Disney Planning – What to Eat?

Allergen-free eating on the road, Florida, food, geek, Travel, United States

Disney is well known for its food options at their parks. In days of lore it was the giant turkey legs and Mickey shaped ice creams. Today Disney is trying to constantly create and sell Insta-worthy options for a growing number of teens and young adults that capture everything. For those with diet restrictions, the theme park constantly makes strides in providing more and more gluten-free, vegan, and peanut-free options for visitors. The point is, you won’t go away hungry.

Even better than all of the what you CAN eat at Disney is that you can also bring in your own food. Unlike other theme parks, Disney still allows guests to bring food and drinks (non-alcoholic) into the park without issue. For those on a budget, or with numerous food needs (I have to do Gluten Free and Pescatarian, avoiding dairy and soy), this is a godsend. It means I can make sure I have enough food options for the day without having to restaurant to stand hop just to have a snack. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t partake in a little dining fun.

For those wanting something special, there are numerous options for adults, families, and kids to have a magical time. In my line of work, we get a lot of requests for Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest which are the big “Princess” dining experiences. Beware that they can cost you a pretty penny. My group of four (including a five year old) will be dining for a late lunch at Be Our Guest and it will be $350 total, including gratuities. Granted, this is a special thing we are doing, a one and done situation, not the norm.

However, if you need to be more budget conscious, there are so many options to get food in the parks.  For those of you wanting tips and information on what is available, I highly recommend the Disney Food Blog, click here, and their awesome YouTube videos. They also share a lot of other valuable tips and tricks, which I have found to be invaluable for my own planning and assisting clients.

If you are visiting during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival you can have even more fun with your budget by buying several small plates to share with your group, or hoard to yourself.  This is a great way to try a lot for a little, and a lot of the international offerings look divine!

Don’t forget that you can order food from the sort of “fast food” locations around the park, using your phone and the Disney App, which will save you time and effort. If you have time, play with the app and see what pricing looks like before you go to the park, and practice what it takes to make an order.

All around, you should have a lot of fun! Happy Eats!

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Disney Planning – What are we Riding?

Florida, Travel, United States

More on Disney

Once you have selected which Disney parks you want to visit on which days and with who, you will have to narrow down the rest of your ideas. Gone are the days of visiting a theme park and riding everything or eating everything in one day. In this digital era, you will need to plan, plan, and plan.

Probably one of the most important things to figure out is if everyone can ride everything. Like most theme parks in the world, you need to be tall enough to ride, healthy enough to ride, and within other size requirements. Naturally, this will make it harder for young kiddos, and bigger adults. My husband is 6’4” and a lot of things are not built for people of his height. I am 5’2” and many times things are not adjusted for my short (roller coaster pads sometimes give me headaches as I am jostled around). If you are plus sized, some of rides will be downright uncomfortable, so it’s important to read reviews and make a list of rides that work for your group. For a good list and information, click here. For those with health conditions such as heart, back, and neurological, pay attention to warnings and do your research before you travel. There is nothing more disheartening than telling your kiddo that they can go on Splash Mountain, but they have not quite hit the required 40”.

My personal tip, if you are traveling with littles, is to go to the Disneyland, click here, and Disney World, click here, websites and review every single ride and their height requirements. Make a list of everything that is small person friendly and then pick what are the top rides for your group.

Also, as a side note, don’t try to push the rules and make the kids seem taller, these size guides are for your child’s safety and enjoyment and you will likely get caught!

IF you are not traveling with vertically challenged people, then select what rides you have not done, look the most fun, or are considered “classics”. I am looking at you Pirates of the Caribbean.

Once you have a list of rides, arrange them in a hierarchy of what is the most important. For my upcoming trip, it will be Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean. As I have never been to Disney World I have set plans on these. Mostly, I NEED that photo of my stepdaughter and I coming off Splash Mountain! However, your priorities may differ, maybe you need to see Ariel in her Grotto, or Dumbo is your jam, totally fine. My tip is to get the My Disney Experience App and review what is the most popular on a similar day you are visiting. So if you are going on Tuesday in October, look at Tuesdays and see what have the longest wait times through the day. From there you can select were you can use your FREE Fast Passes.

Fast Passes are essentially a line skip option, or a reservation for a ride. Everyone gets 3 selections to start their time in Disney, pick 3 and use them, then get 3 more for your day. Passes can be cancelled and altered throughout your time in Disney and you can make initial reservations 30 days ahead with tickets. If you are staying on property, you can make reservations 60 days in advance.

