Friday Five: Our Top 5 Disney Souvenirs

Everyone’s top 5 Disney souvenirs might be different but here is a list of our favorite take home goodies:

  1. Everyone needs a set of Mickey Ears! I have my very first pair from when I was 6 years old and my latest pair (from Magical Vacations, LLC that I proudly earned) in my office today. You can get the original Mickey ears or show your special personality with a Star Wars R2D2 to Minnie Mouse or Winnie the Pooh ears!  There are so many designs to choose from that it can get overwhelming.  The cost starts at $13.95 (for a baby set of Mickey ears) and goes up from there – most are around $20.00 so not a bad price for a souvenir plus you can even have your hat monogrammed! They can be found at Magic Kingdom at The Chapeau on Main Street, Hollywood Studios at the Five and Dime, and in Epcot at Mouse Gear.
  2. My other annual souvenir is a Disney World Christmas ornament.  In fact the kid’s teachers get them often as Christmas gifts with a gift card and they LOVE them. One of my favorite places to get these is at Ye Old Christmas Shoppe (Magic Kingdom) and the Days of Christmas Shoppe in Disney Springs. These can be personalized as well if you’d like for a small cost but worth the memory every time we decorate the tree!
  3. All kids (and maybe some adults) need to have one autograph book/pen in their “memory box”. Character meals are our favorite times and places for these and are great mementos that are personalized by each Disney character that comes to your table. There is even a place for a photo to add once you are home. My daughter loves to look at hers every once and awhile. You could even save some money and create your own autograph book before you go with all the great scrapbooking materials out their now.  Be creative!sil
  4. One of my favorites is the silhouette drawing because my mother had them of my sisters and me and I grew up always seeing them, which brought back great memories each time I passed them on the wall.  Now, I have my two and mine on a wall in our master bedroom and they are so special to me. To capture the sweet innocence of a young child is just precious!   These great keepsakes take a short amount of time (less than 5 min for my two) and are only around $12 each.  You can get them on Main Street or Liberty Square in Magic Kingdom, France in Epcot, or Disney Springs.
  5. Pin trading is another one of my kid’s favorite keepsakes from Disney and it is so popular. You can buy a small starter set or just a few pins to begin with and put them on a lanyard, and then you trade with cast members and people around the parks.  Some are worth more money and are special editions. I have a friend that went on Ebay before their last trip and bought a huge bag for a fraction of the price to take and trade.

Ok – so I was arguing with my kids and we really have more than 5 so I’m just going to add one from each….Olivia says that the ride pictures are in her top 5 but I thought that was really just Memory Maker so not a souvenir but she made a good argument. The candid photos are one of our favorite things to pose for and we have a few in frames around the house!  Lastly, Jordan (my animal lover) says you can never have enough stuff animals and he does about every Disney character in some form. They can start at about $10.00 and go on up but everyone needs at least one Mickey and Minnie!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

These are just a few keepsakes that you can get from Disney World to help make those magical memories last for a lifetime. I hope you get to make some soon and if you’d like to get started planning your Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, please feel free to use the contact form below.

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Monday’s Magical Tips: Disney World with Picky Eaters

Picky eaters can drive a mom (or dad) crazy!!  Trust me, I know with 2 of my own.  However, you are in Disney World and they will try their best to make everyone happy,  🙂

I thought that I would name a few of my picky eaters favorites to help you on your next trip:

Magic Kingdom:Tonys-Town-Square-Restaurant-in-the-Magic-Kingdom-in-Walt-Disney-World

  • Tony’s Town Square (Italian – spaghetti or just butter noodles if wanted)
  • Casey’s Corner (hotdogs, etc)
  • Crystal Palace (character buffet)
  • Golden Oak Outpost (chicken nuggets, waffle fries, etc..)
  • Liberty Tree Tavern (American, burgers, etc…)
  • Be Our Guest (my son says they have the BEST mac-n-cheese EVER!)
  • Pinocchio Village Haus (one of our favorites!)
  • Gaston’s (HUGE cinnamon rolls-not a meal but really good)
  • Cosmic Ray’s (a little bit of everything)

Hollywood Studios:

  • ABC Commissary (cheeseburgers, salads, nuggets, etc…)
  • Sci-Fi Drive In (kids favorite with American usuals)
  • Hollywood Brown Derby (hubby’s favorite but kids love Filet Minion too!)
  • Backlot Express (a lot of everything)
  • Mama Melrose (Italian – huge portions to share)
  • Pizza Planet (you can’t go wrong with a cheese pizza!)

