Using Beeper MD to return to Canada from Walt Disney World

Trying a new option for Covid testing to return to Canada from Disney.

on the plane ready to goOnce I had made my first trip back to Walt Disney World in 2021 after 18 long Covid months, I knew I couldn’t un-ring the bell.  Being back in the magic was everything this Canadian Disney fan had been missing and I knew I would never take it for granted again.  Crossing the border had never been more confusing and anxiety inducing with all of the tests and protocols, but now I knew how it worked.  If you haven’t read my experience GETTING to Florida – you can find it here.

My first experience returning to Canada from Orlando I had my PCR test at the airport.  I didn’t have a lot of time after getting off of my cruise, so I needed a place that guaranteed results within a certain time.  If you want to read about that experience, I have detailed it here.

With my next trip, I was only doing a resort stay so I had time to try out a new service – Beeper MD.

Why I chose Beeper MD for my Covid test

First things first – Beeper MD is free if you schedule 2 or more tests.  Given there were 4 of us that would need testing so we qualified for FREE.  That’s a big difference from the $175 USD per person I paid at the airport on the prior trip.

I scheduled our tests a few weeks in advance online and we each had to upload the following to the Beeper MD site:

  • Our passports (or government ID)
  • Patient intake form
  • Insurance info (if available)

You do not need insurance to use Beeper MD.  According to the site:

The US government wants everyone to get tested and therefore they are covering the cost of testing for anyone that doesn’t have health insurance.

On the patient intake form, it’s very general information including your name, address and date of birth.  For address we entered the resort address where we were staying.

We originally scheduled 5-7 PM as our window online when we booked.  After hearing that my friends had experienced delays with their appointments, I called in to update our window to 3-5 to give plenty of time that evening.

Beeper MD appointment times

The day before the test was scheduled I called to confirm our appointment.  They assured me that we were booked for between 3 to 5 PM the following day, but once the scheduling was done we would be given a time.

At 5:43 PM that day I got an email confirming the appointment for 3:50 PM – a more precise time.

Beeper MD confirmation

The following day we were at the Beach Club waiting when we got a call saying she was running late due to traffic.  She called twice to keep us posted and she arrived at 4:30.  We met her in the driveway and she performed the tests there.

Disney Beach Club Covid Test

We had to provide our passports for verification and she did the swabs.  The test was painless and quick.

After the swabs were done, we needed to speak to the nurse practitioner via video call to confirm who we were and to answer any questions we had.  We were done.  For all 4 of us I think it took 30 minutes and it was free (we did give her a tip).

Then – we wait… that was the part that we weren’t sure about, how long the results would take.  We needed to have our test within 72 hours of our flight, but Beeper MD said it could take 36-48 hours for the results of the PCR test.  (NOTE – One of my readers pointed out that if you have a connection in the US before returning to Canada, you must incorporate that in to your timing for the testing!)

For PCR tests, you’ll receive the results directly in your email’s inbox within 36-48 hours.

We had a backup test booked for 2 days later at the airport just in case.

Beeper MD test results

The tests were done by 5PM on the Wednesday and at 4:30pm the following day we all had our results in our email.

Beeper MD Covid Test Result

So the question is:

Would I use Beeper MD again?

Yes, I would.  You can’t beat FREE and the fact that they come to your resort.  But I would always have a back up plan just in case.  My experience was terrific, but I know others who didn’t have such a great time.  Given the service is free though, can you really expect the same service as if you were paying $175?  I don’t think so.

I will reiterate that this was my experience.  You should do your own research to determine what your comfort level is and risk tolerance.

Have you used Beeper MD?  What was your experience like?

How I travelled to Walt Disney World from Canada during Covid

Canadian Travel to Walt Disney World

After 562 long days, I finally made the trip back ‘home’ to my happy place.

Here’s how I travelled from Toronto to Orlando during Covid.

Before I start telling you about my journey, I need to be very clear that this was MY EXPERIENCE.  I will provide the links I used to investigate my options, but it’s important that you also do your own research.  If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that things can change quickly!  I only hope that my experience can help provide you some guidance and reassurance that it is possible for Canadians to get back to Walt Disney World.

My trip dates were August 8, 2021 to September 4, 2021 and I was flying with WestJet from Toronto, Ontario to Orlando, Florida.  The land border was still closed at this time and driving was not an option.

Before leaving Canada you must have negative covid test to enter the United States.  The airlines are responsible for validating that passengers have met the criteria before letting you board the plane.  The most up to date requirements can be found on the CDC website. 

For my trip the requirements were:

Get a viral test no more than 3 days before you travel by air into the United States (US) and show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight, or be prepared to show documentation of recovery (proof of a recent positive viral test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).

Notice that it says 3 days?  I stressed about the hours vs days and under the frequently asked questions they detail why – 

The 3-day period is the 3 days before the flight’s departure. The Order uses a 3-day timeframe instead of 72 hours to provide more flexibility to the traveler. By using a 3-day window, test validity does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test was administered.

They even have examples of the days of the week to help you calculate your “3 days” if you need.

Here’s where I got paranoid – What types of tests are acceptable?

Here’s what it says on the CDC website: 

Passengers must be tested with a viral test that could be either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). Examples of available NAATs for SARS-CoV-2 include but are not restricted to reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP), transcription-mediated amplification (TMA), nicking enzyme amplification reaction (NEAR), and helicase-dependent amplification (HDA).

Since I failed science in school – this was major anxiety for me.  I read it so many times it started to look like a different language to me.  What if I got the wrong test?

I decided (after reading it 32 more times) that the Shoppers Drug Mart $40 test was what I needed.  What made me nervous was that they call it “Rapid Antigen Screening” and not TEST –  the CDC says “antigen test”.  

Shoppers Drug Mart Covid TestI got tested on the Thursday night after work before my Sunday flight.  The requirements for the test results:

A test result must be in the form of written documentation (paper or electronic copy). The documentation must include:

      1. Type of test (indicating it is a NAAT or antigen test)
      2. Entity issuing the result (e.g. laboratory, healthcare entity, or telehealth service)
      3. Specimen collection date. A negative test result must show the specimen was collected within the 3 days before the flight. A positive test result for documentation of recovery from COVID-19 must show the specimen was collected within the 3 months before the flight.
      4. Information that identifies the person (full name plus at least one other identifier such as date of birth or passport number)
      5. Test Result

I got my test result and validated it all before leaving the drug store.

I was still stressing over the difference between “test” and “screening”, so I tweeted WestJet to confirm.  At first they directed me to the CDC site – but I had to clarify.

WestJet Covid Test Confirmation

The other thing that is a little hidden on the CDC site that you should have:

“Air passengers will also be required to confirm that the information they present is true in the form of an attestation.”

You can find the attestation here on the CDC site.  It says that this would be submitted to the airline.  

On the Sunday of my flight, my arrival at the airport was the same as always, with the added benefit of some MASSIVE anxiety.  I was nervous about it all, what if I got the wrong covid test?  What if they said I couldn’t go?  What if I caught covid in the airport?  Honestly, 18 months in my house had brought back every ounce of anxiety I ever had.

The energy at the airport was a bit chaotic.  At the check-in machines, the WestJet representative that was helping me get my luggage tags said “Ok, you have everything?  Your passport, boarding pass and negative covid test?”  I replied that I did and I was on my way.

It is possible for Canadians to get back to Walt Disney World.

I dropped off my luggage and headed toward security.  The Nexus line wasn’t open that morning.  With Nexus you don’t have to take your laptop out of the bag or your shoes off – so I forgot my laptops.  After a full screening of my bag and the contents I was on my way to customs.

At customs I had a lovely lady who asked the purpose of my trip.  I told her mostly pleasure and a little business doing social media.  She asked for my passport and I was fumbling everything.  Our conversation:

Customs:  Relax, take your time, there’s no rush

Me:  I’m so anxious you would think I’ve never travelled before in my life

Customs:  Don’t worry – EVERYONE feels that way right now

That conversation was so reassuring to me for some reason.  It was nice to know everyone was feeling the same way.  

After customs I headed to the gate.  There were many families with children and solo travellers – quite a mixture of people.

When boarding began the gate agent checked my passport and asked me to lower my mask to see my face.  Her only question was “Oh, your hair is longer – covid hair?” We had a giggle about covid pounds and she told me to have a nice flight.

As I was getting on the plane they handed me a disinfecting towel to wipe down my seat.  

Masks were on always at the airport and on the plane unless you were eating or drinking.  I didn’t notice anyone without their mask for my entire journey from the curb to the plane.

The other thing that didn’t happen?  Not one person asked to see my negative covid test!  Not customs, not the gate agent – no one!!  Now that is not the norm.  My friends were all asked at the gate and a few were asked a couple of times, but I wasn’t asked at all.  It’s funny how much I stressed and never had to show it.  My friends all got the same test as I did so I am confident it was the right one.  

Once on the plane, the lady behind me said to her daughter who was afraid of flying “It’s mind over matter” – that’s what my Mum used to always tell me and it gave me such an odd sense of comfort.

