Healthy Eating at Walt Disney World


Many people are trying to eat in a healthier way.  My husband, Kevin, and I are no exception.  We have changed our eating habits over the past five months opting to not eat processed food, white flour and sugar.  When our recent Walt Disney World vacation arrived we were wondering how we would continue to eat the way we wanted to.



The first night of our trip was spent at the All Star Movie Resort.  When we arrived we walked in to the dining area to see what was available for dinner.  We noticed the usual burgers, chicken fingers and pizza, but then discovered a cooler containing a great selection of fruit, salads, cheese, yogurt and hard boiled eggs.  Kevin and I were both pleased to see we had multiple options that worked for us.


Magic Kingdom was the first park we visited where some of our very favorite treats can be found!  Dole Whips and Mickey Bars are two treats we always enjoy while at Magic Kingdom, but were going to skip on this trip.  As much as we wanted a Nutella Waffle, we thought it would be best to look around for a healthier lunch.  Have you ever seen the giant turkey legs in Frontierland?  We had seen them over the years, but never sampled one so we gave it a try.  The turkey leg was delicious and enough to share.  As we walked through Liberty Square we found the perfect food stand!  The Cast Members were grilling corn and there was a large variety of fresh fruit.   The grilled corn was delicious, a good compliment to the turkey leg.

The International Food and Wine Festival had begun at Epcot just prior to our arrival.  The Food and Wine Festival is one of our favorite events at Walt Disney World where every country has sample-sized food and drinks to try. For Kevin and me, this was the best place to eat many of our meals because we could choose the food that worked best for us.  Our favorites were the filet in Canada, the beef skewers from Morocco and sweet & spicy shrimp that we found at the Australia stand.

While we were at Epcot we had dinner at Teppan Edo in the Japan Pavilion, a wonderful sit down hibachi style restaurant.  Our chef was very accommodating and gave us extra veggies instead of rice to go with our steak and shrimp.  The food was incredible and the experience was very fun.


One of Kevin’s favorite meals of our whole trip was a salad at Wolfgang Puck Express which is located at Disney Springs.  Again, the staff was very accommodating and offered fruit in place of the dessert which accompanies a quick service meal on the Disney Dining Plan.  Kevin found the salad to be delicious and big enough to share.


Buffets are another ideal place to dine when you are looking for healthier options.  Our breakfast buffet at Cape May had so many delicious items to choose from that we were stuffed when we left.  There were several types of eggs, which were all very tasty.  The meats like bacon, sausage and smoked salmon, along with the fresh fruit rounded out our breakfast nicely.  We discovered that the chef will make gluten free Mickey waffles for those who cannot have gluten.


On our last night we had dinner at the Cinderella’s Happily Ever After buffet at 1900 Park Fare in Grand Floridian.  We both ate way too much while we waited to meet Cinderella, Prince Charming and the Step Family.  I gave the famous Cold Strawberry Soup a try and loved it, it was incredible.  Kevin and I both thought the Mongolian Beef was very good, as was the prime rib.  There were many salads and a very nice variety of veggies.  It was hard to walk past the desserts, they looked wonderful.


Overall we found the selection of healthy food options to be extensive at Walt Disney World, especially if you ask questions of the Cast Members before ordering.  Everyone was happy to substitute vegetables for potatoes and fruit for dessert.  If you are looking for healthier options I would love to talk to you about our experience and help you plan a healthy trip to Walt Disney World


Why use a Travel Agent?

Why Use a Travel Agent?

The internet provides a sea of information for you to use when planning your next vacation.  It’s great that there is plenty of information, but this sea can get overwhelming!  When you use an expert to help plan your vacation you can save valuable time, because a Travel Professional can wade through the sea and offer choices that will work best for your family.

I am an expert in helping families create fabulous vacations to Disney and Universal.  I have traveled extensively to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Universal Orlando, and have sailed on most of the Disney Cruise Ships.  I can offer you first-hand experience on the destination that you choose.20160405_162340595_ios

It is my job as a Travel Professional to help you plan every part of your vacation.  We will start by talking about what you are looking for, the dates you have in mind and what kind of vacation you want for your family.  Once we have those particulars nailed down, I will go to work finding suggestions that I think will be the best fit for your family.  We will also talk about additional items such as dining options, shore excursions, show tickets and special events that you may want to add on to your vacation.

