Vacation Planning Specialist – Nicole!

Independent Travel Agent with The Vacation Wizards!

Christmas Decorations

I will be going to Walt Disney World December 11th – December 14th of this year!

When I return from my trip I will be posting all of the pictures that I take of the Christmas decorations!

Stay Tuned!!!

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Mardi Gras

Very little is done in the parks for Mardi Gras. BUT if you happen to be staying at Disney’s Port Orleans you will get to experience some what of a parade!

Some of the cast members of the resorts build floats out of golf carts. They parade around the resort throwing trinkets (beads, candy and doubloons) to the guests that line up to watch.

If you will be staying at Disney’s Port Orleans on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), be sure to ask the front desk when and where this event will be taking place!

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EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival

Every year, sometime in March through May,Walt Disney World puts on EPCOT’s International Flower & Garden Festival. EPCOT is always beautifully landscaped but the amazing Disney Magic truly shines during this festival. Exquisite plantings, topiary’s of your favorite Disney characters and specially themed gardens as well as gardening tips and weekend concerts are some of the many amazing things that you can experience while attending the Flower & Garden Festival.

Go on over to the Walt Disney World Website to get the official dates and schedule for the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival.

Besides all of the beautifully designed topiaries that are placed throughout Future World and World Showcase, you can also enjoy the Outdoor Kitchen Booths. Similar to the pop up stands for the Food & Wine Festival, these booths are all around World Showcase and feature small serving plates of goods as well as interesting drinks from all of the different countries. (Hints International Festival). 

Each weekend during the Flower & Garden Festival you can attend “hands-on presentations” and “demonstrations” for select gardening tips. Also, each Friday, Saturday and Sunday night during the Flower & Garden Festival you can catch some amazing singers and bands at the America Gardens Theater. You can find a complete schedule of the Garden Rocks Concert Series on the Walt Disney World Website.

Just like any special event that goes on at Walt Disney World, crowds impact how much you enjoy yourself. The Flower & Garden and Food & Wine Festivals bring in fairly large local crowds to these invents, especially on the weekends. If you are interested in seeing the Garden Rocks Concerts plan to get there early to get your spot and enjoy some of the foods. But if you are just going to see the displays and enjoy some food, go during the week!

 

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EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FLOWER & GARDEN FESTIVAL EXPANDS TO 90 DAYS IN 2016

Celebrating its 23rd year, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival returns to Walt Disney World Resort March 2-May 30, 2016, expanding from 75 days to 90 days.

From fresh farm market flavors at the festival’s Outdoor Kitchens and new Disney character topiaries to interactive play gardens and live rockin’ music, this annual event will shower your family with spring surprises.

Donald Duck’s mischievous nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, will make their topiary debut with Donald and Daisy at the park’s front entrance garden. Plus, in celebration of the National Parks Service Centennial, Ranger Mickey Mouse, in topiary form, will make his first appearance.

Savory bites and sweet treats will be abundant at the festival’s Outdoor Kitchens, returning for a fourth year with Guest favorites and new food and beverage offerings. And, when they’re not noshing along the World Showcase promenade, you can dig in for a hands-on experience during Disney-led gardening seminars or grab a seat for pop musical performances during the Garden Rocks concert series at the outdoor America Gardens Theatre.

Stay tuned to Disney Travel News for more details about this exciting event!

 

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GET A SPLASH OF COLOR AT THE NEW COLORTOPIA EXHIBIT AT INNOVENTIONS AT EPCOT

Now at Walt Disney World Resort, you and your family can experience the wonderful world of color at Colortopia, Presented by Glidden – a brand new exhibit in Innoventions at Epcot.

At Colortopia, you can explore 3 interactive zones – the Color Lab, color Our World Studio and Power of Color Theater – for a fun, informative take on the numerous ways color affects our lives. From creating custom hues and digital painting to understanding how different shades can impact moods, Guests will learn how every color tells a story.

Plus, the Colortopia mobile app allows you and your family to take their masterpiece home, colorize photos and play with a range of vivid palettes.

 

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A Disney Christmas: They’re Here! Our MagicBands are Here!

I got our MagicBands in the mail yesterday!!! I am beyond excited! This will be our first trip since Disney introduced the MagicBands! In case you don’t know what they are, the MagicBands have replaced your hard tickets! Meaning, that you no longer have to have a hard plastic ticket to get into your hotel room or inside the parks. You just put the Mickey head up to the device reader and wait until it turns green and you’re good to go! I will be posting videos on how all of this works once I get back from our trip! In case you were wondering my MagicBand is the pink one! I wanted to get a red one but I didn’t want my mom and I to get ours mixed up, even though they do have our names on the inside! Ha!

