Friday, May 28, 2010

My Book's New Edition!

The newest edition of "The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World Resort" is in the final stages. The hard work for me was over months ago: research, writing, editing. Getting it off to the publisher is a big push, but then I just sit back and wait for the editing and all the details to be completed. After my final read-through sometime this month it heads out for printing. I can't wait to see the finished product which should be ready sometime in September!

You can pre-order the 3rd edition now from Amazon.  

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is Free Dining the Best Disney Deal Around?

Disney offers new and different resort promotions on an almost continual basis throughout the year. One of the most popular is the "Free Dining" offer usually available late summer into early fall. Everyone waits in great anticipation for this package to appear (who can resist free food!) not realizing that it probably saves you the least amount of money of any of Disney's offers.

The "Late Summer Room Offer" available for the same dates of August 15th through October 2nd is a much better deal. For instance, a family of four with two adults and two children on the "Free Dining" offer would pay $3433 for a garden view room at the Grand Floridian with a 5-day park hopping ticket and the free Magic Your Way dining plan. That same family on the "Late Summer Room Offer" in a Grand Floridian garden view room and adding on a 5-day park hopping ticket and the Magic Your Way Dining would only pay $3050 for a $383 savings.

This is why it's an excellent idea to utilize the services of a Disney specialist travel agent like myself (or one of the many other excellent agents out there) to plan your vacation. Besides saving you money, a good Disney specialist will have first-hand knowledge at their fingertips and offer complete itinerary planning, allowing you to sit back and just enjoy.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Different Kind of Vacation

Just leaving Cozumel after a few days of sun and relaxation. Even though Disney is my specialty, I love traveling the world even somewhere as close as Mexico, only a two-hour flight away from my Texas home. Such friendly people! Here the lifestyle is laid back with all locals wanting to please the tourists. Even the street sellers, who persist in trying to interest you in a cheap trinket or two, turn away with a friendly gracias upon your refusal.

It’s a shame that Mexico has such a bad rap these days what with swine flu and drug cartel problems. They've seen a 15 percent drop in tourism in tourism in 2009 and could certainly use a lift in the ecomony. But Cozumel seems to be surviving because of its popularity with the cruise ships. Four were in port today including the new megaship, Oasis of the Sea.

Come to stay in one of the many resorts and condos and you’ll find the restaurants and streets blissfully empty in the evening hours after the cruise ships have sailed away. Great food abounds with La Choza being my favorite Mexican food spot (the Veracruz pescado is remarkable). If you’re looking for a bit more sophistication you won’t be disappointed in Guidos, a romantic Italian restaurant with a wonderful courtyard ambience and great pasta and pizza. There’s even hip Kinta where gourmet Mexican food is the fare, but it certainly wasn’t tops on my list. I tend to like the small, ethnic places where friendly service and good food is the order of the day like El Moro. If it’s beach restaurants and bars you like then Cozumel is brimming with them. Choose Playa Bonita where a three-piece band plays for tips, the aquamarine ocean just steps away, and fish tacos and ceviche the best things on the menu.

Venture out of San Miguel for sweeping ocean views on the east side of the island, but here currents are strong and not as safe for swimming. At Punta Sur, an ecological park, you'll find lagoons filled with crocodiles, an interesting lighthous, and a lovely white sand beach. Of course, the diving is some of the best in the world.

Any favorite places in Cozumel you want to share?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Resort Dilemma

As a travel agent that specializes in luxury Walt Disney World vacations, I try my best to narrow down the myriad of choices available to clients. But it can still be a difficult choice making the decision of which resort is best suited.

I'm working with a UK client right now who stayed at the Grand Floridian years back but still can't decide which resort would be best for their 8-year-old. For some reason they, along with a lot of other people, have the idea that the Grand Floridian isn't a place for children. Not true. The Grand might very well be one of Disney's better choices since they offer more children's activities than any other resort. There's the Pirate Adventure, the My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party, even a Wonderland Tea Party. And with the Magic Kingdom only one stop away on the monorail what could be more child-friendly?

