Going to Florida Without Visiting the Parks….. Are you Mad?!

Well, yes, I may be a little mad. But it is entirely possible to visit the State of Florida, and stay in the Orlando area, and NOT visit any theme parks.

Not everyone has the budget or the inclination to visit theme parks. Think of the millions of people who live there who don’t visit the parks. I personally love the place, and even though I would love to go to Disney World and Universal Studios on every trip, it’s just not practical from a time and money perspective. Plus there is SO MUCH to do when you’re there, it would be silly not to venture away from the parks and see what else is around.

IMG_2750

What you choose to do will be purely down to what interests you. My personal choice is to try to get a little bit of Disney and Universal in my trip, without forking out on the park tickets.

To do this, I usually check whether there are any event tickets I can buy (if the budget will stretch to it) for one evening in a park. I tend to visit during the Halloween period, so there’s Halloween Horror Nights if you can stomach it, at Universal Studios (I tried it and hated it, despite being a huge horror fan. Let’s keep the peril on the screen and not in my face, thank you very much), and there’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney’s Magic Kingdom (much more my style). Both offer you entry and the run of the parks for a dedicated number of hours on one evening.

IMG_2484

You also have the option of the park’s leisure areas, so City Walk for Universal and Disney Springs for Disney. You don’t need a park ticket for either of these. City Walk has restaurants, bars, shopping and I believe there’s a cinema there too. Disney Springs is bigger and offers shopping (both Disney Parks merchandise and other branded stores) restaurants, bars, bowling, cinema, and other activities.

Disney Springs in Fall

I personally LOVE Disney Springs, because there’s so much to do. The shopping is great, the restaurants are excellent and there’s a lot to do and see. Plus parking is free there, unlike at City Walk.

From Disney Springs you can also take a free bus to any of the Disney resorts so you can have a nosey around the hotels, partake in their activities and eat in their restaurants. I love visiting the resorts even if I’m not staying in one.

IMG_2562

But if you’re not at all interested in exploring Disney or Universal property, you can still have tons of fun. The little all-American towns in the Orlando area are well worth an explore. Places like Celebration and Kissimmee are lovely and one of my favourites is Winter Park with it’s shopping, restaurants and little train track that runs right through it.

IMG_2637

It’s also home to the head office and flagship store of one of my favourite brands Rifle Paper Co.

IMG_2633

As you’re probably aware, I’m back off to Florida in a few weeks, and we had loads of things planned. As well as going back to pretty much all of the places above, we intend to pack in a lot more. Our trip is double the length we stayed last year and I still feel like we won’t have enough time to fit everything in!

Included in our trip is an NFL game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stadium, a trip to the Kennedy Space Centre (a bucket list item!), Wonderworks (a hands-on science exhibit) and possibly a visit to adventure golf and an epic looking escape room!

Of course I plan on visiting the shops, and the list I have is getting as long as my arm! Have you been to Orlando and had a non-park holiday? I’d love to hear about the places you’ve visited and the activities you’ve done! Maybe something you suggest will make my list for this year’s trip!

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

Another catch-up post? I know – this is a good thing. It means things have slowed down to the point, where I have some time to reflect on what I’ve been up to, rather than just go with it!

I have been LOVING this warmer weather. I really do feel like we’ve gone straight from Winter to Summer, leaving Spring behind. I also love thunder storms, and we’ve had a few corkers! I’m enjoying seeing all the plants coming up in my garden – so many different colours and shapes popping up out of nowhere – I have no idea what any of it is!

I’ve been busy planning things for my upcoming holiday to Florida, in September. We’ve booked in some really fun things, lots of places to eat, and my shopping list is well under way. We’re there for two weeks this year, and I’m pretty sure we’ve already filled each day!

I’ve also got my Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party costume sorted, for this year. Even though this isn’t a Disney World holiday (same as last year) we’re still going into the Magic Kingdom park for one evening, for the Halloween party.

IMG_5230

Can you guess who I’m going as? Hmm….

Aside from this, I’m still really enjoying my calligraphy course, and have started doing a few mini projects. I’m not pressurising myself to get them done in a certain time frame or in a certain way. I’m letting them happen organically, which works well for me.

IMG_5229

They mainly happen to be Disney themed, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone really….

I’ve also been adding art to my office walls. Again, I want this to happen organically, and we visited Homesense recently, and their selection of framed art was really great. We ended up getting three pictures for my office, and two for around the house. I happen to have chosen all illustrated pieces for my office, and these two look great on my wall.

IMG_5236

Lastly, I’ll just mention that the jewellery making masterclass I attended with the MK Bloggers group earlier in the year, was featured in the events supplement of Blogosphere Magazine this quarter. It was fun to see my face in print!