Also, I am going to be adding some fun vinyl images to our MagicBands! I haven’t decided what exactly I’m going to put on them but maybe our names and I know I want to do something with Minnie or Christmas but I haven’t decided yet! There are just so many options! But I will post my designs when I do decide what to put on my MagicBand! I may even put some Alabama stuff on there, Roll Tide!

I wish I would have known how to get one of these MagicBands! They also have a store inside the Magic Kingdom in Tomorrowland or at Disney Springs where you can customized your MagicBand. I just might be stopping inside one of those stores!

There are so many Christmas items that I have been looking at online at the Disney Store that I would LOVE to get while I’m down there! I wish we still had our Disney Store in the mall here in Mobile. The closest store that I can go to is in Gulfport, Mississippi and that is an hour away! But Black Friday is coming up and I think that my mom and I are planing to do some clothes shopping for our trip over at the Gulfport Outlets so we’ll just have to see if we can make a quick stop inside the Disney Store! (We ALWAYS do when we go over there!) If we do go to the Gulfport Outlets I will post a Disney Store HAUL post to show you what all we picked up!

24 Days to go!

 

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Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon

Anytime that there is a race weekend at Disney World, be advised that weekend will be very busy and crowded. The most popular races is the Annual Disney World Marathon Weekend. It is typically held the first full weekend after the New Year. Disney’s Annual Marathon Weekend has become the largest combined running event in the country. So if you are a Disney Fanatic and love to run you might want to check into this event one year!

The even starts with a Family 5k Fun Run on Friday, the Half Marathon (13.1 miles) on Saturday and the Full Marathon (26.2 miles) on Sunday. Be advised you do not have to be a World Class runner to compete in these races. Disney has set a 16:00 min/mile pace time to compete in the race. So run, walk, speed-walk whatever it is that you do and come and compete! Each participant receives a medal for completing the run.

While you are running your marathons you will be running through the theme parks themselves! You will be able to stop and take a quick photo with your favorite character or a rare character or two. There will also be bands, high school cheering squads, DJs, dancers and lots of entertainment along the course of the race.

Be advised that registration spots for the races fill up quickly! Register as soon as possible!

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New Years Eve in Disney World

The week in between Christmas and New Years is by far the most crowded time in Walt Disney World. If you are not a crowd person then this time is NOT for you! I would advise you to go in September and October or the end of January and February. But if you are willing to take on the crowds and make the most of it then pay attention!

  • Arrive Early and Stay Late! During this time of year the parks open to guests staying on property very early and stay open very late to accommodate the heavy crowds. Get to the parks at least an hour to 30 minutes earlier than park open.

  • Take a Break Mid-Day! This goes hand in hand with Arrive Early and Stay Late. For the most party during this week you could see the Magic Kingdom opening as early as 7:00 am and closing at 3:00 am. There is absolutely no way that you could be there that whole time whether you are a party of all adults or adults and children. Plan to skip the middle part of the day, go back to your hotel and eat lunch and take a nap. Then head back late in the afternoon after the crowds have drowned out and enjoy the evening festivities at the parks!

  • Eat your Meals Off-Schedule! Your normal day-to-day schedule is likely to change while you’re in Disney, whether it’s a time change for you and your family or just the way that you schedule your park time. Let’s say if you are going to the parks super early you’re going more than likely going to eat breakfast early which is going to make your lunch early. This is a good thing because your lunch time will not be at the normal “lunch” time. Like I had said above, eating at your hotel or getting a reservation for lunch at an hotel would be your best bet. Even bringing or buying lunch items to eat in the hotel room would be a good way to avoid crowds and take a break from Disney.

  • Utilize your FastPass+! First of all make sure to get your FastPasses as soon as they become available at the 60-Days Out mark. Schedule your FastPasses for the busiest times of the day, which will be the middle of the day. So before you leave for your break for mid-day go ride all the rides! Plan on during the morning hours and evening hours either waiting in line or experiencing the other things that the parks have to offer besides the rides.

  • Do the Unpopular Rides! These rides you may have done once before, but they aren’t your “HAVE TO” rides every time you go to the parks. These rides are also the classics and will more than likely have little to no line. Imagine that! For example some rides at the Magic Kingdom are: Carousel of Progress, Tiki Room Shows, Country Bear Jamboree and the Hall of Presidents. And don’t forget a ride around on the Walt Disney World Railroad or the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. In EPCOT attractions like Living with the Land, American Adventure and Figment are classics but usually don’t hold a very long line. Any of the stage shows at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom are your best bet to ditch the crowds at those parks. 

