Disney planning: Hollywood Studios


MGM–I mean Hollywood Studios. This will be our first park! I doubt we’ll be rope dropping for HS. I want to start off on a more relaxing note. I won’t be able to book FastPass+ until October, but I am hoping to get mid-morning to afternoon time slots for Frozen Ever After, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Tower of Terror. Hopefully we can get additional FastPass+’s for Rock n Roller Coaster and/or Star Tours. If not I’d probably be willing to wait in line for these. Here’s a ranking of rides/attractions specifically for us (two young adults, no kids, likes thrill rides and my partner likes Star Wars) — I’ll be using this ranking basically to book FastPass+ in advance and on the fly at the park:


  • Hoping to book our 3 advanced FastPass+ selections for:
    • Frozen Ever After
    • Toy Story Midway Mania
    • Tower of Terror
    • Fantasmic! <– we have priority seating for this with a dining package, kind of like a FastPass+
  • Hoping to book FastPass+ on the fly, or will wait in Standby / must dos
    • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
    • Star Tours
  • Will likely wait in Standby for
    • Meet Buzz Lightyear and Woody (together!)
    • Meet BB-* Astromech on Duty
    • Celebrity Spotlight (depending on who’s there)
    • Muppet*Vision 3D
    • The Music of Pixar Live! <– as of this moment this is only scheduled through August; if it is ongoing when we are there in December I definitely want to see this.
    • Jedi Training
    • Indiana Jones Stunt Show
  • Probably skip unless the standby line is very short
    • The Great Movie Ride
    • Voyage of the Little Mermaid
    • Meet other characters
    • Beauty and the Beast Live
    • For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing Along Celebration
    • Mickey and Minnie Starring in Red Carpet Dreams
  • Definitely going to skip
    • Disney Junior Live on Stage

Ah, the real reason why we go to WDW… I want to have a solid plan for meal options so I don’t end up eating overpriced chicken nuggets every day.

  • Breakfast: we’ll probably just eat granola bars that we bring with us in the hotel
  • Lunch: reservation at Mama Melrose’s
    • This is our Fantasmic! dining package meal so we’re going to overeat to get our moneys worth. I’m excited for steak!
  • Dinner: no real plans yet, might fill up on snacks instead?
  • Snacks
    • Fried Herb and Cheese at the Tune In Lounge
    • PB&Jelly Milkshake at the Tune In Lounge OR a seasonal flavor at Min and Bills
    • Carrot Cake Cookie at Sweet Spells
  • Drinks: Margarita Flight or Flight of the Stars White Wine Flight at the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge

Portable chargers


As my phone ages and games that suck the battery dry in 2 hours, like Pokemon Go, come out I find increasingly I keep a portable charger with me. At home and work I have standard wall plug charging for my phone, but otherwise I keep a portable charger in my purse for road trips, hikes, long conference days for work, travel, and theme parks. These are a life saver.

My partner and I both have a compact Anker portable charger, and this gives me ~1.5 – 2 full iPhone charges. I think it works very well, it sometimes goes on sale for $10, and largely have no complaints. The only thing is that once you’ve drained it you do need to recharge it. I’ve been in a couple of binds where this just isn’t possible.

Enter FuelRod. With FuelRod you purchase a starter pack for $20-$30 (depending on the location you purchase it at), and this comes with a portable charger and charging cords for Apple and Android devices. Reportedly a FuelRod doesn’t have the best charging capabilities, but here’s the key: they have “Swap boxes” at locations around the US like airports, hotels, and theme parks, and you can simply swap your current FuelRod portable charger for one that is fully charged. Thus FuelRod allows for on-the-go charging, and while you can take your FuelRod home and plug it in to charge it you do not HAVE to. This swapping feature is free and you can swap your FuelRod whether its fully dead or not! So you are paying the initial $20-$30 for the starter pack and infinite swaps.

I do not personally own a FuelRod yet, although I am seriously contemplating it. There are of course no FuelRod purchase stations in my small town, but I may buy one at an airport when traveling (for $20) or online (for $25). I think they may be worth it as the charging cords alone can be quite expensive. And while I won’t get a ton of utility out of a FuelRod in my daily life, since I don’t have swap stations near by, it could prove extremely useful during my upcoming Walt Disney World trip.

On Disney property these are $30, so I would highly suggest picking one up ahead of time at another location or online. If you are interested in using a FuelRod at Disney World this link has locations of FuelRod stations for swaps in the parks and in the resorts.

There is no argument about quality: FuelRods are more expensive and worse performing than counterparts you can find on Amazon, but you’re really paying for convenience here — so what’s that worth to you?

Disney dining planning and execution


My partner and I are going on a week-long Walt Disney World trip this winter! I am so excited. Sept ’15 we went to the Magic Kingdom just for one day, and before that I hadn’t been to WDW since I was a child. Our upcoming trip is basically my first full-fledged Disney experience in over a decade so we are trying to be on top of planning to make it as magical as possible.

We are staying on site in a Disney Vacation Club villa at the Animal Kingdom lodges, which means we can book dining 180 days in advance of the first day of our trip for the length of our stay. This day recently happened, so read more below to find out our trials and tribulations!

Do you have any tips or tricks when it comes to advance dining reservations at Disney? How the heck are people snagging dinner at Be Our Guest?!

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Hunt for the perfect daypack


I am looking to buy a daypack for day hikes, theme parks–mainly my Disney World trip this December–and other day trips that require more functionality than a purse. Ideally it would have:

  • (at least one, preferably two) mesh side pocket for water
  • front pocket so I don’t have to have everything in the main body pocket
  • pocket(s) on the shoulder straps for easy phone/sunglasses storage and retrieval
  • nylon-based fabric so it remains lightweight

hexin back

Interestingly this has been harder to find than I would have guessed. I’ve found very few daypacks or even full fledged backpacks that have both water bottle pockets on the side as well as pockets on the straps for phone/sunglasses. This Hexin brand daypack is genuinely the only one I’ve found so far! It comes in a bunch of colors, but sadly not grey or yellow, which are my favorite for accessories.

The pockets on the straps have been particularly challenging. I’m not sure why they are so rare; its such an obvious easy add-on that majorly increases functionality (in my opinion). In this specific daypack its not clear to me if these pockets will actually be big enough for a phone since phones are so big these days, but definitely sunglasses. In Disney this will be clutch cause there’s going to be a lot of transition from inside to outside.

What do you use to carry your stuff at theme parks or on hikes?

Edit/update: it appears several brands make roughly the same daypack including Oricsson and Outlander (although the Outlander doesnt have the strap pockets). The former does have a charcoal grey color option so I will likely purchase that one!