Tammie’s Take Thursday: When Should I Begin Planning My Disney Vacation?

What a crazy couple of weeks it has been since Walt Disney World opened reservations for most of the 2018 calendar year.  It has been a whirlwind of creating inquiry quotes, formal quotes and booking many Disney Vacation reservations for 2018.  I am truly blessed with lots of support into my new venture as an Authorized Disney Vacation planner and Affiliate of Academy Travel and mickyvacations.com.

One question that continuous has been asked over and over the last month is, “When do I start planning a Walt Disney World Vacation?”

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Ummmm, RIGHT NOW!!!! (Okay, probably not the best person to ask, since I love to plan…but you asked). With Disney, just as soon as you have made the decision to go there for vacation is when you should begin planning. Who cares if it is a year away or 2 months away…there are things that need to be done and planned.

My personal opinion is to begin planning somewhere between the 12 to 7 month mark prior to your vacation, with booking around 7 months out for Walt Disney World.  (As far as a Disney Cruise, just as soon as itineraries are announced for the cheapest prices and for Disneyland 3 months is enough time, although resort/hotel reservations can sometimes be hard to get the closer to travel date you are).  As much I as I love planning things, there are reasons why I begin planning so early, the most important being that I want to ensure that we experience all the magic possible during our trip…

  1. I can secure my reservation with a simple $200 deposit which locks in prices for my travel dates at that time.  If Disney decides to raise the price on tickets or rooms prior to my stay, I still get to take advantage of the prices at the time of booking. And if a discount offer/promotion becomes available I am still able to apply that offer to my vacation to save money.  I am also able to put my vacation on “lay away,” meaning I can make as many little payments on my trip up until when my balance is due in full 30 days prior to travel.  This allows me to work my vacation into my monthly household budget seamlessly.
  2. Most activities, tours, and dining reservations begin being made 180-60 days in advance of your preferred travel date.  By planning my vacation early, I can do all the research needed to be prepared when the booking windows open for Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) and FastPass+ (FP+) reservations.  Being able to book on booking day helps me to insure we get to eat where we want and ride the attractions we want to.  I have personally witnessed park guests get very upset and not act very kind & friendly when they are not able to so simply walk up to a dining location and be seated (most cases turned away).  Popular dining locations like eating in Cinderella’s Castle or Be Our Guest (aka Beast’s Castle) reservations at 180 days are an ABSOLUTE MUST and even then, there are no guarantees then that you will secure a reservation.  With the opening of Pandora, the World of Avatar in Disney’s Animal Kingdom this summer wait times have soared into the 3+ hours for some attractions, being able to book ride reservations or FastPasses at 60 days helps to ensure that we are able to ride without waiting in line for hours as well as get the times that we want to visit the attraction.
  3. Walt Disney World is a huge place (46 square miles) and being able to know what there is to see, do and experience takes time to research, sort through and work into a doable plan.  Every trip I plan I find a new magical experience and has me wanting more.  By beginning my planning early, I have the time needed to find the magic, sometimes more than is possible to fit into the time I have (but that is what another trip is for).

You want to go sooner than 7 months?  No problem, I have helped clients put together a truly magical experience at 70 days.  It will be a fast learning curve and quick decisions, but totally doable and just as magical in the end.  The key with planning under 3 months is to be flexible.

But what if you are the more of the spontaneous type…can’t you just wing it? You’re not a bird, so don’t wing it! I wouldn’t suggest going into any sort of Disney vacation without some sort of plan of time.  It does not have to be

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detailed down to the last second of every day of your vacation, but to truly have a magical experience without the frustration of crowds, lines and not knowing what to expect you must go in with a plan.

I understand, not everyone has the need to be as obsessive, I mean thorough, about planning their Disney vacation as I do. The great thing is that you don’t have to be either, let me walk you through the planning experience.  I have already done the time consuming hard work of researching for you. I will provide you with the information based on what you tell me that you want to get out of your vacation, you make the decisions and I work to make the magic happen (thank goodness for my Fairy Godmother Wand) as much as I can. Best of all my services come free when you book any Disney or Universal Vacation with me.  Here are just a few of the things I can/will do for you…

