Category Archives: Disney Planning

Disney World vs. Disneyland

After vacationing at Disney World many times over the past five years, I was excited to get the opportunity last year to go to Disneyland for New Year’s Eve.  I was anxious to compare the park that started it all to the parks I had grown to love.  Before we left for California, I did research online and saw a lot of familiar sights – many rides looked exactly the same as Disney World, which was very comforting to me.  However, after spending 4 days at Disneyland, I’d have to say there is no contest on which I like better – and that’s Disney World!

Here’s a quick comparison of the two: Continue reading

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What I’m thankful for at Disney World

Often times when we are planning a trip to Disney, we keep it on the DL. Not because we’re not super excited, but because we know that not everyone is able to go to Disney World as often as we do – and maybe not ever. I never take for granted how blessed our family is to be able to go on a few vacations a year to get away and spend time together, especially when it’s in the Disney bubble.
Today on Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the countless things God has given us. Going to Disney World has provided so many amazing memories that we’ll share as a family forever.

Here are some of the things I’m most thankful for – be sure to vote below on what YOU are most thankful for!

  • Being an annual passholder
  • Getting to go to Disney World and Disneyland in the same year
  • Air conditioning in August
  • San Angel Inn margaritas
  • Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table with my daughter dressed as Cinderella
  • Beauty and the Beast show at Hollywood Studios
  • The Magical Express
  • Perfume in Norway Pavilion
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority
  • Everything about Epcot
Thankful at Disney World

Thankful at Disney World

Hopefully we’ll be at Disney again soon, but until then I’ll just stay thankful for all the memories.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoying the rain at Disney World

It is very rare, if ever, that we go to Disney World and don’t experience the Florida thunderstorms.  It’s just bad planning to think that you won’t get rained on when you are on vacation.  But with a few extra items in your suitcase you can make sure that the rain doesn’t put a damper on your trip.

Spaceship Earth Storm Clouds

Spaceship Earth under storm clouds

What to bring:

  • Rain Jacket – skip the cheap plastic poncho!  I see lots of articles that talk about bringing a poncho to fend off the weather.  There are a few problems with ponchos: Continue reading

A Typical Day at Epcot

One of the most re-pinned pins on my Pinterest board has been the infographic I created on A Typical Day at Animal Kingdom – see the pin on Pinterest here.

Creating infographics is fun, but they can be pretty time consuming and I just haven’t set aside the time to create more until now!  I decided my next ‘typical day’ infographic would be about Epcot.  Since it’s my favorite park, it was really hard to fit everything I love to do into tiny geometric shapes, but I think I figured it out.  I may not eat quite as much as I have outlined, but it isn’t for lack of trying!  Is there anything in your typical day at Epcot that’s not on my list??  Re-pin a Typical Day at Epcot here.

A Typical Day at Epcot (INFOGRAPHIC)

A Typical Day at Epcot (INFOGRAPHIC)

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Picture Gallery of Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival

No Passport Required!

Back From Disney!

We just got back from our weeklong trip to Disney and it was awesome!  Our goal for the vacation was to relax which is not always easy on a Disney vacation!  But we accomplished what we set out to do and I’m excited to write down all my thoughts about the trip before they become faded memories, not to mention sorting through the 1,000+ pictures we took!

In addition to relaxation, our second goal on vacation was to try new things.  The more trips we make to Disney, the more comfortable we feel trying different things because we finally know what we’re doing.  It’s so overwhelming on the first few trips that we usually stuck to the parks – not to say that’s a bad thing because there is so much to see you can’t really cover it all in one trip.  Now that we know the lay of the land, we don’t feel as pressured to get on every ride, see every show or have table service reservations every day.  We pick and choose our favorites, which allows us time for new experiences!

