Disney Cruise has a new update for families called Dine and Play. This new program incorporates dinner with the Children Programming. You can sign up for your family for Dine and Play once you board the Disney Cruise Ship. For the Dine and Play, you can start your dinner as a family during your cruise. You can dine at the Main Dining or Second Dining times. This allows your family to enjoy some quality time together at the fun rotational dining restaurants. Your server will bring out the kids meals early. The kids can eat and then a Counselor for the Children Programming will come to the restaurant to pick up your kids to take them back to the Oceaneer Clubs. The adults can then enjoy the rest of the meal and dessert without the kids.
Our tip of the day for a Disney World vacation is pack an extra suitcase for your Disney World vacation. One of the most popular activities on any vacation is shopping! There are lots of stores at the Walt Disney World Resort, so you will come home with more than you took to Disney World. You will need extra space to carry home your Disney stuff animals, unique International souvenirs from Epcot, or just Disney World t-shirts. Make sure you are prepared for your trip home by having extra space in your suitcase for souvenirs. We always suggest taking an extra suitcase, just for souvenirs for your trip home. Happy Shopping!
My daughter and I experienced a weekend Adventures by Disney vacation to New York City. We loved this quick getaway! The trip started on Thursday and ended on Sunday. From booking to heading home, the whole experience was stress free! Here is a quick guide to an Adventures by Disney experience.
Arriving to the Destination
When booking my trip, I included airfare into my package. This way I had some support of Adventures by Disney, if anything went wrong with my flight. The flight was an easy direct flight and all went well on my flight into New York City. As a travel expert, I normally book my own flights, but I do recommend including your flights into your Adventure by Disney (ABD) package.
Once we landed in NYC, we walked down to Baggage Claim to find our town car driver holding a sign with our name on it. I was traveling alone with my 9 year old daughter, so this made me feel safe and again stress free. In addition, our driver was a careful driver! If you have ever taken a taxi in NYC, you know exactly what I am talking about. Our driver was careful maneuvering around the traffic to our hotel.
Adventures by Disney is a luxury tour company. You enjoy exclusive experiences and top rated hotels. Our hotel was near Times Square, just a few minutes walk. It was a quaint hotel. The highlight was the size of the rooms. They were suites, not just typical smaller NYC rooms. We had a mini kitchenette, two bathrooms, a huge living room, and a separate bedroom. For NYC, these suites were HUGE. That is one of the benefits of booking an Adventures by Disney vacation. You stay is more exclusive hotels.
Most of your meals are included with an Adventures by Disney tour. These meals are little hidden gems around the city. On the first day of our NYC tour, we dined in a private area of the old church renovated into a pizzeria called John’s Pizza. This restaurant is always a “must do” on our New York City vacations. The entire meal was planned for us with appetizers ready to go, once we arrived to the restaurant to a selection of pizzas and desserts. We left the restaurant stuffed!
This is just one of our experiences. Several of the restaurants were in private areas, just for our group. Many of the Chefs would come out and give us the history of the restaurants and NYC. It was not just dining, but an experience!
The experiences is why I book and Adventures by Disney! You will enjoy once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that you would not get to see or do on your own or with any other tour company. During our Adventures by Disney, we had so many highlights. Here are just a few of the behind the scenes opportunities we got to experience.
- Behind the Scenes at Good Morning America: This morning was an early day, but AMAZING! We walked from our hotel (as a group) to Good Morning America in Times Square. We walked right into the backstage area to the green room. We had coffee and treats waiting for us! They first took us to the control room. We were right in the middle of the control room for the Good Morning America show. I was so close to the action that I could have pushed one of the buttons. It was incredible to see the behind the scenes of how they run the show. After seeing the control room, they took us to the set. We stood in the back while the hosts and film crew filmed Good Morning America LIVE. In between takes, the hosts came over to say hi and get pictures. My favorite part was waving to all of the fans outside the windows. In the past, I had been one of those fans. Today, I was inside waving back at them.
- Front Row for Jason Derulo: After Good Morning America, we hopped on a tour bus to Central Park to another surprise. It was the GMA Concert Series. They had blocked off a front row area, just for us for the Jason Derulo concert. We literally showed up, were escorted to our area, and then the show started. It was amazing!
