tips & tricks

Must have items for any Disney Trip

MARCH BREAK ALERT- you’ve decided to book your trip, you’ve done your research and you have everything all paid for but now your left with last-minute details which of course includes the possible disastrous task of PACKING!!! Now I realize that this could be a daunting task, and really, do you know WHAT to pack? Please remember that this is NOT the list for folks WITH small children ok, that one will come later.  Here are the top 10 items I recommend bringing for your trip to Disney: Continue reading

Disney H2O is magical!

If you’ve never tasted Florida water, make it a priority on your next vacation. It has a little something you can’t find anywhere else….magic. While many of our friends disagree, we love the water at Walt Disney World and the surrounding Orlando area. Not the overpriced bottled Dasani (which is filtered Florida water anyways), but the free, delicious Florida tap water. Find it in fountains everywhere at all the parks. Check out our video, expressing the love we have for magical water: Continue reading

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp: The Myth and Truth's of Hidden Mickey's

I am sure that you have heard about the mysterious Hidden Mickey’s. I also bet you have probably wondered what they actually are. There has even been, in recent years, an almost cult like following to find new ones throughout Disney Parks.

I can even admit that I even given into the obsession to find them. I have even purchased a copy of the very popular book by Mr. Steven Barrett to familiarize myself with the crazy sweeping the population. Wikipedia has even dedicated a page to the entire subject. There’s even an app for that!
Hidden Mickey Book Now, I cannot find dates when they started to create them, but what I can say is there are Hidden Mickey’s in the Snow White Movie so they have been around since 1937 when the movie was released. This is big business and is pretty fun trying to locate them. Look on rocks, bridles for the horses on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, every Resort, motion pictures, TV series, cruise lines. You name it, there most likely will be a Hidden Mickey somewhere.

Now, cheating as I have in the past, the book is very helpful for the beginner to get you familiar with them but once you have located a few yourself, it is so much fun running around trying to find others not listed in the books. However, I can with all certainty tell you that this has been going on for a very long time and everyone knows all about them. If you’re lucky, you can even ask a Cast Member wherever you may be and see if they know of any in that particular location. At our Canadian Pavilion, we can even tell you that if you look up, WAAAAAAAY UP on one of our totem poles, you will even see a Hidden Mickey if you look closely. It was even a special task for us in Le Cellier, the amazing Canadian steakhouse to create Hidden Mickey’s for our guests.

There are deliberate ones, like I just mentioned, but thousands of ones that have been secretly placed in some pretty incredible places. Snow White movie…….you see it? Ummmmm can you imagine a GIANT one in Hollywood Studio’s that can only be seen from the skies? (Note, this was before the giant Sorcerer Hat was added.)

How about in WISHES the nighttime spectacular fireworks high above?

Animal Kingdom Lodge towering over you whilst you check-in?
Maelstrom, Norway’s boat ride in EPCOT, while you wait in line?

Hollywood Studio’s………from the manhole covers on the ground to the front of most of the cars in the afternoon parades to the outside the buildings down Hollywood Boulevard, they are everywhere.

Even the Water Parks are getting into the act with splash pools and if you look at the lifeguard stands, you might find one in the least expected places and those, those are the most coveted ones. No matter where you go, what you’re watching, be on the look out for these hidden gems. It is a fun little game you can join in, it’s a FREEBIE and gives you something extra to do whilst waiting in a queue line somewhere. Don’t be surprised i[warning][/warning]f you find others walking around the Parks with a little book to assist them in hunting down the elusive Hidden Mickey.  Good luck locating your own.

Now, I have to go, I have an exciting day at Blizzard Beach Water Park ahead of me and I hear that there is a Hidden Mickey at Mt.Gushmore I need to find.
Until next time:
TTF

Tracey

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp: DCL: More than a children's playground at sea

So, you have explored Walt Disney World, you may have even ventured over to the West Coast to where the dreams all began in Disneyland I bet you’re wondering what else you could do that’s Disney but different? Why not try what everyone has been talking about lately, Disney Cruise Line.


Cruising became popular in the 1980’s when air travel became boring and crossing the seas in a luxurious ship become all the rage. What was once though of as a “rich folk only” mode of transportation, cruising has become second nature for many families. So popular in fact that is has grown to a $29.4 billion dollar business. In 1995, Disney created Disney Cruise Lines, commissioning two ships to be created in the same Disney fashion as the theme parks we know and love. The Disney Magic set say July 30th, 1998 and from there, has grown to 4 ships as of March 2012 when the Disney Fantasy will set sail for the adventure seekers. From 2400 passengers to the current 4,000 on the Disney Dream, Disney has truly created a magical experience for their guests. Many different ports of call to choose from, again, it merely requires some investigation and imagination and Disney will certainly take care of the rest.
Of course, choosing your room type and your ports of call is literally the only thing you will need to decide, along with transportation to and from the location if you so chose to travel to someone other than the Port Canaveral region for travel to and from the Florida base which the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy shall remain. As for the Magic and the Wonder, they will be setting sail to both the East & West Coasts respectively.
I highly recommend a 3 day cruise if you are a first timer. This is a lovely way to “get your sea legs’ as one might say and discover if cruising is something you enjoy. With the size of ships coming a very long way, one would be safe to say being sick wouldn’t be so difficult back in the day but it would hard with the stabilizers and the like of today’s modern ships.However, 3 days is a delightful way to get accustom to the surroundings and enjoy a little quiet time. If traveling to say the Bahama’s from Port Canaveral on the Disney Dream, after arriving at MCO (Orlando International Airport) you can certainly enjoy the Disney Cruise’s Lines Express shuttle from the airport to the ship. You will be whisked away, luggage and all and meeting you in your stateroom magically from the airport.

