Category Archives: Mickey Mouse

Special Order!

Disney has dropped a great promotion this morning.  Disney Bound guests who book their packages by July 7, 2018 and stay during limited dates between August-September and November-December 2018 will receive this promotion. These packages are VERY LIMITED, so if you are interested, get in touch with me today!  debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com

Best Day Ever! (Animal Kingdom In 1 Day)

Wrapping up the “Best Day Ever, Disney in 1 Day” series, today I am focusing on doing Animal Kingdom in a day.  Animal Kingdom combines my two favorite loves (aside from my family), and that is : animals and Disney.  Animal Kingdom also has some AHHHHMAZING food!  With the 2017 addition of the new Pandora- World of Avatar, things just got even better in the jungle!  Get ready for a swingin safari….here is Animal Kingdom in 1 Day.

But first…..Flight Time!

Without a doubt, Flights of Passage has become the #1 most coveted ride in all of Disney World.  Getting a FastPass+ for this ride isn’t a mere suggestion, it is a definite if you want to be able to ride this possibly more than once.  If you were fortunate to be able to score a FastPass+ for this ride, you have a couple of choices.  You can head straight for Flights of Passage as soon as the park opens (so that you will get at least 2 rides in throughout the course of your day), or, you may choose the Na’vi River Journey as your first choice and then hop in the standby line for Flights of Passage.  Either way, this is definitely a ride that you will want to do multiple times and the best time to catch it is early in the morning before the crowds hit.

Safari then Sweets

One of my favorite things about Animal Kingdom is Kilimanjaro Safaris.  I love the oversized jeep ride, the open air feel, seeing the animals move in their own spaces.  I love how close you are able to get to (some) of the animals.  You feel as if you are truly in another country, which is what Disney does best.  I suggest doing this early in the morning because that is when the animals are moving around the most.  You can also do this later in the day.  I have been on the safari during lunch hours, and that is “typically” when the animals are resting and not as active.

After doing all of this, you will definitely need some morning fuel to push through until lunch.  Why not take a pause for some sweets?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Tamu Tamu Refreshments:  Chocolate Waffle Topped with Vanilla Ice Cream 
  • Restaurantosaurus:  Warm Chocolate Turtle Brownie 
  • Yak & Yeti Restaurant:  Fried Wontons or Sorbet
  • Zuri’s Sweets Shop: Cake Pops, Animal Cookies, Fudge, and several other delicious choices.  

Expedition Ahead!

After getting a little morning fuel, you have enough time and energy to trek ahead and do another ride before stopping for lunch.  This could be a great time to do the popular Expedition Everest, home of the Yeti!  This was a family favorite due to the climb, the view, the yeti, and the way in which you travel forwards and backwards.  Amazing experience.  We had alot of fun screaming out of my crew when we did this!  The “best” time to ride this is in the evening.  You can definitely try it during this time, and the best way to do this would be as a single rider  Then, head back later in the evening to do it again, maybe using a FastPass+ for it.

If time allows, you could sneak in one more ride before lunch.  I would suggest DINOSAUR.

Buffet with Buddies

Time for lunch, and what better way than to eat with some of your favorite Disney characters?  I suggest Tusker House.  It has delicous buffet style food and you get to see some familiar safari friends as you dine.  Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy will make their way to your table, sign your autograph books, pose for photos, and just look so darn cute you won’t want them to leave.

It’s Showtime!

After lunch, the crowds tend to be pretty thick and it is definitely at its warmest time of the day.  One of the best ways to spend this time of day is by weaving in and out of the heat.  Watch a show, do a ride, then repeat.  Here is my suggested list of things to do during these hours:

  • Festival of the Lion King (one of my favorite shows ever!)
  • Finding Nemo- The Musical
  • Use your FastPass+ for Flights of Passage as a possiblility here
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Kali River Rapids (you will NEED a poncho for this ride!!!!)
  • Meet Disney Pals

Dinnertime Delight

By now, you have had a fun filled day, experienced things on so many glorious levels, but you will definitely need some down time to enjoy more of the fantastic food offerings that Animal Kingdom has.

If you chose Tusker House for lunch, a great supper meal would be Tiffins.  It boasts one of the best restaurants in all of Disney World.  Another option is Yak & Yeti Restaurant       (we love their Pork Pot Stickers) or Flame Tree BBQ.

Nighttime Novelties

Your first stop should be the Tree of Life Awakenings. The famous “Tree of Life” (as seen in my photo above) lights up in glorious beauty by the use of amazing animal projections.  Head over to the Rivers of Light Nighttime experience where guests can enjoy the beauty and magic of nature coming to life.

If you are able to experience the Extra Magic Hours, then you definitely want to head back over and try Flights of Passage…again.  You could even try to squeeze in the beautiful nighttime version of Expedition Everest.  Rides are so different at night, with everything you can see.

