DaddyDoesDisney Subscription Box

I often find myself scrolling through the ShopDisney site and adding a bunch of items I love to my basket, only to realize I don’t have enough to get free shipping and I don’t want to add a bunch of items I don’t need or pay $8 for shipping. So I had an idea. If I can make all my purchases at major Disney outlets in large amounts, I can guarantee I don’t pay shipping and I’m able to maximize my discounts.

The concept is this. It’s a monthly subscription box that’s completely customized to the subscriber. I’ll take your sizes, your favorites, the things you collect and customize your purchase to you. You can subscribe for as much or as little money wise as you like (above a floor amount), and get boxes catered specifically to you.

I’ve floated this idea around in my head a few times, but have worried about logistics, so I’m proposing this. I’ll do a first run for some volunteer guinea pigs, so I can figure out my own shipping costs, time constraints, and what kind of savings I’m able to provide with this approach. I may add on site Disney Parks buyers at some point, but for now it’ll just me. Guinea pigs will need to agree to any terms I may set and prepay for their first box (I won’t require a binding subscription for this test run). I’m not going to guarantee (probably never will) any set savings (or even that I can save you anything, but I’m hoping I can), but what you get is a box that’s completely suited to your personal tastes (hopefully) rather than the cookie cutter subscription boxes currently on the market.

Shoot me an email at or DM me on Twitter if you’d be interested in being part of the test run.

I’m a Disney Travel Consultant!

So a few weeks ago, I signed a contract to join the team at Adventure is Out There Travel as an Independent Travel Consultant. Technically, I can plan all sorts of travel for you (just planned a Scandinavia trip for a family member), but my name is Daddy Does Disney not Daddy Does Scandinavia and Stuff, so I’m here for all your Disney travel needs (and I guess your other travel needs too).

If you’ve never used a travel agent for your Disney planning, here’s the spiel. We are here to take care of as much or as little as you want us to, from booking your reservation to ADR’s, FP+’s, touring plans, room requests, etc, we’ll get you covered, all at no cost to you. We get a commission paid by Disney to help make sure your vacation goes off without a hitch. Even if you enjoy the planning process yourself, not a bad idea to pay it forward and let someone get that commission (hopefully me) when you’re going, even if you don’t need a lot of help. I did it on my trip, even though I had my trip planned out to the hour before it was even booked (maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but still).

I joined the team at Adventure is Out There, because 1) there are a lot of friendly faces from the Disney Fan Community over there, and 2) they’re focused on customer service and hitting some of the extra touches that some of the larger agencies don’t.

So, when you’re ready to start planning that next Disney trip, feel free to reach out to me at and I’ll be happy to get you on your way. 2019 dates at Walt Disney World just opened up, and Disney Cruise Line sailings are available through 2019 now. It’s a good time to get something going. Besides, I’m bored. Let’s do something.

Oh, here’s my pitch for myself personally

1) I just started, so I don’t have a lot of clients yet, and can focus more on your trip individually.

2) I stay on top of the latest news at the parks via my active involvement in the Disney Fan Community.

3) I’m a bit of a math nerd and also a planning nerd, so I don’t mind wonking out to make sure we get the best option for your family and your budget.

4) I’m a bit of an introvert. If you’re the type that doesn’t want to be harassed with phone calls, and just wants to text and email to get things to happen, that’s me. I don’t want to talk to anyone if I don’t have to, but I will if it helps to make your trip magical.

5) I even have a few strategies for saving money for your Disney trip that I haven’t shared here and don’t see a lot of out in the community.

Fair warning, I will probably ask you a lot of questions to make sure I cover all the bases, but that’s just me doing my job.

Unpacking: Top 3 Meals

I’m going to try and work through a series of posts breaking down my favorite parts of our recent trip to WDW. We tried to do a lot of new things on our trip, and I think I did a pretty good job of planning our selections, if I do say so myself. For this post, I want to break down my 3 favorite all-around meals from the trip. I based this on food quality, service, and experience.

3. 50’s Prime Time Café, Hollywood Studios

This was not a new one for us. We tend to do this one anytime we get out to Walt Disney World. The food is pretty solid, especially for being inside a park. The bar (Dad’s Liquor Cabinet at the Tune-in Lounge) is one of the better in-park options, and the long lost cousin service adds a bit of fun to the equation.

The menu is full of American homestyle cooking. After all, “Mom” is back there in the kitchen. We had the Fried Herb and Garlic Cheese appetizer, which while pretty simple, was one of our favorite appetizers of the trip. I had Dad’s Stuffed Pork Chop, which is a massive pork chop, stuffed with apple, gouda cheese and herbs. It was a huge portion, but I knocked out most of it. For dessert, I had Dad’s Favorite Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake, which was probably one of the tastiest desserts of this trip, and surprisingly, the only time I got chocolate cake (I’m a bit of a chocoholic). I just realized typing this that I had 2 dishes with “Dad’s” in the name, plus a drink from Dad’s liquor cabinet (Mama and I both had the Maui Wowie, which like many other Dad’s liquor cabinet drinks, comes with a color changing glow cube). I mean, I guess it makes sense, I am DaddyDoesDisney, after all.

