Beyond Burgers: Unique Quick Service locations at Walt Disney World

beyondburgers

As a fan of any of Disney’s dining plans, we know our way around the menu! In fact, we’ve challenged ourselves to not eat any sort of  “theme park food” during our stays which include chicken fingers, burgers, and hot dogs. Surprisingly, it’s easier than I expected it to be if you know where to look! So today we’re going beyond burgers around Walt Disney World.

And where else to start but with the most difficult park – The Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is best known for being the family friendly park. It’s a crowd favorite and therefore I think it tries to cater to the masses which means a lot of basic menu items and a lot of kid friendly items. If you want to avoid that theme park food experience, check out…

  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn – a new Mexican style flair which is going a year strong and something that was definitely needed in a park full of burgers. Combine that with the toppings bar and you can easily have a meal for 2 with just 1 quick service credit.
  • Be Our Guest – This would be at breakfast or lunch ONLY since dinner is table service. And a big note – this is the only quick service location that requires reservations so advanced planning is needed here!
  • Columbia Harbour House – with things like Fish and Chips and Lobster Rolls, it’s a unique menu and located toward the “middle” of the park so it’s fairly easily accessible from anywhere!

From the most difficult, to the easiest…over to Epcot! With ethnic flairs around World Showcase and even running into a location in Future World, there’s a lot to be had here! It’s a place I wouldn’t plan for too many sit down meals because quick service is delicious and gives you more time to explore fun new and old as well as a lot of great characters!

  • If you’re in Future World, check out Sunshine Seasons on the first floor of the Land Pavilion. This is the same location you’ll find Soarin’ and Living with the Land so if you plan your FastPasses accordingly, you can Soar around the World and then have a great meal!
  • If you find yourself in World Showcase without a dining reservation, check out Mexico, China, Morocco, England, Japan, and my favorite – France for unique menu items without a burger or fry in sight!

Hollywood Studios is another park that is similar to Magic Kingdom with many locations serving burgers and fries, but there are a few unique options!

  • The new PizzeRizzo opens this week with pizzas, pastas and a meatball sub that looks really amazing!
  • Starring Rolls is a great option for those with the a sweet tooth – while there are not a ton of quick service menu items, it’s a great way to find a sweet treat after you’re done with your lunch or dinner!
  • Fairfax Fare has the most unique menu items with ribs and BBQ pork recently added to the menu. It’s a great little stop on your way over to Fantasmic – you can bring food in!

Most of Animal Kingdom‘s food is unique so you’ll happily find flavor and beyond burgers all over the park. Some highlights for me:

  • Flame Tree BBQ – You’ll see this well rated by guests across Disney blogs. Good BBQ, fresh flavors, and a nice view!
  • Harambe Market – Another newer location in Disney World – you’ll find African spices and more unique menu items we’d happily go back for!
  • Yak & Yeti Counter Service – This is actually my favorite choice in Animal Kingdom. It’s a taste of the table service location with portion sizes that are more comfortable for my stomach (anyone that follows me knows that we often share meals at table service and quick service location when it’s possible so it’s a nice medium that would allow us to share if we’re not really hungry but lets eat our own portion if we didn’t have a big breakfast!)

Outside of the parks, Disney Springs has a plethora of unique options!

  • Earl of Sandwich – great for folks not on a dining plan because the price point is very reasonable by Disney Standards
  • Along the same lines, Blaze Pizza. We have one locally so it’s not a location we will frequent in Disney but the food is good, reasonably priced, and can be shared quite easily!
  • Wolfgang Puck Express has good pasta and pizza options with massive portion sizes!

BUT let’s not forget about the resorts! While all resorts have their own take on dining with unique themes based on location, there are some that are a cut above the rest – no pun intended!

