VIP Tour Experiences at Walt Disney World® Resort Part 2

A couple of weeks back, I posted about some of the amazing VIP Experiences that are available at the Walt Disney World® Resort.  Of course, Part 1 focused on my favorite topic - food!  Again, more detail can be found If you want even more detail, check out the Divas Dish Podcast where I shared live from my hotel at the Grand Floridian (Episode 68). Click this link, or grab it on iTunesI Heart Radio, or Stitcher.

So today, let's focus on a VIP Tour.  Simply amazing. If you want to truly feel like a Rock Star, this is the way to roll! Your Tour Guide is a very knowledgeable Cast Member who will be your personal escort through the parks. Basically, they ensure that you see what you want, when you want, with no waiting.  They will take you into the FastPass line of every attraction - even the most popular!  You bypass bag check.  You are driven right to a special entrance, where your band is scanned and you walk right into the park with no lines.  It couldn't be easier!

Yep - I went to Tower of Terror first!

Yep - I went to Tower of Terror first!

And did I mention SNACKS?! Private VIP guides really do think of everything!  Our guide, Kirk, was phenomenal.  So knowledgeable and friendly! It was fun getting to know him and fun getting to ride the rides with him! He found out that I love Hidden Mickeys, and so he spent time pointing out the hard-to-find ones.  Did you know that there are 3 of them in Soarin' Around the World™? I bet that 3rd one is the one you'll struggle to find! 

Oh you know, just your normal Tower of Terror selfie...

Oh you know, just your normal Tower of Terror selfie...

Kirk even helped us park hop! We went from Disney's Hollywood Studios® to Epcot®  - again no bag check line or line to use the touch point. In the space of 2 hours, we had done 4 big ticket attractions!  The amount of time saved was amazing.  

Private VIP Tours are available for up to 10 guests. If you are with a larger party, you'll just add another guide -- this ensures that the personalized experience stays, well ... personal! The cost varies based on season from $400-$600 per hour (7 hour minimum).  This cost is well-worth it, especially during those extra-crowded times of year! Your Upon A Star Agent can book this for you or even add it into your package. 

There are also half day VIP Tours available that are not private; they will, however, take you through the parks to focus on either "thrill rides" or "classic rides".  These are not personalized to your family, but they are a great way to tour if the full VIP Private Tour isn't in the budget this time around.

More to come - watch for Part 3 about "Early Morning Magic" at Walt Disney World® Resort!

Tips for traveling to Disney with a 2 year old!


My daughter's name is Isabella. She calls herself Belle, which is just perfect since that's my favorite princess and Disney movie. At 2 1/2 years old, we brought "Baby Belle" to meet the real Belle at the Magic Kingdom! She was enamored by the castle from our first day, and I don't know who was more excited to meet Belle, me or the baby! 


Our visit to the most Magical Place on Earth was super fun, exciting, busy & magical...but not without its stressful moments! Here's a few tips that helped our family navigate through a jam packed week of rides, churros, naps & fireworks! 
 

1) I've now made this mistake twice, and I will not do it again! If your child needs to nap, they will not nap on travel days. Scheduling, flights, transporting to/from airport always get in the way of a regular afternoon nap (for us anyway!). Plus, just by being in the MOST MAGICAL PLACE ON EARTH, there is way too much excitement and exploring to do for our little one (or us?!). So there's no nap the first day. Then, for whatever reason I do it, I've booked a full day at the Magic Kingdom the day after we arrive. Well, baby Belle is not a peach the day after she doesn't nap so I will be planning a "low key" day exploring hotels or a day at Disney Springs the day after we arrive next time. It saves us a bunch of attitude & frustration; we can go at our own pace, it's relaxing to just walk around and explore, and we can go back to hotel to nap, no issues. 


