Friday, January 1, 2021

Looking for Contact Info? Find Me at Pepper's Ghost Tales!

I'm doing my blogging at Pepper's Ghost Tales these days, and that's the name I use for social media. But if you have one of my business cards or heard of me word of mouth, yes, Franceth Travels is the official name of my travel agency and LLC and I am still as active as I can be during this "unprecedented time"!

 If you go to the Pepper's Ghost Tales website you'll find a contact form for quotes. You can also contact me through this page, or email me: beth at francethtravels dot com.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Drinking (and Snacking) Around the World at Epcot

#1 - Breakfast in Mexico
When we got back from our Walt Disney World/Disney Cruise vacation a couple months ago, our friend Sarah commented on a picture that she wanted "a detailed accounting of everything we ate" on vacation. I wish that I had taken pictures of everything, because that is a challenge I would totally accept and vow to do it on the next trip! This year all I can give you is a detailed accounting of Drinking Around the World.
#2 Drinking Like Vikings in Norway
For those unfamiliar with Epcot park at Walt Disney World, there are two parts: Future World, with all kinds of attractions exploring science and technology (plus Coca Cola Club Cool, home of the infamous Beverly, which we did not partake in this year), and the World Showcase, which features shops and restaurants of 11 different countries. To me, Epcot is a vacation destination all by itself, and if I had unlimited frequent flyer miles, I would just spend long weekends at Swan or Dolphin hotels and take the Friendship Boat to Epcot every day.
#3 - China
There are many challenges invented by frequent visitors to WDW. The most popular for adults is "Drinking Around the World". The World Showcase is open from 11am-9pm, which means eleven drinks in roughly 10 hours. You'll be hurtin' for certain if you waltz into the park mid-afternoon and make a mad dash around the World Showcase. Instead, I recommend making a day of it. For a couple on vacation without kids, or a group of friends, this is a great way to spend the day and really savor what the World Showcase has to offer.
#4 - Minnie mani & German beer
Let's take a moment to review our first four stops. First, Snacking Around the World goes hand in hand with Drinking Around the World. We started promptly at 11am with nachos and guacamole with a mojito and margarita from La Cantina de San Angel in Mexico, followed by the Grand Fiesta Tour. Next it was onto Norway, where your beverage options are Carlsbad beer, which is Danish, or shots of some sort of Norwegian alcohol. We decided that 11:30 in the morning, on our second stop, was too early for shots. Scandinavian beer would have to be close enough. Don't miss riding Maelstrom while the line is still short!
#5 - United Kingdom
Onward to China, where we had our first cocktails and snacks from the Flower & Garden Festival special kiosks. You will see in #3 above a Kung Fu Punch, a South Sea Stormy, and a Spring Pancake. That's my first tip for planning your Drinking Around the World challenge: Go during the Flower & Garden or Food & Wine festivals. Next was a pilsner and an Oktoberfest in Germany, and soft pretzels, because you can't go to Epcot Germany and NOT get a pretzel. (I just found a recipe for these pretzels on Disney Food Blog.)
#6 - France
After Germany, it was about 3 pm and I was a little tipsy. We still had at least 6 hours to complete the challenge, so we took a break to use some Fastpasses in Future World. This leads to my second tip for you: Once you decide when you are going to Epcot, make an 8:45pm dinner reservation in advance. You just bought yourself at least an extra 45 minutes of responsible drinking. Anywhere will do, but ideally you'd want a place where you can see Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. We opted for Tokyo Dining (Japan). Other options are Rose & Crown (England), Spice Road Table (Morocco), and La Hacienda de San Angel (Mexico).
#7 - Morocco
Now let's go back and talk about my three favorite reasons for going to Epcot, particularly during Flower & Garden Festival. The first is #5 above, the Buttercup Cottage in United Kingdom (only during F&G) which has these delightful Berry Tea cocktails and that salmon tartare potato cheddar biscuit. SO GOOD. The second is the Grand Marnier Slush in France (#6). And the third is what I refer to as "Disney Sangria". There are many sangrias to be found in WDW parks and resorts, and they are not all identical, but they are all delicious. My favorite is at Hoop De Doo Revue. That may have something to do with the fact that HDDR has bottomless sangria.
#8 USA! USA!
One of the eleven countries of the World Showcase is, of course, The American Adventure, because heaven forbid you go a whole day without access to BBQ and funnel cakes, amirite? Pictured is Abita Purple Haze. In true 'MURICAN fashion, during the Flower & Garden Festival, there is a Smokehouse food stand with a Pigglicious Bacon Cupcake. That's a bacon cupcake with maple glaze, garnished with pretzels.
Now, if you look at a map of the World Showcase, you will be really confused as to our crazy order here. I was confused when I put this together. See, what happened was, we took a break after Germany, and when we came back, we went the other way around. Canada should have been after Germany, but their tap was broken, so we went on to the UK, France, Morocco, MURICA, and then Italy, which is pictured to the left. More sangria! I am not ashamed to admit that by #8, #9, and #10, we were sharing drinks. It still counts.
#10 Canada, eh?
Back to Canada for #10, and we were running out of time and regretting choosing Moosehead because neither of us really liked it. The things we do for this blog! Down the hatch it went. Now, per my earlier tip, we had a late dining reservation at Tokyo Dining for #11, but the NEXT night we dined at Le Cellier in Canada, and I had an excellent cocktail that night. I have read that Le Cellier is "not as good as it used to be," and WOW, if that is unimpressive, I can't imagine how good it used to be. Bottom line, it is worth the money. You can get lobster poutine. Need I say more?
AND FINALLY, we wrap up our day of Drinking and Snacking Around the World with sushi, martinis, and sake at Tokyo Dining. Our reservation was at 8:35 and we requested a window seat so that we could see Illuminations. We were seated just before 9, right at the window! This is not the best restaurant view of Illuminations, but you can see, and the sushi is pretty good. All in all, this was one very fun day, and putting this blog together this week has me itching to go back to Epcot! If you need help planning a trip, you know where to find me!!

