Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday's Memories in the Magic Kingdom

Our first trip to Disney World was in 1983. I was 8. Even though I was old enough to remember this trip, I barely remember things. I have to look at pictures or hear stories from my parents to piece it all together. Some of the things I remember were camping. We weren't at Fort Wilderness. We were in some KOA, I guess, campsite in Orlando. We were in a borrowed pop up camper and I remember it rained- a lot! I remember the canvas pop out parts of the camper leaking. I remember walking to the bath houses. That's about it.

As for the actual time in the Magic Kingdom I remember the parade because the girl characters were carrying pom poms like cheerleaders, Swiss Family Robinson's Treehouse, The Jungle Cruise and Cinderella's Castle. At Epcot, I remember how much I LOVED Journey into Imagination and Figment. I also loved the "jumping water" outside of Imagination. And, that was my trip. That is all I can remember. I have no idea how many days we were there. I have no memory of driving down with the camper in tow. I have no memory of where we ate or what we purchased for souvenirs.

However, I do remember it was fun and I couldn't wait to return!! over and over and over and over....

Friday, April 23, 2010

time killers

While visiting Walt Disney World, there will be times you need something to help keep the kids, or adults, occupied. Even if it's not peak season and tourists are swarming all over the place, there will be times when you need to distract the kids. Some of those times may be:

  • waiting on the parade to start
  • waiting in line for an attraction
  • riding the bus/ monorail/ ferry boats
  • eating meals
  • waiting on fireworks, Fantasmic, or Illuminations to begin
  • waiting on a show to begin

There are many different things we have stashed in our backpack to keep us occupied. These things help can help cut back on the whining!

1. "Line candy"- I believe "line candy" was born during our trip in 1991. My mom packed twizzlers and starbursts for us to eat. This tradition has stuck! Every trip we make to WDW, I pack twizzlers and starburst candies in the backpack. I also add lifesavers, gum, gummy snacks (especially if they are Disney characters) and suckers to the mix. The only rule for the candy... it can only be eaten while waiting in line (or if a kid is having a meltdown!).

2. Handheld games- We have the 20Q game, tetris, and yahtzee in electronic form. We don't bring the Nintendo DS or iPads into the parks because of fear it will get lost, stolen or wet. But, if these $5 games are lost, stolen or wet it really won't matter.

3. Disney tour book- My favorite tour book for WDW is the Birnbaum Guide to Walt Disney World. It has great pictures, lots of color and cartoon characters throughout the book. It's full of information and the kids enjoy looking at the pictures too.

4. Mini playdough or silly puddy- it's small and easy to manipulate to keep hands busy!

5. Disney Bingo- When our oldest son could read we made this game to take with us to the parks. I made the board in Microsoft Publisher, printed it on card-stock and had it laminated at Kinkos. I found miniature wipe off markers at Wal-Mart with an eraser on the cap. While we are waiting in the parks we will each get a card and start playing. We are all looking for the same things, but our cards are different. The first person to get 5 in a row "wins." (They could always win a piece of "line candy!") Here are a few photos of the game.

What does your family do to help kill time while waiting in the parks?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday's Tip: window clings

The Value and Moderate resorts at Walt Disney World have doors that open to the outside. One thing we've done in the past is put window gels on the window by the front door. When you are walking down the outside hallway heading back to your room, the only thing that makes your room different from the others is the room number on the door. For younger kids, those numbers don't mean a thing! However, if your room window has Disney character window gels on the window, the young ones definitely know which room belongs to them! It adds a bit of Disney magic to your "home" and helps the kids find their room easier!

I didn't have any pictures of our window gels on windows at our Disney resort, so photos of the gels on my kitchen window will have to do! Can't you see how "excited" the baby is to find the "room with the Disney window gels?" ;)

I found these window gels at Target several years ago. I believe it was in August in the "back to school" section of the store. These were actually on sale at the end of the back to school season!

