Charging up at Disney World…

A while back Disney tested charging locker/stations and random “hidden” outlets.  As this was a minor hit…it was clear that guests wanted to charge while being on the move.  I mean, how many people can sit for an hour with crazy, excited kids – not me.  OR want to go back to that said locker and claim a “charged” phone/device…again NOT me.  WE like to keep it moving at Disney, plus most people need phones for emergencies, taking pictures and well…facebook posts.

So…in response to that need…Disney got in bed with a company called “Fuel Rod”.  And lets just say…I am in LOVE.  What is Fuel Rod exactly?  Let me tell you ALL about it.

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A Fuel Rod is a portable (external) battery, about the size of a lipstick.  It’s basically the same kind you can buy at any store…it charges your phone or device.  So why is this “fuel rod” so great?  Well…Disney has set up “vending machine” stations throughout the parks.  You purchase this battery ONCE for $30, then as you need a charge you “turn-in” your USED one and get a NEW charged one in its place. Cool right?!?!?

But that’s not all – you can do this, Over and Over and Over again (UNLIMITED).  The whole family can use it.  Once the charge is gone, get a new one.  Pass it around the group and top everyone off.  ALL for only $30.  And you can use your credit card to purchase, I got an email instantly with the receipt.

The first time you purchase one, it does come with a few adaptable charging connection pieces, to fit most phones/devices.  OR if worried bring your own cord, it does have a USB port for connecting to your device.  And it comes in a simple clear case to keep everything together.

So why do you need this or should consider it???  I was just at Disney with 6 adults…between us all, phones were dying fast, battery power was flying out of the park and we all needed some juice.  Most of us packed our own back-up batteries but those too ran out quick…so again…unless I wanted to sit for 1 hour and charge up…the Fuel Rod was the perfect solution.  And thanks to Disney’s crazy Wi-Fi (on, off, on, off)…we needed a charge several times in ONE day.  Many times my phone was at 30% and the Fuel Rod charged it to about 80-90% – of course this was while I was also using it; posting, filming, taking pictures – all while I was “charging”.  Since I was the only one who purchased a Fuel Rod, it was getting passed around like crazy.  It became a game to see who had it next.

So for those with older kids, those with multiple devices, those who are posters (you know who you are)…this might be the solution for you too.  Again, even though I packed my own back-up…the ability to use, exchange, use, exchange, use, exchange…several times through-out the day/trip…that was a life-saver.  It’s yours to keep, so bring it back next time at Disney, use it at home and charge yourself.

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TIP:  If this sounds like something you will want/need…you can purchase it for $20 directly from Fuel-Rod (online) and then bring to the parks.  Also…since I got back (5 days ago) I heard rumors that even some resorts are getting a Fuel Rod machine…which would rock.  I remember telling people, if only they had these at the resorts…well apparently…that is coming as we speak – YAY!!!  I did screen-shot the current locations of the machines (see above) and used that to help guide me to the next…we exchanged every chance we could and we were NOT alone, this is growing in popularity.

MermaidNina:  I am a Disney Vacation Planner (aka Travel Agent) and I book and plan Disney/Universal vacations as a living…yep it’s my FULL TIME job.  And when not quoting, planning, booking dining, helping with fastpasses, getting travel documents together…I am at Disney…doing something Disney.  My services are 100% FREE as Disney pays me to do this…so contact me if looking to explore Disney.  Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise, etc.  As I am not the best blogger (I know), I AM amazing at my job which of course prevents me from being an awesome blogger, lol.  I am a mom, a wife, a kid at heart and well…I am a Mermaid (with legs of course).

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Disney Dining…the “PLAN”

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The Disney Dining Meal Plan is something I whole-heartily LOVE, especially for those with Food Allergies.  We get it EVERY trip…and yes I have to pay the same price as everyone else…no kickbacks for this gal 😦   But for some reason the “meal plan” concept can confuse many and I mean many people.  In fact it’s one of the most popular questions from my clients…a daily question for sure.  After years of booking Disney vacations and booking dining for other people…I find I have “experience” on the subject, lol.

So…in an attempt to Dis-Confuse you…here you go.  And in an effort to keep this simple, but yet detailed…I am only talking about the Basic plan, the middle plan, the Disney “Plus” plan, the Disney Dining Plan…as it seems to have many names these days.

The Disney Dining “Plus” Meal Plan includes…

  • 1 Table Service Meal Credit
  • 1 Quick Service Meal Credit
  • 1 Snack Credit
  • And 1 Refillable Mug (per person Ages 3+) – A great souvenir for home.
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Pick up at your resort, 4 different colors

Easy right…ummm for me it is…for others…they need more info…so keep reading

How many do I get?  And who gets it?

The number of credits you get are based on the number of nights you’re staying…so if you’re staying 7 nights and 8 days…that’s 7 credits per person (aged 3+).  So no matter how many days you’re spending at the parks…it’s based on nights staying at the resort.  As far as who gets it?  It’s for everyone in your party, everyone on your reservation…everyone that is aged 3 and up.  Those under 3 are not on the plan, do NOT get meal credits and do NOT get a mug…they can however eat off your plate (especially at a buffet meal) and in many cases a chef will make your portion a little larger knowing your also feeding a little one.

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You will get this when you check-in…a total summary breakdown.

