Tuesday, November 16, 2010
On selected dates, the Magic Kingdom hosts "Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party". The cost of the ticket is around $53 if you buy in advance and $59 when you buy at the gate. Why go to this? Okay, first of all, there are the decorations. No one does Christmas decorations like Disney. The Magic Kingdom is decked out with every type of Christmas decoration known to man including a giant Christmas tree when you walk through the Main Street train station.
Christmas music plays throughout the park and it will snow on Main Street before the night is through! There is a special Christmas parade and fireworks show, too. The biggest perk, to me, is that Disney only sells a small amount of tickets to this event so the park closes to the general public at 6 p.m. and then it's only the "Christmas party guests" roaming the park.
All of the rides are open, there are cooking and hot cocoa stations set up where it's all complimentary. The last time we did this back in 2004, my older son refused to drink any of the cocoa (because he is not a big fan of it) and would not drink from the water fountains and basically carried on like he had spent 40 days walking the desert! I think he'll be a bit more agreeable this time around.
We opted to do the Christmas party as our one-day in Disney because A.) it is cheaper than a full-day ticket and B.) it is just magical! While the event is ticketed as at 7 pm - Midnight time frame, you can usually get in around 5 pm. So our plan for the day is to go to Downtown Disney in the afternoon and shop and eat an early dinner and then drive over to the Magic Kingdom to get in by 5. We'll do all of our shopping at Downtown Disney so we won't have to lug bags and packages around the Magic Kingdom and then we can truly just enjoy the holiday magic that Disney does best.
Have you ever been to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party? Did you love it?? Hate it??? I'd love to hear your stories!
Monday, September 6, 2010
I love learning all about the history of the world and how Walt Disney, the man, worked. One of the cool things about this DVD is that it is 90 minutes long. If you had watched the regular TV version, you would only have seen less than an hour of it with commercials. So to have all of this extra footage was definitely cool.
Each park has it's own lengthy segment and you even have a segment on the building of Disneyland in California. It is interesting to see how far technology has come and how it all began. As a big fan of all-things Disney, it made me want to be there all over again.
My older son once had dreams of being an Imagineer; this type of documentary was something that we would have loved. Although he no longer has that dream (it's still painful for me to talk about), it was still interesting to watch. From seeing Cinderella's castle under construction, how Spaceship Earth was created, the secrets to the Tree of Life...if you are curious about any of the "magic" of Walt Disney World, this show will feed it just enough without giving it all away.
If you are planning a trip to Disney, this would be a great planning tool. Sometimes it helps for the kids to see a little behind the scenes so that they see that there is nothing to be afraid of .
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Three years ago on our last family trip to the world, we stayed at the POP Century Resort. The resort is broken up in to the last 50 years of pop culture icons. We stayed in the 70's complex and it was very groovy.
The original plan for the resort was that there would also be a second "complex" that would include pop culture icons from the early 1900's. When we were there, you could see the buildings, but they were only marginally completed and there was a bit of construction debris and overgrown greenery. You could tell that it had been neglected for some time. Disney claimed that finances was the reason for the delay on the early years portion of POP but now, they are moving forward with a NEW plan for that property!
"Disney has announced that they will soon open a new 2,000 room resort themed around the history of Disney Animation. Disney’s “Art of Animation” resort will open by the end of 2012 and will feature 1120 family suites as well as 864 standard rooms all themed around such Disney animated classics as “Finding Nemo”, “Cars” and “The Lion King”. The location of the new resort will be adjacent to Disney’s Pop Century Resort.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
For those of you who are not familiar with the Disney dining program, let me give you a little bit of a history. Back in 1998 when we first went on our family trip, we booked our package deal with our hotel (All-Star Music), our passes (Park Hopper Plus) and then were given the option to add food. Now back then, you paid in to the plan with a certain dollar amount per person, per day. I think it was $34 per adult and maybe $15 per child. No matter what, we paid in to it and then could spend it no matter how we wanted; if we wanted to eat at fast food style places for all of our meal, we could. If we wanted to starve all day and then eat at the most expensive restaurants for dinner, we could. The only down side was that if you did NOT use all of your money, you lost it.
So we went, we spent, we ate like royalty! Literally, we ate at the castle! We had budgeted it down to the last penny and on our last night we went for a late dinner at The Hollywood Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios (then, MGM). We sat outside, the park was near closing so it was quiet, we ordered and then...they forgot about us! Seriously, for 45 minutes we were invisible! So when our server FINALLY remembered us, they comped the meal! Sure it was a sweet deal but now I was left with $75 in my food account that I was going to lose because we were leaving after dinner to go home! Thinking fast, we went back to All-Star Music, went to the food court and LOADED our cooler up with food and drinks for the ride home and some snacks for a later date. Sweet!
But I digress, so back then you paid in to the plan, then Disney changed it and you got dining credits and every year at some point, Disney offers free dining to it's resort guests. You would get one counter service meal, one table service meal and one snack per person in your group, per NIGHT. That is a tricky little catch but if you think about it, you are there say five days but only four NIGHTS! So you end up short a day.
Now, the food plan has changed again and depending on the TYPE of resort you stay at (Value, Moderate, Deluxe) will depend on what kind of food plan you are eligible for. So Value resort guests get the quick-service plan which includes 2 counter service meals and 2 snacks per person in your party per NIGHT. If you are staying at a moderate or deluxe resort you get the other package of one counter, one table, one snack per night.
Either way, the dining is FREE when you book right now for most dates for the rest of 2010. You can save close to $600 on a family of four with a deal like that! Don't miss it!
Saturday, July 10, 2010
I became a member of this group and over the years I have seen it evolve and grow in to something so much bigger than those early days. Now under the name of "The Mouse for Less", this group is not only a yahoo group, but they now have a web-site and some of it's members have gone on to start their own travel company called "The Magic for Less" - which is who I use every time we book and Ric is my go-to travel guy!
