Archive for January, 2009

My mother’s favorite thing at Walt Disney World

I was raised in an anti-theme park family.  My father called theme parks “pre-canned, artificial memories”.  Before you feel too sorry for me, you should know that my parents hauled my sister and I all over.  We went to the beach, national parks, Canada, and …that most amazing of all cities….Seattle! We rode trains, floated on boats, and even got to go by plane to Hawaii.   There just weren’t any theme parks in the mix.  The closest thing to one was Marineland (now closed) in Victoria, British Columbia – it was a bit like SeaWorld, but on a smaller scale.

After Dad died, Mom went with us to Disneyland and bravely went down Splash Mountain with my kids at least four times despite the fact that she was suffering from a pinched nerve in her back.  While it wasn’t really her cup of tea, she said that it seemed like a nice enough place and could see why people enjoy it.

About five years ago, we got her to spend a day at Walt Disney World Resort.   The morning was spent at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the afternoon was spent at Epcot.  Mom loved Akershus Banquet Hall in the Norway pavilion – this was before the Disney princesses took over the castle; a fact that does not speak well for the strength and might of modern vikings.   But she really had no interest in returning.  She had “done Disney”, as far as she was concerned.  The fact that I spend my days planning Disney vacations is a good bit short of the goals that my mother set for her children but she’d done her best to raise us right and then, at some point, she had to accept that some things are simply out of a parent’s hands.  There’s still hope – I’m only 41 and could, theoretically, still outgrow all this nonsense.  

Convinced that she would enjoy all of the Christmas decorations and festivities, we took my mom back to Walt Disney World this last December.   Mom’s a good sport and went along with our three day theme park death march.  She enjoyed the Candlelight Processional at Epcot, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom.   Disney’s Hollywood Studios wasn’t her favorite and I sincerely doubt that she’ll tell all her friends that they just have to go to 50s Prime Time Cafe.

But yesterday she called to say that she’d been thinking about our Disney trip and to let me know how much she enjoyed riding the boats at WDW.  She said that I should make sure all my clients know about all the wonderful  Disney boats.    Mom rode the boat from the Magic Kingdom to Disney’s Polynesian Resort, the ferry from the Ticket & Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom, as well as the boat that travels around the Epcot resort area over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.   She wanted to ride the friendship boats in Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon but we ran out of time.   She was impressed that Disney lets people ride those boats free of charge.  

Mom’s favorite boat trip was from Disney’s Polynesian Resort to the Magic Kingdom and back.  We’d gone to the Polynesian resort to watch the Electric Water Pageant (floating parade).  Then we hurried over to the boat dock and caught the very first boat to the Magic Kingdom.   The fun thing about doing the boat ride this way is that we got to pass by the Electric Water Pageant on the water.    We didn’t get off the boat at the Magic Kingdom but stayed on to ride right back to the Polynesian.   While on the water, the Magic Kingdom Wishes Fireworks started and our wonderful boat captain positioned the boat for the best possible view of the fireworks.   We stayed there until the fireworks were done.    I told everyone on the boat that they were really lucky to have such a wonderful experience for free – most people pay over $200 for an IllumiNations or Wishes fireworks cruise.  

I do hope you’ll follow my mother’s advice and look beyond just theme parks for some of your Disney  experiences.   It doesn’t always take a major event or an expensive ticket to make a memory and have some fun.

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January 30, 2009 at 8:09 pm Leave a comment

Finding A Good Deal on Airfare to Orlando, Florida

Everyone talks about saving using the internet to save money on airline tickets but do you know where to look?   The information below should give you a good launching point.

 Discount Airfare Links:

 Searching for tickets will be easier if you know the airport codes.  Most people flying to Walt Disney World Resort use the Orlando International Airport which has “MCO” for its airport code.  The Orlando International Airport URL:  www.orlandoairports.com

Disney’s Magical Express is the free shuttle available to those staying at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel.  This service operates out of Orlando International Airport.   

www.airfarewatchdog.com is a fantastic free email newsletter alerting you to low fares and great deals out of your home airport.   These deals go quickly so be prepared to jump on a great discounted price.  Fares listed do not include taxes and fees.

www.farecast.com is another wonderful site that can help you find fares.  It gives recent fare histories and makes predictions about whether a particular fare will go up or down in the next 90 days. 

Ticket sellers:  You can use the following sites to purchase airline tickets.  Once you’ve found a fare, always go to the airline’s actual website to compare the price.   Many airlines are now advertising that you’ll always find the best price on their sites – at the very least, you may save the  (approximate) $6 per ticket service fee.                                          

www.travelocity.com 
www.orbitz.com 
www.expedia.com
www.priceline.com

Ticket Search Engines:

These do not sell tickets but will redirect you to the ticket selling web site.  Kayak is my personal favorite. 

www.sidestep.com 
www.kayak.com 
www.qixo.com 
www.mobissimo.com

Airline Web Sites: Once you’ve found a good fare using the sites above, double check against the airline’s price – sometimes you save money by booking directly through the airline.

