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Disney Planning – Dream Guide by Adam Hattan

I absolutely LOVE Adam. He’s the first Disney vlogger I ever watched and he’s still my absolute favourite.

Adam has not only visited Disney on countless occasions he’s also lived and worked at Walt Disney World as part of the Cultural Representation Program.

His vlogs are incredibly honest and he gives lots of amazing tips on how to make the most out of and enjoy your trip to Disney so obviously the next logical step is to put together a travel guide and utilise all that knowledge he has gained from his travels.

Dream Guide is the result of that.

And what a wonderful result it is.

I’ve read quite a few planning books about Orlando in general and although they do go into great detail about Disney it seems to be the generic info that you can find from travel agents and the My Disney app rather than from a personal experience.  It doesn’t really matter how many of these guides you read you’re generally getting exactly the same information.

That is why Dream Guide is so different.

Drawing from his own multiple experiences Adam gives you a unique and honest account of Disney.  What it’s like to stay on site and how to navigate the parks to best get the most out of your holiday.

There’s no target audience for this book, it covers every group of people who would travel to Disney. Whether you’re on your own, with a partner, friends or family. A big group or a small one this guide is for you.

It’s well written and so easy and enjoyable to read.  It reads like Adam speaks in his vlogs and genuinely feels like he’s a friend just giving you some helpful advice – like your own private tour guide if you will! It’s an odd thing to say but I know Adam will appreciate it – it smells good too!! Not that I go round smelling books but you get a whiff if you’re flicking through it!

He uses great little icons to show you at a glance what attractions would be best for you for your trip.

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It even shows you what rides you can do in the very increment weather in Orlando. Little bit too hot – look for the thermometer, Going during the hurricane/rainy season and stuck in a downpour? Look for the raindrops.

Being that this is coming from a Disney addict and not a travel agent who will be trying to ‘sell’ you something you can rely on Adam to give you HONEST opinions of what it’s like to be in Walt Disney World. Whether it be helping you choose your accommodation or where to eat this guide will really help you to manage your expectations when it comes to being in Orlando.

I’ve traveled quite a few times to Orlando and the fact that Adam had mentioned this was helpful for those of us who have been lucky enough to visit made me even more curious to read it.

There are things in the book that I found really helpful.

Quite a few little top tips scattered through the book.

What I also liked was the fact that having been both a guest and a cast member he is able to use both sides of that to advise on things like tipping. You won’t get that from any other travel guide.

All in all, I was incredibly impressed with this book. I’m hoping in the future there will be more to cover all the parks over the world and maybe the cruises as well – which are briefly touched on in this book.

You can purchase ‘Dream Guide’ from Adams website

Follow him on Twitter and Instagram for updates of his travels.

Most importantly you can subscribe to his channel on YouTube for some of the best Disney vlogs you’ll watch. But be warned watch one and you’ll be dragged into watching the rest and before you know it you’ll have been watching them non-stop for several days… not that I have experience of that in any way at all.

On top of all that he’s a lovely man too, as I can testify after a very unexpected meeting at a gig last year.. excuse the face I was very excited!!

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Disney Dining Plan – What’s it all about?

Before I go into details about this dining plan business I will mention – in case you’d not noticed in previous blogs or don’t follow me on Twitter – I LOVE food. Literally cannot get enough especially when I’m in Orlando. My whole trips tend to be planned around where we, well I say we, me mostly, want to eat and when I can get reservations for.  So having the dining plan and the ability to eat wherever I wanted on site without having to worry about the cost was just, to quote Rapunzel, ‘The best thing ever…’

What is the dining plan?

For those that don’t know. The Disney Dining plan is something that is exclusive to guests staying in the Disney hotels who book a Hotel and park ticket package and that can be direct with Disney or through any of the agents who sell it.  You cannot purchase this unless you have the room and the tickets booked together.

There are 3 levels of Dining Plan, the quick service, the Dining Plan and the Deluxe Dining plan.

It is calculated on the number of NIGHTS you have in a hotel not the number of days so do be aware if you have a 13 night stay but 14 days in resort then you only have the amount of credits for 13 nights.  Although they don’t expire until midnight on your last day.

The Quick Service plan gives you 2 quick service (or counter service, basically anywhere where you aren’t waited on) meals per night plus 1 drink (which can now be alcohol) with the meal, 2 snacks per night and a resort refillable mug for the entirety of your stay.

The Disney Dining plan is 1 quick service and 1 table service (each with a drink as above) plus the snacks and mug.

The Deluxe Plan gives you 3 meals (which can be counter or table service) and a drink, the snacks and the mug.

These show up as ‘credits’ on your account – something you can now see on My Disney Experience – it wasn’t available when we went.

You don’t have to use these per day, you are free to use these as and when you like during your trip. But once you’ve used them that’s it.

So for example for us for the duration of our trip we had 14 table service credits each, 14 quick service and 28 snack ones. We were spending a few days off site so on those days obviously we weren’t eating in Disney. That made it easy for us to have a few days when we had 2 sit down meals or to go to a restaurant that uses up 2 of your credits instead of one.

The great thing about the dining plan is that you can use your table service credits for character dining which is why I wanted it.

Resort Refillable Mugs

The mugs you get are great keepsakes but you can only use these in your resort and other Disney hotels/resorts, these cannot be used in the parks. It’s not just soft drinks although there is so much choice with the coca cola freestyle machines. There is also hot drinks (the Hot Chocolate was lovely) as well as tea and coffee and many other bits. Not alcohol though. Every time you use the freestyle machine it will tell you when the mug will expire.

