Friday, February 26, 2010

PARK HOPPER PICKS- WEEKLY TIP

DISNEY TIP OF THE WEEK
One of my biggest tips of all- STAY ON SITE.   Staying in a disney resort truly brings that extra sprinkling of pixie dust to make your vacation really memorable.   So you say you can't afford it?  Sure you can, Disney offers a resort for every budget, taste and preference.    With over 20 resorts on property, you are guaranteed to find one you like.    Of course, I love staying on site so much, that we just purchased the Disney Vacation Club, so we will ALWAYS be staying on site from now on (for at least 50 years!).  Not to mention you'll get a host of benefits:
 *free disney transportation with Magical Express from and to airport
*free disney transportation to parks/resorts- buses, boats and monorail
*Extra Magic Hours- get in select parks one hour before opening and stay 3 hours later at night!   You must show room key (Key to the World card) to verify you are a disney resort guest to qualify.
*THE DISNEY MAGIC!!! and special touches!

I have experienced all many levels of the disney resorts (except Villas, which I will in Dec!) at Disney and in Orlando- from the cheap hotel off 1-4 to a cabin at Fort Wilderness to a nice studio at the Wilderness Lodge, complete with balcony and pool view.   They all offer something for each guest.

So what do I love about staying on site?
  1. I can be completely immersed in the disney magic 24/7
  2. I am greeted by friendly cast members in the lobby, at the pool- at every turn
  3. The proximity to the parks is amazing!  A quick walk out of bay lake tower at the Contemporary and we will be at the magic kingdom!
  4. Transportation- while we like to rent a car, we still enjoy the freedom of hopping on a boat or monorail!
  5. Towel animals.  enough said.
  6. Refillable mugs- buy one and refill for free your entire trip with coffee, soda etc. 
  7. The pools- simply amazing fun!
  8. The theming- where else can i go and feel like I am in the French Quarter (while in FL) or see a an ostrich egg built into my lamp design at the Animal Kingdom lodge?  Disney really does it right with every detail in the room.
  9. The 'extras'- mickey soap, hidden mickeys in the carpet and bedding, seeing a giraffe from your balcony or watching fireworks from it!
  10. Extra Magic Hours- if done right, you can see so much more with these extra hours.  We manage to get most of fantasyland done during the early morning extra  hour at the Magic Kingdom before crowds get too big. 


The value resorts offer what you might find in a standard value hotel like a Holiday Inn, but they are themed, clean and offer far better amenities (who doesn't love mickey soap, don't find that at a Ramada!).   The large food courts offer a huge variety of dining options.  There are on site shops for any souvies or necessities (like the sunblock you forgot).    And don't forget the amazing themed pools for the kiddos (and kids at heart).  Most of the rooms will sleep 4 (plus a baby in crib) and are 260 sq ft in size. During value season, these rooms can be as low as $82 a night and go up to $145 during busy season like Christmas week.   There are always discounts to be found though to bring the price down!

The moderate resorts are more my style, a little more room with 315 sq feet and again, hold 4 plus baby in crib.   The pools here are even better, with unique slides and activities like a fishing hole.  Again, food courts are fantastic as is the shopping.   I've stayed at all moderates except Coronado Springs, which I've visited on more than one occassion.   CS is popular with the convention/business crowd.   Port Orleans Riverside is my favorite- love the southern theme and beautiful landscaping!  Rooms start usually at $149 for the slower season.  

Disney's Deluxe resorts are truly a splurge.   It hasn't always been in our budget, but I have had the chance to stay at both Animal Kingdom and Wilderness Lodge.  Both of these are slightly more affordable than the other 6 deluxe resorts.    Disney pulls out all the stops on their deluxe offerings, with amazing pools, 5-star restaurants, impeccable theming and service.   The lobbies of some of these resorts are a spectacle in themselves.   Prices vary wildly, but can start at $240 a night in value season.   Disney does offer special discounts and pin codes sometimes- i recently received a pin code (non transferrable) for 40% deluxe rooms for certain dates- that would make the Wilderness Lodge about $150 a night, the price of a moderate!

Disney's Deluxe Villas are designed for Disney's Vacation Club members, but are also available to the general public (or you can rent points from a DVC member).   They feature additional space for larger parties- including a 2 and 3 bedroom villa.   The Grand Villa sleeps up to 12.   Prices are extremely high for the Grand Villa and it is a special treat, many are 2 story!