2) Speaking of naps, we did not want to deal with bringing a stroller through the airport, on the plane, blah blah blah, BUT Belle still naps so what to do?! We rented through Kingdom Strollers and for us, it was absolutely worth the money. The stroller was at our hotel - with plenty of storage space and a cooler! - before we even arrived! We had picked out the model online and it was perfect. Much more comfortable than our awful stroller we left at home! It was easy to maneuver & fold up. And - you just leave it at the hotel when you check out! SO.EASY. Belle napped every afternoon in the stroller in the parks so we never even had to leave the magic! We grabbed a snack, found a quiet spot in whatever park we were visiting that day, and relaxed! 

3) To prepare the little one for our big adventure, we let her watch videos of the rides on YouTube before we left for vacation. This is a great way to help your child get familiarized with certain characters, rides, shows & experiences! It's fun to watch the videos after vacation as well when you're going through severe Disney withdrawal and can reminisce about Peter Pan's flight together!

4) Unless you are hands down, 100% super certain that your kid will just absolutely fall in love with life size Mickey & friends, I'd suggest not doing a character meal as your first meal, day one. Belle was horrified at the Winnie the Pooh characters at the Crystal Palace and as much as she LOVES the old Pooh classics AND ride, she just can not do the real life stuff. So that meal was a bit of a bust. After this incident, we gave her the option to "hug or wave to" the characters and this was met with much more enthusiasm when she realized she did not have to go anywhere near them . (Princesses are a different story!!) If you can, give your kids some time in the park to see and/or meet characters and gauge reactions before doing a character meal. I realize character meals book up quickly but it will save you money if you find out your little one is not in love with life size Daisy! Booking a character meal for later in the trip, after they've had a chance to see and meet characters, may work out better for you time and money-wise! 

5) BRING HEADPHONES if your kid is not used to fireworks. They are very loud (we've done Magic Kingdom & Epcot), and as cool and awesome as you think the show is, it will not be awesome if your kid is screaming the fireworks are too loud. Headphones work at home for local summer firework displays, so I'm definitely packing them for next year's trip! If you're thinking being in the park during the show will be a bit overwhelming, try watching the show from one of the nearby beaches surrounding Seven Seas Lagoon. Grab a drink, bring a snack, pack some glow in the dark wands and bracelets (hello Dollar Store!) and enjoy without the crowds! We've enjoyed the fireworks from Fort Wilderness & the Polynesian - order a Polynesian Pearl at Trader Sam's and take it all in! 

And remember - HAVE FUN!!!! 

I'd love to help you book your next Magical vacation!

Contact me today!

kyla@uponastartravel.com

www.facebook.com/kylauponastartravel

Drinking Around the World Showcase

When planning adult only trips or vacation date nights, I get a lot of, “we want to go drinking around the world”. This refers to World Showcase in EPCOT. It can be a very fun and entertaining way to visit all of the countries in World Showcase. Unfortunately, there have been many adults who have fallen victim to the effects of the “it’s vacation” attitude and had a few too many drinks a little too quickly.

TIPS:

Pace Yourself: with 11 countries, you need to take your time. The basic hours of the World Showcase are 11am-9pm. This gives you 10 hours to conquer the “world” without being tempted to climb a temple in Mexico. Go in with the mindset that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it will help. Take your time, and enjoy the shops and attractions. There’s more to do than just drink!

Share drinks and dishes: My plan is based on sharing drinks and food. This will help you consume less so you don’t feel as full and can try more. This will also help your wallet!  Drinks run from $6-$16 each. You can blow your budget pretty quickly just on the alcohol, but you will need to eat too.

Hydrate: Not to state the obvious, but Florida is HOT! That can lead to dehydration. Alcohol can also lead to dehydration, making your feel the effects very quickly. No one wants to see you blitzed, and you don’t want to be sleeping it off in your resort before the torches are lit for Illuminations.

Start Early: This plan starts when the World Showcase opens at 11am. It factors in some rides, a dinner and entertainment.

Be Respectful: Drinking Around the World has almost become an adult past-time at Walt Disney World. You can see “teams” with matching shirts, bachelor/bachelorette parties loudly proclaiming victory, and many guests have been seen taking things a little too far. Remember- Epcot is still a family theme park. You can still enjoy yourself and be respectful of others.

