About Jillian

Travel Agent specializing in Disney vacation. I love visiting the happiest place on Earth and live much too far away for my tastes. I also love reading, travel, and having fun.

Top 5 Reasons To Go To Disney Without Kids

In November I was really excited to take an adults only trip with my favorite Dole Whippies to Walt Disney World.  You would not believe the amount of people who were incredulous about the idea of going to Disney without my child, with other adults!  But let me tell you, it was an amazing choice!  Here are some great reasons why you should take a kid free trip to Walt Disney World.


5. No sharing! Unless you want to!  You know how your child will order ice cream that is  blue just because it is blue, and you order a delicious mint chocolate chip scoop?  Except yours always looks more appealing once it shows up.  Well no sharing required, you get that Dole Whip to your self!

4. Explore the World Showcase!  This is one place it is hard to appreciate with kids who are just looking for their next snack or attraction.  You can really soak in the atmosphere of the different pavilions and experience all there is to do at your own pace!

3.You don’t have to get the light up toy.  You know, the kind on the cart that comes out at dusk and they are so bright and flashy and your kid MUST have it and you have to figure out how to get it home.  Not this time! You can stroll smugly by and keep your wallet in your purse or pocket.


2. Sleep in and stay out late.  Both of these things can be very hard to accomplish with kids of any ages, they get tired or grumpy or both.  Well this happens with adults too, but it is generally a little easier to handle.  You can take advantage of nighttime extra magic hours and enjoy really low crowds.  No reason to get up early with the little ones, just close the curtain and hit snooze!

1. Freedom, sweet freedom.  You get to choose which attraction you want to do, which character to meet.  You can push lunch back by and hour and not have too many melt downs.  Or maybe you decide to linger over a drink or dessert.  Or you can try on all the tiaras in the shop in Germany and accomplish nothing else that day.  But that is ok because you do what you want.photopass_visiting_mk_393054706674

I can’t recommend enough how much fun it is to feel like a kid at Walt Disney World by going without kids. It is good for the soul and trust me, you will be a better parent for it when you return home!

 

Walt Disney World 2017 on a $2,500 Budget

Recently we did a podcast with 2017 pricing and looked at many different budgets. My budget was for $2,500.  The guidelines were that is must be for 3 nights and 3 day park tickets for a family of 2 adults, 2 children 10 and 5.

My trip was June 12-16, 2017 at Port Orleans French Quarter in a standard room with 5 day base tickets the total is $2440.70

Photo via Disney.com

If we cheat a little bit and go over budget you can add Memory Maker and the grand total would be $2589.70

I wanted to also price out a similar vacation that included some type of dining plan.  Using the same dates of June 12-16 we move over to a value resort All Star Movies standard room.  For tickets we have the 3 day base tickets and the Quick Service Dining Plan the total is $2466.98.  Bringing this just under the budget!

Photo Via Disney.com

Of course these are priced out without any type of discount.  If a discount is available that will help you save some money as well.

runDisney Playlist Part II

Ready for some more Disney music inspiration for your runDisney or Disney themed playlist?  Well look no further!  Here is part II with a new list of upbeat and fun songs to help pass the time while you are training or just doing some exercising.

 

  1. One Little Spark- Journey into Imagination with Figment
  2. I Just Can’t Wait to be King-The Lion King
  3. Kiss the Girl- The Little Mermaid
  4. You’re Welcome- Moana
  5. I’ll Make a Man Out of You- Mulan
  6. Prince Ali- Aladdin
  7. Sugar Rush- Wreck-It Ralph
  8. Topsy Turvy- The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
  9. It’s A Small World- It’s a Small World attraction
  10. Be Our Guest- Beauty and the Beast
  11. Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride- Lilo and Stitch
  12. Monsters Inc- Monsters Inc
  13. The Best Time of your Life- Carousel of Progress
  14. Dig a Little Deeper- Princess and the Frog
  15. Three Caballeros- Gran Fiesta Tour
  16. Trashin’ the Camp- Tarzan
  17. Fixer Upper- Frozen
  18. Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo- Cinderella
  19. The Bear Band Serenade- Country Bears Jamboree
  20. I’ve Got a Dream- Tangled
  21. One Step Ahead- Aladdin
  22. Zero to Hero- Hercules
  23. You Can Fly- Peter Pan
  24. Almost There- Princess and the Frog
  25. We Know the Way- Moana

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed adding some new music to your playlist!  Happy Trails runners!

