Can The Fans Save Off Kilter?

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Change is necessary. But it’s not always good.
Disney recently announced it will replace some of Epcot’s entertainment in the World Showcase to make way for new shows and performances.
Off Kilter, the Celtic rock band that has entertained many guests in Epcot since it opened in 1982, is part of those performers being cut.
Off Kilter fans are mad, and have organized a campaign to “Save Off Kilter.”
And although I agree that some performers need replacing in Epcot, I don’t agree with replacing Off Kilter.
The band’s last performance is September 27th.
So for the last 2 weekends, we’ve made our way to Epcot to listen to some of Off Kilter’s last performances. And while they know these are their last shows, they give it their all – just like they always have.
The kilt- wearing bagpipe playing band always draws a crowd, and appeals to all ages. Located in the Canada Pavillion, it’s a great place to sit and enjoy a beverage while listening to a performance.
You can always count on hearing favorites like “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” and “Amazing Grace.”
One Off Kilter fan from Michigan told me she just doesn’t understand why Disney would replace Off Kilter with log rollers. She admitted she’d probably watch that once, adding that she watches Off Kilter perform on every trip to Disney.
So I hope that Disney hears the Off Kilter fans loud and clear and finds a way to keep this Epcot classic performing for many years.

It’s Likely The Calm Before The Storm

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If you spent time in Epcot this weekend you probably noticed how empty it was. You could call that Disney in September but it’s also likely the calm before the storm. Next weekend begins Epcot International Food and Wine Festival – the most anticipated event of the year for food, wine and craft beer enthusiasts.
It’s a party for your taste buds and an opportunity to taste the culinary delights from various countries, craft beer and a plethora of wines.
Small appetizer sized portions of various foods can be purchased, usually priced between $3.50 – $5.00.
Due to its popularity, this festival gets longer every year. It will run for 53 days this year from September 19 through November 10.
Saturday evening small groups of festival cast members could be seen throughout the World Showcase getting their last-minute instructions.
And while you nibble your way around the world, you can see performances in the Eat To The Beat Concert Series which features performances such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Smash Mouth and Boyz ll Men just to mention a few.
Mixology seminars and cooking demonstrations along with many other mini events will occur during the festival.
Although the festival itself draws large crowds, if you plan to attend expect weekdays to be only slightly less crowded.

Becoming A Florida Resident Annual Passholder

Becoming A Florida Resident Annual Passholder

It was the first thing on my agenda after becoming a Florida resident – getting our Disney annual pass.
And 8 days after arriving with everything unpacked, we headed to Guest Relations at Downtown Disney to do just that.
Disney offers a great opportunity for Florida residents to take advantage of purchasing their annual passes and having the cost split into monthly payments with no additional costs or interest! What a great way to make the annual pass a little easier on the wallet!
We were anxious to get to one of the parks and enjoy a few hours of evening park hours.
I was also curious about how different it would feel to be in Disney now that we live here and can visit the parks anytime.
I have to admit there was this sense of unhurried park enjoyment!
If we didn’t get to an attraction, no big deal…we’d be back soon.
Unlike vacationing here, we didn’t need to spend the entire day in the park. Instead, we can go for a morning or evening.
We can also see every season in the parks! Halloween items are starting to pop up in the gift shops but I imagine it won’t be long before the parks are completely decorated for fall and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, which begins in September. Also beginning next month is my favorite – Epcot International Food And Wine Festival!
And with the Christmas season approaching and 2 of our 3 daughters visiting over Christmas, we will get the opportunity to accomplish another Disney goal I’ve had – spending Christmas Day in the the parks!

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Disney Cruising

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Taking a Disney Cruise is the natural progression for those who have made a trip or two (or 17) to Walt Disney World.

In the fall I  had the opportunity to take a Disney Land and Sea vacation  and spent a couple of days in the Disney parks while staying at Disney’s Yacht Club resort and then on to Port Canaveral where I boarded  the Disney Dream for a 3 night Bahamas cruise.

Many people think Disney Cruises are just for families with children, but I traveled with adults and there was plenty for us to do including some adult only areas of the ship!

A self-serve soda station offers free soda on the pool deck.

They also have an ice cream station near the pool – a great way to cool off after swimming.

I  purchased an adult beverage in a souvenir cup for $9.99 and that cup could be refilled with the drink of the day for $4.85. I had to ask the Cast Member to repeat the refill price because I couldn’t believe there could be a drink under $5 on a cruise ship!

As we all know, Disney knows how to entertain! And the Broadway-style shows – Golden Mickey’s, The Villains, and Believe – were all excellent and I recommend you don’t miss them.

The easy access to characters on the Disney Dream was another real treat! There were character meet and greets set up on the ship and when we got off the ship at Castaway Cay, there were no lines to get pictures with Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale and Donald Duck!

A signature attraction on the Dream is the Aqua Duck, the clear-tubed water coaster with Disney’s signature drops and turns. The line for this attraction can get long but if you ride it when you board the ship or closer to dinner time, you can have it almost to yourself! Disney has rotational dining in its restaurants on the Dream. You’ll be assigned a restaurant each night and your serving staff will follow you to those restaurants. Remy and Palo are the adult only restaurants you can choose to go to but reservations are a must.

Room service was complimentary so I woke up every day to my fresh pot of coffee.  I would pour a cup and sit on the balcony and watch the sun rise and the ocean go by.  I also enjoyed the view from there watching the ship docking at the port. I don’t think there’s anything  more relaxing.

The Disney-themed kids clubs on the ship such as “Andy’s Room,” made me almost want to be a kid again. And I loved the hand-washing station where children just insert their hands and the washing (via spraying with soap and water) is done for you!

