Why Disney World Resorts Are The Best (Series)…Deluxe Resorts Part 2

Friendship boats to get to Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Friendship boats to get to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Let’s continue on down that deluxe resort road, down the road to Epcot (and Animal Kingdom). The next batch of deluxe resorts continue to wow us with their theming, amenities, and park proximity. Characterized as the Epcot resorts are the Beach Club, Yacht Club and the Boardwalk Inn. These three resorts surround Crescent Lake. Then in a world of its own is the Animal Kingdom Lodge, located in close proximity to the Animal Kingdom. Each one of these resorts has something great to bring to the table.

The Beach Club/Yacht Club
These two resorts are like brother and sister. They are actually attached and share without question, Disney’s best pool, Stormalong Bay. Both hotels have very similar layouts and share the theme of being by the ocean. The theme of the Beach Club is turn of the century New England seashore. The Yacht has more of a boating, nautical feel. Some people say that the Yacht Club has a slightly more adult feel to it, but just like every resort on property, families of all ages are welcome, and shorts and Mickey shirts are the norm. These resorts share buses too, but you will have a nice relaxing covered bus stop to wait at.

Walkway to Epcot

Walkway to Epcot

Proximity
By far, the best perk of these hotel is the proximity to Epcot. In case you didn’t know, Epcot actually has two entrances, the main one by the monorail and spaceship earth, and one called the international gateway, located between England and France. You can only get to this entrance from the Epcot Resorts. The walk from the Beach Club to Epcot it literally 5-10 minutes depending on your pace. The Yacht club might be an extra 5 minutes since it’s situated on the farther end. This comes in handy if you want to drink your way around the countries, stay late at the International Food and Wine Festival, or want to make a quick getaway after Illuminations. Both hotels also line Crescent lake, the waterway that connects Epcot to the resorts and to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can definitely walk to Hollywood Studios from the Beach and Yacht Club, but it will probably take you 20-30 minutes. If that seems like too much, hop on one of the Friendship boats. Yacht and Beach club share a dock where a boat will pick you up and take you to your final destination. FYI, the boat makes a few stops and can take a while. The order of the stops is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Swan/Dolphin, Yacht/Beach, Boardwalk, Epcot, then reverse order. So remember, even though it seems close, I wouldn’t try to cut it too close with Fastpasses or dining reservations.

Stormalong Bay pool is awesome.

Stormalong Bay pool is awesome.

Pool
Let’s hop back to the pool situation. Stormalong Bay is a huge, sand bottom pool complete with lazy river, waterfalls, coves, bridges, kids sections, hot tubs, and water slide. This pool was becoming so popular, everyone wanted to go. Now it is for hotel guests only, and cast members will check you magic bands to make sure you are a resort guest. Also FYI, one of the only complaints I’ve heard about this pool is that the entrance to the water slide is actually outside the pool area, close to Crescent Lake. If you are alone at the pool with a young child, it might be difficult to constantly keep an eye on them. However not to worry, there are always tons of lifeguards everywhere.

Refill your mug by the pool

Refill your mug by the pool

Dining
Staying in the Epcot Resort areas opens up your dining options because you are in short distance of Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk, Yacht/Beach club, and the Swan/Dolphin. The Yacht club does not have any quick service dining options so you will have to go elsewhere if that is what you are looking for. And that brings me to a money saving recommendation if you are debating buying the Rapid Refillable Mugs. I would not buy them if I was staying at the Yacht club because there is no where to refill them. All the refill stations are located at the Beach Club (which has 3). Now they will work at any hotel so if you were staying by the pool all day you could refill them at the poolside grill Hurricane Hanna’s, but if that’s not the case, it’s not convenient for you at all. On the flip side, if you are staying at the Beach Club, I would highly recommend buying the mugs. You can even use them at the Beaches and Cream restaurant. Don’t forget they will also work at the participating Boardwalk refill stations if you are over there.

Stroll down the Boardwalk

Stroll down the Boardwalk

Boardwalk Inn
The Boardwalk Inn captures the feel of a coastal 1920’s seashore boardwalk. Again you have the convenience of walking or boating to Epcot through the international gateway as well as Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It is a slightly closer walk to the studios from the Boardwalk since it’s across the lake from Yacht/Beach. The Boardwalk is a perfect place for families that enjoy more of a nightlife or bustling feel. All of the restaurant’s for this hotel are actually on the boardwalk, so you must go outside to access them. You will have a variety of dining options, from quick service, to casual, to ice cream, to more high end.

