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Archive for May, 2008

 

 

Welcome! This week the theme of the Destination Disney Carnival, held by Jennifer from Snapshot, is all about Walt Disney World for adults. It is certainly true Disney offers many opportunities for adult indulgence- what with a host of spectacular dining options, beautiful backdrops for romantic evening strolls or carriage rides on the grounds of some resorts, luxurious spas for relaxing massages, and fun and exciting establishments at Pleasure Island. There is no end to the possibilities for fun when experiencing the attractions, admiring the lush and breathtaking landscaping, and enjoying the clean parks and the interactions with friendly Cast Members and guests. For me, the best way to magnify my magic is to let my seven-year-old-self free and just let the magic happen. Try to remember Disney isn’t going anywhere; take your time to enjoy whatever it is you are doing.

 

Keep smiling, become an ambassador of happiness. Consider bringing tokens from home to thank Cast Members who help you along your way. My children have made little cards at home and given them to special Cast Members they have met along the way. Cast Members always seem touched by their appreciation. Whenever you are waiting in a line, interact with your neighbors. This will help pass the wait time and can really add to your day. Compliment a child wearing a mouse ear hat that catches your eye. When you see a child dressed up like a princess, ask them if they are the real princess.

 

Personally, I have forever dreamed of buying a Cast Member’s whole lot of balloons to pass out to children for fun. Giving one to a child makes their day. And in turn, it makes your own! Before our trips, my girls and I go and purchase little light up toys, bubbles, or stickers; we bring them and give them to the children we meet around us, while waiting for a parade. Making magic for the children is really what Disney is all about.  Join in the fun. Be like Walt.

 

Do whatever you need to do to allow yourself to return to your inner child. You won’t be sorry you did! If you have trouble doing this, visit the parks with someone who can easily help you become part of the magic. I remember my husband’s first Disney trip.  Before going, he wasn’t very excited. Once there, he told me he could never have imagined what Disney World really is, he couldn’t picture the level of detail across such a vast and magical space. I am big part of his magic; he says he likes to watch Disney through my eyes best of all. He loves it when I point out hidden Mickeys and tell him about the other special plusses we come across.  Visit the parks with someone special with whom you know you can set yourself free. Be sure to take the time to immerse yourself in your surroundings and really soak in the pixie dust. Play along, and you will be amazed at what it is you find you enjoy the most. Have fun!

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When choosing a Walt Disney World resort, budget, party size, age range, preferences, and any other special considerations are useful guidelines when searching for a personal best fit. There is truly something to love about each of the resorts as they each offer their own special plusses. While the resorts vary greatly, from nightly room rates to offered amenities, they are all staffed by attentive and friendly Disney Cast Members striving to provide a happy place for guests to visit. Similarly, all Walt Disney World Resort guests are eligible for many benefits, including complimentary Magical Express transportation to and from MCO airport, complimentary Disney transportation and parking within the Resort, access to Extra Magic Hours, eligibility to optionally purchase a Disney Dining Plan, and more. The resorts’ specific amenities are well described on-line at the Walt Disney World website, DISboards.comAllears.net, and the Disney World Moms Panel can answer your specific questions. You can even request a free vacation planning DVD at the Walt Disney World website. You can find even more information about the resorts from the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World available at your local bookseller.

 

Starting with Disney’s value resorts, which include the Pop Century and three All Star Resorts, the price per night, before tax, is under $100 for a “standard room”, during the value and regular seasons. Even during the busiest and most expensive holiday season, this rate only increases up to a maximum of $151 per night – and that is for a “preferred room”. Deciding to stay at a value resort, will give you good feelings about the money saved on the nightly room rate. While the value resort rooms are small, they are clean and well maintained. Bringing a pop-up hamper and an over the door shoe organizer can be helpful with keeping the limited room space well organized. The value resorts’ food court areas offer a wide variety of food. Their large pools are themed accordingly and are especially fun for children, despite the fact they lack pool slides. Cute children’s play areas pepper these resorts. Children appreciate the over-the-top theming and giant eye catching decorations sprinkled throughout these resorts. Saving some money by choosing a value resort can be a prudent choice. Children may even prefer the larger-than-life theming found at these resorts. Some families choose to split their stay between a value- and another resort to increase their options and help average their total vacation room costs.

