Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thinking of Taking a Disney Vacation?

Disney just released new free dining dates for Disney Visa cardholders from September - December 2012.  These deals are usually released to the public soon after, so be on the lookout for that if you're thinking of going to Disney this Fall.  You cannot beat a free dining deal!  Once the offer goes public, you can find it at under Special Offers.

Also, starting today,  you can book 2013 Disney vacations on   Quick tip:  You can go ahead and  book your vacation for the dates you have in mind, and if a deal comes out between now and then, you can apply it to your already existing reservation!

It's a great time to start thinking about a trip to Walt Disney World!

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Christmas at Walt Disney World

I know, I know...we are right in the middle of sticky, hot summertime, and no one is even remotely thinking about Christmas right now, but it just occurred to me that I never blogged about our Christmas trip to Disney World this past Christmas!  So enjoy, and think cool thoughts!

The first thing you need to know about going to WDW in December is that the weather is unpredictable.  The first day we were there, it was beautiful...sunny day, high temperatures near 80 degrees, perfection.  The next day was a completely different story.  It was cold, windy, and we were very uncomfortable.  Be sure to wear layers and pay attention to the weather forecast.  During December in Florida, you never know what you might get!

There are some incredible special events that happen in the parks at Christmas.  Of course, there's Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom, Candlelight Processional at Epcot, and Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios.  Those are the biggies, and they are spectacular.  But there are other events to look forward to when visiting the parks at Christmas that you won't see any other time of year.  Even if you don't have tickets for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (You actually have to purchase tickets for this event, separate from your park admission.), you can still stick around until dusk to see the castle lighting ceremony.  At Epcot, you can enjoy Holidays Around the World at World Showcase, with each country sharing the Christmas story as it is told in their culture.  You can even get a picture with Santa right beside the American Adventure in World Showcase!  There is also a special holiday addition to Illuminations, the nightly fireworks show at Epcot.  If you're visiting Animal Kingdom, you won't want to miss Mickey's Jingle Jungle Jammin' Parade!

Everything at Disney World is decked out for Christmas.  Even the resorts are beautifully decorated with Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, and much more.  Don't forget that you are welcome to tour all the resorts, not just the one you're staying in.  So take the time to enjoy the beautiful decorations at the resorts.  Grand Floridian has an incredible life-sized gingerbread house, and it is just a monorail ride away from Magic Kingdom!    The Wilderness Lodge offers sleigh rides, or you can just sit in the lobby by the fire and enjoy the decorations and Christmas music!  At the Yacht Club Resort, you can see a Christmas village with a train set, and the Beach Club Resort has a really cool gingerbread carousel! 

Besides all of that, absolutely everything in the parks is decorated at Christmas.  Every lamppost has greenery and ribbons.  Main Street USA is adorned with wreaths, candles and greenery overhead.  Oversized toy soldiers stand guard in various locations.  Even the parades and firework shows have a special Christmas theme!  

Any trip to Disney World is magical, but Christmas at Disney World is extra magical!  I highly recommend it!

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

You CAN afford it!

So many people have told me "I'd love to go to Disney World, but I just can't afford it!"  It is my mission to assure you, a Walt Disney World vacation can be affordable!  For our family, a week at the beach costs about the same thing as a week at Walt Disney World.  We have paid upwards of $200 a night for a hotel in Myrtle Beach during the summer, and that doesn't even count what we spend on food and entertainment.  When we go to Disney World, tickets and dining are included in the total price of our vacation package (we always get the dining plan).   That includes a resort stay in a Walt Disney World resort, park tickets (regular Magic Your Way), plus dining, and we don't usually pay much more than $200-$300 per day. 

So here are my budget planning tips:

1.  Don't buy park tickets for every day that you're there.  We usually reserve a couple of days for down-time.  We go to Downtown Disney, resort hop (visit other resorts), or just hang around the pool at our resort.

2.  Don't buy park hopper passes.  Yes, it is nice to be able to park hop, but when you're planning on a budget, it is just not worth it.  We still come and go to the parks as we please, but we just leave and come back to the same park in the same day.  We just aren't able to go to 2 (or more) parks in the same day.  No big loss to me.

3.  Save on dining.  If you are planning to do character meals, or table service meals, go with the Disney Dining Plan.  It is well worth it.  If you are just planning to grab a bite whenever you get hungry, you're probably better off without it. 

4.  Shop for deals.  You can check out Special Offers at  This is where you can find room discounts, or special offers like free dining or ticket discounts.  You can also use websites like mousesavers, and to find discounted tickets, if you're not using a vacation package.

5.  Compare prices.  When I help people plan a trip for their budget, I create a spreadsheet where I lay out prices and options like dining plans, resorts, and number of tickets.  That way they can see all the different options they have within their budget.  For example, maybe you could stay in a moderate or deluxe resort with no dining plan for about the same price as staying in a value resort with the dining plan.  Try different options and find which one works best for your needs and your budget.

