Disney December – Disney Springs – T-Rex Restaurant

Disney World, Food, Girlfriend Getaway, Vacation Value

Imagine that before a trip to Disney you hear about the dinosaur experience at T-Rex. You try to make reservations, but there is no availability. So you decide to try to get in when you arrive. Your family walks up to the restaurant and then you see it, a long line flowing out of the restaurant. The hostess desk tells you that the wait is 2 hours without a reservation. The kids really want to dine here – but everyone is tired and hungry and you just don’t see everyone lasting for 120 minutes. There is a secret pass you can secure before your trip that saves the day!!! 
We arrived at T-Rex and the line was out the restaurant – the wait was at least 1.5 hours – but I walked up to the hostess desk, bypassing the long line, showed my Landrys card and we were escorted past the 2nd line which was waiting to be seated straight to an excellent table. This took less than 5 minutes total. NO RESERVATION!

We had a delicious meal of roasted chicken and tried 2 of the pasta dishes. The service was excellent and the décor is very engaging. The dinosaurs move, there are lights dimming and brightening, the sounds are reminiscent of a prehistoric jungle. So many of the young children were just sitting in amazement at all of the action around them. So, what is the secret to getting in the restaurant with no reservation and seated in less than 10 minutes???

Get the Landrys dining card (www.landrysselect.com) you will pay $25 to join, but within a few hours you will get a credit of $25 on your account, so the net cost is $0. In addition, this method works at all Landrys restaurants – presenting the card also allows points to be accrued that give you dining credits, and during your birthday month you receive a $25 gift credit good for $45 days. I am not a compensated spokesperson for Landrys – but a convinced and loyal customer of their restaurants. If you want to have quick entry to T-Rex, or either of the Rainforest Cafes at Disney – this is a great secret pass to have in your trip plans.  

Disney December – How to do Disney for $129 a day (Air -Villa-Tickets-and a round of drinks!)

Animal Kingdom, Disney World, Epcot, Friends, Girlfriend Getaway, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Vacation Value

Traveling to Orlando from the Midwest on a 7:30am flight means getting up at 3:30am. The sacrifice of sleep is a small price when you are meeting good friends and in fact the anticipation makes it hard to sleep! Our arrival at O’hare went smoothly, the flight was leaving on time and we even got better seats once we got to the gate. Vagablond was given a complimentary upgrade to first, and tried to give it to JoJo or Deb – but they insisted I take the seat. As a small token of sharing, and courtesy of the first class kitchen, I arrived with a warm cinnamon roll for Deb and a Bloody Mary for Jo Jo about halfway through the flight. We had a minor scare with Deb’s bag once we arrived – but the United luggage service worked really hard to track the bag down and make sure it did not go on a free cruise via the “Magical Express” program.

With the crisis averted – we were on our way to our offsite hotel, The Sheraton Vistana Villas Resort. On past trips both Deb and Jo Jo had stayed at an onsite Disney Resort, and this past July Vagablond and 2 daughters had stayed at Art of Animation resort. We made the conscious decision to stay off site on this trip based on past experience, cost and value. It was not a decision we regret at all for this trip. The Sheraton Vistana Villas were very nice, we had a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom villa – with kitchen, living and dining room and a screened patio. While we were not in the room for hours on end, the time we spent there was very enjoyable and the coffee pot was a very welcome feature. The hotel staff was very friendly and helpful when our washer drum came loose during our first load, we called and it was fixed the very next day. We spent time at the pools twice and enjoyed the loungers, snack bar, cocktails and hot tubs.

We all agreed at the end of the vacation that if we had stayed at a Disney resort we would not have had the space to spread out, would have had to share one bathroom, probably no patio and certainly no coffee pot. While a Disney villa would have been as nice – it would have been 3 times more expensive.  I want to share details on the package we purchased for the trip, as an FYI and a comparison for people interested in cutting cost. Vagablond is a member of Costco and we purchased a package deal through Costco Travel without airfare. Here is how it breaks down:

We purchased Airfare through the United website at $95 round trip per person – That is Not a typo – This was ROUND TRIP.

Purchased a Costco package to Disney World for $2052.00 –($684 each) it included:

6 nights-2 Bdrm 2 Bath Villa & $50 resort credit (we used this for snacks and drinks at the pool)

7 Days of a full size rental car from Alamo

5 Day BASE Ticket to Disney – (no park hopper – but we were planning to do one park a day)

Our total cost for 6 days came out to $779 per person for flight, very nice lodging, a full size car AND our tickets to Disney which is $129 per person per day for Air, Car, Hotel and Park tickets. If you buy the 5 day base ticket on the Disney site – the cost for that alone is $335.38 with tax.

