Monday, June 25, 2012

Magical Moments - Packing Essentials

This week finds me struggling to retain focus on anything non-Disney.  Though this particular member of the DLuminations team spends several weeks a year in the WDW parks, each approaching visit is still replete with anxious anticipation.  So, as I work through a few last minute items on my packing list, I thought this post would provide the perfect opportunity to discuss packing essentials, and packing tips for a WDW vacation.

I think it is pretty safe to assume that you have already figured out items such as basic toiletries, clothes, reservation information, extra cash, photo ID, insurance card, etc. should already be packed.  Thus, I will focus only on those items that you may not have considered as a part of your normal packing list.

1.      Frogg Togg Chili Pad:  With projected summer temperatures hovering in the lower to mid-90s, there is absolutely no way I am traveling to the parks without a few of these in my bag.  To save money, we purchase 2 Frogg Toggs and cut it in 4 smaller strips.  These are easy to fold, slip into a zip-lock bag and pack.  They are also big enough to make a difference in comfort, while small enough to wrap around your neck comfortably.  There are more tips for keeping cool in an earlier post.
2.      Sun Block:  Sunscreen isn’t just a poolside or water park essential.  It is absolutely recommended for the parks.  I’ve recently heard of an increase in the number of skin cancer diagnoses for lips, so some form of Chap Stick with sun block is also highly recommended.  Two other great options are thin, long sleeve shirts (dry-fit running shirts are ideal) and sun / bucket hats.  Though long sleeve shirts may sound warmer, they actually protect your skin while keeping you cool.
3.      Pocket size bottles of Hand Sanitizer:  Remember, millions of people visit the parks annually, and even though Disney works amazing feats of magic, they can’t sanitize everything daily.  So, as you move from the attractions to the restaurants or snack locations, hand sanitizer proves highly useful!
4.      Running Socks:  You can find these at any sporting goods store.  Unlike traditional cotton blended socks, these socks are moisture wicking, so they help prevent blisters.  This is a packing essential when you are walking through the parks on hot summer days.  (It may also be important to remember that you will be walking a lot, so wear sneakers if at all possible.)
5.      Body Glide: Popular with runners and other endurance athletes, these balms help prevent blisters from forming on your feet and inner thighs during long durations of movement – especially in the heat.
6.      Pictures of Your Kids:  I’m sure you would jump at the chance to show a picture of your kids to any willing stranger, but that isn’t the purpose here.  In case your kids get separated or lost, you can have something to show park officials as they help your kids reunite with their lost parents.   It may also be a great idea to have some sort of separation plan.  In the event that you and your children become separated and anyone finds himself or herself lost, plan ahead to meet at a specific location inside the parks.  For instance, if I were to find that my son had walked away for a moment and we could not find each other, already having a plan to meet at the entrance to the Hall of Presidents in that case may save a lot of trouble and anguish.
7.      WDW Trading Pins:  Years ago we decided we would not get caught up in this craze.  Unfortunately, we did succumb to the phenomenon.  That said, pin trading is a great way for you and you kids to collect souvenirs, while keeping busy in the long lines.  (More on this in a later post.)
8.      Batteries:  We love to take photos and video using cameras, Flip Cameras, phones, etc.  Extra batteries are useful and are much cheaper if you bring your own!  Also, don’t forget any battery chargers you may need.
9.      Rain Poncho:  Years ago, you could find Yellow Ponchos with Mickey prominently depicted thereon moving through the parks on a rainy day.  The design has changed somewhat over the years, but the price has always remained high.  I recommend taking a trip to the Dollar General where these are more affordable.
10.  Sunglassesfor obvious reasons.
11.  Mobile Phones / 2-Way Radios:  If you travel to the parks with large parties, or if you have older kids who might like to venture off by themselves, these items may be a great way to keep in touch when you need to.
12.  Sandals / Flip-Flops / Boating Shoes / Crocs:  For the water parks and resort pools, but not the parks.
13.  Glow Sticks:  I must admit, I learned this one from a friend.  A big hit with the kiddos, these come cheap at the local dollar store, but similar type items can break the back in the parks.  So, load up beforehand.
14.  Light Jacket / Sweatshirt:  For those traveling to the parks in the winter months, Orlando can be rather chilly.  So, bring something to cover up with.
15.  First Aid Pack:  Disney Parks do have first aid areas, but I recommend a small kit of your own – especially if you have kids.  4 – 5 Band-Aids, antiseptic wipes, Aspirin (or other pain reliever), sinus medication (Nose Spray, etc.) are all items that you may be thankful for on any given day.
16.  Back Pack: After looking at the list above, you shouldn’t need to wonder why this is on the list.

So, there you have it, a few additional packing essentials for your trip to WDW.  Good luck gathering your essentials for your next trip.  Feel free to add any tips or essentials on your list in the comments section below.  We would love to read about any items that you feel are absolutely necessary to pack.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dining: Sci-Fi Dine-In

            Among the many things I love about Disney is their attention to detail.  For Disney, storytelling isn’t something that happens only on-screen, but with everything they do.  The parks themselves are setup to tell a specific story.  So are the attractions, restaurants, resorts, everything.  And, when Disney tells a story, everything speaks. 

