How to Find Joy, Love and Peace


What’s up bitches? I know, it’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me. I had a busy holiday season, traveling to St. Louis, Walt Disney World, and Kansas City for a wedding. Above is my favorite picture from the trip. The moment I saw this view, I knew I had to capture it.

Oh, what’s with my blog title? Well, if you were read this far I might a well tell you. I have no idea either. You probably should read or something. I hear Gwyneth has some advice for what to do with jade eggs.

Disney Freaks Update

Disney moved their annual marathon up to the weekend we were there, making it an extremely busy time to visit. We had fun, but I felt bad for anyone there for the first time.If you make reservations for early January in the future, you’ll want to make sure the marathon doesn’t coincide with your trip. We were there January 1-6.

Alligator warning signs and fencing are now in place, wherever lakes are present. These areas include the Magic Kingdom and Boardwalk area hotels.


Most of you know about the June 2016 alligator attack at Disney’s Grand Floridian. A precious 2-year old boy visiting from England was killed, as his horrified parents fought to free him from the alligator’s grip.

Far fewer of you know, that this was not the first time an alligator attacked on Disney property. In 1986, an 8-year old boy was bitten by an alligator at Fort Wilderness. Unlike June’s attack, the boy had non-life threatening injuries. Yet despite this, and repeat alligator sightings preceding the tragedy, Disney failed to warn guests. Those unfamiliar with where this happened, probably don’t realize how the young victim (Lane) was in the center of it all. He was not on the fridges of the resort, in a remote place. He was within steps of the lobby, in a beach area frequented by families.

During our visit, I thought of Lane several times and how preventable (I feel) his death was. Prior to then, there were a few “no swimming” signs, but no one realized that simply being on the beach, playing in shallow water, could lead to such tragedy. Maybe someone familiar with Florida and the alligator risk present. But, certainly not myself, Lane’s parents and most other people immersed in Disney’s fantasy world.

I read that Disney removed all their alligator references in the park, but this is not the case. They may have removed some merchandising, but everywhere animated/mechanical alligators were present before, like Jungle Cruise, were still there.

Back to my visit…


Above, my gorgeous husband & 8th grade son, who confused people with his St. Louis Cardinal’s T-shirt, U of Michigan hat, and Purdue Shorts.

I couldn’t wait to go on the new Frozen ride. My expectations were high, especially given the 5 hour waits present during it’s opening weeks. During our visit, the wait was generally 2-hours, which proves patience isn’t (your) virtue. It’s just something you pretend to have, when your little brat HAS to go on the ride.

As soon as allowed, I booked my fastpass +, which in Epcot meant it was the only big attraction I could reserve (in Epcot) that day. As a Disney Resort guest, you can select 3 fastpass+ + selections in one park each day, on In Epcot, you can’t pick Soarin, Test Track and Frozen in one day. You can only pick one, along with 2 other “less popular” attractions, like Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Ellen looks about 20-years younger in the video. I am pretty sure she’s holding an ABC executive captive, because otherwise, I can’t figure out why they haven’t updated it.

In Magic Kingdom, you can pick 3 popular attractions, as part of your initial fastpass + selections. In theory, you can select additional fast passes after you’ve used your 3, but when the park is busy, there may be no more left to give out. This is why using your fast passes early in the day, rather than later, can be advantageous.

What did I think of Frozen? Unless you have a fast pass, I wouldn’t go. In fact, I am not sure it’s worth wasting a fast pass on! If you’ve ever gone on the Norway ride you’ll realize Frozen is on the same track. In the same boats. Sure, there are animated figures and Frozen music, but the ride is so short you barely appreciate it. Waits for this ride exceeded 2 hours while we were there. 2 hours for what seemed like a 2 second ride, on the same boat you went on 2 years ago, through Viking territory. Buy your kid an Elsa doll and call it a day.

Soarin’s new film, which takes you around the world now, WAS worth waiting for. The way you move seemed the same, but the visual experience was completely different.

We also tried Sanaa, which is a fairly new restaurant in Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s in the second (newer) building, called Kidani Village. We liked the lunch menu better, so we went during the day. The Naan bread service with 9 different dipping sauces was amazing.I copied the menu below, so you could see the additional bread options offered. You can order additional bread for under $2 each, which makes this one of the better – more reasonably priced – appetizers at Disney.