Rent a surrey bike at the Boardwalk

Rent a surrey bike at the Boardwalk

There is something for everyone. There are also two clubs on the boardwalk, Atlantic Dance Hall and Jellyrolls for some evening entertainment and dancing. You can also rent surrey bikes on the boardwalk and make the Crescent Lake loop. FYI, if you have a fear of clowns, this is not the resort for you. The pool is home to a giant (creepy) waterslide clown.

Creepy clown? You decide.

Creepy clown? You decide.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a room facing the lake because there are also very pretty gardens on the other side of the hotel for you to stroll though. This hotel is the smallest of the deluxe resorts in terms of available rooms so it can fill up fast, especially during the International Food and Wine festival. All the Epcot resorts tend to fill up during this time. Also, during certain times of the year, the Boardwalk might share a bus with the Swan/Dolphin and they usually drop at the Boardwalk last. If you are willing and able, I’d hop off and walk back to the Boardwalk. It’s such a pretty view walking around the lake anyways. If there are any runners reading, the Crescent Lake loop is approximately 1 mile, or the path along the water to Hollywood Studios would make a great out and back.

Enjoy the savanna view at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Enjoy the savanna view at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Animal Kingdom Lodge
Situated close to its Animal Kingdom counterpart, the Animal Kingdom lodge brings the feeling of an African wildlife preserve right to central Florida. Definitely the highlight of this hotel is the savanna views of the animals. There are 3 separate savannas, Sunset, Arusha, and Uzima, and each one offers a different view and some difference in animals. Your room will come with a viewing guide, and there are many cast members that can answer questions about the animals. There are also special sunrise and sunset safari tours you can reserve. This is definitely not cheap, however you will have 3 hours of pretty much a private safari tour. This is another resort that has bunk beds available which could work well for certain parties. FYI, not all rooms face the savanna. This is something you must request when selecting a room category. This hotel has plenty of dining options for the more adventurous and the mundane.

View of the pool.

View of the pool.

The hotel offers one of the largest pools on Disney property but note to adults, there is no quiet pool at the Animal Kingdom lodge. This hotel also has the most rooms out of all the deluxe resorts. I have yet to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge simply because of it’s location. All of the other deluxe resorts allow you to walk, boat, or monorail to a nearby park or two. Animal Kingdom Lodge just seems so out of the way to me that I haven’t been able to commit to transportation only by bus for the price of deluxe. But that is just me, and if animals are your thing and you love the Animal Kingdom, this place should be a perfect fit.

The Epcot resort area is becoming one of my favorite places to stay for the convenience and proximity to two parks. Even getting to the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom does not take that long. A few more FYI’s about all deluxe resorts, all hotels will have different room options, suites, and club level. One of the more annoying things considering the price you pay, not all rooms are guaranteed walk out balconies. You will definitely have a sliding glass door that opens, but there might not be an actual patio with chairs, just a railing. This is something you can request and hope for the best. As always, contact me if you have more questions or want recommendations for your next stay. That concludes the deluxe resorts but there are still plenty more accommodation options on property. Stay tuned for Disney Vacation Club villas.

Getting Ready For Your Walt Disney World Vacation…MagicBands

magic 5 About a month out from your Walt Disney World vacation, you will receive a special little present in the mail: MagicBands. These are the greatest things Disney has given us since Dole Whips, and I’d like to share with you not only why they are awesome, but some tips for stress free use.

Peel off the black part to make it a kids sized band

Peel off the black part to make it a kids sized band

Right away I was super impressed with the bands. You can choose from seven colors (red, yellow, green, grey, blue, pink, orange), from your My Disney Experience account after you have a Disney reservation. The bands have your name inscribed on them in case you have a large party with duplicate colors. The bands also arrive as one size fits all, but have been creatively designed to magically turn into a kids size band by removing part of the strap. The bands are lightweight, waterproof, and can be easily taken off if you don’t feel like sleeping with it on.

Why Is The MagicBand So Magical?

Your name is printed on the inside to keep every in your party straight.

Your name is printed on the inside to keep every in your party straight.

Disney has pretty much done away with the paper ticket and has phased out paper fastpasses. Everything is now linked to your band.

Your MagicBand:
1. Will open your hotel room.
2. Is your ticket into the parks.
3. Is your fastpass+ ticket onto a ride.
4. Can be linked to your photopass account.
5. Can be linked to you credit card to pay for meals and souvenirs.
6. Allow you access into certain areas around your hotel (i.e. Stormalong Bay pool).

MagicBands let you toss that fanny pack away.

MagicBands let you toss that fanny pack away.