Once your trip is booked we get to have some fun!  We will work together to choose any dining reservations your family would enjoy.  I will get up early to make those reservations for you.  You get to sleep in, get to work or get the kids off to school while I do all the work.  We will talk about which rides or shore excursions you would like to reserve in advance.

During the months leading up to your vacation I will send you tips, suggestions, and information on everything from the ports your Disney Cruise will visit to details on shows and attractions in the parks.  I love getting to know my clients and recommending special activities that will make their vacation extra magical like the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Fireworks Dessert Parties or a special adults-only night out.

Often, Special Promotions are released during the year.  Most travelers are unaware of when a promotion has been released.  That is ok for my clients, because I will already be in the know. By using my concierge level travel planning services, you do not need to watch for these special offers!  I will know in advance that the promotion is being released and will get any discounts that apply to your reservation.  I will work diligently to save my clients money on their vacations!

My services do not end once you arrive at your destination.  If you have any issues at your resort with dining or tickets, or once onboard a cruise ship, I will be on the phone trying to get the problem resolved so you can enjoy your vacation.

What is the best part of using my professional travel planning services?  All of these extra services do not cost you a dime!  You will pay the same for your vacation whether you do all the planning or if you let me take care of everything for you!

I would love to help you and your family plan your next trip to Disney or Universal!  Contact me, for your complimentary, no obligation quote.

Conquering the Walt Disney World Mountains

“Mom, when we go to Walt Disney World this year can we park hop and ride all the roller coasters?”  It’s finally happened, my son is old enough to go from park to park and ride the big rides!

“Of course we can, that will be a lot of fun!”

Our family had two quick days planned at Walt Disney World while we visited family in Florida over Spring Break.

On Day 1 we drove about an hour from Grandma & Grandpa’s house in time to check in at Port Orleans French Quarter, hop on the bus and make it to Hollywood Studios before opening.  While my son, Kyle, and I enjoyed Hollywood Studios, my husband, Kevin, had a special morning with his parents at Magic Kingdom.   I had made our advanced FastPasses for Hollywood Studios, we were both excited to ride our favorite Hollywood Studios rides; Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania.

We arrived at Hollywood Studios right as the park opened.  Since we had not gotten a FastPass for Star Tours, we went right to it and did not have to wait at all!!  Kyle was thrilled to ride Star Tours and see that scenes had been added from the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens.  Then we were off to the Star Wars Launch Bay to meet Kylo Ren.  After meeting Kylo Ren it was all about the thrill rides, with Rock ‘n Roller Coaster first, then Tower of Terror.  Our last stop was Toy Story Mania before going back to the resort for some pool time and meeting up with Kevin, Grandma & Grandpa.

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The evening began with a delicious dinner at Biergarten in the German Pavilion at Epcot.  Not only did we have a delicious dinner, but a wonderful dinner show, both reasons I enjoy returning to Biergarten year after year.  We followed dinner by meeting Joy and Sadness from Inside Out!  It wasn’t part of our original plan, but they had just started their meet & greet and we couldn’t resist.  By the time we were finished with Joy & Sadness, Illuminations was about to begin.  Riding a popular ride during the nighttime shows almost always guarantees a short line. This was no exception as we only had to wait 10 minutes Test Track.   On our way out of Epcot we stopped to ride Spaceship Earth, the perfect way to end Day 1.

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We all woke up before our alarm on Day 2, we were so excited to get the day started.  Animal Kingdom was the first park and our first ride was our favorite, Expedition Everest.  Early in the morning is the best time to ride Expedition Everest if you don’t have a FastPass.  The line was very short, we only waited about 5 minutes so we got off and decided to ride one more time!  Next on the list was Kali River Rapids and Kyle was hoping we would all get soaked!  We lucked out again with a short line, so after our family ride, Kyle rode again as a single rider.  Kevin and I waited on the bridge to shoot him with water from the elephant fountains near the end of the ride.  I’m not sure which was more fun, the actual ride or shooting people with the water.  On our way out of Animal Kingdom we went in to see Bug’s Life, we never get tired of Bug’s Life.  Not only is it a cute show, but it’s a great way to cool off and relax for a few minutes.


