Friday, June 21, 2013

Location, Location, Location…In or Out of the World?

There seems to be two different types of people in the world, those that wouldn’t dream of staying on Disney property and those that wouldn’t dream of staying any place else.  I’m not sure where I fall yet, but I do know where I’m staying this time.

I spent a lot of time looking into the options, probably days (we have already established that I'm a little obsessive). I started with the Disney website. I’m not going to lie, the cost of staying on property shocked me and I ruled it out almost immediately! So my plan was to land in Orlando, take a cab to an off-site hotel, and rely on their shuttles to the park. I don’t want to rent a car to rely on exclusively as it’s quite possible that my husband will run out of steam and want to either sleep in one day or leave a park early, so we needed some flexibility. 

Luckily I ran across a warning on one of the tip boards to check the shuttle schedule of the hotel you want to stay at. I started checking and was disappointed to see how limited these shuttle services are and that they are on routes that will likely make more stops than the shuttles inside the parks. Also, I was reading stories of overcrowded shuttles from these hotels forcing you to either wait for another or grab a cab. I would definitely save money up front by staying off property, but it really didn’t work for us logistically.

There are tons of house rentals in the Disney area and they were very tempting as many have their own pool, but again we would be tied to a car so I let my dreams of midnight skinny dipping drift away. Actually, once I pictured that in my mind I knew a house was a bad idea! 

The next best thing might be to rent Disney Vacation Club points. There is a great website called David’s Vacation Club Rentals  that looks like it makes the process pretty easy. I looked into the options available and thought it was too expensive to get the more spacious rentals and the rentals in my price range were tiny. Not to mention that with the DVC rentals you don’t get daily maid service. If we’re all going to spend every night in the same room I really need to have someone make the beds every day and take the garbage out!!!

Frustrated, I went back to the beginning and started over. I had seen some mixed reviews on the Disney Magic Express but on closer inspection the really bad reviews were older and it seemed a few kinks had been worked out in the system because more recent reviews were better.  It seems there are still a few issues here and there, especially if there is a delay in your flight, but overall it seems pretty reliable. Reviews of the Disney transportation system were acceptable, glitches will happen from time to time but the general schedule gives us a lot of flexibility so I bit the bullet and decided we will stay at Disney.

Now the really hard part….which resort? But that’s a question for my next post.

Note: All this happened before I contacted a Disney Travel Expert, she probably could have saved me a lot of time and energy!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I used a travel agent to book my Disney vacation and I think you should too!

I have done months of research on my Disney vacation (I’m not crazy, it was fun!).  The reservation system for Disney online looks very simple; I also own and know how to use a phone so there is no reason in the world why I couldn’t have booked my vacation myself.  

The reason I chose to use a travel agent is simple, I was able to help keep someone employed and it cost me nothing.  Why would you NOT use a travel agent since it’s free? 

I didn’t do an extensive search for travel agents. I contacted two companies I found through links on websites. I provided the dates of November 16 – 23 at Port Orleans Riverside, standard Royal Room, and that we would be celebrating my daughter’s birthday. The first response I got was from Dana at, the second response was from a person a company that shall not be named because I don’t want them to feel bad.  Dana got to be my travel agent not because she responded first, but because she responded with warmth and personal service. The other company sent me out a form response/quote that left me feeling cold. First impressions go a long way with me.

Dana has done a superb job. She answered my few questions, booked the vacation, changed the dates, then changed them back, adjusted the reservation for free dining (I’ll cover that in my next post), made my advanced dining reservations, and took the time to  call me to get my payment information so my credit card number wasn’t floating in cyber space. Oh yeah, she was on vacation at Disney World when she made my dining reservations and she remembered to make note of my daughter’s Birthday when she did it. Needless to say she’s just a nice person. She has earned every penny Disney will send her way!

And don’t think that just because you use a travel agent to book that you can’t use ‘My Disney Experience’ on the Disney website ( Once your plans are made and you have your reservation numbers you just enter them in and it’s all imported. I log in daily just to see how many days until my vacation starts.

If you’re on the fence about using a travel agent listen to the Nike ads and just do it. If you want to contact Dana at Mouseketrips you can reach her at If you decide to use another company I suggest you make sure they are an “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner”.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Great American Travel Guide - The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World

A book, a glorious book!

I am a book person. I listen to books in my car during my commute and I’m an Amazon Prime member just for the free shipping. I had seen mention of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World so I took myself to Amazon, decided the price was more than reasonable, and bought the book. I must say it’s the best book I’ve read this year.

