Monday, December 22, 2014

::disney update 2015ish::

I have written about Disney tips before, but Disney has had many changes since my previous information and it is time for an update.
Why a Travel Agent:
                I listen to a Disney podcast called DIS Unplugged which is run by the owners of a Disney travel agency called Dreams Unlimited.  These guys know Disney.  They live and breathe Disney.  I am truly embarrassed, but I am certain that they know more about Disney then I do.  I highly recommend that you use their company whenever you book a trip to Disney.  We don’t use them, because my parents belong to the Disney Vacation Club and we have to do it all ourselves.  But if you are going to Disney please give them a call.  There is no fee to you and they will find you the best possible deals that exist.  Their travel agents are truly Disney fluent.  

Where to Stay:
                There are practically numerous options about what accommodations you can get in the Disney area.  I have never stayed off the Disney property when we go, but many of my friends have had great success with this.  They book large condos for the whole family and get them much cheaper than on Disney property.  Staying on property is more expensive, so you have to decide if it is worth it to you.  Do you want to use Disney transportation?  Then you need to be on property.  Yet, some of the nearby hotels offer their own transportation to the parks.  Do you want to take advantage of the extended hours that Disney offers only to Disney hotel guests?  This is something we always take advantage of and is an important factor to us.  Every day of the week a different park is open early or late for Disney Resort Guests only.  This leads to very short lines, if any.  We love Magic Hours.  Plus – the Disney hotels have that Disney Magic that I crave when I go on vacation.  It’s a personal choice and there is no right answer for every situation.
                If I was going and buying rooms for my family of six I would go with Art of Animation.  They have a family suite that would sleep all six of us and the resort is so pretty.  If my family was four people and we could fit in one room then you can’t go wrong with any of the other resorts.  Each one has pro’s and con’s.  I love the Contempory and the Polynesian but both are very expensive.  We almost always stay at Old Key West, which is a Disney Vacation Club resort.  It’s moderate sized condos and we are very comfortable there.  It isn’t reasonable to pay cash for one of those on park condos, as they are thousands of dollars a night.  Disney Vacation Club is the blessing that gets my family into Disney as often as we go.    

Two evil stepmothers together again

My Disney Experience:
                This is a free app or website that help you organize your dinning reservations, fast passes, and other plans.  It tells you wait times on rides and gives you park hours.  It has all the need to know information.  With the updates to technology at Disney World I feel this app is an essential thing to have.

                We have a very specific knowledge of what we want and what we don’t want.  We always get the Magic Your Way base ticket.  We never do add ons like Park Hopper or No Expiration.  We have so many kids and such a variety of age groups that jumping from one park to another does not sound like any fun to me at all.  We plan our trip to enjoy one park a day and to spend as little time as possible in transportation mode.  With the additional cost of adding park jumping to tickets it doesn’t appeal to me at all.  No Expiration would make sense to us, except it is so expensive.  If you want to spend a bunch of money on me, feel free to give me a 10 day no expiration ticket.  I promise to use it up eventually.  Once you get past about four days the cost of an additional day ticket is very minimal.       
Magic Bands:
                Magic bands are sent to you in the mail.  We get a reminder email telling us to make sure we turn in our customizations for colors and names.  The Magic Bands are bracelets you where on you wrist.  You scan them and they work as your park ticket, your room key, and they store information about your fast passes.  You can also use them to charge things to your room account.  For kids you can set them to have charging privileges or to not.  They come in a variety of colors.  They are comfortable to wear.  The packaging they arrive in makes it really clear you are about to set out on an awesome adventure of magic.   

Fast Passes:
                Fast passes can be booked up to 180 days before your vacation.  You book them by logging in to the My Disney Experience App.  The whole process is very easy - promise.  You get online and pick a one hour time period that you want to ride a certain ride.  Currently you get to pick three rides ahead of time.  As long as you arrive in the time period they give you, you get to cut to the front of the line.  This program must be utilized to get the least amount of time spent in lines.  Don't be late because when your Fast Pass expires, its gone, and they do not make exceptions.  