Another feature that Disney Cruises have is their fireworks show that tops off Pirate Night on the ship – another not-to-be-missed night-time spectacular. Didn’t bring any pirate-wear? No worries! Everyone gets a pirate bandana for each person in your cabin!

My only regret on this cruise was that I hadn’t cruised on a Disney Cruise sooner, and that I’d wished the cruise was longer. But taking the 3-day cruise was a great way to try a Disney Cruise and to determine  that I definitely want to take another (longer) one!

Getting My Disney Legs On (And Feet Too!)

I think it’s easier on the legs if you’re taking a Disney vacation in the fall rather than the Spring!
Why?
Because I’ve spent the winter wrapped up in a warm blanket watching TV and making excuses not to go out into the cold for that 10 minute drive to the gym. And now it’s crunch time (not to be confused with crunches time because that’s a whole different blog post!)
So as most of you who have been to Disney know, there’s a lot of walking done in a Disney vacation.
How much?
Well, our daughters took pedometers during one trip and we averaged out the miles we walked that week and it ranged between 11-14 miles a day!
I’ve heard runners say they’re still not prepared for all the walking even with all the running they do!
But I do try to get some extra walking in ahead of time so I don’t have sore leg muscles in addition to my sore feet!
The feet are a whole different problem with a stress fracture twice before, forcing me to have to wear really supportive and very expensive shoes.
I don’t like sneakers when it’s hot so that means I need to find a good pair of sandals before I go. I naturally gravitate to something flip flop-ish but dear old foot doctor thinks I need heel support!
Crocs are out of the question because they “are like having your feet in marshmallows.” (More foot doctor advice!)
I’ve previously worn Clark’s, they worked well. But now I’m looking at Keen Sandals.
Arch support, keeping my feet cool and comfortable are most important. And they at least need a strap around my heel.
So if you have any recommendations please share them!

To Fly Or Drive Down I-95

For most of my Disney trips the decision to fly or drive is an easy one….FLY!
But this year the airfare is so high (over $400 per person!) that we’ve decided to drive.
The last time we drove to Walt Disney World was 2004, right after hurricane Charlie hit Orlando. Our flight was cancelled out of Philly because the terminal in Orlando was damaged from the hurricane. And they told us we wouldn’t get on another flight for days. I looked at my husband and said, “do you know how to drive to Florida?” He said, “two roads, I-95 and I-4.”
Next thing we knew, we were in the car, driving to Walt Disney World.
We had nothing prepared for a driving trip but a stop at a Wal-Mart in Virginia fixed that.
Looking back on that trip, it was one of our most memorable ones!
This year is a little different. We are actually planning to drive so we will be more prepared with cooler, snacks, and even better technology than the last trip! Did you know there’s an I-95 Exit Guide app? It gives you details on what restaurants, hotels and gas stations are located at each exit!
Another benefit to driving is no limits on luggage! Not that I would take too much, it’s always what I want to bring back!
I’ve made advance hotel reservations for an overnight on the way down and the return trip, based on where we expect to be. And even that was easier to plan with maps that show construction locations and estimated arrival times.
While there’s not really a need for a car in Disney ( since they transport you everywhere) it will be nice to see more of Florida than the road from the airport to our Disney resort.
Driving does add 2 days to our trip but it will be our 10th anniversary celebration, so driving will make it more of an adventure!

You Need A Plan…A Dining Plan

You Need A Plan…A Dining Plan

Everyone likes to save money when planning a Walt Disney World vacation. But something you should never leave home without (when heading to Disney) is some sort of dining plan. And by plan I don’t mean “meet us at noon at Pecos Bills for lunch.”
I’m talking about a Disney Dining Plan. The kind you can only get if you stay on-site at a Disney resort.
There are several dining plan options to choose from, the most popular one includes a sit down restaurant meal, a quick service meal, and a snack for each night of stay. All of the meal plans include for each person in your party a resort refillable mug that has unlimited refills at your resort food court for the duration of your stay.

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And did I mention you get dessert with lunch and dinner?
The only drawback I see to this particular plan is that you need to make advanced dining reservations for your table service meal which means you need to set up a time that you’re going to dine each day.
If you don’t want to commit to a sit down restaurant each day and you wait until you arrive for your vacation to make dining reservations, you will be very limited to what restaurants have available times as most people do make the dining reservations 6 months in advance.
If you want a meal plan without the restaurant reservation commitment, try the Quick Service Dining Plan. That plan gives each person 2 quick service meals and one snack per night of stay. And just because you choose the Quick Service Plan, doesn’t mean you have to live on hamburgers and hot dogs for the week. Disney does a fabulous job of offering many varieties of quick service meals including salads, wraps, spaghetti, and even roast chicken and mashed potatoes! (At Cosmic Rays in the Magic Kingdom…delicious!)
And if you want to dine at several Signature Dining restaurants which include some of the character dining that requires 2 table service credits, I recommend the Deluxe Dining Plan. With this plan you would get 3 meals and one snack for for each night of stay. And what makes this plan unique is that there is no distinction between Quick Service meals and restaurant sit down meals, so you can use those meals however you choose. Most people choose the Deluxe Dining in order to plan more character dining experiences during their stay.
The question I get asked most by families considering the dining
Plan: Is there a limited menu that you choose from. And the answer is no. While there are a few small restrictions, pretty much what you see on the menu you can order.
The biggest question: will a dining plan cost me more or save me money?
In my opinion it will save you money. If you keep the receipts of all your dining while on vacation and add them up, the total will be much higher than the cost of the meal plan. And who wants to worry about how much money to budget for meals on vacation?
Keep in mind that your dining plan must be added before you check in at your resort!
So make your vacation a true vacation and include a dining plan!