Wednesday, November 2, 2011

15 days till Disney!!

In just 15 days we'll be returning to the House of the Mouse at Walt Disney World!  This time we'll be checking into a studio villa at Beach Club Villas!  We've never stayed in the EPCOT area before so we're really looking forward to being able to report back on it.
We've gotten out our luggage, ordered our Disney Rewards Cards, gotten our tickets and have made all our dining reservations and touring plans (at 180 days out).
Some final countdown things are making grocery lists (do we try to bring or go with Gardengrocer.com)?  I think we're going to go with Garden Grocer just to get beer delivered.  DH (dear hubby) would have us going broke if we had to buy all our beverages at the marketplace!  Soon, I'll start raiding all our closets and folding up Disney shirts, swimsuits and other clothing items we can live without the next 2 weeks.
In 5 days we'll be able to do online check-in.  Since I don't have any specific room requests, we'll just take whatever they give us!

What do you do in the weeks before to get ready?  What am I forgetting??  LOL!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Updates-DVC!!!

It's been a while since I've updated this blog!  Let me fill you in on a few things that have been happening! We finalized our sale of 160 pts through the Disney Vacation Club!!!  While Saratoga Springs may not be our favorite place, it made the most economical sense for us to buy there (through DVC by Resale).  But those points can be used anywhere 7 months out so....


Our annual Thanksgiving sojourn to WDW...we will be staying at Bay Lake Towers (BLT) with a lake view!  I couldn't be more excited!  I've wanted to stay in BLT since we toured the model at SSR last trip.  We have a one bedroom booked.  My mom will be joining us again so she really likes the fact that we'll sorta have separate rooms and separate bathrooms!  Yep, you read that right.  The one bedrooms at BLT (and at Kidani) both have 2 bathrooms!  How cool is that?


So I've just started getting in planning mode for this trip.  I'm not so patiently waiting for all the WDW hours to be released so that Tour Guide Mike will update his least crowded charts for Nov.  Then I'll go into hardcore planning and figuring out our dining plans.  First I figure out what park we plan to go to which day and then I figure out where we will eat.  We're getting the basic dining plan and it's just under 2 weeks before I make our ADR's (advanced dining reservations-can make these 180 days out) so this window of time is critical for planning.  (This advice applies to anyone planning a trip to WDW-not just through DVC)!


We did go ahead and buy our tickets to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) for Nov. 18th.  I am hoping since it is a Thur. night, it won't be as crowded!  We even got a discount on our tickets buying them through DVC!  Woohoo!  Membership does have it's privileges!


So that's what's been happening!  Anyone else planning a trip to Walt Disney World anytime soon??

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's almost Spring Break!!

We have today and tomorrow of school and then we're out for Spring Break!  My excitement is boundless!  Each day we get closer, brings me new jubilation!  My mom just arrived in town and the 3 generations of us girls,  Mom, myself and my daughter are going on a roadtrip.  I am dubbing it the 3G on Tour (3 Generations).  On tour because we're touring everything in the area....

We're heading to Brenham, TX and the College Station, TX area (gig em).  We plan to tour Blue Bell ice cream factory, 3 wineries, a lavender farm, a cotton gin museum, historical buildings, Washington-on-the-Brazos which is the birthplace of TX, Texas A&M University (my daughter will be class of 2026, never to early to start visiting campus, is it?), the meteorology studio at a news station, the Antique Rose Emporium and many other educational or historical sites.


Being a teacher in a public school, I can see how limited our students' field trip opportunities are and that's just sad!!  Being a parent, I make sure that my daughter gets plenty of opportunities outside of school to enrich her learning.  For example, when she studies ginning cotton or the signing of the TX Declaration of Independence from Mexico, and it's importance in TX history, it will mean more to her.


