Pre-Trip Planning Pages: October 2019

kristenrice

NOT just an ambulance driver
Joined
Apr 25, 2006
Looking back at all of the "trip reports" that I have started through the years, I have come to realize that I am really bad at actually reporting about the trip, but I do a great job at documenting my planning process:teeth:. I'm late in the game for this trip since we are only 10 months out now, but I guess it's better late than never:flower3:...so here goes!

For this trip, it will be my sister and I and our four daughters. We did the same trip back in 2016 and our husbands came along but they did not enjoy themselves and turned into "adult toddlers" about three days into the trip. They gave us their blessing to take another trip without them. If you've read any of my previous postings, you'd know that my dad is a Disney fanatic and we cannot take a trip without him so as long as my parents are still physically able to travel, they are coming too:hug:.

My nieces (Olivia, 11 and Emilee, 7) go to the same school as my younger daughter, Kaedyn (14). My older daughter, Kamryn (16) is in high school so she is obviously at a different building. The kids all have a break in the fall so that is the week we decided to travel. My sister is fairly certain that this will be her last trip to WDW with her kids so she wants to maximize it for them. She decided to take the kids out of school on Thursday and Friday and then the following Monday and Tuesday. They have no school Wed-Fri so we are returning home on Saturday.

My girls are older so my original plan was to leave on Friday after school and so they would only miss two days of school. The girls are above-average students and their teachers are very supportive of allowing them to miss school for family vacations. On top of that, a lot of their homework is assigned online so they can take care of their assignments even while on vacation so they do not fall behind. (*Side note: One of Kamryn's teachers actually told us that he WANTED her to miss school in order to go hunting with her dad on opening day of firearm deer season because that is an experience that cannot be replicated in school and something that she will cherish. This was just two weeks after she got back from a Disney vacation with me so we were hesitant to ask for more vacation time, but all of her teachers encouraged it:goodvibes)

I had enough DVC points to book us all in a 2BR standard view at my home resort of Animal Kingdom Villas for 5 nights. We opted for Kidani Village because of the third bathroom...uh, 7 girls? Duh! Of course we are going to need 3 bathrooms:rotfl2:. I booked us in a lock-off 2BR, arriving on Friday and checking out on Wednesday. My girls and I will be staying in the studio portion since we might be arriving very late on Friday night and we do not want to disturb my sister and her girls, who will be sleeping in the living room. My parents will have the master bedroom.

Then, we transferred in BWV points (which my dad paid for) and we were able to book a Boardwalk View 2BR for the last 3 nights at BWV:goodvibes. My girls and I will have the studio portion, along with Emilee, who will sleep on the pull-down bed. My sister and Olivia will share the living room, and mom and dad get the master again.

That sets our final length of stay at 8 nights. Back in 2016, right after we got back, we started planning our next trip and we decided to buy 7-day park-hopper tickets from UnderCoverTourist. This was before they had expiration dates so they are still good. I did not buy one for myself since I had other trips planned in the interim, so I will be using up my AP. Since we will essentially have 9 days and only 7 days of passes, I suggested that we go to the MNSSHP. I have gone 3 times and my kids have gone twice, but nobody else has done it. I thought it would be a great idea for my sister and her kids since this will be their final trip to WDW and I know my dad would love it too. On top of that, since DVC members and their guests can get into the MK at 2pm with just a party ticket, this would effectively add a day to our park time too. My sister was on board with it, but my dad was a little hesitant, especially when he heard the cost. I solved that problem by presenting them with homemade MNSSHP "tickets" for Christmas:love:. I told mom and dad that their Christmas present is two tickets to the party so we are definitely going now. (*There is more to this story that I will get to later....stay tunedpopcorn::)
 

kristenrice

NOT just an ambulance driver
Joined
Apr 25, 2006
We are coming down from Michigan and planning to fly. Southwest is our preferred airline because we all have the SWA Visa card. Dad signed up two years ago and got all of the bonus points. He's been using it for everything since then and he's accumulated almost 130K points:teacher:. My sister has about 40K of her own and I am sitting on a measly 10K because we went to WDW last year:rolleyes:. My dad decided that since I am covering 5 nights of lodging with my DVC points, he will use his SWA points to cover the airfare for me and my girls:love1:. Since he doesn't plan to fly SWA after this trip, he wants to use up all of his points. My sister has the same plan so basically, we are planning to pool all of our points and hope to book all of the flights using points.

Now here is where the planning starts to get interesting...

My sister has decided that she wants to maximize her first day (Friday) at Disney. Therefore, she has decided that she will be flying down on Thursday. We have no idea what time that will be since SWA won't be releasing their schedules until March 14, but she is hoping for an early flight. She decided to book a room at Port Orleans Riverside in one of the rooms that has the trundle beds. My parents will be flying down with her since they figured she may need more travelling assistance with the younger kids than I would with teenagers. They are hoping to get in early(ish) and just hang out by the pool for the afternoon and then have dinner at Disney Springs. They will then hit a park in the morning and go over to AKV the next afternoon and meet up with us whenever we arrive.

