What’s in my suitcase? My ULTIMATE Disney World packing list.

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Hey girl, what’s in your suitcase? Glad you asked! Have a peek at my ultimate Disney World packing list. I should note we love a road trip and usually drive to Disney World. This gives us a bit more space flexibility than if we are flying. I think this list works for both, but you may need to tailor it suit any luggage constraints.

  • Clothes – Let’s talk attire. What to wear at Disney World comes down to personal preference. More than likely it will be hot, and you’ll get wet. You should plan to wear clothes you know you find comfortable. For me that means a lot of dresses. I find them to be pleasant, breezy and cool. I will note, with skirts/dresses, you may want to be mindful of length. Shorter lengths can be challenging to for getting in and out of low attractions such as Test Track in Epcot. I will wear tanks and shorts too. Andy prefers shorts and sleeveless tees. He’ll wear t-shirts sometimes, but he’s usually happier in the men’s tanks. More athletic style wear helps to wick away sweat and moisture, and could be worth considering. But it’s all about what you think you’ll feel best in when it’s hot and humid. Plan for plenty of clothes! You may find yourself wanting to change during the day. We do! It’s amazing how refreshed it can make you feel.IMG_7147.jpg
  • Shoes – You will be walking. For miles, and miles, and miles. If you’re new to Disney World the amount of steps you take may surprise you. One of the things I SWEAR BY to keep my feet fresh is switching up my shoe game. I try not wear the same pair of shoes more than 2 days in a row. I recommend allotting a little extra suitcase space and bringing 2-4 pairs of shoes that you love. My favorite park shoes are Olukai Ohana flip flops. My husband likes those and Rainbows. I prefer to have my feet open, not enslaved in socks and shoes. Even still I will also wear a shoe like classic Keds, Converse Chuck Taylors, Toms, Vans, or a moderate athletic shoe every couple of days to keep my feet fresh. My parents are more comfortable in athletic shoes like Aasics or Nikes. My mom is trying out a pair of Allbirds this trip. You do you! But I do advise several pairs, and ones you have broken in, that you know are comfortable. Your trip to Disney world is not the time to experiment. Trust me on that.
  • Sunglasses – Obvious. I also like to bring an extra pair – just in case!DSC00182
  • Hat – I love to wear a hat in Disney World. It may seem anti-intuitive to put something on your head in the heat, but a hat (especially a fedora or wide-brimmed hat) helps to keep your face and neck shaded. I’m usually in a straw fedora.
  • Sunscreen – Choose your favorite and keep it at hand. It’s nice to have both lotion/spray and a stick for your face.
  • After Sun Lotion – I do my best to keep sunscreen/hat on to avoid need of this. But I believe that re-hydrating my skin after a day of Florida sun goes a long way to ward off burn and irritation. This is hands down my favorite post-sun lotion.
  • Ponchos – It’s probable you’ll encounter rain on your trip. Fortunately it doesn’t usually last long! In the summer months especially, a small storm or shower will pass through and then move along. Keeping a poncho with you to stay dry is really great. I find it miserable to get rained on and then walk around in hot, damp clothes waiting for them to dry in the Florida humidity.
  • Waterproof Mascara – Let’s talk make-up ladies. I don’t tend to wear a lot of make-up in Disney World. It’s hot, you sweat, and it just doesn’t hold. However, I don’t like to go anywhere without mascara. In Disney World I highly recommend switching to a waterproof mascara. (I’m giving this one a go this trip.) Between sweat, water elements, misters, pool time, it saves the day by keeping black from running down your face. The other thing I usually wear is a tinted moisturizer/sunscreen combo. It evens skin tone without being heavy.
  • Makeup Removal Wipes – Waterproof mascara is stubborn these help with removal before a face wash. They’re also great for cleaning your face before/after a trip to the pool.
  • Gold Bond/Glide – Hubby discovered the need for this on our honeymoon. This helps keep chaffing at bay. Gold bond makes a small travel bottle that would be perfect for the park bag to keep things fresh.
  • Portable External Charger – Disney World has a way of draining your cellphone battery. You use it to snap photos, check wait times, order food, and of course check in on social media. There are charging stations throughout Disney World, but I prefer to charge on the go. Something like this external charger (or this) is inexpensive, small, and lightweight. Perfect to slip in your park bag and juice up your phones when needed. Also don’t forget chargers and cables for any other electronics you’ll be packing.IMG_7152
  • Hand Sanitizer – Lots of people in Walt Disney World. A little hand sanitizer is handy in helping keep germs at bay when you’re on the go in the parks. Bath & Body works makes cute ones that clip on your bag to be at the ready.
  • Brita water bottles – *TIP* You can get a free cup of ice water in any counter service location at Disney World. Awesome. But when you’re thirsty in line, that doesn’t help. Purchasing bottled water in the parks adds up quickly. We like to bring filtered water bottles into the parks with us. The water at Disney World doesn’t taste all that great. (It’s gross, actually.) But these filtered water bottles take care of that so you can refill at any fountain and stay happily hydrated without breaking the bank.
  • Lysol spray – I touched on this in my last post. I like to have this on hand in the hotel to spray down surfaces to kick the germs. This is great to do with your park bag when you get back to the hotel too.
  • Clorox Wipes – I love Clorox Wipes. They’re handy for messes and sanitizing. What’s not to love?
  • Laundry Bag/Pop-up Hamper – It’s much nicer to be in a clean & tidy space. Providing a spot for your dirty clothes keeps the aesthetic a bit nicer and the mess down. All Disney hotels have a laundry facility. Should you chose to clean a load of clothes on a pool day, it makes dealing with that much easier.IMG_7141.jpg
  • Mickey/Character Gear – This may be a bit redundant, but don’t forget your favorite Disney shirt/watch/shoes/hat etc.
  • Swimsuit/Coverup – Disney World hotels have GREAT themed pools, most with water-slides and other bells and whistles. I wholeheartedly suggest you take advantage of them on your trip. Nowadays Disney has controlled hours of their pools with locked gates. But, when I was little my mom used to get up early and take me swimming before we hit the parks. I love those memories. There is also Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach if you want to hit a Disney water park. Disney provides the towels. Wahoo! You can skip packing those.
  • Ziploc Bags – These are useful for a multitude of things. I especially love them for holding wet clothes/items or to keep wet OFF of certain things. Don’t want your sunscreen to explode in your bag? Ziploc. Boom!IMG_6450.jpg
  • Laundry Pods – I usually pack a tupperwear container with 3-4 of these because I often end up doing a load or two of laundry. They don’t take up much space and it’s much cheaper than buying from your Disney hotel.
  • Tide To Go – This snazzy little “pen” is perfect for the hotel or park bag to keep any Mickey Premium Bar, ketchup, or the like from permanently staining clothes.
  • Lightweight sweater/sweatshirt – OK, now I know what you’re thinking. “This woman has lost her mind. She’s been doing nothing but talking about the heat and now she’s saying pack a sweatshirt?!” I won’t be dragging one around the park, but the air conditioning can be chilly inside in Disney World. Especially if you’re wet from the pool/sweat. In the evening post swim or what not it can be nice to toss on. I also like to make this a gift shop purchase from the resort where I’m staying. I have a zip sweatshirt from Animal Kingdom Lodge that I just adore and a pull-on hoodie from Wilderness Lodge that put me in the Disney state of mind in the winter.
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  • Snacks – I’m not huge on bringing food to Disney World, especially into the parks. It’s a great way to save cash, but I love to eat Disney chow when I’m there. It’s part of the experience. That being said, it’s nice to have a couple of your favorite options on hand in your hotel room. (And in your park bag for hangry if you have kids… or yourself…) If you’re considering bringing your own food/beverages into the parks just remember – no alcohol or glass is allowed. And be sure to bring things that aren’t going to melt on you.
  • Band-Aids + Neosporin – At times, despite our best efforts to wear our most wonderful shoes, we end up with blisters. Having these already packed is lifesaving. I especially like to have Band-Aid Hydro Seal Blister Heels in my bag in addition to an assortment of (Disney themed, of course!) regular Band-Aids.IMG_7151
  • Motrin IB/Advil/Tylenol – Whatever your favorite OTC pain reliever is, I would bring it along and keep it on you to fend off headaches and the like. I’d like to note that all of Disney’s parks have a great First Aid station where you can get bandages, ice packs, and OTC medications if you’re in need. (Hopefully you’ll have no need though!)
  • Cash – We never carry cash so I have make a note to get some before trips. (Perhaps I am speaking out of turn, but I find that younger generations frequently don’t carry it.) Making sure to have a cash allotment for tipping and whatnot is wise. There’s a safe in all Disney hotel rooms to stash any surplus or other valuables you may wish to secure.
  • Park Bag – You need a bag to take into the parks. Something comfortable and not too big! (Post on this upcoming!)
  • Glow bracelets – You can pick these up at your local dollar store or Target and they make a great special touch at night in the parks.

