Our Favourite Romantic Places Around The World

When it comes to a romantic getaway all you really need is somewhere special and the one you love.  Of course, being in an extra special place certainly helps make the magic happen though!  We asked our team what their favourite romantic destinations were.  Here’s what they had to say.

Greece

greece 3

The two most romantic places in Greece in my opinion is Santorini and Mykonos. There is something magical about sitting down for supper and waiting for the most famous sunset around. In Mykonos there are so many places to explore. It is so easy to find a quite and quaint place to enjoy a romantic meal.

Karen Katelnikoff

Kapama Game Reserve South Africa

Kapama River Lodge 1
Highlights:

  1. ALL the animals – what is more romantic than seeing Lions, Leopards and Giraffes by moonlight?
  2. A full spa with rooms facing a dry river bed where animals roam
  3. Beautiful “rustic” lodge rooms
  4. A full wine cellar
  5. Wonderful, locally prepared food and entertainment by firelight each night
  6. As places to propose go, this takes the cake (I should know 😊)

Jamie Milton

El dorado Casitas in the Mayan Riviera, Mexico

20171217_112354

If you’re looking for the perfect place to feel pampered and relaxed this is it!   I love staying at this gourmet inclusive resort where everything we could wish for is already thought of.  The tropical gardens are the perfect place to read a book or enjoy a cocktail.

Joanne Pidwerbetsky

20171217_112454

The top of the Reichstag Building Dome in Berlin at Sunset.

Reichtstag Building 1

Highlights:

  1. Capacity controlled, so never very crowded
  2. A beautiful 360 degree glass dome overlooking Berlin
  3. At sunset all the landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate are highlighted by the setting sun

Jamie Milton

Reichtstag Building 2

Italy

Cinque Terra

It’s easy to understand why Italy is one of the most romantic places in the world.  Visiting this destination with my better half is something I’ll cherish forever.  It was our honeymoon spot and we fell in love with the beautiful hillsides of Tuscany, the gorgeous seaside towns and the Italian way of life to slow down and take it all in.  Toast your partner with some limoncello or vino and indulge in the beauty and romance of this eternal destination.  My heart is with the wonderful Italian people who are struggling through difficult times.  I know one day we will return.

Czarina Sastaunik

The Sydney Zoo at Sunset.

Sydney Zoo at Sunset 1

Highlights:

  1. There is a lookout where you can watch the sun set over Sydney Harbour
  2. Beautiful views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House
  3. Take a romantic boat right from the Zoo back across the Harbour to your hotel after

Jamie Milton

Sydney Zoo at Sunset 2

Disney Parks

Disney 3

We’ve all heard of the “Magic of Disney”.  I’m sure many people think it’s not real but I’m here to argue that it is real and it what romance is made of!   My partner and I have visited both Disneyland and Walt Disney World together as childless millennials (how dare we) and both trips had an element of romance that surprised me.  There’s something about the atmosphere that encourages hand holding.  Maybe at first it’s so that you don’t lose each other but eventually it is because the magic that they pump into the air makes you appreciate each other more.   Sharing the experience of rides, meeting favourite characters, marvelling at how things were created, fireworks shows and delicious dining is like the ultimate date every day.  Plus having access to photo pass photographers means you can get so many cute photos of the whole ordeal!  For me, a Disney trip is all about the romance and I just cannot wait for us to get back there to let the magic take over again.

Heather Peters


We hope you enjoyed our list of romantic places.   As you can see, romance can be found anywhere around the world – it’s about finding those special moments with the person you love wherever you are.

Where have you found romance around the world?

New and New to Me at Disneyland – Jamie’s Final Disney Blog

When we started planning our trip to Disneyland, I thought I knew all there was to know about Disneyland.  This would be my fourth trip to the Park and our most recent trip was only a year and a half ago.  In the end, I surprised myself with the number of new rides, dining options and experiences that we participated in during our stay.  Here is a quick recap of my thoughts on each:

Rides:

  1. Matterhorn.  This is one of the original Disney rides and a timeless favorite for many.  It has been closed for refurbishment on all of my previous visits.  This roller coaster takes you high in the Matterhorn mountain with lots of twists and turns as you evade a Yeti.  It was fun and thrilling and my kids loved it….me not quite as much, mainly because it’s a bit “rough” and jarring – not always easy on the back and older bones 🙂
    2
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!  The Hollywood Tower of Terror was one of my favorite Disney rides.  The last time I was at Disney our youngest ones were too little to go on this ride so I stayed off while my husband and older daughter went on this one.  This time, we all went and I still LOVE this ride.  The premise is the same with all the drops (and the tricky part is you never know how many drops there will be!), but the ride is re-imagined with a Guardians of the Galaxy theme and is really well done.  It is terrifying in the best possible way and even the little guys couldn’t wait to go on it again and again.