There you have it!  A “Best Day Ever” event for one day at Animal Kingdom.  Don’t forget to contact me to plan your Best Day Ever, whether it be at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, a Disney Cruise, a stay at Aulani, or jetting off on Adventures by Disney.  I can also make your dreams come true at Universal Studios in Orlando.  Find me at:  debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com or visit my website at www.magical-vacations.com/debbie.lands  See ya soon, pals!

Best Day Ever! (Hollywood Studios in 1 Day)

Continuing the “Best Day Ever, Disney in 1 Day” series, today I am focusing on doing Hollywood Studios in a day.    I love Hollywood Studios.  I love the throwback vibe that you see and feel when you enter the park.  You feel as if you have been transported back in time to a roaring part of our culture’s history.  The storefronts are beautiful, the cast members are dressed in a nostalgic fashion, and for my trips there, I have always loved being there.   Also, if you are traveling after June 30, 2018, you will get to experience the all new Toy Story Land.  Plans for a new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Mickey and Minne Runaway Railway are set for opening in 2019.  Get ready to “Rock and Roll”….here is Hollywood Studios in 1 Day.

But first….Rock & Roll!

Whether you choose a Fastpass+ for this ride or you try to get there are rope drop, if you are looking for a thrill ride, head over to the Rock & Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.  After completing this, the rides that typically have the longer wait would be Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania.  You can choose which route to take after getting off the Rock & Roller Coaster, depending on whether you are a thrill seeker or want more of family ride.  Neither choice will disappoint.  My daughter’s favorite ride at HS is Tower of Terror, while my son loves Toy Story Mania.

Mid-Morning Must Do’s

Time to indulge in a power snack to get you through the rest of the morning.  I recommend these places to get that grab and go snack:

  • Sweet Spells (my favorite snack shop at HS!)  Check out the colored/flavored popcorn, smores, cookies, whoopie pies, chocolate dipped marshmallow wand….the list goes on and on
  • Starring Roles: Check out the Chocolate Butterfinger Cupcake….yum!
  • Popcorn from a kiosk.  Disney popcorn is extra magical!  It comes gluten free and tastes oh so delicious!

Launch Your Next Adventure

Star Wars fans love Hollywood Studios because there are so many things to do pertaining to this fan favorite film franchise.  Here are just a few of the things you can experience:

  • Meet & Greets:  It’s not a day at HS without seeing some character favorites such as Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, or Wookie
  • March of the First Order:  This commands your attention….watch as the Stormtroopers and Captain Phasma make their way through for this entertainment experience.
  • Star Wars Launch Bay: explore a large assortment of Star Wars memorabilia and large-scale replicas, purchase merchandise and play the latest Star Wars interactive video games.
  • Jedi Training:  You have to register for this early, so if this is important to you, do this prior to getting on early morning rides.  Then, when it is time, you will receive a 20 minute interactive Jedi Training session in which you will come face to face with Darth Vader.
  • Star Tours:  An amazing ride/experience.  Hold on tight, this 3D tour of the galaxy will leave you wanting more!

Blast into the Past During Lunch

I have two lunchtime recommendations.  Whatever you choose for lunch, choose the other for dinner.  I recommend making advanced dinner reservations or to take the stress away, let me do this for you!

  • 50’s Prime Time Cafe
  • Sci-Fi Dine In Theater Restaurant

Both of these establishments are known for their ambiance, and this is a great way to take a break from the sun and relax with your family.  We are repeat guests to these establishments because our kiddos loved it so much!

Afternoon Attractions

To avoid the heat, there are some incredible things to take in during your post food-coma experience from lunch.  After taking in these attractions, it will be time to fuel up with a quick snack.  Refer to my list from above to power through the late afternoon hours.

  • Beauty and the Beast:  Live on Stage
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • For the First Time in Forever:  A Frozen Sing Along Experience
  • Mickey and Minnie Starring in Red Carpet Dreams
  • Voyage of The Little Mermaid

It should also be noted that there are great character meet and greets throughout Hollywood Studios.  My son was really into getting as many photos and autographs as possible, so we spent one entire afternoon tracking down all the characters we could find while my husband took the older kids in a different directions.

Take 5

Also as I mentioned above, I would suggest your supper to be at the other table service location that you did not choose for lunch.  Other great places for a quicker meal would be:

  • ABC Commisary
  • Backlot Express
  • PizzaRizzo
  • The Trolley Car Cafe

There are also Dinner Experience Packages and Dessert Experience Packages that tie into the nightly fireworks.

Finally, Fantastic Fireworks

This is where you have to let your interests guide your decision for ending your evening.   It comes down to two big choices:  Team Mickey/Disney character favorites or Team Star Wars.

  • Fantasmic!:  Playing along with the movie of the same name, Fantasmic includes incredible visual effects including:  fireworks,  music, characters, live actors, water effects, pyrotechnics, decorated boat floats, lasers, mist screen projections and audio-animatronics.
  • Star Wars:  A Galactic Spectacular:  The force is strong as you burst into a galaxy far, far away during this nighttime spectacular including: features fireworks, searchlights, fog effects, lasers, projection mapping,  and fire.

