DVC

A Wilderness Lodge Villas Vacation: Construction Update

by on May 3, 2016

 

© Sarah Graffam

Construction behind Wilderness Lodge Villas

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Villas and parts of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge have been under construction since the fall of 2015. The project was covered in a TouringPlans.com article by Erin Foster in January, and this article provides an update on the construction.

Eleven months ago (according to schedule), I was up bright and early and on the Disney Vacation Club website to secure a reservation for our family’s April vacation at our home resort, The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. We love the serenity and atmosphere there as it gives us a beautiful setting to wind down before, between, or after touring the parks. And then it happened—DVC expansion!  Like many other guests, a flood of questions entered my mind. Will this affect my stay, how noisy will it be, how close will it be, will I still enjoy one of my favorite resorts?

© Sarah Graffam

Scrims behind the main pool at Wilderness Lodge

Fast forward to our stay. The Wilderness Lodge lobby remains as beautiful as ever, and instantly I was “home.” No signs of construction there.

© Sarah Graffam

Wilderness Lodge lobby

As we made the walk from the lobby to the villas building, we were feeling very apprehensive. In fact, based on multiple reports that the construction had turned the entire back side of the villas facing the lake into a construction zone, we had put in a request for a villa on the front side of the building. But when we got Disney’s text with our room number, it was for a room directly facing the construction. Turns out, though, Disney had our backs. As we approached the villas, there it was—scaffolding covering the entrance and extending to the front side of the building!

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! April 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on April 30, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. Because the last day of April this year ends on a Saturday, the rarest of all birds at the TouringPlans blog can be seen: a daily double of the SATURDAY SIX and the Outlet Report! This week’s SATURDAY SIX is on the Walt Disney World locations used in Hulk Hogan’s Thunder in Paradise TV show is one Your Humble Author has wanted to write for a long, loooooong time, so I hope you enjoy it.

So what happened in the theme park world this past month? Disney started the After Hours event at the Magic Kingdom and sold so few tickets that the movie Mars Needs Moms was heard laughing. Disney has already cut the price of After Hours tickets in half for Annual Passholders and DVC members, and the party is a true value when compared to the $1700 photo shoot available out in Cars Land. Unfortunately The Earful Tower, one of my all time favorite WDW park icons, has made it’s way to the Disney Dump joining about out half of DHS. Goodbye Earful Tower, you will be missed, and we’ll see you later this year in our special In Memoriam article.

Now while all of you were out yelling at American Airlines’ gate agents about missing your Disney Cruise, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

The first item I’ve been waiting for ever since they showed up at the regular Disney stores just about two years ago. These hats where you look like you are wearing the carcass of a dead Disney character on your head are next level bananas. Apparently these bonkers hats are huge over at the Tokyo parks, but to be fair they also line up for hours just for popcorn. Popcorn!  To be be even more fair, if I were out there I’d be in line with them. Originally $21.95, these were reduced to $5.99 and you better believe I bought one.

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Goofy hat.

The next item also made my day. Disney has recently started putting out a line of t-shirts featuring these AMAZING Star Wars/Disney Attraction Poster mashups. They actually started selling these designs a while back on dog tags, but let’s get real, who buys dog tags? No offense to any weirdos out there, but that’s a weird thing to collect. A real dog tag for someone who served in the military? Couldn’t respect more. A dog tag featuring Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in a homage to the Haunted Mansion? That’s weird. However, now that the dog tags had their price in half I bought all three designs. There’s one more design featuring Luke’s Landspeeder in a mashup with an Autopia attraction poster, but that wasn’t available. Originally $19.95, reduced to $9.99.

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Given me a break, how FANTASTIC is that design using the space slug from Empire Strikes Back as MONSTRO?!

If you are dating a woman who doesn’t mind carrying around what looks like a decapitated head of an Ewok as her purse, PUT A RING ON THAT FINGER. Originally $60 (Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!), reduced to “just” $29.99.

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Yub nub.

This is a first for me at the Outlets. One thing Disney sells in almost all of their resort gift shops are these large and colorful cookies featuring characters. They are cookies in only the most abstract version of the word. I actually use them as roof shingles. They are originally $5.95, but this one featuring Boba Fett was marked down to $1.99. I was there at almost 10 o’clock at night and the cashier said I was the first person who bought a cookie. Apparently word is out.

