Sheila Gallant-Halloran

Made-to-measure travel; please, go away! :-)

The Balancing Act – Picking a Disney Hotel

I always recommend staying onsite at a Disney hotel. There are so many terrific perks you get staying at an official Disney onsite hotel:

a. you get a free shuttle to and from the airport to your hotel (and have your bags delivered)

b. you’re surrounded by Disney magic 24 hrs

c. you can use Disney transportation around resorts, parks

d. you can make purchases throughout the “world”, charge to your room key, and have delivered back to your hotel

e. you can add the Disney dining plan, and

f. the primo benefit – you get access to the EXTRA MAGIC HOURS – which means you can get into a park an hour early, and stay at another up to 3 hours longer than non-onsite guests

Choosing a hotel requires you to consult with your travel advisor.  Price is a factor, but it is not the only factor.  You have to consider what kind of vacation your family wants to have, the style of hotel you normally like to vacation at, and how much time you want to spend commuting each day.  In my conversations with new clients, we focus on 8 factors/ parameters in choosing between the 22 onsite hotels:

1. the level of service you like from your hotel (are you a Best Western or a Four Seasons kinda gal?)

2. the price point you’d prefer (cheap as long as clean, vs. willing to pay for luxury?)

3. the room size you’d like (and bedding size – more budget-oriented hotels are smaller w double beds)

4. the amenities you’d like at your hotel (e.g., do you want a waterslide, kids’ club, etc.)

5. the dining options you’d like at your hotel (e.g. do you want just takeaway kiosk or character meals or fine dining choices)

6. the location you prefer (e.g. do you want the closest to the parks and higher price, or happy with lower price but also accepting they are the furthest away and have longer commute times), and

7. the convenience you prefer (e.g. what ease and speed of access to the parks do you want, and how about ease of getting to your hotel room once you get back to your resort – e.g., a standard room at a value resort could have a 15 minute walk back to your hotel room vs. a preferred room being 5 minutes walk)

8. the recreational activities you prefer at your resort (e.g., do you want the ability to rent water craft, do you want access to pool activities, etc.)

If you’re thinking about a trip to Disney, give me a call and let’s chat about what’s most important to your family.  Balancing all the factors/ parameters is all about matching your family to the perfect resort for you!

Sheila 613-837-0699

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July 27, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | 2 Comments

On Vacay? Here are some Tips to Avoid/ Minimize Issues

A recent exchange with Kathy Buckworth got me thinking about things I tell my new clients about the benefits of booking with a travel advisor. But once the booking is done, there are still things on which I advise clients to ensure they are ready for vacation.

So, if you’re heading out on vacation, here are some tips to help you avoid/ minimize issues:

  1. Have your travel advisor’s card with you – a good travel advisor is there for you before, during, and after travel – if you run into issues at destination, your travel advisor can help you get them sorted as they are happening. (Please don’t wait until you get home. It’s too late to solve the problem that’s affecting your holiday, and trying to get some resolution/ restitution after the fact is difficult and not very satisfying for you.)
  2. Have your details on travel insurance with you – know who to call, and make sure you know what your financial responsibility is with your insurer. (Do you have to pay upfront and then get reimbursed later? If so, make sure you have ample room on your credit card. You should have already sorted issues with your travel insurance provider when your travel advisor got you to review your coverage- so you should already know whether your insurer covers you if you’re in international waters for your cruise, if your work coverage extends to your children and spouse, whether you have medical only or trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage as well.)
  3. You’ve already made sure your passport has more than 6 months remaining before it expires (your travel advisor would have made sure of that) – but also make sure your travel advisor (and family at home) has a photocopy of your passport details – just in case something gets lost or stolen.
  4. Your travel advisor would have provided itineraries with hotel/ ship/ tour details. Ensure your family at home has a copy of details.
  5. Never lug what you can’t safely carry. Know your carriers’ baggage restrictions, and charges before you go to the airport. Assume you won’t find a baggage cart somewhere, and never travel with more luggage than you can carry yourself. Put your business address on your bags (not your home address – it’s a little known fact that thieves will often hang out in airport departure areas watching for people leaving so they can get their home address from their bags before they check in.)
  6. Know your cell phone provider’s roaming policy before you leave and/or arrange an international phone (like wireless traveller)
  7. Protect your home – make sure you cancel newspapers, turn off the water, put lights on a timer, and alert your neighbours that you’ll be away. Having someone come in your home while you’re away not only protects against things like water breaks, it likely satisfies the requirements of your home owner’s policy too.  If you’re a social media junkie, be leery of saying you’re on vacation, where you are, and how long you’ll be away (unless you can also say you have a house sitter).
  8. travel smart – don’t announce your hotel room number in front of strangers (especially as you’re picking up your key at the front desk.) Use the safety deposit box at your hotel to safeguard valuables, especially your passport. Don’t leave laptops, purses, etc. out when you leave your hotel room. Another important point for travel safety is that it might also be an idea to double check your hotel’s policy concerning the storage of your credit card info on any plastic hotel keys – if in doubt, throw them out.

