So you booked your dream cruise to the Caribbean? That’s great! You and your travel agent have researched and planned to make your cruise the best. Your online check in is complete and you… More
This summer there are new and INCREDIBLE things to see in Walt Disney World.
With this offer, you can save on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights June 11 through August 1, 2018. Save up to 25% on rooms, when you book by May 22, 2018, and up to 20% on rooms, when you book by August 1, 2018.
Ask us about great rates for stays most nights May 28 through June 10 and August 2 through August 30, 2018.
Good morning all you Disney fans out there. It’s an exciting time of year as Food and Wine menus have been released. Those above pictures are just some of the offerings that Epcot’s International Food and Wine festival have to offer.
I can understand how planning for food and wine can be so stressful but my wife and I have made into a game. This will be our fifth food and wine festival that we have attended. There are a ton of resources out on the web that will help you plan your food and wine trip. Our favorite website that we frequent is allinwdw.com, Bob who runs the website along with Doug and Dennis from wdwmainstreetpodcast.com our true foodies just like my wife and me.
So in the spirit of food and wine my wife and I has each created our food and wine 2017 bucket list. Here they are, let the stretchy pants be warned. We will be back “HOME” Sept 22 – Oct 1 and attending the festival at least 5 days out of our trip. I will be tweeting @evanmethuen and doing facebook live from Epcot during the festival.
Disney Food & Wine List:
Melissa’s List 42 items strong
◦ Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s® Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onions
◦ Spinach and Paneer Cheese Pocket with Mint Raita
◦ Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion and Snap Peas
◦ Lamington: Yellow Cake Dipped in Chocolate and Shredded Coconut
◦ Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes
◦ Escondidinho de Carne – “Little Hidden One”: Layered Meat Pie with Mashed Yucca
◦ Pão de Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread
◦ Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup served with a Pretzel Roll
◦ “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce (GF)
◦ Braised Beef “Stroganoff” with Tiny Egg Noodles, Wild Mushroom, and Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce
◦ Chicken Potstickers
◦ Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey-Caramel
◦ Baked Shrimp Scampi Dip with Sourdough Baguette
◦ Zesty Cheeseburger and Cheddar Cheese Macaroni Handwich
◦ Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce
◦ Grilled Beef Skewer with Romaine, Apricots, and Feta Cheese
◦ Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse with a Caramel Drizzle
◦ Crispy Chicken with Griddled Cornbread and Red Eye Gravy
Flavors from Fire:
◦ Piggy Wings: Roasted Pork Wings with Korean BBQ Sauce and Sesame Seeds
◦ Smoked Corned Beef with Warm Crispy Potatoes, Pickled Onions and Blonde Ale Beer Fondue featuring BelGioioso Romano and America Grana Cheeses
◦ Boeuf Bourguignon, Purée de Pommes de Terre: Cabernet Sauvignon Braised Beef with Mashed Potatoes
◦ Schinkennudeln: Pasta Gratin with Ham and cheese
◦ Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce
◦ Loaded Greek “Nachos”: Pita Chips, Meatless Sausage Crumbles, and Vegan Tzatziki
◦ Bougatsa: Warm Phyllo Dough Strudel with Sweet Vanilla Custard, Lemon Honey Syrup and Cinnamon
◦ Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour DOLE® Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise
◦ Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Toasted Macadamia Nuts
Hops & Barley:
◦ Smoked Beef Brisket and Pimento Cheese served on Griddled Garlic Toast
◦ Freshly Baked Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Icing
◦ Warm Irish Cheddar Cheese and Stout Dip with Irish Brown Bread
◦ Warm Chocolate Pudding with Irish Cream Liqueur Custard
Islands of Caribbean:
◦ Quesito: Puff Pastry with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Guava Sauce
◦ Absolut Penne: Vodka Sauce with Shrimp
◦ Cannoli al Cioccolato: Chocolate-covered Cannoli filled with Sweet Ricotta, Chocolate and Candied Fruit
◦ Rib Eye Taco: Marinated Rib Eye, Roasted Chipotle Sauce and Grilled Scallions on a Corn Tortilla
◦ Chocolate Baklava: Rolled Phyllo Dough with Toasted Almonds and Dark Chocolate Sauce
◦ Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Breadcrumbs*
◦ Seared Venison Loin with Wild Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Kumara Purée
◦ Beef Empanada
◦ Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée (GF)
◦ Marinated Chicken with Peanut Sauce and Stir-fried Vegetables
I have 57 items I would like to try this year. I am more of an adventurous eater than my wife, that’s my nice way of saying I LOVE FOOD
Active Eats – NEW!
• Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s® Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers, and Green Onions
• Roasted Verlasso Salmon with Quinoa Salad and Arugula Chimichurri (GF)
• Berbere-style Beef Tenderloin Tips with Onions, Jalapeños, Tomato, and Pap (GF)
• Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion, and Snap Peas (GF)
• Grilled Lamb T-Bone with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies (GF)
• Lamington: Yellow Cake Dipped in Chocolate and Shredded Coconut
• Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes
• Escondidinho de Carne – “Little Hidden One”: Layered Meat Pie with Mashed Yucca (GF)
• Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Tomato, and Onions (GF)
• Pão de Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread (GF)
• Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup served with a Pretzel Roll
• “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce (GF)
The Cheese Studio, Hosted by Boursin® Cheese – NEW!
• Braised Beef “Stroganoff” with Tiny Egg Noodles, Wild Mushroom, and Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce
• Savory Caramelized Onion Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese Tart with Cold Arugula Salad and Aged Balsamic
• Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce
• Spicy Chicken Bao Bun
• Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles
• Chicken Potstickers
Coastal Eats – NEW!
• Lump Crab Cake with Napa Cabbage Slaw and Avocado Lemongrass Cream
• Baked Shrimp Scampi Dip with Sourdough Baguette
• Seared Scallops with Roasted Corn and Butterbean Succotash and Chili-Chipotle Butter Sauce
Flavors from Fire – NEW!
• Piggy Wings: Roasted Pork Wings with Korean BBQ Sauce and Sesame Seeds
• Smoked Corned Beef with Warm Crispy Potatoes, Pickled Onions, and Blonde Ale Beer Fondue featuring BelGioioso Romano and America Grana Cheeses
• Sweet Pancake with Spicy Chipotle Chicken Sausage, Onion Jam, and Maple Butter Syrup
• Chocolate Picante: Dark Chocolate Mousse with Cayenne Pepper, Chili Powder, and Raspberry Dust
• Boeuf Bourguignon, Purée de Pommes de Terre: Cabernet Sauvignon Braised Beef with Mashed Potatoes
• Crème Brûlée à la Confiture de Framboises: Crème Brûlée with Housemade Rasberry Jam (GF)
• Loaded Greek “Nachos”: Pita Chips, Meatless Sausage Crumbles, and Vegan Tzatziki
• Taste of Greece: Stuffed Grape Leaves with Lemon Dill Sauce, Grilled Octopus, and Feta Cheese Dip with Warm Pita
• Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour DOLE® Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise
• Grilled Tuna Tataki with Seaweed Salad and Pickled Cucumbers and Wasabi Cream
• Teriyaki-glazed SPAM® Hash with Potatoes, Peppers and Onions and Spicy Mayonnaise
Hops & Barley
• Smoked Beef Brisket and Pimento Cheese served on Griddled Garlic Toast
Islands of the Caribbean
• Jamaican Beef Patty with Mango Salsa
• Mojo Pork with Black Beans, Cilantro Rice, and Pickled Red Onions (GF)
• Quesito: Puff Pastry with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Guava Sauce
• Crispy Calamari with Spicy Pomodoro Sauce
• Costoletta di Agnello alla Marchigiana: Braised T-Bone Lamp Chops and Potatoes with Vidalia Onions, Thyme, Bay Leaf and Lamb Jus
• Absolut Penne: Vodka Sauce with Shrimp
• Cannoli al Cioccolato: Chocolate-covered Cannoli filled with Sweet Ricotta, Chocolate, and Candied Fruit
• Rib Eye Taco: Marinated Rib Eye, Roasted Chipotle Sauce, and Grilled Scallions on a Corn Tortilla
• Tequila Chipotle Shrimp: Served on a Black Bean Huarache garnished with Red and Green Cabbage, Queso Fresco, and Crema Mexicana
• Kefta Pocket: Seasoned Ground Beef in a Pita Pocket
• Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions, and Tzatziki Sauce
• Chocolate Baklava: Rolled Phyllo Dough with Toasted Almonds and Dark Chocolate Sauce
• Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney
• Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Breadcrumbs
• Seared Venison Loin with Wild Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Kumara Purée
• Beef Empanada
• Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée (GF)
• Charcuterie in a Cone with a selection of imported Spanish Meats, Cheeses, Olives and an Herb Vinaigrette
• Traditional Spanish Paella with Shrimp, Mussels, Chicken, and Crispy Chorizo (GF)
• Seafood Salad with Shrimp, Bay Scallops, and Mussels, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, White Balsamic Vinegar, and Smoked Paprika (GF)
• Marinated Chicken with Peanut Sauce and Stir-fried Vegetables
• Seared Shrimp and Scallop Cake with Cold Noodle Salad
• Red Hot Spicy Thai Curry Beef with Steamed Rice
Breakfast. Is it the most important meal of the day? Is it your favorite meal of the day? Breakfast in Walt Disney World can be the FUNNEST meal of the day!