  • Art of Animation’s Landscape of Flavors is somewhere we’ll go no matter where we stay. It’s worth the trip! I could easily eat a few menu items on a daily basis and my husband loves that there are some Indian inspired dishes on the menu!
  • The Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is another location that gives some African spices and flavors to the menu items. There’s a great BBQ flatbread on the menu that we would happily eat multiple times in a single trip! It’s a bit of a hike, but if you’re staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge or Villas, it’s worth checking out!
  • Contempo Cafe in Contemporary Resort. A quick hop skip and a monorail ride away from Magic Kingdom, it’s a great place to dine outside of MK if you want a break or if you want some good food. Hot and cold sandwiches, flatbreads, and salads are all good!
  • Capt’n Cooks in Polynesian Village. Similar to Contemporary – a quick monorail ride away and a nice break from the parks. Nachos, adult grilled cheese, and unique Polynesian style means available and it’s a great rest break from what can be a long day at Magic Kingdom!
A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Are you up for the beyond burger challenge in Disney World? It’s actually easier than you think! Bon appetit! Ready to get started planning your 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an agent that is part of authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

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Mistakes I’ve made in Disney World (and how you can avoid them)

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away…I was a first time Disney World visitor (as an adult). I traveled to Disney World a few times as a child with my family but when you’re young, you just go with the flow. As an adult and in charge of my first ever trip to Disney World in which I was paying out of my own pocket, I made some mistakes. Some big ones! Here were my biggest faux pas and how you can avoid them…

Not Making a Plan ahead of timeThis is much harder to do now that FastPass+ is in effect and more guests than ever are choosing to add a dining plan to their package. It was my sister and me. She had just graduated college and we were celebrating in Disney World. We found a great promo, made 2 dining reservations and just planned to eat as inexpensive as possible as 2 girls just starting with our careers. Neither of our dining reservations were in the parks, so I truly went in with ZERO plan for the day. A marker of Disney World success is knowing park hours, extra magic hours, and having a plan of action prior to your arrival. We truly wandered around the parks (which was fine for two 20somethings, but I felt like we missed a lot – AND WE DID!!)

Not researching resorts enough. My initial research involved finding the absolute rock bottom lowest price. Disney, just like the rest of the world, you get what you pay for! Poly signBooking the cheapest room in the cheapest resort gave us the cheapest experience. Shared bus system, an almost 10 minute walk to from our room the the main building to refill mugs and not our kind of “people” in the resort! If I would have taken 10-15 minutes to research the resorts, look at reviews, or look at other options, I would have spent $75 more (for the entire week – not just one day) on a different resort!

Not realizing how Extra Magic Hours affect crowds. This was one of our biggest mistakes! We saw early morning magic hours for each park and thought that would be a great park to go to with our base tickets (OOPS!) Early Magic Hours increase park crowds and unless you can arrive at the parks before that early hour opens (which can be as early as 7 am during peak travel time), you’re doing yourself a disservice and will end up seeing MORE crowds than you would have on a different day.

Arriving lateWe were on vacation. We took time to sleep in. No college classes, no work, why should we get up early? 9 am – 12 pm are the most important hours of the day (or if park open is 8 am during peak travel time). Being part of the late arriving crowd will have you miss the lowest crowds of each day where many attractions are “walk on”. Set an alarm, wake up early and plan on a nap or a break if the early mornings are getting to you! Consider an off day to let everyone sleep in instead of arriving at the park at 11 am or 12 pm each day and then just staying until park close.

Our amazing view from the FastPass viewing area of MSEP!

Our amazing view from the FastPass viewing area of MSEP!

Not understanding FastPass. Again, we’re going back in time when FastPass was still the paper version. We didn’t figure out how things worked until the end of our trip but the theory still holds true with FastPass+. In Disney’s new system, each guest receives 3 FastPasses for every day they have theme park admission. These can be scheduled up to 60 days in advance of your arrival if you are staying on site and on site guests receive the bonus adding more FastPasses throughout the day by using the My Disney Experience app. FastPass is a key to success no matter what time of year you travel!

Not having the option of park hopping.  Two adults, no kids in tow, lots of rain, cancelled fireworks and shows. We should have park hopped! Our first night, Magic Kingdom fireworks were cancelled because of lightning in the area and we missed Epcot’s because we were so water logged later in the week. With base tickets, we didn’t have the opportunity go back to Epcot based on how our days ended up falling into place. It would have been a nice addition to our trip just to give us some flexibility in our days.

Being afraid to explore other resorts. We hopped the boat from Hollywood Studios down toward the Boardwalk and walked around, had some lunch and then started to peek around Boardwalk Inn. Since it wasn’t our resort, I was uncomfortable walking inside because I didn’t feel like I belonged there. The good news for you? You are welcome in ANY Disney World resort if you’d like to explore the common areas! You don’t need a reservation for a dining location. Hop a bus, boat, or monorail and explore!

