Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Bucket List - Disney Style

I'm a frequent reader of's awesome articles.  One of the featured writers, Steve Russo, wrote an article about things he'd like to experience at Walt Disney World before he kicks the bucket.  I thought it was a great idea and decided i'd like to make a similar list.  Hopefully i'll be able to cross off a few of these things on our next trip to WDW in October.

Animal Kingdom is not a park that I generally spend a lot of time.  I suppose that's pretty weird since i'm a big animal lover.  There are a few things I haven't made it around to at AK that I think I should take a chance on.  Flights of Wonder is one attraction that i've "planned" on seeing quite a few times but for one reason or another decided to skip it.  I also seem to walk past "Rafiki's Planet Watch" and just assume I won't like it.  From what i've read it's actually pretty interesting and worth the train ride. 

There isn't a single attraction I haven't done at Disney's Hollywood Studios but there is a little fun thing i've never found myself remembering to do.  At Muppet Vision 3-D there is a mat outside of the theater that you're supposed to lift up.  I don't know what's under it! 

I've experienced everything at Epcot attraction wise but I haven't seemed to EAT some of the foods that I always hear so much about.  In France there is a pastry place called Boulangerie Patisserie.  I really want to grab a pastry and coffee and just enjoy the France area more.  Also, ever since I was a kid San Angel Inn looked really interesting to me.  The restaurant is themed so well.  I've heard the food leaves something to be desired but one of these days i'm going to have to take a chance on it.

Magic Kingdom seems to be the place where i've skipped the most attractions.  I can't believe i've never done Country Bear Jamboree.  It seems right up my alley with it having music.  I've also never hopped into a teacup and spun around at Mad Tea Party.  I don't have a desire to spin the actual teacup itself.  I'll just sit there and enjoy going in slow circles.  There are these vehicles (cars and trolleys) that go up and down Main Street.  I always see people on them but I have no idea how I can get on them myself.  It looks like fun!  In Adventureland there is a counter service restaurant called El Pirata el Perico Restaurante.  The menu is very vegetarian friendly but the stupid place is never open when i'm visiting WDW!  One of these days i'm going to catch it open and get myself a bean burrito.  Finally, I don't think i've ever stayed in MK long enough after closing to see the "Kiss Goodnight."  Apparently the castle changes colors and Roy Disney's dedication speech is played. 

One thing i've always wanted to do is stay at a deluxe resort.  The prices are pretty outrageous in my opinion.  I never ever thought i'd be able to stay at a deluxe without having to take five years off of vacationing in order to save up the money.  Thanks to winning a contest through Orbitz, i'll be able to stay at my ultimate dream resort, the Polynesian. 

I've also had a thing for Coronado Springs Resort.  The pool always looked really fun to me as a kid and the new updated rooms are pretty awesome.  The old rooms looked kinda dated.  I'm sure we'll stay at this resort eventually.

That's it for my bucket list!  Any of you have attractions/restaurants/experiences that you've never done before?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

EAT TO THE BEAT! ... or something like that.

Disney just announced the lineup for the Food and Wine Festival's "Eat to the Beat" concert series.  While we're there the following artists will perform... Taylor Hicks, Air Supply, and Sister Hazel.  I have no interest whatsoever to see the "silver fox" from American Idol but I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see Sister Hazel.  In case you don't remember who the heck they are let me just give you two lines to a song called, "All For You."  "It's hard to say what it is I see in you.  Wonder if I'll always be with you."  Got it now?  Great!

Honestly, I remember hearing of Air Supply but I can't actually remember a song from them.  I'm sure i'd recognize a few songs if I heard them though.

Talked to Orbitz chica and she said nothing has really changed except they have confirmation that Disney's Magical Express has been set up.  Yay!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Finalized Day Plans

I have our day plans confirmed!  Hooray! 

