Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Value Resort: All Star Sports

Contact me at dillontravels@gmail.com for questions and no obligation quotes.



Disney World has 4 Value resorts: Pop Century, All Star Movies, All Star Music and All Star Sports. Technically Art of Animation is a fifth value resort....BUT most of it is suites that cost more than two value rooms so it's hard to classify it as a value resort.  As part of a group Cheer Competition, I recently stayed at All Star Sports Resort. All Star Sports has six themed areas after five sports: Baseball, Football, Surfing, Tennis, Basketball.  As always you can request an area but it will not be guaranteed. Preferred area closest to food court and main pool would be a slightly higher cost and that area is the Surfing area.




The rooms are identical to all value level resorts. There are two double beds, a shower with toilet and a side area with a single sink. It is a very small room and definitely one where you get what you pay for as far as amenities and space. It is clean and on the Disney Busing system but there are no "extras" as far as proximity to parks or dining options.


 



The Football themed area has a large open area that kids tend to like and play on.


 

 The food court is similar to all Disney Value resorts. There are breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options throughout the day. There are $16 large single topping pizzas made to order which is the least expensive option. Breakfast was disappointing but that has been in the case at all value resorts for me.


I was surprised at the size of the food court and even though it was crowded with cheer girls we had no trouble finding a pretty quiet space close to the back. The photo above was at breakfast time when it was pretty busy.




 There is a refrigerated area of different options like fresh fruit, sandwiches and alcohol. There are drink self service areas. The refillable mugs are currently $17.99 or free with dining plan.
 



Apparently, some parents need alcohol to survive Disney :-)

The food court has toasters, microwaves and an assortment of jellies, honey and butter. So, bring food along if you have a car or use an "Uber" to go to a local store especially for breakfast.



Common areas are clean, nice and sports themed.



Check in is quick and simple but I still suggest online check in. The lines here moved quickly and we spoke with concierge for some help with fastpasses and we had a very friendly cast member.




Playground is nearly always empty and tucked away within the All Stars Resort.











Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Disney-What NOT to do!

I get a lot of questions on what to make sure and do at Disney.  People should ask what NOT to do because oftentimes that will make more of a headache for you then missing something.

  • When your kids are melting STOP! Do not continue, do not get in line, do not do MORE, just stop!
    • get them a snack in an air conditioned facility
    • go back to the hotel and swim or just call it a day and get to sleep.
    • it is okay to break your itinerary, you will be miserable if you try to make them last.
    • Remember, the exception is a scheduled table service. Those must be canceled 24 hours in advance. You can still try calling to cancel last minute and see if they will forego the $10 per person cancellation for being last minute. 1-407-939-3463 Disney Dining
  • Do NOT rely wholeheartedly on the My Disney Experience app. It has stopped working several times. PLEASE print your itinerary including dining times and your Fastpass+ times from My Disney Experience before you leave home. If you do not do this I will not be able to access it for you.
  • Do not put princess shoes on your princess!  If she is going to fight to wear them bring real shoes and socks in your backpack. You will be walking a lot and the princess will turn into Maleficent!
  • Do not cram so much into a day that everyone is scrambling and not really taking it all in.
  • Do not stand in the entry way to a park in complete awe while thousands of people pass you and get on rides.  All of that magnificence will be there after you take advantage of early hour ride times in the parks.
  • Do not miss opportunities for candid snapshots of your kids when they approach a character. Often the best pictures are before the posed picture when they are walking up to their favorite character.
My princess, Emma, meeting Cinderella. This is the picture before the posed photo.



Monday, October 3, 2016

Disney Springs

This is a free shopping and dining location on Disney property accessible by Disney bus from all resorts (and boat at Port Orleans or Saratoga Springs resorts). If you have a car on property you should ask for directions, it is often very quick to get to this location on your own. This is a great place to go if you have some time on day of arrival or departure. It is also a place we go when we don’t have park hopper passes on the evening we go to Animal Kingdom (since you get back early from that park). 

Everything you buy here can be sent back to your resort gift shop free. This helps you spend way too much without realizing it! Thanks, Disney, how thoughtful of you!  

A few times in extreme rain we have actually watched a movie over at Disney's Springs AMC theaters.

