Known as California Wine Country, Napa and Sonoma are the most iconic wine regions in the United States. And while wine may be the draw, there’s more to the area. Scenic views, incredible food, deluxe shops and spas, and exquisite lodging.
Are you thinking of visiting California Wine Country this year? If so, take our advice to make the most out of your visit. Cheers!
1. Hire a designated driver. DUI-related costs in California can quickly add up to $10,000 or more. California Highway Patrol and local law enforcement are serious about keeping people safe in wine country and are constantly on the lookout for impaired drivers. Trust us on this one. Hire a driver.
2. Make reservations for wine tastings. In the Post-Covid Era, most wineries require reservations, so plan ahead because drop-in wine tastings are few and far between.
3. Pace yourself. Plan on visiting three to four wineries per day. Although you may be tempted, less is more when tasting wines. Take time for lunch by bringing a picnic with you. Also, bring water bottles to keep you hydrated throughout the day.
4. Reverse your trip. Most travelers visit wineries closest to them first and then move to others that are further away. Reverse your plans to beat the crowds. Go to the winery that is furthest from you to start and work your way back to the hotel.
5. Learn to Swirl. Swirling allows the wine to aerate, bringing out its full fragrance. Hold on to the bottom of the wine glass and swirl five to eight times. After swirling, sniff and take your first sip.
6. Spend time talking with your sommelier. Wine can be more fun when you know the story behind the bottle, so ask your sommelier. They love wine and are happy to share and educate. Not only can they share about the specific location at which they work, but they can also let you know the best wineries and restaurants in the area.
7. Hit pause on the wine clubs. Every vineyard and winery you visit will try to sell you a membership to their wine club. Take the information home with you. You will still be able to join after you have returned home from your vacation if you’re still interested.
8. Budget for wine tastings. Tastings can run anywhere from $20 to $50 per tasting. Prices can go higher if you choose to elevate your experience with a class or food.
9. Don’t wear fragrances. Wine is first “tasted” by the nose. It will be impossible to appreciate the aromas of a wine if there are heavy smells of smoke, cologne, or perfume in the air.
10. Have fun! Wine tastings are social, fun events, not tax seminars. Smile. Laugh. Swirl. Sip.
For more information on booking your trip to California Wine Country, reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner by clicking here.
Hear ye, hear ye! Everyone is cordially invited to indulge in the delicious eats and sips coming to both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort in honor of World Princess Week. From August 21 through 27, this celebration will highlight some of our favorite characters and featuring some tasty treats to enjoy along the way.
There are plenty of treats on both coasts, including the lovely Snow White 85th Anniversary Petit Cake from Amorette's Patisserie at Disney Springs and the Tangled Loaf Cake over at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. And there’s much more than just food. From merchandise, entertainment, and special announcements, this week will be the ultimate celebration honoring our classic Disney royalty. Stay tuned throughout the week for daily princess fun coming your way.
Walt Disney World Resort
Magic Kingdom Park
Cinderella’s Royal Table
Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe
Oasis Sweets and Sips
Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
Snack Shack and Happy Landings
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Landscape of Flavors
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Gasparilla Island Grill
Disney’s Polynesian Village
Kona Island Coffee Bar and Capt. Cook’s
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory
Disney’s Riviera Resort
Le Petit Café
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and Disney’s Old Key West Resort
The Artist’s Palette and Good’s Food to Go
Red Rose Taverne
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa Holiday Cart
GCH Craftsman Grill
Downtown Disney District
(Note: All offerings are subject to change and availability.)
To book your next Disney vacation, reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today!
Are any of the Jurassic Park quotes as memorable as, "Welcome to Jurassic Park"? Even while typing it I can literally hear Dr. John Hammond's voice in my mind. Years after the first Jurassic Park film was released Universal Orlando Resort developed a dedicated land to these films in their Islands of Adventure theme park. It has everything you could imagine, realistic dinosaur encounters, the infamous jeep and even a river boat ride that will keep you cool on the hottest Orlando summer day. If you are a Jurassic Park super-fan, let's consider this guide your bible!
WHERE TO STAY
If you want to live the dream Jurassic vacation, it is a no brainer, you have to go with Loews Royal Pacific Resort and their Jurassic World Kids’ Suites. The second you open the paddock door, you have entered the world where Velociraptors, Pteranodons, and even the Indominus Rex roam. Below is a video of this awesome themed room that you can see for yourself. I bet mom and dad might want to have a sleep over with the kids once they see this room in person! One of the best amenities of a stay here is the complimentary Unlimited Express Passes you get during your length of stay (park admission is required) allowing you to take advantage of as much Jurassic fun that you can have by being able to skip the lines for most rides and attractions.
