Sunday, April 27, 2014

Choosing Your Moderate Resort

Well, everyone, it's been a while since I posted a strictly planning blog post here.  That's probably because I'm not planning my vacation anymore, and I apologize for that.  Unless you prefer "Disney at Home" posts, because then I'm sorry for this!  Anyway...

You don't have an unlimited budget, but you do have a substantial amount of money you can spend.  You find that you fall right in the moderate resort category, but aren't sure which resort is going to be best for you.  Are you looking for something romantic, or do you want to be able to get Disney transportation and go?  I'll help you figure that out!

Spender vs. Saver
What can you get for the least amount of money in this category?  For the most?  Find out here!

Okay, just kidding.  If you want to spend some money, but you're more in the "moderate category," I would probably just bump up to Deluxe, specifically Wilderness Lodge (the "saver" of that category), or just a Deluxe resort in general.  For more information, click here.

The least expensive moderate "resort"are the Campsites at Fort Wilderness.  The outdoorsy atmosphere makes it not the best fit for all, but there are so many perks that come with staying here that are not nearly as accessible for those staying elsewhere.  Here's some examples:
  • Average cost of campsite (depending on amenities): $54-$84 per night
    • Keep in mind, a tent or RV are not included and must be brought by those staying there.  It might be worth it to look into renting an RV for the week.
    • Some campsites at Fort Wilderness allow pets
  • Two dinner shows, Hoop-de-Doo Musical Revue and Mickey's Backyard BBQ, as well as the delicious Trail's End Restaurant are located here
  • Bus and boat transportation are available here
  • There are a long list of outdoor activities that are available here, including:
    • Chip 'N Dale's Campfire Sing-a-long
    • Tri-Circle-D Ranch (with pony rides, wagon rides, holiday sleigh rides, and horseback riding trails)
    • Pools
    • Fort Wilderness Archery Experience
    • Motorized Boat Rentals, Canoe Rentals, Kayak Rentals
    • Fishing
    • Bike Rentals
    • 2 Different Arcades
    • Volleyball and Basketball Courts
    • Waterskiing
    • Hiking and Jogging Trails
    • and More!

Planner vs. Impulsive
The moderate category isn't the most generous to the impulsive, because many of these resorts have internal shuttles that slow down travel time.  This lends better to the planner, who can account for that time used traveling around the resort, but can also lead the planner to steer away from this category.  Here are what I believe to be the best picks for both!

For the Planner, I recommend the Caribbean Beach Resort.  Though the internal shuttle can be a bit of a pain, but the amenities on this beautiful pseudo-island make it worth it.
  • Average cost per night: $194
  • In the Epcot resort area, and located near Fantasia Gardens mini golf course
  • Casual dining at Shutters at Old Port Royale table-service, as well as the Old Port Royale food court
  • White sand beaches with hammocks to relax in, in addition to pools per "island"
  • Bike rentals, fishing, and a jogging trail
  • Bus transportation internally and outside the resort
Unless you want to be in the Pirates of the Caribbean rooms (which are the furthest from the Customs House where you check in and out), I suggest either requesting a preferred room to put you closer to the main areas, or asking to be placed in Barbados - closest to the Customs House, or Martinique or Trinidad North - closest to the food court and main pool area.

Port Orleans French Quarter is the best resort for the Impulsive Disney-goer because it is the only moderate resort without an internal shuttle.  Here are some other aspects that make this resort a great choice:
  • Average per night: $194
  • Buses available for transportation, as well as a boat to Downtown Disney
  • Sassagoula Floatworks food court and two lounges for your evening (or afternoon) beverage
    • Sassagoula Floatworks is also home to the much desired beignets, one of the only places in Walt Disney World that serves them regularly

Romantic vs. Fun
I think that this category has some of the best options of moderate resorts.  If your goal is to spend money in the moderate range, I would evaluate your choice baed on these two criteria and go from there!