IMG_5234

So that’s it for now. I have a week off coming up, and some fun things planned for that, and stay tuned for more recipes too. Are you enjoying seeing my 2018 food challenge recipes each week? Let me know what your favourite recipes have been so far – I’d love to know!

Until next time….

Are Disney Parks for You?; Unlocking the Disney Mythos

Unless you’ve been living in a media-free world for the whole of your life (in which case how are you reading this) you’ll have heard of Disney.

From their animated movies, their real-life films and Pixar masterpieces, there’s something for everyone. Not to mention their purchase of Marvel and rolling in the world of Star Wars for good measure.

But they’re not for everyone. A common preconception of Disney is that it’s for girls, pretty in pink, all glitter and so many princesses. And it’s a fair assumption since that’s what I always thought, growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. As a child I adored The Little Mermaid and was devastated when my VHS copy got chewed up by the video player. I had to wait until its 10th anniversary to repurchase it on DVD because you couldn’t get the video any more.

When I was younger I never visited theme parks – they were too far away from home and just too expensive. My first park experience wasn’t until 2012, when my husband surprised me with a trip to Disneyland Paris. Until then I hadn’t considered the Disney parks. I knew they existed, of course, but it wasn’t something I’d ever take part in. I’d never been on a rollercoaster at that point, and I had no idea what I was in for.

By the end of that trip I was converted – to it all. The parks, the atmosphere, the theming and the rollercoasters. I never wanted to leave. I’d found my happy place!

As a child I liked Disney films but during the 90’s with the release of films like Tarzan, The Lion King and Pocahontas, which hadn’t interested me in the slightest, I moved away and grew up from them. (Don’t grow up, it’s a trap!)

But back on that trip to Disneyland Paris, I fell head over heels back in love with the Disney world. I still feel the same way about the movies I wasn’t fond of back then. But that doesn’t matter – and if you’re not a Disney film fan, it doesn’t matter to you either.

IMG_2002

After having many conversations over the years I have discovered that people just don’t know about the Disney Parks, and they’re in the same boat I was in back in 2012 before I made my first trip. So, I thought I’d demystify the parks for your reading pleasure. I’m going to give you a little education in the Disney parks and maybe help you understand how taking a magical trip to one of these places might be the best decision you could ever make.

The Locations

Let’s start with WHERE the parks are. There’s a bunch of Disneyland parks and only one Disney World – get that straight. If you’re speaking to a Disney park fanatic and you refer to the parks in Florida as Disneyland, you’re going to get a glare.

  • Disneyland California – the original Disney Park, opened in 1955
  • Walt Disney World Florida – next to open, in 1971
  • Tokyo Disneyland – opened 1983
  • Disneyland Paris (used to be called Euro Disney) – opened 1992
  • Hong Kong Disneyland – opened 2005
  • Shanghai Disneyland – opened 2011

I’ve only been to two of these locations, so my experience will obviously be focussed to those – Paris and Walt Disney World (WDW)

Disneyland Paris (DLP) and WDW are similar and very different. DLP consists of two parks – Disneyland (the one with the castle) and Hollywood Studios (focussed on the creation of film and animation), each with rides and attractions as well as shows, parades and fireworks. WDW has 4 parks and two water parks. It’s so vast that it’s basically a city of its own, with its own transport system. The parks here are

  • Magic Kingdom
  • Hollywood Studios
  • Epcot
  • Animal Kingdom

To give you an idea of the size of the place, the carpark for Magic Kingdom alone would fit the whole of Disneyland California inside it (125 acres – for a carpark!)

I know what you’re thinking – great, here’s some dull facts about a park I have no interest in going to…. So, I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of each park. You have the world of the internet at your fingertips for that and once you’ve read this, you can go and look up the answers to any burning questions you might have.

But let’s get started on what’s in the parks for you:

They’re not just for kids or girls

I don’t have children. I’ve never been to a Disney Park with a child. In fact, I feel like going with a child might dampen my experience. But that’s just my personal experience.

There’s a lot of walking involved – and some of the rides are just too big for kids. So, I’d rather go without, thank you very much!

The whole theming of the parks, the food, the drink, the speed in which I like to take it all in, just works for me. There are so many aspects of nature, water, fire, looking out over the lakes, the rides, waiting for parades, watching parades – all seem fairly adult to me, BUT you will feel like a child again. I swear the Disney parks are made for adults so they could feel and act like a child again and not have any kind of guilty feeling.

Rides

Each of the parks has rides – and they vary from location to location.

