Hey, here’s Epcot’s wee dude dragon, Figment! As in “a figment of your.” Which, at least according to my lacquered interpretation, is apparently purple, pink and orange in hue and bears the face of a slightly evil pig with neon horns and extreme jaundice. I swear Figment’s not as terrifying in real Disney life; I’m just incapable of painting a character’s face on my nails without making them look like they’ve got a bitchin’ case of conjunctivitis.
Figment’s actually quite cute; part of the reason he’s been kicking around Epcot – usually at his ride, Journey Into Your Imagination, but also now frequently on festival merch – since 1983. He’s a rambunctious little scamp – and I am also now only noticing that his chubby little dragon body is shaped like an upside down light bulb – and Journey Into Your Imagination is genuinely one of my favourite rides in all of Walt Disney World. That its wait time is typically no longer than five minutes is only part of the allure; I just like its very British/Canadian sense of humour, with Eric Idle assuming the role of an exasperated scientist trying to conduct a tour of the Imagination Labs, with assistant Figment taking a more creative approach to guest relations. I mean, freakin’ Eric Idle shows up as a benevolent, beaming man-in-the-moon at the end of the ride – how do you not love that?! The ride also features a very earwormy song called One Little Spark (“can light your fan-cy!”) that you will be humming months after your vacation has ended, but what Disney ride doesn’t (Flight of Passage – you’ll be too busy looking for a garbage can to woof into, you won’t have the wherewithal to even remember the concept of music.)
I’ve been a very busy bee this morning – no day of rest for this little worker, who is already feeling anxious about tomorrow’s BIG START to our renovations. I may have mentioned a time or 20 that I’m not the best at dealing with stress; I can turn myself into anxiety-ridden knots over things that should really be NBD (although I suppose completely gutting and renovating your bathroom – your only bathroom – and replacing all of your flooring qualifies as an actual big deal.) So I’ve been up for many hours removing framed photos and other artwork from the walls, stashing boxes of our belongings on the balconies, and making two raspberry cream cheese pies for a celebratory, kick-off to the renos dinner we’re having this evening with my mother, who has been acting as our in-the-know general contractor (we have a contractor, actually, but my mom has a lot of experience in the area of construction and home renovations, and we couldn’t have arranged ANY of this without her invaluable assistance and oversight.) So it’s been a bit of a busy day, and it only just turned noon!
I accidentally tore off three of my four “good hand” nails the other day pulling up the last of our flooring, so I’ve been looking for other blogging and vlogging ways to occupy my online creative energies. Enter a couple of short videos I made for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, all about some of the delicious food we’ve enjoyed at Disney World over our last number of trips – just try not to fall ravenously hungry looking at all this yumminess. Happy watching, and bon appetit!
“Wait,” you may be saying to yourself, “you never shut up about Disney World, and I suspect from your last seven, long, incredibly detailed posts that you already know all of the out-in-the-open magic of Walt Disney World. So what gives with the book?” (As an aside, it’s amazing how much you sound like me when you’re calling me out! You’re also a little rude, but I’m willing to overlook that.)
What gives with the book, The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness, is that in the lead-up to our last trip to Disney, I was looking for a fun trivia book that would point me in the direction of some heretofore undiscovered Disney delights. Turns out I really do know, like, 90 percent of the magic of Disney World, and this spare little book didn’t illuminate too many things I was not already aware of (at the Magic Kingdom, a kid’s eye view of the Sleeping Beauty fountain in Fantasyland reveals a crown atop Aurora’s head; over in the Animal Kingdom, the red, yellow and white pipes that run along the ceiling in Dinosaur bear the chemical compositions for ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise in a nod to the ride’s original sponsor, McDonald’s; Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror bears an exterior Mediterranean aesthetic in order to blend in with Epcot’s Morocco pavilion next door, over which it – pun intended – towers.)
Things I should have noticed before I purchased the book? That its information only went up to the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland expansion in 2012, which means it was missing details on both 2017’s Pandora – the World of Avatar expansion at the Animal Kingdom and the opening of 2018’s Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios. So it was really telling me nothing I didn’t already know. It did not take me very long to blip through this wee book.
