Magic Castle Hotel – Hollywood

If you want to find a little bit of Magic in Hollywood then look no further than the Magic Castle Hotel.

The Magic Castle Hotel is a very popular hotel located within walking distance to popular tourist destinations like Grauman’s chinese theatre, (Mann’s Chinese Theatre), Madame Tassauds wax museum, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Don’t be put off by The Magic Castle Hotel 3 star rating, it’s service is 5 star.

What sets the hotel apart from all the others we have stayed at In Los Angeles are it’s staff, from the minute you arrive the service is amazing.

You are treated with a welcome drink, our children where offered some complimentary snacks.

They organised a booster seat for us so we could go on a Hollywood tour, and even helped us to our room with our bags. Nothing is a problem for them.

Probably the highlight for busy families though is the laundry service. You drop off your dirty washing to reception and they clean, dry and fold it for you free of charge.

They do say to allow 24 hours for it, however we dropped ours off just after lunch on our way to Santa Monica Pier and it was back in our room that night before we returned home.

At the Magic Castle Hotel it is all about the little things, they offer a continental breakfast each morning, free snack foods at reception, complimentary soda (soft drink), a popsicle hotline, where your kids can order a popsicle anytime of the day and will be delivered out to them near the pool.

They have games for the kids out at the table to keep them amused.

When I say they offer complimentary snack foods the list is quite extensive from Potato Chips, Doritos, Cheetos, peanuts, Pretzels, microwave popcorn, Grabola Bars, Kit Kats, Snickers, Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, Reece Cups, Hershey’s Chocolate, Choc chip cookies, the list goes on.

The rooms have been renovated and are very clean and comfortable.

Their is a selection of either single rooms, one bedroom or two bedroom suites.

We stayed in the 2 bedroom suite and it had a King size bed in one room, 2 single beds in the other and a large fold out couch in the lounge room.

It has a seperate dining room that had a table for eating dinner on, then a kitchen which had another smaller table that could fit two people.

For those of you who want to cook, they have a full kitchen available, and a supermarket also within walking distance.

As we where only staying for a couple of days and wanted to explore we didn’t make use of the kitchen, however we did appreciate the extra space.

Another great way the Magic Castle goes above and beyond is through their take away service.

Instead of having to order it yourself, you just tell the reception staff what you are after and they will order it for you.

We get like pizza and the girls at the front desk recommended the restaurant Asparagus, and we where impressed with not just the taste, but the size of the pizza’s.

We ordered 2 of their pizzas, and had some left over.

For is the Magic Castle Hotel really was a magical place to stay.

When we head to Hollywood next we will be heading back to the Magic Castle Hotel as it really was a pleasure to stay there.

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Top 9 things to do in Toy Story Land, Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.

Since we decided we were heading to Orlando to visit Walt Disney World, our youngest has been so excited about their new land “Toy Story Land” in Hollywood studios. Toy Story Land did not disappoint, it is a fun, cheerful land with decorations and rides that are larger than life.

Everywhere you go in Toy Story Land you will be greeted as if you are a toy playing in Andy’s backyard.

We have put together our top 9 things to do in Toy Story Land, they are not in any particular order.

Slinky Dog Dash

One of the most popular new rides in the park is the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster. The ride is great for younger children that like thrill rides as you only have to be 97cm or taller to ride it. Like all of Toy Story Land, the theming is on point, with lots of fun starting in the queue. The queue has great sketches of the ride that “Andy has drawn in crayon”.

Slinky Dog dash is still the most popular ride in Hollywood studios with wait times often hitting 2-3 hours, like all the rides in Toy Story Land it has Fastpass, so if you can make sure you put this as a priority when booking your fastpasses. But if you not lucky enough to get one, grab your phone, log in to Disney Play and wait, its worth it.

 

Green Army Men

The Green Army men are great new entertainment in Toy Story Land, The Green Army Patrol come out at random time during the days, and sometimes play their drum patrol, other times they take photos with the guests. It is such a fun part of the Land.

Green Army Men, Toy Story Land

Like all the things in Toy Story Land, the theming is on point, even down to the way their shoes have large plastic bases. From the minute we went into the Land our kids were on the lookout for the familiar sounds of the drums.

 

Alien Swirling Saucers

The other new ride in Toy Story Land is Alien Swirling Saucers, this fun ride is very similar to Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree in Disneyland, just different themed, for guests 32 inches (81 cm) and above. You climb in your alien swirling saucer and you swing around listening to some fun themed music.

Character meet and Greets

If you want a chance to take a photo with Buzz, Woody, Jessie then make sure you head down to Toy Story Land.

Search for hidden Mickeys

Our children love searching for Hidden Mickeys around the Parks and resorts, and there are a couple of great ones to find in Toy Story Land.

