Avoid these crowds with a VIP tour
Once again, I've been busy and gotten bad about blogging. There is so much to do with the children in school and planning travel for all my wonderful clients!
I often get questions about VIP tours at Disney World, so I thought I'd whip out a post on this service. (Note the tours I describe are through the parks themselves, not a third party.)
Disney World VIP tours offer guests many fantastic perks including
- door-to-door transportation in a private vehicle from your resort hotel to the parks (you can zip from park-to-park using back entries and convenient parking)
- little-to-no lines at most attractions with the opportunity to go on rides multiple times in a row
- reserved, premium seating for many shows, parades, fireworks, etc.
- a knowledgeable, friendly tour guide
- assistance from Disney's VIP tour services to create a customized itinerary designed especially for you
Are you ready to sign up? The service really is amazing and the price reflects that.
If you are staying at a Disney World resort hotel, the rate for a VIP tour guide ranges from $315-$355 per hour (depending on the season). Guests must purchase a minimum of 6 hours. Some guests only want the service for one day, some book it for the entire length of their Disney stay. Your party can include up to 10 people, so if you have family/friends visiting Disney with you, you may split the cost. VIP tours may be booked 90 days before your vacation and should be booked at least 72 hours prior to your arrival (the tour services can fill during very busy periods).
So, is the Disney VIP tour worth the expense? The clients I've had use the service went during busy times and they all agree it was absolutely worth the money. Whether or not this is an option for you, give me a call and we can work out a customized, fabulous vacation that is perfect for your family, regardless of your budget. For more information on Disney planning, check out Maris Stella Travel's Disney-specific website, www.pixiedustdestinations.com
Celebrity Solstice departing Tortola
The Cruise Line International Association's (CLIA) Cruise Week started yesterday. During Cruise Week, cruise lines offer guests incentives typically given as onboard credit. Onboard credit may be used for shore excursions, drinks, specialty restaurants, etc.
Currently, there are some excellent cruise values and cruising, with some very narrow exceptions, is a travel area where it is best to plan ahead. Your knowledgeable and friendly travel agent can help you find the best ship, value and destination for your family. We can assist you in determining the ideal stateroom location (not below the basketball court :)), perfect shore excursions and we can arrange airport transfers, pre- and post-cruise hotel stays and land tours. Call (615)415-4728 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to start exploring the world of cruising today!
Costa Rica is an exotic, but accessible family vacation destination. Flights from the US to Costa Rica are often half the cost of flights to Europe and you have little-to-no time zone difference.
Furthermore, Costa Rica represents the best of adventurous, yet relaxing vacations. From phenomenal zipline experiences, rainforest treks, dolphin-spotting tours and white water rafting to tranquil beaches, natural hot springs and luxurious spas, Costa Rica is sure to please every member of your family.
Most flights into Costa Rica arrive in Liberia or San Jose. Near Liberia, in the Northwest, you'll find the province of Guanacaste. With views of the Pacific ocean, both the all-inclusive Westin Golf Resort & Spa Playa Conchal and the gorgeous Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo are much beloved resorts in this popular area.
South of San Jose resides Travel & Leisure's #1 family hotel in Central & South America, Arenas del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort. Overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and Manuel Antonio National Park, Arenas del Mar plunges you into the lush rainforest, while pampering you with fine dining and customized concierge service.
Between Liberia and San Jose, lies La Fortuna and the Arenal volcano. Arenal is not currently erupting, but it provides a beautiful view nonetheless. Nayara Hotel, Spa, and Gardens, T&L's #3 family hotel in Central & South America, does not disappoint. This serene resort is very popular with couples, but even families with young children report feeling very welcomed here. With excellent dining choices, spa and adventure activities and highly-acclaimed service, Nayara is a Costa Rican gem.
In addition to reserving fine hotels, we also offer villas in Central America. These villas are perfect for multi-generational travel to Costa Rica. Maris Stella Travel takes the stress out of planning your international vacation. Call or email today for more information.
Akumal, Riviera Maya, Mexico
For the past few years, there have been charter flights (non-stop flights not typically advertised on your flight search engines) from Nashville to Cancun/Riviera Maya. They only operate during certain times of the year (early March-August) and they only run on certain days.
The 2014 charter season offers Nashvillians even more options for convenient, relaxing vacations.
