Friday, May 8, 2009

How I Plan...

Some WDW vacationers fly by the seat of their pants. They make no real reservations, have no idea where they are going on what day, and certainly have no touring plans set. These people are the complete opposite of me. I'm not saying i'm a planning Nazi. I don't have every day planned out perfectly. I don't like to do that! I like SOME spontaneity.
What I normally do is figure out first what park I plan to START the day at. Not saying we will stay there the whole day because normally we don't stay at one park the whole day. I use for crowd calendars and tips on what parks to avoid each day. The people that do the statistics for the website also write The Unofficial Guide. Without a doubt, that is the best WDW guidebook and I use that in my planning as well.

I then decide what restaurants my family and I would like to eat at. I always pick two back-ups just in case something is totally booked up when I make my Advanced Dining Reservations. I then take a look at what park i'm going to on each day and match up the ADRs by location as best as I can. Finally, I call the ADR number and set up all of my dining. Sometimes I have to adjust my daily schedule if I have to book a dining reservation on a different day than I had planned. No biggie. It all evens out in the end.
It's time to whip out the planning binder now! I LOVE my binder. I organize it the same way each and every time I go. That thing never leaves my side until we get to WDW. Then it stays safely in the room and I only take one page with me to the parks which is in a plastic page protector. Yes, nerdy... I KNOW! But, it works! The page I take with me has our starting park for each day and the times and confirmation numbers to each ADR. This is what that page looks like...

After that I then make my own "park guides" with the dates, opening times, and any special happenings like parades and fireworks going on. I sometimes also make note of what parks to avoid each day. This stays in my binder so I can easily look at it before heading out to the parks. I know you can retrieve time and event guides at the parks but this is idiot proof to me.

I wish I had a picture of my binder all finished to show you but.. I don't. These photos were actually from our honeymoon when I did a trip report for Intercot. Doing this sort of this is truly where I shine. I'm good at this. I love the research end of it all. FUN FUN!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Like Food

Last night, as Matt and I were falling asleep, he randomly blurts out "when do you think we'll start booking stuff?" I said, "what stuff?" And he said, "dining reservations" as if that were the only answer.

I decided to pick his brain as to what restaurants he would like to go back to and ones he wouldn't mind staying away from in September. He said he loves Mama Melrose at the Studios and Cape May Cafe clambake at the Beach Club Resort. Matt's only breakfast request was Kona Cafe. He wants to stay away from Boma. New restaurants don't really interest him I don't think. I think he's afraid to try something new. I'll have to show him some menus to try and change his mind. haha!
My mom only requested two things out of the entire trip and one of them was that we eat at 'Ohana at the Polynesian Resort. At 'Ohana, they serve you family style. It is a meat lovers paradise. But, since it's family style, Matt and I always have found more than enough to eat with all the pastas and veggies available. We also eat fish and they have great peel and eat shrimp. The only, and I mean ONLY, downside to 'Ohana is the annoying and very loud singer/child wrangler. Only, she doesn't wrangle the kids so much as she gets them all fired up and running around. I could do without her. haha.

I could do without Matt's choice of Mama Melrose. I've down it twice and the first time was great but the second time was not so great. My pizza tasted like feet. I'd like to pass that restaurant up and try something new.

At Animal Kingdom Lodge, they just opened a new restaurant called "Sanaa." The menu looks pretty awesome and the place is just gorgeous. For a while now i've also thrown around the idea of checking out Le Chefs de France. That's another one I think my mom and Matt might gripe about. haha. Can you tell they like burgers and fries and a good steak (mom)? Tusker House at Animal Kingdom also seriously interests me after I read a great pescetarian review on it. It's a buffet with all types of indian and african flare. Give me spiced tofu!

