Monday, September 29, 2014

The Basin in Downtown Disney

Basin in Downtown Disney is a must do if you love to pamper yourself.

 For those of you that have never been, or have no clue what Basin is, it is a bath and body store. This is my go to store every time we go to Disney! The first thing everyone should do is try out the salt and sugar scrubs. Basin has a new refreshed look with more sinks, so now 8 people can enjoy the scrubs at a time. This is free to try and your hands will love you for it.

 This store has everything to pamper yourself from soaps, to bath bombs, to hair bars, lip balm, bath salts, milk bath, body butter, even fresh facials. You name it they have it.

 I have tried many of the products out myself, and I have to say they totally rock! My favorite thing is the hair bars. They cost about 8 dollars, but no shampoo I have ever used can even compare to what these things do to my hair; they are amazing!

 The great thing is these soaps and products contain no chemicals which means no parabens or alcohol, which is good to know.

 These make awesome souvenirs too! You can make your own mix of bath salts, bath bombs. A great tip I have learned is if you're not sure about the whole soap thing, in the back corner area is cut soap in a bag at a huge discount, and you get 2-4 pieces of different kinds of soap!

Sample soap cuts.

 Also, don't forget if you're an Annual Passholder or DVC owner you get a discount here.

 Basin is located near The World of Disney, next to Ghirardellis. Don't forget to stop in there to get your free piece of chocolate!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Surf and Turf - aka- Disney Cruise and Disney World

Surf and Turf you ask?  No, not shrimp and steak.  Well, yes.  You can have shrimp and steak too, but what I am referring to is quite the double header.  I'm talking about hitting up Disney World and taking a Disney Cruise all in the same vacation.

A couple of years ago my family of 3 was a Disney virgin.  We decided to hit up Disney World and take a Disney Cruise.  Talk about jumping in full force.  I read lots of articles on how you need more than one day to do the Magic Kingdom and all the wonderful tidbits and advice.  I listened, but didn't exactly follow all of the advice.

There was one thing that I never read in all of my article reading.  The tip that one should not go on the cruise first, but rather go after hitting Disney World.  This would have been wonderful to have known ahead of time and we have never made that mistake since.

So we head off to Orlando all packed (over packed as usual) and ready to be introduced to the wonderfulness of Disney.  Once we got into Orlando we hit Downtown Disney since it was free and we only had a few hours until bedtime.  The next morning we got up and caught the Mickey Express to Cape Canaveral.

We took a short 4 night cruise on the Dream.  Mistake number 1.  Well, not so much as a mistake, but more like a lesson.  Four glorious days on the Disney Dream is just not enough.  It was so magical and fabulous and over the top that it just seemed like we got on the boat and before we knew it we were packing to get off.

We headed to our offsite hotel.  Mistake number 2 and I really mean mistake!  Lesson learned.  Pay the price to be on Disney property folks!  After being spoiled on the Disney Dream for 4 nights non-Disney accommodations are not pleasing.  Service is terrible and rooms are about as bad.  It's your vacation.  Do it right!

The next day we got up bright and early and headed to Disney World. Mistake number 3 and as we all know, 3 strikes you're out.  I must say, I was already exhausted.  I took advantage of those 4 nights on the Disney Dream.  I wanted to get my monies worth.  So I tried my darnedest to do absolutely everything on the Navigator (the list of activities available each day on the ship).  I also tried my darnedest to eat absolutely everything (this is where you can eat steak and shrimp until you can't take one more bite) that looked good.....which was everything.

So instead of relaxing and sitting by the pool or hanging out on deck 4 and watching the ocean go by I was on port adventures and doing arts and crafts and going to shows and playing basketball and playing mini golf, and ....... well, you get the idea.  I was BEAT!

Nonetheless we hit Disney World the next day and it was definitely magical.  We had a fabulous time and since it was our first time we really didn't know what we were doing or what we were missing.  We aimlessly walked the park and would get a fast pass or ride a ride as we came upon it.  Yeah, no plan whatsoever! We spent the entire day there and even made it to the fireworks.  We rode It's a Small World on our way out that evening and sang the song in our heads for the next week.  We didn't realize how much we missed until we got home.