Recently we had World Thinking Day for our Girl Scout's service unit.  My daughter's troop presented Germany.  As we "traveled" around the world to the different countries, it was fun to remind her of our visits to EPCOT's World Showcase.  While talking to the Canada booth, I asked her if she remembered taking pictures outside of the Victorian Gardens and eating at Le Cellier.  And she came up with a few facts about Germany on her own to share that she remembered from visiting Germany at EPCOT.  I was impressed!


There's so much to learn out there (especially outside of school)!  That's why I'm a huge advocate of pulling your kids out of school (much easier to do if they're in the lower grades however) if that's your only time to go to Disney or other travel opportunties!  Share the world with your children and they will be smarter people for it!  Get out and go "tour" something!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New to planning a Disney trip???

Here's the info that I recently gave to my boss who has two young girls and is planning their first trip to Walt Disney World. I hope some of it can be of help to you as well!!! If the links aren't clickable, you may need to copy and paste them to get to them.

Cheers!
Laura

Here is a good site to get started,
Tour Guide Mike. It's a bit pricey but well worth it. You need to plan or you'll have a miserable trip. Seriously. And you need to plan on arriving at the parks at the park's opening. It will only get more crowded as the day continues...not to mention hotter. Disney is not like vacations where you get to sleep in. Forget that idea now. Our second trip where we did this converted my husband over to that reality. Get up and get there as soon as it opens.

http://www.tourguidemike.com/index.asp?promoCode=AG9MF-AQ#TGM-home

clicking through that link will save you $3.

*****He will tell you which parks are better on which days and why. Since you're going in the summer when crowds are high, this info is VERY important. He will also give you a touring strategy for once you're in the parks. Always hit the most popular attractions first. And use the FREE
Fastpass system. Just make sure you know how it works. He has articles about this.*******

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You can buy
tickets at a discount through these sites. Compare them to see what is the best deal. Some may not list tax with their price so consider that.

http://www.orlandofuntickets.com/Disney-Special-Offers/

http://www.dwtickets.com/ (sign up for their email to get addl savings)

http://www.mapleleaftickets.com/

One thing you need to decide is if you want base tickets (you plan to only go to one park a day) or if you want Park Hopper tickets (can go to Epcot in a.m., then switch to Magic Kingdom p.m.). I always get PH but we stay on site and often do switch parks. If you're driving there and paying for parking, you may want to just stay at one park the whole day. Although I think I've read that if you show your receipt for parking in one park, you can get in at another. Not sure though.

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http://pscalculator.net/pscalc.php

Figure out your
180 day mark (NOW). This is when you will need to get online (or on the phone) to make your dinner reservations. They will fill up quickly.

Make reservations here:

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/

You can see
menus of every place at www.allears.net (will help plan dining expenses as well as help figure out which menus appeal to your family)

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Our 2 most favorite dining options that are must-do's every trip are:

Both of these are at Epcot, so you might end up doing breakfast that morning (early) with the princesses with Dinner later at Garden Grill.

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/dining/akershus/

Breakfast with the princesses (for a lot less than at the Castle)

Mary Poppins also made an appearance last time....you never know which ones you'll get but it will be good.

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/dining/garden-grill/

Garden Grill- has Chip and Dale, Mickey and Pluto

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Then by park (depends on how much you want to spend)- I'll mostly just recommend sit down (table service) restaurants that need ADRs (advance dining reservations)

MK-

Most counter service (cheaper, think fast food, don't need reservations) places are about the same, just pick what flavor -Mex, Chicken, burgers or by where you are located at the time you're hungry:

The Crystal Palace

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/magic-kingdom/dining/the-crystal-palace/

Disney's Hollywood Studios-

Both of these are "retro" but fun.

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/hollywood-studios/dining/50s-prime-time-cafe/

50s prime time cafe, a couple of our pics for our Christmas card this past year were taken here

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/hollywood-studios/dining/sci-fi-dine-in-theater/

Sci-Fi drive in movie theater

If you can't decide between the two, do lunch followed by milkshakes here and then have a later dinner at the 50s.