Does everyone have to be on the plan? – YES, everyone on your RESORT reservation must have the same plan, the same everything actually.

Can I use the “Credit” at my Resort? – YES, you can use those credits anywhere on Disney property, were it is accepted.  Yes, some places do NOT accept the plan…but 99% of them do 🙂

So…how come some require 2 credits?  All the Dinner shows, Fine Dining experiences and Specially Restaurants (like Cinderella’s Royal Table) take 2 credits (as it’s more than just eating)…but the majority requires 1 credit, including most of the character meals.

What does a Table Service Meal, a Quick Service and a Snack mean?  Ah…the question of all questions.

  • A Table Service Meal…is basically all restaurants that have a waitress, that require a reservation, that are sit down. This includes the Character meals, any fun Themed dining and other yummy places.  They are either buffets or menu ordering.  Consider this your BIG meal, the meal that will fill you up the most…thus I plan for when I might be the hungriest.

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  • A Quick Service Meal…is basically all the other restaurants. They don’t take reservations, you don’t get a waitress and you seat yourself.  You walk up to the counter, order, take a seat and wait for either your beeper to go off or for your food to be brought out.  I often tell people to think of this as your “fast food” meal…but that seems to make people think you’re getting burgers and hotdogs…NO…there are plenty of awesome, yummy, healthy options at these places…and they go far beyond your typical fast food joint, by FAR.  Gourmet burritos, sandwiches, salads, yes burgers too, deluxe pizza, and so on.

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  • A Snack…a snack on the dining plan will be clearly labeled with a little icon symbol. But in general if the item is less than $5…it’s probably a snack credit.  But for the purpose of being detailed; dole whips, Mickey pretzels, popcorn, soda, bottle of water, fruit, bagel, cupcake, rice krispy treat, coffee, hummus/chips, ice cream, Mickey’s premium bar, etc are ALL snacks 🙂

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And this brings me to the BIG question:  How /when do I use these credits?  Now…this is something I do for my clients (for FREE)…I will walk you through the calendar, the parks and restaurants and find your family the best ones…for you.  Then we discuss the best time to eat these meals, based on your families’ specific needs…then I BOOK them for you…again for FREE.  So…this part of the planning is under control and I will walk you through it, step by step.  But for those that wonder…you can mix/match these credits…you are NOT required to use 1 per day or on a certain day.  They are your credits…so as long as you use them before midnight on the day you check-out…use to your needs and enjoyment.  And every time you use one (of any kind), your receipt will tell you how many you have left…so keep track.

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So…in major conclusion…I hope I helped clarify the meal plan.  In simple terms…you are purchasing credits; you’re paying for the meal before you dine…and at a discount.  Then when you’re at Disney…you click your Magicband (pay a tip if at a table service) and walk away.  No need to pinch pennies or skip the most expensive item on the menu…enjoy what you want since it’s already paid for.   And to get the most bang from your “credit”…you want to aim for the most expensive places and meal times.  But for us…we just aim for our favorites…the ones that make our trip the most magical, aka the Character Meals.  Those make and save our trip…they are entertaining and prevent me from standing in line after line to meet a Character…dining with them “kills two birds with one stone” (as the saying goes).

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Remember I am a FREE Disney Travel Agent…booking all Disney Vacations daily…my services are ALWAYS free when you book a trip with me.  I specialize in food allergies and special diets at Disney…and with all our Food “issues”…I am the perfect gal to help you with your food choices.

Contact me anytime – Nina 734-890-2350 or Nina@goTMCtravel.com

Memory Maker Saved My Vacation…

Say What?  It’s true, I LOVE Memory Maker.  I’ve been to Disney more times than I can count, been visiting the”D” since childhood and it wasn’t until I had Memory Maker that I felt a little weight lifted off my shoulders.

As a mom, it is very important to me that I capture all my families’ memories…the baby years, childhood, firsts, birthdays, celebrations and family vacations.  So…as the “one & only” person who can use a camera…it lands on me; it’s my job, my responsibility, my stress.  I am always trying to capture the perfect shot; the best view, the ideal angle and the perfect expression.  And with all this…I am NEVER in the picture, since I am the one taking them.  So…all our family gatherings, vacations, birthdays…momma is always missing 😦

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Well NOT anymore thanks to Memory Maker…So “For the First Time in Forever”…I am FINALLY in the picture!  And I am not the one who picks the spot, the background or the lighting.  It’s Easy, Breezy and Beautiful.  The only thing I really need to do is a: Purchase Memory Maker, b: Be on the lookout for all the Photographers and c: Look Pretty 🙂

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But for those that want the “knitty-gritty” information…here you go:

  • It’s $169. Yep…but only if you get prior to your vacation…if you wait until you’re at the Parks…It’s $199 (ouch)
  • It Includes ALL pictures taken of your family:
    • All Pictures taken from Disney’s PhotoPass Photographers
    • All Pictures taken while on a ride or attraction (Toy Story Mania)
    • All Pictures from any Character Dining (some have photographers, some don’t)
    • All Videos from rides that have that option (7DMT)
  • All Members of your party can use it, can get their pictures taken (with or without you)
  • All Pictures can be downloaded when you get home; print, make a CD, turn into gifts (photobooks)
  • All Pictures can be uploaded (via the site) almost automatically…so you can FB, tweet, email from Disney.