6.  Try the Chase Disney Rewards Visa card.  You get 6 months with 0% interest to pay off your vacation, plus you earn Disney Rewards points for any purchases you make.  You can save up your points to pay for future Disney trips!   I'm not a big supporter of credit card use, but I use this card for everything, and just pay it off at the end of every month. 

With a little effort, you will find that you can plan a trip to Disney World on your budget.  So get started planning your magical vacation! 

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fantasyland Expansion

Have you heard about the New Fantasyland expansion?  Parts of it are now open to the public!  The Barnstormer, which has been re-themed with "The Great Goofini" is open now.   "Dumbo the Flying Elephant," with a new interactive queue and a second Dumbo ride will be opening this summer, and "Casey Jr.'s Splash 'N' Soak" is open now.  All of this is part of the "Storybook Circus" area of the New Fantasyland.

Opening later this year, a new section called "Fantasyland Forest."  "Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid" is being crafted to look like Erik's castle on the outside.  Inside, the ride will operate with an omnimover system with clam cars like the ones at The Seas with Nemo and Friends.  The ride will highlight scenes from The Little Mermaid.

Next, in "Belle's Village," there will be a quick service restaurant called "Gaston's Tavern," and "Enchanted Tales with Belle" in Beast's library.  You will access the library through a magic mirror in Maurice's Workshop, just through Belle's Cottage.   And the part I can't wait to see is the "Be Our Guest Restaurant" inside Beast's castle.

And as of May 31, 2012, "Snow White's Scary Adventures" is no more, making way for "Princess Fairytale Hall," where guests will have a chance to meet and greet the princesses.  This is scheduled to open late 2013.  The plan is for it to be castle-like, with stone walls and stained glass windows.  I am sure it will be a must for all the parents of little princesses!

Coming in 2014, the "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train" coaster will be a highlight of the New Fantasyland.   The plan is for an entrance through the dwarfs' cottage, moving along to a ride through the mines with the seven dwarfs.  It sounds pretty interesting, with free-hanging cars that will move back and forth during the ride.

I am already planning my trip for 2014 to see this when it's all finished!  It is going to be spectacular, no doubt!  Are you excited about the New Fantasyland?

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Friday, June 15, 2012

Top Ten Tips for Staying Cool at WDW

Since I am planning my first official "Summer" trip to WDW, I've also been thinking a lot about how to beat the heat.  I know it is going to be positively sweltering, and I know that I need to have a plan for how to deal with the heat.  Getting overheated can really take the magic away from the most magical place on Earth!

10 - This one is a no brainer - hydrate!  Bring water bottles with you to the parks, pick up a free water from any dining location, just drink lots of water!

9 - Find a shady area to cool off.  There are some nice areas scattered all around the parks where you can sit and "rest a spell" as my grandmother would put it.  :)  Take advantage of these locations.  If you are hot and tired, you are not going to enjoy anything.  It is worth it to stop and take a break!

8 - Head toward an air-conditioned attraction.  There are lots of these all over the parks.  Carousel of Progress at Magic Kingdom, American Adventure at Epcot, One Man's Dream at Hollywood Studios, It's Tough to Be a Bug at Animal Kingdom, and so many more! 

7 - Or enjoy a nice sit-down, shaded attraction.  Our personal favorite is the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover at Magic Kingdom.  This ride takes you all over Tomorrowland, indoors and out, and you even get to view some of the attractions from the ride!  It is a great way to sit and rest, and enjoy a nice breeze.  Some other examples might be Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom, the Studio Backlot Tour at Hollywood Studios, or the boat ride around the lagoon at Epcot.  Once, we rode back and forth for nearly an hour while my daughter napped! 

6 - Head back to the hotel for a siesta.  Parks are hottest and most crowded between about 1 and 6 pm.  This is a great time to take a break and head back to the hotel.  You can rest, nap, go for a swim, or just take a break.  Then, come back out around dinnertime refreshed and ready to enjoy the parks again!

5 - Take a lunch break (or breakfast, or dinner, or hey, you're on vacation, you can eat whenever you want).  I always think it is a nice break when we stop for a meal or snack.  You get to sit down for a while, cool down, rest your legs, and get some energy to enjoy the rest of your day. 

4 - Go shopping!  Nearly all the shopping areas in the parks are either shaded or air conditioned!  This is a great time to spend some time looking around to find the perfect souvenir!  If you don't want to carry it around the rest of the day, you can even have purchases delivered to your resort (if you're staying on-site)!

3 - Dress for the weather.  Another  no-brainer here.  Wear light colors, and loose clothing.  Hats are great, too for some relief from the bright Florida sun.

2 - Enjoy a frozen treat!  This is a great time to enjoy a Mickey bar, Dole Whip, smoothie, ice cream, whatever your pleasure!  Just make sure to eat it fast, because it's going to melt quickly!