Any issues?  You have my number. 613-837-0699.

July 26, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor | Leave a comment

Guest Blogger, Bill Halloran, writes about Disney’s “Carousel of Progress”

Today, my guest blogger is my hubby, Bill Halloran.  He’s blogging at www.billhalloran.wordpress.com Check out his post about Disney’s “Carousel of Progress.” It’s a spot my family always heads to at Magic Kingdom when we need a break from the sun, and a rest. Terrific attraction.

Thanks, Bill!

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My first visit to Walt Disney World (WDW) in Orlando Florida was soon after I graduated from University.  With electronics as my background and being mechanically inclined, WDW was a young engineer’s dream come true, it was fun and it served up a veritable smorgasbord of synaptic stimulation.  I was hooked and dreamed of being a Disney Imagineer.

I have returned to WDW on several occasions since then, and it never disappoints.

As someone who has always been interested in the latest technology trends and gadgets, there is one attraction I never seem to tire of, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.

In true Disney form, even the circular theater building which houses Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress is a ride of sorts.  The show is divided into six scenes with the audience seating located in a ring which mechanically revolves within the outer part of the building while each scene is staged in a stationary wedge-shaped space at the core of the building. 

Consider the engineering behind this, there are 240 seats that span the width of the stage in several rows.  When all those seats are filled, the control required to smoothly accelerate and decelerate all the weight of the audience so that they line up precisely with each wedge-shaped space is impressive.

Originally introduced at the New York City World’s Fair in 1964, the Carousel of Progress was Walt Disney’s idea.  He thought it would be fun to watch the American family go through the 20th Century experiencing all the wonders as they came along.

For Scenes 1 and 6 the audience is seated in front of a drawn stage curtain which has a large crest that looks like a mechanical gear and contains the words “Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress”.  Scene 1 is a recorded narration welcoming the audience to Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress and provides the background behind the Carousel of Progress show.  Scene 6 is another recorded narration thanking the audience for sharing in the experience.

Scenes 2 through 5 are set during a different season of the year, on the day of a holiday that typifies each season.  Each scene depicts an Audio-Animatronic family interacting with the latest household gadgets for that era as well as the latest technological advances.

Scene 2 takes place during Valentine’s Day around the beginning of the 20th century where we learn that the latest technological advances for that era include:

  • buildings as high as 20 stories;
  • moving pictures projected on a screen;
  • almost 8000 automobiles in the country;
  • train travel from New York to California in less than 7 days; and
  • two brothers in North Carolina are working on some kind of flying contraption.

 and the family’s latest household gadgets include:

  • gas lamps;
  • a telephone;
  • the latest design in cast iron stoves;
  • a new icebox that holds 50 lbs of ice;
  • a gramophone;
  • an indoor water pump in the kitchen; and
  • a hand-cranked washing machine.

Scene 3 takes place on July 4th in the 1920s where we learn that the latest technological advances for that era include:

  • Charles Lindburg preparing to fly across the Atlantic;
  • Sports stadiums springing up all over;
  • Jazz music;
  • Al Jolsen staring in a movie in which he talks and sings; and
  • train travel from New York to Los Angeles in only 3 days.

 and the family’s latest household gadgets include:

  • a radio;
  • a sewing machine;
  • a homemade cooling device;  and
  • indoor plumbing.

The family feels that considering all the conveniences they now have, they are really on easy street and feel things just can’t get any better.

