Put on your Louisiana Road Trip Vacation Pants

From a recent road trip around the Sabine Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana – 2016

In honor of my little sister moving to Louisiana, I am writing this post about taking an amazing Louisiana road trip for, as always, DIRT CHEAP.  We found some unbelievably reasonable airfare from California on Google Flights, and just had to plan a little road trip loop around mostly Louisiana and Mississippi.  We went in March, but we came back in August and checked out Northern Louisiana as well.   Get ready for some amazing Louisiana (with some Mississippi on the side) style adventures.  Here we go.

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Put on your Discount Airline Vacation Pants

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Airplane Life. Taking Jet Blue to somewhere fabulous. -2014

I know it can be scary to go for that cheap deal and take a discount airline instead of a name you know and love.  The price often seems to good to be true.  Many times, if you don’t know what to pay for, and what not to pay for, the prices are too good to be true.  As someone who has taken my fair share of discount airlines over the years, I will share with you my tips and tricks if you decide to go on one of these airlines.  I also rank them in order of preference, so you know if it is worth the discount.

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Put on Your Hot Springs, Arkansas Vacation Pants

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At the official Hot Springs National Park entrance in Hot Springs, Arkansas. August -2016

In August we flew to Northern Texas because my baby brother got married.  My husband reminded me that I had never been to Arkansas, so we had to plan a little road trip out of Texas while we were out there.  We wound up in Hot Springs, Arkansas for a four night trip, and let’s just say, this place was made to be blogged about.  Hot Springs, Arkansas is the home of Hot Springs National Park and it is exactly what it sounds like.  People at the turn of the century flocked to Hot Springs to take advantage of all the bath houses that sprouted up in the town due to the natural hot springs in the area.  Well, eight of the original buildings remain standing today, and two of them are still working bath houses.  Read on to find out how you can plan an amazing adventure to this fantastic place.
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Put on your Tripadvisor Vacation Pants

 

I remember when I discovered tripadvisor.com.  It was early 2011 and I was planning a trip down route 66.  I was visiting family in Colorado and after that we decided to drive out to Chicago, Illinois, the place where the famous route 66 begins.  I was so excited to plan our hotel stays along the way and I came across this fantastic travel website.  I looked up all the cities we were planning on staying in along the route.  The site gave me the top hotels, restaurants, and things to do in every place.  I was so excited that most of the # 1 rated hotels were dirt cheap compared to California hotels, and we got to stay in highly rated hotels along our entire trip.  Tripadvisor did not disappoint.  This post will give you some tips on using this amazing website and app.  You won’t want to plan another trip without consulting Tripadvisor first.  Then, after your trip, you’ll want to come back and do some reviews of your own, so you can advise future travelers.

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Put on your Walt Disney World Vacation Pants, part 6 of 6

Off Season at Typhoon Lagoon means NO LINES!
Part 6 is here!!!  I will discuss one of the water parks at Disney World called Typhoon Lagoon and I will also talk about Disney Springs.  Both places add a little extra pizzazz to an already amazing trip.  Read on to find out how you can have an amazing trip to these places as well.  
 
This particular trip to Disney World we did some things differently.  First of all, this is by the far the longest trip we have ever taken to the park, and we loved it.  We stayed for 8 nights, and played for 9 days, so we really got to experience many things we have never experienced before.  One of which was a water park at the resort called Typhoon Lagoon.  We also went to a restaurant at Disney Springs called T-Rex.  Although we had been to Disney Springs before, this was a new restaurant, and it was not something we usually have time to do, but with such an extended trip, we really got to see and do everything.  Read on to find out how you can make the most of your trips to both these areas.   Again, I would only do these things if you have a truly extended trip.  These places will really add to the experience.  
 
Typhoon Lagoon    
 

As I mentioned in a previous post, we bought our tickets through a university to attend a graduation at the resort.  We were given a special link to order the tickets.  One of the perks was a pretty nice discount on park tickets AND it included an extra ticket to one of the Disney water parks.  We were spending 9 days at the resort, so we took a day off from the big parks and spent an awesome day at Typhoon Lagoon.  They do have a waterpark option when you buy the tickets.  If you do plan on doing the water park, make sure you add it in when you purchase the tickets to the park, because you get a discount as opposed to paying full price at the gate.  

