Monday, September 8, 2014

Touring Plans Dashboard

Last week, you may have noticed, I reviewed several Unofficial Guides, including The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2015 with an ongoing giveaway.  One of the authors, Len Testa, is also the man behind Touring Plans - the website that has an abundance of information on everything going on at the parks.  Most importantly?  It's the website that has the best information on crowd levels, park crowds, and how to tour the parks to see the most in the least amount of time and lines.

I've been a subscriber for years and now, they've added a Dashboard - a place to input all your details, track crowds, etc..  Instead of my spreadsheet, I now have the dashboard!  All in one place, I have how many days are left until my trip, which park I've selected each day, my fast pass + reservations (which I manually entered online) as well as my ADR's and the parks I plan to visit each day!  Already included is the forecast and crowd levels - amazing..

Here is a part of my dashboard - edited for privacy purposes.  It's much larger - with all of the dates in my travel window in a neat and consolidated row.


Okay, if that's not enough information, let me add one more trick -

You can create and optimize Touring Plans... and when you select the date for those touring plans, they automatically show up on your dashboard!

So, let's recap.

Touring Plans offers:
  • A 365 crowd calender
  • Park recommendations
  • Attraction Wait Times
  • Hotel descriptions with view photos for just about every room at every resort (seriously?!)
  • Restaurant menus and prices - updated more than once a year!
  • Optimized and customized touring plans - tour the parks efficiently!
  • Lines app - downloadable app/web app to check everything in the park quickly and easily!
There is more to see and fun things to check out/parts of Lines that you can geek out on in the parks, but that's silly fun (contributing to wait times/attraction closures/crowd levels).   
It's worth it to me - is it worth it to you?  Subscribe here!!

**Full disclaimer - I am an affiliate with Touring Plans and have, on more than one occasion, received $1-2 for people subscribing to Touring Plans.  I appreciate purchasing through my affiliate link if you plan to use it - all opinions and everything about this post is 100% my own opinion and ravings - I love this program!  I wasn't asked to write anything nor am I receiving anything for doing so!**

Friday, September 5, 2014

Marvel Universe LIVE! Review!

Motorcyles, skateboards, stunts, flips, tricks, lights, smoke, laser - It's like Lights, Motors, Action but better - SUPER HEROES!

Marvel Universe Live!


Not just any super heroes, the heroes from the Marvel Universe!  From Feld Entertainment that brought us Disney on Ice and Monster Jam, Washington D.C. welcomes Marvel Universe LIVE!  It can often seem that many of these shows are designed for girls - focused on princesses, but Marvel Universe LIVE! definitely reaches the heart of the little boys (and boys of all ages!).


First off, let me say - I sent the boys in for this review.  My husband, good friend, and our sons (4.5 and 3.5 respectively) enjoyed a boys night out for this show.  They sent pics the whole time - tons of pics, as requested/demanded, but I needed the boys that actually know Loki vs Thor to go to bat this time.  Hey, sometimes they need to take one for the team, right?

Lots of characters!!

Everyone's favorite Avengers, including Iron Man, Wolverine, Spiderman, Thor, the Hulk, watch the super heroes as they gather together to save the Cosmic Cube, or Tesserect, from Loki, Thor's evil brother.  You'll find each Heroes' archenemy, such as Red Skull, the archenemy of Captain America, (bottom right image in the collage above). 

Lots of Plot

The show begins with Thor smashing the Cosmic Cube and scattering the pieces around the world so that no one person can contain all of the power the cube holds.   Quickly after, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts arrive, arguing as they do about scheduling.  Showing off some of the technology of the show, they soon video conference and run into some other friends - Captain America, Bruce Banner, and the skate-boarding wiz, Peter Parker.  Iron Man and Spiderman don their wardrobe changes first, as they rush off to the desert when Nick Fury needs them.

With some great 4x4 stunts, Loki-controlled aliens capture Nick Fury ambush them on the way, and we then found out that several other members of the Marvel Universe - this time from the X-Men team: Wolverine, Cyclops, and Storm.  Loki plans to steal their powers and create his own Cube to control the universe.

Of course, Iron Man and Spider Man show up to free Wolverine.. end scene!!

After Intermission

The second half is more focused on Bruce Banner and Wolverine trying to free Cyclops and Storm while the rest of the Avengers are busy trying to find the scattered pieces of the Tesserrects.   We had  lot of fun watching the characters do tricks and flips and stunts all around the globe as they battle good vs. evil!


Much to do later, The Incredible Hulk shows up to make sure everything is set back to normal - which of course, it does.  The Super Heroes win!

Souvenirs a plenty!

