10 Best EPCOT Secrets !

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I LOVE EPCOT…and no, I’m not writing in all caps throughout this post, I just wanted to emphasize love and EPCOT happens to be all caps. I wasn’t yelling at you, I promise, please don’t leave. Okay, moving on. EPCOT is my favorite of all the parks, however, it’s not a crowd pleaser with many kids. If you make your way to the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow…or EPCOT make sure to take advantage of these great tips.

…10 Best EPCOT Secrets…

1.  Cool Club by Coca Cola | Conveniently located right before Test Track, Cool Club is a hidden gem in Future World West. It’s brought by Coca Cola and offers tastes of many Coca Cola products throughout the world (My favorite was Israel’s, hubby’s was Mozambique’s). You can try as many as you want as many times as you want for FREE! They have cute little paper cups for your “samples” which are a decent size. – And you didn’t read this here but you could maybe take a few if you have little kids to give them a bit of your drink and save money on that later on -. They have great Coca Cola/Disney merchandise that you won’t find anywhere else.

2. Character Spot | Located in Future World West, you can finally stop hunting down Minnie, Mickey and his friends for a picture. They’re here! All day! Although the 3rd guest changes, the day I went it was Pluto, that dog is so lovable. It’s indoors, air conditioned and has a carpeted floor. This means that you can get some air and have the kids sit on the floor while the wait – maybe even have a snack. A great trick is to go towards the end of the day. Stop by and ask the cast member on duty until what time they’re going to be there and go at least 30-40 minutes before, the later it is the high chances that everyone has already take their picture and are on their way to the fireworks show. We did this last time and only waited 15 minutes. Remember, they’ll take a picture with your camera but the ones with the Photo Pass will look much better since it’s the camera that the cast members are used to handle. Smile!

3. Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure | Great way to make EPCOT fun for kids. It will give them small assignments to due, clues to find and places to go while on an adventure with Kim and Wade. Find all the equipment necessary at one of the KP Recruitment Centers, look for them at the park map when you get there or ask a Cast Member.

4. Get there early and head straight to Soarin, Mission:SPACE or Test Track| Pick 2, make the line for one while someone from your party gets Fast Passes for the other. These are the rides that tend to have the longest lines and remember that Fast Passes do run out. Do this little trick early, why? Because World Showcase doesn’t open until 11 a.m. Get there early and you have 2 whole hours to go around Future World and beat the crowds. (If you have extra magic hours and it happens to be EPCOT’s day and you can get there at 8am count your blessings, you’re one lucky Mousketeer!)

5. Sugar Candy artist at Japan Pavilion | Japan  (duh!) Right next to Teppan Edo there’s a small booth where an artist makes amazing sugar candy figures, from parrots to flowers they are true artists. Watch as they make these “figurines” in the blink of an eye while explaining everything.

6. Innoventions East & West | Future World East | Great area for kids and the whole family to walk around, see how stuff works, learn how to make the world a better place and see all sorts of cool things related to saving energy, recycling, air, etc. (Don’t tell the kids it’s all science, they’ll go mad I tell ya’, simply mad.) Oh and it’s indoors with air conditioning.

7. Funky snacks at the pavilions | Don’t just walk by the pavilions. Go inside, take a look around. Besides amazing replicas, natives from the lands and great information on each country there are delicacies from each country there. You don’t have to spend a whole lot, maybe buy one thing at every pavilion for the whole family to share. There are seaweed and shrimp chips at Japan, gummy sushi at China, hummus and kabobs at Morroco, dark chocolate with hazelnuts at Italy, German chocolate cake at Germany (or bratwurst with biër if you’re 21+). In United Kingdom you’ll find butterscotch biscuits (cookies) and native chips, same with Canada.

In Mexico, Norway, France and U.S.A you’ll find more familiar treats such as nachos, taquitos, caramel, caramel popcorn, croissants, napoleon dessert and funnel cake.

8. Malestrom | Norway . Fun ride that you wouldn’t expect inside a pavilion and it ends with a short film that you watch or skip. Short wait times as well and it has a few surprises here and there that I won’t spoil.