Did you miss Part I?  No problem, check it out here.

 

runDisney Playlist – Part I

If you’ve signed up for a runDisney race chances are good you are a Disney fan.  So the perfect choice to get you moving and running is some Disney music!  I am a big fan of Disney music and I listen to it frequently at home, in the car and yes while running.

 

Here is a playlist of Disney music to get you through the miles.

  1. Go the Distance- Hercules
  2. Under the Sea- The Little Mermaid
  3. I’ve Got Not Strings- Pinocchio
  4. Hakuna Matata- The Lion King
  5. I Wan’na Be Like You – The Jungle Book
  6. How Far I’ll Go –Moana
  7. Try Everything- Zootopia
  8. When Can I See You Again- Wreck-It Ralph
  9. The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers- Winnie the Pooh
  10. Gaston-Beauty and the Beast
  11. A Spoonful of Sugar-Mary Poppins
  12. Down in New Orleans-Princess and the Frog
  13. Life is a Highway- Cars
  14. Ha Mele No Lilo- Lilo and Stitch
  15. Love is an Open Door- Frozen
  16. Immortals- Big Hero 6
  17. Friend Like Me- Aladdin
  18. The Scare Floor- Monsters Inc
  19. The Bear Necessities- The Jungle Book
  20. Shiny- Moana
  21. Touch the Sky- Brave
  22. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah- Song of the South
  23. Give a Little Whistle- Pinocchio
  24. Heigh Ho- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  25. There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow- Carousel of Progress

 

I hope you can find some motivation from these songs!  Happy trails!  Don’t forget to check back for Part II of the runDisney playlist!

Disney’s Contemporary Resort Review

On our last vacation we booked as part of our split stay a night at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.  We had booked a standard room in the Atrium (the main building).  Our room was 4722 located on the tenth floor with a gorgeous view of Bay Lake!

The room is 394 square feet, and we felt we had plenty of room to move around and contain all of our items.  Upon entering, to the right there is a small bar with the coffee maker, cups and ice bucket.  There are two closets in this area as well.  The closets contain a luggage rack, ironing board, iron, safe, and two drawers and of course plenty of space to hang up your clothing.

To the left is the bathroom. This features a separate room with a toilet and hamper, as well as double sinks, and a full shower/tub.  The best features in here are the awesome shower head, double sinks and clean lines.  The bathroom has really great lighting too if you need to see to get ready.  Included are towels that are a bit nicer and some really nice and decent sized toiletries, including lotion and body wash.


Walking further into the room to the left is a long desk with a chair and a small rolling table.  There are two queen sized beds that are very comfortable.  You can really tell the difference from the Moderates and Values in the beds at the Deluxe resorts.  The mattresses are more comfortable, the sheets, pillows and blankets are much nicer here as well.  To round out the sleeping area on the opposite wall there is a couch that folds down into a bed.  It did take us some time to figure out how to turn the couch into the bed (you pull top part down towards you) but we managed!  On the same wall as the couch was a large screen television.

The icing on the cake is the amazing balcony with two chairs and a small table.  This view was just beautiful and I could have sat all day overlooking the pool, grounds and Bay Lake.  Going back to the entrance you could look out your “front door” and get an amazing view of the Magic Kingdom!

Jillian: I was so excited to stay here!  This is the one resort that I had always wanted to stay at growing up.  It did not disappoint.  I thought the room was spacious and clean and I love a modern look, so this was perfect for me.  I also think this is a great option for someone who isn’t into Disney because this resort does feel grown up.  I thought the beds and furniture were comfortable, the views were spectacular.  We had a great experience with bell services so no complaints there.

