I’m Done Adulting…I’m Going to Disney

If you were to ask me what my favorite ride in Disney Hollywood Studios is, hands down I would say Tower of Terror.  But…

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The last few months I have felt like I have been living in the Twilight Zone.  My life and emotions have been very similar to that of the Tower of Terror thanks to the constant changes in my job.  Just when it seems to get close to normal, the floor drops out from below me…

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I am DONE ADULTING!  To quote my favorite Disney bear, Koda, I want to “tell everybody” that I am on my way home to the most magical place on Earth for my annual Heigh-Ho trip.  What you don’t speak Disney? (We will have to fix that.)

Translation:  Tonight, as soon as I finish my day job, I will be traveling to Walt Disney World for my annual working vacation as an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.  

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I just love telling people that I “HAVE TO GO” to Walt Disney World, it’s a tough job. My working vacation is all about you, my Disney Travel clients. It is during this trip, that I  try to pack in as many NEW EXPERIENCES as I can to make your trip more magical. No matter how many times I go to Walt Disney World, I always seem to have a long list of NEW experiences.  Walt Disney World is constantly changing, growing, expanding, updating, and refurbishing so it is very easy to create a list of things that I have not experienced. In fact, a whole new land opened in June that I have yet to explore .    

I want to invite you to come along on this working vacation through the power of social media.  We will be “whistling while we work” as I am planning a full out social media blitz this week, with different content across all of these 4 sites…  

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I am also going to be giving everyone* following along and interacting, a chance to win up to a $200 in a Disney Vacation Credit* as well as a few daily giveaways as a thank you for being a part of my “working vacation.”  

For complete rules and details…

Heigh-Ho Contest: Details & Rules

Get ready by following me on each of my social media platforms and then be on the lookout starting about 6 pm CST as we officially punch the time card…

I will C U real soon and remember that life is always better when you are wearing ears!

Tammie’s Take Thursday:  Refurbished Rooms at Coronado Springs Resort (CSR)

Up until last fall, Disney Coronado Springs Resort had never been on the top of my list to stay at.  After staying there last November, I find myself asking “Why not?”. This little hidden gem between Disney Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom quickly soared to the top of my list as a favorite moderate resort.   Disney Coronado Springs theming is inspired by northern Mexico and the American Southwest and set around a 22-acre-lake.

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Currently, Disney Coronado Springs Resort is going through a major construction. Walt Disney World is adding a 15-story tower to Coronado Springs Resort which will add 500 rooms to the resort and be located near the main complex, El Centro.  

Honestly, I didn’t even notice the construction except for when I was arriving or departing the resort and never heard anything. I am not going to share much about the resort as a whole, since by the time I stay there again everything will have changed.  But I will tell you that I found the pool, “Lost City of Cibola” to be excellent and the grounds beautiful.

 

Disney Coronado Springs is divided up into 3 sections, the Ranchos (Southwestern Cattle Ranch), Cabanas (Mexican Beach Resort) and Casitas (Spanish architecture from Mexico).  In addition to the tower being built, there are ongoing room refurbishments to the existing rooms during the expansion of Disney Coronado Springs. This is my take on the room renovation in the Ranchos Section ….

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When I received my room assignment text for the Rancheros, I was not pleased for several reasons… I wanted to be in a refurbished room, this section is the farthest away from El Centro and to me seemed most like the environment that I am from in my everyday life (I like to have new experiences on vacation),  but as I made my way to my room I found myself appreciating the walk (er, hike in the rain) thanks to the beautiful job Disney has done with the landscaping.

When I finally found my room (that is a whole different story), I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the door because this is what I was expecting…

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but I want I got was one of the newly refurbished rooms.  (Disney Magic Moment)

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The room has a beautiful modern,clean and  airy look to it in rich earth tone colors. The 2 queen beds are on a raised platform (leaving a wide open space underneath to store suitcases) and have massive headboard with reading lights above each bed.  

Between the two beds is a nightstand with enough convenient USB ports to charge all of your devices at once, telephone and a small thank you gift for putting up with the construction. The in-room safe is located in the middle of this table. I love the 3 Amigo artwork located throughout the room, just enough Disney to remind you where you are.

