Saving Money

Sensible Budgeting for Souvenirs

by on November 23, 2014

My wife walked into our study – so-called the Yankees room – adorned with retired jerseys, souvenirs from baseball games, and posed figures clutching bats and blocking home plate. As she does before mentioning something that she likes, she led with a phrase meant as more than subtext, “I know I shouldn’t be mentioning this…” and she referred me to the Disney online store where new souvenirs from the Haunted Mansion collection had just been launched. I have a terrible habit of keeping a record of everything my wife mentions that she even has a slight interest in, and putting it in the cart. By ‘putting it in the cart,’ I mean ordering it as soon as she leaves the room – to be delivered for our next Disney trip. In contrast, this time she was adamant that I absolutely not order the really great new shirts emulating the cast members. One was a maid, and the other was the ghost host. So this time, I needed to wait until the next morning to look it up. By then, the shirt had sold out, and my continued checking found it unavailable. Frankly, this was an item that even I really wanted, and although the ghost host shirt remained, it was available only in a men’s small that certainly wouldn’t fit my frame.

Immediately, I was dismayed. Not at the loss of the item – but knowing that if I really wanted to find it, I would probably have to wait months to find it in the new Memento Mori shop. As a reforming hoarder (code: still really terrible hoarder), I constantly need to remind myself to slow down and relax. Even if I couldn’t immediately find an item, more than likely something pretty great would come down the line.

Comic Collector's hoard

Comic Collector’s hoard

I come from a nasty collector’s history. I started collecting comic books in middle school, and really read like crazy during the era when comic book values had been skyrocketing over demand. Nearly any book with a hot character could be relatively assured to increase in price if just held for a few years, and my spare nickels all went into a fund for comics, and my collection took over my spare space. I listed, and later categorized with values. Like nearly everyone else, I went to college, and my spare nickels disappeared – and my comic habit eventually stopped. The collecting industry as a whole dried up, and values plummeted. Nearly every hoarder dumped entire collections onto the public, and outside of a few key issues, values dropped. When I returned to check years later, it turned out that only a few books retained any value, and the industry had changed drastically. Comics, like many other industries, were now producing books for the collectors. Limited editions, variants, hidden gems. The old practice of holding onto a book for a few years and it increased in value had nearly disappeared – outside of a few key elements. I started collecting again, and my mentality of ‘owning it all’ came back again.

When I first travelled to Disney World, my searching for the souvenirs mentality came back – and I decided to focus on only a few items – like the Star Wars themed Mr. Potato Head toys. Seeing it as limited set of five toys, I thought I could buy them, and then ‘be done.’ Of course, the line returned to an old collector/hoarder worst enemy. Retirement.

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Menu Monday: Best Counter Service Restaurants in Magic Kingdom

by on November 17, 2014

Be Our Guest RestaurantPicking your favorite Walt Disney World counter/quick service restaurant is like picking your favorite child, sure on some days you may like one more than the other (come on, we’ve all been there!), but overall, you just can’t choose a favorite! Dining in Walt Disney World has become a favorite past time among repeat guests. And now, more often than not, first time guests have their own “bucket list” of restaurants to eat at or snack to try. With this increase in demand and expectation, Disney has responded by adding more restaurants and expanding the menus of their current restaurants. These adjustments also come with price increases. As Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin from ABC’s Once Upon A Time always reminds us, “all magic comes with a price” even Disney’s pixie-dusted munchies. But fear not intrepid traveler and foodie, you can indulge your taste buds and save your budget with the counter/quick service restaurants available at every Disney Park and resort. But with literally, over a hundred to choose from (seriously, 102 – I counted!), I’m here to help you select the best of the best, park by park and even among the resorts. This article will focus on the counter service options of the Magic Kingdom. The focus will be on restaurants that offer a full meal option. Though there are many additional locations I could have included in this list, I narrowed it down to exclude those counter locations that really only sell snacks. After watching hours of Master Chef and Chopped, I’ve devised a ranking system that will incorporate four criteria into the ultimate calculation for the best counter service meals.  The criteria are:

  • Best value (portion/cost ratio) = 10 points
  • Flavor = 10 points
  • Originality = 5 points
  • Atmosphere = 5 points
  • Grand total = 30 possible points

Be Our Guest – New Fantasyland

This latest addition to the Magic Kingdom dining line-up has everyone crazed to make dinner reservations or snag the elusive lunch FastPass+ option. The menu is a bit pricier than other counter service option, and it’s only available as a counter service during the lunch hours (10:30am to 2:30pm). Starting at 4pm, Be Our Guest is considered a Table Service restaurant where prices increase and the menu changes a bit.