The not so good: I did find check in to be slow but maybe because we were so excited to see our room. We also found that there were issues with food trays being left in the halls for hours, over 12 hours to be exact!  That is pretty bad for a Deluxe resort.  Next was our issue with the monorail.  This did not run for more than 30 minutes after park closing and the only other option is to walk.  I can handle the walk, but I can see families with little ones or those with disabilities having issues with this.  Literally the only option to get to the Contemporary is the monorail or to walk.  The walk is probably 12 minutes when you are going at a decent clip.

I really enjoyed using the monorail services (when they were running) and even the walk to the Magic Kingdom.  I think this resort offers great dining options from quick snacks to extra fancy meals!  I loved exploring the shops and amazing views from the decks.  The layout of the resort can be a little tricky, just trying to figure out which floor you have to go to get on the monorail or different restaurants took a little work, but mostly we had Tara as our guide since she is most familiar with the resort.

Tara: I had not stayed at Contemporary since I was a wee lass and really have no memory of it. I was thrilled to check it off the list since had recently stayed in Bay Lake Tower it was nice to compare. I love how convenient staying in the Tower is to everything. It is such a quick trip to stores, restaurants, and the monorail. You can not beat the convenience of everything. The room was nice but not Disney enough for many people. It is not “special” but more like an upscale Hilton or Marriott. I LOVED the bathroom though and found it more than special and comfortable. One thing that was nice is at night when you walk into the bathroom it has a sensor and a dim light comes on to help you maneuver. This was a great perk since I did not want to wake up the other girls! The beds were very comfortable and the view was great. I enjoyed it and would stay again, but it is at the bottom of the three monorail resorts for me with Polynesian and Grand Floridian taking the top spots.

Jamie: Walking into the Contemporary for our stay felt so much different from the previous visits I’d made to the resort. We took the elevator up to our room and when we stepped out there was a huge glass wall… and Space Mountain. How cool, to open the door to your hotel room every morning and there is Space Mountain! It’s an experience I’m glad I was able to have. The room was very nice. I especially loved the balcony and our view of Bay Lake. My main “cons” are the ones that Jillian has already mentioned, from the food in the hallway to the lack of transportation at the end of the night. Overall I think the resort is pretty great, but it still wasn’t able to knock the Polynesian off of my top monorail resort spot!

If you haven’t yet given the Contemporary Resort a try you may want to add it to your list of resorts.  You can’t beat the location, views, and dining at the Contemporary!

Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming Lunch Review

This new restaurant located at Disney Springs in The Landing area is a clear winner.  It is open, spacious, bright, and really has the feeling of comfort.  It felt so homey and cozy, but also fresh and new.  The décor is beautiful and it is so cool to look into the open kitchen.  The chairs were very comfortable and felt plush while looking casual at the same time.  You could easily dress up for a night out on the town with drinks or wear your shorts and sneakers while taking a break from the parks.


We had a party of 4 for lunch and we all thought the Church Lady Deviled Eggs sounded good. It is 6 full sized eggs so it is easy to share with a larger group.  You may be thinking, really deviled eggs?  But I assure you these were so, so delicious!  The flavoring was just right and the eggs tasted so fresh!  These were a winner all around at our table!

My choice for entrée was the Fried Chicken Sandwich.  This is a buttermilk-brined for 24 hours and double battered chicken topped with hot sauce, aioli, lettuce, and bread and butter pickles.  This was really good!  I think the toasted bun just brought it all together so well.  It was fresh and filling without weighing you down for a busy day.  For a small upcharge I changed the homemade chips for the Iron Skillet Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Cane Sugar, and I must say it was a great choice!  These sweet potatoes were just awesome!  They are swimming in butter and sugar so don’t think they are a healthy option but get them anyway you will enjoy them!

JAMIE: One of my favorite meals of the entire trip. A+++! I had the same chicken sandwich as Jillian and it was something really special. The long process that goes into making this chicken really does show in every bite. I had the french fries with it and everything came out piping hot and perfectly prepared. I’ll definitely be returning, ASAP.

