How to plan a Disney World trip

I love Florida, visiting Disney and the other theme parks can be a full on affair, you’d be pushed to do it all in two weeks.  My top tip is to book as long as you can afford!  Interested in how you can plan a Disney World trip?  These tips are based on having at least seven months before you go, whilst it’s still easy enough to plan after that, you may need to have your plan less rigid otherwise if you want to factor in converted restaurants such as O’hana or Be Our Guest, plus pick up those fast passes for popular rides such as Flight of Passage in Pandoraland at Animal Kingdom.

 

As soon as you start planning your trip make a list of exactly what you want to do, with six Disney parks and water parks, three Universal parks plus SeaWorld, Discovery Cove Aquatica, Busch Gardens, not to mention Legoland, Kennedy Space Center plus shopping and swamp tours to name a few you could easily spend a month in Florida and not scratch the surface!  If you have limited time. Work out what you would most like to do.

 

Work out a rough budget, whilst you can do Orlando on the cheap, you can also spend a fortune.  If you are trying to save cash a last minute deal, booking it yourself or saving money on theme parks can help reduce costs.  Being from the UK the 14 day ultimate tickets are good value if you are going to be at Disney a lot of days, however if you are only doing one or two, it makes sense to look at Magic Your Way tickets for the exact number of days.

Decide what time are year you are going.  Do you need to factor in school holidays, do you hate bugs (avoid the lovebugs in May and September), or would you like to see Mardi Gras, Halloween or Christmas? Are you a foodie or love flowers?  Then you might want to check out Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival or the Flower and Garden Show, or SeaWorld’s Food Festival.  I personally love October going into November because not only do I get to see the Halloween decorations turn to Christmas decor, there’s special events such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween, Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party as well as the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.  There’s so much going on!

 

Decide what sort of holiday do you want – do you want to be in the Disney bubble, maybe just a hotel nearby or perhaps Harry Potter is more your thing and you want to stay at Universal.  Do you need a cheap place to stay and you want a shuttle as you don’t fancy driving? Or how about you want a villa with your own private pool? Or how about a twin centre holiday, a relaxing few days at the beach, seeing Miami or Key West?

Armed with what events you are attending and what you want to do see, check out the DIBB park hours and busy day guide.  With this, I work out a plan of what days to go which are least busy, making sure I can see the main events, for me the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, and other evening shows. Next I work out my Disney restaurants around this, so I’ll try and plan for Be Our Guest one evening we are in Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks etc, maybe a meal at a resort nearest to the park we are at that day.  If you are getting the free Disney Dining Plan with a Disney hotel stay you really want to be reserving restaurants to make the most of it.  If you have little ones they may love dining with Mickey and pals or those Disney princesses!  Reservations open at 180 days prior, to get those coveted restaurants, especially for a large number of people you need to be hot off the mark.  But if you’re unsuccessful do keep trying as cancellations do come up, especially the day before as Disney charge a fee for no shows and so people have to cancel the day before to avoid those charges.

Next up it’s fast passes assuming you are doing Disney.  Fast passes are the best invention, they can save you queuing for hours!  You can book three a day, once you’ve used them you can get another. The best thing, at Disney they are free!  Downloading the My Disney Experience is great for changing them on the go should you wish.  When planning fastpasses it’s best to work out the rides or characters with the longest queues.  For example at Magic Kingdom I would be picking fastpasses for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train first or Talking Mickey if character visits are important, followed by less popular but still a queue Space Mountain, the Runaway Mine Train and Splash Mountain.  But for shows such as Mickey’s 3D PhilharMagic Orchestra, I would be doing that as a walk on in between fast passes as less queue.  A book, such as the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2019 (The Unofficial Guides) can really help here as can help you decide which rides are the most important to do.  As we’ve been numerous times I don’t have to worry about that as we know what love and I’d quite happily never set foot on It’s a Small World ever again!  Definitely research will help you here, you can even find touring plans to help you decide what to do exactly to make best use of time.  For Disney hotel and good neighbour hotels you can book fast passes at 60 days out for the length of your stay.  Off site guests at 30 days.  Be prepared, those coveted fast passes like Flight of Passage go fast!

If you have little ones, or you just want a slower pace, block out some non park days, perhaps you’d like to visit a spa, do a shopping trip or a water park or pool day.  Planning an anniversary or proposal, there are plenty of things to do, from fine dining at Victoria and Alberts, to a trip to Disney’s town, Celebration or how about a hot air balloon over Disney Springs?