There you have it!  A “Best Day Ever” event for one day at Hollywood Studios.  Stay tuned for my next post continuing “Best Day Ever” featuring one day plans for Animal Kingdom.   Don’t forget to contact me to plan your Best Day Ever, whether it be at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, a Disney Cruise, a stay at Aulani, or jetting off on Adventures by Disney.  I can also make your dreams come true at Universal Studios in Orlando.  Find me at:  debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com or visit my website at www.magical-vacations.com/debbie.lands  See ya soon, pals!

Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah

You can’t help but want to sing the lyrics when you are at Disney and you hear this famous song.  You even believe it, “my, oh, my what a wonderful day!”.  So, what exactly makes a great day at Disney?  Loved ones being there to share in the day with you, of course.  Spreading some “pixie dust” for others (good deeds such as letting someone have your spot in line, giving someone something that is special to you, or simply helping someone who is lost).  I like to find as many of these opportunities to spread some pixie dust as possible, not only because it’s good for my children to see so they know how to act as adults, but also, maybe your good deed will change the course of someone’s day for the better.

Another way of making a great day at Disney is getting to indulge in some of your favorites.  Keep in mind, these are MY personal favorites, and while I know there are some amazing things I will be leaving off of this list, I have to keep it fairly short.  So…with that being said, I’m going to list my top five things to do at each park, according to my taste.  Kind of a “if I only had one day at Disney, what would you suggest?” post.

Magic Kingdom Favorites

This is REALLY hard.  I have SO many things I could put on this list.  But, when I think of Magic Kingdom, these things come to mind:

  1.  Peter Pan’s Flight:  This ride just comes to mind when I think of Magic Kingdom.  The wait is ALWAYS long, and you will do yourself a huge favor if you are able to get a fastpass for this ride.  Hop aboard a magical ship that takes you through the famous movie scenes and truly feel as if “you can fly”.
  2. Pirates of the Caribbean:  Another ride that SMELLS and FEELS like you are truly in the movie.  The water, the darkness, the smell of the sea….admist a backdrop of magnificent ships and Captain Jack Sparrow.  This is a ride that we go on again and again.  Some days we have needed a fastpass, and others, we have been able to go right in.  Trust me, you won’t regret it!
  3. Dine like a Princess at Be Our Guest AND Cinderella’s Royal Table:  BOG is more budget friendly and you can sample “the grey stuff (it’s delicious!)”.  Snag a breakfast or lunch dining option for Quick Service, or choose a Dinner serving time for Table Service and a chance to see “The Beast”.  Or, if you are more into all of the Princesses and dining at “THE” castle at Magic Kingdom, then make your advanced dining reservations (ADR’s) at the 180 day mark out from your trip to ensure you are able to snag this coveted character table experience.  Even my youngest son loved this dining opportunity.  We had our meal at 7:20, and it ended just as the fireworks began at night.  As we left, we had nowhere to go except the front row for prime fireworks seating!  What a bonus!
  4. Main Street, USA:  What I love about this is that it is supposed to mimic Walt Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri (my home state!).  The architecture, the shops, the quaint cafe’s and ice cream parlors all scream of days gone by and truly make you yearn for simpler times.  It is a beautiful glimpse into where he grew up and of a time that can only be re-imagined with the dreams of someone like Mr. Disney.
  5. Splash Mountain:  Without a doubt, this ride is worth your time.  One thing my family and I commented on was how long this ride was prior to the actual uphill climb towards the thrilling descent.  Lots of crazy characters that really take you back in time, to the movie “Song of the South” with the famous Br’er Rabbit.

BONUS;   Dumbo, while it typically doesn’t require a fastpass, is also one of my favorites, especially at night, for you to see all the beautiful lights at Magic Kingdom.  Finally, while you are at Magic Kingdom, you need to stop by and try their famous Dole Whips!  A refreshing pineapple creamy treat that I look forward to each trip! Finally, you MUST stay for the “Happily Ever After” fireworks special, as mentioned above!

Epcot Favorites

For me, Epcot is equally as hard.  I have always struggled between which park is my favorite, not that I have to choose, but Epcot is also a park in which I could spend two to three days of my trip just wandering around and enjoying all of the experiences that it has to offer.  With that being said…..here are my personal favorites.

