Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cinderella's Royal Table: A Restaurant Review

by: Jenna

On this last trip to Disney, I decided to pick a restaurant just for me. My boys (my husband and my two kids) are always willing to indulge me in a few girly things each trip and so no one fussed when I picked Cinderella's Royal Table for our last meal of the trip.



The kids were actually really excited about the prospect of eating inside of Cinderella's castle (and of course, so was I!).

(Note: Cinderella's Royal Table is currently undergoing refurbishment which began shortly after our visit. It is scheduled to reopen on March 7, 2015.)



When you enter the Hall, you'll queue up to be greeted by Cinderella. One bonus about eating here is that you'll receive a free picture of your family with Cinderella, which they'll bring to you during your dinner. Boys will also be given a sword and girls a magic wand to keep. During the course of your dinner, you'll be greeted by Snow White, Aurora, Jasmine and Ariel.












I was really impressed with how quickly we made it through the line and were seated. From the time we arrived and let them know our name, to the time we met Cinderella, it was maybe 6 or 7 minutes. From there we went straight to our table. It was by far the fastest seating of any of our table service reservations (O'Hana was the slowest, if you're keeping track).



Your dinner (both adults and kids) includes a choice of appetizer or soup or salad, entree and dessert. You can view the full menu here.

Chris started with the shrimp and grits while I dug in on a cheese platter.




For dinner, we both went with the steak and shrimp.


We ended on a sweet note...I went with The Clock Strikes Twelve, but to be honest, I didn't care for it and only took two bites.



And Chris had the Chef's Dessert Trio.



However, the start of the dessert tasting, ended up being our kids Peanut Butter S'mores! They were delicious! If we go back, I'm going to see if they'll let me order this, ha!



Dinner came in at a whopping $204.44 but of course, we paid nothing because we used our meal plan. One thing to keep in mind is that Cinderella's Royal Table is one of the few Disney restaurants that takes TWO Table Service credits for one dinner. Since we were allocated meal credits for the day we arrived (4 snacks, 4 quick service meals and 4 table service meals) but we didn't get in until late, we just saved those 4 TS credits for this meal.

Is it worth it? Yes, I would say it is. Between the ambiance of the restaurant, the meet and greets with five princesses, the meal itself, the view of the fireworks and fact that you are paying to eat inside of the castle, I would recommend doing this at least once.

Have you dined at Cinderella's Royal Table? 
What did you think of it?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Staying Fit While on Vacation

By: Lindsey


Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional nor a certified fitness instructor. This is solely information to help you know some of your fitness options while on vacation. As always, please consult your doctor before beginning any type of workout plan. 

Continuing our topic this week on staying healthy at Disney World, let’s talk about fitness. Fitness is something that is extremely important to me. It’s something that is a part of my everyday life at home, so keeping up with a fitness routine when I’m on vacation makes sense for me.

What about all of the walking you already do in the parks? Doesn’t that count for exercise? Of course it does. However, for me, walking alone doesn’t build/keep the strength that I want for other muscle groups. Believe it or not, it doesn’t take long for muscles to begin to lose strength. We have to work so hard to gain that strength; I don’t want to do anything to lose it.

Running/Jogging

On any given day, running/jogging is a part of my routine. Running is my therapy. I typically run anywhere from 3-5 days per week, depending on if I’m training for something specific or not. Our last trip to Disney I was training for a half marathon. It was important to keep up with my training schedule. Here are my tips for running/jogging at Disney.

  • Make sure to schedule in time to run/jog. It’s very easy while you are at Disney to run out of time each day. There is just so much to do! If fitting in a run/jog while you are there is important, you are most likely going to have to build it into your schedule. 
  • Research areas to run before you go. Pick a few different trails that appeal to you and your schedule. Here is a list of the trails at Disney. You can also pick up this information at the front desk of your resort. If you don’t want to visit a trail, run around your resort! 
  • Check the weather. Orlando can be a very hot, humid place. Try to fit in your run as early as you can. Running later in the evening might be a little cooler as well, but if you’ve been at the parks all day, your legs might be a little fatigued from all of the walking. 
  • Adjust your mileage as necessary. If your legs are tired, give yourself a break. This is something I have to remind myself every trip. I feel like if I don’t do the exact mileage on my schedule, I’m cheating. That’s not true! Listen to your body and make those adjustments as you need them.
  • Stay hydrated! Just like I said above, it can get so humid in Orlando, especially in the summer months. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your run!
  • Be cautious around traffic. Traffic can be cars in the parking lot, golf carts taking guests to their room, guests hauling their luggage to their rooms, and so many more. Be aware of your surroundings. You don’t want an injury that could have been avoided. 

