Me and The Teenagers: Our First Trip Together

kristenrice

NOT just an ambulance driver
Joined
Apr 25, 2006
I have been planning this trip for a while so I figure it is about time that I started my "journal"...known as a "pre-trip report" here on the DIS:flower3:...

Quick backstory...

In 2008, we bought into DVC with our home resort at AKV when our girls were 2 and 4 years old. Since then, they have been to WDW 8 times. Each trip was 5-7 days in length, sometimes just the 4 of us and sometimes we took my parents and a couple times, we brought my siblings and their kids too. In 2011, we took our first trip to HHI and we've been there two more times since then. We also added on a small HHI contract so that we could visit every three years for spring break. Other than our DVC vacations, we don't really travel, simply due to our work schedules. DH has been a police officer for 28 years (retiring next year!!) and I have been a full-time paramedic for 20 years. We don't take a lot of vacations, but we try and make the most of them when we do finally have down time.

After our most recent family trip to WDW which was in October 2016, DH decided that he is "Disney'd out". The parks have lost their appeal and he just does not enjoy all of the "go, go, go" any more. He REALLY enjoyed our trip to HHI in April 2017 so we are not looking to give up on DVC entirely. On the last trip, the girls developed a new appreciation of Epcot. Their tastes are maturing and they really appreciated the events that were offered at the Food and Wine festival. My younger daughter, who was only 11 at the time, even took part in a culinary demo and went to the Parisian luncheon...and wants to do it again!

The planning for this trip actually started just after I got home from that trip in 2016. I knew that my husband would not want to go so I intentionally started planning a trip without him. I have made a few "solo" trips in the fall when I went with my sister-in-law, my mother or a friend, so I knew he would be fine with being left behind. The girls have a break in October for a teachers' convention so they will only miss 2 and a half days of school. They are both excellent students (my younger one was identified as "gifted and talented"...took the PSAT as a 5th grader and scored in the 70th percentile!) so neither me nor their teachers are concerned about the missed time.

The dates were set...we would be going the third week of October...now the rest of the planning can commence...
 

kristenrice

NOT just an ambulance driver
Joined
Apr 25, 2006
Since I own at AKV, we have had several, wonderful stays at that resort. We prefer the 1BR since we like to pack light and do laundry daily. We do make breakfast in the room, but a microwave and toaster are sufficient so a full kitchen is nice, but not a necessity. The value 1BR is our favorite category simply because we are guaranteed to have a great room location and the size is perfect. If we have enough points to stay standard, we stay at Kidani so we can take advantage of the extra bathroom.

For this trip, I have 88 points to play with for this reservation (I have 55 banked and I have to leave 67 of my 100 current points to bank into next year for our big family trip)...and it just so happens that a 7-night stay in October will cost exactly 88 points in a standard studio at AKV:goodvibes. The only issue was at the 11-month window, I did not know what the airfare would look like. I do not want to take the girls out of school on Friday so the only way could leave on Friday is if there is a flight that departs after 5pm. On the other hand, we really don't want to arrive super late on Saturday, or have to pay an arm and a leg to fly out early on a Saturday morning. I ended up using a few extra points to secure an 8-night stay and once I get the travel arrangements nailed down, I will drop a night and free up those points again so that I can bank them for next year.


That's the easy part...but why do things the easy way?? We've stayed at AKV and 7 nights in the same place sounds like it might get old...so now we are thinking about a split stay. As you can see from my signature, we are no strangers to split stays. In order to keep it within our point budget, we have decided that perhaps we will go back and split between AKV and OKW. The nice advantage to that is that the studios at OKW have 2, real beds. When the 7-month window opens (March 19), I think I will try to switch our first three nights over to OKW.
 
  • kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    Yesterday, I booked our flights. I was stressed out because I had to work within the schedule and the budget. On top of that, I took a gamble earlier in the year and spent some of the airfare budget on SWA points. Since we already had about 10K points, I took advantage of their offer of a 40% bonus when you buy 5K or more. I bought enough points to bring my balance up to 39K points which would be enough to cover a one-way ticket for each of us, as long as the price was around $180. I wasn't sure which leg of the trip we would be flying on SWA but I knew we should be able to make at least one leg work. Well, when the flights were first released, I was mortified! There were only 2 flights to Orlando that would fit in our schedule (both landing at midnight!) and they were almost $300 each! Then I looked at the return flights on Friday...the cheapest flight was $265! Oh boy! I had to move to Saturday to come home and the ONLY flight under $200 was a 6:10am departure:crazy2:. Since I had to book something with the points, and that was the only one that I had enough points for, I grabbed it. Fortunately, I had already planned on the possibility of having to come home on Saturday and I already have both Friday night at AKV reserved AND a night at the airport Hyatt booked. With a 6am flight, there is no way we are taking DME at 3am. We would still check out on Friday and stay at the airport with a flight that early....

