Saving Money

Groceries at Disney World – Garden Grocer vs. Amazon Prime Now

by on July 25, 2017

As you’re probably well aware by now, Disney vacations aren’t cheap. But there is one area you can cut costs without damaging the vacation experience – food. By supplementing signature dining experiences and Dole Whips with groceries back in the room, you can get the best of both worlds while still saving time and money. One part of that plan that doesn’t save time, though, is traipsing around an unfamiliar grocery store trying to find your groceries. Luckily, a few services now offer to do that part for you. We’re comparing two of the most popular services, Garden Grocer and Amazon Prime Now, to help you figure out which one is best for you. 

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TouringPlansTV: 10K Giveaway!

by on May 23, 2017

We’ve reached 10,000 subscribers on our YouTube page!

To celebrate this milestone, we’re giving away FIVE TouringPlans.com subscriptions.

Watch the video below to see how YOU can enter, and thank you so much for supporting us!

Have suggestions for future videos? Let me know in the comments!

The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! December 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on December 31, 2016

Welcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando.

Can you believe 2016 is already over? Think about where we were a year ago at this time. There was no such thing as tiered ticket pricing, there were no cabanas in the Magic Kingdom, Tom Staggs was still with Disney, and we were all waiting for Rivers of Light to debut in Animal Kingdom. Well, at least some things never change.

I want to say up from that this month’s edition of the Outlet Report is a slightly shortened, and the reason for that is during December the Disney Outlet Stores become busier than the Magic Kingdom on a phased closure day. It’s just not fun. Both of us managed a trip in, but ran out screaming in short order. Now, I was going to make Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo go back on Christmas Eve in order to get a first hand report of the carnage, but Head Honcho Len Testa told me that would break several treaties in the Geneva Convention. First they take away water boarding and now this… maybe this generation has gone soft after all.

However, there is no rest for the wicked, and since December is my favorite month of all, I personally had a lot of fun outside of the Outlets. Myself and TouringPlans TV’s own Brian McNichols put out a new episode of the critically acclaimed Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast. While over on Twitter I did a 25 day unveiling of the Theme Park Blogger Advent Calendar as well as drawing many Derek Doodles for a good cause.

Now, what did Julia and I find when we did briefly step into Mordor the Disney Outlet Stores? Let’s check it out!

First up was a good one. You’ll remember last month I pulled my hair out seeing a May the 4th Be With You R2 droid at the Outlets that I had picked up earlier in the year at full price in Disney Springs. Well, this month brought the special Halloween figure, R2-BOO, which I did not buy at the stores. Jackpot! Originally $12.99, reduced to $4.99.

R2-BOO. (photo by Julia Mascardo)

In 2015 Disney went all in on hand sanitzers, creating a whole bunch of them. Each one holds 1 0z of hand sanitizer, which is just about the amount you will need if your kid wipes his hand on that “honey wall” in the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh queue. This year brought even more designs. The bottles originally were $8.85 each, but these were reduced to just 99cents. Picked one up at that price. For $9 I’ll take my chances with the germs.

Mickey Hand Sanitizer

More Disney Infinity stuff hit the Outlets. Disney stopping the entire system cold earlier this year was a shocker, and even made the special SATURDAY SIX: IN MEMORIAM article for this year. Here is Mulan, and even more unbelievably, the character “Time” from the Alice Through the Looking Glass movie. Maybe this line needed to be put out of its misery after all. Originally $13.99, reduced to $6.99.

Disney Infinity.

Also appearing were Disney Infinity Power Discs that were originally $9.99, now $4.99. Now I have picked up some of the Disney Infinity figures, even though I have never played the game, because I absolutely adore that cartoonish art style throughout the line. It’s like an awesome shared Universe line-up that has everything from The Incredibles to Pirates of the Caribbean to iconic Disney parks characters. Basically it’s like if Marvel Studios worked with Warner Bros to make an Avengers/Justice League film. Anyway, I was going to take a jab  at why anyone would buy these power discs, but they seem to be almost the exact same shape and size of the ridiculous “pogs” I grew up with and bought way too many of.

Disney Infinity Power Discs (photo by Julia Mascardo)

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! October 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on October 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. 

So what happened in October? We had some good news and we had some bad news. Good news: the Muppets themed PizzeRizzo is opening in just a couple weeks! Bad news: unfortunately it appears that the venue will be serving the exact same awful food as its predecessor, Pizza Planet. This would be a shame as Blaze Pizza in Disney Springs just proved that you can have a great tasting, affordable, personal size pizza at Walt Disney World. We also had more good news in the form of Muppets as the new Great Moments in American History show in Liberty Square is a certified hit! This is the Muppet humor we know and love. We also have to end on some more bad news as the first man is down at Disney Springs. That’s right, the incredibly named Aristocrepes has now gone seasonal. With the opening of so many great dining options, it was only a matter of time until we lost one. My bet was on Yesake (it’s actually a good place but you never see anyone there) being the first to go, but if you read this Me Thinks STK Doth Protest Too Much article, a certain high end steak house could be the next tenant to go buh bye.