  3. Indiana Jones.  We tried to go on this ride last time, but the lineups were always long and we never seemed to get around to getting a fastpass for it.  This time, I made a point of getting a fastpass so we could check it out.  It’s a really well done ride – especially if you have watched and enjoyed the Indian Jones movies.  It plays a lot on parts of the movies and takes you through a temple on a wild jeep ride.  It’s a bit rough, so again if you have back problems, it’s not the one for you.  Otherwise, go and enjoy!
  4. Grizzly River Rapids.  This ride is at California Adventure and takes you on a big tube (fitting 8 guests) down a river with rapids and waterfalls.  You will get wet (possibly soaked) but it’s a lot of fun on a hot day and a great way to cool off and have fun.  I really enjoyed the ride and we had a lot of laughs.
  5. Rise of the Resistance.  I talk more about this ride in my Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge  blog, but this ride was AMAZING and well worth all the hype.  Be sure to join a boarding zone right as soon as the park opens or you will be out of luck for getting on this ride.  The wait time from when your boarding zone is called is roughly 30 minutes.  This method of crowd control seems to be working well and gets people through the ride in a very efficient manner without having to wait for hours in line..
    Star Wars 3

 

Food:

  1. Mobile Food Orders: Last time we went with just my family of 5, we found it worked well to have one dining reservation each day and have a bit of a “plan”.  This time, we had 11 people and I ended up cancelling most of my dining reservations.  It was just a bit hard to get everyone in the same place at a specified time when everyone had different things they wanted to be doing.  Reservations can typically be cancelled without penalty up to 1 day beforehand.  Instead of the dining reservations and sit down meals, in this scenario we found it easier to use the “mobile order” part of the Disneyland app.  I had not used it before, but it worked amazingly well.  You could pop onto the app, order your lunch and when you were ready to pick it up, you hit one more button on the app and 5 minutes later your order was ready.  No waiting in line.  I love it!  We did this every day at least once.  My favorites:  Burgers from the Hungry Bear in Critter Country, Chicken Fingers from the Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland and Chili Cheese Dogs from Award Wieners in Hollywood land (considerably better than the other hot dog places in California Adventure and very reasonably priced).
  2. Food & Wine Festival:  I have a separate blog on this event, but to recap, it is festival of food and drink vendors that are not normally at California Adventure who are showcasing a few of their specialties.  It is a very fun atmosphere, the Sip and Savour pass is reasonably priced and I would love to experience it again.  It was good with the kids along, it would be even better as an adult date night.
    8
  3. Breakfast with Minnie and Friends at the Plaza Inn:  This is a full buffet breakfast/brunch with Minnie and several of her friends.  The characters change a bit, but Minnie is a given.  It’s a bit expensive – $39 for Adults, $19 for kids, but it saves you a ton of time waiting in line to meet the characters.  The characters all come around to your tables and will sign autograph books and take pictures.  The food was also very good.  It was buffet style, with cooking stations.  Mickey waffles and French toast, an omelette stations, an egg and breakfast meat stations, all kinds of drinks and side dishes.  It was all you can eat and a few of us made the most of that!  We opted for the latest time – 10:40am and had that pass as our lunch that day.5

 

We had such an amazing time at Disneyland this year.  If you have questions about planning your own Disney vacation please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.  There are some amazing promotions currently available and they would love to help make the magic happen!

image

Jamie’s Experience at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

brochure

There were so many things I was excited to do and try on this trip to Disneyland, but of them all, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge topped the list.  When we were in Disneyland a year and a half ago, they were building it and we have been anticipating this new land ever since.  Boy, did it live up to our expectations!

When you walk into Galaxy’s Edge, it is truly like stepping into another world.  Disney has out-Disney’d itself.  All the sights, sounds, smells – even the Coca Cola bottles, make you think you are in a Star Wars movie.  Perhaps the best part is the Disney cast members and how they interact with the guests.  They stay very true to character and the Storm Troopers are often around and will stop and question guests. I am the first to admit I am not a big follower of Star Wars, beyond having seen the first few movies, but I was suitably impressed and my husband and kids even more so.

