

We make it a point to try new things at Disney each time we visit so we can report back to our readers and listeners about our findings.  Join us this week as we talk about the most recent new experiences we’ve had for the first time while at Disney!

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Podcast Episode 108: Is It Worth It?

In this week’s episode we explore some popular dining and attraction options at Walt Disney World and give you our opinions on whether or not we think they are worth experiencing.

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Is It Worth it?

As a travel agent I get this question pretty frequently, and you may be surprised on what topics this question is asked.   These are my opinions on whether something is worth doing at Walt Disney World.  These are going to be my opinion but my opinion is also based on personal experience as well as data gathered from former clients.

 

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: At least once, especially if you have a kid who is crazy about princesses.  I would highly recommend if you are going to drop the cash you will want a reservation at Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.  The packages can be pretty pricey so to save, bring your own costume and accessories instead of purchasing the full package.

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Pirates League: This is very much worth it!  It is a great value and a fun experience for boys and girls.  In fact unlike Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, adults can also get a makeover here too!  They have pirate and mermaid choices and it is a really good value in comparison.

 

Getting Up Early: YES!  I cannot say yes enough.  The parks are least busy when they first open.  You also get to see some neat stuff like the Welcome Show at the Magic Kingdom.  How can you possibly be the family of the day if you are sleeping all morning?  Some restaurants even offer early breakfast reservations inside the parks which means you have beat the crowds inside the parks.  Go ahead and take that afternoon nap now, you deserve it.

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To Try ______ Attraction: Well this is a no-brainer, yes!  You should absolutely try any attraction, ride or show at least once unless you have a medical condition in which it is advised against.  You may never know when you find your new favorite!

 

Park Hopper Tickets:  In most cases, yes.  This ticket makes your vacation so flexible.  It can be a little work bouncing from park to park but if you are like a lot of people and find Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom to be half day parks this ticket option gives you the chance to save the rest of your day by hopping over to another park.  If you are traveling with really young children it might not be worth the hassle.  But if you are traveling with teens or adults only it is so worth the splurge.  I have travelled with and without the Park Hopper and I will absolutely give up a character meal before I give up with Park Hopper!

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Party Tickets: Yes, especially if you do not have park tickets for that day.  You can enter the Magic Kingdom at 4pm on the party days even when the party doesn’t start until 7pm.  You get special parades and firework shows, extra treats and character meet and greets.  The parks are less crowded as well so you can get on your favorites rides with a minimal wait time!

Refillable Mugs: Yes, but you have to do the math!  So as of 2016 the mugs are $17.  Say you are staying 5 days it would be $3.40 per day, plus you keep the mug.  For me this is very much worth it.  I drink coffee or iced tea in the morning so I would fill up each morning before going to the parks.  Then on an afternoon break I will fill up with Powerade, lemonade or more iced tea.  Then in the evening before bed I’m loading up on more water or Powerade.  Some quick math tells me that I am coming out ahead plus I have a cute souvenir cup to take home!

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Cinderella’s Royal Table:  Not really a good value.  This restaurant located inside Cinderella Castle is a character meal that will run you about $60 a person or 2 Table Service credits.  While you cannot beat the location or atmosphere there are other really great choices for princess character dining (Akershus, 1900 Park Fare) that won’t cost as much and the food is really good.  If you were planning to do this as a special treat or celebration then it may be worth it to do once.

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The Dining Plan: Yes, if used correctly!  The dining plan can absolutely save you money if you plan your meals correctly to get the best value.  If you split meals a lot or routinely order something that isn’t an entrée they no, it may not be worth it.  If you like to go on vacation knowing it is all paid for then this is very helpful, no Disney food sticker shock either.  So how do you figure out if it is worth getting?  You will have to do a bit of work checking menu prices and then figuring out if what you would order for each meal plus 2 snacks and if you would use the refillable mug (drinks start at about $3) and then look at the cost per day of the dining plan.

 

Preferred Rooms: Yes, a thousand times yes! Want to save yourself some walking at the beginning and end of the day?  How about saving yourself a long trip to the pool or food court?  Taking kids to Walt Disney World?  Then get a preferred room, it is worth the price difference from a standard, especially at the Value resorts.

 

Club Level: This is a it depends.  If you are already on the dining plan it may not be worth it, but if you are looking for a way to plus up a vacation with a great room that has snacks provided a couple times a day plus free drinks?  Then yeah you will want to look at it.  The big seller is that it includes some beers and wine as well as bottled water.  You could make breakfast out of the offerings.  There are also midday snacks offered and hot appetizers in the evenings and desserts in the late evenings!  This can be a fantastic value!  Check out Tara’s Club Level series here for specific resort information.