Once checked in by Disney Cast Crew Members, (please bear in mind a passport is required to travel Internationally) you will be given your key packages and your off to explore your new home for 3 glorious and enchanting nights.
Disney has, as they have always become accustom to, creating a wondrous retreat. As an adult with no kids, I was weary as to travel aboard without children as most would assume Disney Cruise Lines is children only. So not the case to my amazing surprise. Many options to choose from including a Concierge Level if this is more to your liking. Coming as a Concierge I was delighted to hear that. Offering staterooms with veranda and even a jetted tub, they have certainly thought of everything. As your friends have once informed you of their cruise to Caribbean many, MANY years ago, the food on cruise ships is beyond your imagination. This is true for Disney Cruise Lines as well.
Disney has created an amazing opportunity to try many different options on your journey and offer a rotation so to offer choices for the guests. With such restaurants as “Animator’s Palate” “Parrot Cay” “Triton’s” and many more, Disney has offered many amazing and truly unique dining possibilities. My favorites of course, may not be yours but I know you will find your own. If room service is something more to your liking, this option is available as well. These dining options are all included in your cost of course, however, alcoholic beverages are of course, an extra fee.
Speaking of, but a wonderful one I highly, HIGHLY recommend is dining at “Palo”. Palo is a finer dining experience but one you will certainly thank me for suggesting. It is an extra cost, but if you can consider $20 per person an exaggerated fee, than by all means stick with your rotation and ignore this next bit of information. Palo can be used as a switch out selection for one of your rotations and most people try for this. It is something you must request and despite perhaps being declined the opportunity due to over booking, please do not fret, you will have another opportunity the day you arrive on-board when you check in and you can ask a cast member for assistance for creating the reservations. Please also be advised that Palo requires a dress code, simply meaning absolutely no jeans. Khaki’s and button down shirts for the men and dress pants and sleeved shirts for the ladies No need for the ball gowns, but one night of dressing up is always a treat. The food in incredible and that is merely all I will give away about that so you can create your own memories but I will merely leave you with this tip: order the CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE when you check in. You will totally thank me later 😉

There is so much more than I could ever write in a note about Disney Cruise Lines but a few tips and pointers and you will find yourself on your way to magnificent journey’s on the seas. You will spend one day at sea traveling, during this time, trust me, Disney has provided more than enough options to keep yourself occupied. Don’t ever think you’re going to be sitting in your room bored and counting down the minutes until it’s all over, on the contrary, you will be finished before you even blink your eyes and wonder where to time got to.
There are first run movies to watch (meaning if Disney-Pixar’s Brave is out in theatres during your cruise, it’ll be showing at the cruise ships movie theatre- even in 3D if applicable!) clubs to dance the night away to, games, art galleries to view, pools to swim in of course, basketball courts to sweep across, gyms to get your sweat on in, Spa’s to relax in (more later of course ) and theatre’s to watch award-winning Disney productions in. That isn’t even mentioning what there is in-store for the children in your life. Disney has provided this magical thing that you can drop your kids off at a club to be entertained whilst you are given a pager in case your kids want to contact YOU, not the other way around. This way, you can get away to the Spa to get that massage you were dreaming of.
The children’s programs are, of course as you would expect, totally Disney tested and approved by millions of parents around the world. They offer from babies to teens and everyone in between. You can explore, take a cooking class, fight with Pirates and that’s only the toddlers. Ask your reservations agent for my information on the programs available on what ship or you can, as always, go to the amazing Disney website for more details and information.
Now, you have exhausted yourself and your settled in for a restful sleep in your cabin and you’re wondering what’s tomorrow going to bring? CASTAWAY CAY!!
 This well-known Island, or for those of you living under a rock for the last few years with all that has been said about it, Castaway Cay is Disney’s private Island. Yes, you read that right, PRIVATE ISLAND. Registered to Disney Cruise Lines, this Island offers everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE the opportunity to do whatever their heart desires. Parasailing? You fancy that? DCL has you covered, watercraft more your speed, sure they can accommodate that too. Now, you have dreamed of feeding a stingray, well, I can tell you from experience, it is something they can do as well. You see, as the stories go, Wishes do come true. We haven’t even started with the activities on the Island. There is something for families, private Cabana’s if you want to lie in a hammock and have fruity drinks all afternoon in the sunshine.
You want to do some snorkeling and search out a hidden Mickey with the local fish? I have photos I am not going to share because I don’t want to give the location away, but I can tell you that Castaway Cay is truly incredible. Relaxing and fun. Grab a bike and take a wee spin around and explore. Oh, you say you say the Flying Dutchman from the Pirates of The Caribbean movie series, yup….you sure did. It’s parked at the Island and you can certainly take some incredible photos and bring the movies right into your reality. Of course, there are alway many awesome opportunities to spend some quality time with some pretty charming characters during your stop as well. It seems as though Stitch, Captain Hook and even Mickey & Minnie love to getaway as well and get some sun and surf time in as well.
Whew………….like I said, there is way more to do during a Disney Cruise than you may have first anticipated. Excited yet? Well, not to worry, your off again and about to visit the Bahama’s. Nassau Bahama’s is a charming Port offering many things to keep you occupied whilst the ship docks for the day. Atlantis Resort is probably one of the most popular, exploring a Casino, an incredible aquarium and Hotel, Nassau offers so much more than meets the eye. The straw market is certainly a must see. Rows and rows of stalls with merchants offering many different displays of handcrafted products, there are historic harbor tours available, even visiting the Blue Lagoon Beach. Ask your Disney Cast Crew Member for details and options. Enjoy your day in the tropical Island.
Senses Spa is located on the Disney Dream, or Vista Spa offered on the Disney Magic & Wonder and I can certainly say from vast experience, this is a MUST DO when you’re cruising aboard Disney Cruise Lines. Now, of course, with the newer ships comes more space and more amenities, the Disney Dream’s Senses Spa has created an enchanting and relaxing oasis waiting for your arrival.
 Sure, they both offer the usual Spa menu, Mani’s, Pedi’s and massage that will send you into a euphoria, the Senses Spa’s have begun offering some fantasy items. What do you think of when I say a RAIN FOREST ROOM? That’s right, Disney Cruise Lines has created a wet and dry Shangri-La. Looking to chill out for an afternoon whilst your hubby goes to the gym to work off that souffle? Well, might I recommend a trip into the Hamam (Steam Bath) and then a massage out in the private Villa?? Sssshhhhhh, he doesn’t have to know, it will be our little relaxing secret.
As I have confirmed, cruises in the 21st century has become something of a Resort on the open seas. A place where you can do nothing and everything. The possibilities are endless and are only as open as your imagination allows.
The Disney Cruise Line website is where all the information is for these unbelievable offerings, check it out and find something that tickles your fancy and I assure you, your going to want a lot more than a mere 3 days.

