Why I love flying Southwest Airlines

We are fortunate in the Northeast Ohio to have two large airports within a 45 minute drive.  I can drive to the Canton-Akron airport within about 20 minutes and to the Cleveland Airport in about 45 minutes (with no traffic).  With these two airports our selection of airlines is quite extensive, however I love flying on Southwest Airlines.

  1. No Frills Flying–  Southwest airlines are able to keep their flights relatively inexpensive because of the lack of frills.  There is no first class and coach option on these airlines.  You get your snack and your drink and that’s it.  Personally for me, I am all about saving a few bucks rather than a bunch of perks that I don’t need.
  2. Direct Flights to Orlando daily- Every day from our nearest airport there are direct flights to and from Orlando!   It’s great when you can catch those too!  It’s so nice being able to have an 2 1/2 hour flight straight to Orlando without having to deal with layovers. If the time isn’t convenient there are usually other flights offered with a connecting flight in Atlanta.  It’s slightly more inconvenient, but at least you’re heading in the right direction!
  3. Two Free Checked Bags- Yes you heard right, with Southwest Airlines you get two free checked bags plus a carry on per each ticket.  When traveling to Disney, it’s wonderful to pack an extra bag for the return home for souvenirs!  I sometimes buy some more fragile items, and it’s nice to have that extra bag on the way home to pack them up safely, and not have to pay for that extra bag!
  4. Great for families with children- While I myself don’t have children, I can imagine there is a bit of anxiety associated with flying with younger kids. If you’re traveling with younger children you get better boarding.  You may not necessarily get first pick at seats because they will board the A group first (generally the business select group) but you will get to board before the B group.  This will allow you to make sure your family can sit together during the flight.Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 9.37.45 AMThe above picture is a screen shot of the rules about boarding as a family.
  5. No Change Fee– If for some reason you need to reschedule your flight or change flights there is no fee to change.  You simply pay the difference, or get the difference back.  This happened to me a few years ago.  I had to reschedule my Disney vacation because of an unforeseen conflict.  I was able to do so with EASE because of Southwests simplicity and lack of fees.
  6. Fuel Perks– If you are in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, or Maryland you may have a Giant Eagle near by.  If you do, chances are you already know about their fuel perks program.   If you’re unfamiliar, fuel perks rewards you for shopping at Giant Eagle stores.  For every $50 you spend on groceries or gift cards you’ll receive $.10 in fuel perks (which means 10 cents off per gallon up to 30 gallons at GetGo stations.)  So let’s say you are a family of 4 purchasing round trip airfare and it’ll cost $950.00.  Purchase the Southwest gift cards for that amount and you’re looking at $1.90 in fuel perks.  $1.90 x 30 gallons = $57.00 in free gasoline.  PLUS sometimes they will run specials where you get double fuel perks on gift cards, so you could be looking at saving even more!  ***Be warned though, southwest only accepts 4 forms of payment per transaction, so if you’re purchasing gift cards make sure that you get the ones where you can preload up to $500 on the card to ensure that you can do it all on one transaction!***

 

  1. Etihad 777 flight

If you’re making the trip to Disney or any location, be sure to contact Ashley@charmingtravelsllc.com to book your travel needs!  Ashley is able to book cruises, hotel rooms, all inclusive packages, and of course all of your central Florida attractions!

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ashley@charmingtravelsllc.com

Magic Bands

Magic Band Colors

Magic Band Colors

Okay, let’s start with the Magic Band basics…

What is a magic band??

A magic band is essentially an adjustable bracelet to be worn while you’re at Disney.  It is available in children and adult sizes and in 7 colors.

What does a magic band do?

While you’re at Disney the magic band is your life source.  At it’s most basic level, it serves as your room key and your park tickets.  If you’re using the dining plan your dining plan information is also stored in the chip in the band.  You can also set up your magic band to have charging privileges.  In addition to these services the Magic Band chip also stores your fast pass reservations while in the parks.  You simply tap and go!  No longer do you need to rush around getting fast passes and carry them around all day.  Reservations for fast passes can be made up to 60 days in advance (for guests staying on Disney property).

