Sunday, December 9, 2012

Disney World to Port Canaveral

Disney World is one of the top family vacation destinations.  A great addition to a Disney World vacation is a Disney Cruise.  Port Canaveral, the home of the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, is only a 65 miles drive from Disney World (also at certain times of the year, you can take a Disney Cruise out of Miami).

There is a lot of information about Disney World and Disney Cruise Line on the Internet (a great source of info is disboards) so we won’t go into details of a Disney World or a Disney Cruise Line vacation.  Instead, I will take you, step by step, through the process of driving from Disney World to Port Canaveral. 

As of the time of this writing, Disney Cruise Line officially starts guest check-in at 11:00am, and embarkation at 1:00pm.  However, many PT’ers have been able to embark around noon.  For this reason, you don’t need to rush to the port.  You can visit a park in the morning, especially if a park has early an extra magic hours.

PT Tip - This is also a good time to visit Downtown Disney.  It is free to visit and there are very few guests before noon.

Once you decide to leave the Disney Resort, make sure you have your paperwork (including passport) with you, and still not in the safe.  Don’t place your paperwork in a bag that you will be checking either.  You will need it at multiple points at the port.   Also be sure to secure the luggage tags on your luggage before you leave.  There will be no time to place them on your luggage when you get to the port. 

As you leave for the port, you head in the direction of the Orlando International Airport (you’ll pass right by it).  Be sure to pay attention to the signs pointing to the airport while on Disney Property, it is easy to make a wrong turn.

The address for the Disney Terminal at Port Canaveral is:
Port Canaveral Terminal #A
9155 Charles M. Rowland Dr.
Port Canaveral, FL 32920
(Some GPS systems will not recognize Port Canaveral. In this case use Cape Canaveral)

Once you turn off I-4, and onto toll road 528, you will encounter various tollbooths.  Unless you have the Sun Pass, you will need to stop at each tollbooth and pay the toll.  If you don’t stop at the tollbooth, and stay on the main road, you may receive a ticket.  The total of all the tolls between Disney World and Port Canaveral is $4.25.  Exact change is not required if you stay on 528.  At a few exits, exact change is required, but taking those exits is not required to reach Port Canaveral (only if you need to stop). 

There will be plenty of places to stop for gas or food between the Disney World Resort and the airport. However once you pass the airport, you will encounter a 30 miles strip of highway with every few stops.  If you think you may need to get gas, be sure to do it before the airport.  Avoid gas stations near the airport.  They tend to be more expensive than other gas stations in the greater Orlando area.

Once you reach Highway 1, you will once again find gas stations.  Also in this area you will get your first glimpse of your Disney Cruise ship, as you pass over the causeway.  As you get closer to the ship, you will have a view of Kennedy Space Center to your left. 

When you reach the port, you will follow signs from 528 to the port.  Directions are very clear.  Just follow the Disney signs. 

After a few turns you will be stopped by a cruise terminal employee.  They will direct you head to a Disney cast member that will check your identification and ensure you are on the guest list.  After this check, you will be directed to drive to the luggage drop off location. 

After driving a couple hundred feet you will reach the baggage drop off location.  It is very similar to dropping off luggage at the airport curbside check-in (without actually checking-in).  A porter will help you with your luggage.  It’s a rather busy place, which is why you need to already have your luggage tags on your baggage.  Also this is a place to watch your children carefully.  Cars are consistently coming and going.  Also it is customary to tip the porter helping you with your bags (at least one dollar per bag). 

At this point, passengers in the car may walk into the terminal or stay in the car (and walk to the terminal after parking the car).  Once your luggage is dropped off, you will follow the road to the parking lot (only a few hundred feet away).

The parking lot at the terminal is similar to parking lots at most airports. Before you can drive through the gate, you will need to obtain a parking card from vending machine.  You will pay as you leave the port.  Parking is $15/day (not a night) and major credit cards are accepted.  This means, a 3-night cruise is $60, because your car is there for 4 days.  The Disney Cruise Line parking lot has both a parking ramp and surface parking.  As a side note, restrooms are located on the first floor of the parking ramp near the elevators.