Now, if you will excuse me, the Pirates IN the Caribbean Party is about to begin and I have to get my Pirates Costume on and get out to the deck because I want a fantastic spot for the FIREWORKS. See ya on the open seas…….

TTFN

Tracey

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp: The Magic of Disney Transportation


Your sitting there, overwhelmed still and wondering, can I make this happen?  Can I really get to Disney without a car and most importantly, how do I get around once I’m there? Well, if your reading this, you have started your process and are fully on your way to a fantastic vacation.

Flying to Orlando

Come fly with me
First things first, your dreaded flight to Orlando.  Use to be that Delta Airlines was your official transportation for Walt Disney World, but now, you have more options to choose from so look around. Don’t worry about using a travel agent, I have every confidence that you will find something not only affordable but fun. I just have to stress once again, know when your going to go.  Obviously, if your dream is to celebrate a national holiday at Disney, remember that your going to have hundreds of thousands of others who have decided the same. Don’t let me scare you off of a holiday either, in fact, if your willing, try it once. Nobody does a holiday like Disney does a holiday. To say that they go all out, is a far understatement. Imagine ginormous gingerbread houses inside of the Grand Floridian Resort, yeah, they do that. But if crowds aren’t your thing, be sure to do a little surfing on the net to see when busier seasons are down there.
With flights, sometimes a connecting flight is less expensive than a direct flight. Now I realize you’re seriously excited to get going, but patience will certainly pay off. Tuesday and Wednesday’s are also prima days when airlines enjoy discounting airline tickets so keep your eyes peeled. Once you arrive in Orlando, with your pre-booked accommodations on property at Disney (we’ve discussed reasons you should stay on property), you have the option of using the Magical Express option with your room. I definitely recommend taking Disney up on this free feature. Yes, I did just say FREE and DISNEY. It does happen folks so know when to take full advantage.

Magical Express

Buses can be fun too!
Magical Express is free transportation in a really comfy coach bus that will whisk you from Orlando (MCO) airport, which is approximately 20 minutes away from Walt Disney World. You will literally go down to the baggage carousel and then down to the bus areas and you climb aboard your bus for your Resort and off you go.  Easy right? It’s suppose to be. When Disney decided on this concept, they tried it out free for the first trial and was seriously thinking of adding a charge. However, after the overwhelming popularity of this service, Disney decided to keep things as is. Sometimes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Once onboard, there are fantastic drivers that will pop in a movie that totally takes your mind off of the stress of air travel and wondering where to go and what exit to take and finding your rental cars.  Once you have arrived at your particular Resort, your luggage will actually be dropped off in your room, no need to lug in into the lobby, check -in and drag it over to the room.  TA DA…..Disney took care of that.  Your Welcome.

Boats, buses, bikes, monorails, OH MY!

