A Little Disney Magic

Disney World Tips and Tricks

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My Favorite Disney World Quick Service Meals

Favorite Quick Service Restaurants in Disney World

A little change of pace. While everything in my blog has a little bit of Melissa flair and is sometimes slightly biased of my likes and dislikes, this one is all about my favorite quick service  meals in Disney World. These vary by location, you can get a little taste of the things I really love in Disney World. These are typically places that we hit up every single time we go to Disney or places that I’m attempting to try everything on the menu. Instead of making a countdown, I’ll list them in order of location (partially because after Be Our Guest,  I just can’t choose an order!) This is perfect timing in light of FREE DINING expected to be released on Monday next week.

Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest. Disney’s newest and most popular restaurant in new Fantasyland. We were lucky enough to get a FastPass+ reservation for lunch. I know my husband well, and armed with some insider information from a coworker, I order our food ahead of time. We had 2 opportunities to make changes, but I didn’t feel the need. I ate the Croque-Monseiur and he had the Braised Pork. Both were delicious and I’d eat them again. The braised pork was something that could have been on a dinner menu at a table service restaurant. The plating and the quality were great. Ending with a cupcake was delicious as well. Four thumbs way up. We’ll definitely be going back here.

For information on snagging a reservation for lunch, check out FastPass+ for Be Our Guest.

Pecos Bill’s. Easy in, easy out, plenty of seating. A great resting place and a really yummy toppings bar. The toppings bar makes it even easier to share a counter service meal. I often order the taco salad and I forget it’s good but not my favorite thing. My husband tried the BBQ pork and the sweet BBQ sauce was right up my alley. It’s a great place to grab a quick bite to eat before an afternoon parade, it’s right on the beginning of the parade route.


La Canita de San Angel. By far this is my husband’s first choice of quick service restaurant in Epcot. He really loves the steak tacos. Thankfully it’s easily accessible once you hit world showcase as Mexico greets you as the first country in the line of many. I’ve had most of the items on this menu and the nachos and steak tacos are by far my two favorites. The churros with caramel sauce are a great dessert. Pair anything with a drink from Cava de Tequila right across the street, and you’re set! Nachos are definitely large enough to share. Tacos come with a large portion of chips, and 2 types of salsa are available at the condiment bar. sunshineseasons

Sunshine Seasons. Located in the Land Pavilion in Future World, there’s an extensive and different menu. There’s plenty of healthy options here too (healthy food on vacation? Preposterous!) There are some awesome desserts too! If you’re in Epcot during Extra Magic Hours in the evening, there is some limited service before or after hitting up Soarin’ with a short line. It’s also one of the few locations open for breakfast.

Hollywood Studios

Starring Rolls. While this is one of my favorite locations for a cupcake or a quick break at Hollywood Studios (and it’s especially perfect because it’s right in the middle of Toy Story Mania and Rock n Roller Coaster). This is also a great hidden gem of quick service locations. The sandwiches here are enormous and definitely large enough to share, especially if you pair it with a cupcake as your dessert. We like to just share one of the amazing cupcakes. We’re just short of trying all the varieties because we chose an adorable seasonal cupcake instead of the last one on the “to do” list of their regular menu. 

Animal Kingdom

Flame Tree BBQ. Not only is this my top choice for Animal Kingdom, but it’s one of my top choices in all of Disney. I’m not the biggest fan of BBQ, but I really love this place. For those looking to save a few dollars, try the chicken and ribs platter to share. This location both smells and tastes amazing. We didn’t make a stop at Animal Kingdom on our last, short trip, but I almost did just to eat there!

Yak & Yeti Counter Service. A quick taste of the table service without the extra cash or time of a sit down meal. The portions are definitely big enough to share if you’re not super hungry, but you may not want to because the food is so yummy. A late afternoon lunch could fill you for the rest of the day. There’s also a small amount of snack-worthy items here as well.

Downtown Disney

Earl of Sandwich. While this is a terrible use of a quick service dining credit, it’s a great out of pocket meal and a tasty one at that. The menu seems a bit overwhelming at first, but everyone who loves this place can’t be wrong! It’s not a must visit every time, but it’s a tasty meal and a good break from the heat or the rain while in Downtown Disney!

Wolfgang Puck Express. With some delicious Italian options including huge portions of pasta and amazing individual pizzas that really should be shared, I love this place! It’s a great place to have a 30-45 minute break in Downtown Disney. There’s not a ton of seating (or there wasn’t last time we visited), but it’s one of the best uses of quick service credits I can think of.


contempo-cafeContempo Cafe. I admit it. Once again, this location is chosen partially because of cupcakes, but it’s so delicious! The menu here is different from the standard burgers and chicken. Flatbreads and warm sandwiches and grab one of the huge cupcakes (to share or not to share, that is the question). This location is rarely crowded and there’s plenty of seating. It’s a great little break from Magic Kingdom: just a monorail ride away! Plus it gives you a chance to scope out a location for your next trip.

