Almost Time – Disney Summer Road Trip Plans

We’re calling it the “Epic Mother/Daughter Disney Summer Road Trip” and in just a few weeks, we’ll be on our way!  Packing lists are made.  FastPasses are booked.  Like all great Disney vacations, new things are in store and include quite a few Disney firsts for us.  Megan and I are more excited than I can describe and are constantly texting each other about our plans.  Speaking of plans…

Almost Time – Disney Summer Road Trip Plans

Let’s start with the firsts:  First time at Saratoga Springs, first time on the Quick Service Dining Plan, first time driving to Orlando, and (the most exciting!) first time to see Pandora!  We’ve also booked the “Caring for Giants” tour at Animal Kingdom and are looking forward to seeing the new Happily Ever After nighttime spectacular in Magic Kingdom.

Here are the plans we’ve made day-by-day…

Arrival Day:

Magic Kingdom:  We’ll get there for lunch and grab what sounds good at the time.  We have FastPasses starting right after lunch for Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain.  Between FastPasses, we’ll fill in with the usual favorites depending on wait times.  Those attractions are usually PeopleMover, Haunted Mansion, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Carousel of Progress, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Country Bear Jamboree.  For dinner we’ll catch the boat to Wilderness Lodge to try Geyser Point before returning to Magic Kingdom and staying for Happily Ever After.

Day Two:

Animal Kingdom as early as possible.  It would stress me out to shoot for an exact arrival time, but it will need to be early.  FastPasses start at 9:00 am with Na’vi River Journey in Pandora.  We’ll grab breakfast there at Satu’li Canteen either before or after the ride.  Then we’ll have plenty of time to explore all of Pandora at our leisure.  Our next FastPass (Expedition Everest) isn’t until early afternoon.  We’ll do the Caring For Giants tour mid-afternoon then be able to roam around Animal Kingdom at a lazy pace, eat dinner, and use our final FastPass for Rivers of Light at 9:15.

Day Three:Animal Kingdom's Kali River Rapids

Animal Kingdom again first thing.  Our FastPasses are all in the morning:  Flight of Passage, Primeval Whirl, and Kali River Rapids.  We’ll be hopping to Epcot for the afternoon – so many great quick service options for lunch in World Showcase!  Dinner that night will be at Paddlefish in Disney Springs after which we’ll call it a day.

Day Four:Entrance for Toy Story Midway ManiaWe’ll start by rope-dropping the Studios to ride Rock’n’ Roller Coaster before using our three FastPasses for Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Star Tours.  The unplanned afternoon will be spent at either Magic Kingdom or Epcot before we start the first part of the long drive home that evening.

Yes, we have solid plans for much of the time, but I think we’ve allowed for plenty of free-styling along the way.  Primarily we’ll be focused on exploring Pandora since it’s new, but we’ll also be able to enjoy many of our must-dos in every park while trying a few new restaurants too.  Mother/Daughter time should include a nice mix of new experiences and old favorites while making lots of happy memories.

While we’re away, Joseph has decided he should stay at the house and keep Raymond (and Junior) company.  So while they won’t be going to Disney World, they’ll be guys home alone doing guys stuff.  I think they’re pretty excited about it.

Are you headed to Walt Disney World this summer?  What are you the most excited to see and do?

 

Disney Dining – Off the Beaten Snack

The tried and true, wildly popular, well-known Disney snacks are great!  Essential contributors to Disney vacation happiness, those Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars, churros, Mickey-shaped pretzels, and Dole Whips are must-haves for masses of fans.  But there are so many more options!  What about those?  Let’s talk about the lesser known but just-as-delicious Disney World snacks. (My apologies, turkey leg fans, I just can’t include you’re precious poultry treat here today…or ever.)

Disney Dining – Off the Beaten Snack

I consider the iconic snacks – you know, the ones mentioned above that are made into souvenir magnets and such – to be “tier one” Disney snacks.  Those would be followed by the slightly less popular “tier two” selections.  Those include Magic Kingdom popcorn (I’ve never had it, but I hear it’s the best in the World), Mickey krispie treats, and funnel cakes.  Also in this category are cupcakes like Butterfinger, Red Velvet, and the ones decorated like Disney characters, the Studios’ Carrot Cake Cookie, and those amazingly fancy candy/caramel apples.  I suppose my beloved Citrus Swirl would also fall into the tier two category (being slightly less popular that that frozen pineapple concoction). Starring Rolls / Red Velvet Cupcake

Finally, there are the snacks that fall out of the mainstream and into “tier three”.  These include some of the tastiest and best snacks in Disney World that are not available in every park.  Thus, they’re less well-known.

Think about the offerings in World Showcase like School Bread in Norway (Kringla Bakeri og Kafe), Macarons in France (Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie), caramel popcorn in Germany (Karamell-Küche), and the Churros with Caramel Sauce in Mexico (La Cantina de San Angel).  That caramel popcorn got me through Hurricane Matthew!  The School Bread, macarons, and churros are still on my to-try list.  Disney Dining - Off the Beaten SnackAlso in Epcot there’s the Croissant Donut from the Refreshment Port (YUM!) and let’s not forget that kiosk over in Italy where that Espresso Gelato “Affogato” is sold – so incredibly delicious!  I’ve mentioned the cinnamon glazed almonds and pecans before.  I’m not sure where else they can be purchased, but I always enjoy them during a visit to Animal Kingdom.  Finally, I’ve got to add the Cheeseburger Spring Rolls from the Adventureland egg roll wagon.  Yet another thing I haven’t tried, but I keep hearing how good they are.