Honestly, in all of my years of going to Walt Disney World and booking our trips and helping so many others book and plan their trips, I could not have done it without the help of these great sites.
The Mouse for Less website is full of information to help you plan your trip and get information, but if you join them on Yahoo Groups, you can actually interact with other Disney fanatics and ask questions and get honest answers on what's good, what's not, what's worth doing and what's not. One of the best programs that they offer to their members is their postcard program. I love this...I know it has another, more magical name, but for right now it has escaped me! Sorry! Anyway, you put in a request with them (on the yahoo group) and say when you are going to WDW, who your favorite Disney character is and something that you would like said. So what they do is, one of the members who is actually AT Disney will get a postcard and send it to you FROM the character of your choice.
For example, on our family reunion trip back in 2001, it was our first trip with our now-ten year old and the second trip for our now-18 year old. Well, back then our older son was overcoming his fear of the Haunted Mansion and his favorite characters at the time were Pooh and Tigger. So we got a postcard FROM Pooh and Tigger telling him that they couldn't wait to see him and look forward to him riding the Haunted Mansion! He loved it! On the first trip that I had taken with my mom since 1981, I had Minnie Mouse send her a postcard telling her how excited she was to see her again. It was priceless!
Disney fans are some of the sweetest people I know and we all share that sense of joy, wonder and excitement and really, The Mouse for Less group has just blessed the masses with it's wisdom. Check them out!
Friday, June 25, 2010
Now, having said that, today while watching the latest episode of "Travel with Rick" (which he took us on Epcot's Mission Space - the Green version) he introduced us to another Disney blog called "The Disney Driven Life". Okay, first, I know I have mentioned "Travel with Rick" here several times and what I find fun about him is that he video tapes all of the Disney rides, attractions and whatnot and shares it with us. This is a great tool if you are a first-time visitor and have kids that might find an attraction or two scary and you want to check it out before you go. It's a very informative site, and not to be missed.
But now..."The Disney Driven Life" is geared towards us Neurotic Disney Fans - and you know who you are. We think, dream and obsess about all-things Disney and cannot wait for any and all trips where we can just be immersed in the magic. Per the website, this is their description of a Disney Driven Life: "If your lifestyle revolves around incorporating the Disney brand into all aspects of your life, then you are leading a Disney Driven Life. This includes activities like watching Disney movies, listening to Disney music and podcasts, discussing Disney topics with family and friends on a regular basis, participating in Disney communities online and enjoying every minute of it. But the paramount event in the life of a Disney Driven person is planning and anticipating a Disney vacation."
I LOVE THAT!!!~
So if you fit in to that category, go on over and check out "The Disney Driven Life" and get that acceptance and know that you are not alone! I know it made me feel better!
Saturday, June 19, 2010
The plan is for us to go the Monday after Thanksgiving because the crowds should be quite low - the folks who went for the holiday weekend will have all left either Sunday night or by Monday morning.
We're going to Magic Kingdom because we are taking my son's girlfriend with us who has never been to Disney and really, the Magic Kingdom really is what Disney is all about! So to save money on the whole thing we decided to sacrifice eating at the big-name restaurants. I'm kind of bummed about that because I would LOVE to go to the Crystal Palace for lunch and then take the monorail over to the Polynesian and do O'Hana for dinner and watch the fireworks from there. But, that is just not going to happen.
By skipping the restaurants, we are not only saving money, but time. On a recent visit, a friend of mine spent 90 minutes waiting for her seating at the Crystal Palace! She had made her advanced dining reservations (ADR's) and yet still had that long of a wait. Add that to the time it took to actually EAt and she lost probably close to three hours of ride time on that one meal. We certainly don't want to do that when we only have one day to play.
The plan will be to drive to the Disney complex early that Monday morning - we'll be coming from about an hour away - and arrange to be in the parking lot at least 30 minutes before the park opening because, remember, Magic Kingdom's parking is the furthest away. We will have to park and then take a tram to either grab the ferry or monorail over to the park entrance. After going through security and waiting for the ropes to drop, we'll be on our way.
The only thing that I don't like about this plan is that well...I don't have to actually PLAN anything! Part of the fun of going on a Disney vacation is doing all of the planning: figuring out which park to do first, deciding on restaurants, etc. With only one day there's really not much to do. There are plenty of wonderful counter service restaurants to choose from and really, no matter where we are in the park when we get hungry, there's something near by.
So now the countdown begins...
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Per WDWMagic.com, construction has begun on the rehab/extension of Fantasyland. For you long-time visitors of Walt Disney World, you probably remember the 20,000 Leagues under the Sea Ride that has been long gone but never demolished. I am hoping that they will incorporate this in to the new construction.
From the website:
Announced at D23 Expo on 12 September 2009, Jay Rasulo outlined plans for the largest expansion in the history of the
- Visit their favorite Disney Princess in her castle, cottage, or chateau to share a dance with Cinderella; celebrate Sleeping Beauty's birthday with the Good Fairies; or join Belle in an enchanting story performance in the Beast's castle library.
- Be Our Guest and dine in one of three enchanted rooms inside the Beast's castle.
- Fly with Dumbo high above brand new circus grounds, twice the size of the existing attraction with a new interactive, three-ring circus tent.
- Journey under the sea with Ariel, The Little Mermaid, in her very own attraction - also opening at Disney's
CaliforniaAdventure in in 2011. Anaheim
- Meet Tinker
and her friends in the magical world of Pixie Hollow. Bell
The new Fantasyland will be opened in phases, with the majority of the new land opening in 2012. The Pixie Hollow area will open in 2013.
What are the major components of the new Fantasyland?