  • You’ve got dark rides (the ones where you sit in a little car and a track takes you around diorama-type scenes with music and special effects) These are usually suitable for kids and, at Disney, most often will take you around the storyline of a Disney film.
  • There are only a handful of extreme coasters at Disney parks. The majority are fast and quick, and sometimes themed to a Disney story but mostly just themed – for example Big Thunder Mountain is gold mine themed.
  • Thrill rides – these tend to be unique alternatives to rollercoasters. For example, The Tower of Terror, which is an amazing Twilight Zone themed ride, based inside an elevator.

IMG_2001

IMG_6481

Parks

IMG_6310

  • Castle parks – the ones with the castle in them – tend to be princess and knight themed. They will also have wild west, futuristic, pirate, Arabian, and adventure theme in different areas. Music plays as you walk the streets, characters wander amongst guests (what they call the visitors) and smells are pumped into the walk ways.
  • Hollywood Studios – these parks bring in the creation of film, but also tend to include the Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel aspects of Disney. In Disneyland California, their second park is called DCA (Disney California Adventure) and this has an abundant Pixar area, with more being built as we speak.
  • Animal Kingdom in WDW – this is for all the animal lovers. A plush green expanse of a park which has real animals in its skies and plains. You can go on a real safari and see an abundance of animals roaming free, see monkeys swinging above you whilst wandering the park, and also ride some pretty gnarly rides (Everest is my favourite!) Theming leans towards African. Since I was last there they opened Pandora, based on the film Avatar. I haven’t seen the film, but I’m interested to immerse myself in the theming when I next visit.
  • Epcot in WDW (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) – This park is mostly known for Spaceship Earth (aka as the Golf Ball) and was historically known as the ‘boring’ park since it’s all about science and feels a little learny. But it also hosts some great festivals, most notably the Food and Wine festival. Epcot is home to the World Showcase with pavilions (areas) and food locations representing 11 countries from around the world.

IMG_6356

Each of these parks has rides, fireworks and most of them have parades. There’s something for every kind of person. You can get alcoholic beverages in all the parks, there are food locations of every type of palette. For the kids, characters roam the parks (perfect for those autograph books and fun pics!) and the theming is enough for those who recognise them from the Disney films but not too much for those not really into the Disney entertainment side of things.

Experience

The staff at the parks are there to make your visit magical – no matter what. They know all the answers to your questions and will accommodate you to the max.

Food

Oh, the food. Not only are there signature foods that you can pretty much only get in the parks (hello, Dole Whip and Citrus Swirl) but this isn’t all just typical theme park food. Yes, you can get your hotdog and fries on Main Street, but you can also get your chicken fried rice, funnel cake and all you can eat buffets. For more on the food at the Disney parks, I can’t recommend the Disney Food Blog enough. Plus, if you manage to book your WDW trip during the free Disney Dining Plan offer, all your food is basically free! And if you time that with the Epcot Food & Wine festival (I usually do!) then you’re laughing!

IMG_6412

Try the Grey Stuff, it’s delicious!

Fireworks

If you’re a fan of fireworks, like me, then staying for the castle fireworks at your chosen park is a must. They seem to go on forever – and did you know that Disney is the single largest purchaser of fireworks in the US? They’re only second to the US Department of Defence on purchase of explosive devices – mind blown (geddit).

IMG_6372

Hotels

Assuming you’re staying on property (by that I mean in an officially licensed Disney hotel) you’re in for a treat. OP (on property) hotels are themed in so many ways, so you can choose which one which will suit you and your style. They go from all-out Disney castle theming, to wild west, to camping, to New Orleans, Hawaiian, plush Colonial-feel, cartoonish, artistic, golfy – you want it, you got it. And each of these hotels are vast. And you can visit them even if you’re not staying there. They have activities, and show films ‘under the stars’, and have shopping and sports courts. At Animal Kingdom Lodge in WDW you can even go on a safari around the hotel grounds.

IMG_2562

The Polynesian Hotel lobby at WDW is particularly special.

Shopping

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to shopping. Each of the Disney locations has a shopping ‘park’ which is separate from the actual park locations. In Disneyland Paris and California these are called Downtown Disney, and in WDW it’s called Disney Springs. These are basically leisure complexes, which you don’t need a park ticket to go to. There’s food, shopping (officially licensed Disney Parks merchandise can be bought here too, without the need for a Disney park ticket!), music, entertainment. There’s usually a bowling alley, a cinema and more often than not, these locations home a Rainforest Café. These areas are usually open later than the parks which means once they chuck you out, you can keep on going!

IMG_6431

IMG_6427

So, have I convinced you yet?

