Monday, February 22, 2010

Campfire Singalong

We took the yellow bus to Meadow Trading Post...we wandered by the new pool area and splash area. Looks really nice but man is it crowded.

The campfire singalong was fun. We paid $4.25 for 3 sticks and a bag of marshamallows....not bad for Disney pricing. LOL. I liked the wood benches. Chuckwagon Bill was fun. The kids loved roasting marshmallows. Then Chip and Dale came out. It was great how they came to you instead of waiting in a line. The only bummer was you only met one or the other, not both. But the kids had a blast. I wanted to stay for Cars and spectro but it was our last night and we still had to pack....

We walked around a little on the way back. The comfort stations are super duper clean and nice. Wow! The trails are really nice and grounds pretty. It is a tad 'crammed in there' and 'swampy' [what we saw] but it's been raining pretty good.

I really wanted to go earlier and fish and do hayride...but you know how that goes...perhaps next time. DH really liked it so hopefully sometime we'll camp there.

The kids were all excited...camping and Disney...two favorite pasttimes!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

DownTown Disney...Souvenirs + Earl of Sandwich...

We took a break from the Studios to do souvenier shopping and eat at Earl of Sandwich. I have always wanted to check it out. It was very yummy. We got there just after 12:30 and the place was mobbed. By the time we were done eating, it was fairly empty. So shoot for 1pm if possible.

We spent $41 and stuffed ourselves. Not bad for family of 5 ~ 3 kid sandwiches, 3 small strawberry shortcakes, 1 milk, 4 small sodas [splurge] 2 adult sandwiches

Once Upon a Toy. My son really wanted to build his own light saber so off we went. He and daddy had a blast and he was pretty happy with his...although I will say they had pre-made ones at star wars gift shop at the Studios that were double sided and slightly cooler. Oh well. But for $22 a great deal at WDW.

Now for 'the score'. My DD 8 yo did the fill the box with my little ponies thing [so cute]. We were thinking of one pony and all the outfits when this ultra-organized mom [laying out all the outfit pieces to make sure she had everything etc.] decides we need help. She is a super packer. She got a bed, 3 ponies and every princess outfit plus extras in our box....LOL. She had even more in hers but I felt guilty enough. The worker did say if you can fit it, get it. daughter was sooo excited. I asked the mom to please help me pack later!! $18!! Awesome.

When we went back to the condo for our break, all 3 kids [even my son] played with the ponies and played with them the rest of the vacation whenever they were bored. Perfect.

My oldest is my thrify girl and she has started pin collecting. She picked out some pins. Then we headed over to Mickey's Mart to see what we could get for <$10. We ended up with some Kooky pens that look like Mickey [these are trendy on the backpacks around here] and an adorable stitch stuffy that comes with a reversible velcro blanket. Souveniers officially done!

We also bought an $8 keychain with a hotel key at Tower of Tower and 2 mickey head jewel bracelets for $8 each at the parks.

So about $100 total on souveniers! And everyone was happy.

Budget Meal Planning....

This trip was a two-week vacation. One Week Disney One Week Anna Maria Island so we were a little more budget oriented than previous trips. This is the Disney portion of the meals.

The Walmart was too far and I'm directionally challenged so we bought Groceries at SuperTarget...

I used no coupons and bought more convenience foods than I normally would. Groceries for the week totaled $196. Reasonable. Included in this were 3 autograph books $2 each and 1 spray mist fan for $6. I also include a clearance 4 pack of soft soap for the bathrooms, toilet paper [4 pack] and 1 Viva paper towel roll, and a big ol' kid 3 in 1 shampoo.

I planned easy dinners: soft tacos, chicken enchiladas, pasta [knew we were going to do Olive Garden sauces]. We packed a few lunches at parks so bought lunch fixings. Bought healthy snacks, frozen fruit for smoothies, eggs, snacks for home, case of Bud for DH [brought wine for me from home], 2 cases bottled water, capri suns, etc. etc. fruit, salads, dressing, condiments, syrup, salsa, bread, etc. OJ & Milk.