- Nashville to Cancun flights will continue with flights leaving Nashville on Sun. and returning on Sat. (6 nights).
- Nashville to Montego Bay, Jamaica flights are new this year with flights leaving Nashville on Thurs. and returning Mon. (4 nights; service doesn't begin until May).
- Nashville to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic are new this year with flights leaving Mon. and returning on Sun. (6 nights; service doesn't begin until May).
It is possible to purchase these flights on their own, but you get the best value for your money by purchasing a package with resort included. There are many price points for hotels from fairly basic to luxury. We can sort through the many options to find the right one for your couples' getaway, family trip or group vacation (also perfect for business incentive travel!).
If Nashville isn't your home or if the dates don't work for you, other cities offer similar charters including Cincinnati (a short drive from Nashville with year-round charter flights), Atlanta, New Orleans, Charlotte and new-this-year, Memphis.
Call or email and we can get started planning your 2014 vacation!
Walking to the Magic Kingdom
I thought I'd begin my new Disney World resort review series with one of my favorite resorts - Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort.
Bay Lake Tower is a Disney Vacation Club property; it is connected to the Contemporary resort by a skybridge. The property opened in 2009 and features studio, 1br, 2br and 3br villas (including massive "Grand Villas").
We stayed in a 1br villa last year and it was perfect for our family of 5. There is a king bed in the separate bedroom and a sleeper sofa and sleeper chair in the living room. There was also a full kitchen (studios only have kitchenettes). 2br villas are a great option for large families - they sleep up to 9. Most views are either of Bay Lake (with the nightly water pageant) or Magic Kingdom (with the nightly fireworks).
The absolutely best feature of Bay Lake Tower? The ability to walk to the Magic Kingdom! You can be at the entrance of the Magic Kingdom in 10 minutes. Of course, you are also on the monorail, so you can take that if you want to save some energy or if you are going to Epcot. To help you determine if Bay Lake Tower is the best option for your family, check out my pros and cons below
- Walking distance to Magic Kingdom
- On the monorail
- Quiet rooms
- Plenty of space in the 1br and larger villas
- Nice rooms with good layout
- Great views
- Access to the Contemporary Resort's Amenities (dining, marina, childcare, etc.)
- Great option for larger families
- Pricey - one of the most expensive properties onsite
- Can be difficult to reserve (this property is a favorite among Disney Vacation Club owners and they get an early opportunity to book it)
- Have to walk to the Contemporary for dining and to get on the monorail (it really is a short walk, though)
- Dark furniture in rooms is starting to show some wear
Please call (615)415-4728 or email email@example.com
for more info on Bay Lake Tower or any of Disney World's fantastic resorts. To learn more about the benefits of booking your Disney travel with a knowledgeable, friendly agent :), check out our Disney-specific website www.pixiedustdestinations.com
Breakfast at the Contemporary Resort's Bay Lake Tower
Dining out with a family member who has food allergies is often a stressful experience. One of my children has peanut & tree nut allergies (and has outgrown numerous other food allergies) and it always seems easier to just eat at home. So, what are we to do for vacations? Are we forever relegated to renting a house so we can cook all our own food (not really very relaxing)? Fortunately, the answer is a definite "no". The Walt Disney World Resort (and Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line for that matter) do a fabulous job accommodating food allergies - even multiple food allergies. You just have to do a bit of planning ahead.
If food allergies are limited to the 8 major allergens + corn and there aren't multiple allergies (peanuts and tree nuts are lumped together), you (or your travel advisor) simply need to note your allergy when you make table service reservations. You also need to remind your server when you are seated. For quick-service dining, you tell the cashier about the allergy and she will get out the ingredient book and/or call the manager to talk to you about available food options.
If your allergy situation is more complicated (multiple allergies or allergies to a food that isn't considered a major allergen), Disney wants to know about it 14+ days in advance and after booking all dining reservations. Depending on how many allergies you have, some quick-service options may not work out for your family. Disney will help you sort through the available options.
The only (minor) disappointment I've had with Disney food allergy dining involves the concierge level at the resorts. Last month I had a client with a gluten allergy stay club level at the Contemporary. I spoke to the concierge before she arrived and she mentioned the allergy when she checked in. Unfortunately, while the concierge and other cast members took her allergy very seriously, there were not a lot of food options for her in the club level lounge. Despite this small frustration, she loved her visit and found all the restaurants to be very accommodating.