When I started thinking about how much time the rest of the group would have ahead of our arrival, I started getting jealous. With my original plan of leaving after school on Friday, we would most likely not arrive at AKV until almost midnight. I put a lot of thought into it, discussed it with the spouse, and came to the conclusion that it would be OK to take the kids out of school on Friday as well. So I adjusted my plan a little bit. Now, instead of leaving after school on Friday, I believe we will be leaving after school on Thursday instead...but now, I have to wait...because there are options.

The first, and most convenient option, will be to fly out of Grand Rapids. Unfortunately, SWA rarely (never) has non-stop flights anymore out of GRR. That means that *if* there is a flight that departs after 5pm on Thursday night, it will have a stop and will probably not land much before 10:30pm. I will probably book a room at the cheapest on-site resort (currently the All-Star Music resort has a standard room for $155 total) and take DME when we arrive. We only travel with carry-ons so I don't need to worry about luggage delivery at that hour. In the morning, we will take an Uber (with our luggage) over to AKV, drop off our luggage and get checked in, and then take the bus over to whatever park the rest of the family is at for the day.

The second option is to have DH drive us to Chicago after school on Thursday and stay at a hotel near the airport. I currently have one booked for $200. DH could stay overnight with us, but he said he'd prefer just to drive back home so that we don't have to board the dogs overnight. It's a 3-hour drive each way so it's not too bad. There is a free 24-hour shuttle to the airport so we would use that in the morning to get to the airport. I would book us on the first NON-STOP flight out of MDW on Friday morning and, using DME, we should get to the resort by about 11am. More than likely, we would hang out at the resort and have the rest of the group meet us there for a "break" and then we would all go out in the evening together.

EDIT: I have to add option #3, even though it's not my favorite:sad:...If we end up with a late flight home on Saturday (which is quite likely, based on SWA current and past schedules), then we can use a park day on Saturday and spend the morning at Epcot or DHS. If we do that, then we will not be going to a park on our "first" day and we could arrive any time on Friday. That means that we could really take almost any flight on Friday and we wouldn't necessarily have to fly out of Chicago. If the late flights on Friday are the same price as the late flights on Thursday, then obviously, we will leave on Thursday. I don't particularly want to leave on Friday afternoon and "lose" that day at Disney, but if the time is right and my dad has enough points to cover the airfare, it would save me the cost of the hotel and that is more Disney money:teacher:.

Any of these options is currently within my budget. I budgeted $900 total for airfare, EBCI, and luggage fees with the assumption that my dad might be able to cover ONE-WAY tickets for us. Now that it looks like he will have enough points to cover our ROUND-TRIP airfare, I have a lot of cushion to work with.

Next, I will address the budget situation....which is always my favorite thing to write about:teacher:.
 
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luvmychaos

Mouseketeer
Joined
Sep 30, 2011
Following along popcorn:: We’re going in Nov so I’m curious to see what you have plan. It’ll be our 6th trip(?) and my parent’s 1st and I’m just DYING with excitement!! My dad is a Disney nut, like us, and will probably feel the same as your dad once he goes once :mickeyjum We’re also hoping to hook my mom so she becomes addicted, too! Any advice is appreciated!
 
  • kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    Following along popcorn:: We’re going in Nov so I’m curious to see what you have plan. It’ll be our 6th trip(?) and my parent’s 1st and I’m just DYING with excitement!! My dad is a Disney nut, like us, and will probably feel the same as your dad once he goes once :mickeyjum We’re also hoping to hook my mom so she becomes addicted, too! Any advice is appreciated!
    I bought my Dad "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World" and told him to read it before our first "adult" trip. We went on 4 trips as a family when I was a kid back in the '80's but in 2001, my parents came with me and my (then) boyfriend (now husband) on my first "grown-up" trip to WDW. I planned it out all by myself and I was so proud...but boy, did I make a LOT of mistakes:sad2:. The BIGGEST mistake I made was that I paid RACK RATE for 7 nights in a 2BR villa at OKW...in JANUARY!:faint: Yup...didn't know a thing about looking for discounts, never thought to ask...hadn't heard of DVC rentals...thought we were getting a great bargain. I had budgeted about $250/night for my half of the lodging so when a 2BR was only $470/night (yup, it was about that cheap back then:rotfl2:), I thought it was a great deal...if I only knew:laughing:.

    My best advice is just to do your research and know your options. Transportation and dining options are the main thing that my family seems to always ask me about once we are on-property...and there are plenty of both.
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    My budgeting is always the fun part...weird, right?:teeth:

    I love the fact that Disney World has their own "currency"...Disney Gift Cards:thumbsup2. Through the years, I have found many different ways to earn free and/or discounted gift cards to support my Disney habit. For the last three trips, I decided that I would not "pay" for any Disney Gift cards. Any gift cards that I acquire would be funded with money or points that I earned for free. I typically used those gift cards to pay for my food/dining so my dining plan is truly "FREE DINING":cheer2:.