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SATURDAY SIX Special Edition: A First Timer’s Guide to Surviving Halloween Horror Nights

by on November 1, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a special one as we present: A First Timer’s Guide to Surviving Halloween Horror Nights. Today is the last day of Halloween Horror Nights, the Universal Orlando Resort’s signature event, and one of the absolute best reasons to plan a vacation to Orlando this time of year. 2015′s HHN looks to be even better as it will be the 25th anniversary, and we already know that HHN icon Jack Schimdt will be returning. While many guests are used to the offerings of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, there are more than a few who are skittish about putting their foot into HHN to test the water. So I reached out to Joseph Matt of Parkscope.net, as he recently returned from his first ever HHN, and he is here to share six tips he learned from the experience. Take it away Joe….

A First Timer’s Guide to Surviving Halloween Horror Nights

[Horror] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.” -Clive Barker

Halloween Horror Nights is intimidating. For my first year to HHN I was a little nervous, and it didn’t help that several Orlando blogs, Orlando United, and my friends had hyped up the event to a point where #OperationScareJoe became a ‘thing.’ However, my anxieties and worries were largely unfounded. I had a blast, and cannot wait to go back for more HHN. As this year’s event closes this weekend, I will cover my top tips to surviving the event next year.

1.) Pick Several Nights and Split Them With a Day in the Parks

Eight houses, four scare zones, several open attractions, and two shows. Easy as pie, right? Wrong. During my trip The Walking Dead never dipped below 90 minutes and John Carpenter’s Halloween hovered at 60 minutes. How does one beat this? Pick multiple nights to attend and split that with a day visit to the parks.

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Halloween Horror Nights at Universal. (photo by Hate to Fly)

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! October 2014 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on October 31, 2014

MMM positiveToday marks the end of October, and what a month it was. Our long national nightmare finally came to an end as Disney announced that the Sorcerer’s Hat would finally be leaving Hollywood Studios. Also leaving DHS will be the Legend of Jack Sparrow, bringing the total amount of attractions at the park down to something like two (give or take). A new lumberjack show made its debut at Epcot, nets around the Tree of Life came down at Animal Kingdom, and Marvel announced it would be making Disney approximately 100 billion dollars over the next five years. All of this and I somehow managed to sail on my first ever Disney Cruise. This may go down in the history books as the greatest month of all time, at least until next month.

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.)

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I Know What You Did Last Summer Mickey plush.

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Menu Monday: When It’s Hot, Save Some Dosh at Magic Kingdom

by on October 27, 2014

Water Cup

A perfect example of a “Full Package.” Photo by Kristi Fredericks.

Free Water at Disney World?

Hello, again! I have been thinking for a while about a good subject for my next blog and also what wonders of the English Language we Brits use to spring on you; then this suddenly sprang to mind: I know lots of people like knowing they have got the most out of their trip. Well, here is one way to definitely save some money (our Brit slang is “Dosh”). Florida, as everyone knows, is hot. Sometimes I would say it is a little too hot for Brits who are used to 60°F, not 95°F! The $2.50 price for a bottle of water does seem a lot of dosh (money) each time you need a hydration burst, so I decided to share this tip with you. Some of you probably already know that you can walk up to any counter service restaurant, and they will hand over a cup of ice water (pronounced “war-ter”, not “wah-dar”) upon request, but I have used this tip excessive amounts of times, and I have come to learn the best places for you to go and ask for the water. You might be thinking, “What difference does it make?” I can tell you now that un-filtered water is not exactly what you want for a hydration boost. So I have carefully tried and tasted most ice waters from each counter service at Disney and have concluded that some are better than others. With some orders of ice waters you receive the full package with lids and straws, whereas on some they just give you ice. I know, refreshing, but disappointing. The best part of this is that you do not always have to do it. Yes, exhausted parents, I am talking to you. You can sit quietly while your children fetch you water from the counter service opposite in a perfectly safe environment.

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How Much Do Toiletries and Sundries Cost at Disney?

by on October 24, 2014

Despite copious planning with packing lists, it’s all but inevitable that mishaps will occur when traveling. Little Billy gets a fever during your trip and you neglected to bring the Children’s Tylenol. You thought you husband was packing toothpaste and he thought you were, so now you have none. You accidentally left your sunscreen at the pool yesterday and are now about to be burned to a crisp by the thousand degree sun.