Tips and Tricks
  • Bring your own towel and sunscreen – You can rent towels for a small fee at the park or just bring your own.  Sunscreen is pretty expensive at the resort, so make sure you buy and bring before you have to pay the upcharge.                                                                      
  • Underwater Camera – We brought a disposable underwater camera to get some pics of the park.  We now have a fancy one, but the disposable worked great too.  You can see the quality of the disposable camera pics for yourself throughout this post.  Make sure you also buy the disposable waterproof camera before you come to the park as well.  They sell them for a reasonable price at your local pharmacy.                                      


                                   

  • Money – Attach a credit card to your Magic Band and you will not have to bring money to the park with you, which means you won’t have to buy a locker, which means you will save money.  The Magic Bands work as your park ticket, room key, and payment, and best of all, they are waterproof, so all you really need is a towel, sunscreen, waterproof camera, and your Magic Band.                                                                                                       
  • Life Jackets – You don’t need to bring your own life jackets for your children, in fact, floaties, pool toys, and personal life jackets are not allowed in the park, so make sure you don’t bring that stuff.  They have several locations around the park that have big stands of life jackets with various sizes, you don’t even have to check them out, just grab and go.                                    

                                                                        Lazy River fun!


  • Park Opening/Closing – When we went the park was only open from 10:00 – 5:00, so we pretty much went when the park opened and left after it closed.  It worked great.  In the morning there was no one there, some larger school groups came midday, and left before the park closed.  We did have to wait awhile for a shuttle to take us back to the hotel at the end of the day, but it wasn’t too bad.  
MVP (My Vacation Pants) Tip:  The water parks are open year round and it is always pretty warmish in Florida.  Escape the crowds by going to the water parks in the winter months.  They tend to be very busy in the Spring and Summer, so even if it seems weird to visit a water park in January you may want to hit it up anyway.

  • Educational Guide – I know it may be weird to think that there are educational things at water parks, but nevertheless, we found some amazing things to show our kids at the parks.  First off, they have a snorkel lagoon filled with sharks, fish, and other amazing sea life.  Take the time to show your children and talk to the cast members about what you’re seeing.  My kids didn’t go in the lagoon, but they watched from the viewing tanks.  Now they love snorkeling.  It is a great way to get your kids started on this fantastic activity.       
  • Vintage Cool Attractions – The theme of the whole park is that you are castaways on a deserted island.  Everything is vintage themed.  You feel like you are entering a real life Swiss Family Robinson movie.                                                                                                                                        

                                    The premise:  We are stranded on a tropical island paradise.  

  • Pacing – Remember they have shorter hours, so make sure you plan to stay the length of the day from opening to closing if you want to experience everything.  We barely stood in any lines at all in early February and we got to see everything.  I can imagine on a crowded day you might want to stick to my recommendations below. 
  • My Vacation Pants Recommendations:  The wave pool is a pretty epic one.  You can stay in calmer sections for the littles as well.  Over to the side of the lagoon they have kid water slides that my kiddos went on about 50 times, so that’s a great way to enjoy the wave pool and the kiddie section.  Our other favorite attraction was the family inner tube ride.  We really enjoyed piling in the tube together and riding down the slide.  It’s a good workout bringing that inner tube up the hill too.  







                                           

 
 
Disney Springs
Disney Springs is basically an outdoor marketplace with restaurants and shops.  They have everything you ever wanted to buy Disney.  You can’t help but get caught up in the cuteness.  On this trip, we got done with Typhoon Lagoon at 5:00 and had definitely worked up an appetite playing in the sun and water all day.  We took the shuttle from the hotel to Disney Springs for dinner.  I believe they have put in a parking structure since we have been.  Parking is complimentary.  
 

Tips and Tricks

  • It is busy in the evening.  They have a movie theater, popular restaurants, shopping, and shows, so get there early if you need to make a reservation or show.  The website recommends getting there at least 60 minutes before your reservation.  It’s a very huge place, so you may park and get dropped off far from where you need to be, so plan ahead.
  • Make reservations for dining well ahead of time.  You can make your dining reservations the same way you make reservations for the parks.  Make them online through the Walt Disney World website.
  • We did not go to the Cirque Su Soleil La Nouba Show on this last visit, but we have gone before and it is quite an amazing show.  I highly recommend going if you have not seen it before.  Make sure you make reservations ahead of time though. My friend booked his tickets last minute and got a great deal, but we sat in three different seats around the theater, but it didn’t matter.  It’s not like you are talking during the show anyway. 
  • My Vacation Pants Recommendations – 
    • Rain Forest Cafe – So they have two locations at Disney World, but I had to give you this little tip.  Go to the Rain Forest at Disney Springs instead of the one at Animal Kingdom.  They are both cool.  They have animantronics, waterfalls, and aquariums, but the one at Disney Springs is inside of a volcano that fake erupts every once in awhile.  I think the architecture is so cool there.  Make sure you make your reservations for at least one of these, especially if you have never been to a Rain Forest Cafe.  
    • T-Rex Restaurant – So this place was really fun.  We highly enjoyed being whisked back to the prehistoric times and eating in an ice cave.  This place is owned and operated by the same place that owns Rain Forest Cafe, so it is a similar experience, but I really liked the experience, and so did my kiddos.  


