Disney Planning Time.

If you want to go to Disney World for Spring Break and meet the Princesses now is the time to start booking!

I just discovered that if I want Emily to meet her favorite princess, Cinderella, I have to book the breakfast 90-180 days.  As if we needed more stress!   This morning we talked to my friend, Mechelle, to help you navigate the planning process and actually enjoy it!  Click here for her notes on Disneyworld Planning.


Extreme Makeover Home Edition in town

Extreme Makeover Home Edition needs your help in D.C. today.  They have two projects in town and are building 7,000 square feet total this week!  We talked to the lead builder on the site today on the show.  He needs framers TODAY!  If you can do that, or know someone who can…just show up at 49th and Lee in NE D.C., park at Houston Elementary School and BRING YOUR TOOLS!   They also will need drywall help tomorrow.  For information on how to help and even become a spectator click here!

Today’s Positive Thoughts

Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.

Good work and good companions are the building blocks of self-esteem.

Above all be of single aim; have a legitimate and useful purpose, and devote yourself unreservedly to it.

Good work and good companions are the building blocks of self-esteem.

The mode by which the inevitable comes to pass is effort.

Ability hits the mark where presumption overshoots and diffidence falls short.

MY DISNEY NOTES
By Mechelle Coppock
LODGING
Stay On Property
Of all the things to make your vacation, this is the one thing that can make or break your vacation (in my opinion.) There are many, many reasons. Just to name a few only available to Resort guests:
Disney’s Magical Express (free transport from MCO airport to resort)
Extra Magic Hours (hours prior to “opening” time and after “closing” time when the park is open to resort guests only)
Disney Transportation (within the World)
Proximity to Parks
Resort Themes
Castmember service
Disney TV service
Purchases delivered from Parks to your Resort
The Key to World (room key, park ticket, charging privileges, etc.)
This is a wonderful tool. It is the only thing you need to carry around. No cash, no credit cards, no keys. This card is accepted everywhere throughout the World (some exceptions at Downtown Disney) even if you just want a bottle of water or an ice cream bar. The castmembers know that these are the most convenient for guests, so they don’t mind at all. It’s also great because the cards are numbered, so you can get a report itemized by card# so you can split up expenses. You also know where you spent your $. This was great when we traveled with my parents and also with my husband’s extended family. It’s so refreshing to not have to worry about carrying stuff and keeping track of valuables. I just have a travel wallet that I could put through my belt. My cell phone fit inside and with my Key to World, I was set. You can also get a new card from any guest services(Parks or Resort) in case you lose one. Everyone in the party has a Key to the World, but you select who has charging privileges.
When we arrive in Orlando, and we drive under the Disneyworld arch, the real world fades away. I have had to drive off property a few times to go the grocery store, Dr.’s, etc. We once tried to drive off property to go to a restaurant. HUGE MISTAKE. The crowds are unfathomable, the service is lousy (or just seems like it because all the nice people work at Disney), the neon everywhere is garish (compared to the lush ambience of Disney). If I can have my entire trip without having to leave Disney property until we go to the airport, it’s a great success! I have enjoyed every Disney resort I’ve stayed in. I’ve stayed in the following resorts:
Beach Club Villa’s
Boardwalk Villa’s
Contemporary
Coronado Springs
Port Orleans Riverside
Port Orleans French Quarter
Old Key West
Saratoga Springs
Yacht Club
The Villas are Vacation Club Properties. These offer studios, 1, 2 & 3 bedroom units. These have a full kitchen and laundry facilities in the unit. Priced from Disney, these are prohibitively expensive. The Disney Vacation Club is a time share program.  People buy into the program at a certain “point” level and they use their points to rent rooms or villas at Disney or they can trade out of the system.  There are people who regularly rent their Vacation Points, and they do this through several reputable websites. This is a much easier way to use points.   Our 2nd trip back in 2002, we booked a 2 bedroom at Old Key West for 9 nights through AAA. It was expensive, but doable. It would have been much more reasonable to rent a members points.
The following is a website that has a rent/trade board. You can learn a lot by spending a couple of weeks reading the posts. They are very helpful! Their other forums are very informative. http://www.disboards.com/forumdisplay.php?f=29
When you stay on points, there are a few differences than paying cash. With points, you don’t get maid service every day. If you are staying one week, you get a trash and towel service on day four. If you are staying longer than a week, you get a trash and towel on day 4 with a full clean on day 7.) I could have my days off but it’s something like that.
I would not use points to stay in a regular room. The cash prices (or Disney specials) are usually a better deal.
PARKS
Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom
Plan on visiting all the Parks. Each park is unique and has wonderful things to offer every visitor of every age. Yes even EPCOT can be fun for kids. Certainly age plays into which park is the favorite, but you will certainly be missing out if you skip a park all together.
I hear a lot of people who are planning say “Hollywood Studios is just for Teenagers” then you would miss Toy Story Mania (every age loves it!), Star Tours, Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground, Lights Motors Action, Muppets 3-D, Indiana Jones, great shows, etc.