Animal Kingdom-

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/animal-kingdom/dining/donalds-safari-breakfast/

We haven't done this one, but it's another good character breakfast.

Not much in way of table service here.

Flame Tree BBQ is a popular counter service option as well as Pizzafari.

Epcot-

The two above must do's. They have counter service options in every country so whatever type of food suits your mood. They have a kiosk outside of Germany that sells beer in big plastic souvenier steins and huge pretzels.

Canada's Le Cellier is also an extremely popular place and is easiest to get in at lunch.

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/dining/le-cellier-steakhouse/

yum, yum, yum. But the others are character dinners so you might limit yourself to those.

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Now you just need to figure out if your girls are dare devils or chickens to see what type of touring plan you need to take.
MOST rides, you need to be 40 inches tall to get on.

http://www.orlandowelcomecenter.com/disney-height-requirements.htm

Kylie will get on ANY roller coaster she can. But she has NO fear. In fact, we HAVE to go back again in Nov. b/c she's just now the 44 inches that she needs to be to get on Expedition Everest....and she HAS to see the Yeti!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

DVC members!

Well, it's official! Our offer on a resale purchase of Saratoga Springs was accepted through Disney's Right of First Refusal (ROFR). In case you're not familiar with what that is, all Disney Vacation Club resale purchases have to pass through Disney. They do this to make sure everything stays at fair market value. If they feel like someone is trying to sell their points for less than what Disney feels they are worth, Disney will buy it from them and it goes off the market. For us as a buyer, we bid as low as possibly safe for it to pass, based on research and trends on what has passed and not passed through ROFR.

So why DVC??

Before our first trip, we didn't think that we would plan on going back for some time (at least that's what my husband thought....I already had other ideas). However, after the first trip....DH (dear hubby) changed his tune and was all but booking a bounceback offer! We ended up returning the following year, but this time taking my mom on her first trip. So already we were in 2 years in a row and fully planning on returning the next year. It was right before we went on this second trip that I found out that I was a semi-finalist for the Mickey Mom's Panel! I knew to continue on my quest for knowledge, that my trips had to continue, at a minimum of once a year!

During the second trip with mom, we decided to take the DVC tour. I already knew that we needed to join DVC to afford these annual trips and already knew that we could have paid for DVC in these 2 trips alone! But to convince DH.....
We went on the tour that took place at Saratoga Springs so we could see the models of AKL and BLT (the new one at the Contemporary). He was sold on the idea once he understood how simple the point system is!!!

Then we had to figure out what route we wanted to go through (buy direct from Disney or through resale). After analyzing prices, incentives and contract end dates (different resorts contracts end sooner, for example, the one we really would like to buy at , Villas of Wilderness Lodge, ends in 2042. But Saratoga (SSR) ends in 2054, which is a few more years for cheaper), we decided to buy into SSR through DVC by Resale (great company!!) because of the buy-in price, lower maintenance fees, and the longer contract of use. I should say here, that SSR is probably one of our least favorite of the themings of the DVC resorts, although I know they are ALL nice. But the good thing about DVC is that we can use those points to stay at any DVC resort, depending on availability!

Once our contract is finalized, we will be waiting until we can try to get a reservation at the new Bay Lake Towers (where I hope to add on more points at) for our usual Thanksgiving trip!! But if we can't get in there, we will be happy to stay at any of the DVC properties and might even decide to check out our home, SSR!

Some links for more info:

http://www.dvcbyresale.com/

http://dvcnews.com/index.php

http://dvc.disney.go.com/dvc/guest/about/guestAboutOverview?id=ProspectsLearnAboutDVCPage

Monday, January 11, 2010

Christmas, Living and Dying and all things Disney

Well, we've been away for a while. First there was the Christmas holidays. Being a teacher means that we're out for 2 weeks vacation. I was finally able to convince my mother to come spend Christmas at our house. You see, last year, we lost my dad and my grandfather so those were huge losses for me, but more especially for my mom: her husband and dad and this was our first Christmas without them.