Scene 4 takes place on Halloween in the 1940s where the family feels that everything is better than ever now and the latest household gadgets include:

  • a larger refrigerator;
  • an automatic dishwasher;
  • a CRT television; and
  • a homemade paint mixing system.

Scene 5 takes place at Christmas time during the first decade of the 21st century where the family’s latest household gadgets include:

  • virtual reality video games;
  • voice activated appliances;
  • laser discs; and
  • a high-definition flat panel television.

Watching Disney’s Carousel of Progress is a very pleasant way for the entire family to pass 20+ minutes in a comfortable air-conditioned theater away from the crowds.   It’s entertaining and educational providing an interesting look back at the evolution of technology and the household gadgets we’ve come to depend on.

In my opinion, the Audio-Animatronics is done so well that you forget that you are watching an animated performance.  Whether it be ribbing between brother and sister or husband and wife, the conversation and interaction between all the family members is believable and entertaining.

And following the show, don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing that catchy theme song played between each scene as you venture back outside to use your Fast Pass:

“There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, Shining at the end of every day.  There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, And tomorrow is just a dream away.”

To get a sense of what the show is like, check out this YouTube video I found: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKz6qdexetY

See what I mean about the theme song?

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Guest Bloggers | Leave a comment

Cruise Group Promo Space onboard “Disney Magic” – March Break 2012

Thinking about March break in 2012?  How about a Disney cruise?

I’m holding group promo space on the 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise onboard the Disney Magic that sails on March 10, 2012.

I have a few inside and ocean view for double and triple occupancy, some quad balconies, and a quint balcony.  I only have the space until August 11, 2012.

If you know Disney Cruises, you know that the ships generally sell out – especially in high traffic time, like March break. And as the ship fills/ supply goes down, but the demand continues to increase as more people want to sail, the price of the cabins that remain goes up.  Supply and demand.  So, you’ll not get a Disney cruise for March break next year cheaper than you will right now.

If you’re interested in getting a detailed quote for your family, give me a call. You need only put $250 deposit/person to secure the space, with a final payment of Dec.26.11.  But, with the Canadian dollar doing so strongly right now, you might just want to pay it all off now! See

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/07/21/canadian-dollar-high_n_906281.html

The Disney Magic sails out of Port Canaveral, and after a couple of sea days, you’ll sail to St Maarten, St. Thomas, and Disney’s own island at Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.  It’s a terrific itinerary.

Give me a call for more details! Sheila 613-837-0699 or email sheila.gh@vision2000.ca

July 22, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Cruising, Lush Life Disney | Leave a comment

Guest Blogger, Janet Kocur: Disney bound? Try Owner’s Locker-It’s a good thing!

It’s guest blog Monday, again. Fellow Disney-phile, Janet Kocur has graciously agreed to share her experiences about using the Owner’s Locker at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Janet loves the Mouse! She is a DVC member, and a regular user of Owner’s Locker – which is getting lots of referrals from Canadians who visit Mickey often, but don’t want to lug a lot of the same stuff to Orlando and home each time.

Have a read, and see what you think!  Thanks, Janet!