 

T-Shirts, Misting Fans, Glowing Trinkets: Nope, save yourself a lot of big bucks and pick up these things prior to going on vacation.  You can find misting fans and the cheap glowing, spinning toys at pretty much any dollar store, Walgreens, Walmart stores for about ¼ of the price.  The same could be said for the shirts you can purchase at Walt Disney World.  Your basic Tshirt will set you back about $25.  Go ahead and check out with Disney Store online, Target, Walmart, Forever 21, Torrid, Hot Topic, H & M, and Etsy just to name a few.

 

Character Dining Breakdown for Walt Disney World

Character dining is very popular and very much a part of most families trips to Disney. One of the most confusing things and hard to follow is which characters are where and if they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner or just breakfast, etc. Also, people are always asking me – which is the best and when they mean the best typically they are asking about who has the best character interaction and not the best bacon (though food is important) because these meals are not cheap but most are buffets and you can eat a lot of yummy food to get your value plus the pictures and smiles on your kids faces (or your adult faces) will be something priceless.

I am going to start also by saying that this information is correct as of today March 21, 2106 (I hope it is!) but the characters are always changing and this is who is typically there. Though no character is ever guaranteed so know that going in and do not be disappointed but enjoy the event! If you HAVE to meet one specific character you might need to fastpass that for a meet and greet. One more tip when you see a description like Luau Mickey or Safari Donald this describes the character theme at this meal. So, Safari Donald is dressed up like he is going on a safari for example!

Starting with character meals that require 1 Table Service Credit when using the Disney Dining Plan:

 

Ohana at Polynesian Resort – 

Best Friends Breakfast – Breakfast Only

Lilo, Stitch, Luau Mickey, Luau Pluto

 

Garden Grill Epcot

Chip ‘n Dale’s Harvest Feast (all meals)

Chip & Dale, Farmer Mickey & Farmer Pluto

 

Chef Mickey’s at Contemporary Resort

Chef Mickey’s Fun Time Buffet (all meals)

Chef Mickey, Chef Donald, Chef Goofy, Chef Minnie & Chef Pluto

 

Tusker House at Animal Kingdom

Donald’s Safari Meal (all meals)

Safari Mickey, Safari Donald, Safari Goofy,  & Safari Daisy

 

1900 Park Fare at Grand Floridian Resort

Supercalifragilistic Breakfast (breakfast only)

Alice, the Mad Hatter, Mary Poppins and Bert, Tigger & Pooh

 

1900 Park Fare at Grand Floridian Resort

Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner (dinner only)

Cinderella, Prince Charming, Cinderella’s  Stepsisters (Anastasia and Drisella) and Wicked Stepmother (Lady Tremaine)

 

Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios

Disney Junior Play n’ Dine (breakfast and lunch only)

Disney Junior Characters: Jake, Sofia, Doc McStuffins & Handy Manny

 

Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios

Minnie’s Seasonal Dine (dinner only)

Minnie, Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy

  • January 4, 2016 – March 20, 2016
    Minnie’s Silver Screen Dine

    Celebrate Hollywood blockbusters at a banquet honoring the glitz and glamor of Tinseltown!
  • March 21, 2016 – June 5, 2016
    Minnie’s Springtime Dine

    Shake off winter’s chill with a fabulous fête marking the bright and beautiful delights of spring!
  • June 6, 2016 – September 11, 2016
    Minnie’s Summertime Dine

    Heat things up at a beach-inspired bash welcoming the excitement of the season!
  • September 12, 2016 – November 6, 2016
    Minnie’s Halloween Dine

    Head to Minnie’s favorite haunt as all her pals gather for a frightfully festive Halloween feast!
  • November 7, 2016 – January 6, 2017
    Minnie’s Holiday Dine

    Deck the halls at a dazzling dinner party filled with holiday cheer and the joy of the season!