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“You want a cookie?!” – Chris Rock

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Purchasing DVC resale vs. direct: the new math

by on April 29, 2016

For anyone considering a purchase of a Disney Vacation Club contract, a major curveball was thrown when DVC changed the way that contracts bought on the resale market would be treated when it comes to membership perks.

As the email that went out to members read: “Now, effective April 4, 2016, Members who do not
purchase their ownership interest directly from Disney Vacation Club will not have access to other
Membership Extras, such as exclusive Member experiences and discounts. Please know that as a
current Disney Vacation Club Member (regardless of when or where you bought your membership),
your access to Disney Differences and these additional Membership Extras will not be affected by this
policy change.”

©Disney

©Disney

What that means is that anyone purchasing a DVC contract on the resale market will not have access to membership extras such as member parties and access to the Top of The World Lounge or the soon-to-be-open members lounge in Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion. It also means new resale members won’t get the dining, merchandise and, most significantly, annual pass discounts current members enjoy.

So when you’re making the decision whether to purchase resale or direct, you’re going to have to factor in these changes. If you don’t plan on purchasing annual passes, the savings in the resale market are significant enough to continue to tilt in the favor of that option.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

by on April 23, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Throughout the years Walt Disney World has created many incredible resorts including Art of Animation, Port Orleans French Quarter and the Animal Kingdom Lodge, but back when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 it had a grand total of two: The Contemporary, and the Polynesian Village. Talk about about two hotels that have stood the test of time! In fact they may be even more popular today than they have ever been.

POLY_LOGO

While there have been many refurbishments and updates over the years, The Poly still retains the charm it has had for over 40 years. Combining the the lushness of the South Tropics with the mystery of Adventureland, this is one resort that is going make an impact with just about every Disney fan. So sit back, relax on a beachside hammock, and let’s begin counting down our top six reasons we love The Poly starting with…

# 6 – The Bungalows

One of the newest additions to The Poly is also one of the most spectacular (if not pricey). 20 two-bedroom bungalows now sit on Seven Seas Lagoon looking directly at the Magic Kingdom. With a private back deck providing an astonishing view of nighttime spectaculars such as Wishes, the bungalows are filled with subtle Disney touches along with all of today’s modern conveniences that the Disney Vacation Club provides. With prices starting around $2000 a night, you’ll probably want to spend a lot of time inside the actual bungalow to get the most bang for your buck. While relaxing, be sure to check out the Mary Blair artwork along with tributes to Tropical Serenade and the Electrical Water Pageant.

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Bora Bora Bungalows at The Poly. (photo by Laurel Stewart)

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A tribute to the Electrical Water Pageant in the pull down bed. How great is that?! (photo by Tom Bricker)

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A TV in the bathroom mirror? The Bungalows join the elusive list of E-Ticket Bathrooms which include Tangled Toilets in the Magic Kingdom, Moaning Myrtle in the Hogsmeade loo, and the Grand Flo DVC restrooms.

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Wishes explodes over Cinderella Castle as seen from the deck of a bungalow. To the right is Space Mountain. (photo by Laurel Stewart)

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Dani’s Best Week Ever March 3, 2016: Universal Orlando, Treehouse Villas, Morimoto Asia, and Best Friends Pet Care

by on March 3, 2016

Sometimes the best days, as in the best ever days, are when you cram in a ton of attractions area fun into one day. In this case, I crammed a quick visit to Universal Orlando, drove to Walt Disney World, checked my dog Dodger (#DodgertheDog) into Best Friend’s Pet Care, joined my family at the amazing Treehouse Villas, took a boat ride to Disney Springs, and had one of the best meals of my life at Morimoto Asia. And this all took place after I had gone to work that day. So come along with me for a whirlwind trip over the river and into the woods from Universal Orlando to the Treehouse Villas at Walt Disney World.

Cheers to one of the best days ever!

Cheers to one of the best days ever!

After work I headed to Universal Orlando to check out the brand new Hello Kitty store. Though I am not the biggest Hello Kitty fan, it’s always fun to see something when it first opens. There’s excitement in the air, management is hovering over their new pride and joy, it’s clean and unharmed. The store is bright, bubbly, and almost saccharine. All kinds of Hello Kitty and Sanrio character merchandise fill the walls from apparel to house wares.