1 - Play in the water!  Take a ride on Splash Mountain (Magic Kingdom), Maelstrom (Epcot) or Kali River Rapids (Animal Kingdom).  Find a water play area and splash around with your kids.  In Adventureland at Magic Kingdom, you can get wet from the spray at the tiki statues, and the spitting camel.  There is also the brand new Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station in the new Fantasyland expansion.  At Epcot, you will find water play areas on the walkway from Future World to World Showcase, and you can sometimes get wet on the upper level outside the Imagination Pavilion.  Or if you've purchased the Water Parks and More option, enjoy some time relaxing and cooling off in the water parks. 

Well, those are my top 10 tips (in no particular order).  Do you have any other ideas for keeping cool at WDW?  I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Art of Animation

Walt Disney World has added a new resort to its value category - The Art of Animation Resort.  Art of Animation includes four themed buildings - Finding Nemo, Cars, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid.  The first three buildings will be made up of family suites which accommodate up to 6 guests.  The Little Mermaid building will have standard rooms.  Finding Nemo is open now, Cars is set to open next week, Lion King is on schedule to open in August, and The Little Mermaid should open in September.  Like other resorts in the value category, Art of Animation includes three pool areas, and an on-site food court. 

Family suites start at $249 per night. Standard rooms start at $97 per night.  What a great value for a fantastic new resort!

You can find out more about the Art of Animation resort at

I can't wait to see it for myself!

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Monday, June 11, 2012

It Matters When You Go!

So, if you're planning a vacation to Walt Disney World, the first question you have to answer is a biggie - "When to go?"  I was just reminded of the importance of this question today as I was planning our next vacation.  I discovered that visiting the parks just one week later, would save us over $150 on our total vacation package!  What?!?!?  That's because the first week I was thinking of fell during summer season, and the next during value season.  Sometimes, by changing the dates of your vacation by only a few days, you can save hundreds of dollars!  The days of the week you'll be staying also make a difference.  Weeknights, of course, are slightly less expensive than weekends in the resorts.  Check out this breakdown for Pop Century from  You can see what a big difference the dates you choose can make.  Taking the time to research pricing for different dates can really pay off in the long run!

Until next time...
Disney Diva

Friday, June 8, 2012

Disney Cruise

For Spring Break this year, we went on our very first Disney Cruise.  We loved it!  It was such a beautiful, relaxing vacation.  We had tons of fun both on and off the ship.  We sailed on the Disney Dream... 

We went on a 4 night cruise to the Bahamas, with stops in Nassau, and Castaway Cay.  Castaway Cay was definitely a favorite.  It had the most beautiful, clear water I have ever seen in my life...

We got to eat in fantastic restaurants, and had a fantastic serving staff...

Did you know that the same servers actually follow you to your assigned restaurant each night?  So you have the same servers each night.  So they know if you don't like lemon in your tea, or whatever!  They are fantastic!  They work hard to make sure that you have a magical experience at each meal. 

We even loved our interior rooms complete with a magical porthole!  The kids went absolutely crazy when one of the Disney characters showed up on the screen!

Or when we got back in the evening, and our host had turned down the beds and left us a nice surprise!

We had a great time!  I highly recommend the Disney Cruise!

Until next time...
Disney Diva

The Land of the Living

Well, hello again!  I apologize for the ridiculously long amount of time it has taken me to post to my blog again.  If you didn't know this already, I am a public school teacher, and I do not have a life between the months of August and May.  I had high hopes of posting at least once a week during the school year, but we can see how well that turned out.  Oh well...we'll try again next year.

Alas, summer vacation is here.  And I'm back in the land of the living.  And I intend to continue sharing all of my Disney nerd knowledge with anyone who wants to know.  I have decided I probably need to join some kind of support group, because this addiction is way out of control.  I now meet complete strangers in public and start talking about Disney World with them.  I've planned 3 Disney World vacations for my family in the last year (and countless more for other people).  Anybody want to start a Disney-holics Anonymous group with me?

We are, in fact, planning another Disney World vacation this summer, and I can't wait to share my experience with you, because we are conquering our own fears and attempting Disney World in the middle of the hot, crowded summer season.  I'll be sure to let you all know how it works out. 

We are taking advantage of a Special Offer available at  They are offering summer stays for $69 per person, per night in a value resort, $78 per person, per night in a moderate resort, and $95 per person, per night in a deluxe resort.  The offer excludes the brand new Art of Animation resort (though I cannot wait to try this one out!), and must be booked by June 14.  The offer does not include a dining plan.  It is not one of my favorite deals ever, but we were happy to get any discount at all during the super busy summer months!

I can't wait to spend my summer sharing my Disney nerd-ness with you!  Happy Summer!

Until next time...
Disney Diva