We did also bring fillers from home...lots of dried fruit, trail mix, pancake mix from Trader Joe's, chips, pretzels, dips, etc.

I still had plenty left to take to AMI.

I made pancakes 3 times [had to use up box and syrup. LOL], sausage, eggs, fruit smoothies, yogurt and granola, cereal. We ate one breakfast out [Crystal Palace].



$35. Studios catering. Good healthy options and cheap!

Magic Kingdom
$120. Crystal Palace Breakfast Nice big buffet character meal.

Late Lunch.
$8 Pinnochio Village. Great yummy salad.
$28 Village Fry Shop. Hubby and kids had hot dogs and fries.

Animal Kingdom.
Yak and Yeti Counter Service Lunch. Yummy. Good choices.
$31 for all 5. Great deal.

Gerti's soft serve ice cream.
$9 for 4.

$36 Sunshine Seasons Great beet & goat cheese salad for me. Mmm. Mmm. My oldest had a great Chicken Veggie wrap she enjoyed. She had caesar dressing to dip it in. Other 2 had kids meals [1 was pbj meal deal; 1 was kid sub sandwich deal]. Hubby had big Italian sandwich.

$41 Earl of Sandwich. 3 kid sandwiches, 3 small strawberry shortcakes, 1 milk, 4 small sodas [splurge] 2 adult sandwiches.

$41 Logan Steak House. We went on Tuesday. I believe the deal is on Monday and Tuesday. Fabulous food and service for cheap! $That's even after tip!

$58. OUCH. Giordano's Pizza. But DH got lunch another day out of it. We split 2 salads. Had a deep dish meat and a cheese thin. Plus we had some alcohol. The deep dish was really popular with everyone. The cheese was 'ok'.

$FREE...we had received a $25 Olive Garden gift card and so we used it one night to get a couple sauces and breadsticks to go and I boiled pasta and made salad...Yummy easy and cheap-O. grand total including the $196 at Target ....$600 total for family of 5 for a week....Not bad for a vacation! And we were able to take a lot of it for our week at Anna Maria!

If we were onsite, the dining plan would have cost about $1133 including guess of $20 tip per night for the TS meals for our family with 3 over 10 and 2 under 10. So we saved $533 + there's always that extra meal you need to do. Good deal!! But we would have had a few nicer meals on the dining plan.

There you go!

DisneyWorld Tips

#1 tip if going during busy time....


I've talked to people who didn't use FastPass [FP] either because they didn't know about it or they thought it was just for people staying on Disney Property.

FastPasses are available to anyone who buys a ticket to the parks. There are certain rides at each park that have a FP option. The big ones are obvious Soarin, Space Mountain, etc. but even some lesser known ones have it, you can find lists all over the internet or in a DisneyWorld book or on the maps they give you at the parks!

You put your ticket in the machine and a fast pass spits out. This fast pass will give you a window of time say '9:30-10:45' to ride and below it will say when you can get your next fast pass for example '9:15' or something like that. Important notes:

1) as soon as you can get another fast pass, get it. Do this before you ride the ride. It can be for the same ride or another ride in the park.

2) The return window is the EARLIEST you can return but USUALLY you can return later than the window. So if it says 9:30-10:45 and it's 11:30, not a problem. Really. We often get FPs before our afternoon break and when we return it's well AFTER our window, NO PROBLEMS.

Another tip. Have a designated Fast Pass retriever who will collect all tickets and get the FPs for a ride while rest are enjoying another ride or activity.

During the summer we never waited more than 20 minutes typically. In fact our longest wait was to meet characters for a movie 30 minutes in the A/C. I typically wouldn't have waited but my autograph seeker had been so patient and really wanted these characters and it was A/C.

#2 TIP

Have a general plan of what you want to do at each park. The parks are LARGE. You can't just wander in and roam around. You'll waste time and it won't be fun. Trust me. This is not your typical amusement park.