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  • Welcome Packet full of information to get you started down the planning road
  • Set Up of My Disney Experience (MDE) Account
  • Suggest Flight Schedules & booking option through Disney
  • Arrange Airport Transportation with Disney Magical Express
  • Customized Resort & “On Property” Transportation Information
  • Information to help you decide “What Park, What Day”
  • Information to help you decide on Advanced Dining Reservations as well as advice & suggestions on including a Disney Dining Plan to your reservation
  • Option for booking of Dining Reservations at 180 days for you
  • Monitoring of Requested Dining Reservations not available at time of booking (Wish list)
  • Periodically emails on fun things to try/do and special events to keep you excited about your trip
  • Information to help you decide on FastPass+ Reservations as well as advice & suggestions
  • Option for booking of FastPass+ Reservations for your travel party at 60 days prior to travel
  • Option for custom itinerary and touring plans, or just generic touring plans for each park
  • Tips, Tricks & Suggestions to make the most of your vacation
  • Answers to all your questions, honest opinions and advice
  • Final Packet with Trip Documents
  • During trip support via email, phone or text as needed

What are you waiting for, let’s get planning.  I promise to give your Disney vacation the same attention to care and detail as I would my own no matter how soon (or late) we begin planning the magic!

(almost) Wordless Wednesday: Disney Dads

It’s (almost) Wordless Wednesday!  Each week I join Focused on the Magic and other fellow Disney bloggers to share our Disney vacation photos and memories by blog hopping. This week’s topic is…Disney Dads

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I admit that when I planned our first Disney vacation as a family, I went in it thinking that it would be a “Once in a Lifetime” trip as I could never imagine that I would ever get Mr. Grumpy to agree to go back…

Let alone be his idea that we check out Carsland this past March.

I am so blessed (and thankful) that he goes along with my commando park plans, although it has nearly cost us our marriage a few times (which is probably the #1 reason he supports my venture as a Disney Travel Planner…so I focus on other people’s plans and not ours). I can’t wait to share with him Epcot’s Food & Wine this fall and our first Disney Cruise…as we escape to Florida without kids for a long weekend.

Friday Five: 5 Ways to Countdown to Your Disney Vacation

keep-calm-countdown-to-disney-is-onThe waiting for a fun vacation can be nearly unbearable! Make it a Disney trip and it’s even harder to wait. Help the kids (and yourself) tick off the days with a fun ways to pass the time.

1. Have Weekly Family Movie Nights

Set aside a weekend night, pop some popcorn and enjoy a Disney movie night with the family.  This is a great way to introduce or reacquaint everyone to characters and attractions that they may encounter on your Disney vacation. Don’t limit yourself to current animated titles, branch out to the classics. Here is a great link that will help you out!

http://www.listchallenges.com/disney-movies

Make it even more fun by creating a themed dinner that involves everyone in the preparation.  Watch the blog for Making Magic at Home, plus follow my Pinterest Board for ideas.

https://www.pinterest.com/disneybytammie/disney-movie-nights/

2. Disney inspired crafts

DIY the days away by making autograph books, customized t-shirts, hair bows, Mickey ears and anything that will put a smile in your heart during the days leading up to your vacation! Check out

https://family.disney.com/crafts/

https://www.pinterest.com/disneybytammie/disney-craft-ideas/

for lots of ideas for all ages!

3. Watch Attraction Videos

There is nothing like experiencing the real thing, but watching ride-through videos on YouTube can help get you and your family get excited for your next Disney Parks vacation. If you can only visit a Disney park every few years, then refreshing your memory and re-familiarizing yourself with as many attractions as you can will be very helpful once you’re on vacation. There is never enough time on a Disney vacation to do everything, so if you can eliminate some attractions from your plans by watching them on YouTube then you might save some time to do the things you know you love. It also is a good way to give less popular attractions a second chance. For example, if your family enjoys watching the Journey Into Imagination ride-through video on YouTube then ignore the naysayers, and go have fun! Watching ride through videos are especially helpful to prepare children who might finally be tall enough to ride some of the bigger thrill attractions. Letting them see the ride on YouTube before they see the real thing might help them feel more confident.

When you book your Disney Vacation through me, I will send you a PDF file with every attraction linked to a video! No need to search it out yourself, just click the link and watch!

4. Create a Countdown

We have all counted down to Christmas with an Advent Calendar, why not countdown your Disney vacation?  Search my Pinterest Board for some fun ideas.

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https://www.pinterest.com/disneybytammie/disney-countdown/

Also, there are lots of countdown apps available, most of them for free!  Just search in the app store for Disney Countdown Apps.  I personally use Countdown for Disney.