The Mara. Unless you are staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a trip to The Mara is a little out of the way, but two words: Zebra Domes. These delicious little pieces of heaven are worth every penny. The food here is also good for a quick service (I’ve only had lunch) but it’s tasty. Or have breakfast at Boma and take these tasty morsels to go (just be careful, they don’t keep well unless they are cold!)

Did I miss any of your favorites around Disney World? I haven’t tried everything yet, but these are definitely my top choices. Can’t wait to go back next year and try something else new!

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Interested in trying one of these delicious locations during your own Disney World vacation? Contact me any time for a free quote or use the form below. Using an authorized Disney travel planner is 100% free to you! Plus you’ll receive the gift of time (before, during, and after your vacation) as well as years of knowledge and experience. You’ve got nothing to lose but time waiting in line. In addition, you’ll receive some fun little things to get you excited for your vacation and you may be eligible to receive Magical Vacations specialized itinerary to help you get through the parks faster with less time waiting in line.

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Top things to add on to your Disney World vacation package

Add ons to your Magical Disney World Vacation

When booking a Disney World vacation, you have many different options to customize your experience. The most basic vacation would be a room only reservation which is exactly what it sounds like. A room reservation with no tickets. Adding base park tickets to your reservation makes it a package reservation.

Not all “add-ons” are created equal. Some require a package reservation, while others are available with or without a Disney World resort hotel reservation. Here’s a breakdown of each item, cost, explanation, as well my opinion on the value of worth.

Park Hopper Passes. This cost is variable based on a number of factors including number of days of park tickets, number of children and adults, and any active promotions (including free or discounted days of park tickets). This add on allows you to visit any and all 4 Disney World theme parks in one day. This is a great option no matter what kind of trip you want to have! This may be too much for those with kids under 5 (although some families love to park hop no matter what the age!)

Water Park Fun & More. This cost is also variable based on number of days of park tickets, number of children and adults, and if you are also included park hoppers. Without park hoppers, the cost of adding this option vs. one day of water park tickets is more costly. If you add park hoppers plus water park fun & more, you may get more for your money with the ability to visit both water parks, Disney Quest, golf, and mini golf. Unlike theme park tickets, these tickets are per use, not per day meaning you can take a day off from the parks to golf in the morning and visit a water park in the afternoon.photo 2(2)

Disney Dining Plan. This is another option that requires park tickets to add this to your Disney World package. Disney offers 5 different dining plans, however the three most popular are: Quick Service, Plus Dining, and Deluxe Dining. Cost is variable based on the dining plan you choose, any available discounts at the time, number of nights stayed, and number of guests in your room. For more on the the Disney Dining Plan, review Flavorful Friday. The dining plan will be coming to you FREE this fall! Click for more tips and tricks regarding Free Dining at Disney World.

Memory Maker. This amazing new add on does not require any sort of package or even a reservation to a Disney World resort. This can be ordered through a travel agent or from Disney’s web site. Guests staying offsite can order Memory Maker. Rather than scanning your MagicBand, you are given an RFID enabled card to store all of your vacation photos. The great thing about Memory Maker is that for the $149 advanced price ($199 if purchased after your arrival), you receive an unlimited number of photos uploaded to your account. You are instantly able to share with family and friends and able to download them all to save forever after your trip. For more on Memory Maker, check out what it’s all about as well as all the must take photo locations around Disney World.

Travel Insurance. Another option that doesn’t require a package reservation, but understandably, this is for Disney resort hotel guests only. Disney offers travel insurance for all guests staying in their resorts to recoup the cost of their likely very expensive vacation in case of unforeseen issues. The details are spelled out clearly as well as the coverage. I suggest travel insurance to everyone I work with, and although I’d guess only half the people I work with elect to keep it, it’s a peace of mind I like to have on my trips. Kids get sick, adults lose jobs, life happens, luggage gets lost. It’s better to have the opportunity to reschedule your vacation than lose some of your hard earned money! Cost is $75.95 per adult (children are at no cost).

BBBBibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. While this isn’t technically part if any Disney World package, it’s something to consider in your budget when making your reservation. BBB has 2 locations in Disney World: Cinderella’s Castle, and Downtown Disney. Both locations have Fairy Godmothers transform your child into the princess (or prince) they’ve dreamed of. Cost varies but starts at $54.95 (and goes well over $200 for the top of the line package). It’s an experience that is not forgotten. Plus, add more photos to your Memory Maker package with this one of a kind experience. Sessions take 30-60 minutes depending on the package you choose and the time of day you are scheduled.