Indian-style Bread Service

Choice of Five Breads – Traditional Naan, Garlic-Ginger Naan, Spiced Naan, Onion Kucha, or Paneer Paratha. Choice of Accompaniments – Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Mango Chutney, Tomato-Date Jam, Tamarind Chutney, Coriander Chuntey, Garlic Pickle, Red Chile Sambal, or Spicy Jalapeño-Lime Pickle


We asked for a table by the window, and got one, although the hostess said normally you’d need to check-in early for your reservations to secure that. I thought the restaurant and the view were amazing. While you wait for your table, there is an area just outside the hostess stand, filled with rocking chairs, and beautiful views of the resort and it’s animal residents. I have included pictures below.

For lunch, my daughter and I ordered the Tandoori Chicken. The spice on the chicken tasted more like Indian food, than Middle-Eastern food like I hoped, but my daughter loved it.My son and husband thought their food (Kenya Coffee BBW sandwich and Sanaa Burger) were OK. I suggest going here, but I’d stuff myself on the Naan bread and skip the rest.


We were disappointed that our favorite lunch place, Chefs de France, is now serving their dinner menu all day. We weren’t made aware of this when we made our reservation 9 months in advance, which is necessary when visiting the park during peak times.

When you book at Disney, you have to give a credit card deposit equal to $10 a person. If you don’t cancel 24-hours in advance, you are charged that fee. We looked around, and everyone was eating side salads and appetizers, not the heavy steak and duck main courses, we were now expected to order. What we always loved, their delicious monte crisco type sandwich (can’t remember the french name) wasn’t even available upon request. It was frustrating, since we couldn’t just get up and leave.  Considering how busy Disney was, the likelihood of finding sit down service anywhere else was remote. So, arguing too many items were removed since we booked, wouldn’t have solved our problem. We ended up ordering appetizers and leaving. I know, #firstworldproblems. Poor Northville mom couldn’t get her overpriced sandwich and had to eat flat bread instead. I almost feel stupid writing about it, but I know my loyal Disney followers need to know these things. Hi to the 3 of you, LOL. Kidding aside, sit down meals at Disney are about twice their going rate elsewhere. So when you replace the lunch menu with a choice of $30 dinner options, you have to expect some disappointed Disney fanatics like myself.

Best new find: Sprinkles in Disney Springs, F.K.A. Downtown Disney. Best cupcake ever! Usually I throw away half the “cake” and focus on the icing. Not this time.

Cat Freaks Update

For those of you that like me for my CATS, I am pleased to announce they made it through our 2 1/2 week absence perfectly fine. We made sure we left a really big bowl of water.

Oh yes, and we had a cat sitter come every other day. She’s a sweet high school freshmen who made sure she played with the cats, other than Cookie who refused to come out. Cookie is not as “easy” as the other two. He likes to get to know people  through snapchat first. To us, he’s a cat. To the hot blonde in California, he’s a 30-year old navy diver who’s facetime isn’t working for some reason.


My husband (Rich) read a book over break, which said pet owners don’t realize how much their house smells like their animals. You are probably familiar with Febreze’s “noise blind” marketing campaign .Well, Rich decided he’s going to fix our “problem”, even though none of us were concerned.

Rich sprayed Cookie’s favorite hang out, the cat tower in our family room. This is the place where Cookie hides his face behind the pillar, when he’s sick of you petting him. Like, I don’t notice his giant tail and body sitting there. Rich’s second location was Blackie’s favorite place, the brown throw on our (white) living room love seat. Fortunately, J.J.’s favorite spot, Kayla’s lap, remained untouched.

I didn’t know any of this went down. All I knew was that suddenly, Blackie wasn’t sitting on his throw, which was the only thing saving my couch.  Instead, he was sitting on the arm of the love seat, a strange place that was throw free, and covered in black cat hair. Now, after almost a week, Blackie has begun sitting on the throw again. This is a positive development. Maybe we’ll start talking to Rich again in a couple days.

Cookie took longer to convince. After vacuuming and spraying with cat nip, he did return to his tower, but this was only after a week. He’s not nose blind apparently. During Cookie’s tower protest, he sat on his second and third favorite places,  the Restoration Hardware towel on my bath tub and the family room couch. Not on one cushion mind you. He always makes sure he takes up two.

Cookie is known as our bougee cat. When I tried to replace my RH towel with something less expensive, he meowed in the middle of the night, until I put it back. He likes his towels like his dates; thick, soft and dark brown. What? That’s what my towel is like!

Now you are caught up on my cats and Disney trip. Time to sign out. Peace and love, Northville Mom.


My new Dicken’s Village building. J.J. will love lying in front of it next Christmas.



