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Thursday, February 21, 2019

My Thoughts on the Epcot Announcements - "Skeptical Excitement"

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

My Thoughts on the Epcot Announcements - "Skeptical Excitement"

Over the least year or so I've pretty much completely given up on sharing Disney Park news. Honestly, I haven't regretted that decision one bit but at the same time I do like to share my thoughts on future projects and I do follow the official statements Disney shares from time to time. So, at this point it's no grand secret that Disney released two new additions/changes to the Epcot experience today which will inevitably be the first of many changes announced in the coming years to revitalize Epcot in a big way. If you've not read all about it be sure to check out the official statement here and then come on back over and I'll share a few of my own thoughts and opinions about the future of the park.         

Since you're back, or maybe you never left, I have to say that I have mixed feelings about this project but overall this does give me a certain hope for the future and a reassurance that the Epcot experience wont be entirely lost in the redesign. Of course, that's a vastly vague explanation, but let's look a little closer and I'll explain a few thoughts. 


When I was a kid, and in all reality it wasn't that long ago, Epcot always felt like the park that was different from all the rest. I enjoyed going there not because it had the best attractions or even the best shows, or really anything of the sort. To me, it just felt like what you could do at Epcot you couldn't do anywhere else. Everything was authentically Disney in the most unique way imaginable.

Many of you likely remember the true early years of Epcot better than me, but as someone who was born in 1996, the Epcot I know and learned to love growing up is a different Epcot than the one many of you grew up with. At the same time though, I'm of that generation that caught the end of the classic Epcot experience. I can vividly remember walking through ImageWorks, the Hydrolators of The Living Seas, and even touring Innoventions back when it was still thriving. Over the years I've watched the classic feel of the park slowly drift away and with the exception of incredible key attractions like Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land, so much of that experience has dwindled into areas of abandonment. Abandonment is likely a harsh word, but it's not out of the realm of reality to say that Epcot is in desperate need of a change. 

Today's release showed me two main things. First, it showed that the group at work making this redesign and update a reality have a greater appreciation for the nostalgic Disney fans than we may have originally anticipated. From the relocation of the Leave a Legacy photos to the subtle elements of this concept art that harken back to the early days of the park, it's obvious that they truly are trying to innovate while also appreciating the past of a park that so many of us have learned to love. 

I've said it before, but overall I've been skeptical of this project. For years, some of my greatest moments of happiness in life have been the days spent wandering through Epcot without a care in the world and no particular agenda. The joy was and is the simplicity of just being there in the moment and to me this concept art portrays that same feeling. There's a feel to it all that reminds me of Apple's new flagship stores. It's clean, it's natural, but also seems so manicured that the trees should be in little glass boxes (of course that's likely just the concept art). Personally, I like the feel of the design and look forward to how it plays out in reality. However, that brings us to my additional thought for the day and it largely centers around the fact that this changeover is going to be an absolute nightmare unless done incredibly carefully. 


Now, I don't stay that to be negative but it's inevitable that big things are going to have to happen to make this project and the inevitable massive downtime and closure of the Innoventions area to take shape and be completely redesigned over the coming years. I hope I'm wrong, but I tend to believe that massive sections of Epcot are going to be closed off for months at a time. I hope they establish construction in phases and slowly but surely revitalize everything but I do believe a far more likely option is that we'll be facing a maze of construction walls over the course of a year or likely longer. 


Disney has been less and less cautious about detracting from the guest experience when making sweeping changes, and if Disneyland's castle refurbishment is any indication, this could be messy for a bit. In my best guess, rerouting of guests will occur in phases. What those phases will consist of is something I can't even venture a guess for, but I do believe it's inevitable as this redesign will take some substantial work. 

Lastly, in regard to the "Play Pavilion" I'm happy to see that Disney is finally doing something with the former Wonders of Life pavilion after years of leaving it abandoned. I expect big things to come from this area and I do have to admit that I'm guessing there's more to this particular aspect of the changes than what has been announced so far. I personally don't expect an attraction or anything of the sort but I do expect Disney to have learned from previous lessons with Innoventions and curtail this project accordingly. Is it a super big part of the announcement, not at all! Am I excited to see how it plays out, absolutely! In recent years I've learned to trust Imagineering more than I used to. Every project I've been hesitant of in the last five years has exceeded my wildest expectations. I was a skeptic of Pandora and look how that turned out! 


Making a long story short, I look forward to these changes but I do so with a certain hesitancy as I do most sweeping projects arriving in the parks. There are so many variables at play in this that it's anybody's guess at how it may play out. Either way, I had to take a moment to share some thoughts and expectations after reading through the various details unveiled today. 