Others think Epcot is only for Adults, they miss Soarin (awesome!), Kimpossible Adventure, Innoventions, Spaceship Earth, Mission Space, great restaurants & Illuminations each night, not to mention the Kidcot stops at each country.
I’ve had a friend tell me that they’ve been to many zoos so they didn’t need to go to Animal Kingdom. They couldn’t be further from the truth. Animal Kingdom is Natazu. They miss out on Live ethnic performances, Dinosaur (ride), Kilamanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest, Kali River rapids, Africa, Asia, Dinoland, Discovery Island, etc.
Each Disney resort has a tv channel devoted to the Disney’s top attractions, it certainly shows the variety of activities.
FASTPASSES
Use them, love them.
This is an electronic queuing system.  You use your park pass at the rides Fastpass Distribution Center.  It will assign you a time window to return to the ride and you go directly into the Fastpass line which is usually under 10 minutes.  At the bottom of your Fastpass ticket, you will see a statement telling you when you can get your next fastpass.  It is usually the time that Fastpass become valid; however, early in the day or if the park is unusually quiet you can hold more than one Fastpass at a time.  Also, the time window is a suggested time.  You will not be allowed on the ride prior to your assigned time, but you can use your fastpass any time after that, even if the 1 hour window has expired.  They are only good for that day.  They are only good for one admission.  You will surrender them to the Castmember to queue for the ride.
TICKETS
Your park passes are going to be half of your vacation expense. Disney wants you to stay longer, so you basically pay all your ticket costs in the first 4 days. If you’ve gotten all the way to Orlando, stay as long as you can. A 4 day Park hopper is $269/per person. A 10 day Park hopper is $287, so for $18 more you get 6 more days. I always cringe when people tell me they are going to Disney for 3-4 days. It seems like such a waste. You also don’t feel as rushed, when you know you can come back to a park on a different day. Then you can enjoy the resort and other Disney offerings.
I think the Website now calls tickets “Magic Your Way” you can then add a Park Hopper option, Water Park fun and More option and No Expiration option. I would strongly recommend the Park Hopper option. It really allows you to set your own schedule and not feel the need to do everything when you are in a Park. When you have a Park Hopper, you feel free to roam the World.
Water Parks & More
I also recommend the Waterpark Fun & More option. There are 2 great parks; Typhoon Lagoon & Blizzard Beach.  This one is a little more of a personal preference, but we love spending part of a day just enjoying the waterparks. They are great! Truly fun & relaxing. Often times, we will start the day in one park (maybe finishing up some rides or attractions we missed the first time) head to the waterpark (most often closes around 5 pm) then back to the room to clean up and then off to another park to finish our evening. We can be back to room and in bed by 10, exhausted but content.
We also enjoy DisneyQuest, included with this option. It is located at Downtown Disney. If you have any gamers in your family, it’s a GREAT place to spend some time, especially if you get a rainy day. It is 7 floors of virtual Amusement Park. We’ve been 2 – 3 times, and really enjoyed ourselves. There is plenty for kids of most ages (although Renee didn’t really enjoy it until she was about 3)
DINING
There are many wonderful restaurants at Disney. They have recently changed their reservations system, so now you can only book 90 days in advance. They used to be 180. This is 90 days from the first day of your trip, so you can make your reservations for your entire stay in one call. You will need reservations for any Table Service meal. Occasionally, I hear of people being able to walk up to the Host/ess and get a table, but more often it is disgust or dismay on the part of the guest when they hear that the wait will be one hour+ or no availability at all. Look through the restaurant offerings on both Disney’s site and on Allears.net. Allears keeps their menu listings up to date. Pick the ones you would like to try and make a list. By 90 days out, Disney will have their park hours published and that will include which parks have Extra Magic Hours. This will help you create your basic plan of where you are going to be on each day.
Here is my recommendation, create a spreadsheet of your stay including breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day, including what park you would like to focus on that day. Have a #1 & #2 restaurant option for each table service meal you want, along with a time preference. Have this all detailed out before you call Disney dining. (407-wdw-dine). They will try their best to accommodate your requests, but flexibility is the key. Fill in the reservation # on your spreadsheet. Take this sheet with you to Disney, then you know where you’re supposed to be at what time.
Character Dining
Don’t underestimate the power or appeal of Disney Characters. The Character dining experiences are really fun for children and adults. The only exception would be if you have a child afraid of characters.
Buffets
These are great especially with kids. We have never had a bad experience. If you time it right, the buffet can cover 2 meals, like breakfast at 9:30 or 10 ( a banana & granola bar will tide the kiddos over.) or a late lunch/early dinner. Even the more unusual restaurants (like BOMA, which we LOVE) have something for the pickiest kids. There was one vacation when we were convinced that Sarah was going to turn into a chicken nugget.
Counter Service
These are everywhere, and the food is decent but it is typical amusement park food and the prices are what you would expect.   However, Epcot World Showcase counter service restaurants are an exception to this rule.  They can be truly exceptional.  The Fish & Chips in England are quite good & the Shwarma in Morocco is scrumptious.