The most complete, detailed information came in the section on the Animal Kingdom, the park I am probably the least familiar with. And I suspect that its completeness is owing to Veness securing a direct interview with Joe Rohde, Disney Imagineering legend and lead designer of the Animal Kingdom. Ultra engaged, ultra gregarious and ultra creative (you’ve seen him; he’s the very enthused, exceptionally earnest gentleman with giant, stretched out earlobes weighted down with intricate metal rings) Rohde strikes me as the kind of man who would grant a delightful interview to anyone, from a major news outlet, to an elementary school newspaper, to an author seeking information directly from the source.
There is just a ton of detail here about the Animal Kingdom, in particular Dinoland USA, a day-one part of the park (an incongruous mix of the serious – paleontology – with the not-so-serious – a trashy side-of-the-highway amusement park) that has never quite felt like it fit with the rest of the park’s lush, natural aesthetic. I love the crap out of the Dinosaur ride (it might be my third favourite ride behind the Haunted Mansion and the Tower of Terror) but I’ve just never understood the Dino-Rama midway part of Dinoland USA; why the too-bright, too-loud dino carnival in the midst of the Animal Kingdom’s otherwise peaceful oasis?
Rohde, who oversaw the design and implementation of Dinoland USA, has always said there’s a method to his madness, and Dino-Rama isn’t just a weird jumble of carnival shys, body-punishing wild mouse coasters and hokey dinosaur puns (“This exstincts!” proclaims one sign bearing a dino staring up in dismay at a meteorite hurtling towards his head.) But I’ve warmed to the place considerably since reading The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World, because it finally explained that madness, and turns out, it’s really not so weird after all.
The story behind Dinoland USA is that the Dino Institute, a scientific operation where you can take tours into the past (AKA ride the Dinosaur ride, in which you travel back to the Cretaceous period to nab a dino for a morally conflicted researcher, Dr. Grant Seeker, heh), has funded a paleontology expedition in the area and sent a number of students and professors there to carry out the painstaking work of digging up old dino bones (AKA The Boneyard, a massive, incredibly fun-looking playground area for kids.) The grad students and their professors live in the various trailers and RVs dotted throughout the area, with a number of these 1960s-style trailers converted into makeshift dining halls bearing names like Trilo Bites, the Dino Diner, Dino-Bite Snacks and Restaurantosaurus (actual dining spots you can visit and grab a – sigh – dino bite.)
So the story goes, married couple Chester and Hester, carny opportunists to the core, came to the area and immediately noted the financial possibilities inherent in a place with a totally captive audience of stressed out, entertainment-starved academics. So they moved in right next door and, cribbing off the Dino Institute’s goodwill and legitimacy, opened up Dino-Rama, a ramshackle midway competitor for the students’ attention, time and money. This is a dig at the many, many fly-by-night attractions that sprang up directly outside Disneyland’s gates when that park opened in 1955, a “how did we not see this coming?” move that irked Walt to no end and prompted him to essentially buy up nearly all of central Florida in a move to head off a repeat performance when he opened his World of Disney in 1971.
The big draw in Dino-Rama, aside from numerous looming dinosaurs and Chip and Dale strutting about in their finest dino costumes, is Primeval Whirl, a densely knitted wild mouse coaster in which your cart wildly spins, sending you plummeting downhill somehow both sideways and backwards. It’s an incredibly rough ride – really never fails to break our old arses – and you swing about so much, you never really get a chance to appreciate the silly cartoon dinosaur artwork and sad trombone jokes that pepper the attraction in a budget imitation of the legit Dinosaur ride next door at the Dino Institute. Here, behold! Now with additional Triceratops Spin action!
It’s all so very petty and passive aggressive, and I really kind of love it now that I know the backstory. The whole of Dinoland USA is actually blanketed with little bits of trivia about the two disparate groups – letters and photos and other mementos dotted about as reminders of this odd, competitive pairing. I think it’s all quite charming! And information I’m glad to have learned – it really made my experience that much richer this last visit to have the scoop on the funny little inside jokes and local colour of Dinoland USA. Which is why I chose its colourful sign – at least the Dino part! – as the subject matter of this manicure, inspired by Hidden Secrets of the Magic Kingdom, which I read in service of my friends’ reading challenge for the eighteenth prompt, “a guide.”