I really like It's <$20 if you go through a link on He gives great strategies which I like but it's not as commando as other touring plans. There is one more commando that I also like. But that one works best if you stick to it which we don't like to do as much. But it's only like $8 for a year! When you're spending $1k or so on tickets, these small investments are worth it. I also recommend two books...Unofficial Guide to WDW [touringplans is their website] and PASSPORTER. PASSPORTER is great if you are in the beginning stages of planning and you want to stay on Disney Property as they focus a LOT on Disney Resorts.

INTERNET. My favorite board is A WEALTH of knowledge there. Budget ideas. T-shirt iron-on ideas, touring ideas, restaurant ideas, etc. Another favorite is for savings and for details about dining and events and resorts.

Dining Tips. You rarely can just walk up to the popular character meals or sit-down restaurants on property without a reservation. And they take reservations 90 days out of your vacation date. If you're onsite 90 days from the start of your trip you can typically book for your whole trip. If you're Off-site it's 90 days from the date you want to eat at that restaurant.

If you're staying onsite and have kids <10, the dining plan is definitely something to consider. Especially if it's your first visit or your going during busy times...get those autographs out of the way without crowds!

The hardest reservation to book is Cinderella's Royal Table breakfast. You eat in the castle with the princesses and have a separate photo op with Cinderella [she's too busy to be in the restaurant. ;o)]. You must call exactly at opening at the 90 day mark. Politely interrupt the CM and say 'Royal Table' and take whatever you can. And you still might not get it.

The Norway Princess breakfast at Epcot is a great alternative and it's really fun.

If you can get an early reservation before the park opens at Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom, it's a great way to beat the crowds and get pictures before crowds and be ready for rope drop. Same with any breakfast. You don't want to be eating while crowds are building unless it's a slow time of year.


There are photographers everywhere at the parks. They take your picture in great settings and scan a card they give to you. You can now give this card to other photographers at the parks and they scan it after they take pictures. The best part is the family photographer can finally be in pictures! You can pre-purchase a photoCD for $100 which when you get home you order and all the great pictures come to you. I had a coupon last time which brought my total to $85 for 200 great pictures! Not bad. If you wait until you return it's $120ish. Pre-order.

Take time to see the little things.
There are so many little things all around the parks. The tree of life at Animal Kingdom and the trails with the animals. The kidcot stations where your kids can get stamps after they learn about animals. The drummers. The acrobats, candy lady, fabulous stamp stations at World Showcase. The wonderful imaginative kiosks all around Innoventions. The street characters at Epcot and Studios. The bubbles at Magic Kingdom and the topiaries and fun random characters. Take time to enjoy them.

It really is the happiest place on earth! It just takes a little planning.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Epcot -- Two Fabulous Days

Epcot was a haven amidst the summer Disney crowds. It was crazy how different the crowds felt here. Partly because it's such a large park and partly because everyone else must have been at MK, AK and Studios because they were BULGING.

The favorite this trip was the new Kim Possible. What fun!! Definitely sign up right away so you can do a few in the afternoon before your break. Ideally get a new FP for the ride before you leave for break BUT make sure to come back before it closes at 7:45 pm to do it!! We didn't know and got back as they were closing. Oy. We were able to do 2 missions one day and 2 the next so all was not lost. It was loads of fun and I finally saw some countries besides Norway and Mexico!



Of course Soarin and Test Track are favorites as always. We also LOVE the Innovations areas. Bummer that the make your own robots aren't there anymore. But they LOVED the velcro frogs...very entertaining in the car as they stick to the inside roof. Convenient! The fire house, the be your own video game star were highlights. These places were really uncrowded as the masses were in line for Soarin.


The kids enjoyed Spaceship Earth. Hubby and I thought it was 'ok' but the end everyone enjoyed. We also all enjoyed Journey and the kids and I had fun at Club Cool sampling all the sodas from around the world.


Another great trick we learned is while everyone else is going to get their FP for Soarin, head left at the Character Greet....we were first family one was fantastic. We had a hard time getting autographs with the crowds this trip so to have Pluto hold my son's hand and walk us in and all 5 to hug and greet us. Well it was great....the only bummer was hubby stayed with the masses to get the Soarin FPs...would have been a great Xmas card! Great memory.