Not using Magical Express luggage service. We were flying an airline that offered resort airline check in but we didn’t understand what that meant! For those on qualifying airlines, you may check your luggage with Magical Express at your Disney World resort and only your carry ons will come with you on the bus back to the airport. Luggage is secured and sent to the airport and then next time you’ll see it is at your home airport. Amazing little time saver to not deal with anything at the airport and there are rarely guests in line (at least in my 10+ experiences with it!)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

I hope you learned a few things from my mistakes! I’d love to help plan for your magical adventure! If  you’re ready to get started planning your 2016 or 2017 Disney World vacation, Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

Everything you need to know about Disney Dining Plans in 2017

dining2017

Disney’s dining plans can be a confusing, but it’s meant to simplify your your trip. Adding the dining plan to your package reservation essential makes it an all inclusive stay! So what do you need to know about it and is it for you?

Adding the dining plan to your reservation

In order to add a Dining plan to your reservation, you must be an on site guest and booking as a package ($200 deposit required and final payment due 30 days prior to your arrival). Disney does allow room + dining packages with no tickets and full packages with room, tickets, and dining coupled together. Military families can only book room + dining packages (tickets must be purchased separately from their local ticket office. If you elect to add the dining plan to your package reservation, each guest in your room MUST be included and it must be for your entire length of stay (there are some ways around this policy including booking a “split stay” reservation).

What about free dining?

The free dining promotional offer has been available over the last several years. Disney used to offer the same discount for January and February, but that seems like it is going by the wayside with other similar promotions (discounted but not free). During the fall months, Disney has offered this promotional offer for select dates but I think we’re all waiting for the year when it does go away. These big package promotions are used to help fill unbooked rooms but with overall park attendance up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go.

Dining credits?

All of Disney’s dining plans provide you with dining credits to be used during your stay. Your credits are broken down into credit categories – quick service, table service, and snack. All of your credits will be given to you upon your arrival at your Disney World resort to be used any way you choose during your stay. Depending on the plan you choose, you’ll receive credits for each NIGHT you stay.

Who gets credits?

Anyone on the dining plan age 3+ will receive credits. Children under age 3 are free at Disney and therefore will not need their own credits. This means they must share with a sibling or another adult at any plated table service meal and quick service locations. Credits are broken down to child credits (ages 3-9) and adult credits (ages 10+). This is important for table service and buffet restaurants. Child quick service credits can be used for adult meals (SHHH! Little known fact – helpful if you stretch your dollar and share more meals during your stay).

Dining Plan Options

Disney has 3 dining plans for 2017: Quick Service, Plus Dining, and Deluxe Dining. Regardless of your choice, each member of your traveling party will receive a refillable mug to be used at your resort. It can actually be refilled at any resort during your stay. No refills at the parks though!

The quick service dining plan provides you with 2 quick service credits and 2 snacks for each night stayed.

  • Each quick service credit comes with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage whether you use it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner

PLUS dining (or the Disney dining plan) provides you with 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and TWO snacks for each night stayed.

  • Quick service credit comes with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage whether you use it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Table service credits come with an entree, non-alcoholic beverage and dessert. No dessert will be offered if you choose to use a credit at breakfast.
  • Table service credits can also exchanged for a buffet or family style meal.

The Deluxe Dining Plan provides you with 3 credits which can be used for either table service or quick service and 2 snacks for each night stayed.

  •  Quick service credits come with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage. 
  • Table service credits come with an appetizer, entree, non-alcoholic beverage, and dessert. No appetizer or dessert will be offered if you choose to use a credit at breakfast. (This is an appetizer per person – not for your entire group so if you have a group of 4 you will receive 4 appetizers)
  • Table service credits can also be exchanged for buffet or family style meals. 

What is a snack?

Disney suggests a piece of fruit or box of popcorn as a snack. I suggest any drink at Starbucks (yes my venti raspberry white chocolate mocha was covered!), a cupcake, Mickey premium bar, giant pretzel, etc. There are so many great snack options available at Disney, so don’t limit yourself! In years past, there used to be a correlation to a dollar value for snack credits but I’ve seen snacks that are anywhere from $5-8!

What about two credit dining options?