When the plane took off I got teary.  I was FINALLY headed home to Walt Disney World!  After 562 long days in my house, this Canadian Disney fanatic was finally on her way.  I would never take it for granted again that I could hop on a plane and get to Disney whenever I wanted.  

Arrival in Orlando was so familiar.  When I saw that carpet I got a little teary again.  That carpet at the Orlando Airport is iconic!

Orlando Airport Carpet

Hopefully my journey gave you some insight (and dare I say hope) for travelling from Toronto to Orlando during Covid.   

For your research – I found the best resources were:

  1. Your airline – make sure you understand the requirements specific to the airline including testing.  When they say arrive early – do it.  The lines are LONG with all of the extra questions they are asking.  
  2. The CDC – use this site for all requirements to the United States.
  3. The Government of Canada website to ensure you have met the requirements for travelling.  You should always read all of the advisories before you travel

Traveling at this time is not for everyone, I’m not going to encourage or discourage anyone.  This should be a personal decision based on your own comfort level.  

If you do decide to travel, make sure you do your research, be well prepared, have realistic expectations and have FUN!

On podcast episode 110 I shared my adventures as well – if you’d like to have a listen, you can find it here.

I have the full report on my return to Canada from Orlando HERE.

What questions do you have about travelling to Orlando from Canada?

Returning to Canada after my Disney vacation during Covid

Canadian Travel from Walt Disney World

Travelling from Walt Disney World back to Canada in 2021.

I had the most epic adventure returning to Walt Disney World after 562 long days, but at some point I knew it would end.  I had to prepare for my return to Canada.

If you haven’t read my experience GETTING to Florida – you can find it here.

I will reiterate like I did in that post, I need to be very clear that this was MY EXPERIENCE.  I will provide the links I used to investigate my options, but it’s important that you do your own research.  Things can change and you need to have the most up to date information.

My return flight with WestJet was on September 4, 2021 to fly from Orlando to Toronto.

First I had to understand what the airline and the government required for me to get home.

Pixie Dust Fan and Figment at Epcot

The travel.gc.ca website listed the requirements.

If you are fully vaccinated you are exempt from quarantine and the 8 day testing requirement providing you have no signs or symptoms of Covid-19 and have completed your last dose of the vaccine 14 days prior.

If you are not vaccinated there are mandatory quarantines and testing required.  Validate your eligibility here.  If you are travelling with children who are not vaccinated, there are testing and quarantine requirements as well.

The testing requirement to enter Canada is:

All travellers 5 years of age or older, regardless of citizenship, must provide proof of a COVID-19 test result to enter Canada.

All travellers must provide one of the accepted types of tests, not an antigen test, including those who are fully vaccinated.

The accepted list of tests is long – and confusing for those of us that failed science!

These tests are considered acceptable molecular tests:

      • PCR – Polymerase chain reaction
      • RT-PCR – reverse transcription real time PCR
      • Quantitative PCR (qPCR)
      • Nucleic acid test (NAT) or Nucleic acid amplification test (NAATs)
      • Reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP)
      • Isothermal amplification
      • Droplet digital PCR or digital droplet PCR (ddPCR)
      • Transcription-mediated amplification (TMA)
      • RNA (Ribonucleic acid)
      • Ct (cycle threshold)
      • CRISPR
      • Sequencing
      • Next generational sequencing (NGS) or whole genome sequencing (WGS)
      • Oxford Nanopore sequencing (LamPORE)
      • Detection of the N gene
      • Detection of Orf1a/b
      • Detection of the S gene
      • Detection of the E gene
      • Detection of the RdRp gene

These tests use methods such as a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, nose swab, or saliva sample. At this time, proof of having a vaccine will not replace a negative test result.

I did a TON of Googling and I was more confused than ever!  What I recognized in all of that was PCR – that’s what all of the sites I was researching were offering.  I decided I needed to be methodical because I was getting overwhelmed.  I ruled out some of the obvious “scam” sites and narrowed my search to 6 places I needed to investigate further:

    1. Orlando Airport Testing
    2. Fast Test Now
    3. Covid Testing LLC
    4. Alliance Health
    5. Beeper MD
    6. Walgreens

I read every post I could find on these 6 places on social media about experiences.  I read the reviews of the businesses and even tried to call a few (it’s amazing how many businesses don’t answer the phone!).

Centra Care Sign

I knew that I needed a place that was reliable, efficient and would give me my results THAT DAY.  I was going to be getting off of my Disney Cruise on Friday morning and flying home Saturday – there was no time to waste.  That fact ruled out Walgreens and a couple of other sites.

I decided that Fast Test Now or the Advent Health/Centra Care at Orlando Airport were my 2 top choices.

I had some friends who used the airport testing so I figured that was as good as any.

While the website does say they accept walk ups –

Yes, appointments can be made online in advance. Due to demand, we accept walk-ins based on availability, and cannot guarantee a test without an appointment

MCO Covid Testing Walk In

We made our appointments over a week in advance and secured our spot.  We had 10:50 appointments giving us enough time to get off the ship, rent the car and drive to the airport.  FYI – parking at Orlando airport is not fun, I would take a taxi next time so I didn’t need to worry, we arrived 5 minutes late.

The site is located in Terminal A Atrium before security, next to the Universal store on the 3rd level.  

MCO Covid Testing Appointment

When we arrived – it was a bit chaotic.  I can’t blame the people working there, they had 20 people asking questions and the anxiety level was high.  They didn’t have any PCR tests available for walk ups.  Passengers were upset – they were going to miss their flights and they had one person fielding all the questions AND getting us all in line.

Here’s the process and the timeline for my experience at Advent Health at the Orlando Airport:

10:55 We arrived and got in line.  There were about 15 people ahead of us.

Orlando Airport Covid Testing Wait Time

11:15 We were given a form to fill out in line and were done filling that out by 11:20 when she came back to collect it.

11:25 We were called in one at a time to pay for the test.  We were getting the Rapid RT-PCR test that was $175 USD.

11:30 They called about 12 of us who had paid into a holding area.

11:35 They gave each of us a seat number – we were sent in to the room to wait for the swab (I was in seat 1).  They confirmed again who was getting an Antigen test vs a PCR.  We were told Antigen was taking about 30 minutes for results while PCR was averaging about 45 minutes.

Covid Testing At Orlando Airport

11:40 My swab was done and I was sent back into the airport to wait for my results.  It’s very important to note they DO NOT EMAIL THEM.  You must wait in the terminal for the paper copy.

12:25 They came out with a stack of papers yelling our names to collect our results. YAY!  We are negative.

That was my experience at the airport, but I did have two friends who used Fast Test Now with no problems at all.  They took a taxi/uber/lyft to the office that was close to Universal Studios and were in and out in less than 30 minutes.  My friend Brenda was really impressed with her process.  The results were emailed to her so she didn’t have to wait for them at the site.  She paid for the RT-PCR Test Same Day Results by 11PM for $199 USD.  They took a few minutes for the swab and then went over to Hollywood Studios in time for their Rise of the Resistance boarding group 5.  

After our tests we left the airport relieved and went back for our last night at Walt Disney World where we completed the ArriveCan requirements.

Complete ArriveCAN

Before return to Canada you must complete your information on ArriveCAN.  There is an app as well as online form.

Some of the information they collect:

    • Arrival airport, flight number, date
    • Identification like Passport/Nexus/PR Card etc
    • Vaccine status, vaccine type and dates of each dose
    • Quarantine plan
    • Self assessment to ensure you have no symptoms

After you complete the process you get a confirmation on the app and they email you the same.  This is to be shown to the airline at check in and at customs when you arrive in Canada.

ArriveCAN app receipt

The next morning we drove back to the airport.  At the WestJet check in they checked my ArriveCan receipt and validated my PCR results.  Unfortunately there was a couple at the next agent who were being turned away as they didn’t get the PCR test.  They were told to try the testing site in the airport, but I didn’t have much faith they would get the PCR in a walk up scenario and I didn’t see them board the flight.

The rest of the process was the same as always until landing in Toronto.  We were kept on the plane while they explained customs was backed up and we needed to wait for some to clear.  After about 15 minutes they started letting us off of the plane 50 people at a time.

Toronto Customs Arrival

When I got to the customs area I understood why they did that, it was packed.   I couldn’t help but notice the irony of the situation.

I spent all my time in Florida telling people how serious we are in Canada about physical distancing, we have been locked down for so long.  When I arrived home, they immediatedly escort you in to a mandatory line with no ability to distance from any of the 600 other people who just got off of flights from multiple different countries.  I spent 4 weeks in the Florida “hotbed” and had the highest risk in the customs line in Canada.

Thankfully I had my Nexus and my line was shorter, but still in the same room.  The customs agent asked a lot of questions about my trip – including why I would travel alone to Disney.  Is that even a real question?  I told him it was for my mental health.  He checked all of my documents, test results and ArriveCan receipt and they told me I was randomly selected for another Covid test.

Random covid test

I got to the carousel and all of the luggage was out – that tells you how long that process took!  I got my luggage and followed the signs to the testing.