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 When I first started going to WDW, it always entailed bringing items that “might be needed” but never a guarantee that it would be used. Then came the restrictions as to what was allowed in your carryon! No longer was it feasible to just get away for a quick trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth” without having to check in a bag. This was Ok, until the airlines started to charge for this privilege. This then no longer became cost effective. Of course, there were the items that were bought whilst there that you forgot to pack but would need again but too heavy or cumbersome to pack. Mousekeeping got to keep a lot of these items but how much laundry detergent could they use. Then there were the items that were opened but still would be useable but not allowed on a carry on and I know myself wouldn’t use if someone gave to me. Toothpaste comes to mind, as well as shampoo and conditioner and that needed Sun Screen. And if you have teens, you know that they only like certain name brand items. As we all know, coffee isn’t the best in the Happiest Place and then there’s the other beverages us Canadians pay thru the nose for but get for dirt cheap in FLA but have restrictions on how much we are allowed to bring home with us! That’s where the Owner’s Locker comes to the rescue! It’s a great idea that came to fruition for those of us that like to just travel on a whim! No longer do I have to worry about packing band aids, shampoo, conditioner, manicure set, coffee, laundry detergent, softener, toothpaste, toothbrush, sunscreen and the other unmentionables that may or may not be needed! You know what I’m talking about ladies! I also have that special bag that I use at the World only. And a comfy housecoat for those glorious mornings on the balcony of my unit to enjoy a nice big cup of joe, yes in the big mug that I have packed inside my owner’s locker! And for nighttime, that libation that is now chilling in the fridge waiting for my return from a magical day in the parks to help me unwind before my head hits the pillow! Did I mention that extra pair of sandals or a pair of slippers, so all I have to worry about is wearing my running shoes as we travel to get there and back! Oh, and that Sweatshirt that takes up so much room in your suitcase but fits comfortably in that 13” x 22” x 20” purple “home away from home” storage bin. Each Locker comes with dividers to help you organize the contents of your Locker. They’re great for keeping tall items like bottles from falling over. They can be easily reconfigured and customized for how you use your Locker. For example, you can create a special compartment for an item like a water filter. Or they can be removed altogether Here’s where you keep the little items such as a sewing kit, Q-Tips, batteries, tweezers, hair ties and medications. All of the things that might fall to the bottom and get lost! Some Members have managed to build up a small pharmacy in their trays. They have 10 compartments and a lid that clicks shut. When you first get your Locker, you’ll see that we have created a special place for it by using the dividers. Like the dividers, however, you don’t have to keep the organizer tray in your Locker. I’ve heard more than one story about how they make great jewelry boxes or tackle boxes back home! There is a onetime Membership Fee to join Owner’s Locker of $75.00 (which includes your Locker and your initial delivery/pickup which we call a Visit) and a yearly storage/delivery plan which you choose. The Standard Annual Plan costs $99.00 per year and includes storage in our climate controlled warehouse and one free Visit per year. Additional Visits are $25.00 each. The Premium Annual Plan costs $179.00 per year and includes storage in our climate controlled warehouse and unlimited visits per year. And you can switch back and forth as needed. This year we won’t be going to visit Uncle Mickey, so I’ve switch from the Premium to the Standard Plan. John D Van Meter is one of the founders of this wonderful service and you can meet him Tuesday nights at Epcot by France where he’ll gladly buy you a drink and answer any questions you may have! Check them out at http://www.ownerslocker.com and tell them Janet sent you! You won’t regret it!

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Guest Bloggers | Leave a comment

Concierge at Disney’s Grand Floridian – Pampering to Die For!

I often will recommend to my clients that they stay at a Disney monorail hotel.  The benefits of the location, and the convenience of access to Magic Kingdom,  just can’t be beat. Last month, we visited WDW for the 19th time, and we again stayed at a WDW monorail hotel. We stayed at the Grand Floridian, Disney’s flagship hotel. And we splurged, and upgraded to the concierge category. Was the pampering good?  To die for!

First of all, continental breakfast each morning makes it easy to get up, grab some food, and hit the park.  Anyone who’s travelled to Disney with kids knows that something fast to satiate the morning appetite works well – kids don’t want to waste a lot of time eating before they hit the rides. So, having a continental breakfast just outside your room door works great!

Second of all, besides staying at a 5* hotel, with the attendant wonderful service, terrific amenities, fine dining and character options, recreational options, as well as great rooms; you get pampered by staff.  There’s a concierge staff (who are set up right across from the food and drink) to help with your dining, other reservations, and/or other needs. So – you can grab a soft drink or snack while they assist you. The snacks are there throughout the day, for rest time – when you come back from a swim and need to get refreshed.

Third of all, there are hot h’or d’oeuvres from 5-7 that will give you a little boost after a long day park hopping… (all with your choice of alcoholic or other beverage).

And then there is the dessert buffet from 8:30 to 10:00 pm, so you can grab a chocolatey snack, with a Grand Marnier, and then head out to see the fireworks.

Is the pampering good at the Grand Floridian?  To die for!

July 17, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Returning to My Happy Place – Disney’s Grand Floridian

My family was lucky enough to return to the Grand Floridian for our 5th visit recently (and our #19 visit to Disney in total). I returned to my happy place!

Let’s be clear…. I LOVE the Grand Floridian. 

I love the Victorian elegance. I love the white buildings, and pastel shading. I love the service, the amenities, the pools, the dining, being so close to Magic Kingdom, and the convenience of being on property and at such a terrific resort.

