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How Much Does A Minnie Van Cost?

Minnie Van PriceHow much does a Minnie Van cost?  Well, it all depends where you’re going!

When Disney launched this service as a pilot in 2017 it was $20 USD for a trip anywhere on Disney property.  I was a big fan of the Minnie Vans and have used them on multiple trips.  The service is so easy to use and has become a permanent fixture on property.  As the program has evolved over time, so has the pricing.  What started out as a flat fee has now become based on distance.

The price for a Minnie Van is now $15 USD flat rate PLUS $2.75 per mile.

Minnie Van Price Details

Price details found in the Lyft app when requesting a Minnie Van

 

While Uber and Lyft generally have a price surge model (fares go up when demand is greater), the two companies are very similar on pricing.  Both Uber and Lyft charge around $1.00 to start a ride and $1.50 per mile, and .25 cents per minute. When we average that out, it equals about $2.00 per mile.  These are just general estimates and vary by city – but it gives you an idea of the pricing comparison.

Minnie Van Marketing

 

There are many reasons that I would prefer a Minnie Van vs an Uber or Lyft, but the biggest one is peace of mind.  I know that the person driving me is a cast member and not a random stranger.  I know that effectively a cast member is a stranger – but I think I trust Disney’s ‘screening process’ a little more than those other companies.

 

Minnie Van Grand Floridian

Price of a Minnie Van from the Grand Floridian to Epcot

The biggest challenge in my mind now is the price.  It is more expensive than ever to take a Minnie Van on property, unless you’re going a short distance.  $29 USD is quite a bit in my opinion for a lift from the Grand Floridian to Epcot – but I can tell you that at the end of a long day… I will gladly pay $30 to take me back to my resort if I don’t have to wait for a bus or monorail and get to travel in style!

Will you use the Minnie Van service with the new pricing?

 

The Grand Floridian Cafe Review Walt Disney World

Grand Floridian Cafe SeatingDining options at Walt Disney World can be totally overwhelming.  If you’re a first time (or repeat visitor) it can feel a little stressful making sure you get those must-have reservations.  If you spend any time online in Facebook groups or reading some of the sites that create the hype – you would think that your vacation will be ruined if you don’t get the coveted Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table or Chef Mickey reservation.  Nothing could be further from the truth!

It is incredible how many delicious places there are to eat at Walt Disney World, and some of my favourite Disney table services are the ones that you can typically get reservations for at the last minute.  These places are like the best kept secrets – and I’m now going to tell you about one, the Grand Floridian Cafe.

This overlooked restaurant sits next to the entrance to 1900 Park Fare, but it is often not even noticed in the hustle to get to the character dining.  It is elegant, yet unpretentious and you’re welcome to dine in your park attire.  It’s casual, yet classy – with the roses on the table and great views of the grounds, the atmosphere is relaxed and warm.

Grand Floridian Cafe Rose

I have eaten at the Grand Floridian Cafe a few times now, and have never NOT enjoyed my meal.  I’ve had breakfast once, but dinner multiple times and am often conflicted about booking a breakfast and dinner on the same trip at the same restaurant.  #TooManyGoodChoices

The dinner menu at the Grand Floridian Cafe has quite a variety of dishes.  From steak to meatloaf, salmon or grits, there is something for everyone.   We took our time enjoying our drinks with the bread and butter while deciding on the menu.

Grand Floridian Cafe

My friends decided on the sirloin and scallops and miso-glazed salmon

rand Floridian Cafe Steak and Scallops

Sirloin and Scallops

 

Grand Floridian Cafe Salmon

Salmon

I had to have the buttermilk fried chicken.  It just sounds delicious – buttermilk fried chicken, doesn’t it sound mouth watering?  Well – I can tell you, it WAS very tasty!  It was so juicy, but seasoned and crispy on the outside.  There was even KALE on the plate, and I ate it.. which if you knew me, you would know that it must have been REALLY good for me to eat the kale!

Grand Floridian Cafe Chicken

Buttermilk chicken

When the waiter came by to show us the dessert menu, we all said we couldn’t… but then we did.  The menu had a dessert sampler for 2 – but there were 4 desserts and 4 of us.  It worked out perfectly that we each wanted a different one!   We were stuffed, but managed to eat our individual desserts as they were the perfect size for just a little taste.

Grand Floridian Cafe Desserts

The dessert sampler

Next time I’ll make sure to leave more room for a full size dessert, because I do love my desserts!  Maybe I should cut out the salad starter?  That would help…

Looking for a hidden gem quick service?  Check out this place here.

 

 

How Do You Afford To Go To Disney So Often?

How can you afford DisneyIt always amazes me that I get asked the question “How can you afford to go to Disney so often?”.  It’s an uncomfortable question because I never know how to answer it.  Are people expecting me to tell them how much money I earn?  I can assure you, I don’t make any money from Pixie Dust Fan at the moment, but I’m hopeful one day it becomes a full time career.

I do have an unmagical job in the corporate world that pays my bills, but it doesn’t afford a big disposable income.  I have to prioritize Disney vacations over most other things in order to visit as often as I do.  While I still think it’s an awkward question – I’m going to answer it in hopes that you can learn a trick or two so that you can visit more often!

These are 10 things that I do to prioritize and save money for my Disney vacations.

1.  I don’t buy clothes, and when I do – they’re not expensive

Ask anyone I work with in my corporate job, I don’t have an extensive wardrobe.   I keep my work clothes until they don’t fit anymore or fall apart, whichever comes first.  They aren’t expensive to begin with – and I purposely buy things that are mix and match so that I can appear to have more outfits than I really do.

2.  I buy no name and discount brands at the grocery store

Yes – I scrimp everywhere else that I can.  I buy no name paper towel and no name frozen pizzas.  My garbage and recycling bags are no name and tend to rip easily – but that’s okay, I just make sure I’m careful when I carry them to the curb.  Each dollar saved can go towards a treat in the parks!  

Recycle Bags

They do the job!

 

 

3.  I don’t spend money on entertainment

I’m too old to go clubbing and I don’t really go ‘out’ and spend money on entertainment anymore.  It’s rare for me to go out and spend money on dinner, food or drinks unless I’m in Disney.  At home, I’m normally at work or at home checking in on Pixie Dust Fans, I don’t have time to go out spending money, my big splurges are going to the movies when a new Star Wars movie is released!

4.  I do my own repairs 

It’s amazing the repairs you can do with a toolbox and YouTube video!  I have fixed many things around my house by myself (the toilet running, the shower leaking and resetting the pilot light on my water heater to name a few).  All of these have saved me a bunch of money on professional service calls.  When I can’t fix it myself, I weigh the price of the call out vs the inconvenience.  For example – my washing machine ‘errors out’ during the spin cycle.  I can bypass the error by restarting the machine.  It’s a royal pain, running up and down the stairs twice for every load of laundry – but the price of repair is the same as 4 nights at Pop Century.  It’s okay – I could use the exercise anyway!

Repairs

I don’t look quite so glamorous!

5.  I measure all spending in relation to Disney vacations

Before I buy anything, I think about what I could do in Disney for the same money and then determine if it’s worth it.  For example, if I wanted to spend an evening out for a nice dinner and a concert, I could easily spend $150.  For that money I could pay for a Halloween or Christmas party ticket, or 2 really great table service meals, or a night at a Disney resort – I know what I would rather have!  On a smaller scale, 3 steeped teas at Tim Horton’s would be the same as a chocolate covered pineapple spear or a dole whip.  When you put it in to those terms, it makes it much easier to save money!

Dole Whips

I’ll trade the lovely Tim Horton’s tea for these any day!

6.  Each pay has something for Disney

I have friends at work who say they ‘pay themselves’ on every pay day – they put X amount in a retirement plan or RRSP.  I do something similar, but it’s the Disney fund!  I have a separate savings account that automatically transfers money on pay day for vacations.

 

 

7.  I use the tools that my bank offers me

I have a USD bank account where I deposit money whenever I can.  When I do it in smaller increments, I don’t feel the ‘sting’ of the exchange rate so much.  I also have a prepaid USD Visa from my bank.  I load that up so that when I’m there, I have a limit of money I can spend.  Well… I like to think I limit it, but when a new Dooney is released, that’s when the OTHER Visa comes out.  

CIBC Prepaid USD Visa

I like having a balance sitting on my card – it helps me budget (sometimes!)

8.  I quit smoking

After 30 years I finally quit smoking!  Feels weird putting it in writing because it’s only been 5 months – but I’m calling it FINAL!  What I spent in cigarettes was insane, but I never gave it a second thought because I NEEDED it.  Now I choose to use the cigarette money for flights (believe it or not, it’s the same price for a round trip flight as it was for 1 month of smokes).  

9.  I buy an annual pass and am a Disney Vacation Club member

Buying an annual pass is a no brainer when you visit as many times as I do during the year.  My Disney Vacation Club purchase was the right investment for me when I bought it before Bay Lake Tower opened because I didn’t have to finance it for long and the dollar was good.   When you finance a DVC membership and then add the maintenance fees – you won’t be ‘saving’ money for years.

Passholder Entrance

I don’t know what I would do without my annual pass!

10.  I use a travel agent

While I have DVC points, I never have enough points to cover all of my trips, so I use Pure Magic Vacations for those ones.  Even with ALL of my trips to Walt Disney World – I still book with a travel agent because I don’t want to have to research what promotions are available or sit on hold long distance if I want to change it.  I don’t have them book my dining or fastpasses because I like to do that myself, but the room booking or cruise bookings they do for me.  This is their profession – they know what they’re doing and it’s no cost to me, why wouldn’t I use them?

I need to get back to Disney

It really is my happy place, so I make it a priority in my life.

There you have it, my list of things that I do at home to make sure I have money for my Disney vacations!    It’s clear that I prioritize my Disney vacations, they are really important to me.  

Do you do any of these things?  How do YOU save for your Disney vacations?

 

D23 The Official Disney Fan Club For Who?

D23 Fan ClubUPDATE AUGUST 20, 2018 –

Just when you start to feel like Disney has let you down, they make it RIGHT!  Canadian fans, UK fans, Fans from everywhere BUT the US were upset when Disney announced on August 16th that gold memberships could only be sold to those living in the US.  We were all upset and disappointed, how could they turn their backs on us?  Don’t they value us?  I knew there had to be more to the story.

On August 20th Disney sent an email explaining – this was due in part to the new privacy regulations and they are working to find a solution.  In the meantime, they are adding an additional 12 months to existing memberships at no cost!  This means that there will be no issue purchasing or attending D23 events and expos.

August 20th Email

Disney – you really know customer service.  We get it, things happen… but I can always count on you to make it right.  Thanks for continuing to be a company that makes me feel like a valued fan!

 

*** ORIGINAL BLOG POSTED AUGUST 16 BELOW ***

I have come to accept that it’s not easy being a Canadian Disney fan.  There are so many things that make it harder for us, from the inability to have our magic bands and other great merchandise shipped across the border to the actual shipping costs of the things we can get!  But despite the challenges, we are always loyal and committed to our addiction.

One of the things that us crazy Disney fans love is to feel is like you’re part of the ‘club’, the official club of Disney fans.  For years, it was sort of a society that we created, where we found each other and knew we had a shared a love of all things Disney.  Back in 2009 Disney embraced us all and created a real OFFICIAL Disney fan club, D23.  We were all thrilled to sign up.

Oswald D23

Over the years D23 has grown and includes different tiers of membership tied to different benefits.  The basic membership is free and includes email newsletters and the opportunity to declare that you’re part of the club.

The real ‘gold’ is in the GOLD membership.  The gold membership includes D23’s Annual Member Gift, the quarterly publication magazine, access to exclusive D23 events, discounts and more.

D23 Gold Member

Being a Gold Member made us all feel special, even though we paid crazy amounts in shipping for those publications – we were happy to do it, because it meant we were included.

In the email sent on August 16th, D23 advised that they would no longer be able to offer gold memberships to those members outside of the United States.  They indicated that they were ‘exploring options’ and ‘updates would be provided when a solution is identified’.

D23 Email

Disney does not release statements without carefully considering the language and I choose to believe that something out of their control has required them to make this change.

Fans on Twitter have been expressing their frustrations

 

 

Clearly something happened – I can’t imagine that Disney would create this PR nightmare voluntarily!

For now, I’ll take a deep breath and wait for word to find out when I can join the ‘in crowd’ again.  I just hope they don’t take too long to figure this all out – there are some events I would like to attend!

Were you a D23 Gold Member?  What do you think happened?

 

Top 5 Myths About Using A Disney Travel Agent

Do Not DisturbWhether it’s your first Disney vacation or your hundredth, you should use a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations.  This topic is debated frequently in many Facebook Groups, but I often see some big misconceptions given for reasons against it.  I decided it was time to correct some of that misinformation.

Here are my top 5 myths about booking with a reputable Disney Travel Agent

 

1.  You will pay extra

Your Disney vacation will cost the SAME as if you booked it directly with Disney yourself.  A good agent can tell you where you might be able to save some money or what ‘upgrades’ would be worth it.

 

2.  You lose control of your vacation

Nothing could be FURTHER from the truth.  You can control as much or as little as you like!  You can book your own fastpasses, dining, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique reservations and special events if you’d prefer.  The beauty is that if you don’t WANT to book those things – you have an agent who will do it for you free of charge.

 

Donald Duck Dream Along With Mickey

3.  You don’t need one

Honestly, I need one…. and I’ve been visiting for over 40 years!  My travel agent doesn’t do my fastpasses or dining (although I probably should let her since I’m terrible at it!).  Where I get a TON of value is when there is a promotion or event, or website glitch that requires a call to Disney. I don’t have to sit on hold for 4 hours when the room promotion comes out, or when I have to change my dates because of the hurricane coming – my agent does that for me.

 

4.  All of the information is online anyway

Sure, and you still can do your own research when you’re using a travel agent.  You can make decisions based on what you’ve read online, what your friend at work told you and what you saw on TV.  Where you can use the agent is to bounce around ideas with your specific goals in mind.  Agents can draw on the tribal knowledge within their team to provide specific feedback for your family and will have very recent experiences to share with you.  Why not have that extra resource at your disposal?

 

5.  They’re all the same

No, they aren’t!  Agencies with Disney’s EarMarked status indicates their level of experience and knowledge with Disney products.  It is important to find an agency with that status, but also an agency built by people who truly love what they do.

I recommend Pure Magic Vacations – they love what they do, and they know what they’re doing!

Do you use a travel agent to book your Disney vacation?

 

Frozen Dessert Party At Epcot Review

The Frozen Ever After Dessert Party at Epcot is an opportunity to eat some sweet treats, reserve a great spot for Illuminations AND experience the Frozen attraction without a long wait!  Who wouldn’t want to do all that??

The evening that we did the Frozen Dessert Party, the weather was not the greatest.  We checked in at World Showcase Plaza, located next to Disney Traders.  We were directed to the Frozen attraction and were led upstairs to a room where our desserts would be served inside.

The room was decorated with some cute ‘candle’ holders on the tables, and there was plenty of seating for everyone.

There was quite a variety of drinks including pop, juice, coffee/tea, water, beer, sangria and wine!

Frozen_Dessert_Party_Pop

Canned soft drinks

Frozen Dessert Party Drinks

Water, Juice, Coffee and Tea

Then it was time to look at the food… and wow – there was a lot to enjoy!

Frozen_Dessert_Party_Fresh_Fruits

The Fresh Fruit was yummy

Frozen Dessert Party Bread and cheese

Cheese fondue was fun – I even had some broccoli!

My favourites were the cheese fondue, freeze dried popcorn, Elsa’s Blue velvet cupcakes and the S’mores pudding cake.

Blue Velvet cupcakes – loved the icing on these!

S’more pudding – it was delicious!!

All of the treats were tasty, but I will admit to having second helpings of the cheese, popcorn and cake.

Frozen_Dessert_Party_Desserts

My first tasting

While I didn’t feel rushed, the time did pass quickly and it was time to go to our viewing area for Illuminations.  It was probably a good thing it was time to go – or I may have gone back for 3rd, 4th and 7th helpings of that S’mores pudding cake!

 

The viewing area was right at the base of World Showcase – directly across from the American pavilion.  It was a good place to watch from – and there was plenty of room.  If we had the desserts outside, we would have had assigned tables, but it would have still been a great view.

Frozen Dessert Party Illuminations viewing area

We purposely stood back from the railing – there was so much room

Once Illuminations were over, you are led back to the Frozen attraction where you are escorted on without a wait.  I have to confess, we didn’t go!  We were staying at the Boardwalk and it was hot and sticky – we didn’t feel like walking all the way back to Norway when we were already half way ‘home’.  Don’t worry – we have been on the attraction before, so we didn’t feel like we were missing out.

Was it worth the money?  It all depends on what is important to you.  The admission was $79 per adult (10 and up) and $49 USD per child (3-9 years).  You don’t need to fastpass Frozen during the day (or stand in the lines!) and you also get a fantastic view for Illuminations. This was probably the best view I’ve ever had for Illuminations since I avoid crowded areas we are normally standing way back.  I enjoyed the desserts maybe a little too much, but that’s what I was there for!  Overall, we had a great experience and I was glad we had done it once, but I don’t think it will be something we do all the time.

Have you done the Frozen dessert party at Epcot?  What did you think?

 

B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co At Disney Springs

BB Wolf's B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co at Disney Springs was one of those places that I knew I had to try,  The problem with Disney Springs is that there are too many great places to eat and snack, that I rarely find myself ready for something spontaneous when I have passed this particular kiosk.  I decided I had to make a trip to Disney Springs just to TRY this place given that my Facebook followers had encouraged it!

So I don’t know HOW it went right over my head, but BB Wolf’s?  Big Bad Wolf’s that serves 3 Little Pigs?  Ya, I’m ashamed to admit it – but it never clicked!

The kiosk is located at the end of the bridge closer to Paddlefish and almost across from the Lego store.  It’s important to note that finding a place to eat your food could be challenging on a busy night as there no dedicated area for BB Wolf’s seating.  We were there in the afternoon, so we managed to grab a table right across from the kiosk that had an umbrella.  I don’t particularly like eating outside, especially when it’s hot, but this was more of a snack than a meal.

BB Wolf's Menu

I was travelling with a friend who really loves hot dogs, so it wasn’t difficult to convince him that we should eat here.   I wanted to try the basic hot dog – no frills, no salad – just a good old fashioned hot dog that I could compare to the ones I like at Cosmic Rays.

BB Wolf Hot Dog

All Beef Quarter Pound Hot Dog

The hot dog was good – but the only ‘toppings’ available were mustard and ketchup.  No relish, onions, tomatoes, pickles – nothing extra.  While I’m a bit of a plain eater – this was a bit too plain for me.

My friends decided to be a bit more adventurous and tried the Greek Dog and the trio.

The Greek Dog

The feedback on the Greek Dog was that it was a salad – on a hot dog.  There was plenty of salad on the dog, in fact they could have just eaten the salad itself.

3 Little Pigs Trio

The Trio was different, plenty of toppings on each and the house made pickles were delicious.  I know that they have switched up what type of dogs are in the trio from time to time – so it’s best to check the menu when you arrive to see if they are something you might like.

For us – the hot dogs were okay, but I wouldn’t be racing back for them.  What I WOULD make sure I get to have again is the House Made Pretzel Braid.  It is served with cheese fondue and mustard, and was awesome!

The Pretzel Braid with cheese fondue

This was something I could happily snack on while roaming around Disney Springs, something to fill the gap before a dinner reservation.  This way I can save the Sprinkles Cupcake for after dinner!

Have you eaten at B.B. Wolf’s?  What did you think?

 

Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort Review

The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort are a very different option to the other resorts on property, there’s nothing else like them!  I’ve stayed in a Cabin twice now, and I feel like I can honestly give my opinion of the things I liked and didn’t like about the cabins.

 

What I liked

 

Stock your fridge for your arrival

Yes, you can order groceries to be waiting in your cabin when you arrive!  How great would that be to arrive at your cabin to find your
favourite cold drink in the fridge and milk or cream to make your first coffee or tea?  To order your items click here.

 

Full Kitchen

I know that for some, the last thing you want to do on vacation is cook, but for others – cooking a few meals can cut down on costs and leave some money for souvenir shopping!  It’s also very nice to have a full size fridge that gets really cold, along with a stove and microwave to heat up the leftovers that we had from the night before.

 

It’s quiet

Even in the best resorts – if you have a loud neighbour, it can be annoying.  In the cabins, you are not ‘connected’ to anyone else, in fact the cabins are a decent distance from each other.  Both times we have stayed here I have never heard our neighbours.  It’s a very quiet and peaceful sleep here.Fort Wilderness Cabin Couch

 

The deck

We loved sitting on the deck.  It was fun to eat out there, have a morning coffee – it was just nice to feel like I was ‘out in the wild’, and yet be only 6 feet from the coffee pot in the kitchen.

 

Proximity to the Magic Kingdom

Being able to take a boat over to the Magic Kingdom and see see the Electrical Water Pageant is a huge bonus!

 

It’s recreation overload

While we are pretty ‘relaxed’ people who enjoy sitting on the deck, we could have been REALLY busy if we took advantage of all the recreational activities that Fort Wilderness had to offer!

There is archery, a ranch, pony rides, basketball and bicycle rentals to name a few.  You could have this all done by the evening and then participate in a campfire sing-a-long!  Seriously, you could spend a week here and never go to a park just enjoying everything it has to offer.  For a full list – check here.

 

The dining options

Okay – I know I said one of the great things was being able to cook, but the other great thing is being close to some GREAT dining options!  The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is definitely a favourite of many Disney fans, but I have to say that Trail’s End Restaurant is a hidden gem!  It’s a fantastic buffet that we’ve grown quite fond of, we will make our way over for dinner even when we’re not staying there!

 

 

Not a fan –

 

The resort is BIG

There is an internal bus service to get you from your cabin to the restaurants or shops – but if you weren’t in the closest loop, you couldn’t walk there.  If you can, the best way to vacation here is to rent a golf cart!  It’s the best and most convenient way to get around and not be dependent on the bus.

 

The bedroom 

I feel like the bunk beds being in the same room with the mater bed didn’t make a lot of sense for our party.  There were 4 adults, so we choose for two to sleep on the pull out couch in the living room vs us all in the 1 bedroom.

 

I don’t like camping

Okay – this isn’t camping, I know that.  There’s running water, a full kitchen, bathroom and a comfy bed – but it’s still ‘close to nature’!  I prefer the trees like the ones at the Grand Floridian 🙂

Have you stayed in the cabins?  What did you think?

For a full walkthrough – see my video below!

 

Google Street View of Disney Parks

Google has released street views from inside Disney Parks in Orlando and California and they are awesome!

These views allow you to see the park as you would if you were standing in it.  It will help people who are planning get a real look at how the parks are laid out and show first time visitors how BIG they are.

For those of us that need a Disney ‘fix’ while we’re at home, you can literally walk around online using the Google Street view of some of your favourite places!

Some of the street views you can find:

Magic Kingdom

Pandora – The World Of Avatar

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Epcot

Disney Springs

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park

Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park 

ESPN Wide World of Sports

California Adventure

Disneyland Park

Downtown Disney

You could spend hours exploring these street views and looking inside restaraunts, seeing the attractions and wandering World Showcase.

I have spend a “little” time exploring today and I have to say, I’m addicted!

Some of my favourites:

Seeing Chewie at Star Wars Launch Bay 

Remembering my fabulous dinner at Carthay Circle in the table on the left here

Or visiting my favourite snack place in Epcot

There are SO many things you can explore with these views!  I think I’m addicted!

What’s your favourite thing you’ve found on the street view?

 

Feeding The Wildlife At Disney

Don’t Feed The Wildlife signs are scattered all over Walt Disney World, yet on any given day you can find someone feeding them.  What gives?  WHY would you do this?

While the Disney Parks have lots of Mice and Ducks running around – the majority of them are there to sign autographs and get pictures taken with!  Mickey and Donald won’t accept your snacks and don’t need to be fed.

There is a lot of real wildlife around the property and many just ignore the signs asking you not to feed them.  Here are some of the reasons you should NOT feed the wildlife.

Our food isn’t good for them

Take a look at this photo below.  A family in Epcot were enjoying their gigantic turkey leg but decided they didn’t want the skin.  Instead of throwing it out, they gave it to this bird who of course could not ‘bite’ it much less swallow it.  I was waiting for him to drop it so I could take it away, but it ran off with it hanging out of its mouth.

Turkey Leg Skin

Providing our ‘human’ snacks to these animals might be fun for your kids to see, but extremely dangerous to the wildlife.  They can’t chew or process the food that we can and can become very ill from it.

After you’ve had your fun watching them trying to eat the popcorn you just threw, they are struggling to swallow and digest the high amount of salt you have just injected in to their diet.

It attracts other wildlife to the area

Have you noticed that there are areas in the parks where you will find a high concentration of squirrels or birds?  They have been ‘trained’ that these are the areas where there are plenty of people with food that will feed them.  WE have trained them to come to these areas to get fed because too many people are feeding them.  There is such a crowd some days you would think the birds sent a mass text to their friends that there’s a big lunch crowd outside of the American Adventure and they should all come!

They lose their fear of people and that is dangerous for everyone

As these animals become accustomed to being fed by humans, they lose their natural instincts to be afraid of us.  When they are not afraid, they become more aggressive.  I have witnessed birds swoop down and take a French fry out of someones hand or a squirrel rip apart a stroller full of snacks.  What would happen if the bird or squirrel bit a child?  The family would be screaming the house down – even if they were feeding it popcorn seconds before.

We have to remember that we train the wildlife how to behave with our own actions.  This is why Disney has signs everywhere – for our SAFETY and the safety of the wildlife.

The next time you have a snack that you don’t want to finish, walk to the nearest trash can and dispose of it.  The trash cans are everywhere, and it’s the right thing to do.  Don’t be one of those annoying guests who can’t follow the rules.

The Void Star Wars Virtual Reality At Disney Springs

Star Wars Secrets of The EmpireThe Void at Disney Springs just might be my new favourite thing.  This ‘hyper reality’ experience is taking virtual reality to a whole new level, and it’s incredible!

Being a family of Star Wars geeks, we knew that we had to try this experience at The Void.  Since it was virtual reality, there were 2 in our group that thought it might be a bit much for them and they opted out.  That left 4 of us to try it – my nephew, his two sons and myself which worked out well since the experience is in groups of 4.  It’s important to note that guests must be a minimum of 48 inches tall and at least 10 years of age to participate, and a waiver is signed before you enter.

We purchased our tickets for $29.95 USD in advance and selected a time slot before our dinner at Art Smith’s.  We had no idea what it would be like – but we were excited for what was to be an immersive Star Wars experience.

The Void Secrets Of The Empire Inside

Once we checked in, we were taken to a set-up room where we watched a short video and scanned our wrist bands.  Then it was off to get our VR gear on – and that was interesting!

The full gear included a vest and a helmet (with microphone) that allowed you to talk to the other members of our group.  In total I would say it all weighed about 10 pounds but didn’t feel uncomfortable.

When they took us in to the room and we pulled our visors down, we were laughing trying to talk to each other and realized we were now Storm Troopers.  It was hysterical seeing the youngest one as a miniature Storm Trooper and when we stuck out our hands we could see that we had ‘on’ the full Trooper uniform!

The experience took us on a mission where we could interact with things and use levers on the wall to open doors.  We knew then that we really had to work together to complete our mission.  To say that it was ‘immersive’ would be an understatement – we were THERE.  At one point there was a bridge to walk across, high up above boiling lava, and I can tell you that I literally felt like I could fall off of this bridge!  The kids had to reach back and take my hand to guide me across.

Secrets of the Empire The Void

The next thing I knew we were under attack.  We had blasters in our hands and were shooting at Storm Troopers, feeling the recoil with our shots and ducking behind things for cover.  We were shouting to each other to find a safe place to shoot from while one was trying to break the code to get us out of harms way.

I don’t want to give away any details of the mission that might ruin your experience.  What I will tell you is that you HAVE to try it!  The Void was an experience like nothing else and I am so glad we decided to try it.  The kids thought it was the coolest thing ever, and the big kids did too!

 

 

Have you tried this yet?

 

Mobile Ordering Available With Disney Dining Plan

Mobile Food Ordering WDWBeginning January 31st, 2018 – Disney’s Mobile Ordering is available to guests using a Disney Dining Plan.

Mobile ordering allows guests to order their quick service meal via the My Disney Experience app to avoid waiting in line for a cashier. Using the app, you can order your meal and be notified when it’s ready for pick up.  For details on how to use the service – click here. 

Mobile ordering has been such a welcome feature at the select quick service locations, but was previously not available to guests with a dining plan – until now.  Mobile Food Ordering DisneyGuests with any of the three Disney Dining Plans can order their meal or snack and choose if they would like to redeem dining plan credits or pay by credit card.  The new ability to track your remaining dining credits on the app is an added convenience.  I can’t wait to see it rolled out to additional locations!

Check out the ‘how to’ video here:

What I Have Learned From Pixie Dust Fans

Lessons from Pixie Dust FansYou can be scared, but do it anyway.

That’s what I wrote a year ago as one of the 5 things I had learned.  I had launched my new website and decided to focus on Pixie Dust Fan, I was terrified.  What if it was a failure?  What if no one liked it?

I decided to try anyway and my Facebook page grew from 1.5k followers to almost 24k!  It was beyond what I thought was possible, and so many surprises along the way.  It has been an incredible journey, but what I never expected is how much I would learn from all of you.

Here are the 5 things that YOU taught me this year

 

1.  Strangers Are Kind

Most of you don’t know me personally, yet so many of you have offered me kind words and encouragement this year.  It is your support that has given me the motivation to keep going.

Have faith in your dreams

 

2.  Social Media Is Exciting

I spend a LOT of time preparing posts for social media to share with you all and waiting to see what ones resonate with you is fascinating!  I have spent hours creating memes that I thought were funny only to have them flop – then a simple picture of my tea cup gets a ton of buzz!  It’s always a thrill to see people engage with a post and comment about what is going on in their lives that connects with the post.

3.  I Need New Experiences

Getting feedback from you has made my vacations better!  Hearing your feedback and stories has inspired me to try new things and revisit some old ones while I’m at Walt Disney World.  I am always keeping my eyes open for things to post and I’m motivated to try new experiences so that I can share them with you.  Some of the recommendations you’ve given me have become my new favourite things.

Mr Kamals Fries At Disney’s Animal Kingdom

4.  I Don’t Have To Be Perfect

When my video is a little shaky or I tape it with my thumb in front of the lense for the first 2 minutes (true story), you still watch and forgive my amateur status.  When my grammar and spelling isn’t perfect, you don’t write hateful comments or correct me.  You have told me you’re happy to share the Disney passion and it’s okay that I mess up, and I can’t tell you how much that means to me!

 

5.  Disney Fans Need Pixie Dust In Their Days

I have a friend at work who always says the way to get me out of a bad mood is to talk about Disney.  She wishes that she had something similar that could instantly change her mood and brighten her day.

That’s what Disney is for so many of us, something that lifts our spirits and takes our minds off of the negative stuff that surrounds us every day.  It might just be a picture of a mug or a discussion about fastpasses and ears, but it brings a moment of joy in to our days.

I am truly humbled by all of your support this year, and grateful for the lessons you have taught me.  You all are the Pixie Dust in my days.

I wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous 2018 with many magical moments to celebrate!

 

15 Disney Facebook Group Posts That Irritate Me

Disney Facebook GroupsIf you’re a Disney Fan, you probably belong to a bunch of Facebook Groups dedicated to Disney.  I’m sure you would agree that some are better than others, but it’s more than just the admins that make them good or bad, it’s the members.  I have recently removed myself from a handful of these groups because I am so irritated by some of the posts that are becoming more and more frequent.  

 

Here are the top 15 posts that irritate me in Disney Facebook Groups

 

1.  And GO! 

This is a post I see in a lot of groups, not just Disney.  Something like “Where should I eat dinner tonight?  AND GO!”.  What does this mean?  Go where?  Did you just start a race to answer your question?  Where is the “On your mark, get set” part?  #IWontGo 

Disney Race

2.  Has anyone ever….

Think about your question for a moment.  You’re in a group of DISNEY FANS – asking ‘has anyone ever eaten at Be Our Guest’, the only acceptable answers are “Yes” and “No”.  You didn’t ask for our opinion, you didn’t ask what our favourite dish is – you asked if we had eaten there.  Yes, we have.  #AskAFullQuestion

3.  Bye Felicia Posts

I actually had to google this to find out why this was a thing (apparently it’s a line from a movie).  We’ve all seen it, a post gets heated and the original poster says “I’m leaving” and 200 other people come back with stupid memes that say “Bye Felicia”.  It drives me crazy!  They are leaving your group – let it go and move on!  Why keep the post alive so you can all demonstrate how ‘cool’ you are by not caring about the stranger online who doesn’t want to talk to you anymore?  #MobMentality #YoureNotCool

4.  The . or “following”

You do NOT have to add a comment to get notifications on a post.  Go to the top right corner of the thread, pull down the box and “turn notifications on”.  For those of us that HAVE turned the notifications on, I don’t want a notification of your ‘following’ post.  #Facebook101 

Turn On Facebook Notifications5.  There is garbage in my room!!!  What do I do??

Okay – so you’re in Walt Disney World, and the garbage in your room was not emptied by Mousekeeping when they made your beds.  Should you:

a). Go to your favourite Facebook Group online and ask 7000 people for their opinion?

b)  Pick up your in-room phone 10 feet from where you’re standing and ask to speak to someone in Mousekeeping so they can come and empty it?

 c)  Wait till you get HOME from your trip and then post it in your favourite Facebook group and ask the 7000 people what you should do about it?

