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2018 Summer Cruises

The schedule for Disney Cruise Line through Summer of 2018 was just released. Now is the time to get your deposit in to get the best choice and the best price. Itineraries include Europe and Alaska. See the brochure HERE. Give us a call or request a QUOTE so we can talk more about how you can have a great Disney Cruise vacation!

Top Ten Reasons Our Clients Use Magical Wonders Vacations

#10We just don’t have the time” – Our clients have busy lives dealing with work and family. They don’t have the time to research and explore the options available for them on a Disney vacation. They also don’t have the time to keep track of when they can make dining or Fastpass reservations or remember when their final payment is due. We’re here to give you your time back.

#9 “I can’t juggle everyone’s wishes” – Grandma and Grandpa are taking their kids and grand-kids for a great vacation, but holy cow, trying to figure out which resort is best for everyone or how we can all do what we want to do can be overwhelming and cause family stress. We’re here to help talk everyone through the proposed plans and get everyone what they need.

#8I’ve never been there” – It can be daunting to go to Walt Disney World the first time. The planning, the expectations, the many options can be very difficult to understand and when you go to a website to get information there are confusing acronyms and terms like EMH, ADR, rope drop and park hopping. We’re here to hold your hand and walk you through it all, so when you get there, you will feel like an expert.

#7 “I want this to be special or a surprise” – Sometimes Mom and Dad want to surprise their kids with a trip to Disney, but it’s hard to plan when there are prying eyes and ears around, or maybe this is the trip that John’s going to pop the question. We will work with you discretely to help keep the surprise. We can research the details and present the alternatives so you don’t accidentally leave a brochure laying out that could tip someone off.

#6 “We want to get the best value” – You have a budget in mind for your vacation. We can work with you to help you make the most of that budget, whether it’s getting a room discount or free dining, or finding you a better room that fits within your budget. We will help you understand how much to budget for food, tickets, souvenirs and entertainment.

#5 “We just have too many questions/opinions” – The Disney Resorts and Cruise Line are big. There is a lot of information out there about rooms, parks, resorts, dining, attractions and entertainment. The more you look, the more you will find. Then a co-worker or neighbor stops by and offers their two cents. We work to help you sift through all that data and determine what will be the best for your vacation.

#4 “It’s not just a simple trip, it’s complicated” – A client is travelling to Florida to visit family, but they also want to visit Disney, Universal and Seaworld, and oh by the way, they want to use a military discount. We’ve seen it. We’ve worked through some tricky situations. We help you sort things out and make it all seem like a simple vacation.

#3 “My friend said you made their trip amazing” – Word of mouth is our best advertising and we’ve earned it. Many of our clients are referrals from previous clients. They have come to appreciate the customer service that we offer that is impossible to find at big box retailers or deep discount websites. We care about your trip as if it’s ours because we want you to have the best time and tell all your friends.

#2 “We want a different vacation” – Some families have “been there, done that” and are looking for new offerings that Disney has at the resorts and the parks, or maybe they want to try something different like a Disney Cruise or visit Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Ko’Olina Hawaii or experience an Adventures by Disney tour. We are well versed on the latest to offer unique options for our clients.

#1 “Top notch advice and it didn’t cost any extra” – Clients are surprised to find that all the customer service that they get from us is included in their vacation package that they book with us. They would have paid the same price had they booked it themselves, but would have received none of the planning advice, reminders or updates that we offer as part of our commitment to excellent customer service.

When’s the best time to go to Disney?

We often do community events where we have our tent up with a table full of brochures and information about all the Disney destinations that you can experience. We enjoy meeting new people (and past clients too!) who stop by our booth to find out more about Disney and what we can offer them. One of the first questions that they will ask us is “When’s the best time to go?” My response is usually, “That’s a trick question.”

