Resort Hopping at the Grand Floridian

So what do you do when you’re traveling to Walt Disney World on a budget, yet you want to get a taste of what life is like on the other side?
I have two words for you my friend……..Resort Hopping.

If you take a little time away from the parks, there is a whole new world to discover. And I’m not talking about flying on a magic carpet either. I’m talking about hopping over to the Grand Floridian resort. Located on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon and just a monorail stop away from the Magic Kingdom, it’s no wonder that the Grand Floridian resort can cost a pretty penny to stay at. And let’s face it, I’m probably not going to be able to afford any room (for any length of time) at the Grand Floridian anytime soon! So what better way to experience the finer things in life then to resort hop and check it all out? I’ve made this particular resort a stop on many of our past Walt Disney World vacations. We’ve experienced some of the restaurants, did some shopping, did some lounging – just like we were real life resort guests. It really is a magnificent place to spend an afternoon or evening. I will admit, for the money it’s not really my style, but I can appreciate the beauty and grandeur of it from afar (as I stay at the less expensive but not any less charming Port Orleans Riverside). This resort is also home to one of my favorite hidden gems restaurants, the Grand Floridian Cafe. I suppose it is not really hidden but I think it is extremely overlooked due to some of the more popular restaurants at this resort like Citricos and Narcoossee’s. The Grand Floridian Cafe actually has some amazing food and I would put it on par with some of the signature dining. I also loved the atmosphere of the restaurant. Best part is, it’s less expensive or less credits on the dining plan. Want to feel real fancy for a minute? You can also take part in afternoon tea in the Garden View Lounge while enjoying crumpets, scones and more. To top it all off, this resort has some beautiful grounds and great views of the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon. Making it overall an amazing stop while resort hopping. Perhaps one day I’ll get to stay there, or at least make a visit to the spa. A girl can dream right?

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Mini Bucket List of Tasty Treats

Disney Dole Whip. Disney summer snacks, Disney food, Disney snacks, Dole ice cream

One thing I love to do when planning my next Walt Disney World vacation is to come up with a list of all of the different food and drinks I would like to try on our next trip. It very rarely happens that I can cross them all off and some stay on my list over the course of several trips. There are just so many food locations and so many interesting choices that it seems impossible to try them all. And sometimes it doesn’t always quite make it into our plan or budget. I listen to a lot of different podcasts from week to week, I read a lot of different Disney related blogs, and any time someone mentions a new or interesting food, drink or experience, I immediately plug it into my notes app on my phone. Call it my mini bucket list if you will. My mini bucket list of tasty treats.

It is things like this that help me keep the dream alive while I sit here not so patiently waiting for my next vacation. *sigh*

-Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich at Sleepy Hollow: Truth be told, I just need to visit Sleepy Hollow in general. In fact, I am ashamed to call myself a Walt Disney World fan when I have never even stopped here. Those waffle sandwiches are calling my name too!
-Lapu Lapu at the Tambu Lounge: My friends at the Enchanted Tiki Talk podcast talk about this drink all the time, and I want to know and understand what they are talking about. I want to feel like we are still friends and that I can hang! Now with the addition of Trader Sams, I need to make the Polynesian a priority.
-Truffle Mac n Cheese Hot Dog at Fairfax Fare: Truffle was all I really needed to hear in order to be convinced. It seems I’m always searching to find something good to eat while at the Studios. I plan to give this bad boy a try!
-Sugar Cane Mojito at Dawa Bar: Safari Mike from Jambo Everyone is a big fan. And I’m a big fan of him, so I would imagine I will be a big fan of this. That is, if I can bring myself to not order my signature drink, the margarita!
-Cronut at the Refreshment Port: Located right as you enter the World Showcase in Epcot and head towards Canada, I have always just walked past this place completely oblivious. Then I hear all these rave reviews about this croissant donut, or what they call the cronut. I will not walk past this place again, I can promise you that.
-School Bread at Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe: I don’t even like coconut but I am probably going to need to get this. Because apparently you aren’t a Disney fan unless you’ve tried School Bread.
-Roasted Pork Shank at Gaston’s Tavern: It’s been too busy inside Gaston’s Tavern the last few times we have been by there. But the pork shank has been on my list for a long time.
-Tamarind Margarita at La Cava: La Cava is pretty much my favorite place in Epcot and I’ve experienced maybe one too many margaritas there. But my love of the Blood Orange margarita makes me think I might also love this one.

Princess Half marathon drink, Disney champagne, Epcot Food and Wine

When in France…drink champagne!

-Cream Cheese Pretzel at Fife and Drum: A pretzel…with cream cheese…sounds like my kind of snack.
-Sliced Beef Brisket at Tortuga Tavern: This menu is completely new as of like yesterday and if Tortuga Tavern is open on our next trip, this will be our lunch destination for sure!

Are any of these items on your mini bucket list of tasty treats to try?

