141 Days to WDW!!!!

I made a free decal!

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Please note, I am wearing a pin lanyard and carrying Duffy. Our cat Dixee is also on the decal because she's going to Disney with us!

I found this freebie on http://www.chipandco.com/ but, unfortunately, I can no longer find the exact post. If you do find it, please leave it in the comments!

Zipadeedoodah: 159 Days! Choosing your dates!

Only 159 days to go until our trip! So exciting!

In this post, I'm going to briefly discuss how we chose our dates.

Step #1) Check out a general crowd calendar such as WDW Prep's or Kenny the Pirate's. Make a note of the times that are low crowds. Low crowd times tend to be late January, early February, early March, May, early September and early December. You want to avoid anytime there is a school vacation (including summer) or a holiday, basically (if you want to avoid crowds like me).

Low crowds are the best!

Low crowds are the best!

Step #2) Consider what you want...do you want to see Christmas decorations (early December)? Do you want to swim (summer!)? Do you like the heat (most of the year!)? Are you interested in the Halloween party (September)? We like Disney when it is cold out, so we chose late January.

Step #3) In your general date range, consider if you might have any conflicts. We like profession football, so we prefer the week in between the championships and the Superbowl, so we don't miss either

Weather can play a huge role in your trip, so research and be prepared!

Weather can play a huge role in your trip, so research and be prepared!

Step #4) Head to touringplans.com to check out their more detailed crowd calendar and to figure out exactly which days will be best. Hotels are more expensive on the weekends (Fridays included!), so if you are going for a week, aim to only have one weekend.

Once you book your dates, use the touringplans calendar to determine which parks to do on what days!

 

Zipadeedoodah: 189 days! Choosing an Agent

Only 189 days left: Time to start getting serious about planning!

Walt Disney World is an ideal trip for those who like to plan ahead, make schedules, and dream about their trip well in advance. Your WDW experience will definitely be better if you do at least some planning (unless you are someone who goes very often).

I have 189 days left in my trip, which means in 180 days I will need to make my Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs).  Since I'm going in value season with low crowds, making reservations this far out isn't necessary if you don't care about when and where you eat. However, I have a couple of places in mind that will fill up pretty quick and we like to eat during the typical dinner ours. Therefore, I plan to make most of my ADR's around the 180 mark.

Step 1: Choosing an Agent

Did you know that official/certified WDW agents are free? Further, they might help you save money. WDW already wraps up the cost of the agents into their pricing, so if you purchase from Disney directly, you are paying for an agent without using one.

If you have plenty of time, like to research and pre-plan, and don't mind making phone calls early in the morning....you don't need an agent. However, it wouldn't hurt you to have one in case you need trouble shooting.

I love planning and I intend to make all of my ADRs and Fastpass reservations online. Still, I got an agent. My main reasons were time and phone calls. I arranged my trip via email with my travel agent, which was way easier than dealing with Disney's site or phone system. Further, I want the best possible discount when they are released for winter packages. My agent will be up before dawn calling Disney to make sure I get the discount applied to my package, and will do the math to figure out the best possible discount for me.

Also, if I fail to get an ADR that I wanted, or if I have an issue with the Disney system, or want to book a tour (I do!). My agent can handle all that. Less phone calls and stress for me!

To find an agent, I went to what I consider my most trusted Disney resource on the web.....touringplans.com! They write the "Unofficial Guide" which has to be in the top two most popular Disney guides. They have been collecting LOTS of data for years. And as a scientist, I love going by the data!

http://blog.touringplans.com/2016/06/01/best-travel-agents-2016/

I went to the above link and I scanned all the entries in the best agents list. I selected my favorites based on their specialties and how they sounded. I selected my top 15 candidates, and then emailed them this:

Hi,

I'm getting ready to go to Walt Disney World in late January and I'm looking around for a travel agent. I'd like to be up front and say that I am e-mailing multiple agents in an effort to find one that matches my needs.Thank you in advance for reading my long e-mail, I know your time is valuable.

I'm not in need of a quote just yet, as I'm still working out the exact details of the trip. Further, in the past five years, I've gone to WDW twice, during the same time period, and have stayed at two very different resorts. So, I have an idea of what to expect price-wise

I'm a planner, and part of the reason I love Disney is the planning involved. I wish to book my own fastpasses and plan most of the dining. I also love making touring plans so I am set on that front. My main reasons for getting a TA are to make the phone calls for me (my job makes phone calls challenging during the day and I don't really like phones anyway!), getting the hard-to-get fastpasses and dining reservations, and giving me some extra ideas to make my trip a little bit more magical and different than the last one (perhaps a tour, dessert party, etc...)

My party consists of two adults and no kids. However, you should think of us more like an adult plus a kid. I love childish things and I can easily ride It's a Small World five times in a single trip, and I have no desire to spend anytime on the Boardwalk or Disney Springs. I trade pins, collect tsums and will wait in line to hug a character. I go to Disney to be a kid again. My husband is fascinated by the customer service, quality and magic of Disney, and loves seeing me so stress-free. We are planning on staying at a value resort, but we'll be there for awhile (8 days?).

Now that you know a little about me, here are some questions for you:

1) Do you mind if your clients handle their own fastpasses, touring plans, etc...?

2) Do you wake up super early for clients, or check repeatedly when needed, to get discounts or good Fastpasses/reservations?

3) Do you think we'd be a good match?

Sorry for the third-degree grilling, and thank you so much for your patience reading this. I appreciate your time, and the hard work you do. 

Thanks,

One of the things that mattered most to me was their response time to the email. I want a TA that will respond quickly. I appreciate that they all have lives, but I need someone who will be there promptly when there is a problem.

