Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hotel Review: Walt Disney World Dolphin

A fountain at the hotel
The Walt Disney World Swan is a Deluxe resort located in the Epcot Resort area of Walt Disney World.  The Walt Disney World Swan is not fully owned nor operated by Walt Disney World.  But don't let that scare you because this is a great hotel and there are many reasons you should stay here!

Aside from being a great hotel with many amenities, one major reason you should consider staying here is its location.  It is conveniently placed in close proximity to two parks.  Staying here will allow you to forgo Disney transportation and walk to both Disney Hollywood Studios and Epcot.  (For those needing transportation to these parks, it is available via Friendship Boats).

Another major reason you should stay here: the Walt Disney World Swan is one of the most cost efficient hotels in the Deluxe resort category.

View of Walt Disney World Dolphin as you pull up to the front of the hotel (on a cloudy day).

The Walt Disney World Dolphin has the following The Walt Disney World Resort perks:
  1. Ability to book Disney FastPass plus 60 days in advance.
  2. Ability to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours (with valid theme park admission).
  3. Complimentary transportation within Walt Disney World. 
  4. On-site Disney ticket desk.
  5. Character dining.
  6. Advance tee-times at the 3 championship golf courses.
  7. Complimentary delivery of in park purchases to the hotel.

View of Disney's Boardwalk area upon exiting the Walt Disney World Dolphin.

My stay at the Walt Disney World Dolphin was September 18-20, 2015 and I really enjoyed my visit at this hotel.  Driving to the hotel was very easy, the directional signs to get to the hotel was very clear and easy to understand.  Once we got there, we were able to pull right in front of the hotel in their spacious car port area without having to wait.

Main entrance on a cloudy day
The area was very busy with valet and bellhop assisting cars.  Even thought it was busy, as soon as I opened the door a valet was there to assist us.  I told him we were checking in and planned to take advantage of the self-parking option.  He was very helpful by telling us how to get to the self-parking lot and immediately calling over a bellhop.  The bellhop then assisted us with loading our bags onto a luggage cart and showed us the way to the checkin desk.

The gorgeous lobby of the Walt Disney World Dolphin

My checkin experience was also fast and pleasant.  I was asked how they could help me I approached the counter.  Jennifer, the staff member who helped me checkin, was very friendly and helpful.  We received an upgraded room (to a balcony room), two free drinks at the bar and a free ice cream! These perks aren't guaranteed but they are nice when you do get them!

Goodies and hotel map I received at checkin
The bellhop, who patiently waited with out luggage during checkin, then showed us to our room.  Our room had 2 double beds with nightstand, a large dresser with many drawers and a built in desk with chair.  There was also a sitting char and lamp.  We had plenty of extra space in the room to set up a baby pack-n-play, room for a stroller and room for one suitcase to sit out without loosing walking area. Our patio that had two chairs and a small table and a great view of the fountains and Bay Lake.

Room layout.

The only part of the room I wish was different, was the bathroom layout. There is a separate tub/shower and toilet for privacy.  However, the sink area is in an awkward corner and I kept elbowing the door to the shower/toilet when it was closed.
Sink area of the bathroom.

To make up for the loss of counter space in the bathroom, there is extra counter space with a mirror above it next to the closet in the entry way.  This extra space allows for more than one person to get ready at the same time.  On the counter you will find the coffee maker, an ice bucket and two bottles of water.  Below the counter is where the mini-fridge is along with extra storage.  There was a ton of storage space in this room.  The closet was spacious and was equipped with an iron and ironing board.

The Walt Disney World Dolphin, along with its sister resort, the Walt Disney World Swan, have many dining options.  The signature dining restaurants offer something for everyone, they include Todd English's bluezoo, Il Mulino and Shula's.  If you're interested in an adults only meal at one of these signature restaurants, there is complimentary access to Camp Dolphin for one child per adult entree purchased for 2 hours.  There are also many casual and quick service options to please every eater in every price range.  If a drink is what you are looking for, there are many to choose from as well from casual lounges to karaoke bars.  The Walt Disney World Dolphin has a bar in the main part of the lobby making it easy to grab a drink on your way to your room.