Side Notes:

  • Only the person who purchased Memory Maker can download the pictures…unless you share your password.
  • When you get home…you can add magical touches to all your pictures; backgrounds, banners, pixie dust, magic.
  • To make the most of this…seek out every single photographer you can find.
  • Ask about any “Magic Shots”.
  • Your MagicBand automatically links your pictures to your account…so click away.
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Embrace your “Disney-Side” as you never know what kind of magic will happen.

In all honestly…not all my 200+ pictures were awesome…but there were plenty that were and so many that I was just glad someone captured…even the silly ones (gotta do the silly ones).  So even though (in some) my eyes were closed, my kids weren’t looking or it was too dark to really see us…I did get the one of me & Ariel (my BFF), my son & Goofy and my daughter kissing Minnie.  Then of course there was the video of DD and me turning green on 7DMT and the hubby and I with Olaf and his Magical Flurry.

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And…I was in ALL of them and I didn’t have to take a single picture (LOL).  Ok I took 2000+ pictures this past trip…but that’s my job…capturing the magic of Disney…food, resorts, bathrooms, hidden Mickey, etc (all get captured by me)…but I didn’t have to stress about capturing the important ones for my family…that job was Disney’s…and they ROCKed it.

I hope this little segment on Memory Maker has helped you.  For most of my clients I think it’s a great idea, the perfect family souvenir.  But in some cases I say…just hand the photographer your personal camera, like when you’re going for only 2 days as the $169 price tag can be steep.  But for large families, people going for longer vacations…I say it’s a must.  And for the record…200 pictures can be a low number…I have many clients who get like 400.  It all depends on how eager you are at finding those cameras.

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As usual I am a FREE Magical Vacation Planner, Booking ALL Disney Destination Vacations – Contact me TODAY.  Nina – 734-890-2350 or Nina@goTMCtravel.com

Let’s Talk MAGICBANDS…

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What is this MagicBand?  Why do I Need it?  What makes it so Magical?…Oh the many questions regarding this new AWESOME device.  For anyone who has either never been to Walt Disney World or hasn’t been recently…these are thoughts you will have.  So in an attempt to answer them all or at least the main ones…here you go.

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MagicBands 101:  

MagicBands are awesome, silicone (NO Latex) grade bracelets that Disney guests wear on their wrists.  And YES…they are Magical.  They are your key to everything.  Within the bracelet lies magical electronic awesomeness that links your band to your Disney Vacation Package.  They open your resort room, they hold your ticket info to get you into the parks, they contain all your fastpasses, your dining plan credits, your memory maker link and…you can use them to make purchases throughout the property.  And…they are FREE to ALL Disney Resort guests – just one of the many perks to staying on property.

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The GOOD:

  • They are Waterproof: you can wear them in the shower, pool or in the rain
  • They are adjustable for sizing: for kids, just remove the outer gray lining
  • They can be customized: pick your own color and printed name
  • They can be decorated: special covers, sliders, paint, glitter, jewels, temporary tattoos, etc
  • They can be reused: save for future trips or start a collection to match your daily park outfits
  • Non-Property guest can purchase separately…basic colors are $12.99
  • If lost…all your information is 100% safe…no actual information is stored on the magicband
  • Disney ships them directly to your home – about 3-4 weeks out from your vacation.

The BAD:

  • Mine fell off a few times, caught on my backpack. But I felt it happen and thus never lost.
  • Many people find them annoying to wear or not comfortable. I was fine wearing mine during the day…but not while sleeping or washing my hair.
  • Do NOT take off and forget and leave in the room…you will be sorry. Wear 24/7 if at all possible.
  • The super cute ones are NOT free – special new designs come out often…roughly $25+

The UGLY:

  • Doesn’t work in the REAL world…
  • Nothing really terrible about these…unless you have a desire to start a collection and thus begins another Disney addiction, lol

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So…in my opinion the Magicband is truly magical and I really enjoyed using on my vacation.  And for those that are staying off property…YES I do recommend spending the extra money to purchase…especially when staying longer then 1-2 days.  My 2 year old still wears his, he won’t take it off.  It’s starting to look very dingy in color but has never fallen off – going strong after 5+ months. Best Souvenir EVER…well other than Mickey Ears 🙂

Decorating Tip…

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I rather enjoyed decorating our bands myself with fingernail polish and received many complements at the parks.  I chose not to clear coat as I wanted to see if it was needed.  Our bands remained bright and painted during our entire trip…but after wearing a few weeks post trip…paint started peeling off.  I did find that making a painting mistake was easy to remove with polish remover…but then it spread a foggy residue color over the area…so paint carefully.  I loved adding little Mickey heads throughout my designs but try to keep the band on a round surface to prevent rolling up while drying.  I wrapped mine on a water bottle while painting/drying.

As always…I am here to book all Disney vacations; World, Land, Cruise and more.  My services are FREE; custom planning and organization.  I do ALL the work and you do ALL the playing.  Contact me today – Nina@goTMCtravel.com or 734-890-2350

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10 Things…

One thing I get asked a lot about or seems to be a big hit when I talk about it is…packing advice.  I did a Facebook post last week about 3 things I was hesitant to pack, but so glad I did (check it out)…but for this blog post I thought I would list 10 things that perhaps most people wouldn’t think to pack…assuming you all remember to pack the basics…sunscreen, sunglasses, good walking shoes and of course a poncho (Florida rain).  These are things outside of the typical list:

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So in no particular order…10 things I always pack but not everyone thinks about…

Nightlight (comforts of home):  This is great for families, people with little kids.  Not only do I pack a nightlight for bathrooms trips in the dark…but I pack fun pillowcases, favorite stuffed toys, blankets, pillows…a few little things that my kids usually sleep with…it helps with the first night away and it helps make the resort room seem like home.  The pillowcase is a great trick for those getting a non-cartoon themed resort, but want to “kid-up” the space.