The extra kick for this restaurant though, is the service. Some people don’t like the approach here, as the servers will give you grief about your elbows on the table, eating your vegetables or “doing your chores” (setting the table). They used to ask you what color the soap is when returning from the bathroom, but they have foaming soap in the bathrooms now, so maybe not anymore (we went after the meal). Our server, our long lost cousin, Liza (I think) was great. She wasn’t as rude as some of the other servers we’ve had there in the past. She gave good advice through the menu when asked, along with saying “gross” anytime we ordered anything that wasn’t her favorite. I always enjoy the interactions here, and it’s that little difference that keeps us coming back every time.

2. Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen, Disney Springs

Food wise, this might have been my favorite all around meal of the trip. Celebrity chef, Art Smith, opened this restaurant in Disney Springs since our last visit, so this was our first chance to check it out. It was one of the meals I was most looking forward to, after hearing praise for several of the dishes and drinks on the menu.

The boy got the Bunch of Puppies hush puppies appetizer that came with Ah-mazing pimento cheese to dip. Mama had the Church Lady Deviled Eggs, which we’re also to die for, and I got the famous Thigh High Chicken Biscuits, which while being one of the best things we ate on the trip also probably was enough food for the wife and I to split as an entrée in the future. My mom had the Fried Green tomatoes which were also very good.

For an entrée, I had the Chopped Pork Barbeque Plate. The barbecue was decent, but as a Texas boy, I wasn’t overly impressed. The star of the plate (and the reason I got the dish) was the mac-and-cheese, which is probably one of the better mac-and-cheese on property.

I also had one of my favorite drinks of the trip, the Moonshine Mash, which is made with Watermelon moonshine, watermelon, lime and simple syrup. It’s simple and refreshing, and tastes like summer in a glass. The menu is full of different, delicious sounding drinks though, so if watermelon’s not your thing, you should be able to find something. I had a really hard time picking something.

For dessert, I had the hummingbird cake, which might be my favorite dessert of the trip. It’s a pineapple-banana cake (2 of my favorite flavors in Disney dishes), and was extra moist and delicious. The other desserts that were had at our table also probably rank among the favorites of the trip.

All in all, if you’re on a foodie trip to Disney World, this is one stop that is not to be missed.

1. California Grill, Contemporary Resort

Oh, we getting fancy now. This fine dining restaurant at the top of the Contemporary Resort is often considered one of the best dining experiences at Walt Disney World. It doesn’t hurt that we managed to keep the boy pretty calm for the extent of our 3 hour meal. We were initially worried that our 7:00 meal wouldn’t get us through to the fireworks, but we hadn’t even ordered our desserts by the time the show started.

The food here is spectacular. A staff of world class chefs churn out some of the highest quality dishes on property. For appetizers, the wife and I both got sushi dishes, she got sashimi, but was later wishing she got the roll that I got. I had the New Moon Roll, which is made with Maine Lobster, Avacado, Barbecue Eel, Rice pearls and Dragon Sauce. It was one of the most beautiful and well made rolls I’ve ever had (and I used to work at a Japanese restaurant, and even have my own roll on the menu there).

For entrees, Mama had the Oak-Fired Filet of Beef which comes with a tamarind barbecue sauce that apparently was on the original menu for the restaurant and brought back by the current chef. It was her favorite steak of the trip, and we were on the Deluxe Dining Plan, so there was a lot of steak consumed. I ordered the Grilled Pork Tenderloin, which was probably the best pork dish I’ve ever had in my life (and I’m getting old).

I had some kind of chocolate dessert that was kind of uninspiring. It appears to have been rotated off the menu currently, and the lack of a kick butt dessert is what has me championing Homecomin’ for overall food quality.

The bonus though, for the California Grill, is its location. From the top of the Contemporary Resort, you have panoramic views of the Magic Kingdom Park, and they have viewing decks on either side of the restaurant. We grabbed a great spot for Happily Ever After out on the deck (until the boy decided it was the perfect time to go to the restroom, haha) that almost made up for the fact that the rain kept us from seeing HEA from inside the park (we’re going to have to book a dessert party or something next time). Overall, a fabulous experience, good drinks, excellent entrees and sushi. It’s one of the pricier restaurants on property, but if you get the chance, I definitely recommend trying it out at least once.


Thanks for checking in as I go over some of the highlights of our trip. I look forward to sharing more of my favorites and helping you to plan some highlights of your own.

Why I Started a Podcast

It’s been a long time since I’ve been over here, but I’ve got news coming that will require me to be more active in my blogging.

I started my blog, because in the process of planning my trip, I realized I had tips and tricks and had done enough research, that someone might could get something out of what I had found. I started it up, and linked up Twitter, Youtube, Insta, etc, but then hit the wall that a lot of others out there run into, self doubt. I felt like, since I hadn’t been to the park in 6 years, who was I to tell you how to plan your trip.

