Finding the Right Hotel for Your Family or Party

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Finding the Right Hotel for Your Family or Party

With so many choices offered by Disney, how do you make a decision on what hotel to choose or even what type? When deciding on a hotel, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

1. What’s my baseline budget?

Disney offers a three main tiers of hotels according to budget: value, moderate, and deluxe. Within those tiers there are further breakdowns by room type, view, and proximity to amenities. Within the deluxe resorts there is also an additional category called the “Deluxe Villas” which offer additional amenities in the room (including multiple bedrooms and kitchens).

To get a rough estimate, depending on travel dates (and without promotions or tax):

  • Standard rooms in value resorts run approximately $96-$199 per night; preferred rooms run approximately $118-217 per night; (family suites are an additional cost)
  • Standard rooms in moderate resorts run approximately $182-$290 per night; (rooms with better views, closer proximity to amenities, and king beds have additional costs per night)
  • Standard rooms in deluxe (non-villa) rooms run approximately $320-856 per night (which varies quiet considerably between resorts and seasons): (rooms with better views, king beds, bunk beds, closer proximity to amenities, or club level access have additional costs per night)

2. When do I want to travel?

Travel dates can effect costs per night and availability of rooms in each hotel differently. Value seasons like the majority of January (after the New Year season) and the majority of September (before Food and Wine begins) are generally the times when the cheapest rates are available and the most room types can be found. Holiday times (especially surrounding Christmas and New Years) have the highest rates and tend to have much less availability unless booked far in advance. Special events like EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival may decrease availability in certain resorts in close proximity of the event (in this example Yacht and Beach Club and the Boardwalk in particular) or certain types of rooms (like value resorts during Cheerleading competitions).

3. Will the size of my party fit in a standard room?

Most rooms fit 4 people with the option for an additional infant in a Pack ‘n Play. Some resorts allow 5 people in the room with an additional fee. For families larger than this, deciding between 2 standard rooms, joined rooms, a family suite, or a deluxe villa can be difficult. What you should choose depends on your budget, how comfortable family members are in sharing beds, how important the ability to cook/eat in the room is to your family, and the ratio of adults to kids (especially since you need at least one adult in each room).

4. How important is theming?

Disney resorts have the ability to completely immerse you in an alternate reality with their theming. Each resort has a very different theme to choose from. From a laid back stay immersed in the culture of New Orleans at Port Orleans French Quarter to an adventurous stay on the savannah at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, to the active and colorful atmosphere of the All Star Resorts; the right theme for just about anyone can be found. Perhaps there’s a certain style of theming or atmosphere you prefer that can make your stay at Walt Disney World that much more magical. It may be worth splurging on a moderate or deluxe resort to have that ambience.However, don’t feel that you’ll completely sacrifice theming at a value resort! From giant bowling pins, to larger than life Disney characters the All Star Resorts have surprises around every corner!

There are also specifically themed rooms in some Disney resorts. At the Art of Animation resort, family suites can be reserved with Finding Nemo, Cars, the Lion King, or the Little Mermaid themes. At Disney’s Caribbean Beach resort, families can stay in Pirate rooms complete with ship themed beds and at Port Orleans Riverside the prince or princess of your family will feel at home in the Royal Guest Rooms.

5. What about the pool?

If you plan on spending a good portion of time by the pool, it may be a determining factor in your hotel decision. Pools vary greatly by resort in terms of size, atmosphere, and additional offerings (like splash zones, playgrounds, food/drinks close by, and waterslides). Some pools have zero entry available for guests with mobility concerns, others have additional quiet pools for relaxations, and some have hot tubs by the pool.

Generally speaking, the pools at the moderates are more elaborate than those at the values and pools at the deluxe resorts are more elaborate than those at the moderates. Value resorts do not have waterslides or hot tubs and (with the exception of Art of Animation) are not zero-entry (but can accommodate guests with mobility issues with chair lifts). Looking at pools individually to see what has the amenities your family is looking for is the best way to ensure your needs are met.