I decided to throw out the Extra Magic Hours idea and just make it for what we actually want to do.  I had to figure out what day I want my Swedish Massage and what day we want to go see Cirque.  Decided to throw those together on the same day.  I'll figure after we leave AK in the early afternoon we'll head back to the hotel and just chill out for the afternoon. 

Saturday, October 9 - Magic Kingdom  -   Spectromagic at 9, Wishes at 10 (Way to start things off with a bang, right?)

Sunday, October 10 - Disney's Hollywood Studios  -  Getting lots of things accomplished!

Monday, October 11 - Epcot  -  Taking in the Food and Wine Festival on a Monday is good for crowd reasons.

Tuesday, October 12 - Animal Kingdom  -  Leaving in the early afternoon.  My spa appointment is at 3:00 p.m. and we'll go to Downtown Disney for Cirque Du Soleil's 9:00 p.m. show.

Wednesday, October 13 - Disney's Hollywood Studios  -  I'll audition for American Idol Experience

Thursday, October 14 - Water Park Day  -  Not sure what park we'll choose yet.  Head to DHS for Fantasmic at 7:30 p.m

Friday, October 15 - Magic Kingdom  -  We'll start our day here and who know's where we'll end up.

I haven't scheduled our dinner at 'Ohana yet.  Not too worried about that since we won't have travel.  I think Matt and I are going to plan a romantic dinner for the two of us as well.  I'd like to convince my family to do one more sit down meal.  I pick either Tusker House or Biergarten for lunch...  For the sake of being cheap. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day Planning

One of my favorite (and most stressful) parts of planning a WDW vacation is determining our day schedules.  Now, let me just say, i'm not a crazy planner that plans hour by hour.  I simple make note of where we will start our day off at.  I'll also note an dining reservations on that day along with the confirmation numbers. 

I use information from (plug) which is the Unofficial Guide's website.  I'm a member so I get access to crowd calendars before the general public.  I think you can see like 30-45 days or something if you're not a member.  The website predicts the best and worst parks to visit for any given day based on statistics they've gathered.  They do advise you to stay away from the Extra Magic Hour park days but we typically only use morning EMH and then leave that park once we've got what we want accomplished.  I also figure in what days nighttime shows fall on... especially Fantasmic since it only shows 2 times during our vacation. 

Given that we won't be using the dining plan this trip it will be a bit easier to schedule our days.  It's one more thing I don't have to plan around.  I do have to include a day for water parks, though.  We'll probably just pick one park and be done with it.  I like water parks but i'd rather be in one of the four major theme parks.  The only hitch into my plans at this point would be Cirque du Soleil.  We don't know what night we have tickets for yet.  Lastly, i'm doing American Idol Experience again so i'd like to do that on a weekday rather than a weekend as well as after we've already spent some time at DHS.

Here are a few scenarios i've come up with so far.

October 9 - Arrival Day - MK
October 10 - DHS
October 11 - EP
October 12 - AK
October 13 - DHS (AIE Day)
October 14 - MK (morning EMH)
October 15 - WP
October 16 - Depart in the afternoon

This plan allows me to do AIE on a weekday but requires us to do a water park on the last full day of our trip.  Not my favorite idea but we would probably go to MK or EP to finish the evening off.

October 9 - Arrival Day - MK
October 10 - DS
October 11 - AK (morning EMH)
October 12 - EP (morning EMH)
October 13 - WP
October 14 - MK (morning EMH)
October 15 - DS (AIE day)
October 16 - Depart in the afternoon

This is the EMH full plan.  Using the most of our time.  Note that I moved the water park up to a weekday but i'd be doing AIE on our last full day (yuck).  My main requirement when using EMH is being able to utilize it for Magic Kingdom because I feel like there is more to accomplish at that particular park. 

I'm throwing around the idea of doing AK in the morning and then heading to a water park in the afternoon.  The only downside to this is that the water parks get filled up during the day and the morning is far less crowded.  I also have us doing MK on our arrival day simply because I want my mother-in-law to see the castle first thing.  It's the staple of all of WDW for many.  I think if she were to go to another park first she might be slightly let down. 