Cape May’s at Beach Club Resort

Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast (Breakfast only)

Beach Minnie, Beach Donald and Beach Goofy

 

Akershus in Norway at Epcot

Princess Storybook Dining (all meals)

Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, Aurora, Snow White

 

The following are character meals that require 2 Table Service Credits when using the Disney Dining Plan:

Mickey’s Backyard Bar-B-Que  at Fort Wilderness Resort

“Dinner Show” (dinner Only )

Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip and Dale

 

Cinderella’s Royal Table in Castle at Magic Kingdom

Fairytale Dining (all meals)

Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, Aurora, Snow White and sometimes Belle (cast of princesses will consistently vary)

Super Special Extra Celebrations

Going to Disney World to celebrate a special event is already the icing on the cake in my opinion but Disney also gives you lots of options to kick it up a notch. So, is this anniversary super special or this birthday a BIG one. For any ages and events, there is something special to help. I wanted to talk about the Super Special Big Dollar Extras that can be provided to you from Disney Floral and Gifts.

There are lots of ways to do things and Disney Floral and Gifts is by no means the least expensive option but they do have the good, special stuff and the ways and means to get it done.

For example, I spent my 40th birthday at Disney with the best of friends and my husband and they surprised me on the day by decorating the living room of our Boardwalk Villa (awesome and budget friendly – the room decorating not Boardwalk haha do not think I am living under a rock!) and then kicked it up a notch by having a cake delivered that we ate for breakfast every day. It is Disney and I said “Let them eat cake” quite a bit that trip. Then the special extra happened and we came back from a park day and there was a beautiful glitter pink rose with a wonderful special bracelet and note.

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It was awesome! And the best part (or maybe?) is it broke, that week at Disney (put my hand in my purse and the heart came off). I called Disney Floral and Gifts and without question sent me a new one and never even asked for the broken one, etc. That is the Disney difference.

So, here are a few of what I think are the craziest, most over the top, super special things!

Presenting Your Royal Princess – $435.00 – so you walk up to your room and on your door is a pink banner letting her know something is up! She then gets to open a big box filled with all princess must haves (tiaras and wands), there are balloons and personalized princess capes and so much more! It is a BIG deal.

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Not in the mood for princess and pink? Go Big with Mickey and Pals Big Birthday Wish – coming in at a modest $395.00. You can have all the fun with Mickey and his pals and keep your inner child (or outer child happy!)

MC0001_vlNeed some Super, Special Romance? A Wish Come True – a Two Day Romantic Experience is ready for you at a mere $364.95 but you get two days full of romance. There are roses and crystals and champagne for two days. Sign me up!

 

 

 

Is your (or your kids) dream of meeting a princess or Mickey and Friends finally coming through? Have your child proclaimed a princess at Cinderella’s Royal Table or a princess meet and greet with the My Storybook Moment – Princess (143.95) or find out they are about to meet their best pal Mickey using a storybook moment with My Storybook Moment – Mickey Mouse (87.95)

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Yes, going to Disney is SUPER special and no one needs the extras but if you have a few extra dollars and want to go as over the top as possible. These are a few ideas that are easy on you to make happen!

 

 

 

A Perfectly Princess Day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Last week we planned out what a perfect day would look like at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for a pirate fan. This week let’s talk about princesses!

For a truly special princess day, the little ones must dress the part. I suggest an early morning appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique located where else, in Cinderella’s Castle! Princesses can choose from The Crown Package (starting at $59.95) which includes hairstyling, shimmering make-up, a face gem, princess sash and tote and nail polish all the way up to the The Castle Package (starting at $194.95) which includes everything in the Crown package plus a costume and accessories and five printed photos! There is even a package for small princes, the $19.95 Knight package featuring hairstyling with gel and a sword and shield.

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Courtesy Disney World website

After Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, head to Enchanted Tales with Belle where you can become part of the story. Belle asks for helpers to join her in acting out her story, so go be part of the fun! After the play, the little actors and actresses have a chance to meet with Belle.

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After a busy morning, princesses are probably getting hungry! Hopefully you (with the help of a travel agent, perhaps!) have secured an advanced dining reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table. One of the most popular (if not the most popular) dining establishment at Disney World, advance reservations are imperative. Dining with the Disney princesses is such a special experience for any princess, big or small! Princesses are subject to change but have featured Cinderella (of course! you even have your photo taken with her before the meal), Ariel, Snow White, Aurora, Belle and more.

If you didn’t get to meet enough princesses at lunch, there are there are plenty of other places in the Magic Kingdom for you to meet more! Here is a list of the princesses and their location (subject to change):

Cinderella & Rapunzel, Elsa & Anna all meet at Princess FairyTale Hall

Sleeping Beauty meets near City Hall

Jasmine (with Aladdin) meets near The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

Merida meets near Fairytale Garden

Be sure to check out the Times Guide, since not all of the princesses meet all day long.

