Disney World is a place where families make memories. To some, when they hear “family”it includes children for Disney is all about kids, right? Wrong- I have come to enjoy Disney outside of the parks though do not be mistaken, I love character greetings, attractions and shows, but Disney can be so much more. This November I will have the amazing opportunity for not one, but two short, adult-only trips!
Here is a start to my bucket list for adult-fun activities come this fall.
Wine Walk Tour: A best-kept secret is at Epcot for just $25 you get to sample wines at the Germany, France and Italy pavilions. With purchase of your wine passport, you are provided a map with the available wines and suggested food pairings. Â Can someone say, yes please!
Resort Tours: This is on my bucket-list however, based on when I am traveling I won’t be able to make the tours as most occur during the week vs. weekend. For free you can discover the history of resorts like the Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge. As a Disney history fan, I find it fascinating to discover how and why each resort theme was selected and the details behind every nook and cranny of the hotel. Most of the resorts listed provide a one-hour free tour starting at the lobby of each resort. As a Disney Travel Agent, I can help explore these potions to build out your itinerary. Yes, that is a shameless plug!
Mandara Spa: Need I say more, with various spas throughout Disney property I have my eye on the Swan & Doplhin’s Mandara Spa due to the fact it rests among the Epcot resorts as I am staying at the Beach Club. Balinese- themed, full-service spa and salon that combines Asian, Indian and Mediterranean journeys of pure indulgences. Tip! Typically, there are Groupon offers for week-day services.
Grand Floridian Afternoon Tea: If you have never stepped foot into the Grand Floridian, that trip alone is one to explore, a Victorian- themed hotel and spa by far Disney’s most elite resort. The afternoon tea treats you to various types of teas along with sandwiches, pastries and scones. I also have visions of doing this with my daughter when she is old enough to enjoy, with a Mrs. Pott theme for the child’s menu- I picture us dressing up as my son and husband go on their own adventure.
Nomand Lounge: Nothing sounds more fantastic then sitting among African, Asian and Latin inspired décor, food and beverages. This lounge is the newest addition to Animal Kingdom culinary experiences and offers small plates and a variety of beers, wines and cocktails. I have heard amazing review of the cuisine and beverages, this is a must do!
So what would your adult-only trip include? Would you spend more time in the parks or outside of them? I will provide a full review of my experiences later this year- stay tuned!
One of the many perks for staying on Disney World property is the ability to book your FastPass+ 60 days in advance of your stay; whereas off-site guests have access to schedule 30-days in advance. If you are new to Disney World FastPass+ may be a forum term, simply put, it is a one-hour window of time that you get to by-pass the long lines and jump to the front of your favorite attraction.
The catch, you are limited to the number of advanced FastPass+ reservations you can select per day, which is a total of three. Upon your day in the park, once you have used up your three FastPass+ reservations you can select one at a time through My Disney Experience or the kiosks found within the parks.
Tips to selecting your FastPass+ Reservations:
Schedule earlier in the day. Once you have used your three advanced passes you will be able to select a fourth; however, if your third FastPass+ is not available until the end of the day it will be a lot hard to grab a fourth.
Pick your Favorite Attractions. Regardless if your favorite ride is not the most popular, select the rides that will meet your Disney expectations.
Select at 7am. Upon your 60 or 30-days out window you will be able to schedule your passes starting at 7am, eastern. For the popular attractions, you will want to be on My Disney Experience to grab those popular spots.
Tiered FastPass+. Epcot & Hollywood Studios and soon to be Animal Kingdom, have a tiered selection process to their attractions. This means you can only choose one from their group 1 attractions. Check out Mouse for Less for details on all rides.
*Please note some of the rides listed for Hollywood Studios from this link are no longer available. As your travel agent I can guide you through what is and is not available upon your time to travel.
Here are my top three picks for each park based on popularity = avoid the long lines and jump to the front of the line.
