The Planning Continues…

From the happy heart of Real Disney mom Janice B!

Eleven weeks to go! I decided to make this trip to WDW all about re-living the past. We will be dining in restaurants that we haven’t been to in a long time, and seeing some shows that we have not seen in quite a few years.

No trip would be complete without breakfast at Chef Mickey’s, and there is no greater way to start your trip then breakfast at Chef Mickey’s before hopping on the monorail and heading to the Magic Kingdom. This is always a must for me on our first day!  Many years ago, when the kids were young, Chef Mickey’s was not at the Contemporary. It was located in Downtown Disney (then known as Disney Village). Although initially disappointed when they moved, through the years we have come to realize that it is much more convenient in the Contemporary.

Our dining line-up includes:

  • The Garden Grill in Epcot, The Land Pavilion. We have not been here in years. This will always be one of my favorites. A slowly revolving restaurant with hosts Chip and Dale; great views of the vegetables growing down in the Living with the Land attraction. Great value for your money since your meal is served family style and they continue to re-fill servings. The macaroni and cheese was always a favorite of my daughter. Now that she is in her twenties and always watching her weight, I wonder if she’ll keep asking for more!
  • Coral Reef in Epcot, The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion. This pavilion used to be called The Living Seas. This was always a favorite of my son when he was in his early teens. He was fascinated by the large glass wall fish tank and was always thrilled when we were able to get a table up close. Watching the fish while you eat is fascinating.
  • Fantasmic Dinner Package at Hollywood Studios, eating in the Brown Derby. This will be a particular treat this year. In all of our visits over the years, my son and my husband have never seen Fantasmic. It seems like it was never running when all of us were at WDW together; or sometimes that night was set aside for something that was deemed a little more important! My daughter and I were always able to catch it on our trips alone since it was a favorite of hers. We will all be seeing it together this year after a great meal at the Brown Derby.

No trip will ever be complete without a visit to the World of Disney store at Downtown Disney. There are so many things to look at that at times it becomes overwhelming. My best find ever, the year my daughter was graduating from culinary school, my husband and I took a trip to WDW for our anniversary. I was able to find several Chef Mickey items for her. My favorite being a Swavorksy crystal Chef Mickey.

Well, the planning for the October family trip continues! We are really trying to fit in so much. We plan to snack our way through the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at least two days. This event holds a special place in our hearts since my daughter is a chef and she cooked for the Party for the Senses at the 2010 Food and Wine Festival. I have also started looking at a February stay at the Grand Floridian for myself and my husband to celebrate another anniversary.

Disney planning never seems to end.

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It’s off to Disney We Go!!

I happened on a surprise in my mailbox today! We have received our Magical Express vouchers and luggage tags! Hooray! It makes it seem like Disney is not so far off, even though it is still 83 days, 2 hours, and 58 minutes away! I don’t remember receiving our Magical Express  so early in the past, but maybe we hadn’t booked our flights this early in previous years. What I really can’t wait for is that fabulous envelope with our reservation voucher and luggage tags! I hear they are new this year! When I provided Disney with our flight numbers while setting up Magical Express, I requested that they send out 8 luggage tags, instead of the 5 that they would have sent (one for each of us). Sadly only 5 arrived in the mail today! I called Magical Express though and they assured me that they would send out another 5! It may sound a little crazy that we are going to be checking more than 5 bags but when you are traveling to Walt Disney World with a 4, 2, and 6 month old, trust me, it is completely necessary! I am hoping to only check 6 but it may be as much as 8! We will talk more about packing in future posts as I am not there yet in my own planning! The luggage tags that I am speaking of are the long yellow sticker ones that are reminiscent of the ones the airline attaches to your checked baggage. These are how Disney knows what bags to pick up at baggage claim and magically deliver at your room in your resort!

Disney's Magical Express voucher booklet and luggage tags

We always choose to fly South West. For us, living in Connecticut, and especially with gas prices approaching $5 in some parts of the state, it is always more economical to fly down to Florida. This year is a little steep since we are paying for 4 tickets when in the past B was under 2 and we only had to purchase 3! Thankfully this year and next year M still flies free! We like South West for their competitive ticket pricing, open seating, and most of all, each ticketed person can check 2 bags, free of charge. That is huge for us since we check at least 6 bags!