Our children’s favorite where the one Hidden in the queue for Alien Swirling saucers. A welcome distraction in the line. Also in the dock of slinky dog dash, is a hidden mickey in the clouds.

Green Army Men Toy Story Land hidden Mickey

Toy Story Mania

Whilst Toy Story Mania has been at Hollywood Studios for over ten years, with Toy Story Land it got a new fun entrance. Toy Story Mania, is one of my favorite rides in Disney World (and Disneyland). There is no height requirement to go on this 4D adventure.

You wear fun oversized yellow 3D glasses aboard spinning vehicles that travel through virtual environments all based on classic carnival midway games as the name suggests.

Woody’s Lunchbox

Now a stop at Toy storyland would not be complete without visiting Woody’s lunchbox. Woody’s lunchbox is such a cute area, however, seating is limited, it is themed as if Andy has turned his own lunchbox into a fun walk-up window for his toys to eat at.

The menu is pretty limited with Sandwiches, melts and soda’s are the main choices. The portion sizes are really quite large.

Soak in the ambiance of Toy Story Land

Part of the wonder of Toy Story Land is in all the details. The Imagineers have gone all out in the land, from the hidden easter eggs located all around the land. A Disneyland Viewmaster slide in the queue for Toy Story Mania, the blocks that spell out dates that are important to Pixar, the larger than life statues of all your favorite characters.

Look down and you can see Andy’s footprints etched into the concrete. Once in Toy Story Land, you really will begin to feel like a toy in an oversized world

An icy pole on a themed seat

Finally make sure you grab yourself a nice cool icy treat, sit down on one of the popsicle chairs and really appreciate the fact that you are in Disneyworld.

Toy Story Land is only a small part of the Larger Hollywood studios, home to Disney Junior Dance Party, The Incredibles, Hollywood Tower of terror, and a great variety of Star Wars shows. It surely is a must do on your next trip to Florida.

 

Have you been to Toy Story Land? Hollywood studios? Let us know in the comments below.

Make sure you keep reading all about our epic Disney Trip, where we went to Disneyland, a Disney Cruise, and Walt Disney World.

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Toy Story Land did not disappoint, it is a fun, cheerful land with decorations and rides that are larger than life. Everywhere you go in Toy Story Land you will be greeted as if you are a toy playing in Andy's backyard.  We have put together our top 9 things to do in Toy Story Land, they are not in any particular order. Toy Story Land did not disappoint, it is a fun, cheerful land with decorations and rides that are larger than life. Everywhere you go in Toy Story Land you will be greeted as if you are a toy playing in Andy's backyard.  We have put together our top 9 things to do in Toy Story Land, they are not in any particular order. Toy Story Land did not disappoint, it is a fun, cheerful land with decorations and rides that are larger than life. Everywhere you go in Toy Story Land you will be greeted as if you are a toy playing in Andy's backyard.  We have put together our top 9 things to do in Toy Story Land, they are not in any particular order.

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Dinner at Blue Bayou in Disneyland

On our recent trip to Disneyland, we were very lucky to get a dinner reservation at Blue Bayou. This restaurant has been on my to-do list the last few times we went to Disneyland but it is quite hard to get into and you really need to book in advance.

The Blue Bayou has been open for over 50 years opening back on March 18th, 1967.

The Blue Bayou is located within the same building as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Whilst you are seated inside the building, It is themed like you are outside at night out on the bayou.

As you sit overlooking the start of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, you hear crickets, frogs, you see the glow of fireflies in the background and it all adds to the atmosphere.

The menu is themed as well, you can order a Mint Julep or a Louisiana Lemonade. Our children loved the Louisiana Lemonade and would have gone back here every day just to order this lemonade.

The Mint Julep was great however is incredibly strong so only order it if you like a lot of mint.

Blue Bayou Disneyland Blue Bayou Disneyland Blue Bayou Disneyland

Now to make the most of your dining reservation, make sure you request a table by the water. It might mean waiting a few more minutes for your table, but it is well worth the wait.

