Sunday, August 2, 2009

Disney Series (totally copying from Happily Ever Afters of the Lancasters)

I think that I have mentioned before this blog that I read called Happily Ever Afters of the Lancasters. If not, I meant to. The title is why I first checked it out (because I LOVE "Happily Ever After" - that is definitely my goal in life!) She also has the cutest baby girl, Evy. And she loves Disney too. I would so want to be her friend in real life. She had this idea to ask people who love Disney some questions that might be helpful to other people... here are her words describing what she wanted to accomplish...

"Here's what will happen: for every installment, I will interview a fellow Disney fanatic (like myself). I've composed a list of questions that cover a lot of bases when it comes to Disney World, planning your vacation, making the most of it, etc. I hope this will be a great tool for some people out there to learn more about the World, plan their vacation, or will just be fun to read for others!"

So I don't really know Ashley well enough for her to ask me and I'm not a Disney expert or anything, but I really do LOVE it so I am copying her post and answering the questions myself. Here's my disclaimer... I have no idea about the rules of blogdom, but I was kind of concerned about plagiarism or whatever other rules that I might be breaking so I will make sure to leave Ashley a comment that I am doing this and if she doesn't approve, then I'll take it down. Not that it will just get tons of exposure. You know, will all of my 5 followers (who I am so thankful for!!)

How long have you been going to Disney World?
I first went in August of 1985 (right before 1st grade).
January of 1992 (Christmas Break 7th grade)

October 2006 (Emma was 21 months, I was 31 weeks pregnant with Aiden)

*Disneyland September 2007 (Emma 2 1/2 and Aiden was 9 months)

September 2008 (Emma 3 1/2, Aiden 1 1/2)

What is your favorite ride? Why?
I should defer to Matt on this. I have either been pregnant or watching babies most of the last times we have gone. I did get to ride Rockin Roller Coaster last time and it was really neat. I really do think that the Mad Tea Party (aka Teacups) are my favorite. They just say "Disney" to me. Everyone knows about that ride! At Disneyland definitely the Monster's Inc. ride at Disney's California Adventure.
As someone who has been to the World many times, what tips do you have to make park experience easier?

When we went to Disneyland it was much easier for us to get up early and take advantage of the Magic Hours. But when we go to Disney World, something about that 1 hour time difference kills us and with 2 little kiddos, we haven't really even been able to take advantage of the late extra hours either. I would say that some things that have made our lives easier are:

1. Disney's Magical Express - free transportation to and from the airport and they take care of all your bags! That was great!

2. Staying on Disney Property to take advantage of the busses and monorail.

3. We have always used the Disney Dining Plan and it has really been helpful. We always book at least one of our meals each day and that helps keep us on schedule.
4. With our kids the ages that they are we love to go in September. They have "Magical Beginnings" which really targets their age group and it helps that a lot of the "big" kids are back in school.

What is your favorite time of year to be at DW?

September! Like I said before, we love the how they cater to our kid's age group at that time. Also, they often have the Dining Plan free in September. The weather is nice and I love how they have everything decorated for fall.
Are there any websites, etc. that people should utilize in planning?

I mostly just use the Disney website. They have a lot of very helpful information.

The great debate: staying on Disney property or off?
I would most definitely stay ON Disney property. First of all the transportation would be a valid reason in itself, but mostly I just love how Disney goes all out on everything they do. Every detail about the Animal Kindgom Lodge was amazing. They all have been!

What is your favorite place to stay? We really enjoyed staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge last time. Aiden was really into animals at that time and we thought it would be neat to have the "Savannah View" and it was. Emma also loves giraffes and they were just right outside our balcony.
Do you use a "touring plan" in the parks or do you just go with the flow and wing it? We don't use an actual touring plan, but we have learned that you really need to have some kind of plan in mind in order to get everything done that you want to. When we went with all of Matt's family (Emma 21 mos and me pregnant) we didn't really have a plan more than knowing which parks we wanted to go to on which days (based on our sit down meals that were booked) and we spent about 2 hours on Tom Sawyer's island. That was NOT good planning. But it is something that we really look back and can laugh about now! Last time, I just researched show times, ride height requirements, etc. and we planned accordingly. There are still some entire parts of the Magic Kingdom that we skipped just because they weren't top priority.
Your tips for clothing and gear to wear in the parks:

We just always wear normal comfy clothes. My sister-in-law and I wore our Nike flip flops most of the time and had no trouble. Emma always takes every piece of Disney apparel that she has accumulated and that is ALL she will wear. (Usually princess costumes - and the cast members ALL called her princess everywhere they went. It made her feel so special!) I always also try to take as many extra outfits as we can fit in our luggage. Of course I want to have extras for the normal toddler mishaps, but also because sometimes it really does got hot ands sweaty and it is just nice to change before dinner.

