After Candice Minks of Lincoln experienced her first Disney vacation five years ago, she saw a need to offer a resource for families planning Disney trips.
That prompted her to start a travel agency that specializes in Disney destination vacations. Her business, Minks Cruise & Travel, partners with Greenwood Cruise and Travel LLC, recognized by Disney as an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
“Planning a Disney vacation can be overwhelming,” Candice said. “It’s not a good idea to visit any Disney park without a solid plan, including hotel accommodations, Fast Pass reservations for popular attractions, dining reservations, and a plan for seeing as much as possible within the time you’re traveling without a lot of back-tracking and frustration.”
Candice provides all of that information plus more, including park refurbishment schedules and ideas on “can’t miss” experiences suitable for every family member. She offers discount monitoring and automatically applies new Disney promotions to any vacations already booked.
She also serves as a point of contact if anything goes wrong on the vacation and has contacts and resources to try to make it right. She works outside of the traditional business hours and can be reached most anytime with questions or concerns.
“Best of all, I offer my services at no additional charge above the cost of your vacation,” Candice said. “Working with me means expert advice, money-saving tips and more, all while supporting a Nebraska-based small business, whether you’re traveling to a Disney park or anywhere else in the world.”
In a recent interview with Nebraska Family Magazine, Candice answered some of the most common questions that Nebraska families have when considering or planning a Disney vacation.
Be sure to read to the end of the story for a special Disney offer for Nebraska Family Magazine readers!
How soon before the trip should families make reservations?
Dining reservations for Walt Disney World restaurants, including character dining experiences, can be made six months in advance. Fast Pass Plus reservations can be made 90 days in advance. I would recommend making reservations seven months ahead of your departure to take advantage of these opportunities at Walt Disney World in Florida. Disneyland & Disney’s California Adventure reservations are available 60 days in advance. However, I can work with any time frame.
How many days should families plan to spend on the Disney vacation?
I recommend three days for a Disneyland/Disney’s California Adventure vacation and six days for a Walt Disney World vacation. The Florida parks include the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, plus two water parks, so there is much more to see and do. If you want a beach day or wish to visit other attractions outside of Disney, obviously you would allow for more time.
What is the price range for a typical Disney vacation from Nebraska for a family of four?
There are so many variables when planning a Disney vacation. Some families choose to drive to Orlando. Starting prices for a seven-day vacation without airfare for a family of four, including hotel accommodations and park tickets during value season (January 1-February 11, August 29-September 29, and October 31–December 19) are approximately $2,650. Adding a dining plan, travel protection insurance and other options will increase the price. Disney promotions throughout the year will also affect prices.
With airfare included, a Florida Walt Disney World vacation in August 2018 (keeping in mind my seven-month rule) with a stay in a preferred room (closer to main buildings and bus stops) at a Value Resort, seven-day pass with the park-hopper option (allows you to visit any of the parks on the same day without additional admission), Memory Maker (Disney professional photographers take the pictures so everyone in your travel party can be in the pictures, and allows you unlimited downloads of the shots you love – think holiday cards) and the Disney Dining Plan (allows each member of your travel party one-table service meal, one-quick service meal, and one-snack credit per night of your stay and a refillable souvenir mug) totals $6,182. There are lots of money-saving options that we can discuss.
For a California Disneyland & Disney’s California Adventure in August 2018, including a four-day vacation with four-day park tickets, airfare, ground transfers, and a premium Character Dining Experience, the price is $5,516 at this time. Again, there are adjustments we can make to bring the price down.
When are the best times of year to travel to Disney (to avoid long lines)?
The best times to travel to a Disney park are February (after President’s Day) to Easter (skipping spring break), September and October, and the week following Thanksgiving.
These are the least busy times with typically the shortest lines. The busiest times are typically around holidays (up to a week before and after), during any Run Disney event, and the first couple of weeks of Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, which happens each fall.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is the most crowded with wait times sometimes as long as six hours for the most popular attractions. The Magic Kingdom in Florida has a maximum capacity of 100,000 guests, which is a bit more than Memorial Stadium on a Husker Game Day. Once it reaches that number, no more guests are allowed in for that day.
What are the best days of the week to visit Disney parks?
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days of the week to visit the Disney parks. However, it’s good to be aware of any early closings due to special events, such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which require separate tickets for access.
Do you recommend people wait until their kids are a certain age for a Disney vacation?
This is a personal decision. I’ve had clients who have taken children as young as 8 months and others who refuse to take children until they no longer need a stroller. I would offer the following suggestions as food for thought:
- Family rooms with changing stations are available throughout the parks, as are rental lockers.
- For security reasons, a bag check is required before entering any Disney park
- Services like Amazon can ship diapers and other necessities to your Disney resort hotel so they are waiting when you arrive.
- Strollers are available to rent, and arrangements can be made ahead of your departure.
- How will your child respond to a costumed character? Mickey is a LOT bigger in real life than he looks on TV…and he’s one of the shorter costumed characters.
- If your family is staying at a Disney resort hotel, you can leave the parks and return to your hotel for an afternoon nap/recharge, then go back to the park for the evening if you desire.
Do you recommend staying at a Disney Resort?
I highly recommend staying at a Disney resort hotel. When choosing your resort hotel, consider how much time you plan to spend in your room or at the hotel and what amenities you want. Each resorts is themed and allows you to stay in the heart of the Magic.
