Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Itinerary

Some of you are like my husband, and want to go to Disney World and just do whatever you feel like doing.  It's vacation, right?  Others of you are like me and have every single minute of every single day planned out so you don't miss a thing.  Well, for us, we have to compromise and do something in-between, but for those of you who are like me, today I am sharing my itinerary.

You don't HAVE to have an itinerary for a Disney trip.  I just find it helps me keep track of the things I want/need to remember, like dining reservations, tips, character greeting times, shows, etc.  Most of the planning sheets I've seen are in excel, but I don't like excel, so mine is in word.  :)

Our 2011 Disney Vacation!


Magic Kingdom
Hollywood Studios
Magic Kingdom
7 am

Breakfast at resort
Breakfast at resort
Bus to MK
8 am
8:10 Chef Mickey’s
Confirmation #403381209004
Bus to Epcot

Bus to Epcot

9 am
Castle: Sit on the stone ledge on the side of the castle, you will hear Stitch giggle and tell you to be quiet because he's hiding. Notice the color of the step sister's faces in the mosiac
9:25 Akershus
Confirmation #403381211441
Head to HS and Toy Story Mania
Future World
Head straight for Soarin

(Tomorrowland)Look for the Galaxy Gazette Hawker between the entrances to Astro and Transit. Stand in front of him to get insulted.
10 am
Family Magic Tour
City Hall

Voyage of the Little Mermaid
Disney Junior?
The Seas
Test Track

11 am

11:30 Beauty and the Beast
World Showcase
Kim Possible

12 pm
Lunch at Pecos Bill’s
Back to Hotel
Lunch at Pizza Planet
Lunch at Liberty Inn
Lunch at Cosmic Ray’s
1 pm
Adventureland: Carpets: Ride halfway to get hit by the Camel spit. Stand on the wet spots on the pavement outside the ride to get wet too!
Lunch at Resort
Muppet Vision
Honey I Shrunk the Kids
Mulan (China)- 11am to 6pm
Back to Hotel
2 pm
Frontierland: BTMR:Take off your hat! Each of the 6 trains has an engine and 5 cars. For the "wildest ride" request a seat in the back rows. For tamer rides, request a seat in the front of the train. Look at the second floor of the saloon for a party!

Mexico Donald - 1:20 - 5:45 pm.

3 pm
Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade
Registration at Indy Racing
Pixar Pals Parade
Watch near American Idol Entrance
Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet and Tigger and Alice. Be sure to visit The Toy Shop for more characters! (UK)
Back to MK

4 pm
Liberty Square Area:  Look for the wooden crates at the entrance that represent the Boston Tea Party. Look for the brown pavement that represents the sewer that flowed through the streets.
Look for the 2 lanterns in the window across from the Haunted Mansion
Indy Racing Experience
Back to Hotel
DVRC Meet & Greet
Character greetings at Town Square Theater (to the right as you enter).  FASTPASSes are available just past TST before Chapeau.
5 pm
Dream Along With Mickey (5:15)

Dinner at Yakitori House
6 pm
Dinner at Pinnochio Village Haus
Dinner at Downtown Disney?
Head over to line for Fantasmic
11:30 - 6:30 (France) Princess Aurora, Belle (and the Beast sometimes), and even Esmerelda and Marie- in one of the shops in France (behind the perfume shop, I think), you can find the Beast's library. Look for the little area behind the bookstore. That is where the characters come out!

7 pm
Back to Resort

12:15 - 7 pm.  (Morocco) Aladdin, Jasmine,
Dinner at Casey’s Corner
8 pm

9 pm


Main Street Electrical Parade
10 pm

back to resort


I hope this helps you as you're planning your own Disney trip.  If it does, let me know!  If it doesn't, you can let me know that, too!  :)

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Wondering if you might be able to get a discount on your Walt Disney World vacation?  The answer is YES!  I have never been to Disney World without some sort of discount.  That being said, the rumor is, they will be releasing fewer discounts than they have in recent history because bookings have increased.  Nevertheless, there are still discounts being offered, and you can take advantage of them!  Disney's current special offers can be found here on the website.  To get an idea about when a special offer might come along for the dates you're planning, take a look here on the website to see when discounted rates have been released in the past.

Disney also has something called a bounceback offer, where you can book your next vacation while you're on the current one.  You can look for these offers in resort hotel rooms.  These offers can only be booked, though, while on your current vacation.  There are no exceptions.