Entertainment:  So as most people might think to bring video games and up-load movies on their phone/tablet for kids…I am suggesting something non-media related.  Although a movie in a LONG line is a major plus.  For our last trip I packed my 5 year old a kid puzzle book…as it was mainly for the plane…but I also pack it in our backpack for the parks…and was so GLAD I did.  During times when she was either a little bored (line), tired or too stimulated to even focus…she would do her puzzle book.  It was a major life saver.  And for the 2 year old…I packed him a toy Disney Camera that talks “Say Cheese”…this was a huge hit and when he was getting to little “special”…I just had him take pictures.  Also…crayons, markers, stickers, paper, coloring book, comics, homework, lol.

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Blister aids:  I posted about this one on my facebook page…but it was too good of a thing to not post about again, lol.  For all the years I have been going to Disney…I always come back with a few souvenirs I didn’t pay for; sunburn, worn/tired muscles and blisters.  This time I was prepared to remember a blister solution.  I ended up getting Band-Aid Blister bandages and used on my baby toe….before it was a major blister.  The band-aid stayed on…through showers, long days and so on.  And my toe was never a problem and it didn’t once hurt or give me a hard time walking – it was AWESOME.

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Baggies/Containers:  I also posted about this too.  I got colored baggies, 4 colors for the 4 of us…and used for everything.  But the best part was using for food, aka leftovers and snacks for the day.  Now Disney isn’t a fan of people taking food from the restaurants…something about not wanting to be responsible for anyone getting sick from eating a hot old sandwich that sat in the stroller and thus turned.  So beware of eating something that isn’t good anymore…but in general we ate ours within minutes of leaving the restaurant.  Plus I pack ice packs.  It was great for mickey waffles, fresh fruit, proteins, etc.  I would cut up at the restaurant…and then serve to the kids when in line for a ride or sometimes directly after eating…character meals are often too exciting to meet and eat at the same time, lol.  Also perfect when sharing a large tub of popcorn.  The different colored bags represent each person, thus I always knew whose germy fingers were in which bag.

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Wipes:  So when I say wipes…I mean nice, germ dissolving wipes.  I use wipes instead of sanitizer gel.  I use on my kids hands, on the play areas, interactive ride queues, on all our tables/chairs at restaurants, in the airplane, resort room and so on.  So by now…your thinking why is she such a germ freak…well I wasn’t always this way, but both my kids have severe allergies…so I NEED to wipe down every surface to protect them.  Not to mention when you think about all the millions of people that go to Disney and how many of them might have something to spread.  No-one wants to get sick on vacation and I don’t want my kids to go to the ER due to touching a surface that had cheesy fingers on it.  Another tip…I get the car tub pack of “Wet Ones” and put in the mesh pocket area of my backpack, instead of a water bottle.  Can you say..”Easy access”.

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Bottle holder:  Ok this was a life saver for us.  First when I say bottle holder I mean for on your stroller.  But they do make bottle holders for belts and keychain ones to hook on the loops on your pants…in case you are stroller free.  We use 2 cheap umbrella strollers when we go to Disney…1 kid/stroller per parent.  And between all 4 of us drinking water…a bottle holder was a NEED.  I purchased 2, 1 per stroller.  They were perfect for ANY bottle, a bag of snacks and even my phone.  They still allowed our strollers to collapse with ease and they were used 24/7.

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Portable Charger:  Now I’m not talking about your cord charger…but pack that too.  I’m talking about a 12+ hour backup battery charger that you plug into your device when it’s low…and it charges it up.  See Picture.  Now…I did pack this, as everyone said too, but I never used.  I am just not someone who’s on my phone when on vacation.  Well not a Disney vacation, lol.  But this is perfect for people that use their devices to watch movies in line, take videos of the parades and basically FB, tweet and text during their vacation.  Cell battery power drains super-fast, especially when you’re using the Disney apps or the line apps.

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Chef cards (Allergy cards):  I have been making Allergy cards for years…I use them all the time at home; kids backpacks, lunch boxes, when dining out, visiting, and I use on vacation.  But at Disney…I have special “Chef” cards as Disney is the only time I allow other people (chefs) to cook for my kids…and for a week on end.  I have made several through-out the years and have finally developed a great one for Disney.  Every time I need to order a meal…I present my card.  It clearly lists all allergies and it gives the chefs something visual to look at as you discuss your food needs.  These are perfect for people with multiple allergies and is something I am now offering for my clients.  I will design a card for anyone who books with me and needs one.  I also have one for families with more than one person with allergies.  Also great for vegans, clearing listing what you DON’T eat.

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Address Labels:  I love labels…the more the better.  And my favorite is using the free address ones you get in the mail from certain non-profits.  I use them for our luggage tags, to label our character books…I put them on everything.  Label your camera, phone, tablet, and stroller.  I grab extra of those FREE airline tags, slap on an address label…and boom I can attach to backpacks, camera bags, anything.  Disney has a great lost and found…but it’s easier when your stuff is labeled.

