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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Smarty Sponsor: Martha Nichols, Travel Consultant for Aladdin Travel

By Rachel H

It is no wonder why so many moms planning a family vacation to Walt Disney World are overwhelmed! WDW is 54 square miles consisting of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 25 Resorts, 4 golf courses, and over 500 different types of dining experiences. If you are like me, I opened the planning guide, flipped through a few pages and put it back down. I had no idea where to begin. The more I asked for advice from others, the more confused I became. Have no fear! Triad Smarty Pants has your answer to a Disney Vacation that can be planned stress-free. Let me introduce Martha Nichols, who is an Independent Travel Consultant specializing in Disney Destinations.

Martha is a mom herself, who lives right here in the Triad. She provides a concierge style service for no additional fee that includes resort & travel reservations; vacation and itinerary planning services; and dining, tours and recreation reservations. Because the quotes come directly from Disney, they are the same prices that you would be given if you booked the vacation yourself!

Martha monitors Disney’s Special Offers to maximize your vacation dollars, saving you money. Martha has specialized knowledge of Disney Destinations Travel from Disney’s College of Knowledge and onsite Agent Education Programs for Walt Disney World® Resorts and Disney Cruise Line®. She is with Aladdin’s Magical Journeys, an Affiliate of Aladdin Travel & Meeting Planners. Aladdin Travel is designated by Disney Destinations Travel as an “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” agency. Aladdin Travel is a locally owned and operated travel company that has been in business for over 35 years.

One of our TSP readers, Karen C., had this to say about her experience with Martha and her trip to Walt Disney World®. "Earlier this year, my husband and I decided we would surprise our girls (ages 5 & 3) with a trip to Walt Disney World®. We had been a couple of years ago, but this time, we enlisted Martha to help us plan our trip. We couldn’t have been more pleased! An experienced Disney traveler & Mom herself, Martha was full of great ideas and suggestions that really fit our family’s needs. She handled all of our accommodation and dinner reservations ahead of time, suggesting fun character meals and shows that my girls would like. Before our trip, she worked with us to provide a basic “itinerary” of our week with helpful information and tips for our days at the various parks. Planning with Martha, we were definitely able to maximize our family’s experience without overwhelming our little ones. She took care of every detail, making this one of the easiest and most pleasant vacations ever! Our time at Walt Disney World® was truly magical…we made priceless memories with our girls. We hope to go back one day – and, when we do, we’ll certainly call Martha again!"

Martha has such a grand knowledge of Walt Disney World®, and she has even provided us with some spectacular Smarty Tips that you will no doubt need to keep at your fingertips.
• If you are traveling with a child 5 years or younger, plan on using a stroller. You can expect to walk 5 to 10 miles a day and this can be hard on little feet and legs. You can bring your own stroller, rent one at the parks, or arrange to rent one through a local rental agency.
• The toilets at Walt Disney World® are the automatic flush types. If you have a little one that is terrified of the toilet flushing while they are sitting on it, bring a pack of post-it notes in your backpack and put one over the sensor when you enter the stall. This will keep the toilet from flushing until the post-it is removed.
• Try to keep to your child’s schedule while on vacation. Plan meals during their usual eating times, and take a midday break. This will help to minimize tired melt downs that can ruin everyone’s mood.
• Locate the Baby Care Center is at each of the parks if you are traveling with little ones. This is an air conditioned oasis that is equipped with changing tables, rockers, highchairs, private nursing areas, and bathrooms. In addition to having a stock of diapers, wipes, and baby food, they have children’s Tylenol and Motrin. The cast members are welcoming to children of all ages (even my 6 year old who had a headache and needed Tylenol).
• Don’t want to go all the way back to your resort for a break? Hop over to one of the resorts close to the park. Get something cold to drink from one of the quick service restaurants, sit in the lobby, enjoy the AC, and explore the resort. It will be quieter and less crowded than the parks, offering you a break from the hustle and bustle of the parks. Often the resorts offer activities in the afternoon for little ones. Check with the concierge desk for a list of activities. You do not have to be a resort guest to participate and they are often free of charge.
• Because of show schedules and crowds, it is difficult to do and see everything that a park has to offer in 1 day. Understand that you cannot do and see everything that Disney has to offer in one vacation. Prioritize each family member’s want-to-do list and focus on enjoying the magical moments that happen at Walt Disney World®.
• If you desire to dine at a sit down restaurant, make Advanced Dining Reservations well in advance. Because of the popularity of Disney’s Dining Plans, many restaurants book up well in advance and cannot accommodate guests without a reservation. Currently Disney has a 90 day window for making those reservations, but is planning to extend that window to a 180 day window in October 2009. For those guests that are staying at a Walt Disney World® Resort, you can make all of your dining reservations 90 days in advance of your check in date. Now you can make your ADRs online or over the phone.
• Want to get pictures with and autographs of the characters? Character Dining Experiences are a great way to do so and allows you to avoid standing in line at the parks to see the characters.
• At each of the parks, there is a Character Breakfast at a restaurant that opens before the parks operating hours. Try to schedule your meal for a time before the parks open. If you can get a reservation time at 8 AM, you should be finishing your meal and time with the characters close to the park opening time. You will already be in the park and closer to the attractions that you want to experience.
• The crowds at Walt Disney World® start to pick up between 11 AM and 1 PM. Plan to arrive at the parks when they open so that you can enjoy the attractions with less crowds. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World® Resort, take advantage of the Early Extra Magic Hour and get into the park an hour before it opens to the general public.
• Consider getting the Hopper Option added to your park passes. This will allow you access to more than 1 park a day. Each of the parks tend to be more crowded on the days of Extra Magic Hours. The Hopper Option allows you to take advantage of the EMHs, but leave when the crowds pick up and hop on over to a less crowded park. It also allows you to spend the morning at one park, leave for a midday break, and return to a different park for dinner and the nighttime activities.
• Traveling with little ones that do not meet the height requirements? Disney offers “Parent Rider Switch” which allows one parent to ride, while the other parent stays with the smaller child. A cast member will give you a pass that will allow the second parent to avoid standing in the stand by line. This is great if you have an older child, because the pass will allow you to take the older child on the ride for a second time!