You would be surprised how often this post appears in some groups!  They usually turn in to an argument when there are 3000 opinions that vary from “You’re in Disney, be happy about that” to “I would demand a full refund because that ruins your stay!”.  The debate gets heated and the Bye Felicia posts start or the bullies come jump on the bandwagon.  #HelpYourself #SolveYourProblem

6.  I’m not selling posts

When you post a picture of the t-shirt you made with “I’m not selling it” and include a link to where you can buy it, you’re selling.  Don’t try to say you’re looking for opinions or feedback – it’s obvious.  #WeArentStupid 

7.  Guest Shaming

Yes it is extremely rude to take your shoes off and put them on the furniture – but I don’t need a picture of it.  The topic has been done 7,432 times and apparently (based on the comments) the people in the group would NEVER do this so you’re not providing a public service here.  Move on and stop sharing random pictures of stranger’s feet!  #KeepYourShoesOn

8.  Seats on the bus  

How many times have you seen the post “I was on the bus and my mother was standing and no one offered her a seat!  I’m outraged!”.  I was raised to give up my seat to anyone who looked like they needed it, many other people were too – you just didn’t get one of us on your bus.  The people who are at home and replying to your post are not offering any solutions or making it better.  Unfortunately there are inconsiderate people everywhere, this is a transit problem, not a Disney problem and could be debated till the cows come home.  #NotEveryoneIsConsiderate 

Standing Room Only

If you want a guaranteed seat, get a Minnie Van.

9.  “Why is it so expensive”

Ummm… what kind of answer are you expecting?  Did you really want me to detail the attractions, parks, resort benefits and food quality to explain the price?  Or do you just want me to click your Go Fund Me link to donate so that it isn’t expensive for YOU? #DonationsArentHappening 

10.    Can I break the rules?

“Can I put 6 people in a room that only sleeps 4?”

“Can I put extra lifts in my kids shoes to make him tall enough for the rides?”

No.  Just no.  The room is a fire code and the height requirement is there so your child doesn’t get HURT.  The rules are there for a reason – follow them.  #SafetyFirst

Disney_Facebook_Group_Irritates_Me

11.  I know you’re not supposed to, but…..

“How can I use the pool at the Beach Club if I’m staying at the All Stars?”

“How can I park for free at the Contemporary so I can walk to the Magic Kingdom even though I’m not staying there?”

“How can I stay in the Magic Kingdom for the Christmas Party if I didn’t buy a ticket?” 

If you want a deluxe pool, stay at a deluxe resort.  If you want to park at the Contemporary, stay at the Contemporary.  If you want to go to the party, buy a ticket.  It’s really that simple.  Stop asking people to help you find a loophole to do something you know is wrong.  #TheyWillFindYou #YouGetWhatYouPayFor

12.  What’s the weather like?

Honestly – it depends what weather forecast you look at as no two are ever the same.  Try Google – and decide which one you want to believe.  I can guarantee you that most of the responses you get are screen shots of weather apps and sites that people found on google.  #TryGoogle. #GoogleIsYourFriend

Weather at Disney

Unless you’re at the Christmas Party of course!

 

13.  Cross Posting

When you’re a big Disney fan you belong to a bunch of different groups.  So when someone posts the SAME post in 6 different groups, I see the post 6 different times!  Please just pick one group and post it in there, or at the very least change the question slightly so it’s not so obvious it’s a duplicate?  #DontCopyAndPaste

14.  I need Pixie Dust

I know this might sound harsh, but the endless posts from people asking for Pixie Dust for their sick mother, dog, uncle or friend is sad.  It makes me sad to read those stories and see the pain that people are in.  While I don’t want to dismiss their pain, it’s not why I joined a Disney group.  I joined the Disney group to remind me of my happy place, not feel sorrow for strangers in their most difficult times.  I do have empathy for you, but this isn’t the place.  #IKnowItsSelfish #ThisIsWhyIDontWatchTheNews

15.  I need a name…

So you got a dog, cat, fish or turtle and need a ‘Disney Name’ for it.  Congratulations on your pet!  If you’re responsible enough for a pet – I trust you can handle the responsibility of naming it.  If you need suggestions – google “Disney Dog Names”.  #BeCreative

My biggest fear when I started my Pixie Dust Fans group was that it would turn in to one of ‘those’ groups.  I knew that I didn’t have enough time to moderate it, but fans of my page were asking me to create one.  It turns out that it’s a fantastic group of people who have no drama, all fun and are really NICE to each other.  I’m so happy to watch it grow and only hope I don’t get too many of these posts!

How many of these drive you crazy too?  Leave me a comment and let me know if I missed any!

Avatar Flight Of Passage Seats

Avatar Flight Of Passage Seat Side ViewAvatar Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom is arguably one of the BEST attractions at any of the parks.  It’s thrilling, exciting, intense and immersive, it’s an attraction not to be missed.  Unless of course you’re a certain body shape.

I remember visiting Universal Studios when the Harry Potter attractions first opened and being disappointed. They had made a fantastic new experience, but they couldn’t make it for everyone?  It was brand new, they had so many options for design, yet they were limiting many people from experiencing it.

Universal had a test seat outside of the attraction and I remember thinking how cruel that was.  If you weren’t sure that you would fit you could subject yourself to the stares and humiliation of trying to squeeze your body in just far enough for the vehicle to lock.  I was annoyed and self-righteous, Disney would NEVER do that I thought to myself.  And then they did.

In order to experience Avatar Flight of Passage you need to ‘fit’ on the vehicle.  I say “on” because it’s like a motorcycle where you straddle the seat.  You lean forward on the chest bar and pull your feet forward.

Avatar Flight Of Passage Seat Explained

Restraints are activated after you are in position – one comes across your back and two more behind your legs.  The key is the ‘click’ on the restraints to ensure that it has you secure.

It may not necessarily be a size issue that prevents people from getting the ‘click’, sometimes it’s a body shape issue that prevents the restraints from locking.  The size of your calves can prevent the leg restraints from locking, it’s not just your size around the middle.

Avatar Flight Of Passage Sample Seat View

When the restraints are activated and locked

While I understand that the test seat out front is to prevent guests from waiting in line only to find out they can’t ride, I can’t help but think that there has to be a better option.  Testing your ‘size’ in front of everyone is not a very magical experience for anyone.  I am hopeful that Disney is listening to the guest feedback and working on some flexible restraints that can accommodate more people.

With the enormous wait times for this attraction, I would suggest anyone who is worried to try the test seat.  While it isn’t ideal, I wouldn’t want you to skip the attraction all together – it really is as good as everyone says.

If you want to read the full review of the attraction – you can read it here.

Did you try the test seat for Flight of Passage before you rode?

 

Pop Century Resort Refurbished Room Review

Pop Century Beds Walt Disney WorldDisney’s Pop Century Resort is within the value category of resorts at Walt Disney World and a popular choice for many fans.  I had the opportunity to stay in both an ‘older’ room as well as a refurbished one and as you would expect, the renovated room was a whole different feel.

Our original room felt very similar to our stay at All Star Movies.  It was a basic room, some cute decor, but looking very ‘worn’.  It was clean, it was functional, but nothing special aside from the Disney touches.

When we moved to the refurbished room at Pop Century after a night in the ‘older’ rooms, I was beyond pleasantly surprised!  Since this is a value resort, I was expecting it to be clean, functional and basic with a little touch of Disney.  As we opened the door, I was shocked.

Here are 8 reasons I loved the refurbished room at Disney’s Pop Century Resort:

1.  the room was bright

I have seen many complaints online about it resembling a ‘hospital room’ with the white walls and white furniture, but I loved it.   When I’m at home the first thing I do is turn on all of the lights, I can’t handle being in a dimly lit room, so this room was perfect for me!

2.  The Space

Since the one bed folds back up, there was plenty of space in the centre of the room.  There was only 2 of us, but we didn’t feel like we were in each other’s way like we did in the original rooms.

Pop Century Bed and Table

When the bed is “up” there is plenty of room.

3.  Beds

I have to admit, we both slept GREAT at the resort!  Tons of pillows (we had 8 pillows between 2 of us!) and the mattress was very comfortable.  I slept on the bed that pulled down from the wall and my sister slept in the permanent one.  They are both listed as Queen Size, but it did feel like mine was a little tiny bit smaller – I wish I had brought a measuring tape!  Even though it ‘appeared’ a little smaller, it still felt bigger than a double bed.

4.  The Safe

I don’t worry about things going missing much at Walt Disney World, but it can happen.  It’s always a good idea to lock up your valuables when you’re not there.  I locked up my laptop, Ipad, Passport and extra cameras with plenty of space left over.  I was impressed with the depth and width of the safe and could have fit a bunch of more things in there.  The safe was easy to operate allowing you to set your own PIN code to open it.

5.  Fridge

Some of the resorts have the older fridges, but these new ones with the glass doors really keep your drinks cold.  I drink a LOT of water, and it’s important to me that it’s ice cold – especially on a hot day.  These fridges do not disappoint!  In fact, on day 2 I had to turn it down a bit since my water bottles were freezing a little.

Pop Century Fridge

The shelves are removable so you can make room for taller items

6.  Vanity Area

Big vanity area, ironing board and iron, big mirror, storage space and a place to hang up your clothes made this a great use of the space.  We had lots of room for all of our toiletries as well as storing some of the shopping we did in the little cubbies, keeping it out of the way and making the room feel less cluttered.  Yes – we can do some serious damage when we’re shopping!

7.  Shower

I’m not a fan of shower curtains, especially at a hotel.  I don’t know why, but they always make me feel like it’s so dark and confined.  In these new rooms the shower had sliding glass doors and there was plenty of light!  The water pressure was great and there was the option of the hand held vs rain shower.

Pop Century Bathroom

Very bright and clean

8.  Power And USB

This room had so many outlets and USB stations that we didn’t use them all.  It’s always a challenge with us to charge our devices.  With 2 phones, 2 iPads, 2 iWatches, laptops, Fuel Rods and cameras, we struggle at the end of the day to get them all plugged in.  In this room, we were able to plug in 8 devices at a time on the unit under the TV – that was very handy for us!

Pop Century USB Outlets

While there are many factors that should go in to choosing a resort, the room is an important one.  Pop Century Resort’s refurbished rooms are clean, spacious and fun – with touches of Disney sprinkled throughout.  I would definitely stay in a refurbished room again.

Check out my tour of the room on YouTube:

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Disney Parks Merchandise On Ebay

Rose Gold Ears EbayDisney releases new merchandise all the time at the parks.  There’s a different pin, popcorn bucket or Dooney purse for every season.  Occasionally – although it’s becoming more frequent, there are items that are just next to impossible to get!  These items are all over social media and everyone is going crazy to get their hands on the newest “must have” thing.   While I totally get the “I have to have it!” mentality – I am urging you NOT to buy these items on sites like eBay.  Here’s why.

1.  These items are marked up – drastically

Have you seen the hype about the Rose Gold Ears?  Honestly, I can’t figure out what’s so great about them – but many people have asked me to pick them up a pair when I’m there.  These things sell for $24.99 at the parks and $75 online (plus shipping!).  Why would you want to pay 3 times the value of an item from a seller who probably has an annual pass and only paid $20 for them?

2.  It’s because of the eBay sellers you can’t get these items for yourself

I have been in the parks when the latest and greatest craze was going on and you can see the resellers stocking up, buying as many of the items as they can carry.  As soon as they get information that shelves have been restocked, they are at the park clearing those same shelves.  THIS is why you can’t get one for yourself.  When you buy from these sellers, you’re keeping them in business and the circle continues.

oogie boogie popcorn bucket

$85 For a popcorn bucket! Don’t forget the $65 shipping!

3.  The personal shoppers are more reputable

While some may do both, the vast majority of the personal shoppers at Disney are only buying these items for clients who have already ordered them.  They are not buying 30 in the hopes that they can sell them later.  They’re also not selling them at an astronomical mark up – they have a small fee that is the same for all of their purchases and are not taking advantage of the newest hot topic.

4.  Disney will always have more if you’re patient

Remember those Haunted Mansion Dooney bags?  I really wanted one of those, so much that I was tempted to break my own rule and pay the crazy $1000 for a bag that was $200 in the parks.  But I didn’t.  While there were some days where I was panicking thinking I’d never get one – I stood my ground.  In my last 3 trips there have been HUNDREDS of these purses all over the parks.  Disney is not going to stop making things that people want, it might just take them some time to get the inventory out.

I can only hope that at some point Disney puts a limit on the number of these items that someone can purchase.  It wouldn’t stop these sellers, but it sure would slow them down so that others can get a chance to buy these fabulous for ourselves!

Have you bought anything on eBay?

 

5 Things You Need To Know Before Your Disney Cruise

Disney Cruise StackPlanning a Disney Cruise is an exciting time, but it’s important you don’t overlook the finer details in that plan!  While I know that some travellers will say ‘of course’ when they read this, I can tell you that I have heard a lot of experienced cruisers who have made some of these mistakes.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Here are the 5 things you NEED to know before you sail.

1.  Proper Documentation.

You MUST have all of the documentation required to sail.  When in doubt – more is better.  I have read a few posts lately of people planning their cruise, asking their Facebook Group what identification is needed and showing up at the port without the right stuff.  Guess what?  No cruise for them… and their Facebook Group couldn’t help them.

Visit Disney’s site – read it thoroughly.  Cruise security is like Airport security – they don’t ‘overlook’ things.

I know you don’t want to consider it, but if you are sick or injured while on the cruise, you may not be permitted to fly without a passport.  While you *may* be on a cruise that does not require you to have a passport – it’s better to be safe than sorry.  Avoid the hassle – have a passport.

Passport

2.  Know what can you bring on board.

Sounds simple and common sense, no guns, no bicycles, no underwater scooters (that’s a thing?), but not all things prohibited are common knowledge.  Did you know you are not permitted to bring an extension cord on board?  Heating pads and musical instruments aren’t allowed either.  Make sure you check Disney’s page of permitted items before you pack your suitcase.  I’m not listing them all here as they can change at any time – but you can find the official list here.

Disney Cruise extension cord

3.  Make sure you have the proper currency for where you’re going.

On board all charges are in US Dollars.  However, you need to be prepared for the ports you visit and what currency they accept.   You also need to notify your credit card company before you travel if there’s a chance they might flag it for unusual activity.

4.  Departure Times.

Cruise ships wait for no one.  It’s imperative that you book your arrival time at the port with plenty of buffer for unforeseen issues.  Flight delays or traffic can cause you to miss your sailing.  When booking your port adventures, it’s the same rule – make sure you have PLENTY of time to get back to the ship after your adventure.  I think we’ve all seen the video of the couple running down the dock as their ship sails away.

Woody Pixar Apple Watch

5.  Contact information while on board.

It’s never a fun thought, but if you have people at home that may need to reach you while you’re sailing, it’s important to provide them the contact information before you sail.  When you receive your booklet from Disney Cruise Line, there are cards inside with instructions on how to reach you.

While most of these things are not the ‘fun’ side of planning your cruise, they are a necessity.   Once you’ve dealt with all of this stuff – you can enjoy your magical Disney Cruise!

If you want to see some other first time mistakes – check out this post First Time Mistakes

Have I missed anything you think is important?  Leave a comment and let me know!

 

Fireworks For The Visually Impaired

Tactical FireworksWhat if there was a firework show that the visually impaired could enjoy?  How would that even work?  Leave it to the minds at Disney Research to come up with a solution – a firework show you can feel!

We know that Disney is always looking for innovative ways for all guests to enjoy magical experiences.  Service animals are frequent visitors at the parks and provide assistance to those who need them.  For the hearing impaired they provide sign language interpretation for live shows and handheld captioning devices at the parks.  You can find out more about what they offer for the hearing impaired here.

Fireworks on the other hand are a show that you ‘see’ – but it looks like they may have found a way for guests who are visually impaired to enjoy them in the future!

In an article on Disney Research

“We present Feeling Fireworks, a tactile firework show. Feeling Fireworks is aimed at making fireworks more inclusive for blind and visually impaired users, in a novel experience that can be shared by all. Tactile effects are created using directable water jets that spray onto the rear of a flexible screen, with different nozzles for different firework effects.”

Based on the information provided in the article it looks like this is still in the early stages of development, but it’s fun to think of all of the possibilities!

Imagine that – I think it should be filed under “what will they think of next”.

Check out the video below:

One Thing Most Disney Travellers Don’t Plan For

Empty PlaneThe one component of the perfect Disney vacation that most travellers don’t prepare for is the airport.  Sure you’ve planned your dining, tickets and resort, but what good is it if you can’t get there?  Do you know what the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expects from you?  Are you ready for what is waiting for you at the airport?

The mission of the TSA is to “Protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce”.  Sounds kind of generic but there are specific things that the TSA do every day to keep us safe – and they could very well disrupt our travel plans!

While each airport has different procedures, there are some general guidelines that can help make your flights as painless as possible.

Here are 9 things you need to know before you get ready to fly.

1.  ARRIVE EARLY

When the airline suggests arriving 2 hours before your flight, it’s for a reason.  Security check points can have extremely long waits for a variety of reasons.

Recently there have been many posts from travellers at Orlando International Airport that the TSA has been swabbing each package of candy in a carry-on.  This has created some rather long lines given so many families flying home from Disney are bringing home lots of treats.  Do you want to miss your flight because you didn’t leave enough time for your 20 bags of candy to be swabbed?  And if you don’t have the candy – you can bet someone in front of you will!

This is a view you don’t want to miss!

2.  HAVE PROPER DOCUMENTATION AND IDENTIFICATION

Seems like a no brainer, but you would be amazed how many people don’t know what the required documentation is!  Your airline will have all of the information about what is required based on the cities that you’re flying to and from.  Make sure if both parents are not travelling together that you have the required paperwork to allow you to take the child with you.   Make sure these documents are in your carry-on, and not your checked bag!

3.  KNOW WHAT YOU CAN CARRY ON

While some items that are not allowed in your carry-on are obvious (like a firearm or dynamite) – others are not.  Did you know that you Christmas Crackers and foam toy swords are not permitted?  What about the cordless curling iron your teenager always has in her bag for those last minute touch ups?

It’s important to check before you get to the airport!  For the TSA list of items you can and can’t bring click here.

Disney Shopping

What can you put in your checked luggage vs your carry-on?

4.  KNOW THE LIMIT FROM YOUR AIRLINE

Each airline has their own guidelines to how big your luggage and carry-on can be.  Know the dimensions allowed and the weight.  Having your checked bag be overweight can be very costly!  Invest in a luggage scale like this one from Amazon – we weigh our luggage ourselves before we leave to avoid surprises and delays.

5.  DRESS ACCORDINGLY

When you’re going through security you may be asked to remove your shoes, jackets, belts and jewelry.  Anything that could set off the metal detectors can delay the process.  FYI – those lovely Alex and Ani bracelets trigger it every time!  I make sure mine are in my carry-on or checked bag.

6.  REMOVE YOUR OLD LUGGAGE TAGS

Still have that airline tag on your bag from your last trip?  Remove it.  While the airline will probably catch that one, it’s best to avoid any possibly confusion for the baggage handlers.

Have a luggage tag with your name and contact information attached to your checked bag.  Consider using your work address for security reasons and your cell phone number since it will be with you.

Disney luggage

7.  HOLD ON TO YOUR BOARDING PASS!

I wish I could tell you how many times I have been travelling with someone who has ‘lost’ their boarding pass.  It’s easy to do – you use the restroom, get a drink, do a little shopping and leave it on the counter.  You’re going to need it to board the plane – so make sure it’s always with you.  I have a ‘passport wallet’ like this one to make sure I have everything together at all times.

8.  KNOW THE AIRPORT LAYOUT

Don’t waste time trying to find your airline or your gate.  Some airports are HUGE and can take a great deal of time trying to get from one place to another.  Connecting flights can be disastrous if you haven’t left enough time in between them to get to where you’re going.

9.  KNOW WHERE TO GET RELIABLE INFORMATION

Your airline website and the airport websites are the place to get the best information.  Check your flight status for delays, expected wait times and terminal maps before you go.  Lots of well meaning strangers on Facebook & Twitter will give you advice, but they won’t be there to help you if you get denied boarding.

Orlando International Airport site:  https://www.orlandoairports.net

Flying is a critical piece in your vacation that deserves attention.  With the right planning you can avoid unnecessary stress and enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Have you experienced issues at the airport that you weren’t prepared for?  Leave us a comment below!

*Disclosure:  We are a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites.

Dogs Welcome At Select Walt Disney World Resorts

Mickey and PlutoBeginning Sunday, October 15th, 2017, the Walt Disney World Resort will welcome guests – and their dogs – to four of its resort properties, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

Guests at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and the cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will be permitted to have up to 2 dogs in their resort room for an additional charge.

Each property’s per night / per room pet-cleaning rate is:

  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort $50/night
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort $50/night
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort $75/night
  • Cabins at Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort $50/night

While Disney states that the guests are responsible for the proper care, behaviour and waste maintenance of the dogs, I struggle to see how it will be enforced.

The rules indicate that the dogs must be well behaved and should not be left unattended in the room for more that 7 hours.  If the dog is making noise while you are out (at the parks enjoying your vacation) they will call you to address the issue within 30 minutes.  Given that Disney recommends up to 90 minutes to travel on property for dining reservations, I’m not sure how they expect owners to come back to their resort within 30 minutes to address ‘noise’.

I must admit that when I read the announcement, my first reaction was “NO”, this is not a good idea.  I love some dogs, but I’m afraid of big ones – I have been all my life, so the thought of a big dog being in the hallway with me at my resort makes me very uncomfortable.  There are people with severe allergies who would be concerned about checking in to a room where the previous occupant had 4 legs, but that is an issue today with service animals.

Otis

Anna’s dog loves Disney too!

I know that Disney will do whatever they can to make ALL of their guests happy, but I think I may have to reserve judgement on this one until I see it in action.  I was not affected adversely by any of the dogs on property during Hurricane Irma, it was quite the opposite.  I loved seeing them playing around outside of the resort and they were all lovely, gentle dogs that I had the pleasure of being around.

On the other hand, I know that not all pet owners are responsible and not all dogs are well behaved.  My sister has 2 west highland terriers, and while I love them dearly – they bark at their own shadows.  That’s not a metaphor or exaggeration – if there is too much sunlight, it drives them CRAZY and they will spend hours barking at their own shadows.  I will reiterate again, I do love them – but I wouldn’t want to be in a resort room next to them… especially on a sunny day!

Angus and Dug

Angus & Dug Looking Well Behaved – no shadows!

Disney Facebook groups and Twitter have been very active with people sharing their opinions.  Guests feel very strongly both for and against it, but it’s big news!  Even People picked up the story today!

Service animals have been in the parks and resorts for years, and while there has been some chatter about people taking advantage of the ‘service animal designation’ – the volume of animals was pretty limited.  How will this change with this new policy?  Only time will tell.

I believe it will still be a small number of guests who will pay the cleaning fee in addition to their resort reservation to bring their dogs with them.  Who would want to pay $50 per day to leave your dog at the resort while you’re at the Magic Kingdom?   Why not have them at the Best Friends Pet Care Centre where they would not be alone and have plenty of activities to keep them entertained?

Otis 2

How much trouble could this guy cause??

While the logistics of how this will work are still to be seen, it will be interesting to watch how Disney handles the negative feedback to this and multiple requests for ‘deep cleaning’ of the rooms before check in.  Many resorts outside of Disney have this option and it’s a positive thing for many whose kids have 4 legs.  The question is how Disney will manage it.  Will Mousekeeping be overloaded trying to thoroughly clean the rooms?  Will the landscaping crews find more than just dirt around the flowers?  Or will everyone be responsible, respect the other guests, follow the rules and enjoy having their dogs with them at the happiest place on earth?

Angus and Dug 2

Angus and Dug looking sweet!

We shall see… but just so you know – my sister’s dogs (Dug and Angus) will NEVER be on vacation with me 🙂

For full details – please see the official information here

Will you take your dogs on vacation to Walt Disney World?  What do you think of this decision?

 

Afternoon Tea At Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Afternoon Tea Table MenuAfternoon tea at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort was something that I always wanted to try.  I love a good cup of tea, I love finger sandwiches and I think anyone reading my blog knows – I LOVE dessert.  What a perfect afternoon activity this would be for me!

We made reservations the day before and were lucky they were able to take us.  We arrived at the Garden Tea Room and were seated right away.  They led us to our table and I was immediately struck by how pretty and relaxing it looked.

We looked at the menu to decide what each of us would order (there were 3 of us).  Two of us had The Bedfordshire ($35) and one had the Cheshire Tea ($50) that included a Fruit and Cheese plate.

Afternoon Tea Table

Our Table For Afternoon Tea

My biggest problem with the menu was that I wanted more than 1 dessert (of course!).  Our host was happy to tell me that I could order an extra dessert for an additional charge.  Since I knew I would be writing a blog for this experience, I thought it was a good idea to try more things (that’s my story anyway!).

I have found that it’s difficult to get a good steeped cup of tea in the US, so I was really looking forward to my tea.  I chose the 2nd Flush Darjeeling tea, I love Orange Pekoe tea with milk and sugar.  My sister and friend both wanted to try something different and less traditional – and went with the Superfruity and Mango Ginger.  We were all very happy with our selections.

Tea Pots Afternoon Tea Grand Floridian

Tea Pot and Cosy

When our tea pots arrived we each had our own tea cosy that was perfect for keeping our tea hot throughout our entire experience.  I have lots of them at home, but this cosy was GOOD!  The pots were a good size and I think I probably filled my cup 6 or 7 times with it.

Afternoon Tea Cheese Plate

Fruit and Cheese Plate

When they brought out our tiers of plates, my first thought was “those sandwiches aren’t going to fill me”.  I was hungry that day (we had skipped breakfast) and was glad I had ordered the extra dessert.  I’m not a big fan of scones or tarts so I figured I wouldn’t eat much off of the second plate anyway.  I’m a bit of a picky eater, and assumed I’d mainly just eat the dessert!

Afternoon Tea Tier

All the plates of goodness!

Boy was I wrong!

First the sandwiches – I ate every one, and every bite!  I was so surprised that I enjoyed them all – the Sweet Curry Chicken had a little kick, I almost wish there had been two of them.   You can’t go wrong with Egg Salad or Cucumber, but the Roasted Tomato was perfect too.  Onion tart?  Sounded weird to me – but I liked it!

Afternoon Tea Sandwiches

Cucumber, Sweet Curry Chicken, Egg Salad, Fire Roasted Tomato With Oregano Goat Cheese, Onion Tart

The second course was the scone and tart.  I don’t like raisins as a rule, but there were only a few in the scone that I could pick out.  I loved the lemon curd (did I just say that?) and the creme – I ate all of it and moved on to the Strawberry Tart.  Tarts aren’t my favourite – but this one was light with just the right amount of strawberry flavour.

Afternoon Tea Scone and Tart

Raisin Scone with clotted creme, lemon curd and apricot jam. Strawberry Tart.

I took a deep breath at that point and wondered why I ordered the extra dessert, I was already getting full!  Good thing I’m sure I won’t like the Macaroons!  (I had a bite, not my favourite – I don’t like them normally anyway).

Afternoon Tea Dessert Tier Grand Floridian

Mousse filled swan, French Macaroon, Chocolate Covered Strawberry, Strawberries and whipped creme.

At this point I’ve had about 4 cups of tea and I’m thoroughly enjoying the relaxing afternoon.  I sat for a minute before trying to decide what delicious part of the dessert I would eat first.

Chocolate Strawberries have to be chilled with the right amount of sweetness… and the one I got was perfect.  The mousse filled swan was light and tasty – but my absolute favourite was the strawberries topped with whipped creme.   As much as I thought I was full, I almost finished the bowl it was so good.

Strawberry and creme inside

I had read a review online for the Afternoon Tea and almost didn’t book it, I am so glad that we decided to try it anyway.  This is something that I will make sure to do again.

Reviews online may have been mixed, but my experience was wonderful.  We had a leisurely afternoon with great food and a excellent cups of tea!  It was the perfect way to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of the parks and just sit back and relax.  There were some little ones at the next table who seemed to be enjoying their Mrs. Potts Tea as well – there was something for everyone!

Have you tried afternoon tea?  What was your experience like?

 

5 Reasons To Use Disney’s Minnie Van Service

Minnie Van Grand Floridian Car 32Minnie Vans are the newest form of transportation at Walt Disney World, and worth every penny to me.  They operate similar to Lyft and Uber, but use a slightly different pricing model to take you anywhere on Disney property.

Here are the top 5 reasons you should try the Minnie Van service the next time you’re in Walt Disney World

1.  It’s a Disney Service – Safety First

There are car seats for the little ones and each driver goes through a rigorous 8 hour training class on how to install them.  There are vans that are equipped to transfer guests with wheelchairs and ECVs.  The Cast Members driving know exactly where they’re going without looking at the GPS on their phones.  Safety first – and it shows.

Minnie Van Car Seats

Minnie Van Car Seats

2.  Access to Cast Member Only Roads

Did my drive seem shorter with a Minnie Van vs a regular Lyft?  Absolutely!  Our driver was able to utilize the Cast Member Only roads in the back of Fort Wilderness to get us to our destination quickly.

3.  Preferred Drop Points

Since this service is Disney, they obviously give preference to their drivers.  The drop off and pick up points are much more convenient to guests.  At the Magic Kingdom you will not have to go to the Ticket and Transportation Centre first, they will drop you at the bus dock right outside.  Regular Lyft drivers are not able to go to the bus stops at the Magic Kingdom so we found this a huge plus.  Less walking and much more convenient to be in a Minnie Van.

Animal Kingdom Pick Up

4.  Uninterrupted Cast Member Time

On a recent trip we took as many as 8 Minnie Van trips – all with wonderful cast members!  Having the time in the vehicle to chat with them one on one was such a treat, we even had the same cast member twice.

The Cast Members we met had such great stories about their careers with Disney, there were a few that we didn’t want the ride to end because we were enjoying the chat so much!

5.  Convenience and Comfort

Being able to see where the car was when it was on it’s way is one of the great things I love about Uber and Lyft.  Knowing the approximate arrival time is somehow comforting when you’re waiting after walking around all day.

Minnie Van Music

With Air Conditioning controls in the front and the back – we never had an uncomfortable temperature and the background Disney music was an added bonus.

Being able to go from resort to resort without transferring to a different bus made me very happy!

Minnie Vans are now available at all Walt Disney World Resorts.  If you would like to know how to use the service – click here for instructions.

Is this something you would use?

 

Top 5 Reasons To Stay At Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa at Walt Disney World has to be one of the most beautiful and elegant resorts on property.  When it first opened, I assumed I would never stay there.  Princess Diana had stayed at the Grand Floridian, would I even fit in with the ‘posh people’?

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is a place that everyone should have on their bucket list.  It’s bright, classy and inviting.

Here are my 5 favourite reasons for staying here.

1.  The Disney theming is a little less obvious than it is at the Value resorts, but it’s there.

Take a look at the marble floors, you’ll find all sorts of Disney characters.

Grand Floridian Chip

 

2.  Shopping

While the stores don’t thrill me that much, Bain is a MUST for me every trip.  They have some great lotions and bath salts, but the Basin White scent is my favourite.  The scent reminds me of the Grand Floridian and when I wear it everyday – I have a little piece of it with me.

Basin

Full list of shops can be found here

3.  Monorail Access

There is something special about being able to take the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom.  It’s the perfect way to arrive!  It also makes it really convenient to get to the Ticket and Transportation Centre to go to Epcot too.

Grand Floridian Monorail

Having the Contemporary Resort and the Polynesian on the monorail loop gives you a convenient way to resort hop for different dining and shopping without having to take a bus or drive.

 

4.  The Rooms

The rooms at the Grand Floridian are large and some offer amazing views of the Seven Seas Lagoon or the Magic Kingdom.  I have stayed in the regular rooms and the villas and was thrilled with all of them.

Grand Floridian 2 Bedroom

Master Bedroom – 2 Bedroom Villa

No matter which room, which view – they were incredible.   All rooms come with a mini fridge, in room safe, ceiling fan, and coffee maker.  In the main resort, there is turn down service – but not in the Disney Vacation Club villas.

Grand Floridian Turn Down

Turn Down Service – Complete With Chocolates!

 

5.  Dining Options

There are many great dining options at the Grand Floridian.

The quick service at Gasparilla Island Grill is worth visiting, we have enjoyed pizza and sandwiches here.  The dessert was delicious too!

For table service you can’t go wrong with either the Grand Floridian Cafe or Narcoossee’s.  I haven’t tried Victoria & Albert’s yet – that’s on my bucket list!

For a full list of dining options, see Disney’s official list here

The video below has a full walk through of a Deluxe Studio Room!

What do you think of the resort?

 

How To Use Disney’s Minnie Van Service

Minnie Van At Walt Disney WorldWhen the Minnie Van service was first announced, I was pretty excited.  Having another option to renting a car or taking the bus was something I had been hoping for.  I love that Disney has so many transportation options, but it isn’t always the most comfortable at the end of a long night when I just want to get back to my room.

I had the opportunity to try the Minnie Van service on a recent trip and could not have been happier.  I didn’t just try the service once, I loved it so much I used it 8 times in 4 days!  My poor rental car stayed in the parking lot for 4 days untouched!

Starting to use the app was a bit of a challenge.  We assumed because it was rolled out to our resort that it would just appear on the Lyft app.  That wasn’t how it worked at the Grand Floridian, the Cast Members at the resort had to activate it for us.  When the Minnie Van option is activated, you can use it anywhere on Disney property going forward – not just at the participating resorts.