That’s it for my major hitters! Don’t forget the other things to pack that are more travel-general and less park-specific:

  • Chargers
  • Toiletries: nail trimmers, nail file, toothbrush, toothpaste & floss, face wash, moisturizer, deodorant (please!), razor etc.,
  • Make-up
  • Comb, brush, styling products, hair ties, headbands, bobby pins, etc.
  • ID, Insurance cards, discount cards, etc.
  • Feminine products

Looking to theme out your luggage? shopDisney has you covered with options.

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Did I forget anything?!? Let me know in the comments below.

See ya real soon!

 

The List… My WDW Vacation Prep Struggle

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Guys, I have a confession. I’m struggling! Normally I am so organized, excited, and filled with the planning spirit when I have an upcoming Walt Disney World trip. For me, the preparation is half of the fun. But I’m having a hard time with this upcoming trip.

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We are so busy. Life is good, but life is full. And this fullness is overwhelming my ability to think about this trip, let a lone plan. I’m particularly frustrated by this because it’s been a long time since we’ve visited and I’m clamoring to make the most of this trip – including the planning! Probably a foolish feeling, but since when are feelings always sensible?

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I’ve taken care of the essentials: making sure we have Fastpass+ and dining reservations. But beyond that? Oy.

I’ve hardly thought about it. My countdown calendar lacks daily attention. In fact, I’ve been lucky to get to it once a week.

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And honestly, I feel daunted by visiting with my toddler. How much will she be able to do? Will she enjoy herself? Will be she be tired and fearful? How do I prepare for taking her? Am I going to feel like a backpacker lugging around everything to meet her needs? Are we going to be able to enjoy it as a family? I know in my heart we will. But I’m definitely in unknown territory.

To combat my sort of nagging, back-of-the-mind wanderings I’ve taken to constructing lists. When my hubby reads this he’s going to say this is just an outlet for my OCD, control-centric personality tendencies. He’s probably right. But, it’s also a great way to start preparing and ensure I take everything I need – particularly related to my toddler. I’ve also found it to be a fun way to jot things down that I’m looking forward to, to help foster anticipation and excitement.

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So what’s on my random post-it list?

  • Sunscreen – Clearly needed in FL summer, but I gotta make sure to have toddler safe and convenient!
  • Ziploc bags – These are so handy. I always have a few in different sizes with me when I go to WDW.
  • Laundry bag – Much better than stuffing dirty clothes in a trash bag or tripping over them laying around the room.
  • Shoes – lol really? Of course we need shoes. Prime example of how my mind works. But my point was making sure to have enough appropriate footwear, and order more Olukai sandals if needed. And figure out little one’s shoes. I swear her feet grow every day. Actually, I think I’ll make my next post just about SHOES at Disney World! *Cue geeking out.*
  • Ponchos – It is very likely to thunderstorm/rain shower on our trip. I find it miserable to get wet and try to dry out in the FL humidity. I don’t like the way my clothes stick and feel heavy when wet.  While ponchos are widely available in WDW, they’re much cheaper to purchase from somewhere like Amazon.com, and pack.
  • Thermometer – This is something I don’t normally take, but having a toddler it’s probably good to have on hand.
  • Motrin – Both adult and children’s version. For adults, it’s great for the headache or just aches that may find you from walking MILES every day. For my little one, I’ll be comforted knowing I have something to help if a fever should happen to strike
  • Juice pouchesHonest Kids Juice Pouches are something I always take on vacation. They’re the perfect liquid treat for a road trip/WDW vacation without being loaded with sugar. The lemonade and fruit punch are my favorites.
  • Snack singles – I am not big on taking food/beverage into the parks, outside of a refillable water bottle. I know it’s a great way to save money. But I’m OK with paying a little extra for Disney yummies. Especially when that means I don’t have to tote it around. I do not like to lug things around the parks. I’m sort of a “bare essentials” gal. However, I’m aware I’m probably in for a change in that tide with a 2 year old. I’ve seen her hangry meltdowns. I don’t think a couple of goldfish cracker packs will take up too much room, and I will probably be grateful for them at some point.
  • Diapers  – I certainly don’t want to get stuck with a need for these.
  • Baby Wipes  – See above, but also perfect for wiping off Mickey Premium Bars from little hands.
  • Diaper Rash Cream – I don’t normally have a need for this, but I’m leaving nothing to chance with the heat and humidity of Florida.
  • Hand Sanitizer – I’m not sure I’ve ever taken this into the parks before. I’m not sure why not. I know the numbers of people moving through the park each day. And since I’ve turned mom, especially after this last terrible flu season, I’m a bit of a germaphobe. I will have plenty of this on hand.
  • Clorox Wipes – Not an item I’ll be taking into the parks, but certainly something that comes in handy around the hotel and in the car.
  • Lysol Sanitizing Spray – Again, for the hotel. I think generally Mousekeeping does a great job preparing Disney hotel rooms. But I don’t see any harm in spraying down surfaces to keep germs at bay. No one wants to be sick on vacation.