MEXICO

The best location to start is Mexico, then work your way around to Canada. The food and drinks seem to make a natural progression from light to heavy going in this direction.

* Skip the kiosk outside with the pre-mixed, sticky sweet Margaritas. Head inside to La Cava Del Tequila and grab a margarita to share. The Blood Orange, Avocado, and Jalapeño Margaritas are recommended. Skip the tequila flights – shots will have you taking a siesta before your reach Italy.

* Grab some chips and salsa to enjoy with your margarita. Tell your server that you follow @CavaDelTequila on twitter and you might receive a special offer.

* Ask your server for a glass of water here. Make sure you finish it before you leave the table.

* Enjoy the Gran Fiesta Tour starring The Three Caballeros, as it has a wait under 20 minutes. Take your time visiting the shops in the air conditioning.

 

NORWAY

* Grab a Carlsberg from the kiosk. While it’s not actually from Norway (it’s actually from Denmark), it’s still a good beer. Avoid the Linie Aquavit Glacier shot – not just because it’s a shot, but because it’s awful! It’s a potato alcohol and reminds me of dill pickles – not in a good way.

* Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe is a snack highlight. The school bread is the obvious choice and a favorite among guests. It’s also cheap.

* Ask at the bakery for another free glass of water. See if you can get it to go so you can sip it while you’re looking around Norway.

* The obvious attraction here is Frozen Ever After. You will need to get a fastpass or you will lose your touring momentum. Aim for a 11:30-12:30 window. This will give you time before or after to get your drink and dish.

CHINA

* The Joy of Tea stand in China has some of the most refreshing cocktails in the World Showcase. They are tea-based and a little light on the alcohol side. The Canto Loopy is light and really tastes like cantaloupe.

* After eating nachos and school bread, along with a poor snack selection of snack food, I would skip food here.

* Purchase a bottle of water at Joy of Tea. Sipping it over the next couple of countries will really help you feel better as you continue on your quest to conquer the countries.

* After you grab a victory picture in front of China’s pagoda, head inside to sip your beverages while looking at the clay army. Enjoy the Reflections of China in the air conditioning. If you want a personal souvenir, Good Fortunes Gifts next to the Joy of Tea will add your name in Chinese, free of charge, to a fan or parasol.

OUTPOST

This isn’t a country – skip it! It doesn’t count as an official stop on a Drinking Around the World tour. Don’t be fooled by the “exclusive” Walt Disney World Safari Amber, it’s a boring Anheuser-Busch brew.

GERMANY

* Beer Here! So many great beers to choose from. Most will go for the Schofferhofer Pink Grapefruit Hefewizen. This beer is refreshing on a hot day. I prefer a glass of Riesling from the Sommerfest kiosk.

* Karamell-Küche is a wonderful sweet shop. The salted caramel is delicious but hard to share. The caramel popcorn is nothing special. Go for a cupcake! Since the shop is usually busy, they are very fresh.

* Keep sipping on that bottle of water you bought in China

* Stop at Kunstarbeit in Krystal and see the beautiful Swarovski Crystal figurines, especially the beautiful Cinderella’s Castle! Grab a pickle – a glass one – for your Christmas Tree. It’s a great tradition to start with your family.

Checkpoint: remember you have 10 hours for the tour. If you are pacing yourself, checking out the attractions and shopping, you should be about 3.5 hours in, making the time about 2:30pm (unless you got derailed at Frozen).

 

ITALY

* Italy is known for great wine. You can opt for a red or white wine flight in La Bottaga Italiana. The pours are very small, so I prefer going to Gelati and getting the Sangria or a Bellini. The drinks here are some of my favorites, so grab a drink for each of you to split; we’ll make up for it at the next stop.

* While you’re at Gelati, grab some gelato. You get 2 scoops to share!

* Make sure you get some water. If the kiosk won’t give you a cup, the sparkling Italian water could hit the spot.