 

Menu (As of January 2019)

Starters
Fried Calamari – $14.00

Crab Hush Puppies – $12.00

Golden Beet Salad – $12.00

House Salad – $6.00

N’awlins Gumbo – $7.00

Entrées

Surf & Turf – $50.00

Herb-crusted Rack of Lamb – $44.00

Bone-In Rib-Eye – $46.00

Catch of the Day – $39.00

Roasted Chicken Maison – $35.00

Seafood Pasta – $35.00

Bone-In Pork Loin – $35.00

Vegetable Pasta – $30.00

Desserts

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée – $9.00

8-Layer Chocolate Hazelnut Cake – $10.00

Kids Meals

Served with Seasonal Vegetables and Fruit with a choice of Small Lowfat Milk or Small Dasani® Water

Sustainable Fish – $12.00
Pan-seared and served with Pasta topped with Marinara

Chicken Breast – $10.00
Pan-seared and served with Pasta topped with Marinara

Mickey’s Cheesy Macaroni – $9.00

Chef’s Beef Specialty – $13.00

Non-Alcoholic Specialty Beverage

Louisiana Lemonade – $7.75
Minute Maid® Lemonade, Sprite®, Mango, Raspberry, served with a souvenir glow cube

Mint Julep – $5.00

Mint Julep with Souvenir Glow Cube – $8.00

 

The Blue Bayou really is a must see restaurant at Disneyland the Herb-crusted Rack of Lamb was divine. Probably my favorite meal of the whole trip to Disneyland. (Unfortunately hard to take photos due to the dark nature of the restaurant).

Blue Bayou Disneyland

Have you ever been to the Blue Bayou?

Did you order the Mint Julep, what did you think?

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On our recent trip to Disneyland, we were very lucky to get a dinner reservation at Blue Bayou. This restaurant has been on my to-do list the last few times we went to Disneyland but it is quite hard to get into and you really need to book in advance. On our recent trip to Disneyland, we were very lucky to get a dinner reservation at Blue Bayou. This restaurant has been on my to-do list the last few times we went to Disneyland but it is quite hard to get into and you really need to book in advance.

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Snorkeling at Castaway Cay

Imagine snorkeling out into the clear blue waters of the Bahamas, the water temperature a beautiful 25℃, the water crystal clear, the sand a glistening white color.

You swim around looking at the amazing fish and then you see it heading towards you. A Magnificent Sea turtle. You then spend the next two-three minutes swimming with the majestic sea animal.

This was our experience when we recently went on an amazing Disney Cruise on the Disney Dream and snorkeled at Disney’s Castaway Cay.

Disney’s Castaway Cay is Disney’s own private island, located in the Bahamas, near the Great Aboca Island. Back in 1999, Disney signed a 99-year lease from the Bahamian Government which allows it to be an exclusive port for the Disney Cruise line. And like all things Disney they quickly invested in the island to make it a tropical oasis.

Imagine snorkeling out into the clear blue waters of the Bahamas, the water temperature a beautiful 25℃, the water crystal clear, the sand a glistening white color.

The real advantage of Castaway Cay is the fact that the Cruise ships can dock on the island which makes disembarking a very quick and easy process. In the past, most cruise ships would have to tender off whatever island they are stopping at, and you would have to catch a smaller boat over to the island. But not at Castaway Cay. Instead, you just wander down to the main level and walk off the boat. Using your Drivers license (Or passport) as ID, and your key to the world card.

Disney cruise line - dream Castaway Cay

Castaway is a beautiful island to visit and has so much to do, you can hire a bike, go on waterslides, shop, swim, eat. There are kids clubs for your children and even adult only areas. There is also a huge list of activities you can participate in, including glass bottom boats. So with so much to do, you might decide that snorkeling isn’t high on your list. If that’s the case I suggest you reconsider as it really was a beautiful place to snorkel.

Now you can bring your own snorkeling gear on the Cruise ship, but if space is an issue you can hire it on Castaway Cay, and I have to admit it’s not cheap. But it’s one of those times you think to yourself. I have spent all this money getting here, surely I can pay $34.00 to hire an adult sized mask, a snorkel, a snorkel vest (mandatory) you blow these up to add extra buoyancy and a pair of fins. Kids aged 5-9 can hire children sized ones for only $18.00

Initially, I wasn’t going to head out in the water, the boys were just going to head out whilst I relaxed on the beach, but I am so glad I went out. These experiences, like the Rainbow Reef in Disney Aulani resort, are moments in time that I will remember for a very long time, and now thanks to youtube, you can too.

Make sure you keep reading all about our epic Disney Trip, where we went to Disneyland, a Disney Cruise, and Walt Disney World.

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Imagine snorkeling out into the clear blue waters of the Bahamas, the water temperature a warm 25℃, the crystal clear water. Imagine snorkeling out into the clear blue waters of the Bahamas, the water temperature a warm 25℃, the crystal clear water.   See why you should go snorkeling at Castaway Cay Imagine snorkeling out into the clear blue waters of the Bahamas, the water temperature a warm 25℃, the crystal clear water.   See why you should go snorkeling at Castaway Cay

Have you ever been snorkeling before?

 

 

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List of Films and TV shows filmed at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast

A visit to the Gold Coast wouldn’t be complete without checking out Australia’s most popular theme park, Movie World. Known as “Hollywood on the Gold Coast” but what many people don’t realise is that next to Movie World is a real active Studio.