Perhaps the most important part of all of your activities planning is so you get to see your top activities, and save time waiting in line. Fast Passes allow you to skip the 2-hour wait for Frozen Ever After and get on with your day.

As an additional tip, if you can’t get a fast pass for what you want, monitor availability throughout the day to see what may become available as people cancel or alter their Fast Passes.

Happy Travels!

Disney Planning – Which Disney?

family, Florida, geek, Travel, United States

More on Disney

If you are staying stateside you have two parks to choose from, Disneyland and Disney World. Disneyland is in Anaheim, California and Disney World is in Orlando, Florida. Pick a coast. Both will be about the same cost, per day, with all things considered. If you are smack in the middle of the country, as I am, airfare will probably be comparable. If you want other theme parks to visit, both are by respective Universal Studios, and other similar activities. Even better, both are near oceans and seaside activities that come with such a geography.

Disneyland is comprised of two different theme parks, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. Both of these parks have unique activities, themes, “lands” and it is the original theme park under the Disney umbrella, opening in 1955. While California Adventure Park is the newest installment and expansion, which opened in 2001.

Disney World is by far a much bigger experience. The Disney World Resort complex has four theme parks for guests. The Magic Kingdom is the closest match to Disneyland, with many repeat rides and experiences, but also unique in its own right. The Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, and was followed by Epcot 11 years later. Epcot opened in 1982 as the first expansion of the Orlando property. Epcot has a focus on international cultures, events, food, and dining; which often labels it as an “adult” theme park.  Disney’s Hollywood Studios, opening in 1989, is getting the most attention recently as it has opened a Toy Story land and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in the last year. The focus on Hollywood Studios is definitely on movie magic and connecting guests to that feel. Finally, last but not least is Disney’s Animal Kingdom, opened in 1998. The Animal Kingdom is actually the largest theme park in the world, covering 580 acres, and it is themed around animals and natural areas.

All of these theme parks will offer a good variety of activities and adventures for visitors. However, it is important just to grasp the size of these theme parks and how few hours there are in a day, or one’s patience. All of Disney World is 40 square miles, roughly the size of San Francisco, or two Manhattans. While a lot of this is not fully developed, there is a lot of space to get around between parks, hotels, restaurants and everything else.

That being said, do not plan to try to go from park to park all day. For your sanity, and your family’s or friend’s I would suggest doing all single day tickets and going to one park per day. Then at the end of your stay, if you have extra time, return to your favorite or favorite(s) by upgrading your single park per day ticket. For more information, click here.

Therefore, if you are planning a trip to Disneyland I would plan for around five days. Spend one day getting there, go to Disney Springs in the afternoon, or your first park if you want. Spend one day at the other park. Then have two more days to park visit or just relax. Finally, you have day five to get home.

If you are planning on Disney World, and you want to see every park, plan on at least a week. Day one to get to the park and Disney springs. Day two Magic Kingdom. Day three Hollywood Studios. Day four Epcot. Day five Animal Kingdom. Day six is be an extra day to see favorites. Day seven travel home.

Of course, you can mix this up, skip places you have already been, or only go to one park all the days. I suggest visiting the respective websites for lists of activities and entertainment for each park and select what makes your heart excited, or the inner six-year-old squeal with delight. If you have a favorite movie, go see those characters. If your five year old is just happy to exist, plan your days around what will inspire and excite them.

Happy Travels!

Disney Planning – Where to Stay, How to Fly, How to Save

family, Florida, Travel, United States

Part 1

Part 2

Once you have a good idea of what you are wanting from your Disney trip then you can start to make solid plans.

Most importantly I think it’s important to establish a budget and what your family can afford. While everyone wants an epic vacation, it may be important to plan another year and save. This is especially true if you are saving vacation days and want to make sure you get the vacation you want!

Be real – Disney isn’t going anywhere.

What I think shocks most people is how fast the cost adds up. Disney tickets are realistically $100+ a day for everyone. More for adults. You save if you do multiple days or if you do half-days (a new program Disney is doing), or if you do an after hours option instead (like Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween party). However, tickets and pricing now varies day to day, with increased cost around holidays and on weekends. Cheaper days land on your Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (generally speaking). This is because they’re trying to reduce congestion on weekends, but also bring people into the middle of the week.