- Ariel’s Adventure - a massive, E-Ticket ride based on The Little Mermaid. It uses an Omni-mover ride system (similar to that of the
). This will be the same ride that is opening in Disneyland Resort's Haunted Mansion Adventure, however, the Fantasyland version at Walt Disney World will feature a different exterior. California
- Elaborately themed areas for Belle,
, Cinderella, Pooh, and Tinkerbell. Aurora
- New table service and counter service restaurants. The largest being the 552 seat Be Our Guest restaurant located in Beast's Castle, which will be a counter service restaurant by day and a full table service restaurant by night. The Be Our Guest restaurant will feature 3 dining rooms - Beast Ballroom, West Wing and the Castle gallery. The Beauty and the Beast area will also include the quicks service restaurant Gastons Tavern.
- Interactive next generation meet and greets with the Disney Princesses.
- An entire new Dumbo area based on a circus theme. The new Dumbo will feature 2 ride systems, more than doubling the capacity. It will feature a new "queueless" entry with interactive games and playgrounds, along with seating for parents.
- An entire mini-land devoted to Pixie Hollow - featuring a huge play zone and meet and greets with Tinker
and the other fairies. Bell
- Construction of a castle wall to separate the existing Fantasyland to the new highly themed Fantasyland area. The wall will begin around by
Haus and run across the front of the Cinderella Golden Carousel towards Snow White and Winnie the Pooh. Pinnochio Village
- The existing Toontown Fair train station will be completely rebuilt to for the new theme of that area.
- A number of shops, restrooms, and smaller food and beverage locations will be included in the area.
What will happen to Mickey's Toontown Fair?
Mickey’s Toontown Fair will be removed to make way for what will be the Pixie Hollow area of Fantasyland. It is expected that the Barnstormer (to be re-themed as part of Dumbo's Circus) will remain. The Mickey and Minnie meet and greet is rumored to be relocated to the Expo Hall on Main Street
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Here are a few things to consider first. Keep in mind that the mugs can only be refilled at a Disney resort. While you can take them into all of the parks and Downtown Disney, you can not get them refilled for free at those places. Our family spends most of our time at the parks, not at the resort. If this is the case with you, you may think it is not a good deal to purchase the mug. However, consider the advantages. Anytime you are at the resort – before heading to the parks in the morning, mid-afternoon rests by the pool, and returning to the resort at night – you can fill this mug up at no cost. If you choose to have a rest day at the resort, the refillable mug comes in handy. If you are not on the dining plan, it can be used for your drink if you dine at the food court.
There are many conveniences to having this mug and not needing to pay for a drink anytime you are at the resort and thirsty. Also, it is a relatively inexpensive Disney souvenir. You get to take it home and drink from it anytime you like. My resort mug from 2007 is by my side as I type this up right now. As a matter of fact, ask any friend who has visited my home, and they will acknowledge that I always have a Disney souvenir mug within arm’s reach. When asking ourselves “to buy or not to buy?” we bought! However, we did not purchase one per family member. The first year we bought two mugs and realized that we did not really need two mugs. We were at the parks much more than at the resorts, and when we arrived back for the night, we shared. When we spent time by the pool, we were close enough to the food court to just walk in and refill it. Back at home, only I carry the mug around as if it is a security blanket! We discovered that one mug per family for each visit to the World is just right for us.
*Special thanks to my dear friend and fellow Mouseclubber, Alison, for this post!*
For example: On a trip that I went on with my sister, we were staying at the Boardwalk Inn. We were traveling without the kids or husbands and were looking to be able to relax a little. So while we were checking in and chatting with the desk clerk, we asked where our room was. He said "First floor". We asked "What view?" and he said it was a parking lot view. We looked at each other and then at him and said "Justin, do we look like first-floor-parking-lot-view kind of people to you?" We said it lightly, but really, we were serious. It just so happened that a manager was standing near-by and heard our conversation and when he came over to investigate, he upgraded us (for free!) to a fifth floor, water view room! Could we have lived with the first floor room? Absolutely. Was the fifth floor better? No doubt!!
We had the same experience when we went two years earlier (again, just my sister and I) and stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We wanted to stay in a quiet section of the hotel. I know, big request being that most people there were traveling with children! But the desk clerk took our original room assignment and changed it and while we ended up with a much longer walk to our room, we had a corner room overlooking the Savannah! It was beautiful!
Don't be afraid to ask for what you want! Disney is more than happy to try and accommodate you wherever they can! Room requests are only one aspect of what you can ask about. On another trip where we were celebrating my birthday, I had on my "It's my birthday" pin and a cast member came over to talk to me and asked what I wanted for my birthday and I said that I always wanted to be the first rider of the day on Space Mountain (it was early in the morning at Magic Kingdom). Well, he escorted us under the rope and over to Space Mountain! I was pretty psyched!
Back in the day you used to be able to request a ride up in the front of the monorail. After an accident last year, Disney has suspended that policy but I had the opportunity to do that twice - because I asked!
Speak up! It's your vacation and you've paid a lot for it. There's no need to get greedy but if there is something that you would prefer or something that you would like to do (within reason), don't be afraid to ask. You may be pleasantly surprised by the answer!
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Our favorite time to go is the first week of December. For starters, that's when my birthday is, but really, we enjoy the low-crowds and the fact that the parks are decorated for Christmas. I called the WDW Travel Company yesterday to get a quote on our trip. We are going to be four adults and one child for that trip and we got a price of $2650 and that included two rooms at POP Century for five days and four nights plus five days worth of park hopper passes for five people. I was thrilled with that because it works out to $530 per person or $106 per day per person. Not a bad deal for all that we will get out of our visit.
As of right now, however, the free dining dates have not been released. If we book during the free dining offer, our price will not change - we'd still pay the $2650 BUT then we'd get one table service meal, one counter service meal and one snack per person, per day. Not THAT is a deal. If we included food, we'd end up paying close to $600 more.
I know that we can book this trip now and hold our rooms and then when the free dining offer comes out we can modify our reservation. That's not a problem. I just wish I knew the dates that it was being offered because I've heard rumors that it will not include December. Bummer.
