Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How To Salvage Your "Lost" Disney Vacation

At this very moment, we are supposed to be on a plane, headed for Orlando.  Since Hurricane Sandy has derailed our plans, I've decided to share with you how steps to recover a “lost” Disney vacation and included phone numbers for your calling pleasure. 

Get angry and panic…
When natural disasters occur, you are your own travel agent, and you decided to opt out of the vacation insurance offered, there isn't much to be said that will lower your blood pressure back to a normal state, so go ahead and panic.  Get it out of your system before you call your airline or Disney to try and salvage your vacation.  Do not try to call until then.  There’s no need to get angry with the agent trying to help you; chances are they are already having a rough day.  Do yourself and the agent who will speak to you a favor and have a cup of coffee or something before you start making calls.

Call Disney…
Normally, you cannot make changes to your vacation less than 45 days away from arrival without incurring some costs.  In the case of a natural disaster, Disney makes an exception to the rule.  Expect that wait times may be long.  Find out what your options are.  You can try to continue your vacation, move it to another date, or cancel it altogether. (Gah! Who would do such a thing?!)  We chose to postpone our vacation by 11 days, since we were going during the Free Dining promotion and did not want to lose that valuable option added to our package.  Moving our vacation to a date prior to that would mean losing free dining.  The cast member gave us three options, two that would cost no additional money and one with a slight package upgrade.  We chose the best option for us and canceled all of our dining reservations. (More on that later.)  (407-939-7675)
These are headed for the recycle bin!

Next, we had to contact Disney’s Magical Express and inform them that we would not be arriving and gave them the new arrival dates.  Since we are more than a week out, a new book and tags are being sent.  It's kind of sad that these luggage tags are headed for the recycle bin, rather than scrapbook.  They can't be reused.  (866-599-0951)

Then, I had to call bell services at our resort.  I typically ship non-perishable, consumable items to our resort, such as snacks, instant oatmeal, glow necklaces, etc.  Since our box of items has our scheduled arrival date and reservation number on (and in) it. It was easy for them to find, retag and put away for safe keeping.

Call your airline…
Airlines have no problem rescheduling your flight, especially if it was canceled due to inclement weather.  Prior to my call, I checked out available flight options online, so I knew what I wanted before I waited an hour (yes, an hour) to actually speak to someone.  They were more than happy to book us on a flight nearly two weeks away from our original dates, giving those who really needed to get home a chance at a flight.

Reschedule Dining Reservations…
I think I was the most upset over losing dining reservations.  When you wake up six months before your trip to get the perfect collection of ADRs and then lose them, it’s enough to cause Donald Duck style catastrophes to occur in your home.  California Grill is my favorite restaurant; the thought of losing a reservation put hummingbird moth sized butterflies in my stomach.  Luckily, I was able to get another one of these coveted ADRs, but I did lose our Chef Mickey’s reservation.  Oh well…some other family will be happy when they walk up and there’s availability.  I just hope I have the same luck when I show up to beg in a couple of weeks. (407- 939-3463)

Cancel or Change Special Event Tickets
We were planning to go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.  Our daughter was chomping at the bit to go.  I have yet to explain to her why we aren't trick or treating at Mickey’s house.  Nonetheless, we will be there during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  It will be nice to see Christmas decorations at the parks since I've vowed never to go to Disney World during Christmastime because I prefer smaller crowds.  Normally, these tickets are non-refundable, but again, because of Hurricane Sandy, we had no problems changing this. (407-566-4985, option #5, this office is only open 8:30 am – 4:30 pm ET)

So, there you have it.  While I didn't quite get what I wanted, we will still have our Disney vacation.  I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason, so I’m predicting that this revised trip will be pretty awesome.  Since we are ten days out (again) I'm headed off to do Online Check In.  Prayers have already gone out to those on the east coast affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Stay safe, folks!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quick Eats & Treats

Disney vacations have become more about the food than the attractions for me.  On our next trip, I decided not to upgrade the free dining plan to the deluxe dining plan (as I normally do) because  I've read a lot of blogs and listened to a lot of friends, and there are a few quick things that I must "yum" on, this vacation.  I have no idea how I’m going to squeeze all this into my tummy, but I am sure going to try. 

Dole Whip Float at Aloha Isle, Magic Kingdom – This is a must have on every trip.  I prefer the float to the standard Dole Whip.  My finicky husband likes neither.  I’m guessing he was dropped on his head as a baby.

Mac & Cheese Truffle Oil Hotdog at Fairfax Fare, Hollywood Studios – Truffle Oil, cheese, bacon and a hot dog?  I love a good hot dog, and this sounds like something that should come on an edible plate so I can make sure nothing is left.  My only concern is whether or not I’ll like the hot dog itself.  Just putting this on the list makes me feel like I’m cheating on our regional favorite, Koegel Viennas.

Cupcakes at Starring Rolls Café, Hollywood Studios – I had my heart set on a few of the famed cupcake concoctions contained in this café. Imagine my disgust upon learning they close early, as I banged my head on the locked doors during our previous trip. 

Lobster Roll at Columbia Harbor House, Magic Kingdom – It’s seafood. ‘Nuff said…

Lobster Roll at Hops & Barley booth, Epcot Food & Wine Festival – I need to compare this with the one at Columbia Harbor House, you know, for review purposes.  Do I really need an explanation for this one?  It’s seafood.  ‘Nuff said!

White Chocolate Elephant Cupcake, Kisafini Coffee Shop, Animal Kingdom – Another cupcake that I’ve heard a lot about, unfortunately from the sounds of it, I’ll have to buy two or share with my daughter.

