Food and Wine around the World!

The 2018 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is right around the corner, starting on August 30, 2018 and going through November 12, 2018. There is always so much to do and see, (not to mention taste!) at this staple Epcot festival.  One of my favorite things to do is to check out all the various food booths that circle World Showcase, not only to look for returning favorite dishes (hello Belgium Waffles!) but also to look at what new tidbits are being offered. This year’s new offerings including the Impossible Burger Slider, with wasabi cream and spicy Asian slaw on a sesame seed bun (A vegetarian dish), as well as a New Brunswick Slider, which is a “Pot Roast Style” beef brisket on a potato roll.

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The Impossible Burger Slider – hooray for a Vegetarian Dish! 

In addition to the new food, there’s over some exciting new events being offered, including Sunday Brunch With the Chef. This experience includes a brunch buffet followed by a conversation with some of the most recognized chefs in culinary television. I’m a big fan of both Chef Art Smith and Chef Carla Hall, who will both be a part of this event.

One of the other things I always look forward to at the Food and Wine Festival is checking out the new merchandise, and this year is no exception. I can never resist the trash can shaped salt and pepper shakers that are released each year, and I’m sure I’ll be adding to my collection again with this year’s cute design. Figment is once again the honorary mascot for the Food and Wine Festival, and is being featured on various merchandise including coffee mugs and the exclusive Dooney and Bourke purse.

Of course, no visit to the Food and Wine Festival is complete without checking out the Eat to the Beat Concert Series, which has over 30 different acts performing at the America Gardens Theatre.  Along with some traditional returning favorites like Sugar Ray and Tiffany, this year has some fun new acts coming to the stage, including 98 Degrees and Vertical Horizon.  Don’t forget you can always book an Eat to the Beat Dining Package where you can you can eat at select restaurants and have reserved seatings for the concert being offered that night.

What event are you looking forward to the most at the Food and Wine Festival? Will you be watching for a certain band at Eat to the Beat? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to contact Adventure is Out There Travel for all your Food and Wine booking needs.

Pop Century Refurbished Rooms

Many families consider a particular Disney World Resort their “Home Resort”. My family has stayed in various hotels and we always come back to Pop Century and it has become our “Home”. Why do we choose Pop? First off, it’s the first hotel we stayed in on our first trip so we are a little sentimental. Second, we like the cost of a value hotel.

The biggest draw back at Pop for years had been that the rooms only had double beds. WELL NO MORE!! Pop Century is refurbishing their rooms and the double beds are being replaced by QUEEN BEDS! When you enter a two queen room you will see one queen bed and a table and chairs. This table is actually part of the murphy bed.

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Once you fold down the murphy bed, you have 2 queen beds!

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On each side of the beds are small nightstands with usb and regular outlets. There are also lights above each bed.

I love the flooring change! My mother has always harped on carpet cleanliness in hotels and it rubbed off on me. Now the rooms have a wood-like floor. I love not having to worry about having shoes or socks on when roaming around the room. It quiets that mom voice in my head.

Below the new BIGGER TV is another strip including usb and normal outlets and a dresser. Inside the doors of the dresser is a small safe. I love the number of outlets available. With 4 people trying to charge all their electronics/phones, the more outlets the better. I used to pack a power strip to make sure we had enough outlets. That is no longer needed.

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On the right of the dresser and tv area is a small shelf area with a refrigerator on the bottom. There is also a small coffee maker in the room as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018-02-24 14.16.29One of the biggest improvements in the room is the bathroom. In the past the bathroom was separated from the main area by a curtain. Now, it’s a barn type door that you can slide into place so everyone can have some privacy.  They have also added more shelving to hold your bathroom items.

The bathroom area also includes a small closet and also the ironing board. Inside the brown doors you will find the iron and a blow dryer.

The toilet/shower area is separated from the sink area by another sliding door. The new shower/tub has glass doors which stops those ever present puddles that we had with the shower curtain. One downfall for those of us who loved to bring home the soaps and shampoos at the end of each trip is the new shower gel, shampoo and conditioner dispenser.

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The best part of the new bathroom is the new double shower head! My son wants the same shower head in our home bathroom. You can adjust it to use just one of the heads or both. It felt great after a day walking the parks.

Next time you want to save some money, but still enjoy the perks of staying on Disney World property, check out Pop Century.

Contact your AIOT Adventure Planner to book your next Disney trip!

Disneyland Visit Part 2-First Time in Disneyland and Blue Bayou

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

justin@adventureisouttheretravel.com                  Twitter @JAEggenberger

Disneyland Visit Part 1-Arrival and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

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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

justin@adventureisouttheretravel.com                  Twitter @JAEggenberger

Is Disney Cruise Line Just for Families with Kids?

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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.

 

Accommodations

-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.

