Latest Posts

Our First Disney Vacation — Day Two

Day Two of our vacation was a park day. The golden rules for park days is WAKE UP EARLY. Like 6 AM early and also to take breaks in between all the excitement. This is how our second day went down.

Day 2Day Two

We woke up at 7 AM (see statement above) and got ready really quick. My little one got all dressed up in her Elsa dress and accessories. We all put on our Mickey Ears and headed down to grab a quick breakfast. We just used one of our snack credits to grab a muffin and the coffee was free (you get the refillable tumbler with the dining plan).

Then we did something wonderful, and one of the reasons we stayed at the Contemporary… We WALKED to the park. It is a 10 minute walk from the lobby to the gate. After going through security you are in the park.

Things have changed a little bit now with the new opening show. A burning question I had before our trip was how the opening being at Cinderella’s Castle affect early access to the park. For those of you that don’t know, you can make a very early breakfast reservation at a restaurant in the park and they will let you in early, which means getting the park practically to yourself and getting lots of pictures “alone” in the park. Well now with the opening ceremony being at the castle things have changed a bit. I will discuss early morning reservations on the Day 3 post.

You are allowed to go all the way up to the castle where you will be treated to a welcoming ceremony by favorite characters and Mickey himself. Note that all of the stores and attractions along Main Street are closed until the end of the opening ceremony.

The ceremony is beautiful and our little one was entranced by the castle and her first view of all the princesses and all the fireworks and effect. From there we rushed back to the Main Street Theater so that we could see Mickey before it would get really crowded. We waited about 20 minutes in line which ended up being one of our longest wait that whole entire day.

MK_TSTHEATERBCHAR_20170205_7941345374

Meeting Mickey was MAGICAL. This was the most amazing moment we had. Our daughter was transfixed, she loved Mickey, she believed he was real, and for a moment we were all able to witness the Disney magic; a child seeing the beloved characters come to life. She kissed mickey, she hugged him, danced with him, and called him her prince. We were not rushed at all, everyone was super nice and very understanding of the magic that was taking place. This one experience by itself made all the work, effort, and money that went into planing this vacation worth it.

I had a very tight schedule planned for that day. Even though it was early in the morning I made sure to get FastPasses for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride. Even though it was early the wait was already in the 40+ mins. So we got to breeze by and get on right away. This was my daughter’s first roller-coaster ever. She loved it, we have a little daredevil. She was just tall enough to be able to get in and she though it was great fun, we all did.

From there we went to Gaston’s Tavern for a treat and saw the man himself standing outside. There was a very short line, so we decided to meet him. My husband happens to like Gaston, and I think he got the biggest kick out of meeting him.

MK_GASTONSTAVERNCHAR_20170205_7941432600

My husband and Gaston twinning

Before we had to go to our next fast pass we noticed that Mickey’s PhilharMagic had no wait. So we went right in and watched the show. While it is a bit dated, it was still fun and entertaining, plus a quick break from the Florida heat.

MK_PFTHBLUEA1CHAR_20170205_7941449568

From there we went to Princess Fairytale Hall to meet Cinderella and Elena of Avalor. We had fast passes for this as well. While it was still in the morning (11 AM) the wait was about 30 minutes for no fast passes. We waited less than ten and then my little girl was saying hello to Cinderella, which was nice, but my daughter loves Elena of Avalor, so she was a little start-struck. There were lots of hugs, and talks about adventures, and they even spoke in Spanish (yes the Elena cast member can speak Spanish fluently which adds to the authenticity of the character).

MK_PFTHBLUEA2CHAR_20170205_7941452978

Then it was time to run to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for her appointment. I called to make a reservation 5 months before our vacation date. By that time the only appointment they had left was a noon spot. I would recommend calling 6 months ahead if you are trying to get the highly sought after morning appointments. Most parents want their money’s worth so they all try to get in there early so that their children can have their hairdo last all day. So if you want early you need to call early.

MK_BBBCASTLE1_20170205_397076307491

We had to wait over half an hour before it was her turn, thankfully they have a sitting area inside, but it is constantly full (lots of kids and parents waiting) so be super grateful if you get a sit. My little one came dressed up already with her Elsa dress, but you can also get a dress and purchase it right there. They will take you to their sister store where you can choose and put on your gown and then they will bring you back to do your hair, nails, and makeup.