Cola

Of course, the big news in Galaxy’s Edge is the newly opened “Rise of the Resistance” ride.  It opened a few weeks ago and the lineups were expected to be so big for this ride that Disney implemented a “boarding zone” policy.  I wasn’t quite sure how this would work, but we were determined to check out this ride.  We heard from fellow guests that you had to be inside the Disney park and ready to press “join boarding zone” on the Disneyland App, the minute the park opened if you had any hope of getting on a boarding zone.  Disney starts letting guests in the gates half hour before the official park opening time.  We arrived early and were through the gates 15 minutes prior to park opening and right at 9:00am, we pressed the “join boarding zone” button and were rewarded with being in boarding zone 35 – a sure bet to get on the ride that day.  The most amazing part was hearing the roar that echoed throughout the entire park at 9am.  It was all of the Star Wars fans celebrating their luck or bemoaning their lack thereof.

Star Wars 10

It was clear from all the Star Wars t-shirts and gear that a large part of the Disney crowd last week were there for Star Wars.  Despite that, the park itself was not overly busy and it was easy to navigate through Galaxy’s Edge, interact with the characters and enjoy the sites at any given time.  The only things that seemed to have line ups were “Oga’s Cantina” (dining reservations recommended) and the “Rise of the Resistance” ride.

Star Wars 13

Our boarding zone 35 was called around 1030am.  Once our boarding zone was called, it was about a half hour wait in line to get on the ride.  The ride itself was amazing.  The part that makes it different from other Disney rides is the level of interaction with the Disney cast members.  You are escorted onto a space ship and told you are being recruited for the Resistance.  Then your space craft is captured and boarded by the First Order and you are escorted off to a room full of storm troopers and generals who march you down to a different area, yelling commands at a few chosen guests along the way.  From there you board the “ride” part and a vessel takes you through different areas as you evade the First Order and eventually area broken out by the Resistance.  It’s incredibly well done and very “real” feeling.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Shortly after our ride, my 5 year old son was approached by two storm troopers and Kylo Ren.  He was quite clearly convinced that they were trying to get him to tell the resistance secrets and join the first order.  I’m quite sure he thought the entire thing was real (the ride and the interaction after).  It was a highlight of our time at Disney.  We look forward to spending more time in Galaxy’s Edge next time.


Interested in planning your own dream vacation to Disneyland?  Reach out to our team at 306-242-TRIP and our experienced agents would be happy to help get you on your way!

UniglobeCarefreeTravelGroup

Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival 2020

I was very excited to see that the Disneyland Food & Wine Festival was going to be on during our trip to Disneyland this past week.  If there is anything I love as much as IMG_6571Disneyland, it’s food and wine!  I have been to Disneyland and Walt Disney World several times, but this was something that had never coincided with my previous trips.

The Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival takes place at Disney California Adventure Park and it runs from February 28 – April 21, 2020.  Despite the festival, crowds were pretty low last week when we were there.  The evenings were a bit busier, but there was never a long lineup for food and no one was getting out of hand.  It was a family friendly atmosphere and event.  Most vendors had 2-3 food items as well as a couple of drink offerings.  There were 17 food card vendors that are not normally part of the California Adventure food lineup.  You can purchase a “Sip and Savor Pass” for $56 USD.  This gives you 8 tabs that can be traded in for a food or non-alcoholic drink item at any of the vendors.  Most food items were around $8 USD, so this was a pretty good deal.  Our family of 5 purchased this one evening and used it to get our food for dinner that night – lots of fun trying different items.  We purchased our drinks separately, but all in all, it was then a similar price to getting dinner at one of the other Disney restaurants, but it was a new experience with lots of variety.

We tried Ranch Fried Chicken Wings at “Cluck a Doodle Moo” (my kids favorite!), Black Garlic Soy-braised Pork Belly Banh Mi and Carbonara Garlic Mac and Cheese with Bacon at “Garlic Kissed” (the Banh Mi was Mark’s favorite!), Mini Chicken Chimis with Chimichurri at “Off the Cob”, Pepperoni Pizza Egg Rolls at “California Craft Brews” and Asian style Beef Barbacoa Street Tacos at “LA Style” (my favorite!).  We also sampled a Pineapple Beer at Cluck a Doodle Moo and the “fun” flight of beer at California Craft Brews, which were interesting and fun to try.  The full sized beer were around $10 each and a flight of 4 beer samples (decent sizes) were around $15.

 

All in all, this event added an extra touch of fun, food and something different to our trip to Disneyland and we really enjoyed our afternoon/evening of tasting!

