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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Post Disney Trip "To Do" List

There are plenty of pre-trip lists for packing, what to do before you go, etc.  There are even lists while on vacation. . . must do and see lists, touring plans, etc.  But there are no post trip lists anywhere!  I need one.  I need a list of all the things to do once you get home from a magical Disney vacation.  And since such a list does not exist, I am making one.

The Once You Get Home From Walt Disney World To Do List:

Unpack.  95% of our suitcases are emptied and unpacked.  The other 5% stays in the suitcases for the next trip to Disney.  And, there are still shoes in one bag.  Either we are having our own “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode—you know the one where the suitcase stays on the stairs for days and days—or we just haven’t needed the shoes yet.

Laundry.  The husband got right on this one and had 2/3 of it done.  Now, I am slowly catching up.  Did I say slowly?  Thanks, honey, for getting right on this one!  A quest for clean undies can be quite motivating.

Edit and order Photopass:  While the husband was doing laundry, I got right on this one.  I quickly edited our 980 photos and promptly ordered the CD.  (I can edit the photos from the CD by just changing the properties from read only—so there will most likely be more editing once the photo CD’s arrive.)

Return phone calls.  Our phone seldom rings, but we had several phone messages upon our return.  We have responded to all messages.

Call the pet sitter.  This was one of our first phone calls when we got home.  She had already left us a note but we wanted to let her know we had made it home.  And, she penciled us in for next summer!

Pay the lawn service.  Done.  Not only did we need this while we were gone, but our lawn mower broke just prior to us leaving, so we asked the service to start sooner.  A new lawn mower has also been purchased.

Deliver souvenirs.  This has been started, just not completed.

Answer email surveys.  When we got home we had 5 surveys regarding our experiences at Walt Disney World, and we did one while we were there!  Lego store, Rainforest Café, T-Rex Café, Downtown Disney, and Hollywood Studios all wanted feedback.  They got it.  We were asked to complete a survey about EPCOT while touring.

Order photo prints and/or make photo book.  Neither of these have happened.  I am waiting on the Photopass CD, which has shipped.

Talk to travel agent and/or book next trip.  Did half of this one.  Called our travel agent to let her know how everything went and gave her our tentative plans for the next trip.

For a variety of reasons, our “recovery” from this trip is taking longer than others.  In part due to a “bug” that both the husband and I picked up, him earlier in our trip and me just as we were coming home.  And, as true Disney fans say, there is no sleeping at Disney!  Well, that is not exactly true, we did sleep, but there were some late nights and some early mornings.  Then there is the general “let down” after the adrenalin rush that comes with planning for and participating in a Disney vacation. 

I am so looking forward to sharing our adventures with you.  We made a list of potential posts on the plane ride home.  Some of which will have guest contributors—even the boy has agreed to generate a post about one of his favorite experiences.  Keep checking back for more adventures with the Williams Family!

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Walt Disney World Vacation: It Is Not All Rainbows and Butterflies

Don't worry--this photo was staged.  Such drama!

I must admit that a trip to Walt Disney World is not all full of rainbows and butterflies.  There are things that happen or encounter that can be annoying, aggravating, or so ludicrous that it leaves you shaking your head.  And, after 12 days in the World, we encountered a few.  Note, some might not be suitable for younger audiences.

Aggravating:  Line jumpers, budgers, cutters, etc.  While I don’t want to generalize, it seemed that some South American tour groups don’t understand what lines mean.  We experienced the “I am with them up there” line jumping at Animal Kingdom while on Dinosaur, at Magic Kingdom in the new Ariel ride, and at Blizzard Beach while waiting for the chair lift.  My stance when they tried to pass or “see what was up there” or “find their friend” was NO.  My “no” worked twice. 

The husband and boy experienced the line jumpers from a tour group at Star Tours where they attempted to leave the standby line, get in the Fastpass line for a while, and then rejoin the standby line before getting to the Cast Member waiting at the end of the Fastpass line to collect Fastpasses.  As the husband put it, a bunch of Star Wars geeks didn’t let them back in the line.  Now they were stuck and spotted by the Cast Member who then called security.  These particular members of the tour group did not get to experience the Star Tours attraction and may have had to leave the park.

A tour group also interfered with the character interaction and flow at Crystal Palace by leaving their tables and commandeering the characters so much that it caused a significant delay for the characters to make it to our side of the restaurant.  We left after only seeing two of the four characters as it had already been 45 minutes.  I blame the handlers on this one as a tour group was also at ‘Ohana’s for the Lilo and Stitch breakfast with us, and after nervously asking the Cast Member upon checking in if this was going to be a problem as it had for us at Crystal Palace, I was assured that it would not be and by golly, it wasn’t.  Rafael was the handler and he did a great job of making sure the members of the tour group stayed seated and let the characters come to them.  He was also within arms reach the whole time the characters were with the members of the tour group. 

Members of a South American tour group were also dining at T-Rex Café in Downtown Disney.  Now, before I go on with this part of the story, I need to build background.  Are you familiar with the Dyson Airblade hand dryer?  Well, it is a motion activated device that sits at waist level and forces air out of both sides when hands are placed and moved up and down in the middle.  Got it?  Good.  When the husband went to use the bathroom, he was greeted by 3 teenagers from a tour group drying, well, their private parts.  The husband then took it upon himself to escort these three young men out of the bathroom while using language that anyone could understand.