Beignets, Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory, Port Orleans French Quarter – While I’m doing laundry, I think I’ll take the stroll from Port Orleans Riverside to French Quarter to have an order of beignets. 

Earl of Sandwich – I was on one of my favorite message boards and there was a question asked about a favorite non-park food stop.  An overwhelming majority of people said Earl of Sandwich.  Now, I have to go see what all of the hub bub is about.

LeFou’s Brew, Gaston’s Tavern, Magic Kingdom – Can’t wait to taste the signature drink in Gaston’s Tavern, part of the new Fantasyland.  I hear there are cinnamon rolls there, too. This might be a good breakfast stop, if they are allowing guests into the area while we are there next week, which will be before the scheduled opening date in December.

Now, I just have to burn calories before I go, so my clothes will fit the entire trip.  Hope you aren't as hungry as I am now!

Monday, October 15, 2012

15 Things I STILL Haven't Done at Disney World

Our family is exactly fifteen days away from our next Walt Disney World vacation.  Although we’ve gone at least once a year for the past twelve years, there are still a few things that I haven’t experienced that I’d like to try and squeeze in this year.  In no particular order…

Country Bear Jamboree
Honestly, I hated the movie, but something about knowing that Walt Disney himself was pleased with the original sketches has me thinking that I’d like to see this…at least once.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid
My husband swears we've seen this, but I don’t remember it.

Water Parks
Hubby doesn't like water parks, so we've never been to Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon.  It is doubtful that we’ll get to them this trip, but it’s still nice to have on my list of things to do.

School Bread
At Epcot, over in Norway, I hear tales of a marvelous treat known as “school bread.”  There are very few delicacies that I have yet to try and somehow feel that I’m not a true park fan until I eat this and the next item….

Tonga Toast
Famed banana stuffed French toast breakfast served at Ohana’s at the Polynesian.  I don’t like French toast or bananas, so truthfully I've just avoided Tonga Toast. 

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
At nearly $70 per ticket, this had better be one awesome Halloween party.  CJ is super excited about this one.  She painstakingly mulled over the merits of each costume option at the store before choosing Belle.  Ava’s going as Tinkerbell.  We may have a problem with the wings sticking out of our Moby wrap.

Food & Wine Festival
I cannot believe I haven’t gone to Epcot during this festival.  Outside of Disney vacations, there’s almost nothing I speak more of than food and wine.  I am so ashamed.

Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure
We loved Kim Possible’s World Showcase Adventure and hear that Agent P’s is better.  I may be much too full from the Food & Wine Festival to get through all of this, but we are sure going to try.

Tom Sawyer Island
The last few trips we've tried to do this, but I swear, we can’t find it.  I can’t find my way out of a paper bag without GPS.  I’m hoping a couple of the new Android apps I’ve downloaded will help guide us there.

Liberty Square Riverboat
I’ve seen this, taken lots of photos, but have never actually climbed on board.

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
Never even heard of this before today, but I forwarded a description to my husband and he’s excited about it. 

Myuki’s Candy Art
I have seen many pictures and heard tales told of Myuki, located in Japan at Epcot. I don’t even think I’d be able to eat it if I was lucky enough to behold her magical creations.

While eating my way around Epcot, I've made myself a note to stop in Germany to taste the Karamell-Kuche.  At $4 for one piece of candy, I've got high hopes.  I also hope that I don’t end up craving this weeks after I've gone home.

Resort Pools
Swimsuits are always packed, but for some reason, probably for the same reason we haven’t done water parks, we never make it to our resort’s pool.  I hear the one at Port Orleans Riverside is not to be missed, since that’s where we’ll be, I’m getting in…even if that means I do it alone.

Afternoon naps
We just can’t do it. No matter how hard we try, we are always too excited to be at Disney World to even dream of taking naps during the day.  We end up watching the programs on television, chronicling all the stuff at the parks we are missing while we relax in our resort room, then we pack up and leave again.

How many of these are you missing?  Have you done any and have tips for me?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Epcot's 30!

The first time I stepped into Epcot, I didn’t know what to expect; this was a time before you could find out everything you wanted to know about anything online.  What is this giant sphere going to hold that’s so entertaining was my thought.  Many visits later, Epcot is my favorite Disney park.  Everything about it appeals to me.  It’s more than just Spaceship Earth.  I love food; Epcot is well known for having awesome restaurants.    I love to travel; where else can you span the globe in a matter of minutes?  I love learning about technology and innovative ways to save the planet.  I love a good thrill ride.  While I will not be at Epcot on its thirtieth anniversary, I will be there thirty days from now.  In no particular order, here is a list of thirty reasons why Epcot is my favorite park.
  1. Universe of Energy
  2. Test Track
  3. Cheddar Cheese Soup
  4. Food and Wine Festival
  5. “Mine!  Mine!  Mine!”
  6. Twinkling sidewalks
  7. Butterfly garden
  8. Insisting Disney newbies have a taste of Beverly at Club Cool
  9. Perry the Platypus
  10. Japanese Candy Artist
  11. Illuminations
  12. The smell of the orange trees in “Soarin’”
  13. President Barack Obama
  14. Water Fountains
  15. Flower and Garden Festival
  16. Spaceship Earth
  17. Mission SPACE
  18. Turtle Talk with Crush
  19. Vegetables that “earn their ears”
  20. Seeing the monorail glide through the park
  21. Captain EO
  22. Grand Mariner Slush
  23. Figment
  24. Innoventions
  25. Maelstrom
  26. Model Railway Village
  27. O Canada
  28. Princess Storybook Breakfast
  29. Drinking around the world
  30. Taiko drummers

What did I miss? Let me know what some of your favorites are, and I’ll be certain to check them out (if I haven’t already) in thirty days!