Name your favorite restaurants in:

Magic Kingdom: Cinderella's Royal Table!! Hands down my favorite at any park. They made Emma feel so special, all of the princesses were so sweet and went out of their way to make all of the kids feel so special! They didn't leave the boys out either. Emma got a magic wand and Aiden got a sword. The food was pretty good too! The view of Fantasy Land was also nice.

Disney Hollywood Studios: Disney's Prime Time Cafe. This is my other ALL TIME favorite. It is set up like a 50's kitchen/dining rooms and all of the waitresses treat your mother would. They make you eat all of your veggies before you can have dessert, you have to ask to go to the restroom. But it is all in a very playful way.

Epcot: Le Cellar in Canada. My Mother-in-Law always wanted to take us there because she loves their cheese soup, which is great. But they serve these breadsticks as an appetizer and the pretzel ones are to die for!

Animal Kingdom: I really like Flame Tree Barbeque. It is just a counter service, but it is always yummy!

At the resorts, we love Chef Mickey's. It is in the Contemporary (the one the monorail goes through). We really like character dinners and this is one of the best in our books. It has all the "main" characters - Mickey, Minnie, Doofy, Donald, Daisy, Chip and Dale, and Pluto. It is a buffet and has the cutest Disney themed food (i.e. Mickey shaped Macaroni and Cheese). And at the Character dinners, all of the characters / princesses are so good about going to each table. Which is especially great now that Emma isn't terrified of them. I think next year will be even better for Aiden. He was giving Mickey 5's by the end of the last trip.

Do you have any tips for stretching your dollar on meals?
We always do the Dining Plan. I know that I had a manager when I worked at a CPA firm who calculated that it was actually cheaper for his family not to use the Dining Plan, but he is pretty skinny and we pretty much like to EAT and have fun. We also LOVE the character dinners which tend to be even more pricey, but are better on the Dining Plan. I realize I am being kind of vague here. Matt's mom usually books this all for us, so I am kind of sketchy on the details.

How many days do you recommend staying for a good Disney vacation?

We have stayed 4 and 5 nights. I would say that 5 night is definitely better, but that is about as long as we can stand to be away from Brinkely (4 legged kiddo).

Your best tips for going to Disney with kids: I guess I just focus on my kids age group, but I would say take advantage of the time in September (Magical Beginnings) when they cater to preschoolers. Make sure to schedule in down time. Take up your mother-in-law's offer to watch the kids while they are napping in their strollers and ride some rides with your hubby. My kids will not take a nap if we go back to the room, but we do try to at least go back and go swimming and just hang out in the room for a little while in the afternoons. They always have a lot of different Disney channels to watch (at bedtime, they even had princesses reading bedtime stories!)
Your best tips for going to Disney without kids: I haven't been without kids since I was a kid so I don't really know about this one. But I know that Matt and I are planning a Disney cruise and a stay at the Grand Floridian for our 25th (only 14 more years!!)

Character meals/breakfasts: worth it? For us, DEFINITELY! Especially since they aren't scared of the characters anymore. They first time we went with Emma, our first meal there was a Character dinner and Emma was TERRIFIED. It was so sad. Aiden did the same thing the first time he went. But every time has been progressively better. Last time Emma got her picture with Mike and Sully and if standing next to a 7 monster didn't scare her, nothing will! Aiden did much better with the Princesses last time (since they don't have masks and are more "real") so we are hoping that he will be dancing in the aisles with Mickey next time we go.

Fly or drive (if both were an option)? We have only flown, so I'm not really sure. I would say fly and for sure take advantage of Disney's Magical Express.

Do you use or have you used the Disney Dining Plan? Your thoughts? I have mentioned the Dining Plan several times throughout the post and I would recommend it. We have done the regular dining plan and the deluxe and I'm sure that the regular would be fine. I would say it would depend on how many character dinners you want to do and if they take up more than just one meal.