Also, if you are planning a Disney vacation, make sure you become a member of their website, as they periodically send out special "code" offers by email.  To get these offers, you have to have the PIN you were emailed.  Likewise, these offers may be sent out to members of anyone who has an account with the Disney store, Disney Rewards Visa, or has requested the free vacation planning dvd.  Let them know you're interested, and you might get just the discount you were hoping for!

So don't feel overwhelmed by prices when you look into a Disney World vacation!  You can make it happen!  So start planning!

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Resort Hopping

Did you know that it is perfectly okay to resort-hop at Disney World?  If you're staying at a value resort, but you're just dying to check out a deluxe, hop on over!  You are welcome to explore any resort at the world while you're there, just not the pools!  Each resort has its own special atmosphere and you are welcome to come take part in the activities at any resort during your stay.  You can go to each resort's webpage and click on the tab that says recreation to see some options.  Here is one example at the Fort Wilderness Resort.  Likewise, if you want to try a restaurant at a different resort than the one you're staying, go for it!  Just don't forget that if it's table service, you'll probably need to make advance reservations.  So as you're planning your trip to Disney World, don't forget that you can check out some of the great amenities at some of the more high-priced resorts without breaking your budget! 

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Monday, July 25, 2011

Character Dining

If you have a kid like mine, character dining is a necessity at Disney World.  My daughter's goal each trip is to fill every, single page in her autograph book with autographs of characters.  We spend hours chasing characters around and waiting in lines to get an autograph.  Character dinners are wonderful because we get to sit down and have a nice meal, and the characters come to us! 

Character dinners can be expensive, but are included if you get the regular dining plan.  If you aren't on the dining plan, character dinners usually run around $100 for a family of four, but it completely depends on the meal.  On our last vacation we spent about $150 (tip included) for a princess breakfast at Akershus.  But I used my Disney Rewards Visa rewards to pay for it, so it didn't seem so bad.  And it was totally worth it because I can't imagine the lines we'd have had to wait in to meet all those princesses!

Our favorite character meal is Chef Mickey's.  We usually visit Chef Mickey's on a day we plan to visit Magic Kingdom because it is at the Contemporary and we can just ride the monorail right back to Magic Kingdom when we're done.  Chef Mickey's is great because you get to meet all the Disney "classic" characters:  Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald.  They come around to your table while you're eating and take all the time you want signing autographs, taking pictures, and just having a good time.  Chef Mickey's is a buffet, with delicious choices for breakfast or dinner.  We love the food here because there's something for everyone. 

If you have someone in your family who is into the princesses, a princess dining experience is a must.  Cinderella's Royal Table at the Cinderella castle is a favorite, but counts as 2 table service credits on your dining plan, and if you're not on the dining plan can be quite expensive.  It is definitely a unique experience that your little princess will love, but we chose Akershus Storybook Dining instead.  This is at Epcot, and includes several princesses.  We met Ariel, Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, and Mary Poppins.  I'm not sure why Mary Poppins was at the princess breakfast, but it was good to meet her anyway.  :)

If you have a Wonderland fan in your family, you can meet Alice and her Wonderland friends at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian.  This is another monorail resort where you can ride straight back to the Magic Kingdom.  Winnie the Pooh fans can meet their favorites at The Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom.  You can also meet Chip and Dale and friends at the Garden Grill at Epcot, and Goofy and pals at Cape May at the Beach Club resort.  'Ohana is a unique experience that takes place at the Polynesian resort (another monorail resort!), and breakfast features Lilo and Stitch!   Disney Junior fans can meet their favorite characters at Hollywood and Vine at Hollywood Studios.  And for another truly unique dining experience, dine on African-style favorites at Tusker House at Animal Kingdom, and enjoy breakfast with Donald and his friends!

There are tons of choices when it comes to character dining at Disney World, and each one is special!  Don't miss out on this experience!  The food is delicious, and the interaction with characters is priceless.  You will make memories here that your family will treasure for years to come!

Do you have a favorite character dining experience?  I'd love to hear about it! 

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Did You Know?

Today's tip is just a little FYI...If you're planning your upcoming trip to Disney World and you're wondering which attractions are best for your family (this is especially helpful if you have young children), did you know that you can find videos of most of the attractions on YouTube?  Check it out beforehand and see if it's right for you! 

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tips and Tricks for Getting the Lowest Price!

