Put On Your Room Escape Vacation Pants – Southern Cali Edition

If you know me or follow me on social media, you know about my most recent obsession…room escapes!!!  For those of you who don’t know, room escapes are entertainment venues that offer to lock you in a room (not literally, fire code is pretty important to follow) and you have a certain amount of time to escape the room by solving a series of connected puzzles and mysteries.  It is fantastic amounts of fun.  In this post, I will take you through a bunch of room escapes I have tried in Southern California (spoiler free, of course!) in hopes that you will jump on the bandwagon and try some of these out.  Here is my current So Cal directory of room escapes the I have tried.  As I try more, I will add to the list. Continue reading

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 Year in Review Vacation Pants

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Showing off my Redwood Tree Vacation Pants in the lovely Humboldt Redwood Forest in Northern California.

Well, it’s been a whole year since I started the ole travel blog and I decided to reflect on the last year of travel.  I am going to talk about the best place(s) we ate (sometimes it is too hard to choose one), the best place(s) we visited, the best place(s) we hoteled, and the best thing(s) we did.  Of course, I will give you an overall snapshot of our travels at the end of the post, so you can get some travel inspiration.  Sit back, relax, and make 2017 the year you get out there and travel in those vacation pants!!!  Hope you start planning that next vacay, stat!  Continue reading

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 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. 
 
Follow My Vacation Pants on Social Media:
 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/myvacationpants/
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Twitter: https://twitter.com/myvacationpants
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Inquiries: myvactionpants@gmail.com

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, Part 5 of 6

Animal Kingdom…not your average zoo. -2015

We are near the end of this very detailed Walt Disney World series.  Part 5 of 6 will focus on the newest park in the pack, Animal Kingdom.  Take a look at how you can plan a jam packed day full of fun at this park, that is definitely not just a zoo.  If you haven’t seen my other posts on WDW, check them out below.  


Animal Kingdom is a fantastic place.  Walt always wanted to put real animals in his parks, and in 1998 that dream became a reality.  I actually just read a fascinating blog post about the history of the park and how it almost never was.  Read it here.  I am so happy that did became a reality though because we always have a blast here.  It is also home to my favorite attraction on Earth.  More on that later.  Read on to find out how to get the most out of a trip to this park.  

Animal Kingdom -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:  
    • Expedition Everest
    • Kilimanjaro Safari
    • Kali River Rapids
    • Dinosaur
    • Primeval Whirl            

                    Expedition Everest – The thrill of a lifetime!    

    • 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:  This park is worth getting to when it opens.  In fact, make sure you go to early hours if possible, because many of the animals are most active in the morning, and they are snoozing by noon.  Ride and experience the non animal exhibits after the animals start escaping the heat.  
    • Educational Guide – Obviously this park is smothered in education.  Bring life science to life by reading the exhibits and asking the animal caretakers questions.  In fact, even in the bathroom stall I learned all about animal poop.  It was great.  Make sure you see all the animal exhibits.  They are all tucked into hidden crevices.  Not all of them are listed on the map, so keep an eye out.  Follow any sign that says “trail” because you will see a lot of really cool animals.  Also, make sure you check out the bird aviary.  They are beautifully ornate, with breathtaking vegetation, and beautiful birdies.  

                Bird watching fun.  They even have cards to spot the birds.

    • Vintage Cool Attractions – Okay, so this park is pretty new in terms of Disney years, so vintage is kind of a stretch, but I guess if you are in your teens, this park will bring back some nostalgia.  For one, you have to check out the Bug’s Life movie located in the tree of life.  It’s so funny and has interactive fun.  The Dinosaur area also reminds me of a late 50s, early 60s vibe.  They have a fun little carnival style land, and the Dinosaur ride is very cheese in a fun way.  Like an old TV show.

    • Pacing – This park used to be half day park like an actual zoo, but they have added a lot of fun attractions since it opened and you can definitely spend a full day there now.  It’s also open much later than it used to be in the early years.  Like I mentioned before, spend the morning watching the animals while they’re active and spend the afternoon and evening riding the attractions.  Make the first attraction of the day the Kilimanjaro Safari because the animals will be jumping around.  