Across from the beds is one very long desk with built in drawers for storage and many more USB outlets.  I loved the reading light at the desk. There is also a mini-fridge, a Keurig coffee maker with coffee pods and ceramic mugs to drink from, and a HUGE flat screen television.  In the corner near the window is a nice comfortable sitting chair. In all of the refurbished rooms across different resorts, Disney is removing the carpet and laying laminate type flooring, here wood laminate.  I find this a welcome change and so much cleaner feeling overall.

The bathroom is separated from the sleeping area with barn doors.  I love being able to shut the bathroom off from the rest of the room.  The bathroom has a double marble vanity with lots of counter space and cupboards.  The closet has been replaced with a stand-up unit that houses the ironing board and iron.  The bathroom itself is pretty basic, but the rain shower head was delightful.

Rancheros section was so far away from the main part of the resort, El Centro, but the bus stop was right out the door which was an added plus for wanting to get to the parks quickly. The actual walk to El Centro only took about 10 minutes, I could have taken the bus as the last stop was El Centro before leaving to the parks but then I would have missed the beauty of Coronado Springs.  The “Dig Site” was a short 5 minute walk.

When selecting a resort, my biggest WANT is to be able to come back and relax after a full morning or day in the parks.  

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There’s something to say for being able to return to the resort with the ability to enjoy the most relaxing atmosphere possible. Can I come back and truly relax at Coronado Springs?  Yes, I from everything I experienced at Coronado Springs Resort it fits the relaxation requirement, so much so that I know recommend this resort to my clients despite the construction as my first choice in moderate resorts.

Looking for advice where to stay for your Walt Disney World Resort?  I have personally stayed most of the on-site Walt Disney World Resort Hotels and can give you an honest opinion on the rooms as well as the relaxation factor, just ask and when you book your vacation with me I will do everything possible to make the hotel stay just as magical as your park moments.

#(almost)wordlesswednesday: Disney Weenies

It’s #(almost)wordlesswednesday, that means linking up with Focused on the Magic to share my #DisneySide through pictures and a few words, since nothing for me is ever wordless with me!

This week we are focusing in on Disney Weenies and the first image that came to my mind was this guy (aka #monsterchild)…

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I am really hoping that he will grow out of this, but in all honesty that is not what a Disney Weenie is.

A Weenie is what Walt Disney and his Imagineers called the iconic structures or focal points in each of the Disney parks and lands. They are big enough to be seen from a distance and interesting enough to draw you closer for a better look.

Here is a look at some of at my favorite Disney Weenies from each park…

Tower of Terror in Disney Hollywood Studios

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It is really not the Weenie that makes this my favorite in Disney Hollywood Studios but what is inside these walls….

Everest in Animal Kingdom

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This is probably one of my favorite pictures I have ever taken.  I really can’t say that I get much credit other than capturing the beauty of a December rope drop morning in Animal Kingdom.

Italy Pavilion in Epcot

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Each time I visit Epcot’s Italy I am reminded of the experience of actually being in St. Mark’s Square in Venice and all the wonderful memories of our trip to Italy.  

Tangled Tower in Magic Kingdom

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One of my favorite Disney movies and certainly the most beautiful theme park bathroom areas.

What are some of your favorite Disney Weenies?  Make sure you check out my Instagram (Mylifeinears) and my Facebook Travel page to see my favorites from Walt Disney World.

Tammie’s Take Thursday: Review of Tiffins

Follow me long enough and you will find that the real reason I run and vacation at Walt Disney World is for the food.

Most days, my inner foodie is locked away.  Although I live in an area where we have more dining locations per capita than any city in the United States it is hard to unleash that adventurous foodie side of me with a Steak House on each corner, don’t get me wrong…I am “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” kind of girl.  Between Disney trips, you will find me pouring over menus, stalking trip reports and following several Facebook groups and blogs dedicated to Disney Food in search of the next tasty morsel I must try.   My Disney Food list often dictates my daily park schedule as I always have my dining list written before I have a trip, I am just that serious about Disney Food.  