I do have some restaurants that I would like to go back to for one reason or another. Le Cellier (yeah, it's a steakhouse) is one i've been itching to get back to. I had the best salmon in the world there on our honeymoon. The service was also outstanding. Everyone was ridiculously sweet. Also, I always request that we go back to Coral Reef which is where Danny Tanner and Vicky dined on an episode of Full House. And because of this, I always have to request a table next to the tank. Oh, yeah... I also SWAM in the tank! : ) haha! Anyways...I'd like to take Matt to Teppan Edo because he has never been there and my mom and I really liked it in September. You sit around a giant grill and the chef cooks all of your food in front of you. Onion volcano anyone?

The amazing Chocolate Wave at Coral Reef
The dining area at Teppan Edo in Epcot
And, finally, the buffet area at Tusker House.
Hungry yet?!?!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pop Century Resort

Pop Century Resort at WDW is a value resort. The only value outside of the All-Star clan. It is also the newest of all of the value resorts. I have stayed at Pop in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. When I walk into the lobby I always say "i'm home." It just feels very Disney. The theme is "decades" and each section of the resort has it's own icons to let you know what decade you are in.

That is the main entrance sign. Below is an overhead view of the entire resort.

The lobby is awesome! Along the right wall when you walk in there are shadow boxes with memorobilia from all of the decades. Really interesting and you could spend a half hour just checking out all of the cool stuff. Check in always is really speedy because they have so many people working. Straight ahead of check in is Everything Pop. In there is the gift shop and the food complex. The gift shop is quite large and has lots of Disney garb as well as essentials like toothpaste and condoms (yes, condoms are available... not that I would know from personal experience).

Like I said, each section is pretty defined. Unless you are a moron of course. The 50's section is my personal favorite. I love the music and the icons. There is a giant jukebox and a bowling pin pool. Pretty freakin' awesome if you ask me. The 60's and 70's share a flower pool. Everything has a "hippy" vibe to it. The 80's and 90's have a "computer" pool. I always thought it looked dumb until I stayed there myself. I actually enjoyed the 80's quite a bit!

The rooms at Pop are very basic. Not Best Western basic but Disney basic. Which means, it's not as plain as a regular chain hotel. But, it's no deluxe resort. I've never walked into my room dirty. Mousekeeping has always been great. I'm picky about bathrooms and how clean they are. I've always felt comfortable in Disney hotel rooms.

I could go on talking about the bus stop but that is pretty average. The busses get filled up quickly so be out early and be prepared to stand a while at times. Also, if you wanna go to Downtown Disney... take a cab.

Last thing before I go.... the best part about Pop Century..... cheesecake!!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Price Breakdown

The cost of our Fall 2009 trip is probably going to be one of the most inexpensive WDW trips we've ever taken. Thank the Lord because we aren't made of money here. I consider myself an expert at saving money on a WDW vacation. And in these tough economic times, you sort of have to be if you want to feed your WDW addiction regularly. So, let's take a look at how much this amazing vacation is going to cost us.

For my birthday, my family pitched in some money for me to get an Annual Pass to WDW. I have to put a lot of my own money towards it but that's okay. An AP gains you access to all of the four major WDW parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom) for 365 days from the day you activate your AP. Disney also releases room only discounts different times of the year. You can also get many discounts on dining and merchandise, as well as free parking. I wanted an AP so I could take friends more easily. I could get money off the hotel room and my park tickets will already be paid for. Really, I am just looking for a way to make it to WDW as often as I can. :)

For an Annual Pass in 2009, the cost is $499.00. The average 7 day park hopper ticket is just over $300. Or... somewhere around there. If I plan on going to the parks for more than 10 days within one year, I am saving money.

By me having an AP, it threw a bit of confusion into the booking process. We ended up having to book everyone with a one day base ticket. Once we get to the parks on our first day, we'll just upgrade Matt and Mom to a 7 day park hopper. I won't need to upgrade my base ticket because i'll have my AP. The upgrade will cost them $216.00 each.

The cost of 3 adults, with 1 day base tickets, staying at Pop Century from September 29-October 6 is $1022.85. That is $340.95 per person. Then add in the cost of the ticket upgrade for mom and Matt... $557.96.