The next day we were planning on hitting Epcot.  I was so tired I honestly could have cared less if we went anywhere.  Did I seriously just type that?  Yes, I did.  I could have just laid in bed all day and been happy, but the husband said we must go.  He is the kind of guy that is GO, GO, GO, gotta see it all.  I am very glad we did go, but honestly I can't remember much of it.  I was a walking zombie for the entire time.  We didn't even make it to fireworks.  I think we left around 4 or 5pm.

The next day the rest of the family agreed with me and we went nowhere.  We just stayed at the crappy non-Disney hotel and wasted a day in Orlando.  We learned our lesson.  Never do the cruise first.  Do it after going to Disney World.  Since then we have always done the parks first.  It works out magically this way.  We are full of energy when we get to Orlando and going to the parks and deciding where to eat is not exhausting.  By the time we get on the ship we don't have to go anywhere or decide anything.  We know what restaurant we are eating at that night and everyone can find something wonderful on the menu.  We have entertainment options all the time.  If we are tired we can just sit and relax.  It is the perfect ending to a fabulous vacation!

Editor's Note: We would love to help you plan and book your Disney vacation! Please message us here or on our Facebook page for a FREE, no-obligation quote.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Foodie Friday: Grand Floridian Café

I recently traveled to Walt Disney World with my husband, son, daughter and mother.  We knew that traveling in July would be both hot and humid.  We decided to book some of our meals 180 days out and keep some days flexible.   When we were on property we decided to try a few restaurants that we hadn’t booked six months out.  One place that we added to our plans for table service was the Grand Floridian Café.  We took a launch from the Magic Kingdom and the restaurant is in the rear of the main building of the Grand Floridian.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on the menu.  The restaurant was quiet, clean and bright.   The waiter we had was amazing.  He had that typical Disney charm where he was efficient and spent time speaking with our seven year old daughter and nine year old son.  I am someone who decides what she is going to eat before entering the restaurant.  Making reservations late in the trip forced me to decide when I was seated at the table.  The menu had several different options.  After taking our drink order, the waiter told us that the onion soup was better than the one at Be Our Guest and the French restaurant.   I enjoy French onion soup although the weather was not ideal for a hot soup.  I decided to try it and I was happy I did.  The soup was delicious and the melted cheese was a perfect companion to the soup soaked bread. 

For dinner, I then ordered the Grand Floridian Burger.   This is an Angus burger topped with buttered lobster, a red onion marmalade and arugula.  It is served on a brioche bun with homemade chips.  I don’t think it will appear on anyone’s diet plan but I do not regret one bite.  The combinations of flavors although not traditional, were delicious.  My husband doesn’t even eat lobster (even though we are New Englanders) and he figured he would give it a try.  He enjoyed every bite as well.  The kids went with their typical non-adventurous option of pizza although the kids menu did feature some healthy options for younger diners.

With such a filling soup and meal, dessert was certainly not a necessary option.  With two courses that were so delicious behind us, it seemed like a shame not to try it out.  We opted for the chocolate fondue.  A bowl of heated dark chocolate was delivered with cut up pieces of bananas, strawberries, pineapple and marshmallows.  It was a perfect way to finish a wonderful meal.

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a quieter option that isn’t rushed.  It was cool and comfortable in the restaurant and the food was delicious.  It is definitely a place I would visit again for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Walt Disney World Ultimate Packing List and Three Packing Tips

There comes a time in every traveler's life where hard decisions must be made.  A time when panic starts to set in.  I am of course referring to the art of packing.  How many suitcases should we bring? Did I bring enough underwear?  Are shoes really necessary (yes, of course they are).  I am of the opinion that packing should be an Olympic sport.  There should be a packing channel offered on the satellite dish.  There should be a reality TV show in which Gordon Ramsey calls an unsuspecting traveler a donkey because they forgot to enclose their shampoo bottle in a plastic bag.

