Archive for July, 2011

Hot Fun In The Summertime! Free Dining Rumors!

This weekend we’ll be spending time with friends — swimming, eating, chatting and just having a great time!  We hope that you too are finding a way to keep cool and have a wonderful time.

Everyone has been waiting to hear of new Disney World discounts extending beyond October 1 for a long time.  It seems that these discounts should have come out long ago, but nothing.  Until today.  Today we are hearing rumors that free dining is coming for this fall.  Keep in mind this is just a rumor at this point, but it does look to be more credible.  We expect this promotion to begin on August 3 for bookings through December 17.  There will be select dates that are blacked out for this promotion.  We believe that quick service dining will be free with value resorts and standard dining for moderate, deluxe and deluxe villa resorts.  As with past free dining offers, we believe you will be able to upgrade to other dining plans by paying the difference between the dining plans.

We expect there to be a three night minimum stay with a 2 day base ticket required.  Contact us to secure your booking when this promotions comes out!

The Ships of Princess Cruises

Love, exciting and new…  Come aboard, we’re expecting you…

The Love Boat!!

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Is a Destination Wedding for You?

One of my agents came to me the other day for some input on a question from a friend of hers.  The friend recently got engaged and was trying to decide where to have her wedding.  She was torn between having a local wedding and reception or going elsewhere.  We talked about different locations and challenges with each and in the end came up with a good check list to help anyone decide.

The first thing that the bride needs to decide is what is the most important thing for her with the wedding.  Does she want a big wedding with lots of guests?  Does she want a beautiful destination and an intimate setting?  There are many other things to question as well.

If cost is a big factor, for some, having something at home is the best solution, unless they will have a lengthy guest list.  A way to limit the number of guests is to have a destination wedding.  You won’t have to invite as many guests because it may be expensive for them to join you.  If there are people you must have at your wedding — friends, family members, etc., you will want to choose a location that will accommodate them the best.  For me, having my family and friends at my wedding itself was important so we were married in my parent’s backyard.  For my sister, she was more interested in having a tropical setting so she was married in Florida on the beach with only a few immediate family members there.  She then had a reception back at home.

Things to remember about a destination wedding is to keep in mind who will be going.  If your guests do not have passports, an international location will require them to get passports, adding approximately $110 per person (or more) to the cost to attend your wedding.

If you are selecting a destination that has a “season” when people usually travel there, you will want to plan as far in advance as you can.  While you can usually put together a destination wedding in less time than one that is local, popular destinations could be booked up just as far in advance.  For instance, Disney Cruise Line only has up to two weddings or vow renewals per sailing – one onboard and one on Castaway Cay.

If you do decide to have a destination wedding and there will be more than just you and your groom, I would recommend working with a travel agent.  Planning the details of a wedding is stressful enough, but to also have to deal with questions and bookings for your guests will make you wish you just eloped!  Whether you decide to get married on a cruise ship, on a Caribbean island, in the Pocanos or even Las Vegas, working with a travel agent that knows the destination and information on weddings can be a great asset to you.

Want to go to Cuba?

There has been a lot of talk in the travel industry recently about traveling to Cuba.  President Obama has lifted some of the travel restrictions, however there are still significant restrictions.  Violation of these restrictions can get you in a lot of trouble.  The restrictions that were relaxed have to do with “people-to-people travel”.  This opens up travel for religious activities, journalism, professional research, humanitarian projects, athletic events.  Some importation and exportation is also allowed.

However, the US embargo is still in place.  The embargo doesn’t restrict you from being in Cuba, it only means that you cannot spend money in Cuba.

A travel provider must get a special license to offer trips to Cuba.  Three companies who have done that are Globus, Abercrombie & Kent and Insight Cuba.  If you want to go to Cuba, your travel must be booked through one of the licensed travel providers (we do work with Globus).  The airline you use must also be separately licensed as a Carrier Service Provider.

Abercrombie & Kent sold out of all of its packages in the first week they were offered and are now in the process of getting more seats.  Both Abercrombie & Kent and Globus are partnering with licensed operators – Center for Caribbean Religion for Globus and the Foundation for Caribbean Studies for Abercrombie & Kent.


We’re Going On A Cruise!

A couple weeks ago we asked for your help in choosing a cruise for this fall.  Thanks to your input, we made a decision and booked a cruise!  We will be sailing on the Caribbean Princess on October 1 out of New York City to New England and Canada.  We are so excited and I have decided to take you with us on our planning and cruise.  Though I have taken classes on Princess and feel I know a lot about Princess Cruises, there is much to learn so I want to share that with all of you.  Over the next couple of months, we’ll take you through our decision, booking and research and finish up with the cruise itself.

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The Race is On…

So I was using a “free” ticket for my current trip to Walt Disney World.  The only flight that I could use for the free flight was at 1:30 in the afternoon, getting into WDW at 10:30 at night.  It was free so who could complain.  The more I thought about it though the more I wanted to suck every last minute of vacation time out of my trip.  So I decided to risk it and try getting on an earlier flight by going stand by.

