Castaway Cay Guide & Tips


Castaway Cay is Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas, and is a common port of call for virtually all Disney Caribbean-bound cruise ships. This guide provides tips for visiting Castaway Cay, including things to do and not to do and how to make the most of your time on Castaway Cay.

For starters, some basics about Castaway Cay, and then we will get into some recommendations. It’s a 3-mile long, 1000-acre island used exclusively by Disney Cruise Line guests and Crew Members. The Disney Cruise Line ships dock right on the island, making for an easy on-off experience. You’ll want to take your Key to the World card with you when you exit the ship (to get back on!), but theoretically you could leave everything else. We don’t recommend that–packing a small day bag without any valuables in it to ‘guard’ your beach chairs is a good idea–but you could.

As soon as you get off the ship, you can pick up towels, and pass by the old gas station and post office (make sure to send something from here–they have a special Disney postmark) as you head towards the trams to get to the Family Beach and Serenity Bay, the adult-only beach. Alternatively, you can take the walking trail to fully explore Castaway Cay, which has its own touches of Disney details. We’ll start our guide with how to explore the island to see these details!

Exploring the Island

There are a couple of trams on the island, but one of our biggest pieces of advice for Castaway Cay is to not over-rely on these trams. Castaway Cay is not just a private island, it’s Disney’s private island. This means that it’s themed! Some of my best memories of the island are just its sense of place that I soaked up as I wandered around and explored the environments. It’s not as heavy on Imagineering as Typhoon Lagoon, likely because Disney wanted to strike a balance in making it appeal to Disney fans and ‘serious’ cruisers, but there is a ton to see, and plenty of Easter eggs.

I highly recommend walking out to Serenity Bay and taking the shuttle back at some point during your day at Castaway Cay, even if you don’t plan on enjoying the adult beach. This is because you’ll the Imagineered-highlights all the way there, and then get to see additional details on the ride back over the runway. The walk really isn’t that bad, and can actually be faster than the trams. (more…)

Tips for Buying Discount Disney World Tickets

Money-saving Tips for Buying Discount Walt Disney World Tickets (from authorized sellers!)

Walt Disney World offers a wide array of tickets. These tickets are expensive, but luckily, if you shop right, you can find good discounts on Disney tickets to save money. When it comes to a Disney vacation, the tickets are likely going to be your second-most expensive expenditure after your hotel room and perhaps airfare. For some people, they might actually be the most costly portion of the trip! Disney raises its ticket prices about once or twice per year with the last increase coming in February 2014, so it’s best to buy your tickets as early as possible, before your trip.

Given their cost, and the myriad of different ticket options, it’s important to know as much as you can about the different types of tickets, and what your family will probably need. Purchasing Walt Disney World tickets can be overwhelming, as there are many different choices and add-ons. If you’re willing to do a little homework, all of the options are a good thing, as you can buy exactly what you need and not waste money on unnecessary extras. In this article we sort through the different options and give you recommendations on what types of tickets are best, plus where you can save money on Walt Disney World tickets. (If you’ve come looking for info on discount Disneyland tickets, you’ve come to the wrong place–but we do have an article on that, too.)

If all you’re looking for is the best place to buy cheap, legitimate Walt Disney World tickets from an authorized reseller and don’t need to read this entire article, click here.

Ready to get started? Here are our tips for saving money on 2014 Disney World tickets! (more…)

How to Visit 3 Disney Destinations on 1 Airfare

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Except in this case. This post covers the concept of multi-stop airfare, including stopovers and open-jaw flights, and how these perfectly legitimate, but little understood tools can be used to book airfare to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Honolulu, and back for roughly the same price as a single round-trip flight to Hong Kong. That means visiting Tokyo Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa for roughly the same airfare cost as just one of those destinations. We are dubbing this incredible trip the “Disney Grand Circle Tour of the Pacific Rim.” Who needs Adventures by Disney when you have blog posts for Making Your Own Adventures…by the Brickers?! ;)

If the airfare terms above don’t make much sense now, fear not, as by the end of this post you will be a master (or at least an apprentice…I’m not sure how the whole ranking system works!) in advanced airfare bookings.