    When I make my budget, I break it into 2 parts: Cash and Gift Cards. I typically include transportation and tickets in my cash budget as well as any "extras" (MNSSHP, Uber/Lyft, dog boarding, tips, AmazonPrimeNow, etc). My Gift Card budget is for all of our dining...counter-service, table-service and snacks, as well as if we do a dining "event", like a special F&W seminar. You will notice that there is no "Lodging" included in my budget. That is because we are DVC members and we use our points for our rooms. *If* we need an extra night, it is due to our flights and so I put it under the "transportation" category.

    As I start to accumulate both gift cards and cash, I can start to shift items around. For this trip, I have some free Amazon gift cards that I earned from taking some surveys and cashing out some credit card rewards. I am able to apply those towards a grocery order with AmazonPrimeNow so that is some of the "cash" budget that has been shifted to the "gift card" budget...but it is still "free" money. Once I earn enough in gift cards to cover my projected dining budget, then I can shift more expenses from "cash" to "gift card" as I earn more free gift cards. I can use them to cover an extra hotel night or Uber rides...or souvenirs:wizard:.

    For this trip, I have a $1500 budget for our meals. I may have to increase that a bit because the rest of the group wants to do quite a few AYCE breakfasts (Tusker House, Garden Grill, and O'Hana) plus my girls and I always want to eat at Jiko, Sanaa (lunch) and Boma (breakfast). We are also doing HDDR (Cat 1) and Liberty Tree Tavern (Late Lunch before MNSSHP). I will also be taking DD14 to a F&W event (hopefully the Parisian luncheon) and we will be doing quite a bit of snacking at the F&W booths. Fortunately, none of us have very big appetites so we do a lot of sharing. For reference, the three of of did a 7-night trip last October and kept our dining budget at about $1200. We did Cat 1 HDDR, Jiko, dinner at BOG, Splitsville DVC Member night, Sanaa lunch, Boma breakfast and all three of us did the Parisian Luncheon (oldest DD hated it but had to go because she couldn't be left alone anywhere:guilty:).

    I made my Disney Gift Card budget at $1600 and an additional Amazon gift card budget of $100. These gift cards will all be FREE...I will not pay anything out of pocket to acquire these funds. The Amazon budget will be used to buy some groceries for the room. Usually, we eat breakfast in the room, but since the family wants to eat 4 of our 9 breakfasts at buffets, we won't need too much. I will use the grocery order to buy things that can't fly in our carry-on like laundry pods, sunscreen spray, and soda pop. I finally figured out that it is WAY cheaper to buy 12-packs of Diet Coke from Amazon than it is to buy the refillable mugs...and I don't have to leave the room in the morning and travel those loooong Kidani hallways:lovestruc. I'm not a coffee drinker so I get my morning caffeine from Diet Coke and/or Diet Mountain Dew and Amazon Prime Now is the best way to get it while at WDW. I also add some fruit, meat sticks, cheese and gum so that we have some easy snack items available in our room.

    The cash budget is currently at $1750. Here's how it's broken down:
    Transportation: $900 As I mentioned before, my dad is planning to use as many of his SWA points as he can to purchase our airfare. The transportation budget is currently accounting for the possibility that I may have to purchase 1-2 one-way tickets myself. It also accounts for the purchase of (6) EBCI at $25 each or possibly baggage fees if we have to fly down on Delta instead of SWA. Looking at the current prices and schedule, it is looking like my dad will be able to purchase ALL of our tickets with his points:banana:. The only catch is that we will probably need to fly down on Thursday night and add a hotel night. Fortunately, if he can cover the tickets, it will knock about $750 off of the budget which will easily pay for a night at Pop Century plus some extra food and even the cost of using an Uber to transfer over to AKV in the morning.

    MNSSHP: $550 I budgeted this amount because I wanted to make sure that we are able to take my parents. I know my Dad would love it, but more because of the "nostalgia" and people watching, not because of what the party really has to offer. It's something he would like if he actually went, but it's not something he would ever go to on his own. My mom could care less...she just goes with the flow:boat:. My sister wanted to take her girls since this will be their last trip to Disney for a long time (it's just gotten too expensive for them) so she wants to make it special. We knew that if I didn't offer to pay for Mom and Dad, they would simply tell us to go and have a good time and they would simply hang out at the resort or go to Epcot or something. Well, I wasn't going to have that so I decided to "buy" them MNSSHP tickets for Christmas. We made replica "tickets", wrapped them up and gave them to them for their Christmas present...but that's not all...