They're considering Disney's Contemporary Resort as an alternative . It's true that there's Chef Mickey's, and an updated pool with a new fun kid’s splash zone as well as new fountain jets. And nothing beats the view of the Magic Kingdom from the Tower Theme Park View rooms, perfect for watching the Wishes fireworks from your balcony.

Since they'll be at Disney for seven nights I suggested they split the difference staying four nights at one property and three at the other. It's so simple transferring to another Disney resort. Just hand off your luggage with the bellman before leaving for the parks in the morning and take the bus or monorail back to your new resort in the afternoon or evening. Your luggage will be waiting for you anytime after 3PM.

Any thoughts on the best Disney resort for children?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Do You Have a Favorite New Orlando Resort or Restaurant? I Want to Know About It.

Although I've just wrapped up the newest edition of The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World Resort (now available at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0762745576?ie=UTF8&tag=theluxurguide-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0762745576), I'm already starting on the next edition. I'll re-stay at all the resorts reviewed in the current book, visit all of the restaurants again, and revisit the spas currently in the book.

I would really appreciate new ideas from you. Do you have a favorite luxury resort close to either Universal or Walt Disney World that I've neglected? What about a great restaurant? I think I've covered all the best spas, but am I missing a few? Please let me know and I'll add them to my list of things to do this coming year.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Eenie Meenie Miney Mo – Choosing the Perfect Disney Resort

When I first began vacationing at Disney it was an absolutely excruciating process for me to pick the perfect resort. I wanted my choice to be so special, with everything just right. I wavered between one resort and the other. Should I spend the extra money to be on the monorail or just use Disney bus transportation to the theme parks? If I stayed at a monorail serviced resort should I pick the Contemporary, the Grand Floridian, or the Polynesian? Did I want to be in the Epcot area or the Magic Kingdom area? Which is better, the Yacht or the Beach Club? How about the Swan and Dolphin? The list goes on and on. When there are so many good choices, how do you pick the right resort?

Remember that in doing my research for The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World Resort I’ve had the opportunity to stay at all the deluxe resorts many times over, and I have to admit that the Magic Kingdom area is by far my favorite. No other place gives me the same thrill as a stay around the magical Seven Seas Lagoon. What can be better than a room with a view of Cinderella’s Castle? Of the three monorail-serviced resorts, the Contemporary, the Grand Floridian, and the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian wins for sheer atmosphere. Every evening is special in the glorious Grand Lobby when a pianist rotates with a big band playing all the old-time favorites. It's fun watching brides traipse around and, if you’re lucky, Cinderella’s Coach pulls up to whisk her away. The grounds at the Grand Floridian are lovely with housekeepers parading in Victorian dress and lacy parasols. And now, thank goodness, the guestrooms are in the process of being renovated, something that was much needed. Now if you’re looking for hip guestrooms then the Contemporary is your place, but don’t expect much in the way of beautiful grounds and themed pools. The Polynesian is oozing with romance, the guestrooms are large and comfortable, there are plenty of beaches and a fun pool, but the resort seems to lack the service found at other Disney deluxe resorts.

If you’re a huge Epcot fan, then go for a stay at one of the resorts just outside Epcot’s International Gateway and just a boat ride away from Disney-MGM Studios (soon to be named Disney Hollywood Studios). Choosing between the Yacht and the Beach Club is easy for me – it's the Yacht Club hands down. The Beach Club is just too cutesy, doesn’t have many full-size room balconies, and lacks the sophistication of the Yacht Club. The Beach Club’s only advantage is its closer proximity to Epcot. The Boardwalk Inn is another great choice and the guestrooms should be renovated beginning very soon, but I like the pool (Stormalong Bay) much better at the Yacht and Beach Club . The Swan and Dolphin might be a consideration because of their less expensive room rates, but they come without the Disney magic and with smaller guestrooms.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Wilderness Lodge are in a category of their own, each with their own advantages. Remember that these two properties have smaller guestrooms than the other Disney Deluxe Resorts so think about booking a Deluxe Room here instead with that extra space to spread out and be comfortable. The Wilderness Lodge’s setting on Bay Lake is spectacular surrounded by lovely pine trees. But the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s savanna brimming with exotic animals is pretty special also. I also feel that the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a bit more sophisticated than Wilderness Lodge. As far as easy accesibility to the parks, The Wilderness Lodge is only a boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom, but from the Animal Kingdom you'll need to take a car or bus service to all four theme parks. In short, these two are a toss up in my book. You’ll be happy with either and happier even yet with the less expensive price tag than the other Disney Deluxe Resorts.

