Best Websites for Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation

Written by Sue Nowicki

Whenever I plan a Disney vacation I have several go-to websites I visit to do my research every time. This led me to wonder, what are some of the websites my fellow MouseQuesters use when planning their own Disney adventures. So I put a call out to the MouseQuest team and asked them what are the best websites for planning a Walt Disney World vacation.Disney Websites

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Aulani – My Hawaiian Trip Report

Written by Corinne Leon
Aulani
Aloha and E Komo Mai! Welcome to my very first Trip Report, and what a trip it was! We knew that 2015 was going to mark a milestone in our lives as we would be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. We talked about a few vacation options including a DVC Members Cruise, or a trip to the Disneyland Resort, but the destination that we kept coming back to was Hawaii. But it always seemed like such a crazy, impossible dream! So, when Disney built a DVC resort on Oahu in 2011, that dream didn’t seem so impossible after all! And by some miracle, everything fell into place and we were able to plan this amazing trip of a lifetime!

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Castaway Cay – Paradise Disney-Style

Written by Corinne Leon

Our family loves sailing on Disney Cruise Line! We are Gold Castaway Club Members, which means we’ve sailed Disney Cruise Line more than 5 times (6 to be exact). So far, we have only experienced Caribbean and Bahamian itineraries, which is fine with us because this means that we were lucky enough to have visited Disney’s Castaway Cay each time! Once, we even did a “double dip” itinerary, which means we made TWO stops at Castaway Cay. I think that was my favourite of them all.

Castaway CayCastaway Cay is Disney’s private Bahamian Island and is reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line Guests. It’s basically an extension of the ship, as the ship is docked there all day and Guests can come and go as they please. Guests don’t even have to go back on the ship to eat, as there are 3 locations on the island to enjoy lunch. Scuttle’s Cove provides childcare on the island for the little ones, and Hideout is a cool place for teens to hang out. There are even character meet and greets and a Dance Party on Castaway Cay. The beaches are gorgeous and are furnished with plenty of chairs, loungers and umbrellas. Lifeguard towers provide life vests of all sizes. The first beach is the Castaway Family Beach, which is a short walk from the ship, or you can also get there by tram. Further down the island is Serenity Bay Beach, which is reserved for adults only.

As you may imagine, Disney Cruise Line offers dozens of activities and port adventures on Castaway Cay. As much as I’d love to describe every single one of them here, I’m only going to mention the activities and adventures that we have actually experienced.

Pretty much the very first thing we like to reserve is the Castaway Cay Getaway Package. This includes the rental of snorkel gear, an inflatable tube or raft and a bicycle. It’s a great deal and gives everyone the option of either relaxing on the beach or jumping into the lagoon to cool down a bit throughout the day.

Castaway CayWe really enjoy the scenic bike trail that follows along an old airstrip out to a tower where you can climb to the top and see for miles! As we know, Disney is all about the details, so they have strategically placed cold water stations all along the trail. We especially enjoy the quiet road that goes behind some of the colourful cabanas all the way to the very end of the bike trail. The best time to snorkel is earlier in the day before the other swimmers and snorkelers have stirred up the sandy bottom. The water is amazingly clear then and there are plenty of colourful fish to see, as well as a few surprises and (not so) hidden Mickeys!

Castaway CayThere is also a very cool waterslide called Pelican Plunge, which sits on a 2,400 square foot floating platform just a short swim from the shore. There are 2 separate, twisty slides, one is covered, the other is not, and both plunge you right into the lagoon! We prefer the open air one but they’re both a lot of fun!

Castaway CayOf course, I can’t talk about Castaway Cay without mentioning the food. Families can enjoy lunch at either Cookie’s BBQ or Cookie’s Too BBQ a little further down the beach. There is also a separate BBQ near Serenity Bay Beach. The food is very tasty with a nice selection of hamburgers, ribs, mahi mahi, fresh fruit and baked goods. Here is my husband digging right in!

Earlier that same day, my husband and I took part in the runDisney Castaway Cay 5K Race or the first time. He did very well but I think I held him back, as I had not trained very much beforehand. And, of course, the slower you are, the later (and hotter!) it gets. Nonetheless, we received our medals, purchased the requisite T-shirts, and checked that one off our Disney Bucket List!

Castaway CayOn the more adventurous side, my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed Parasailing! There is nothing like the feeling of “flying” high above the deep blue ocean waters with a view of our magnificent Disney Cruise ship off in the distance!

Not one for heights, my husband decided to embark on a fishing excursion, where he actually caught a small lemon shark! Catch and release is the Disney way, of course.

So, there you have a tiny glimpse into some of the wonderful experiences we have had on Disney’s Castaway Cay. Visiting this little piece of island paradise is, by far, one of the many highlights of our Disney Cruises. If all goes as planned, we are hoping to enjoy our 7th DCL cruise, a 7-night “Star Wars” themed itinerary on the Fantasy in 2016! And you just know we can’t wait to feel that nice white sand between our toes and swim in that calm clear lagoon once again! See ya later, mon!