I remember a time not that long ago when I was a single gal with a single suitcase and packing was a "10:00 p.m. the night before I leave" activity.  A time when I was thinking more clearly (toddler mommy brain is real and it's not kidding around) and was not bothering with anyone else's travel needs.  Fast forward a few years and my situation is a bit different.  I have a husband and toddler who could really care less about what they're wearing and could REALLY care less about how it all gets from point A to point Disney World.  Packing the night before our trip simply won't do anymore. I've narrowed down three tips to make packing a less stressful chore in anticipation of an awesome vacation.

  1. Start soft packing several months before the trip.  Yes, I said months.  My definition of a soft pack is pretty loose.  Namely, get an empty box, label it "Disney World" or whatever, and start throwing things in there.  Keep your eyes peeled for little things you might want to take with you on your trip and start collecting.  My soft pack box currently holds cooling towels, water bottles, glow in the dark necklaces/bracelets/wands, etc. for night time activities; wipes; pull ups; ponchos; a luggage scale; activity packs with crayons, coloring sheets, stickers (you can find these at Michael's or sometimes the dollar stores-great for keeping kidlets occupied in lines, on planes, in the car, etc.).  If you start collecting these things little by little in the months before your trip, you save yourself time and will also spread out the expenses that seem to come out of nowhere right before your trip. 
    Photo taken from
  2. Consider packing cubes.  If you haven't seen these little beauties yet, go to and search for packing cubes.  You'll see several varieties to choose from but I like the 3-piece set that contains a small, medium, and large "cube".  The idea is to get a set in a different color for every person.  I use the large size for jeans/shorts, the medium for t-shirts, and the small size for underwear/socks.  The different colors make it very easy to differentiate what belongs to whom.  For the larger families, I imagine this would be especially helpful in avoiding rifling through piles of clothing trying to find the right article for everyone.  You can throw the cubes in the dresser drawers when you reach your destination if you believe hotel furniture is icky and would rather avoid contact.  I'm also told that these can keep your suitcases from ending up in total disarray if the TSA decides that your luggage resembles that of a drug smuggler and decide to give it a nice, thorough look-see. 
  3. Pack snacks and/or breakfast foods into a decent sized Tupperware container.  These items can be stupidly expensive to purchase in the parks or gift shops.  At the end of your trip, you will hopefully have an empty Tupperware container in which to safely pack breakable or mushable souvenirs.  And if you have a toddler or infant, go ahead and pack those diapers and pull ups instead of having those overpriced lovelies delivered to your hotel. Once those are gone, you'll have another nice empty space in which to pack souvenirs. 
Now, about that Ultimate Packing List.  I don't remember where I came across this thing but I refer to it before each trip.  Do you need to pack every single thing on this list?  Absolutely not.  But, use it as a guide.  It may remind you of things that you would never have considered packing.

Disney World Vacation Ultimate Packing List

Clothing & Accessories

q Shirts                                
q Shorts/capris                                  
q Pants                                
q Suit/evening outfits     
q Underwear                      
q Bras                                 
q Pajamas                          
q Belts                                 
q Socks                                  
q Panty Hose                     
q Comfortable walking shoes (2 pair)          
q Sandals                              
q Dress shoes        
q Pool shoes                          
q Flip flops                            
q Hair bands/clips
q Hats/visors                     
q Sweatband/bandanna
q Jewelry/Scarves
q Watches                             
q Sunglasses w/strap         
q Swimsuits
q _________________    
q _________________