Mickey Mouse turned 90 years old this year, and all across the Walt Disney World Resort, where I was lucky enough to enjoy a recent lovely vacation, there were tons of opportunities to meet Mickey and Minnie in their birthday wear (not to be confused with birthday suits, which would be an entirely different and altogether terrifying experience.) Both Mickey and Minnie are sporting some fly new threads for the occasion, a white suit for Mickey and a white sundress for Minnie, both liberally sprinkled with multi-coloured dots. There are also some black Minnie ears available in the shops, likewise adorned with rainbow-hued polka dots, because this is Disney, and of course there are.
We get asked all the time if we’ve met the park OGs, Mickey and Minnie, and the answer is no, never, not a once. My husband and I go to Disney World and we meet Kylo Ren, Chewbacca and BB-8. We stand in a two and a half hour long lineup to meet Jack and Sally of The Nightmare Before Christmas (worth every one of those 9,000 seconds!) We hang out with Wreck-It-Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz, dine with the Beast and rawk out with Vampirina. And I once nearly overturned a tavern table in my zest for sprinting outside and directly into the bulgy, waiting arms of Gaston.
But Mick and Min have remained elusive. Something to rectify on our next trip. For now I’ll just have to satisfy myself with these nails that rock both Mickey and Minnie’s birthday dots. To the next 90, young mouse(s)!
Ah, friends, I am so sorry – I went and did the thing that annoys the ever-loving stuffing out of me when other bloggers do it, which is drop completely off the grid with nary an explanation for the prolonged absence. And so I apologize, with the weak justification that I was at Disney, because of course I was at Disney! Just trying to wring as much value as we possibly can from our annual passes (and at 20 in-park days, including a whole host of other little discounts, I think we’ve done quite well on our investment.)
We stayed at the Port Orleans Resort French Quarter, a quaint little resort styled like the very cutest and cleanest bits of New Orleans. I’ve wanted to stay here since Disney built it and its much larger sister resort, the Riverside, nearly 30 years ago. We somewhat recently soldiered on through a Disney accommodation debacle at Pop Century; the poor experience had actually soured me a bit on all Disney properties, so I was feeling a little nervous about what we might encounter at this smaller, older resort.
I really needn’t have worried, because we wound up having a fantastic stay, and we loved every minute we were there. The French Quarter’s older, meticulously maintained buildings and grounds – densely arranged, and occupying a fairly tiny geographical footprint – make the entire resort feel solid, protected and a little hidden. I liked its sense of small city intimacy and the attendant quiet, both in terms of between-unit noise (virtually nil, but for the faint flushing of those insanely loud air toilets) and the general level of ambient hotel noise. Plus it was just an adorable little cityscape to call our home for seven days, and the sea serpent water slide at the pool was bitchin’. Also, powdered sugar-dusted beignets, fried chicken on a biscuit at the food court and swingin’ jazz gators in the streets. Who wouldn’t love staying here when all that goodness abounds?
We spent six days doing all of our favourite Disney things, and also trying out a number of fun new experiences. We ate some incredible meals in-park, at our resort and, of course, at Disney Springs, which is basically a theme park of food, alcohol and merchandise. We always try to hit up Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ for night one cocktails and southern vittles; our vacations never feel as though they’ve really started until we’ve cozied up out on the screened-in porch with a basket of hush puppies and a couple of moonshine cocktails.
We tried out a number of new eateries and lounges. We ate – and mostly enjoyed? – a lot of weird snack food. One afternoon we wiled away a couple of rainy hours in an honest to goodness tequila cave – La Cava del Tequila – in the Mexico Pavilion. The queso and quacamole were excellent, as were the margaritas. And yes, I do fully cop to a Disney margarita problemo – I’m powerless in the face of vacation cocktail hour; does your sanity good!
Lest you think all we did was eat and drink (and that’s certainly what both our waistlines AND wallets are currently suggesting) we also rode a record best 21 rides one cold and rainy day. We hit up the Haunted Mansion five times over two visits and improved our scores on Toy Story Midway Mania over four total rides. We rode Slinky Dog Dash, the newest and hottest ride in any of the parks, twice, including a last-call ride that put us in the second last dog of the night. I had a small stroke when I saw that my favourite part of the Peter Pan ride – it’s not even part of the ride, just a small teddy tea table tucked into a corner as your flying pirate ship heads out of the waiting area and into the Darlings’ bedroom – had been removed and replaced with a jumbled pile of toys. I burst into tears at the sight of it. I’ve been fascinated with that little table arrangement since I was a very small child; its absence was genuinely upsetting.
