Next Stop: Overall Canada

Hey everyone after a very busy week post Canada, including my time in the food and wine festival in Orlando, my last Friday’s post was delayed to, today! So I recently returned from Canada, and man do I have some stories from that to tell everyone! My itinerary totally got changed there, so now I have a trip report for Air Canada and Delta, long story short, Air Canada screwed up in relaying some information of the required check-in times at the airport, combined with sudden traffic in Montreal led us to miss my flight! Then Air Canada’s horrendous customer service crew pushed me into booking a whole new set of flights with Delta to get me home, rather than rebooking with AC. I’m in a very long battle now with AC, and the DOT to get my money back from the missed flight. Apart from that, and the fact that I was denied renting the car I needed from AVIS Canada, Canada itself was beautiful, but I was thrilled by landing in FLL and being back home. I’ll give everyone a break down day by day of  my trip, here we go!:

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Next Stop: Carry-on

Man walking through airport

Modern day air travel has taken a turn into restricting what we’re allowed to bring on the plane for free. Many years ago your luggage was no big deal, pack a big bag for that weekend trip to LAS and it was included, but now with soaring fuel prices and airport fees airlines have turned to luggage to bring in more money, meaning we now have to pay to get that bag on the plane separately for each way. Continue reading

Le Cellier Review + New Opportunities

Hey guys! So sorry to keep everyone waiting for more posts, I had a rough couple of weeks with school and other things but I’m back and better than ever very excited to be reunited with my readers! So today’s article will be my review of Le Cellier Canadian steakhouse at Disney‘s EPCOT park.

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Tips to the Kingdom: Activities and lines.

Hey everyone! This is my final long installment of the Tips to the Kingdom series 1, today’s topic is a double one, originally I was going to post the activities at WDW with the dining post, but the dining became much longer than I expected! So today I bring you a guide to activities at the WDW resort and tips for avoiding ride lines. I’ll try to keep this brief since I’ve been getting comments about how the posts are too long, what do you guys think? Let’s get started. Continue reading

Tips to the Kingdom: The Ultimate Dining Guide.

Hey everyone! Sorry for not posting through the weekend like I said I would, turns out I was much busier than I expected and stayed longer, and returned with a slight health issue I’m going to get looked at. But I’ll finish everything I said I would! So today’s post was Saturdays’s blog combined with Friday nights. So I’ll break it down to Disney‘s dining and activities tomorrow, soon I’ll post Sunday’s blog and Saturday night’s, and look out for the reviews soon. Let’s get started!

Disney Dining:

disney-dining-plan-2012

Dining at the Walt Disney World resort is a treat, there are so many options from fast to sit down that if I covered them all, I’d write a book. Let’s get started with ways to dine, when visiting WDW you can put your family on the Disney Dining plan if you are staying in a Disney hotel for multiple nights, add park tickets and make a magic your way vacation package which include many perks. To view all dining plan options attached to the magic your way plans visit the following Disney link: ( https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/planning-guides/in-depth-advice/disney-dining-plan/ ). There are multiple dining plan packages Disney offers, the plan works a lot like game tokens, but for your meals. When you pre-purchase the plan before your arrival, upon check in, your room key (now known as your key to the world with the new electronic systems) will be loaded with points from your select dining plan.disney-dining-plan The points are divided into different meal types, such as snacks, drinks, full meals, quick service, dessert, etc. When you approach one of the select dining venues included in the plan (around 100 locations are included) you’ll see a purple DP (Dining Plan) logo next to food items included in the plan (not all menu items at select locations are included), depending on the food type it’ll require 1 point of the select category, points are electronically tracked via your room key. If you’re not sure if the location is included, feel free to ask a cast member, but most of the time when you finish your order and proceed to pay you’ll be ask if you’re on the dining plan. How ever there are higher end dining options that will take 2+ more points depending on the food or location (such as Le Cellier at EPCOT) make sure to ask your waiter or waitress if you find your self in one of the luxury dining venues. There are pretty much 3 tiers of the dining plan (and the select added features to each tier). 1) Quick service, the cheapest yet least inclusive one. 2) Dining plan, median price, includes more sit down options, better for families. 3) Deluxe/premium, the most inclusive and literally filling, yet the most pricy. For more information on each tier as well visit a fellow bloggers page (< click on ‘page’) with a great explanation (although if you guys need any trip planning help, shoot me an e-mail)!

During special events such as the food and wine, Disney offers a gift card option you can strap around your wrist and use at each booth so you don’t have to swipe your card each time, (I’ll go further into this later in the article when I cover the food and wine). Gift cards however are a good tool to control your spending at Disney eateries. Eating at Disney can get pricy because you just want to try everything, feel free to try; it is all delicious, so grabbing one of Disney’s refillable gift cards is a great way to watch what you spend. Simply purchase the card at any disney souvenir shop on the Disney property and re-fill it every morning to the amount you want to spend (you can keep track of the balance via the instructions on the card, and soon on the Disney parks magic app). disneygiftcard Simply swipe it at any dining location and see how much you spend making it easy to not go over budget, which is very easy, I’ve easily spent over $100 in one day on my own food. Or even without a gift card, simply pre-plan your meals by looking at menu’s and prices on the Disney site and budget accordingly. Keep in mind sales and food tax in central Florida is 7% so $0.07 per dollar. Much like the dining plan, Disney dining venues are divided into categories, from snack carts, quick dinning, sit down casual, buffets, and sit down formal (some of the sit down options including buffets can include character dinning, however these options are much more expensive). The snack and quick dining options are really only in the parks, the resorts offer a good selection of quick meal items such as granola bars and cereal at their respective markets. The parks and resorts offer the majority of the sit down and mostly the resorts offer the formal dinning options. Be aware some of the more formal sit down options inside the parks enforce a dress code that excludes shorts, tanks, flip flops (especially short short’s on girls and women, and above knee shorts for men). Feel free to contact Disney’s dining reservations and information line at 1-(407)-WDW-DINE or 1-(407)-939-3463, their phone lines are open for selected hours, which vary through out the peak and lower seasons, all their times are in east coast time (EST). The dining line can give you plenty of information, and more precise menu items and prices than the website can (some restaurants have seasonal menu’s, hence the website only offers ‘sample’ menus). Now that I’ve covered the ways to dine, let’s cover where to dine.

Disney has 4 parks and countless other guest area’s with many eating options, I’ve been fortunate enough to try a plethora of them in the 40+ times I’ve gone in the last 13 years, 20+ being in the last 2 years. I’ll give you my recommendations by area and park, and my utmost favorites at the end:

Magic Kingdom: Where you’re always a child at heart.

-Snack: The utmost in deliciousness in snacks, the Disney World turkey legs, found through out the park, the best $9-10 you’ll ever spend, try an ice cream as well, it’s great.

-Quick Dining: My utmost favorite quick dining in all the parks is here, go to the sleepy hollow bakery in Liberty Square, the waffle sandwiches are exquisite, they offer an sweet and sour chicken which consists of a huge breast in a great sauce with some kimchi salad in a belgian waffle, then a prosciutto with cheese, salad and a secret sauce is the other savory option and for dessert a nutella and fresh fruit one. These are so big you’ll only eat one and at around $7 it is the cheapest and best lunch (they are only served until 5). Post 5 head over to Casey’s corner on Main Street for a banging hot dog and corn dogs.

be our guest

be our guest

Sit Down Casual: I love the Pecos Bill tavern in Frontier Land/Adventure Land, they serve some rocking food, if not head over to Fantasy land for lunch or reservation needed dinner at the new Be Our Guest restaurant inside Beast’s castle. The food is fantastic and french inspired with options from croque monsieur to slow roasted meats, really a fantastic experience and food.

Sit Down Formal: Magic Kingdom doesn’t actually have any sit down formal venues, diner at Be Our Guest as well as Cinderella’s Royal Table would be the closest, Cinderella’s table can be found inside the castle, its entrance will be in the back gate of it by fantasy land, but can come with a royal price.

Buffet/Character Dinning: The Crystal Palace on Main Street USA is the only in park buffet, it is known for its breakfast and offers a fantastic opportunity to dine with many of your favorite characters accompanied with savory American style dishes. For the princess in the family Cinderella’s royal table also offers character dining experience in a fairy tale setting.

