spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

Guest post: DH’s reflections on Disney

Editor’s note: These thoughts are DH’s!  My comments are in RED.

I’ve been putting this blog post off for a few months now. My DW, your host, asked me to talk about my half of the “kid-split” day at Disney this October. She also asked that I recount how she “Disney-fied” me. That’s the part that made this difficult. You see, I am old. (LOL, true) When I was a kid, along with Disney’s terrific TV show, wonderful cartoon features, and nature documentaries, there was also Walt Disney’s ever-increasing right-wing backlash against all thing counter-culture. And I was nothing if not one of the most enthusiastic inheritors of the counter-culture. I say inheritors because as a teen in the early 70s I was one of the millions who watched and learned from the first wave of Boomers who made glorious music, love, not war, etc. And Old Walt (not to be confused with the Genius Walt who invented Mickey, Fantasia and theme parks) was one of the captains of Reaction with a capital R, against all that thrilled me about the 60s. Right up there with John Wayne. It didn’t help that in the late 60s and the 70s Disney products were unfortunately milquetoast and out of touch not only with the times, but with what had made Disney great until then… leaving aside the racism in many Disney films, the jingoistic nationalism, etc. that had always been there.

So I had no love for Disney (sob) and had never set foot in a Disney park (despite having lived in both Florida AND California!), until I met and married a crazed Disney fanatic. I say crazed, but only in the sense that her personality demonstrated real and phenomenal changes when under the influence of Disney culture. Happiness! What a concept. (Readers: my husband makes me very happy, but I don’t jump for joy on a daily basis when at home). As a cynical child of the Nixon era, I was more than suspicious, until she came into my life and began to share that bizarre notion (of complete and utter joy for a capitalist enterprise) with me. From the Katzenberg era on, Disney features had become not only the height of excellence, but even allowed for an adult point of view, within their childlike joy. So I was open to persuasion. Plus, the presence of the 3-year-old DD helped enormously to allow me to experience Disney Magic differently (awww).

We went to Walt Disney World in 2008. For 14 days!!!! I was frightened of staying that long, but the super planner we all know and love set up an itinerary that made it pass so quickly I was anxious to stay longer, not raring to leave. When DD caught the jewel in Mickey’s PhilHarMagic, that was the last straw. I was crying. And haven’t stopped since. This magical fortnight was followed in 2013 by the awesome Disney Cruise to Alaska, where our little DS, just 2, completed the picture. And as DW has written here, the last night at IllumiNations on our recent visit, where we group-hugged, made the full Disney-fication complete. On to the next trip, ASAP!

dark side

Haha.

 

And now, on to my recounting of my half of “kid-split” day:

The morning was Dad and Daughter time. DD had no idea where we were headed. Getting there was an adventure. We had to go to the Magic Kingdom first, then get a van to the Tri-Circle D Ranch, where horses awaited us. I think, after the initial joyous awakening to our destination, that her first reaction was to the gross/wonderful smell of “horse hockey” (in the immortal words of Sherman Potter on M*A*S*H).

ranch

Fun trivia: Andy can be seen wearing a Tri-Circle-D Ranch shirt in Toy Story.

 

We were fitted with helmets, sized up, and, with a half dozen others, led to the mounting platform. DD loved her horse, though it will never receive the affection of her favorite horse ever at Gunstock Ranch on Oahu. My horse was more massive, but very tranquil. We were led onto the trail and into the woods of central Florida, through the Live Oaks and conifers, Spanish Moss and tall reeds. There was a hint of a stream nearby, and I had hopes we might run into a gator (Go Gators!), but no such luck. We did hear, but missed seeing, some deer. And I caught sight of one opossum, though DD missed it. The ride was beautiful, but was over way too quickly. I had hoped for one gallop, but we never got above a trot (which I hate, because even though I rode a lot as a kid, I never mastered avoiding the unfortunate “down-bounce”). After a quick pit stop for a wash and some water, we went back to Magic Kingdom, caught the monorail toward the Grand Floridian and found ourselves stuck mid-route. Turned out DW and DS were on the monorail in front and also waiting. I honestly can’t remember why this happened, but I’m sure our Editor will insert comment. (They were adjusting something on the track).

Once we arrived it was all about finding DW and DS, which happened within two minutes. DS waited with me, while DD and DW changed into their lovely High Tea clothing. We kissed goodbye, and DS and I set forth by way of a boat ride to the Swan Resort for Fantasia Gardens mini-golf. We chose the traditional mini-golf themed to Fantasia (the other course is a putting only version of a real golf course). I decided we’d have more fun with the old-school course and boy was I right!

fgardens

The holes were in 5 groups based on five scenes from Fantasia. DS put his ball down on this first hole and promptly got a hole-in-one! We were off to a great start. DS befriended the English couple playing just ahead of us, who then became his rooting section as he went on to shoot another two holes-in-one and several birdies. I did alright, even had one ace myself, but the kid was the champ of the day. After drinking some sodas, we walked back across the road to the Swan, got the boat across to Magic Kingdom for a few rides, and then headed home to the Art of Animation.

This wonderful day only helped cement my above-mentioned Disney-fication, for which I will be eternally grateful to our faithful blogger and super-vacation-planner. (Woooooooo!  Thanks for writing this, honey!)

Advertisements
1 Comment »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

2 Comments »

Disney World October 2015 Trip Report Part 6: Disney Springs and MNSSHP

After several consecutive days of early wakeups to hit the Parks, sleeping in on this day was lovely.  I drifted awake at around 9:30am and was immediately excited for the Halloween Party that evening.  We had a long list of things to do before then, so I got everybody into their bathing suits, and we went down to the Big Blue Pool again, with a load of laundry.  DD wanted to keep sleeping, so she stayed in the room with strict instructions to be ready to walk out the door by 11:45am.  The water was a little chilly in the pool!  I guess because it was so early in the day.  But we had a lot of fun in the main pool, and especially in the splash area 🙂

Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a comment »

Disney World October 2015 Trip Report Part 1: flights and arrival

All you need is faith, trust, and pixie dust.  Here we go!

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: teen 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

116

Read the rest of this entry »

2 Comments »

Dealing with Disney withdrawal…

So, we’re back.  It was a magical, wonderful time.  But the post-Disney depression is just beginning.  Today, I woke up, and had no FastPass+ for any beautifully-themed rides, fantastically-produced shows, or amazing fireworks displays.  No reservations for unique restaurants.  And no MagicBand on my wrist.  So sad.

disney cry

I’ll just have to relive the experience with a Trip Report.  I didn’t take any notes while we did our Park touring, but I have the written itinerary that we followed pretty closely, and my pictures are in order, so it should be too hard to piece everything together.  Some general impressions:

  • FastPass+ worked perfectly for us.
  • I implemented a “walk in the morning, stroller in the evening” strategy for our 5-year-old, and that was a stroke of brilliance with our touring plan.
  • I’m glad to have stayed at Art of Animation, but the walk from our room in the Little Mermaid section in the WAY BACK of the Resort was pretty far (a 10-15 minute walk from the bus stop) and I wouldn’t stay in that section again.
  • The My Disney Experience App was very useful.
  • Memory Maker continues to be worth it.
  • Nothing will ever top IllumiNations for me, but the Hallo-Wishes fireworks, Hocus Pocus Villains Spelltacular, and Boo to You parade during the Not-So-Scary Halloween Party were really impressive.  The Festival of Fantasy parade was visually stunning, too.
  • I wanna go back….now!

Stay tuned for the full Trip Report, including pictures!

 

Leave a comment »

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.

 

 

 

Leave a comment »