You can just about go to the parks wallet free if you’d like. You may even feel lighter or opt to leave your fanny pack at home. I especially appreciate the convenience of everything rolled into one because I have forgotten my ticket in the past. I also had to put up with my husband asking “do we need our tickets for this?” obnoxiously every time we left our hotel room during our first Disney trip together. MagicBand made it easier to manage his negative behavior, because I could see it on his wrist and could ignore him when appropriate. Other times that MagicBand would have helped me was when I was with a group of my friends and we had been at one of the parks in the morning when it was cool and I was wearing jeans. I used to keep my park ticket in my back pocket so I’d have easy access for the fastpass machine. That evening I changed into shorts and went back to the Magic Kingdom. I didn’t realize my ticket was still in my jeans pocket until we were at the gate. A pain in my butt that will never happen again.

Get all up in that Mickey head grill.

Get all up in that Mickey head grill.

How To Not Look Like A Newbie:
There is a Mickey head in the middle of the MagicBand. There is also a Mickey head on anything that will read the MagicBands RFID chip (hotel room door, park entrance turnstiles, fastpass return line, etc.) Your band will only read if you touch Mickey head to Mickey head. Yes, you actually need to touch your band to the Mickey Head. You’ll see many people who don’t read this blog waving their MagicBand over the sensor and hoping for Disney magic to allow them entry. While the park attendants will patiently remind you that you need to touch Mickey to Mickey, the patrons behind you may not be as patient. Want to get your kids excited/train your kids to use them, practice at home by decorating your house with Mickey stickers. Put your kids to the test. Put them high, low, on top of counters, on doors. Your family will not only look unbelievably awesome for knowing what to do, (read: you will look like an awesome parent with your life together when your kids manage their MagicBands flawlessly, and who doesn’t want to look like an awesome parent?) You will also save some time not having to learn how to use them.

Complimentary when staying on property.

Complimentary when staying on property.

FYI:

MagicBands are only complementary to Disney World Resort guests and Annual Passholders. If you are staying off site, you will have the option of purchasing a MagicBand at one of the parks. If you do not wish to purchase a MagicBand, you will have a card that will essentially do the exact same thing. If you do have a MagicBand, you do not have to link it to your credit card. It might become all too easy to start waving your wrist around in the air and spending money on souvenirs like you just don’t care. Also, even if you do opt in, your children won’t be unless you want them to. Remember how I mentioned the My Disney Experience account? This is how you choose your fastpasses and link them to your MagicBand. Make sure to link your reservations ahead of time to avoid frustrations. I will go over the My Disney Experience app/account in a different blog, but for the meantime, those staying on property can reserve fastpasses 60 days out and off property 30 days out.

The Job I’ve Been Waiting For…Disney Vacation Planner

Carsland in Disneyland

I’m a Disney World AND Disneyland pro

Over the last couple months, I have been putting all my effort into becoming a Disney Vacation Planner for the Wish Upon a Star With Us agency. While it might have been a bit of a shock to my friends and family when I sprang this news on them, after a couple minutes, no one really seemed surprised. I can’t help but think this was the role I was meant to play. My vast knowledge and love for Disney suddenly has a purpose in life, and I couldn’t be happier.

 

So what exactly does a vacation planner do? We plan vacations of course! But not just any vacations, Disney vacations: the most magical of them all. I won’t lie to you when I say planning a Disney vacation can be more work that one might like it to be. There are many things to consider, where to stay, when to go, where to eat, what to do when we get there.

Let me take all the stress out of planning for you.

Let me take all the stress out of planning for you.

My job is to be your Disney guru and channel your inner-most Disney desires. I take the time and stress out of planning so you can just show up and be on vacation. I will take care of booking accommodations, park tickets, magic bands, fastpasses, dining reservations, transportation, and anything else you can possibly think of. No more searching the internet for hours wondering if this weekend is the right time to book, or if prices will drop next weekend. No more pointing and clicking your life away doing your own research for restaurants. You already know your family — tell me what they like, and I’ll help you find your very own Disney niche. For those that want to give up full control, I will plan it all, for those that have ideas of what you already like, I will work with you. And here comes the kicker, this service is no cost to you! That’s right, free, and we all know nothing at Disney is free. My planning abilities also extend far beyond Disney World. As a graduate of the Disney College of Knowledge, I am authorized to book Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani Resort and Spa, Disney Cruise Line, and Adventures by Disney.

Now what do I get out of it? I get an excuse to talk about Disney everyday. I get to plan magical vacations so families will have lasting memories together. I get the satisfaction of knowing I helped play a role in your dream vacation. Disney pays us a small commission to provide this service for you.

thinking of a runDisney event? Let me help you plan.

Thinking of a runDisney event? Let me help you plan.

