Walt Disney World Reptiles

Komodo Dragon at Animal KingdomWe all know that Walt Disney World is overrun with famous princesses.  There are also a good many ducks!  Did you know that Walt Disney World also boasts an incredible number of reptiles?  Why, I’d be willing to bet that there are more reptiles at Disney World than all the princesses and ducks combined!  Let’s talk about lizards, snakes, alligators, crocodiles and more!

You can find reptiles in lots of places in Magic Kingdom.  The famous crocodile from Peter Pan is in Peter Pan’s Flight and he also makes an appearance in the Festival of Fantasy Parade.  How about the snakes and crocs found on the Jungle Cruise?  “….keep your hands in the boat because Ginger snaps!” If you look carefully, you can find the tiny anole lizards native to Florida sunning themselves all over the place – We can usually spot at least one among the headstones in the pet cemetery next to the Haunted Mansion.Crocodile in Festival of Fantasy Parade

Crocodiles on the Jungle CruiseIn Animal Kingdom – there are lots of reptiles, as you would expect!  The Komodo Dragon along the Maharajah Jungle Trek is amazing!  There are crocodiles on Kilimanjaro Safari and, in the exhibits along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, you can view a Kenyan Sand Boa.  Over in Dinoland – there are bunches of reptiles (of the extinct variety).Animal Kingdom Dinosaur

The make-believe dragon in Epcot’s Journey into Imagination with Figment could arguably be considered a reptile of sorts.  Our own brush with an actual reptile in Epcot happened in the China Pavilion several years ago when Joseph pulled a live snake out of the shrubbery.  Luckily, I was able to convince him to put the snake back by reassuring him that he didn’t need to rescue the poor thing – that it was clearly thriving and happy living among the landscaping and carefully cultivated topiaries.  Florida boasts more than 50 native snake species – fortunately, 44 of those are non-venomous.  If you find a snake at Walt Disney World, I do not recommend catching it! Journey into Imagination with FigmentSnake in Epcot's China Pavillion

Reptiles can be found all over Walt Disney World- all you have to do is watch for them!  While I’ve never seen one myself, I’ve heard plenty of stories of American Alligators being spotted in many different Walt Disney World bodies of water.  I’m guessing it’s like here where we live in Louisiana, gators that get large enough to potentially become a nuisance are captured and relocated by alligator “specialists”.

Tell your story – what’s been your favorite Walt Disney World reptile encounter?

Lizard in Disney's Hollywood Studios

5 Obstacles – Walt Disney World Vacation Happiness

Disney Planning Tips by MailYou’ve done the research, picked the date, booked a resort, purchased park tickets, settled on your mode of travel to Walt Disney World, selected FastPass+ options, and packed the suitcases!  You’re home free now, right?  All you have to do is get this vacation started and have the best time EVER!  I don’t want to burst your bubble and I hate to break it to you, but there are a few obstacles here and there that may mean the difference between an okay trip and a fantastically well-remembered family vacation.  That’s why you’re here, right?  You’re reading this blog to get the scoop on these potential party poopers?  Good, you have me and I have a few suggestions to help you avoid any ugly Walt Disney World vacation pitfalls.  Ready?

5 Obstacles – Walt Disney World Vacation Happiness – AND how to overcome them:

1.  Compromised Comfort – I’d be willing to bet the average Walt Disney World visitor has Mini First Aid Kit for Walt Disney World Travelno idea how much walking, standing, and jostling will be involved in taking this particular brand of vacation.  Sore feet, blisters, motion sickness, overheating, sunburn, soaking from sudden thunderstorms, dehydration, and exhaustion – these must be avoided at all costs.  Nothing ruins a vacation faster than pain!  Make like a good Boy Scout and be prepared.  Bring a travel-sized first aid kit and some rain ponchos, pack well-broken-in shoes and comfortable clothes.  Everyone in your travel party should drink plenty of water throughout the day and for heaven’s sake, be prepared with snacks to avoid becoming “Hangry” (hungry+angry=bad attitude).