    ...Then I had to figure out my option to get to Orlando. Fortunately, I had already done my research and I knew that Delta had a flight that would work. I was surprised to see that it had actually dropped by $20 since the last time I checked it too...and it was 1/2 the price of SWA! The option on SWA departs at 6:40pm and lands at 11:55pm and cost $305!! The flight I chose on Delta departs at 5pm and lands at 10:35pm and only cost $167:goodvibes. The girls think it's funny that we are flying to Detroit (it's only a 2 hour drive!) and then we have a 2-hour layover:rotfl:. They said, "Mom, why don't we just drive to Detroit?" Well, I thought about it, and my dad actually offered to drive us there...but if we hit traffic, or any mishap, or anything, we risk missing the flight. I'd rather just deal with the 10 minute drive to the GR airport.

    So the flights were booked...for now...
    ...and then, for some reason, I decided to log in and look at the SWA flights again. WOW!! The prices were HALF the price that they were in the morning:scared1:. At first, I was so bummed because I would have preferred to fly SWA both ways instead of Delta. Then I realized that the fare difference was less than $20 (SWA a little cheaper) but the SWA flight lands at midnight and the Delta flight arrives at 10:30 which is a much better way to start the trip. When I checked the return prices, I was so excited:cheer2:. The flights on Friday had dropped into an affordable range and since I was using points, I was able to change without any issue or additional cost. I was able to switch us to a flight that departs at 6:40pm and lands back home at 11:55pm.

    That's that...the final flights have been set. We will be flying out of Grand Rapids at 5pm and landing in Orlando at 10:35pm. We will be using DME but I have not decided yet if we will be checking any bags. Since this leg will be on Delta and we would have to pay to check a bag, we may opt to do carry-on only. We've done it before without any issue so it should not be any problem this time either. The cost is not the deciding factor. It's the matter of having to retrieve our luggage at that hour. The kids have a full day of school that day, followed by almost 6 hours of travel and then on to the resort...it's a lot, even for me! Adding even another 30 minutes to go and get a single bag seems a little silly, especially if it is not needed.

    ...and that brings me to the next topic...the resort!
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    We are currently booked in a standard studio at AKV Jambo House. We have stayed at AKV many times and it is our DVC home. Boma and Sanaa are two of my daughters' favorite restaurants, which is amazing since my older daughter is a fairly finicky eater. Jiko became one of my "must-do's" on my last trip so AKV is a dining paradise for us:goodvibes.

    In order to change it up a little, we were initially thinking about trying out Copper Creek, Boulder Ridge or even Bay Lake Tower on this trip since it will just be the three of us. I knew that availability would be next to nothing so we were only planning on 3 nights at a different resort. I watched the availability tracker and slowly watched the studios disappear for our week from pretty much everywhere except SSR and OKW. We have stayed at OKW twice before and we liked it, but both times, we were in a 1BR (or the 1BR side of a 2BR) so a studio would be a new experience. Looking at the availability as of today, the first three nights of our trip are still available in a studio. For us, the advantage of OKW over SSR is that there are 2, real beds. We are already discussing who is going to be on the sofa bed at AKV (probably me!) so three nights with real beds is a plus in my book. Then it became a debate over who has to share...um...3 nights, 3 people...each person gets one night by themselves in a bed...simple math:teacher:.

    I looked at the calendar and realized that I am working on March 19, the day our 7-month window opens. Since I work as a paramedic, there is no telling if I will be available at 8am to get online and make this reservation. Fortunately, my Disney-loving dad is retired and has access to my DVC account. I walked him through the steps by making a reservation at AKV all the way up to the final confirmation so that he could see what I needed him to do, substituting OKW for AKV. He wrote down each step and I'm fairly confident that if the reservation is available, he will be able to get it for me.

    ...Up next: Let's talk about money:flower3:
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    "Disney is so expensive" Well, here's how I afford it...

    I just returned from a trip in October 2017 with a friend of mine. We had a great time and I managed to come home with less than $100 left on my Disney gift card and just under $100 in cash. That's all I had to start with when I began saving up for this trip. I had 12 months to come up with money for airfare, food and entertainment....about $3500 total.

    Here's how I am doing it...