Ask a Travel Agent – Disneyland

Here at UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel our team is passionate about sharing their experiences with you.    Amanda Campbell absolutely loves Disneyland, so we have asked her some of those burning questions to help you plan your own vacation to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Amanda_Cars_Land_June_7th_2015_231__2_

  1. When is the best time to visit Disneyland? I think in the warmer months that way you can enjoy the wet rides more instead of freezing.
  2. How many days would you recommend someone spend at Disneyland? If it’s someone visiting for the first time, around 4 days.
  3. What hotel would you recommend in the Disneyland area? I really like the Courtyard Marriott theme park entrance.  It’s a newer hotel with a beautiful water park. Their rooms have bunk beds as well in the lead in/introductory category.
  4. Are there benefits to staying at one of the Disney hotels in Anaheim? You get extra magic hours, the convenience of charging things like meals and merchandise purchases to your room, and have package service to your room. As a little bonus, you might even get one of the Disney characters calling your room for any special occasions.
  5. What is a tip for visitors to Disneyland that may not be common knowledge? To purchase the MaxPass which includes ride and character photos as well as the option to skip the lines at certain attractions.
  6. What is your favourite ride or attraction at Disneyland?  Radiator Springs Racers or Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
  7. Is Disneyland just for families?   I had always gone with my mom, the latest time I was with a bunch of travel agents.  I think it’s great for families but it’s also awesome as just adults going to have some fun.  This way you can go on the rides as much as you want, not have to worry about height restrictions and have a good time.  It is great for families too as you can walk between the two parks, they aren’t as spread out as the parks in Walt Disney World.
  8. Are there other nearby attractions that should be included in a vacation in California? I did a Star’s Home tour that included going down Rodeo Drive, going by the tar pits, etc.  I also like visiting Universal Studios.  Some people like the Six Flags Magic Mountain park, and the Knott’s Berry Farm.  I think going to the beach at some point is a must as well.  Some people like going down to San Diego to do the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, or LEGOLAND.
  9. Why should someone book their Disneyland vacation with UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel? We can offer insider information and tips that you won’t get by booking online.  Some people do lots of research and rely on their friend’s reviews.  We put together a list of tips and recommendations and send to our clients that book with us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ready to start planning your own magical getaway?  Contact Amanda by calling 306-934-3400 or emailing amanda@uniglobevacation.com.

Disneyland Tips & Tricks – Jamie’s Magical Birthday Getaway

Blog 3 - 1

Disneyland tips and tricks:

  1. If you stay onsite at a Disneyland Resort Hotel, you get an extra magic morning every day.  This alternates between parks.  There are some exclusive benefits – if the magic morning is at California adventure, you can go on the Radiator Springs Racers ride in that first hour.  This is only for hotel guests.  If you have a hopper pass that includes one magic morning, you can get into the park early, but you can’t go on the Radiator Springs Racers until the park opens to the public.  There are also random meet and greets with Disney Characters in the hotel lobby – and no lineups.  The Grand Californian hotel has direct entry into California Adventure park – again no lineups to get into the park in the morning and very easy to go back to the hotel if you need a change of clothes, a nap, a swim or a break from the crowds.  The Grand Californian hotel is currently undergoing some renovations and the Whitewater Raft casual dining/takeaway restaurant is closed.  They serve pastries, fruit, yogurt and coffee in the Hearthstone lounge as an alternative in the mornings.  Coffee is complimentary to hotel guests and breakfast of pastries, fruit and yogurt for 5 of us was usually $25 – a pretty good deal.
  2. Even if you are not a morning person – it’s worth the early wake up call to get to the parks early.  The morning is the best time at the parks – it’s not busy, there are no lineups and you can go on a lot of rides or meet a lot of characters in a short amount of time.  The afternoons and evenings get a lot busier.  As an example, we went right to the Fantasy Fair to meet the princesses at 8am and we only waited 10 minutes.  Later in the day, it was over an hour.  You can get on Big Thunder Mountain, the Haunted Mansion or Splash Mountain with only a few minutes wait for the first hour…maybe two.  After that it would often be an hour or longer for a wait.
  3. If there are popular rides that do not offer a FastPass option, do those first.  You can always get a FastPass for popular rides, so you can experience them without waiting later in the day.  Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Radiator Springs Racers, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!, Incredicoaster, etc….all offer Fast Passes and we found the Fast Passes via the MaxPass to be plentiful.  Rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan’s Flight do not offer a Fast Pass option.  We could ride Pirates twice with no wait at all first thing in the morning.  By lunch time it was an hour wait and by dinner time it was almost a two hour wait….with no possibility of a FastPass.
  4. Have a plan.  I’ve mentioned it before, but it really is important to make the most of your time.  Know which area of the park you want to do first and which ride you want to get a FastPass for and which one you want to go on before it lines up.  Know where and when you are going for lunch so you don’t waste time looking for a restaurant that you like and waiting in long lineups to order food…either use the mobile food order or make a dining reservation in advance.
  5. If you want special dining options, character dining, large group dining, etc…book well in advance as popular ones fill up fast.  Even if you want a regular dining reservation, don’t expect to make a reservation on short notice or to walk up and get in.  Restaurants are often full and there was usually a 30-60 minute wait for a table without a reservation.  Finding ways to avoid lineups is key to making the most of your time.
  6. If you are up for a later night, rides are often quieter during parades/Fantasmic show times and for the last hour or two that the parks are open.  We were able to walk right on rides at the end of the night – same as we could first thing in the morning.
  7. Spending the extra few dollars on the “park hopper” option for the parks is well worth it.  If you only have a few days and want to make the most of your time, it’s great to be able to go between the parks.  The parks are right next to each other, so hopping is very quick and easy. Our last day was a prime example of why you would want to do this.  We made a list of all of our favorite attractions that we wanted to do “one last time” on our last day.  We started our day at 7am in California Adventure Park for our Magic Hour.  We were able to go on the Radiator Springs Racers, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree , Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters and get some family Photo Pass photos taken with the Cars Characters all by 8am.  At that point, we headed across to Disneyland Park for opening and were able to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and the Jungle Cruise all by 10am.  We headed back to California adventure for a 1040am fast pass at Guardians of the Galaxy…a full day’s worth of fun that we managed to fit in before lunch time.  That meant during the busy afternoon hours, we could head back to the hotel for a swim and a nap and return with fresh kids for Toy Story Midway Mania and Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses, dinner at Wine Country and ended the night with a few more rides when the lineups died down during the parade.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you have questions about Disneyland or would like to start planning your own magical getaway please reach out to our team!  They would love to help get you on your way.