There's just so much interaction here with the Jammitors, the CMs playing hoops, the characters strewn about, the acrobats, etc. I could easily spend my whole week here happily. We didn't see half of what I wanted to see but we're getting there. Gives us a reason to go back!


We took a break on the first day early afternoon and went back to enjoy the rides we grabbed fast passes for on way out while I snag a perfect spot for Illuminations. Wonderful way to end the day.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Animal Kingdom

Well this was my favorite park. Thankfully we went twice here because the first day was so hot and crowded I was changing my mind! [Epcot was my favorite this trip].
Rope drop is key during the summer. It seems crowded because of all the people arriving before rope drop with you but once they enter the park, it's not that can feel the change after about 11am. It's crazy.

I was designated fast pass getter here. I walked briskly to the Everest fast pass machine with everyone else. Then met up with hubby and kids in the deserted Dino-Land. They rode Primeval whirl twice and then we hopped on Dinosaur. Woo Hoo. Going smooth so far...


We had a blast both days we were here. We took advantage of the trails this trip to relax and see animals and learn from the friendly CMs along the way. Once again Everest and Kali were favorites. Mine is Dinosaur and Nemo the show. Lion King has lost a little of its flair for hubby and I but kids still enjoyed plus its a nice break.




It's just a nice park to enjoy and relax. And meet cool characters along the way.

I'll add in more pictures as soon as I get my photoCD from Disney!

Studios -- Star Wars + Another Day

PhotobucketOur first day was Sunday of a Star Wars Weekend. I knew my youngest would get a kick out of it. Steven was one of the selected Jedis for the first Jedi training of the day. We were able to waitlist all 3 for the first Padawan trivia contest and they all got in. Whew.
The character lines were super LONG so we avoided those [bummer] but random storm troopers and sand people were very interactive. We enjoyed the Star Wars parade at 11:15 and the finale, the Hyperspace Hoopla at 7pm. It was a hoot.


We also did toy story mania [so much fun], lights motor action.


We spent a lot of time in the Star Wars gift shop. It was cool just looking at everything.

As the day went on it was more and more crowded. We were worn out when the day ended.


So we let the kids pick favorites to repeat...Studios was a winner. It was MORE crowded [it seemed] than Sunday Star Wars day. That day was a non-recommended crowd day so we expected this to be a little better...but this was a with warning day because of the 2 shows of Fantasmic....

But, we were only doing favorites and it didn't take much time at all...we were in line 30 minutes early....were able to ride TSM, see UP characters and Mickey with the sorcerer hat [UP was our longest wait this week. LOL], do IN Jones [did LMA Sunday], watch front row HSM3, ride RnR [fast passes earlier] NOON.

Grabbed fastpasses for RnR and TOT [2 wanted to do RnR and 3 TOT] and headed to DTD for lunch finally get the souvies over with and back to condo....


Finally did the Animation Lab. it's hard to find. You go inside. Not into the Magic of Disney Animation [Mushu] that they try to usher you into. Walk inside where the characters are and go up to the little waiting area. We got to draw Goofy. It was fun. And you get to keep your drawing.

We also got great pics with the Up characters and there was no line for Mickey in the Sorcerer's hat.




We took a the ever important fast passes BEFORE leaving. Upon return we went straight to Fantasmic at 7:30 when the line was starting to be allowed in. Perfect timing. We got seats and took turns enjoying the fastpasses we got before We left condo at 7pm...were in line for Fantasmic at you know how quick to get to park, checked in, and walk to Fantasmic with 3 kiddos from Windsor Hills.

Fantastic time! People were still able to get seated at 8:30 was full though and we had great spots plus had packed snacks and gameboys, ds, etc.Then sat back and enjoyed the [I have to say it] FANTASMIC show.



Show ended at 9:30 and we left park at 9:52....home within 10-15 minutes. Perfect!