Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer here we come

Summer is vacation season. Families rev up there family vehicles and set off for the great outdoors. We will be blogging about the great all American road trip, how to get the best air deals, vacation spots you shouldn't miss and more in the next few weeks. Please, stay tuned and we welcome ideas and information you can add for our readers.

No matter how you are getting to your destination, we found a website full of activities and ideas to keep the kids busy for hours! This is a Godsend for long car trips, but will work for flights and train rides too. Set it in your bookmarks and pull it out before your trips!

Mom's minivan activities site

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Pros and Cons of the Swan and Dolphin Resorts in Disney World.

I am a Disney Freak. Yes, I am proud of it and wear the title proudly. Disney is a pilgrimage we make at least once a year. We have been there over 30 times, and have planned numerous trips for others. Besides, the mug controversy and the people in a room controversy, the thing we hear most about is the Swan and Dolphin vs. the Disney resorts. We have stayed at both Disney resorts and the Swan and Dolphin and after staying at the Swan and Dolphin over 20 of those times, these two resorts can't be beat. Yes, the Swan and Dolphin are NOT Disney owned resorts; the land they sit on is leased to Starwood by Disney. Both hotels were designed by postmodernist architect Michael Graves, and are considered Deluxe resorts . They have 2,500 rooms and suites, seventeen restaurants and lounges (including one character meal, Todd English's Blue Zoo, Shula's Steak House etc...), many shops, five swimming pools, two health clubs, spa, Kids Clubs, business center, five nearby golf courses and a miniature golf course, and much more. If you need to leave the property at any time a Mears Limo or Town car is available for hire at the valet stand.

The rooms are roomy and bright, and were designed with special touches by Michael Graves. Their Heavenly Beds® are just that..heavenly. You won't want to get out of them quickly. Many of the rooms overlook Disney fireworks. On our July visit last year, we had a magnificent room. From the window at one end of the corridor we could see the Epcot fireworks, from the window on the other end of the corridor we could see The Studio fireworks, and finally from our balcony we could se Wishes off in the distance. At one point we did not know which way to watch! The Swan and Dolphin have exceptional service, from check in to check out. There is a Disney desk in both lobbies of each hotel as well as a concierge desk to help with reservations and other needs you may have. Packages delivery from the parks can be done until the day before you leave and items can be picked up at the Disney store in the hotel.

Guests of the Swan and Dolphin get many of the perks that Disney onsite guests receive. They are entitled to the EMH (extra magic hours) which enables guests of Disney resorts and a select few others to enter certain parks 1 hour early or stay after parking closing up to 3 hours later. This is great for the summer when the parks are crowded and only onsite guests are allowed to enter a park. Recently they have been using room keys as a way of making sure that only onsite guests get on rides during that time. Another special perk is the use of Disney transportation to and from your hotel. The Swan and Dolphin resorts are nestled between the Disney Studios and the World Showcase in Epcot. As a matter of fact, you can walk to both parks in less than 10 minutes, but there is a water taxi that takes you to both if you want a leisurely ride. The Boardwalk entertainment complex, the Beach Club and Yacht club resorts are within a five minute walk. How much more immersed can you be than next door to two deluxe Disney resorts and all their amenities plus between two Disney Parks (Epcot and The Studios)

The Swan and Dolphin also have specials and discounts not offered by Disney resorts. Recently they had a "get a room for regular price and the second room was $99" special. They also offer special rates to teachers and nurses with proper documentation. For teachers, it includes administrators and school personnel. They are just now finishing a military promotion. Swan and Dolphin guests can also take advantage of AAA and CAA discounts as well as, Entertainment rate discounts and coupons.

Now what is it about the Swan and Dolphin Resorts that differs from Disney resorts? You can not charge purchases to your resort key. Purchases at the park can not be put on your room key, but must be paid separately. You can not participate in the Disney Dinning plan or the Magical Express. Mickey Mouse is not available to make wake up calls in the morning. If these things are critical to your enjoyment then by all means do not stay here. Disney has plenty of options for everyone.

The Swan and Dolphin are themed, and elegant, but you can feel comfortable walking through the lobby in your bathing suit. You will see people in suits, families getting ready for a day at the park, and others just enjoying the hotel. Busses to the parks can be taken from the front of both hotels, and are often shared with the Boardwalk , Beach Club and Yacht Club guests. The water taxi mentioned earlier takes you to Epcot or The Disney Studios.

The Swan and Dolphin are great Deluxe resorts in the heart of Disney, that offer an affordable way of staying on site without paying some pretty hefty prices. It has everything you may want from a resort.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ride vehicles and the American public

This is a touchy subject, and I have been on both sides of the aisle on this one. I am 5 feet tall, and have struggled with my weight for years. I have weighed as much as 215 pounds and as little as 126 pounds in the last 10 years. I fluctuate quite a bit and struggle when I go places and have to think about fitting into something. We won't even get into the bathing suit issue here, that is something I do not want to scare you all with.

I was reading about the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter park and especially the the new Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. One website stated that as you entered the attraction there are warnings posted. Next to the warnings were two ride seats to make sure you will fit on the attraction. These look just like every other roller coaster seat out there. There is an over the head restraint,which buckles between the legs. On the side of the seat is a red and a green light. If you lower the restraint and the green light illuminates, you’re good to go. Red light, well, the queue is open to you, but you won’t be able to ride. They do the same thing in other amusement parks with tryout park vehicles, so that lines are not held up, or people embarrassed at the last minute when they do not fit.