Walt Disney World MagicBand2. Blown Budget – Magic Bands are so convenient…until you see the bill from all that touch-to-pay action!  Nothing kills Disney vacation joy like realizing that you’ve overspent.  If money is no object, move on along to the next item on the list, but if you’re like me and want to have a good idea about how to avoid a panic attack at check-out, try some of these strategies (and shout out your own in the comments!):

  • Purchase gift cards just to use for souvenirs and snacks – or consider buying them ahead of time.  You read that right – buy souvenirs and snacks before you leave home and dole them out during your vacation.  Little kids won’t care where the cool toys, books, and new tee shirts come from – they’ll just be excited to have them.
  • Pre-paying for snacks and meals with a Disney Dining Plan really helps with budgeting.
  • Important:  Get a printout of your charges from your resort’s front desk every day or two and make sure your spending is not getting out of hand.
  • Not on a Dining Plan?  Eat counter service (quick service) for most meals and consider eating your table service meals at lunchtime when the prices may be lower.  Buffet’s are the easiest meals to budget due to fixed pricing.
  • Stick with your budget!  It takes some (an incredible amount of) self control, but it’s worth it in the end.  Go home happy – not broke.

Crazy Crowds – If you’re going to Walt Disney World during peak seasons like Spring Break, Walt Disney World Crowds During Star Wars WeekendSummer Break, Thanksgiving, or Christmas – the crowds may be huge!  Knowing that going in will hopefully help you be more patient.  With the exception of Thanksgiving, we’ve traveled to WDW during all of those times and still had a lot of fun – the crowds did not ruin our trips at all, but they did slow us down.  Patience helps a lot as do some alternative plans when the parks just get too crazy.  Consider more resort time – the resorts often have a schedule of special activities to enjoy – ask at the front desk.  Eat outside the parks and try some restaurants at different resorts – gives you a chance to check out places to stay on future vacations.  Having realistic expectations helps – I liken it to the mental preparation it takes for me to Christmas shop on Black Friday!

Bus Transportation at Walt Disney WorldOpportunity Overload – There are an incredible number of things to see and do!  There are so many rides, attractions, shows, shops, snacks, characters, playgrounds, pools, restaurants – YIKES!  It can be totally overwhelming, confusing, and logistically challenging.  Research is the best remedy – specifically knowing the following things can help:

  • How to get around and where to go – Park and resort maps are available on the internet, in travel books, and at your resort.  Please, I’m begging you, at least get an idea about where you need to be and how you’re going to get there before you start out on your first day of vacation.  Getting lost and wandering around is horrible.  Missing a FastPass window or restaurant reservation shouldn’t happen with proper preparation.
  • Speaking of FastPasses – Pick what you think you’ll like.  Yes, if you’ve never been Choosing Activities in MyDisneyExperiencethere before, it can be daunting.  There are so many choices, it gets confusing and frustrating.  Again, research will help – especially the various rides’ height requirements if you’re traveling with children.  For a first visit, it’s hard to know what rides are really busy all the time and which ones rarely need a FastPass – you can make yourself crazy.  Go with what sounds fun.  (Check out YourFirstVisit.net)
  • Be flexible, be willing to compromise, take turns.  If everyone knows what to expect ahead of time, is ready and willing to change plans if necessary (rides break down, stormy weather causes some rides to close) and each person gets to select at least one or two special experiences  (ride, show, character meeting, restaurant, pool time, etc.) – there’s less chance of succumbing to opportunity overload.

Too Tired to go On / Disney Vacation TipsFizzled Finale – Doing too much for too long can really toast the end of your vacation, especially if you’ve got a long trip home.  It’s easy to try to pack in so much park action that by the time it’s over everyone is fed up and exhausted (and crabby!).  Pace yourselves, allow for plenty of sleep (and naps, if needed), set aside time for packing to avoid a last minute frenzy.  Make sure there are fun activities for the way home, too.  My grandmother used to say, “Quit while you still want more” and that’s good advice.  If you leave happy, wanting to go back again someday, isn’t that a sign of a really great vacation?

What are your best tips for overcoming the obstacles to Walt Disney World vacation happiness?

At WDW? No FastPass? Please Stand By!

Magic Kingdom's Big Thunder Mountain RailroadEven if you’ve mastered all the tricks of the new FastPass+ system, I’ll bet there will come a day when you will want to experience a ride or attraction and will need to use the standby line.  I know!  That’s the way it used to be all the time!  I think some of us have been so spoiled by the entire FastPass convenience, we’ve come to believe that a 20 minute wait is practically torture – a vacation-ruining waste of time!  I, for one, don’t fall into that category.  I’m so much more patient and tolerant of waiting when I’m in the Disney Bubble – sometimes, I’m willing to step into line for one of my favorite attractions even if the posted wait is 45 minutes!