How could you not like the beautiful sand beach, the canyon-themed waterslide, and being within walking distance of some terrific restaurants – and we’re not even talking about the monorail access to Magic Kingdom!

Seriously – look at the photos. How could you not want to stay here?

July 14, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts | 2 Comments

Chef Mickey is Cooking Up a Late Summer Feast for your Family

Greetings,

Are you tempted to visit Mickey Mouse this summer? The head mouse and I have put our thinking caps on, and have come up with a special offer for you! The “Memories Vacation Package Plus Free Dine”.

Here are the  OFFER DETAILS

Booking Window: NOW-Sept.24.11

Travel Window: Aug.28-Sept.24, 2011

This Includes :

– Accommodations – Magic Your Way Base Ticket for each member of the traveling party

– One 20-page Disney’s PhotoPass® Photo Book

– Disney Dining Plan FREE

This terrific promotion gives you free regular “plus” dining plan at moderate, deluxe, or deluxe villa resorts. (Or free “quick service” dining plan at the value resorts – which you can choose to keep, or upgrade to the regular “plus” dining plan.)

If you’re looking for a late summer getaway, the magic of the WDW parks is certainly a terrific option. Not only can you enjoy Florida sunshine, and lessening crowds at the parks, but a family of 4 (two adults, one child, one junior) can save $1100 USD with this amazing deal.

But don’t wait! Advance dining reservations (which are required to dine with the characters, or for table service meals) can be booked up to 180 days in advance, so many of the popular locations are filling up.

Give me a call! Let’s get your magical vacation sorted – and I’ll help you make the advance dining reservations too!

Sincerely,

Sheila Gallant-Halloran

613-837-0699

sheila.gh@vision2000.ca

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Kids, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Visiting Mickey? The Memories are Priceless, The Vacation $ Need Planning

I just returned from my family’s 19th trip to Disney, and as I’m writing several blog posts about the experience, I’m receiving queries from new clients who want to visit Mickey.

First timers usually have no idea of the costs involved.  They just figure it’ll be a lot. It doesn’t have to cost the moon, of course. A Disney vacation is like any other – we can match your family’s needs with a resort. I help clients look at their expected level of service, price points, desired room size, desired amenities, dining options, location preference, convenience desired, and recreation options. We can choose amongst 22 onsite hotels that range from value to moderate to deluxe to villas.

But before we get into looking at resorts, there are some basic things that are part of every Disney vacation. A quick look at those can help you get a fix on overall parameters, before we look at a resort. Let’s assume you have a family of 4 – 2 adults, 2 kids aged 5 and 11 (so one child in 3-9 years of age bracket, and one child in the junior age bracket of 10+ years of age).  Assume these costs are fairly fixed.

1. AIR – Air is going to be a significant part of your expenses. So, unless you’re driving, have frequent flier points, or are blessed with finding a rare seat sale, a good rule of thumb is to assume $500/person for return air ticket to Orlando. That’s $2000 for a family of 4. Air can cost more (especially at holiday travel times, when kids are out of school and everyone has the same week off). Or it can cost less (depending how much time and energy you want to invest to reduce costs), but it’s highly unlikely you’re ever going to fly 4 people to Orlando out of Ottawa for less than $1500 (and that’s snagging a seat sale), although you might do slightly better if you’re willing to drive 3-5 hours to the states (Plattsburgh, Syracuse, or Buffalo) or a bigger center (Montreal or Toronto). Of course, if you’re driving anywhere, you have to factor in additional expenses like gas, airport parking, overnight hotels, your driving time and lost vacation time, etc – and you really have to weigh those extra costs with the flight cost savings. 

Let’s assume we got some deals. We’ll use the half way mark of $1750 for air.

2. TICKETS – Park tickets to Disney are expensive. It’s a fact. Disney charges the most for one day tickets, and then every day you add, the cost per day goes down. Don’t be penny wise, and pound foolish. You’re spending a lot of money to go to Disney, so get the maximum day count on your tickets. We can talk about your family’s touring needs, but I generally recommend a park hopper (ph) pass (I have other blog posts about ph vs base tickets – see https://sheila0gh.wordpress.com/category/disney/disney-tickets/), and leaving the water park option off (you can add it when you get there if you find the weather’s super hot, and you find you really can’t fill your days with the four major parks… not usually a problem, but you never know… :-)…).  And I recommend to all my clients that we put together a vacation package with WDW Travel Company – I’d rather deal directly with the source, and the Mouse is the guy in the know. (Please don’t buy discount tickets from some online supplier who isn’t reputable. I’ve heard horror stories.) 