We met a number of cool characters, including Edna Mode of The Incredibles and Mike and Sully of Monsters Inc.
Our favourite meet-and-greet, though, was with Vanellope Von Schweetz and Ralph of Wreck-It-Ralph. Vanellope was SO excited to check out my new Wreck-It-Ralph ears, and Ralph was just excited when my husband commented that he looked as though he had lost a few hundred pounds. 🙂
Hmm, let’s see, what else? I got You’d by Darth Vader at Hollywood Studios (I was sitting by a window having a little break when I looked up, and Darth Vader was just staring in the window at me. I threw him a nervous little wave, and he spun around and stalked off. That entire family is so freakin’ WEIRD, man.)
One morning when I couldn’t sleep (I get frazzled about flying days out from my actual flight, making sleep in an unfamiliar place pretty much an impossibility) I got up and filmed a solo walking tour of our resort. Look for that video on our YouTube channel sometime soon.
We watched some phenomenal stage shows (the Nemo show at the Animal Kingdom is incredible; live music, acting and puppeteering at a level that will make you question how you can be seeing something so beautifully produced and performed in a theme park) and incredible fireworks displays. Much to Mr. Finger Candy’s delight, we played a solid 10 or more hours of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, completed two games and amassed over 20 free packs of cards. That’s what you call dominating, kids!
So that’s where the f*@! I’ve been, once again with apologies for just up and disappearing on you. I promise now that I’ve gotten that Disney out of my system for the time being, I’ll settle down and get back to the serious business of nail art, literary takes, bath, beauty and wax reviews, and of course planning for our next Disney vacation, perhaps once again at the French Quarter. And hopefully by that point the teddy tea table will be back. 🙂
Still on about Avatar – The World of Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, only this time I’m bringing you a couple of nail art looks inspired by the ground in what is colloquially known as Pandora. Yup, the ground, the terrain, the surface on which you walk. Whichever term you’d prefer, Pandora’s vibrantly spattered, glow-in-the-dark walkways are dope!
For this manicure, I used the plastic wrap technique, which I believe my blogging friend Altercontroldelight calls a “smoosh mani.” Basically, you – or at least I – paint a bit of polish onto a wadded up ball of plastic wrap and then dab it onto your nails, creating a marbleized sort of look that’s much more natural and random than using a cosmetic sponge. Easy peasy and simply perfect for the wild walkways of Pandora. For these nails, I used A England’s turquoise Whispering Waves and Enchanted Polish’s grass green Lost Boy over A England’s steel grey Wuthering Heights.
They also glow in the dark! Or they should glow in the dark. The polish, a jelly-based multi-coater I received in my stocking this year, couldn’t quite hold its own against these darker base colours, but damn if it’s not doing just fine on its glowy own.
And then because I can’t ever leave well enough alone, and why am I just going to let an excellent base like this sit unadorned, I free-handed an assortment of flora onto my nails in the lush, almost alien colours that remind me of Pandora – The World of Avatar in the very first place.
These tidy little flowers are perhaps a bit too done in comparison with Pandora’s wild, colourful riot of Imagineered blossoms, but the rave-after-dark spirit is still there. 😉
Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida is in-credible, an absolute marvel of set design, technology, engineering, horticulture, lighting and sound (and foooooooood; oh my gosh, our lunch at Satu’li Canteen, a choose your own adventure bowl-type affair, was one of the best meals of our recent Halloween trip and I’m SO looking forward to going back again.) And this is coming from a person who’s on the record multiple times – and here in this blog, no less! – as absolutely loathing the Avatar…franchise of movies? Are there really going to be multiples? Please don’t let there be multiples.
Only let there be more of them if they inform and somehow better the overall aesthetic of the Avatar land within the Animal Kingdom. And I don’t even know how that would be possible, because as Imagineered (the Disney word for that voodoo their engineers hoodoo) the place is utterly spectacular, particularly after dark when the bio-luminescent plants turn a stroll through the pathways of Pandora into a hippy, trippy rave. When the sun goes down, I love drifting here, there and everywhere, just getting lost in the weird walkways of Pandora.
I was also inspired – some months on, true, but inspiration doesn’t always strike immediately 😉 – to round up a handful of seldom-used Enchanted Polish lacquers that remind me of the vibrant neon hues of Pandora’s lush alien landscape – colour-shifting ultraviolet, electric turquoise and deeeeeeeeep sea green, with a tiny dash of purple-tinged Na’vi blue.
