A 30th Birthday Surprise

One of my clients recently surprised her boyfriend with a 30th birthday “escape” to Orlando, and they had a blast!  What could be better than a milestone birthday AND a vacation, all rolled into one?

Hi Ann,

So sorry for the delay, but attached are a few pictures from our trip.

Kenny and I had such a great time, and you made it completely stress and worry-free!  Our flights were great, our arrival at the hotel went without a hitch and within 30 minutes of getting to the hotel, we were on our way to the parks!  Even with spending a few days at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and a few days at the Disney Parks, we were still able to enjoy some mornings and afternoons at the hotel pool.  The atmosphere was great, food at the hotel was great and we really enjoyed every moment.

Kenny’s surprise destination 30th birthday gift was a true success, thanks to your knowledge and excellent planning!

Thanks again, Ann! 🙂

A Very Disney Christmas

One of Annie’s favorite clients spent the holidays at Walt Disney World with her extended family, and returned with this fantastic trip report.  Now’s the time to plan ahead for a “Disney Christmas” of your own!

Dear Ann,

On behalf of my entire extended family, thank you for your assistance in planning our Christmas vacation in Walt Disney World.  It was a vacation we won’t ever forget.  As you know, we have been to WDW plenty of times but never at Christmas, and they didn’t disappoint.   

The Wilderness Lodge, our favorite resort, was stunning – especially the lobby.   The enormous Christmas tree, coupled with the roaring fireplace and western décor, was perfect for a warm holiday getaway.   On Christmas Eve, we met Santa – the most authentic-looking Santa I’ve ever seen – and had our photos taken with him.  Best of all, he smelled like cookies!  Yes, the Disney experts even managed to make their Santa better than any old mall Santa.   And, the hotel passed out free cookies on Christmas Eve to enhance the experience. 

Because we had been to Disney, our priority for this trip was to experience the Christmas treats in the parks and hotels.  On the first day, we visited the enormous gingerbread house in the Grand Floridian.  It doubled as a bake shop, and we nibbled on shingles (chocolate-coated gingerbread slabs used as “shingles” on the house’s roof).  The gingerbread carousel with horses carved from chocolate in the lobby of the Beach Club cannot be described.  It had to be seen…and it smelled delicious!  The lobby of Yacht Club Resort had a miniature New England-style train racing through a sugary rock mountain surrounded by a candy-coated model village.  The Candlelight Processional package was well worth the money and very special.  It’s a must-do for anyone visiting during Christmas. 

Not only can you meet Santa Claus in America, but you can hear storytellers detail the adventures of Père Noël in France, La Befana in Italy and other legends from around the world. Kwanzaa and Hanukkah observances are also featured.  Each storyteller remains behind for photo ops with guests, and my son loved to do this.  The Christmas parades,  Christmas fireworks, and Illuminations were all magically different than what we have seen in previous trips. 

Our favorite attraction was the Osborne Family Lights in Disney Hollywood Studios.  Although we’ve seen clips on the Travel Channel and online, it’s mesmerizing in person. Words cannot describe it, and it was definitely the highlight of the trip.  The “snowfall” was so realistic to our New-Englander eyes.  But, our own photos were terrible so I’m glad we asked Photopass photogs to take some.  Their professional photographers capture the best shots, and this was especially true in this difficult-to-shoot venue.  Check out how cold we look in the picture!  One of the PhotoPass photographers we met was a URI student.  Yep, it’s a Small World. 

The parks weren’t as crowded as we anticipated.  An employee at the Wilderness Lodge told us that the attendance was down 22,000 due to the cold.  Busy, yes.  But not super crowded.  And it was pretty cold!  Orlando experienced record-breaking weather during Christmas week—lucky us!  We had to wear hats, gloves, etc.  As New Englanders, we should have been more inured to it, but how often do we spend 12 hours outside in windy, damp 40-degree weather?  Since weather can’t be controlled, we soldiered on and tried to visit attractions that were inside.  

The Disney dining plan worked well.  The waiter at our first restaurant accidentally charged our Key to the World instead of the dining plan so we had an extra meal at the end of the trip.  The hotel front desk reversed it for us, no problem.  

Flights were smooth and on time.  Check-in, check-out, and airport transportation were all quick and uneventful.  Overall, everyone had a terrific time!  Thanks so much for your help in making this such a wonderful trip.



Good news for families

The “Happiest Place on Earth” is going to be making families even happier in the future. Walt Disney World has just announced plans for a new resort option featuring family suites that can hold up to six guests each. This is welcome news for families that have had to splurge on a two- or three-bedroom villa at one of the deluxe properties or scramble for the limited number of connecting hotel rooms at other on-site properties.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, scheduled to open in late 2012, will include 1,120 family suites (with separate living room and bedroom) and 864 hotel rooms, all designed around four unique themes:  The Lion King, Finding Nemo, Cars, and The Little Mermaid.  The resort will sit on a 65 acre piece of land across the lake from the Pop Century Resort, and will feature giant icons from each of the four movies (including a 35′ tall King Triton) in a central courtyard.

 Walt Disney World's Art of Animation Resort will feature a giant statue of King Triton

If you just can’t wait two years to take the little ones to Walt Disney World, give me a call. I’ll help you find the best accommodations available for your family now (whatever the size), and we’ll get you in on the “Free Dining” promotion that Disney is offering for later this year!

Big Names offering Big Promotions

As I have been saying for a few months now, 2009 is going the be the year of the travel deal!

We always expect to see fantastic cruise deals at this time of year — it’s “Wave Season”, after all, when the cruise lines hope to bolster their bottom lines with some advance bookings for the year. But I have been seeing some not-to-be-missed promotions from major land-based resorts as well.

Family visit with Minnie Mouse

Visiting Minnie Mouse

For families, you can’t beat the “Buy Four Get Three Free” deal that Walt Disney World is offering:  from now through the end of March, purchase a four-night package and receive three additional nights (with park passes) for free. It’s good for travel through June, but space is limited and restrictions apply.

Atlantis Resort

Atlantis Resort

Not interested in Orlando? How about Atlantis Resort’s “Stay Four Nights for the Price of Three” offer? Visit this popular Paradise Island resort from now through April 1st, and your special package can include: four nights for the price of three, kids (under 12) stay and play for free, plus two free dolphin experiences and free admission to the Aura nightclub. Again, space is limited and restrictions apply, but this is a very family-friendly deal!

Looking for a more romantic experience? All five Almond Resorts, in Barbados and St. Lucia, are offering up to 50% off their room rates for bookings made from now through February 9th (for travel any time in 2009).

Or, if you’re leaving the kids at home, check out Couples Resorts special promotional rates of up to 50% off for their adults-only resorts in Jamaica. Must be booked by 2/28 for travel through the end of 2009.

The list could go on and on, but the point is that even the “biggies” who normally would not have to be discounting at this time of year are coming out with all sorts of special deals and promotions to entice you to travel again. So why not give in? You know you need an escape!

If these sales don’t necessarily do it for you, what WOULD get you to travel this year? Post your comment below.

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)