How do we know these folks are part of South American tour groups?  Well, it is their matching shirts that have their country of origin designated, along with the leaders or coordinators that carry flags on poles or large inflatable signs.  They are easy to spot, except when wearing their bathing suits.  Then, it was the line jumping and budging that gave them away.  That, and the fact that they could tell me in a great English sentence that they didn’t know English when confronted about the line cutting.

A question I still don’t have answered is about how they keep wearing the same shirt everyday.  Do they wash them at night?  Or just keep wearing them, day after day?

Annoying:  Delayed flights.  Our flight to Orlando was delayed by two hours due to mechanical issues in Atlanta.  What I was grateful for was the direct flight, so we didn’t have any connecting flights to worry about, and that we had made no reservations for our arrival evening.  Come to think of it, we have had delays our last two trips.  One of the joys of flying!

So much noise that it is difficult to communicate with your traveling party, fellow guests, or Cast Members.  I get that Disney is trying to set the mood and music is a part of the theming, but when combined with noise from attractions and other guests, it can be annoying.  We even had a hard time hearing each other on the Disney busses with the volume of the announcements combined with bus noises.

I could have watched the show on her "tablet."
Another annoyance are guests who are trying to capture events on their “screen” or “device” and then block your view.  This happened more than once, and I got a picture of a lady using her screen above her head during Beauty and the Beast at Hollywood Studios.  What I find ironic is that there wasn’t enough room for us to sit in the amphitheater and we were directed to the bleachers, but there was enough room for this lady to stand up, record the show, while a child sat on the top of her seat right next to hear, but the Cast Member asked another child leaning forward on the row to get down.  Hmmm. . .  

When we were watching the Monster’s University Homecoming show in front of the hat at Studios, two things happened. . . a young boy squeezed in front of me to get to the front.  I told him “no” that we had been standing here a long time.  Also, an older teen next to me with her tablet screen above her head taking pictures and video was right next to us.  I reminded her that she was blocking people behind her when she held it up.  It was as if she hadn’t realized she was doing this and brought the screen back down in front of her.

Interestingly, while waiting for the bus at our resort, a family with two children from Europe (we could tell by the accent) was headed to a park and the mom asked us about the best fireworks show.  We unanimously said Wishes at Magic Kingdom.  She went on to tell about how they had arrived at Magic Kingdom 5 minutes before the parade and then just allowed their “little” kids  to squeeze in front of others to watch the parade.  Yeah, I bet if she had been saving her spot for two hours she would not have enjoyed having other people’s children squeeze in front of her, even if they were little.  And, I am guessing that some people don’t realize it is happening when they get caught up in the show, parade, or fireworks.

Another source of annoyance is when Cast Members give you, or other guests, wrong or inaccurate information.  We had this happen a few times during our trip.  A friendly Cast Member was going on about finding characters and directed us to France in EPCOT to find the Beast.  I explained that the Beast was no longer found in France—referring to the Times Guide—but could now be found in his castle at Magic Kingdom for guests dining at Be Our Guest.  The Cast Member thought about it for a moment, asked to see the Times Guide and then brushed it off saying that it had been a few months since he had seen the Beast.

We also overhead a Cast Member telling a guest with multiple Photopass cards that they could take them to Cover Story (we were at Studios) and the cards could all be combined into one account.  Well, it used to be that way, but Photopass was experiencing an “upgrade” to their system during our stay for an undetermined amount of time and could not combine cards/accounts.  I corrected the Cast Member.  Another character handler then joined the conversation with suspicion.  I was even asked if I worked for Photopass.  The second Cast Member then did recall the upgrade.  The corrected Cast Member then brushed it off saying that they had been on vacation for a couple of weeks and just returned making that the reason that they didn’t know.

I don’t believe Cast Member share incorrect information on purpose or to be malicious.  I think it is about the challenge of communicating with 60,000 employees so that they all have accurate information.  As a Disney fan, it was more difficult for me to get accurate information while AT Walt Disney World than it would have been if I was at home.  Part of it is that we remain somewhat “unplugged” while on vacation except in the case of an emergency.  And, for us, Disney is a passion—we want to know the latest news, but a Cast Member may see their role as just a job and not be engaged with the most up to date information.

I went to Cover Story just to find out more information about Photopass and recounted the above incident.  They thanked me for correcting.  I also inquired about the benefits of the Photopass “upgrade” to me as a guest and no one could give me that information.  So, it took me 30 minutes to edit out all of the other children’s photographs during Jedi Training Academy with the boy when I logged into my Photopass account on-line when I got home.

This inconvenience of me doing the work because Disney couldn’t due to the Photopass upgrade was annoying and was included in our follow-up survey from Walt Disney World.