This is by no means a comprehensive packing list. (That is upcoming!) Just a few things that I stuck on a post-it note.

I began writing this post a couple of days ago. Since then, I’ve been feeling excited! I’ve made many more post-it lists and doodles. My mood has shifted. I’ve been able to imagine being there with my little one and seeing her wonder. I’ve had a blast compiling my lists and daydreaming about the trip. I think I’ll even catch up on the countdown calendar tonight…

See ya real soon!

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June 2015 Trip Report, Day 1, Part 2

Schedule “Unplanned” Time!

I believe in planning for your WDW vacation. I believe in making dining reservations 180 days out and I believe in making your FastPass+ reservations 60 days out. I believe in changing your mind and changing your plans as your trip gets closer and during your trip if necessary. I like to make the most of my time, and personally I think you need to plan a little to make that happen. Walt Disney World is too large, and often, too crowded to leave everything to whim.  BUT, I don’t believe in micromanaging EVERY HOUR of your trip! You can’t plan everything – things pop up. This is especially true when traveling with kids. While I think certain planning makes for the best WDW vacation, I believe in the joy of just enjoying the moments that present themselves. It may sound funny, but I always allow for some time to just go with whatever is happening. If you can, allow for a day or an evening without a plan. Or, perhaps leave a couple hours every day to just embrace the moment. You won’t regret it.

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Hubby and I both agreed that for our first day (arrival day) we would have no firm plans. No dining reservations, nothing. You know from my last post, we arrived, checked in, wandered Disney Springs and left when we felt like it.  After returning to BLT, we got in a good swim. For dinner we decided to order a room service pepperoni pizza we could eat al fresco on the balcony. We’ve had Disney pizza room service a couple of times in different spots and it’s always been delicious. We paired ours with a bottle of wine we brought from home. If you bring wine/beer from home – which I suggest – don’t forget your corkscrew (like we kinda-sorta did). If you do, worry not, your resort hotel’s gift shop will most likely have one.

We had no idea what an excellent choice our in-room pizza dinner would end up being. Early on we had toyed with the idea of taking the Monorail to the Polynesian to have sushi at the Kona Island Sushi Bar. We really love sushi and we haven’t yet tried Kona Island. But, after traveling half the day, venturing to Disney springs, and swimming, we just didn’t feel like getting dressed and making the trek over there. So we didn’t. Next time perhaps, cause I really want to have a crack at their sushi.

But as I was saying, staying put and hanging out on our balcony ended up being one of our best memories from the trip. We observed an array of amazing things we would’ve otherwise missed. As we munched on our pizza we discovered we could see all of Epcot’s Illumination’s fireworks from our balcony. It was awesome! Below us, the poolside movie, Finding Nemo was playing. (Most WDW resort hotels do a poolside movie every night. Each night is a different flick. It rocks.) We could only see little bits from our balcony but we could hear most of it, and it was really pleasant to have that just hanging out in the background. This is all in addition to the fun of watching the Monorail and boats come and go.

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As Illumination’s fireworks were winding down the Electrical Water Pageant started up in front of Magic Kingdom. This is a short, simple parade of lights that runs on the water. It’s really charming! (Especially when viewed from the comforts of “home.”)

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Night view including MK and the Electrical Light Pageant

Just when hubby and I thought the balcony spectacles couldn’t improve, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee burst out of the back of the Contemporary. They were marching a bunch of buckaroos (aka, kiddos) from the back entrance down to the Contemporary’s dock. The mini pirates followed both Captain Hook and Mr. Smee onto a boat and set sail on some great adventure. We had no clue what the pirate parade was, but it was magical and insanely cute to witness.

As it turns out, what we witnessed was the Pirates and Pal’s Fireworks Voyage. This is a special, ticketed event. Popcorn and ice cream are served at the Contemporary before a boat adventure to view Magic Kingdom’s Wishes fireworks and the Electric Water Pageant. Pirates then return to the Contemporary for a bit more adventure.

After the pirates set sail our BLT adventures continued when Magic Kingdom’s Wishes begin. The music for Wishes is piped in, so we could hear, but we had no view of MK and the fireworks from our balcony. That didn’t stop us! We grabbed our glasses of wine, left our room and headed to the elevator. The over-sized windows gave us the perfect view of Magic Kingdom and the fireworks.

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Night view of the Contemporary from our balcony (minus Capt. Hook and the pirates).

Once Wishes was over we headed back to our balcony paradise to wind down the night. As it turned out we saw the Electrical Light Pageant a total of 4 times. Twice, on the Magic Kingdom side before it crossed over and performed twice more on the backside of BLT and the Contemporary.

We had no idea we would see and hear so much in one evening from our little balcony. We would have missed all of it if we had planned out our evening! So leave time to kick back, watch, and go with whatever your mood tells you.

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Bay Lake Tower Review

IMG_6708On our 2015 June trip we called Bay Lake Tower, or BLT, home. When first reading about Bay Lake Tower and seeing its acronym of BLT I put off. A BLT is my favorite summer sandwich of bacon, lettuce, and tomato. However, after a bit of soul searching I found there is room in my heart for BLT to stand for Bay Lake Tower AND bacon, lettuce and tomato. After all, both are wonderful.

BLT is a DVC resort, so it is a bit different from other WDW hotels. (More on that momentarily.) One of Bay Lake Tower’s major appeals is its proximity to the Magic Kingdom. MK is just a short, pleasant stroll away. Because of this BLT often has guests that are not DVC members. The price is high, and you have to be willing to pay, and some do shell out to be close to Magic Kingdom. In fact, Many of BLT’s rooms offer stunning views of Magic Kingdom. This is particularly charming at night as it offers you a view of Wishes, Magic Kingdom’s fireworks spectacular, right from your room. Fireworks in pajamas with no crowds? Not bad, eh?