6. How close do I want to be to the parks?

Proximity to the parks can be extremely important for those wanting to take afternoon breaks or head straight home after the fireworks. There is a huge difference between hopping on a 5 minute monorail ride and a 20-25 minute completely packed bus ride making multiple stops with over tired children. Keep in mind, many buses stop at multiple resorts and others may make only one (possibly very popular stop). When leaving parks at peak times (i.e. after the fireworks) you may have to wait for a bus to be able to accommodate you.

After a long day Food-ing and Wine-ing at the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival a short walk to the Beach Club or Boardwalk may be just what you need.

For those planning on hitting the ground running and getting to “rope drop” each morning, the shorter the transportation to the parks, the later you can sleep!

However, with kids who can sleep through anything, older children, or no children at all; you may be absolutely fine taking a leisurely drive to and from the parks. It’s a decision only you can make for your family!

7. Am I driving/planning on renting a car?

Some resorts; like Port Orleans Riverside, Caribbean Beach, Fort Wilderness Campground, and Old Key West; are pretty expansive and spread out. In some places, you may have to take a bus to get to the main bus stop which may be cumbersome particularly with those carrying strollers, small children and diaper bags or those guests with limited mobility. Those who plan on driving to the parks may have less issues here than those that plan on relying solely on Disney transportation.

This is also true for resorts like Animal Kingdom Lodge that may not require internal transportation but that transportation to and from the parks may be particularly lengthy. These things may not be troublesome for young couples, families with older children, or families used to public transportation (here’s looking at you, New Yorkers) but may be a consideration for other families or parties.

Still unsure of what resort would be best for your family? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com for more information or to quote your next trip!

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Top 10 Reasons to Book Your Next Disney Destination Vacation Through a Travel Agent

Exciting News!

I am excited to announce that I have just started as an independent contractor for Magical Vacation Planner, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planning Agency! Through the process of researching the role, applying to the agency, and training to take on this role I have learned the many benefits of using a travel agent and wanted to share that information with all of you to help you book even more magical and stress-free vacations.

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Here is a list of the Top 10 Reasons you should consider using a Travel Agent to book your next Disney Destination Vacation:

1. Knowledge

Travel Agents that work for agencies that are authorized Disney Vacation Planners are knowledgeable of the product they sell. Not only are they graduates of the “Disney College of Knowledge” but they have gone on many trips themselves, keep up to date with the latest news in the various Disney Destinations, and are overall passionate about the magic people can experience on these vacations. I personally know Walt Disney World like the back of my hand, so much so that I can visually map out the parks in my mind to provide turn by turn directions if needed! Along with my own vacations for “research” I keep up with the Disney Travel Agent Website, listen to multiple podcasts per week, and read various websites, blogs, and forums to ensure I have the most up to date (and official) information out there.

Especially for those making their first trip (or first trip in a while) to any of the Disney Destinations, this knowledge can make the world of difference in planning the most magical vacation tailored to your family’s needs.

2. Deals

Authorized Disney Vacation Planning Agencies like Magical Vacation Planner get alerts when promotions like Free Dining become available. When possible (depending on your needs and preferences) travel agents will even work to rebook vacations to apply promotions that become available AFTER you book.

3. Disney Dining Reservations and Recommendations

Travel Agents know the best places to dine and are happy to make recommendations based on your family or travel group’s preferences. Travel Agents can also take the hassle out of dining recommendations by booking these reservations for you up to 180 days before you check in. Travel Agents will try their best to get you even the harder to get reservations by getting up early to book so you don’t have to!

4. Assistance with My Magic+

Even if you have been to Disney in the past, using My Magic+ may be new for you. Plus, as Disney becomes more technologically advanced more and more features are added into the system. Especially for first time travelers, the many facets of My Magic + can be confusing and at times daunting. Travel Agents can help you navigate this system and give you pointers on how to use it to make the most of your vacation.