So, I focused on Twitter. It was fun, and the community was very accepting and welcoming. I ended up befriending lots of other bloggers and vloggers, etc, and decided I would get a camera and try to vlog my trip, but then I got to the parks, and probably also like a lot of others, I was afraid of standing out. I think we literally saw 3 people walking around with cameras on the whole trip. As an introvert, I’m not one that likes to stand out from the crowd and I like to focus my life on my family, so I decided that vlogging probably wasn’t going to be for me at this time.

I got home, and realized, well, I didn’t get to do any vlogging, and I don’t know when I’ll get back to the parks, but I still want something to kind of expand my reach in the community, and decided that a podcast was probably the way to go. Sure, there may be plenty of Disney podcasts out there, but I’m perfectly ok if no one listens. I reached out to the community and found some brave souls that were willing to take the plunge with me (some of whom I had on a short list in my head that I wanted to do this with), and so now, I could put myself out there, and have others out there to back me up. I really appreciate my brothers and sisters at the Disney at a Distance Podcast for sharing their time (and notifications) with me. Without it, I don’t know that I could pull myself out of my own head enough to do something like this.

On the podcast, I hope to be able to reach out to the audience and just have some fun within the Disney community. Disney is supposed to be fun. I just want to talk about things, have fun, maybe debate a little, and just build a community. I hope that you guys are down to take the dive with me. Thanks for listening.

You can follow along on Twitter: @disneydistance

or on my account: @daddydoesdisney

302 Days! Tourney Update: Sweet 16

Ok, so we’ve made it through the first 2 rounds of the Disney Animated Feature tourney. Here are your 2nd round results:

Group 1:

1 Toy Story (100%) over 9 Finding Dory (0%)
5 the Lion King (86%) over 4 Nightmare Before Christmas (14%)
2 Up (100%) over 10 Tarzan (0%)
3 Beauty and the Beast (83%) over 11 Tangled (17%)

Group 1 Thoughts: I don’t think there are any real surprises here. Beauty and the Beast wins the first #princessbattle in the tourney. A little surprised that Finding Dory didn’t get any votes, but there weren’t a whole lot of votes in that one, and Toy Story is kind of a behemoth.

Group 2:

1 Toy Story 3 (57%) over 9 the Jungle Book (43%)
12 Mulan (60%) over 4 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (40%)
2 Inside Out (100%) over 10 A Bug’s Life (0%)
14 the Emperor’s New Groove (100%) over 6 Dumbo (0%)

Group 2 Thoughts: the 14 seeded Emperor’s New Groove (one of my wife’s favorites) moves on again, in dominating fashion this time. Also, the Mulan win over Snow White in the 2nd #princessbattle is a bit surprising, but Snow White is very dated at this point. Do we get a tearjerker group final here?

Group 3:

9 Bambi (100%) over 16 the Good Dinosaur (0%)
4 Aladdin (85%) over 5 Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (15%)
7 Moana (57%) over 2 Finding Nemo (43%)
11 Frozen (56%) over 3 Toy Story 2 (44%)

Group 3 Thoughts: A couple hard fought upsets from Disney’s most recent princesses sets up the Sweet 16’s only #princessbattle. The others weren’t really contests.

Group 4

1 Wall-E (82%) over 9 Lady and the Tramp (18%)
5 Zootopia (82%) over 4 Fantasia (18%)
2 Ratatouille (55%) over 7 the Little Mermaid (45%)
6 Cinderella (54%) over 3 the Incredibles (46%)

Group 4 Thoughts: That Wall-E/Zootopia matchup is going to be a tough one, I suspect. Ratatouille just managed to block the Cinderella v Little Mermaid #princessbattle, that probably would have been pretty epic. Thanks, Remy….

Anyways, here’s your Sweet 16 matchups.

Group 1

1 Toy Story v 5 the Lion King
2 Up v 3 Beauty and the Beast

Group 2

1 Toy Story 3 v 12 Mulan
2 Inside Out v 14 the Emperor’s New Groove

Group 3

9 Bambi v 4 Aladdin
7 Moana v 11 Frozen

Group 4

1 Wall-E v 5 Zootopia
2 Ratatouille v 6 Cinderella

And for you math nerds, here are all the entries, sorted by votes so far (*s advanced to 2nd round, #s advanced to Sweet 16)

