Why We Buy Our Souven”ears”

One of the most asked questions we hear is “How much money should we bring for souvenirs?”  THAT is a tricky one! It all depends on what you love, what you like to collect, what will fit with your home décor, what your kids enjoy, and what will last in the long haul. Here is what we have purchased over 11 trips and why we bought it.

Several years ago, Walt Disney World started the Monorail Collection which started off with just the Monorail itself. Its purpose was meant to mimic the idea of the train around the bottom of your Christmas tree. We bought the red lined Monorail, and decided to wait on any of the other accessories. Listen folks,  that was a BIG mistake. I have learned in life, don’t wait! We should have purchased all of the WDW Resorts that were offered and the WDW signage for It as well… for when we went back the next year… ALLLLLLL sold out!  They had no plans of making more, I have YET to understand that!  So we wound up buying the Contemporary Resort online on Ebay- at a pretty price too!  We also purchased the original Spaceship Earth which the monorail track attaches to, along with extra monorail tracks.  Last year we finally bought the Castle, actually Jessie bought it with her own money to play with.  We love all of these pieces and they will be coming with us to our new home in Florida.

Since Carl and I have been married, we have been in love with the Disney Lithograph.  It started with the Disney Store giving out a free one when you pre-paid for the next DVD coming out. We loved this promotion because we had to take a small trip to a nearby city to pick it up, as our city did not have a Disney Store.  We always picked up the Lithograph and then would head to Target for the black 11×14 frame that fit it perfectly. The lithograph eventually got smaller, but we framed as many as we could.  Ones we weren’t able to get, we have purchased off Ebay. I would say we have easily 75. We have our favorites framed in our home’s hallways- we change them out when we get bored with them.

On the same topic of art, the best souvenirs cane be the free ones, sort of speak. We attend every Animation class as much as possible when we are at “Disney’s Hollywood Studios.”  Every drawing is kept and we frame these as well at home- our favorites anyways.  Currently we have on our walls in our living room- Goofy, Minnie, Daisy, Doug, Tigger, and Stitch.We each get to pick our favorite two to hang up.  They have been a great conversational piece when we have visitors, along with our professional drawings that we had done while in WDW.

A new obsession we have started is collecting the WDW Attraction Posters. We have started with our favorite, the TTA, aka “People Mover,” which hangs in our kitchen.  I think we are going to buy “Pirates” next.

Now, you can’t speak of Walt Disney World souvenirs without saying the words “Mickey Ears.” Now, we don’t really collect them as much as we see a pair now and then and obtain them. (Yes, I’t trying to convince myself of this LOL). We have the original black ears, the ones that have the ears light up, and we got lucky at a garage sale last year and found the Groom and Bride Mickey ears.  When we finally move there, we will get the ears with our names on the back- yes, its about time!

Over the past couple of trips, I have been smitten with the special Walt Disney World edible goodies. I love to collect the candies, chocolates, teas, coffees, and hot chocolate in the special WDW packaging. It used to be you could only buy these special items in WDW, but they do now offer these online. I still buy them  IN the parks. Want to know something sad? I don’t even eat or drink any of it. We did try the hot chocolate, and the candy never lasts… but I have an Alice in Wonderland tea that has never been opened, along with Mickey Mac N Cheese. We have a white hutch in our kitchen that we basically litter with these items. Along with the food goodies are the refillable mugs we buy each year, glassware that’s specific to the WDW Resort we stayed at, and we always bring home extra WDW napkins, cups, and soaps to enjoy until our next vacation.

We found that the bonus souvenirs are the ones you really weren’t counting on or looking for.  At some of the WDW gift shops, they offer something for a reasonable price when you spend so much money.  Carl bought the coolest watch last year, and we seem to acquire many a Disney throw through these promotions.  I do love them though, every time I cuddle up in one I think of when we bought it.

Our Jessie loves to buy the small water globes and anything that has to do with her hero “Jessie” while Belle loves to buy the coolest jewelry and anything theme to “Nightmare Before Christmas” or with Eeyore. A stuffed animal usually makes the cut somehow, but we try to contain the spending so that they can enjoy what they have purchased and not wind up throwing it away months later.

We usually buy a new sweatshirt on each trip as well, either with them new theme or the year. I wear out mine so much, but I will tell you they hold up well. I know they cost alot, but they are definitely worth the money!