I love getting up and out the door in the morning at WDW. There are endless breakfast options to get your day started. Here are some ideas and some “don’t miss” suggestions!
For little ones (and not little ones!) character breakfasts are a lot of fun. My son’s favorite is Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Napkins swinging and hands clapping are the highlights. The buffet is standard offering much the same fare as you will find all around the resort – mickey waffles, eggs, fruits, brownies :)! But a great time with Mickey, Minnie and friends.
One of my favorite character breakfasts is “Play n’ Dine” at Hollywood Studies at Hollywood & Vine. Dine with popular Disney Junior friends Handy Manny, Doc McStuffins, Jake, and a few others. The buffet is always a winner with additions like bread pudding, cheesy potato hash, and custom egg station.
Another interesting and off-beat character breakfast is at Garden Grill in Epcot’s “The Land” pavilion. You will meet Mickey and friends who are wearing adorable farmer outfits! Breakfast is somewhat unique! Many come here to dine on Chip’s Sticky Bun Bake. Mickey waffles, chocolate sauce, and a variety of salsas made from plants grown at The Land round out the experience! My son was very excited that the restaurant rotates and you get to see different sights as you dine.
My last comment on character breakfasts is at the Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom. Our Hundred Acre Woods friends make the rounds while you dine. The buffet is similar to others, but one unique breakfast item is the Puffed French Toast found on the children’s buffet station. This reminds me of my childhood and is a must!
The best breakfast on property in my opinion can be found at the Polynesian Resort’s Kona Cafe! I appreciate their menu items being different from the typical breakfast. Many come here for Tonga Toast (very big French Toast stuffed with a lot of yumminess). French Press Kona Coffee and Macadamia Nut Pancakes for the win! A runner up is The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The offer organic coffee, chicken sausage, sweet potato pancakes, key lime eggs benedict, and more. They feature full menu and buffet options!
In recent visits we have gotten to really like Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie. When you walk in you are greeted by a beautiful display of french bakery items. I go for the Florentine quiche and a mimosa. I don’t recommend ordering a cappuccino as it is from a pre-made machine, not made fresh.
It can be a little bit of a scavenger hunt if you are looking to stay healthy at breakfast. Here are a few tips! Buffets will usually have hard boiled eggs, fruit, oatmeal, and yogurt. You will find whole-grain croissants as well- don’t be fooled, they are butter city!! Some buffets have an egg station and they always whip up egg whites for me. Starbucks has a spinach and egg white wrap that I often grab in the parks as well. Food courts have cereal, sometimes protein drinks in their cooler, yogurt, and fruit. Table service restaurants are great at customizing for you. I have seen many with gluten free options as well!
Next time you are in Walt Disney World, let breakfast be the funnest meal of your day!!
In Part 1, I shared information about flying to LAX from Midway and getting to Disneyland via Disney’s contracted shuttle service. I also introduced the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. To reiterate some comments about the grounds, the G.C. is impeccable. There are so many qualities that make it stand above the rest of your hotel options. I will be revisiting some previously discussed and expanding further. Enjoy, and if you haven’t read Part 1, you may want to read it before continuing.
The proximity to the parks from the Grand Californian is a feature that some overlook. The ability to be anywhere in California Adventure or Downtown Disney and return to your room within 10 minutes is a convenient characteristic. Couple that with travelling with a five and two-year-old and it’s a recipe to enhance everyone’s moods. I would estimate the time from Disneyland to our room was between 15-20 minutes. This is similar to staying on the monorail loop at WDW and returning from Magic Kingdom.