I will put this in the annoying category but it could go into aggravating—it is the stoppers and standers.  Guests who stop in the middle of a traffic way or just stand in the middle of a traffic way are annoying at best.  I have now figured out a strategy for stoppers.  If someone stops in front of me, I move past while saying “Oh, no stopping, got to keep moving.” so at least they know that they stopped and there were people behind them.  If I can get by without bumping them I do my best, but swerving with short notice can sometimes lead to bumps.  I find the standers more at the entrances to attractions, as if they can’t commit, and the stoppers more at exits as they try and figure out where to go next.

This was the wettest Walt Disney World vacation we had ever experienced.  It rained for a portion of every day we were there.  Annoying?  Yes.  Devastating?  No!  After all, it is Florida in July and rain is to be expected.  We had multiple pairs of shoes and sandals—so they could dry out if they got wet, ponchos which we packed with us every day in their little pouches, and two umbrellas that also went with us.  The boy’s poncho bit the dust and was thrown away on our last day along with one of our umbrellas that could no longer open.  The rain never stopped us, we just kept moving.  It did close some attractions such as Splash Mountain, so we went to Country Bear Jamboree and Enchanted Tiki Room instead.  A storm also closed Blizzard Beach while we were there, but we had 4 good hours under our belt so when the rain let up, we made it to the bus stop, went to our resort to change, and then to Downtown Disney for the rest of the evening.  Some “non” ponchoed guests made fun of us at Downtown Disney—well not us specifically but our rain ponchos.  I think they were concerned that they didn’t have ponchos OR umbrellas when they got off the bus at the resort and it was still raining.

Just mildly annoying were the couple of times that housekeeping had difficulties at our resort.  One day we returned to our resort for a rest about 3:30 pm to find that our room had yet to be tended to for the day.  The husband took a nap, the boy was playing with his toys, and I hit the shower.  Then came the knock and opening of the door from housekeeping.  Answering the door in a towel, I explained that we would be leaving by 5:30.  Housekeeping then had to enter our room to make the call and request later service.  They were apologetic. Actually, we would have been okay with just some more bath towels.  Another time was when we returned to find our room was tidied but no clean hand towels or washcloths were left.  The husband phoned and we had a supervisor at our door followed by a member of the housekeeping team with a stack of towels.  I explained that we only needed a couple of hand towels and washcloths and was given more apologies.  Really, it was okay but as the husband said, the man with the towels acted like he had been whipped before delivering them to us.

Ludicrous:  I don’t know if our expanded number of days caused us to have more of these experiences or just the fact that we are familiar with our surroundings, but the number of head shaking things we heard other guests say this trip was astounding. 

Let’s start with the story of something the husband said when he helped a fellow guest who had a bag fall off the top of the canopy of a Disney stroller and strew the contents of the bag all over the ground.  The husband witnessed this while on his way to get Fastpasses at the Magic Kingdom.  When the bag fell off, the man with the stroller and two kids was attempting to put the items back in the bag.  The husband reached down to gather objects to return to the bag and well, two of the items were condoms.  The husband thought they were packages of fruit snacks but was corrected upon closer inspection and said, “Here are your Magnums.”  It was great that they were prepared! 

The next one cracked me up.  I was waiting near the hat at Hollywood Studios for the husband and boy to return from Star Tours and ride The Great Movie Ride when two adults pushing a stroller hurried by with one adult asking the other, “Where is the castle?”  Were they actually looking for a castle in Disney’s Hollywood Studios?  If so, there is NO castle.  Either these folks were confused by the four theme parks at Walt Disney World and thought they were all one park OR these folks thought they were at Islands of Adventure—part of Universal Studios—and were looking for the Hogwarts Castle and the rest of the Harry Potter portion of the park.  A Cast Member said that happens often, that people just hear “Studios” and get the parks confused.

“He said the monorail is free.” was another one we overhead when passing a family standing at the exit of EPCOT after Illuminations with park map in hand.  Seems this family had just asked a Cast Member about the monorail—something we saw several times while at EPCOT—and was told that riding it is free.  Yes, it is!  I am not sure where they were going, maybe Magic Kingdom to watch Wishes, but riding the monorail is free.

That about sums it up, the non rainbow and butterfly moments of a Walt Disney World vacation.  Will the aggravating, annoying, and ludicrous events keep us from returning?  No way!  They are actually part of the adventure; part of the story.  Just as we appreciate spring more because of winter, we appreciate the magical experiences more because of aggravating experiences.  The countdown continues until our next Walt Disney World vacation!
See, all better!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How A "Couponer" Does Disney

The newspaper the husband is reading was FREE

Saving money and Disney vacations are two of my favorite things.  When I get to combine them, it is a bonus!  Here is how a “couponer” makes the most of a Disney vacation while saving money:

Rewards Programs—Let’s start here as I used at least 4 rewards programs to make the most of our vacation.  We fly frequently and belong to many frequent flier programs.  AirTran’s A+ has the best return on points for travel.  We each had earned enough A+ points for a FREE upgrade to business class.  All I had to do was phone the airline 24 hours before travel and ask to use the points for an upgrade.  We got seats in business class which meant no baggage fees, free food choices beyond pretzels, and free alcoholic beverages—which the husband took advantage of.  That one phone call saved us over $75 in baggage fees alone and we earned credit for the flights for future upgrades.