Other Recommendations: Definitely try a Dole Whip, this pineapple float is exquisite and helps cool you down! Try it by the Main Street USA entrance to Adventureland. Disney now also has a Starbucks on property on Main Street USA replacing the main street bakery, but for those who loved the dessert’s don’t be sad, most items survived the reno but are now scattered across the park at different eateries.

EPCOT: The food junkie paradise around the world.

Snack: There are no stand out snacks here for me, but why not munch on some popcorn, or a Mickey ears ice cream? EPCOT is more about meals than snacks, but to refresh head over to the Coca Cola cool zone by the fountain of the nations and try some international coke products for FREE! Some are repulsive but to hit the spot try the Israeli lemon-lime soda which taste almost exactly like American Sprite!

Quick Dining: One of my favorite quick dining options in all of the Disney Property is the German food window at the Germany Pavilion, a nice huge frankfurter with loads or sauerkraut some mustard, and as you all know, my favorite German potato salad makes an unforgettable and filling delicious fast lunch or even quick dinner. For dessert I head over to the bakery in the France pavilion to grab a quick macaroon, my favorite French dessert, and Disney’s packs a punch being filled with pastry cream, fresh fruit, and jelly like other common ones. TIP: At quick dinning and sit down casual locations don’t be afraid to as for a CUP of water, it’s free, comes with ice, it’s huge and it makes you feel better that you didn’t spend that $2.50 on a Dasani bottle.

biergarten

biergarten

Sit Down Casual: I highly enjoy a great falafel pita at the Merkadesh Market in Morocco, it comes with a fantastic chilled couscous salad (next time you’re at a restaurant and see couscous salad ask if it’s served warm or chilled to impress your servers). One of my new favorites is at the new sit down restaurant in Japan, it has an amazing chicken curry that is plentiful and delicious, and what better place to unwind from those lines than a zen like secluded garden complete with a waterfall and lanterns? Try it at night for a truly magical experience combined with the Japanese drum show which is a must see. For a fantastic authentic Italian experience head over to the Wine Cellar at the Italy pavilion, where you step into an old school cellar filled with tapas style bites and great wines.

tut558932LARGESit Down Formal: This is where EPCOT excels, the flavors of the parks formal eateries are extraordinary, I’ve had better steak here than I’ve had at many legendary Miami restaurants. Luckily I’ve been able to try many, most recently Le Cellier (review coming soon, but definitely make a reservation). EPCOT’s formal options are more adult oriented, so they require a bit more of formal wear and are much more intimate, but much more expensive, be ready to spend 50+ per person at these. I’ve dined at the ex Bistro de Paris, now Chef Paul’s, and it was exquisite, the flavors were bold and outstanding, service was perfect, the atmosphere cozy like dinning in the living room of a French family’ home in Paris. Le Cellier had the best filet mignon and pork tenderloin I’ve ever tried, combined with Canadian classics like poutine with a red wine twist, and some risotto that is out of this world. When dining here prepare to spend, but be aware your pallid will splurge with you.

Buffet/Character Dining: My utmost favorite buffet is that of the Germany pavilion, for 30 some dollars you get to take a trip to a rural German village environment, with a traditional music band and even better food. Head over to Norway for a buffet style princess dinning experience, combined with some Norwegian classics from cold salmon to fine pasta’s.

Other Recommendations: Fish and chips in the UK are fantastic, the sweet and sour pork in China with spinach noodles is a star, and for more classic park style dining head over to the Future World area and grab some great food at the Electric Umbrella or Season’s in the Land Pavilion. Why not end your day with a funnel cake at the USA pavilion?

TIP: Ride test track and mission space BEFORE you eat, unless you want to empty the tank and eat again.

Hollywood Studios: The glitz and glam of a by-gone era of hollywood combined with the modern technology of special effects.

Snack: Head over to Sunset Boulevard and grab a quick snack at the sunset ranch market under the shadow of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, or eat from a huge dinosaur on Echo lake. Like the other parks there really only are classic snacks here such as popcorn and ice cream.

Quick Dining: Head to the back lot area of the park near the studio tour ride entrance and you’ll find the Studio Cafeteria/Catering Co. A classic window service to quickly grab some grub and sit down to eat or take it walking. Also try the coffee shop in the Streets Of America area, it’s right where that area meets the Commissary Lane, it is very cozy even on a full day because most people cannot find its hidden door, it offers a Starbucks style shop with some classic Disney programing and shopping, it’s my favorite little corner of the park, they also serve some great hot chocolate in the winter.

Sit Down Casual: ABC’s Commissary Cafe offers classic American fast fare in a studio style setting with props from ABC shows like modern family and once upon a time. Or go over to the 50’s prime time cafe by Echo Lake and enjoy some classic American dishes like meatloaf and pasta, both of these are very casual but nice to eat at. And for a novelty dining head over to the famous pizza planet from Disney’s Toy Story by the muppets ride.

Drive-in dine-in

Drive-in dine-in

Sit Down Formal: Hollywood Studio’s does not offer very formal options like EPCOT, my favorite more formal like places would be the Sci-Fi Dine-In, perhaps one of the most unique dining experiences on property. Jump back in time and sit in old school Cadillac style cars turned dining tables in an old sound stage now themed as an outdoor night time drive-in playing black and white classics as if you were really there, even head to the back and grab some snacks from the booth for your table, this is an Ian MUST DO! For the most formal eatery head to the Brown Derby for some formal dining American Style.

Buffet/Character Dining: Hollywood and Vine, is fantastic! For around 30 dollars including drinks, dine on some fantastic food options from lobster mac and cheese to chipotle orange chicken, top it off with a chocolate fountain and great desserts with an ice cream machine and you got an amazing lunch or diner. For the little one’s this is also the only character dining on site, offering lunch with the Disney junior (ex playhouse Disney) characters.

TIP: Ride everything before eating or well after, Hollywood Studio’s ride can really shake you up!

Animal Kingdom: Where the animals of past, present and imaginary roam free.

Snack: Like the other parks, there is no stand-out snack here for me, it’s all very normal. This is the park I spend the least time in, yet highly enjoy? Animal Kingdom shows that it’s not about quantity but about quality. There are many snack carts along the bridges of Discovery Island, but with the giant tree of life in your face, you won’t be looking for food.

Quick Dining: Head over to Asia for the Yak and Yeti dining windows outside for some great asian inspired take out which tastes fantastic! But can be pricey, but hey your view is the Himalayas so you can’t complain. If Asian isn’t your think take a stroll over to Africa (don’t hear that everyday) to the Tamu Tamu windows for an awesome African barbecue style sandwich with some cucumber salad, or many other fast dinning options with an African kick.

Sit Down Casual: Yak and yeti offers a sit down casual experience for lunch that highlights Asian cuisine, the line’s can get lengthy though. Or stroll to Dinoland USA to restaurantosaurus and eat some fast American style food in an excavation site camp! Unless you’re hungry for some barbecue, in that case follow the smell to the flame tree barbecue and grab some delicious grub and sit at one of the surrounding tables.

tamu tamu

tamu tamu

Sit Down Formal: The most formal you’ll get is the later hours of the yak and yeti, be aware that due to the nature of the nature in the park, Animal Kingdom closes at 6pm so a dinner service isn’t really offered which is normally when the formality kicks in. Or head over to the rainforest cafe by the parks entrance for a wild dining experience, open till later.

Buffet/Character Dining: The tusker house restaurant in Africa is great, and offers an African style buffet combined with character dining, make reservations as getting in can be tough without them. I’ve never eaten here, but have heard it is great.

Look out for more intense strange dinning options in the future as Avatar Land has kicked off construction.

That pretty much covers dinning at the parks! So much info! I’ll give you a run down of dining at the resorts and Downtown Disney, the other Disney area’s.

Downtown Disney: The urban side of the kingdom.

Snack: So many options! But head over to Ghirardelli on the Market Place side for some great desserts and quick sweets the brand is known for. Munch on a pretzel from Wetzel’s pretzels and wash it down with a milkshake from Haggen Daaz next door at the West Side area.