A few of the new things we did on this trip were:

  • Stayed at a new resort – Port Orleans Riverside
  • Dinner at Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Golfed at Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course
  • Looked for Hidden Mickeys with the help of our handy guidebook
  • Did the Pirate’s  Adventure scavenger hunt at Magic Kingdom
  • Had a LeFeu’s Brew – so yummy!!
  • Used the My Disney Experience app for the first time
  • Drank a frozen beer in the Japan Pavilion of Epcot

A few things that weren’t entirely new but still surprised us:

  • Got into HS early and rode Toy Story Mania before the park officially opened
  • Ran for our lives through the most treacherous thunderstorm I’ve ever been in

And one thing we expected, but it was still shocking to the system:

  • The HEAT (but I loved it!)

Once I get everything from the trip organized I’ll write about it in more detail.  My brain is still unwinding from the overstimulation of all that time spent in the bubble!

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Holidays at Disney (Scary – and I’m not talking Halloween!)

When I first heard about the Monstrous Summer All Nighter, I had a little itch to go.  I’m always looking for a reason to go to Disneyworld and what better reason than 24 straight hours of fun! Sadly, I didn’t attend the all nighter – I was probably home in bed by 10pm when the fun was just gearing up (okay – I was watching the live stream online!!)  But that’s not the point.  Why didn’t I make the trip?  It wasn’t because I couldn’t get there – I actually found a really good deal on flights.  It wasn’t because of ticket prices – I have an annual pass.  So with a cheap flight and a free ticket, what would keep me from going?? A holiday weekend!!  The all nighter was scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.  Deal breaker.

I’ve been to Disney on two separate holidays over the past 6 months:

  1. Disneyland in California for New Year’s Eve 2012 – of course a crowd is to be expected
  2. Disneyworld on Presidents Day 2013 – crowd was NOT expected, at least not by me

With the experiences of back to back holiday trips fresh in my mind, I decided it’s just not worth it to go during any holiday where a large part of the general population is off work! In case you’re not convinced, let me enlighten you with a few details.

Let’s start with New Year’s Eve. Of course the parks will be crowded. Everyone knows this.  I guess my idea of crowded was longer-than-usual lines and a little more weaving through the crowd – but it would be worth it to celebrate the new year with Disney fireworks in the background as I joyfully kissed my husband at the stroke of midnight, right?!  I rarely admit something like this, but I was WRONG! It was not nearly as romantic or magical as I had imagined.  I should have known on Day 1 of our trip when we went to Disneyland and were not let in because the park was at capacity.  We were told to return around 5pm and there ‘might’ be room after the parades when people exit the park. Lines for the most popular rides, normally a 60 or 90 minute wait were upwards of 340 minutes!!!! 5 hours? Really?

The next sign that something was different was when people starting laying in the streets – it felt like I was at a concert with people getting their spot for the show.

Disneyland NY Eve 2012

Disneyland NY Eve 2012

New Year's Eve

Camping in front of Aurora’s Castle – New Year’s Eve 2012

As it got later, the crowd got thicker and it felt like there wasn’t enough air for everyone! (Maybe that’s my claustrophobia talking or just the fact that I’m shorter than everyone and couldn’t see anything but bodies!)  It got to the point where strangers around me were touching me on all sides, my legs and feet getting hit with stroller wheels and we were literally moving like a herd of cattle. I felt some minor panic until I got to an opening.  I’ll say it wasn’t too magical for me.  This picture looks like the crowd is watching something but we’re not – that’s how we were walking. MOOOOOO!

Crowd at Disneyland

Crowd at Disneyland

We ended up leaving before midnight and I was glad when we finally made it to the exit (I know, blasphemy!)

Camping out on Main Street at Disneyland- NY Eve 2012

Camping out on Main Street at Disneyland- NY Eve 2012

For my father in law, who was in a motorized scooter, things were frustrating to say the least. He really couldn’t move anywhere because of the crowd so he remained parked along the side a lot of the time.  Not how I envisioned starting the new year!

