Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Featured at the Relocated Tourist

Thanks to Amy at the Relocated Tourist (www.therelocatedtourist.com) for featuring me today on "Travel Agent Tuesday."  If you have not checked out her sight yet, please do so. Its a great resource for those looking to travel to and relocate to the Orlando area.  Plus, it's fun.

The write up on me can be found at :


Monday, February 13, 2012

The One Tip

As a veteran Disney traveler and now as a travel agent specializing in Disney Travel, I am asked the following question more often than any other: what is the best tip you can give me for our Disney Vacation.
The great thing about this question is it is easy to answer.  Who is going or when they are going, how many people or where they are staying, the answer is the same: Get there early.  When I say early, I mean at “rope drop” – the time when the Cast Members literally drop the rope and let you into the park.

Why, why, why do you want me to get up early on my vacation?  I want to relax on vacation and take it easy.  I understand how you feel.  To my wife’s chagrin, I love to sleep in as much as anyone, perhaps more.   There is one thing, however,  I don’t like more than an early wake-up call while on vacation (even if it’s Mickey making the call) – waiting in lines.  Simply put, an early arrival helps you avoid long lines and get the best value for your time and money while on vacation.  Believe it, this strategy will actually help you relax and give you more time to take it easy.

Arriving at the Magic Kingdom early gives you a chance to see the wonderful opening ceremonies of the park
Let’s face it, most people on vacation want to take it easy, get a little extra sleep, take their time in the morning, watch Stacey on the TV a time or two more before meandering down to the bus stop and deciding which park to go to that day.  That means many arrive after 10:30 AM – simply watch the entrance gates to the park and you can see the steady stream of visitors pick up around 10:30 and remain steady through lunch.   With the general opening time of 9 AM for the parks, that leaves the early birds ninety minutes of low crowds, small lines and relative peace in the parks.

Ninety minutes isn’t that much you say?  Let’s take a look at what you can do in that time frame at the Magic Kingdom.  Not long ago, on an August morning, my son and I arrived for opening at the Magic Kingdom (“rope drop”) and proceeded to complete the following attractions in the first ninety minutes of our visit: Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Space Mountain, Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan’s Flight,  It’s a Small World and The Haunted Mansion.  We then grabbed a fast pas sto return after lunch for Splash Mountain before taking a break and deciding where to eat an early lunch.  If you arrive at say, 11 AM, I would estimate that you will not get those attractions in before dinner, much less lunch and will spend most of that time in line. 
A view of a pretty empty Tomorrowland in the morning

Looking at another park such as Epcot – if you want to ride Soarin’ the time to do it is at opening, before the hour plus wait time builds by lunch time.  Yes, you can get a fast pass if you arrive before they are all handed out to ride it later, but why not ride it now and grab a fast pass for later?  The same idea applies to another major headliner, Toy Story Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I can think of a few more fun things to do with a sixty minute or longer wait than enjoy this well designed cue.

With a good portion of your touring done early, you are now free to meander, shop, take in the little known or over looked attractions or head back to your resort for a swim and/or a nap while everyone else sweats it out (literally in some cases) waiting in line to do what you already have.  When the masses decide enough is enough and start leaving the park about dinner time, you can now return and finish our your touring, relaxed and refreshed form your break.

For most, a Disney vacation is a once in a while, if not a once in a lifetime trip.  It is expensive and can be stressful.    How to pay, when to go, what to do, where to eat, what resort…why add to that stress with the worry of how to fit in all those great things in your relatively short time visiting.   Take some of that stress away and maximize the value of your stay, the value of your time by getting there early .

Yes, you trade off a little sleep and deserved vacation laziness, but you gain so much more in relaxation, time and stress free touring.  I’ll take that trade any day.  How about you, what is your time worth? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Running at Disney – Making Each Mile Magical

Donald Duck counts it down…3…2…1 and then with a flash of light and burst of fireworks that cut through the cool dark early morning, you are off.  Not quite the rocket launch that happens some 60 miles east of where you are running, but nearly as impressive.  This is the start of your race at Walt Disney World.

I recently returned from running the Walt Disney World Half Marathon and met several experienced runners and several more like me who were running their first race (and a few of the borderline insane who were running the Goofy Challenge – a half marathon (13.1 miles) on Saturday and a full 26.2 mile marathon on Sunday).  The opinions were unanimous - whether you are running your fiftieth or your first race, running at Disney is a great experience.  

From packet pickup and registration, to race completion, my experience running at Disney was made easy and was filled with friendly smiles, shouts of encouragement and helpful cast members, runners and volunteers.    The “you can do it” atmosphere of the entire weekend envelopes you, something that was very meaningful to this very nervous, first time runner. 

On race day, or should I say, way way way too early on race morning, transportation from the resorts to the race starting area begins at 3:00 AM and you need to be on a bus no later that 4:00 am to be able to start the race.  It may be tempting when reading this to want to stay off site where you think you could sleep a little later and just drive in quick and be at the starting area by 4:30 when they begin to stage runners.  Resist the temptation! 

The plan simply does not work – there are thousands upon thousands of runners all arriving at the same time and many of the normal roads used to get around Disney are restricted, shut down or detoured for the race.  This leads to a looooong line of cars trying to get into the start area while the busses zip right in and drop off the slightly sleepy athletes.  For this reason above all others, I highly recommend you stay on site at Disney if you are running.  You will get to the race on time (as long as you set that alarm clock) and when the race is over, the busses are lining up to take you back to your resort.