Day Two (1)

After the boutique it was time for our last FastPass of the day (we could have reserved more after we used our three, but honestly our schedule was pretty packed as it was, so we did not feel the need); Enchanted Tales With Belle. This was what I would consider an “enhanced meet and greet”. Children get to participate in a mini play before getting that picture with Belle. It was short, but my daughter got a kick for being plate #3, lol.

 

Lunch was a skip and a hop away at Be Our Guest. Once again we had our ADR booked for this and the best part, besides the beautiful theming, or good food, is that breakfast or lunch here counts as a “Fast Service” credit. So skip the burger joints in cafeteria stile eateries, and come sit at this wonderful restaurant where you can have something a bit more classy for lunch. Only thing is that you need to make your reservation early since it is a very popular spot.

IMG_4094

After such a busy morning, we went back to the hotel for naps. It is so important to do this if you have a young child in your party. They get to recharge and not be cranky for the second part of your day. But just as important YOU get to rest and recharge. Get out of the horrible Florida heat and humidity, take a quick nap and a shower, so that YOUR night is also more enjoyable. If you are able to take this break at your hotel then you do not need a stroller. We brought a stroller thinking our almost 3 years old was going to be using it a lot. It turned out she did not use it much, save for a few minutes here and there. Since we went back to the hotel for her nap (which is honestly the main reason you might want a stroller) we did not need a stroller at all for this trip.

We walked back to the park around 5:30 PM so we made it with plenty of time for our dinner reservations at Crystal Palace. A jolly time was had by all as we met the friends from the Hundred Acre Wood. The food was ok, not the best Disney buffet we have been to but it was not bad. After all the pictures were taken we just came out and found a great spot to watch the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. We waited less than half an hour before it started. The show was absolutely beautiful.

At this point, half of our party decided to retire for the night. The rest of us headed for Tomorrowland, where we got to ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, with no wait at all. Then we took a turn on the People Mover, just to rest for a bit. From there we ended our night by having a dance party with Mr. and Mrs. Incredible! My little one dance for over half an hour with Mrs. Incredible, it was a great one on one activity that we were lucky to participate in simply because we decided to stay after the show ended, unlike most of the other families. So short lines and more interactions with characters can be had at this time.

IMG_4275

 

After such a full day we went to our hotel, and as we walked to our room we heard the same loud music we had heard the night before. It was a floating parade! The Electrical Water Pageant to be exact. It was beautiful, we had a front row seat, and absolutely loved it. It was just a nice additional bonus that we did not even know we would get. So we went to bed that night extremely tired, but extremely happy and satisfied with our choice of hotel.

Our First Disney Vacation — Day One

I find that the times right after a vacation are the times when life gets the busiest. Which is the main reason why it always takes me so long to write a blog about our adventures.

Our Disney vacation was, in one word, MAGICAL. Months of planing really paid off, guaranteeing that our experience was wonderful in every way. I will recount day by day what we did and what it cost us.  So let us jump in!

Day 1:

Our Itinerary For Day One

We live in Florida, so we only had a 3 hour drive to get to Disney World, nonetheless we woke up early and were loaded up and on the road by 9 am. I had several little presents wrapped for our daughter which doubled as birthday presents and kept her entertained on the drive. Every half hour or so I gave her a “Tinkerbell Present” such as a Disney themed golden book, or a play set from the Disney store, or the wooden magnetic princess dress up. Since I planned in advance I was able to wait for all of these to go on sale and ended up paying less.

2017-02-04 12.13.01

We made it to the Contemporary Resort at noon. Check-in was a breeze and the cast member was extremely helpful and nice. She made sure we all had celebration buttons (which are free) and she made sure we understood the dining plan and everything else. If you have any questions at all that is the time to ask, they are more than happy to help you and will go out of their way to insure you are happy, Disney has some of the best customer service in the world, so make sure to use it!

contemporary-resort-00-full

The Contemporary Resort – Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Our room was great. Very spacious, elegant, and well appointed. We were in a corner unit and had a patio. The pool and volleyball area were right in front of us and the lake was to the right. I wanted to set up an in-room celebration for our birthday girl, but I didn’t want to shell out the $350+ it would cost to have Disney Floral and Gifts do it (I am not going to lie, I considered it, but in the end decided I would rather spend that money in the park). So that meant DIY time! While my husband took our daughter to check out the pool and the concourse my sister and I rushed to our room and set up our own celebration. We laid out all of her presents on the beds, and decorated the room with Disney princesses, streamers, and confetti. Brand new Mickey, Minnie, and Donald plushies sat next to the presents which included an Elsa dress, a Cinderella wand, a Frozen jewelry set, an Elsa doll, a Frozen play set castle, Minnie ears, and frozen comfy slippers. I bought all of these items from the Disney store, I waited for all of them to go on sale (read: I checked the Disney store’s sale page every day starting in October) which made me be able to get the Elsa dress for $26, which is an AMAZING price for such a good quality, authentic dress. Our little one was ecstatic, she was so happy she didn’t know what to open first.

