Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tinkerbell, Pixie Dust, Pirates, and a missing tooth (Disney Cruise Line)

You know when you are traveling with children that something unexpected is likely going to happen.  It's fate.  Sometimes it's good, sometimes not so much, but something unexpected nonetheless.  Well, on one of our Disney cruises, the inevitable happened, as it somehow always managed to do when we were traveling.  Fortunately this was one of those times that it was a little thing--little but VERY memorable. 

While we were sailing aboard the Disney Wonder my son lost a tooth.  After calming him down (for some reason tooth loss always came with hysteria and tears), we told him that it was pretty cool to lose a tooth at sea, and now he looked like a pirate!  He thought about that for a few minutes, smiled and decided that having a missing tooth for the pirate night would be cool, so all was well.  Then he asked the inevitable--"Mom, will the tooth fairy be able to get on the ship?"  I assured him that all would be fine, and that yes, the tooth fairy would find him. That was all he needed to hear, and things went back to normal (back to the kids club he went, proud of his new found "pirate" self.)

So off I trekked to Guest Services to see if they had something that I could put the tooth in (for safe keeping).  When I arrived at Guest Service, the very nice girl at the desk asked me for all of the details (and our cabin, etc.) so that she could alert our cabin steward, and then she promptly handed me a little envelope to put the tooth into.  I tucked away the tooth, and a short while later we went to dinner and forgot all about the tooth, and tooth fairy.

Pixie Dusted Bed
More Pixie Dust on the Floor
Tinkerbell's Card
Imagine our surprise when we arrived back to the cabin and TINKERBELL herself had paid us a visit!  When we walked in the room there was pixie dust all over, which started on our bed.  The pixie dust was carefully spread out along the bed, and then it continued down to the floor.  Leaving a trail behind of her visit.  Her pixie dust trail continued along and over to my son's bed.  In the center of the "pixie dust" was a card.  Inside the card was a message (and money**...) from Tinkerbell congratulating him on losing his tooth.  He also received an "I lost a tooth" button as well.  The pixie dust then continued over to the verandah door, and then it ended (a very nice touch I might add!)

Tinkerbell's Message
My son spent the rest of the cruise telling anyone who would listen that Tinkerbell had come to see him instead of the Tooth Fairy, and she visited his cabin and left him a really cool card, button, and money for his tooth!  Oh, and now he was an "official" pirate!  It was priceless, and a moment in time that I will never forget.  Thank you Disney Cruise Line for making it magical!

Do you have a magical Disney Cruise Line story?  We'd love to hear about it.

**disclaimer--the tooth fairy money wasn't from Disney, or Tinkerbell, it *may* have been put in with that card by my son's "Tooth Fairy", who may have come into the cabin prior to the rest of the family from dinner.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I am a travel agent...

I am often asked why someone should use a travel professional/agent.  "What's in it for me?" is often what I hear, or "I can do it myself."   In this digital world where you can click through websites and apps at a moment’s notice, Google an answer, look for an idea, where is the value?  The value is in the person—read for more perspective on the subject.

I am a travel agent.
I'm sometimes called a travel counselor or a travel professional. I use my knowledge of destinations, resorts, escorted tours, cruise ships, air travel and attractions to "counsel" clients on the best choices for their vacation dreams, desires and budgets.

As a travel agent, I add value
Think of me as you would an accountant, attorney, or a real estate agent. You can file your own tax return, but those who choose to use an accountant do so because they recognize that specialized knowledge pays off. You can represent yourself in court, but those who choose to have an attorney assist generally have better results brought forth by the attorney's specialization and knowledge.  Likewise, you can buy or sell your house without a real estate agent, but most people don't, because the absence of that knowledge can result in unexpected issues. While my role is to match up clients with the appropriate travel products, it's always the client's interests that I represent. If anything goes wrong with their trip, I'm there for them.  I am your advocate and voice.

Your time is precious
You have choices today. You can research and book your trip online. You might even save a couple of dollars. If you're just booking a flight from point A to point B, go ahead and book online. I won't be offended. You might find that it takes longer than you expected to find the 'best price' and if your flight is oversold or cancelled you'll be on your own, but if you're a gambler the odds are pretty good you'll be OK.

When it comes to your hard-earned vacation time, I will passionately defend the value of my services. That shiny brochure with the golden bodies sitting around a glistening pool doesn't always tell the reader the whole story. I might know that that pool that looks so inviting in the brochure is under renovation, the rooms are old, tired and dated; that on the particular week of your holiday choice that the place will be packed with drunken college kids. These things may matter to you. The value of that knowledge might even be worth many times the cost of the vacation.