Epcot:

  • Electric Umbrella (burgers, salads, nuggets,…)
  • Garden Grill (inside The Land where Soarin is)
  • Sunshine Seasons (food court style)
  • Coral Reef (popcorn shrimp are always a kid’s favorite)
  • Each of the countries have something that a child could find to eat I think…

Animal Kingdom:

  • Rainforest Cafe (right outside of the park on the left)
  • Tusker House (character buffet)
  • Restaurantosaurus (burgers, salads, nuggets…)
  • Pizzafari (again it’s pizza!)

I hope this helps some who have a hard time with the wee little ones.  Also, note that every restaurant (counter or table service) have vegetarian and gluten free options now available.  What is your favorite “picky eater” eatery??  Let us know!

And if you are ready to get started planning your Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Disney Springs New Boathouse Restaurant


IMG_8759The old Downtown Disney is slowly turning into Disney Springs.  As a veteran of West Side and the Marketplace, I must admit that I was a little sad with all the changes. (I still long for the Adventure’s and Comedy clubs) However, I do like the new additions with the smart tech parking decks (see last post) to the great new dining options.

IMG_8762One new options is the new Boathouse Restaurant which offers upscale, waterfront dining.  The atmosphere is nicely nautical from regattas trophies, boat motors everywhere, and phenomenal artwork throughout.  Disney always has that attention to detail so make sure you walk around to soak it all in.  Hopefully you will be lucky enough to get to dine in one of the “boats” – how fun!!  If not, then no worries since every seat has a great view of the water.  I personally like the outside, dining area- if the weather will cooperate.IMG_8763 2

The menu made it hard to choose from all the great choices and a bit pricey however, the meals are good size so you are able to share many dishes.  My sister and I halved the Stuffed Crab BLT sandwich which was a special for the day and it was incredible.  It got two thumbs up from her as well who knows her crabs being from Annapolis!  I can’t wait to go back for the surf n turf!IMG_8761 2

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The best “show” is outside of the restaurant which is the new Amphicar which is a car AND a boat!  You can experience your own cruise experience with a guided captain for a 25 minute boat tour of Downtown Disney as it floats on the water.  The aqua-car has seating for four with the price tag of $125 and you can purchase the tickets in the gift shop.  We stood for a while and watched the Captain drive a family into the lake with a splash.  It was fun to cheer them on from the shore as they floated away from the dock.  I believe that this is the only place in the world to ride in these great vintage vehicles so don’t miss seeing it while around Disney Springs!

Lastly, do not forget the gift shop. I have to mention the ducks.  Yes, I said ducks.  They are in every “theme” you can think of and only $20.  My kids LOVED the ducks and they were fun to see all the many different ones to choose from.

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If you are ready to eat at the new Downtown Disney/Disney Springs restaurants or float away in the Amphicar then: Please contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, please feel free to use the contact form below.

The New Downtown Disney Parking Garage Finds Your Spot!

How crazy is it to get excited about a parking garage but I actually was when we were just there and I don’t think that I am alone. 🙂  The whole area of Downtown Disney is turning into Disney Springs and a lot is happening!

The Orange Garage for the West Side of DTD

The Orange Garage for the West Side of DTD

The first of two garages is open and I finally got to experience it first hand.  The smart technology is awesome!  As you enter you will find a sign to your right that tells you how many spaces are open on each floor!  The first floor was being used for valet (unless they change it in the future) and the main walkway down is on the second floor which is where we parked.

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Then as you reach each floor, the rows will tell you how many are open there as well.  Each parking space has a little green/red light above it to show if it is empty or full.  The only problem I found with this is that we came upon an open, green light and there was actually a motorcycle in the spot so I guess it did not “trigger” the light system (you can see hanging down in the picture).  However, it is a nice touch!

Inside the garage

Inside the garage

There are well marked stairs, escalators and elevators along with plenty of personal to help get you where you need to go.

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Marked well and easy to follow

Also, they recently had the opening of two new walkways that will give guests a direct connection to the West Side.  These new bridges are accessible on the second floor of the Orange garage.  You will come out from both of these at the intersection of Splitsville and Planet Hollywood and can take the bridge to your right towards the Marketplace or go left at the new huge Starbucks for  Splitsville and the many others on the Westside.  We went to the right because had dining reservations at the new Boathouse (it was wonderful) and came upon the Aquacar.  It was too cool and caused crowds but I will save that for another post.