 

Well I think that’s information overload for beginners for this blog post!  I hope it helped get you started, feel free to post questions I will answer for you.  If you are feeling completely overwhelmed I offer a complete travel planning service.  Get in touch at cocktailinhand@gmail.com.  Likewise if you want to plan something special for a loved one, or make a proposal, having got married at Disney World I know all the best places!!

Cocktail in hand – 2017, a year in review

I’ve been so busy lately I’ve been slacking on the blogging, but hopefully you’ve been following on Instagram!  This week, Facebook did it’s year in review video for me and reminded me of a few things which happened this year, but here’s a highlight for the blog.

NYE eve fireworks at Magic Kingdom
NYE dance party at Italy, Epcot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started off January 2017 partying at Epcot, Disney World in Florida, USA.  We arrived a few days earlier and saw the NYE fireworks the night before New Years Eve, this was a great tip so to see NYE fireworks in both parks.  Epcot celebrated when it turned midnight in each country and I would definitely do it again, of course the speciality glow cocktails and Grey Goose slush cocktails in France certainly got the party started!

Enjoying the speciality glow cocktail in France, Epcot, NYE
NYE fireworks at Epcot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’d took a trip to Disney World to carry our wedding planning and menu tasting sessions and whilst there enjoyed our favourite theme parks.  After Florida, we flew back to the UK to see friends and family, we’d flew in from Australia via Kuala Lumpur, Thailand and then Germany, so although the flights were getting a bit much, it was lovely to see them for a little longer after being away over a year.  Of course we enjoyed plenty of cocktails with them!

Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later in January, we headed back to Australia.  We spent most of the year in Sydney whilst saving up for our wedding.  Although we managed a few trips such as the Blue Mountains and Jervis Bay.  We enjoyed going to Vivid, tourist attractions, some trance nights and bunny sitting, plus getting a city centre apartment.  For my birthday weekend we enjoyed various cocktails including at the top of the Sydney Eye Tower at 360 Dining and the dry ice skull cocktails at Assembly Bar.  Many more cocktails were of course consumed at the various happy hours I managed to find!!

Birthday cocktails at 360 Dining above Sydney
Working my way through the various skull dry ice cocktails at Assembly Bar, Sydney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple Martini photo at the Tower of Terror Courtyard in Hollywood Studios, courtesy of Misty Miotto Photography 

In October, we headed back to the UK to catch up with family for a quick trip prior to the wedding.  We enjoyed the rest of October and early November in Florida celebrating our Disney World wedding.  Our favourite wedding cocktail was a Bramble for the early evening, and at the after party we had a Purple Martini, a sweet and sour twist on a Cosmopolitan, complete with glow cubes.  Later in the trip we enjoyed various visits to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, a firm must do for my year!  This year it was super fun with our family and friends

 

November also saw us take a trip to New Orleans, were I sampled the famous Grenade cocktail and drank Love Potion No.9 shots in a Vampire Speakeasy.  They helped ease the fact that my unbacked up iPhone broke and I lost all my photos from the last few months.

 

We followed that by a trip to New York, of course many cocktails were consumed there, and I loved checking out the small bars.  Following that we headed back to the UK, were I tested out a few new places.

Today’s view of the Sydney city skyline

 

December sees us just arrive back in Sydney, writing this I have a perfect view of the city skyline complete with the Harbour Bridge.

 

Who knows what 2018 will bring, my life has most definitely become less organised!  But one thing’s for sure, it will certainly involve more cocktails and travel!

 

Darling Harbour happy hour cocktails
Working our way through the Hard Rock happy hour cocktails!

Halloween is coming

I love Halloween!  If I’m in the UK I always host a party for my friends, fancy dress is so much fun!  This year we will be spending Halloween in the USA, I’m not actually sure where yet, but we’ll definitely be attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP for short!) at Disney World and to make that more fun costumes are definitely required.  We dressed up the house share we were living in last year in Sydney for a house party, but we didn’t do costumes, so this year I really need to pull my finger out, so let’s have a look at options!

 

Since we are going to Disney, and the Beauty and the Beast film has been out this year, it wouldn’t be complete without a Belle costume!  Given I’m a natural brunette, this is an easy one for me, but if you’re not, then a wig can assist to make it very easy!  Pick up this one, it’s so easy, just pop on and none of that drama of doing your hair!  

When I think of Belle, I think of the classic yellow dress, however what about her normal day time look? Just click the photo to purchase.  Of course you could go with the classic option.Add a few accessories, if you live the in UK, Primark is a great place to pick some up, however if you can only pick up online, this Lumiere is a great accessory.If you want to do a couples costume, simply pick up a Beast costume, I love this one!