Coronado Springs is a great option for romance in the moderate category.  Though some people consider this a "conference hotel," this fact about it makes it have a more adult-friendly atmosphere, and amenities perfect for a couple. 
  • Average per night: $194
  • Maya Grill is available for table-service, with 3 other quick service options as well as 3 lounges in this resort
  • The La Vida Health club is great for those who work out, but also has a mini spa with massages, facials, and a salon next door for those who want to be pampered

Port Orleans Riverside is a really great option for those looking to get the most fun out of their Disney vacation.  It is in great proximity to some of the more adult venues, such as those in Downtown Disney, and boasts a few in-resort specialties that should not be missed, even by those not staying here.
  • Average per night: $194
  • Bus and boat transportation - with boats to Downtown Disney, which is a great location with many shopping, dining, and drinking options
  • Boatwright's Dining Hall, a very under appreciated and delicious table-service option, regular dining hall, and 2 lounges
    • River Roost lounge is a favorite, mostly because of a Yehaa Bob, a popular cabaret performer with a Disney cult following

What aspect of vacation planning do you want to see next?  Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time <3

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Colors of the Wind Sangria

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Today (April 20th) is Easter, and I though that a nice, light sangria would be a perfect addition to an Easter brunch!  I've wanted to make a Colors of the Wind themed drink for a while, and figured this would be a perfect opportunity!

To really embrace the Pocahontas theme, I tried to use only fruits that she would have been able to find in colonial Virginia!  Of course, these fruits probably wouldn't all be ripe at the same time of the year (and oranges/peaches might be a little more southern), but it only adds to the theming of the drink!

For the Colors of the Wind Sangria, you will need the following:
  • Dry or semi-dry white wine
  • Green apple
  • Strawberries (or cherries)
  • Blackberries (or blueberries)
  • Orange (or Peach)
  • Triple Sec
  • Brown Sugar
  • Sparkling water (optional)

To start, place the blackberries in the bottom of a pitcher.  I cut some of the blackberries in half to release the juices, but left some intact.  Then pour your white wine in the pitcher just enough to cover this layer of berries.  You'll do this after each addition of fruit, and it helps the layers stay unmixed.

Next, add a layer of sliced apples, then sliced oranges/peaches.  (I wanted to use peaches, but the closest grocery store to my dorm is Whole Foods, and since peaches are out of season, they didn't have any.  Not even in a can!)  Pour in wine to the top of the layer after each addition.

Add the strawberries, sliced, next.  Before pouring the wine over this layer, sprinkle brown sugar over the top so that it barely covers the berries.  Then, pour in your wine.  This allows the berries to naturally mix in with the other layers.  You'll see the granules float throughout the drink.

Pour in as much Triple Sec as you like, as it will add to the citrus flavor of the sangria.  At this point, you could also add vodka if you would like to bring up the alcohol content of the drink.  Cover your pitcher, and put in the fridge.  I left mine in overnight, and I would suggest letting it sit for 8-12 hours so that the fruit has enough time to mix with the wine, and the wine to soak into the fruit.

Mini fridge!
After enough time has passed, take your sangria out of the fridge.  You'll want to mix it up to make sure that the flavors of the fruit, and any other ingredients you added in (brown sugar, triple sec, vodka) have been evenly dispersed.

In the original picture, I had sparkling water as an ingredient.  When I added it, I liked that it made the drink bubbly, but it watered down the flavor too much.  If you want to add some bubbles, I instead suggest topping of your sangria with lemon lime soda or champagne.

Here's what the final product looks like!  I thought that even when the fruit was mixed, it still looked really pretty.  Make sure to include some fruit in each glass.  Eating the wine-soaked fruit is my favorite part of sangria!

And there you have it!  Colors of the Wind Sangria!  Let me know if you tried this recipe and if you liked it in the comments!  My roommates were big fans!

Have a suggestion of what movie or character you'd like to see made into a drink next?  Let me know in the comments!

Until next time! <3

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Disney Hangover is Real

It's been about a month since I returned home from Disney.

Between getting engaged and college, I've been pretty busy.

But not busy enough to prevent Disney Hangover.

What is Disney Hangover, you ask?