Build another one for the Marketplace!

Building another one for the Marketplace!

Although the construction traffic is a inconvenience at the moment know that it will be worth it in the end and go experience these enhancements for yourself-you will love them.  There is so much new to explore so we hope your next visit is just around the corner and if not then we can help!

Just ask for your free quote today to get started planning your 2015 or 2016 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, please feel free to use the contact form below.

Memory Maker Magic

I can not say enough about the new Memory Maker package!  My husband and I are it’s greatest fans and we most definitely use it to it’s full potential!  We have over 300 pictures from one trip!  This photo service gets everyone in the picture at all the prime locations which is so nice to have all four of us in all our Disney photos.  Once the picture is taken, the photographer asks for one Magicband from the party (my kids would take turns using theirs) and he/she “zaps your band” and they magically appear in your Disney PhotoPass account.  My husband would see how long it would take for them to show in our account from his iPhone as we walked away from each attraction.  They were pretty fast to showing up and impressed us!  Then you download the pictures and videos to share and print them out at your convenience.

There are Disney PhotoPass Photographers everywhere through out the parks to capture all the memories of your family smiling together in front of Beast’s Castle, hugging Mickey and Minnie Mouse and much more.

Hey, who's on your arm?!!

Hey, who’s on your arm?!!

The attraction shots and videos are awesome and I admit that we do pose for them – granted not as lavishly as some that I have seen on the internet but still we do have our fun moments. Our favorites have to be the photos of us whizzing by on Expedition Everest, plummeting down Splash Mountain and my hubby’s new favorite is the slow-motion video as we zoom around a corner on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Magic Shots are a new Disney Magic touch that Disney does so well.  You can have Chip or Tinker Bell in the palm of your hand as well as Olaf and his snow cloud right beside you.  Dining Photos are now available as well at select restaurants and dining experiences which is nice to have added!

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Your downloads will even include some great pictures of characters around the parks and of certain attractions.  So, if you are planning a trip any time soon I would love to help you order yours before you go or help plan your trip.  The price for the  Memory Maker in advance will save you $30 at the price of $169.00 but once you are at the parks it is $199.99.

Then get ready to have fun and SMILE!

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation and make great memories with your Memory Maker? Please contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, please ask me how!

5 Things to Look Forward to in Disney World in 2015!

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Happy New Year! I hope the year brings you much success, happiness, health, and a Disney World vacation. The first of the year brings all sorts of new people looking to plan their 2015 vacations. Now is the time to book your trip for summer, so start your research now.

As every year, Disney will bring some new fun and excitement for 2015. Here are 5 things I’m looking forward to in the new year:

1. The facelift of Hollywood Studios with the removal of the Sorcerer Hat. Every single one of my pictures in my adult life has the hat in the background. I’m very excited to see how big of a change it will make for that park.

2. Visiting the redesigned pool at Wilderness Lodge. Just over 100 days and counting until our next Disney World vacation and it’s to Wilderness Lodge! The new pool and kids play area will be complete by the time we get there in April, so I’m so excited to see the changes!

3. The completion of the Polynesian Village project. While completion date is “spring”, the estimated launch of the new DVC space is scheduled to open April 1. I would guess that the pool would be complete around that time too. I’m definitely making a stop off at the end of April to check out the progress.

4. Continued changes of Downtown Disney/Disney Springs transformation. While the project won’t be complete until 2016, I’m very excited to see what new restaurants and shops will be available and announced over the next 12 months! It’s made great strides in the last 6-8 months. Going from mostly walls and closed shops to 2 new Starbucks, more open space, and a a new parking garage in 2014! It’s a location that’s on the way up!

5. Additions to The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival! It’s one of my favorite events special events. This annual Epcot event has grown over the past several years. It used to be just a display and collection of flowers and topiaries and now it’s more like a mini Food & Wine festival. We enjoy taking time and sampling everything the event has to offer. Take time to enjoy everything that special time of year has to offer!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Disney World Historical Discounts + Planning a 2015 Disney World Vacation

 

For all of you advanced planners, coupon clippers, and deal watchers, this post is for you! It’s historical Disney World discounts. This post will also tell you how much you can plan to save and coming in a future post, an overview of traveling to Disney each month and what you can expect to pay each month as a family of 4. This will be the ultimate guide planning your Disney World vacation.

To start, let’s talk about “rack rates”.