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Ports

-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!

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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!

Surviving Disney with Small Children

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!

  1. 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!  disney-tiredWith 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!
  1. 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!
  1. 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.  lila-strollerIf 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.
  1. 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!
  1. Expect nothing, appreciate everything! Taking a little one to Disney can feel (at times) like walking around with a ticking time bomb!  i-hate-akToddlers 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!

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Houston / Galveston Fun (Rodeo photo Reba concert)

Houston/ Galveston Fun

 

The Houston/ Galveston area has so many wonderful things to see and do. This year Houston is host to Super Bowl 51 Patriots Vs Falcons. Annual events for the area include Galveston, Mardi Gras in February this is the 106th year for the island.  Mardi Gras is tons of fun plenty of live music, drinks, and parades they do offer family events, but this is mostly an adult event.  In Houston one of the favorite annual events is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo this event established in 1931 occurs annually usually in March. This event has brought families fun for generations with carnival rides, fabulous Texas BBQ, shopping, great headliner music entertainment, pig races, etc. it’s fun for hours.  Baytown, host a yearly NHRA race around April.  This event is lots of fun for the whole family with nitro cars going head to head in a quarter mile at 300+ mph.

Year round entertainment is plentiful in the Houston area. The Downtown Aquarium, features carnival style rides, larger than life aquariums, and a restaurant. Houston has many museums to choose from Science, Health, Children’s, and Holocaust Museums just to name a few.  Houston, boast a great theater district with theaters both inside and outside. The Houston Zoo is not to be missed it’s truly Texas sized at 55 acres. The Houston Space Center has many great exhibits and hands on actives for the young and old alike. Be sure not to miss seeing the Apollo control room and the future of Mars exploration spacecraft.  The USS Texas BB-35, it’s notable for being the only remaining World War I-era dreadnought battleship. A short drive from the USS Texas you have the San Jacinto Monument at 567.31-feet-high this monument is 12feet taller than the Washington Monument. Houston, is also the home of many professional sports teams including football, basketball, baseball, and soccer just to name a few most of the facilities offer stadium tours also. Houston also has Wet’n’Wild SplashTown its a great sized waterpark guaranteed to cool you off on those hot Texas days.  Opening in the Spring of 2017 Gilley’s after many years the old Houston icon is coming back to Houston in a new location.  If Gilley’s sounds familiar to you that was the dance hall used in the filming of the Urban Cowboy.

Galveston Island is a great place to have a fun and relaxing time. The Sea Wall & The Strand are extremely popular places to be with food, live music, and fun abounding.  The newest adventure is the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier (amusement park) its built out 1,130 feet over the Gulf of Mexico built in the same location as the original that was destroyed during Hurricane Carla. After that the original was replaced with the USS Flagship Hotel that was destroyed during Hurricane Ike now the new Pleasure Pier stands in its place. Moody Gardens is also great family fun with 4D theaters, a rainforest, aquariums, a beach, and a flight museum. The Island of Galveston is very rich in Texas history and American history many immigrants that where moving to America came to Galveston from overseas the area has  many old home tours that are great to see.  Schlitterbahn Galveston Island it’s an indoor water and outdoor water park for guaranteed fun even in the winter. Last but not least The Galveston cruise ship terminal, Disney, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean Cruise lines have 4 to 7 day trips to Mexico and the Caribbean.

Within a short drive of the Houston / Galveston area are some places that you may want to visit also. The Blue Bell Ice Cream factory (in Brenham, Texas) and Shiner Brewery (in Shiner, Texas) these Texas originals are sure to please.  Surfside Beach is a great little beach that allows you to drive and park on the beach unlike Galveston were you have to park on the Seawall.  A Casino is now located just north of Houston in Livingston, Texas, called Naskila Gaming. Lake Conroe (near Conroe, Texas) is a great place for boating fun.

 Lodging is vast in the area from 5 star hotels, hotels with a view of the beautiful Houston skyline, or a relaxing view of the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston.  Whatever your heart’s desire it’s here for you.  Food is also plentiful in this region.  Although, I have to say I’m partial to the shrimp, BBQ and Mexican food in the area.

 

Did You Know Volume #1: Valet Parking

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This past September, my family spent a weekend at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge for a joint celebration of my son’s 16th birthday and my 40th (wow, that hurts to type).  When we pulled in on Friday morning, I decided to use Disney’s valet service.  Outside of Tables in Wonderland, this would be my first time using Disney’s valet service.

I am that guy that likes to drive myself around Disney property; nothing against Disney transportation, I’m just a control freak!

