Top Buffets or family style restaurants at Walt Disney World for food quality

One of the things I look forward to the most on my Walt Disney World Vacation is the dining and the dining experiences. Admittedly not every Restaurant at Walt Disney World has the best tasting or quality food. Some have very good quality, and some you are just paying for the atmosphere and experience more so than the average quality food. In this post I am going to look at what I believe are the top 5 TABLE SERVICE buffet style or family style restaurants on property in terms of food quality. If you do not know what a table service is. It is a sit down Restaurant that is worth 1 table service credit if you were on the DDP.  Now this is just my opinion, and you may have different tastes than me, but if you disagree or agree, let me know and leave a comment or tell me on twitter @vacaasistant.

5. Whispering Canyon- I love BBQ, just love it, and Whispering Canyon does a pretty good job at it. They have a pretty good a la carte to choose from for breakfast, lunch or dinner. For lunch and dinner the smoked pulled pork sandwich and the St. Louis style ribs are very good and the Bison Burger was good also. But for lunch and dinner, what I usually get when I am with a group is the all you care to enjoy skillet. For lunch and dinner you get the pulled pork, ribs, roasted chicken with sides like Mashed Yukon Potatoes, corn on the Cobb and baked Beans, all served family style. With dinner you will be served a mixed green salad and corn bread. But best item on the skillet is the western style sausage, this is absolutely amazing and one of my favorite items at any Disney restaurant. Add all this in with the very unique atmosphere and this is a special restaurant, just wait until you need ketchup.

4. Boma(dinner)- This all you care to enjoy buffet located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a real hidden gem. Animal Kingdom Lodge is a little out of the way so some don’t bother trying this place out. Well, get on a shuttle or get in your car and head over to Boma.

Like I said I am a real big fan of BBQ, and Boma had very good BBQ ribs and chicken. The thing that really makes these items is the BBQ sauce they have at Boma. I’m not sure if it’s cinnamon or coriander or whatever it is in the sauce, but it was very good and nothing like I have tasted before.

Another unique quality about Boma is the vast array of salads and soups offered. These give you very unique mixture of flavors that you don’t see offered in regular restaurants.

There are other meats and vegetables offered on the buffet which are cooked and seasoned in conjunction with the flavors of Africa. This buffet will truly be a unique experience for your taste buds.

3. Cape May Cafe(Dinner)- Cape May Cafe is located in my home DVC Resort the Beach Club. Themed after a New England/Cape Cod style clam bake, this buffet is a must do for all seafood lovers. Now, I am not the biggest seafood lover out there, but one thing I do love is crab legs, and you can find steamed crab legs every night. You can also find peel and eat shrimp, mussels, clams, and fried shrimp. Also you have steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, fresh rolls and cornbread, a meat carving station, assorted pastas and salads and fresh fruit. Only on Wednesdays and Saturdays does the buffet have as a choice BBQ pork ribs which are good but not great, but many people I know seem to love them.

The buffet for me is worth it just with the crab legs,  but then add some of the other items and it’s well worth it. You just have to realize that with a buffet marketed around seafood you will have to pay a little bit higher than average price but it is not too expensive if you go by Disney standards. This is definitely someplace where I have to eat at each trip.

2. Crystal Palace(breakfast)- By far my favorite location for breakfast is Crystal Palace. The food is just absolutely great. Now if you go for dinner or lunch, the food is probably below average, but breakfast is amazing.

The Star of the buffet is the Pooh French Toast. This French toast needs no syrup whatsoever, and the best way I can describe it is that it is like eating a zeppole, it is amazingly good. Of course that’s not the only reason, you can find yogurt, fruit, lox, pastries, breakfast cereals and of course the usual things like sausage, bacon, eggs,  regular French toast, Mickey waffles, and my favorite, biscuits and sausage gravy. Also there is an omelet station where you can have eggs made any way you desire or have the chef whip up an omelet of your choosing.

This is another must do for my family each trip, it is 100% worth it just for the food, which seems to be getting better each time I go as other places seem to be getting lower in quality and higher in price(cough cough, Chef Mickey’s, cough cough).

