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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Pandora

I recently returned from a kind of impromptu Disney trip. It was a quick weekend trip and we packed it full of Disney magic.

One of the best things about the trip: Pandora was open. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Pandora: the World of Avatar absolutely lives up to all the hype. Disney has been marketing this new attraction for months now and it is worth checking out. Even with the massive response and long wait times the newest addition to Animal Kingdom was truly the highlight of the trip.

My mom and I were staying at Kidani Village. Which was awesome, not just because it is an amazing resort but because it would be the shortest commute to Animal Kingdom. The morning of our Animal Kingdom day we got up early. The park was having extra magic hours that morning and resort guests would be able to enter at 8am. We were planning, like many other people, on opening the park and making a B-line for Pandora. We wanted to get on Flight of Passage before the line got to long. If you have read any articles about the opening week at Pandora this is the ride that had a seven hour wait the first day it opened. As much as I wanted to ride it, spending seven hours of precious park time in line was not something I was prepared to do.

Kidani Village recently started offering quick service breakfast at Sana, which was amazing for this weekend trip. The morning before my mom and I had sat down and had breakfast while we watched the various animals go about their day. It was a great way to start off a day. The morning we did Animal Kingdom we got there just after it opened, at 7am, and helped our selves to the oatmeal. It was great. They had lids for the containers and even had little containers with brown sugar and golden raisins for the oatmeal. We took our little containers of oatmeal to go and headed for the bus stop. We were lucky, and bust pulled up within minutes of us getting to the stop. We were the only ones on the bus and we headed strait for the park. I inhaled my breakfast, I wasn't sure if I would be able to bring it in to the park. But, my mom took her time.

Security had no problems with us bringing our breakfast in, which was awesome. In all of my trips to Disney this was only the second time I have been asked to show that I was staying at a resort on property in order to take advantage of the extra magic hours. It was great. I could even see that people were being turned away from the Pandora entrance because it was only open to Disney resort guests. We made our way to the end of the line for Flight of Passage. I feel that it is important to note that the extra magic hours had the park opening at 8am. We got in line at 7:45. The wait was already 90 minutes and the line was moving. They had already fired up the ride before the park was opened. My mom enjoyed her breakfast while I took pictures.

Overall the wait really wasn't that bad. We got to see all of Pandora with very few people walking around, well very few people since they were all in line with us. We talked with the people in line with us. And the different waiting rooms for the line were very well done with so much detail that it did take time to take it all in.

The ride itself was like nothing I have ever experienced before. It was intense and I really feel that it will changed the way theme park rides are designed in the future. Without giving away too much of the ride, it really does feel like you are riding on the back of a banshee. My legs needed a couple of minutes to adjust to walking when I got off the ride. It was worth the wait with out a doubt.

We decided that we had enough time to try out the other ride, Na'vi River Journey before getting lunch. While we were in line the wait time jumped from 40 minutes to 60 minutes. The que line didn't have as much to take in, so it felt like a longer wait. But, the water station halfway through the line was really nice. It held up the line a little since nearly everyone stopped to fill up their water bottles, but the wait didn't impact the time I got on the ride and I really appreciated being able to refill my water since it was so hot out. Overall, the ride was alright. Not really worth an hour wait, but I would ride it again if I didn't have to wait very long or had a fastpass.

The food was fantastic. I was very pleased to see that nearly everything on the menu was healthy. They have steamed buns with different fillings. They also had rice or salad bowls that you could top with different proteins and sauces. The flavor of the chicken and the onion aioli were just amazing. We got the children's size and it was enough to fill us up.

After lunch we explored the rest of the park. Which, was unusually empty since the vast majority of the park guests were at Pandora. We had almost no lines with anything we did. We even discovered dole whip in Africa! We were able to enjoy the park with little crowds and had a fantastic day.
 
Overall, the entire experience of Pandora was amazing. We weren't able to get back to the park to see it at night, but it will be a high priority on our next trip in October. I was blown away by the attention to detail Disney put in to all that is Pandora. It really looks and feels like you are there. The floating mountains are just spectacular and don't look like that are manmade structures at all. It all feels real. I look forward to what they will add to Pandora next.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Planning A Disney Trip: Part 1

So, since I am in full planning mode I have been thinking about Disney. A lot. I thought it might be a good idea to go over the entire planning process. After all, I do have a lot of experience planning all kinds of Disney Vacations.

The Magic Kingdom is typically the most crowded park.
The first thing you will want to do once you have decided on  Disney vacation is come up with a budget. I know, it sounds like it should be common sense. But, seriously pick a budget and stay with it. Only you know what you will be able to spend and once you start to see all of the amazing things you can add to a Disney vacation the total price can get quite high. Bottom line: if you know that you can only spend $1500 don't budge. Don't worry, there are plenty of ways to save on the vacation if you know how to be creative.

Once you have your budget you will need to pick your dates. This is were things can be a little tricky. It is more expensive to stay over weekends and anytime when school is not in session. If you are able to go in 'off season' months (think January, February, October, and November) and stay during the week you are more likely to be able to save on your room rate.