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Lastly, don’t forget to meet Ariel in her grotto, then check out her Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride!

After all those character meets you may be ready for dinner. Our suggestion is Be Our Guest restaurant. No, you can’t meet Belle here, but the setting is absolutely fit for a princess and the food is delicious!

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Maybe after dinner you’ll be headed back to your Port Orleans Riverside Royal Guest room, the perfect accommodations for a perfectly princess vacation 🙂

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Breakfast Options at Magic Kingdom

A recap of your breakfast options for a morning at Disney’s Magic Kingdom!

Quick Service/Snack

Main Street Bakery/Starbucks: With a wide variety of options in a great location, Starbucks/Main Street bakery is a good place to stop and grab a bite on your way into the park. The lines here can get quite long, but you know exactly what you’re getting: good coffee, pastries and breakfast sandwiches!

Gaston’s Tavern: Gaston’s has a very limited breakfast “menu” (two items, really) Gaston’s might not seem worth the trek, but they are! Giant cinnamon rolls and delicious chocolate croissants are featured at Gaston’s, and they make for a mouthwatering and quick breakfast, as the line at Gaston’s is smaller than most other breakfast places in the Magic Kingdom

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Sleepy Hollow: My personal favorite. The waffles served here are something special. Breakfast options include the Nutella and fresh fruit waffle (served all day) and a breakfast-only waffle; featuring prosciutto, cheese, egg and tomato. You can also pick up an iced coffee at Sleepy Hollow and make for a complete breakfast! In my opinion it is not a trip to Disney World without a visit to Sleepy Hollow for at least one waffle sandwich.

Be Our Guest: While technically a quick service restaurant for breakfast (and lunch) Be Our Guest does require reservations 180 days in advance. Breakfast is a little pricy for a non-character meal at $19.99 per adult and $11.99 per child but the menu is fairly large (visit here to see!), the food delicious, and the setting stunning.

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Table Service Restaurants

Crystal Palace: Featuring characters from Winnie the Pooh, Crystal Palace is a reasonably priced character meal around $25-30 per adult. Breakfast is served buffet style and also has an omelet station. Read Dana’s review here for more details!

Cinderella’s Royal Table: One of the most expensive meals on Disney property at $55-60 per adult, or 2 dining plan credits, Cinderella’s Royal Table is still what many would consider a not-to-miss meal and experience. At Cinderella’s Royal Table you’re truly spoiled by amazing food in an unbeatable location. Character interaction with Disney princesses is top notch and really could there be anything better than actually dining inside Cinderella’s castle? I think not!

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Podcast Episode 42: Early 2015 News

Join us this week as we fill you in on all the new developments, changes, and refurbishments at Disney for the year.  Find out which attractions will be getting updates to accommodate more guests, which ones will be closed during your trip, and which ones people like to spread ashes in.  Yeah, ashes.  It’s a wild ride and if you’re planning a Disney trip this year you don’t want to miss these important details!

Happy listening!

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Valentine’s Day Blog Special: Jeannine & Vinny’s Disney World Engagement!

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Love is in the air! Today I had the honor of interviewing one of my best friends on her amazing 2011 Walt Disney World engagement. Jeannine has been a Disneyphile since she was a young child and enjoyed regular trips with her family. She was able to convert her now-husband Vinny easily after their very first trip together to Walt Disney World. Soon Jeannine and Vinny were enjoying regular trips to the World, but this trip in 2011 was just a little bit different! Here is their engagement story and then some questions and answers directly from the bride.

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Early on the morning of December 3, 2011, Jeannine and Vinny flew from Boston to Orlando for their stay at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside resort. They spent the afternoon shopping at Downtown Disney, where Vinny was feeling particularly generous and kept offering to buy anything Jeannine’s heart desired. Jeannine says in hindsight this was her first (but not only!) hint about what was going to happen on this trip. The hints kept on coming when they headed back to their resort to get changed for dinner and night-touring at the Magic Kingdom. Vinny came out of the bathroom dressed in nicer clothing than usual, and urged Jeannine to change into something other than her usual attire of yoga pants. She declined, not knowing what was to come. At the Magic Kingdom they rode some rides, where Vinny always placed Jeannine on his left which was later explained by the fact that he had the ring in his right pocket. I can’t imagine walking around the Magic Kingdom with such a precious and priceless item in your pocket. I don’t know how Vinny did it without passing out!