The long and short of it is: if you like fun, you like being entertained, you don’t mind rides (I mean you can always go on It’s a Small World and the Teacups), you like to eat, you don’t mind shopping and you miss the feeling of being a child, then Disney Parks are for you. Plus, there’s the planning (oh my, the planning!) If you decide to visit Walt Disney World, the planning is a long-term effort and half the fun of going…. When you enter a Disney park, the rest of the world falls away. You feel lighter, you lose all of everything outside and you become a child again. It’s fully immersive – and EVERYONE feels the same. It really is the happiest place on Earth.

You can’t tell me I haven’t convinced you….. go on, do a little research into your chosen park and tell me I haven’t convinced you….

What to Do in and Around Orlando: When Not at The Parks

My recent trip to Florida felt like a bolt-on to my trip last year. If you’re new to Musings of A So Called Shutterbug, you may not be aware that last year, for my 10 year wedding anniversary, me and my Husband planned a dream two weeks in Orlando staying at Walt Disney World. We visited all the parks and also Universal Studios. It was a jam-packed holiday, but there were things in and around Orlando that we didn’t do because we wanted to make use of our park tickets 100% of the time.

So when we got the opportunity to go back to Florida and stay with friends for a week, this year, we snapped it up. As part of this trip we wanted to do all of the things we hadn’t had the chance to do last time. And I’m pleased to say we managed to tick everything the list.

Now, as much as this is a post about what to do OUTSIDE the parks, we DID visit the Magic Kingdom for one evening, for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I haven’t planned a post about this event, but if you’d like to see one then please leave a comment.

Snow White Disneybound at Magic Kingdom

IMG_2477

IMG_2478

We also managed to fit in both Universal Parks in one day, but again, that’s not why I’m here.

If you haven’t got the time or resources to visit the parks, or if that’s just not your thing, there’s LOTS to do (for basically no money) in and around Orlando. And I wanted to share with you, what we did!

EAT

You could spend a whole month in this area, and eat in a different and good place every meal time and never eat the same place twice. Whilst in Florida, we ate at Chick-Fil-A 3 times. You might not consider it good food, but we certainly did and I’ve been craving it ever since we got back.

Other places we ate were Smokey Bones, Egg City, Cracker Barrel (which is a big breakfast favourite of ours – you can even sit outside on the porch chairs and play checkers whilst you wait for your table!)

IMG_2578

Blaze Pizza at Disney Springs (and I’ll come back to Disney Springs in a bit) is epic

IMG_2649

And restaurant style food is also aplenty. We ate in some great ones but the best was Homecomin’, also in Disney Springs

The food here is amazing. I was able to try fried green tomatoes for the first time and oh my were they good.

IMG_2554

NBC Sports Grill at Universal’s City Walk (again, more about there in a bit) is great. We went there for Sunday football and not only is the atmosphere awesome, but the food is amazing too. We tried Wisconsin cheese curds there for the first time and I’ve been dreaming about them ever since!

Wisconsin Cheese Curds

IMG_2604

SHOPPING

So, other than getting fat, we like to go shopping when we’re away. One of our favourite past-times is going to local supermarkets and seeing what things they have that we don’t. We visited Target, Walmart and Publix as well as Walgreens and CVS. We spent a good hour and a half in the first Target we went to. I just love slowly browsing EVERYTHING (sorry to Sarah and Nick who we were with!)

This is aside from visiting the shopping malls, industrial parks like The Loop and one of the many outlet malls (Premium Outlet Mall is our choice) to have a good look.

One thing to remember is that even if you don’t have a part ticket you can still visit the bar and restaurant areas of the parks.

At Disney it’s Disney Springs, and has just been completely overhauled. It’s free to park here, and has shopping, restaurants, bars and entertainment. It also features the world’s largest Disney store which contains lots of the official Disney World parks merchandise, so even if you can’t visit the parks, you can get your merch on!

Disney Springs in Fall

The Universal Studios equivalent is called City Walk. The parking here isn’t free so you need to know you’re going to make a trip of it, but City Walk is open until the early hours so you can definitely make a whole night excursion if you wish. There’s a cinema, bars, restaurants and I think a bowling alley too. You can also visit the new Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium, Blue Man Group theatre and Hard Rock Cafe from here, all without park entry.

Let’s also not forget the 192 and its tacky gift shops. I LOVE visiting these and this time around went to Orange World, and the Wizard Gift shop.

IMG_2587

IMG_2586

The shop-fronts are tourist attractions themselves, and that’s even before you go inside to see what interesting things they’re stocking. Orange World also just happens to be direstly opposite my favourite Cracker Barrel for breakfast.

