Saturday, April 30, 2011

Starting May 2nd Get Free Dining and a Free Disney Gift Card. UPDATED.



Here are the tentative details on the new free dining offer (see note below):  Starting Monday, you can book your next Disney vacation and get free dining for most stays from August 28 through September 24, 2011.  Disney value resorts will get the quick service dining plan while moderate and deluxe resorts will receive the base (one table-service, one-snack, and one-counter service per day) plan; remember, value resort guests can upgrade to the base plan for around $11 more per day for adults.  You must book by August 27, 2011.

Update:  This offer requires you to book a Disney Photopass Photo Book, which adds around $100 to the package.

But, at the risk of sounding like a cheesy game show host, there's more. Last month I had a really positive response to my gift card offer for guests booking new vacations, so I've decided to extend that offer.  This offer is personal to my clients and not a Disney offer.  Here are the details:

Includes any Disney vacation, including Adventures by Disney, Disney  Cruise Line, and all Disney parks.

This offer is for NEW bookings only and excludes takeovers and vacations booked prior to May 2nd.

You may travel anytime within the next year.

Book through May 2 through August 27, 2011.

Gift card amounts: 
  • $25 for vacations worth $1800 - $2399;
  • $50 for vacations worth $2400 - $8999.
  • $75 for vacations worth $9000 - $15,000. 
  • $100 for vacations worth more than $15,000.
  • Ask about special per-room offers for Grand Gatherings.
  • $25 gift card for referrals when the client travels.

Gift cards are based on the final amount and will be provided when you travel.  Offer is not available for exclusive Pixie discounted packages such as the Star Wars Weekend offer and the Food and Wine Weekends Offer.  Pixie Vacations does not charge for its services nor do we personally charge a  fee in the event of cancellation; Disney offers full refunds for packages cancelled 45-days prior to travel.  Contact me at ChrisW@PixieVacations.com for more information.

NOTE:  There may be some changes to this post with regard to Disney's free dining offer when it's officially announced on Monday morning. I'll update as soon as possible.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rumor: September 2011 Free Dining Will Be Announced on May 2nd.



Actually, it's more than a rumor:  Disney Visa has confirmed this to be true.  This email was sent out to Disney Visa Cardholders, who are already able to get free dining for the dates below: 
Walt Disney World has announced the “Free Dining” discount. Currently, the discount is only available to Disney VISA cardholders, though it will be released to the general public starting on Monday, May 2, 2011. With the “Free Dining” promotion, Disney resort guests who book a Magic Your Way package that includes both your Disney resort room and your Magic Your Way park passes, will receive one of the Disney Dining plan add-on for free for all guest three and older in their party. There are a few requirements:


You must book at least a three night stay, and your stay cannot be longer than 10 nights

You must include at least a two day Magic Your Way base ticket

You must pay your $200 per room deposit at time of booking, you cannot “hold” a reservation

As part of the package, you will also receive one 20 page Photopass photo book

Guests staying at a Disney World value resort will receive the Quick Service Dining Plan for free. Guests will be able to upgrade to either the Disney Dining plan or the Deluxe Disney Dining plan by paying the price difference. To upgrade to the Disney Dining Plan, the increased cost will be $11 per adult per night, kids are free to upgrade. To upgrade to the Disney Deluxe Dining plan, guests will pay $44 per adult and $10 per child per night of your stay.

Guests staying at a Disney World Moderate, Deluxe or Disney Villa resort will receive the Disney Dining Plan included for free. Disney World guests at moderate, deluxe and villa resorts will also be able to book the “Free Dining”, and upgrade to the Disney Deluxe Dining for the normal price difference, which is $33 for adults and $10 for children three to nine. The Wine and Dine option is also available at full price to add onto either the Basic or Deluxe dining plans.

Availability is extremely limited, and must be booked by August 27, 2011 It appears that all suites have been excluded from this offer, though all resorts, including value resorts are included (All-Star Family Suites are included). To receive the Disney VISA cardholder discount, you must pay your deposit at time of booking with your Disney VISA. As a reminder, this exact discount should be released on May 2 to the general public without the Disney VISA requirements.

The last day to check in and receive the free dining for your entire stay is September 24, 2011.
Good news for those traveling in late August through late September. 

Book now and receive a free $25 or $50 gift card when you book a new vacation. This offer is in addition to current discounts. Email me at ChrisW@pixievacations.com.

Free Dining is Out for Disney Visa Cardholders. UPDATED.