Strength Training/Cardio Workouts

Strength training is also a big part of my daily fitness routine. I tend to strength train anywhere from 3-4 days per week. I mainly do this in a class setting at my gym, but there are times where I do it at home as well. Here are my tips for strength training while at Disney.
  • Many Disney’s resorts have fitness centers. If your resort has one, make good use of it. 
  • This one may seem silly, but it works. Take a turn pushing the stroller or designate yourself as the official stroller pusher of the family. There are several areas with small inclines. You can get a good arm workout just by pushing! 
  • Pinterest! You can look up all kinds of strength training exercises on Pinterest and other websites. Most of these can be done in your room with nothing but your body weight. This is my go-to while I’m at Disney. I pin a bunch of workouts before we go (I may or may not try them out before we leave. It just depends on how much time we have.) and pull them up on the laptop or iPad when it’s time to work out. 
  • Stream workouts. There are several websites that have free workouts. YouTube is a good resource. If you have a specific workout type, research before you go. There might be some sort of online site you can join. I’m a member to a couple of them. If my Pinterest workouts aren’t cutting it, or I just need something a little more specific, I always turn to this. 

Fitness is important to me, but I always try to remember this important thing: Don’t let my fitness routine takeover my vacation. It’s easy to worry and stress about when I’m going to do this and when I’m going to do that. I try to have a plan in place for those things, but if something happens and I don’t get a run or a workout in, so be it. I’m on vacation with my family and it’s okay. I don’t beat myself up over it.

What do you do for a fitness routine at Disney? Do you take the week off or just cut back? I always love to hear other people’s tips on fitness while traveling. Leave your tips in the comments!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Staying Healthy on Your Disney Vacation

By: Melissa

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, or advise for any medical condition, is not a substitute for the advice of your doctor, and does NOT guarantee an illness-free trip. I’m just a mom, telling you what’s worked for me and what I plan to do.

We’ve all heard the stories. Someone goes on vacation, only to end up miserably ill and unable to enjoy the festivities with the rest of the family. Or even worse, everyone takes turns being violently ill. If there’s anything worse than being sick on vacation, it’s being sick in a hotel room on vacation.


When we were planning our first trip to Disney, I had nightmares about one (or all) of us getting sick on our trip. And while there are many things that can’t be avoided, there were things I could do to help make sure we had our best chance to stay well during our trip. Here are some things I did, and will do next time.

1. Start before the trip. Starting a couple of weeks before our trip, I was careful about our exposure to germs. We didn’t hibernate by any means, but we were a little more careful than we normally would’ve been. I also spoke to our pediatrician about giving my kids vitamin D3 and vitamin C in dosages proper for their age/weight to boost their immune system. (We utilize vitamin D3 and vitamin C on a regular basis, but our doctor was able to give us more exact doses for that purpose.) I also made sure we were all eating as healthy as we could, drinking enough water, and getting enough rest.

2. Don’t quit just because you start your trip. Travel can be hard on the immune system. We tried to make sure we were still taking our vitamins, drinking enough water, and getting enough rest. (Not that you can get enough rest at Disney!) If you need to set a reminder on your phone so everyone takes their vitamins (or whatever), do it!

We also tried to choose healthier food options when we had the chance. Yes, we might have to stop at fast food places on the trip, but many offer fruit as sides (for adults and kids), and “better” menu options. If you have a dining plan at Disney, it’s really tempting to indulge way more than you should – or you’re used to. We tried to make at least one “better” menu choice at each meal, even if it was just drinking water instead of a Coke. Most of the kids’ meals offer fruit or yogurt as a side, and our kids enjoyed those options at almost every meal. Not only did that help us cut down on junky food, it was food our tummies were a little more familiar with. Don’t forget that you will likely have a mini fridge in your room if you’d like to stock it with bottled water or healthy snacks.

