Trip Planning

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. My spare nickels all went into a fund for comics, and my collection took over my spare space. I later categorized them by value. Like nearly everyone else, I went to college, causing my spare nickels to disappear. 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 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. 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’s worst enemy: retirement.

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Things to Do at Disney World outside the Parks

by on November 21, 2014

It can be easy sometimes to forget just how much there is to do outside of Disney World’s four theme parks and two water parks. With so much contained within the parks, it might not even cross some guests’ minds that you could actually spend a whole Disney World vacation without ever going to the parks. Although I personally wouldn’t suggest skipping the parks entirely, you could do it and still have a great vacation. Maybe it’s the last day of your vacation or maybe you just want to explore the property a little to see what else Disney has to offer. With that in mind, here are just a few of the many things to see and do without ever having to pay for a park admission ticket.

Disney World Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf

Golf

Disney World wouldn’t be much of a resort destination without golf. With three courses (four if you include the onsite Four Seasons course) and one nine-hole walking course, there’s a wide variety of play options for fans of the sport. Even if you think you’re terrible at golf or you’ve never tried before, this is a good place to start. Resort courses are notoriously less punishing than most courses (people don’t need a stroke on vacation) and even if you do play horribly, at least you’re still in Disney so you can’t be that upset. If the full-fledged sport still seems like too much of an undertaking, Disney also offers two thematically different mini golf courses. Fantasia Gardens (located near the Boardwalk) is themed after its namesake film and even features a more traditional putting green course for those who want to just work on their short game. Winter Summerland Miniature Golf is located at Blizzard Beach and has two courses themed after winter and summer. For those concerned about having to purchase a water park ticket to play here, no need to worry. The mini golf course may be located at Blizzard Beach but it’s actually outside of the Blizzard Beach entrance.

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5 Essential Tips for Dealing with the Rain at Disneyland

by on November 19, 2014

Rainy  Disneyland 1

Rainfall at Disneyland. Copyright- Disney

 

Southern California is a vacation paradise. Your average temperature–year round– is mid to high 70s and clear skies. It is the perfect location for a Disneyland Resort vacation. Unfortunately the only real obstacle you cannot prepare for–when you go on vacation–is the weather. You can gauge what the weather will be like in any particular month but you will not truly know until the week before we leave for your vacation.

Even though it hardly rains in Southern California there are still rainy seasons. The rainy season starts in October and ends in April. But I know most of you are not going to completely avoid those rainy season months just because of some rain. So, what is your plan of attack when you are on your vacation and it is raining at the Disneyland Resort? Below I have put together 5 essential tips for dealing with the rain when you are at the Disneyland Resort.If you are interested in tips on how to deal with the rain at Disney World, our other writer Daisy has an excellent article on that particular topic.

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Traveling with a Disney Curmudgeon

by on November 16, 2014

Photo - Pixar.wikia.comThey live among us. They look just like you and me. They are….the Disney Curmudgeon.

Disney Curmudgeon (Dis·ney cur·mudg·eon): noun. 1. A person who possesses a strong dislike or disinterest of all things Disney.

I know my fair share of Disney Curmudgeons. In fact, I live with one. My husband, Michael, doesn’t share my obsession and love of everything Disney. He is a great sport (He dressed up as Smee and Mickey Mouse for me, so he must be!) and there are some aspects of Walt Disney World he really does enjoy. However, whenever I bring up a future Disney trip, his eyes say, “Really? again!?,” but his mouth smiles and says, “We can see about that honey.”

Although it may be in my nature to throw the book (and by book, I mean the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World) at him and spend hours explaining why Disney World is the best place ever, it would result in a negative outcome on both sides. Instead, working with him and catering a little more to his needs can reduce the stress and make our vacation much more enjoyable.

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Outdoor Movies at Disney World FAQ

by on November 13, 2014

At the end of a long day of park touring, sometimes the only thing you have the energy for is kicking back and watching a movie. Sure you can do that in your hotel room on the TV or your trusty iPad, but it can feel a bit more vacationy to watch a movie under the stars. And wouldn’t you know, Disney has you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about outdoor movie viewing at Walt Disney World.

Toy Story 3 poolside at All Star Music. (Not shown: me crying hysterically in the back row.)

Toy Story 3 poolside at All Star Music. (Not shown: me crying hysterically in the back row.)

Does every Disney hotel show outdoor movies?

In general, yes. There may be situations where construction or refurbishment temporarily halts the movies at that particular hotel.

There is one case where sister resorts, the Yacht & Beach Clubs, share a movie location. One resort, the Animal Kingdom Lodge, has two movie locations.

Is there a charge for the outdoor movies?

Nope, the cost is included with your resort stay.

Do I have to stay for the whole movie? Is it weird to leave in the middle?