Other than that, I looked to see how well they read my email....if they were just spewing the standard bits, or if they actually addressed what I wrote personally. As well as how they answered the question.

I crossed out people on my list when I wasn't liking the vibe, and added stars next to their name when they responded in a way I approved.

It came down to two Amanda from Small World Vacations, and Mike from Magic for Less. The thing that tipped it was the fact Mike hosts a podcast that I've listened to on many occasions, and I like this personality on the podcast. His enthusiasm really shines through. That ultimately tipped the scales in his favor.

So far...

Mike has been great! Friendly, fast, efficient and thorough! I'm very pleased with my decision!

Here is his travel agency: http://www.themagicforless.com/

And his podcast: http://www.beourguestpodcast.com/

You can also read his description on the touring plans site: http://blog.touringplans.com/2016/06/01/best-travel-agents-2016/

Zipadeedoodah: 37 Weeks!

Only 37 weeks (roughly) until our 2018 WDW trip (which I'm calling Zipadeedoodah)! And I really need to get planning.

I have done very little planning so far. All I know is where we plan to stay and that we are going sometime in late January.

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My core resource for all my Disney vacation planning is touringplans.com. I use the WDW Park Hopper policy of never waiting more than 20 minutes for a ride, and there is no way I'd be able to achieve this without the Touring Plans website.

Based on that site, I need to work on the following things as soon as possible:

  1. Establishing a budget
  2. Figuring out when to go
  3. Staring to look at the crowd calendar to choose park days

Also, figure out my hotel, but that's already done! We are staying at Pop Century. While I was very satisfied with our stay at All Star Sports, and would gladly do another All Star, Jimmy wants a tiny bit of an upgrade. So we are going to give Pop a chance.

More updates on planning coming soon!

Just Keep Swimming 2017- Day Six

Our sixth day of the trip was our second and final day at the Animal Kingdom. Crowds were low and we rope-dropped Dinosaur before heading over to Rafiki's Planet Watch. We left early on this day, as Jimmy wasn't feeling well and we had accomplished all our goals.

Duffy & ShellieMay Dressed as Dinosaurs!

Duffy & ShellieMay Dressed as Dinosaurs!

Locations- Primarily Rafiki's Planet Watch, Dinoland and Asia. 

In line for Dinosaur. I'm uncertain why jimmy looks heavily medicated. tired maybe?

In line for Dinosaur. I'm uncertain why jimmy looks heavily medicated. tired maybe?

Eats- 

Yak & Yeti: We stopped at the Yak & Yeti table service restaurant in Asia. The atmosphere was okay, as was the food. My expectations had been a bit higher since the counter service that shares the same kitchen is pretty yummy.

Rafiki had no line this time!

Rafiki had no line this time!

Rides & Attractions- 

Dinosaur, Dinoland trails, Conservation Station, Affection Section, Wildlife Express Train, Finding Nemo- The Musical, Flights of Wonder, Maharajah Jungle Trek and Kilimanjaro Safari.

I love rhinos.

I love rhinos.

Diversions- 

I got to brush some goats and sheep.

I got to brush some goats and sheep.

We met Rafiki, saw the Macaws flight over head, watched a chicken get a checkup, saw a tiny owl close up and became Senior Wilderness Explorers!

Impressive horns.

Impressive horns.

Safari...

More safari.

More safari.

Actual rhinos.

Actual rhinos.

A super exciting unexpected surprise! Two characters from Splash Mountain just outside the entrance gate...no lines. Super fun!

Just Keep Swimming 2017- Day Five

Our fifth day in the parks was our second and final day at Epcot. Fortunately, the crowds were on the low side of moderate (our previous visit was the high side of moderate) which helped us have a better day. The morning of this day was definitely one of my favorite mornings. We had a wonderful breakfast at Garden Grille and then walked on to Soarin' with no wait. We then had our own boat for Livin' with the Land. It was truly a magical morning!

Location- Epcot's Land Pavilion, Seas Pavilion, Imagination Pavilion and the World Showcase

Eats:

The Garden Grill- I was a little nervous about this choice. We aren't breakfast people. On all the other days, we ate poptarts, fruit, granola-type things, etc... In addition, Garden Grill was family-style. We don't eat a lot in one sitting, so all-you-can-eat type affairs aren't something we enjoy. And lastly, we've avoided character meals due to price, crowds, anxieties, etc... So, why did I pick it? Well, I got a pre-rope drop reservation which was supposed to allow us to go on Soarin' with no lines! It was highly recommended by WDW Prep as a good touring strategy, and I decided to give it a try.

It turned out to possibly be my favorite meal. The food was delicious. Neither of us ate the bacon because it was way undercooked, but this didn't matter to me because I actually loved their cinnamon bun. I don't like cinnamon buns/rolls at ALL. This thing was delicious. All of it was delicious. Delicious waffles, scrumptious tater tots, yummy sausage, POG juice, and more. Service was great. We got a great booth with a nice view of Living with the Land. We saw all the characters. It was a wonderful experience, and it worked like a charm! NO lines for Soarin' and we got to ride Living with the Land by ourselves!

Not only will I do a pre-rope drop ADR at Garden Grill again, I plan on doing it next year!

Lotus Blossom Cafe- This wasn't part of the plan, but Jimmy was starting to fade so I wanted to stop somewhere and have him sit down for a bit. We shared Orange Chicken and Potstickers. It was average- worse than last time we are there. They also had a special Festival of the Arts food. It was cute, but bland, and way overpriced.

Tangerine Cafe- For dinner, we at the quick service place in Morocco. We shared the Chicken Schawarma platter. It was pretty good. I liked the quiet atmosphere.

