By Mark Donaldson
What am I dreaming of today? My time spent in Japan working at the Tokyo Disney Resort! I had the privilege of living in Japan for 7 months and dancing on stage at Tokyo DisneySea. I absolutely loved every minute I spent in Japan. I will never forget the people, the culture, the food, the history, and of course...the parks!
Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea
Everything you've heard is true! The parks in Japan are simply beyond compare. Impeccably clean, infinitely immersive, and with the nicest cast members you will ever encounter. And do not miss the parades! If you ever plan on visiting the parks in Japan I highly recommend talking with someone who has experience visiting, like me! Things work a little different over there and you want to plan your visit accordingly. But don't worry, with a little bit of knowledge and planning you can easily see everything this spectacular resort has to offer!
Don't Forget Japan!
While the parks are spectacular, the country of Japan offers so much more to explore. In my 7 months I traveled extensively across the country. Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto and of course Mt. Fuji are all easily accessible via Japan's high speed railway, the shinkansen. Every city I visited offered an array of historic temples, peaceful shrines, impeccable Japanese gardens, imposing imperial castles, and all of the sushi and sake you could want! Japan is not to be missed and I cannot wait to take family and friends to visit this country that has such a special place in my heart.
So, if you've ever dreamed of a vacation to Japan, like most Disney Parks fans have, I'd love to chat! I've planned many trips for my friends and I know lots of tips and tricks! Send me a message at Mark.Donaldson@magicplustravel.com.
By Mark Donaldson
Hi friends! Have you been fantasizing about an incredible vacation like I have? One of my favorite ways to travel is by sea. Today I thought I'd highlight some ports of call full of adventure, beauty, and memories. Let's take a look at a few of my favorite cruise ports.
Kotor is one of my absolute favorite ports of call. I even prefer it to its much more popular nearby cousin Dubrovnik. Kotor is a small town with fortified walls located on the fjord-like Bay of Kotor. This UNESCO World Heritage site offers a well preserved walled-in old town, al fresco cafes on cobblestone streets, charming churches, and a not to be missed zigzagging hike up the mountain walls to the fortress of San Giovanni.
Juneau is the capital of our 49th State and a stop on almost every Alaskan itinerary. There is so much to do in this port of call! You can take a gondola to the top of a mountain or fly high above the glaciers in a seaplane. My greatest adventure though, was a hike to Mendenhall Glacier and its ice caves. This was one of my all time favorite days of travel in my life! While the ice caves I visited have melted, Mendenhall Glacier is also accessible by adventure tours or its visitor center right next to Nugget Falls.
Last but not least for today's post is the magical city of Lisbon. With it's cable cars traversing the hilly streets and a giant red suspension bridge, you might think you were in San Francisco! But Lisbon offers an old world charm with nooks and crannies to explore around every corner. Some of my favorite sights here include the Jeronimos Monastery, the Castelo de São Jorge, and a ride on the cable cars. But the best part of Lisbon is simply strolling the black and white tiled sidewalks as you stop to sample a glass of port wine, view some street art, or munch on the famous pasteis ne nata custard pastry.
If you have any questions about these or any other ports of call, email me at Mark.Donaldson@magicplustravel.com!
Hi MPT followers, Disney has released information related to the upcoming holiday season at Disney World.
The celebrations will run from November 6th through December 30th.
Detailed changes include:
* no icicles on the castle (holiday projections instead)
* no Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
* no Candlelight Processional in Epcot
* no gingerbread displays at the resorts
* Modified character meals with Santa Goofy and friends
* Christmas trees at Disney Springs around the complex
* Epcot International Festival of the Holidays (beginning Nov 27th)
And one of the agency's favorites, you can still catch a glimpse of the Toy Soldiers as they march through Magic Kingdom with the Main Street Philharmonic!!
Keep in mind:
Masks and social distancing will still be required with lower crowds based on park reservation system.
Magic comes in all shapes and sizes. While it will be much different from the past holidays, it will still be magical. If you haven’t seen the projections on the castle in the past, they are simply amazing! These are the times to create new memories with new traditions!!
Contact us for a quote today, there are still rooms available and promotions that are active.
By Linda Kelly
About 3 hours from Philadelphia is Ocean City, Maryland. This is a popular seaside destination. This town hosts miles of free beaches and amazing restaurants.
Close by is Assateague island. When traveling through the island, keep your eyes open and you may catch a glimpse of a wild pony!
If Ocean City is not in your summer plans, they also have an event called Winterfest of lights. From Thanksgiving to January 1st, you can ride the tram through a holiday light display. Many hotels offer tickets to this event in their packages!
By Linda Kelly
Going along with our road trip theme, 90 mins outside of Philadelphia is Cape May. Cape May, NJ is a great destination for fun. Cape May is the southern most point of New Jersey. This is a town full of quaint victorian houses and has an outdoor mall called Washington Street Mall. This seaside resort has many restaurants in addition to historical lodging.
The views are breathtaking and the sunset is mesmerizing. There is a beach called “Sunset Beach” where you can go and watch an unobstructed view of the sunset over the ocean.