 

 

The moderate resorts cost more, however, they predictably offer more options for this increased price. To get an idea of the moderate resort price range, the price per night, before tax, starts at $149, for a standard room, during the value season. This increases up to a maximum of $240 per night, before tax, for a preferred room, on a weekend night, at the height of the premium holiday season. The group of moderates include: Caribbean Beach Resort, Coronado Springs Resort, Port Orleans-French Quarter, and Port Orleans-Riverside. The structure of these buildings resembles that of the values, however, moderates boast a more sophisticated feel, nicer accommodations and landscaping, and most importantly, more spacious rooms. While each of the sprawling moderates offer limited sit down and food court dining, you can always find additional dining options in the parks. A coffee pot is supplied in each room,something my husband always appreciates immensely. Each of these resorts offer nice children’s play areas and creatively themed pools with slides. Notably, the beautifully landscaped Port Orleans sister resorts are located along Bonnet Creek and offer boat transportation to and from the Downtown Disney area. Coronado Springs Resort offers a fitness center, a business area, and a well appointed food court. The Caribbean Beach Resort’s setting on Barefoot Bay offers little beaches at which children can play in the sand, and also nice walking, jogging, and biking trails.

 

 

The deluxe resorts offer an extensive array of choices for fine sit down dining, ample on-site shopping, lots of recreational activities, some extremely elaborate pool areas, interior room entrances, queen-sized beds, and my favorite quality – close proximity to a theme park. Most deluxe resorts also offer child-care clubs. A standard room view, at the Wilderness Lodge, during the value season, before tax, is $225 per night. At the other end of the deluxe room rate spectrum is a Grand Floridian, Deluxe Club Level room with a Magic Kingdom direct view, on a weekend night, during the holiday season, at a rate of $990. The deluxe room rates vary greatly depending on room location and view. Booking a standard view room at a deluxe resort can save money, and add much convenience. The Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Yacht and Beach Club, Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk Inn and Animal Kingdom Lodge Resorts each offer their own special theming, extra comfortable accommodations, and higher Cast Member to guest ratios. Guests discover special characteristics of each of these resorts that often keep them coming back for more. The exotic Polynesian Resort, in addition to offering especially beautiful theming, and a relaxing atmosphere, offers direct monorail transportation to both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot (with a short walk to the TTC). The Polynesian also offers arguably the best coffee in the WDW Resort, and did I mention the Poly’s Tonga Toast? Both the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian additionally offer ferry service to the MK. The luxurious Victorian themed Grand Floridian Resort offers the most spacious deluxe rooms and the highest Cast Member to guest ratio . A stay at the Grand Floridian is sure to be exceptional. The hotel offers several fabulous sit down dining choices from character dining at the 1900 Park Fare all the way to the top with their very romantic and ultra-fine dining offering, Victoria and Albert’s. The Contemporary is like a city in itself. It is a hub for lots of recreational opportunities and boasts two of the most popular Resort dining choices: Chef Mickey’s and the signature dining restaurant, the California Grill. Views from the Magic Kingdom side of this A-frame, monorail straddling, hotel are unsurpassed. The Bay Lake side views are also spectacular. The Wilderness Lodge, with its Pacific Northwest feel, is another spectacular Magic Kingdom area hotel. Guests walking toward the Magic Kingdom boat launch dock can see the faithful geyser explode periodically in the air, and also enjoy the nicely themed pool area. This hotel offers two more favorite restaurants, Artist Point and the fun Whispering Canyon Cafe. The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort is a hotel unlike any other. Here, guests are transported to what life on the African Savannah should be like. With animals wandering around the savannah, outside many guests rooms, staying here is an unforgettable experience. This hotel additionally offers the very popular restaurant option, Boma. The Epcot area resorts offer the most fine dining options, with on-site fine dining and easy access to all of Epcot’s World Showcase restaurants. The Yacht and Beach Club Resorts offer the most elaborate resort pool area, Stormalong Bay. All of these resorts, also including the Swan and Dolphin, are near Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the lively Boardwalk night time amusement area.

 

So many choices, so much to do. For even more information visit Jennifer at Snapshots Destination Disney Carnival here.  Enjoy your planning and your stay!

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Do you love Disney? You are in for a treat since Jennifer at Snapshot is hosting a carnival called Destination Disney. This weeks theme is all about saving money on your Disney World vacation. While you can certainly save money leaving things out of your vacation, I am going to show you how to save money while still keeping the extras.

As soon as you start to think about going to Disney, request a free vacation planning DVD. The DVD is very helpful and your request enters you in Disney’s system which increases your odds of being issued a postcard with a vacation discount savings pin.