In the end, I love Epcot and I'll eagerly anticipate any improvements in store for the park. So far, so good, but we'll see how this all plays out and how the construction process unfolds. As always, I wont sugar coat things here and really intend to be completely authentic in everything I share. Nobody tells me what to write here and honestly my goal is to always keep it that way to keep everything I do honest and open. What I say here is my opinion and my opinion alone but be sure to let me know what you think of the project on your favorite social media platform! Without a doubt, the future is bright for Epcot and I eagerly look forward to what the park may present in the future. 

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Need a Travel Planner?

If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way!

Concept Art Provided By Disney                                  



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

25 Disney World Hacks to Improve Your Vacation Experience

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

25 Disney World Hacks to Improve Your Vacation Experience 

Over the last two years we've been sharing our top tips, tricks, and little known secrets of Walt Disney World, but today we're sharing a few more that you may have overlooked. I've been traveling to the parks since I was 2 years old, at this point we're coming up on 20 years of Disney World experience that has contributed to this list and hundreds of days spent in the parks. Over time, you pick up a few things that can really improve your WDW vacation experience and making the most of a few of even the simplest tips on this list could save you money or even your vacation experience overall. 


When you're done reading today's post, our goal is that you find at least one new thing to try or something to apply during or while planning for your Disney vacation. Most of our tips are going to be Disney World specific, but some of these tips may be transferable to other Disney parks around the world. That's about enough for the usual intro, so let's dive right in! 