When people ask me whether or not to stay on Walt Disney World property, I tell them to stay in The World. In my opinion, it is completely worth it to be a part of the magic 24/7 for the length of your stay, rather than having to leave Disney World each night and return in the morning. There are also other benefits to staying in Disney World. You get to utilize Extra Magic Hours which allow Disney Resort guests to stay in the parks 1 hour before official opening time and up to 3 hours after official closing time. Which park opens early or stays open late varies according to the day of the week. You also get to use Disney’s Magical Express which is a service that takes you by Motor Coach from Orlando International Airport to your resort, and then back again at the end of your stay. Disney also has many means of transportation to get you from your resort to the parks. They have busses, boats, and monorails ready to whisk you to whatever park you are visiting at any given time. Again, I am not getting paid by anyone to tell you this, I truly believe that staying in Disney World is the way to go! That being said, Disney has 3 “classes” of hotels, and even a campground. You have your Value resorts, your Moderate resorts, and Deluxe resorts. You can also stay in a Deluxe Villa at the deluxe resorts. Disney’s campground is Fort Wilderness Resort. Value resorts include All Star Movies ResortAll Star Music ResortAll Star Sports ResortPop Century Resort, and the Art of Animation Resort is scheduled to open in summer of 2012. Disney’s moderate resorts include The Cabins at Fort WildernessCaribbean Beach ResortCoronado Springs ResortPort Orleans French Quarter Resort, and Port Orleans Riverside Resort. Deluxe Resorts are Animal Kingdom LodgeBeach Club ResortBoardwalk InnContemporary ResortGrand Floridian Resort and SpaPolynesian ResortWilderness Lodge, and Yacht Club Resort. Disney’s Deluxe Villa resorts are Animal Kingdom Villas Jambo HouseAnimal Kingdom Villas Kidani VillageBay Lake Tower at Contemporary ResortBeach Club VillasBoardwalk VillasOld Key West ResortSaratoga Springs Resort and Spa, and The Villas at Wilderness Lodge. Wow! As you can see Disney gives you many an option! There is really a hotel to fit everyone’s budget. Resort types vary in price, the campground being the least followed by value, moderate, deluxe, and finally deluxe villas; room size, and overall theme and quality. All Disney hotels are some of the best in the business but as with everything else in life, you get what you pay for, and the highest price will buy you the highest quality hotel. I personally have never stayed in a value resort. When I was just earning my ears as a child, there was no such thing as “value” resorts in Disney World. There are what are now called the moderate resorts, and deluxe resorts. I have stayed in moderate and deluxe resorts, and I can tell you that even though moderate resorts are more than adequate you are definitely getting something special by staying at a deluxe resort, and if you can afford it, it is worth the extra money. This year we are staying at the Wilderness Lodge. It will be my 4th stay there and even though I love, love, love it there I really long to stay in a resort with a monorail. Having small children in strollers this would be ideal, because it can be a bit of a pain getting on and off busses and boats with 3 children and strollers which you must fold up every time you board. On the monorail you can just roll your child right on while he is still in the stroller! The utmost in convenience! The Contemporary, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian all are serviced by the monorail. I would have loved to stay at one of these resorts this year but unfortunately we’re just not there yet financially. The Wilderness Lodge is the least expensive of the deluxe resorts and that’s about as high as we can afford to go for now. One thing I do love about the Wilderness Lodge is that it is one big building. So you never have far to go to get to your resort restaurants, pool, front desk, gift shop, or whatever else you may need in your hotel. If I were going to stay at a resort with a monorail I would stay at the Contemporary which is one big building as well. We will get there someday hopefully sooner rather than later!

The last thing I will discuss tonight is ticket options! We like to book everything all together. This is called a Magic Your Way vacation package. This will include lodging for the length of your stay, tickets to the parks, and a Dining Plan if you choose to use one. You can also book room only, or room and tickets only. We always book through Walt Disney World. I just feel like I have peace of mind in doing it this way that I know Disney is going to take care of everything for me in that famous way that they do! I always book my vacations by calling Disney directly rather then doing it online. You never know what discounts you may find out about from a cast member (Disney employee) on the phone that you wouldn’t have otherwise known about. This year we found out that we had a free dining pin only when we called! Free dining pins are something that Disney gives out to select people that they have in their system. These people seem to be chosen at random, it is not quite clear how they are selected, but you have to have your name in their system to get one! If you don’t think Disney has your name, then go to their website and request a free vacation planning dvd. This will ensure that your name is in Disney’s system and maybe you too will receive the coveted free dining pin or other discounts! Our vacation is 9 days in all, 2 are travel days, so we will be there 7 full days. We purchased a Magic Your Way Package Plus Dining. (Really we only purchased a Magic Your Way Package because the dining was free!) With that we opted for 6 day park hopper passes plus water park fun and more. That leaves us one extra day to swim in our hotel pool and head to Downtown Disney. With this option we can go to more than one park on any given day during our vacation which is essential for us because we go to one park in the morning and a different park at night after an afternoon rest in our hotel. We also get admission to both water parks, and Disney Quest  on any day with this option, all of which we will use. With our package we have the basic Dining Plan which includes one quick service meal, one table service meal, and one snack, per  person over the age of 3 for the length of our stay. B will eat off of our plates since he is 2. J will have to choose off of the children’s menu along with all other children 9 and under. We will use our quick service meal for lunches, and our table service meal for dinners on most days. For breakfast we will just make a quick meal of granola bars or the like that I will keep in our hotel room. I will order these and other snacks and bottled water from Garden Grocer. (More on that in later posts!) With each table service meal we get a beverage, entree, and desert, and with each quick service meal, we get the same. J, being a child will also get an appetizer with his table service meals. Snacks can be things such as ice cream bars, fruit, bottled drinks, popcorn, and chips among other things. Most restaurants in The World participate with Disney’s Dining Plan. I am absolutely elated that we got it for free this year. Talk about win, win!

Well folks it is again time for my head to hit the pillow. Stay tuned for more vacation planning coming your way soon. As always, go get yourself wrapped up in some pixie dust! I’m serious! Get!

WDW 2009 Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show