TARA: LOVED IT! I really enjoyed this lunch and I was excited to try it. I had heard mostly great reviews but was a tad concerned. I had read a few from Southerners that they may fall short on a few items being truly Southern cooking. I definitely did not find this to be the truth – but in fairness I avoided the item that seems to get the bad reviews (green beans). Instead, I had the Chicken Salad and it came with a house dressing that was a mix of ranch and vinaigrette. The dressing was wonderful and very tangy. The salad was fresh and a favorite salad that I get often so I was curious how it stacked up and it came out on top. And just to add to the glowing review of the deviled eggs – they are a must now every time I visit. I am not a huge deviled egg fan but these were definitely special!

CHRIS:For lunch I had the HFK Barbecue Bun sandwich. This was their chopped pork with sweet and spicy barbecue sauce, topped with southern slaw and served on a brioche bun. The pork was perfect, seasoned and cooked just right and served with their sweet and spicy barbecue sauce (which in hind site I wish I asked for an additional side of barbecue it was that good!). In lieu of chips I ordered an additional side of their southern slaw, which lived up to its southern name! Portions were a perfect size for lunch!

The service was great, our waitress was quick to refill our glasses before they were empty, but never hovering around.  She was helpful and able to answer all our questions about the menu as well as suggest food choices for us.

This is definitely a great family restaurant or for a night out.  The kids menu is small but you could always go with a couple of the sides for kids also.  I cannot recommend this restaurant enough and you HAVE to get the deviled eggs!

Columbia Harbor House Lunch Review

One of the must try restaurants for me this trip was Columbia Harbor House!  I am a huge fan of seafood and this is the go to place in the Magic Kingdom for that.  This quick service location is in Liberty Square, just look for the cast member ringing a bell.

I mentioned seafood but that is not the only thing on the menu, there are salads, chicken pot pie, macaroni and cheese, and soups.

dscn3881For lunch I was torn between two options, luckily Jamie felt the same way and we agreed to split the two.  The first one was the Lobster Roll with potato chips this was a hearty serving with lots of lobster and not a lot of filler.  The roll it came on was so soft and delicious as well.  I give this one thumbs up!  The other choice was the Anchors Aweigh Sandwich with chips.  This was a tuna sandwich with lettuce and tomato on a toasted multigrain bread.  This was even better than the lobster roll.  I really really loved this.  The tuna was very plentiful and the bread made the sandwich even better.  I give this one 2 thumbs up and I would get it again! 

Jamie: I was so happy Jillian wanted to split our options for lunch, too! I couldn’t decide and really wanted both, but obviously didn’t want to eat both. I’d previously had the lobster roll so I knew it was good, but I really enjoyed the tuna sandwich, maybe even more so than the lobster. Plus the house chips are really delicious! Both of these options are miles above the “typical” counter service restaurants most people think of. While I enjoy a good burger and fries at Disney, having options like these at Columbia Harbor House really make even quick dining at Disney really enjoyable.


Tara: I had the chicken pot pie with steamed broccoli and since I thought that was super healthy I splurged and had the blackberry cobbler for dessert. The chicken pot pie and broccoli were really good and filling. I could not even finish the pot pie because I needed to save room for the cobbler which was a huge hit. The cobbler was topped with a vanilla cream that was perfect and made it worth the broccoli side at lunch. I definitely recommend visiting Columbia Harbor House!

Shannon: I had the chicken and fish plate.  The fish was very good and cooked perfectly.  The outside is crispy and light and the fish inside was very tender.  The chicken nuggets are the same chicken nuggets you find in other areas of the parks and they are very good for what they are.  The fries are basically the same as what you’d find anywhere else in the parks and that’s fine with me because I love them.  I was not very crazy about the cole slaw that was included, but it wasn’t bad.  I’m just picky about my slaw.  Overall, I really enjoyed this meal.

This is a popular place so go early or a little later in order to avoid a long wait time or lack of seating.  The food is very fresh and filling and you can find something for even the pickiest eaters.  Put Columbia Harbor House on your short list of quick service locations to try!