    • My Vacation Pants Recommendations:  Okay my favorite ride in the entire galaxy is at this park.  Make sure you hit Expedition Everest multiple times during your visit.  I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s like no other coaster you will ever ride.  It’s thrilling, amazingly themed, great technology.  You’ll love it.  We also love the Kali River Rapids.  If you can hit it on a rainy day, you are golden because for some reason no one wants to get wet when you are already getting wet.  We just put our ponchos on and they let us go round and round a couple times.  Another must do attraction is Dinosuar.  The premise is you go back in time in a jeep.  You see some crazy dinos along the way.  It can be quite scary for young children, so make sure your kiddos can handle it because you do only have to be 40 inches to ride.  

                                                    My favorite ride in the world…Expedition Everest.



      What To Eat
      Yak and Yeti (sit down and counter service) – We love eating lunch at the counter service Yak and Yeti.  They have a fantastic honey chicken and tangy teriyaki chicken bowl.  The egg rolls are amazing too.  They used to serve pot stickers there as well, but now you have to do the sit down restaurant to get those gems.  We loved the open air ambiance of the restaurant.  The food was tasty, but I miss those pot stickers being at the counter service restaurant.  It was a perfect little lunch/snack spot.  The sit down restaurant is also very beautifully decorated.  You almost feel like you’re on top of the Himalayas.

                                             The Asian Chicken Salad was HUGE and YUMMY!

      Pot stickers are the BEST.
      The kiddos posing out front.


      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 this one.  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.  

      Have a great day at Animal Kingdom.  I think you will agree this is not your average zoo experience.  Feel free to write in or comment if you have any additional questions about the park.  


      Follow My Vacation Pants on Social Media:

      Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/myvacationpants/
      Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/myvacationpants/
      Twitter: https://twitter.com/myvacationpants
      YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/myvacationpants
      Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/vecchio100/my-vacation-pants/
      Inquiries: myvactionpants@gmail.com

      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

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

      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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          Inquiries: myvactionpants@gmail.com

          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. 


              Put on your Disney Cruise Vacation Pants: Re-positioning Cruise Edition

              Meeting Captain Mickey on our recent Disney Cruise -2016

              The My Vacation Pants family just got back from a Disney Cruise around the Caribbean.  Read on to find out how you can book a Disney Cruise for about $600 a person and join in on the Disney themed vacation fun.





              Trip Overview
              A couple of months ago I woke up and checked my e-mail like I do every morning.  I subscribe to tons of internet travel websites.  Travelocity was having a 24 hour cruise sale.  I clicked on the link not thinking much about it, but lo and behold they had a killer deal listed on a Disney Cruise.  I have not been able to afford a Disney Cruise since I worked at Disneyland 10 years ago.  The cruise prices listed were as low as when I worked for the Disney Company and got a HUGE Cast Member discount, plus they were offering a $200 on board credit per state room if you booked through Travelocity.  I felt a flutter in my heart knowing that if I booked this cruise, I could finally take my kids on a Disney Cruise. The cruise was a re-positioning cruise.  Re-positioning cruises are great because the boat is moving to a new port for a season of sailings, but they want to make money while they are moving the ship, so they give some amazing deals to fill an otherwise empty boat.  Disney Cruise Line does many re-positioning cruises throughout the year, but never while I am off of work on a break from teaching, so I had to snatch that deal up.

              Trip Itinerary

              Overall this was a 10 day, 9 night trip.  We had to fly to get to our embarkation port in Galveston, TX.  We spent a couple of days in Texas, then we were on the cruise for 6 nights.  We disembarked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I would have loved to spend a couple more days in Puerto Rico, but I had to get back to work, so we only spent one night there.  


              Day 1: Flew from Long Beach, CA to Austin, TX.  We stayed at a hotel by the airport since we got in late.  