Disney Hangover [Diz-nee hang-oh-ver]
1. the feeling of dullness of 'real life' compared to the happy and magical feeling of being at Walt
    Disney World.
2. the empty feeling of no longer having a Disney vacation to plan and/or look forward to.

There are many symptoms of Disney hangover, including, but not limited to:

  • Inability to focus on work/school because you are thinking about your vacation.
  • Frequent "flashbacks" to you being in the park, sparked by a smell, taste, sound, or just general memory.
  • Looking at your vacation photos abnormally often.
  • Feeling sad as you go through a day, knowing you aren't as happy as when you were at Disney.
  • Wishing you had a Fastpass+ for the grocery store, Starbucks line, etc.
  • Trying to figure out the next time you can go back to Disney.

It's completely normal to find yourself wanting to sprinkle some fairy dust on everyday life after coming back from a Disney trip.  The fact of the matter is, it's called the Happiest Place on Earth for a reason, and life outside of the resort really just doesn't compare for some of us.

Going through my second Disney Hangover in my adult life, I have a few tips to help ease the pain.

While in Disney:

It doesn't hurt to take pictures
with your treat either.
1. Buy a souvenir that you will or could use every day.  If you drink coffee every morning, get a mug.  If you hit the gym everyday after work, get a drawstring bag or water bottle.  Bring that touch of Disney into something you do every day.

2. Bring home a treat of some sort from the parks.  Get a box of Mickey ear rice krispies in the Main Street Confectionary (because everything tastes better shaped like Mickey!) or a caramel apple from Big Top Souvenirs in New Fantasyland.  Though these treats won't last forever, it'll be a nice treat on a day when the Disney Hangover is especially bad.

3. Take lots of pictures.  Though one of the Disney Hangover symptoms is looking at the photos, you'll be glad you did afterward.  It'll help you relieve all of your favorite memories from your vacation later.

4. Take the extra shampoo/soap from your resort if you're staying on property.  They say scent is the strongest tie to memory, so lathering up with these scents during your daily shower might just take you back to Disney, at least for a moment.  You can also buy their products online here.

When you return home:
1. Look at your pictures.  Edit your pictures.  Upload your pictures to Facebook.  Make a photo album or photo book online.  Preserve your memories in any way you sank.

2. Listen to Disney podcasts and read Disney blogs.  One of my favorite blogs is Disney Food Blog (they also produce a podcast), but I also really like the Disneybound Tumblr.  My favorite podcast to just listen to, not so much for planning, is WDW Radio by Lou Mongello.  There are links to all of these in the Other Resources tab.

3. Watch Disney movies and listen to Disney soundtracks.  I especially like listening to the soundtrack instrumentals when I'm studying.  Recently I've been trying to find park instrumentals too, like the soundtrack for Soarin' and Fantasmic!.  (update 4/28: a really great website for park music is

4. Read books.  Read a Walt Disney biography.  Find a book about the parks themselves.  If you're like me, read the Kingdom Keepers series about kids in the parks at night (they might be written for kids...but I think I've proven I'm a kid at heart!)  Here are some links to some examples:

5. Make Disney themed food and drinks.  Make a pizza in the shape of Mickey ears.  Theme your dinner around a country in Epcot.  Make a cocktail based on a character.  For some ideas, check out the Disney Cocktails tab, or look at Disney Food Blog's list of Disney Park recipes here!

6. Watch YouTube videos.  Search Disney princess character interactions.  Look up videos of the parades.  Bring Disney to you in the best way you know how.

6. Start planning your next vacation.  Hey, it might be a few years before you can next make it to Disney.  But it doesn't hurt to do your research on how to plan even better next time, and to stay on top of your Disney news!  Price check different combinations of dining and resorts - the My Disney Experience site makes it easy.  You never know when you'll find a good deal...and maybe get to visit the parks sooner than you thought!

What do you do to help get over Disney Hangover?  Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Later this week: Colors of the Wind Sangria Recipe

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Wall-e and Eve Starstruck Love

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Guess what!  For the Wall-e and Eve Starstruck Love, you get two drinks for reading one post!  One to look like Wall-e, and one to replicate Eve!  You end up with a pairing that looks like and captures the spirit of these two very lovable characters.