WHAT TO DO
Take a dash through the raptor paddock on the new VelociCoaster. It is the fastest coaster in all of Universal. Once you’re strapped in and VelociCoaster starts going, you are in for over 2 minutes of nonstop adrenaline spanning more than 4,700 feet of ride track. The ride has no brakes until it’s over, did we mention it goes upside down?
You can also take a scenic water boat tour on the Jurassic Park River Adventure. Here you can see a baby Stegosaurus and other ominous creatures in their natural habitats. It’s all peaceful enough until you encounter an unexpected guest and plummet 85 feet!
Stop by Raptor Encounter and meet Blue from Jurassic World or the new baby Raptor, Sierra. This area provides some of the best photo ops in the entire park but try to remain calm because she will sense your fear and she will feed off it just like any other dino!
Head to the Discovery Center and unearth the mysteries of our planet's prehistoric past at this interactive center where dinosaurs have been brought back to co-exist with humans. You can even examine dinosaur eggs in the nursery where baby Velociraptors are ready to hatch (you have not seen anything until you have seen a dinosaur egg ready to hatch)!
WHERE TO EAT
If your not up for getting wet on the River Adventure then head next door to Thunder Falls Terrace and relax in the cool indoor dining room while you grab something to eat. You can also choose to watch the riders get drenched during their time on the adventure while sitting outside while eating since they offer outdoor dining that faces the attraction.
If you are visiting the Discovery Center and burgers are your jam, then head to the Burger Digs located on the top floor. The area is decorated with skeletal remains which is fun for those kiddos who want to play paleontologist on their lunch break at a research facility, do I sound like I have too much first hand experience at this?
For those on the go-go-go, stop by Pizza Predatorria for a slice of pizza, or maybe a meatball sub. The food here is always quick and easy, allowing you to continue your Jurassic day while appeasing your hunger.
We LOVE the Watering Hole and all they have to offer (especially their pulled pork nachos). If nachos aren't your thing you can also find hot dogs, snacks and churros here as well. They also offer some really tasty beverages!
WHAT TO BUY
I think it is a no brainer to say you are going to want to purchase a dinosaur, and not just one, probably many. There are a million dinosaur themed toys and stuffed animals so you are going to have a hard time deciding what to buy and what not to buy. Your also going to be overwhelmed by the amount of clothing and accessories that have the iconic Jurassic Park or Jurassic World logo on them. There are two different stores available in the land, which include Dinostore and Jurassic Outfitters. We recommend you wait until the end of your day to make your purchases so they don't get wet and you have less items you need to place in a locker when you ride your favorite Jurassic themed attractions.
We have only just "scratched" the surface on all there is to see and do during your time at Universal Orlando's Jurassic Park. To learn more or to book your next Jurassic vacation, reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today!
Staying on Disney property is certainly our recommendation. At the end of the day Disney is about telling a story, painting a picture, and creating a complete experience, right? Well, the resorts on property certainly aren’t an exception. Each has been carefully crafted and immerses you in a story and we LOVE that. Plus, staying on property comes with perks that hotels off site just don’t have. Added value! However, there are SO many resorts (more than 25). So, how do you select the one that is best for your family? Well, we’re here to break it down for you, and as we go, remember the story! A hint or indicator of it is usually in the name.
Disney separates its resorts into four categories - value, moderate, deluxe and villas (usually part of the Disney Vacation Club but can be booked for cash). Pricing usually follows this model as it sounds, value is a better price per night as compared to deluxe. Same goes for features onsite and availability of certain amenities. Let’s do a quick breakdown!
The bulk of rooms in this category are standard and approximately 260 square feet. There is a basic bath setup (sink often in the open and toilet and shower/tub in a separate room) and bedding could be two doubles or a king. Some rooms in this category are family suites coming in at approximately 520 square feet. They have a similar set up as a standard but double the baths and add in some convertible sleeping options. From here things at both are about the same. Views can differ from parking areas and wooded areas to swimming pools and naturally the better the view the higher the price. Speaking of swimming pools, the pools here are typically themed and could be interactive, but here’s your warning, no slides! Other forms of recreation can be limited think poolside games, a playground, and an occasional movie outside at night. Dining options are slim too with your only options being a food court or pool bar. Finally, transportation provided by Disney (a perk of staying onsite) will usually be via bus. The only exceptions to this are the Art of Animation and Pop Century, which were added to the Skyliner route.
