Thursday, July 11, 2013
Sunday, September 30, 2012
We enjoyed dinner recently at Shutters at Disney's Vero Beach Resort (Vacation Club Property on Vero Beach's Orchid Island).
Shutters has a nautical theme and looks over the gorgeous Atlantic:
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Author: Disney Diva
In March of 2012 I had a NEW Disney Experience. I rented a stroller for a Disney Vacation for the first time ever from a “rental place” instead of renting one for the week from inside Walt Disney World.
I had a family traveling with me which gave us two 5 1/2 year olds. We knew their little legs were going to wear out, but they were just a bit too large for a typical stroller.
So we got in touch with Shannon at Orlando Stroller Rentals, LLC at: https://www.orlandostrollerrentals.com/
The rental agency came highly recommended! You can contact them by going to email@example.com or by phone at 800-281-0884, but you will probably want to go on their website FIRST and look around for what stroller best fits your.
We opted for the City Elite Double Stroller because it seemed like it would be able to hold our two 5 1/2 year old children well (article coming soon on review of stroller). You can see in the photo below that by clicking on the stroller you are interested in you can select the date you would like to have your stroller dropped off and picked. You also select which resort to have the stroller delivered to. There are tons options are listed both on and off property and, if you’re like me and renting a house, they can deliver it there too. You’ll just want to call or email them to set that up.
After your select your delivery/pick up dates,and find out if your stroller is available for that time, you’ll get a billing page on the website.
As you can see the TOTAL charge for 7 days was $80.25 which INCLUDES delivery and tax! According to the Walt Disney World website on April of 2012 Double strollers for length of stay (which I definitely recommend if you’re going to be there more than a few days) are:
Which means the WDW Double Stroller rental would have been $189.00 for the same 7 days. This makes renting a stroller from Orlando Stroller Rentals quite a bit savings!
When I arrived at my rental house from Disney Sunshine Villas (which I highly recommend!) I found my rental stroller already inside and ready to be used. I’m assuming that the owners brought it in when they came to clean because normally it would be waiting by the door. If you are staying at a resort or hotel either on or off property they will deliver the stroller to the bell service/ luggage room. When you arrive just give your name to bell service or the front desk and tell them a stroller should have been delivered under your name.
The stroller was big and roomy and very clean. There were instructions attached about folding and unfolding the stroller attached as well as a name card attached to help prevent theft. We immediately wrapped our brightly colored ribbon around the handle so we would be able to easily identify it at the park, and set it aside to use the next day. I will be writing an article about the stroller itself, which I did not like since I was staying off property as it was large and presented MULTIPLE ISSUES, but this is NOT the fault of Orlando Stroller Rentals, they were simply providing what I asked for. However look for a review on the stroller itself in the near future for help with deciding which stroller to rent.
On the day I left I was asked to just put the stroller by the door and they would come to pick it up. We had a bit of a hiccup since a new driver was unable to locate the stroller, we think he didn’t know where the house was, but it just about gave me a heart attack worrying that it was stolen. However, I contacted Orlando Stroller Rentals right away to let them know I had left it by the door and when I received a reply later they told me it was probably the new guys mistake.
Luckily my husband was staying a few days after myself and was able to put it outside again the next day, otherwise it would have been left out in the elements until someone finally found it. However, we were able to put it out again the next day and it was picked up with no problem.
If you are staying at a resort or hotel you will need to drop the stroller off at the bell service/ luggage room at your hotel for pick up later that day.
I think Orlando Stroller Rentals is a good service at a very good price. I’d be careful about which stroller to pick if you’re going to be off Disney property and riding the tram, as the large strollers cause A LOT of drama. Small rental car trunks as well as the trams to the parks after parking will make you hate your life with the wrong stroller. I would do business with Orlando Stroller Rentals again and hope you will consider them for your upcoming Disney World vacation.You can click HERE to be taken to their site!
Sunday, March 11, 2012
When dining at Disney World on a budget it is a great idea to have a game plan.
When planning your Disney vacation be sure to make a list for each day of the places you plan to eat. This not only creates a great visual but allows you to see just how much money food and snacks are going to consume the vacation budget.
I suggest you create a 'food budget' and stick to it, since there are tempting Disney goodies around every corner.
If you're staying off-property and your hotel or resort offers free breakfast, be sure to take advantage of this freebie! If you're in a hurry and don't want to waste any time plan to purchase breakfast items to eat in your hotel room such as bananas, cereal bars, muffins (bake these at home and bring them with you), Pop Tarts, orange juice (available at most grocery stores in convenient resealable individual containers), and either bring them with you or use an online grocery store delivery if you don't have a car.
Lunch and dinner out are going to add up quickly for a family of 4. If you are traveling on a budget then I suggest having your children split an entree and be sure to pack your own snacks and drinks. You can even pack your own lunch in a cooler to save money since Disney now "officially" allows you to bring food and drinks into the parks.
