Monday, April 28, 2014

Passporter's Walt Disney World Travel Guide {Review & Giveaway}

Several years ago I won a Passporter's Walt Disney World Travel Guide through a blog giveaway.  I have thoroughly loved this book and have used it as a resource in planning all our WDW trips since 2009.  But Walt Disney World has changed A LOT since 2009!  Fantasyland has expanded, new resorts have opened, attractions have closed, prices have increased and events have changed.  I realized it was time for an updated Passporter!

Since we are in the middle of planning our next trip, I thought it would be the perfect time to offer a review and giveaway of the 2014 Passporter's Walt Disney World Travel Guide on A Disney Mom's Thoughts.

When I received my book I was impressed by the size, durability, organization and content.  This guidebook has 350 pages of information, tips, maps, photographs and planning tools.  The spiral bound pages allow readers to keep the book flat or fold it back to read one page at a time.  None of my other Disney planning books allow this.  The thick, glossy cover includes a large rubber band and external flap to cover 4 of the 6 sides to this book.  The top and bottom are still exposed.  This book covers 8 areas: Planning, Getting There, Staying in Style, Touring, Feasting, Making Magic, Index and Notes & More.

The organization aspects of this book are what impressed me most.  On each page of the Passporter's Guide, you will find vertical tabs to show you which part of the book you are using.  Along the top, you can see the chapter and topic (Chapter 5: Feasting and Snacking, Topic: Epcot Eateries).   Each park has a beautiful fold out map that are bound into the spiral part and are made of a thicker card stock paper.  
For each of the parks, the rides/ attractions are grouped by the land where they are located.  Each attraction is color coded by the target audience: Thrill Seekers, Family Friendly, Loved by Little Kids and Everything Else.  I like that I can see the type of attraction at a glance based on color.  Next to each description, you can also see Passporter's age appropriate ratings, the height requirement, the thrill factor, average wait time and duration of the ride.   
For each resort review you will find 4 pages describing the ambience, resort layout & rooms, eating & drinking, playing & relaxing, getting about, tips, notes, ratings, resort map, best locations, room rates and contact info.  What I like the best are the photos, maps of the resort and floor plans, the travel time chart from the resort to each park, and the tips!     
The organizing tools to help you plan your vacation add a nice touch to this book.  At the end of each major section of this book you will find worksheets for making notes to help plan your vacation.  These tools allow for you to make decisions and alternate plans if needed.  Some of the worksheets include a budget, travel plans and packing lists, lodging and compare/ contrast tables, touring parks planning, meal reservations and reservation numbers.  These worksheets help you organize your thoughts, decisions, and reservations all in one place.  
  
In addition to the planning worksheets you use while preparing for your trip, Passporter also includes "PassPockets" in the back of the book where you can continue to make notes, once you arrive at Walt Disney World.  You can write your final plans, memories, thoughts and notes while on vacation.  You can also keep your tickets, maps, coupons, and other paper memories in the pockets which are divided by day of your trip.  Think of these "PassPockets" as a journal, scrapbook, or a vacation slam book.  You can also use the included stickers and labels to further customize your PassPorter.  

Not only does PassPorter provide a great planning tool for your future Walt Disney World vacation, they also have an incredible online presence.  You can register your PassPorter and find additional material at PassPorter.com.  You will be able to find free material as well as e-books that won't break the bank.  There is also an active online community to further help you plan your perfect vacation!  