We all know that Americans are larger than ever. Statistics point to 65% of American being overweight, including the writer of this article. Some airlines are asking larger passengers to pay for two seats, if they can not fit in one seat comfortably. We have all experienced having someone sit next to you in those tiny airline seats, that took up more than their share of seat.  At Disneyland It's A Small World ride renovations were made to make canal deeper and the fiberglass boats were replaced with more buoyant ones, to accommodate our growing waist lines. I am sure that renovation will be felt in our pockets in ticket prices and growing food prices.

So, why are we not making seats larger? The answer in this writers opinion is money. Larger seats on a planes, means less passengers to charge. Less money coming in, in actuality they are doing the complete opposite trying to get in as many seats in an airplane as possible. On a ride less seats on a ride means longer queues which makes for unhappy customers. I am sure some rides have weight limits for it to function safely, so that has to be taken into affect.

For the Harry Potter ride someone who does not fit can experience the queue but not the actual ride. Some places have special places where the physically disabled or those who do not fit can watch. Harry Potter is not one of them, and that is a shame. What the answer is I do not know. Larger seats would raise prices I am sure, so wouldn't adding an area where people could watch the ride. Right now, I know what my option is, lose weight before I go in August or miss out. There is no way I am missing out, so dieting for Harry it is!

Maybe I should learn to play Quiditch...I am sure that would burn a few calories.... What do you think? Let us know....

 Christmas Cruise Sale!

Don't miss out! If you are interested in our group rate on the Navigator of the Seas for Christmas. Please click on the image below or call us!

Click on the Second Star Travel icon below to make your reservation NOW!!!
Or call 508-808-5995

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Giving back to those who need it......

We had a great time at the kidney walk...lots of fun being had today for everyone. There was a live band, jugglers, stilt walkers, and food. We got to go into the Franklin Park Zoo early before the general public. We raised over $1,600 ! This is a sampling of our group as some had kids, and stayed to enjoy the Zoo.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Planning for a trip

I am sitting here on my sofa, watching TV with my youngest daughter thinking of what the heck I am going to blog about. Ghost Whisper does not inspire lots of thoughts on traveling, at least any traveling I want to do anytime soon. My mind begins to wander and I think of how do we even decide on where we want to go each year. Do we see something on TV, because with the plethora of travel info on TV, God knows we never have to leave the sofa. Or is it suggestions we hear from our friends, neighbors or co-workers? Whatever it is, we usually have a strong connection to it. Think about it once the idea takes hold it grows and grows and we plan even if it is something far of in the future. We all have trips we have planned that we haven't taken, but know exactly how we would want it to go. Traveling is something in all of our blood. Something humans have done for as long as there is history.

Now with the internet it is so easy to research where we want to go. We can find where we want to go, who to make it easy to get there, and pay for it without ever getting out of bed.We have it easy compared to our parents, and we have access to places through the internet that they would have never even thought of.  The world is literally at our fingertips. So...take out those travel books, fire up google, and lets get planning!

So, where do you want to go and why? What made you pick your place and what draws you there?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

May 9 - Second Star Travel

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The second Cruise Line to add a fuel charge

Will the rest follow suit? I am thinking that if gas does go over $4 a gallon, the cruise lines will have no choice. My advice is if you are going to book a cabin do it quick, to avoid the charge. Here is the email I just received.

Dear Travel Partner,

Because of the continued rapid escalation of fuel prices, Cunard Line and P&O (UK) will introduce a fuel supplement of $3.85 (USD) per person per day. These brands will also implement this fuel supplement on third and fourth passengers.

The new fuel supplements will apply to all new bookings effective May 10, 2010 and will apply to all departures from November 1, 2010. The fuel supplements will not exceed $154.00 per person per voyage.

For bookings made prior to May 10, 2010, no fuel supplement will apply.

We regret having to take this action, but fuel price increases have continued, and we now find it necessary to implement a modest supplement.

Please remember that all of your bookings made on or before May 9, 2010 will not be subject to the new fuel supplement. Most importantly, we want to thank you for your business and continuing support.


Peter Shanks
President and Managing Director

 Christmas Cruise Sale!

Don't miss out! If you are interested in our group rate on the Navigator of the Seas for Christmas. Please click on the image below or call us!

Click on the Second Star Travel icon below to make your reservation NOW!!!
Or call 508-808-5995

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The ins and outs of the Disney Dining Plan

To help our guests we have brought the explanation of how Disney Dining works over from the Disney site. Disney Dining is offered for free to the Disney Card holders, and occasionally to regular guests through out the year. It is currently being offered to both for packages booked now with travel between Aug 15, 2010, and Oct 2, 2010. Please call us at 1--508-808-5995 or email us at to book your trip.

Fantastic benefits...
  • A convenient and flexible way for you to budget meals during your Walt Disney World holiday
  • Enjoy the choice of over 100 participating restaurants in the Disney Parks and Hotels and throughout the whole of Walt Disney World
  • With no need to carry cash
  • PLUS with the Quick (Counter) Service meal you save 20% and with the Disney Deluxe dining Plan you save 40%
Here's how it works:
  • Present your Key to the World card, which electronically includes your family's allocated meals, to your server prior to ordering.
  • Track your meals with the easy-to-read receipt your server will provide.
  • Enjoy the flexibility of redeeming your meals in any order or in any amount throughout your package stay.
  • Many Disney table-service restaurants are quite popular and book quickly. Please make dining reservations from home up to 180 days in advance.
Choose the best dining package for you!