If you have the mentality that "I'm on vacation I am going to eat out every meal" view-point then I would suggest you at least try to chose your restaurants accordingly. Look around on our Dining tab to get some ideas. There are many counter service restaurant options available, which save time and money. Counter service dining offers much more affordable prices and most of the time the portions are just as big, and don't be afraid to order off the kids menu parents!!!
If you are on a budget, I would suggest you eat a late lunch at the theme parks and head back to your hotel for dinner time. However, the Disney Diva always takes her breaks mid-day and would suggest eating at late lunch at the resort and saving your money for a delicious dinner in the parks that evening.
If your hotel has a microwave/refrigerator be sure to take full advantage of this! Plan to prepare quick and easy meals for your family in your hotel room, you can also "rent" one in most on-property resorts, which many people don't know. Just request it when you make your reservation.
Some quick and easy meal ideas for dining in your hotel room include the following: microwave MacNCheese (if you have older children be sure to use the family size as it offers a much bigger proportion), microwave Hambuger Helper, hot dogs, microwave mini pizza's, etc. Many microwave meals just require water. I have even seen pea's and carrots in little individual cups that are microwavable which would be perfect if you want to squeeze in a veggie with your dinner. If your family doesn't eat much fast food don't suddenly spring these "quick" meals on them, as the fat in them could really effect comfort for the rest of the trip.
If the idea of cooking meals in your hotel room does not appeal to you, don't worry, there are other money saving options available. Have a parent run out to the local pizza place and bring back a pizza, many will deliver straight to your hotel room. Or pick up 'to go' food from a nearby restaurant as even this would be cheaper than eating at many in-park restaurants.
However, don't skip out on the experiences. Character meals help with time management believe it or not, so just decide where you're going to skimp and where you're going to splurge prior to the trip. Agree on a restaurant that offers something for everyone and remember to box up any leftovers (but not if you're not heading back to the room soon and don't have a refrigerator in your room... talk about sickness!!) And don't forget if you've got one older child and one younger child the importance of special time with mom or dad eating alone.
Enjoy your Disney vacation but remember it's the memories you are creating with your family that you will look back on and remember, not necessarily the food you ate.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Here are some important tips from the Budget Diva on how to save money on snacks and meals at Disney World!
Many people are not aware that for years Disney's official policy was that people (unless they had special needs) were allowed to bring food and drinks into the parks. However, it was rarely, make that NEVER, enforced. However, now Disney has changed that policy to officially allowing soft-sided coolers, food and drinks to come into the parks!
This is a HUGE money saver for those traveling on a budget! Coolers must be "soft sided coolers" not the big heavy hard sided coolers on wheels. No over-sized coolers will be allowed, nor are glass bottles, baby food jars, etc and no alcohol. (Interesting fact: beer is not sold in the Magic Kingdom!)
I recommend that you pack snacks and drinks and maybe even lunches every day to save both time and money. You will be thanking me once you see the lunch time lines at Disney World!
Below is a list of foods that make for great snacks/meals that are quick, easy and mess free:
- cereal bars
- trail mix (you can make these at home ahead of time and put in plastic Ziploc baggies)
- string cheese
- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (stay away from meat, it could go bad!!)
- Gatorade or any juice to keep little ones hydrated (NO straws allowed in the Animal Kingdom so you'll have to take them off of your juice boxes! )
- Gerber crunchies or puffs for little ones
- energy bars for the adults-trust me, you'll need this
- grapes (in a Ziploc baggies)
However, if you want something cute, personalized (and a little pricier) check out ThirtyOneGifts , they offer adorable water resistant monogrammed insulated coolers in various sizes and patterns. You could have your family's name written on your bag with the phrase "Disney Vacation" if you want to get creative!
Remember, if you're going to want to keep anything cold you will need a refrigerator in your room. You can read THIS POST about which resorts have refrigerators in them and which have mini-fridges you can rent.
You might also want to consider having groceries delivered to your resort. You can find information on grocery delivery by clicking HERE.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Author: Budget Diva
You have chosen your Walt Disney World vacation dates and now you’re ready to begin researching where to stay! There are MANY options and this can be one of the toughest decision that you will have to make.
Staying “On Property” – WDW Resorts
Many people choose to stay “on property” at one of the many beautiful resorts located inside the Walt Disney World property. The reason? Location, location, location and the free Disney transportation! The closer to the park gates you are the quicker you can come and go to the parks. This is especially convenient if your resort is one of the resorts located “on the Monorail loop”.
There are only three resorts located on the monorail: the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian and the Contemporary Resort. I have stayed at both the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian on my previous trips to Disney (look for future articles on these properties). There are Value resorts that offer the convenience of Disney transportation and specials make the rooms more budget friendly.
This year our family of five is going to Walt Disney World on a budget and have chosen to stay “off property” instead of in an "on property" value resort.
