Ah, the all-inclusive vacation. It is one of my favorite ways to completely relax, unwind and unplug.
What is an all inclusive vacation?
It starts with the resort. Some of my favorite locations that I've personally visited are in Jamaica and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. There are many, many locations, depending on your preferences for beaches, food and activities. My favorite resorts and brands I know and trust are in Mexico, the Dominican, Turks and Caicos, St. Lucia and the Bahamas, to name a few.
Once you arrive at your resort you don't have to go anywhere else unless excursions and activities are on the docket. You can walk outside your room, find your sunny or shady spot, and spend the entire day gazing at the beautiful turquoise waters.
Or, you can hang out at the pool, with many resorts offering swim-up bars, zero-entry features, and gorgeous views.
Did I mention if you are a club level guest and above you get an exclusive check-in option, are escorted to your room, and have 24-hour room service?
And then there's the butler service option, which is an even greater level of service so you don't have to lift a finger!
These resorts also feature all drinks included in your stay! A couple of my favorites for vacation are the Mai Tai, a mojito and my favorite in Jamaica, the Dirty Banana. Many resorts feature top shelf brands, wine and champaign.
My favorite all-inclusive resort brand, Sandals and Beaches Resorts, also includes water sports, on a first-come, first-serve basis.
All dining is included in your stay for these resorts, and many feature steak, sushi, Thai and other fabulous options.
So to summarize, all-inclusive resorts include:
And depending on your room category,
All-inclusive resorts are great for families, large groups, weddings, honeymoons and anniversary trips.
Need someone to help guide you to the best options for your taste, I'm your friendly travel agent here to assist!
Do you like golf? Want more nightlife? Are you very picky about the beach? Do you want to swim with the pigs? I'd be delighted to help plan your perfect vacation that includes the things that are important to you.
Ah, can you feel those tropical breezes yet?
All-inclusive resorts are just a short flight away! When you're ready to start planning, send me an email and we'll choose the perfect spot for you.
Can't wait to see where you go next!
"Have you seen the Penguins?" Mary Poppins asked us. Why, no I haven't, but it was charming and seemed so natural of her to ask.
Meeting the characters can be a little intimidating for me, a naturally quiet person, to approach someone who is pretending to be a character from a Disney story. I'm also very practical in real life, so to suspend disbelief in order to meet a fictional character who may or may not talk is a challenge.
But I have to say, every time I do it, it's a blast. It's so fun to see my kids interact with their favorites and for them to find new favorites after their interactions with the characters.
Here are my top 5 characters meet and greets. Who are your favorites?
5. Anastasia, Drisella and the Wicked Step Mother from Cinderella
This was one of my all-time favorite character interactions for my oldest son. I was a little nervous about taking him to a Princess-themed dinner and wasn't sure how that would work for him.
The sister walked out, and we watched them approach our table. "Oh, are you married?" Anastasia asked.
My son looked confused and said, "No, I'm not married."
So Anastasia proceeded to yell across the room to her sister, "Eligible bachelor!" and it was so awesome and then I got this priceless photo.
4. Mary Poppins in Magic Kingdom
Oh, it's a jolly holiday with Mary!
I grew up with Mary Poppins and I adore her. During this particular meet I was moved to tears while we were waiting in line, watching the sweetest little girl hug Mary and not release her for a minute. She just kept staring at Mary Poppins and saying, "You're so beautiful!' It was the most magical thing, and to that little girl Mary WAS REAL.
3. Pluto in the Polynesian
This one can be a little tricky to time correctly, but if you have a dining reservation or hop over to the Polynesian during the day you will usually find Pluto upstairs near the entrance to 'Ohana.
It's a low-key way to meet a somewhat rare character. This one was a lifesaver for us because we had forgotten to meet Pluto during one of our trips and I heard about it for a year. So when we saw him here and with little to no line we were ecstatic.
2. Anna and Elsa
I am a huge fan of the new setup for meeting the sister duo, Anna and Elsa of Arendelle. I like the Royal Summerhus and the wait times are generally manageable for meeting them right around a dining reservation at Akershus or before you ride Frozen Ever After at Epcot.
I like the details of the decorations in the Norwegian inspired decor. We lived with a dear lady from that region once upon a time, and when I see the painted furniture and the doo dads around the Summhus it reminds me of her.
I also like to grab a snack at Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe while we are over there. (My favorite is School Bread - very much like a Twinkie but better!)
1. Seven Dwarfs
Staying in character the whole time was the fun of this character meeting. All seven walked in like they were grumpy, sleepy, bashful, etc. and we loved it. My youngest daughter kept laughing because grumpy kept pointing at her and gesturing.
Currently, meeting all 7 Dwarfs is only an option at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party. This meet and greet is very popular and I recommend attending at the beginning of the party or during fireworks.
