FuelRod chargers

On our latest trip to Disney World, we decided to try out the FuelRod charging system. We purchased a FuelRod for $30, would take turns using it to charge our phones, and would turn in the “used up” FuelRod for a re-charged one at a FuelRod kiosk.

FuelRod kiosk in Tomorrowland

FuelRod kiosk in Tomorrowland

When we were there, we found kiosks in the Magic Kingdom (at Curtain Call Collectibles, Tomorrowland Light & Power Co., Big Top Souvenirs, and Pecos Bill’s), in Epcot at Disney Traders, in Animal Kingdom at Island Mercantile, and in Hollywood Studios at the Celebrity 5 & 10. I’ve heard they also have FuelRod kiosks at Disney Springs, and some at the Wide World of Sports Complex. I recently read that the number of FuelRod kiosks in the Magic Kingdom has doubled, and that more kiosks are being added to the other theme parks and Disney Springs.

fuelrod

This system worked pretty well for us, though the charger drained faster than we expected (less than two hours). If you’d like to learn more about FuelRods, here’s a link to their site. I’ve read that you can purchase a FuelRod before going to Disney World, and still use the kiosks there to exchange them.

Have you tried this charging system? How did it work for you?

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We love Bay Lake Tower!

blt

Having joined the Disney Vacation Club last year, Bay Lake Tower (adjacent to the Contemporary Resort) is now our “home resort.” This was our first stay at “BLT,” and we loved it! I highly recommend this resort for big families. The 1-bedroom villa was absolutely perfect for our family of five. And with walking access to the Magic Kingdom and monorail service to Epcot, the location can’t be beat! Here’s a quick photo tour of our villa:

We could see the monorail from our balcony!

We could see the monorail from our balcony!

Our room (7220) is considered "standard view," but we could see the Magic Kingdom!

Our room (7220) is considered “standard view,” but we could see the Magic Kingdom!

The living room of our 1-bedroom villa.

The living room of our 1-bedroom villa.

The kitchen area. Weston is checking out the oven!

The kitchen area. Weston is checking out the oven!

The boys had their own bathroom!

The boys had their own bathroom!

The master bedroom, complete with happy husband!

The master bedroom, complete with happy husband!

More of the master bedroom.

More of the master bedroom.

Master bath: vanity area.

Master bath: vanity area.

Master bath: nice tub.

Master bath: nice tub.

Master bath: luxurious shower.

Master bath: luxurious shower.

The living room had a pull-out couch and a pull-out chair. Since the boys are too wild in their sleep to share beds, we brought along an air mattress. The living room was so spacious, there was plenty of floor space, even with an air mattress in the room. It was also nice to have the booth/table area. The boys had a meal or two there. It was spacious and comfortable. Which, come to think of it, applies to the whole villa!

Now, if we thought the daytime view was great, the nighttime view of the fireworks was even better! One night, we sat on our balcony and sipped champagne while watching the Wishes fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. It was truly magical.

blt-wishes-from-balcony-1

blt-wishes-from-balcony-2

Have you stayed at Bay Lake Tower? Though it’s a Disney Vacation Club property, if you’re not a DVC member, you can still book it either directly through Disney, or you can “rent” DVC points from a member. If you have any questions about BLT, just let me know!

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Tiffins and the Nomad Lounge

We’re just back from our latest trip to Walt Disney World, and I have so many things to share with you! Let’s start with one of my new favorites: Tiffins!

tiffins-sign

This new restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom was at the top of my must-do list for our recent vacation, and it did not disappoint! We were a bit early for our reservation, so we relaxed in the Nomad Lounge while waiting for our table. We all had delicious pre-dinner drinks. Even the boys had special non-alcoholic mock-tails!

One of the boys' mock-tails (back), a Night Monkey, and Hightower Rocks (front).

One of the mock-tails (back), a Night Monkey, and Hightower Rocks (front).