Dear Disney, You Screwed Up

mickeyDear Disney,

You’ve been our family’s safe haven for 12 years now. Faithfully, we’ve visited your park each year, always staying at one of your luxury resorts. Few things can replace the magic of being immersed in a fantasy world, which you can only experience when staying on property. It’s where trash disappears before it falls to the ground. Where you can spend hours each evening walking outside, without the threat of an insect bite.

Everyone in the park pays hundreds of dollars, just for the pleasure of walking through your gates. There, homelessness and poverty no longer exist. The reality of the world disappears as you walk by perfectly manicured grounds, fairy tale castles, and blooming rose bushes. Even the sounds you hear are manipulated. Disney approved music follows you wherever you go, from the hotel lobby to the park gates, to ride queues and restaurants, your meals served by men and women in fanciful costumes, wishing you a magical day.

Everything on your property is make-believe and whimsical. The threat of alligators in central Florida may have been well known to you, but to someone from Michigan (or in the case of the victim’s family, Nebraska) this reality is not known to us. This is especially true considering the atmosphere we are surrounded by. One where nothing is real and nearly everything is manipulated by man. The name, Seven Seas Lagoon, alone implies it is part of your experience. The lagoon, which is man-made, is the last place I’d expect an alligator. That’s why non-Disney resorts close to yours, post signs saying not only no swimming, but be aware of alligators. TMZ has reported that one of your resort employees, claims it was known that guests feed alligators from their balconies. However, the Grand Floridian is an incredibly large hotel. It is entirely reasonable that this behavior (if accurate) was not observed by the majority of your guests. And, if it was a known problem, why didn’t you do more to warn your guests?

I am tired of the media referencing the “no swimming” signs and the fact you are in “gator country”. Your lawyer may say this makes the parents partially responsible, but I don’t feel that way.  2-year old Lane was wading in the lagoon, so close off shore that his father was able to attempt a rescue from (reportedly) the pool area. On social media, parents have posted pictures of their children playing in this same location, including one taken just 30 minutes before the attack. Swimming and playing just off the beach are two different things. While I am not certain I would have allowed my kids to play there, I can’t say that with certainty. After all, you play movies on a wide screen each night on your beach. This is also where your guests frequent, when watching Magic Kingdom fireworks. Therefore, where this occurred is not a remote area in the least. With all the pictures appearing on social media, it seems you should have known kids wade in this water frequently. At the very least, you should have installed better signage or a life guard who could warn of the dangers. Keep in mind, rooms in your hotel are $550 + each night, even more depending on the season. Taking additional steps to secure this location wouldn’t have left your resort unprofitable or been unreasonable to expect.

I understand you’ve been in business over 40 years and this is only the second alligator attack. The first occurred in 1986 at Fort Wilderness. Thankfully in that case, the 11-year-old boy survived. However, I am disappointed, really outraged, that more wasn’t done to prevent Tuesday’s attack. I can’t emphasize enough how expensive a Disney vacation is, especially for those fortunate enough to stay at the Grand Floridian. The best legal, security and wildlife experts should have been at your disposal; even if alligator attacks are rare and this animal’s behavior was atypical. Where we stay, Beach Club, has a beach area with its own body of water. It’s called Crescent Lake, but I have no idea if it’s accessible to alligators. I wonder if my kids have played there. I don’t remember them doing so, but I certainly would have been oblivious to any risk if it existed. In a world of singing bears and dancing giant mice, it’s no surprise Lane’s parents felt comfortable with him in the water.

I know that you are currently reviewing your safety and signage policies. I’ve read that access to all beach areas has been temporarily closed. According to TMZ, at least some guests at the Grand Floridian are receiving refunds; an approximate cost of ½ million each night this policy is extended. I am glad to hear you are doing the right thing in that regard, but it’s not enough. I’ve lost my trust in you. I thought you were better than this.


Image Credit:













Finally- I Can Say I am a Paid Travel Writer


One of my goals this year was to be published in a national magazine. I am not quite there yet, but a recent Disney article I wrote is featured on Travel and Leisure’s web site:

It’s a great honor to be featured and finally say I’m a paid writer; although, I won’t be retiring to Scottsdale any time soon.

If you haven’t tried pitching to magazines, let me tell you it’s brutal business. The competition is fierce. Many magazines won’t even review your work unless you have 3 previous articles nationally published. When you send your query, you are often waiting 3-4 months for it to be reviewed, and if it’s rejected you’ll never know. You just won’t hear anything. After sending about 30 queries, I heard from Travel and Leisure as well as got some interest from AAA Mid-South and possibly Costco Connection (It’s in a consideration pile for their home and garden issue. I won’t hold my breath).

