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Old 03-06-2010, 12:46 PM   #1
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emmysmommy's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Near Disneyland
Posts: 4,962

4 Yrs Without a Fix and Now We're Back-Let the Planning Begin! Updated 5/22

It is so much easier to just put the links up here rather than scrolling for days to get to the bottom!!!

Other Updates and Blathering Links:

More About Us!
A Proper Introduction

Big Changes to Plans!
40% beats FD!

Help me! I can’t stop thinking, planning, researching, and dreaming about our upcoming WDW vacation. I have created spreadsheets and pivot tables. I have compiled lists of “don’t’ miss this” and “make time for that.” If there were a support group for the Disney obsessed I would be court-order to attend. Can I get an amen out there?

About Us:
DH (40 something), me (a very young 40 something!) and DD (14) have not been to WDW since 2006. Don’t hate me for saying this but my first vacation choice this summer was to cruise the Caribbean, not hang out with a mouse. Don’t get me wrong, I like Disney enough that we have had annual passes to Disneyland for 8 years. However, my preference to cruise (as we have done every summer for the past 5 years) was out-voted by DD and DH. Having an ulterior motive to please my family (maybe I could sneak in a cruise while we are in Florida like we did in 2006); I started to make travel plans.

DIScovering DIS Boards:
Here’s where things took an unexpected turn. While planning our WDW trip I found that I could immerse myself in this wonderful place called the DIS Boards. It was here that I learned (am still learning) the unique dialect of Disney-speak. Terms such as ADR, DME, DVC, PINs, CRT, and my favorite DxDP.

The wealth of information on these boards is astounding! My sleep patterns changed because of the DIS Boards. I went from 8 hours sleep a nite to less than 6 because you know once you get started reading a review you can’t stop!! There seriously needs to be a Surgeon General’s warning that the DIS Boards may be addictive. Something to the effect of: “Consult your physician if you have abnormal sleep patterns or obsessive thoughts of Mickey and Minnie or monorails. Should you break out singing Chim Chim Cher-ee or instinctively know every nation represented in the World Showcase and all their restaurants AND have photos of their popular dishes PLEASE (I guarantee your family is begging you) seek immediate help from your mental health provider.” Don’t underestimate the seriousness of this disorder! (I had to cancel my doctor appointment because I was too busy watching the Disney Vacation Planning DVD!)

Seriously? 27 Hotels to choose from?:
In January, I started to peruse the WDW website and priced different vacation packages. I ordered the aforementioned Disney planning DVD (whadda ya know, it didn’t arrive in my mailbox until after I booked my vacation.) After much debate and pricing different options, I decided to book the Bay Lake Towers (BLT) for 6 nights in a 1 bedroom villa with 9 day park hoppers followed by 4 nights at a 1 bedroom Beach Club Villa with a one day base park ticket. I originally booked a Bay Lake view for BLT but I changed it to a Magic Kingdom view because I didn't want to pay so much money for this trip and then have a cruddy view. So for a few hundred dollars more.... we can view the Wishes fireworks show from our room. Although, now that I have read some more reviews, many of the Lake View rooms also have an almost identical vantage point of the Magic Kingdom.

BTW: Our first 3 nights in Orlando will be at a Universal Studios hotel. Since Harry Potter will be open by summer I was informed by DD that we HAD to spend some time at that park as well! As you wish!

Airfare (Getting There), Ground Transportation (Getting Around), and Park Tickets (Getting In):
In between pricing vacation packages for WDW, I was following airline pricing. At one point, airfare 1 way to Orlando was $104. However, I wasn’t definite on our travel dates so I kept watching and following the pricing on a daily basis. Finally near the end of January I put a 24 hour courtesy hold on a few bookings since we had locked in our time off of work. In the end I went ahead and booked 3 round trip tickets on American Airlines departing Saturday 8/21 from Orange County to Orlando International airport and returning Friday 9/3. Airfare for 3 passengers was $902.40. Not the best airfare to Florida that I have paid but not the worst either.

