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Disney World October 2015 Trip Report Part 10: See ya real soon!

I woke up on Monday, October 12th, and realized that it was our last (half) day at Disney before we started the long journey home.  So bittersweet, because of course I didn’t want to leave my happy place, but I was also looking forward to the traveling ahead of us.

I savored the last early morning view of the Savanna from our room.  It’s really just beautiful.  I took an extra moment to appreciate it, because it’ll be a long time before we stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge again.  Now that all of my little family group has stayed there on their 1st trip to Disney, it’s time to branch out to other Deluxe resorts for future split stays and get more Resorts checked off my list.  Based on experiences on this trip, I’m leaning toward PO-FQ and the Grand Floridian for our next trip in 2021.  Of course, availability and price will guide the final decision. Read the rest of this entry »

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Disney World October 2015 Trip Report Part 9: AK and MK

Last full day at Disney.  Boo!  I was determined to “squeeze the juice” out of the day, to use a Latin expression (‘sacar el jugo’).  Let us commence to squeezing!

We started out by sleeping in just a bit.  Had I known the transportation rigamarole we were about go through, I might have gotten up earlier.  But I didn’t, so I blissfully slept like a corpse in that dead-comfy bed (see what I did there?) at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  When I woke up, I headed straight to the balcony to check out our Savanna View in the daylight.  Oooooooh, looky here!

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Disney World October 2015 Trip Report Part 8: DHS & MK

We’re approaching the end of the trip report 😦  2 full days plus the travel day is all that is left.  But let us not be prematurely sad, for there is still Disney fun to be had!  Hey, that rhymed!  I’ll see myself out…

OK, another early morning today.  We had finished our packing the night before, so we could drop our bags at the Art of Animation Bell Desk for the Cast Members to transfer them over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Naturally, I also wanted to make Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios, which began at 8am.  Like I said: early.

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Disney World October 2015 Trip Report Part 7B: Afternoon with DD

When we last left off, I had just spent a challenging but fulfilling morning with DS.  It was now DD’s turn to get some “mami time,” and we started things off right at the Grand Floridian Resort where we had met up to do our Parent Switch.

My sister started this Trip Tradition with us.  The Garden View Tea Room does Afternoon Tea from 2-5p, with all those lace doily/tea cozy/sugar cube-y things you associate with high society and ladies who lunch.  Perfect for some mother-daughter time.  We checked in for our 2pm ADR, with plans to have some tea and snacks, then monorail over to the Magic Kingdom to catch the 3p Festival of Fantasy parade.  I had a particular parade viewing spot in mind, and the parade wouldn’t reach there until at least 3:15p, so we had a good amount of time.

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Disney Pre-Trip Report: Disney TV and split-stays

Loved the Disney touches during last night’s Oscars: wins for Big Hero 6 and Feast, plus an appearance by Disney Legend (that’s a real designation, BTW) Julie Andrews.

From Disney movies to Disney TV….a long time ago (late 90s/early 00s) The Travel Channel used to run some Disney specials produced by Lighthouse Entertainment.  They had a 30-minute show called Great Hotels, hosted by Samantha Brown, which would occasionally feature the Deluxe Disney resorts.  They also showed some hour-long specials, titled Disney Cruise Line, Undiscovered Disney Parks, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disneyland Resort: Behind the Scenes, among others.  I recorded these shows (on a VCR!) and would play them anytime I felt the Disney bug. Understandably, these types of shows become outdated quickly, but I still loved watching them.  I was happy to find an updated Disney Parks special on Hulu Plus, which had been filmed in 2010.  But that was it for a long while.

I belong to a Disney message board called DISboards (a fantastic place for Disney information), and in late 2013, there was a thread about some recent updates to these shows, filmed in 2012 and 2013.  They would be running on a channel called Destination America, which is an offshoot of the Discovery Channel.  They were premiering all the updated versions of the specials, and showing a few of the older ones as well, a sort of “Disney Programming Day.”  I was thrilled- but then I realized that we don’t have that channel (it’s only available as part of the digital cable service, not something we feel is worth paying for).  Bummer!  No way to watch it online either.  I searched for it on Netflix, no go.  I had to give up and just hope they would appear on Hulu Plus eventually.