Uniglobe Basebar

Dining at Disneyland – Jamie’s Magical Birthday Getaway

Disneyland Dining - 6

It has been 4 years since I was last at Disneyland.  This time I wanted to make sure that we weren’t always waiting in line to get into a restaurant or to order food.  That was one thing I remember from last time as being a frustrating experience.

Disneyland dining reservations open 60 days beforehand.  You can make dining reservations either via the My Disney Experience app, their website or by phone.  I used the app to make dining reservations the full 60 days prior.  It’s very quick and easy and it allows you to select restaurants in your budget, with menus that you know your family will enjoy.  I made at least one reservation per day, sometimes two.  It helped us to have a plan and to make sure that when our kids (and their mom) were hungry and cranky, that we had a place to sit down, eat and rest without waiting in line.

Some of the places we picked – all were in a reasonable price point:

  • La Brea Bakery in downtown Disney – my daughter says this was the best grilled cheese she has ever had, lots of kid friendly items and good burgers (chicken and beef) as well as homemade soup in bread bowls.   Casual and friendly.
  • Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen for my birthday dinner – New Orleans inspired in Downtown Disney.  Service was great as was the food….the appetizer platter was our favourite.
  • Lamplight Lounge – a must try.  It is new and is located where Ariel’s Grotto used to be in California Adventure.  It is Toy Story themed to go with the new Pixar Pier and again the food, setting and service was great.  The Lobster Nachos and Piggy Wings are a must.  Food is pub-style and they serve alcohol as well….for those tired and cranky parents.
  • Tortilla Joes in downtown Disney – gives a discount for those staying at a Disney hotel.  Mexican food, really good nachos, quesadillas and tacos.
  • Carnation Cafe…a hidden Gem on Mainstreet in Disneyland park.  Awesome burgers – huge and homemade.  Lunch for 5 of us was about $60 US, which is a steal in Disneyland and I thought it was one of the better lunches we had.  The fried chicken is also supposed to be good here, but we didn’t try it this time.
  • Wine Country Trattoria in California Adventure was a great spot for a nicer dinner. Italian, nice wine list, good options for kids with spaghetti and pizza.  They accommodated a group of 9 no problem and the food was very good.  The bruschetta, caprese salad and linguine vongole were my favorite.  It is pretty reasonable as well for a slightly upgraded dining experience.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We also had two special dining experiences.  We chose to keep to more budget restaurants for most meals so that we could splurge on a couple of unique experiences.  Our first morning found us at Storeytellers Cafe at Disney’s Grand Californian hotel.  We had a buffet breakfast with Mickey and Friends.  The looks on the kids faces when they got to meet the characters was priceless….and having the characters come to your table saved us hours of waiting in line at the parks.  The food was good with plenty of options and good service.  They didn’t rush you and you got lots of time with Mickey and friends.  It was roughly $38 US for adults and $25 US for kids.