3. Remember to pack stay-healthy necessities. I took along our vitamins and a few other things I thought would help in case someone started feeling icky.  Yes, there are pharmacies nearby, and I knew most resort gift shops would have a few offerings, but I didn’t want to have to go on a quest to find something if someone started feeling bad, especially if it was minor. So I took a few of our favorite go-to items, knowing I could find other things if I needed them.

4. Wash, wash, wash your hands. Using plain old soap and water is one of the best ways to combat germs. Don’t forget to do it! Bar soap is not our favorite for hand washing, so we took along a pump bottle of hand soap for our room.

5. Hand sanitizer. Use it. While not a substitute for good old fashioned hand washing, most of us with small children would’ve done well to buy stock in hand sanitizer before our little blessings arrived. Ours is mostly utilized when we’re out and about…and have touched everything in sight, contaminated with every germ imaginable. I took along a few small bottles to carry with us, and a larger bottle to keep in the room to refill the little ones. I also took some individually packaged sanitizing wipes to use on tables, high chairs, etc. when we sat down to eat. Nothing against the cleanliness of Disney (it’s impeccable!), but when I know there’s a chance my 2 year-old might lick the table, I’d rather clean it myself first.

6. Disinfecting wipes. This is where you might think I’m a little crazy. But my husband travels a lot for work, and we’ve all seen that episode of 20/20 or Dateline, or whatever show last exposed all the icky things left behind in hotel rooms.

The first thing we do when we check into a hotel room, especially with the kids, is clean. Again, nothing against the housekeeping staff, but you can’t see germs with the naked eye. And if my kids are going to be touching everything (and, let’s be honest, put their mouths on something), I’d rather be certain it has been recently cleaned to my satisfaction. So, my husband keeps the kids busy while I attack every surface I possibly can with disinfecting wipes. (Counter tops/flat surfaces, door handles, light switches, chair arms, remote control, telephone, alarm clock buttons, lamp switches, bathroom fixtures, etc. Basically, if it’s not fabric, I wipe it down. Except for the floor. I have to draw the line somewhere.) After all, you never know if the person who occupied the room before you had their vacation ruined by a nasty virus and might’ve unknowingly left a little behind. I also try to grab the wipes again mid-trip and clean things up again. Trekking through the parks brings lots of dirt and germs back with you. I know the housekeeping staff does a great job; I just want a little extra assurance.

Other places to think about cleaning with disinfecting wipes: stroller handles, stroller tray/cup holder, and bag handles.


Those are some basic things we do to help make sure our trips are illness free. Do you have any other tips?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Restaurant Review: Tusker House at Animal Kingdom

by: Jenna
Today I'm reviewing Tusker House at Animal Kingdom. We ate lunch here during our November trip. If you flip back to my Be Our Guest review, you'll see that when I love something, I tend to have a LOT to say about it! 

Going with that assumption, this review will probably be on the short side. Tusker House ended up being my families least favorite meal of the trip (my personal least favorite was a restaurant I ate at in Morocco in Epcot, but this was a close second).

This is the outside of the restaurant:

Here's the "menu" that they have - it's sort of vague because they change things out every once in awhile. While we were there they had pork loin and beef as the meat choices, as well as two kinds of salad, orzo pasta, rice, cous-cous and pita bread. Unfortunately, they didn't have any of the dips out (like hummus) for some odd reason.


Here's my plate. I got a little of everything to try. The salad, the pork and the orzo were all fairly good. The beef, cous-cous, rice and potatoes were all...well, not delicious.

The big draw to Tusker House is the character greetings. While we were there Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy all came by to take pictures and sign autographs.  My husband even convinced Mickey to take a picture with us while we called the Hogs (Arkansas Razorbacks).


If you're interested in doing a character lunch buffet, I would recommend Disney Junior Play and Dine over at Hollywood Studios. I'll be blogging a review of it soon!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Disney's Magical Express

By: Lindsey



Two out of our three trips, we’ve used Disney’s Magical Express. We’ve absolutely loved it and would recommend using it to anyone flying into the Orlando airport.

What is Disney’s Magical Express? In basic terms, it’s a bus that picks you up at the airport and delivers you to your resort. 

So what’s so special about that? Once you’ve signed up to take advantage of the Magical Express, you’ll receive a packet in the mail. This packet will contain luggage tags, these special yellow (as of 2014) luggage stickers, and information on how it all works. These magic yellow tags? They do amazing things. When you check your bags at the ticket counter, those yellow tags allow your bags to go straight to your room at the resort.