Now, I'd like to offer you the opportunity to win your own copy of PassPorter's Walt Disney World Travel Guide!  Follow the Rafflecopter form below to enter!  Good Luck.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Disney's Port Orleans Resort- French Quarter Review

My husband and I stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter on our "no kids allowed" trip in February of 2012.  We stayed a week and had a lovely time.  Being "southern" and having spent quite a bit of time in New Orleans, we both loved the charm of this resort.  We both honestly felt like we were strolling the streets of New Orleans.  
This resort opened as Disney's Port Orleans Resort in May of 1991.  The sister resort, Disney's Dixie Landings Resort opened in June of 1992.  In 2001, these two resorts merged into the new Port Orleans Resort consisting of French Quarter and Riverside.  Disney's French Quarter has 1,008 rooms in seven 3 story buildings.  The buildings are divided between the South Quarter and North Quarter.  
Each room at Port Orleans has two queen beds with some rooms offering King size beds.  These rooms are a good size for a family of 4 at 314 square feet.  Along with the bed(s), each room has a dresser with a flat screen TV, a small table with 2 chairs, a night stand, a refrigerator, safe, coffee maker and free WiFi.  Each room has a separate vanity area with double sinks and a bathtub with shower head and a toilet off the vanity area.  
  
Guests can choose between a standard view, garden view or water view room.  Standard rooms will get a view of parking lots.  Garden view rooms open to the "streets" throughout the resort.  The water view rooms will have a view of the Sassagoula River. 
The lobby is the "Mint House" which was based on a turn of the 20th century mint.  You can check in here, shop in the gift shop, eat at the food court or play in the arcade.  The check in desks are designed as a bank teller window as a nod to the mint.  If you read music, you'll notice the music notes mural behind the desk are the notes to "When the Saints Go Marching In."  

The Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory is the food court and the only place at French Quarter to get food.  Here you can choose between several "New Orleans" style items here such as gumbo, chicken with red beans and rice, beignets and other Creole dishes.  You can also find burgers, pizza, ice cream and baked goods.  The food court is in a warehouse setting complete with Mardi Gras parade props.  
Along with the arcade located in the lobby area guests can swim at the Doubloon Lagoon.  This pool is built around a sea serpent and the pools slide is the tongue of the serpent.  There is a whirlpool near the pool and guests are invited to also swim at Riverside.  The gift shop, Jackson Square Gifts & Desires has Disney merchandise, clothing and sundries.  All French Quarter guests are invited to visit Riverside Resort to rent bikes and surrey bikes, pedal boats, kayaks, canoes, Sea Racers and more.  Carriage Rides are available and chartered fishing excursions are also available.  

At Port Orleans, we loved the size of the resort.  It was large enough to take a nice walk through the buildings, but not so large we felt lost.  No matter which building you stay in, you are just a short walk to the food court, pool and bus stop.  The theming of the resort was also a plus for us "southerners."  We loved the bright Mardi Gras theme at the pool and Mint House and the New Orleans garden district themed buildings were perfect.  One of our favorite parts of this resort was the river boat ride down the Sassagoula River

One thing in particular we didn't like about this resort was the noise in our room.  We couldn't hear the noise outside our room in the courtyards, but we could hear our neighbors very clearly.  We could hear the TV, the conversations and the toilets flushing.  It seems like some extra insulation might be needed!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Walt Disney World Freebie Friday: Yehaa Bob

If you ever stay at Disney's Port Orleans Resort, you MUST visit Yehaa Bob Jackson!  Yehaa Bob performs 2 FREE shows each night Wednesday through Saturday starting at 8:30 at the River Roost Lounge.  Don't let the fact that this show is in a "Lounge" or bar keep your family from attending.  It was great family entertainment and I look forward to taking my 2 & 5 year old boys on our next trip.  Yehaa Bob sings oldies, Disney, show tunes, classics, kid songs and more.  He plays his own instruments and gets the entire audience engaged in the songs.  He even had my husband up and "dancing!"  Amazing.

Check out Yehaa Bob's web site complete with his performance schedule! 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Replacing A Damaged Disney DVD or Blu-ray

Did you know Disney will replace a damaged or broken DVD or Blu-ray?  If you accidentally break your disc, you can pay $6.95 (DVD) or $8.95 (Blu-ray) and get a replacement!   All you have to do is complete the Disc Replacement Form and mail it along with the damaged disc and a check or money order to WDSHE Consumer Relations in Neenah, WI.  In Canada, you need to mail yours to Fort Erie, On.

You can watch a video, download the replacement form and get the full addresses at the Disney Studios Help web site!   