1 Toy Story 3# (25)
2 Zootopia# (22)
3 Up# (19)
4 Beauty and the Beast# (19)
5 Bambi# (19)
6 Hunchback of Notre Dame (18)
7 Aladdin# (17)
8 Frozen # (17)
9 Toy Story 2* (17)
10 the Lion King# (16)
11 Cinderella# (16)
12 Tarzan* (15)
13 Wall-E# (14)
14 Moana# (13)
15 Toy Story# (12)
16 Ratatouille# (12)
17 Mulan# (12)
18 the Incredibles* (12)
19 Tangled* (12)
20 the Little Mermaid* (11)
21 Finding Dory* (11)
22 the Jungle Book* (11)
23 Snow White* (10)
24 Inside Out# (9)
25 Finding Nemo* (9)
26 Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (8)
27 Fantasia* (7)
28 Lady and the Tramp* (7)
29 Nightmare Before Christmas* (6)
30 the Good Dinosaur* (6)
31 Monsters Inc (6)
32 Emperor’s New Groove# (5)
33 Lilo and Stitch (5)
34 Three Caballeros (5)
35 A Bug’s Life (4)
36 Peter Pan (4)
37 Brave (4)
38 Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (3)
39 Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad (3)
40 Big Hero 6 (3)
41 Alice in Wonderland (3)
42 the Great Mouse Detective (3)
43 the Princess and the Frog (3)
44 Dumbo* (2)
45 Secret World of Arrietty (2)
46 Wreck-It Ralph (2)
47 Hercules (2)
48 the Rescuers (2)
49 Monsters University (2)
50 Robin Hood (2)
51 Pinocchio (1)
52 Howl’s Moving Castle (1)
53 101 Dalmations (1)
54 Ponyo (1)
55 Sleeping Beauty (1)
56 Winnie the Pooh (1)
57 Frankenweenie (1)
58 Bolt (1)
59 Cars (1)
60 Spirited Away (0)
61 the Wind Rises (0)
62 James and the Giant Peach (0)
63 Sword in the Stone (0)
64 Fantasia 2000 (0)

308 Days! Tourney Update!

Welp, the first round of my #Disney Animated Film Tournament is complete, so let’s recap and take a look at the 2nd round matchups.

1st Round Results

Group 1

1 Toy Story (78%) over 16 Robin Hood (22%)

9 Finding Dory (79%) over 8 the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad (21%)

4 the Nightmare Before Christmas (50%) over 13 the Three Caballeros (50%)

5 the Lion King (91%) over 12 Frankenweenie (9%)

2 Up (75%) over 15 Brave (25%)

10 Tarzan (94%) over 7 Ponyo (6%)

3 Beauty and the Beast (78%) over 14 Peter Pan (22%)

11 Tangled (65%) over 6 Monsters Inc (35%)

Group 1 Thoughts: A couple classics going down early in Peter Pan and Robin Hood, both had low seeds and got knocked out by films that should advance to the Sweet 16. Brave was one of, I believe, only 3 princess films to fall in the 1st round, and while Tangled is one of my personal favorite princess films, I’m a little sad to see Monsters Inc go down. One of Asa’s favorites. That Nightmare Before Christmas matchup made me decide how to handle ties right off the bat (for the record, I give the tie to the higher seed).

Group 2

1 Toy Story 3 (54%) over 16 the Hunchback of Notre Dame (46%)

9 the Jungle Book (80%) over 8 the Secret World of Arrietty (20%)

4 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (80%) over 13 the Rescuers (20%)

12 Mulan (90%) over 5 Howl’s Moving Castle (10%)

2 Inside Out (100%) over 15 the Sword in the Stone (0%)

10 A Bug’s Life (57%) over 7 the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (43%)

14 the Emperor’s New Groove (75%) over 3 Pinocchio (25%)

6 Dumbo (50%) over 11 Wreck-It Ralph (50%)

Group 2 Thoughts: That Toy Story 3 v Jungle Book looks like a doozy of a decision to me. A couple more classics going down to newer films with Winnie the Pooh and Pinocchio both dropping out in the first round. My wife will be psyched about Emperor’s New Groove. it’s one of her favorites. I’m a little sad that I had to use the tiebreaker to knock out Wreck-it Ralph. I’m a fan.

Group 3

16 the Good Dinosaur (100%) over 1 Spirited Away (0%)

9 Bambi (86%) over 8 Sleeping Beauty (14%)

4 Aladdin (67%) over 13 Alice in Wonderland (33%)

5 Who Framed Roger Rabbit (55%) over 12 Lilo and Stitch (45%)

2 Finding Nemo (75%) over 15 Cars (25%)

7 Moana (100%) over James and the Giant Peach (0%)

3 Toy Story 2 (83%) over 14 Bolt (17%)

11 Frozen (67%) over 6 One Hundred and One Dalmations (33%)

Group 3 Thoughts: While it was already apparent that I probably have should have skipped over the Disney distributed Studio Ghibli films, it became even more apparent when Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece, Spirited Away (which, for the record, was my wife’s champion, when she ran through this bracket), came away with no votes, as a one seed. Oh well. Also, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? slipped by Lilo and Stitch with some late votes. Finding Nemo coming out over Cars fairly substantially, considering it would have been a tough decision for me. Nemo heads toward another worthy opponent in Moana. He might have the toughest road to the championship. Quite possibly, the biggest surprise for me, was Sleeping Beauty getting throttled by Bambi. Bambi’s good and all, but most of the princess movies had slid right through up to this point, and Sleeping Beauty has always been a favorite.

