|11-24-2013, 08:38 PM||#1|
Living the Dream
Join Date: Mar 2013
Reflections on my Disney Trip
I have mixed feelings about doing a Trip Report. On one hand, I think it sounds too much like an Annual Christmas Letter. On the other hand, maybe I can pass along some information in an entertaining way that will help somebody else prepare for their trip. Whichever camp you fall in, I hope you can find parts of it worth your time to read.
Thanks for reading my post.
Our party consisted of DH, DW (me), my sister, and sister’s granddaughters (6 and 8). My sister used a scooter to get around. Our trip was for one week at Caribbean Beach with one day scheduled for Clearwater to visit the actual beach. We visited WDW the last week of October.
Preparation is important. Not because you have OCD, but because Murphy lives at WDW and has meet and greets 24/7. No matter how much you prepare, you must have multiple back up plans. I used Touring Plans to help determine a touring park plan. I picked the rides and attractions, and scheduled accordingly. I used their estimates for wait times and walking times from Point A to Point B. I learned early on Day One that what I had planned would have to be downsized due to the crowds at the parks and the restrictions in maneuvering with a scooter.
While I had to scrap a lot of my plans, I was able to salvage a Top 3 or Top 5 from each park. The ability to remember where rides and attractions were located, or when events were scheduled helped me recover without having to stop and spend time pouring over a map. (Or argue with a spouse when I knew I was right.)
Whatever you plan to spend, you should add another 20% on top of that. Things happen...Luggage gets lost, kids get sick, you break a rental scooter, car or stroller. While we didn’t loose our luggage, it wasn’t all delivered until after 9 pm on our arrival day. One of the kids did get sick, and we did break a scooter on accident. (If you think food is expensive in the park, you should try paying for a doctor’s visit.)
One thing you can take advantage of is earning flyer or hotel points on a airline credit card offer. Notice I said “offer.” You need a great offer to make it worthwhile. We opened two credit cards with Southwest, and earned enough points for five round-trip flights from the midwest. We paid a total of $200 in annual fees for the cards, plus about $125 in security fees when we actually took the flight. I used www.flyertalk.com to learn and choose the best offer for us.
The other thing we did was to use a Disney Visa card to earn Disney reward dollars for the trip. We already had this card from a trip we took about five years ago, so the latest trip we took was a long time in the works; we knew we were earning points for this trip for quiet some time.
The Southwest cards and flights cost us $325, but the deal saved us about $1250 in flight costs. The Disney Visa deal earned us $700 to spend in Disney dollars. So, we netted about $1,625 towards trip savings with these two actions.
TIP: Before you do this, know your credit score and what this could do to hurt or help you.
We also purchased all of our planned Disney expenditures via Disney gift cards from Target. We transferred five prescriptions to their pharmacy to earn a 5% off one-day pass. We combined this pass with our Target red card to save another 5% off the purchase of all the gift cards we needed. We bought all of our gift cards on the same day to maximize our savings. When the bill came, we paid it off in full to avoid any fees. By doing this, we saved $377 in trip savings.
TIP: If you plan to do the Target deal, try to do the pharmacy offer twice so you can pay for your trip on separate occasions instead of hitting the pocketbook all at once. Also, check your Target credit limit months ahead so you can have it raised to accommodate what you plan to charge. I could have saved another $80 if we had raised our credit limit ahead of time.
I want to give a shout-out to the bus transportation system at Disney. All of the drivers were attentive to our needs and made sure we traveled safely. They were not bothered at all by the fact that they had to load a scooter. Some drivers knew how to maneuver the scooters better than others, and that is the only thing I would suggest for additional training.
I will take a moment to ask you to be more considerate of those in wheelchairs and scooters. I could not believe how many people just walk in front of what is basically a moving vehicle with no care to their safety. People would step in front of a moving scooter because there was open space ahead of it, but they didn’t realize that the open space was for the scooter to have stopping distance so nobody got hurt. I literally had to “pull” the front of the scooter thru crowds, while blocking off space with my arms or my body.
TIP: Since all scooters look the same, you should add something on the back of the seat to help it stand out from the crowd. We used a set of fairy wings which not only helped us find our scooter in a crowd but also created a lot of magical comments from those following us.
Bibbiddi Bobbidi Boutique vs. Pirates League
We scheduled two princess makeovers for MK before the official park opening. One of the princesses became sick so she missed the makeover. Princess #1 enjoyed her makeover. I bought a second kit for Princess #2 and dolled her up for the evening return to the park.
The fairy-godmothers in training make the hairdo look so easy, but it is not. I used about half a bottle of hair gel (brought from home for regular use) to try to get the princess look for Princess #2. But she loved the makeup, tiara and her dress and that’s what counts.
Later in the week we did the Pirates League, which was actually a better event. The ladies at BBB were a little more stiff in interacting with the girls, but the pirate crew was engaging and fun. They told stories, asked questions and really talked with the girls.
I think the PIrates League is underrated, almost like a secret at WDW. You should consider this if you can’t get a BBB appointment.