We wanted to get preferred seating to Fantasmic and the most economical way to do that was to have the dinner/show combo at the Hungry Bear restaurant in Disneyland.  We picked our time for dinner and when we arrived, we had a separate line up (no waiting) and we could pick off a special menu or the regular menu.  The kids all picked the chicken fingers off the regular menu and Mark and I had the Blackberry BBQ Ribs with rice and salad.  The food was good, the setting was nice (lots of tables available) and the best part – front row seating (on the ground, not chairs) for the Fantasmic 9pm performance.  This meal/dinner combo was about $130 USD total for 5 of us and well worth the bit extra.

Disneyland Dining - 4

Something else that is new via the My Disney Experience app is mobile food ordering.  We didn’t try it, but I wish we had.  We waited in line for lunch for about 20 minutes at the Pacific Wharf Cafe (all restaurants were lined up at lunch), but as we waited, there was a steady stream of people coming in and picking up orders with no wait.  It would definitely be worthwhile trying and it is free to order through the app.  You pick your restaurant and pick up time and items and I believe you have to pre pay with a credit card.

My final two suggestions for dining at Disney – have a plan and budget accordingly.  Food and drinks are not inexpensive but if you are prepared and know what you want to spend and pick restaurants accordingly, you will be a big step ahead.  Also, my oldest is 10 and with the exception of the Character buffet, she was able to order off the kids menu.  We just asked for three kids menus and no one asked or questioned.  She doesn’t eat enough to order off the adult menu, so that worked well and saved us a few dollars.

Want to start planning your own magical vacation?  Call us to speak with one of our Disney loving agents today!

Uniglobe Basebar

Disneyland’s MaxPass – Jamie’s Magical Birthday Getaway

Maxpass 2Disney MaxPass…..where do I begin?  I am in LOVE with the new Disney MaxPass.  It has helped us to make the most of our 5 day Disneyland family vacation.  Disney introduced the MaxPass earlier this year.  It works in conjunction with the Disneyland app and for $10 per person, per day; you get unlimited photo pass photos (from photographers, rides, etc) as well it allows you to add fast passes on your phone.  I’m not sure of the exact rhyme or reason, I haven’t been able to work it out yet, but it allows you to almost always have more than one fast pass at a time – I have had up to three….this wasn’t possible with the old paper fast passes.  If I wasn’t able to add the 2nd or third right away, I was able to add them within a short time frame.  For example I added a Radiator Springs Racers FastPass at 11am for an 830pm ride.  At 1215pm it let me add a FastPass for Toy Story Midway Mania for a 515pm ride and at 3pm it let me add a FastPass for Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! for a 9pm ride.  With the paper FastPasses, I believe I would have only been able to have the first one until 830pm when our time came to get another one.

The weekend was very busy at Disneyland with ride wait times of 75 to 100 minutes on most of the popular rides.  We went on rides almost continually throughout the morning and later afternoon/evening (nap breaks in the middle!) and we never waited more than 10 or 15 minutes for a ride.   The fast passes, combined with the app letting you know current wait times on rides worked amazingly well for time management.

The My Disney Experience app is free – everyone should have this app installed.

What it gets you:43371793_169349567321089_7827775525585158144_n

  • access to maps and current wait times
  • access to park hours and show times
  • access to your dining reservations
  • photos from photo passes
  • access to your FastPasses if you have the MaxPass.

 

The MaxPass for the extra $10/person per day gets you unlimited FastPasses and unlimited free photos.  The photos are typically $10 per photo to download.  My family of 5 was $50 US per day but it saved us HOURS of waiting in line and in running around the park trying to see what FastPasses we could get.  With two 3 year olds, this was priceless!  We would get in the FastPass line for a ride, while we were in line, I would add the next FastPass on my phone, when we got off the ride, I would look at the online map to see what had a short line to fill time until our next FastPass ride.  It was “magical”.  To date, we also have 32 photopass photos – for free – a $320 value.  MaxPass gets two thumbs up from me!

The one issue we had with MaxPass is one day the app was only showing 1 of the 5 of us in the park.  You have to be in the park to add the MaxPass in the morning.  I asked guest services, they sent me to city hall where there was quite a lineup.  When I got up to the front, they said our tickets were not scanned properly at the gate.  They rescanned them and gave us the MaxPass for free that day….we lost about a half hour, but I was happy with their service in the end – very Disney-like!  Tip – they said if we noticed while we were near the gate that it wasn’t showing all of us in the park, they could have rescanned our tickets at the gate instead of waiting in line at city hall.

Czar’s California Dream – Part 2

How do you get a 30 year old woman to jump out of bed? You tell her she’s going to Disneyland!