Celebration, Florida

image from celebration.fl.us
One of our long time family friends recently visited the Orlando area and stayed at Celebration City, Florida. She wrote an amazing blog about their stay and the photos were breathtaking!  I visited Celebration City about 10 years ago when we were on a week and a half long trip to Walt Disney World. We took a "day off" from the parks and visited other Disney places: Downtown Disney, Celebration City, Fantasia Gardens, the Boardwalk and a few resort lobbies.  Celebration is quite a charming town! It would be perfect to retire there and work at Disney part time! ;)

Besides walking around and taking in all the sights, there are other things to do in Celebration:

  • Town Center!  There are events at the Town Center throughout the year.  Things to do such as: concerts, movies, art shows, car shows, parades and more.
  • Eat! There are several fast food, sit down and ice cream/ dessert places in Celebration.  You can also shop at Publix grocery store.
  • Shop! There are shops and boutiques for everyone in the family- including the dog!
  • Golf!  Spend an afternoon enjoying the outdoors golfing in Celebration.
  • Worship!  See if the church of your choice has worship services on Sunday or Wednesday you can attend.   

Here is a bit of history behind the city of Celebration from Bardell Real Estate:
Celebration was founded in 1994, it’s a master planned community south of Orlando near Walt Disney World in central Florida and provides a unique environment. Celebration is a community built on a foundation of cornerstones: Community, Education, Health, Technology, and a Sense of Place. Zoned for permanent residents (no short term rental), Celebration was developed by The Walt Disney Company.

Named America's 2007 Dream Town, Celebration is connected directly to the Walt Disney World parks and resorts by World Drive; the north end of World Drive begins near the Magic Kingdom and its south end connects to Celebration Boulevard, allowing residents and guests to drive to Disney property without having to use any busy highways.

Celebration was intended to fulfill Walt Disney's original vision for EPCOT as an experimental location where people could live. Instead of using Disney's vision for EPCOT which was based on modernism and futurism, the town uses the concept of "New Urbanism" to emphasize parks, sidewalks, and a mix of residential and commercial space.

The bank, the post office, the town hall, the movie theater, and other downtown buildings were designed by renowned architects. The majority of homes are within one mile of the downtown area. Segway scooters and small electric cars called "NEVs" ("Neighborhood Electric Vehicle") are common.

Community events are held downtown throughout the year; for example, during the Christmas season it "snows" on Market Street (bubbly foam blown from machines on the lampposts).

The community has 7 different denominations churches. There is also a hospital (Celebration Health) and a fire station in Celebration. An eighteen-hole golf course winds through the town.

The philosophy behind the town is that it is to be a friendly, neighborly place, drawing its design and its sensibility from such places as Savannah, Georgia, Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Charleston, South Carolina.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday's Memories

I've been thinking of some of our past trips to Walt Disney World and trying to remember my fondest memories. There are so many that come to mind! I don't want to write about or highlight all of them in one post, so I'll spread them out over several weeks, months or even years!! I'll "steal" an idea I've seen on several blogs and recall these memories on Mondays and call it "Monday's Memories!"

My first memory is probably one of my all time favorites! In 2008, my husband and I went to WDW all by ourselves to run the half marathon! No kids, no friends, no family. Just the two of us. We were able to take a few extra days off work to arrive early and leave late. We spent 2 days in the parks prior to the race and one day after the race. The day in Epcot after the race will not make it to "Mondays Memories!" That day was not fun for me since I had pulled my IT band during the race. But the days prior to the race were great!

On the Thursday morning before the race on Saturday we woke up very early, got ready, grabbed a bite to eat in the hotel restaurant and took the resort bus over to the Magic Kingdom for Extra Magic Morning Hours. We were there before the park opened so we were able to see the opening ceremonies. What an experience! If you haven't ever been to this, it's magical! The ceremony took place between the ticket turnstiles and the corridors under the railroad tracks. The characters came on the train and stood on the platform overlooking the turnstiles. Mickey introduced the family selected to "open" the park. They sang songs, played music, danced and shot confetti all over the place! I had tears in my eyes the entire time (1. it was pure Disney magic, 2. I was ecstatic to be there and 3. I was jealous it wasn't us chosen!) and I even had to choke back sobs!