Have you ever replaced one of your discs?  I'd love to hear about your experience!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Animal Kingdom Attractions: It's Tough to be a Bug!


It's Tough to be a Bug! at Animal Kingdom is another great 3D experience at Walt Disney World.  Located in the Tree of Life is a 430 seat theatre where you can experience life as a bug with Flik and Hopper from A Bug's Life.  Guests are asked to wear their 3D bug glasses as the attraction begins.  This attraction is a spinoff from the movie "A Bug's Life."  In this 8 minute 3D movie, you'll experience all kinds of buggy sights, sounds, smells and feelings!  

As you approach It's Tough to be a Bug! you will meander through the roots of the Tree of Life.  Take your time in the queue.  There are over 300 different animals carved into the trunk and roots of the tree that are amazing!  As you enter the lobby of the theatre, under the roots, explore the hilarious movie posters on the wall starring your favorite bugs.  

Tips:

  • It's Tough to Be a Bug! is a very intense attraction with many special effects that may scare children or those with bug phobias!   The theatre is also dark and loud.
  • Cast members are available to park, but not watch, guests strollers... so take any valuables with you.
  • FastPass+ is available, but there is rarely a wait longer than 30 minutes.  You may want to save your FastPass for another attraction! 
  • The theatre is wheelchair accessible.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dispatch from Disneyland {Book Review}

image from dispatchfromdisneyland.com 
Back in March, I shared a press release for a new Disneyland book~ Dispatch from Disneyland: Stories and Essays from the Happiest Place on Earth.  The author, John Frost, was gracious enough to send me a digital copy to review on my blog.  

I've spent the past month reading these stories and essays each day.  All of these stories are easy to read and very entertaining.  As I read, I could picture myself in the story walking down Main Street, sitting on a park bench or interacting with a character.  They are beautifully written and each story left me wanting to read another!  All of the stories are between 2-5 pages long.  

My favorite story, by far, was the Esmeralda story.  I don't want to give anything away, but anyone who is a fan of Disney magic and Disney characters needs to read this story in particular!  Amazing.  I also loved the "Elements of Magic" in the Addenda part of the book.  These are "stories that make up the elements of the magic kingdom that is Disneyland." Fifteen different buildings and attractions at the park are included in these stories.  These are like "hidden secrets" of Disneyland in my mind.  

Along with the great writing and stories, you will find beautiful photographs throughout the book.   There are 107 pages that hold 17 "Dispatches", 8 "Essays" and 4 "Addendas."    

I believe anyone who is a Disney fan, whether you have been to Disneyland or not, will enjoy these stories in this book.  It's always nice to read about Disney Magical Moments, even if they didn't happen to you!

If you are interested in purchasing your own copy of "Dispatch from Disneyland" visit John's web site with the same name.  The PDF digital copy is $9.95 and the paper version from Amazon is $9.86 with the Kindle version only $4.99. 



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mickey Mouse Pretzel in Frontierland

I have a long list of favorite snacks and foods from Walt Disney World.  Most of my favorites seem to be shaped like Mickey Mouse.  On our last trip, we made at least three trips to the pretzel cart in Frontierland, across from the Diamond Horseshoe in Magic Kingdom.  There was something special about these Mickey shaped treats!
At this cart you can find my favorite, Mickey Pretzels, for $4.50.  You can also get a churro here.  While I do love a good churro, I haven't had one from this location before.  These will cost you $3.75.  A tad cheaper, but not as good and definitely not Mickey shaped!  In addition to the churro and pretzel, you can get chocolate dipper or cheese sauce for $1.00.  There are also beverages at this location: bottled water, bottled soft drinks, smartwater and drink accessories (toppers and straps).

Have you had a Mickey Pretzel from Frontierland before?  What did you think?  Do you eat it plain, with cheese sauce, with mustard or another creative way?  I'd love to hear in the comments!!