You get the mugs either in the restaurants or shops in your resort. There are several different colours to choose from but the images on them are the same.

We did go to use it on our last day and it wouldn’t work but the cast members fixed it for us.

Where can you use it?

I’ve already gone into detail about HOW to book the dining in my Step by Step Disney Dining Booking 

But how do you know which ones you can use your dining plan for?

My Disney Experience is great for that it will actually tell you when you look at a restaurant if you can use the plan.  You can see below it states under the prices ‘Some Dining Plans Accepted’

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If you’re looking at a place that does accept he plans it will also tell you how many credits from your plan a meal will take. If you click on where it says they’re accepted it opens a window to tell you.

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You can also choose to only look at the places it’s accepted on the search bar.

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There is a LOT of choice.

This is what I love about it. Being as your meals are essentially already paid for (minus tips which I will go into in a bit) and you have all this choice it does in effect force you to eat in some of the nicer restaurants. Although these are places you might not have chosen had you been actually paying for a meal, I felt it forced me to eat ‘properly’ rather than just snack and have the usual ‘easy’ meal of something with chips. It encouraged me to be a bit more adventurous.

I liked the fact that we knew we could eat properly and it not make a dent in the money we’d taken to spend. It does take the stress out of it. And it did mean I could do all the character dining I’d wanted to do 🙂 For that alone the Dining Plan is worth it!

I’ve got the Quick Service plan is it all fast food?

The fact that ‘quick service’ means fast food or burgers and chips and nothing else is a common misconception at Disney. ‘Quick’ does not mean rubbish. Especially not here. Disney has such a wide range of food and although obviously there are places you can get your burgers and Hot Dogs (Caseys Corner in Magic Kingdom does great hot dogs) there is so much more to it.

Take Sunshine Seasons in Epcot for example. This is a ‘quick service’ and look at the choice you have!

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Epcot in particular is great for quick service as each of the countries in the World Showcase has somewhere you can eat so you will find the largest variety there.

This is also a great place to use your snack credits.

This was a quick service from Harambe Market in Animal Kingdom

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These are flatbreads with beans and they were delicious and HUGE! So get the idea of it all being ‘rubbish’ out of your heads! Its not true. Disney caters for everyone and there is also a great choice for anyone with specific diets be it due to an allergy or just lifestyle choice. Vegan and Veggies are definitely catered for here.

What can I use snack credits for?

The snack credits are great although I challenge you to actually use them all!! We used most of ours on Pretzels and Mickey shaped treats! With the ones we had left at the end of our trip going on bags of sweets from Goofys Candy Co and Rice Crispie treats for friends at home.

Most cakes/muffins, ice creams, popcorn and drinks (as long as they’re not in their souvenir tubs/cups) are included. You can even use them in Starbucks for a much needed shot of caffeine when you’ve been up since 6 for extra magic hours!

The famous Dole Whip is included as is the Night Blossom drink in Pandora.

All the items below were snack credit items!

 

How do I know where I can use it?

Obviously looking on your My Disney app will show you where you can use your plan. But it is easy to see going round the park as everywhere you can use it you will see this sign. If you look at the menu from the snack cart during the Food and Wine festival, each one of the things you can have has this logo next to it.

Do I have to tip?

Anyone who’s been to Orlando before or done a little bit of research will know that it’s customary to tip your servers.

With the exception of a few (Cinderellas Royal Table being one of them I seem to remember) tips are NOT included with the dining plan so you do need to tip your server. 18-20% of the bill is what is recommended.

If you are a party of 6 or more this will automatically be added so bear that in mind when you’re using the plan so you’re not surprised to be given some sort of bill at the end of your meal.

When you make your reservation for your meal your confirmation will tell you if its included or not.

You do need to budget for it but it still works out a LOT less than what you would be paying if you didn’t have the plan.

Using the plan for Food Festivals

Something I struggled to find out about before I went was how these credits can be used during the food festivals at Epcot. (Flower and Garden, Food and Wine, Festival of the Arts)

I’d had conflicting answers on everything that I asked so having used it I can now safely say that having the dining plan during any of these makes it even more worthwhile!!

We were there for Food and Wine (which as you can imagine I LOVED) and being as we mostly had table service meals we had so many snack credits and quick service credits that we weren’t really planning on using so much. This was amazing for the days we visited Epcot.

All the items you can see with the dining plan logo next to it are items you can use 1 snack credit for.

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They aren’t the smallest of items either, this is America after all. We had both of the items on the chocolate menu (we’re a pudding family).

This was the torte…

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If, like us, you have quick service credits to use up you can also use these at the booths. This worked perfectly for us as 1 quick service credit transfers to 3 snack ones. With 3 in our party this was brilliant. We could all pick one thing from each of the menus and use one of our quick service credits to pay for it. We all then got to try so much. My only regret is booking table service meals at Epcot while this was on. In hindsight I shouldn’t have done this, there is so much you can eat during the festival you don’t need to have a meal that day!

These are just some of the things we tried.

Is it worth it?

This is the million dollar question and it’s impossible to answer for everybody.  For us yes, this was absolutely worth it and although we did book our trip when the plan was free we did pay to upgrade it and I don’t think I’ll visit Disney ever again without it.

I loved having the ability like I said to eat wherever and not have to worry about the cost, to try places I might not have gone to if I was paying out of pocket and also knowing it was paid for already I was a bit more adventurous with what I ate and tried a lot of new things. I didn’t eat one thing I didn’t love during this trip.

The beauty of this is that there is a plan for everybody. Not massive eaters? Go for the quick service, there’s still plenty of choice for you and you have all your snacks if you do feel a bit peckish.