The most popular resorts at the Value Level are Disney’s Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts. Popular resorts at the Moderate Level are Disney’s Port Orleans Resorts, both French Quarter and Riverside. At the Deluxe level, the popular resorts are Disney’s Grand Floridian and Polynesian Village Resort.
Staying in a Disney resort hotel at Walt Disney World grants you access to Disney’s Magical Express service, which will transport your family from Orlando International Airport to your Disney resort hotel, where your luggage will magically appear without you having to stop by baggage claim. The service will also transport you and your luggage back to the airport when it’s time to return home in plenty of time to get through security.
You’ll have access to complimentary transportation all over the Walt Disney World property, including Downtown Disney, exclusive access to the parks either earlier in the morning or later at night, and the option to add a dining plan to your stay, which makes your trip as close as possible to an all-inclusive vacation.
If shopping is your thing, you can purchase souvenirs and have them sent back to your Disney Resort hotel room so you don’t have to carry them around with you.
Magic wristbands, which are offered exclusively to Disney resort hotel guests, serve as your room key and park tickets, keep a record of your dining credits and can be linked with a credit or debit card for shopping. (Don’t worry, you’ll have to assign a PIN code that will be needed before anything is charged to your card.)
Disneyland/Disney’s California Adventure is exponentially smaller than Walt Disney World, and the parks and resort hotels are all within walking distance of one another. But, Magic Hours are still offered to Disney resort hotel guests. Disneyland/Disney’s California Adventure does not offer magic bands.
What are the new attractions this year at Disney Land and Disney World?
Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland & Disney’s California Adventure parks are constantly changing with new attractions. Toy Story Land is scheduled to open this summer at Walt Disney World, and both locations are working on Star Wars Land. Pandora, The World of Avatar, opened last year at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.
What tips do you have for families on the day of their Disney park visit?
I recommend arriving 30 minutes before the parks open to get near the front of the line. If you are staying at a Disney resort hotel, you’ll have access to the parks early, but only a select number of attractions will be open. Take advantage that time to see those attractions and to capture some photos without crowds of people in the background.
Once in the park, it’s always good to go left when you have a choice (because most people will choose right) and complete all the attractions in one section of a park before moving on to avoid backtracking. Fast Passes will reduce your wait time for popular attractions and can be reserved before you leave home, up to three per day. Once your three are used, you can obtain additional Fast Passes based on availability at kiosks in the parks.
What are your favorite “can’t-miss” rides and attractions?
In the Magic Kingdom, my favorite attractions are those that Walt Disney directly influenced, such as The Carousel of Progress, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of The Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (opt for the standby line if you have time and once in the mine, get ALL seven barrels spinning for a magical surprise) and Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid are two others I can’t miss.
In Epcot, Test Track, Soarin’ around the World, Living with the Land and Spaceship Earth are some of my favorites. I love the entire World Showcase Pavilion as well.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror definitely gets the blood pumping.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Expedition Everest and Avatar Flight of Passage are my picks.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of purchasing a dining plan?
Advantages: 1) You don’t need to carry cash. 2) The portions are plentiful. For example, lunch at Be Our Guest for two, including two sandwiches, two sides, dessert and two beverages would easily cost $50, but one quick-service credit can be used for each person. 3) Dining plan credits can be used in any way you wish. You can combine table-service credits for character dining and signature restaurant experiences. 4) It makes budgeting for vacation easier.
Disadvantages: 1) Adds to the cost of your vacation due at final payment. 2) Sometimes, you’ll have credits left over. Hint: Plan a trip to Goofy’s Candy Company at Disney Springs before heading to the airport to use any left-over snack credits and have a tasty souvenir.
What are your favorite family-friendly restaurants in the parks?
At Magic Kingdom, I would recommend Be Our Guest and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café. At Epcot, be sure to eat at Coral Reef Restaurant and Garden Grill.
And for a snack, you have to try the Pineapple Whip and Cronuts.
What dinner or character dining experiences would you recommend?
A character breakfast is always a lot of fun, and I would recommend breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and Friends at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom or the Princess Breakfast at Akershus in Epcot. You can have tea with Alice at the Grand Floridian and dinner with royalty at Cinderella’s Royal Table (in the Castle).
Do you have any Disney travel specials going on right now?
Disney rolls out promotions throughout the year. Right now, there are some room specials as well as a quick-service meal offer (not to be confused with free dining). As I mentioned previously, if any promotion rolls out that will positively affect your reservation, I will apply those promotions automatically.
As a thank you to Nebraska Family Magazine, I’d like to offer a $25 Disney gift card to readers who mention this article when contacting me and booking a Disney vacation for travel anytime in 2018 or 2019.
What else should families know about your travel agency and Disney vacations?
Disney is accommodating to guests with dietary restrictions, so be sure to mention that during the planning process, as well as any special celebrations.
For families with physical or cognitive challenges, we can work together to make accommodations and arrangements as well. I am also a certified Autism Travel Planner, so I can help clients on the spectrum and their families or caregivers plan vacations that will fit individual needs.
While Disney destination vacations are nearest and dearest to my heart, I also specialize in river and ocean cruises, all-inclusive vacations and family vacations of all kinds.