Upon arrival you need to register for a Switch Health account.  They direct you to a booth where you are swabbed – it’s just the outer nostril, nothing terrible.  The worst part of that experience was seeing the signs in the booth asking people not to yell at the staff.  How horrible we live in a world where you have to ask people to be nice to those who are doing their job.

The entire process probably added 20 minutes to my arrival and I was on my way.  The results were emailed to me in 24 hours and the test was negative.

Random Covid Test YYZ

I think my conclusion is that I would be happy to use either Advent Health at the Orlando Airport or Fast Test Now on my next trip.  My only concern with the airport is that I wouldn’t want to do it the DAY of my flight – I think it would be too stressful if there were lines.  I might try Fast Test Now on my trip in October for comparison.

If you want to hear more about my arrival and my time on the Disney Cruise – check out my podcast episodes here.

For full details on my departure from Canada to the United States, check out this blog post.

Would you travel to Walt Disney World from Canada now?

New Star Wars hotel at Walt Disney World

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser

Is this the experience you’ve been looking for?

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser

For those of us who grew up on Star Wars in the 70s and 80s, we are the perfect target audience for this new adventure.  We have such nostalgia and love for the Star Wars franchise.  We remember what it was like to dream of flying the falcon or how we would pretend we were in battle with the old wrapping paper rolls.  Whether you dreamed of being Luke, Leia, Han, Darth or Yoda, it didn’t matter –  we all wanted our own C3PO or R2-D2 to hang out with.  We remember how it felt to dream about these things, and now we are at that age where we have access to ‘adult’ money that we can use to tap in to those childhood dreams.  Disney knows this – and keeps creating better and better adventures for us.  From Rise of the Resistance to flying the Falcon in Hollywood Studios, now the stakes are even higher with the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

What is Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser?

It is ‘the most immersive Star Wars story ever created’ according to Disney.  This 2 night adventure begins with you and your party arriving at the Walt Disney World Resort terminal where you will board a pod and rendezvous with the Halcyon starcruiser.

The key to this experience is that it is YOUR OWN.  You are the hero, you choose your path and will have a chance to interact with characters, possibly plot some secret missions and eat some exotic cuisine!  There will even be an opportunity for your mission to continue in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios.  

According to Disney:

Will you follow the rule of the First Order or join the Resistance in a secret plot? Strike a bargain with a gang of smugglers or sit back, sip a cocktail and watch it all from a safe distance?

The choice is yours. You are the hero of your very own Star Wars adventure—the most immersive Star Wars experience ever created!

What is included?

Your Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser vacation package includes:

  • 2-night stay in a cabin or suite
  • Ongoing, immersive and interactive entertainment, where choices determine your experience
  • Food and beverages on the starcruiser (excluding alcoholic and specialty beverages) and a quick-service meal at some select quick service locations at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for your planetary excursion to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
  • Valet parking
  • Exclusive Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser databand (known on your home planet as a Magic Band)

What are the accomodations?

Depending on your party size you can choose between 3 different categories:

  1. Standard Cabin
  2. Galaxy Class Suite
  3. Grand Captain Suite

As expected, with each increase in tier there will be additional costs.  I suspect most of us will be in a Standard Cabin.

Standard Cabin Star Wars Hotel

Each Standard Cabin is fitted with furnishings and fixtures designed to ensure comfort while traveling throughout the galaxy—including a pullout table and a TV with entertainment from your home planet—and a window with a view out into space.

Specifications

  • Sleeps: 4 to 5 passengers
  • Room Configuration: queen bed, 2 berths (bunk beds) for one adult each and a wall pull-down bed for one adult (if sleeping 5)

Cabin Amenities

  • Mini refrigerator
  • Hair dryer
  • In-cabin safe
  • Phone with voicemail messaging
  • Interactive TV
  • H2O Plus® spa, bath and shower products

 

Galaxy Class Suite Star Wars Hotel

One-bedroom Galaxy Class Suites feature a living space complete with an integrated seating area and have all the comforts of Standard Cabins plus a double vanity bathroom, bar area, 2 windows with views out into space and a few extra Star Wars surprises.

Specifications

  • Sleeps: 4 passengers
  • Room Configuration: queen bed and 2 wall pull-down beds for one adult each

Cabin Amenities

  • Mini refrigerator
  • Hair dryer
  • In-cabin safe
  • Phone with voicemail messaging
  • Interactive TV
  • H2O Plus® spa, bath and shower products

Grand Captain Suite Star Wars Hotel

How much will all of this cost??

We are still getting details, but sample pricing that was released:

Star Wars Hotel Pricing

 

Will YOU be saving the galaxy?

So here’s the thing.  I think it’s expensive, I think it’s a bit crazy – and I totally would pay for it.  This is one of those times that my Mum would refer to as “having more money than brains” – and while it isn’t disposable income, and I might be maxing out a credit card or two, but I think it could be worth it.

Remember what it was like to pretend you were in one of your childhood dreams?  When I put the falcon in to lightspeed, I will admit I cried.  That simple act of sitting in the pilot seat, where Han sat and pulling that lever?  Yep – I got choked up.

What would it be like to LIVE my Star Wars dream for 2 whole days?  In a full immersive adventure?

I’ll let you know 😉

Tell me – is this for you?  Will you be trying to get reservations?  Watch the video below before you answer.

5 Rookie Mistakes When Planning A Walt Disney World Vacation

Disney Rookie MistakesBeing an avid Disney Fanatic who has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1974, people are always asking me for help booking their vacations.  I hear horror stories all the time about people who booked their Disney vacation by themselves or with a travel agent who had very little personal experience.  There is so much to see and do at Walt Disney World that you can’t just show up and wing it.

Here are 5 rookie mistakes people make when planning a Walt Disney World vacation

1.  Buying only a 2 or 3 day park ticket

There are 4 theme parks to visit!  Walt Disney world is roughly the size of San Francisco, there is no way you’re going to see it all in a couple of days.  Trying to cram everything in to 2 or even 3 days makes for very long days and stressful times, especially with little ones.  If you experience an attraction that you love, don’t you want the opportunity to do it again and not be stressing about the next thing on the itinerary?  There is nothing worse than being rushed and anxious all the time while you’re trying to stay on schedule.   You will miss the magic of BEING there!

2.  Not buying a hopper pass

Now many will disagree with me, but I really believe that a hopper pass is worth it.   For example – Fantasmic is only happening on Monday and Wednesday the week you’re there – guess what days will be busiest at Hollywood Studios?  With the hopper pass you can enjoy another park during the day and then head over in time for the night time entertainment elsewhere.  The flexibility of the hopper pass is extremely valuable in my opinion, and you won’t realize how much until you’re there.  My only caveat to this would be if you have really little ones and you don’t envision having enough energy to hop around.

3.  Not staying on property

There are some fabulous Deluxe resorts on property, but if those aren’t in your budget there is still a place for you!  The Value and Moderate resort categories have some great places to stay to fit any budget.   These resorts are well themed, convenient and affordable and include the benefits of staying in a Disney resort including transportation to/from the parks.  The transportation options include buses, monorails, boats and the Skyliner!

4.  Not knowing what to plan in advance

If you’ve never been to Walt Disney World – how would you know what you want to see and do?  Walt Disney World planning is always evolving.  Disney Genie and Lightening Lanes, Park Reservations and Dining – how do you know what reservations you need before you go?  It is quite possible if you book your trip far in advance that things will CHANGE between the time you booked and the time you travel, Disney is ALWAYS mixing things up!  It’s imporant to know these things and having a Disney travel agent will help you with all of that.  There are a lot of myths about using a Disney travel agent, but I can guarantee you that the RIGHT agent can help you plan the BEST vacation.

5.  They over plan!

I know, that kind of contradicts what I said in point 4, but there’s something to be said for just enjoying the moment.  If you want to eat with the Princesses – then yes, you need a reservation.  However, planning all of your attractions in a strict itinerary takes all of the fun out of being there.  I’ve seen many families racing around the park to make sure they are ‘on schedule’ and it really takes away from all of the wonderful things they could experience if they took a moment to slow down!

A Walt Disney World vacation can be an amazing experience making memories you will treasure forever.  Knowing how to get the most out of your vacation will give you time to enjoy the magic!

Have you made any of these mistakes?  We’d love to hear what tips you have, comment below!

Explore some of the resorts we have reviewed here and listen to our Podcast for more info!

Been there, done that – and you’re going to Disney again?

Sleepy Hollow with CastleSomeone asked me today “how can you be excited about another trip to Walt Disney World, isn’t it the same as it was the last time you were there?”.   They were implying that I had already ‘been there, done that’.  Yes – I was there 2 months ago, and multiple times last year – but no, it never gets boring.

The next question I hear is “haven’t you seen it all?” – and the simple answer is NO!  Walt Disney World is always changing so there is something ‘new’ to see or do every time I visit.

Here’s why I’m excited about my next trip!

Different Resorts

I have stayed in all of the Walt Disney World Resort properties.  It took me a while to get to stay at the Yacht Club (I don’t know why I kept missing that one!) but I finally did it!  With each trip there is always something new to check out at a resort, so I like to mix it up!  There are so many different room types too – sometimes it’s nice to splurge on a more “resort based” vacation where you hang out and enjoy the resort more than the parks.  Splurging on a Cabin at Copper Creek would give you the whole “home away from home” feel to relax and enjoy, and you’re not far from the pool!

