Jon Arthur, Owner, Big Dreams Travel
After three of the strangest years in the history of travel and tourism 2023 is finally upon us and things may finally be getting back to normal! I was able to get back on a cruise a few weeks ago with my whole family for the first time since COVID disrupted travel around the world and it was fantastic. The ship, the beach, the cruise staff, all of it was fantastic! As I laid on the beach in Cozumel one day of the cruise I jotted down a list of the top trips for families in 2023.
1) Universal Orlando Resort - Are you surprised that my top spot is not a Disney Destination...I know, I am too! But, Universal's game is strong right now and it is a place that has become better and better for families. I still would mainly recommend for a family where most of the kids are 42 inches tall or taller so they can ride most of the rides, but if that's you, Universal is a great way to go! They have several excellent hotels options for families that are very affordable. They have some of the best new attractions in the theme park industry in their theme parks, and their entertainment is second to none! If you've got a family, I promise you, Universal Orlando is worth a visit!
2) Cruising the Caribbean with Royal Caribbean or Disney - After my cruise of a few weeks ago I am still a huge fan of cruising because it is a great option for families. There is so much to do on the new cruise ships today for everyone in the family and when in the Caribbean you can't beat a relaxing day at the beach. Just take the ship I was on last week, there was an ice skating rink onboard...an ice skating rink! Royal Caribbean has just brought one of the biggest ships in the world, the Allure of the Seas to a new homeport in Galveston, TX if you are in the south central part of the country like me. Or if you are a Disney fan the luxury and service of a Disney Cruise Line vacation cannot be beat. Spending a day at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay will make you want to never go home!
3) Visit a Family Friendly All Inclusive Resort like Beaches Resorts - If relaxation is what you're after and a beautiful beach is what you love, then you should definitely consider finding an All Inclusive Family Friendly Resort for your next vacation. Picking the perfect all inclusive resort is definitely one of the things you would want a great travel agent for, and our Dream Designers at Big Dreams Travel can certainly help you find the perfect resort for your family. Beaches Resorts are just one awesome option that we recommend for families. The amenities that they have will cater to each and every member of the family; amazing beaches, relaxing pools, fun kids camps, spectacular dining, and thrilling water slides. The relaxation you feel at an all inclusive resort can't be beat!
So, there you have it. My three picks for things to do with your family in 2023 and at Big Dreams Travel we can help you plan the perfect experience, wherever it may be. Visit us at www.bigdreamstravelusa.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
By: Jon Arthur, Owner of Big Dreams Travel
As I work with clients on planning the perfect vacation for them and their families one area that people are often a bit apprehensive is when I mention a cruise vacation. I’m not sure where the apprehension comes from though. Maybe it is the small room, maybe it is leaving the country, maybe it is the fear of getting seasickness, or maybe it is just not being on dry land. Whatever the case may be cruising can come with fear or apprehension and with that in mind I’m going to give you five reasons why cruising may just be the vacation you’ve been waiting for. Keep your mind open and maybe, just maybe this list will put to rest some of the objections you or someone in your family has towards cruising.
By: Lysa Thornton, Agent at Big Dreams Travel
Try as I may, there’s really no way to successfully argue that the Disney World crowds during peak seasons are not that big of a deal. They’re a big deal. No doubt that traveling to the most magical of destinations during the summer, the ever-increasingly-popular Fall (with Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party) or Christmas/New Years can cause your stress levels to rise just at the mere thought of it. However, those are some of the best times to make memories! Pools and waterparks, trick or treating at Magic Kingdom, scrumptious food and wine festivities and the fairy tale world of Christmastime--these are times that should not be ruled out just because there are several more thousand crazy mouse lovers there with you!
While it can be tricky, navigating these popular times is absolutely doable and magical! Check out the following list of helpful hints and tips!
Stay on property
Although I believe that staying in a Disney resort is always the best idea, there are occasions where families will rent condos, stay with friends or try a discount hotel to save money. Peak season is not the time for that! The travel time to and from property wastes valuable minutes, not to mention the extra parking fees and the chance you could always get lost! The Disney transportation system, whether by bus, monorail or boat, takes you right to the heart of the action!
Utilize Extra Magic Hours
Those early morning or late night hours for Disney guests can provide guests opportunities to knock out several attractions! Sleeping in and enjoying easy mornings are wonderful if you’re on a cruise or at the beach. When you’re at Disney during peak seasons, it’s all about rising and heading to the parks! Grab a granola bar and arrive at the parks about 30 minutes before the Magic Hour opening. You could quite possibly ride 3-4 rides in an hour! Now, by the time lunchtime hits, the park that had the Extra Magic Hour will probably be extra crowded, so head home. Eat at your resort, take a nap, swim and then head back to a park. You could even leave one park and head straight to another that didn’t have Extra Magic Hour. Chances are that park won’t be as crowded. Don’t forget the late Extra Magic Hours! You can knock out several attractions that last hour after fireworks when people start to head home!