We arrived a couple hours before our reservation at Blue Bayou. We did not waste any time heading over to Disneyland. We exited the Grand Californian by way of their California Adventure entrance. This may have been a mistake. It was our first time in the park, and we found ourselves engrossed with several aspects of the park during our walk. For example, our walk took us by my wife’s and my favorite attraction, Soarin’. It was so difficult just walking right by! Another thing I regret was walking down Buena Vista Street from the park to the main entrance too quickly during our first visit. I found some of us wanting to stop multiple times. However, the Grand Californian’s entrance to California Adventure is amazing if timed correctly. It was BY FAR the quickest/easiest entry into any Disney park we have ever completed. The Plaza area between the two parks is very simple. I may have been expecting more, but I feel that Disney could do a bit more here. The Plaza seemed baron and bland. I get it. They want you to move into the parks, but it felt like it was missing something. Getting into Disneyland was surprisingly quick. It was mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, so that was probably why it was so fast.
We wanted to take a few pictures on our way to Blue Bayou.
If you are looking for a place to eat in Disneyland, do a little research on Blue Bayou. You will find that almost all reviews of the restaurant are positive. You are also going to find that the place is very busy and can fill up quickly. We arrived to Blue Bayou early. We asked if we could be seated early, and they accommodated us without any hesitation. Again, our timing was perfect because there were a lobby full of people waiting when we were done eating. The atmosphere and theming at Blue Bayou is amazing. The setting is nighttime in the New Orleans bayou. Disney did an outstanding job mimicking the theme. Additionally, the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction begins floating through the outer perimeter of Blue Bayou. Some of the best seats in the restaurant are near this perimeter. Blue Bayou offers guests Cajun fare. They have a decent amount of options to choose from. Here is a link to their dinner menu: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/disneyland/blue-bayou-restaurant/menus/dinner/. I tried the gumbo and Monte Cristo sandwich. Both items were delicious. Below are pictures of the food.
After dinner, we decided to visit a few attractions. Our two-year-old daughter decided she would rather wait in lines on another day. Instead, she and mom did a little shopping on Main Street. That left our five-year-old son and me to experience some of the attractions. We were already near Pirates of the Caribbean and the wait wasn’t too bad. He had been to Walt Disney World, but Pirates was down for refurbishment during his visit. This was his first time on the ride. It went really well for the most part. He noticed that the first scene was in the restaurant where he just had eaten. He got a little scared when it went dark, but, knowing his personality, I knew he would be fine. He LOVED the first drop! This kid likes fast and wild rides (unlike his dad), so I was not worried about the drops. He got a kick out of the scenes. However, the boats got backed up badly. We were stuck near the drunk pirate saying, “Here kitty, kitty” for nearly 10 minutes. It was awful. I kept trying to have him look at other scenes and talking to him about other things, but we were on the right side of the boat very close to the animatronic. After the scare on Pirates of the Caribbean, he decided he wanted to go up Tarzan’s tree. He actually caught me off guard. By “catching me off guard,” I mean he took off running to the attraction and up the stairs without us discussing it. Luckily, we were close and, he’s five, so it was relatively easy catching up to him. The wait for Jingle Cruise was surprisingly low, so I knew we had to ride it. I think the wait was only around ten minutes. My son was unimpressed. I was amused and enjoyed the Christmas overlay which I’ve never seen before. I took some pictures of the Jingle Cruise, but they turned out terrible. Next, we headed to Fantasyland. In Fantasyland, we visited Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and one of our favorites: Peter Pan’s Flight. As much as I wanted to stay, I knew he would be getting tired soon, so we headed back to the room. I snapped one of my favorite pictures from the trip on the way out of Disneyland.
Come back to enjoy the rest of our Disneyland trip.
Justin Eggenberger, Co-owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @JAEggenberger
You have your trip booked, dining reservations made, fast passes selected, now it’s time to pack! It can be overwhelming. You may ask yourself, “How much do I pack and what will I need in the parks every day?”
Let’s start with the basics, clothes for everyday and I usually pack an extra set just in case. Now the resorts have laundry area, but who wants to wash clothes on vacation! I learned this the hard way. I didn’t quite pack enough. Disney provides shampoo/conditioner and soaps of course, but; if you have long thick hair like myself you may want to bring your own. The travel sizes from the store work great!
You’re going to get hungry, so be sure to bring snacks! We bring snacks to have at the park and in the room. The room they take up in your luggage leaves space for you to bring home your souvenirs. This will help save a few dollars when you need a little something until your next real meal.
Chargers for whatever electronics you may bring with you. We have phones, laptops and tablets. Another good idea, (a friend suggested a couple years ago) is a power strip for your room. It makes it much easier to plug in a few gadgets at one time. We were able to put the strip up on the table, making it easier to get to as well.