Lastly, don't forget about Disney's Fort Wilderness- this unique resort offers affordable campsites for under $50.    As a child, this is how we did disney the first two times we went- in our pop up camper.   Fort Wilderness offers amazing facilities with bathrooms, playground, general store, buffet, Hoop Dee Doo revue, golf cart rentals, pools, horses and more.   
  • 4 VALUE RESORTS- All-Star Music, All-Star Movies, Pop Century and   
  •  4 MODERATE RESORTS- Carribean Beach, Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter and Coronado Springs.
  • 8 DELUXE RESORTS- Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk Inn
  • 8 DELUXE VILLA (DVC) RESORTS- Wilderness Lodge Villas, Bay Lake Tower, Animal Kingdom Villas, Boardwalk Villas, Beach Club Villas, Old Key West, Treehouse Villas, Saratoga Springs.

DISNEY NEWS
  • It's no surprise to me, but SIX Disney resorts made the 2010 AAA Four Diamond lodgings list.   They include the Boardwalk Inn, Beach Club, Contemporary (my new DVC home!), Polynesian, Yacht Club and the Grand Floridian which has been on this list for 21 years!
  • Welcome Home buttons!  As you enter a disney park, you are greeted by the 'button man' who has a host of different 'celebration buttons' for free to promote the 'What Will You Celebrate' theme for this year.    They offer anniversary, birthday, first visit, family reunion and other themed buttons.   NOW- they have added a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) button for DVC owners, that says 'member since.....'.   
  • SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, died when Tilikum, a popular orca dragged her under water and flung her around during a live show.  Thoughts and prayers to her family both at home and at SeaWorld.   
COMING SOON


  • ESPN weekend is February 25 - February 28, 2010 -this event is at the Hollywood Studios and features al ineup of popular ESPN and sports personalities. 
  • Alice in Wonderland debuts at theatres on March 5th!
  • 17th Epcot Flower & Garden Festival at Walt Disney World Opens March 3!
  • Star Wars Weekends Begin Landing in May at Disney's Hollywood Studios
  • Toy Story 3 comes to a child's room near you on June 18th

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Nothing like Sheriff Woody to start hump day off right!

Monday, February 22, 2010

40 Years, Tears and Cheers!

So this weekend we officially celebrated my parents 40th wedding anniversary.  Wow, talk about an accomplishment.   40 years is a big deal in today's world of quickie divorces.   It isn't everyday you find that anymore.   My sisters are and I are so proud and truly look to them as an example for our own marriages and lives.    While the road has never been easy (I mean they did raise us 3 girls!), it has been filled with lots of tears, but mostly cheers.    So raise your glass and let's toast to another 40! 

Here they are at dinner at Nick & Sam's where my sisters (and BILs) treated them this weekend for a nice steak dinner.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Attack of the Texas Snowman

Well pigs do fly, because we got almost a foot of snow here in Texas recently  and we might get more this week!   Kids were in heaven with school closing for most this past Friday.   Will's day care closed and so I was stuck at home with him, not that I am complaining.  Although it would have been more enjoyable if we had heat and electricity, which didn't come back on until late morning (and went off at 3am!).   Talk about cold!    William did enjoy playing in the snow, we built snow balls and threw them at the ground.   I saw more snowmen than I have in all my life- including very unique ones, like the snowman family of 4, with two 'minis' down the street.    Great to see all the kids and adults enjoying some good old fashioned snow.  It's such a rare treat here!

Friday, February 19, 2010

PARK HOPPER PICKS- WEEKLY DISNEY NEWS AND TIPS

So I've decided to start blogging each week with some updates on all that is new at Disney Parks (and sometimes beyond).   I'll try and do this each Friday.   So here we go:

TIP OF THE WEEK
It's pretty basic, but I think the key to any good WDW vacation is starting with a great travel agent!   I recommend you try and find one that specializes in Disney.  I used to book all my trips my self, I figured I knew the intricacies of getting the best deal, but boy was I wrong.    I've used  Dreams Unlimited Travel a number of times now and they've been able to find us fantastic deals beyond what I ever could.   Being a control freak, it wasn't easy to hand off my vacation to someone else, but it worked.    I was able to have whatever level of involvement I chose, in fact, Dreams offers to make all your Advance Dining Requests (ADRs) for you, but I decided I wanted to do that myself, so if a certain date/restaurant wasn't available, I could juggle the schedule around.   They were able to get us discounted rooms by putting us with another room block for a special event going on one time- savings us hundreds of dollars.   It saved me the headache of having to be on the phone all the time to make any adjustments or changes or inquire about new discounts.    So even if you think you know it all, give a specialized Disney travel agent a try- you might be surprised.    Give it a try, you might be glad you did!