* Relax and catch a street show in the piazza and a picture in front of the wonderful statues.

AMERICA

* I recommend a break in America, especially if you got that extra one in Italy. However, Block & Hans has some American crafts beers that are worth a try. Try the Angry Orchard Hard Cider.

* It’s America – Funnel Cake! There is nothing more to say….

* You can refill your purchased water bottle at the water fountains outside the bathrooms in the back of the pavilion.

* Enjoy the air conditioning inside while you watch the amazing Voices of Liberty performers. I may or may not have grabbed a power nap in the American Adventure theater. Rejoice that you have made it almost half way and your still going strong!

JAPAN

* Time to be adventurous! Head to the back of the Mitsukoshi Department Store to the Sake bar. The hot sake goes down easily. While the Ichiban beer (especially the frozen) sounds tempting, it’s bland and not very appealing.

* After that funnel cake, you’re probably feeling a bit full. There isn’t much in Japan as far as “snacks” go. A guest favorite is Kaki-Gori, which is like a sno-cone.

* San! Ni! Ichi! Participate in the pick a pearl ceremony before heading to the Bitutsu-Kan Gallery, which is filled with wonderful Japanese art. Maybe you’ll be in time to catch the Matsuriza drums.

MOROCCO

* Stop into the Tangierine Café for a coffee infused with liquor. It’s a great afternoon pick-me-up.

* Share some hummus and enjoy the air conditioning with your coffee.

* Ask for a free cup of water with your coffee and hummus.

* After you enjoy the architecture and colorful tiles in the Marketplace labyrinth, head back toward the front of the pavilion to Souk-al-Magreb for henna.

Checkpoint: Coffee and a nap! You should be feeling good! You should be 3.5 to 4 hours past the last check point. It’s around 6:30pm, so let’s grab some dinner!!

FRANCE

* The best drink in the World Showcase is the Grand Marnier & Grey Goose Orange Slush! The Grey Goose Citron Lemonade Slush and Kir Royale are also divine, so grab a drink for each of you to share.

* Before you get your drink, get some dinner, and more importantly, dessert. Head to Boulangerie Pâtisserie les Halles. Try the Bisque de Homard (lobster bisque) and Brie Aux Pommes- brie with apples and cranberries on multi grain bread. There are so many selections for dessert; it’s hard to pick just one! From the excellent Fraises Tart (strawberry tart), to the macaron collection, to the chocolate mousse, there is something wonderful for everyone.

* You can get a free cup of water at the Pâtisserie. Ask for it at check out.

* Check the schedule to see when Serveur Amusant is performing. These French acrobats are so fun to watch as they defy gravity. You can also find Belle by the lake.

ENGLAND

* There are several good beers on tap at Rose and Crown. Try one of the pub blends like the Bumblebee (Boddingtons and Guinness), Blank & Tan (Bass and Guinness) or the Golden Fox (Boddington and Bass).

* Grab some Victoria Sponge Cake from Yorkshire Country Fish Shop. The light sponge is filled with jam and butter cream and is delicious. If you’re still feeling pretty full from your desserts in France, head into the Teas Caddy and get some Shortbread Cookies.

* You can get a free cup of water with your Victoria Sponge Cake.

* Take your beer and treat to the back of the pavilion. Across from Toy Soldier is a band stand. Sit and enjoy the band as they play covers of some of the best British bands, like the Beatles and the Who. Stop in the Crown and Crest to see your coat of arms and pick up a Doctor Who or Sherlock tee.

CANADA

* To get the really good beers in Canada, you used to need a reservation at Le Cellier. Now there is a kiosk where you can grab some of the better beers on the World Tour. La Fin Du Monde is a robust Abbey Trioel that is considered to be one of the best beers in the world, not just World Showcase.

* There isn’t much in the way of Canadian snacks, but you can get some yummy popcorn and receive a special souvenir bucket.

* Ask for a cup of water with your popcorn.