* This blog was originally published on, which is also my blog. Permission to republish granted by me to me. ;)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

5 Tips for Taking a Baby to Disney Parks

Often I hear from parents, "I don't want to take my kids to Disney until _____." I understand many reasons, such as kids who won't sleep away from home, not wanting to deal with naps, and not wanting to deal with a stroller, but one thing I never understand is "waiting until they're old enough to remember". Ugh, what a lot of pressure for your kid! How long do they have to remember to make it worth it? First thing you need to do when you think about a Disney vacation is to throw that minimum age out the window. Now, consider the fact that your child can fly free as a lap passenger until age two and doesn't need a Disneyland or WDW ticket until age three. Now are you considering it?  Let me share some tips on how to make Disneyland and Walt Disney World FUN with a baby!

Here are 5 things that we found essential for a six month old:
1. As mentioned in part 1, you'll have a much easier time if your baby is accustomed to sleeping in a portable crib, in a car, in a stroller, in a baby carrier, etc. If you have a good sleeper, you're golden. Lilly went a lot of places in her first 6 months and I like to think that contributed to her being a great sleeper, but who knows, we could just be lucky.

2. A buckle baby carrier like the Boba Air. We love the Boba Air because it folds up into a little pouch that can be stuffed in a backpack, and it's very lightweight and comfortable. You can actually bring your baby on any ride that doesn't have a height requirement, in any style of carrier, with the exception of Toy Story Midway Mania, where you are required to use a buckle carrier. We used a ring sling up until this trip but have used the Boba Air almost exclusively since Disneyland. It's just that good!

3. Know your baby care centers. There is one in each park (check a park map for locations), and they have nursing areas, a small kitchen with a microwave, several changing tables so you're not waiting in line in the regular restrooms, and small tables and high chairs. I will report back on all the ones at Walt Disney World in November, but I can tell you that the one in Disneyland Park is vaguely creepy like a turn of the century maternity hospital (that may have been the ancient bossy gatekeeper who was working the first night I stopped in to nurse Lilly) and the California Adventure Park one is a more pleasant daycare/preschool atmosphere.

