Sunday, September 25, 2011

Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival Begins September 30th.


Those of you fortunate enough to be visiting Disney World over the next few weeks will have an added incentive to head over to Epcot:  The International Food and Wine Festival.  It's the 16th year of this unique event which offers live entertainment, culinary demonstrations, and food and beverages from six continents.  This year's theme, Passport to a World of Flavors, features over 25 kioks representing countries both exotic and familiar.  You can literally spend the day grazing the entire 40 acres of the festival, sampling tapas-sized treats as you go.

Servings range in price from $3 to $8. For the sake of convenience, you can purchase a specially-themed Disney gift card just for the festival. You'll load it with as little as $5 so you have easy access when it's time to pay--and you can keep re-loading it if you need more treats!  Remember that your snack credits on the Disney Dining Plan can also be used to purchase certain items. 

This year sees the additon of three new themes: Portugal, Hawaii, and the Carribbean.  The new Hawaii kiosk looks interesting, perhaps a nod to Aulani opening last month?  Since it's as close as I'm going to get to Aulani for a while, I think I'm going to give it a try.  An old favorite, Scandanavia returns this year and you can expect new menu items at many kiosks. Other highlights include:

  • A free marketplace passport that you can have stamped at each kiosk.
  • HGTV home seminars from HGTV Design Stars.
  • A cranberry bog sponsored by Craisins.
  • Party for the Senses, a special ticketed event each Saturday. Call 407-WDW-FEST for more information.
  • Eat to the Beat concerts three times daily, with performers such as Taylor Dayne and Sugar Ray.
I'm going opening day, so I'll be back next week with plenty of pictures and stories of gluttony--well, as much as my wallet will allow.

Friday, September 9, 2011

How to Save Money at Universal Orlando.


Forgive me if I venture over to the Dark Side a bit. Yes, I'm going to talk about Universal Studios Orlando.   With the addition of the Wizarding World of  Harry Potter, a lot of Disney guests are visiting Universal Studios and what they're finding, what I personally found, were two really great theme parks. No, it's not Disney, but here's a little confession: In some areas, I thought the theming was superior. In fact I liked it so much, I bought an annual pass. 

Unlike Disney however, Universal doesn't offer a lot of discounts, which surprised me. I figured that Orlando's de facto "red-headed stepchild" would practically be giving rooms away.  The reality is, there's only one guaranteed way to get a discount if you're staying on Universal property:  Buy an annual pass.  Here's how this can work for you.

A two-day park hopper ticket for an adult costs around $140.  For about $100 more, you can buy an annual pass.  Now for most people, there's really no need for this pass; you're only going to go a couple times probably that year. What you're buying for are the discounts.  For the fall, I'm seeing are room discounts at the three hotels that range in savings from around $100 - $150 a night. That's a nice savings in itself. Keep in mind that only one member of your party needs to buy an annual pass for the whole group to take advantage of it. 

If room discounts were the only discount an annual pass gave you, I'd still be impressed, but Universal takes really good care of their passholders, so in addition to room discounts, you'll get 10% off all merchandise and food in the parks, plus an additional 15% off park tickets for everyone else in your party. You'll also get free parking.  And should you, by some lucky chance, come back within the year, you can always take one day from your Disney trip and head over to Universal for a "free" day of fun. 

Before you buy an annual pass for the discounts, make sure they're available for your travel time.  You or your travel agent can call Universal Orlando and check. They'll send you directly to the hotel you're interested in. Once you've confirrmed there are discounts, just go ahead and buy the pass, get your pass number, and call the hotel back and book your room.