Now while all of you were trying to sneak guns into EPCOT, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

We always love to start with new Tsum Tsums, and at the International Drive location, this month we had the rest of the Pirates of the Caribbean line arrive with The Pig and The Bad Pirate. We also go another member of The Avengers B-Team with The Vision. Normal Tsum Tsums at Disney cost $5.99, and at the Outlet Store they are usually $2.99, but this month they were once again just 99 cents each. Picked up several of the pigs and one each of the other two.

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Seeing this pig reminds me of that awesome moment in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie when Orlando Bloom tosses a second bucket of water onto a guy and says, “That was for the smell.”

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The Bad Pirate.

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Vision.

Meanwhile over at the Disney Outlet Store on Vineland, they had the JUNGLE BOOK line! Also at 99 cents, bought one of each.

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Jungle Book Tsums. (photo by Julia Mascardo)

Next up is an item I’ve been waiting a while for. At the World of Disney store they have had three great Beauty and the Beast items show up in the last year or so that I’ve really wanted. A light up Lumiere, a “life size” Cogsworth, and a ceramic Chip cup. Well, the Chip cup finally made it’s way to the Outlet and now I begin my daily praying ritual for the other two. Not sure what the original price was, but I’m thinking it was around $19.95, which is why I always passed it. Outlet price was $6.99. Ya-hoo!

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Interesting how they do the “chipped” part of the cup.

Here is a stunning tapestry featuring the Magic Kingdom’s carousel, and the picture does not do it justice. The colors really make the picture come alive and it’s terrific. Originally $125, this was reduced to $29.99.

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Tapesty.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! September 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on September 30, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. Hard to believe it’s Fall already, and as a Floridian I mean that it’s literally hard to believe as it still “feels like” 100 degrees down here on a daily basis.

So what happened in September? Well, there was good news for many of us who waste way too much time on social media, as Disney is considering a bid to buy Twitter. Judging by the Mouse’s history of technology (go.com, Mobile ESPN, Epic Mickey, etc), once they take over Twitter it won’t be long before they shelve it entirely and move on to something else. Meanwhile over on the Florida roadways, which are the closest equivalent to a real Mad Max Fury Road experience as you can get, a huge WDW sign came crashing down. Those who follow Your Humble Author on Twitter go to see a look at what really caused the accident. Maybe the greatest news of the whole month though was that Sitch’s Great Escape is days away from going “seasonal” at the Magic Kingdom. This brings us one step closer to my dream being fulfilled as well as the chances of the attraction actually being re-themed to Wreck-It-Ralph (as rumored by Jim Hill on the Disney Dish Podcast.) Happy days are here again!

Now while all of you were passing your kidney stones the fun way Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

First up was a nice surprise as the 2016 EPCOT Flower and Garden MagicBands arrived. Featuring Figment, a Sorcerer Mickey topiary, Spaceship Earth and a monorail, you better believe I bought one of these. Originally $29.95, reduced to $14.99. Unlike the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Magic Bands, which seemed to still have 4,994 available out of the 5,000 made, there didn’t seem to be that many of the Flower and Garden bands.

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Flower and Garden MagicBands.

Next up, it was like I died and went to Tsum heaven, as not only were the Tsum Tsums still on sale for 99 cents each (original price is $5.95, and they are usually reduced to $2.99) but they had THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN collection! These included the “Dog with the Keys,” one of my favorite characters in Walt Disney World. In fact I had just bought a great plush featuring Pluto as that very same dog earlier in the month. This is legitimately one of the top five things I have ever seen at the Outlets.

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Pirates Tsum Tsums.

There was also “The Redhead.”

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Pirates Tsum Tsums.

The “Pirate Captain.”

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Pirate Tsum Tusms.

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Booking and Flying Southwest Airlines

by on September 20, 2016

Anytime I discuss travel that involves flying, I love to mention Southwest Airlines as an option. They’re sometimes easy to forget since their prices typically don’t appear on search engines like Kayak or Google Flights (both are great tools for comparing flight prices by the way!). But as one of the largest airlines flying in and out of Orlando International Airport, Southwest Airlines is an excellent option when planning a Walt Disney World vacation. Because their offering is so different from many of the other major airlines (low fares, no bag fees, and no assigned seats), I thought we’d take some time to talk about what it’s like to book and fly Southwest Airlines. If you’re lucky, I may even add some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way, so let’s get started!