The Magic Kingdom and EPCOT have specialty firework shows just for New Years. The Magic Kingdom actually presents their firework show, Fantasy in the Sky, on December 30 as well as New Years Eve. On each of these nights Holiday Wishes will go off followed by the New Year’s show, so don’t leave early! EPCOT presents Illuminations twice on New Years Eve. The first running includes the Peace on Earth segment and the second running will feature the New Year’s Eve version.

Plan to go to wherever you choose to watch the fireworks at least two hours in advance if not more. Get there and pick your spot and stay there! Dress warm and make sure you’ve gone to the bathroom and ate something before you pick your spot.

I can not stress enough to pack your patience. And just remember that not everything is going to go according to plan but it is essential to have a plan to go by! Have alternative choices and enjoy the little things and you should have a great time! After all you will be in the Happiest Place on Earth!

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How to Survive Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Disney World!

Christmas and the holiday season at Walt Disney World is an amazing sight to see! It is also the most crowded and busiest times of the year!

THE best advice that I can give is make sure to pack your patience! And just remember that everyone is going to have the same mindset as you; avoid the crowds, see all the shows and fireworks, eat at the best restaurants, meet all the characters and ride all the rides!

Let’s just get real, you are not going to be able to avoid the crowds all together! So if you are really not a “wind through the crowds” type of person I would strongly suggest you not go during the Holiday season. Although, there are a few things that you can do to make your vacation a little less of a headache.

  • Get to the parks super early! Meaning get to the park an hour to 30 min before park open. That means whether or not the park is offering Extra Magic Hours that morning!

  • Reserve FastPass+ and Dinner Reservations ASAP! Once you book your trip calculate what day is your 180 days out mark and 60 days out mark. Make sure to be up at 7:00 am eastern time to select your restaurants and FastPass+!

  • Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! This separate ticketed event let’s those that have purchased tickets to this party into the Magic Kingdom at 4:00 pm on party nights. Only those that have purchased tickets are allowed into the park from 7:00 pm to 12:00 am on party nights. Which means only a select few will be in the Magic Kingdom to enjoy the special shows, character meet and greats and shorter lines for the rides. For more information on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, click here!

If you are going to the parks during the holidays and your main interest is seeing all of the shows and fireworks that are unique to this time of year, I would suggest not worrying too much about the rides. Make your FastPass+ selections for the rides that you absolutely HAVE to do. Pick a spot early on the parade route to get a good view of the floats and characters. There is one castle stage show during the day that is pretty cute and is a great way to see all of the characters in their Christmas best. And let’s not forget the nighttime shows and fireworks that everyone knows and loves! The best way to get a good view for the parades and firework shows would be to pick a spot that gives you a great view for both.

To make sure that you get your top pick for restaurants make sure to get your reservations in order on the 180th day out from your arrival date! Have your list ready and be sure to make reservations for the character dinning FIRST as they are the first to get all booked up!

Again if your main reason for going to Disney is seeing as many characters as you can, don’t spend too much time worrying about getting on rides. Like I mentioned before make your FastPass+ selections for the rides that you HAVE to do and then don’t worry too much about riding anything else unless the wait is low. In order to see characters you will most likely have to wait through at least one or two character meeting sessions before you get your turn to meet your character.

If you are planning to be at the Magic Kingdom on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, plan to stay there all day. It’s more often than not that the Magic Kingdom will close due to capacity on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Disney goes all out for the fireworks on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and it most definitely a must see if you are going to be in Disney World on these days. What many people don’t know is that you don’t have to be inside the Magic Kingdom to see the fireworks. If the Magic Kingdom is closed due to capacity don’t worry just hang around at the Transportation Center (TCC), you can get a great view from there and they play the music that goes along with the fireworks. You can also view the fireworks from the surrounding resorts on the Seven Seas Lagoon; the Contemporary, Polynesian Village and the Grand Floridian. Please note that sometimes the hotel security may not let you go into certain places on the hotel’s property as some of it is designated for Disney Vacation Club Members only. Also, please know that you can view the fireworks on any night from these locations as well not just on busy nights.

If you are not wanting to go to the Magic Kingdom on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the next best park to go to is EPCOT! EPCOT is so spread out and has many Christmas decorations and activities to enjoy. Although, the lines will be VERY long you will still be able to enjoy the seasonal offerings from all of the featured countries.