After parking, collect the bags you will carry onto the cruise ship.  Follow sigs to the terminal.  You can walk across the street or take the elevated pathway from the parking ramp.

PT Tip – It will take a few hours for your luggage to arrive to your room.  Bring your bathing suits with you in your carry on bags if you want to go swimming after lunch.

As you approach the terminal, on the other side of the road from the parking lot, you will be once again be stopped and asked for identification.  Simply provide your identification so it can be checked against the guest list. 

After your identification is checked, you will walk into the terminal.  At this point you will need to go through a medal detector, and your bags will need to go through an x-ray machine.  Typically there is a line to go through the medal detectors.  Be sure to keep an eye on your valuables as they pass through the x-ray machine. 

Following the security check, you will enter the main hall of the terminal.  At this point you will want to fill out a health card and get in line to check-in.  There are two lines. One line is for guests that have never cruised before with Disney, and one line for guests that have previously cruised with Disney (this line is shorter). 

Once you reach the desk to check-in, you will provide all of the paperwork required to check-in, including another check of your identification.  After everything is finished, you will receive your Key to the World Card. 

TP Tip – Your Key to the World Card will have your dining rotation on it. For example, Dinner: 5:45 PM-ERA Table:11, indicates that Enchanted Garden is the first night, Royal Palace is the second night, and Animators Palate is the third night.  If you don’t like the rotation, you might be able to change it.  As soon as you board the ship, ask guest services where to go to make a change.

After receiving your Key to the World Card, you may or may not be able to embark.  If you have to wait, the terminal is a good place to take pictures.  They have Disney movies running and a model of the Disney Magic to view.

Once you are allowed to embark, you will enter through the mouse ears, onto the gangway.  A cast member will scan your Key to the World Card and direct you to the photographer.  This photography stop is fairly important because this is the photo that Disney uses for facial recognition, to identify you in all of the remaining pictures taken of you on the cruise. 

Following the photo you will enter the cruise ship.  A cast member will announce your family name and direct you to the lunch location.

There are other options to get to the Disney Cruise Line terminal at Port Canaveral.  Disney offers a bus service at $70/round trip per person. 

To avoid high parking fees there is a Park N’ Cruise parking lot 5 minutes from the terminal, with a rate of $6.99/day.  Also you could rent a car one way.  Avis, Budget, Hertz, and Thrifty all have locations near the terminal.   From the car rental location you will need to take a taxi to the terminal. 

For more travel information, continue to visit powertouring.  Also please support Give Kids The World, a nonprofit resort in Kissimmee, Florida children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The New Prague

Once the iron curtain fell, it didn’t take long for visitors from the West to discover Prague.  It was an inexpensive city to visit with plenty to offer. Quickly Prague gained international attention, as visitors went back home and raved how inexpensive and beautiful the city was.  Prague is no longer a secret, and it’s no longer inexpensive for visitors from the West to visit.  Now a major European city with a currency that has strengthened through the years, Prague has no problem attracting tourists. 

So the question is, what’s the new Prague?  What city can I visit that has a great exchange rate and plenty of great attractions?  The answer is Krakow, Poland. 

Krakow is starting to gain popularity with tourist around the world.  A very scenic city with much of its original city walls still standing, Krakow is great city to visit.  There are plenty of attractions in the city worth visiting, including, Rynek Glowny Grand Square, Wawel Hill, and the Kazimierz Historic District.  Just outside the city are the Wieliczka Salt Mines, which are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 

Along with great attractions, Krakow has a great culinary scene.  There are plenty of great restaurants to choose from, especially in the main square.  With a great exchange rate, you don’t have to worry about going over budget dining out either.  Following dinner be sure to check out Krakow’s great nightlife.  You will have no problem finding a bar to your liking near the main square. 

PT Tip - Polish Vodka is world renown and Krakow is a great place to sample vodka from around Poland.  There are plenty of tasting and tours centered on this topic.

Along with great attractions and great food, Krakow has excellent hotels.  You will not have to get a second mortgaging on your house to stay at a great hotel either. Plenty of reasonably priced boutique hotels are located within the city center.

Krakow is now a hot spot for tourist but you still have time visit the city before prices soar to the levels of Prague.  When visiting Poland, be sure to stop in Krakow, you won’t regret it. 