Disney just released free dining for Disney Visa cardholders.  Here's the information so far:

Disney Rewards Visa Cardholders FREE Dining and Photo Book Offer

Special magic Your Way packages with a FREE Disney Dining Plan are available for 8/28/22 – 9/24/11 travel dates. Guests who book a stay at one of Disney’s Value Resorts will receive a free Quick Service dining plan. Guests who book a stay at Disney’s Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villas resorts will receive Disney’s Basic Dining Plan free. Guests will also receive a Disney Photopass Photo Book included as part of their package. Availability is limited.
These offers usually precede general public free dining offers by a few days, so if you don't have a Disney Visa, your offer could be coming soon.  The time-frame for this offer is very short, just a few weeks, and interestingly, it covers a period where Disney has already offered free dining. If you recall, Disney announced free dining last year for most of 2011. That offer had to be booked by December 20, 2010 and was good through September 2011.  What we have not seen, are any free dining offers for the general public (exluding pin codes) for the October through December timeframe of this year. If I were travelling then, I would be on the lookout for that offer to be released.

If you read here you know that Touring Plans tweeted that a dining offer would be released before May 14th. I don't know if this is the offer or if they were referring to a bigger, general public discount. They haven't tweeted Disney Visa offers in the past, only general public discounts, so I'm hopeful that we can expect another discount to come out before the 14th. Again, this is purely speculation based on past events. 

As always, you can apply discounts without penalty 45-days prior to travel if you have a Disney package; for room-only reservations, it's a week.  Changes made after these timeframes will require you to pay a $50 change fee.  Ask your travel agent or call Disney directly to have this offer applied.

More information as it comes out.

Book a new disney vacation and receive a $25 or $50 gift card in addition to current discounts.  We do not charge a fee for our services or cancellation fees (excludes Disney's cancellation fees).  Email me at ChrisW@pixievacations.com for more information.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Big Changes at Port Orleans Riverside and the Contemporary Resort.

Photo property of the official Disney Parks Blog.
Starting this November, you can combine your Disney vacation with a spa retreat complete with special menus with seasonal and organic foods, concierge service, a private yoga studio, and in-room massage. Best of all if you're a Disney fan, you can do it all within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom.  Disney just announced that they're turning the entire 14th floor of the Contemporary Resort into a health and wellness experience. Guests who stay in one of the newly appointed rooms will enjoy new allergen-reducing pillows and mattresses, rainwater showers, bamboo floors and exercise equipment.  Expect the serene, spa-like atmosphere to be a dramatic departure from the parks.  This is part of  a pilot program designed to appeal to the luxury market and if it's successful, expect to see similar refurbishments of other deluxe resorts.

The question is, will it be a success?  I think there's a good possibility and you can certainly bet that Disney has done their homework. By keeping it small and exclusive, this option will cater to a niche- market, the high-end, health conscious crowd that might not otherwise stay on property, offering an almost "boutique" hotel experience inside a Disney resort. It's long been argued by some Disney guests that Disney has missed the boat on the luxury crowd, despite its deluxe resorts, so this type of addition might bridge that gap and give that group the amenities they want when they travel. 

This next bit of news is a no-brainer given the popularity of the Disney princess franchise.  In addition to changes at the Contemporary, Disney announced that it will be refurbishing 512 rooms, one-quarter of that resort's inventory, in Port Orleans-Riverside.  The new rooms will have a princess theme, story behind them being that Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, invites two other princesses, Belle and Jasmin, to stay with her. All the rooms will have special touches that reference the movies and stories, such as the dog turned footstool from Beauty and the Beast and a facet shaped like Genie from Aladdin.  Disney hopes this refurbishment will keep guests who might otherwise be drawn to the new Art of Animation Suites staying in moderate resorts.

No word on whether or not these rooms will hold four or five people, but it's been rumored internally that Port Orleans-Riverside will switch from sleeping five people to a room to four once the Art of Animation Suites are opened in the summer of 2012.

Source: Official Disney Parks Blog.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Date Night at Walt Disney World.

You might think of a Disney World vacation as one that’s exclusively for the kids, but it’s also a great place for adults to visit. Because there are so many enjoyable entertainment options for adults right on site, it's especially convenient for a grown-up date night. We love family time in our household and our vacations are about being together, but even the most close-knit bunch needs a little alone time for the parents. My husband and I usually plan a night out in the middle of our trips, preferably when the Magic Kingdom is open late so we can visit the attractions the kids are too young for or don't like. Add a nice restaurant at the beginning of your night and you have a very special, and fun, date night that you can’t have anywhere else.

Sitter Options. Unless you’re traveling with extended family or friends who will offer to watch your little ones while you go out, you’re probably going to need a sitter. Fortunately, there are two very convenient, safe options.