Rental Car versus Disney's Magical Express + Taxi's:
I like the convenience of having a rental car and not being “stuck” on-property. In 2006, when we went to WDW we had a Jeep Grand Cherokee and it was perfect. We also combined our land vacation with a cruise so it was necessary to transport us from the DIS area to Port Canaveral. However, the cheapskate in me doesn't want to shell out money if it can be avoided. I didn't have to debate the options long since all of the rental car companies wanted no less than $450 for a weekly rental. Decision made - no rental car. We'll let Disney provide our transportation.

We may need to take a taxi or two for some of our dinner reservations and transfers from one hotel to the other with our luggage but it isn't that expensive.

Park Hoppers with or without Water Parks:
Initially, I researched Park Hoppers with the Water Park option but I'm not sure if we will do both water parks while we are there. If we only went to 1 water park, it was cheaper to just pay cash for that ticket. I believe it was exactly $21 cheaper. Now the dilemma is will we actually go to a water park? I can add it to the budget and remain flexible.

It was a no-brainer to book our vacation package with the park hopper option since we are staying on-property. We want to take advantage of the EMH.

Dining Plan vs Deluxe Dining Plan vs Cash Pay:

Let me just say that dining reviews are dangerous! Every time I read one and see the food pix I add another restaurant to my list of “I want that too!” Right here, right now, I am going to declare that my 10 pound weight gain on vacation will because of people like Leshaface, Timon, MickeyNicki, Dizneeat, and KatMark! There are more of you out there and you know who you are! You guys should be ashamed of yourselves!!

Now back to my regularly scheduled post: Since most people on the DIS Boards believe that Disney will once again offer free dining during the later part of the summer/early fall, I decided to go ahead and book our reservation with the dining plan. Since I split our hotel reservation into two bookings I decided to book the first 6 nites on the Deluxe Dining Plan and the second booking of 4 nites at the Beach Club Villas I added the regular Dining Plan. Yes, it WILL be too much food but I am going for it anyway! (Stretchy pants are already on the packing list and I'm going to have to increase my running distance from 20 miles to 30 miles per week!!)

The only dilemma that I now see is that it is about $50 cheaper to just upgrade to the DxDP with my current ressies. Plus I don’t see any room for spontaneity here!

ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations):
Without the valuable information gleaned from the DIS Boards, I would not have known that at 180 days prior to your arrival you can book your dining reservations. After literally hours and hours of reading food reviews and on-line menus I arrived at the following list of dining reservations including when and where (I also had approximately how much we should budget for the meals in my spreadsheets.)

Date Resort/Park - Name
8/24: Epcot - Teppan Edo (lunch)
8/24: Epcot - Chefs de France (dinner)
8/25: Poly - O'hana (breakfast)
8/25: MK - Liberty Tree Tavern (lunch)
8/25: Contempo - The Wave (dinner)
8/26: Contempo - Chef's Mickey (breakfast)
8/26: DHS - any QS
8/26: DHS - Mama Melrose’s (dinner)
8/27: AK - Donald's Safari breakfast
8/27: AK - Yak & Yeti (lunch)
8/27: Contempo California Grill (dinner)
8/28: Poly - Kona Café (breakfast)
8/28: Epcot - Rose & Crown Pub (lunch)
8/28: GF - Grand Floridian Café (dinner)
8/29: AK Lodge - Boma (breakfast)
8/29: Wilderness Lodge - Whispering Canyon Café (lunch)
8/29: Epcot - Le Cellier (dinner)
8/30: GF - 1900 Park Fare (breakfast)
8/30: DHS - 50's Prime Time Café (lunch)
8/30: DHS - Sci-Fi Dine In (dinner)
8/31: Beach Club - Cape May (breakfast)
8/31: Epcot - Any CS (lunch)
8/31: SSR - Turf Club Bar & Grill (dinner)
9/1: Old Key West - Olivia's Café (breakfast)
9/1: DHS - Any CS (lunch)
9/1: Epcot - Coral Reef (dinner)
9/2: YC - Captain's Grill (breakfast)
9/2: Epcot - Biergarten (lunch)
9/2: Epcot - Tutto Italia (dinner)
9/3: Boardwalk - Kouzzina (breakfast)
9/3: Boardwalk - Boardwalk Bakery (lunch)

My impression was that at 180 days the competition for dining reservations is fierce. I learned that the phone lines open at 7am Eastern Time (4am my time). Ugh! But..... the on-line reservations site is available at 6am Eastern Time (3am my time!) Double ugh!! Well, if I really want to maximize my chances of scoring my preferred dining times then I'm gonna have to give up some sleep.