Well, lo and behold!  This past Saturday morning I woke up, turned the TV on, and what was playing on TLC, of all places?  Three Disney shows in a row, as part of a promo for the Destination America channel.  I caught the tail end of Ultimate Walt Disney World, then saw Disney Cruise Line: Behind the Magic, and Disneyland Resort: Behind the Scenes.  It was awesome!  No way to record them this time, though.  They appear to be one-off showings because I couldn’t find any further listings for the them on any channel at any point in the future.

Still, it put me into (even more of) a Disney mood for the weekend, so I got to (almost) finalizing my decisions for our resort split-stay.  You may remember that I have a goal of staying at all the Disney World Resorts at least once.  To achieve that, I like to do split stays when we travel, which just means that we switch hotels at some point. I also have a directive that my immediate family must stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge on their 1st trip to the World- so that’s one resort already decided, since this is my little guy’s 1st time.

That left the other resort.  Here’s where I had to make a decision on my definition of “every” Disney Resort.  As a natural completist, I would love to literally stay at every single hotel on property.  But as a confirmed realist, I know that our trips to the World are only going to occur every 6 years or so, as part of the South America-USA-Europe-East Coast-Disney something (World/Land/Cruise) rotation.  With 31 separate hotels/campgrounds,  it would take me a LONG time to achieve that particular goal.

So I decided to appease my OCD tendencies by combining the “like” hotels into groups, so that once I stayed in one of the “like” hotels, I would be able to check off the group altogether.  Example: on a mother-daughter trip in 2005, DD and I stayed at the All-Star Sports Resort.  This hotel is part of the “All-Stars” group, which consists of All-Star Sports, All-Star Movies, and All-Star Music.  By staying at Sports, I have completed the group, and do not have to experience Movies and Music on future trips.  Similarly, when it comes to a Resort that also has Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Villas in addition to the original building, I would choose one or the other and consider it done.  Example: The Wilderness Lodge has the Resort proper as well as the Villas at Wilderness Lodge.  Either would complete the Wilderness Lodge group.  That line of thinking brings me down to 16 properties.  I’ve stayed in 4 of them so far.  Looking to add another one this trip, of course, and I decided to go for the Value resort we haven’t stayed in yet, Art of Animation.

I picked this resort because the kids are only getting older, and bigger.  With DS being only 5 at the time of the trip, this is the last time that the 4 of us can fit into a Standard Room at a Value resort without feeling packed in like sardines.  Also, Value resorts only have food court dining, which is fine for him at this age- he can only eat so much.  On future trips, I will want the bigger rooms and better amenities available at the Moderate and Deluxe Resorts for the duration of the vacation.  So, I made my reservation for the first part of our trip at Art of Animation (AoA) with no issues, and turned my attention to the Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL).  We want to stay there for 2 nights at the end of our trip.

AKL is truly a wonder.  The resort has its own savannas (separate from the one in Animal Kingdom Park).  Guests staying in Savanna View rooms just look out their balconies, day or night, and see zebras, giraffes, ankole cattle, ostriches, and all sorts of other wildlife.  Most animals are out 24 hours a day, and the exterior lights in the savanna view rooms are lit with artificial moonlight in the evenings, so there is just enough light to see the animals’ activity, but not so much as to disturb their normal eating/resting patterns.  Of course, guests are not allowed to enter the savannas except on special tour vehicles.  Nor are you allowed to throw things into the animal area, including food.  There are always Cast Members around the special viewing areas off the lobby and in between the buildings, available to answer questions about the animals or resort.  There are many resort activities, several restaurants (Boma!  OMG so good), and a lovely zero-entry pool.  It smells heavenly, too.  So, it’s pretty cheap, right?
no
The cost for a Savanna View Standard Room at Animal Kingdom Lodge ranges from $429 to $677.  PER NIGHT.  Now, I love me some Disney, and can justify most costs associated with same…but, the average cost of $553 is kind of obscene.  I’ll point out that most people don’t pay “rack rate,” or the non-discounted price, for AKL or any of the other Deluxe Resorts.  They stay there using DVC points, using a PIN code discount they receive in the mail from Disney, using a general room-only discount, as part of a bundled package from a travel agency, etc.  There are various ways to get resort discounts.  Another way to stay for less is with DVC point rental.  This will be my method of getting us into AKL for this trip!  At least, I hope so…

Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s version of a timeshare.  It’s a points-based system, which I won’t go into too much detail over.  See the official DVC site and this excellent e-book on Passporter to learn more.  In a nutshell, DVC members purchase points that have a specific Use Year, or time period they are eligible for resort bookings.  Sometimes, members can’t use all of their points in a given year, or prefer to travel elsewhere, and they decide to put their points up for rental.  This allows non-members to experience the Deluxe Resorts at a lower rate, based on the price-per-point charged by the rental broker.  Be advised, this is not an official Disney process.  There are several highly-rated and reputable brokers out there for points rental, which I find more secure than just private messaging someone directly online. I’m choosing to go through David’s Vacation Club Rentals.  By requesting a point rental for the dates of our October trip, I can pay a total price of under $500, for both nights.  I would be renting a Savanna View Studio, which sleeps up to 4 (5 if one of us was in a crib), and includes a kitchenette. These rentals can be linked to the My Disney Experience online vacation planning tool, and are eligible for Disney’s Magical Express service.   Woo!  The only catch is that sometimes the resort has availability, but the rental broker doesn’t have any DVC members with AKL points to rent for that particular date.  This is currently happening to me.  I’m on a waitlist, and it’s killing me…

She's a bad egg.

Me too, Veruca.  Me, too.

But any good planner has a variety of resources, and a backup plan.  The other resource in this case is keeping an eye out for a room-only or package discount.  Disney usually releases fall discounts in the spring, so they’re not out yet for our dates.  It’s possible that Disney releases a discount of up to 35% at the Deluxe Resorts for the fall.  If our dates fall within the promo window, I would add a day at Art of Animation and just do 1 night at AKL, using the discount.  The backup plan is (gulp) a reservation at another resort.  I don’t think I will allow this to happen, but life is full of surprises.  I made a 2-night reservation for our AKL dates at the Port Orleans-French Quarter Resort (POFQ).  It’s a nice Moderate resort, and DS will be taking a Pirate Adventure Cruise from there during our trip, so it made sense.  I fully intend to get the AKL DVC point rental through sheer will/pixie dust and then cancel the POFQ one though.

So as it stands, we have reservations at AoA and POFQ, but are waitlisted for AKL through DVC.  And with that alphabet soup simmering, I will move on to planning my Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) strategy, since my booking date is coming up in April.  More on that soon!

The struggle is real.

The struggle is real.

 

 

 

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Disney Pre-trip Report: lists of lists

It’s time for one of my favorite Disney activities: making lists!  Here is a list of pre-trip rituals we like to observe.  Ok, I like to observe them, and the rest of the family humors me.

wonka whatever


First, begin the Disney planning spreadsheet and Big Fat Disney Plan binder.

  • 1 year countdown party! We actually missed this, because we haven’t made the final decision as to whether to go in July/August or October yet. Normally I like to make Mickey head Jello-O, construct a Disney crossword puzzle, watch a Disney movie, etc.
  • Biweekly Disney Movie Nights. We’ll add some Harry Potter movie marathons as well.  AND, make absolutely sure we see Jurassic World in theaters in June!
  • 6-month countdown chain: We’ll make this when we get back from our Ecuador trip mid-January, by then we should know more about the exact dates!
  • Make Cast Member Thank You cards to hand out when we experience or observe CM magic.
Have the kids help with these :)

Have the kids help with these 🙂

  • Double-digit dance: when we have 99 days left until our trip, we’ll dance to the Mickey Mouse Club march and have a themed Disney meal.
  • Single-digit dance: when we have 9 days left until our trip. More dancing, and another themed meal.
  • Design our trip shirts: A unique shirt for each trip!
Each letter in "DISNEY" is filled in with a picture from a previous Disney trip

Each letter in “DISNEY” is filled in with a picture from a previous Disney trip


And here are some trip rituals to make sure we fit in:

  • Wear our matching shirts on our 1st Magic Kingdom touring day.  I only make one set of shirts, so after that “official” photograph, we don’t dress alike.  I still wear all my old trip shirts as pajamas.
  • Take a picture of DD on the swing at the Grand Floridian beach.  This is a sweet tradition my sister and I started on a previous trip.  There is a non-swimming beach at the Grand Floridian Resort, with a nice bench swing.  My sister and I took a photo there when I was pregnant with my daughter, and I’ve made sure to take a picture of DD there on every trip.
  • Afternoon Tea at the Garden View Tea Room (also at the Grand Floridian Resort), ladies-only.
  • Ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority…it’s a great place to rest your feet, and I just love those corny jokes!  “Paging Mr. Morrow, Mr. Tom Morrow, your party from Saturn has arrived…please give them a ring!”
  • Have at least some of our stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  So, so special.
  • Eat a Mickey Bar and Main Street popcorn.  Did you know that calories don’t count at Disney Parks?
  • Meet up with a friend from college who works at WDW- an amazingly talented guy who really loves to share the magic!  He’s the BEST ambassador Disney could ask for.
  • Shop.  I need new magnets, the boy needs a “First visit” shirt, etc.  I shop a LOT at Disney, and they have a whole store dedicated to Haunted Mansion merchandise now!
  • Watch IllumiNations on our last night.  Crying optional.

Here’s some I’d love to start:

  • Having a Mom/Dad switch day: each parent takes one kid solo for the AM, then switch to the other kid for the PM.  Quality Disney time…I already got some great ideas for both of the kids.  But shhhhh, it’s a secret- in case DD decides to read this!
  • Find a special spot (like the Grand Floridian swing) to take a trip photo of DS every time we go.
  • My husband has to ride Pirates! It was down for refurbishment (they were adding the movie effects) during our last trip, and he didn’t go to Disneyland with us.  This is an absolute must- his dream career as a child was to be a pirate, and you should have seen the delighted look on his face when he got to take a picture w/Captain Hook and Mr. Smee.
  • Trying new restaurants, yum.  They’ve introduced a bunch of new food spots, and I want to taste everything!  I keep up with the changes at the Disney Food Blog, of course!

OK, writing this just made me excited all over again.  I think I’ll go have some ice cream out of my Aulani mug, while wearing my Disney World sweatshirt, checking the time on my Disney Cruise Line watch, and looking through my Disneyland pictures, while leaning on my World of Disney NYC pillow.  Have a Disney Day!

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Disney Pre-trip Report: let’s go to WDW! Yes, again.

There are countless resources out there to help you plan a Disney trip- guides help you decide what time of year to go, provide in-depth reviews of all the parks/rides/hotels/restaurants, and help you save as much money as possible before and during your trip.  I could do that too, but I won’t.  Why reinvent the wheel?  I’ll provide a list of my favorite planning websites at the end of this post, so you can check them out at your leisure.  I completely understand if you skip ahead to that list, abandon this post, and get sucked into a Disney-planning-whirlwind.  Just come back eventually!

planning ecard

Welcome back!

My posts about Disney will amount to a Pre-Trip Report.  Some of you who hang out on message boards may be familiar with Trip Reports.  They chronicle a trip from beginning to end: where they went, what they did, what they ate, etc.  This trend has a life all its own, with some reports being focused just on rides, and some just on food- Dining Reports!

A Pre-Trip Report then, details all the planning that goes into the Trip itself.  Since planning is half the fun, I figured I’d do “live” Pre-Trip Report as I plan, and then an actual Trip Report after we get back.  Here we go!


people trap

Walt Disney World 2015: Pre-Trip Report

Cast of Characters:

Me: Disneyholic and planner extraordinaire, 6 trips to the World, 2 Disney Cruises, 1 trip to Disneyland, 1 stay at Aulani

DD: tween daughter, Disneyholic planner-in-training, 4 trips to the World (1 in utero!), 2 Disney Cruises, 1 trip to Disneyland, 1 stay at Aulani

DH: husband, happy to leave the vacation planning to me, 1 trip to the World, 1 stay at Aulani, 1 Disney Cruise