In-Room Babysitting: This option is great for larger families or families with kids who are either too young or too old for the childcare centers. There are several services around Orlando which will send a sitter to your room; they’re all thoroughly screened and are familiar with the resorts. Your sitter will feed the kids, take them to your resort play areas (but not the pool), entertain them, and put them to bed. Coming home from a relaxing evening to sleeping children is a nice way to end your night.

I usually use Kids Nite Out when we visit Disney World, but there are several other services in the area that will send a sitter to your room, either on-site or off.


On-Site Childcare Centers. The last time I told my son that we were going to Disney World, his second question (right after asking where we were staying) was if he could go to the Neverland Club, the childcare center in the Polynesian Resort. Disney’s childcare centers, which are located at several deluxe resorts, have everything a kid could want: Age appropriate games, entertainment, and friendly cast members. You don’t need to be a guest of that resort or even a guest of any Disney resort to use this service, which is usually open from 4:00 p.m. to midnight. The cost is $11.50 per hour and includes a kid-friendly dinner of your child's choice.

Citricos in The Grand Floridian

Great Grown-Up Restaurants: All Disney restaurants (with the exception of Victoria and Albert’s, the super-fancy restaurant located in The Grand Floridian) are kid-friendly, but the honest truth is that some are more kid-friendly than others. I wouldn’t hesitate to take young children to The California Grill; it’s sometimes loud, busy, and always fun. But restaurants like Yachtsman’s Steakhouse, Bistro de Paris, and Citricos, with their understated d├ęcor and quiet atmosphere, just seem a bit grown-up to me. I’ve seen children in these restaurants a lot and they have childrens’ menus, but I think most kids prefer eating elsewhere. That doesn’t mean you have to miss them, though. They’re perfect for a grown-up evening out.

Bistro de Paris, located in Epcot's World Showcase

My husband and I usually like to start the night off at one of these restaurants and then head to the parks. It’s nice to sit and reflect on the trip so far and have a great meal where we don’t have to worry about cutting up someone’s food or taking someone to the restroom.

Blue Zoo, located in the Dolphin Resort.

Entertainment: There’s so much to do, there’s no way you can do it in one trip . . . or ten, really. Plan a late night in the one of the parks, drink, or eat, around the World Showcase in Epcot (and have a Disney bus take you back to your resort!), or spend some time wandering the shops in Downtown Disney, where you can eat at restaurants like Wolfgang Puck’s or House of Blues and see the world famous Cirque du Soliel perform.

La Nouba.
Copyright Walt Disney World.

You can even—gasp-- venture off site. See a concert or a show , get tickets to an NBA game, or check out one of Orlando’s eclectic little neighborhoods like Little Saigon and experience a part of Central Florida that visitors rarely see.  If you'd like a little more adventure in your nightlife while still staying in familiar territory, check out the clubs and restaurants at Universal Orlando's Citywalk.

Parents Night Out on the Cheap: Not every date night needs to be expensive. I love to resort hop, which is visiting various resorts and checking out the themes and shops. You can get an inexpensive counter service meal at any of them; after a fun but busy day in the parks, a quiet meal can seem like delicious downtown, no matter where you are. The Polynesian has an excellent counter service sushi bar called Kona Island Sushi where you can get a very reasonable meal. Grab a cocktail and head on down to the beach, where you can enjoy fireworks from the Magic Kingdom any night of the week for free. Or check out the entertainment on the Boardwalk at night and then take one of the boats over to Epcot or Hollywood Studios.

Date night on our vacations is a ritual for us. It’s a unique kind of experience that energizes us for the rest of the trip. You don’t need to go all out, but take some time to give yourself a break. You'll be ready to take on the parks the next morning.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Round of Discounts: Disney Extends Military Rates Through September 2012; New AP Discounts for Summer 2011.


Yesterday, Disney announced that they're extending military discounts through the end of September 2012. These rates are available to both active-duty and retired personnel.  Room only rates are as follows:


•Select Disney Value Resorts: 30% off

•Select Disney Moderate Resorts and Cabins: 35% off

•Select Disney Deluxe Resorts and Villas: 40% off

Currently, four-day parkhoppers can be purchased for $138 plus tax (for both adults and children).  Each servicemember may purchase up to 6 tickets for his group.  Add the waterparks and more option and that parkhopper will only cost you $165 plus tax.  See your travel agent or call your base Morale Welfare and Recreation office for more details and restrictions.  You'll need to present a valid military identification card when you check in or pick up your park tickets.