Night Time Shows

I’m always so excited as I love the night-time entertainment!  The big concern is how to decide between Rivers of Light, Epcot Forever, Star Wars fireworks & Fantasmic at Hollywood Stuidos and Happily Ever After and the Magic Kingdom?   I think I need more nights…

Pixie Dust Fan's Tee Public Store

Pixie Dust Fan’s Tee Public Store

New Dining

There is ALWAYS something new to eat – and this trip is no exception!  I could seriously eat the new desserts all week for every meal, but I do want to try at least 1 new restaurant on each trip.  It’s hard to decide sometimes because there are some great options.  Each trip brings a new dilemma of deciding between our tried and true favourites, or something new.

Shopping & New Merchandise

Yes – shopping is a bit part of my trip.  Wandering through the stores and seeing the new, unique and custom merchandise?  It’s so much fun.  I love to visit Disney Springs for just a regular “shopping day” but then I also have to hit all the stores in the parks.  Resort shops?  You don’t want to miss those because sometimes they have different things too!  You can find a lot of the merchandise online at ShopDisney.com but it’s not quite the same as when you can touch it.

Walt once said ‘Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.’  I’m so glad this vision is carried on at Walt Disney World, I continue to be amazed and inspired each time I step on the Disney property and revitalize my own imagination.

What keeps you going back?

 

Top 5 Myths About Using A Disney Travel Agent

Do not disturb I'm planning my Disney Vacation

Whether it’s your first Disney vacation or your hundredth, you should use a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations.  This topic is debated frequently in many Facebook Groups, but I often see some big misconceptions given for reasons against it.  I decided it was time to correct some of that misinformation.

Here are my top 5 myths about booking with a reputable Disney Travel Agent

1.  You will pay extra

A good Disney Travel Agent does not charge fees when you book a vacation package.  Your Disney vacation will cost the SAME as if you booked it directly with Disney yourself.  Instead of costing you money, they will tell you where you might be able to save some money or what ‘upgrades’ would be worth it.

2.  You lose control of your vacation

Nothing could be FURTHER from the truth.  You can control as much or as little as you like!  You can book all of your own Lightening Lanes, dining, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique reservations and special events if that’s what you want to do.  The beauty is that if you don’t want to book those things – you have an agent who will do it for you free of charge.  Yes – they will get up at 6am or 7am to do this for you, but if you are an early bird – you can do it all yourself if you prefer.

Donald Duck Dream Along With Mickey

Donald Duck Dream Along With Mickey

3.  You don’t need one

Honestly, I need one…. and I’ve been visiting for over 40 years!  I don’t need one to do my Genie Plus reservations or dining (my sister does all that stuff!), but doing the legwork for changes to a vacation is priceless.  If there is a promotion, event, or website glitch that requires a call to Disney – the agent calls for you.  You don’t have to sit on hold for hours and HOURS when the room promotion comes out, or when you have to change dates because of a hurricane coming or a pandemic closing the parks – an agent does that for you.

4.  All of the information is online anyway

Sure, and you still can do your own research when you’re using a travel agent, but they’ll help you decipher the truth from the ‘click bait’ online.  We all have friends who have advice or read something somewhere, but how do you know what’s really going on?  Use an agent to bounce around ideas with your specific goals and family in mind.  Good agents draw on the tribal knowledge within their team and their own frequent experience to provide specific information tailored to your needs.  Why would you not want that extra resource at your disposal if it doesn’t cost you anything?

5.  They’re all the same

No, they aren’t all the same.  There are so many variables when choosing an agency to work with, and you need to make sure that they know what they’re doing!  Find an agency with a team of people who have relevant and recent personal experience who love what they do – that’s where you find the right one!  When you’re looking to plan, reach out to my friends at Playcation Travel LTD for assistance.

Do you use a travel agent to book your Disney vacation?

 

Disney Facebook Groups – Some Aren’t So Magical After All

Disney Facebook GroupsI don’t know about you, but Facebook a part of my every day routine.  I love that I can sign in and see tidbits from people’s lives and connect with those that I don’t get to see often enough.  I have made some wonderful friends on Facebook from the Disney community, and it’s always fun to follow along on their vacations, getting ideas of things I might like to try the next time I visit.  I keep up to date on news and little gossip, but I always remember to take each piece of information with a grain of salt unless it comes from an official Disney source.

Disney groups on Facebook used to be a real source of entertainment for me.   I was always amazed by how perfect strangers can get so angry with each other over silly stuff, it was like the online version of the Real Housewives series.  I have to admit that I used to read these posts, but I rarely commented.  I would get out my popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show until an admin deleted the thread, but I just can’t do that anymore.

While there are a LOT of Dinsey groups on Facebook, there are a few that are managed by some real characters (pun intended!) that really bother me.   I’m not sure if it’s just my love of Disney that finds them offensive or the manner in which the Admins conduct themselves that disturbs me.  It’s expected that any really frequent visitor will have a few negative reviews or experiences in the parks.  We won’t like everything, but we can and should share those opinions in a manner that is useful and constructive to the community who are planning their vacation.

There are a couple of groups that drove me crazy that I had to remove myself from.  The first is one that is run by a local who sells merchandise with Disney copyright images, I often wonder why Disney hasn’t shut it down.   While the admin doesn’t work for Disney, he represents the ‘ultimate fan’ to some people online.  He has posted about restaurants that give him tummy issues (only he isn’t so delicate with his words).  He’s made videos ranting about guests suggesting that the majority of them don’t shower and has called them idiots and morons.   His representation of what is wrong with the parks is inflammatory and creates hostility in those that follow him.  He has many social media posts that are bullying, racist and downright unkind, not the kind of ‘Disney fan’ you would want to follow.

Pixie Dust Fan's Tee Public Store

Pixie Dust Fan’s Tee Public Store

The second group that makes me cringe is one that is actually sponsored by a BUSINESS that rents out Disney Vacation Club points.  I bring up the sponsorship because it’s fascinating to me that a business would want to be associated with this group.  The admins are mean – and take great pride in BEING mean to others.  They have entire threads in the group meant for shaming guests!  They encourage pictures of guests doing things that they deem ‘not right’ in the parks and then they each take turns shaming them.  For example – they will post a picture of someone sleeping in a resort lobby and call it ‘hobo napping’.  What they don’t know is if this person is ill, or if they have some kind of disorder, or if they are unbelievably tired because they were up all night with a sick child.  They don’t know the circumstances, but feel like making fun of them is the right thing to do.  I think it’s horrible and for that reason, I would NEVER support the business that sponsors them and will go out of my way to make sure others don’t either.  Can you imagine finding YOUR picture online because someone caught you nodding off at Disney?

There are people who are researching their first trip to Walt Disney World in these Facebook groups.  It’s sad because they’re reading these rants and reviews, and their expectations of their vacation are being tarnished by them.

I think it’s important for people to have a safe place to ask their questions and share their love of Disney!  You can’t be in an environment where you may get a public shaming for asking a question.  That’s the real reason I decided to create a Pixie Dust Fans group on Facebook.  It’s a place where everyone is nice – and welcoming!  We talk about the Disney stuff that makes us happy – after all, isn’t that what Disney is all about??  Stop by and see us, you’ll be glad you did!

What’s your biggest pet peeve about Facebook groups?

 

Walt Disney World Grocery Delivery

Groceries for DisneySo you’re heading to Walt Disney World and thinking about how much spending money you’ll need each day for incidentals.  For me – my biggest cost is my bottles of water.  Really, the ‘healthiest’ thing I do is drink plenty of water – I always have a bottle of it with me and when it’s hot out – I drink a ton!  First thing in the morning I drink a full bottle and at $3.50 each, it adds up quickly.   How can I save a little money when I’m at the resort and have a fridge full of it?  The answer is simple – have a case delivered to my resort.

There are a few options for Walt Disney World grocery delivery, here’s a few things you need to know.

1. Charges

There is a $6 USD charge for any deliveries at your Walt Disney World resort for which you need bell services to bring to your room.  If you want to go to bell services to pick up your packages, they are at no charge.   I personally prefer to have them bring them to my room – $6 is worth the convenience to me!  Don’t forget to tip them as well.

There are also delivery charges from the grocery provider, don’t forget to consider those when you are calculating the savings.

2.  Garden Grocer

Garden Grocer is a full grocery store near Walt Disney World that will deliver your groceries to your resort!  It’s a great way to stock up on some of the things you’ll need – without having to rent a car or jump in a cab or Uber to go get it.  You can order juice, bread, snacks, chips, beer/wine and cases of water!  I always place an order before my trip and it’s waiting for me at bell services when I arrive.  They even keep the refrigerated items cold for me!

My typical shopping order when travelling with children includes cases of water, juice, milk, bagels, bananas, cheese slices, chips, granola bars & beer.  Yes, beer – the grown ups enjoy an adult beverage after the kids have gone to bed!  You need to provide proof that you are over 21 for the purchase by submitting a copy of your photo ID.