I will probably come up with a few more alternative plans (i've actually got two written down that i'm not showing you) that will work even better.  I may have to go against Extra Magic Hours and against advice.  Speaking of which... here is what's outlook is like.

Day         Crowd Level       Best Park      Worst Park
Oct. 9             6                      AK                DS
Oct. 10           6                      DS            MK  EP  AK
Oct. 11           4                      EP             MK  DS  AK
Oct. 12           4                   DS  AK             EP
Oct. 13           5                   DS  MK            EP
Oct. 14           4                   EP  AK          MK  DS
Oct. 15           5                   MK  DS            AK
Oct. 16           6                      AK                 DS

Note:  As I was typing this I got an e-mail from the Orbitz rep and she asked what day and time i'd like to attend Cirque and take my Swedish Massage.  So, i'll be figuring this into what schedules I mentioned about.  I'll let ya know when I figure it out. 

Any advice or tips would be much appreciated! 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

DDP... worth it, or not?

After talking to a fellow WDW fan about the Disney Dining Plan (DDP), I figured I should write my opinion on it.  It's a really difficult topic to discuss simply because the DDP isn't for all guests of WDW. 

I feel like there are essential "qualifications" in order to determine if the DDP will work best for you and your family. 
  • You have to be able to consume a large amount of food... or be okay with letting some food go to waste.  With getting one snack, one quick service meal, and one table service meal a day... it's a ton of food. 
  • Your family needs to be willing to take some extra time out of the day in order to have a sit down meal.  Disney service is very quick but you obviously have to wait for each course to come out.  If you're on a tight schedule it's probably not best to take the time out of your vacation to have long meals.
  • Make sure that you're willing to maximize the DDP.  That requires you to use your quick service meals on lunch instead of breakfast and your table service meals on dinner.  Breakfast is the cheapest in WDW so my advice is to use your snack credit getting a pastry in the morning.  Lunch time is when you want to use your quick service.  Use the table service credit wisely!  Choose restaurants that cost more per person.  Be willing to choose entrees that are higher priced as well. 
There are a lot of questions that come up as far as if the DDP is financially worth it.  After lots of number crunching i've laid out how much it costs on the DDP and how much it is to dine the exact same way while paying out of pocket.  Here are a few facts that I took into account.  I don't think I forgot anything.
  • Florida sales tax is 6.5%
  • I used a straight 15% tip for all table service meals.
  • I never order pop at table service restaurants.  Matt sometimes does. 
  • I used a price of $3.00 even for every snack.  Just for the sake of keeping it easy.
  • The price of the DDP does NOT include gratuity.
The basic Disney Dining Plan is $39.99 per person per night.  We're staying 7 nights. 
$39.99 x 7 = $279.93 x 2 people = $559.86  (I'll add the OOP gratuity later)

Biergarten -   $26.99 x 2 = $57.49 w/ tax and $10.00 tip = $67.49
Coral Reef -   $20.99 + $25.99 + $7.99 x 2 = $64.96 w/ tax and $10.38 tip = $79.57
Le Cellier -   $36.99 x 2 = $73.98 + tax = $78.79 + $11.82 tip = $90.61
Tusker House -   $28.99 x 2 = $57.98 + tax = $61.75 + $9.27 tip = $71.02
Cape May Cafe -   $26.99 x 2 = $53.98 + tax = $57.49 + $8.63 tip = $66.12
Chef Mickey's -   $34.07 x 2 = $68.14 + tax = $71.55 + $10.74 tip = $82.29
'Ohana -   $30.99 x 2 = $61.98  + tax = $66.01 + $9.91 tip = $75.92