Last but not least is the Disney pin obsession. Now, we do have quite a few, but nothing crazy.  It started off very simple…we had received a coupon from WDW for a free lanyard with a free pin. We each got one, and the trading began.  What people need to realize is that you can purchase a “lot” of them on Ebay for half the cost of the park’s pins, and then trade away while you are on vacation. Make sure you deal with some reputable, as some pins are fake and junk.  We have enjoyed the pin collecting and we look forward to doing it more in the future as Florida residents.

So what is your favorite souvenir? Let us hear all about it and have a magical day!

~Ellie Peters

Kill them with Kindness

Today’s blog is being sponsored by KINDESS. Never heard of it? The definition of “kindness” is  the quality of being warmhearted and considerate and humane and sympathetic, the forgivingness: tendency to be kind and forgiving and/ or a kind act. Walt Disney World is one of THE most perfect places to exercise kindness, so let’s talk how YOU can make someone’s day simply by being kind!

I’m going to touch on personal experience first, as it is always easier to draw from that well first. Carl and I were riding on one of the Disney busses on the way back to All-Star Movies, and a woman was struggling with her very large stroller and infant child. Carl offered and did hold the stroller so that she could concentrate on her child- she was very grateful and Carl felt great that he could help her out. Since we are on the Disney bus topic, let’s touch on a few ways you can help someone out.  At park closing time, the busses are filled to capacity. If you are able to get a seat, please offer to anyone elderly or holding a child who could use it more. I know everyone’s feet hurt at the end of the day, but you may be helping out someone more than you could ever know.

WDW Food Courts and Restaurants can be another great place to exercise kindness.  If you see someone struggling with their tray, offer to help them carry it to their table. Do you have extra snack or dining credits leftover at the end of your vacation? Why not make someone’s day and pay for their meal or snack? I guarantee you will bring a smile to their faces! (Or they will call Security… either one will be an adventure! LOL)  Most of the Disney Food places can be QUITE packed and busy- if you have spots open at your table, or if you can move to something smaller so others can have your larger spot, it is a sure random act of kindness.

One of my favorite acts of kindness to perform in the parks is giving out fast passes that we weren’t able to use because we were done in that park for the day.  I enjoyed handing them out and seeing the lit up faces.  Another great thing to do for others is to offer to take the entire family’s picture when you see one member is taking a picture.  While standing in line at a snack cart, buy your popcorn and offer to buy the person behind you one as well.  Allow kids to sit in front of you during parades, the parents will appreciate it and you are making a memory for the children.

Certain items need to be purchased while on vacation, but sometimes we don’t have the means to transport them home or just won’t use them again. Here is the perfect way to spread your generosity and kindness. Everything from fans, umbrella strollers, coolers, ponchos, spray mist fans, refillable mugs, helium balloons, etc… can be passed on to other guests at the parks and resorts. Imagine the face of the parents who know they will have to spend money to rent a stroller, but you come out of nowhere to present them with a FREE stroller for however long they need it- then they can keep it or pass it on. I love this concept, as long as it doesn’t affect business as usual at WDW. I have heard of these “fridge swaps” and other items that people store at the resorts for certain guests to use week after week. I don’t feel this is right, as it’s a lot of stress on the Resorts to keep them straight when they aren’t making a penny on them.  Be sensible while you are being kind.

Watch for those guests who have buttons on that say “My First Visit” or “Happy Birthday/Anniversary.” Make sure to wish them a happy day and/or congratulations.  I love to give out tips to those first timers, it makes me feel good to help and hopefully save them some time and headaches in line as well. If you see someone lost or struggling with a map, offer to help them find their way or explain to them how it works. Not everyone who enters WDW is an expert, or goes on the Internet, so most of the time they aren’t aware of the ins and out like we are- be helpful in your kindness.

While visiting the characters, keep an eye out for those getting autographs. Keeping sharpies on you is a great thing to share with others who may not have any on them or whose pens may not be working. Offer to take pics of the characters with entire families so they all can get in on the action- I know Photopass can as well, but then they have another choice. Also while in line for characters, or attractions, offer to save someone’s place in line for them so that they can run their child to the bathroom. Trust me, they will love you for that!

Be kind to Cast Members and Mousekeepers.  Take every chance you get to tell a Cast Member what a great job they are doing, along with letting Guest Services know as well. Leave your Mousekeepers tips and notes, and make sure to ALWAYS thank them if you see them in the hallways. Don’t forget your biggest weapon… your smile!