Several Disney table service restaurants require 2 credits on Disney’s Dining Plan. These are listed as “dinner shows” or “signature dining” when searching for dining options. These include:

  • Cinderella’s Royal Table

    Cinderella's Royal Table is one of Disney's most popular restaurants

    Cinderella’s Royal Table is one of Disney’s most popular restaurants

  • Le Cellier
  • Monsieur Paul
  • Hollywood Brown Derby
  • Jiko
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse
  • California Grill
  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ
  • Citricos
  • Narcoosee’s
  • Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
  • Artist Point
  • Fulton’s Crab House (becoming Paddlefish in Late 2016)
  • Flying Fish
  • The Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe

As always, this is subject to change and up to Disney’s discretion!

What about tipping?

All table service restaurants do require gratuity. This includes buffet restaurants. This is NOT optional as your servers are providing you a service. The exception are the dinner shows and Cinderella’s Table which have gratuity included in the price of the experience.

Should I add the dining plan to my package reservation?

Generally yes! Most families benefit from one of Disney’s dining plans. You have a lot of food but it doesn’t limit your options/choice in terms of menu items.  Disney says you can save up to 15% on your food by choosing the dining plan. Out of pure curiosity, I kept all of my receipts from a recent trip and we came out ahead after we used all of our dining credits!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!w!

Friday Five: 5 Updates to your princess themed vacation

I’ve talked about the perfect princess vacation for Disney World goers, but there’s some updates with a whole bunch of princesses either moving locations or just some new Disney magic. So what’s new in princess land around Disney World?

1: Anna & Elsa are on the move! Thankfully not literally but they’ve moved into their new home, the Royal Sommerhus in Epcot. This new location is extremely well themed to the snow sisters and has a more immersive experience. The best part about this location is its size. It allows more guests per hour than ever before so long gone are the 4 and 5 hour wait times to meet the girls! The bad news for moms and dads is that there is not a FastPass option, HOWEVER even shortly after opening, wait times are regularly 30 minutes or less so it’s very manageable.

2: Frozen Ever After. In a huge overhaul of the Norway Pavilion, this one of the biggest summer headlining attraction. For Disney fans, this is in the old Maelstrom attraction. The boats and the overall “track” remain the same but everything else is very different. Great advanced animatronics (they enhanced on the style of the characters they created for the dwarves in Seven Dwarfs Mine Train). The experience is very cute and is getting great views of both children and adults. For those that remember the old Maelstrom ride, they will also remember that it’s well known for it’s frequent outages/breakdowns and that still remains even though the theme has changed. If this is on your must do list, GET A FASTPASS! I can’t stress that enough. If you have a FastPass while the ride goes down, you’ll be able to return anytime later in the day so it’s a failsafe option vs. trying to get there early to be one of the first guests in line!

3: Princess Fairy Tale Hall Shakeup. With Anna & Elsa moving out of Princess Fairy Tale Hall, some princesses packed their bags for a better location. Officially if you look at the FastPass list, your options are Cinderella & a visting Princess and Rapunzel & visiting Princess but thus far Tiana and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) have found a comfortable home in the air conditioning from their previous outdoor locations. I like this change for several reasons (some selfish because I’ve got a big Sleeping Beauty fan). Tiana is a highly requested princess and although she’s parted ways from Prince Naveen during meet and greets, it’s a great way to get her more exposure and guarantee princesses an opportunity to meet her. Additionally, since Rapunzel is not often at any princess dining locations, she now has a dedicated meet and greet without duplicating Cinderella a second time if you have Cinderella’s Table meal + a fairy tale hall meet and greet. This also lowers the traffic in this area and makes standby queue more manageable!

4: Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire. A new stage show made its way to Magic Kingdom in mid-June and while I was sad to see Dream Along with Mickey go, Disney did a wonderful job incorporating some new and more modern princesses as well as under-recognized ones as well. In 3 different sets (similar to the old Dream Along with Mickey show), Princess Tiana (and Naveen) kick up their heels, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider have a dream, and Anna, Elsa, and Olaf Let it Go. Great show. Fun for princess lovers as well and it’s nice to see Rapunzel finally getting some love outside of a bathroom!!