              Day 2:  Traveled to Galveston, TX by rental car
              Day 3: Departed from Galveston, TX on our cruise
              Day 4/5/6: At Sea aboard the Disney Wonder
              Day 7: St. Thomas – U.S. Virgin Island
              Day 8: Tortola – British Virgin Island
              Day 9: Disembarked ship in San Juan, Puerto Rico
              Day 10:  Traveled Home

              MVP (My Vacations Pants) Trip Tip: Don’t always think you HAVE to fly out the day of the cruise and fly right back the day your cruise ends.  We extended our vacation by three days and saw some amazing things by extending our trip.  We also saved money on airfare because we didn’t fly in/out when everyone else did from the cruise ship.

              Trip Budget


              We booked at the right time.  Disney Cruises are known for being extremely expensive.  Because this one was a re-positioning cruise leaving right after New Years, it was a great deal.  This was definitely an expensive vacation for us, but still worth the extra expense.  


              • Airfare to Austin, Texas – $134 from Long Beach, CA on Jet Blue Airlines. We found it on Google Flights.  Check out my other blog post on that. 
              • Airfare from San Juan – $191 to Los Angeles, CA.  We booked directly with American Airlines, but again found the flight on Google Flights.
              • Rental Car – We rented a one way car rental from Austin, TX to Galveston, TX on rentalcars.com for $193.  It costs a lot of money to rent a one way rental sometimes, but it is much cheaper then shuttling your whole family to the cruise terminal, plus it gives you freedom to explore along the way.  Compare the differences and make the best choice for your family.
              • Gas for the rental car – You can estimate how much gas you are going to use on a trip by using https://www.fueleconomy.gov/.  Gas was pretty cheap in Texas.  We are talking $1.72 a gallon.  Amazing to a Californian like myself.  We paid about $20 for gas on our trip.  
              • Cruise – We paid $2592 for our stateroom of 4 people.  We stayed in an oceanview room.  We also booked through a cruise sale on Travelocity that gave us a $200 shipboard credit to spend on whatever we wanted on board, so that works out to $598 a person.  That’s right folks.  Unless you work for the Disney Company, that is unheard of for a 6 night Disney Cruise ocean view room.  
              MVP Trip Tip: Shop around for your cruises.  We booked through Disney Cruise Line first, and then I found the cruise cheaper on Travelocity.  Disney let me cancel my reservation and book with Travelocity, but I got all the same perks as booking with Disney.  
              • Cruise Gratuities- On all cruises you pay gratuities at the end of your cruise stay instead of tipping each day.  Disney Cruise Lines automatically adds your gratuities to your credit card on file the last night of the cruise.  They work out to about $11 a night per person.  Not a bad deal in my opinion.  You are tipping your servers, your stateroom host/ess (they clean your stateroom twice a day), and your head server (he is like the manager at a restaurant).  I know I tip more than that for one meal sometimes.  For our whole family of four we paid $264 in gratuities for the entire length of the cruise.   
              • Taxis- We choose to do our own shore excursions rather than pay for an overpriced one through the cruise line, so we do research ahead of a time and take taxis from the cruise terminal to where we want to go.  We spent about $132 dollars to tote our family around the islands we visited.  Pretty good considering those shore excursions start at $80 a person.  We also took a taxi in San Juan to our hotel.  That was $20 for all four of us.  Then we took an early morning taxi from the hotel to the airport the next day.  That was $25 dollars for all four of us.  My hubby also had to drop off our rental car in Galveston, Texas and found out that Enterprise Rental Car did not shuttle to the terminal.  He ended up getting an Uber which he paid for on his phone, but a couple other Disney Cruise Dads who were dropping off their rental cars shared a car with him and he ended up getting a free ride.  The grand total on taxis for the trip was $177 for a family of four.
              MVP Trip Tip: Sometimes renting a one way rental car is way cheaper than booking an airport shuttle or taking a taxi.  Make sure you do your research beforehand.  
              • Hotel – We stayed in a three different hotels on this trip before and after our cruise.  I will go in to detail in the section below.  The total was $371.
              • Activities – 
                • San Juan Castillos – Children 15 and under are FREEEEEE!  It was only $5 bucks for adults for both the historic castillo sites in Old San Juan.  So $10 for the fam bam (family, you’ll start to get my secret language the more you read) to get inside.  
                • Saint Thomas – We tipped a guy $5 to watch our stuff on the beach while we snorkeled (we always bring our own equipment to save money).  We didn’t really bring any valuables, but it didn’t hurt to help the locals out.  He also let us use their restaurants restrooms and showers, so that was cool too. 
                • Tortola – We went to a beach for FREE.  
                • Cruise Activities (movies, theater shows, swimming, shows, trivia contests, dancing, parties, dinners, comedians, magicians, jugglers, character breakfasts etc.  – INCLUDED IN CRUISE COST
              Trip Grand Total – $4912  This total is based on a family of four.  Two adults and two children (age 7 and 5 at time of our travels).