Group 4

1 Wall-E (100%) over 16 Fantasia 2000 (0%)

9 Lady and the Tramp (100%) over 8 the Wind Rises (0%)

4 Fantasia (50%) over 13 the Great Mouse Detective (50%)

5 Zootopia (67%) over 12 Hercules (33%)

2 Ratatouille (75%) over 15 Monsters University (25%)

7 the Little Mermaid (67%) over 10 Big Hero 6 (33%)

3 the Incredibles (67%) over 14 the Princess and the Frog (33%)

6 Cinderella (90%) over 11 Winnie the Pooh (10%)

Group 4 thoughts: Those last 4 matchups were the only daily group with no upsets (aside from my broken heart for Baymax, and my wifey’s favorite princess, Tiana). A little sad to see Winnie the Pooh fail to advance with either of his films, but I certainly didn’t expect the recent one to take down Cinderella. Fantasia skated in at the last second as Great Mouse Detective had a one vote lead, when Twitter was “finalizing poll”. It has a tough matchup against Zootopia in the next round though. Wall-E was the only 1 seed with more than 80% of the vote.


I decided I’m only gonna run these polls Monday thru Friday, as the Saturday, Sunday matchups got fewer votes than the others. I also decided not to take the day off today, so we could reach the Elite 8 by the end of next week. All that said, here are your second round matchups.

Group 1

1 Toy Story v 9 Finding Dory

4 the Nightmare Before Christmas v 5 the Lion King

2 Up v 10 Tarzan

3 Beauty and the Beast v 11 Tangled

Group 2

1 Toy Story 3 v 9 the Jungle Book

4 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs v 12 Mulan

2 Inside Out v 10 A Bug’s Life

14 the Emperor’s New Groove v 6 Dumbo

Group 3

16 the Good Dinosaur v 9 Bambi

4 Aladdin v 5 Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

2 Finding Nemo v 7 Moana

3 Toy Story 2 v 11 Frozen

Group 4

1 Wall-E v 9 Lady and the Tramp

4 Fantasia v 5 Zootopia

2 Ratatouille v 7 the Little Mermaid

3 the Incredibles v 6 Cinderella

Good luck to all the films and may all your favorites win (but not if they’re up against mine).


317 Days! Let’s have a tournament!

What are your favorite Disney films? Let’s have them duke it out!

So, I’ve still got a ways to go, and I’m bored, and want to have some Disney fun. So, I’ve crunched some numbers (IMDB, Metacritic, and Rotten Tomatoes scores) and seeded all the top 64 Disney Animated Theatrical Releases. I did kick out a few films that either didn’t have at least 2 scores, or if they had 2, but those 2 had a huge disparity. I also made a personal judgment towards the bottom to get one of my childhood favorites in (so it can lose in the first round). I’ll post these as polls (let’s go with 4 a day) on our Twitter page (@daddydoesdisney), so keep an eye out, and let’s get to ranking.

Here’s how the bracket fell out:

Group 1

1 Toy Story v 16 Robin Hood
8 the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad v 9 Finding Dory

4 the Nightmare Before Christmas v 13 the Three Caballeros
5 the Lion King v 12 Frankenweenie

2 Up v 15 Brave
7 Ponyo v 10 Tarzan

3 Beauty and the Beast v 14 Peter Pan
6 Monsters Inc v 11 Tangled

Group 2

1 Toy Story 3 v 16 the Hunchback of Notre Dame
8 the Secret World of Arrietty v 9 the Jungle Book

4 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs v 13 the Rescuers
5 Howl’s Moving Castle v 12 Mulan

2 Inside Out v 15 the Sword in the Stone
7 the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) v 10 A Bug’s Life

3 Pinocchio v 14 the Emperor’s Groove
6 Dumbo v 11 Wreck-It Ralph

Group 3

1 Spirited Away v 16 the Good Dinosaur
8 Sleeping Beauty v 9 Bambi

4 Aladdin v 13 Alice in Wonderland
5 Who Framed Roger Rabbit? v 12 Lilo & Stitch

2 Finding Nemo v 15 Cars
7 Moana v 10 James and the Giant Peach

3 Toy Story 2 v 14 Bolt
6 101 Dalmations v 11 Frozen

Group 4

1 Wall-E v 16 Fantasia 2000
8 the Wind Rises v 9 the Lady and the Tramp

4 Fantasia v 13 the Great Mouse Detective
5 Zootopia v 12 Hercules

2 Ratatouille v 15 Monsters University
7 the Little Mermaid v 10 Big Hero 6

3 the Incredibles v 14 the Princess and the Frog
6 Cinderella v 11 Winnie the Pooh (2011)



323 Days! Initial Touring Plans

After lots of pinching and tweaking, my initial Touring Plans and schedules are set. How did I break things down? What were the hiccups?

So, earlier this week, I officially completed my initial round of creating Touring Plans. I use for this, always have. I don’t know if there are alternatives to this or not, but if so, feel free to let me know in the comments. A few weeks ago, I posted lists to our event page on Facebook, where we can all congregate to talk about our trip, of all the attractions and shows in each of the parks, along with markings of whether or not I was planning on including those attractions or not. I then, pulled those attractions into my touring plans, and optimized. There are a few hiccups in the TouringPlans system, but I managed to get everything hammered out in a way that should work.