So I'll wait, thank you very much.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
There are many books available to help your inquiry minds learn almost all of the secrets of the world. For example, there are "The Imagineering Field Guides to..." and these pocket-sized books deal with the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom. Per Amazon's website: "These user-friendly, beautifully illustrated guides are innovative and entertaining books that will enrich the guests’ time at the happiest places on earth. And now the series is being updated to include all the new attractions, shows, and lands in the Disney parks. Who better to tour you around the Disney parks than the Imagineers who created them? And what better than to have the most recent insider information? It’s all in the Imagineering Field Guides."
Another great resource for finding some secrets of "the World" is "The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World: Over 600 Secrets of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom." I have to admit, I just bought this one and it has some great secrets! For example: The ride "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" is located in the same building that was once "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride". In there, you can see a picture of Mr. Toad handing over the deed to Owl! I know I'm going to be looking for that on my next trip to Disney!
One of the greatest ways to always find something new at Disney is to find all of the hidden Mickey's around the resort. Hiding Mickey Mouse around the rides and parks has become a job in itself! For example, in the "Haunted Mansion" in the dining room scene, one of the place settings at the table is set in the shape of Mickey's head! On one of my trips that I went on with my sister, we stayed at the Grand Floridian and there were hidden Mickey designs in the wallpaper in the hallways! That was pretty cool. See this picture on the left? That was our room number right outside of our door. Can you see the Mickey hidden in the wallpaper pattern? In such a fancy hotel, who knew that there would be something so silly hidden right there in the decor!
But if you want your family to have a scavenger hunt to find these tricky little heads, check out the book "Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secret!" This is also a pocket-sized book that helps you see things that most of us miss! If you are someone who visits Disney a lot, this little guide could be just the thing to make your next trip different. We've come to find that it's not only in the parks where Mickey is hidden, but in some of Disney's classic movies, you can find some mouse ears hidden in the scenes.
If you have a child who is interested in what it takes to become a Disney Imagineer, there are now tons of books available to help them learn what it's really all about. You can click HERE for an Amazon.com listing of some of the more popular titles. On TV, look for "Modern Marvels: Walt Disney World" for even more behind-the-scenes looks at how things are made.
And finally, though this isn't something a "poor mom" would get to do, there are several behind-the-scenes tours that you can take at Walt Disney World. There are over a dozen to choose from and each one takes you through a different experience. They can be costly and some are only open to a select group of guest. Click HERE for a complete listing of tours that have been offered at WDW and what you can do to book one for your family.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I started to recently plan our next trip and that's when we decided to add our extra person. Being that we still have to have a tight budget, I was fearful of moving up to a moderate resort. Then I remembered that the family suites at the All-Star Music sleeps 6 people. I contacted my favorite Disney travel guy - Ric from Magic for Less Travel - and what he had to say surprised me.
For starters, it is cheaper to book two rooms at a value resort than to book the family suite. PLUS he said that while the suite does sleep 6, with four adults in our party, it would be really tight in there. When I saw actual photographs of the suite I had to agree. While the sofas and chairs all open up in to sleepers, they were really close together and didn't allow much room for fully grown people to move around. It's great when you are two adults with more kids, but four adults was pushing the level of comfort.
Then there was the moderate resorts. While most moderate resorts can sleep 5 people, that could be awkward for us, as well. I am unsure how comfortable his girlfriend would be with sharing a room and bathroom with the rest of us and it really lacks privacy. Price-wise, it was still up for discussion. There wasn't a great big price difference between having the two rooms and it was pretty much equal to having the suite, but again, we have to think of comfort, too.
Our friends who are going on their first trip, first thought of going to the campgrounds at Fort Wilderness because in theory, it seemed like the less expensive option. Turns out, it really wasn't. There was only a $10-$20 a night difference between getting a "tent" campsite or staying at a moderate resort! I mean, you would really have to LOVE camping to be willing to sleep on the ground, in a tent, with outdoor living and having to walk to a bathroom and using a community shower as opposed to having a private room with a bathroom and heating and air conditioning!
Bottom line, don't be afraid to explore all of your options. Had I not talked to Ric, I would have just assumed that the family suite was the way to go. Go on line, investigate, talk to a travel agent. In the end, you'll be glad you did.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
For me, I had always heard to not go to your favorite park first; particularly if your favorite park is the Magic Kingdom and you have kids traveling with you. The reason? Because Magic Kingdom is the ULTIMATE in the Disney experience for kids, that they will be disappointed in the other parks after that. Now, several of the gals disagreed because their kids (and them!) are so excited to see the castle, that it is the first thing that they want to do.
So as our discussion progressed, we realized that if you are the type of person that does not really mind what order to do things in and you are staying on Disney property, you should ultimately look at the schedule for Extra Magic Hours which is only is available to Disney resort guests. Knowing which parks open early or which ones open late can help you determine your order of park visits. This information does not necessarily mean that you should GO to the parks that are opened for Extra Magic Hours, but can actually help you AVOID those parks so that you won't be with the crowd.
Is there a guaranteed formula to order of the parks? No. It is a personal preference. As I said earlier, we never do Magic Kingdom on the first day. For us we tend to to Hollywood Studios first, Magic Kingdom next, then Epcot, then Animal Kingdom and on our last day, we park hop and hit all of our favorite rides one last time.
If you get park hopper passes, you can use them to hit two parks in a day but you won't see an entire second park that way. Animal Kingdom closes at 5:00 and can be done in half a day if you get there at park opening time. So hitting a second park could be a good thing. But that is a topic for another post!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
If you booked your trip in advance, you most likely got your hotel and park passes in your package. You may have even invested in the dining plan. So while you have already paid for these things before you even arrived, it would be nice to NOT have to spend money while you are there. Here are some suggestions of freebies at Disney:
- Go for a ride! You can ride the monorail around from the Magic Kingdom to the Transportation and Ticket Center and then on to Epcot and see a lot of the un-developed Disney property in the process. You can also ride the monorail to three of Disney's top deluxe resorts and explore them. You can ride a boat around the Seven Seas Lagoon from Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian and then over to the Polynesian - again, to explore. From Epcot you can take a boat ride over to the Boardwalk and then on to the Hollywood Studios park.