First, let's start with Wall-e.
For Wall-e, you need:
  • 1 1/2 oz (1 shot) Captain Morgan or other spiced rum
  • 1/4 - 1/2 oz Goldschlager
  • 2/3 cup iced tea, sweetened or unsweetened is your choice.  I used unsweetened.
  • 2/3 cup lemonade
  • A pinch of cinnamon
You could use a shaker to combine all of this, but I just popped it all in my mason jar and shook it to mix it all up!  Both of these recipes are pretty simple and don't require a lot of work, but the two of them together really pack a punch visually.  I love this for Wall-e because of the metallic pieces of gold in the Goldschlager (not that 1/4 - 1/2 gets you that many in the drink, but in concept) and the cinnamon specks that make the drink look rusty and dirty, just like Wall-e on Earth.

If you look closely enough (or click on the picture to maximize) you can see the specks of cinnamon.

Next, let's make Eve!

As you can can see, this drink is fairly uncomplicated too.  You just need:
  • 1 1/2 oz (1 shot) Gin
  • Lime sparkling water
  • Mint leaves
Add the gin to a glass, and pour the water into the gin to mix.  Garnish with a mint leaf to look like the plant that Eve came to Earth to find!  Alternatively, you could put the gin and mint in a shaker to try and get some of the mint flavor into the drink, but then the mixture might not be as clear.  I also like having the lime water instead of just a lime because it sweetens the drink up a bit, but you could always make a tradition gin and tonic for this.  On the other hand, you could add some sweetener and make a traditional mojito if you'd prefer.  Play with it a bit!

I really recommend putting Eve in a wine glass so that it's a little higher off the ground, and Wall-e in a shorter glass (I chose a mason jar for it's very rustic look, especially with the lid) so that he is on the ground.

Like I said, easy drinks to make, but they visually pack a punch and really reflect the characters.

Check out my other Disney themed cocktails on the Disney at Home tab, or click on these links: I Just Can't Wait to Be Lion KingEnchanted Rose, and Olaf's In Summer

Next Disney cocktails, sometime soon, will be the 101 Dalmatians Spots and Colors of the Wind cocktail!

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Magic Band and Fastpass+ Updates

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This past week (4-6-14) there have been a lot of changes announced for Magic Bands and Fastpass+. The information is spread out all over the place, but hopefully I can compiled a pretty comprehensive list here.

1. Magic Bands are no longer limited to guests staying on Disney property.  Everyone, including annual pass holders, one day guests, and those staying off property can get a Magic band.  With some stipulations, of course.

  • One day visitors and off-site visitors: From what the post from the Disney parks blog says, it seems like 1 day visitors will have to purchase Magic Bands if they want to use them, for $12.99.  I'm not sure if that's totally the case, or if you can just pay to get a color other than the standard grey.  Also, if you buy tickets ahead of time, you can reserve Fastpass+ reservations up to 30 days in advance.  This may change, so keep an eye on the blog and other Disney resources for more and newer information.
  • Annual pass holders: Annual pass holders are currently receiving a magic band to use for their trips to Disney.  They can make Fastpass+ reservations for 7 days (consecutive or not) within a 30-day window.  At this time, they are limited to 3 Fastpass+ options per day, as well as only 1 park.

2. Soon, guests may be able to add more than 3 Fastpass+ reservations.  It hasn't been enacted yet, but the Disney parks blog mentioned that they are working on a service that allows guests to add more Fastpass+ reservations after they use their initial 3, if there are Fastpass+ experiences still open.  For planning purposes, this would cause you to concentrate your Fastpass+ reservations toward the morning, so that when you're finished you could attempt to add more.  Again, this hasn't started yet, but the update seems to be on the horizon.  As well as:

3. Disney is adding the ability to reserve Fastpass+ in more than one park per day.  The details about this are also not yet released, but they are trying to factor in Park Hopping and making Fastpass+ more conducive to doing so. 
  • They may make it so that you can only add additional Fastpass+ options once you've used your first 3 in the first park, not that you will be able to book them in advance.
  • On the other hand, you might simply be able to book them in advance in both parks.
  • This will definitely effect the tier systems they have in Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  I don't know if you will be able to book two Fastpass+ options in tier one, or if they will get rid of that system entirely.