Also it was a big excuse to use a bunch of polishes I somehow always forget I actually own – the perils of keeping your stuff tucked away where it cannot get dusty and damaged, true, but also can’t be seen and is easily forgotten.
First we have Enchanted’s colour-shifting multi-chrome, Magical Mystery Tour. Like the Pandoran inspiration for this manicure, this polish is incredible, morphing from a vibrant aqua, to a regal indigo, and finally, to a plush orchid purple. This polish could practically be called “Pandora in a Bottle” (Pandora’s Bottle?)
Magical Mystery Tour is the biggest chameleon of this lacquered bunch, particularly in shaded lighting conditions where the linear colour shift is the most pronounced.
Next up we have Entwined, another colour-shifter, although this time with both a slight holographic tinge, and a light dusting of holo micro-glitter. Entwined is another one where what you see is definitely not all that you get; this polish morphs from a rich, plummy wine, to a queasy sort of purple shot through with iridescent green shimmer. Here’s an alien colour if ever there was one – so fitting that much of Pandora’s flora blossoms in this unique purple hue.
In the penultimate Pandoran position we have the unimaginatively named March 2017, which bears the distinction of being the only polish in two years of mystery purchases that I would have purchased had it been offered a la carte. What a unique stunner, and nearly the exact shade of the Na’vi (look how respectful I’ve gotten – I no longer refer to them solely as the 11-foot-tall blue kitty people!)
Finally, we have Neptune, the turquoise-to-evergreen-to-navy blue twin of Entwined (En-twinned, perhaps?) This polish reminds me of the unnaturally hued waterways of Pandora (many of which contain bizarre little critters, if you look closely enough. But don’t look too closely, because they’ve got tentacles!
Even if you’re not a fan of Avatar (and truly, I cannot stress enough how much I really dislike that movie) I think you will still fall utterly in love with the place, and I’d implore you to experience the alien world of Pandora at least once. It’s a genuine marvel, and you never know what sort of odd inspirations the beauty of the place will spark in you.
Here’s a fun manicure memorializing the main magical mouse, Mickey, and an even funner video I made for our YouTube channel showcasing one of our favourite related games to play when we’re at Disney, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.
I’ve spoken about Sorcerers before – it’s the free-to-play, card-collecting, interactive scavenger hunt you can only play at the Magic Kingdom, and Mr. Finger Candy is completely obsessed. No trip is complete without finishing off at least a couple of games of Sorcerers, and more than a couple of visits to the Firehouse on Main Street USA.
Sorcerers is a cute, not-so-little diversion (no joke, you will walk for MILES completing a single game) that always provides tons of fun while we’re bounding about the Magic Kingdom. If you’d like to join in on the RFID-enabled scavengering and hunting, please watch this video I recently made for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, featuring fun tips on making the most of your magical Mickey. Thank you so much for watching, and happy spellcasting!
We somewhat recently returned from a week and a half long anniversary trip to Disney World that encompassed two holidays, the end of the Halloween season and then the very beginning of the Christmas holidays. No joke, we left the Magic Kingdom around 1 am November 1st after spending the evening attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and by park opening eight hours later, all of the Fall decorations had been removed and nearly all of the Christmas ones had been added. Two days later the entire park was “done,” up to and including Queen Elsa’s Griswold-worthy lighting job on Cinderella Castle and the giant, towering Christmas tree in the entrance hub. Disney decorating services move lightning fast.
But impressive work on the part of the decorating team aside, I think the truly impressive feat is that we got through 11 holiday days at the Happiest Place on Earth without incurring a mountain of vacation debt, or suffering hideous sunburns, or eating anything truly appalling, or losing our sanity and murdering one another. I mean, we came awfully close on that last one, but we pulled ‘er back (I kid; Mr. Finger Candy and I travel remarkably well together.)