Remember, we won't be paying for food this entire trip unless we chose to eat something off of the dining plan. The DDP is very flexible and always works very well for us. On the DDP, you get 1 snack, 1 Quick Service Meal, and 1 Table Service meal for each night of your stay. I can't even explain how much food this includes. Often times we don't even use all of our snack credits up. It's just so much food to consume in one day!

I looked yesterday morning at flights and found some really great prices that I just didn't want to wait on. With my luck, they would go up as soon as I decide to wait. Well, what I found was round trip flights out of Detroit International to Orlando International for just $139.19 per person! That's great! I am happy to report that I booked 3 people today for just $417.00 round trip! Paying for things makes it feel so official... :)

The breakdown looks like this for mom and Matt...

Upfront part of package = $340.95
Ticket upgrade = $217.00
Flights = $139.19
Grand Total = $697.14

The breakdown for me looks like this...

Upfront part of the package = $340.95
Annual Pass = $500.00
Flight = 139.19
Grand Total = $980.14

It's a small price to pay for one heck of a vacation.

First WDW Blog! Eeeek!

I decided that it was time to create a separate blog to talk about all things Disney. As most of you know... I could talk about it for hours and hours and never tire. It's in my blood or something.

"The tribal rhythm was like, oh yeah, in my blood..." - Stacey from Top 7 Must Sees at WDW

...sorry, I had to. :)

I have a big announcement! *cue drum roll*

I'm going to Walt Disney World!

That's right! I'm off to the Most Magical Place On Earth once again!

Travelers: Matt: 25
Mom: 62
Stacey (that's me!): 21

Travel Dates: September 29-Oct 6

Travel Reason: Free Dining! Well, and the fact that we all miss WDW like crazy.

We're all pretty stoked to get the ball rolling on this vacation! When Matt and I first started talking about definite times we wanted to go... we talked about free dining (August-early October) or the first week of December. When I started to do a price mock up for September/October I came up with something really good and doable for Matt and I. I chose the dates that I did because Free Dining technically ends October 3rd. But, most people will look at that and think that they need to finish up their vacation by the 3rd. Uh uh! Not true! You simply need to check in by the 3rd. My thinking is that the tail end of our vacation should have less crowds. Smart, or smart? ;)

When I talked about the vacation with Matt he said that he felt bad because we have never taken his parents before. I know that Matt's dad would have a hard time getting around because he has a prosthetic leg and he refuses to use a wheelchair or motorized scooter. I told Matt to go ahead and ask his rents. Well, to my surprise they said that they would just wanna know how much. When I told them their part they thought about it for a day and then decided that since they are already going to Las Vegas in a few days, they better not take the risk of not being able to pay for it.

The rest of my family have different reasons for not being able to. Trust me, all of them would LOVE to... but, for one reason or another they cannot. Then it was time to ask my mom. But, first, I had to find out when she wanted to go to Graceland (our Christmas present to her). She said that she worried that the summer would be too hot and that she'd think about it. I told her about our WDW idea and she seemed very responsive to it. The idea intrigued her but she wanted hard prices of course. I got quotes from our travel agent with Magical Journeys and then yesterday I looked up what flights were looking like. Wow! Super cheap! I called up my mom and she came over so we could sit down and talk about it. I put all the figures out for her and added them up. Her part turned out to being just under $700 total. That is flight, hotel, park tickets, and room. Pretty killer for one amazing week at WDW!

She said that she had done some thinking and she decided that she wants to wait until next year to go to Graceland. She feels like it would be too much for Matt & I to pay for in one year. I told her that we thought about it and we thought we could swing it if we made some cuts for about 6 months. Then I just said that Matt and I could always go to Disney next January like we plan to. So, it's not that big of a deal if we don't go for free dining. Then she said the cutest thing ever...

"But, I want to go to Disney more!"

I never thought i'd hear my mom choose WDW over Graceland! She said that Graceland would always be there and at the same price but this deal at WDW would pass us by for one whole year. So, that was that! She said "Let's go to Disney World" and gave me a high five! haha! We were all smiles...

Next installment: Details with pictures