That was the first part of one of my favorite days at Disney World. After we got into the park for extra magic hours my husband and I took our time walking down Main Street soaking in all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings. Prior to our trip I had found a download from The Mouse for Less that showed you the "hidden gems" in the Magic Kingdom. We slowed down, took our time and looked for all the hidden gems in this document and some others I had read about on different message boards. This quite time we spent together, enjoying the park was one of the best times I've had in the Magic Kingdom.

After an hour of searching for the hidden gems we wandered over to the Haunted Mansion. We found out that Liberty Square was not included in the Extra Magic Hours, so we went back to Fantasyland to kill some time. At the "opening time" we went back to the Haunted Mansion and were part of the first group to enter the Mansion and the stretching room. After the ride, we saw some Disney Cast Members talking to a family who was 4 or 5 doom buggies ahead of us. They were looking at something on a small portable DVD player. This peaked my curiosity, so I stopped to eavesdrop on this conversation. After a few minutes (or possibly seconds... it just seemed like minutes!) I realized what was happening. This family was chosen to spend the night in Cinderella's Castle Suite that night! Are you kidding me?!!? They were only 4 or 5 ahead of us! What if it had been us?!?! It was very sweet to see the look on the kid's face when he told the cast member he was willing to give up his night in his resort to spend the night in the castle! She told the family that Disney would take care of their luggage and they could return to their original room after their magical stay in the castle!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Kingdom Keepers

When visiting Disney Daddy's blog, I saw his poll about the Kingdom Keepers books. I had seen them before in Books A Million and on Amazon, but never really took the time to learn anything about them beyond the title. When I voted "Never read any of the books" on his poll, I decided I really should change this. I went to BAM earlier this week and asked the customer service guy if they had the first book in stock. He said they didn't, based on his computer screen, but took me to the spot where they should be anyway. I started looking and actually found all 3 books. I picked up book 1 and 2, but didn't want to buy a hardback version of #3. I'll wait for the paperback in #3! I continued to look in this area of the store and actually found book 1 in hardback on sale! It was cheaper than the paperback version!

I've been reading for 2 nights now and actually enjoy the first book! I'm not a reader, at all. The only books I've read in the past year are: Hidden Magic, Mousejunkies and a few of the Birnbaum Disney travel books! Since my reading choices tend to relate to Disney in some way, I thought I'd give Kingdom Keepers a try! So far, so good! I'll update more after I finish book 1!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday's Tip: mailing items ahead

When we flew to Disney World in 2006 we stayed for 8 days. We wanted to eat breakfast in our room and bring snacks to the parks for the day to save money. The only problem was we didn't want to pack an extra bag just for food and extra stuff. After reading different message boards and tips in books I realized we could mail that stuff to the All Star Resort ahead of time!! We were able to pack pop tarts, little Debbie cakes, granola bars, candy (not kind that would melt), napkins, paper plates, forks, tuna pouches, crackers, goldfish, gummy snacks, etc. This helped us save money on breakfast and snacks and saved space in our luggage!! It's also great if you are flying down with a baby or toddler who is still in diapers. You need so many diapers and wipes for a week!! They take up so much luggage room, but if you mail them ahead of time to your resort, they are waiting for you and they don't take up luggage space!!

We mailed the box to the hotel address to our name c/o resort name. It took almost 7 days from north Alabama going first class US Mail.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

maps of WDW just for you!

As of the end of 2014, Disney no longer offers this free service. If this changes I will make updates.