After much thought, I decided that writing a book about customer service would make better use of my time. I stopped sending queries to magazines in September, hoping that Glamour would still come knocking on my door. After all, I must have sent them 3-4 story ideas. That is truly my dream magazine to be published in.

What is nice about my T&L  article is that it’s introduces many people to a way to save at Disney that isn’t well known. When you are a Disney Vacation Club Owner you have a considerable up-front investment ($20,000 isn’t out of the question) and also pay annual dues approaching $1000. It only makes sense for a select few who go to Disney routinely and always want to stay at a Deluxe resort. You can save some money buying into the club second-hand, but you won’t have use of the points for as long as you would otherwise. It will depend on how long the other person owned their membership.

By renting points from an owner, you are enjoying the perks of being a Disney guest and truly saving thousands of dollars over a week long trip. It seems too good to be true, but it really isn’t. You are paying the owner a premium to use their points, but it’s still a great deal. So great in fact, we’ve considered selling our membership and renting points instead.

I hope you will view my article and share it with your friends and family. Blackie, Cookie and J.J. are counting on you. If you have no idea who they are, read my last blog, “for the love of cats”. By the way, did you see the latest news on cats? Apparently, they really want to kill us:

Grand Traverse Bay Travel


We just returned from our trip “Up North”, which took us to Frankfort, MI, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Petoskey, Boyne City, Harbor Springs and Charlevoix. What you see above is one of the few sunny moments we had on our trip. The picture is of Point Bestie lighthouse, just north of Frankfort. It is an amazingly beautiful place. I still have a hard time believing how few people (in Detroit – a 4 1/2 hour drive) haven’t experienced some of the world-class destinations we have in the Grand Traverse area of the state. Granted, I can’t drive more than 30 minutes without falling asleep, so I really shouldn’t judge.

On our trip, we stopped at Pond Hill Farm and enjoyed the livestock barn and giant squash rocket. There was also a nice “farm to table” cafe and wine tasting.

pond5pond3 pond1

The pigs were adorable and reminded us of our cats, which made lunch challenging. Josh had no problem ordering a ham and cheese sandwich, but Kayla and I are still feeling guilty after our visit.

Below is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. There is a dune climb that nearly killed me. The 7 mile scenic drive was more my speed. It included several scenic overlooks, which is where the 2 pictures below were taken. As you’ll see, the dunes overtook the bench Josh is sitting on. While there, I was wearing my, “Just a Missouri Girl in a Michigan World” t-shirt. I figured the company deserved my business, since they were clever enough to advertise the shirt to me, based on my Facebook hometown and current location. The kids and Rich think it’s stupid and roll their eyes whenever I wear it. A couple from South St. Louis was thrilled to see it though. For some reason the guy handed me his business card. I guess he thinks I’ll be looking for a lawyer when I’m in St. Louis.

blog1 blog2

The kids and I also visited Castle Farms in Charlevoix. It is a wedding venue that has been beautifully restored to it’s 1918 grandeur.

blog3There is a cool model train, antique toy, royal china and wedding topper collection. The guided tour lasted 2 hours, which was enough to drive Kayla and Josh crazy. But, I found it interesting and well worth the price ($15 per adult).

While in Frankfort I dropped my Iphone 5 on the beach and left it, without knowing it was gone. About 10 minutes later Rich got a phone call from a woman, saying she found my phone. She called 5 of my contacts trying to get someone to answer. She refused the reward I attempted to give her. Its these kinds of things that restore your faith in humanity. Just a few days prior, my friend accidentally left her blackberry at Qdoba. When she returned 10 minutes later it was gone. A used Iphone 5 is $250 and you have to pay a $40 activation fee at Verizon to use it. I am so glad the right person found my phone.

I hope that my post has inspired you to travel to Grand Traverse Bay. If you plan to visit, feel free to drop me a line and I can send you a detailed itinerary.

What Time of Year is the Ideal Walt Disney World Vacation?


Today is my last Disney post for a while.  Judging from all the likes and comments I’ve received, it’s probably for the best. 🙂 However, I know the information I am providing is going to be helpful to at least one of my readers. They may not know it now, but they will someday.

Selecting the right time of year to visit Disney is crucial to maximizing your experience. Spend some time looking at the crowd calculators in the Unofficial Guide to Disney ( Look at the average highs and how rainy it typically is the time of year you are considering. You may find the only time you can go to the parks is when your research says is the wrong time. That’s okay. You can still have a great experience if you have the right mind-set and plan ahead.