How can I customize my magic band?

You can select a color for your magic band on the Disney website when booking your vacation!  Each member of your party can select different colors, or even get matching bands!  You can also have your names put on the inside of your magic band to keep them straight!

Magic bands with names

Magic bands with names

 

You can also customize your magic bands further with decals from DVC coverbands.  Check out the blog on Wednesday for my product review and give away of coverbands!!

http://dvccentral.com/cover-bands.html

My Personal Opinion of the Magic Band

Hubby and I had our first opportunity to use magic bands this summer on our vacation and we LOVED them!  They really made things so much easier!  I loved that everything was stored in one little chip on my wrist.  It’s also water proof so no worries there!  You can go swimming at the resort and not worry about it being damaged or losing it!  I loved my magic band, and I loved customizing it with coverband!

Reflections of Vacation + Tuesday’s Tips

Good Morning Mouskaholics,

First of all, I wanted to thank you my readers for following me on my journey to Disney this past week.  Craig and I had a wonderful time.  Today will be a short post, mostly because I’m exhausted and will need time to collect my thoughts and topics from this past week!

So first, here is Tuesday’s Tip-

When saving for your Disney vacation, find a way to get Disney gift cards for your trip.  Around here, Giant Eagle offers fuel perks, and if you watch carefully you can get double fuel perks or even grocery bonus coupons for purchasing your gift card.  We saved close to $400.00 in gas and an additional $120.00 in groceries by purchasing gift cards from Giant Eagle.  If you don’t have a Giant Eagle around, check out Sam’s Club.  They don’t offer the bonus fuel, but you can save a few bucks on each gift card.  They sell a $50.00 gift card for $48.88.  Not a huge savings, but if you’re paying for your entire trip with gift cards (which you can on the disney website) or taking spending $$$  that can save you quite a bit.  Let’s say you purchase $1200.00 in gift cards to pay for your vacation.  With the gift cards you’re only paying $1173.12.  That’s 27 bucks back in your pocket.  If you take an additional $500.00 for spending money, that’s another $11 in savings.  I believe that fuel perks are definitely the way to go, but if they don’t offer a deal like that near you, then check out Sam’s club for the savings!

Additional gift card info you should know-  If you’re staying on Disney Property they set up your magic bands with charging privileges.  You link a credit card to your account and you essentially can charge anything that you purchase back to your room.  Even if you charge items back to your room, you can still use your gift cards!  Even though it’s linked to a credit card, they don’t have the charges go through automatically.  The concierge at the hotel told me that if you get past a $500.00 limit they will then charge the card.  If you stay under $500, it will not charge it until midnight the night before you check out.  So every two days or so, I would stop down at the front desk with my gift cards and they would apply those to the balance vs. charging my credit card!  It was much easier than carrying a bunch of gift cards around the park and trying to pay with them!

Reflections from my trip-

I will be brief here.

1) I pre-blogged last week, and posted my itineraries as they stood before we left.  I took two afternoons and posted all of my blogs before we even left and then scheduled them to post while I as gone. (Just in case anyone was wondering how in the world I had time to blog while I was at Disney).

2) There were days that didn’t go exactly as planned and that’s okay.  Being flexible is something you have to do while on a Disney trip.  Your fastpass may have to be used later because of weather, you may not be able to go swimming when you’re at the resort because of lightning, you may need to pick an attraction that you wouldn’t normally do because it’s hot out and you just need to sit in the A/C for a moment!

3) I have learned that going at this very hot time of year, it is absolutely necessary for me to go back to the resort and get a break from the parks.  There was a time in my youth where I could hit early extra magic hours in the morning a park and stay through closing time.  At 30 years old, that is not the case.  I need a break.  If you have kids I bet they need a break too!