Like to ride bikes? There are bike rentals throughout Cape May or bring your own and ride on the many bike trails. Some of the bike routes will take you on the Cape May promenade (their boardwalk) or down Sunset Boulevard to Cape May Point.
Have little ones that need a break from the beach fun? Visit Cape May County Park and Zoo. This zoo has free admission (they do ask for a donation) and a beautiful park. The monkeys and giraffes are waiting to meet you!
By Linda Kelly
Continuing on with our road trip adventure, we are going to visit Mt. Pocono. Roughly a 2 hour drive from Philadelphia, Mt Pocono can host many breathtaking views.
Although known for its ski resorts, there are many activities to do outside of the winter season. Need to get away and want to go to a water park? Yup, you can do that here. Want to go on a hike and reach the top of the mountain? Go for it! Not into water parks or hiking? Try out the Mountain Coaster and zip lines!
By Linda Kelly
The next stop on our road trip adventure is Gettysburg. What a town! Full of architecture and history. Many of the homes in Gettysburg are historical homes and still showcase the bullet holes from the Civil war. We have taken a road trip here a few times as a family.
National parks are a great place to visit. Most of the parks are geared towards teaching history/nature and can host family fun. They are also a great place to get out and enjoy hiking.
You can go through the battle in your own car while listening to the audio tour on an app (Perfect for social distancing and access to your car’s AC in the heat.) At each monument you can get out and look around. There are so many things to discover. Did you know that all the monuments were placed on the field where the units or states entered into battle?
You can tour the park via guided tour bus also. This is great because on the tour, you will get the basic history of the battle but each tour guide adds a little extra. We had a tour guide that went into detail about monument placement, direction and posture whereas another tour guide went in detail about the artillery that was used and where it was used.
There is so much to see and do in Gettysburg. If this seems like something you would be interested in, plan a weekend trip. It sure is beautiful in the fall!
Pictures from the Dobbin House Tavern (Yum!) and Little Round Top.
By Linda Kelly
Adventure is out there….everywhere and anywhere. You do not need to hop on a plane and travel great distances to find it. Sometimes a road trip is what the soul needs to cleanse and recharge. My family loves to go on random road trips. A short two hour drive and we find ourselves with a new adventure.
First stop on our adventure road trip is State College. A few years ago on Fourth of July, we decided to go to the Penn State campus. It was great. The local towns were quaint and we even stopped at the Penn State Berkey Creamery. YUM!
There are museums and many attractions mapping the history of the school and the town.
Into golf? The golf courses are breathtaking.
If you are up for a road trip, this would make a great adventure.
By Jen Grandmaison
Should I work with an agent to plan my Walt Disney World Vacation?
DID YOU KNOW a $200 deposit is all that is required to secure your reservation at one of Walt Disney World's on-site hotels, payment plans are available and using an agent doesn't cost you a penny more? In fact, you are already paying for our services as the cost of an agent is included in all package pricing and most ticket only purchases. The guest then has someone to work with them on their behalf who has personal experience with extensive knowledge about the planning process including but not limited to the parks, resorts and transportation...all while you are also supporting a small business. It's a WIN - WIN for agent and guest, at no additional cost to you! Some folks don't feel the need to use an agent and prefer to handle all of the planning themselves. For those of you who want to work with someone who knows Disney inside and out, having an agent who you trust and has knowledge to enhance your experience is invaluable. There are a lot of wonderful, knowledgeable agents out there. Do your homework and don't be afraid to ask for references in finding the agent who has not only the expertise, but seems like a good fit for you. I work very closely with my clients over the course of the planning process. Getting to know their family dynamic and what interests those that are traveling have, help me in making recommendations that can make your trip that much more memorable. Thinking about booking a Walt Disney World Resort reservation? If so, let's talk more - not only about what services I provide but also so you can familiarize yourself with the process and decide if working with an agent will be helpful for you.
What's the catch? Are there any hidden fees? How can working with a travel planner be free?
In today's world we find it's more of a Land of the Fee, not Land of the Free type of scenario. There is a cost associated with just about everything. Well, that may be true for most situations but not in terms of using my services for your stay at a Walt Disney World Resort on-site or partner hotel, as long as that reservation has been booked with me. Disney holds a portion of every reservation for an agent commission - just about all travel vendors do this actually so all vacations that I book are handled the same. If you book with Disney direct, Disney keeps 100% of those funds that you paid for your vacation package. When you book with an agent, those funds that were set aside are paid instead to the agency in exchange for assisting the guest. No additional cost is passed on to you and now there is someone to assist with aspects of your planning all for the same price you have already committed to paying for your vacation. In other words, if you book direct with Disney, you are essentially paying for a service that you aren't getting the opportunity to use.
How do I know this isn't a scam?