I will note that the primary problems I have with personalized plans on the Touring Plans site, is it’s very reliant on the timing of your schedule, so if you want to end after the fireworks or after dinner, and don’t note that in your time, it will leave giant breaks in the middle of your schedule. I also find that if I add multiple meals in the initial setup of a plan, it ALWAYS changes the times that I input for those meals, and I have to go back and edit them again. Not too big a deal, but it can be kind of annoying. I also sometimes have to go ahead and schedule a break to get it to give me as much lead time as I want for finding a spot for nighttime shows etc.

The other problem I have in the program is fastpasses. Especially, with the parks that have groupings. For instance, in EPCOT, I’m wanting to get a FastPass for IllumiNations, but I know that it will be available later in the day, so I can go ahead and use a FastPass for one of the other big ticket rides. The problem is, to be able to go back in and get a Fastpass for IllumiNations later, I have to not only use my FastPass for Soarin’ or Test Track or Frozen: Ever After. I have to also use 2 FastPasses for Group A attractions. I sometimes have a hard time finding attractions that need a FastPass from those attractions, and almost always have a hard time getting TouringPlans to allow me to use those FastPasses when optimizing. It can be done, but it’ll often take some tweaking.

Other things I had to personally tweak were getting my allotted time for the Valley of Mo’ara at Animal Kingdom in after Rivers of Light, so that we can tour it in the dark, when the area comes alive with bioluminescence. Apparently, it’s less crowded when it’s not dark (who knew?), and TouringPlans wants me to go then, so I have to manually move it back to the end of the night every time.

Anyways, after lots of tweaking and squeezing, I managed to get everything done (for now). I’m sure everything will change in a few weeks, and of course, as soon as I posted my tentative schedule to the Facebook group, I got an email from Touring Plans with Crowd Calendar changes, and ended up swapping a day.

My breakdown worked out as, 1 and a half days in Magic Kingdom (full day in Fantasyland, half day in Not-Fantasyland), 1 Day in EPCOT (as a group of adults, we’d probably do at least a day and a half at EPCOT, but it’s May, so the wait times aren’t too bad, and we’ll probably skip most of the shows in World Showcase on account of the kiddos, so we do it in a day), 1 Day in Hollywood Studios (This was kind of a tough one, with the sporadic show schedules, but I managed to squeeze everything in, I assume some parts of our group will skip some things and do their own thing within this schedule. Also, we’ll have to go back for Star Wars: Galactic Spectacular),  and 1 Day in Animal Kingdom (we’re skipping Rafiki’s Planet Watch and most of Dinoland, so it’s not too hard to squeeze this into a day, but there’s a lot to experience in this park, and I didn’t get to fully immerse myself last time around, so we’re going to do a few new things for us this trip here). Since we’ll have 6 day tickets, this means we actually have an extra free day to just go back and reride things or do some shopping, maybe head to Disney Springs. I noted if parts of the group wanted to go to Universal, this could be the spot. Anyways, free time is always good. Maybe not so good for my tight scheduling desires (shoot, where are we going to eat), but still good for other folks in the group who might like to play it by ear.

We’ll see how much we change from here, but hopefully I can take the hands off for at least a few weeks (I probably can’t. I live for this stuff). Also, if you made it this far, what do you think I should do on that free day?

Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you next time.

337 Days! Let’s talk Character Dining

Kill two birds with one stone with Disney World’s character dining options.

Ok, so you’re going to have to eat at some point, right. If you’re looking to add some magic to your trip, and cut out some of that time waiting in line for character meet ‘n greets, you might want to check out some of Disney World’s many Character Dining experiences. At a character meal, you get to dine (usually buffet) with some of your favorite Disney characters, killing two birds with one stone. Since this trip for us includes our 5 year old son, we plan on hitting several of these. An added benefit for these is that all of the character meals inside the parks allow Advanced Dining Reservations starting at 8:00, and if you have a reservation in the 8:00 hour and the park opens at 9:00, they’ll let you into the park early and you’ll be able to get empty-ish park photos at the iconic spots before your meal. Also, if you finish early, you can head straight to get in line for your first ride of the day. We’ll be using this option where we can as well.

Full Disclosure: We didn’t do any character meals on our last trip, which means I haven’t done a WDW character meal in nearly 20 years probably, so I’m going off of what I’ve read until our trip. I’ll probably have done all of them within the next few years though.

So let’s go over some of your options:

Including Touring Plans Readers Rating (TPR, scale of 100) and Authors Rating (TPR, scale of 5), as well as AllEars reader Ratings (AER, Scale of 10)

Magic Kingdom

Cinderella’s Royal Table (TPR 85, TPA 3, AER 8.1)
The crown jewel of character meals is Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella’s Castle. It’s one of the more difficult reservations to get, and thus, they’ve bumped it up to a 2 meal credit meal. It’s open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. You’ll be greeted by Cinderella and you’ll be sent upstairs to the dining room where your princes and princesses will be “introduced” and proceed to dine with a bevy of princesses (4-5, I believe) that varies by date. Children are provided wands and swords as souvenirs. (Certainly worth the hefty price tag, right? Right?).