Staying “Off Property” – Hotels, condos, and houses
I personally have always loved how Priceline can save you money www.priceline.com (Don’t miss the article on Priceline: HERE) and I have found some amazing deals for Orlando hotels this way. We are staying off property this next trip at the Embassy Suites Lake Buena Vista: http://www.embassysuiteslbv.com/
To really save money look for hotels & condos that offer:
- FREE parking
- FREE breakfast
- FREE shuttle services to the theme parks
- refrigerator/microwave in the room
- restaurant located in the hotel
- indoor/outdoor swimming pool
- in room Internet access
If a budget it driving your resort decision, it is important to make sure that you are not paying to park your vehicle at the hotel! $10 per day can really add up especially if you are planning to drive to the theme parks (which will charge you another parking fee).
Free breakfast can really help save money for the whole family. You can eat a big breakfast at the hotel or resort and pack your lunch in a cooler to take to the theme parks. If there is a restaurant in the hotel I can bet that it will cost less money than a sit down restaurant in the theme parks if you’re just dying to eat out. You could spend the day at the park and leave before dinner time, or even eat a late dinner back at the hotel.
When traveling with children it is convenient to have a refrigerator and microwave in the hotel/condo room. This allows you to heat up quick and easy meals for the picky eater's, baby food, etc. You can save a lot of money by simply eating one meal per day at your hotel whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner.
When choosing a hotel many parents want as much space as possible. A hotel that offers family suite's or two room spaces is the best option! You can find many family suites off property for less money than a basic hotel room would cost 'on property' at Disney World. A benefit of having a family suite when traveling with young children is nap time! Children can nap in one room of the suite and older siblings and parents can relax in the living room with the ability to access the refrigerator/microwave and the television. There is also much more privacy when choosing a suite. Some family suites even offer bunk beds for children with larger families.
If your hotel offers an indoor/outdoor swimming pool then you will always have a 'back up plan' on rainy days to keep the children happy. Plus it is nice to take a day off from hitting the parks to just relax at the pool with your children, remember it is a vacation after all!
Whether you choose to stay on property or off property, when you’re on a budget you need to really research what is the best option for you! Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.
- The Budget Diva
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
One of the big things people panic about on their Disney World Vacation is what happens if they lose one of their tickets. This is a very real possibility considering how many times you get the tickets out in order to get fast-0passes, etc.
If you don’t have a “key to the world” this could be big drama for you, especially if you don’t bring the credit card you bought the tickets with WITH YOU. B
Easy fix. When you get your tickets just take a picture of the backs of them (the part with the information, not the Disney characters, lol) with your cell phone or with your regular camera (if you’re not changing photo cards frequently). This way if you do lose those tickets you can just bring your cell phone to guest services and they can re-issue your tickets. Once less thing to worry about on your trip!!
On the 1st day of Christmas the Diva gave to me….. a tip to keep your tickets safe!
Saturday, November 5, 2011
This morning I got a great question from Martha that read:
“Hello. I am a fellow Disney lover and have been blessed to have gone to wdw many times throughout my 25 years of life. I just discovered your blog, love it, and have learned many things now that im a new mom. I agree with you 100% about the mid-day breaks, however will find it hard to go back to my resort because it will be about 15/20 mins away. Do you have any other suggestions for me who will not benefit from a back-to-resort-break (being that my 2 yr old naps for about 2 hrs +/- plus the 1hr total drive to and from)? perhaps some nice napping spots in the parks? Ive always been able to last all day with a few min breaks and never really paid attention for convenient resting spots for tots. Thanks so much and i cant wait to hear from you! “ – Martha
First off, thanks for reading Tips from the Disney Diva! I’m so glad you are enjoying it and are learning some new things! I hope you’ll share the tips and the blog with your friends and family.
So in regards to your question Martha, when your kid starts making a face like this: And its too far to go back to your off-property resort, you need some quiet places to just relax and let the little one “sleep off” the over-stimulation. So Diva husband and I have compiled a list of what we think are the BEST places to nap/chill at Disney World.
We’ve ranked our favorites in each park.
Luckily Magic Kingdom has tons of little spots to escape to. You wouldn’t think so, but you have to know where to look. Our top in-park spots are:
1. Tom Sawyer Island: Plenty of shade, benches, & even rocking chairs. Its fairly remote and very few people head over there. There is a trail to what use to be Aunt Polly’s ice cream shoppe that has tons of tables still at it and its away from everything. Potential downsides: If the Liberty Belle Steamboat blows its horn it may startle your little one. No air- conditioning.
2. Inside waiting area for Hall of Presidents: You don’t have to go into the show unless you want to, but its very mild and relaxing too. Great air-conditioning and very few people travel through there, but if they do they are usually older and more respectful of not being loud while you’re little one’s trying to sleep. You can also ask a cast member if you can sit in the back and just sit through multiple shows, usually they don’t care. Plenty of places to sit in the lobby and in the show itself. Potential downsides: a loud group COULD potentially come through and the room echoes a bit.