Cash/change:  Ok so this might seem obvious…but you would be surprised how many people forget.  Magicbands and credit cards has made life so easy for making purchases…but something’s you just need cash for.  Tips?  I personally like to tip with cash.  I pay for my dining with my magicband, using dining plan credits, and then tip the waitress with cash.  I also tip the Mouse-keepers (housekeepers), bell hops, bus driver, etc with cash.  I also pack LOTS of pennies and quarters for “smashed penny” machines.  Kids love those, I love those.  Plus…every kid wants to throw coins in a fountain…and there are plenty of those at Disney too.

I hope you found this list to be helpful.  Disney is often a week long adventure and it’s helpful to have everything you need at your fingertips.   Visiting Disney the “Smart and Prepared Way” and book/plan your trip with me.  Remember I am FREE and have lots of wonderful travel tested advice to share.  Nina@goTMCtravel.com or 734-890-2350

Eating with Pooh…and Piglet too!

One thing my family does EVERY Walt Disney World vacation is Crystal Palace…home of Winnie the Pooh and friends.  Dining with Pooh is my daughter’s (5 years old) FAVORITE attraction, lol.  Every time we go to WDW her only concern is if we got reservations to eat with Pooh.  So what’s the hype you ask?

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Well besides the above mentioned eating with pooh…you get to eat with Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet too.  And if you’re lucky…and everyone is…you’ll get to be part of a Pooh parade and follow the characters around the room.  Kids march around the room with the characters while music is playing – can someone say photo op?  And the thought of marching around with Pooh is enough to excite kids with ear to ear grins.  No tears in this place.  And with characters aside…Crystal Palace has a few other perks;

  • Unlimited Friendly Buffet – one of my husband’s favorites, and he’s picky
  • Location – It’s located inside Magic Kingdom, no need to leave the park.
  • Availability – When many character experiences book up at the 180 day mark…Crystal Palace almost always has an opening…which is perfect for last minute vacationers
  • Hours – It’s open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and if you’re an early bird…you can get a reservation before the park even opens and see Magic Kingdom privately and get a beautiful picture in front of the castle without all the other vacationers in your perfect shot.

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Of course for my family…there is one other perk…Chef Mike.  That’s right…the Disney Chefs are celebrities to us…they keep my family safe, fed and happy.  They go out of their way to make sure my kids and I have what we need to continue with our magical vacation.  Due to our various food allergies…we pretty much always get special service.  And usually that means specially prepared food just for us.  Some people with allergies can eat the food that the restaurant regularly prepares; they just get a non-contaminated plate of goods from the back.  But my family needs, well…specially made goods.

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Chef Mike

After getting a call from the chef 1-2 weeks before our trip…Chef Mike and I were able to come up with a game plan to make sure my kids could get similar foods as the other guests.  This meant special Gluten Free, Diary and Egg free pancakes.  Frozen waffles were offered, but I wanted something we don’t usually eat at home.  We were able to have the home potatoes from the back, fresh strawberries (which was special) and real Maple Syrup.  Other foods were available…but these were the favs.

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And since the Chef had called for the kids, I couldn’t help but to ask about me – I am vegan with a dairy allergy.  So…as most vegans I was curious about some protein.  Crystal Palace doesn’t usually carry vegan meats, but Chef Mike being awesome…ordered some fake chicken for me, cooked it up special and I devoured.  I was even able to cut some up for later.  Not bad; food for now, some for later 🙂

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For dessert…we were given several packages of Enjoy Life cookies.  As I have mentioned in previous posts…that is the standard dessert for most peeps with food allergies so it gets tiring after a while…but the kids didn’t care and it gave me something to treat them with later as well.

And for those that wondered…my husband ate from the buffet…took about 3-4 trips.  We practically had to roll him out the door.  He had plates and plates of food, and then one whole plate filled with baked goodies like muffins, brownies, cookies and such.   He left a happy dad and was able to use his fuel to continue on with our day and wasn’t hungry again until dinner.

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Dining tip:  We usually like to eat our table service meal at about 10:45-11:00am – as you still get some breakfast goodies like waffles and then also eat the typical lunch proteins to help you fuel for the long day ahead.  But this last trip…it was a little too much breakfast and I think the kids did get tired of Mickey waffle after Mickey waffle 😦  So next time…I think we will do half brunch time and half dinner times – Just “Food for Thought”

As usual – I am a FREE Disney Travel Agent that specializes in Food Allergies and Special Diets at Disney.  I do book WDW, Disneyland and Disney Cruises.  Disney pays me, so you don’t have to.  Contact me anytime and I can get you organized and prepared for the most Magical Vacation.  Nina@goTMCtravel.com

7DMT – Friend or Foe?

One of the biggest things to happen to Walt Disney World in 2014 was the Grand Opening of the “Seven Dwarf Mine Train”.  News, Updates and Rumors had been circulating for months leading up to the final day when everyday peeps could test the ride for themselves.  The best part to me was the “recycling” of some of the original props from the scary Snow White ride that once resided in Fantasyland; I couldn’t wait to discover their new homes.

