Thursday, April 23, 2015

Travel Insurance ~ What is it, do I really need it and when should I add it?

Travel Insurance ~
What is it, do I really need it and when should I add it?

When you purchase travel from a Travel Agent one of the questions they will ask you is, “Do you want Travel Insurance?” Good question!!!!

Travel Insurance is insurance to protect you if anything happens that affects your travel plans. Travel Insurance can protect your vacation financial investment if for reasons of illness or family emergency you can’t travel. It can also cover trip delays, lost luggage, and medical emergencies while on vacation and even trip cancelation due to weather. The weather coverage is especially nice if you are doing a cruise during Hurricane Season (June-November). If your travel plans are interrupted all you lose is the insurance premium not the entire vacation savings. That way you are free to reschedule another trip right away.

Disney Company uses Travelex Insurance services. When booking make sure you look at the Travel Insurance offered and see what it covers and what is excluded for your particular package. I suggest making sure you think about your family situation. Do you have anybody in your travel group or family that is elderly or ill? Could their health effect your plans and make you cancel your trip? I think about my elderly mother-in-love when considering Travel Insurance. If something happens to her I would change my plans no matter what the cost. Are you going during seasons where weather could affect your travel plans? I think of travel delays caused by winter storms and hurricanes when considering the need.

Many really good Travel Agents will suggest you add Travel Insurance when you book your trip. This is good because you know you are covered right from the start if for any reason your plans change. But, read on my travel buddies! There are problems with this! There are reasons to rethink if you need it and when to add it.

Yes, I believe Travel Insurance is a good decision for most people. If you are young, health and your extended family is healthy you may want to skip insurance. So when to add it is the question! Disney allows you to add Travel Insurance to your trips booked with them up to the time you make your last payment. So if you wish to pay for your vacation in full hold off $50 and wait until the last day. Go purchase a Disney Gift Card for $50 and use it to hold off paying if you want to make sure you don’t spend it for anything else. Then add the Travel Insurance with that final payment but not before!

Disney understands that plans change and people plan a year in advance or more to go on their Disney Vacation. Things happen and people need to cancel their reservations. That is why Disney allows you to cancel your reservations with no penalty in most cases up to the stated cancellation date. (Some reservations do have a no cancellation policy so read before your book and ask your Travel Agent.) You will get the entire amount refunded to you.

So why wait to add Travel Insurance if Disney understands that you might have to cancel? Because if you have paid for insurance you will lose the premium for the insurance even if you cancel before the stated cancellation date. So wait! You will not lose any money if you cancel and if you don’t cancel you can add it with the final payment protecting yourself when you need it most, when you are past the cancellation date and traveling.

Long post just to say, Travel Insurance is a good thing to have but wait until time for your final payment to add it so if you cancel before that you don’t lose the price of the insurance premium. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Disney Cruise or Walt Disney World? How to Decide?

Disney Cruise or Walt Disney World? How to Decide?

Trying to decide between a Disney Cruise and a Walt Disney World vacation? Both are wonderful vacations! Think a stay at Walt Disney World is cheaper than a Disney Cruise? It can be if you stay at a value resort, eat only quick service and do not go to any shows such as La Nouba that cost extra. You can add a dinning plan but that brings the price of a Walt Disney World stay up near the cost of a Disney Cruise. If mom and dad want grownup time without the kids you either need to take someone along with you on vacation to watch the kids or pay for child care services at the resort. Room Service not included, any extra snacks come out of pocket.

The Disney Cruise Line lets you pay know up front what your entire vacation will cost. Once you pay the cruise fare you don’t have to spend a dime more if you don’t wish too. 100% of food and entertainment is included. For soda you will need to make trips to the pool deck to refill at the soda fountain if you want a soda between meals or to take to your room, but it is there and free. Even room service is included! Free Kids Clubs for all children ages 3 (and potty trained) to 17! Hours for the kids clubs are the longest at sea and are 9 am to midnight and 11 am to 2 am for teens.

Are there costs above the Cruise Fare? Yes! The adult only restaurants, Palo and Remy’s do charge (Palo $30, Remy $65-75) if you want but even with one meal the price is not outrageous. Take soda, coffee or tea with you into a lounge and listen to the music, dance, play adult trivia or listen to a comedy show. Or you can spend extra and purchase an alcoholic beverage of your choice. Port Adventures to explore your Ports of Call do cost extra but you can just get off and walk around the port area if you wish. Spa and Salon treatments are an additional charge.