Finally they headed to Cinderella’s Royal Table where Vinny had pulled some strings and changed their 5:30pm reservation to 9:15pm to coincide with the evening’s fireworks show. This was another very big hint that Jeannine had explained away (because any regular Walt Disney World visitor knows you can’t just “change” your Cinderella’s Royal Table reservation at will… especially not to fireworks time). Though she did become suspicious upon being seated at a window front table, wondering exactly what Vinny had done to score that prime seating. Jeannine and Vinny were lucky enough to be waited on by Jay, a waited with whom they’d been seated twice in the past (and, spoiler alert!) would later be seated with on their honeymoon when they ate again at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Disney magic! Vinny barely ate his dinner, but Jeannine helped him out, clearly not feeling the nerves that he was at the time. The princesses were making their way around the restaurant but soon that stopped, the lighting went down and music began to play for the Wishes fireworks show.

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Immediately after the fireworks ended Jay delivered a white dessert plate with a cover, which Jeannine didn’t see coming but she DID hear a gasp from a nearby table. When she turned she saw Jay delivering a white dessert plate… only they hadn’t ordered dessert! The plate held a glass slipper and a gorgeous engagement ring. Vinny slipped Jay the ring during one of Jeannine’s dinner restroom breaks so it was all set and done perfectly. Jeannine turned back and Vinny was on one knee. Things around them got very loud as people were cheering and a PhotoPass photographer had appeared to capture the moment. It was so loud, in fact, that neither Jeannine nor Vinny are sure he actually asked her to marry him OR if she said yes. Regardless and most importantly Jeannine ended up with a ring on her finger and they were engaged!

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“Real” dessert and two champagne flutes were delivered to the table and Ariel came over to take a celebratory photo with the couple. The PhotoPass photographer did some posed photos of Jeannine and Vinny and her new bling. While the photos were being taken, Cast members at Cinderella’s Royal Table took their champagne flutes and the glass slipper to wrap them up securely for them to take home and keep forever. The cast members at Cinderella’s Royal Table also delivered two of the coveted “Just Engaged” buttons for them to wear around the parks for the rest of their trip. At the end (or beginning) Jeannine and Vinny headed into the parks to start their happily ever after!

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What did you do after you got engaged, anything special to celebrate?

“The first thing we did was ride Haunted Mansion, it’s Vinny’s favorite! We then spent the next 4 days at Disney World, where we got tons of special attention (free ice creams, better seating for shows, go to the FastPass line even though we didn’t have the passes), At the end of the 4 days we boarded the Disney Dream for our very first cruise.”

Did you buy anything to commemorate the occasion?

“We got a “Just Engaged” ornament at the Magic Kingdom, which Disney personalized with our names and the date for free. Also when we went back to our room we discovered that Disney sent a congratulations card to our room.” (Note from Jamie: Jeannine collects ornaments from Disney, so this came as no surprise to me! She has an amazing collection)

How did Vinny set up the engagement?

“Vinny got in touch with Disney’s Fairytale Weddings & Honeymoons who helped him set everything up. They were the ones who changed our dining reservation time, had the glass slipper made and personalized for us, and set up the PhotoPass person to be there for the moment. There was a fee for their services, but they were there to help Vinny every step of the way!”

What made Vinny choose Disney?

“Lots of hinting! 😉 Disney is our favorite place, it really just made sense. I’ve always wanted to see the fireworks from inside Cinderella’s Royal Table so clearly Vinny was paying attention to that! Cinderella’s Royal Table was also the first place we ate together on our very first vacation together. There’s a lot of meaning behind his choice!”

Did you research Disney weddings?

“Yes, when we got home. We did end up having our wedding closer to home because of family. But we immediately got started planning our two week Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line honeymoon!”

What would you recommend to other people planning a Disney World engagement?

“Get in touch with Disney Fairytale Weddings & Honeymoons! They’ll help you personalize it and make it special for both of you. Oh, and make sure to get your “Just Engaged” buttons and add your engagement celebration to any dining reservations you have planned for the rest of the trip!”

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Jeannine! If you have stories of your own Disney engagement or honeymoon, or are simply dreaming of these things we’d LOVE to hear  about it! Tell us in the comments section here or head to our Facebook page!

Dreaming of your OWN Disney proposal? We’ve got the link for you! Head to Disney Weddings and submit a video telling them why you and your significant other deserve a dream Disney proposal.  One winner will receive a five day, four night trip to either the Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort, tickets to the Park and a Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings “proposal package” including the help of an engagement planner to create and execute a custom surprise proposal! 

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