Animal Kingdom Attractions: Discovery Island Trails

I'll be honest.  This is an attraction I haven't spent enough time exploring.  The Discovery Island Trails at Animal Kingdom opened when the park did in 1998.  Originally these trails were called the Tree of Life Gardens, then changed to Discovery Island Gardens, and now they are Discovery Island Trails.  

These self guided walking trails surround the Tree of Life.  While on the trails, guests can see the 300 carved animals in the Tree of Life up close.  Live animals can also been seen off the trails in the vegetation and grass.  You may see deer, kangaroos, flamingos, porcupines, tortoises, exotic birds and more.  While you are looking at the animals you will also walk through caves, over bridges and along paths.  

Tips:
  • Visit the Discovery Island Trails at the beginning of the day.  While other guests are rushing to Kilimanjaro Safari or Expedition Everest and you can be enjoying the trails all to yourself!
  • Guests may stay in wheelchairs and ECVs.
  • Like always, keep your camera out!  You never know what cool animals will come out to visit. 
  • If your children are in strollers, this is a nice, quiet place for them to take a nap while you stroll through the trails. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tips for a Relaxing Walt Disney World Vacation

Honestly, I wouldn't plan on a relaxing vacation if I were traveling with my boys!  It seems like those trips are all hustle and bustle!  But, if I were traveling with adult friends or my husband, I would definitely want a more relaxed vacation!

Here are a few tips for helping make a Walt Disney World vacation somewhat relaxing. 


  • Consider staying off property.  I know, this goes against everything I've always said about a Disney vacation!  I LOVE staying on property, but staying a few miles from Disney may allow you to get a cheaper room, a full sized house with a pool or more amenities.  It also allows you to get away from the characters and fanfare- which for some people is needed (not me though!).  There are several relaxing hotels in the Orlando/ Disney area that offer spa treatments, lazy river rides, nature hikes and more.
  • Split your vacation between Walt Disney World and the beach.  It's only a 2 hour drive to Tampa/ St Pete on the Gulf or just over an hour to the Atlantic coast where you can visit Cocoa or Daytona Beach.
  • Choose only 2 of the 4 parks to visit (based on your families interests and kids ages) and get there at park opening to get the most out of your stay.  Spend the other days on the golf course, at the spa, at the resort pool or walking the grounds.
  • Make dining reservations at restaurants that aren't so busy and noisy.  The Crystal Palace, Garden Grill or Tusker House would be good eats with characters and less crowds.
  • If your schedule allows it, consider visiting in late summer or fall when rates and crowds are lowest.  It won't be as congested and busy, which makes me feel more relaxed! :)
Love Our Disney

Monday, April 14, 2014

Birds Eye Kid Friendly Veggie Dishes Link Up {Giveaway}

With spring here and summer right around the corner, we are finding our family outside more and more.  Being outside means more grilling out and eating on the back patio.  When I think of summer eating, grilling out and eating on the patio, I naturally think of fruits and vegetables.  The only problem with this is my kids aren't the best veggie eaters. :(

I've looked on the Birds Eye web site and have found three options that my kids may eat.  I'm sharing the recipe for my favorite!

image from Birds Eye

  • 1 can (16 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bag (12 oz) Steamfresh® Super Sweet Corn, cooked according to package directions and cooled
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Season with Tabasco sauce and salt to taste.
  2. Cover and chill for up to 1 hour before serving.
  3. Serve with baked whole grain tortilla or pita chips.
2) Purple Berry 'N Broccoli Smoothie
image from Birds Eye
image from  Birds Eye
Can you help me?  Can you create and share your own healthy and kid-friendly veggie dishes?   

The first THREE bloggers to link up a post showing their favorite Kid Friendly Veggie Dishes in the linky below OR comment with the recipe will get a Free coupon for (1) Birds Eye item (up to $3.49 max value) mailed to your house!






Sunday, April 13, 2014

Animal Kingdom Attractions: The Oasis

Some people might argue with me that "The Oasis" at Disney's Animal Kingdom is not an attraction.  But, I think it is!  When you enter this park, you can't get to any of the park's lands without traveling through the Oasis.  This area literally sets the stage for your day in Animal Kingdom and helps you transition from "out there" to "in here."  