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All of these problems are easy to solve at Walt Disney World and on Disney Cruise Line. (Disneyland’s close proximity to the external world makes access to replacement items less of an issue there.) The ship and hotel gift shops are well stocked, with most categories of personal care items represented. So while you won’t be totally left in the lurch in any of the above situations, you will likely pay a premium purchasing these personal care basics at a Disney location rather than at home. But how much of a premium will you be pay? Let’s investigate…

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‘Wearable’ Halloween Costumes: The Royals

by on September 23, 2014

And we’ll never be roooooyalllls….oh! Hello! Welcome back to another edition of my wearable costume series. I hope some of you found my ideas for Mickey and Minnie Mouse helpful. In case you’re just tuning in, it’s my mission to make your Halloween costumes not only affordable, but comfortable! (Side bar: I sound like an infomercial ad. Think I have a future on TV? Don’t answer that…)

Photo - Angela Dahlgren

Little Cinderelli looking for her mouse friends.

Next up is my take on Rapunzel, Cinderella and Prince Eric.

Babies and Toddlers

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Disney apparel can be found everywhere. This Cinderella costume is essentially a baby girl onesie with a tutu on it. I found it at Target for less than ten dollars. If you don’t have a matching headband, you can always do what my parents did: Tape a bow to her head. They would take a small bow, attach it to a piece of scotch tape, and place it on my head…thanks parents. My mom claims it would just fall off at the end of the day without any pulling or pain. On second thought, just look for a headband.

Kids: Boys

There are so many different ways to dress like a Prince. Amongst all these interpretations, a crown and sword seem to be common props. If your little one has a shirt and tie, see if you can convince him to put it on. Hint: Offering a fruit snack or piece of candy may just do the trick. Now, I don’t condone fast food but if you have a burger king, stop by and grab one of their crowns. It would be a really cheap way to get your hands on one. For the sash, head to a craft store and see if they have ribbon 3-4 inches wide. Cut it to size, drape it across his shoulder to his hip and safety pin the ends together. Slick his hair in a nice side part and hand him a sword. Extra points if you find a cape to complete the costume. Voila, your debonair guy will be fighting dragons and meeting his one true love in no time!

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‘Wearable’ Halloween Costumes: Mickey and Minnie Mouse

by on September 2, 2014

Photo - Angela Dahlgren

Oh Boy!

It’s finally getting to be that time of year in Minnesota: jacket weather, football games, falling leaves and trips to the Pumpkin Patch. It all leads up to my favorite holiday: Halloween. As if I haven’t mentioned enough already, I will be visiting Disney World this Fall and experiencing my very first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.To get into the Halloween spirit, I’ve taken inspiration from classic Disney characters and shared a few costume ideas with you fine readers!

Now, if you share the same sentiments as a few of my relatives, you may not jump at the chance to walk around in a hot and itchy costume for several hours. Therefore, my goal is to make the costumes you see here more ‘wearable’ and comfortable!

Let’s Begin with our Favorite Couple – Mickey and Minnie Mouse

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! August 2014 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on August 31, 2014

MMM positiveHave we reached the end of August already?!  What a month. We saw a new hard ticket event - Villains Unleashed - have its first ever party (and possibly last ever considering all the refunds that were given out to unhappy guests). Speaking of hard ticket events, Disney announced the first ever hard ticket event during a hard ticket event with the Sinister Soiree experience during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. We said goodbye to the American Idol Experience and hello to Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens Tampa, which finally allowed human beings on months later than expected. The “busy” season is finally over, and with kids back in school, we Florida residents can finally enjoy the slow days at the park where Anna & Elsa only have only a two hour wait!

With that out of the way, who is ready to hit the Outlets?!

Our first find is FRONTIERLAND PLUTO. I bought one of these as I enjoyed the elaborate theming. From the ‘coon skin hat, the various supplies being carried on his back and sides, and the moccasins on the paws, this is one plush that stands out from the rest. I’m also a sucker for the big tongue sticking out in in pure puppy happiness.

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Five Simple Ways to Save over $500 on Your Next Disney World Vacation

by on August 21, 2014

Save Money On A Disney World Vacation

Follow these simple tips to save some of these!

There are several ways to save money on a Disney World vacation. The most obvious are getting a great deal on your airfare, traveling during the off season, choosing to stay at a less expensive hotel, using the Disney Ticket Calculator to purchase your admissions and eating at economical restaurants. But what do you do if you’ve done all of this and you still need to cut your budget? Well, I’ve got you covered, my friends! Here are five simple and painless ways to save over $500 on your next Disney World vacation.

Before We Begin

For each of these five tips, let’s assume we are a family of four traveling to Disney World for a one week (seven night, six day) vacation. Our sample family includes Mr. Smith, Mrs. Smith, little Susie (age 6) and little Tommy (age 3). We’ll first do the math for full price at Disney World and then compare it to the math with our tip in place. Prepare to be amazed!

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