If you're considering the Concierge Level at any of these resorts here is the lowdown:

Best Atmosphere: Grand Floridian Royal Palm Club in the main building – you can hear the music and gaze below to the Grand Lobby from the lounge.




Best D├ęcor: The Contemporary’s lounges (there are two: one of the 12th floor and the other on the 14th), both recently redone in a slick, hip style, both with spectacular views of the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon.






Best Food: While the Grand Floridian’s spread is extensive and very good, I would have to go with either the Wilderness Lodge for it’s hearty choices and excellent homemade cookies, or the Animal Kingdom Lodge where an unusual assortment of great food from Boma is always a surprise.



Worst food: The Contemporary serves what I call a convention spread, a ho-hum assortment often served to groups.

I hope this narrows down the field a bit for you. If you still can’t make up your mind then just eenie meenie miney mo. I’m pretty sure that you’ll love just about any one of them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Day in the Life of a Disney Guidebook Writer





When I tell people I write "The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World Resort" their response is more often than not, "I want your job!". It is a great occupation, one that I love, but it isn't always a bed of roses. It's hard work combined with loads of fun.

Weeks before my arrival at Walt Disney World I spend hours and hours of time putting the pieces together in order to get the most out of my visit. Each trip to Orlando involves a stay at approximately five resorts over about ten days which adds up to a lot packing and unpacking on my part. All hotel reservations need to be pieced together ahead of time along with public relations meeting scheduling at each resort, dinner reservations each night, spa appointments and resort tours added in to the formula, and at least some time for the theme parks.

A typical day begins with a light breakfast in the concierge lounge (I always stay on the concierge level if the resort offers one in order to review it for the book). I usually schedule a hotel tour with the resort's director of public relations in the morning which consists of an hour or two walking the grounds and public areas followed by a peek at every room type offered. Then I get to see any suites that are available - definitely a fun part of the tour.


If the resort has a spa (something that is becoming par for the course) I schedule a treatment after lunch and then try to find time to enjoy the pool in the afternoon. I sometimes make a day of it with a workout in the fitness room, spa treatment, whirlpool and steam bath, and, at places like the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando, an afternoon at the exclusive spa pool with lunch served poolside.

I review at least one restaurant at every hotel I write about. I dine at the resort one night with the second night spent at either a restaurant at one of the theme parks, Downtown Disney, CityWalk, or pick a fabulous dining spot on "Restaurant Row" near Universal. That along with snacks and appetizers at the concierge lounge and lunch here and there adds up to plenty of food. Needless to say, I'm stuffed by the time I head home.


In between all the spa appointments, restaurants, and resort tours I add in visits to the theme parks at both Disney and Universal along with an occasional spin through SeaWorld, shopping expeditions, recreation, behind-the-scenes tours, visits to resort lounges, trips to Pleasure Island and CityWalk, and more. It certainly is a whirlwind with many Orlando trips necessary in order to revisit each resort, restaurant, spa, etc. before the next edition of the book is ready. I feel it is very important to sleep in the beds, actually have a spa treatment and not just a tour, eat many times at each restaurant, and experience firsthand everything included in the book before sending each new edition off to my publisher. I sometimes feel as if Orlando is my second home (I live in Texas).

Back at the office, I add all the new photos I've taken to my website at http://www.luxurydisneyguide.com/, update any changes to the site, then begin to add changes and new resorts, restaurants, etc. to the book. That way the information for each new edition is written when it is fresh in my mind. Of course, I take tons of notes and photos during the trip to jog my memory upon my return.

So if you are considering writing a travel guidebook plan on plenty of work, plenty of fun, and lots of writing. Take it from me.