Now, I know you are not on vacation to make other’s vacations incredible- I get it. But even if you do ONE of the above mentioned while you are enjoying your trip, it will make your trip and theirs, that much better. I implore you to allow your patience to be your greatest source of kindness. In fact, use that mantra everywhere in WDW and in life. Have you done an act of kindness for someone or had one done for you? Let’s hear them and have a great day!

What is Holding You Back?

We all have that voice in our heads, you know the kind that when you’re dieting it screams “Ice Cream!!” or when you or shopping and you know you already have enough shoes. So the voice I love to listen to in my head is the one that constantly asks me “What is holding you back?”  I know for myself, and Carl, this voice has played out many a time in our heads, before and after our decision to follow our dreams of moving to Florida. I thought today’s blog could explore how we finally answered that question and how we continue to keep moving forward.

Let’s start with the naysayers in my life-these are the people who look at us like a bunch of Disney freaks. Now, that may be true, but we love what we love and enjoy it- we aren’t here to entertain their judgments. I finally came to the conclusion that I don’t care what others think of me anymore, when it comes to following my dreams with Carl, it’s just that, OUR dreams, and not theirs.  I have always found it interesting the comments we have gotten from family and friends that can’t believe we want to live closer to a “theme park.”  What is there to get?  We get ONE life on this planet, and if you don’t follow your dreams, what is the point? I will NEVER be that person who can ignore the call, simply because what they do now is “comfortable.” Settling with life is not an option for us, adventure IS out there!  I am SOOOO Ellie, the minute I saw “UP” I wanted to scream out- THAT’S ME!!  Which leads me to my next point, believing in yourself.

I will be the first to admit, that my self-esteem needed a boost.  Once we made our decision, I felt that I had a purpose again. I know, that may sound silly to some of you, because I am a mom and a wife, but I felt like I had restored the magic that lived in me.  Something, somewhere in me, woke up. I felt incredible as we made our plans on when to move, how to move, and how to make the decisions right for our kids.  The blog came up as a way to make friends, so that when we moved to FL, we wouldn’t feel alone.  Granted, we will always have each other, but it’s nice to have a Disney family too.  I have felt so loved and important since our adventure has begun.  I feel I have been a better mother, wife, and writer for it.  I have even lost weight in the anticipation to fit in a cute bikini for all that Florida sun I am going to experience.  There are days, when I feel like I don’t know if we can pull this off. Those are the days that I read our past blogs, read other people’s blogs, listen to podcasts, and remember the magic.

Believe that as a family you can do ANYTHING.  I have the best family on the planet, bar none.  Carl and I have always tried to include our daughter’s feelings in every decision we make- it’s their lives taking a new road as much as ours. 2012 was always the original idea, but we just didn’t want to wait anymore. 2011 was a more sensitive topic… it meant our oldest would have to be a Senior in High School in Florida. As it turns out, a lot more would be happening this year, her Junior, than next year anyways.  (Also the boyfriend is a Senior this year).  Now Jessie, she STILL will leave anytime we want.  The feeling of knowing that we are ALL on board with this is INCREDIBLE.  We talk about it every day, and I love that we are all excited.. even though some of us may be more than others. I mean, come on, we DO have a teenager! (lol)

Sometimes it’s your job that is holding you back.  I have been dealing with a lot of stress with my work, and I have no plans on continuing it after we have moved.  Carl has been blessed by our Lord and Savior with a job that not only allows him to work from home, but has blessed our decision on the move.  Currently, my job is holding me back. I want a lot more freedom to wrap up the ends of my life here in WI while I have the time to do it, and not try to keep up with a job that just doesn’t seem to want me anyways.  Letting go and ending it has been a never ending battle these days, even with taking small breaks, the knowledge of having to work again this week gives me hives.  So what is holding me back?  Work.  I know, I am dealing with it.

Last but not least, we have learned that once you have made your decision, stick to it. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t discuss and weigh out the choices, I am just saying that you WILL be driven mad if you don’t make the decision and then STICK to it. Nothing can hold a person back more than being indecisive.  Once you make it, as Crush says, “Go with the flow.”

The point of today’s blog is to work on what is holding you back from your dreams. Look to the positive, too the people who are supporting you, and to keep to the decision once you have made it. Is there something holding you back? Let us know and have a great day!