9. Illuminations: Reflections of Earth | The best way to end the night at EPCOT! Start heading to Showcase Plaza at least an hour before it begins (Check the times in the “Show Times” paper conveniently located next to the park maps when you enter) to get a great view.

10. Learn a new word/how to write or say your name in another language | All cast members of the pavilions are natives of the land and therefore the language, although this may not necessarily be as fun in United Kingdom and Canada it will be in the more exotic pavilions like China, Germany, Morocco and Japan. Pick a word and ask a cast member to say it in their native language or teach you to write it. In Morocco I got a necklace with my name written in Arabic on both the plaque and the box it was kept in, great keapsake. It’s great for children so they learn something new. — Heck, maybe even practice those 4 years of high school Spanish in México — Have fun, they’re used to being asked questions and are there to make your day magical. If it’s for the kids maybe they can write what they learn in their autograph book (extra hint: that could be great for a Disney Trip scrapbook later on.)

What are your secrets for EPCOT? Favorite things to do? Let me know!

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All things mentioned are done so by my own recommendation. Photo is taken by and is property of Disney and Sparkle, feel free to use it but if you can, link back to us! Have a sparkle-y day.

Any additional questions, comments or suggestions you can contact me at– disneyandsparkle@gmail.com

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10 Great Money Saving Tips – Walt Disney World

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Visiting WDW, although magical can set you back quite a few bucks! I know there are MANY posts out there about how to save money but here are my tips and the ones I gathered as the most helpful while researching over the last few years as well as the ones that I have “created” on my own or inherited from my mother.

1. Go off season! – This is a hard one, since many people usually only get vacations once or twice a year and they may fall within high season (Christmas, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend, summer, etc.). However, if it’s possible go during “low season“. This won’t always assure short lines, I just recently went during the first week of January 2013 and we did encounter more lines & people than expected but it wasn’t quite as impossible as the week of the 24th – 31st of December.

2. Don’t stay at Disney hotels! – I know, it’s a tough one. But the reality is that you are charged a lot for Mickey Mouse sheets and riding on Disney’s Magical Express from MCO to your resort. There are many hotels within the WDW area, specially on International Drive, Downtown Disney area, etc. Sometimes you may find hotels for well under $70 a night (and if you venture out to Kissimmee you’ll, generally, find the absolute cheapest prices.) Rent a car, which you can find for around $300 a week during high season. Some of the benefits of renting a car are: cheaper breakfast off WDW grounds, transportation to supermarket/pharmacy to buy snacks, water, milk, etc., in case of emergency you don’t have to wait for a cab, if you park at the parks you don’t have to wait for a shuttle after an entire day of walking, dinner off grounds as well, you’re not limited to staying in WDW for the entire trip. Combine that with staying off grounds and you’re likely to save quite a few $$$. Specially buying snacks and water for the parks before hand, my number 1 tip!!, I’m sorry but almost $3 for a bottle of water? Heck no! Although, an extra tip is that anywhere inside WDW that serves fountain soft drinks you can ask for a cup of ice water at no charge. Also, don’t be afraid to look into one week apartment rentals, there are tons of sites like Air B&B that offer short term rentals (even weekends) for great prices – even compared to “cheap” hotels nearby.

3. BYO-Snacks/Water/Lunches – I cannot stress this enough, even if it’s a few bananas from the buffet (don’t look at me like that, it’s acceptable tourist on a budget behavior!), cereal boxes, water, etc. absolutely anything is helpful. What I’ve always done (a behavior inherited from my parents) is go to the supermarket on the first day and buy packs of water, snacks and even plastic bows, cereal and milk for a quick midnight snack or even breakfast. Technically you’re not supposed to bring food in to the parks but the nice cast members at the entry will look the other way – unless it’s in a cooler. That is a huge Disney no-no. A few snack bars, cookies and PBJ/Ham and cheese sandwiches will get you through the day and then you can go off-property for a calm family dinner to recover from park mayhem. There are many local and chain restaurants that won’t empty your wallet if you drive 10-15 minutes.