Want to do the character dining and make sure you have a proper sit down meal and like being waited on? Go for the dining plan.

Want to eat in some of the signature restaurants and the dinner shows like Hoop De Do? Then go for the deluxe! (You can do these on the normal dining plan too but they do take up 2 of your table service credits)

Have a look at the menus on the My Disney, all the prices are listed there for you. That will really show you how much money having a plan will save you. Although I do warn you it will make you hungry and you will want to eat everywhere.

All the food places I mentioned in my daily blogs at Disney were covered by the plan and I’ll be doing full reviews of each of them as well so you’ll know a bit more about each of them.

Personally for me I would recommend it. Especially if you’re at the parks during any of the festivals at Epcot and if you’re booking at a time when it’s offered free take it! It adds to the magic of your trip, eating at Disney is an amazing experience.

Day 7 – A Deserted Wizarding World, preparing for Irma and meeting a Polar Bear

Today is the main reason we decided to stay at Hard Rock Hotel.

Staying on site gives you the early entry and both parts of the Wizarding World open an hour early for hotel guests. 8am in our case at this time of year. We got up early, checked out and walked to Universal Studios. Literally a 5 minute walk if that! No need to get on a bus, train, monorail or boat.

Nothing else bar Starbucks and a few places to eat were open and we were a little disappointed to learn that Gringotts didn’t actually open until the park did. That being said there is so much to look at in Diagon Alley and we had so much fun looking about and being able to have pictures without loads of people in the background. Paul even pretended he knew what Harry Potter was all about and had a go at being a wizard!

Anyone who’s been here knows how immersive it is and it does really feel like you’re entering the wizarding world. Even with the ride closed the hour we had before opening wasn’t anywhere near enough time to explore it all in peace!

We spent a lot of time doing spells and wondering around the shops and into Ollivanders to see how the wand chooses the wizard. One of the little extra things I really wanted to do that I’d kept quiet from Amelia was visit the money exchange where you can change up your dollars (a minimum of $10) to wizarding money with the help of one of the gringotts goblins. Fully interactive of course.

The money can only be spent in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade or of course makes a relatively cheap souvenir. We kept ours.  We did video our experience in the money exchange as well as most of the trip so when I can get my head round editing I’ll put all that up as well.

Food in Diagon Alley, well snacks, are magical too. We had the obligatory Butterbeer which comes frozen or normal, and is every bit as delicious as I remember but a little too sweet for some people. We had Earl Grey and Lavender Ice Cream which was lovely but in typical Orlando style even one scoop was far too big! Amelia was sensible and went for a no melt ice cream from the sweet shop. It looked fabulous but was essentially just a pot of frosting, very good frosting but frosting all the same.  Pumpkin spice is one of my favourite things in Orlando so we went for a Pumpkin Pasty which was ok and we also bought a cauldron cake – we skipped breakfast so we were all a bit hungry!

I really enjoyed just wandering around and to be honest I could have quite happily walked around all day. But we needed to get as much done as possible as we needed to find a Walmart to stock up on rations for when Irma hit.

We had a quick stop off at The Night Bus and a chat with Stan and the shrunken heads before we took a little walk over to the other side of the park to see a show I’d been dying to watch for a while.

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That didn’t happen straightaway however as Paul nearly had some sort of fit after The Blues Brothers were walking along. He loves the Blues Brothers and we were planning on making sure we caught their show but we ended up seeing an earlier one. Paul even got involved in it, again to be seen in an upcoming vlog!

The Blues Brothers show is one of those must sees, everyone knows all the songs and it’s so entertaining and funny. Lots of audience participation and the performers are really really good 🙂

Jaws the ride may now be a distant memory but you can’t visit Universal Studios without finding the famous shark himself and inspecting the inside of his mouth.

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We did try and go to Richter Burger for lunch which does some of the best burgers but sadly it was closed.

The park was very quiet today, eerily so, due I would imagine to the upcoming storm. Most of the people in the parks were on holiday, I think most locals were out getting supplies.

If you’re planning a trip to Universal or have been before and are looking for something different to do, make a spot in your itinerary for the Horror Make Up Show. It’s not something I was overly interested in on previous trips just thinking it would be like some of the animation classes you used to get at Disney which although I enjoyed it wasn’t something I would rush to do again. I actually saw a vlog on it a few months after we booked and I laughed so hard! So we decided to give it a go 🙂 Plus it’s inside and it’s been raining on and off quite heavily all day.

It’s a live stage show with 2 fantastically funny hosts who show a few techniques for horror make up and blood and then show clips of the movies that they’re used on. And the movies the hosts have worked on. An unsuspecting audience member – sadly not one of us – gets roped in to be made up as well.

There are screens in the theatre – which isn’t that big – so any tricks they show you are shown close up on those 🙂

It’s a great way to spend half an hour, you won’t be disappointed and honestly it’s one of the funniest shows I’ve seen 🙂

Plus you can have your throat cut by the hosts after if you want to…

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One thing I only found out about recently were the impromptu ‘dance parties’ involving the floats from the Superstar parade. We were lucky on coming out of the show to stumble upon a Despicable Me one. Amelia got picked to be a Minion which she loved and you can have a dance with all the characters to the music from the film. I was just really excited that you can meet the girls!

These are really good fun and kids love it!

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It turns out we were in a great location for meeting characters here, after the dance party we spotted Popeye, Beetlejuice, Scooby Doo and The Simpsons. Some with photographers so we could take advantage of the photopass.