* By now it’s the end of the evening. Find a bench or spot by the lake and enjoy Illuminations. It’s one of the great Disney nighttime shows. With the fireworks, lasers, and soaring music, it’s a great way to end your day.

Touring the countries this way can help you cover World Showcase and see all it has to offer. For regular Disney travelers, this could be a fun way to experience the park in a new way. For new Disney vacationers, this gives you an opportunity to experience every country, not just a few.

Stay tuned to the Upon A Star Travel & Concierge Blog and follow me on social media as my husband, Chris and I, tour the World Showcase and test this out in September. I’d love to hear your results and feedback when you give this a try. Cheers!!

You can find out more about agent Carrie at http://uponastartravel.com/agents/#/carrie/
Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @uponastarcarrie
Carrie@uponastartravel.com

Tiffins and the Jungle Book Alive with Magic

On my recent trip to Walt Disney World, I was so excited to experience new dining experiences and shows alongside my old favorites. Today, I'd like to highlight my meal at Tiffins in Animal Kingdom.  

Let's start with the name; a "tiffin" is a light meal or packed lunch in South India.  Often, a "tiffin" is in a tin bucket.  And if you order the bread service, it comes in a replica tiffin!

Bread Service

Bread Service

Now look at me - I'm already into the food! Allow me to back up and show you the beauty of this new dining establishment.  You will find it tucked behind Pizzafari on Discovery Island, right near the construction for Avatarland. 

The building itself is beautiful.  As you can see, there is an outdoor area, the Nomad Lounge, which is a great place to sit and wait while your table is prepared. There is both an indoor and an outdoor area.

The decor inside is beautiful as well.

Tiffins offers a dining package that includes reserved seating at the evening show, which is currently "Jungle Book: Alive with Magic".  When Rivers of Light premieres, the package will likely continue to be offered for this experience.  When you dine here as part of the show experience, the meal comes with appetizer, entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage. 

The menu had a lot of interesting dishes, and among the four of us dining, we had quite a sampling of food!  There is a picture of the full menu above, but here is a close up of the dessert menu. :) 

And now what I know you really want to see... the food!

Everyone agreed that their meals were incredible.  None of us had complaints with the food, the service, or any aspect of our experience.  We would all go back in a heartbeat! I also have to give a shout out to the vanilla bean simple syrup - they gave that to us to sweeten our iced tea, and oh. my. goodness.  It was incredible!  Tiffins is a signature dining experience, so it requires 2 meal credits on the Disney Dining Plan.  At this time, no discounts (Annual Passholder, DVC, etc) are accepted.

Of course, we also got to see the Jungle Book: Alive with Magic Show.  While I was disappointed that Rivers of Light hadn't premiered, I must give kudos to the performers of the Jungle Book.  I love the timeless music, and the dancers and musicians did a great job. I did a periscope of the performance, which you can watch by clicking this link.

I look forward to dining at Tiffins again, and I am excited to see the new Rivers of Light show as well.  I'll be posting again about it once I've experienced it! In the meantime, stay tuned for my review of the Diamond Horseshoe next week!

Part 2 Navigating Disney World with Special Needs

I’m back with some more tips and suggestions to make your trip to Disney easier and more enjoyable for your kids with special needs.

Resort Choices

Most kids with special needs, whether they are physical, emotional or intellectual, can’t wait long. If that is the case in your family, I suggest staying at a Monorail resort. The resorts on the Monorail are Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. These resorts are a stone’s throw from The Magic Kingdom, and the monorail stops at the Transportation and Ticket center that can easily get you to Epcot. That being said, we have stayed at other resorts and have not had issues with transportation. All Disney buses are equipped with a lift gate for wheel chairs and electronic scooters. While waiting for buses, I often have very small bottles of bubbles to keep the kiddos distracted and busy while waiting. 