Once you download the Lyft app and have the Minnie Vans activated, you will see all of the options for cars – and one clearly marked “Minnie Van” (with ears of course!)

Minnie Van Lyft Options

You select the Minnie Van as the car you want – and then ‘Request Minnie Van Service’.  It will show you if any vans are in your area.  Mine was so close because it was literally parked outside while I was requesting it!

Minnie Van Request Service

You’l be able to see on your app the car number, the licence plate as well as the estimated time of arrival.  You can watch the car on the map as it’s coming and will get a text message (if enabled) when the car arrives.

Minnie Van Pick Up

The app itself takes care of the payment using the credit card you entered when you set up the app.  It’s a flat rate plus mile pricing structure to take you anywhere on Disney property.  After your ride you do have the option to tip the cast members, but they will tell you that tips are not required.

Minnie Van Car 40

The vans are Chevy Traverse vehicles that can seat up to 6 passengers.  Each Minnie Van has 2 car seats in the trunk if you need them for the little ones!  There are vans that also service guests with special needs such as wheelchairs or ECV’s, those can be arranged by calling 407-828-3500.

Minnie Van Car Seats

Minnie Van Car Seats

Minnie Vans are now available at all Walt Disney World resorts.

There are many reasons to use the Minnie Van service, you can read about my top 5 here.  From what the drivers told me the service has had quite a high demand, I’m hopeful it becomes a permanent transportation option at Walt Disney World!

Is this something you would use at Walt Disney World?

 

Disneyland Cast Member Retires After 60 Years

Oscar Martinez DisneylandThe longest-tenured Cast Member at the Disneyland Resort has retired after 60 years of service.

Oscar Martinez began working in the Fantasyland quick service locations but spent the last 50 years working at the cafe on Main Street U.S.A.

On January 19th, 2017, Oscar was presented with an award that was created for him at Walt Disney Imagineering – to celebrate his achievements with the company.

Oscar had many fond memories of his years spent at Disneyland, especially watching Walt himself walk the park.

After 60 years, Oscar retired on September 27th, 2017.

 

Disney To Pay Workers For Lost Wages From Irma

Contemporary Resort IrmaThe damages at Walt Disney World due to Hurricane Irma were not as bad as they could have been.  There were lots of downed trees and debris – but nothing that couldn’t be repaired.  For the most part, all resorts were operational the next day with the exception of Fort Wilderness which had been evacuated before the storm.

Many of the Cast Members though weren’t so lucky.  They have homes that are damaged and/or flooded.  A few of the Cast Members I spoke to at The Polynesian Resort were happy to come to work where there is air conditioning.  Missing 2 days of work when the parks were closed means lost wages for some when they are trying to rebuild and replace after the storm.

Disney has confirmed that they will pay the union and non-union members for their shifts for the two days that the parks were closed.

Contempoary Resort Irma Damage

Disney had already announced they would donate $2.5 million to help those impacted by Hurricane Irma.  During the storm Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line donated meals, provided storage for supplies and power-utility vehicles, donated bedding to shelters, and made rooms available for first responders.

It’s a great gesture from the Disney company and kudos to the executives that made those decisions to take care of their employees as well as the community.

 

The BEST Purchase I’ve Made At Disney

Cooling Towel InstructionsIt is very easy to overheat at Walt Disney World, no matter how much water you drink!  I drink a LOT of water so I never have an issue of dehydrating, but intense heat is something I can’t handle.  I tend to avoid the summer months when possible for this very reason, but sometimes you arrive at Walt Disney World and it’s just TOO HOT.

Being Canadian, we love our summer months, but I’m not out walking for 12 hours in that heat.  At Walt Disney World I’m walking from building to building just looking for the air conditioned relief!

The other night at Animal Kingdom I stumbled across these ‘cooling towels’.  I had read about them online, but didn’t pay too much attention to it.  Since the weather said it ‘felt like’ 40 – I would have tried ANYTHING to cool down a little.  I decided to buy the towels for myself and friends and give it a shot.  If we didn’t do something, we were going to have to leave the park or sit in some air conditioning for an hour – I couldn’t take much more heat.

Disney Cooling Towel

The directions said:

  1. Wet it
  2. Wring it
  3. Snap it

Off to the restrooms we went to wet our towels.  I was concerned because the water that comes from those sinks isn’t cold – I figured I’d end up with a lukewarm towel wrapped around me!

I shouldn’t have worried, this towel was the BEST purchase I have made in the last week here.  They stay cool for between 90 and 120 minutes!  They aren’t heavy like some of the other cooling towels I’ve bought before.  They still have a bit of water in them after you wring them out so your shirt may get a little damp around the collar – but it really wasn’t a concern for us.  Every time we stopped at a restroom we wet them again – and presto, instant cooling.

The towels were $16.90 USD and available throughout the parks.  They are machine washable and and worth every penny!  I honestly don’t know how I survived without it.

Have you bought one of the cooling towels?  What did you think?

Disney After Hours Event Returns For 2018

Disney After HoursThe popular After Hours event at Walt Disney World will return to the Magic Kingdom in 2018.  The special ticket event is an amazing night time experience that you don’t want to miss!

The Magic Kingdom event allows for entry as early as 7pm with the ticket purchase.  You will experience little to no wait times at some great attractions, you feel like you have the park to yourself!

I have experienced the After Hours Event and it was wonderful.  Having a limited number of guests in the park let us ride Space Mountain and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train without waiting at all.  We rode the mine train 3 times in a row, just walking right back on.  It was so much fun.

The events are currently scheduled in 2018 for:

  • January 19, 26, and 30
  • February 8 and 15
  • March 1 and 8

Tickets are $119.00 USD each and can be purchased here

Check out the great fun you can have below

Have you experienced the After Hours Event?  Did you love it as much as I did?

Disney Parks To Open After Irma

Hurricane Irma WDW Before the StormTheme parks in Walt Disney World are getting ready to open on September 12th, 2017 after Hurricane Irma hit Florida.

After being closed September 10th and 11th, guests are anxious to get in to the parks to see how they held up.  There are many trees down around the resorts, and clean up efforts began as soon as it was safe for Cast Members to be outside.

Hours for the parks for September 12th are:

Magic Kingdom

Extra Magic Hours 8AM – 9AM

Park Hours 9AM – 7PM

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 7PM – 12AM

Epcot

Park Hours 9AM – 9PM

Extra Magic Hours 9PM – 11PM

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Park Hours 9AM – 9PM

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Park Hours 9AM – 9PM

Disney Springs

Hours 10AM – 12AM

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach Water Parks show as closed on the Disney site, but open on the 13th.  Keep checking for more updates.

Irma Preparations At Disney Resorts

Disney Notification IrmaWith Hurricane Irma approaching Walt Disney World, all Disney parks are closed September 10th and 11th.

Communication has been great from Disney.  Updates left in our room and alerts on My Disney Experience has made sure that we all know what to expect as we ride out the storm.

At the Contemporary Resort, you can see one of the Monorails parked inside.

Monorail Parked Irma

The tug (the thing that pulls the Monorail if it breaks down) is also parked inside.

Monorail Tug Irma

Disney has many activities for the kids on the second floor all set up.  I didn’t take pictures of that because there were children there – but they had bean bag toss, giant Jenga, Connect Four, and a bunch of others.  The kids looked like they were having a good time.

Recreation Irma

They had a make-shift movie theatre – equipped with free popcorn and water machines.

Disney Movies

And of course – the characters were out meeting guests.  We saw Mickey, Pluto, Goofy and Donald.  The Cast Member told us they were having a contest with some of the other resorts – sharing the magic!  So they asked us to Hashtag our pics #IrmaContemporaryResort

Irma Contemporary Resort

My Sister (who is celebrating her birthday this trip) was THRILLED that she got to see Donald.  He really is #1!

Now we just wait and watch the weather to see what happens next.

 

The Calm Before Irma At Disney

Hurricane Irma WDW Before the StormIt was a gorgeous night at Walt Disney World after the showers earlier in the evening.  The clouds had gone and the severe humidity had passed, it was very comfortable.

As we were out watching Happily Ever After from our balcony at Bay Lake Tower, 2 notices were delivered to our room about the approaching Hurricane Irma.

The first was the Resort Impacts outlining important details we needed to know.  It included advice on dining, snacks and bottled beverages as well as the channel we should be watching for updates.  Disney also has offered complimentary Disney films on the in-room TV until further notice.

The second was our room impacts.

This outlined the operating hours of the parks for Saturday September 9th, 2017

  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be closing at  7pm
  • Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney Springs will be closing at 9pm
  • All nighttime spectaculars have been cancelled
  • All Theme Parks and Disney Springs will be closed Sunday September 10th and Monday September 11th.

The notice also advised that guests could may be confined to their rooms fro 24 to 48 hours until any curfews are lifted.

Hurricane Irma Room Impacts

Disney is doing everything to ensure the safety of guests and cast members while waiting for Hurricane Irma’s arrival.

 

Disney Cruise Line Sailings Cancelled

Disney Dream Hurricane IrmaDue to the anticipated path of Hurricane Irma, Disney has issued emails to guests notifying them of the cancellations of their cruise.

In an email sent to guests (see below), Disney Cruise Line has cancelled the September 8th and September 11th, 2017 sailings on the Disney Dream.

Disney is offering guests a 25% discount on a future sailing if the call to rebook between September 18th and October 18th.

While I can imagine that this decision did not come lightly, Disney has made the decision to put safety above all else – and that’s what they do best.

I was scheduled to be sailing on the Dream on September 11th and will be rebooking my cruise for another date.

DCL Cancellation Irma

 

The Boathouse At Disney Springs Review

The Boathouse Disney SpringsWith so many great places to eat at Disney Springs, it makes for a very difficult decision if you’ve only got time for one.  We had a chance to have lunch at The Boathouse and I can tell you, it did not disappoint!  Often when I hear rave reviews about a place I am disappointed.  I guess I have such a high expectation that there is no way for it to be met.  This was not the case with the Boathouse.

When we arrived I was pleasantly surprised with how ‘open’ it felt.  There was plenty of room and lots of natural light coming in.  I don’t know what the lighting would be in the evenings, but I did love the feel during the day.

The Boathouse Disney Springs Inside

The decor was fun, with nautical themes and a full size booth inside of a boat in the middle of the dining room.   There are other dining rooms in this restaurant, but we were seated next to this boat.

The Boathouse Booth in a Boat

We started off with water and pop while we looked at the menu.  The waiter brought out some bread that was so good that I could have just had that for lunch and would have been satisfied.

The Boathouse Bread

My sister Becky ordered the New England Lobster Roll.  She’s a big fan of lobster and said she was sure there was an entire lobster in it.

The Boathouse Lobster Roll

I ordered the Smokehouse Angus Brisket French Dip as recommended by our waiter.  I couldn’t believe the size of it when he brought it out.

The Boathouse Brisket

The meat was so tender and full of flavour that I started to wish I hadn’t eaten so much bread.

Boathouse Brisket Inside

Becky and I both got the French fries with our meals and both agreed that they were delicious!  While we both got huge portions of fries, we made a good dent in them. When the waiter came back and asked if we wanted dessert, we both thought we couldn’t… but then we saw the people at the next table having theirs – and decided we had to try it! Becky had the Key Lime Pie In A Mason Jar

The Boathouse Key Lime Pie

And I had (surprise!) the Double Chocolate Bundt Cake

The Boathouse Double Chocolate Bundt Cake

To say that dessert was yummy is a huge understatement.  I couldn’t stop myself eating this cake even though I was thoroughly stuffed.

Double Chocolate Dessert The Boathouse

I can’t say there was anything about the Boathouse that we didn’t enjoy.  It’s making it very difficult for us to decide where to go when we visit.  We love Art Smith’s Homecomin’ as well as Morimoto – too many choices!!  Seems like we might just need a week vacation just to eat around Disney Springs??

PS – after this dessert, I had to get my Sprinkles cupcakes to go!

Have you eaten at The Boathouse?

The Wisdom Of Walt

Jeff BarnesThe Wisdom Of Walt is a look at the success and failures of Walt Disney as he relentlessly pursued his dreams.  The author, Jeff Barnes, has captured Disney history with his own unique storytelling and personal experiences to provide insight in to how we can make our own dreams a reality.

Jeff Barnes is a Disney fan as well as a history buff, university professor and author.  He took his passions and combined them together to write his first book The Wisdom of Walt, leadership lessons from the happiest place on earth.

Jeff outlines actionable lessons using Disney storytelling to help you succeed in your own life, you will want to read it more than once.  His personal reflections provide a connection that make him both relatable and inspirational.

From the very first chapter of “Sitting On A Park Bench”, Jeff takes us through Walt’s earliest vision for Disneyland and both the success and challenges he faced.  Jeff’s ability to relate these stories to things that you can incorporate in your own life make it a blueprint for dreamers everywhere.

It is important to remember that before you achieve your dreams you will fail.  This book offers the perfect balance between hard reminders and motivation to continue chasing your dreams.

As I move through my own journey, I will always remember Jeff’s quote “You can’t Fastpass success”.

Jeff’s newest book Beyond The Wisdom Of Walt will be available October 1, 2017.  I can’t wait to read the next one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updates To My Disney Experience App

My Disney Experience AppThe My Disney Experience app has upped its game by adding some features that we’ve all been waiting for.  In a move that integrates even more information in to your smartphone, it has made the app an even more important piece of your Walt Disney World vacation.

 

 

1.  Track Dining Plan Credits

My Disney Experience Track Dining

Tracking your Disney Dining credits has always been a bit of a pain for my family.  When we travel with 7 of us, it’s difficult to know how many credits are left – especially with snacks and quick service meals when we split up.  While we normally eat all of our table service meals together, the snacks and quick service are the challenge.

The newest update allows guests to track their dining plan credits and see how many were issued, redeemed and are still available for use.

This may mean that I won’t be trying to use up 20 snack credits in 2 days.  I think it will make things much easier for planning!

 

2.  Check Resort Purchases

Disney Resort Purchases Tracking

This one might be both good and bad for me!  Many times I’m standing in a store staring at a new Dooney when I wonder “how muchmoney have I already spent this week?” – now I won’t have to wonder.  The problem is that I’m usually able to convince myself I haven’t spent that much and then I buy the Dooney – this app will remind me, it is not in my budget!  Good thing or bad thing?  We’ll see on my next visit.

 

3.  Renew Annual Pass

I am an annual pass holder and this update will make it even easier for me to renew.  Disney is the master at making it convenient for you to spend money!

Disney Annual Pass Renewal

The My Disney Experience app has become the ‘hub’ for your Disney vacation planning and management.  From mobile food ordering to fastpass and dining plan management, it’s a “must have” when you’re visiting Walt Disney World.

Are you excited about these features?

 

 

 

Mobile Food Ordering New Locations Added Walt Disney World

Mobile Food Ordering DisneyOrdering a quick service meal at Walt Disney World is getting easier every day!  I had the opportunity to try the Mobile Ordering feature at Pandora – The World Of Avatar for the first time and I was impressed.  It save time as well as the aggravation of standing in a long line for food.

Due to the popularity of the service, Disney has expanded it to even more locations!

Now you can pre-order your quick service meal at any of the locations below:

Magic Kingdom Park:

  • Columbia Harbour House
  • Cosmic Ray’s Starlight CaféMobile Food Ordering WDW
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe
  • Pinocchio Village Haus
  • Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant (seasonally)

Epcot:

  • Electric Umbrella
  • Liberty Inn

Disney’s Hollywood Studios:

  • ABC Commissary

    Order is ready confirmation in the app

  • Backlot Express
  • PizzeRizzo

Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • Flame Tree Barbecue
  • Pizzafari
  • Restaurantosaurus
  • Satu’li Canteen

Disney Springs:

  • D-Luxe Burger

Currently the only form of payment accepted through the app is credit card, but I assume that will be updated in the future for more options.  Anyone on the dining plan or with dietary restrictions must place their order with a cashier.

Disney has said that they are working on expanding it to even more locations.  I am excited about this and can’t wait to use it again when I visit!

Have you tried it yet?

 

Complimentary Toiletries Replaced With Pump Dispensers At Disney

Disney H2O SoapThere are indications that Disney may be getting rid of the cute little toiletry bottles of H2O that we have grown to love and replacing them with refillable dispensers.

It has been reported by many fan sites that Port Orleans Riverside recently had pump dispensers of the H2O products rather than the individual travel sized bottles.

The little bottles were a small treat in your room, some terrific products in sample sizes for you to try.  Obviously the thought was that it would encourage you to buy the product in the gift shop so that you could take a little bit of Disney home with you.

Is this a cost cutting measure?  Or Disney’s attempt to be more green and reduce the amount of waste and plastic bottles?

Many guests are not happy about the changes with one fan even making a ‘save the soap’ video!

 

 

And if you REALLY wanted some – of course they are for sale on eBay!

 

 

It is not clear yet if this will be rolled out across all resorts and resort categories.

What do you think of the potential changes?

 

Satu’li Canteen Review At Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Pandora – The World Of Avatar

blueberry cream cheese mousseOn our visit to Pandora we had to have lunch at Satu’li Canteen.  We were there early enough to do breakfast, but I really wanted the lunch menu so we waited until they started serving lunch.

When we arrived at the Satu’li Canteen I was immediately impressed with the amount of seating offered, there were plenty of tables available both inside and out.  The theming was detailed, showcasing Na’vi artwork and different items, but since I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie – some of these details were lost on me.

The line and ordering stations are similar to other quick service restaurants around the parks with the cashier in the middle with a line on either side.  After you pay, you step up to the window to collect your order.  There is also Mobile Ordering available at this location.  You can read more about that here.

Satuli Canteen Quick Serve Ordering

For lunch we both knew that we had to try some kind of bao bun.  I opted for the cheeseburger (of course) while Becky had the vegetable curry.

My cheeseburger pod was filled with ground beef, ketchup, mustard, pickle, and cheddar cheese

Becky’s vegetable curry had eggplant, cauliflower, sweet potato, carrots, and shallot cilantro cream

Satuli Pods

Both of our dishes were served with vegetable slaw and vegatable chips.

Normally I can’t eat a burger without french fries (aren’t they mandatory??) – but these chips were good!  The pod was a little chewy so the crunchy chips were a great balance.   The slaw was light and a bit tangy, somehow it all just worked together!

Inside Satuli Pod

Becky enjoyed her curry as well, but when I tasted it – it was a bit too much curry for me.

The portions were really big, but we had to have dessert (how could we not?).

Satuli Chocolate Cake

I had the chocolate cake while Becky had the blueberry cream cheese mousse.

blueberry cream cheese mousse

Both were good, but the chocolate ‘cake’ seemed less like a cake and more like a mousse.  The blueberry one was light and delicious and of course so pretty that you wanted to take multiple pictures of it!

Would I recommend Satu’li Canteen?  Yes.  It’s a great atmosphere, different food from elsewhere in the park and it’s good.

Have you been?  What did you have?

 

Mobile Food Ordering At Walt Disney World

Mobile Food Ordering WDWMobile ordering quick service food at Walt Disney World has really improved meal time for me!

One of my biggest pet peeves was always having to wait in a HUGE line for a “quick service” meal.  It hardly felt like “quick service” when I had to stand in line for 15 minutes just to order.  Yes, you can avoid the lines if you don’t eat lunch at 12 or dinner at 5, but what happens if I’m hungry at noon?  Now I can order it from my phone and avoid those lines!

At select Walt Disney World quick service locations, you can pre-order your meal on the My Disney Experience app right from your smartphone.  I had the opportunity to try it when we ate at Satu’li Canteen in Pandora at Animal Kingdom and I have to say – I LOVE it!

Technology is a great thing – when it works.  I was a little hesitant trying this since there wasn’t much of a line and I was really hungry, but thought I’d give it a go for research purposes!

Selecting my meal

It allowed me to select my sides, sauces etc.

Adding dessert

So far so good. 

Payment screen

Payment was done right on my Visa that is linked in my Disney account.

Let them know I’m here to start preparing my order

When you select the “I’m Here, Prepare My Order” option – they start preparing your meal.  

Then you wait….

Order is ready confirmation in the app

The notification was in the app – but it also gave me an ‘alert’ notification on my iPhone too!

iPhone alert

And lunch was served!  It was a great experience, no lines.- quick food.  What more could I ask for?  Maybe that they roll it out at more locations in the parks AND resorts?

Satuli Pods

Have you tried mobile ordering yet?  Was it as easy to use as it was for me?

 

Minnie Themed Transportation Option

Minnie Vans DisneyI have always maintained that there is no need to rent a car when you’re staying on Disney property at Walt Disney World.  The Magical Express will take you back and forth to the airport and the bus, monorail, or boats will take you anywhere else for FREE.  Why would you pay extra to rent a car?  Because you want the convenience and comfort.

At the end of the night when you’re leaving a park it can be very crowded.  While Disney does their best to make sure they have plenty of buses, monorails and boats, there is inevitably a long line for some of them when a park closes for the evening.  If you’re willing to pay extra to avoid the crowds, a car rental, taxi or Uber were your only options – until now.

Guests staying at Disney’s Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach Club Resorts will are the first to test out this new mode of transportation.  Guests are able to arrange their own private transfer within Disney property from a smartphone.  Each van comes equipped with two car seats for children stored in the trunk if they are not required.  A trip is $20 USD flat fee for up to 6 passengers.

Minnie Vans D23With the launch of the Express Transportation option I was happy to pay extra for a little comfort when I was park hopping.  The new Minnie Vans are going to be a welcome cost at the end of a long night when I just want to get back to my resort and put my feet up.

I can’t wait to test them out!  Stay tuned for my full review!

 

All Star Movies Resort Review

Disneys All Star Movies HerbieAfter all of my visits to Walt Disney World, this was my first time staying at the All Star Movies.  I had toured the resort at length, but it’s a very different experience when you’re staying there.

 

When we arrived at the resort, there was a rather long line for check in.  I don’t know if this is normal (as I said, this was my first visit here) – but the line was long.  I assumed that a Magical Express bus had just arrived (we drove) and that was why there were so many people.  We decided to go grab a quick bite in the food court and let the line subside.  When we returned after dinner, it was a little shorter – but not by much.

Disneys All Star Movies Check In

There were only 2 of us staying in the room, and we were comfortable with the space, the rooms are 260 square feet in size.  There were two double beds so we each had our own.  The All Star Resorts sleep up to 4 people in a room, but I think if it were 4 adults it would have been a little crowded.

Disneys All Star Movies Beds

The bathroom was a bit small, but I had expected that.  The vanity area was a decent size for the two of us.

Disneys All Star Movies Bathroom

Storage space was not in abundance, but was enough for 2 women to unpack everything.  The closet area next to the vanity is big enough to hold your suitcases.  If you have 4 people unpacking, you might not fit it all in the drawer spaces (if you pack like we do!).

Disneys All Star Movies Vanity

When we went for dinner at the World Premier Food Court we were happy with the variety of selections.  The Majestic Shop had pizza, mac and cheese, and flatbreads.  I opted for the Roxy Shop that had burgers, hot dogs and chicken nuggets, although the pot roast at the Lyric Shop looked good too!  I of course finished my meal with a treat from the Rialto Shop where they had some pretty cool desserts.

Disneys All Star Movies Food

While we didn’t have time to enjoy the pools (we were leaving on a Disney Cruise the next day) I did have a chance to take a look around and soak in the atmosphere.  There are two pools for the All Star Movies, the Duck Pond Pool and Fantasia.  The Duck Pond Pool is a Mighty Ducks theme and the Fantasia pool is of course themed after Fantasia with a big Sorcerer Mickey fountain.  The pools are very cute and have life jackets are available for the little ones who aren’t strong swimmers yet.

Disneys All Star Movies Fantasia Pool

I had heard stories that the All Star Resorts were often the place for larger groups of kids to stay on school events or cheerleading competitions due to the affordability of them.  Once I was settled in my room I went to go to get some ice from the machine and I saw them pull up – 3 large buses of teenagers!   It turned out that they were well behaved and were not loud at all that evening, so I can safely say my experience at the resort was not impacted.

All Star Movies Scene

Would I stay at the All Star Movies again?  It depends.  If I’m looking for an economy trip – absolutely.  It had all the amenities of staying on Disney property, it was clean, it was cheerful and the cast members were great.  That being said, I like to relax a little at my resort and this just had a little too much hustle and bustle for me.

How about you?  Have you stayed at an All Star Resort?  Leave us a comment below!

Disneys All Star Movies TV Fridge and dresser

Fridge, Dresser and TV

Disneys All Star Movies Table

Table

Disneys All Star Movies Coat Rack

Coat Hanger

Disneys All Star Movies Pool Bar

Pool Bar

Disneys All Star Movies

One Of The Buildings

Disneys All Star Movies World Premier Food Court

Food Court Seating Area

 

 

Real Life Luke Skywalker X-34 Landspeeder

Luke Skywalker landspeederLuke Skywalker’s landspeeder was revealed at Comic-Con in San Diego in early 2017.  This kid-sized vehicle has realistic details that has Star Wars fans excited.

Designed for children ages 4 and up, the landspeeder seats 2 pint-sized passengers weighing up to 130 pounds.  The exterior has all of the trimmings you would expect to find on an landspeeder, including distressed paint and a big dent on the nose, just like Luke’s.

Although it has a very close resemblance to the X-34 landspeeder from Star Wars: A New Hope, it rides on wheels.  There is no hovering, but it’s still the coolest thing in this galaxy.

Inside of the vehicle is an interactive dashboard with lights and sounds from the movie.  Among the sounds you can hear the engine, R2-D2 or dialog from Luke Skywalker himself.

“Look it, theres a Droid on the scanner.  Dead ahead.  Might be our little Artoo unit.  Hit the accelerator!” – Luke Skywalker 

 

The gear shift allows for speeds of 2 or 5 mph in the forward position or 2 mph in reverse.  Running on a rechargeable 12V battery, it’s much smaller than the original would have been, weighing just 59.9 pounds.

Star Wars landspeeder_console

Built by Radio Flyer, the landspeeder was originally only available at Toys R Us. It’s a little more expensive than a kid-sized Ferrari, but has all of the features an aspiring Jedi would want to have.  When you are battling Darth Vader, you need more than a lightsaber and the force, you need the right vehicle.

 

When Star Wars first hit the movie screens in 1977, we all aspired to be Luke, Han or Leia.  We reenacted movie scenes in the playground and used our little red wagons and Big Wheels to simulate landspeeders and the Millennium Falcon.  I suspect many of us who had this playtime ritual are now trying to figure out how to ‘fit’ in the new landspeeder and take it for a spin.  Maybe I could drive it to work one day, imagine how jealous my friends would be?

 

Disney Park Updates From D23 Expo Recap

D23 ExpoBig plans were announced for Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts at the D23 Expo.  From new resorts, park expansions and Disney Cruise Line updates, it was so hard to keep track of it all.  Below is a summary of the big announcements that will impact Walt Disney World.    

1.  Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Set to open in 2019 first at Disneyland and later that year in Walt Disney World, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge promises to be a fully immersive experience with 2 major attractions.   One attraction is reported to make you feel like your on a Star Destroyer, but I am MOST excited about the second – flying the Millennium Falcon!   The lands will give you an opportunity to dine at the cantina and see some of your favorite characters!

 

2.  Star Wars Resort at Walt Disney World

No opening date has been set, but this new resort is just what Star Wars fans have been looking for! According to Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, this will be a revolutionary new vacation experience.

 

3.  Epcot Getting 2 New Attractions

Guardians of the Galaxy attraction will be added to Future World and will replace the Universe of Energy. A Ratatouille inspired attraction will be added to the France pavilion in World Showcase.   Guests will be “shrunk” to Remy’s size inside of Gusteau’s restaurant in this 4D experience, similar to the attraction in Paris. Specific opening dates have not been released for either attraction but they are scheduled to be open before Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021.

 

4.  Mickey Themed Ride

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios! An attraction inspired by Mickey Shorts will put you inside the world of a Mickey cartoon! No opening date has been announced, but the Great Movie Ride will be closing to make way for this new adventure.

 

5.  TRON Is Coming To The Magic Kingdom

Being built next to Space Mountain, we can’t think of a better spot for this new attraction.   TRON Lightcycle Power Run is a coaster style attraction at Shanghai Disneyland and we can’t wait to see it here. No opening date has been announced, but it will be open in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.

 

6.  Space Dining At Epcot

Epcot is a great place to visit for dining reservations and will be even more appealing with the opening of a new themed restaurant! Sitting next to the Mission: Space attraction, guests will be dining in space – with views from high above Earth!

 

7.  New Transportation Options and Disney Vacation Club Resort

Disney Skyliner gondolas will soon connect Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach Resorts to Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot. The gondolas will also connect Hollywood Studios and Epcot’s International Gateway to a new Disney Vacation Club Resort called Disney’s Riviera Resort.   New Minnie themed vehicles will offer point-to-point transportation options for guests. Rumored to be something of an Uber type service, it could be a great way to avoid the buses. No costs or opening times have been released.

 

8.  A New Theatre At Magic Kingdom

Main Street U.S.A will have a new theatre based on a 1920’s theatre from Kansas City where Walt Disney lived when he left Marceline.   With the success of shows like Frozen Live at the Hyperion in Disneyland, this is sure to be a great addition!

 

9.  Toy Story Land

During the summer of 2018, Toy Story Land will open at Hollywood Studios! This new land will let guests explore Andy’s backyard with all of their favorite Toy Story characters.   Along with the exploration there will be 2 new themed attractions. The Slinky Dog Dash will be a family coaster while the Alien Swirling Saucers will have aliens trying to capture your rocket toy vehicle with The Claw! How exciting does this sound??

 

Outside of Walt Disney World

  • Disney Cruise Line Expansion

Disney Cruise Line announced last year that they were building two new ships. At the D23 Expo it was revealed that there is a third new ship coming!

  • California Adventure Park Super Heroes

Spider-Man and the Avengers will join guardians of the Galaxy at Disney California Adventure Park. More details on this to come!

  • Pixar Pier

More updates for Disney California Adventure Park include a new look for Paradise Pier by creating neighborhoods filled with stories from some of your favorite Pixar movies. This permanent addition will open during a limited time celebration in 2018. The very popular Paint The Night parade will return, but this time to Disney California Adventure park!

  • Disneyland Paris Marvel Characters

Disney’s Hotel New York will be updated to include Marvel theming! Who doesn’t want to stay in a resort that reflects the worlds of The Avengers, Spider Man and Iron Man?

Which update are you most excited about?  Let us know in the comments!

 

What is a Magic Band at Walt Disney World?

Magic Band TerminalSimply put, a Magic Band is a wristband that contains all of the information stored in your My Disney Experience account. Inside of the band there is a small chip that interacts with different terminals throughout Walt Disney World. Magic Bands are complimentary with your Walt Disney World resort stay or you can purchase them if you’re not staying on property.

Magic Bands are incredibly convenient – here are 6 ways you will love using yours!

  1. Access to your Walt Disney World resort room

Instead of keys or key cards, your Magic Band will unlock your resort room door. Tapping your Magic Band to the small device on the outside of your door will unlock it! The doors automatically lock when you leave, so make sure you’re always wearing your band! 

  1. Your park tickets

When your Disney park tickets linked to you’re my Disney Experience account they are accessible via your Magic Band. When you arrive at the parks you scan your Magic Band for entry. There is also a finger scan that connects your band to you personally in case you lose it.

The My Disney Experience Site where you can plan your adventures!

  1. Fastpasses

Once all of your fastpass reservations are made, you use your Magic Band to redeem them. When you arrive at the attraction, tap your band to the fastpass device and it updates your account that you have used your fastpass. When you make more fastpass reservations they are automatically added to your band!

  1. Dining credits

If you have the Disney dining plan, your dining credits are stored on your magic band. When you want to redeem them for a meal or snack credit you tap the band to the terminal and enter your personal pin. The pin protects you in the event you lose your band, no one can take your dining credits.

  1. Charging and shopping

If you’re staying at a Disney resort, you can charge your purchases to your room or credit card! They also have a pin associated with this feature to protect you if someone else has your Magic Band. Disney really does make spending money easy…

  1. Photopass

When you see a Disney photographer in the parks, you have to stop and get a picture! They are a great way to make sure everyone is in the shot. After the photographer takes your pictures they scan your magic band and your photos are magically added to you’re my Disney Experience account.  If you have purchased Memory Maker you’re all set, if not – you can purchase the photos individually.

Magic Band helps you organize your vacation and manage it through your My Disney Experience account. You can customize the color, add decorative pins to them and reuse them until the battery dies (approx. 2 years).   If you’re a stickler for matching them to your outfits, you can collect all the different colors like Carrie did! They really are the perfect accessory to any outfit when you’re at Walt Disney World!

What color Magic Band will you get?

 

California Grill Brunch Review

Charcutterie at California GrillBunch at Disney’s California Grill was on my wish list of new things to do. On a recent trip I had the opportunity to book reservations, so I knew I had to try it.

Dinner at California Grill is one of my favorites. Since I had such a good experience having brunch at Narcoosee’s – I figured this one had to be equally as good.

When we arrived, there was an entire section of the bar with mimosas waiting. Little did we know that these were bottomless and soon found out that our waiter would be bringing us new ones before the first one was done.

Mimosa at California Grill

There was a bloody mary bar available for an additional cost if that was your choice of drink. While they looked delicious, we decided to stick with our mimosas.

Bloody Mary Bar at California Grill Brunch

Bloody Mary Bar

We reviewed the menu to make our entree selections.  My sister Becky selected the Chef’s Frittata and I chose the Grilled Hanger Steak.