Shaggy and Scooby are always fun to meet. Other places where you can use the photopass are with the meets with Transformers, Minions and Shrek.

I finally got to do the Transformers ride which I wasn’t all that impressed with. The ride tech is brilliant and the special effects are really good but it’s not really that much different to Spider-Man, it’s just the story is about Transformers instead. I prefer Spider-Man.

The Despicable Me ride is one I always enjoy, I love the films and the Minions do make me laugh. Best bit of the ride though is undoubtedly when you exit to a dance floor where you can dance with the Minions 🙂

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After a quick? stop in Walmart and $200 of groceries later – we were told we could be in our rooms for 48 hours so we needed enough to last – we went back to Port Orleans, without getting lost for a quick dip in the pool.

I really enjoyed the pool at Port Orleans, it’s a great size and has a slide. There’s always activities for the kids as well, at an extra cost though.

There is also a bar that does some brilliant cocktails and an adults only Jacuzzi which we most definitely made the most of.

We decided to spend the evening in Disney Springs. The beauty of staying at Port Orleans is that you can get to Disney Springs on a boat which was fun. They run quite late into the evening as well it’s a less crowded more fun way to get about than the buses.

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We had a reservation at T-Rex where I really wanted to try the famed Cottontini 🙂

It’s basically a martini poured over candy floss (or cotton candy as they call it). I went for the apple one and I loved it. If you don’t like sweet things you won’t like it. The Candy Floss dissolves as you pour the drink over it. I ended up having 2 and another fruity cocktail as well. You get to keep the cocktail shaker when you order as well so you get a little reminder.

Food wise we really enjoyed T Rex, I’d read a lot of bad reviews about it but honestly apart from it being loud, it is dinosaur themed and comes from the same people who do Rainforest Café so you do expect a certain amount of ‘background’ noise from all the things that go on. I don’t remember exactly what happens in T-Rex I think it’s supposed to mimic the demise of the dinosaurs but there are animatronics all over the place and it’s a great fun place to eat with kids.

After the cocktails we had a rather tipsy wander around the Springs. I love the shops in Disney Springs so much grown up Disney merchandise from homeware and clothes to artwork, I never buy a lot but I just like to look.

One of the things I was super excited about was meeting the Coca Cola Polar bear. I’d watched some videos of him on YouTube and he really made me laugh so finding him was one of the things on my bucket list for this trip. He was brilliant, such a fun character meet and all the photos – in fact all the photo ops in Disney Springs – are included with memory maker. We loved him that much we went back twice.

We also had more cocktails on the rooftop bar at Coca Cola Store. You can have them with all the different coke products you can try in Epcot at Club Cool, I wasn’t brave enough to try the Beverley one so I went for something raspberry flavoured although all I could taste was the alcohol. Don’t forget if you are over 21 and old enough to drink in Orlando you will need to prove it so make sure you have ID with you.

The rooftop bar is lovely, it gives you great views over the Springs, the shop was great as well. It wasn’t there last time I visited so I was excited to have a look 🙂

Feeling ever so slightly tipsy we went back to the boat to go back, tomorrow is the last day the parks are open before Irma hits so we’re off for breakfast with Winnie the Pooh…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things to do in theme parks without being in a queue – ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE

Last of my Universal blogs on this and I think I’m going to surprise myself at what there is to do here without queuing.

I love IOA and I’m so looking forward to going this trip as my last one we didn’t get a chance to do it all properly.  I didn’t even get on Dudley Do Rights!!

The themeing in all the lands here is incredible and you can spend ages just looking at stuff – and taking photos, there are so many great photo opportunities if you’re an Instagram user.

Seuss Landing is fab and it really is like walking into a Seuss book. The Cat in the Hat ride is so much fun and I’ve rarely seen a queue for it – although I would imagine during the summer there would be some. There’s a great interactive playground for little ones here based on ‘If I Ran the Zoo’ and there are splash bits so expect to get a little wet. And keep an eye out for character meets throughout the day as well.

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There are 2 great shows here as that are often overlooked as is the area that they’re in.

The Lost Continent does seem to get a bit ‘lost’ with all the more well known ‘lands’ in IOA. But here you will find the awesome stunts and special effects show ‘Eighth Voyage of Sinbad’ as well as the walk through action show ‘Poseidons Fury’. There’s some really interesting stalls in this area as well so it’s a unique place to do a bit of shopping. You can find the Mystic Fountain here too, don’t tell the kids but he does talk to you so tell them it’s a wishing fountain and watch them jump when it starts to strike up a conversation with them. There are so many little things in this almost hidden area you can do, you can pick a pearl and have your fortune read – these are an extra charge.

IOA is of course where the first part of Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened and it’s here you will find Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.  Of course the rides always have a queue but just like Diagon Alley there is plenty to do.

You have more interactive windows for your wands and another Ollivanders not to mention the interesting but odd ‘Frog Choir’ and the TriWizard Spirit Rally.

Ladies make sure you have a wee here in Hogsmeade, you might just find yourself joined by Moaning Myrtle!! This is one of my favourite things here.

Jurassic Park has plenty to do as well as the River Adventure. There’s a great kids play area ‘Camp Jurassic’ with an active volcano for little ones to explore and it’s just as much fun for big ones. Discovery Centre is a real fun and interactive game area where you can learn all about dinosaurs and mixing your DNA with one. You also get to see and handle dino eggs and if you’re lucky you might see one hatch and be able to name it.

You can also have your photo taken with a T-Rex

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There’s various side show games for an extra charge and a climbing wall.

Toon Lagoon is one of my favourite themed lands here the shops are fab especially Betty Boops which smells amazing.