Quick Dining: Grab some fast chicken dishes over at Pollo Campero on market side, some great hispanic inspired food in a Mcdonald’s style atmosphere (this used to be one actually). There you can also grab some pastries or smoothies! One of my favorite new fast food chains is Earl of Sandwich, found at the Market Place side, offers a new twist on subs, such as serving them on biscuit bread buns and with wild flavors like hawaiian barbecue and more! They also carry things like parfaits, and bite size desserts as a quick snack. downtown-disney

Sit Down Casual: Downtown is the king of sit down dining! Hit the hippest bowling lanes in the area at Splitsville and grab some awesome food from burgers to sushi at their restaurant (very good stuff!). Relive the blues era at the House of Blues by the Cirque du Soleil tent on the West Side area. Or if music isn’t your thing, explore great movie memorabilia at the Planet Hollywood restaurant, one of the few left standing and perhaps one of the best, take an escalator into the giant earth themed sphere sitting on the lagoon into a movie extravaganza! Dining options at downtown are endless.

Sit Down Formal: So many options here too, feel the latin flavor with Gloria Estefan at one of the few Bongos restaurants in the world at the West Side area, taste some authentic Cuban cuisine and dance the night away with some salsa, and I mean the food and dance. Feeling more like a calming formal experience? No problem Downtown delivers with places like Wolfgan Puck Cafe with some great options from the world renowned chef, or jump to the now empty Pleasure Island for Paradiso 37 and grab some great latin food with a great atmosphere. If not at the crossroads of Pleasure Island and Market Place you’ll find Fulton’s crab house on a huge old style Mississippi river boat, for some great seafood classics.

pleasureislandUnique Dining: Downtown does not offer buffets or character dining, so they have unique experiences. Jump into the wild at the Rainforest cafe, one of its 2 Disney locations (the other being Animal Kingdom), dine with elephants, monkeys, birds (all animatronics) and live fish, and enjoy some great tropical inspired cuisine. If the jungle isn’t your thing head back in time at T-rex, much like rainforest but highlighting dinosaur and extinct creatures instead of jungle crawlers, You can’t miss either of these one’s a smoking volcano, the other is a mountain with a dinosaur on it. For the Adults why not enjoy a movie in a recliner with table service? Go to AMC’s fork and screen experience at downtown by planet hollywood and dine while you watch current hit movies. Or grab a been at the pub by Pleasure Island, get some light courses and plenty of booze and late night celtic bands and drinking games.

Walt Disney Resort/Hotels: Love to stay here, love to eat here.

Quick Dining: The best quick dinning is on the Boardwalk area, one of my favorite areas on property. Grab a slice of pizza at the window or a cupcake at the bakery. All resorts offer a quick dinning option so I won’t elaborate on those. If you find yourself here in Christmas head over to the Grand Floridian and get a ginger bread roof shingle from the world’s largest gingerbread house!

Sit Down Casual: Many favorites, from the sushi bar at the Polynesian to the old school ice cream parlor at the Beach club. Head over to Beaches and Cream at the Beach club resort and grab a sink-full of ice cream and many other classics here with the whole family. Into sports? Head to the ESPN experience at the Boardwalk and get some bar style grub and watch the football game in a unique sporting themed dining room. Most hotels also contain a sit down casual restaurant, my other favorite would be the Maya Grill at the Coronado Springs resort.

victoria and alberts

victoria and alberts

Sit Down Formal: Disney Shines in this category, literally. Experience the only 5 diamond rated restaurant in the state at the Grand Floridian, Victoria and Alberts for a pricy tag offer a pallid pleasing dining experience envied by the finest restaurants around the world. The multi course dinner will set you back a hefty amount, but you’ll never forget it. For an even more unique experience, book the chef’s table and get personalized style meals and watch this live kitchen prepare the utmost finest cuisine there is. If you want a more laid back experience head over to Boardwalk to Food Network’s Cat Cora’s Kouzzina, or one of the many luxury options at Disney’s Swan and Dolphin resorts. You can’t miss those structures, just look out for the teal pyramid piercing the sky and in this fantastic I.M. Pei designed structures you’ll find fine dinning and lodging. 5714292955_74cc12ec4f

Buffet/Character/Unique Dining: Visit the Polynesian resort for my favorite buffet, Ohana, a unique Hawaiian style steak heavy buffet, think of it as a South Pacific Texas de Brazil. The flavors here are fantastic and around 9-10 pm, depending on the night, enjoy watching the Magic Kingdom’s firework show, Wishes! Also at the Polynesian enjoy a great dinner show including fire twirlers. Not into Hawaii? no problem, head over to the Fort Wilderness campgrounds for the longest running dinner show in the US, the Hoopty Doo Review, get your reservations quick! If not visit its adjoining buffet for some Southern comfort food. Perhaps the most famous character dining experience is at the Contemporary Resort, Chef Mickey’s offers a great American style buffet and experience. Wanna jump into the wild? Go to the Animal Kingdom lodge to Boma and dine on the finest African buffet which will not disappoint for either breakfast or dinner.

I’m going to stop there for restaurant recommendations, or else I’d be here all year! Feel free to contact me for customized dinning options if you wish. There are so many dinning options I didn’t even cover that it’s ridiculous! So now that I’ve covered the how and where, lets cover the When ad special dining events. Disney offers many dining events:

Special night and holiday dining packages: Disney offers a variety of dinning packages around their yearly and nightly events. For the Magic Kingdom enjoy a VIP dessert party with a special viewing area of the castle for the nightly firework show. At EPCOT book a special restaurant dinner package to then enjoy the nightly Reflections: Celebration of Earth! Firework show from a special viewing area. During the holiday’s EPCOT offers dining packages including VIP seats to the nightly candlelight processional, where celebrities read the nativity story and feature local choirs singing Christmas hymns. At Hollywood Studios book a unique dining experience that places you at the back of the Fantasmic! Theater to eat and watch that awesome show! There are many other experiences offered with the food and wine I’ll cover in the next section. Once again for more details contact me or search the Disney site.

International Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT: epcot-Food__Wine_Festival_Logo1My favorite of all the events, for a month in late fall, normally Septembers end until Novembers beginnings, EPCOT pulls all the strings for an amazing unique dining event found no where else. Taste the cuisine of over 20+ nations prepared by chefs from their respective nation and staffed by them as well. From Greece to Singapore and the standard 11 nations found at EPCOT everyday, taste the world and drink it too! This year’s (2013) will be the longest and largest, from September 27-November 11. To enter this event you will require a standard park admission, and all food bites are separately priced from $2 to $5 per ‘bite’ (most range in the $3 area, the ‘bites’ are much larger than you think and pretty filling). I personally budget $60 to fully enjoy myself and pig out all day here. My favorites from last year have to be the shrimp tacos from Mexico, lettuce wraps from S. Korea, sushi from Japan, cheese from Greece, cake from Ireland, sausage from Canada, fondue from the cheese booth, lamb from Australia, and steak from South Africa. This event also brings along many VIP style dining events, ranging from private tastings from chefs to a chocolate/dessert party in event tents at night, but are charged extra. Many Food Network chef’s do demonstrations and many Disney chef’s as well. It really is worth a visit, I go yearly at least once, if not 3-4 times…

Flower and Garden festival at EPCOT: Epcot-Flower-Garden-LogoI told you EPCOT is a food junkie paradise! The flower and garden festival runs in the spring time and as of this year includes food booths in the style of food and wine making it a food event as well! However the food here is very different, from Florida classics, to vegetarian and vegan booths. Both festivals utilize a wrist held tiny gift card you load with your money and swipe at each location, securing your actual card doesn’t get frozen and you don’t have to bother with your wallet, they can be ‘purchased’ (there’s no charge for them) at any EPCOT gift shop or food booth during either of the festivals.

Star Wars Weekends: This isn’t a real foodie event, but! It brings some fun food to the Hollywood Studio’s park, from R2D2 shaped mugs and containers to Star Wars themed cupcakes and all, it’s more of a novelty event for the force fan in you. The weekends vary from year to year but often occur in the early summer.

Christmas: The holiday inspired events vary from park to park, very-merryin Magic Kingdom go to Mickey’s very merry christmas event at night for gingerbread and hot chocolate. Visit the deluxe resorts for stunning gingerbread displays from a carousel to full scale small house. Visit EPCOT to see how the world celebrates this time of year, and how they eat it as well! Or go to Hollywood Studio’s or Animal Kingdom for some lighter themed eats but plenty of holiday spirit. Many restaurants tweak their menu’s seasonally so you’re in for a different meal than before every year.