With a Disney Cruise you can pay in advance for your Port Adventures, Spa/Salon treatments and Adult Restaurants. You can add wine packages that allow you to purchase a predetermined number of bottles of wine to have with dinner. This way you can budget for them. If you don’t want to pay in advance you can keep track of the costs and know what funds you need to bring.

Other than the above stated extra costs the only other thing to spend on is merchandise. Many of the ports have good deals on jewelry and other local crafts. There are shops on the ships where you can purchase many wonderful items, some that you can find in the parks.

In my opinion a Disney Cruise is an easier to budget for vacation. With a Disney Parks stay you have to consider many variables that are not included. The cruise adds most of them in and those it does not you can generally figure out the amount you will need to bring. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Cinderella ~ Review

Cinderella ~ Review

This is a spoiler filled review. The reason is it’s been out for a while.

The story of Cinderella is an ancient one. Loving parents teach young Ella that courage, kindness and believing lead to good things happening. Tragedy strikes and mother dies. After years of father being lonely yet raising Ella with love and hope he decides he wants to try for personal happiness again and remarries.

The step mother and her daughters are vain and selfish. From the moment they arrive they treat the beautiful estate as if it was a hovel and Ella as if she is a simpleton. Ella responds with kindness and believes they will eventually accept her. They complain about everything. Soon after father goes on a business trip and he dies leaving the beautiful Ella at the whim of her step-mother.

Ella remembers the words of her mother and father and tries to live a life of courage and kindness. She shows joy in the little things and strives only to make others happy. Yet, she is not a doormat. She chooses to do the right thing even if that is not the way it has been done by others. After her father dies things get worse for Ella. Now living in the attic and doing all the work of running the estate for her uncaring step mother and sisters. They start calling her Cinderella because of the ashes on her face from sleeping next to the fire to stay warm.

At one point Ella has had enough of the abuse and starts to run away. She takes her horse and rides off into the forest. While there she sees a beautiful Stag. She hears hunters horns and tells the Stag to run. She takes the horse in the other directions leading the men away from the Stag. On the way the horse spooks and bolts off out of control. As she is trying to regain control a young man rides along beside her and helps her. The two talk and make an emotional connection. She tells him to let the Stag go. Men come and start to talk to the young man. He quickly stops them from saying his name. It turns out he is the prince. The prince is smitten with the mystery country girl he ran into. He is intrigued by the woman who will stand firm and fearless saying, “Just because it is always done that way does not make it right.”

The prince is so intrigued he decides to open the ball to all young ladies. He hopes to see the mystery girl he is so taken by. He tells his father he wants to marry for love not for duty. He does not care of the woman is a peasant or a princess.

Of course Lady Tremaine refuses to allow Cinderella to go to the ball and ruins the dress that belonged to her mother that Ella altered. When they leave Cinderella goes outside to cry. As she is weeping she finds an old beggar woman. The old woman asks for a glass of milk and a little kindness. Cinderella kindly gives her a bowl of milk. With that the old woman becomes a beautiful Fairy Godmother! She is ditsy and silly. She takes a pumpkin and turns it into a coach inside a greenhouse destroying it! She turns mice into horses, a goose into a coachmen and lizards into footmen. She alters Cinderella’s dress into a beautiful gown changing it from pink to blue.

Cinderella goes to the ball and spends the evening with the prince. She leaves at the last stroke of midnight and escapes with her coach returning to a pumpkin and smashing on the road on the way home. The prince decides he must marry this young lady who he feels will help strengthen the land with her positive attitude and strength. The search is on!

The king, realizing for the first time he wants his son happy no matter what tells the grand duke to find the young mystery lady. Lady Tremaine finds where Cinderella has hidden not only her one remaining glass slipper but a journal telling about her evening with the prince. Lady Tremaine tells the grand duke about Cinderella and says she is evil charlatan. The two agree to mislead the prince in an attempt to force him to marry a princess. The Grand Duke agrees to reward Lady Tremaine.

During the search the King dies leaving the prince grieving and even more determined to find his mystery girl. Word gets back to the new young king that his Grand Duke is not being diligent in his search. He hides in the soldier accompanying the duke. He is there when the beautiful Ella escapes and asks to have the shoe tested on her foot. His disloyalty is seen by the young king and Ella is found.

As the young king is escorting Ella out of the house Lady Tremaine collapses on the stairs leading up to Ella’s attic room. Ella turns around as she leaves the house and says, “I forgive you.” She never looks back after that. Lady Tremaine and her daughters leave the country never to be seen again.