Keep checking back here of the Disney parks blog for more information if you plan on staying off-site or if you are only going for 1-day.  Until then, keep using the kiosks to book Fastpass+ when you arrive!

For more information about planning Fastpass+, check out my other resources: Reserving Fastpass+Magic KingdomEpcotHollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom

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I Just Can't Wait to Be Lion King Cocktail

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The Lion King is a classic favorite for many individuals, and one of the most colorful and fun scenes is when Simba sings "I Just Can't Wait to Be King."  That's the scene I based this colorful cocktail off of!  Here's how you make it!

You will need to following ingredients, as pictured above:

  • 1 oz. Captain Morgan, or other spiced rum
  • 1 oz. Triple Sec
  • 1/4 oz. cinnamon flavored alcohol, such as Goldshlager or Fireball
  • Cinnamon, to taste (a few shakes of the container)
  • 2 oz. Orange Mango juice (It would probably be good with pineapple juice, or just orange juice.  Be creative!)
  • Brown Sugar, for garnish
  • Mixed Fruit, for garnish

To start, mix the Captain Morgan, triple sec, cinnamon alcohol, cinnamon, and juice in a shaker full of ice.  Set aside.  Next, rim the glass in brown sugar.  Use some orange juice to stick the brown sugar to the edge.  This is a bit tricky; the brown sugar doesn't want to stick right away.  You can always skip this step, but I think it's cute because it reminds me of a lion's mane.

The next step is to put fruit on a skewer of some sort.  I didn't have one, and didn't want to buy a whole pack, so I used a straw.  I suggest using some tropical fruit, because they are often the most colorful.  That being said, use what you have!

Put the fruit in the glass, to have something like the picture on the left.  After that, pour the liquid in the shaker into the glass.  I actually doubled the recipe, because my glass was pretty big, then topped it off with the rest of my bottle of orange mango juice.  (Have you caught on yet that I tend to like my drinks a little weaker?)

None the less, this drink was fun, sweet, with just a little bit of spice, like Simba, who Just Can't Wait to Be King!

And there you have it!  The I Just Can't Wait to Be Lion King Cocktail!

Next Cocktail: Wall-e and Eve Starstruck Love

Try one of my other Disney themed cocktails: Olaf's In SummerThe Enchanted Rose, Wall-e and Eve Starstruck Love, and Aurora in the Clouds

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Trip Report: Tips Summary

For those of you that don't really want to read through the longest posts basically ever for information about your Disney trip, here are the tips I compiled during my vacation.

  • Make sure to go to Terminal B, level 1 if you are taking the Magical Express. It's easy to find yourself wandering around Terminal A, with no Magical Express to be found.  When you get to the main area (with the gift shop pictured below) be sure to go to the B side!  If you aren't sure, ask for directions.
This is the outside of said gift shop.
  • If you're staying in value/moderate, opt for a preferred room.  The preferred rooms are closer to the main building, and mean less hassle to talk to the front desk and for value resorts mean less walking at the beginning of the day and end of the night.  Your feet will thank you.

  • Download the My Disney Experience app to your phone, and bring a charger with you to the parks. We used the times guide a lot, and switched the Fastpass+ more than I expected over the trip.  My phone only died once, but it came close a few times.  Disney is installing charging areas around the parks, and cast members are really good about helping you find somewhere to charge it in a restaurant, for example.

  • Remember, anything outside of a standard drink, meal, and dessert costs extra if you are using the dining plan.  This includes alcohol and appetizers.
Be sure to budget for that trip "drinking around the world" in Epcot.

  • If you are having dinner at Rose and Crown, opt for a time past 7:30 for a chance to view the fireworks front the restaurant.  And ask for a patio seat.  It was so nice to be able to sit at our table, not stand around for a good spot 45 minutes before the fireworks started.