Fun Walt Disney World Splurges

There are plenty of ways to spend your hard earned dollars at Walt Disney World, but you don’t have to spend them all on your park tickets or resort room.   Here are some ways to try out something a little different on your Walt Disney World vacation.

Club Level rooms- This splurge come with great views, continental breakfast, snacks, beverages (including alcoholic beverages), desserts and cordials.  Plus if you need itinerary, dining, childcare, transportation services, or golf time set up concierge services can do that. See our series here.

Theme Park View rooms- If you really want to make your family feel special choose a theme park view at select resorts. You cannot beat waking up this type of view or watching fireworks from your bed! 

VIP Tour Services-This is an amazing experience but comes with a big price tag.  So this is a good splurge to share with friends.  Groups are limited to 10 people and must me a minimum of 7 continuous hours.

A VIP Tour Guide smiles as he delivers an excited family to a Walt Disney World Resort destination

Photo via disney.com

Spa Services- There are a few spas to choose from at the Grand Floridian, Dolphin, and Saratoga Springs. Some services offered are massages, facials, nails and hair.

Epcot Seas Adventures- There are a few choices such as Dolphins in Depth, a 3 hour encounter for those 13 and up. There is also the Aqua Tour which is snorkeling in the 5.7 million gallon tank for a 2.5 hour experience for those 8 and up.  If you are SCUBA certified and 10 years and older you can do the DiveQuest experience. During this 3 hour experience you can swim with over 6,000 sea creatures.

Guests clad in SCUBA diving equipment swim beneath a rock arch in a tropical underwater environment

Photo via disney.com

Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian- high tea is served every day in the afternoon features specially blended teas, sandwiches and desserts.  What a fun and fancy way to add a little splurge to your vacation.

Victoria & Albert’s- This AAA five diamond restaurant experience located in the Grand Floridian is the ultimate splurge, particularly the Chef’s Table with is a 13 course dinner created  just for your party.

A Chef greets a table of Guests dining at Victoria and Albert's restaurant

Photo via disney.com

 

 

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is a zany vaudeville comedy show and served with all you care to eat fired chicken, BBQ ribs, salad, and strawberry shortcake.  Drinks include unlimited draft beer, wine and sangria for those over 21.  This two hour event takes place in Pioneer Hall at Fort Wilderness.  Check out Tara’s review here.

Have you ever splurged for something really unique at Walt Disney World?  If so what has been your favorite splurge, we’d love to hear!

Best Use of Dining Plan Quick Service Credits

When you get the Dining plan or Quick Service dining plan you want to make sure you are getting a good value for your money.  But cost can’t be the only factor.  You will want to make sure you are checking out the menus to verify that you are choosing a restaurant menu that will appeal to your party.  This isn’t a comprehensive list but some suggestions for great eats!

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Be Our Guest for lunch is a fantastic choice based on the location, amazing atmosphere and the food.  The food is similar to the dinner offerings but all at one quick service dining credit. Located in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland you will be immersed in the Beast’s castle and can choose from three different rooms to sit in.  This restaurant is like no other.  First of all it does require reservations for the quick service.  Next you order solely from a kiosk and then get your “rose” and find a spot to sit.  Your food will be delivered to your table.  You can check out my lunch review here.

Wolfgang Puck Express located in Disney Springs is another amazing choice for a quick service meal, lunch or dinner. Similar to Be Our Guest, you will have your food delivered to your table.  This food is pretty amazing, we recommend the mac and cheese and the bacon wrapped meatloaf.  Check out this review for more information!

Sunshine Seasons food court with high ceiling and a massive glass roof

Photo via Disney

Sunshine Season in the Land pavilion in Epcot is a delicious option with seasonal foods grown right there in the Land Pavilion! Plus the amazing strawberry shortcake is always worth getting.  This location is also ideal if you need to fuel up before waiting in line for Soarin’ Around the World.  They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner so any time the mood strikes you can check out this quick service restaurant.  This restaurant has some amazing choices like Oak grilled salmon, slow roasted pork chops and Mongolian beef.