    **SIDEBAR**
    We're going to the Halloween party, but we don't really want to "dress up". That's just too much work and we don't want to pack that much or spend too much money, so we wanted to keep it simple. My sister and I came up with something so simple...there's 8 of us...SEVEN girls and ONE guy...hmmm? What Disney group is SEVEN of one and ONE of another? You guessed it! We are going as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!....and guess who gets to be Snow White?? Yup! PAPA!! We went to Zazzle.com and made very simple t-shirts for each of us. Each one has a picture of a dwarf on the front with our name and the dwarf's name on the back. This is what they say (on the back, youngest to oldest)...
    Emilee Bashful
    Olivia Happy
    Kaedyn Grumpy
    Kamryn Sneezy
    Kimberly Sleepy
    Kristen Doc
    Granny Dopey
    Papa Snow White...by default

    Let me tell you, my Dad laughed so hard when we handed out these T-shirts at Christmas time. We handed them out in order so as we got closer to him, he knew what was coming:rotfl2:. Now, he wants us to wear the shirts at more than just the party! He wants us to wear them all over the parks. Sheesh! Who would have thought he would be so proud to be Snow White:confused3? I told them we should try to book a meal at the Storybook Dining at Artist Point, but they weren't interested in that idea.

    OK, back to the budget...I also have a $350 "Miscellaneous" cash budget, because something always comes up. This also covers tips, Uber/Lyft, airport meals and anything else that I can't buy with a gift card.

    That brings the total trip budget to $3400 with 50% of that being FREE gift cards. You will also notice that there are no tickets on my budget. Oh boy, that's a LONG story. I'll keep it simple...The girls have 7-day park-hoppers and I have an AP...there's a lot more to it, and they were paid for over 2 years ago so it's a sunk cost which is why I'm not including it in my budget. They were bought and paid for YEARS ago.

    So where do I stand right now? Well, as of today, I have $1455 in Disney gift cards available (or pending, meaning I have the points/funds but haven't actually redeemed/purchased them yet), $71.94 in Amazon gift cards, and $1725.99 in cash. Next week, when SWA releases their flight schedule, I will know if I will have a surplus in my cash account. Once we know if we will be able to fly in on Thursday night, I will book the room at Pop Century. Then I can adjust our budget accordingly.

    Up next...I'll give a quick overview of how I earn and save up my cash and gift cards...
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    UPDATE>>>

    With Disney dropping the Galaxy's Edge BOMBSHELL on us:sad2::furious:, I scrambled to book our room at Pop Century yesterday. I briefly panicked when it said that "Online Checkout is currently unavailable":scared1:. I refreshed the page and I was able to book a standard room for Thursday night...and it's a good thing I did! As of this morning, there are NO ROOMS AVAILABLE at Pop Century:faint:. I booked our room for just under $170 total. We'll get in really late, but we can eat breakfast at the food court and, *BONUS*, I remembered that I can use my Tables in Wonderland discount:cheer2:. I showed Kami (DD15) the pictures of the refurbished rooms and she loved them. The girls haven't stayed at Pop Century since their very first trip to Disney World when they were just 2 and 4 years old:cutie:. Amazingly, they remember the Computer Pool and the giant bowling pin:rotfl:.

    Kim (my sister) and I are meeting with Dad tomorrow afternoon to start working out a preliminary itinerary. We won't be able to book our flights until Thursday, but we at least want to get a general idea of what parks we want to visit on what days, especially since we are not all going to be doing the same things every day. For example, my Dad is going to go to the HDDR with me and my girls, but my mom and Kim's family will not be going because we are going to the late show and it's too late for them. We need to figure out which night will work best for that. Kim and her girls want to eat lunch/dinner at Crystal Palace, while I am not willing to pay that much for my family since we are not big eaters. We'd rather spend the same amount of money at Jiko and enjoy better food. We also need to figure out which night to work best for MNSSHP so that I can buy the tickets.
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    Southwest let us down:sad:...

    My sister and parents want to get to Orlando as early as possible on Thursday so that they can enjoy a resort day at Port Orleans. They are only staying there for the night but they want to take a little time to check out what the resort has to offer. They also plan to take the boat over to DS for dinner. Southwest seriously tried to put a kink into those plans:mad:.

    We prefer to fly out of Grand Rapids since the airport is about 10 minutes away from home/school. The first flight of the morning departs at 7:45am and lands at 1:35pm with a 2 hour and 20 minute layover in Chicago. Add on another hour (minimum) for DME, and the EARLIEST arrival to the resort would be around 2:30pm. Ok...that's not too bad....but that flight is $319 per person ONE-WAY:eek::faint:. So that option is a "no"...moving on to the next flight out of Grand Rapids...well, it lands at 8:45pm>:(...so that won't work either. Flying out of Grand Rapids is officially not going to happen for my sister or parents. (*I'll get back to my plans for my girls and I in a minute....)