4. Stay at a Deluxe Resort! I know, I know, before you had a baby you saw your hotel as a bed to sleep in and want to be in the park from dawn to dusk. Well, now you have a baby. You might need to go back to your room for any number of reasons, and I am tired just thinking about walking to bus stops. We stayed at Grand Californian at Disneyland in January and are staying at Wilderness Lodge in November. I'm already thinking about Contemporary next year.

5. Be flexible! Trust me, I love making as many dining reservations as I can fit into the day, but with a baby we scaled back. We had a reservation at Blue Bayou at Disneyland because I've always wanted to eat there, but other than that we mostly ate at Storytellers Cafe at Grand Californian. For our trip in November, I have limited dining reservations to one per day and I'll limit Fastpasses to the most important things (like the fact that I STILL have not been able to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train).

At the airport on the way home. Don't we look like we've been on an honest to goodness vacation?
Ready to plan your Disney Vacation? Email me at!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Grand Californian Resort & Spa

As soon as Jewelscent announced their annual convention would be in Irvine in January, I knew Francis and Lilly were coming with me and we were going to Disneyland! I am working on a Disney Land & Sea vacation for a group right now, and one of the times I called to change a reservation, I asked to talk to Disneyland on a whim just to see what the military discount is like for the Grand Californian in January. They quoted me a price for 2 nights that was equal to one night in peak season, and Francis said, "oh, this is a once in a life time opportunity. We have to." Well... this was our second time staying in a Deluxe Disney resort, and I'm afraid now there is no going back.

Staying in a Disney Deluxe resort is an endorphin rush with no comparison. The more of them I stay at or visit, the more I am sure there is some kind of psychological trick to the grandiose scale and forced perspective of the lobbies. I asked on Facebook and a brainstorming session revealed that all Disney Deluxe hotel lobbies are built like cathedrals, where a vast, open space 8-10 stories tall says to your brain, "I belong here." The lobby has many intimate seating groups in a large space, there is huge fireplace, and there is also a seating area with tiny chairs for wee ones to watch cartoons. A cocktail bar completes the swanky but comfortable atmosphere. As soon as I walk in I know this is the lifestyle to which I am accustomed (it's not).

At the Grand Californian, you have several restaurants to choose from. We ate at Storyteller Cafe for lunch, which is off a menu, and dinner, which is both menu and buffet. They also have a Character Breakfast buffet. The food here was delicious! Before baby, our dinner choice would have been Napa Rose, the Signature Dining option, and maybe we will have the opportunity to check it out on a future visit. For all your Mickey Waffle and quick service breakfast and lunch needs, check out White Water Snacks.

The rooms at Grand Californian are spacious and clean, and our room had a balcony, and a shower that was like a full body massage. The H20 toiletries included a foot scrub and solar relief, and we had turndown service with chocolates in the evening. They even laid out Lilly's blanket every night, which melted my heart. One thing I always notice at Disney hotels: Housekeeping staff always smiles and says, "Hello, how are you today?" and when you need to call them for something, they greet you by name and know what room you are in.

The real key to staying in two different hotels two time zones away from home: Lilly slept in the Pack n Play in our room at home from the minute I learned about this trip. Voila! She slept "in her own bed" on vacation. We also brought our white noise machine/projector along. Our room connected to the neighboring room, which created a convenient spot to dump our luggage, and I do mean dump since we did a haphazard job of packing when we switched hotels. The room also had a table & chairs next to an outlet, which was nice for me since I was still pumping to supplement. If you need to pump or bottle feed while traveling, I cannot recommend this OXO Travel Bottle Drying Rack enough! The brush is so much better than the one we had at home that we are using it all the time now.

Whether you are at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, the proximity of Deluxe resorts to the Parks cannot be beat when you have a baby. I highly recommend treating yourself! Stay tuned for some baby tips inside the parks, and email me or join my Facebook group if you'd like help planning your next Disney Vacation!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

10 Reasons Walt Disney World is For Everyone

The craziest thing people ever say to Francis and me is "meh, I'm not really into the Disney thing." If your idea of "the Disney thing" is amusement parks, costumed characters, and mediocre food, boy are you missing out. OUR Disney thing is luxury resorts, fancy dinners, beautiful scenery, and every type of recreation you can think of. You could easily spend a week at "Walt Disney World" without ever going to a park.