Part of Your World blog readers, spread the word. If you’re in the market for a Disney vacation, I’m your girl. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Now is the perfect time to go. Celebrate today with everyone that makes you happy in this world and head to the happiest place on Earth.

Contact me and let’s start planning your next Disney vacation today!

sandy@wishuponastarwithus.com
(716) 672-9996

Disney in the Summer…Mother/Daughter Style

CIMG8196 (Medium)Are people born with an addiction to Disney, or are they made? I have been heavily influenced by my mother, who fed my addiction from an early age. She just got out pictures from our first mother/daughter trip. It was the year 2000 and I was an extremely awkward looking middle schooler. No offense to my dad and brother, but on a girls only trip, we made our own rules, plans, and quickly learned what worked well for us. As two easy going gals, we could venture the “world” at our own pace, taking in the smells, people watching, and noticing the details in everything. Before I knew it, I wanted to know more and more about Disney World and I wanted to go back more and more to Disney World. And luckily for me, my mom could be easily persuaded to more frequent trips.

CIMG8615 (Medium)We just booked a trip at Disney World for this July and will be staying at the Beach Club Villas (This has become my new favorite resort). While we had sworn off Disney in the summer (I don’t do well in heat…sweaty everything) it just felt like the right time to go. After a year of ups and downs, we are feeling good, and sometimes you need to celebrate life and family. While I’m not trying to fool anyone, July will be hot, humid, and crowded, I do have a few suggestions for those traveling in hotter months, and/or are traveling with someone that isn’t looking to jump on every ride and hop from park to park.

CIMG8683 (Medium)Pick Your Top “Must Dos”
Do not feel like you have to tackle everything in the park. Use your Fastpasses to pick your top choices, and then maybe hit a couple more if the crowds aren’t too bad. You must be flexible and be ok with leaving the park if you didn’t get everything done you typically do on a February vacation.

Leave During The Hottest/Most Crowded Part Of The Day
The new Fastpass+ system has made this concept work even better. If you really can’t stand the heat, wake up early and hit the parks until maybe 10-11. Head back to the hotel and swim or nap and grab a bite to eat. Since you can now make Fastpass+ arrangement ahead of time, you can schedule them for the evening hours. Come back to the park around dinner time or later to catch the fireworks. The parks are open pretty late in the summer, usually 11 or midnight so you will still have plenty of time to have fun once the sun goes down.

CIMG3881 (Medium)Take Frequent Breaks
As noted above, when you come back to the hotel midday, use this time to check out the hotel’s pool, catch up on some sleep, sit in a hammock that some of the resorts have, just relax. Don’t be scared to take breaks at the parks too. Find a bench in the shade, enjoy some delicious ice cream, or relax on one of the longer rides. You body, mind, and soul will thank you for not overdoing it.

Stay Hydrated
When I was younger, I was definitely guilty of drinking too much Diet Coke on vacation. Now that I’m old and wiser, I realize I need to stay hydrated so I don’t get fatigued. As annoying as it might be to have to run to the bathrooms frequently from drinking so many fluids, dehydration and heat exhaustion don’t sound particularly appealing to me. Maybe try going back and forth between your beverage of choice and water.

CIMG8118 (Medium)If Possible, Avoid Outdoor Attractions
There are many attraction at Disney World where the entire show/ride is outside. While I’m not saying you should scratch these from your itinerary all together, I would wait until evening if at all possible. The attractions/shows that are mostly outdoors are as follows. Animal Kingdom-Kilimanjaro Safari, Epcot-entertainment around World Showcase, Hollywood Studios-Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Lights, Motor, Action Stunt Show, Beauty and the Beast, and Magic Kingdom-any entertainment in front of the castle, Big Thunder Mountain, Astro Orbitor, and Splash Mountain (unless the line is not bad since you will get wet). Save these for a cooler morning or evening and head to the air conditioned rides during hotter times of the day.

Have Different Shoe Options
Make sure to bring shoes that you can walk around in all day. If these shoes are sneakers, I would recommend also having comfortable sandals as well. On a hot day, your tired swollen feet will want some fresh air. But remember, Disney is NOT the place to try out new shoes. Make sure you are able to walk a few miles in your footwear before you deem them Disney appropriate. Also, summer tends to be the rainy season in Florida. Only having one pair of sneakers that are now squish can put a serious damped on your trip.

