Epcot Food & Wine Fest and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Since it is time for Epcot’s Food & Wine Fest, I thought it was a perfect time to write about our 2016 Fest experience.  My husband and I went to the Fest during the last weekend of the festival.  It was a last minute decision because we had already had a vacation in 2016 (see blog about Alaska) and we had not planned to go to the festival in the same year as our Alaskan cruise.

My husband is somewhat of a foodie, and the festival is something he had expressed a desire to experience “some day”.  Once the decision was made to go, I was able to snag a Pirate room at the Caribbean Beach Resort.  We thought the decor was fun!

pirates

 

We purchased the dining plan, so we made our first night’s dinner at Boma in Animal Kingdom Lodge, featuring an African flavor.  We arrived early so that we would be able to enjoy the decor of the Lodge and go outside to view the animals housed on the grounds.  The food was excellent at Boma.

After dinner, we went to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  The tickets are an additional expense, but I am a Christmas nut and I was very much looking forward to the party.  Main Street U.S.A. was all decked out for Christmas with lights, wreaths, music, and it even ‘snowed’!  We went on a few rides, enjoyed the free hot chocolate and cookies, shopped a bit and then watched the parade.  The Disney characters were all dressed up for Christmas.  The music, the lights, the smells……oh, how I loved it!

Disney christmas

 

The following day we went to the Food & Wine Fest.  I had done a little research and knew that we could use our quick service for some of the food (one quick service will get you 3 samples of food but must be used at the same booth).  I figured that we both could pick up food at different booths and share.  The booths all have a menu posted by them so it is easy to see what they each serve.  Below are photos of one of the booths and a sample of food.  I took many photos of booths and food and, looking through them, I wish I was back there!

chewfood

During our trip, we enjoyed Mickey’s Party at the Magic Kingdom at night, two days at Epcot’s Food & Wine Fest, one day at the Magic Kingdom, and one day at Animal Kingdom.  For a last minute trip, we were able to do all the things we wanted and even a few things we didn’t expect to do!  We had a few fast passes but, when we did not have fast passes, we were still able to ride other rides without too long of a wait, with just a few exceptions.  Since we did not have any little ones with us, if we chose to do a long wait, it was do-able.

Three tips:  1) instead if purchasing a dining plan, a quick service plan would do; 2) I would not recommend going on the last weekend of the festival.  It got extremely crowded, especially after 4 o’clock or so; and 3) I recommend doing research before you go to find out which booths serve what foods so you can make a daily food plan.

If anyone was considering the Food and Wine Fest and/or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, I would definitely encourage them to do so!

Claudia Eggenberger

 

 

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

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!

l-and-mickey

Did You Know Volume #1: Valet Parking

dwl-balcony-view

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!

How to Plan a Surprise Disney Vacation

Ahh! The surprise Disney World Vacation! Yes, it’s as fun as it sounds.

I have planned two surprise trips for my children. The question I always get asked is. HOW did you do it?  Disney requires a lot of planning and it can be a bit tricky, but it is totally worth the extra effort. I mean who does not enjoy seeing a child’s little face when a surprise is revealed? So with that being said, I have a few tips to help you with your surprise Disney World trip.

  • Be sure to let anyone you tell know that this is a surprise vacation. People love to talk about Disney and the cat can be let out of the bag well before you want it to be. So you may want to limit or selectively chose whom you tell about the trip.

Now as you progress with your reservation there are going to be things you will need or want to discuss with certain members of the traveling group. Like dinner reservations those are going to need to be booked 180 days from the first day you arrive and FastPass+ reservations these should be booked at 60 days before the first day you leave for the trip. Provided you’re staying on Disney property and yes you will want to stay on property.

  • When possible try to discuss trip details when the children/person is not around. I know this is not always possible so that’s why I included the next tip.
  • If you should need to discuss the trip while the children/ person is/are around. I highly recommend using a code word for “Disney and Disney World”

When we were planning our trips we used the code word “ceiling fan.”   The reason for this is because if my kids hear the word Disney or Disney World they would have started listening to every single world we said.  So get together and pick a code word. Remember to stay away from using anything that they will be interested in.  Examples kitty, puppy, and any toys things that they may want it could lead to a meltdown especially if you’re dealing with small children. Also, they may end up upset they did not get that item instead of being happy they are going to Disney World.

  • Avoid using the names of characters when discussing the trip while in the presence of the children/ person these names will draw attention to your conversations and it could send up a hint.
  • Be careful when you’re working on your computer like on My Disney Experience and booking your air travel. Kids love to try to sneak peaks at what you’re doing and some of them can spot the Disney header from a mile away.

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So these are just a few pointers for getting thru the planning process of a surprise Disney World trip. Stay tuned for my next post about how I revealed the trips. As always you can contact me at amanda@adventureisouttheretravel.com  like me on Facebook” Travel Agent Amanda.”  You can also contact any of our other agents at www.adventureisouttheretravel.com . We would all love to help you plan the perfect vacation for your family.