3. Walkway between Castle and Liberty Square: If you are coming out of Fantasyland just before you go through the castle turn right. Usually Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother is doing her meet and greet. As you go down the walkway there are many shaded benches and, of course, BEAUTIFUL views of the castle for you. Very few people take this walkway. Potential downsides: Fireworks happen at the castle show, so if you’re going to nap there make sure that the show is not going to interrupt the nap. Also they’ve got a new Move it, shake it, celebrate it show that comes near there that can get loud. There is a pavilion next to the Sleepy Hollow (aka the funnel cake store) that is shaded and has many tables to sit at.
4. Carousel of Progress: Before you get on it ask a cast member if you can sit through multiple shows while your child naps. Its pitch black, the show is very relaxing, and its got great air-conditioning. Potential Downsides: if you’re watching multiple shows people could be coming down your row in order to exit and make you move, very irritating. Also, if your kid doesn’t fall asleep and has a melt-down its hard for them to stop the show and you to make a graceful exit.
5. Liberty Square behind Christmas Shoppe: There are a few little niches around Liberty square where you can relax on a bench. Potential downsides: Tiana’s meet and greet show can now make this area a little loud, but if you hit it just right its very relaxing and shaded. There is also a smoking area back there.
I personally like to ride the People-mover, aka Tomorrowland Transit Authority, over and over again, but Diva Dad disagrees that it’s a good spot. I like it because you can get a nice breeze. He says its too “jerky” and the gas-fume smell from the Tomorrowland Speedway keeps you from relaxing.
Also, if you can get in there (sometimes its blocked off) there are tables BETWEEN the Pecos Bill and Tortuga restaurants that are COMPLETELY QUIET, dark, and air-conditioned. I suggest going in the Tortuga side as the Pecos Bill “seat police” are completely out of control. (Read more at: http://tipsfromthedisneydiva.blogspot.com/2011/04/beware-seat-police.html
TOP TIP SO PAY ATTENTION:
If your kid takes “SERIOUS” naps, like 2+ hour ones, you don’t need a place to sit for a while, you need a get-away! Many people do not know that you can leave the park and go to one of the resorts to relax EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT STAYING THERE!!! The Deluxe Resorts & Vacation Club locations have amazing lobbies and many little niches you can get away in to relax. It is 100% OK for you to go and soak up the quiet and air-conditioning at any of these resorts.
Magic Kingdom CLOSEST RESORT HOP: Get on the boat to Wilderness Lodge, walk to the Disney Vacation Club wing and there is a room called the Railroad room. It is the BEST, most quiet nook, we’ve ever found. There are many comfy chairs for you and it is air-conditioned and dead quiet during the day. You don’t have to be staying there to get in there. Just ask someone where the room is and they’ll point you in that direction.
Wilderness Lodge lobby has some great couches and rocking chairs to enjoy and I’m sure there are places in the Polynesian & Grand Floridian, we’ve just never “squatted” there. Contemporary has too much “echo” for me.
1. American Pavilion waiting area & show: Like the Hall of Presidents, the American Pavilion has a great air-conditioned waiting area and has a show with MANY MANY rows of seating. The show is longer than the Hall of Presidents, even less crowded, and you can potentially sit through multiple shows. Again, ask a cast member if you can sit there. Potential Downsides: Noisy group?
2. France - Go all the way to the shop in the back and turn left there are some small tables and air-conditioning, get coffee & snack from the patisserie! Potential Downsides: The kid-cot is in there, but I don’t think its used all that often.
3. Japanese Gardens: shaded and quiet if you can find a spot to sit. Potential downsides: loud groups coming through to do the Kim Possible Adventure.
4. Canada- O’Canada film: This film shows in the “round” and the movie is on all sides of you. The air-conditioning is nice and its fine for you to sit on the floor. Again, you’d have to ask a cast-member if its ok for you to sit there through a few shows. Potential Downsides: I’ve only been nauseated 2x ever at Disney World. When Mission Space only had one operating mode and sitting through the O’Canada show. Makes you wanna puke, eh?
5. Back area of Imagination between the ride and the shop. Rarely explored by families there are a few little areas you can squat if need be.Potential downside: could have a rowdy group come through.
CLOSEST RESORT HOP: Walk (or ride the boat) out of the International Gateway Beach Club. They have a great Lobby that is air-conditioned, has many couches to relax in. Again you NEVER have to be staying at a resort to enjoy their lobbies and restaurants.
1. Conservation Station: It is very remote and most likely people would leave you alone out there. The rocking motion of the train to get you out there might help your little one to “conk-out”. Potential Downsides: Its possible a loud group could come through.
2. Dinosaur Trails: Right in front of the Dinosaur Ride there are trails with benches. They’re in the shade and very few people realize that they are there. Good place to escape. Potential Downsides: Its pouring rain.