 

Fancy something a little more scary?!  How about a Zombie Prom Queen?  I did this in 2013, it was so much fun.  You can pick up this fab outfit, or if you want to get creative make your own.  This can be especially cheap if you already have a dress you can throw fake blood over.  Add some make up to make yourself look dead and don’t forget the accessories!  You’ll need a tiara and sash to really look the part.  This one is so easy to co-ordinate with a partner for the prom king!  Don’t forget extra fake blood to make it look like you have been eating brains!  If you want to make it look super special, add a special effect, such as this jaw hanging off effect!

 

I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead (we loved the scare house at Universal’s Halloween Horror) and a great couples costume we have done is Zombie Bride and Groom.  I loved

2014 in Celebration, Florida

getting creative with this one, I bought an actual wedding dress on eBay, a fake flower bouquet for me, a boutonnière and a top hat for him.  We used one of this old suits and a shirt.  Then I got to work with a lot of fake blood, make up (for dirt of course!) and some scissors to trash it up.  I even splashed the fake blood over the flowers.  I let it dry and then on the night applied zombie make up and more fake blood.  I’ve actually recycled this one a few times as often I celebrate Halloween on multiple nights, I love it that much!  If you want to go all out, then contact lenses really top off the zombie look!

Our late Zombie themed Halloween party in the UK in 2014, complete with ‘white out’ contact lenses

Or how how this wound for how you become a zombie?!

 

 

Of course if you don’t want to go to the effort of making your own, you can always buy a costume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think you need to go scarier still?!  I think the clowns are going to be a big thing this years, with Pennywise from the film, IT.  Why are people so scared of clowns?!  I’m not sure, but you can find out if you pick up one of these bad boys! Be sure to pick up the face paint too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With one of these costumes, you’ll be sure to have a happy Halloween.  Whether it’s hosting your own Halloween party or attending an event.  Now I just have to decide what I’m going to pick this year!!  Be sure to tell me what you are going to wear for Halloween in the comments.

Eating and drink ‘around the world’ at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival

I love the Epcot World Showcase at Disneyworld, Florida, but between September and November it becomes super special as over 30 stalls are adding selling additional food and drinks, Disney describes as ‘a culinary adventure’.  For 2017 it runs from 31 August through until 13 November.  If you’re not local to Florida, I’d suggest visiting Monday to Thursday as weekends can be really busy. This year if you are on the Disney dining plan you can even exchange your table service and quick service credits for 3 snack credits to be used on food (unfortunately not alcohol)! Admission to Epcot is required to attend the festival and guest must be over 21 to purchase alcohol. You can pick up a passport with details of the food and drink available and have fun getting it stamped around ‘the world’! In addition, there are also ‘Eat to the Beat’ Concerts and culinary displays, in addition to Halloween, this truly makes fall my favourite time to visit Orlando.

We’ve visited the International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, Disneyworld a few years running, 2016 was the first year we didn’t attend since going on our first trip together there not attending. This year is a definite for sure, since we’ll be getting married out there we get to take our nearest and dearest!  Here’s a look back at our previous eats, I believe mostly still available.  We’ll definitely try and feature the countries we’ve missed when we get to go back. I’m not going to cover restaurant* meals in this post, but they will definitely feature on the blog at a later date, I mean, who doesn’t love Disney food?!

Australia:

Prawns and lamb at Australia

Grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies – I always thought this belonged to New Zealand, but apparently not! This was tasty lamb, topped with potato chips (or crisps to fellow Brits like me!). Yum, I could just eat one of these right now, definitely a winner!
Grilled sweet and spicy bush berry shrimp with pineapple, peppers, onions, and snap peas – These prawns were pretty tasty, not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly worth a go! I prefer my prawns with garlic (plus sometimes chilli), but the accompaniments were fine for something a little different.

Belgium:

Potato and leek waffle with beer-braised beef and smoked gouda cream – I wasn’t sure I was going to like this one but I was pleasantly impressed. I can’t remember there being a strong taste of gouda, but would definitely get again.
Canada:

Canadian cheddar cheese soup – If you haven’t been to Le Cellier, this is definitely worth a go, extremely rich and tasty, full of flavour. I believe for 2016 it also includes a pretzel roll would be a lovely welcome addition for dipping!
“Le Cellier” wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter sauce – At one of the more expensive samples of the festival this is definitely worth using a snack credit for. Whilst I’m not a major fan of mushroom, this was just lovely. All in all based on the offerings we’ve tasted at Canada, I’m definitely needing to make a reservation at Le Cellier!  (Edit since writing this we’ve been and it was amazing!)