Magic Kingdom– this is a hard one as there are a ton of great rides to select from
Pirate Pan’s Flight
Any of the Coasters (Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain or Space Mountain)
Soaring or Frozen Ever After (this is group 1 offering as noted above)
Meet Disney Pals at the Epcot Character Spot
Toy Story Mania or Rock n’ Roller Coaster (this is group 1 offering as noted above)
For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-along
Star Tours- The Adventures Continue
Animal Kingdom– after May 27, Pandora will be open I highly suggest you check out those rides, which will also be on a tiered system
Rivers of Light
So what attractions did I miss that you would grab a FastPass+ reservation for? Good luck planning!
For the Disney lover 180 days is a well-known number in planning a Disney World vacation. But for the first-timer, it may seem absurd to even think of what parks you want to visit, let alone what type of food your party wishes to each. However, if your expectation is to see and “do it all” you must plan for and prepare to make reservations upon your 180 days benchmark. Keep in mind, 180 days is the benefit afforded to those guests staying on and off property. The dining plan is only for on property gusesrs. Frankly staying among the Magic is the only way I will do WDW so for those that like to visit the good-neighbor resorts, you are out of luck from this blogger. The focus of this post will be on dining, you can also book “extras” such as tours during this timeframe, but we will discuss that another time.
Let’s get started, what are the top 5 questions to ask when preparing for your 180 day reservations!
Will you use the Dining Package? Upon booking your vacation or even after booking, guests can pre-pay for their meals through several packages under Disney’s Dining Plan. The plan is based on number of meals and snacks per night of stay, not on the days of stay. With the plan, you are provided meal credits to quick and/or table service restaurants located throughout Disney property. The packages range in price for adult and children. I will do a separate post all about the dining plan for there is a lot to know and navigate to make the plan work for you by saving you money.
What is my budget? Meals can be as low as $10 or as high at $50+ so it’s important you go into your reservations with a budget in mind. Granted if you have purchased the meal plan your meals are paid for and you can pick from the menu, all free of choice. But keep in mind the dining package does not include tip, so if your party gets the most expensive items on the menu it will reflect in your total bill, thus suggested tip.
What kind of experience do you want for your vacation? Is it relaxed, you will see what you get to see and all will be perfect? Or do you wish to see all the top attractions and sites? Or maybe you have no idea for its your first time and the amount of information is overwhelming? If the later is the case than a travel agent will be able to guide and support you step by step, shameless plug you can contact me! It’s important you know what you wish to accomplish for that can support your reservation plans.
What is your park schedule? If you did not purchase the hopper pass, which gives you the ability to see multiple parks in one-day you will need to know what parks you wish to visit on what days, thus where you will eat. For example, your goal may be to eat in Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom and you are lucky to snag an exclusive reservation; however, if you visit Epcot that day you will not be able to enter Magic Kingdom without using another park pass. Having a reservation does not give you free access to a park.
When is your 180 day reservation date? Most importantly know when your reservation window begins, which is 180 days out from your first arrival date at 6am. There are a lot of resources on the internet that provides calculators to help determine your dates, for my clients upon booking I send them their dates with their confirmation so they can plan accordingly. Here is a tool I use often > click here. For those reservations at some of the popular restaurants like Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest or Chef Mickey’s it is imperative that you are at your computer or phone at 6am on your reservation to attempt to get the date/time you have planned. I will warn you, even then you may not get the reservation based on how the time of year you visit Disney. As your agent, I can also make your reservations so you can stay in bed a little while longer!
So there are my top 5 questions to ask when planning your 180 day reservations. Would love to hear from you, what is your tip for planning or what further questions do you have to book your dining reservations? I also have a tip sheet, contact me if this resource would be helpful.
Moderate vs. Deluxe. Can you tell the difference? For the answer is clear, yes!