RESORT HOPPING

One of the things I was eager to do, was ride the monorail and see some of the resorts on the line, whilst we were staying off property this time. You can visit any of the Disney World resorts without having a room there, but just remember you cannot park there or use the pools. We parked up at the Ticket and Transportation Centre (this isn’t free but you pay once for the day and can park at any of the Disney car parks using your ticket), and hopped on the resort monorail to the Polynesian and the Grand Floridan hotels.

IMG_2562

IMG_2572

This meant I could get myself a wonderful Dole Whip at Pineapple Lanai at the Polynesian (they taste the best here anyway!)

IMG_2575

It was my first time seeing the Grand Floridan, and though it’s a little stuffy, I’m glad I went and had a look around.

The other thing we did was park up at Disney Springs and get on a resort bus (again, this is free and you don’t have to be staying at a resort to use these buses) You can get the bus to any resort of your choice. We wanted to visit the Boardwalk as we hadn’t before.

IMG_2617

We’re so glad we did, and we got there a few hours before sunset, so we were able to see it in both daylight and then at night after we’d eaten. The Boardwalk area is a lot quieter than other Disney restaurant areas. It has a few shops, restaurants and bars but comes to life at night with night clubs and lights aplenty.

WINTER PARK

Last time I was in Florida I wanted to visit Winter Park, but we just didn’t have the time. It’s north of Orlando and we wanted to know the trip would be worth it. I love the Rifle Paper Company, and new they had their flagship store and head office there, but didn’t know what else there was. I’m so glad we visited this time, because we managed to have breakfast, do some shopping, and have a good look around.

IMG_2637

Winter Park has a lovely ‘sleepy town’ feel but also feels like a hub of business. It’s rather trendy and I’d even go as far as to say it’s a little ‘hipster’.

IMG_2634

IMG_2633

There are loads of restaurants and coffee shops. One coffee place I knew I wanted to visit was Foxtail Coffee, and try their nitro cold brew. I’d been following them for a while on instagram and really wanted to visit.

IMG_2647

IMG_2644

BEACHES

And last but not least, you can’t visit Florida without going to one of their white sand beaches. We’re not beach day people, so we made a short visit to Clearwater on the morning of our flight out from Tampa airport.

IMG_2744

IMG_2750

An absolutely stunning place. We visited on a chilly, and windy, morning but it would be nice to spend a little more time there next time we’re in Florida. It looked exactly like a postcard!

As you can see, as long as you have a car, you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money filling your time in Orlando and the surrounding areas. We’ve discovered loads of places this time around, and next time we visit I know we’ll be making a trip to these places again.

Orlando, you have my heart!

 

 

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

I’m back! And this week I have been mostly recovering from much delayed jet lag!

We had an AMAZING time in Florida, so good that we’re already trying to work out how we can go back next year. (I accidentally wrote ‘next week’… wouldn’t that be grand?!)

I was back to work last week, and it’s Christmas in full swing for my job-role, so it was nice to get stuck back into it.

As you know, I don’t go for full blow-by-blow posts when I return from a trip, but I will be posting some Florida related posts in the coming weeks. A few hints and tips for things to do when you’re not visiting the parks every day, and also a post on some of the beauty products I picked up whilst I was away.

If you want to catch up on photos from the trip, head over to my instagram. I also did quite a bit of insta-live whilst I was away. If you missed those, make sure you’re following me, because I enjoyed it so much I might just do it again.

I’ve gotta say I didn’t do any filming for YouTube whilst I was away, because I’d much rather enjoy my holiday than feel like I’m ‘working’ it. In fact I didn’t touch my camera the whole trip – my iPhone was my camera and did the trick 100% of the time.

So, a little bit about the trip. We stayed with some friends whilst we were there, and had a list of things we wanted to do – and we did EVERYTHING on the list.

IMG_2752

I was very pleased that we managed to do everything we wanted to do, and still felt like we had down-time during the trip.

We ate some amazing food

IMG_2598

We got to go to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Snow White Disneybound at Magic Kingdom

We went SHOPPING!

IMG_2626

Florida is a wonderful state, and I really do feel like Orlando is like a second home. It’s got a little bit of everything you’d want.

Anyhow, now I’m back, and Halloween is over. It’s Guy Fawkes night tonight, and that means tomorrow begins full-blown Christmas. It’s one of my favourite times of year, so bring on the glitter, lights, food and music. Bring on the festive films and festivities!

I’m Going on my Hollibobs!

You’ll all know by now, that in a week I fly off to my second home, Orlando!

IMG_6372

I’m crazy excited, and I’ll be posting a lot of stuff on my instagram, so make sure you’re following me over there.