We also belong to Hilton Honors which gives us points for stays at any of the Hilton family hotels.  Our pre-flight stay was a park-n-fly at Embassy Suites in Kansas City near the airport.  While we didn’t have enough points for a free stay, we earned points and got a discount using our AAA membership.  The free breakfast and free shuttle to/from the airport added value to our stay.  And, we were still racking up points for future use.

Landry Select Club is another rewards program/membership that pays you back when you dine at Landry restaurants which include Rainforest Café and T-Rex Café, both of which can be found at Walt Disney World.  We had accumulated $50 in rewards for the club and another $100 in Landry gift cards using Swagbucks—click here to get started earning Swagbucks.  We ate at both Rainforest Café and T-Rex Café for FREE with enough gift card credit left over to get the boy a souvenir at T-Rex Café AND the Landry Select Club saved us 10% on that purchase.  Those two dining experiences only cost us the tips, which we paid in cash AND we earned points towards more rewards from Landry.

Since we were heading to Kansas City the day before we flew, we made the most of it with a trip to Schlitterbahn Water Park.  I had acquired two free tickets using MyCokeRewards points so all we had to do was pay for the boy’s ticket—which was still $33.  Imagine paying for all 3 of us!  Cha-ching!  Schlitterbahn allows guests to bring in coolers, so we packed lunch and drinks to take with us.  Parking and tube use was also free, so we had a full day for $33.

Hy-Vee Fuel Saver Rewards program also saved us tons of money on gas driving to and from Kansas City.  We paid $20 for gas—total—to make the round trip drive!

Coupons:  Yes, you can use coupons and vouchers while traveling to Disney! 

After our day at Schlitterbahn, we needed dinner.  I had printed out coupons on Amazon Local for buy one, get one free Whoppers from Burger King, which was just a few blocks from Schlitterbahn.  Guess what we had for dinner?  We combined that with the free Manager’s Reception at Embassy Suites for a lovely evening.

Our AAA package contained vouchers for various purchases and experiences.  The boy played in the resort arcade for free using one of the vouchers.  We also brought home souvenirs from Planet Hollywood for free, AND had an afternoon snack there for FREE using the $15 food voucher located in our travel packet.  And, by using AAA to book our vacation, we are earning AAA Travel Rewards for discounts off future travel.

Getting the most out of your park tickets and dining plans:  For our trip was had a 9 day base ticket (the more days you have the less you pay per day) so we had great value in our park tickets, then we added Water Parks and More Fun for $59 per ticket.  Because we had a 9 day ticket, adding Water Parks and More Fun gave us 9 additional entries to Water Parks, DisneyQuest, miniature golf, or Wide World of Sports per person.  Given that entry to the Water Parks and DisneyQuest is $45 per person per day and we went to two water parks and DisneyQuest, we can out ahead by adding the Water Parks and More Fun option to our tickets.  If we had only used that option once, we would have lost money.

We also had the basic dining plan on our tickets—one table service credit, one quick service credit, and one snack credit per person per night of stay.  We zeroed out all of the credits.  I had lost track of the quick service credits somewhere in the middle of our stay and phoned our resort front desk.  A check on the computer gave the total and we were in good shape for the rest of our stay. 

When we were checking out of our resort, the Cast Member checked our “account” to notice that we had no room charges and had no dining or snack credits left over.  I was overhearing other conversations about room charges while people were checking their bills or even limiting room charges.  We did good. . . especially for 11 nights/12 days!

Strategically planning your stay:  We strategically planned our stay to be less expensive.  Huh? How do you do that?  Well, the most expensive nights at a Disney Resort are Friday and Saturday nights.  We checked in on a Monday and left the following Friday, only having one week-end during our stay.  This also allowed us to fly on a Monday (less expensive day to fly) and a Friday (which was also less than flying on a Saturday or Sunday).

We also took advantage of a percentage off special for our resort stay which then gave us a refund which we then used towards our Photopass + prepurchase of $149.  Both Photopass and Photopass + are available for purchase prior to your vacation at a discount.  Let’s do the math. . . $149 for 980 photos before editing. . .that makes it about 15 cents per photo AND we brought home five 8 X 10 dining photos that are sold for $35 each.  Yeah, we came out ahead on this one!

When Bell Services picked us and our luggage up (there is no charge for this, just a tip) when we checked out of the resort, we were the first pick-up and it was 8:15 am.  That means the resort wasn’t doing banner business, at least for Bell Services.  I inquired as to why that might be and was told “the economy” and how it can be expensive for a family to travel to Walt Disney World.  Yes, it CAN be expensive, but it doesn’t HAVE to be expensive.  

Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t pinch pennies, only watched them carefully.  The boy came home with new toys including Lego’s which were partially purchased using Lego VIP rewards points which also allowed us to get a FREE Lego set.  We also brought home souvenirs, but they were purchased using a 20% off discount code found on a Quick Service receipt.  One receipt was from an order for 3 glasses of ice water which were FREE and then that receipt was used to save over $30 on souvenir purchases and we paid cash rather than “charging” them to our room.