These airlines fly into Orlando International Airport

Aerlingus – (Orlando / Ireland flights)
AeroMexico 
Air Canada
AirComet  (South America / Orlando Flights)
AirTran
Air Transat   (International Flights)
Alaska Airlines
American Airlines
bahamasair
British Airways
 (UK / Orlando flights)
CanJet
Continental Airlines

Copa Airlines
Delta Airlines
Frontier Airlines
Jet Blue
Lufthansa  (International Flights) 
Mexicana 
MiamiAir  (Charter Airline) 
Midwest Airlines

Northwest Airlines
Pace Airlines  (Charter Airline)
Southwest
Spirit –  (mostly East Coast & Caribbean)
Sun Country Airlines  (Minneapolis / Orlando)
SunWing  (Canada / Orlando) 
Taca (Central America to Orlando)   
TAM Airlines (Brazil to Orlando)
United Airlines
   
USAirways
Virgin Atlantic

Is your schedule somewhat flexible?  Conde Nast recommends this word choice when talking to airline ticket agents, “What is the lowest fare available on this route on any day of travel?”

www.seatguru.com – Once you’ve picked your flight and know what type of aircraft you will be flying on, use this website to help you find seats with a little more leg room, a good view of the in-flight movie, etc. 

The Entertainment Books have a discount for a 5% discount on tickets with American Airlines – check the glossy pages.  This discount isn’t always available for every seat class so check it against American Airline’s regular fares to be sure that you really are getting the best deal.

Tips for Buying Tickets

1.     Make a decision with your spouse or travel partners about what price you are willing to pay and how you will pay for it.  That way, the person buying the tickets can jump on a good price.  The really great deals tend to go quickly.

2.     Check the available prices, then check the airline’s website for their direct sales price.  Sometimes the Airline’s price is about $5 (or more) lower because you are not paying a ticket sellers surcharge.  It’s worth a look.

3.     The airlines are cutting costs by encouraging people to use the automated online ticket purchasing services.  Many of the airlines are talking about adding a surcharge (around $15) for purchasing tickets through their phone reservations system.  You can still use the phone services to check on existing reservations without charge.

4.     Get a frequent flier number for the airline you are flying on, even if you do not expect to ever accumulate enough miles to get a free ticket.  On an over-booked flight, the heavily discounted ticket is the first to get “bumped”.  Having a frequent flier account gives you one level of protection.  You can get a frequent flier number on the airline’s web site.  Be sure to attach the number to your reservation.

5.     Are you already accumulating miles with one airline?  Remember that many of the airlines will allow you to earn points when flying on their partner airlines.  For example, you can earn Delta miles on Northwest Airlines or Continental flights. 

6.     Have your frequent flier number available when making the reservation and you can include it in the reservation process, eliminating the need for a follow-up call.

7.     Be sure to make the reservation in the name found on your driver’s license, military I.D., or passport etc.  New security measures require exact matches.  For example, a man named Stephen should not use the nickname “Steve” on his reservation.  You may call your son “Bubba” but you should use his legal birth name on the ticket. 

8.     Remember that new airline security policies forbid the use of locks on luggage.  Any locked suitcases will be cut opened and the airline is not liable for repairs to the luggage.   There are some new TSA approved locks – check for them where you buy luggage. Boxes can be sent as checked luggage as long as they comply with airline size and weight regulations.  Do not seal the boxes, take your boxing tape with you as they will want to inspect the contents.

9.  Compare fees for checked baggage – most airlines charge for the second checked bag and many are even charging for your first checked bag.   Southwest Airlines does not charge for checked baggage.  A fare that costs a few dollars more on Southwest might actually be the cheapest option if another airline will tack on an additional $20 – $30 in roundtrip baggage fees.

10.  Speaking of fees, be sure that you know your final cost when comparing airfares.  Some sites tell you upfront and others wait until you’re a little farther into the transaction before disclosing the fees.  Make sure your price comparisons are consistant.

11.  You can – and should – stop obsessing about all of this once you’ve purchased your tickets at a price you can afford.   However, if the fare does go down, you can usually call the airline and receive a voucher (credit) towards future travel for the difference in fare cost.   These vouchers typically have to be used within one year.

January 30, 2009 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment

Hello world! It is the Build A Better Mouse Trip Blog!

Welcome to the blog for Build A Better Mouse Trip – a travel agency focusing on Walt Disney World Resort and Orlando vacations.   We love Walt Disney World and want to help people have a great vacation.   Our website goes into a lot of detail about our services but we wanted to do the blog because we wanted a place where we could have fun talking about our favorite (or least favorite) things and sharing our vacation related throughts without having to be as impersonal as a “professional” website.

January 28, 2009 at 9:19 pm Leave a comment


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