    • Our Favorite Stores:  Check out Goofy’s Candy Company.  You will indulge in some yummy Disney themed desserts.  Also, it will be hard to miss the Lego Imagination Center.  They have huge Lego displays outside the store, in the fountains and lakes, and inside the store as well.  It is quite amazing.  World of Disney is spectacular.  If you can’t find a souvenir to commemorate your Disney World trip in this place, you ain’t finding it anywhere else.  The Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop and Soda Fountain is amazing as well.  The My Vacation Pants Family likes Vanilla Malts with extra malt.  Yum, yum!

I know you’ll have enough to do on this fantastic trip, but if you have time, these two stops will pizazz up your visit even more during your stay.  I have truly enjoyed taking you on this wild Walt Disney World journey.  Hope you found these posts helpful in planning your future trips.  Please use the links below to let me know how your trip was.  Would love to hear from some vacation pantsers!!!  Have a great trip and Walt Disney World on. 
 
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Trip Links
Walt Disney World Webpage – https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/
Theme Park Tourist – http://www.themeparktourist.com/
Part 1 of this Post – http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-your-disney-world-vacation-pants.html
Part 2 of this Post: http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-your-walt-disney-world-vacation.html
Part 3 of this Post: http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-you-walt-disney-world-vacation.html
Part 4 of this Post: http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-your-walt-disney-world-vacation_26.html
Part 5 of this Post – http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/05/put-on-your-walt-disney-world-vacation.html
Also click on headings in the post above.  I linked the important information you need. 

 

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Put on your Walt Disney World Vacation Pants, Family Edition, Part 4 of 6

It all started with this guy!  Checking out the One Man’s Dream Exhibit at Disney Studios – 2015

Part 4 of 6 will discuss a visit to Disney Studios.  This park is undergoing many renovations and additions right now, but it is still worth stopping at for a day.  Read on to find out what you need to do to get the most out of your visit to Disney Studios.  Click other posts in this series about Walt Disney World below.




Disney Studios was put in to Walt Disney World in 1989, a year before Universal Studios-Orlando.  It was originally called DIsney’s MGM Studios and it was very much like a working studio.  They shot the rebooted Mickey Mouse Club there, had a studio tour, and studio shows.  Since then, the park has dropped the studio tour and the MGM name and added some of the best thrill rides you will ever experience.  It will also be home to the new Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land, which is quite exciting.  While these major renovations are taking place, there will still be plenty to see and do, so make sure you make a stop to play and eat at this park while you are visiting.  


Disney Studios -Tips and Tricks
  • Fast Pass + – Make sure you have reserved your fastpasses for the day on your Walt Disney World account.  See my tips on Fast Pass + in part 1 of this series.  Attractions worth getting fast passes for, if possible:  
    • Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror
    • Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster
    • Toy Story
    • Star Tours
    • Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular               
      Used our first fastpass on Toy Story on night 1

      My little Star Wars fans out in front of Star Tours

      The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, pretty much the greatest thrill ever.

      Don’t let the cheese factor full you, this is a thrilling roller coaster with multiple loops.