4) The next vacation I plan will absolutely NOT have 6 park days back to back.  I need a break in between parks.  At most, I will plan 2 days of parks in a row, and then a break.  Break days are great for either swimming at the resort or a water park, and shopping at Downtown Disney.  I had a GREAT time on my vacation, but I am exhausted.  This could have been a much more relaxing trip had we even done 1 less day in the parks and taken a day off to recoup.

Park Day 4- Hollywood Studios

Alright today is Hollywood Studios day!  So much to see and do!

 

The Earful Tower at Hollywood Studios

The Earful Tower at Hollywood Studios

6:30 – Wake Up Call

7:00- Split a Quick Service Breakfast and a Snack at resort

8:00- Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios

10:00- Fast Pass for Tower of Terror

11:55- Fast Pass for Toy Story Midway Mania

12:30- Split a Quick Service Lunch

1:30- Fast Pass for Star Tours

2:30- Return to resort for napping and pool time

5:00- Return to Hollywood Studios

5:50- Dinner at Sci-Fi Dine In

9:00- Get in line for Fantasmic

10:30- Fantasmic

11:15- Return to Resort

 

What we plan to do during Extra Magic Hours– We will definitely be checking out Aerosmith’s Rockin Roller Coaster during this time.  The big three wait times that you’ll see at Hollywood Studios are Toy Story  Mania, Rockin Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror.  These are the most thrilling rides in the park, and generally have the highest wait times.  The way they have it set you can either choose Toy Story or Rockin Roller Coaster for a fast pass, but not both.  Because of that we will be checking out that ride first thing!  Depending on how quick we get in and out of that ride we may go check out Toy Story again prior to our fastpass!

What we plan on doing that we’ve never done before- We will be eating dinner at the Sci-Fi Dine in restaurant which will be a new experience for us.  The only attraction/show that we’ve never really seen at Hollywood studios that isn’t geared for toddlers is the “Lights, Motor, Action!- Extreme Stunt Show” so we are definitely going to try to check it out 🙂

There are two Fantasmic shows, one at 9pm and one at 10:30pm, why did we choose the later showing– We are SLEEPING IN TOMORROW!

 

Park Day #2- The Magic Kingdom

Happy Thursday!!!  We are going to the  Magic Kingdom today 😀  While Epcot is definitely my favorite park, the Magic Kingdom is certainly the most magical!  I am looking forward to the magical moments 🙂

2011 Vacation

2011 Vacation

Today’s Plan

5:30- Wake up and run 3 miles (Even though I’m on vacation, I’m still training for a race… you’ll never guess where that race will be… cough cough Disney)

7:00- Split Quick Service Breakfast and Snack at resort food court

7:25- Depart for Magic Kingdom

8:00-9:00- Extra Magic Hour at MK

11:00- Fast Pass at Big Thunder Railroad

12:00- Fast Pass at Splash Mountain

1:00- Table Service Lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern

2:00- Fast Pass at 7 Dwarfs Mine Train

3:00- Either return to the resort for a nap, or find an air conditioned show to take a nap in.

6:00- Quick Service Dinner at Cosmic Rays Starlight Cafe

9:00- Main Street Electrical Parade

10:00- Wishes

11:00- Return to the Resort and BED

What we plan to do during our Extra Magic Hour- During our extra magic hour we will be heading to Space Mountain.  And then probably heading toward new fantasyland.  Depending on how long the line is, we may do the standby line for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, even though we have a fast pass for it.  I’ve heard that the que is SUPER interactive and wonderful, and I would like to experience the que without the fastpass.  If the line is under 60 minutes we will probably go for it 🙂

What we’ll be doing that we’ve never done before- The seven dwarfs mine train will be a new experience because it’s brand new!  We also plan to ride the jungle cruise, dumbo the flying elephant (I know it’s shocking, but I haven’t rode this since I was very small!), Tom Sawyers island, and the Tomorrowland people mover (I rode this one in 2012, but hubby wasn’t with me on that trip!)

