Tuesday, August 11, 2009

ADRs to 180 Days

I just read on All Ears (http://www.allearsnet.com/) that the window to book ADRs has been changed from 90 days to 180 days. This becomes effective on October 27th. Our 180 day mark is actually September 1st. I think the Disney Dining phone number and website will be quite busy that morning! I am really looking forward to testing out the new online system. It seems like Disney should have implemented this long ago, though I am certainly no expert in this area.

So I need to get planning those ADRs! October 27th will be here before we know it!

Six Months and Counting

September 1st will be 180 days out for our February 28th departure for Walt Disney World. Normally, I would have already contacted my travel agent, Melissa from Magical Journeys, and made a room only reservation, but I am waiting to see what deals will be coming up.

I always start with a room only reservation, because I have found on many trips that it costs less than booking a package. This year may be a little different with all the Disney offers that seem to be out there. Don't get me wrong, the packages are great, but on our last trip, the only "freebie" we used from the package was the luggage tags. We didn't explore any of the other offerings because we just didn't have the time. So to pay for things we don't need just doesn't make sense to me. So I have already created my Excel spreadsheet with package prices directly from Disney, room only quotes and also ticket prices from various ticket vendors. My favorite ticket vendor, who always seem to have the best prices, is Undercover Tourist. But the key to getting the best price from them is signing up for the Mousesavers newsletter and using their private link to Undercover Tourist. Of course, all this won't matter if Disney offers up some great package rates. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Great News!

We have decided that rather than wait until April for our next trip to Walt Disney World, we are going to go in February/March. The benefits of the time we are going will be escaping the New Hampshire winter, we will actually be there the week the Flower and Garden Festival opens, and the weather will hopefully be warm.

We used to travel to Disney in February until the one year that we flew out the morning after a blizzard. Let's just say, all flights out of Logan had been cancelled the afternoon and night before, so the airport was a nightmare and a sea of people! Never mind the shuttle we hired to pick us up that never showed or travelling on the yet to be plowed 495 and Mass Pike! We arrived as they were making the final call for our flight and the woman checking us in at the desk said, "How did you guys get so lucky to be on the only flight going to Orlando today?" My entire family was already in Disney awaiting our arrival, so to think they would all be there in Disney without Pierre and I was stressful to say the least. My adrenaline was going and I think it took at least three days at Disney to get myself calm! Anyways, because of that, we had vowed we would never go again during the winter. But it has been 9 years since then, and I think I have recovered (though if it happens again, we definitely will avoid all winter months! I don't think I could take that experience a second time!). :-)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Make Your Own Vacation Planning Video

A couple of weeks ago, I received a very exciting e-mail from Disney. Ok, it may not be exciting to everyone, but as a self proclaimed Disney nerd, I was ecstatic. It gave me the option to go to their site and create my own Disney Vacation Planning video. It is called "My Disney Video Planner." I have read rumors that they may no longer be giving away their free videos because of the economy and the cost effectiveness of the videos, so this looks as though it may be a way to supply them in a very personalized and cost effective way.

By answering a few questions, I could select only the video clips that interest me. For example, I could choose to add just the hotels I would be interested in, or in my case, can afford. I could select Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and/or Hollywood Studios overview clips, as well as the water parks, Disney dining, and shopping. I could even select video clips that focus just on kids in the parks, which, as a mom of three is important.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tips of the Week - All Ears Newsletter

I just opened this week's All Ears newsletter (if you haven't signed up yet, you should) and there in the tips section is the tip I submitted last week about synchronizing cameras when arriving at the parks! I actually wrote about that in one of my previous blogs. This is a great way to start the day! :-)

I am especially excited that it is my third time being in the newsletter. That is the geat thing about All Ears. The advice you get is from people who have actually experienced Walt Disney World - the writers for the website, as well as the fans of the website. By All Ears compiling these tips from actual guests of Walt Disney World, you are getting tried and true advice, and you can't beat that!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Organizing Those Magical Memories and a Quick Tip for Synchronizing Your Travel Party's Digital Cameras

One thing I never have a shortage of after a Disney vacation is photos, videos and special memories to jot down. The challenge is always to find a new way to show them off. Before even getting into all the ways you can share your photos, here is one lesson I learned the hard way. If you are travelling in a large group and you will all be sharing your photos, synchronize your digital cameras to the same time. It will make it a lot easier when you return home and load all the pictures onto your computer. You can then organize them by date/time taken. On our last trip, we took over 900 photos (3 families). My mom's camera was about 5 minutes off from mine and my sister in law lives in another time zone, so her camera was off by an hour. Now, to organize those was quite the feat to say the least and probably more time consuming than most photo projects I have ever attempted. So, synchronize those cameras when you arrive at your resort!