The premise of my post was to reflect on the differences, but after I got writing it was clear I am bias and there was no way I was going to give moderates the reviews they need to show a comparison for I am addicted…addicted to deluxe resorts. I have to admit, the first 2-3 times I went to Disney, I thought it was crazy to even consider paying a lot for a hotel room. You are in the
park all day, why pay more for a shower and a bed? Then I went on my honeymoon to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. All of a sudden my opinion changed and I drank the “deluxe Kool-aide”. From the moment we stepped foot into the African tribal inspired architecture, ate amazing African inspired cuisine and watched wild life from our balcony while relaxing on lounge chairs sipping on wine, I had to wonder why we would even want to go to the parks? The lodge features artifacts right out of African and if my mommy-brain serves me, Disney is one of the only locations in the country to have such art. The grandeur of the lobby featured here is but a taste of the magnificence of this resort, another post to spotlight this vacation in the future.
On paper its obvious the price. At Disney World you pay for time. Your resort’s location means more or less time on Disney transportation. And depending on where you are headed and what time of year you are going could be upwards of an hour commute (between waiting for and traveling to your location). For some, that time is worth price tags that can range up past $1000 a night. As a momma, my time is precious, but until I discover gold, a $1000 a night is not going to happen. However, each time I go back to WDW I want to stay at a deluxe resort. So why? Outside of saving time, should one pick to pay deluxe prices? Furthermore, is there a clear difference to justify the price?
Let’s view possible differences:
Location: All deluxe resorts are within mere minutes of a theme park. The monorail loop resorts- Grand Floridian, Polynesian and the Contemporary- are truly minutes from Magic Kingdom. At the Contemporary you literally walk to the park- staying here for my first runDisney event in November! Its nearby neighbor, the Wilderness Lodge (a personal favorite) is a short boat ride away. Jumping over to Epcot you can walk from the Beach Club, Yacht Club and Boardwalk resorts. I have yet to stay on this side of the world, but that streak will end when I stay at the Beach Club for my agency’s team building event at the end of 2017. Stay tuned for a full review! Lastly, Animal Kingdom Lodge- you guessed it, is a short bus ride to Animal Kingdom.
The difference for moderate resorts, unlike the deluxe resorts who have one bus-stop location, moderates can have multiple, which may not seem like a big deal until you travel to 3-4 stops before leaving for your destined park. I stayed at Port Orleans Riverside, a resort that takes you back to southern plantation mansions and the bayou- I loved the theme; however, after the fourth bus stop I realized we had not even left the resort. There is an exception to the rule, Port Orleans- French Quarter, a New Orleans inspired resort, has but one stop but can share their bus route with Riverside. The other two options in the moderate category- Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs all have multiple bus stops. So is time worth the money, that is for you to decide.
Price: There is no arguing, the prices are different. Moderates, pending on time of year, can range from $166 to upwards of $445 per night of stay. While the deluxe, again ranging on time of year can vary from $289 all the way up to $1418 a night, that is not a package price you are seeing, per night. Numbers are numbers, can’t change them, but at the same time never think that you cannot afford them either. Check out my post and learn how I earned over $1000 in free Disney cash.
Room Size: Moderate rooms are approximately 314 square feet while deluxe can range from 344 square feet to 440 square feet. I have to admit here is where the differences can get grey. Having stayed at Port Orleans Riverside and Animal Kingdom Lodge- I did not see much difference in room size. In fact 20 square feet was all the difference between the two and if I am paying for deluxe prices I rather not have to step over the people I am vacationing with, so for this difference I would say deluxe price is not worth the space allotted in some of the resorts.
Resort Theme: It is here that the deluxe resorts sold me, the theming! Don’t get me wrong all Disney resorts are wonderfully themed from the lobby décor to the wall art to the bed spreads, Disney goes all out from value on up to deluxe categories. However, yes here comes the but, but at the deluxe there are extra touches that make you feel you are truly whisked away to another land. At the Grand Floridian you can find Disney characters etched in the marble floors or the Wilderness Lodge tepees hang from the lobby ceiling. Without a doubt you are transported to whatever theme the resort has selected and with free tours to share the history on the hotel, like at Wilderness Lodge or the Boardwalk, there truly is no need to visit the parks.