Once our table was ready, we were led into one of the gorgeous dining rooms. All three of the dining rooms are loaded with beautiful, unique works of art. Here’s one example:

tiffins-dining-room

And here’s my favorite detail from our dining room:

tiffins-gorilla

Even the look of the menu was unique:

tiffins-menu

As for the food… we all agreed that this just may have been our favorite meal on Disney World property. Ever. I didn’t get a chance to take many food pictures, as it disappeared quickly, but here’s my entree:

tiffins-duck-breast

Pan-seared duck breast.

I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be visiting Tiffins again! Have you been to Tiffins or the Nomad Lounge? What did you think?

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Happy summer!

Rapunzel sun

I’ll be busy with my boys for the next few months, so I won’t be around here much. Wishing you a beautiful, magical summer with your loved ones!

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Rooms for Five (2016 update)

*This is an update to my May 2014 post.*

For the past few years, it seems that Disney World has been coming up with more options for families of five. Let’s check out the current selection.

The Values:

  •  All-Star Music family suites: Before we became DVC members, this was my favorite WDW hotel, specifically because it worked so well for our family. If you have three kids, and they don’t like to share beds, this option is perfect. However, if you can get them to share, the suite does sleep up to six. You have a master bedroom, a living room (with a pull-out couch, pull-out chair, and pull-out ottoman), a small kitchen, and two bathrooms. See my review here.
The living room in an All-Star Music family suite.

The living room in an All-Star Music family suite.

  • Art of Animation family suites: I’ve yet to stay here, but have done a walk-about of this beautiful property. These suites sleep up to six, with a master bedroom, living room with a pull-out couch, dining area with a convertible bed/table (kind of like a Murphy bed), small kitchenette, and two bathrooms.
Lion King dining room - the table converts to a bed!

Lion King dining room – the table converts to a bed! (photo courtesy of Paul D. Smith)

The Moderates:

  • Port Orleans Riverside, Alligator Bayou section: These rooms sleep up to five people (if one of them is small) in two queen beds and a bench that turns into a Murphy-type bed. The Murphy bed is rather small, about 65″ long, but my son slept on it comfortably up to age 12. You can find my review of Riverside here.
The Murphy bed in a Port Orleans Riverside Alligator Bayou room.

The Murphy bed in a Port Orleans Riverside Alligator Bayou room.

  • Caribbean Beach: Similar to Riverside, here you can find rooms that have two queen beds and a small Murphy bed (about 64″ long).
  • The Cabins at Fort Wilderness: The cabins sleep up to six, with a double Murphy bed in the living room, plus a double bed and a set of bunk beds in the bedroom. There is only one bathroom, as compared to two bathrooms in the family suites at the Value level, but you get a full (though small) kitchen area. I haven’t stayed in the cabins since the 1980s, and they’ve changed quite a bit. My brother and his family stayed there in 2013. You can find his review here.

The Deluxes:

  • Deluxe Resorts: Rooms featuring two queen beds plus a day bed (and thus sleeping up to five) can be found in: the Contemporary, the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian, the Boardwalk Inn, the Beach Club, and Yacht Club. Of these hotels, I have stayed at the Beach Club, the Contemporary, and the Polynesian. They’re all, as expected, quite lovely. At Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge, the rooms only sleep up to four, but the Club Level suites have space for bigger groups.
A standard room at the Beach Club.

A standard room at the Beach Club.

  • Deluxe Villas: These are Disney Vacation Club (DVC) properties, but can be rented like any hotel room. They come in studios, one-bedroom villas, two-bedroom villas, and three-bedroom grand villas. At one point, the studios only slept four, though this is changing. The DVC studios at the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, and Boardwalk sleep up to five people. However, the fifth person is in a small-ish Murphy bed (around 72″ long). The Beach Club Villas are currently undergoing a refurbishment that adds a Murphy bed to these DVC studios. Beyond studio-sized accommodations, the DVC properties that sleep up to five people in a one-bedroom villa are at the Grand Floridian, Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House and Kidani Village), Bay Lake Tower (located at the Contemporary), and Old Key West. The DVC properties that only sleep four people in a one-bedroom villa are Boardwalk Villas, Beach Club Villas, Wilderness Lodge, and Saratoga Springs. I have stayed at Saratoga Springs with a group of seven, and we were quite comfortable in a two-bedroom villa.