- You may not be able to take a boat to all of the resorts, but you can get to them from the bus from any of the theme parks. Disney's resorts are SO amazingly themed that no matter where you stay, you can go and explore other Disney resorts and check out what they have to offer. The Animal Kingdom Lodge has some wonderful viewing areas of their Savannah for you to see the animals. You are not allowed to swim in any resort pool except for the one you are staying at, but exploring is okay.
- Go to Downtown Disney. There is no admission to this area and it is loaded with shops and restaurants and you still feel like you are in the magic. There is a wonderful Lego Imagination Center there that the kids will love - and they can build at Lego stations for free.
- In Epcot, there is a a drink station called "Club Cool". You can get free samples of Coke products from around the world. Not everyone has Coca Cola Classic and this is a great place to grab a free drink (maybe some ginger ale for after your wild ride on Mission Space!).
- Also in Epcot in Innoventions, there are usually stations set up where the kids can build a toy and take it with them. There have been free robot building, free frog building...it changes but usually you can always find something to make and take. And along those lines, in Epcot there are Kidcot stations where your kids can get their Epcot Passport stamped and make a craft throughout each of the countries of World Showcase.
- Watch the fireworks. You can see Magic Kingdom's fireworks without BEING in the Magic Kingdom. You can view the fireworks from anywhere along the Seven Seas Lagoon (Floridian, Polynesian and Contemporary Resort areas). You can view Epcot's fireworks from the bridge at the back entrance to Epcot near the Boardwalk Resort and Yacht and Beach Club Resorts.
- Watch the Electric Water Pageant. This is a water parade on the Seven Seas Lagoon that can be seen from all of the resorts surrounding it including (I think) the Wilderness Lodge. The lighted Floats put on a beautiful display.
- You can go to the campfire at Fort Wilderness and watch a Disney movie for free nightly.
- Back in Epcot, you can send a 10-second free video e-mail to friends and family back at home!
- You can visit the petting zoo at Fort Wilderness.
- You can take a free garden tour of the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts or a free tour of the Grand Floridian or Wilderness Lodge.
- Walk the Boardwalk at night and take in all of the entertainers performing along the way.
So you see, there is still plenty to see and do that doesn't involve spending any extra money or having to stay inside the theme parks. Enjoy!
I have to admit, I LOVE a good guide book to get me psyched about a trip to Disney World. I had heard of the PassPorter guide book from several Disney-related sites but never purchased one...and then I won one back in 2006. Funny enough, I just won a new one - the 2009 10th Anniversary Edition - this week! So what's it all about? Why is this a worthwhile book to use when planning your trip?
For starters, the PassPorter's Walt Disney World is very well organized. There are maps and diagrams throughout the book to help familiarize you with each resort, park and the entire Walt Disney World Resort Property. Some of the other books will give you basic descriptions but not include maps. I found that to be very helpful.
Next, it is spiral bound but has an actual hard cover over the binding so that it is easier to read and hold your pages open to what you want to see. Plus, each individual resort, has it's own page. Other books will describe one or more resort per page. The PassPorter really does a great job of making each resort it's own personal space so that you get even more information on where you are staying.
There are pocket folders in the back of the book so that you can take your book on your trip with you an place items, receipts, etc. or take notes about expenses and whatnot about your trip. There is a folder for "Our Journey" which you fill in all about the basics of your trip: Departure time/Arrival time, flight numbers, reservation numbers, rental car info, etc. plus a pocket to put receipts and notes in. Then there is a "Memories of Our Journey" page where you right some specifics like "best thing about our trip" and "worst thing about our trip". Plus there is a small budget workspace for expenses and meals and notes for next time.
Next is a page about "Our Room(s)" followed by several pages listed "Our first day" all the way through a "Our Tenth Day". If you are a scrapbooker, this book would be SO helpful in keeping track of notes that you want to journal and holding on to little mementos of each day. Personally, I enjoy getting napkins or wrappers or un-used FassPass stubs to put in to my scrapbook.
The last two pages is just a general "Memories of Our Trip" section. Each section, as I said, has a pocket for you to slip stuff in to so that it is easy to remember "Oh, we shopped at MouseWorks on Tuesday and spent $47" - if you are so inclined to do so. There are even stickers included to help personalize you pockets as well as the rest of the book.
New to the later editions is a beautiful full-color picture section with pictures submitted not only from the editors but also from readers of the PassPorter guide. There are more than ten chapters and 300 pages of information for you to use to plan your trip.
I would highly recommend the PassPorter's Walt Disney World by Dave, Jennifer and Allison Marx. It is definitely an asset to every aspect of your trip planning. You can also visit their website by clicking HERE. Per the book cover information: "Plan the perfect trip with 300+ pages of advice, maps, and photos of the resorts, restaurants, and theme parks, plus our famous organizer pockets". This book has it all!
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Did you know that you can stay on Disney property without staying in a Disney hotel? If you are a fan of camping, you can enjoy the campgrounds at Fort Wilderness to save you money on hotel lodging!
"Get back to nature at the Campsites at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort, where you'll find family fun as big as the great outdoors. Nestled on 750 wooded acres of lush pine and cypress trees, the fully-equipped campsites let you camp out in comfort. Time seems to slow down while you wander the quiet trails, and roaming ducks, deer and rabbits add to the sense that you are far away from the bustle of modern civilization."Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort offers 4 different types of campsites, including new Premium Campsites, and can accommodate everything from tents to 45-foot and longer vehicles, with a maximum 10 Guests per site. Amenities vary, but each campsite is equipped with privacy-enhancing landscaping, water, cable television and electrical hook-ups, premium picnic table and charcoal grill; most locations also include sewer hook-up. High-speed internet access is available for an additional charge. Groups of 20 or more may reserve the tents-only Creekside Meadow campsite.