Crystal Palace (TPR 91, TPA 3, AER 8.5)
This one is already locked in our schedule, as we want that early morning Magic Kingdom reservation, and I think if my wife had her pick of characters to meet n’ greet with, the top 2 seeds would be Mary Poppins and Eeyore. Crystal Palace is the only character meal where you can find Eeyore, so if your kids (or you, I’m an Eeyore guy myself) are fans of him or Piglet (also unique to Crystal Palace), you might want to stop in. Also, Winnie and Tigger of course. Crystal Palace is also the home of the famous Pooh’s Puffed French Toast, which happens to be on the kids’ table (wink, wink), but nobody’s judging.


Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (TPR 87, TPA 2, AER 8.7)
For those who are balking at the price tag of Cinderella’s Royal Table (or couldn’t snag a reservation), Akershus is the obvious backup plan. Located in the Norway pavilion, meals at Akershus feature a different bevy of princess (although some are undoubtedly the same) and Scandinavian themed food (although mostly traditional American options). Also, since it’s in the Norway pavilion, it gives you quick access to Frozen Ever After once you finish your meal, so eat up. Nobody’s rushing you (nudge, nudge).

Garden Grill (TPR 93, TPA 2, AER 8.5)
I know I’ve done this one before, maybe on the trip before my last. The restaurant is located near Soarin’, and has a floor that rotates around scenes of Living with the Land. The meal features Chip and Dale, Mickey and Pluto in their farmer get up, and some of the food is grown fresh in the Land Pavilion. So basically, what I’m seeing here is, get a fast pass for Frozen Ever After or Soarin’ and eat at the restaurant near the other. That’s a free common sense tip for you right there.

Hollywood Studios (TPR 78, TPA 2, AER 8.5)
This is the Disney Jr character breakfast. I believe it currently features Jake, Princess Sofia, Doc McStuffins and Handy Manny. I think my son has cut all these shows out of his rotation, and the food is poorly regarded, so we’ll probably be skipping this one. That said, I do believe it’s your only option for that 8:00 hour ADR in Hollywood Studios. I don’t believe characters are present at Hollywood & Vine at supper time.

Animal Kingdom

Tusker House (TPR 92, TPA 3, AER 8.8)
Tusker House is probably the most highly regarded character meal in the parks. The African themed buffet seems to have some yummy options, as well as the traditional fare, and you can hang with Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey in Safari gear. Chow down and run yourself over to Pandora. Oh, also, you can get a Rivers of Light dining package for any mealtime at Tusker House (you can use dining credits for those too).


Chef Mickey’s @ Contemporary (TPR 85, TPA 2.5, AER 8.2)
While I’ve heard somewhere that the food may not even deserve to be called “food”, it is the only character meal where you can find all of the Big 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto), and I mean, they do have Mickey Waffles, and the Monorail goes right through the hotel. Gotta find the silver lining somewhere, but seriously the Big 5 is your silver lining. Oh, also, it’s crazy loud.

Best Friends Breakfast at ‘Ohana @ Polynesian (TPR 91, TPA 3, AER 8.5)
The food here is served ‘Ohana-style (‘Ohana means family you know), meaning you get a big ol’ skillet filled with bacon, eggs, sausage and fried potatoes. Oh, and everyone is your cousin, like you’re island family, or from Alabama. Also, I’m told there are delicious sticky sweet cinnamony rolls. Mickey and Pluto join Lilo and Stitch and wear Hawaiian shirts and leis (which you’ll also be given). ‘Ohana is one of the more highly regarded character meals on site, but it’s only at breakfast time.

Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare @ Grand Floridian (TPR 91, TPA 2.5, AER 8.6)
As noted above, my wife is a fan of Ms. Mary Poppins, so this is on our short list, not sure exactly where to squeeze it, but we’ll be trying to get it in. You can catch Mary, along with Alice and the Mad Hatter, as well as Winnie and Tigger if you didn’t catch them at Crystal Palace (or even if you did). There are a few more different options on the buffet here than at some of the other character breakfasts, but you know, there are still Mickey waffles. I mean, let’s not get crazy.

Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare @ Grand Floridian (TPR 91, TPA 2.5, AER 6.9)
Another alternative to the Royal Table if your little princess has Cinderella at the top of her must see list. Guests will also meet Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine and the Stepsisters, all making their only character meal appearance. Also, this is the home of the famous Strawberry Soup.

Cape May Café @ Beach Club (TPR 91, TPA 3.5, AER 7.3)
You can catch Minnie, Donald and Goofy at this beach themed meal. Also, there’s all you can eat seafood at dinner time, so that’s got to account for something. It can be pretty difficult getting here in the morning if you’re not staying at an Epcot resort. I think we’re going to stay in the Epcot area next time around, so I think we’ll save this one for that trip.