P1000476 (Medium)A little planning ahead of time can lead to a much more enjoyable vacation. It’s really easy when sitting at your computer with a light springtime breeze ruffling your hair to over plan a summer trip full of every attraction imaginable. Remember, simply checking attractions off of a listed itinerary is not the purpose of a Disney vacation, enjoying spectacular attractions with beloved friends and family is the purpose of a Disney vacation. Sore feet, sweaty clothes, and sunburned skin are easy ways to turn a majestic fireworks display intended to cap off your perfect day into a series of loud noises you can’t wait to end so you can finally collapse into bed. You’re much better off planning a relaxed, conservative trip that will leave you looking forward to the next attraction, show, meal, park, day, and vacation — although if Mother-Daughter trips to Disney have taught me anything over the years, it’s that the next attraction or meal is far less important than the next conversation, smile, laugh, and memory shared with your family.

Top spots that will give you song chills…Disney World

Song Chills

Song Chills

I read somewhere that about 50% of people experience song chills (aka goose bumps) when they listen to music. This phenomenon is something that happens to me frequently, and most often when listening to music from Disney World or Disneyland. (I have Disney radio stations going for the rest of the year when I’m not actually there.) As sure as the sun rises in the East, I will without fail sense that shiver of excitement and awe down my spine for these Walt Disney World experiences.

See what a little wishing can do

See what a little wishing can do

Wishes
If you read my Best Firework viewing locations, you know that I am a pretty big fan of Wishes. While some folks may be getting tired of this show (I’m sure I would love whatever firework show they eventually decide to replace it with) Wishes has been around over a decade. That means I have looked up into the sky and dreamed as dreamers do throughout high school, college, and part of my adult life. I have watched it with my mom, friends, and now husband. While the show stays the same, I know I have grown and changed, making it meaningful and song chill worthy.

Watch World Showcase light up

Watch World Showcase light up

IllumiNations
For anyone interested, the pre IllumiNations and IllumiNations soundtrack are great songs to run to if you like to run to Disney music as I do. The finale always pumps me up and pushes me a little more. Plus it’s a long song, so by the time you ran to it, another mile should have gone by. Going off what I said about Wishes, I am a total sucker for Fireworks and anything that lights up and looks cool. When you are standing around World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot and the IllumiNations song is coming to its climax and all the countries light up as fireworks are sparkling overhead, it enough to make my hairs stand on edge for sure. While I could take or leave the giant globe (can never really see it anyways) the 360 view of world showcase lit up paired with an awesome song is just that…awesome.

Sing it girl!

Sing it girl!

Festival of the Lion King
Take one of the best soundtracks from a Disney movie and pair it with with super talented singers, acrobats, dancers, and fire handlers and you have a recipe for success. This show is just so visually stimulating, there is always something going on in front of you or above you. While the Tumble Monkeys are super impressive, and I can not figure out for the life of me how the dancing spinning birds (Can You Feel the Love Tonight sequence) don’t immediately fall over or throw up, the big beautiful woman who belts The Circle of Life is sure to give you well deserving chills.

Who doesn't love this guy?

Who doesn’t love this guy?

Mickey’s PhilharMagic
Disney again uses the soundtrack of the Lion King (If it aint broke) and other chart topping favorites, Be Our Guest, Part of your World, The Second Star to the Right, A Whole New World, to serenade you into a Disney Magic soundtrack coma. While it’s a 3D attraction (never wait in line for it), a “4th dimension” of in your face smells, pops, drips, and wind immerses you in the movie and gives the songs a refreshed feel. Without fail, the Little Mermaid sequence (did the blog title give it away? ) into the Lion King gives me song chills, and then I pretty much have them for the rest of the show with all that cool swirling wind. I feel like they packed so much classic Disney soundtrack magic into this movie, it’s impossible not to get a goose bump or two.

God Bless America, Voices of Liberty are awesome

God Bless America, Voices of Liberty are awesome

Voices of Liberty
Check you park entertainment times for catch the Voices of Liberty in the American pavilion of World Showcase at Epcot. This group of a cappella singers will serenade you will both Americana, Patriotic, and occasionally a Disney classic. Did I ever mention I love all things patriotic as well? They are so in sync and their sound is so powerful, which is amplified in the beautiful round rotunda room. Interested in more? They have a website: http://www.libertyvoices.com/, where you can even have them perform at your next event. That seems like a surefire way to have the coolest 4th of July party on the planet. Anyways, their voices are spectacular and the combination of their powerful sound and the very impressive sopranos cause immediate song chills all over my body.

I hope those in the (better) 50%, enjoy every last chill when experiencing these spots around the parks. Even if these spots don’t do it for you, there is bound to be a place in Disney World where you find the magic and let the emotions run wild. Disney is real great at immersing you in sights, sounds, and smells and this keep me coming back for more time and time again.