5. FastPass+ Recommendations

Part of knowing the product inside and out is being able to help you plan and strategize to make your vacation as stress free as possible. Travel Agents can help you decide on a plan of tackling the parks that works best for your family based on crowd levels, attraction preferences, and estimated queue lengths for the season you wish to travel. Based on this knowledge and knowledge about your group or family, they can recommend what FastPass+ reservations you may want to schedule to reduce your wait time for some of your “Must-Do” attractions.

6. Special Event and Recreation Recommendations

Interested in behind the scenes tours, fireworks cruises, holiday events, or the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival? What about a fishing excursion, parasailing, golfing, surfing lessons, or horse drawn carriage rides? Didn’t know these things existed at Walt Disney World? Travel Agents can provide recommendations and information on all of these things and more!

Disney Vacations are also the perfect way to celebrate important milestones and events in your life. Whether it’s a birthday, graduation, honeymoon, family reunion, or just being together and away from work you’re looking to celebrate, Travel Agents can help you find magical extras to plan into your vacations that fit the occasion! Travel Agents can help note these celebrations in your reservation to alert cast members of your celebration; recommend things that can be delivered to your hotel room, stateroom, or dining location; or even offer ideas for experiences that will surprise the guest of honor in your party!

7. Less Phone Wait Times, Early Mornings, or Late Nights for You

Particularly during peak times, it is important to grab those promotions or popular dining reservations as early as possible. Travel Agents will wake up early and get on the phone at 7 a.m. to try to accommodate your needs so you don’t have to. Phone wait times for peak season reservations can be long and reservations can book quickly which can be stressful. Travel Agents will take this hassle off your plate and do what they can to make your Disney  Dreams realities!

8. Trouble Shooting

Need to rent a stroller, wheelchair, or scooter? Deciding whether or not to get a rental car? Need help figuring out the difference between the various ticketing options Disney has to offer? Need help finding out where your child can meet their favorite Disney Princess? All things a Travel Agent can help with!

9. It’s not JUST About Theme Parks

Sure, we all know about Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida but there are so many more Disney Destinations to explore. Take the world by storm on an Adventure’s By Disney tour, have adventures on the high seas on a Disney Cruise, or relax and take in the beautiful Hawaiian landscape at Aulani. Travel Agents can provide you with all the information you need to find the absolute best option for you and your party.

10. FREE Service!

Travel Agencies like Magical Vacation Planner NEVER charge you a dime for their services. Your vacation will never cost you more than booking directly through Disney but may end up costing you LESS. Travel Agents attempt to find you the best deal possible for your needs and preferences because they want you to continue coming back and telling your friends all about the service you received. Travel Agents always put their customers first and want to ensure that  you are satisfied with your vacation and have a magical time making life long memories.

Want to Learn More?

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Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com. I would be happy to answer your questions about using a travel agent, provide you with information regarding the various Disney Destinations, or quote/book your next vacation! I look forward to hearing from you!

Stretching Comfort Zones at Walt Disney World

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Stretching Comfort Zones at Walt Disney World

After talking a little bit about common fears at Walt Disney World, I felt it was important to talk about stretching comfort zones and facing some of those fears when possible. First, it is important to think of comfort zones like a spectrum.

Comfort Zone Spectrum

On one side of the spectrum is the “comfort zone.” Think of this like a green light. You are in this zone when doing things you find easy, simple, and fun but also things that are dull or boring. These are things you are completely comfortable doing without support or assistance. Things like writing your name, playing your favorite game that you’ve played many times, or doing easy chores could fall into this category

Toward the middle there is the “stretch zone.” Think of this like a yellow light. You may be in this zone when something is new or unfamiliar to you, you are doing something that is somewhat difficult or tricky for you, or you are doing something that makes you nervous. Sometimes things you may be somewhat scared of fall into this category.

On the other side of the spectrum is the “panic zone.” Think of this like a red light. These are things that you are very fearful of or anxious about and that when attempted or forced into may cause you to panic. Things that make you enter your panic zone can trigger anxiety attacks or have long lasting traumatizing effects that lead to deep rooted fears or aversions. When faced with something in their “panic zone” some people completely shut down, others flee, others build a defense or “fight” (also known as the “Fight or Flight” response).