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Hollywood Studios was our next stop so Kevin could ride some of his favorite rides.  We had decided when FastPasses became available 60 days prior to our arrival that we would get our 3 advanced FastPasses for our afternoon in Hollywood Studios knowing that arriving early at Animal Kingdom would be good for short wait times.  Our first FastPass was for Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, which is a favorite of the whole family.  Tower of Terror followed Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, then we were off to Star Tours.  By mid-day we were all very glad we had FastPasses for all three of these rides.  Our lunch at the Sci Fi Diner was at the exact right time after a very full morning of riding rides.   Having a trained, traveled and trusted travel agent to help navigate making FastPasses and dining reservations can really help make your day smooth and enjoyable.

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We chose Magic Kingdom as our last park because it was open to Resort Guests until 1:00am.  Up before 7:00am to get to Animal Kingdom right at opening, then attempting to stay at Magic Kingdom until 1:00am, we were nuts!  After a few afternoon hours at the pool, we made our way to Magic Kingdom feeling refreshed and ready for a late night.  We rode all of our favorite rides, Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear, Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups, you know, the staples.  During the Electrical Light Parade we got in line for Big Thunder Mountain.  As we hoped, the line during the parade was not very long, only about 15 minutes.  It was almost time for Celebrate the Magic, an amazing light show that is projected onto Cinderella’s Castle, so back to the front of the park we went for a great view of Cinderella’s Castle.  Kyle had not seen this show yet, he was mesmerized!

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We had a few more rides to hit and we couldn’t miss seeing the Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor.  We wandered through Tomorrowland just before midnight on our way to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Fantasyland, we were all excited because none of us had ridden this ride yet.  I’m not sure how long the wait was, because the interactive cue was so much fun we didn’t pay attention to the time.  The ride was a lot of fun and if we weren’t on a mission to ride all the roller coasters we definitely would have ridden it again.

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We left Fantasyland and walked back to Tomorrowland for our last roller coaster, Space Mountain.  It was raining now and we were glad the line for Space Mountain was all inside, at least we thought it was!  As we got closer to the ride we saw a long line outside and a thrity minute wait.  UGH, none of us wanted to wait that long especially in the rain and we were debating just skipping Space Mountain and going back to the resort.  We thought we would go ride Buzz Lightyear one more time then see how the Space Mountain line looked.  Luckily when we were done riding Buzz Lightyear the line for Space Mountain had moved inside and was only about 15 minutes.

We did it, we made it until 1:00am and rode all the roller coasters!  Having a plan ahead of time made it very easy to visit all four parks, use our FastPasses most effectively and ride all the rides we really wanted to.  As a trained, traveled and trusted Wishes Family Travel Concierge Agent, I can help you make the most of your Disney vacation too!

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Making Disney Memories

I had no idea that when I went on vacation in December of 1999 that I would be starting a lifetime of family memories!

My boyfriend and I thought it would be fun to take a trip to Walt Disney World over the Holidays culminating with a trip to Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve 1999.  We visited every park, enjoyed the beautiful decorations, and felt like kids every time we saw a character.

On New Year’s Eve we got up before 6:00 am because we were told Magic Kingdom will close due to capacity before 9:00 am.  I remember lining up for the monorail and looking back at thousands of people.  We were in the park around 7:00 am and instead of going right to a ride, my boyfriend made me walk around the castle.  I thought it was a little strange, but hey we saw lots of people setting up camp for the Fireworks and met some very nice people.  One man in particular stands out because his plan was to sit in a spot directly in front of the Castle until the Fireworks at midnight, and it was around 7:30 in the morning.

Our day went on, we rode the rides, saw people napping everywhere, ate lots of food and had a fabulous time.  Around the time of the Electric Light Parade we were at Casey’s Corner.  The parade came to an end and we found ourselves in a group of people following behind the parade.  All at once, right in front of the castle this mob of people stopped and simultaneously sat down.  We looked around and saw the man in the folding chair that we met early in the morning.  We were sitting right in front of him!