  1.  Soarin:  I could ride this over and over and over again.  The sights of some of the world’s most iconic locations, the hang gliding feel of the ride, the gigantic screen, the music, and we can’t forget the smells that go along with each “stop” you make on the voyage.  You feel you are truly there.  Fastpasses are suggested for this ride, although if you get there early in the day, you could hop on.
  2. Test Track:  In the words of my son, “I’m so going to drive like this someday!”.  Test Track allows you to “build” a car, design the best features possible for not only a safe ride, but also a very fast ride.  Your car will go on multiple “tests” prior to being out in the open for the ride of your life.  This ride was simply amazing.  Fastpasses are suggested for this ride as well.
  3. Spaceship Earth:  Getting to go inside the iconic feature of Epcot, the enormous geosphere (referred to by many as a “giant golf ball”), is amazing.  I have never needed a fastpass for this ride.  Spaceship Earth takes a little jaunt through our civilization and how communication has transformed over time.
  4. The Seas with Nemo and Friends:  If you love the movie, you will love the ride.  A fastpass is typically not needed for this ride.  Journey through the seas as you go on a search for Nemo.  You truly feel that you are taking a dive!
  5. Frozen Ever After:  I must begin this with telling you that a fastpass will definitely be required for this encounter.  Even if you aren’t a fan of the movie, you will enjoy this ride.  Take a ride through Norway with some cool Audio Animatronic figures and songs and let the ride show you how “cool” being frozen can be.

BONUS  You must stay for the IllumiNations fireworks spectacular.  Also…..The. Food.  That is all.  It’s amazing.  Sample some from as many countries as your stomach can tolerate!  Finally, the countries themselves are their own attractions.  There isn’t just one that I can say we loved the most.  But one example is that while in Morocco, my daughter got some amazing henna drawn on her hand that lasted well beyond our trip.  Epcot is simply amazing.

Hollywood Studios Favorites

There is so much that I love about Hollywood Studios.  I loved walking in and seeing the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.  There are currently alot of changes going on at Hollywood Studios, and this post could very well be edited with some new favorites after our next trip this spring.  Let me hop into what my favorites were up to our last trip in 2017.

  1.  Fantasmic:  It helps to snag a fastpass for this epic firework extravaganza.  Sit down and enjoy this show that includes Mickey Mouse, fireworks, boats, ships, FIRE, and glorious scenes from dozens of Disney classic films.  There are live characters blended in with the digital projections, all taking you in and reminding you of why you love Disney so much.
  2.  Toy Story Mania:  Grab a fastpass for this ride, or arrive early to hop to this one.  Toy Story Mania is a 3D Based “game” in which you compete with the person sitting next to you to get the most points by going through several Toy Story themed rooms.  Very cute, VERY fun, and definitely worth your time.
  3. Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage: Lots of singing and dancing, in this condensed version of the movie.  Fastpasses are optional, but not usually needed.  Sit back and enjoy the songs of Beauty and the Beast, watch the characters in motion, and feel as if you have watched the entire movie all over again.
  4. MuppetVision 3D:  This may have been my son AND my husband’s favorite attraction at Hollywood Studios.  They are both HUGE Muppets fans (cmon, who doesn’t love “Kermie”).  There are bits of Muppet-type humor woven in throughout the pre-show and main feature, and it leaves you feeling a little nostalgic for the days when the Muppets were at the height of their popularity.  A fantastic attraction for the kid in you.
  5. Star Tours:  The Adventure Continues:  Calling all Star Wars fans….this ride is a MUST!  Super exciting fun and adventure awaits on this motion simulator ride.  The ride is one big adrenaline rush as you are on a fast paced track with lots of dips and swerves and turns through the Star Wars locations.  Definitely grab a fastpass for this adventure!

BONUS:  Twilight Zone Tower of Terror….My daughter and sweet friend Katie LOVED it and I know it deserves to be on this list. Jump onboard as you manuever through the Twilight Zone in this free fall thrill ride.    Also, if you have time, watch the stage show Voyage of the Little Mermaid.  It’s a nice little adventure with Ariel and friends.

Animal Kingdom Favorites

Animal Kingdom is in a world of its own.  To me, it’s a park where you really start to feel you are in another world, miles away from civilization.  Give Animal Kingdom a chance to show you all that it has to offer.  You won’t regret it!

  1.  Kilimanjaro Safari’s:  You will need a fastpass to catch this trek.  It is simply amazing, how you feel you have been transformed into the jungle.  Something only Disney can design.  The live animals, the glorious waterfalls, the “bumpy” ride that feels like you are really riding on a real safari adventure.  Remember, most animals are usually alert and active early in the morning or right before sunset.  Try to get your fastpass for those times!
  2. Avatar Flight of Passage:  The new “it” ride at AK.  Climb on the back of a banshee (which you can even feel “breathing”), and soar and glide your way through Pandora.  You will experience smells and sights like no other and the wind and water from the ocean.  Needing a fastpass isn’t even a question…it’s a must!
  3. Expedition Everest:  Amazing to see at night, where you can see all the lights that Animal Kingdom has to offer.  Expedition Everest is an amazing thrill ride that goes forwards, backwards, and you encounter a Yeti that can frighten even the toughest of people!  Hold on tight during this ride!  Fastpasses recommended, unless you can grab a spot early in the morning at park opening.
  4. Kali River Rapids:  Remember how I advised on bringing ponchos for the Florida showers that pop up out of nowhere?  You also need those ponchos for this ride unless you want to leave drenched (like my husband was!).  You never know when you will get soaked on this ride, but it’s inevitable, it will happen.  Journey through the rainforest and ruins on this whitewater rapids ride.  Try to book it for later in your day, so you don’t take the chance of being soaked for the rest of your afternoon.  Lockers are available for storage and highly recommended.  You could even sneak in a dry set of clothes.
  5. Festival of the Lion King:  This. Show.  I don’t know that there is a better show at Disney.  Acrobats, fire, animals, singers, themed costumes and larger than life characters make this a stand out performance.  I was simply in awe throughout this show.  Do it.