One of my favorite things to do each trip is to splurge on 1 special meal each trip, a where I dress up and ignore the prices on the menu.  My splurge meal has to meet a few criteria:

  • Great Atmosphere
  • Interesting Food choices that push me out of my box
  • Amazing Dessert

Well that certainly narrows it down, almost every table service at Walt Disney World meets this criteria, for this trip I added that it had to be someplace new.

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Tiffins in Animal Kingdom caught my attention, although you could not tell that from how many times I made this ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation) and cancelled it in the 6 months leading up to my Heigh Ho/Bucket List trip as I just could not get timing worked out in my overall schedule.  Finally, it came down to being able to get a FastPass for the Rivers of Light performance with my meal, that WOW factor I suppose.

The first thing about Tiffins that caught my attention in my “Disney research” (aka blog lurking) was that Tiffins was more than just a signature restaurant, it’s a gallery of art and mementos gathered by imagineers while planning Animal Kingdom. If you love Animal Kingdom (minus Pandora), like I do this is the place to truly appreciate the park and look behind the scenes.  

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What is a Tiffin?  It is a fancy name (proper English-Indian) for not only a midday meal but the vessel used for the meal.  

I was running a little late to my reservation, thanks to the filming of the Disney Parks Christmas program or should I say I was a little distracted by who was filming…

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It was really hard to pull myself away from Darrius smooth voice, (I know he is Hootie, but I am a country fan) but I knew the meal I had visioned in my head for 6 months was about to become a tasty reality.

My check in went pretty quickly, since I was dining at the beginning of dinner service.  It was not long before I being lead to my table…

Tiffins is divided into 3 galleries or dining rooms.  The Grand Gallery is the largest where the animals (Tree of Life) is celebrated.  The Safari Gallery celebrates Eastern and Southern Africa and the Trek Gallery, Asia.  Tiffins also has a lounge, the Nomad Lounge which can be accessed through its own separate entrance or from the check in station inside.  The Nomad Lounge is an ode to the “What wisdom would you give to other travelers?” and it on the top of my Disney food list for my next trip because it has a different menu with lots of interesting offerings!  

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I was hoping to be seated in the Grand Gallery, but instead I ended up in the Trek Gallery which actually represents my favorite place in Animal Kingdom, Asia.  The Disney table gurus knew exactly where to I needed to be seated.  The first thing that struck me was how bright the room was, thanks to a huge wall of windows looking into the “wilds” of Animal Kingdom.  You would never know that you were in a theme park when looking out these windows.  The sunlight did dampen my celebration somewhat, but then I would have missed the beautiful view.  

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Looking around, I knew I was seated perfectly to enjoy all of the artwork and mementos.  Hanging next to me was probably the items that I take the most pictures of in Animal Kingdom (yes, even more than the Tree of Life), the Tibetan Prayer Flags.  They seemed to flutter above the corner booth.  And then there is this guy…

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And you know how much I love going on an expedition in hopes to encounter him! One thing I will do next trip, is to get up and look at each of the displays more closely than afar.  

If I was feeling uncomfortable about dining by myself, my Cast Member server Julie made sure that  those feelings evaporated from the moment I sat down.  In fact, she helped me make my first decision, what cocktail should I have…

Hightower Rocks (Casa Dragones Blanco Tequila, Watermelon, Sweet-n-Sour, Lime Juice). What a refreshing and light drink. Julie also brought out the complimentary Tiffins bread service.  The bread consists of Pomegranate Focaccia bread with a mix of Pomegranate, Molasses, and Olive Oil on the side. Oh my, I had forgotten what high quality olive oil tasted like which gave the dipping sauce a more savory flavor despite the molasses.  And the bread was nice, too!  I was proud of myself, as I actually paced myself with the bread plate.

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For my appetizer course, the olive oil made made want more so of course I decided upon the Heirloom Tomatos and House-Made Mozzarella (Toy Box Tomatoes, Smoked Olive Oil, Fig Vincotto). My only complaint, I wanted more!  Such a beautiful dish, not sure what the little watermelon looking things are called but they were fun!