Overall each add on feature has its pros and cons. My favorites are definitely Memory Maker and Park Hopper Passes. It’s something that I plan on adding to all of my vacations going forward based on the way we enjoy traveling. While each family is different and sometimes budgets put a cap on what you can do, it’s always nice to know your options!

Interested in planning your own Disney World vacation in 2014 or 2015? Contact me for a free quote or use the form below. Did you know working with an authorized Disney travel planner is 100% free to you? That’s right! FREE and no catch. The only thing you have to lose is time waiting in line as Magical Vacations provides you with an amazing itinerary to make your trip easy. Plus, I’m here to do all the hard work for you when it comes to the planning process. I listen to all of your thoughts about your vacation, really get to know your family to find the perfect resort and vacation package (all while staying within budget of course). Even if you already have a package, I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about an upcoming reservation. I hope to hear from you soon!

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Tips and Tricks for Snagging a Be Our Guest Reservation (including FastPass+)

Tips & Tricks for Getting a Be Our Guest Reservation

About Be Our Our Guest

Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom is the most popular restaurant in all of Disney World. Disney’s newest restaurant is available for both lunch and dinner. Dinner is table service while lunch is quick service which is a great opportunity to allow more guests to see this beautiful restaurant. Even with 550 seats, this dining experience is still the most difficult dinner reservation and can be over a 30 minute wait to get inside for lunch!

Located in new Fantasyland, Be Our Guest is inside Beast’s Castle. Split into three rooms, guests are able to choose from the dark West Wing, the large and spacious rose gallery, and the bright and airy Ballroom.

Hours of Be Our Guest are variable from the standard lunch and dinner. Lunch begins at 10:30 and runs from 2:15, however dinner starts at 4 pm and ends as late as 9:30 (for you fall and winter diners, be aware of special event nights and early park close as this will make the hours more variable).

Getting a reservationphoto 1(2)

While this is the toughest ticket in town, one way to almost guarantee yourself a reservation for dinner is to book your resort reservation before the 180 mark when dining reservations open up. You’ll also need to wake up at 6 am EST when the reservation window opens up online. It’s best to look for a reservation date later in your trip to increase your changes in finding an available slot. This is still no guarantee, but it’s your best shot. Didn’t get what you wanted? Keep checking back for cancellations. It’s luck, but it happens! I check 2-3 times per day at the most typical times people would be on their computers – first arriving at work, lunch, and after dinner. Sometimes for good measure if it’s close to a trip arrival, I check again around the time parents put their kiddos to bed (or shortly thereafter).

Since lunch is quick service, reservations are not accepted. However, Disney is trialing FastPass+ reservations. Similar to the attraction reservations that allow you to skip the line for Disney’s most popular rides and shows, the FastPass+ allows you to do the same! We were lucky enough to try this opportunity during our trip in April and it was absolutely wonderful! Ready for some insider information?

Snagging FastPass+ for Be Our Guest Lunch

This is only for on site Disney World Resort guests. Sorry off site guests, you need a resort reservation and MagicBands in order to qualify for this experience. The FastPass+ window opens up 60 days prior to your arrival. At this point, we’re all unsure if this is the magic date for Be Our Guest as well. This is the point that I begin looking for the opening. You won’t find this in your My Disney Experience account. This requires a separate login for Be Our Guest FastPass+. You’ll use the same login that you use for My Disney Experience and DisneyWorld.com. Once logged in, you’ll need a 12 digit reservation number. If you have a package reservation you know this is 8 characters (letters and numbers).

To find this magical number, check your MagicBand customization page. All the numbers I’ve pulled to date have started with a 4. I’m assuphoto 2(2)ming these go in sequential order. Unfortunately you can’t copy and paste this number, so you’ll need a great memory or write it down. Once your reservation number is verified, available dates during your vacation will appear. Choose wisely during your vacation making sure to avoid days with early morning magic hours (the park gets super busy earlier in the day), and days that the park closes early due to special ticketed events in the fall and winter (unless you plan on attending them later in the day). This advice can be thrown out the window with park hopper tickets. Just beware that new Fantasyland is near the back of the park. You’ll be asked to confirm your party (you can always remove a member of your party after you complete your FastPass, but you cannot add anymore). If there are available openings on the day you chose, you’ll be able to choose one of two options:

1. FastPass+ Direct to Table
2. FastPass+ with Expedited arrival

Option 1 asks you to choose your meal choices before you arrive. This is the option we chose. A cast member will review your order with you when you check in if you’d like to make any changes or additions. For the record, we ate the Croque Monseiur and the Braised Pork. Both were delicious! We ended with a shared cupcake topped with The Grey Stuff (it was somewhat delicious – I think I made it more awesome in my head prior to arrival).

photo 3(2)You will be lead to a line to pay for your meal. You will see some guests with Red Roses (that look similar to pagers). You will not receive one as you have your MagicBand and a FastPass. I was a bit nervous when we didn’t have one.