Stretching Your Comfort Zone

When stretching your comfort zone, you want to do things that make you a bit nervous or cause you to stop and think (things in your “stretch zone”) rather than things you feel will cause you to be completely terrified or out of your element.

To stretch your or your child’s comfort zone at Walt Disney World, try to find rides that put yourself or them in their stretch zone rather than their panic zone. Part of that involves facing only one fear at a time. If your child is afraid of both heights and drops, it’s best to avoid things that involve both those fears (like Tower of Terror and Splash Mountain) and start with rides that only involve one of those fears in a somewhat gentle way (like Dumbo).

When Stretching Your/Your Child’s Comfort Zone at Walt Disney World, Be Sure to Follow These Guidelines:

1. People cope better with novel situations in a supportive environment. Being with people that unconditionally support you and you trust will keep you safe helps you feel more comfortable taking chances and risks. Encourage the person who is a bit nervous. Hold their hand if they need or provide other positive touch. Discourage other members of the party from making fun of them. 

2. People cope better when they know what to expect. Explaining what the ride is like and entails in the most honest but least threatening way can help someone prepare themselves for what they are about to experience. This is a main premise of Child Life practice! When it comes to comfort zones, surprises are not your friend!

3. Start small and build up. Going back to the stretch zone vs. panic zone, you don’t want to put the person into panic mode from the start. This may cause them to never want to try again or to have a terrible day or rest of the vacation because of their traumatic experience. They may even begin to associate Walt Disney World in general with that negative experience. You can always then take it one step further and try something bigger if they have a good experience, but it can be very hard to erase that negative experience from memory!

4. Always offer options and a sense of control when possible. When people are trying new things that may make them a bit nervous give them some choices. Going back to the fear of heights, allowing them to choose between things like Dumbo or Astro Orbiter may help them take ownership of their decision to try and be slightly less nervous. For younger kids, offering 2 choices is best to ensure they do not get overwhelmed. Rides like Dumbo that allow the person to control how high they go will also help them feel a sense of control.

5. Allow the person to have an out… even if they change their mind at the last second. The person may be ready to try up until they get to the ride load area. It’s important to let them know it’s okay to change their mind. Forcing the person to then get on the ride can have detrimental effects in their trust in you if they end up in their panic zone. When traveling with small children (and two adults), Disney offers a rider switch option so that if one child decides they no longer want to go on one adult can stay behind with that child while the other adult goes with the other child(ren). Once they come off, the kids can then go again with the second adult without much of a wait! Just let a cast member know in the line when you get to the front that you’d like to try this option.

6. Don’t force a child before they’re ready. Again, if they aren’t ready to do something and enter into their panic zone, it may have detrimental effects in their trust in you.

7. Validate, Validate, Validate. When a child tries something new, whether they liked it or not, applaud their effort for trying and validate their feelings. If they enjoyed themselves this can look something like this: Mickey I know you were pretty nervous about  trying that ride because of the big drop, but you were so brave and tried it anyway. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

If they had a tough time, it may look something like this: Mickey, it seemed like that ride was pretty scary for you. I’m so sorry it wasn’t what you expected. Even though you didn’t end up liking it, you were so brave for trying something new. We can take a break from these type of rides and you can decide what we try next. (This again places some control back into the person’s hands after they may have felt like they lost some control during that fearful experience).

8. Bravery is not the absence of fear… or tears… or screaming. A big thing we always talk about with kids in the hospital is that being brave doesn’t mean not being afraid or not crying or not screaming but more that you tried your best to do what you needed to do to help  yourself get better. At Disney, bravery is trying something new, trying something that makes you nervous. You can scream your head off and cry but still be brave! Praise those trying new things for being brave, even if they cry or scream or are terrified the entire time!

Have any experience stretching your or your child’s comfort zone at Disney? Tell us about it in the comments below!