2017-02-04 13.30.37

After all the presents were opened we headed to the Contempo Cafe for lunch. Lunch was yummy and fast, after which we headed to Fantasia, the gift shop, to buy lanyards for our pins. I bought 4 lanyards and 4 card holders which cost me around $100. Almost as much as all of my little one’s presents, but we wanted authentic and unique, so you gotta dish out the money for that -_-

We explored the grounds for a bit before heading to our room and changing into our swimsuits. The pools were great. They are heated, have a slide, a sprinkler area, and splash zones in the main pool. There is a bar which serves food and drinks, and lots of reclining chairs, and cabanas. No, the Contemporary’s pool is not as themed as other hotel’s but I felt like it had enough to be fun for the kids and relaxing for the adults, I though it was just perfect. Also there are SEVERAL lifeguards on duties and they all take their job VERY seriously, which adds another level of safety.

2017-02-04 15.17.57

Once pool time was over we took showers and got ready for our dinner at Chef Mickey’s. We had Advanced Reservations (ADR) for all the restaurants we ate at (you have to if you want to be able to get in) but this does not mean that you will be seated immediately, there will still be a wait. We waited about 15 minutes, time that we spent taking pictures and watching cartoons. Please note we purchased a Disney Dining Plan as part of our package, therefore we did not have to pay any extra for our dinner. The buffet itself was good, but the highlight of the evening was meeting Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald. Out of all of them I have to say that Goofy was the nicest and most energetic. He was not rushed and he wanted to play with everyone on the table. Seriously kudos to that cast member he went above and beyond.

2017-02-04 19.40.32-1

In my original plan for that evening we were going to go to the Polynesian resort after dinner to watch the fireworks from the beach. But dinner ran long (meeting all of those characters and taking pictures takes time) so we had to cancel. This is one of the most important things you can do when you go out on vacation, ADAPT. Adaptability is one of the main skills needed in order to have a happy vacation. So while I wanted to go to the beach, it actually worked out better not to go, between it being cold, we being late, and planing on waking up very early the next day it might have been stressful to haul our large party over there.

IMG_4350

Instead we watched the fireworks from right outside our room. Which was an added bonus, you have a good view of the fireworks from pretty much anywhere in the Contemporary since you are walking distance from the park. After the fireworks we were tucking in when we heard very loud music coming from the outside, but after a quick glance we could not determine the source (we figured it out the next night, purely by accident).

And that was it for our first vacation day!

WHAT WE SPENT  — 

Vacation Package (Hotel, 2 Day Tickets with Park Hopper, and Disney Dining Plan): $2,241.18 

Tinkerbell Presents: $47  

In-room Celebration Decorations: $31

In-room Celebration Presents: $120

Fantasia Gift Shop: $100

Finding the Value in a Disney Resort — Guest Post

By Jennifer Cavagnaro

I wasn’t raised with a ton of money. My mom was single and she saved for years in order to bring my brother and I to Disney World at the age of 10. I remember every single minute. We stayed at the All-Star Sports Resort (a well-known value resort on the Walt Disney World property) and we only went to the Magic Kingdom. It was extremely hot out and after only a few hours of rides, my brother and I begged to go back to the hotel and play in the pool.

Fast forward 22 years… I’m a mom of 4 children and a true Disney lover! You might be thinking: “Four children? At Disney World? This woman is nuts!” Truthfully, I can’t argue with you there! I think my first trip to Disney as a mom was in 2009, when Brianna was 1. We stayed at the All Star Sports hotel, as it was the only one that I knew about and it brought back so many memories. Since then, I can’t even count the amount of times that we have been. (Hey… it’s only 3 hours away and very convenient!).

jen-3

We have always stayed at the value resorts. I may be somewhat of an expert.
There are currently 5:

  • Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

They are all basically the same, with different themes. They are extremely kid-friendly with bright, vibrant Disney Characters in front of each building and throughout the property. Each resort has a huge lobby which consists of an arcade, a gift shop and a cafeteria-style dining hall.

