When I was a child we traveled by rail at least three or four times a year. We would visit my aunt who lives in Virginia which was about a four and a half hour train ride from New Jersey where we live. This was something we always looked forward to (or at least as a child I always did). I just loved pulling into the Trenton Amtrack station and seeing all the travelers running around pulling their luggage to board the train! I can remember the Cafe car that we would have to walk to in order to buy our lunch or the Smoking car my grandmother would have to wonder off too. Now adays alot has changed with rail service (One of them of course is being completely NON SMOKING) but one of the biggest is that they offer such amazing ways to see the country that most people may not take into consideration.
Of course almost everyone knows about traveling from here to there by rail, or even about the famous Auto Train that transports both you and your car (This is great for our Orlando clients who do not want to fly or drive themselves), but there is so much more you can see and do through an Amtrack Vacation. The possibilities they are offering today make it super easy and cheap (yes I said the C word) to get around with the family while making memories. For example, you can book something like an Independent Rail Journey that will provide you with tours of different states while also providing the Rail, Hotel accommodations, tours and Citypasses for some, as well as most meals, starting in one state and traveling thru another five or six. They also offer things like Family Adventures that can offer things like rail, shuttles, Trolly tours, shows, Hotel accommodations, etc. They even offer something called Rail and Sail where you can explore North America by land and Sea!
These Amtrack Vacations make it possible for your family to create trips where you will spend more time bonding with each other and really enjoying everything there is to enjoy here in the United States while saving time, hassle and money. When is the last time you took a trip including Rail?
Summer is here and we are always looking for neat ways to keep our children eating somewhat healthier snacks and to keep them cool. This week we made sugar free Jello Ice Cubes which were quick, easy and most of all yummy! I prepared the sugar free Island Pineapple Jello as directed on the box (I even added small bits of real pineapple chunks) then poured them into my Mickey Mouse head Ice cube tray, threw them in the freezer and in a few hours we had sugar free Mickey Jello Ice Cubes! They were easy to pop right out of the ice cube tray and were a healthier sweet alternative to a sugary ice pop for the family!
Did you know there are many Disney visitors that have a great time decorating their Resort room window when they arrive? It is alot of fun personalizing your own window. Some will hang lights up that are battery powered, Disney themed garland, Gel/Plastic cling ons, stuffed animals, and figurines. There are even ways to custom make your window clings from home on a printer. It is a big No-No to use tape since it can leave behind a residue so most use suction cups or cling ons. You can use magnets for the doors or the metal parts of the window. You can even bring a dry-erase board! Make sure to follow rules and clean up what you decorate before you leave to avoid getting charged for the clean up. Most of all.......Have fun doing it!
So you have booked your families dream Disney vacation and everyone is so excited however you still have six long months to wait! We all know how hard it is to get through all of that time so we came up with a list of fun activities to do to keep your mind off of the wait.
1. Make a Disney Countdown Calendar. Some people go all out for this. Be creative, poster board, stickers, scrap-booking materials are great too. This is always a big hit with the kids and everyday they will enjoy marking another day off! You can even make a Disney Count Down Chain with construction paper as you would make the Christmas tree chains. (I have even heard of people going into the Home Depot and taking the Disney Paint sample squares with Mickeys head on them for garland) Everyday remove a link, some people even write cute Disney sayings or crafts on each link to do with the kids each day they remove one.
2. Combine Elf on the Shelf with your Disney trip and use a Disney Character that you introduce specifically for the countdown. Kids go crazy over this and I can promise you it will be a hit!
3. For older children purchase the Kingdom Keepers books and online games.
4. If your visiting Walt Disney World read the book called "The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World". Over 600 secrets to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom! A great book including secret tips from Disney Imagineers, insider information on how they make things so special and more! If you are a client of Starstuff Travel we can Lend you this book on the Nook. Just ask!
5. Have a Disney Themed week and each week pick a new Disney movie to watch and read books about, color pictures and work on themed crafts.