Dining Plan:
                Quick over view –  You can buy, or Disney often offers a deal where they give you the dining plan free with your room, a package of dinning credits.  There are three different plans and they are based on how many days you are staying at the park.  The details are summed up very well on the Disney Website.  For the sake of discussion I am going to discuss the middle plan and the quick service meal as they relate to my family of six.  The majority of quick service places and sit down restaurants at Disney world accept credits from the dinning plan, and they are clearly listed in park literature.  All the plans no longer include gratuity for the server if you go to a sit down restaurant.
                This whole concept is not for us.  We used to always get the dinning plan.  We liked knowing about how much food was going to cost us.  We also used to have a lot less kids and took much more joy in sitting down to have a long leisurely meal.  The two girls where great with that, but when wild boy one and two came along I find trying to make them sit through an entire meal, even in the kid friendly environment of Disney, to be zero fun for me.  We may go to one or two sit down meals a trip, but they are always wild and crazy places like O’Hana or a character meal where the kids can eat and dance and be wild things.  When Josh and I go to Disney just the two of us we still occasionally get the dinning plan, just to try new places and have date nights planned well into the budget.
                My advice about Dining Plan is that for seasoned Disney people this plan is not worth it.  We can eat better and cheaper by knowing where to go.  For a family that currently doesn’t want to spend park time sitting at a table trying to keep young kids in line, this plan is not for you.  We don’t need a fancy meal every night to be happy.  Obviously, if Disney is offering it free with your room it’s a great deal.    For non-seasoned Disney people going when it is not being offered free I still don’t feel like you are getting your monies worth.  DIS Unplugged says that you have to order the most expensive thing on the menu at every meal to really get your money out of it.
                Disney is no longer the kind of place that you can just skip in with four kids and expect to be able to take advantage of all that the park has to offer.  But how much planning is over the top and how much is needed.  At the very least you need to have your Fast Passes mapped out a few weeks before you go.  You need to have your dinner reservations pretty locked down a few months before you go.  Especially if you want to do something really special like, “Be Our Guest” for dinner.  The more research you do the better, but I am always open to letting the day develop itself. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

::boys party plan - dragon school::

                I really am not going to go super crazy with decor on this one.  The little boys don’t care.  They just want to run around and break crap anyway.  Still – the party lover in me just can’t help but get a little nutty.  The treat table is really my place to do what I want.  I know that the party is about the boys, but I need my cool treat table.  It’s my own little hobby.

                The treat table will have the cake front and center.  I don’t want any kind of cake that has a Toothless or Hiccup that we are supposed eat.  I don’t want to carve up slices of Toothless to pass out to a bunch of wild seven year olds.  I want a cake very similar to the one I have above.  Something with cool texture but not too much one particular thing.  Usually I take a few cakes and put them together, but I really just want this exact cake.  My favorite cake lady is up for the challenge as usual.  If you are local you seriously need to check this lady out.  Her cakes are amazing and her prices for her quality are impossible to beat.    I will make sheep marshmallow pops to go with the sheep that you see in the movie.  I want to make black cups with wings and eyes and have some treats in them.  I love the green dragon poop that someone made.  I have to do that.  My boys will think that is disgusting awesomeness.  I’ll come up with some other treats as we get closer but that should pretty much cover the salty sweet bases.  I have some small stuffed dragons from the movie to use on the treat table to help fill empty space.  I want a bright teal sheet turned table cloth and some burlap to add texture.  The back drop will be a black or blue sheet with card board shields saying “Max” and “Quinn”.              
Quinn will be dressed in all black with a black hoodie sweat shirt that I am going to make into an easy Toothless costume.  Max is going to be dressed as Hiccup.  I hope to be able to make most of it myself, with the help of Goodwill.  My “I can’t sew” routine may limit what I can do, but I have so ideas that might work. 

When kids arrive they will get help making their own catapult which we will have a shooting contest with later in the day.  I will pre-make Viking hats out of duct tape and cardboard that they can wear when they arrive.  I will also have shields started that they can decorate while we wait for others to get there.  I learned last year to not give this crew any swords, so if you notice I skipped that it is for a reason.  
                After about ten minutes of arrival time we jump right in to games.  The boys’ party is in a gym near my house so they can run wild and my house isn’t trashed.  I will cut some fish out of tissue paper and they have to use shields (paper plates) to fan the fish into a basket to feed their dragons.  No hands allowed.  Then they have to take dragon eggs (balloons) and use anything but hands to get them into a next (hula hoops).  I may make this a race between two teams.  I am going to make some sheep out of white yarn pompoms and make a toss game out of them.  We will definitely have some three legged dragon races.    I have several other games in mind that I have stolen off the minute to win it website.  I’ll rename them into dragon names but I am thinking about games like Junk in the Trunk (empty tissue boxes with pin pong balls inside and they have to shake them out), cup stack races, marshmallow transfer with a straw, and feather blowing races.  My goal is to send them home totally wiped out. 
Take home:
                I think I will send them home with a take home present of the first book in the “How to Train Your Dragon” series of chapter books.  It’s a little advanced for first grade but it could be read aloud to them.  The book is $5 each on Amazon.  I would rather send them home with a book then some ridiculous bag of cheap silliness.        


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