I’ve scheduled a bunch of posts ahead of time, so keep checking back here for new articles. Halloween season hasn’t passed me by so there’s quite a bit of horror film chat about to occur (if you hadn’t already noticed on twitter!)

So whilst I’m away, please still comment on my blog posts and stuff and send me the love. I’ll reply to you when I can 🙂

Ahead of my flying off, I have a post coming up about what’s in my hand luggage, which was asked for by my followers on twitter, so keep an eye out for that.

See you on the other side!

Why I…. Love Disney!

whyi

This time around in my Why I series, I’m going to talk about why I love Disney!

IMG_1473

As a child one of my favourite films was The Little Mermaid. In fact, I was devastated when our VCR chewed up my tape of the movie and we had to wait until the 10 year anniversary of its release before I could re buy it (Disney videos were only on short release back then!) In the period between this though, I wasn’t really a massive fan. I didn’t go crazy for Mickey and I could take or leave The Lion King and Aladdin.

There are many Disney films that came out around my early teens that I still haven’t seen, and would never reach for.

But after meeting Gary and having the chance to visit Disneyland Paris, my love for Disney just grew and grew.

IMG_1474

There’s something about the parks that’s just…. magical! There, I said it.

I’ve always had a thing for Tinkerbell and had so much merchandise with her on it, so the fact that Disneyland Paris really focusses on her as a character, was something special.

If you’ve never been to a park, I’ll explain. They are so immersive. So much thought has gone into them and every detail is considered. And I don’t feel like it’s full of American over the top cheesiness that people might think it is. It’s full of happiness and joy. I adore the place.

If you’re not a regular reader of Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug, you might not know that I was able to visit Disney World last year to celebrate my 10 yr wedding anniversary. It was an incredible two weeks and really blew Disneyland Paris out of the water. Don’t get me wrong, Paris Disney is amazing and there are some elements that I prefer over Florida Disney (the Paris Castle is the prettiest in my opinion) but there is so much of it, with 4 parks, each of which bigger than you could even imagine, there’s so much to see and so much Disney magic to go around.

IMG_1472

You can go back and read my old post on my trip to Disney World if you would like. I’d been to Disneyland Paris twice before, which had cemented my love of Disney, but Disney World turned it into an obsession.

There’s so much detail involved in just the planning of a WDW holiday, and then once you’re there, you are (and I don’t mean this to sounds obvious) IN a world of Disney. I know that sounds stupid, but as I mentioned it’s completely immersive. It’s most definitely my happy place! You can be a kid again and all there is to do is have fun!

IMG_1485

There’s me looking pale as, at the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I think I could happily live at the Magic Kingdom.

As part of preparing to visit WDW we watched a load of Disney and Pixar films. I love a lot of the Pixar movies and have found a love for some of the older Disney ones. Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland are firm favourites. Tangled and Frozen are up there too. But my favourite Disney film has to be Enchanted. It’s fairly new and not everyone has seen it, but I really love it every time I see it. I think my favourite Pixar film is Wall E. It’s so beautiful and the music is amazing. Considering the majority of the movie has no speaking in it, I think it’s probably more of a film suited to adults, but I could watch it every day. It’s so relaxing!

I don’t think my love for Disney will ever end. I would really like a Disney related tattoo at some point, and I have an idea of a couple I’d like. Later this year we’re visiting Orlando again, and there’s possibility we might visit Disney for one day. But if not, I’ll still revel in the Disney-ness at Disney Springs.

They say Disney Parks are the happiest places on Earth, and to me, they absolutely are!

IMG_6372

We Went To Disney World – the movie!

 

Okay, well it’s not a movie so much as the YouTube video I’ve been promising is now up!

It’s taken me a little while to get all the footage together, and in a way that got as much as I wanted in but without boring everyone!

And if you want to read about our trip, then you can read my blog ALL about it!

I hope you like it. If you do, don’t forget to give it a thumbs up and subscribe if you want to see more!

Planning Your Trip to Walt Disney World: part 3

planning

Whoo hoo! You’re at Walt Disney World. All your planning has paid off and you’re finally doing it!

If you’ve missed parts one and two of this planning series, then feel free to head back. But if you’re ready to enjoy your holiday, why not see what I consider to be awesome tips for when you’re there.

What’s Important to you?:

If seeing characters and getting autographs is important to you, then make sure you don’t just walk past photo ops when you see them. You don’t know when you’ll see that character again so spend the time waiting for your chance to meet them.

Don’t Miss Out:

If you see a piece of merchandise that you must have, don’t let it go. If you’re staying on Disney property it can be delivered to your room so you don’t have to worry about lugging it about, and some merchandise can only be bought in one or two stores. You might forget where you saw it, or even just never make it back to that part of the park.