Band-Aids, you will do lots of walking! Your most comfortable shoes can cause blisters with all that walking. They are also handy to have on hand, just in case little ones get boo-boos. It is Florida, so sunscreen is essential especially during the summer. You would not want to be miserable with a sunburn at Disney.
If you are flying and using Magical Express, pack whatever you might need as soon as you get to the resort or airport in your carry on. It will be a few hours before your luggage arrives at your resort room and you will definitely need your magic bands. Magic Bands are needed (or speed things up) to check in to Magical Express at the airport. If you do online check in, you may receive notification before you arrive at your resort that your room is ready. You will be able to go straight to your room and by-pass the lobby and check in.
I have included my typical packing list for a Disney trip. Now on trips where we have matching shirts, I list those individually so I do not forget one. The column “In tote” is my Disney tote, that I keep things together ready to pack for our Disney trips. The items marked with an * are items we put in our carry-ons. You may not need as many items in your carry on, but bored kids on a plane are not fun.
|Disney Packing Checklist|
|In bag||In tote||In bag||In Tote||In bag||In Tote|
|tennis shoes||tennis shoes||medication*|
|flip flops||crocs/flip flops||razor|
|flip flops||autograph books*||giftcards*|
|undergarments||penny containers*||small wallets*|
|socks||back packs||wipes for park bags|
|hair stuff||magic bands*|
|brushes/combs||magical express info*|
|hairties||snacks for flight*|
|*put in carry on|
Packing for the parks
We always take bags. One, I keep my phone, maps, schedule (yes, I am THAT Disney person!), wet wipes, small wallet with cash and gift cards and a portable phone charger. A portable charger is a great investment. You will have your phone out a lot taking pictures/videos or checking the Disney World app with your fast passes, reservations and maps so batteries tend to die much quicker than usual. The kids “carry” drawstring backpacks with their autograph books, pressed penny change tubes, ponchos (you never know when you will need it in Florida), snacks, and small wearable fans if we travel in summer.
Make a list, start early and add to it as you think of something. Have it handy while you are packing, makes packing for the magic less stressful.
If you do any research on a Disney Cruise odds are you will find mention of Fish Extenders or FE’s. What are these mysterious things that people are talking about? Fish extenders are pockets or bags hanging from the fish, seahorse or starfish that is located next to your door.
The Fish Extender gift exchange is all about fun! If you are cruising with kids, they will LOVE it. They will run to the room to see if there is something in the FE. Even adults enjoy it. The adults may not be running to the room, but we are always excited to see what is in our pocket.
Fish extenders take many shapes and forms. A fish extender can be as simple as a bag hanging from the fish. If you would like to order a special personalized one, check into etsy.com or ebay.com. If you are able to sew you can also make one yourself. Here are a couple patterns that you can use.
Now you are probably asking why? Fish extenders are used for fish extender gift exchanges.
In order to sign up for the gift exchange on your cruise you will need to search facebook for the FE exchange group. You will search using the ship name and the dates of your cruise. You can also check out this website for links to the facebook group for a 2017 cruise: https://sites.google.com/site/fefunforall/home/2017
Once you find and join the FE exchange group for your cruise, you will need to give the coordinator the names of everyone in your party and your room numbers. If you are in more than one room, sign up every room and list the guest in each room so everyone receives their gifts in their respective rooms. There will need to be a fish extender at each room participating in the exchange.
You will need to sign up for the FE exchange in order to receive gifts. There have been instances of cruisers putting up their fish extender and distributing gifts to others. Unfortunately, they did not sign up for an exchange and did not receive any gifts.
Once sign-ups have been ended, the coordinator will give you a list of people and staterooms that are in the Fish Extender exchange. Gifts can be put together for the entire family or for each person individually. It is at your discretion. If you are signing up for the exchange, plan to give out gifts at least once during the cruise. If you cannot give gifts, do not sign up for the exchange.
Gifts can be purchased or made. If you need ideas for Fish Extender gifts, just check out Pintrest or a simple google search will bring up tons of ideas. Some people bring an item from their state or the country they live in. We have received magnets, bookmarks, small photo albums, photo frames, candy, lanyards, sand toys, stickers and other great things. Most people stick to the Disney theme, but it is not required.
You are not required to spend a certain amount or limit the amount that you spend. It is at your own discretion. Remember that whatever gifts you choose to give must be packed in your luggage and brought on the ship. There will be plenty of gifts to take home as well.
One last thing, be sure to zip tie your fish extender to your fish. It doesn’t happen often, but a fish extender does disappear from time to time.