1. O’hana(Dinner)- My top spot goes to this restaurant located inside the great ceremonial house inside the Polynesian Resort. My only issue with O’hana’s is the fact I wouldn’t go eat here for years. I figured I wouldn’t like the food so I never tried it. I decided a few years ago at the urging of my sister to try O’hana’s, and now it is by far my favorite table service location at WDW.

You start off with a salad with a mango dressing served family style, then the real fun begins. Your server then brings out a platter of Asian style sweet and sour noodles, pot stickers and chicken wings. Don’t worry when you finish all this you can ask for more. As you are choking down on these specialties, servers will be coming around with metal skewers filled with marinated shrimp, chicken and beef. I am not a big steak person but I even liked the beef. The  and shrimp were out of this world. They will be walking around waiting to fill your plate up again so bring your appetite.

After all this make sure you still save some room for dessert. Many people have told me the bread pudding with bananas and caramel sauce is the best dessert on property. Cannot disagree with them. Your server brings out the pudding and then drenches it with the caramel sauce right before your eyes. It looks as good as it tastes.

O’hana takes the cake as the top table service restaurant on Disney property. Again, if you disagree or feel I missed your favorite, let me know in the comments or check me out on twitter @vacaassistant

 

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Are WaltDisneyWorld extra ticket Holiday events worth the extra price?

IMG_1163Two of the best events at WaltDisneyWorld each year are the Mickey’s Not So Scarey Halloween Party and the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Problem is admission to these events are not included in regular park ticket admission and you must buy tickets to these events.

The prices of these events are pretty high, and they seem to go up in price each year. Depending on the date the prices are higher than others, so prices are lower on days where they expect not as large of a crowd, so that is one way to keep the cost down. Also, Undercovertourist.com has discounted Party tickets for these events so you can save some that way too, and if you need other discounted park tickets this site is my go to place if I need a ticket. But, is the price of $70, $80 and income cases $90 worth it? Absolutely!

The price is admittedly high for these events, but the atmosphere at both parties is amazing. Crowds are lower so lines on attractions aren’t long, they have special character meet and greets that are not normally offered. At the Halloween party come dressed in your Halloween costume and there are appointed locations where people young and old can go trick or treating and get candy. For Christmas there are select locations that give out cookies and hot chocolate free of charge.

The 2 big showcases for each party are the holiday parades. These are a big hit and I suggest for either one to get a spot early because it definitely does get crowded for these fantastic parades. Usually there will be 2 parades each party night, and the early one is always more crowded than the late. Also, each have their own holiday Wishes fireworks spectacular. These are holiday themed fireworks and they are amazing, truly a can’t miss at these events.

At the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party there is something extra special that happens, walk down Main Street USA while it is….. snowing! That is right snowing! Get into the holiday spirit with the weather forecast of Main Street calling for Snow. This little added touch makes the night perfect and even though it may be warm, that won’t stop from the Magic of Disney doing its thing and providing snow flurries in the Magic Kingdom.

Finally the decorations throughout the Magic Kingdom are done perfectly for each season. No one does Holiday’s like Disney, and things real light up at the holiday events. WaltDisneyWorld is a great place to visit during the Holiday’s, They really make the atmosphere festive during both Halloween and Christmas. Even with the high price tag both events are 100% worth it, especially if you haven’t done the party before or you are with small children. It is worth the price, you will not be disappointed.

Resort fees are getting out of hand in Las Vegas

I bet if you go to Orbitz, or Hotels.com and you look up the price per night for a 5 day stay in Las Vegas, you will see some pretty good prices. Excalibur May come up $30 a night, Flamingo, Harrahs, Linq, or Luxor May be the same. I bet you say to yourself, “hey that’s a really cheap price for a night in Las Vegas.” I bet you probably would book that right on the spot. But the biggest theft in Travel is waiting for you when you check in.

It’s called the ever popular resort fee. They are becoming all the rage in the hotel industry. Basically what it is is an extra fee on top of that rate you see on Orbitz, or wherever you book your stay. The hotel will probably try to convince you that the resort fee includes some things so it doesn’t seem like they are basically holding you up at gunpoint to steal this extra fee from you.