If you’re a Passholder or a Disney Visa member, ask if you get a discount! You’ll be surprised!

Every Day: Every day is a great day to dine at the Disney World resort, with over 50+ options you’ll never eat the same thing (I only repeat by choice!). Everyday is a new adventure for you at the happiest place on Earth and I hope I was able to guide you on your choices and your stomach! I hope you enjoyed reading my ultimate guide to Disney Dinning. Visit Disney’s website for more detailed info on each place or the dinning plan, or call their restaurant line. There’s so much I didn’t even cover, I could make a textbook if I covered them all! Look for more of the Disney series soon, sorry this is a week late! I will finish it soon guys and then go back to my Europe trip and elaborate from viewer demand! E-mail me guys! please I encourage you too, I’m happy to help! I’m also launching my trip planning services for my blog readers and to everyone soon. Contact my blog e-mail for more. Be on a look out for more guys! Adventure is out there!

Cheers,

-Ian

Tips to the Kingdom: Lodging.

Hey everyone, today I bring you the first official article on the tips to the kingdom series. Today’s topic is lodging and resort stay. Orlando is a relatively cheap are to stay in considering that there are so many options from so many brands that they all must have competitive pricing to fill rooms, making a Waldorf Astoria hotel in Disney cheaper than a holiday inn in New York City. So let’s say you want to stay inside the Disney resort itself, in a Disney hotel, here is how lodging in Disney owned hotels work: There are 4 categories of resorts on property that vary from accommodations and pricing, the cheaper side not being as luxurious and oriented more towards large families, the expensive side caters to those who want a luxurious and impressive property, but with a hefty price. Categories are:

Value Resorts: $80-90 cheapest rate off season + tax, average pricing – $120-140 + tax (all rates per night). These resorts are the bottom of Disney’s hotel pyramid, but are still comfortable and give you the full Disney experience.These hotel’s are perfect for large families, or those who don’t plan to spend much time or money on the hotel (perfect for those who just use the hotel to sleep and spend all day out).

Art of Animation, Car's pool

Art of Animation, Car’s pool

The value resorts are also aimed more to the economical side and the younger kids, the heavy animation or activity theming makes it appealing to kids from giant 5-story bowling pins to a life-size recreation or Radiator Springs from Disney’s Cars movie, these properties pack a fun theming punch. These properties will include the basic two double bed rooms, the new Art Of Animation Resort now includes family suites (they can be a bit pricy), central pool area and multiple other pools through out the further extents of the property, a single large cafeteria style dinning hall, arcade, gift/logo shop, complimentary parking, lobby area. There are 5 value resorts to choose from on property. I’ve stayed in two (Pop Century and All-Star Music) and like I said they serve the purpose to sleep but not much further than that.

Moderate Resorts:  $120-150 cheapest rate off season + tax, average pricing – $170-190 + tax (all rates per night). This is my favorite category, in the Spring or Fall off season (TIP! best time to go, not just for your wallet, but for your enjoyment as the parks are at their emptiest) you can snatch a room in these for the lower rates, which is what a regular Orlando area resort would cost you as well. Moderate resorts combine the best of the luxury of the expensive resorts and combine it with the value rates and functionality.

Moderate resorts are the ‘medium’ category in Disney, they offer heavy real life theming from the Mexican Riviera, to old school country side New Orleans, and even Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. These resorts offer a great value for medium to small sized single families and for those wanting to get away from the crowds but not splurge in pricing. I f you plan to spend some time at your hotel and hit the pool a bit I recommend this category. They include on property: Ornate lobby and surrounding guest areas, a dinning hall and specialty restaurants, large well themed pools with water slides (the Coronado Springs has a recreation of an abandoned pyramid excavation site including the pyramid around its main pool). Standard double bed rooms and some up to private family suites, gift shops and recreation facilities from volleyball to canoeing. There are 5 resorts in this category, I’ve stayed in three (Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside, and The Cabins at the Fort Wilderness).

Deluxe Resorts:  $250-350 cheapest rate off season + tax, average pricing – $350-550 + tax (all rates per night). Disney’s deluxe resorts are the hotels you can see but can’t touch, They offer the utmost in luxury, dinning, service, and true magical experience (not the the previous ones don’t).

Grand Floridian

Grand Floridian

Deluxe Resorts offer higher class theming done in a tasteful, not over the top way, much like the moderate resorts. Deluxe resorts are great for those of you who like to spend a lot of time on property (and for that price you better!) and enjoy the luxury of fitness centers, spas, and balconies. Deluxe hotels are amazing in architecture, truly astonishing. In a deluxe hotel you can transported to old school Florida and dine in Florida’s finest restaurant (Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort). Wake up to the sounds of an African savannah with a giraffe having breakfast right outside your balcony (Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge). Or feel the rush of a modern transportation system running through your grand atrium (Disney’s Contemporary Resort).

My balcony view at Animal Kingdom Lodge

My balcony view at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Travel to a classic atlantic coast setting complete with a boardwalk featuring street performers and food halls and yatch clubs (Disney’s Boardwalk Resort complex) Many of the deluxe resorts have become Disney icons now a days, they really are something out of the ordinary, at Disney’s Fort Wilderness you can see ol’ faithful erupt in Florida or take archery lessons. The Deluxe hotels are worth a visit even if you’re not staying in them, they are splendid and grandiose. Deluxe resorts include: Ornate grand lobbies, large themed pools with water slides, fantastic first class dinning, gift shops, luxury recreation facilities (from golf courses and boat rentals, to segway rentals and parasailing). Luxurious touches and finishes, special tours, concierge, and some feature spa’s and fitness centers. There are 8 resorts in this category, I’ve stayed in 1 (Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge).

Deluxe Villa’s: No cheaper rate off season, average pricing – $360-550 + tax (all rates per night). This option is for vacation club members or those with deep pockets.

Saratoga Springs Resort

Saratoga Springs Resort

The villa style offers full apartment style rooms, the largest and most inclusive rooms, they offer full kitchens, multiple bedrooms and spa like bathrooms with living rooms and balconies. The villa’s are either located within some of the deluxe resort properties or on their own deluxe resort style properties that offer the same luxuries as the deluxe resorts. There are 9 resorts in this category, I’ve stayed in 1 (Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa).

That is the basic run down of the Disney owned properties and styles, hopefully if you want to stay with Disney, which I recommend at least once, this helped your decision. Some to know for all Disney resorts are: They include inner resort transportation from resorts to parks as well as Downtown Disney and ESPN World, parking is included and if you’d like to take your car within property all theme park parking is included (this can cost you around $14 per car normally). There are no ‘resort fee’s’ at Disney resorts, unlike most Orlando hotels (TIP: Ask your hotel before booking if they have a resort and/or parking fee, many of them do but when you look at the nightly rate will not include it on there, it is an add-on you pay on site no matter what, these fee’s can vary from $19-$50 per room per night). My favorite perk of staying on Disney property is: EXTRA MAGIC HOURS! This is a feature offered only to property guest, in which with your hotel room key you get to stay at the parks long after the day crowds leave or before they open to the public. Check the Disney website to see which park has this feature that day, they rotate parks every day and is not offered everyday. One example is when I went a few years ago the Magic kingdom closed at midnight and offered extra hours until 3am, this is one of my favorite travel moments, riding thunder mountain 8 times not even getting off the train, running through the empty sidewalks and enjoying Disney to myself. You will not see ads for this anywhere since it’s on a need to know basis, most resort guest don’t even know they have this perk, so use it!!

So now lets say you really want to stay inside Disney but you don’t want to dish out that much money or you want more for your money, well you’re in luck. Most people don’t know Disney has two on property areas with resorts owned by major national brands that still keep the perks but slash the price. These are the two areas’s:

Downtown Disney resort area– Hotels here can vary from $70-140 per night + tax and resort fees. This is the original on Disney property but not in Disney resorts area, this is a stretch of road that come directly after the Downtown Disney complex.

