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Some our best travel blogs!  Full of tips and great information to help you plan your next vacation!

Disney Dining Plan snack credits – more than just water and chips! 

How to surprise your kids with their first Disney trip

Reserving the Magic: Tips for scheduling your advanced dining reservations

Where can I find Lightning McQueen at Disney World?

Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

 

 

Reserving the Magic: Tips for Scheduling your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR’s)

You have chosen your resort, tickets, and booked your package. Now you are ready to relax and daydream about your upcoming vacation to Walt Disney World. But then your travel agent says “It’s time to make your advanced Dining Reservations” and you have a mini freak-out. Sound familiar? Don’t worry -It happens all the time. I am the first to admit I dislike making decisions. So when there are hundreds of amazing options and all sound wonderful I tend to get overwhelmed. But let’s focus on the positive; Walt Disney World offers TONS of amazing dining options- a foodie’s dream come true! So, whether you have planned multiple Disney vacations or are in the midst of planning your first trip, think about these tips for scheduling your dining and enjoy the bountiful options.

Are you a Morning Person? If you wake up before the sun and enjoy being out and about in the morning consider breakfasts and lunches.

· BREAKFAST: Consider making some breakfast reservations for restaurants inside your favorite parks. Some take reservations before the park even opens. This will get you in before the majority of vacationers are stirring. Eat, enjoy some characters (character breakfasts are FUN, and be ready to experience many of the best attractions with low wait times.)

· LUNCH: Another option for early risers is to eat a quick breakfast in your hotel room (or while waiting for the bus) and get to the park before it opens. Being there for the opening is always fun and again, you will probably have the shortest waits and lowest crowds of the day. Just as you are getting hungry for an early lunch, the crowds will be coming in and you can sit and relax at a lunch reservation. You might even hop to another resort for your meal and enjoy walking around in a quiet area away from the parks.

Morning People

Night Owls-Have no fear! Walt Disney World is even more magical at night!

· I recommend making at least one dinner reservation at Epcot during Illuminations or at Magic Kingdom during Wishes. Many restaurants with viewing areas of these nighttime shows will dim the lights and pipe in the music during the show. Some of my favorites are California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and La Hacienda de San Angel at Epcot. Other options are available-tell your travel agent if you want to book during the fireworks or other nighttime shows.

· Restaurants are open pretty late at most locations so if you like to linger over dinner and relax in the evening there are plenty of great options in each park. I especially enjoy being in one of the pavilions at World Showcase in Epcot for dinner. The light, sounds, smells all take you right into the culture and atmosphere of the country you are “visiting”.

Night Owls

Families with Children

· I have 2 words for you: Character. Meals. These are a hit with kids and give you some forced downtime. Plus you get personal one on one interaction with characters and some really great photo opportunities. If you are on the dining plan they are a great deal! Many character meals only require one table service credit!

· If your kids are on a schedule think about keeping them on that schedule. There is nothing worse than a tired, hungry child on vacation. So try to schedule your meal times for times they are used to. And remember you can bring snacks into the park! Aim for scheduled meal times but always have some back up.

· One of the best tips I have is to get to the parks early in the morning, take a long afternoon break (when the parks are the most crowded and the weather is usually the hottest) and then go back to the parks in the evening. With this schedule a long lunch or an early dinner could fit right in without taking away from your time in the parks.

For the Spontaneous . In my daily life I appreciate (need) routine and structure. But when I am on vacation I do not want to have any plans. I don’t personally like the idea of being tied down to specific meal times each day. If that sounds familiar-read on!

· Schedule your Advanced Dining Reservations for breakfast every day. That way it forces you to get up (for you sleepy heads) , you get a good hearty breakfast, and then the rest of the day can be spontaneous! Try it-you might like it!

· If you are on the dining plan, consider trying some of the Signature restaurants. They take 2 table service credits and are top notch dining experiences. This will give you some very special meals to look forward to. I would recommend scheduling them for the beginning and or end of your trip-think of them as a celebration of the start or end of an amazing vacation.

· Look at the days you arrive and depart. If you do not plan on going to the parks one both of those days these can be great times to plan meals that won’t take time away from the parks.

 

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General Tips for All

Where to eat?