And now I bring you, northville mom’s favorite times to visit Disney:

#1: The week prior to Christmas

As long as you fly out by Christmas day, you will avoid the overwhelming crowds that frequent the park the last week of the year. Everything is decorated to the hilt, particularly Hollywood Studio’s at night. Look up “Osborne Festival of Lights” on YouTube if you want a taste of the experience. Disney begins decorating the first week of November, but the true experience is only available after Thanksgiving. This is when Epcot’s World Showcase begins its Candlelit Processional, which is a grand Christmas Pageant with a celebrity narrator and live performances. You can reserve your space in the reserved seating area by booking the Candlelit Processional Dinner Package, which gives you a choice of restaurants and a limited (although good) menus at each. This way, you don’t have to wait standby and risk not getting a seat.

Beyond the Processional, there are many opportunities to celebrate the holidays at Disney. Epcot’s World Showcase is full of displays and storytellers explaining how the holiday is celebrated in other areas of the world. Pick up the Times guide at the entrance to the park. It will let you know when each event is taking place. The parades in each park also take on a holiday theme, as does the show in front of Cinderella’s Castle (called A Frozen Holiday Wish). A meet and greet with Mr. and Mrs. Claus is also available in Magic Kingdom, at various Disney hotels and in Downtown Disney. With some resort guests decorating their balconies, front doors and rooms you are surrounded by the season wherever you look. Of course, holiday music plays throughout the parks, just in case you forgot what time of year it was.

The only disadvantage to traveling near Christmas, other than possibly missing family events back home, is the price. As you approach the magical day of 12/25, you may be prevented from using discounts (like Tables of Wonderland). Prices may also increase at certain restaurants and your hotel and DVC rental point requirements will be based on it being the busiest season of the year. Personally, I feel it is worth the extra expense. Air fare flying out of Orlando Christmas Eve or Christmas Day has always been reasonable. You can’t beat the experience of Disney at Christmas. Splurge at least once if you are a frequent Disney traveler.

#2 Home and Garden Festival- Early March – Mid May

The weather is optimal in Orlando this time of year and most of the H & G festival occurs during non-peak times, saving you money over traveling during the holidays. The flowers are beautiful and you will be amazed at everything surrounding you. It is truly beyond what you see at the park other times of year. A video that captures what the festival is about can be found here:

Those with school children may find it difficult to visit outside of Spring Break, but even that time of year is manageable with advance planning. You don’t want to show up without dinner reservations, fastpass + reservations, and patience. Of course, if you can avoid the week before and after Easter you will have a more relaxing experience. Particularly if you are a frequent Disney traveler who can appreciate the lighter crowds. However, I would not rule out traveling Spring Break because the alternative is worse. Going to Disney when the kids are out of school for the summer is a tough prospect. Why? It gets hot in Orlando!

#3: It’s yours to discover.

I have not traveled to Disney in the summer or over Halloween, which I hear is a great time to go. Therefore, it is possible that your perfect time of year is one haven’t experienced personally. You can find a detailed list of the events available on the Disney site or here:

Examples of some of the events listed:

  • Orlando Gay days (their words, not mine), June.
  • Star Wars Weekends, May and June.
  • Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival (Late Sept. – Mid November).

If you have a favorite time of year to visit the parks, please leave feedback. I’d love to hear from you. Until then…

I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.

Save Money When Booking Your Walt Disney World Vacation


Disney visitors are often overwhelmed by their ticket choices, not quite sure if they need premium tickets, park hopping privileges or if they are better off purchasing their tickets as part of a package. Making the right decision can save travelers hundreds of dollars, money they can better use to enjoy their Disney experience. Here’s how you can make the right decision when purchasing your tickets and a great savings tip you can use when booking your room.

Ask yourself, how important it is to visit more than 1 park per day.

If you are new to Disney and know you’ll need at least a day to visit your “must have” rides, park hopping may not be as necessary. Especially if you are visiting for a shorter period, when the cost of park hopping ($64 per ticket) is less reasonable than that same cost when spread over a longer stay. If you have been to Disney before or will be staying multiple days, park hopping is likely well worth the cost.

How interested are you in spending time outside the 4 main parks.

For a total cost of $64 per person (regardless of your total stay) you are able to gain access to not only the 4 main parks, you can also visit both Disney water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach), Disney Quest, Wide World of Sports and Disney’s Golf course. Keep in mind that during winter months, only one of Disney’s waterparks may be open. For $26 more per person, Disney will also provide you with park hopping privileges.

Don’t buy a premium pass simply because you think you’ll run out of stuff to do otherwise. You won’t. However, if you know your family is particularly interested in one or more of the “extras”, premium passes may be for you.

Step 3: Decide how many days you will visit the park within the next 12 months.