Some of the other amenities offered at the Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan are:
  • 5 Pools; 
  • Tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, jogging trails and health clubs;
  • Kids Club (Camp Dolphin)
  • Many gift stores (Disney and non-Disney stores);
  • Laundry room facilities;
  • Game room;
  • Spa with full service hair salon and nail salon;
  • Car rental;
  • Conference centers;
  • Self Parking and Valet Parking;
  • Concierge services;
  • 24 hour bell stand;
  • 24 eatery options and more!

If this review has peaked your interest into staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin (or the sister resort the Walt Disney World Swan) email me at lauren@magicaltravel.com and I'll be glad to help you book them for your next Walt Disney World vacation!

Also be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on the latest Disney travel news!

Monday, September 28, 2015

2016 Walt Disney World Discounts

Just released this morning to the general public: Two offers for travel in late 2015 and early 2016! Email me lauren@magicaltravel.com to take advantage of these special offers while they last! 

You can Play, Stay, Dine and Save up to $500 on a 5-night/6-day room, ticket and dining plan package for a family of four at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels! For stays most nights 12/13-12/19/15 and 1/2-3/7/16.  

Also available is the Early 2016 Room Discount!  When you choose to stay in the middle of the magic you can save up to 25% on rooms! Valid for travel dates Jan. 2 - April 13, 2016. (Excludes Friday and Saturday nights Jan 3 - February 29, 2016 in Value and Moderate resorts). Book now through December 23, 2015 to take advantage of this offer.  

Friday, September 25, 2015

Early 2016 Walt Disney World Discount

Two discounts were just released for Disney Visa® Cardmembers!  The good news for nonmembers? These discounts will be available to the general public come Monday! So book with me now to ensure you can take advantage of this special deal! Email me lauren@magicaltravel.com and be sure to follow me on Facebook to stay updated on the latest Disney offers, news and tips! 

Disney Visa® Play, Stay, Dine Offer
Valid for most nights December 13 through December 19, 2015, and January 2 through March 7, 2016 at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels.  There is length of stay requirement.  The Play, Stay, Dine Offer includes:
  • Resort Hotel room
  • Theme park tickets
  • Dining Plan (Disney Quick Service Dining Plan with Value Resort packages.  Disney Dining Plan with Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resort hotel packages).

Disney Visa® Room Discount
Save up to 25% on rooms at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels for stays most nights from 1/2/2016 – 4/13/2016.  There are restrictions that apply and the amount of rooms that are available is limited so be sure to contact me today!

Not a Disney Visa® Cardmember  but interested in becoming one? I can help you with that too and help you on your way to earning Disney rewards towards your trip!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Disneyland Diamond Celebration EXTENDED!

For the past few months, Disneyland® has  been celebrating sixty years of the Happiest Place on Earth with the Disneyland® Resort Diamond Celebration.  The celebration features an all-new “Paint the Night” parade, “Disneyland Forever” fireworks and “World of Color - Celebrate!” as well as special food and merchandise.  The celebration has also brought a special sparkle throughout theDisneyland Resort - including a diamond-encrusted Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. 

And now you have even longer to experience the Disneyland® Resort Diamond Celebration!  I am excited to share with you that Disney has announced that celebration will continue to dazzle guests through September 5, 2016.  Email me, lauren@magicaltravel.com, in order to start planning your Disneyland® Resort Diamond Celebration trip today!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Star Wars Marathon!

If you are interested in running in the inaugural Star Wars Marathon at Walt Disney World contact me NOW! Magical Travel is officially a Travel Provider for Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side! We have race registrations for the following races: The Dark Side Challenge, Half, 10k, 5k. You can register for the races before the general public can - which is tomorrow!  Email me for more info!

Register now with Magical Travel

Star Wars Half Marathon weekend will be a weekend of galactic fun and fantastic runs at the Walt Disney World® Resort. You'll be running on Darth Vader's turf with the Emperor's white uniformed storm troopers cheering you on your way. Darth Vader, the Galactic Empire Sith Lord, has a weekend of powerful surprises in store including spectacular runs, special events, entertainment, and much, much more!