Benefit from my knowledge.
My knowledge offers other benefits—the concierge who can arrange tickets to anything you might wish to attend; that wonderful little restaurant tucked away in a side street; the seat on the plane with that extra legroom. These are the kinds of things I learn through my travels and studies. I'm thrilled to share them with you.  I travel frequently to know these things first hand and to be able to share that knowledge with my clients.

I am a travel agent.
This is how I make my living. I may not get rich doing this, but that's not my motivation. I love to travel, see new places, meet new people, and enjoy new sensations. More than anything, I love the feedback from clients that my knowledge, care and attention helped them to create lasting memories. That's worth a lot to them. What is it worth to you?

Contributed by Sue Ellen Soto-Rios, Director of Travel for DreamFinder Travel.  Sue Ellen has had a passion for travel her entire life.  She travels extensively to multiple destinations in order to be able to share her knowledge with her clientele, and is an avid and self proclaimed "foodie" and wine enthusiast. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Walt Disney World Resort Hotels to test a new check-in feature

Walt Disney World Resort Hotels to test a new check-in feature--

Have you ever waited in line to check in at a hotel and wished that the online check in that you did meant you could just arrive and not have to go through the check in process at the hotel?  Well that could be coming very soon to the Walt Disney World Resort using the MyMagic+ system.  

This month, a test will take place at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels. This test involves a new potential service that could allow you to go directly to your hotel room once it is ready, without visiting the front desk. This test will be conducted for arrivals June 16-28, 2014 at the following Walt Disney World Resort hotels:
  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas – Jambo House and Kidani Village

If you are staying at one of these Resort hotels and arriving on the dates above, you must first link your reservation on and confirm the shipping address to receive your MagicBands at home.  Disney will send an email before you arrive explaining the details and benefits of this test. 

In order to participate in this test, guests will need to use Disney online check-in service, provide their estimated arrival time, a credit card to be used for incidentals and other charges once they arrive, and contact information. Guests will also need to make sure to consent to receive email or text message alerts so they can receive notification of their room number when it is ready. 

Don't have your vacation booked yet?  Contact DreamFinder Travel today to get started and reserve your magical vacation.   Great rates are still available for Summer and Fall travel.  

If you are staying at one of the participating Walt Disney World hotels during this test phase and try the new service, we would love to hear your

Friday, May 23, 2014

Flower and Garden Festival 2014

We wanted to share with you a short video of the 2014 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival.  If you have never been to Epcot during this event you are really missing out on one of the most beautiful times of year to visit (other than the holidays.)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

The opening date of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was just announced this week.  The new ride is set to open on May 28, 2014.  The coaster is really smooth, and the swinging cars are fun.  Disney has done an excellent job with the animatronics and the decor of the ride.  This is an excellent addition to Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom.  Here is a quick video of some of the ride queue "fun" and an abbreviated "ride through" on the train. 

FastPass+ options are available for this, so make sure to get your return time scheduled for your Disney trip.  Your DreamFinder agent will be happy to take care of adding this to your itinerary for you. 

If you are visiting the Magic Kingdom between now and the May 28th opening date, keep an eye out for potential "soft" openings and ride opportunities.  You never know when you might have some Disney "Magic" sprinkled on you!!

Are you ready to book a trip to take a ride on the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train?  Click here to request your Disney World vacation pricing quote today!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Harambe Nights!

 New and coming soon to Disney's Animal Kingdom, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of “The Lion King,” Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park will host Harambe Nights every Saturday evening June 7-Aug. 9, 2014.   Harambe Nights Celebrates Tales and Tastes of Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The journey begins with a Welcome Reception in the park’s Harambe Village where you will savour mouth-watering appetizers and African-inspired wine and beer. Then, it’s time for the “mane” event – an unforgettable performance of “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild.”
Bringing to life the story of Simba, this brand-new theatrical experience features a live orchestra and choir, dancers, digitally projected movie moments, as well as dramatic lighting and scenic elements – all hosted by a celebrity guest narrator.

The lineup of celebrity narrators features stars from stage and screen. Scheduled to appear are:

•    June 7 – Viola Davis (“The Help,” “Ender’s Game”)
•    June 14 – TBD
•    June 21 – Montego Glover (“The Following,” “Memphis”)
•    June 28 – David Alan Grier (“Porgy & Bess,” “In Living Color”)
•    July 5 – Michael Beach (“ER,” “Third Watch,” “Sons of Anarchy”)
•    July 12 – Harry Lennix (“The Blacklist,” “The Five Heartbeats”)
•    July 19 – Joe Morton (“Scandal,” “American Gangster,” “The Good Wife”)
•    July 26 – Alfre Wooard (“Desperate Housewives,” “Miss Evers Boys”)
•    Aug. 2 – Patina Miller (“Pippin,” The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1”)
•    Aug. 9 – Brian Stokes Mitchell (“Ragtime,” “Trapper John M.D.,” “Glee”)

After the show, the celebration continues with Harambe Nights Street Party. You can move to the beat as you enjoy an all-inclusive buffet of sophisticated and flavorful African cuisine and gourmet desserts. Disney Characters will be on hand as they show off their wild side.  Plus, exclusive Lion King merchandise will be available for purchase during the event.  The evening concludes with a special finale that could only happen at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.