  1. Think Before Buying the Dining Plan - Some guests are "die-hard" Disney dining plan fans and that is perfectly okay, but if you're looking to save money, consider a quick service dining plan instead of the standard plan or skip the dining plan entirely. You will have to factor additional costs into your budget for food rather than having everything paid for when you arrive but for most guests the dining plan is a "nice to have" rather than a "need to have." Foregoing the package may save you a little bit of money depending on what you order at each dining location you choose to eat at during your stay. 
  2. Avoid Buying Water Bottles - For some reason water bottles tend to be a "hot-button" issue for many guests, but it's an avoidable cost. Water bottles in the park are absurdly expensive (and drinks in general are - see tip number 3). If you want a water bottle, that's wonderful and great in my book but don't buy them in the parks or at the resorts. If you're driving to Orlando, bring a case of water with you. A bottle in the parks can cost upwards of $4 so the savings vastly outweighs the inconvenience in my opinion. If you're flying, you have a few options still. Some hotels sell cases of water, but the best way to save money is to catch an Uber of Lyft to a gas station or nearby grocery store when you arrive or on your way to the resort from the airport. The ride may cost you a few extra dollars to make the stop, but $3 for an entire case of water is more than worth the slight inconvenience to save you tons of money during your stay. You could also even have water delivered by grocery delivery companies Orlando. 
  3. Drink Water When You Can - If you're at a counter service restaurant or any other meal that doesn't include a drink in the cost of your meal, ask for a cup of ice water instead of a fountain drink and save $3-$4 per guest in your party. The savings adds up quickly and a cup of ice water is completely free in the Disney parks. All you have to do is ask. However, be sure you ask for a cup of water or you may end up paying for a water bottle if they misunderstand your request. Additionally, if you don't want to carry a water bottle around all day, stop by any counter service location in the parks with a fountain drink machine for a free cup of ice water. 
  4. Leave Your Refillable Mugs in the Room - If you choose to buy a refillable mug or you get one with your dining plan of choice, do not take them to the parks with you. It blows my mind when I see guests with backpacks and 4 or 5 refillable mugs hanging off of them. The mugs are essentially just Disney themed plastic cups in the parks. The refillable mugs are only usable at quick service locations at the resorts, so save yourself the headache and leave them in the room unless you know you'll be dining at another resort throughout your day.
  5. Take a Break Mid-Day - If you're short on park days or taking a shorter trip than normal, many guests feel the need to spend sun up to sun down in the parks. Do yourself a huge favor and take a break in the middle of the afternoon and head back to your resort or go relax in the lobby of a nearby Disney resort hotel. No matter where you are on property, a Disney resort is a short bus ride, monorail journey, or boat trip away. If you are staying on property head back to your resort hotel (fair warning: you can only use your resort pool unless you're a DVC member) and spend some time at the pool to cool off in the warmer months. You may feel like you're missing out on a few attractions but in all reality you may give up two to three attractions in the peak crowd times of the afternoon and the break will refuel you to stay out late! It's well worth the slight tradeoff. 
  6. Consider Buying an Annual Pass - For many of you, I know this may sound insane, but if you are going to make two trips to Orlando during the same year, you may be better off buying an annual pass and saving yourself money! We broke down the thought process in our Disney Annual Pass: When Is It Worth The Money? post. If you're a Florida resident, it's an even better idea because the cost is somewhat less in some scenarios!
  7. Get the Free Buttons! - This one sounds a little crazy if you're not a returning guest to the parks, but if you want a little extra recognition during your day, be sure to pick up a button on your way into the park if you're celebrating any kind of special day. If it's your first trip to the park, an anniversary, a birthday, or anything else you choose to celebrate, tell guest services or almost any merchandise location in the parks/resorts and they'll give you a free button to where. Throughout the day, cast members will pick up on it and you may be surprised by what special things can happen during your stay as a result. 
  8. Consider Ticket Bridging or Ticket Upgrading - A little while back I did an article including a practice called ticket bridging. It's a super neat practice for saving money on Disney annual passes. It's not the easiest thing to accomplish but can save you a fair amount of money towards the purchase of an annual pass. Check out the article linked for the full details. Additionally, if at any point during your stay you feel like upgrading your ticket to an annual pass, you can apply the money you've already spent on your packaged ticket towards an annual pass as an "upgrade" to your current ticket. It must be done before your stay and park ticket ends but is a great way to save a little money if you think you may be coming back in the near future.
  9. Book On Bounce Back Offers - If you know you want to return for another vacation in the not so distant future, call the reservations number before you check out from your resort hotel and ask about a "bounce back" offer. The booking offer can save you hundreds of dollars on a return vacation and is the only way we could make our villa stay in the Boulder Ridge Villas as affordable as possible.  
  10. Book Tickets in Packages to Benefit From Cancellation - Every once in a while you may feel the desire to buy your park tickets independently of your resort reservations. Something you should be aware of is that if you buy tickets in a stand alone manner, the ticket is non-refundable. However, if you book your tickets in a package, the tickets are refundable by the same guidelines outlined for the package. Packages are refundable if cancelled at least 30 or more days prior to guest arrival. For other cancelation details see: Disney's Site.
  11. Learn How to Pick Up a Galactic Hero Sticker - Similar to the buttons mentioned above, if you max out your score on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, you can pick up a special sticker to commemorate the occasion for the day! Learn how to max out your score in our How To Become A Galactic Hero at Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin! article!
  12. Visit the Boardwalk For Free Entertainment - I am notorious for recommending guests visit the Boardwalk resort area. If you get a little extra time during your stay, head over to the Boardwalk for some stellar views, a budget friendly pizza window, free live entertainment at night, and an incredible few hours of the best that Disney has to offer! The view alone managed to make it's way onto our list of top places to catch a sunset at Disney!