Along with the free planning DVD, you can visit the WDW web site and order your own maps to all 4 parks that highlight your favorit
e attractions and entertainment! Like the planning DVD, I'll order the maps even if I don't have a trip planned just to help get a Disney fix!!!

FREE planning DVD

If you are planning a trip to California or Florida to visit one of the Disney parks (or cruise lines) you must order the FREE planning DVD! Even if you have been before you need to get this DVD. Even if you aren't planning a trip, the DVD is great to watch and help you get your Disney fix!! All you have to do is go to this web site, complete the form, and check your mailbox in several weeks!!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Backpack items

There are differing opinions about what to carry with you into the parks at Walt Disney World. Some people, especially those without kids, will try to fit all their needs into their pockets to avoid the bag check line before you enter the parks and to avoid having to find a place to stash your stuff while on the rides. Still others, like myself, try to think of EVERYTHING the family might need during the day and fit it into a backpack... or two! I am also a frugal person and I try to find as many ways to cut financial corners as possible! Therefore, I will take our own snacks to avoid those purchases in the park, I bring sunscreen, gum, candy, ponchos (either from the dollar store or from previous trips to the world), Disney themed trinkets and toys for the kids that I purchase at Wal-Mart, Target, Party stores, etc to avoid buying souvenirs in the parks and a change of clothes/ light jacket for the kids.

Here are a few of the contents from the travel box that go in or on the WDW backpack:

Here is a complete list of backpack items for Disney Parks: (the starred items are in the photo)
1. Small light*
2. Chap stick*
3. Sun block*
4. Hand sanitizer*
5. Sharpie marker*
6. Autograph book*
7. Fat pen*
8. Safety pins
9. Penny album*
10. Quarters and pennies in an M&M tube*
11. Water bottle & powder drink mix
12. “line candy”
13. snacks in Disney ziplock bags*
14. reservation numbers in mini notebook*
15. ponchos & mini umbrella*
16. line games*
17. camera and stuff
18. video camera
19. towel*
20. sunglasses
21. cell phone
22. gum
23. glow sticks
24. binoculars for AK*
25. tide pen*
26. trading pins/ lanyards*
27. Disney World Bingo game w/ wipe off markers*
28. sunglasses case*
29. mini fan (bonus points because the blades light up in the dark!)*
30. Stroller Ribbon*
31. kleenex*
32. guidebook & park maps*
33. mini bugspray*
34. anything a toddler or baby would need (diapers, sippy cup, snacks, change of clothes, etc)

These are the things that I take down to Orlando with me, however I don't always carry all these things into each park. Typically, I start out with majority of these things at the start of our vacation and by the end of the trip I take out the things we haven't used any- just to cut back on the weight! I will check weather forecasts to cut out a few things and depending on the park I won't need everything- example, the binoculars are only for Animal Kingdom.

So, start thinking about what things you want to have with you in the parks. When you see them on sale or in miniature size, pick them up and store them in your "Travel Box!"

See ya real soon!

The Travel Box

Yes. I have a "travel box." I'm continuously made fun of by my husband for it... but really, I think it's jealousy. I know exactly where my stuff is when I have to travel or even when I need it for the day. Here is my "travel box."

Here are the contents of "the box" laid out on my bed:

You will find everything needed for airplane travel, international travel, and travels to Walt Disney World!!

Here is a complete list of the contents:
travel iron, travel laundry bag, international plug adaptor, jewelry pouch, shout wipes, Tide to go pen, air freshener spray, woolite wrinkle spray, charmin wet wipes, camping towel, Disney ziplock bags, sun visor, airplane neck pillow, eye cover, small blanket, zip up carryon bag, a quart size ziplock bag with my things to carry on the plane all in the right size containers (chapstick, lotion, travel toothbrush, deodorant, toothpaste, asprin, breath spray, earplugs), Disney ponchos, stroller ribbon, blow up back support for the tub, binoculars, mini M&M tube for quarters, Disney autograph books/ pens, mini flashlight, battery operated mini fans, chaptstick that hooks to a backpack, Disney lanyard and pins, listerine spray and strips that hook on a backpack, mini sharpie pens on keychain, purell hand sanitizer to hook on a backpack, earplugs, mini playdough with clip ons, travel tetris game, decks of cards, small notebook and pen, mini umbrella, mini bug spray, water bottle holder, mini sunscreen on carabiner, eyeglasses repair kit, pocket kleenex, luggage tags, sunglasses strap and holder.