5. Listen to Music

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Nothing gets me in the Disney spirit more than listening to music from the movies, Broadway shows, and attractions. Use Spotify or the new Apple Music to create Disney themed playlists. Listen while you cook, while you drive, while you walk the dog. Music really can put you in a better mood and make the non-Disney days a whole lot brighter!

How about a Bonus Idea?

Bonus Idea…Follow Me

Check out my daily posts and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and of course right here on My Life in Ears for pictures, inspirations, and ideas to make your trip as magical as possible. (Link Up Using Social Media Icons found on left side menu).

I can’t guarantee the wait till go any faster, but it certainly will make it more fun an bearable.  Please share your ideas and how your family is counting down till their next trip in the comments.

 

(almost) Wordless Wednesday: Disney Details

It’s (almost) Wordless Wednesday!  Each week I join Focused on the Magic and other fellow Disney bloggers to share our Disney vacation photos and memories by blog hopping. This week’s topic is…Details.

There are so many perks that come with staying at a Walt Disney World Resort including

  • Early Access to FastPass+ Planning
  • Extra Magic Hours
  • Complimentary MagicBands
  • Complimentary Transportation & Parking
  • Disney Dining Plans
  • Early Access to Advanced Dining Reservations

But one of the reasons I love most about staying on property is that I may leave the park, but I never leave the magic because Disney knows it’s all about the details!  Welcome Home has new meaning when you step into a Disney Resort Hotel.

One of my favorite stays was at Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Not my normal taste in decor and Disney knew how to make me feel at home on the Savannah from the beautiful rich earth tones to animals outside my balcony…

Animal Kingdom Lodge was home!

With a resort to fit every budget and personal taste, along with all the perks who would want to stay anywhere else?

Tammie’s Take Thursday:  Expedition Everest Challenge

 

One of the most popular and thrilling attractions at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom is Expedition Everest located in “Asia”.  Expedition Everest takes riders on a trek from a base camp in Tibet to the top of the “forbidden mountain,” where riders encounter the allusive creature called the Yeti.

Expedition Everest, or EE, is a favorite of mine and each trip I challenge whoever is with me to my EE Challenge.  There is only 1 rule, “How Many Times Can you Ride BACK TO BACK before you have to tap out?”  My record is 6 times, set back in November of this year.  Did I happen to mention, that this is a high speed steel roller coaster and I am pushing the 50 year old birthday soon (my stomach is not what it used to be)?  Trust me EE has multiple surprises and thrills that only Disney can provide.

Before I go into how it is possible to ride 6 times in a row without standing in line the entire day, let me tell you that I LOVE to stand in line for this ride because the theming is INCREDIBLE.  The queue for EE will keep you engaged the entire wait time.  While in line you will get to look at artifacts brought back from Nepal by Disney Imagineers while in the planning stages of this attraction.  There are tons of things to see and read that are fascinating, and really make you feel like you are at as base camp high in the Himalayan’s and that just maybe the Yeti is real.  Make sure at least one of your rides in the challenge is through the queue, and don’t hold the line up because you are reading.

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If possible try to score seats in the first car. I am not going to spoil the ride for a first time rider, but make sure you take a look around when you reach the top of the mountain…the view is incredible and trust me you have a few moments.  Make sure you (and your stomach) are prepared for what is next, because you won’t know if you are coming or going.

What’s my secret to riding 6 times in a row without standing in line all day?  My #1 tip is to make sure you are at “Rope Drop,” opening time of Animal Kingdom and head directly to EE.  You can ride 2-3 times without long waits in line, usually by the 3rd time the wait is 20 minutes.

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Once the crowd builds, locate the single rider line entrance, between the entrance and exit of the ride near the gift shop.  Your wait will be just a few minutes…and if you really want a challenge go through the regular line 1 time and then hit up the single rider line until your stomach has had enough.  Warning, you will be separated from your challenge group, don’t argue with the Cast Members…this is the SINGLE RIDER LINE.  For your final ride, schedule your FASTPASS+ selection around 10:30 am.

One of my favorite things during the challenge to do is ham it up for the camera.  If you purchased Memory Maker and taking advantage of PhotoPass+ services you can document each ride.  The ride camera is located just as you escape the Yeti towards the end of the ride, the coaster will take you back outside the mountain.  Just as you come out the mountain and take the big drop, the camera will be to your right.  Have fun with it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opWNofuWPnc&feature=youtu.be

WARNING:  IGNORE THE INCESSIVE GUM CHEWING and NO HUGE SPOILERS!

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And if you are even more daring, document your ride with your camera on video as well as taking a few selfies of your own while on the ride…after several rides you know when you can do this.