Disney does such a wonderful job making the race itself enjoyable and keeping you energized and motivated as you run.  Along your journey you will be greeted by the standard water stations filled with volunteers shouting encouragement but you will also encounter cheerleaders, marching bands, music playing and even Disney Characters!  You can stop and have your photo taken with Mickey (or others ) or strike a quick pose as you head up Main Street USA towards Cinderella’s Castle.  Along the way friends, family, volunteers and just plain great folks turn out and cheer you on.

Passing by the iconic Contemporary Hotel, running through an otherwise empty Magic Kingdom just before the sun rises and pushing myself through Epcot’s Future World as the race is nearly over was an experience I soon won’t forget.    I almost forgot the full Gospel choir that greets you just before you hit the finish line – uplifting, inspiring, special and memorable.

The memorable course and amazing support are the two top reasons I am glad I chose to run my first race at Disney.  I have not mentioned the pre and post race entertainment – dance party style that gets you moving, wakes you up and after you run gives you a great place to celebrate with friends and family.   The race shirts, color coded to the race you are running, are very cool (literally and figuratively)and the souvenirs including trading pins are of course, are not only readily available but well designed. 
2012 Half Marathon Medal

Last, but certainly not least, the medal is something special.  A Donald Duck design for the half marathon finishers, a Mickey for the full marathon, and the special Goofy Design for those, well, goofy folks that ran both races!  These are not some cheap sheet metal punch out, they are heavy, shiny and you won’t want to take it off anytime soon.  In fact, you will see runners wearing them for the rest of their trip around the parks – I even spotted a couple on my flight home from Orlando!

A few tips I will offer to those of you thinking of running at Disney.  For reasons mentioned before, Stay onsite at Disney – it is my #1 tip – it will help make your run  stress free from the start. 

If it is cold the morning of the start, you may consider having a throw away seat shirt or something similar to wear.  After you start running an dare warmed up, you can discard it roadside where volunteers will pick it up and it will be donated or thrown out.  You will be arriving between two and three hours before you actually start running – make sure you are getting yourself hydrated properly and keeping loose with plenty of stretching.   Don’t forget to use the restroom as close to your start as you can – while there are rest room stops on the course, they always have lines which will slow you down.

Getting Ready to start the race!
Before starting, you will be placed in a corral to wait for your start time (Disney starts the races in waves).  When your corral is moved into the starting position, if you want a good look at or photo of the starting platform with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, move to theft side.  Each starting wave has it’s own countdown and burst of fireworks, have your camera ready if you want to capture the moment. 

After you start, keep to your plan and pace.  You are competing against no one but yourself – go for your goals and don’t worry if you are being passed – many will pass you and you will pass many others.  If you are getting tired, it’s OK to walk, you will notice many other doing it.  Keep hydrated along the way – don’t skip the water stations and take the opportunity to take in the scenery and grab a photo or two, Characters greets are great for this and to give you a quick breather if you need it.  Also, don’t forget to smile for the cameras!  There are photographers located all along the route.  You will get a chance to purchase photos from your race experience taken by them, so make ‘em look good.

Take a some time to enjoy the post race fun – music, food, shopping and make sure you stretch out after your race, rehydrate and keep moving during the day  so you don’t get too sore.  Don’t forget to wear your race medal to the parks afterwards – it’s a great conversation starter!

Lastly, have fun.  Whether it is your first race our your fifty-first race, Disney has a way to make it special for you and each mile magical.   Enjoy it, but be careful - you may find yourself planning your next Disney Run Vacation before you leave your first! (I know I did).

For a list of Run Disney events and how to get registered, give me a call and we can work on it together.

Joe is a Disney Destinations Enthusiast and Independent Travel Agent with Off To Neverland Travel. 

CST# 2090317-40 / Fla. Seller of Travel Ref. No. ST37203
As to Disney artwork, logos and properties: © Disney – Ship Registry: The Bahamas

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I am Back with a Special Announcement

It' has been a while since I wrote here as the Disney Travel Dude - but that does not mean I have be slacking in my travel or my gathering of travel tips.  Just the opposite!  While away, I made the leap and became a travel planner who specializes in Disney Destinations.

Hence, I am pleased to announce my affiliation with Off to Neverland Travel®.  I specialize in Disney Destinations - Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disney Cruise Line Vacations and Adventures by Disney Vacations - for groups and individuals.  

Off to Neverland Travel’s® focus is on Disney vacation travel.  By specializing, I will provide you with personalized service and expert advice for the vacation that is a perfect match for your personal interests.  I can also  help you with cruises and resort destinations beyond Disney Destinations as well.

The focus of my blog will remain to provide you tips for traveling to the different Disney Destinations and how to make the most of your vacations.  I will also be able to keep you updated on special travel promotions and discounts as they become available.  My facebook page will also keep you updated, so if you haven't yet, take a moment to become a fan of it by visiting www.facebook.com/MagicMakerJoe and click that like button.  

So keep on coming back, I promise to do my best to keep you informed, slightly amused and hopefully make your next trip a bit more magical.  Questions?  Just drop me a line at:

Joe DeFazio, Magic Maker
Off To Neverland Travel, An Authorized Disney Travel Planner

CST# 2090317-40 / Fla. Seller of Travel Ref. No. ST37203  As to Disney artwork, logos and properties: © Disney –Ship Registry: The Bahamas