Our family traveled to Disneyland over the Thanksgiving holiday. Ideally, we would have chosen a different time to visit, but several personal factors impacted our travel dates. We flew out of Midway, located in Chicago, IL, on Tuesday morning. The flight lasted four hours. We have only flown as a family of four on one previous trip. Our five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter fly a lot easier than their anxious father. My wife, Tracy, is definitely the “team captain” when it comes to flying, and dad just plays pack mule. Moving the kids through security and other congested areas is definitely a team effort, but Tracy handles most of their needs throughout the airport. Additionally, she flies with a child on each side of her, which demands a great deal of energy and effort. My primary duties are hauling the luggage and assisting our son to and from the restroom. The first time we flew into LAX, we obtained a rental vehicle with AVIS. (Remind me to create a short post on how big of a nightmare getting the vehicle was.) This time we used Disney-contracted transportation.
As expected, the contracted shuttle service in L.A. is much different than that of Orlando. In L.A., there are no cast members to make your luggage magically appear in your resort room. You have to gather your luggage and haul it out to a waiting area. The area is labelled and identified with green markers. The pickup area at LAX is a step above (as in worse than most) the cluster most airports are. It is setup in a giant “U.” (See the graphic below.) We waited in one of the first stops, which meant it took nearly an hour for the shuttle to make its way around the entire pickup area. It was miserable. After completing the tour of the pickup area, the driver announced that we were on our way to Disneyland which could take up to an hour and a half. Luckily, the traffic was not bad and we made it in about 40 minutes. This commute was a stark contrast to our drive to Yorba Linda in the summer of 2016. The round trip cost our family slightly less than $100. I don’t recall the exact dollar amount. Here is a link to Disneyland transportation site: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/guest-services/transportation/
We arrived at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa mid-afternoon. The resort is incredible. Upon arrival, cast members welcomed and asked us if we needed anything. They also directed us to the lobby’s check-in desks. The cast member was efficient and friendly. He also was quick with valuable information about getting to our dining reservation and utilizing the extra magic hour the next morning. He also shared information about the resort. Overall, the cast member was a great introduction to the Grand Californian.
The lobby and atrium of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa are magnificent. The theme is described as “Craftsman-style Elegance” by Disney. It is so much more than that. The color is a dark wood, which comforts guests with a cozy feeling. Within the atrium is a very large fireplace with a sitting area near it. We were there while Christmas decorations adorned the area. The decorations featured an extremely large tree and a magnificent gingerbread house. The decorations had a classic feel without going over the top. This trend continued throughout the parks. Our first day in California was the warmest, but we did not swim. However, the pool area is extremely nice and offers enough space for a vast amount of guests. The Grand Californian offers two amazing features, which no other Disneyland resort can offer-an entrance to California Adventure and Downtown Disney. The resort also has multiple dining areas highlighted by Napa Rose and Storytellers Café. Both offer wonderful dining experiences. There is also a snack area called White Water Snacks and two lounges. Overall, we decided we would stay at this resort when we return to Disneyland.
Come back to enjoy the rest of our Disneyland trip.
Justin Eggenberger, Co-owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC
email@example.com Twitter @JAEggenberger
So often when talking about cruising with friends and family, the first thing I hear when suggesting Disney Cruise Line is “I don’t want to be on a ship with all those kids!” or “isn’t that line just for families?”. I had the absolute pleasure of cruising with five of my friends last November and found out for myself just how wrong both of those statements are.
Spaces on the ship
-Mallory says “I went in thinking wed have to stick one little portion of the ship to avoid hyped up children. That wasn’t the case at all!”.
-the Cove pool and bar was one of our favorite hangouts on the ship. The Cove is an adults only area and Disney does a wonderful job of enforcing this rule. There are cast members near the “entrances” gentling reminding families that this is adults only area and not to linger as they pass through.
-The District includes several very different bars and lounges. The whole area is a great area for adults to have a drink, dance, and even sing.
-Don’t think that the “adults only” areas are the only places you’ll find magic. We also rode the aquaDuck and of course ran into some of our favorite characters!
Dining and Entertainment
-“some of the best food I’ve ever had”
-Disney utilizes rotational dining in which your party rotates to a different dining room (Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace, and Animator’s Palate) with your serving team every night.
-Each dining room provides a different atmosphere and menu. Everything we tried was delicious!
-Our serving team was outstanding! They really engaged with us and learned some of our likes and dislikes. For example, we had a bowl of cherries on our table every night. They definitely brought a little extra magic to our trip.
