Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What Would You Do?

One of the "perks" that we got with our Disney vacation from Orbitz is a $250.00 gift card.  I can't figure out exactly what to do with that extra play money.  I've thrown some ideas around but i'm curious of what other people would do if they had $250 in their pocket.  Here are some of my ideas...

A Behind the Scenes Tour - Matt wants to do the Epcot Seas Aqua Dive again.  We did that back in 2008 and it was a blast.  The price has gone up to $140.00 a person with all the proceeds going towards marine life conservation.  We'd have to pitch in a bit of our own money but that's not a big deal.  I'd also like to do the tour that takes you "backstage" and gives you the secrets inside of the Magic Kingdom.  I don't know that all of the people traveling with us would find it as interesting as me though. 

Parasailing or water craft rental - To rent a pontoon boat only costs like $30 for a half hour (or hour) and it's a flat fee as long as you stay within their maximum party size.  They also have parasailing offered at the Contemporary Resort.  I've always wanted to do that and I think Matt and I would have a blast!

Archery Training Class -  I just read this morning that at Fort Wilderness you can learn how to shoot a bow and arrow.  It's only $25 per person.  Ever since I was a kid when I played with the plastic suction cup arrows I've wanted to actually try the real thing.  Pretty much the whole class you are doing target practice in a safe environment. 

Pay for food - If Orbitz can't book us the dining plan with Disney then we'll probably just eat all quick service meals for the entire trip.  We'll need to come up with that money somewhere.  This would be the most economical option.

Anyone else have some brilliant ideas as to what might be fun to blow some extra cash on?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Possible Stroke Of Genius

Last night when I was talking to Matt about being hopeful that we can add the Disney Dining Plan I had a thought. 
Back in the fall of 2009 the "Free Dining" promotion got extended from the beginning of October through mid December.  The only difference is that what is offered as "free" is staggered.  Value resorts get the Quick Service Dining Plan free and the moderate and deluxe resorts can get the Basic DDP. 

Given that Orbitz books a Magic Your Way package for us and places us in a deluxe resort, couldn't we call up Disney and have them apply the pin code for free dining?  Assuming that it's offered in a few months of course. 

I can't figure out why there would be a stipulation.  As long as there is a MYW package booked, you qualify for free dining.  If Orbitz books the room and park tickets seperately though, you don't get to apply a pin code. 

Guess I'll just have to wait and see!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Food Food and More Food!

One of my favorite parts of vacationing in WDW is the amazing restaurant selection.  I've become quite the foodie and have recruited my mom and husband into the world of WDW dining. 

I sat down with those two on Friday night to discuss possible dining option if we can add the DDP onto our package.  It was a bit frustrating as Matt and I don't always see eye to eye when it comes to dining.  He prefers atmosphere over good food and doesn't care how much the meal is.  I on the other hand prefer good food over good atmosphere and I take into account getting the most bang for my buck on the DDP.  My mom is very "go with the flow" and as long as the menu isn't too out there then she's fine. 

The three of us decided to pick two restaurants that we've previously dined at that we'd like to go back to and one restaurant that we'd like to try.  This is what it looks like.

Matt - Coral Reef
           Mama Melrose
           Tusker House

Mom - 'Ohana
           Cape May Cafe
           Chef Mickey's

Me - Le Cellier
         Chefs de France

Obviously, my mom likes buffets and family style dining.  She likes to be able to eat as much as she wants of whatever she wants.  Matt has this odd obsession with Mama Melrose that I just can't seem to grasp.  All he gets is the $13 Four Cheese Flatbread.  Please tell me why we're eating PIZZA in Disney World.  I'm definitely the adventurous eater of the group.  

It was somewhat hard for us to pick which ones we'd like to save because we've all become attached to so many restaurants.  If I had to pick another save it would be Tusker House.  That was great for vegetarians.  I'm a bit nervous about my "new" pick, Chefs de France.  I've heard some crummy reviews but the menu looks really good.  I have a feeling that for my family though, the menu looks a little "weird" to them.  I also can't believe I put Biergarten on my "save" list.  What can I say?  I'm a sucker for an Oktoberfest and red cabbage.

The woman from Orbitz is booking the flight today and we should hopefully know what resort we'll be staying at sometime this week.  I also hope she'll be able to tell us if we can add the DDP or not.  Our 180 day ADR window opens April 12th.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Negative

After doing some research we'll still have to pay a hefty amount in taxes for the "free" vacation.  The retail value is $8000.00.  Some people say that you have to pay around 25% of the retail value.  Another person said that if you can prove that you could have paid for the exact same trip for less money then you only have to pay taxes on THAT amount. 

I'm going to have to sit down with my financial advisor, AKA my brother, and get this all sorted.  If I need to ahve more money taken out of my paycheck to make up for it then so be it.  We were still planning on taking a vacation this fall anyway.  Maybe not a $2000.00 vacation but still. 

Matt threw the idea out there yesterday about asking our moms to help us out a bit with the owed taxed.  I'd feel bad because we told them they wouldn't have to pay anything.  I wasn't even thinking about the taxes and what not.  Bah!