This can be said for food too – if you don’t pick up that Dole Whip when you see it, you might never get to have it!

Rest:

It’s really important that you plan in rest when you can. The afternoons get HOT and if you’ve been up early and plan to be awake late then you’ll need a mid-afternoon rest. Take a nap in the hotel or even just chill out with a drink somewhere air conditioned. This is a great way to avoid arguments, feeling unwell or just plain exhaustion.

Really Work Your Fastpass:

There were a couple of occasions when we arrived for our fastpass and the wait for the ride was only short anyway. You have an hour period to use your fast pass in, so on these occasions we stood in line for the short wait (10-20 minutes), rode the ride in the standard line and then once we were done we walked right back and used our fast pass. By this time the wait was often longer the second time around, and so we managed to skip the line. This meant we got to ride twice within half an hour!

Be Flexible:

Even if you have a plan like we did, be prepared to change things dependent on weather or just how you’re feeling. We had a hurricane on the way when we were there which meant we had to skip our trip to the beach, reschedule a visit to Epcot and hide out in a mall when the rain set in!

Take Advantage of Freebies:

On our arrival, we were asked if we were celebrating. We told them it was our wedding anniversary so we got given badges each. It was my first visit too, so I got a 1st visit badge. If it’s your birthday they have badges for that also! Whilst out and around the parks and resorts, the cast members take note of your badges and acknowledge that you’re celebrating. We also got given a free cake on one of our quick service visits!

Take Advantage of Your Package:

On our last full day, we knew we had lots of Dining Plan quick service meal credits left – I mean A LOT so we headed to Goofy’s sweet shop in Disney Springs. Here they allow you to split your quick service meal credit for three snack credits and this meant we could get anything in the store that was snack credit eligible for FREE (most of the store was eligible). We had around 80 credits left at this point which meant we filled our basket full of sweets for back home and gifts and got them all for free. We felt quite guilty about taking advantage in this way, but the cast member who served us actually encouraged us to buy more and more and told us to come back the next day if we still had credits left. We had planned to, but the hurricane meant we couldn’t.

We also took advantage of the photo pass we had received in our package and whenever we saw a photographer with no or a short line we got our photos taken. This was a great way to keep a memento of our time in the parks and meant we were never waiting around for a photo op. The only photo line we stood in for a while was during our Halloween party night, but we knew we wanted a keepsake of that!

img_6431

We also each received a refillable mug as part of our package. If you have this, do take advantage of it. The mugs are plastic refillable cups that retail for $18. They are activated at the counter and then for the duration of your stay you can have free Coke Freestyle drinks as often as you like (one every 5 minutes, if you wish) at all the Disney resorts. This also includes coffee, tea and water. We used these every day and found them to be a real treat.

Go Off Site:

We rented a car which meant that we were able to go off-site to the stores and pick up cases of bottled water, iced coffee and snacks for our room. Our room had a mini fridge and so we were able to take cold bottled water with us whenever we left the room, and save money on buying water in the parks.

Check Your Receipt:

A lot of the receipts in the parks have money off codes or coupons at the bottom. These can save you money on future purchases in and around the parks and resort stores. So make sure you inspect your receipt and don’t just throw it away!

Stay Hydrated:

It’s essential that no matter how much fun you’re having you keep drinking water. It’s so easy to get distracted and forget to drink so keep an eye on how you’re feeling. There are water fountains everywhere and places selling water. But we took our own bottles and the backpack we carried had water bottle holders in it meaning we didn’t have to worry about carrying freezing wet bottles in our hands.

And on that note: Make sure you wear sunscreen – hats, sunglasses and sunscreen – and don’t forget the top of your ears. You don’t want to ruin your trip with sunburn and heat exhaustion. Look after yourself!

So, those are my hints and tips for an epic trip to Disney World. There’s so much more, but I could go on and on – and you should probably learn them for yourself! So, go ahead, have an amazing time, and enjoy yourselves. And don’t forget to come back and tell me all about your trip to the happiest place on earth J

Planning Your Trip to Walt Disney World: part 2

planning

Welcome to part two of how to plan your perfect Disney World trip. If you missed part one, then head back because that’s all about booking.

Now you’ve booked the fun stuff happens. You need to begin thinking about what you’re actually going to do whilst you’re there.

You need to think about the time of year you’re going and what’s important to you. We visited at the end of September and start of October. This meant it was Halloween-time and also the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.

This was so exciting for us, because we knew there would be special events and lots going on.