3. Walkway where stroller parking happens for Nemo. Yeah, that’s pretty self-explanatory. There is actually an area that is at the BOTTOM of the Nemo area (where the show lets out), near the bathrooms, where you can relax for a while. Potential Downsides: The show lets out and a bazilion people interrupt your nap.
We honestly don’t know a lot of places in Animal Kingdom because we don’t nap on Animal Kingdom days. We always do a full day at AK and a “relax night” at the resort because the park closes early. However there are MANY little covered areas on the walkway between Africa and Asia to relax if you can get there before someone else. And areas around the tree of life to relax.
CLOSEST RESORT HOP: Animal Kingdom Lodge is dark and has a great places to sit for hours in their lobby. Their restaurant, Jiko, is not open for lunch and has a very cool waiting area that is extremely remote with some benches and chairs to relax in.
1. Back-lot Express: Right beside the Honey I shrunk the kids playground there is a restaurant, Back-lot express, that as far as we’ve seen, never has people at it. Its covered and pretty quiet and has many tables to sit at and relax. Potential Downsides: The restaurant is actually open for once, but its doubtful.
2. Starring Rolls: Besides the yummy pastries, Starring Rolls has some good outdoor tables with umbrellas that could provide some shade and it’s a little bit off the beaten path. Potential Downsides: its busier in the morning
3. Going past Toy Story Mania and up a bit on the left there is a bench that is always in the shade that may be good. Potential Downsides: People being loud waiting in the EXTREMELY LONG queue for Toy Story Mania.
4. Animation Courtyard: between the character greetings and the gift shop there are some rooms with Oscars and stuff like that. Its quiet, but I’m having a hard time remembering if there is seating as I usually just jet through there. You have to go around through the character greetings, cant go through the gift shop any more.
5. The waiting area for Backlot Tour is also covered and usually gets a good breeze. Don’t go to the show though, its horrible. haha Potential downside: loud groups coming through.
Hollywood studios is the WORST park for napping in WDW in my opinion. There’s not enough shade and concrete for miles. If it were up to me and it was HWS day I’d resort-hop.
CLOSEST RESORT HOP: Get on the boat and whichever resort it stops at first (Boardwalk, Yacht or Beach) get off the boat and go enjoy their quiet (air-conditioned) lobby!
Right after I finished my article I remembered an article I read by Bill at Mouse Junkies about his favorite benches at WDW. You might want to check it out http://mousejunkies.com/thats-just-weird/walt-disney-world-from-your-butt/ It’s a great blog!!
So there’s my top resting spots Martha, but I’m sure my readers have MANY MORE. IF you have a great spot to share with Tips from the Disney Diva readers PLEASE COMMENT and share with the WHOLLLLLLEEE class!!!
Whew, after writing all that I need a nap myself!
Sunday, August 21, 2011
“ Hello Disney Diva! Here's my situation.. I am staying for 7 weeks in a house off property. I'll have extended family with me and would like to save money by cooking meals at home. I'd only like to spend money on our meals at the disney character dinings. I was wondering if you have any great snack or meal ideas that travel well / are easy to prepare. I was thinking I would keep a cooler in the trunk / or van but with the florida sun I'm wondering if it the inside of the car would get too hot and melt the ice in the cooler. Can you offer any suggestions for us looking to save money / eat healthy by preparing our own snacks and meals at WDW? (I was thinking frozen grapes, chocolate dipped frozen bananas (for at home by the pool & let the kids decorate with nuts/sprinkles), apple slices w/ those packets of peanut butter)
First off, 7 weeks! AWESOME! This means you should never feel rushed and crazy while at the parks because the (Walt Disney) World is your oyster and you can come and go as you please. For your particular situation I would encourage you to choose to either do the morning or the evening at each park based on what Touring Plans Crowd Calendar suggest. (Its totally worth the subscription to know which parks are busiest at which part of the day). This way you’re only really making a plan for ONE meal, either a “snack” for mid-morning and then home for lunch, or “supper” plans. The parks cool off, and thin out, significantly as the day wears on, so I would suggest taking advantage of the evening hours more often. Also, be sure to read all my series of tips for people staying off property
Ok, so down to the heart of your question about food. I wrote an article in 2008 called Brown Bagging it for Lunch at MK that addresses some of these, but I wanted to re-check the “rules for bringing food into the park” to see if they’re the same in 2011. So I checked with Mousesavers.com and they state on their site:
“Disney used to have a policy "requesting" that guests did not bring outside food and drink into the theme parks, but this was completely unenforced. Now it has changed its policy, and guests are allowed to bring food items, such as snacks or foods that do not require heating, into any Walt Disney World theme park. It is also completely fine to bring in bottled water or soft drinks.
One note of caution: avoid bringing in anything highly perishable, such as cold cuts. It would be easy to end up with food poisoning!