Shopping (There are all kinds of unique shops here.)
  • Disney’s Days of Christmas store is open year round and offers personalized Disney ornaments they will ship home for you (you will pay for shipping but the safety of your purchase is guaranteed). We usually buy a customized ornament every year here.

  • There is a neat art store, The Art of Disney, has Disney prints and original art for sale. 
  • Lego Imagination Store is fun for the lego lover and the rest of us. There are Lego creations of Disney characters. Look for the Lego play area for kids to design their own lego fun. Obviously, they are happy to sell you legos as well.


  • World of Disney is an enormous store that has all things available. Disney items for kitchens, bath, kids, adults, toys, jewelry, housewares and Disney HATS and MUGS. If you are dying to get your Disney hat this is the place to buy it. There is every conceivable, wacky and ridiculous hat available. 
  • In the past couple of years, Disney has revamped this entire area. They added a variety of boutique shops that will interest the old teens and young adults.  We (the girls-we left boys at the resort) spent hours there this past trip.
  • Disney Kitchen store: Mickey's Pantry
  • Vera Bradley
  • Disney Pin trading store
  • Lefty person's kiosk
  • AND a LOT of boutique stores!
  • The Art of Shaving store
  • Basin is a favorite stop for my girls and I, there's lots of smelly soaps to try and soften your hands as well!
Snacks at Downtown Disney
  • Goofy’s Candy Company has some interesting snacks including caramel apples, cupcakes, fudge and cookies.
  • Disney's Candy Cauldron is an excellent shop to find unique Disney treats. I like to stand in the window and watch them create their amazing caramel apples. I've never eaten one, I just like to see them.
  • Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop is not on the dining plan but has become a family favorite for us.  First, if you go in the small chocolate shop connected to the dining area they ALWAYS give away small squares of chocolate. My daughter and mother go in and out of this store multiple times in the same visit in fits of laughter about getting their free squares of chocolate!  The ice cream parlor is also great. My dad and I visit this and share an ice cream treat, one favorite is The Ocean Beach Sea Salt Caramel Sundae  Many have multiple scoops so we buy a huge one to share which is far less expensive as long as your good at 'holding your own' with a spoon! 





      Quick Service Meal Options
  •       Wolfgang Puck's Express: This is our favorite Quick Service location on all of Disney property...should I say that again, OUR FAVORITE!!!  This is a Quick Service meal and is one of the best values in Quick Service. We eat here at least once each trip and find items for everyone. Young kids will survive but may not find their favorites here (we don't care, they will survive one meal and our kids love the giant cookie for dessert here as well as refillable soda). This is sandwiched between The Christmas Store and Mickey's Pantry set back a bit and it is easy to miss.  You might want a few dollars to tip. You order at a counter but someone brings your food and offers refills.  The servings are large and very easy to share. We usually get the kids a cheese pizza, it's about the size of a traditional Medium pizza.  There is a rotisserie chicken meal that is fantastic and abundant.  My favorites here are the refillable Mango Tea and dessert options including creme brulee.

  •      Earl of Sandwich: This is a very inexpensive option if you want to dine off the dining plan or are running low on meal credits. These are excellent sandwiches and refillable drinks. HOWEVER, every time I attempt to eat here there is no seating and the line is out the door. In off season (winter or September) this is probably a great option. During busier times I don't bother waiting. My mom loves PLAIN food and often goes there while the rest of us order at Wolfgang's. This is a great stop late at night if you sneak out without your husband to shop!

Visiting the WORLD at EPCOT


Epcot is divided into two areas. You will first enter Future World then World Showcase.  

Future World always opens first and then World Showcase often opens 1-2 hours later. People sometimes complain that they think their kids will be bored at EPCOT. We have never had that problem. As long as you approach it like you would any family centered activity you should have a great time. You may need to slow down and take advantage of some teachable moments but their are tons of interactive and fun activities all around you!


Future World has the giant globe (Spaceship Earth) that is a family ride, Soarin, Mission Space and Innoventions.

World Showcase is divided into 11 countries. These include cultural experience, rides and restaurants authentic to those countries. The countries include: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada.