Our day at Disney began early with a light breakfast in our room and a 10 minute walk over to the maingate. Sure glad we got there at 8am because the first thing I saw were huge lineups and the amount of people only got worse in the afternoon.

Disney has it down to a fine art. They shuffled what felt like thousands of people through their entrance with little wait time once the entrance was open.

First thing these eyes see is my favourite childhood hero waiting to greet us at Disney’s California Adventures: Mickey Mouse! There was a small lineup to meet him. It didn’t take long to finally hug him, tell him I love him and take a quick pic. I can finally cross that off my bucket list. The Disney photographers were there to take professional pictures but were kind enough to offer to take pictures with our camera phones for no charge. So friendly!

02 Mickey

I’ve never considered myself a “rides person” but Disney has changed my outlook. Though I never tried any crazy roller coasters, I was able to take in so many unique and special rides like “Soaring over California”, “Grizzly River Run” and “It’s a Small World After All”. So many smiles, cheers and screams! And with all those great feelings came bad ones too! Lineups, too many people and tears. You definitely see a few breakdowns from children and adults alike. I was dangerously close. When I realized the “Jungle Cruise” lineup was slowly approaching the 60 minute mark, I wanted to throw my arms to the air, drop to the ground and scream “Why? Why?” Thankfully, I had the good sense to bottle it up and play on my phone. I wish Disney would include wi-fi for their guests. That would keep people content while waiting.

We utilized the “Fast Pass” as much as we could on the popular rides but there were still a few that were so popular that even the “Fast Pass” lineups were long, like Disney’s newest thrill ride “Cars”. All worth the wait, of course! By mid afternoon, we decided to walk back to our hotel take a quick nap and returned again that evening to catch “Paint the Night”, Disney’s nighttime electric parade. It was amazing! You get to see all the characters on these beautiful floats and sing along to the fantastic Disney music. Right after that, we walked over to catch “World of Color”, Disney’s nighttime fountain show all lit with different colours and images to our favourite songs. It literally brought a tear to my eye to see so many people from all over the world, with big smiles on our faces, enjoy those 25 minutes where you can forget all the bad things and focus on the good. Since this is Disney’s 60th anniversary, the show really focused on the history of Walt Disney and his amazing legacy. Hard to believe that it all started with a mouse… Next up, Universal Studios!

02 Paradise Pier  02 Cinderella

Heather’s Anaheim and Disneyland Getaway

An Ode to MSP (Minneapolis Airport)

In 2007 when I was a shiny new travel agent I flew to Walt Disney World via Minneapolis. Since then I never had a reason to have to fly through this major hub. Five years ago I thought this was an outstanding airport as I did the Home Alone Dash from one gate to the next to make my connection and guess what? I was TOTALLY right. Although there are most likely thousands of people milling about I really don’t feel crowded or like I am in the way. There is not just some shopping like I’ve found in other major airports, there is SHOPPING. A mall area with the high end items and duty free that you expect in an airport as well as surprises that I may check out in a bit like The Body Shop. If shopping isn’t your thing well then eat! The food court had options for all tastes from Arbys and Burger King to Sushi to bakeries to countless sit down pubs and lounges. Too bad it’s so early, I would have had 5 lunches for sure! I do recommend visiting Caribou Coffee as a delightful alternative to Starbucks. My turtle mocha “zebra” style with both dark and white chocolate is unreal! Compared to my surprisingly enjoyable visit to Denver (another major hub) earlier this year this is a palace of an airport! Ultimately, the point is that I can honestly say that if I could choose my flights purely based on their layovers MSP would be my #1 choice every single time!

So here I am on my Anaheim OC Visitors and Convention Buerro Familiarization trip. What is a Familiarization trip you ask? It’s a trip that travel agents go on to become more familiar with a destination, do hotel tours etc. It is actually a lot more work than it sounds although I have a feeling this particular trip will be a blast. Tonight we met for a cocktail party and some bowling with various suppliers in the area. We had a blast getting to know each other and I got to show off my mad bowling skills. Afterwards some of the other agents and I, who were all staying at the Marriott, stopped by the concierge lounge for dessert before heading to bed. I love hotels that offer concierge lounges for their higher floors (I’m on floor 18 of 19). It’s great to be able to stop by and grab some fruit, a snack, or your morning coffee. The lounge is only open on weekdays though which is too bad, I feel as though I will be wanting to stop in on Saturday after my Disney day.

Day 2

After a hotel tour and breakfast at the gorgeous Hilton we piled into a bus and headed down to Universal Studios. We arrived and received our passes then rode at least 4 or 5 escalators down to the lower level of the park (what’s up with this park being placed both on the top and bottom of a mountain??) to ride the brand new Transformers ride . This ride was unreal. Even though you know it’s all fake I honestly covered my head as a car came flying through the air towards me. These types of rides are to blame for my intolerance of 3D movies at the Galaxy. It’s just not even close to real enough.