After seeing their puzzled look I will go on to explain that the best time to go to Walt Disney World really depends on what you are looking for. Are you looking for low crowds or low prices? Do you like warm or cool weather? What dates do you have to work with? Does it need to fit school or work schedules? Are you looking for special events? You see, the “best” time to go really depends on what you are looking for.

That being said, let’s talk about some of these “best” times. If you’re looking for low crowds, early September or late January are your best bets, although consider that September can still be pretty hot and January might be cooler than you want. Also during the lower crowd times is when Disney will schedule maintenance or cut back on staff so some attractions may not be open.

Best prices? Disney’s prices vary throughout the year based on the expected crowds (supply and demand). Except for major holidays they usually have some sort of promotion running that can get you a good deal. Just be aware that it may not be for the particular resort that you are looking for. (For a discussion on if the “Free Dining” promotion is really a deal, read this.)

Maybe your “best” time is to be there when Disney is offering a special event like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, or maybe you want to experience some of the unique offerings at Epcot during the Flower and Garden Festival in the Spring or the Food and Wine Festival in the Fall. There are also other events or special experiences throughout the year that could fit in with your plans to make a trip extra special.

Maybe your “best” time is limited by your work or school schedule. We can help you figure out how you can squeeze the most “Disney” into your tight schedule and still feel like you had a great vacation.

There are crowd calendars that are published on various websites that can show you the expected crowd levels for Walt Disney World. These can give you a general idea of what to expect, but can not guarantee that it won’t feel more or less crowded than expected. A good touring plan that we can help you with will go a long way in making any trip go smoothly and help you avoid the crowds. We can help you make a good plan as part of our services included with booking your trip.

Working Vacations

So people tell us, “Wow, it must be great for you to go on business trips to Disney!” Yes, we are in the business of helping people plan a magical vacation at a Disney resort. So it’s important that we stay abreast of all that’s new and changing so we can help our clients with our knowledge from our experiences. But don’t think that we go on these “research” trips to lounge by the pool, no sir, we are driven.

We planned a quick 72 hour trip at the end of June in order to catch all that was new with the Awaken Summer promotion and to see if we could find any clues about future plans that Disney might have. We visited all four parks (3 in one day) and had our list of things to do. The real challenge was doing it in the 90 degree Florida heat and humidity. First stop was Animal Kingdom Lodge to have lunch at Sanaa. That is definitely worth it. The bread service is amazing and oh yeah you can watch the animals on the savanna while you dine. We then headed over to the Animal Kingdom to see new and old favorites. Kilamanjaro Safari at dusk is great, it’s when the lions roar, awesome. When we first booked the trip we hoped to see Rivers of Light but technical glitches have postponed that several months. Instead they have a show “Jungle Book: Alive with Magic” that is on the water and tells the Jungle Book story. I wouldn’t say it’s a must see, but it was entertaining. During the evening hours they show projections on the Tree of Life  called the Tree Awakens. They are short little clips that tell various stories. It’s amazing how the projections totally transform the tree itself. Expedition Everest at night is better than the daytime, I think. We didn’t have time to stop by the Harambe Street Party, but it sounds fun. We had dinner at Tiffins restaurant, the new signature dining offering at Animal Kingdom. The restaurant is beautifully decorated, the bar is very comfortable and the food is great. There are some items that may seem strange, but trust me they taste delicious.

The next day we got up at the crack of dawn to make it to rope drop at Epcot so we could get in line for the Frozen Ever After ride in Norway. It’s still the same Maelstrom ride just with Frozen character animatronics that are truly life-like. Next we hopped to the Magic Kingdom to have lunch at Tony’s Town Square. They are offering a meal package that includes your appetizer, entree, dessert and a reserved seat for the Main Street Electrical Parade that night. It was a great value for all that was included and can count as one of your table service credits. Early lunch at Tony’s is also a little less chaotic than dinner can be. We caught Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire stage show in front of the castle (fun!), then hopped again over to Hollywood Studios to see some of the Star Wars offerings and check on the overall construction. I gotta give Chewbacca credit for performing on the stage show in 90 degrees. We had dinner with Minnie, Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy at Hollywood and Vine. A good meal. Time to hurry back to the Magic Kingdom for our preferred viewing area for the parade. It really makes a difference to watch the parade without people jostling around you and trying to squeeze by.  Unfortunately that meant we missed seeing the Star Wars fireworks at Hollywood Studios which I heard are fantastic.