BONUSIt’s Tough to Be a Bug:  The cast of A Bug’s Life takes you through an interactive and educational story on insect.   Finding Nemo:  The Musical is a condensed version of the movie but so worth it.  A great mix of live actors simulating the glorious characters from the movie make you feel that you are right there in the ocean with them.  Extra songs and lots of moments that make you laugh make this show unforgettable.

That’s it!  These are a list of my personal favorites, maybe even some of yours.  If you would like to seek out another adventure at Disney or this stimulates your need to go for the first time, let me help you make that happen!  debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com

For the First Time in Forever….(Part 4)

Today’s topic in my blog series is how to choose the right park ticket for your family’s vacation.  Of the choices and options that we have discussed up to this point, this is one of the easier ones, I feel.  It is easy to narrow down the days that you will need first, so let us jump right into that.

Tickets:  How Many Days?

Every Day

I have been that person before!  I remember being so excited for our first trip back after so many years and wanting to cram in AS MUCH time as possible in the parks.  If this sounds like you, then you might want a park ticket to be equal to the number of days you will be vacationing OR one day less.  For example, if you are staying 6 nights and 7 days, you would want the 7 day ticket option IF it made economical and physical sense that you could be in the parks all 7 days.  Some people have a late or early flight on their arriving or departing days, and that takes away one day immediately.  So, the first option to decide will be narrowed down to how many days can we REALLY physically be in the parks and get our money’s worth out of it?

Not “Every” Day

I have also been this person.  When you choose a Disney World, Disneyland, or Universal vacation, you go into it knowing there will be a fair amount of walking, while definitely having the time of your life.  There are vacation goers like myself who know that you will need to write in a day to relax at the resorts, which is exactly what we did during our last trip.  We took one day, spent it at the pools, lounged around, right during the middle of our vacation week, and we truly felt it recharged our batteries.  We still watched the fireworks from the Polynesian beach during the evening, and we definitely still felt we were vacationing at Disney.  But, it gave us some peace.  It gave us time together.  We moved as fast as turtles that day and enjoyed every minute of it.  We had our lunch by the pool, supper in the room (the best pizza I have ever had in my life!), and just laughed and enjoyed each other.  So, for our 8 days and 7 nights we were there for this trip, we didn’t do an 8 day ticket.  We did 6 days worth of tickets.  One reason was what I just stated, taking a day to relax.  The other reason was that we arrived later in the evening on our first night, and it wasn’t physically worth it to pay for a ticket, when we were already jet lagged and just needed to rest so we could be ready to go the next day.

Tickets:  Park Hopping vs No Park Hopping

The idea of park hopping is that your ticket allows you to visit more than one park per day.  So if you started your day off in Magic Kingdom, but really wanted to end the evening at Epcot for their Illuminations fireworks festivities, you could do that.  If you even wanted to park hop over to another park that had Extra Magic Hours that evening (later than normal “business” hours), you could do that, too!  It gives you the most flexibility with your ticket as far as seeing more in a day.  Your Disneyland Park Hopper would allow you to venture into both parks in the same day, while your Disney World Park Hopper would allow you to venture into all four parks in the same day (if you chose to, but I can only imagine, that would be exhausting, even though exhilarating).  Universal has a system called Park to Park, which is essentially the same idea, just a different name for their brand.  They offer a Single Day ticket,  with the Park-to-Park option for their two theme parks.  The price of park hopping is higher than having a one park per day ticket, but each family has to determine the value of that dollar and what they want to accomplish during their vacation.

Tickets:  Water Park Options and More

Park Hopper Plus

There is also the Park Hopper Plus option at Disney World, where you can add on the option of other very popular Disney World attractions to your ticket.  You can also buy those separately, but this allows you to work them into your park hopping options.  With a 3 day Park Hopper Plus ticket, for example, you would get 3 visits, or with a 4 day Park Hopper, you would get 4 visits.  The exception to the rule is a 1 day ticket allows for 2 visits.  The attractions offered are:  Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Complex, and Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course.   These attractions are amazing!  You could easily take a day alone to hit the water parks, and then another day to try out some rounds of golf and head over to ESPN!

Multi-Day Ticket

Universal offers a new water park called Volcano Bay and it has been a huge hit with tourists.  Tickets can be purchased separately for this or you can combine them into a Multi Day ticket with a 3-Park Ticket, giving access to all three parks. 2-Park Tickets allow access to Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure each day. 1-Park tickets allow access to 1 Park per day.