Luckily, the friend we brought with us thought ahead - the boys came prepared with little light-up fans - because, just like everything Disney, merchandise is readily available!  Please note my 4 year old looking longingly at all of the paraphernalia available!  Because he doesn't already have enough Marvel/Comic character clothing...

Recap and review!

Lots of characters, booms, whizzes, whirls - fun for the whole family.  This show was definitely entertainment - I believe my friend used the term "fabulous" and the boys had a fantastic time!  It's definitely a fantastic stunt show and a far cry from Disney on Ice.  Having skilled martial artists and aerial dancers/gymnasts is a treat for the grownups as well as the kids!

My friend's son, at 3.5, wasn't a huge fan of the loud sounds - he had a minor meltdown at the beginning and asked to go to the restroom as soon as the show was about to start the second time around.  But, my 4.5 year old?  Loved EVERY minute!  In fact, even though the show ended past his bedtime and was followed by a long commute (over an hour), he couldn't stop talking about it!
"Wolverine cut all the bad guys with his claws!!"
or
"Captain America did lots of cool tricks on his [motor] bike!  Like this!"
and with that, he showed me all he could with his new Captain America motorcycle toy - my husband apparently couldn't resist the souvenir stand anymore than my little man could!

Room for improvement?

Like all first generation (or even more than that if you think about all the changes Mickey Mouse has seen from 1955 to present), not all of the costumes were dead on.  Noah thought that Spiderman and Captain America were definitely the real deal, but Hulk? "His face didn't look right" and Iron Man looked a bit over stuffed in his costume..   With that said, it was a fun show and all the boys had a great time!   

Find a show for yourself!

While the show will still be in the D.C. area for many more shows, it may be coming near you, soon!  Check out Marvel Universe LIVE! online to find out!

*For a cool background look at the skills and talents that the Marvel Universe LIVE! cast has, check out this article on their auditions - it really is like watching a Cirque de Soleil show for comic book fans!

I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforst in attending shows and reporting my opinion within this blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows.  Even though I receive these benefits, the opinions in this blog are 100% my own, or my husbands!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Marvel Universe LIVE! Hosts Super Hero Skills Test with Boys & Girls Club

I LOVE this - not only is the Marvel Universe LIVE! group putting on fantastic shows, but they're also reaching into the community to inspire and spread cheer to children who need it!  

Marvel Universe LIVE! 


Super Hero Skills Test with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington. Approximately 50 children from ages 8-10 tested their super hero skills, with the help of some Marvel Universe LIVE! performers, and practiced climbing a wall like Spider-Man, throwing a shield like Captain America, and slamming a hammer like Thor!

Who doesn't want to be Superman?
Marvel Universe LIVE! is a new live entertainment experience for the entire family. Children and adults alike will enjoy watching their favorite Marvel Super Heroes including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Wolverine and many more during a comic extravaganza that brings both heroes and villains to life. 

Marvel Universe LIVE! will be in the Washington, DC area for three weeks, with performances at the Verizon Center from Sept. 4-7 and the Patriot Center Sept 12 – 21.

The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2015


Disneyland is "the biggest regional theme park in the country."  But, it's also a fantastic park for all Disney fans!  It can be a great short stop on a longer California trip or a destination in it's own.  Disneyland is not just for locals anymore and this book will help everyone have a better trip! 

First Glance: 

Just like the comparison of Disneyland to Walt Disney World, this book is much smaller.  In fact, it's even smaller than the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World for Kids.  But, that makes perfect sense, as there are only 2 theme parks to cover - Disneyland Park and Disney's California Adventure.  There is a small section on Universal Studios Hollywood, but even that doesn't need much room! 

Glance Inside:

The contents inside the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2015 are as follows:
  1. Planning Before You Leave Home
  2. Essentials
  3. Disneyland with Kids
  4. Dining and Shopping in and around Disneyland
  5. Disneyland Park
  6. Disney California Adenture
  7. Universal Studios Hollywood

Skip Ahead:

Disneyland is so different from Walt Disney World in that there are only 3 on-sight resorts, all of which are considered (and priced) deluxe, but there are a lot of Good Neighbor hotels in walking distance - many a closer walk to the main entrance of Disneyland than Paradise Pier, which is located at the far end of Disney's California Adventure.

In Part 1 - Planning Before You Leave Home, there are pages of charts comparing the local hotels, but Disneyland and non-Disney property.  They have an overview map, charts with quality ratings, costs, and even contact for each hotel.  With so many options in the Anaheim area, it can be incredibly overwhelming to decide on an off property hotel, especially for us WDW on-property people, but this section of the book is a lifesaver!