Here you will find waterfalls, streams, beautiful plants, habitats, animals and trails.  You are literally in a tropical oasis.  You can find all sorts of animals here, if you keep your eyes open and aren't too rushed to make your way to Expedition Everest or Kilimanjaro Safaris!  Look out for deer, iguanas, anteaters, and birds of all kinds.  

When you enter the Oasis, you have several options.  You can travel towards the Tree of Life and Discovery Island.  You can take your time and look at the birds and animals.  Or you can slow down even more and look at the birds, animals, plants and flowers. 

Tips:

  • No matter which path you choose in the Oasis, they all end at the same place, the bridge to Discovery Island and the Tree of Life.
  • If you choose the path to the left, chances are you will find the one that is less crowded.  This is true for opening and closing- go left!
  • Wes Palm, a roving palm tree, has been spotted at the Oasis in the past!
  • Have your camera ready even if you are trying to get through the Oasis in a hurry.  You never know when that Macaw will pose for the perfect picture!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Walt Disney World Freebie Friday: Sassagoula River Cruise

One of the free things we enjoyed while we were staying at Port Orleans French Quarter was the Sassagoula River Cruise.  This is water taxi service connecting the Port Orleans Resorts to Downtown Disney Marketplace.  The 2½ mile waterway travels from Port Orleans Riverside to Port Orleans French Quarter to Downtown Disney Marketplace and back to the French Quarter and Riverside Resorts.  On the route you will pass through woods, the Treehouse Villas, Saratoga Springs Resort and on to Lake Buena Vista and the Downtown Disney district.  It's a great, leisurely ride through parts of Walt Disney World that you may not see if you aren't on this cruise.
   

The Ferryboats are all named with a Southern Charm!  Some of the creative names are: 
  • Sassagoula Sunset
  • Bayou Princess
  • Magnolia Blossom
  • Delta Lady
  • Azalea Bloom
  • Southern Breeze
The Ferryboat leaves every 20 minutes traveling from the Port Orleans Resorts to Downtown Disney Marketplace from 10am - 4pm, and every 10 minutes from 4pm - 11pm.  The final departure time from the resorts is 11:00pm.  The final departure time from Downtown Disney Marketplace dock is 11:30pm.  

When you are leaving Downtown Disney, pay attention to the departure docks.  The Port Orleans
 “Sassagoula River Cruise” service departs from the Downtown Disney Marketplace dock next to the Rainforest Cafe.   The services for Old Key West and Saratoga Springs operate from the dock behind Paradiso 37 on Pleasure Island.  Downtown Disney also has an internal shuttle boat service that runs between West Side, Pleasure Island and Marketplace.

The boat service will cease operating if there are lightening storms or if the water levels are too high.  Pay attention to the local weather conditions and water conditions.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

#MagicalBlogorail Green: Bob and Helen Parr


Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Green. Enjoy the ride as we share our ideal Disney couple or the couple we relate to the most.

There are so many fabulous Disney couples out there.  I have a lot of favorites based on story line, a happy ending, a great scene or just because "I like them!"  But when I started thinking about who I related to the most, it got a bit harder.  I thought about several couples and even looked back at the Magical Blogorail's Favorite Disney Couples Series.  But it wasn't until I looked through our collection of Disney movies that I realized which couple I related to the most...
Bob and Helen Parr 
also known as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl.

In the movie, The Incredibles, Bob and Helen fell in love when they were "practicing" Superheroes.  Soon after they were married, the US Government outlawed "Supers" and it was illegal for Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl to be Superheroes.   This resulted in them being regular US citizens known as Bob and Helen Parr.  Bob worked as an insurance salesman while Helen stayed home with their three kids, Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack.  By the end of the movie, Bob and Helen are able to be Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl again, along with their children possessing their 
own superpowers: Violet can produce force-fields and become invisible, Dash has the ability to run as fast as lightning, and Jack-Jack can transform into other things such as fire, lead and monsters.