              MVP Trip Tip:  We have several ways of financing our vacations.  We tend to go without during our day-to-day lives.  No new furniture.  We don’t really care about remodeling our house as long as it is safe and comfortable to live in.  We love hand me downs, thrift stores, and yard sales.  That’s just how we choose to live our life.  We know it’s not for everyone, but it is definitely how we afford to travel as much as we do.  See what you can live without and plan the trip of a lifetime.  


              Trip Lodging


              • Staybridge Suites Austin Airport – located in Austin, TX.  This was your typical airport hotel.  It was clean, close to the airport, and affordable.  I was bummed they didn’t run their hotel shuttle past 10 P.M.  This made us have to rent our rental car a day early and drove that trip cost up a bunch.  But once we were there it was quite nice.  We booked it on Hotwire. Check out my other blog post to get tips on how to book with them.  What makes it special: It is an all suite hotel.  It had a kitchenette, great water pressure, a seating area, and TEXAS SHAPED WAFFLES!  Hello?!!!  
              Texas shaped waffles at the Staybridge Suites in Austin, TX -2016

              • Holiday Inn Resort – located in Galveston, TX  – This place was quite beautiful and right across the street from the ocean.  The room had a fridge and a microwave.  A beautiful pool area that we didn’t get to use because we got there late and left early.  They had a free shuttle to the cruise terminal.  Make sure you make a reservation the night before.   What makes it special:  The staff was very friendly.  The balcony in our ocean view room was quite spectacular.  It was very clean and comfortable.  
                The fantastic balcony at Holiday in Resort in Galveston, TX – 2016

              • Ocean View Disney Cruise Stateroom – Our home for 6 glorious nights. Disney Cruise Line knows how to make a stateroom.  Adorable decorations, large for a stateroom, the toilet room is separate from the shower room, bunk beds for the kids, fridge, a queen sized bed that seemed a little bigger then a queen to me, comfortable mattress, Mickey themed toiletries, towel animals, and the list goes on and on.  We just loved it.  What makes it special:  Well, for starters you’re on a Disney Cruise, so everything is special.  We have been on many cruise lines, but Disney just knows how to make it magical.  You get to know your stateroom host/ess and your kids can watch Disney shows all day and night if you want.  They even have Wave Phones (portable phones) you can use throughout the ship, so you don’t rack up hefty roaming charges on your cell phone.  
                Special gift because we have taken more than
                one Disney Cruise.
                This was our 4th one. -2016
                The shower room. – 2016



                The toilet room. – 2016


                Shot from the stateroom door. 
                One of our two portholes. -2016


                 

                Privacy curtains.  The kids loved using this at night. Wink, wink. – 2016



                Elephant towel animal. – 2016

                Monkey Towel Animal. – 2016


                MVP Trip Tip:  Think about staying on the first level on your next cruise.  We did on this trip and absolutely loved it.  There was never a long wait for the elevator because the only thing on our floor was the infirmary.  We got see the water slap against our stateroom window.  It was less crowded.  When you stay in staterooms on floors with the kids clubs and movie theaters you get a lot more traffic down your hallway.  We had a pretty quiet stay down there.  An added bonus is that these staterooms are usually cheaper than higher levels.  You can view a map of your ship when you book your cruise online, so you can pick accordingly.  Also ,try to stay in a stateroom that is mid-ship.  You can get to everything quicker, and you feel the motion of the ocean less.  
              • Chateau Cervantes –  located in Old San Juan Puerto Rico.  This quaint little hotel was spectacular.  I haven’t been to Europe since I was a small child, but it had the look and feel of a quaint little European hotel.  We booked through booking.com.  What makes it special:  It is right in the middle of the Old San Juan area.  We walked to the Castillos and dinner with the kids and grandparents and it wasn’t bad at all.  It is an old building with lots of charm.  The rooms were huge.  The service was fantastic.  It was a great stay for sure.  