The check out process is really cool! A cast member asks you to tap your MagicBand, he or she will review your order and you’ll pay. From there, you are instructed to choose your seat as well as self serve your fountain drinks if you chose one. You’ll also grab your own silverware and napkins. They are available in each of the three rooms.

Once seated, wait for a cast member to find you with your meal. How do they find you? Your MagicBands! Don’t spoil the magic for your kids. There’s a million fun stories you can think of. It’s the Magic of Beast’s Castle, Lumiere told them, etc. Unlike other quick service meals, this meal is served on a real plate with real silverware. It’s a nice touch making it seem much more expensive and lavish than it is!

What does this mean for my other FastPass+ reservations?

Be Our Guest FastPass+ has no affect on the other 3 FastPasses you are allowed for the day. If you have park hoppers, you are welcome to make them in a different park. The dining system and FastPass+ system for attractions are not related (similar to how dining is separate from resort reservations). This is a great opportunity to start your day in Magic Kingdom for rope drop, have lunch and then take a break with full bellies. After a break, come back to Magic Kingdom for the parade or head over to your afternoon/evening park. If you’re making dinner reservations, make sure they are after 6 pm because you’ll be full! Another reminder, hold your FastPass+ reservations for the park until later in the day. Either after lunch or after a break (or both!)

Related Posts

I hope you found this information helpful. Good luck in getting your own reservation for Be Our Guest! I’ve been fairly successful helping my clients using the above two strategies. If you’re worried about your reservations, want help getting one of these coveted spots, I’m very happy to help. Don’t have a resort reservation? Contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. If you do have an existing reservation, you may be able to transfer it to me at no cost. Using an authorized Disney travel planner is 100% free to you. So the only thing you have to lose is time waiting in line and waiting online to get exactly what you want. If you have general questions, I’m very happy to answer anything related to your Disney World Vacation. My main goal is for people to have the most amazing Disney vacation possible!



Tips & Tricks for Free Dining at Disney World


It’s that time of year again, the whispers begin about free dining for fall travel dates. The latest rumor is that free dining for September will be coming out before the end of April due to low DVC (Disney Vacation Club) bookings for that time of year. Great news for those that want to save a few bucks at Disney World this year! Free dining sounds like a great deal, and for most families it really is, but you really need to do the math to see what the best option is; typically Disney also offers a room only discount at the same time.

The Basics

Free Dining is offered at most Disney World resort hotels. Value resorts come with the quick service dining plan. Moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villas come with the full dining plan. At any of the four resort classes, you are able to upgrade your plan (quick service to full dining plan or full dining plan to deluxe) at minimal cost. The cost of upgrade is based on the number of guests in each room, their ages, and how many nights you are staying

The Dining Plansfree dining

Quick Service dining plan: This plan provides 2 quick service credit and one snack per person for each night stayed.

Disney Dining Plan (the “full” dining plan): This plan provides 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and one snack credit per person for each night stayed.

Deluxe Dining Plan: This plan provides 3 credits (which can be quick service or table service) and 2 snacks per person for each night stayed. This is A LOT of food!

Each plan also includes a refillable mug for each member of your party. This can be used at any resort, but not refillable at the parks. A great suggestion is to bring them with to use them in the parks and make it easier to split a drink at quick service locations.

Quick service meals (also called counter service meals) are those that do not accept reservations. You order of a menu board in front of cashier and then wait for your food to be prepared. Think of McDonalds, Burger King, or Hardee’s but with better food and better variety! Quick service credits cannot be combined to convert to a table service credit (nice try though!) Feel free to share meals at any time!

Table Service meals are sit down restaurants in which you order off a menu with a server. This also could be a buffet meal. Some table service meals are 2 credits (signature meals, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and dinner shows). Most meals can be shared with the exception of buffets for obvious reasons.

Snacks are everything from an apple, bottle of water, all the way up to a giant filled soft pretzel or cupcake. During the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, there are countless options considered snack credits that can make a meal.

You receive all of your credits upon check in to your resort. Children ages 3-9 will receive child credits for quick service and table service meals. If there happens to be no children’s menu, they are able to choose items off the full menu.There is no difference in snack credits for children or adults.