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This new coaster was labeled a “Family Coaster” so I figured I could handle it and if not it’s only like 45 seconds long…so for 45 seconds I thought I could deal with whatever was headed my way.  For the record I have a HUGE issue with Motion Sickness…something I have been battling with since a child and something that seems to have gotten worse since having babies…but I thought…what the heck…I’m gonna try this thing…and even better…I’m gonna bribe my 5 year old to join me, lol.  It also should be noted that I refuse to go on anything too crazy…no upside down things for me.

So in preparation for this ride…as you should all do if you’re slightly hesitant or have coaster “first timers”, aka kids – I purposely fastpassed on our LAST Magic Kingdom Day and I purposely selected a time hours after our meal.  And like I said…I bribed my kid to join me…we walked past this ride several times before going and she felt that she could totally do this thing…plus the idea of getting a prized souvenir helped.

For those doing the stand-by line…there is an awesome interactive queue to enjoy and experience, but I needed quick and painless…the thought of getting further anxious while in a long line wasn’t happening.  For fastpassers…you walk right in and practically on.  I had done a little research before this day and concluded that riding in the front had less “rocking” motion as each individual car rocks back and forth like a real mine car.  So front row we got.  To see a Video…go to my FB page and click videos – http://www.facebook.com/wordofmouse

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As you can see…we were terrified…turned green and were lucky to not lose our breakfast.  I couldn’t walk for hours after and kept needing to “sit” down and rest.  My equilibrium was totally off and sitting was the only way for the floor to stop moving.  DD was ok and wasn’t as affected as me, but to this day talks about the “worst” ride ever.  I slowly recovered and was able to continue on with our magical day…but I will never go on that ride again, lol.  So should you give it a try?  Sure, why not, lol.  If you look at the people behind us…they were all having a blast and screaming happy screams.  I will say that my favorite part, other than getting out, was the fun animatronics you see mid-ride and the finale – At the very end of the ride…you witness Snow White singing and dancing with the 7 Dwarfs.  Just watch out for the front door 😉

So for those that are going to give this a go…good for you.  I found the ride to have fun theming and loved the decor and surrounding atmosphere.  I just wish I could keep my head up long enough to really see the magical efforts of Disney Imagineers, sorry guys.  In the end I am glad I did it, because now I can say I did…but I do wish I could get those few sick hours back…Disney you owe me, lol.  A Mickey Pretzel and a bottle of water calmed my nerves and after enjoying Country Bear Jamboree for a spell…I was back on my feet and ready for more Magic.  And for those that are wondering…it is a lot like “Thunder Mountain”…just shorter and slight calmer (I think)…and Yes I have ridden Thunder Mountain (at both WDW and DL) many, many times…sometimes with success and a few times…not good.

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The Seven Dwarf’s Cottage

For those that would love the help of someone with motion sickness – I’m your gal.  I know all the tricks and what rides to avoid and which ones to cling too and ride over & over again.  Heck sometimes the mini hill on Pirates gives me that not so good feeling, but I just close my eyes, hold my stomach and wait for the mini splash, lol.  I have also heard of people taking Dramamine in preparation for such situations, but I have never done that outside of rides in the car.

Enjoy and Make sure to “Whistle While you Work”…I know I do or would if I could whistle.

I ❤ Disney’s Garden Kiosk…and Babycakes

As a mother of 2 kids with food allergies and as a Vegan…Disney’s Garden Kiosk is a blessing in disguise…in fact I think most people just blaze right past this little gem.  What is this “Garden Kiosk”?  Good Question, lol.

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Disney’s Garden Kiosk is a cart stand located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  This little foodie stand specializes in safe treats for those with dietary restrictions – I’m talking to you Celiacs, Vegans, Diabetics and Food Allergy peeps.  This little stand of heaven serves various nutritional goodies for those that often have a hard time “snacking” while at the parks.  For some (peeps like me) this stand is as awesome as any attraction or ride…it’s where one can get Babycakes, Tofutti, allergy friendly popcorn, hummus/veggies, gluten free beer and of course water.  Ok…I know some of you are thinking…Oh what’s so special about that.  Well when you have a dairy allergy, an egg allergy and/or are Gluten sensitive…that’s a big deal.

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This past trip…snacking at the kiosk was a must as I began planning our trip dreaming of Babycakes.  So on our Animal Kingdom day…I  practically raced over to Asia (Discovery Island)…tripping over strollers, knocking people over…ok no I was walking normally and taking pictures…but in my mind I was racing to some sort of finish line.  I had heard rumors that the Babycakes products sometimes run out early so I was NOT missing out on my safe treats.  Problem was…we just finished eating at Tusker House (stay tuned) and well…no-one was hungry.  Note to self…next time either walk slower or eat earlier so tummy has room for some goodies.  Ok back to Babycakes…We got to the kiosks and I was in treat overload…since all of the treats were also 1 “snack” credit (dining plan) I decided it was worth it to use like 6 credit and get more treats than we needed and save for the next day.

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We got 1 tub of Vanilla (chocolate also available) Tofutti (soy based ice cream) which was amazing as the WHOLE tub was only 1 “snack” credit and we all attempted to share…we got through 1/3 of the tub before we were to full…remember we just ate.  We got 2 donuts and a 4 pack of mini cupcakes to take with us…along with some other yummy treats (safe caramel popcorn)…but it was the Babycakes that was the goal.  So even though we didn’t enjoy until later…I can honestly tell you that those donuts were the BEST Vegan/Gluten Free donuts I have ever had.