Let me explain a few modes of transportation for you to enjoy throughout your vacation, because there are many and you will learn tricks as you become familiar with the place.
Sea Raycers
Seven Seas Lagoon, located closest to the Magic Kingdom and surrounds the several of the major Deluxe Resorts, you see that beautiful open water and think, wow, I would really love to get out on that myself. You can do that. Head over to the Polynesian Resort and you can rent Sea Raycers which you can race around until you just can’t race no more.
Zip-a-dee-do-dah!
Bikes
Riding a bike along the Sassagoula River sound after a huge dinner at The Turf Club, head over to either Riverside Resort or the French Quarter and your rental awaits you.
Of course, there are extra fees included for these options but remember, ask you Disney shall deliver.
A bicycle built for two....or four 🙂
Boats
Getting to the Magic Kingdom for your very first day, but how to get there.  Taking into consideration what Resort you will be staying at, (any Moderate or Value Resort will include a bus ride from your Resort to the Ticket & Transportation Centre which is the last spot you can get dropped off if you would like to enjoy a ride on the famous Monorail). If your staying at a Deluxe Resort, the majority are located closer to the Magic Kingdom and you will be whisked away to the magic happy place via the Monorail anyways. Now, to me, nothing says a visit to Disney than riding that Monorail.  Actually, a fun fact for you, the day I arrived to work at Walt Disney World, we never had our Main Gate Passes to provide free access to the Parks yet but we arrived in Orlando and went to the TTA and rode around on the Monorails for a while that very first night. I will never ever forget that.
I'm on a boat!
Monorails
Now my step brother despises that Monorail, perhaps it’s the smell, (trust me, you will remember that smell) or it could be the fact that you are high above the street below riding smoothly on this futuristic train, but he refuses to ride it.  So, I have to make a pact every visit, I ride the Ferry Boat across one time and he will force himself on the Monorail.  Why not try both options?  For first time visitors, the Monorail offers you the authentic Disney mode of transportation that you will always remember but the Ferry Boats are also a relaxing and fun way to get to where you really want to be as well.  The Ferry Boat is the very best option at night. *TIP* Disney also has this fun thing called the Electric Water Pageant.  They consist of barges that carry 25 foot tall screens of light. It is certainly something to see at the end of your busy day and all the parades have been watched, all the turkey legs have been consumed and WISHES is done for another day.
Monorail.....meaning 1 rail. FYI!
Walking
So, your stuck at Hollywood Studios and you have reservations in EPCOT for lunch in Morocco and you don’t really know how to get over there?  Have no fear, you have a few quick options.  The buses will take forever to board and then travel around the busy streets so why not hope aboard the ferry boats that board just out front of the main entrance gates and settle in for a delightful and relaxing ride.  We warned, it does take over 30 minutes since it has to go through several Resorts before arriving in Epcot so you may want to remember that prior to boarding.  If your stuck, always remember that there are beautiful walkways that will bring you from the Studios and over to EPCOT.
Here is my next trick, if your really wanting to get to the Magic Kingdom for the 3 o’clock parade and you’re still in Epcot and you don’t think you will make your parade?  Don’t worry.  There is a Monorail line that runs from the TTA to Epcot which is the quickest way in my opinion to get there from EPCOT. Whatever way you decide to get yourself around, Walt Disney World has certainly taken great care to ensure that you get from one location to the next. With a little information, you can certainly get yourself anywhere you need to be.

Speaking of, I have a Segway Tour that I need to take in EPCOT and I don’t want to be late so I am off to the Monorail station so I can get over to EPCOT.

Until next time,

TTFN

Tracey

5 reasons to stay on property at Disney

Your on a budget, I get it. Hey, breaking the bank ain’t tops on my priority list when I think of my vacation either, but let me assure you staying on property is seriously worth all the money your about to fork out. Sure, now your saying to yourself, Tracey your always going to tell us to stay on property because, hey, it’s Disney and you LOVE Disney. Allow me to explain why I recommend staying on property rather than outside the Parks. Here are my 5 reasons you should stay on-site at Walt Disney World:

1. Free transportation

Yes, you certainly can get a budget friendly resort outside and rent a car to get around.  Yes, I agree, you got an AMAZING bargain at the Maingate Magic Castle Motel, a mere 20 minutes outside the Disney property. Here’s a dirty little secret about these off property places: while they claim that they are at the “main gate” of Walt Disney World, they fail to disclose is that they mean the pretty little entrance gates you drive through as you get onto Disney property. Walt Disney World itself does not have a gate, because that’s the name of the whole resort. The 4 parks and 2 water parks have gates.  Meaning while you may be across the highway from the “main gate” to Disney property, it can still take you 15 minutes to drive to the real main gate of the park. Now you have to keep in mind that you can take a cab from the airport to your said AMAZING bargain resort, which from Orlando International could cost you a small child’s college tuition.  Add to that the $14 a DAY for parking at each Park that your going to visit for the next 7 days. Or, you can hop onto Disney’s Magical Express bus service and be whisked away to your hotel. Then, a quick bus or monorail trip and you’re in the parks. You actually check your bags at the airport with the Magical Express, and they put them into your hotel room for you while your out enjoying your vacation. This service is FREE with a Disney Resort stay!
2. Free Dining
Depending upon the time of year you vacation, you could stay at a Disney Resort and be eating on Disney’s dime with the Disney Dining Plan. Simply choose a package that best suits you, we will review this later, and your meals will be included. However I cannot stress enough, just because your saving money by getting free meals, you still have to tip your servers at your restaurants. And while it’s free upfront, it’s really built into the cost of your vacation. But as food is a big expense when on vacation, it’s one less thing to worry about while you’re there.
3. Resort Options for every budget & taste
You probably you already know that Disney has so many choices when it comes to accommodations. The truth is, everybody has different tastes.  From the value conscious to luxury seekers. No matter where you stay, each resort is themed just as well as any of the parks. The details are everywhere, meaning the magic doesn’t end when you leave the parks at the end of the night.