The king and Ella marry and live happily ever after.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Why use a Disney Travel Planner/Travel Agent

Why use a Disney Travel Planner/Travel Agent

So you have decided to book a Disney Vacation. You have decided which Disney destination you want to enjoy. You’ve chosen how many days you plan on staying and what type of tickets you want. You may have even decided what hotel you want to stay at. So now to book the trip! Do you call a Travel Agent or book directly with Disney?

Yes, you can book directly with Disney for any and all Disney Destinations. You will get a clearly stated price and they will tell you about any current deals being offered for the time of your stay. They will give you all the choices and gladly tell you the pros and cons of each.

You can book with a Travel Agent (TA). You will get a clearly stated price and they will tell you about any current deals being offered for the time of your stay. They will give you all the choices and gladly tell you the pros and cons of each.

Wait?!?!? They offer you the same things! You will get the same price for the same thing from each. So why not just do it all yourself and skip the Travel Agent (TA)?

While the prices may be the same but the service offered is different. If you go through Disney book and later on Disney offers a special deal for the time you will be there they will not tell you about it. A good TA will keep track of the specials being offered and be glad to assist by making sure you get them if they apply to your booking. Besides possibly saving you money a good TA will also offer to make all your Advanced Dinning Reservations and Fastpass+. Anything to make your trip more magical a TA will assist.

Your TA will call ahead to Disney and make sure they know about any and all special celebrations on your trip. An excellent TA will follow through before, during and after your trip making sure things are going as you wish. A Travel Agent trained to do Disney Travel does not cost extra. We do it because we love to help make the Magic Happen.

So the next time you are planning a Disney Vacation, does not matter if it is Disneyland Resort, Disney World Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa or an Adventures by Disney tour contact your favorite Disney Travel Agent for a quote. Quotes are free. Have questions about your Disney Destination? Ask your Travel Agent! If they don’t know the answer they can find out for you.

Do you want to ask me questions or ask for a quote or ask questions? Feel free to contact me at

I’m a member of the team at Magical Starr Travel:

You can request a quote at:
You can request my services by clicking
Carolyn “Tinky” Hoagland for your choice of Travel Agent

Is the Disney Cruise Line Disability Friendly?

Is the Disney Cruise Line Disability Friendly?

I’m going to start out with sharing my experiences doing the Disney Cruise with people with disabilities, medical equipment, vision and hearing loss and dietary limitations.

My first cruise was in 2005. It was a large group of 15 family and friends. We had 3 people with mobility issues and used electric scooters. 2 of the 3 were also showing signs of dementia and would get lost easy. 2 people had diabetes. 4 had food allergies. Several just were picky eaters that I’ll add in to the same treatment as fool allergies. 1 had major vision issues.

First off for the mobility issues there are special staterooms with better accessibility. The staterooms have the following amenities for guests with mobility issues:
·        32” (minimum) doorways
·        Ramped bathroom thresholds
·        Open bed frames
·        Additional phones in the bathroom and on the nightstand
·        Bathroom and shower handrails
·        Fold-down shower seats
·        Hand-held shower heads
·        Lowered towel and closet bars
·        Emergency call buttons
The following special equipment is available upon request:
·        Bed board
·        Bedrail
·        Portable toilet
·        Raised toilet seat
·        Shower stool
·        Transfer bench
·        Refrigerator
·        Stateroom communication kits containing door knock and phone alerts, phone amplifier, bed shaker notification, a strobe light smoke detector and a Text Typewriter (TTY)

Wheelchair-Accessible Staterooms have wider doors and feature a wider path of travel inside the stateroom to give clearance for access to the entire room. If your mobility equipment will not fit inside your stateroom just ask your room steward and they will tell you where to park it. Just don’t leave it sitting in the halls.

For the 3 with mobility issues we usually had some of the able bodied of the group with them. We worked out going as a train. In the front with someone walking beside to guide was dad. Dad had both mobility, minor dementia and vision issues. Next was mom who had mobility issues. Coming up as the caboose was a family friend with mobility issues and dementia. An able walker went beside him to keep him from wondering off. 99% of the ship is accessible. That 1% that is not you are close enough to say you were there so it is not an issue.

Because we had told Disney Cruise Line ahead of time of the mobility issues and discussed the need for 1 of the 3 to stay on their scooter while dining every night at dinner there was a space left for him without a chair. It was always place to make it easy for him to pull up and out. There are also alternative entrances to some of the restaurants with ramps to avoid stairs.

Each scooter was equipped with a squeeze type bike horn. They would honk back and forth as they went down the halls so they knew they were all still together and nobody was left behind. If they had to split up to use the elevator someone always stayed behind to help those left get to where they needed to go.

