Planning Our Disney Trips

Planning Our Disney Trips

Today I’m going to give you some of my tips for planning a Walt Disney World vacation! I’ve planned three of them in the last 5 years and I’m currently planning my next one! Some people like to just go with the flow on their trips, but not me. Especially at Disney World, I like to have about every aspect of my vacation planned out. The way we do it, you almost have to! So here you go! Here are my tips for planning your Disney trip!!

  • Have a budget in mind when it comes to your resort. There are levels: Value, Moderate and Deluxe. The names are self explanatory. If you are wanting to not spend a lot of money, value is the way to go. If you have the money and you want more amenities, deluxe is where you want to be. And I would definitely recommend staying on site. There are many pros to staying at a Disney World Resort as opposed to staying offsite, like Magic Bands and Extra Magic Hours. 
  • Do your research on the resorts to see which one will accommodate your family better. Pinterest is my best friend when I need to look for something Disney related. Some resorts are more family friendly than others. Some are in walking distance to certain parks. 
  • If possible, figure out which park you will visit each day, especially if you don’t take advantage of the park hopper option. Once you do that, plan your dining and rides based on the park you’ll be visiting. That way, you won’t be running everywhere on site just to make reservations.
  • In speaking of reservations, make your dining reservations in advance. You can start making your dining reservations if you are staying on site at the 180 day mark for your trip. I would also consider getting a dining plan. I feel like it takes a lot of the guess work out of paying for the meals. We usually get the Deluxe dining plan, but that is a lot of food. Most people could probably get away with getting the normal dining plan, especially if they don’t plan on eating at a lot of signature restaurants.
  • If you stay on site, you can make fast pass selections starting at 60 days before your trip. You initially get three selections at one park and once you use them, you can add one at a time as you use them. Some rides, you must fast pass if you don’t want a huge wait. The Frozen ride in Epcot and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train are two that you definitely need to get fast passes for to avoid waits over two hours at times.
  • Consider getting the park hopper option added to your tickets. We use this all the time! For example, this past trip, we spent maybe an hour in Hollywood Studios and then left and went back to Magic Kingdom. No separate ticket, just used the park hopper option and went back. We could have gone to every park if we wanted to in one day (some people try that!). Park Hopper saved us this time around, since Maddie enjoyed Magic Kingdom so much. We spent a little time there about every day.
  • Consider adding the Memory Maker to your tickets as well. I carried my camera too, but it’s nice to be able to have someone else take pictures of us as a family and not just two of us at a time. And they have nice cameras and can add little things to your picture. And seriously, those people are EVERYWHERE. You won’t have trouble finding them. They’ll take your pic, scan your magic band, and it’ll link to your account. It’s wonderful!
  • Budget your money for souvenirs! We saved money through various means throughout the year and then used what we saved for souvenirs, tips at restaurants and gas money for the drive. Never worried once about having money or having to use a credit card.
  • Relax and enjoy your family. Don’t get upset if you miss a reservation or a fast pass. Just spend time with your family and enjoy! It’s the most magical place on earth! And you’ll be making so many memories on your trip! I can’t wait to go back this fall and make more memories with Kenneth and Maddie!

Any questions about anything I covered??? Any questions about something I missed??? Comment or email me and I’ll answer your questions!!

Yachtsman Steakhouse

Yachtsman Steakhouse

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When we went on our first Disney vacation for our honeymoon, Ken decided to make a reservation for a Steakhouse, which is one of his favorite kinds of restaurants. He tried for Le Cellier but couldn’t get in there. So he went on to choose the Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club Resort. He had read great reviews about it and decided to make that our first dining reservation of our honeymoon. 

Our waiter that night was wonderful and the food was so good that we ended up getting a second reservation before we went home from our honeymoon. And it is a reservation that we get for every vacation, that’s how much we love it.

This trip was no different. I made the reservation for the last dining reservation of our trip. It was also the day Ken finished his marathon, so it was kind of a celebratory dinner for him. This time was different for us though, because we had never had a baby with us while we ate there and it’s kind of a nicer restaurant. They have some sort of a dress code! So we dressed up and put Maddie in a cute little dress and made our way there. 