    So we decided to check on the flights out of Chicago since there are a lot of non-stop options. The prices are HALF of what they are out of GR:banana:! They decided that they will drive over to Chicago on WEDNESDAY after school and spend the night at a hotel that is about a mile from the airport. In the morning, they are booked on the first, non-stop flight to Orlando that departs at 6am and arrives at 9:30am:cool2:. That should get them to their resort before noon and they will have plenty of time to relax and enjoy themselves. The best part is that the flight was only $159/person:thumbsup2....HALF the price than what it was from GR. They booked a suite at the hotel so all 5 of them will stay in one room. My aunt lives near the hotel/airport and they are going to park the vehicle at her house and use the hotel shuttle in the morning.

    I'm going to skip over the flight home for right now since we are all taking the same one...I'll get to it in a moment.

    I am VERY anxious about our current itinerary to get to Orlando:scared:. As I mentioned previously, Dad wanted to pay for all of the flights with points. We were able to do so, but we had to do a little finagling and transferring to get them all in the right accounts. As of right now, we have all (16) one-way flights booked for an OOP cost of $30 (not including the 9/11 or EBCI fees). (I have been using the "cash" costs just for reference because they are easier to reference than the points' cost). Since me and my girls were planning to fly on Thursday night, we were ecstatic to see that SW had THREE flights that departed from Grand Rapids after 5pm. There are 2 of them that would work for us...the third one does not arrive until 1:05am and I would like to avoid that one if possible. We could depart at 5:55pm and arrive at 11:20pm with a 1 1/2 hour layover in Baltimore, or we could depart at 7pm and arrive at 11:35pm with a 1 hour layover in Chicago. The problem? Price! Again, both of these options were over $300 when they were released. They have come down to $269 now, but that is still too much to be covered by our available points.

    So, we looked at Chicago and found that we can take a flight that departs at 8pm (the SAME flight that leaves GR at 7pm) for $129/person. Since Chicago is Central time, 8pm is like 9pm here so we "gain" an hour driving. I did the math, and if I take the girls out of school a little early (get DD16 at 2 and DD14 at 2:15, which is 45 minutes early for each of them), we should still have about a 1-hour "cushion" for traffic and delays. That would get us on the road by 2:30pm...it's a 3-hour drive...so that puts us to the airport by 4:30pm local time without any delays. I have a rental car reserved so I would have to fuel it and drop it off so I figure that will add about another 30 minutes. If DH decides to drive us, I won't need that step. I think we should have plenty of time, even if we run into heavy traffic. We all have TSA-precheck, we aren't checking any bags, we have EBCI, so we really only have to go in and go through security and go straight to the gate. It's the drive TO the airport that has me a nervous wreck.

    Right now, we are watching the flight prices. If the prices drop on either the morning one from MDW-MCO* or the evening GRR-MCO, or both, we should be able to rebook the girls and I and get our flights changed to fly out of GR. (*The 5 MDW-MCO flights were booked on my dad's points as well so if they drop in price, he will get a "refund" and he will have those additional points in his account. Right now, he has 10K points available, but needs about 45K to book the GRR-MCO flights. The flights we have currently booked are worth about 25K so we have about 35K "available". We are watching for those MDW-MCO flights to drop by about 2K/$30 each. If they do, that will give dad the extra 10K in points that he needs to book the GRR-MCO flights at the CURRENT price) We will still be on that flight from MDW-MCO, but instead of driving to Chicago, we can fly from GR. That would be amazing! It would be so much nicer for the girls to come home from school and I could tell them, "Hey, you have time for a nap:teeth: We don't have to leave for the airport until 5:30!"

    Right now, we are watching and waiting and stalking...every day:surfweb:

    For the flight home, the latest flight we could get departs at 3:55pm. It flies into Chicago, non-stop and lands at 5:40pm. My dad would like to try and get me and my girls on the MCO-GRR itinerary which continues this flight into GRR and lands at 9:20pm, but I told him that I would rather use the "extra" points to fly OUT of GR instead of IN to GR. All 8 of us are FLYING home together, at the same time, so we might as well all DRIVE home together too. I will just have to get a rental car which will add a little bit of time. To be honest, I don't like the idea of driving 3 hours after a flight. I like to have a drink or two on the plane to calm my nerves but I will not drink if I have to drive.

    So that's it for now...
     

    GGOOFY1

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 9, 2005
    We fly SWA all the time out of MDW. I book the flights I want when the window opens up and then check my the flights daily for adjustments. I just got 9,000 points refunded on two tickets for our trip in Sept!!
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    Oh boy...things have changed with our flights....

    As we suspected, the prices changed...but they went DOWN!:jumping3:

    First, the MDW-MCO dropped by a LOT...but the GRR-MCO also dropped too:Pinkbounc. So now, me and my girls are taking the 5:55pm flight from GR to MCO, connecting through Baltimore. It lands around the same time (11:20pm) but we get an hour and twenty minute layover instead of just the hour we would have had if we would have connected through Chicago.