Photo Albums: I think this method of archiving your trip is probably the most used. I try to purchase a photo album on each trip from the parks so as soon as I get my pictures developed, I can organize and add them right away. Of course, on our last 2 trips, there have been three of us taking pictures, which means we have an excessive number of pictures to choose from and sometimes a photo album would just not be big enough. Plus, it would cost quite a bit of money to get all those developed. So, I order my most favorite for the photo album and save the rest for other projects.

Scrapbooks: I am somewhat new to scrapbooking. I resisted starting earlier because I knew once I started I would never be able to stop. Well, it took just one walk through the scrapbooking aisle at a local craft store and here I am up to my elbows in scrapbooking projects. I have started my Disney scrapbook and absolutely love working on it! There are so many Disney scrapbooking supplies out there. While at Walt Disney World, I try to pick up some scrapbooking supplies which are unique to the park. But I find most of the things I need at local craft stores. Another place to find specific Disney layouts and supplies is from Mouse Memories. This site has just about anything you could be looking for to create Disney pages. I purchase all my pieces by page, though you can certainly purchase a Disney kit with all the pieces you need to create great pages. I even purchased for my sister-in-law a pre-made Disney scrapbook by Hallmark. So even if you do not consider yourself an official scrapbooker, there are ways to scrapbook without investing too much money. But be aware, it is easy to get sucked in!

Slide shows or Photo Montage movies: I am not talking about the old fashion slide projector, though that would work too if you like that. I am talking about digital slide shows you can create on your computer for viewing on your computer or even your TV. There are several types of software out there you can use to create a movie with corresponding music. I recently downloaded free software from Microsoft and created a movie of our trip using just photos. It is called Windows Photo Story 3. It is not the most efficient software, but it is free and I created a great movie - in my humble opinion - though it was extremely time consuming. I had found a video/photo montage on You Tube of someone else's vacation. I loved it! When I e-mailed the creator, he let me know that he used Pinnacle Studio 12 to create it. I recently purchased the software, and am hoping to load it today and try my hand at creating a movie that not only uses my photos but also my videos. I'll keep you posted on how it goes. Of course, there is so much technology and software out there that you can probably create anything you can imagine by just investing the time and money you need to create it.

Photobooks: There are several companies out there that you can upload your photos to their website and create a photobook of your vacation. These sites are a great way to create a memory book, but some of them have limited page layouts to choose from. This means you may have all your favorite photos, but you may have to sacrifice the look of your pages. Disney's Photopass site also gives you the option of uploading your photos and creating a book with Disney created pages. The pages are really cute, and include characters as part of the layouts. Also, by using this site, they give you access to official photos of the theme parks, resorts, attractions and shows. I recently noticed that when you purchase a photobook from them, for an extra cost, you can get a video slide show of your photobook.

I could probably go on and on about how you can archive your photos and videos. Feel free to share how you preserve your memories. If you have a montage on You Tube, feel free to share the link (please make sure it is nothing offensive or I will remove the link). Well, I am off to test out my new software and create yet another great reminder of our trip to the happiest place on Earth - Walt Disney World!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Disney Excitement Continues at Home

Much like her big brother, Joey, Emily loves all her
Toy Story friends and can't rest without them!
Ok, so I haven't added any new posts in a while, but I have no planning to start just yet, since we decided our next trip won't be until April 2010. I have been checking the Touring Plans site to see if they have updated their crowd calendar for April 2010, but they have only posted through March. Once I see the crowd calender for April, we will pick the week we plan to go and make our reservation.

In the meantime, here are a few magical moments that have happened here at home that convince me that we are definitely a Disney Family:

1. Most exciting on the list is Emily. The other morning the kids were watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Playhouse Disney. The kids love the show, and, honestly, so do I! As Mickey strolled onto the screen, Emily yelled out "KEY!" Now, she is only 15 months and starting to say many new words, but a Disney word is VERY exciting. My nephew calls Mickey "Mick," so I guess we need to get these two together!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Disney? . . . Again?