The delivery fee is currently $14 USD, but there is no minimum order.  Based on my bottled water savings, I’m still coming out WAY ahead by having cases delivered that I can fill our fridge with.  If there’s an item you need that isn’t on the website – no problem, just fill in the special request form and they will let you know what they can get for you.  It’s that simple.  If you order in advance, they also have additional savings based on how far ahead you order it!  

I have ordered ahead from Garden Grocer more times than I can count and I have always been pleased.  My orders always arrive on time and complete – I have never had an issue where I didn’t get an item or the wrong thing arrived.  They always deliver exactly what I ordered.

3.  Amazon

If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can use the Amazon Prime Delivery service!  Amazon Prime NOW can be ordered on short notice – with a 2 hour delivery window, it’s quick!

You can also order with Amazon itself (without the NOW) if you’re not a prime member and that delivery time is generally 2 days.

I don’t normally recommend anyplace other than Garden Grocer or Amazon.  Both are very reputable companies obviously!  Garden Grocer works with all the Disney resorts and is a little more personalized.  You can speak to someone who is local if you want to change/update your order.  That’s why they will always be my first choice.

Have you ordered groceries for your Disney vacation?  

 

Magical Honeymoon Memories

Disney Honeymoon Memories Kate

Wedding season is upon us, which means that honeymoon season is upon us as well.

According to tripsavvy.com, couples spend an average of $4,466 (USD) on their honeymoon, with eight days being the average length of trip.

And while many people think of far-off destinations when they picture the perfect honeymoon, the majority of North American couples have stayed in North America for their honeymoons over the last five years. In fact, Florida is the second most popular US honeymoon destination in the United States (after Hawaii). 

Disney without the kids?

Even though Walt Disney World is known for creating magical moments with families and children, it can be the most magical place on earth for couples, too. 

Gorgeously themed resorts, world class shopping, and signature dining experiences. What’s not to love?

We caught up with one Pixie Dust Fan, Kate Seftel, who honeymooned at Walt Disney World in 2007. Kate, an elementary school teacher, and her husband Chris, a personal trainer and wellness coordinator, reside an hour west of Toronto.

PMV Natalie:  Why did you choose Walt Disney World for your honeymoon?

Kate: Chris and I decided on Walt Disney World because we are both active people who enjoy a “Go Go Go” vacation so that we can see and do everything! We also love rides!

PMV Natalie:  Give us the details! What resort did you stay at?

Kate: For our honeymoon, we decided to do a six day/7 night vacation and we stayed at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. We did all four parks over the six days, and doubled up on Epcot and Magic Kingdom.

We also spent time at Downtown Disney and the West Side (now Disney Springs). We even spent a morning at Typhoon Lagoon.

Disney Honeymoon Memories

PMV Natalie:  What are some of the “magical” moments you remember?

Kate: One of the things that made our honeymoon super special was that we wore “Just Married” buttons (provided by Walt Disney World Resorts) wherever we went. Every cast member that saw us wished us “Congratulations” and some chatted with us about our special day while we waited in line. It made every day extra special! Some restaurants wrote “Congratulations” on our dessert plates, too!

PMV Natalie:  Was going to Walt Disney World for your honeymoon something you had to talk Chris into, or was Chris equally on board?

Kate: This was definitely an easy choice for both of us. We had both been to Walt Disney World as kids in the ‘90s and we both really wanted to go back!. 

PMV Natalie:  Would you recommend a Walt Disney World vacation for couples? Not just for a honeymoon, but for any couple looking to get away?

Kate: For people that know us, we are a Walt Disney-obsessed couple. Our first trip was our honeymoon in 2007 and we returned in 2008, 2010 and 2012. We stayed off site once, and then at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter twice.

Disney is a place that is magical for so many reasons and you can make the trip whatever you want to be! If you want some days off by the pool, you can do that. If you want first class shopping, Disney Springs provides that. You don’t need to rent a car….or you can, and go to surrounding attractions like Universal Studios.

It really is a flexible as you want it to be.

Disney Memories After The Honeymoon

PMV Natalie:  Have you been back since 2012?

Kate: As I said before, we traveled to Walt Disney World four times as a couple. We had our fifth trip together in July 2016, but not just as a couple – that time we brought our 3.5-year-old son for his first trip. We had an amazing time as a family, staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and seeing it all again through his eyes!

We have taken our son a few times now, and have another family trip coming up this summer!

To contact Natalie you can email her at Natalie@puremagicvacations.ca

 

Natalie Thomas

Natalie Thomas

Natalie’s favourite park at Walt Disney World is Magic Kingdom. She finds nothing more magical than walking up Main Street USA and taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Natalie has a deep appreciation for how organized and efficient the Disney experience is each time she is there, and how nice and accommodating Cast Members can be!
A “grown ups only” Disney trip with her husband is currently just a dream, as her trips currently revolve around her two young daughters. Natalie’s oldest daughter is now transitioning from princesses to thrill rides – so every trip to Walt Disney World is a brand new experience.
Let Natalie help tailor your Disney experience to YOUR family’s wants and needs!  Email her today at Natalie@puremagicvacations.ca.

Travelling With A Family With More Than 4 People

Comfort Suites Bridgeport - Clarksburg

Comfort Suites Bridgeport – Clarksburg. Photo c/o the Comfort Inn

As someone who spends her days planning vacations for people, I have found that many places are designed for families up to 4 people. Hotels are generally 2 beds, Cruise state rooms fit up to 4 people, you get the idea! Given that my family is 5 (my husband, our 3 boys and myself), I thought I would take some time to consider how a family of 5 or 6 or possibly more could travel together in the most efficient way.

Back when we would drive south with my parents, I can remember 2 out of the 4 of us were delegated to a sleeping bag on an air mattress or a line of pillows in the 2 bed hotel rooms.  Hey, we were kids on an adventure, we didn’t care!  Now a days I have to research our destinations and the plans to get to our destination more thoroughly to see how we can be accommodated.  While I have lots of different trips to share, I thought I would focus on a recent trip that we did. We chose to drive from the Niagara Region in Ontario Canada to Orlando.  We would be staying over at 2 hotels on the way, a night at a Disney Resort and then on to a cruise with Royal Caribbean.

We chose to get a head start in our driving and left on a Friday night and made 2 overnight stops so that when we arrived at our Disney Resort, we could spend some time there. The first evening we spent at the Comfort Suites Bridgeport – Clarksburg.  It’s a place we had stayed before when driving to South Carolina, and thought it was a perfect place to check out again. What we like as a family is that it is quick off the highway, has an indoor pool (hard to find once you cross a certain point) and decent hot breakfast. The room we booked offered 2 Queen beds and a pull-out couch bed. Guess which bed the boys fought for!  This room allowed us all to have our own space and beds to lay our heads on. This hotel was clean and located in a quiet area.  We will absolutely stay here again if ever our travels lead us to that area.

SpringHIll Suites Jacksonville Airport

SpringHIll Suites Jacksonville Airport

Our second night stay was at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Jacksonville Airport. Spring Hill Suites falls under the Marriot brand, and I’m quickly noticing how well this brand could work for a larger family’s needs. This room also had 2 Queen beds, and a couch/bed, that also offered a trundle under it. 6 people could sleep in that room fairly comfortably. The breakfast was great, lots of fresh fruit, and the staff there even packed us up a little to go bag of water, apples and a few other snacks! What a nice touch!

Disney's Contemporary Resort Garden Wing

Contemporary Resort Garden Wing Room

The next day we had a quick 3-hour drive to the Walt Disney World Resort.  This time around we chose to splurge at a deluxe property, and Disney’s ContemporaryResort was the way to go!  We wanted to be close to Magic Kingdom that evening as we were attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. We reserved a Garden Wing – Standard View room that was in a separate wing behind the main building.  Let me tell you…BEAUTIFUL views!  We watched the boats run behind us yet it was a quick easy walk to the pool.  The room itself was very spacious and we were thankful to be not tripping over each other!  Like most of the deluxe resorts, it offered luxurious, soft Queen-sized beds (so nice to fall into after a busy night), and also had a great day bed/couch perfect for our tall pre-teen.  The bathroom area was also very large, with double sinks (yeah for lots of people brushing teeth at once) and even a separate water closet (toilet). Lots of closet storage that we didn’t have to use on our one-night stay, and a lovely little coffee center built in as well. We felt spoiled and would stay here again in heartbeat!

Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the seas stateroom

Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the seas stateroom

Lastly, we arrived in Port Canaveral to take a short 4-night cruise with Royal Caribbean on the Enchantment of the Seas. Originally, we had booked on the Majesty of the Seas and we registered one of our children in a friend’s stateroom so we could choose rooms of 4 next to each other. When our ship was re positioned we were assigned to the Enchantment, and when I called into choose our stateroom, a category 1B Spacious Ocean View Balcony, we found out that it could fit 5!  We had one larger King bed (the twins pushed together), a Sofa bed for 2 and then Pullman for the last kiddo. Was it as spacious as our hotel rooms? Not quite.  Since we only slept there (and the oldest boy crept into the Pullman at night on his own after Teen Club Curfew hit) we didn’t mind a bit and I would say having a balcony gave us some extra sitting space too. Royal Caribbean often offers a Kids Sail Free promotion, being able to all be in a room together saved us quite a bit (almost ½ off the original price).