When it comes to hotels, you have choices. Plan on around $200/night for your family of four to stay in the lower 3-star kind of hotels on property. This does not include breakfast or other amenities.

If you stay off property you will save , and I’ve seen hotels within 20 minutes for around $70/night. However, if you stay off property you have to consider the cost of transfers and resort parking. But no doubt you will most likely save, regardless.

If you stay on property you also have the opportunity to combine everything for a package savings. This means your hotel + theme park tickets + flights + dining can all be bought in one go. If you like the idea of being on property, this will probably be your best option overall. BUT, don’t just buy this without checking specials, rates throughout the year, and other important options.

An added perk to being on property is that every resort has public transportation to the parks and from the airport included in your stay. That means you DON’T need a car. This is especially true when parking is between $25 to $30 a day at the resort of parks. I’ll go into if you want to leave later.

Of course, this benefits Disney if you never leave. However, there are ways to avoid costs by packing food, having groceries delivered, and meal plans with the park.

For flights, if needed, you will likely pay around $200-500/person roundtrip. From Denver (my airport) we usually pay $330 with Southwest and $200 with Spirit. For us, Southwest is usually better if we have to change our flights, and when we’re taking presents to family in Orlando (use those 2 bags baby!).

With all of this in mind, figure out what your family will need to pay for the trip and what is realistic for your budget!

Happy Travels!

Disney Planning – How to Plan

family, Florida, food, Travel, United States

Part 1

While looking at lists of everything you need to do when you plan your Disney vacation it’s all extremely overwhelming. With my work as a travel advisor (agent) it’s always best to break things into reasonable pieces. Think of it like cutting up your plate of food, the small pieces prevent you from choking and dying. This is important for Disney too. (Ok death is less imminent, but your headache is real).

If you don’t have a lot of time to break everything down and you need to make sure things get done, talk to an expert! There are thousands of travel agents that have specialized training to help you turn a Disney dream into a reality. AND it doesn’t have to be a bank breaking vacation to get help! Search locally and online and you are sure to get connected with an expert. Many times your fee is minimal or even free!

Also, check with your credit card perks, some even offer concierge and travel experts as a part of your card fees! This is especially true if you are using points for any parts your travel.

If you want to handle the whole thing yourself, then prepare for it to take a good chunk of time. Most importantly, start planning what you’re doing MONTHS if not a year in advance. Even if you have been to Disney since you were in pull-ups, the changes that roll out every few months will mean you need to update your mental picture of what you want to do.

My personal suggestion is to make a list of wishes. Ask your spouse and kiddos or friends what they want out of their Disney time. Some may be all about Star Wars, others may be into the Princesses, and some may not care. Make a detailed list of everything from rides, foods, events, shopping, and hotels. This will make putting the puzzle together much easier. If you can, have everyone pick their top 1-3 “things” they don’t want to miss and then narrow it down. Find the things that overlap, and work in the rest. Ultimately, this will help you understand what you need to plan for the most.

Once you have a good idea on what everyone is wanting (don’t forget yourself) you can get into reservations and solidified plans.

-stay tuned for part 3

Happy Travels!

Disney Planning – Getting Started

family, Florida, Travel, United States

I have never been to a Disney Park. A weird admission from a travel and media geek like myself.

See my parents didn’t really love theme parks. I don’t think my dad went to a single one with us as kids. And the biggest theme park I had been to before 2015 (I was 24) was Elitch Gardens in Denver, Colorado.

It wasn’t that my dad didn’t like fun, or even Disney movies. In fact he adores the music from quite a few of them, it was the crowds and the noise and the heat, and most importantly, the cost.

When you’re living below the poverty most of your childhood, a Disney vacation is at the bottom of the list.

Therefore, at the age of 28 I am taking on the work of planning a day at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World!

What I thought would be a simple planning of a day or two has turned into months of opening dates and reservations and hourly details. It’s insane.

Therefore, what has been a deep dive into planning a Disney World vacation, and at times a headache, has lead me to thinking that other people could use some guidance. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my tips and tricks to figuring it all out, saving money, and having the best time possible! I look forward to helping others along the journey.

Happy Travels!