When looking at this family's superpowers, I can totally relate!   Here is a quote from the Pixar web site
"The Parr family's superpowers were based on their personalities.  As a dad, Bob had to be the strong one.  Mom Helen had to handle being pulled in all directions.  Violet, the insecure teen, doesn't want people to look at her.  Dash represents a typical hyperactive boy.  And baby Jack-Jack is all about undiscovered potential."
I know most dads try to be the "strong one."  That is true at our house.  Most moms feel they are being pulled in all directions- true again.  As for the kids, our 13 year old, JAG, is not insecure, but few teens want too much attention on them.  C-man is very full of energy, like Dash, but not quite hyperactive.  And yes, Big E is still a toddler and his potential is being discovered daily!  

While the Parr's have problems, like every couple or family in real life, they still place a huge importance on family.  In The Incredibles, Bob finally realizes after almost losing his family, that his real source of power comes from his extraordinary family.  My family is the most important thing on this Earth to me.  My husband and kids are my daily source of power and the things that keep me going day to day.  

At the end of the movie, there is a dialog between Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl.  Bob, Mr. Incredible, wants Helen, Elastigirl, to wait with the kids and stay hidden while he goes in to fight the bad guy.  Elasitgirl's response is, "And I'm telling you, not a chance.  You're my husband.  I'm with you... for better or worse."   After some arguing, Mr. Incredible finally admits he doesn't want his wife or family to help him fight because he's not strong enough to handle the pain of losing his family.  Her response is, "If we work together, you won't have to be."  

I love this dialog!  It's so true.  When couples or families work together for better or worse, you don't have to be "strong enough."  It's this reminder from Bob and Helen that makes me relate to them the most.  Our relationship is about working together, being a team and sticking with it for better or worse!  

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Heidi's Head.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:


2nd Stop ~ Heidi's Head
3rd Stop ~ DISTherapy
4th Stop ~ Return to Disney

Walt Disney World Secrets Gold App {Giveaway}


A few months ago I reviewed the Walt Disney World Secrets Gold App from TimeStream Software.  Like I said then, this app quickly became a new favorite of mine!  I like to believe I know a bit about Walt Disney World.  I'm always telling my family or my youth at church some random tidbit about the park or attractions or resorts.  Just Sunday I was telling the youth about how magnets were used to make the Peoplemover move.  The response was, "Of course you knew that!" 

I'll NEVER know or even pretend to know all there is to know about Walt Disney World.  I also will never stop learning about this magical place.  That's where this app comes in!!  In the first few minutes of using this app, I was already learning new things.  As I was reading through these "secrets" in the app, I was taking screenshot after screenshot so I wouldn't forget what I had learned!

In addition to Walt Disney World Secrets Gold, they also offer the Disneyland Secrets Gold!  While the WDW Secrets Gold is awesome, the Disneyland title is possibly even better simply because of the history of the park and what Walt Disney went through to create it.  If you are heading to California to visit Disneyland soon, you'll want to check out the Disneyland version! 

Now it's your turn!  You too can have your own copy of Walt Disney World Secrets Gold from TimeStream Software in this giveaway.  We will be giving away FIVE copies of this app to five different winners.  All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter entry form below!  Good Luck!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

And did you know while you wait to see if you are the winner of this app, you can head to iTunes and download two FREE Disney apps from TimeStream Software?  
Right now, you can download Main Street Windows to learn about the history behind all the names on the Windows lining Main Street USA for FREE!  
While you are there, download Walt Disney World Phone Numbers for FREE as well!  This app will provide you with over 150 phone numbers for places on WDW property.  These numbers will come in handy while you are planning your vacation and while you are there!  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Disney Wordless Wednesday: Retro #DisneySide

Back in 1991, my youngest brother loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  So when we found them at Disney's MGM Studios, Mark was quite pleased!  I'm still not sure why they were there though... can you help me out?  What was the connection to Disney?




Focused on the Magic