As a consumer, especially now in the day and age of the internet where there is an increase of online communication and purchases vs traditional in-person business like we had in the past, we all need to be conscious of protecting ourselves from scams, especially when dealing with a vendor or service facilitated online. I never take it personally when someone questions the legitimacy of my business because, after all, I would want to make sure I am working with a person who is indeed who they say they are and are providing the service that they claim they provide. In addition to our company's website where you can see my agent profile, I also have social media platforms that solidify my presence in the industry for the last several years with contributions and testimonials from various clients that I have worked with and certifications from Disney and other vendors that show that I am up to date on my training. I have worked with nearly a thousand families from not only the United States but places like South Africa, Taiwan, Canada and Australia over the last six years and many guests are either referrals from past or current clients or have followed my Disney World planning page on Facebook. Finally, after communicating with prospective clients and presenting them with some options for their Walt Disney World vacation package, I go one step further once they are ready to book. In most cases as time allows, I will make the reservation on the client's behalf and place it on hold. I will forward the held reservation showing all details, complete with confirmation number and terms and conditions to the guest so they can see the live reservation before they provide me with any payment information, which is ultimately done via a secure online form. We can even link that confirmation to your My Disney Experience account so you can see that Disney does indeed recognize that as a legitimate reservation. I want to ensure that my guests are completely comfortable every step of the way and always provide transparency as we move through the planning process.
What are the differences in payment terms, booking and cancellation policies if I book with you?
All policies and terms and conditions are identical to that of the Walt Disney World Travel Company since I book your reservation directly with Disney. Those terms and conditions will all be listed within the reservation that I send for your review prior to the deposit being placed. $200 secures your reservation - due within 3 days of booking in most cases - and payment is due in full 30 days prior to your check-in date. Disney requires no set payment due dates or amounts therefore making a flexible payment plan for the guest. You only must satisfy the deposit and the paid in full date - otherwise, you can make payments at any time. Payments are done with the agent so I will process them on your behalf within Disney's payment system. The Walt Disney Travel Co. will be the one that actually charges you. No funds towards your actual vacation package are paid directly to myself or the agency. The agency does however have a small cancellation fee, which is disclosed in the deposit authorization form, that is charged at the agent's discretion for cancellation of an existing reservation. This is done mainly to compensate me for my time in the event the reservation needs to be cancelled since commission is paid only after the guest travels. I put a lot of thought and time in planning for my guests so this fee helps to absorb the work that I have done up until cancellation. That fee if necessary, would be charged by the agency.
What services do you provide?
Many first time guests, and even repeat guests can be overwhelmed at the amount of information they come across when they start planning. When you work with an agent, we take the guesswork out to help you be more prepared so your trip can be as stress free as possible. In terms of planning, I will assist the client as much as they'd like in regards to the actual Disney portion. I have many clients that have been to Disney several times and can certainly plan for themselves but like having someone handle all of the necessities for them and have a resource in their back pocket for additional information or questions that they may have. They also like knowing that I keep up with all of the changes and watch for discounts that may be released which if applicable and available, I will automatically apply for my clients. For others it is their first visit or they may have been there many years ago so they aren't familiar with Disney in general or the rules and regulations, special events and experiences, transportation, etc...My job is to help you make the most out of your time and money and use my expertise to provide you with information so that you can realistically see and do as much as your time and needs allow. Each client is different so all of my plans are customized. I strive to provide the guest with the information so that ultimately they can make an informed decision as to what will be best for them. I will offer details to help the guest decide on what resort and package fits their needs and budget. I will give recommendations for things to see and do based on what I know about your travel party to help enhance the quality of your vacation. I book all of your dining reservations and previously also handled fast passes (currently, the fast pass system has been temporarily paused until further notice) the day that the booking windows open so that the guest has the best chance at getting all of their desired reservations and fast pass selections. I create a baseline itinerary to help you tour smoothly and logistically around the park so you aren't wasting time unnecessarily. I also provide information in regards to touring and travel including specifics as to when and where you need to be in order to accomplish what you are planning. I want my guests to be able to enjoy themselves and not spend excess amounts of time trying to figure things out once they arrive. My services do vary based on package and ticket only pricing. Guests booking a full package with me at an on-site resort or partner hotel receive my full level of complimentary concierge services listed above while ticket only guests are offered a more limited level of services. As always, there is no additional cost to the guest over and above what Disney is charging. All agents offer different levels of services so be sure to know what is included when booking with your preferred agent. My services are fairly comprehensive with a full package. Customized touring assistance is also available for a fee for guests who have not booked their reservation with me or may be staying elsewhere but would like assistance in coordinating and planning for their visit to WDW. I do offer a discount on my paid planning fee option for those guests if they book a qualifying ticket purchase with me.
So, if you are planning a Walt Disney World vacation, consider planning with an agent if you feel like it could benefit you. If you have any questions about potentially using my services, feel free to reach out to me and I'd be happy to discuss your options and answer your questions. Check out my planning page on Facebook: We're Going to Disney World - Travel Tip and Planning and join us for discussion on our favorite vacation destination, WDW! https://www.facebook.com/groups/568335886610324
By Lindsay Mauck
Hello again! Today I take you to the northern shores of Europe. I have to say- some of these destinations are my favorite in the world - especially for summer travel. The weather is gorgeous but gives you a break from the full time summer heat - similar to Alaska depending on the port and the month you sail. There are so many fabulous ports of call - let's check out just a few of my favorite destinations.
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