We got seated and our waitress, Ann, was absolutely wonderful. She gave us her suggestions and Ken went with what she suggested for his appetizer. I got what I always get when I go there. I ordered a Caesar salad, the filet mignon and I got the chocolate peanut dessert. All of it is so delicious!

But again, this time we had Maddie. And she started to get fussy just as I got my salad. Ken held her for a few minutes while I ate some of my salad, but eventually I gave in and gave up on my salad, deciding that holding Maddie was more important. Ann, our waitress, came by and saw that I wasn’t eating my salad. She asked if I was done or if she could cut it for me, knowing how hard it is to dine with a baby. I thanked her, but told her that I was finished with it. I didn’t really want to inconvenience her by having her cut my salad.

Our entrees came out and Ken had already said that he would cut my steak for me. Before he could, Ann offered to do it. I tried to tell her that it was okay, but she insisted. She was the absolute sweetest and probably the best waitress we’ve ever had. She was very helpful and made sure we didn’t need anything. 

We didn’t finish our food, knowing we would have dessert coming. Ann would end up boxing up all our food, and even put little bottles of water in our bag for us. I was thoroughly impressed with her and I would go back over and over again, especially if she were my waitress. 

So the Yachtsman is an amazing restaurant and I would recommend this place to anyone that like steak and enjoy a quiet atmosphere. And definitely see if you can get Ann as your waitress!! She made this dining experience THAT much better and I was very grateful, especially as a first time mom, that she understood and was very helpful when it came to Maddie. When you do your dining reservations, consider the Yachtsman. It’s our go-to place and will be every time we go.

The Rest of Our Trip

The Rest of Our Trip

So the rest of our Disney World trip was fairly eventful. Maddie either developed reflux or motion sickness and spent Saturday evening getting sick a few times. This was after I was wearing her on me with the baby carrier and fell, thankfully I fell on my one knee and kept her safe. But it was so rough of a night that Ken wasn’t sure he was going to run the marathon that next morning. 

He did, however and finished his first marathon in about five and a half hours. What better place to reach a goal like that than to do it at Disney! I couldn’t have been more proud of him.

We had planned on going to Hollywood Studios that Friday and then Animal Kingdom on Saturday, but our plans changed. We rode one ride at Hollywood Studios (Toy Story Mania) and then went back to Magic Kingdom. And it rained most of the day we planned on going to Animal Kingdom, so we just decided to hit Disney Springs instead.

But all that aside, here is my top three restaurants outside of the parks that we hit!

  1. Chef Mickey at the Contemporary Resort – We ended up doing this one twice! And it’s one of the harder to get reservations, so I was pretty excited! Maddie absolutely loved it! The first time we went there, she went crazy the first time she saw Mickey and his friends. This breakfast was a buffet style and as you eat, the characters come around and get pictures with you. She couldn’t have been more excited! Definitely get this reservation if you can. 
  2. Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club Resort – This, by far, is our number one restaurant when we go to Disney. I’m going to write a full blog post on just this restaurant, so I’ll keep this one short for now. Just know that it is amazing!
  3. Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge Resort – This one is a lot of fun!! Great food and a great atmosphere, plus a lot of fun shenanigans from the wait staff. Definitely a must, especially with children.

Those are just the ones we hit on this visit, but all the resorts have amazing restaurants that you should check out!!

My next post, I’ll go into detail about he Yachtsman and then after that, I’ll show you what I do to plan our Disney World visits!

Our Epcot Day

Our Epcot Day

Our second full day of our vacation we spent at Epcot. Epcot is typically a more adult-themed park, with fewer rides than Magic Kingdom. Out of all the parks, though, this one is probably my second favorite. There is so much to see and do in Epcot, stuff that we didn’t even  get to do this time around. But this trip was more for Maddie than anything, and they didn’t have much for her.

What they did have, though, was awesome! We had a rough start to our morning (trying to get three people ready proved to be a bit more time consuming than I thought, for some reason). So we had to cancel our breakfast reservation that morning, but in doing that, we just went off to the park and grabbed a quick bite to eat at the Starbucks in the park.