TIP: After your makeover, make sure you take off your pirate hat and eye patch when you do any rides. We lost them on Big Thunder, and reported it as lost. The problem with lost things is it requires you to set aside time to go claim it later. Instead, we went back to the PL to purchase another one. The CM gave it to use at no charge. (Thanks, WDW.)
I wasn’t impressed with free dining at all. We scheduled all of our TS ahead of time only to learn during out week that Hoop Dee Doo Revue was not a qualified event. Now, before you argue with me, let me explain. We booked this online 180 days, and we requested Category 1 (floor seating) dinning. At the time we booked, we reserved via a credit card. Months later when we got free dinning, we presumed that 2 TS from the DDP would cover it.
We went to the Revue on our first night so it was our first exposure to how DDP receipts work. We were never given a receipt, and when I inquired about it, they told me it would come off my TS allotment. A few days later, I had to call and ask about it because it had not “fixed” itself in the system. That’s when a CM told me that because I had floor seating, I was not able to use TS credit. Really. That’s what she said.
Now I know it doesn’t say that on the website, and there will be plenty of you saying, “That’s not what happened to me.” And that’s fine. I believe this was WDW’s mistake. We originally took the free dining plan and choose an upgraded resort based on calculations that it would cost us only another $250 above what we were intending to spend on lodging and food. And if we had been able to use all of our TSs successfully, then I wouldn’t be complaining about DDP.
I was left with two TSs for a party of five, and trying to schedule them the week we were there was not a good thing. We ended up wasting two TSs on QS pizza, and we were unable to use four child’s TS on our account because of all this mess.
Overall, I like the food at our TS venues. I just did not like having to schedule the meals and locations. It made it hard to maneuver a park, when you either had “time to kill” before a reservation or you were late to a reservation because of crowds.
TIP: Take the room discount if you don’t want to schedule all those meals. Or stick with a QS DDP. No reservations needed.
I wish WDW would create some sort of seating for firework shows. It’s very disappointing to be a short person behind people who are taller than you. Enough said.
It was way too crowded. We saw the parade, heard the Villains Mix and Mingle show from a distance and watched the fireworks. If you have to go to this, I would go in late September or early October -- maybe the crowds are better during this time.
We settled in on the curb for the parade 90 minutes ahead of time -- and we were lucky to get the spot. I have to mention this because once again there were several people who tried to plop down their kid between me and the guy next to me. We closed ranks and told them to go pound dirt. I heard her say, “But my daughter is only two.” I was polite enough to keep my mouth shut.
I enjoyed the parade, but it was kinda dark to appreciate the floats and characters. I gave up trying to take some photos to remember the event. I expected HalloWishes to be great, but it wasn’t (IMO). I found the whole party to be a waste of my money and time.
TIP: The best part of the evening was watching all of the guests walking down Main Street in their own costumes.
We used a FP+ for this event because we didn’t want to wait in a long line. Because we had a scooter in a party we all sat in the back. That was kinda disappointing. This was our fourth trip to WDW, but we had never done Fantasmic and I was looking forward to it. My favorite part was the water parade at the end.
Bring a poncho and/or light jacket. The water from the show splashes and mists throughout the crowd. The night wind may make some in your party cold (and cranky).
TIP: We went to the 7:30 show and ate dinner afterwards to avoid the mass bus exodus afterwards.
We have used paper FPs before on our trips, and except for all the double-back walking, it worked fine. I didn’t care for the FP+ program for a variety of reasons:
-- I had to plan where to be months in advance, and then hope that nobody in our party changed their mind about riding Said Ride. (Yeah, that happened a lot.)
-- I was able to change some passes via the My Disney Experience from my phone, but it was not always easy, and in some cases the old reservations never went away. This made it hard to determine what was the true FP and what was the FP we no longer wanted. We wasted FPs because of this confusion.
We used our room keys on occasion to get FPs because it was easier that trying to change the FP reservations on MDE.
TIPS: There have been some bloggers researching how many passes you can get a one time. It could be worthwhile to read up on some of these strategies, but keep in mind that it could change.
Well worth it. Really. You have to do this at RD or use a FP+. We went in the evening on a FP+ and the line was incredibly long. My favorite part outside was watching people walk up to get a FP only to learn that it was not a FP attraction. Tsk, tsk on all those people who didn’t do their research.
This event was really special to me because Princess #2 missed the Cinderella breakfast. I was so happy that she got to participate in the show, and since she was dressed as Belle, she was very awestruck the entire time. I feel especially close to Princess #2 and I had a moment during the event where I realized that my long-passed mother would have loved her great-granddaughter’s personality. It was a teary moment, but isn’t that what Disney is all about?
TIP: Sometimes its the little things you remember and not all that other stuff you spent months planning.
A Nod to the People Who Make the Magic
This time during my visit, I found myself thinking about my job that involves facilities maintenance and logistical support. I know it sounds boring but its very challenging and exciting for detail-oriented people. And during my visit, I wondered about the magic and the people who make it.