List of Films and TV shows filmed at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast

The Studio is one of three major studios in Australia. The Gold Coast studio is owned by Village Roadshow and consists of nine sound stages, three water tanks, including Australia’s largest purpose-built water tank. It also has many more facilities to ensure it can film both small independent productions, to huge Blockbusters part of both the DC and Marvel Universe.

When you start to look into the Studio you begin to realise why there is such a huge emphasis on Scooby Doo in the Park. The studio was the filming location to two of the Scooby Doo Films both the 2002 and 2004 films starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jnr.

Whilst they are separate entities there is obviously some good cross-promotion that goes on.

When you drive around the Hinterland and beaches liked the Spit you can see why any Films and TV shows are filmed on the Gold Coast.

The other two studios are located in Melbourne, the Dockland studios Melbourne, And Sydney’s Fox studio, however, Village Roadshow studio is the largest studio lot in the Southern Hemisphere with the stages having an overall size of roughly 156775 sq ft.

Recently the Village Roadshow studio was utilised to film the Blockbuster film, Aquaman starring Jason Momoa. If you are lucky enough to go into Movie World at the moment there is a fantastic display with Props, Costumes and Set pieces from the Film.

List of Films and TV shows filmed at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast List of Films and TV shows filmed at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast

We had such a great time looking through all the memorabilia and decided to put together a list of some of the more notable Films and TV shows filmed at Village Roadshow Studios.

    • Scooby Doo
    • Scooby Doo 2
    • Pitch Black
    • Peter Pan
    • Nim’s Island
    • The Marine
    • House of Wax
    • Ghost Ship
    • Fools Gold
    • Beauty and the Beast (Australian Movie)
    • Daybreakers
    • Crocodile Dundee in LA
    • The Chronicles of Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
    • San Andreas
    • Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead men tell no tales.
    • Unbroken
    • Thor Ragnarok
    • Godzilla vs Kong
    • Dora the Explorer (Live action Movie) to be released in 2019
      • 20,000 Leagues under the sea (Tv Mini-Series)
      • Animalia (Animated series)
      • Beast Master (Tv)
      • Paradise Beach (TV)
      • H2O Just add Water (TV)
      • Sea Patrol 2 (TV)
      • Terra Nova (TV)

These are just a few of the Movies and TV Shows that have been filmed there with many more to be filmed there in the future.

Did you realise that some of Hollywood’s biggest shows were filmed in Australia?

List of Films and TV shows filmed at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast List of Films and TV shows filmed at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast

We love movies and movie sets and were lucky to visit Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, the location of Jurassic Park and many more famous movies.

What movie sets have you visited? Tell us in the comments below.

Films and TV shows filmed at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast Films and TV shows filmed at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast

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Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast.

Are you one of the 13 million visitors heading to the Gold Coast this year and wondering what should we be doing. We have compiled our list from our time living on the Gold Coast and our visit there.

Top ten must-see destinations on the Gold Coast.

1. Visit a Theme Park.

  • Movie World

In Australia the Gold Coast is the home of the theme parks, Los Angeles might have Disneyland, Orlando might have Disneyworld. But in Australia on the Gold Coast, we have “Hollywood on the Gold Coast” Warner Brothers Movie world. A Village Roadshow Theme Parks.  It is the home of DC Superheroes, Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo, Harry Potter (although this is just through merchandise and some theming on shops). It is also home to active Movie studios, seeing the newest blockbuster Aquaman filmed there, as well as Thor – Ragnarok, Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales and many more amazing films. Movie World is home to the longest, fastest, and tallest hypercoaster in the Southern Hemisphere, the DC Rivals Hypercoaster. At the moment you can walk through and see many of the sets and costumes form Aquaman in a special display in the park.

Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast - Go see a Theme Park Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast

 

  • Sea World

Gold Coast also is the home to Sea World, also a Village Roadshow Theme Parks. Although it has a similar name and branding to the American Seaworld, it is run by totally different companies with more of a focus on rehabilitation.  It is a marine mammal park, oceanarium, and theme park. It has a great younger children’s area and a few rides aimed at older children, teens, and adults. With a large focus on sea animals.  It has the license to Nickelodeon, so children will love meeting the Paw Patrol characters, Sponge Bob and TMNT.

Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast

  • Paradise Country

Also part of the Village Roadshow Paradise Country is an Australian homestead where there is a variety of Australian animals including kangaroos, koalas, and emus. You can head on a farm tour that includes several shows which feature the making of billy tea, boomerang throwing, and stock Horse demonstrations.