The fee to spend one day in the park is drastically reduced if buying multiple day tickets. For example, one day at Magic Kingdom is $105 per adult (plus tax).  If you purchase 5 days it works out to $63 per adult (not including park hopping).

The longest stay you can purchase tickets for is 10 days. This works out to $36.50 per day for an adult plus $64 (total) if adding the park hopper option. However, if you are planning 2 separate trips during the year, your pricing will not take into account how long you will be in the park total. For example, say you are planning to visit the park for 6 days on 2 separate occasions. Excluding tax, an adult will be paying $325 each visit or $650 total (+$64 for park hopping privileges each trip). If they bought an annual pass as a DVC member, that total would be $590.

Even if you are a non-DVC member, annual passes still make sense. The cost of an annual pass is $654 + tax; however, passholders enjoy additional perks such as free parking, access to special Disney packages, and dining discounts. Your annual pass also includes park hopping privileges. If you are an AAA member, you can save $20 for an annual pass if you purchase it at an Orlando area AAA office.

How can I save money at Disney? is an extensive site that covers every aspect of saving money at Walt Disney World. If you are flexible with your travel dates and hotel choices, you may very well be able to save hundreds of dollars. The vacation packages you will be presented when calling Disney or searching online will not necessarily provide you with a discount. You may be better off booking your room separately from your tickets and meal plan. Or, as you will read about shortly, you can save money by renting points from a DVC member. Mouseavers, amongst other sites, provide monthly newsletters that will help you keep up on discounts and special offers.

In regards to the park tickets themselves, you may be able to save 5-20% if utilizing a reliable discounter. Since I purchase annual passes I haven’t explored this option, but has all the details you’ll need:

Mouseavers recommends that you utilize Undercover Tourist, which is a Disney Parks USA Selected Ticket Seller. There is also an option available through 2 Wal-Mart locations in nearby Kissimmee, where you have to purchase tickets in person.  It is always possible that Undercover Tourist pays Mouseavers to recommend them, but I certainly would feel better using them over a complete unknown. There are so many Disney blogs and message boards out there, a little research should bring you to the right company to use.

Active Military and those employed by companies with access to web sites Tickets at Work or Working Advantage are also able to purchase discounted tickets.  As before, the premier source of information regarding discounts and ticket options is

How does renting points from a DVC member work?

 DVC members own a certain number of points they are able to use each year, towards staying at various deluxe Disney resorts. If a member is not traveling to Disney or has more points than they need each year, they can rent those points to non-DVC members. This transaction is independent from Disney World reservations.

Two sites that match up travelers needing points with those that have them are and Both offer examples of how much money can save booking with them directly. It may seem too good to be true, but this option really works how it is advertised. You can also facilitate your own transaction by visiting Disney message boards directly, such as and Using these boards may help you save additional money, but it will require trust on your part. The DVC member will remain responsible for coordinating the purchase of your dining plan (if applicable) and your Disney Magical Express reservations. They basically will have control of the reservation, which is why many potential renters feel better working with a third party site.

The rack rate charged by Disney for some properties can be astronomical, particularly during peak season and for larger rooms. One example provided on illustrated how someone staying 5 nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge could have saved almost $1600 renting points over booking through Disney. I found a great article regarding how this all works from 2011; however, the information is still accurate for renting today.

Remember, DVC properties are always deluxe and include 1 and 2 bedroom condos, which are prefect for larger parties traveling together. Not every deluxe hotel has “vacation club” villas associated with it, but over the years the number that do has grown considerably. Your proximity to each park and/or Downtown Disney will vary considerably depending on the property you chose. It is important you study a WDW map and read about how you will travel to each park from your hotel. Will you always have to ride a bus or will you have options to take the monorail, walk to the park, or ride a water taxi? While the bus may seem fine at first, this can add additional travel time and impact your experience more than you realize. Bus rides can be longer than you expect as well, so know which parks you prefer and don’t make your decision simply based on money if you can.

Remember – if any of these tips help, please leave feedback on my blog. I’d love to hear from you.

Eating Your Way Through Walt Disney World. What Every Traveler Needs To Know.


One of many tempting snack options on Main Street  

Updated: 7/10

Before we get to the topics I promised you in my last blog, we first have to discuss your WDW dining experience.  If you find these tips helpful please like my blog and/or encourage others to follow. I’d like to know that my effort is worth it and I am helping fellow Disney travelers.

One of the advantages of staying on property is that you can book your dining reservations up to 180 days prior to arrival. You can book the 10 days following your check-in date on day 180 as well. This is why new and popular experiences may be unavailable when you attempt to make a reservation.  I could not find anything online about when you can make reservations when staying off-property. If anyone has feedback on that, please leave it on my blog.

