By Lindsay Mauck
Italy....Spain.....The Greek Isles....The French Riviera...
Are you dreaming yet? I know I am! (I was supposed to cruising the Greek Isles in two weeks...) Cruising the Mediterranean is an excellent way to explore several countries on one trip, all while enjoying the warm, sunny weather the Med has to offer (and no packing/trains/planes between destinations!). Nowhere else can you choose to spend your days on shore in some of Europe's most popular city and historical destinations, OR relax on some of those famous (rocky) beaches. I like to think of cruising the Med as a great way to "taste test" different locales - this way I know where I love and want to go back to spend more time on land! For example - even with an overnight stay in Venice on my first Med Cruise, I know that I want to go back and spend at least a week sometime getting lost on those winding streets and popping in and out of restaurants and shops.
This is also a great way to tour Europe if you have little ones! In 2019 I was so lucky to spend 10 days on the Disney Magic with my whole family- including my 2 year old niece. She had an amazing time on "The Mickey Boat" itself - but also got to experience a taste of European culture.
Talk to your travel agent about the destinations you are interested in exploring and they can help find the perfect cruise for you! There are so many options year round that fit every taste. Here's a photo tour from a couple of my cruises in the Mediterranean to get you excited to start planning the vacation of a lifetime.
By Lindsay Mauck
Cruises are definitely my favorite form of travel. (Shoutout to my High School Band Director Mr. Milbrand for taking the whole band on a cruise my sophomore and senior years - I was hooked!) Unpack once, visit several destinations, and have fun while the travel happens. And I LOVE getting first timers on a cruise. After years of talking about how great they are, I finally got my parents on a cruise (Disney Fantasy). My mom called me crying after getting to their room on embarkation day to tell me "How silly I must have thought she was for not ever going on a cruise. Everything is so wonderful!!" That was only on day one. At least 2 cruises a year later, and I'm proud to say she's hooked too.
Today I want to talk a little about the great variety of cruise options - there's some for every type of traveller - really! Then, stay tuned throughout this week, I'm going to highlight some amazing destinations you can visit by boat. I've personally sailed on 17 cruises and been to 51 ports of call all over the world. I can't wait to tell you about some of my favorites - and to visit more soon.
Ocean Cruises - Larger Ships
When most people think of cruising, this is what you think of! Popular cruise lines for US travelers include Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival. The ships provide a huge variety of amenities and onboard activities. Many offer kids clubs/activities, broadway-quality entertainment, casinos, and even race-tracks and ice skating! If you're planning a multi-generational vacation, this is definitely the category to focus on. (Adults Only? Virgin Voyages launches this fall- and is an 18+ cruise line - I can't wait to check it out!)
By Magic Plus Travel
Where to begin...your trip is almost here and you don't know what to pack. Don't fear, there are so many guides and lists available to you online.
Here are just some of our favorite must packs to share with our clients (in addition to your every day outfits).
Autograph books and fine tip permanent markers or thicker pens
The iconic Ears
Disney pins for trading
Princess dresses or character costumes
Pennies and Quarters for the coin press machines
Backpack for your park items
Face masks with ear loops (Disney has released that neck gaiters and scarves/bandanas are not allowed)
Hats and Sunglasses
Sneakers and Sandals (depending on what you feel comfortable with on your feet for long periods of time)
Wicking socks (one of the best purchases you can make for your feet!)
Lightweight sweatshirt or long sleeve shirt (if by chance you get wet and then enter the air conditioned buildings)
Necessities for the weather:
Cooling Towels (Mission and Frog Toggs brands are an agent favorite)
Spray fan (the water bottle fans are very popular)
Disney gift cards (can be used pretty much anywhere)
Rechargeable battery packs/cords
Reusable Straws (most places are either not giving them out anymore, or they are paper and will disintegrate within the first few sips)
Water Bottles and snacks (plenty of options for delivery to the resorts if you don’t want to travel with them)
Reusable water bottles
Moleskin (for those blisters on your feet after walking miles through the parks-trust us, it is a game changer!!)