                                                               

    • Remember: If you get three attractions reserved early in the day, you can go back and order more fastpasses on the My Disney Experience App once you have used them all.  That is the only way to get more than three fastpasses in a day. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours at this park.  
    MVP (My Vacation Pants) Tip:  Fantasmic is a combination water show, pyrotechnic, and theatrical show that if you have not seen, you will want to see during your visit.  The show is located in a large stadium by Tower of Terror.  I don’t get fastpasses to large shows like this because there is usually plenty of seating for it.  Especially at the later showing.  Don’t waste your fastpass on this high capacity show.  Also, if you have seen the one in Callifornia, this show is very similar, but not as intimate, and it uses less impressive set design, so if you have seen the California one, you can skip it for something else.
    • Educational Guide – This park gives you a backstage pass to old Hollywood and although it may seem hard to find things that our educational at a park dedicated to Hollywood, there is still plenty to learn about.  Make sure you check out the One Man’s Dream film and exhibit.  There is so much history about Walt Disney and the making of his empire.  My young children loved learning the history of Disneyland and they made us sit in the front row for the movie.  They have cool pieces displayed in the exhibit hall as well.  You can talk about how things were different in the 1930s, and how animation was drawn by hand.  The Great Movie Ride is a tribute to many great movie classics your children may have never heard of.  One small note, there is one super scary scene from the movie Alien, keep your kids close and cover their eyes for that part if they get scared about things like that.  A lot of children have never seen an old black and white movie and they have a great montage at the end.  Talk about the history of movie making with them.  Lastly, the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is a really fun way to show your kids how movies are made.  Plus, adults get a chance to be a part of the show.  I was picked to be in half the show, so my kids paid attention.  
      Me as an extra in the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.

    • Vintage Cool Attractions – The whole park is themed like vintage Hollywood.  All the glamour and sophistication of the 1930s.  It is a great piece of cinematic history, and is fun to see in a Disney way.  Make sure you take in the architecture and the music that this park has to offer.  We enjoyed checking out the front of the Great Movie Ride which has celebrity hand prints and autographs just like is does in the real Hollywood.  Inside the queue for the Great Movie Ride, there are some Hollywood collectibles from favorite movies.  Always fun to see. Do not miss the Muppet 3D Show.  It is an original that was in the park when it opened, and it is the last thing that Jim Henson worked on before he passed away.  It is hilarious and cute.  This attraction is extinct at other Disney parks, so this may be your last chance to see this beloved show.   Plus, see below for some places you have to eat at to fully experience the vintageness of this park.  
      Classic Hollywood in Florida
      Like I said…vintage cool.

    • Pacing – This park is small right now.  It will grow much bigger with the editions, but you can probably spend part of the day here and hit another park if you want.  My family can never manage to do that, but we are the type of family that has to try every little thing.  If you just want to try the highlights and move on, you can spend more time in the larger parks.  
    My son loved The Great Movie Ride so much, he made Daddy take him twice.


      What To Eat
      50’s Prime Time Cafe – This place is such a blast.  The premise is you are stepping into an old 1950s television show.  Everything in the restaurant is themed like a suburban 1950s household.  It’s so cute.  Your waiter/waitress plays your Mom or Dad.  They are hilarious, loving, and a little bit grumpy, but it’s all part of the show.  Make sure you keep your elbows off the table, and don’t talk with your mouth full.  Above all, eat your veggies.  The fried chicken is a fantastic choice at this place.  They have some homestyle favorites.  Make sure you check it out while you are there.  

      Had to get the vintage black and white shot at the 50s Prime Time Cafe.

      This is the waiting area. So cute.

      When you see the sign, enter.


      Sci Fi Dine In Theater – Okay, this has to be our favorite experience place to eat because it is so unique.  You walk in to a building that looks normal on the outside.  The host whisks you around the corner and you enter an old fashioned drive in theater.  The cars have tables facing a huge drive in movie screen.  You get to watch kitchy cool old sci fi movies and old 1950s commercials.  It is pretty much a dream come true.  The food is pretty much your typical diner fare, but it is worth the experience to see it.  Again, don’t miss it while you are there. 

      Our amazing car tables at the Sci Fi Dine In Theater

      The Sci Fi Dine In Theater. Yeah!


      The Hollywood Brown Derby – The Original Brown Derby in California is famous for inventing the Cobb Salad and well, you can’t really find someone who loves Cobb Salad like this lady right here.  I am a blue cheese fanatic.  So I guess I was the one who was most excited to come here because even though I live near Hollywood I have never been to the original Brown Derby. Everyone else in my party enjoyed the experience, but weren’t huge fans of the intense flavors in the Cobb, so this is definitely something you have to crave.  If your mouth watered when I talked about Cobb Salad, you have to go.  The ambiance is fun too and I imagine it is similar to how the original Brown Derby looks and feels.  It is very art deco and visually stunning. 

      Feeling smirky to be at the Hollywood Brown Derby.

      Cobb Salad. Yum.