Also, this was our fourth trip to Disney World in a year; it’s almost like we know what we’re doing now! Here’s a few things we’ve learned along the way – I hope these practical tips and tricks from a couple of nerds-in-the-know help you maximize your time and enjoyment on your next Disney trip. 🙂
Set a fun vacation challenge for yourself: It may seem counterintuitive to add to-dos to an already packed and stressful vacation schedule (yes, Disney’s loads of fun, but it can occasionally feel like a death march. With churros.) But we’ve found that adding a side mission of sorts – like, say, bridging two holiday seasons by attending Mickey’s Not So Scary on Halloween and then Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party a week later – keeps us on task and ups the fun quota significantly by giving us silly little challenge parameters to goof around within. Or maybe I just like looking down at my list of to-dos for the day and seeing “Ride every roller coaster after dark” or “Eat nothing but snacks.”
Be prepared for every weather eventuality: Again, how helpful, my advice here simply being BRING EVERYTHING. But the only predictable thing about Orlando weather is its unpredictability, and if it’s not 90 degrees and humid like it was every stinkin’ day we were there, it’s raining. And sometimes it’s both! So pack a travel umbrella and a poncho and maybe even a pair of flip flops that you can throw on in the event you’re caught in a ferocious downburst while sitting at the outdoor Fantasmic amphitheater at the very back of Hollywood Studios one evening. True story.
Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated: Based on the number of people I saw spackling themselves and their kids with spray sunscreen, I probably don’t need to preach my lifelong gospel of sunscreen (does a Celtic body good!) Well done, Disney travelers. But I also know there are a ton of people who run about the parks all day long powered on nothing but sugary soft drinks and desserty coffee concoctions (shout-out to the utterly befuddled Southern woman aghast that one establishment “ain’t got no Coke!”) Man cannot live on Powerade alone! So go grab yourself a water. But if you’re not down with paying $3.50 for a bottle of Dasani (geez, who is?) simply roll on up to any counter service location and ask for a couple of cups of ice water, and they’ll give them to you gratis. Last thing Disney wants is for you to face-plant in front of the Carousel of Progress, so drink up.
Find the good air conditioning: Disney attractions are notorious for ending in a gift shop. But the gift shops are air conditioned! As are the rabbit warren of shops that line Main Street in the Magic Kingdom – you can actually traverse the entire length of Main Street without ever going outside. Duck into these air conditioned cold spots as often as you can for a quick refresher (fun discovery? The very best AC in the Magic Kingdom is directly over the oil paintings in The Art of Disney store on Main Street.)
If it makes you sick, don’t ride it: This is advice we only just heeded this past trip, and I think our vacation experience was all the better for it. Typically we soldier on through rides that have proven to disagree with our old ass constitutions (Space Mountain, Everest, Flight of Passage, Star Tours) and then feel like sweaty, nauseous butt for the next 30 to 90 minutes. This time we just eschewed those attractions altogether, choosing instead to double or triple up on some kinder, gentler rides (or sextuple – that’s totally not a word – in the case of my beloved Haunted Mansion.)
Work those FastPasses:Three of these express passes are available to every guest every day either physically, in park at a kiosk, or virtually through the My Disney Experience app. Save the extremely popular, always-slammed attractions (Slinky Dog Dash, Flight of Passage again, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) it’s relatively easy to schedule and obtain these passes. Yet based on the amount of grumbling I heard from the standby line as I zipped past in the express line at my designated time, few guests know about this awesome perk. So download the free app or show up in park and schedule a day’s worth of FastPasses so you don’t spend more time than necessary waiting – and grumbling – in line.
Make advance dining reservations: The immense popularity of the Disney Dining Plan, a pre-paid food plan not unlike the ones you may have enjoyed at college, means getting a walk-up table at virtually any restaurant in any of the parks is a real chore. So if there’s somewhere you really want to dine, make an advance reservation. Disney allows you to book your dining up to 180 days out from your trip, which is generally overkill unless you’re talking about Be Our Guest, in which case it’s not enough kill; that place is wildly popular. We certainly love it, and we make it a point to eat there at least once per trip.
Take screenshots of your FastPass plans and dining reservations: The My Disney Experience app is a great resource for the more technically-minded Disney traveler, but it is a battery killer, particularly when you’re calling up the app every 15 minutes to see which ride or restaurant you need to dash off to next. Take a screenshot of your plans and make it the temporary wallpaper to your phone; now your plans are available at the quick touch of a barely-battery-draining button.
Consider becoming annual passholders: Every family’s break-even point is different, but generally speaking, if you’re going to be in park for 12 or more days a year, like we were in 2017 and 2018, it makes the most financial sense to become annual passholders. APs also enjoy some nice little passholder-only perks, as well as discounts on food, merchandise and accommodations, and unlimited access to the Memory Maker photo service. It’s a pretty decent deal, and we’ve been really pleased with our first year as annual passholders.