Good morning all! I am excited to share Maris Stella Travel's new website - www.pixiedustdestinations.com
. Pixiedust Destinations is dedicated to Disney World®, Disney Cruise Line® and Adventures by Disney® travel.
The Maris Stella Travel blog and Facebook page will continue to have Disney updates; Pixiedust Destinations simply shares with you the details of our Disney-specific assistance and Disney's current special offerings. I hope you will check out the new website and share it with friends considering a Disney vacation!
Wow! Where did August go? It was fun, but fast for us. My children are back in school now, so I hope to do a much better job blogging. Seagrove Beach
Right before school started, our family took a week-long vacation to the Florida Panhandle. Specifically, we rented a house off the stretch of highway (30-A) that runs from Destin to Carillion Beach and Panama City.
There are many beautiful communities on 30-A and everyone has their favorites. We usually stay in the Eastern Lake section of Seagrove Beach because it is often less crowded than nearby beaches, it has an interesting dune lake, it is an easy bike ride to Seaside, Watercolor and Watersound, and it is a good value. Deer Lake State Park
The Pearl, Rosemary Beach
Despite some bad weather at the end of the week, we were able to play at the beach and pool daily. Some of my favorite experiences include
- Riding bikes to Deer Lake State Park - the dunes are gorgeous and the beach nearly empty
- Eating dinner in Rosemary Beach - I love wandering around the community, admiring the architecture
- Renting a boat in Panama City and going to Shell Island for the day - I recommend going early, you'll feel like you are on a deserted island
- Mass at St. Rita's in Santa Rosa Beach - the parishioners are always so kind to vacationers
- Riding bikes to Seaside for ice cream - it is always fun to ride around the area's original "traditional urban development"
If you've been to Rosemary Beach in the last few years, you've probably noticed the half-abandoned hotel project a block off the beach on the Western Green. Well, it changed names and developers, and the hotel just opened this summer as "The Pearl", Rosemary Beach. Ending the days with popsicles
For years, the Watercolor Inn & Resort has been the only luxury hotel/resort option on 30-A. Now they definitely have some competition. The rooms are fabulous (some with ocean views) and there are dining and spa options onsite.
Nashville has non-stop flights on Southwest to Panama City and I think "The Pearl" would be a fantastic long weekend destination for the fall.
Please contact me for more information about "The Pearl", Rosemary Beach, the Watercolor Inn and Resort or house rentals along Florida's 30-A. Enjoy your last days of summer!
Sundaes are a snack option on the dining plan! :)
A quick post before a busy morning...
Disney World's fall free dining was announced this morning. This is a very popular promotion and it is hoped for every year. You must purchase a package for at least 3 nights and the promotion is applicable for arrivals most nights Sept. 29 – Oct. 2, Oct. 18 – Nov. 2, Nov. 11-23 and Dec. 12-22*, 2013. A handful of resorts are not included in the promotion.
If you would prefer a reduced room rate instead, those came out today too. Savings vary by resort (15%-30%) and the nights included are Sept. 29-Oct. 5, Oct. 20-Nov.2, Nov. 10-22 and Dec. 15-23, 2013.
*Note, this means you could go to Disney World over Christmas break - as long as you arrive before Dec. 22, the free dining promotion is included in your entire stay.
Disney only allots a certain number of rooms for the promotions and they will go very quickly, please call/email for a quote/more info if you're interested!
Little Bitties at the Magic Kingdom
Maris Stella Travel is excited to announce the addition of Pixiedust Destinations, our new Disney-specific travel website.
Pixiedust Destinations will include info on Disney World®, Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney® (Disney's worldwide tours).
Providing the best in itinerary planning services, we'll create a seamless vacation plan that allows for maximum fun and with minimal stress (because Disney should be fun for the entire family). Services include resort and stateroom recommendations, touring plans and suggestions, dining recommendations, and, of course, travel booking, all at no cost to you.
It will be a couple of weeks before Pixiedust Destinations is live, but in the meantime, please continue to contact Maris Stella Travel at (615)415-4728 or firstname.lastname@example.org for all your Disney info and/or a no-obligation quote.