When it was time to decide on the main course, I already knew what I was ordering months ago (although secretly I was having an inner battle with myself over the duck, next time)…

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Wagyu Striplion and House-Smoked Brisket (I told you I was a “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” girl) which included rainbow carrots, Peruivan Purple Potatoes, Sherry Shallot buter, and a guava demiglaze.  This was my opportunity to sample Wagyu beef, and I seized it. I was a little disappointed the appearance when this dish was served, I was expecting a lot more color.  What the plate lacked in color, the beef made up for it in flavor.  I had died and gone to steak paradise…tender, flavorful and most importantly cooked to MY perfection.  I savored each bite, thankful that the bread plate in front of me and my choices up until that point allowed me to really enjoy the meat!

Now to my favorite part of any meal…dessert!  Again, I knew what I was ordering 6 months ago because most of the time I base my Disney ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations) on the dessert.  I simply had to try the…

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South American Chocolate Ganache with a beautiful glass of Zuccardi Malamado Malbec Port.  I know this looks like a very tinny serving, but don’t let the size fool you, like it did me. This was the very best dark, rich Chocolate that I have ever had. This is meant to be slowly savored!  And accompanied with the glass of wine with it was the BEST DESSERT, sorry Narcoossee’s Almond Crusted Cheesecake, you have been bumped to #2.

At the end of the meal, Julie brought me an unexpected surprise, and not it was not the check, along with my River of Light Fast Pass.  

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Remember how I said that I like to celebrate by dressing up and not looking at the prices.  Well, I did not get to dress up (thank you again Southwest Airlines) but I did not look at the prices until the check came.  

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Please do not freak out. Yes, I know this is for 1 person, but remember this was my splurge meal, my treat to myself and I don’t look at prices.  Also, it came with a FastPass and if you priced each component of my 3 course meal you would find I saved a lot going with the fixed menu. Not all Disney restaurants are this pricey, this is a signature restaurant (fine dining in Disney terms). And don’t worry, I left a very nice tip!  Trust me, the portion sizes look small and they are but I can honestly tell you I left full and not uncomfortable.

If you are a fan of Animal Kingdom, are more adventurous eater, and want a place that takes you away from the theme park craziness, I recommend Tiffins! My dining experience was a masterpiece that exceeded my expectations both in atmosphere and food.

How about exploring your inner foodie side at Walt Disney World.  I have lots of great suggestions for your next meal, and it does even have to break the bank.  Although, it is fun to splurge!  Book your Disney vacation with me, and I will make sure that your taste buds are happy!

Friday Five: 5 Disney Things for 2018

The calendar page is turned so…

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I am excited for the new year, which has not been the case the last few years.  There are so many new adventures that I am working on that hopefully will impact my life (both In and out of ears) for many years to come in a good way.  Plus, there are so many Disney things that I can’t wait to experience in 2018.

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things” for 2018…

1. Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World, Disney Hollywood Studios

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I am so excited that Disney Hollywood Studios is finally getting that much needed make over that it desperately has needed.  Don’t get me wrong some of my favorite attractions are located within this park, but even those attractions have been enough to get me to the park each trip. If you have walked through the stand by line of Toy Story Mania, this is what I imagine Toy Story Land to be like.  Surrounded by larger than life toys, games and other things from my childhood…Even Mr. Grumpy can’t help but smile and be drawn back into memories.  The tinker toys get me every time.

 

2. Incredibles 2

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Seriously, Disney what has taken so long with this sequel?  If movie time was real time, Jack would be learning to drive!

3. Avengers:  Infinity War

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I admit it that I have a thing for smart alec, egocentric super heroes…I also seem to be drawn to conflicted comic villains like Loki.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would become a comic book hero fan, but thanks to Disney I can’t get enough these guys!  And once again Disney has created experience that my whole family can enjoy together.

4. Pixar Pier at Disneyland Resort, Disney California Adventure

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I am not sure when I am going to make my way back to the happiest place on earth, Disneyland but I hope it is soon because changes are also happening on the west coast with Disney.  Paradise Pier is getting rethemed Disney-style.

5. Pixar Fest at Disneyland Resort, Disnyland

But the experience I would love to be part of this summer is, Pixar Fest.

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https://disneyland.disney.go.com/events-tours/pixar-fest/

Disney’s Nighttime Spectaculars are one of my favorite experiences, as the night comes alive with magic.  Combining music, fireworks, beloved movie scenes together along with friends & family just stirs up those emotions of warm and fuzzy that are certain to bring a tear down my cheek.