The following day, New Year’s Day, was much less crowded and we got to enjoy California Adventure.  I was still a little traumatized from the night before, but I loved seeing Mickey’s Fun Wheel and things started to feel a little more relaxed.

Mickey's Fun Wheel & California Screamin'

Mickey’s Fun Wheel & California Screamin’

That was an extreme example of a holiday at Disney.  But even for a much less notable holiday, things were still pretty crowded.  For President’s Day, the lines weren’t quite as long but they were longer than I’m used to and since we were only there for a long weekend it felt magnified because we wanted to fit everything in. The mistake we made for that weekend was thinking that we would be able to come in and wing it and get on all the rides we wanted – we should have known better! So we ended up walking around but not riding a lot which was disappointing.  Factor in that it was only about 40 degrees and it was even more of a bummer – uh, oh, discontent in the bubble – how could this be? This was a first.  On both of these trips the care-free, relaxed vibe that is the essence of why I love going to Disney was diminished.

So on the heels of that visit, I decided to pass on the Monstrous All Nighter. For all the money that goes into a trip to Disney why waste it when you can’t get to go on your favorite rides!?

That’s not to say you can never go around holidays – we went the week after Thanksgiving and saw all the amazing Christmas lights, shows, and attractions and it was just about the closest it was like a ghost town in the parks! What a difference a few weeks can make!  From now on I’ll spend my holidays at home and plan to pick ‘ordinary days’ to stay in the bubble!

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Deciding which Disney resort is right for you

If you’ve read my other posts, you know that after weighing the pros and cons of staying on the Disney property, I’m a huge proponent of staying ON the property!  The premise of this entire blog is about the magic of staying ‘in the bubble’ and you just can’t get that staying off the property.

After deciding to stay at a Disney resort comes the big decision – which resort is right for you? With nearly 30 resort options, it can be overwhelming to decide where to stay.  The first thing to consider is budget.  There are 3 main levels of hotel according to price, categorized as Value, Moderate and Deluxe.  I say 3 ‘main’ levels because there’s also a campground option at the Fort Wilderness Resort where you pay for your campground space if you have a camper or tent (yikes!)  I’m not the camping type so this kind of resort is pretty much never on my radar when deciding where to stay.  At the other end of the spectrum are the Deluxe Villas, which are larger spaces than deluxe rooms, so they’re a notch up in price from deluxe resorts.

Value Resorts

Value resort pricing starts at around $100 per night.  There are certain options you can select, such as a pool view or a preferred room which will increase the price.  I’ve stayed at 3 of the value resorts and my #1 recommendation if you choose to go with value is this: UPGRADE TO THE PREFERRED ROOM!  If you pick the standard room, you risk being far from the main building, bus stop and the main pool area. One year, we were in a room that was in the furthest building from the entrance, around the backside, so far that if we took 10 steps from our room I think we would have been off the hotel’s grounds!  It took a long time to walk to the main building to grab a coffee in the morning and after a long day it was torture to walk back to the room when we were exhausted.  The preferred upgrade charge is well worth it – I’ll never do standard again!

We’ve stayed at All Star Sports, All Star Music and Pop Century.  By far my favorite is Pop Century, mostly because it has a dedicated bus.  The All Stars sometimes loop to all the All Star resorts, making it a longer trip when you just want to get to the park (or more importantly, get home from the park!)  We’ve stood in long lines at the end of the night to get on a bus only to wait through a stop or two before getting back to the resort.  Couple that with a far-away standard room and it’s prime time for a meltdown!

All Star Sports Resort

Pop Century Resort bowling pin pool

Pop Century Resort bowling pin pool

Overall what you get at the value resorts is just that – value.  What you miss out on are the bells and whistles of added amenities but if you plan on being at the parks most of the time, then you’re not missing a whole lot.  The first few years we went to Disney we stayed exclusively at value resorts because we spent so much time in the parks that the resort was really was just a place to sleep.  Value resorts still offer the perks that are included with every resort stay like Magical Express, park bus service, friendly staff and Mickey waffles for breakfast – what else can you ask for?