5: Upgrade to Disney Springs Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Disney officially opened the new Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Disney Springs. In addition to moving to it’s new location (in the building that has the Once Up a Toy Store), it has increased its capacity/seats by 5 TIMES its previous booking availability. This means that more princesses than every can be made over. Disney made this experience incredibly special and I’m really excited to see princesses receive their royal transformation. In addition to having more space, there is a princess dressing room/changing area, more seating for the adults looking to watch the transformation, and some unique photo opportunities following your princess (or prince) makeovers including in front of Cinderella’s Carriage. You may also receive a special visit from the Fairy Godmother. Don’t let my words tell you all about it, check it out for yourself!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2016 or 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Making the most of your Disney World FastPass+ selections

 

UPDATED for SUMMER 2016 and beyond!

If you’ve been to Disney World or Disneyland you’re probably familiar with FastPass service which allows you to skip the line for some of your favorite Disney World attractions. As technology continues to move forward, so does FastPass+. This change allows guests to make their reservations prior to their arrival. It’s great for families that want a day to sleep in (which I don’t recommend), park hop, or start their day with a dining reservation. Rules and available passes are different for on and off site guests. We’ll start for guests staying at any Disney World resort:

  • Each guest with valid theme park admission is able to make 3 FastPass+ reservations for each day they have park tickets. These first 3 reservations must be in the same theme park. These initial reservations can be made up to 60 days prior to guest arrival date for the length of their stay.
  • Guests will be able to make one additional selection at a time, based on availability. Guests have the ability to make additional selections via the My Disney Experience app or via FastPass kiosks located inside each theme park. You may schedule your 4th, 5th, 6th, etc. FastPasses from the app for any theme park. If using a kiosk, you can only schedule additional FastPasses for the park you are in.
  • Guests will be able to make their additional selection(s) for an experience at which they already redeemed a FastPass+ selection earlier that day (for parks like Epcot and Hollywood Studios, no “tier” requirements)
  • Guests with valid park-hopping privileges will be able to make their additional selection(s) at another park.

It’s a little different for day guests (a.k.a. non-Disney resort staying guests);

  • Each guest with valid theme park admission is able ot make 3 FastPass+ reservations for each day they have park tickets. These reservations must be made in the same theme park. Initial reservations can be made up to 30 days prior to arriving in the park and do not qualify to make reservations for their length of stay as Disney has no way of knowing what their length of stay really is!
  • No additional FastPass+ reservations will be given to non-resort guests.
  • Not much of any advantage – sorry off site guests!

FastPass+ Reservations, Strategy & Planning for Disney resort guests:

  • Make your three FastPass+ reservations online 60 days prior to your arrival (the window opens up at 7 am EST on the 60th day). You can make the reservations for your entire vacation.
    Choose FastPass options for the most popular attractions and for lines that get the longest (see below for list at each park)
  • Make your choices earlier in the day. I start passes for my guests sometime around 9:45 or 10 am with a headlining attraction and then continue back to back until all 3 passes are used (pending any dining reservations during that time).
  • Arrive at the park before opening and ride one popular attraction standby (ideally one you don’t have a FastPass for); Based on the time you exit the attraction, continue until you hit the middle of your first FastPass time.
  • Continue riding standby as attractions allow. Do your next FastPass as close to the end of the window as possible to use your last 2 FastPasses back to back (it feels so much more successful!)
  • After you use your 3rd FastPass, check the app and grab something for later in the day ASAP!
    Grab lunch and then continue your afternoon (or take a break after lunch and schedule a FastPass for your return).
  • Be flexible! If you see the line for Splash Mountain is short at 10:30 am and your FastPass is for 11, hop in the standby line and change your FastPass attraction (or ride again!)

I know it’s A LOT of planning, but you have the ability to get through 5-6 different attractions before lunch which is HUGE! This works best in Magic Kingdom as there are the most attractions in the least amount of space, however the strategy can be used in any of the 4 theme parks. It becomes more important than ever to know the parks before you arrive.

Choosing FastPass+ Attractions

This is where the process gets a little bit easier. Below is a breakdown of all the available FastPass choices. I have put them in order from longest to shortest wait time (on average). Once you get past the first couple, they are fairly interchangeable. I would highly recommend, you choose FastPasses from the top of the list for your initial reservations as these will be the first to go (and likely will be unavailable by the time you get to a kiosk later in the day). As a reminder, the bold selections in Epcot and Hollywood Studios are the tier one choices. You may choose one RED attraction, and two non-red attractions for your three reservations.