I am asked all the time, why don't you try something new? Why do you always return to Disney? My answer is always the same - I love it! I love that I am busy all week. I can eat at restaurants that I never have the opportunity to try here in NH. Seeing the castle still makes me a little teary-eyed everytime I make my way down Main Street. Plus, now that I have my children, their expressions and responses to everything around Walt Disney World just make me so happy. Even after returning home, they make me realize how special Walt Disney World is. Here are a few examples:

Joey is only 4, but whenever he sees a Disney vacation planning video or You Tube video of a ride he experienced, he can tell me exactly who went on that ride with him and whether or not he liked it. His favorite ride by far was the Tomorrowland Speedway. He did try out Test Track, which he says he liked. But if you ask him if he wants to go on it again, he will tell you that the fast race car made his belly hurt!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tips for Traveling to Disney with the Whole Family - A Large, Multi-Generational Group

I have traveled to Walt Disney World many times. Each time at a different stage in my life - as a child, newlywed, mom-to-be and a mom. I have traveled with friends and I have traveled with family. I traveled with just my husband, with a large group for a friend's wedding and a small group for a family reunion. Each trip has brought its own special memories that I wouldn't trade for the world. Plus, each trip has taught me valuable lessons for the next.

For our next trip, it will be myself, my husband and my three little ones. My oldest will be 5.5, my middle child will be almost 4, and my youngest will be 2.5 in April 2010. We are hoping that my parents, my brother, sister-in-law and nephew will join us. By then we would be a party of 10, though, hopefully, a party of 11! :-) We are also excited to invite my aunt and uncle, who have not been since 1982! They will be quite shocked at how much Disney World has changed since then. I don't know how they have kept themselves away for so long - I can hardly make it 2 years before I "need" to go back.

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's Arrived ~ Our Free Disney Vacation Planning DVD!

I am so excited that my free Disney Vacation planning DVD has finally arrived! I know that we are not going until 2010, but I still love to get the DVD every year and keep up to date with new things around Walt Disney World. If you are thinking of going, I would recommend ordering the vacation planning DVD. You can order it directly through the official Disney site, and it is free.

The DVD gives you the option of exploring Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Once you select the Walt Disney World Resort, it will take you to a segment including details about all four of the parks - Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. The clips of shows, rides and attractions are pretty short but give you an idea of what each one is about. For more detailed clips you can search You Tube for ride videos.

There is a "Recent Additions" section that shows what new attractions or shows they have added to the parks. It is a great way to keep up with Disney's constantly improving and changing parks and resorts.

The next section is "Water Parks & More." This section starts by showing clips from Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, the two water parks on property. We haven't been to either of the water parks but look forward to exploring Blizzard Beach on our next trip. They also show clips of Downtown Disney - my favorite shopping area in all of Walt Disney World - the Marketplace. If you are looking for anything Disney, you will find it here! And, if you don't find what you are looking for here, it probably doesn't exist!

The third section is "Cool Stuff for Kids." I was excited last year when they included this section, because I have 3 kids ages 4 and under. But I quickly realized that this section targets preteens/teens. It focuses on a lot of the thrill rides and other attractions to keep preteens/teens busy. I wish they would add a preschool section, but I guess they can't possibly accommodate EVERY age group, but I can dream! :-)

Next is a section called "Grown Up Fun." This section includes a lot of info about spas, restaurants, the deluxe resorts, golf and all those other types of activities for adults.

The final section is called "Vacation Planning." I love this section because I can watch short clips about every hotel on Disney property. When you are trying to decide which hotel to stay at, it gives you a great overview of what the resort looks like on the interior as well as exterior. In addition, it shows off what each resort has to offer as far as pools, restaurants, lounges and other activities. This section also includes a great overview of the seasonal events that Disney hosts each year, such as Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, EPCOT's Flower and Garden Festival and EPCOT's Food and Wine Festival to name just a few.

Of course, this DVD is loaded with information about Walt Disney World. It is a great place to start your planning. Plus, it is a nice way to introduce the rides and attractions to my children. I just love to watch it because it seems that no matter what I am talking about or doing, if it has to do with Disney, it makes me happy!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

It's Decided - April 2010

We have made a final decision on our next Disney trip. We will be going in April 2010. After weighing all the pros and cons, we couldn't resist the weather of April. It will cost us a little more than going in December because it will be "regular" season versus "value" season, but the price difference is minimal and the added benefits of going during that time outweigh the extra cost. Though we haven't chosen specific dates yet, we will make sure we avoid the high crowds and cost of going during Easter week. Next year, Easter falls on April 3rd, which means the week leading up to it and the week following will be quite busy. In addition, not only will the hotel have holiday rates, so will some of the restaurants in the parks and resorts. Because our children are not in school and we are flexible with our travel dates, we will keep an eye out for the crowd calendar on the Touring Plans website to see which week in April is best for us.

