Planning Disney dining is an art

One of the most important things to do when planning your trip to WDW…Making your dining reservations. If you are counting on enjoying character dining experiences, or meals at the better on-site restaurants at decent times, you will need to plan your reservations early.

From 180 days in, you can make your reservations online or by telephone (407-WDW-DINE) for most table-service restaurants. Luckily, you can modify and cancel your reservations so that you can create your touring plans, and ensure that your reservations fit in with your overall vacation plan. When planning our first trip back in May, and in a quest to plan a perfect trip, I probably made, edited and cancelled over 30 reservations. We ended up keeping six.

You will only need reservations for table-service restaurants, which offer a more formal dining environment. Quick-service restaurants are available too, and are great alternatives to a sit-down meal when you’re on the go.

Gasparilla Island Grill

Gasparilla Island Grill

We frequented a few quick-service restaurants during our recent stay–Gasparilla Island Grill, at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa; Pecos Bill’s in Magic Kingdom; and the new and elaborate Be Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom, which operates for lunch as a quick-service establishment (table-service by night–make your reservations early!).

Making your reservations for certain restaurants is more important than others. For example, if the Disney princesses are your kind of thing, you will want to make your Cinderella’s Royal Table reservations as soon as you have your trip confirmed. This is a “premium” character dining experience (at more than $50 per child, and even more for an adult!) that takes place within the magic of Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom.

Breakfast at Cindy's

Breakfast at Cindy’s

A few other tips–I would suggest making dining reservations early for restaurants located within the parks. An 8 a.m. reservation at Cindy’s means that you will most definitely be able to beat the mad rush of families lined up at the entry turnstiles, waiting for rope drop at 9 a.m.

Another note about reservations–making them online can be a time saver, but can also turn into a source of insomnia for some die-hard planners.

Character dining is great if you are heading to WDW with small children (and even enthusiasts like me!). While it can be expensive, character dining provides you with an opportunity to meet with several Disney characters at one sitting, without waiting in the hot Florida sun to greet them.

Expect to pay $20 to $50 for breakfast, or $30 to $60 for dinner. In my opinion, it was worth it. We especially enjoyed our brunch at 1900 Park Fare (located at the Grand Floridian), which allowed us to “meet” Mary Poppins and Alice (of Wonderland fame) among others.

Mary & Me

Mary & Me

One last tip–making reservations for the night you arrive is not a good idea. I would suggest grabbing a quick bite at a table-service or quick-service restaurant at your resort so that you’re not bound by time and location. This will give you more time to enjoy the parks or the pool on your first day.

There are so many options to choose from when staying on property at WDW. A couple of my favourite restaurants included the Grand Floridian Café, Ohana at the Polynesian Resort, and Via Napoli in Epcot.

I’ll provide full reviews in future blog posts, so stay tuned!

Review: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is Walt Disney World’s flagship resort and crown jewel. And yes, it is grand, in all senses.

From the moment you walk into the five-storey lobby of the Victorian era-themed Grand Floridian, you are overcome with turn-of-the-century (the one before last) elegance, and an aroma that I can’t quite put my finger on. It slightly reminds me of Rainkissed Leaves by Bath and Body Works (which, sadly, I heard is now in the process of being discontinued).

Our experience, from beginning to end was unbelievable in terms of customer service. Staff–from bell services to lobby concierge and store clerks–all personified an era long gone (in personality, and uniform).

We booked a standard room, which sleeps up to five people, plus one child under three in a crib. I’ve heard that if you’re lucky, you can be upgraded for free to rooms with theme park views, or even the luxurious club level. Our room, situated in the Boca Chica building, was a ground floor room with views of the pool and grounds. At this resort, that ain’t a bad thing.

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Our room felt oversized, even with the five of us (mom, dad, two small kids and grandma) piling in. The room décor is very traditional, and some may say outdated, but I felt that it provided a cozy feeling that made me feel at home. It also stayed true to the overall Victorian nature of the grounds. If not for anything else, the beds at the resort are amazing, and I would stay here just to be able to put my head down to sleep at night!