    First, I send a set amount of each paycheck directly into an online bank account. I never see it...it never "comes home". I started this fund about 20 years ago with an amount that I determined to be enough to make a difference, but not so much that I would notice it "missing" from my check. It started at $25 and it is now up to $75. For this trip, the amount is a little different...sort of. Back in early 2017, there was a "sale" on tickets from UnderCoverTourist. I ended up buying (2) 5-day park hoppers and (2) 7-day park hoppers, as well as a DVC Gold AP with a 13-month expiration date. These tickets will be used for our trips in October 2018 and October 2019. Because I did not have the cash available at the time in the vacation account, I borrowed it from my kids' college savings accounts. Now, with each direct deposit, instead of the full $75 going to the vacation account, only $19 goes to the vacation account and the rest is divided between the college accounts. This will pay back the "loan" from the kids by the time we take the trip in 2019 and use the second set of tickets. So, basically, for this trip, the cash flow is only $19 every 2 weeks, but that is why there is no line item for "tickets" since I've had them in my safe for over a year already.

    Second, I donate plasma. Twice a week, I attempt to make a donation. I earn $20 for the first donation in the week and $50 for the second one. They often have bonus offers and incentives and in the month of February, I made $380. It's not a guarantee that I will always be eligible to donate, though. In order to be eligible, your hematocrit (red blood cell concentration) must be above 38%. Women in general run 35-45% as normal so in order to donate, you have to be in the middle of the normal range. I tend to run right on the bubble and get 38-40 each time I go in. I am still in shock that I qualified 11 times in a row! The other issue I have hanging over me right now is that I have scar tissue in one of my veins that sometimes causes the machine to shut down. When that happens, I cannot get my red cells back. If that happens twice within an 8-week period, I have to wait 8 weeks after the second occurrence before I can donate again. Well, it happened last month. If it happens before April 10, I will have to wait 8 weeks before I am eligible to try again. So for now, I am just trying to earn up as much as I can and hope that I do not get deferred before I earn enough funds for my trip. I've accumulated $1483 in cash earnings towards this trip so far.

    Now for the fun stuff....the FREE MONEY!! party:

    For years, I have participated in online rewards programs. Right now, my main source of gift cards is Swagbucks. I also have been using Fetch rewards, Shopkick and MyPoints, all of which I use to redeem for Target gift cards. I also save up the "free with purchase" gift cards that I receive from Target. I have a Best Buy Visa card and I use my Best Buy rewards to purchase Disney gift cards too. It's amazing, but in 5 months, I have amassed over $1200 in FREE Disney gift cards. I should be able to get about $300 more before we leave which means that I will be able to pay for my Tables in Wonderland card ($150), all of our food ($1200), and our grocery order from Amazon ($100)...all with FREE money.

    I was able to get our airfare for about $150 under my budget. I had originally budgeted $1200 total (baggage, seats, EBCI) for the three of us because I wanted to make sure that we did not have to take a 6am flight home simply because it was the cheapest. Back in January, SWA had a sale on points so I spent $440 to buy enough points to top off my account to 35K points. Then, I paid another $40 to transfer 2K points from each of my daughters' accounts because they were going to expire. That gave me 39K which should have been enough to get (3) tickets at about $180 each. I knew that we could be flexible with our return date since we could depart Friday afternoon or really any time on Saturday. I was able to get the return flight on SWA with our points. Arriving was a different story, though. I didn't want to take the girls out of school on Friday so we needed a flight that left at 5pm or later since they dismiss at 3pm. Knowing that Delta and American both had flights that fit that schedule, I did not want to commit to buying points on SWA without knowing their schedule. I figured that Delta would be too expensive since that flight was running about $220/person, but about three days before SWA released their schedule, it dropped to $180, which was within my budget. Then, when I finally saw the schedule for SWA, I went back to the Delta flights and I was surprised to see it had dropped to $167. So I was able to get our flights from Grand Rapids to Orlando for a total of $501. That means, assuming we do not check a bag, our total airfare came out to $1042.80.

    At this point, I do not have anything else to purchase until we arrive! From here on out, it's all about earning up more gift cards and more plasma money. We have 7 days but only 5 day tickets. I already have enough saved up to cover the Halloween party (if we decide to do it), a horseback ride, DVC Member night at Splitsville and a meal at the F&W festival. If I can earn enough, I'd love to be able to splurge on something like a room-service breakfast, extra culinary demos, or just be able to say "yes" to something the kids ask for:laughing:.
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    Yesterday, our 7-month window opened up and I was able to get our first three nights in a studio at OKW:goodvibes. I set up a wait list for the "near Hospitality House" category because I really like the convenience of that area and since it's the same amount of points, we have nothing to lose. We have not completely committed to the split stay yet so I am currently holding TWO simultaneous reservations for the same three nights. We have to decide what F&W events we are going to do and if we are going to go to the Halloween party and all of that will depend on the schedule and the budget. Once we nail that down, we will decide if we are going to split our stay or stay at AKV for the whole week.