Moderate Resorts

I’ve only stayed at one moderate resort and that was the Caribbean Beach resort.  However, just today I booked a stay at Port Orleans – Riverside, which is also a moderate, so I’m excited to get there and check it out!

Caribbean Beach Resort

Caribbean Beach Resort

The differences I noticed most at the Caribbean Beach vs. value resorts were:

  • Atmosphere: The feel was relaxed with more space and less of the crowded hustle and bustle of the value resorts
  • Room: The room and decor was a little nicer than a value room and had a mini-fridge
  • Pool: The pool was a definite step up from a standard pool at the value resorts.  The theme of this pool was impressive – a pirate fortress, water cannons, and most importantly, a waterslide!   The waterslide really does add to the entertainment value for kids (or adults like my husband) who never seem to tire of running up and sliding down.

Activities:

    There is more to do around the moderate resorts like evening campfires, boat rental, bike rental, fishing, and fitness centers.  We took advantage of the paddle boat rental and it was a beautiful scenic cruise along the lake (if you don’t mind the work of paddling!)
View from the paddle boat at Caribbean Beach Resort

View from the paddle boat at Caribbean Beach Resort

Moderate is great if you plan on spending time just hanging around the resort and want some entertainment options without splurging on the deluxe resorts.

Deluxe Resorts

I’ve also only stayed at one deluxe resort, it was actually a villa!  My husband and I went to Disney to celebrate our 10 year anniversary this past November and decided to go all out and stay at a deluxe resort.  We got a good deal because of the time of year (we went the week after Thanksgiving, before the Christmas/New Year’s rush) and we chose the BoardWalk Villas.   Our room had a kitchenette (which included a refrigerator, microwave, sink, and dishes,) a couch, and a balcony that overlooked the pool.  Unfortunately it wasn’t very warm so we didn’t get to swim but it was still a nice view – yes, that is the Tower of Terror!

View of Tower of Terror from BoardWalk Villas

View of Tower of Terror from BoardWalk Villas

I’m not sure what I was expecting from the room, but I wouldn’t say there was anything about it that was really spectacular.  The best thing about the resort wasn’t the room – it was the location!  Right next to the resort is Disney’s BoardWalk, which has shops, restaurants, and live performers along the picturesque boardwalk.  One night we ate at the Big River Grille & Brewing Works where we watched the Illuminations fireworks from Epcot AND the Fantasmic fireworks from Hollywood Studios!

Dinner and two shows!

Beer Tasting - Big River Grille & Brewing Works

Beer Tasting – Big River Grille & Brewing Works

Hands down the best part about the location was the walkway leading right into Epcot’s World Showcase!  Since Epcot is our favorite park, this was definitely a huge perk of staying at the resort.

Disney's Boardwalk at night

Disney’s Boardwalk at night

Disney's Boardwalk

Disney’s Boardwalk

Several of the deluxe resorts are within viewing distance of the Magic Kingdom fireworks (Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian) and the Animal Kingdom Lodge has rooms with a savanna view where you can watch the animals roam – so like they say, location is everything! That’s one of the primary amenities you’re paying for when you stay at a deluxe resort.

There’s a lot to consider when picking which Disney resort is right for you.  My recommendation is to figure out your budget first, then decide if you want to pay around $1,000 for a week (value), $1,600 for a week (moderate) or $2,800 for a week (deluxe) – these are just rough estimates, as prices vary throughout the year.

A few final tips

  • Plan your vacation in the off-peak season – you can get room discounts if you’re willing take your vacation in the slow season and you could probably stay at a resort that you couldn’t afford during peak season.
  • Look for free meal deals – Disney usually offers a free meal plan at certain times in the spring and fall which could help offset dining costs, allowing you to afford a better resort.

No matter where you stay, there’s no bad place to be as long as you’re in the bubble!

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