Military discounts are the best out there and seem to have the fewest blackout dates, but be careful--you'll need to ask for it, as with all discounts. In my experience, it's the one discount that often falls through the cracks because it's not all that well-publicized and most people don't tend to ask if you qualify for it. Make sure you tell your travel agent or the cast member you speak to at Disney reservations that you qualify.  Because of the ticket restrictions, if you're planning a longer trip, you'll want to run all the other discount options that are available; sometimes other offers will work better but in general, this room discount is excellent.

Finally, summer room discounts for annual passholders were announced this morning:

Tiered Resort Savings: (June 3 - 14, 2011):

* Save 15% on Disney's Fort Wilderness Campsites

* Save 20% at Disney's Value and Moderate Resorts

* Save 25% at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney's Polynesian Resort

* Save 30% at Deluxe (excluding Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney's Polynesian Resort)

* Save 35% at Disney Deluxe Villa Resort
Tiered Resort Savings: (June 15 - August 13, 2011):

* Save 15% on Disney's Fort Wilderness Campsites

* Save 20% at Disney's Value and Moderate Resorts

* Save 30% at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney's Polynesian Resort

* Save 35% at Deluxe (excluding Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Disney's Polynesian Resort)
* Save 35% at Disney Deluxe Villa Resort
Call Disney or your travel agent for blackout dates and book-by dates. If you have an existing reservation, you can have this rate applied to it, generally without penalty.  As always, call as soon as new discounts come out as all discounted offers have limited availability.

Email me at ChrisW@pixievacations for information on how you can receive a free $50 Disney gift card when you book your next vacation.  This offer is on top of posted discounts.   I'm sorry, but I can not take bookings from Disney or other agents. Thanks!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Buying a Parkhopper.

There are two main types of Disney World park tickets:  A Magic Your Way base ticket which allows you to visit one park per day (you may come and go to that one park as many times as you like that day) and a parkhopper, which allows you to visit as many Disney Parks as you like per day for however many days you have on your ticket, without limitation.  The advantage of the parkhopper is that you can park hop to avoid crowds, visit a different park later at night for dinner or to see a nighttime show, or just leave when you want to try something different.  It also allows you more flexibility in your trip planning.

The only downside, of course, is the price:  At a flat fee of $58 (as of 2012) per person per ticket (whether it's a one or ten-day ticket), the cost can really add up.  For a family of four, you could have dinner in a signature restuarant or take everyone to one of the nighttime parties like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.  Or you could just save the money.  Despite the cost, it can be daunting to plan a trip with no hopping, making the decision to purchase a hopper one of the more difficult ones people make when it comes to planning  their trip.

Here's my advice:  Don't buy a parkhopper before you travel unless you're absolutely positive you'll use it.

Why?  Because you can always add it later if you find you need it. I love the convenience and I always add the hopper, but it's a very personal thing based on how you tour the parks and frankly, that can change from trip to trip.  Some groups, particularly those with very young children or older folks, may find that parkhopping is impractical.  On the other hand, a young couple visiting for a short weekend may want to see as much of the parks as possible; they'll definitely want the option. 

Ultimately, if a client tells me they're on the fence about the hopper, I tell them to wait, and this is what I would tell anyone.  Wait until you've toured the parks a day or two. At that point, if you find that you'd like to park hop, simply add it to your ticket.  You can add hoppers at your resort's concierge desk or at the parks at any time during the 14-day period your ticket is good.  It takes only a few minutes.

And if you don't need it, that $54 you saved can buy a lot of Dole Whips and Mickey head attenna toppers!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Reader Email: Upgrading a free ticket.


This question comes from Kathy, who writes:

Can I use a free ticket that I got from Disney to pay for my annual pass?

Thanks

Kathy, thank you for your question. I've seen this question a lot lately, possibly due to the recent "Kids Free" promotion where children ages 3 - 9 where given free park admission with their resort stay.  For most of these tickets, whether they are part of this or some other Disney promotion (such as press events) you can't upgrade to an annual pass because it's considered a gift.  This is a departure from promotions such as the Give-a-Day/Get-a-Disney Day promotion where you could take that ticket and use the value of it towards a multi-day park admission or even an annual pass. 