I am not always a fan of park hopping, but during the busy seasons, it can be a life saver! Utilizing parks just for their Extra Magic Hour and then hopping to another park can prove very efficient to your conquering of the parks!
Use those Fast Passes! Select those Fast Passes 60 days out! Do not wait until the car is packed and you’re heading east on I-10 to make those selections. Get to the parks at opening, and ride, ride, ride. Crowds are smallest in the morning, so no need to use Fast Passes before noon! Make your Fast Passes for early afternoon when things begin to get crazy. Then, once those initial 3 are used, use Fast Passes on every ride you can! Why wouldn’t you??
Ride Instead of Watch
People flock to the streets to line up for parades and fireworks. Take advantage of that and hit some attractions. If you want to watch parades or evening shows, always choose the latest times.
Have a Plan
I picture my dad in socks and sandals, pulling out a map in the middle of Main Street pondering which direction we should point ourselves. Um, not these days! You must go with a plan! Websites, My Disney Experience, blogs, experienced friends and Authorized Dsiney Vacation Planners (like me!) can help you design a plan of attack for your vacation during these times.
Ok, now that you have a plan, be flexible enough to stray from it just a bit! It is so essential to tour Disney with a plan, yet it is even more crucial to not be locked into that plan. Sometimes things don’t work out according to plan. A ride will break down. Cranky pants will needs nap to save everyone’s sanity. Dad loses his glasses on Space Mountain and must search now for them. Or the crowds will just be too much. Be willing to bend for the sake of everyone’s emjoyment and your ultimate success of your vacation. Magic happens in the World, but sometimes you must work for it and give just a little.
Use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner
Hey, we love what we do! Planning vacations aren’t overwhelming to us, it’s fun! Each family is unique and your vacation plans should be tailored to the personalities in your family. Our services are free and we are committed to you having the very best Disney experience possible!
By: Jon Arthur, Owner of Big Dreams Travel
As someone who loves working with clients to create the perfect vacation or getaway I am often faced with the task of booking one of these trips with just two or three months to spare or less. I enjoy every part of helping people in this area, but would like to present just a few of the reasons why I think it is important to book your vacations in advance if at all possible.
First, booking vacation packages or cruises in advance gives you access to the best prices and deals possible. This is especially true with cruise lines as they work off of tiered pricing structures. The prices for specific cruises will usually creep higher and higher as the sail date approaches. This certainly may not be the case in all situations, such as land vacations, but when working with a travel agent like myself you should almost always get a package that can be modified. Meaning that if a better rate, deal, or price comes out after you have made a deposit on your trip or cruise your agent can get that applied for you and get the price of your trip to come down. So, you are in a win-win situation. If you book early and the price never gets lower, you win. If you book early and the price goes down at some point, you still win as your agent can modify your package!
Second, the hesitation by many to book early is they do not yet have the funds saved or ready. Well, when working with a travel agent almost all of the packages or cruises we book only require a deposit and final payment is not due until a date that is usually between 30 and 75 days in advance of the trip. So, you are getting to book your vacation for the lowest possible rate because you book early and you do not have to pay in full until later. You are getting the best of both worlds. It is also important to note that vacation package or cruise deposits are refundable in almost every case up until that final payment date. So if something unexpected comes up you can get back the amount you paid as a deposit or move your trip to a different date in the future.
A final reason that I always recommend booking early is that you have plenty of time to plan the activities that go along with your vacation. This factor is more important with some destinations than others. When cruising for instance many cruise lines are going to advance reservations for things such as specialty dining, spa services, and activities on-board and some are even giving a discount by booking and paying for these in advance. If you do not have a reservation well in advance you may miss out on certain experiences, restaurants, or the times you want for these events or meals. Another great example of trips we book all the time are families traveling to Disney World. Disney opens dining reservations 180 days prior to that date, so it is very important to have your trip planned by this point. With the popularity of dining at Disney and specifically the Disney Dining Plan many restaurants book a large amount of their times at that six month mark, leaving someone booking late in a tough spot. Now, as your agent we would do everything we can to watch and find a reservation, but planning in advance is a much easier and less stressful way of getting those important reservations.
You see there are many great reasons and advantages to booking your vacation early. We realize this is not always possible in every situation and as an agency we will work with you regardless, but booking in advance has some great perks and if you've never tried it, contact us today and let's start on something for 2017.
We are a full service travel agency located in the Oklahoma City Metropolitan area, but we have great agents and clients all over the country and would love to serve you! Visit the Contact Us page for help with your next vacation.