Some more specifics of campsites at FW, non-preferred, preferred and premium. Preferred sites include a cable TV hookup and are located near the Settlement Trading Post, Pioneer Hall and marina areas. Loops 100 through 500 and loops 700 and 1400 contain the preferred campsites. Non-preferred sites have no cable hookup and are located farther from the Pioneer Hall/marina area. Preferred sites are $9/day more during value season, $8/day more during pre-holiday season, $6/day more during regular and peak season and $5/day more during the holiday season. There is room to park one vehicle per site (in addition to the camping vehicle) and each site is limited to 10 people. Additional parking is available at the main parking lot. Check-in time for the campsites is 1:00pm; however, early arrivals will be allowed to check in if their campsite is ready. Check-out is at 11:00am. Multiple tents or combination's of campers and tents can occupy a site; however, there is a $2 charge per adult when there are more than two adults per campsite. Weekly and monthly discounts are sometimes available in the off season.
So how much will it cost you to camp at Fort Wilderness? During the value seasons rates start out as low as $43 a day and go up to $72 (prices vary and can change at any time), but during the regular or peak season you are looking at rates of $71-$110 a day. Also available for those who want to "camp" without really being outdoors, there are cabins available that sleep up to 6 people. The rates range anywhere from $265-$395 a night depending on the time of year that you book.
There's a great Fort Wilderness fact sheet that you can read HERE.
For a map of the campgrounds, click HERE.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
1. Order the free vacation planning DVD & watch with the entire family before you go.
2. Read through as many guide books as you can and take notes!
3. Shop around for the best deals before you book.
4. Make a touring plan based on what YOUR family wants to see.
5. Research restaurants & make your advanced dining reservations on time.
6. BE FLEXIBLE!!!
7. Stay up to date on what is going on at WDW via the internet so that there are no unpleasant surprises (like ride closings) when you arrive.
8. Set up a souvenir spending budget before you leave home.
9. Rev up/get in shape by walking with your family before you leave for your trip.
10. Remember that this is supposed to be FUN!!!
If your five-day forecast called for sunny skies before you left and then you arrive and see that now there are 40% chances of rain, don't let it get you down! Just because it rains does NOT mean that you have lost a day! If anything, look at it as an adventure! Most of the rides and attractions in Disney World are indoors so really, it is just a matter of getting from one place to another. The other benefit is that the crowds will be minimal and so you will most likely have few to no waits! Always, always, ALWAYS pack emergency ponchos in your luggage. You can get these at the Dollar Store or Walmart. They are very small and compace and can fit in a back pocket or in your fanny pack. They also come in handy on the water rides (Splash Mountain & Kali River Rapids). The parks are open on rainy days so don't fear having to stay in your room.
News Flash - it's hot in Florida! Even in December, it can still be 90 degrees. If you are not a fan of the heat, fear not! There are ways to survive the heat and still have fun! For example: Most of the rides are indoors with A/C so you know that once you get inside, there will be relief. Also, most of the queue areas are at least partially shaded and have overhead fans running to circulate the air a little bit. As you walk around the park, you will notice that there are concession stands all around where you can grab a cold drink, ice or some ice cream. One year, we bought a battery-operated "water fan" in the park that spritzes you with water while fanning you. It was a worth-while investment! Also, there are tons of tree shaded areas in most of the parks where you can sit and cool down for a little while. And lastly, there are first aid stations located around the parks, as well, in case the heat gets really overwhelming for you.
Keep yourself hydrated and don't be afraid to take a break to cool down. No one wants to get heat stroke or sick on their vacation. Magic Kingdom has some lovely shady areas to sit on the Liberty Square side of the castle. Plus you can take a 25-minute ride on the Walt Disney World railroad to cool down and relax. You get a nice breeze while riding along. In Animal Kingdom, there are tons of shady areas to sit. You don't have to go far to find them - but particularly, near the entrance to the park is the Oasis - very shady, very cool and beautiful to look at. Hollywood Studios and Epcot are a bit harder to find shady spot, but they have TONS of shops and pavilions that you can go and sit in to cool down.
When packing for younger children, place complete outfits in to a Ziplock one gallon sized bag. I would place one pair of shorts, a t-shirt, socks and underwear in each bag and put their name on it so that SHOULD he get up and get dressed before I was up, I knew he would at least be dressed and matching! Plus, it saves time - there's no need to be going through drawers or suitcases trying to find anything because it's all right there in their bag.
The other good thing was that we could put yesterday's clothes in to the now empty Ziplock bag and it keeps dirty laundry contained.
Disney created a system to help alleviate SOME of the congestion. FASTPASS is a service that is free to all Disney theme park guests. It is available on most of the most popular rides throughout the entire resort and makes it possible to almost "reserve" a time for you to come back and ride the ride without having to wait.
Wouldn't it be great if you could cut your wait time for some of your favorite attractions? Now you can! Our complimentary Disney's FASTPASS Service saves your place in line for an attraction while you enjoy the rest of the theme park.
To Use Disney's FASTPASS Service:
- Look for the "Disney's FASTPASS® Distribution" sign near the entrance of an attraction.
- Check the "Return Time" displayed on the sign.
- The sign will indicate the time you would return to enjoy the attraction using a FASTPASS ticket.
- For attractions, the return time is a one-hour window (e.g., 1:10 p.m. to 2:10 p.m.), so you don't have to be there exactly at a given time. For shows, your return time will be for a specific performance.
- If the return time is one that works for you, just insert your admission ticket into the Disney's FASTPASS Service machine. (You may use your Walt Disney World Resort admission ticket, readmission ticket, Disney Resort Hotel keycard or Annual Passport.)
- A FASTPASS ticket will emerge with your return time printed on it. Now you're free to go and enjoy the rest of the theme park!