If these tips were helpful to you, keep in mind that this is just the beginning of what Martha can offer you in advice and planning. Contact Martha Nichols at or 336-671-1995 for more information or a free quote for travel to Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise Line®, Disneyland® Resort, Adventures By Disney, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, or Disney’s Hilton Head Resort. Then just sit back, relax, and wait for your vacation day to arrive!


Anonymous said...

Martha - My favorite Disney tip is the one telling us to bring post-it notes for the automatic flushing toilets. Both my children are TERRIFIED of those toilets.

This post is getting my excited to plan a Disney trip!

Anonymous said...

If I am reading this correctly, we do not pay you out of pocket, right? You will get paid by Disney? Sounds like a great idea to me and already brings my heart-rate down on planning a Disney trip!!!

Anonymous said...

That's right, my commission is paid by Disney. You get all of my experience and training for the same price you would get if you booked it yourself. Give me a call or email! Martha Nichols

Anonymous said...

I can attest that Martha's insights are invaluable. She was instrumental in making my family's first trip a great success. This was before she went pro! Good Luck, Martha!

candice said...

This makes me want to plan a trip NOW! Sounds like you have a wonderful service.

Anonymous said...

We have traveled to WDW twice now since having kids. The first time we planned it ourselves. The 2nd time we used Martha to plan it--what a breeze! Her insights from her own personal experience and the "insider" tips are invaluable, especially when you are there during a peak time. We will never plan a trip to Disney ourselves again!

Anonymous said...

Martha was a huge help when planning our trip last fall - especially because we were doing it somewhat on the spur-of-the-moment. We will DEFINITELY use her when planning a future Disney trip. She had lots of great info to share, and it was great to have someone knowledgeable to answer our questions.

Lisa Hold said...

Having Martha "on board" was like having a magic Genie in your pocket at Disney! We went in April (and while I know Martha could not have been responsible for the weather- sunny 80s EVERY day!!- it was a 100 percent perfect vacation!!). As a former Carlson travel agent- I know things can go wrong- despite best intentions, but Martha's att. to detail was the ultimate insurance policy- even if we had to PAY for Martha's services, we would, HAPPILY. Even down to the tiniest of details- she booked us a dinner at Tony's so the kids could watch Spectro magic parade from inside - we didn't even have to brave the crowds outside- incredible! It was our first trip to Disney and it could not have been better- did I mention we gave her only 3 weeks notice that we were going? She is incredible. Have recommended her to all my pals here in NY!!!

Lisa Hold said...

Re- reading my previous post I think it sounds like I meant we paid for Martha's services- which of course we DID NOT! (travel agents typically get commission from airline, cruises, hotels etc.) I meant IF we had to pay for them it would be well worth it - but the fact that all she provides is just part of the package is incredible! No cost to YOU.

Come to think of it, Martha MUST have been responsible for all that great weather because the week before we went it was in the 60's and after we left it rained for 3 days- Book with Martha!!!!

Maythi said...

i'm ready! wonder if she rents out a magic wand for the occasional temper tantrums our 14 month old throws? if she does, we will book a trip for our family right now!! :)

sounds great. we will definitely keep her in mind when we decide to go. Our 4 yr old has been ready for DW forever!!

Cheryl said...

We were fortunate enough to book our Disney trip last fall with Martha. WOW!! I remember when I first spoke with her, I kept asking, "You're sure we don't have to pay you???" Not only did Martha call us after we'd booked(while she was on vacation at the beach, I might add) to let us know that Disney had just announced another special that would allow us to change packages and stay an extra day for no extra money, but she also took care of EVERYTHING. She discussed our dining options, offered suggestions of where to eat, booked all of our meals, even provided an "itenary" that offered suggestions of the optimal times to use transportation, best days to visit each park, when to arrive and leave parks, and when to plan to attend special events, like the parades. We laughed one evening, exclaiming that Martha even booked our dinner to avoid the rain, as the only shower we had in early November began as we checked in to our restaurant for dinner and ended as we were leaving. Martha took all the stress out of planning this vacation. We cannot WAIT to book our next trip with her!

Anonymous said...

Martha is truly the "magic of Disney!!!" Being a mom herself, she knew down to the last detail what my daughter would enjoy and was able to plan our vacation so we got the most bang for our buck. Hotel, dinner reservations, show recommendations, and suggested schedule made our trip amazing and we can't wait to call on her experience again!!!

Anonymous said...

The best Disney trip I ever had. Martha planned everything for us. She gave us valuable tips to use while being there. Martha did a fabulous job in planning the trip. We had all of the reservations made for us, just by calling Martha. She takes care of it all.

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