~Ellie Peters

Romantic Spots at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World is for every type of person, but the romantic that lives in all of us can find so many fun spots to enjoy with the love of our lives.  We wanted to share with you our list of favorite spots to catch a kiss, snuggle with your honey, or just hold hands and enjoy the moment.

The Magic Kingdom

  • The Train Station looking out over Main Street
  • In front of the Castle
  • On the terrace of Cosmic Ray’s
  • On the TTA inside the dark tunnels
  • Any bench off the  beaten path
  • The walkway from Toon Town to Tomorrowland
  • Back row on the train
  • Snuggle on the Steam Boat
  • Roll a meatball across the table to your loved one at “Tony’s Town Square Restaurant”

Epcot

  • Standing around the Fountain of Nations
  • Sharing a drink at Club Cool
  • A stroll around World Showcase at dusk
  • Relaxing in the gardens at the UK
  • Riding “Soarin” then having a dessert to share in “Sunshine Seasons”
  • Snuggle together on any of the bridges in the World Showcase area
  • Dancing together over the fiber optic sidewalks
  • Have an adult beverage while enjoying the fountains in France

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Enjoying the Beauty and the Beast show together- one of the most Romantic stories of all time
  • Stroll the back streets, hand in hand
  • Share an ice cream cone in front of “Gerties”
  • Snuggle at the “Sci-Fi Diner”
  • Have hot dogs for dinner at “Fantasmic” and enjoy being together
  • Face-off at “Toy Story Mania” making bets on who gets the higher score-wager kisses
  • Hold each other in the “Great Movie Ride” pre-show while watching old movies

Animal Kingdom

  • Sneak a kiss on a side trail where crowds seldom go
  • Have Photopass take a couples picture in front of the “Tree of Life”
  • Enjoy a snuggle on the Safari Ride…although it gets quite bumpy
  • Win your loved one a prize in the Dinosaur Carnival area

Walt Disney World Resorts

  • Take a romantic walk among the torches lit up along the paths and beach at the Polynesian.
  • Sit around the camp-fire at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Enjoy a daiquiri and nachos poolside at any of the Value Resorts
  • Wind down in rocking chairs together at Fort Wilderness
  • Have a romantic dinner at “The CA Grill” in the Contemporary Resort, stay to view the fireworks from the MK
  • Share “The Kitchen Sink” ice cream bonanza at “Beaches and Cream” at the Beach Club
  • Take a bike ride together at the Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Stroll the Mansions at Port Orleans Riverside
  • Try one of the cruises at MK or Epcot to enjoy the fireworks on the water
  • Relax together in the lobby of the Grand Floridian and listen to the piano music being played
  • Feed each other salt water taffy as you stroll the Boardwalk Resort
  • Ride the monorail around the Seven Seas Lagoon
  • Buy something together to remember the trip at “ The World of Disney”
  • Check out the different types of soap for a romantic evening at “Basin” in DTD

Let’s hear your favorite romantic spots around Walt Disney World…feel free to post them in the comments section located here on the blog.

Ellie Peters

Finding the Fear and Fun at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Even though spring has just sprung, time always seems to speed up when we hit summer and soon we will be entering fall.  If you are one of the lucky ones to be at Walt Disney World during the months of September and October, you have a great opportunity to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Join us as we touch upon this fun party and reflect on our own personal experiences with it.

Tickets can be bought months in advance, and depending on the availability, you may also be able to buy them the day of. These can be costly, anywhere from $49 to $64 per adult and $43 – $58 per child, so weigh the pros and cons before giving over the credit card number.

The Pros:

We enjoyed events that wouldn’t have been able to outside that party. Events such as the Boo to You” Parade, Happy Hallowishes Fireworks, Halloween Dance Parties, and the Villains Mix and Mingle.