    After Dad switched my flight, he and Kim got to thinking:scratchin...since they were planning to drive to Chicago on Wednesday night and spend $250 on a hotel and fly out in the morning, why not just fly out of GR on Wednesday night and stay at a hotel in Orlando instead:idea:? Sure enough! The GRR-MCO flights for Wednesday night were CHEAPER than the MDW-MCO flights that they were booked on:dance3:. They were able to switch their flights and now they are flying out of GR at 7pm on Wednesday night, connecting through Chicago, and arriving at 11:35pm. (*I'll get to our lodging plans in a moment...)

    Once Dad switched all of the outbound flights, he looked at all of the points that we still had available and we had enough left over to switch all of us EXCEPT FOR MOM AND DAD to flights that land in GRR. That's what Dad wanted in the first place. He figured that would be fine since he and mom could just drive the car home. So, basically, we are ALL departing MCO on the same flight that goes to MDW, but that's where mom and dad's trip stops...Kim and I and our girls have a layover and our itinerary continues on to GR, landing around 9:40pm. We didn't think that would be a big deal...until Dad remembered that they aren't flying OUT of Chicago any more! They won't have a car to drive home!:scared1: Doh!:headache: Of course, now the MCO-GRR flight is WAY more expensive than what we have booked so we don't have enough points. We did manage to catch one point drop and combined that with a deal so we snagged ONE, one-way ticket from MDW-GRR for mom. It's the same flight we are on, it's just a separate, one-way ticket. It's not a big deal since we can just check her bag as one of our's when we leave Orlando so it will "transfer" with our luggage. We are now only 500 points short of being able to book that final, one-way ticket for dad. He said he would just buy one but Kim and I said there is NO WAY we will let him buy a ticket. He had over 130K points so there is no reason why he should have to pay a single cent for an airline ticket.

    Ok, back to the lodging...

    My girls decided that when we arrive, we would rather just stay at the Hyatt for the night instead of wait for DME, ride to Pop Century and then have to get up and move again in the morning. The price at the Hyatt dropped about $50 so I got us a room for $310...still a LOT for just under 10 hours, but it will definitely be convenient. I'm so excited to learn about their luggage service:teeth:. For only $10 (plus tip), they will retrieve our checked bags for us and then store them until morning when we check out! That means that when we drag our haggard, exhausted selves up to the desk at midnight, I can hand them our baggage claim slips and they will retrieve our bags and hold them for us until the morning when we are ready to leave. We can go straight up to our room and crash until morning:faint:. I have no idea why this is so appealing to me, but when I found out about this service, it made my day:thumbsup2. Since I had Pop Century booked for $170 (total), the cost isn't too much more, especially considering that I was able to CANCEL the $90 rental car (from MDW-GRR) and I no longer had to worry about the cost of the gas that I would need, driving to and from Chicago.

    Dad and Kim were initially going to stay in the Hyatt that is near the airport, using the free shuttle to get there and back in the morning. Then I told them that they might just want to add a day on to their POR reservation and "have done with it". Yes, they would be getting to the resort really late, but they have no plans for a park the next day so they can sleep in as late as they want. Dad called and there were no more standard, 5th sleeper rooms left for Wednesday night so they had to upgrade to a pool view room. At least they got a room...after SWGE was announced, I was afraid that the value and moderate rooms would be almost impossible to come by, especially the "cheaper" rooms that sleep 5.

    So that's all for now...we're still watching and waiting to see if we can get a ticket to get dad home. Worst-case scenario is that he rents a car and drives himself home.:sad2:
     

    heaven2dc

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 26, 2003
    I love all of your planning skills and what you have been able to come up with so far! If you were a financial planner, I'd hire you :) Maybe I should just hire you to plan our next Disney vacation lol. I have been playing with flights for our upcoming trip in October 2019 and still haven't booked our flights. The rates are less expensive flying in the night before but then we'd have to book another night stay either at MCO or maybe a value resort. It would cost us a little more but then we wouldn't be arriving our first day around 6 pm. Still unsure what to do :confused3
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    The plans have changed AGAIN:rotfl2:...

    There is a flight that departs on Wednesday at 2:15pm and lands at 8:45pm. The price on that flight dropped low enough that Dad decided to put him and Mom on that flight. So now, here's the plan...

    Mom and Dad will fly out at 2:15pm, but since their flight now lands before 10pm, they are able to have DME deliver their luggage AND since they are flying on SWA, they can check up to 4 bags for free. They will check one bag of their own PLUS 2 of Kim's checked bags and have DME deliver the bags for them. Kim will be flying with her girls on the 7pm flight which lands at 11:35pm. Kim is nervous because there is only a 1 hour layover at MDW for her flight. The bright side is that if the first flight is delayed and she happens to miss her connection, there is one more flight to MCO that lands at 1:05am. She is excited now because she doesn't have to worry about her checked luggage. She can fly with just her carry-ons because her checked bags will already be en route to Orlando. Dad's not super-thrilled about the 3-hour layover in Chicago, but he said that he's glad it is just him and Mom. He said they will make sure their Kindles are charged and maybe they will have a "nice" sit-down meal. (*I don't know how "nice" of a meal you're going to get at Midway:confused:)

    We still haven't bought a ticket for Dad to get home from Chicago yet...popcorn::
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    I was able to get the Parisian Luncheon booked for Kaedyn and I for Saturday afternoon. This will be our third time at this event and it has sort of become a tradition for us.