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When you are all finished make sure you find the PhotoPass Photographer in front of EE and take an after photo throwing up how many rides with your fingers!

When you’re finished, or rather your stomach is finished with the challenge…there are Mickey Bars next door or if you need to celebrate with a more celebratory drink, try the Triple Yeti Blast (mix of Mango, Lime & Strawberry frozen margaritas) at Warung Outpost near EE.

Are you up for the challenge?  If you are, post your pictures and results on my Facebook Page or here in the comments! Let me know if you were able to escape the Yeti.

 

Friday Fives: 5 Reasons Why You Should Use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner for Your Trip

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People ask me, “Why should I use a travel agent to help me with my Disney vacation?  I am only going to an amusement park, what needs to be planned about that?”  There is so much more to a Disney vacation then simply riding rides.  There is planning that needs to be done to insure that your trip is filled with magical memories and make it worth all the money you are spending.  Here are my top 5 reasons why you should you use me, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner for your next Disney vacation…

1.  My Services are FREE!

Disney has very standard pricing and they offer the same rates to all travel agents that they have on their website.  There are no blind fees or hidden mark ups.  The difference is what comes after you book your vacation.  When you book your vacation through me, you work with a real person who wants to make your trip better. If you were to book through Disney, it would be up to you to navigate the planning waters and put in all the research. Disney pays me a commission to make sure that your trip is the best that it can be and you will want to come back time after time.

2. I KNOW Disney!

Not only do I love Disney, but I KNOW Disney and have earned my “ears”.  I am a graduate of the Disney College of Knowledge.  I work hard to keep my knowledge of all Disney vacation experiences current by attending on-site location trainings, reading and researching.  I actually have traveled many times to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and sailed on the Disney Cruise Line.  For each of these trips I have spent countless hours researching and planning making sure my vacation was the best possible for my family and friends. I can answer pretty much any question you might have, or I know where I can find the answer.  I also speak Disney fluently, don’t know what “Staying at POR and riding the monorail to MK to dine at BOG and then riding the BTMRR before MNSSHP begins” is, I do and I will help you decipher Disney language.

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3. I help you SAVE MONEY!

Disney vacations are expensive, so I will work to save you money by providing tips and searching out the best vacation package discounts for your trip.  Even if you have booked your trip, I will still continue to watch for discounts that can be applied for your trip. I try to spend your money like I would my own.  Sometimes spending a little extra will give you a lot, and vice versa.  I will be honest with you and let you know where it is appropriate to splurge and where to cut corners, and work within the budget you set to make the best vacation possible.

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4. I WALK YOU THROUGH the planning process and am your personal SOUNDING BOARD.

A Disney vacation is far more than showing up to the park gate with your ticket.  There are a lot lots of things to consider from transportation, choosing a hotel, sorting out all ticket options, finding places to eat, deciding which park is best which day and what do you do when you get into the park.  I help take away some the stress and confusion planning a Disney vacation, by walking you through the planning process and providing insider tips along the way. I do the research for you, you make the choices, and then I put it all together for you so that when you are finished planning you don’t feel like you need another vacation from planning. If you are trying to make a decision between two choices, just ask more than likely I have personal experience or an opinion on what you are trying to decide between. I will give you an honest answer each and every time, plus do my best to fulfill all of your wishes for your trip.

5. I SAVE YOU TIME before and during your vacation!

I have already spent the hours researching what is needed to make a Disney vacation magical and I will pass that knowledge on to you, so that you won’t have to invest that time.  Depending on which time zone you are in Disney advanced reservations for dining and FASTPASS+ open extremely early in the morning, I will wake up and make those reservations for you while you sleep.  I will also continuously watch discount offers that become available, and apply them to your reservation package, saving you both time and money!  While on your vacation, I will have prepared for you daily itinerary suggestions to save you time in the parks by avoiding large crowds, long wait times and crisscrossing the park.

I am proud to that Disney has awarded me with the title of Authorized Disney Vacation planner by completing the Disney College of Knowledge and honored to be an affiliate of Academy Travel and mickeyvacations.com.  Academy Travel and mickeyvacations.com is a Platinum Earmarked Agency awarded by Disney, the highest rating possible and 1 of only 5 in the world to reach this status for its excellent client services.

I hope that you will consider me for your Disney vacation planning needs and allow me the satisfaction of making magic happen for you and your family.  I promise that I will give your vacation the same care and attention to detail as I would my own trip.