Plastic sandwich bags (endless uses-for those large lollipops that aren’t fully consumed upon first lick, to freeze and hold your cooling towels)
Waterproof phone cases
Expandable USB wall charger for your resort room
Stroller (If you don't want to travel with one, rentals are available for the duration of your vacation-ask your agent for recommendations)
Stroller cover (can be added to your order if you choose to rent)
Hand Sanitizer (clip on containers and spray)
First Aid kit (ointments/bandaids)
Adult and Children's Tylenol or Advil (very expensive in the parks)
Glowsticks from local stores
Past purchases of bubble wands (so you can save on another purchase)
Other cheap souvenirs that you can easily pack (leave one out next to their clothes for the next day so they have something new and can deter from visiting every single shop in the parks each day)
Flying Trick with kiddos:
Go to the dollar store and grab a bunch of projects that you don’t care about getting lose or thrown out. Buy a totally different set for the way home and pack in your suitcase. That way they are entertained with things they have never seen and you don’t feel bad throwing it all away.
By Shannon and Tom Renick
One question people ask us quite often is, “What is the difference between Disneyland in Southern California and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida?” Don't worry, you will get your dose of Disney magic at either park. However, here are some key differences that may affect your decision.
Resort size is the most noticeable difference. Disneyland Resort consists of three hotels, Downtown Disney and two theme parks. Several good neighbor hotels are very close to the parks. One benefit of this for us is you can walk pretty much anywhere! With having small children, it was nice to be able to walk to our destinations. We didn’t have to mess with folding up the stroller to get on a bus. It was also convenient to go back to the hotel for a midday break. We typically plan three park days when we visit Disneyland. If you have more time, you can travel down to San Diego or a local beach!
Walt Disney World Resort is much larger. The resort includes over 30 hotels, four theme parks, two water parks and Disney Springs. Because of the size, travel around the resort is usually done by bus, boat, monorail or Skyliner. With a resort this size, people can spend a full week and still not experience it all. We recommend at least planning four park days so you can experience each of the main parks once. We tend to plan at least a week to give us ample park time and time to relax and enjoy our resort.
Fastpasses: The systems have different ways of offering them at each location.
Disneyland has two systems. They have a FastPass system, which is a free system. You can obtain these passes by inserting your park tickets into FastPass kiosks around the parks. Another option they have is the MaxPass system. This option does have an additional cost. With this option, you can reserve attractions via an app on your phone once you are in the park. For us, the convenience is worth the extra cost. You can select one pass at a time for your travel party. You will be eligible for a new pass either once you use your existing pass or after a certain amount of time has passed.
Walt Disney World Resort allows you to pre-book three experiences per day in the same park via the My Disney Experience app. Once you have used your initial three passes, you may reserve additional selections one at a time based on availability.
Food: The food options at the resorts also vary.
There is much more variety at the Walt Disney World resort. However, Disneyland does have some delicious options. Our favorite Disneyland restaurant is Lamplight Lounge. Currently, dining reservations may be made 60 days from your stay at both locations. In the past, Walt Disney World Resort has allowed you to make dining reservations 180 days in advance.
Rides: You will find many of the rides at both resorts, however, there are some unique attractions at each.
Unique to Walt Disney World Resort, you will find Pandora and Toy Story Land. At Disneyland, you can visit Pixar Pier and Cars Land, which is unique to that location. One thing to keep in mind is that some of the rides with the same names are slightly different at each park. Also, during Halloween and Christmas at Disneyland, some of the attractions get different overlays. Our favorite overlays were the Nightmare Before Christmas at Haunted Mansion and the Holiday themed It’s a Small World!