Rides & Attractions-

Soarin', Living with the Land, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Journey into Imagination, Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival, Friendship Boats, Japan Pavilion, Frozen Ever After, Gran Fiesta Tour, Spaceship Earth, American Adventure

Diversions-

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We did the "Pick-a-Pearl" in Japan...there was no wait! I got a single golden pearl. I also met Baymax.

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Side Notes-

I had a beautiful Festival of the Arts dessert that turned my tongue blue!

While Jimmy relaxed in the hotel room that evening, I went down to the gift shop to pick up a bag we had sent to the hotel a couple days prior, and I took a quick snapshot of our lobby.

Just Keep Swimming 2017- Day 4

I really need to work on doing these faster, as my memory is not very good! Unfortunately, things have been quite hectic the last couple weeks.

Our fourth day was our first and only day at Disney's Hollywood Studios (DHS). Because of all the construction, DHS is really just a one-day park for us. Once Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land open, I'm certain it will get upgraded. Despite the limited rides, and this being my least favorite park, this day was one of my favorite days of the trip!

Location: All of Disney's Hollywood Studios

Eats:

50's Prime Time Cafe- The 50's Prime Time Cafe is setup like a kitchen from the 1950s. They refer to it as "Mom's kitchen" and to their patrons as "cousins". Our server was excellent and polite, but he didn't quite play along with the theme as much as I expected. We shared the Fried Herb and Garlic Cheese served with Raspberry Sauce, Grapes, and Apples, and the Grandma's Chicken Pot Pie- A creamy Cheese mixture of Chicken, Mushrooms, Carrots, Celery, Onions, and Peas topped with a flaky Pastry. Jimmy also tried the famous PB&J milkshake (it tasted mostly like PB to me). Our meal was scrumptious, the environment was great, and it was really quick. Definitely one of my favorite eateries on this trip.

PizzeRizzo- This is a quick service dining location in the Muppet Courtyard. The food was standard Disney quick service pizza (meh) and I wasn't a fan of the Caesar salad. The theme was a little more subtle than I would have liked. Still, I like having more Muppets and the place was SO quiet. We had the top floor completely to ourselves. Finding quiet spaces in Disney to unwind is important. I think this pleasant experience is one of the reasons we made it all the way until park close on this day!

Rides and Attractions:

It was morning extra magic hours at DHS, and we headed for the new Star Wars Launch Bay first. We had a private showing of the documentary film, and then toured around the exhibits with very few people in line. We met Kylo Ren and Chewie with very little wait, and then I traded with the Jawas and had no wait! We met Mickey & Minnie, rode the Great Movie ride (x2), Toy Story Mania (x2), Star Tours (x2), First Time in Forever Frozen Sing Along, Muppet Vision 3D, Indiana Jones, Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away, One Man's Dream, Star Wars: Path of the Jedi, Fantasmic! and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. 

Diversions

We earned our Disney Historian Certificates by each completing a trivia quiz in One Man's Dream. Our question's were different, which I liked. 

Side Notes

As usual, we collected pressed pennies.

I met two Green Army Men. One was able to give me a signature, and the other was able to chat. The chatty one said a "friend of Andy's" was also from New England, and we chatted about that for a bit.

The first time we were on Star Tours, I was on Dramamine and did great. The second time, it had worn off and I hadn't taken more- it was a noticeable (and not-so-fun difference). I was the Rebel Spy on our second excursion. 

Just Keep Swimming 2017- Day 3

Our third day of the trip was our first day at Epcot. Sadly, this was one of the least favorite days of our trip. We still had fun, but we had to leave early. The crowds in the world showcase overwhelmed both of us (thanks to Festival of the Arts), and we became tired, cranky and stopped having fun. The morning was was great, though. I have some ideas on how to do Epcot in the future, which I'll discuss in the planning posts for my next trip.

In front of my Dory!

In front of my Dory!

Location- Future World East, The Seas Pavilion, and the World Showcase

Eats


Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe- This bakery and cafe in Norway is often raved about on Disney blogs and podcasts. We ate here for lunch and found it underwhelming. It was small and crowded. We had the Traditional Kjøttkake (Norwegian Meatballs) which were just okay. We also got the Schoolbread (which is pretty infamous) as well as a Troll Horn for later. We found both too sweet and rather bland. We rank this pretty low on our list of eats for now.

Norway lunch.

Norway lunch.

Coral Reef- This was our second time dining at the Coral Reef. We love the atmosphere and watching the fish tank. This time we sat on the second tier, but up front, so we still had a good view of the tank. I had the Oven-roasted Chicken Breast with Creamy Polenta Cake, Pearl Onions, Swiss Chard with Bacon and Mushrooms and thought it was wonderful. Jimmy had the Seafood Scampi- Seared Skewer of Sea Scallops and Shrimp, Prince Edward Island Mussels, Diced Tomatoes, and Pasta served with Scampi Butter, and thought it was good. We got a free dessert: The Chocolate Wave served with Raspberry Gelato.

Rides and Attractions

Jimmy at Test Track.

Jimmy at Test Track.

Test Track, Mission Space: Green, Ellen's Energy Adventure, Frozen Ever After, Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Cabelleros, Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo & Friends (x2) Turtle Talk with Crush, The Seas Pavilion

Required fish face

Required fish face

Diversions

Joy & Sadness Meet & Greet- The *best* meet and greet! They were so adorable!!!!!! And their area was super well themed.

Sadness gives the best hugs! She really hugs you tight, and she rubs your back. Adorable.

Sadness gives the best hugs! She really hugs you tight, and she rubs your back. Adorable.

Worth the wait! Will definitely do this meet and greet again!!!

Worth the wait! Will definitely do this meet and greet again!!!

Side Notes

Two pressed pennies (third row), 1 set of signatures, and a couple of resort pennies (right hand side)

Two pressed pennies (third row), 1 set of signatures, and a couple of resort pennies (right hand side)

Loot for the day!