Travel with Babies, Toddlers & Kids

q Bottles
q Baby food
q Sippy cups
q Plastic pool cups w/top & straw
q Portable high chair        
q Bibs                  
q Diapers            
q Swim diapers
q Baby wipes
q Diaper bag      
q Portable crib
q Stroller
q Car safety seat
q Room intercom/baby monitor      
q ”Special” blanket/toy
q Board games                  
q Handheld games            
q Car window shades
q Kids ID tags   
q _________________    
q _________________


q Toothbrush                      
q Toothpaste
q Soap/bath gel                 
q Shampoo                         
q Hair conditioner   
q Deodorant                       
q Contacts/glasses            
q Contact lens solution    
q Sunscreen
q Lip balm w/sunscreen
q Face wash                        
q Face lotion
q Body lotion
q Q-Tips                           
q Makeup                             
q Make-up remover          
q Nail polish
q Tampons/pads               
q Foot spray                      
q Foot powder      
q Cornstarch or talcum powder
q Razors                                
q Shaving cream                  
q Tweezers                          
q Nail clippers    
q Nail file                               
q Hair brush/comb
q Hair gel/mousse
q Hair spray                        
q Blow dryer         
q Perfume          
q Kleenex
q Kids shampoo
q Kids toothbrushes
q Kids soap/ bath gel
q Kids hairbrush/comb
q _________________    
q _________________

Other Items

q Batteries                             
q Cameras                             
q Camera batteries, charger, data cable       
q Film                   
q Camera bag      
q Disposable cameras for kids
q Camcorder w/charger
q Camcorder batteries & tapes
q Cell phone w/charger    
q Cell car charger              
q Palm/PDA & charger    
q Music/CDs         
q MP3 player or CD player & headphones
q Laptop computer, charger, Ethernet cable                  
q Walkie talkies                
q Umbrella
q Waist bag/day pack     
q Neck lanyard for room key/tickets
q Beach bag                       
q Collapsible cooler           
q Large zip top bags            
q Sewing kit                       
q First Aid kit
q Safety pins                     
q Earplugs                             
q Insect repellent                 
q Antibacterial hand gel                     
q Wet wipes          
q Stain wipes/stick             
q Pillows                             
q Workout stuff                 
q Water sports bottle        
q Waterproof case             
q Night light        
q Pen flash lights
q Pennies for pressing
q Pins for trading
q Books/magazines
q Playing cards                   
q Games     
q Frisbees                           
q Roku/cables    
q _________________

Travel Paperwork        
q Plane tickets (make copies)
q Hotel confirmation
q Rental car confirmation   
q Cash/credit cards          
q Dollar bills for tips & tolls
q Checkbook        
q Travelers checks (make copies)
q Passports/birth certificates (for cruise)       
q Drivers license/IDs         
q Health insurance card                  
q Guidebooks       
q Maps/directions
q Discount coupons          
q Membership cards (such as AAA, DVC)                   
q Theme park tickets (make copies)
q Address book
q Address labels                
q Stationery/notepad       
q Pens
q Stamps                            
q Envelopes for maid tips                    
q _________________    
q _________________

First Aid

q Prescription medications                 
q Moleskin                         
q Band-Aids                          
q Antibiotic ointment        
q Anti-itch gel/spray
q Aloe vera gel
q Antacids/stomach remedies
q Pain medicine                 
q Kids pain medicine        
q Motion sickness remedies
q Midol                               
q Sinus/allergy medicine                                  
q Eyedrops                         
q Vitamins                            
q Cough drops
q _________________
q _________________

Car Trip Stuff

q Maps/directions
q Proof of auto insurance
q Guidebooks                    
q Coupons for road meals & hotels   
q Flashlight                          
q Paper towels      
q Wet wipes       
q Cooler               
q Bags for trash
q Umbrella                         
q Snacks                                
q Drinks                           
q Pillows                             
q Blankets                              
q Portable VCR/DVD player
q Movies
q Drawing boards
q Travel games
q New small toys              
q _________________
q _________________

Laundry Items

q Laundry soap
q Dryer sheets
q Stain remover
q Laundry bags
q _________________
q _________________