Comparing Discounts

A favorite argument of Disney fans is that “free dining isn’t free”. I will always disagree with them. Yes the dining plan is FREE, however you pay full price for your hotel room stay. In order to accurately compare the two discounts, you will need to price out free dining and then the room only discount PLUS tickets and the dining plan added. Free dining is a better deal at value and moderate resorts 99 out of 100 times (the exception is a family of two staying for a short period of time).

That math really becomes important at deluxe resorts and deluxe villas where discounts are typically 30% or more in the fall. Typically a 5-6 night stay makes for a $500 discount with room only. This deal would be greater for a family of 1 adult and 1 child or 2 adults during a short stay. For a group larger than two or three, the discount typically comes close or free dining is a better deal. Remember, if it saves you more money on a room discount, you can always pay for the dining plan and still save a few bucks along the way.

Making the dining plan work for you!

Even though the dining plan is free, it’s still good to know general dining plan strategy: choosing characters meals when available (these are all buffet but great if you’ve got kids), planning your table service meals ahead of time. You are able to book dining reservations up to 180 days in advance whether you have a resort reservation or not. Make sure you make enough reservations to use up all of your table service credits. These reservations are best made for lunch or dinner as these are typically the most expensive meals. A late lunch or early are my favorites – you can likely get away with meals each day plus a snack.

Depending on your arrival and departure times, you may need to plan carefully to use all of your credits. If you have an early departure on your last day, don’t be afraid to use all but one of your credits for a filling breakfast on your way back home. On the contrary, if you have a late departure, save at least one table service credit for a great lunch before you head home.

The Fine Print

Not all resorts are included in free dining. Typically Disney chooses resorts based on how many guests are booked in that resort at the time of the promotion (as a way to entice guests to fill specific resorts). Excluded for almost every promotion are all 3-bedroom villas, the Little Mermaid Rooms at Art of Animation, the campsites at Fort Wilderness, and the Villas at Grand Floridian. No specific information on what will be included this time around. The more flexible you are able to be, the better your chances of getting the dining plan for free!

Free dining requires a package stay (Disney resort stay PLUS park tickets). You are required to to have a 2 day base ticket if you are interested in adding free dining. This includes those that are Annual Passholders. You are able to put the cost of your 2 day base ticket toward next year’s annual pass if you wish to take part in free dining. You are also required a minimum of 2 night’s stay (while Disney’s promotional materials say 6 days, 5 nights, it’s not a requirement!)

Children under 3 are free at Disney World and therefore do not need park tickets or the dining plan. If you choose to eat at buffet locations, they are able to have their own plate of food. At table service and quick service restaurants, they can share with an adult or another child.

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Need help?

Questions on free dining, the best places to dine, a cost comparison of what would be better for you? Contact me at any time for a free quote or to answer any general questions. My goal is always to help people have the best vacation with the least amount of stress as possible, whether I’m able to personally walk through each step of the process or not. If one question is all you need, I’m happy to correspond via email. That’s how much I love Disney World! Working with an authorized Disney travel planner is 100% free to you, so why not let me do all the heavy lifting and guide you along the way? I can help suggest dining, even book it for you! I also help people with FastPass+ reservations, suggestions on where to go, best parks for each day you are traveling, and much more. Magical Vacations, the amazing company I work for, also provides you with an amazing itinerary to get you through the parks each day: seeing the most attractions in the least amount of time.

Get your free quote at any time or contact me using the form below. Every guest that books a room for fall (September – November) will be entered in a giveaway for a brand new Disney movie (currently available is Cinderella or Cinderella 2) I look forward to hearing from you!


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Disney World Club Level Service overview

The View from the balcony of the Contemporary Atrium Club Level Lounge

The View from the balcony of the Contemporary Atrium Club Level Lounge

A few months ago, I provided some detail on Club Level Service offered at the Disney World Deluxe Resorts. This is a special booking category that allows guests personalized service above and beyond what standard rooms offer. These special cast members are able to help from the moment you book your trip by answering questions, booking dining reservations, helping with FastPass+ reservations, and booking tours. (Small sidenote, this is the same detail that a FREE travel agent that is knowledgeable in Disney can do for you in a standard room). Once you arrive, you have access to daily food and beverages which are a little different each day and vary by resort. We had the great pleasure to stay Club Level at both Contemporary and Yacht Club earlier this month so I can personally speak to these two resorts.