Loot for the day!

Just Keep Swimming 2017- Day 2

Our second day was in Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom is different from the other parks as it is not about the rides...it's about observation and exploration of the world around us. In the Disney-style of "edutainment" the park has a very clear message about conservation. The Disney Conservation fund does extensive work in many areas of the world (most of which is completely behind the scenes). In Animal Kingdom, they try to inspire appreciation for the natural world, and to provide their animals with amazing exhibit habitats that are as natural as possible.

Location: Africa and Discovery Island in Animal Kingdom

Eats:

Harambe Market- The African area of Animal Kingdom is centered around the fictional town of Harambe (no, it is not named after the gorilla). While the village was designed to be a port in East Africa, the various decorations and creativity reference many of the Imagineers favorite places as they toured Africa for their research. Harambe Market is a fairly new addition...an open air food court based on a marketplace.

The atmosphere was wonderful, if a bit loud, and the food was very good. We had the Tikka Masala Chicken served with Basmati Rice and Black-eyed Pea Salad and the Beef and Pork Sausage Fried in Curried Corn Batter served with Green Papaya Slaw and Black-eyed Pea Salad. We tried two African soft drinks- Bibo (kiwi and mango) and Sparberry (tart and tangy). 

Harambe Lunch

Harambe Lunch

Flame Tree Barbecue- Flame Tree is a quick service location on Discovery Island with a shaded outdoor seating area. We loved the seating area...there was a quiet, cool area, right by the water. It was very calming for a theme park.

Jimmy had the Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich - topped with cole slaw and served with baked beans, and I had the Smoked Turkey Breast Sandwich - with lettuce and tomato on multigrain bread topped with cranberry mayonnaise, served with fresh fruit. We also split french fries. I thought mine was pretty good for a quick service location. Jimmy liked his, but not quite as much as I liked mine. He thought the BBQ sauce was just okay.

Rides & Attractions:

Kilimanjaro Safaris (regular- x2, sunset- x1), Discovery Island Trails, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, Festival of the Lion King, It's Tough to Be a Bug, Tree of Life Awakening

Safari Selfie

Safari Selfie

Diversions:

Various small acts (singers, dancers, etc...) in Africa and Discover Island. They have lots of smaller shows...something is always going on, making the atmosphere very lively.

Wilderness Explorers! This activity is not just for kids...it's so well done, everyone will enjoy it. You get an activity booklet and you need to complete certain activities all around the park to receive badges (stickers). It's so fun, teaches you, and gets you to explore the park better. We LOVED it. Obviously, it is themed after Up. <3. I highly recommend this. Don't be shy! I will do a separate post about this later!

Tree of Life Selfie

Tree of Life Selfie

 

Sidenotes:

I did my first character Meet & Greet today- Russell from Up! He had a short line. He was really great, and he gave me confidence to continue meeting characters. 

We checked out Zuri's Sweet Shop in Africa and got some cookies...I got a Lion cookie (after Miles) and Jimmy got a Peanut Butter cookie.

Memories:

The sunset safari gave us great views of the lions. A small herd of zebra were moving in the savanna across from them, and we could see them watching the zebra intently. The ride is so different- even if you go on it back to back like we did in the morning. Definitely one of my favorite rides. 

Loot from the day- including a new Animal Kingdom lanyard and my pressed penny folder!

Loot from the day- including a new Animal Kingdom lanyard and my pressed penny folder!

I also took the "Which Bug Are You Like?" quiz in the Wilderness Explorers guide, and I got spider. Mainly because I like to eat things. Throughout the rest of the trip I would affectionately and gently bite Jimmy's shoulder and when he'd look at me, I'd just say "I'm a spider". (For the record, Jimmy was a worm). 

One of my favorite parts of the Animal Kingdom is the music! 

Just Keep Swimming 2017- Our Day 1 Adventure

Many folks are asking me for all the details of our latest Disney trip, so here they are for you, in blog form. I'm going to take one day at a time and cover all the highlights. For those of you who haven't been to Disney, it would take all day to tell you all the details about the trip. Walt Disney World is amazingly huge, and we are very active on our trips!

The castle

The castle

 

Our first day was in the Magic Kingdom...the park that everyone thinks of when you say "Disney World". It has the most rides and, of course, the infamous castle. Over the last couple of trips, Magic Kingdom has elevated itself to my favorite park. The environment is so happy and energetic. I will always be a child at heart, so it suits my silly personality.

Waiting for Adventureland to open

Waiting for Adventureland to open

Location:

Adventureland & Frontierland with just a touch of Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom

ShellieMay was in her Sleeping Beauty outfit, while Duffy had a treasure map on his t-shirt!

ShellieMay was in her Sleeping Beauty outfit, while Duffy had a treasure map on his t-shirt!

Eats: 

Nigerian Bread.

Nigerian Bread.

Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen- The Skipper's Canteen is a restaurant modeled after one of the classic Walt Disney Attractions (and one of my favorites!), The Jungle Cruise. It is travel and adventure themed with decor and a menu based on tropical destinations in Asia, South America and Africa. The ride has a cast member (a skipper) who takes you on a guided tour. The restaurant is filled with the same pun-filled "dad"-style jokes that are on the ride , and that I adore. The menu and servers at the restaurant have that exact same sense of humor. 

Exotic Coca-Colas.

Exotic Coca-Colas.