  13. Debate the Park Hopper Option - If you're a first time guest to the parks consider passing on the park hopper. If you're a consistent reader here on the site (Thank you!) you likely know that I am a huge proponent of buying the park hopper add on for longer stays. I honestly believe it affords you far more flexibility than a one park per day ticket. At the same time, if you're new to the parks you're likely to spend an entire day in each park if you want to try to see and do as much as possible. The park hopper does afford you the opportunity to go back to another park to revisit a favorite attraction or see a favorite show again, but it certainly has it's pros and cons, with the largest downside being price.
  14. Always Go to the Left - This is a tip that is becoming more and more main stream and known, which is sadly making it a little less reliable. At the same time, if you're ever facing a split in a line or long park opening lines at the gates, it's a good bet that the lines on your left will move a bit faster and tend to be a bit shorter. Most people are right handed so the natural inclination is to move to the right in most situations. Fight the instinct and head left, it may work in your favor! 
  15. Consider Non-Disney Transportation - I know it sounds counter productive, but if you have to be somewhere fast and happen to be in a time crunch to make a reservation or other scheduled event, consider hailing an Uber or Lyft. Sure, it's going to cost you $8 or so, but sometimes it's well worth it in a time crunch! For other situations, make full use of Disney's free transportation. It's excellent most to the time! 
  16. Consider Getting Planning Help - If you're new to Disney travel, consider buying a travel planning book. One of the better ones is Birnbaum's 2019 Guide Book. I wrote my own guidebook a few years ago called The Adventurer's Guide to Walt Disney World, but things change rather quickly at Walt Disney World so the Birnbaum tends to be a more up to date option.
  17. Cut Through the Emporium - The Emporium on Main Street is the ideal way to get down Main Street on a busy day. The entire store is connected from the very front corner to the exit of Casey's at the very end of the street. At peak times, this single tip will save you a surprising amount of time entering and leaving the park, but also getting around in general. Use the stores throughout the parks to your benefit. Most of them have multiple entrances and it's a nice blast of AC while moving from one location to the next. 
  18. Go Early and Stay Late - The earlier you get to the parks the better off you tend to be. The crowds tend to build at around 10:30-11:30am on an average day, so make the most of that first hour and you may be shocked at how much you can get done in a very short amount of time. If you need a few tips to make the most of that early time in the parks, use our How to Ride 6 or More Attractions in 90 Minutes or Less: With Only 1 Fastpass+! article to make the most of your time early on in the day. Staying late can yield similar results after the fireworks end for the night and guests slowly start to filter out of the park. Attractions tend to have shorter wait times near closing time and it's well worth staying to the very end to catch the Kiss Goodnight! In my opinion, it's the very best way to end a day in the parks. 
  19. Take Ponchos With You - If you don't want to get wet, consider taking a small and lightweight packable jacket with you in your park bag. Ponchos are incredibly overpriced in the parks and if you're willing to stop by a dollar tree before your trip or make a quick order on Amazon, ponchos can be had for as little as $8 for a 6 pack to cover the whole family! It sounds crazy but you'll appreciate this tip when the Florida rains come rolling in!   
  20. Try A Water Park - If you've not been to a Disney water park, give it a shot. The tickets are a little cheaper than a day in the theme parks and the experience is wonderful for guests of all ages. Both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon have a little something for everyone and Disney really sets the bar for clean and family friendly water parks! 
  21. Send a Post Card Home - Sending a postcard sounds like a tip from the 80's and 90's, but it really is an experience to try in the parks. Pick up a cheap postcard at a gift shop, write a friend a note or even self address the card, and you can send them via a mail box on Main Street or basically any resort hotel on property. The mailboxes are location specific and themed, but work just like a real mailbox. The mail may take a few days to reach it's end destination, but the whole process can be a ton of fun for kids and adults alike. It may be old fashion but it's a hidden gem and a piece of the magic that largely gets overlooked.  "Hidden Disney" - The Functional Mail Service Within The Disney Parks!
  22. Come With a Plan But Don't Overplan - For today's Disney vacations, it's inevitable that you will have to plan a few things to at least cover the very minimum. While I personally suggest going with a plan for at least what parks you'll visit on what days and what table service meals you'd like to reserve ahead of time, avoid planning every little detail. Too many guests go into a Disney trip with either no plan at all or an over-planned attraction by attraction and minute by minute plan. Somewhere in the middle tends to be the optimal strategy. 
  23. Pack For a Variety of Weather Conditions - Florida is unpredictable. It can be 95 degrees in December or 95 degrees in August. It can also be 40-50 degrees in December if you catch an odd week. Be prepared for both and pack for both if you're going at questionable weather times. Obviously, you're not likely to need a jacket to keep warm in August (no seriously.... leave it at home!), but you never know what to expect in the "winter" (Or at least what Florida calls winter...). In the summer, trade that jacket for warmth in for a jacket for the rain and you should be set! 
  24. Try Something New - Strive to try something new each and every trip to Florida. Book a new tour or try a new dining location. Step out of your comfort zone or try something you've always wanted to try. You can never see and do all that Walt Disney World has to offer so always strive to do something a little different. A great place to start is the Behind the Seeds tour at Epcot or a stop at Teppan Edo for some hibachi! 
  25. Eat at Strange Times - You're on vacation, eat at a time that isn't all that typical. Not only can you secure hard to get reservations by doing this but it mixes up your daily routine and allows you the opportunity to avoid the peak afternoon crowds with a late lunch or early dinner. A late breakfast at a Table service location is a great option as well and allows you to make the most of the lighter crowds of the morning hours and then you can sit back and relax for a nice meal as the crowds start to build.    