  • Dreamworld

Dream World is set on 210 acres in Coomera, it has 27 rides including 5 roller coasters. Dreamworld is the home of Wiggles World, and an ABC kids land with a few wiggles themed rides. A real favorite with the pre-school crowd. Dreamworld also has rides connected to Dreamworks. Dream World has a Lego store that can be accessed from outside of the park, so you don’t need tickets to buy your favorite lego. Dreamworld is the home of the thrill ride on the Gold Coast with 9 thrill rides.

Fun Fact – some designers who worked on Disneyland and Walt Disney World designed some of Dreamworld.

Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast

2. Visit a Water Park

The Gold Coast has great weather most of the year and is home to two water parks.

  • Wet n Wild

No matter what the weather Wet n Wild remains open so is beautiful no matter what time of year it is. To help with the slightly cooler winter months the pools are heated through Winter. Located adjacent to Movie world and also a Village Roadshow Theme Park, it has 4 pools, 17 water slides, and 2 Children’s areas.

  • WhiteWater World

Situated next to Dreamworld a short park hop away is Dreamworld water park Whitewater world, with one wave pool, 10 water slides, and 2 children’s areas.

3. The Beaches

The Gold Coast is home to so many beautiful beaches, from the Famous Surfers Beach to the great surf beaches of Kirra, and Coolangatta. There is a beach to suit every beach taste. I love walking along the beach each morning and seeing the beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Many a photo has been taken from these beaches.

 

Beaches Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Beaches Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Beaches Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast

4. Natural Bridge

In the far southwest of the Gold Coast, in the Springbrook National Park is Natural Bridge and cave creek, featuring a beautiful rock formation, that was formed from the force of the waterfall over the cave made from Basalt.

The walk is only 1 km and quite easily accessible, as we have taken our four children down multiple times.

Cave Creek Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Cave Creek Top ten things to do on the Gold CoastCave Creek Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast

5. Australian Outback Spectacular.

Australian Outback dinner show is an amazing Dinner Show located on the Gold Coast, now with a new show Heartland that tells the story of Australian farmers battling a five-year-long drought. Featuring, singing, Horse riding. whilst you watch the show you get a feast on a wonderful 3-course dinner. We have been numerous times and it doesn’t disappoint.

Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast

6. Visit Surfers Paradise

A trip to the Gold Coast wouldn’t be complete without visiting it’s most famous beach and beachside town. Surfers Paradise. Surfers Paradise is abuzz with action, from great restaurants, including the Hard Rock Cafe, Ripley’s believe it or not, and a giant Timezone where you can buy a fairy floss from a machine and watch it get made.
Whether day or night there is always something going on, and the beach is patrolled by some of Queensland’s finest Lifeguards.
Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast

7. Whale Watching

Through the months of May to November jump on a whale watching tour, to see the amazing Humpback whale as they migrate. This area is commonly referred to as the Humpback highway due to a large number of Whales seen through Whale watching season.

8. Go shopping at Pacific Fair

A visit to Gold Coast wouldn’t be complete without checking out Pacific Fair, set on 38 acres. With a recent expansion, it is a shopping centre sure to have everything and anything you need. With over 400 specialty stores, and a huge range of eateries. We always make sure we drop in.

 

Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast

9. Check out one of their amazing markets.

Did you know that the Gold Coast is home to so many different markets, probably the largest and most well known is the Carrara Markets located on 10 acres with over 350 different stalls. Open on Saturdays and Sundays. Carrara Markets is great for all ages with pony rides, animal farm, our kids favorite the bungee trampoline and face painters.

10. Stay at a great Hotel, Resort or Holiday Home.

The Gold Coast has such a huge amount of different holiday options, from Waterfront high rises, Caravan Parks. So book your favorite accommodation, and relax and enjoy all that the Gold Coast has to offer.

Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast Top ten things to do on the Gold Coast

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Celebrating Christmas when away from home.

This year we are doing something different we are packing up our four children and celebrating Christmas on holiday. It’s nice to get away from the normality of life and go on an Adventure. With less stuff about there is less to clean, and your days can be spent exploring, relaxing and making the most of our wonderful world.

Our time is going to be spent in Queensland before we embark on our Disney trip. Heading to both Los Angeles and Florida. so make sure you keep an eye on our youtube channel as we will be posting lots of great videos over the next six weeks.

Christmas is a great time to get away, however, when traveling at Christmas time there is a little bit of extra planning to do.

10 Tips to celebrate Christmas on holidays

1 – Organise a house sitter.

For us, this was the most important but also the easiest one as we had a family member that also wanted to get away for the holidays so is happily looking after our pets and our house. Means you have an extra level of comfort that all will still be ok when you get back. Also means that you don’t have to worry about your pets feeling left out this Christmas season.