Being a DVC resort, rooms at BLT are either Deluxe Studios (sleeps 4 adults), One Bedroom Villas (sleeps 5 adults), or Two Bedroom Villas (sleeps 9 adults). Studios include a kitchenette and single bathroom. One Bedroom Villas offer a full kitchen, one bedroom and one bathroom. Two Bedroom Villas offer a full kitchen, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms. Studios, One, and Two Bedroom Villas all come with a choice of theme park view, lake view, or standard view. Standard views are anything level 4 and below. Lake views offer bits of Bay Lake (which may also include the pool), and theme park views offer a view of Magic Kingdom.

We stayed in a Lake View Deluxe Studio. We were situated in a room that faced the Contemporary, where we could view its pool, and watch the Monorails come and go. We could watch the boats sweep across the lake in front of the Grand Floridian. And in the distance, we could see Epcot’s Spaceship Earth and Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror. We could see the hot air balloon rise up from Downtown Disney. At night we were able to watch the fireworks of Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios from our balcony, as well as the Electric Light Parade. We could even see bits of Magic Kingdom if we leaned forward and peered to the right. (A move for adults only, obviously.) We loved our view. It was varied and wonderful. We spent as much time as possible just enjoying the scenery from our balcony. If we were to go back, we’d be more than happy to have the same room and view all over again.

One thing that is important to understand about staying at Bay Lake Tower is that it essentially functions as a branch of Disney’s Contemporary Resort Hotel. In fact, BLT is  connected to The Contemporary via a Sky Bridge on the 5th floor. Because Bay Lake Tower is a DVC resort it does not have the usual plethora of amenities Disney Hotels usually boast. Not to worry! The Sky Bridge connection to The Contemporary his allows you ready access to its restaurants, bars, shops, room service, and Monorail access.  BLT and the Contemporary also share a bus stop, which is located between the two hotels.

While you need to walk to the Contemporary for use of a gym, restaurants, or bars, Bay Lake Tower does have wonderful outdoor recreation. There is a pool with a winding water slide, a kid splash area, and a whirlpool. The pool bar, named Cove Bar, offers up beer, wine, tropical cocktails, and an assortment of snacks. In an outdoor area in front of the pool entrance there are games set up such as corn hole, shuffleboard, and ping pong tables.

If for some reason you are unsatisfied with BLT’s outdoor offerings, you also can take the very short stroll to use The Contemporary’s pool. (We did for a water slide showdown! And in case you’re wondering – both are great. BLT’s is more twisting, whereas the Contemporary’s is more dipping with speed.)

This was our first time to stay at Bay Lake Tower, though we have spent just one night at The Contemporary. Bay Lake Tower is less themed than most other WDW hotels. For us, that was fine. We liked the minimal, contemporary feel. I think it would be less exciting for kids, but then again, you’re right next to the Magic Kingdom and that has its appeal. In fact, one day when walking on the Sky Bridge I saw a dad carrying a little dude about 2. He spotted Cinderella Castle in the distance and started saying “Dad! Dad!! I see Disney World! I see Disney World!!” Little man was pumped. It was awfully cute.

So, do we recommend it? Should you stay here? This I can only answer with, “well, it depends.” As I may have mentioned before, my parents are Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members. Since my parents are also awesome, they shared their points with us for this last trip. Otherwise, because of the cost, Bay Lake Tower would not be anywhere within our reach. If you are a DVC member, I absolutely 100% recommend it. We would be thrilled to stay there again. If you’re not a DVC member, then my recommendation comes less readily. If being close to Magic Kingdom is worth the cost to you – BLT is a wonderful experience. If, however, the idea of shelling out that kind of cash for a hotel makes you squirm – stay somewhere else. (On Walt Disney World’s property, of course!) While Bay Lake Tower was an amazing experience, other deluxe or moderate resorts make for better ways to spend your hard earned cash in equal comfort.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios Can’t Miss List

DSC_0528Glitz and glamor. Action and adventure. Disney’s Hollywood Studios gives you old school Hollywood paired with thrills.There is much to love about this park – starting with its charm. Right when you walk into Disney’s Hollywood Studios and stroll down Hollywood Boulevard you’re transported to the golden era of Hollywood.

No matter your age or what you like to do, you’ll find something of interest here. There are thrill rides, live stage and stunt shows, insights to Walt Disney and animation, spectacular eats, and one awesome nighttime stage show. While I love the scenery and atmosphere of this park, I am split on the attractions. There are attractions I love to visit here and ones I’m OK with skipping. For me, this park doesn’t require more than a day.

Need a stroller? You'll find it here at Oscar's.

Need a stroller, wheelchair, or electric vehicle? You’ll find it here at Oscar’s Super Service.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not a large park, compared to Epcot and Animal Kingdom. But it does pack a punch in theming. As you are walking around, take time to look – this park has wonderful scenic details.

So, without further ado…

The Walt Disney World Blog’s 2015 Disney’s Hollywood Studios Can’t Miss List:

(by area) Hollywood Boulevard and Echo Lake, Sunset Boulevard, Streets of America and Commissary Lane, Pixar Place, Mickey Avenue, and Animation Courtyard.

* “Super Favorites” – Things we always do at least twice.

