Introducing Feature Presentation Friday: Review of the Wild Africa Trek

Feature Presentation Friday

It’s Feature Presentation Friday!

Feature Presentation Friday is a relatively new series where I basically talk about a topic that I feel deserves some attention. It may be either Disney related (movies, parks, etc.), general travel related, or child life related. In these posts I hope to provide some additional information on something I am passionate about that I feel others should know about. At the end, I welcome discussion from any readers who have questions, would like to share their experiences, or who want to offer an opinion in the comment section below.

Today’s Feature Presentation Friday:

A Review of the Wild Africa Trek

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What is it?

The Wild Africa Trek is a tour offered at an additional cost (website now says $189 to $249 per person) at the Animal Kingdom mostly on Kilamajaro Safari. During the tour, you get a slowed down version of the safari (to enable better picture taking) along with a trek on foot through some of the Safari grounds. Lunch is included on the Savannah and a photos service is also provided and included in that price.

Our Experience

We participated in this tour on our honeymoon in October 2013 (so bear with me while I recount the details!). Once you get to the meet up point, it’s time to suit up! As shown in the pictures below, you will need to wear a vest and a harness for your safety during the on foot portion of the tour. Your camera must be strapped to your body or connected to your vest, and they will give you strings for your sunglasses. If your personal items fall during the tour, there is no getting them back! You are also given a water bottle with a carabiner to attach to your vest and use during the trek but also take home as a souvenir.

From there, you meet your two guides who will help provide guidance and information while also being your photopass photographers for the day and are taken on the start of your tour on foot. During this portion you “hike” through semi backstage areas to get to your first breathtaking view of the hippos. As you can see from the pictures below, your harness is tethered to ensure your safety giving you the ability to walk right up to the edge and look down.Wild Africa Trek 011 Wild Africa Trek 023

From there, it’s time to traverse the rope bridges you may have noticed while riding the Safari. If you or anyone in your party is afraid of heights, this may not be for you. Otherwise, it is an amazing experience. The rope bridges are pretty high up and you walk right over the crocodile pit! Again you are tethered much like you would be on a ropes course here so despite the fact that the planks on the bridge are spaced apart (which offers you a better view down below your feet), you’re not going anywhere!

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From there, you board a ride vehicle (different than the ordinary vehicle) and are taken on a modified (and slower) version of the safari. During our tour at least the driver was able to pull over for extended periods to allow us to take pictures with animals in the background and to talk more in depth about the different wildlife on the plains.Wild Africa Trek 157

Then it’s time to stop for lunch…. on the savannah! Here are a few of the amazing views from our picnic spot!

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We found the lunch to be very tasty. It is pictured below in very cute cantina containers. I don’t remember exactly what the menu was but I know that there was a fruit salad, a curry chicken salad, a very tasty hummus with little naan rounds, and a few other dishes. I wouldn’t say it was the heartiest of meals but for us it worked out fine.Wild Africa Trek 176

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Was it Worth it?

YES! I felt it was worth every penny we spent as a once in a lifetime thing. We did many special things on our honeymoon from Party for the Senses to Victoria and Alberts to a Spa experience and more. This was by far my favorite thing that we did (and all those other things were pretty great!). Now, I do love the experience of the Safari in general so I may be a little biased but I would definitely recommend this tour.

Want to book it for yourself? Call 407-WDW-TOUR and ENJOY it!

Have you done the Wild Africa Trek? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

Traveling to Walt Disney World or another Disney Destination? I can book everything from hotels to tickets to dining reservations. Contact me today for a free quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com. Remember, all of my services are ALWAYS free of charge to you!

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“Monday Mouthful” with Information on Party for the Senses

MondayMouthful

Time for another Monday Mouthful where I talk about one of my favorite Disney trip planning topics: FOOD! As we get closer to the festival (and selfishly my October trip) it got me thinking back about my trip to the Food and Wine Festival of 2013 and I felt it would be good to report back (even belatedly) on my experience with the Party for the Senses. Bear with me, as this was almost 2 years ago!

Party for the Senses is an event offered on Saturday nights during the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival (this year on 10/3, 10/10, 10/17, 10/24, and 10/31) for an additional fee on top of your admission to EPCOT. During the event, you have the opportunity to try a large variety of small plate dishes prepared by different chefs (sometimes from all around the world) as well as many different adult beverages. Live entertainment is typically provided by Cirque du Soleil La Nouba and you also get reserved seating prior to the event at the Eat to the Beat concert of the night.

There are three categories for admission for this event:

  • General Admission: For $169 per person (this year) you gain entry to the event with unlimited food and drink during the party, access to the live entertainment and reserved seating for the Eat to the Beat concert. You will not have a reserved table for you, however, there will be limited seating as well as standing bar tables for your convenience.
  • Reserved Seating: For $199 per person (this year) you get everything that you would with general admission but will also have a reserved table for your party on the main floor, admission to the party at 6:45 (15 minutes prior to general admission) and a specialty cocktail toast at the beginning of the event.
  • Wine View Lounge: For $319 per person (this year) you get everything you would with a Reserved Seating ticket, but also have a private (I believe this means unshared) reserved table for your party, access to a premium bar, an artisanal cheese station, and speciality cocktail toast.