The point of all this?  So many snacks, too little time!  I’m training like crazy for the Dark Side Challenge with just two weeks to go.  All that running makes me hungry and has me daydreaming about what snacks I’m going to have while I’m at Disney World.  Seriously, if running 19.3 miles in two days doesn’t justify a few extra snack calories, I don’t know what does.  This is a short trip and if I had more than four days to snack, I wouldn’t have to pick and choose.  Decisions, decisions…

Do you have a favorite Disney snack that I haven’t mentioned?  Please, tell me what it is and where to find it!

 

About Those $649 Cabanas in Tomorrowland

Right now they’re big, white, and generic-looking.  Disney World’s newest pricey specialty offering has a lot of tongues wagging.RM-Tomorrowland-Walkway

About Those $649 Cabanas in Tomorrowland

If you missed this latest Disney news tidbit, Magic Kingdom guests may now rent a “cabana” for the day near Space Mountain in Tomorrowland.  The amenities and details included in the $649 price can be found here.  The cabanas are, for now, actually large, windowed tents like the ones people rent for outdoor events.  Inside, guests will find some tables and seating along with the charging station and lockable storage trunk.  At face value, critics see yet another money grab at an exorbitant price for wealthy vacationers (even if it does include customized Earhats).

I can see a different side to this…

I feel certain this is the first of several tests and, if successful, will result in actual cabana-like structures in keeping with the Tomorrowland (or other) surroundings and they’ll come with air conditioning.  If you’ve listened to the latest episode (#116) of The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill, you’ll find that these test cabanas may be the tip of the iceberg for in-park getaways.  If Jim and Len are right, cabanas will be in several (if not all) parks and may be elevated to allow guests unobstructed, prime viewing for parades and fireworks.RM-Tomorrowland-Skyline

I see a certain appeal for this concept with a particular sub-set of Disney vacationers.  And it may not be such a bad or outrageous idea.  Imagine for a minute that your vacation includes multi-generations.  You may be headed to Magic Kingdom with grandparents or infants or both!  Suppose you’re staying off property and want everyone to get a full day of park touring, plus have a place to rest, nurse a baby, take a nap, or take turns babysitting or simply hanging out.

There would always be a shaded, cool, private spot at your disposal.  No need to pack up and leave for nap time or meltdowns.  You’d have a secluded place, all your own, to regroup, relax, and recharge (literally and figuratively) without having to waste time returning to your resort.  Grandma and Grandpa could comfortably enjoy the Festival of Fantasy parade without sitting on a curb in the burning sun.  Mom and Dad could tend to the needs of little ones away from public view and know that nap time will be in a cool and comfortable place.

While I’m not in a stage of my life where I could justify forking over $649 for the luxury of a Disney park cabana, I’ll never say never.  I can easily imagine a time when having the convenience and amenities that come with booking a little personal space in Walt Disney World could be a worthwhile and time-saving investment.

Your turn!  Are these cabanas an extravagant ripoff or a legitimate in-park convenience?

Jingle Cruise – Adventure Awaits

Of all the magical, wonderful details found at Walt Disney World during the holiday season, none tickle me quite as much as the Jingle Cruise in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland.  All of my favorite punny jokes and adventures along the jungle waterways of the world with a holiday overlay!  What could be better?Jingle Cruise Christmas Tree

Jingle Cruise – Adventure Awaits

Intentionally homemade.  The idea that the skippers and dock workers pitched in to make their far-from-civilization locale feel more like home for the holidays is completely endearing and makes each detail, large and small, adorable.Jingle Cruise Hut Decorations

From the attraction’s signs to the names of the boats, the animals, natives, and more – the holiday additions are everywhere!  I can’t catch all of the details on a single ride, so if I can arrange it, I’ll ride the Jingle Cruise more than once.  If time allows, I’ll use a FastPass for one ride and wait in the standby line for the other.Jingle Cruise Sign

The holiday overlay begins outside and continues throughout the queue and ride – so be ready to pay close attention and not miss out on anything!  If you’re in a large group, challenge each other to find every detail.  As with other Disney attractions, you’ll want to look up, look down, and look all around – magical surprises are sometimes in unexpected places!  Jingle Cruise Chalk BoardIf you’re already a fan of the Jungle Cruise, you’ll love the holiday version.  If the Jungle Cruise isn’t usually your thing, consider giving the Jingle Cruise a try if for no other reason than it’s the only attraction at Walt Disney World with a holiday overlay and it’s clever and fun (and cheesy)!Jingle Cruise Crew Mess Dinner Menu Jingle Cruise Holiday Gorillas

If you’re planning a visit to Walt Disney World during the holiday season, add Jingle Cruise to your must-do list!Jingle Cruise Trader Sam

If you’ve already sailed on a Jingle Cruise…did you love it?  What was your favorite part?  What other attractions would you like to see get a touch of holiday magic?