Hopefully this will inspire you to create a "Travel Box" for you and your family! It sure makes packing a lot easier! I'm always on the lookout for cute, miniature travel items for the box. And of course, anything Disney that would be great for a day in the parks!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Email Newsletters

Every time I find a web site or blog dealing with anything Disney, I sign up for their email newsletter. Some are sent daily, others weekly, some biweekly, still others monthly and others are sent whenever they have something to share! I always look forward to my inbox having something, anything Disney related!

Here are a few of the newsletters I've signed up for in the past with links to their web addresses. If the links don't take you directly to the "newsletter sign up" page, go back to their home page and search for the newsletter sign up.
1. All Ears This is one of my all time favorite Disney World web sites and newsletter. I love what Deb has to share!
2. Mousesavers A great site to find deals and ways to save money on planning a trip to Walt Disney World.
3. Disney trivia A daily email with a disney trivia question! Each day you get a new question and the answer to the previous days question! Just a little info to keep you on your toes!
4. The Mouse for Less- Magically Speaking This is another excellent web site and newsletter. I especially enjoy their challenges!
5. Disney Theme Parks TV Yahoo Group This is a great group that emails all the shows on TV that week that have anything to do with Walt Disney World! Everything from travel channel, Food network, DIY, etc and even sitcoms where the TV family visits the world! There is also a web site with the same information.
6. WDW Daily News Newsletter A great PDF newsletter with links to additional articles on the web page, stories and articles written by others, photos, tips, etc.
7. Pass porter News Great stories on travel destinations not necessarily related to Disney, tips for Disney travel, stories about restaurants, hotels, parties, etc in WDW.
8. WDWRadio Newsletter Lou Mongello. Enough said. Great information, blogs and podcasts.
9. Disney everyday not a whole lot of information, but fun weekly "where in the world are we" challenges!  This website has dramatically improved over the year!  It's a wealth of information.  However, it's been a while since I've received the "where in the world are we" emails.  I miss those.
10. DIS newsletter Another newsletter with great information. I just wish it came more often.
11. Disney’s Endurance Series Newsletter This isn't the link to the newsletter sign up. I couldn't find a link. This is the endurance web site through Disney. After I ran the half marathon in 2008, I signed up for a newsletter informing me of future Disney races.
12. Disney Fans Insider Another newsletter from Disney. This is about Disney news and history. Again, I couldn't find the actual sign up page and can't remember how long ago I signed up! Maybe with a little searching you can find the sign up info.
13. Disney Destinations from Disney I can't even find a link for this newsletter! Maybe when I created an account with Disney I chose this as one of the newsletters to receive...
14. Mickey Moms Club This is a members only newsletter/ club. Anyone who submitted an application to the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, can be a member. I applied in 2008 and didn't get past the first round, but became a member of the Mickey Moms Club... more on that later! :)

These newsletters are one small way I get my Disney World fix when my dear husband won't actually take me to the parks!! Hopefully these will help you learn more about Disney, help you plan a trip or help you get your fix!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

Today was my youngest son's second Easter, but the first one where he can actually do stuff! We celebrated the resurrection today by going to church, lunch with the grandparents, eating chocolate bunnies, "hunting" for eggs, blowing bubbles and riding in the wagon. The only thing that could have made it better would have been for all of the family to be at Walt Disney World (along with everyone else) celebrating! Easter is one of the busiest times of the year at WDW due to spring break weeks and schools being out for a long weekend. This can be a turn off to some families. If you are willing to brave the crowds, there are lots of exciting things to do at the World that can't be done any other time.