Luckily for all of us, those geniuses of Disney Imagineering have come a long way with theEntrance for Toy Story Midway Mania entertainment value of the standby line.  Once just a holding pen with little to see or do as you and your party snaked around and around chain barriers and handrails like cattle, the introduction of a well designed standby line has changed overall ride experiences exponentially.

Today I want to highlight three examples of what I consider excellence in queue creativity.  I chose these three attractions based on their ability to provide samples of the following categories –

  • Existing ride successfully refurbished to provide a vastly better standby experience
  • Brand new ride with a wildly entertaining standby line
  • Not-so-new ride with an original, well-themed queue

Existing Ride:

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Refurbished in 2012 to add a new interactive queue:  I just got to experience this highly touted standby experience myself in May and I thought it was absolutely wonderful!  So wonderful, in fact, the line moved too fast for me to fully enjoy all the cool features and activities.  I’ll share a few pictures, but you’ve just got to experience it for yourself.  Seriously – if the wait is 30 minutes, you’ll have a ball!Interactive Queue for Big Thunder Mountain RailroadInteractive elements for Big Thunder Mountain Queue

Brand New Ride:

Ariel in Fantasyland / Magic KingdomUnder the Sea- Journey of the Little Mermaid – New Fantasyland attraction, Opened December, 2012.  From the craggy rocks along the “shore” to the seashells, starfish, and many other tiny details on the outside of the Little Mermaid queue to the really awesome treasures and cute blue crabs that move in and out of different scenes.  Again, this ride moved too fast for me to catch all the interesting things to see and do!  Since the Clammobiles are continuously loading, this line moves fast.  Do not waste a FastPass on this one!Outside Queue / Under the SeaTreasures in the Queue for Under the Sea

Not-so-New with Originally GREAT queue: 

You know what I’m going to pick, don’t you?  Expedition Everest!  We were lucky enough to be at Expedition EverestAnimal Kingdom during this ride’s soft-opening back in the Spring of 2006.  So, EE’s 8 years old now and still boasts one of the (if not THE) most amazing, clever, spectacularly detailed queues in the World!!!  We fell in love at first wait and still try to use the standby line at the Forbidden Mountain whenever time allows.  To me, Expedition Everest set the bar for every new attraction that followed.  This is Disney Imagineering at its finest.

Okay, it’s your turn – which ride would you nominate in each category?Expedition Everest Queue Yeti MuseumExpedition Everest Train Platform Gear   


WDW in October – What we Plan

Epcot in SummerJust 52 days from now, Raymond and I will be off on our dream vacation – solo, alone, sans kids, as a couple – and pretty stoked about it (in case you were wondering).  Yes, indeed, we’re celebrating quite a few things at our house this year – Raymond and I both have milestone birthdays, our 25th wedding anniversary is this fall, and, after the first year, we’ve adapted (admirably, in my opinion) to our empty-nested-ness.  Time for a well deserved sort of second honeymoon!

Trying not to break my own Walt Disney World vacation planning rules, we’ve tried to strike the perfect balance between over- and under-planning.  Usually, when we hit the World as a Epcot's World Showcasefamily, we rope-drop, park-hop and squeeze as many rides, attractions, and experiences into each day as possible.  I’ve always been a little envious of those travelers who have the luxury of not planning blocks of time between parks and FastPass+ appointments.  I’ve wanted to try being one of these UN-planners and now is my opportunity!  I’ve also asked a bunch of you guys out there on social media and really tried to take your excellent advice to heart (see Safari Mike’s Food & Wine Festival tips here).  On 3 of our 7 nights there, we have no ADRs – this is unprecedented UN-planning!

DVC Resort Bay Lake Tower / Walt Disney WorldI’ve divided our plans into three categories –

  1.  Must Do – Includes special events we’ve pre-paid for and some plans we’re super excited about – all are things we have never experienced before,
  2. It’s on the Agenda – the things we’d love to fit in if at all possible, and
  3. If We Get to It – the rest of our plans that we hope we get to, but we will be okay if we have to pass.