Harambe Nights takes place every Saturday from June 7-Aug. 9, 2014.   The Welcome Reception begins at 7 p.m. and the “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild” starts at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $119 for adults, $79 for ages 3-9, plus tax. Tickets with premium floor seating are $134 for adults, $94 for ages 3-9, plus tax. Theme park admission is included for the special event only. All attractions, entertainment and other offerings outside of the designated event area will not be available.

Advance reservations are highly recommended. Capacity is limited.   Contact your DreamFinder Travel agent for more information or to book this new offering.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Journey into RunDisney

by DreamFinder Travel Agent, Lori Lane
Have you ever wondered what all the hype about RunDisney is about?  I know before I ran a race with them, I certainly did.  I finally made the leap last year and competed in my first RunDisney event, the Happy Haunted 5K.  This race takes place during the Tower of Terror 10 Miler weekend.  It amazed me how many people traveled to WDW to just take part in a race!  (Which is exactly what I had just done!)  I was also tying in the race with a weekend getaway from my children, to enjoy some time with my husband with our best friends, all the while taking in   Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival.  We thought throwing in our first RunDisney event would be fun…  Never did I think I would get hooked! 

Now, I’m not a runner at all.  I actually had to walk the race when I did it due to some recent surgery.  My first introduction into RunDisney was at the Expo, which is held at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.  This is also where our race was going to begin the next morning.  I couldn’t believe all the people here!!!  There were so many, and all the booths selling REALLY cool running gear!  The Expo is where you go to pick up your running packet, which contains your running number, t-shirt you get for participating and other freebies they throw in from the sponsors (these were things like a granola bar, fruit snacks, etc.).  The 10 Miler’s weekend Expo didn’t seem to me to be as large and extensive as the half marathon and marathon weekend ones I’ve seen pictures of, but it was impressive to this newbie!

The next morning we woke up early for our first RunDisney race!  We made our way over to Wide World of Sports.  The place was all-abuzz and it was only 5:45AM, and the race wasn’t even scheduled to start until 7 a.m.!  I remember being completely surprised at how many people were there, and ready to run.  Disney does a great job with organizing these races.  I have participated in a couple of 5K events locally for charity, and the organization at WDW was AMAZING.  With everyone around you so excited, there is no way to not get yourself pumped up for the race you’re about to start. 

Participating and finishing my first RunDisney Raced was SO MUCH FUN!  So much so, that I am now hooked.  I’ve already signed myself and my family up for the Jingle Jungle 5K in November of this year and hopefully it will become an annual tradition for our family, traveling to Walt Disney World during the Wine and Dine Weekend. 

Have you ever wondered how you can make your own journey into running with RunDisney?  My suggestion is to find one of the 5K events to start with.  They aren’t timed runs, but more of a Family “Fun” run, where many of the participants do walk.  If you are thinking to yourself, I can’t do a 5K, consider this—did you know that just walking around the Disney World theme parks in a regular park day visit can add up to much more than a 5K?  I have worn a pedometer to see, and it was WAY more than 5K so you can do it too!  The camaraderie of the participants is really great.  I was speaking to many people as I was going along and there were characters around giving High Fives--it truly was fun.   Everyone wants to make it to the finish!  Disney even makes it easy to get to/from the events by having “preferred” race hotels where they provide transportation to/from the event.  It’s a great way to spend a weekend at WDW!

If you would like more information on RunDisney Events, or would just like to secure a room for one of these or any other event, you can contact DreamFinder Travel (or Click Here) and we will be happy to help you with your Walt Disney World or Disneyland Hotel stay.  DreamFinder Travel has several RunDisney fantatics ready to help you, including Lori Lane.  You can ask to work with her when submitting your vacation request.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

FastPass+ and MagicBand updates

Good news!  Disney has been listening to guest feedback on the FastPass+ system and they are implementing some changes.  

The first big change is that now off-site guests can pre-book their FastPass+ selections up to 30 days in advance of their trip.  Those guests staying on-site will still be able to book their FastPass+ selections up to 60 days in advance (with valid park admission attached to their MyDisneyExperience account.)  That still gives on-site resort guests a 30 day advance booking advantage over non-resort guests.  Off-site visitors will also have the option of purchasing a MagicBand if they desire to do so (purchase of a MagicBand is not necessary to use the FastPass service.)