Whew!  Busy day!!! Tomorrow we’re heading to Epcot, MY FAVORITE PARK!!!!

First Day in the Parks- Animal Kingdom Day

Today is our first day park day and we are going to the Animal Kingdom!

The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom Park

The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom Park

 

ANIMAL KINGDOM DAY!

6:00am- Wake up call

6:30- Split quick service (QS) breakfast and snack at resort food court

7:15- Depart for the Animal Kingdom

8:00-9:00- Extra Magic Hour at AK

9:40- Fastpass for Kilamanjaro Safari

11:00- Finding Nemo the Musical

11:55-Fast Pass for Everest

12:30- Split a QS Lunch at Flame Tree BBQ

12:55-Fast Pass for Kali River Rapids

1:30- Return to Resort for pool time or a nap

4:00- Head back to Animal Kingdom

5:00- Festival of the Lion King

6:00- Head to Animal Kingdom Lodge

6:25- Dinner at Boma (Table Service)

7:30- Go to Downtown Disney and ride Characters in Flight

10:00- Return to Resort and Bedtime!

During our Extra Magic Hour we plan to head straight for “Expedition Everest”.  This is our favorite ride, so we plan to make use of this time and get a chance to ride it without a fast pass before the lines get long 🙂  After that ride we plan on walking through the Maharajah Jungle trek.

Things that we’ll be doing for the first time- We’ve never walked through the Maharahjah Jungle Trek, we have never seen Finding Nemo the Musical, and we have never rode Kali River Rapids.  On Kali River Rapids you will get wet, not just a little wet, a lot wet.  When planning my fast passes, I made sure that I planned to do this ride during a hot part of the day, and I made sure I planned to do this ride right before we return to the hotel.  This way I won’t be walking around the rest of the afternoon soaking wet.  We’ve also never eaten at the Flame Tree BBQ or Boma (actually have never been to the Animal Kingdom Lodge before either).  We’re looking forward to an exciting day of firsts 🙂

Tomorrow we are heading to the Magic Kingdom!

**When we booked we also booked the Disney Dining Plan.  For each night of our stay we each get 1 Quick Service meal per person, 1 Table Service Meal, and 1 Snack.  Each meal, whether it’s QS or TS includes an entree, dessert, and beverage.

 

 

How to Plan your Disney Vacation

Disclaimer about this post, I am a mouskaholic and love all things Disney.  This is how I plan my Disney Vacation.  Just because this is the way that I plan my vacation, doesn’t mean it is how you have to plan your vacation.  Everyone has their own way of doing things, and it doesn’t make it right or wrong, just different.  If you’ve never planned a Disney vacation before this is a good starting point though!

 

Step 1)– Look at a calendar and see when is the best time for your family to go.  Time is important when you’re planning a Disney vacation, and if you want to maximize your vacation, this is a step that can be planned carefully.  Also research the best time of year to go to Disney and see if that works for your family.  Often in the fall, Disney will run specials with free dining plans, and discounted room rates, BUT, if you have kids in school, you’ll have to decide if you can take the kids out of school for the trip or not.  It may seem small, but picking the time to go is a big step.  (Side note, I learned the hard way this year that planning to leave the day after school was out was a BAD choice!  We ended up having what seemed like a BAZILLION snow days this year, and ended up having make up days!  I swear calling Disney to cancel my vacation was one of the worst days of my life… no exaggeration.)

calendar

Step 2)– Visit the Disney World website and create an account if you don’t already have one.