Add funds to a reloadable gift card: Not only will this keep you mindful of your budget (it’s easier to track your spending when it’s in pre-paid, round dollar increments) but it’s a fuss-free way to pay at merchandise shops, counter service dining locations and all of those little booths at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival.
Stayflexible: Rides go down, the app crashes (repeatedly), your bus doesn’t show up on time, weather concerns cancel the fireworks – these things happen all the time, and the best you can do is just roll with the punches. Allow yourself lots of time to get to your reservations, engage Guest Services when technical or weather problems derail your plans, move on if the going gets tough, and always have a plan B. And don’t snipe – or worse – at the cast members for things that are beyond their control. I’ve yet to meet a CM who could control the weather. Unless the Thor who strides about the Norway pavilion in Epcot actually is the God of Thunder! In which case, I think he is quite underpaid.
Don’t be so serious: Cast members love us because we’re polite and will do literally anything for a laugh, whether it’s gossiping about Gaston’s purported addiction to manscaping (seriously, when we met him he was SO waxed!), pretending to Force choke each other in a goofy lightsaber battle or posing for an every-park series of cheesy prom pics.
You’re at Disney! Live a little and snuggle up to that dinosaur statue already. 🙂
Remember that there is so much more to Disney than its rides: I’m always a little dismayed when I overhear other guests planning their entire Disney vacations around the rides. Sure, Disney attractions are groundbreaking technological marvels, but there is SO much more to Disney than the rides. So take in a musical show (or four) at Hollywood Studios. Hop on the monorail and explore the deluxe resorts across from the Magic Kingdom. Take a scenic boat ride over to the Boardwalk for ice cream and tequila (preferably separate, but hey, you do you.) Spend a day playing Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, a free-to-play interactive card game. Enjoy a special meal at one of Disney’s incredible themed restaurants. Spend the evening bopping around Disney Springs. Have your picture taken with a favourite character. Take a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the parks. Or…
Attend a fireworks viewing party, one (or both!) of the holiday parties or some other special event: Some of the most fun we had this trip was at Mickey’s Not So Scary and Mickey’s Very Merry. Having attended a Not So Scary earlier in the season, we didn’t feel pressured to cram in a bunch of gotta-dos, preferring instead to explore the Magic Kingdom at our leisure, riding rides, meeting cool characters, explaining our costumes to people who didn’t know who we were (and fanboying out with the people who did) and pulling down some serious loot on the trick-or-treat trails.
Mickey’s Very Merry was a first for us this year, although we caught quite a bit of the entertainment – the stage show, Elsa’s castle-lighting and the parade – last year when we were actually at Disney on Christmas Day itself (and yes, it’s every bit as busy as everyone says it is and you fear it will be!) We enjoyed all of those attractions this year, including the beautiful and moving Holiday Wishes fireworks and projection show, some cool character meet-and-greets, cookie and cocoa-collecting and a whole mess of walk-right-on attractions.
We also started off that day with the first ever seating of breakfast at The Plaza Restaurant on Main Street, which was utterly, utterly delicious; a month on I’m still thinking back fondly, and often, on the delectable lobster Eggs Benedict (on fried green tomatoes) I enjoyed. It was such a special dining experience – as Ice Cube might say, it was a good day.
But the best day had to have been the evening we attended the Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam Holiday Dessert Party at Hollywood Studios. What fun! We had such a blast! And it had nothing at all to do with the fact that we both got pretty tipsy on generously poured holiday cocktails and attempted to eat our combined weight in cheese fondue and naan bread, nothing at all. 😉 Jingle Bam, the Prep & Landing-themed fireworks show that closes out the night at Hollywood Studios, is an awesome show; I love its odd mix of P&L, the Nightmare Before Christmas and schmaltzy holiday standards.
We really got our merry on at the dessert party. I also danced quite a bit, which I showed off in this video I made for our YouTube channel that I have posted before, but hey, one more time for the cheap seats in the back.
These were all super fun events that yes, we paid extra money to attend, but I think the payoff was worth it for these incredible experiences. Sometimes you just have to treat yourself, you know?
