Monday, September 14, 2009

That's the Way I Like It

Go ahead and sing it out loud. I know you're thinking it!

I love to travel to WDW. I love being there. Here are some of my own preferred ways of traveling, enjoying, and touring Walt Disney World.

1. Arrive at your WDW resort your first night. This is against conventional wisdom, because it costs more money, but I believe it's the better way to go. You can immediately sink into the "magic," and be at park opening the next day without having to wake up at 5am, check out, check in, etc. To me, the slightly higher cost is outweighed by these other factors.

2. Go to WDW with your children. Maybe this is self-explanatory; I don't know. Many people take a "couples only" trip, leaving their kids home so they can enjoy the parks. For me, I would miss them - and they are growing up so fast! I know that I'll have decades (well, let's hope) after my children are grown for Dan and I to travel to WDW alone. Until then, we'll make it a family affair. That being said, I wouldn't mind a little time away from them - say, an afternoon or evening - while we were there, if we could swing it.

3. Eat breakfast in your room. Saves time and money.

4. Be at park opening - always. This goes along with #3. If you eat a quick breakfast in your room, you can be at the park when it opens and maximize the first hour or two the park is open, when crowds are small.

5. Spend as many days at WDW as you can. It takes a significant amount of time and effort just to get there. The price for an extra day's ticket is just a couple of bucks per person. Enjoy the time while you can.

6. Experience the parks and resorts at night whenever possible. They are even more magical at night.

7. Drive to Florida. This is obviously a personal thing. Most people would rather eliminate a limb than drive to FL with two small children. But I love it! I love the anticipation. I swoon when I look out the window, and everything is becoming greener and warmer as we travel south. Plus, we have our own car when we arrive, which comes in handy for Wal-Mart trips and E.R. visits. We also get a big kick out of reading a book out loud together on the way. (Any suggestions for books this time?)

8. Find some alone time. Try to catch a few minutes by yourself. I usually do this at night, or during afternoon naps. I just walk around the resort, people watch, do a little light shopping, or take some pictures. Mostly I just try to "be."

9. Be a magic-maker. Corny advice, I know. But smiles are free, and kind words cost nothing. Why not make a joke with a cast member? Thank them for taking good care of you! Share the joy with other guests, too - say "happy birthday" if they're wearing birthday pins, or surprise someone with Fastpasses that you aren't able to use, etc. Some of our best moments have come in this way.

10. Slow down enough to enjoy it all. You can come back. WDW will be there. Notice how the whole resort includes all five of your senses. Everything is clean and colorful, beautiful and bright. There are lovely smells all around you, from the popcorn on Main Street to the flowers in the Rose Garden. There is spectacular music all around you, energetic in the morning and calming in the evening, themed to wherever you are - the China pavilion in World Showcase or Sunset Boulevard at Hollywood Studios. There are delicious treats everywhere you go. And even the texture of the ground beneath your feet changes: industrial flooring at Test Track, uneven pavement strewn with rocks and twigs at Animal Kingdom, rough boards at the entrance to Adventureland. So many subtle details, all put there to immerse you in a completely real but totally other-world experience.

All this talk of Disney World...makes me want to go again. Specifically, during Free Dining between Thanksgiving and Christmas...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Free Dining at WDW

FREE Disney World Dining Package Offer!

Get FREE Dining for travel most nights 9/27/09- 12/17/09 when you book a full price Walt Disney World vacation package that includes at least 3 hotel nights at an official Disney World resort, plus at least one-day base theme park ticket. However, this offer differs from previous free dining offers in that those staying in value resorts receive the quick-service plan for free, while those staying in moderate resorts, deluxe resorts, and villas receive the basic dining plan free.

Book by September 26, 2009!!

Sample Pricing: Savings up to 24%!! The number of packages available at the following rate is limited. Savings based on non-discounted price for the same room. Based on adult double occupancy.Tickets valid for one theme park per day and must be used within 14 days of first use. No group rates or other discounts apply. Advance reservations required.

* $535 per adult for stays most nights 10/2 – 11/24/09.
* $470 per adult for stays most nights 9/29 – 10/1 and 11/29 – 12/17/09.

Value Resorts - Quick Service Dining is free. You can upgrade to other dining plans at an additional cost.

* KHF - Magic Your Way PLUS Quick Service Dining Option
* OCQ - Magic Your Way PLUS Dining Option
* EVL - Magic Your Way PLUS Dining and Wine Option
* GXY - Magic Your Way PLUS Deluxe Dining Option
* EVM - Magic Your Way PLUS Deluxe Dine and Wine Option

Moderate, Deluxe, or Villa Resorts - Basic Dining Plan is free and you can upgrade to Deluxe Dining at an additional cost.