  • The Great Movie Ride – Head inside the Chinese Theatre for this gem that takes a look at classic films. This tram ride is about 20 minutes long – which is a nice way to cool off and relax while you take in some film history. At the end there’s a movie montage on a huge screen, which is my favorite part. This ride fascinated me as a kid. Personally, now I think its due for an overhaul. But even with that being said, it makes my list.
  • DSC_0842Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – Looking for some insight on how Hollywood does special effects? Scenes from Indiana Jones are reenacted to show you stunts that include plenty of pyrotechnics. Want to be part of the fun? This show also includes a few audience volunteers. They don’t take many so you should arrive early for a chance to be part of the action.
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue * – Star Wars fans will adore this 3D flight simulation attraction that includes all of your favorite characters. Even the queue for this ride is entertaining. A few years ago Disney overhauled this attraction and gave it some mega upgrades – including the 3D technology. The other big change came by Disney gaving the ride over 50 story combinations. This means you can visit this attraction many times and enjoy a different experience each time.
  • DSC_0419Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster * – As I’m sure you know, I LOVE roller coasters and this is one of my all time favorites. After visiting Aerosmith’s studio you snag a “limo” to catch their concert. This limo takes you from 0 to 60 in no time, loops you upside down and in a corkscrew, all in a dimmed, neon atmosphere. And the best part? You’ll be rocking out to Aerosmith’s music the entire time.
  • DSC_0415The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror * – Check into this hotel that is frozen in 1939 for a wild elevator ride. The lobby is dusty, full of cobwebs and dead plants. Creeping bellhops will escort you to the basement so you can take the service elevator. After boarding the elevator you’ll enter the 5th dimension and the fun really begins. The elevator has a 13 story drop that is on a randomized sequence. You never know if you’re going up or down first. But I assure you – you will drop down. And you’ll love every heart pulsing, palm sweating second.
  • Fantasmic! – This stage based nighttime spectacular is formed around Mickey’s dreams. Hosted in a large amphitheater, the show includes fireworks, lasers, and water special effects. The show is 30 minutes long and every second is entertaining. If you do not have FastPass+ or a Fantasmic! Dining Package, plan to get in line early to ensure you get a seat.
  • Muppet Vision 3D * – This was the second 3D show to join the WDW ranks, following Epcot’s Captain EO. By our standards today, the 3D technology is very dated. But the story, wrapped around all of the Muppet greats, is quite loveable. While you’re waiting to enter the theater there is a pre-show (not 3D) that I’ve always loved. I may even have been known to quote from it. We never miss this one on a trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Pizza Planet Arcade – If you enjoy pizza and you are a Toy Story fan – this is your dining spot! This Quick Service spot resembles the Pizza Planet arcade in Toy Story from the logo to the decor. If you want to beat the heat, there is ample seating inside. Seating outside offers tables with cheery, red umbrellas and views of The Muppets fountain. The menu, offering a variety of single serve pizzas paired with cesar salads is simple, but delicious. Meatball subs are also available. This is one of our favorite lunch spots at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure – This is an attraction especially geared for young ones. Stepping inside makes you feel as though you were bug sized and hanging out in a back yard. Mingle among giant blades of grass, climb a spider web, or slide down an over-sized branch. Music and sound effects help bring the set to life.
  • Toy Story ManiaToy Story Mania * – This is one of my favorite attractions in all of Walt Disney World. It’s an exciting combination of ride, games, 3D technology, and beloved Toy Story characters. After stepping into a car and donning 3D glasses, you whiz through a series of carnival style games such as balloon pop and ring toss hosted by Toy Story characters. This attraction has proved immensely popular with guests. So much so, in fact, that they are building another track for the ride. (Frequent WDW visitors all rejoice!) This is definitely an attraction you will want to visit, at least once. If you can, make sure to make a FastPass+ reservation for it. Try going early in the day or during parade or Fantasmic! times for a lower stand-by wait.
  • Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream – This attraction isn’t one of thrills and chills, but it is informative and full of neat models and information. Walk yourself through a gallery of Walt Disney history that includes models, sketches, and memorabilia that includes a peak inside Walt’s office. You can also view a 15 minute film in a small theater, hosted by Julie Andrews offering a glimpse of Walt Disney’s life. One of the great things about this attraction is you can move around at your own pace, making it last as long as you wish.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Can’t Miss List

Animal Kingdom signMany years ago when Disney’s Animal Kingdom (or DAK for efficiency’s sake) first opened, I didn’t love it. I adore animals and you’d think my outlook would’ve better. But it wasn’t. However, as often with first impressions – my opinion has altered since my first look. I found my liking of DAK increased with each visit. It’s such a beautiful park; the landscaping is exotic. When I was working on the Disney College Program, I used to roam around the park on my days off to check out the plants and animals.

I  certainly no longer find the park dull, as evidenced by my hearty “Can’t Miss” list. There are shows, attractions, stunning animals, and tasty treats everywhere. What’s not to like about that?

Below is the Walt Disney World Blog 2015 Disney’s Animal Kingdom Can’t Miss List. As always, there will be an asterisk next to “super favorites,” or things we often do more than once.

Tree of Life(by area) Oasis, Discovery Island, Africa, Asia, Dinoland USA

  • The Oasis Exhibits *These are just pathways around the front of the park, but they have some really beautiful plants, awesome birds and animals. Take time to enjoy these instead of power-walking past as you hurry to squeeze in one more attraction. (I might be speaking from experience…)
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug * – This 3D show will have you feeling bug sized. The queue usually isn’t too long either so it makes a great midday attraction.
  • Discovery Island Trails  – Like the Oasis Exhibits.
  • Flame Tree BBQ *  – Many kinds of BBQ are available here. YUM, YUM, YUM. The food is delicious and there’s a great seating area off to the side making this is one of our favorite lunch (or dinner!) Quick Service options. Bonus – try the Safari Amber beer, specially brewed for Disney World.
  • Festival of the Lion King This charming 30 minute show brings The Lion King story to life with singing, dancing, and exciting acrobatics. Kiddos will love the interactive elements. The monkeys are our favorite park!IMG_3670
  • Kilimajaro Safaris ** This unique attraction takes you onto Disney Animal Kingdom’s Harambe Wildlife Preserve. As you bump along in an open-air vehicle you’ll see a variety of African wildlife. The animals are free roaming so what you see varies with each safari. There are over 34 species roaming the savannah such as lions, hippos, elephants, zebra, rhino, giraffe, okapi, ostrich, etc. **SPECIAL TIP** Visit the safari early in the morning or late in the evening for cooler temps and potentially more animal sightings.
  • Pangani Forest Exploration Trail A beautiful walking trail where you’ll encounter flora and fauna. You can get an amazing, close up view of gorillas here.
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek * This trail exposes guests to Asian wildlife. Get a close up view of a variety of animals that includes many species of birds, tigers, and fruit bats!
  • Kali River RapidsTo be honest I haven’t ridden this ride in several years. This raft ride is full of twists, turns, dips, and of course – water. I remember it being a lot of fun. So why haven’t I been in a while? You can get very wet. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll get soaked. I don’t liked to be soaked and left to dry out with my clothes sticking to me as I roam the park. Perhaps this makes me a party pooper. I do think husband and I are going to give it a go on our next trip. Soaking wet or not – I bet we’ll have fun.
  • Expedition Everest ** Oh dear readers, how do I express in words how I love this coaster? I adore every detail from the museum style queue, to the trainlike coaster, to the Yeti himself. This ride is a thrill and I tackle it as many times as I can.
  • Finding NemoThis Broadway style show tells the Finding Nemo story. It’s fun and gorgeous. The sets and costumes are really striking. The show lasts 40 minutes and it’s a nice opportunity to cool off, rest, and be entertained while you do so!IMG_3702
  • Primeval Whirl * This colorful ride is a mild roller coaster with round cars that spin. It will leave you giggling – I guarantee it.
  • DINOSAUR  – Hop into a time rover and travel back in time to hang out with dinosaurs during an impending meteor strike. Yikes! This ride is dark with some really cool animatronic dinosaurs. Could be scarey for young kiddos. IMG_3712

Finding the Perfect Disney World Vacation Balance

IMG_3152I am a creature of habit. I like a routine and if I find something that works I tend to stick to it. This is also true of my Walt Disney World vacations. I have resort hotels I really love, and attractions I can’t miss, and treats I must eat. (Ahem, Dole whip!!) And when in WDW I will go to any length to fit it all in. (My husband was entirely unprepared for this on our first trip together.)