4. Buy your souvenirs off-ground! Whether it’s at Walgreens, WalMart, Publix or special discount souvenir stores (you’ll see them everywhere!) take advantage of them. If you want to take something home to your loved ones the important thing is the detail not the value of it. A key chain will cost you $11.95 at the Magic Kingdom yet can easily be found for $2.99 at Publix (true story).

5. Give kids their own money! I have yet to do this since I don’t have kids but my parents did it with me and I will one day do it with my own. If it’s a surprise trip give them a certain amount ($40 for a 4 day trip?…you figure it out) when you get there or if it’s planned let them earn it at home ($5 for cleaning their room?) and when you get to WDW anything they want to buy has to come out of their wallets. Of course, food and beverage are not included but souvenirs, plush toys, funny pens, etc are. Teach them not to buy anything until the last day if possible, that way they’ll be sure of what they want and not regret having bought that $10 book of stickers the first day.

6. Buy Disney apparel beforehand! Sometimes K-Mart and Target have Disney themed apparel at great prices. What’s the point of spending $25 on a t-shirt when you can get it for $10. Check online as well, you can even get the same one for the whole family if you want to match. Also, buy Minnie/Mickey ears beforehand online, they’ll set you back at least $20 p/p at the parks.

7. BYO Poncho! – Florida weather is unpredictable, having lived there and gone to Disney four times before I still did not learn my lesson this January and left home without buying rain ponchos at Walgreens and had to spend $40 on 2 of them when it started raining on the 3rd day of our trip. Not worth it, trust me.

8. Share park treats! I usually only spend money on food on park treats that I can’t get at home (remember, I take my own snacks and have a filling breakfast and dinner off property!). Who can resist a Mickey premium? or a huge Mickey shaped pretzel with neon-orange cheese sauce? I know I can’t! But to save both money and calories split your treat with someone, they are generally pretty huge and you can ask for an extra plate (if necessary) at no extra charge. Limit treats to one per day, that way you won’t go overboard with calories, save money, and have something special every day. Also, lunches are pretty big so share one or order off of the kid’s meal for a good-sized lunch with healthy sides (usually apples or veggie sticks) that won’t break the budget.

9. BYO- Meds, lotions, shampoo, toothpaste, band aids, etc. – Your feet WILL hurt after a day at the parks even if you go at your own pace without kids (like we did) so take ibuprofen or acetaminophen, petroleum jelly (hey, I’m not here to judge, sometimes adults get diaper rash from walking in jeans all day, it’s okay..no need to be ashamed.), vapor rub, fever reducer, band aids for small cuts, sunscreen, aloe vera for sun burns, moisturizer for dry skin during the winter, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, diapers, etc. Anything you can bring from home to save you money from having to buy at the parks (or drive off property to do so) is a life saver, specially if you all of a sudden get a headache at 11p.m. before going to bead. Remember to follow TSA rules for traveling with liquids and the things that you absolutely cannot take. If you plan ahead of time you can even order plastic bottles online for a few dollars and fill at home with the products you already have and are used to.

10. Plan ahead as much as you can! No need to create a minute-by-minute plan. But at least a day by day on your cellphone, where to have breakfast, what snacks to take, what treat to buy, extras budget, etc. so you have as little surprise expenses at possible. They will happen, they are sort of a staple of any vacation but research menus online, prices of certain souvenirs you’re certain you’re going to want to bring home and such. Review it in the morning and keep it in mind. There are lots of free things to do at WDW grounds – which is the topic for an upcoming post (so please come back :)). Research, set a certain amount for an emergency (flight cancelled…have to spend 10 extra hours at the airport..you’re going to need cash!) better to be over prepared than to be faced with surprises unprepared. Overall, have fun, laugh, eat that funnel cake you’ve been thinking about since you got to EPCOT but don’t get caught up in the vacation craze and keep your head on the ground, remember that you’ll probably be paying for the hotel room for at least a few months, you don’t want added unnecessary expenses to the ones you’ll already have waiting for you at home.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All companies, websites, stores mentioned are done so by my own recommendation. Photo is taken by and is property of Disney and Sparkle, feel free to use it but if you can, link back to us!. Have a sparkle-y day.

Any questions, comments, suggestions – disneyandsparkle@gmail.com