Wait. What? Yes. That means once you check your bags at the ticket counter, you don’t have to see or touch them again until they arrive at your room. Will they be waiting in your room the second you open your door? No. But they will be there a few hours later. If you are taking a later flight and need stuff to get ready for bed when you arrive, pack that stuff in your carry-on. You do NOT need to be present at your room for your bags to be delivered.

I don’t know about you, but that alone is worth its weight in gold to me. I HATE hauling my luggage around airports. I hate struggling to get from the airport to the room with everything. So to have my bags magically appear in my room, amazing.

A lot of people say they’ve waited on their bags for up to five hours. We’ve never had that experience. Both times our bags were delivered within a couple of hours. That being said, we do not travel at busy seasons. The wait for your bags might be longer if you are going during a busy week or season.

The luggage service is only available for flights arriving 5:00am – 10:00pm. If your flight arrives before 5:00am or after 10:00pm, you can still ride the Magical Express, you just can’t take advantage of the luggage service.

After you get off your plane, you’ll make your way to the main terminal. Disney’s Magical Express Welcome Center is located on Side B, Level 1, Ground Transportation. I was really nervous about finding this area the first time we used Magical Express. However, they have great signage and it’s really easy to find.

This is important. You will need your Magic Bands in order to ride the Magical Express. Make sure to pack them in your carry-on and have them out and ready to use when you head to the Magical Express Welcome Center. If you do not have your Magic Bands, you’ll have to have your Magical Express arrival documents and you’ll have to wait in a long line. Make sure you get those Magic Bands ready!

From this point, they’ll direct you where to go. You’ll board a bus and take about a 30-45 minute ride, depending on traffic. They have a video that plays while you are traveling to your resort. It can be pretty cheesy but, hey, it’s entertainment! You’ll pass through those magical Disney signs and your vacation will begin! 

I know what you are probably thinking now. Well, that’s great, but what about when it’s time to leave? The day before your departure, you’ll receive an envelope with your departure information called a Transportation Notice. It’ll tell you what time your bus leaves, typically about three hours before your flight and where to check-in. 

If you are flying with one of Disney’s participating airlines and staying at select Disney resorts, you can take advantage of the Resort Airline Check-in. This service is wonderful. You visit their counter and show them your documents. They will check you in, print your boarding passes, and you can check your luggage. When you get to the airport, you can go straight to the security lines. Again, no struggling with luggage. I don’t have to see that stuff again until I arrive at my final destination. 

You will need your transportation notice when you check-in whether you are just riding the bus or taking advantage of the resort airline check-in. Make sure to keep that accessible. 

If you are staying at a Disney owned property, you can take advantage of this free service. If you already have booked your flights when you book your vacation, you can add Magical Express service right then. You just need to supply your flight info. If you haven’t, don’t worry. You can add it later. You can read more about Disney’s Magical Express on the Disney site. It also gives you a list of all participating airlines and resorts.

This only sounds better and better, right? Disney definitely knows how to add magic to your stay.
If you are thinking about Disney’s Magical Express, I say go for it. We love it!

Have you used this service before? What are your thoughts?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

When You're NOT Planning a Disney Trip

By: Melissa

Let’s be realistic. Most of us spend more time not planning a Disney trip than planning one. Or we’re planning one so far away, the number of days in our countdown is kind of discouraging and it seems like it will never get here. If you’ve been bitten by the Disney planning bug, it can be kind of depressing. But there are ways to keep the Disney magic alive while you wait.


(Countdown Calendar Image credit: Jenna)  

1. Live vicariously! I love to live vicariously through my friends who are planning and going on Disney trips. It’s so much fun to hear about how they are choosing to spend their park days and where they will be staying. And if they’d like some help planning, that’s even better!

2. Stay up-to-date on Disney news. Check out the DIS Boards, read a blog or two *cough cough*, check out Twitter, and subscribe to some newsletters that interest you. You’ll feel much closer to The World when you’re staying updated on what’s going on there.

3. Watch movies! You don’t have to stop having Disney Movie Nights just because you’re not planning a trip! Enjoy the time with your family and explore some new and classic Disney movies.

4. Remember! Take time to look through your photos from your past trip(s) and have fun remembering the time you spent with your family, the eight times you rode the carousel, and what your favorite moment of the trip was.