If you look at some of these hotels and their resort fees, you would think that why would someone agree to this? You get basic stuff that you don’t ever use or would never use, especially in Vegas. Well let’s look at some popular hotels in Vegas. We will see how much PER NIGHT the fee is and what is “included” with this fee:

The Linq- $35.00 includes: internet for one device, fitness center access for 2 guests per day and free local calls.

The New York- New York: $35.00 includes: In room and property wide internet access, in room unlimited local calls, Notarary services and airline boarding pass printing.

Circus Circus- $27.00 includes: fitness center access, in room high speed internet, free in room local calls, and complimentary boarding pass printing.

These are just 3 examples, I could go on and on. But if you look at each hotel there a some themes, fitness center access, local calls and WiFi. Now if you are reading this you are probably thinking “well who the heck goes to the gym in Vegas, why would I need free local calls when every person in America has a cell phone, and do I really need WiFi when I have a data plan on my cell phone also?”. This is very logical thinking right? But you can tell this while checking in and they could care less, they will just tell you the resort fee is mandatory, blah blah blah. I compare this to goingbto a restaurant and just ordering an appetizer and then telling you they are charging you for an entree also, even though you just got an appetizer.

So are you getting what I am saying? You can very realistically not use a thing included in this resort fee, but you still have to pay it. You won’t use the gym, won’t use the phone in the room or WiFi, won’t use notary services and you can just print your boarding pass at the airport. You will still be getting charged that fee. And if you are there for 7 days, that could be as much as an extra $245 on top of what you pay for your room. That’s $245 for absolutely nothing. Getting angry yet?

Problem is most people just deal with it and take it. Figure the hotel rate is so cheap it’s not that bad.. guess what, that’s why they have the resort fee. They get you in with cheap rates and then slam you with the resort fee which they then don’t have to pay the state and local taxes on, and those taxes I’ll talk about another time since the city of Las Vegas figures they can pay for the Raiders new stadium off raising room taxes on visitors to the city.

So resort fees are garbage, it’s stealing. Don’t think it’s just primarily in Vegas though, it’s all over and spreading. Government regulation is needed to reign in these hotels from stealing from tourists and others visiting their hotels. Sadly, most politicians are being paid off by these hotels to look the other way and let this unregulated theft go on. That’s what this is is just legalized theft.

Is there really a best time to get cheapest Airfare?

Since my post yesterday about my hardship in finding cheap airfare, I was thinking about what really is the best times to find the cheapest airfare. The long standing theory is the best time to get that is 2 months out from your departure date. Well without getting too scientific and just going off my observations I’ll dig in further.

Now usually it does seem 2 months out or so is a good time…. usually. Other factors have to be taken into consideration. These can be the time of year, if it’s a holiday season, busy season for the location you are flying to, or if the airport is a popular business destination, such as New York or Chicago. If you are traveling to a large convention town, such as Orlando or Las Vegas, that will play into this also if there is a large convention in town. This will also effect Hotel prices.

But for 2 specific Airlines, Southwest and Jet Blue, I like to check air prices right when the dates come out for booking as long as I know when exactly we are going to be traveling. A lot of times the fares will start out low and work their way up. I am going away to Florida in August, checked Southwest and Jet Blue for fares when they became available. Jet Blue was a little high, but I was able to get Southwest for $180 pp rt, which is a great rate. United usually doesn’t start off cheap, but I’ll check. I’m in NJ so American and Delta don’t have direct flights out and the flights are normally high so inusually don’t even bother to check their rates. Spirit air is usually real cheap, but there are so many issues with them it’s just not worth it.

I realize I’m trying to predict what the airlines do, I’m trying to get a feel of past results and tendencies with them. It isn’t 100% perfect, but I have a pretty good track record trying to feel things out this way.

With the landscape now, rising price of oil may change things, but I personally think the price will stabilize and start coming down more. Some fares may be a little high now because of that, but I don’t think it will be a trend in the future.