An 8 day park hopper (yes, 8 days – even though you might be going for 7 nights – you want to leave flexibility for travel days to visit the parks – it costs just a little more than a 7 day park hopper ticket) will run the family of four id’ed above $1385.57 USD.

Why do I suggest the maximum day count?  Some think, “let’s reduce the day count to save money.”  But that’s being penny wise, and pound foolish again. Why? Well, a 5 day park hopper ticket for the family of 4 id’ed will cost $1283.33 USD. And, the 8 day ph tix cost 1385.57. So – why not get 8 day ph tix, and get 3 more full days in the parks for less than $25 more/person.

But, let’s suppose your flight times won’t let you use an 8 day ph to even see the fireworks on the first night, say you land after midnight… So, let’s use a 7 day ph ticket for the family of 4 id’ed as our guide – that’s $1350 usd for tickets.

3. FOOD – Food at the parks is certainly not free. If you’re there with hungry kids, it’ll cost you. If you want to eat with the characters, or have a nice meal, it’ll cost you more. There is the occassional free dining promotion (which is an awesome deal – and is on again at the end of summer this year for vacations from Aug.28-Sept.24th), which will save you ~$1100 for the family of 4 id’ed above for a week. (Call me if you want more details.) But if Mickey isn’t buying, paying for your meals in the parks and resort hotels will add up. Unless you’re extremely motivated to save money, and plan on making sandwiches/preparing some of your own meals, the dining plan costs can be used as a guide for budgeting for food. (And, the dining plan costs do not include booze or gratuities.)  The regular “plus” dining plan provides plenty of food, and meets most family’s needs – it gives one table service meal, one counter service meal, and one snack per person per night of stay. (There is a “quick service” plan that only provides takeaway/counter service meals. There is a “deluxe” plan that will allow for three sit down meals.) The regular “plus” plan costs ~$47/night/adult or junior 10+ years of age, and ~$12/night/child aged 3-9 years of age (there is a slight variation by season). So, on a 7 night vacation, you can assume you’ll spend~$1000 on food for a week.

So, we’re already at $1750 for air + $1350 for park tickets + $1000 for food = $4100 in the relatively fixed costs. And you haven’t slept anywhere yet!  (Obviously, if that’s pushing your budget, call me, and we’ll get you booked to go when the free dining is on – can save you $1000 off the top!)

4.) HOTELS – Your choice of hotel is where the true variable costs come in (unless you want to upgrade the dining plan, and/or add some other special tours, etc.) Looking at hotels, Disney has over 22 properties onsite, and I always recommend staying onsite for a pile of reasons (I have other blog posts about that too- see  https://sheila0gh.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/intro-to-disney-the-onsite-vs-offsite-debate/). 

Disney’s onsites include value hotels (think Motel 6 or Best Western style), moderate hotels (think better Best Western or a Holiday Inn style), and deluxe hotels (think Sheraton, Hilton, up to Four Seasons style).  There are also some cabin accommodations (think wood cabin that sleeps 6, with its own bbq and picnic table), and there are villa accommodations (think time share-like condos that Disney rents out as hotel rooms).  We can pick the level of service, price point, room size, amenities, dining options, location, convenience factor, and recreation options that work best for your family.

Disney hotel rates vary by the season window. (I think there are 23 rate windows in a 52 week year, with pricing that changes also by weekday or weekend.) Suffice it to say there are value, regular, peak, and holiday rates. If we pick a value week (which, coincidentally, is when the free dining promo is on), here’s a rough guide of what hotel only room costs would be for a 7 night stay (so, this is excluding the air, tickets, dining noted above that added to the $4100 – and it exludes things like vacation insurance, souvenirs, photopass, etc.) for a stay from Aug.28th-Sept.4th

1. Value Hotel: Pop Century, preferred room:   $810.00

2. Moderate Hotel:  Caribbean Beach, preferred room: $1472.00 USD

3. Deluxe Hotel:

3a. Wilderness Lodge, woods view room: $2267.00 USD

3b. Contemporary Hotel, garden view room (monorail): $2385.00 USD

3c. Grand Floridian, outer building garden view room (monorail): $3488.00 USD

4. Deluxe Villas 

4a. Beach Club Villas deluxe studio: $2717.00 USD

4b. Old Key West, one bedroom villa: $3288.00 USD

Of course, there are multiple room categories at each of the 22 onsite hotels, so prices can fluctuate with your room choice.  And if we play with rate seasons, we can see other variation in the rates…(and there are sometimes room promos, in addition to other promos like free dining – but we can only apply one at a time).