    Saturday morning, we are eating breakfast at O'Hana as a semi-surprise for Emilee and Olivia. Stitch is one of their favorite characters and they want to meet him so we decided to do the character breakfast at O'Hana since we like that restaurant anyways. We told them we are eating there, but the last time we ate there was dinner and there were no characters so they do not know that they are going to meet their buddy:stitch2:. After breakfast, we are going to head over to Epcot for the day until it gets too crowded to handle and then we will wing it from there.

    We have a rough plan in place, but the park hours are continuously being tweaked with the opening of SWGE looming on the horizon. Our FP+ day opens on August 16 or 17 (I can't remember which) and we are getting together on the 11th to finalize the plan of attack for FastPasses. That is always the thing I dread the most because I really have no idea what park to plan for on which days. We do a lot of resort dining so it's not as simple as planning parks around the ADR's we have already made. We tend to leave the park to eat so making FP's isn't as easy as it would seem.
     

    John De Young

    John DY
    Joined
    Jun 1, 2019
    I just became a registered user on DIS Boards, so it's time I put in my two cents here. I am the "Dad" that Kristen refers to above so I think I'm entitled to comment. I noticed a post by heaven2dc complimenting Kris on her planning skills. I will quickly admit that her Disney-trip planning expertise is world class, but it wasn't always so. Case in point was our 2001 trip with Kris, her then fiance, my wife and me. Kris took our departure time, the travel route, the weather conditions (it was February) and calculated that we would probably get down to Jeffersonville, Indiana on the first day. She then made a reservation at a Days Inn just off I-65. Her calculations were spot-on. We arrived there around 8:00 PM, giving us just the right amount of time to get diner and relax for a while before bed. The temperature was down around single-digits outside and when we entered the room, it seemed colder inside. The motel was the kind where you drive right up to your first-floor room. We cranked the heater up all the way, but it really didn't seem to make much difference. When we turned in for the night, we were all wearing as much as we could get on. Somewhere around 2:00 AM, I woke up with the realization that something was not quite right, but I wasn't awake enough to know what. After a few minutes, I realized that what woke me up was the fact that it was about 85 degrees in our room. At some point, the heater decided to kick in and since we had it jacked up all the way...well, you get the idea.

    The next night she had a reservation in Lake City, Florida. As we approached the motel, I noticed that it was another drive-up-to-your-room type. Right next to it was a very inviting Country Inn and Suites, so I decided to give that one a look. When I walked up to the reservation desk, I discovered a plate of still-warm chocolate chip cookies. Guess where we stayed that night.
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    Summer is upon us and the trip is now just 4 months away:beach:

    I've done some tweaking with the dining budget since I have been doing very well with my "Swagging". I want to make sure that the girls and I can snack (and drink:drinking1) whenever we are so inclined and I do not want to have to say "No...we don't have it in the budget". When we actually sit down for meals, either counter-service or table-service, we don't always eat a full meal, but we do tend to get suckered in by the Dole Whips and snack carts🍦🍿. It's easy to budget for the meals, but it's a lot harder to figure out how much I will spend on snacks and adult beverages. A lot of that will depend on the weather. If it's hot, we might not be that hungry and we will simply refill our water bottles.

    My original dining budget was $1500 for the 9 days that we are at WDW. This included the following meals:
    • Friday: CS or Snacks at MK, Dinner at Jiko and Desserts/Drinks at Top of the World
    • Saturday: Breakfast at O'Hana, Parisian Luncheon Event (for 2) at Epcot, CS Lunch (for the other one) at Epcot, and a CS dinner at ???
    • Sunday: Lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern and Snacks at MNSSHP
    • Monday: CS meal (Lunch or Dinner) and Snacks (We are eating Breakfast at Tusker House but @John De Young is paying🥰)
    • Tuesday: Lunch at Sanaa, CS dinner and snacks
    • Wednesday: CS lunch, snacks/drinks, Cat 1 HDDR dinner
    • Thursday: CS lunch, 50's Prime Time dinner, snacks
    • Friday: Breakfast at Garden Grill, F&W Festival Booths, CS dinner
    • Saturday: Breakfast at Boma
    When I originally made the budget, I did not account for any snacks because we usually pack snacks in our bags and I also allotted $40-$50 for our CS meals. I figured that since I was really overestimating the cost of our CS meals it would account for some snacks throughout the week. I already paid a total of $300 for the HDDR and the Parisian Luncheon so if I would have stuck to the original budget, I would only be bringing an additional $1200 with me to cover the remaining meals, snacks and drinks. I decided that I want a nice, round number so I upped the total budget to $1800. I added a snack budget and so now, I will bring $1500 in gift cards with me. That should be plenty.

