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Christmas Magic allowed it to snow in the atrium of the Carnival Dream

Christmas Magic allowed it to snow in the atrium of the Carnival Dream

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens…those may be Julie Andrews favorite things but not mine.  If you know me at all, it’s pretty obvious what my favorite things are.  I love to travel and I love the holidays (did my 6 themed Christmas trees give it away?).  What’s even better is when you put them together because the memories are something that will last soooo much longer than whatever the current fad toy is, or the clothes that are outgrown before being worn.

There are a few ways to combine my favorite things; you can go away for the holidays or you can surprise everyone with the trip wrapped up under the tree.  Both have their advantages & disadvantages.

Travel over the holidays:  There is something really special about being at Disney World or on a cruise over Thanksgiving or Christmas/New Years.  The decorations, the special events, and all the extra holiday cheer. Getting away from crazy Uncle Fred is another bonus.  I’m about to go on my 2nd Christmas cruise, and I have to say there is nothing like having it “snow” in the atrium on Christmas Eve or spending the day on a Caribbean Island for Christmas day.  It also makes Christmas shopping a lot easier; “Honey, kids; you’re getting a cruise for Christmas”.  Over course the downside is that we will miss a few traditions and the actual travel part of the trip isn’t always warm & fuzzy.  Price doesn’t have to be a downside, especially if you plan in advance.  Book that cruise in June and you’ll be smiling in all your holiday pictures 🙂

Not sure you want to travel during one of the busiest times of the year?  That’s completely understandable!  The best thing to do in that case is plan & book your trip and wrap clues as gifts under the tree.  There are special offers that will let you save money & travel in  Jan/Feb, or book the summer vacation way ahead to save on that and draw out the anticipation.  Taking the family to Disney World?  Maybe your spouse gets a map of Orlando, and little Johnnie & Suzie get post cards from the Main Mouse himself.   Planning a cruise? Sunglasses, sunscreen, map of the Caribbean would be great clues.  There are all sorts of ways to announce the surprise, and it will be a gift that they’ll never forget.

My kids are 20 & 16.  I don’t remember every gift I’ve given them and I know they don’t!  What I do remember is my daughter being named Princess of the Day and opening the doors to the Princess breakfast at Epcot;  the look on my son’s face when he climbed up to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and the whole family still laughs at the time Dad lost the waterproof camera while cave tubing in Belize.  Who needs remote controlled cars & ugly sweaters?  I may not have pictures to hold in my hand but the memories of cave tubing will never fade.

Wishing everyone a Very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!  May your holidays be filled with love, family & great memories!

This is the news that EVERYONE loves to hear!  Disney has just released new Free Dining dates for this fall through March 2012.

Here’s the quick rundown of example pricing:

Buy 4 Nights and 5 Days at a Select Disney Moderate Resort in a Standard Room for $89* per person, per day, for a family of 4, and get the Disney Dining Plan FREE (valid for stays most nights Oct. 2-6, 2011; Oct. 23 – Nov. 5, 2011; Nov. 27 – Dec. 3, 2011; Dec.11-17, 2011). That’s a total package price of $1,773.

Buy 4 Nights and 5 Days at a Select Disney Value Resort in a Standard Room for 73* per person, per day, for a family of 4, and get the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan FREE (valid for stays most nights Oct. 2-6, 2011; Oct. 23 – Nov. 5, 2011; Nov. 27 – Dec. 3, 2011; Dec.11-17, 2011). That’s a total package price of $1,442.

Ask about packages for other lengths of stay. Also, ask about other great rates for arrivals most nights Jan. 8-14, Jan. 22 – Feb. 4, Feb. 12-18, March 4-10 and March 25-31, 2012.

Call or email Second Star Travels today for your no-obligation quote.  Toll free 888-619-1675 or michelle@secondstartravels.com   Don’t wait too long, rooms at these rates are limited and will disappear quickly!

I have been a very bad blogger! I really admire those that find the time to sit down and write something interesting on a daily basis. I can’t seem to find the time and when I do, I struggle to write something interesting. Like most of you, I’m busy with life.  As a wife & mother I get caught up with everything else going on in the house.  The kids have sports & school events; I have my company which is growing (YAY!) and then there’s everything else.  I’ll try to be better and sit down to write more often.

Disney Events:
Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival is still going on through Nov 12th. Still time to take a quick trip to enjoy some delicious foods & beverages.

My favorite time of year to visit Disney is coming up soon. For me, there’s nothing better than the special events & decorations for the holidays. Instead of Raindrops on Roses and whiskers on kittens, it’s Snowflakes on Main St and Gingerbread houses. Those are a few of my favorite things. Of course those are just the tip of the iceberg! The Candlelight Processional takes my breath away just thinking about it and I can’t help but smile when I think of the finding the purple cat in the Osborne Lights.

I’ll dedicate a post to each of the parks and their special holiday events.   Until then, thanks for reading! If you have any questions or would like to hear about anything specific, please post a comment here or drop me an email at michelle@secondstartravels.com with “blog question” as the subject line.

Have a Magical Day!

I really enjoyed Julie & Julia, the book/movie about a woman who blogged her way through cooking all of the recipes is Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.  When my daughter stumbled on a blog about someone attempting to prepare recipes from Disney cookbooks, I found it intriguing and thought you might as well.

Check out Dining With Doc at The Disney Obsession if you’ve got a few extra minutes.  I think it will be a fun read 🙂

Just announced today, 3 new deals for Disney Vacations.