Hello Kitty everything

Hello Kitty everything

Hello Kitty flippy floppies

Hello Kitty flippy floppies ($19.95 plus tax)

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! February 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on February 29, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. February during a leap year, is there a better month on the calendar? We think not! Yes, Disney did introduce tiered pricing of tickets, but Your Humble Author did provide Tiered Payment Options. Thanks to the Disneyland 60 special (which surprisingly didn’t have much to do with Disneyland), we finally got some details on Star Wars Land. Speaking of Disneyland, it was rumored that DL guru Guy Selga immediately ripped up his annual pass after stepping through Hogsmeade Village during the Wizarding World’s soft openWe in Florida got news that the Dream Along With Mickey stage show, which ran for an amazingly long 68 years at the Magic Kingdom, is going to be replaced by Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire this summer. Just a whole bunch of win, and thanks to Leap Year we get an extra day to bask in it!

Now while all of you were out taking your kids to see Deadpool, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

First up, the newest Tsum Tsums to hit the store were from the Lilo and Stitch line, including this one featuring Lilo herself.

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Lilo Tsum Tsum.

A little backstory on this next one. Two years ago this very month, I was finally brave enough to do my first “live tweeting” from the main TouringPlans twitter account. Everything went well until I went to a gift shop in Tomorrowland and commented on a Pink Stitch plush. Apparently I’m the only human being on Earth who didn’t know that was Stitch’s girlfriend Angel. That may actually be the last day I live tweeted from the TouringPlans account as well. Anyway, here is the Pink Stitch Angel Tsum Tsum.

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Pink Stitch Tsum Tsum.

I teased it last month, but now it is finally time for the grand debut of my first ever…

TSUM TSUM UNBOXING VIDEO!

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The Basics: Selecting the Right Walt Disney World Hotel Category

by on February 24, 2016

This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to find links to our other Basics posts.

 

One of the most exciting and often nerve wracking parts of planning a vacation is selecting a hotel. Some people view a hotel as simply the place where you sleep and shower, and nothing more. Others, like me, see the hotel as home base and a destination unto itself. I’ve even planned entire vacations around the hotel more so than the local area and attractions (but then again I work in the hotel industry and am a self-proclaimed hotel nerd).

If the weather is bad or if somebody gets sick, this is where you’ll spend much of your vacation time. At the end of a full day touring the parks this is where you can rest, or depending on which location you choose, you can come back in the middle of the day to relax. The amount of options in all of Central Florida can be astounding, after all there are over 400 hotels in the Orlando / Orange County area.

Old Key West Resort room

Old Key West Resort room

Let’s assume for the purposes of this post that you’ve decided you really want to stay on Walt Disney World property. You still have to sort through over 20 hotels in order to select your hotel. The main focus of this guide is to help you decide between Walt Disney World resort hotel categories. I will include some of the pros and cons of each category, as well as a general overview of the features of each category. This includes location, transportation, food and beverage, and amenities. In follow up posts, we will dig into the specifics of these features for each resort in particular.

Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels, Swan and Dolphin, and Bonnet Creek

If you’re looking for close proximity at lower cost, then the hotels near Disney Springs on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, as well as the hotels of Bonnet Creek, offer easy transportation. If you want the extra perks such as Disney transportation and Extra Magic Hours, however, you’ll need either a Disney-owned hotel or the Starwood Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, which offer these benefits with slightly lower room rates. The MagicBand (as a room key and ticket) and Disney’s Magical Express are exclusive features for Disney owned and operated. For some folks this is a major plus, while for others it is not worth the extra money that a Disney owned property can cost.

Walt Disney World Swan

The Walt Disney World Swan: Very close to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but technically a Starwood hotel.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! January 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on January 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. The new year has started off exactly where the old one left us: with Walt Disney World closing attractions. It has been a pretty cool month though, including a cool Star Wars runDisney race out in California (and Star Wars fans owe it to themselves to watch a great parody of Undercover Boss featuring Kylo Ren). Erin Foster took us inside Vanellope’s on the Disney Dream, and for those who don’t know, this is a complete Wreck-It-Ralph themed sweet shop (pinch us, we’re dreaming). And Guy Selga introduced us to Four Glorious New Ways to Kill Time at Disneyland, including the am I dreaming this, or is this real Jungle Cruise Skipper School. 2016 is shaping up to be an incredible year.