I am not certain that I will make it home to the happiest or most magical places on earth in 2018, but I know I will be at the movie theater and stalking friends & family’s trips because 2018 appears to be a great Disney year.

What Disney things are you most excited for?  Drop me a comment and tell me…

Remember that I can help you plan that vacation so that you can be part of the Pixar coast to coast fun this summer!  Disney has just released Summer 2018 package & room promotions…

Friday Fives: 5 Things Disney that I loved in 2017

Yep, this is going to be another one of those ends of the year reflection posts that are so prevalent as we look forward to flipping that calendar to a fresh New Year.

I did not expect 2017 to be a year full of Disney, put some how it just happened that way (not that I am complaining or anything). So, humor me while I look back at 5 Things Disney that I loved in 2017…

1.  Neon Lighting at Carsland

Nothing was more special in 2017 then  then getting to see my boys faces as they explored Carsland, and that includes Mr. Grumpy.  The movie CARS has been a part of our lives for over 10 years when #monsterchild fell in love with Lightning McQueen, after all he is Lightnings #1 Fan still to this day as a near teenager.  Grumpy however, has been a fan of cars all his life and the whole pit crew of CARS has allowed him to really bond with our boys.  Watching the neon light up was amazing for all of us and one of those special moments that will last forever.

 

2. Going Solo to Walt Disney World

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Don’t get me wrong, I do love my family and girl’s trips to Walt Disney World, but there was something totally freeing about going solo. I had so much fun bouncing around and doing whatever caught my attention. For the introvert in me, that time alone was precious, although secretly there was times when I wish I was sharing the magic with someone else.

3. Lunch at Satu’li Canteen

Are you tired of hearing about this place and this meal? Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think my high expectations for this meal adventure would be met let alone be exceeded. I am already dreaming of my next bites, now only if I could be there when they serve that adult oatmeal!

4. Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters

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I don’t know what is it is about this attraction, but honestly if there was not a crazy long wait it would become just like the People Mover for me at Walt Disney World, one that I would ride over and over again. The music and the spinning makes me happy, and oh at night under the lights, takes me back in a weird sort of way to the dance scene in Roman Holiday and the time we spent as a family in Italy…yep, in the happiest place on earth when I am dancing with Lugi and his cousins from Carsoli.

5. Sharing the Magic

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This same time last year, I was earning my “ears” to become an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner as an affiliate with Academy Travel. Since then I have gone on to share the Disney magic with 10 families in my first year and have many more counting down the magic in 2018.  I have loved every stressful moment trying to make sure they have the most magical vacation ever and enjoyed being a part of their trips. 

It was certainly a great Disney 2017!  Just like 2017, 2018 is starting off with no definite Disney trip plans for myself but you never know where I might end up.  I do know that I will be sharing my love with more families as they go one their own magical trips and with you.  Thanks for following along, and I hope to see in you 2018.

Tammie’s Take Thursday: Flight of Passage (FOP)

Be warned there will be a few spoilers in this post…

It’s been no secret that I am not a huge fan of the movie, Avatar.  It’s a beautiful movie from a scenery aspect but has a very predictable story line that at times is long and slow.  I have also felt like Disney missed the mark by making it an entire land in Animal Kingdom.  To me the area could have been better served by adding North American story lines like Brother Bear, Bambi, and Pocahontas; but I am not the Imaginear.  I must say that though in terms of rides/attractions Disney certainly hit MOST of the marks I look for in a great attraction with Avatar:  Flight of Passage (FOP) and technology wise finally come close to what the “dark side” (aka Universal Studios) of Orlando has been offering now for over 7 years with the Forbidden Journey. But before I tell you more about the ride itself, let’s discuss the journey to get on this attraction which starts WAY before ROPE DROP.

There are 3 things that you need to know about Flight of Passage before you arrive, motion sickness is REAL, wait times are UNREAL and getting a FastPass is DIFFICULT.