Kitchen Items

q Bottled water                  
q Coffee
q Tea bags
q Sugar/sweetener
q Nondairy creamer         
q Instant soup mix           
q Cocoa packets               
q Juice boxes                   
q Powdered drink mix
q Microwave popcorn      
q Granola bars                                  
q Chips/pretzels                   
q Crackers
q Fruit snacks                     
q Small cereal boxes
q Pop Tarts                           
q Peanut butter                 
q Tuna pouches/kits        
q Pre-measured seasonings
q Travel salt & pepper     
q Dish soap                            
q Dish scrubber/sponge
q Dish towel          
q Paper plates       
q Plastic utensils                 
q Disposable cups              
q Zip top bags      
q Trash bags                        
q Paper Towels                     
q  Water filtering pitcher
q Straws                              
q Coffee maker                 
q Coffee filters                   
q Corkscrew                          
q Wine stopper                   
q Electric skillet                 
q Toaster                               
q Non-stick fry pan           
q Citronella candles  
q _________________   
q _________________  

Day Bag for Theme Parks

q Theme park tickets (make copies)
q Drivers license/ID for each adult                
q Cash/credit card            
q Membership cards (such as AAA, DVC)                   
q Meal confirmation #s    
q Guidebooks                    
q Park maps
q Camera, film & batteries                
q Camcorder, tapes & extra battery              
q Disposable camera for kids 
q Cell phones
q Walkie talkies                
q Neck lanyard for room key/tickets     
q Sunglasses w/straps      
q Water bottle w/strap
q Collapsible cooler           
q Snacks                                
q Autograph book            
q Fat pen for character autographs
q Rain poncho or umbrella
q Mister fan & extra batteries     
q Moleskin                            
q Pain medicine                 
q Sunscreen                       
q Lip balm w/sunscreen                   
q Insect repellant              
q Kleenex                           
q Antibacterial hand gel
q Wet wipes          
q Hats/visors/sweatbands/bandannas
q Plastic trash bags or rain ponchos for wet rides
q Large zip-top bags for wet clothes                
q Dry change of clothes for kids    
q Glow sticks & necklaces
q Pennies for pressing
q Pins for trading 
q Playing cards or handheld games to keep kids occupied in line     
q Kids ID tags  
q _________________   
q _________________

Day Bag for Water Parks

q Water park tickets
q Drivers license/ID for each adult                
q Cash/credit card            
q Waterproof camera      
q Cell phones
q Walkie talkies                
q Neck lanyard for room key/tickets     
q Sunglasses w/straps      
q Water bottle w/strap
q Collapsible cooler           
q Snacks                                
q Bathing suits
q Beach towels                     
q Earplugs                           
q Goggles                               
q Plastic pool cups w/top & straw
q Beach bag                       
q Floatation toys              
q Water toys
q Books/magazines
q Mister fan & extra batteries     
q Pain medicine                 
q Sunscreen                       
q Lip balm w/sunscreen                   
q Insect repellant              
q Kleenex                           
q Antibacterial hand gel
q Wet wipes          
q Hats/visors/sweatbands/bandannas
q Swim diapers
q Waterproof watch         
q Waterproof case
q Water shoes/flip flops  
q Large zip-top bags for wet clothes                
q Dry change of clothes for kids    
q Kids ID tags  
q _________________   
q _________________

I hope this information is helpful to you.  If you have any questions or would like to talk with me about planning your next Disney World vacation, you can email me at or message me on my Facebook page, Magical Vacations by Tracy.  Happy Travels, everyone!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fort Wilderness Campground Review

            The Fort Wilderness Campground is my family’s favorite place to stay whenever we visit Walt Disney World. We’ve been staying there since I was about nine years old, so we basically know the ins and outs of this resort. This is an awesome place to stay for families, or even just couples. There is so much to do there that some people don’t even go to the parks. Some stay there just to camp for a week. I’ve also seen people who are constant residents to the campground. We have seen some of the same RV’s every year we go.

            The campground also offers different types of camping, from tent camping to RV’s. And if you aren’t into the whole idea of pitching a tent or having to hook up an RV, the campground offers cabins to stay in. Personally, I’ve never stayed in one of the cabins but I have seen what they look like and they are incredibly nice. Almost like a home away from home.