2 – Food.

Work out what you are going to eat on Christmas Day. If Christmas is normally filled with lots of food, celebration then staying away at Christmas can be a little strange but don’t despair. Find yourself your favorite restaurant in the area and prebook early a table for lunch or dinner. Make sure though you still head to the shops and by the essentials. Make sure you search out your favorite Christmas treats. If it’s not Christmas without your Rocky Road, then go buy the ingredients and make yourself one anyway.

3 – Presents.

  • For Others – Make sure that you have all your presents, not only wrapped and purchased before you leave but with ample time to actually drop off. There is nothing worse than going to all the effort to purchase a lovely present for someone and realising that it is still sitting under the tree at home.
  • Your own presents – When traveling space becomes a problem, and with four children making sure they not only get what they want but it is still manageable to get the presents home in your luggage is a real issue you need to think of. One way we get around it is by purchasing experiences for your family. Instead of huge lego sets, maybe you could buy a family pass to a local wildlife park or the zoo

4 – Explore the local holiday decorations.

Make sure you go take a walk and see what the local place has to offer this Christmas. If you are visiting Melbourne for Christmas their is always the iconic Myer windows or ArtVo instillation in Crown. Take a drive around and see the Magical Christmas lights. Ballarat has a great iconic art trail this year. Maybe you are heading over to New York and can experience a White Christmas. make the most of it. Maybe you are in Sydney and can experience the Fireworks on New Year’s Eve. We have been twice and they really are breathtaking.

10 Ways to celebrate christmas away from home 10 Ways to celebrate christmas away from home

5 – Facetime. 

The hardest thing about being away from Christmas is not seeing your loved ones, so make sure you have internet available and Facetime with those nearest and dearest to you. Then everyone can still be involved in the magic of seeing the presents being unwrapped.

6 – Decorations.

One of the most magical things about Christmas is decorating the Christmas tree, and even though we were leaving two weeks before Christmas we made sure we decorated our tree at home. We continue this by purchasing a cheap tree from K-mart and having it set up in our hotel room, that way the children can still wake up on Christmas morning and sit under the tree and open their presents.

10 Ways to celebrate christmas away from home

7 – Christmas Music

We love music in our house especially Christmas music, so I make sure that we continue to play our Christmas music on holidays. We can’t miss out on our Mariah Carey, Human Nature Christmas playlist.

8. Find a way to continue some Christmas traditions.

No matter where we are our children loves to watch both the Carols in the domain and Carls by candlelight. Many a days traveling has been cut short to make sure we are at our hotel or caravan park in time to sit and sing along to the Christmas carols. Now thanks to catch up tv, we get to relive the magic of the carols for days afterward as well.

9. Create some new ones

If you are away for Christmas there will be some traditions that you might find hard to continue. Maybe it was a big roast dinner, however, the hotel you are staying at doesn’t have an oven. Maybe you always went to your local carols. Instead, create a new one, maybe buy a Christmas ornament from the town you are staying in, so you will forever have the memory of where you were?

10. Relax.

Christmas will be different if you aren’t at home, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Create new traditions, enjoy the fact you won’t be running from one event to the next.

10 Ways to celebrate christmas away from home 10 Ways to celebrate christmas away from home

Have you ever been away at Christmas time before? How did you cope?

What are your plans for Christmas?

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All about the Disney Dining Plan

Back in 2005, Walt Disney World introduced something new and exciting in the Park, the Disney Dining Plan.

This allows guests staying at Walt Disney Hotels to prepay for their meals, it is a great way for you to prepay for your trip.

Disney Dining Plan is available for all guests staying at a Walt Disney World Hotel aged 3 and up, however, there are some rules in place.

  • All Members of the reservation must select the Dining Plan.
  • Children are classified between 3-9 years old.
  • Children under 3 (share off their parent’s plate) or you will need to pay OOP (Out of Pocket)
  • Children 10 + will be paying adult prices even if they choose Children’s meals.
  • The credits get loaded onto your complimentary magic band.
  • However most do not include Tips, you will have to pay those OOP.
  • Just like Cinderella, Your credits expire at Midnight on the last day of your reservation.

 

Disney Aulani resort

 

The Disney Dining plan comes in three levels.