Feel the power of the force with runs for Star Wars fans of every age including the Star Wars Half Marathon, Star Wars 10K, Star Wars 5K, and the runDisney Kids Races. Challenge yourself to the ultimate test with the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge combining the Star Wars 10K and Half Marathon. It's all part of the first-ever Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side, April 14-17, 2016. Choose your alliance! Run for the light side or run for the dark side - and May the Force be with you!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Summer Packing List for Walt Disney World

I normally go to Walt Disney World in the fall.  I go in the fall for two main reasons:

  1. Epcot Food & Wine Festival occurs in the fall and its my favorite event held at Walt Disney World.
  2. It doesn't feel like the inside of an oven when you're outside.

That being said, I leave to go to Walt Disney World next week; during Florida summer.  In my home state, Kentucky, the end of September is usually associated with the extreme heat and intense humidity making their exit for the year and the nice fall weather rolling in.  

Screen shot from weather.com of Northern KY weather in September
September in Florida? Still very oven like.
Screen shot from weather.com of Walt Disney World weather in September

So now, I'm packing for a trip to Walt Disney World during Florida summer and I thought I would share what I'm packing to help you out.  

What am I bringing for my weekend trip:

1.  TANK TOPS AND T-SHIRTS. Light and airy is the key for me.  I also pack two outfits for each day I'm in "the World."  One of my favorite tips to give for a successful trip to Walt Disney World is taking breaks from the park and to not over doing it (there is no way you can see everything there is to do, no matter how long your trip is)!  When its mid-afternoon HOT out, I head back to the hotel for a little break.  This could be a swim, a nap, a shower, etc.  But it always involves an outfit change so I feel refreshed when I go back to the parks in the evening.
Where else are you going to wear a Winnie the Pooh shirt besides Walt Disney World? Disneyland.

2.  SHORTS. I will be bringing shorts because I am alway hot, especially in the summer.  Capris and pants are something the hide in my closet until it is officially lower than 75° at the warmest point of the day. Needless to say, they will not be making the trip.  As with shirts, I'm packing two pairs of shorts for each day.
Summertime = shorts. 

3.  BATHING SUIT.  Walt Disney World has some of the most amazing pools I've seen in all of my travels, so the kids are probably going to want to swim at some point of their trip, if not every day.  Plus nothing beats cooling off like jumping into pool on a hot day.  If you're at the pool during the midday heat, instead of at the parks, everyone will be happy, especially after a few trips down the water slide (almost all of the resort pools have one).  Plus what is a vacation if it doesn't involve a trip or two down the water slide?  Another reason to bring a bathing suit - the hot tubs! Walking around the parks all day is pretty tiresome; relaxing in a hot tub after a long day helps me get relaxed and ready for the next day!
Ready for the pool slide!

4. SOCKS.  Who wears gym shoes without socks?!

5.  GYM SHOES. They are must no matter what time of year.  I strongly suggest bringing a comfy pair of walking shoes.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT bring brand new shoes.  It will be one of the worst mistake you make while preparing for your trip.  After a day in the brand new shoes, your feet will hate you.  And they will let you know that they hate you.  Thus your feet will ruin your trip if you wear brand new shoes at WDW.

6.  A SECOND PAIR OF SHOES. Why? Well, I don't know if you've heard or not, but Walt Disney World is located in Florida.  Florida is pretty well known for their afternoon pop-up rain showers.  It is also hurricane season.  Rain = wet shoes.  Wet shoes, like brand new shoes, will ruin your day.  Your feet will hate you for putting them in wet shoes for an entire day.  Do yourself a favor and bring a extra pair of shoes to switch into once your first pair gets wet.  Another reason: Florida's crazy humidity, it takes longer for wet items to dry. Your gym shoes that got wet Saturday afternoon may very well be wet Sunday morning.  No one likes wet shoes.  I'm bringing and extra pair of gym shoes and a pair of sandals - I like wearing sandals at night when I'll be doing less walking.
Extra shoes!

7.  PONCHOS.  As I mentioned in the previous statement, it rains - a lot - in Florida during the summer.  The best way to deal with the rain while visiting the parks is a poncho.  Umbrellas tend to be too cumbersome and generally don't hold up well with the wind.  