Tickets:  Annual Passholders

This is my final ticket option I will be discussing with you today.  Annual Passholders are an amazing option if you find yourself having the ability to vacation at your favorite Disney or Universal destination several times a year.  There are several different tiers when deciding which annual pass is right for you.  I am an annual passholder, and for me, one benefit I love is the shopping and dining discounts we receive in the parks from being a passholder.  There is even an app that honors passholders, and gives discounts on merchandise.  Just like everything else, this is not an option for everyone, and you must decide whether or not this is something that would be worth your money.

Tomorrow’s Topic:  MagicBands, FastPasses, and more!

I would love to give you a custom quote on a Disney and/or Universal vacation package that allows you all the flexibility that you need on a dream vacation.  Please email me at debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com and let me get started for you!  I would love to give you a free Minnie Box customized for your family!

 

 

For the First Time in Forever….(Part 3)

Continuing my blog on big decision making for the first time at Disney (or the first time in a long time at Disney), I am moving on to what to pack in your daily backpack.  While there will be many travelers who won’t need a full backpack for their days in the parks, there will be just as many who will, and if you were anything like I was, I went to the internet searching for what the “essentials” were when trying to be prepared.

Before I begin with what to pack, it is just as important to first discuss geography.  This was a key element in not only what to pack in my backpack but how much for each of my trips.  For our trips in which we stayed at a value resort and a couple of the moderates we have stayed in, and we were a further bus ride away from “home” for the week, I would stuff our backpacks until I couldn’t even fit another penny inside.  I wanted (and needed) everything to be inside because if we forgot something, we would either have to buy it (if possible) at the parks, or we would have to just be without it for the day.  Especially for those days at our value resorts, for me, anyway, when I didn’t plan to return for several hours.

Now, for our trips when we stayed at the Polynesian, and were a short monorail ride away from being “home”, it wasn’t as much of a let down if we forgot something.  We were a little closer should we “have” to go back.  I also split my days up a little more as well when we stayed there, and didn’t have to pack my bags as full.

Finally, for days when we have traveled to Universal….since we have always been staying at Disney when we visit Universal, I usually just take a few “hip packs” with us and cram as much as we can in there.  Universal has great travel lockers to store backpacks in, whereas Disney allows the backpacks on the rides.  So, we had to be prepared for a different feel while at Universal, and we took just the absolute essentials with us on those days.

So, now that our geography lesson is over, we can jump right in.  To make it a little easier to follow, I divided up my list into categories.

Electronics

  • Phones:  make sure they are fully charged and storage ready to handle taking plenty of photos.
  • Portable electronic chargers and cords
  • Waterproof phone case/bag, for the water rides OR those pop up Florida showers….speaking of…..

Weather

  • Ponchos:  I can NOT stress enough that you must be prepared for a Florida shower.  It will happen!!!
  • Travel Umbrella
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip Sunscreen (a must for me)
  • Water Misters
  • Bug Spray
  • Jacket: for those traveling during the slightly cooler days/nights

Health

  • Moleskin/Blister band-aids:  This is about as important as having a poncho!  Even the most prepared family (us) will have someone end up with a blister on the first day of the trip.  We have now learned for our blister prone people, to begin our trips with these on as a preventative!
  • First Aid Kit
  • Germ-X
  • Neosporin
  • Wet Wipes
  • Tissues
  • Travel Deoderant
  • Body Glide
  • Hair brush/ponytail holder
  • Baby powder (because your feet/body will stink after a bit and no one wants to sit next to you during a show when you smell of sweat!)
  • Travel perfume/cologne

Snacks

  • Water/Water bottles:  There are many water fountains available for a quick fill up.
  • Snacks:  Fruit snacks, granola bars, cheese crackers
  • Gum: Disney does NOT sell gum in the parks so if you want it, you will need to bring your own inside!
  • Some type of breath mint
  • Flavor packets:  A hit with my kiddos.  I would bring a stash of sugar free lemonade or fruit punch to add to their waters.

Park Essentials

  • Park maps, even though you can look via your smartphone, it is always smart to have a backup, and sometimes easier.
  • MagicBands, Park Tickets
  • Bitbelts for your MagicBands:  I have never had a Magic Band fall off, but this was just an extra added measure of safety.  You definitely don’t want your MagicBand to fall off and lose it!
  • Autograph books and pens (optional but SO fun!)
  • Lanyards with trading pins (optional to wear/do)
  • Ears to wear (optional, but again, when in Rome….)
  • Cash/Credit Card:  While you can have everything programmed to your MagicBand and pay that way, technology fails us sometimes and just like the park maps, it is good to have a backup.
  • Hidden Mickey’s…..ok, so you can’t “carry” this.  But there is a Hidden Mickey’s book you can buy AND an app you could download.  We loved searching for them while waiting for a ride or while on our way to our next restaurant.