4. Hold a family Disney planning night. Talk about where you want to eat, which attractions you may want to try, watch the Disney vacation planning dvd (ask your agent for one if you do not have one). Have the kids make their own Disney Notepads to right down their wish list of things they want to do while they are away.
5. Have the kids hand-make their very own autograph books for the characters to sign. Not only is this saving you money but it is truly a great keepsake for when they grow up.
There are many more great crafts and activities to do. Part of the fun of a Disney vacation is planning everything before hand! Hope you are inspired by some of the ideas above!
On a tight budget this year but still want to take that Walt Disney World dream vacation? I put together a great article here with some of the best ways you can save as much money as possible while taking a vacation on that tight budget. Years ago when my kids were still very little, I dreamt of taking them on their first WDW vacation and researched, read, and scrounged as much as I could to try to make it happen. All the things I thought would save us money, as a WDW Newbie back then, probably cost us more than saving us anything. So my first advice to you will be ironically, take advice from people who have been there numerous times.
Some great ways to save money before even booking your vacation are listed below. Of course, always make sure you are dealing with an Authorized Disney Specialist because they have the most knowledge on Disney products.
1. Purchase multiple Disney Gift Cards from Target with your Target Red Card which will save you 5% on your purchase of the Gift Cards. Go back a few times more to make a few different purchases to maximize your savings. Once you have them all purchased then bring them all to your local Disney Store where they will incorporate them all into one Gift Card to make it easier for you. You can use this Gift Card to book your vacation and you saved a few dollars before even doing it!
2. Apply for the Disney Visa Credit Card. Try to do this as far away as possible from when you are going to book your trip. Then use the Credit Card to pay your monthly bills such as Utilities, Food shopping, Gas, etc and take the cash you would have used and pay the Credit Card bill off every month. You will earn 1% in Disney Dream Dollars on all card purchases that can then in turn be combined and sent to you in a voucher that you can use towards your payment for your WDW vacation.
3. Some local banks have a “Keep the Change” program where when you use your debit card for purchases they round off the total purchase to the nearest dollar and take the change and deposit it into a savings account. Right now, Bank of America participates in this program. I actually know someone who saved $2000.00 this way and booked a trip for herself and her children!
4. Staying off property may seem like a great way to save money but there are a few things you will need to take into consideration before just booking an outside Hotel rather than staying on Disney Property. First off, WDW always offers great promotions all year long for clients to stay on-site rather than off. You also will need to pay to park at WDW everyday which is $17.00 a day, where as onsite guests can park for free or take the awesome transportation Disney has to offer complimentary. Guests staying onsite will also be able to take advantage of Extra Magic hours and guests staying off property lose all the time of getting to and from the parks everyday. It may not seem like a lot……till you actually have to do it. Trust me
5. A lot of parents really want to make their daughter’s trip as magical as possible but cannot afford to stop at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique while on vacation. Do not feel guilty there are plenty of great ways to make your little girl feel and look just like the princess she truly is. I have always been a huge fan of Ebay! They will have everything from Princess dresses, shoes, accessories etc for your little princess at a fraction of what you would spend even in the store! Stop at the Dollar store and grab some Glitter and some make up and pack it for your trip. Spend a little time in the morning doing a “Princess Makeover” while in your Resort room before making your way out into the parks. It will be even more special because your both doing it together.
So you saved yourself some money and have your trip booked. Now you need some tips for saving money while away on your WDW vacation. Here are some great ideas below that have been proven to work.
1. Pack things you wouldn’t think to pack. Things like Ponchos from the Dollar store, Water sprayers to keep cool in the heat and those cheap mini-fans from the Dollar store as well. These things are sold in the parks for ten times the amount you can get them at home and you may not think to bring them.
2. If you are not going with one of the Dining plans, pack your lunch and snacks. Not many know you can actually bring in a soft cooler with food and drinks for your family. There are some great places to find a spot to eat during the day. You can find the restrictions on sizes etc. on the Disney Parks site.
3. Like stated above, purchase the Disney Gift Cards from Target using your Red Card to save the 5% and use them while on your vaca to shop, play, and dine!