DS: toddler son, loves the characters, 1 stay at Aulani, 1 Disney Cruise


My Disney history begins at age 2, with a visit to the World.  There is photographic evidence of my terrified crying when confronted with a 7 foot tall Pig from The Three Little Pigs.  Little?! I think not.  I’m pretty sure it was the Fiddler Pig, but I’m not certain as I’ve blocked the memory due to trauma. We went to the World again when I was 9, and I really got into this Disney Thing. I especially loved the World Showcase at Epcot (my favorite Park), and vowed to one day take my family there.  Other trips followed: I visited WDW twice more, and went on a Disney cruise, too.

Back in 2008, I took my family (just me, DD, and DH at the time) to WDW.  We stayed for 2 weeks.  It was my husband’s first time, and I wanted him to get the full experience: he explored all the Parks, played golf, had a revelatory meal at Le Cellier, and gradually became Disney-fied.  It was SO fun.  Of course, as soon as we came back I wanted to plan another trip!  But I wanted other Disney experiences as well.  Since that family trip in 2008, I took my DD to Disneyland in 2009, we had a stay at Aulani in 2012 for my birthday, and did a Disney Cruise to Alaska in 2013.

So, why go again?  Especially, why would we travel all the way to Florida from Hawaii to Disney World (there are NO direct flights to Orlando [MCO] from HNL, by the way) when we could fly nonstop to LAX in 5 hours and see Disneyland?  Well, Disneyland doesn’t have Epcot, which is my favorite park.  Nor does it have Animal Kingdom Lodge, the most amazing hotel ever.  And because the Resort is so huge (50 square miles!), once you are in the Disney Bubble, you are super immersed in the magic.  There’s nothing else like passing beneath the Walt Disney World: Where Dreams Come True sign and knowing you are in for a ton of fun!

wdw sign

I really enjoyed Disneyland and plan to go back, especially to see Cars Land, but my son’s first Disney Parks experience has to be at Disney World, period.  And it has to be next year!

There are a few reasons that 2015 is the right year for our next Disney trip:

  • DS will be 4 years old, and I firmly believe that my children should get to go to Disney World before they are 5 years old (DD was 3 on her first trip).
  • I really want to see Barack Obama be the “star” of the Hall of Presidents, and that will only be true until 2016.
  • DD will be graduating from middle school, and we won’t be able to have her miss a few days of school here and there as easily when she is in high school.
  • We have to move out of our current apartment in the summer of 2015. I know we will need a break from all the moving preparations/life changes.
  • It’s been 7 years since I’ve seen IllumiNations.
  • New Fantasyland, including the Beast’s Castle and Be Our Guest restaurant- Beauty & the Beast is my favorite Disney movie.
  • I’m interested in seeing how the MagicBands and FP+ affect my planning.
  • First non-Disney reason: I STILL haven’t gotten to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure.
  • Second non-Disney reason: Jurassic Park is my favorite movie in the world, and I love the ride at Islands of Adventure, too.

So, we’ve established that we’re going in 2015….but when in 2015?  Well…I still don’t know!  Right now there are several factors “on the table” and they won’t be resolved for a few months.  I do know that it’ll be late July-early August or during the school Fall Break in October.  The trip will be a minimum of 9 days, not including travel.

Pros and Cons for late July-early August:

Pros Cons
fewer months to wait HOT
fewer attractions down for refurbishment crowded
no missed school days more expensive
celebrate DD’s middle school graduation
celebrate wedding anniversary

 Pros and Cons for October:

Pros Cons
better weather more months to wait
lower crowds more stuff down for refurbishment
lower prices 1-2 missed school days
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party nothing to personally celebrate

I know that with my itinerary planning, the HOT and crowded stuff can be mitigated. It’s all about well-timed breaks. Though it kills me, I really can’t do much more than hope I can start planning in earnest by February. I do already have a hotel reservation for late July, though 🙂 Some of those rooms in high season go fast!  Gotta plan ahead.

The view from our Savanna View room at Animal Kingdom Lodge

The view from our Savanna View room at Animal Kingdom Lodge

List of oft-visited planning sites:

See ya real soon!

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