Rack rates are the non-discounted rates you can book at any time. The last two years, rack rates have been released for the next calendar year the 2nd week in July. In 2013, rates were released in June. I would expect rates to be released again in July of 2014 for 2015 vacations. Disney allows reservations up to 365 days in advance after rates are released. Check out the crowd calendar to see when crowd levels and prices are lowest.

Predicting a discount

Rates are released, now playing with numbers, how do you choose your travel dates? Below are the general public and Disney Visa cardholder discounts that were available in both 2013 and 2014 and the date they became available in each year respectively.

Travel Dates Discount Available Date available
January – Beginning of Spring Break Season 2013 15-35% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 10/3/12

10/10/12

January – Beginning of Spring Break Season 2014 Stay, Play Dine – discounted package-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 10/3/13

10/7/13

January – week before Easter 2014 5%-35% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 10/3/13

10/7/13

Mid February – early June 2013 (excludes week of Easter) 15-30% off room rates + discounted tickets-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 12/27/13

1/3/13

Late February – mid June 2014 (excludes week of Easter) 5%-30% off room rates + free day of park tickets-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 1/2/14

1/6/14

Late April – mid June 2014 10-25% off room + Free Memory Maker-General public 2/6/14
Mid June – mid August  2013 5-30% off room rates + discounted tickets-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 3/28/13

4/2/13

Mid June – late August 2014 10-35% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 3/13/14

3/17/14

Mid August – September 2014 10-25% off room + Free Memory Maker-General public 2/6/14
Mid August – September 2013 5-30% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/6/13

5/9/13

Mid August – early October 2014 20-30% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/2/14

5/7/14

September 2013 Free Dining-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/6/13

5/9/13

October – December 2013 Free Dining (ended 12/22)-General public 8/1/13
October – December 2013 15-30% off room rates (ended 12/23)-General public 8/1/13
October – December 2014 Free Dining (blacked out 10/4-10/25; 11/2-11/8; 11/21-12/11)-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/2/14

5/7/14

 

So now you know what discount is available, you can make your decision on what saves you the most. A few important notes:

  • If more than one discount is available, make sure you choose the best one for your family. A great example is free dining and room discount. If you are traveling with less than 2 adults, planning on staying at deluxe resort, and/or have a short stay, the room discount may be greater than dining savings.
  • With ticket discounts or a free day of park tickets, just do a quick check to see how much one more day would cost, sometimes it’s under $10!
  • For free dining discounts, as long as your arrival day is within the travel window, your entire vacation will be covered. If you are booking a room rate discount, your entire vacation will need to be within available travel dates.
  • Be willing to do a split stay if your travel dates are set in stone. This way you can take advantage of some great discounts. Just make sure you book the same room type if you are planning on staying at the same resort.
  • Don’t count on a certain discount even if historical information points towards it. Free dining in 2014 is the perfect example – previous years had very few blacked out dates and 2014 blacked out almost the entire month of October.

When should I book my vacation?

If high demand dining experiences like Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Table, pre-park opening character meals, evening meals at California Grill, etc. are on your list, I highly recommend booking before your 180 days window opens (this means 180 days prior to your arrival). For those looking to budget for your vacation, book early and start paying things off on a monthly or quarterly basis.

If you are looking for high demand reservations like free dining, it may be in your best interest to book a low cost room only reservation to get your dining choices and then book your free dining reservation online as the deal comes out. 2014 Free dining brought phone wait times of 5-6 hours and phone is the ONLY way to update an existing reservation or to book a Disney Visa cardholder discount. While Disney’s web site is very slow on the first day of a free dining discount, you can at least hold your reservation t no cost if the payment system is causing issues (as it tends to when website volume is extremely high)  Get a sure thing! The best part about room only reservations is that you are required to pay 1 night’s room plus tax (at a value resort this can be about $100). It’s kind of cheating the system, but your room does go back into the pool after you cancel. If you wait at least 2 weeks after a major discount has been released, wait times can be less than 5 minutes to nothing. Your dining reservations are not tied to your reservation number, so you can cancel without losing your other reservations!

Room rate discounts are not as competitive as major discounts like free dining. Wait times are typically less than an hour and most important for locations like Port Orleans Riverside which have rooms that sleep up to 5 guests.

Regardless of your discount and your resort choice, be prepared to be flexible. This may mean upgrading your room view/category to receive the available discount or changing resorts completely (often in the case of free dining). It’s best to have a backup plan and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices and if working with a travel professional, be available via email or text message as things are changed.

Saving time AND money

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!