For those moderate lovers out there, I would agree the theming is excellent, but for me there is just something different deluxe provides.
Restaurants: And let’s not forget about the restaurants, with deluxe you have a variety of table-service options to select from, once again all fitting hand in hand with the resort’s theme. If I am on vacation, I am not cooking for myself and to have more than a food court option is music to my ears. Some of my favorites include Kona Café at the Poly, Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge or Whispering Canyon Café at the Wilderness Lodge. Reflecting upon all of these features, I need to add to my bucket list a Disney vacation without the parks, instead resort hop. I would be remised to not acknowledge nearly all moderates have table-service as well, but I find the food a notch above when dining at deluxe.
Recreation/Amenities: All resort rooms come with the basics: Wi-Fi, TV, mini fridge, alarm clock, small safe, hair dryer, coffeemakers and laundry services. So to look at the differences in amenities for moderate vs. deluxe you need to look at pool layouts, fitness centers, spa/salon services, etc. I once was a diehard gym rat and then I had two kids in two years, now Jillian Michaels DVDs are my exercise outlet, but that is not to say the gym won’t be my home in the future. So if a fitness center is a need for you, at the moderates only Coronado Springs offers an exercise room for it is also a conference center location; whereas, all deluxe locations offer fitness rooms. Next the pools, wow Disney knows how to design pools and to this feature, moderates have some really great options as well, such as the Mayan pyramid at Coronado or the colonial Spanish fortress over at the Caribbean beach.
While on vacation a manicure or massage is always an option. Each deluxe resort location offers a salon, as well as spa, where they differ is the Grand Floridian and Saratoga Springs have more elaborate spa sanctuaries whereas the other deluxe offer mini versions if you will of the two grandeur locations. I have yet to go to the spa at Disney, but believe me its on the bucket list. Looking at the moderates, once again only Coronado Springs offers a salon/mini spa due to their convention center status. I surprised my sisters with a pedicure at La Vida Health Club, it was very simple just a smaller sized salon with two pedicure chairs so we had to take turns. If that being said if you have a larger group going you will want to entertain the actual spas Disney has to offer at the Grand and Saratoga Springs.
I have only touched but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to seeing all the options both moderate and deluxe resorts have to option, in fact I probably missed key details. So what is your difference? What details have I missed?
Disney vacations are superior trips. There is no denying the service and experience you receive be it Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland or Adventures by Disney, they are all top-notch retreats thus, you pay for that quality.
Maybe I am stating the obvious or perhaps you are sceptic and never dipped your toe into the preverbal Disney pool. Bottom-line its not cheap, but well worth it! I want to share how I earned nearly a $1,000 for our vacations, which afforded us the amazing opportunity to stay the Wilderness Lodge, receive a free flight and will pay for a free deluxe room in November.
You may be thinking, yeah right- where is the catch? No catches here, I am all about deluxe accommodations on a shoe-string budget! First, I signed up for the Disney Rewards Visa Credit Cardthrough Chase. As a premier cardholder, I receive several perks including cash back to my vacation based on what I spend along with a yearly fee for the premier status, so I guess there is one small catch to this tip. Keep in mind, like any credit card fees/charges result if monthly statements are not paid in full; therefore, I use my card like my checkbook- I use it for everything and simply pay it off each month. With my rewards card I have received over$1,000 off our vacations and earned a free flight. When you sign-up for the credit card and spend $500 within the first 3-months you earn a $200 credit. The first year I used the credit card was when I was getting married, so it was a no brainer we were charging all wedding expenses to our card and easily spent the first $500 in the 3-months, which gave us an easy $200 toward our honeymoon, which of course was in Disney World. Next, pending if you are a regular or premier card holder you earn a certain percentage on purchases. With your reward dollars, you can exchange them for flight credit or a Disney Gift card in increments of $50.00. So, first tip- use the credit card benefits- wisely of course.