- Behind the Scenes at the Prop Room: As a Disney fan, we have our favorite Disney movies turned into Broadway Shows like the Lion King and Mary Poppins. Imagine our surprise, when we show up to the theater to be escorted to the Disney Prop Room. We got to learn about some of the props from the Broadway Shows and even try them on. It was amazing!
- Learn a Song & Dance from Aladdin: This day could not get better, but it did. We were then escorted to a dance studio. We met up with (2) choreographers from Aladdin. They taught us one of the songs and dances from the Aladdin Broadway Show. This was so much fun! Later in the evening, we got to see the Aladdin Broadway Show. It was spectacular to look at everyone in our group singing and mini dancing to the same routine as the actors. That was truly a VIP experience!
As a female travelers with a child traveling alone in New York City, it was such a relief to have (2) NYC local guides (that were Disney Cast Members) there to assist us every step of the way. We literally woke up and arrived on time. The guides would take us everywhere. They would tip the town car driver. They would pay for the meals and tip the servers and singers. Everything was included. I did not have to take out my wallet once. I did not have to worry about any lines or tickets. It was truly a stress free vacation.
For some of the visitors in our group, our guides did a little bit more. There was a family in our group that had a sick child. Our guides helped them with doctors, a pharmacy, arranged transportation once they felt better to join our group, and was there for support. When traveling to a new city, it is incredible to have a local there for guidance along with a concierge to make sure you have the best experience possible. That is exactly what happened to this family during our trip.
It is Disney, so there is always extra magic! The guides are always taking pictures. Of course, you still want to bring your camera, but they will be taking a lot of pictures for you during your vacation. At the end of the vacation, they will email you all of the pictures to download from home.
Disney loves pins! With the Adventures by Disney tours, you get a new pin each night (commemorating your experience that day). You can add all of these pins to your lanyard to wear during your adventure and it is a great souvenir after your vacation.
Lots of swag! Before you even leave for your Adventures by Disney, you will receive goodies. For our trip, we received a nice documents/passport holder and bag. These were fantastic for our Adventures by Disney getaway.
Our Adventures by Disney experience to New York City was a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. We had such a great time and we cannot wait to take another Adventures by Disney vacation with the whole family.
How Can I Afford It?
The Adventures by Disney vacations are a luxury tour with truly exclusive experiences. With that, comes a higher price tag! I suggest starting your Adventures by Disney experience with a weekend trip like San Francisco, Nashville, or New York City. These trips are shorter weekend trips and are much more affordable. There is a reason Adventures by Disney has a huge repeat guest ratio. Once you take one ABD, you will take more. Try a shorter weekend to test it out. It is less expensive and it is a good jumping point for Adventures by Disney.
Another tip is plan early. As soon as Disney releases the Adventures by Disney trips for the next year; go ahead and book your trip. You can pay the deposit and then make small monthly payments until the final payment. It is like a travel layaway plan.
Now is the perfect time to start planning your 2017 Adventures by Disney!
This just popped up on my desk and I was amazed! SCOTTeVEST just released a new jacket called the OTG Jacket. They have men and women versions. These jackets have all of these little spots to put your iPad, phone, and even laptop. Yes, I did say laptop. With our business, I am constantly carrying a bag just to hold my laptop. Imagine just popping the laptop into your jacket pocket instead of carrying a bag. This is amazing!
Even better, they have pockets where you can charge your devices. No more dragging cords between two pockets, while they are charging. You can tuck them away in these special pockets to charge. Check out these other jacket features.
- Two Rapid Access Panels™ that can securely hold a laptop (except Women’s XS and S) during daily activities and commutes
- One PadPocket™ to comfortably and securely hold an iPad®, Windows or Android tablet
- Two interior Clear Touch™ pockets to see and use touchscreen devices without removing them pockets
- One RFID Blocking Pocket that blocks 13.56 MHz frequencies, keeping credit cards and passport information secure from high-tech skimmers and thieves
I know we only have 1-3 good cold months in Florida. I am still tempted to try out this super cool jacket. This company does have other “just as cool” clothing like polo shirts, short sleeve camp shirts, vests, and even underwear. Check out these boxers with a hiding spot for your phone. Hopefully you are not going to dig out your phone in public, but what a cool hiding spot, while you are traveling!
You can check out this new SCOTTeVEST jacket and all of their other products on their website.