· Ask your friends who have been where they like to eat. You should get good, honest feedback that you will trust (you really have to take some on-line reviews with a grain of salt). Pose the question on your Facebook or twitter-you should get plenty of responses/opinions

· Talk to your travel agent. If you have a good one, they can recommend some dining experiences based on personal experience. Tell your travel agent about your family, dietary restrictions likes and dislikes. We will give you as much info as you need to make the best decision.

· Ask your travel agent for descriptions and sample menus of the dining locations you are interested in.

Consider the Park Hopper

· Your travel agent can give you info about park hours and crowd levels for each day of your vacation. Look at the info and try to anticipate where you might like to be on a certain day. But remember, things can change (especially if you like to be spontaneous on your vacation). So a park hopper can save the day when your plans change! You may find yourself at one park in the morning and another in the evening, but oh no!-your dining reservation is in a different park! If you have a park hopper just hop on over to the right place and enjoy your meal.


Plan Early and Be Flexible

· Advanced Dining Reservations can be made 180 days before check in. Do not wait till the last minute to decide what you want-plan ahead so you or your travel agent can make your reservations on the first day they are available.

· You may not always get the exact time you want for each restaurant. List some alternate times/locations for your travel agent in case your top choices are not available.

So, maybe you are still overwhelmed at all this info. Don’t worry! “Keep Calm and Call your Travel Agent!” That is why we are here. Thinking about these tips and what some of your preferences are will help your travel agent to help YOU have the best dining experiences for your family.

Do you need help planning your next Disney trip? Contact me today-I would love to help you.

“See Ya Real Soon!”

Aleshia Sokoloski

1-800-670-4312 ext 139
Aleshia@travelwiththemagic.com
Find me on Facebook
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Oasis of the Seas Dining Options

There are over 21 dining options on the Oasis of the Seas. The variety of options are plentiful and the food is truly amazing. The main dining room offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are over 14 complimentary options for dining including 24 hour room service. There are many options for a quick snack including the Donut Shop at the Boardwalk and Café Promenade.

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Oasisdonut

Specialty dining is offered with a per person cover charge. Restaurants include: Chops Grill, Giovanni’s Table, 150 Central Park, Solarium Bistro, Izumi, Chef’s Table, and Vintages. Causal specialty dining and snack options are Johnny Rockets, Seafood Shack, Vitality Spa Café, Boardwalk Bar, Cupcake Cupboard, and Ice Cream Parlor.

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OasisChopGrill

On our cruise we chose My Time Dining as our dining option. This was the first time we used my time dining. With this option you do have to prepay your gratuities. With my time dining you can make a reservation for each night or just walk up and wait to be seated. I highly advise making a reservation each day. The line for walk ups was very long each night. We called in the morning and made our reservations for each night. The menu is the same that is offered for the early and late seating. The menu changed each night and the variety of options was very impressive. We ate in the dining room each night. We did eat at the specialty dining for snacks and had lunch at Johnny Rocket’s one day. My family and I were very happy with all the dining options and truly enjoyed the food!!

Tonya Vega – (800) 670-4312×142 or Tonyav@travelwiththemagic.com

Kid’s Nite Out

As you know, Disney World is a wonderful place but days upon days morning until night with your children can be exhausting at times. I have two words of advice for you. Date. Night. Let me fill you in on a little secret I recently discovered…Kids Nite Out.

Whether you are looking to celebrate a special anniversary, get pampered at the spa, go on a tour, play a round of golf, or just want to get a break from your precious little angels for a few hours, Kids Nite Out has you covered. Kids Nite Out offers a wonderful sitter service where a professional caregiver will come to your hotel room. It doesn’t get more convenient than that!

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Some Disney resorts offer children activity centers which are wonderful but children must be at least 3 years old and potty trained. This was the issue I had when my husband and I wanted to enjoy a nice meal out to celebrate our anniversary. We were at Disney and our youngest was 2 and not potty trained. Kids Nite Out will watch children as young as 6 weeks old up to 12. Problem solved! They are not a Disney owned company but they are the exclusive in-room childcare provider. They not only serve Disney hotels but many hotels in Orlando and are also the in-room childcare provider for Loews Hotels at Universal Studios as well.