Now that it is official that we are going, I need to get my hands on the latest of my two favorite guidebooks. Both books are released each year with updates and usually I purchase them whether I am traveling to Disney or not. The first book is by Steven Birnbaum called The Official Guide to Walt Disney World. This book is a nice overview of everything at Walt Disney World. There aren't any negative reviews and when you finish reading it, you will think that Walt Disney World is actually perfect! This book is a favorite of my little ones because of the numerous pictures of rides, characters and hotels. There are also maps of the parks and one of all of the Walt Disney World Resort. The other guidebook I love is by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa called The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. This book is 100% honest and includes reader reviews. I love this book because it includes details I never would think to investigate myself - time driving by car versus Disney transportation to and from parks, pillow quality at each hotel, etc. The amount of info I gained from this book helped us really maximize our time in the parks too, which is key with the ages of the children we brought with us. Of course, there are plenty of guidebooks out there and I would definitely suggest checking them out of your local library before making a decision on which is right for you.

I am always looking for new Disney info and after doing plenty of searches on the Internet I have found a couple of favorites. I visit the All Ears site almost daily. I love that they have photos of everything, yes, everything! Plus, my favorite part of the site is the dining section. They have menus, reviews, and even recipes from each of the restaurants on property. I also love that I can see photos of every hotel - interior and exterior. It is nice to look at hotels we have already stayed at to reminisce about previous trips, but it is even better to use the photos to explore our options when trying to decide what hotel to stay at on our next trip.

I am so excited to get planning our trip! I know it is very early to start planning, but I can't wait!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What Time of Year is Best to Visit Walt Disney World?

The big debate is on for our next trip to Walt Disney World. Should we go during our favorite month, which is April, or take advantage of Disney's latest promotion "What Will You Celebrate?" and go during December to celebrate our son's fifth birthday?

It would be very exciting to go to Walt Disney World in December. The holiday decorations will be all around the parks and resorts, and there are special events that happen at only that time of year, something we have never seen before. It would be a great chance for our kids to see Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, but we think they may be too young to stay up late enough to actually enjoy it (our son is a good sleeper and asks to go to bed when it is past his bedtime, which is 7:30!). For the additional money it would cost to go to the party, I am not sure it would be worth it if all three of them are sleeping! Plus, the weather in December can be very iffy. If I am going to be escaping the winter weather of NH, I want to go somewhere that I know I can wear t-shirts and shorts! Besides, I hate to say this, but I think the pool was my kids' most favorite thing on our last trip to Disney, so if I have to be in the pool with them, I prefer the warmer weather of April over December (though the pools are heated during the cooler months).

Getting Ready for Another Trip to WDW

In 1986, there were just four of us
for our first trip to Walt Disney World.
In 2008, our family had grown to 10.
Planning trips to Disney is one of my most favorite pastimes. I am a mom of three little ones who has a love of all things Disney. Even when we are not planning a trip to Disney, I still read about it online, purchase guidebooks, and watch for Disney specials on the Travel Channel or Food Network. I just can't get enough!

I have had a love of Disney since I was very small. I was enrolled in the Disney Book of the Month club at the age of 4 and read every book cover to cover. I still have all of them and now enjoy reading them to my children. In 1986, at the age of 13, my parents took my brother and me to Walt Disney World. None of us had ever been before. I remember my parents telling us prior to the trip that we would never be able to afford to go again, so we would be very busy while in Disney to make sure we could see everything. Let's just say, we had such a great family trip that my parents ended up bringing us there every other year from then until my brother and I were in college!

Deciding whether or not to return to Walt Disney World is never a question for us. The question has always been when to return. Normally, we have barely stepped foot back into New Hampshire from a trip to Orlando when we are already starting talks about returning. That's why I decided to start this blog. I just love planning trips and thought I could share that excitement (and knowledge) with anyone else who may be thinking of taking a trip or already planning a trip to Disney.

My next post will be coming soon with our big decision of exactly when our next trip will be and why we chose that particular month. If you are planning a trip to Disney, let me know - I can talk Disney all day and love to hear people's plans. If you are thinking of visiting but aren't sure, I say start planning! :-)