You might think that the crew and other guests might get upset by the use of the bike horns. It was quite the opposite! Guests and crew would laugh as they saw our crazy human train head down the halls and decks. When we would go into our assigned restaurant each night the serving staff would run across the restaurant to honk the lead horn we went across the room to our table.

Our cabin was near my folks. We shared the same cabin steward. The steward would come to us with questions or concerns about my folks. Did they need a snack that night? Was the bed turned down far enough to make it easy for dad to get into bed? Did they need ANYTHING at all? I could not have asked for better service.

There are transfer devices at the pools for those with mobility issues. You will just need to transfer to the transfer seat. If you can’t do it without help make sure a member of your traveling party is there to help you. Disney Crew can not help.

The only problem we had with those with mobility issues was the tendering into port. When you tender into port you need to transfer to a smaller ship. If you can’t get down the stairs from your Disney Ship to the tender boat you can’t go. Also there most likely is not room mobility devices on the transfer boat. There is no way to get an electric scooter onto one.

My husband uses a CPap machine at night. It requires water to operate and when we arrived in our stateroom a bottle of water was waiting for his use, no charge for the water! Our room steward kept an eye on the level of water and when it got low asked if we needed more.

My husband is also hard of hearing and has difficulty hearing movies or shows. Disney had options for us! Movies had portable closed caption screens you could use. Live shows had headphones you could use.

Our daughter (at time of trip 10 years old) has ADHD and gets excited easy. She tends to lose control when she is overstimulated. We found plenty of quiet spots on the ship for her to calm down. She also had plenty of places it was more than acceptable for her to run and play, burning up the energy.

There are special viewing areas for shows, movies and deck parties for those in wheelchairs or scooters. They are usually in really good positions for viewing the shows and give good unobstructed views.

Disney’s Castaway Cay Island was designed to give those with disabilities the most access possible. There are paved pathways to shops and restaurants. Sand wheelchairs are available for free to give access to the beach. These are on a first-come, first-served basis. The tram is equipped to allow guests in manual and electric wheelchairs to board. Accessible restrooms are available.

For more information on what is available for those with disabilities on a Disney Cruise check the link below. If you can’t find your answer ask me. I’ll be happy to find out the answer for you.

I am a Travel Agent with Magical Starr Travel that has a subspecialty of helping those with disabilities. Feel free to contact me for help with your travel plans. My services are free. Just select "Tinky".

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Navigating Disney Parks Disability Access System (DAS) Quick Overview and How/When to Ask for It

Navigating Disney Parks Disability Access System (DAS)
Quick Overview and How/When to Ask for It

The DAS (Disability Access System) at the Disney Parks is to assist those with disabilities have access to the attractions.

In simple terms the DAS system is to help those with Disabilities have the access they need. With the fact that Walt Disney World Parks and Disney California Adventure Park were built after the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) went into effect it means they comply with ADA laws. That means the lines for the attractions and show areas are designed with disabled access in mind. The lines are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters and if the loading area is not accessible they have a secondary loading area. Disneyland on the other hand was made before ADA laws and lines do not always accommodate wheelchairs and scooters. Many of these lines can’t be changed due to space limitations. Disneyland has separate lines set up for wheelchairs/scooters where applicable. What does this all this ADA information mean? It means that just because you have a mobility issue you will not automatically be given a DAS Pass. You can sit on your scooter/chair in the regular lines.

So if the DAS is not for “physical disabilities” that require mobility devices what is it for? It is for those with issues that make being in long lines hard or impossible. Mostly it is for those with cognitive disabilities. Autism, extreme ADHD, Panic Attacks and PTSD are several things that fall into the list. But that is not the only thing. If you have a physical disability that makes sitting or standing in one place impossible/dangerous then you can get the DAS Pass.

So how do you get a DAS Pass? Go to Guest Relations in any park. Be ready to explain your disability. Tell them in simple terms why you need help and what your limitations are. BE HONEST!! Do not lie and ask for the DAS when you don’t truly need it. Be persistent if you truly need it. If you tell them you can’t stand for a long time they may well tell you to go rent a wheelchair or scooter so you can sit. Don’t be intimated by their questions nor the fact they may say no at first. They are not there to outright deny you the pass or judge you. They are there to weed out those that are faking and taking advantage to “cut lines”. They are there to find the best possible option for you. As long as you honestly need it and you are willing to explain why you need it they will at least try. If your disability makes you nervous talking in a loud room ask to be taken to a back stage quiet room to discuss your needs.