                This was a shot of hotel we got from the streets below. 

                The cute little balcony.

                A shot of the room.  They had a king
                sized bed for us
                and pull out sofa for the kids.  

                My son helped me get a shot of the other side of balcony view. 



              Trip Activities


              • Cruise Activities – So Disney Cruise Line has no shortage of activities for families to enjoy together.  There is so much to do you have to plan what you want to do ahead of time and pick what you want to do the most.  I downloaded the Disney Cruise Line App ahead of time.  Once you are on board, you turn your phone on airplane mode and connect to the ship’s wi-fi and it will only let you connect to their app.  The app was great  because you can set up your schedule of events you want to do and it will send you reminders before they start.  You can also text other people that are on the ship with you through the app as well.  For people who like to plan the old fashioned way with paper and pencil, they have something called the Personal Navigator that you can carry around with you and go to all the different activities the ship has to offer.  Here is a list and photos of some of the stuff we chose to do:  

                • Movie Theater – I think a personal touch that the Disney Cruise Line has to offer is they have a separate movie theater from the show theater.  All day long it plays first run movies.  On our particular cruise we got to see: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: The Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy, Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, Ant Man, and Bridge of Spies.  It was so fun getting to see these movies at sea.  
                • Trivia and Game Shows – The Disney Wonder (the name of our ship) had a wonderful cruise activity director who led several trivia and game show type activities.  We had a blast going around to the different pubs, bars, and taverns participating in the games.  I think I enjoyed the TV Show Tunes Trivia the best.  We always came in 2nd place though.  They should come up with a way to make sure people don’t cheat because I am pretty sure other teams cheated, but what are you gonna do?  We had fun anyway.  I am too honest to stretch the truth.  I know that we won in my heart.
                • Theater Shows – They have a spectacular Broadway style theater on board.  We got to see Disney style theater productions.  They perform a different show every night.  They also played Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the large theater in 3D.  That was a fun treat.  With the boat swaying it felt like we were actually on the Millennium Falcon.  They also had a ventriloquist act, a magician, and our personal favorite, a professional juggler.  


                  Charles Peachock – World Class Juggling Super Star – 2016
                • Swimming – Our ship had a kid pool area, a family pool area, and an adult only area.  We found that if we went swimming in the evening before dinner we often got the pool to ourselves.  They have a waterslide and pool side treats.  All included in the cost of the cruise.  
                  The Kid Pool on the Disney Wonder. – 2016


                  The adults only section of the pool.  Downside.  It was always crowded.  – 2016


                  They have a 24 hour beverage bar by the pool stocked with soda, hot chocolate, and teas. -2016
                  Waterslide Time. -2016
                  My kids called this the Kid Hot Tub. -2016


                  See that! That’s my kids in the kid pool all by themselves. – 2016

                • Oceaneer’s Club and Oceaneer’s Lab Kid Programs – For ages 3-17 they have youth programming on the ship.  We have a five year old and a seven year old, so they were able to participate in both the Oceaneer’s Club and the Oceaneer’s Lab.  You register your child and they give them a bracelet to wear for the length of the cruise.  You can give them check in and check out privileges if they are older.  We told our seven year old daughter that they could have the staff message us on our wave phones when they wanted to be picked up.  The kids definitely had a great time in their programming.  They have several different events listed in the Personal Navigator or on the app to help you plan your kiddos’ days.  While they are off enjoying the program’s activities, you can enjoy some adult programming as well.  