Schedule Breaks

It’s important to give kiddos a break from the sensory overload going on during the day. If possible, try to take a break during the day and head back to your hotel and take a swim or a nap. We always find that this really helps the kids reset, and us as well! If you can’t make it back to your resort, find an area in the park that you can stop and take a break. I also find that kids with ADD/ADHD need to burn off some of that extra energy they are carrying round. To help burn some energy, head to some of the play areas in the parks; The Bone Yard at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is our favorite!

water pic.jpg

Stay hydrated

Ok this is important for everyone going, however really important for kids with special needs. Did you know that kiddos with Autism, ADD/ADHD can dehydrate faster? Take some bottles of water into the park to make sure you and the kids keep hydrated. Don’t forget you can also go to any quick serve dining location and request water, and it is free!

 

Be Safe

Disney is a big place, and the crowds can be intimidating. I try to dress my kids in matching outfits and tend to stick to brighter colors too. I also take a picture of them every morning when we head out the door to the parks so I have a photo of them in their outfits for the day. You can also buy/make bracelets with beads on them with your cellphone number so that if they get separated from you, they can show the bracelet to a cast member and they can call you. I always point out cast members to my kids so they know they can go to them if they get separated or need help.

 

Dining

Where to dine is a big deal at Disney! Know a bit about the restaurants you may want to go to. Are they too loud, sensory overload, will they take too much time up eating there? My suggestion is to make reservations for off-times to eat. They crowds won’t be as bad and it's not as loud.

 

Plan, Plan, Plan

I find the more organized you are, the better you will do and the better your kids will do too. Get help planning! We would love to help you plan out the details of your trip so that it can be enjoyable for you. I hate it when I hear about someone having a bad time at Disney, and usually it’s because it wasn’t planned out well. While planning out the details of a trip is important for everyone, I think it is of the utmost importance to families with kiddos that have special needs. You want to have every tool available to you to make your trip a success.

 

Have a magical vacation!

Lori!

 

I’m happy to answer any questions you may have!

Find me at:

lori@disiningmemories.com
www.facebook.com/uponastarlori
Twitter: @uponastarlori
Instagram: Uponastarlori

 

Tasting and Drinking Our Way Around the World: Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival 2015

This week, agent Carrie shares her experience at this year's Food & Wine Festival! If you've always wanted to go but haven't, this post is for you!       ~Jenn

My best friend from high school, Amy, and I have been going to small wine festivals around PA for many years.  As we celebrated our 30th birthdays at a fall wine festival in Yorktown in 2005, we decided we needed to have something greater in order to “look forward” to the big four-oh looming in front of us.  We decided to go to Italy!  We started planning, even buying books and tapes to learn Italian.  We weighed out the pros and cons of going with a tour group vs. renting a convertible and winging it.  Sometime last year it hit us- we have no money saved up for our grand tour of Italy.  Over the last 10 years, life happened- children got older, houses were bought, jobs were lost and new ones started.  That’s when my husband surprised us by saying he was sending us to Italy!...in Epcot for the Food and Wine Festival.  

I started reading and learning about the F&W Festival.  I quickly learned it was not like any of the festivals I’d been to locally -- meaning no free wine tastings.  I was a little worried about how much money we were going to spend on tiny sips of wine.  I started to feel overwhelmed with everything there is to know about the festival.  There are parties, special events, food demonstrations by famous chefs, drink seminars, and so much more.  I wanted it all!! 

There were two small problems with wanting it all…money and time.  The money is pretty self-explanatory.  While the demos and seminars felt completely doable at $15pp for a 45-60 minute session, some of the parties and VIP experiences went for up to $500pp.  Time was the bigger factor.  We were going for a Girl’s Weekend and only 2 days in the parks.  At first, I wanted to spend both days at the festival (Epcot is my favorite park), but then I found out that Amy hadn’t been to the parks since high school. So we HAD to go to the Magic Kingdom for a day.