1. Show me another hotel in North America with a savanna outside your window! We had a savanna view room at Animal Kingdom Lodge on our honeymoon, and the giraffes showed up outside out room at 4pm every day. Check out the Wanyama Safari sunset tour of the grounds, followed by a chefs table dinner with South African wine pairings at Jiko: The Cooking Place. Also check out Sanaa restaurant  at Kidani Village for an excellent savanna view while you dine.

2. Boardwalk Inn & Villas - This Coney Island styled resort also features a chef's table wine dinner at Flying Fish Cafe, the Atlantic Dance Hall night club, and Jellyrolls piano bar. On the boardwalk, you can rent a surrey bike and check out street performers.

3. Walt Disney World has four gorgeous, award-winning golf courses managed by Arnold Palmer Golf Management. Magnolia is certified by Audobon International as a Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary. Palm had a complete redesign in 2013 and is rated 4 stars by Golf Digest. Lake Buena Vista Golf Course has hosted the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour, and USGA events. Oak Trail is a 9 hole walking course that is also a Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary. You can rent clubs and also get lessons from PGA pros.

4. Yes, you can watch a baseball game at Walt Disney World! ESPN World of Sports is the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves. This complex also hosts basketball, cheer and dance, cross-country, track & field, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, softball, AND MORE. It's a sports lovers paradise.

5. Do you like camping? The campgrounds and cabins nestled in the cypress forest of Fort Wilderness are for you! Fort Wilderness has endless outdoor activities, including archery, horseback riding, boat, canoe, and kayak rentals, waterskiing, fishing, basketball, volleyball, and jogging trails. 

6. A plane ticket to Orlando is way cheaper than any international airfare, and you can visit 11 countries at Epcot! This fountain in France is my favorite, and my daydreams always include sitting beside it with a Grand Marnier slush and a cheese plate from Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie.

7. Bora Bora? No, the new over-water bungalows of Polynesian Resort! These Villas are part of Disney Vacation Club, but you don't have to be a DVC owners to stay here. This is at the top of my WDW Bucket List! Also at the Polynesian resort, you can have a late dinner at Ohana, get a cocktail in a pineapple, and watch the fireworks. 

8. Right under Polynesian on my bucket list is the Yacht Club, ever since I found out their pool is waaaaay bigger than I thought. Stormalong Bay is 3 acres, and there are 3 other leisure pools in addition to that! Also at the Yacht Club is the Yachtsman Steak House. Swimming all day and then a ginormous steak? I can surely die happy after that.

9. Speaking of fine dining, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is home to Victoria & Alberts, which has a Five Diamond rating from AAA, Four Stars from Forbes Travel Guide, and a Zagat score of 29. The Chef's Table dinner, pictured here, is a 13 course dinner that begins with a champagne toast, and is considered to be a once in a lifetime experience.

10. We had to throw this one in for fun. There are only two T-Rex restaurants in the United States - one at Walt Disney World and one in Kansas City. We always eat there when we go to WDW. The bar area pictured in the background is the coolest. It's like Rainforest Cafe, except instead of a thunderstorm, there's a meteor shower.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How to Have a Magical Time at Walt Disney World

I recently read a blog that was a list of "rookie mistakes" made by first timers visiting Walt Disney World. Besides being a lazy list stretching to fill itself out (what parent needs to be told that everyone needs to go potty when one has to go?), I don't like when a list of tips is couched in the smug terms of "rookie mistakes". Planning your first trip to Walt Disney World is already intimidating, right? I'd rather tell you how to add value than imply that you're going to make mistakes!

