News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s time for another edition of the News Nuggets, and the biggest news of the past few days might be that the complete menus of the Epcot Food & Wine festival have been released. Thankfully, it looks like the chocolate truffle from last year is coming back.

Of course, there was a whole bunch of other Disney World news stories to cover, so let’s get right to the News Nuggets!

As you might imagine, there have been a bunch of ride-through / experience videos of the new attractions. I don’t think I’m going to watch any of them, but if you’re interested, here are a few:

I’ll end things, however, with a link to this timelapse video of “Magic Moments” at Disney World. Enjoy!!

Don’t Forget – Disney is Live Streaming the New Star Wars Fireworks Tonight at 9:20PM Eastern

Just a quick reminder that Disney is live streaming Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular at 9:20pm tonight. It’s usually easiest to just go to the Disney Parks blog about 10 minutes before the show is supposed to start, but I’ll also try to update this post if I’m around.

Regardless, enjoy the show tonight!

UPDATE: Here’s the Disney Parks Blog Link and here’s the embed:

These are NOT the fireworks they are showing tonight.
These are NOT the fireworks they are showing tonight.

Tips for People Driving from (or through) North Carolina to Disney World

This might seem like a very specific topic to cover, but friend of the site Dutch Lombrowskiis driving from New England down to Florida the next couple of weeks and I planned on typing up this information for him anyway. (I have no idea if he actually wants it, but I figured I’d share anyway.)

Coming from Raleigh / Durham, we get on I-95 at Exit 81. Since that’s about 40 minutes from our house we don’t normally need to stop quite yet, but Exit 79 (Benson) does have a top flight, North Carolina BBQ stop—White Swan BBQ—if you’re interested

Here are our other key notes for the drive:

North Carolina

  • NC Exit 22 – The only Chick-Fil-A between when we get on I-95 and the end of the state. If we’re getting an “after work” start, then we usually stop here.

South Carolina

Driving through South Carolina always feels like the longest part of the drive. It’s not the prettiest part of highway, there’s not a lot of good places to stop, and it’s only 2 frakin’ lanes!!!. (And, yes, I know South of the Border exists, but, realistically, I’m not stopping there.) Thankfully, gas prices are usually pretty low. We usually find, however, that once you get into the last 30 miles of the state, it’s better to wait to Georgia.

  • SC Exit 164 – If we didn’t stop in Lumberton, NC (Exit 22), then this is usually our first stop on the drive. The exit has a Bojangles and a Zaxby’s for your fried chicken needs. (Bojangles is much, much quicker.)
  • SC Exit 160A – The only Chick-Fil-A off I-95 in SC (I know, right?). It’s this weird “drive-through only”-type establishment that we usually skip because the whole experience is a pain in the rear.
  • SC Exit 98 – There’s a Hampton Inn and a Bojangles here. The next place with decent hotels is Savannah, GA (which is 100 miles away.) Make sure you’re not too tired to go that distant.
  • SC Exit 53 – That said, there’s a Holiday Inn Express here in Walterboro that we’ve thought about trying. (It has good reviews, but we’ve also heard horror stories.) We’ve always ended up making it to Savannah, though. (Technically, there’s also a Hampton Inn, but it’s a converted, old motel with all exterior entry rooms.)

Georgia

Getting across the bridge into Georgia (and it’s 3 lane highway!!) always feels like such a relief. There’s a ton of different exits in Savannah that have hotels, so I won’t go over all of them here. Just know that, if you make it to Savannah, you’re almost always going to be fine finding a place to stay.

  • GA Exit 104 – If you made it through South Carolina and want to reward yourself with a Frozen Lemonade, here’s your first Chik-Fil-A.
  • GA Exit 38 – This is kind of “stretch” goal if we leave in the evening after work (For example, if we know Carolina is playing Duke in basketball at a 9pm tip-off and we’re going to be up late anyway.) There’s a Hampton Inn here that’s right off the highway.
  • GA Exit 3 – Here’s another Chick-Fil-A. (Though we normally wait until we get to Florida to stop.)

Florida

Florida! You’ve made it! (Well, almost.) I’m not going to talk about hotel options in Florida, since (if you’re like me) you’ll probably want to just get to Orlando now. If you really can’t go any farther, than St. Augustine has a variety of options.

  • FL Exit 363: One of our primary Chick-Fil-A stops. It’s a little off the highway, but your GPS should explain the funky traffic pattern to you. This exit also has a Blaze Pizza if you want to try that before it opens at Disney Springs.
  • FL Exit 344: As I said, 363 is our primary Chick-Fil-A stop. At exit 344 we’re getting a little too close to Jacksonville, and we’d rather not risk some kind of traffic occurring when we are really ready for a stop. (Sitting in traffic when you really have to go to the bathroom is the worst.)
  • FL Exit 339: Another Chick-Fil-A here, but we never stop.
  • FL Exit 268: The Chick-Fil-A opened in Fall 2016, and we’ve actually stopped on the way home from Disney.
  • FL Exit 260B: I-4! You’re really almost there! (Probably about an hour, depending on traffic.)

As you can imagine, when we’re that close to Disney World, we don’t usually stop (so, I can’t really make any I-4 recommendations.)

Those are Elyssa’s and my tips for driving from North Carolina to Disney World. If our Chick-Fil-a focused plan doesn’t work for you, check our the I-95 exit guide to try and plan a drive that works for you!

Don’t Forget – Disney is Live Streaming Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire at 4:00pm Eastern Today!

This is a big month for people who like Disney live streams, as the Disney Parks Blog is doing one every Monday. Today’s stream, which goes live at 4:00PM Eastern Time, is Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire.