Your Thoughts


As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!




Need a Travel Planner?


If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.


Ready to Plan?


Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way.







Monday, February 18, 2019

The Classic "Nifty Fifty" Lens! - Incredibly Sharp Disney Photos on a Slim Budget!

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin


The Classic "Nifty Fifty" Lens! - Incredibly Sharp Disney Photos on a Slim Budget!

Over the last few months I've really tried to share some things here that mean so much to me in odd ways. From life, to unique Disney memories, to far more photography posts than I've ever shared before, it's been all about sharing things that mean something to me personally. Today will be no different and quite honestly this is one of those articles that I try to write in hopes of helping someone try something new. Even if it's not parks related, one of the greatest things in life you can do is try something new and give a dream a chance or a new hobby an opportunity to develop, or anything new you've considered trying an attempt at the very least. It may not be the perfect end result but five years down the road you can say you tried something new and never have to say "What if I would have tried that?"


In all reality that question in and of itself is one of my greatest fears in life. Some may call it the fear of missing out but to me its more of a disappointment in myself looking back at something that could have changed my life or somebody else's life for the better. I'm a firm believer in the fact that taking one small step today can change your life tomorrow. Give yourself a chance and you may be surprised at what you can achieve. If you would have told me four years ago I'd be writing on this site and would have met the incredible people I've met along the way doing this I would have never believed you! 

So what does all of this have to do with a camera lens review you may be asking. As I've shared in the past, I started Disney photography to theoretically up my "content sharing game." I had absolutely no idea what I was doing starting out and there's so many things I still know nothing about, but photographing the Disney parks is something that has really exceeded my wildest expectations. If I can encourage just one person to try it and in turn join the incredible online community of Disney photographers (that are so incredibly helpful), this article was well worth it! 

At this point, if you're not interested in photography, I highly recommend you check out one of our other articles here on the site. The technical aspect of this may not appeal to everyone but if you're a fan of the photos or type of photos taken in this post, this lens is a worthy addition to your photography set up no matter if you're an entry level photo personor a seasoned professional (but if you're a professional you're probably already well aware of this lens and its incredible value for the money). 



So What's The Lens? 

The "Nifty Fifty," as it's been nick named over the years, is perhaps the most well known lens in all of the photography world. Every camera manufacturer makes a lens like this and any lens you see on the market listed by a major manufacturer is pretty optically similar when it comes right down to it. The "fifty" refers to the focal length of the lens which is 50mm and in most cases the aperture of the lens will be f/1.8 (but we'll talk about that more in a minute).  

For reference, a standard kit lens that comes with most cameras is an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. While there's nothing wrong with that stock lens (and I still use mine pretty frequently), it's not the sharpest lens in the world, it isn't great for dark rides or low light, and performance is invariably going to suffer in comparison to the "nifty fifty." In essence, if you were to lock that standard "zoom lens" that came with you camera at 50mm of the 18-55mm zoom range, that's essentially what you get out of this lens. There's no zoom and while that seems restrictive it is quite the opposite. As a result of the fixed zoom, it allows the manufacturers to make a lens that lets in far more light than a standard zoom lens at a reasonable price. 



That light gathering capability is essentially what that f/1.8 refers to. The smaller the number, the more light the camera can gather in low light environments. That same factor increases the subject separation in images creating a fantastic creamy background photo folks refer to as bokeh. There's no real standard of "good bokeh" vs. "bad bokeh" but it's a unique sensation and a neat aspect of photography that you cant get with a standard kit zoom lens. 

Additionally, the greatest strength of this type of a lens is that they tend to be incredibly sharp at a budget price when compared to far more expensive gear. Their light gathering capability makes the challenge of dark ride photography far easier as well when you start to understand or apply the basics of the three factors effecting correct exposure. It sounds complicated but it really isn't! 

One of these days I need to do an in depth walk through of some of these various techniques and tactics for taking photos but if you're new to all of this youtube is your friend and feel free to message me any time and I'll help where I can! 




There Are Limitations 

Every camera lens has its strengths and weaknesses and this one is no exception. Perhaps the greatest weakness on paper is the fixed "zoom." In real world application and use in the parks it can be frustrating at times but it also forces you to get a bit more creative. In the photo world, this lens is synonymous with getting creative but in all reality it's such a diverse lens in the realm of actual uses you can find for it that this slight drawback actually tends to be a benefit in real world application. It helps you capture the little things in the parks and it helps you look for unique things to take photos of that most guests tend to overlook. 

As an added bonus, once you nail a shot with this lens you'll be hooked. The image quality is incredible for the price and truthfully it's one of the best lens investments you can make. If you're looking for stellar family photos this makes for an excellent portrait style lens on crop sensor DSLR's as well! The subject separation is stunning. 


What Does It Cost 

I know quite a few of you probably jumped right to this section and I don't blame you one bit for doing so. I shoot with a Nikon camera. Nikon currently offers this lens from their refurbished site (I buy almost all my gear refurbished for cost savings and have never had a problem) for $169. If you buy it on the right day when they frequently offer a 10% discount for refurbished gear you can even get it cheaper than that. If you buy it brand new from Amazon or other sites you may get it a bit cheaper but my copy looked completely unused when it arrived and came with every original accessory from the factory like every brand new Nikon lens would. The only thing different was the external cardboard box.