Pixie Dust Fan Amazon Store

Shop my wish list of products!

I hope this write up gives hope for you larger families to be able to travel together without always having to go a double room route! I have plenty of tips and tips to share, you can contact me to help you plan your next vacation!  Happy Travels Big Families!!

 

Carolyn de Blieck

Carolyn de Blieck

Carolyn was born and raised in the Niagara area in Ontario and worked in many hospitality venues over the years.  She is a former Disney Cast Member and lifelong Disney fan.  Her life revolves around her family, her husband Maurice and their 3 sons Ethan, Aaron and Gavin.  When she is not spending time with her family she is helping others plan their most magical trips as an agent with Pure Magic Vacations.

Carolyn would be happy to plan your families next getaway (big or small family she does it all!) – contact Carolyn today at carolyndeblieck@puremagicvacations.ca

5 Things That Irritate Me About Disney

WDW CarouselWith so many people posting things about Disney every day, it is hard to know what’s legitimate.  I have found articles, blogs and web pages who claim they are ‘Disney Experts’ with inside information that is completely unreliable.

Here are my top 5 irritants about Disney spam:

1.  Random blogs who post they have the best ‘tips’ for first timers, with incorrect information

It’s amazing to me how many people post blogs offering advice on a Walt Disney World vacation and then give information that is just plain wrong.  I recently had a friend forward a blog to me asking if she should purchase the ‘front of the line fastpass option’.   She said she was more than willing to pay the extra money toalways skip the lines instead of the fastpass option I had told her about. The answer was quite simple – I hadn’t told her about the option to purchase the ‘deluxe fastpass’ to skip the lines because Disney doesn’t have one!

2.  ‘Win a Free Trip to Disney’

This one is really annoying and very easy to fall for.  There are a ton of ‘fake’ Disney Facebook groups and pages offering free tickets, free trips and free merchandise.  I have stumbled on these when I see my friends ‘sharing the post for a chance to win’.  How do you know which pages are real? The real page will always have a blue check mark on it – meaning it’s verified.  Once you know what you’re looking for – these scammers are easier to spot than you think.

3.  Disney Facebook Groups

I know, this one is a touchy subject…(that I address in another blog). I belong to many of these groups too – but you have to know how important it is to take the information in there with a grain of salt. Some of these groups have thousands of people jumping at the chance to comment and advise you on your Disney vacation. Some posters really are knowledgeable and give good advice – but others have taken 1 trip to Disney and have crowned themselves “Disney Experts”.  Here are some of the comments I’ve seen that left me shaking my head:

  • Do you need reservations at Be Our Guest? Answer from a “Disney Expert” – “No, it’s a quick service at lunch – just walk in”
  • I know what I’m talking about… I’ve been going to WDW since 1968!  (Ummm.. Walt Disney World opened in 1971)
  • “Trust me, I’ve sailed on all 5 of the Disney ships and gratuities are included in the fare you see online” (They currently have 4 ships… and no – gratuities are not included!)
  • “Don’t worry – just put your selfie stick in your bag, they won’t know you have it” (I guess this expert has never gone through the back check?)
  • “If you yell ‘Andy’s home’ all of the Toy Story characters will lie still on the ground” (just an FYI – they do NOT do this)

4.  The crazy Disney rumor mill!

I admit – sometimes I get caught up in the excitement of the rumors.  I love to think about the ‘what ifs’ and hope that they are true. Sometimes it is fun to speculate what might be happening!  While most of them are harmless, sometimes I think they go a bit too far. There are social media/websites (who shall remain ‘anonymous’) that will create hype about things that can impact a guest trying to book a vacation.  They start they hype about ‘free dining months before anything comes out and it causes people to second guess their dates and decisions, waiting for that ‘amazing deal’ (that can be added to an existing booking in most cases). Last year social media created such a frenzy for free dining that people missed out on the room promotion (which was a really good one!) waiting for free dining.  When free dining was announced, it wasn’t the resorts they had hoped for and they had missed the room promotion which in some cases was cheaper!

5.  Canada vs. US

So much of the Disney community live in the US and most of the posts from them are specific to US travellers. Canadian travellers don’t always recognize that what is being posted does not apply to them. For example, some of the Disney promotions are available to Canadians long after they have expired them for US bookings.  Passport requirements always create confusion for Canadians after they have read info in a US posting about what they need on a cruise.  This is why it’s so important to find a Canadian Ear Marked travel agency that can advise you.

The moral of this story? Make sure you’re getting your Disney information from a reliable source.  If you read something online – take it with a grain of salt and verify it with a trusted professional.  Don’t be scammed, and don’t be fooled.

 

 

6 Questions To Ask Your Disney Travel Agent

We have all read the horror stories online about a Disney vacation that went wrong.  Guests standing at the gates of the Magic Kingdom with their “Universal” ticket wondering why they couldn’t get in, or they are at the park asking for Harry Potter.  Maybe it was the family that was very athletic that thought they could walk from Epcot to Animal Kingdom not realizing those were highways on the maps and not walking trails. These might be extreme examples of misinformation – but you get the idea.

I’ve said it before and will say it again, when booking your Disney vacation you should always enlist the help of a Disney Travel Agent.  They don’t cost you anything and can help you avoid so many mistakes!  There are many benefits to booking with them, but now the question is – how do you find a GOOD one?  How do you make sure that the agent you’re booking with is a well-versed Disney travel agent?  What questions could you ask to make sure they know what they’re doing before you book with them?  It would be hard to come up with those questions if you’ve never been, so I’ve done it for you.

Here are the 6 questions you should ask your Disney travel agent before booking with them

1  When was the last time you visited Walt Disney World?

Walt Disney World is probably the most complicated of the Disney destinations.  You might need to arrange Genie+, park reservations, virtual queues and dining.  There are 4 parks to consider, parades, shows, fireworks and transportation options so many things that can impact your stress level on vacation.  If your agent hasn’t been to Walt Disney World in 5 years, how will they know what options are best for your family?  Reading online doesn’t put things in to context and sometimes they are completely misinformed opinions. You have to experience the crowds at the Magic Kingdom fireworks in order to tell you a good spot to watch them from!  You can’t beat personal experience when someone is advising you.

2  Do you get the dining plan, memory maker, or hopper pass when you go?

These are valuable insights that only someone who visits the park can give you.  If your agent tells you that their family gets the dining plan because it’s a good value for the character meals her son likes, you’re more informed about the best use of those dining credits!  All of these ‘add ons’ are really personal choices for your trip and you need someone that can guide you through them based on what’s right for YOUR family.

Art of Animation Resort Scar

Scar Art of Animation Disney Resort

3  How big is your team and are they all Disney focused?

Having someone that is part of an agency that is Disney focused will ensure that you have back up in the event your agent is sick or is on vacation when you have a question. It also means they have a wealth of knowledge to tap in to if they don’t have personal experience on the subject you need. For example – one agent on the team may have a child with allergies that can share that first hand knowledge about the process of eating at a buffet with allergies. If they are a good team, they’re sharing all of that stuff with each other regularly.  Lone agents or people who work in agencies that aren’t Disney focused don’t have that wealth of experiences and resources behind them to make sure you are covered.  No one agent will have experience in EVERYTHING Disney has to offer – but a good team will.

4  How much is your service and what is included?

This is a tricky one as some agencies will not charge a fee – but won’t give you advice for dining or Genie+.  Other agencies will do all of that for you, but they charge a fee for that service. Depending on the package you are booking, most agencies will NOT charge you for their service.  It’s important to have the conversations about what is included in the service including promotions.  Be cautious of agents who tell you that if Disney releases a promo that they will absolutely get it for you.  What they don’t tell you is that the space can be limited and sometimes not available for the resort you have booked. A good agency will monitor the promotions for you and apply it to your reservation if you qualify. If your reservation isn’t eligible because the resort is not included, they will work with you to see if you’d like an alternate one. Beware of false promises!

Epcot Monorail

5  What is your favourite resort and park?

Asking your agent a personal question about what is important to them gives you some insight in to their personality.  It should be a conversation that helps guide the discussion about what is best for YOU and your family!  

6  The last (and most important) thing you should ask your agent before booking with them is “why do you do it?”

This is such an important question, and you should listen carefully to the answer.  A really good agent is also a Disney fan that will want you to go and love it as much as they do. That’s the thing about us ‘Disney people’, we get so excited when someone comes back from vacation and says they understand the Disney magic we were talking about.  When you find an agent that is a real Disney fan, you can be sure they’re invested in making sure you have the most fantastic and magical experience ever!

If you’re looking to plan your vacation – contact my partner agency Playcation Travel Ltd

Do you have a great question you think I missed that you should ask your Disney Travel Agent?

Let me know in the comments below!