Here’s a quick breakdown of your options for Disney Resorts:

All Star Movies

Pop Century Resort

Value Resorts
These are the ones that the majority of the children stay at. Think about it, if you have more than 1 child now a days, your added dollar signs in front of everything you do. So, the Value Resorts offer you the best value for your money. Please don’t expect to have tons of amenities. Obviously you will have a bed and a bathroom as you would expect, you also have a swimming pool or two, but don’t expect a Spa or fine dining.
Pop Century, All Star Movies, All Star Sports, All Star Music & the soon to open Disney’s Art of Animation Resort fall under these categories. These accommodations offer value, quick service dining and great service as all the Resorts offer just no frills. And yes, yes I have stayed at these locations.  I see no reason to not have just a bed when all I really want to do is head to the Parks. if that sounds appealing, then this is totally your option.
Port Orleans Riverside

Coronado Springs

Moderate Resorts
These just happen to be my favorite types of resorts. They have more amenities than the Value Resorts as previously mentioned and most locations have sit down restaurants or pubs to grab a snack and a beverage after a sweaty day of fun.
Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter are both what some of us like to call our home resorts, meaning it’s were we go to stay on property whenever we come down (which is quite often!) The two just happen to be separated by the Sassaguola River. One offering a Mardi Gras feel (French Quarter) and one offering a Mark Twain Bayou type Resort. Plantation style and French Quarter styled buildings overflow with charm and laid back paces. You could literally just stay here and never go the parks and call it a vacation. Be sure to stop at Boatwrights in Riverside for breakfast.  I can assure you it will fuel you up for a hard day of walking the Parks. There are several other Moderate Resorts to chose from, including Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs and the Cabins at Wilderness Lodge Resort. My favorite Resort pool from any type of Resort has got to be the Coronado Springs.  It is a feast for the senses.
disneys polynesian resort
Polynesian Resort

disney's animal kingdom lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge

wdw-resorts-grandfloridian
Grand Floridian

Deluxe Resorts
Now, if you are going to spoil yourself rotten and have the means, then I recommend any of the Deluxe Resorts. They can certainly cater to your every whim. From award winning 5 star dining at Victoria & Albert’s Restaurant at the Grand Floridian Resort, to the grass skirts and gentle palm trees swaying at the Polynesian Resort, Walt Disney does luxury like no other.
The Deluxe category also applies to Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club Resort, Boardwalk Resort, The Contemporary Resort, The Yacht Club and Wilderness Lodge Resorts. All have so many incredible things to chose from and you will find your piece of heaven wherever you chose to stay.  Concierge Levels offer unique services and each of these Resorts has the incomparable Disney service that they have famous for.
I am not in any way saying that the Deluxe Resorts offer the only top notch service either, but I am going to say that if your paying to stay at a Deluxe Resort, your expectations are different.
Fort Wilderness Campground
Wait a second, you think I’m done don’t you? I am certainly not, I have one more little surprise. Fort Wilderness is one of the original accommodation choices back in 1971 when Walt Disney World first opened and deserves it’s own category.It is hard to believe that it has stayed as popular as it has. You can pop a tent if that is what vacations mean to you, or you have an RV that you have decided to drive to see the countryside float by, then this is your spot.

4. Free activities & events around every corner

chip & dales campfire singalong dsney
Chip & Dale's Campfire Sing Along

Think nothing is free at Disney? Well, you’re wrong! Many of the resorts offer fun & free activities for kids, families & kids at heart. There are too many here to describe, but my favourite is Chip & Dale’s Campfire Sing Along. This gathering is held nightly and starts at 7:30. It’s a great way to get some quality time with characters, sing some great songs and enjoy a relaxed evening. The best part is they also offer a movie by the campfire as well. You can even purchase the ingredients to create smores and who wouldn’t want to have those sitting by a roaring fire?

5. Stress free vacation

Here are a few thing’s you won’t have to worry about if you stay on site, after all what’s a vacation if you’re stressed out?
Package Delivery: No more lugging around all the great souvenirs and presents you purchase, Disney will deliver these to your resort for free.
No Driving: Imagine not having to drive for a whole week! No parking fees, finding a spot, walking to the park, remembering where you parked. Parents, you can even both have a few beverages at EPCOT without having to worry about who will drive. Now that’s a vacation1
Magical Wake-Up Calls: How thrilled will your kids be when Mickey wakes them up in the morning with a friendly phone call? Try that at Super 8!
Extra Magic Hours: You actually get to spend more time in the parks than anyone else!
Plus many, many other options! All part of your Disney Resort stay! Trust me, it’s totally worth it to stay on property
All in all, I have given you a very brief overview, giraffe’s munching leaves from you room, armadillo’s sneaking around your tent, or breakfast on the Sassagoula River, all examples of different ways to enjoy Disney Resorts. There is something for every budget, taste and interest.  All you have to do is decide where and Disney will take care of the rest to have a truly magical vacation!