We decided to go with just the general admission when we went in 2013 and did not regret it. First of all, we had a table (seated) for the entire event which we shared with two ladies. We simply switched off when grabbing plates and brought things back to share. We also did not feel that we were at a disadvantage at all in terms of access to food or drink. You are a bit father removed from the entertainment for pictures sake, but you can see the entertainment fine from anywhere in the pavilion.

Overall, almost everything we tried was delicious, there were just a few things that weren’t our taste (not necessarily the way it was cooked). One was some kind of lobster push pop with a Bourbon (perhaps?) gelée… which I actually had to spit out. We also had a culinary adventure in signature dining meal for lunch that day, which was very poor planning on our part (what were we thinking?). There is so much food available that having anything more than a light lunch might cause you some severe FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). There were many things we didn’t enjoy as much as we could have because we were simply feeling full to the point of explosion and other things that we didn’t even attempt because we simply had no room.

I loved the set up of the event, being able to browse through the different stands while sipping on a drink and taking in the live entertainment. I do also think it is quite possible to enjoy the event without snagging a table (either reserved or not) if you have the stamina and ability to remain standing during the duration. For those with mobility or stamina issues, however, I would recommend splurging on the reserved seating or having someone rush ahead to grab a table for you!

Here are a few pictures of our experience of the event to make your mouth water a bit:

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The one thing we didn’t care for…. but the display was so enticing!
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Chicken and Waffles Station
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Plenty of room at our shared table.
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This gives you a good idea of the size of the portions/plates at each station.

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Has all this talk of Food and Wine got you ready to plan a trip for Fall 2016? Contact me for a free quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com! I’d be happy to help you plan your trip and rebook it should an applicable promotion come along and best of all my services are FREE of charge!

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Friday Five: Five Great Places to Cool Off at Walt Disney World

Friday Five

Happy Friday Everyone!

For those just tuning in, “Friday Five” is a weekly series where I do a quick rundown of 5 things in a certain topic. Kind of like Magic Moment Monday, I designed it as a positive wrap up to my own week to delve into a topic I really enjoy.

To complement this week’s Meltdown Monday post on “Beating the Heat at Walt Disney World” todays Friday Five is:

Five Great Places to Cool Off at Walt Disney World

(In No Particular Order)

  1. The Seas Pavilion at EPCOT I chose this pavilion because there are multiple attractions and experiences contained within this pavilion that would appeal to many different types of guests and age groups. Without having to walk out in the sun and heat at all you can ride The Seas with Nemo and Friends then watch Turtle Talk with Crush, admire the different marine life exhibits including the large dive tank, watch short videos on marine life, watch a demonstration by the marine biologists and divers working in the pavilion, or play a bit in the Finding Nemo play area. In addition, this pavilion is home to the Finding Nemo souvenir shop, the Coral Reef restaurant, and some great tours for additional fees. You could easily spend over an hour out of the sun in this excellently planned pavilion!

    Photo Credit: Walt Disney Company https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/epcot/sea-base/
    Photo Credit: Walt Disney Company https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/epcot/sea-base/
  2. Rafiki’s Planet Watch/Conservation Station at Disney’s Animal Kingdom This area of Animal Kingdom gives guests an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes working with the animals along with providing education on different species and wildlife conservation. After taking the train over to this part of the park, you can experience animal encounters, watch the park veterinarians work with the animals, prepare nutrition and even perform procedures from time to time. There are also exhibits on conservation around the world and glimpses into the animal’s habitats backstage on the “animal cams.” This is another place where your family can take an hour or more long break out of the hot sun. When you’ve cooled off, you can also visit the connected Affection Section petting zoo where guests can get hands on experience with animals like sheep and goats.

    Photo Credit: the Walt Disney Company https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/animal-kingdom/conservation-station/
    Photo Credit: the Walt Disney Company https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/animal-kingdom/conservation-station/
  3. Finding Nemo the Musical at Animal Kingdom As people may know from previous posts, my favorite stage show on property is Finding Nemo the Musical. While it stays true to story of Finding Nemo, it shortens the story line and adds in the new elements of musical theater and puppetry. As with Disney feature films, the music is well done and fits nicely with the story line. The puppetry in this show is also amazing and appealing to young and old alike. As everyone is seated during this experience in an air conditioned theater it provides not only time out of the heat and sun but also time to rest and relax. The show is 40 minutes long though guests are let in the theater a few minutes before that leading to almost an hour long break from the heat.