 

Airfare is my least favorite vacation expense to incur. I have difficultly justifying it, beyond the fact that it’s mandatory for us.  Because plane travel offers me no joy, I put extra effort into getting an acceptable deal for our family’s airfare. I receive email alerts from Travelocity and I downloaded the “Ding!” from Southwest Airlines. Sign up for a Disney Visa Card to gain Rewards Points on all your purchases.

 

We always choose to stay at a WDW Resort, this is a cost I have no problem justifying. Disney has set up an affordable vacation section of their website where they post exclusive deals for those staying at WDW resorts. Look for dining discounts and/or ticket upgrades. If you aren’t interested in purchasing a package, and want to purchase separately the components of your vacation, book a “room only” reservation. Even if you didn’t receive a discount postcard, ask if there is a discount attached to your name and address in the system when you call to book your room. For serious room savings, stay at Disney’s Pop Century or one of the three All Stars value resorts for under $100/night. These rooms are small but the Disney hospitality, convenience, and theming is big! You can’t beat this value. You will also find that all resorts are cheaper during the value season. To view the schedules for the Disney resort types, broken down by season, visit here. Try for a AAA discount if you have a AAA card. Also, consider purchasing an Annual Pass, especially if you see AP discounts offered on this site. This discount is greater if you can span it across multiple vacations. If you get an AP discount on your room rate during your first vacation, your second vacation value increases by default since you won’t need to purchase tickets if your next vacation is within a year from your AP activation date. When trying for any discount, be flexible if the discount isn’t available for your first choice.

 

When it comes to tickets, you save more money each day you extend your vacation. Magic Your Way tickets can be purchased with many options up to 10 days in length. You can save a little money purchasing your tickets from a broker. Mousesavers.com offers lots of ticket tips. The easiest savings on tickets is found by skipping the “hopper” option, as this saves you about $50 per person. I haven’t skipped this option yet, but it is nice to know I could save myself a quick $200 on my family of four’s vacation bill, if I wanted to do so. However, this is money I don’t mind spending because I love the flexibility it affords me.

 

I often purchase the dining plan for convenience and some savings. I don’t maximize my dollar value of savings here because I tend to use my table service credits at character meals. When we pay as we go, we still do some character meals, but I tend to stick with late breakfasts since breakfast is the least expensive option. We usually have a granola bar in the morning and then have a late character breakfast for our big meal of the day. Late breakfasts allow us to tour the parks when they first open when the lines are shortest. You can save at counter service dinners by splitting meals. One day, when we were leaving MGM, we decided to take a bus to Fort Wilderness to grab a pizza. We had a quiet and inexpensive dinner by the lake. When finished, we took the boat over to MK just in time to see Wishes. For more food savings visit here. Some people prefer ordering the most expensive items from the most expensive full service restaurants on the Dining Plan. For me, since my kids really enjoy seeing Mickey, Pooh, Cinderella and all of their friends I am looking for their enjoyment value.

 

Bringing some granola bars can also cut down on the need for purchasing some snacks in the parks. However, don’t miss out on buying your kids each a Mickey Bar ice cream at least once on every WDW vacation. Be sure to pack all of the essentials you know you will need as these are expensive at Disney. I always bring sunscreen, rain ponchos, some little light up toys, pain reliever, Band-Aids, Neosporin, extra batteries, sunglasses and film.

 

For saving money in the stores, I have used an idea from this book for years. When my children spot something they want, I write it down. Once I have acknowledged what it is they want, and have added it to their list, they are happy. Later, they will have the chance to look at their list and pick the thing they most want. Now that they are older and are earning an allowance, they understand money more. They shop during the trip and decide what they want to spend their money on. Pressing pennies can keep your kids on the lookout for these 51 cent souvenir machines. This last trip we bought them each a little pressed penny book – they sell them just about everywhere in Disney. The kids were excited to find machines as we toured, and were often so busy looking for machines, they overlooked all the miscellaneous merchandise opportunities. We let them take turns choosing a machine so as not to duplicate pennies. There are machines all over the parks and resorts. My favorite souvenir from my last trip was free. I printed a copy of the Semi Finalist certificicate for Disney’s Moms Panel I earned and brought it with me to our Cinderella Castle breakfast. I brought a matching Pink Sharpie and they all signed the certificate. It looks great!  Another nice souvenir is to bring an 8×10 picture of your children in front of Cinderella Castle from a previous trip. Let the characters sign it. It looks nice when hung! After our vacations I like to order free customizable maps from Disney to remind me of what we did with the kids on that particular vacation.