I should mention, I’m very picky over who watches my children. I rarely use a baby sitter while at home and have issues trusting someone with my children but I was referred to Kids Nite Out and was assured they were good. I decided to give it a go. Our resort was nearby so what did I have to lose? I made a dining reservation at Narcoossee’s and then I called Kids Nite Out. I love the message that you are greeted with over the phone. It has a woman with a lovely British accent. I just couldn’t help myself from envisioning The Nanny knocking on my hotel room door. After going through the options I spoke with a very nice professional who immediately made me feel like my children would be in good hands.

Their rates are hourly and vary depending on how many children there are, for instance:

1 child is $16/hour

2 children are $18.50/hour

3 children are $21/hour

4 children are $23.50/hour

*There is a 4 hour minimum as well as a transportation fee of $10, tip and possibly a meal (if over 8 hours). Cancellations must take place prior to 24 hours.

One important thing to note is no water activities are allowed so no swimming at the pool and no baths. The sitter we had was very professional and she had a background as a special education teacher which I really appreciated. She had a suitcase full of goodies for the kids to keep busy with and my husband and I went on our way!

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We had a wonderful date night, just the two of us…ahhhh. When we got back to the room, there were our kiddos, tucked in bed sound asleep. The sitter had detailed notes on what they did which put my mind at ease. The next day the kids raved about their sitter and told me all about the activities they did in the room. They played all kinds of games, blew bubbles, played ball, ate dinner and had a blast. It was definitely a win win for sure!

What really sold me on Kids Nite Out was when we returned to Disney the following year. The kids actually begged us to get a sitter to come to the room again. This will definitely be a tradition for our family. It allows the kids to have fun and it gives adults a nice, enjoyable time away. I highly recommend giving it a try!

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As a side note, Kids Nite Out does offer other services as well including pet setting and equipment rental. Caregivers can also be a parent’s helper at the park if you would like some extra help. Not only are they located in Orlando but also in Anaheim as well.

If you are planning a Disney vacation and would like some assistance, I’ll be more than happy to help! Feel free to contact me at corby@travelwiththemagic.com.

Goofy’s Candy Co.

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I love candy…candy, candy, candy. I am the female Willy Wonka. For this reason, Goofy’s Candy Co. is a must visit when we are exploring Downtown Disney. But this isn’t your typical candy store. Sure, they have row after row of every candy imaginable…but here they do things a little differently. Here you can make your OWN treats!

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Your customized snack begins with an order slip. This is so fun! You can choose from a Caramel Apple, Rice Krispie Treat, Marshmallows, Pretzel Rods and Cookies. Sound delicious? You’re just getting started!

The next step is to choose which type of chocolate to dip it in. I go for the white chocolate – my fave! Next are the toppings. If you can think of it, it’s likely a choice. Sprinkles, M&M’s, chocolate chips, cinnamon and sugar, crushed Butterfinger…you name it! Once you’ve made this hard decision (believe me, it’s hard) it’s time for the drizzle…

Once you’ve finished your order slip and hand if off at the counter, it will be about 10-15 minutes before you have your very own, customized snack. Be prepared… you will want to make another after the first bite!

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As if this candy playhouse wasn’t enough, there are also slushies here! Goofy’s Glaciers come in 8 yummy flavors AND – in keeping with the “build your own” theme- hat and feet pieces are available to customize your Glacier cup! Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Stitch or Princess…or you can mix and match. Goofy Princess, anyone?

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Possibilities in this candy Heaven are endless. Looking for the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs? Look no further. There are tons of pre-packaged candies and snacks for sale here. This is also the perfect place to use those Disney Dining snack credits…You’ll find something for everyone!

For more information on shops, dining, parks and more – Contact me today!

Erin Santamaria 1-877-377-0505 or erins@travelwiththemagic.com

T-REX… A Prehistoric Family Adventure

When I ask my son to tell me the coolest restaurant he’s ever been to, his answer is T-REX.  Located in the Pleasure Island area of Downtown Disney, this is not your average restaurant.  From the minute you step through the entrance you’ll feel instantly transported back in time complete with a 15 foot tall T-Rex and other life-sized creatures.

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Let’s start with the food (I like to eat)…

T-REX serves lunch and dinner (American cuisine) with a bit of prehistoric attitude. Here you can find chicken, steak, seafood, pasta and many different specialty drinks. Whether you’re in the mood for a “Neanderthal New York Strip Steak”, “Layers of the Earth Lasagna” or a “Prehistoric Smoothie”- you’re sure to find something for everyone. Reservations are suggested at this location as it is a popular place for a sit down meal. One table service credit is required on your Disney Dining Plan.