Garden Grove @ Swan Resort (TPR 70, TPA 2, AER 9 (breakfast), AER 7.7 (Dinner))
This one doesn’t seem to be rated very well, will have to check some other sources, but they do have Prime Rib on their dinner buffet. Also, note that characters only make appearances for breakfasts on Saturday and Sunday. They’re there nightly for dinner.

So, now that we’ve gone over these, let’s talk what I’m planning for OUR trip. On the definite list, we have Crystal Palace (to catch Eeyore and get an early AM ADR at Magic Kingdom) and Tusker House (Rivers of Light Package and early morning ADR, wish my travel agent luck). We’ll probably do Cinderella’s Royal Table as a decent value use of 2 credits (We’re going with a Deluxe Dining Plan, but don’t want to have sit down meals 3 times a day). If we end up taking the niece (or maybe even my sister in law), we might tack on Akershus to get some extra princess action. I think we’re going to end up with a pick’em between ‘Ohana Best Friends Breakfast and Kona Café (TONGA TOAST!!! KONA COFFEE!!!!), and as I noted above, we’ll try to squeeze in breakfast at 1900 too, if we get a chance.

What are some of your favorite character dining experiences? Anything people need to know that I left out?

Planning Our Perfect Vacation

So, as I’ve noted in my about page everywhere, we’ve been planning our upcoming WDW trip ever since our son was born. I’ve been to WDW a few times with my parents (once with my wife and parents), and my wife used to go every year as a cheerleading coach, so we have a decent feel for it, but I like to delve into travel plans, so I’ve spent a lot of time reading reviews and tips, watching videos, and crunching numbers to try and get everything just right. I thought I’d write this post to give you an idea of some of the things we’ve considered in locking down our plans for our reservation.

First off, this is what we’re calling our “all-in” trip. For us, that means we’re trying to knock out as many quintessential must-do Disney World things as we can in one trip, so that future visits don’t have to be so inclusive. Thus, if our plans exceed your personal budget or thoughts, don’t worry. There’s a WDW plan of attack for everyone and on a lot of budgets.

One of the first things to consider is “When can we go?”. For us, we ended up with a 1-week window to work in. I’ve only ever been in the summer, and it’s always ridiculously humid and crowded. My wife used to go for Cheerleading competitions in the fall, and really liked the weather and crowds for that time of the year, so while her teaching schedule doesn’t work for the fall, we found a week in the Spring that we should be able to go. If you want to find a less crowded time of the year (the park is pretty much always somewhat crowded at this point in time), posts crowd calendars and I think weather estimates, so you can get a feel for how your dates are going to look. I know that when I was looking at dates, going in the summer was 50% more crowded than going the week we ultimately chose.

The next important things to consider are where your priorities are. Our son will be 5 years old when we go to Disney. He’s a pretty chill kid, but even so, he’s probably not going to have the best temperament if you try to drag him around a park all day. Therefore, one of our priorities is to make sure we can build in several hours of rest time back at the hotel to nap or swim or do something aside from being dragged around a crowded park all day. To this end, we decided to prioritize a resort on the Monorail, as these resorts are fairly convenient to Epcot and Magic Kingdom (and with the new Express Transportation option in the parks, pretty convenient to any of the parks at mid-day).

You also have to consider the makeup of your party. We have our son, who’ll be 5, and we may also have my brother and sister in law, with their daughter, age 6, and son, age 9. With all the kiddos in tow, we know we’re going to want to do a lot of the age-appropriate rides and get in some character meals. The character meals keep your kids from getting bored at a meal time and allow you to skip waiting in line for pics and autographs from your favorite characters in the park. We decided since a lot of these character meals best fit at breakfast time and using a table service credit for breakfast is not exactly the best value, we decided to go with a Deluxe Dining Plan, so we can have the extra meal credits to use on nice dinners and show packages to get the value out of our plan. Once we knock out some of these experiences, we can go out of pocket or on a more traditional dining plan on future trips. The makeup of your party also helps determine how many days you need to devote to each park. With kids in your party, I can almost guarantee that you’re going to want to devote 2 days to the Magic Kingdom, you might can cut back on Epcot (a lot of attractions more catered to adults, and won’t keep kids’ attention). Depending on your kids, Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studio can be anywhere from a half day to a day and half (or 2 if you want to spend a lot of time exploring Animal Kingdom). If you’re in an adult only group, you’ll probably spend more time at Epcot, and maybe enjoy more of the shows and music at Animal Kingdom, or spend a good amount of time at Disney Springs.

All in all, we’ve targeted 7 nights at the Contemporary or Polynesian with a Deluxe Dining Plan and Memory Maker and 6-day park hoppers. I crunched a lot of numbers in the process, but generally didn’t do it across the board for a lot of things, so I’ll try to spend some time doing that, so I can give you rankings based on specific data points, like the ones I used in planning our trip. Good luck in your planning, and feel free to send me any questions you might have.