    Next post: I will do an interesting run down and show how our dining budget would stack up against the Dining Plan and Deluxe Dining Plan...
    ...you will be AMAZED!😲
     

    kristenrice

    NOT just an ambulance driver
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    There are a few things that I have to keep in mind when trying to decide if a dining plan is a good idea for our situation.
    1. We have the Tables in Wonderland card so we have a 20% discount on food AND alcohol at our table-service meals
    2. We have a split-stay (5 nights and 3 nights) so we have to plan how we use our credits
    3. Because of the split-stay, we have the option of using different dining plans, or no dining plan, for the different stays
    4. The usage of the Dining Plans for this trip would be purely hypothetical because it will be based on my personal budget for myself and my two daughters as if we were a party of 3. Our actual party size is 8 people and we are NOT all dining at the same locations which would effect our credit usage. For example, my girls and I are eating at Jiko while Grandpa & Grandma take my sister and nieces to Crystal Palace for dinner. My girls and I are taking Grandpa to dinner at HDDR while Grandma stays with my sister and her girls and they do dinner by the pool or in the room.
    5. Even though I mentioned that @John De Young is paying for the meal at Tusker House, I will include it into my "cash" budget as if I were paying OOP for it. That will keep it an even comparison.
    OK...here goes...

    WITHOUT the dining plan, my total food budget looks like this:
    • TS meals (incl tip): $1,185 (*includes $120 for Tusker House)
    • CS meals: $285
    • Snacks: $340 (*includes $150 budgeted for F&W festival booths which will NOT include all snack credits due to alcohol restrictions)
    • Miscellaneous (non-DDP purchases): $175
    • TOTAL: $1985
    (If you did the math, it totals $1865 for my portion and I rounded it down to $1800. I know that I have WAY overestimated so I am quite comfortable with my $1800 number)

    The Deluxe Dining Plan is (3) credits per person, per night. For 9 nights and 3 people, that is a TOTAL of 81 credits that we could use between table-service and counter-service meals. For the meals that we have planned (which is already a LOT...more than we will probably eat!) we would only use 55 credits😲. Not only would we have 26 MEALS that we would have to use up, we would also have to try and use up another 54 SNACK credits as well. As you can see, there is no reason AT ALL that we should even consider the Deluxe Dining Plan. Oh, did I mention it would cost $3,129.02:scared1::faint:? That does not include the gratuities on the TS meals which would add another $175. The Deluxe Dining Plan would cost almost 40% more than paying OOP and it would be more food that we could possibly eat.

    Now, let me get a little more realistic and look at the Dining Plan using our split-stay. We start with a 5-night stay at AKV. If we paid OOP, this is what our budget would look like:
    • TS meals (Jiko, O'Hana, LTT, Sanaa): $540
    • CS meals : $195
    • Snacks: $115
    • Miscellaneous: $175
    • TOTAL: $1025
    I did not include the Tusker House meal because Dad is paying for it in our "real life" scenario. For comparison's sake, add $125 to the "Miscellaneous" number as an added OOP meal.

    Now, the Dining Plan for the 5-night stay costs $1,132.65, plus an additional $218 for the Tusker House meal and gratuities. This is a little closer to the OOP cost, but still about $300 MORE than paying OOP, and it still does not include any alcoholic beverages which ARE included in the "snack" and meal budget on the OOP plan.

    On the second half of the split-stay, our OOP meals would look like this...
    • TS Meals (50's PT, Garden Grill, Boma): $345
    • CS Meals: $170 (*I split the $150 budget for the F&W booths between CS meals and snacks because both credits can be used at the booths)
    • Snacks: $130
    • Miscellaneous: $175 (*I would pay OOP for HDDR...not worth 2 credits)
    • TOTAL: $820
    The Dining Plan for the 3-night stay would cost $679.59, plus $232 for tips and the HDDR bringing the total cost to $911.59. This is by far the closest to the best deal. It is still more, but if we were going to wait until the end of our stay to buy refillable mugs (not likely) there's a value of $57 there that can be factored in. Unfortunately, this is also the portion of the trip where we will be noshing at the F&W booths and the credits cannot be used for alcoholic beverages so that would increase the miscellaneous cost in addition to the DDP cost.

    As you can see, there is NO value in the dining plan for our family. It is simply too much food and it is SO expensive. Since I have been using Swagbucks, eBates, IBotta and other ways to earn free gift cards, my $1800 dining budget is completely covered by FREE gift cards. I am truly taking advantage of my own version of FREE DINING:thumbsup2:cheer2::banana:.
     

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