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Now, let’s move on to the atmosphere.  There are so many cool details here that I don’t know where to begin.  You will be seated in one of a few different rooms- each having their own theme.  In the undersea room, be sure to notice the 13 ft. wide octopus that seems to envelope the bar area;  its tentacles stretch up to the ceiling. Jellyfish hang from the ceiling and aquariums surround this area.

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Animatronic insects move and buzz in the prehistoric insect room.  The blue and pink ice age cave is home to animatronic wooly mammoths that seem to watch as you eat.

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The dinosaur area is also home to a gift shop. Here you will find the perfect souvenir for your little paleontologist. They can Build-a-Dino (T-REX partners with Build-a-Bear Workshop – the dinos are super cute!) and check out lots of cool prehistoric merchandise.  Paleo Zone is an area where kids can dig for dinosaur fossils and play on interactive screens. Panning for precious gems and stones and splitting geodes is also fun in Discovery Creek.

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As if the atmosphere alone weren’t cool enough here, every 20 minutes a 2 minute meteor shower takes place in the “sky”. When this happens, asteroids fly through the sky and every animal in the restaurant roars, screams and basically goes bananas! The ice age room glows from blue or pink to an orange color.  This is meant to signify the ice melting. A word of warning: We did witness a few very young children who did not like the meteor shower and found it a bit scary…but most children love it!

For more information on restaurants, dining, parks and more – Contact me today!

Erin Santamaria 1-877-377-0505 or erins@travelwiththemagic.com

You can also find me on Facebook or Pinterest.

Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom

Signature Dining at Disney – A Must

LeCellier Menu Cover

When you think of a Walt Disney vacation I’m sure that fine dining is not the first thing that comes to mind. Mickey Mouse has a way of appearing in all of our minds at the mere mention of anything Disney. When my family started our addiction of Disney traveling we never imagined that our trips would start to revolve around our dining options. This is the thing we all look forward to as we prepare for our trip. The 180 day mark is visible on every calendar in our house.

Our last visit was just a few weeks ago and we made this trip all about food. We upgraded our dining plan to the deluxe which is something I recommend to everyone that enjoys food and want to have an incredible dining experience while still on vacation. With the deluxe dining plan you get and appetizer, main course and dessert with every meal. Let me fill you in on my favorites.

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LeCellier is a Steakhouse inside the Canadian Pavilion at EPCOT. I had the pleasure of a first visit last spring and now make it a standard reservation for every visit. The setting is gorgeous, as you enter the restaurant the gardens are stellar and very inviting. I started this meal with the tomato and mozzarella salad, I can honestly say the is exceptional, I have never tasted tomatoes’ with such flavor, when mentioning it to our server she informed me that the tomatoes are grown right at EPCOT inside the Land, the only downside is that I can never again eat this salad at another restaurant, it just cannot meet the same standard. There are many choices for the main course but I cannot seem to order anything other than the Mushroom Filet Mignon. This incredible piece of Canadian AAA beef is paired with the most amazing flavored mushroom risotto that is severed with a white truffle butter sauce. You will definitely have to hit the gym before this meal so you can take it all in without guilt. It is my favorite meal at Walt Disney World. I can’t go on without mentioning the Ribeye and the New York Strip they definitely get an honorable mention. This meal is always finished with a fresh cup of coffee and the Maple Crème Brulee’.

Flying Fish is centered at the Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, it specializes in sea food. The restaurant will take you into the old days of the Atlantic Boardwalk, with décor representing old roller coaster tracks as well as a Ferris wheel and if you look close you’ll see funhouse mirrors. The open kitchen is also a plus. You can dine at a chef’s table which includes wine and dinner or just sit back and relax at a table of your own where the service is impeccable. You will definitely be treated like a celebrity while dining. Let me add that Flying Fish is known as a celebrity favorite and has been known for many celebrity sightings.

You can treat your palette to an incredible steak or seafood dish. We started our meal with the Calamari and Mussels. The Calamari was the best I’ve ever ordered and could have taken the place of my meal. For the main course I enjoyed the Signature Flying Fish Duo which is a New York Strip with Potatoes wrapped Red Snapper, who knew food could be so heavenly. The night finished with a caramelized Banana Napoleon and the Trio of Concession Sweets. We have already made another reservation for our next visit!