Table Service Total = $544.96

Yak & Yeti -  $10.99 x 2, $3.29 x 2, $2.50 x 2 = $33.56 + tax = $35.75
Studios Catering Company -  $8.39, $6.49, $3.59 x 2, $2.50 x 2 = $27.06 + tax = $28.82
Pizza Planet -  $7.79 x 2, $1.79 x 2, $2.00 x 2 = $23.16 + tax = $24.67
Tangerine Cafe -  $7.95 x 2, $2.00 x 2 = $19.90 + tax = $21.20
Pecos Bills -  $6.79 x 2, $1.99, $3.99, $2.50 x 2 = $24.16 + tax = $25.73
Columbia Harbour House -  $8.09 x 2, $3.59 x 2, $2.50 x 2 = $28.36 + tax = $30.21
Sunshine Seasons -  $8.59, $9.99, $2.89, $3.99, $2.50 x 2 = $30.46 + tax = $32.44

Quick Service Total = $198.82

Snacks - $3.00 x 7 nights = $21.00 x 2 people = $42.00    Note:  I couldn't remember if they charge tax on snacks or not.  So I just did without.

Table Service Total -  $544.96
Quick Service Total - $198.82
Snack Total -             $42.00 

Out of pocket expense total =           $785.78
Disney Dining Plan price + tip total = $632.17

Difference saved by using DDP = $153.61

Keep in mind that if your goal is to spend the least amount possible on food then it's not in your best interest to use the DDP.  Your best option would be to eat quick service for your entire vacation.  Have breakfast in the room, share large quick service servings, and cut back on pop.  If you can reuse water bottles then you'll save a bit more as well.

If there is anything flawed that you notice in my calculations please let me know.  I'm sure there are some small errors in there somewhere.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Polynesian Resort, Here We Come!

I got the most wonderful e-mail from Erin at Orbitz telling me that my family and I will be staying at the GORGEOUS Polynesian Resort.  I've only dreamt of staying at this place.  I never really thought that it could happen because it's just so darn expensive.  I've walked around this resort before thinking, "someday, i'll get to stay here.  Someday."  And in October, i'm going to.

During my first trip to WDW I remember traveling on the monorail and going by the Poly and thinking to myself, "Eww.  Why would anyone want to stay there?  It looks like big brown buildings.  I don't get it." 

Then I actually went to the Polynesian for dinner when I was 17 with my family.  I walked in the doors and before me was this lush, tropical atrium.  I could hear the polynesian music playing all around me.  I was sucked in!  Finally, I understood what the big deal was.

For those of you that haven't been to the Polynesian, here are some amazing photographs.

This is what you see as you walk through the lower level doors. 

A beautiful view of the atrium from the second story.

Gorgeous, yes?

Boats of all kinds are available to rent right at the resort.

The beautiful beach at the Polynesian Resort.

The volcano pool has a slide and as well as an amazing view of the Magic Kingdom.

There is a quiet pool at the Poly as well.

Love the bathroom!

The rooms underwent a fairly recent renovation.

Our moms will switch on and off sleeping on the bed and the daybed.

I just can't believe I get to spend 8 nights at this... my dream resort.

Bummer Major

I got a little ahead of myself I think.  Got my hopes up.  Orbitz wasn't able to book the DDP with Disney for us. 

We have the $250.00 gift card so I think that we'll just use that on our food.  I hope that's enough for lunch and dinner for the both of us.  The F&WF will probably be able to hold me over a bit for a meal when we're at Epcot. 

We'll probably do counter service meals for lunch and dinner.  Maybe we can pick one or two restaurants to eat at so Diane (my mother in law) can experience table service restaurants at WDW.  We probably, in this case, won't choose the most expensive.  I'd love to do Biergarten and Tusker House.  Something different and not "italian" or "american" food. 

I'm hating that I have to break the news to Matt and my mom.  They're gonna be super bummed.

I do see an upside to it all though.  We don't have to worry about being at a certain place at a certain time.  We won't have to bother with giving enough time from place A to place B.  We can just eat whenever we're hungry with no time table.  I'm looking forward to that.

I'll let you know more when I know more!  No word on the accomdations yet!