      Grandma sneaking my daughter soda. 🙂

      My husband got this egg burger thing.  Yum again. 


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      Trip Links
      Walt Disney World Webpage – https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/
      Theme Park Tourist – http://www.themeparktourist.com/
      Part 1 of this Post – http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-your-disney-world-vacation-pants.html
      Part 2 of this Post: http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-your-walt-disney-world-vacation.html
      Part 3 of this Post: http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-you-walt-disney-world-vacation.html

      Also click on headings in the post above.  I linked the important information you need. 


      Put on your Disney World Vacation Pants – Family Edition, Part 1 of 6

      Packing for our trip to Walt Disney World – 2015

      My Vacation Pants will teach you how to take the most budget efficient trip to Walt Disney World with your family. Continue reading to find out how you too can plan the vacation of a lifetime without breaking the bank. This is part 1 in a series of 6.  This first post will give you the tips you need to book a Walt Disney World vacation.

      Trip Overview
      Imagine this:  My hubbs and I secretly booked a Disney World vacation for our kiddos.  We didn’t tell them anything.  They knew all about this fantastic place because we told them all about it.
      (Being a past Disneyland Resort cast member, I had gone a few times before.  In my younger adulthood the only way I could afford to go was to take people on my Main Gate Pass, which worked for both the California Resorts and the Florida Resorts.  I will cover taking a cast member trip in another post.)
      Back to the story: our flight to Florida left super early one morning.  The kids were asleep as we loaded them into the car.  We woke them up at the airport parking lot and told them the news.  They were so excited!  We felt like the BEST PARENTS EVER! It was hard to keep the trip a secret from them, but the reaction was so worth it.  It’s been one year since the day we took off on this fantastic trip, and I am ready to blog the pants off of this thing.  I can’t wait to give you all the tips I learned on my 7th time visiting this wonderful place.  This is part 1 of a series of 6 posts about Disney World.  This first post will prepare you on how to plan for a trip for Walt Disney World.  


      Check out the video below to see our kids reactions to the BIG news.




      Trip Itinerary

      Overall this was an 8 night, 9 day trip.  I know you may be thinking, “Do I really want to spend 9 days at a theme park?”  Yes, yes you do.  If you want to immerse yourself in the full Disney World experience, you have to realize that you could stay a whole year here and NOT see all it has to offer.  The longer you stay, the more you will get to see and do.  Also, this ain’t a trip for the faint of heart.  You will NOT be relaxing much on this vacation if you want to get your money’s worth, so maybe plan a little down time after your trip to recover.  This was the longest Disney World trip we had ever taken, and it still went by in the flash of an eye.  


      Day 1: Flew from Los Angeles, CA to Orlando, FL.  We took the complimentary airport shuttle, (Disney’s Magical Express) which is free if you stay in a Disney Property Hotel, straight to the resort. Plus we went into Disney Studios and the Magic Kingdom once we arrived.

      Day 2:  Animal Kingdom
      Day 3:  Disney Studios
      Day 4:  EPCOT
      Day 5:  Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and Downtown Disney (now called Disney Springs)
      Day 6:  Magic Kingdom
      Day 7: Changed hotels: We went from All-Star Music Resort to the Contemporary Resort and went to EPCOT
      Day 8: Disney Studios and Magic Kingdom
      Day 9: Magic Kingdom and then we flew back from Orlando, FL to Los Angeles, CA


      MVP (My Vacations Pants) Trip Tip: Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Virgin America, and Jet Blue are some budget airlines that fly from major airports to Orlando for dirt cheap.  Check out those airlines.  Sometimes it is worth driving a couple hours to an airport if you are going to save hundreds of dollars on airfare.  


      Trip Budget


      My mother in-law was actually graduating from an online university during the time we took this trip.  Lo and behold, her school decided to hold the graduation at Walt Disney World Resort Hotel.  A cool part about Disney World is that many athletic competitions and conferences take place there.  This may be a time to combine work and pleasure to get a discount.  Discounts on tickets and hotel rooms extend to friends and family, so make sure you take advantage of this opportunity if it ever comes up.  We certainly did.  