Prices do vary by manufacturer and if you shoot Canon or Sony you may pay more (or little less) depending on how you buy it but the main thing is to make sure you buy a lens that is compatible with your personal camera. The lens I currently use is the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G. It is compatible with both full frame and corp sensor Nikon cameras and works on basically every modern production Nikon camera on the market flawlessly. The lens is an absolute steal at the price that it can be found new, used, and refurbished. If you ever upgrade cameras and make the jump to a full frame camera it can even go with you as you leave the usual "crop sensor" format of the majority of DSLR cameras. 




Am I Getting Paid To Say This? 

This is a 100% fair and reasonable question to ask. The simple answer is no. I'm not getting paid a dime from Nikon for writing this (even though that would be cool lol). I didn't ask them to send me a lens or anything of the sort and I say that just to show that this is my honest opinion of the lens. It's one that truly opens up possibilities for photos and frees up certain limitations of kit lenses while doing so at an incredibly affordable price. Sure, a 30mm lens may be the better option for dark rides, and don't get me wrong, there are far sharper lenses out there, but at this price point you're not going to find a sharper and more versatile lens. 

After saying all of this, I do have to note that no matter if you're shooting with the best lens in the world or the worst lens you could imagine, nothing matters and no lens will make a substantial difference in your photography without first learning the basics of shutter speed, aperture, and iso. Learn those relatively simple things and how to use them and it will do more for your photography than any lens purchase. 

If you're going to use your camera in auto mode all the time, you're better off just using your kit lens or even possibly your iPhone because you're not going to reap the immense benefits of this lens until you learn those basic principles. That sounds a little blunt but it's the reality of photography. However, if you do need help or want help getting started or have questions, message me on Facebook any time and I'll try to walk you through it! One of my ultimate tips is to shoot every photo you can in RAW file format. If you have an editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop the RAW file type is unquestionably more helpful in the editing process because it retains more information than a typical jpeg format. The only real downside is every raw file needs to be edited for color adjustments, etc. before they're really used for anything or you'll have a pretty bland photo. Lightroom is my editing platform of choice 90% percent of the time but I do use Affinity photo for Macs on occasion as well. Both are excellent programs but Lightroom is far more user friendly.     




The Wrap Up

As I've mentioned in great detail, this is about as budget friendly of a camera lens as you can find. In my opinion it's one of the first lenses you should buy if you're looking to get into photography. My only other recommendation that might get ranked above this is the Tokina 11-16mm dxii f/2.8 which I talked about in depth in my The Best Budget Friendly Lens for Disney Parks Photography - Getting a New Perspective post. That lens is still my favorite lens for the money to use at WDW. It's the classic "wide shot" perspective changing lens that made me fall in love with ultra wide angle photography in the parks. Nothing compares to that lens for the price, but I still think the "Nifty Fifty" is a more versatile lens (as much as I hate to admit that).


Long story made short, the Tokina is my favorite lens at the moment that I own but if you're looking to improve your photography immensely on "the cheap," learn the basics and pick up this lens on Nikon's refurbished website. Just type "Nikon Refurbished" in Google and the first link should get you to the official site. I wont leave a link here to show that I really am not trying make money off of this post with affiliate commission, but I really do love this lens! If you like the photos in this post, every single photo was shot with this lens. Some images in this group show the bokeh capability while others show the real sharpness of this lens. Everything is compressed so you're better off seeing the higher quality images on Facebook or Instagram but nonetheless if you click on them it'll give you a good idea of what to expect!
      

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Need a Travel Planner?

If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way!




Friday, February 15, 2019

Our Top Five "Affordable" Table Service Dining Locations at WDW in 2019! - These Even Surprise Me

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin


Our Top Five "Affordable" Table Service Dining Locations at WDW in 2019!

While at this point it may be relatively common knowledge that we aren't Disney World locals, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is how we afford to travel to the parks so frequently. Truthfully, we aren't a "trust fund" family and we're not independently wealthy or anything anywhere close to it (lol). The secret to it all is knowing your priorities and striving to make the most of every dollar. Over the years, it's something we've gotten incredibly good at and it also helps that we typically travel with family so we're not footing the entire cost every trip. However, the costs do still add up so we save money whenever and wherever possible. For us, one of the best ways to do that is in the dining realm. 

I've waxed poetically (ok in all honesty my writing is likely the farthest thing away from waxing poetically... its more like a train wreck that you feel obligated to watch lol) about how we typically avoid the dining plan. It's not that the dining plan is inherently bad, but it's no secret that 90% of people using the dining plan will spend more on food than they would if they would have simply paid for their meals or select meals out of pocket. I know that's not the only reason so many people use the dining plan time and time again, but that is the main reason we avoid it and have done so for so many years. 