  • The “Boo to You” Parade is a wonderful parade that incorporates not only all of your favorite Disney characters, but showcases a float from the Haunted Mansion and the grave digger dancers. These men dance while dragging their shovels on the ground making sparks to the music- it’s the very best part of the parade. Our other most favorite part is the Headless Horseman that gallops the parade route before the initial parade begins- a must see! On a side note, the parade runs twice at each party, the first one usually being the busiest.
  • The Happy Hallowishes Fireworks show is simply amazing. The best seats in the house to see this show would be in the hub in front of the castle. The music played with the fireworks is from favorites like Nightmare before Christmas and the Haunted Mansion. The fireworks are centered on the castle, so this is one you want to be in front for.
  • The Halloween Dance parties are another part of this fun evening. We did the Macaerna with Stitch at Cosmic Rays and the locomotion with Donald. Just jump on in and dance your tail feathers off!
  • The Villains Mix and Mingle is the crème of the crop of the evening. It is a rarity to have a good number of Villains all together, especially to be able to meet and greet them.  The shows run several times during the night, and if you plan it right, you can sit and watch one while holding your place for the parade and then Hallowishes. They sing/dance on stage in front of the castle, then come down to the courtyard for pics and autographs. We met Frollo, the Queen of Hearts, and the Evil Queen from Snow White, Cruella De Ville and Maleficent.  Our favorite was definitely Maleficent.

Now, the candy can be a pro and a con. For now, since we are on the pro list, let’s touch upon the good of it. Upon entering the park for the party, Cast Members will give you a bracelet to wear for the party along with a party brochure and trick-or-treat bag. The bags are small, so if you plan on loading up all night, you may want to bring a different shopping bag along to dump in.  The Candy Stations are marked by the Goofy’s Candy logo lights and can be found all over the Magic Kingdom.  Our strategy on trick or treating was this- we did all the events and character meet and greets, THEN went and got the candy.  It’s all about your priorities of the evening.

During the party you can find rare characters that normally aren’t around. They have groups of characters spread throughout the park. Our favorites were Tarzan and Jane in Adventure Land and Snow White and ALL Seven Dwarves in Fantasy Land. Take the time to find them!

Another pro that is a huge one is all about timing. On your party ticket, it will state that the Party starts at 7 p.m. BUT for those who know better; you can enter the Magic Kingdom as early as 4 p.m. Now the party will still be starting at 7, but you have three hours to play and ride the rides before the real fun begins.

This is one of the few times you will get to dress up in your favorite, appropriate costume, in the Magic Kingdom. We had a blast picking out our costumes and playing dress- up for the evening in our favorite place on earth. We encourage you to dress up; it adds something more to the night.

The fun surprises around each corner can sneak up on you or just be something you happen upon. Keep your eyes open for ghosts that walk the park, that talk up a good game in front of the Haunted Mansion, or who walk the Riverboat with their lanterns.

The last PRO is the picture opportunities. Unless you are getting married at WDW, it’s rare to be able to see the infamous Cinderella Carriage. During this evening, the Carriage can be found next to “It’s a Small World” and you can get your picture taken in front of it. No, you cannot sit inside it, but it’s still pretty cool getting your pic with it in your costume. Get in line for it before 7 p.m. and you will have a short line- wait until later and you could wait up to an hour for it.

The Cons:

Well, let’s talk about the obvious one first. The cost to get into the party is close to a full park’s day admission. For those who have already purchased an Annual Pass, or for most of us bought a package where each day is covered for admission, the extra cost is a bit much.  If you are a local or in town for a couple of days, the party ticket is well worth it. You get hours in the park to hit the rides AND enjoy the party, so choose wisely.

The party isn’t about the candy. What I mean by that is don’t go into it thinking you are going to get your money’s worth in full-size Snickers bars and packs of M&M’s. Yes, you will get candy, but they are the small snack size and depending on the day you go, sometimes they are generous and sometimes not. If you go into it thinking the candy is a bonus, you will be just fine.

When visiting during the party dates, it can mess up your plans a bit. They close the Magic Kingdom for only the party guests, so you have to make sure to plan accordingly for another park or activity the party night you do not attend.  Be prepared for which ever park has Extra Magic Hours the evening of the parties will also be quite busy; choose from the other two to avoid the crowds.

My overall feeling on the MNSSHP is this- it’s great if you have the time and money. If you are short on time, you may feel rushed to do all of the activities and the rides, so my best advice is to talk over the pros and cons with your family and make the best decision for your family.

Have a great time and boo to you!!

 

Getting the Best Bite for your Buck.

“I’m so rumbly, in my tumbly… I’d be grateful, for a plateful….”  We have all had that happen to us, enjoying our park day and your stomach starts to talk.  Today we thought we would break down what plans Walt Disney World offers for their Dining Plan and how you can get the best bite for your buck!

Walt Disney World offers three dining plans as options with the Magic Your Way package. The three plans available are: Quick Service, Standard, and Deluxe.