SO FOR ESTIMATED VACATION COSTS:

If our family of 4 id’ed goes to Disney from Aug.28th-Sept.4th, you can assume the whole vacation at a value hotel will run close to $5000 USD. Staying at a moderate hotel will run around $5500. Staying at a deluxe hotel will run around $6300 +(depending on the level of deluxe). … but, if I can snag them the free dining at their selected resort for this week, we can take $1000 off the top of all these costs (so value ~$4000, moderate ~$4500, deluxe ~$5300+).

Now that you have an idea of the fairly fixed costs, and the variable costs, we can get your Disney vacation sorted. We all know that the memories you’ll take away are priceless.  Hopefully the above blog will give you an idea of the vacation $ involved, so you can do some planning.

Call me at 613-837-0699 or email me at sheila.gh@vision2000.ca ! Let’s get started talking about the perfect Disney vacation for your family!

July 9, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney | 4 Comments

Some Pros & Cons – Staying at a Moderate – Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

For visit #19 to WDW last week, my family spent 3 nights at the Caribbean Beach moderate resort, and 3 nights at the Grand Floridian deluxe resort. I’d stayed at the Grand Floridian 4 times previously, so I knew I loved it, and knew what to expect. However, this was my first time staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), and I was looking forward to getting a “fuller” appreciation than my previous onsite visits and training could capture.

First up, the pros :

a.) The CBR is a beautifully laid out resort, and it takes its design and theming inspiration from an actual place (like all moderate hotels) – you feel like you’re in the Caribbean. The resort is composed of 6 villages/islands of Aruba, Barbados, Martinique, Jamaica, Trinidad North, and Trinidad South; and each has its own Caribbean vibe. I’d done a blog previously that is relevant here. https://sheila0gh.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/first-impressions-disneys-caribbean-beach-resort/

b.) The Disney bus transportation can whisk you from the CBR, which is in the Epcot resort area, to the various Disney parks and Downtown Disney.  Like all Disney hotels, you have free transportation onsite, plus have Disney service, are surrounded by the magic 24 hours a day, can purchase the dining plan, can use the free shuttle to and from the airport, and have access to the Extra Magic Hours.

c.) The CBR offers onsite recreation including a pool with a waterslide. There are quiet pools in each village/island, in addition to a large pool by Old Port Royale. The quiet pools give you lots of opportunity to get away from the bustling crowds, if you’d rather a more sedate swim time. But if you want to be around a lot of folks, the waterslide area of the main pool will certainly fill your needs!  See earlier blog post here: https://sheila0gh.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/chillaxin-at-disneys-caribbean-beach-resort/

d.) The CBR is one of Disney’s moderate hotels, and it offers a good balance between amenities and price. It offers great value for folks looking for stays longer than a couple of days. It can also serve as an appealing move up from a value hotel for repeat Disney guests (especially if they think they might spend more time around the pool). There are lots of accommodation options for multi-generational families to gather (so each can have their own space, but still be close enough to visit back and forth as well).  Staying at the CBR, you will be aware that you are vacationing with many other young families, and there will be raucous laughter and fun aplenty happening on the hotel grounds.

e.) There are plenty of quick service dining options in Old Port Royale and the Marketplace (pizza, sandwiches, burgers, salads, beverages, etc), as well as shopping opportunities. And there is also a sit down, or table service restaurant onsite, called Shutters.

f.) The CBR has perhaps the largest rooms in the moderate category hotel.

Now, for the cons:

a.) The CBR is beautifully laid out, but it is really spread out. The CBR is so large that it has its own internal bus system. If you’re not staying in a preferred room, you will spend a long time walking to get to Old Port Royale to the dining and main pool areas. 

b.) Part of choosing a resort is balancing what works for your family in terms of amenities and price. Staying at a moderate (instead of a deluxe hotel) means you save on price, but sacrifice location and convenience of access. At CBR, my family stayed in a preferred room in Trinidad North, so we were at the prime location at this resort for being close to transportation and dining options. However, we hadn’t appreciated how different the convenience factor would be from a monorail hotel.