There were people on the front-lines who literally answered question after question, engaged you in conversation and helped keep kids in line with the sharing of a sticker. They were always smiling, seemingly happy with you and with each other. It was impressive to me that they kept a great attitude throughout the day whether it was hot or cold. They would stop walking on their way to their (obvious) break, and point you in the right direction. They were firm about safety rules and explained everything so that kids could understand. It was amazing that all these unruly kids who never pay attention to their parents would instead pay attention to strangers at an amusement park.
I began to wonder about how queue lines worked, how food got from point A to point B, how the buses seemed to stay on a schedule (most of the time) and how did they set that up, anyway? I marveled at the characters who seemed to have enormous energy to put up with the children. How exactly do they do that? Does Pooh wear a cooling outfit inside? If not, why not? And how often do the costumes get washed -- after all, grubby, sticky hands are squeezing them all the time?
And then there were the elves. I called them elves. They were landscaping, painting and carting laundry around the resorts. I was a little happy to see a few weeds at my resort -- proof that my own yard doesn’t need to be perfect. We saw landscaping at Epcot. They were replacing plants that had finished flowering with more flowering plants. We saw a maintenance crew painting a bus stop in the dark...which made me wonder how many people work at night while we are sleeping.
There’s a reason that WDW is a premium brand, with high costs for park entrance fees, lodging costs, food and product costs. We pay for all that magic happening behind the scenes. I would guess that we depend on at least 50 people per day for direct support while we are at WDW. Who knows how many people indirectly help us during our stay.
We pay for people to be nice to us all day long. We pay for somebody to stand in a furry suit on a hot day to greet us. We pay for people to be trained to operate the rides we go on. We pay for live entertainment. We pay for people to clean up after us, make our beds, feed us and transport us. We pay for people to stand around in a particular spot just in case you suddenly come across them and have a question.
We pay for everything to look...well, magical. And it does.
Other Things I Saw That I Wanted to Share:
-- Toy Story Mania has a posted high score of over 400,000. I would like to know the story behind that.
-- After a few days of wearing the Magic Band, you should experience the Phantom MB when you finally take it off. It was very strange to get used to something so quickly.
-- What did you do with your Magic Band after your trip?
-- While riding from the airport on the Disney Magical Express, kids excitedly point out when Mickey was on the TV screen. That’s just a little preview of the magic to follow on your trip, but if you’re not ready for a bunch of kids to all yell “Mickey” at the same time, it will make you smile.
-- Watch your princess when she sees the Castle for the first time on Main Street. Same thing goes for the Slipper in Fairytale Hall. These are the magic moments you don’t plan on.
-- By the end of the trip, Princess #2 was walking right up to the characters with her arms stretched out for a hug. That was sweet and unexpected.
-- If your kids have never flown, you might want to prep them for what they can drink and eat on the plane. When the attendant asked my six year old princess for her order, she requested a soft taco. It was quite funny.
-- Primeval Whirl is a fun, old-school ride. It reminds me of an old carney ride with the creaking of the chain as it pulls you along. Very fun.
-- We made paper invites for BBB for the princesses. They were left in the room while we were away. They were personal invites from Belle and Aurora, and the girls loved that they were going to be dressed up the next day. It took several readings of the invite to learn that the Princesses had left dresses in the closet for our princesses. When they were found, we had two girls running around with a dress in one and an invite in the other. If I had known how that was going to go down, I would have taped that.
-- Our second room received an invite to breakfast from Cinderella, which we took with us to the Castle when we checked in. Since our Princess #2 got sick and couldn’t make it, she wrote a note to Cinderella and gave it to her later at Fairytale Hall. Very cute how kids relate to the characters.
-- We arranged to leave invites at the Pirates League, so that when we went there under the guise of asking a question, they invited us to join the crew. The princesses were now jumping up and down to become pirates.
-- We left a invite in our room from Pooh and Friends for lunch one day. There was some disappointment with Princess #2 when we finally met Pooh and he didn’t sit down and join us for lunch, since that’s what the invitation said.
-- Why does Coke Zero in the parks taste awful, but taste fine in the hotel resorts?
-- The downside of a vacation at WDW is returning home. I found myself daydreaming during the day about what was happening at WDW at that moment.
|11-24-2013, 09:37 PM||#3|
Join Date: Apr 2012
Thanks for posting! I truly enjoyed it. Could you elaborate on your day at Clearwater beach? We are thinking of doing that on our summer trip, but aren't sure how/when to fit it in or where to stay.
|11-27-2013, 06:47 PM||#5|
Living the Dream
Join Date: Mar 2013
I will say don't forget to apply the sunscreen often. And BTW. Spray sunscreen just hits one surface. It doesn't curl around your arms or shoulders unless you spray it there.
As far a scheduling it: we originally had it planned for the middle of our stay to break up all the Disney action. But we had to change it to the end of the week because of a scheduling problem. We have done a previous trip doing the beach at the beginning of the trip, also, because we thought it wouldn't be as exciting for our travelers as Disney would be.
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