Hilton with Downtown Disney in the background

Hilton with Downtown Disney in the background

In this area you can find privately owned major resorts such as the Buena Vista Palace (Where I’m staying this time at around $100 a night with all fees and taxes included) to the Hilton and Holiday Inn. Fee’s and prices vary by hotel but don’t reach the moderate category prices of Disney owned hotels. The hotels here aren’t you run of the mill motel either, most of the are hotel towers with nice pool areas, and villa style accommodations for more, these resorts offer an economical alternative that lets you keep the certain perks of the Disney hotels such as extra magic hours, and some of them transportation, be advised you will pay for park parking.

small map of downtown disney properties

small map of downtown disney properties

These hotels have great reviews and are easy to book on any of your conventional travel sites, make sure the city is Lake Buena Vista (the town inside the Disney resort) and before booking check the address on google.

Bonnet Creek resort area:  Hotels here can vary from $130-190 per night + tax and resort fees. This is Disney’s newest alternative resort area, this area is much more luxurious than the downtown area.

Waldorf and Hilton

Waldorf and Hilton

On this side you will find luxury giants like the Waldorf Astoria, a new Hilton, and the Wyndham (soon to open the Four Seasons resort, spa, and golf courses). Yet prices for these opulent stays aren’t high! Like I said competition in the area keeps prices low, you can snatch a room at the Waldorf for $170 a night plus taxes and fee’s (A steal considering the location, pool, lazy river, golf course etc.). Or grab a room at the Wyndham’s massive multi tower property for around $140 a night. Rooms here can easily be booked on conventional travel sites, simply check their location. These resorts offer transportation to the parks on their own coaches and participate in the extra hours.

Now that I’ve shared where you can stay, you choose where! My tip here is, stay at a Disney hotel at least once, you won’t regret it, shoot for the moderate or deluxe categories, however if you are without kids or with teens and you don’t want to spend 200+ to not stay in value, go to one of the two areas that offer a great stay for less on property with the perks. I personally stay at the two areas and spend what I saved on stuffing my face in EPCOT. I’m not dissing Disney hotel’s, they truly are fantastic, but they are very expensive! And if you’re without kids it’s not worth spending the money on a value level resort when for less or same money you can stay at the Waldorf. If you live in Florida, Disney property hotels have extra savings on the fall and spring off seasons, this offer is sometimes extended to Georgia resident’s as well. If you’re a Disney Visa holder you may also qualify for resort discounts and countless other discounts (some better than what pass holders get!). If you’re a pass holder check you ticket booklet for discounts that vary from 10-15% on select dates. If you’re going for a not Disney owned be well informed of all rates, taxes, and fee’s if not you could have a nice surprise on check-in at your expense, literally. I hope you all enjoyed the read and guide on to Disney lodging, know your perks and ask every detail, as for Orlando lodging in general the same concepts apply, it’s a great vacation area and my favorite part of Florida. Have a great day guys! See you tonight! Now off to the multi hour drive to the happiest place! Adventure is out there! (How many of you know that’s from one of my favorite movies UP! ?)

Cheers,

-Ian.

PS: Sorry for any grammatical errors, wrote this fast before jumping into the car to Disney.

Tips to the Kingdom: Series intro.

Hey everyone, let me share with you guys some exciting news, the blog has reached 500 views! and so many from around the world, I’m honored to have everyone reading my work and I never thought this would happen!

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Happiest place on Earth

Anyways, today I bring you my first installment of my new Disney World themed series, Tips to the Kingdom. Today is an introduction to the series, as I mentioned before the inspiration for the series was my love for the happiest place on Earth, Walt Disney World, but that happy place can be quite expensive my friends!

EPCOT magic

EPCOT magic

So this weekend, live from the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, I’ll be bringing you tips on how to vacation with mickey while bringing some of that magic to your wallet. The series will include tips on accommodations, theme park tickets, food, on-site activities, and tours/experiences. The tips will vary from how to save money, from what not miss out on to what to do on what times. I will also live blog every night to share my day with you guys and when I return expect 2 reviews/reports. So as most of you my readers know, I’ve had an annual pass to Disney for two years now, but long before that I’ve been going to this place on standard tickets, so I know my way around. Did you guys know you can learn archery on property? Things like those I’ll be sharing and more from my favorite place on Earth, Disney. Not to mention I’m taking some behind the scenes tours on property! So here’s the break down for the weekend, I depart Friday and return Sunday:

Wednesday 24th: How to pack the perfect carry-on.

Friday 26th: Tips to the Kingdom-Stay on property but off property! Tips to lodging. Night blog: Downtown Disney and more.

Saturday 27th: Tips to the Kingdom- When, Where, What to eat and do at WDW. Night blog: Day 1 at parks (Magic Kingdom & EPCOT) including quick summary of Keys to the Kingdom tour.

Can you face Everest at Animal kingdom?

Can you face Everest at Animal kingdom?

Sunday 28th: Tips to the Kingdom- Lines and Times: tips on when to hit WDW and best advice of managing your time at the parks. Night blog (I return home this night, I might blog Monday morning instead): Day 2 at parks (Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios) and quick rundown of lunch at Le Cellier, Disney’s premiere steakhouse.

The following week look for the final wrap up of the series for this trip, and as well as my report/review of the Keys to the Kingdom backstage tour and review of Le Cellier (For the price per dish it better be amazing!).

Thanks to everyone who made the 500 possible from every corner of the world! From Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, to Austria, UK, Germany, to the US and Canada, It means so much to me! As always, Adventure is out there!

-Cheers,

Ian

I leave you with some pictures from Disney:

Got to preview Test Track some weeks before it opened to the public in November

Got to preview Test Track some weeks before it opened to the public in November

Venice or Disney?

Venice or Disney?

New Fantasyland last year soon after opening, Got to preview Enchanted story time with Belle before opening last year as well!

New Fantasyland last year soon after opening, Got to preview Enchanted story time with Belle before opening last year as well!

Let’s make it 600?

AirBerlin MIA-DUS-VCE/BCN-DUS-MIA report

Hey everyone! Although later than I promised, I bring you my first trip report! There were two legs on my trip each of which consisted of 2 sections, bringing it up to 4 flights in total making AB the airline i’ve flown the most with. Now this is just a trip report with photo’s, however for a full review of the airline checkout my previous post of AirBelin Review. If you guys have any further questions, please let me know on any of my forms of contact listed in the contact tab! Ok here we go, enjoy!

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Well this trip begins at my home in a northern suburb heading to MIA (Miami International Airport). As every south Floridian knows, we hate our airports. While most of us fly out of MIA, we all highly prefer FLL since it is much easier and faster, although we like to avoid our airports overall. MIA in specific is so dated, the exterior facade looks like something out of a 60’s movie, and the interior soon follows.IMG_7633 Old humidity drenched carpets line the concourses, dirty windows, minimal lighting, bad food choices and dirty bathrooms soon follow. In fact when I flew out to London last year, everything in my concourse was closed except a PizzaHut to go booth. There is one brighter side, that is concourse J, the brand new south terminal which is splendid, although still lacks in things to do while you’re awaiting your flight. My flight departed MIA at 3:55PM, AB7001 departing from E concourse (OneWorld partners use this concourse). We arrived early at around 2pm to check in, after saying our goodbyes we crossed through the threshold of adventure, albeit not a very pretty one, but non the less the start of our vacation abroad. Upon arrival at MIA you are met with low ceilings, and well illuminated check in desks, as well as a small array of shops and restaurants (may I say, better selection pre-security than post.)IMG_7652 We reached the AB check in counter and began the process, we ran into a small issue with our documentation being that I booked my mom’s trip under her married name and not her maiden name which is on her passport (oops!). However our desk agent was more than happy to take care of the small issue quickly as my siblings and I had a friendly who has the lightest luggage contest. After we fixed the issue, we were checked in as well as received our tickets for this flight and our Venice connection at DUS.  Now it was off to the TSA! I’ve found that MIA TSA is quite friendly, last year the agent had a nice conversation with my friends and I about our trip, it made the fact that somewhere someone was seeing us naked less awkward! Although I’m a strong supporter of strict security measures, if it means I’ll be safe, I’m fine removing my shoes, walking through an x-ray and all. Once we moved past security, Me being the aviation fan boy I am, decided we needed to see the newly refurbished AA concourse, plus we still had over an hour till boarding and our concourse was nasty.IMG_7644 After a long walk, we reached the new area and it was quite nice! Still some work left but nevertheless it is a much needed upgrade from before. After grabbing some Chinese take out food like every good American we headed to our gate. Boarding was a bit messy considering they had 4 cramped gates for 4 wide-bodies including a 747-4 from BA. So at 3:50 a bit later than expected, they began boarding our A330. While waiting I got to see the fantastic ‘Queen of the Skies‘ a BA744 pull up to their gate. We began boarding a few minutes late (not that we minded considering our 6am arrival to Germany), something I found interesting was that there were 2 service dogs boarding into the main cabin like us, Let me tell you that they were the quietest passengers on board! When you reach the front of the bridge right before the plane, AB has a nice selection of reading materials in both German and English including newspapers and magazines, a nice touch normally saved for first class in US carriers and some EU as well. Upon entering through the main door you are greeted by a basket with small fruit flavored hard candies individually wrapped in AB wrappers and a warm greeting in either English or German by an FA.