5. Enjoy the souvenirs you brought home from your trip – from coffee mugs and car window decals to Christmas ornaments, simple things you brought home from the parks can be regular reminders of the special memories made there.

6. Dream about your next trip. It will be two years between our trips, and I’ve been in some phase of planning since we left the Disney property! It’s true. No, it wasn’t anything concrete at first, but our thoughts were fresh, we knew what we wanted to try next time, and I started making a list. After getting home, I had time to dive into researching our next trip and choosing a resort.


What’s your favorite way to keep the Disney magic alive between trips?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Snack Credit Picks for Each Park!

by: Jenna

I'm writing this the week after I've returned from Disney (though it will post much later). I'm just sitting here, thinking about all the delicious food we had while we were there! I decided to narrow down my very favorite snacks by park.

If you want to see a full (really, really long but informative) list of every snack you can purchase at each park using snack credits, then I would suggest looking at this article from WDWGuru).

Magic Kingdom:

Dole Whip with Aloha Isle 
I could seriously eat these every day. It's such a refreshing treat, especially after a long, hot, exhausting (but fun!) day of walking around the park!



Hollywood Studios:

Cupcakes from Starring Rolls
I'll admit that I sent pictures of these to my fellow mom's here at Real Mom's Disney. This is just one of those things I think about all year and can't wait to have when I get to Disney! The butterfinger cupcake is divine! 





Animal Kingdom:

Chicken fried rice from Yak and Yeti
Sometimes, I'm really in the mood for Chinese food and I had heard great things about the fried rice at Yak and Yeti. I'm here to tell you that it's not only delicious, it's also a HUGE portion. I split mine with Chris and we still didn't finish it! The only downfall here is the line tends to be long and slow!



Epcot:

Chocolate Eclair in France at Les Halles
Unfortunately, I didn't make it to France for my elair. I headed over to China for some fried rice (leaving my family in Morocco...this sounds so weird!) only to find out that all they had was shrimp fried rice with the shrimp already in it (I don't eat seafood). I walked all the way back to Morocco and ended up eating a terrible falafel there instead. Regardless, eclairs are great and priced at over $4, it's a good use of snack credits. PS - Their chocolate croissants are great as well!

Downtown Disney:

Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispie Treat
There are some great snack stops in DD, but I picked up a Mickey shaped rice krispie as a snack one day and it was SO GOOD! It was also priced at around $5.75 which is probably the most expensive snack option I found.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ordering Groceries at WDW

By: Ashley 








Our family flies to Walt Disney World, and we quickly realized after a couple of flights that packing food, bottles of water, and other supplies adds a LOT of weight to your luggage! We also don't use a rental car while visiting the World (we use the Magical Express and Disney transportation), so going to a grocery store on our own wasn't really an option for us.

I'm so glad I discovered Garden Grocer! I'm able to pre-order groceries online and they are delivered right to our hotel. And often bell services will deliver straight to our room! It's wonderful to be able to think through what we'll need and be able to purchase them with the click of a mouse. 

Garden Grocer delivers to most of Central Florida, including Walt Disney World and Universal Studios hotels. There is a $40 minimum on food/drink orders. The delivery fee is $14. The items are not severely marked up; it's more like shopping at a "nicer" grocery store in your town where everything is a little more expensive but not by a huge amount. The convenience is TOTALLY worth it to us! 

Here is what I recently ordered for our upcoming trip. My husband's parents will be with us as well. 

-Assorted breakfast bars
-Diapers
-Yogurt
-Bottled water and bottled green tea
-Juice boxes
-Large bottle of apple juice 
-Value pack of individual cereal boxes 
-Gallon of milk
-Apples
-Goldfish

Our orders for each trip vary depending on our length of stay, the amount of people going, and what we learn from our previous trips! Disney has a lenient food policy, so we've found that it's nice to take little bags of Goldfish and juice boxes with us, just for a quick pick-me-up. It's also wonderful to not worry about fitting all of those things in our luggage. 

We've found that we like to have something quick for breakfast so we can get to each park before opening time. In our opinion, it's the BEST way to maximize you're touring! We'll even eat our breakfast bars on the way to the parks! Ordering groceries is something I can check off my list early, which gives me one less thing to worry about. We will have familiar foods that are quick and easy, which is a big help during any vacation!
 
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