    I have a rough itinerary in my head right now, but it's really hard to plan without knowing park hours or event schedules, or even where we might be staying:scratchin.

    ....but here we go...
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    Friday...

    We will start by picking up the girls from their schools. Kamryn (15) gets out at 2:45 and Kaedyn (13) gets out at 3:00 so DH and I will have the car packed up and ready to go when we pick them up. Then we will head straight to the airport which is about 15 minutes away. DH will drop us off for our 5pm flight to Detroit. We have a 2 hour layover in Detroit so that is where we will grab dinner. Our flight into Orlando arrives at 10:35pm and we are going to take DME to the resort. Hopefully, we can get there by 12:30am and get right to bed.

    Saturday...

    I'm going to order groceries from Amazon Prime Now and I am actually going to place TWO orders if we do a split stay. This way, I don't need to deal with Disney having to move our groceries too. With free delivery, it's not going to cost me anything extra. Since I wake up WAY before the girls do, I can place our order and it will arrive before we are ready to leave for the day. One of the things I promised the girls is that I will not force them out of bed unless it is for something that we have all agreed on in advance, like a dining event. I think the first thing on our agenda will be a F&W event. If it's being offered on this particular day, Kaedyn wants to do the Parisian luncheon that we did in 2016. I can't remember if it was at 1pm or 11am, but that will be the first thing we do. After that, I'm not sure if we are going to stick around Epcot (crazy on a Saturday during F&W) or if we will bail over to AK, which is our favorite park. Without knowing park hours, I can't make any real plans. Quick side note...each day, I have one TS meal planned. The F&W event will be the "TS" meal for Saturday.

    Sunday...

    No idea...I can say with almost 100% certainty that we will be going to a park. Without knowing what park has EMH and what the hours are, I cannot say which parks we will choose to visit. I imagine we will be going to Disney Studios at some point in the day because I believe this will be the day that we have our late lunch/early dinner at 50's Prime Time Cafe.

    Monday...resort change day...

    Assuming we do a split-stay, I'm thinking we will check out of OKW and head over to AK for the morning. When we get our message that our room is ready, or 2:00, whichever comes first, we will head back to the resort and get set up in our new room and freshen up, cat nap, and head out by 6:00pm. We will catch the bus to the MK and then take the boat over to FW so that we can get to the HDDR for the 8:15pm show. This will be our first time for this event and I can't believe we've never done it!

    Tuesday...

    This is most-likely to be a "non-park" day...sort of. I'm thinking we will sleep in and hang out at the resort in the morning. I will probably do some laundry and we will do lunch at Sanaa. In the afternoon, we can go to the MK for MNSSHP at 4pm and stay there until midnight! I love the party and the girls have not been to one since 2008, but they are kind of non-committal at this point. They aren't exactly excited about it, but they aren't really against it either. It would be cheaper for me to just add a day to their park passes, but if they want to go to the party, I have that in the budget too.

    Wednesday...

    This is the day that is really up in the air right now. The one thing we are certain on is that we are going to Splitsville for the DVC Member night event at 7pm. That will be our TS meal for the day. Now, we will need to decide if we will be doing a park or not. Since we will be out so late Tuesday night (maybe), we aren't going to want to be up too early so we probably wouldn't even get to a park until noon at the earliest. Kaedyn wants to do a horseback ride...Kami, not so much, but she might change her mind. I don't know how much time we would be able to spend at a park, especially if we aren't able to take a bus from a park directly to Disney Springs. I cannot remember what time that service starts...4pm? If that's the case, then we should be OK.

    Thursday...

    Again, not sure what park we will be doing, but it will definitely be a park day. Our TS meal today will be dinner at Jiko. This is my favorite restaurant and my new "must-do". We will also probably hit up TOTWL for fireworks since this will be our last night of vacation.

    Friday...

    Since the girls will probably have a day left on their park tickets (depending on what happens with Wednesday), we may have time to visit AK one last time since our flight isn't until 6:40pm. My plan is to make an ADR for 9am for Boma and then head out for AK after that. I plan to return to the resort by 2:30 since our DME pickup time will be around 3:30pm. If we end up going to a park on Wednesday, then I will make a later ADR at Boma and we will hang out at the resort, maybe get the final laundry done (we don't typically check our bags anyways) and just sit by the pool until it is time to leave.