1. Obviously my first tip is to use a travel agent who is a Disney specialist! (That's me!) A great Disney specialist thinks the Disney travel agent training College of Knowledge test is too easy. They can help you book dining, Fast Pass +, special tours, and will have all kinds of extra tips. Most importantly, it shouldn't add any additional cost to your reservation! The travel agent is paid commission by Disney and the prices they see are the same ones you see if you do it yourself. You should DEFINITELY take advantage of this free service if it's your first trip. And even if you are a veteran of WDW, chat with a travel agent anyway! You might learn about something new!

2. Use My Disney Experience! Oh, I love this smart phone app so much that I keep it on my phone home screen even when our next trip isn't for 424 days. *cough* Sometimes I just like to put it up to see how long the line is for Toy Story Midway Mania right now, or if I could get a Be Our Guest reservation tonight. Whether you are using the browser version or the app, you can manage all your dining reservations and check menus, see ride wait times and manage Fast Passes, see character and entertainment schedules, and even see where all the PhotoPass photographers are, and you can do ALL of this in real time because the parks have free wifi. My Disney Experience is essential for making your vacation easier.

3. When it comes to rides, there are two things you should know about. First, FastPass+ (FP+) is Disney's pass for skipping the lines. Unlike Universal's Express Pass or Six Flags Flash Pass, the Disney FP+ is totally free. It's a good idea to get advice on booking FP+ if you don't visit WDW often, so you don't "waste" a FP+ reservation on a ride that is typically walk-on (5 min or less wait). Second, WDW has this cool feature called Rider Switch that will let both parents ride a ride a ride that their kids cannot (or will not) ride without having to stand in line twice. Click the link for detailed instructions on how to use Rider Switch.

4. Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort! I cannot stress this enough. So many people I talk to balk at the price of WDW lodging because it seems much more expensive than, say, a Holiday Inn. Here are just some of the things you get when you stay at a WDW resort: Magical Express picks you up at the airport AND takes your bags straight from the airplane to your room. No waiting at the baggage carousel! Extra Magic Hours get you an extra hour at the parks in the morning and two extra hours in the evenings. Resort transportation gets you anywhere you want to go so you don't need your car and don't have to pay parking fees at the parks. This is especially great if you decide to Drink Around the World at Epcot. You can have your park purchases delivered straight to your room, so you don't have to carry them around. You can charge to your room with Magic Bands. AND you get early access to dining reservations, which is a big deal if you are dying to eat at Beast's Castle. I could go on and on. I stayed off-property the last time we were in Orlando and I'll never do it again.

5. Splurge on something special. It's hard to know the value of an experience you haven't seen yet, so you will just have to take my word for it. Here are some suggestions that will be the highlight of your magical vacation: Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage, Keys to the Kingdom tour, Fantasmic Dining Package, Wishes or Illuminations Dessert Party, Wayama Safari (adults only).

Monday, August 17, 2015

Our Favorite D23 Expo Announcements!

What is D23, you ask? It's the official Disney fan club! D for Disney, 23 for the year (1923) Walt moved to Hollywood and founded the company. The D23 Expo is like Comic Con for Disney fans, with major announcements and panels and shopping all weekend. It's like Christmas for Disney nerds and we've been following the Expo news on social media all weekend. Here are the big announcements we're most excited about!

1. STAR WARS! There have been rumors for years about Star Wars Land at Hollywood Studios, especially this year as several attractions closed, and rumors about a major park expansion at Disneyland as the company has acquired land in Anaheim, but I don't recall anyone hypothesizing that BOTH PARKS would get a 14 acre Star Wars themed expansion, the largest single-theme expansion ever. Some new Star Wars experiences will be added as early as this year!

2. Francis's Star Wars pick is the cast announcement for Rogue One. Check out for a photo and more details!

3. Toy Story Land - Also at Hollywood Studios, this seems to be a "quickie" expansion that will keep people happy while they build the Star Wars expansion. Toy Story Midway Mania is getting an additional track, which will hopefully reduce the 2 hour wait, and there will be a new ride based on the green aliens from the claw machine, and a family friendly roller coaster that takes you for a ride on the back of Slinky Dog.