Since the resorts are on the Disney property, they provide free bus transportation to and from the theme parks, water parks and Disney Springs. Chase, my 3 year old, thinks the “Diddee Bus” is the highlight of the trip! Quick tip: The 3 All-Star resorts share a bus, so if you are taking the bus back from Animal Kingdom (for example), it makes 3 stops. Pop Century is stand-alone and only has the one stop.

Over the past 8 years, we have typically bounced around the value resorts, favoring Pop Century as it was the newest. Then came Mia… dun dun dunnnnnn! Mia is my 4th and last baby, and her presence at Disney demands a suite. Ah, shucks. This means we just had to stay at the brand-spanking new value resort: The Art of Imagination. It’s geared towards large families that need suites. The first time we stayed there, I was pregnant with Mia and we still qualified for a standard room. I picked the Little Mermaid building, of course. A little tip: It’s SUPER far from the lobby. My Fitbit loved it. My pregnant and swollen ankles? Not so much.

After I had Mia, I chose the Finding Nemo building which happens to be a “preferred” building. This means that it’s close to that fabulous lobby that I mentioned before. The suite was FANTASTIC. Two bathrooms, master bedroom, a little kitchen area, a table turns into a bed, a sleeper sofa… need I say more? This suite fit all 6 of us as well as my babysitter!

Pricing and Tips:

  • The value resorts offer specials throughout the year. Typically, the best and lowest prices are offered during non-peak season (in order to bring in guests).
  • I have seen regular rooms at the All-Star resorts for as low at $87 per night
  • The suites tend to be more expensive (considerably, in my opinion!)
  • Staying at the Art of Imagination for a family of 6 in March averages $435 a night ($470 per night for a preferred room)
  • Florida residents save more: $377/night for standard and $392 for a preferred room.
  • The average meal costs $10-$15 per person (give or take!)
  • The refillable cups are $17.99 for the length of your stay (I believe around $8.99 for 1 day if you choose to pay daily) and can be used as many times as you’d like. They are electronic now, you cannot bring your cup back from a previous stay.
  • The dining plan is HIGHLY recommended, especially if you are a foodie. This can only be booked with a package but saves a ton of money, especially if you do the Character Dining restaurants. There are various pricing tiers for this option.

jen-1

If you’re looking to stay on the Walt Disney Property, yet needing to save a few bucks, I highly recommend any of the 5 value resorts.

Planning a Vacation to Disney World — Where To Stay

*Please note that originally I was going to do a post for all five categories, but Accommodations got toooo long making it a monster of it’s own, so I had to break the original Basic’s post into two. First we discussed My Disney Experience, ADRs, FastPass+, and Magic Bands in Planning a Vacation to Disney World — The Basics. Now we will go over Accommodations (Disney resort categories. Staying on property v. off, etc.).

Deciding Where To Stay

The first question that you may have is: “Where do I stay?” To answer that, we need to look into what Disney has to offer. They have three main categories of resorts which are based on price point.

good-exterior-spotlight-1-nice-ideas

The Art of Animation – Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Value Resorts – 
Cost: The cheapest of the three categories at an average of $150 per night. Price varies depending on season and room type, can fluctuate from as low as $93 to $200. They do have suites at a higher price.
Accommodations: The rooms tend to be the smallest at about 260 sf. for the average room. Double beds or a King bed. Themes tend to be very bright. Can be quite a hike from room to main areas.
Amenities: Themed pools but no slides. A food court but no restaurants. Bus transportation to and from parks.
Resorts: Pop Century Resort, All-Star Movies Resort, All-Star Sports Resort, All-Star Music ResortArt of Animation Resort (Newest out of all of these, better accommodations at a slightly higher price).

port-orleans-resort-french-quarter-gallery04

Port Orleans – Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Moderate Resorts –
Cost: This is the mid category with prices ranging from $180 to $290 per night depending on season and room type. They do have suites at a higher price.
Accommodations: Room size is about 314 sf. Beds tend to be bigger, decor is themed but nice. Moderate resorts also have a very spread out layout, which means longer walks to main areas.
Amenities: Themed pools with at least one slide at main pool. A food court and at least one sit-down restaurant is present in most of them. Transportation is also by bus with Port Orleans also offering a boat.
Resorts: Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach Resort.