Disney Quick service Plan

2 quick service meals per night of your stay

  • 1 Entree (Main meal)
  • 1 Non-alcoholic beverage for people under 21 (Milkshakes, Smoothies, Premium hot chocolates, Soda (Soft drink for Australians) Coffee or Tea
  • 1 Alcoholic (or non-alcoholic) for people over 21 (Includes Beer, Cider, Wine, Sangria, Mixed drinks, Speciality Cocktails)

2 Snacks per night of your stay

1 refillable mug per stay (only refillable in the resorts)

Disney Dining Plan

1 quick service meal per night of your stay which includes

  • 1 Entree (Main meal)
  • 1 Non-alcoholic beverage for people under 21
  • 1 Alcoholic (or non-alcoholic) for people over 21

1 Table service meal per night of your stay

  • 1 Entree (Main meal) (Or a Full Buffet or Family Style meal)
  • 1 Desert (Available for Lunch and Dinner)
  • 1 Non-alcoholic beverage for people under 21
  • 1 Alcoholic (or non-alcoholic) for people over 21

2 Snacks per day

1 refillable mug per stay (only refillable in the resorts)

Disney Deluxe Dining Plan

3 Meals (can be either Quick service or Table service)

– If table service this also includes an appetiser.

2 Snacks per day

1 refillable mug per stay (only refillable in the resorts)

There are more than 100 restaurants, that accept the Disney Dining plan. This includes a huge variety of styles, from traditional sit-down, Buffet or family service.

They also include a variety of special dining.

Character Dining

A great opportunity for your children to not only dine with their favorite characters but also get autographs without a huge line.

Walt Disney World has so many different character dining, from Princesses, Villians, Winnie the Pooh, Mickey and friends, Lilo and Stitch, Alice and Wonderland and even Playhouse Disney characters.

These are located in the parks and in the resorts.

Walt Disney World

Signature Dining (Take 2 Dining credits)

Walt Disney world has a great variety of Signature Dining experiences, these restaurants are restaurants that are normally more expensive when paying OOP, or extremely hard to get into.

These include Steakhouses like Le Cellier and Boathouse. To California Grill which overlooks the Magic Kingdom.

Dine in a Castle (Two Table service dining credits)

* Breakfast and Lunch is Quick Service for Be our guest.

You can make a reservation in both of the Disney Castles. Cinderella’s and the beasts.

Cinderella’s Royal table (Gratuities are Included)

You can eat Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner inside Cinderella’s castle. As you enter you meet Cinderella then as you dine, other Princesses come to join you at your table.

Cinderella’s royal table includes an appetiser, entree (main meal) and a dessert and a beverage.

Be our guest. (Prix Fixe menu)

Whilst it is traditionally thought as a Character dining experience, it actually isn’t classified as one.

Guests can dine in Beast castle, in either the Grand Ballroom, The West Wing or the Castle Gallery.

On most nights (Dinner only) you meet beast in his Library after you have finished your meal.

Guests booked for Breakfast and Lunch also get to Dine in the Castle, however, the Beast will not be present.

Dinner shows (Two Table service dining credits) (Tips are included)

Walt Disney World has a variety of dinner shows that you can book to use with your Dining credits, from the Hoop De Doo Revue ( located at the Fort Wilderness resort).

The Spirit of Aloha (Polynesian Resort). Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, at Fort Wilderness.

Private In-room dining (Two Table service dining credits) (Tips are included)

At some resorts, you can order private in-room dining and they will be charged at two dining credits. You will receive

– 1 Entree (Main meal) (Or a Full Buffet or Family Style meal)

– 1 Desert (Available for Lunch and Dinner)

– 1 Non-alcoholic beverage for people under 21

– 1 Alcoholic (or non-alcoholic) for people over 21

Pizza Delivery (Two Table service dining credits) (Tips are included)

– 1 Pizza Entree item (Main Meal)

– 2 Non-alcoholic beverage for people under 21 or Alcoholic (or non-alcoholic) for people over 21

– 2 Desserts

Cost – 2019

Disney Quick Service Plan

Adult $52.50

Children $23.78

Disney Dining Plan

Adult $75.49

Children $27.98

Disney Deluxe Dining Plan

Adult $116.25

Children $43.49

Once you have included your Disney Dining Plan on your reservation then the fun starts, Walt Disney World allows you to book your ADR, or Advance dining reservations 180 days out for your trip. We had such fun choosing our favorite restaurants to visit.

Your Fastpasses are booked 60 days out (When staying on property) so we then had fun again rescheduling a couple to make sure we got the prized Avatar flights of passage Fastpass.

The Disney dining plan is only available at Walt Disney World, one of a few key differences between the parks. You can find out more key differences on my article, Disneyworld vs Disneyland

So this is all the important information about the Disney Dining plan, now to work out which Dining plan suits you.

What is your experience with the Disney Dining plan? Did it work for you? Do you think it was worth it?

Make sure you follow us on youtube so you can see all the amazing videos of our upcoming trip to Disney.

 

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Paronella Park

Paronella Park – The Dream continues…….

On our last trip up north to Cairns, we decided we needed to visit the Winner of #1 Must do in QLD, Paronella Park and it does not disappoint.