MAGIC KINGDOM

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Enchanted Tales With Belle
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Meet Rapunzel and a visiting princess in Fairy Tale Hall
  • Meet Cinderella and a visiting princess in Fairy Tale Hall
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Meet Ariel at her Grotto
  • Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater (Mickey Mouse talks here!)
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • The Barnstormer
  • Meet Tinkerbell in Town Square Theater
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • it’s a small world
  • Mad Tea Party (Spinning teacups)
  • Festival of Fantasy Parade (preferred seating)
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

EPCOT

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Soarin’
  • Test Track
  • Mission: Space

    Just a little fun in Epcot character spot!

    Just a little fun in Epcot character spot!

  • Meet Disney Pals at the Epcot Character Spot
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Turtle Talk With Crush
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
  • Living with the Land
  • Journey Into Imagination With Figment
  • Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
  • Illuminations: Reflections of Earth

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
  • Toy Story Midway Mania
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Star Tours
  • The Great Movie Ride
  • First Time in Forever: Frozen Sing-along
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
  • Disney Junior – Live on Stage
  • Fantasmic
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Expedition Everest. Are you brave enough to take on the dreaded Yeti?

Expedition Everest. Are you brave enough to take on the dreaded Yeti?

  • Expedition Everest
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • DINOSAUR
  • Jungle Book Alive (more important when it transitions to Rivers of Light)
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Primeval Whirl
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug
  • Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2016 or 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

The Best and Worst Times to Travel to Disney World in 2017!

 

For all of you advanced planners, we’ll talk about 2017 Disney World vacations! It’s never too early to start planning. Whether you wanted to save up for a big vacation or you’re just looking to try your first Disney adventure with your kids, it’s always a good time to research and plan a Disney vacation.  But when to go? Timing is everything.

First, ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • If I have kids, am I willing to take them out of school?
  • Do I have any blackout dates at work?
  • Are there any special events I want to attend? (i.e. Mickey’s Not to Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party)
  • Do I want to be able to swim or go to water parks? (is temperature a factor)
  • Is it ok to miss a few headlining attractions due to routine maintenance?
  • Is cost a major factor in our vacation?
  • Is it ok if it’s H-O-T while we are there? Summers in Orlando can get pretty brutal)

All of these simple questions will help direct you to the best time of year to travel. As we start to talk about overall crowds and dollar values, please be aware that Disney World has become an increasingly popular destination. Yes, it has always been a popular travel destination for families, but whether it’s more international guests taking the opportunity to travel to the states or families just taking more frequent Disney World adventures, overall crowd attendance is up no matter what the time of year. If you’ve traveled more than once in the last 5 years, you’ll feel this increase in wait times and overall people milling around in the parks.

From year to year, the best times to go are fairly similar, but let’s break it down by month:

January – After you get past the New Year’s crowd which is typically gone by the 3rd or 4th of January, it’s a pretty slow time. Crowds increase during the Disney marathon which is typically the first weekend after the holidays pass. Both crowds and costs are low, however you may miss a few major attractions due to maintenance. Crowds do increase during MLK Jr. weekend as many children have at least one day off school. Weather is typically cool and you may need a light jacket. Swimming may be out. Although the pools are open and Disney pools are heated, it’s still too cold for these old bones when the highs are only in the low to mid 70s.

February – This is also a fairly good time of year. Crowds peak for the Princess Half Marathon weekend as well as President’s day weekend. Other than this time, crowds and costs continue to be low. As with January, you may need a light jacket. In 2014, the weather was unseasonably warm so off season travelers got to enjoy some warm Florida sun but in 2015, weather was unseasonably cold and jackets were a must! 2016 saw a middle ground in weather and much of the year was pleasant. The closer you get to March, the more the crowd level begins to increase. I was told by a cast member that every single room in every Disney resort was booked for Valentine’s Day last year, so if it’s a romantic destination for you, make sure you plan ahead!

fg1March – Ahhh, spring break season! While schools across the country all have different weeks for spring break, you’ll typically see spikes in crowds at last 1-2 weeks during the month. With Easter falling in mid-April next year, Spring Break season will likely start during the 3rd week of March this year but schools will never surprise me with how early spring break may fall! Weather begins to warm up at this time and very few attractions are closed during this time.  Epcot begins their annual Flower & Garden festival which runs through the end of May.