You will have to excuse me now, I am off to the Grand Floridian Spa for a quick facial and maybe Cinderella will be there so I will catch up with you again soon.

Until next time,
TTFN

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp: First Visit Expectations


Your friends have all been, your co-workers go all the time, and it seems like your neighbours are there every week. Take it for someone who knows, your first time at Walt Disney World needs to be an enjoyable one. A trip that will be so amazing, so spectacular, that you’ll want to visit again and again. Both your kids and The Walt Disney Company are looking forward to that! A lot of different things influence how your vacation plays out: budget, who you’re with, weather, ect. Some of these you have control over, and others you don’t. I could literally write a book about Disney Vacation Planning, but here are a few of my favourite tips to start you off on the right foot:

You won’t do it all

Look, first things first, you will not and I repeat, not……see everything on your first visit. Get that idea right out of your head. Say it with me “I will not see everything at Walt Disney World on my trip.” This phrase will come in very handy the day you sleep in, or when Dumbo breaks down. Learn it, love it, Live it. We all know a Becky. Becky went for her first visit with her family and they did EVERYTHING. I’m really happy for Becky, but I can tell you they missed out on more than a few things to do. And that’s ok!

How long should you visit?

The first step is to figure out how long you’re going to want to go. There are many, many options awaiting you on a visit to Walt Disney World. Not only do you have 4 full Parks to enjoy, but you also have 2 Water Parks, the shops at Downtown Disney, and a slew of Resorts to meander through. Not to mention the other, non-Disney attractions that surround you. SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens, Gatorland, the brand-spanking-new Legoland, Outlet Shopping, and dare I even mention it, The Holy Land Experience. WHEW!!  Again, never going to see EVERYTHING in one visit.

What should I see?

I really recommend that if you going to do Disney, then keep it strictly Disney. Forget trying to pack it all together in 1 day of Parks and then perhaps renting a car to drive to the beach, you need to focus. I suggest that you take at LEAST 7 days.  Sounds OUTRAGEOUS but if you’re gonna do it, do it right. You have 4 Parks, they are not all the same in size and there will be lots, and I mean lots of walking involved. The Water Parks are so much fun as well, not to mention the 2 mini golf locations on property and Downtown Disney with shops and restaurants and Cirque Du Soleil- La Nouba. You see now what I am talking about. Plan to do 1 Park per day. Yes, it’s great to park hop (the art of visiting more than 1 park in a day), but you may spend more time travelling than you do in the parks. I would perhaps throw in a Water Park or Downtown Disney in-between park days so that you’re not overwhelmed with children (it will happen!) and people and characters and, well……Disney.

Have your parks, and sleep too!

Whichever Park you decide to start with, you have so much to do and only a finite amount of time to do it. You will want to ensure you get the most bang for your buck. If you plan on sleeping in on this vacation, don’t worry, most of the Parks are at least open until 9 or 10 pm. There are also the wonderful days when Disney Resorts offer Extra Magic Hours (or tragic hours for those that work there!). These special hours offer you either an early entry into the Parks prior to the general public, or later hours that extend your fun well into the wee hours. You can grab a guide at your resort when you check-in that details what they are for the week. The best part of Extra Magic Hours is the incredible opportunity to go at your own pace and stretch your time in the parks.

Park Tip

You want a hint, start at the back of the Parks. I know there are those of you that disagree with this comment but if hundreds of guests are crowding the Park at the very same time you decided to go, where is everyone going to start? People with strollers can only move so quickly! So, make yourself look like a seasoned expert and grab a Park map when you get inside the gates and head to the back.
For the love of H2O
Please do yourself and the Disney Paramedics a favour: Keep drinking water to stay hydrated. Florida is generally a hot and humid place. Your going to be moving and sweating, using up your fluids. It’s very easy to get dehydrated when it’s 35 degrees Celsius (that’s 95 for the Americans). Take a water bottle and skip the $3.00 Dasani. There are fountains at every bathroom, and there are tons of bathrooms.
Take these tips and set the right expectations for your vacation before you set off to the airport. You will be skipping your way through each day of your vacation.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have tickets for La Nouba at Downtown Disney and I hear it is REALLY GOOD!!

Until next time,
TTFN

Big Red's Top 5 Walt Disney World Dining Locations


Please allow me to say first off, planning is something I used to scoff at.  Seriously, sometimes I really just love flying by the seat of my pants when I’m on my vacation. I mean, I worked my keester off for these 10 days and dang it, I want to do and eat what I want, WHEN I want. Now, I’m not talking insane planning, like an Excel spreadsheet my brother creates for Every Single Trip (sorry B I had to include you)……simply put, some restaurants are so good that they take up to 3 months or more to get in. They must be good right? Your taste buds are tickling with anticipation right? Restaurants, in my opinion, are in the top 3 things you are going to spend a lot of time doing at Disney. Every person craves and enjoys different things. Unless you want to eat hot-dogs or hamburgers for 10 days. You can see what I am harping about now right? So, visit Disney.com, ask your friends, or grab some books and do your homework. This very important time will offer you the very best part of your vacation. I swear. If I am wrong, feel free to write me your nastiest notes and I shall retract my statements.  But until then……..
Here are 5 of my favorite locations for dining at Walt Disney World (in no particular order) and I can assure you, I have eaten at the majority of them and I have tried to include the inexpensive, expensive and tasty options.