Honorable mention: Mickey and Minnie
An all-time favorite, nostalgic and fun. Meeting any of the Fabulous Five (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Daisy, and Donald) is always on our list of favorites for each trip. This was a special meet at an invited travel agent dinner I attended in the spring. Love their celebration outfits!
Who are your favorites?
If you're planning a trip, I'd be delighted to help you meet your favorite characters and ride the most amazing rides in the shortest lines possible! Send me a message at email@example.com for a time to chat.
The Skyliner is Disney World’s newest form of transportation. It travels continuously from the Caribbean Beach Resort to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Art of Animation and the Riviera Resort.
It takes five minutes to get from the Caribbean Beach station to Hollywood Studios. That’s huge! I liked how fast it was... when it was moving.
When we boarded we were joking about how we would be stuck if it stopped moving. About three minutes in it completely stopped. For 15 minutes. When you’re in an enclosed bubble that feels like a really long time.
The weather was very pleasant when we rode, with good airflow through the vents just under the bench and the upper vents which you can close if you’d like to.
I highly recommend the Skyliner as a way to get from Epcot to Hollywood. However, definitely make a bathroom stop before boarding. Just in case!
As a side note, taking the Skyliner to the Riviera Resort for a dining reservation during a park day at Hollywood it Epcot is definitely doable. There are some lovely and photogenic murals at the station as well.
We liked the Skyliner, and would recommend it to others. Not for those who are claustrophobic!
Have you ridden? What did you think?
I love planning Disney trips, and I'd be delighted to help plan the vacation of your dreams with babies, toddlers, tweens or teens.
Click here for a time to chat!
If you've watched the Imagineering Story on Disney+, you've heard how the Disney Cruise Line was commissioned to be built and designed from the ground up. The ship is created with families in mind, and every step you take on the ship shows that.
I love Disney Cruise, and I'm not even a big fan of water.
First, when should you go?
Itenararies for cruising come out about 18 months in advance. If you know you want to go for Spring Break a year from now, you're in luck! We can plan for that. If you want to plan a last minute cruise, as long as there is availability and you have the proper documents to travel, we can plan for that too.
Where should you go?
We have a huge variety to look at, but I'll give you my favorites. A Bhamaian or Caribbean Cruise out of Port Canaveral that makes at least one stop at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.
At Castaway Cay, it's just you and the Disney folks. When you step off the ship, they hand you a towel (or two!), and you walk to the tram to ride to your beach of choice.
If you're with your family, you'll head to the play areas and the water slides. Or if you want to try snorkeling you can head to that area. (There is a special snorkeling section that has underwater statues just for you!) There's bike riding and all the usual water sports if the weather permits.
That water! Can't beat the pristine turquoise blue of the Bahamas. It's gorgeous!
If you're not with your kids, (I heard that gasp! Yes, I went on a Disney Cruise without my kids,) you will head to Serenity Bay. AHHHHHHH, look at that water. And here's me, at the beach with other adults, enjoying the gorgeous weather and no kids.
More details about what sets Disney Cruise line apart:
The same server is with you for dinner each night. This makes for a fun way to get to know each other, and they will learn your kid's food preferences and more.
Nightly Broadway-style Disney shows-
This is so much fun! You can see characters and hear stories you're familiar with, but set to a new story or shown in a fabulous and captivating way. We loved these shows!
The Best Kid's Clubs-
And they are included in the price of the cruise!
Tea and Sodas included in the price of your cruise-
Another way the Disney Cruise Line is setting the industry standard in value.
You are greeted by name when you board the ship. (No other spoilers about that.)
Fireworks at Sea and Pirate Night-
On select sailings you can see the fireworks and dress up in your pirate's finest. If you didn't bring a costume, no worries! Everybody gets a bandana to wear if you want to. Jack Sparrow makes an appearance, and there's a huge deck party for all ages.
Sometimes, Captain Hook is just walking around. Other times, you can meet Tiana or Minnie at their scheduled appearances. It's a charming and fun way to meet the characters. One of my favorite character photos was with our group and Jack Sparrow on pirate night when we were all in our costumes.
Disney Movies shown nightly-
Sometimes a movie that still in the theaters can be seen here too!
That Disney-level of service that you know and love
If you've been to Disney World or Disneyland, you know that the Cast Members (Disney employees) are part of what makes the Disney resorts so special. Imagine that level of service, but on a ship! Disney has won tons of awards for their cruise line, and a huge part of that is the way the Cast Members on the ship treat guests. If feeling completely unplugged, pampered and relaxed is what you're looking for, this is the place for you.
Adult-only pool, bar areas and a coffee shop-
If your kids are having a blast in the kid's clubs, you can head to the quiet deck.
The quiet pool, and a coffee break on your cruise can look something like this...