I had our Fast Passes set and we ended up riding some pretty cute rides with Maddie. My top rides for Epcot were:

  1. The Sea with Nemo and Friends – This was a pretty cute ride. I loved Finding Nemo when it came out. We all three got to ride it together and Maddie was fixated on all the things going on during the ride. The ride is pretty simple, you’re in a “shell” and you get to go into the ocean and meet characters from Finding Nemo. For Maddie, even though she has never watched the movie, it was colorful and a lot of movement from the characters being projected. Most kids would probably love this ride.
  2. Turtle Talk with Crush – Again, VERY CUTE! This wasn’t as much a ride as it was just a small show. We were with a big group and we sat in a room and got to “talk” to Crush from Finding Nemo. The person who voiced Crush did an excellent job interacting with members of the audience and had the character down to the letter. Maddie loved this! She just kept staring at the screen with Crush on it. I would recommend this ride to anyone, especially those with small children.
  3. Frozen Ever After – Okay…this will come as a shock to those who know me. For those who don’t, I absolutely REFUSE to watch Frozen. I’m sure it’s a great movie, but I just can’t. I absolutely HATE the song “Let It Go” and if I never heard it again, that would be fine with me. Now…that being said, Frozen Ever After is a new ride in the Norway portion of the World Showcase, so I figured I would give it a shot. I made a Fast Pass for it and we got on fairly quickly. For what it was, it was cute ride (Maddie slept on this one). Similar to “It’s a Small World”, you ride in a boat through rooms where characters from Frozen are. The boat changes directions at a few points and it worked well with the effect they were going for. Would I ride it again? Sure! BUT…not without a Fast Pass. I’m serious, if you are reserving Fast Pass selections, make sure Frozen Ever After is one of them. If not, you’ll be looking at upwards of a two hour wait to ride this ride that probably only lasts about ten minutes, at the most. It’s a very cute ride, but I wouldn’t waste my time in line for two hours just to ride it. Save yourself the headache and just Fast Pass it. Your kids will be happy because they’ll get to ride it, and you’ll be happy that you won’t have to stand in line for forever just to hear “Let It Go”.

My least favorite ride in Epcot was Spaceship Earth. For those unaware, that’s what is in the big Epcot ball. I guess it’s interesting enough, but I felt it to be too slow, rather boring and knowing that I was going further up into the ball made me nauseous (I’m very afraid of heights). I wouldn’t recommend this ride for any children younger than about five. Maddie got very restless on this ride and kept trying to climb over me and out of the car, which didn’t help my anxiety. If I were to ride it again, I would wait until Maddie was quite a bit older. There wasn’t enough to keep her little attention.

Now for our meals. Epcot has some amazing restaurants in both sections of the park. We typically stay in the World Showcase when it comes to meals and have loved all the ones we’ve tried. There are a lot we haven’t tried yet, but out of the ones we have, here are my favorites:

  1. Via Napoli – We’ve made reservations here twice now and have loved it every time. It’s in the Italy section of the World Showcase and the food is absolutely delicious! For my main dish, I got the spaghetti with the tomato based sauce and it was wonderful. The service is always great too when we go there. I would definitely recommend going there at least once!
  2. Coral Reef – We actually didn’t go here on our designated Epcot day, but we went there for lunch the day of Ken’s marathon. If you’ve ever seen the episode of Full House when they go to Disney World, the restaurant where Danny Tanner takes Vicky where they’re next to a huge aquarium? That THIS restaurant! I had always wanted to go there and it didn’t disappoint. I had heard some mixed reviews about it, but our food and our service was wonderful. Maddie didn’t need to eat while we were there, but they could have gotten me a children’s menu if I had needed it. I enjoyed it completely!
  3. Le Cellier Steakhouse – This is one of the harder reservations to obtain when you go to Disney World. Ken tried to get it for us during our honeymoon and had no luck whatsoever. We did get it, however for our anniversary trip back in 2014 and for this trip. It’s in the Canada section of the World Showcase and it definitely lives up to the hype. The food there is amazing, the atmosphere is awesome, and the service is wonderful. Maddie ate grilled cheese and fries there, and loved it. Ken and I both had steak and both of us enjoyed our meal. If you go, and you like steak, you need to give this one a chance! You won’t regret it!

