Category: Travel Tips

Paying for Disney souvenirs with pennies a day

Souvenir shopping is one of my all-time favorite activities, especially at my happy place, but Disney souvenirs can be VERY expensive.  To help with costs, we started saving our pennies and all of our extra change goes towards our souvenirs, but saving without a plan can be unfruitful, so we created a modified savings plan.

There are lots of ways to budget and save, but I’ve found that this is the one our kids love to use.  First, we have a “Wish Fund” jar and a general penny fund.  I collect whatever spare change we have and place in general penny fund to start the process.  For instructions on how to create your own “Wish Fund” jar, read my previous post here.

I then created a spreadsheet starting at 1 penny, then adding a penny per day for 365 days of the year (day 2=$.02, day 3=$.03, up to $3.65 for the last day of the year).  I created 3 columns (one for each month per quarter) and had 4 pages total.

It’s easy to start with any spare change you have, but the harder part comes as the year goes on.  To help with the ‘larger’ savings, I would add any extra funds from our budget starting from the end of the list.  For example, if I had an extra $20, I would subtract $3.65, then $3.64 and so forth, with $1.85 leftover (place this in your general penny fund).  I highlight each day of savings, so I don’t lose track, and my kids love to see if we can ‘get ahead’ throughout the year.

If you stick to adding WITHOUT subtracting any funds, then you’ll have over $600 dollars for your souvenirs!  I like to give the kids a certain dollar amount per day for souvenirs and allow them to budget their money to get the items they want.  Once their souvenir money is assigned, I use the rest for our ‘snacking’ fund and don’t feel guilty about getting my daily Dole Whip fix.

Have fun exploring the World!

Planning for a trip to the World – Part 2

In part 1 of my post, How to plan a trip to Disney World, I discussed Step 1: Where to Start and Step 2: When to Go.  If you need to go back and read that post click HERE

Photo credit: Disney

Step THREE:  Where to stay is best answered by the question, “Do I want to save TIME or MONEY?”  There are significant off-site properties, but those won’t be discussed in this post.  For information and possible discount options for off-site properties, check out this post about one of my favorite sites, MouseSavers.  (Click HERE)

Mousesavers.com

Disney separates their resorts into 3 categories:  Value, Moderate and Deluxe.  Value resorts are the least expensive basic option, however they are also located further away from the theme parks and have fewer perks.  They are still a great option for traveling to WDW as you are still in the ‘Disney bubble,’ however room size, transportation options and amenities are just less.  Value resorts include All-Star Movies, All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, and Pop Century.

Moderate resorts are the ‘middle of the road’ option and offer slightly larger rooms, better transportation options and upgraded amenities such on-site restaurants.  In the Moderate category includes the following resorts:  Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans-French Quarter and Port Orleans-Riverside.

Courtyard at Port Orleans-French Quarter
Pool area at Port Orleans-French Quarter

 

Deluxe resorts tend to save you in time as they are closer to the resorts, however they also cost significantly more than the other categories.  Deluxe resorts include:  Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian, Polynesian Resort, Wilderness Lodge and Yacht Club (though separate, it is connected to the Beach Club).

Wilderness Lodge

There are two other options not listed above.  These include the Disney Vacation Club and Fort Wilderness Campgrounds.  Disney Vacation Club is the ‘timeshare’ for Disney, where owners use points to pay for their accommodations.  It is possible to rent points if you want to try staying in a DVC Deluxe Villa before purchasing a contract.  Fort Wilderness Campgrounds offer traditional campsites, RV hook-ups and ‘cabins.’

Fort Wilderness ‘cabin’

Step FOUR: Create a plan is where you begin to decide the framework of your Disney vacation.  Details such as which park to go to, where to eat and which rides to Fast Pass (FP+) are important, but realize that this is a work in progress as you will have to adjust your timeline as it gets closer to your trip, once updated information becomes available.

Start with checking park hours on Disney’s website to choose your theme park for the day, then where you want to go.  Once you know where you will be, you can start deciding on FP+ options.  FP+ allows Disney’s guests to choose 3 attractions and use a special entrance to bypass waiting.  You will have to choose a timeframe for your passes and once you use all 3, you can request additional ones, one at a time on that day.  You won’t have to make your FP+ options until 60 days out for on-site guests and 30 days out for off-site guests.

Also, important is deciding where to eat for table-service dining plans.  Currently, Disney’s timeline requires on-site guests to decide where they will eat by making dining reservations at 180 days before the trip.  For certain must-do eateries like Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table, it is imperative that you make them at 180 days to guarantee a spot.

Be Our Guest restaurant in WDW

I know this is a LOT of information, but take it step-by-step and you’ll get there 🙂  My next post will address Step 5: RESEARCH and Step 6: Special Events.

Have fun!

How to plan a trip to Walt Disney World

I’m frequently asked where to begin when planning a trip to my favorite place, so it’s time to write it all down for you 🙂

Photo credit: Disney

Step ONE in planning a trip to the World is getting a FREE Disney Parks DVD.  When you order the DVD, you will also get online access to the same DVD footage, so you can start your planning right away.  If this is your first trip (or maybe your fifty-ith) you may want to consider working with a knowledgeable travel agent.  I frequently plan my own trip, however, on occasion it is nice to give someone else your details and let them take care of the rest.  There’s no additional cost for you and plenty of great benefits such as knowing my agent can make all kinds of changes to my reservation if necessary.