Make sure you read the fine print on any special event ticket.  Here are a few scenarios you may encounter:

  • If you buy discounted park tickets through  Disney when you register to run a Disney half-marathon (such as the Princess 1/2 or the Wine and Dine 1/2), those tickets will have an end date on them, usually around 90-days after the event.  You can't upgrade those tickets and you, or someone else, will need to use that ticket before it expires.
  • Press event tickets usually expire that day.  Essentially, the ticket is "swiped" before you even use it, so if you have an annual pass, the ticket is essentially worthless to you.
  • Tickets under the "Kids Free" promotion are good indefinitely, so if your children have annual passes, you can just save them until you need them. As noted above however, their value can't be applied to an annual  pass renewal.  Those tickets also don't have to be used by your children; you can give them away.  They are good indefinitely.
  • Make sure you don't accidentally "swipe" tickets that you can use later.  For example, with the "Kids Free" promotion, you can have those tickets taken off your room keys so that one of your children doesn't accidentally use it for park admission. Make note of the serial numbers and put it in a safe place until you need it. 
  • Guests sailing out of  New York City on the new 8-day Bahamas cruise will be able to take a day trip to Disney World when the ship docks in Port Canaveral. They'll be given a free ticket that is good only for that day; no upgrading or applying to your annual pass. So far, I haven't heard if there will be any sort of accommodations made for AP holders who've already paid for park admission.

Please send your questions to ChrisW@pixievacations.com.  I'll answer them by email or on the site. Thanks!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rumor: New Disney Vacation Club Property to be Built at the Grand Floridian?

Recently, Disney applied for and received permission to change and make improvements to the shoreline along Seven Seas Lagoon in preparation for a new Disney Vacation Club (DVC) property to be built as part of the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  The T-shaped building will be located between the Wedding Pavilion and the resort's beach pool, with the Grand Floridian Health Club and Spa to its rear. Part of the building will be constructed over the Lagoon, a small portion of which will be reclaimed in the process.  The space is currently a large grassy area and beach.

Based on the number of projected parking spaces, the resort is expected to be on the small side, adding around 200 rooms to DVC's inventory.  According to the plans, the building will be no more than six floors high. This information was also confirmed by cast members at the wedding pavilion and at the Grand Floridian itself.  Rooms on the higher floors are expected to offer Magic Kingdom views, a perk most consider a necessity for any resort located on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop.  Rumor has it that some of the rooms in the Grand Floridian will be converted over to DVC rooms in much the same way they were in Animal Kingdom Lodge when Jambo House was built.  If this is the case, it's possible that some of those rooms will be concierge level.  Finally, there will be a covered walkway between the  DVC building and the Grand Floridian's main building.

I'm seeing a lot of excitement over this project, but I'm also seeing a great deal of worry.  Most concerns surround how it will effect the shoreline of the Seven Seas Lagoon. The view of the Grand Floridian from the ferry as you go to and from the Magic Kingdom is one of the prettiest sights at Walt Disney World.  The buildings, beach, and vegetation are simply beautiful.  How will a large building, possibly one that's taller than the main building of the Grand Floridian, effect this view?  Another potential problem has to do with the site's location next to the Wedding Pavilion.  Fair warning:  Brides (and nervous mothers of the brides!) can expect construction noise for several years.  From a practical standpoint, how will adding two hundred more rooms full of guests effect transportation and check-in?  Finally, what will happen to the scenic, peaceful walkway between the Polynesian Resort and the Grand, arguably one of the nicest spots for a relaxing walk in all of Disney World?

I'm hoping that Disney will do what it did with Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort, which is seamlessly create a resort which appears to have always been there.  If you read here, you'll know that I love the Grand Floridian:  It's airy, peaceful (even when it's crowded) and relaxing. I'm looking forward to seeing what Disney has planned for one of my favorite resorts in the future.

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Disney World Summer Discounts are Out.

And they're a little . . . different this time.    Despite all the speculation about free dining, they're only for deluxe resorts and deluxe villas. From the Disney website.

Save up to 30%* at Select Disney Deluxe and Disney Deluxe Villa Resort Hotels


Summer and Walt Disney World Resort have always been a perfect fit. Staying at in the middle of the magic means enjoying a different adventure each day. This summer at select Disney Deluxe Resorts and Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts save up to 30% for stays most nights June 15 to August 13, 2011. Also, check for rates for stays most nights April 22 to June 14, 2011!

Book through April 30, 2011 for travel April 22 to May 28, 2011

Book through May 28, 2011 for travel May 29 to August 13, 2011
Note that all resorts are not 30% off.  You'll save 25% off at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Disney's Polynesian Resort for stays most nights June 15 to August 13, 2011.

I know there's going to be grumbling about the fact that there are no moderate or value discounts, and I'm a little shocked myself, but considering that almost no one thought there would be any more summer discounts, this is actually a bit of a happy surprise if you happen to be staying at a deluxe.

You'll want to have these discounts applied to your reservation today to make sure you get them.

Good luck!


Email me at ChrisW@pixievacations.com for information on how you can receive a free $50 Disney gift card on top of current discounts.