I guess i'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Vacation Details

Everyone is in for our vacation!  Matt, my mom, his mom, and myself.  I talked to Orbitz today and they gave me some information. 

We get to pick our travel days as long as there aren't any blackout dates over time.  We've decided that we want to see Food & Wine Festival so we're thinking of going at the beginning of October.  Choosing a Saturday through a Saturday for the sake of only having to take 5 days off of work then.  We'll be adding the dining plan and just paying for it ourselves.

With the $250.00 gift card we're not exactly sure what to do with it yet.  If we can, we're thinking of doing the Epcot Seas Aqua Tour again.  Or possibly, getting SCUBA certified so we can go deeper into the water.  We both aren't big on buying tons of Disney stuff so using the gift card to shop wouldn't be the most efficient.  Might as well try and do something that we wouldn't normally be able to pay for.

We don't know where we will be staying yet.  Orbitz has to check with WDW on the availability of resorts and what not.  It sounds as though we may get something pretty nice!  Of course, i'm crossing my fingers and toes for the Polynesian but if not, we're just happy to be going for free.

Time to get to planning!


Last week I entereted a contest on Twitter through Orbitz. You had to send in your best "Disney Travel Tip." I sent my tweet in with much hope and a lot of faith. Hoping that some pixie dust would fall on my family.

This morning, I casually was browsing through my Twitter feed and saw my Twitter name right next to Orbitz's. I WON!

If you visit Orbitz's blog you can read the announcement.

"Let's tell you what i've won!" *in game show host voice*

The winning tip: “WDW isn’t just for kids! Adults can enjoy golfing, spa time, fine dining, water sports, shopping, and behind the scenes tours!”

That one sweet tweet earned @stacey87:

*airfare for four
*7-night hotel stay in a Disney property
*four 7-day Magic Your Way® theme park tickets with Park Hopper® AND Water Parks Fun & More options
*$250 Disney gift certificate
*admission to Cirque du Soleil® show for four

*winner’s choice of spa treatment or round of golf

I called up my husband who started freaking out. He asked if we could take our moms and of course I said, "YES!" My mom is still at work so I can't tell her until she gets out. I have a feeling she will pass out (hardy har har if you've read my latest trip report).

I'll let you all know more details when I find out this afternoon. This could not have come at a better time. DH and I found out that we somehow OWE money back to the IRS even though we both have fairly low paying jobs. We've had a very rough past year in general and have been needing to get away together.

Dream do come true...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Miss Mickey

So, basically, I decided to plug some numbers in and see how much a full vacation to WDW would cost us.  I chose 5 nights instead of the usual 7 in an effort to save money.  We're already vacationing on a budget (like always) so any way I can cut back I will.  Shaving a few days off is the easiest way to take a large amount off of the total.

I chose a time that hopefully overlaps the free dining promotion as well as the beginning of the Food and Wine Festival.  I absolutely loved that time of the year.  Food and Wine Festival is my favorite thing to do at WDW now.  I'm also obviously assuming free dining will be offered.  It should be announced within the next week if it is.

Here is the price breakdown.  AKA, how i'm justifying affording this trip.

Airline (as of now) - $318.00 total

WDW MYW, 5 day park hoppers, at Pop Century, September 28-October 3 - $1136 total

Airline + Disney = $1454.00

Airline is paid upfront and a down payment on the package is as well.  $318 + $250 = $568

The remainder of the package will be paid in increments over 5 months so it can be paid off 45 days before arrival to WDW. 

Remainder $886.00 / 5 months = $177.20 a month

That we can totally swing no problem. 

I have to calculate how much our Nashville/Memphis trip will cost us.  I'm thinking that will only be like $350.00 total.  We only have to pay for gas, attractions, and spliting the hotels with my mom. 

Hopefully, by next week, we'll have a package booked!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Disneyland vs. Disney World

In case you haven't been reading my personal blog, i'll catch you up.  My husband and I are thinking of taking a little trip out to California in the fall.  His aunt lives in San Luis Obispo... about 4 hours away from Disneyland.  The thought recently came to us that it would be a fun trip to fly into Anaheim, spend a few days at Disneyland, then drive to San Luis Obispo for a few days.

I decided today to price it out and see how much we're actually looking at.  This trip is very different for us since we normally just have to pay for a big WDW package and then our flights to Orlando.  There are a lot of seperate factors going into the west coast idea.  This is what it looks like budgeted out roughly.

Flight = $550.00 roundtrip for two people
This is just what i'm getting right now.  It could go down.  It could go up.  We normally pay about $250.00 roundtrip flying to Orlando.

Disneyland tickets = $300.00 - 2 day Park Hopper for two people
I'm quite shocked with this number but... it's Disney so I really shouldn't ever be sticker shocked, right?  There is a chance that we could knock it down to a one day base ticket.  But, that's really not worth the trip to me if i'm not actually "seeing" everything.

Gas money = $100.00
Rental car =  ???
I haven't looked into the rental car thing yet but with having to drive quite a bit I went high with $100.00 for gas.  Now, gas and rental car would be split with Matt's parents IF they decided to go. 