The next day we went for breakfast at Trail’s End  (good and filling) and then over to the Wilderness Lodge to check on the construction there. A lot of expansion of the Disney Vacation Club rooms. We hopped to Epcot again to check out the new movie at Soarin‘. It really makes you fell like you are flying, FAST! We also did the “Behind the Seeds” tour in the Land Pavilion. Very informative, especially if you have any interest in gardening. We finished up our day with dinner at the Rose and Crown. This is definitely one of those hidden gems at Disney. A great meal and great staff.  We then had to get back to our resort to catch our flight home. It was a whirlwind and far from relaxing, but we love doing it so we can help you plan the best trip. The excitement we hear from our clients before and after their trips makes it all worth it.

Visiting Other Parks

Our company mantra is “We do everything Disney, but only Disney.” Are there other parks out there? Sure! Are they as good as a Disney park? Umm well that really depends on what you are looking for. Whether it’s Disney or your local amusement park they all have their pluses and minuses. There are coasters and rides at other parks that I really like. They are more thrilling than most of what Disney offers. My favorite ride isn’t even at Disney and is usually at your local carnival – the Tilt-A-Whirl.

That being said, I ask you: “Why are you visiting a Disney Park?” A Disney Park is an experience. It’s not just about the rides or the food. It’s about an experience that you have when you enter the park that immerses you in a story. It’s very easy to forget about the real world out there and to feel that you are really walking down Main Street USA or meeting the real Mickey Mouse or Belle. It is truly unique, Disney has cornered the market on this experience. I enjoy other parks for what they have to offer, but they are not Disney.

So if you are going to Florida or California and want to spend part of your vacation visiting one of those “other” parks, should you? Well, I will tell you it’s not Disney. I will also tell you that it will not be cheap either. Amusement and theme parks (Disney included) all have some pretty steep price tags. If you are staying on Disney property you will then have to plan for how you are getting from there to another park (car, taxi or shuttle) which will also add to your vacation cost. Most of the parks have a pricing model that makes it cheaper per day the more days you go. This can make it tough to justify going to another park ($10/day at Disney after 4 days versus $100+ to go to another park).

Is it worth it? That depends what you are looking for. As I have said the other parks all have something unique to offer: Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey is truly awesome, Legoland is inspiring for little block builders. They may not immerse you like Disney does. Some clients (and myself) have noticed the “little things” that make you feel as magical as it can at Disney. I would say, keep an eye out or some of those things like extra details in areas where you don’t expect them, the attention to customer service or the “feel” that the park gives you. If you are all about thrill rides, I’ve got some suggestions for lots of other great parks around the country. If you want to experience the “Disney magic” then let’s talk.

Is it really FREE dining?

As economist Milton Friedman once said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Yet many a traveler to Disney wants to book when Disney is offering “FREE DINING.” What exactly does that mean? Well let’s take a step back and look at the whole Disney experience. After his success with Disneyland in California, Walt Disney dreamed of building this fantastic park in the swamps of Florida. His dream came true in 1971 with the opening of Walt Disney World. Fast forward many years and the park has grown in size to include 4 parks and 26 resorts plus the surrounding area has boomed with additional hotels and other parks. Well, the only way to make enough money to stay in business (and satisfy stockholders) is to keep beds and parks full. Now that isn’t usually a problem over the major holidays or in the summer, but during other times of the year Disney needs to offer some incentives to people to get them to book a Disney trip.  Why does any store offer you a sale? Is it because they feel particularly benevolent and want to give their merchandise away? No they are doing it to try and draw you in to shop there or they know that once you are there you will buy some of the other stuff that’s not on sale. Well in Disney’s case they have this availability in the “off season” and want to fill it up with guests.