Step TWO is deciding what time of year works for your schedule.  Each time of year has its own pros and cons.  January used to be a pretty light month, however if you are going during Marathon weekend, a RunDisney event, expect summertime-sized crowds.

February is a good choice, but park hours may be limited and there may be more refurbishments happening during this month as they ramp up for summer.  March is busy most of the time due to Spring Break, which happens almost every week with people from across the US.  April is surprisingIy busy due to Easter holidays and the Flower & Garden Festival, but still less busy than the summer months.

 

May is the start of summer season, but you can still get around the World without too much difficulty.  June through August is pretty nutso.  I personally hate going in the summer due to the excessive heat and incredible crowds, however it works for my family due to the kids’ school schedule, so we make do.  September is one of my favorite times, but expect frequent rain showers and there is always the possibility of hurricanes.  October and November are my absolute favorite months to travel to WDW because of the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and the International Food & Wine Festival.

  

We also got married at WDW in November, so I’m definitely partial to going during November.  December is absolutely heavenly with the decorations and wonderful Christmas treats.

Check out my next post for Step THREE (where to stay) and Step FOUR (create a plan).

Have fun!

Disney Dream Cruise: Meeting the Characters

When I graduated from college, I treated myself to a cruise with my good friend, Karrie. At that time, Disney didn’t have its own cruise line, but there was an option for coordinating a Carnival cruise and days at the World. The cruise was ok, but definitely not something I truly enjoyed or planned to do again. Nearly 20 years later, I had the opportunity to cruise again, this time with my family on Disney Cruise Line.

Disney Dream

There was definitely a difference, as noticeable as night and day.  I LOVED cruising with Disney and look forward to doing it again.

Castaway Cay

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite perks of cruising with Disney is character opportunities.  There are characters on the ship and on the private island.  Your daily newsletter, “The Navigator” has lists of all character times and locations, so you and your family should be able to find the character you want to meet, but don’t be afraid to ask a cast member if you need help.

My youngest was excited to meet Captain Jack Sparrow, however we missed him on our first day at Castaway Cay due to weather issues.  She was extremely disappointed and worried that we might not meet him at all.

While we were waiting onboard to meet Aladdin, a cast member asked if she had met all the characters she was looking for.  As she explained that she couldn’t find Jack, the cast member asked for her name and told her to look for him the next day on the dock.  She was ecstatic and could hardly sleep.

Early the next morning, we were one of the first people off the ship so she wouldn’t miss Captain Jack.  He called her by name as he came traipsing over the hill and said, “I heard you were looking for me!”  Then he spent 10 minutes in conversation with her and it became the highlight of her trip.

Of course, I met my favorite character in the Port before we ever boarded the ship 🙂

Captain Mickey

Have fun!

Mouse savers

Sometimes when I plan a trip to the World, I need to stay off-site (GASP!  I know it’s rare, but it does happen).

So, where can you find the BEST deal that still has some great Disney perks?  Check one of my favorite sites for cost-saving deals:  MouseSavers.com

Mousesavers.com

Mary Waring, the creator of MouseSavers.com, has been providing FREE information about Disney since 2001.  Her site offers hundreds of pages about Disney discounts, as well as info on other Disney-related travel or entertainment such as Disneyland vacation packages, Disney’s Broadway shows or Disney on Ice.

And if you HAVE to visit other theme parks in the area, she does provide info on possible discounts.

I love that Mary shares her immense knowledge on how to save money, especially for hotels at and nearby the World.  She also has extensive reviews for these hotels and offers excellent advice when trying to locate that less expensive option close to the World.

Have fun!

Soarin’ Around the World

Walt Disney World Photo Gallery Disc
There are 4 parks at Walt Disney World in Florida and my favorite is Epcot. The best attraction at Epcot (in my humble opinion) has been Soarin’ Over California (also known as Soarin’). The attraction has recently undergone some revamping to increase the capacity by adding an additional theatre and updating the movie to (insert drum roll here)…Soarin’ Over the World. This will show at Epcot and Disneyland.  Shanghai Disney will show Soarin’ Over the Horizon.

www.d23.com
www.d23.com

I haven’t been back to see the updated version yet, but D23, the official Disney fan club, posted an article about 3 ‘easter eggs’ in the film. You can see their article HERE.

Don’t miss out on We are looking forward to returning to our happy place and seeing this new, updated version 🙂

epcot_backside1_7352076673
Have fun exploring the World!

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Storybook Land Canal Boats at Disneyland

www.disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog
www.disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog

I love looking at old photographs of Walt Disney, surveying the creation of his ideas. Disney Parks Blog posted this great pic of Walt and I just had to share. This is one of the classic Disney attractions that you can’t find at Walt Disney World in Florida.

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So much detail goes into each area of this attraction that you might notice something different each time you ride that you may have missed before. When we rode this, the Cast Member loading the boat made a HUGE deal about my younger daughter, who was dressed as Cinderella, calling her ‘Princess Cindy.’  The guests were sweet to play along with her special treatment as royalty aboard our little ship.

 

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George Savvas, Public Relations Director for Disneyland Resort, posted an article on the Disney Park blog earlier this year, sharing the story behind the making of this classic attraction.  You can read his post HERE.

Have fun exploring the World!

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