Let me give you an example in terms of travel time to Magic Kingdom (MK) by bus. The first night at CBR, we lined up to catch the bus in Trinidad North at 7:00 pm, boarded the bus at 7:10pm, and at 7:25 pm, our bus was exiting the CBR grounds. (Did I say the resort is spread out?) We finally arrived at the bus station at MK park gates at 7:45 pm. So, it took us 20 minutes to get to Magic Kingdom, once we had left the CBR grounds, but it had taken 35 minutes from the time we’d boarded the bus, and 45 minutes from the time we stood in line in terms of wait and transport time.

Managing expectations may be key, of course, because if you know about this upfront, you can plan around it; and if the balance of convenience and price makes this the right resort for you, then you can definitely make it work. However, the wait and transport time is significantly more than the 5-10 minute period I know from staying at a deluxe monorail hotel.

A bus trip home to CBR from MK later that night had us boarding at 12:18 am, and back at the resort at 12:40… so 20 minutes seems to be pretty standard ride time (with a 10 minute or so wait at the front end). Being a preferred building, our Trinidad North was one of the first stops coming home, which was nice. 

However, the ride home from MK had also involved a much longer walk to get to the CBR bus station than I’d anticipated. Having previously stayed many times at the Contemporary, I knew well the walk home from MK. So, I was surprised that we had to walk almost back to the Contemporary from MK to catch our CBR bus, as this shaky photo from our CBR stop line shows. 

Bus transportation from CBR to Epcot and Hollywood Studios was about 10 minutes faster, as the CBR is located closer to those parks than it is to MK, but we found MK transport usually took longer than a half hour. 

The location and bus transport time also meant we didn’t zip back and forth between our hotel and a park, as we would often do at a monorail hotel – once we left the CBR, we were usually gone for longer periods of time. (It isn’t as easy to head back to your hotel for a swim, and then go out again.)

c.) As with any vacation choice, you make a decision about resort based on the level of service, price, amenities, location, etc…. and the CBR does offer a good balance of price and amenities. However, if you are a power internet user while on vacation (as I am), it’s possible that the CBR may not be the resort for you. My time there had been plagued by connectivity and intermittent access issues (even after replacing the cable, and dealing with their onsite help desk). At one point, the onsite help desk advised me to step down my internet connection speed to 10 megabits/second half duplex, which, for a travel agent needing fast access, was awfully slow. I was also hampered by the fact that the internet plug in was behind the bed, and the cord wasn’t long enough to reach the desk (and no extensions were available), which meant that the work I did do on vacation had me plunked on the bed (which wasn’t ideal for me or my family).  

I had been assured by onsite staff that my connection issues were most unusual, and perhaps I just had a bad port/ area of the hotel. They apologetically refunded the $9.95/day connection fee I’d been charged to access the internet. However, it’s worth  noting that I had none of these connection issues when we later moved over to the Grand Floridian (and there, we had extremely fast, and free, wireless access during my stay in the concierge area). If you don’t need internet access on holiday, this isn’t an issue, of course, but if you need to work, even a little, this access can put a damper on your stay.

d.) While the main pool area of the CBR is terrific, my heart lies with the canyon-themed waterslide and beach of the Grand Floridian (GF).  My own personal preference is for the finer dining options of the GF, the queen beds (rather than the doubles at a moderate), more sedate surroundings, the gorgeous pastel shading and Victorian surroundings of the GF, more room service options, having access to the character meals and even childcare (if needed), a different level of service, and more spacious rooms (deluxe rooms are much larger). But these are the differences between a moderate and deluxe hotel category, rather than cons of the CBR per se. 

The differences between hotel categories should be discussed and considered before choosing your Disney resort. It’s obviously important that we match your family’s needs and expectations to the proper resort. Disney has over 22 onsite hotels, so we should talk to discover what’s most important to you. I’m here to ensure your family can create the memories that will matter most to you!

Give me a call!  Sheila 613-837-0699 or email me sheila.gh@vision2000.ca

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | 4 Comments