This chart from Southwest.com explains the differences between fares

This chart from Southwest.com explains the differences between fares

Booking: Online booking is incredibly easy. You plug in your starting airport, your destination, date or dates (depending on whether you’re purchasing one-way or round trip), and the number of people. On the next screen, you’ll see three different prices for all the flights available for those dates: Business Select, Anytime, and Wanna Get Away.

From this page, you can also click on other dates near the dates you originally selected to check their prices as well, or you can access the Low Fare Calendar.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! August 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on August 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando.

The Disney Outlets: the true final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Testa, beginning year four of our five-year mission: to explore strange old stores, to seek out weird merchandise and ugly vinylmation, to boldly buy what no MagicBand has bought before.

We actually have a big surprise this month at the end of this fine blog, but we do have to start off with a little theme park news. Universal soft opened an E-Ticket restaurant – the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen (imagine a T-Rex Cafe for adults except the food is actually good) – and was promptly sued by someone claiming the restaurant was their idea. Some are claiming this is the most frivolous lawsuit against Universal since 2013, when the landmark case of Burgan vs. Comcast unjustly ruled that just because I said, “they should build more Harry Potter” after visiting Hogsmeade Village, I wasn’t responsible for the creation of Diagon Alley. I blame my lawyer.

Now while all of you were tweeting your thoughts on Disney changing the “obscene hand gesture” in Rock n Roller Coaster (warning, NSFW!) Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

Prices were SLASHED this month on Tsum Tsums, marking them down to an unheard of $0.99. This of course brought out the merch jerks in droves, filling up their baskets with Tsums to flip.

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The infamous Mother Gothel Tsum Tsum (I think.)

I honestly thought we had seen every single piece of merchandise made for the Disneyland 60th Anniversary and yet more and more just keep coming to Outlets. Here is a Dapper Mickey photo clip Frame. Originally $14.95, now $7.99.

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Thank you Disneyland annual passholders, for not buying a single piece of merchandise and making me go through it all. Yes, I’m looking in your direction Tom Bricker, Guy Selga, and Matt Gottula.

Disneyland 60th iPhone 6 case on left. Originally $39.95, now $14.99. On the right is a Minnie Mouse one where the character is stuck on the case. Has a lot of thickness. Originally $39.95, now just $7.99.

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iPhone cases.

Some houses have “fine china” but we theme park fans know what our favorite dinnerware is. The smaller Disneyland 60th plate was originally $17.95, now $7.99. The larger one was originally $21.95, now $9.99.

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If author extraordinaire Seth Kubersky ever gets married, I volunteer for the Ashkenazi tradition to break these plates (and as many more as they’ll let me.)

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Adding Extra Disney Magic: Tinker Bell Gifts

by on August 24, 2016

Tinker Bell Gifts

Tinker Bell Gifts

Imagine with me, if you will, a parent’s paradise in Walt Disney World. No, not that one where you ditch the kids and head over to the Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island (RIP). The other one. The one where the kids wake up bright and early, brimming with excitement to start their day. No whining about getting up early for rope drop, no nagging for that $16 autograph pen from the gift shop, and absolutely no fighting between siblings. Sound too good to be true? Maybe. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to aim high! So let’s talk about how Tinker Bell gifts can not only encourage good behavior but also add an extra touch of Disney magic while simultaneously helping you save money on souvenirs.

Note from Tinker Bell

Note from Tinker Bell

What are they?

For those who haven’t heard of them, Tinker Bell gifts are small presents you leave in the room for the kids in your group. They can be left overnight for discovery in the morning (like a Disney version of Santa), or if you can find a way to sneak back into the room without the kids noticing, you can leave them as a surprise for when they return from the parks. Typically, the gifts are accompanied by a note explaining the gift and who gave it.

Though they are called Tinker Bell gifts by most people, if you think the child(ren) in your party would be more excited about a letter from Rey (Star Wars) thanking them for their help with the Resistance than a note from Tinker Bell, then this is the time to get creative. Personally, I like to leave a note that includes four things: a quick mention of the fun from the prior day, an itinerary for the current day, an explanation of the gift, and a reminder to be well behaved. On a recent trip with younger relatives of mine, each note was written by a different character and tied into whatever the kids would be doing at the parks that day.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! July 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on July 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. How long? Today marks the THREE YEAR ANNIVERSARY! What started out as a simple $1 bet between Len Testa and Laurel Stewart to see if they could take a simple Florida blogger and turn him into a two time runDisney medal winner/PizzaMania champion, has transformed into what many would consider the 9th Wonder of the Modern World (in terms of “people wonder why we keep writing it.”) The best rags-to-riches story this side of Cinderella, our monthly treks into Orlando’s Disney Outlet Stores have provided highs and lows (and then even more lows) in order to deliver you, Dear Reader, a glimpse into a world which very few have lived long enough to tell about. A sincere thank you to each and every one of you for taking the time to read this little article. Except Tom Bricker, of course.