-We went to a show every night before dinner. These truly are “Broadway style” and appealed to all ages kids to adults. Absolutely phenomenal!
-Room service is also an available option for dining. We used it for snacks and coffee in the morning. We were sure to order milk and cookies and of course Mickey Bars!
-In additional to the dining rooms and room service, Cabanas is also an option. Cabanas is casual buffet style dining with many yummy options and we were always able to find a table to seat us all.
-There were five of us and we were able to book two connecting balcony rooms.
-Plenty of space for all of us.
-Bathrooms are split which was a HUGE bonus with five adults getting ready for dinner or a day in port.
-Beds were comfortable as was the fold out on the couch
-As our rooms were connecting, the divider between our two balconies was able to be opened which let us has have one large balcony to share. The below picture is before the divider was open.
-We had two ports on our ship: Nassau and Castaway Cay
-Nassau was our first port and we scheduled excursions here. There was a large selection of excursions and we had no problem finding two that our group split up to participate in. The selection of excursion was varied and had great options for families and adults.
-Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island) was our second port.
-When we first boarded the ship we went directly to guest services to register for the Castaway Cay 5K. 5K participants we among the first off the ship when we docked at Castaway Cay. Abilities vary and we were not the only participants walking.
-After the 5K some of us went to the ship to change and we headed to beach. Serenity Bay is the adult’s only section. The water is shallow and perfect for waiting. We had no problem finding enough chairs for all of us to sit together.
-Near Serenity Bay are a bar and an eatery. Lunch was wonderful. So many options; chicken, fish, ribs, and sides. Don’t forget to grab some banana bread or ice cream for desert!
This is only a taste of our trip and I think the only complaint we had was that we didn’t have enough time to explore the ship. We embarked on Friday and left on Monday. So to answer the question of “isn’t Disney Cruise Line just for families with kids?” the answer is NO! There is so much to do for adults too!
Traveling to Disney World with little ones can be the most magical (and exhausting) trip you will ever take! The first time we took our little princess, she was 2.5. At that point, I had only traveled to Disney as a child and as an adult with no children, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into! After asking friends and scouring the internet, I found lots of good tips and tricks. We have now taken Princess L to Disney at 2.5, 3.5, and just two weeks ago for her 5th birthday. Every trip has been different because of her age and interests, but I have used a lot of the same tricks to keep myself sane throughout our trips! So here are my top tricks and tips for traveling with little ones to Walt Disney World!
- Schedule around your child’s “magic” time. This is the time of day your child is most agreeable/best behaved. When Princess L was 2.5, her “magic time” was morning. Anywhere between 7am-Noonish, she was almost always in a great mood and the most cooperative. As soon as lunch time would hit, she would turn into a hangry beast and NOTHING was going to happen until she ate something and took a nap! With that in mind, I scheduled the majority of our character meet & greets and fast passes during those hours and planned to head back to our resort at lunch time to get her fed and down for a nap. Once she was well rested, we would take her back to the park and figured anything we got done between then and bedtime was a bonus! It worked out great and we had very minimal meltdowns. We still do this, but our resort time is getting shorter and shorter. She hasn’t taken a regular nap in a couple years, but Disney tired is a special kind of tired! Also, going back to the resort for a break gives your kids a break from all the excitement, which can get overwhelming and lead to more meltdowns!
- Ziploc bags & Take n toss sippy cups are your friend! Seriously! We used Ziploc bags for everything like leftover food because Princess L is a grazer (and takes forever to eat), dirty clothes, snacks, etc. We took a gallon Ziploc bag to the park every day with a full change of clothes (shirt, shorts, underwear, socks) just in case. You never know when spills or accidents will happen and this will keep you from having to spend Disney prices on a new outfit! Bonus, the mess can be contained in the Ziploc until you get back to your resort. In 3 trips, we have had to use our change of clothes twice. Once for a potty accident and once because of a spill! Plus it’s easy to just grab the bag and toss under the stroller. We also bring a few take n toss sippy cups. My kid loves chocolate milk, but they are always in a bottle that she can’t really drink out of. Animal Kingdom does not have lids and only paper straws because of the animals, so a sippy cup comes in handy there! They are great on the plane as well. If you don’t want to wash them out, you can throw them out when you’re done. They’re fairly cheap and come in all sorts of Disney prints!