Let’s break down the cost of each plan and what it includes (Costs are approx for 2010):

  • Quick Service Dining Plan
    • Cost:
      • $31.99 per adult, per night
      • $9.99 per child (3 – 9) per night
    • Includes:
      • 2 Quick Service meals (per person , per night)
        • Entrée or Combo
        • Dessert
        • Non Alcoholic Drink
      • 2 snacks (per person, per night)
      • 1 refillable mug, (per person
  • Standard Dining Plan
    • Cost (Tiered based upon season):
      • $42 – $47 per adult, per night
      • $12 – $13 per child (3 – 9) per night
    • Includes:
      • 1 Table Service Meal per person, per night
        • Buffet or Entrée meal
        • Dessert
        • Non Alcoholic Drink
      • 1 Quick Service Meal per person, per night
        • Entrée or Combo
        • Dessert
        • Non Alcoholic Drink
      • 1 Snack per person, per night
  • Deluxe Dining Plan
    • Cost:
      • $72 per adult, per night
      • $21 per child (3 – 9) per night
    • Includes:
      • 3 Meals (Table or Quick Service) – (per person, per night)
        • Buffet or Entrée Meal
        • Appetizer
        • Dessert
        • Non Alcoholic Drink
      • 2 Snacks (per person, per night)
      • 1 refillable resort mug per person

Example of cost:

  • Family of 4 using the Quick Service Dining Plan (two adults, one 17 year old, one 8 year old)
  • Total cost for 7 night vacation would be approx $750.00 (or about $107 a day)
  • Total credits:  56 Quick Service credits, 56 Snack Credits

Quick Service credits can be used at most all counter service establishments in the parks and in the resort hotels. A counter service restaurant is typically where you would order your food at a counter, and carry your food back to your table. Table Service credits can be used at most ‘Sit Down’ restaurants inside the parks and at the resort hotels. A Table service restaurant is typically where you are seated and someone comes to your table to place your order, and returns with your meal(s). You can use Table Service credits at many of the Character Meals. Some special meals require using two credits per person, such as the ‘Hoop De Do Review’ and ‘California Grill’. A complete list of which counter and table service credits can be used at which restaurants is available at www.waltdisneyworld.com

Our first experience with the Dining Plan was during a promotion in September 2008 – we were offered the Standard Dining Plan (One table and one Quick Service) for free as an upgrade with our ‘Magic Your Way Package’. This offer is now common during the times around late August and September. If you are planning a trip around that time, it is a great way to get a feel for the plan without spending the money.

On our next family trip in 2009, we decided that we liked the plan so much and the convenience it offered, that we added the Quick Service plan to our package at our own cost. It was so nice to know that all our meals were paid for before we left. The only cost we had to worry about was any souvenirs!

Like anything, there are many pro’s and con’s that you will need to consider before making the decision yourself regarding the Dining Plan. Here are just a few:

Pro’s of Magic Your Way Dining Plan:

  1. All your meal expenses will be paid for before you leave home.
  2. Allows family members the freedom of choosing what they want for their meal without having to worry about cost.
  3. Easier to manage your meals – every receipt has a credit balance that tells you exactly what is left for your entire family.
  4.  Depending upon your eating habits, it can save your entire family money in the long run.
  5. Having snack credits (1 or 2 per person, per day depending upon the plan) is very, very convenient when you are walking through the parks at mid day in 90 degree heat. You can walk up to a snack cart and simply swipe your card for an ice cold drink or ice cream.

Con’s of Magic Your Way Dining Plan

  1. Unless you would normally eat an entrée, dessert, and drink during at least two meals every day – you may not be saving money, you may possibly spend more.
  2. You need to have a good idea of where you want to eat well in advance. This is especially true with the plans that include Table Service credits. Advance Dining Reservations are highly recommended for Table Service meals, and need to be made 180 days prior to arrival if at all possible.
  3. Having an ADR each day can limit your flexibility. If you have a reservation in one park for a given day, you are either going to have stick with that park, unless you have park hoppers, or you are going to risk not getting seating at another location in different park because you did not have the ADR set up.
  4. Unless you would plan on eating one to two snacks per person every day, you might not see the savings.
  5. If you plan on going offsite for any partial or full days, and eating at that off site location, you will end up spending out of pocket for that meal(s) and either have to eat an extra meal on property to use that credit, or not use that credit, and end up losing money.