There’s lots of water fun here and splash zones are not just found in the kids area they are all over so be warned!!

The jokers among you should head down the small trail to the right of kids playland ‘Me Ship The Olive’ it’s packed with gags such as a miniature ‘school’ of Fish. A must for Dads I think! The ship itself is a three storey watery play area which is perfect for squirting people on the Popeye ride below it.

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You can meet vintage cartoon characters here which is always good fun.

Marvel Super Hero Island is a must for boys of all ages and has some awesome features that not a lot of people are aware of. Keep an eye out for anything that looks like a giant speaker they are communication ports that have special messages from the heroes and villains in the area.

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The heroes meet periodically throughout the day and appear on their bikes which is a fun thing to watch.  Here you will also find a huge games arcade – all at an extra cost.

So you see so much to do here to keep you amused without queuing not to mention all the incredible shopping – of which there is a lot at Universal. Make sure you look in the shop just to the right as you exit IOA that is usually selling off season stock and you may find some stuff at lower prices.

Massive thanks to Jolie for some of these little things I didn’t know about. If you have any others yourself then please let me know.

Things to do in Theme Parks without being in a queue – EPCOT

Epcot is probably my favourite park and it has more to do between fast passes than any of the other parks in my opinion.

All the pavilions in Future world have loads of things going on all the time that don’t require you to queue, there’s plenty of interactive exhibits and playgrounds for little ones that can keep you occupied for hours – there’s so much at Epcot that I doubt I’ll ever have seen all of it.

Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment is a cool little fun ride with Eric Idle and Figment the dragon, it rarely draws a crowd as it’s on the tame end of the ride scale but it’s fun and passes the time.  You’ll also find Imageworks here an interactive play area where you use movement and image to create cool things like music.

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In the Land pavilion you will find a little movie theatre with ‘The Circle of Life’ show featuring everyone’s favourite duo from the Lion King – Timon and Pumbaa. It teaches kids in a fun way all about the issues we’re currently facing with our eco system and how it can affect us all and what we can do to help. It’s only a 15 minute show but it’s a good way to wait out your Soarin’ or Living with the Land fastpass.

The Seas pavilion is where you find the Finding Nemo ride but it does also house a huge aquarium that you can easily spend an hour or so investigating, there’s Manatees, jellyfish and all manner of marine life with interactive learning throughout. You can see Stingrays in Mr Rays Lagoon and there’s a shark themed playhouse as well.

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There’s a lot of work going on in the Innoventions pavilion which I always remember as being like a hands on science type exhibit, currently it houses Colortopia which explains all about how colour affects our lives and how different colours can even affect our moods. There’s loads of interactive colouring things in here and there’s even an app exclusively for it.

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The Disney and Pixar short film festival is a great (and air conditioned) 18 minute 3D showcase of some of Pixars best short films.

Then of course you have the World Showcase where you can walk around 11 different countries with no queues (except for Frozen Ever After in Norway). You can take a leisurely stroll around the countries taking in the atmosphere and looking at the replicas of the iconic buildings like Eiffel Tower, Tower of Pisa and St Marks Square.  Each one of these countries has loads to explore, it’s own native entertainment and food stalls as well as large shopping areas that are so much fun to walk around. There’s characters dotted around too and although you may queue a little while for them they’re not always too long.

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Make the most of your Memory Maker if you have it – currently free on all 7, 14 and 21 day tickets purchased in the UK. There will be photographers in each of the countries so you can feel like you’ve been on a cruise around the world and visited everywhere. It’s a great place for photos, we loved the waterfall in Norway..

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Don’t forget to sign up for Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure and interactive game that takes you on missions in the pavilions to follow clues to defeat evil Dr Doofenschmirtz and free Perry the Platypus. It works a little like a scavenger hunt and is a fun way to see the showcase.

Don’t forget to stop by Club Cool as well where you can try all different flavours of Coca Cola from around the world, including the Beverly which is definitely an acquired taste.

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Epcot is a great place to just pass the time having a drink and enjoying the entertainment, although there are some great rides here Epcot is a park you can enjoy without going on any of them.

Things to do in theme parks without being in a queue! ANIMAL KINGDOM

You should already have read my tips on Magic Kingdom and what to do while you’re waiting for ride times or if you just don’t want to queue for rides so here is part 2 ANIMAL KINGDOM and this park has LOADS to do without queuing for ages.

Of course a big part of Animal Kingdom is the animals and looking at those as you walk around is a great way to pass some time. There’s different trails in each of the ‘lands’ where you can find animals from each of those countries.

There’s also Rafikis planet watch which I’ve never seen busy but I love as there’s a petting zoo with goats 🙂 Anything that includes touching and petting animals is a win with me. The Train to get there and back is pretty fun as well. Plus there’s characters there, we met Chip and Dale and Rafiki when we went and it’s super quiet.

The Tree of Life is an incredible thing to look about and spotting all the different carvings as you get close to it is fun. It looks different from every angle as well so you never get bored of looking at it 🙂 It also lights up at night which is an amazing thing to see.

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All throughout the park you have the Wilderness Explorers which is based on the movie ‘UP’ and a trail through the park learning about all the difference species as you go, you’re given a guide book to fill up and get a sticker at each stop and a little prize at the end if you’ve completed it all 🙂

There is entertainment literally on every corner in AK, different music from each corner of the world it represents and there’s drums and other instruments that look like part of the scenery that you can play yourself.  From what I’ve seen of Pandora there is a lot of that in there.

Queues for some of the shows here can be long although the theatres do seat 1000 per show so you may be lucky enough to get in without a fastpass or spending an hour queuing when the park is quieter.