In comparing the two, food offerings and hours were very similar. Club level cast members are available from 7 am – 10 pm daily. During this time, food is typically available in the lounge. While it varies by resort, you’ll find some pretty standard things at every resort:

  • Coffee, tea, and water are available all day beginning at 6:30 am (or so they say – my eyelids were still pasted shut for the night before)Yacht Club 38
  • Milk, some canned Coca Cola products and juice is available 24/7 the stocked refrigerators. Water is NOT stocked. You may fill a cup with water (which tastes much better than what comes from your tap. The people are right – Orlando water is kind of yucky. If you wish to have bottled water, any member of the Club Level staff is able to provide you with one or two. Contemporary had mini bottles but Yacht Club had full size Dasani Water bottles. NICE AND COLD too! We asked for one to share every time we headed out to a park. It was a nice $2.50+ tax savings each time we went out.
  • Breakfast provided pastries, fresh fruit, toast and/or bagels. The pastries and muffins changed each day, but they were all equally delicious. I felt it was my duty to taste them for the sake of completeness for my clients and blog readers. Breakfast also has juice which varied by resort.
  • Afternoon snacks are available at 11 or 11:30 am depending on the resort. This runs through  4 pm. Each resort has delicious homemade chips. They weren’t too salty but just enough to replace what you lost as you sweat while you were at the parks (especially during that super hot afternoon watching the parade!) Contemporary also offered various other small snacks. Gummy bears were a staple each day we were there. Yacht club offered Swedish Fish, Trail Mix, and a form of pub mix which included Wasabi Peas (I didn’t try them – my palate is not that adventurous). With lunch comes additional beverages. Yacht Club had the most amazing lemonade that crave a week later and both locations had iced tea (Yacht Club added a side of simple syrup to make sweet tea – a thoughtful idea!)
  • Happy hour runs from 5-7 pm. Hot appetizers are available (usually 2 different options). Appetizers typically follow the style and theme of the resort (so Polynesian has that style of food, Beach and Yacht Club have some seafood dishes etc.). There are also some cold appetizers/salads and more at each location as well. Each location also offers beer and wine. Both locations we stayed at 4 different beers: Yingling, a Seasonal Sam Adams, Bud Light, and Heineken. There were also 3 different types of wine: 2 whites and a red. They were different at each resort. The alcoholic beverages were self service at Contemporary and served by the staff at Yacht Club.
  • From 8-10 pm, the lounge serves desserts and alcoholic cordials. There is still coffee available (I enjoyed a little booze in my decaf at night with a few snacky desserts). It was a nice way to take a break before extra magic hours or wind down after a busy day at the parks!
  • Club level staff heads home after food is put away after 10 pm and returns the next day at 7 am.
Welcome Gift for Contemporary Club Level Guests

Welcome Gift for Contemporary Club Level Guests

In comparison to the two club level experiences, there was more seating in the lounge at Contemporary. The staff at Yacht Club was much more friendly, interested in us, and helpful in answering questions. I do know a lot of things about Disney, but MagicBands are new and I did have a few questions. I also had some extra magic hour transportation questions which were quickly answered. Yacht Club staff seemed like they were always happy to see us and really enjoyed their jobs. The Contemporary staff at times seemed like we were interrupting them while asking questions.

Location wise on property both are great. Contemporary only has walking access to Magic Kingdom unless you want to ride the monorail all the way around (about 15-20 minutes). When we had tired legs, it wasn’t the most exciting thing ever! The view from the balcony of Contemporary is unlike any other with view of Cinderella’s Castle and Seven Seas Lagoon! It’s also a great place to watch Wishes with a nice short trip home with no crowds to fight. Yacht Club is within walking distance of both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. We walked to Studios one morning just to check the distance. It’s LONG! The walk to Epcot was fast. My husband actually said “oh wow, we’re here already?” If the boat is at your dock or nearing the dock when you arrive, it’s about the same travel time. If there’s no boat in view, walking will likely be faster. We walked at a leisurely pace to save some energy if that gives you a more accurate measure. The pool at Yacht Club is absolutely amazing, almost to the point where I want stay there every single time we go back to Disney. Even as 2 adults, we  had a blast on the water slide and relaxing in the lazy river.

For more detailed information on Yacht Club and Contemporary, please click the links for the pros and cons of each resort. These are now more detailed having stayed at them recently!

Overall, we both really enjoyed our club level stay. I would say it’s worth the money to upgrade. We saved quite a bit of money and time in both quick service and table service meals (breakfast plus coffee each morning, 2-3 bottles of water each day, a minimum of one beer each day, and snacks periodically throughout the day – especially mid-day). It was also nice to have a different place to “hang out” instead of the room.