 

Save money on several special-ticketed party events (i.e. Pirate & Princess, Not-So-Scary Halloween, etc.) by purchasing the tickets in advance at a discount. Also, these special party tickets can be used to get a discount off your Photopass print order. Purchasing an Annual Pass can also sometimes help you score a discount on La Nouba tickets. There are so many ways to save money!  Listed here were a few of my favorites. If you love Disney, you can have almost as much fun planning your trip as the trip itself. But most of all, remember to have fun!

I hope you all have a very happy Mother’s Day tomorrow.  Click here for a sweet little Mother’s Day treat.

 

 

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Q:  For a 4-year-old? We are doing a quickie 3 night, 2 full day long weekend in February, staying at the Beach Club. The kidlet will be 4, nearing 5. I’m hearing mixed reviews from friends/family who have gone as to whether Epcot is worth it for a child that age, most leaning towards not worth a full day.

If we don’t do Epcot, we’ll probably just do 2 days at MK. I’m leaning towards not doing park hoppers either given that his stamina level really doesn’t include 2 parks in one day. (Nor, if I had to admit, does ours!)

Thoughts?

Thanks for any input.

A:  You are going to love the Beach Club! Did you know the BC is an Epcot area hotel? Monorail transportation between the MK and Epcot could be great fun for your child! Ask the monorail driver if you can sit in the front car.  While you could easily spend both of your days in the MK; with your hotel choice, consider adding in a little Epcot. Maybe you could spend the tail end of your first day, and the very beginning of your second day, in Epcot? I have two girls and their favorite park is MK, but some of their favorite attractions are in Epcot. For example, they love SOARIN’ (must be 40” tall to ride), The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Turtle Talk with Crush, and Journey into Your Imagination including ImageWorks.

Consider spending the first day in MK. Late afternoon, have a nice sit down family style character meal in the MK with Minnie and friends at the Liberty Tree Tavern or maybe with Pooh and his buddies at the Crystal Palace. Alternatively, you could leave the MK and walk or ride the monorail over to the nearby Contemporary Resort. There you will find a super celebration dinner at Chef Mickey’s. After dinner take monorail transportation over to Epcot. 

After entering Epcot head over to the Imagination pavilion and ride Journey into Your Imagination. After this ride, linger here and let your child experience ImageWorks. My youngest daughter loves this play room! You can make music by waving your arms in the air, there is an interactive lighted floor on which to play, and lots of other fun to be had here. When you finish Imagination, meander towards the World Showcase. You can pick out a spot to view Illuminations, if you think your child can stay awake for viewing. When ready to return to your room continue walking toward the International Gateway.  You can walk or take the boat back to the BC.

The next morning, return to Epcot and ride SOARIN’ first and maybe even second!  Visit the Seas pavilion and any other Epcot must-sees still on your list. When finished head over to the MK so you can complete your MK touring. If your child can stay up this late, I would highly recommend watching the Spectromagic Parade, if it is scheduled.  The evening fireworks spectacular, Wishes, is AMAZING!  

The monorails will ease your traveling between parks and will enable you to see the parts of Epcot a 4 year old will love and lots and lots of the MK.

Whatever way you decide to go, I hope your 4 year old has the most magical time ever! Enjoy!

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Q:  For a 4-year-old? We are doing a quickie 3 night, 2 full day long weekend in February, staying at the Beach Club. The kidlet will be 4, nearing 5. I’m hearing mixed reviews from friends/family who have gone as to whether Epcot is worth it for a child that age, most leaning towards not worth a full day.

If we don’t do Epcot, we’ll probably just do 2 days at MK. I’m leaning towards not doing park hoppers either given that his stamina level really doesn’t include 2 parks in one day. (Nor, if I had to admit, does ours!)

Thoughts?

Thanks for any input.

A:  You are going to love the Beach Club! Did you know the BC is an Epcot area hotel? Monorail transportation between the MK and Epcot could be great fun for your child! Ask the monorail driver if you can sit in the front car.  While you could easily spend both of your days in the MK; with your hotel choice, consider adding in a little Epcot. Maybe you could spend the tail end of your first day, and the very beginning of your second day, in Epcot? I have two girls and their favorite park is MK, but some of their favorite attractions are in Epcot. For example, they love SOARIN’ (must be 40” tall to ride), The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Turtle Talk with Crush, and Journey into Your Imagination including ImageWorks.