Includes: All Star Movies, All Star Music, All Star Sports, Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Campsites at Fort Wilderness.
Standard rooms in this category are in the 300 square foot range with a similar bath set up as a value resort, but maybe an additional sink. Two queen beds or one king is the standard, but there might be a spot for a potential fifth person with a murphy pull down bed (otherwise four is max). Views are similar as well but throw in the possibility of a room facing/near a natural body of water. Pools, other recreation and dining options are a little more robust with the addition of “quiet pools,” water recreation, bikes, a health club (Coronado Springs), at least one table service restaurant and a lounge. Transport here is typically bus as well, but there might be a boat service from some resorts to Disney Springs.
Includes: Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans French Quarter, Port Orleans Riverside, and Cabins at Fort Wilderness
There are a variety of rooms and sizes here. We’re talking anywhere from 344 to 440 square feet. The bath situation can vary too and includes what you’ll find in a moderate, but probably in a different configuration for more privacy. If the room is larger, there might be several baths. Bedding configuration is like a moderate property with nothing smaller than a queen. However, it’s the views, recreation, dining, and transportation that sets a deluxe apart. Pools will have slides, hot tubs, or other water features. Spa services might even be available. There are more table service restaurants, room service and maybe even a charater dining onsite. Lastly, these resorts are typically in close proximity to a park (very attractive to some), so transportation options open up. Buses, skyliner and boats could still be available, but add walking and monorails to the list as well.
Includes: Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, BoardWalk Inn, Contemporary, Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Polynesian Village, Wilderness Lodge, and Yacht Club.
We’ll keep things simple here. Villas are a part of the Disney Vacation Club program but can be booked for cash. Villas can be found at some deluxe properties, but there are also three that are dedicated to Disney Vacation Club. Rooms are villa-style with more amenities and can range from a studio all the way to a three bedroom. Bath and bed configuration can vary by room size, but everything else is similar to a deluxe property.
Includes: Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary, Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Villas at Jambo House and Kidani Village, Beach Club Villas, BoardWalk Villas, Old Key West, Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, Riviera Resort, Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, Villas at Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
Evaluate each category as described and make your selection based on the needs of your family. From there, think about the story of the resort and what resonates with you most, Maybe it’s animation, the Caribbean, or the South Pacific, etc. With the breakdown above and these two tips, you’re on your way to selecting the resort that is perfect for you!
To book your next on property Walt Disney World vacation, reach out to a Starstuf Travel Planner today!
With Earth Day coming up on April 22, both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort are serving up limited-edition delights inspired by the world around us. As they celebrate our beautiful Earth this month, the chefs and mixologists at Disney Parks have put their creativity to the plate and cup with some truly wild treats. These delicious goodies feature some of the world’s most beautiful creatures while embracing the environments they come from.
As part of Disney Planet Possible, they’re dedicated to reducing their environmental footprint, supporting conservation efforts, and finding ways for us all to take part in the magic of nature this Earth Month. Taking action to help our planet this Earth Day and every day can help keep our beautiful planet, its creatures, and environments thriving for years to come, and what better way to celebrate than with food! This month, they’re playing homage to some of the Earth’s greatest treasures through culinary delights. From the Honey Bee Cupcake at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park to the Corn on a Cob Succotash at Disneyland Park, both coasts are sharing the love for Mother Earth.
Walt Disney World Resort
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Pizzafari and Flame Tree Barbecue (available on Mobile Order through April 28)
Isle of Java (available through April 28)
Creature Comforts and Restaurantosaurrus (available on Mobile Order through April 28)
Terra Treats (available through April 28)
Satu'li Canteen (available on Mobile Order through April 28)
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
The Mara (available on April 22)
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
BoardWalk Bakery (available on Mobile Order from April 18 through 22)
River Belle Terrace (available April 21 through 25)
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
GCH Craftsman Grill (available on Mobile Order through April 30)
In addition to these special Earth Day-themed treats, Disney Parks and resorts also feature delicious plant-based offerings year-round! Plant-based options are not just tasty but good for the environment too as they can help reduce one’s carbon footprint and enhance biodiversity! Disney chefs have collaborated with Impossible to bring some tasty options for guests to enjoy while expanding their commitment to putting plants on the plate and into the mouths of foodies in delicious and creative ways. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park offers up the Impossible Spicy Southwestern Burger at Restaurantosaurus, while Liberty Tree Tavern at Magic Kingdom Park features a tasty Impossible Revolutionary Meatloaf! Over at Disneyland Park, a galaxy far, far away has the Felucian Kefta & Hummus Garden Spread at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo and the truly delicious Ronto-less Garden Wrap at Ronto Roasters. And don’t forget the Impossible Banh Mi at Lucky Fortune Cookery at Disney California Adventure park.