- Go back to the FASTPASS ticketholder entrance when your return time rolls around, show your ticket to the Cast Member and enjoy the attraction with a minimal wait.
- FASTPASS tickets are only valid on the day of issue.
- Everyone in your party using the FASTPASS ticketholder entrance must have a FASTPASS ticket.
- There's a limit to the number of FASTPASS tickets you may have at one time. On your ticket will be printed the time at which you can get your next one. Disney's FASTPASS Service machines won't issue another ticket until the time stated on your current one.
Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park: Primeval Whirl, Kilimanjaro Safari, Dinosaur, Kali River Rapids, and Expedition Everest
Disney's Hollywood Studios Theme Park:Toy Story Mania, Rock N Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, Star Tours, and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, Peter Pan's Flight, Jungle Cruise and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Epcot: Test Track, Maelstrom, Mission Space, Soarin, and Honey I Shrunk the Audience
The thing to keep in mind with the FASTPASS system is that it may cause you to loose your pattern of park touring that you had going on, but it is well worth the back-tracking to go back and practically walk right on to the best rides.
When you go to book your reservation, you will see a "Magic Your Way" ticket option. The best way to explain this to you is to quote from a favorite website that I visit often when planning a Disney vacation, and that is the direct source, themagicforless.com:
The Magic Your Way Package includes a Resort stay at a Walt Disney World Resort® and a Magic Your Way Base Ticket that gives each member of your travel party entry to one Theme Park every ticket day.
And there's more. You can customize Tickets for your travel party with options that let you visit multiple Theme Parks each day, include entry to other Parks and attractions, and allow you to save any unused days on your ticket for future visits - so you can enjoy the Disney experience that best suits your preferences and budget.
Staying at a Disney Resort is the best and most comfortable way to enjoy a Walt Disney World ® vacation. With a Magic Your Way package, you can tailor your vacation so that you enjoy your visit, your way. And remember: The longer you play, the less you pay per day with an affordable Magic Your Way package.
Select from Value, Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts - there's a category for every budget:
- Value Resorts - Enjoy colorful, whimsical places that are big on fun but small on cost.
- Moderate Resorts - Escape to enchanting, wonderfully affordalbe locales.
- Deluxe Resorts - Experience the ultimate in Disney luxury, style and service.
- Deluxe Villa Resorts - Relax in comfortable accommodations with all the conveniences of home.
- Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground - Stay in secluded campsites for tents and all types of RVs.
A Magic Your Way Base Ticket with choice of ticket length from 1 to 10 days (one Theme Park admission per day). Add-on options for this ticket include:
- Park Hopper® Option - visit more than 1 Theme Park on the same day.
- Water Park Fun & More Option - includes a certain number of "Fun Visits" based on the length of the Ticket. Each "Fun Visit" allows entry into one of the following: Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, Disney's Blizzard Beach, DisneyQuest®, Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course or Disney's Wide World of Sports® . (Subject to seasonal or weather closures. Age restrictions may apply for access to certain facilities.)
- No Expiration Option - unused Theme Park Days and unused "Fun Visits" never expire so they may be used on a return visit.
- Planet Hollywood® - Receive a $15 voucher valid for food and non-alcoholic beverages and a souvenir merchandise keepsake at Planet Hollywood, Downtown Disney West Side. VIP Preferred Seating is available from 11 am through 6 pm. Not valid with any other offers or discounts. (One per room).
- Miniature Golf - Receive a voucher valid for one round of miniature golf at either Disney’s Fantasia Gardens or Disney’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf courses. (One per room).
- NEW! Niki Bryan Spa Discount – 15% off the regular price of any Body Treatment or Water Therapy at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa or Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. (Massage, facial, and hand and foot treatments excluded. Age restrictions apply).
- ENHANCED! Walt Disney World Marina Discounts – Receive a voucher valid for 30 additional minutes of watercraft fun when you buy a 60-minute rental of any of the following: Sea Raycers® by Sea Ray, Boston Whaler® Montauk, or Sun-Tracker® pontoon boat at participating marina locations. (One per room; not valid all dates; restrictions apply).
- NEW! Bass Fishing Discount – 10% off the regular price of Guided Bass Fishing Excursions and Bass Nitro Fishing Excursions at select Walt Disney World marinas.
- NEW! Sammy Duvall's Watersports Discount – 10% off the regular price of all activities including parasailing, water skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing trips at Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. (Subject to availability; restrictions apply).
- Arcade Game Card - 100 points game play in arcades located in Disney Resorts. (One card per room; available only with Magic Your Way Packages).
- Luggage Tag - Walt Disney Travel Company commemorative luggage tags (one per person)
Everyone in the room must be on the same package and ticket options. All tickets and options must used within 14 days of first use, unless the No Expiration Option (unused days never expire) is purchased. All tickets and options are nontransferable and exclude activities/events separately priced.Now this is just the BASE package. You can add dining plans, park hoppers, water parks, and more on to this plan but really, this is a great way to start your vacation planning.
Friday, April 9, 2010
At a first glance, I did not want to stay at this resort because it is far away from all of the...well, everything. It seems like it is off in a corner of the property and that it would take forever to get anywhere. Well, we decided to take a chance and booked our trip and I have to say, while it wasn't my favorite "theme" wise, it was certainly a great place to stay.
Guest rooms are located in 10 brightly colored and whimsically decorated 4-story buildings—trimmed with huge letters representing iconic sayings from the decade they represent. Different sections of the hotel represent the 1950s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s.
The Resort's central building is named Classic Hall, and the facility includes the Main Lobby check-in desk, the Fast Forward Arcade and the Everything Pop shop and food court.
Unwind and enjoy 3 swimming pools—the main flower-shaped Hippy Dippy Pool, the smaller bowling pin-shaped Bowling Pool and the monitor-shaped Computer Pool. Younger Guests can cool off at the Goofy Kiddie Spray Area, an interactive play fountain located between the '60s and '70s section.