What was exciting about having her come spend Christmas with me was that we go all out for Christmas. We decorate both the inside and outside. We bake, we make homemade crafts etc. This year, I have finally won my husband over to decorate with all things Disney (well, almost). We had a Mickey ear shaped wreath up over our mantle, a Mickey and friends mantle cover as well as a matching Mickey and Minnie tree skirt. Not to mention the little live tree in a pot that I put Disney Park ornaments all over. We also made an investment in Mickey head shaped lights that we strung across the mantle and got more for next year. On the outside, we had our giant inflatable Mickey "Santa". So it was nice not having to leave our Disneyfied house for Christmas for the first time.

Christmas went well. I was successfully able to sneak under the tree a WDW watch that I had bought my husband on our last trip. He's already received compliments from many! We only had a few tearful moments in missing my dad and grandfather.
The major flaw in having Christmas at our house was that our oven decided to no longer bake, only broil, on Christmas eve so no more baking for us. No pies and thank goodness the ham I had bought was already cooked!! We made do by cooking in the microwave and browning with the broiler in the oven. (I've since bought one of those little toaster convection ovens for the counter while we decide whether to repair or replace our oven).

After Christmas we went back to East TX to spend some time with my family there. On our way, we decided to stop by College Station (Aggieland=Whoop!) to visit with my daughter's dad. We had a lovely visit and he had hid presents all over his house for her. Then we stayed with my mom for a while and didn't have internet access for a week (besides my iPhone, which is not conducive for blogging). The day we returned home, we got a call from my daughter's dad's secretary in College Station who informed us that my DD6's dad had passed away. We were in absolute shock and disbelief. We had seen him just 5 days before and he was the picture of good health. He died from an apparent heart attack while jogging. He wasn't just her father but also one of my closest friends so I am not dealing with the loss all that well.

For the past week, we have been putting together photos for the memorial and I've spent hours on the phone with lawyers trying to figure out inheritance and child support issues. He had not updated his will so it's a mess to say the least. If you could keep us in your prayers it would be much appreciated! My birthday was this past Sat., and that was the day we buried him. So much for a happy birthday!

Today, we're back at school and trying to get our lives back to normal. So as you can see, it's been Christmas with a lot of grieving thrown in. I hope to continue the blog with more things Disney soon.

One thing to note is that on the Passporter Boards, if you're considering joining the Passporter Club, they are going up on their price sometime this month!

Next blog I will hopefully have news about our DVC resale purchase!! We're currently waiting to see if we pass Disney's ROFR on our offer price. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Laura in Austin

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Back from Disney

Well, we're back from Disney and it seems that we're already starting to plan our next vacation there (which is my favorite way to live)! I haven't had time to catch up on email or work or much less, unpacking. As time permits, I will be writing a full trip report which I will post on here!

Highlights from our trip:

1) Nothing was lost.
2) I got all my room requests (and I was worried about doing online check-in)!
3) Yehaa Bob at the POR is a must see!!!
4) My mom (who is scared of heights) rode ToT 2 times!! And survived both going and coming airplane flights! I think this was a big step for her.
5)Take your husband to tour DVC....it might just work. (crossing fingers)!!
6) We saw and did everything I wanted and planned except for the new Space Mountain and Wishes. (Both were human error and could have totally been done. Still not happy about that! But hey, a reason to return, right?)
7)Took LOTS of pictures for my scrapbook and utilized PhotoPass as much as possible to get my $22 share worth it's price, LOL!
8) 8 days was NOT enough...especially if you get in late the first day and leave early on the last. Hmph. I want more time to relax (and journal).
9) RnR turned my legs into jelly but was AWESOME!
10) Having "free" money from our Disney Visa Rewards Card made for good spending money!!