    Photo Credit: Walt Disney Company https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/entertainment/animal-kingdom/finding-nemo-the-musical/
    Photo Credit: Walt Disney Company https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/entertainment/animal-kingdom/finding-nemo-the-musical/
  4. Enchanted Tales with Belle at the Magic Kingdom This is an interactive experience of the story of Beauty and the Beast told by Belle, Lumiere, and members of the audience. This attraction is located in Fantasyland and takes you through the multiple scenes related to Belle’s story. Whether you volunteer and get chosen to participate or simply enjoy as a member of the audience you will enjoy a 20-30 minute break from the heat and sunshine once inside. The line for this attraction can get lengthy, however, and is slow moving so I would recommend Fastpass+ to help plan this break into your day.

    Photo Credit: Walt Disney Company https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/magic-kingdom/enchanted-tales-with-belle/
    Photo Credit: Walt Disney Company https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/magic-kingdom/enchanted-tales-with-belle/
  5.  Spaceship Earth at EPCOT This iconic figure in the Walt Disney World landscape is not only aesthetically pleasing but an excellent place to take a break from the heat. This educational yet technologically interactive experience takes you through the history of communication all the way back to the cavemen, Egyptians, and Phoenicians.  The attraction itself is a 15 minute slow ride in air conditioning and low light which can be fascinating for some but also a good place for a catnap if needed for those not as interested in this history. In front of you there is also a screen to “choose your own adventure” for the future which can be fun even for those not interested in the rest of the attraction. As the ride lets out, you also have the opportunity to remain in the air-conditioning and interact with many different games or send a virtual postcard from space! With this post ride interactive experience, you can give yourself a pretty lengthy break from the heat and sun.

    Photo Credit: Walt Disney World https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/epcot/spaceship-earth/
    Photo Credit: Walt Disney World https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/epcot/spaceship-earth/

Disney provides so many great places to take a break from the heat. From attractions to restaurants to experiences and of course resort pools, there is a “chill zone” for everyone. What are some of your favorites? Comment below and let us know!

Traveling to Walt Disney World? Let me help you plan the most magical vacation possible! I’ll work with you to find the best possible price for your vacation, continue to look for promotions that can be applied, take care of your dining reservations, help you with Fastpass+ recommendations and more all free of charge to you! Contact me today for a free quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

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Introducing Feature Presentation Friday: Information on TSA Passenger Support Specialists for Guests Traveling with Special Needs

Feature Presentation Friday

Introducing Feature Presentation Friday!

Feature Presentation Friday is a new series I’ve come up with to basically talk about a topic that I feel deserves some attention. It may be either Disney related (movies, parks, etc.), general travel related, or child life related. In these posts I hope to provide some additional information on something I am passionate about that I feel others should know about. At the end, I welcome discussion from any readers who have questions, would like to share their experiences, or who want to offer an opinion in the comment section below.

Today’s Feature Presentation Friday:

TSA Passenger Support Specialists

As a child life specialist I have worked with many families with children or adults with many different special needs. Whether they be medical, developmental, psychological, dietary, emotional,  or of another type, I understand how hard it can be to travel given these circumstances. Getting through a TSA checkpoint can be a huge concern when traveling with family members with emotional disturbances, autism, physical disabilities, or medical technology such as pacemakers.To aid in supporting these families, I wanted to alert readers to the availability of TSA Passenger Support Specialists.

According to the TSA Blog, Passenger Support Specialists (PSS) “are Transportation Security Officers, Lead TSOs and Supervisors who have volunteered to take on the responsibility of assisting passengers who may need a little help at the checkpoint. They receive additional training involving scenarios such as resolving traveler-related screening concerns and assisting travelers with disabilities and medical conditions.”

As the quote states, these Passenger Support Specialists receive additional training to be prepared to assist in special circumstances. These specialists would probably be especially helpful for those families with special needs traveling by air for the first time or for those traveling with a newer condition but may even be helpful for those who have travelled many many times.

If you think it might be a useful service for your family, try calling 1-855-787-2227 to see how a Passenger Support Specialist may be helpful to you. It seems that there should be specialists at every gate without calling ahead as well for those who want to wait until they get to the airport.  These specialists should be able to help tailor the screening to your family’s needs including fears, aversions, sensitivities, visible or invisible illnesses or disabilities, and hidden medical equipment that may be effected by the scanner. It is best to bring any documentation you have for any medical equipment you have that prevents a normal screening; however, by explaining the situation to a Passenger Support Specialist you should be able to get an alternative screening tailored to your needs without that documentation.

Has anyone used a Passenger Support Specialist? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

Traveling with a child or adult with special needs and need assistance planning your trip? I will work with you to provide accommodations that fit your family’s needs at the best price possible. I can book everything from hotels to tickets to dining reservations and can assist in navigating a vacation with anything from anxiety or aversions to food allergies, illnesses, or disabilities. Contact me today for a free quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com. Remember, my services are ALWAYS free of charge to you!

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