Occupying your young kids while walking around the countries of EPCOT is easy if you take advantage of the "Kidcot Stations".  Kidcot Stations at each country allow your child to decorate a free souvenir mask including the culture of that area. Children from 2-12 could find this interesting.  Each country has a stamp unique to it's country that they will stamp your mask with.  As my children got older they realized they could better personalize it by asking the cast member (that is almost always from the country you are visiting in EPCOT) to write their name on the mask in that language. They can also ask them questions about their homeland.  Most cast members in this area are college students here on a limited time visa through a college internship.




  • Another really neat family activity in World Showcase is to play the Disney Phineas and Ferb: Agent P's World Showcase Adventure. Check out Disney's info at: Phineas and Ferb Agent Ps World ShowcaseThis is an interactive adventure that takes you around the world showcase as a spy.  My kids have loved it and it is good from 5 years old-15!  Disney really thought this one through and it allows you to travel the showcase without as much whining from the kids.  There are many different adventures so if you want to do more than one adventure you can return to the station and get another one. The kids hold a handheld device like a phone that tells them where to go to solve a mystery. My daughter is hearing impaired and it is hard to hear it.  You might have to listen to it yourself to help younger children.
  • One drawback to this one is that often you have to share it to do it as a family. This means that one kid thinks they are in charge of everyone else. Once a mature child is about 12 and has a cell phone so they don't argue over who has the device or is "in charge", I would allow them to take off on their own while you explore EPCOT "adult side" if they want to.  They can choose to stay together or check out their own devices and go on separate adventures. As long as they can text you, they won't be far away. But it will send them bouncing from country to country so you are likely to want to take your time and go store by store...or brewery by brewery!  Your kids can really enjoy EPCOT and you can look at all the cultural action then meet back up for rides.
  • Test Track: This is a great ride and one that can be fastpassed. However, a big part of the fun is designing your car. You do this while in the stand by line. So if you fastpass you won't get to design the car. This process is 5-9 minutes long depending on the wait times.  Once again, arguing siblings...I separated mine and let them design their own and the adults just watched while they thought through the design process. Since I am daddy's girl I make sure I am with my dad since he's a mechanic...and he's pretty good at making the car go fast! ha!





  • My favorite snack item is the caramel store in Germany, Karamelle-Kuche. You can get caramel popcorn or chocolate covered sea salt caramel...yum! Another great snack option is in France at Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie.


  • Soarin’ is my favorite ride in all of EPCOT.  Another ride that is interesting and often overlooked is Living with the Land.  This ride shows you some of the interesting ways Disney is growing vegetables and farming fish (aquaculture). It is educational so the kids can whine a bit but the line is quick and they will survive!




  • Food is abundant since you are moving through the different countries.  You should already have your table service meals planned.
  • Most of the countries have a quick service meal as well. Most employees in all areas of each country are from the country they are working in.  Ask questions and look for all the cultural lessons to teach the kids.
  • Snacks are abundant, especially if you visit in September and October because that is the food and wine festival.  There are booths throughout EPCOT with items that only take a snack credit. You can eat your way through Disney. In fact, many have drank their way through as there are quite a few beers available from the different countries as well.
  • Club Cool in Future World is a place to serve yourself ‘coke products' from around the world.  There are flavors that are excellent and some you will be sorry you swallowed!  However, this is one of the only places you will find FREE soda!  The kids love it and it is nice in cool while hanging out in the air conditioning. Despite grandma's frugal attempt they won't let you fill your mug! You get small dixie cups.







Sunday, October 2, 2016

Packing for your Walt Disney World Trip



Each time we travel I hand each of my kids their own packing list. I know this sounds crazy but this really cuts down on the havoc in the house. I started this when they were about 7. When they are under 12...or immature, I have them lay everything out in outfits and I check it before it's in the luggage.

We bring cases of water in checked luggage because we fly Southwest. A bottle water is about $4 at Disney...my crew drinks over a case of water in a week.

So this is my list complete with all the items MY family needs. I have made notes of things you might want to add as well as things that are at Disney that you don’t need to pack. There is a pretty big store at every Disney Resort but obviously prices are silly.