The next opportunity is the Disney Vacation Account. If you are familiar with the old Christmas Clubs, this is a similar concept- you can set-up an account, free of charge and set-up increments to do automatic withdrawals. Bonus Tip– use your Disney Rewards Visa and earn points on the credit card while saving for your trip! With the Disney Vacation Account, you can set-up for two vacations up to 5 years’ departure. For every $1,000 earned you receive a FREE $20 gift card. No strings attached. If you find you are unable to take the trip you can withdraw your funds at no charge. Otherwise, you can use the saved funds toward your final payment into Disney. The account must be active for 120 days to qualify for the gift cards(s), each household can receive up to $500 in rewards. For example, if you are saving for a vacation two years from now and every two weeks you deposit $100 to save $5200 by your vacation, you earn $100 in free money= extra spending for vacation. Keep in mind you need to request the gift cards 4-6 weeks in advance of when you need to make your final payment. Second tip- start saving now!
There are many sites that provide money or points toward future purchases just by utilizing their site. For years, I have used MyPoints.com, which allows you to earn points by purchasing through their links to hundreds of online stores or receive points for clicking through emails, taking surveys, etc. Now for some clicking through emails may seem like a tedious task that you don’t have time for, but the way I look at is, I am on my phone and it takes mere seconds to click and email to gain 5 points. Once you hit certain point brackets you can cash them in for gift cards. Now the reason why I am sharing all of this, Target is an option for your reward points and Target also has Disney gift cards. In turn you can use your rewards gift card to purchase Disney gift cards, which in turn you can use to pay for your trip. To date I have earned over $100 in gift cards just by clicking through their emails or going through their site when I buy something online. Third tip- gain points for shopping online.
Check out my FREE Resource that outlines the Disney Vacation Account.
Growing up my family was on a fixed income, to this day I would love to know how my mom managed a family of six on a one-income budget. But she did it and she also made it a priority to take my three sisters and I to Walt Disney World. I was 17 at the time of our trip, prior to leaving my younger twin sisters were sent on a scavenger hunt around the house- finding pieces to a puzzle that later spelled out Walt Disney World to reveal the surprise. Wish I captured a picture of their faces when they found out. I cannot wait until Camden and Charlotte are old enough for me to plan a surprise announcement. The memories we made were those that I will forever cherish as my mom was diagnosed two years later with cancer and since then passed. To this day my sisters and I laugh thinking of our fanny-pack wearing mother who was on a mission for us to see and do it all. I treasure that vacation and provides a testament to me that you never know what life will bring so take the time to make memories now. Granted my husband would rather I have a cheaper vacation spot, but he too can agree the experience is worth saving for.
To begin our vacation we stayed on property, in my eyes its the only way to do a Disney vacation- staying right among the magic. Plus there are added benefits to guests who stay on property, which I can share later in another post. The resort that will always carry fond memories is Disney’s All-Star Movies. My sister Ashley was obsessed with 101 Dalmatians at the time and sadly was heartbroken when we were not placed in the 101 Dalmatian complex.
VACATION TIP! Disney is all about customer service, upon checking-in online you can request specifics in regards to your resort stay. For example, if we had online check-in when we went we could have asked for 101 Dalmatians. Also upon check-in do not hesitate to remind your cast member your accommodation preference. My sisters and I revisited All-Star Movies in 2013 and upon checking-in we found out we were not in the Dalmatians complex, we had to fulfill Ashley’s dream and asked if we could be moved- needless to say this picture says it all!
The Price! If you are on a tight budget or rather spend your vacation dollars in the parks or at Disney Springs the Value Resorts are a great option. Pending upon the time of year that you visit, price per night can vary from $89.00 to $188.00. (prices subject to change)
Immersed among Disney Classics. All-Star Movies features five building themes: 101 Dalmatians, Toy Story, Love Bug, The Mighty Ducks and Fantasia. Featuring 40 foot characters from these beloved movies- details are seen through the resort from the shape of the pools, décor on the building walls and of course the room features. You and your loved ones are captured in the magic of Disney movies from the time you wake up and grab a fresh cup of coffee at the food court to the time you go to bed and catch a nighttime movie outside. VACATION TIP: rent all five movies and watch them as a countdown to your trip; this would be helpful for movies like the Love Bug that may not be familiar with the younger children of your party.