As I mentioned yesterday in my Pack Like A Pro post, my cousin just honeymooned in WDW and I made this list of my “must see” attractions for her. It occurred me as we were talking about attractions and dining, that in my two recent trips I have focused on the things that I love to do and sort of dismissed things that didn’t fall into that category. Several times I said, “Well, I haven’t done that in a few trips, but I remember enjoying it.”

I am certain I can’t be the only person in this boat. Disney World is so massive, and offers so much to to do. You only have so much time when you’re there, and you feel this pressure to do the things you know you love because once you leave it’ll likely be a while before you go back. Sound familiar to anyone?

This repetition pattern is especially true for dining. Typically we only have one table service meal per day. We have spots that we really love to dine and so we repeat locations. Do we enjoy our meals? Absolutely. But trying a new restaurant is fun – and at Disney World it will probably be delicious.

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Peter Pan’s Flight was a 1st time experience for Hubs last June.

On our last trip, we did a better job of having a more balanced vacation. We enjoyed a little relaxation and did lots of swimming. We fit in attractions that we missed the trip before and all of our favorites. In our upcoming trip in June, Hubs and I have a new motto: balance what we love with “new” experiences. Let’s qualify “new.” New will be something neither of us has experienced, something one of us hasn’t experienced, or something we didn’t do in our last two trips.

IMG_3775For us, barring favored Les Chefs de France, all of our table service restaurants will be “new.” We are staying at Bay Lake Tower, which will be a brand new experience for both of us. We have a short list of attractions that we have not done together that we are going to try to hit. Additionally, to my husbands fervent delight, we have scheduled a day where we will not be going into a park. If you can manage it, a day away from the parks to rest and relax by the pool or whatnot is a great choice. You’ll be better refreshed and able to enjoy your vacation.

In the next few days I will be sharing my list of “can’t miss” favorite attractions, and I can assure you we will try to squeeze all of those in. (Our favorites list is plentiful.) But I think we are on our way to a more balanced Walt Disney World vacation that will leave both us feeling very joyful.

Ultimately everyone will have their own idea of a perfectly balanced Walt Disney World vacation. But for us, the perfect balance looks like this: our “must see” favorites mingled with new experiences and a little relaxation.

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Packing Like A Pro For Walt Disney World

IMG_5470Today my friends, is a gift. I mean, all days we have on this earth are gifts, but today is a snow day! As a teacher, a day where school is cancelled and you get a few precious hours at home to catch up on life, is wonderful. So here I am with my little diet coke and my happy place Mickey straw.

I always find myself looking at a huge gap in my posts wondering how it got to be so long since my last check in. The school year certainly proves to be the biggest time thief, but recently I have had another task at hand. My brother is getting married in April and I’ve been working on making invitations for their wedding. Those got sent out over the weekend and so now I have a rare extra bit of free time. Speaking of weddings, my gorgeous cousin got married over the weekend too. Yay! Her new husband booked their honeymoon at Disney World as a surprise, and that’s where they currently are. Eek! And I’m so happy for them! I know that right now as I’m typing up this post with frozen sidewalks outside my window, I know that they are having a blast in the pleasant 65 degree WDW weather. (I might also be a teensy bit jealous.)

IMG_2932Knowing we are Disney World fiends, my cousin called for some tips on her upcoming honeymoon. She only found out about the trip a couple weeks before their big day and she wanted to plan to get the most of her time. She raised some great questions, mostly about dining. But I ended up writing her an email about a few things she might want to pack and what attractions are on our “can’t miss” list. Dining and attractions are big topics, so let’s tuck them away for another day. But, what to pack? That’s doable.

Packing smartly for Walt Disney World can make a significant difference in the quality of your trip. If you’ve never been before, or like my cousin you haven’t been since you were little and mom did your packing, you may not realize everything you may need.