The Contemporary Resort - Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

The Contemporary Resort – Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Deluxe Resorts –
Cost: This is the top category with prices ranging from $340 to $835 per night for standard rooms. Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge are the cheapest in this category.
Accommodations: Room size ranges from 344 sf. for a standard room to over 1000 sf. in some suites. Many standard rooms also include a daybed besides the usual two queens or one king, which means these standard rooms can sleep 5 people comfortably.
Amenities: Some rooms offer amazing views. The grounds are absolutely gorgeous with great gift shops and amazing lobbies. Includes several sit down restaurants with at least one fine dining option. Themes are more muted in an elegant way. Amazing pools with slides. The main attraction for a deluxe resort in my opinion is location, location, location… We chose the Contemporary Resort for our vacation because of it’s proximity to Magic Kingdom, as in walking distance, as in 10 minutes walk. Not only that but the fact that we were not limited to buses but also had the option of the monorail. In most deluxe resorts you will have more transportation options such as buses, monorail, and boat, plus they are walking distance of at least one park.
Resorts: Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Village Resort, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Yacht Club Resort, BoardWalk Inn, Beach Club Resort.

Staying Off Property –
This is another option available for your consideration. Orlando is a huge city with so many wonderful things to do and see, Disney World is not it’s only claim to fame. This is my opinion of what are the pros and cons of choosing an off property resort:
Pros: For a fraction of the cost you can stay at a very nice resort. There are many resorts and hotels all throughout Orlando that will offer you a much better deal. Many provide you with transportation to parks and other Orlando attractions. The amenities can be fantastic; themed pools, great spas, amazing restaurants, etc. It also gives you the chance to take a step away and relax in-between park days. Did I mention the cost? Really the main thing going for these resorts are their price, comparatively.
Cons: Disney offers you several perks for staying on their property which are not available at off-site resorts, these perks include:
– Free* transportation to and from the airport with included baggage claim and delivery to your room. (Magical Express).
– Free* delivery of any purchases you make in the park to your resort so that you don’t have to carry it around all day.
– Free* park transportation and parking.
– Access to the Dining Plan and Advanced Dining Reservations (only available if you are staying on property).
– Extra magic hours.
– Immersion, staying inside the “Disney Bubble.”
– Access to the convenience of Magic Bands, for payment or room access.
*Please note that by Free I mean included in the price of your room. You don’t pay extra for these services.

So while it might make more sense to stay off property if you are looking to save money or want a break from all things Disney on your stay, at the end of the day I feel that for a family with young children staying on property is the way to go. Having the convenience of being able to walk to the park and multiple transportation options will make it all the easier to deal with a tired infant. Because of our proximity we will be able to take a mid-day break for naps and recharge so that we can enjoy our night.

NOTE: If you book your vacation through Disney you will only have to pay a deposit towards your total trip cost at the time of booking. The full amount will be due about a month before your check-in date. You can make monthly, weekly, daily, (hourly?) payments, it is up to you to set up your own schedule as long as you have it all paid before that 31 days prior date.

I know that this was a lot of information! But once you have made the decision of where you will stay you will only need to focus on what applies to your individual experience.
Make sure to come back to check out the next post in this series which will be a guest post from Jennifer Cavagnaro, a seasoned Disney traveler with lots of experience and tips to share.

 

Planning a Vacation to Disney World — The Basics

The first step in this series is to discuss the “basics.” This is your starting point. While there is a lot of information, there is no need to feel overwhelmed; if you learn the following you will be able to navigate the planning process for your next Disney vacation like a pro… or more like a well-informed consumer.

Disney has implemented several changes in the last couple of years in an effort to make your stay as magical and painless as possible. There are different tools and systems that have been put in place to make the booking and planing experience extremely easy and user friendly. We will discuss My Disney Experience app and website, ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations), FastPass+, Magic Bands, and how to choose the right hotel for you. So, lets get down to business… to defeat the Huns…

*Please note that originally I was going to do this post for five categories, but accommodations got toooo long making it a monster of it’s own, so I had to break the original Basic’s post into two. First we will discuss My Disney Experience, ADRs, FastPass+, and Magic Bands. Then we will go over Accommodations (Disney resort categories. Staying on property v. off, etc.).