Not at all. Since most of the movies are near the pools, guest will often pop in and out of viewing, alternating a few minutes of screen time with a few minutes of swim time.

I will often stop and watch just a few minutes of a film if I pass one while walking back to my hotel room in the evening.

Are movies shown every night?

Usually yes. Some resorts have experimented with twice-a-week movies in the off season, but for the most part you can expect that your hotel will show an outdoor movie every night, weather permitting.

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Planning a High School Field Trip to Walt Disney World

by on November 7, 2014

Photo Credit - Disney

Mickey’s excited to meet his new high school friends!

In high school, I went on two school trips to Walt Disney World. I had an amazing time with my friends, and the memories have stayed with me to this day. Looking back on the entire experience as an adult, I have endless praise for my teachers, who planned the entire trip from start to finish. They chose to spend their entire Spring Break with 60 high school students. They deserve a medal.

I have spent this past week researching and speaking with different educators on how to organize a school trip to Walt Disney World. Although it’s impossible to fit in every detail, here are some highlights to consider when planning your own Walt Disney World field trip.

First Steps

Planning a school trip to Walt Disney World should begin at least a year in advance. While it would be much easier to hire a touring company to plan and execute the vacation, it might be very expensive. Planning your own trip is not only more cost effective, but gives you complete control over the vacation as a whole. Look into the events you want to attend and the places you want to go. Estimate expenses to determine the total cost for each student. From there, secure a total group number by requesting a small deposit from each student. In addition, have each student fill out field trip and medical request forms. Dot those i’s and cross those t’s!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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Travel Warnings Issued for Nassau

by on November 7, 2014

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas has issued a Security Awareness memo for the holiday season 2014, advising U.S. citizens traveling to the Bahamas to “be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being the victims of crime.” This is the fourth memo on this topic issued during calendar 2014. The Canadian government posted similar warnings earlier this fall.

Nassau Harbor

Nassau Harbor

Other than Castaway Cay, Nassau is the most visited port for Disney Cruise Line.

The Embassy memo goes on to state, “Three armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas.” Other reports include notes about sexual assaults perpetrated by unregulated jet ski operators on Paradise Island. The advisory mentions monitoring local news stations for updates and maintaining a high level of vigilance when out and about.

The Nassau Guardian newspaper denies the credibility of the Embassy reports, claiming that the local police were unaware of some of the alleged crimes.

The Atlantis resort, site of many of the DCL Nassau port adventures, has increased their security in recent weeks.

We’ve never had any problems in Nassau, but as with any travel, caution is recommended. If you’re on a three or four night cruise and relaxation is a key vacation component for you, you may want to consider remaining on board your ship during the Nassau port stop. (We’ve recommended this prior to any warnings.) The ship’s amenities cannot all be experienced during a brief sailing. Staying on the ship may allow you to more time to visit the spa, participate in the children’s programming, or stuff yourself at the buffet. Remember that many activities on board are included in the cost of your sailing, so staying on board can be an easy way to economize.

If you plan to explore Nassau, be cognizant of your surroundings and interact with only reputable excursion operators. You may also want to consider letting family remaining on board or guest relations cast members know of your on shore plans.

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Disney World Planning Challenges: Jedi Training Academy—A Guide to Being Part of the Show

by on November 4, 2014

Jedi Training Academy (photos by Sarah Graffam)

Jedi Training Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Photos by Sarah Graffam)

Jedi Training Academy is one of the most interactive and exciting experiences for kids ages 4-12 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World. However, despite the show’s many years of popularity, Disney doesn’t offer FastPass+ to become a Jedi Training Academy participant or any other way to sign up in advance. The result is that participating in Jedi Training Academy requires more planning than many other experiences at Disney World.

During the approximately 20-minute show, children train with a Jedi master and then test their lightsaber skills against the dark side. Following are some basics about the show as well as some tips to help your child become part of the action.

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Disney World Itinerary : Making Epcot a 2-day park

by on October 29, 2014

Epcot.

Epcot.

I recently posted a guide for planning which parks to visit on your 4-1/2 day Disney World vacation, providing a “one-size-fits-most” itinerary for each age group. Epcot doesn’t make it in the preschool itinerary and is only a half day on the school age children itinerary, but it finally gets a full day on both the tween and teen itineraries (two days of Epcot are included on the adult itinerary). My family (with tweens) would tweek the tween itinerary a bit and plan two days at Epcot, because we feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface in a one day visit.

With the two distinct areas of Future World and World Showcase, Epcot is certainly large enough to warrant a two day visit. If you are a family who enjoys a more education focused theme park, two days at Epcot may be a winner. Here are ten benefits to spending two days at Epcot instead of one.

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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.

IMG_7076

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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