 

5 Common Questions Cast Members Are Frequently Asked

Cast Member QuestionsWhile the concierge desk at your resort and front desk agents are very helpful and I encourage you to go to them with your questions, sometimes you can wait in a very long line to get a simple answer – “what time is the 3pm parade?” (Yes, that is a real question that I have been asked). Thanks to the My Disney Experience App, you can now make dining reservations, fast passes, view your Photo Pass pictures, and get more information on your smart phone. Why wait in more lines when you can find the answers for yourself?

Here are 5 of the most commonly asked questions that you can actually find the answers to without waiting in line:

  1. What time is the 3pm parade at the Magic Kingdom?

The 3pm parade is actually called Festival of Fantasy and it takes place at, you guessed it, 3pm every day. However, pick up a times guide at the park entrance to ensure that it is taking place that day.   You will also want to take note in the guide of where the parade starts in the park. For example – if the parade starts in Frontierland at 3pm – it won’t reach Main Street until 10 or 15 minutes later and vice versa.

  1. How late is the food court open?

Most resorts have their Quick Service dining areas open until midnight. Instead of waiting in line at the Front Desk to ask this question, pop into the dining area and ask any of the Cast Members walking around; that is their area of expertise after all.

  1. What characters can I meet at (insert park name here)?

Thanks to the new My Disney Experience App, you can look up all characters and their appearance times depending on the park you are going to.

  1. Do I have to wear my MagicBand all the time?

Use you common sense. Of course no one is going to monitor to ensure the band is on your wrist 24 hours of every day of your vacation, but it is your room key and in most cases, your park passes, dining plan, and even credit card. If it is not on your wrist there is always the chance of it falling out of a bag, becoming unclipped from your belt loop, or otherwise risk being misplaced. It is designed to be easily accessible and since it is on your wrist, you can see that it is with you at all times.

  1. When is it going to stop raining? (Yes, this is also a real question).

While we as Cast Members are good friends with Mickey and Minnie, we aren’t with Mother Nature. When you ask a Front Desk Agent or Concierge this question, they will simply go to the Weather Network and find some sort of radar to give you an approximate answer. This is something you can most definitely research on your own

Once again, I encourage you to ask Cast Members questions and seek assistance when you need it. But there are many resources available to you, like the My Disney Experience App which are incredibly helpful; take advantage of them 🙂

 

*About the Author* – Darci is a former Cast Member who worked Front Desk at various resorts at Walt Disney World. She was a member of the Disney College Program which allows students to work all over Disney property – not only EPCOT’s Canada Pavilion. She now resides in Ontario and feeds her Disney passion by assisting family and friends with their Disney vacation planning, watching live streams of park shows, and even got engaged at the Magic Kingdom. Disney is and always will be a part of her life. She believes that you can take a girl out of Disney World, but you can’t take Disney World out of the girl.

Follow Darci on Twitter: @dmartindalee

 

What to do when your Disney vacation is less than magical

Art of Animation Resort ScarDisney is an incredible company that gives a large amount of freedom and empowerment to their Cast Members. All Cast go through extensive training (especially Front Desk, Concierge, and Guest Relations) and Disney therefore trusts that their Cast Members will use their judgement when making decisions as to how to ensure that families have the most out of their Disney vacations. That being said, sometimes things do happen that can be rather less than magical. When this happens, there are a few ways to deal with the situation.

  1. At the parks – go to Guest Relations as soon as possible and let them know what has occurred. Becoming irate with the Cast Member at the attraction or dining area will not accomplish anything. It will only cause a scene and take the magic out of other people’s day, including the cast member who most likely did not do something personal to you. Guest Relations will be able to understand what occurred, possibly explain to you how or why it occurred (each situation varies), and may even compensate you for your negative experience.
  1. At the resort – if it is something regarding your room itself, call Housekeeping from your room phone. Even call the Front Desk, they can get Housekeeping or Maintenance in touch with you. Walking down to the front desk to most likely wait in a line, will only irritate you further and there is a slim chance that the Front Desk Agent that you speak with will be able to do something in that instant. If it is an issue with your reservation and the Front Desk Agent is not giving you the answers or information that you are looking for, ask to speak with a Leader (supervisor in Disney terms).

Regardless of who you speak with, please remember that these Cast Members are humans too. They are people who are highly trained and are doing everything in their power to assist you. No Cast Member intentionally sets out to ruin your vacation. Be patient and be kind. As the old saying goes, “you get more with honey than with vinegar”.

If a Cast Member does go out of their way to do something magical for you, ask to speak with their Leader and let them know. The 2 minutes you spend recognizing a Cast Member for their efforts can make their day, and even week. That little bit of kindness goes a long way.

*About the Author* – Darci is a former Cast Member who worked Front Desk at various resorts at Walt Disney World. She was a member of the Disney College Program which allows students to work all over Disney property – not only EPCOT’s Canada Pavilion. She now resides in Ontario and feeds her Disney passion by assisting family and friends with their Disney vacation planning, watching live streams of park shows, and even got engaged at the Magic Kingdom. Disney is and always will be a part of her life. She believes that you can take a girl out of Disney World, but you can’t take Disney World out of the girl. 

Follow Darci on Twitter:  @dmartindalee

 

 

9 Annoying Things People Do At Walt Disney World

Visiting Walt Disney World for over 40 years, I’ve seen my share of foolishness on property.   On one visit I was so shocked at some of the things I saw and I had to write this public service announcement for those who may leave their brains at home while on vacation at Disney.

1. Disney Cast Members are NOT your babysitters (unless you’ve left them in the kids club of course!)

During my recent visit I was at Bay Lake Tower in the lobby watching cast members trying to help a young girl that was maybe 7 or 8 years old. Apparently she was swimming in the pool and wanted to go back to her room. Her parents were in the room and had left her at the pool to find her own way back, but she couldn’t remember the room number… Ummmm really? Please don’t leave your young children unattended. Who do you think is watching them #WhatAreYouThinking??

2. Keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times

Eating at Pinocchios we selected the window table overlooking It’s A Small World. Do you know how many people leave their children on the end of the boat with their hands in the water?? Do you know how many adults I saw doing the same thing?? In the 30 minutes we were sitting there, I was amazed at the foolishness. Safety is Disney’s top priority, but you can’t fix stupid people. #ThatsHowYouLoseAFinger

3. Trying to make your child appear taller

Attractions like the Tower of Terror, Space Mountain and Everest have height restrictions. Why? Because it isn’t safe for if you are shorter than the required height. Don’t try to convince the cast member that your child is slouching or that they can meet the requirement if they stand on their tip toes, it’s just not smart. The cast members are not letting you on because it isn’t safe – listen to them! #NotTheTimeToArgue

4. No flash pictures

Okay – this one just irks me. They ask you not to use your flash in the dark rides as it can ruin the magic, and for stage shows it’s a safety issue for the performers. If you don’t know how to turn off your flash on the huge iPad you’re holding up then ask someone. Also, if you’re on the Haunted Mansion and you’re texting someone – all I can see is the light from your screen! You are not the only guest on this attraction and you’re irritating the rest of us. #Selfish

5. Cutting the line

Seriously – how old are you? Where is your sense of civility? Lines are expected at the parks, if you’re not prepared to wait your turn – don’t visit. It’s really simple. We’re all there for the same reason and pushing, shoving, cutting the line is just going to aggravate everyone and possibly start a verbal exchange of unpleasantries. #GrowUp

6. Yelling at Cast Members

The Cast Members at Walt Disney World are the best in the business. Sure there are some bad apples, but overall they offer first-class customer service. Seeing a guest berate a cast member for silly things like the length of a line, the price of a meal or their inability to make it stop raining is insane. Disney Cast Members don’t really have a magic wand that can bring out the sun and make you less of a jerk.   #DontBeAnIdiot

7. Trying to get something by security

They search everyone’s bags and send random people through metal detectors at the parks, but did you know they have undercover security as well? I will say no more about them as I don’t want to give away any of their methods, but if you manage to make it through bag check without your flask of vodka being detected under your shirt – don’t be surprised if some random stranger approaches you later and ejects you from the park.   They are everywhere! #YoureNotSmarterThanThem

 

8. Waiting in line for 10 minutes without deciding what you want

It’s busy, you’re standing in line at the quick service for 10 minutes waiting your turn. You finally get up to the cast member to order and you haven’t decided what you want! Really? What were you doing for the last 10 minutes? This happened to me at Sprinkles at Disney Springs, and I was not amused. #UseYourTimeWiesely

 

9. Feeding the wildlife

When you feed any wildlife – you make them lose their natural instinct to be afraid of humans. This one always bothered me especially since my sister has a horrible fear of birds. We were always aware of the people feeding them because it made them comfortable to swoop in and grab a fry out of your hand.   I watched adults let their little children feed the ducks their french fries and wondered what would happen when the duck bit the child – who would be to blame?  Given the tragedy of the young boy who was drowned by an alligator, experts have suggested the alligator was probably fed by people at some point. I’m not saying the people who fed the alligators could have predicted this tragic event – but maybe if they had used some common sense, things would have been different. If you want to feed animals, visit a petting Zoo, Disney parks are not the place for it. #CommonSenseIsntCommon

 

Walt Disney World really is the place where an adult can be a kid again… Just remember to use your common sense and be courteous to others while you’re there and you will have a magical time!