Several years ago, Disney came up with the Free Dining promotion for travel in the fall. You see there wasn’t a lot being offered in the fall and with kids freshly back in school, not many folks wanted to travel. The Free Dining offer gave vacationers the Dining Package that they could buy as an add-on for free! Sounds like a good deal, right? Well, we all like a good deal and Disney likes to make us feel good, so they usually are running some sort of deal throughout the year. Sometimes it’s a discount on your room or a discount on the combination of your room, park tickets and dining or some combination thereof. So yeah Free Dining is one of those offers, but if you looked at the fine print it required a certain stay and amount of park tickets to be eligible. And the offer didn’t apply to every room either. So is it a deal? Well if it’s just two or three of you travelling it’s probably not. Chances are you can get a better room only discount that will make up for the cost of the dining plan. If you’re a family or group with a bunch of people packed in your room, it may make sense. The other down side of Free Dining is that it tends to fill the table service restaurants making reservations hard to come by.

So here comes the sales pitch, you can spend a lot of time trying to figure out your best deal looking at the website or use Magical Wonders Vacations where we can help you through the process and find the best deal for your family. But here comes the caveat, just because Disney has offered Free Dining in the past, there is no guarantee they will offer it in the future. Disney has become more popular during what used to be the “off season” by adding things like Food and Wine Festival, Halloween and Christmas parties, etc.This means that Disney has less empty rooms to fill, therefore they have less incentive to make you a great offer. At the same time if you are booking something a year out hoping that you will “hold your place” and hope for a better deal by the time you travel, well as far as Disney is concerned you’ve already booked a room, they don’t need to discount something they have already sold. Hmm, what to do? Decide what’s important and what you budget is and we can help find something that will work for you.

Packing for the Parks

What’s in your bag? You are taking a bag with you into the parks, right? What are you going to put in it? Disney lets you bring a backpack into the park to help you enjoy your day. Of course you will have to have Security check it before you go in, but they are fairly quick. OK, first of all check Disney’s list of things not to bring in the park. So don’t bring the big cooler packed with beers, guns and selfie sticks. Let’s talk about the stuff that you may want to bring to make your day at the park more enjoyable.

Water and snacks – It can be a long and hot day when you are there. Bring along some good water bottles (ones that close tightly) to keep yourself hydrated. There are plenty of water fountains available and quick service locations will give you a cup of water if you ask. No, they won’t fill your bottle for you, but can get some ice to cool it down. Just be careful if you put a cold water bottle in your backpack, it will sweat. Snacks are also a good thing to have. We all love having a Mickey Bar or Dole Whip, but sometimes you might want just a little bite of something to tide you and your family over until you can stop for lunch. As the commercial says, “You’re not you when you are hungry.” Don’t ruin your day by getting hungry and cranky. Make sure your snack can stand the heat, chocolate may be tempting but can get messy very quickly in a warm backpack.

Stay dry – One of those plastic ponchos from the dollar store can be very helpful in the event of one of those quick daily showers or if you really want to stay dry on Splash Mountain. On hot days this might not be an issue but it can get cool enough that getting wet can make you miserable. Having your own poncho is also easier than waiting in line at the cash register during a downpour with everyone else. Just try to fold the poncho up the best you can when you’re done.

Depending on the season, a light jacket may be needed after dark. Another item is to consider an extra pair of socks. You will be doing a lot of walking and sweaty feet can get blisters or itchy. A quick rest with a fresh pair of socks can give you a second wind for keeping your day going.