China:

Beijing roasted duck in steamed bun with hoisin sauce – I think the reason we’ve rated so highly on what we’ve chosen is because we usually stick to what we think we will like. In future years we need to be more adventurous and of course that just means more trips to Disney!  This one however was a disappointment, at home in England we really enjoy Chinese crispy Peking duck with pancakes and hoisin sauce, so this one seemed like a winner. However the duck was very fatty so we felt short changed. Also we didn’t enjoy the consistency of the steamed bun, it felt a bit sloppy. I feel I should give this another go, we might of just had bad luck with the fatty duck, but won’t be racing back to eat this one again.
France:

La Passion Martini Slush – Whilst I really

The orange and citron slushes available all year roundenjoyed this 2015 addition, the flavour could not beat the usual Grey Goose Orange Slush made with Grand Mariner which is sold year round at France. Definitely worth a taste though if you’re at the festival – I love these slush cocktails and great to cool down from the Florida heat.

enjoyed this 2015 addition, the flavour could not beat the usual Grey Goose Orange Slush made with Grand Mariner which is sold year round at France. Definitely worth a taste though if you’re at the festival – I love these slush cocktails and great to cool down from the Florida heat.

Eiffel Sour Cosmo Slush – I’ve got a big crush for Cosmopolitans at the moment and would love one of these 2014’s edition right now! Again couldn’t beat the Grey Goose Orange Slush, but definitely worth checking out, especially if you are partial to sweet and sour tastes.

This was made with Grey Goose Le Citron vodka, cranberry and passion fruit juice.

Greece:

Spanakopita – This vegetarian offering was one of John’s favourites. Whilst I enjoyed it, I did not feel quite the same way. I felt it was a bit greasy and would have benefitted from the addition of meat. I would try it again, but would prefer to try other offerings first we haven’t yet tasted.
Hawai’i:

Kālua pork slider with sweet and sour Dole® Pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise – I was really expecting to enjoy this, however found it a bit sloppy. I’m really not into wet burgers and repeatedly in Australia keep eating burgers lately which a soggy bottom bun, it’s my pet peeve. To improve this, I think they need to ditch the mayonnaise, but put a little more of the pineapple chutney on, would add to the flavour.
Mexico:

Tequila Flight – I don’t recall eating at this stall as we go a bit nuts for the quick service restaurant in Mexico*. However we did choose to share the tequila flight – 3 shots of different flavoured tequila, including silver and gold. On this occasion I was pretty tipsy later on after experience (plus a few margaritas of course!) – mostly due to the tequila flight, which me and John were supposed to share. However after the first sip he chickened out, turns out the first one was the nicest, the other two could put hairs on your chest, so I definitely got the raw deal! Unless you’re looking to get shit-faced, I’d recommend avoiding this, I’m sure in Cava Del Tequila you could purchase better quality shots.
* I feel the need here to mention and explain the quick service restaurant La Cantina San Angel, which is open all year round. The nachos there are a huge hit for us, which are a staple every trip, and are a great use of a quick service credit. Great value, you can choose what you add, plus then there’s more sauces to help yourself to. Time it right – early before the fireworks and you can enjoy watching them with a seat and of course a few margaritas! We have also had the tacos, however have not found quite as enjoyable as they were quite sloppy.


 

 

Patagonia: 

Grilled beef skewer with chimichurri sauce and boniato purée – this was pretty tasty and whilst didn’t make it into the favourites, was definitely worth testing out. The chimichurri sauce was a nice addition, although not as spicy as what we’ve had elsewhere.
Scotland:

Seared sea scallop with spinach-cheddar gratin and crispy bacon – I’m often really fussy about scallops as I like them over cooked and not ever had them in a cheese sauce before this offering. We really enjoyed this, it was an unexpected surprise and the sauce and bacon complimented it really well. Definitely one to try again!

 

Sustainable Chew:

Pork Spareribs with red wine, fennel, and cheesy mascarpone grits – A new addition in 2015, this doesn’t quite fit with idea of countries, however it was a busy weekend evening and the queues were rather large, this one not so much, so we decided to give it a go. I’m not usually a fennel fan so wasn’t expecting to enjoy this, however it was actually pretty good. The ribs were fall off the bone soft and the grits were a welcome accompaniment I wouldn’t have thought to pair. Happily surprised.

 

I can’t wait to get back to Epcot again in October 2017 to get tasting some more!!