 

 

 

Yes I’m suffering from DVE

Disney Vacation EnvyI’m at my unmagical job, it’s Friday, the weather looks great for the weekend – and it’s almost time to go home!  I’m listening to music from the Disney parks on my iPhone, I’m singing away in my head as people walk by, I’m feeling pretty good.

I decide to take a break and sign in to Facebook, my source for the important things that are happening in my world.   I get excited about the posts in the Disney groups about new things happening and the merchandise that’s being released.

I keep scrolling, and then I see them – TONS of pictures, check ins, status updates…. I have a bunch of friends at Walt Disney World right now, and some are sailing on the Dream this weekend.  I start going through their posts and pictures.  The food looks good at Morimoto, Ohana dinner – yes please, a check-in at the Mine Train and another for Soarin?  I almost feel like I’m experiencing it with them!  YAY!!  Disney fun!!

Soarin Sign

Then, suddenly… the discomfort and confusion – what am I feeling?  I’m happy for them and excited to follow their adventures, but what is this that I’m feeling???  I contemplate for a while and then it hits me… I have DVE – Disney Vacation Envy.

In case you weren’t aware – DVE is a real condition.  It’s a wave of confusing emotions where you feel happy for your friends, but sad for yourself – sad that you’re not there with them.  You do what you can to fight these feelings of jealousy, but they’re there, right below the surface.  While you do the customary ‘likes’ or ‘comments’ on their posts, you’re fighting the urge to just close Facebook and ignore it, but you NEED to see what they’re going to do next!  The inner conflict begins – do you have your next vacation already booked?  Or should you book a quick getaway to get your next fix?  Can you afford it?   Does it matter?  It’s an addiction, and if you can relate, you may need help.

Epcot Spaceship Earth from the monorail

If you’re suffering from DVE it’s important to know that you’re not alone.   We all feel it, but we rarely talk about it.  There’s no shame in suffering from DVE, it’s the struggle that all members of the Disney community face when they’re active on social media.  We all deal with it differently, but the cure is the same… book another trip to Disney.

Cinderella Step Sisters

So the next time you’re resembling the jealous step-sister and suffering from DVE, like the post and move on.  Then check your count down app to see how long it is until YOU are the person with the posts and check ins that will give the rest of us Disney Vacation Envy!

Follow us on Facebook for our updates!

 

Rescheduling a Walt Disney World Vacation

Rescheduling a Disney VacationFive weeks ago I had a very small medical procedure that was supposed to take about 2 weeks to heal completely.  3 infections later – I’m nowhere near the finish line.  I was scheduled to go to Walt Disney World today, but on Wednesday of this week we made the decision to reschedule for June to give me time to heal.  I hadn’t bought insurance, so it was going to be expensive – but my health is more important than the loss of money.

Some people said to me “it’s not like you won’t be going again, or you weren’t just there!” and I get it – I travel to Walt Disney World multiple times per year, but I was so excited about this trip!  We had all of our dining reservations that we wanted and even had planned to stay at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort – one of the very few I have not stayed in yet!   We had even purchased tickets to Disney’s After Hours and upgraded our flights to business class so that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable on the plane (both are non refundable).  The disappointment set in – I had just backed out of the perfectly planned Disney vacation.

Thursday was a bit of a mess as it sank in that we would have to try and ‘re-plan’ the perfect vacation without the benefit of months to do so.  We booked the week at Saratoga Springs and started looking for cancellations at the resorts we really wanted to try.  It might mean moving rooms a few times – but that’s okay, we’ve done that before and it’s a smooth process.

I felt horribly guilty that I had ‘ruined’ my sister’s vacation – even though she was so understanding about it.  I told her I would do whatever she wanted when we went in June to try and make it up to her, I would even try some of the restaurants that were for a more adventurous palate than mine because I know she would like them.  Morimoto is on the agenda!

Two days later and I have to say, I’m excited about our new trip!  While we are checking daily for cancellations for dining – we did manage to snag an Ohana’s dinner, a Be Our Guest breakfast and Toy Story & 7 Dwarfs fastpasses!  All in 2 days!  It pays to keep looking for sure.

Soarin’ has been closed for refurbishment for a while which is a big disappointment since it’s one of our favorites.  Guess what?  It’s reopening June 17th and we got a fastpass!  This was a bonus of delaying our trip, and has shown me that maybe things will work out for the best after all.

This has been a trying time for me, but I have learned a lot through this experience.

  1. Insurance might be useful!  I’m normally don’t buy cancellation insurance myself, and I’m not sure if it would have covered my scenario – but for the $1k I lost by rescheduling in flights and event tickets, it might have been worth it!  
  2. Medical procedures may or may not go as planned – and planning a Disney vacation within 5 weeks of one might have been overly optimistic.  Apparently I’m not invincible and cannot will myself to get better faster by using my Mum’s motto of  ‘it’s mind over matter’
  3. Having a family to support you through these challenges is priceless
  4. You CAN book a Disney vacation 5 weeks in advance and STILL get some awesome dining reservations and fastpasses!

Planning my Disney vacations are always fun – and now I get to do it twice.  Now it’s back to My Disney Experience to see if there are any more cancellations I can grab!

 

Disney’s Free Dining, it’s a debacle every year

California GrillThere are thousands of Disney fan sites on the Internet, Pixie Dust Fan included.  Many are very reputable sites that offer accurate information and advice for planning your Disney vacation.  Sadly – not all sites are created equal and sometimes it’s hard for a new Disney fan to tell the difference.

Over the years I have watched some of these sites grow and gain a following and at least once a year they start the whole ‘free dining’ hype.   They post rumors and ‘insider details’ about a potential free dining promotion that is going to be announced.  Every April my Twitter and Facebook feeds explode with this ‘free dining is coming’ posts, including ones that show dates for next year!   Some of these sites get it right and must have an inside track, but others are just plain wrong.  They start the frenzy and modify the details as they go and create such chaos that the rest of us are left shaking our heads!

There are some things you should know about Free Dining that these less  responsible sites won’t tell you:

1  Free dining has quite a few restrictions

The resort you wanted may not be available, or you have to upgrade to a better room category or add the hopper option to your tickets.  Availability for the promos are generally very limited and in the last year it looks like Disney is restricting them further to move people away from expecting free dining.

2  Not all restrictions are created equal

Did you know that some Disney promos are targeted to particular visitors?  That’s right – the UK visitors usually get a slightly better promo with much more advanced notice, I assume because they have to travel farther.  Canadians also get longer booking windows sometimes, even after the offer has expired for US residents.

3  Good luck getting dining reservations

People want to make sure if they get their free dining promo that they’re able to use it!  I really can’t blame them; I would want to do it as well.  The problem is that when it’s just a rumor, many people will start booking dining reservations ‘in case’.  That means they’re booking weeks of reservations to cover potential dates and availability.   Since most of these don’t need to be cancelled until 24 hours in advance – they have tied up many reservations for months that you and I might like to have!

Cape May Breakfast is character dining too!

4  A GOOD travel agent will cringe when they see these rumors

 – There is very limited availability on those first few days because other agencies have put holds on packages based on the frenzy of inquiries they generated with the rumors.  Some of these reservations will inevitably be cancelled a few days later and free up the inventory for other guests.  It’s safe to say the good agencies spend the next few days pulling their hair out.

 – They are going to sit on the phone for HOURS trying to get their clients the ‘free dining’ deal when the website crashes.  This will be the better part of their day (some years I have heard of 9 hour wait times!) where they will continue to rotate and recharge cordless phones. 

 – Disney doesn’t like its travel partners to engage in these rumors until it’s officially announced.  That means the reputable travel agencies are at a substantial disadvantage while trying to adhere to their ethical responsibilities to Disney.

 – They will frantically have to call all of their clients who are travelling during the dates once it’s announced to find out if they want to switch resorts, rooms or add ticket options if it means getting free dining.  

5  Free Dining isn’t always the best deal

Many times the room discount has been a better value.  If a room discount is 30% – was the dining plan worth 30% of your room rate?   For many people it has been much cheaper to add the dining plan to the room promotion.   It can be confusing when you hear the words ‘free dining’ – but trust me, it’s worth pricing out the difference!

I will never understand why Disney doesn’t reprimand these sites for starting these rumors and leaking information.  It causes confusion, stress, and in some cases a pretty bad guest experience when their expectations aren’t met.  For me, it ties up valuable dining reservations when I’m struggling to get one for California Grill for my trip!  C’mon Disney – it’s time to flex your muscles and get these sites to stop the madness!

So, the next time you see the “I heard free dining is coming” pop up in your news feed, don’t panic, you haven’t missed the boat.  Review it when it’s officially announced and see if it’s a good deal for you when you consider the resorts and ticket options.  If you’re working with a reputable travel agent, they’ll provide you with the best options.  Give them a few days (or a week) to get it all sorted when the availability opens up from cancelled ‘fake’ reservations.

Whatever you do – please don’t book a bunch of fake dining reservations!  Remember that you may be forcing me to call the California Grill every day while I’m on vacation trying to find a cancellation 🙂