                  In the club they have a huge pirate
                  themed play structure. -2016
                  They have an open house for the parents, so we could check out the area. -2016

                  The lab has video games, science experiments, and cooking classes.  -2016

                  My daughter at the lab. -2016

                • And much, much more!!!  Check out the other activities you can do on the ship through pictures.  
                  They have an arcade.  Not free, but fun. -2016


                  Character Meet and Greets for much shorter waits than at the Disney Parks. -2016


                  Opportunities to mimic you favorite Disney Characters.  -2016


                  They have tons of board games around the bars and lounges.  We snuck in a heated game of Scrabble. -2016


                  Pirates IN the Caribbean deck parties with stunt and fireworks shows. -2016  


                  Character Breakfasts. -2016


                  Playing shuffleboard is a must on any cruise you go on.-2016  
                  Plenty of hidden Mickeys to find around the ship.-2016
              • Snorkeling- We are a huge fan of snorkeling.  It is such a cool way to see wildlife and it is so relaxing as well.  My husband and I would love to get our diving certificates too, but we aren’t quite there yet.  Meanwhile, snorkeling keeps us happy.  Here is where we snorkeled on this particular trip.  
                • St. Thomas, Coki Point Beach – We have actually been here before and had a fantastic experience, so we wanted to go back.  Especially since we were teaching our 5 year old and our 7 year old how to snorkel for the first time.  We love how protected the cove is.  There are very small waves.  The reefs are in shallow water and they are easy to get to.  It is busy when cruise ships are in port, but it wasn’t too bad.  It was about a 20 minute taxi drive to Coki Point and we got a spectacular view of the island while driving there.  One more thing to note:  The taxi is basically some benches welded to the back of a truck bed.  It was a little scary, but still a fun adventure.  We noticed that the expensive shore excursions from the boat were taking the same type of taxi, so it was still worth doing it on our own.  


              We got a clear view snorkel boat for the kids on Amazon. -2016


              Success, our kids loved snorkeling. -2016


              We got kid sized snorkel kits at Target before we left. -2016


              Checking out the fish. -2016




              Cool coral formations. -2016


              Parrot Fish. Up close and personal. -2016


              Look at all the fish. Woohoo! -2016

                • Tortola, Brewer’s Bay – Again, we took about a 20 minute taxi to the secluded bay.  This time we were in an enclosed taxi van with seat belts, but it was filled to the brim with passengers and he said the kids had to sit on a lap to a get a discount.  The drive down to the bay was a single road and it was an amazing sight to see, but again a little scary.  We could see the blue, clear water from the bay below and it looked fantastic. When we got there, we noticed the waves were a little rougher than Coki Point.  Still small compared to non protected bays, but it definitely affected our ability to see as much while snorkeling.  This was more of a play in the sand, swim, and sun type beach.  We had a blast though.  
                  Jungle Beach – 2016

                  Had to make this one extra big, so you could see how secluded and beautiful Brewer’s Bay was. -2016

                  Getting ready to snorkel.

                  Adventure awaits. 

              • San Juan Castillos – We had one day to explore Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We dropped off our luggage to the hotel, got some info from the front desk person, and were on our way.  We had no idea how close the hotel was to San Juan Castillos.  The Castillos are old fortresses that were built in the 1600s to keep out armies from trying to attack the port of San Juan.  The fortress was even used in World War II to spy on enemy submarines.  It is pretty much the oldest architecture I have ever seen and it was so beautiful and cool.  It is a must see if you ever visit Puerto Rico.  We took a free shuttle to the other castillo and when we were done took the shuttle back to our hotel.  
                The tunnels of the Castillo San Cristobal. -2016
                The front of Castillo San Felipe del Morro -2016