To drink we had Coca-Cola flavors that are found in other countries. Jimmy liked the Melon flavored one of Thailand, but I preferred the Guarana Kuat of Brazil. Nigerian-style bread with honey was delivered to our table while we waited for our food to arrive. We shared the Falls Family Falafel (A secret recipe of Chickpeas, Garlic, Onions, Lemon Juice, and Herbs served with White Bean Dip and Tomato-Cucumber Salad) and Skip's Beefy Baked Pasta
(Egyptian-inspired dish of Spiced Braised Beef, Pasta, Cheese, and Béchamel Sauce served with Seasonal Vegetables). For dessert we had the Kungaloosh! (An African-inspired Chocolate Cake with Caramelized Bananas served with Cashew-Caramel Ice Cream topped with Coffee Dust).

Everything was delicious, the ambiance was fun, and our server was great. This was definitely one of my favorite meals.

Tortuga Tavern- 

We had planned on eating at Columbia Harbor House, but they closed at 5pm on that day (for some strange reason). We ended up wandering in to Tortuga Tavern, hungry and tired, and afraid other things would close soon too. We ended up having hot dogs, as their menu was limited. The environment was great (quiet, outdoors, plenty of seating, themed like Adventure Land), but the hot dog was average theme park food. This was counter service, so we didn't have a server.

Rides and Attractions:

Jungle Cruise (x2), Pirates of the Caribbean (x4), Splash Mountain (x2), Country Bear Jamboree, Enchanted Tiki Room, Swiss Family Treehouse, Big Thunder Railroad, Haunted Mansion

It'd be too long to explain each of the here, but if you are curious about any of these attractions, please let me know. I love talking about Disney. I also know a great website for ride videos if you want to see what any of them are. Disney attractions are unique- so much more than roller coasters and motion simulators. The detail that goes into the theme of each attraction is simply amazing.

Splash Mountain Drenching!

Splash Mountain Drenching!

Diversions:

A Pirate's Adventure- Treasures of the Seven Seas- This was a four part quest around Adventureland. It was a bit like geocaching...we got clues, had to find the right spot, and then got some loot in exchange. I will write more about it in a later post, but I highly recommend it!

Great Moments in History with the Muppets- A short little outdoor show that retells pieces of American history in the style of the Muppets. Adorable and not too crowded. It was a nice filler while waiting for our next activity.

Sidenotes:

We left the park earlier than planned, but accomplished everything we wanted thanks to our customized touring plan (touringplans.com). 

We had no character greetings on Day 1 since there aren't too many in this area of the park.

We gave a shout out to Skipper Patrick when we took an in-park survey about our experience in Adventureland. 

I didn't trade any pins on this day. However, as with pretty much every day, I did purchase a couple of Hidden Mickey pin pouches. I also started my Pressed Penny collection!

Memories:

This was my first time using Dramamine on the rides, as well as being on anxiety medication. WHOA! I had so much fun on Big Thunder! I had my eyes open the whole time and was pointing out decorations I had never seen before. I had no anxiety during Splash Mountain either! In fact, Splash has now become one of my favorite rides.

Disney Countdown: Week 12

AHH! What happened to all the other weeks? They've been consume by WedCon planning, work, health issues and Mike Wazowski (see the cat blog). 

Disney can now become a focus once more, hopefully. I need to re-evaluate the content in my timeline and get rid of the non-essential planning that was put in primarily for fun. I'm also going to need to chop about a third of the movie list off, as we haven't been doing a good job of that lately. 

Things I have done: changed around some of our reservations, got the okay from my supervisor to take the time off, and sorted out who will cover my work while I'm gone. We still haven't nailed down who will take care of the the fur children, though.

There are some refurbs I will need to remove from the plans (such as the train) and some new things I need to add (like the Muppets history show).

Stitch's Great Escape Becoming Seasonal

While I'm still Disney planning when I get a chance, I haven't been able to do official countdown posts as we had some family visiting this past weekend (and before that we were busy getting our guest room ready). However, I plan to do one this weekend!

In the meantime, I wanted to share some quick WDW news with you. As of October 1st, Disney will be switching the attraction Stitch's Great Escape (Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom) to a seasonal-only attraction (meaning they are going to open it up when crowds are expected to be large, like during Christmas).

This is likely a temporary move, as it falls in line with the recent rumor that Stitch's Great Escape is going to be replaced in the near future with a Wreck-It-Ralph attraction.

Despite Stitch being one of my least favorite rides, this makes me sad for a few reasons:

  1. When I heard the rumor about it being replaced sometime in the future, I was looking forward to riding it one last time in January.
  2. We specifically watched Lilo & Stitch not that long ago in preparation to be riding it again in January. I had hoped refreshing the movie in my mind would make the attraction more enjoyable.
  3. The replacement ride is rumored to be a racing attraction that involves an actual competition between players and perhaps some virtual reality or motion simulation. I'm nervous the new idea will appeal to me even less. Though, in fairness, I have yet to see Wreck-it-Ralph.

What do you think?

Disney Countdown: Week 20

We have only 20 weeks to go! How exciting! If you are planning your own Disney trip, please let me know in the comments below. Also, if you have any specific aspects of planning you'd like me to cover, I would love some suggestions for posts.


Liner Pins!

My Liner pins arrived! I got two of exactly the same pin. One will serve as a backup, in case I lose the other. The phrase on the pin is very true- I definitely wait less thanks to Lines (and the Unofficial Guide).


Custom Ears

I had another splurge on items for my Disney trip this week. I had been wanting a pair of ears from Mila Mouse, but she only opens her website for orders occasionally, at very specific times. If you don't order quickly, you'll likely miss out on the ones you want.

I was refreshing the page until it opened, and I still missed a pair that I wanted (Spaceship Earth). So I snagged Finding Dory and Haunted Mansion instead.


Goal Update

It's time to take another look at my list of goals to see which ones I need to work into my touring plan. Also, I plan to add reminders and suggestions for goal completion in my touring plans.

Here is what I have...