Directions – Yes you can have the app on your phone that will tell you where you are and what the attractions are, but picking up a park map and times guide on your way into the park sometimes is easier to pull out than your phone and there is no glare on your screen and there are no batteries. (Oh yeah, you might want some spare batteries or your charging cords, depending on your phone and how much you use it.)  It’s not a bad idea to have a printed list of things you want to see or do in your bag to make sure you hit them all.

Suncreen. Need I say more? Disney does try to keep you from standing in th sun while in line but chances are you are taking a vacation during those months when you’ve lost your summer tan.

We could go on, but if you start packing too much you’re going to have quite the bagful. There are lockers available to stow your gear if needed. As always, a good plan can make your vacation less stressful when you know what to expect. If you have further questions on what to pack or not pack, feel free to send us a message and we’ll help you pack your bags.

Why we do what we do

AK_BRDGMDL_7106431629When Judy and I started this company we wanted to be able to say that we love what we do. We both have a love of Disney. We both love to serve people. And we both want to share the love of God that’s been an important part of our lives. Some of you are saying, “Great, they’re some Bible-beating whackos who are just trying to get in our door with Disney, then they will ask us to hold hands and pray until we confess all our sins, No thank you!” Or others may say,’ You can’t be a Christian and associate yourself with that humanistic new-age religious stuff that Disney is subversively feeding to us to overthrow the world order.” Um, well, I hate to break it to you but that’s not our intent.

Our goal with our company is to try and help families have a great vacation. For most of us our vacation time is limited to a few weeks a year. And even more of us have a limited budget that we can spend on a family vacation. We have seen what an important part of a family’s life a vacation can be. When you put that all together it can make any family vacation time take on an importance that puts added pressure on someone who is trying to plan their vacation. We want to be that trusted friend who will handle all the details to alleviate the stress. We pride ourselves on getting to know you and your family so that we can offer advice on what will work best for you. We educate our clients about Disney so that they will know what to expect and not expect. We want them to feel confident in their travel plans and know what they will enjoy their vacation.

Judy will tell you that she is an “old-school” travel agent. Meaning that she will provide service for her customers at no charge. She believes that it is her job to take care of all those details that go along with travel that most of us don’t even realize are there. (See our blog on using a travel agent.) We don’t charge extra for these services. We earn our pay through the commissions that Disney pays us for booking your travel. Sometimes we spend a lot more time with our clients than it seems worth it for the money. But that’s where the reason we do this comes in. We want to serve our clients. If you are the one planning the vacation for your family, we want to make you look good. We want your vacation to be about family time, not another family argument.

We said we are Christians. What does that mean for our business or for you? For our business it means that we will treat everyone with  love, respect and compassion whether it’s our clients, our agents, our suppliers or anyone we meet. We are not ruled by the almighty dollar but by the Almighty One. For you as a client it means that we will take the time to know you and care about you. We don’t make judgments on you or see you as another paycheck. We are here to serve and to model what it means to be a humble Christian. Jesus (oo, there I said it) gave his life because he loved us. We at the very least can give some of our time to you, because we love you. For those of you who feel that Disney is not a Christian business, I say you’re right. They are a business and a big one at that. There are some facets of the company that may not gel with your beliefs or our beliefs but we still feel that overall the parks offer an experience and opportunity that can make “magic” happen for the guests. I do not count on Disney to teach my children their values and morals, that’s my job. If they are “sending messages” counter to my beliefs then I need to make sure my messages are also heard. Neither shouting matches nor silence is a way to discuss what’s important. (Getting off my soapbox now.)

Why Do I Need a Travel Agent? I’ve Got the Internet!

Welcome to the Information Age. The Internet has truly turned our lives around. Can you think back to the late 80’s, early 90’s when fax machines were cutting edge. If you wanted to look something up, you had to trek down to the library and use the card catalog or a microfiche machine. Now it’s click or tap from the comfort of anywhere. If you wanted to travel, you went down to the travel agency and picked up brochures and maybe even had a little chat with the agent. Now yu can virtually tour the world sitting at a desk at work at lunch.

