5 Must-Do's for Planning a Magical WDW Vacation

A trip to Walt Disney World is something the whole family gets excited about as the magic awaits.  But to make sure your vacation is even more pixie dusted, here are my top 5 "must-do's" when planning your upcoming trip.

1.  Make Dining Reservations - Dining in Walt Disney World is one of the best parts of any visit.  From the flavors around the world at Epcot to character dining experiences that will create memories for years to come, the restaurants you choose to visit will be central to your vacation.  You can start making dining reservations 180 days before your trip.  Booking early will allow you some of the best selections, but don't despair if you miss out on some of your favorites.  I was fortunate this trip to find many cancellations as my vacation date drew closer - even scoring a Be Our Guest dinner reservation about a week before we left!

Dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant is one of the toughest dining reservations to get.

2.  Research, research, research - Walt Disney World has so much to offer for every age.  From the tiniest of travelers to the grandparents joining the adventure, everyone is sure to find something perfect for them.  In fact, with so much to offer it can be overwhelming when planning your trip.  Take a peek around the Walt Disney World website and visit blogs (like this one!) that may be geared towards your specific age group or traveling needs.

3.  When in doubt, ask questions! - If you have a specific question or are seeking some great opinions on what not to miss on your trip, stop over to the Disney Parks Moms Panel for assistance.  Here, you can browse or search through previously answered questions while also having the option to submit your own question if you can't find what you need.  When we were planning our first Disney Cruise Line vacation, I spent a lot of time on this site learning from their wisdom!

4.  Don't forget those FastPass+ reservations - Guests staying at a Walt Disney World resort can begin making their FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance while those staying "off property" can book at 30 days before your trip.  Regardless of whether you can start booking at 60 days or 30 days in advance, do it as soon as your window opens to get the best selection.  Popular attractions like the Anna and Elsa Meet and Greet at Princess Fairytale Hall in Magic Kingdom often book up quickly!  These reservations are not written in stone, so book what you think you need and you can always revisit later if your plans change.

Want to enjoy The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train?  Better get a FP+ reservation to avoid the hour or so wait!

5.  Download the My Disney Experience App - This app is your one-stop-shop for keeping all of your hotel, dining, and FastPass+ reservations together.  You can modify plans from the app so if you're out in the parks and need to make changes, it's quick and easy to do so.  The app also provides current wait times for rides, show schedules, and park hours.  It's the perfect companion for your trip!

With so much to see and do at the Walt Disney World Resort, be sure to take your time to research so you can plan the perfect vacation for you and your family!

Be Our Guest. . .for Breakfast!

Any visit inside the Beast's castle at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World is sure to be a magical experience.  This time, we were able to grab a breakfast reservation and tried out their selections offered at this upscale quick service restaurant.  Once again, Be Our Guest restaurant did not disappoint!



Our morning began with an early entry to Magic Kingdom for a pre-park opening breakfast at 8:30 AM.  This is one of my favorite tips for breakfast reservations at Walt Disney World - try to grab a breakfast before the park opens.  You'll be sure to have some great photo opportunities and, if you time it appropriately, you'll be leaving the restaurant at rope drop and getting a jump start on the crowds for the day.  Be Our Guest offers a quick service fixed price menu for breakfast.  You have the option to either pre-order your food through the My Disney Experience website or order from the kiosks when you arrive.  Currently, breakfast for adults costs $19.99 and includes a beverage, selection of pastries, and then your entree.  There is also a kids menu available and plenty of selections for any food allergy concerns.



I ordered the scrambled egg whites which was served with roasted tomatoes, chicken apple sausage, and fresh fruit.  The meal was very tasty and a healthier alternative to what you might typically find on breakfast buffets or other quick service meals.  Of course, I completely ruined the "healthy" part of the meal with the yummy pastries that were served to the table!



My husband opted for the Croque Madame.  He has an aversion to all things dairy so he placed a special order with the kitchen to get it without the cheese or b├ęchamel sauce.  He said the sandwich was good, but he felt it was overpriced.  However, keep in mind that you're paying for more than just the meal - the atmosphere of the castle is stunning!

 

Don't forget to visit each of the dining rooms whether you're eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner inside Be Our Guest.  The ballroom is every bit as grand as in the movie and the West Wing perfectly captures the mystery and pain of the Beast.  Overall, I was really pleased with our breakfast and would go back again.  In my experience, the breakfast reservation was much easier to get then lunch or dinner so this is the perfect opportunity to check out all that Be Our Guest has to offer!

Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa

I'm fresh off our latest trip to Walt Disney World where we enjoyed the comforts of Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.  For each of our seven nights, we called this lovely resort "home" and enjoyed what it had to offer.  Saratoga Springs is a Disney Vacation Club property featuring a wide variety of rooms ranging from studios to the Treehouse Villas.  The resort is absolutely beautiful and sprawling.  The resort is themed after Saratoga, New York and highlights a golden era of horse racing.  It's located near Disney Springs (currently transitioning from Downtown Disney) and features a walking path to that area.  