With two pools and an Alice in Wonderland-themed splash pad, the resort is a great place to cool off on afternoons when you are taking a break from touring the parks. With a variety of eateries–including Gasparilla Island Grill, the Grand Floridian Café (a hidden gem, in my opinion), 1900 Park Fare, Narcoosees, Citricos and the prestigious Victoria and Albert’s–plus pool side quick service options, there is much variety to offer your palate. Tennis courts, boat rentals, a white sand beach, convention centre and a spa round out other amenities. Oh, and I forgot, shopping. Several stores in the main building can also help you pass the time as you navigate through the unique merchandise offered at this resort.

We often found ourselves sitting outside Gasparilla Island Grill morning and night. In the morning, we would start our day enjoying the early sun on a patio overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon and Cinderella Castle. By night, it became the place to watch the nightly Wishes fireworks at Magic Kingdom (second to being in the park itself).

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The monorail, Disney’s most exciting form of transportation, was accessible through the second floor of the main building. The length of the entire ride to Magic Kingdom was two minutes! A quick sneeze and we were at the front gates of Magic Kingdom, ready to start our day at rope drop and beat the lines.

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I could go on forever about the Grand Floridian. Overall, the resort provided a level of courtesy, elegance and recreation opportunities that made for an amazing vacation.

Looking forward to provide more in-depth reviews of the Grand Floridian’s restaurants in upcoming posts!

Picking the perfect place to stay

Being a first time visitor to Walt Disney World this past May, I knew I had to pick the perfect place to stay. Not just perfect for me, but perfect for my kids, my husband and my mom, who also came along.

Originally, we had planned to stay at the newly opened Art of Animation Resort (AOA). This value resort has Disney written all over it, has great reviews, and for a relatively good price point too.

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With three pools, and Little Mermaid, Lion King, Finding Nemo and Cars-themed accommodations, I knew my girls would be in love with it. But, I also knew that it would likely be a zoo–because it was new, and because it was so specifically oriented towards the under-10 demographic. I started to think…after long, hot, days at the park, would I be looking forward to a break from the crowds at this new, and busy, resort?

As I started to get more indepth in planning and researching my options, I started to think more about convenience. AOA, from my research, would be about a 20-minute bus ride to Magic Kingdom (but a much quicker bus ride to Epcot and Hollywood Studios).

I started to wonder…would it be worth the price in upgrading to a deluxe resort on the monorail line, and be able to arrive at Magic Kingdom (our main attraction) within minutes? The answer was yes. Carting a two- and four-year-old to bus stops and on half-hour bus trips midday for naps would seem to eat up quite a bit of time. Maybe older kids would fare better?

The Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Resort or Grand Floridian Resort and Spa were my options if I wanted to go the monorail route. After some careful consideration, we chose to stay at the Grand Floridian. So glad we did!

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The resort has recently been the subject of intense renovations, and still has some evidence of construction as the Disney Vacation Club units are being built adjacent to the main resort. However, it proved to be a great choice for a number of reasons, including convenience, upgraded amenities and a good variety restaurants onsite (compared to just one quick-service eatery at AOA). Many reviews document the perks of this resort on TripAdvisor.

Personally, I wanted to ensure that we were close enough to the parks to be able to stay late but get back to the resort within minutes, avoiding the mass exodus at peak periods like closing time. Keeping the kids sane (and rested) was priority number one for this trip, so we chose to go this route. But I won’t lie, the extras at this resort did make you feel like a million bucks.

If you want the ultimate Disney vacation, and are staying onsite, I would recommend a deluxe resort within close distance of the park that you will be heading to the most. If you are on a budget, the value or moderate resorts provide a great place to rest your head at the end of the day, with some amenities too. In an upcoming post, I’ll list the various resorts, themes and categories to give a clearer picture on the options Disney offers regarding accommodations.

But first…I plan on sharing my full review on the Grand Floridian. Stay tuned!

A Disney trip, fit for two princesses

Earlier this year, When I was in the early WDW trip planning stages, a friend told me to check out this video on YouTube.

So glad I did…The accents! The soundtrack! The LIGHT-UP DRESSES!

Roll the clip!

Welcome, friends!

As I started to plan my first-ever trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that I had to comprehend and co-ordinate. OK, I was also a little overwhelmed by the impending big 3-0 celebration to take place there, too.

I’m a planner at heart, and organizing this trip was quite the challenge! For all the time I spent organizing, I thought that cataloguing all of the good tips and tricks that I learned along the way would help others simplify their plans, and voila, this blog was born!

Hope you enjoy ~ the planning is half the fun!

Jenny

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