So with all this information in front  of you anytime, anywhere, what good does a travel agent do today? It’s true, I can get prices for airline tickets on dozens of websites. I can find the cheapest hotel prices or get some great last minute deals in my email. I can read dozens of reviews on any place I want to visit. But do you really have the time to research all that information? Do you know what information is reliable, and what is rumor? Are you willing to bet you vacation budget on what a friend of a friend sent you from a website they found that popped up on their Facebook feed?

So what’s a travel agent do that the internet can’t do? Let’s face it, as good as any computer algorithm is, its not as good as a personal connection. Our agents will get to know you and your family and will keep in touch with you through the planning process. You will never get a call center or automated phone system when you have a question. We can give you advice based on your needs, not a one-size-fits-all answer.We also know Disney. It’s our job to keep up on the latest changes happening at the Disney resorts. We read the websites daily, we talk to the Disney Cast Members, we visit regularly to see and experience what’s new for ourselves. We know which restaurants are in demand and may need some extra pixie dust to get a reservation and which ones are hidden gems that you may not have heard of, but are perfect for your family. We can help you choose the FastPasses that make sense for your family and your schedule. You might be able to figure all of this out yourself but it will take a lot of time surfing the web, reading books and reviews or visiting the parks. Save yourself the time and aggravation.

We are your Disney advocate. We will keep an eye on the promotions that are offered to see if you can save some money on your reservation. We will make sure that you don’t miss a deadline. We will talk to the Disney Cast Members to help answer your questions or help satisfy those requests that are uniquely yours. If you hit a snag while at the parks, giving us a call can help to get things straightened out.

Sure, you say, this sounds too good to be true, what’s it gonna cost me? We do all of this at no extra cost. The prices we quote are the same as you would find if you booked directly with Disney. We earn our commission from Disney but put all of our work in for YOU. We do more than just “take your order”, we help you to plan a memorable vacation. As one client pu it:” If I go and buy a lawnmower and they tell me that someone mowing my lawn was included, why wouldn’t I do it?”

Get Out the Map!

disney mapStep number one in planning anything is “Get out the map!” Whether it’s an actual map because you are going on a trip or a blueprint to build a house or a recipe to bake a cake, we all need some sort of plan to get us going. One of the first things we give to a client going to Walt Disney World is a map. They can use this first of all to get an idea of the lay of the land: where the parks are in relation to their resorts and each other. Disney World is a big place and guests unfamiliar with it can go in there thinking its like the old amusement park near where you grew up where you can see everything in a day.A map helps them to understand the adventure that they are in for when they go to visit Disney.

We tell our clients to look at the maps of the parks and get an idea of what you might want to see in each park. Which rides are on your “must-do” list? For guests it’s important to prioritize what they want to see and do so they know what to expect on this trip and what they will save for “next time.” Maps of your resorts will give you an idea of where you want to stay. Is it in the hub of activity or in a quiet corner of the resort? Is it close to the bus stop or the pool?

But maps aren’t the only tool. Just like the road map won’t show you the beautiful vistas or the less than desirable views that you may see along the way, the park maps work in conjunction with the entertainment guides.This gives more ideas of the experiences that you just might want to see during your stay. If you go to your library or bookstore you will also see a shelf full of books giving you all sorts of tips and reviews of what there is to do.

So what’s your plan? At this point you may start to sweat because you feel overwhelmed by the information available. It’s a big place, but we are here to help. Our company is all about making your plan perfect. We don’t hand you all these maps and guides and say “Have a good time!” We don’t hand you a top ten list of what everyone does at Disney and say “Follow this!” We sit down with our clients and listen to what their likes and dislikes are. We look at the map with them and find out what’s important and develop a plan for them that will help make their stay enjoyable, affordable and memorable. So pick up a map to start dreaming of your destination and let us help plan your next Disney vacation.