Consider spending the first day in MK. Late afternoon, have a nice sit down family style character meal in the MK with Minnie and friends at the Liberty Tree Tavern or maybe with Pooh and his buddies at the Crystal Palace. Alternatively, you could leave the MK and walk or ride the monorail over to the nearby Contemporary Resort. There you will find a super celebration dinner at Chef Mickey’s. After dinner take monorail transportation over to Epcot. 

After entering Epcot head over to the Imagination pavilion and ride Journey into Your Imagination. After this ride, linger here and let your child experience ImageWorks. My youngest daughter loves this play room! You can make music by waving your arms in the air, there is an interactive lighted floor on which to play, and lots of other fun to be had here. When you finish Imagination, meander towards the World Showcase. You can pick out a spot to view Illuminations, if you think your child can stay awake for viewing. When ready to return to your room continue walking toward the International Gateway.  You can walk or take the boat back to the BC.

The next morning, return to Epcot and ride SOARIN’ first and maybe even second!  Visit the Seas pavilion and any other Epcot must-sees still on your list. When finished head over to the MK so you can complete your MK touring. If your child can stay up this late, I would highly recommend watching the Spectromagic Parade, if it is scheduled.  The evening fireworks spectacular, Wishes, is AMAZING!  

The monorails will ease your traveling between parks and will enable you to see the parts of Epcot a 4 year old will love and lots and lots of the MK.

Whatever way you decide to go, I hope your 4 year old has the most magical time ever! Enjoy!

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I received the sweet text, below, in an email last week.   I brought copies of it with me to Sunday School.  My class cut out the text and pasted it on construction paper.  They embellished the “frame” around the text with stickers and little crayon pictures.  They came out really cute!  The kids, ages 3-4, were so proud of their work.  They also really enjoyed hearing the story.   Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

A baby asked God, “They say you are sending me to Earth tomorrow, but how am I going to live there being so small and helpless?”
God said, “Your angel will be waiting for you and will take care of you.”

The child further inquired, “But tell me, here in Heaven I don’t have to do anything but sing and smile to be happy.”
God said, “Your angel will sing for you and will also smile for you.  And you will feel your angels love and be very happy.”

Again the child asked, “And how am I going to be able to understand when people talk to me, if I don’t know the language?”  God said, “Your angel will tell you the most beautiful and sweet words you will ever hear, and with much patience and care, your angel will teach you how to speak.”

The child asked, “And what am I going to do when I want to talk to You?”  God said, “Your angel will place your hands together and teach you how to pray.”

“Who will protect me?”  God said, “Your angel will defend you, even if it means risking its life.”

“But I will always be sad because I will not see you anymore.”  God said, “Your angel will talk to you about Me and will teach you the way to come back to Me, even though I will always be right next to you.”

At that moment there was much peace in Heaven, but voices from Earth could be heard and the child hurriedly asked, “God, if I am to leave now, please tell me my angel’s name.”

God said, “You will simply call her ‘Mom’.”

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Q:  The travel channel did a segment on La Nouba. It looked really interesting. We’ve seen the Cirque du Soleil “Ka” in Las Vegas and really enjoyed it. Is it worth spending that much money on? Did you like it or not? Would bringing my 9, 7, and 5 year old enjoy it? Thanks~

A:  I highly recommend seeing Cirque de Soleil “La Nouba” with your kids on your next vacation. I have seen it twice and it is utterly an AMAZING experience. The first time we went to the show my youngest daughter had just turned three; she remained quiet in her seat, mesmerized by the performance, watching the whole show. From start to finish the show really engages your mind.

It is nothing like a “traditional circus” except that it is whimsical, very fun, engaging, and extremely entertaining. Even though the show is sophisticated, people of all ages thoroughly enjoy their performances, including children. Everything has meaning, but it is meaning that may be individually interpreted. Just about everyone loves La Nouba, but for various reasons. La Nouba is impossible to define as it takes many types of entertainment and mixes in so many messages.

The cast is extremely talented and they each seem to push their performance beyond human limits. The settings are imaginative, interesting, and exciting. It is truly an unforgettable experience. There isn’t a poor view in the audience; the theater was specifically designed to lend all members of the audience optimal views.

People of all ages become totally immersed in the beauty of the show, and they give enthusiastically their highest regards to its cast and creators after experiencing it. I do not believe you will be sorry you spent the extra money to see it; if you choose to do so. I think your family is sure to love the show.

Each of the members of your family will probably leave with a different perspective of the show’s meaning. If you are looking for a sure bet for a nice splurge while visiting Disney World, this is a wonderful choice. You must see it to believe it.

Have a wonderful trip and enjoy La Nouba, if you decide to try it!

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