Pizza & Salad In-room Delivery. After a long day it the parks its nice to crash in your resort room. With in-room dining service, delivery begins at 5pm and ends at 1am with your choice of pizza and salad.
World Premiere Food Court in Cinema Hall: Staying at All-Star Movies you have a number of breakfast, lunch and dinner options through the day and even special late night dining options. My favorites are the Mickey Waffles and Baked Chicken. The food court can appease the pickiest of eaters!
Fantasia Themed Pool: Who doesn’t love the whimsy of Disney, at All-Star Movies you can dive into hours of fun with the Sorcerer Mickey fountain, as well as a kiddie pool for the younger mouseketeers. If a more calm and relaxing environment is your preference you can check out the Duck Pond Pool.
One-Bus Stop: The All-Star Resorts share a bus line, but you only need to go to one-stop while staying at All-Star Movies. The bus picks you up, free of charge and takes you to your selected park at anytime during the day and night. (check park hours as they vary)
Near Animal Kingdom Park: For those animal lovers, your resort is closest to Animal Kingdom- just a brief bus ride away you are among the wild life of Walt Disney World.
Easy Access to All Star Music & Sports: A short walk and you can visit the neighboring resorts, check out their food court and take a walking tour around the buildings for a casual day outside the parks.
Accommodates up to 5: The rooms in the value resort offer two double-beds with room for a crib. Disney offers a pack n’ play free of charge to accommodate your little one.
Silver Spring Spirits: Whether you like a cocktail while relaxing or a soda, the pool-side bar offers refreshments on those hot Florida days.
Would love to hear from you! If you stayed at All-Star Movies, what is one of your favorite features to the resort? And if you are looking to plan a Disney vacation, click below to receive a free vacation quote.
My first official post to my blog, I feel I need a ribbon cutting ceremony. But instead I have a cup of coffee, in a Disney mug of course, silence of the house as my family sleeps in the early morning hours of the day. As a mom of 2 under 2 and for anyone else out there in a similar situation you don’t realize how precious such an environment is until you don’t have it as much as you like. With so many blogs out on the web and given Disney is not a brand that needs much marketing- why this topic? why this blog?
I had to think for a while, what was it that laid on my mind to start my own blog? What is my goal? Lots of questions to begin so allow me to respond- because it makes me happy. Its the moment in the day that I can focus on whatever I want to- I don’t have to do laundry, clean bottles, change a diaper…you get the picture. I have come to realize now as a mom how important it is to invest in yourself. I want my kids to see me pursuing my hobbies and goals not just maintaining a household, though important as well. Its all a balancing act.
Walt Disney said, “The Way to Get Started is to Quit Talking and Begin Doing.” I love this quote, quotes are my thing, and that message laid with me for a good two years before I actually took action. For any parent out there I think you can relate that there is a sense of guilt if you pursue a goal or a dream, like it may take away from what you give to your kids. Well I think that is false, I want my kids to see a balance in how I live life, I want them to see me happy for when I can do things for myself I will be that much better of a wife and mother. Don’t you agree?
And so I began designer mickey to capture my memories, share all the fun facts I come across and help you plan so you too can have the delight that I get from going to or hearing about Disney. When it comes to Walt Disney World this momma likes to go BIG! I want to see and do it all, I don’t want to skimp on dining options or do the bare minimum in the parks or just visit a value resort, not that any of that is not ok or good – its just not my expectation on the experiences I want for my family and myself.
If this sounds good to you, join me for weekly blogs and forgive me as a navigate this new hobby of mine.