Also, you absolutely will NOT be allowed to bring in the following: hard-sided coolers, large coolers, glass containers, or alcoholic beverages. Also, you cannot bring any type of straws (even the little ones attached to juice boxes) into Animal Kingdom.”
So , you know you can bring food, but you don’t want to haul it around with you. Well, I would suggest renting a locker instead ($5-7.00 per day!) You can see a list here of where the locker rental locations are at each park. Coolers smaller than 24"L x 15"W x 18"H (the size of the large lockers) are allowed as long as they’re not “hard sided”.
Something like the Coleman 72 can Soft Sided COLLAPSIBLE cooler would be perfect.
Its dimensions are 24” x 11.5” x 15”. So it would fit into the lockers with ease and hold whatever you’re looking for a meal and a snack.
The easiest way to save money at WDW is to bring your own water bottle and re-fill it. But I’ll warn you, the water is not very tasty to a Diva like me. I normally bring some crystal-lite packets or some Mio to flavor our water.
Obviously fruit, pre-packaged veggie snacks, Maybe small caramel dippers for your fruit are good ideas. Also consider Smuckers “uncrustables” packaged sandwiches which travel REALLY WELL!
I will warn you that there are some locations, like Pecos Bill, which are PSYCHO about you using their tables without buying their food. You can read about that in my article “Beware the seat police” . So don’t expect to be welcomed to a table, ever. I’ve found that the trains at MK are a GREAT place to eat lunch. nice and cool and you can sit as long as you’d like. Find a ledge and cop a squat.
I hope you have an excellent time!
Do any of you have more suggestions for the Neal Family about good snacks to bring with you into the parks?
Thursday, July 21, 2011
I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever had to ride the tram at Epcot, and only a few times at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, but I ALWAYS have to ride it at Magic Kingdom if I’ve stayed off property. And since there’s NO WAY you are going to skip Magic Kingdom its best to plan for the WORST then the Best.
Trams aren’t really that big of a problem UNLESS you have a stroller. It was less of a problem before the trams had doors, but now with every row having its own door its even more complicated for people with strollers. I’ve checked around with different WDW stroller-rental companies to see if they have any advice and the common theme seems to be “just find a way to make it work”.
So my top tip? The front row of each section of the tram is actually TWO seats that face one another. Do your best to try to get on that front row if you have one of those big jogging strollers or a sit and stand stroller. Designate someone “responsible for the stroller” and make sure they are on the front row in the section. It doesn’t really matter if you aren’t all on together on the same row.
Also, they are kind of psycho about making sure children are in the middle of the rows, so go ahead and arrange yourselves to be able to load correctly to cut down on some stress.
The mornings in Magic Kingdom are crazy so you need to have a plan. Seriously, do not expect that people are going to be “nice” and let you get on the tram ahead of them. Many times I’ve experienced extreme frustration because people didn’t use what I considered common courtesy in regards to “tram etiquette”. So just have a plan. If you have to send your family on a tram ahead of you make sure you know where you will all meet up before boarding the monorail.
Strollers MUST BE FOLDED to ride the tram, so make sure you’ve done that before its time to board. Also, don’t forget you can just rent a stroller in the park. You can read all about that by reading my post HERE.
And make sure you know the name of what section you loaded. You can read more about “parking at Disney” for more tips.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Continuing my series on Tips for people planning to stay off property!! To read more of those Tips click HERE.
Make SURE you have a GPS with you. I’m not saying you have to buy one, but I’d borrow one from a friend or make sure the one on a smart-phone is properly working. GPS can save you A LOT of time at WDW.
I would suggest that you make each park a “favorite” in order to easily move from one to the next and back “home”. The roads can get sort of confusing, especially trying to get on and off of I-4. So a GPS can really come in handy and ease some of the stress that is already present on a Disney Trip.
There are few things that can bum you out quite like getting REALLY lost can, either on the front end or the back end of the day and while it seems like the road-signs would direct you nicely for some reason they just DON’T!
Also remember that a GPS does not take into consideration traffic. I personally have never found Disney traffic to be TOO terrible. I’ve seen worse in my hometown. I’d still give myself a 10 minute traffic cushion. If your resort is WAY north on 1-4 then you can expect far more traffic.
Overall I would say that a GPS is an invaluable tool for any guest staying off-property and well worth the investment.
Want more tips for staying off property? Read them all HERE.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Plan for Parking!
Ok so if you’re off property and PARKING then that means you are in a car, either rented or your own (thank you Captain OBVIOUS). It also means you need to plan for parking and for the tram which will be another post this week. IF you’re not sure what time you need to leave your resort by in order to make a dining reservation then you can read my post HERE.