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And for those that don’t know…Babycakes is a Vegan/Gluten Free Bakery that use to have a store front at Downtown Disney…the store is currently gone (due to construction) but its popularity is still going strong and one can still find some goodies at certain resorts, the Garden Kiosk and by ordering from the bakery.  I did hear a rumor that a store is returning (stay tuned)…but until then…the race is on and “finding Babycakes” is a popular mission.  It is important to mention that although the goodies seem “nut-free” they do use a GF flour that has potential CC issue with nuts…so avoid depending on the severity of your Peanut/Tree Nut allergy.

So after being beyond full, we bagged up our goodies and continued on with our day…but to be honest I couldn’t really concentrate since I knew I had Babycakes in my bag…just calling my name.  My only regret was not getting more donuts.  Between chocolate glazed and cinnamon sugar…I got 1 of each…but I should have gotten 2-3 of each and just saved as they came in individual containers.  As for those with food issues…baked treats/desserts at the parks are often the hardest thing to get…too many CC issues.  Often we are left with Enjoy Life cookies and one can only eat so many before they aren’t really appetizing anymore…but if I had more Babycakes in my bag to enjoy – that’s more magical goodness for me (us).

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The Garden Kiosk is also the place to inquire about safe treats/food at Animal Kingdom…the cast members behind the cart are full of knowledge and can guide you to the best places to dine with your specific allergy or sensitivity.  It’s also worth noting that after you have enjoyed the Garden Kiosk and all its spender…please go to guest relations at the front of the park and let them know that you loved the Garden Kiosk and that you think adding one to EVERY park is something you would enjoy and benefit from.  A safe place to snack and discuss food related issues is something all the parks need…so pass on the love and we might get rewarded with more awesome goodness.

Also remember that I specialize in Food Allergies and Dietary restrictions at Disney…so for those that can’t wait to find out the safe places to dine, stay or snack…I am your gal.  I book Magical Vacations daily and my services are FREE…All you need to do is contact me and we can go from there.  I can quote you various resort options, discuss your food dilemmas and step by step…you will have one awesome vacation planned…safe and sound.  Nina@goTMCtravel.com or 734-890-2350

**UPDATE (Feb 2015) – Babycakes is NOW Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC – same company, different name.  The Allergy Kiosk still carries some of her baked goodies…but NOT the donuts.  The current donuts at the Kiosk are GF and Dairy-free, but contain egg.  For Erin’s (Babycakes) Donuts and other fabulous goodies you need to head over to Downtown Disney (Disney Springs) and go to her new Store front (Coming Really Soon).

Garden Grill – a Rotating Experience…

First I want to say that this dining experience was HANDS-DOWN my favorite this past trip…based solely on the fact that I was stuffed FULL…even the thought of unbuttoning my pants came to mind.

My family might not entirely agree…but that’s opinions for you…but me – I still dream of that meal.

I must point out that due to my family’s eating restrictions and food allergies…we aren’t the easiest group to please, feed and sometimes see completely full.  We are a happy, thankful bunch…but we do require some thought and preparation.  Between my kids and I…there are at least 8 food allergies and several avoidances…and to make matters more fun…I am vegan.  The husband is an eat everything kind of guy and pretty much left every meal full and happy…but even he has his favorites (stay-tuned).

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So…the Garden Grill is a table service restaurant at Epcot…located in the Land Pavilion…and it rotates.  Yep…it’s a rotating diner…and for those with motion sickness (join the club)…it’s very, very slow…but we managed to rotate completely around at least 1 time during our meal.  And to make it even cooler…it’s a character experience…bring on Harvest Chip & Dale and pals.  We ate with Chip & Dale (of course), Pluto and Mickey.  It is a dinner only location and is family style…meaning the wait staff brings the table an assortment of eats and you just dig in.  My husband who ate the traditional meal everyone enjoys found it to be OK…not his particular favorite, but he ate it all.  What was wrong with his meal you ask…nothing…he just likes to order from a menu.

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So before I get to my eats…I want to point out that as you eat, dine and chat…the Characters walk around and stop at every table for a few minutes…just enough time to get an autograph and snap a few pictures.  Since we had special food accommodations…we sat a little longer than others and saw all the characters twice – major bonus.

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Since we have 3 different people, all with different allergies…I often contact the restaurant before dining…I send an email and anxiously await a phone call.  I was lucky as Chef Javier called me, while I was at home about 10 days before my trip started, and we discussed meals.  We talked about the traditional menu that is offered and tried to find solutions for my family.  Most of the usual options available were perfect for us (sweet potato fries, mashed potatoes, veggies, gluten-free rolls and so on…but I couldn’t help but to ask for a few changes…first due to the abundance of chicken at Disney I asked about a hamburger patty for my daughter and also a special dessert.  As the restaurant doesn’t make burgers the chef was kind enough to order beef and make my kid a few special patties just for her.  And for me…I wasn’t fond of the traditional veggie dish on the menu…”stuff peppers” and sides.  I requested vegan meat (not typical for that location)…and he delivered.