Just as they do with the WDW books, each year, the Unofficial Guide Team do request for visitors to complete surveys on their stays.  They take traveler ratings very seriously in addition with their checking on the hotels and looking at hotel rooms as frequently as possible.

Extras, details, and tidbits

A section I love (again, valid in all three books) is the "Small-Child Fright-Potential Chart."  Relating specifically to the 3-7 year old crowd, each area of the parks have the areas highlighted that may scare children in this age range.

While there are less interjections and rumors found in this book, there are "Touring Tips"  Had I read the touring tip on Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, with it's 3 star rating and long waits, I would have known that this attraction stays busy all day and to add it to the early morning must-do list!  Of course, reading it, I realize it's a spinner ride that can be more sickening than the Tea Cups and it's probably better we didn't ride!  Just as with this particular attraction, all attractions and restaurants are written about in detail.  I now know what I missed and what I'll have to check out on my next trip to the Disneyland Resort!

Information Galore!

I often plan trips around Dining Reservations (who doesn't?) and this book even helps that - with a chart on the Best Snacks and Disneyland Resort.    I did try the Coconut macaroon shaped like the Matterhorn from the Holly Holiday Bakery and the pretzels stuff with jalapeno cheese (phenomenal) but I sadly missed the Panko-crusted long beans when I visited Trader Sam's at Disneyland Hotel.  Hopefully they'll bring those to the East Coast when Trader Sam's opens up at the Polynesian Village... sometime in the future.  

So...

I had the 2014 Unofficial Guide to Disneyland on my trip, but wish I had gone through even more closely to learn about everything that we visited.  I think I may have been overwhelmed simply trying to visit a new place, but now I'm more excited about the attractions, restaurants, and snacks that I missed.  These books are really fantastic and I can't recommend them enough.

I received the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World in exchange for an honest review.  ll opinions are my own



While I can't recommend them enough, I CAN give one away.

One reader will win a copy of THEIR CHOICE of Unofficial Guides - either Walt Disney World, Walt Disney World with Kids, or Disneyland 2015.




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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Unofficial Guide WDW with Kids 2015 Review


As I've been lucky enough this year to preview the Unofficial Guides to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, I now bring you Walt Disney World with Kids 2015, written by Bob Sehlinger & Liliane J. Opsomer with Len Testa.

First Look:

This book is noticeable smaller than The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, which is nearly 850 pages.   At a mere 480 pages, this book is much less overwhelming!  Yet, knowing that it's an Unofficial Guide, I'm inclined to assume that it's going to be a fantastic wealth of knowledge.

Glance Inside:

The Contents are, of course, scaled down and focused on what kids want to do.  The Chapters look like:
  1. Basic Considerations
  2. Getting Your Act Together
  3. Where to Stay
  4. Dining 
  5. Disney boot Camp: Basic Training for World-Bound Families
  6. Get in the Boat, Men!
  7. The Magic Kingdom
  8. Epcot
  9. Disney's Animal Kingdom
  10. Disney's Hollywood Studios
  11. Universal Orlando and SeaWorld
  12. The Best of the Rest
A scaled down version of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2015, you will find a lot of the same information in the larger version.  This edition is special because four new "Unofficial Kids" have joined the team.  This book actually has tips and stories from kids for kids!

Skip Ahead:

The Epcot Chapter goes into great detail - giving fun trivia to get the kids excited about visiting the World Showcase!  For each Pavilion listed is language 101 - how to say hello, goodbye, thank you, and Mickey Mouse - with pronunciation guides!

The interjected kid tips here are also great - one Unofficial Kid, Julia, shares her thoughts on Agent P's World Showcase Adventure:
"You get to be a secret agent and fight an evil guy.  There are lots of special effects and clues to be discovered as you run through seven countries.  This is so much fun for the whole family."

Extras, details, and tidbits!

Just like in The Unofficial Guide for Walt Disney World, Disney gossip insider shares his stories and what may happen, but focused on the attractions that the kids are more likely interested in, such as Frozen possibilities and other ride rehabs.  

At the end of each theme park chapter is a trivia quiz, perfect for the older kids (or parents) to really test their Disney knowledge!

Touring Plans!

In each of the Unofficial Guides are Touring Plans for the Walt Disney World and Universal Theme Parks.  While I personally subscribe and use personalized Touring Plans, there are several clip out plans that you can use to make the most of your touring days!

So...

I think this actually may be the perfect guide for some of my clients - they've got me to help them select their accommodations, but may want a bit more information without going overboard!  I will definitely recommend this book to those traveling with kids, probably school agers on up, as a great guide that won't overwhelm, but get the kids involved!
I received a copy of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2015 free in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are completely my own.