**Please note, this discussion references how these experiences operated pre-COVID 19 and assume that we will return to those operations in the future. However, using a travel agent will ensure you have the most up to date information for your trip. Things to keep in mind: Fastpasses are currently not available for selection at Walt Disney World and Disneyland is not open at this time. Character meals are also currently not available for reservations (except for modified character experiences at Topolino's Terrace-Flavors of the Riviera at Riviera Resort and Garden Grill in Epcot's Future World).
Hopefully, this list highlighted some of the more notable differences for you.
We would love to talk with you more about each of the parks and help you pick the best destination for you.
By Shannon and Tom Renick
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
One of our favorite things to do is to travel to National Parks. A National Park trip may be a great option with the current pandemic. Most of your time will be spent outside with ample room to social distance. One of our favorite parks to visit is the Grand Canyon. You can drive into the park and stay at one of their lodges. Another option is to stop in Williams, AZ, and take the Grand Canyon Railway into the park. Our family loves doing this! We have two children that love trains, so this makes the experience extra special.
The accommodations at the hotel are nice and clean. We recommend spending at least one night there. The hotel has a restaurant, and there are several small eateries in Williams. The hotel offers several packages that include hotel stays and train tickets.
You can ride the train to the park and back on the same day. If you want more time in the park, you can book a package with an overnight stay inside the park. We recommend spending one night in the park so you can have more time to explore and catch the sunrise and sunset over the canyon! If you are in the southwest, this could be a weekend adventure. If you are from further away, we could add on additional Arizona destinations or some of the National Parks in Utah! When you are visiting the National Parks with children, make sure you swing by the Visitors Center early in your trip to get information on the Junior Ranger program! Also, if you choose to take the Grand Canyon Railway, be sure to check out there Steam Engine Saturdays.
By Shannon and Tom Renick
Hopefully, you had a chance to read our post from yesterday about Alaska at Sea. I will tell you again that this is a must at least once. During the summer, the weather in Alaska is pretty warm with some rain. The most we needed was a light jacket!
If you have more than a week, I recommend a one-way cruise so that you can venture out into Alaska a little more.
Typically itineraries are northbound and southbound. If doing a northbound cruise, you would plan to do your land tour after your cruise portion. With southbound voyages, you would do them before.
We did a northbound itinerary on the Royal Princess, which docks in Whittier.
Whittier is close to Anchorage. However, it is remote. We recommend a prearranged transfer. If you opt for a cruise tour through Princess, your transportation to your destination will be on the train. Princess truly makes the cruise tour stress-free. They take care of lodging, transfers, and luggage.
Because we had a large group, we booked a private transfer to Anchorage to drop off some of our group at the airport and pick up our rental for our land tour. Our transfer included a stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. The driver was knowledgeable about the area. He shared some history of Alaska on our journey. They do have concessions here if you want to grab a snack. We had the reindeer sausage, which is an Alaskan specialty. You have to try it while you are in Alaska.
Once we picked up our rental, we headed to Talkeetna. While in Talkeetna, we took a flightseeing tour of Denali with a glacier landing. If you include Talkeetna on your land tour, this is a must-do! I have included some pictures below. The flight tour was by far our favorite experience! One of the photos is a picture of “base camp” at Denali. This location is where people acclimate before or after climbing the mountain!
The final part of our trip was driving to Denali National Park. We stopped at the Mt McKinley Princess Lodge on the way for lunch. This location provides spectacular views of Denali. If you are a fan of the show Treehouse Masters, you can visit one of their treehouses with a stunning view of Denali. The lodge is beautiful as well. The lodge would be a perfect place to stay on your Alaskan journey.
Once in the Denali area, we took a guided 8-hour bus tour through the National Park Service. They do offer shorter and longer versions of the tour.
There were plenty of bathroom stops along the way. We did get a snack box, but I would recommend bringing some food. We packed sandwiches, fruit, and waters. The park is beautiful. We saw lots of wildlife and stunning views of Denali. If you have more time, you can come back into Denali and hike on your own. There is a bus route that goes through the park for drop-offs and pickups!
We highly recommend Alaska and can help you in visiting this beautiful location. Feel free to reach out with any questions!