Also, we're known to cut costs by "combing meals" and doing something like a late breakfast and a counter service dinner and bridging the gap with a mid day snack or one of the incredible festival booths at Epcot when the festivals are running. At this point in the course of Epcot there are very few times of year when a festival isn't running which is always a huge benefit for the guest experience. 


(The Pulled Pork Slider From The Smokehouse During Flower and Garden Festival)

Returning to the topic, it is interesting to note how many value oriented options you can find available at WDW if you know what and where to look for them and how to order at the restaurants when you do. So, without further ado, here's a closer look at our top suggestions in 2019. Obviously this isn't our favorites list because "affordable" and the "absolute best dining offerings" available don't always fall hand in hand. Then again, these are still incredible "value" oriented offerings in the dining realm. You're not going to get a $10 steak dinner (unless you want to head to the Golden Corral up the block... not recommended lol) or anything but if you're looking for great food at reasonable price, these are our top picks. 




Perspective is a Function of Location 

As a last word of warning, our idea or "reasonable" and yours may vary. Affordable is a vastly subjective term and it's also important to note that perspective is a function of location. Something that may seem expensive elsewhere may not be all that pricey in relation to other dining options at WDW so your perspective does become a little skewed. 


The List 


Via Napoli 

So far, Via Napoli has been our greatest surprise of this year. It was a near perfect experience and one that I spoke in great detail about in our Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria - A Near Perfect Epcot Dining Location post a few weeks back and I still stand by every word of that article. In my opinion, if you go here and order a reasonable amount of food you can get a near perfect meal for around $80 for four people. I mentioned in our full review that most people are going to tend to over order at Via Napoli. We did just that ourselves and while I would 100% order all the same things again, you could easily order far less if you really want to maximize your budget and minimize your costs. If you have four people, split one large pizza (or two individual pizzas) and you will have plenty of food in most cases. Order water to keep your costs down and you could get out of the meal for under $60. For table service at Walt Disney World that's going to be hard to beat. It's value at its finest and personally my current number one pick for table service at Epcot. The only thing coming close is Le Cellier or Teppan Edo but those meals will easily cost you at least 50% more than this one.
 

Whispering Canyon 

Whispering Canyon is a location I talk about time and time again on this site because I personally think the food is vastly underrated. That atmosphere is an acquired taste and truthfully it's not going to be an environment everyone enjoys but if you don't mind being the focus of a few light hearted jokes along the way, it's well worth a visit. The food is actually quite good, and even if you order the largest item on the menu, the Canyon Skillet (which is literally an all you can eat family style "skillet"), you're looking at a cost of $24 at lunch time. Dinner is a bit higher at $33 per person, but other items on the menu are far cheaper and just as great if you're not looking for a family style meal. We even reviewed breakfast here a short while back in our Whispering Canyon Breakfast - A Closer Look and Review post and it's the most budget friendly option of them all.  


For lunch, a personal favorite of mine is the pulled pork sandwich which is only $14! The sandwich is plenty of food for one person and at that price you're not going to find much better value per dollar spent anywhere on property.     

If you've not been to Whispering Canyon, it's worth a visit at least once. It's a little out of the way over at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, but it's about a 10-15 minute free boat ride over to the resort from Magic Kingdom. 

Homecomin' Kitchen

Homecomin is, without a doubt, one of my favorite picks for dining at Disney Springs. The food is great, the portions are large, the people are incredibly nice, and the setting makes you feel at home as soon as you walk in the door (that may just be the southern person in me, but it feels like home... but we're from KY so if the shoe fits... lol). If you're looking to stay budget friendly, split meals or order appetizers and you'll have plenty of food while still remaining at or near the $60 mark for a family of four. You may have to be somewhat careful what you order if you're being truly price conscious, but if you stay away from the pricey drinks and incredibly tempting desert menus, this can be a quite budget friendly meal in the table service realm of Disney dining. 


Again, it's all about what you order and how much food you really want to eat, but I will say that if you're leaving Homecomin' hungry, you're doing something wrong along the way! If you're looking for a great server, ask for Brooke if she's still working there and you're set for a near ideal meal at the springs. 

Once again, we reviewed Homecomin' in greater depth in our Homecomin' Kitchen: Our New "Must-Do" Disney Dining Location! post a while back. 