Your best bet is to do what I said earlier, check Airlines right when they put the dates available for your date, if nothing just keep an eye on things, check every now and then for rates, check more frequently as you get closer. Keep an eye on the seat map, check to see what amount of seats are available. Granted that is 100% but a decently ok indicator. If there are a lot available, odds are there are still a lot of seats available. If there aren’t well prices will still be high… it’s supply and demand. If there aren’t a lot of seats, if you find an acceptable airfare jump on it. If it seems like there is a decent amount left, wait up. Prices will go down, be patient until you feel you get the right price. Be patient, don’t get nervous and panic. If you miss out, there is always Spirit Air!

What to do when Airfare is so high?

I have a trip to Disney planned in April, 2 weeks after Easter, so the heavy crowds should be all heading for home or already there. But here is my Dilemma, I have my DVC resort booked for the Beach Club, but decent Airfare is incredibly hard to find.

Prices are sky high, both flying to MCO and flying back home. Luckily, thanks to my signing up for the Southwest Airlines credit card I received 60,000 rewards points, add in referring people for the card and getting an extra 10,000 points each, I had more than enough to purchase   A flight going out from Newark to Orlando for my 2 kids, my wife and myself and the Mother on Law. Problem is  coming home I am not having much luck. Points are high for southwest and United, and prices are high, I am looking at about $1200-$1400 for the 5 of us just for the flight home. I can get a somewhat decent price if we wanted to fly out at 530 or 6am. But that’s not happening.

So here is my other option. I am possibly going to rent a car (SUV) for the week in Disney. Pick it up in MCO and then drive it home to New Jersey and drop it off in Newark for a little over $200 which is a good price. Or I can pick up a minivan at MCO on the Friday before we leave, drive it to NJ, drop it off in Newark, for about $60. So I have options, just have to drive home from Florida to Nj. Not ideal but it can save me some money. Booked it through Priceline and Hotwire so I have free cancellation just in case I am able to find a decent price for a flight home, which is very possible. But, I have to have a backup plan just in case these insanely high air prices don’t go down.

 

E-rewards.com, what is it and why you should sign up for it

E-rewards.com is a is a trademark of the Research Now Group, Inc. When you sign up to E-rewards you will be emailed random surveys to take part in. In most cases E-rewards will ask you about your interests and likes and give you the surveys closest to them. When you complete a Survey you receive compensation in the form or E-rewards dollars. Get a certain amount of E-rewards dollars and you can redeem them from your account for certain things. This is where you need to sign up for E-rewards.

You can redeem E-rewards dollars for gift cards, magazine subscriptions, gift cards to Best Buy, Starbucks and other places. But here is the best part for those who travel. You can redeem the dollars for United Miles, Southwest Airlines miles and Jet Blue miles. You can also use them to redeem Hertz points for your rental car. There are also other airline frequent flyer programs like Frontier you can redeem, and also hotel rewards points from some hotel chains.

In the last few weeks I redeemed $25 in E-rewards dollars to redeem 500 United miles and $25 to redeem 500 Jet Blue miles,  I will soon have enough to redeem 125 Hertz points. There are some restrictions though, you can only redeem 1 category for the company per time frame. A quick example: I redeemed the 500 United Miles for $25 in E-Rewards dollars, I have to wait about another month to be able to redeem the same thing, but I can have $50 in rewards dollars and redeem 1000 United miles, and you can get 2000 United miles for $100 E-rewards dollars, I just can’t get the 500 Miles for $25, you can only do each 1 once a month or so.

This right here is basically free miles or points for your favorite frequent flyer program. The longer the survey the more reward dollars you get. You can have short surveys which you may only get a dollar or 2 for, to long ones where I’ve gotten 10-15 rewards dollars for. You can collect dollars fairly quickly, and you can request the frequency to receive surveys through your email. You can ask for just 1-2 a week, or request 10+ a week like I do. There will be times where your answer to the survey are not what they are looking for, or they have revived the amount of answers already, when this happens you get a fraction on the rewards for your trouble , maybe a quarter or fifty cents.

Sign up for E-rewards right now. It’s basically free airline miles for very little work. I’ll go through my available surveys  either on my days off work or while I am laying in bed. Dollars can add up quick and so do the free miles, getting you closer to those free flights.