I am going to venture to guess that the thinking or brain power behind some of our savings can be too cumbersome for some folks and they get caught up in the adventure or overwhelmed by the sites and sounds that are inevitable at Disney (I will write another post about the noise level).  Yet, by doing a bit of planning and strategizing, savings can be had and some significant savings at that.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

We're Back From Trip Number 11!

We’re back!  We just returned from a wonderful summer vacation at the most magical place on earth! 

Here are highlights and recaps of our trip. . . by the numbers:

11—number of nights we stayed at our Disney Resort, number of trips we have made to Walt Disney World as a family, number of days it rained during our trip, and the anniversary we celebrated while at the World.

980—Photopass photos on our account.  Now to edit and order the CD.  We had Photopass + this trip, so look for more details on how that worked.

1471—number of photos on our other cameras including 280 on our waterproof camera.  We snorkeled with the sharks and rays at Typhoon Lagoon and got some great shots!

3—number of cameras we brought with us, number of times we rode Toy Story Mania on ONE day, number of water parks we visited, including Schlitterbahn in Kansas City, number of ponchos we used, number of pairs of shoes we threw away during our travels, number of nighttime spectaculars we viewed during our trip—Wishes, Fantasmic, Illuminations.

13—number of NEW Disney characters we met on this trip.  One might think there would not be any more Disney characters for us TO meet, but that would not be accurate.  And, there are still more we have yet to meet.

10 of 11—number of Disney Princesses we met this trip.  Pocahontas was the only Disney Princess to elude us.

2—number of hours our flight to Walt Disney World was delayed.  It was a direct flight, so all was okay.  We were just a little late getting to the magic, that’s all.  Number of shows the husband was in—AGAIN—both Indiana Jones and Backlot Tour, number of times I supplied first aid to other guests (a bloody nose and a cut head), number of blisters on the husband’s feet, number of “Limited Time Magic” themes we were able to experience during our trip.

5—number of loyalty/reward programs we utilized while traveling for perks, discounts, and various rewards:  AirTran A+ Rewards, MyCokeRewards, Landry Select Club, LEGO VIP, and Hilton Honors, number of dining photos we came home with due to them being included either with the meal or with Photopass +.

33—number of MyCokeRewards lids we brought home with us in a baggie.

16—number of hours we toured Magic Kingdom—from rope drop (AM extra magic hours) to Wishes. 

4—number of pears we brought back with us from our GardenGrocer.com order.  Good thing too, as the refrigerator at home was pretty empty.

350—number of days until our next Disney trip!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Wishes Really Do Come True!

What a great feeling when a wish comes true!  On July 7, 2013, I wrote and published a post about the “Wishes” we had for our upcoming Walt Disney World vacation—click here to read more.  One of them has already come true and we haven’t even left yet!

I squealed with delight when I read about the Limited Time Magic theme that was for one of the weeks of our vacation.  I had wished that it was going to be “Long Lost Disney Friends” week and that is exactly what it will be!

Various characters will be appearing at the Magic Kingdom.  The full list has yet to be revealed, but some include Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, Sherrif of Nottingham, Prince Joh, Chicken Little, Abby Mallard, Brer Bear, Brer Fox, Br’er Rabbit, Luis, and Dr. Facilier.  The husband has set his sites on Chicken Little!

The husband is in charge of finding out where and when in the Magic Kingdom these long lost Disney friends can be found. 

When the husband and boy heard me squeal, they came running.  After some happy discussion and Disney dreaming, the husband said that “maybe Disney was listening” when I made that wish a few days ago.  Maybe!  Others have said that Disney knows we are coming and plans accordingly.  Can you imagine Disney Cast Members gathered around saying, “The Williams Family is joining us again.  What can we do to make their vacation magical?”  While that is not what is happening, it sure feels like that sometimes. 

Disney has a way of making wishes come true!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Boy Has Agreed To More Rides!

Our son has held tarantulas, parasailed, white water rafted, swam with stingrays, and jumped off high dives without fear or trepidation.  But ask him to consider a dark ride, especially a roller coaster and all bets are off.  This made Walt Disney World attractions such as Rock-n-Roller Coaster, Space Mountain, and even Tower of Terror off limits.  The husband even had to perpetuate the idea that Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad had “slow” sides to the ride and we were in the line for the “slow” ride.  We did, however, get him on Expedition Everest during a recent trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  By the way, he has not once been fearful of Dinosaur. 

When seeds were planted for our upcoming trip there was talk, negotiation, even pleading sometimes, to get him to consider various attractions.  He did concede to ride Expedition Everest again.  Then, Tower of Terror became plausible.  I was excited as two ride photos would be added to our Photopass +.

Then, when a good friend of his returned from his very first trip to Walt Disney World and rode both Rock-n-Roller Coaster and Space Mountain, those two attractions suddenly became doable.  The boy has agreed to add both to our touring plan!

This pleasant change has now caused a crimp, a wrinkle, in our touring schedule, but we will manage.  Especially if it means more ride photos!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Refrigerators Being Removed From Walt Disney World Resort Rooms

On Wednesday, July 10, 2013, Disney updated travel agents with an announcement that refrigerators were being removed from resort rooms.  Rooms other than DVC villas, suites, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness were going to be affected.  Simultaneously, refrigerators were removed from resort room descriptions on-line.  As of this writing, I am not aware of any official press release from Disney regarding this matter.