    So that's that...the very rough itinerary...subject to many, MANY revisions. Honestly? I really do not even want to make a lot of plans for this trip. I really want to just "wing it". I want to just let the girls do what they want and let them kind of take the lead. They have been to WDW 8 times and they have fun when they are there, but I wouldn't call them "passionate" about it. They are very laid back about most of it and do not have a lot on their "must do" lists.
     

    Heatherhy01

    In need of pixie dust
    Joined
    Dec 17, 2007
    For years, I have participated in online rewards programs
    AMAZING!!! I had always thought that those types of sights were kind of a hoax and you never really earn anything? Please do tell me more! I have actually signed up for all three that you mentioned. Curious... How much time per day do you spend on each site? How long did it take for you to accumulate enough to cash in for a gift card??

    Thanks so much for the suggestion! I need all the help I can get for our next trip!:worship:
     

    sjrec

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 31, 2016
    What a great trip you have planned!
    We did the Splitsville member night and really enjoyed it. Food was good, plenty of time to bowl and the cms were very nice with my 5 year old grandson.
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    I have a few updates since the 180-day mark has come and gone...

    First, we decided that we are going to go to MNSSHP. I bought our party tickets and we are going on Tuesday night so we will be using that as our MK day. I plan to get to the park as close to 4pm as possible so that we can maximize our time at the park. The only ride that I won't do is Space Mountain. I know the girls will want to ride that one and they will have to go without me. My neck can't take it anymore and I always end up with a headache afterwards. I used to love that ride, but unfortunately, I just can't do it anymore:sad1:. I told the girls the only thing that we MUST do is watch the Halloween parade. It is my favorite parade EVER:wizard:. Other than that, I have no idea what FastPasses I will be making.

    The other thing I was able to do was make a reservation for the DVC Member night at Splitsville. We will be doing that on Wednesday night which will leave us very little time to do a park, assuming we stay at the MK until closing on Tuesday night. We'll sleep in and then we have to be to Splitsville by 6:00 (starts at 6:30) for dinner. I will have to decide if we want to use a park day for 3-4 hours on Wednesday or save it for Friday, which is the day we leave.

    I booked the HDDR for Monday night at 8:30pm. That will be a very late dinner, but I'm planning to get up and out of the room early since we are switching resorts. We will leave for a park, but I don't know which one, probably AK, and then head over to the AKV as soon as we get our room-ready text. Then, we can get settled in and rest up before heading over to Ft. Wilderness.

    That's all I have right now for the updates. I'm dreading the FastPass planning...I honestly don't even know which parks we are going to go to each day. I thought that 7 days would be a lot, especially since we usually only do 5, but it still doesn't seem like we have nearly enough time!
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    The budget took another hit:headache:...but fortunately, I have time to recover. I had been cashing out my SwagBucks for Best Buy gift cards and saving up my Best Buy rewards certificates to redeem for Disney gift cards. I had $75 worth of gift cards and another $75 worth of rewards certificates and then, on May 1, out of nowhere, Best Buy suddenly decided that they are no longer accepting gift cards or rewards certificates as payment for Disney gift cards:sad:. There was no announcement or anything...just POOF!...not allowed. So just like that, 10% of my $1500 gift card budget is now gonepixiedust:. All is not lost...I was able to take the $75 in gift cards and sell them to Cardpool for $67 and change. What I plan to do is take that, along with $25 in SwagBucks (that I will get in cash via PayPal) and go to BestBuy and make (2) $50 purchases of Disney gift cards (assuming they still have them:eek:). I will use the QR code which should get me the 500 SB bonus on each purchase, so when all is said and done, I should still end up walking away with $4 more than I started with:thumbsup2.

    I still have over 5 months to keep chugging on my free gift card earnings. I have been slacking on my SwagBucks lately so I need to get back on track and start taking some more surveys.

    I have been doing great with my plasma, despite a cell loss and some troublesome donations. My cash supply for the trip is nearing $1000 and I was only planning on bringing $300 so I have plenty of cushion available. I am starting to consider the possibility of using a town car service for our arrival at MCO instead of taking DME to the resort. I looked at FL Tours (board sponsor) and saw that the price is "only" $75 for one-way service. What I am trying to determine now is if a town car will really save us that much time. Our flight is set to land at 10:30pm so we will need to get our checked bags anyways. My concern is how long will we need to wait for our DME bus to depart??? We could get lucky and get on a bus that has already been there for 15 minutes and then we are the first stop...or we could wait 15 minutes for a bus only to get on it and wait another 30 minutes before we leave....and then end up being the last resort:faint:. So do I want to spend the $75 to "guarantee" that we are on our way to the resort within 45 minutes of arrival, or do I want to save the money and risk not arriving at the resort until 1am?:confused3

    That brings me to my next development...