Columbia Harbour House located in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom is a fantastic option for a healthier lunch or dinner with many options.  Some of the most popular options are the Lobster Roll, chicken pot pie, Lighthouse sandwich, clam chowder, and broccoli peppercorn salad.  You cannot beat the location and people watching if you head up to the second floor seating.

 

Flame Tree Barbecue in the Discovery Island area of Animal Kingdom is probably one of the best quick services values.  You can get more than just barbeque here though, some choices are ½ a chicken, ribs & chicken combo, smoked turkey sandwich, full slab of ribs, and roasted chicken salad.

Dining area of Landscape of Flavors restaurant at Disney's Art of Animation Resort

photo via Disney

Landscape of Flavors is located at the Art of Animation resort is an awesome choice with unique and adventurous flavors.  You can get things like curry chicken, beef stirfry, create your own pasta or pizza, burgers, soup, and salad. Yep, that is a lot of choices in one restaurant!

Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café in Frontierland in Magic Kingdom is another fantastic choice.  If you love tex-mex food this is the place for you.  It is similar to Qdoba or Chipotle where you can get a rice bowl, fajitas, or burritos and then step up to the fixins bar to doctor up your dinner.

Capt. Cook’s in the Polynesian Village Resort is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  You can get the famous Tonga Toast for breakfast or the pulled pork nachos for lunch and dinner.  This location is great whether you are staying at the Polynesian or just visiting from the other monorail resorts or want a break for the parks.  The menu has variety and is a pretty good value.

Tangerine Café located in the Morocco pavilion in Epcot is a cool choice for lunch or dinner.  They have many unique offerings such as Mediterranean chicken wrap, shawarma chicken or lamb platter, lamb wrap, and kefta sandwich.  Plenty to choose from for the adventurous palate.

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If you have a suggestion to add let us know!  We are always looking for great values and interesting menus!

7 Things to Know Before Your Walt Disney World Vacation

  1. You will walk and be on your feet a lot. Walt Disney World is big and even getting from the transportation to the turnstiles will be a walk. Of course while in line you will also be on your feet.  The best help for this is to wear comfortable broken in shoes and socks and make sure to take breaks!  Check out Shannon’s article on prepping to walk.
  2. You cannot avoid the lines. You can use FastPass, but you will still be standing in lines for your FastPasses. You’ll definitely spend time waiting in the standby lines and if you need food, chances are good you will wait in line for a little bit there as well.  Just go in knowing that you will stand in some lines just about everywhere at Walt Disney World.
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  3. FastPass is free and easy to use. FastPass is included with your park ticket, so use them! And they are indeed easy to use.  You get to choose an initial 3 but after that you can make more, one at a time.  FastPass gives you a lot of flexibility to change plans on the go using the My Disney Experience app.

 

  1. There are a few ticket options. Choosing the best ticket option for your party can require some planning, but knowing what options are available are important. There is the base ticket which is 1 park per day, or the Park Hopper which allows you into multiple parks per day.  Then there is the Water Parks, Fun, and More ticket which allows you entrance into the two Disney water parks as well as mini golf, Disney Quest and other extras.  Knowing what you will use on a vacation can save you a lot of money.

 

  1. Check the park hours and know about special events. You will want to do some research on these events as they can have an effect on hours and closures. For instance starting in September and October Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and in November and December, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will cause the Magic Kingdom to close at 7pm.  This can really change your plans if the park closes much earlier than expected and you will be unable to see fireworks during your visit.  Other special event such as Food and Wine, and Flower and Garden can have an effect on crowds as well.

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  1. Don’t overlook attractions. It is easy to judge an attraction but a spin on the People Mover can be relaxing and fun. These smaller attractions can end up becoming favorites if you give them a chance.

 

  1. You can and should enjoy your resort. The resorts are so well themed, they have amazing pools and some cool amenities. Many resorts have multiple restaurants and bars so there are great places to get bite to eat or drink.    It is very tempting to spend all your time in the parks, but the resorts have great activities such as movies under the stars, campfires with s’mores, and fun games around the pool that you should make the time to check out.