I did not remove things to make it generic because I thought it might help you remember what all you need to pack for your family. We do laundry at Disney because it is right next to the pools and it allows us to bring less.

Each Person
Wear/take there on plane
4 shorts outfits

if flying you won't have access to bags immediately
6 underwear

bras

shorts outfit

6 socks

tennis shoes

2 pjs

sling bag for each tween or older (during trick or treat season)

1-2 bathing suit

cell phones

1 hoody

chargers

1 pair jeans

IPADS

deodorant

sunglasses

toothbrush

magic bands WITH you not packed

contact solution

licenses- check expiration date

contact case

cash-we use magic bands/cards so we bring very little cash. Maybe $200

extra contacts

credit cards

sunglasses/hats

hearing aid batteries

Hair bows

Provided in Disney Hotel
hair ties

shampoo
shoes/flip flops to go to pool

conditioner
soap
pool towels
Parents/Teens only

hair dryer
feminine hygiene

alarm clock

ear drops

ibuprofen

You may also consider
diarrhea meds

children's chewable meds
makeup

children's pepto bismal
hair brush

cortisone cream
hair moose

bandaids
Magic bands

thermometer
paperwork

wet wipes
ponchos $1 store

hand sanitizer
pins and lanyards

sippy cups
camera

dish detergent -for resort cups to wash them in your in room sink
memory card

bottle brush/sponge to clean refillable cup

Sharpie
hearing aid drier

cereal
insurance cards

snacks
laundry detergent and laundry bag

quarters for laundry

Anti-chafing cream for men

prescription meds

sunscreen

backpack for the park

baggies for cereal and large gallon size if you want somewhere to put phones and cameras on water rides.


Happy Packing! 

Controlling the GIMMES!

Controlling the ‘Gimmes’….you know the whining and fussing that your kids need every stuffed animal, tiara and piece of Disney magical plastic!

You have saved and planned for a magical (and expensive) trip don’t let the kids steal the fun by making you feel guilty at EVERY store that each ride dumps your family into! 

After purchasing far too many Buzz Lightyear light up spinning spaceships and Aurora Tiaras, here is my motherly advice!

  •  I never let my kids purchase anything in the first few days of the trip. You can find almost everything at other parks and Disney Springs, the only exception I can think of is Star Wars and Indiana Jones items at Hollywood Studios. Don't worry that you won't be able to find the same junk (I mean Disney merchandise) elsewhere later in the week if they are still begging for it.  SO, when they start begging on day one, you take a picture with your phone so they think you are listening to them and assure them that you will keep that in mind throughout the week but there will be many more must haves to come and you don’t want them to miss out on the much cooler items because the money is already gone.

(one of each, please)

  •  I would have a limit in mind. One item each child, $25/child or some amount.  Give them a Disney Gift Card and once it’s gone, you’re done!  Whatever is in your family’s budget and plans. Then STICK TO IT. Let them know their limit and help them to decide within that limi
  • The key is to put them off and remove them from the much needed Disney item covered in pixie dust!  Once you leave the store it will lose its hold on them. I mean, seriously, look at this theming:         
                                 

· 

  • Depending on the age of your children, we let ours bring a predetermined reasonable amount of their own money to buy beyond what we will spend.  We have been enough that they know begging and whining will get them nowhere!

  • Finally, Disney makes spending VERY EASY! With the new Magic Bands, a wave of your band across the scanner and your item is purchased with no effort at all.  It will be charged back to your room and placed on your credit card, how thoughtful of them! They will also deliver anything you purchase to the gift shop at your resort to pick up. So, go ahead and buy that princess a 4 foot teddy bear, they will have it waiting back at the resort!

(Note your family will not be this clean, picture perfect and happy)
  • Keep in mind, weapons from Indiana Jones will not be allowed in Carry-on.  We managed to buy a wooden 2 foot rifle one year and were grateful when it fit diagonally in our luggage, THINK before you purchase!
        

  • Purchase light up items at the $1 store to use at night at Disney so you are not tempted to buy their light up novelties.
  • Buy cute t-shirts at Target prior to going for  ½ the price. You can even pack them and bring them out during the trip as a surprise left by characters. 


Email with any questions: dillontravels@gmail.com