So there we have it, tips and tricks from a couple of semi-pros on how to have your best Disney vacation. Although hey, you’re at Disney, so isn’t every vacation really the best? 🙂
Hey! Lest some of you mistakenly think that a poor resort stay at Pop Century was enough to completely undo our precious Disney vacation goodwill, allow me to reassure you that no, it did not. We are remarkably resilient Disney travelers, and when the overall cruddy vibe at Pop Century began impacting our moods – seriously, who wants to be a grumper puss on holiday? – we got the heck out of there and got on with our trip. No surprise here, but Disney vacations are expensive, time-consuming and require a ridiculous amount of what I call managerial oversight. I realize how awful that sounds to those of you who prefer to vacation in “set it and forget it” mode, but once again, allow me to assure you we like these kind of vacations; if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have gone to Disney World four times in one year. We always have a great time; we’ve just never had to work quite so hard at ensuring that great time. But things got markedly better – and absolutely calmer – once we moved over to our new resort, in part because Coronado Springs is a really wonderful place to stay, and also because we just refused to allow the crummy time we were having at Pop Century to negatively impact our entire trip. Ain’t no one got time for that on holiday!
Besides, by the time we decided to leave our resort, we had already been having a ton of goofy, good times fun, and we weren’t inclined to step off the party bus anytime soon. And some of the most fun we had across our entire 11-day vacation was during an actual party, our second run at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on October 31st, which also happened to be our 14th wedding anniversary!
We attended Mickey’s Not So Scary in late August during our Labour Day trip, and it was an experience. Bowled over by the oppressive heat and bonkers humidity, we didn’t attend in costume, and just sort of stumbled around from meet-and-greet to parade to fireworks to midnight stage show in a sucrose-enabled haze. The whole thing is a blur of too much sugar and too much damp and not enough sleep. We vowed to do better during our Halloween to Christmas trip.
And so to celebrate 5110 days of wedded bliss and our second Mickey’s Not So Scary, we decided to don our first ever couples costumes, and spent the day – and the long party evening – bombing around the Magic Kingdom as two different video versions of Tyler Joseph, the lead singer of twenty one pilots. Why two Tylers and no Josh Dun, the drummer? With all adoration for Josh, neither one of us is confident enough to show that much sideboob – the man loves his low-cut tanks, if he’s wearing a shirt at all (never change, bro.) 😉
Mr. Finger Candy, resplendent in Tyler’s Stressed Out ensemble (complete with meggings and a whole lot of black gunk about his neck and hands) was being a terrifically good sport, but he was also convinced that absolutely no one would know who we were. “Husband of little faith!” I mock-admonished him, in the act of smearing my own hands and neck with black stage makeup for my Lane Boy getup. “Okay, so not everyone’s going to know who we are. But the RIGHT people are going to know!”
Turns out we were both a whole lot right and a whole lot wrong. Virtually every cast member working the evening party knew exactly who we were, prompting much on-the-spot fanboy and fangirling over TOP’s new album, Trench. In a park full of incredibly costume’d guests (wowza, some people turn it out) we had people running up to us to tell us how much they loved our outfits, and you could hear people all over gleefully shouting out, “Omigod, twenty one pilots!” It was completely awesome. I also think Tigger may have been a TOP fan – he kept enthusiastically gesturing to his neck and giving me delighted, double barreled thumbs up.
Of course, there were also the people who had no clue who we were (“Are they video game characters?” was a common refrain, followed by a dismissive, “Oh, they’re that band”) and I still chuckle when I think of the little girl I overheard in the bathroom stage-whispering to her mortified mom, “Mommy, mommy, did you see the dirty girl with the black stuff all over her neck?” Heh.
Anyhow, that’s the story of how much I love twenty one pilots, and how much my husband loves me, and I him – I wouldn’t ask just any man to don meggings and a toque in 90 degree weather for me. 😉 And it’s not every man who would wear them for his wife either (though if we’re being totally honest here, he can go ahead and dress like that every day of the rest of our lives, because he looked hot as hell! Nearly got us bounced out of the park after I tried to drag him behind the little Dutch kids on It’s a Small World to snog. Joke, joke – although that is the number one way of getting kicked out of the parks. Turns out Mickey’s not so down with the guests trying to bang behind the animatronics.) 😉 We had a blast, and it was a great party, Halloween, anniversary and day. Can’t ask for much more than that.