Castaway Cay

Corinne is a busy commuter mom who works full-time in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Together with her husband and teenage daughter, they love planning their future Disney trips and cruises, always trying to add new experiences to each vacation! You can follow Corinne on Twitter @Jump4Joy8390.

Other posts by this author:
2015 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
New Food Trucks Park in Downtown Disney Westside
Planning a September Trip to Walt Disney World

Disney's Castaway Cay

2015 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Written by Corinne Leon

04-15-2015 F&G

Spring has sprung! Well, maybe not quite yet in the “great white north”, but it’s been in full bloom at the 2015 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival since early March. Our family was lucky enough to visit the Walt Disney World Resort® during the Festival this year. In my opinion, Epcot looks its absolute best during Flower & Garden! The Festival definitely has a lot to offer this year, from amazing floral displays, to tasty treats, informative workshops, and a fun, new concert series!

04-15-2015 F&G2The amazing topiaries are always a huge highlight of the Festival each year. They are nothing short of brilliant works of art! Every year, they add some new ones, while relocating many of the old favourites. New this year, are “Goofy About Spring” near the main entrance, “Anna and Elsa Topiaries” in the Showcase Plaza and “Miss Piggy Topiary and Tour de Fleurs Garden” near Italy. A few that I particularly like are “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Topiaries” and “Winnie the Pooh Topiary” with his balloon. In addition to the topiaries, the colourful landscaping designs are absolutely breathtaking and provide endless photo ops!

04-15-2015 F&G4Even if you’re not particularly interested in flowers or gardens, there are still many other things to grab your attention. A fairly new addition in recent years are the Outdoor Kitchens, which are similar yet different from the offerings at the Food & Wine Festival in the fall of each year. Several can be found in the Showcase Plaza and almost every country around World Showcase hosts an Outdoor Kitchen, in addition to their regular restaurants. Each kitchen sells a couple of savoury dishes, usually a dessert selection and a few drink options. We tried the “Piggylicious” Bacon Cupcake at THE SMOKEHOUSE: Barbeque and Brews near The American Adventure and the Pineapple Soft-Serve (aka Dole Whip) at Pineapple Promenade in the Showcase Plaza. We were hoping to get a green Dole Whip since it was St Patrick’s Day but they ran out of the green 10 minutes before we got there. Last year, I tried the soft-serve with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum – now that was yummy!

04-15-2015 F&G3The Festival Center in Future World East is only open on the weekends and there you can attend many interesting workshops and demonstrations to learn about gardening and landscaping. You can also learn about some behind the scenes work that happens on some of our favourite Walt Disney World attractions.

04-15-2015 F&G5Another unique aspect of Flower & Garden is the Garden Rocks concert series, formerly called the Flower Power concert series. Each weekend, a different musical act performs 3 shows at the America Gardens Theater, on Fridays through Sundays. Again, variety is the key here and guests can be entertained by classic bands like Starship and the Little River Band, or individual artists like Jon Secada and Taylor Dayne. Be sure to arrive early to get a good seat! I must confess to being more than a little disappointed at missing the Gin Blossoms and the Village People. Talk about poor timing!

All in all, I can easily say that this year’s Flower & Garden Festival was probably my favourite yet! In addition to all that I’ve already talked about, there are new and unique festival specific merchandise and plenty of activities for the kids, including the very popular “Butterflies on the Go” tent and “Mike and Sully’s Monstrous Garden”. This is definitely one of the best times of year to visit Epcot, and I highly recommend it!

For more information or if you’re planning to attend this year’s Festival, check out this link for all the details, including a downloadable Festival Guide – Flower & Garden Festival.

Corinne is a busy commuter mom who works full-time in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Together with her husband and teenage daughter, they love planning their future Disney trips and cruises, always trying to add new experiences to each vacation! You can follow Corinne on Twitter @Jump4Joy8390.

Other posts by this author:
2015 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
New Food Trucks Park in Downtown Disney Westside
Planning a September Trip to Walt Disney World

New Food Trucks Park in Downtown Disney WestSide

Written by Corinne Leon

2015-01 Food Trucks 1

Who doesn’t love hearing about new food offerings at Walt Disney World? This is why I was so excited when, earlier this month, the Disney Parks Blog announced the opening of Exposition Park, which will be home to four Disney-owned food trucks. It sounds like there will be one or more of these trucks, plus the ESPN food truck, and also some visiting local food trucks, there at any given time. Exposition Park is located between Bongo’s Cuban Café and Starbucks on the West Side, near the grassy area overlooking the waterfront. The introduction of this new area is just the latest of many new concepts and entertainment options in the works for the new Disney Springs.

2015-01 Food Trucks 2The four Disney-owned food trucks each have a theme that is loosely representative of the four theme parks in Walt Disney World. First, there is the Fantasy Fare food truck, which features favourites from Magic Kingdom theme parks around the world.