Keep in mind that, for more space, you can always book two rooms that sleep up to four, and request that they are connecting. However, I understand that while Disney World does their best to accommodate these “connecting room” requests, they can’t guarantee them.

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Dining with Character: 1900 Park Fare

1900 Park Fare, located at the Grand Floridian, is home to Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner. This meal includes a buffet (not great, but not bad) and the best character interaction we’ve ever experienced! Cinderella and Prince Charming were pleasant and, well, charming.

Prince Charming

But the real fun began when Lady Tremaine and her daughters came around. First, Drizella decided that our oldest son would be her new butler. She renamed him Jeeves.

Drizella

Her mother quickly showed up and got in on the action, draping Jeeves’s arm with a napkin and piling it high with sugar packets – so many that they fell over, and she tossed the surplus packets across the room.

Jeeves in training

Not wanting to be left out of the action, Anastasia came over to pose with “Jeeves.”

Anastasia

When I asked Lady Tremaine if we could have our portrait done together, as I’m a fan of hers, she taught me how to stare daggers.

Lady Tremaine

She then invited me to a hush-hush card game at Gaston’s Tavern. “Ladies only!”

So, the food is just all right (fortunately, they have lots of gluten-free options), but the meal is totally worth it – at least once – for the awesome characters!

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Why We Went DVC

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 10.06.57 PM

About a year ago, we decided to join the Disney Vacation Club. This decision was years in the making (see my 2012 post debating the issue). In the end, here are the things that mattered most to us:

  1. Proximity to the parks. Magic Kingdom is, by far, our favorite park. Hence, our DVC “home resort” is Bay Lake Tower, the only resort that is walking distance to MK. Our secondary home resort, where we have a smaller DVC contract, is Boardwalk Villas. This resort is walking distance from both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Why is choosing the right home resort so important? You can book your home resort 11 months before the start of your vacation. You can book other DVC resorts 7 months before your trip. With DVC villas in high demand (and showing no sign of slowing down any time soon), it’s important to have that home resort advantage.
  2. Staying at a deluxe resort for a fraction of the deluxe price. Disney deluxe resorts are crazy expensive. For example, a room (not a suite) at the Contemporary starts at $393 per night. A 1-bedroom suite at Bay Lake Tower (the DVC property attached to the Contemporary Resort) starts at $655 per night. So, for a 6-night stay, the room is a minimum of $2358, and the suite is at least $3930. If I take my initial DVC investment, divide it by the number of years on my contract, and add in the yearly maintenance fees, that comes to $1558/year. I have enough “points” on my DVC contract to get a 1-bedroom suite at Bay Lake Tower for six nights, with a few points left over to use the following year. This is far less than the $3930 rack rate. Furthermore, it’s less than the $1800 or so we were paying for a 6-night stay at All-Star Music family suites (a Disney value resort).
  3. An awesome excuse to keep going back to Disney, over and over and over! Yup, I’ll admit it: Disney World is my absolute favorite place. Now that we own a piece of it (at least until our Bay Lake Tower contract expires in 2060), we have to keep going back in order to get our money’s worth. And if circumstances prevent us from going, our family or friends can use our membership that year. The way I see it, that’s a win for everybody!

I’m fairly new to the DVC lifestyle, but if you have any questions, I’d be happy to do my best to help.

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The Rose & Crown Pub

Wow, I’ve been talking a lot about food and drink around here! Let’s do one more🙂

We adore the Rose & Crown Pub in Epcot’s UK Pavilion. On our last trip, we stopped in for one of our favorite snacks at Disney World, the Scotch egg.