By Shannon and Tom Renick
Alaska is one of our favorite vacation destinations. There is so much to see, and the amount of untouched land is mind-blowing. If you haven’t experienced Alaska, you should put it on your bucket list. A great way to see a lot of what Alaska has to offer in a short amount of time is to go on an Alaskan cruise. Many of the major cruise lines have itineraries to Alaska in the summer months.
We have done both the roundtrip from Seattle and a one-way itinerary from Vancouver to Whittier. Both of our cruises had the same ports. They were Ketchikan, Skagway, and Juneau. However, the glacier viewing you will get during the one-way is superior. We were able to go further north, which gave us the ability to see College Fjord. College Fjord was such a beautiful area that we would love to go back to experience again. Also, if you do a one-way Alaskan cruise, you can add a land tour before or after to experience more of Alaska! More on that tomorrow!
Here are some of our favorite Alaska photos from our cruising adventures!
By Shannon and Tom Renick
Hello! Thomas and I have been a part of the Magic Plus Travel team since 2015. We both have a deep love for Disney and traveling in general. Throughout our childhood, we made many trips to Disney parks. I was a Disneyland girl while Thomas frequented Walt Disney World.
After dating for a few years, we took our first trip to Walt Disney World together. During this trip, Thomas proposed to me in the Rose Garden at the Magic Kingdom. This trip solidified us as a Disney family. We have taken several trips together since then and love making magical memories as a family.
We were drawn to the travel industry because we wanted to share our love of Disney and what they have to offer with others. As we have been in the industry for a while, we have slowly expanded our scope and can assist you with trips to most destinations. No trip is too big or too small!
One question we often get is why someone should use a travel agent. The most important reason is that there are no additional fees for using a travel agent. If you don’t use an agent, the big companies get to keep the commission they would have paid your agent. Most people love supporting small businesses when they can, so using an agent is an AMAZING way you can do this without spending any extra cash. Additionally, you have an expert in your corner. We take the time to learn about what you are looking for from your trip and make personalized recommendations based on what you tell us.
We can also take care of the tasks that aren’t all that fun in trip planning. We can make phone calls, put together easy to follow itineraries to make your travel a breeze. The final benefit is that if something goes wrong before or during your travels, we can help you navigate the situation and come up with a solution. Most of the time, we can take care of the issue while you continue to enjoy your vacation.
Thomas and I hope that you consider us for your future travels. We look forward to sharing some of our favorite destinations with you this week.
By Natalie Wallace
Another tip comes before your trip even starts. Go to Target and buy some Disney gift cards to use while you are in Disney World. If you have a Target Red Card, you save 5%. That means you buy $100 in Disney gift cards but only pay $95! You can use Disney gift cards all around the resorts including the restaurants (great for the Food and Wine Festival!)
*It was wonderful to be your TA of the week! Contact me for more information about booking your next magical vacation!
By Natalie Wallace
At Disney World and Universal Studios, there are so many great events that happen year round. For both parks though, I love the fall. My favorite holiday is Halloween, so I get my scary fix at Universal Studios and my spooky fun kick at Magic Kingdom. Both are separately ticketed events occurring in the evening with the parks closed to the general public.
The cool thing about Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is that you can get into the park at 4pm. That means you can enjoy some rides and a quick dinner before the event starts later that evening.
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando is for those who love all things related to horror movies and scary characters. Nothing is left to the imagination here, it's not for the faint of heart.
*Please note that both of these events have been cancelled for 2020.
Another fall favorite happens in Epcot: The International Food and Wine Festival. Eat and drink your away around the world as each country plus many booths around the park have samplings of a few delicious bites as well as drinks.
*For 2020, Disney has renamed the festival "A Taste of Epcot". It requires a valid ticket to Epcot and the dates run from July 15 through the fall.
Insider tip: Stay at Yacht and Beach Club or Boardwalk resorts and you can WALK to Epcot!
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