Having a great meal at WDW is possible, although it takes planning. Your first step is to visit It’s a great site where Disney fanatics can review restaurant menus and provide ratings and comments about their dining experiences.

After a dozen visits, I have my own dining favorites that I’d like to share with you.

Magic Kingdom Park

  • Casey’s Corner – Counter service at the end of Main Street USA (fairly close to the entrance). This is a great spot for lunch. Hot dogs are the main attraction. Have a member of your party scout out seating while you order, since that can be an issue during busy periods.
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table – A truly magical experience where numerous Disney Princesses visit your table for autographs and photo ops. The meal offered is 3 courses, with 3 options presented (last time I visited).This experience costs some bank, but its well worth it if you have children under 10.
  • The Plaza Restaurant – Sit-down restaurant with American fare. It’s not exceptional, but it’s good and not as kid overrun or expensive as other options in the park.
  • Liberty Tree Tavern – I am still upset the characters are no longer there, but if you feel like Thanksgiving fare and want to stuff yourself, this is the place for you. At dinner, your meal will start with a salad, you’ll then get a selection of turkey breast, carved beef and sliced pork with 4 different yummy sides. For dessert, apple cake and ice cream. I am getting hungry just reading the menu!

Epcot World Showcase

  • Chefs de France – This is one of our favorite restaurants, but we enjoy the lunch menu more than dinner. First, it’s a better deal and secondly, the selection appeals more to our taste. It’s a pretty restaurant with a view of street performances and a great 3 course lunch option which never disappoints.
  • San Angel Inn– This is the restaurant the Small World ride takes you past. The food is truly exceptional and the ambiance has a unique Mexican feel. I prefer eating dinner here and often visit twice during our stay. The Pollo a las Rajas is amazing.
  • Restaurant Marrakesh– Middle-Eastern food which makes you feel like you are in another country. Belly-dancers often perform. It’s not quite as good as some of the options we have in Detroit, but it’s an enjoyable to visit.
  • Via Napoli– One of the best priced options if your family shares one of their large pizzas. It’s not your typical pizza, it’s more like a flatbread, but it’s good and the ambiance of the restaurant is appealing. We usually go here for lunch, but I could see it being nice for dinner as well.
  • Le Cellier Steakhouse – Another favorite. It’s worth going for the free pretzel bread alone. Their filet mignon is among the best I’ve had. You have to book this restaurant well in advance, sometimes I’ve tried 60 days before arrival and could not get a table. If using the Disney Dining plan, you will have to use 2 credits.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

We haven’t had as much success here. The Brown Derby’s atmosphere and nostalgia make it interesting, but I never found anything on the menu I particularly liked. Mama Melrose’s menu looks good, but it seems overly expensive so we’ve never actually ate there. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater has a great theme. You dine in cars like you are eating at a drive in movie. But the food is terrible and their menu limited. Perhaps you’d have better luck with just getting dessert there. When visiting, we typically get counter food at the ABC Commissary or more often, take the boat back to Epcot’s World Showcase. If there’s not a long line for the boat, which is the case near park closing, the travel time between the 2 parks is considerably less than you’d expect.

Animal Kingdom

This is another area that doesn’t have the best dining options. To be fair, we haven’t tried any of the new restaurants that have popped up in recent years. We most often eat at the Lodge, going to a buffet called Boma. If members of your party only like simple American fare it will not be the best choice. There is so many unique things to try I usually get sick, which is one of the reasons we don’t go here every trip. The desserts are fabulous and there is a small selection of kid fare available for those that prefer mac and cheese. Some of the meat can be hit or miss, given the expense of the buffet it can be a disappointment. However, there are other items you will enjoy which should make-up for it.  For a complete list of items, go here:

Other recommended dining options

  • Big River Grille and Brewing Works in Disney’s Boardwalk area and one of our favorites, the ESPN Club, which does not take reservations. Both are more reasonably priced than some of your other options and have a good selection to choose from. The ESPN Club is full of TV’s, making watching “the game” easier than anywhere else in Disney.
  • Chef Mickey’s buffet at the Contemporary – Definitely worth it if your kids are into meeting characters. The dessert options at the buffet were damn good, but I don’t remember the rest of the food so much. I just know it wasn’t bad enough to cross it off our list.
  • 1900 Park Fair at the Grand Floridian- This is your emergency option if you can’t get into Cinderella’s Royal Table or you are trying to keep expenses down. The Floridian is enjoyable to visit, particularly around Christmas, and has shopping and a lobby experience that surpasses other deluxe hotels. There is also a viewing area for fireworks you can enjoy even if you are not a guest.
  • Whispering Canyon Café – In Ft. Wilderness Lodge. Kids are invited to circle the restaurant, hopping along with hobby horses toys periodically as you eat. As a result, the restaurant has a fun western atmosphere unique to Disney. The main offering here is family style BBQ skillets.
  • Beaches & Cream Soda Shop– Located near the pool at Beach Club, you feel like you stepped back in time 60 years. The ice cream sundaes are exceptional, but I do not recommend purchasing the over-sized kitchen sink sundae. Even for 4 people it is too large and I bet not as good as some of the other options. Burgers and other casual fair are also good here, which is nice when you are growing tired of $100+ bills. You can also get your Disney refillable mug topped off. Buy it on the first day of your stay, so you get your monies worth of soda/coffee/ice tea/lemonade/hot chocolate refills. You can buy just one and share it with other members of your party occasionally, although I am sure this is against the official rules.

Why I don’t purchase the Disney dining plan

On the dining plan, you are likely to eat much more than you normally would. You also cannot purchase the plan if you are staying off-property.

Here is a handy chart which presents your dining plan options. For a full list of perks associated with each dining plan, go here:

When purchasing a Premium or Platinum Dining Package, you will receive non-food related benefits. With the Platinum Package you receive:

  • One spa treatment per adult.
  • Unlimited Admission to Disney Park Tours
  • Admission to Cirque du Soleil La Nouba (Downtown Disney)
  • One evening fireworks cruise.

I literally could go on forever. The problem with this plan is that touring Disney is hard work. You are walking and standing throughout the day, often sweating profusely in 90 degree + weather. Or if you are like me, you may be doing that in 70 degree weather! At the end of the day, resting by the pool may seem much more attractive than enjoying these extra perks. You can also purchase tours and firework cruises on your own. Price out what you are most interested in a-la-carte. Chances are, it will make more sense to purchase a lessor plan (or no plan at all).


(adults are 10 years and older in Disney prices)
(children are 3-9 years old in Disney prices)
Quick Service Dining

  • 2 quick-service meals
  • 1 snack
  • 1 refillable mug
$41.99 $16.03
Regular Dining

  • 1 table-service meal
  • 1 quick-service meal
  • 1 snack
  • 1 refillable mug
$60.04 $19.23
Deluxe Dining

  • 3 meals (any combination of table-service and quick-service)
  • 2 snacks
  • 1 refillable mug
$109.53 $29.86

Personally, I want to be able to enjoy table-service when I’d like but don’t want to feel obligated to over-indulge. If you do the math, the dining plan may be more than you otherwise would spend. A great illustration of this can be found here:

Many of the experiences I list on my blog require more than 1 dining credit. For a list of which restaurants/shows require you redeem 2 dining credits go here and look for the purple 2 icon, to the right of the restaurant’s name:

Example of options that require 2 dining credits include: Cinderella’s Royal Table, Hollywood Studio’s Brown Derby, Le Cellier Steakhouse, Hoop-De-Du Revue, and several others. Depending on what you order, it’s quite possible the expense of the restaurant will not truly be twice that of other table restaurants (only requiring 1 credit).

If you know you would enjoy eating your way through Disney or feel comfort in knowing your exact meal expenses in advance, the Disney Dining Plan makes sense. Particularly during slower periods, when the meal plan may be included for free with your hotel and park tickets. I prefer instead Tables of Wonderland, but depending when you visit this also may not make sense for you.

What is Tables of Wonderland?

  • Through this program you will save 20% off your meal, including alcohol.
  • There are 100 participating restaurants at WDW.
  • Up to 10 guests dining with the member, can be included in the 20% discount.
  • Cost is $100 for non-Florida residents.

Why purchasing Tables of Wonderland (TOW) may not make sense for you:

  • You are automatically giving the server an 18% gratuity when table dining.
  • There are black-out dates during the year. Research these before purchasing the card.
  • You also receive discounted meals if you are a Disney annual passholders. These discounts are typically 10%, but do not include every restaurant. You are also limited to 3 additional guests in your party, whereas TOW allows additional guests. Like Tables of Wonderland, the annual passholder discounts are subject to black-out dates. Go here for a list of participating restaurants:
  • You must be a DVC member or an annual passholder to purchase the card.
  • Some restaurants only accept the card during certain meals (for example, only lunch).
  • Not accepted at Downtown Disney.

Wondering when it makes sense to purchase an annual pass? See my next blog, coming soon.