After our family weighed the pro’s and con’s, along with our eating habits, we found that we would not save money by using the dining plan. Since the cost difference was not very large, and having our meals paid for with our package before we arrived for our vacation outweighed the cost difference, we now plan to add the Dining Package to each of our vacations.

If you have any other questions about the dining plan or if it would be a good fit for you – feel free to ask away.

What Walt Disney World First Timers Need To Know

The package has been paid, the luggage is packed, and all that lies between you and your beloved Walt Disney World is a good night’s sleep.  Before you leave home, here are a few tips Carl and I have picked up over the years to assure your trip goes as smooth as possible.

It’s easy in this debit card age to rarely ever have cash on you. This is key from the time you arrive at the airport or hop into your car to drive over.  Cash will be needed at the airport for vending machines,  alcoholic beverages, tips, and food kiosks.  If you are driving, don’t forget cash for tolls and small side stops.  Make sure to also budget money in general for not only gas to and from home, but also for driving around the WDW area.

Yes, your package covered the cost of you room, but there are some hidden costs to be made aware of.  Every time you pick up that phone to dial outside of your Resort, you will be charged-even if you use a pre-paid phone card, you will still be charged. (Found this out the hard way).  If you are staying at a Value Resort, you will be charged over $10 a night to rent a fridge for your room.  Keep in mind the costs to wash your own clothes at the Laundromat or having it sent out as well.  Tips for valet, bellhops, and mousekeepers are also necessary and in cash.

Before even deciding on the Disney Dining Plan, weigh the pros and cons of how much you will be eating.  I know with the deluxe dining is not only A LOT of food, but you also are now under quite the daily event of making and getting to your Advanced Dining Reservation’s each day. Some don’t like this because you have to make sure you are in the right park, area, resort where your ADR is.  Even with the Quick Service Dining Plan, we were eating a desert with each and every meal and honestly, we just don’t do that at home. We were getting fuller faster, each day of our vacation, it was a lot to eat.  With so many stories of people having snack credits left over at the end of their trip, it doesn’t seem like it was worth the money.  Write down your favorite things to eat, places you would like to try, characters your kids would like to eat with, and see from there what you come up with to make sure the DDP is worth the money to you.

While packing at home, don’t forget the essentials that will save you money, time, and hassle in the end.  Buy rain ponchos, light-up toys, water-proof camera, first-aid kit, batteries, spray-fans, film, suntan lotion, medicines, blister preventions, gum, sunglasses and anything else you can think of in your home town before you leave.  These items are extremely costly inside the parks and gum cannot even be purchased on WDW property. Invest in comfortable foot wear for your trip. Bring tennis shoes to cushion the long days, flip-flops for around the pool

Disney Transportation is a very nice thing to have, just not the most punctual when you really need to get somewhere fast.  Give yourself an hour or more when you need to get to dining reservations and you are taking a bus, boat, or monorail.  Most newcomers think that if you have a 1:30 reservation, that getting on the bus at 1:00 is plenty of time- in a perfect world, it would be.  But because of other stops that they do make, you just can’t count on any short amount of time. Always better to be early than late.

On our first trip, we saw a lovely family in matching t-shirts and inquired on how and where they got them. We never heard “Here at WDW” but many other places instead. If you would like to share the “matching magic” with the family, check out your local Disney Outlet store or the Disney Store online and purchase/try them on before you go.  We have tried to do wear the same shirts at least one day every trip and have always received a great reaction.

Beware of impulse buying-this is a hard one for many! Something in the water at WDW makes us pay $10 for a hot dog that we would never spend more than $2 for at home. So why do we do it? Well, you get caught up in the magic.  I see no problem with enjoying the magic, but you can keep a lot more green in your wallet if you make sure to follow some simple tips.

  • Buy Disney trading pins online at Ebay- sold in lots, these are a great deal and usually have lots of repeats which helps your kids or yourself want to trade them for something else
  • Ride pictures can be expensive, but you want to remember the moment. Take your own camera and take a picture of your snapshot on the monitor if you cannot afford to buy it. Hopefully WDW will eventually apply ride photos to the photopass system.  (although there are some, like Test Track that will place your ride photo on your photo pass card.
  • Share meals and snacks to cut down on costs. Buy one water bottle in the morning and refill it throughout the day.
  • Carry in small snacks in your backpack or purse to cut down the costs of snacks.
  • Buy donut holes or pop-tarts for the resort room for breakfast and save lots of money and time eating in the room in the morning.