    I received an e-mail from Delta that our flight time has changed. At first, I was afraid to open the e-mail because I knew that with a 5pm departure, we were already at the earliest possible time that we could leave without taking the girls out of school early. Fortunately, that was not the case. Our flight is now scheduled to depart Grand Rapids at 5:56pm which cuts our layover in Detroit from two hours down to one. This will work out just fine. Instead of having a leisurely, sit-down dinner, we can save some money and simply grab Wendy's or McDonalds on the layover. In addition, we no longer have to feel rushed after school. The girls can come home first, change clothes and rearrange their bags before we leave for the airport. I was a little concerned about getting to the airport in time to check a bag since we were going to be arriving about 90 minute prior to departure, but now, we should have plenty of time. I still think 90 minutes is enough, but I am always early so I'm sure we will be at the airport by 4:rotfl:.

    Now, I am just waiting on the Food and Wine information to roll out. I'm hoping to book a lunch event for Saturday, October 20. If I can't, then I made a back-up plan. We are going to have dinner at the Yachtsman Steakhouse that night, followed by Fantasmic! If we can get the Parisian Lunch event (Kaedyn's choice), then we will do that, followed by Future World in the afternoon and then on to the Studios for Fantasmic in the evening. If they are not offering that lunch event this year, we will probably just spend the afternoon at the Studios,break for dinner at the Yachtsman and return for Fantasmic, leaving Epcot for another day. I'm sure we will be sleeping in that morning since we won't be arriving until late...which is why I am contemplating that town car service:cool2:....
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    The budget took another hit:headache:...but fortunately, I have time to recover. I had been cashing out my SwagBucks for Best Buy gift cards and saving up my Best Buy rewards certificates to redeem for Disney gift cards. I had $75 worth of gift cards and another $75 worth of rewards certificates and then, on May 1, out of nowhere, Best Buy suddenly decided that they are no longer accepting gift cards or rewards certificates as payment for Disney gift cards:sad:. There was no announcement or anything...just POOF!...not allowed. So just like that, 10% of my $1500 gift card budget is now gonepixiedust:. All is not lost...I was able to take the $75 in gift cards and sell them to Cardpool for $67 and change. What I plan to do is take that, along with $25 in SwagBucks (that I will get in cash via PayPal) and go to BestBuy and make (2) $50 purchases of Disney gift cards (assuming they still have them:eek:). I will use the QR code which should get me the 500 SB bonus on each purchase, so when all is said and done, I should still end up walking away with $4 more than I started with:thumbsup2.

    ..
    I had a little more good luck yesterday...

    I tinkered around on the BB website, and just for giggles, I decided to try to order a $25 Disney gift card and pay with $25 of my rewards certificates. I tried to buy Disney gift cards online before using BB gift cards as payment back in the days of "churning" (too complicated to explain here) and the order would go through but it would get cancelled within an hour. I expected the same result with the reward certificate because the manager in the store told me that when they changed the policy about the gift cards, they extended it to the rewards too. I was able to complete the order, which was a little surprising because there was NOT an option to use a gift card as payment (there was before) but there WAS an option for the rewards certificate. This led me to believe that they had actively changed the system but still left the option for the rewards redemption in place. I would have thought that if it were no longer accepted, they would have removed that option too, like they did with the gift card. I got my order confirmation at 8:30am and waited...:rolleyes1....nothing...no cancellation e-mail. I was starting to get a little optimistic. Finally, at 7:30pm, I received an e-mail....my gift card had SHIPPED!! It worked! That means that I have my $75 back in the budget:dogdance:. So just when I thought my budget had taken a $150 hit, I was able to recoup it just 2 days later with a little bit of creativity and adjustment:teacher:. I'm back on track.
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    I am a horrible person...

    I am very disappointed about the pool closure at the Jambo House pool. This is the first time we planned to have at least one full day to spend away from the park. We actually have three days without park tickets and we now have a pool that is under construction. On top of that, we booked a standard view at Jambo which is almost guaranteed to overlook the pool area. Since I typically get up way before the girls, I can't go out and hang out on the balcony in peace or even go down and hang out by the pool while I wait for them to wake up.

    I decided to set up a waitlist for the 4 nights for a studio at Kidani, but I figure that is such a long shot at 6 months. I prefer Jambo so much since I know that with a standard studio, we have a good chance of being close to the bus stop and the laundry room. The Mara is nice, but not a deal-breaker since we don't eat CS at the resort too often anyways, but we do have ADR's at Boma and Jiko.