Current leg: Orange, MIA-DUS-VCE

Current leg: Orange, MIA-DUS-VCE

They check your ticket and inform you to turn left into first class or right to one of the 2 economy cabins. We quickly entered and put our luggage up and took our seats. Sadly this was my one downfall on AB economy flights. since you’re not allowed to choose your seating until you reach the gate unless you pay (and our flight was full), my siblings and I got stuck in the last row before the mid class lavatories, hence our seats did not recline and we were stuck in between 4 bathrooms since we were in the middle row.IMG_7656 AB’s 330 has a 2-4-2 layout in economy yet I felt more spacious than Swiss’ same layout the previous year, still cramped though. On our seats awaited a blue soft blanket wrapped in plastic, a small pillow with the AB logo on it and my favorite, an Amenity Kit! I felt so special receiving one in economy, this is a luxury no one gives economy anymore! And it wasn’t cheap either (unlike my plane ticket!). Keep in mind AB gives Amenity kits on nighttime long haul flights, daytime flights only get the pillow and blanket. The kit includes: Travel size toothbrush with cap and toothpaste, nice warm plane socks, AB grey and and red sleeping mask, and earplugs, from seeing previous reports AB’s first class receives the same 4 items plus added bonuses, all this came packed in a nice cotton pouch labeled with the AB logo and a really cool engine fan blade graphic. IMG_7657While we finished boarding I snapped some pics of the kit for you guys! I kept everything in the kit (I didn’t use anything but the sleeping mask since I already brought nice socks myself in prep) for my next flight. Soon the plane was fully boarded and after a quick 5 more minutes we left the gate and made the trudge to the runway, sorry no pics of that, I got stuck with a middle aisle seat! As fast as we left the gate our engines started up and we lifted off the ground right after I sent my last text in the US for the next 16 days. After a few minutes we reached cruising altitude and the FA’s came around handing out headphones if you needed (AB used to charge $5 for this, however now are included) While not the nicest (are there any economy headphones that are actually good?) they were in-ears meaning a little more sound canceling than others so I was happy, but I brought my own. After playing with the IFE a bit and plugging my iphone in to the convenient on screen USB plug I was settled in and I began to smell food. Although I had breakfast at home and a quick snack at the airport I was hungry. Around an hour and a half into the flight the FA’s emerged with the food and drink carts, this was perhaps my highlight of the flight! While options were pretty standard (chicken or pasta) it’s everything around it that made me feel like I wasn’t in economy (while other carriers offer things like what I’m about to say, no of them offer it in a way as AB does that makes you feel like you’re in business class, that is until you try to move in your seat and you realize how small it is in economy!) IMG_7659The FA’s were very nice and made a couple of jokes with us and were a good mix of male and female FA’s, not too young but not old either, they were seasoned FA’s. Much like any airline merger you can always see remnants of the name that didn’t survive the merger, on AB you see it in some of the equipment and cart bins still labeled LTU. Our turn came and we were offered the options of, well… Chicken or pasta, I chose the chicken wanting to be full to fall asleep faster.  My meal was a nicely seasoned chicken and some non exciting over cooked rice (this was the downside). This was accompanied by an amazing German potato salad dish which I’ve tried in many German restaurants back home and is a personal favorite, garnished with some chives and followed by a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, a dinner roll with brie cheese and butter, and an AB red plastic mug for the later stuff. Let’s just say I kept the mug and am currently drinking some coffee from it as I write. The drink options were a definite highlight, so many non alcoholic drink options from soda, many juices (my brother got a tomato juice they serve it with salt and pepper on the side), and alcoholic drinks such as beer, wines (my parents enjoyed some with dinner, the option includes red and white wine) and other spirits, lets just say we found great drinks to compliment our meal. I finished my main meal and cleaned the bowl the salad came in, and the brie! It was Nice that the AB meal came in a hard plastic tray and the side items in hard plastic containers (comparing to UA and Swiss long-haul which came in flimsy plastic container). I kept my cake and spoon and my tray was cleared and the FA’s followed with a coffee and tea service, this is done on the serving carts but the FA’s have nice trays they extend to you and you place your mug, IMG_7661they fill it with your choice and extend it back to you, on the tray are nice containers which carry sugar and in another cream if you’d like to grab which I did for my tea. I finished off my cake with my tea and the FA’s cleared the cabin and did a run of complimentary water bottles for everyone to have during the ‘sleeping’ period of the flight. The lights were dimmed and I decided to do some solitaire while sipping on my tea to pass the time, after a couple of aggravating rounds of solitaire that I lost I gave up and dried my mug and saved it, I pulled out my sleeping mask after a quick bathroom stop, adjusted my headrest and put on my blanket and tried to sleep while listening to the many options on the IFE (from Beyonce to classical, you can add songs to your playlist and listen to that instead of whole albums and such which I thought was very nice). Due to the position of the seat by the bathroom sleeping was a failed effort and so I resorted to drawing to pass the time and it flew by (no pun intended)! Sure enough we were 2 hours prior to landing, and the lights came back on for breakfast. Breakfast as a meal wasn’t as exciting as dinner flavor wise.IMG_7662 Again the FA’s came around happily offering our meal. It wasn’t the best I’ve had but considering the 10:30pm time back home I was on, I wasn’t picky. the meal included of a deli dish which had some cheddar, turkey, and salami, wasn’t amazing but it went nicely with the butter and bread rolls on the side, it came garnished with a tiny pickle and tomato. Along side it were a nice fruit parfait which was refreshing with the blueberry muffin. I got myself orange juice to go with it, scarfed it down since I was hungry and was ready for another tea while I enjoyed some more drawing. I didn’t want tea when my FA went around but as the FA on the other row passed I changed my mind and she was happy to serve me some even though I wasn’t in her section. Quickly after breakfast was cleared the FA’s came around for a hot towel service, which was nice considering the look on my face from not sleeping, and I wouldn’t be for another 20 some hours, they passed them out and picked them up fast.

ORD being my favorite airport I was happy to see AA's new ORD-DUS flight here

ORD being my favorite airport I was happy to see AA’s new ORD-DUS flight here

Just like that we were on approach to Dusseldorf and quickly we landed and began our way to the gate. This was perhaps the most stable flight I’ve ever been on, no movement at all. We arrived at our gate, seatbelt signs turned off, we grabbed our bags, I grabbed 3 complimentary post cards on the way out and was waved goodbye and told ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ (goodbye in German) and entered the cold of Germany. Remember the dogs? I forgot about them too until we landed. We went through passport control, our bags would be transferred by AB to our next plane, and we entered DUS, what a beautiful airport!

Stunning airport, love the AA ORD ad

Stunning airport, love the AA ORD ad

As an aviation fanboy I was overjoyed by its model airplane shop, huge observation windows, observation deck and a lot of aviation touches. As a regular flyer I was thrilled with its cleanliness, wide spaces, great food, stores and ease of movement. As an architect student I was blown away by the structures of the main hall which is stunning and all the details in the concourses.

I love a 340 so this was a treat, I also believe this was heading to ORD

I love a 340 so this was a treat, I also believe this was heading to ORD

The airport really blew me away, far better than expected and I had my first authentic German food experience here as well, it was different. A couple of hours after landing, the stores opened up and I ran to the model shop, I was let down by their lack of 1:400 scale models, but happy to see some 1:200 in person and some 1:500. We did some more store hopping around the terminal after we left the security area and explored around a bit. Let me tell you how well Germans were dressed, and here I was as comfortable as I could get in public with basketball shorts and an Italy soccer jersey and sneakers (since warm Italy was our final stop). I threw on a sweater vest I had in my carry on to fancy up a bit but it wasn’t enough haha. The hours passed and it was time to head to our gate for our Venice flight, which was delayed 30 minutes overall, this was bad for us considering how short our time in Venice already was. We headed to security, I forgot to take my belt off and was escorted to a small side cubicle for a pat down and was let go. The concourses at DUS are wonderful, they have a warm homey feel and good shopping and eating.