Once our entrée order was placed, we were able to visit the self-serve stations. There was real variety of things to choose from.

Becky’s self-serve selections

I’m not a fan of seafood, so I tasted everything that I thought I might like. The food was good, really flavorful and visually appealing.

California Grill Self Serve Plate

My first plate from the self-serve options

When our entrees arrived, I was regretting having the second helping of bread and mimosas, but I powered through. My steak was delicious, cooked exactly as I had asked with no pink in it.

Grilled Hanger Steak at California Grill

Grilled Hanger Steak – Two Eggs-Any Style, Chimichurri, Marble Potato Hash, Charred Red Onion

Becky enjoyed her frittata and said the potatoes were exceptional.

Frittata at California Grill

Frittata – Three Lake Meadow Farms Eggs, Heirloom Tomatoes, Roasted Poblanos, Chorizo, creamy Goat Cheese, and Marble Potato Hash

We took a small break before ordering tea and waited for our dessert plate to come. If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m a huge fan of dessert – but I have to admit, I was underwhelmed.

Brunch Dessert at California Grill

The plate didn’t look as yummy as the dinner dessert does. While I tasted everything on the plate, there was nothing that made me say “wow, I need to have that again”.

When the bill arrived our total for brunch was $165 USD including our Tables in Wonderland discount.

Since I’m a gal who is all about dessert, Narcoosee’s was my favorite of the two, based solely on the desserts.  I think on my next trip I’ll save California Grill for dinner so that I can enjoy the Chocolate Pudding Cake.

Check out the video below for a walk through of Brunch at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

 

Have you tried brunch at California Grill?  Leave us a comment below and let us know what you thought!

 

Caring For Giants Review at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Caring for Giants Disney's Animal KingdomCaring for Giants is a tour offered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom giving you a closer look at the elephants.  The cost of the tour is in addition to your park admission, but read below why I think it’s a great value!

My sister Becky is a huge fan of the elephants. Over the years she has tried multiple times on Kilimanjaro Safaris to capture the perfect picture of a baby elephant to no avail. We haven’t figured out if we are moving through the area too quickly or her photography skills are the issue (I think it’s the latter), but it’s been a challenge! When she heard about this tour, we had to try it. It might be the only way for her to capture the elusive photo of a baby elephant.

We arrived at Animal Kingdom and checked in next to Kilimanjaro Safaris. We were warned that there was no bathroom breaks on this tour, so best to visit the facilities before we left.Stella Baby Elephant Animal KingdomThere were 8 of us on the tour and we boarded a bus back stage to take us to the viewing area. The driver gave us a lot of information about how the animals are protected and the fencing around the enclosures backstage. We were amazed to see fencing that wasn’t related to the savannah and the explanation made sense – the fencing is to keep the native Florida Wildlife out of the savanna.

When we arrived at the viewing area we realized that we were on the other side of Kilimanjaro Safaris and could see the attraction vehicles passing in the distance. The first cast member told us about how they care for the elephants and some of the rituals they have with them.Elephants Caring for Giants

The second cast member that spoke to us was a cultural representative from Zimbabwe. While she had only been working there for 3 weeks, she did a fantastic job of telling us about the research being done by the Disney Conservation Fund.   She shared details about one of the projects where they found a solution that allows farmers to protect their farms without harming the elephants. It was fascinating; I could have listened to her for hours.Caring for Giants Elephant

Aside from the great information from the cast members, we got some fantastic views of the elephants! We were told that the views really depend on the elephants; they are free to roam around and may not stand in the ideal spot for your photos.   This is important to recognize that Disney allows them the freedom to do as they please. We were lucky to have so many come around, it was the first tour of the morning and they tend to be more active.

Caring for Giants Stella

My sister with baby Stella in the background.

Caring for Giants was worth every penny of the $30 we paid for it. We spent an hour with some fascinating cast members and of course – the elephants. We loved the tour so much that we’ll be adding this as a regular ‘must do’ on our trips. Not only did my sister get a picture of a baby elephant, she got one WITH a baby elephant!

 

 

 

FastPass Crackdown – Cheaters Will Be Cheaters

7DMT Magic KingdomFastPass+ at Walt Disney World is a free service that allows you to effectively schedule up to 3 attractions in advance to avoid the long standby lines. If you stay at a Disney resort, you can make your selections 60 days in advance of your trip, if you’re staying offsite it’s 30 days.

FastPass+ was always a fair system, free to everyone with a valid park admission. Unlike those “other guys” who offer a paid service to skip the lines, Disney has a limit to how many FastPasses are available per hour for each attraction. At the other parks, if you have paid for this service you can skip the line on the same attraction all day if you would like. Imagine that – 100 people all skipping the line multiple times on the Hulk. How long do you think that standby line will be? For those who don’t pay, it can be a substantially longer wait than it had to be. Your ability to experience the attractions is directly tied to how much you were willing to pay.

At Walt Disney World, everyone had a fair shot at a FastPass for the big attractions – that was until a loophole was found.

MDE FPIt has been reported that people were using the in park kiosks to book FastPasses with expired tickets or tickets that were not used to enter the park. They were ‘borrowing’ annual passes to book extra FastPasses and taking away the availability from other guests. This ‘fair system’ was being abused by those who thought they were entitled to a better experience than everyone else – until Disney found out.

Disney has begun to crack down on these scams and are enforcing a validation process. Cast Members who are working in the FastPass line will be able to see if the guest used a valid ticket to enter the park that day. If they didn’t, they will be sent to the standby line.

Disney is reportedly locking the My Disney Experience accounts of those who book a FastPass without a ticket being used to enter the park.

Magic BandI think it’s great that Disney is addressing the issue and cracking down on this. How long before they start cracking down on all the fake resort and dining reservations?  Time will tell!

 

 

Toy Story Faces For Your Apple Watch

Woody Pixar Apple WatchApple’s Worldwide Developer Conference had some great news for Disney and Pixar fans!

There was plenty of great stuff at the conference, you can see it all here. but it’s the Pixar stuff that I think is the most exciting!

Apple announced that as part of the features of the watchOS 4 this fall, they would be creating several new watch faces in featuring Toy Story characters!

Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear were shown with full animation displaying their own personal behaviors.

 

If you have an iWatch like I do – it will be great to rotate out the Mickey Mouse face once in a while and mix it up with some other great characters.

iMac Pro Pixar Lamp

I love the partnership between Disney and Apple and would love to see more collaboration. Maybe the reference to the Pixar lamp in the iMac Pro ad is a hint of what’s in store?

Do you have an Apple Watch?  Are you excited about these new faces?

 

 

Avatar Flight of Passage Review at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Pandora Flight of PassageAvatar Flight of Passage was an attraction that I was determined I had to try. The reviews said that it was not good for those with motion sickness and it could be intense, but I had to experience it at least once. Since I had the opportunity to visit during a preview before the official opening, I went straight over to Flight of Passage and there was no wait. I stood for a second, took a deep breath and thought, “I guess I’m doing this!”

Here are my thoughts on the new Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  It’s an overview of my experience with some information you should know before you go, but without too many spoilers!

The queue was impressive – but long

The outdoor portion of the queue for Flight of Passage is gorgeous. You’re walking slightly up hill and have a perfect view of the floating mountains. There will be some great pictures and selfies taken from this line!

Once you leave the outdoor area, you enter in to something that looks like a cave. You will be happier in here since there is air conditioning and shade from the Florida sun. As the cave transitions in to the building, you’re able to see paintings, a bioluminescent mining area and of course – a real Avatar. I had seen the Avatar on many different online videos, but I didn’t appreciate the size or details of it until I had seen it in person.

 

 

While I didn’t have a wait for Flight of Passage, it struck me as I was walking through this queue how long it took me to get to the end. It seemed like quite a long walk with the capacity to hold VERY long lines.

The claustrophobia

Nearing the end of the line, you enter the first of 2 pre-shows. The first room is where you are matched to your Avatar. It is primarily a video with some special effects, but the room felt a bit small to me. I was glad I was the last one in and had some space behind me. We were in there a few minutes when we moved on to the next briefing – the vehicle seating system is explained and you get your 3D glasses.

The vehicle

I don’t like feeling ‘trapped’ anywhere and this was my biggest fear for this vehicle. I am the person who sits at the end of the row in a movie theatre to avoid feeling like I can’t get out. Knowing that things would come and encapsulate on this attraction had me very nervous. I straddled the vehicle like a bicycle and leaned forward towards the support in front of me. I chose to leave a little bit of space between the support and myself and prepared myself for the various restraints that were coming. As the restraints were activated, I heard the man beside me gasp a little. The man had leaned so far forward that the restraint at his back was way too restrictive and a cast member had to come and adjust it.   I was happy with the amount of space I had and didn’t feel closed in with the back restraint at all. Maybe it’s because I had my legs out in front of me as opposed to at the side, but I didn’t even feel the ones on my legs at all. I did notice that this might be quite restrictive and uncomfortable though for my Pooh-sized friends. There is a test vehicle outside of the attraction for you to try before waiting in line.

 

The flight

Once the ride started I was in awe. Disney has created an attraction where I really FELT like I was flying on the back of a Banshee. It wasn’t just the sights, sounds and smells, but when my Banshee took a break on a branch of a tree, I could FEEL it breathing underneath me. The scenery is breathtaking and colorful, it seemed so real! There is no comparison in my mind to Soarin or Star Tours – this attraction made me forget that I was sitting on an attraction vehicle with 3D goggles on. I was transported, and I flew on a Banshee.

 

The motion sickness

Pandora 2I feel sick on Star Tours and have never made it back on Mission Space since it opened; I was worried about Flight of Passage. I went first thing in the morning, took some motion sickness pills and didn’t eat anything before the ride. There were a few moments where the Banshee took some sharp turns and some drastic drops where I had to close my eyes. Closing my eyes for a second or two really helped, especially when were flying through some tight spaces. I do think the cool breeze on my face helped me avoid overheating that happens when I’m nauseous. I really didn’t feel sick at all, I suspect that might have had something to do with the pills I took.

 

The 4 things you need to know:

  1. The queue has been designed to hold lines of up to 4 hours inside. The wait will be long.
  2. There is a lot of walking for the queue as well as upon exiting. Be prepared for inclines and stairs, especially if you have trouble walking.
  3. There are moments that those who are prone to motion sickness or claustrophobia will struggle, but they are short lived.
  4. Love or hate Avatar the movie (I didn’t love it), this attraction is among the best on Disney property and you should experience it once. I know I will be back to try it again.

 

My only criticism, and it’s a big one

Winnie the PoohSurprisingly, this attraction is not friendly to certain body types or guests with mobility issues. Given that this is new, I would have thought that Disney would have invested in making sure that more people could experience it – not less. One of the things that I don’t like about that ‘other park’ is that they have attractions that are not suitable for my Pooh-sized friends. I have always maintained that having the test vehicles out in front of their attractions is both humiliating and degrading to those who want to try them before lining up. Couldn’t they put them around the corner out of plain view of the masses of people? Who wants to try a vehicle in front of a bunch of people to see if you’re too fluffy to fit? I have always thought that was a big difference between Disney and the other guys, until Disney did the same thing with Flight of Passage. I think it’s terrible that a good portion of the population wasn’t accounted for when designing this attraction. I only hope that Disney makes the necessary adjustments to the attraction to accommodate more people, and once again set itself apart from the other parks.

If you want to see a good video of the queue – check out this video from our friends at Pure Magic Vacations!

 

 

Have you experienced Flight of Passage? What did you think?

 

Disney Fantasy Mechanical Issues

May 172017 I set sail on a 3 night Disney Cruise on the Fantasy. The Fantasy had just been in dry dock and I was looking forward to all of the enhancements they had made. It was the only Disney ship I hadn’t sailed on, so I was excited.

The voyage was great, all of the things you would expect from Disney Cruise Line (more on that later), but the last night we hit a bit of a snag.  Something broke on the ship.

We were sitting at the late seating for dinner on the last night when one of my tablemates said they felt a big shudder. We weren’t sure what it was, but continued to enjoy our dinner.

On the last night of the cruise, you leave your luggage outside of your stateroom before 10:30 so that the crew can take it off the ship for you. Some people hold on to their bags because they’ve got early flights to catch and want to make sure they can walk off the ship at 7am with their bags. Since we were spending another week at Walt Disney World, we weren’t in a rush and put ours out. Then we headed to O’Gills pub to meet some friends for a drink.

We were enjoying the live entertainment and some good conversation when Commodore Tom made the announcement – trouble in paradise! He let us know that there was a mechanical problem – we were going to be delayed getting in to port the next morning. He didn’t provide many details except to say that we would arrive at approximately 10am with the earliest time to disembark being 11.   Anyone who had flights before 1pm needed to change them.

While I didn’t have to worry about flights, I had friends on board that did. One spent an hour on hold with Delta trying to get her flight changed. Thankfully she managed to get it done without a fee for an 8pm departure from Orlando the next day. It was a big relief for her; she didn’t have to worry if we were delayed further.

Other people weren’t so lucky. I spoke to people who spent $800 to change their flights due to the delay. Without insurance, they are out of pocket for these costs unless they had insurance. Not something they expected to have to spend after getting their onboard ship charge bills!  

The next announcement came at 8am saying that no one would be off the ship until 12:30. We were chugging along; you could see how slow we were sailing just by looking at the water.

 

Another friend had a 2pm flight and was originally a little worried that it was cutting it close, now had to change them. She called Westjet and they had no later flights to put her on.   She had to book a night at Walt Disney World and fly out the next day.

When we finally made it close to land – there were tugboats along side of the ship. It was hard to tell from the decks, but it looked like they were pushing or pulling us at different points throughout the last stages of our arrival.

 

 

I decided to wait on the ship and let the masses leave. We had a nice lunch and took our time. I felt terrible for those who were rushing to catch flights – I can only imagine how stressful it would have been, especially those with little ones.

What Disney did right:

  • Made alternate flight arrangements for those who booked their airfare with Disney Cruise Line
  • Handed out calling cards to those who booked their flights on their own. This allowed them to call their airlines for free from their Cabanas Disney Fantasystateroom to make alternate arrangements
  • Offered an additional 50MB of data free to those who needed to get online to arrange their travel plans.
  • They added additional events and activities while we were waiting to dock. This included a showing of Beauty and the Beast in the theatre and a character dance party on Deck 11. Entertainment was a great distraction.
  • They served lunch. They opened up Cabanas, the ice cream station and the burger/sandwich windows on Deck 11. People who are hungry can be cranky – this helped alleviate that!

What Disney could have done better:

  • The communication was sparse on what the actual problem was. There was a sense of panic from some of the guests about what ‘mechanical issues’ meant and some conversations referenced the Carnival Cruise that was stuck at sea with no power. I didn’t worry that we would end up like that because we had power, it just seemed like we were short on engine power.
  • After dry dock you expect some issues. There were reported issues with Air Conditioning and toilets in the staterooms. Disney accommodated by moving people to other rooms where required, but that was an inconvenience on only a 3 night sailing.

With everything considered, I think Disney handled the situation very well. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a flight to catch that I thought it went well. After reading some of the boards and comments, I know there are plenty of people who won’t agree with me. I can’t think of what more they could have done, they made the very best of a bad situation.

For those who were boarding the Fantasy, they received emails asking them to delay their arrival to the port. Reports say they were told they would get a $25 per person stateroom credit to pay for their lunch while they waited. Their itinerary was changed and it was almost 11:30 PM before they left the dock. I can’t imagine what it felt like when they arrived full of anticipation for their cruise, only to experience delays. I’m sure Disney was going out of their way to make sure they were happy, but it’s still something that no one wants to have happen.

I think my big lesson from this is that I won’t book those early afternoon flights to go home after a cruise.  Make sure you’re flying in the day before – and you’re not trying to catch a noon flight on the day you leave.

Were you on the Fantasy or boarding? What was your experience?

 

Laundry At Walt Disney World

Laundry room at Bay Lake Tower Walt Disney WorldDoes anyone WANT do laundry at Walt Disney World?

No, but sometimes it’s necessary.

During a trip last year there were a few ‘mishaps’ where I needed to change outfits a few times one day. It might have been chocolate icing from my cupcake, mustard from my burger or my Pina Colava (okay, it was all 3), but they ended up on my clothes. I knew I needed to do laundry.

I gathered up all of the dirty clothes and headed to the laundry room at Bay Lake Tower where I was staying. I purchased my soap from the machine for $1 each with my credit card. So far so good.

I loaded up two machines (might as well wash all of the dirty clothes we had), then I saw the sign.

Laundry Instructions Disney

Disney laundry is high tech!

Using the website laundryview.com/Disneyworld I was able to view the progress of my washing. I could set up an alert to let me know when it was done, or I could just keep checking online. No need to sit in the room or remember what time I put the load in. My vacation brain does not let me monitor time well and this was exactly what I needed.

Doing laundry was a great excuse to have some down time outside of the parks and enjoy the pool or resort.  I chose to enjoy my balcony with an afternoon cocktail and relax in the sun.

Laundry View Website WDW

About 40 minutes later, I checked the status and the laundry was ready to move to the dryer. I could see online that there were 4 dryers available for use before I went back to the laundry room. I purchased my dryer sheets from the machine, turned on a couple of dryers and had another little break.

Laundry Machine Disney

Before I knew it, the site was saying the dryers were done. Within 20 minutes I had folded the clothes, brought them back to the room and put them away. I felt relieved, now I didn’t have to worry about any ‘spills’ during future meals. Doesn’t that happen to everyone? Put on a white shirt and immediately spill ketchup on it? Happens to me ALL THE TIME, especially on vacation.

While I dreaded the thought of laundry while on vacation, it turned out to be a relaxing afternoon that we now plan for almost every trip. If I know I’m going to do laundry on vacation, I don’t pack extra clothes for the inevitable spills. I save valuable space in my suitcase for all of the stuff I buy, and I’m guaranteed a couple of hours at my resort, sitting in the sun with a drink in my hand.  Somehow doing laundry at Disney isn’t as painful as it is at home!

Do you do laundry on your Disney vacation?

 

Where To Buy Disney Bags, Wallets and Backpacks in Canada

Loungefly-Tinkerbell-ToteBeing in Canada, it’s expensive to buy quality Disney bags, wallets and backpacks.   Our Disney stores don’t have much ‘adult’ inventory aside from some T-shirts, so we are left with ordering online. Between the exchange rate on the US Dollar, shipping fees and duty, I struggle to justify my online purchases.

I’ve recently discovered the beauty of shopping on Amazon!  I had no idea the selection of Disney items that were available – with many shipping to Canada!

From luggage to bags, you can find everything at Amazon.ca – it’s my new go-to online shopping!

 

 

 

The other great place that I have found in Canada is Hot Topic!  They have a bunch of locations in Toronto and I always find something

Aside from the Loungefly bags – they have really different T-shirts and merchandise that you don’t see anywhere else.

LOUNGEFLY DISNEY QUILTED MINNIE MOUSE

Where is your favourite place to shop?

Leave us a comment so we can all spend some money 🙂

 

Fuel Rod at Walt Disney World

Phone charger DisneyOne of my biggest challenges at Walt Disney World has always been keeping my electronics charged. Taking videos and photos, posting on social media, my Iphone and camera would barely make it to lunch time.

There are places in the Walt Disney World parks that you can charge your devices. For example, over near the Tangled washrooms in the Magic Kingdom are some very cute little tree stumps with ports to charge your phone.

When I’m in the parks though, I prefer to be able to charge ‘on the go’ and not be stuck sitting in one place to top up my battery life. The answer to this is the Fuel Rod.

The Fuel Rod is $30 USD and available at many locations throughout the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts.

Fuel Rod DisneyInside of the Fuel Rod package you will find:

  • One fully charged portable battery
  • One 6” USB to micro-USB cable (for most Android devices)
  • One Apple 30-pin to USB cable (for iPhone and iPad generations 1-4)
  • One Apple Lightning to USB cable (for iPhone generations 5+)

Phone Charged DisneyHaving that first one fully charged enables you to charge your phone immediately. When I purchased mine, it charged my iPhone 6 plus fully from 15% battery.
The best part of the Fuel Rod is the swap. After charging my phone, I located a Fuel Rod kiosk in the parks and swapped my depleted battery for a fully charged one for free! I inserted the battery in to the kiosk and it spit out a new one in seconds.

After my trip I have charged my Fuel Rod multiple times using the included cables so that I can always have a spare battery source with me wherever I go.

Have you purchased a Fuel Rod?  Did you love it?

 

Disney’s Beaches and Cream Review

Pixie Dust Fan Kitchen SinkTucked away behind the spectacular pool at Disney’s Beach Club resort is Beaches and Cream Soda Shop.

This very small location is home to the very big dessert – the Kitchen Sink. While many people visit just for the ice cream, my travel companions and I decided to have lunch as well.

Beaches and Cream Milk ShakeWhen we arrived I was shocked at how small it was inside. I had walked past it before, but had never gone in. The tables were quite close together and we were seated at what I thought was a pretty small table for the 4 of us. Since we’re good friends, this wasn’t an issue, but it was a bit snug when our food came.
Ron started things off by ordering a milk shake while the rest had pop and water. The milkshake looked so good that we knew this was the place to be for anything ice cream related. He was pretty happy with it.

A couple of us had burgers while the other two had beef melts.   I have to say that for an Ice Cream/Soda Shop I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed my burger and fries. But let’s be serious, we were there for one mission, to defeat the kitchen sink.

Beaches and Cream Patty Melt Beaches and Cream Burger

Being a Disney ‘foodie’ who loves desserts, I had researched this dessert many times. I had seen the pictures and videos and figured that the 4 of us could handle it.

Maybe it was because we were sitting at a little table, but I could not believe how big this sink was! It was overflowing with ice cream, cake, whipped cream, sprinkles, and chocolate, even Oreo cookies!   The spoon that they gave us to scoop it out to our plates was huge and when you dove in, you weren’t sure what goodness you find in it.

Beaches and Cream Kitchen Sink.

We dug in, and we gave it our best effort, but in the end – the kitchen sink beat us. We just couldn’t do it, we probably all ate more than we should have, but we couldn’t finish it.  It really doesn’t look so appetizing at the end.

Kitchen Sink After

After that we took a leisurely stroll back to our room at the Beach Club to relax and let our tummies settle. I think we all agreed that Beaches and Cream was a new favorite for when we’re in the mood for ice cream.

Would I try it again? Absolutely!  Would I assume that we could finish it? Not a chance! I think next time I go I’ll have more realistic expectations of how much ice cream 4 people can consume!

 

 

When Disney Decorating Takes Over Your Home

Disney SignI know that most people don’t have to mention their décor when they have guests over. They don’t say, “just to let you know, my house is decorated with a mid-century modern style” as part of the invitation. So why do I tell people before I invite them over that my house is Disney decorated?  I try to avoid the “I can’t believe how much Disney stuff you have” conversation with those who just don’t get it.

It started out in my 20’s when I had my first place. I had a few mugs, maybe a poster or two and some bedding. I was happy to have my own space to decorate just the way I wanted. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, but I loved every piece I had. Most of my stuff was hand me downs from my parent’s house, or cheap trinkets that I could afford at the time.

With maturity and a decent job, my collection has grown. It’s a far cry from what it used to be and includes some more ‘collectible’ items vs. the mugs and toothbrush holder I had.  Disney decorating has become another addiction!

Disney Collectibles

Now my house is overrun with Disney stuff, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Every piece of cutlery or dishes I own has Mickey ears. From serving plates to my kettle, it’s all Mickey.

Disney Kitchen

All artwork on my walls has some reference to Walt, Mickey or a Disney attraction or film.

Disney Art

Behind my front door you will find a photo of me as a ghost along with a sign that welcomes foolish mortals. The bathrooms have a little more subtle touch. I have Mickey hands that hold all of my towels and soaps. The alarm clock in my bedroom is Mickey colors, but it’s Donald Duck singing that wakes me up in the morning!

Disney Bathroom

Can you have too much Disney in your house? I don’t think so, I think I need more! There’s a great store in Disney Springs that is perfect for home décor.   When you’re there, check out D-Living, you won’t want to miss it.

Is your home Disney themed? Leave us a comment below!

 

First Disney Cruise Mistakes To Avoid

Disney Dream DeckPlanning your first Disney cruise can be exciting and stressful at the same time. There are so many options, categories, rules and regulations – what if I chose the wrong thing? Am I going to ruin my vacation?

Some mistakes are minor, while others CAN ruin your Disney cruise vacation.

 

Here are 5 big mistakes that almost every first time Disney cruiser makes

  1. They Don’t Understand The Stateroom Categories

I don’t care how much you google it, you don’t know what it’s like to sleep in a tuna can unless you’ve done it. Do you know what it’s like to wake up and wonder if you’re at sea or docked? Do you love your family enough to hug them as you walk to the bathroom because there’s nowhere else to go?

I have stayed in a variety of staterooms on Disney Cruise Line from an inside cabin to a 1 bedroom suite and they range from “pretty small” to “I can fit a piano in here”. Each one had it’s own pros and cons, especially when working with a budget. How much is a split bathroom worth for an inside cabin?  What about when you have 3 women getting ready for dinner? Trust me, it’s worth every penny!

Depending on the number of people in your stateroom, your budget and your need for personal space – these ALL have to be factors in your decision making. If you’ve spent all this money on a vacation, you want to make sure you enjoy it.

 

  1. Not Considering The Stateroom Location

You might not think this is a big deal, I mean how different is it to stay at the back of the ship? There is a reason the staterooms are different prices depending on location. Did you know that you can feel the motion of the ship more in certain locations? What about the dance bar – do you want to have your room right next to it or under it? Location is definitely something to consider.

 

  1. Underestimating The Amount Of Activities On Board

I have heard people plan a cruise primarily for the itinerary – what ports of call they are going to see and considered the ship as just a means of transportation. They didn’t realize how many things they would want to experience on board and hadn’t planned time to enjoy them all. From Character meetings to movie premiers, the kids were too tired after their full days on land to partake in the festivities the cruise had to offer.

 

  1. Flying In The Morning Of Your Cruise

This is a BIG one, and any good travel agent will tell you, you MUST plan to arrive the day before! Freak storms, problems with the plane or being bumped from your flight – they are all things that will cause you to miss your ship. Make no mistake, cruises wait for no one…

 

  1. What Documentation Do I Need?

I see this question a lot on Facebook – can I just use a driver’s license? Do I need a passport? That all depends on where you’re sailing from and to. While the well-meaning people in the Facebook group will give you all sorts of advice, do you really want to trust Dan from Iowa that you just need photo ID? I mean, the worst thing that can happen is you aren’t allowed to board the ship and forfeit the price of your cruise.  Don’t trust random people on the internet to advise you on these things.

 

A Disney cruise is one of the greatest getaways for adults, families and solo travellers. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t enjoy their cruise when they planned it properly.   When you’re ready to book, find a reputable Disney travel agent that can help you with the specific needs for your family.  You can modify the questions I have listed here to help you find the right travel agent to help you.

 

 

 

 

Paddlefish Appetizer Review at Disney Springs

Disney Springs PaddlefishWe were very lucky when we arrived at Paddlefish at Disney Springs, it was early afternoon and they had seating available for us. I was stunned at the inside and how beautiful it was. The views from the dining room we were seated in were gorgeous. We had a great view of the water and Saratoga Springs in the background.
When we sat down at our table and looked at the menu, I had a feeling we might be there for a while! Drinks were ordered (including the Captain Handsome) and we started the debate about what to eat.

When looking at the appetizers, we struggled. There was too much ‘goodness’ that we couldn’t decide what to have. What appetizers would we skip to make sure we had room for the main course? The answer was simple really, let’s just have appetizers! The waitress came and askedPaddlefish Restaurant Appetizers if we had decided on an appetizer, we said “no, we can’t… so we’ll just have to try them all”.

When the food came to the table, I couldn’t help but start to wonder if I might like seafood after all? The beef skewers and fried green tomatoes were supposed to be what I would eat, but everything looked so good!!

We took our time savoring the flavors of all of the dishes, they were all delicious!

The beef skewers were tender and full of flavor, the pickled onions were a nice pairing with them.

Paddlefish Captain HandsomeWhile I didn’t have the crab cake, my dining companions raved about it! They said the amount of crab in it was surprising. The fried green tomato that came with the crab cake was thicker than the ones that came as the stand-alone appetizer. The batter on the tomatoes was the right amount of crispy and didn’t dilute the flavor of the tomato.

Calamari isn’t my thing, but judging from the “oh wow” and “this is delicious” coming from the table, the calamari was a hit.

The lobster corn dogs were another favorite of the table. The sweet chili aioli was the perfect dip to go with them and added just a little kick.

The biggest surprise was the crab fries. While these fries had crab on them, I had to try. The crab was so big and easy enough to see that I could pick around it. My dining companions assured me that the crab was delicious, but I was in love with the fries and the louie dressing! Salted to perfection and still crispy after sitting under all of that crab, these fries will not disappoint.

Sadly, there was no room for dessert (and I always have room for dessert!). The portions were so big and the food so filling that the four of us couldn’t manage another bite. We had dinner reservations at Homecoming, and we didn’t want to spoil that either.

I should point out that Paddlefish would be a great place to go in the evenings. We took a tour of the deck and bar upstairs, I can only imagine how awesome it is in the evening. Don’t forget to check out the bathrooms as well – I loved how they had all of the different types of knots on the walls.

Would I go back to Paddlefish? Absolutely. Would my seafood loving companions recommend the actual seafood? There was a big resounding YES from all of them!

 

Castaway Cay Cabana Rental

Cabana Guest Sign

When sailing with Disney Cruise Line, I like to make sure my itineraries are such that I get to visit Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. I have rented a cabana at Serenity Bay a few times, and I have to say… it’s spectacular.

Here are 5 reasons you should consider renting one:

  1. Fridge

Each cabana comes equipped with a mini fridge. Inside you will find pop, water and fruit – all included in the rental. Also inside are some cold towels that are wonderful for patting down your face to cool off in the hot sun. Bags of chips are also included, just not in the fridge.

  1. Safe

Having a safe nearby just makes everything easier. While it’s never been a problem on the beach for me, it was nice to have somewhere to lock up my cameras, stateroom key and ID while I was in the water.

  1. Cabana Host

A cabana host that is only a ‘buzz’ away is awesome! There’s a button on the wall, if you need the fridge restocked or a lift to lunch – justpush the button. If you need some alcoholic beverages from the bar, they’ll bring you those too! These guys are great and work really hard, we make sure to tip them at the end of the day.

  1. Shade & Sunscreen

There are plenty of umbrellas on the beach, but having your own little ‘hut’ with comfy chairs is a great place to get out of the sun. It’s also some welcome shelter if there is an afternoon shower. With the cabana you also get a selection of sunscreen included – make sure you put it on!

  1. Toys

Rafts and floats are included along with a hammock next to your cabana. I must admit, the hammock was more difficult to get in to than I thought!

Renting a cabana at Castaway Cay has been a luxury we have splurged on a few times. We love the convenience and all of the things I’ve listed above, but I won’t be renting one on my next cruise. There is only one reason not to rent a cabana and that’s price. At $549 on the family beach and $399 on the adult beach, it’s a little too much to splurge when it’s just my sister and I. I can think of some other goodies to buy in the shops on board where that $400 could go a long way!

If you’re looking for ways to splurge, concierge may be for you!

Check out our video below for a tour.  Would you rent one of these?

 

Yak & Yeti Dinner Review at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Yak & Yeti Animal KingdomIf you have read my blogs before, you know that I’m a bit of a picky eater who loves desserts. As I get older, I find that I’m a little more adventurous with the restaurants I will try, which is of great delight to my travel companions.   After eating at the Coral Reef in Epcot and having to order the seafood pasta without the seafood, I realized that there is always something on the menu for me anywhere at Walt Disney World.

This time the adventure led us to the Yak & Yeti at Animal Kingdom.   We would normally grab lunch at the Flametree BBQ and be gone before dinner, this time we were staying late to see the Rivers of Light. We made dinner reservations at the Yak & Yeti and I was looking forward to trying a new place.

Yak & Yeti InteriorWhen we arrived I realized that I had walked past this restaurant every visit and never paid much attention to it, little did I know how gorgeous it was inside.

The restaurant holds the story of Arjun, a rich merchant who has fallen on hard times and has turned his home in to the Yak & Yeti hotel. The artifacts that are displayed throughout are ones that Arjun collected during his travels of Southeast Asia.   There is more to the story that you can read when you arrive, but the last line “It is a place to immerse yourself in a culture that is mysterious, exotic and exciting” describes it perfectly.

Yak and Yeti Dining RoomDining at Walt Disney World can sometimes be as much about the surroundings as it is the food itself. We enjoyed looking at the artifacts and taking in the surroundings, we were hopeful the food was just as good. We reviewed the menu and made our choices.

 

Becky and Lorraine both ordered the Malaysian Seafood Curry. They both raved about this dish and couldn’t believe how much seafood there was. I can tell you there was about 5 minutes when they both kept “finding” seafood in it even when they thought they couldn’t eat
another bite.Yak and Yeti Seafood Curry
Ron had the Kalbi Steak & Coconut Shrimp. He said that it was delicious and even loved the wasabi mashed potatoes and the vegetables.Yak and Yeti Steak and Shrimp

My choice for dinner was the Korean BBQ Ribs. While I’m normally not a big fan of ribs (I don’t like to bite meat off of a bone), I thought I’d give it a try and I wasn’t disappointed. The meat was so tender that I could use my knife and fork; the meat literally fell off of the bone. The serving was so big that I could share some of it with the others and they all agreed it was amazing.