8.  UNDERGARMENTS.  I've never seen "unmentionables" for sale at any Walt Disney World gift shop.  If you forget them, you're gonna have to go off property to buy some.

9.  A LIGHTWEIGHT BAG to take into the parks.  The bag will hold my sunglass (during rides), cell phone, camera, sunscreen, a small wallet with my I.D., credit card, health insurance card (I'm my mother's daughter) and some cash.  The I.D. is very important if you plan on consuming alcohol and look under the age of 50.  I am a heavy cell phone user, so I'll also bring a portable charger.  That is it,  I don't want to be lugging around 50 lbs on my shoulders all day.  If you don't mind the weight, be my guest and bring more but in my opinion, you don't need it. 
The contents of my purse. In case you were wondering...

10.  COSMETICS & TOILETRIES.  If you have hair that can be either straight or curly - like myself -  know that in Florida it will be curly (even if you left the hotel room with straight hair).  So be prepared and bring the correct products.  You will thank me when you're showing off your Walt Disney World vacation pictures to friends, family, co-workers, people that didn't go, etc. and your hair doesn't look like an animal you found at Animal Kingdom.
Curly hair necessities. 

11.  PRESCRIPTIONS, ADVIL, TUMS, BANDAIDS.  You never know when you're going to need these so better safe than sorry.  The gift shops do carry these items (over the counters, the don't carry prescriptions), however, it's best to have them in the room when you need them.  Otherwise, you'll have to hike to the gift store to get them when you may not feel like going anywhere.
My Disney medicine cabinet.

12.  CARRY ON BAG.  Filled with goodies to get you and your family from point A to point B while traveling.  Important fact for those of you who need gum while flying: Walt Disney World does not sell gum anywhere on their property.  So if you need it for your flight there and back home - you will have to bring it yourself.  Or buy it in the airport with a crazy overcharge.
Carry on filled with magazines, Kindle and gum.

13.  MINNIE MOUSE EARS/ MICKEY MOUSE EARS.  Because you're going to Walt Disney World!
Minnie Mouse Ears!

And that is it! Ready to go! 

Is there anything you think that is essential for a Disney vacation in the summer that you think I'm forgetting?

UPDATE: September 23, 2015
I previously said in my list of things to pack that you must bring your "unmentionables" because I had never found any in the gift shops in case you forgot yours.  Well I found them! Only in adult sizes, but they were there.  And I found them in two resort gift shops: at the Walt Disney World Dolphin and at the Contemporary.

For the ladies: I only found one option. A "ladies hipster" style.  I found them in sizes XS - XXL.  I only found one option as far as print goes.  They come 3 to a pack and are priced at $21.95.

For the men: I found two options for men - a Mickey Mouse outline and a Mickey Mouse parts style.  Both of the boxer style. Only one per pack. Priced at $19.95.

And remember, for all the latest Disney news, tips and tricks follow me on Facebook

Friday, September 11, 2015

LAST YEAR for Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

It was just announced today that this holiday season, 2015, will be the last year to view the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  Going to visit Walt Disney World just to see this light show has become a yearly tradition for many families - don't let the opportunity to see the show pass you by.

This year at Disney's Hollywood Studios®, you and your family can enjoy two special experiences while being surrounded by The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. 

The first special experience will be The Merry & Bright Dessert Party being held from Nov. 6 to Dec. 30, 2015.  This party will include holiday-themed desserts.

The second special experience will be The Merry & Bright Dinner Reception occurring Jan. 1-3, 2016.  This dinner reception features a selection of small bites, including beef, shrimp, and turkey, as well as wine, beer, and specialty beverages. 

Contact me, Lauren with Magical Travel, to plan your holiday vacation to visit this special light show! Reservations for both the Merry & Bright Dessert Party and Dinner Reception will be available beginning Sept. 16, 2015 so don't delay!

Note: This is the final season due to park preparations for the recently announced Toy Story Land and a Star Wars-themed land.   

Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort 2015

Now that Labor Day has unofficially closed the summer season, it is time to start celebrating fall and Halloween!  I can't think of a better way to celebrate Halloween than visiting Disneyland or Walt Disney World!  These guys feel the same way too!

For information on how to book your next Disney destination travel please email me!

Happy Fall!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Two Easy Ways to Save Money on your next Disney Vacation!

Many people think that a Disney vacation is out of their budget.  I am here to prove to you that it is not with these TWO easy and simple tips.

  1. Pay for your Disney trip by using "free"money.  There are a FOUR ways to earn "free" money (I put free in quotes because we all know nothing is free - some of these websites require your time to rack up points, others are a reward on cash spent.)

    1.  My favorite way to earn "free" money is Swagbucks.  When you sign up for Swagbucks you need to take surveys, watch videos, play games, enter codes, etc. to earn Swagbucks.  (Tip: Be sure to hit your daily goal everyday.  If you do this daily, at the end of the month you will earn big in FREE bucks just for meeting those goals!) You can shop online via Swagbucks and earn a percentage of what you spent in Swagbucks.  Once you have enough Swagbucks racked up, you then convert your Swagbucks into gift cards.  I strongly recommend converting your Swagbucks into Target gift cards.  Why? As I explain below, once you sign up for the Target REDcard program,  you can buy Disney gift cards at 5% off - thus stretching your "free" money.  Sign up here for a Swagbucks account and start earning!              
    2. Earn bucks to turn into gift cards!
    4. Sign up for MyPointsMyPoints is similar to Swagbucks -  you need to take to surveys, watch videos, etc.in order to earn points that you convert to gift cards.  However, I have found that it takes much longer to rack up enough MyPoints to buy a  $50 Target gift card than it does via Swagbucks.  No reason you can't do both though. (Tip: Be sure to take advantage of the MyPoints emails - you will receive a few emails a day that you need to click on to earn free and easy points).  Click here to sign up.  
    5. Earn Points and turn your points into gift cards!
    6. EbatesEbates is a website that you visit before you shop online, search for the store that you plan on shopping at, and click their special link to do your shopping. By doing so you get a cash back percentage on your total spent. These online shopping trips add up and you'll get a reward check sent to you in the mail four times a year.  (Tip: since Swagbucks and MyPoints also offer rewards for shopping online, check all three sites to ensure you get the best cash back reward). Use your reward check towards your Disney vacation or use it to buy Disney gift cards via the Target REDcard program to stretch your free dollars even more!         
    7. Earn Cash Back while you shop!
    8. Sign up for a Target REDcard (there are two options, find out which one is best for you here) and simply buy Disney gift cards online.  The Target REDcard program gives 5% off towards all purchases - including gift cards.  That means you will only spend $47.50 for a $50.00 Disney gift card/$95.00 for a $100 Disney gift card and getting at least a 5% discount off your Disney vacation - trust me it can really add up!
    9. Save 5% even on Disney Gift Cards!
  2.  Use Lauren Gonding with Magical Travel to book your Disney vacation.  

    1. First off my service is 100% totally FREE to my clients.  
    2. As your personalized Disney Travel Agent I WILL help you SAVE money.  I will do my best to get you the best deal - even after you have booked!  I will constantly search for discounts and if you get a pin code in the mail - I will be able to apply that to your previously booked vacation. (Bonus Tip: You can use your "free" Disney gift cards to pay your Disney Vacation package booked with me!)
    3. I will save you TIME by booking for you the hard to get Advance Dining Reservations and FastPass+ selections.  Saving you time means you'll have more time to spend with your family, or (by using the above mentioned websites) to earn more "free" money to spend on your Disney vacation.  To find out how I can help you save on your Disney vacation email me at lauren@magicaltravel.com.  Also, be sure to subscribe to this blog and like my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/laurenmagicaltravel) to stay informed of all the magic Disney has to offer.
      Earn "Free" Disney Gift Cards!

Friday, September 4, 2015

FORCE Friday & Labor Day Weekend

This is my frame of mind today considering it is FORCE Friday and the Friday before a long weekend:

Time to peace out of work

Have a safe and magical Labor Day weekend everyone!