I know there are lots of you who say "I would love to take my family to Disney World, I just can't afford it."  You are the reason I started this blog!  People say that to me all the time and it is my goal to let you know you CAN afford Disney World!  Here are some ways I do it:

First off, I have the Chase Disney Rewards Visa card.  Now I'm not a huge fan of credit cards, but I use this one to buy stuff like gas and groceries and stuff, and I pay it off every month.  It is not a great rewards program, but it does have some perks.  There are two reasons why I love this card.  One, because I save up my rewards points and use them for spending money at Disney World, and two, because you get 0% APR financing for 6 months, so I get 6 months to pay off my Disney trip, which helps.  There are also some theme park perks, like a special character meet and greet for cardmembers only, discounted tours, and a complimentary 5x7 photo!

Second, choose your days wisely.  When staying at a Disney resort, weeknights are cheaper than weekdays.  Also, some times of year are cheaper than others.  Spring Break, Mid-summer, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are some of the most expensive times to visit, so if you can plan your trip away from those times, you can get some great discounts.

Of course, there are special offers, too.  We have enjoyed free dining for almost all of our Walt Disney World vacations.  These special offers are only available on certain dates, but if you can go during these times, it is SO WORTH IT!  Disney also offers percentage off hotels, and kids stay and play free packages from time to time.  There is also a military discount, which is pretty good.  The special offers are not as plentiful as they have been in the past few years, but they will still release them from time to time, so keep an eye out for those.

If you're not on the dining plan, dine outside of the parks for most of your meals.  If you want to eat somewhere in the parks, do it at breakfast or lunch, when the prices are lower.  We all know restaurant portions are huge, so consider sharing, if you can.  You can also bring drinks and snacks into the parks with you so you don't have to buy them at the park.

And there are always ways to save, like staying off-site, dining off-site, and buying tickets from a discount site.  All of those are options if that's what works for your family, but I do recommend the Disney World vacation package if you can swing it!  We have always chosen a vacation package, and have been able to book for a family of four (including resort, park tickets, and dining) for about $200-$300 per day.  That's about what we'd spend on any other vacation!

Where there is a will, there is a way, when it comes to taking your family on a Disney vacation!  It is a special trip where you'll make magical memories your family will remember forever.  You CAN afford it!  Don't miss out because you think you can't!

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Friday, July 15, 2011

Disney Transportation

While I'm on the subject of pros and cons, let's talk about Disney Transportation.  I'm talking about the free, resort-guest transportation provided by the folks at Disney World.  Again, there are pros and cons, and you have to make up your mind what's best for your family.  I know people who feel strongly about both sides.

Pros:  You get out of your car when you get to your resort, and you don't have to come back to it until you leave (unless you want to, of course)!  If you're a resort guest, this is totally FREE!  Even the transportation is part of the experience:  I love it when the bus gets to the park entrance and the little announcement comes on and says "You are now entering the Magic Kingdom..." and the little magical music fun!  The monorail is just cool, and the ferryboats are a truly unique way to get around the Magic Kingdom area!  It is wonderful when you get ready to leave the park, and you are hot and tired, and you get to that bus stop and board a cool bus ready to take you right back to your resort!  You don't have to worry about finding your car in a huge parking lot, waiting for it to cool off because it's about a thousand degrees inside, fiddling with seatbelts and carseats, etc.  We almost always use Disney Transportation because we love it!

Cons:  Unfortunately, the bus (or monorail, or ferryboat) can't be right there waiting for you when you are ready to go.  Sometimes you have to wait.  Rarely, it's a long wait.  Disney is really working hard to improve these wait times, and on our last trip, we hardly ever had to wait for a bus, but I have had to wait many times before.  Once, after fireworks, we waited over and hour...that was very frustrating.  If you're trying to get to a dining reservation or something, make sure you are very early for your transportation because you may have to wait in line.  And sometimes, you'll have to stand.  They fill those buses/monorails/ferryboats to the max, so if you aren't one of the first ones in, you'll be standing.   Strollers can be a pain if you're using Disney Transportation, because you'll have to fold it up and carry it with you.

So, I guess the pros and cons here pretty much balance out.  You choose for yourself, and let me know what you think!  Did you love Disney Transportation, or do you prefer to leave the driving to yourself?

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Extra Magic Hours

Since I've referenced Extra Magic Hours (EMH) in a few posts, I thought that today I might give some more details on this popular Disney Resort guest perk.  As with most things in life, there are pros and cons for EMH, and I will try to fill you in on some of those today.