1) When you arrive you will have to pay for parking (unless you have annual passes). At the time this was published (7/2011) You will pay $14.00 - Car/Taxi/Shuttle/Limousine/Motorcycle, $15.00 - Camper/Trailer, $18.00 - Bus/Tractor Trailer. I cant imagine you’d have a camper or bus, but I’ve been wrong before. (Take this into consideration when you’re looking at the cost of a value resort on property vs off property as you’re actually adding $14.00 EVERY DAY to park to the cost).
2) You will then be directed where to park by the parking attendants (who seriously have to have the worst job at WDW! Oh good gracious!). Follow them and don’t be one of those jerks who doesn’t drive alllll the way down the way they are directing you too. Its luck of the draw people.
3) You want to make sure you vent your car some-way, as it gets SMOKIN’ HOT out there! So crack a window a little bit. Make sure you get EVERYTHING you’re going to need out of your car (especially your children and animals) or anything that will melt (we still have melted crayons in ours from a Disney Trip). You do NOT want to have to come back out to the car to get something.
4) Then I would suggest tying SOMETHING on your car to “mark it”. We use a florescent pink ribbon and tie it around the antenna. There are thousands of cars out there and so having something that makes your grey mini-van look different than the other 700 in the parking lot can save you some time (lets be honest, this IS Disney World after all!). This is especially important if you are renting a car as its sometimes easy to forget what the car looks like when its not your own.
5) After that grab you and yours and walk to the FRONT of your car on the path that leads you to the trams (or the walkway to the park if you’re close enough). The parking attendants will go crazy on you if you walk behind the cars because they’re trying to park people and it’s a safety issue.
6. BEFORE you get on the tram get out your camera , or cell phone camera, and TAKE A PICTURE OF YOUR PARKING LOT SPACE (example: See picture at top of post) so you can find your way back at the end of the day. You’ve never been more frustrated in your life then not remembering where the heck you were parked. The good news is if you just do not remember at all then you can tell a parking attendant the approximate time that you arrived and they can check and find out which lot you’re most likely to be in. However, taking a picture of the spot could save you A LOT of time and anxiety. You can also send a text to someone as a back-up in case your cell phone or camera batteries go dead.
Be sure you plan all of this into your travel time, as its much longer than you think it will be. Good luck!
Monday, July 18, 2011
Staying off property can save you a lot of money, but let’s face it, it is A LOT MORE WORK. The name of the game at Disney World is convenience, people pay more for convenience whether it be staying on the monorail loop or not bringing snacks into the park. What you pay the big bucks for will almost ALWAYS be linked to how convenient it is for the guest. However, many people opt for savings over convenience so I want to make sure THOSE people have some good tips about how to navigate WDW more smoothly so you’ll actually come back again! (which is why I’m doing this entire series of tips. You can read more by clicking HERE)
Before you travel you should really try to sit down and Calculate Parking and Tram rides into your travel time. This is one of those things that can really sneak up on you, especially when you are going to Magic Kingdom. The other parks seem to be less drama to get to and that’s partially because when you get to their parking lot you are AT the Park, that’s not the case at Magic Kingdom. You’re still a tram ride AND then a monorail or Ferry Boat ride away.
This only really matters in two situations: Being at a park at Park-Open (which I recommend) or if you have a Dining Reservation somewhere and need to arrive by a specific time. You being a psycho with your color-coded to-the-minute schedule of your trip does NOT count. lol
Let’s walk through an example to help you plan: The scenario is that you have an 8:30am breakfast reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table. You have to arrive 15 minutes early to check in, so you need to plan what time you must leave your resort by in order to make it there by 8:15am. Readyyyyy????
1) Lets say you listened to me on THIS POST and are in the Downtown Disney area which means you have approx. 20 minutes of drive time.
2) Then add 3-5 minutes in the line to pay the parking attendant.
3) Next 10 minutes to actually park the car, get yourselves and your stuff out of the car and walk to wait for the tram. (take the picture of the parking lot row’s name and # so you can find your car again for PETES SAKE!)
4) If you’re lucky you catch the first tram that comes by which you might wait less than 5 minutes for, if you’re normal then you catch maybe the 3rd tram that comes by and you’ve only waited 12-15 minutes. If you have a big stroller and are attempting to make park-open expect to send your family ahead of you and curse Mickey under your breath as you drop your shoulder in a New Yorker kind of way and muscle your way onto the 5th tram.
5) Ride the tram up to the Ticket & Transportation center and unload in less than 5 minutes.
6) Now you have to walk and catch a monorail. You can either catch the “express” to Magic Kingdom and be crammed in like little sardines, OR you can catch the Resort Monorail and have much more room to yourself but it might take a little longer. * If you have a dining reservation that is at a resort (Contemporary, Polynesian, or Grand Floridian) OBVIOUSLY you pick the resort monorail no matter what*. I personally prefer the resort monorail because I hate the long line and having someone’s fanny pack smashed in my face at 8:15am. there’s just no way I’m gonna be sweet after that one, especially if I almost had to karate chop someone to get on the tram with my stroller. Lets guess a solid 15 minutes either in wait or in ride on the monorail. (You’d have to be some sorta crazy to ride the Ferry if you are actually in a hurry, and if you’re not actually in a hurry why are you reading this in the first place cause you’re not listening to my FIRST TWO RULES UP THERE!)