Goals for 2017 WDW Trip:

  • Record ride order on park map to help remember my trip details better- Still works!
  • Eat a Disney Cupcake (that’s not the Grey Stuff, already tried that)- Keeping thisone!
  • Do Pick-A-Pearl in the Japan Pavilion- Definitely in the plan!
  • Get at least three character autographs- I'm hoping to get more than this, but this is good start.
  • Buy a pair of earrings from a country in the world showcase (not Mexico, already have a pair)- Still doable.
  • Ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train- I'm so looking forward to this! I've seen enough ride videos, and read enough feedback that I'm not scared at all!
  • See Festival of the Lion King- Can't wait for this either!
  • Watch the Main Street Electrical Parade- I'm so sad, but I will need to remove this. No more MSEP!
  • Take photos and record useful information for three excellent experiences with Cast Members, so I can give them a shout-out- Definitely doing this!
  • Three photos of us (either Jimmy or I) per day- And this!
  • Be a Fairy Godmailer for the Lines community- And probably this too.

Okay, it looks like my goals are mostly still going to work. I just have to lose the Main Street Electrical Parade. I'm going to add reminders to my touring plans for some of these...For example, the photos and info of cast members I'd like to acknowledge..I'm going to add reminders in my touring plan under Notes (either in a break or on specific rides). Even if I don't use them at that time, they can keep me thinking of it. Other goals, such as Festival of the Lion King and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train I can incorporate easily into the touring plan without having to remember them. For the goal "Three photos of us per day", I can add in suggestions for places to take the photo (in front of the castle, with a character, with a particular attraction/decoration/scenery item, etc...) It's important to keep these goals in mind as I make my plans.


Touring Plans

Speaking of plans, my strategy for making my Magic Kingdom plans is to break each of our three days down to the following components:

  • 11 attractions (each attraction will appear once in the touring plan)
  • 1 character venue (such as Mickey's Town Hall)
  • 1 lunch plan
  • 1 parade/fireworks/castle-show

All of the above will be completed before 5pm (unless its fireworks), and the remaining time will be spent on dinner (I'll just list suggestions), as well as additional rides that have a low-wait time or that we just want to do again. By having our plans end early, we can decide when we are ready to leave the park. If we have plenty of energy we can ride whatever rides we want, but if we are exhausted (or wet from rain/Splash Mountain), we can leave early without messing up our touring plans for subsequent days.

 

Disney Countdown: Week 21

Only 21 weeks until our Disney trip!!! My excitement has been rejuvenated by working on my touring plans.

The black blog in the left corner is Fred! See the end of the post for a blooper.

The black blog in the left corner is Fred! See the end of the post for a blooper.


Breakfast at Garden Grill

Jimmy & I are jumping out of our food "comfort zone" and we made an Advanced Dining Reservation for breakfast at the Garden Grill.

Why is this out of our comfort zone?

  • It's Breakfast- Jimmy and I aren't breakfast food sorts of people...he usually eats cheerios, and I usually have toast. We don't like big breakfasts, even when vacation. Actually, especially when vacationing! Why do we want to waste valuable touring time with food that we typically find mediocre? Last time, we grabbed easy items like muffins, croissants and fruit from our hotel's quick service dining. This year, we plan to bring our own food (yay, driving!)....granola bars, pop tarts, fruit, etc...
  • It's Character Dining- Character meals are also not our shtick. We are pretty introverted so our character interactions are usually few and awkward. Also, the presence of characters tends to make the meal more pricey- not something we are usually willing to pay for.
  • It's Family Style- If you aren't familiar with this style, it is all-you-can-eat (like a buffet), but served to your table. Jimmy and I are light eaters...we tend to share meals, and we prefer a smaller meal with a snack a few hours later. On our last trip, we found the buffet meals to be our most expensive meals and they had the least value. 

Why are we doing it then?

  • First in Line for Soarin'- Our reservation is pre-"rope drop" meaning we'll be in the park having breakfast before the park opens. The Garden Grill is in the land pavilion near Soarin' (a very popular ride) and we'll be able to jump in line for Soarin' before the hoards of people enter the park. With the addition of the new Frozen ride, there's going to be more long-line forming attractions than there are available Fastpasses, so it is important to get in line early.
  • Highly Recommended- I got this idea from Shannon at WDW Prep, but I've heard several other people report the same experience since then. Shannon highly recommended the experience for the food, but also said that they were able to actually ride Soarin' before the park opened with no wait. Several other people have reported great food, a fabulous time, and getting to ride Soarin' early.
  • It seems pretty enjoyable- The food has been described as very good, and the menu has options that both Jimmy & I will partake in. I've eaten at the Garden Grill, but not for well over a decade. The restaurant rotates (slowly, hardly noticeable) which gives a fun view of the Living with the Land ride. In addition, the "harvest" theme of the characters (adorable farmer Mickey) is very appealing.

You can check out the official Disney description here (with photos): https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/epcot/garden-grill-restaurant/

And here you can find a review of the Garden Grill (with food pictures):http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2015/11/10/review-chip-n-dales-new-harvest-feast-breakfast-at-epcots-garden-grill/

I really hope they are still serving the cinnamon buns with vanilla icing when we go...Jimmy will be all set! Me? I'll be good with the fruit and potato barrels (aka breakfast tater tots!).

Have you eaten at the Garden Grill? Do you do breakfast on vacation?


Main Street Electrical Parade: Live Stream

As I've mentioned before, one of my trip goals will not be accomplished because they decided to stop the Main Street Electrical Parade :::sniffle::: They couldn't have waited four more months?!

Anyway, I was able to see some of the floats this week on a recent Disney Live Stream. I feel like some chunks of it were not shown, and they spent too much time interviewing people about the parade. Yes, I know it's good, Disney, so let me watch it. Also, if it is so good, why are you getting rid of it?! But, it was still fun to watch.