The Easter Bunny and Mrs. Bunny visit kids in the Tour Guide Garden at the Magic Kingdom on Easter and the few days before. On Easter Sunday, 3:00 pm parade at MK will feature an Easter theme. At Epcot there are Easter Egg Hunts for children (ages 3 - 9) every 20 minutes in the Heritage Garden at the American Adventure Pavilion. There are also Egg Relay races for children (ages 6 - 12) from in the Future World West Garden.

I've read in several places online that some of the Resorts do egg hunts and have characters dressed in their Easter Best to meet and greet. There are also special menus for Easter Sunday at some of the restaurants. If you want to start your day off with a worship service, there are Catholic and Protestant services on Disney Property for you to participate in.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Where to Stay?

There are several questions to answer before deciding where to stay when you visit Walt Disney World:
1. Do you want to stay on or off property?
2. How much do you want to spend?
3. How many are in your party?

Disney has hotels, studios, villas, cabins and campsites. If you are going to spend your entire vacation at Disney World, I would recommend staying on property. There are plenty of different styles of lodging as well as price levels. There is something for everyone on property. If you are planning on doing other things in Orlando and will not be traveling by car, you will need to rent a car or call a taxi. If you choose to stay off property you will need to have a car, whether it's your own or rented, to get to and from the parks.

The perks to staying on property are numerous! When you are a resort guest, you are guaranteed admission to the parks with a ticket even when they are filled and closed to the general public. You can also use the Magical Express, mentioned in an earlier post, and the WDW transportation services around the resort. These services include buses, the monorail, and boats. Resort guests also get to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours and can have purchases charged to their hotel bill and packages delivered to their room. Extra Magic Hours allow extra time in the morning or evening in select parks on select days. The selected park will open an hour earlier for resort guests or stay open 3 hours later. Another perk is that if you have a car, you can drive anywhere on property and park for free. When staying on property, you will receive a Resort ID Card that serves as your room key, admission to the parks, dining packages and charging privileges.

There are many options of rooms on property: Deluxe, Moderate and Value. The Deluxe resorts range from $225 (to sleep 4) to $3,500 (to sleep up to 10 in a suite) a night. The general rates for a room to sleep 4 would be $225-$670 depending on the season (value, regular or peak). The Moderate resorts range from $149-$215 a night to sleep 4. The Value resorts will start at $82 a night and go up to $121 a night during peak times. The campground at Fort Wilderness will range between $42-$98 a night depending on the site and season.

There are many options for a family larger than 4. You can always rent 2 or more rooms, and sometimes they can have an adjoining interior door. Or you can look into a family suite at the All Star Resorts, or a suite or villa at one of the deluxe or vacation club resorts. There are also the Fort Wilderness Cabins that will sleep up to 6. Disney has something for everyone... have I said that yet??

Of course there is always the option to stay off property. I have done this a few times and hopefully will not have to do it again. It takes away from the magic for me! My very first trip to Disney World in 1982 was at some camp ground off property. All I remember was that it rained the whole time and the camper leaked. I stayed off property again on International Blvd in 1986, 1991 and to ring in 2000. The only reason we stayed off property in 2000 was because the resort had no available rooms! Even though the hotels off property claim to be only 3 miles from WDW, it will still take forever to get to the parks. It takes quite a while to travel through the Disney property once you enter- remember it's 47 square miles!!! Larger than Manhattan! Then you'll have to park (and pay for it) and travel to the park by monorail, ferry, foot or tram. Not fun.

In the 19 trips I've made to the World, I've stayed in:
All Star Music
All Star Movies
All Star Sports
Pop Century
Coronado Springs
Animal Kingdom Lodge
Port Orleans French Quarter

I'll talk more about each later!