Part 2

Planning for Big Events

Germany, italy, Travel

It’s common that we want a global and team participation in the big things in life. Even if we aren’t huge sport fans there is a longing to see the Olympics or world cup. Even secular peoples flock to Oberammergau, Germany every ten years just to experience the unique Passion Play. Those that are not huge beer fans go to Oktoberfest. The point is, that we long to be a part of big events as people. We want to experience what “everyone is talking about” and the “FOMO”* is a real deep seeded desire. *Fear of Missing Out

If you do decide to go to the next “big thing” make sure you do your work to make it happen. The truth is if you don’t buy your Oberammergau tickets in 2019, there won’t be any. If you don’t book hotels in X city for the Olympics, you’ll be sleeping on someone’s couch for $300 a night.

Here are my tips to making sure you have a good time.

  1. Really think about if it’s an experience you want.
    • When you are thinking you want to attend an event, really check with yourself on if it’s something you want to experience. Are you REALLY that into Football? When you’re seventy, will you still talk about this event? There are a lot of things I actively avoid because it’s not that important to me, and the chaos or cost of going is not worth it.
  2. Do your research.
    • Start with the internet and get a good idea of dates, places, cost, and what may be required of you to attend the thing you’re interested in. Cross compare data from the last time an event was happening and mentally prepare yourself for the good, bad, and ugly.
  3. Ask for help.
    • Go to online forums and ask for information and tips from people that went to the last big event. Maybe someone from last year’s Burning Man can explain just how many wet wipes you should take. Community aid can be very helpful, if not genius. However, tread with caution as opinions can murky the water.
  4. Consult experts.
    • Travel agents know an insane amount of information on different parts of the world, events, locations, and how to make your journey safe and comfortable. If you are attending a well-known event like the Olympics or World Cup they are likely already in the loop on how you can book train tickets, or hotels. If they don’t know, they have endless resources to assist in the research and understanding of the events to help you have a better time. They’re experts for a reason, and none of them would survive the digital age without being some of the best thought leaders in the industry.
  5. Be realistic about expenses.
    • If you are going to a big event, you WILL pay a premium for everything you do. During events the cost of food, lodging, transportation, and basic needs is likely to increase. If you took an economy lesson in school, this is that whole supply and demand thing.
  6. Budget high, plan on more.
    • If anything is true about travel, it’s that you will spend more than you wanted to or planned to. It’s inevitable when you fall in love with a hotel, or a dinner spot, or that purse you just HAD to have. However, so you don’t go home with no money for rent, make sure you save more than you expect to spend.
  7. Check your mental fortitude.
    • Really check with yourself if this event is worthwhile. While it may increase your Insta-Views, or you might have something new to share with your friends, make sure it’s what YOU want. So many times we latch onto trendy locations as a must visit because EVERYONE else is going there. However, that doesn’t mean it will really serve you or what you want to experience. Really think about if you can deal with the crowds, standing in lines for hours on end, and general chaos of traveling to this supposedly great event.
  8. Take a friend.
    • The buddy system is particularly helpful for crazy events. Having a friend can help keep you sane, safe, happy, and get you home in one piece. A friend means someone to make memories with, even if it’s a memory of sitting in a muddy field at a festival. This is one of those situations where a bestie might just be a necessity.
  9. Plan over a year in advance.
    • Most of these large events are scheduled REALLY far in advance. If specific dates are not shared, most of the time a rough time frame is. This is an important time to monitor flight pricing, tickets, and other arrangements you may need to go. This means a chance to see the total cost, save accordingly, and make sure everything else can get into place.
  10. Have realistic expectations.
    • Most importantly, you want to have a good time if you are shelling out thousands of dollar. However, anything and everything can go wrong. Don’t expect everything to go perfect on the day of or days of. Like a wedding day, there is ALWAYS something that will go wrong. In most instances, be grateful that no one was hurt, and nothing was stolen.

Happy Travels!

Your Body Has Always Been Fine

musings

I think about my weight and my size and my fat and my thigh gap and my chicken wings and my double chin. Every day. I think about these things.

I think about the fact that when I was a teenaged I worried about the same things. At a smaller size. At a lower weight. At a thinner face and chin.

I think about how every single day as a women or a teenager and even a preteen has been a self-conscious rage inside myself. A narration of insecurity and hatred field at my body. A constant tune of how I was never good enough.

I also know, that every women feels the same way or has felt the same way. I also know that we rarely discuss the constant mental battering we do. To ourselves, sometimes to others,

Our culture has beaten an ideal into our mind that is impossible. Impossible because it changes all the time. Impossible because it’s manufactured. Impossible because the system is rigged in its favor.