My honorable mention goes to the Rose and Crown in the United Kingdom portion of the World Showcase. This is the first trip that we didn’t eat there, but I absolutely love it. I usually get the fish and chips (fish and fries) and we usually get it with our package to the Candlelight Processional during our December trips. The Candlelight Processional is really neat! They do this throughout their Christmas celebrations and it is where a celebrity will come in and, along with a huge orchestra and choir, they will read the Christmas story out of the Bible. I’ve seen Edward James Olmos read it back in 2011 and in 2014 I saw Jonathan Groff (Jesse from Glee or the voice of Kristoff from Frozen). Definitely a cool show to watch! They get some pretty big name celebrities to read it, and usually some good Christian celebrities toward the end of the month. I know I’ve seen Michael W. Smith’s name listed before, as well as Amy Grant.

So, that was our Epcot trip. We ended up spending the second day, along with part of our last day there and we always have a good time. Tomorrow I’ll share some of our other dining reservations that weren’t at Magic Kingdom or Epcot and tell you a great story about our last dining reservation of our trip!

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite Epcot pictures!

My Magic Kingdom Overview

My Magic Kingdom Overview

Sorry for the huge delay in updating! Vacation and traveling wore me out completely and I’m still trying to catch up on things here at home!

I’m going to start out by talking about our favorite park, the Magic Kingdom. This park is easily the best one for children, as it has the most rides for kids and a lot of characters they can meet. We spent not only our first full day there, but I believe we went back just about every day with our park hopper option. It was the perfect place for us to take Maddie because she absolutely loves Mickey Mouse.

Out of all the rides we rode at Magic Kingdom, Maddie’s favorite ended up being “It’s a Small World”. We weren’t really surprised, seeing how much she loves music. I actually have a video of her dancing to it. If I were to make a list of the top three rides for Maddie at the Magic Kingdom, I would say:

  1. “It’s a Small World” – Again, no brainer. The ride has music throughout and bright colors in every room. I would say most babies would love that ride. Take Dramamine beforehand if motion sickness is a problem, since it is a water ride.
  2. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – Now, Maddie didn’t like Winnie when we met him and his friends at the Crystal Palace, but the ride was entertaining and while you’re in line, there are toys/activities for children to play with while they wait. 
  3. People Mover – This ride is in Tomorrowland and it’s fairly uneventful. You sit on the ride and it takes you around Tomorrowland and you can see inside some of the other rides. It’s quiet and doesn’t move very fast. 

Honorable mention goes to the Tram that takes you to your vehicle. You may laugh, but Maddie loved it! She would get all excited and scream as it made its way through the parking lot. 

Now, when it comes to restaurants, we had a few in Magic Kingdom that we’d been to in the past and wanted to do again and a few we tried for the first time. My top three at Magic Kingdom this time around would be:

  1. Be Our Guest – We had planned on doing this one the last time but we planned it on our last day and instead we just left and started off for Ohio. The restaurant is beautiful, the food was delicious (especially the Grey Stuff) and the service was wonderful. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone. It’s a very hard reservation to get, so it needs to be the first one you try for.
  2. Liberty Tree Tavern – Again, we had never been here before, didn’t really know what to expect, but I knew I had heard good things about it. It was delicious!! We got what is called the “Bill of Fare” and it had a bunch of foods like turkey, pork, mac &a cheese, mashed potatoes, and more. Maddie even ate what we got and loved it! I would definitely go there again!!
  3. Crystal Palace – This one is a must every time we go. It’s usually a breakfast for us, which is a buffet, and you get to meet the Winnie-the-Pooh characters. Maddie got to eat off my plate again and got her own drink. Food is always good, service is good. Love this place!

Honorable mention this time goes to Cinderella’s Royal Table. I’m sad that I couldn’t put it in the top three, but we had some poor service there that night. Let me explain a little. Most of the restaurants we went to, either Maddie could eat off my plate (whatever we were eating was easy and bland enough to share with her) or we just got a kid’s menu and bought her something that I knew she could eat. Usually it was not more that about $11 to buy her a meal. We got to CRT (Cinderella’s Royal Table) and we were initially told we couldn’t check in until right at our reservation time, which was frustrating but not a big deal. Once we were seated, I noticed that we weren’t given a kid’s menu. The waitress informed me that I could go that route, but it would be $40 for a kid’s plate! Forty dollars!! I was about livid. She suggested that Maddie just eat off my plate. But the thing was, there wasn’t a lot that I felt she could eat. The only thing that saved this dining experience for me was when Maddie got to meet Snow White, who played games with her and she loved that. But I was pretty upset about everything else.