Pros:  I love the morning EMH.  Lots of people want to sleep late on vacation, so if I can get up early and be in the park at 8, beating the heat and the crowd, I'm a happy camper.  When I enter the park for morning EMH, I head straight to those most popular attractions, so I can enjoy them without the long wait.  I rarely use the evening EMH because I have a young child, but I can imagine if you can stay out a bit later, many people are watching parades/fireworks and you can enjoy shorter lines at some attractions.  During the actual EMH times, the parks will likely be less crowded, because only Disney Resort guests will be able to enjoy the attractions that are open.

Cons:  During the midday, parks with EMH tend to be even more crowded because many resort guests are there for the EMH, plus the "normal" crowd.  Some planners will tell you to avoid parks with EMH for this reason.  It can also be tedious trying to plan your vacation around EMH, whether you're trying to use them or avoid them.

So to me, all in all, it looks like the pros outweigh the cons.  Granted, I don't plan my vacation around EMH.  I have used them, and enjoyed them, but I plan my schedule how it works for me, and if the EMH fall on the day I'm going to the park, I take advantage of them.  Overall, if you want to use EMH, I'd recommend getting to the park as soon as they begin, leaving during the midday crowd, and returning in the evening for parades or fireworks, or other attractions.  I can't give a lot of advice about evening EMH, because they just don't work for the stage of life I'm in, but if you can do it, go for it, and let me know how it went! 

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

5 Things I Wish I Knew on My First Disney Trip

So there are all these little things that you don't know until you actually experience it, or you become a Disney nerd like me and research it.  :)  I thought I'd share a few of those valuable little tips I've found to be most helpful. 

1.  If there is theater style seating (like Philharmagic, It's Tough to be a Bug, American Adventure, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, etc.) you do NOT want to be first in line.  If you are first, they make you go all the way to the end of the row.  You want to try to be somewhere in the middle of the crowd, that way you get a seat in the middle of the theater.  (FYI:  There really aren't any "bad" seats).

2.  On most attractions, if there is a particular place you want to sit, ask.  You might have to wait until the next round, but most cast members will try to help you out.  This is the place where dreams come true, right? 

3.  You do not have to have park hopper.  If you don't want to stay in the park all day, you can leave and come back to the same park in the same day.  Park hopper tickets cost more, so don't pay for park hopper unless you really need to go to different parks in one day.  Oh, and you can always get a base ticket, and add park hopper later if you decide you need it.  You can even add it in the middle of your vacation if you want to.

4.  If you have small children, the stroller is so worth it.  You do a LOT of walking at Disney World.  It took us three years to figure out that our daughter was so much happier in a stroller.  Whether you bring your own, or rent one at the park, it is totally worth the trouble.

5.  The most popular attractions get crowded early, and run out of FASTPASSes early.  Head to those FIRST.  Before your trip, make priorities about the things you most want to see and do, and make sure you get to those first, then you can do others if you have time.  Use FASTPASS so you don't have to wait in line as long for the most popular attractions.

Hope this helps! 

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why Stay at Disney?

There are many debates out there about whether to stay on-site or off-site when you visit Disney World.  I can honestly say that I can't give you a good debate about the pros and cons of each, because we always stay on site at Disney World.  There is just something wonderful about parking our car when we get there, and not coming back to it until we leave.  Since I am the driver in our family, that, in itself, feels like a vacation to me!

So my first reason why staying on-site is the thing to do, is that you can use Disney transportation!  We take the buses to and from the parks each day, and we enjoy that nice break to sit down and rest on the air-conditioned bus!  We don't have to worry about directions, or being able to find our car in a massive parking lot, we just head to the bus station and go where we want to go!  There are also the monorail and the ferryboats.  These are an experience in themselves!  This is probably my favorite perk of staying at a Disney resort.

And secondly, of course, are the Extra Magic Hours.  Every day, specific parks open early or stay open late just for the Disney World resort crowd.  This is a great time to enjoy the attractions that usually have the longest wait times, because the crowd is significantly lower.  Granted, the parks with EMH are usually MORE crowded during the day, because they have the normal crowd, plus those taking advantage of the EMHs, but if you come and leave the parks during the most crowded parts of the day like we do, that is not a problem. 