If you have any questions about either resort or our club level stays, please feel free to comment or use the form below to contact me privately. If you are interested in a price quote for club level service or any Disney World resort room, I’m happy to provide a free quote. Working with an authorized Disney Travel Planner is 100% free to you. The only thing you have to lose is time reading reviews, checking out all the hotels, making your own reservations, and time waiting in line! Looking forward to hearing from you!


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Tips & Tricks for Celebrating at Disney World

Disney World vacations are kind of a big deal. Whether you’re traveling for a first visit, birthday, anniversary, reunion, graduation, or just for fun, there’s always something to celebrate. Disney likes to know about all of your celebrations to share in your joy and excitement. This starts immediately with the planning phase of your trip. When you book your trip, you are able to notify Disney of any celebrations during your trip. If booking with a travel agent, they are able to note these for you. EVERYONE is celebrating something at Disney World. I try not to let anyone go to Disney without some sort of button. Available celebrations are:

  • Birthdayimcelebrating
  • Anniversary
  • Engagement
  • First Visit
  • Honeymoon
  • Reunion
  • Wedding
  • Graduation
  • Personal Triumph
  • Other

The “other” option won’t let you free text, but you’ll know you’re celebrating something! For birthday and anniversary, you also have the option to provide an age or # of years married for anniversary.

Additionally, I like to call Disney Dining after I make reservations for my clients to make sure their celebration is noted on their dining. We celebrated my birthday at California Grill in Contemporary Resort. In addition to a wonderful meal, our table was set especially for us and decorated with some Mickey Confetti (which I won’t lie, I took some with and stashed it in my purse!)

Button, button, who’s got the button?

Once you arrive at your Disney resort, a cast member will provide you with a special button just for your celebration. There are available buttons for almost every situation listed above. For birthday buttons, there is a space to add a name for cast members and other guests to wish you a happy birthday during your entire trip. I wish I would have kept count of how many times I was wished happy birthday. It was well over 100 in our 5 night vacation. I even took the button off for awhile, too! If you are not offered a button on check in, ask for one! You can’t be celebrated if no one knows about it! Sometimes there’s an oversight on the cast member checking you in, but typically it’s park of the whole magical process. If you don’t want the recognition for whatever event you’re celebrating, stash your button in your luggage and take it home as a keepsake!

If you’re not staying on Disney property or you didn’t get a button on check in, head over to City Hall in Magic Kingdom!

What does the celebrating at Disney get me?CG dessert

Buttons are meant for recognition and allowing others to celebrate with you. Don’t expect anything for free, but I’d suggest wearing them throughout your vacation. During our stay, we had 5 dining reservations (2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 2 dinners). Our first dinner: California Grill came with confetti as well as a free dessert. The breakfasts were just standard meals, lunch came with a birthday card as well as an embarrassing rendition of happy birthday sung by the entire restaurant, and the last dinner was just a run of the mill meal. It was definitely more than I was expecting, but appreciated nonetheless. It’s also worth noting that we were NOT in Disney’s Dining Plan which makes giving a free dessert much easier. I have heard stories of people celebrating honeymoons or anniversaries receiving free champagne from some of the signature restaurants.

What can I do for my loved one’s celebration?

Disney has many opportunities to provide additional ways to celebrate your family and friends during your Disney vacation. Disney World Floral does room and gift delivery for any celebration. You can choose from a pre-made gift basket or create your own.  You can also order a cake for delivery either in your room or for one of your dining reservations. Un-decorated cakes are available at a handful of restaurants and can be ordered when you arrive for your reservation.

MinnieBoxThe Minnie Box

Magical Vacations offers a special gift every family that chooses our amazing group. It’s called The Minnie Box. This special box is just a little added bonus and is the signature of our little family. As with every travel group, there are minimum dollar value requirements, but it’s pretty reasonable. The Minnie Box is different for each family. I received one before departed for our vacation as a special surprise including a special welcome and happy birthday from one of my favorite Disney Characters, Gaston! This also included a specialized Magical Vacations itinerary to help you get through the most attractions in the least amount of time. Did you know that a “good” day at Disney is about 8 attractions? Our first Magic Kingdom day, we got through 14 (including a few repeats) which is an incredibly successful day. We also enjoyed lunch at Be Our Guest. We also received some special Pixie Dust to sprinkle on our already Magical trip!

Let’s celebrate!

Ready to celebrate during your own Disney World vacation? Contact me for a free quote or use the form below. Did you know working with authorized Disney Travel Planners is 100% FREE? That’s right, you get the benefit of knowledge, extra time before, during and after your vacation, and a little pixie dust along the way for the not a single dime. The cost I am able to get via Disney is the same you would be able to get through the public web site. Plus you don’t have to spend your time looking at dining options, trying to make reservations, choosing FastPass+ options, or sitting on hold making changes to your reservations, adding special events and celebrations, and more. Contact me today for more information. If you already have your Disney World trip booked, you may be able to transfer your existing reservation as well.