Flights of Wonder is a great way to pass some time, it’s a live animal show with some of the parks native birds including macaws and hawks. In true Disney style it has music in it and is loads of fun for those of you who aren’t afraid of birds!!

DinoLand USA has loads to do for the little ones with a big dino themed adventure playground in ‘The Boneyard’ and of course the strangeness that is Chester and Hesters Dino-Rama! with a few rides and some side show games you would find at a fairground – these are an additional cost though.

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As with all the parks there’s characters all over as well and ad-hoc entertainment throughout the day.

Let me know if there’s anything you like doing in Animal Kingdom while you’re waiting for rides 🙂

Things to do in theme parks without being in a queue! MAGIC KINGDOM

Can this be true, there are things you can do in the theme-parks without being stuck in a queue for hours? Things you can do without having to plan your fast-passes a month in advance?

It is true!

Disney isn’t all about the big rides there’s so much fun to be had and so many classic attractions that you can experience without spending 4 hours in a queue.

Most first timers will go to the most popular things which is a shame as there is so much more Disney has to offer and you can spend your day doing so many of these if you know what they are!

There’s loads of things at Disney that I have yet to do and this trip I’m planning on doing them all.

So what can you do in the parks with little or no queue at all?

Lets start, as always, with MAGIC KINGDOM..

Starting at the entrance on Main Street and going clockwise around the park..

Sorcerers of The Magic Kingdom (which you can find more about in this blog Free things to do at Disney – Surely that can’t be true? ) this is something you can do all over the parks with portals in most lands so a good way to pass some time and something fun for the gamers (and non gamers) in the family, plus you get FREE game cards each day and there isn’t much that’s free in Disney!!

Main Street houses different shows throughout the day with the Citizens of Main Street and the much loved Dapper Dans as well as the Move it Shake it dance party and the many different shows on the castle stage.

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There’s even a Barbers in Main Street where little ones can have their first hair cut (so can the big ones) and with a sprinkle of Fairy Dust…

Adventureland has the classic Enchanted Tiki Room (which I’ve not done yet! :0) an indoor animatronic musical revue, you also have Swiss Family Treehouse a walk-through actual tree house based on the Swiss Family Robinson movies. There’s a variation on Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom here too, the pirate themed A Pirates Adventure helping Jack Sparrow fight off his foes and find treasure around the land with a magic talisman and a pirate map. There’s more Pirate themed fun with Jacks Tutorial teaching kids (and adults) how to swash-buckle.

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Moving into Frontierland you’ve got the magical Country Bear Jamboree another musical animatronic revue and one of my favourites.

Tom Sawyer island is rarely busy, you take  a raft over to an island playground with caves and mazes. A great place to people watch and have a picnic 🙂

Liberty Square has it’s riverboat (another attraction I’ve yet to try) which takes you over Americas rivers in a nice calm boat ride on an authentic paddle steamer. Here is also the home of the Hall of Presidents one of the most famous yet quietest rides at Disney. With a 2 part show all about the American Constitution featuring audio-animatronic’s of all of the US presidents, it might be a little boring for kids but it is really educational and I think a must-do.

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There’s a new show in Liberty Square too, Moments in History with the Muppets featuring Kermit and co telling stories of great American events in a way that only the Muppets can!

Fantasyland has loads to look at I could spend ages just walking around and taking it all in. Mickey’s Philharmagic is a fab show that I’ve never seen a big queue for. It’s a 3D journey through the music of Disney movies with Donald as your hapless guide. It’s one of my must do things in MK I love it 🙂

Storybook Circus has a fun splash station for little ones themed like the Casey Jnr from Dumbo and entertainment throughout the day from The Royal Majesty Makers who do regal routines and watch out for ad hoc musical performances as well.

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Tomorrowland has quite a lot to do Carousel of Progress is one of the original rides in MK and has been open since 1975! It’s been updated a few times but it still has that nostalgic charm taking you on a journey of technology, you also have Stitch’s Great Escape which rarely has queues and of course the best thing in Tomorrowland the People Mover or Tomorrowland Transit Authority.

Monsters Inc laugh floor is a great show really interactive and funny and with hardly any queues. Don’t miss the Incredibles Super Dance Party either.

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As well as all this you have shopping, dining and characters all over the parks to keep you entertained.

So you see you can quite easily fill a day with things you don’t have to stand in line for for hours and hours 🙂

If you have any other ideas of things to do then let me know 🙂

Halloween Horror Nights or Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween – Which is the one for you?

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Orlando during their Halloween celebrations then you may just be able to attend one of the special Halloween events that start from the end of August this year – they do like to drag it out!!

Although Seaworld and Busch Gardens do have their own events the most popular ones and the ones most people are aware of are Universals Halloween Horror Nights and Disney’s Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween. These events are so worth going to if they’re on and give you a different way of seeing the parks but which one is the best one for you? If you can it’s worth going to both as they’re so different but if you can only visit one then hopefully this handy little guide will give you some information that may help you make up your mind… or make you save harder so you can do both!!

WHEN IS IT?

Mickeys Not So Scary (MNSSHP) starts really early this year and runs on selected dates from August-November

  • August 25 and 29
  • September 1, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 26 and 29
  • October 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29 and 31
  • November 1

Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) runs from September-November

  • September 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 29, 30
  • October 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
  • November 3, 4

WHERE IS IT?

MNSSHP is at Disneys Magic Kingdom

Halloween Horror Nights is at Universal Studios.

IS IT ON ALL DAY?