So what will be the next Krakow?  The answer is Tallinn, Estonia, but we will save that for anther post.

For more information on travel planning continue to visit  Also join our family friendly community at to meet fellow PT’ers and to get all of your traveling questions answered.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Overlooked Wales

Hidden between England (to the East) and the Atlantic Ocean/Irish Sea (to the West), Wales is often an overlooked travel destination.  For many reasons, planning a trip to Wales is never a consideration.  Travelers will plan trips surrounding countries, such as, Ireland, England, and Scotland but they never want to include Wales.

When I ask, why are you not going to Wales during your time in Europe?  I often hear back that they don’t know much about Wales.  In fact, outside of Cardiff, most people can’t name another single city, town, or attraction in Wales.  This is really shame, but Wales does very little self-promotion compared to its neighbors.  Ireland, only 70km away, is the benchmark for self-promotion.  Millions of tourists flock to the island yearly.  However, the lack of promotion could be on purpose.  Maybe residences don’t want their roads over run with buses, their beautiful landscape spoiled, or their local destinations overrun.  Regardless of the reason, Wales is an undiscovered pocket of Europe. 

The best way to see Wales is by car.  Although there are trains and buses that service the country, renting car is your best option.  Driving through the countryside of Wales will allow you to discover the quaint towns and dramatic landscrape of Wales.

Popular attractions include:

- Snowdonia National Park
- Village of Portmeirion
- Caernarfon Castle
- St. Davids Cathedral
- Tintern Abbey
- Cardiff Castle
- Tenby Harbor
- Conwy Castle
- Millennium Stadium
- Hay on Wye

PT Tip – Portmeiron is the site of the famous TV show The Prisoner. 

Also if you are interested in a little more excitement you can always go surfing at the Gower beaches, bog snorkeling, or coastseering.

Much like everything else in Wales, the food is another hidden secret.  When in Wales be sure to check out traditional dishes such as:

- Tatws Pum Munud (a stew with potatoes, vegetables, and bacon)
- Bara Brith (a sweet bread with dried fruit)
- Cawl (a lamb and leek strew)
- Cockle (a small type of clam, usually steamed). 
- Crempog (a Welsh pancake)
- Welsh Cakes (small cakes baked on a bakestone)

TP Tip – The Welsh love their Cider (alcoholic cider).  Take the opportunity to try brands of cider than cannot be found anywhere else.

This article is only intended to give you a taste of what Wales has to offer.  When planning a trip to Europe, be sure to consider Wales an option.  Unlike its neighbor to the West, Ireland, Wales gets very little attention.  However, Ireland has nothing on Wales.  It’s only a matter of time before Wales is discovered as a must see.  I suggest you get there before the rest of the world finds out how much Wales has to offer.  

Give us more PT tips on our forum and find more traveling information on

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To Vancouver via Seattle

Vancouver, Canada is one of my favorite places in the world to visit.  Every time I go, I find myself grabbing a real estate guide, with the dream of moving to a waterfront condo on Coal Harbour.  Once a hidden gem, Vancouver gained worldwide attention in 1986, at the World’s Fair (Expo ’86).  Since then, millions of tourists have flocked annually to the city.  In 2010, the eyes of the world once again turned to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics.  Successfully, Vancouver showcased its beautiful city and surrounding area during these two weeks.  Now Vancouver is as popular as ever and hotels regularly fill up during peak seasons. 

Recently, I planned a cruise out of Vancouver to Alaska.  Many questions come up during the planning phase of a trip to Vancouver.  However, the first question was, how do I get to Vancouver?  Living in South Carolina, flying to the west coast was my best option.  For travelers living in the U.S.A., flying into Canada can be very expensive.  In addition to the expensive airfare, frequently you will have an additional connection. 

My solution was to fly into Seattle.  Seattle is a major airport and typically airfares are much cheaper than flying into Vancouver (for those living in the U.S.A.).  Not only did I save money but I also avoided an additional airline connection.  There are a couple options to get from Seattle to Vancouver, including trains and buses.  The train is a very popular option because of the scenic, hassle free ride.  (PT Tip - get a seat on the left side of the train for the best views).  In my case, I decided renting a car would be my best option.  The drive is 3 hours (the same amount of time it would have been for the additional airline connection).    