We made the sad decision to skip the demos and our desired special event - the Italian Regional Food and Wine Pairing Luncheon - because it would take 3 hours up in the middle of our day.  Instead, we planned to eat (and drink) our way around the World.  The Global Marketplace consists of 30 booths that represent countries and refreshments that are placed around the World Showcase.  It’s more than the regular World Showcase pavilions.  Additional countries are represented as well: Poland, South Korea, Greece, and Patagonia are just a couple of examples.  We pre-purchased the Sampler Package that included 8 entitlements for food or drink items in the Global Marketplace, a 20th Anniversary F&W pin, and VIP seating for the Eat to the Beat Concert.

After a beautiful morning riding rides in Future World, we headed to the Festival Center.  It’s the hub of all the comings and goings for F&W.  The demos and seminars happen here.  There is a small area to buy festival merchandise (Dooney and Bourke anyone?!?!)  This is also where you pick up any festival tickets and passes.  While we were there, we got a F&W gift card and loaded it with the max money we were willing to spend at the festival.  This was to ensure we didn’t go overboard.  We also got our “Festival Passport”, which tells you all the Festival booth menus throughout the Global Marketplace.  This passport makes a great souvenir because you can have it stamped at each country’s booth you visit.

The booths have a minimum of 2 main dishes, a dessert, and a beverage.  We decided to order different dishes so we could try each other’s.  In Scotland, I ordered the Haggis with Neeps (rutabaga) and Tatties (potatoes) and Amy had the Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon.  I thought the haggis was a bit dry, but since I’ve never had haggis, I have nothing to compare it to.  That became the theme of the day…let’s try something we haven’t had before.

Then we went over to Hawaii.  I was disappointed that they were sold out of the Tuna Poke with Seaweed Salad (at 12:15pm!), and they didn’t know when they would have more.  So, we both had the Kalua Pork Sliders with sour Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayo.  I could have had eaten these all day!

Off to Greece!  You can easily find Greece in the Marketplace.  Just follow the cheers of, "Opa!"  When you pick up your drink, shout, "Opa!" and the cheer is quickly returned.  This was one of the best interactions with Cast Members and people at all the booths we visited.  I got a Greek Salad and Amy got the Vegan Moussaka with Vegan Sausage Crumbles.  My salad was good, but small.  The moussaka was also good, but very hot.  It was a 90-degree day, and eating the super-hot food wasn’t going down well, so it didn’t get finished.  I was very impressed with the vegan/vegetarian options all through the marketplace.

Next was the Champagne and Desserts booth.  As a champagne lover, this was my favorite booth.  I really wanted to splurge on a tasting on Dom Pérignon, but at over $20 for 2 ounces, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Darn budget!  Instead, I went with the Moet & Chandon Nectar Impérial instead.  Amy got the Moet & Chandon Impérial to go with her Chocolate Cherry Exposion dessert.  I got the fancy Strawberry-Basil Champagne “Toast”.  Everything was phenomenal!  We immediately planned to go back at the end of the evening to get another glass of bubbly and dessert.

Next stop was the Refreshment Port. This booth is not a country, but it offers one of the best Disney treats around -- the Dole Whip with Coconut Rum!!  We enjoyed this while looking out at the lagoon for a small break.

O Canada!  Cheddar Cheese Soup and Moosehead Lager for me.  Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter and Tawse Vineyard Cabernet Franc for Amy.  The soup and filet are on the menu at Le Cellier, so I was a little disappointed that there was nothing new.  But, I LOVE the Cheddar soup and the beer was light and made an excellent pairing.  The wine was really good and had the right notes to compliment the fillet and earthy mushrooms.  It was one of our favorite booths, and Amy now wishes to go to Le Cellier the next time we are in WDW.

After a shopping excursion and concert in England, we headed over to France.  It was Champagne again for me in the Sparkling Pomegranate Kir.  The Boeuf Bourguignon was so delicious and melted in my mouth.  I was excited to see it on the menu, because I have always wanted to try it.  Amy’s Cabernet Sauvignon was a bit bland, but the Crioissand aux Escargots was the simply amazing.  It was both our favorite of the whole festival.  We then went into the wine shop, Les Vins de France, where we purchased the red and white wine flights.  This was our biggest disappointment of the day.  Each glass was 2oz, and the flight was $18ea.  Given the rich food we had, the wine seemed, well…boring.  We still drank it all while sitting on the edge of the fountain enjoying the beautiful day.