Rooms designed for privacy, convenience and comfort-
If you have a deluxe room on the ship, the bathroom is broken into two parts, which makes it easier for families to have privacy and convenience. With nightly turn-down service and twice daily maid service, you don't even have to make your bed! Every night when we came back to our rooms there was a cute sea creature made out of towels waiting for us on the bed.
Complimentary room service-
My favorite thing is having coffee in the morning before I get ready for the day. We ordered coffee to be delivered right as we awoke, and sat out on the verandah to enjoy it. Cake of the day, a snack, or full meals too!
Have you been on a Disney Cruise? What was your favorite thing about it?
When you're ready to chat about your cruise, I'd be delighted to help you plan. I'll work behind the scenes to take care of all the details for you, so all you have to do is pack!
If you're ready to chat, click here to send me an email. Happy sailing!
Amy Jordon is a professional travel planner who specializes in Disney trips for families.
Full disclosure: I have four kids. At the time of writing this, they are 14, 12, 9 and 6 and we are soon to be on our way to a short trip to Disney World for an extended weekend. I might be crazy, but it has been really fun surprising them with this little getaway at the end of our homeschool semester.
When we told them we were going and they had a little time to process, one of the kids’ first questions was if they could bring their pins to trade.
Have you ever done pin trading at Disney World? My kids are huge fans of it, and it brings an added element into our trips that I love, getting them to interact with Cast Members and seeing which characters or themes each kid chooses to collect.
In the photo above you can see the kids with their pin lanyards and the lovely Mary Poppins. If you are going to wear the pins I suggest getting permanent backs for them as they tend to fall off as you're walking and they get lost and the kids loose their minds and it's chaos... ahem. Or just keep the pins in a pouch at the end of the lanyard.
Pin trading is one of our family's favorites. My sister and her family enjoys pressing pennies, and you can see what I mean here. Bringing a book to hold the pennies is a great idea and is a fun souvenir for later. You can bring quarters and pennies to be pressed during your trip. There's even a unique machine at the airport!
Scavenger hunts in the parks are another favorite. Currently, you can experience a Pirate's Adventure - Treasures of the Seven Seas in Adventureland in Magic Kingdom. This game has five different versions, and with each one you complete you get a special collectible card. We had a lot of fun making cannons shoot and seeing ghostly ships come to life. Each adventure takes about 20 minutes, unless your kids are whining and hungry and you have to stop for snacks (just me? OK.)
Over in Epcot we have have Agent P's World Showcase Adventure, which takes your kids into the pavilions for clues. You can now sign up online by going here. We really enjoy seeing Phineas and Ferb pop up in unusual places when we follow the clues for this one. You can also download the Play Disney Parks app to access Agent P's Adventure. (The Play Parks app has so much to do in the parks, but I have yet to download and hand it to the kids. I'd rather not at this point, I'll update in the future if we try it!)
Last on list for our family is Disney Springs. We LOVE Lego, and spend hours at the Lego Store each time we take a trip.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your family’s non-ride favorites!
The toddler was screaming, throwing a tantrum while strapped in to her stroller.
It was the witching hour, which for a theme park hits right around 2pm. It's the time when parents fade and kids go for the jugular. Snacks, bribes, the Hall of Presidents... we pull out all the stops.
Which brings us to the question: Is there a perfect age for Disney trips?
The answer: Maybe.
Here's my experience, and then I'll give you my professional advice. First, I love having my entire family together at Disney. Seeing my kids meet their favorite characters, trade pins with Cast Members, riding rides and having character dinners together are all some of my favorite things.
We schedule breaks, in the afternoon and one day in the middle of our trip, to give the kids time to enjoy the pool and a chance to relax between activities.
My advice: take the trip!
There is no perfect age. With effective planning and using strategy to minimize time in lines and allow for downtime, you'll get a variety of ways to avoid meltdowns. Plus, ages two and under are free!
If Disney is on your radar, early planning is key. Dining reservations open up six months before your travel date, and getting great restaurants is part of a well-organized trip, allowing you to sit down, enjoy some great food and drinks and maybe even meet a few characters.
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Strategic Fastpasses also play a part in a smooth Disney Day. For Disney World, the dates open two months before you travel, and if we have everything in place I'll make these bookings for the short line on your behalf, based on what we've chatted about and avoiding the longest lines at the park - another key element to avoiding meltdown!
For Disneyland, the Fastpass structure is a little different, but strategy comes into play here as well. Plus, if little legs are a part of your vacation, Disneyland is a great choice.
Toddlers, babies and now teens, we've been to Disney with them all. The best advice is to be flexible and adjust your trip to your child's age and interests, bringing in elements mom and dad will love too!
Some key elements for planning with littles:
I love planning Disney trips, and I'd be delighted to help plan the vacation of your dreams with babies, toddlers, tweens or teens.
Click here for a time to chat!