No these are both evening events and the parks will close early to accommodate them so do bear that in mind if you don’t have tickets to the parks for the day.

MNSSHP starts officially at 7pm although they have historically let guests into the park from 4pm and it finishes at around midnight. If you have a normal Disney ticket that allows you in the park in the day you are able to get in earlier and stay in for the event. When the event starts you will find cast members scanning tickets and giving out wristbands to those who have tickets for the event.

HHN starts at at 7pm also and gates open half hour before it starts and finishes around 1am.  If you have a day ticket for the parks as well as the HHN tickets then you will be able to stay in the park when it closes for the event. They have ‘holding’ areas for those with tickets which put you in prime position for some of the scare houses as soon as they open.

WHAT HAPPENS AT THESE EVENTS?

Both of these events are obviously Halloween themed so you do expect a certain amount of scariness.

MNSSHP is on the milder side of scares and is family friendly, HHN is more macabre with scare actors and scare houses based on horror movies.

Both parks are decorated for the occasion and each event will have exclusive merchandise and food as well.

MNSSHP is definitely more on the fun and less on the scary. A lot of the regular daily Disney things are given a Halloween makeover so you have different parades and fireworks as well as exclusive shows including one based on ‘Hocus Pocus’ and a villain show too.

Regular characters are dressed in their best Halloween outfits and rare characters and villains are around the park to meet you all including the ever popular Jack Skellington and all of the Seven Dwarfs. It’s also a chance to meet the Princesses with their Princes.

Also included in the admission ticket is a trick or treat bag which you can fill up with candy at all the treat locations around the park and you can go to these as many times as you like!! That is a lot of candy!! Allergens? Then don’t worry they cater for that too, you just tell them as you go in and you’re given a different colored bag and there are treats just for you!!

HHN on the other hand is there to scare you!!

The main attraction at this event are the many scare houses based on horror movies and TV Shows (past themes have been The Exorcist, Krampus, American Horror Story…) Each one of these transports you into the movie so you feel like it’s all happening around you, they use clever special effects, animatronics and real scare actors to completely immerse you into the experience. This is Universal, it’s not a ‘normal’ haunted house attraction.

Also around the park are various ‘scare zones’ again themed on popular horror shows and movies with scare actors walking around completely in character chasing you.

Please note these actors are NOT allowed to touch you so if you’re worried about that – as I was – then you don’t need to be!!

Sound a bit too intense for you? Then don’t worry there are various ‘safe’ zones around the park so you can take a break and there is also a really fun show based on Bill and Ted which changes every year to include things that are relevant in pop culture.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

MNSSHP prices start at $74 – $115 depending on what evening you go. Halloween night itself is the most expensive time to go. These are one night tickets and will not allow you into the park before the event starts.

THESE TICKETS ARE ONLY AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE FROM DISNEY DIRECTLY

HHN prices start at $70 – $81 again depending on when you go.  These are one night tickets and will not allow you into the park before the event starts.

HHN also have Frequent Fear Passes available these are great value and allow you unlimited access to select nights while the event is on. These are great if you’re there for 14 days and can be purchased from most ticket resellers for around £105.

Tickets for these events do sell out on certain dates so it is recommended that you purchase them before travel to avoid being disappointed if you can’t get in.

CAN I DRESS UP?

You can for MNSSHP although there are guidelines to follow which you can find here.

You are not allowed to dress up for HHN

WILL THE RIDES BE OPEN?

Yes. Rides are open for both events but not all of them. Check the websites for up to date info on what you will be able to go on. MNSSHP has info now but HHN is not available just yet.

Halloween Horror Nights Here and MNSSHP Here

CAN I SKIP THE LINES?

Disney FastPass+ is not available during MNSSHP, however because of all the other events going on not many people do ride so it is a fab time to get on some as you’re walking around the parks. Remember though you can do these on a normal day in the park so make the most of the exclusive events and not so much the rides, you don’t want to miss out on something you only have one chance to experience.

You can purchase Express Passes for the houses for HHN, these are in addition to the event ticket and are only available through Universal directly. I’ve searched for some prices but I can’t find any at the moment!!

WHO CAN GO?

Both events are open to anyone although HHN do advise that it may not be suitable for anyone under the age of 13.  I have a 10 year old who is desperate to go so it does all depend on what scares your child.

I’ve had a look at some vloggers online and picked 2 of the best ones to give you a bit of a more visual idea of what you can expect from both events.

If you have any questions at all then please let me know 🙂

Halloween Horror Nights

Halloween Horror Nights House

Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween

 

Free things to do at Disney – Surely that can’t be true?

We all know how expensive it is to go on a Disney holiday but did you know that there are some pretty cool things you can do at the parks that don’t cost you any extra and might give you some extra souvenirs as well.

We all know about the badges you can get if you’re celebrating literally ANYTHING!! (you can pick these up from Guest Services…) but did you know that there are in park games you can play as well that will come with collectable cards and maps among other things.

If you’re lucky enough to be a frequent visitor to Disney then you might already know about these but some of them I’ve only just found out about so chances are there will be some people who don’t know so for those of you who go a lot then maybe I’ve given you something new to try!!

I know I’ll be doing some of these when I go this year!

MAGIC KINGDOM has Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom which is an interactive scavenger hunt game you play around the park using cards to cast spells to defeat the villians around the park.

You sign up for this free at the Fire House as you come into the park and you’re given instructions, maps and some free spell cards as well as your portal key which activates the ‘portals’ around the park to help you on your mission. There are actually 70 cards to collect and each person can have 1 set per day so even if your whole family isn’t playing they can scan their tickets and get the extra cards for you.