4. The new Jungle Cruise themed restaurant, Skipper Canteen. We are huge fans of Adventureland in this house, as you can see from Lilly's room, and we always kick off visits to the Magic Kingdom with the Enchanted Tiki Room and Jungle Cruise. This new restaurant will be staffed by Jungle Cruise skippers and will have several themed rooms. The rumor is that it will be like Be Our Guest - quick service lunch and table service dinner.

5. Sunset Kilimajaro Safaris - Animal Kingdom has never been a big priority for us because we have a really amazing zoo here in St Louis, but I am excited about the park being open later! I hear my spirit animal, hyenas, will be a feature of the Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Triumphant Return of Francis + Beth! Now With Lilly!

Welcome to Franceth Travels! Many of you may know Francis and me (Beth) from the blog I started in 2008, Craves, Caves, & Graves. In the 6 years of writing that blog, I met, married, and had a baby with Francis, and also learned a lot from him about photography, and changed a lot of my philosophies about writing a travel blog. I also became a travel agent just for the joy of helping people plan their Disney Vacations, and I started a home based business so that I could stay at home with Lilly, spend more time writing, and generally spend more time having fun. That's a lot of changes! There was so much I wanted to change about CC&G that it got overwhelming, so I decided to take a break when I was pregnant and see how things went when Lilly was born.

I am happy to report that at three weeks of age, Lilly seems to be fairly portable, happy in the car, and a great sleeper, so we have started venturing out of doors! Not only that, but we just booked our next Disney Land & Sea vacation for October 2016, so I feel like every excursion in the next 15 months will be practice for taking a baby on a major vacation. I'm hoping we can share lots of fun and funny tips for traveling with a new baby in the coming months!

Here's our first tip that Francis discovered when we went to WDW in December when I was pregnant, and we were just starting to scope out other people's strollers: The squirrels know where you are keeping the good snacks, man. Consider packing Tupperware! (This is not our video, but I was delighted that it came up when I Googled "squirrel bandit".)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Walt Disney World Wednesday - Pete's Silly Sideshow

I have to admit, up until this last trip, Storybook Circus was an area of WDW that we had mostly neglected. When we were there in December, we found ourselves at that end of the park after the fireworks, and after we had already done most everything we wanted to do that day (or could do - don't get me started on missing out on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train AGAIN). Finding a mostly empty Pete's Silly Sideshow late at night was like a magical mash-up of Disney and Carnivale. This is definitely my new favorite character greeting spot! PS: This is why you should always spring for Memory Maker. I can say it has been 100% worth it every single time.

* Originally published on I have permission from myself to repost. ;)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Disney Pirate Land & Sea Adventure

My Pandora Film Score station is HEAVILY slanted towards the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks, and every time I listen to it I want to plan a Disney trip, so I finally did it. I bring you a Walt Disney World vacation plan inspired by adventure movie soundtracks.

Stay at Caribbean Beach Resort, in the Pirate Story Rooms. Pirate rooms are awesome! They have two double beds with a pirate ship headboard, a pirate flag curtain to divide the bedroom from the vanity area (this is nice when you are sharing a room), night stands that look like barrels, an entertainment center that looks like a pile of crates, and lots of other pirate touches. The beds are AWESOME if you are fans of a firm mattress like we are. The pool at Caribbean Beach also has a Spanish fort and shipwreck theme.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Galactic Breakfast at Sci Fi Dine In

Blogging from a tablet while traveling did not go as planned. Frankly, the Blogger app is terrible. Now that I'm home, I've updated a post you may have seen a rough preview of last week: Galactic Breakfast at Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World!
One of my favorite things about planning Walt Disney World vacations is that just when you think you are "done" planning, something else comes along. This was announced a few weeks before our trip as an event for Star Wars Weekends and jammed the phone lines, but what most people didn't realize was that it started "May the Fourth" and is running EVERY DAY through Star Wars Weekends, even weekdays. So getting a reservation for May 5th was a cinch, even though I waited on hold for 45 minutes.

Looking for Contact Info? Find Me at Pepper's Ghost Tales!

I'm doing my blogging at Pepper's Ghost Tales these days, and that's the name I use for social media. But if you have one of my...