Disney Dining Plan
I think they have a new name for it, but I can’t remember. We have used the Dining Plan and we enjoyed it for a few reason, but we do not usually use it.
The Pros: upfront cost ( you know what you are going to spend) and most of the more expensive restaurants still count as one table service meal (we tried more restaurants this way.) The DP also includes dessert, so you have decide if that’s a pro or a con. Here’s the Disney link for info on the dining plan: http://adisneyworld.disney.go.com/media/wdw/images2003/languagespecific/eng/nontheme/tickets/2009Dining.pdf
The Cons: It’s a use it or lose it system. If you don’t use all your snacks before you leave, you are not credited. As we usually stay in a DVC villa, we usually only eat out 1 meal per day, so we can eat for cheaper than the Dining Plan especially as both of my older children are 10 & over now and are the full fare. ($39.99/per adult per day + $10.99 per 3-9 yr old per day. For us that’s $180/day) When the kids were little it was a great deal for us, but we usually can do better than this. Also, the last three years we have gone during Daren’s business trip in April. His meals are paid for during the 4 days of the meeting, so we couldn’t do the Dining Plan as all members of your party must be enrolled for the entire trip.
Downtown Disney(DDD)
There are some great restaurants at DDD, but many will not take your Key to the World card. You will need your credit card.
We usually plan on one table service meal per day, one counter service per day & one meal in the room.
Groceries
There are several ways to get groceries while at Disney. There is a grocery store near Disney (Goodings), but it’s WAY expensive. If you are driving to WDW, just google PUBLIX and find one to stop at on your way. If you are in a standard room, there should be a small refrigerator in your room. If you are in a 1 bedroom villa, or larger, you have a full kitchen. You can have groceries delivered by several different internet services for a reasonable fee.  I think Allears.net has links to some services. We have some friends who just call for a taxi and have one adult head to PUBLIX while the others go and enjoy the parks. You can take packed lunches, drinks and snacks into the park.
Other
Other asides, if you have kids 6 & younger (or any youngsters that you know get tired easily) plan on renting or bringing a stroller. This will make your visit so much less stressful. The little ones don’t get as tired, you can keep track of them in a crowd and you have someplace to stash your backpack full of drinks & snacks (which also help keep the little one going.) If they fall asleep, then you just roll them around and everyone else keeps having fun. Disney has recently replaced their strollers and I’ve heard they are smaller than the old ones, but they are still handy. You only have to rent one per day (you can rent them for your entire visit, but you need to keep track of your receipt to claim a stroller each day. You don’t take the stroller from Park to Park, but you take your receipt and you get a stroller at the new park. Say you are at the back of Magic Kingdom (MK) in Toontown. You want to take the train to another part of the park, so you take your nametag out of your stroller grab your stuff park the stroller at the indicated spot, get on the train, when you get off the train you can pick up another stroller that someone else left. If there is no nametag in the sleeve, it’s available. Obviously if you take your own stroller, you have to fold it up and take it everywhere with you, but you don’t have to remove a sleeping child at the exit of the park.
Medical
Everyone of my family members has spent time sick at Disney. Oh well. There is a first aid center at each park. There is also a clinic just off Disney property. They are pretty busy, but convenient. I think there is a new urgent care somewhere close too, but I don’t know about it. Here’s the catch. There is a pharmacy attached to the clinic. They don’t bill insurance and they are expensive. $50+ for amoxicillin. You’re on vacation, so you just swallow it right? WRONG. Less than a mile down the road is a Walgreens. They bill insurance. Go there.
Babies
It is so easy to take babies to Disney. Every park has wonderful nursing rooms. MK’s is the best, you feel like you’re in the sitting room of Lady & the Tramp! They have these wonderful things called “Rider Swaps” One adult is hanging with baby while others get to take the kiddos on the ride. Not much fun for baby minder, so you go to the Castmember at the Fastpass check-in with baby in tow and ask for a rider swap. Then Adult 1 gets to ride with the kids then switch with Adult 2 and Adult 2 gets to ride with the kids and share the experience. Kids get to ride twice, everyone’s happy. This works really for any child that is either too small or does not want to ride a particular ride. Disney wants every guest to be able to enjoy these experiences with their kids.  You go through the Fastpass line with the Rider Swap pass.
Castmembers
Castmembers are human, but sometimes they seem superhuman. You will have some wonderful interactions with the castmembers; however, occasionally one has a bad day. Try to remember that. I have seen some guests get really pushy and rude with castmembers, and there is really no reason for it. If you are polite and considerate, they will go above and beyond the call of duty to help you. If you ever have any questions, please ask a castmember. Some of the most magical encounters begin with a question. A castmember struck up a conversation with  my Dad in Magic Kingdom, and soon asked him if he would report back to Town Square at 5 p.m.(?) and be part of the Honorary Color Guard to retire the flag that night. How cool was that? Most of the Parade Grande Marshall’s are selected through conversations with Castmembers. Talk to them, they are an undervalued resource for guests.
God Bless You and Yours,
Mechelle
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