Italy!!!  We finally made it!  We started with some shopping and pictures -- and then it poured!  Have no fear; there is a w(h)ine shop.  While we whined about the rain for a minute, we drank a glass of wine.  Due to the rain, La Bottega Italiana was packed.  We got one glass of Pinot Noir, then got back in line to get another glass of something we couldn’t pronounce (looks like those Italian tapes were a waste of money). We really enjoyed the wine here.  By then, the rain had slowed down a bit so we headed to the festival booth.  I tried the Raviolo alla Caprese (cheese ravioli) and Amy had the Filetto di Pollo Funghi al Marsala (chicken marsala).  We were very disappointed in the Italian booth.  It only had those 2 selections, and they were so dull.  A great part of our time at the booth was talking with a nice couple from Cleveland -- I had to poke a little fun at his Browns shirt.  Turns out “Mrs. Browns Fan” was actually a Steeler fan and grew up 2 blocks from where I currently live.  It’s a small world after all!

With one more entitlement left and 10 minutes until our dinner reservation, we headed to Germany.  They make the best Riesling, and they have four to choose from!   We drank our wine while we headed over to Morocco to try Spice Road Table as our final stop in trying something new.  We had a little wait, so we decided to get henna tattoos that mean “Sisters”.  I really enjoyed the atmosphere and cast members here.  Everyone was very helpful and friendly, and the food was amazing!  We watched Illuminations from here and then headed back.  We were entirely too full (and a bit too giddy) to stop at the Champagne booth again.

We ended up using all of the entitlements and all but a couple dollars on the gift cards.  We were happy we didn’t go over budget.  We were disappointed, though, that we didn’t make it to more of the Global Marketplace.  As we started around the lagoon, our goal was not to miss anything.  The only booth we purposely missed was Poland.  As Pittsburghers, we didn’t think they could do a pierogi better than home -- I mean after all, we have pierogi races at Pirate games.

The Epcot Food and Wine Festival is an EVENT!  We had so much fun the whole day.  Even after an amazing day at the Magic Kingdom, we said we were going to come back and do 2 days at the festival.  We’ll be back for our next milestone birthday celebration!  Forty-One is a big deal…right?

Memory Maker at Walt Disney World® Resort

One of the newest offerings for Walt Disney World® Resort packages is Memory Maker.  I just love this package!  For those of you who have never been, or who haven't been in sometime, Memory Maker has replaced the Disney's PhotoPass service.  Memory Maker is essentially an enhanced version of the PhotoPass service. 

In its newest form, Memory Maker includes every picture that is taken in the park as a digital download.  This is much more convenient than the PhotoPass CD -- especially since many newer computers don't even have CD/DVD drives as a standard option. Now when I say every picture, I mean every picture -- even the on-ride photos!  My hubby & I know where every on-ride camera is, and we usually do something funny when we know a photo is going to be snapped.  We would never buy these photos, though, opting to spend our money on other souvenirs.  With Memory Maker though, we have the luxury of having each and every funny moment. 

Do you enjoy my hubby's costume in the Splash Mountain pic?  He is the attraction Soarin'. He decided that for Splashdown on Splash Mountain, he should wear the goggles.  I did not notice at all until I saw the picture!

There are also lots of photo opportunities as you walk around each park.  Sometimes, there will even be a bit of extra magic that will appear in your photos when you look at them!

There are also amazing on-ride videos that show up... plus some other fun videos!

Memory Maker is currently $169 for pre-purchase, and I highly recommend adding it to your package! Just be sure it is added on at least 3 days prior to your trip.  I have so many fun pictures from my recent trips.  I even have footage of my mom on a roller coaster now! You don't want to miss out on wonderful memories like these. Have you used and loved Memory Maker? Comment below!