And don't forget, the Disney magic!  Each Disney resort is totally themed-out, and is an amazing experience!  Stay at the Caribbean Beach resort for your little pirate, the Polynesian for an island adventure, or Animal Kingdom Lodge for an African safari!  And it's not just the deluxe resorts, you can stay at All-Star Sports for the sports fan in your life, All-Star Music for the musician, or Pop Century to reminisce about years gone by!  All of the Disney resorts are unique and special.  And each one is full of Disney magic!  And of course, that famous Disney service is nice, too! 

We love staying on-site at Disney World, and for us, we wouldn't have it any other way. 

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Monday, July 11, 2011

Downtown Disney

Lots of friends tell me that they haven't visited Downtown Disney because they don't have time for it while they're at Disney World.  Well, that's understandable, but I will tell you that my family LOVES Downtown Disney!  There are so many fun things to do there, and you don't have to have a ticket to get in!

Let's be honest here, my family loves going out to eat.  So we love all the great restaurants at Downtown Disney.  Our favorite quick service restaurant is Wolfgang Puck Express.  We ate there twice on our last vacation.  The food is unique and delicious!  I highly recommend it, especially if you're on the quick service dining plan.  I've also heard that Earl of Sandwich is good, but we've never tried it because we can't get enough of Wolfgang Puck!

There are also some great table service restaurants like Planet Hollywood, Wolfgang Puck Cafe, and Cap'n Jack's Restaurant. Those are on the table service dining plan.  But there is also Fulton's Crab House (mmm...crab legs...), Rainforest Cafe, and House of Blues, but these are not on the dining plan.  So try those out if you've got some extra cash laying around, or you just want the experience!

I have heard so much about DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney, but we've never made it there.  I think I'm going to make that a goal for our next trip.  DisneyQuest is an indoor, interactive theme park, with attractions like CyberSpace Mountain where you get to create your own coaster, Virtual Jungle Cruise where you can take a raft ride through dinosaur times, Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters, a bumper car/asteroid shooting ride, and Pirates of the Caribbean-Battle for Buccaneer Gold where you get to steer your pirate ship, and shoot your cannons on your own pirating adventure!

And my personal favorite, the shopping!  You must visit World of Disney, the largest Disney character store on the planet!  You can find just about anything Disney-related you could possibly imagine in this store.  It is broken up into separate parts, but it is all part of one fantastic store! 

There's also my daughter's personal favorite, Goofy's Candy Company.  This is a really neat experience.  You can choose a treat like a cookie, or rice krispie treat and choose all sorts of toppings.  This year, we got a Mickey krispie treat dipped in milk chocolate, covered with sprinkles, and drizzled with dark chocolate.  But you can come up with your own combination!  You can also buy all sorts of other sweet goodies in here.

Then there's the Lego Imagination Center, where you'll definitely want to go if you have a Lego lover in your family!  I am amazed at the things you can see here built out of nothing but legos.  You can play with legos to your heart's content in this store.

There's the Disney's Pin Traders store, where you can find just about any pin you want, and trade if you want as well.  Disney Days of Christmas is also a fun store where you can get ready for a Disney Christmas!  And don't miss Once Upon a Toy where your kids can shop and play with tons of Disney toys!  If you like to shop, you'll love Downtown Disney!

There is so much to do at Downtown Disney, you really should take the time to stop by.  We don't spend a day there or anything, but sometimes we go to a park in the morning, and Downtown Disney in the evening.  It's a treat for the whole family!

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Disney Depression

It has been a while since my last post, and I can only attribute my slackness to 1. This has been the busiest summer "vacation" ever, and 2. I've been going through my post-Disney trip depression.  You see, when you are a Disney lover like I am, once that trip you've been planning all year is over, you feel a little lost.  What am I supposed to do with my time now?  I guess it's time to start planning another trip.  :)

Actually, we are planning another trip, and this time, it's a Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream!  We go next year during Spring Break and I am super excited, because it is my first cruise ever!  And of course, because it is Disney, they do it well! 

First off, one of the cool features about the inside staterooms on this ship, is that they have "magical portholes" which offer a real-time view of the outside of the ship, with an added bonus:  Disney characters that appear throughout the day!  I can't wait to see this!

The Disney Dream also has a water coaster called the Aqua Duck!  This looks like so much fun!  The 765 foot tube takes you all around the ship and even out over the water, finally dropping you off at a lazy river.  We can't wait to try this out!

And here she is, the Disney Dream! 

We can't wait to go!  Guess I have something new to do with my free time, huh?

Until next time...
Disney Diva