The next change is that they are working on allowing guests to get additional FastPasses after they use their first 3.  As of right now you still cannot get more than 3 attraction FastPasses for a single day.  However once this is implemented, once you have used your 3 FastPasses for the day, you will be able to select another FastPass at one of the in-park Kiosks, and once you have used the 4th, you can then select another, and so on.    Disney is also working on a way to allow for using the FastPass with park hopping as well.  These changes are coming soon, so keep an eye out for updates on this.

FastPass+ has been met with mixed reactions from park guests.  That being said, I'm glad to see that they are listening to feedback and working on new options in response to that feedback.

With all of the changes at Walt Disney World, remember that your DreamFinder agent is available to assist you with all of your vacation planning, including tips and assistance with using the FastPass+ system and MagicBands.  Make sure to partner with your agent for all of your trip planning needs to make the most of your Walt Disney World vacation.  We do all of the work so that you can have all of the fun!  


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Making Memories

Making Memories…

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m guilty of being the one BEHIND the camera and not being in any of my family vacation pictures.  In fact, if you were to look back through the thousands of my family photos taken over the years while at Walt Disney World you might not believe I was on any the trips!  Have you ever come back from a vacation only to look back through your pictures and realize that you are not in any of them either?  Is someone in your family also the DP (“designated photographer”) and missing from your vacation memories?  In hindsight, I really wish I had have been in more of the pictures to be part of the memories captured on film or by a digital camera.  It seems that the only pictures we had of the entire family were ones taken by random strangers who offered to assist and they often came out blurry or with heads cut out of the picture.  I think all of us at some time have found some of these pictures in our collections.

For these reasons and more, I was a fan of Disney’s PhotoPass service when they debuted it years ago.  It allowed all of us to get in on the magic and create vacation memories that we would treasure forever, but purchasing individual pictures was expensive and time consuming.  I am happy to say that those days are gone and Disney has now “rebranded” their PhotoPass service at Walt Disney World.  It is now called “Memory Maker”, a very fitting name in my opinion, and it’s EVERYWHERE at Walt Disney World.  It seems like you can’t turn a corner or walk into a store without seeing one of the Memory Maker displays offering the opportunity for you to purchase the Memory Maker service. 

What is Memory Maker you ask?  It’s Disney’s answer to the always-missing family photographer and/or the stranger-masquerading-as-family-photographer problems.  Disney has “PhotoPass” photographers all over the theme parks, ready to take your pictures and capture those perfect shots (including some magical surprises!)  Memory Maker allows guests to have everyone in the picture, and to link them to their DisneyExperience account so that friends and family can view them (if you allow for sharing.)  The Memory Maker service is 100% digital and it allows for unlimited downloading of photos from the day the pictures are taken until the photos expire (which is 45 days after they are taken.)  Also, you can collect pictures for up to 30 days after your vacation begins, so if you have an extended park visit you have plenty of time to gather those memories. 

How does it work?  When you see a PhotoPass photographer, have them take your picture(s).  Then touch your MagicBand or Memory Maker Card to the photographer’s electronic card reader to link the pictures to your DisneyExperience account.    It’s that simple!  There are PhotoPass photographers located at hundreds of locations throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, including almost all of the “flagship” locations. The Memory Maker even includes pictures taken at select attraction and dining locations.  You can also customize these pictures with borders and stickers, crop them, and/or make them black & white.  By purchasing the Memory Maker you get the digital rights to have these printed at any location you would like. Who knows? You may just find that perfect family picture for your holiday cards!  Be sure to ask your DreamFinder agent for more information on using the Memory Maker service.  We have lots of tips and information we can offer you on getting the most out of using the service.
Memory Maker can be added to your Magic Your Way Package in advance of arrival for $149 (a $50 savings), or you can purchase it after you arrive for $199.  Want to get your Memory Maker included with your Disney trip for free?  Book your vacation by April 20, 2014, for travel between now and June 15th or between August 15 – September 30, 2014, and not only will you get great savings on your resort stay, but the Memory Maker feature is included for FREE!  There are also other great promotional discounts available for summer travel between June 15th and August 28, 2014 as well.  Contact DreamFinder Travel today for more information or to get your complimentary, no-obligation pricing quote. 

Time is precious and passes so quickly, and making memories with friends and family is important.  So while visiting Walt Disney World last week for the Flower & Garden Festival I added the Memory Maker to my account.  I took full advantage of taking as many pictures as I could with my friends and my family.  Now instead of being just the face BEHIND the camera, I am now in the picture too, and as a result have many great memories to treasure.  No more missing out on being included, and wishing that I had taken the time to be in the pictures.  Guess what!  I even found a friend who “popped” up into one of my pictures    (you never know where some Disney magic may appear!)