4. If you are eating at the parks but without the Dining plan ask your Travel agent for the best Quick Service restaurants in each park to eat at. If your Travel Agent is knowledgeable about Disney they will be able to tell you the places that you are going to get the most and the best for your dollar! Some of the real good Quick Service Restaurants will have portions so large they will feed two people.
A real good Travel Agent who specializes in Disney will have tons more great insider information to offer. Some even will offer specials like Disney Gift Cards to use while on your vacation just for booking with them. Never be afraid to ask how to save the most possible if you are on a budget!
While we were in the parks we came to learn a few things about how the fast pass plus for the rides are currently working. Of course these things are subject to change as that system evolves like it is intended to do so. You already know you can begin Scheduling your FastPass+ rides well before your visit to the parks. But there are some things to keep in mind. You can only book 3 FastPass+ for the rides and attractions per day using the mobile App or a computer. You can edit your selections using the App and or a PC as long as they have not expired. After all 3 Fast Passes clear you can book another FastPass+ for that same day. This must be done from the kiosks or a FP+ cast member, It cannot be done on your mobile device. After that one clears you can book another and so on. Even if you are park hopping you can only book 3 FastPass+ per day and they have to be all in the same park. For example, if you are going to MK in the morning and Epcot in the evening you would not be able to book space mountain, Splash Mountain and mission space. You can book 3 in the Magic Kingdom and clear them all and then while in Epcot try to book one at a time. You can make changes to your FastPass+ selections throughout the day but obviously you would have to give up one you currently have booked (before it starts the 1 hour window), so you can choose another. In my opinion it would be quicker to let a FP+ cast member help you. This one (I felt) is a big one. When booking your FastPass+ online you want to be sure to choose 3 regardless if you don’t want do all three. We chose 2 on one of our days since we were unsure what we would be doing. I was told I could not book the third until my first 2 cleared. That was a bummer since my second one was at 10pm for wishes. By booking all three you will be able to at least change one of them prior to them having to clear. One pitfall I would caution people on, is the timing of your FP+ choices. If you FP+ a firework show, which obviously is maybe at park closing, you wont be able to book additional ones throughout the day. Now this may not have an effect on your day but it is worth keeping in mind. Here are 2 tips, Also take advantage of a Rider Swap. We grabbed one for the rides our younger one could not go on. But instead of going back on right away we waited till later when we had no other FP+ left and the lines were longer. In fact if you look at the Rider Swap tickets they do not expire for a month. We would even use them the next day. If the ride you scheduled a FastPass+ has a 20 minute or less wait and you are at the beginning of your FP+ window, go on the stand by line. Then when you are done go right back on line for round 2 with no waiting. It worked for us on expedition Everest. Hope this advice all helps. Written by, John Mulhearn
Yesterday me and my son decided to make some adorable Minnie Mouse and Heart shaped Bird Seed Biscuits for the birds who are always visiting our deck. I found a great site for easy directions at http://spoonful.com/crafts/birdseed-biscuit. I have listed the directions below and one thing I would like to mention is I did not let them cool enough as per directions so one of them crumbled when I hung it (those of you who know me will not be surprised) make sure to let them cool for the appropriate amount of time so they stay together. This is such a great craft to do with your younger ones because it is very simple.
What you'll need: 3/4 cup of birdseed, 1 tablespoon flour, 2 tablespoons of water, Cookie cutter, Oil, Foil, Cookie sheet, Straw, Ribbon
How to make it: This recipe makes two 3-inch biscuits (one is shown here) or a single 4-inch biscuit. Mix together the birdseed, flour, and 2 tablespoons of water. Spray or wipe a cookie cutter with oil and place it on a foil-covered cookie sheet. Pack the mixture into the cutter, inserting half a straw near the top to create a hole for hanging. Bake the biscuit (with the straw) in a 170º oven until the biscuit is hard, about one hour. Let it cool. Remove the straw, thread a ribbon through the hole, and hang it outside in a sheltered spot.