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There are several missions to complete and once you have completed one you’ll be told how to move onto the next and if you complete all you get to defeat Hades and then you can collect an extra set of cards so make sure you do that if you do get to do them all.

It’s a different way to see the park and it will give you some free keepsakes with the cards so it’s definitely worth a go. If you meet other gamers on your way round you may be able to trade cards with them as well 🙂

TOP TIP – Your portal key has a chip in which will save your progress so you don’t have to complete all the tasks in one day if you have more than one day in the park, this also allows you to get more cards to help on your mission. Each mission can take up to 30 minutes and it can take 5 hours to do all of them so it might be wise to spread them across a few days.

ANIMAL KINGDOM has Wilderness Explorers which is based on UP, this one we’ve done and it’s so much fun. We didn’t get to finish it so we’ll do the whole one this time.

It’s really good fun, you sign up at HQ near the entrance of the park – you can’t miss it – and are given a Wilderness Explorers handbook – bit like what you used to get at guides and brownies – and it shows you what badges you can get and gives you tasks to complete and questions you need to find the answers to.

You get given stickers – there are 30 to collect – and you get a special one at the end if you complete it all.

All the locations are shown on the park maps but you can spot them easily around the park by looking for these:

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I really enjoyed doing this and it’s educational for kids as well, you learn all sorts of things about the animals and nature at Animal Kingdom. I’m intrigued to see what we can learn in Pandora!

EPCOT has 2 things you can do for free!! 2!!

You have the Kidcot fun stops all around the world showcase for the younger ones in the family. You’re given a free cardboard Duffy the Bear that you can colour in a section of at each of the stops around the world showcase. The cast member in each country will tell stories of where they’re from and give Duffy a stamp from that country.

We also did this last trip and the kids really enjoyed it. It’s a good way to have a little break as well walking round Epcot can be quite exhausting all the kidcot areas are air conditioned.

The areas are again all on the maps and are really easy to find.

For older children and those you can’t get away from their phones you have Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure based on Agent P from Phineas and Ferb. It’s a similar idea to Sorcerers in that it’s a scavenger hunt but with this one you’re given a FONE (Field Operative Notification Equipment) or you can connect with your own smart phone. You get clues via text that direct you to places in the world showcase to solve clues. There are several different missions in the showcase and each one can take up to 40 minutes to complete. Like Sorcerers it’s a really good way to see the park and being that the showcase is so big it will no doubt direct you to places you may not have seen if you were walking around on your own.

Sadly Hollywood Studios doesn’t have anything like this currently but what with Disney adding new things all the time who knows what may be there when Star Wars Land opens in a few years.

I love these little extra things that add to the magic, not only do they allow you to have a new experience when you’ve been to the parks before they also give you some really cool keepsakes you can take home with you.  And lets face it any souvenirs that are free are a good thing!!

Blue Man Group – Is it worth it?

It’s always nice in Orlando to spend an evening catching a show and currently the 2 most popular and most well known are Cirque Du Soleil at Disney (Catch it quick it finishes in December) and Blue Man Group at Universal.

So many people ask about Blue Man and want to know what it is and if it’s worth watching. In a word. YES!!!

I am a huge fan of theatre shows and I know it’s a really bold statement but Blue Man is one of the most incredible ones I’ve seen. I could watch it again and again and again and not be bored.

You’ll find it in it’s own theatre just outside the entrance to Universal Studios, it’s  relatively small  so you will have a good view in any area. There are ‘poncho seats’ where you will get wet and covered in all manner of things including cereal…

It’s fully accessible and there are wheelchair seats if you need them but please book in advance.

It’s cheaper to buy before you go and most of the ticket resellers will sell them, tickets are around £40.

But what is it about? Anyone who’s had the luck to see this show will know how hard a question this is to answer because, quite frankly, it’s a bit odd!! But I shall give it a go…

The gist of it is that these ‘Blue Men’ are aliens who have come to our planet and are trying to understand how we live. That’s basically it. In a nutshell. Doesn’t sound too exciting but I promise you it will be one of the greatest (and strangest) things you ever see.

They use music, art, percussion, lots of paint and mime which I normally hate!

You’ve probably seen little bits of them on variety shows and things on TV where they paint things by spitting paint on a canvas, that is a VERY small part of the show and isn’t really a good representation of the things you see in it.

It is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen and they’re really really clever in that they’ve managed to create something that EVERYONE can understand. On my last trip the youngest was 6, the oldest 60 and we all laughed, at the same time. That doesn’t happen very often.

The show is really visual, some of the comedy is the old slapstick stuff that your grandparents love. They don’t speak. It’s incredibly clever the way that they manage to convey whatever message that they want without saying a word. There is a lot going on and it’s split into different ‘scenes’

There’s a bit of audience participation which starts literally as soon as you get in the theatre when you’re encouraged to read out loud from a screen which you may find your name on…

They do also come out into the audience and will stand right in front of you and stare at you, remember they are aliens who know nothing about us and what we are.  It can be a little odd but ultimately you will laugh at it.

All in all it’s a family friendly hilarious, colourful and fun show.  There’s a little video below to give you a little idea of the kind of thing that they do but honestly you must see this for yourself.  You will not be dissapointed!

It’s just over an hour so it’s not a long show and there is no interval. There’s 2 shows most days but obviously check the schedule.

The men will be around after so you can meet them like I did, they don’t hug you though they just put a blue thumb print on your head… I didn’t get one of those thankfully.

Make sure you go, it’s incredible!! And if anyone has seen it and has a way to actually describe it then I’d love to hear it!!

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