A very simple way to get away from all of the crowds but still enjoy Christmas in Disney World is to just stay at  the resort that you are staying at. Chances are they are all decked out for the holidays and have Christmas activities planned for their resort guests. You can also resort hop. Just as the theme parks go all out for Christmas decorations, you can only imagine what the resorts do. The deluxe resorts have the most decorations, but since they are near the Magic Kingdom the traffic getting there could be a pain. My best advice for resort hoping would be to take a bus to EPCOT and ride the monorail to the TCC and then take the resort monorail around the loop and take your time to take in all of the decorations. Just remember everyone else is trying to get somewhere as fast as they can too. Just don’t be in a hurry and bring your patience!

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Spending Thanksgiving at Disney World!

If you are planning on taking your family to Disney World during the Thanksgiving holidays, plan on experiencing longer wait times than normal! The week of Thanksgiving kids are pretty much out of school a few days if not the whole week. Thanksgiving and Christmas are most likely the time for families to take vacations during those holidays.

As far as decorations go, don’t expect to see cornucopias and pilgrims all over the parks. Nope, Disney will already be decorated for Christmas! In fact you can expect to see Christmas decorations in all of the parks and resorts as soon as November 1st! Yup that’s right a whole month and half away from Christmas Day!

The week of Thanksgiving is going to be pretty crowded! Not as crowded as the week of Christmas and New Years, but there are very good chances that the parks can close due to capacity during this week. My best advice that I can give as to which park to visit is pick one and stay there! DO NOT PLAN ON PARK HOPPING! If you are staying on property however, I would suggest taking advantage of Extra Magical Hours if they are available and then going to your park of choice for the day. I the reason I say don’t park hop is because you could have plans to do one park in the morning and then maybe want to eat dinner at the Magic Kingdom, well the Magic Kingdom could close to capacity and then you are out your dinner reservation.

Another tip about getting the most out of your park experience is to ARRIVE EARLY!  I know that I have said this many times but it is true! The earlier you arrive the faster you get in the park with fewer crowds and less wait times. Now if you are there for the experience of being there and not really concerned about riding the rides besides your FASTPASS+ choices, then take your time!

Make sure to always have a plan. Have everyone in your party say what it is that they absolutely HAVE to do that day at the parks. If it’s riding the rides, get there early. If you are wanting good spots for the shows and parades, make sure to stake out a spot at least 45-30 minutes before showtime. If meeting the characters is your top priority, make sure to check out the Times Guide BEFORE arriving to the parks!

If you are going for the food, make you reservations during the non-usual meal times. Like say you want to eat dinner at a pretty popular place, schedule your reservation for as early or as late as possible and not around the normal dinner time. There are so many places to indulge yourself in Thanksgiving style feasts! 

Remember to bring with you a lot of patience. Everyone is most likely trying to get to and do the same things that you and your family are trying to do. Be polite and patience with others even if they aren’t towards you. Remember that it is a time to be Thankful for what you have.

Epcot’s Dining Locations that Offer Thanksgiving Meals:

  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

  • Biergarten Restaurant

  • Coral Reef Restaurant

  • Le Cellier Steakhouse

  • Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room

  • Sunshine Seasons (Quick Service)

Magic Kingdom’s Dining Locations the Offer Thanksgiving Meals:

  • Be Our Guest

  • Tony’s Town Square Restaurant

Hollywood Studios’ Dining Locations that Offer Thanksgiving Meals:

  • 50’s Prime Time Cafe

  • Hollywood and Vine

  • The Hollywood Brown Derby

Animal Kingdom’s Dining Locations that Offer Thanksgiving Meals:

  • Tusker House Restaurant

Disney World Resort Hotel’s Dining Locations that Offer Thanksgiving Meals:

  • Wilderness Lodge – Artist Point and Whispering Canyon Cafe

  • Port Orleans Riverside – Boatwright’s Dining Hall

  • Contemporary Resort – California Grill and The Wave

  • Beach Club Resort – Cape May Cafe

  • Yacht Club Resort – Captain’s Grille and Yachtsman Steakhouse

  • Grand Floridian – Citricos, Grand Floridian Cage, Narcoossee’s and Victoria & Albert’s

  • All-Star Sports Resort – End Zone Court

  • BoardWalk – Flying Fish Cafe and Trattoria Al Forno

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jiko the Cooking Place

  • Polynesian Village Resort – Kona Cafe

  • Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground – Mickey’s Backyard Thanksgiving Feast and Trail’s End Restaurant

  • Old Key West Resort – Olivia’s Cafe

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge Kindani Village Resort – Sanaa

  • Caribbean Beach Resort – Shutters at Old Port Royale

  • Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa – The Turf Club Bar and Grill

Disney Springs’ Dining Locations that Offer Thanksgiving Meals:

  • Planet Hollywood

  • Raglan Road

  • Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe

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