I really enjoyed the attractions I saw at Universal Studios, even the “Tram-tastic” back lot tour, although it is very long (like 40 minutes). It is a really small park though, with only a handful of big ticket attractions so it is not a whole day excursion in my opinion.

We visited a mall called the South Coast Plaza this afternoon. It was beautiful but very high end. From there we traveled to Huntington Beach to do a tour of the Hilton there, have an amazing supper and then have s’mores on the beach. What a great experience. There are tons of fire pits along Huntington Beach that you can use (assuming they’re available, apparently in the summer you would have to reserve it early in the morning. If you’re staying at the Hilton they can arrange the whole thing for you of course). If you’re planning a trip to California and want to spend some time by the beach this seemed like a really nice area to visit. One of my friends on the tour thought he may even get married there!

Once we returned to Anaheim a few from our group decided to go out for a quick drink. We walked from our hotels down to Downtown Disney. It turns out a lot of the bars and restaurants actually close early on Thursdays (again, this is probably something that varies based on season). We found the piano bar was still open for about another hour so we had a seat and ordered some drinks. What a fun bar! We sang along to Sweet Caroline and Don’t Stop Believing like superstars.

Disney Day

Yesterday was our Disneyland/California Adventure day. We started the day off with a character breakfast at Disney’s Grand Californian hotel. I had heard mixed things about these breakfasts with regards to the quality of food. Personally I was really impressed with the buffet. It’s comparable to any nice all inclusive resort I’ve visited with a good selection of both healthy and unhealthy options. There were no Mickey waffles available on the buffet line, they are included though, you just have to order them separately. I really enjoyed being able to meet characters while I had breakfast. The best part was watching a little girl dressed as a princess offer Turk from Tarzan her banana. Kids are always 10 times cuter when they’re at Disney!

After this we toured all 3 Disney hotels which took quite a bit of time and we were all anxious to get to the parks. I’m so glad we did tour them all though because we got to view the Adventureland Signature Suite. This room was UNREAL. Honestly the very best hotel room I’ve ever experienced. Think about a theme room at Fantasyland hotel in Edmonton, then think about the old Adventurer’s club bar that was a part of Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World. Combine the two and you get the Adventureland suite. When you ring the doorbell the masks on the wall let you know that someone is at the door (chanting in a creepy loud song). There were two bedrooms plus a day bed situation in the main living area. A handful of bathrooms including one with a  sauna. But it’s just the decor that blew us all away. We were told that it is about $2500 + per night, but if you happen to have a money tree I say DO IT!

Once we were in the park we were on our own to do as we wished. My friends and I accomplished a LOT in the hours that we were in the two parks. At Disneyland my favorite attractions were (not surprisingly) the Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain. The cool thing about the Haunted Mansion is that Disneyland is all set up for their Halloween celebrations. So the Haunted Mansion is Nightmare Before Christmas themed. At California Adventure we did quite a few of the rides as well. The favorite between my group was clearly the Tower of Terror. We actually did it three times! After our first go at the tower we started playing a game to see what kinds of crazy poses we could do for the pictures on all of the rides. All of the silly things we did really didn’t compare to the couple who were sitting in the Tower of Terror reading magazines like it’s no big deal and not scary at all. Maybe next time we’ll have to bring props…

We had a reserved area to view the World Of Color show which was really nice to have. There is not really a lot of actual seating for World Of Color which is a bit frustrating as it’s a fairly long show at the end of the day. Everyone’s legs and feet are tired by this point. I saw a lot of kids on dad’s shoulders. The show was beautiful but I think I still prefer Fantasmic as a fireworks alternative. I do recommend checking it out if you’re there though. You might as well since all of the rides near the lake are shut down well before the show and during the show. They do restart the rides after. A good tip we learned is that as long as you’re in line for a ride when the park closes you will still get to ride that ride. So you don’t need to run out of the park as soon as the fireworks or show ends, you can get one last ride in and avoid some of the crowd craziness trying to get out of the park.

Oh, by the way, if you loved the Adventurers Club at Walt Disney World you should check out Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. No, it doesn’t really have even half of the magic as the Adventurers Club but it was a good alternative. Ordering any of their specialty cocktails causes some type of mayhem to happen somewhere within the bar. Everyone inside this bar (staff and guests) was having an absolute blast. We went there on a Friday night and had no hope of getting a seat inside the bar so I would recommend going early if you want a seat (pick a bar stool right at the bar for your best experience)