So…fast forward to that night…we arrived 10 minutes before our scheduled dining reservation…we waited for the restaurant to open and we were seated promptly.  I was prepared to have to wait several minutes for the Chef…nope not Chef Javier…he had been cooking for my family already…waiting for us actually.  He already had ALL our food in the oven (no grilling or frying due to cross-contamination) and was waiting for us to finish our salads.  He warned me that his goal…”was to have us ROLL out of here”, lol.  I did for sure.  To my surprise he was able to deliver ALL my requests and they were delicious.  The vegan dish he “made-up” with the vegan beef was amazing and with all the sides…I was stuffed.  My son (dairy, eggs, and peanuts) was able to share my dish and was shoving it in.  My daughter (dairy, GF, peanuts, legumes, corn, and red dye) was able to cut her giant burger patties in half and eat with her GF buns…to make a quick burger.

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Dessert wasn’t as grand…but still had enough sweetness to finish the meal.  He was able to simplify the traditional dessert by using “Enjoy Life” cookies and fresh fruit filling, no whip and created a crumb-like fruit dish.

Major shout-out for Chef Javier that night and many thanks.  I enjoyed my meal SO much…I asked to speak to a manager and shared my happiness…apparently the Chef was gonna get some company shout-outs after dinner thanks to his awesomeness.

I also want to point out that getting a call from the chef before your trip is not typical…they are busy, busy bees and usually can accommodate your special food requests “the night of”…but due to our various allergies…I usually get a call and thus can request special items.  This is also something I can help you with as your Travel Agent…all services I provide for free when booking your Disney trip with me.  When it comes to food allergies, eating “out” is often a stressful event…but being prepared helps and when your family leaves the table safe and full…well that’s a huge success in my book.  Disney does an excellent job at accommodating food allergies and does it on a daily basis…so let me help you relieve the stress and help you enjoy food time for a change…you deserve it.

Quick Service…Say What?

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What is a Quick Service (QS)?  Where are Quick Services?  What Quick Services are on the meal plan?  How many Quick Services do I get on the meal plan?  What are your favorite quick services, what’s most popular?  And the questions go on and on.  I get questions about QS almost daily…and yet…even after my explanation, things still seem fuzzy, lol.  So here you go…the ins/out of quick service meals.

Quick Service restaurants are basically fast food restaurants…you don’t need a reservation, you don’t have a waitress and you don’t leave a tip.  At Disney…quick services places are, IMO, a major step up from fast food with quality food…but that’s the best way to describe them.  You order your food from a menu on the wall above the cashier, you wait for your food, you take it to a table, you eat and then you walk away (cleaning up is preferable).  Simple and Easy.

Most quick services places at Disney are set-up more like Cafeterias…multiple ordering windows, some with windows that only offer a certain types of food; salads here, burgers here, sandwiches here, dessert here…that kind of thing.  The larger ones can be a bit overwhelming…but any cast member is willing to help explain things to you.  If you are a little nervous…try going at a non-popular dining time; 11am instead of noon, 4:30 instead of 5-6:00pm.

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My kids loved this..how to get your plastic-ware – Sanitary

Where are Quick Services located; umm…they are everywhere.  All Disney resorts have them, all Disney parks including the waterparks have them and even Downtown Disney has them.  They are located in almost every land within a park and pretty much all of them are on the Disney Dining plan…which means you can dine at them all using your meal credits.  So can I dine at one at a different resort from where I am staying? – YES.  Can I eat at the parks even though I am on the plan? – YES.  Can I eat at more than 1 per day? – YES.  You can dine at a quick service as often as you want…just be careful because if you are on the plan…you are only allotted so many…so if you power through all of them…you will need to pay out of pocket for the rest.

Meal credit on the Disney dining plan depend on 1: what plan you’re on and 2: how many nights you are staying.  So if you are staying 8 days, 7 nights…you get 7 on the regular “plus” dining plan…but don’t forget  to count your table service meals too (a different post).  If you are on the Quick service plan…you’d get 14 total QS meals.

My Favs…Oh this is tough.  I like different QS for different reasons; some for the atmosphere, some for the selection and some for just one particular dish, lol.  But here is a quick, quick service list:

  • Tortuga Tavern (MK, near Pirates…) – LOVE the burrito and the unlimited toppings bar (open 11-3pm) so plan ahead.
  • Pinocchio Village Haus – (MK) – eat and watch fellow guests on “Small World” with flatbread pizza/pasta.
  • Sunshine Seasons – (Epcot) – So many options, so little time. Lots of treats for Food Allergy peeps too.
  • Flame Tree BBQ – (AK) – a favorite amongst my clients – Apparently killer BBQ
  • Pizza Planet Arcade (HS) – Need I say more, lol. Yummy fun Pizza – Kids paradise.
  • Earl of Sandwich (Downtown Disney) – Sandwich, after giant mouthwatering sandwich

As far as most popular…one of the perks of booking with me…is right before your travel date I send you a tip card with all the yummy QS listed…that way when you’re in Tomorrowland and hunger strikes…you can easily look up the best QS in the area.  And don’t worry Food Allergy and Special Diet peeps…I have a special card for you too.

Disney is my home away from home and I LOVE to eat and try new dining experiences…I also have 2 kids with food allergies so I am more than familiar with my way around Disney dining and special accommodations for my family.  Contact me today and let me show you how magical your vacation can really be…the smart and prepared way.  Nina@goTMCtravel.com or 734-890-2350 – FREE Disney Vacation Planning (I promise).