The Scotch egg - golden-fried hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, with mustard sauce.

The Scotch egg: golden-fried hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, with mustard sauce.

To go with the egg, Rich surprised me with a glass of Scotch. Why was this such a surprise? Because he opted for the $29 glass of Scotch!😀

Scotch

The Macallan 18-year.

Fortunately, the bartender gave us a generous pour, much more than the 2 ounces listed on the menu. And, I have to admit, the Scotch was quite nice (and I’m not all that partial to Scotch).

Have you been to the Rose & Crown? What’s your favorite Disney snack (or drink)?

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Epcot Wine Walk

The Epcot World Showcase Wine Walk is an actual thing, even though I can’t find any mention of it on the Disney World website. For $20 a person, you can get samples of two wines from each of three pavilions – Germany, Italy, and France. What a bargain! Once Rich and I heard about the wine walk, we just had to try it out.

Epcot wine walk sign

Start at any of the three pavilions listed, go to the wine shop (Weinkeller in Germany, Enoteca Castello in Italy, Aux Vins de France in – you guessed it – France), and pick up your… passport? Ticket? Paper thingy? I don’t know what it’s officially called, but it’s how the Cast Members in each wine shop keep track of where you’ve been (because someone has to).

We started in Germany with two sweet white wines. I adored them.

We started in Germany with two sweet white wines. I adored them.

Next up was Italy, where the red and the white were both quite sweet. These I adored, as well.

Next up was Italy, where the red and the white were both quite sweet. These I adored, as well.

Ah, France. A red and a white, both drier than these others on the wine walk. Not heavy, just very nice.

Ah, France. A red and a white, both drier than the others on the wine walk. Not heavy, just very nice.

After visiting all three wine shops, we decided to stop in at the Rose & Crown Pub in the UK pavilion for a bite to eat. Rich had finished his French wine, but I still had my red left, so I took it into the pub with me. At the Rose & Crown, we had… oh, that’s a story for another day🙂

Have you done the Epcot Wine Walk? Which wine was your favorite?

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Our favorite Disney restaurants: Sanaa

Ah…Sanaa… This lovely restaurant located at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village overlooks the savanna and its animal occupants. We had a late dinner here, and thus couldn’t see the animals through our window-side table, but it was still a wonderful meal in a charming atmosphere.

We started with drinks in the lounge while waiting for our table. I had the African Starr Mojito (Starr African rum, Van der Hum tangerine liqueur from South Africa, fresh mint, and lime). It was quite tasty. (I can’t remember what my husband had. Something on the rocks, I think.)

African Starr mojito

I’d long heard amazing things about Sanaa’s bread service. Not familiar with this? It’s pretty much a wooden board full of heavenly flavors. There are five different types of naan (Indian bread): traditional, garlic-ginger, spiced naan, onion kucha, and paneer paratha. You can choose three accompaniments, or pay a little extra and get all nine – cucumber raita, roasted red pepper hummus, mango chutney, tomato-date jam, tamarind chutney, coriander chutney, garlic pickle, red chile sambal, and spicy jalapeño-lime pickle. You should definitely get them all. My favorites were the cucumber raita, coriander chutney (which I called cilantro chutney), and red chile sambal. Actually, the three mixed together were quite nice.

Sanaa bread service

For our entree (we split it because, well, bread service), we had the braaivleis – a South African sampler platter with boerewor (South African sausage), a lamb chop, and pork tenderloin with veggies and maybe some potatoes? I’m not sure. We failed to photograph it. I think our minds were still on that amazing bread service. Not to diss the sampler platter – it was delicious! Our excellent server recommended South African wines to go with our meal, based on our individual preferences. Mine was a bit lighter, my husband’s more bold. They were both very good.

Have you dined at Sanaa? What’s your favorite bread service “accompaniment”?

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