Each detail relays something crucial to the story itself, right down to the pavement in the lands of the Magic Kingdom (more on that in a later post).  That detail and storytelling lends itself amazingly well to themed restaurants and resorts. 

One wonderfully themed restaurant that is fun for kids of all ages is located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater gives the illusion of dining outside at a 1950s drive-in theater.  

Slip into the front or back seat of the booth and peer through the windshield at a series of science fiction movie clips from days gone-by.  Sip on an Oreo Cookie milkshake or vanilla Coke while you sit beneath the perpetual stars and take in this unique setting. 

The restaurant opens at 11am and remains open until normal park closing.  So, the timing allows me to eat here for lunch, which I prefer.  The meals are just the right proportion and it allows me to save room for a walk-up meal later in the evening.  Plus, I have the remainder of the day to walk-off any additional calories from the milkshake! 

Entrees range from $12 - $22, while appetizers are in the $7 - $10 range.  Using the Disney Dining Plan option will cost 1 Table Service Credit.  Depending on the plan you have, a Desert and possibly an Appetizer are included.  I like to use my desert option to get the milkshake, so I can also get a vanilla Diet-Coke.  This restaurant also accepts Tables in Wonderland for Florida residents and Annual Pass holders.

For lunch, I recommend the Crispy Onion Rings as an appetizer.  Along with the vanilla Coke, they add to the nostalgic feel of eating in a drive-in theater in the 50s.  The BLT Soup is quite nice as well.

Being from the Deep South, I see BBQ as an art, not to be trifled with.  As a result, I normally don’t order BBQ from a restaurant like this.  However, the Smoked Baby Back Ribs are actually very tasty. 

If you are not a BBQ fan, I suggest the Tofu - just kidding!  No real culinary fan would ever suggest that.  Instead, the Reuben is actually pretty good as is the Angus Chuck Burger.  The burger is much better than the normal patties you would get from walk-up service locations throughout the parks.  I recommend topping with cheddar, sautéed onions, mushrooms and bacon.  The cucumber melon salad is a better choice than fries, especially if you ordered onion rings as an appetizer.

Want to try making something at home?  Here’s the recipe for the BLT Soup:

1 8-ounce can Tomato Basil Soup
6 strips bacon, cooked and chopped
6 ounces shredded lettuce
3 slices white bread (toasted and cut in ½)

1.      Cook soup according to directions on can.
2.      Ladle into bowl.
3.      Place a half slice of toast on top of soup.
4.      Add 1 ounce of shredded lettuce on top of toast.
5.      And 1 ounce of chopped bacon on top of lettuce.
Yep, it’s that simple. 

If you have tried these dishes, would like to comment or have a different suggestion, please let us hear from you by placing them in the comments section below.  Want to share photos of your dining experience, send them to, we will post them on our DLuminations Facebook Page.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

First Look: Disney's Art of Animation Resort

This week D-Luminations got its first look at the great new resort that recently opened at WDW, Disney's Art of Animation Resort.  Though only partially open, the resort is a wonderful addition to WDW.  Art of Animation is the fifth resort to be priced in the value category following the All Star and Pop Century Resorts.  This resort will feature family suites as well as standard rooms.  The resort should be fully operational in September 2012.
 The Art of Animation Resort is set up similiar to the other value resorts.  There is a main building containing the check in area, food court, shops and arcade.  The food court features a wide array of offerings so everyone in the family should be able to find something they like.  A nice feature is that unlike the other value resorts the food is served on real plates (not paper) and offers actual flat ware (not plastic).  I had the Mongolian Beef and it was delicious.
The buildings which house the guest rooms are based on 4 classic Disney films, Finding Nemo (Suites now open), Cars (Suites opening June 18th), The Lion King (Suites opening August 10th) and The Little Mermaid (Standard Rooms opening Sept. 15th).  The suites are designed to accomodate up to six guestes and feature 2 separate bathrooms, a master bedroom, and three separate sleeping areas in the living space.  A feature I really like about the buildings that house the suites is that unlike the standard value rooms, the suites have inside corridors.

 The pool area was large and amazingly themed.  We were only able to see the Finding Nemo pool as it was the only one open.  The Imagineers have really stepped up the theming compared to the other value resorts.
 We were able to get a glimpse of the Cars, Lion King and Little Mermaid buildings though they were still under construction.  Again Disney has done an incredible job with the themeing. You may notice that the Little Mermaid buildings are different than the others.  This is because they were actually built to be apart of the the second phase of Pop Century that was abandoned after 9/11.  The Little Mermaid buildings have   outside corridors similar to the ones at the All Star and Pop Century Resort.
 If you are planning a trip to WDW, especially a large family, we highly recommend  the Art of Animation Resort.  The resort is located adjacent to Disney's Hollywood Studios and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and guests can enjoy complimentary transportation to the theme parks as well as the water parks.  For more information check out the WDW website and for more pictures check out the D-Luminations Facebook page.