The night before my ADR window opened, I left my computer running with the dining reservation page loaded. I had my booking number entered in order to extend the reservation window out 10 days beyond the 180. I had printed my dining reservation guide, including alternate choices if my 1st choice was unavailable. I set my alarm for 2:57 am - I needed to be wide awake (and take a minute to pee! TMI!) by 3am.

It is Thursday February 25th, 2:57am.... my alarm goes off on my cell phone. My heart takes a little leap - Let the race begin!

The computer is in sleep mode (as I should have been) so I refresh the reservations page. It is now 2:58am and I am waiting for the "rope drop" (figuratively speaking.) I imagine legions of obsessed Disney planners poised over their computers competing with me for the dates and times that I want to book for MY vacation! My adrenaline is pumping and the clock strikes 2:59am.

I enter the site a minute early and voila! It has opened up the dates for 180 days from now. Quickly, I start on my list....Tuesday August 24th, 1:30pm Teppan Edo - 3 people - Errrr... it tells me that I have to type the words I see in the box for security reasons. The right sided brain type person that I am, I seriously don't see what some of these words are. I have to "try another" several times before I can discern the word. I enter it and then proceed to add the booking to my "shopping cart". One down and 26 to go!

The first few reservations seem to take longer than I anticipated but I figured everyone had to go through this process so I'm ok. Les Chefs de France - check. O'hana for breakfast - check. This is going well! Then I had an ah ha! moment. What am I doing? I'm going down my list sequentially, in the order of the meals to be booked. Any person with half of a brain would pick off the popular dining choices first and then go back and book the less competitive venues. Errrr...

Ok, change of strategy... California Grill - 8:00pm. Nope, not available. I chose 20 minutes earlier... No biggie. Le Cellier was available within 5 minutes of my preference. Score! What the heck??? The site tells me that I have to "check-out" at 10 reservations since my "cart" is full. Now I'm frustrated and ready to say very un-princess like words. Quick - enter all my information to get these checked out so I can get back to Le Cellier. Typo... backspace...try again....Errr... fingers don't fail me now!

Next obstacle, Cali Grill requires a credit card to hold the ressie. I knew that!! Double errr, why didn't I plan better? It is 3:14 am as I stumble through the dark house to find my purse. Where's my credit card?? There, stuffed in the side pocket....I enter my credit card number that shall be charged should I fail to arrive for my reservation without proper cancellation notice. yeah, yeah, yeah..... I agree to their terms.

I'm now confirmed for my first 10 reservations. Back to Le Cellier.... it actually saved the date/time I just had to add it to my "shopping cart"... Phew! I had to check out 3 times to get all of my ressies booked. It was 3:56am when I finished the process. Am I slow or what?

Now I am just in time to call (407) WDW-Dine to book my Mamma Melrose's Fantasmic dinner package. I call at 4am (7am Eastern Time) on the dot and speak with cast member Bernice. I give her the date and the number in our party. Silence.....followed by "oh!".... what now? It must not have been earth shattering since a few seconds later she said that I was confirmed for a dinner reservation at 3:40 and the Fantasmic show was at 8:30pm. Did she just say my "dinner" reservation was 3:40? That's a late lunch! That is the latest they had for that date. Ok, no problem. Now I'll have to cancel my 12:30 pm lunch reservation at 50's Prime Time Cafe. Bummer!

Bernice gives me the cancellation policy ($10 per person) if I don't play by their rules and cancel 48 hours prior to my reservation time. I'm ready to get back to sleep so I thank her and was about to hang up since she had already provided a reservation number. Hold it lady.... I need to give her a credit card to guarantee the reservation. Once again... I knew that! Dig out the credit card once more.

Now my ressies are complete - after re-booking 50's Prime Time Cafe to another day. This vacation planning is hard work... yawn!

More to follow.....

I wish I owned Disney stock because I'm a great investor in the product!

Note: Sorry guys that this was so long... I thought this was where you publish books not Pre-Trip reports!!!

Our adorable little family (at least the kid is cute!) minus our 3 grown boys!

Last edited by emmysmommy; 05-22-2010 at 12:15 PM.
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