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8 Ways to Save for Your Next Disney Vacation

If you are anything like me, you would take any chance you had to visit Walt Disney World or any other Disney destination in the world. You dream about it day and night, plan out dream trips that you may not really take, and count down the days until you can visit again. Unfortunately, if you are still anything like me, you can’t always afford it! Disney vacations can be expensive, especially if you are traveling during the peak seasons. I usually plan my vacations a year or more ahead of time giving me time to scrimp and save as much as possible to make those dreams a reality. As soon as Disney releases the rates on the dates I want to travel, I go into planning and saving mode. I have found the following 8 ways extremely effective over my many years of Walt Disney World vacation saving. Every little penny adds up when trying to get yourself just one step closer to the Mouse.

1. Spare Change
This is one of my most successful ways of saving money. Whenever I have cash on me and I buy something I ALWAYS break the dollar. I never use change to pay for anything, even if my bill comes out to $6.01. If you put all of that change in a jar, over time it will really add up! Even more fun is to decorate a “Walt Disney World Vacation Jar.” It will make it all the better to throw the change in there when you can get really excited about what it is going towards. I roll it up every couple of months and deposit it into my special vacation savings. Which brings me to money saving tip #2.

2. Vacation Savings Account
Open a savings account specifically for vacations. Make sure it is an account that does not charge fees if you have too low of a balance or when you take the money out to use for your vacation. When it’s all in this special account you won’t dip into it as much as if it is just money in your everyday savings or checking account. If your work offers direct deposit for their payroll and they allow you the option to deposit into more than one account, that is an easy way to put a little aside each payroll check. I have mine set up for a small amount of my check each week to go directly into the vacation savings account. It’s small as to where it doesn’t affect my life but nice to see the account grow over time. I also put all of the change that I’ve collected into the account each month. Instead of letting it all sit around in jar, I deposit it as soon as I have a good amount so I can also receive interest. The interest really is not much depending on the type of account you have opened but hey, it’s something!

3. Disney Gift Cards
Lots of retailers sell Disney gift cards and you can actually use these gift cards towards the payment of your vacation. Places like Target or Costco even discount the price of the gift card. For example at Target if you have their credit card you will receive 5% off the purchase of a Disney gift card. So if you buy one for $50, you will pay end up paying $47.50. Usually if I am in one of these stores and my budget allows, I will grab a gift card either to put towards the payment of my trip or to use as spending money while there.

4. Popular Grocery/Shopping Apps
There are several grocery and shopping apps that I have become obsessed with in the last year. They actually pay you to shop for items you already are most likely shopping for. Best of all, these apps are completely free and typically deposit the money directly into your paypal account (some still send paper checks). My absolute favorite right now is Ibotta. If you purchase any of the items shown on the Ibotta app, you simply scan the barcode, upload a picture of your receipt and they put the rebate into your account. For example, a bottle of Yellowtail wine will earn you a $1.00 rebate. Once you have earned $10 you are able to redeem it and send it to your Paypal account. I have already earned $125.00 in rebates just about 5 months of using the app. Other favorites of mine are Shrink, Checkout 51, and Ebates. Ebates so far has been my best earner. It is not grocery related, it is all shopping. I do a ton of online shopping and if you click through their app to go to your online store of choice, you earn a percentage back on all of your spending. For example, Old Navy frequently runs 8% back on purchases. They deposit any earnings to your paypal account about once a month no matter how much you have earned.

5. Bottle Returns
In the good ole state of Michigan, I have the privilege to return bottles/cans for cash. It is only 10 cents per bottle or can, but if you never spend any of that money and put it immediately away into your savings it will add up nicely.

6. Yard Sale & Auction Sites
Get all of your old stuff together that you no longer want and have a yard/garage sale. Not nice enough outside to do that yet? Try selling your things on Ebay. Most auctions will not be charged an insertion fee and you will only have to pay a small fee if the item sells. You can also use Half.com if you have books or media to sell. Unlike Ebay, you can list your books or media on Half.com for as long as it takes them to sell. The site will take a small percentage of the final value but there are no fees to list.

7. Extra Money
Any extra money that I receive other than my work paycheck, I will normally throw into the vacation savings. For example, when I switched phone service providers, I had a credit on my account from my old phone. They sent me a check for the balance that was remaining on my account. Before I began these saving techniques I would have put that into my checking account where most of my everyday spending money would go. Since this is money that I wouldn’t normally have, it makes much more sense to put it towards your vacation. I use this mentality with any type of “extra” money I receive. Other examples of this would be money from birthday cards/Christmas gifts, extra work you do for someone that they may pay you for, mail-in rebates, a bonus from work, etc.

8. Disney Visa Rewards Credit Card
Lastly, the Disney Visa Rewards credit card from Chase offers several perks to its cardholders. Most notable would be the reward dollars you can earn from everyday purchases. The current rate of reward dollars on the card is $1 per $100 spent. Once you reach an initial rewards amount of $20 you can then redeem for a gift card that can be used at the parks, the Disney Store, and the Disney Store online. Being a cardholder also gives you different perks at each of the theme parks such as private meet and greets, discounts on tours, exclusive pins and 10% discounts on merchandise at the parks, 10% discounts on select dining locations, and more. Now it is true that the rate of reward dollars is not great. There are a ton of other credit cards out there that offer better rewards. With that being said however, one of my favorite things about the card is when you use the card to pay for your Disney vacation, you are given 6 months to pay for the vacation with 0% interest. I do this every time we plan a vacation and then make sure the trip is paid off within the 6 month term. This helps my situation especially because I usually travel with family members who don’t live in my household. I charge the entire vacation and this gives them time to get me their money without demanding it right away. Also the reward dollars earned from the price of the trip are mighty nice! We usually use the gift card we received to pay for tips at our sit down restaurant reservations. Combine that with the free dining promo (if available) and you have actual straight up FREE dining.