  • If at all possible, sit toward the back of the train on Big Thunder Mountain. The hills of the ride are too small, and the train too long, so when you go over the lift chains still hold on to the back while the front is already half way down the hill.  Because of this, you feel like you're going slower and you don't get the thrill of the drops nearly as much.

  • Don't forget to bring sunblock.

  • If your wrist is small, remove the outer grey layer of the magic band.  Alex didn't, but I did, and it made wearing my magic band so much more comfortable.  I can't even tell you the number of parents who hadn't done this for their kids, or women who had theirs wrapped around almost an extra time.  It peels off really easily.  Just take it off.

  • If you buy Memory Maker, be sure to get the ride photos.  They come with the Memory Maker package, and since it's $150-$200 (depending on if you buy it before you get to Disney or at Disney), you want to be sure to get your money's worth.

  • When planning Fastpass+ for Hollywoods Studios, concentrate your ride times for the evening if at all possible. This will make it easier to go see shows like Lights, Motor, Action, Indiana Jones, and Beauty and the Beast, which concentrate show times before 4:00.  Because of this, stand-by lines also seem to be longer in the evenings, and planning Fastpass+ reservations then will help you avoid that.

  • Buy a poncho at a local chain store before coming to Disney.  Or, if you did buy one at Disney, save it and bring it for your next trip.  They are needlessly expensive.

  • If you are not staying on property and can't make Fastpass+ reservations in advance, come early.  By 3:00, everything was booked up.  I also noticed that the lines were pretty long at the Fastpass+ Kiosks that one-day visitors and those staying outside of Disney have to use at this time.  To have the best chance at getting your picks, be at the park when it opens and head right toward the kiosks.  They are staffed by cast members in blue polos.

  •  Disney does not do bussing from resort to resort.  If you have a dining reservation and then want to go back to your room, you'll have to connect at one of the parks.  Unless you are going from one resort on the monorail line to another.
One view from the Epcot Monorail
  • Always chose the route with the least amount of transfers when moving between parks and resorts.  If you don't, you'll end up wasting more time than you realize. 

  • Realize that Disney transportation takes a little bit of time.  We find it the most convenient, because you don't have to bring or rent a car, then pay for parking and walk to find your car after visit the park.  However, know that you will spend a chunk of time waiting for the bus/monorail/boat you need to arrive.  Usually allow 30-50 minutes to get from one place to another during peak seasons, and 40-60 during less busy times.

  • If you're a big Star Wars fan, go listen to the Ewoks at night in the Star Tour queue area.  They laugh and "talk" to each other, and they have little fires burning in their tree tops.  It's something you might not even notice if you aren't looking for it.

  • Sit in the "Pocahontas" section for Fantasmic!  It's the section directly in the middle of the theater.

  • If at all possible, go to the 10:00 show for Fantasmic!  We had friends that tried to go at 8:30, and the theater was standing room only.  However, for us, the theater was only half full, if that.  We were comfortably seated with plenty of room, even in the middle section and during the peak time that is Spring Break.

  • If you can manage to stay up that late, you can ride a huge majority of the Magic Kingdom rides after 11 PM A large majority of the parents and kids have left, leaving the lines basically nonexistent everywhere.  I wouldn't suggest rides like Jungle Cruise or Splash Mountain, but anything inside will give you the exact same experience.  It was so fun to go from ride to ride and get right on.

  • If you plan on really exploring the countries in World Showcase (or "drinking around the world") give yourself a few hours to do so.  Epcot is huge, and World Showcase takes a while to get around.  To try a drink or some food from each of the countries, go into the gift shops, ride any rides, and just generally explore, you can factor in a few hours, if not most of the time.

  • Security at Orlando International always seems to take longer than most. The time of day doesn't really seem to matter.  Just make sure you allow extra time to account for that once you arrive at the airport.

Interested in reading about the entire trip? Here are the links!

Next post: Just Can't Wait to be Lion King Cocktail

Until then <3

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