FREE Disney Dining Plan offer for Fall 2010 and dates in 2011!
Booking Window: Aug. 16 – Dec. 20, 2010
Travel Window: Valid for arrivals most nights Aug. 19, 2011 – Sept. 29, 2011

Ask about  great rates for arrivals most nights Oct. 1-7, Oct. 22-28, Nov. 12-18, Nov. 27 – Dec. 2 and Dec. 10-21, 2010,
and Jan. 1-5, Jan. 9-13, Jan. 21 – Feb. 3, Feb. 11-17, Feb. 25 – March 3 and May 27 – June 2, 2011

Deal 2 is a ROOM ONLY offer.

Save at least 25% on a room at a select Walt Disney World Resort hotel.  Valid for arrivals most nights Oct. 3, 2010 — Feb. 16, 2011


That’s right, book a  5-night, 5-day non-discounted Walt Disney Travel Company package at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels by Nov. 21, 2010, and get a Disney Gift Card worth up to $500 FREE. Valid for stays most nights Oct. 3 — Nov. 23 and Nov. 27 — Dec. 25, 2010, and Jan. 1 — Feb. 16, 2011

Great choices and options for everyone! Call or email your Disney Vacation Planner to learn more and book your dream vacation today!

Today’s guest post is from Megan, a 16 year old who knows Harry Potter as well or better than JK Rowling herself.  As excited as Megan was to go to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, she was also a bit worried that it wouldn’t live up to her expectations.  Here are her thoughts on WWoHP:

I first started reading the Harry Potter series in first grade, just after Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released.  I went to the midnight release parties for the final three books and stayed up all night to read them.  I’ve seen all the movies and read the books a million times over.  Now, as I am starting eleventh grade, they are still my favorite books.  I have grown up with Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and the entire Weasley family.  I know all the details in all the books.  I have extremely detailed, over-developed pictures in my head of Hogwarts castle, Hogsmeade village, and the Hogwarts Express.  Needless to say, I had high expectations for the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The morning started around 7, much earlier than I like to wake up in the summer, when we got ready to leave our room at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort for a night at Loews Portofino Bay Resort at Universal. We checked in at the resort and got to Islands of Adventure around 8:40—just in time to get back to the Wizarding World for early entry.  Early Entry was a great resort benefit, especially since we were there for the Wizarding World’s opening week.  At regular opening, there was a 4 hour wait just to get into the Harry Potter section of the park.  We cut across a couple islands and arrived at the entrance to the Wizarding World.

We walked into the beautiful, snow-capped village of Hogsmeade, where we could see the Hogwarts Express pulled into station and landmarks like the Three Broomsticks that readers have been imagining since the beginning of the series.  The Hog’s Head Pub and Zonko’s Joke Shop are also there, as well as a new, second location of Ollivander’s wand shop.  Throughout the village there are stands selling all types of wizarding necessities: wands, brooms, and cool, frothy butterbeer.

After entering the Wizarding World, we headed to its headlining attraction: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  The queue area for this attraction is almost as good as the ride; Hogwarts is holding an open house for muggles (non-magical people), and you are on a tour of the castle.  On your tour you go through the Herbology greenhouses, various classrooms, and hallways in which some of the portraits may start moving and talking in their frames.  The effects in the castle are fantastic; it’s impossible to tell which portraits will move and which will not, and the oil paintings are beautiful.  I will not divulge much about the ride except a quick warning.  If you get motion sick, take Dramamine before you ride; the Forbidden Journey is an absolute don’t-miss, but it’s much more enjoyable if you don’t feel like hurling.

After we rode the Forbidden Journey, we made a short walk over to Flight of the Hippogriff, a small, fairly gentle coaster with a cute theme, based on Harry and Hermione’s rides on Buckbeak in the third book.  It’s faster than I expected, but the track is similar to Goofy’s Barnstormer at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.  The rest of the family went to ride Dragon Challenge while I recovered from my Forbidden Journey motion sickness (Really, be prepared and take the Dramamine before you ride!).  Dragon Challenge is based on the first event of the Triwizard Tournament, when Harry has to capture an egg from a particularly volatile dragon.  There are two tracks for the coaster, each a little different.  Supposedly, the blue track is better than the red track, but if you get a chance, try both and compare them.

After hitting all three attractions in the Wizarding World, we stopped at a stand for butterbeer.  Cold and sweet, butterbeer is the Coca Cola of the magical world; it is a butterscotch-flavored soda with a thick, foamy head like a beer, available regular or frozen.  Though rich, it is a decadent way to cool off on a hot day.

Butterbeer in hand, we wandered around Hogsmeade and the area surrounding Hogwarts Castle.  The attention to detail in the Wizarding World is truly incredible—a step up over everything else in Universal and even areas of Disney (Am I going to be excommunicated as a heretic for saying that?).  As a rabidly obsessed and picky Harry Potter fan, I don’t do this often, but I give the Wizarding World of Harry Potter my stamp of approval.

Just ran across this classic cartoon from 1937 and thought it was a great way to get in the mood for planning a Hawaiian vacation.  Disney’s new Aulani Resort & Spa in Hawaii will start taking reservations the first week of August 2010 for stays starting Fall of 2011.  It’s going to be an amazing resort and as we get closer I’ll write more about it.  In the mean time, enjoy the cartoon.

Disney Hawaiian Holiday

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