1. Le Cellier Price Range: $15-$36

Location: EPCOT Canadian Pavilion

I had to include this one as I not only worked there, I still get a kickback from them for the shout outs! Just kidding, I don’t but you think I might after what I might say.) My first recommendation is going to be Lunch! If your watching the purse strings, like everyone in the world is, it’s much less expensive and you can dine pretty quickly then get onto the fun that is EPCOT. Le Cellier has, as of recent months, gone to a Signature Dining status for dinner. This basically means a sit down meal, dress code, longer time inside to eat and it’s more money. The kitchen in this Canadian masterpiece offers diners the Canadian options you have always heard so many fantastic comments about. The cheddar cheese soup is a staple to any order here at Le Cellier. Miss Kitty puts so much love and passion into this soup and people have been returning for years to taste this wondrous creamy goodness. You can even buy a Disney recipe book to recreate it but it doesn’t include the love but you can certainly give it a go.

Mushroom Filet

Now, for the stuff you have been waiting for…………the Mushroom Filet.I can’t stress enough the importance of enjoying this slowly. Medium rare and you’re in heaven. It’s so well crafted and cooked to perfection that I can almost guarantee you will not need a knife. It cuts like butter and will melt in your mouth.  I bet you never thought you would ever hear someone describe a steak like that now did you. You also have your selections of wine and some mouth watering desserts, but go with the Maple Creme Brulee and you will not be disappointed. In all, Le Cellier will offer you an incredible, fun and generally authentic Canadian treat. This is one of the restaurants that has a 3 months wait so might I suggest you definitely put it on your list to see what all the fuss is all aboot.

2. California Grill Price Range: $36-$60 dollars

Location: Contemporary Resort 15th Floor

I realize your looking at the price and having a fit right now, but let me tell you a few things before you judge my recommendation OK? I can’t begin to think of a better place to go and watch the nightly fireworks show presented in the Magic Kingdom, called Wishes. When making reservations, please explain to the agent this is your first visit and you want reservations at a window seat so you can enjoy the fireworks. Or, time it correctly and you can walk outside to the private terrace to watch Wishes. The Resort has graciously included speakers to sync with the Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks show so you can have the very best viewing this side of Seven Seas Lagoon. I totally recommend asking your server to enable you to enjoy coffee or your favorite cocktail while you are dazzled by Jiminey Cricket and the magic of Disney pyrotechnics. As my dear friend Brad always says,“pyro makes everything better!”

California Grill Sushi

In the food department, this restaurant showcases California Fusion cooking at it’s finest. My friend, Executive Chef Brian Pisaki and his amazing team of artists create some pretty amazing items. You love sushi? You can sit at the Sushi bar and watch a world class Japanese chef create it in front of your very eyes. Nothing says fresher than that I assure you. The Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli is something I go back year after year for. You see now why reservations and a little planning are so important? You may never remember a lot of most vacations, but when you have incredible food, you remember! This is also a Signature Dining Experience like Le Cellier, so remember to pack some chinos. They will not allow denim here, although don’t panic, you don’t need a suit. A simple button down and some chinos will work.

3. Boma: Flavors of Africa Price Range: $5-$36 dollars

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Are you adventurous? Interested in trying  zebra domes?  Don’t let the usual buffet stigma fool you, this isn’t your usual cheapo buffet. Boma offers something uniquely African and something fun. In addition to the fact my friends work there, I have many reasons to recommend this place. The selection includes familiar fare such as homemade soups, fresh fish and tender beef to the unusual. Regardless of the classification you decide, these are some incredibly tasty creations.

Boma Platters

The selections seem to be endless. There is even a separate section for the younger diners who might not want to explore the Savannah. Chicken fingers and mac & cheese are here to save the day. But for the person who is searching for something different, I really think you should give it a try. It has a fun feeling, you may even see the South Africans break out the drums for a little dinner music. Don’t worry though, your not going to be eating anything like elephant ears or tiger tail, but the zebra domes……I promise that no animals where harmed in the making of this famous dessert. Jambo!

4. La Cantina De San Angel(Quick Service) Price Range: $5-$15 dollars

EPCOT- Mexico Pavilion

Empanadas

Since the recent renovations have been completed, this amazing Epcot location offers authentic Mexican food and not to mention a wicked spot to catch some rays and people watch while enjoying some yummy stuff. I am thinking lunch outside, traditional Margarita in your hand and an Empandas de Queso to snack on. I prefer eating outside to the usual La Hacienda Restraurant that is located inside the Mexican Pavilion.  If you can fend away the many birds trying to share your lunch, I really think this is a fun choice. Ole!