Is Universal Express worth the money? We recently had the opportunity to find out.
Since we had the Universal Express passes for a full day, we took this opportunity as a challenge to see if we could get both Universal parks done in one day, using the Express passes. This is a common question from our viewers and guests.
While making the video, above, we learned that the Universal Express pass is quite controversial. Apparently, many feel it’s too expensive, Universal shouldn’t even have an “express line,” and that it ruins the experience of the parks. Let’s address some of these issues.
Disclosure: Universal Orlando Resort provided Universal Express passes to our family. Also, our travel business sells Universal Express passes. The views expressed on Jones Family Travels are our own.
Universal Express is too expensive!
@JonesTravels cost is ridiculous tho
— kevineasson (@kevineasson) August 17, 2016
Universal Express can be quite pricey. The cost is on a graduated scale, so on the busier days at the parks, the passes will be more expensive. This makes sense, because if they were cheap, everyone would buy them and there would be no “express” to the Universal Express pass.
On the day we used them, I believe the price was $89 each. Without tax, this would be $356.00 for our family of four. As I mentioned, Universal provided our passes to us on this day, but we have paid as much as $95 per Express pass for ourselves on multiple occasions.
Universal Express shortens the wait time for guests. That’s what they do. They’re not “front of the line” passes, they’re express passes. You are paying for your time — your most valuable resource. We did both parks in one day — all the Universal Express rides in both Universal Orlando parks in one day. On the day we went, this would not have been possible without the Universal Express pass. Now, we have more time to enjoy our Orlando vacation, sit at the pool at the resort, go to another local theme park, spend quality time with our family (like you’re supposed to do on vacation). How much is that worth to you?
Travel tip: Did you know you can get Universal Express passes for free?
Yes, if you stay at Loew’s Royal Pacific, Loew’s Hard Rock Hotel, or Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel, you get a Universal Express pass for your whole family for the duration of your Universal Orlando vacation! We were also told that this was not “free” nor was it a good option, as the Universal resorts are “too expensive,” as well.
Just for this post, I decided to price up a stay at Loew’s Royal Pacific Resort for the weekend of September 16-19, 2016 (this is a weekend, so you’d want to have Universal Express, plus it’s opening weekend of Halloween Horror Nights, so both the Express passes and resorts will be at a higher price). I priced “rack rate” — this is off the street, no discount pricing — for that weekend and before taxes, Royal Pacific would be $289 per night. Remember, this includes FREE Universal Express passes for Friday, September 16, Saturday September 17, Sunday September 18, and Monday September 19. 4 days of Express passes. If we were to pay for 4 days of Express passes at the high traffic weekend rate of $89 each, this would be a grand total of $1,424.00 or $356 per day for our family. That’s INCLUDED with your stay!
As a comparison, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for that same weekend would be $308.00 per night, before tax. So, you’re not only paying less for your room, you’re getting almost $1,500 in Universal Express passes included in that cost!
Why did I use Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge as a comparison? Because, it’s likely to be the least expensive of the few Disney resorts that have a Four Diamond rating from AAA (all of the Disney resorts with this rating are Deluxe resorts). Royal Pacific, Hard Rock Hotel, and Portofino Bay are all Four Diamond resorts.
Universal Express should be eliminated!
Some people felt that Universal Express should just be eliminated. It should not even be an option. It’s unfair!
— will costello (@will_costello) August 17, 2016
We respectfully disagree. Just like you have Loew’s Portofino Bay or the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, as a “resort” property with guests from all over the world, Universal needs to provide options. Sure, some guests don’t want to or can’t afford to pay for Universal Express. Some guests also can’t afford or don’t want to pay for Portofino Bay.
Universal would be negligent to ignore large portions of their guests desires for their vacations to not offer Universal Express, a Portofino Bay option, or Bice Ristorante for this demographic. The same is true on the other end of the spectrum.
We had a great time at both Universal parks during our “challenge” day using Universal Express.
We absolutely love having the option of an express pass and have paid for it on multiple occasions. We’ve also stayed at a Loew’s/Universal resort just to get the Universal Express for free! If you’re trying to cram a lot into your Orlando vacation, it’s worth every penny. You can’t buy more time in this life, but you can use the time you have wisely and sometimes, that means spending a little more to get some additional quality family time!