Over the last couple of years, we have become pretty big advocates of traveling to the international Disney theme parks. Understandably, a lot of Disney fans do not have much interest in this, citing legitimate concerns like the cost of the trip and the discomfort with international travel. Still, we have tried to encourage readers to step outside of their comfort zones and plan a once in a lifetime trip to the overseas parks. While we have received a number of positive comments and emails from many of you who are planning visits to Tokyo Disney Resort, we understand that, it’s not a possibility for everyone. We get that, and our goal with our posts on the international parks is not to boast about our travels or rub how great these places are in anyone’s face, but rather, to bring awareness of these parks that are seldom-visited by Americans, but are really worth experiencing for those who have the time and finances.

We have pointed out in the past that these international trips don’t have to be as expensive as many people assume they are, and depending upon your party size, a trip to Tokyo may cost about the same as a trip to Walt Disney World. In fairness, this is typically only true for those without multiple children, those who can travel during non-peak times, and live near a major international airport or can save miles for the trip (by the way–the sample multi-stop itinerary below can be booked with a standard number of miles for a flight to Asia!). To be very clear, we are in no way saying that a trip to Asia is “cheap” or even something that anyone can do. Unless you are a local Annual Passholder or live within driving distance, no trip to any Disney theme park is cheap. For many people, a trip to the Disney Parks in Asia is absolutely out of the question from a financial perspective–and we aren’t trying to say otherwise. Our only point is that it’s worth crunching the numbers before dismissing it out of hand.

With all of that said, the biggest obstacle many if not most readers have presented to us is the cost of airfare. This doesn’t really come as a surprise, as airfare is by far the most expensive aspect of visiting Tokyo Disney Resort or Hong Kong Disneyland, and airfare is a per-person cost that (obviously) increases as your party size increases. In comparing the cost of a Tokyo visit versus a Walt Disney World visit, airfare is also where the largest price difference lies. In fact, in terms of park tickets and nice hotel accommodations, Tokyo and Hong Kong are actually cheaper than Walt Disney World in most cases!

Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to decrease the cost of a flight to Asia, short of advising you to plan early, use available tools to your advantage, and be flexible on dates. Airfare to Asia is expensive, in most cases over $1,000 round-trip per person. However, what we can do is increase the perceived value of that single, expensive airfare with stopovers and open-jaw flights? Interested in visiting Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Honolulu to do the “Disney Grand Circle Tour of the Pacific Rim,” all for about the price of a round-trip flight to Hong Kong? Read on! (more…)

Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland

Halloween Time at Disneyland occurs in 2014 from September 12 until October 31, 2014. During HalloweenTime, the hard ticket Mickey’s Halloween Party will be held most Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays in October, and two dates in September. Mickey’s Halloween Party tickets range in price from $56 to $77, depending upon the night and whether you qualify for an Annual Passholder discount. Click here for the full party schedule for 2014. Entertainment during the Halloween Time at Disneyland season is included in the cost of regular theme park admission.

For those considering visiting during Halloween Time at Disneyland, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the standard offerings during the Halloween season in Disneyland are superior to those in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The decorations are better, the entertainment is superior, the seasonal snacks are more plentiful (and most are absolutely delicious), and there are two attractions at Disneyland that receive Halloween overlays (plus extra entertainment in Big Thunder Ranch), versus zero at Walt Disney World. The bad news is that hard ticket Disneyland’s Mickey’s Halloween Party is inferior to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, crowds are not light (still better than summer) during Halloween Time at Disneyland like they are in the fall at Walt Disney World, and there are no other fall offerings justifying a visit to Disneyland Resort specifically during the Halloween season, versus Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, which is also a big draw during the fall at Walt Disney World.

With all of that said, we think Halloween Time at Disneyland is an incredible time to visit Disneyland. In fact, after Christmas at Disneyland, Halloween Time at Disneyland is our absolute favorite time of the year to visit. The only reason Christmas gets the edge is because all of its entertainment is included with the normal cost of admission, and Disney California Adventure gets into the fun during the Christmas season, too. But Christmas is a separate topic for a future post!