The removal of the refrigerators is due to a fire started by one at Disney Grand California Resort at Disneyland.  Therefore, the same models are being removed at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and the Aulani Resort.  Guests currently on-site will not be affected as their refrigerators will remain until they check-out of their resort.

Removal does not fully describe what is happening, it is more of unplugging and informing guests via letter in the room as to what is happening, and then replacing when new refrigerators become available which could take months based on the information Disney gave travel agents.

Facebook and Disney message boards were hopping yesterday as fans, guests, and prospective guests, like us, learned of the news.  We were informed via our travel agent.

Disney did indicate the a limited number of portable refrigerators were available for guests with medical needs, but could not guarantee access.

Not having a refrigerator in our room is not life or death, but is a matter of inconvenience.  When I received the news via email, I first phoned our travel agent to confirm.  I asked if Disney was going to compensate guests for this inconvenience.  No information was available.  She suggested we take a cooler—hmm. . . not a bad idea and we do have a collapsible Disney Cruise Line cooler, which is going in our luggage.

My next call was to our resort.  Yes, they were aware of the issue, which was different than other’s experience when calling the Disney reservation system.  I was told that our room was going to be affected.  I explained that we had already placed a grocery delivery order and that while the items could be stored outside of a refrigerator, our juice and soda needed to be chilled prior to consumption.  I asked if the resort would be providing ice chests or coolers to guests upon check-in.  No answer.  I explained that one of the reasons we love Disney is that Disney anticipates our needs even before we have them and would hope this issue would be the same.  I asked if the gift shop would be selling inexpensive coolers.  Again, not sure.  I asked if guests would be compensated for the inconvenience, as well as paying for the service upon making the reservation.  Again, no definitive answer.  I was told that a note was being made on our reservation.

So, prospective Walt Disney World guests traveling in the next few months will experience this particular issue—some sooner than others.  Guests driving or renting a car will most likely be stopping at the Hess station which will be inundated with ice chest and ice purchases.  I hope they are well stocked.  Guest relying on Disney transportation will have to get creative with packing, like we are, or hope that the resorts will have some sort of solution on hand.  I just hope the ice machines at the resorts are prepared to handle the volume.  In ten trips, we have never used the ice machines or ice buckets in the rooms.  With so many guests now relying on various containers to use ice and chill drinks, food, or medicine, housekeeping will certainly be affected, which I also shared with the resort via phone.  They didn’t disagree.

The husband knows I am just warming up on this issue, and will inquire again upon check-in at the resort.  As one Disney fan put it on the message boards, this week’s Limited Time Magic theme is “Raise the cost of my refillable mug and take away my resort room fridge.”  Hmmm. . .

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Ups and Downs of a Disney Vacation

Blogger Aaron DelPrince recently published a post about the emotional Highs and Lows of a Disney Vacation—click here to read more.  His writing spurred yet another Disney discussion with the husband which inspired our own Disney ups and downs list.

Planning—definitely a Disney high.  Not everyone’s cup of tea, but this gal likes doing the research, talking with the family about what they would like and then putting it all in motion.  Helping other people plan their magical Disney vacations also gives me great joy.

Anticipation—another Disney high!  Researchers have proven that anticipation is a more pleasurable feeling than surprise.  Just an FYI for all of you out there who want to surprise someone with a Disney trip. 

Getting There—for us, is a Disney high.  Yes, I know, there may be some controversy over this category especially when it might include multi-day car or train rides, but even those long treks can be filled with magic.  This category used to be more of a Disney downer, but now we look forward to driving, flying, and arriving.  That feeling of trying to will your mode of transportation to move faster and get you to the magic—love that feeling!

Everything In It’s Place—is a Disney high.  I’m talking resort room or stateroom here.  Living in close quarters with all the “stuff” for multiple days can take its toll but when systems are employed to keep items in certain locations, it can save time—and frustration.  No more looking for lanyards, shoes, and Key to the World Cards while trying to get out the door in the morning.  (Amazingly, items can get lost and misplaced in such a small space!)

Waiting—a Disney downer.  While long wait times for rides and attractions can get to even the most patient person’s last nerve, the husband said that waiting for something you don’t want or care about can make it worse.   He likened it to waiting to see the Disney Fairies, something he didn’t want to do or see.  The choices are to split up or suck it up.  He is a good sport and thankfully, there are not many occasions during our Disney vacations when this happens. 

Talking to Other Guests or Cast Members—a Disney high!  We very much enjoy talking to other Disney guests and Cast Members and listening to their stories.  This even happened just the other day when we were at a nearby water park as another visitor struck up a conversation with us in the “lazy river” as if she knew us.  I told the husband that we must look very approachable, even in swimsuits!  Visiting with other guests and Cast Members can also take the sting out of “waiting.”  So, if you see us, be sure to say hello!