After we checked in and had a bite for lunch, we called upon the valet to retrieve our car so we could head over to the Magic Kingdom for a few hours before closing out the day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  While waiting for our vehicle, an attendant asked if we needed any directions or help.  Being a Disney Super Dad, I said, “No Thank You.”  The attendant then asked where we were headed, and I replied, “Magic Kingdom.”  This is when I learned, thanks to another great Cast Member, that once you pay the daily valet fee (currently $25.00) at any of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts, you can also use the valet service at any of the other Deluxe Resorts (on the same date) without having to repay the fee.

Upon hearing this, I immediately felt like a schmuck, after all, I know everything, I’m a Disney Super Dad, remember…

Much to my surprise, we were able to drive into Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa; use valet service, then hop the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom (I’m a simple guy and am easily impressed by the little pleasures, lol).

Now, anyone who’s visited the Magic Kingdom knows that getting from the parking lot to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) then over to the Magic Kingdom, can at times, be a bit arduous; especially if you’re carrying little ones.  Well…  Here’s your tip of the day: you can utilize valet parking at one of the monorail resorts, and then hop the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.

Now, I must throw out a disclaimer…  You are going to have to pass through security to get into any Disney resort; however, security at the monorail resorts can be especially “picky” (especially during peak times).  Therefore, you will need a “reason” to be at the resort (i.e. dining reservation, spa appointment, etc.).  In our case, we were already staying at a Deluxe Resort and had paid for the valet service, so security let us in.  In the past, you could simply say that you wanted to “look around” or “visit” the resort.  That is not always a guarantee now…

When using valet parking, it is important to remember that the fee you pay goes to Disney and not the valet attendant; so please, please, please remember to tip the attendant.

Another point to keep in mind, when you pay to park at a Walt Disney World Park, you can use that receipt to avoid paying the parking fee at another park on the same day.  This does not apply to valet parking and park hopping.  If you paid for valet service at a resort (and you are not a resort guest), you will still need to pay the parking fee at the park.

Well, that’s enough out of me for this month!

Disney World trip Reveal

     So you have made it to the reveal of your Disney vacation now what? There are many ways to reveal your surprise. I am going to tell you about my reveals first.

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     On our first trip we left Christmas Day my kids went and stayed with their grandparents on the 23rd to have Christmas with them before we left. This allowed for my husband and I to get everything packing and ready without them seeing it.  On the 24th we picked them up with a truck full of luggage and headed toward the airport. We lived about 1.5 hours from the airport at this time so we wanted to stay closer to the airport to help make our 6AM flight Christmas Day much easier. We told the kids that we were going to stay at a hotel with an indoor pool as part of their Christmas gift. They did not think anything of it they were so excited like most kids they love hotels.

      When we checked in my husband took the kids down to the pool. I used this opportunity to unpack the luggage from the car for our Disney World trip and hide it around the room.  I hid suitcases behind curtains, in drawers, and wrapped in blankets that I borrowed from the front desk on top of the make shift closet rack.  Boy what I would have given for this hotel room to have had an actual closet. Then, I joined the rest of my family at the pool.

    Later after we read The Night Before Christmas the kids were fast asleep I drug out all of our luggage into view and the BIG gift boxes for each child that had all of the Disney reveal information in it. The boxes contained: lanyards with pins, autograph book with sharpies, T-shirts that said “I’m going to Disney World,” disposable camera, Disney gift card, new DS with a new game for the plane ride and line waiting amusement, and a letter from Santa telling them they were going to Disney World.

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      The second reveal was a bit simpler.  About 6 months before our trip my husband had a major surgery and we had to take him back and forth to the doctor often.  So we used this to our advantage. We told our boys that we needed to get up early to take dad to see the doctor.  While the kids played with their friends the days before the trip I was busy packing privately in our bedroom.

    So the day of the trip my husband and I pack our car before waking the kids. We get them up and in the car a few months before bought a new house this time we are only 15 mins from the airport. We make the exit to the airport to throw off the kids I say “I need to use the restroom.” So we exit and we head to the park and ride, as we are entering the parking ride.  The kids are looking around like what’s going on. We find our parking spot and tell the kids to get out of the car.  We go back and open the trunk to reveal the luggage with my husband saying. “Hey, let’s go to Disney World.”

      The tips I can pass from the reveals are simply this use what you have. The first trip we got the grandparents involved to help and used the pool to divert their attention from the bigger picture. On the second trip we used the fact that we had visited the doctor’s lots to get them out the door early and not suspect much.

    Other reveals I have seen:

  • Scavenger hunts

  • Mickey shaped food pizzas, pancakes etc.

  • A Disney puzzle with the message on the back.

  • Character phone calls

  • Santa phone calls

  • Disney stuff as a gift

          Just remember to have fun with it. For more ideas I highly recommend going to YouTube. As always you can contact me at: amanda@adventureisouttheretravel.com or any of our agents at www.adventureisouttheretravel.com. We would love to make your Disney dreams come true.