Disney's Pop Century Resort has been designated by the Florida Green Lodging Program, recognizing the Resort's environmentally responsible practices.My husband is a child of the 70's so we asked for a room in the 70's complex. The building was adorned with all-things-70's like Mood Rings, platform shoes, leisure suits and 8-Track tapes. It was wild! We got a corner room on the third floor right on the lake. It was quiet and the scenery was lovely. We even saw fireworks from Epcot each night. The walk to and from the main building was not long and the bus service to and from the parks was amazing. I had stayed at deluxe resorts with my sister that didn't have such wonderful bus service!
The rooms were clean - housekeeping was great - and in general, it was a lovely place to stay. The only negative that I'd have to say is that there is a whole second phase of POP Century that construction has halted on and we could see it all from our room. I mean, I understand progress and all that and it wasn't like there was a any noise coming from the construction site, it was just a bit of an eyesore. Picky, right?
Our check in was speedy and the main building housed the lobby (obviously), the food court, gift shop and arcade. Once you walk out the back doors of the main building it's like stepping in to a colorful new world. With giant icons and Disney characters all around you, you almost can't wait to see what is waiting for you around the next corner. We found a larger than life Foosball court, a giant Big Wheel, giant yo-yo's, Goofy getting ready to go surfing in his shiny new sports car, a giant Twister game spot...I mean, we could have spent a sold half a day just exploring the resort property!
I have to admit, when we go on our next visit, I am torn between staying at POP again and perhaps giving the family suites at the All-Star Music a try. I guess it depends on how many are in our party. Bottom line is that this is a great value resort that is a lot of fun to stay at. The average cost is $89 per night. It is sort of like a upscale motel with the doors leading directly to the outside - there are no interior hallways or rooms, really. But again, most of us that are going to Disney are going for the parks and that's where we'll spend the bulk of our time, not in our rooms. So if you are looking for a good value resort, I would highly recommend the POP Century. It has it's own buses as opposed to the All-Star's which share their buses so that is a plus in travel time - less waiting.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
A really helpful tool when planning your first trip to Walt Disney World and going with kids is to check out some of the rides first so that you can see whether or not your child will be scared. I think that poor planning and not knowing what the rides are like are a sure-fire guaranteed way to ruin your trip. Even though some of the rides look innocent or are themed after beloved Disney animated movies, they can be dark and scary for younger ones. A great source for checking out rides before you go is my favorite video Disney blog site, Travel with Rick. This particular episode is from the Alice in Wonderland ride in Disneyland but I thought that it was a pretty cool ride and a good intro for you to look at to see what is available when investigating the Disney rides before you go.
But even with free dining, you get one snack, one counter service meal and one table service meal per person, per night. So if you used your counter service for lunch, your table service for dinner and your snack somewhere along the way, what about breakfast?
Our family is not big on breakfast. I know, I know, it's a bad thing but that's the truth. We usually don't eat breakfast or eat something light. So when we go to Disney, we usually drive, so we pack a cooler. In that cooler or sometimes in a separate bag, I pack up breakfast-type foods like Nutrigrains, granola bars, fruit, etc. along with some juice boxes and then we eat them in the room before heading out to the bus stop.
Even if you went to the food court of your Disney hotel, chances are you are going to spend $6-$8 per person on a light breakfast. Why do that when you can bring it in yourself? The portions that you get with the meals on your food plan are huge, anyway, so really, a light breakfast is the way to go.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
All of the hotels offer bus service. These buses will take you to and from the parks or to the Transportation and Ticket Area. The buses are usually pretty prompt and arrive around every 20 minutes. The hardest time to get that kind of service is at the end of the day when the parks are closing and there is the mass exodus from the parks. At those times, your wait can be considerably longer because only so many people can fit on a bus. The buses will NOT take you from one resort to another, however. For example, say you are staying at the All-Star Movies resort but you are having dinner at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. You would have to take a bus from All-Star Movies to the Animal Kingdom PARK and from there take a bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It can take a while so at times like that you MAY want to drive your own car, but for the most part, what's the hurry?
Some hotels offer boat service to and from each other or to some of the parks. Hotels like the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian have a boat that goes between the two and then takes you to the Magic Kingdom. The Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness also has a boat that takes you to the Magic Kingdom. The Boardwalk Inn along with the Swan, Dolphin and I believe the Yacht and Beach Clubs all have boat service between them that will also take you to Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios.
My favorite form of Disney transportation is the Monorail. Only three hotels are on the Monorail loop and they are all deluxe resorts. I had the opportunity to stay at one of them and the experience was well worth it for the convenience of the monorail alone. The Grand Floridian, the Contemporary and the Polynesian each have a monorail station. For the Contemporary resort, the monorail actually goes THROUGH the middle of the hotel and the station is inside! It's pretty cool.
The final form of Disney transportation that is there to truly help you is the one that gets you to and from Orlando International Airport and that is Disney's Magical Express. If you fly in to Orlando on certain airlines, you are eligible for the Magical Express. When you book your trip and tell your travel agent that you are flying in and give them your flight info, 2-3 weeks before your trip you will receive a packet that includes special luggage tags and vouchers. The bright yellow tags go on your bags and when you arrive in Orlando, you skip the baggage claim because Disney is going to get your bags for you! How cool is that? Then you will board a deluxe motor coach that will take you directly to your resort. While on the bus you will watch a video of what is going on in the parks and give you a basic overview of the entire resort complex. Your luggage will be delivered directly TO YOUR ROOM at no extra charge! On your final day of your trip, the Magical Express will take you back to the airport. And again, there is no charge for this service.
So whether you need to get to and from the airport or to and from the parks, Disney has all of your transportation needs covered. No need to take your keys or fill up the tank, while you are a guest of the Walt Disney World Resort, there is no need for you to get behind the wheel!