Seems like DUS is over capacity

Seems like DUS is over capacity

We reached our gate and I sat watching the planes go by which for a fanatic like me having the view of a 340 and the main runway was thrilling. Perhaps the weirdest part of the Germany were the airport bathrooms for which I have no words for. To my surprise our plane was on a remote stand and we had to be bussed to it, I, never having boarded on the tarmac was as thrilled as a child going to Disney world.

I was freezing

I was freezing

That was until I put a foot outside in the 50 degree weather, I was shivering but luckily packed a jacket in my carry-on (always pack smart with stuff in your carry on! I’ll do that as a future article). We were again greeted by a nice FA and the same candies as before, sucking on them really helps you pop your ears as you climb. We boarded quickly and I took my window seat! The legroom in AB’s domestic fleet, for lack of a better word, is divine, so spacious and comfortable seats! Our ride to Venice was an Airbus 320-2 in a 3-3 configuration which was comfortable. We buckled in, saw a quick safety video on the overhead screens and we departed quickly as we were already late. Once in the air a snack service began, they offered soda and other non alcoholic options and a bag of chips or a twix bar as a snack, I opted for the chips.

More like wasabi to me

More like wasabi to me

I got a bag of German brand chips flavored as ‘American Cream/honey mustard’, I’m sorry Germans, but have you been to the states? Those chips were repulsive, it was like eating wasabi covered lays, no one finished the bag and I had to drown two cokes to remove the flavor. Thank goodness they’re limited edition, they should of never been an edition to begin with. As the flight went on I knocked out, with all that legroom it’s hard not to, I was spread out sleeping like a mad man. After some time we began our approach into Venice, I was missing my time on these seat already, but our captain made up most of our half hour delay, we arrived only 8 minutes behind schedule, upon exiting the plane we were handed AirBerlin chocolate hearts which were delightfully tasty and a nice touch as we walked on the tarmac into the busses to the terminal with an EK330 next to us, let’s just say the aviation fan in me was overwhelmed with so much awesome. As I said right after we landed an Emirates A330 landed which was awesome to see an Emirates bird in person while standing on the tarmac right next to the runway, definitely up there with watching my cruise sail away through Venice while standing on the top front of the ship during a thunderstorm at 1am, let’s just say when I vacation there is no time for resting, I can do that back home.

simply beautiful

simply beautiful

The approach into Venice is now one of my favorites, truly beautiful, I’d tell you what side to sit on to see the island, but I’ll let you guys figure that out with simple wind patterns and runway orientation. Just like that my long 20+ hour journey into Venice from Miami was done, on perhaps the most comfortable set of flights I’ve ever experienced. AB pilots were fantastic in handling their planes, very little turbulence, got us there on time, Flight attendants were good as well and a lot of little perks you normally don’t get in economy made it nice. Well that wraps up part I of this review, part II will be the return flight, which is coming now, so if you’re like me, go take a break, stretch out a bit, use the bathroom, re-fill your drink, pet your dog or other pet, text your mother, look out the window, shuffle your music a bit, re-heat left over pizza, look up a recipe for a cake in a mug, start planning your next trip, lay on the floor and ponder the universe, RECOMMEND THIS BLOG TO EVERYONE!… That’s all I did between writing the two parts. So now buckle up, here we go for Part two!!

PART II BCN-DUS-MIA

Current leg: PURPLE BCN-DUS-MIA

Current leg: PURPLE BCN-DUS-MIA

After a fantastic 2 and a half weeks exploring places like Istanbul, Athens, Naples and Barcelona it was time to head home sadly. When booking this flight I saw that all connection from BCN arrived too late to connect to MIA in time so I happily booked us with a 23 hour layover in Dusseldorf to give us an extra day in Europe and give us a day in Germany which we’ve always wanted to see! So June 4th came and we checked out of our hotel in Barcelona and grabbed a cab to El Prat.

check in area

check in area

Our flight was still a morning flight so we arrived early and checked in, unlike MIA or DUS, check in here was eternal! That’s what happens when your staff is hired by swissport and not the airline, so our check in staff did not speak German, yet were working for a German airline. Our check in girl was new and put our luggage to stay at the airport over night, even though we had a 23 hour layover, you go girl! Luckily we caught her mistake and told her, she fixed it and after almost an hour of checking in we went through security, people complain about US TSA, Barcelona’s act like they’re being forced to be there and tortured, we passed after some queuing and entered BCN.

nice interior with good shopping

nice interior with good shopping

Let me give you the Airport Ian Review rundown, or AIR, as an:

Aviation Enthusiast: This airport was nice, had big windows to see the runways and tarmac so it was nice, heavy activity can be seen, I saw an SQ 773 parked, some Iberia long-hauls and a lot of US bound traffic at one point the area looked like I was walking through ORD or ATL with 2DL and 1US wide-bodies parked and a UA wide-body taxiing to its gate.

BCN or ORD?

BCN or ORD?

Architect Student: While to me not as impressive as DUS, this airport was still impressive, I know T1 is new and thus very modern and striking with its large seemingly singular piece waving ceiling. Its big expansive floor, easy to navigate mall and concourse made it nice, yet it lacks a way to quickly reach the end of the ridiculously long concourse.

Air China 330 at DUS, my first chinese carrier sighting

Air China 330 at DUS, my first chinese carrier sighting

Frequent Flyer: BCN is kind of easy to navigate, there’s a few gates not on the main concourse that if you don’t read the signs you’ll miss. great dinning options, great modern look, good stores including a huge ZARA. Yet it’s staff was the not so good, cleaning staff were nice, but official airport staff (not including stores and/or restaurants) were kind of slow and sometimes rude.

love the diversity at DUS

love the diversity at DUS

Over all it wasn’t bad, I’d of liked more time to explore, but our check-in lady made sure we didn’t have that time. After running to our gate after a rushed McDonalds breakfast (you can tell where I’m from) we encountered the same girl from check-in at our gate! You can imagine we were over joyed especially since we were almost the last to board (one couple after us). Luckily the other gate agent scanned our tickets and we were off on our AB 321 for our short journey to DUS.

Istanbul 2020 a330

Istanbul 2020 a330

Much like our flight to VCE, the legroom on this was nice, AB has a 3-3 configuration on these babies and the staff was nice greeting us with hard candies again and light reading materials and telling us welcome aboard. After boarding finished and after a short delay during push-back we were off to the runway, after an Iberia bird landed we were next and soon enough we took off with beautiful views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean. BCN is awfully close to the center of Barcelona so getting there is fast and take offs fly close to the city. Shortly into our flight the meal service began, there was a drink round and again some soft drinks included, then an actual meal round.