If you are ready try these mouthwatering items during a last minute trip, reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today!
Nighttime spectaculars are coming back to Disneyland Resort! As the daylight fades on April 22, the “Main Street Electrical Parade,” “Disneyland Forever” fireworks, and “World of Color” will bring even more spectacular magic back to Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park once again. And with this exciting entertainment returning, it’s only natural that there are some tasty eats and sips joining them.
Across both parks, Guests can enjoy delicious treats and eye-catching novelties to celebrate these spectaculars. From the Parade Macaron at Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe to the Light-up Elliott Dragon Premium Bucket, these items are the foodie embodiment of these incredible entertainment must-sees.
For Guests looking to enhance their nighttime celebrations, consider one of the exclusive dining packages, featuring tons of yummy dishes as well as reserved viewing of a select spectacular! Over at Disney California Adventure Park, the World of Color Dessert Party serves up decadent delights and sips at Paradise Gardens Park, while the World of Color Dining Package can be enjoyed at Wine Country Trattoria for a 3-course meal or an all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet at Storytellers Café at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. At Disneyland Park, enjoy the Main Street Electrical Parade Dining Package at Plaza Inn featuring classic comfort dishes.
Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor hosted by Dreyer’s (available on Mobile Order)
Hub Churro Cart
Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe (available on Mobile Order)
Refreshment Corner Hosted by Coca-Cola (available on Mobile Order)
Town Square Churro Cart
Available at Various Locations Throughout Disneyland Park Throughout the Summer Season:
Disney California Adventure Park
Paradise Gardens Park
(Note: All offerings are subject to change.)
For more information on booking your next mouth watering vacation, reach out to a Starsuff Travel Planner today!
No matter what your vaccination status is and where your traveling to, if you plan to travel in todays world, you need to have a financial safeguard in place for trip problems. Issues that arise on vacation come in all shapes and sizes but if you have travel insurance you can feel protected when something does happen.
While there are a vast amount of things travel insurance plans can help with, today I am going to talk about what we are noticing with airfare. As most of you know, the United States is struggling with a national staffing shortage and the airlines, airports, and TSA are not exempt from this shortage. What we are seeing right now is if there is one hiccup to a few flights, it throws future days or weeks into a complete uproar while the airlines try and play catch up.
This weekend there were thousands of flights cancelled due to severe weather in Orlando. While the airlines played catch up it gobbled up days worth of flight availability to get those cancelled home. Due to this situation, if you needed to get home you may have been stuck for three or four days. Right now the airlines do not have enough staff to keep up with the amount of people who are traveling before something goes wrong. I personally experienced this back in October when an airline cancelled our flight and was not able to get us back home for seven entire days. We were able to book ourselves through another airline to get home sooner and submit a claim for reimbursement through our travel insurance plan. Can you imagine the financial burden you could run into if you had to pay out of pocket and were not going to get reimbursed, or worse had to sit in the airport for days at a time?
Last week we had a training in Puerto Vallarta and on the way home a few of us had a layover at the Chicago O'hare airport. We ran into a 3.5 hour line in customs making us miss our layover to head back home. Guess what, customs does not offer anything at all if you miss your flight due to a long line. Luckily we have travel insurance, so we knew that we would be taken care of for the added financial burden of an extra hotel reservation and added meals while we were there.
These are just a few of the many reasons you need to make sure you are covered with travel insurance today. While we are not licensed insurance agents, we can assist you in making sure your vacation is covered by providing plan options to you and pointing you in the right direction to the insurance company we are partnered with.
For more information on covering your vacation, reach out to a Starsuff Travel Planner today!