There were a few things to consider before taking on this stand-by challenge. The first was availability of the flights.  I had been monitoring the flights I wanted to get on for about 2 weeks prior to leaving.  I knew there were open seats.  One-way tickets were still available the day before so I was sure the flight I was wanting was not over sold.

The odd thing was I could not get the flights to book together on their booking engine.  I could book them as separate flights, but not together.  That seemed a bit odd to me, but sometimes common sense is not your friend in trying to understand the airline booking websites.  The next only remaining risk was the extremely short layover time.  To get to Orlando the earliest possible time, I would have to make an 18 minute layover.  18 minutes to get off my plane, find out the new gate, dash to the new gate, get to counter, ask to get stand by, get a seat assignment, and get on the plane.  I decided that getting closer is better than sitting at home for the morning. If I didn’t make it I would camp out, have a little breakfast and read.  But the challenge of making it happen was too tempting.

I considered the airport I was flying through, the time of year, and how reliable the airline is for on-time departures.  Using my favorite site ( I could see how reliable the flights were.  They had a decent enough track record for on-time departures.  I then thought about the time of year and the weather.  It’s May, so there should not be a need to de-ice the plane. (Although it has been rather cold in Iowa this spring so it would not surprise me if they got snow)  The last final risk factor was the airport.  I was flying through Milwaukee and not changing airlines.  Usually the gates for departures on the same airline are all located together in the airport.  It was not like I would have to dash across O’Hare or change concourses.  All the risks seemed to be in order.

One final thing to consider was luggage. If I were checking luggage I would have to get back to airport to pick it up.  Checked luggage would not make it with me.  Three days before leaving I did the packing dry run to calculate if I could get 11 days of clothes in a carryon.  Using the vacuum packing bags and being a guy who was determined to streamline and make it work, I got it all in.  I even had room to spare in the suitcase.  (I needed to think about having extra room since I knew I would be bringing home more than I took and somehow dirty clothes seem to take up more room than clean ones).

So all the risks are calculated and challenge stand-by was a go.  So I had one of my best friends take me to the airport at 4:45 am.  The counter and security open at 5 am so I would be ready.  I got to the counter and asked to get stand-by.  The quirks of the online booking system were also happening at the airport.  Eventually with 3 agents work, they could get me on the first flight.  I was even able to get a seat in the front of the plane to make my fast dash off.  The problem was the second leg of the trip.  I had 3 options. My first choice was the 18 minute layover, but would get me into Orlando before noon.  Their system would not let them book it with that short a layover.  Plan B was having a 4 hour layover and getting into Orlando at 5:30 pm.  Plan C was I am on my original flight and getting in at 10:30 at night. They said if everything went well I could hit the gate and try standby when I got to Milwaukee.

When I got on the first flight I hit my first potential glitch.  I was getting on a regional jet to Milwaukee.  You know, one of those tiny planes.  It doesn’t pull up for a jetway, you have to climb down the stairs built into the door.  If I had to gate check my bag that would slow down my time.  I had my standard rolling carryon which is too big for the overhead bins.  Everything is too big for those bins.  I was able to get it under my seat and the plane was not full so I had 2 seats to myself for the flight.  Everything was on time.  We landed and then the race began.

I was the first off, dashed into the terminal and sprinted up the stairs.  I located a ticket agent and found out the gate for my Orlando flight.  I arrived at gate 24 in Milwaukee; the Orlando flight was departing at gate 21. I could see the gate and the door was open but no one was loading, there was no line.  I then hear the announcement for final boarding call.  My heart skipped a beat.  I’m close, so close.  I race to the counter in the classic OJ Simpson commercials of the 70s.  The agent is able to get me on and gave me a seat assignment.  I even get exit row for a little more leg room.  Coming in right behind me was a family of 5, and we were the last ones on with the door closed behind us.  I considered doing the touchdown dance down the aisle of the plane to celebrate the victory, but since I was getting the dirty look of “we had better not been sitting here waiting for you to get on” from other passengers, I decided against it.

As I got on the plane I knew it was going to Orlando, it’s was half full of kids (4 screaming babies), and announcement of a passenger with a nut allergy so no nuts allowed on the plane.  These are the telltale signs that you are on a flight to Orlando.  I grabbed my seat and proceed to take a nap.  The challenge accepted and pulled off.  I wonder if I should have videoed this so I could become a contestant on the Great Race.

Tips if you want to try going stand by.  Be prepared to have it fall through and spend some quality time in an airport.  Don’t do it if you have to be to your destination by a specific day and time.  Be aware that checked luggage most likely would not make it with you at the same time/flights.  Keep an eye on the weather and if there have been lots of delays there will be a lot of people trying to get out on stand by.  Also 1 or 2 people going stand by is possible, getting your family of 4 stand by on all legs of a trip is very difficult.

Disney’s Art of Animation, Part Three

This blog wrap up the last 2 themed areas of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.  The next area is the Lion King area.  This is comprised of 2 buildings of family suites.  This is the only courtyard without a pool but does have a play area.  The two buildings are close to each other and provide that look of the movie.  The buildings provide the backdrop to the Africa theme of the movie.

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