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/

Setting up the account is very simple,  there is a link at the top of the page that says create and account.  It will direct you to a page with some preliminary information, enter it, make a username and password and BAM, let the planning begin 🙂

Step 3)- Research the resorts.  From that main Disney website page click on “Places to Stay”.  Look at several resorts and figure out what is within your budget.  There are three levels, Value, Moderate, and Deluxe.  There are differences both in price and amenities between these resorts.  I recommend picking three different resorts… you’ll see why in the next step 😉

Step 4)– Begin pricing your vacation!  You’ll do this from the main Disney World page.  Right at the top, you’ll enter your dates, how many people are going on the trip, and the resort.  Price out the vacation with your top choice in resorts. I would then check out the pricing with one or two other resort options.

This step is a little involved.  After you leave the main page you will have other options to select  a)Which room type you’d like b) how many days worth of park tickets you’d like c)Whether or not you’d like to add the park hopper or water park options d) Whether or not you’d like to add the dining plan (If going with this option, you’ll then need to select which dining option you’d like to go with).

Disney Website Homepage.  Price your vacation

Disney Website Homepage. Price your vacation

At this point I write down the price and details and then price it another way, different resort, different number of park tickets, etc. to see what is going to work best for us.

Step 5) Choose which option is best for your family and your budget.

Step 6) Book your flights.  I always book my flights before my vacation.  The reason being is that I like to be able to enter my flight information when I book my Disney vacation, so that I don’t have to call later and schedule my Disney Magical Express.

Step 7)- Book your vacation!  To book you’ll have to have a $200.00 deposit.  This can be paid by credit card or with Disney Gift Cards!

Disney Gift Cards

Disney Gift Cards

 

(If you’re in the Northeast Ohio area, I HIGHLY recommend going to Giant Eagle and purchasing Disney Gift cards!  That way you get the fuel perks!  Christmas time, and over the summer will sometimes run 20 cent fuel perks for gift cards!  Seriously, I saved close to $400 in gas this year by buying my Disney gift cards!)

Step 8) Start to plan your itinerary.  Using the Disney World website, find out which days over your vacation offer Extra Magic Hours at each park.  Extra Magic Hours are special times that are available for guests staying on Disney Property.  They will generally open the park 1 hour early, or stay open up to two hours after park closing for guests staying on property.  With that being said, I choose which park we will attend on a given day based on the available extra magic hours.  You can find out which parks have extra magic hours by following these steps

a) From the main page click scroll over “Theme Parks and Tickets” and Select a park.

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 8.40.06 AM

b) Select a park, and click on the calendar for that park, check the dates and see if there are Extra Magic Hours available.  This step takes a while because I check for every day that I will be there, and for each of the four parks.

Extra Magic Hours available

Extra Magic Hours available

 

c) I build my itinerary based on which parks have extra magic hours for the day.   On some trips we’ve had the park hopper option, and have gone to a park in the morning that had early Extra Magic Hours, and then ended the day with a park that has evening extra magic hours!

Step 9) Dining Reservations.  Now you know what day you’ll be in which park, so you can make your dining reservations.  If you’re wanting restaurants like Be Our Guest Restaurant, Cinderella’s Royal Table, or Le Cellier Steakhouse, try to make your dining reservations as soon as possible.

Not sure which restaurants you want?  You can again use the Disney website to research the restaurants.  Click on a specific park, then the dining link

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 8.49.48 AM

This link will show you all the restaurants within a park.  You can narrow your search to include only the table service restaurants, and then check out their menus.

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 8.51.43 AM             Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 8.52.54 AM

Step 10) Alright, you’ve covered most of the main steps.  When you reach the point where you are 60 days away from your vacation, you can then book your fast passes for the rides you want!

Fast pass selection window

Fast pass selection window

 

Step 11)  Okay, now here’s the hardest part… WAIT for your magical vacation to arrive!  I also recommend researching at this point.  This is the time to read up on the Disney parks, check out cool Disney blogs (cough cough… Confessions of a Mouskaholic) ask questions from friends and family who have been there before, and look for ways to enjoy your vacation more!

 

Alright, I know that I just threw a TON of information your way, so if you have a question PLEASE don’t hesitate to ask in the comments, or send me a message on the facebook page!  www.facebook.com/mouskaholic