* GYB - Magic Your Way PLUS Dining Option
* FPW - Magic Your Way PLUS Dining Option
* GCB - Magic Your Way PLUS Dining and Wine Option
* UIN - Magic Your Way PLUS Deluxe Dine and Wine Option

This discount must be booked by 09/26/09. All discounts are subject to availability, certain restrictions apply.

What could this mean for you???

Monday, June 1, 2009

Scenes From the Future?

In lieu of an actual post about our last trip, I thought I'd try posting some video. As a part of your experience on Spaceship Earth, your photo is taken and you (and your seatmate) create a version of your future. In the attraction's post-show area you have the opportunity to email your "future" to anyone with the free time to watch it.

And here is one of our many "futures!"

Your Future

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What a Wonderful World

Every time I return to WDW I remember just how beautiful it is. Even in January, when many plants aren't in bloom and the grass is a little browner, everything is bright, cheerful, colorful - a real contrast to the almost constant gray color of Michigan in the wintertime.

Let me just get the bad news out right from the start: We were all sick. Every last one of us had the stomach flu, and Hunter additionally suffered from bronchitis. He and I both had the pleasure of visiting the Celebration Hospital a few minutes from WDW (I use the word "pleasure" very loosely; it made me appreciate the low waiting times and thorough care I've received at our local E.R.).

That being said, we were able to do almost everything on our lists, as we felt well enough to go to the parks every day (except for one day when Hunter and I stayed home while Dan and Helena whooped it up).

Other good points include: low crowds, non-existent wait times, lovely, mild weather, friendly and caring cast members, understanding housekeepers, and the aforementioned pleasure of just being in such a brilliant place.

The only thing is, because we go to WDW "infrequently" (as in, less frequently than I'd wish, anyway), I feel just a little cheated, and wish we'd had a couple of "make up" days to enjoy. After such a great week you won't find me complaining.

What did I learn this time? Wear surgical masks, bathe in Purell, bring Zofran (adult and pediatric doses), have a big Ziploc bag handy...

Oh, wait! What did I REALLY learn? A simplified list:

1. Get to the park at opening time. This cannot be overstated. Previous to this trip we didn't take advantage of this point and it saves incredible amounts of time. We finished all of the Fantasyland attractions - without a rush, and without waiting in any lines at all - in less than an hour.

2. Have a touring plan. Know where you want to go next. I especially found the touring plans from "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World" helpful, as well as the recommended attraction times (which tells you which time of the day is best for certain rides). Mostly it's just a matter of getting the most busy attractions out of the way quickly or obtaining a Fastpass to ride them later.

3. Take more pictures, and take more notes. Don't rely on your memory of where you were each day. Even though we'll probably go back, it won't be January of 2009 ever again.

4. Just give in on the character greeting thing. Initially I didn't think Helena would care that much, but I was dead wrong. The girl was standing in line for characters she couldn't even identify (i.e., Brer Bear from "Song of the South.") Indeed, I even bought the Official Autograph Book, which now has a respectable number of autographs. And Helena's smiles were worth a million bucks.

5. Go swimming even if it's cold. Kids loved it.

6. Don't expect too much from your counter service meals. It's just theme park food.

So - as time goes by I may add more. I'll definitely post some pictures. It was wonderful.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ride On!

As promised, a list of the attractions and rides we plan on experiencing this trip:

Magic Kingdom

1. Goofy's Barnstormer
2. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
3. Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
4. Carousel of Progress
5. Cinderella's Golden Carrousel
6. Donald's Boat
7. Dumbo
8. It's a Small World
9. The Haunted Mansion
10. Jungle Cruise
11. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
12. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
13. Mickey's Country House
14. Minnie's Country House
15. Peter Pan's Flight
16. Pirates of the Caribbean
17. Space Mountain (hurry! It goes down for refurbishment in April)
18. Splash Mountain
19. Swiss Family Treehouse
20. Tomorrowland Speedway
21. Tomorrowland Transit Authority
22. Toontown Hall of Fame

1. Spaceship Earth
2. Soarin'
3. Living With the Land
4. The Seas with Nemo and Friends
5. Turtle Talk with Crush
6. Journey Into Imagination
7. Test Track
8. Gran Fiesta Tour
9. The American Adventure

Disney's Hollywood Studios
1. Beauty and the Beast
2. Playhouse Disney Live on Stage
3. Rock n Roller Coaster
4. Toy Story Mania
5. Voyage of the Little Mermaid
6. Hollywood Tower of Terror (Dan only!)
7. Star Tours (because I get the feeling this ride might change relatively soon)

Animal Kingdom

1. Expedition Everest
2. Festival of the Lion King
3. Finding Nemo: The Musical
4. Kilimanjaro Safari
5. Maharajah Jungle Trek
6. Pangani Exploration Trail
7. Triceratops Spin (for the kids. I am not a fan of this ride.)