7) Next you have to actually walk from the monorail station to the park in rather cramped conditions, so lets give you another 3-5 minutes depending on how lucky you are and if you’re skinny enough to wedge yourself between the “lollygaggers and photo-takers”.
8) Oh let’s not forget you now have to check your bags sweeties! Depending on the time of day this might take a while. Do yourself a favor and start un-zipping as you walk. Also, go to the bag check on the LEFT. It’s people’s natural tendency to turn RIGHT so if you go to the LEFT you’ll have shorter lines. Same goes for the turn-styles, the farther you’re willing to walk to the extreme right or left the less your wait will be. You need to add about 7 minutes for bag- check. Could be longer depending on your arrival time.
9a) Time to get out your tickets! You’re heading to the far left or the extreme right like the Diva told you, and you’ve got your tickets out and ready to go, so your wait time should be a little shorter. Lets say 5 minutes. If you’ve got an idiot in front of you who can’t seem to get the finger-printer thing done then all bets are off. I’ve stood in turn-style lines longer than I’m willing to stand in ride standby lines simply out of the belief that EVENTUALLY this goob is going to get it and I’ll be through the line. Don’t be afraid to shift lines, but like the grocery store, its always possible that it will back-fire on you. (see below if you have a dining reservation like in our scenario!)
9b) If you’re going on to your dining reservation you will have a special line that will say DINING RESERVATIONS that you need to go in through. They will find your name on the list and then send you on into the park where you’ll head up to the castle and ENJOY your breakfast.
9c) If you’re not going straight to breakfast then that means you’re there to Watch Opening Ceremony, one my FAVORITE things at Disney World. You can see an example of one by clicking on: http://youtu.be/v6XLldDu93s Again, you want to watch from the LEFT if at all possible as people will naturally crowd through the right tunnel when entering the park.
So let’s do the math:
20 min from hotel to MK parking lot + 5 min paying for parking + 10 min getting out + 15 minutes catching tram + 5 minutes on the tram + 15 min monorail ride + 3 minutes + 7 minutes for bag-check + 10 minutes for tickets = 90 minutes.
Yup, that’s 1.5 hours assuming that your resort is only a twenty minute drive to the parks. Now, we have done it in less, but I can’t honestly say we’ve EVER beaten the 45 minute mark and that’s with us parking on the front row, not riding the tram and just walking. Don’t know that story? Read it HERE. I would say you should NEVER estimate less than 1 hour to get INTO a park when you’re traveling from off property just to be safe.
Remember, its much shorter when you’re staying on-property at a Disney Resort, but its convenience you’re really paying for. If you’re wanting to save money you’re going to have to pay for it in time and planning.
Hope you found this post helpful. I’m pretty darn proud of it if I do say so myself!
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I had a great question on the Tips from the Disney Diva facebook page about staying off-property while at Disney World which set off a whole series of tips in my brain. The Diva family has chosen to stay off property both in hotels and in time-share resorts many times so I feel pretty comfortable giving you some TIPS to consider!
I’ve decided to write an entire series because there are so many things you need to plan for when you’re off property that you don’t even consider when you are on. So please check out my other posts in this series by clicking HERE.
My first tip is to:
Know how close your resort/hotel is to the parks before you book. If at all possible you want to get into the Downtown Disney area. There are so many resorts (including time-shares) and hotels to pick from and its close enough to the parks that you’re not driving an hour just to get to WDW! The further north you are up I-4 the longer the drive will be and the worse traffic will be.
For some reason every time we have stayed off property it has ended up being off of South Apopka Vineland Road in Lake Buena Vista. However, as long you’re in the Lake Buena Vista area. You might want to consider one of the hotels at http://www.downtowndisneyhotels.com/ or use Priceline to get a really good price in that area (you can read my post on it HERE).
Another thing you might want to think about is renting a house. You can get some great deals by going to sites like Vacation Rentals By Owner http://www.vrbo.com/vacation-rentals/usa/florida/central-disney-orlando and split a home with some friends or extended family. Many come with pools.
If you choose to drive from the Downtown Disney Resort area it takes you about 20 minutes to get to Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom which are the two “most removed” of the resorts. Its important that you calculate that into your arrival time for park-opening.
We have also really liked staying in that area because you can “cut through” Downtown Disney. And if you REALLY want to be able to use Disney Transportation buses you can do that by parking your car at Downtown Disney and then hopping the Downtown Disney bus to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Just remember to add that time into your travel plans! There an iPhone application called Twiz that can help you estimate on-property travel times.
Want more tips on staying Off-Property? Click HERE.