Many guests may remember seeing this truck parked outside the World of Disney store in the Marketplace. There are currently three entrees on the menu: Croque Monsieur, Sticky Chicken and Waffles, both from the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, and the Hand-Dipped Corndog, which is a Disneyland Park favourite. I’ve tried and enjoyed the first 2 items and will try the corndog on our next trip!

2015-01 Food Trucks 3The second food truck is called the World Showcase of Flavors, which features dishes from the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

Current menu items are: Pierogies with Kielbasa and Caramelized Onions from Poland, Grilled Chicken Breast Gyro from Greece, and Grass-Fed Beef Sliders from the Florida Locals booth. As expected, there are also four different wines available. They change this menu from time to time because I ordered the Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie from a food truck here last March. I have not tried any of the current items but they all sound yummy!

2015-01 Food Trucks 4The third food truck is called Superstar Catering, featuring some signature dishes from Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The three items for sale here are the Margarita Flatbread, Turkey Meatball Sub, and Slow-cooked Pot Roast Sandwich. These don’t particularly excite me, but the food here is probably my least favourite of the four parks, so this is not a huge surprise. Of the three menu items, I’d most want to try the pot roast sandwich.

2015-01 Food Trucks 5The fourth Disney-owned food truck is called Namaste Café, which features a few favourites from Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.

Reading this menu is making me hungry because I really love Indian food but don’t get to have it very often! There are four items on this menu: Butter Chicken, Tandoori Spiced Shrimp, Lamb Kefta, and Naan and Samosa Dipping Safari.

2015-01 Food Trucks 6The ESPN food truck is most likely to be found over at Wide World of Sports, but we may get to see it at Downtown Disney occasionally. This truck offers such items as a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, Angus Cheeseburger, Chi     cken Nuggets, Hotdogs, and a Bacon, Egg and Cheese Sandwich (for breakfast).

All in all, I am very excited to check out each of these unique and interesting food truck options. I think they will add another dining experience layer to the evolving Disney Springs area that is both current as well as very practical!

Corinne is a busy commuter mom who works full-time in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Together with her husband and teenage daughter, they love planning their future Disney trips and cruises, always trying to add new experiences to each vacation! You can follow Corinne on Twitter @Jump4Joy8390.

Planning a September Trip to WDW

Written By: Corinne Leon

sept1

With the exception of one December trip, my family has always visited Walt Disney World either during the super crowded Spring Break season or the super steamy Summer Break season. This year we were not able to go in the summer so we decided to try an early fall trip. I could not have been more excited! It would be a whole new “world” for us! Smaller crowds….Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party….Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival….. Eat to the Beat Concert Series…. There is nothing we love more than experiencing new things on a Disney trip!

Where To Stay

With less than 2 months to plan, I was in a bit of a panic! Normally, I like to plan our trips as far out as possible. Case and point, our two 2015 Disney trips are already in the works! How could I plan an awesome trip with such short notice??

Being DVC members, we have approximately enough points to stay for 2 weeks at Walt Disney World. We like to do “split stays”, meaning we usually stay at more than 1 or 2 different resorts, depending on the length of our trip. Since this trip would be just over a week long, we decided to spend the first few nights at a moderate resort and end our trip at a DVC resort.

I was able to find a good deal at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside with the Fall Room Discount, (although they told me on the phone that they were giving me the “Canadian resident” discount). I requested a room in the Alligator Bayou section of Riverside since we had never stayed there before. With all the parking issues I’d been hearing about Downtown Disney lately, I was especially pleased that we would have the option of taking either a bus or a boat there.

Following the same strategy, we booked a room at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (our home resort) for the end of our stay, to again avoid the parking at Downtown Disney. With the new walkway, we’re excited to be able to easily walk back and forth. Also, we have the bus and boat options here as well.

What To Do

A couple of really popular events that take place every fall are Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival. I have wanted to attend both for many years but just never had the opportunity. Until now! And I was extra pleased to learn that both were starting earlier this year.

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I went ahead and purchased tickets for the Halloween party with our DVC discount. Woo hoo! September tickets are cheaper than October ones! As much as I know I’m going to love trick or treating around the Magic Kingdom, I think I’m looking forward to the Food & Wine Festival even more!

Just reading through some of the items being offered this year is making me super hungry! There’s a seared scallop dish being served in Scotland and, although I tried Ireland’s Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie from a food truck in Downtown Disney last March, I may just have to have that again! And I can’t very well ignore my homeland – some Cheddar Cheese Soup and Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon from Canada look too yummy to pass up. I’m pretty sure there’s a nice Prosecco or White Zinfandel with my name on it, too. My husband is most looking forward to trying some interesting beer flights.

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Advice, Recommendations, Tips, Please!

I would love to hear about any of your Food & Wine Festival recommendations, or any tips about how to navigate the Halloween Party. What are some of your favorite fall activities to do at Walt Disney World?

All in all, I know this trip is just going to fly by and we will once again start another countdown as soon as we get home. Just another day in the life of a Disney-loving family!