Yak and Yeti Ribs

When the dessert menu came, we didn’t think any of us could eat another bite. Then I saw it – the Chocolate Pudding Cake with raspberry sauce. I had to try it, it sounded like a chocolate lovers dream – and it was! Yes, it was really rich, but if you like chocolate like I do, you don’t want to pass this up.

 

The Yak & Yeti was a great choice for dinner that night, and will be a dining reservation we will make again!

Have you eaten at the Yak & Yeti? What did you think?

 

 

Disney’s Express Transportation Option

Disney Express Transportation

UPDATE – Disney’s Express Transportation is not available as of August 23 2017.

I am a big believer in the Park Hopper option on your Walt Disney World tickets. Having the flexibility to visit more than one park in a day can really enhance your Disney vacation. I like to park hop to catch a show or have a dining reservation without being ‘tied’ to one park for the whole day. We can enjoy the morning Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom and still be able to catch Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios at night.

 

For those of us who like to park hop, there is a new service designed just for us.

 

Here are 5 reasons I loved Disney’s Express Transportation option:

1.  Backstage Access

The bus stops in each of the 4 parks are inside of the park, backstage. Once on board the bus, you are treated to a view behind the scenes while you exit/enter the parks. No photos allowed though, but you can enjoy the view. For those of us who love all things ‘behind the scenes’ – this was a real treat.

 

2.  No security

With the bus dropping you off backstage at your desitnation – there is no need to go through security again! No need to get in line to have your bags searched again. Avoiding those security line-ups are a big plus for us.

 

3.  Time savings

Without going through security and having a bus that goes directly from one park to the other, we saved a ton of time.   We left Epcot one evening and was in the Magic Kingdom in under 30 minutes. It was a great way to maximize our time that day!

 

4.  No crowds

It may have been just our luck, but it really wasn’t crowded at all. I think we used the bus 6 times during our visit and the most people (in addition to our party) was 4 people. There were a few trips where we had a bus to ourselves!

 

5.  Good value for the price

We opted for the 7 day pass and found that it was a good value for the time savings and convenience. We did a lot of park hopping and used the service to our advantage. I’m not sure that the single day ticket at $19 USD is worth it, but the 7 day at $29 USD definitely was.

 

Other things to know before you buy:

You can purchase your express transportation tickets while on property – you can’t purchase in advance.

Buses depart approximately every 30 minutes.

Express Transportation is available each day from 10:00 AM until park closing. Make sure you find out when the last bus is scheduled to your destination.

Check in locations:

Animal Kingdom ExpressMagic Kingdom park – next to the exit of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Disney’s Animal Kingdom park – next to the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – the courtyard in front of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

Epcot – the east side of Spaceship Earth

For more information, see Disney’s official website here.

The only problem that we had with the Express Transportation was timing. With the last bus at ‘closing’ for the park, it made it difficult to enjoy the night time show at Hollywood Studios and catch the bus to Epcot for Illuminations. There were two nights where the last bus didn’t arrive when they said it would. Of course they were still testing the service and I expect they will work out some of these issues in time.

When we used this service outside of the last bus of the night, it worked like a charm. I will definitely be using this service again and I can’t wait to see what improvements they have made for next time.

Will you try the Express Transportation? Do you think it is worth the price?

 

11 Things You Need To Know To Be Friends With A Disney Addict

Carousel of ProgressI have been a Disney fan for as long as I can remember, it is who I am and my friends have accepted this about me.  While my ‘non-Disney’ friends don’t share my passion, they know what to expect from me because we have known each other for years.  For new people that come in to my life I have put together the top 11 things they need to know about becoming friends with a Disney addict.

  1. No matter what, I will always be wearing something Disney related.

It may be as subtle as an Alex & Ani bracelet or Mickey Mouse watch, or it may be something more obvious like my Disney Dooney bag or my Mickey tattoo.  If we are going somewhere in casual attire – you can safely assume that some kind of Disney t-shirt will be worn.  The only acceptable comment about any of this is “that is awesome”.

Disney Dooney

 

  1. If you visit my home, you will feel like you walked in to a place decorated by the Imagineers at Disney.

Yes my cutlery is Mickey shaped, YES those are Mickey’s hands holding the soap in the bathroom and YES I will welcome you as a foolish mortal.  If you don’t know what something is, ask me!  I will be more than happy to explain the small piece of metal that is directly from Walt Disney’s train tracks in his backyard.  It may look like a scrap of metal to you – but it is one of my most prized possessions!  Unless you’re going to say “I love it!” – I don’t want to hear from you.

Disney Mice Decal

  1. I will manage to bring something “Disney” in to almost all of our conversations.

Somehow I will relate our inability to find a parking spot at the grocery store to how efficient the parking is at the Magic Kingdom.  I will tell you about the design, why the car doors don’t get ‘dinged’ and how they locate your car if you can’t remember where you parked.  It’s fascinating stuff – you should be listening!

 

  1. You can’t be embarrassed when we’re out in public and my phone rings.

When my phone bellows ‘Do not pull down on the safety bar please, I will lower it for you’, it makes me feel like I’m in the Haunted Mansion.  This is my ringtone, it makes me happy and I don’t care who hears it.  This also applies to the text notification from Star Tours and the email sound of Soarin – they are my little piece of ‘home’ and I love them.

 

  1. My news feed on Facebook will be 90% Disney stuff.

Yes, there will be the occasional family picture or a joke, but for the most part it’s all Disney.  When I’m on vacation – I’ll be posting even more and checking in at a bunch of attractions. You may not like it, but my Disney Facebook friends will love it!  Scroll by if it annoys you… but don’t tell me it did!

My Disney Dreams

  1. When you get in my car, chances are you will hear Disney music.

If I’m driving – I’m in charge of the tunes… so sing along and let it go…. but never roll your eyes!

  1. Don’t ever send me ‘dirty’ Disney jokes.

Don’t send me comics about naked princesses or Goofy doing something gross… making fun of Disney is like making fun of my family.  There’s a line – don’t cross it.

  1. Don’t say to me “You’re going to Disney AGAIN?  You need to see the world!”

Yes.. I am going again, and it won’t be the last time.  Just an FYI – I’ve seen the world, I walk around it every time I go to Epcot.

 

  1. Asking “Isn’t Disney for kids?” is a completely unacceptable question.

Unless you want a 20-minute tirade from me and a full run down of what the Food & Wine festival is, don’t even go there.  Believe me, you’ll be sorry you asked.

Disney Springs Isn't For Kids

  1. Don’t ask me how I afford it.

I don’t ask you how you pay for the car you drive, the food you eat or the clothes you wear.  I prioritize my Disney trips over other things that you may find important.  It’s my choice, my life, and none of your business.

I Work To Pay For Vacation

  1. When you’re feeling down I will quote Walt Disney.

I will also send you text messages full of Disney emojis and gifs, and then tell you to watch a Disney movie.  All of these things make me happy and I will assume that they will do the same for you.

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re friends with one of us, but there are some great things that come with our friendship too!  Aside from the fact that we believe in magic and know what makes us happy, it’s really easy to get us to start singing!  Just say to a Disney fanatic “there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow” and watch what happens!

 

How many Disney people are in your life?

 

5 Things That Irritate Me About Disney

WDW CarouselWith so many people posting things about Disney every day, it is hard to know what’s legitimate.  I have found articles, blogs and web pages who claim they are ‘Disney Experts’ with inside information that is completely unreliable.

Here are my top 5 irritants about Disney spam:

1.  Random blogs who post they have the best ‘tips’ for first timers, with incorrect information

It’s amazing to me how many people post blogs offering advice on a Walt Disney World vacation and then give information that is just plain wrong.  I recently had a friend forward a blog to me asking if she should purchase the ‘front of the line fastpass option’.   She said she was more than willing to pay the extra money toalways skip the lines instead of the fastpass option I had told her about. The answer was quite simple – I hadn’t told her about the option to purchase the ‘deluxe fastpass’ to skip the lines because Disney doesn’t have one!

2.  ‘Win a Free Trip to Disney’

This one is really annoying and very easy to fall for.  There are a ton of ‘fake’ Disney Facebook groups and pages offering free tickets, free trips and free merchandise.  I have stumbled on these when I see my friends ‘sharing the post for a chance to win’.  How do you know which pages are real? The real page will always have a blue check mark on it – meaning it’s verified.  Once you know what you’re looking for – these scammers are easier to spot than you think.

3.  Disney Facebook Groups

I know, this one is a touchy subject…(that I address in another blog). I belong to many of these groups too – but you have to know how important it is to take the information in there with a grain of salt. Some of these groups have thousands of people jumping at the chance to comment and advise you on your Disney vacation. Some posters really are knowledgeable and give good advice – but others have taken 1 trip to Disney and have crowned themselves “Disney Experts”.  Here are some of the comments I’ve seen that left me shaking my head:

  • Do you need reservations at Be Our Guest? Answer from a “Disney Expert” – “No, it’s a quick service at lunch – just walk in”
  • I know what I’m talking about… I’ve been going to WDW since 1968!  (Ummm.. Walt Disney World opened in 1971)
  • “Trust me, I’ve sailed on all 5 of the Disney ships and gratuities are included in the fare you see online” (They currently have 4 ships… and no – gratuities are not included!)
  • “Don’t worry – just put your selfie stick in your bag, they won’t know you have it” (I guess this expert has never gone through the back check?)
  • “If you yell ‘Andy’s home’ all of the Toy Story characters will lie still on the ground” (just an FYI – they do NOT do this)

4.  The crazy Disney rumor mill!

I admit – sometimes I get caught up in the excitement of the rumors.  I love to think about the ‘what ifs’ and hope that they are true. Sometimes it is fun to speculate what might be happening!  While most of them are harmless, sometimes I think they go a bit too far. There are social media/websites (who shall remain ‘anonymous’) that will create hype about things that can impact a guest trying to book a vacation.  They start they hype about ‘free dining months before anything comes out and it causes people to second guess their dates and decisions, waiting for that ‘amazing deal’ (that can be added to an existing booking in most cases). Last year social media created such a frenzy for free dining that people missed out on the room promotion (which was a really good one!) waiting for free dining.  When free dining was announced, it wasn’t the resorts they had hoped for and they had missed the room promotion which in some cases was cheaper!

5.  Canada vs. US

So much of the Disney community live in the US and most of the posts from them are specific to US travellers. Canadian travellers don’t always recognize that what is being posted does not apply to them. For example, some of the Disney promotions are available to Canadians long after they have expired them for US bookings.  Passport requirements always create confusion for Canadians after they have read info in a US posting about what they need on a cruise.  This is why it’s so important to find a Canadian Ear Marked travel agency that can advise you.

The moral of this story? Make sure you’re getting your Disney information from a reliable source.  If you read something online – take it with a grain of salt and verify it with a trusted professional.  Don’t be scammed, and don’t be fooled.

 

 

When The Deal May Be Too Good To Be True

Disney ParadeI’m scrolling through Facebook tonight and reading the random posts on various pages when I come across one that is posted to the official Walt Disney World page.  It’s a post from a couple that have allegedly been ‘scammed’ by a Disney Cast Member.

In their claim, they say they directly paid a Disney cast member $1900 to book a vacation for them.  The cast member told them that she got a promotion and could no longer help them and would request a refund for them.  After limited communication – they reached out to Disney to confirm the refund was coming and were told that the reservation was made – but was never paid for.  It was then clear to them that the cast member stole their money.

This couple have taken to social media to complain that Disney will not reimburse them for the money they allegedly gave to the cast member.

After reading the posts and the couple’s responses, there are a few things that bother me about this story:

  1. They clearly gave this person money because they believed they were getting some kind of deal – maybe a cast member discount?  Does that mean they knew the cast member personally?  Why else would they give the money directly to this person vs. through a travel agency or Disney itself?
  2. They paid them through pay pal – I don’t know about you, but I don’t pay large companies via pay pal.  I don’t shop at Best Buy, The Disney Store or Alamo and submit my payment that way.  If they asked for a pay pal payment – I’d be suspicious, but that’s just me.
  3. Disney isn’t accountable for what their cast members do when they’re not on the job.  If this cast member was ‘on the job’ – they wouldn’t be paying for their vacation through pay pal (see point above).  This is like asking McDonald’s to pay a bank that their employee robbed.  Would you ask a movie theatre to reimburse you for the bootlegged video you bought from their ticket taker?  I think not.

If this cast member really does work for Disney and was using that privilege to scam people – you can be sure that they won’t be working there for long.   That is what Disney will and should do to address the situation.

If in fact these people lost their money, I feel bad for them.  It’s a horrible thing to be robbed and $1,900 is a lot to lose – but how it that Disney’s fault?  There are many people on social media posting that Disney is supposed to be ‘all about customer service’ and they can’t believe they aren’t ‘making this right’ – but it isn’t Disney’s to fix.  This is a matter for the police and if they have all of the receipts and communications that they say they have, the police should be able to handle it quickly.

Too often people think they can force a company like Disney to pay for their mistakes by bashing them on social media, and they may just get what they want. While $1,900 is nothing to a company of this size, it speaks to the larger issue of guests believing that no matter what goes wrong “in the name of Disney” – that they will fix it.  This isn’t a culture that Disney should encourage, and I hope that they don’t give in.

Disney Emoji Blitz Makes Me Text More

Emoji BlitzI confess, I am shamefully addicted to playing games on my phone. It started with Candy Crush years ago and has carried on to many different Disney themed ones.  The problem is, I start playing a game and a few weeks in, I have lost interest in them.  That is until I found Disney’s Emoji Blitz.

I like to play these games on my phone or iPad when I just need to ‘zone out’ for a few minutes.  It’s a great way to focus on something that really doesn’t matter and take my mind off of everything else.

Disney’s Emoji Blitz is perfect.  It’s a matching game where you’re matching 3 or more characters in a row or column.   It features a wide range of Disney characters with plenty of opportunities to unlock new ones.   As you complete challenges – you’re rewarded with Disney Emojis you can download to your phone!Emoji Blitz Screen

My favorite Emojii that I have so far is probably Mickey with his sunglasses on.  As I get new ones, I’m always looking for someone to text so that I can send it.  This has become my new ‘happy face’ reply!

Some beginner tips to help you unlock more:Mickey Sunglasses

  • You can login to Disney Emoji using Facebook and compete with your friends for high scores.  Each time you surpass someone’s score there are rewards.
  • Aim for the bottom when you can – it creates a chain reaction at the top and you might get some matches you weren’t even targeting.
  • Don’t forget to go in and spin the prize wheel!
  • Pop the floating balloons at the end of a game for extra coins.
  • Use your emoji’s special power.  Some of them will give you power ups.

Ice Cream BarThere are in-app purchases available in the game.  Unlike so many other games, I haven’t had to purchase them to get farther.   Maybe it’s my continuous and consistent game play that keeps me stocked with coins and gems!

Download it today on iTunes or Google Play

Is That A Monkey At Epcot?

Epcot Spaceship Earth from the monorailJust when I thought I had seen it all, I see a video I can’t believe…

A Monkey.  In a diaper.  At Epcot.  

Really.

You can’t make this up.  If you don’t believe me, the video is below.

Disney’s official website says “At Walt Disney World theme parks and Resort hotels, a service animal is defined as any dog or miniature horse trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”

What was the conversation at the gate when they walked in with this animal?  What will we see next?  Snakes, frogs, mice?  What about a bearded dragon?

When is Disney going to say “NO” to some guests?  People are clearly pushing the envelope and taking advantage. This will eventually  spin out of control and Disney will have no choice but to start putting restrictions on the service animals in the park.  The only people that will suffer are those who really need their service animal with them.

What do you think?  Should Disney have prevented them from entering the park?

5 Things I Learned This Year

Once Upon A TimeIt’s December 31st and I have spent most of the day cleaning.  My Mum always said that if your house was dirty at midnight – it would be dirty all year.  It’s funny how those things never leave you.

As I was cleaning, I was thinking about the year that has passed and realized that I learned some valuable lessons along the way.   I decided to take a break and jot them down.

Here are 5 of my ‘ah-ha’ moments from this year

1.  My full time job is not my life

It’s taken me a long time to figure this one out, but my corporate job is just a job.  Witnessing the layoffs of talented individuals I realized that no matter how good we are – we are all replaceable, and some day they will replace me.  I take pride in my work and love the people I work with, but my life exists outside of that office.   My job isn’t who I am and it isn’t a measure of my success as an individual.  I no longer live to work there; I work there to live. 

2.  Google can make you more independent

What do you do when your washing machine breaks and you live alone?  Or what about when you need to replace your shower head or fix the leaking toilet?   I discovered this year – you Google it!  Everything you ever needed to know about repairs, home renovations, plumbing and electrical – it’s all there with great videos to walk you through it!  I have fixed so many things by myself this year, all with my laptop propped up next to me while watching step-by-step videos!  It really felt good to be able to do these things myself.  Want to know what else Google did for me?  It helped me find the snow removal company so I don’t have to shovel my driveway… Yes – Google is MY friend!

3.  Technology can save me valuable time

Almost 90% of shopping that I did was online.  Penguin Pick Up and Loblaws Click & Collect saved me so much time this year!  We even have an app at work that I can order my Tim Horton’s tea ahead of time so it’s ready when I get to the counter!   Syncing my phone to my car allows me to listen to podcasts on my drives or call my friends for a catch up.  I don’t go to the bank anymore, I do it all on my app and have not waited in 1 single bank line all year!  Embracing technology more thank before has really paid off.

4.  Money is made to be spent and I need to treat myself

I made some different choices this year.  I didn’t invest in the painting I need done in my house, or fixing the big dent I put on my car, I took that money and splurged a little on myself.  I cruised concierge on the Disney Dream, I upgraded to business class on a couple of flights and I paid to have someone ELSE shovel my driveway.  While I’m sure my sister is reading this thinking “YAY – she’ll splurge on a cabana again at Castaway Cay or buy that house in Florida” – I need to remind her that I’m only going to splurge on what I can afford to!

5.  You can be scared, but you need to try anyway

Launching my website was scary, what if people didn’t like it?  What if it was a flop?  What if I wasn’t good at it?  Too many WHAT IFs!  I spent so many years being afraid of what people would think, and truth be told – I was afraid to fail.  This year I decided it was time to throw caution to the wind and take a chance.  It was the best decision I made all year.  Have I failed?  Yes – I have had many ‘failures’ in this adventure, but I have learned from every single one of them.  Were some people mean?  Yes – the Internet has trolls, but it is also full wonderful people who have encouraged and supported me along the way.  For that, I will always be grateful.

Now, I’d better get back to cleaning… I can’t risk a dirty house all year!

Thank you for following, I hope my site brought some Pixie Dust in to your days.  I have enjoyed every minute of connecting with you all.

Wishing you all a magical new year!

All the best,

Pixie Dust Fan

 

Contempo Cafe Review – Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Contempo Cafe Contemporary Resort
The Contemporary Resort is one of my favorites, the atmosphere, the location, the theming, the restaraunts – everything is just perfect.

One of the hidden gems that doesn’t seem to get much credit though is the quick service!  Everyone is so busy trying to get reservations at Chef Mickey or California Grill that they overlook the fact that the Contempo Café is a great quick service option!

Here are my top 3 reasons I love the Contempo Café:

  1. Location

Being in the Contemporary resort you are on the monorail line.  It’s a great place to stop in on your way in or out of the Magic Kingdom.  Sometimes in the afternoon during the hustle and bustle, we jump on the monorail or walk over for a quick snack.

  1. The View

Contemporary Resort Mary Blair MuralWho doesn’t want to sit and watch monorails go by?  I could sit there for hours watching them come and go.  The other benefit is to stare in awe at the 90 foot mural that is a tribute to the Grand Canyon.  The mural was created by Disney legend Mary Blair who was also responsible for many different creative projects including It’s a Small World.   Legend has it that Mary Blair put a 5 legged goat in the mural because nothing is perfect.  See if you can spot it!  It took me years to find it!

  1. The Food!

The ordering system is fairly quick at the Contempo Café.  You select your desserts, bottled drinks and premade salads and take them with you to the counter.  You order your meal and are given a small pager to put on your table (or a big A shaped thing if they run out of the pagers).   When your food is ready, it is brought to your table.  The seating area is always clean with cast members tidying up as people leave.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner, we have always been happy with the food here.  It’s reasonably priced, decent variety and quite yummy!    We have done both dine in and take out and never been disappointed.  They have great desserts and adult beverages (beer and wine) if you fancied.

It’s a terrific spot to cool down and relax a little outside of the parks.  You can check out the menu here for a full list of what’s available.

Have you eaten at the Contempo Cafe?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

Smoking at Walt Disney World

WDW SmokingBefore we begin, I have to confess – I am a smoker.   Hold on to your pitchforks before you start with the lectures of how bad and disgusting it is – I’ve heard it, and I assure you – I know it.  I am well aware that it is detrimental to my health and how gross it is.  I’m an intelligent woman in my (dare I say it) mid 40’s who has heard it all.  Am I proud that I have not been able to quit?  No, I wish I could, and I still hope someday I will.  But that is a whole other blog.

For those of you who are heading to Walt Disney World for the first time, you need to be aware of the 2 important rules about smoking.

All resort rooms are non-smoking, including your balcony.  There are designated areas at each resort.

All of the parks and Disney Springs have designated smoking areas.   You cannot smoke outside of these areas.  They can be difficult to find and change frequently, check the Disney app for locations.

If you have not selected your resort yet – it’s wise to look at the maps online to see how many smoking areas there are and were they are located.  The majority of resorts that I have stayed at have been relatively convenient to reach a smoking area, with the exception of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

It makes sense to me that there wouldn’t be smoking areas near the animals, but I didn’t realize how FAR I would have to walk, essentially to the parking lot.  I don’t know if it was just my luck that the room was at the end of a very long hall, but it felt like I needed to wake up an extra 45 minutes early in the morning just to walk to the smoking area!  At the end of a long day in the parks, it felt like miles….

In the parks, it’s a whole other story.  While Epcot seems to be the most “smoker friendly” park, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are not.  Essentially, they just don’t have enough smoking areas.

There – I said it.  Now, let me explain.

I remember the days when you could walk down Main Street with a cigarette in your hand.  It wasn’t a good idea as it was too easy on a crowded day to have a child come close to the end of your cigarette in their excitement.  It made perfect sense to me when they banned smoking except in the designated smoking areas for this very reason.

I was happy to go to the designated areas back then.  There were a few sprinkled throughout the park and they were never crowded.  Not because there were no other smokers, but because there were quite a few areas!  Normally there was only ever 2 or 3 people in each one, so there wasn’t a big cloud of smoke hanging over them.  They were out of the way, yet easy enough to find.  Those were the good ol’ days.

Fast forward to now – and the smoking areas are VERY limited.  In the Magic Kingdom there are only 2 left on opposite sides of the park.  What does that mean?  30 people in this ‘out of the way’ smoking area at a time, and the big cloud of smoke is above it, around it, and wafting every way it can.   It’s so crowded that people are standing on the walkway and not really “IN” the smoking area because they can’t fit.

Let me stop here to say, I would never smoke outside of one of these areas.  It is my choice to smoke and I respect the other guests at the park.  I have noticed over the last couple of years a significant increase in guests smoking outside of the designated areas and I have to wonder what changed?   I don’t think the smoking population has increased – but the available places to smoke have substantially decreased.

Is the lack of availability a good reason to break the rules?  Let me clearly say NO.  I would never condone any of the reasons people smoke outside of the designated areas.  I am merely pointing out that with the limited areas, we seem to have created another problem.

I have heard the comments that they should ban smoking all together in Disney parks, but that isn’t the answer.  I am a Disney fanatic who happens to be a smoker and should be able to enjoy my vacation as much as anyone else – as long as I am respectful of others.  There is also the financial impact to the attendance to consider.  There are many countries where being a smoker is the norm, Disney would not want to alienate these visitors by banning smoking.

I understand that people have allergies, asthma, and host of things that are impacted by second hand smoke which is why I am in favor of designated areas so that people with these conditions do not have to be in them.  The smoking areas need to be easily avoidable for these people.  Now I only wish I could avoid the overpowering perfume of some guests that give me a severe headache – but again, that’s a whole other blog too.

What is the answer in my opinion?  More smoking areas.  Before you start with your outrage, let me tell you what I believe needs to happen.

1  The smoking areas should be more ‘out of the way’.

I don’t mean ‘impossible to find’.  They need to be in locations that are not walkways.  I’m never happy sitting in a walkway where guests have to walk through the smoking area to get where they’re going.  They need to have a choice to walk through or not – and the one on the walkway to Tomorrowland doesn’t give them a choice.

2  There should be more of them.

You need to have more – to have less people in them to make them less of a ‘polluted air zone’.   When you cram 30 smokers in 1 area, it’s much more  toxic and noticeable to those people in the vicinity.  Overcrowding also causes the smokers to spread out – outside of the designated area.

3  They need to be easy to find.

I know the app has the map – but they can’t be so well hidden that a first time visitor can’t find them.  Put them in the background and have a little sign or something that ‘points this way’ so that no one is wandering for 20 minutes trying to find one

4  Smoking outside of the areas must be strictly enforced.

Many cast members don’t enforce this rule because they don’t want a confrontation with the guest when they tell them they have to walk to the other side of the park.  If they were a little more convenient it might be easier to approach them.

So there you have it, my view on the smoking at Disney debate.   I’m sure many of  you will disagree – but some will see my point.   It’s a very passionate debate and I’m anxious to hear your comments!

Walt Disney was a smoker himself, who died of lung cancer.

Walt Disney Smoking

 

Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming at Disney Springs Review

Art Smith Homecoming Disney SpringsI am not a “foodie” who follows cooking shows.  I have a hard enough time not stuffing my face while sitting on my couch, so why would I watch an hour long show that makes everything look so delicious?  If you ask me, that’s a temptation that I can’t handle!

When my family suggested that we visit Chef Art Smith’s restaurant at Disney Springs, I had no idea who he was.  Of course they knew who he was because two of them are addicted to cooking shows and are the type of people who get excited about a new kitchen appliance.  I was worried that it would be some ‘fancy food’ – but they assured me that it was famous for fried chicken.

We arrived at Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming for our reservation.  I really liked the way the interior was laid out; it was very inviting and open.  The details and theming were impressive, you really felt like you were in someone’s home in the south with the screened in front porch.

Everyone was enjoying themselves and the atmosphere when my sister took out her phone and started snapping pictures of some man. Art Smith I couldn’t figure out what she was doing, until this man came to the table and I realized that this was THE Chef Art Smith.  He was a lovely man who chatted with us and posed for pictures.  Let’s just say a few people at our table were very excited to get to meet him!

The menu arrived and I was delighted – can you say fried chicken??   I wish that we had ordered a full variety on the menu to give you an idea – but we all got the chicken.

The kids had chicken fingers and fries from the kids menu.  It was a hearty helping, and they loved it!

All 4 adults had to get the Fried Chicken and Doughnuts.  It’s 2 pieces of fried chicken with house made doughnuts and a side.  We mixed it up a little and each got a different side.

1 had Mac and Cheese

1 had cheddar cheese biscuits

1 had mashed potatoes

And 1 had fries (that’s me)

Well, what can I say… as a fried chicken lover, it was incredible!!  I love chicken, but I normally don’t like the bones. I cut right down the middle of my chicken breast and there was no bone!   The chicken was so moist and the seasoning was perfect.  We took turns tasting each other’s side dishes so that we could compare, but we were all happy with our own selections.

My favorite side dish had to be the Mac and Cheese.  While I really enjoyed the fries (I love all kinds of fries) – the Mac and Cheese was delicious!  It would be a little much if I were going dancing after dinner, but if you’re taking a leisurely stroll around Disney Springs – it gives you a chance to work off all that goodness!

Art Smith Rum CakeDid we have room for dessert?  No… did we order one?  Yes… to share!

The kids got ice cream and doughnuts and the adults got the Shine Cake.  I’m not a big fan of cakes that aren’t drenched in icing – but my family who love Rum Cake definitely loved this one!

I think it’s safe to say that I would recommend Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming at Disney Springs.  The question is, will I get the chicken and doughnuts again when I go back?  Okay – that’s really not a question worth asking, the question is – fries again or Mac and Cheese!

Let us know if you’re dined at Chef Art Smith’s and what you thought!

Art Smith Chicken and Fries Art Smith Mac and Cheese Art Smith Chicken and Buscuits Art Smith Kids Meal Art Smith Chicken and Mashed Potato

 

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons Destination D Was Better Than I Imagined


I have always wanted to attend a D23 (official Disney fan club) event, but the dates never seemed to line up with my vacations.  I finally managed to arrange a trip so that I could attend #DestinationD this year.  I was excited about the guest speakers, exclusive merchandise and announcements that would be part of this fun filled weekend, I knew that it would be magical and it did not disappoint!

After I got home, I realized that there was something amazing that I got out of the event that wasn’t even on the itinerary  – spending time with Disney friends.

When you share a weekend with people who have the same level of passion for Disney that you do – there is so much to appreciate!

Here are the top 5 things that I loved about spending time with my Disney friends

  1.  No one asked me why I love Disney

When I tell people in my everyday life that I’m going to Disney they ask:

“How old are your kids?”

“AGAIN?  Weren’t you just there?”

“Don’t you want to go somewhere different?”

Being surrounded by other fans like me, no one was asking those questions!

  1.  I never felt the need to ‘defend’ anything about Disney

You know how it’s totally acceptable for you to criticize your family but no one else can?  It’s because you know that you love them regardless of the complaints.  That’s exactly how I felt chatting with these friends.  We could have an honest conversation about changes happening at Walt Disney World that we don’t like, yet no one felt the need to defend them.  Why?  Because we are all part of the same family who love Disney regardless of the flaws we see.

  1.  Different perspectives

We all experience our Disney vacations very differently.  Some Disney friends are park warriors who will arrive at rope drop and keep going until 2am.  Others like to spend days at the resorts and Disney Springs without ever setting foot inside of a park on a visit.   Then there are those who love Pin Trading and spend their time making sure that they get that illusive pin to add to their collection.  When you get all of these people together, you get very different perspectives and opinions on things that you might have missed, overlooked or hadn’t experienced in a long time.

  1.  They knew who the really important people were

When telling my friends from ‘real life’ about this event, the only name that everyone knew was James Cameron.   I tried to explain to them the thrill of listening to Joe Rohde and Marty Sklar – but they didn’t ‘get’ what the fuss was about.   It was maddening trying to explain what a fantastic experience it was to listen to these Disney legends.

  1.  No one made fun of my ‘star struck’ moment

I have been a fan of www.AllEars.net forever.  I have always admired how Deb Wills created the site and a career doing what she loves.  AllEars MeetingI have followed her journey and always appreciate her strength, passion and determination.  She represents herself with class and honesty, and is a leader I respect in the Disney community.

We registered for the event at Disney’s Contemporary Resort on the Friday afternoon.  As we were gathering our loot bags, Deb Wills was chatting with some of my new Disney friends.  They knew how much it would mean to us to meet Deb and called us over for an introduction.  Not only did she talk to us for a while, she let us take a picture with her!  All I kept thinking was ‘be cool – don’t look too excited’, but it was a total fan girl moment!

The next day, my sister and I were coming off of the monorail when we saw Deb again.  We didn’t want to bother her so we were just going to walk by when she said “hey, I know you two!”.   We cheerfully said hello and told her to have a great evening.  When we walked away, we were like two teenagers who had been invited to the cool table at lunch!  We just kept saying to each other “OMG – Deb Wills remembered US!”

To all of the wonderful people I spent the weekend with, thank you.   Thanks for sharing my star struck moments, my excitement about buying a shirt that said “Imagineering” or not judging me when I cried a little during the tribute to If You Had Wings.   You are all very special people and I look forward to many years of friendship, adventure and Disney!

Destination D Gang

Let us know in the comments what YOU appreciate about your Disney friends!

 

 

Be Our Guest Breakfast Review – Worth The Price?

Be Our Guest Magic KingdomI love Be Our Guest restaurant at the Magic Kingdom, I think it’s one of the best themed places on property.  It really does make you feel like you’re right inside the movie and that at any moment, Belle and the Beast could take a twirl right there in the ballroom.

But what about the food?  It is a restaurant after all…

I have done dinner and lunch many times and always enjoyed the food, today was my second time doing breakfast and I have to say, I was very underwhelmed.

We were handed our menu outside and we debated what we would order.  My sister and I both decided that we were fairly hungry and got the same thing – the Feast a la Gaston.  It was scrambled eggs, bacon, chicken sausage, roasted potatoes and fresh fruit.  A similar offering to what I had at the Contempo Café the day before.   It came with a drink, but to my surprise the cast member said they did not offer bottled water – so we settled on a milk and a hot tea.  (The menu online says they have water – but this cast member said they didn’t).

The total cost was $51.12 USD for the two of us.  We were okay with that, we knew it was going to be a good breakfast so it was worth the splurge.

We took our seats in the dining room and waited for our breakfast to arrive.   Thanks to our Magic Bands – the cast member would find
us wherever we sat and bring our meals.  There are 3 distinct dining rooms to choose from, the Grand Ballroom, the West Wing and the Castle Gallery.  We have eaten in the first two multiple times so we choose the Castle Gallery for breakfast.
When our meal arrived, we were a little ‘underwhelmed’ by the presentation.  It was a rather large plate for the food that was on it.  The eggs were well cooked (which is good since I don’t like runny eggs), but the bacon was a little
lightly done for my liking.  I have never had chicken sausage before – and I can safely say I won’t again, I really didn’t care for that.  The potatoes were potatoes – nothing spectacular, but okay.