1- My Disney Experience

Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

My Disney Experience is the new inclusive personal account which can be accessed through Disney’s website and has it’s own app. It is literally a way to plan your “experience” and keep track of everything important. Here you will be able to book your vacation, make and keep track of your dining reservations, your FastPass+ reservations, see all the details for every single attraction, ride, event Disney World has to offer. You can keep track of your itinerary, check in to your hotel from the comfort of your home, and so much more.

Create your account (online or after you get the app), download the app, and explore. There are several blogs out there with great information on how to use this wonderful tool. But in my opinion the best way to learn it and feel comfortable with it is to just spend a few hours with it. It is very user friendly, but if you and technology are just not a good match, then don’t despair, as I mentioned before there are several “how to” blogs just a google search away!

2- ADRs & Dining Plans

chef-mickeys-gallery04

Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Advanced Dining Reservations or ADR is the system that allows you to reserve the restaurants you will be dining at while in Disney property. These reservations can be made as far in advance as 180 days before your check-in date. Make sure to try and make your reservations as soon as possible since there are several restaurants that are very popular and will be fully booked months in advance (Cinderella’s Table, Chef Mickey’s, Be Our Guest, etc.).
In order to book and ADR log in to My Disney Experience, go to Things To Do, and under Dining click on Make A Reservation. Then select the date and time you want the reservation for and the size of your party. Then depending how early on you are booking you will be presented with a very long or very short list of possibilities. You can further dwindle this list down by selecting which park or resort you are looking to dine in. Keep in mind that a reservation time does not mean that you will be seated at that time, you will still have a waiting time of about 15 minutes, it just guarantees that you will be given a table.

chef-mickeys-gallery00

Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Dining Plans are prepaid meals that you can purchase when buying your vacation package. There are three dining plans currently:
– Quick-Service Plan — 
You get $46.34 to spend per adult per night. This includes 2 quick-service meals, 2 snacks, and 1 refillable drink mug, the mug can only be used in the resort.
– Disney Dining Plan —
You get $67.33 to spend per adult per night.  This includes 1 quick-service meals, 1 table service meal, 2 snacks, and 1 refillable drink mug, the mug can only be used in the resort.
– Deluxe Disney Dining Plan —
You get $103.57 to spend per adult per night. This includes 3 meals (quick-service or table service), 2 snacks, and 1 refillable drink mug, the mug can only be used in the resort.
The main thing to remember is that you don’t get the dollar value, you get a preset number of meals. Which means your meal could end up costing more or less than the amount you pay for the dining plan. With a little bit of planing you could end up saving a lot of money. I find Disney Tourist Blog to be a great guide to making the Dining Plan work for you, they also have lots of other great information so make sure to check them out.

*Please note that Advanced Dining Reservations and Dining Plans are only available to those staying on Disney property.

3- Fast Pass+

big-thunder-mountain-railroad-gallery00

Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

You can book your Fast Pass+ through My Disney Experience (app or website). You are allowed to book in advance 3 Fast Passes per person per day. On the day of once you have used all 3 of your Fast Passes then you are allowed to get one more per person, and so on.
The main difference here is that if you are staying on Disney property you get to book your Fast Passes 60 days in advance (starting at midnight), if you are not staying on property then you get to book yours 30 days in advance (also starting at midnight). Which is actually kind of a big deal if you are trying to get those hot attraction tickets (Want to meet Anna and Elsa? Then you better get online at 12 on the dot!).

4- Magic Bands

Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Magic Bands are your keys to the Kingdom… Literally. They function as your ticket, the key to your room, your Dining Plan pass, and your credit card. They make it extremely convenient. No need to carry a wallet or key, you can just wear these waterproof bands and be able to enjoy your time bag free (you might still want a bag for diapers and change of clothing, but it is nice to dream).
You will receive your bands about three weeks before you travel. They will be shipped to your house if you make the reservation with enough time. If you make a last minute reservation they will be waiting for you at the front desk when you check-in.

There you have it! The basics you need to know in order to start planing your next Disney vacation. Make sure to come back Saturday for our next post: Planning a Vacation to Disney World — Where to Stay.

We Are Going To Disney World

Photo Credit: Disney World Resort

We have been meaning to go on a Disney World vacation since last year when our daughter turned 2. However at that time work got extremely busy, we also had to move our office, and to be honest I was not too excited to go to Disney in the first place since my Disney World experiences have always been stressful, tiring, and expensive.

In the past, as a Florida resident, my family and I have gone to Disney World several times. My parents took us many times as children, and while I enjoyed it, it was never a magical experience for me.

