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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Disney's Polynesian Bungalows: Are they worth the price?

I was a bit shocked the first time I priced out a Polynesian Bungalow for myself. It was only for a 4 night stay, but it came out to something in the neighborhood of $8000. How is that possible, it's just a hotel room and I only sleep there right?
Clearly. I did not book that room and instead went with a standard theme park view room that was significantly cheaper, I did take the opportunity to tour one of the bungalows though and here are my thoughts on why it might be worth it:

If you have questions about booking one of these bungalows, or about renting DVC points to book one, contact us today!

1. It's two bedrooms and two baths: For larger families this room is going to be much more comfortable than your standard room. Besides having 2 bedrooms, it also has 2 bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a washer/dryer. The bed setup is even better, 1 bedroom has a king, the other a queen and a bunk-sized pull down, and the living room has a double sleeper sofa and a bunk-sized pull down. You add all that up and you're talking sleeping space for up to 8 people. 

2. A room with a view: The bungalows are all located along the beach of the seven seas lagoon with a fabulous unobstructed view of Magic Kingdom. So much so that those jerks obstructed my view a bit in my cheaper theme park view room. This pic below is pretty much what my view was, so imagine what the view from the back deck of one of those is like!

What's better than a fabulous view of Magic Kingdom? How about a view with a plunge pool? That's right, I said a plunge pool. Each bungalow has a rear deck overlooking the seven seas lagoon. The deck is furnished with a small table and two hanging basket chairs, two lounge chairs, and a small 2-4 person plunge pool. Now, I do not recommend the plunge pool for very long. After all, it's like sitting in bath water, but I really enjoyed having a drink and sitting in one while I watched the electric water parade and the Wishes Fireworks. It felt like I was on my own little island.

3. Location! Location! Location! The Polynesian is conveniently located on the Magic Kingdom resorts monorail line. I cannot stress enough how awesome this convenience is. From the bungalows, you have about an equal walk to the front of the resort as you do the the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). This means that you can actually walk to the TTC for the monorail to Epcot as well. The monorail is not perfect, it does occasionally stall or have to stop and wait for one on the track ahead, but it is sooooooo much better than sitting on a bus. Soooooo much better, and 9 times out of 10, it's faster too.

I like what I am hearing, but what kind of savings tips can you offer? 
Okay, so clearly there is not much you can do about the price. It is what it is and if you want to stay there, you need to prepare yourself for the price tag. However, here are a few strategies for saving:

Go during the "off" season: Pricing on all resorts when they are the slowest is the lowest; Disney calls this "Adventure" or "Value" season and there is almost always some promotion running to entice you to the more expensive rooms. The added bonus of traveling during these times is that the parks are much, much slower. I took a picture in Epcot one time in the last few days of August and you would have thought that the park was closed.

Yea, this was 2 in the afternoon....
Share and share alike: 8 people to a room is a lot. So if you have another family member or friend who is itching to stay in one of these, consider splitting the cost. It's still going to be expensive, but if you can get a promotional rate and split it with someone as crazy as you are, it just might work out!

Start a Disney Savings Account: The Disney Savings account has a promotional element to it that gets you a $20 gift card for every $1000 spent on a Disney vacation. Now, there are some requirements as far as how long the account is open and what you can use it for, but free money is free money. You combine that with the added flexibility of being able to "fund" the account with a credit card and a savvy rewards card user could really compound some dollars out of the process. Nothing better than money earning money!

Rent DVC points: This one is a bit trickier. When you rent DVC points, you are essentially renting someone's timeshare that they are not going to use. You would have to rent enough points for the dates that you want and you would want to make sure that those dates are available (you may need to book 7-11 months in advance). As a result, I highly recommend talking to someone who has done it before and who is well versed in how it works. Since I am a DVC owner, and have rented and rented out points many times, I would be happy to explain it. Email me today!

Get a travel agent: I know, I know, this one is self serving since I am an agent and own an agency, but I cannot stress enough how much having a travel agent in your corner can help. Between snagging a promotional rate before it runs out, helping with dining, and explaining the whole fastpass system, a travel agent can easily be the best vacation decision you make. For most destinations (like Disney) our services are totally free, so it's a win-win. By having a solid strategy for my clients, I have saved them anywhere from $500 to $1000 per night on the bungalows specifically.

Contact us today to help you plan your next adventure!
Here is a peak at a short Disney commercial about the resort!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Top Tips: Planning a Last Minute Getaway

Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, so why is it so stressful to plan one? Well, most of the time we put that stress on ourselves because we worry if we're truly going to get the best deal, pick the right hotel, get gouged on flights, and so on and so on. It's no wonder so many folks put off planning a vacation for as long as they can.

How can you minimize that unnecessary anxiety? Here are a few ideas from a professional:

1. Stay away from review sites! (You know which one I mean): 
This one is probably the toughest. It's so tempting to see what other people say about your destination, but consider the types of reviewers that those sites attract. You either get the best (people who are just happy to get away), the worst (people who would complain about anything and everything), the professional reviewer (someone who is paid by the destination or their competitors to leave either a positive or negative review), or a fair and balanced review. As I am sure you can imagine, that last one is pretty rare... one kissed my forehead and tucked me in, 1 star!

2. Follow the flights:
If you are looking to save a few dollars, flight flexibility is the key. There are always consumer reports and travel magazines that publish the cheapest flight purchasing days based on their findings from applying complicated algorithms, but if you are planning a last minute getaway, you may not have the luxury of purchasing on day 76. If this is the case, and you are not locked into a particular destination, do a "Google Flights" search to the area and then click on "Explore Destinations". This will show you a google map with lots of pricing for flights that originate from your selected airport. This is has been enormously helpful for me when I am searching for flights to the Caribbean! Also, google flights lets you see the pricing snapshot on the Calendar drop down, so perhaps switching one day could also save you on the price! 

Book a trip with me today!

3. Scrimp on flights and/or excursions not the resort!
This one is tough. As a travel agent, you do not know how many times I have heard, "Well, we're just sleeping there". Yes, you are just sleeping there, sleeping where you spend at least 1/3 of your resort time. It's a good bet that a bad resort will have bad beds. Plus, if weather confines you to a yucky room or a yucky resort, you will start regretting your choice very quickly. 

The other bonus about selecting a great resort is that you don't necessarily have to leave property if everything you need it right there. This has always been comforting to travelers who have concerns about traveling to areas that have a reputation for safety issues.

4. Know what is important to you:

Are you a foodie? A sports nut? A beach bum? It's so important to know what you want when you are looking at resort and destination options. It's not realistic to think that a resort can be everything to every guest (although many of them do make an honest effort). So, if you know that the quality of the beach is very important to you, keep that in mind when you are conducting your research. Also, be realistic about your expectations when you are there. If you are getting bad service, that is one thing, but keep in mind that these resorts want you to be happy. So, if something isn't right, speak up!

5. Get a Travel Agent!

I know I say this one a lot and it's a controversial opinion for folks who like to plan out the details themselves. Remember, however, having a travel agent doesn't mean that you have to turn over the reigns to someone else, it just means that you have someone to bounce stuff off of. Someone who may have intimate knowledge of your destination, resort, or the deals that are out there sometimes. There are so many benefits to using an industry expert, to name a few: they have access to lots of deals without having to do a ton of searching, they may have important knowledge about your destination or resort, you would be contributing to the bottom line of a small business, most planning will come with little or no cost to you, and you never know how much they can save you!

Contact me today to find out how I can help you plan a fabulous last minute getaway!