I like pastries generally, but this pastry dish didn’t blow me away.  There was a croissant, apple danish, a couple of mini muffins and a chocolate croissant.  We tasted each one for research purposes of course, but definitely weren’t fighting over them.

At the end of our breakfast we both agreed – we wouldn’t be doing breakfast again.  Maybe the food at lunch and dinner is so good that our expectations were too high?  Don’t get me wrong, we love the atmosphere of dining at Be Our Guest and ANY meal is a good opportunity to see inside this incredible theming in the Magic Kingdom.    If you were going for the food, I would recommend lunch or dinner and skip breakfast reservation.

 

3 Reasons To Get An Owner’s Locker At Walt Disney World

Owners LockerTravelling to Walt Disney World as often as my sister and I do, it always bothered me that I kept lugging the same stuff back and forth.  Every trip I would pack the same things to take with me, things that were just used in Disney.  Eventually I just stopped taking them OUT of my suitcase when I got home so I didn’t have to put them back in for the next trip.  Then my sister found the incredible Purple Box.  If you’re a frequent traveller to the Orlando area, you might want to check this out.

So what is this mysterious Purple Box?  It’s a storage container (20” x 22” x 13”) that keeps all of the things we don’t want to bring home, but will need on our next vacation.  Our Owner’s Locker is stored in a secure, climate controlled facility until one of us returns to Walt Disney World.  When we are ready to visit again, we go online and give them the details for our arrival and our locker is waiting for us at bell services when we get there.  It’s that simple.

Our Owner’s Locker provides a convenience that I never anticipated.  I was originally against this idea of paying to store shampoo, but my sister insisted and got one.  Over the years, our storage needs have evolved, but there are 3 major reasons why I now love our Owner’s Locker.

1.  Tea is important to me.

It sounds silly, but I can’t function without a really good cup of tea in the morning.  I don’t like having to go to the food court when I wake up and I need at least one cup of tea before I do anything.  The coffee makers in the rooms might be good for coffee, but they don’t boil water for tea.  In our locker we have a big box of Red Rose tea bags, an electric kettle and sugar.  We order a fresh carton of milk each trip from Garden Grocer and voila – I can enjoy a perfect cup of tea in my jammies each morning.  While I’m happy to have my kettle, I know others who store crock-pots, Brita water jugs, and French press coffee pots!

2.  Saying I’m overweight at the airport isn’t fun.

Sunscreen, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, sandals, running shoes, walking shoes, the list goes on!  All of these things can be pretty heavy and take up valuable room in your suitcase.  The ‘travel size’ toiletries seem to be more expensive so we buy the bigger ones and leave them there for next time.  We leave extra shoes, rain ponchos and hats that we know we won’t need at home.  No need to worry about our suitcases having enough room or being overweight!  Somehow we always have more stuff coming home than we did going there, hmmm – too many souvenirs?  Nah…there is no such thing!

3.  When we don’t finish stuff…

Sometimes we like to sit on the balcony or in the room and have a nightcap, we currently have half a bottle of vodka in our locker that we picked up at the duty free on the way down.  We buy the mix (or get it at the food court) and can enjoy a mixed drink (or two) in our room.  At the end of the week sometimes there is beer, wine or bottles of water left over that we can save for next time.  Okay… truth time – there was only 1 time that we didn’t drink all of the bottles of Rosa Regale we bought ….

Over the years I have come to realize that my sister was right (don’t tell her I said that) and the Owner’s Locker has become a necessity for us.  The convenience is something I didn’t expect and it has saved us money in baggage fees through the airlines.  The service has been stellar and they host informal meetings at Epcot every week so that you can stop by and meet the team.   While we haven’t managed to make it to one of these yet, I’m planning to stop by on my next trip to check it out!

 

 

Riu Antillas Aruba – 9 Reasons To Visit

ArubaI did it!  I went on a vacation that was not Disney!  Yes, I have been known to venture to Scotland to visit family, but otherwise – it’s Disney destinations only!  This year I had a very special friend who wanted to travel to Aruba to celebrate her birthday with her husband, myself and another friend.  We decided on the Riu Antillas in Aruba and were very excited about a week of sun, drinks, good company and fun.

 

So how was it?  It was a good week – I enjoyed the company and my friend enjoyed her birthday!  Would I recommend the Riu?  It depends on what you’re looking for.

 

Here’s 9 reasons you should check it out, and 3 reasons you you might want to stay elsewhere.

1.  The Beach

You can’t deny that the beaches are gorgeous in Aruba and the one in front of the Riu is no exception!  Yes, the wind is a little rough when you’re on the beach and you get sprayed with sand, but the birthday girl thought it was so relaxing to float in the water.

2.  The Pool

We spent our days at the ‘bigger’ pool.  The water was refreshing and the fountains were a great way to cool off when you didn’t want to go all the way in.  Sometimes the wind was enough to create a little ‘spray’ of the water around the pool that kept you nice and cool.

3.  The Activities

They had a bunch of stuff going on in the pool during the day.  You could participate if you wanted or stay at the other end of the pool and relax.  There was a lot of participation by the guests and the staff made sure everyone was having fun.

4.  The Staff

The staff at this resort was incredible.  The bar staff around the pool were attentive and the activity staff made sure everyone was having fun!  Somehow they even talked my friend in to bingo, water aerobics (complete with the beer in her hand) and volleyball.   They were always coming to check on us and joked around with everyone.  They definitely were the best part of the resort.

5.  The Food

We had talked about trying to get in to all of the a la carte restaurants on the resort before we went.  Surprisingly, after the first night at the buffet we were so happy with our meals that we ate there every night after!  We had such delicious meals – and now I’m wishing I had taken pictures of them!  The desserts were delicious too, they had something for everyone.

6.  The In Room Fridge And Bar

I drink a LOT of water, especially when it’s hot – so it’s no surprise that I was very thankful for the bottles of water in the fridge!  The bar was stocked with liquor and the fridge had beer, pop and water.  When we ran out of anything, we made a call and within 15 minutes we were completely restocked.

7.  The Wi-Fi

There was Wi-Fi all over the resort, including the beach!  Each room was entitled to have 4 devices connected to the free Wi-Fi.  Upon check in you’re given a user name and password for your room and while you get kicked off it periodically – when you were connected, it worked really well.

8.  The Store

We all needed to buy the large insulated mugs because the drinks weren’t big enough and got warm very quickly.  The little store in the resort had mugs, towel clips (that everyone needs because of the wind), sun tan lotion, muscle cream and cold medicine.  Maybe we didn’t need a lot – but when we did need something, it seemed that this little store had it.   It’s the small things that make a difference!

9.  Night Time

There were a variety of things to do in the evenings to suit everyone.  The lobby bar or the beach bar, the shows or the coffee house (which had a good cup of tea!), the club or casino, you could be as active or relaxed as you wanted.  The Casino was fun, but I had to leave after I lost 3 times as much as I intended, inside 10 minutes!  I think my favorite was a sax player that was belting out the tunes down by the beach one night – he was very talented.

 

Lots of great reasons to visit this resort, but there are 3 reasons I would think twice about going back:

 

1.  The Rooms

The rooms and the building itself are VERY dated.  While normally I’m not fussed with that kind of stuff and had read about it on Trip Advisor, the beds were beyond terrible.  I shared a room with my friend and BOTH of our beds were horrible.  After 2 nights in the beds were both applying muscle relaxing creams to our backs.  By the 5th day we went in to town in search of a pharmacy that sold a muscle relaxant like Robaxacet.  Just an FYI – drug stores in Aruba don’t sell drugs… you need to find a Pharmacy – and they don’t sell Robaxacet.

2.  The Front Desk Staff

Every member of staff we interacted with was fantastic, with the exception of the front desk.  We had keys that didn’t work consistently and when I had to sign in to work on my laptop – I was told that I couldn’t connect an additional device.  I am the first to be understanding about rules, procedures and technical issues – but the communication from the front desk was a bit rude, I kind of felt like I was bothering them when I asked for them to recode my key so I could get in to my room.

3.  The Lizards And The Shade

Getting some shade by the pool was a bit challenging if you weren’t an early bird.  Lots of people saving chairs with their towels pretty early in the morning.  We quickly learned that we had to be down there about 8am if we wanted to snag a decent spot so that we didn’t get burnt.  Even SPF 60 wasn’t going to prevent me getting burnt unless I had cover.

I spent the day moving my chair to try and make sure I wasn’t sitting directly in the sun.  We liked to sit around the back near the grass – but that also brought these guys… they freaked me out, but my friends and others by the pool loved them.

We all had a great time and the week was full of great company, entertainment, sun, drinks and good food.   The only challenge was that I came home with an infection in my eyes.  My friends were all fine, but I started having issues the day before we left.  Coincidence?  Or is this the universe telling me that Disney vacations are the only kind I should take?  Hmmm… makes me think!

 

I’m going on vacation, and it’s NOT a Disney destination

Aruba VacationYes, you read that right… Pixie Dust Fan is NOT going to Disney.  No Walt Disney World, no Disneyland or Disney cruise – I’m not even going to Aulani again.  I’ll be boarding a plane and heading to Aruba.  So why would I spend a week of my vacation outside of a Disney property?  The truth is, some of my friends aren’t ‘Disney people’.

For those of us who are Disney obsessed, it’s hard to remember that not everyone else is.  I’m sure we all have those people in our lives – you know, the ones who politely listen to you ramble on about a construction update of Star Wars Land, or the dates being released for refurbishments?  They are the ones who are mildly embarrassed at the mall when your phone rings and a booming voice says “Do not pull down on the safety bar please, I will lower it for you”.  I love my friends, they have accepted that my Disney obsession is who I am, but they definitely don’t share it.

With my friend Paula’s birthday approaching we thought that it deserved a week-long celebration.  There will be 4 of us on this trip to visit the Riu Antillas, an adult only resort in Aruba.  The reviews on Trip Advisor are great and I think a week in the sun, lounging by the pool is just what we all need.   These guys are great travel companions and we always have a good time together.

I am excited, but it is a little bizarre for me when I start thinking about what to pack!  My Disney trip suitcase basically packs itself now since I do it so often.  This trip is different though, I don’t need comfortable shoes for walking all over the parks, I think I need bathing suits and something to wear to dinner?  It’s been years since I’ve done an all-inclusive vacation and the thought of spending a week in a bathing suit has me a little anxious.  Hmmm, I have 7 days – think I can lose this excess weight by then?

The only thing I know for sure that I’ll need is sunscreen.  With my fair skin I am packing SPF 75.  A few years ago when we went away I spent the week under an umbrella and still managed to get burnt just walking to the bar (maybe I made that trip too many times?).  I just hope that there’s plenty of shade for me at this resort!

While it isn’t a Disney vacation, I know it’s going to be a fantastic celebration.  I will have my Disney music, games (I’m addicted to Disney Emoji), and books on my Ipad to keep me ‘connected’ to the magic.  With the wifi at the resort, I’ll be on social media keeping up to date and watching a few live streams to get my ‘fix’.

It may not be WDW, but it will be a week with good friends, no work, relaxation and sunshine.

What more could you ask for?

Leave us a comment about YOUR favorite non-Disney vacation spot!

 

Disney Parks Live Streaming – 4 Reasons I Love It

The #DisneyParksLIVE streams have been such a terrific addition to Disney’s social media presence.  With all of the bloggers and vloggers who visit the parks and live stream (myself included), it only makes sense that Disney participate.  This way Disney can present the full live stream of an event with a professional video that showcases it properly.

With all of the special events, it is exciting to follow the Disney Parks Blog to see what’s coming next on the live streams!

Here’s are the top 4 things I’m loving about #DisneyParksLive streams

1. Comfort of watching at home

I get to sit on my couch on a Sunday night and watch the Boo To You Parade?  Instead of thinking about my dreaded work week ahead, I get to sit here and watch my favorite parade!

2. Social Interaction with other Disney fans

I get to tweet and chat with other Disney fans on Twitter.  It was so much fun during the Star Wars Fireworks live stream that I could connect with Disney fans all over the world, and a few from Toronto too!

3. When I can’t be in Disney, I don’t miss the big events

I have the chance to see some things live, as they happen!  I was at work during Animal Kingdom’s 20th anniversary celebration, but I could watch the live stream!

 

4. I get to experience a little magic at home

I feel like I’m still experiencing some magic – even though I’m at home.  If I can’t be there, at least I can escape for a few minutes and feel like I have a front row seat!  The new ‘sunrise’ live streams are so amazing, how can you not feel like you’re in the middle of it all?

 

 

Are you following #DisneyParksLive?  What has been your favourite one?

 

6 Questions To Ask Your Disney Travel Agent

Port Orleans Resort Royal RoomLast night I was invited to a wonderful pizza party with a bunch of other Disney fanatics. The pizza was home made (it was SO good) and I’m thinking I’ll never be able to eat a frozen pizza again! We had a great time talking all about Disney and sharing our experiences, tips and favorite things. What happens when you get a bunch of self-proclaimed Disney experts together? We learn a LOT from each other! The discussion came up about Disney Travel Agents because many of the people at the table were agents. We have all read the horror stories online about a person who booked their vacation with someone who wasn’t a Disney professional. In fact, I read a story the other week about someone standing at the front gates of the Magic Kingdom with her “Universal” ticket wondering why they wouldn’t let her in. She thought that “Universal ticket” was literally ‘universal’. This might be an extreme example of misinformation – but you get the idea. I started thinking this morning about how someone would determine who is a well-versed Disney travel agent. What questions could you ask to make sure they know what they’re doing before you book with them? It would be hard to come up with those questions if you’ve never been, so I’ve done it for you. Here are the 6 questions you should ask before handing over a deposit.

  1. When was the last time you visited Walt Disney World?

Walt Disney World is probably the most complicated of the Disney destinations. You need to arrange fastpasses and dining, there are 4 parks to consider, nighttime shows and transportation options – there is a lot that can impact your stress level on vacation. If your agent hasn’t been to Walt Disney World in 5 years, how will they know what options are best for your family? Reading online doesn’t put things in to context and sometimes they are completely misinformed opinions. You have to experience the crowds at the Magic Kingdom fireworks in order to tell you a good spot to watch them from!

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

  1. Do you get the dining plan, memory maker, or hopper pass when you go?

These are valuable insights that only someone who visits the park can give you. If your agent tells you that their family gets the dining plan because it’s a good value for the character meals her son likes, you’re more informed about the best use of those dining credits! You also know that they have experienced the character meals and can tell you which ones they love.

Art of Animation Resort

  1. How big is your team and are they all Disney focused?

Having someone that is part of an agency that is Disney focused will ensure that you have back up in the event your agent is sick or is on vacation when you have a question. It also means they have a wealth of knowledge to tap in to if they don’t have personal experience on the subject you need. For example – one agent on the team may have a child with allergies that can share that first hand knowledge about the process of eating at a buffet with allergies. If they are a good team, they’re sharing all that good stuff with each other regularly.

  1. How much is your service and what is included?

This is a tricky one as some agencies will not charge a fee – but won’t help with dining or fastpasses. They give you the link and instructions to My Disney Experience and say “good luck”. Other agencies will do all of that for you, but they charge a fee for that service. Most reputable agencies will NOT charge you for their service (they get paid from Disney) and the prices are exactly the same as if you booked it yourself. If you book direct with Disney – there isn’t a discount, they just keep the commission they would have paid to the agent you used. The other part of the service to be cautious about is the “promo people” who tell you that if Disney releases a promo that they will absolutely get it for you! What they don’t tell you is that the space can be limited and sometimes not available for the resort you have booked. A good agency will monitor the promotions for you and apply it to your reservation if you qualify. If your reservation isn’t eligible because the resort is not included, they will work with you to see if you’d like an alternate one. Beware of false promises!

Epcot Monorail

  1. Is your agency an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner?  If you’re in Ontario – are you TICO certified?

Being an Authorized agency means that Disney has entrusted them to represent their brand. They must abide by the Disney regulations and not comment on or participate in the crazy rumors about promotions or announcements until they are officially released. Being a registered TICO agency means that they have governance around their bookings and protection for you as a consumer when booking your vacation plans. You can check out the website for more information on why this is important to you.

Polynesian Bungalow Bedroom

  1. The last (and most important) thing you should ask your agent before booking with them is “why do you do it?”

This is such an important question, and you should listen carefully to the answer.   A real Disney fan will want you to go and love it as much as they do. That’s the thing about us ‘Disney people’, we get so excited when someone comes back from vacation and says they understand our love for Disney. It’s hard to explain, but it’s almost like we have this club that we want everyone to join because it’s a happy place to be. When you find an agent that is a real Disney fan, you can be sure they’re invested in making sure you have a magical vacation so you can join the club!

If you’re looking to plan your vacation – contact my preferred agency!

Pure Magic Vacations Ad

Do you have a great question you think I missed that you should ask your Disney Travel Agent? Let me know in the comments below!

 

5 Common Questions Cast Members Are Frequently Asked

Cast Member QuestionsWhile the concierge desk at your resort and front desk agents are very helpful and I encourage you to go to them with your questions, sometimes you can wait in a very long line to get a simple answer – “what time is the 3pm parade?” (Yes, that is a real question that I have been asked). Thanks to the My Disney Experience App, you can now make dining reservations, fast passes, view your Photo Pass pictures, and get more information on your smart phone. Why wait in more lines when you can find the answers for yourself?

Here are 5 of the most commonly asked questions that you can actually find the answers to without waiting in line:

  1. What time is the 3pm parade at the Magic Kingdom?

The 3pm parade is actually called Festival of Fantasy and it takes place at, you guessed it, 3pm every day. However, pick up a times guide at the park entrance to ensure that it is taking place that day.   You will also want to take note in the guide of where the parade starts in the park. For example – if the parade starts in Frontierland at 3pm – it won’t reach Main Street until 10 or 15 minutes later and vice versa.

  1. How late is the food court open?

Most resorts have their Quick Service dining areas open until midnight. Instead of waiting in line at the Front Desk to ask this question, pop into the dining area and ask any of the Cast Members walking around; that is their area of expertise after all.

  1. What characters can I meet at (insert park name here)?

Thanks to the new My Disney Experience App, you can look up all characters and their appearance times depending on the park you are going to.

  1. Do I have to wear my MagicBand all the time?

Use you common sense. Of course no one is going to monitor to ensure the band is on your wrist 24 hours of every day of your vacation, but it is your room key and in most cases, your park passes, dining plan, and even credit card. If it is not on your wrist there is always the chance of it falling out of a bag, becoming unclipped from your belt loop, or otherwise risk being misplaced. It is designed to be easily accessible and since it is on your wrist, you can see that it is with you at all times.

  1. When is it going to stop raining? (Yes, this is also a real question).

While we as Cast Members are good friends with Mickey and Minnie, we aren’t with Mother Nature. When you ask a Front Desk Agent or Concierge this question, they will simply go to the Weather Network and find some sort of radar to give you an approximate answer. This is something you can most definitely research on your own

Once again, I encourage you to ask Cast Members questions and seek assistance when you need it. But there are many resources available to you, like the My Disney Experience App which are incredibly helpful; take advantage of them 🙂

 

*About the Author* – Darci is a former Cast Member who worked Front Desk at various resorts at Walt Disney World. She was a member of the Disney College Program which allows students to work all over Disney property – not only EPCOT’s Canada Pavilion. She now resides in Ontario and feeds her Disney passion by assisting family and friends with their Disney vacation planning, watching live streams of park shows, and even got engaged at the Magic Kingdom. Disney is and always will be a part of her life. She believes that you can take a girl out of Disney World, but you can’t take Disney World out of the girl.

Follow Darci on Twitter: @dmartindalee

 

7 Ways To Bring More Pixie Dust In To Your Days

ImaginationI’m sitting at my desk at my ‘unmagical’ job counting the minutes until 5 pm.  I’m frustrated and irritated, people are just getting under my skin and I know that I’m ‘in a mood’.  You know that feeling?  It’s just overwhelming and you can almost feel the tension under your skin.  I hate this feeling… I need an escape from here, and I don’t mean at the end of the day.

Lunch time rolls around and I realize I need to do something to get me out of this head space and get me through the next 5 hours!  That’s when I select some of my favorite Disney ‘escape’ activities that I can do at work to make me feel better.

1. I plug in my ear phones and tune in to my favorite Disney music.

Recently I’ve found 8tracks radio on my phone and I’m in love.  I can listen to all sorts of Disney music including the background sounds from the parks.  They have playlists with the attractions as well!  Right now I’m listening to the background music from Tomorrowland as I write this.

 

2.  I sign in to Twitter and Instagram on my phone and follow along with others who are in the parks right now!

The live pictures really make me feel like I’m there with them.  While this activity does make me jealous – it’s still fun to see what’s going on in near real time.

 

3.  Periscope – this one is a little new to me.

I have to be honest, I don’t really know how to use it!  BUT – I have managed to stumble across some live videos from people in the parks.  If I’m totally honest, it’s because I see the link on Twitter and click it, that’s how I get there!

 

4.  Watch YouTube

I think on my next vacation I want to make sure I’m taking videos inside of the attractions!  I love ‘riding’ an attraction on YouTube in the middle of the day when I need a fix.  My favorites are Soarin, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain and Spaceship Earth.  When I’m feeling a little silly, I ‘ride’ Journey in to Imagination – Figment ALWAYS makes me laugh!  Who wants an upside down bubble bath?   Of course I also re-watch my own YouTube videos of Castaway Cay, Fireworks and the Kiss Goodnight.  I have a small collection now, but hope to grow my channel soon.

 

5.  Read some Disney Inspired Blogs!

I read a lot of the other Disney blogs out there because I find it so interesting to read one person’s perspective or review of an experience.  Sometimes we have written about a similar topic with vastly different views, but that’s what I like – seeing things through someone else’s eyes.

 

6.  Log in to Facebook.

I like scrolling through different Facebook Groups as well to see what people are chatting about.  I’m a bit of a ‘lurker’ in a lot of these groups, but I’m starting to come out of my shell and get engaged a little more.   The great thing is that you don’t have to comment in order to get some great information.  There are some groups online that I avoid (that’s a different blog post), but there are quite a few that I really like.  I think these groups are managed well, they’re not trying to sell me anything and they really do provide a great place for Disney fans to hang out.

These are my favorite 3 Facebook Groups (in no particular order)

You May Be a Canadian Disney Addict If… – “A place where everything Disney meets the Great White North”.  This group has lots of fun things for Canadians as well as Disney Addicts from all over the globe!  Conversations are light, family friendly and fun!

Walt Disney World Made Easy for Everyone – This group is for sharing your favorite tips on how to make Disney easy, comfortable, fun and just plain wonderful!  If you have any extra challenges (anything – like traveling with children, health challenges, etc.) you can ask questions or share your own tips!  It’s terrific information sharing!

A Secret group of Disney’s magical theme park Cast Members & Guests –  This group was founded by Christopher Martin as a way to meet cast members and learn about Disney news.  Christopher travels the globe and shares his passion for all things Disney with the members of the group.  His adventures are exciting to follow!  The group has a ton of Disney information and tips and plenty of people contributing their personal experiences. 

 

7.  Contact my travel agent and plan my next Disney adventure!!

What things do you do to bring Pixie Dust to your day?  Comment below and let us know!

 

Disney’s Polynesian Resort Bungalows – 3 Reasons I Want To Stay In One

Poly Bungalow Living Room
I had the opportunity to tour one of the bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Resort on my last visit.  Being like everyone else, I had drooled over the pictures online and wanted to see them in person.  I wondered if they were as nice as they appeared online and knew that the only way to tell was to walk inside one.

After my tour, I had 3 reasons that I really want to stay in one of the bungalows, and 1 reason why I don’t!

1.  The bungalows are big.

2 bedrooms, a pull down couch and two trundle beds – you can sleep 8 people in one of these.  Would I?  No – I think that might be a little bit crowded.  I think our family would be comfortable with 6 of us in there.

2.  The view is incredible!

Being on the Seven Seas Lagoon facing the Magic Kingdom – you don’t get a better view than that.  There are speakers on the deck so that you can play the music to go with the fireworks you’ll watch from your private plunge pool at night!  Okay – the plunge pool is pretty small, but they couldn’t really have made it any bigger or they would have used up too much of the deck.  How about those chairs?  Yes – I could spend an afternoon relaxing there!

3.  The décor

The decor in the bungalows is a throw back to the original Polynesian Resort décor, especially in the living room.  I love that they incorporated the history of the resort, but still kept them modern with all of the bells and whistles. The kitchen looks like a place I would like to cook in – but of course you probably wouldn’t do much cooking on vacation.  The dining room table though is the perfect place to eat your Ohana’s dinner that you order from room service!

So if these are so great – why don’t I want to stay in one??  The answer is simple – price.  These bungalows are the height of luxury at around $3,000 USD per night.  This is not something I can see myself splurging on anytime in the near future.  It’s always fun to dream though, you never know what will happen.  Maybe one day I’ll be sipping a cocktail on that deck, watching the fireworks and thinking saying “remember when I said I would never stay in one of these?”.

Check out the pictures – would you pay to stay there?

Polynesian Bungalow Deck Chairs Polynesian Bungalow Lounge Chairs Polynesian Bungalow Hanging Chairs Polynesian Bungalow Water Parade Bed Polynesian Bungalow Kitchen Polynesian Bungalow Bathroom TV Polynesian Bungalow Bedroom Polynesian Bungalow Bedroom 2 Polynesian Bungalow At Night

 

 

 

 

 

What to do when your Disney vacation is less than magical

Art of Animation Resort ScarDisney is an incredible company that gives a large amount of freedom and empowerment to their Cast Members. All Cast go through extensive training (especially Front Desk, Concierge, and Guest Relations) and Disney therefore trusts that their Cast Members will use their judgement when making decisions as to how to ensure that families have the most out of their Disney vacations. That being said, sometimes things do happen that can be rather less than magical. When this happens, there are a few ways to deal with the situation.

  1. At the parks – go to Guest Relations as soon as possible and let them know what has occurred. Becoming irate with the Cast Member at the attraction or dining area will not accomplish anything. It will only cause a scene and take the magic out of other people’s day, including the cast member who most likely did not do something personal to you. Guest Relations will be able to understand what occurred, possibly explain to you how or why it occurred (each situation varies), and may even compensate you for your negative experience.
  1. At the resort – if it is something regarding your room itself, call Housekeeping from your room phone. Even call the Front Desk, they can get Housekeeping or Maintenance in touch with you. Walking down to the front desk to most likely wait in a line, will only irritate you further and there is a slim chance that the Front Desk Agent that you speak with will be able to do something in that instant. If it is an issue with your reservation and the Front Desk Agent is not giving you the answers or information that you are looking for, ask to speak with a Leader (supervisor in Disney terms).

Regardless of who you speak with, please remember that these Cast Members are humans too. They are people who are highly trained and are doing everything in their power to assist you. No Cast Member intentionally sets out to ruin your vacation. Be patient and be kind. As the old saying goes, “you get more with honey than with vinegar”.

If a Cast Member does go out of their way to do something magical for you, ask to speak with their Leader and let them know. The 2 minutes you spend recognizing a Cast Member for their efforts can make their day, and even week. That little bit of kindness goes a long way.

*About the Author* – Darci is a former Cast Member who worked Front Desk at various resorts at Walt Disney World. She was a member of the Disney College Program which allows students to work all over Disney property – not only EPCOT’s Canada Pavilion. She now resides in Ontario and feeds her Disney passion by assisting family and friends with their Disney vacation planning, watching live streams of park shows, and even got engaged at the Magic Kingdom. Disney is and always will be a part of her life. She believes that you can take a girl out of Disney World, but you can’t take Disney World out of the girl. 

Follow Darci on Twitter:  @dmartindalee

 

 

Disney’s Polynesian Resort Villas Were Not What I Expected

Polynesian Resort Studio Bed
Going to Walt Disney World in the 70’s, my Mum had something against the Polynesian Resort.  She always said there were too many trees and that would attract the bugs – we had to stay at the Contemporary instead.

For years this notion of mosquitos and ants was stuck in my head, and I never had the desire to stay there.  It’s funny how those thoughts stay with you!  I knew it was a deluxe Disney resort, but it was just not appealing to me.

Now that I have a blog dedicated to all things Disney, I knew I had to book a few nights at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.  I couldn’t afford the bungalows, so I opted for a few nights at the villas.

When we arrived, we walked down to Moorea longhouse where our room would be.  It didn’t seem like a long walk, but it did feel a little Polynesian Resort Mooreafar at the end of a long day.  We didn’t take the opportunity to walk over from the Ticket and Transportation Centre – in fact I suspect that would have been a shorter walk for us!

Up to the second floor and in to our room.

The views were spectacular.  I couldn’t believe it, I was looking out over the Seven Seas Lagoon and could see the castle in the distance!  This meant that I could watch the fireworks from my bed – wow!

The part that was so impressive to me was the SIZE of the room!  I would have gladly stayed in this room with 4 adults and not felt crowded.  A full bathroom with a tub and shower plus a separate stand up shower, what a great idea for families when you’re all trying to get ready in the morning.

The sitting area was big enough and the couch was comfy.  I didn’t get a chance to try the pull out couch, but I did sleepOhana Room Service in the murphy bed and was pleasantly surprised.  I’m by no means a ‘light weight’ – but it suited me just fine and I had no issues.

I was really impressed with my stay at the Polynesian Resort villas, but I think the cherry on the cake was room service!  On our last night
we were pretty tired and decided to order room service for dinner.  What do you get when you order room service??  You can order from O’hana!  Yes… Ohana food brought right to your room where you can eat it in your pyjamas and avoid cutting off your ability to breathe when you’ve eaten too much.

It wasn’t long in my stay before I realized that the ‘bugs’ my Mum had worried about were not an issue.  In fact, I can say that I didn’t notice any.  Would I stay here again?  Absolutely!!

Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve stayed here!

 

Polynesian Villa Couch Polynesian Villa Trundle Bed Polynesian Villa TV Polynesian Villa Shower Polynesian Villa Art Polynesian Villa Balcony

Narcoossee’s Brunch Review

Narcoossees Brunch DessertNarcoossee’s is a fantastic dining spot at Disney’s Grand Floridian resort.  We had never eaten there so we decided it was time to check it out!

We opted to try brunch at Narcoossee’s rather than a dinner.  With me being a picky eater, the seafood dinner menu didn’t really appeal to me.  When we arrived, we were seated next to the window for a fantastic view!  Directly across the water was Disney’s Contemporary Resort and we could watch the monorails and boats.  It was a bit overcast that day – but it didn’t take away from the view!

We started with our Mimosas while we reviewed the menu, there was quite a selection!  The pastry basket arrived and we nibbled on the croissants, Danish, muffins and sticky buns.  How would we have room for a meal?

For appetizers I had the salad and my sister had the onion soup, both were tasty.  Becky loves the soup at Be Our Guest, but she said this was almost better!

We enjoyed the view and had another mimosa each while we waited for the main courses.  I had the steak and eggs while Becky had the Narcoossees Eggs BenedictLobster-Egg Benedict (she got her seafood after all!).

My steak was cooked to perfection.  I didn’t think I could eat that much, but it was too good to leave any on the plate.  The fries with Truffle Aioli were delicious – even paired with my scrambled eggs!  Becky thoroughly enjoyed her Lobster-Egg Benedict and said there was plenty of lobster and was so flavorful.  I don’t think either of us left much on the plate.

Of course this is the part of the meal where you think “I can’t believe I ate all that, we’re not eating again until tomorrow!” while you decide if you have a pair of shorts at the resort with an elastic waist … then the waiter comes with dessert!  That’s right – a full dessert plate placed in front of us.  It had a Valencia blood orange bar, triple chocolate cake, lemon blueberry timbale and a white chocolate Minnie Mouse.

We looked at each other, sighed, and then picked up our forks.  This dessert looked WAY too good to pass up, even if it meant we’d have to buy bigger shorts, we had to try them.  They were all good, I loved the chocolate the best.  We didn’t eat the Minnie as we thought that would have been gluttonous!

We paid $69 USD each for the brunch (which I would normally never do), but it was worth it.  There were plenty of choices for me and the food was incredible, I think we may do this again.  Next time though, we’re not eating dinner the night before!

Have you eaten at Narcoossee’s?  Did you enjoy it as much as we did?  Leave us a comment below!

Narcoossees Narcoossees InsideNarcoossees SaladNarcoossees SoupNarcoossees MimosaNarcoossees PastriesNarcoossees Steak and eggs

5 Reasons I love Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Contemporary Resort WalkwayDisney’s Contemporary Resort is one of the two original Walt Disney World resorts opening in 1971.    It was the first place we stayed at in 1974, so I guess it kind of feels like home to me.  Here are 5 things I love about this place.

  1.  Proximity to the Magic Kingdom

Not only can you see the fireworks from the Contemporary resort, but you can WALK to the magic kingdom!  It’s an amazing feeling at the end of the night, the fireworks end and swarms of people are leaving to get on a bus or monorail – you can avoid the crowd and just walk back to the resort.

  1.  Contempo Cafe

I don’t know what it is about the Contempo Cafe, but I love it.  Maybe it’s sitting in there watching the monorails go by, or hearing the kids at Chef Mickey’s having a fabulous time, but this quick service is one of my favorites.  My sister loves it too – especially the lobster sandwich you can get there!

  1.  The Monorail

Being on the monorail line is amazing.  Going to Magic Kingdom (if you don’t want to walk) or a quick ride over to the Polynesian for a Dole Whip is something we do quite frequently!  Where possible I prefer the monorail vs a bus – so getting to EPCOT is convenient too.