Remember that signature meals count as two meal credits so when planning make sure you calculate correctly. The two meal credit cost is more than reasonable for what the signature restaurants have to offer.

If you are a Steak and potatoes kind of eater do not let signature dining scare you away, take the plunge and enjoy more than just characters and attractions. Dining can be the best attraction on your vacation.

Keep your eye out for part two of this blog, Jiko, Hollywood Brown Derby and Artist Point will be the feature.

For a magical dining experience contact me Amy Blades – amyb@travelwiththemagic.com

Disney Dining Plan Snack Credits ~ More Than Just Water and Chips!

So you’ve purchased one of the Disney dining plans and have no idea what to do with the multitude of snack credits included in the plan.  Disney’s dining plan brochures list a few examples which include popcorn, soda, water and fruit.  While these are all certainly good choices (because we all know Disney popcorn is the best on the planet!) there are many more interesting ways to redeem your snack credits.

Depending on which dining plan you purchase each person will get 1 – 2 snack credits per night of your trip.  The credits are “pooled” on your account and are not child/adult specific (unlike meals) so for example a family of 4 with 2 adults, 2 children staying 5 nights and using the Disney Dining Plan has a total of 20 snack credits loaded on their account at check in.  You may choose to use as many as you’d like each day until the balance is depleted.  All credits expire midnight of your check out day.

Items that qualify as a snack credit are identified on counter service and cart menus with a purple DDP next to them.

One way to put your snack credits to good use is to use a credit for a pastry.  All of the dining plans include a souvenir mug which includes refills at your resort for the length of your stay.  So, grab some coffee in your mug and cash in a snack credit for a cinnamon roll, chocolate croissant or bagel and – voila – breakfast!   You’ll find most pastries at the resort counter service restaurants as well as the various bakeries throughout the parks are included in the dining plans as a snack credit.  So, breakfast, afternoon coffee break or late night dessert ~ check out those bakeries!

Frozen treats included as snack credits include the infamous Dole Whips in Adventureland as well as various ice cream sundaes at select locations throughout the parks and the classic popsicles such as Mickey bars sold at the kiosks and carts.

You’ll find credits can also be used for favorite theme park snacks such as churros, pretzels, fudge, funnel cakes, cotton candy and nachos.  Just be sure to look for the DDP symbol on the menu as choices vary by location.

If you are fortunate enough to be at Epcot during the annual Food and Wine Festival in the fall you are in luck!  Snack credits can be used for most of the food at the tasting booths throughout the festival.

Each time you use a snack credit your receipt will show how many credits remain.  If you are down to your final hours at Walt Disney World and find yourself with remaining credits no worries!  Most resort gift shops as well as the larger gift shops in each park offer take home snacks that work great as neighbor/co-worker/teacher gifts!  Some options include Disney themed lollipops, Mickey shaped rice krispie treats, Mickey pretzels and fudge.

 

So have a little fun with those snack credits and make sure you don’t leave any unused!

I would love to answer any questions you may have or help get you started on planning your Disney vacation.  I provide concierge booking and planning services at absolutely no cost to you!  Contact me at SusanH@travelwiththemagic.com and follow me on facebook at SusanHeidenrichTravelwiththeMagic.

A Special Treat at the Magic Kingdom

On our last trip to Disney World, we were walking through The Magic Kingdom and were stopped by two cast members.  We had just walked by  The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the cast members asked us if we had seen Mickey running away.  We said no!  They told us that Mickey was just at Storybook Treats and ordered an extra-large sundae.  Mickey had to leave to go to his own parade on Main Street.  He asked the cast members to find a family who would like to share this HUGE sundae.  And they chose us.  The sundae had 6 scoops of ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, fudge, whipped cream and cherries to top it off.

By the time I got my camera out to take a picture of the huge dessert, this was all that was left.

We were very sorry not to see Mickey, but very happy to eat his ice cream sundae!  You never know when you might be stopped by a cast member at Disney World and treated to a nice FREE afternoon snack.

Let me help you plan your next magical vacation.  My services are always FREE.  Call me, Karen Kalinowski (877) 818-6106 or      e-mail: Karen@travelwiththemagic.com