Food in DL and food in SLO = $100.00
I'm not totally sure on this one.  I know that Matt's aunt with end up cooking breakfast and dinner so all we'll have to pay for is lunch when we're out sight seeing in SLO.  I can assume we'll do no table service restaurant at DL and just do counter service in an effort to save money.

Not counting the hotel in Anaheim, rental car, and spending cash the total comes to be $1050.00. 

Just for kicks I decided to price out what a 5 days (Tuesday through Sunday) in WDW would be.  Assuming free dining will occur at this time frame I chose, the total would be $1100.00.  The only thing not added into that would be the flights. 

I really thought that DL would end up being cheaper and now... i'm not so sure. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Walt Disney World... Day Seven! Final Day!

Here it is, folks,  We finally (and unfortunely) made it to mom and I's last full day at Walt Disney World.  Our touring pretty much consisted of us wrapping up everything we needed to get done.  Mom and I felt like we hadn't fully gotten everything that we could out of Magic Kingdom so that's where we went.  We hit up Carousel of Progress (my personal favorite) and did Tomorrowland Transit Authority again.  Of course we visited Fantasyland and Frontierland again.  We even did something we hadn't done in quite a few years in Liberty Square... The Hall of Presidents.  Obama looked great and is a well done addition to this classic attraction.

Since we were right there, we grabbed some lunch at Columbia Harbour House.  This is my personal favorite counter service in Magic Kingdom.  I decided to get the Lighthouse Sandwich (hummus with tomato and broccoli slaw), chips, and apple crisp.  Mom ordered the BLT salad.  We both raved about lunch.  I'm obsessed with hummus so this really fit the bill!

On our way out of MK we went through Fantasyland and witnessed one of the cutest things i've ever seen at WDW.  Alice came out and asked a little girl to ride the teacups with her.  This kind of occurance i've only seen in the commercials.  It's absolutely adorable to see it in person and watch how the child reacts. 

Mom and I took the monorail over to Epcot to explore the Food and Wine Festival one last time.  We had some time to kill before dinner at 'Ohana.  After doing a whole lot of pussy footing around we hopped back on the monorail and arrived at the BEAUTIFUL Polynesian Resort.  I feel so blessed every single time I walk into this resort.  It's paradise.

We stood in a very very long line of people waiting to check into the restaurant.  We were about a half hour early for our ADR time but we only ended up waiting about fifteen minutes for a table.  We were seated at by the window on the far side of the main seating area.  Totally fine by us because last time we had coconuts being kicked at our feet. 

Before we left for vacation I'd asked around about Chef TJ at 'Ohana and was told that he was no longer there.  I didn't even bother telling our waiters (yes, two) that I was vegetarian because I didn't feel like the fuss would be worth it if TJ wasn't there.  After the first four appetizers came and I only ate salad and noodles one of the waiters asked if I ate meat.  I told them 'no' but that I was just fine eating what I could.  She insisted that I let her tell the chef to whip something extra up for me.  Whatever... it's fine.  No Chef TJ but we'll see what comes out.

About ten minutes later walking my way comes the one, the only, Chef TJ.  I whispered to my mom, "Oh my gosh!  That's him!  That's Chef TJ!"  As he approaches I just repeatedly begin thanking him for making something special for me.  I told him that I heard he wasn't cooking at 'Ohana anymore and that I'd wanted to meet him for so long because I heard his concoctions were just amazing.  He really makes the whole dining time an experience.  He seriously loves what he's doing. 

I could tell he was absolutely flattered.  He said he'd come back to check on me in a bit.

What he made me was absolutely delicious.  It was fried asparagus with tofu on top of rice and veggies.  The sauce he put on it all was out of this world and just tied it all in.  The dish was HUGE!!!  I devoured about 2/3 of it before I had to give in.  Dessert was coming up!

In the middle of our meal, a fellow tourist walked towards our table and said that I looked very familiar to her.  After I told her my name she goes, "I thought it was you!  I'm (so and so) from the Intercot boards.  I knew I recognized you from somewhere."  She remembered seeing pictures of me

As promised, Chef TJ came back out and chatted with me for a bit and I asked to get my picture taken with him.  Our bread pudding dessert came out and totally knocked us off our chairs.  It's so delicious.  We were very very stuffed at that point.  It was time to undo the pants basically.

Mom and I were waiting for our bill and Chef TJ came back out and said, "you're done with dessert already?  Wait here!  Don't leave yet!"  So he ran back to the kitchen and it gave mom and I some time to just rest.  We had no idea what he was doing but we sure as hell weren't going to miss it.  In about ten or fifteen minutes he came back out to our table with ANOTHER dessert.  I can't even tell you what it was exactly.  Some kind of fried dough with chocolate and raspberry drizzled over the top.  So good.  Chef TJ insisted that the next time I come back to 'Ohana that I specifically ask to speak with him before we begin our meal.  Of course I will, Chef TJ.  Of course I will.

What a way to end the final day of our vacation.