  1.  The stores

I love Bayview Gifts store in the Contemporary, it’s where I have bought Alex and Ani bracelets, t-shirts, luggage and bags.  They also sell the H2O products that we love!  The pins available at the Fantasia shop are extensive and there is some great stuff to customize your magic bands.  I must admit that there are multiple visits to these two stores each trip, even when we’re not staying at the Contemporary.

  1.  The rooms

The standard tower rooms at the Contemporary Resort are inviting, modern, and among the largest at Walt Disney World.  If you have a theme park view you can sit in your jammies and watch the fireworks at night right from your balcony!   It doesn’t get any better than that!

Disney's Contemporary Resort at night Fireworks from the ContemporaryContemporary Fantasia Store Contemporary Monorail

9 Annoying Things People Do At Walt Disney World

Annoying things guests do at Walt Disney WorldVisiting Walt Disney World for over 40 years, I’ve seen my share of foolishness on property.   On one visit I was so shocked at some of the things I saw and I had to write this public service announcement for those who may leave their brains at home while on vacation at Disney.

 

 

  1. Disney Cast Members are NOT your babysitters (unless you’ve left them in the kids club of course!)

During my recent visit I was at Bay Lake Tower in the lobby watching cast members trying to help a young girl that was maybe 7 or 8 years old. Apparently she was swimming in the pool and wanted to go back to her room. Her parents were in the room and had left her at the pool to find her own way back, but she couldn’t remember the room number… Ummmm really? Please don’t leave your young children unattended. Who do you think is watching them #WhatAreYouThinking??

  1. Keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times

Eating at Pinocchios we selected the window table overlooking It’s A Small World. Do you know how many people leave their children on the end of the boat with their hands in the water?? Do you know how many adults I saw doing the same thing?? In the 30 minutes we were sitting there, I was amazed at the foolishness. Safety is Disney’s top priority, but you can’t fix stupid people. #ThatsHowYouLoseAFinger

  1. Trying to make your child appear taller

Attractions like the Tower of Terror, Space Mountain and Everest have height restrictions. Why? Because it isn’t safe for if you are shorter than the required height. Don’t try to convince the cast member that your child is slouching or that they can meet the requirement if they stand on their tip toes, it’s just not smart. The cast members are not letting you on because it isn’t safe – listen to them! #NotTheTimeToArgue

  1. No flash pictures

Okay – this one just irks me. They ask you not to use your flash in the dark rides as it can ruin the magic, and for stage shows it’s a safety issue for the performers. If you don’t know how to turn off your flash on the huge iPad you’re holding up then ask someone. Also, if you’re on the Haunted Mansion and you’re texting someone – all I can see is the light from your screen! You are not the only guest on this attraction and you’re irritating the rest of us. #Selfish

  1. Cutting the line

Seriously – how old are you? Where is your sense of civility? Lines are expected at the parks, if you’re not prepared to wait your turn – don’t visit. It’s really simple. We’re all there for the same reason and pushing, shoving, cutting the line is just going to aggravate everyone and possibly start a verbal exchange of unpleasantries. #GrowUp

  1. Yelling at Cast Members

The Cast Members at Walt Disney World are the best in the business. Sure there are some bad apples, but overall they offer first-class customer service. Seeing a guest berate a cast member for silly things like the length of a line, the price of a meal or their inability to make it stop raining is insane. Disney Cast Members don’t really have a magic wand that can bring out the sun and make you less of a jerk.   #DontBeAnIdiot

  1. Trying to get something by security

They search everyone’s bags and send random people through metal detectors at the parks, but did you know they have undercover security as well? I will say no more about them as I don’t want to give away any of their methods, but if you manage to make it through bag check without your flask of vodka being detected under your shirt – don’t be surprised if some random stranger approaches you later and ejects you from the park.   They are everywhere! #YoureNotSmarterThanThem

 

  1. Waiting in line for 10 minutes without deciding what you want

It’s busy, you’re standing in line at the quick service for 10 minutes waiting your turn. You finally get up to the cast member to order and you haven’t decided what you want! Really? What were you doing for the last 10 minutes? This happened to me at Sprinkles at Disney Springs, and I was not amused. #UseYourTimeWiesely

 

  1. Feeding the wildlife

When you feed any wildlife – you make them lose their natural instinct to be afraid of humans. This one always bothered me especially since my sister has a horrible fear of birds. We were always aware of the people feeding them because it made them comfortable to swoop in and grab a fry out of your hand.   I watched adults let their little children feed the ducks their french fries and wondered what would happen when the duck bit the child – who would be to blame? Given the recent tragedy of the young boy who was drowned by an alligator, experts have suggested the alligator was probably fed by people at some point. I’m not saying the people who fed the alligators could have predicted this tragic event – but maybe if they had used some common sense, things would have been different. If you want to feed animals, visit a petting Zoo, Disney parks are not the place for it. #CommonSenseIsntCommon

 

Walt Disney World really is the place where an adult can be a kid again… Just remember to use your common sense and be courteous to others while you’re there and you will have a magical time!

 

 

 

Sprinkles Cupcakes at Disney Springs

Sprinkles Cupcakes Disney SpringsI’ve written many blogs about my favorite sweet treats at Walt Disney World, yes I’m a sugar addict!  I love cupcakes and was very disappointed about my favorite being removed from the Cheshire Café.  Even though there are many different cupcakes available at Walt Disney World, I was intrigued to find out about a new cupcake shop at Disney Springs.

My first view of Sprinkles was a little negative – I was not impressed with the line up outside of the store where I had to wait in 100-degree heat to get inside to order.   I studied the menu while I waited, but I knew what I wanted – the Salted Caramel.  My sister was opting for the key lime and we were anxious to try them.   When we finally made it inside (after a good 20 minutes in line) the customer at the register was still debating was flavor she wanted!   After 20 minutes in line, she got to the counter and proceeded to have a 10 minute conversation asking for input from the staff about what she should order!  I was losing my patience, but decided I had waited this long I may as well get them as I would never come back to get more.

I ordered our cupcakes and had them boxed up because we were just too hot and cranky.  We took them back to our resort (Saratoga Springs) and put them in the fridge for later.

Sprinkles Chocolate CupcakeWhen we finally got around to eating our cupcakes, I couldn’t believe it – they were delicious!!  It was the perfect mixture of sweetness with a hint of salt in the icing and the cake was moist and light.  This was honestly one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten!

A couple of days later I found myself back in line at Sprinkles, I just had to have another.  This time we were smart and got 2 each to take back to the resort.  There is no doubt that this will be a ‘must visit’ on my Disney vacations going forward, but hopefully the lines will be shorter next time. Now if only I could figure out how to bring some cupcakes home to Toronto without ruining them….

Have you tried Sprinkles?  What did you think?

Cupcake ATM Sprinkles Selection

Morimoto and the Picky Eater

Morimoto Disney SpringsBeing that my family is from Scotland, I grew up on a healthy diet of meat and potatoes.   Dinner at my house was roast beef and chips, fish and chips, mince and potatoes, steak pie and mashed potatoes – you get the idea, it’s not a meal without potatoes.  I was the picky eater in the family, but my sister Becky has always been much more adventurous with food and really wanted to try Morimoto.  I figured if I didn’t like it, I could always grab a burger somewhere after.

We decided to go for lunch and when we arrived were one of the first in the restaurant.  It is gorgeous inside and the high ceilings and chandeliers were breathtaking.  When we were seated and handed our menus I knew we would have to try a couple of the appetizers – after all, if you’re going to dine here, you may as well get the full experience!

Morimoto RibsWe ordered the ribs and chicken wings for appetizers and I think they set our expectations REALLY high.  The ribs were amazing; I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything like it.  I normally don’t eat ribs (I don’t like to have to pick meat off of a bone), but I could eat these with just a fork.  The meat literally fell off of the bone; it was spiced perfectly and was full of flavor.  The seasoning on the chicken wings was subtle and they were nice and crispy – just the way we like them!  We were anxious to get our entrees because we knew they would be delicious!

I ordered the chicken and noodles while Becky had the Shrimp Pad Tai.  My chicken was a little overcooked and chewy, but the noodles were awesome.  They almost knocked my top noodles from O’hana out of their spot!  Becky said there was tons of shrimp in hers and it was the best tofu she had ever tasted.  All in all, we were pretty happy with our meals.

For dessert I had to have the churro with chocolate sauce.  They brought me a package of chocolate sauce and I have to be honest, I Morimoto Churrowasn’t sure what I was supposed to do?  Do I drizzle it on top?  Eat it with a knife and fork?  Or do I put the chocolate sauce on my plate and hold the churro with my fingers and dip it in?  I even asked the waitress (who thought I was nuts) and then told me she’d seen people eat it all different ways.  I opted for using my fingers, why not?  The churros were nice and warm and a really good sweet option for the end of my meal.

Becky opted for the Chocolate Cream and Crunch dessert that the waitress recommended.  The waitress was right, and she loved it and said the gelato was amazing.

Overall we were happy with our lunch at Morimoto.  There were things on the menu that I could eat, and Becky was happy she got to experience it.  We talked about visiting Morimoto again, but next time we will focus on the appetizers and order more ribs!

Morimoto Main Course Morimoto Main Course Chicken Inside Morimoto Inside Morimoto Disney Springs Morimoto Table Morimoto Menu

Grocery Delivery For Your Disney Vacation

Groceries for DisneySo you’re heading to Walt Disney World and thinking about how much spending money you’ll need each day for incidentals.  For me – my biggest cost is my bottles of water.  Really, the ‘healthiest’ thing I do is drink plenty of water – I always have a bottle of it with me and when it’s hot out – I drink a ton!  First thing in the morning I drink a full bottle and at $3 each at the resort, it adds up quickly.   How can I save a little money when I’m at the resort and have a fridge full of it?  The answer is simple – Garden Grocer!

Garden Grocer is a full grocery store near Walt Disney World that will deliver your groceries to your resort!  It’s a great way to stock up on some of the things you’ll need – without having to rent a car or jump in a cab to go get it.  You can order juice, bread, snacks, chips, beer/wine and cases of water!  I always place an order before my trip and it’s waiting for me at bell services when I arrive.  They even keep the refrigerated items cold for me!

My typical shopping order when travelling with children includes cases of water, juice, milk, bagels, bananas, cheese slices, chips, granola bars & beer.  Yes, beer – the grown ups enjoy an adult beverage after the kids have gone to bed!

There are some restrictions with minimum orders (currently $40) and there is a delivery charge – but based on my bottled water savings, I’m still coming out WAY ahead by having cases delivered that I can fill our fridge with.  If there’s an item you need that isn’t on the website – no problem, just fill in the special request form and they will let you know what they can get for you.  It’s that simple.  If you order in advance, they also have additional savings based on how far ahead you order it!

Check out the website and order your necessities today!

 

My Disney Bubble And The News

When people ask me why I love visiting Walt Disney World I start listing my laundry list of reasons.  One of the reasons I always quote is “the outside world doesn’t exist, you get to escape from all of the negativity in the world”.  Arriving in Orlando yesterday I was looking forward to that escape, but late last night the unthinkable happened – a mass shooting in Orlando.

Normally we don’t watch the news on vacation and I ignore the ‘news’ posts on Facebook because I really just don’t want to let that negativity in to the Disney ‘bubble’ – but this time, I have to let it in.

It started with some emails, texts and messages from friends and family that knew we were in Orlando.  My sister and I don’t go to clubs and were actually in bed at 10pm last night, but the messages started coming asking us “did you hear what happened?”.   They were all concerned and telling us to ‘be safe’ because no one really knows why it happened and that’s what creates the panic.

I started thinking about my ‘Disney Bubble’ and how sad it is that the ‘outside world’ has finally crept in.  There will be heightened security in all of the parks, and we will experience that when we go to Animal Kingdom this evening.   It’s necessary for Disney to take extra precautions; safety is top of their list when it comes to the guest experience, but how sad it is that they have to.

So many political discussions going on, and I choose to ignore them.  There will be a time and place for those discussions, but it isn’t right now.  I will not quote the name of the person responsible or make reference to any specifics, glorifying these cowardly acts is not something I will contribute to.

Right now we should be mourning the loss of so many lives, hugging our loved ones and sharing our support for the families who are forever changed.  My thoughts and prayers are with them all.

I have another week left of my vacation in my happy place.  For the first time in a long time I won’t be able to ‘ignore the outside world’.  It will be difficult not to think about the tragedy and the hours of investigations that lie ahead as people try to make sense of something so senseless.

For now, I will try to look at the world the way I did as a child when I knew there were more good people in the world than bad.

“Why do we have to grow up? I know more adults who have the children’s approach to life. . .They are not afraid to be delighted with simple pleasures, and they have a degree of contentment with what life has brought—sometimes it isn’t much, either.”

-Walt Disney

 

D-Luxe Burger at Disney Springs

D-Luxe Burger and FriesIt was an eventful day for us, up at 3 to get ready for our flight to Orlando.  We arrived at Saratoga Springs around noon and relaxed for a bit before heading to Disney Springs.  We weren’t sure what we were going to have for dinner, but we were starving so we knew it had to be something ‘hearty’.

We made our way over to D-Luxe Burger in Disney Springs after hearing how big the burgers were.  We figured that the appetites we had, we would have no problem with the giant burgers.

I ordered the Classic Cheeseburger with Fries and my Sister Becky ordered the Southern Classic Burger with fries.  We paid with our dining plan and waited for our buzzer to go off.

The good news is that at 4:30 on a Saturday there wasn’t a big line.  There were seats available, but they were all outside.  We selected our table and waited.

When the food was ready (fairly quickly I might add) I picked up the bags and headed to our table.  I then realized they had forgot my D-Luxe Southern Classic Burgerbottle of water – no biggie – I went back and they gave me one.

We opened the burgers and were shocked at the size – they were HUGE!  The fries came with dipping sauce and we both preferred the chipotle mayo vs. the buffalo blue cheese.

We both started eating, the first bite was good – but there was a LOT of grease.  If you knew me, you would know that I love greasy food – but this was a little over the top.  The second bite brought more grease and it was downhill from there.

The fries were okay, mainly because of the dipping sauce.  They were good, just nothing special.

I’m normally someone who loves ANYTHING when I’m really hungry – but this time it didn’t work.   We both left two thirds of our burgers and fries and decided this would NOT be on our list of ‘must do’ places at Disney Springs.Red Velvet Burger Macaron

The bright side was the Red Velvet Burger Macaron that we got for dessert.  My brain was a little confused by this sweetness that looked like a burger – but my taste buds really enjoyed the sweet delight.  Okay – so maybe I’d go back to D-Luxe for one of those!

Yes I’m suffering from DVE

Disney Vacation EnvyI’m at my unmagical job, it’s Friday, the weather looks great for the weekend – and it’s almost time to go home!  I’m listening to music from the Disney parks on my iPhone, I’m singing away in my head as people walk by, I’m feeling pretty good.

I decide to take a break and sign in to Facebook, my source for the important things that are happening in my world.   I get excited about the posts in the Disney groups about new things happening and the merchandise that’s being released.

I keep scrolling, and then I see them – TONS of pictures, check ins, status updates…. I have a bunch of friends at Walt Disney World right now, and some are sailing on the Dream this weekend.  I start going through their posts and pictures.  The food looks good at Morimoto, Ohana dinner – yes please, a check-in at the Mine Train and another for Soarin?  I almost feel like I’m experiencing it with them!  YAY!!  Disney fun!!

Soarin Sign

Then, suddenly… the discomfort and confusion – what am I feeling?  I’m happy for them and excited to follow their adventures, but what is this that I’m feeling???  I contemplate for a while and then it hits me… I have DVE – Disney Vacation Envy.

In case you weren’t aware – DVE is a real condition.  It’s a wave of confusing emotions where you feel happy for your friends, but sad for yourself – sad that you’re not there with them.  You do what you can to fight these feelings of jealousy, but they’re there, right below the surface.  While you do the customary ‘likes’ or ‘comments’ on their posts, you’re fighting the urge to just close Facebook and ignore it, but you NEED to see what they’re going to do next!  The inner conflict begins – do you have your next vacation already booked?  Or should you book a quick getaway to get your next fix?  Can you afford it?   Does it matter?  It’s an addiction, and if you can relate, you may need help.

Epcot Spaceship Earth from the monorail

If you’re suffering from DVE it’s important to know that you’re not alone.   We all feel it, but we rarely talk about it.  There’s no shame in suffering from DVE, it’s the struggle that all members of the Disney community face when they’re active on social media.  We all deal with it differently, but the cure is the same… book another trip to Disney.

Cinderella Step Sisters

So the next time you’re resembling the jealous step-sister and suffering from DVE, like the post and move on.  Then check your count down app to see how long it is until YOU are the person with the posts and check ins that will give the rest of us Disney Vacation Envy!

Follow us on Facebook for our updates!

 

I love Disney but…

I love DisneyDisney – I love you… BUT

What the heck are you doing these days?

First, I have to make it clear – I am a Disney fanatic to my core.  Walt Disney World is my happy place and always has been.  Somehow I’ve always had a hard time criticizing any decisions because I felt like I was being disloyal, but I don’t think I can be silent any longer.

There have been many decisions recently that have left me scratching my head and thinking “WTH Disney?”  I get that it’s a business, and they have to make money to provide a good investment to the shareholders (myself included), but at what cost?  Why does it feel like they’re nickel and diming me all of a sudden?  Why do I feel like it’s an airline now where I’ve paid for a ticket but need to add on options like seat selection and baggage fees to calculate the real cost?  I’m feeling a little irritated with Disney and I don’t like it.

I buy an annual pass for Walt Disney World so the ticket prices didn’t really have an impact on me personally this year, but how complicated can you make it Disney?  Different prices for 1 day at Magic Kingdom vs. Epcot, and with the new ‘demand pricing’ the time of year you’re travelling will get you a different price of admission as well.  Why does it have to be so complicated?

Special events and tickets seem to be getting more and more prevalent.  It used to be that I would say, “I know it seems expensive, but just think of everything that’s included!”  Now I’m saying “think of everything that’s included – but they also have all of these other things you can pay extra for if you want a premium experience”.  So for a first timer – do they think they’re not getting the full Disney experience if they don’t pay for an event like the Disney After Hours?  And what’s with the price increase for Halloween and Christmas party tickets?  Want to meet a rare villain with little lines?  There’s a special party for that too.

Saying to my friends “the food is cheaper than you would pay for at Canada’s Wonderland” – but guess what?  Prices have gone up there too!  A bottle of water increased that too from $2.75 to $3.  I know it’s only a quarter, but when you’re buying 10 a day (I drink a lot of water) – it adds up!

I realize that Disney is still a fantastic value, and it is still the happiest place in the world for me.  If I didn’t go so often, I wouldn’t even notice these little things.  For guests who are visiting for the first time – they’re probably in line with their preconceived notions of what a Disney vacation would cost anyway.

Maybe I’m irritated because it was always a point of distinction for me that Universal charged extra for their version of the fastpass but at Disney it was available to everyone with the price of admission.  With all of these add-ons that they have, it seems like Disney have found a way to cater to those with deep pockets to get their own version of ‘front of the line’ access, making me feel like I’m missing something if I don’t buy them all.  I know I’m technically not missing anything, but still, if only my pockets were that deep…

C’mon Disney, it’s time to rethink your new strategy and get back to doing what you do best, create magic for everyone.

“When they come here they’re coming because of an integrity that we’ve established over the years. And they drive hundreds of miles. I feel a responsibility to the public.”  – Walt Disney

 

Rescheduling a Walt Disney World Vacation

Rescheduling a Disney VacationFive weeks ago I had a very small medical procedure that was supposed to take about 2 weeks to heal completely.  3 infections later – I’m nowhere near the finish line.  I was scheduled to go to Walt Disney World today, but on Wednesday of this week we made the decision to reschedule for June to give me time to heal.  I hadn’t bought insurance, so it was going to be expensive – but my health is more important than the loss of money.

Some people said to me “it’s not like you won’t be going again, or you weren’t just there!” and I get it – I travel to Walt Disney World multiple times per year, but I was so excited about this trip!  We had all of our dining reservations that we wanted and even had planned to stay at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort – one of the very few I have not stayed in yet!   We had even purchased tickets to Disney’s After Hours and upgraded our flights to business class so that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable on the plane (both are non refundable).  The disappointment set in – I had just backed out of the perfectly planned Disney vacation.

Thursday was a bit of a mess as it sank in that we would have to try and ‘re-plan’ the perfect vacation without the benefit of months to do so.  We booked the week at Saratoga Springs and started looking for cancellations at the resorts we really wanted to try.  It might mean moving rooms a few times – but that’s okay, we’ve done that before and it’s a smooth process.

I felt horribly guilty that I had ‘ruined’ my sister’s vacation – even though she was so understanding about it.  I told her I would do whatever she wanted when we went in June to try and make it up to her, I would even try some of the restaurants that were for a more adventurous palate than mine because I know she would like them.  Morimoto is on the agenda!

Two days later and I have to say, I’m excited about our new trip!  While we are checking daily for cancellations for dining – we did manage to snag an Ohana’s dinner, a Be Our Guest breakfast and Toy Story & 7 Dwarfs fastpasses!  All in 2 days!  It pays to keep looking for sure.

Soarin’ has been closed for refurbishment for a while which is a big disappointment since it’s one of our favorites.  Guess what?  It’s reopening June 17th and we got a fastpass!  This was a bonus of delaying our trip, and has shown me that maybe things will work out for the best after all.

This has been a trying time for me, but I have learned a lot through this experience.

  1. Insurance might be useful!  I’m normally don’t buy cancellation insurance myself, and I’m not sure if it would have covered my scenario – but for the $1k I lost by rescheduling in flights and event tickets, it might have been worth it!  
  2. Medical procedures may or may not go as planned – and planning a Disney vacation within 5 weeks of one might have been overly optimistic.  Apparently I’m not invincible and cannot will myself to get better faster by using my Mum’s motto of  ‘it’s mind over matter’
  3. Having a family to support you through these challenges is priceless
  4. You CAN book a Disney vacation 5 weeks in advance and STILL get some awesome dining reservations and fastpasses!

Planning my Disney vacations are always fun – and now I get to do it twice.  Now it’s back to My Disney Experience to see if there are any more cancellations I can grab!

 

Disney Dollars Discontinued

Disney CurrencyIt’s true…  Disney Dollars are no more.

Lots of changes these days at Disney, some are wonderful (Toy Story Land, Star Wars Land) but some just leave me a little sad, purely for nostalgia.

Disney Dollars have been around since the late 80’s as a form of currency in the Disney Parks. I loved giving some Disney Dollars to kids that I knew were going to be visiting Walt Disney World so that they could buy themselves something special on their trip.  It was something unique that was nicer than giving a gift card or real cash.

With people using more digital means to pay for things in the parks like gift cards and Magic Bands, I can understand the dwindling interest in the Disney Dollars.   With all things like this that Disney discontinues, I would expect to see a bunch on ebay shortly!

 

 

To Drive Or Not To Drive, That Is The Question

Driving To DisneyI have been travelling to Orlando for vacations for as long as I can remember.  As a child, we would all pile in to our old station wagon and begin the 3-day trek to Walt Disney World from Toronto.   It wasn’t technically a 3-day drive, my Dad just refused to drive in the dark so we would always stop at a motel in the afternoon.  We had some great times playing in the pool and relaxing for the night.

In those days, seatbelts and car safety weren’t a big deal.  I had a ‘bed’ in the back of the car made out of blankets and pillows so that I could nap whenever I needed.  They kept me entertained not with iPads and phones – but with endless games of I spy and sing-a-longs.  I was a McDonald’s junkie at the time – and their biggest challenge was making sure that I didn’t see the golden arches on the highway or I’d cry until they stopped.  Do you know how many McDonalds there were on that trip?  They had their hands full distracting me!

As an adult, we have driven to Disney plenty of times without taking 3 days.  We’d drive in the dark and maybe stop overnight if we were getting tired – depending on how many drivers we had.  It always seemed like a good idea to save us some money and avoid paying for airfare or a car rental in Orlando.

Years ago on one of my first Disney Cruises, we were on board when a hurricane came through.  We were safe and the Captain kept us out at sea and away from the storm.  It was an eventful cruise, we had to sail to Texas to get some fuel and then got an additional 2 nights out at sea because it wasn’t safe to bring us back, but that’s another story for another day!

Once the storm had passed they determined that Port Canaveral wasn’t safe for us to dock at.  They took us to Miami and bused us back to Port Canaveral.  I was supposed to fly home – but of course I had missed my flight, so I piled in to the minivan with my family who were driving home.  It was a bit of a tight squeeze – but we made it work.

The drive home was crazy.  The storm that we had managed to avoid on the cruise literally felt like it was following us all the way home!  We drove straight through and I remember thinking “I’ll never drive again” as we passed through the mountains in the pouring rain with the wind rocking the van.

Now, it’s years later – and the flight prices keep increasing.  With the dollar the way it is, my Disney vacation is going to cost more than I had originally intended.  My sister really wants to drive to save us the airfare, but I’m on the fence, what do I do?

Pros:

  • Driving saves money
  • We get to spend more concentrated ‘quality time’ trapped in the car for 40 hours (is that a pro?)
  • We will have our car so we can visit the outlet mall
  • We don’t have to worry about our luggage being overweight with all the stuff we buy

Cons:

  • It’s only 2 of us, how much will we save?  With only 2 drivers I would imagine we’ll have to stop overnight both ways, so I have to factor that in
  • It’s an extra 2 days of vacation time if we drive straight through that I could spend at the parks

Hmm…. Why does my pro list look so long by comparison?  I’m really looking to convince myself that it’s better to fly.  When I map it out with Google – it keeps taunting me with 2 routes that are 20 hours and a flight option that’s less than 3!

Okay – now let’s figure out the $’s in round numbers:

Flying – $500 per person + baggage fees = $1,100 CAD.  Add a car rental for another $300 since we really like to hit the outlet mall – we’ll say $1,500 CAD for the two of us.

Driving –

Gas – using a fuel economy site – is $220 USD round trip

Hotels – say $150 USD per night = $300 USD

Total is really with rounding $550 USD for both of us.  Add the exchange and it’s almost $710 CAD each.

So… $710 / 2 = $355 CAD  vs.  $1,500 / 2 = $750 CAD each.  So we’d each save $395.

Now the question is – is 2 days in the park worth $395 to me?  I can’t decide…. Of course I could use that money to buy a new Dooney purse.  Thankfully I have almost 3 weeks to make a decision!  What would you do?

Driving To Disney

 

Disney’s Free Dining, it’s a debacle every year

California GrillThere are thousands of Disney fan sites on the Internet, Pixie Dust Fan included.  Many are very reputable sites that offer accurate information and advice for planning your Disney vacation.  Sadly – not all sites are created equal and sometimes it’s hard for a new Disney fan to tell the difference.

Over the years I have watched some of these sites grow and gain a following and at least once a year they start the whole ‘free dining’ hype.   They post rumors and ‘insider details’ about a potential free dining promotion that is going to be announced.  Every April my Twitter and Facebook feeds explode with this ‘free dining is coming’ posts, including ones that show dates for next year!   Some of these sites get it right and must have an inside track, but others are just plain wrong.  They start the frenzy and modify the details as they go and create such chaos that the rest of us are left shaking our heads!

There are some things you should know about Free Dining that these less  responsible sites won’t tell you:

1  Free dining has quite a few restrictions

The resort you wanted may not be available, or you have to upgrade to a better room category or add the hopper option to your tickets.  Availability for the promos are generally very limited and in the last year it looks like Disney is restricting them further to move people away from expecting free dining.

2  Not all restrictions are created equal

Did you know that some Disney promos are targeted to particular visitors?  That’s right – the UK visitors usually get a slightly better promo with much more advanced notice, I assume because they have to travel farther.  Canadians also get longer booking windows sometimes, even after the offer has expired for US residents.

3  Good luck getting dining reservations

Cape May

Cape May at Disney’s Beach Club Resort

People want to make sure if they get their free dining promo that they’re able to use it!  I really can’t blame them; I would want to do it as well.  The problem is that when it’s just a rumor, many people will start booking dining reservations ‘in case’.  That means they’re booking weeks of reservations to cover potential dates and availability.   Since most of these don’t need to be cancelled until 24 hours in advance – they have tied up many reservations for months that you and I might like to have!

4  A GOOD travel agent will cringe when they see these rumors

 – There is very limited availability on those first few days because other agencies have put holds on packages based on the frenzy of inquiries they generated with the rumors.  Some of these reservations will inevitably be cancelled a few days later and free up the inventory for other guests.  It’s safe to say the good agencies spend the next few days pulling their hair out.

 – They are going to sit on the phone for HOURS trying to get their clients the ‘free dining’ deal when the website crashes.  This will be the better part of their day (some years I have heard of 9 hour wait times!) where they will continue to rotate and recharge cordless phones. 

 – Disney doesn’t like its travel partners to engage in these rumors until it’s officially announced.  That means the reputable travel agencies are at a substantial disadvantage while trying to adhere to their ethical responsibilities to Disney.

 – They will frantically have to call all of their clients who are travelling during the dates once it’s announced to find out if they want to switch resorts, rooms or add ticket options if it means getting free dining.  

5  Free Dining isn’t always the best deal!

Bread Pudding Ohana

Bread Pudding at Ohana

Many times the room discount has been a better value.  If a room discount is 30% – was the dining plan worth 30% of your room rate?   For many people it has been much cheaper to add the dining plan to the room promotion.   It can be confusing when you hear the words ‘free dining’ – but trust me, it’s worth pricing out the difference!

I will never understand why Disney doesn’t reprimand these sites for starting these rumors and leaking information.  It causes confusion, stress, and in some cases a pretty bad guest experience when their expectations aren’t met.  For me, it ties up valuable dining reservations when I’m struggling to get one for California Grill for my trip!  C’mon Disney – it’s time to flex your muscles and get these sites to stop the madness!

So, the next time you see the “I heard free dining is coming” pop up in your news feed, don’t panic, you haven’t missed the boat.  Review it when it’s officially announced and see if it’s a good deal for you when you consider the resorts and ticket options.  If you’re working with a reputable travel agent, they’ll provide you with the best options.  Give them a few days (or a week) to get it all sorted when the availability opens up from cancelled ‘fake’ reservations.

California Grill View

The view from California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Whatever you do – please don’t book a bunch of fake dining reservations!  Remember that you may be forcing me to call the California Grill every day while I’m on vacation trying to find a cancellation 🙂

 

 

 

 

It’s about time! Disney’s FastPass+ is enhanced

Beginning on April 10th, Disney’s FastPass+ system is being enhanced (finally!) to make it much more flexible for us when we’re in the parks.

The two big changes:

1. We can now book fewer than 3 selections at a time.  This is great because sometimes I just want to book the 7 dwarfs mine train and don’t want to select my other two.  Once before I randomly selected the additional two and when we went to change those, we accidentally deleted the mine train!

2. We can now book a new fastpass when we’ve used our first 3 all via the app!  The app will allow you to book additional fastpasses one at a time.  For example, once you’ve used your first 3, you can book a 4th.  Once you’ve used the 4th you can book a 5th.  Depending on the timing of your fastpasses – you could be maximizing your time in the parks really efficiently!   This makes it so much easier than finding a kiosk to grab your next one.

I’m excited about these changes and updates.  I wonder if Disney will hold some of the fastpasses and release them later in the day to accommodate the number of people who will be booking them after they’ve used their first 3.  This would be a great way for them to control the crowd flow in the parks.

Is this something that will make your Walt Disney World vacation experience better?  Comment below and tell us what you think!

 

 

7 Reasons It’s Difficult Being A Canadian Disney Addict

Canadian Disney Addict

Thanks to the ever-growing social media networks I’m privileged to have so many “Disney Friends” online from all over the world.  I follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and I’m always so jealous of their ability to visit the parks so often.  It got me thinking – what’s the problem with being a Disney addict who lives in Canada?

 

1.  I can’t just decide to go for the weekend when they announce something ‘new’ at the parks that I’m dying to see.

Sure I could catch a flight and be there in 3 hours – but my budget won’t allow for how often I want to do that.

2.  Flights are not cheap.

I have a couple of options for flights – I can fly from Toronto and pay to park my car at the airport (maybe $100 for the week) or I can drive to Buffalo and get cheaper flights – but then I have over an hour drive home at the end of my trip.  I feel like I’ve won the lottery if I find flights for $350 from Toronto – tack on baggage fees and parking at the airport and I’m laughing that it’s under $500.

3.  Shopping at the Disney Store online costs us a fortune.

First it’s in US Dollars, then you add shipping and duty – even when they have sales it can become so expensive if you have a lot in your cart!  In case you didn’t know – we don’t qualify for the ‘free shipping’ promos they have.

4.  We don’t have Disney Visa!

Disney VisaI ask almost EVERY time I’m there when they’re going to launch this for Canadians.  Yes, there are perks and discounts that I would love, but if I’m telling the truth, I just want a Visa card with a castle or Darth Vader on it!

5.  We don’t get the Target discount cards.

I have seen so many people in the US buying Disney gift cards when they have a sale at a 5% discount – essentially saving 5% when they pay off their vacation using the cards.  They don’t sell these in Canada; I would have to drive across the border to buy them.

6.  Cool stuff that reminds us of the park isn’t available to ship to Canada or costs us an arm and a leg to ship it.

There are candles & scent machines that we love – they make our homes smell like Disney.  We have found a way around “do not ship to Canada” (though it adds to the price), but Shipllama works well and I now have a machine that makes my house smell like Bay Lake Tower.

7.  The dollar is killing us.

At the current rate of around $1.30 for one US Dollar – it costs us 30% more to shop, eat, stay and buy tickets for our favorite place.   We monitor the dollar and have US Dollar bank accounts so we can try and buy some when the price is better, but it hasn’t been ‘good’ in a while.