For now, let’s get started with HalloweenTime at Disneyland, taking a look at its offerings and sharing some of our tips and reviews for Halloween Time at Disneyland. (more…)

Aulani Resort & Spa Trip Planning Guide

Aulani – A Disney Resort & Spa is a resort hotel on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. This trip planning guide covers the basics for planning a visit to Disney’s Aulani, from when to visit to how long to stay at the resort to what to do while you’re there. It also discusses whether Aulani might be right for you in the first place, and how you can make a visit more economical.

Unlike most other Disney destinations, Aulani is a bit of an odd duck. It’s not attached to a theme park or part of a more comprehensive trip or experience put on by Disney, but it’s not “just” a hotel, either. The most apt comparison we can think of is to other resort complexes on Oahu, or in other tropical settings that offer a multitude of things to do on the premises, but really are best enjoyed alongside other experiences in that locale. It’s also somewhat like a cruise ship on land.

Aulani is a great place for guests to stay who independently want to travel to Hawaii, but it’s difficult to recommend to Disney fans as a “Disney Destination” if those fans aren’t also interested in visiting Hawaii. The good news is that Hawaii is an amazing place in its own right, so most people contemplating a stay at Aulani are probably not solely interested in Aulani. The bad news is that a trip to Hawaii is very expensive, so even being a Disney fan plus being curious about Hawaii may not be sufficient for justifying the trip.

We’ll explore that all below, for now let’s dig into the Aulani – A Disney Resort & Spa planning guide… (more…)

Tips for Buying Discount Disneyland Tickets

Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets by Buying from Authorized Third Parties (AAA, Costco, etc.)

Looking to save money on your trip to Disneyland? Given the ticket prices following the most recent Disneyland ticket price increase in May 2014, this is a rhetorical question–we doubt anyone wants to spend more money than necessary. Lucky for you, discount Disneyland tickets can be found through a variety of vendors, including online, at Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels in Anaheim, AAA, Safeway, Costco, online, and authorized websites. If you live in SoCal (and proof of residence), special offers are sometimes made available to SoCal residents during times when attendance is predicted to be light. So if you’re a local, you might be in luck.

AAA, Safeway, and Costco have small standard discounts of a couple dollars per ticket. From time to time, Costco stores on the West Coast will offer a gift card with purchase (this is never offered online and was last offered in-stores in March 2013). If you live on the West Coast and this is available when you’re planning to purchase tickets, it’s by far the best deal. Currently, for the best deals we recommend buying safely and securely from Park Savers, an authorized seller of Disneyland tickets with the best prices that we’ve found (for an authorized seller).

Unfortunately, the discounts available on Disneyland tickets are not all that significant–usually between $2 and $15 per ticket–as compared to amount of money you can save on Walt Disney World tickets. But everything you save adds up, plus you save vacation time when you buy your tickets in advance from a Disney-authorized third party ticket seller!

Where you shouldn’t buy tickets is as important as where you should buy them. While Disneyland authorizes a number of third parties to sell its tickets at slight discounts, there is a huge black market for bootleg and partially used “rental” tickets. You might be familiar with this because Disneyland’s crackdown on these tickets has garnered national media attention. Whatever you do, do not buy Disneyland tickets on eBay, Craigslist, or on the side of the road near Disneyland Resort. Any ticket “rental” is a scam, and you will be throwing your money away. Disney Cast Members will not have any sympathy for you if you’re caught with these “rental” tickets, and you will have to purchase new tickets at the gate, at full price. Not exactly a fun way to start a vacation.

Much like Walt Disney World, Disneyland offers tickets with a “hopper” option (the ability to visit both parks in the same day) and one-day, one-park tickets that don’t allow hopping. Unsurprisingly, non-hopper tickets are cheaper. As of early 2014, 1-day non-hopper tickets are around $92, whereas hopper tickets were over $100.

Here are my thoughts on which tickets you should purchase… (more…)