Hopefully theses tips will be helpful when you plan your next vacation, and they might even make it a little more fun to save. How do you save for your Disney vacation?


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Katy Maxwell
katy@magicalvacationsbyme.com
http://www.facebook.com/magicalvacationsbykaty

Take a Break at La Cava de Tequila

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It was just recently that I had my first experience visiting La Cava de Tequila, a quaint little tequila bar inside of the Mexico pavilion at Epcot. And after visiting, I definitely had to wonder what had taken me so long! I now call this place a hidden gem of Walt Disney World and make sure that I mention it to all of my clients as a “must do” especially if the bar/lounge experience is of interest to them. Although the location is not exactly hidden, it is very easy to walk right past this bar when wandering through the Mexico pavilion and never even know that it was there. There is some great shopping inside, a boat ride with the Three Cabelleros, and a dimly lit intimate restaurant experience so it is hard to believe there could be more to do.

My drink of choice has always been the wonderful delicious amazing margarita. So it was only fitting that I needed to cross this off my Disney bucket list as soon as possible. And cross it off, I did! Not only did I manage to get there and try one of their delicious specialty margaritas, I got to try five different specialty margaritas! Slow down, before you stage an intervention, I did not drink all five and it wasn’t in one setting. My family and I were able to make it to La Cava twice during our trip (and got a seat both times). Each adult in my party made sure to order a different flavor both times so we could then in turn taste the different flavors.

So if are you wondering if a $14 margarita is any better than a margarita from Applebees for $5? The answer is an enormous …. HECK YES!!!!!
Ok so yes I agree, these margaritas are a tad overpriced so it certainly deters you from heavy alcohol consumption. And it’s difficult to justify it when you can get a frozen one outside for considerably less. But I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed every single one that we tried, and the atmosphere just could not be beat. If you can get a table, order some queso or chips and salsa and take a break from the crowds and the heat, it can be a really great memory on your already memory-filled magical vacation. Now that I am in on the secret, I will be returning on each and every trip. I liked it that much.So if you are looking for suggestions and an idea of their offerings, here are the drinks that we tried and my ranking from 1 to 5 in terms of my favorites (1 being my favorite, 5 being my least favorite).

1. Blood Orange – El Mayor premium silver Tequila, orange liqueur, sweet-tart mix of blood orange juice and hibiscus syrup, topped with wild berry foam served on the rocks with hibiscus Himalayan salt rim

2. Wild Passion Fruit – 100% Agave Tequila Reposado, ginger liqueur, passion fruit, mango nectar and fresh lime juice, topped with mango foam, served on the rocks with a hibiscus Himalayan salt rim

3. Cucumber – El Mayor premium silver Tequila, orange liqueur, caramelized pineapple juice, fresh basil, cucumber and agave nectar, served on the rocks with a cactus-lemongrass Himalayan salt rim

4. Pineapple – 100% Agave Tequila Reposado, ginger liqueur, caramelized pineapple nectar, fresh lime juice and agave nectar, served on the rocks with a cactus-lemongrass Himalayan salt rim

5. Avocado – El Mayor premium silver Tequila, melon liqueur, fresh avocado, agave nectar and fresh lime juice, served frozen with a hibiscus Himalayan salt rim

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Cucumber Margarita pictured

The Blood Orange was hands down my favorite and just delicious. The addition of the wildberry/mango foam gave it such a unique taste and the salt used on each drink really makes a difference as well. At first glance at the menu I wasn’t so sure about the salt, but it had a hot spice to it that really gave a nice kick to the flavors. I contemplated asking for regular salt because I honestly thought I would hate it. I loved it and could not get enough. Cucumber was middle of the road for me. It had more of a refreshing taste than the others and I think the oddness of the flavor choice makes it a must try. Pineapple and Avocado were last for me. Pineapple only because although delicious, I feel I have had drinks of similar taste before at other places and for the price it was not really worth it. Lastly Avocado due mainly to the fact that it was frozen and not on the rocks. I need my margaritas on the rocks! But again, how many places do you go and see an Avocado margarita on the menu? It almost makes it a must try!

La Cava de Tequila is a must do for all Walt Disney World fans, especially those who like to drink tequila. Margaritas are not even the half of it! The bar offers over 200 different tequilas, Mexican beer and wine, and you can even order a tequila flight if tequila tasting is your thing. I can’t be more thrilled that I finally got to experience it after years of traveling to the World. The snacks, drinks, and cozy atmosphere make it such a fun way to get away from the crowds and heat and have a little relaxation.
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Katy Maxwell – Travel Specialist
katy@magicalvacationsbyme.com
http://www.facebook.com/magicalvacationsbykaty