I’ll end this post with a few of my favorite pictures from Magic Kingdom. Tomorrow I’ll share when you all my overview of Epcot!

Why Everyone Should Visit Disney World

Why Everyone Should Visit Disney World

(Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Disney World or any of their parks or companies. This blog, and the posts to follow are all based on my own experiences, personal opinion or by research I have done. I’m not getting anything from Disney by writing about this.)

So tonight, I’m going to give a brief explanation as to why everyone should visit Walt Disney World. It’s simple: IT’S AMAZING.

I know, that sounds very vague, but it’s true.

When my now husband and I were trying to figure out where to go on our honeymoon, I don’t remember why we decided on Disney World. We both had never been there before and we had always wanted to. And honestly, if I had the money, I would go back every year if I could. There is something magical about it, as silly and corny as it sounds. We’ve been there twice, the first time being our honeymoon and the second time for our 3 year anniversary. On January 3rd of 2017, we will be driving down for our third trip starting on the 4th. And this time, we’ve got Maddie to take with us!

So here are a few (and there are MANY) reasons why everyone should try to go to Disney at least once.

  1. The parks are immaculate. No joke, you will be hard pressed to find garbage or anything lying around. They go above and beyond to make sure that your park experience is magical, and rarely do they disappoint. Fun fact, they do not sell gum at Disney World, which is one way they can keep their parks clean.
  2. Kids get in free from newborn until they turn 3 years old. Hence why we are taking Maddie (twice next year, weirdly enough). She won’t need a ticket, won’t need a meal plan (she’ll share with us or we can buy her something separate), and she’ll be able to ride many of the big attractions. As long as the ride doesn’t have a height requirement, she is free to ride. For example, she will be able to ride “It’s a Small World” and the famous Dumbo ride. But she will not be able to ride Expedition Everest or Splash Mountain.
  3. There is something there for everyone. Some people thought we were weird wanting to go down for our honeymoon, but again, Disney goes above and beyond. Every step in the planning process, especially if you call, they always ask you if you are celebrating something specific. When we got there, we had buttons to wear that showed we were newlyweds and because we wore them, everywhere we went, people knew why we were there. We got special desserts, balloons, and many congratulations from people just because they saw our button. And honestly, we never felt like we were weird for being an adult couple at Disney. We chose restaurants that were a bit nicer than what we were used to and used the time to just be together. The last time we went down, I went and got a pedicure at my resort. I loved it! We talked about visiting there so much, that both of my best friends went there on their honeymoons.
  4. The food! Oh my goodness. Ken and I, both times now, have gotten the Deluxe Dining Plan (definitely check out the dining plans if you plan to go, such a great deal). With our meals, we got an appetizer, an entree and a dessert, plus a non-alcoholic beverage. We had SO much food. And they have some amazing restaurants. My husband’s favorite is the Yachtsman Steakhouse, which was our first dining reservation when we went for our honeymoon and a must when we go. They also have some awesome character dining experiences. This time around, we are making sure we hit a lot of those for Maddie. We especially are excited to hit “Be Our Guest” for dinner on our first night, a restaurant in Magic Kingdom devoted to Beauty and the Beast, one of my favorite movies.
  5. The ease of transportation. Even though we drive down (all the way from southwest Ohio), the transportation on site is pretty amazing too. We especially love the monorail, which is connected directly to three of their Deluxe Resorts (Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and the Contemporary). When we went back for our 3 year anniversary, we stayed at the Grand Floridian (AMAZING), and I loved being able to just leave our room, go to the 2nd floor of the main building and hop on the monorail. The monorail from Grand Floridian goes to the Magic Kingdom and from there, you can hop on another one to lead you to Epcot. Other transportation includes buses, which most resorts have one that comes there, and a ferry that can take you from certain resorts to the Magic Kingdom. A big reason why we drive down is because we then have our own vehicle and do not need to rely on their transportation, but we have had pleasant experiences with all the transportation.
  6. The atmosphere. Again, it sounds corny but it really is a magical place. I honestly don’t care if we ever vacation anywhere else (we plan to, but I don’t need to). I would go to Disney any time.

I’m just scratching the surface. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting more about Disney World (mostly because we’re getting ready to head down there ourselves). Have you been to Disney? Let me know what I left out!!