We spent one of our days moving from Disney Springs where parking is free, to a resort where we had to connect to take a bus to the park, then at the end of the day taking a boat to a resort to connect to a bus that would go to Disney Springs. The transportation system was crowded, slow and we spent a total of 3.5 hours traveling on trains, trams, boats and buses that day. IF we would have had to do that for 6 days we would have gone crazy. Based on all of our past experiences we knew that staying at a resort does not necessarily afford the same comfort or freedom that a rental car.

We all decided that the rental car was the way to get around after that. We did find a work around for the $20 per day parking on one day, we made a reservation at Rainforest Café near Animal Kingdom – we told the parking attendant we had a reservation and did not have to pay the $20 to park. The practice of charging “non resort” guests to park is something that Disney should rethink. Three women visiting the parks are spending a lot of money – on tickets, souvenirs, food and drink.

Las Vegas on a bargain air carrier and a HGVC Timeshare offer is it really that cheap?

Couples, He Said She Said Travels, Vacation Value

Hubby got a call from Hilton, they had a great offer.  Most anyone that has ever received one of these calls understands the drill.   You pay about $200 and you get 3 nights and 4 days at a beautiful property.  The only requirement is that you take 90 minutes out of your vacation to hear more about joining the “vacation club”. We had been talking about going to Vegas again, and it seemed like a good idea, so we thought let’s go!

We found “cheap” airfare on Frontier- at $59 from Chicago, but after paying for our ticket we found we had to pay if we wanted to choose our seat, add $10 each, and bags were $25 each so it turned out that the tickets were actually $90 each one way.   We decided to fly home on American and since we both had status we were in first class for $130 one way.   A much more comfortable seat and overall flight.

We flew out on Frontier on a 10 pm(CST) flight.  While boarding we noticed a couple things- flight attendants may be wearing uniforms that were repurposed from the 80’s, they did not smile much and their overall demeanor was just kind of miserable.  The passengers boarding were kind of the same- just generally in a bad mood, many with children in tow and it felt kind of like a city bus at midnight clientele.  When we landed at 12:30am Las Vegas time, hubby said “well we can check off flying Frontier from our bucket list- because we are not doing that again!”  If price is the only motivating factor make sure you understand the true price of your ticket and do an apples to apples comparison before booking the bargain priced airlines.

After a $30 cab ride from the airport we arrived at check in at HIlton Grand Vacation Club on Las Vegas Boulevard.  Our timeshare stay did not start until Thursday, and we had reserved a 1 bedroom suite for Tuesday and Wednesday night at a rate of $99 per night.  The front desk was attended, but the gentleman working said that the checkin system was down so he could not issue us keys.  We would need to wait or he could bring us up to our room with a master key and when the system came back up bring us keys.   The problem would be that we could not leave our room because we would not be able to get back in.  We agreed, but we were super thirsty and did they have water to buy or for Hilton Diamond members.  He said “No, I’m sorry -This is like Apartment dwelling – and we have no food or drink at this hour.  So much for Las Vegas being the city that never sleeps!   He also told us not to expect breakfast as a diamond member and we discovered later that the property has no restaurant, just a convenience store that sells overpriced groceries and gas station style pizza.  Our suite did have a kitchen, and we did end up buying some bacon, eggs and fruit from the CVS next door, but we decided this was not the hotel to has a Vegas style experience.   We were booked Tuesday through Saturday night though and decided to make the best of it.

As it turns out we were booked in studio suite for our 3 night stay.  We asked to keep the one bedroom so we would not have to move.  The hotel said they were oversold and we would have to move, we said ok but then they offered us the opportunity to pay $25 per night and we agreed.   But here is the best part.  Add the $75 to the $229 we paid to have the vacation it comes out to $101 per night for our “great deal” and we still have to spend 90 minutes in a sales presentation.

The day of the sales presentation came on Friday at 3pm.  We wanted to change the time that would be a bit more convenient for us and had called the customer service desk weeks ahead to do so.  We were told that you cannot have the presentation on the day you arrive or the day you leave. We also tried at the hotel and were told that this could only be done by calling the customer service desk which had told us ……you get the picture.  We knew that any freebies we wanted to use  such as the free dinner at 2 different restaurants  or a free lunch at a sushi buffet would have to be used on Saturday before midnight when our plane was taking off.

The best Vagablond advice on timeshare offers to Vegas and bargain basement fares is do research, read reviews and price out your options.  Chances are, you may change your mind