Let’s get on with the plans…

Must Do –

  • Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – We’ve heard so many positive reviews and comments about this seasonal bash, we can’t pass up the chance to see what all the Epcot's France Pavilion / Monsieur Paulhubbub’s about.  I’m working on a couple of semi-costumed looks for the big event.
  • Italian Food & Wine Pairing – Gosh, there’s nothing about the sound of that we don’t love!  Available at Via Napoli, Italy Pavilion, 1:30 – 3:30 pm on Thursdays during the Festival.
  • French Regional Lunch – This takes place at the French Pavilion’s Monsieur Paul (Fridays and Sundays during the Festival) from Noon – 3:30 and includes 4 courses (highlighting a specific region of France) and information on the wine pairings from a visiting winery representative.
  • Dinner at California Grill – We haven’t eaten at this restaurant (Contemporary Resort) since it’s extensive refurbishment in 2013.  This is our official Anniversary Dinner Celebration.
  • Massage for Two at the Senses Spa (Grand Floridian Resort) – It sounds romantic and relaxing – just the ticket for a trip like this one!
  • Tutto Gusto in Epcot's ItalyEpcot After Hours Wind Down – This sounds like the perfect way to end an evening (especially during Food & Wine).  We’ve got FastPass+ for special seating at Illuminations before we head on over to Tutto Gusto (Italy Pavilion) for a late night snack and wine flight.
  • FastPass+ for Meeting Talking Mickey Mouse – Why not?  We haven’t seen the Big Cheese in this new high-tech version and I’m a big advocate of at least one character meet-n-greet on every Disney vacation.  I picked this one.
  • Dinner at Sanaa – This is on the evening of our fist day.  We have to visit Animal Kingdom Lodge (unbreakable tradition for every trip) and have yet to try Sanaa after hearing its praises sung repeatedly.  Now’s the perfect time!

It’s on the Agenda –

  • Dinner at Citrico’s (Grand Floridian Resort)- We’ve never been before, so we made an ADR.Festival of Fantasy Parade  If something interferes with this, we won’t be heartbroken – it was just something new to try that sounded good.  Since it’s on the monorail loop, it’s an easy ride back to the Contemporary (we’re staying at Bay Lake Tower).
  • Dinner at Be Our Guest – If there’s anyway possible to make this into a lunch, we’re doing that instead.  I’ve not heard the food’s all that great, but getting inside for a look around was on my Disney New Year’s Resolutions list and I’m running out of time to get that accomplished.
  • FastPass+ for the Festival of Fantasy Parade.  We loved this parade when we saw it for the first time in May and would like to see it from the special FP+ area this time.
  • Trying a certain 10 of the 66 special dishes at the Food & Wine Festival booths.  I let Raymond pick these by himself for two reasons:  First of all, I chose all our FastPasses without asking for his input and second, Raymond’s a more discriminating diner than I am – Let’s face it; if it’s food, I’ll eat it.  Pretty much everything sounds good to me!  It’s “All in WDW” had the list Raymond used to make his selections here.  I’ll share our 10 foods in another post (coming soon) and write up a review on each when we get back.

Schofferhoffer Grapefruit BeerIf We Get to It –

  • The rest of the FastPasses I selected.  I did pick some in each park, but if we don’t get to them all, no big deal.  One day for Epcot, I was somehow allowed to only choose two, probably because the first one is for 6:00 pm.  We’re taking it easy, ride-wise.
  • Specialty beers and adult beverages around the World Showcase.  We know those will be available and would like to sample a few.
  •  The Kiss Goodnight in the Magic Kingdom.  That would require us to make it to park closing and beyond, but it’s been recommended and we’re going to do our best to be there Cinderella Castle at Nightfor it one night.
  • Electric Water Pageant – We haven’t seen it in a few years and I love this perky little show on the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.  Hopefully, we’ll get back to Bay Lake Tower early enough one evening to catch at least some of the pageant.

I’d like to give a BIG Shout Out to the Mighty Men of Mouse the podcast that gives back!  In exchange for an iTunes review, the hosts of this show (Russ Shuttlesworth, Kip Springfield, and Dutch Lombrowski) will give you “Three Good Minutes” on their show, discussing a topic of your choosing.  I emailed the Mighty Men recently, having finally decided on a topic (I left a review back in January) and requested ideas for our October vacation.  Thank you, Mighty Men of Mouse (Episode 167)!  Many of your suggestions were incorporated in the plans detailed in this post.

As always, I’d love to hear from you!  Anything you think we should add, change, skip?  What Must-do’s have you planned for your next trip to Walt Disney World?