  • Clothes – OK, obviously you need clothes. Check the weather before you go to determine what kind of temps you’ll be facing. Pack enough clothes to be able to change once a day. This is especially true if you’re going in the summer. It’s hot and you will sweat. There is nothing better than going back to your hotel to shower and get fresh clothes on after a particularly hot day in the parks before dinner. Or in the afternoon after a swim at your hotel pool. Or whatever it may be. If you’re not going in the summer, pack clothes you can layer. The temperatures can fluctuate day by day, and mornings can be cool while afternoons heat up. Don’t forget your favorite Disney gear while you’re choosing your clothes!
  • Shoes – Now, you may be tempted to save suitcase room and minimize your shoe count, especially if you’re flying. Luggage rates don’t seem to be dropping. BUT MAKE ROOM because shoes are key. Walt Disney World is huge, and you will walk miles, most likely daily, when there. And you will stand, and stand some more. I like to pack a pair or two of nice flip flops that have support (like Rainbows, Merrills, or Oluai Ohanas), and a of pair of sneakers. Three pairs of shoes may sound excessive, but I’ve found that switching shoes every day or two will save your feet from aching as much.
  • Swimsuit – Disney has awesome pools and water parks. Hubs and I tend to swim almost every day so I bring two suits for both of us so we can alternate.
  • Sunglasses/Hat – Protect your eyes and face from the sun. I don’t tend to wear a hat, but both Hubs and my Dad do.
  • Ziplock Bags – Bring a few sandwich, quart, and gallon ziplock bags. They just come in handy. They’re great for your toiletries, or to make an ice pack, or to keep a wet swimsuit isolated. (Many a time on our last day I’ve just had to squeeze in one more dip in the pool. Then I’m faced with a wet swimsuit to put in my suitcase. Gallon bag to the rescue!) Our family also tends to pack a garbage bag or two for dirty clothes. A pop-up hamper like the ones for college dorms are also great for that task.
  • First Aid Kit – Make your own or grab a pre-made version. I suggest including band-aids, neosporin, benadryl, Ib preufin (or other favorite headache medicine), your choice remedy for upset stomach, and rubbing alcohol.
  • Gold Bond Powder – As we’ve established, Disney World includes lots of walking and sweating. This helps keep chafing down. I’ve also heard Body Glide is great.
  • Sunscreen – This may seem like a no brainer, Florida sun = need for sunscreen. But it’s easy to get distracted at Disney World as you go in and out of attractions and forget about it. Trust us, it’s needed. In fact, I got lightly burnt in Magic Kingdom a couple of days before my wedding. Thanks be for aloe. That’s not a bad item to toss into your bag either.
  • Ponchos – Rain is a very likely happening on your trip to WDW. January – April tends to have 2-3 inches per month. May – just shy of 4 inches. June is typically the rainiest month with over 7 inches on average. July – September average about 6 inches per month. During October – December the average drops back down to 2-3 inches a month. Rain, especially in the summer is brief. It clouds up, pours, then steams away. Having a poncho to whip out will keep you dry and let you move on with your day mostly uninterrupted. I hate getting wet and then drying out slowly as I walk around the park. You will find very cute Mickey ponchos in many, many shops in Walt Disney World. We have ones that we bought years ago and that go with us on our trips. If you don’t own any, you can pick them up before your trip at Target, or somewhere similar for a better price.
  • H2O – Water can be life saving at WDW, especially in summertime. Are there water fountains all over Disney World? Yup. But I’m not going to lie, the water is gross. It does not taste good – at all. A bottle of water in the parks can cost $3-4. Buying a case of bottled water before you go will allow you to save substantially. We usually take two large bottles into the park with us every time we go to a park. I have not tried these, but I have read that the Brita Sport Water Filter Bottles are great. Many people have used them in the parks and claim they nip the nasty taste of the WDW water. I think we may try these on our June trip.
  • Snacks – As with water, bringing your own snacks into the parks can save you lots of cash. Disney allows you to bring food and drink into the park. They do not allow glass, alcoholic beverages, or coolers however. Remember is hot so you don’t want to bring something that can spoil or melt.
  • Adult Beverages –  A cold beer in the afternoon before a dip in the pool is mighty refreshing. Bringing your own alcohol can be another money-saver.
  • Cameras and Tech Gadgets – I am usually manning my video camera in the parks while Hubs usually has a camera for pics. We both also tend to use our cell phones for photos. Make sure you’ve got all of the corresponding cords and chargers!
  • Magic Bands – Once customized on My Disney Experience these are usually shipped to you about a month before your trip. Don’t forget ’em!
  • Park Bag – Make sure to bring along a small backpack or your other favorite bag to take into the parks. In our park bag we always have our camera gear for the day, water, sunscreen, a snack or two, ponchos, and a mini first aid kit.
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Hubs is ready with Shades and a Camera.

 

OK, now I’m really ready to go! Obviously I didn’t include things for kids in here as we don’t have any of those yet. However, I have heard that Tide Pens/wipes, sippy cups, change for the penny press machines, and glow bracelets/necklaces are great additions for little dudes.

How To Plan Your Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World

HOW TO PLAN YOUR DINING RESERVATIONS AT WALT DISNEY WORLDHello friends! As promised from my post earlier this week, I am sharing my dining reservation strategy with you. I’ve been using this method for many years now, and I find it to be the best, most efficient way to plan my time at WDW.

Here are the two firm truths about planning a WDW vacation – short or long. 1.) Walt Disney World is expensive. 2.) Walt Disney World is gigantic, with hundreds of options for things to do. If you don’t at least spend a little time planning your trip before you go – you will end up wasting precious time. Using the WDW Blog Disney Vacationing Theorem we know that Truth 1 + Truth 2 = THE ULTIMATE TRUTH. See below:

WDW is Expensive + Nearly Infinite Ways to Spend Your Time =
TIME IS MONEY!!

Like my lesson for the day? It’s true. I promise. But here’s the deal – I’m not saying you have to pre-plan every minute of your trip. In fact, I frown upon that. Over-planning is a great way to be miserable during your vacation. You can’t control everything at Disney World. Buses run on loops. Attraction queue line times fluctuate. It’s all about balance. Your planning should have structure – but not be overly full. And your plans should be FLEXIBLE.

When I start to plan my WDW vacation I start with my Table Service dining reservations. Why? Disney World restaurants are not like regular restaurants. Availability is limited, reservations do fill up and a stand-by wait time can be hours. MAKE RESERVATIONS. And make them early. You had better believe I am online or on the phone 180 days out from my vacation to make dining reservations. If you do that, you can usually have any restaurant you want at any time you want.

As you know from my last post, my upcoming trip was short notice. As soon as we had booked our room we got working on planning and making said dining reservations. Here’s how I go about it.

First, I make a chart for the number of days I am going to be on vacation, and I include a bisection for each of the four main theme parks: chart 1Below the WDW Vacation 2014 block I have 7 spaces down the left side of the paper, one block for each of the days on my vacation. Across, to the right of the WDW Vacation 2014 block I have 4 large blocks for the 4 main theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.

Once I have the grid in, I start to fill in the blocks across for the 4 parks and the blocks down with the specific dates of my trip.chart 2Once all the dates are filled in, I visit Disney’s official website to find out what hours each of the 4 parks are open every day. AND most importantly, what the Extra Magic Hours are for the days of my vacation. Extra Magic Hours are extra times, either before a park opens or after it closes that are available ONLY to guests staying at a Disney Resort Hotel. EMHs (Extra Magic Hours) are a great way to visit your favorite attractions with lightened wait times. I place morning EMHs above the parks regular hours, and night EMHs below. I also highlight the EMHs so I can see them apart from the regular park hours. I do this because I almost always take advantage of the EMHs when they are offered. You’ll also notice Epcot is divided into two. That’s because Future World (FW) and World Showcase (WS) have different hours. time chart completeOnce everything is filled in, I take a look at the chart with a PENCIL (so you can make changes) and circle what park I think I’ll visit on what day. This is almost always dictated by the EMHs. Above you can see that on Friday, May 9 the park hours aren’t filled in. This is the theoretical day I arrive at WDW. I won’t go into the parks that day. Instead I’ll hang by the pool, go shopping at Downtown Disney, visit Disney’s Boardwalk, or buy tickets to Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach.day planning chartFor me, this all comes down to what parks I love and the EMHs. On Saturday, May 10 I circled Disney’s Hollywood Studios because it has morning EMHs. I then drew an arrow over to Epcot because I’ll probably finish my day there. Same thing happened on Wednesday, May 14. I chose to take advantage of the morning EMHs at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but have myself jumping to Animal Kingdom that afternoon.