Miscellaneous

  • Lots of Pennies!  Pressed Pennies are the cheapest souvenir you can purchase at Disney!  Take some shiny pennies with you and store them in an old medicine bottle.  You can even do Pressed Quarters.  Our kids have LOVED doing this and you can even purchase books to store them in permanently after you are home.
  • Glow Sticks:  Super fun for fireworks time.  Glow bracelets and necklaces are even nice just to have around your kiddos during the evening hours.
  • Towels:  I always pack one with us, to dry things off or to sit down and watch a parade.
  • Change of clothes/socks:  This is truly optional.  I, myself, have not done this for all of my trips.  Socks, YES, but not clothes.

Now…..there were two backpacks pictured above…..one was mine, and one was my daughters.  A lot of times, we will split up the items, so mine isn’t so heavy.  Somedays, she would take her camera with her, so she could capture those great quality photos.  She really loves taking pictures and is honestly, very good at it.  So, she needs a bag with her to carry it around and a backpack helps.

Keep in mind, I don’t carry ALL of these things ALL day long.  I spend some time each night before we go to bed getting our bags ready for our morning or our next day.  It would be too heavy to lug ALL of this around all day long, however, as I mentioned before, I DID do this when we stayed at one of the value resorts, simply because I was stubborn and didn’t want to take the 30 minute bus ride back and then back again.  Plus, waiting for the bus, both ways.  I felt it would take too much of my day, and we had things to do.  So, I hauled it around.  I was honestly glad I did then, but I would do it differently now.  Plus, I also have another child who wants to carry things with her, and we can split things up a bit.

Also….leave room for some souvenirs, unless you have time to have them sent back to your room.

I have two more thoughts for this series, and tomorrow, I will jump into Park Tickets.  What to buy, how many days, what are the options, etc.

If you would love a FREE custom quote on a Disney or Universal trip,  please feel free to email me at:  debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com

 

 

 

 

 

For the First Time in Forever…..(Part 2)

Today I will be discussing “food” at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  I could go on and on about this topic, for my palette waters every single time I think about particular desserts I have sampled or meals I have engaged in.  I have never once been disappointed in food that I have encountered while vacationing.

So what are the food options while vacationing at Disney?  Many.  Today’s blog won’t go into specific restaurant choices and things of that nature, but more so, helping you make the decision on whether or not choosing a dining plan is the right decision for your family.  Then, if you do choose a dining plan, helping you understand the differences and understanding better which would be the best fit for you.

No Dining Plans for Me!

Let’s begin with the option of not choosing a dining plan, which I have done before.  Even with this choice, there are many options and ways to experience food while vacationing.  Whether you are using a dining plan or paying as you go, you can make ADR’s (Advanced Dining Reservations) at 180 days out from your trip.  I highly suggest this if your family is looking to book some coveted character meals or there is a restaurant that is on your “to do” list.  Again, at Magical Vacations, we can take of all of this for you, so you don’t have to think about it!

Disney is gracious enough to allow food and drinks into the park, which gives people the choice to bring in their own snacks.  I have done this, and it is a fantastic option to have in my purse or my backpack.  Especially for those times when you are in between meals or waiting in line for a ride and just need a quick pick me up.   If you choose not to bring in your own snacks and drinks, there are food options to be found everywhere at the parks and back at the resorts.  Just follow your nose and it will lead you to one!  Prices are honestly better than what you would find at a professional ballgame or a concert and the food you get for your money is incredible.   If you bring your own water bottle in with you, there are many water fountains to be found for you to get a quick fill up as well, which saves from buying fountain sodas.  Let’s face it, we need that water on our vacationing days anyway!

If you made ADR’s as mentioned above, then you will have a little bit of comfort knowing where your next meal is coming from.  If you didn’t make ADR’s, you will need to make the decisions depending on what park or resort you are at, as to which dining location you will choose for your meal.  Choose wisely according to the time of day, as certain locations fill up quicker the closer you get to normal dining times.  If you didn’t make ADR’s, just keep in mind that you may need to allow some “wait time” to go along with your meals.  Even with quick dining options, there is a bit of a wait with the lines.

Also, many resorts have rooms with mini refrigerators, coffee makers, microwave ovens, and toasters.  It is a nice option to have for those who would like to have at least one meal in their room per day.  There are several businesses that delivery groceries right to Bell Services at your resort for a slight fee.  Again, a great option to have if you want to have a stash of snacks available to take to the parks with you or know that you want to eat every breakfast together in your room.   Room Service is also available and I can say, the pizza we ordered from the Polynesian this past summer might have been the best pizza I have ever tasted!

The best advice I can give to someone not using the dining plan or ADR’s is to be willing to be flexible.  You may really want to eat at a particular location, but it may be busy at the time that your stomach is growling, and you don’t feel you can wait 30 more minutes.   Make choices that won’t leave you hangry!  We all know what that feeling is like and it doesn’t make for a fun vacation!