Also, in an unbelievable gesture, we have been swamped with “congratulations” messages and telegrams from people around the globe and we’re going to print some of them here, so keep your eye out!

Now while all of you were saying goodbye to Dateline Disneyland (we’ll miss you Andy!) Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

As always we start off with any new Tsum Tsums and this month we only had one. I spent a couple seconds trying to figure out which Star Wars character it might be until realizing it was Black Widow from The Avengers. All Tsums have been reduced to $2.99.

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Black Widow Tsum Tsum, but doesn’t that look like a lightsaber on her side?!

This is interesting. Last month I made a slight “faux pas” and identified the Mother Gothel Tsum Tsum as MULAN. All of a sudden, for the first time ever, a TSUM TSUM GUIDE FOR DUMMIES appeared showing people who each Tsum Tsum was and what movie they were from. I’m not 100% sure you can all blame my accidental racism for this chart, but I’m also too old to believe in coincidences.

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Tsum Tsum For Dummies.

Speaking of things I don’t understand…

POKEMON AT THE DISNEY OUTLET STORE!

We wrote about Pokemon Go this week in the SATURDAY SIX (go ahead and read that masterpiece, don’t worry, we’ll be here when you get back) and honestly, the game makes absolutely no sense to me. Then again neither did “on fleek,”  gluten free desserts, or Universal’s Straight Outta Food Truck. For those of you who do play Pokemon Go, you’ll be glad to know you can catch various Pokemon at the Disney Outlets!

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Pokemon Go! at the Disney Outlet Store. Reports are that people are going all around the globe to catch Pokemon but many are just catching the Zika virus. (photo by Julia Mascardo)

Was a little surprised to see these Magic Kingdom salt and pepper trashcans make their way to the Outlets. Originally $9.99, now $3.99 and I picked up the Frontierland and Fantasyland ones. This is one of those 50% bonkers/50% absolutely awesome items. Going to try to slip these into the rotation for our next dinner party and wait for one of my non-Disney neighbors to ask which garbage can has the salt.

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Would have paid extra for the “Talking Push” variant.

Pretty sure this is the first appearance of a SHELLIE MAY item at the Outlets. This pillow pet was originally $29.95, now $9.99 and yes, I bought one. My secret shame.

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WE WANT GELATONI ITEMS!!

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on July 9, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This July we’re celebrating Walt Disney World here on the SATURDAY SIX. While we looked at Animal Kingdom last week, today we’re going to turn our gaze over to the park which many insiders agree was created solely as a preemptive strike against the upcoming Universal Studios Florida, the one and only Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (photo by Brian Carey)

Right now Hollywood Studios is in the middle of a transition stage, as two mammoth properties in Star Wars and Pixar’s Toy Story have begun their major expansion inside the park. However, Hollywood Studios still contains some of the most unique dining experiences in any Disney park, amazing streetmosphere, several of WDW’s most thrilling attractions, and two of the best nighttime spectaculars in Florida. In short, we love Hollywood Studios. But what do we love most about this park? Well, sit back, grab a carrot cake cookie , and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – The Citizens of Hollywood

The dedication plaque for Hollywood Studios (originally known as Disney-MGM Studios) includes a line from former Disney CEO Michael Eisner that reads: “We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was – and always will be.” The dedication also refers to the park channeling classic Hollywood as a state of mind, rather than trying to pinpoint a specific time and place. Nowhere is this more evident than the incredible Citizens of Hollywood who roam the thoroughfare of the park. Completely committed to their particular character, the Citizens of Hollywood are an improvisational comedy troupe who have a lot of fun with guests and every interaction is unique. You’ll find policemen writing tickets, aspiring starlets auditioning for their big role, maintenance crews stumbling around a job, and much more. The Citizens, along with the evocative theming of both Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, combine to wonderfully recreate the Tinseltown none of us ever knew but always imagined. Quality streetsmosphere such as the Dapper Dans at the Magic Kingdom or The Citizens in Hollywood Studios separate Disney from all their competitors, as no one else can even approach this high level of show.

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Citizen of Hollywood, Evie Starlight. (photo by Brian Carey)

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Ben Appetit and Dara Vamp. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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