      • Roundtrip Airfare to Orlando, FL from Los Angeles, CA- $456 a person- Eek!  You can definitely get the price of this down by using Google Flights.  Our problem was that we all had a very specific range of time we could go to Disney World, so we had to fly back on a very expensive day.  In the past I have flown to Orlando for under $200 a person.  You just have to have flexible dates.  The cool part of this was my mother and father in-law paid for our whole family to come out and see her graduate, so we didn’t have this cost out of our own pockets when we went, which was another reason we really wanted to go when we did.  
      • Airport Transfers – FREE  Mickey’s Magical Express is a free shuttle service from the Orlando Airport to the Walt Disney World Resort if you stay at any of the on resort properties, so take advantage of that.  
      • Tickets to the Parks – We bought 8 day park hoppers at the convention discount.  The ticket also included an extra ticket to Typhoon Lagoon, so that’s 9 days of fun for only $377 a person.  That works out to only $41 a day.  That’s some 1990s prices.  So find a conference at Disney World and get those discount tickets.  You know there has to be some kind of conference you want to go to.  
      • Hotels – We paid $81 a night for the All-Star Music Resort which is a Disney Value Resort.  You don’t spend much time in your room, so you might as well go cheap.  The resort was also offering discounted rooms at the Contemporary Resort for $169 a night for people who attended the graduation, so we changed hotel rooms at the end of our trip to take advantage of a deluxe resort deal for a HUGE discount (they are usually $400 a night). Our grand total for lodging was $824 for 8 nights of on property lodging.
      MVP Trip Tip: I upgraded my Disneyland Premium Annual Pass to a Premier Pass.  The Premier Pass gives you admission to both the California and Florida resort properties (including the water parks).  It also included free parking.  If you plan on going for as long as we did or if you are taking two trips in a year, this is a fantastic deal.  You also get some discounts on merchandise and some restaurants in the park.  Just upgrade one person in your party and get discounts for the whole group. 
        Trip Grand Total – $4156 for a 9 day/8 night Walt Disney World Vacation!!!  This total is based on a family of four.  Two adults and two children (age 6 and 4 at time of our travels).  


        MVP Trip Tip:  We packed a suitcase of food for our trip.  There is no grocery store on site, and the food at the park and the hotels are expensive.  To cut down our food costs we pre-bought a bunch of snacks that would have cost us a fortune at the resort.  Don’t worry, we still got our eat on!!!  I will explain that more in a later post.  


        Trip Lodging

        • All-Star Music Resort – located on the WDW property.  This hotel is considered a value resort.  But come on, do you think Disney does anything half way?  This hotel is great! It is basically Disney’s rendition of a Best Western or Holiday Inn Express, complete with Mickey shaped toiletries and day and night Disney programming.  What makes it special:  The fact that you are just a short shuttle from all the parks is so convenient and fun.  We loved the pools and the outside decor.  
          Towel animals every night.

          Exterior jazz section of the All-Star Music

          The front of the hotel by the shuttle stops.

        • Contemporary Resort – located on the WDW property in walking distance to the Magic Kingdom Park.  This place is considered a deluxe resort.  Weirdly, after all is said and done, we preferred the value resort to the deluxe resort.  Don’t get me wrong, the murals and architecture were fantastic, but the shuttle system to the parks here was so disorganized and slow, and it was much more convenient and efficient at the All-Star resort.  At the budget resorts, there is a shuttle for each park and the shuttles come consistently, at the Contemporary resort, there was just one pick up location and no queue, so everyone just cut in front of everyone else.  The shuttles were far and few between.  The monorail was broken down every time we tried to use it and it almost made my mom in-law miss her graduation, so that was stressful.  Also, the monorail didn’t even run as late as the park was open, so we had to walk back late at night from the Magic Kingdom with two sleeping kiddos.  What makes it special:  It’s the closest park to the Magic Kingdom, so that was fun.  The monorail runs right through the hotel lobby.  That was cool when it was working.  They had a very fancy pool with pool activities and a water slide.  It definitely was a nice room as well.  Think of a Hilton or Sheraton, Disney style.  
          Bigger towel animals at the contemporary.

          The beds were more comfy. 

          It had a nice little sitting area. 

        Our view from the Monorail.  


        The Mary Blair murals were top notch. 


        So I may have been insanely excited that the monorail was finally working to take us back to our hotel.


        MVP Trip Tip:  Think about how much time you are actually going to be staying in a hotel room.  Do you really need somewhere fancy, or do you just need somewhere to rest your head?  I would opt for the value resorts if you want to save some moola.  