The atmosphere before the Fireworks was electric as everyone was excited about the new millennium.  We talked to the man we met earlier, Bob, and I was so caught up in the Disney Magic that I didn’t see my boyfriend fumbling around in his pocket during the Fireworks.  At about 1 second past midnight he pulled a ring out and asked me to marry him!  I was in shock!!  I screamed, said yes and gave him a big kiss!


A year after our wedding we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl.  When she was 9 months old we took her to Disney World for the first time.  As we made our way toward the Castle we stopped at “our spot” to tell her the story.

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Our next trip to Disney World was after our son was born, he was not quite a year old.  Magic Kingdom had made some changes around the Castle and our spot on the curb was gone, but we could still stand where the curb had been and tell both kids about our engagement.  Our then 2 year old daughter rolled her eyes and asked to go see the Castle!

We have been back to Magic Kingdom many times since 1999 and always visit “our spot”.  We’ve also added many, many more memories celebrating birthdays and anniversaries.  My favorite part of every trip, even after all these years, is feeling like a kid again!  I cry every time the train rolls up to the station and Mickey opens the park.  My heart skips a beat when my now 11 and 13 year old children grab my hand and make me run to get in line for a ride.

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We have now been to Disneyland as a family and look forward to going back soon.  I am excited to add our Disneyland experience to my arsenal so I can help families plan their visits to the “Park that Walt Built”.








Epcot Food & Wine Festival

Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival,   A Rookie’s View

Each fall, from the end of September through mid-November, Epcot’s World Showcase transforms into the Food and Wine Festival.  In addition to the countries already in World Showcase, many more temporary booths from different countries are added to increase the amount of unique food, wine, beer and desserts that are available for tasting.

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My husband and I had never been to the Food and Wine Festival, so we decided we would add on a day to our 15th Anniversary Disney vacation, and what better time to go than the Food & Wine Festival’s 20th anniversary!   As a gift to ourselves we purchased the event’s Premium Package which includes:
*a bottle of wine and souvenir glass per person
*souvenir Food & Wine Magic Bands
*admission into the Illuminations Champagne and Dessert Party
*a Culinary or Beverage Demonstration
*4 free food or beverage tastings
*and seating at 11 different VIP areas

The cost for the Premium Package is $199 per person.

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When we arrived at the Festival, we checked in at the Food & Wine Welcome Center to receive our Premium Package lanyard, event passport and tickets to the Beverage Seminar.  Inside the Welcome Center were stages for the Culinary and Beverage Seminars, tasting areas, and items for purchase.

Once we had picked up everything we needed, we headed out to fill up our passport!  The Premium Package areas were staffed with friendly Cast Members who took our orders, delivered our items, and stamped our passports for each country we were visiting.  There were two to four countries represented at each Premium Package area.  We enjoyed having a shaded area to sit and enjoy our selections while those without the Premium Package waited in line for up to a half hour and then had nowhere to sit and eat their food.  Some of our favorite items were the grouper from Dominican Republic, the filet with gorgonzola sauce from Canada and the lobster roll from the Hops & Barley stand in America.

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The highlight of our day was the Illuminations Champagne and Dessert Party!  An hour before Illuminations we were welcomed into an area right along the water with the perfect view for Illuminations.  We were able to drink Champagne and taste several different desserts from countries around World Showcase. Our favorite dessert was the traditional baklava from Morocco, YUM!  Other items on the dessert buffet included, churros, blue cupcakes, cookies, and festive Halloween rice crispy treats.   Having a prime seating area to watch Illuminations was a wonderful way to end our day.

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I can’t believe we waited so long to visit the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot!  We had such a fabulous time that we want to make this an annual trip.  If you love food, wine, or trying something new, I would love to help you plan a visit to Epcot and the Food and Wine Festival. I have many more pictures posted on my Facebook page, Wishes Family Travel – Juli Russ.  Contact me at to learn more about all that Disney has to offer.