Motion Sickness is REAL

Guests need to beware and respect the “Motion Sick” warning to this ride.  Flight of Passage last 4 minutes and you no not want to feel sick for 4 minutes (and probably the rest of the day). So if you are prone to motion sickness, like Mr. Grumpy, you might want to take precautions or skip FOP because the combination of the movement of the vehicle and the action on the screen might be too much for you. But what is worse than motion sickness…

Wait Time in UNREAL

The worst thing about Flight of Passage is the wait time, I have seen it posted 15 minutes after park opening at 3 hours and later in the day at 5 hours.  Let me assure you from talking to people in that line and experiencing it that guests WILL wait 5 hours to ride Flight of Passage so that line will not go down until park closing, but what makes this wait really frustrating is that obtaining a….

FastPass is DIFFCULT

A FastPass is hard to get for FOP, even if you are able to book at the 60 days.  If you are waiting until the 30 day mark, a FastPass is pretty much not going to happen.  Animal Kingdom is on a tiered system FastPass system and both the attractions, Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey, in Pandora are Tier 1, so you are going to have to stand in line for one of the rides in Pandora.

Honestly, until the opening of Toy Story Land in 2018 and Star Wars in 2019 I do not see wait times coming down anytime soon nor the availability of a FastPass.  So how do you combat the wait time and no FastPass?  Book your vacation through me and I will be happy to share my tips on how you can to ride both Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey BEFORE the park officially opens and NOT use a FastPass in what I am calling the Na’vi Shuffle. I have spent months stalking trip reports for tips on how it can be done, and I HAVE DONE IT.  Now you have used my vacation planning expertise and have made  relatively in one piece to Flight of Passage…

You can expect stunning views of the floating mountains as you venture through a bioluminescent rainforest that is taking over the ruins of the abandoned RDA building.  I will say that Imaginears have done an amazing job bringing Pandora to life.  It is beautiful to the eye and you will feel like you have entered another world.  Don’t be afraid to stop and take pictures while you are in line, there are lots of beautiful selfie spots (or maybe you have made great friends with the people with you in line for the last 5 hours since you did not use my complimentary traveling planning services).  Once have made your way through the rainforest the line will then enter a cave adorned with Na’Vi paintings and then into the abandoned RDA building and now research laboratory of the humans who’ve settled on Pandora.  Here you will fine various experiments showing how the study of Pandora wildlife is progressing, including a suspended animation of a Na’vi avatar inside a giant, water-filled tube. Most disappointing for me during my whole journey through the queue was that I was constantly moving and not being able to focus on the small details built into every Disney attraction that brings the experience to life.  Disney does an amazing job keeping you stimulated as you spend 5 hours in line.

Once you are though the queue, you are lead into a 16 person chamber to prepare for your flight. There are actually 2 chambers, with 2 different videos and interactions.  Although I experienced both chambers my first 2 flights on FOP, but the 3rd flight I only was in the first chamber and walked through the second.  I am not sure why other than I am guessing it is a crowd manage technique. 

When you are done preparing for your flight you are lead into a room with what looks like 16 stationary bicycles without pedals and handed a pair of 3-D googles and to board the “bike.”  Once all preparations are done for your the room goes dark, there’s a flash of light, and you become “linked” to the Na’vi surfing a banshee and flying through Pandora.  The ride is beautiful, similar to what you would experience on Soarin’ but more intense.

Disney technology has caught up to Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter in terms of motion simulator, but Universal will always have the edge with Forbidden Journey and Escape from Gringott’s in my opinion.  Why?  There is no storytelling with Flight of Passage, nor with Na’Vi River Journey which for Disney is a huge let down and disappointment because to me Disney is stories and beloved characters.  Again, I reference back to why Disney should have gone with the beloved stories of the Americas.  None of the scenes from the screen playing in front of me could I relate back to the movie, Avatar which makes me not vested in a story line with the banshees.

Will I ride Flight of Passage again? Of course I will, it was beautiful and FUN to feel like I was flying but only if I can get a FastPass and not have to get up so early.  There are other rides in Animal Kingdom that I would prefer to wait for or use a FastPass for, because they don’t leave me emotionally empty wanting more.

Remember that when you book your Walt Disney World  Vacation with me, I will give you my honest opinions as well as help you successfully do the Na’Vi Shuffle without waiting in 2-5 hour lines!