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Disney’s Memory Maker: Must Take Photo Locations to make it worth your money!


Disney’s Memory Maker. It’s the updated, digital version of PhotoPass which allows you to download all of your photos and share with friends and family after you return. While it comes with a $150 price tag if purchased prior to arrival and $199 if purchased after your arrival. Another difference with Memory Maker is that you can add photos from popular Disney attractions like Splash Mountain and Test Track as well as character meet and greets including Anna & Elsa, Cinderella, and more to your account. So is it worth the add on cost of an already expensive vacation? I would say YES, yes, and YES!!!! Looking at my account, a cost to download one photo is $14.95, or to get 2 5×7 photos (of the same photo) is also $14.95. We didn’t take a ton of pictures this vacation, but I found at least 14 photos that I really liked so if I wanted to purchase them individually it would cost me over $200. Without even trying, I recouped the cost. The even more beautiful thing about Memory Maker is that you are allowed an UNLIMITED number of photos to your Disney account.

So you decided that Memory Maker is for you, GREAT! So now where should I take my photos?

Magic Kingdom Photos2014WDW

  • Main Street USA in front of Cinderella’s Castle (try multiple stops along the way to get different perspective and views – there are up to 8 photographers available all with different vantage points)
  • Town Square – Meet Mickey and hear him talk in this one of a kind attraction
  • Outside the train station (photographers not always here, but a great place for a family shot nonetheless!)
  • Meet Ariel in her Grotto
  • Meet Cinderella & Rapunzel in Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Meet Anna & Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Splash Mountain
  • Space Mountain
  • Magic Shots: The photographers nearest to Cinderella’s Castle can help you meet Tinkerbell in the Magic of Disney photos!
  • Magic Shots: Near Princess Tiana’s meet and greet, ask the photographers about kissing a frog
  • Magic Shots: Haunted Mansion – photographers can explain 2 different haunted shots here
  • Magic Shots: Pirates of the Caribbean – if you see a photographer with a sword, you may be able to fight Captain Hook
  • Magic Shots: Little Mermaid – hold Sebastian in your hand!
  • Magic Shots: Enchanted Tales with Belle – hold Chip in your hand!

Epcot Photos

  • Main Entrance (use the same school of thought to get multiple angles from multiple photographers – don’t forget about the photographers around the other side of Spaceship Earth).
  • Epcot Character Spot – enjoy Mickey and all his pals at this great indoor meet and greet
  • World Showcase – Check your daily schedule for an easy way to meet Disney Princesses in less time!
  • The bridge near International Gateway (overlooking France)
  • Outside Mission: Space – this is seasonal, but worth the walk to check it out!
  • Test Track

Hollywood Studios Photos

  • Hollywood Boulevard (use the same idea as Cinderella’s Castle – some cast members hold props!)
  • Overlooking the Hollywood Hotel
  • Overlooking Rock n Roller Coaster
  • The Hollywood Studios sign near Mickey’s Sorcerers Hat (photographers are typically here in the evenings)
  • Find Characters near the Magic of Disney Animation
  • The Avenue of Americas
  • Rock n Roller Coaster
  • Tower of Terror
  • Magic Shots: Some opportunities to pose with Mickey, Minnie, and sometimes Stitch

Animal Kingdom Photos

  • Main Entrance (in front of the Animal Kingdom sign overhead)
  • Around the tree of life (there are several vantage points)
  • Outside Expedition Everest (with mountain in the background)
  • Camp Minnie-Mickey
  • Character Meetings near Dinoland USA
  • Expedition Everest
  • Magic Shots: Ask photographers about holding Baby Simba in your arms

Additional meet & greets of some of your favorite Disney characters around each of the parks. Check your daily schedule or the My Disney Experience app for times and locations!

Always remember that if you see a photopass photographer in a location that seems random, a character meet may pop up right before your eyes! And don’t forget to take photos of your own as your child is first walking up to a character or the excitement on their face as they get near the front of a line to see Mickey for the very first time. You’ll also need your camera for some character dining as they are not all covered by photopass photographers.

Related Post:

Do you have any locations I should add to my list? Comment below or send me a message! I’ll be happy to credit you with the information (and even link your blog if you have one). If you have questions on the Memory Maker or general questions about a Walt Disney World vacation, please don’t hesitate to contact me! Working with authorized Disney travel planners is 100% free to you, so you’ve got nothing to lose but stress and time waiting in line!


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