my breakfast

my breakfast

The options were a salami or cheese sandwich, I went for salami, the sandwich was quite tasty and had a corn salsa type of cream on it to compliment the filling, not the best sandwich I’ve ever had but for a 1.5 hour flight domestically in Europe it was a much appreciated surprise. Especially compared to what I’ve received on domestic US flights of longer times (a bag of peanuts). This aircraft had aisle TV’s and headphones were distributed if you wanted, they had a good mix of music videos, and US comedy shows. Not too long after our trash was collected and we landed in Dusseldorf for a fantastic day in Germany, This time I came ready in nice warm clothing… It was one of their hottest days… We spent a great day in Dusseldorf filled with impressive shopping, amazing dinning, great views, history, it was just above and beyond my expectations, I want to return to Germany so bad now! After our amazing day in Germany we headed to the train station and got on a quick train to DUS from the city center, we arrived and I ran to buy my snow globe at one of the shops (I collect snow globes from where I go) and headed up to the check in area, we were greeted with nice smiles and funny chatter and were told our flight wasn’t very full so it was not worth it to choose seats, we could just get up and move around the cabin, they checked in our bags, made some comments about Miami we laughed at and wished us a safe trip and we were off. Security was alright, we had an agent angry that everyone was using her line and not the other open line, yet we came to her line because it was shorter… After that we did some duty free shopping, our last in EU for a bit and grabbed a quick bite to eat by our gate and headed to our plane. IMG_8406 We reached our gate and said our goodbyes to Germany and boarded our 330, again we were greeted with newspapers and magazines and that famous hard candy! I crossed the galley to my row, I had a stranger as a seat mate which is actually the first time it happens so I was kind of excited. I settled down, happy I had an aisle seat and wasn’t by that horrendous bathroom area and met my seat mate. On this flight our seats only had the blanket and pillow, no amenity kit since the flight was during the day, no worries I still had mines from before. Sadly I didn’t photograph the food this time, I was distracted talking with the lady next to me! She was very nice, had a son around my age but she was still young, she works for a company that makes stabilizers for yatchs and gets to travel a lot, we talked the whole time and shared pictures of our trips. But I was still well aware of everything around me thinking, “This has to go on my blog”. So an hour and a half into the flight again the meal service began, for this flight I’d say my FA wasn’t as attentive as the one before, it was an older male, who seem to not want to help as much as his counterparts. The meal service began, the same basic chicken or pasta choice, again I chose chicken, it wasn’t as good, but it wasn’t bad, they again had my potato salad which my seat mate said she didn’t like and I was baffled at such remarks! However dessert this time was a brownie, but no brie cheese for my roll (I like brie). My sister got the pasta option which I tried, it was surprisingly delicious in a cream and mushroom sauce. I finished my meal and my oh so happy attendant cleared it and his co-worker came around much happier offering tea and coffee again, the same alcoholic and non alcoholic drink choices were available on this flight as on the MIA-DUS flight. When I poured my cream and sugar into my tea my seat-mate was asking me why I did that, she was cool, but her taste in food was so bland! We enjoyed our drinks over some chatter and another water bottle round was done for us, and then the lights were dimmed after a last trash round. I kept chatting and eventually she went to take a nap to so I went to see some TV, and again, drew for a while. Attempting to sleep, I couldn’t with the brightness of the sun in the cabin. After a long time into our 10 hour flight pretty much we experienced some turbulence that quickly ended and the lunch/pre landing snack service began. It had a small part of a veggie and deli wrap, which was good in flavor but soggy from sitting on a plane, another yogurt parfait, a bread roll with some deli slices on the side, and a small cookie along with all the drink choices. Soon after finishing they cleared the trays as I watched a movie on the IFE, and did another tea and hot towel run before the final stretch. IMG_8409An hour after, we were preparing to land and buckled our belts, I said my goodbyes to my seat mate and then we touched down and hit the breaks and I turned my cell phone on to see I only missed a call and two texts in my time abroad. We parked at the same gate we departed and began de-boarding and we got our stuff and filed out into MIA, the humidity hits you a bit when you step down, parking at another terminal from where immigration is was a joy. We walked around a mile inside small corridors to reach the AA terminals upstair and the immigration hall, this was a mess. A huge amount of people overflowing from all OW flights and AA international flights, we arrived and soon after the BA flight (a 747) arrived and multiple caribbean AA flights, combined with the already existing lines and US residents get pushed with immigrants here and so the line was incredible.IMG_8410 Having flown into MIA on Swiss which uses the new terminal on concourse J, immigration there is so fast and as a resident I go into the citizen line, we cleared immigration there in 10 minutes, unlike our almost 2 hours this time. Our luggage was all set aside, since we took so long the carousel was no longer spinning. Once we got our stuff we cleared customs in 5 minutes and entered MIA and as soon as we exited the airport doors the heat and humidity hit us like a freight truck full of dried concrete. Then it started raining, it wouldn’t be the full Floridian greeting without rain! What we took away from this is that we definitely would fly AB again in a heart beat, in fact I’m looking into them for my Israel trip next year. That sums up the trip, thanks to all my readers, and if you read this whole 5,000 word plus post, I thank you so much! Check out the rest of my blog if this is your first time on, and visit frequently for more travel awesomeness, recommend this blog to everyone you know! I really want more readers and you guys can help me achieve that! Leave any question or comments below or send them to my e-mail listed on the contact tab. Check out my previous AirBerlin review post for more. See you guys soon! As always, adventure is out there!

Cheers,

Ian

PS: I leave you with some pics!

This is my travel map! the red and white are places I’ve met people from and I want to go to, the black is where i’ve been, my goal is to replace them all to black! Here’s the before and after my trip

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And here are my snow globes!

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Thanks for reading!

Next Stop: …Instagram! @nextstopblog

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Hey everyone! Next Stop Blog is now on Instagram: @nextstopblog ! Give me a follow! It’s finally here, now you can follow the insta page to see 2-5 daily of your features from around the globe! Follow the directions on the page on how to get your photo featured for hundreds to see! It’s the next step in getting this blog to everyone! Look out tonight or tomorrow morning for my AirBerlin trip review, and soon for a post on how I managed a 16 day, 7 country 11 city trip all inclusive to Europe for round $3,500! Thanks to everyone that’s reading, I appreciate it! In the words of my favorite show, Allons-y!

-Regards,

Ian

AirBerlin review

Hey everyone! I’m back from Europe, well I’ve been back but I’ve had a huge busy schedule when I returned that included busy work hours. So after two days off and a nice morning off I decided to finally tell you all about my fantastic trip! Lets begin with my review:

airberlin-Logo

Air Berlin (Code: AB)

Type: EUC (European Carrier) and LC (Low Cost)

Routes offered: Domestic Europe, North America, Central America, Africa, Thailand, Middle East.

Rating: 9

Best route flown: Hard to say, they were all good! but I’d say MIA-DUS on the hard product, BCN-DUS based on all.

Class flown: Economy (What I’m flying), first is offered on long haul intl.

Freebies: Snacks on all flights, soft drinks and select alcohol, cold and/or warm meals on select domestic flights and on all international flights, amenity kits on all classes (even economy on select night flight! not as large as business or first).

Fantastic airline! That is all I can say, At first I was hesitant to book AirBerlin, with their low prices, and relatively bad reviews on some travel sites. My opinion is that people give reviews to these airlines expecting first class service while flying economy, I mean seriously! Comparing the service I received on this long haul economy to what I’ve received on Legacy carriers in both Europe (Swiss which is rated as one of the best) and America (Delta and United) it puts those three to shame! I got an amenity kit in economy on my overnight outbound flight, I have never heard of that even on the asian carriers! The food was plenty and good, better flavors than on others, the drink choice in economy far better than even Swiss including everything from Beer to multiple wines and spirits. They offered separate coffee and tea runs served in nice red plastic AirBerlin mugs, and as well as a complimentary water bottle service before they dim the lights for the in between meal service haul. On the afternoon domestic flights they offered chips or Twix as a snack and soft drinks and juices, My morning domestic flight offered a nice sandwich with a corn salsa type cream inside. Service wasn’t bad, one or two attendants were not very good and did bring me down a bit, but It happens on every flight. The AVOD system on the long haul flight was great, offered a great choice of everything and the TV episodes were consecutive, which most carriers don’t do, they just put random episodes. The games were working (unlike Swiss) and while the long haul legroom wasn’t very comfortable, but neither was United’s or Swiss’. How ever the domestic legroom was fantastic! Best domestic legroom I’ve ever experienced. Over all, AirBerlin’s product was so good, I’m thinking of sticking to them for my long haul flying, I even got 9.5 thousand reward miles for my flights and I have a plastic rewards cards! As for Dusseldorf International, It is seriously my favorite airport. With all this, I rate AirBerlin with the highest score ever, in fact with this experience, I re-rated my past airlines, check it our on the Airlines I’ve flown post under the Aviation Corner section. The less than $1000 price tag on 4 flights also gave AB a huge boost!

My First trip Report will be coming later this week, probably tomorrow night, it’ll be for all 4 AB flights. I haven’t forgotten about my Chicago City Guide, but for now I’m putting the city guide section on a as I finish I post terms, meaning the Chicago guide will probably take at least another month as I keep writing reviews on cities, tour companies and Norwegian. For all my Aviation enthusiast, I’ll be giving a short summary of the on going Paris Air show soon. If you need any tips or references, please e-mail me or comment below to let me know you’re all reading! I feel like no one is really reading, but as long as one person is, I’ll keep on writing, If you’re that one person let me know! I’ll write my trip report soon! Adventure is out there!

-Cheers, Ian

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