Pin Trading—a Disney high for the boy and the husband.  Okay, while I get my thrill planning, they get a thrill pin trading.  I understand, I just don’t participate.  Someday I will get it on video as it is a hoot.  It begins by either one of them asking a Cast Member to see their pins.  The visual scanning of the pins comes next.  Now if it is just the husband, he will make the trade.  If it is the boy, who happens to have his own lanyard of tradable pins, and he spies a pin he might like, he then brokers a trade using pins from his Dad’s lanyard.  Something along the lines of “My dad will trade you for that pin” followed by the husband being brought into the trade, with the boy completing avoiding trading his own pins.  I’m not doing justice to the whole thing with words, but trust me, it is funny!

The hot, tired, hungries—definitely a Disney downer.  Add the hot, tired, hungries onto confused or need to make a decision and it is a potentially explosive cocktail.  The hot, tired, hungries are not just reserved for the youngest members of traveling parties, but anyone of any age, at any time.  Our remedy to the hot, tired, hungires is to try to prevent them before they happen if at all possible with breaks—sitting down, getting a snack or something to drink, and find a cool spot.  If the hot, tired, hungries still rear their ugly head the solution is to stop.  Stop right then and take a break to cool off, drink, eat, etc.  Recognize the symptoms in your traveling party as they may not always be able to articulate their feelings.  We find frequent drinking and snacking to be helpful.

Being ahead of the crowd—definitely a Disney high!  Our touring style is such that if there are more people behind us than ahead of us, we are in good shape.  Instead of happening upon a character meet and greet, we arrive ahead of time and are some of the first in line.  Our goal is to be a rope drops when parks open and take advantage of the smaller crowds early in the morning. 

Returning home—can be a Disney downer, but it doesn’t have to be.  While leaving the magic can be disheartening, leaving knowing you made the most of your Disney vacation can lead to contentment.  There is still more to look forward to—photos, telling stories, unpacking souvenirs, etc.  And, the very best way to combat the leaving the magic feeling, is to start planning your next magical vacation, or better yet, have it booked before you leave for home!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"Rapid Fill" For Mugs Coming to Disney Resorts

Yesterday, the Walt Disney World Resort announced a new “tiered” refillable mug program called “Rapid Fill” that will begin this month at All Star Resorts and then expand to all other Disney Resorts.

The new program allows the RFID chip embedded into the mugs to be programmed to allow refills for guests for various lengths of time, depending on the length of stay.  The RFID chip in the mug will then deactivate itself at the end of the purchase period.

The pricing is based on calendar days:
  • $8.99 for 1 day
  • $11.99 for 2 days
  • $14.99 for 3 days
  • $17.99 for length of stay

The soda refill machines will then be equipped with LCD screens that tell guests how many more days of refills are left on their refillable mugs. 

Mugs from previous trips will be useless, as new mugs (which can have the RFID chip activated) will need to be purchased for each trip.

The new mugs, with activated RFID chips will be included in some Dining Plans.

Okay, we have been hearing this was coming for some time and now it is here.  What I don’t understand is the selling point of “now your refillable mugs can be used at any resort.”  This is not new!  The previous refillable mugs could also be used at any resort food court!  Didn’t people try this?  We explored both the Contemporary Resort and Wilderness Lodge and just happened to have our mugs with us.  It was great to take a break at the Contemporary with a snack and drinks from our refillable mugs.  The Monorail and EPCOT resorts better watch out as guests from nearby Magic Kingdom and EPCOT are going to throng to their food courts for free refills!  Probably not, but if this “refill your mug at any resort” is an advertising bullet for this new program, it is certainly a possibility.

We have been long time fans of the refillable mugs—purchasing some at Caribbean Beach many moons ago, you know, when the mugs had the resort logos.  We continued to bring them back—even to Port Orleans Riverside.  Yes, I know you aren’t supposed to do this. 

Then, when refillable mugs became part of the Dining Plan, our collection of refillable mugs has grown considerably, as we obtained 3 new mugs with each trip.  Looks like that tradition will continue with the new Rapid Fill program.

What I could get behind is a program that allows refills at the various theme parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney.  Couldn’t Disney’s extensive recycling program get behind that type of program?  Buy your mug and fill it throughout the entire Walt Disney World Resort, which is what I think the Disney wordsmiths are trying to convey with the “fill your mug at any resort” which is misleading. 

What about mugs for Annual Passholders?  Their mugs could be activated for the entire year of their pass! 

Rapid Fill most likely won’t affect us this trip and we will carry on as usual.  I am curious about the roll-out though, as I anticipate some kinks in the normally well oiled Disney machine.  And, in the meantime, may your cup. . . er, mug, runeth over.

Monday, July 8, 2013

"New" Experiences for Summer 2013 Trip to Walt Disney World

“Haven’t you already done everything?” was a question posed by some well meaning non-Disney folks when they heard we were returning to the most magical place on earth yet again.  Our reply, “No!”  Alas, the expansive Walt Disney World Resort still has some parts our family has yet to see and experience.  But, with each trip comes an opportunity to try something new in combination with tried and true favorites.  Here is our list of new experiences we are looking forward to for our next trip to Walt Disney World:

Photopass +.  As long time fans of Disney’s Photopass service, we are now venturing into a new offering which is Photopass +.  The “+” part includes dining photos at select locations and ride photos for those rides offering photos, such as Splash Mountain.  We pre-paid for Photopass + through our travel agent and a voucher came with our documents.  The plan is to exchange the voucher for the lanyard, etc. at EPCOT’s Photopass store.