I never forget the last time I went with my brand new husband and my extended family. We were a big group (about 15 people, 2 of which were toddlers) and NO PLANING whatsoever went into this vacation. The powers that be (the people that were paying) decided to go on an impromptu Disney trip a weekend during the summer vacation.

They booked a hotel in Kissimee that had a last minute sale going on. The first day was spent driving up to Orlando, checking into hotel, and looking for cheap eating options around hotel. The next day it was decided to have a late start, since we were on vacation, followed by a lengthy breakfast. After this we drove to the park and went to purchase our tickets at around 11 AM. By the time we made our way into the park it was blisteringly hot, the crowds were huge. As mentioned there was no plan, so everyone had rides and places they wanted to see. I remember at around 3 in the afternoon we had devolved to cranky toddlers and adults just standing in the sweltering heat arguing (for over an hour, no exaggeration) about which ride we should go. This ended in the group breaking off into different subgroups going their own way to make the different lines for whatever they wanted to ride. We ended the day right after the parade (which we saw as we walked to exit the park) and everyone was in such a bad mood it would have been better not to go at all. After that experience it would take my husband and me about 8 years before we dared to venture back to Disney.

Now, after spending the last 6 months doing a lot of research and planing, I can tell you exactly what we did wrong on that trip.

  • We didn’t plan ahead. Disney World can be absolutely magical, however it requires planning and you have to start as early as 6 months. This is a hard date. If you start later than 6 months ahead of your trip you might not get to have a lot of amazing experiences, like having dinner with Mickey and the gang, or dining at the Beast’s castle, or that very exclusive table at Cinderella’s castle.
  • We didn’t stay in a Disney resort. Now while there are LOTS of great hotels in Orlando, if you stay on the property you are in that “Disney Bubble” which gives you the chance to immerse yourself in the “Magic of Disney.”
  • We started our day late. When visiting a Disney park is not the time to sleep in. Schedule a day off in between park days so that you can rest, and by god sleep until the crack of noon. But the day you have park tickets be there at least half an hour before it opens.
  • We went on one of the busiest and hottest times of the year. Whenever possible try not to go when kids are on vacation, chances are a huge number of other parents had the same idea which can result in looooong lines.

So as you can understand after that experience we were a little leery of going back, but we decided that we were taking our daughter on her first magical Disney adventure for her third birthday. But I wanted it to be different this time, therefore I sat down and commenced my months long research and planning into how to do Disney the right way.

In the following series I share with you all of the knowledge I have compiled. We will cover the basics, extra magical activities, budget, timeline, diy crafting activities to get you family excited, and so much more.

I will give you all of my planing tips and tricks as we approach our vacation date (in two weeks) and then later will tell you how the experience goes and how it compares to previous vacations and expectations.

I really hope you come along for this ride and let me know in the comments how your own experience compares!

Curried Chickpea Wraps

This is one of the easiest, yummiest lunch or dinners you can put together. It is a vegan recipe, however it is extreme filling and satisfying.

I recommend you save this recipe for a really busy night. You know, one of those when you get home late, and dump all your things on the floor, and just stand there with a glassed look in your eyes, starring at the kitchen and thinking of ways of setting it on fire so that you don’t have to cook, but opting not to since it would be too much work in the first place… Or is that just me? Regardless of this is the perfect meal for one of those nights. Very little effort, big rewards.

Curried Chickpea Wraps

Ingredients
1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained
1 Tbsp curry seasoning (several options out there, just choose your favorite)
1 tsp cumin
salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup coconut milk
Spinach or any other leafy green
Pita bread or Naan

Yogurt Sauce
1 green onion diced
1 garlic clove finely minced
1/4 cup yogurt
zest of 1 lemon
Optional: Dill, cucumber, or mint go well here (I did not use for this recipe).

Directions
In a pan heat up the sesame oil. Add the garlic and chickpeas, let cook for a minute. Add the curry, cumin, salt and pepper, and let saute over medium heat for another 3 minutes. Add coconut milk and cook until the milk has completely reduced (another 5 more minutes).

Meanwhile mix yogurt, green onion, garlic, lemon zest, and salt to taste. Voila! Yogurt sauce is done.

To serve heat up the naan (if you like that sort of thing), add leafy greens such as spinach, add chickpeas, and then drizzle with yogurt sauce.

Quick, delicious, and healthy! The perfect recipe for the busy individual!