    So here is the reason that I am a terrible person...

    I stalked the RAT and saw that three of my four nights came available (all but the last one)...so I booked them. I have enough points in my current UY because I haven't banked them yet (I have until September 30) so I did not need to cancel my Jambo studio. So I am currently holding nearly duplicate reservations...the 4 nights that I need at Jambo, and then 3 of the 4 at Kidani with only the final night on the waitlist. If the last night's waitlist comes through, we will move to Kidani and cancel that Jambo reservation. I feel awful holding both of these reservations, knowing that I am not going to keep both of them, but at this point, I am not going to let the Jambo reservation go and hope that the waitlist comes through. I'm also not willing to move back to Jambo for the last night either. I have been checking frequently so that if/when that night becomes available, I can book it and cancel that Jambo reservation and hopefully someone else will get to book it. If there's no change by about 75 days out, I will cancel the Kidani reservation and we will just deal with Jambo.
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    134 more days...

    I'm losing my mind over the silliest things:crazy:...luggage! We're flying on a regional jet for the first time in YEARS (actually, this will be the first time the girls have EVER flown on a puddle jumper!) and I am going bonkers about our luggage. I have always taken pride in how efficiently I could pack my family of 4 for a weeklong vacation using just 6 bags. We each have our trust eBags TLS MotherLode Convertible Junior backpacks which we've always used as our personal items on every flight, along with our eBags 22" Hybrid Spinner Lite carry-on and my old Eddie Bauer 20" ballistic nylon rolling carry-on. When I booked our flight on Delta, our first leg was originally going to be on an A319 but it got changed to a teeny, tiny CRJ 700:headache:. My biggest anxiety with flying is the enclosed space and now, I get to fly in an even SMALLER space....great:scared:. Fortunately, it's a short flight.

    After I did a little research, I quickly learned that our rolling bags would not be able to join us in the cabin on the first leg of our trip and they would be gate checked. Ok...no big deal since those bags will most likely contain our clothing, shoes and stuff that we won't need until we arrive anyways. I like to pack plastic plates/bowls, a microwave egg cooker and plastic straws for our studio stays and those go in my carry on. The girls will have their clothing and the park snacks (granola bars, fruit snacks, and gum) in their carry on bags. So far, everything is OK...but then I get a surprise...

    ....I realize that our MotherLode backpacks might be a little too big to qualify as a personal item on a regional jet:scratchin. Now I am in panic mode:scared1:. I can't find anything on the Delta website that gives dimensions for a personal item. The folks on the Transportation board here are super-friendly and helpful, but I've gotten mixed answers. One person said that their MotherLode Jr. has flown on a CRJ as a personal item without a problem and another person advised me that it would definitely be too big and I should not risk it. Ugh! I know that the width of the bag is fine so it would fit sideways in the overhead bin. It would also fit under the seat, but it would be about 2" too long...so we would have to squish it with our feet.

    The biggest concern is that the girls will both have their Chromebooks with them since they will need them for their homework assignments. Their MotherLodes are their laptop bags as well so they cannot gate check them if they are determined to be too big. The Chromebooks have to travel in the cabin because of the batteries and they would need to be in some sort of a case, right?

    The person on the Transportation Board that has flown a CRJ with the EXACT same bag that we have specifically said that it fits in the overhead bin so now I am really thinking that I should upgrade us to the Comfort+ for $250 which gets us the priority boarding and dedicated overhead bin space. At least that way, I will know for sure that our bags will be OK.
    ==========================================

    On another note, there has been no changes to my waitlists. I am still holding both reservations at AKV, Jambo and Kidani for now, and I highly doubt we will get the Hospitality House location at OKW. I check the RAT almost every day and there is not a single day in October that opens up in any category. I know that Thursday night is going to be a tough one since it is often a first night for some and a last night for others. I'm thinking we are going to be "stuck" at Jambo. I really want to give that waitlist a chance, but I feel *so* bad holding on to a room that someone else might want, knowing that I am not going to be using it.
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    I love it when math works out perfectly in my favor:teacher:.

    I know it is still a LONG ways off, but I was putting together my AmazonPrimeNow grocery order to get an idea of what it is going to cost me and how I will need to allocate my gift card earnings. Since we are doing a split stay, I have decided to do 2 orders so that I can minimize the amount of refrigerated food that bell services will need to deal with. The difference between doing one order and splitting it into two is only $2.43 so it's totally worth it to me. Here's my plan...