Last but not least, learn this- YOU WILL NEVER SEE IT ALL IN ONE TRIP. The best of the best Disney fans can attest to this, it is nearly impossible to do.  Do what you really want to, and let everything else fall into place. No matter when you are going, have a wonderful trip!

What the Walt Disney World Brochure Doesn’t Tell You

Did you know that there is so much more than the Disney parks? I know, I was just as surprised as you were! After much investigation, Carl and I found a new world inside Walt Disney World that had treasures that only by the best word of mouth would you ever really know exists.  Here is what we found to be the best of the best hidden treasures.

The Beach Club Resort has the sweetest little ice cream shop called “Beaches N’ Cream.”  The yummiest dessert lives here that many a Disney fan has braved after a long day at the Parks…it is known as “The Kitchen Sink.”  It is LITERALLY a small kitchen sink that has ice cream with every topping known to man on it.  We enjoyed sharing this between the kids and us, and the pictures are priceless. This is a must to do at least once. Bring your appetite!

Unless you are staying at the Fort Wilderness Campground, you probably didn’t even know our next one exists.  The Campfire Sing-a-long is one of those awesome discoveries on a night you need to just relax and get out of the hustle and bustle of the park crowds.  You find yourself a bench, purchase a simple Smores package sold at the area, roast some marshmallows over the fire, and join the sing-a-long with the singer and her back up chipmunks (Chip and Dale).  Once your vocal chords are warmed up, its dusk and time to watch the movie of the evening.  The benches aren’t the comfiest, so you are welcome to bring blankets and such to sit on the ground as an alternative.  I promise it will be one of those family moments you won’t forget.

Have some extra time on your hands? Why not take a DVC tour, which is available through a DVC agent at each Disney Resort, usually located at their own kiosk in the lobby.  We were signed up for an afternoon tour, around 2:00 p.m.  A Disney van picked us up and took us too Saratoga Springs.  Childcare was provided, along with a beeper so that they could contact us at anytime, we were never that far from them.  After the tour, we enjoyed free ice cream treats and were given free quick service dinner vouchers for anywhere in WDW.  It was a great tour of a beautiful resort we would not have otherwise visited. We didn’t sign up to be DVC members at the time, but were given a wonderful couple of hours.

Where the Wild Thing Are…you could say that about our next treasure. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is amazing in itself, but did you know that visiting this place, it’s like seeing Africa for free? That’s right, upon further investigation, we found that there are public balconies on several of the floors of AKL that allow you to sit in rocking chairs and enjoy the animals on the Lodge savannah.  At night they have a campfire that you can sit around and listen to storytellers spin their yarns. An amazing time!

If you love fireworks like we do, they are even better sitting on a romantic beach watching them. The Polynesian Resort beach has a spectacular view of “Wishes” along with the music piped in so you feel very much a part of it. Before the fireworks start, get there early enough to catch the Electrical Water Pageant that circles the Seven Seas Lagoon after dusk.

Another hidden gem is the small food area towards the back of the Grand Floridian. Grab a small snack and relax at one of the table and chairs outside on the patio. We had an incredible view of the Castle, the monorail, and the waterfront. We took some great pictures here.

Disney’s Monorail System may be an obvious treasure, but some don’t realize how nice of a ride this can be.  We love to park at Epcot, board the monorail, and take a round trip ride to the Magic Kingdom and back.  During the middle of the day, the monorail is pretty empty, so it’s a lot of fun to get a car to yourself and some great photo opportunities here.

We found out early on that you can resort hop without any cost to you.  Find a Disney resort bus at any park and just ride over.  There is so much to enjoy at different resorts, but, I want to point out that pool hopping is NOT permitted unless you are staying at a sister resort.  Try out the beaches, playgrounds, food courts, and you may even be able to check out a room for a future visit.

Last but not least, while you are enjoying ‘Soarin’ someone is making up your room to look like the first day you walked in. These magical people are known as “Mousekeepers.”  They make up little animals on the beds called “towel animals” for you to enjoy when you get back.  The better the tip, the better the room and animals can be.  Thank you cards and notes are always appreciated as well.  We love the “Mousekeepers.”

What hidden treasures at WDW have you found? Let us know! Have a magical day!

~Carl and Ellie Peters~