April – Spring break season continues.With Easter in mid-April this year, you’ll see peak spring break through the week of April 16th and then a drop in crowds and costs.  After spring break crowds wear down, both prices and costs decrease as the weather heats up! It’s not the lowest cost of the year, but it’s better than the peak prices! There’s a bit of a lull here as kids go back to school after spring break and before school lets out.

May – A few things to note for May travelers: the first two weeks of May are often a great time to travel in terms of crowds but it can start to get hot! Our most recent May adventure saw daytime highs in the 90s which made park touring a bit slower paced than it would be in the cooler months of January and February. Disney has continued to elaborate and extend the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival so it’s still a fun time to explore this free event. Lastly, Memorial Day weekend is a popular long weekend for guests and crowds may mildly increase during this time. Prices and crowds tend to be moderate as we get closer to the end of school year and finals. It’s a nice little window between spring break and end of school to enjoy trip! The weather is easily in the 80s and sometimes warmer, and it’s not typically very rainy. Not many attractions closed during this time.

June – June of 2015 saw a HUGE influx of travelers throughout the month (moreso than previous years with 8-10/10 crowds each day) with a bit of a dip in 2016. This may be related to some new attractions opening in late June that had guests delay their arrival date to explore the new offerings. Early in the month, the unofficial event “gay days” is held in one of Disney’s theme parks. It does increase the crowds of that park specifically, so be aware as you start to plan.  Along with increase in crowds comes increase in prices and heat. The summer months can be sweltering. Although June is not that bad, the remainder of the summer is hot, hot, hot!\

July – It’s one of the most popular times of year to travel to Disney. I can’t say that I’ve been there in July, but it’s a hot! Plan for an afternoon rain shower which is often welcomed in the humid Florida weather. It provides some relief. Fourth of July weekend is even more costly than the standard summer pricing. Crowds continue to peak during this month. Take a break from the parks and enjoy a water park!

August  – As summer ends, the crowds begin to dwindle. By the middle of the month, crowds resume their normal 5-6/10. The weather is still hot and you often have a pop up rain shower. Don’t be scared if you see a 30% chance of rain every day. No special events throughout the summer, and August finishes that trend. Toward the end of August, you’ll see value season pricing as back to school season really ramps up (even before Labor Day weekend). If your kids don’t return until after Labor Day weekend, this may be a unique time of year for you to travel!

September – After Labor Day passes, the some really low crowds and prices settle in. School is officially back in session and it can be somewhat rainy. The weather is still typically very warm (especially earlier in the month). By mid to late September, Epcot is geared up for the International Food & Wine Festival which runs through midNovember. September also brings Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This special ticketed event at Magic Kingdom closes the park early and allows guests to enjoy a special themed party where costumes are not only allowed, but encouraged. Plus, meet special characters appear throughout the park and lines are incredibly short. This even runs through the end of October. Great discounts and special offers are typically available September through mid November. This is often the time of year with the best promotional rates as it continues to have the lowest attendance. Over the last two years, the end of September has trended up in crowds with the addition of many schools adding a fall break to their school schedule. The last of September has become a much busier time of year.

October ­– October has become the “new summer” in terms of crowd levels. Without the heat of summer, days off of school for Columbus day, the draw of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, and Halloween festivities, it’s a huge draw for crowds. 2015 saw an astronomical spike in crowds over the previous year and 2016 is shaping up to be a busy year again. This can also be attributed to later fall breaks for schools across the country. There still appears to be a pocket of time at the end of the month around Halloween that gives a little reprieve on overall crowd levels. Weather finally begins to cool again after a long, hot summer. Temps will very likely still remain in the 80s, but it’s not as humid.