Once I have this tentative plan sketched out in pencil I consider my dining reservations. Typically my family will eat at one Table Service Restaurant a day, and eat at Quick Service spots for the rest of the day. Usually our Table Service picks are for dinner, but now and again we’ll go for breakfast or lunch. This is where the WDW Blog Vacationing Theorem comes into effect. To make the most out of your time you want plan your Table Service dining reservations to be in the park you’re visiting that day. If you’re in Animal Kingdom for the entire day, but you have dining reservations at Epcot, you will lose time traveling to Epcot, which could take up to an hour. If you had dinner at Animal Kingdom you could spend that hour visiting an attraction or two.

So for example, on Sunday, May 11, I circled Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom has evening EMHs, so I would plan to be at MK all day and night. So logically I want to make dining reservations for a Magic Kingdom restaurant. On Wednesday May 14th, I have morning EMHs at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and then plan to hop over to Animal Kingdom to finish the evening. I should plan to make Table Service reservations for breakfast at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or dinner at Animal Kingdom. Lunch reservations could be made at either park, depending on when I want to hop from one to the other. Since Animal Kingdom closes early (6 PM), another choice would be to have dinnerat my Resort Hotel after Animal Kingdom is closed.

Once I have planned what meal I want to eat in what park, I start looking for reservations. If you’re calling 180 days in advance, you shouldn’t have any problems snagging what you want. If you’re like us this year, planning a short notice trip, you just need to be a little flexible with your times and restaurants. We had no trouble making satisfactory reservations for our upcoming trip in June. IMG_2739Once I have my dining reservations made, I like to highlight the block where they occur, and write the place and time off to the side (PINK). I also marked my park visiting plan in purple. This paper becomes my go-to physical reference for what’s going on, before I leave for my vacation. The My Disney Experience Application on my phone (or on Disney’s website) is my digital copy. The My Disney Experience App really makes it easy to see what you have going on each day. Love it.

Here’s a recap of my Table Service Dining Tips:

  • Reserve Early! You should be prepared to make your reservations 180 days out from your vacation, or as soon as you can if you’re planning a last minute trip. This will grant you the most choices.
  • Plan to eat where you’re playing! This is where my chart is useful. If you’re going to be in Epcot – eat in Epcot. This will save you the most time. (Again referencing the WDW Blog Vacationing Theorem stated above.)
  • Keep your times consistent! If you make reservations for dinner every night, make them for about the same time. This will keep your body from going haywire.

One last word: the strategy listed today is really all about time and making the most of it. It doesn’t factor in other dining considerations such as character dining. If you have kids who would love Mickey & Friends character dining – find a place that does that! But be logical about it. If you’re at Magic Kingdom, make a reservation for Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary. Yes,The Contemporary is outside of Magic Kingdom, but it’s right next door just a short walk or Monorail ride away. You won’t waste much time in transit.

ABOVE ALL, be prepared AND be flexible. Have a game plan going in, but be prepared to change. On my last trip to WDW I probably changed or canceled at least 2 of our dining reservations. Maybe you wind up wanting to spend more time at one park over the other, or you decide you want to just cut your day short and go back to the hotel for a pizza and a swim. Go with it!

P. S. Just so you know, the chart I made up for this post was just an example chart. It was much prettier than my charts usually end up looking when in process. See below for my working draft of our upcoming trip… Needless to say, I made a nicer draft in the end.

my real chart

 

Disney World Here We Come!! Planning a great vacation on short notice.

Hello to you all again! Hopefully you all remember me, I don’t blame you if you don’t. It has been a long, dark hole of absence from me. All I can say is that spring finally sprung and gardens needed to be planted, yard needed to be tended, and work was a MEAN, time consuming, and selfish monster for awhile.

But I come to you all with great news. The greatest news a Disney blog author can have… We are going to Walt Disney World!!!!!!!!

DSC_0135This upcoming trip is rapidly approaching – next month in fact! It is nearly a complete surprise to be telling you all that I am going. This trip is the best kind – unexpected. And full disclosure here, while the short notice, unexpected kind of trip is awesome, it is also the most difficult to plan when you’re approaching WDW peak season. So should you find yourself in our shoes, let me share with you how we are conquering this challenge.

Mum & PadreAbout a week or so ago I got a call from my Mumsy. She and my Padre are celebrating 35 years of marriage this year. Whoa. To celebrate they decided to take a lengthy Florida vacation and of course Disney World was among their stops. While on the phone chatting about this anniversary excursion she asked if hubs and I would like to join them for the WDW portion of their trip. I don’t think I need to tell you how enthusiastically I agreed. That was the easy part. Next, came the hard work.

As you know from my many rants, staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel is absolutely essential to having the best possible Walt Disney World vacation. For us, there is no other option. So we were terribly frustrated to learn that the original dates my Mum had selected proved to be overly popular at WDW. There were no moderate resorts available. None. Additionally, availability was incredibly limited at the Deluxe resort hotels as well as the Value resorts. Disheartened, Mumsy called to fill me in on how booked up everything was. She spent 2 days on the phone trying to get in to any of Disney’s moderate resorts with no luck. We now faced three choices:

  1. Keep on trying for our originally chosen dates. Things happen – people cancel vacations, guests over-book and cancel certain dates, wedding room blocks are being held that won’t all be used, and so on. If you keep calling morning and night, it is very probable you will eventually land some sort of reservation with which you’ll be satisfied. Persistence does pay. BUT, there are several drawbacks. Firstly, there is no guarantee – something may not open up and you’d be forced to be in a hotel outside of your budget or without all of the amenities you want. Secondly, it is time consuming. Not everyone has time to spend constantly checking Disney’s website or calling to check availability. Thirdly, without booking you can not move forward with making FastPass+ reservations, etc.
  2. Change our dates. This option is the most logical. Adjusting your dates means that you get more choice of where you’ll be staying. More availability means slightly lower crowds – which means better pickings of dining and what not as well. But in our situation this was difficult because my parents had reservations at other places in Florida since they plan to travel throughout the state. There were also forced to factor in our work availability.
  3. Cancel the trip. Fortunately this was a completely last resort option that wasn’t really an option. We are just not quitters. We will triumph! We would rather compromise than not go.

In the end, with an egregious amount of juggling, phone calls, and trial and error my amazing Mum was able to tweak the dates and find reservations for us at Disney’s Caribbean Beach. She wins the newly founded Walt Disney World Blog award for Successful Vacations Reservation via Patience and Flexibility. Congrats Mum.

Over the next few days I’ll share with you my planning strategies for scheduling dining and FastPass+ reservations. I’ll also give you a peak at my WDW vacation countdown calendar. So much to look forward to!