        BEFORE YOU GO – TIPS AND TRICKS

        If you want to get the most out of your Walt Disney World trip, you don’t want to wait until you get there to make decisions.  You need to plan, plan, plan to get the most bang for your buck.  This particular trip was relatively last minute.  We had less them a month to plan, and it did cost us some experiences.  Overall, we came out pretty good, but make sure you use the tips outlined below to really make things go smoother.  

        • My Magic + – As soon as you buy your tickets, sign up for a Walt Disney World account and start planning your experiences.  You can book your fastpasses and plan your dining reservations up to 30 days in advance if you are just going to the parks, or 60 days in advance if you are also staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel.  
        • Fastpass + – Once you make a Disney World account, go ahead and enter your ticket reservation code under the My Disney Experience tab and start booking those fastpasses.  These are FREE, so make sure you take advantage of them.  You can pre-book three fastpasses per person, per day at a park.  Choose the date and the park you are going to for that date, and it will list three tiers of rides.  One tier includes the big attractions (Space Mountain), the second tier is the medium attractions (Pirates of the Carribean), and the third tier is the attractions that usually have a very small wait time (Philharmagic Show).  Pick one in each of the categories and the hour window you want to go.  My tip would be to book the fastpasses earlier in the day because once you have used them all, you can download the Walt Disney World app and book more fastpasses for the same day, but you have to have used or let your first three reservations expire before you can do this.  These fastpass reservations will then be connected to your park ticket or Magic Band, and you will be on your way. Again, the Fastpass + is included with your theme park tickets or annual passes and is no extra cost to you, so make sure you take advantage.
        • Disney Dining – I will go into detail about where you need to eat later in this blog, but I beg you to make your dining reservations as soon as you possibly can.  The table service restaurants are so popular, and they fill up fast.  I did the math, and buying a dining plan is NOT worth it.  Do your own planning and you will save money and have the flexibility of eating where you want and when you want.  We did 1-2 table service restaurants a day.  The food is amazing and worth it, and the counter service restaurants cost almost as much as the counter service restaurants anyway.  
        • Magic Bands – It is worth ordering the Magic Bands rather then standard ticket cards.  The Magic Bands are waterproof electronic bracelets that work as your park ticket, hotel room key, fastpass reservation, and payment (if you choose to connect a credit card).  No more trying to dig around and find those park tickets or room keys, they are on your arm. This option is free with your park ticket purchase. 

          It was fun having the annual passholder Magic Band.

          Team Magic Band ready to get our WDW on!

        • Make sure you pack: 
          • Comfortable walking shoes – break them in before you come
          •  Mole skin – to cover blisters
          • Ziploc bags to put phones and electronic devices in on water rides, or when it rains
          • Ponchos – it rains a lot in Florida, and out of absolutely nowhere. (You know those old movies where it’s all sunny, and then suddenly there is a total down pour?  Well, that’s what it’s like in Florida.)
          •  A double stroller if you have young children – my kids were old enough to be out of a stroller when we went, but you walk A LOT for multiple days in a row, and I was sooooooooooooooo thankful my hubby made us bring the double
          • Dry snacks – there is no grocery store on resort property, and the snacks at the hotel are outrageously priced, so we bought a suitcase full of chips, granola bars, fruit snacks etc. and we were so thankful we did
          •  A portable charger – I recommend the lipstick sized one that Anker makes, it fully charged my phone from 0% each day, so I could keep snapping those pics, checking wait times, and making new fastpass reservations on the Walt Disney World App. Also, the resort has free wifi, so make sure you connect to that when you get to the resort property.
        • Mickey’s Magical Express – This is the name of the hotel shuttle that you take to the Walt Disney Resort property.  It is free to resort property hotel guests, but if fills up fast, so make sure you make your reservations a couple weeks in advance.  If you do, you get to take the shuttle fastpass line like we did.  We just waved our magic bands and presto, we were on the shuttle.  See how easy it was to use in the video below.  
        • Download the Walt Disney World App – It’s a great way to check wait times, show times, maps of the parks, and of course to make/change/modify  your fastpass + reservations.  Download it from home before you go, so you don’t have to use your cell phone data to do it.  The parks do have FREE wifi, but it does get spotty to use, and has a hard time downloading apps.  

        So that about does it for Part 1 of my Walt Disney World, Family Edition blog posts.  Check back later for more posts about this uh-mazing trip!!! 


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        Trip Links
        Walt Disney World Webpage – https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/
        Also click on headings in the post above.  I linked the important information you need above.