Extending Your Disney Vacation
Like many others, my family treats Walt Disney World vacations differently than trips to other destinations. The preparations start earlier and are much more enjoyable, and we always find ways to extend the fun on the way back home and even afterward.
There’s something special about making the most of each trip and weaving a little Disney “magic” into the everyday. Here are just a few of the ways we’ve discovered—mostly by accident—to enjoy the anticipation and afterglow of our WDW visits.
Joffrey’s Coffee: It’s no secret that there is a strong link between taste and memory, and one of the best ways to anticipate and/or remember a Walt Disney World trip is through your taste buds. While I’ve never been impressed by the standard coffee served at Disney quick-serve restaurants, Joffrey’s coffee is a different story. I still remember the first time I tried it in Hollywood Studios and have been hooked ever since.
Headquartered in nearby Tampa, this company partnered with Disney in 2013 as the “official specialty coffee brand” of the parks. How this works with all the Starbucks locations is a mystery to me, but as long as they keep serving it I won’t ask questions. You can find it in kiosks at the Studios (one, for example, just outside the Tower of Terror exit), and in each of the other parks. These also offer incredibly good pastries that as far as I know still come from The Donut King in Winter Park. If you really want the full experience, try the Joffrey’s Tea Traders Café in The Landings at Disney Springs, where a cast member will make a cup just for you in a coffee press. Whenever I order one of these and drink it while walking around the Springs, people inevitably smell it and ask, “Where did you get that coffee?”
As far as I know, Joffrey’s is not sold in supermarkets. Publix used to carry it, but no longer. However, it is easy to order online and drinking it on my morning commute is almost as good as being there! After trying several different varieties, I have to admit my hands-down favorite is Carthay Circle (the signature coffee of the Disney California Adventure restaurant by the same name, so not technically a WDW variety). Epcot’s Le Cellier blend runs a close second.
Pot Roast Mac & Cheese: In keeping with the taste and memories theme, a homemade version of this Magic Kingdom staple has become one of our favorite ways to prep for and remember our Disney vacations. The original is served at The Friar’s Nook in Fantasyland (near The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) and sells for $8.99. You can find lots of different recipes online; our version costs about $3.50 per person and takes less than 30 minutes to make. All it takes is a Hormel Beef Roast Au Jus (don’t get the Roast Beef—it’s not as authentic-tasting) and Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese, both prepared according to the directions. Simply serve some of the mac and cheese into a bowl, put a little pot roast on top (chives and Fantasyland area music optional) and that’s it. Eat it out of a paper bowl with a plastic fork for the full experience!
FastPass+ and Advance Dining Reservations: Making FastPass+ and ADR’s in the months leading up to your trip is not only a great way to build on the anticipation, but (as I’ve said in another post) a must-do in order to get the most out of your vacation once you arrive. While many families have one member who makes all the arrangements, it’s more fun to sit down as a group, talk through all the options, and make your selections together. This allows everyone to have a say in decisions about what to do (and when) and to enjoy the excitement of thinking through in-park experiences even before you get there. Whether you make all the arrangements yourself or take advantage of the free expertise of ConciEARS, discussing and deciding what you’d like to do as a family is one of our favorite aspects of our Disney World vacations.
Music: It’s an understatement to say that music is an integral part of the Disney parks experience. Attractions, resorts, restaurants, shops, and even most restrooms feature music specifically themed to the environment. This is an important part of what makes visiting the parks a full-fledged multisensory experience. It’s no surprise, then, that Disney music is a great way to relive memories from a previous trip and/or enjoy the anticipation of an upcoming one. Whether it is in the car or at home, there are lots of great options: Our favorites are three CD collections that bring together music from Disney attractions, movies (including some Broadway versions), and TV shows. The first and largest is Disney Classics, a collection of 95 songs organized by original venue. A smaller but similar compilation is Disney: The Music Behind the Magic. Finally, The Official Walt Disney World Album contains music from across the 4 parks and is by far the best for playing in the car on the way down I-4. There are also lots of good YouTube playlists with area music from all over the parks.
Movies: Friday is family movie night at our house, and the ones we watch in the weeks leading up to a Walt Disney World trip are not surprisingly all selected in anticipation of the big day. While we always enjoy well-known classics like Peter Pan and more modern blockbusters (except for Frozen—not for a while, anyway), we have more recently expanded the selections to explore some we had never seen before. A great place to start if you’re interested in doing the same is Lou Mongello’s WDW Radio podcast episode #424 on “Movies You Should Watch Before Visiting Walt Disney World.” For example, Johnny Tremain and Summer Magic are not only fun to watch, but will also give you a new perspectives on Liberty Square and Main Street U.S.A.
Photos: Walt Disney is quoted as having said, “Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.” When it comes to planning a Disney vacation, sitting down as a family to look at pictures from past trips is a great way to build excitement, help everyone think of things they want to do again or try for the first time on the next trip, and get some good laughs in the process. Although we mostly enjoy photos we take ourselves, PhotoPass shots from the attractions are some of our favorites. There’s no better way, for example, to capture the inevitably funny look on someone’s face as they speed toward the first loop on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
If you’re using Magic Bands, PhotoPass photos will automatically show up in your My Disney Experience account where you can review and download them (there’s no need to tap the Mickey Head under the photo monitor as you exit the ride, even though lots of people still do it). There are also lots of sites with great advice on taking photos and shooting video in the parks. One of the most helpful I’ve found is from Nikon and it provides suggestions for taking better photos, broken down by park. I’m no expert, so my only tip is to take plenty of pictures and videos, but avoid the temptation to try and capture every minute of your vacation. Too many guests spend what looks like the majority of their time in the parks with a phone in front of their faces. It may be an old-fashioned perspective, but to me memorializing the trip should never prevent you from actually participating in it. After all, the whole point of creating the Disney parks in the first place was so that families “could have fun—together.”
What are some of your family’s favorite ways to extend the enjoyment of a Disney vacation? I hope you’ll share them in the comment section below, and that some of the suggestions I’ve shared will help make the time leading up to your next Disney trip even more exciting.