So, you have picked the week and you have your budget. Now what? You will need to find a place to stay. You have so many options to choose from. Yes, you can find a cheaper room off Disney property. And some of those hotels will include amenities like free breakfasts, which is not something you will find at any of the Disney resorts. But, you will miss out on some of the complimentary services that Disney offers its resort guests. Sure, your off property hotel may have a shuttle to and from the airport. But, Disney does one better. Once you check your bag at your departing airport you won't touch it again until you unpack in your hotel room. The same goes for your flight home. And the bus ride to and from the airport is complimentary. Disney will also take you anywhere you want to go on Disney property free of charge. The transportation system at Disney is truly second to none: buses, trams, boats, and the monorail. Some off property hotels have a shuttle that will come to the parks. But, these are often vans that can seat a family or two at a time. This means that it will most likely take a lot of time to get to and from the parks. If you decide that doesn't work for you then you can drive to the parks, and then pay for parking.

The Contemporary Resort is one of the original resorts on Disney property
Like I said before, only you know your budget. If you can get a room for $20 less a night off property that will save you $100 on a five night stay. If that means a lot to your budget then stay off property. I recommend talking with the front desk at the hotel to find out the best way to get around during your stay.

The type of park ticket you get can also make a big difference. If you are counting your pennies then maybe the park hoper option may not be for you. I would recommend picking a park and staying there for the day. What's the point of paying extra when you most likely stay at one park each day anywhere? If your plans don't allow for you to spend a day at each park it might be worth looking in to getting the park hoper ticket there are things on your must do list at each park.

One of the best things you can do to stretch your dollar is to check out any deals on the Disney website. Sometimes Disney will have special offers where you can get a room, park tickets, and a meal plan for a low price. Check the website regularly and you'll get a feel for when Disney has special promotions.

Of course, there is a lot more that goes in to planning a Disney vacation. But, that would make for a much longer article. I'll go over more as time goes on.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Planning In Action

I am so lucky my parents bring me with them when they go on vacation.
For those of you that have been bitten by the Disney bug you will know how strong the urge to plan a Disney trip is. I know that I am already thinking about my next trip before I even get home from my current trip.

That being said that last pilgrimage I made the the Orlando parks was absolutely amazing. My boyfriend join my family and me on vacation. The poor thing didn't know what to expect having only gone once before when he was much younger. I savored every minute of it. The phenomenal food. The awe-inspiring night shows. The magic of the parks. All of it. I just love it. It truly feels like home.

For the last few years, ever since college, I have truly cherished these vacations. And I always feel so sad when I leave. I have even cried during Wishes on occasion. Why? Because, each time I go I feel that it will be my last time. At least for a long time.

You see, I have been living on my own for several years now. While I am finally doing well enough that I can get by with one job, I still mainly live paycheck to paycheck. (Thanks student loans....) If I had to pay for myself to go I could not afford to go to Disney. But, I could be much worse off. This is know.
We have already started saving for Food and Wine!

I have been unbelievably lucky in that my parents have been taking me with them whenever they plan a trip to Disney even though I am grown and live on my own. Sometimes, I can only go for part of the trip and other times I can get off work at all. But, the fact that they still invite me, and pay for nearly the entire trip, is amazing. I know that I am incredibly lucky and I hope that one day I will be able to return the favor and bring them with us when my boyfriend and I have our own family.
I can feel my Disney bug coming back to life with each passing day. My parents are planning a trip in October and my boyfriend and I have been invited. The Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT has long been on my list. Even before I started drinking alcohol! I have always loved trying new foods and experiencing the different cultures of the world. Now that I enjoy a glass of wine I am beyond excited to finally be able to go. Not only that, but we are going to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. For those of you that don't know it is the only time adults are allowed to wear costumes at the parks. My boyfriend and I have a lot of planning to do!

I know taking a picture with this guy is high on my list.
Not only are my parents going to be with us, but much of my extended family will be as well. I have not seen many of my cousins for years. And sadly, I have only met one of their six children. Life just hasn't allowed me to make the long, expensive, trip to visit my extended family. I can't wait to see my family at one of the most magical places on Earth. It should be exciting since they will be meeting my boyfriend of two years for the first time. What fun!

We don't know where exactly we will be staying, just that it will be on property. We don't know exactly where we will make dining reservations. And I have no idea which attractions we will get fastpasses for. Though, I can assume that some of the major attractions will be high on the list. I'm not sure I can imagine a trip without Big Thunder Mountain, Test Track, Toy Story Mainia, Star Tours, or the Safari ride at Animal Kingdom. Not to mention Illuminations at EPCOT.

I do know that I will be seeing the new Pandora area at Animal Kingdom. I do know that I will spend an afternoon sampling food and beverages from around the world, after I ride the renovated Soarin' of course. I know that I will see the new night show at Animal Kingdom. And I know that I will be seeing the new fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom since Wishes will be retired before our trip. Aside from that the rest of the trip will be relaxing and fun. This time I would like to try for as few pre-planned events as possible. Since the parks, except EPCOT, should be less crowded I am looking forward to a slow paced Disney trip. I want to be able to do the things I want to do when I want to do them.
I look forward to more pictures like this one. 

There is so much to be excited for! My boyfriend and I flew down the last time and met up with my family. This time we will drive down and make a road trip of it and will meet up with them the day they get there. My boyfriend and I want to savor as much of this trip as possible. Like I've said before, I feel that each trip will be my last and I think this may be my last trip until my boyfriend and I go back with our own family many years from now.

I plan on highlighting the planning process and showcasing new things as they open. I am so excited to have something to get me through the difficult days at work. (As we all know, even if you love your job like I do there are some days that are just plain hard.) After all, I work to support my Disney addiction.