Finding the Right Fit for You!

From the practically perfect personality of Real Disney Mom Jewelz P! 

It’s been 11 or 12 years since I last was at Walt Disney World. A very long time for me considering that I was going every year for ten years. Marriage, moving, new job promotions and a baby put a lot on hold. My husband and I were not able to go on a honeymoon or even a mini vacation. Finally a breath of fresh air! I was six months pregnant and I told my boss,  “I am going on vacation in 13 months”.  (Maybe it was Disney withdrawals, the hormones raging, or that I just really needed a vacation!) Without missing a beat I went to Walt Disney World’s Vacation Website and ordered the Vacation Planning DVD. I needed to see what had been built and improved over the years. This would also give me  the opportunity to show my husband what he would be in store for!!! Not having met my little one yet, I knew Disney could take care of her no matter what! I had for the most part always stayed on the WDW property. Why? If Disneyworld was my only destination (why anyone would go anywhere else?), there is no reason to stay off property. The conveniences and the ease of the transportation are priceless. 

Knowing your budget is where you need to start. Walt Disney has many resorts for different budgets which is great!!

 To save money; Value Resorts-All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, All Star Movies and POP Century

I only recommend these if you have a large group , such as sports teams, or if you only need a place to shower and sleep. They do not have any sit down dining restaurants, (Something to think about.) and are located farthest from the 4 Parks.  I stayed at All-Star Sports in 1998 and it is too small for my family for today. The rooms do not have as much closet or drawer space, and there is only one sink and mirror. Two adults and two children will be able to stay here in comfort, but more than 2 adults may be too much. There were no elevators to speak of that I remembered. So if stairs are a challenge, it is best to request a floor level room. The rooms are brightly colored and a sports theme is carried through out the resort, the room I was in had crayon marking on the walls and I could hear all the surrounding happenings. The pools were always too crowded for me. If you are new to staying on property and your budget conscious you may want to start here. There is a playground, arcade, laundry facilities and a food court with an average price 15.00 a person. Another little tid-bit ; The All Star Resorts are in a different county so they have a higher tax rate.

 For those who need a little more room to breath; Moderate Resorts-Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter and Ft. Wilderness Cabins.

 I have stayed at both Port Orleans French Quarter (1999) and most recently Caribbean Beach Resort (2010) The Moderate resorts will have at least one sit down dining restaurant  and are not as far away from the 4 Parks as the Value Resorts. Carribean Beach or CBR has Shutters for sit down dining and a tasty food court to experience. These rooms not only have more space but a dual sink vanity. YEAH! The beds are better and the décor is just up my alley. While the All-Star Resorts and POP have three or four levels, I loved the Caribbean Beach Resort because it only had two stories and each village surrounds the bay. The pathways are wide and not cramped for walking. There are many villages named after Caribbean islands with their own bus stop. You can catch the theme park buses as well as an internal bus system to get you from village to village. This was helpful because we were in Trinidad South and the grandparents were in Aruba. I could have walked along Barefoot Bay but it was so hot and muggy that I wanted the bus with air conditioning. We opted for the Pirates of the Caribbean Themed rooms (Trinidad South only) and I loved it! The beds are not as comfortable as the normal Finding Nemo themed rooms. Why? The Pirate Ship beds are so high that the mattresses they have are about 5 inches thick and no box spring for support. The village pools were quiet and not many kids, that is because of the cool main pool at Port Royale. This is a fun pool! It is a themed old Spanish fortress, complete with towers, antique cannons (that spout water) and a water slide. So if you are looking for a more relaxing resort that has hammocks, child playgrounds and for those who walk, the stroll around Barefoot Bay is for you. Other amenities are beaches, an arcade, volleyball courts, bike rentals,  marina/watercraft rentals, and laundry facilities at each village pool.

 For those who have who want to experience a Deluxe Resort-Animal Kingdom Lodge, Board Walk Inn, Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Yacht Club and Beach Club, and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.

 These may not be the Disney Vacation Club Villas but they are sure spectacular! The Deluxe resorts are normally located just a hop skip and a jump to the Parks. I stayed at the Grand Floridian in 1997 and it was fantastic. I love the old feel of the 1900’s Victorian. The grand atrium is overwhelmingly immaculate and if you are lucky to see the cockatiels in the lobby they are beautiful. If you can, try to stay at a Deluxe resort once. The monorail and the water taxis make it very easy to get to the Magic Kingdom and the Transportation Center. The rooms are lavish and have a balcony or porch to extend your room space. Deluxe Resorts also have more combinations of rooms to accommodate your party. A choice of sit down dining options, baby and childcare services, pool of course, spa and health club, watercraft rentals, beaches and the possibility of having the best seat in the house to see the fireworks; from your room!!

For more information and updated refurbishments at WDW and new attractions please go to www.waltdisneyworld.com                                         

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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