The other upcoming streams are:

  • July 18 – Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular; and
  • July 25 – Paint the Night Parade

Enjoy getting your Disney fix, even when you can’t be at the parks yourself!

UPDATE: They’ve put up the YouTube Link:

Disney’s new Fuel Rod Service Seems Like an Unnecessary Hassle

tl;dr – Plan ahead and buy a battery rod or packfrom Amazon instead of spending more time and money on Fuel Rods. Also, this article has a lot of numbers.

As has been reported on a number of different sites, Disney World has started rolling out Fuel Rod portable chargers for people to use in the parks. The basics of the system are that you pay $30 to get a Fuel Rod that comes fully charged to use with your phone. When you have used the entire battery, you can either recharge the Fuel Rod yourself, or exchange it at a kiosk to get a different, fully charged one at no cost.

On the surface it sounds like a decent system, but I wondered how convenient this whole process really is, especially when compared to the plethora of USB battery packs that are on the market.

Unfortunately, Fuel Rod doesn’t really advertise the size of their…ummm…rod? (Sorry.) The only Fuel Rod review I was able to find said that he got about 65% of an iPhone charge with one of the rods. (This is consistent with what I heard on an episode of DIS Unplugged, but it seems that they used the same review I did to come up with their number.) For those mathematically inclined, 65% of the current’s iPhone’s battery would mean a Fuel Rod would have just over 1,100 mAh of capacity (the current iPhone has a 1,1715 mAh).

To satisfy my intellectual curiosity, I also tried to calculate the size of a Fuel Rod by using the “around 8 hours of phone charge” claim reported by WDW Magic. Though Apple lists a variety of battery times for its iPhone, an estimate of 15-17 hours per day for a normal user isn’t terrible. (A normal user not at Disney World, where the combination of poor network connectivity and “need” to refresh My Disney Experience repeatedly for Fastpass+ availability means that you’re probably looking more realistically at 8-10 hours of battery life, if you’re lucky.) This would mean that a Fuel Rod would charge just over 50% of the current iPhone, and most likely have a capacity of around 850 mAh.

In order to give Fuel Rod the benefit of the doubt (which they don’t deserve for keeping their specs a secret, but, whatever), let’s assume their rods have 1,200 mAh of capacity. How does that compare to various other battery options on the market? SPOILER ALERT: Terribly.

For example, for $10, you can get this Anker battery rod that has just under 3x the capacity of a Fuel Rod and is still slightly slimmer in size. This would let you charge your phone twice without having to think about “recharging your rod”. If you want to invest the same $30 you’d spend on a FuelRod, you can purchase this Amazon Basics Battery Pack that will charge your iPhone over 9 times before it needs to be recharged. In other words, you’d need to either recharge or swap out your Fuel Rod 12 times to get the same capacity as the the Amazon Basics pack. That’s ridiculous. I’d much rather “worry” about remembering to plug in my battery pack every 2-3 days than have to find Fuel Rod kiosks 10+ times over that period.

Look, I understand that some people might not want to carry a battery pack with them when they first enter the park. But, once you buy that first Fuel Rod, you’re going to be carrying it with you anyway for the rest of the day (your Disney World visit?) so you can swap it out. You might as well just pay $10 in advance and get the Anker rod that weighs 2.7 oz to bring with you. At least then you’ll be able to charge your phone almost twice before you need to worry about your battery pack, instead of the .65 times you’d get from the $30 Fuel Rod.

Disney World has made smart phones necessary items to enjoy your park going experience, and, if you want to actually use your phone, you’re probably going to need some additional power. Though the Fuel Rod seems like an interesting idea on the service, its high cost and apparent low capacity seem like a poor option to fit almost all use cases. Think of it this way: you’re already planning things like ADRs and Fastpass+ reservations in advance of your Disney vacation, why not also plan to buy a battery rod or packin advance and save yourself a bunch of hassle?

Everyone needs a phone
Everyone needs a phone

What Did I Miss?

As people who follow me on Twitter (or are observant enough to notice the lack of updates on the site) are aware, the last few weeks have been some of my most disconnected from Disney World in the past few years. That said, it’s about time to throw on some of my best bright colors and come high stepping back to the Disney World community that Elyssa and I love so much.

On our recent 9 hour (but not to or from Disney World) drive, Elyssa and I talked like we would if we had been heading back from a Disney World trip. As we almost always do, we started our discussion with some talk about our favorite breakfast locations (Kona—which we hadn’t been to at the time of our original post—and Tusker House, obviously). We talked about our preference for going to Narcoossee’s over Be Our Guest (we’d rather spend a little extra money, have a a better meal, and not be rushed through it), and our general strategy for how we’d tour if we go to Disney World over Christmas this year (rope drop to take advantage of—what will almost assuredly be—early opening hours, and then have breakfast closer to 11:00 as people really start to arrive.) We also discussed our preferences for New Year’s plans if we’re still down there (Magic Kingdom on the 30th, Studios (??) on NYE?). It was a good couple of hours Disney discussion that got me ready to (hopefully) jump back into a few things that I have been working on for the site.

The biggest take away from the conversation, though, was me once again realizing that how lucky I am to have someone like Elyssa to help me run this site, and—more importantly—my life. I do feel like I (probably?) missed a good bit over the past couple of weeks, but at least I got to keep up with one thing (she’s probably prefer if I say “person”) that’s most important.

Now, with all that said, who’s partying with us in October?

Fireworks over Birmingham by Elyssa
Fireworks over Birmingham by Elyssa