For further information on how DAS works check out an earlier blog post:
Yes it does repeat some of the same information I just gave but it is important information and people have told me they can’t get DAS when I know they should.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tinker Bell and Legend of the Neverbeast – Non Spoiler and Spoiler Review

Tinker Bell and Legend of the Neverbeast – Non Spoiler and Spoiler Review

Tinker Bell and the Neverbeast is the latest direct to video release in the series of Tinker Bell Pixie Hallow themed movies from the DisneyToon Studio. It was released March 3rd, 2015.

In this movie the Fairies of Pixie hallow face the unknown. At the very beginning Fawn, an animal fairy shows she has a big hart but does not always make wise choices. Her heart leads her decisions and this often leads to danger.

This movie shows the importance of following your heart while still using your brain to make good choices. Other things it teaches is not judging others by how they act and look.

I think this is a very good movie for families. It has a good heart, wonderful animation and great acting.

Now for the spoilers. Stop here if you don’t want spoilers!

While the movie is called Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast the main Pixie is Fawn, not Tinker Bell.

Fawn saves and hides a baby hawk, the natural enemy of the fairies. As she is taking the hawk to be released the baby becomes afraid. It cries and adult hawks hear the sound and come to its rescue. They attack the fairies and a group of fairies called Scouts come and chase them off. Fawn is chastised for letting her heart lead her decisions.

Fawn tries to follow the rules and be responsible. She does not want to put Pixie Hallow at risk again. There are several opportunities for her to make mistakes but she resists and uses her head to control her heart.

A comet hits near Pixie Hallow. As it hits a roar is heard. Fawn wants to go and check out the animal that made the sound. She fights with herself trying to follow her head not her heart. She loses the fight and goes off to see what the creature who made the sound is. She finds a large vicious looking beast.

Gruff is the “Neverbeast”. Fawn is afraid of Gruff at first but she notices he has a thorn in his paw. Fawn follows him around until she is able to pull the thorn out. While following him around Fawn sees he is building towers. Gruff is taking rocks and spit to make the towers. Fawn takes to helping him and turning it into a game. This leads to a friendship between the two.

While Fawn is studying Gruff the Scouts are also trying to figure out what animal made the frightening roar. After looking Nyx, the leader of the Scouts comes to the conclusion that it is a monster that has come to destroy Pixie Hallow.

Fawn tries to take Gruff to the Queen to prove he is no threat. Instead she hears Nyx talking about how the comet had woken up a monster that would destroy Pixie Hallow. Instead of telling the Queen about Gruff she tries to hide him. As Gruff is trying to finish the last of four towers the Scouts trap him. The green clouds create lightning. Gruff accidently hurts Tink.

Gruff runs to the first three of the four towers and collects the lightning. He is changed. He starts to become the “monster” that the leader of the Scouts said he was. Fawn sees him attack Tink and helps Nyx and the Scouts catch him. Once Gruff is caught the lightning strikes. Things turn from bad to worse. Fawn realizes something is wrong. She sees Tink is ok. Tink tells her that Gruff saved her life. He actually knocked her over to keep her from being hit by a falling tree.

Fawn figures out that Gruff is not there to destroy Pixie Hallow he is there to save it! Is it too late? The flower pollen that the Scouts used has made it so Gruff can’t see. How can he do what he needs to do if he can’t see? Fawn realizes Gruff can see her glow. She guides him from one town to the next catching the lightening. As he is hit by lightning Gruff changes. He grows bat like wings and also horns. As they approach the last tower Nyx destroys the last tower!

Fawn realizes Gruff can’t collect the lightening without the towers! Lightning strikes all around starting fires and destroying Pixie Hallow. Lightning almost hits Nyx. Gruff saves her! Once again risking all to protect a fairy. Fawn strikes upon the idea to head straight into the heart of the clouds. She figures going straight to the source Gruff can get the lightning.

Fawn and Gruff fly up and Gruff does the job he was destined to do. Fawn and Gruff fall from the sky! Nyx leads the charge to catch them and break their fall. Gruff’s wings are burned to a crisp and his horns are charred stubs. They shrivel up and turn to dust. Fawn is laying unresponsive on the ground. The fairies have gathered around and are trying to help Fawn. They know there is nothing they can do. Gruff sees Fawn and crawls over and whimpers. A charge of electricity gathers around him and Fawn takes a little shock and starts to breathe!

For a short time Fawn and the other fairies enjoy Gruff being around. He helps and even protects the fairies. Soon Fawn notices Gruff is slowing down. Having read the Legends about the Neverbeast Fawn realizes he is about to go into hibernation. She realizes she will not see him again. She is sad that she will not see him but thankful for what he has done.