Now let’s jump into the different types of dining plans for Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Dining at Disneyland with Vouchers

Disneyland offers a “Dine in the Magic” voucher system.  Guests pay in advance for dining that they anticipate they will enjoy while on their trip.  While it may not necessarily be a money “saver”, it does give you peace of mind that the food portion of your trip is taken care of.   Vouchers will expire at the end of the year and are non-refundable.

A slight difference between this plan and the one we will discuss at Disney World is that you do not have to purchase vouchers for everyone in your party and the vouchers can be for any length, not the exact length of your stay as it is at Disney World.  Also, ADR’s at Disneyland are 60 days in advance, a difference between this and the 180 days at Disney World.

There are four different plans and I will quickly discuss each one of those.

Donald’s 2 Day

  • Adult $106/Child $64
  • 2 Character Dining Vouchers, 2 Dining Certificates ($15 for adults/$10 children), and 2 Snack Vouchers

Goofy’s 3 Day

  • Adult $159/Child $96
  • 3 Character Dining Vouchers, 3 Dining Certificates ($15 for adults/$10 children), and 3 Snack Vouchers

  Minnie’s 4 Day

  • Adult $219/Child $132
  • 3 Character Dining Vouchers, 1 Premium Character Dining, 4 Dining Certificates ($15 for adults/$10 children), and 4 Snack Vouchers

Mickey’s 5 Day

  • Adult $272/Child $164
  • 4 Character Dining Vouchers, 1 Premium Character Dining, 5 Dining Certificates ($15 for adults/$10 children), and 5 Snack Vouchers

Please note: Child rates are for young ones ages 3-9 years old. Vouchers may be used at any Full Service or Counter-Service restaurant. Vouchers can not be used for alcoholic beverages, room service, holiday buffets, Downtown Disney restaurants, and merchandise.

Next, we will move on to our final point, the Walt Disney World Disney Dining Plan.

Dining at Disney World with the Disney Dining Plan

There will be some similarities between this plan and the one from Disneyland.  Dining plans offer peace of mind, knowing that if you have made ADR’s, you know where your next meal is coming from AND you don’t have to have extra cash prepared for anything except for gratuities at table service restaurants.  The cost of the dining plan was figured into the resort package.  Many people like the idea of knowing that it is already taken care of before they get to their vacation.  While you will still have to decide between what quick service meals you would like and what snacks you want to choose, knowing that you have particular types of meals covered on a plan allows families to decide just how much to eat at other meals.  The Dining plans are offered for those staying with their DVC (Disney Vacation Club) points or who purchased a Magic Your Way package.

Once again, remember that table service dining reservations can be made at 180 days prior to your vacation.  Take advantage of that option.  We missed Be Our Guest on the trip with my mother, and it was the ONLY restaurant that she wanted to go to.  During this particular trip, we booked everything at three months out, so instead of having 180 days, we only had less than 90 days and it was already taken for our vacation dates.

Here is a breakdown of cost for the 2018 Dining Plan options:

Quick Service Plan

  • Adults $52.49/Children $21.75 per night
  • 2 Quick Service Meals, 2 Snacks, 1 Refillable Mug per person

Quick Service meals to me are similar to fast food.  While it can still be a meal you eat together at the table, you order at the counter and pick up your own food.  The refillable mugs will be included with each package and are really great to have.  You can use them at your resort to get a quick drink to take back to your room, or as my kids would do, make several trips back and forth to refill!

Standard Plan

  • Adults $75.49/Children $25.80 per night
  • 1 Table Service Meal, 1 Quick Service Meal, 2 Snacks, 1 Refillable Mug per person

Table Service meals are just like eating at a regular sit down restaurant.  You have a server, they come and take your order, and gratuity is considered to be something given at the end of the meal.  The servers/cast members REALLY do a great job with their guests and always interact with the families in a fun way.  We have used this plan the most and feel it gave our family alot of flexibility with meal options.  Since we were given a table service meal each night that we were there, it allowed for great character dining experiences which my children still talk about.

Deluxe Plan

  • Adults $116.24/Children $39.90 per night
  • 3 Meals (any combo of table-service and quick service), 2 Snacks, 1 Refillable Mug per person

I always think of my husband when I think of the Deluxe plan.  His favorite part of our Disney trips has easily been the food.  We tried the Standard Plan once with him and he was still hungry, while I was very full and had not finished my food!  However, he could easily finish mine for me and fill up.  The Deluxe Plan is great for those families who come to Disney for the food.   They know the food is excellent and they want to take every opportunity to take part in each course!  It allows families quite possibly the most flexibility in their dining options because you have choices on your meals.

These are JUST the basics that cover the Dining Options.  There are so many other things in which I can cover to help you navigate your way through the Dining Plan choices, and I will in a future blog.  I know when I first learned about the dining plan, I was very overwhelmed!  However, I will gather some helpful tips and share those with you at a later date.

In my next blog, I will discuss what to pack in your backpack for a day at the parks!  If you have decided to make a magical dream come true, please contact me to let me help you make that happen: debbie.lands@magical-vacations.com