            Fort Wilderness Campground is also very, and I mean very, large. When you check in, the Cast Members give you a map to help you navigate your way through. Also, it is split up into three different routes; Purple, Orange, and Yellow. There are also buses that run throughout the campground to pick up campers and take them to the bus stop at the front of the resort or to the Outpost (located towards the back) where the boats are there to take you to the Magic Kingdom or the Wilderness Lodge. Some people don’t bother using the bus system and rent golf carts for the week. You’ll also see people riding their bikes to the boat dock or the bus station.

            The activities at Fort Wilderness range from carriage rides, to swimming, to even renting a boat for the day. I’ve even seen people take a segway tour for entertainment. There is even horseback riding.

            There are two special things that I myself have never done, but I’ve heard are a must do. One of them is the nightly campfire with Chip and Dale (if weather permits). This is something I would like to do if I wasn’t such a park junky and had to close the parks down each night. However, my dad and my littler sister have done this back when she was still little and tired out at the parks easily. From what I’ve heard from them, the campfire is incredibly fun for everyone, and they show movies.

            Another thing to check out at the campground is the Hoop-Dee-Doo-Revue. So this is something no one in my family has done, but I hear it’s an absolute blast. I’ve even checked it out on Youtube to see what it’s like (like I I do with most attractions I haven’t gotten the chance to check out, or that I just really miss) and it looked like so much fun from my point of view. I mean, family style dinner and music! What more could a person want?

            Staying at the campground has a few other perks as well. There is a doggy spa for your pets if you brought them.

            You can also watch the nighttime spectacular known as Wishes from the beach. And guess what else? They play the music so you can get the full experience without having to stand in the crowded park.

            The possibilities are absolutely endless. And it’s a fun and affordable place to stay. Overall, it’s gets ten out of ten mouse ears in my opinion.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pick A Pearl

Recently my family traveled to Walt Disney World for one week.  I really wanted to limit the souvenirs that my kids would purchase.  I am not a big fan of souvenirs as we have recently tried to clean out both of my kids’ rooms and our playroom.  Many of the items that needed to be cleaned were treasures that had been purchased on past trips to Disney and other destinations.  I enjoy the memories created on a trip and find our shared experiences to be more important than another thing.  I know that there are a lot of different philosophies on this topic and thought it would be helpful to provide the background.

When we arrived in Disney we told the kids that they could each pick one souvenir and they had to be thoughtful.  Before we went to Disney, I had looked up information on the pick a pearl option in Japan and at several other locations around Walt Disney World.  My daughter is seven and I thought that this might make a nice memory for her to keep.  I casually presented the option, reminding her of the room clean out earlier in the summer.  She wasn’t too interested but I figured I would table the idea until we were walking around the world showcase in Epcot. 

When we made it to Japan, I figured we would walk around the shops to check out the option for the pearls.  We stood and watched the “show” that happened with each pearl purchase.  A guest would purchase the option to pick a pearl from one of the oysters in the two display cases for about $17.  The oyster shells were all of a similar size.   The guest would pick one of the oysters, the cast member pulls the oyster out of the case and open it up.  There was a lot of celebratory noise including the banging of a large drum.  The pearl would then be cleaned in water, dropped in salt and then cleaned again.  The pearl was then measured and placed in a small bag with paperwork.

My daughter did pick a pearl cage and silver necklace out from the display case.  The pearl cage had two dolphins on it and the necklace was simple.  The pearl cage was about $30 and the chain was about $20.  There are online vendors that offer similar cages.  If I knew that she had committed to the pick a pearl option, I may have explored buying something ahead of time so that she could wear  the pearl immediately.  The cast member who set the pearl reviewed with my daughter the care required for the pearl including no water and no sunblock.  The pearl could be reset in a different cage if she kept all of the original paperwork. Have you ever participated in this experience? What did you think?