                Pretty warm for a January day, but well worth the trip. – 2016

                The lighthouse was added later.  -2016

                A lookout with a view. -2016

                In the courtyard.  One of our kiddos was a little tuckered out. -2016



                Trip Eats


                • Waffle House- Austin, TX – I don’t know if you have ever been to a Waffle House, but this was quite a step up from a normal 24 hour diner.  The strawberry waffles with buttery hashbrowns satiated our late night cravings.  
                • Disney Cruise Dining – So we did most of our dining on the Disney Cruise.  You can basically eat all you want, all day long, all night long, and it is all included in the cost of your cruise fare.  Here are some of the highlights that the Disney Wonder has to offer.
                  • Parrot’s Cay – When you enter your stateroom the first day, there are tickets telling you what dining rotation you are on for the evening dinners.  Don’t miss these dinners. These are five course meals with the creme de la creme of food.  You get to pick from a special themed menu each night.  Your servers are happy to give recommendations.  Vicki and Jimmy were our servers for the week and they treated us like royalty.  We couldn’t get enough of them.  Our first evening we ate in one of the three dining establishments called Parrot’s Cay.  It is a tropical themed dining experience.  Also, every night they have a special kid’s menu for the kids, so they enjoy the dinner as much as you do.  The first night was a Caribbean themed menu.  Yum. 
                    The lobby of Parrot’s Cay on the Disney Wonder -2016
                  • Triton’s – The next night we ate in Triton’s.  The restaurant has beautiful architecture and has a fancier feel then the other two restaurants.  The 2nd night was a French themed cuisine.  And yes our fantastic server Vicki brought out plenty of Escargot for the table to try.  The Creme Brulee was my favorite dish of the night. We also ate a couple of sit down lunches in this restaurant as well.  
                    The holy grail of menus. With my inlaws happily ready to order. – 2016

                    They do have one formal night on the cruise.  This is as formal as we get. -2016

                    My favorite dessert ever.  Creme Brulee. -2016

                    Our beloved servers for the week…Jimmy and Vicki.  Request them if you are ever on the Disney Wonder.  You won’t be disappointed.  -2016
                    The ceiling at Triton’s had 2 giant hidden Mickeys. –  2016
                  • Animator’s Palette – This restaurant is our favorite because it is a built-in show and restaurant.  At the beginning of the meal, everything is decorated in black and white, but by dessert the restaurant is full of color.  Even the servers change their clothes mid-dinner to add to the splendor. 
                    Our kidlets at Animator’s Palette. – 2016

                    The restaurant changing form black and white to color. – 2016

                    The servers always do a fun little show every night.  As you can tell from this pic we were the loudest, most excited table.  – 2016
                  • Other Eats Around the Ship – The Beach Blanket Buffet is always a good option.  They have a fantastic selection, and I’m not much of buffet person.  They had sandwich bars, taco bars, and soup bars.  It was fun.  Pinocchio’s Pizzeria is open until midnight.  They pretty much serve really great tasting pizza all day and all night long.  An added bonus here is they serve cheese stuffed pretzels and soft salted pretzels that taste just like the ones in the park.  We may have had MANY helpings of that.  Goofy’s Galley offers some healthier options like salads, wraps, and fruit.  They have a soft serve ice cream machine.  There is also a fast food place where you can get burgers, chicken fingers, fries, and more.  I am addicted to Disney chicken fingers.  How do they make it taste so good?  
                    These are the best chicken fingers you will ever lay your taste buds on. -2016

                    Ice Cream Party – 2016

                    Cobb Salad for a sit down lunch at Triton’s.

                    Cheese stuffed pretzels poolside. 
                • Cafe Puerto Rico – The hotel recommended we try this little gem when we were in Old San Juan.  It was a great choice.  They sat our party of 8 immediately and took really good care of us.  I had a skirt steak Mofongo, a Puerto Rican specialty with rice and salad.  It was right in the middle of the downtown area and exits out to the cobblestone streets.  

                Of course this was the vacation of a lifetime and isn’t something we can afford to do over and over again, BUT I highly recommend you scour the internet for deals on Disney Cruises like I did because it is pretty much the most glamorous, relaxing, and luxurious vacation this little family has ever taken.  Money well spent.  

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                Trip Links


                https://www.google.com/flights/
                http://www.nps.gov/saju/index.htm
                https://www.travelocity.com/
                https://disneycruise.disney.go.com/
                http://www.booking.com/