Chase Rewards Card

All of our daily expenses are put on a Chase Disney Visa that I pay off on a weekly basis. This gives me Disney-specific cash back (as well as an adorable Finding Nemo credit card). It also gives bonuses like a special Character Meet & Greet line. To spend the rewards in Disney, you get a rechargeable rewards card. They suggest ordering this well in advance of your trip, in case there are any delays with its arrival. After you have a card, you can continue to add more rewards money on to it via the website. This week I ordered my card!


Lines Pin

I talk about the Touring Plans website and it's fellow Lines app all the time (here and on the old blog). Touring Plans meshes well with my style of Disney vacationing. Consequently, the people on their chat app (Lines) I love chatting with because they are like-minded folks. Lines is great for when you are in the parks (they answer *all* sorts of Disney questions very fast) and when you are not in the World and missing Disney (hear about other people's trips, and help answer their questions!).

Folks on the Lines app call themselves Liners. They also like to look out for each other in the parks. A custom pin was designed for us and placed on Zazzle, so that we can identify each other in the parks. I ordered mine this week (thanks to a sale!).


Liberty Tree Tavern

I'm debating on whether to add another table service to our plan. We had a great time at Liberty Tree Tavern on our last trip. We will be in the Magic Kingdom for three days. I adore MK, it's now my favorite park, but it has a pretty crappy food selection. I'm thinking of replacing one of the crappy quick service places with an LTT ressie if I can get one. Of course, the real reason I want to do this is because when they call you when your table is ready they announce where you are from. Last time, we were the Davidson's from the territory of Ohio. I'd really like to hear them call us now that we are from Virginia!


This week I plan to continue reading the Unofficial Guide, mess around with Touring Plans more (I keep deleting and restarting as I change my mind), maybe clean some pennies, and work on my Disney binder.

Fred did not want to let me take photos of Duffy and ShellieMay this morning! I needed to pet him!

Fred did not want to let me take photos of Duffy and ShellieMay this morning! I needed to pet him!

Disney Countdown: Week 22

Whoa! It has been 10 weeks since I've posted my last countdown post. Life- new job, the process of selling out old house, a small first floor flood, and many other things- has kept me away. However, you may have noticed that the blog posts have been working their way back into my routine. As things settle down, I'm able to find more time to blog. And as Disney grows closer the more I want to talk about it. Blogging also helps organize my thoughts and planning strategy.

ADR Day

Our 180 day mark has already passed, and I've already made our dining reservations. 

We have lunch table service reservations at Skipper's Canteen, Coral Reef, 50's Primetime Cafe, Yak & Yeti and Be Our Guest. We also have a pre-rope drop breakfast reservation for the Garden Grill!

Updated Guide Book

My copy of the 2014 Unofficial Guide has been missing since the movie. I decided to use that as an excuse to buy an updated one! I now have the 2017 guidebook, which I will read happily from cover-to-cover during my lunch breaks for the next couple weeks. 

Attraction & Show Changes at WDW

I desperately need to post a news update because lots of changes have occurred recently at WDW. Many of which have impacted my touring plans. The Jungle Book and much of the nighttime entertainment at the Animal Kingdom will not be continuing this fall. This means AK will close at 6:00pm. I'm not sure what this means for our dinner prospects. 

Sum of All Thrills and another attraction are closing in Innoventions leaving a single display left in the pavilion in Epcot.

The Main Street Electrical Parade has also been canceled. As you may recall, seeing the MSEP was one of my goals for this trip. Sadly, that will be another goal that I need to remove.

A Stash of Quarters

I found a bunch of quarters in a box we hadn't gone through yet from the movie. I'm pretty sure these were from my yard sale last summer. Regardless of their origin, I now have a pile of quarters that I can use for my pressed penny mini M&M tubes!

Movie Updates

I've been updating our movie list on a regular basis. You can see it on the Disney page. 

The above is just a brief overview of the Disney planning that has been going on over the past 10 weeks. I'm getting deep into planning my touring plans now, so I will be going into more detail on those soon. 

Repost: Movies I Want to See Before My Disney Trip

This was originally posted on my old blog back in January. I've moved it here for reference. I've also tacked on Finding Dory and Zootopia. We also may watch Robin Hood since it's on Netflix.

We have 13 months until our next trip, so I plan to watch 26 movies (2 per month sounded reasonable). The list is a bit longer than that to give us some wiggle room for hunting down movies. We aren’t going to watch these in the order shown. The order will be determined by when we can manage to get a hold of various movies (Netflix, library, etc…).

To create this list, I started with an article on Touring Plans called “Movies to Watch Before You Visit Disney World“, added a few movies I wanted to see, and then subtracted movies until I got to 31. I left in movies that we wanted to watch for the first time, or re-watch because we hadn’t seen them in awhile, while giving higher priorities to ones with a higher presence in the parks. Some movies were easily removed…I know Beauty and the Beast by heart, and Jimmy remembers it well. We watched Cinderella in preparation for our last trip, so not that long ago.