November ­– The phenomenon known as “Jersey Week” happens in early November. Schools in New Jersey have a week long break in early November inflating crowds. This isn’t a huge jump in crowd levels, but it’s a factor in making your plans. The first week of November often has lower crowd levels as Disney removes all of the Halloween and Fall decor and starts to set up for the Christmas season. You’ll see shorter hours in Magic Kingdom as the transformation happens literally overnight. For families with little ones, it’s a nice way to enjoy comfortable temperatures, and allow them to see fireworks shows without staying way past bed time!  Additionally, Veteran’s Day is often a day off for students (November 11) PLUS the Wine & Dine RunDisney event. Between this time and the week of Thanksgiving is a great time to travel as crowd levels begin to dwindle.  As it gets closer to Thanksgiving, crowd will peak. Discounts stop the days surrounding Thanksgiving as it’s often another peak travel time with multiple days off of work and school. Discounts typically resume the Sunday after Thanksgiving and continue through mid December. Watch for Christmas decorations as Halloween items are removed. Around this time, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party also begins. Similar to its Halloween counterpart, Magic Kingdom closes early for special events and characters culminated with a holiday parade and fireworks.

December ­­- The last month of a year is a mixed bag of crowds and costs. The first Tips and Tricks for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Partytwo and a half weeks finishes up the Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom. Decorations remain throughout the theme parks and resorts through the remainder of the year (and through the first few days of January). After the second full week of December, crowds begin to increase as families take their holiday vacation to Disney World. It’s the highest crowd levels of the year, and the prices match. Wait times during the days surrounding Christmas and New Years can often be measured in hours instead of minutes. While it’s a magical time of year, it’s not the best time to go the most magical place on earth. Around Christmas and New Years, no room discounts are available.

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2017 Disney World vacation? Can you believe we can already price out and plan your adventure? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Disney World Tips for Jedi Training Academy

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It’s been awhile since I talked about Jedi Training Academy in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. For those that are unfamiliar with the experience, it is an interactive live show in which kids age 4-12 can train to learn the ways of the Force to defeat the dark side. Kids are given lightsabers and don cloaks. As a part of their training they will have a run in with one of many villains including Darth Vader, Darth Maul, or even the Seventh Sister Inquisitor (from Disney XD).

This experience was updated to incorporate experiences from The Force Awakens for the new Jedis and will very likely continue to evolve as additional movies come out! If you want your young Padawan to be a part of this fun experience, you’ll need to plan ahead!

This is an experience that is not available via FastPass or something that can be signed up for ahead of time and only 12 children are able to sign up for each available time slot. Sign up begins as soon as the park opens and shows are scheduled approximately every 30 minutes (beginning around 10 am). This is an increase from even a year ago at this time (I remember days that there were only 10-12 shows per day and I counted on today’s daily schedule a total of 20 (and this is not considered peak travel). DSC_1436

If this on your must do list, here are a few ways to set yourself up for success:

  1. Arrive at the park at least 30 minutes before official park opening. This will put you closer to the front of the turnstiles and allow you walk quickly and safely over to sign up.
  2. Know where to go. Sign up has MOVED from where it was a year ago at this time. Sign up is now located at the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost which is between 50s Prime Time Cafe and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. The child interested in participating AND a parent must be present at the time of sign up.
  3. Have a list of your FastPass to ensure you’re not going to overlap something like Toy Story that cannot be moved.
  4. This cannot be a park that can be “hopped” to with the expectation to get a time after 12 pm.
  5. Have patience! The queue forms quickly with excited families, but with more shows, you’re still sure to be able to sign up for this experience.

A few additional notes:

On days with early magic hours, you sign up begins DURING magic hours which is a leg up over leading the charge with day guests and Disney resort guests. You can also attempt to get a leg up on the action by booking the first breakfast at Hollywood & Vine. This may give you a little leg up. I wouldn’t book anything after 8:15 am because it may end up being a detriment to your end goal if you don’t get seated right away or you’re waiting to get your final bill (especially if park rope drop ends up earlier than the posted 9 am time).

Prep your kids! Make sure they know they will be facing a villain as part of the process. There is also a reason that the age requirement is 4 and not 3 (like things like bibbidi bobbidi boutique). It requires the ability to follow direct and wait turns. As a mom of a 3 year old, I know my child wouldn’t be capable of such direction (she’s also a “new” 3 and not closer to “almost 4”). Know that they will be away from mom and dad during this experience as well.

For moms and dads looking to get the best view of the action, fear not! When you check in for the time you chose at sign up, your padawans will be lead to the stage with family right behind so you’ll have the best seat in the house!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Are your young padawans ready to become Jedis? Please feel free to contact me anytime for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!