Must-Do List

As I was compiling this list, I realized it wasn't very much about rides, so I'll include that in a following post.

Here is the list of things I really want to do for our upcoming (6 days!) trip:

1. Experience "Finding Nemo: The Musical"

2. Ride Toy Story Mania (Thanks for the great tip, Gretta!)

3. Let Helena and Hunter ride Dumbo

4. Watch "Festival of the Lion King"

5. Take a carriage ride at Port Orleans Riverside

6. Eat a Dole Whip in memory of Bob Varley

7. Swim in the "Old Man Island" pool at our resort (thank goodness the water's heated!)

8. Go through the Swiss Family Treehouse, for Dan

9. Have the kids' silhouettes made

10. Hop on the "party line" phone at The Chapeau store on Main Street

Although completely unrelated, I have to share this: I've been studiously watching the weather for the Orlando area. They're having a "cold" snap just like the rest of us (but it's all relative, as cold means 61 degrees there). Looks like it will be in the low 70s for at least the first part of our visit. I can absolutely handle that!

We are all so, so excited. Thanks for reading my Disney blog. I am far from experienced and knowledgeable, but I sure like writing about my favorite place.

Friday, January 2, 2009

If Ye Are Prepared, Ye Shall Not Spend Too Much

I'm in the middle of getting ready for our trip - which is less than three weeks away! It's not too soon to join with me in evaluating the status of our Disney Box - the one I've been slowly adding to for many moons. It looks like this:

Let's open it up and check the contents.

1. Our AAA maps. They prepared a TripTik for us, highlighting our journey, along with Tour Books and state maps for each state we'll pass through. We are way behind, technologically speaking - we should be using a Garmin or something. For this trip, I know exactly how to get there - without the maps. But Dan's an Eagle Scout, and we're prepared.

2. Various and sundry toys. I searched through the house for toys that would be "car-appropriate" - that is, apparently, loud and likely annoying. But the kids don't need a writing surface or anything for these. We also have things like Magna Doodles, a ball to kick around if the weather is okay at a rest stop, etc. Along with the laptop acting as DVD player, we should survive the 21-odd hours of travel in the Montana.

3. Crystal Light On-the-Go packets. This is intended both to keep us from drinking too much soda as well as save money. All Disney counter service restaurants will give you a free cup of ice water, but Florida water tastes...horrifyingly bad. Add a packet or two to your free water and BOOM - a beverage that costs far less than the $2.25 you'd pay for a soda.

4. Car snacks. When we get closer to our departure, I promise to buy something healthy, like grapes. I bought a few things like Fruit Roll-Ups, granola bars, etc. to keep the kids from starvation/boredom/driving their parents insane.

5. Gum. It is not sold anywhere on Disney property. Put yourself in the shoes of the maintenance workers - is there anything worse than trying to extract gum from the carpet, the rides, the tables, the ground...? But if you occasionally enjoy a piece, you'll have to bring it with you.

6. Plastic suction hooks. All on-property hotels provide a retractable clothesline in the shower to hang wet clothing and swimsuits on. If the clothesline isn't enough (and I guess it isn't for the four of us), you can use cheap suction hooks to hang suits, washcloths, etc. on to dry.

7. Glow necklaces. During the evening parades and shows, cast members flood the parks with their little carts, selling grossly overpriced glow stuff. You can buy these at the dollar store in packages of 10 or 15 and give them to the kids instead of the more expensive Disney ones.

8. Little Swimmers. We still need these. Enough said.

9. Plastic over-the-door shoe hanger thingy. It looks something like the picture below - you know, one of the deals where you can put jewelry, or shoes, or whatever? I hang it over the clothes bar near the bathroom, and put toiletries, hairbrushes, etc. inside each pocket. It seems like there are always more things than the area around the sink can accommodate. This just gives us a little more space. Or I'm overpacking.

10. The Cinderella Dress. Perhaps the most important item for us. Surprisingly, it still fits Helena and she will wear it for our Princess meal once more. Also in the box are the glitzy shoes, wand, gloves, purse, etc. "The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize!"

I have a lengthy and detailed list of items still to pack, but I am so excited already, and I'm just THINKING about leaving! I love road trips nearly as much as the destination. We already have a couple of books to read together between Michigan and Florida, including these two:

A little preparation goes a LONG way!

Next up: My Must Do list!