With so many people disappointed with the loss of Disney's Magical Express, we thought we needed to try each new service provided to guests when landing at the Orlando International Airport in order to be able to report back with our thoughts. As travel agents we have the ability to book our clients now on Mears Connect which is a pretty easy process with a very low price tag (stay tuned for our Sunshine Flyer Review next week).
For those who have traveled to Walt Disney World before, they will find Mears Connect eerily similar to Magical Express. It is even located exactly where you would have gone to board in the past, with the same set up for lines and all. Not only does this assist you with some comfort already knowing where to go but gives a little nod to our prior memories of DME (don't forget DME was owned and operated by Mears).
After your Starstuff Travel agent books your reservation you will receive a QR code to show upon your arrival, similar to when you scanned your Magic Band. Then you will enter the line for your specific resort before heading to the bus. It is just about the same exact process as Disney's Magical Express. While we highly recommend you have a standing reservation, they do allow walk ups.
The difference we found was in our shuttle. We had a much nicer ride than the normal DME bus. It was a smaller shuttle, so we had less stops to make along the way, allowing us to get to our resort much faster. I believe it was a Ford Transit Connect Van or something very similar. We had leather seats and we really enjoyed our transfer.
Many Disney fans have expressed their opposition for having to pay for "extras" they never had to pay before, leaving them feeling nickeled and dimed. In our opinion, we give this option a thumbs up for both convenience and pricing. We would happily pay the few dollars to be in a nicer ride, and get to our resort quicker. Please enjoy a short video we have below from our experience earlier in the month.
For more information on adding this to your Walt Disney Word vacation, reach out to your Starstuff Travel planner today.
We know children of all ages love visiting theme parks, Universal Orlando Resorts specifically, but there is also some great fun to be had for those of you who want to visit without the kiddos. Below you will find a list of five awesome things I bet you did not even know you could do when you are visiting childless!
1. Get A Tattoo
I will be honest, I have been visiting UOR for years and years and I had no idea you could actually get a tattoo until recently! Not only did I not know they had a tattoo parlor tucked away in the back of CityWalk, but I was also surprised to find out that pop star Pink's husband, Carey Hart was the founder of this shop called Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company.
2. Enjoy A Rum Tasting
Strong Water Tavern, which is housed in Universal's Sapphire Falls Resort, is home to a beautiful rum collection that boasts over 100 selections of rum. Their "Rum Captains" are trained on how to pair different rums with their amazing tapas-style cuisine. You can also request a Rum Captain for a tasting of something special or even schedule a Rum Lab Cruise.
3. Have A Spa Day
Not only do we love the massages we get at Mandara Spa at Loews Portifino Bay, but we also love the treatment circuit of the sauna, the steam room and the hydrotherapy. Another awesome benefit of having a treatment booked at the spa is being able to utilize the showers on your hotel check out day. There is no better feeling than getting on your flight home showered and clean!
4. Bar Hop
With many different clubs and bars to choose from on CityWalk, each offering a unique atmosphere and style, there is more than enough opportunity to dance and drink the night away for adults. The best thing is you do not even have to make a commitment to stay at one with them the entire night. With all of them being so close, why not bar hop?
5. Visit Duff Brewery
Are you a long time Simpsons Fan? Then you are going to love this one! Head over to Springfield, USA which is home to the Simpsons in Universal Studios Florida, and grab an icy cold glass of Homer's favorite suds! After you down that Duff beer, make sure to grab a photo op with the giant statue of the Duffman himself!
For more information on booking your next adults only adventure, reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today!
**Some of these options may be limited or closed due to the pandemic. Starstuff Travel is not liable for any businesses operating differently.
There have been tons of exciting announcements coming out of the Destination D23 presentation today and we are thrilled to bring you some news about our favorite place, Disneyland! We heard the next-generation MagicBand+ wearable technology and “Hey, Disney!” voice assistant, recently announced for Walt Disney World Resort, will be coming to Disneyland Resort in 2022. This will be the first time that MagicBand+ will be available at Disneyland Resort. Details on features of MagicBand+ will be shared in the coming months. The “Hey, Disney!” voice assistant will work alongside Alexa on Amazon Echo devices and will begin to roll out to guest rooms across the hotels at Disneyland Resort.
In a surprise announcement, Josh D’Amaro also revealed that “World of Color” and “Fantasmic!” will return to the Disneyland Resort next year and we can't wait to welcome them back! 2022 is going to be a great time to visit Disneyland! Let your Starstuff Travel Planner help you start creating those memories today.