A few factors lead me to my decision of rent a car.  First, I was not confined by train or bus schedules.  Renting a car provided me the ability to leave Seattle as soon possible.  Second, I could stop along the way.  There are many scenic towns between Seattle and Vancouver.  I decided to stop at Anacortes, Washington, which is a charming little town near the San Juan Islands.  Third, I could stop at a grocery store and pick up food and beverages for the rest of the trip.  Fourth, I would have a car for day trips from Vancouver.  In my case, the day after we arrived, we drove to Whistler.  Whistler is a world class ski community and the drive along the Sea-to-Sky highway is one of the most scenic in the Pacific Northwest.  (PT Tip - Be sure to stop along the way at Shannon Falls Provincial Park.) 

However, driving does provide a disadvantage, which is the requirement to pass through Customs and Border Protection.  Depending on the time of day, you could end up waiting in traffic at the border.  If you suspect you will cross the border during a peak time, you might want to consider altering your trip to avoid the delays (or take the train).  Also wait times going into the U.S.A. are usually longer than going into Canada.  For border wait times, see the website

When crossing the border, always be prepared.  Have your passports ready and be prepared to answer a handful of questions.  Border crossings are no place for fun and games.  I’ve crossed the U.S.A./Canadian border hundreds of times and have been pulled over about ten times.  Being asked to pull over for additional questioning and a car search is no fun, and will add additional time to your trip (or they could refuse you access to their country).  Do not give the border patrol officer a hard time; they can make your life difficult.  (PT Tip - don’t change lanes frequently when waiting at the border and never pull up right behind the car in front of you at the booth.  Pictures of the car and license plate are taken once a car pulls into the booth.  If you block this picture, you can expect the border patrol office to be very unkind to you.)

Vancouver and the surrounding area is a beautiful part of Canada.  No matter how you get there, it is always worth a visit.  (PT Tip - try to catch a Vancouver Canucks game if you are a hockey fan).  Feel free to add to this discussion on our community boards, and visit for additional article and information on travel planning. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

How To Use Online Hotel Reviews

One of the first things we do as travel planners is look at the online hotel reviews.  The most popular site is but there are others including and  I strongly suggest you look at the reviews before booking a hotel. However, don’t dismiss a hotel because of a few bad reviews.

Hotels have very little power when it comes to online reviews.  One disgruntled hotel guest can write multiple negative reviews without recourse.  When looking at online reviews, see if there are two or three negative reviews grouped together.  This is an indication of one disgruntled guest, especially if the members posting have very few total reviews.  When I see this pattern, I make a note it, but don’t dismiss the hotel completely.

Often time’s hotels will receive negative reviews due to one particular issue.  A good example of this is lack of parking, or expensive parking. Guests will hold this against the hotel in their reviews, which can push an otherwise good hotel down the rankings. However, if you will not driving to the hotel, then this issue will not affect you and you could have missed a great stay.  Always see what the reviews consist of before writing off a hotel.

The most obvious issue with online reviews is that all reviews are subjective.  A guest that has become accustomed to staying at 5-star hotels may give a negative review to a four-star hotel that lack of world-class service.  While a guest that has stayed at hostels for a week straight will be more than happy with a four-star hotel.  When reading reviews, look at the background of the author of the review. 

Along with reading the online reviews, look at the pictures.  A picture is worth a thousand words and the most helpful reviews are the ones with pictures.  I always skip straight to those reviews.  When a guests comments “the room was dirty” and then posts a picture of the conditions, you can put a lot more faith in that review.

Hotels put a lot of energy into maintaining a good status online.  The best PT Tip I can give PT’er is to tell the hotel that you will be writing a review of the hotel on the Power Touring community boards or another website before arriving to the hotel.  Most hotels have a comment section when you book your hotel.  Write a quick statement that you will be reviewing the hotel and the chances of an upgraded room drastically increase.  

If you have any other PT Tips, feel free to share them on our community boards.  Also be sure to visit for more information on travel planning.