Here is what I was left with:

  1. Peter Pan- I know the movie pretty well, but Jimmy doesn’t recall the Disney version. Not only does it have its own attraction, but Peter Pan and Tinkerbell are ubiquitous in the parks.
  2. Snow White- Jimmy doesn’t remember it, and I’ve avoided it since first watching it long ago (I wasn’t a fan). Alas, we plan on going on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, so we’ve deemed it a necessity.
  3. Fantasia- Another Jimmy hasn’t seen. The Mickey in the Sorcerer’s Hat is a pretty common image, also Mickey’s Philharmagic gets inspiration from Fantasia (and some music). It also has a presence in Fantasmic, a reference in the Great Movie Ride, and one of the All Star Movies section is themed after it (we’ll be walking to ASM at some point, I imagine).
  4. Sleeping Beauty- Once again, my husband doesn’t remember this one, and while slightly more important for Disneyland, characters from the movie make it into a lot of parades, stage shows, character meet & greets, etc…
  5. Dumbo- I don’t remember Dumbo at all. I know a couple of the songs, and a few scenes, but the general story I don’t recall. Dumbo is pretty abundant and has his own ride, so we should fix this.
  6. Lilo & Stitch-I need to re-watch this. I haven’t seen it in a long time, and I remember *not* hating Stitch after I watched it. His unnecessary prevalence in the parks (particularly when he replaces one of the Fab Five) has made me dislike him. Also, his attraction isn’t very good. Perhaps re-watching it will help me like him better.
  7. Mary Poppins- Mary Poppins appears a lot as a character meet and greet, and has an appearance on the Great Movie Ride. Jimmy doesn’t recall this movie very well, so we’re going to watch it. Also, I read about a hidden reference to one of my favorite parts of this movie, I’d like to find it when we are there.
  8. Pinocchio- I remember it better than Jimmy, but could still use a refresher. Pinocchio has his own quick service restaurant.
  9. Jungle Book- Once again, we could use a refresher on this one. It helped create the atmosphere for AK, and it’s characters roam around AK.
  10. Pocahontas- I was horrified when Jimmy mentioned he had never seen this one. I corrected that within a couple days. Pocahontas shows up in some stage shows and parades, and she has a character meet and greet.
  11. Princess & The Frog- Neither of us have seen this one, and since it’s newer, it’s referenced more through meet and greets and merchandise.
  12. Indiana Jones- Jimmy doesn’t remember it, though I know he’s seen the third one. It has an attraction at DHS, and is referenced in the Great Movie Ride.
  13. Music Man- This one is recommended for Main Street atmosphere purposes, I don’t believe either of us have seen it.
  14. Apple Dumpling Gang- This one supposedly gives the feel for Frontierland. I have a vague recollection of this one, but that’s it.
  15. The Right Stuff- Supposedly gave inspiration for Space Mountain, and other Disney space stuff. Neither Jimmy nor I had heard of this one.
  16. The Muppet Movie- Honestly, we just wanted a muppet movie on here.
  17. Disney Nature- We haven’t seen any of them, and they are supposed to be the inspiration for AK.
  18. The African Queen- Inspired the Jungle Cruise! Haven’t seen it.
  19. Dinosaur- I had forgotten this movie existed. Though the ride of the same name contains no explicit references to the movie, the dinosaurs featured are the same ones.
  20. The Aristocats- Only minor references in the parks, but Jimmy hasn’t seen this one. Disney doesn’t have many “good” cats (they are always evil), so this film is important.
  21. The Three Cabelleros- Has its own ride in Mexico, and Jimmy hasn’t seen it!
  22. Tangled- It’s newer, and neither of us have seen it. Lots of character and merchandise references.
  23. Brave- It’s newer, and neither of us have seen it. Lots of character and merchandise references.
  24. Swiss Family Robinson- To help Jimmy understand the treehouse attraction better. Also, I need a refresher.
  25. Star Wars 4- We haven’t seen it in a very long time. Lots of Star Wars stuff in the parks now!
  26. Star Wars 5- We haven’t seen it in a very long time. Lots of Star Wars stuff in the parks now!
  27. Star Wars 6- We haven’t seen it in a very long time. Lots of Star Wars stuff in the parks now!
  28. Star Wars 7- Obviously a must do.
  29. Tom Sawyer- Jimmy wants to understand TS Island better.
  30. Ratatouille- We haven’t seen it, and I now have a pin (thanks to pin park pack).
  31. Big Hero 6- It’s newer, and neither of us have seen it. Lots of character and merchandise references.

Disney Countdown: Week 32

New Touring Plan Strategy

My favorite part of Disney planning- creating touring plans! 

My previous plan (for our canceled trip) was to focus on specific areas inside of each park each day (for parks we were visiting more than once) in an effort to absorb the unique atmospheres of each land better. This is STILL going to be my strategy. However, I'm changing my "save the best for last" mindset. I had originally planned to do the parts of the parks I love the most on the later days in an effort to prolong the excitement. Recently, I've been having doubts about this plan...rides go down all the time...particularly older attractions, like Pirates. 

After discussing it with Jimmy, we decided we should do the opposite...start with our favorite lands first, and go backwards. This way if something we love is down the first day, we still have time to catch it. 

I had started working on our first day, in the Magic Kingdom, with Tomorrowland. Now, I'll be reworking the plan. The first thing we'll be doing on Day 1 after rope drop is heading to Adventureland! 

On this trip, we are planning on taking more time to appreciate the atmosphere, and also a lot of the smaller attractions we missed last time. We plan on riding Dumbo and Prince Charming's Carousel. Jimmy *may* have convinced to go on the tea cups (he also may regret that decision when he has to deal with the aftermath!). I also plan on doing more character meet n' greets. We plan on skipping some things we did last time that we didn't find hugely enjoyable. We found Space Mountain uncomfortable on our last trip, so we may give it a pass. Jimmy doesn't enjoy the 360 movies, so we'll be skipping O, Canada and Reflections of China. We also may skip the Stitch ride (it's mediocre), and possibly some shows at Hollywood Studios. 

Movie Updates!

We've been blowing through the list now that we have a library card! We've recently watched Ratatouille, Brave, The Muppet Movie and Pinocchio. This weekend we'll be checking on Finding Dory. I'll be posting an updated move list on the main Disney page.

Are you planning a Disney trip? Tell me about it in the comments!