Every day. Think about that. Every day we pick at our lives. Pulling at stitches and scans, sometimes to bleed, sometimes a reminder. We go under the knife more and more for thinner and slimmer and better. We dad and crash diet. We tell our friends to join the cult of Keto or vitamins or CrossFit or no carbs. We buy waist trainers and folds of fabric to hide.

None of this is “new” per se. Humanity has a long history of fashion with its own bindings and stitched to alter our looks. What is new is that we are constantly stewing in a brew of unrealistic ideals. What was once just movies and magazines is a constant pull for our attention. What was once books and parties is 24/7 advertising. We are born and raised in “everything about us is wrong – to be better we must…”

The body I hated at 16 changed at 26 and will continue to. Why couldn’t I love it at either stage? Why must I pick at it now?

I treat myself, and I know others do the same, with so much hatred at every stretch mark and bump. I fuss over numbers that only have meaning because we give meaning to them. We are unreasonably cruel to our existence and experiences.

The truth is that at size 0 or size 24 your body is fine. Your body is this amazing thing that keeps you alive and takes you places. Your body has free thoughts. It can create life. It is a beautiful thing. Yet we are so cruel and so hateful to it

This is joy to say be unhealthy, it is to say, be happy with yourself. Don’t sit in the mirror and hate. Exist and love and be in every moment. All of it is fleeting. When you’re 90 years old and covered in wrinkles, smile that you had experience that gave you the smile lines.

I remember my grandma looking in the mirror and bemoaning her aged skin, her crooked bones, her gray hairs. But I also remember always thinking she was so beautiful with her makeup and perfume and scarves, and most importantly her kindness and love that filled my childhood home.

The choice is yours. See your beauty for what you have, or live a life hating yourself. I’m personally choosing the former.

What is Normal Anyway?

musings

Most childhood stories ring of a similar truth. There are fishing tales and campfire stories. Hikes and vacation foibles. There are similar white middle class stories that people relate to – I don’t.

My stories are a little more out there, if you will. My dad wanted to live in 1895, my mother practically grew up in that time. My dad came from his imagination and re-enactments. My mother came from a sheltered log cabin childhood. I’m not lying.

My childhood stories involve historic recreation underwear and hiding my Barbies because they weren’t historically accurate. It’s looking like Little House on the Prairie and hiding under wagons in a mock “Indian Raid”. (Mind you I was five and the line between playing and reality was very thin.)

Childhood stories are my dad trying to show me to skin a wild rabbit he had shot (I was maybe 7). The gore wasn’t the problem, instead I freaked out that something was dead and he was the one that killed it.

My stories are getting lost in the woods, or family friends’ kids leaving me behind. It’s being used to peeing in the woods, then peeing in your aunt’s yard in the city and your aunt freaking out on you!

My summers were scrapped knees and cotton dresses, lace trimmed pantaloons and matted hair from playing in the woods.

Good or bad I watched horses get castrated. We had anatomy lessons over butchered animals. We were shocked by left raccoon carcasses my father failed to warn us about.

I’m the woman that had a harder time starting a camp fire with matches, because I had only ever used a flint and steel. I’m the woman that has a more than passing interest in anatomy and the medical grotesque.

My stories don’t match the normal – but my stories do make for an interesting ice breaker.

Venice Travel Tips

italy, Travel

Venice is one of those places one dreams about visiting. It’s a bucket list destination full of legends, art, myths and plenty to explore!

If you are heading to Venice, here are a few things to remember before you hit the road…. I mean lagoon.

  1. There are no cars allowed on Venice. No cars. This means you need to take a train, or boat to the city. Trains arrive on the main island through Santa Lucia station. Planes are at the Marco Polo airport, where the train or a bit can be taken into the lagoon. If you have a car leave your car parked and take the ferry to Venice, Lido or other island.
  2. Take the Gondola ride! It’s expensive but worth every second. You wouldn’t go to Paris and miss the Eiffel Tower, don’t miss the Gondolas!
  3. Travel in the off season! Avoid the crowds and have a better time. Go in the fall or early spring to see more with less chaos.
  4. Learn a little. Pick up a book or two before you go and learn some about the rich history of Venice. This will bring everything you see more to life.
  5. Get off the main island. If you have time, get out and explore the Venice Lagoon islands such as Burano and Murano for charming villages and awesome art. If a beach is more your style, head to Lido.

Happy Travels!