- I guarantee you will LOVE and HATE your stroller at Disney! Having a good stroller is key! A cheap umbrella stroller is okay, but you will appreciate something that rolls a lot nicer (and has storage) when you’re pushing around a child (and their gear) all day. We have a City Mini stroller, which we love. If you don’t have a nice stroller, there is really no need to go out and buy one just for vacation. There are several companies that rent strollers out in the Orlando area and they will deliver to your resort. The majority of rented strollers are Baby Jogger City Mini or City Mini doubles. You will see them all over the parks and for good reason! They push easily, fold one-handed, and have a decent storage. There are other options for rented strollers as well, but the Baby Jogger brand in particular is my fave. Bonus, they’re fairly easy to fit on a crowded bus, because they fold almost totally flat.
- Yes, there are TONS of things to do at Disney, but I’m talking about waiting in line and waiting for food. Those are the times Princess L struggles with. Not only at Disney, but in our regular life I always have a play pack in my purse. You can find them at Dollar Tree, Target, Walmart, etc. They’re a little Ziploc pack that includes a small coloring book, crayons, and stickers and they’re usually around $1. There are loads of Disney ones as well! I also keep a couple games on my phone that I know she likes but that I don’t let her play often. When the coloring book isn’t going to work and she’s burnt out looking for hidden Mickeys, I whip out my phone with her fave app open. I also bring a few power banks to charge my phone. (There are also fuel rod kiosks at the parks!) Between taking a million pics, looking up fast passes, and letting the kiddo play with my phone, my battery doesn’t last long!
- Expect nothing, appreciate everything! Taking a little one to Disney can feel (at times) like walking around with a ticking time bomb! Toddlers can be so unpredictable and you never know what they will like/dislike! Don’t be afraid to switch up plans because your kid just isn’t having it! Maybe s/he is afraid of characters. Don’t force it because that isn’t fun for anyone! There are photopass photographers everywhere, with and without characters. We have our share of pics where Princess L did not cooperate (see the Animal Kingdom picture!) It’s ok! Maybe they just want to ride Carousel of Progress six times in a row. (L’s was Haunted Mansion over and over again!) Maybe they want to watch the ducks swim around the ponds at Epcot for 30 minutes. Flexibility is key and sometimes you just have to roll with it! If you don’t force a hectic schedule, it will make for a happier trip for everyone. And no, you won’t get to see and do everything, but that is ok! I guarantee that your kid won’t remember that they hated Elsa or didn’t get to ride a certain ride. They will remember the little moments like riding on the “Mickey Bus”, eating a dole whip for breakfast, and Mickey waving to them from the parade float!
Not all these tips will work for every family, but hopefully one of two will help your family have a more magical vacation!
One of my favorite hobbies is crafting for Disney trips. I’ve made shirts for my kids, my best friend’s daughter for her band trip and most recently, for myself and my best friend on our girls’ trip for Wine and Dine weekend. We received tons of compliments on them; especially, the ones we wore the first day, the white shirts pictured below. I also used the white shirt to surprise her that she was going with me to Disney World where I was running in the Wine and Dine half marathon.
I really think matching shirts can be lots of fun! They can be practical as well. June 2015, we went with my brother and his family. We were a group of 12, all had matching shirts for each park day. This made it very easy to keep sight of our large group. It was easy for the cast members at the rides to see how many was in our group.
Our trip this past June was to see our daughter dance with Dance the World! Our mothers joined us along with our great friends and neighbors. I did not make group shirts for this trip, as we had shirts from the studio we had ordered. But, I did make all the kids shirts, even though they didn’t match.
After purchasing two autograph books for my daughter’s first trip, I decided I would make them for the kids. I bought sketch books with 100 pages of good thick paper and decorated the covers with their favorite character. For each trip, I just create a new trip page to divide up the trips. These are also big enough that a picture of the character can be placed opposite of the autograph page. I made my kids for our 2015 trip, and my friend’s children this year.
Another fun item, for the kids to do, in the parks is the pressed penny machines. I use mini m&m tubes to hold our change for those. I decorate those, as well, with their character of choice. Now, of course, you need something to carry the books and penny holders in so…backpacks it is! Drawstring backpacks are great. Lightweight and a good size for most kids! My little guy is kind of small, so we have to shorten the string up for him. But, it’s certainly doable when mommy and daddy aren’t carrying it, of course. An added bonus, they can be thrown in the washer when they get dirty!
There are so many crafting possibilities for a Disney trip that can make your trip even more magical. If you are not a crafty person or have time for that sort of thing you can always check Etsy or your favorite crafty Disney loving friend.