DISNEY NEWS
  • They've released the artwork for the 2010 Star Wars Weekends at Hollywood Studios -  Disney's Star Wars Weekends start in late May and continue through June for four weekends.  
  • Disney's beloved Main Street Electrical Parade will be making its return to Walt Disney World this summer.   I don't believe it will be permanent, but you never know.  It is part of the new Summer Nightastic.   It features a new Tinkerbell float too and updated LED lighting.  It will premeire in early June. 
  • Toy Story 3----Can't wait for this one- the new trailer was just released this week- be sure to check it out.  TOY STORY 3 MOVIE TRAILER.  It includes 14 new characters, including "Peas in a Pod", "Ken" (Barbie will be so thrilled!), "Unicorn" and more.   Toy Story 3 hits theatres June 18th!
  • McDonald's Shutting Down- the McDonald's located in Downtown Disney Marketplace area is closing down, to be replaced by a Pollo Campero (Latin chicken chain- i know, strange pick?).  This is just one of many changes going on as Disney reinvents the Downtown Disney area.  
  • New Pizzareia in Italy- Epcot will be opening a new pizzareia in the Italy pavilion and is scheduled to open later this year.  Let's hope they make real pizza and not the crap that is often served throughout all the various counter service in WDW.  
  • Disney's Give a Day, Get a Day program is a huge success with over 600,000 volunteers already!  By signing up for one of their selected volunteer opportunities, you receive a free voucher for a one day ticket to a Disney park.   This voucher can be used to apply the value of a one day ticket ($79) towards a disney park hopper pass, annual pass or other length of stay ticket. 
  • Beginning February 7, guests dining at Cinderella's Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom in WDW will have a new dining experience.  The Fairy Godmother will no longer be available, but many 'princess' friends will join Cinderella instead. 
COMING SOON TO WDW
* Disney's 17th Annual Flower and Garden Festival- Epcot- begins March 3rd
* Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend- March 5-7th- now in it second year!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Real Boy's Boy

Well it's true, he's all boy.   Now in the terrible twos, William is starting to display the climbing, jumping, roughousing and car loving little guy that he is- all man!  We attended our friend Dwight's birthday party at My Gym this past Saturday and William had a ball.   It was a great place, but you know what, I have one complaint about all these wonderful gyms and kids activity centers.......they do NOT cater the 9-5 working mom like me.    While they do offer a few weekend classes, they fill up quick and are pretty limited or more expensive.  And some places I have checked out only offer 'free time' during the weekdays.  What good does that do me?   Thankfully Will is in a great montesorri school that he loves, but I wish these type of places offered more availability on the weekend for us working moms of the world.   Gripe over.

My First Wordless Wednesday

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY
Every Wednesday, I'll post a pic withOUT a lot of senseless chatting.....impossible?  Maybe.  I am long winded.  See, I already stretched this out!

Practicing sitting on the potty. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Let it Snow- oh no?




well us Texans got more snow today and Will absolutely goes gaga for it. He can't get enough of the stuff, unless of course, you ask him to actually touch it, then well, it is just a little too frosty for him. I did make him a mini snowball and he took it in the car with him to day care. I am sure they will just love that. good mom, good mom!

In other news, we also have officially become DVC members- we have purchased 200 points at Bay Lake Towers at the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World (for all you non disney folks out there). so this basically guarantees we will travel to my favorite place in the world at least every other year, if not every year! We are taking our first trip as DVC members, Dec 4-11th, 2010! We are going to stay in a one bedroom suite that has a fully appointed kitchen, two bathrooms and more. pretty nice digs! Plus we can just head downstairs and WALK to the Magic Kingdom- how cool is that?



Will is very excited too- I am getting him prepped by asking him if he wants to go to Disney World and he answered last night and said "eat with Pooh Bear". We did eat with Pooh Bear on our most recent December trip, so I guess he wants to do it again and let's face it, the boy gets what he wants! So stay tuned for more adventures as I slowly mold my son into the disney-freak that I am! Heck, even Dad is slowly converting- he agreed to shell out the big bucks for DVC, so i must be doing something right? that, or tinkerbell just dumped a little pixie dust on him when I wasn't looking?