I did not read it cover to cover like the authors suggest. Mainly because I don’t have small children and I knew I didn’t want to stay off property so I just skimmed over those parts.  The amount of research that goes into this book is mind-boggling. The few questions I still had after I read it I’m sure were due to me missing something and not that they didn’t cover it. It’s also written with a sense of humor which helps when you’re reading a guide book fool of details and information, keeps your brain from cramping.

After reading it the first time (I have read it twice, so far) I also ordered The Unofficial Guide: A Color Companion to Walt Disney World. This is basically the same information that is in the bigger book with a lot of details about hotels and child care left out. There are pictures of all the attractions with a description which is the main reason I got it. I knew my daughter (12) would never look through the main book to find the things she wants to do, but she did look at the Color Companion and picked out her must-do’s. I’m still carrying it with me, currently I’m looking for the rides that were recommended for night time riding so I can try to do them on the night we’re at the Christmas Party. One of these days I might just start reading normal books again, but not until I have these memorized!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Starting planning on the Internet

Where would we ever be without the internet?

Our parents managed to plan magnificent vacations for us when we were kids. However there were fewer choices then, if you were staying at Disney your options were few so most people stayed off property. If you checked in and you didn’t like your room you went to a different hotel. We’re staying on property and paying for it before we leave. If I want to change hotels I have to worry about the hassle of a refund being processed. Same goes for my ADR’s for Cinderella’s Royal Table and the Hoop-Dee-Doo Review; we’re paying 180 days in advance for dinner so I hope I planned everything to get us there in time. I know it sounds cliché but, things were easier back in our parents’ day.

The idea to go late fall came from a friend of mine who had taken her family to Disney the week before Christmas. She raved about how nice the decorations were and how low the crowd levels. She told me that on the day they checked out there were long lines of people trying to check in, she was happy to be driving away from the madness. In my head the low crowds could have been a fluke, I needed proof that it was like that every year so I did what every  modern mom would do - I hit the internet.

First stop:

If you haven’t checked out that site yet, it is a must do! Tons of information and links, well organized, written by real people who have been there and done that. I think I spent an entire Sunday afternoon at one point early in their contest links area trying to win a Disney Vacation (I haven’t, yet!).  If you want to avoid information overload and only want to check out one information site I would send you there.  

Second stop: All the other sites

If you do an internet search for ‘Disney Tips’ you will see tons of sites with some good, some not so good. I have looked at as many of them as is humanly possible and will mention the good ones in other posts. The important thing to remember is that the information is based on that individual’s preference. One person will consider the long walks at Port Orleans Riverside as relaxing, the other as a reason to never stay there again. I try to pay attention to the facts their opinion is based on and try to put my family in that situation before making up my mind. I’m hoping it works!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Why did I wait so long to plan a trip to Disney?

My daughter is going to be 13 this year, our trip to Disney is a birthday gift to her and it will be her first time at Disney. 

I was in 4th grade when I went to Disney and I don't remember much about it at all. In fact, I have no memories of being inside the park! It was February and the trip was my birthday present. It was me, my mother, my brother (Sal), and 2 of his friends (Butch and Rusty). Yes, my birthday trip and 2 of his friends! It was colder than we had packed for and I remember my mom going to buy us all sweatshirts to wear to the beach. I think we wore those sweatshirts every day we were there. I remember riding up to our room from the lobby alone and a man got on the elevator with me, he asked me if I wanted to go see something on the stairwell with him. Thank goodness I didn't!

My most vivid memory was being in the lobby with my brother and and his friend Butch, I was exploring and they were hitting on a couple of girls. My dad is Mexican and my mom is German, my brother is very dark like my dad, his friend Butch was black, and Rusty was naturally red haired and freckled faced. So here is Sal and Butch, talking up the girls when the elevator bell rings, the doors open, and out walks Rusty singing "If you want my body, and you think I'm sexy, come on sugar tell me so...". Everyone in the lobby turned to look, the girls laughed, and the guys were completely embarrassed as he walked right up to them and the girls. 

Other than that, I have absolutely no memories of that trip. In general I have a lousy long-term memory which is why I waited until my daughter was older, just in case she was the same way as her mom! 13 is a good age, she's not going to want to hang out with mom and dad for much longer so this may be our last chance to have her all to ourselves on a vacation. Needless to say, I am putting a lot of pressure on myself for this trip to be magical, yet still on budget. Unfortunately, I keep finding things we just HAVE to do and the price is going up but I will start to get into that in a later post.

Friday, June 7, 2013

In Fall of 2012 I decided that we would go to Disney in 2013. The chase to the mouse started.

I found many sites of experienced Disney travelers offering sage advice, but nowhere did I see a first timer telling of their joys and frustrations in planning their Disney trips so I decided to share my story. I would love to hear of your experiences as well, please contact me if you have something to share!