Boathouse

The Boathouse is a restaurant that I'm guessing very few people expected to see on this list. It's no secret that it's known for it's high end steaks, elaborate seafood menu, and the insanely large Baked Alaska dessert, but you can find quite a few entrees for well under $20 on the menu as well. Dining here on a budget is kind of taking into consideration the "best of both worlds." You get the incredible service, spectacular theming, and world class views, while at the same time you can avoid being startled by your bill if you choose to order carefully. I know I keep saying that same phrase over rand over again but that's kind of the key to it all when trying to dine in a budget friendly manner at WDW. 

You're not necessarily receiving a lesser experience, but you're spending far less than what you may expect from the outside looking in. This is especially true if you're a guest that typically eats counter service everywhere you go while on vacation in the parks. The difference in cost to get better food (in some cases), better theming, and ultimately a more memorable experience is actually quite negligible at times. 


When it's all said and done, we go to the parks to create memories and for us so many of those memories come from a great meal gathered around the table with friends and family recounting the stories of the day and simply enjoying a moment together that more often than not gets lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life when we're back home. We are to that point in life where it's not always easy to coordinate a "real meal" with everyone all in one place at the same time so that needed time together and that experience at WDW is one that is so vastly important to us on vacation that we will often do whatever it takes to make it a feasible possibility on each and every one of our vacations. It all seems so simple but some of the greatest memories I have of the parks are as a result of telling stories around the table, interacting with an incredible waiter or waitress, or enjoying the flavors of a meal we can't find back home. It's those little moments that make all the difference and as I always say we're all here in life trying to make the most of every minute and this is likely one of the best ways to do just that!   
      

Yak and Yeti 

To round out our list we have to head over to Animal Kingdom in our minds to Yak and Yeti. Truthfully, we put off trying Yak and Yeti for years because we're not the most adventurous folks in the realm of dining. We always assumed the menu would be odd or we wouldn't know what to order, but about a year ago we made the jump almost out of necessity to escape the heat one brutally hot summer day and gave it a shot. Our Landry's Select card got us priority seating and the cards all seemed to fall into place on that particular day. At the end of the meal we were shocked to say the least and every hesitancy we originally had about this restaurant was long gone. Without a doubt, it had moved towards the top of our list of places to return to and since then we've been back a few times and it's met or exceeded our expectations each and every time. 



As with anything on this list, your cost is going to vary based on what you order. However, every time we eat here, we order around three entrees or two entrees and a nacho or a side of house fried rice or some combination of the group and split everything. Not only do you get to try a variety of the menu but you also get the chance figure out what you really want to order next time. 

The menu isn't all that adventurous when your food actually arrives at your table and I'm pretty picky when it comes to out of the ordinary food. Nothing on this menu is off-putting or so odd that it makes you feel like you're "in Asia" despite the incredibly well appointed decor that puts you in the heart of the Animal Kingdom experience.

Long story made short, if you're concerned about trying this because of the menu, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with your dining experience if you decide to give it a chance. 

Fo more one this one as well, check out our Yak and Yeti Restaurant Review - The Overlooked Gem of Animal Kingdom? article where we really dive into the details of one our visits. 

Wrapping Up 

At this point, it's not very difficult to notice a trend in our recommendations. Inevitably, this whole dining conundrum comes down to what you order and how much of it you order. Your bill will reflect your entree decisions and that's not only true for these dining locations but also many many others across property. If you're not careful you can end up spending $20 on a counter service meal and sitting outside in the heat when you could have spent $22 on an entree for one and spent an hour or two enjoying the air conditioning and the added benefits of table service dining. 

I've always been a huge proponent of table service dining and that's likely the main reason I made this list in the first place. So many guests overlook table service options and write them off simply because of preconceived ideas of high costs when that isn't always the case. 



If you're considering a Disney vacation, consider at least one table service meal. It may not be for you, but you never know until you try it at least once. Everyone has their preferences. but I'm a firm believer in the fact that a good meal can change your day, refresh you for a few hours, and ultimately better your overall vacation experience. That's the key to all of the tips on this site. Everyone's ideal vacation experience is going to differ but it's my goal to provide you with opportunities or thoughts that may change the way you view parts of your vacation experience. In the end, if I can help just one person create a new memory with family or a life long friend, then I've done what I hope to do! If this helps even one person, it's a vast success in my book and well worth every minute put into the process of creating this content. As always, thanks for reading and we appreciate you taking a few minutes out of your busy lives to share a moment here with us. If you ever have questions, comments, or just want to join a group of like minded Disney fans I invite you to join us in the Guide4WDW Group on Facebook or to follow us on your favorite social media platform!  
      

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!


Need a Travel Planner?

If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way.




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