    When we get in (super late!) to OKW on Friday night, I will place order #1 and have it set for delivery first thing in the morning. I believe the first delivery window is 8-10am which will be perfect. I will be up...the girls?? Maybe. That order contains our breakfast foods for the three days we are at OKW (mini bagels, peanut butter, jelly, frozen waffles, syrup), 6pk of Diet Coke, 2L of Diet Dew, 2 bottles of sunscreen, 24 bottles of water, some park snacks and a few toiletry items. We will definitely eat the waffles before we leave so the jelly will be the only item that should be refrigerated for the move. If we have to toss it, it's not the end of the world. Hopefully, bell services will be OK with moving all that water because we aren't going to drink 24 bottles in 3 days.

    Then, on "move day", which is Monday, when we get our room-ready message at AKV, I will place order #2. That order will have eggs, sausage, English muffins, (4) 2L of soda, cheese slices, gum, and laundry detergent. By splitting the orders up, I don't need to worry about them moving the eggs, frozen sausage and cheese between the resorts.

    Here's the cool part...when I added up the *free* Amazon gift cards that I currently have available, I have $111.22...not too shabby:thumbsup2.
    The total cost, including tips, for BOTH orders comes to.... $110.53:banana::cheer2: Talk about perfect!!
    Now, the only hitch in the plan is that between now and when we actually place the order, the prices and inventory will fluctuate. So, what is perfect today will probably change a lot between now and then. The good thing is that I still have 4 months to earn more free gift cards too:goodvibes.
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    UPDATES!!! UPDATES!!!!
    First, and most amazing....the Kidani waitlist filled!!!:banana: I cancelled my Jambo reservation (which hurt my soul:sad1:) but we are definitely staying at Kidani now. As much as I love Jambo, the fact that I could not head out to the pool in the morning before the kids wake up was putting a damper on my plans. Now that we are at Kidani, I feel better knowing that when I wake up at 6am, the girls can still sleep until 9 and I can hang out by the pool until they wake up without having to leave the resort. We also have easier access to Sanaa, which is nice because when we were able to get our reservation at BOG, we had to give up our lunch reservation at Sanaa. We love the bread service and we really like Sanaa so now that we are staying at Kidani, we may be able to pop in to the lounge and get the bread, or perhaps splurge for room service.

    Second, early booking for F&W events opened today for DVC members. I was able to book the Parisian Afternoon event that Kaedyn wanted us to do again. The two of us did it in 2016 (Kam is really picky and didn't even want to try it:snooty:) and she loved it so she said it was the only thing she wanted to do on this trip. Everything else I asked her about was, "I don't care"...so this was something I really wanted to book. Kamryn has been helping a lot with the planning and she has given a lot of input, but Kaedyn has been very ambivalent...except for this one thing. Kam is not too excited about it, but she said she will try it because it means so much to Kaedy:love:. I had budgeted $175 for the event and the total came to $174.09 so, once again, my math was spot on:teacher:.

    Third, I ordered a new spinner bag to satiate my luggage addiction. It's another spinner carry-on from eBags. I found it on eBay for only $75 and there was a coupon for 20% off so I paid less than $60 for it...and it's brand new! Now, each of us will have a rolling carry-on bag (which will be gate checked on the puddle jumper) and probably our MotherLode backpacks. I am 99% sure that I am going to upgrade us to Comfort+ but I'm still hesitant to pull the trigger. I did find out that my Best Buy Visa card is offering 3% rewards on the travel category through June 30 so I could earn a whopping $7.50 in rewards if I upgrade before the end of the month.
    ==> Here's something I don't understand...When I look at the Delta website at the current price of the flight, the fare difference between Main Cabin and Comfort+ is only $54. If I want to upgrade though, it costs me $85...why? I don't understand why it would be cheaper to "upgrade" if you do it when you buy the ticket vs. upgrading later:confused3.

    The final update is budget-related. Even after increasing my gift card goal by over $200, I am less than $25 away from hitting it!:cool1: By the end of the month, I should have accumulated a total of over $1600 in FREE gift cards/rewards towards this trip. Once I hit that goal, I am going to start saving up for our 2019 trip. I want to see how much I can have saved up for 2019's trip by the time we leave on this year's vacation.
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    Ugh...I hit a speed bump...I had a second red blood cell loss in 8 weeks so now, I cannot make any plasma donations until August:headache:. Fortunately, I have about $700 more than I what I was planning, but I am also going to take $250 of that and upgrade our flights. That leaves me a $450 "cushion" which seems like quite a bit, but it could disappear quickly if something comes up. Fortunately, I will still have the opportunity to earn almost $700 before we leave as long as I can stay eligible.
     

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