5. Artist Point Price Range: $36-$60

Wilderness Lodge Resort

Salmon, almost as delicious as Bison

Representing the Pacific Northwest, Artist Point delivers a charming experience. I have returned to this location many times over the last 5 years and I have never been disappointed. Now, on the whole, I have never really been the adventurous eater, sticking mostly to the stuff I know and love, but a server challenged me to go outside the box on one of my very first visits to Artist Point and because of his coaxing (and this redhead never tries to pass on a challenge)I was challenged to try the bison. Normally, and I did in fact do it when I was first asked, I scoffed. Ummmmm NO!! There is no way I am willing to stray from my chicken, beef or on a wild and crazy occasion, pork. I asked for a recommendation for something delicious and our server bet me that if I didn’t fall in love with the bison, he in fact would take care of my meal for me. Pretty darn tall order if you as me. So, give it to me, I will prove you wrong buddy.
Wham, with egg on my face, and a tummy that hasn’t ever stopped thanking me, I loved every, last, bite.

Magical Servers

This is another reason I Love Disney. The servers. I cannot ever stress this enough, the servers are what makes an incredible and dare I say, magical visit to Disney. These charming individuals go through immense training. No jokes. We go to Disney University (another story perhaps at a later time) we go through one on one time training shadowing another seasoned server and oh, did I mention we have to know EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT OF EACH ITEM ON OUR MENUS?? That’s right. This is what sets Disney apart from other resort destinations in the world. We are trained to know everything so we can personally offer recommendations to our guests and knowing what is inside something often makes it so much easier to suggest items. With this being said, and I promise to finish my rant here, please tip your servers. These people may not have the high paying office job that you do, but they are busting their chops to create a wonderful experience for you and go through a lotto ensure a hopefully seamless visit to your Disney restaurant. Appreciate them and I promise you will be rewarded with a…..wait for it…..MAGICAL experience.

Cast Members: We make the magic!

In conclusion, these are my recommendations. These are pretty much for the childless couples. I will do a complete family friendly version soon. So, until then, please let me stress the importance of doing a little planning and it will offer you the most enjoyable experiences of your trip. For detailed information, there are many resources for you. I suggest taking a look at the Disney Dining & Reservations Website. You can do your research and make your reservations. Or call a real Cast Member at 407-WDW-DINE.
Agents are standing by to offer their assistance as well but book WELL IN ADVANCE so you can not eat french fries for 10 days. EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

Until next week folks- TTFN

Tracey

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp

I’d like to introduce a very good friend of mine who will be contributing her passion and love for Disney here at Theme Park Canuck. There isn’t a better qualified person on this planet who can help guide you through all the magic of the Disney Parks. Here’s an introduction from Tracey:

Let’s start at the very beginning, that’s a very good place to start….
When I was a very young girl, and for those that know me, it was a WHILE ago, Sunday night’s were very special to me.  My parents would take my kid brother and I over to my grandparents. A normal Sunday activity for a lot of families, but for me, it instilled in me what I wanted to be when I finally grew up. Ok, I didn’t want to be that saucy fairy who flew around all over the screen. Although…..

But I digress, it was where I wanted to be.
Uncle Walt presented the Wonderful World of Disney.  This TV show aired until 1979 and we were introduced to so many incredible things.

The enchanting fairy tales Disney was so well known for, but also of Pirates, the Wild West and many other beautiful things. There were animals, fantastic tales and different people featured from all over the world. Fast forward to my 20’s: with all the excitement and adventure I remembered from those Sunday night’s with Uncle Walt. With all that magic, mystery and excitement firing inside of me, I traveled to Walt Disney World for the very first time in 1995.  Late bloomer I guess, but it was truly as magical as any 7 or 8-year-old would have experienced. The best part: I will remember MY visit for the rest of my life instead of only through photos and stories my mom and dad tell me.
Since then, not only did I WORK there, yes Virginia, it is possible to work at Walt Disney World! I have also traveled back to my happy place at least twice a year ever since.  Heck, I even lived in sunny Orlando again for 6 months just so I could be closer.  I have also traveled to where the magic all began, Disneyland in Anaheim, California and been on several cruises with Disney Cruise Lines, despite having a Concierge Manager’s position that keeps me pretty busy. I haven’t been able to visit the other Disney locations throughout the world, but my step brothers have and I have many more tips & tricks for the overseas parks like Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disney.
I don’t have any children, although I am old enough to have a few, but it is truly amazing that one man created a place where both children and adults alike can come together and have remarkable experiences.  I return over and over again because I have a totally different experience every single time. Sure, I see the same things, but it is truly the people that create a different experience each and every time I visit. These people keep me, and millions of others, coming back for more time and time again. I want you to have the most fantastic experience when you visit the Wonderful World of Disney, that’s why I’ll be sharing my tips & tricks for you to have a magical visit and help plan your Disney vacation.
Now, if you don’t mind, I am off to the France Pavilion at EPCOT to enjoy an orange slushy and find some inspiration for you.
TTFN (Ta Ta for now!),

Tracey

Make sure to check back next Friday for the first session of Big Red’s Disney Bootcamp: Tips & Tricks & Advice from a former Disney Castmember!