Now while all of you were off taking your kids to see Donald Trump, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

The first item this month made my heart grow three sizes (after double checking, that enlargement of the heart was actually due to eating the Pop-Tart Sandwich at Pop Century). Behold the Luigi’s Flying Tires hat! Anyone who has visited the Disney Dump has seen the remnants of this attraction, which opened with the debut of Cars Land in the summer of 2012 and was already closed by the ending of February 2015. Believe it or not, despite only being open for only 976 days, Luigi’s doesn’t even rank in the Top Five of Short Lived Disney Attractions. Originally $24.95, this baby could be sitting on your head for just $6.99. VIVA LA DISNEY OUTLETS!

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After seeing this, I know how Indiana Jones felt seeing the Fertility Idol.  (photo by Julia Mascardo)

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Tsum Tsums returned this month! However it was mostly the ones we have seen in the past (including all seven of the dwarfs), but one that was new was this crying duck. I had literally no idea who this was, but found out it was the Ugly Duckling from a quick scene in Lilo & Stitch. That’s what we call a deep dive, and I love it. I actually dropped Loot Crate this month and started up the Disney Tsum Tsum Monthly Subscription Program, so starting in February I too will annoy you with unboxing videos (although my last one didn’t go so well).

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Ugly Duckling Tsum.

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Ugly Duckling sequence from Lilo & Stitch.

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Rating Disney Vacation Club’s 25th anniversary offers

by on January 26, 2016

As a fairly new owner of Disney Vacation Club, I’ve heard the trope that nothing is promised to owners except access to resort rooms that would otherwise cost far more on a cash basis. At its core, DVC is a timeshare program, though one that has its own cachet and has, so far, retained a good bit of value on the resale market.

DVC members will be able to relax upstairs in Epcot's Imagination Pavilion.

DVC members will be able to relax upstairs in Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion.

But as DVC owners will tell you, it can be much more thanks to the extras that are provided. There are small bonuses, like the Disney Files magazine that comes in the mail every three months or the DVC magnets for the back of your car. Then there are larger bonuses, like the dining and merchandise discounts and special offers on annual passes or park tickets.

With 2016 being the 25th year of DVC’s existence (yes, those original purchasers at Old Key West will be halfway through their contracts at the end of this year), DVC is rolling out a host of special offers to celebrate. We’ll run through and classify the offers.

Yes, that’s what I’m talking about

One of my favorite perks of membership is access to The Top Of The World Lounge at Disney’s Bay Lake Tower. It’s a great place for drinks and snacks, and the exclusive access means you don’t have to fight the crowds for this great viewing spot of the Wishes fireworks show. So I’m really happy that another exclusive member area will be created within a theme park. The upper floor of Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion (the old ImageWorks) is being taken out of mothballs to be transformed into a DVC member lounge with seating, complimentary soft drinks, wi-fi, charging stations, computers with printers and member services advisors. In the heat of the summer, sounds like a great way to get some rest and refreshment before trekking into World Showcase. Plus, it’s something that every DVC member can take advantage of, unlike our next offering.

Amazing if you can make it

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Disney Vacation Club Members Can Celebrate 25 Years of DVC With 25 and Beyond Bash

by on January 14, 2016

DVC 25 Bash

©Disney

Disney Vacation Club is celebrating 25 years and DVC members will get to enjoy quite a few exciting events to commemorate the occasion. The fun will kick off with the Disney Vacation Club 25 and Beyond Bash at the Magic Kingdom on two nights – February 25 and March 3. The party will kick off at 9:30 p.m. and last until midnight.

Event highlights will include access to select attractions in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, as well as The Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square. There will also be a DJ dance party for Guests to groove to in Tomorrowland and complimentary refreshments available. Other items will be available for purchase.

Members and their Guests will be able to enter the park as early as 7:00 p.m., however to enter the park at 7:00 p.m., Guests must have valid theme park admission. Guests will be able to check in for the event at either the Magic Kingdom or at the lobbies of the Disney Vacation Club Resorts. Membership Card and a photo ID will be required at check-in. Attendees will be given a wristband to wear during the event.

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