So for those of you who live close to the magic – I am jealous!  There are many wonderful things about being a Canadian, but being a Canadian Disney addict definitely has its challenges.   Are these challenges enough to deter us from visiting so often?  Not a chance, we will always find a way to make it work!  So the next time you meet a Canadian Disney addict in the parks you’ll know that we are a dedicated bunch who will do anything to get to Disney!

 

5 Reasons Why Merida Is The Princess Young Girls Should Know

MeridaI must confess that I’m addicted to bad TV.  I watch the mindless reality shows for entertainment and a glimpse in to the lives they lead.  The important thing is that I’m in my 40’s and I know the difference between ‘reality TV’ and ‘reality’.  How many young girls in their pre-teen years can see the difference?  Social media is a powerful tool, but for young girls everywhere it can be a window in to a world that is neither attainable nor healthy.

Watching the women in the media like the Kardashians & Miley Cyrus left me thinking – what can young girls today watch to see empowered, independent and strong women?  Maybe it’s time to look throught your DVD collection and find your copy of Brave.

When Brave first came out in 2012 I was excited to see it.  Given that my parents immigrated to Canada from Scotland before I was born, I thought it would be cool to see a Scottish Disney princess.   While Disney movies always have ‘lessons’ in them – I didn’t expect that this one would have such a profound message to share with young women everywhere.

Here are 5 reasons I think Merida is a princess that young girls today should know about:

1.  She is talented and different

She can shoot, climb and ride with the best of them and can rival any man in a challenge.  She isn’t the typical princess and owns her individuality despite the pressure to conform.

2.  She makes mistakes

Like all of us, Merida makes some hasty decisions that get her in to trouble.   Turning her mother in to a bear was kind of a big one!    The key was that Merida took responsibility for her mistake and cared for her mother while trying to fix it.  There was no quick fix, no hero to rescue her – she figured it out herself.

3.  She doesn’t give up

Faced with challenges, Merida does not give up.  Some may refer to it as being stubborn – but I think she shows us that if you believe strongly in something, you should never give up.  You may not have to face the likes of Mor’du – but a challenge is a challenge!

4.  She has no prince

Merida spends the entire plot teaching us why she is more than capable of running her kingdom without a man by her side. I’m not advocating against marriage or true love – but it’s important to teach young girls that they are complete without a prince charming.

5.  She’s Brave

Merida faced the challenge of deciding who she wanted to be.  She decided her own future when she ‘won her own hand’ in the archery challenge and proved that she was an individual with strength, determination and courage.  Who says a princess shouldn’t have a bow and arrow anyway?

The next time you settle in for a night of TV with your princess, consider sharing a story of true female empowerment.  Teach her that happiness, fulfillment and self-respect is worth more than growing up to have millions of twitter followers.

 

 

5 Things To Do When It Rains At Disney

You’ve saved your money, booked your trip and headed to the most magical place on earth.  You get up in the morning and get ready for a full day of adventure when you see the weather report – RAIN!  Oh no!  What to do?

1.  Grab a poncho and keep going.

If you haven’t thought to bring one from home, it’s okay – Disney sells them everywhere!   A little rain never hurt anyone, and most times it’s so hot that I’m happy for a little shower to cool off!

2.  Visit the indoor attractions

There are many indoor attractions at Walt Disney World that still operate during rain.   From the Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom to Star Tours at Hollywood studios – there’s always lots still operating!

3.  Check your My Disney Experience

When attractions are closed – often times they will notify you and give you the option for a different attraction.  You can also check the wait times for some of the nearby indoor attractions.

4.  Visit a resort or shop

If you’re at the Magic Kingdom, it’s a great time to head over to the Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian or Polynesian resort to check things out.  During a light rain shower it’s the perfect time to check out some of the resorts nearby.  If you feel like shopping, you know there’s a gift shop nearby!

5.  Sit tight

Grab a drink, and wait it out.  Florida rain showers are often quite short, even when they appear to be intense – they can pass over in minutes.  While watching all of the people scramble to leave the park, you can think about all you’re going to enjoy without the crowds when the showers are over!

 

 

Disney Cruise Concierge, is it worth the expense?

DCL Concierge Sun DeckI really believe that having 40 years of personal experience visiting Walt Disney World is one of the things that it important when giving advice on Disney vacations.  When it comes to Disney Cruise Line, I have had experience sailing in various categories of staterooms, but I hadn’t sailed Disney Cruise concierge.  How could I tell people if concierge was worth it if I hadn’t tried it?  My mind was made up, I needed to sail concierge in a 1-bedroom suite on the Disney Dream – for research purposes.

My sister, our two friends and I left Walt Disney World after 8 days in the parks and drove down to Port Canaveral. Being concierge meant that we did not have a specific boarding time and we could check in at the concierge desk (where there was no line).   After checking in, we were able to relax in the lounge area in the terminal reserved for concierge guests.  Once the ship was cleared – we were led on board and up to the lounge on deck 12.

In the concierge lounge we were treated to mimosas and some nibbly treats.  We met our 3 hosts who had a custom itinerary printed out for us that included our Palo brunch and Castaway Cabana reservations that were booked by the pre-arrival team. They told us about the 2 happy hours that were hosted each night in the lounge offering drinks (alcohol and non) as well as what kind of food and snacks were available throughout the day. We were told that if there was anything we needed, we only had to ask.

We enjoyed the conversations (and the mimosas) but were so excited to go and see our stateroom!  We left the lounge and were thrilled to see our stateroom was right across the hall which turned out to be super convenient for getting tea in the morning and bottles of water throughout the day.

I had the chance to look in the 1-bedroom suite before, but walking in to that room knowing it was mine for 4 nights was an incredible feeling!  When we opened the door there were gasps from all of us, I believe the word “wow” was used about 67 times in the next 10 minutes while we explored.DCL 1 Bedroom Living room

The suite was larger than I remembered and I hadn’t realized there were 3 closets in that hallway.  There was a dining room, living room area, desk, bedroom and 2 full bathrooms.   The master bathroom was like something out of a magazine with a TV in the mirror, separate shower stall and a bathtub so large I could have practiced my backstroke!

We decided it was time to check out the concierge sun deck to see where we might spend our time if we ever left our room during the cruise!  We went back through the lounge to grab some bottled water and headed upstairs – that’s when the ‘wow’ word was used another 14 times!  There were sun loungers, comfy chairs, sunscreen and a hot tub – all for concierge guests only.  I knew we would be spending some quality time in this area!

Before the sail away party started I knew I was in trouble.  We had been on the ship for only a few hours and I had already decided that cruising concierge was worth the cost.  I spent the next 4 days enjoying all of the benefits of cruising concierge.  From the fabulous table locations in the dining rooms to the parting gift they left in our room, they really treated us like royalty.

Now that I’m home (and my Visa bill has come in!), I am able to look back with a more practical view to determine if I would do it again. In my opinion, sailing concierge is definitely worth it if you put a high value on convenience, luxury and service.  The Disney Cruise Line has exceptional service for everyone, but sailing concierge felt like it had some extra pixie dust for me.

If your budget allows for it, I would highly recommend it.   There is only one thing that I have to caution you on – once you sail concierge, you may not be able to sail any other way!

Check out our video review here:

Why I’ll Miss Dream Along With Mickey

Dream Along With MickeyI’ll admit – I wasn’t always a fan of the castle shows, until I saw Dream Along With Mickey.

The first time I saw this show I was in love with it.  It was such a great story and had some terrific characters, it also gave Donald Duck a bit of spotlight that he’s deserved for a while in my opinion!

The story revolved around Donald not believing in dreams and his friends were trying to convince him how powerful they could be. There were princesses and villains, happiness and adventure – all the things that make a great Disney story!

While it may sound a little sappy, this show always gave me goosebumps and hope.  When the entire crowd started chanting “Dreams come true”, you really felt like you were empowered to make your dreams come true.

Mickey had a little speech to Donald at the end of the show that always moved me, I’ll leave you to ponder how powerful the message really is.

“By remembering about the power of dreams, you reminded us all that when we believe in ourselves, and our friends, and our family – why there’s nothing we can’t do!  When you find the dream inside your heart, anything is possible!”   –  Mickey Mouse

Do you have a favourite castle show?

 

Kingdom Keepers Book Review – Disney After Dark

Hi, I am a 63-year-old Disney fanatic.  A few years ago (more like eleven when the first book was released in 2005) I began reading this series.  Throughout the years I have read them as they were released.  A few days ago I decided to go back to the beginning and read them all again. (I think seeing Ridley Pearson at Walt Disney World inspired me).

Here are my thoughts on the first book, the third time around!

Book 1 – Disney After Dark

I enjoyed reading this book just as much as I did the two times that I read it.  The imagination and story line holds your interest so much that I found myself wanting to leave what I was doing and read another chapter, even though I knew the outcome.  I could close my eyes and see every part of the attraction that Ridley was describing from the dolls in It’s a Small World, the Pirates locked in a stale mate on a chessboard in the Pirates of the Caribbean, to the Utilidors and the trash building behind Thunder Mountain that we viewed on our Keys to the Kingdom tour.  I highly recommend it to anyone who has not yet had the pleasure of reading it.  In fact I’ve asked Francine (Pixie Dust Fan) to consider reading it, as I know she would love it – being the Disney nut she is.

On to book 2, Disney at Dawn….can’t wait!

Becky is a guest blogger at Pixie Dust Fan who is also a Disney fanatic! 

5 Rookie Mistakes When Planning A Walt Disney World Vacation

Disney Rookie MistakesBeing an avid Disney Fanatic who has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1974, people are always asking me for help booking their vacations.  I hear horror stories of people who booked their Disney trip by themselves or with a travel agent who doesn’t have much personal experience.  There is so much to see and do at Walt Disney World that you can’t just show up.  I thought it was time to call out the 5 rookie mistakes I see all the time at Walt Disney World.

1.  Buying only a 2 day park pass.

There are 4 theme parks to visit!  Walt Disney world is roughly the size of Ottawa – there is no way you’re going to see it all in a couple of days.  Trying to cram everything in to 2 or even 3 days makes for very long days and stressful times, especially with little ones.  If you experience an attraction that you love, don’t you want the opportunity to do it again and not be stressing about the next thing on the itinerary?

2.  Not buying a hopper pass

Yes… this is one that some disagree with – but I really believe that a hopper pass is worth it.   For example – Fantasmic is only happening on Monday and Wednesday the week you’re there – guess what days will be busiest at Hollywood Studios?  With the hopper pass you can enjoy another park during the day and then head over in time for the night time entertainment elsewhere.  The flexibility of the hopper pass is extremely valuable in my opinion, and you won’t realize how much until you’re there.

3.  Not staying on property

Yes, there are Deluxe Resorts on property that would cost you hundreds of dollars per night, but did you know they also have Value and Moderate categories of resorts?  These resorts are on Disney property, they are well themed, convenient and affordable!  That’s right – these resorts will give you all of the benefits of staying on property (including extra magic hours) but there is real savings in the transportation.  Disney’s Magical Express will pick you up at the airport and take you to your resort and back again when the vacation is over.  The transportation all over the property includes buses, monorails, boats and it’s all included, there is no need to rent a car!

 

 

4.  Missing fastpasses & dining reservations

If you’ve never been to Walt Disney World – how would you know what you want to see?  Fastpasses can really help you make the most out of your days in the parks and avoid some of the lines at the more popular attractions. Dining reservations?  If all your little one wants to do is meet the princesses – arrange to have a meal where they will come to your table to meet them!   Having a travel agent who specializes in planning Disney vacations can help you with all of that.  There are a lot of myths about using one, but I can guarantee you that the RIGHT agent can help you plan the BEST vacation.

5.  They over plan!

I know, that kind of contradicts what I said in point 4, but there’s something to be said for just enjoying the moment.  If you want to eat with the Princesses – then yes, you need a reservation.  However, planning all of your attractions in a strict itinerary takes all of the fun out of being there.  I’ve seen many families racing around the park to make sure they are ‘on schedule’ and it really takes away from all of the wonderful things they could experience if they took a moment to slow down!

A Walt Disney World vacation can be an amazing experience making memories you will treasure forever.  Knowing how to get the most out of your vacation will give you time to enjoy the magic!

Have you made any of these mistakes?  We’d love to hear what tips you have, comment below!

 

Cheshire Café Walt Disney World – What’s On The Menu?

Cheshire Cafe Cupcake Walt Disney WorldThe Cheshire Cafe in the Magic Kingdom has always been a great place for snacks, but when they change the menu, it’s disappointing!

A couple of years ago I discovered something that was exactly what my sweet tooth had been looking for.  I have a love of sugar (which is evident by my growing waist line!) and I love cupcakes.  The cupcakes at Walt Disney World usually have a good heaping dollop of icing on top.  While these cupcakes are delicious, there was one in particular that really got the ratio of icing vs. cake right!  It was the ‘cake cup’ that was once served at the Cheshire Café in the Magic Kingdom.

I had the opportunity to try both the Cheshire Cupcake (vanilla) and the Mad Hatter Mocha one.   I am a huge fan of all things chocolate – the vanilla was surprisingly my favorite!  The first time I tried it, I was in heaven.  It was a lot of sugar – so my sister and I shared one on our subsequent visits.   It was now on my list of ‘must have’ snacks in the Magic Kingdom.

I’m not sure why – but the Cheshire café stopped selling these lovely treats.  I don’t know why they did – I can just tell you that I miss them!  I have to chalk this one up to a ‘Why Disney?  WHY?’ decision that I will never understand.  If someone in food services at Disney is reading this, can you bring them back?  Pretty please?  While I like Sprinkles – I don’t want to have to go to Disney Springs for a good cupcake!

 

 

 

 

Disney’s Haunted Mansion – I Didn’t Know About The Pearls!

Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion has been a family favourite for so many years, but it wasn’t always, in fact – it terrified me!  My very first visit that I can remember to the Haunted Mansion I think I was about 4 or 5 years old. I remember walking in to the stretching room and hearing an ominous voice tell me that there was “no turning back now”.  I was in my Dad’s arms clinging to him as tightly as I could.  I remember being so scared I was crying and my Dad whispered to me “It’s okay honey, it’s Disney, nothing bad is going to happen”.  The pictures started to grow and stretch and I cowered in to my Dad’s chest, terrified to open my eyes!  The next thing I knew we were in our Doom Buggy and I had stopped crying. We were slowly moving through the mansion and I started to believe what my Dad was telling me, there was no reason to be scared.  This began my love of the Haunted Mansion.

I have visited the Haunted Mansion hundreds of times since that first visit.  You might wonder what keeps me coming back and not getting bored – it’s the details! Disney are the masters at creating experiences that keep you coming back so that you can learn and experience details that you didn’t know were there.  I know that I haven’t discovered all of the secrets that the Mansion has to offer – but here are just a few examples of things that you might not notice – unless you’re looking for them!

Haunted Mansion Details:

  • The tombstones you pass on the way in pay tribute to the Imagineers that worked on the attraction
  • When they designed the effects for the ballroom the used mirrors – but the dancers now appear backwards because of it. If you look closely – the women are leading the men
  • If you’re walking past the Haunted Mansion at night – look up at the windows, you might see ‘someone’ walking by!
  • As you leave the ballroom and begin to move backward – it is intended to signify you falling out of the attic. The caretaker and his dog are lighting the way to the graveyard as the only living people in the mansion
  • As you stroll down memory lane with the bride and her husbands – notice that the bride appears to be gaining wealth with each marriage!  With each wedding scene she acquires an extra strand of pearls
  • As you leave the mansion – be sure to pay your respects to Mr Toad.  He sits in the very back of the pet cemetery to pay homage to the attraction that was closed at Walt Disney World.  The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh now sits in its place.

In July 2015 I happened to be at Walt Disney World by myself for a few days.  I was wandering the Magic Kingdom late one evening and had a great conversation with a Cast Member that told me the story of the additional strand of pearls on the bride as well as the fact that she seems to get more china each time she gets married.  I thanked her for all of the information and got in line – I had to validate what she said!  I was so excited to go through and see it all again with a new perspective and new details to find. As I walked in to that stretching room just after midnight, by myself, I couldn’t help but remember my very first time.  As I was reminded that there was “no turning back now”, I smiled and thought to myself “It’s okay Dad, it’s Disney, I can do this by myself now”.

 

What’s the 1 thing you should never do on vacation?

Sky ViewI recently had a friend who I saw on Facebook was in the Grand Canyon on a family vacation.  There were so many pictures of him, his wife and children having a fantastic time as they enjoyed their travels.  Their vacation was a great success and they headed home to Toronto after a week of rest and relaxation.  They were all ready to get back in to their day-to-day routines when they walked in to their house to find that someone had been there.  They had been robbed.

Social media has become a great way to connect with your friends and family to share your experiences and especially your pictures!  Many of us have ‘friends’ online who are not really friends, but maybe acquaintances or people we have actually never met but share similar interests.  Do you really know these people?

Turns out, my friend didn’t.  While he isn’t certain, it is a good assumption that whomever broke in to his house knew that he was on vacation with his whole family and that they wouldn’t come home any minute.  This was evident by the fact that they spent time in his house without worry, eating his food and drinking his beer – all while he was enjoying his vacation.

It’s sad that social media has become a tool for thieves to use to their advantage, but it’s the reality of the world we live in.   The next time you go on vacation maybe you should post the pics when you get home and not advertise that you’re away.  Unfortunately I don’t have that luxury since I’m always posting for Pixie Dust Fan, so I think I’ll post a pic of my home security system and house sitter doing their jobs while I’m away!

 

About Pixie Dust Fan

Who Is Pixie Dust FanI have been a Disney fan for as long as I can remember.  My first trip to the Magic Kingdom was in 1974 when I was 3 years old.  At that time there was only the Magic Kingdom where I met Oscar Myer and one of my favorite attractions was “If You Had Wings”.  We always stayed at Disney’s Contemporary Resort where I got my Alice In Wonderland dress in the shop that is now the game room.

Over the years my addiction has grown and as an adult I started visiting multiple times per year.  My sister Becky is also a Disney addict and the person who talked my Dad in to visiting in 1974.  We share our obsession and travel together to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, sail on Disney Cruise Line and have even flown to Hawaii for the sole purpose of visiting Disney’s Aulani.

By day, I am a professional ‘number cruncher’ for a large company in Toronto, Ontario. Casual Friday is my favorite day of the week because I get to sport my Disney attire (much to the dismay of my boss!).  My full time job is less than magical to say the least, but it gives me the income to pay for my Disney addiction.

I was telling a friend at work one day about how big the Disney community is and how there are people who have websites and blogs devoted to their love of Disney.  I told him how I really envy these people who share their passion with others and have Disney in their lives every single day.  He asked me “why couldn’t you do the same?”.  I started to give him all of the reasons I couldn’t, all of my insecurities came flooding in when he pointed to the plaque in my office that says “If you can dream it, you can do it”.  It was then that Pixie Dust Fan was born.

I am very lucky to have the support of my sister Becky, my family, friends, and the Disney community.  I am forever grateful to those who continue to encourage and inspire me to take this journey, you really are pure magic in my life.

Please join me in sharing this addiction proudly and bring some Pixie Dust in to your days.

8 Reasons Why You Should Visit Disneyland

DisneylandDisneyland in California is where it all began, it’s the only park that Walt Disney opened and dedicated himself.  It was a challenging opening with many issues on that day, but it has remained a constant site of magic in Anaheim since 1955.

It is difficult not to compare Disneyland to Walt Disney World during my visits, and I always worry that I will be doing it all week. The size difference is drastic, but it doesn’t take long to realize that Disneyland had some amazing things that Walt Disney World does not.

Below are the top 8 reasons that I love Disneyland!

1.  Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour

Walt Disney World (WDW) has the Keys to the Kingdom tour that I have done many times but this tour had something that WDW didn’t – Walt himself.  Throughout the tour there were many stops along the way where we stood in the park and listened through our earpieces to Walt’s own voice talking about the very place that we were standing in. As we listened to his dedication speech, there were quite a few misty eyes in the group and I found myself covered in goose bumps as we walked in his footsteps.  The tour was an additional cost to the park admission, but worth every penny.

2.  Oswald

Before there was Mickey – there was Oswald.   Oswald made his debut in 1927 as one of Walt’s first animated stars and he signed a contract with a distributor who brokered a deal with Universal.  During contract negotiations the following year, Walt discovered that he no longer owned the rights to Oswald.  It was on that train ride home that a devastated Walt Disney first drew Mickey Mouse.  In 2006 Disney regained the rights to Oswald and he now appears at Disneyland! The fact that this lucky rabbit came before Mickey felt like such a big piece of Disney history – I was thrilled to meet him and have my picture taken.

Oswald

Meeting Oswald in Disneyland

3.  Cars Land

What can I say? Cars Land was incredible! I love Be Our Guest restaurant at WDW because it makes you feel like you are right inside the movie – Cars Land has the same feeling on a grander scale!  Walking up Route 66 and approaching the Cadillac Range mountains while passing Flo’s Café – it doesn’t get any better!  Radiator Springs Racers was such an immersive experience; I don’t think it could have been any better!

4.  The Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland gets transformed for Halloween for Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – it was ghoulishly fun to see the additions of these characters in to the already wonderful mansion.  The Hatbox Ghost who originally made a short appearance in the mansion in 1969 has materialized again and is one of the 999 happy haunts that live there. Remember though…there is room for 1,000 and they’re always looking for volunteers!

5.  Fantasmic

Fantasmic was a similar show to WDW, but it had some very different elements.  The first noticeable difference was that due to the size of Disneyland, I felt much closer to the show than I do at WDW since we usually sit near the back of the theatre for an easy exit.  At Disneyland they had Peter Pan instead of Pocahontas – that was awesome! It was a giant pirate ship with Peter, Wendy, Captain Hook, Smee and all the others fighting on top of the masts. I have to say – I was impressed!

6.  The Food!

The dining experiences at Disneyland were delicious!  We made reservations to eat at the Blue Bayou (inside the Pirates of the
Caribbean) as well as the Carthay Circle Restaurant in California Adventure – both were terrific experiences and the food was tasty. The rest of the week we dined on more quick service options with our favorites being the Corn Dog at the Corn Dog Castle and the Mac & Cheese at the Cozy Cone Motel. There was quite a variety of different quick service options throughout both parks that we were pleasantly surprised by how good they were!

7.  The Grand Californian

We stayed at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa in a standard view room. The hotel was gorgeous and had it’s own enterance to the California Adventure park for hotel guests only. The proximity to Downtown Disney as well as Disneyland being a short walk away were terrific for an afternoon break from the parks.  We did walk over to check out the Disneyland hotel that hosts Trader Sam’s Tiki Enchanted Tiki Bar as well – highly recommend stopping by for a drink here!

8.  World of Color

By far my favorite experience at Disney’s California Adventure was the World of Color show. Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse hosted a 22-minute show of lasers, lights and fountains that told the story of Walt Disney. The show paid tribute to Walt and his imagination while highlighting all of the magic that has since been created because him.  The World of Color allows younger generations to learn about Walt Disney and be inspired by his determination, dreams and imagination.

“I only hope we never lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse”

Walt Disney

Check out Cars Land!

If You Had Wings

Disney had a campaign a while ago called “When did it start for you?”.  The campaign had asked people when they first fell in love with the magic and became a Disney fan for life. I started thinking, going back through my fondest memories to pinpoint the time that I fell in love with it. I discovered that there were too many memories that I couldn’t narrow it down!  This is just one of them.

When I was young, there was at attraction at Walt Disney World called “If You Had Wings” that was sponsored by Eastern Airlines. The attraction was a slow moving vehicle that took you through a variety of ‘scenes’ showing you all of the things you could ‘see’ with them.  There was a man holding a fish that would grow as his wife took the picture, sunny beaches at the ocean, people diving from cliffs, and my favorite – the policeman directing the traffic of pelicans!  Looking back I guess you could say it was a little cheesy – the rolls of film being shown on screens as you passed by.  So why on earth was this a great memory for me?  It was an attraction I experienced so many times with my Dad.

Each time we would go to the Magic Kingdom, my Dad and I would ride this together.  We’d giggle at the silly scenes and point them out to each other like it was our first time riding it.  The specifics of our conversations?  I can’t remember… what I can remember is that feeling of joy to get those few minutes alone with my Dad on our favorite attraction.  The last scene of the attraction you would enter a huge tunnel of sorts and it would simulate an airplane taking off complete with the view of the runway and the seat moving along in time with the airplane.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin now sits where If You Had Wings once did.  They have repurposed the track and it is a new favorite for my family – being competitive to see who can get the highest score.

My Dad is gone now, and I miss him every day. When I’m in the Magic Kingdom as an adult, I think about our times there and wonder what he would think of the park if he could see it now.  Sometimes I feel like he’s there with me.  When we get to that final scene in Buzz when you enter that very same big ‘tunnel’ – I can remember the plane taking off with my Dad’s arm around me, and I experience that feeling of happiness all over again.

 

Disney Cruise Without Kids – 6 Reasons You Should Try It!

Disney Dream ShipMy sister and I travel to Walt Disney World a few times per year, we are Disney fanatics who would go every week if we could.   We have a couple of ‘non Disney’ friends who are now fans of visiting Walt Disney World once they realized how great it was for adults without kids.  Convincing them that a Disney Cruise without kids was a good idea was a whole other story!  They had visions of being ‘trapped at sea’ with hundreds of kids surrounding them screaming and crying.  I had to call upon my cruising experience to tell them the benefits of cruising Disney without kids.

1.  The Staterooms

These staterooms are larger than most I have seen on other cruise lines, but they also have a sense of elegance about them.   The split bathroom in most staterooms give you the ability for 2 people to get ready for dinner at the same time – something that is very valuable when you’re sharing a room!  We have had 4 adults in a stateroom for a few of our cruises and been VERY thankful for having that split bathroom when we were getting ready.  The Deluxe Family Stateroom was a TON of room for 4 of us.

 

 

2.  Dining

The dining experiences on a Disney Cruise are spectacular.  Going to a different dining room each night and having servers that stay with you for the duration of your cruise is awesome. I told them on the first night what a picky eater I am and got terrific recommendations catered to me each night that followed.  The servers did tell us that if we didn’t finish our bottle of wine at dinner that they would bring it the following night, but that was never necessary.   The specialty dining in Palo or Remy is a full indulgence not to be missed!

Palo Chocolate Strawberry

 

3.  The Adult Only Pool

This pool is an oasis at sea!   With a hot tub and bar near by, this was by far my favorite place to be during the day.
It’s quiet, inviting and relaxing. The crew is fantastic at replenishing my drink whenever I need it.  I sit by the pool reading on my iPad – with my biggest exertion being to get up and get in to the pool when I need to cool down.  There are no kids, no loud sounds – just peace.DCL Dream Adult Pool

4.  The Spa

Senses is the ultimate relaxation!  From Spa treatments to salon services – there is plenty to choose from for an afternoon of pampering!  I haven’t had the opportunity yet to get the pampering – but I did try acupuncture on the ship after I pulled a muscle, they had me feeling great in no time. Next time I’m checking out the spa in more detail!

5.  The Bars and Lounges

There are so many adult only bars at night to explore that I missed the 687 pub on a ship I had sailed on 3 times!  My favorites on the Disney Dream are Skyline and Pink.  Skyline has a huge ‘window’ that changes every 15 minutes showing you the skyline of a different city, it really is spectacular. Pink is themed to look like the inside of a champagne bottle with bubbles everywhere.  Keep watch in some of the bubbles during your stay – you may just see a pink elephant appear!  There are comedy clubs, sports bars and dance clubs – something for everyone!

For some extra fun for adults, they often have mixology classes or champagne tasting in the afternoon!  These were a great value and a lot of fun.  We discovered Rosa Regale at one of these events and often have it at Walt Disney World when we visit.

6.  Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay CabanaCastaway Cay (Disney’s private island in the Bahamas) is home to Serenity Bay, the adult’s only part of the island.  It is the most relaxing and beautiful beach I have ever been to. The sand is soft, there are plenty of umbrellas for shade and the water is clear. Need a drink?  They have cast members walking the beach to take your order. Feel like snorkeling or bike riding? They have that too… there are plenty of activities if that’s what you enjoy!

We like to make the most of our day when visiting Castaway Cay and rent a private cabana on Serenity Bay, it’s our little piece of paradise. We have our own hammock and inner tubes, a fridge with cold water and pop, and a button to call our cabana host if we need anything.  It really is the ultimate day of bliss.

Whether you travel with children or not, Disney Cruise Line has something for everyone.  With all of the kids activities and clubs on board, parents can indulge in some of these adult activities while the children having a ball in their own clubs with the new friends they’ve met.

Once I had shared the highlights with my friends, the question was ‘when do we go?’  We decided that the ONLY way we could do our first cruise together was in style, so we splurged on concierge.  If you’re ever looking for luxury – this is it!

Have you done an adult only Disney cruise?  Would you recommend it?

 

Been there, done that – and you’re going to Disney again?

Rivers of LightSomeone asked me today “how can you be excited about another trip to Walt Disney World, isn’t it the same as it was the last time you were there?”.   They were implying that I had already ‘been there, done that’.  Yes – I was there 2 months ago, and multiple times last year – but no, it never gets boring.

The next question I hear is “haven’t you seen it all?” – and the simple answer is NO!  Walt Disney World is always changing so there is something ‘new’ to see or do every time I visit.

Here’s why I’m excited about my next trip!

Different Resorts

I have stayed in almost all of the Walt Disney World resorts – with the exception of the Yacht Club.  I have toured all of the resorts at length, but this one has escaped my vacation plans.  I’m excited that on this trip I will get to experience it!  With each trip there is always something new to check out at a resort, so I like to mix it up!

Night Time Shows

I’m always so excited as I love the night-time entertainment!  The big concern is how to decide between Rivers of Light, Illuminations at Epcot, Star Wars fireworks & Fantasmic at Hollywood Stuidos and Happily Ever After and the Magic Kingdom?   I think I need more nights…

New Dining

There is ALWAYS something new to eat – and this trip is no exception!  I could seriously eat the new desserts all week for every meal, but I do want to try at least 1 new restaurant on each trip.  It’s hard to decide sometimes because there are some great options.  Each trip brings a new dilemma of deciding between our tried and true favourites, or something new.

Walt once said ‘Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.’  I’m so glad this vision is carried on at Walt Disney World, I continue to be amazed and inspired each time I step on the Disney property and revitalize my own imagination.

What keeps you going back?

 

Disney Facebook Groups – Some Aren’t So Magical After All

I don’t know about you, but Facebook a part of my every day routine.  I love that I can sign in and see tidbits from people’s lives and connect with those that I don’t get to see often enough.  I have made some wonderful Facebook friends from the Disney community and follow along on their vacations, getting ideas of things I might like to try the next time I visit.  I keep up to date on news and gossip and take each piece of information with a grain of salt until there is ‘official’ word.

Disney groups on Facebook have become a real source of entertainment for me.   I’m always amazed by how perfect strangers can get so angry with each other over silly stuff.  I have to admit that I read these posts, but I rarely comment.  Instead, I get out my popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show until an admin deletes it.

 

 

I belong to a lot of Disney ‘groups’ on Facebook, but there are a few that are managed by some real characters (pun intended!) that really bother me.   I’m not sure if it’s just my love of Disney that finds them offensive or just the manner in which the Admins conduct themselves that disturbs me.  I believe that any frequent visitor will have negative reviews or experiences in the parks, it’s expected.  We won’t like everything and should share those opinions in a manner that is useful and beneficial to the community and people who are thinking of visiting.

Disney Facebook GroupsThere are a couple of groups that drive me crazy.  The first is one that was showcased on a local news station a few years ago because the admin visits the parks so often.   I have watched this group grow as they flog T-shirts with copyrighted material and I often wonder why Disney hasn’t shut it down.   While the admin doesn’t work for Disney, he represents the ‘ultimate fan’ to some people online.  He posts about restaurants and some of his tummy issues after eating there (only he isn’t so delicate with his words).  He’s made videos ranting about guests suggesting that the majority of them don’t shower and has called them idiots and morons.   His representation of what is wrong with the parks is inflammatory and creates hostility in those that follow him.  He has many social media posts that are bullying, racist and downright unkind, not the kind of ‘Disney fan’ you would want to follow.

The second group that makes me cringe is one that is actually sponsored by a BUSINESS that rents out Disney Vacation Club points.  I bring up the sponsorship because it’s fascinating to me that a business would want to be associated with this group.  The admins are mean – and take great pride in BEING mean to others.  They have entire threads in the group meant for shaming guests!  They encourage pictures of guests doing things that they deem ‘not right’ in the parks and then they each take turns shaming them.  For example – they will post a picture of someone sleeping in a resort lobby and call it ‘hobo napping’.  What they don’t know is if this person is ill, or if they have some kind of disorder, or if they are unbelievably tired because they were up all night with a sick child.  They don’t know the circumstances, but feel like making fun of them is the right thing to do.  I think it’s horrible.

There are people who are researching their first trip to Walt Disney World in these Facebook groups.  It’s so sad because they’re reading these rants and reviews, they are expecting a park full guests who are mean, run you over with their strollers and restaurants that make you sick!   What an expectation they must have of the parks and resorts.

I think it’s important for people to have a safe place to ask their questions and share their love of Disney!  You can’t be in an environment where you may get a public shaming for asking a question.  That’s the real reason I decided it was time to create a Pixie Dust Fans group on Facebook.  Here’s a place where everyone is nice – and welcome!  Stop by and see us, you’ll be glad you did!

What’s your biggest pet peeve about Facebook groups?

 

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