"Welcome Home"
The resort has five areas - The Grandstand, The Carousel, Congress Park, The Paddock, and The Springs.  We requested a room in The Springs as it is the closest to the main building and pool.  Due to the size of the resort, there is an internal bus system.  If you want to be first on the Disney Transportation busses, stay at The Grandstand.  Even though we were the last bus stop at The Springs, we never had a problem getting a bus when we waited.  There are three separate pools throughout the resort.  We opted to visit the pool at The Paddock which also included a specially designed children's area with water features and a water play area for children under 48 inches.  This pool was also zero entry which was perfect for our 3 year old.

The Paddock Pool
There are also several restaurants on property.  The Turf Club Bar and Grill is a table service restaurant featuring traditional American / country club type entrees.  There is also Artist's Palatte - a quick service restaurant located next to The Turf Club Bar and Grill in the main building.  In addition, you can find limited menus at restaurants and bars near the pools.

One of the beautiful walkways around the resort.
During our vacation, our family of four (including a 3 year old and a 5 month old infant) stayed in a studio villa.  Like many other Disney Vacation Club properties, the studio villa features a bed, sleeper sofa, table and two chairs, TV, full bath, closet, and kitchenette.  While a studio was tight when we had to add the pack 'n' play for our youngest family member, we were able to make due for the week.

The view from our standard view studio villa.
Saratoga Springs was a beautiful resort, but featured little "Disney" theming.  If you're family is looking to be surrounded by Mickey and immersed in Disney movies, you won't find it here.  Considering all of the resorts we've stayed at previously in Walt Disney World, Saratoga Springs would not be my first choice simply because it is not convenient to any of the parks - a perk that is important to us with young children.  However, I wouldn't hesitate to stay there again.  From a Disney Vacation Club standpoint, Saratoga Springs offers a lot of rooms at a relatively "cheap" point value and is probably the least popular.  This means that you can often find rooms available here at the last minute - a rare find for Disney Vacation Club studio villas.  

Have you visited Saratoga Springs on a Walt Disney World vacation?  I'd love to hear your experiences too!


5 Reasons Why Disney in July is Fun!

Summer is the most popular season for family travel in the U.S.  While the kids are out of school in most parts of the country, families take advantage of the warm weather to spend some quality time together on some amazing vacations.  For some though, Walt Disney World is immediately removed from the list of summer vacation destinations.  I understand.  Some worry about how hot and humid Florida summers can be while others are fearful of facing large crowds.  Well folks, as someone who has travelled to Walt Disney World during the summer twice before and about to embark on another trip in less then a week, I can reassure you that you can indeed have fun in Walt Disney World in summer.  Check out these 5 reasons why your Walt Disney World vacation is still fun - even in July!  

5. Great water parks! - Walt Disney World is home to, not one, but two amazing water parks.  Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach provide lots of family entertainment and a great way to beat the heat.  If you visit Walt Disney World outside of the summer months, you may not get to experience both as in the "off-season" they typically only have one water park open at a time.

Typhoon Lagoon is the perfect place to take a break during your summertime Disney vacation!
4.  No school guilt - While my two are still too young to be missing school when we travel during the school year, I know as an educator how difficult missing a week of school can be for students.  Traveling to Walt Disney World in the summer means that you can have all the Disney fun you can manage without any of the guilt associated with pulling your kids from a week of school!

3.  Later park hours - This is something I didn't really appreciate until our November trip this past year.  I'm just used to parks staying open later and was amazed to see regular park closing times of 8PM for Hollywood Studios or 10PM for Magic Kingdom.  When you add in the early Magic Kingdom closings for special events like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (7PM closing time) you have less time to fit in your favorite attractions.

2.  Your Resort Pool - Disney resorts (an even the off property resorts I've stayed at) have some amazing pools.  The pools are not-to-be missed essentials on a summer vacation, but are often overlooked when traveling in the cooler off season months.  Of the Disney property resorts I've visited, my favorite pool so far as been at Port Orleans Riverside.  The water slides are great - even for big kids!

1. It's Disney! - And who can say no to a Walt Disney World vacation anytime of year?!?! Regardless of when you travel, the parks offer a great variety of activities and even in the Florida heat you can find ways to stay cool and have a great vacation.

Great Apps for Capturing Your Memories!

While at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in New York City last month, we were shown two great apps that I have thoroughly enjoyed using over the past few weeks.  In my opinion, both of these apps provide a great way to capture favorite memories and experiences.

The first app is Magisto.  When using Magisto, you add your photos and videos then choose a theme and background music.  The way the app puts everything together is out of your control so you can't choose what you want to go first, second, etc.  However, I think you'll enjoy the way everything comes together for a final project.  This is a video that I created from our recent trip to a Baltimore Orioles game.  There is a free version of the app available, but what you are seeing here is the pro version though.  We received a code to get the premium version of the app free for one year "magistotrial12" which you can also use!  



The second app is Videolicious.  Similar to Magisto, Videolicious takes videos and photos to create a finished product.  One big difference is that you control the order in which your media files are displayed as well as the timing.  Here, you'll see Brody talking about what he is most excited to see and do on our upcoming Walt Disney World trip.  As you can see, some of my pictures were cut off.  Videolicious works best with photos and videos shot in landscape - something I'll have to keep in mind in the future.  I put this video together using the free version of the Videolicious app, but they have plenty of upgrades for purchase that look like neat tools.



Both apps are enjoyable and, if you're anything like me, you can easily spend an afternoon playing and reliving some great memories.  I hope that you have fun with these two apps!

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