There is something magical about the ruins of a castle, covered in vines. This is the perfect spot to explore, imagine and daydream.

Paronella Park

Feed turtles, walk through gardens and get lost in the imagination of what it would have been like in its heydey.

Jose Paronella had a dream, a dream to build a castle.

Paronella Park

And 120kms south of Cairns In 5 Hectares just behind Mena Creek falls, that is what he did.

He not only built a castle but tennis courts, bridges, picnic areas and over 7500 tropical plants and trees.

Back when it was an operational castle it also had a movie theatre which on the weekend would be transformed into an amazing space for live music, complete with a giant ball of mirrors.

For many years the Paronella’s invited the public to join them in their Spanish inspired castle complete with North Queensland’s first Hydro Electric pump, that powered the 13-acre site. The public enjoyed visiting the Castle from 1935 when it opened until 1946.

When tragedy struck.

Upstream from the park work was done and lots of trees and bushes were cleared, when the wet season came, all those logs and debris went down the river, and piled against the railway bridge destroying it. This became like a domino effect, sending the bridge, the trees, logs all down towards the castle.

The Paronella’s were upset to find the Hydro damaged, the refreshment almost destroyed, and the Theatre and foyer damaged. But they were not broken…. They began to rebuild.

The rebuilt Park stayed in the Paronella family until 1977. When they sold it.

In 1979 tragedy struck again with a fire that devastated the castle, followed by significant damage in 1986 by Cyclone Winifred, A flood in January 1994, Cyclone Larry in 2006, and Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

This has all contributed to the ghostly shell of the castle you see today. Something so magical to see.

When the current owners purchased the park in 1993 they too had a dream…. A dream to rebuild the legacy of the park and put it back on the map as a must see Tourist attraction.

They have restored the Hydroelectric system (Original 1930’s). They are preserving the castle, without rebuilding.

Paronella Park… the dream continues.

Paronella Park

Paronella Park

Paronella Park

 

 

Make sure you check out some of our other favorite places we visited.

Whitsunday Fishing Charter
Whitsunday Fishing Charter
Fairy Park Anakie
Fairy Park Anakie
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Photography on your holidays.

Why is Photography on holidays so important?

I love taking photos and videos whilst on holidays, whether I am walking around with my DSLR, my GoPro or just with my phone there is something magical about taking some photos to help keep your memories of the trip fresh in your mind when you get back.

But even more than that, Good Photography on holidays can help inspire others to get out their and travel, see Australia, see the world.

My top 5 reasons you should be taking more Photos on your next holiday.

    1. Photos help you remember.

      • Photographs can help you remember a time, a place, even a group of people. I look back at the grainy shots I took from my first trip to Ayers Rock back in the ’90s as a child and it brings me back to a different time. I begin to remember songs that I listened to on the long bus trip there. (Thanks Green Day – time of my life). I begin to remember hearing about Robert Harvey winning the Brownlow as I look at a photo of us sitting at the Glen Helen Homestead.
      • Photos help me remember places, to inspire me to go back and see the changes. I remember looking at photos of one of my first trips up to the Daintree Forest against photos from my recent holiday and it helps you remember the way it was, to the way it is now.
    2. Photos inspire others to travel

      • I have visited so many places after seeing a photo on Instagram that has made me go… Wow. We would never have stopped at Eucla and wondered the amazing sand dunes to see the Old telegraph station except we were shown a photo after a family members trip there.  On our last trip to the Whitsundays, we took a helicopter flight over Heart Reef, as I was inspired to see it for myself. I hope that my photography can do that too.
    3. Photographs inspire you to observe more.
      • I have found now that I am taking more Landscape photos, I spend more time looking at my surroundings. I stop to see the little toadstools / Mushrooms growing in the Grass. I look up at night to see the ghostly patterns the trees make against the clouds.
      • Now I spend more time slowing down, taking the time to go on walks on our trips, I explore more, hoping to find that perfect spot to take my next photo.
    4. People will want to see your photos.

      • If you spend a little more time taking photographs of the area around you, interesting views, interesting landmarks. People will want to see your photos. Instead of seeing the same photo over and over they will be inspired by all the new places you explore and photograph.
    5. Legacy

      • A few years ago I made a photo album that had a lot of photos of my grandfather in it. These photos where so important as he died many years before I was born. Without these photos, I would have never have known what he looked like. I love the fact that my children’s children will get to see the adventures we went on. They will see photos of us, feeding Kangaroos, climbing mountains, wandering through National Parks.  For many years to come, they will continue to tell my story.

Koala Park Creswick

 

To see more of my photography head across to my Photography page.

Do you take Photo’s when you are on holidays? What motivates you?

 

 

 

 

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