Spirit of Aloha Dinner at the Poly.  Booked for our anniversary, this luau themed dinner show rounds out our dinner show experiences at Walt Disney World.  After this, we will be able to declare a favorite.  This is a pay-in-advance experience and our tickets are waiting to be picked up at our resort.

Reserved viewing for Wishes.  This AAA Member benefit had eluded us for our last 2 trips.  I am curious to see how this works.  Expect a full report upon our return.  And, oh, I am also looking forward to Wishes.  Our family certainly enjoyed our local 4th of July fireworks display, but after you’ve experienced Disney fireworks, nothing quite compares.  We’ve been spoiled to say the least.

Nine Dragons at the China Pavilion in EPCOT.  Slowly we are ticking off nations around World Showcase Lagoon as we attempt to eat around the world.  It will have taken us 11 trips to make it to China.  The husband is really looking forward to this ADR.  We will be eating across Asia this day as lunch is at Nine Dragons and dinner at Teppan Edo.  It will be a great day!

The Plaza Restaurant.  Our new dining experiences theme continues with a trip to The Plaza Restaurant in Magic Kingdom.  Looking forward to the experience and of course, writing a post.  Oh, what we do for our readers!

Be Our Guest.  Eating at this new restaurant in the Magic Kingdom was the boy's request as soon as he knew we were going to Walt Disney World.  When we attempted to get an ADR for dinner, it was at 8:30 pm, not ideal for our family.  We held onto the reservation anyway.  Then, when our travel agent called to check on something else for us, she double checked Be Our Guest and sure enough, a 5:30 ADR had opened up.  We will be dining her on our last evening in the parks.

Rainforest Café.  While technically not new, as we have previously dined at a Rainforest Café, it was not on Disney property.  Our day at Animal Kingdom will be topped off by a visit to Rainforest Café.  The husband has already checked out the menu on-line. 

Blizzard Beach.  Our family loves swimming pools and water parks.  We are looking forward to spending some time at both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.  We’ve made two previous trips to Typhoon Lagoon, but this year, the boy is going on Crushin’ Gusher!

Disney Quest.  This 5 story indoor arcade at Downtown Disney’s West Side has been researched the most for our upcoming trip.  The boy has already figured out there is the Fix It Felix game from Wreck-It Ralph.  I’m betting we lose track of time.  But not so much that we miss our ADR at Rose & Crown for some Illuminations viewing.

Wow, that is a long list of new things.  Combine it with all the other items on our agenda and no wonder we haven’t seen it all or done it all, even after so many trips.  Oh, well, we’ll just have to go back!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Some Disney "Wishes" for Our Next Trip to Walt Disney World!

“A dream is a wish your hearts makes. . . when you are fast asleep” but I have been dreaming, Disney dreaming that is, while wide awake.  And because of that, there are some “wishes” for our upcoming trip:

Wish #1:  That we get selected, randomly or otherwise, to test MagicBands and Fastpass +.  I have logged into My Disney Experience on-line and our plans are there, but nothing indicating MagicBands or Fastpass +.  I do have the app on a mobile device and next will be to put it on my new Smartphone (yes, I went there!).

MagicBands are bracelets worn by guests that incorporate the latest in RFiD technology and include all information such as tickets, dining, Fastpasses, etc. all with the touch or tap of the bracelet.  Fastpass+ is the ability to pre-select various Fastpass attractions and experiences prior to arriving at the parks and have the information electronically loaded into MagicBands.   Planners will love Fastpass + as it allows guests to preselect times for attractions, etc. 

I got wind of an internet rumor that guests at Coronado Springs were being selected for the MagicBand trials.  Pick me, pick me!  Sign us up!  I will be looking for Cast Members with iPads at Disney’s Magical Express at the airport as well as in the registration area of the resort.

Wish #2:  That the Limited Time Magic theme for our stay, which has yet to be announced, is Long Lost Friends.  Limited Time Magic is the year long Disney theme for 2013 featuring various themed events and celebrations throughout the year, each for a limited time.  The Long Lost Friends theme has shown up twice yet so far this year and we would love to see it again as it features unusual and not often found characters.  This wish is for the husband as he would love to meet the Big Bad Wolf. 

We do know that there will be a Summer Beach Party happening at Typhoon Lagoon, Lone Ranger merchandise will be available, and Mike and Sully will be providing our wake-up calls during our stay, all a part of various Limited Time Magic themes and celebrations.

Wish #3:  This one is for the boy, who along with his mother, would love to somehow obtain a visit to or stay at Cinderella’s Castle Suite.  I asked on a message board site if guests are still being randomly selected for this privilege, similar to Year of a Million Dreams, and most replies indicated no, as a stay was being used for prizes for various contests or the Make a Wish Foundation.  There was one hopeful reply to my message and it said that after reading our blog, if anyone could make a stay in the Castle Suite happen, we could! 

One never knows what sort of magic and surprises we have in store for us during our upcoming trip to the most magical place on earth.  All I know is that we are up for it. . . whatever it is!  Our rule:  Say “yes.”