Do you try to split time between time in the parks and time at the hotel/swimming pool/Downtown Disney? Yes. We have skipped Downtown Disney the last few times we went to Disney World just because there were so many other things that we wanted to do, but it does help to go back to the hotel and swim to just get in some down time.
Tips or favorites in Downtown Disney: Downtown Disney is one thing that I like better at Disneyland. You have to walk through it from the resorts to get to the parks. It is a lot more incorporated with the parks.

Best place to see/meet characters? I think that the character meals are very good for this because they are so good about making sure they come to every table. But another neat thing that we were able to do is have a VIP Meet and Greet just because I have a Disney Rewards Visa. I get tons of special offers through that card that have been very helpful.

Best age to take a child for the first (in your opinion, if applicable)? I would say they are never too young to take. Plus they are FREE up to age 3 so that was a plus too! I also learned when we went when Aiden was 9 months and still nursing, they have many nursing stations throughout the parks that are very accommodating. And I wouldn't pass up the joy and awe in Emma's eyes when she got to see the Princesses close up for first time.
For those of you who have worked at Disney, what was it like? Did it "spoil" the magic for you or not? Are there any insider tips?

I didn't work there...

Do you think souvenirs are a waste of money?
Absolutely not! The first thing that we got was the doll house sized Cinderella's Castle. Emma picked it out with the money that she had been given by her grandparents when we took her the first time. We had it shipped home. It was so exciting! One thing I try to get every time is a photo album with the year on it. I like to have those to look back through. That is another thing that our Disney Rewards Visa has been helpful on. It has 1% Disney Reward Dollars. So I usually try to save those up to use on souvenirs.
Do you use the Photopass service, do you solely take your own pictures, or both? We usually take our own, but as another perk of the Disney Rewards Visa, you got several free prints from Photopass, so we got several this last time. They are neat because you can edit them when you get home and add all kinds of neat borders or the year, etc. But it seemed kind of expensive.

Any tips for money-saving in general? They always seem to run specials so always try to make sure you are getting a deal. Get on their mailing list somehow. I think that I got on it through the Visa, but my mother-in-law also gets mailings of all their current deals. And although we did enjoy Animal Kingdom Lodge, I think that next time we will probably stay in a Value Resort, just because it would have quite a bit and really we only sleep and swim there.
Do you use the Fastpass system? How do you best utilize it?

We really haven't used it too much. I can see us using it more in the future when we all ride more rides.

Is there a ride that should be especially avoided with children, people with motion sickness, etc.? Not that we have experiences. I have heard that Mission Space bothered some people, but we haven't really experienced it.

Is there are ride that's overrated (in your opinion)? Not in our opinion. Of course, I am coming at it from the preschooler's perspective and they LOVED Dumbo and Winnie the Pooh.
Best parade watching spots in each park? I don't have a good answer for this. We usually just stop wherever we are when we hear the music and usually people are nice enough to make sure the kids can see.

Do you own Mouse Ears? Of course! But for some reason we haven't gotten the kids the monogrammed ones. Next time... that is on the list for sure!

One of your favorite memories from Disney World: Last time we went, we made Emma an appointment to do the Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique. From start to finish they treated her like the little princess that she is and I love that! They made each of those little girls in there feel so special. Each and every cast member must go through such intensive customer service training. They all made all of us feel so special. But I really loved how they ALL called Emma "Princess" all the time.

What is your favorite Disney movie? I really can't pick one, but Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid top the list.

How often do you go to Disney World? We have been to either Disney World or Disneyland every year for the last 3 years and I was hoping that we wouldn't break that streak. But it might be next January or even next spring before we make it back. :(

Anything else that you have to say about the Happiest Place on Earth: Just that it really is that... The Happiest on Earth. Matt makes fun of me because I always tear up when I see Castle. Or when I hear Walt saying "To all who enter this happy place... ". OR sometimes when I see the Princesses or Mickey. Ok, maybe I need some hormone shots or something, but I just get so emotional. I just love it!!

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading your answers! That's what I love about Disney don't have to be an expert to have an amazing time :) Thank you for the sweet comments about my blog...I definitely think we would be friends in real life! :)