Christina Wood

For more travel planning articles by Chris, check out her Disney travel blog, Everything Walt Disney World. Chris is also a member of the Mouse Chat podcast team and an authorized Disney travel planner with Pixie Vacations, and visits the parks about 55 days each year. To get free planning and assistance with your next Disney vacation, please call her at 919-889-5281 or email at [email protected] You may also fill out a quick Disney Vacation Quote form here.

Your Disney Memories.

What’s your favorite Disney memory or even your worst?  Some things that happen in Disney parks that are universal: The first time you saw the castle, eating at Cinderella’s Royal Table, watching the fireworks at night. All of these make for special memories but sometimes… Read More »Your Disney Memories.

Pork Two Ways at the California Grill: An Old Friend Returns, Only Better.

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I have a confession to make:  I’ve been having a deep, personal relationship with the pork two-ways from California Grill.  You may say “Oh, it’s just another pretty dish” or “How can it be any better than its previous incarnation, the pork loin?” Well, it’s better, trust me. And it’s completely worthy of its own post.

If you dined at the California Grill before the recent refurbishment, you know that the pork loin was its number one dish for two decades. It was simple peasant food really, just a basic polenta flavored with goat cheese and topped with a few slices of lightly seasoned tenderloin and some button mushrooms. It’s simplicity, of course, was also what made it perfect.  But while it was filling and satisfying, it had gotten a little bit boring. In recent years, I’d found myself straying over to the scallops or, if I was feeling especially adventurous, the sushi.  It, not unlike the décor and the overall feel of the rest of the restaurant, was in serious need of an overhaul.

When the California Grill opened back up a few weeks ago, I was pleased to see that they had updated, but not removed entirely, some of its best dishes, the pork being one of them. Now you’ll get a smaller serving of pork loin topped with fried sage and another serving of pork belly. Pork belly, you say?  Think a big square of bacon. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.Read More »Pork Two Ways at the California Grill: An Old Friend Returns, Only Better.

Using Disney’s Magic Bands

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I’m down here in Disney World right now for Disney’s Earmark Conference, which is a conference for Disney travel agents, and I’m writing this from the balcony of my room at the Contemporary Resort–not a bad place to write, although the castle is a bit distracting! This trip was my first opportunity to try the Magic Bands, as they’re still in the testing phase. They’ve been rolled out to most resorts at this point and should be resort-wide sometime in October (this can change), but I wanted to share some thoughts on using them with all of you.

First, let me just explain the bands for the uninitiated. The bands are literally that–wrist bands (similar to plastic wrist watch bands, but without the watch face) that will hold all your pertinent information, from where you’re staying to how many dining credits you have left on the Disney dining plan. They’ll have your room key, credit card information, and tickets on them as well.  You’ll be given a pin as well, which makes it more secure for credit card transactions. All your information is stored on the system, meaning that Disney can tell if you like Mickey bars at 11:00 p.m. and send one to your room. Or, more likely, they can use that information to customize marketing towards your likes.  In the future, there will even be sensors in the parks that track movements for crowd control purposes.Read More »Using Disney’s Magic Bands

Top Ten Signs You’re a Disney Family.

If you’re reading here, you probably like Disney a lot, but are you a Disney family? Is there a dusty tangle of Mickey Crocs on the floor of your hallway closet? Do you have a stack of old Key to the World cards on your desk? Have people just given up on asking where you’re taking the kids on vacation? If so, you’re probably part of a Disney family. For further clarification, see if you identify with the following statements:

10. You’ve put a six-year old in a stroller and no one even blinked.

9. You gauge the practicality of your children’s outfits by how easily they can climb in and out of rides while wearing it.

8.  You’ve tried to use a snack credit for a Slurpee.

7. Your child quotes The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World to strangers in line at the grocery store like some sort of tiny, demented Disney evangelist.

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6. Your kid doesn’t know when your birthday is or where she left her homework, but she can tell you at any time how many days left until her Disney trip.Read More »Top Ten Signs You’re a Disney Family.

Are Disney’s Holiday Parties Worth It?

It’s party season–starting next week in the Magic Kingdom, you can attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and then in November, you can celebrate the holidays at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  Both are special ticketed events, which means that you’ll pay around $65… Read More »Are Disney’s Holiday Parties Worth It?

The Advantages of Park Hopping

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I’ll admit it right now: I’m a park hopper. Sometimes I’ll spend less than two hours in a park before I’m off to greener pastures (usually Epcot, because I want to eat) and then I visit a third park before the night is out.  A hopper lets me join friends in another park if I want or do extra magic hours in the Magic Kingdom then head over to Animal Kingdom before it gets to crowded.  Without question, it’s the most convenient ticket option, but I can understand why some people wouldn’t want to add it:  hopping takes up valuable park time and it’s expensive, at about $60 per ticket.  So is the extra cost worth it to you?

One of the biggest reasons to add the hopper option to your ticket is flexibility.  I know that this is blasphemy to say among Disney people, but I don’t want a ten page spreadsheet where I’ve planned out every detail of my trip months in advance. I want to be free to make changes as I go, based on everything from how I feel to what the weather is like that day.  I can do that with a hopper, but without one, I’m absolutely committed to staying in that one park, especially if I have dining reservations.Read More »The Advantages of Park Hopping

What’s a Pin Code?

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You may have heard of the term “pin code,” but wondered what it was, exactly.  A pin code is a discount offered by Disney that’s personal to the individual whose name it comes in, and not only the name, but the address must match as well. These codes come out several months prior to general public promotions and are usually room discounts or free dining offers. While they are often an indication of what the general public will receive in the near future, they generally cover a broader span of time. Additionally, room discounts under a pin code are often better and cover more room categories than those offered to the general public.  In the case of free dining, pin codes are sometimes offered in place of a similar general public offer.  For these reasons, pin codes are highly desired.

In the last year, Disney has indicated that it is more interested in marketing directly to certain groups of consumers rather than releasing the broad, general public offers of the past decade. If you look at the most recent free dining offer, for example, the exclusions are surprising: Port Orleans French Quarter and the Art of Animation were excluded from the offer entirely and Riverside, long a top first choice for families of five,  had almost no rooms available under the offer.  Why is this? It’s not because more people are visiting Disney World and because fall has suddenly become a “busy” season. It’s because the pin code that came out several months prior, which did, incidentally include the suites at Art of Animation and Port Orleans French Quarter, did such a great job of filling rooms before the general public was ever offered a discount.  So when free dining was released to everyone, the rooms available under the offer were, for many room categories, scant at best.Read More »What’s a Pin Code?

Why Disney Parks are Magic at Night.

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You can have your rope drop, your mad rush into the parks–I’ll sleep in, go later, and stay until closing. Sure it means I’ll miss out on getting a fastpass for certain attractions (although with the new Magic Bands coming, not for much longer), but visiting the parks at night is pure magic.  I love that energized feeling you get after dinner when it’s cooler out and you’ve gotten your second wind. It’s always sweet to see sleepy families walking out of the park, happy and exhausted, holding hands.  Nighttime in the parks offers a different kind of energy than what you see during the day and to me, it’s the best part of any Disney vacation.

My favorite park at night is Hollywood Studios. It isn’t the rides or the shows, it’s the lighting. It’s beautiful shining on the old-fashioned Art Deco buildings as you walk into the park, but even buildings as simple as those in Pixar Place get a festive glow from twinkle lights strung across the buildings and in the trees.  Grab a carrot cake cookie–it’s practically mandatory that you stop in at The Writer’s Stop and get one while visiting–and find a bench and people watch.Read More »Why Disney Parks are Magic at Night.