Once you’re booked you’re told you can book certain things ahead of time. Do these things – you don’t want to find something you want to do is fully booked and you miss out.

Let’s talk specifics:

Where to start

We built an Excel spreadsheet of the two weeks we were away. This had a column for each day, and rows stating the different parks’ opening hours. We reviewed the crowd calendars on the DIBB and Touring Plans and were able to see which days to go and which days to avoid certain parks.

disneysheet

On here we also noted the fireworks and events and the opening times of each park. From here we were able to start building up a picture of where we would be at what times. We also made sure we blanked out enough afternoons or days where we wanted down time. It’s so important to remember the days will be long and it’s HOT so we wanted to make sure if we needed to cool down or rest, we’d planned it in.

Build your Magic Band:

If you’re staying on site, you get the pleasure of your own Magic Band. These things are truly wonderful. A magic band is a waterproof bracelet that you wear throughout your time at Disney World resorts and parks. It’s your room key, park tickets, parking permit, locker key, cash, holds your fast passes and ADRs, links your memory maker and photo pass, and holds all your dining plan credits. You can choose the colour of band and they print your name (or nickname) on the inside so that you know which is which if there are more than one of you.

img_6553

Whilst you’re on property you can also buy little clip on accessories to jazz them up. If you’re UK based you pick your band up when you check in, and if you’re in the US they deliver your band a few weeks ahead of your stay.

Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR):

You can book your ADRs from 180 days ahead of your trip. If there’s somewhere you really want to eat you should try and book as soon as you can. Using the sheet we’d built we could see which parks we would be on which days and what time of day. This meant we had a good idea of when we could book in our ADRs and it worked really well. Ahead of booking, I’d been avidly reading the Disney Food Blog and checking out menus on the Disney World website. Full menus can be viewed, so you have an idea of what sort of food to expect. Restaurants like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Table are too popular to allow walk-ins so you really need to be prepared. ADRs are linked to your magic band and you are sent reminders via email so don’t worry about forgetting your booking. Be aware that if you don’t show for your ADR your account is charged for a no show, so make sure you’re certain when you book, and if you need to skip your booking make sure you cancel ahead of time.

Fast Passes:

13731637_10157414824325727_4594738374024054279_n

We spent a while looking up the different rides for the parks, and finding out how popular these were. Rides like Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Frozen Ever After are fairly new so we knew we had to book fast passes for these. Using the spreadsheet we knew where we were likely to be and when so at 60 days ahead of our trip we were able to book our rides in. (If you’re staying off site it’s 30 days ahead.) It’s essential that if you have your heart on riding something, you book ahead. Trying to get a walk-on for Frozen or Test Track is pretty much impossible. Once we’d booked our essential fast passes, we went back and saw what was left in the places we knew we’d be – this meant that if we found ourselves in a park and didn’t have anything better do, we had rides planned in.

Special Events:

Knowing we would be in Orlando for Halloween-time we knew we had to book a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party, and we also booked for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal. Knowing that I’m the kind of person who likes to do things a couple of times to really enjoy them, we planned in two nights at Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We also knew this would aid us should the weather be bad, and this was fortuitous since the first night we planned there was a total wash out.

Be Flexible:

We knew our plan looked very strict but we also knew we were fairly flexible with it. If we needed to change a plan, didn’t want to do something again, or the weather changed, we were able to alter things on a whim – but we had also planned a lot of things more than once so the important things were covered should we need to miss one at some point.

Book Your Car:

Disney World has a Car Care Centre on property. We hired a car from Alamo, and knew that we could get picked up from the park (they also pick up from your resort), taken to get our car and then drive off into the sunset. Door to door pick up and drop off service, effectively. Having a car was so important to us because it meant we didn’t have to rely on waiting for buses, we had free parking at the parks, and we could nip off-site whenever we wanted.

Plan Your Must Dos:

I knew there were certain sights, resorts and foods I wanted to experience over my time away. I made sure I had a list of them all and it meant that when we had down time I was able to suggest a visit to a certain resort, or trip off-site for breakfast at a spot I’d heard about. It was so important to me that I tick certain things off my list, and didn’t come home and realise I’d missed something. It’s not like you’re in Orlando every day!

Buy Essentials Ahead of Time:

We picked up things like granola bars and ponchos (though these never arrived from the amazon seller!) ahead of time. You can save money by doing this and means you’re never caught ratty and hungry or soaked from a sudden downpour. Saying that, I did enjoy my Disney poncho and it was thick and good quality – worth the price in my opinion!

And now you’re all planned, all that’s left to do is wait for the big day when you can leave for your trip. Head straight to part 3 which is tips for when you’re in the parks!