Monday, January 30, 2012

Disney Without Debt - Saving

Some people would say that splurging is totally acceptable when at Disney World. They say that in order to have the best experience possible you have to charge what you can’t afford.

I must, respectfully, disagree. I want you to have the most magical time possible, but as Dave Ramsey has said before, “The best vacation is the one that doesn’t follow you home.”

This is not a blog about frugality – I’m not going to suggest that you should pack sandwiches in a backpack for lunch, unless that’s what you want to do. But if you want to eat at one (or more) of the many restaurants, I say go for it, as long as you can afford it.

Disney is a great place, but it’s not worth going into debt over. Many people may disagree with me, but take it from someone who cannot pursue his dream job right now because of debt, it’s really not.

My recommendation – start saving now. You can make a “Disney World” section in you budget, but you can also come up with more creative ways to save money. For example, I have some friends who were planning a trip to Disney with their kids. Leading up to their trip, they weighed many purchases against going to Disney. If they wanted to order pizza one night, they would say, “do we really want pizza or do we want to take the $20 or so and put it towards our Disney trip?” If they really wanted pizza, that was fine, but if they decided that the Disney trip was more important, they would take that money and set it aside for the trip. I think that’s a great idea.

What about you? What are ways that you have saved up for your Disney trips in the past or what ways can you start now?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Video Saturdays

A reminder to everyone: the cast members who are "friends with" certain characters probably have one of the harder jobs at Disney, so be nice to them. They deal with a lot of cranky kids in the hot weather and I'm sure the fur doesn't cool things down any.

So, be nice to the characters so this won't have to happen:


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hump Day Games - Who Said It?

Let's be honest, we all need a pick me up in the middle of the week, so here's a game for us to play: who said it? The goal is stated in the title - guess who said the following quote:

"I am not your mother! Break those plates!"

Good luck!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Glossary of Terms

Here's the thing - the more you begin to hang out with Disney aficionados, the more you realize that they have a language of their own. Here is my attempt at being a translator. The terms will be alphabetized and I will come back to this post often to update when I come across new terms.

You are also welcome to ask for definitions or to add your own in the comments.

ADR - Advanced Dinner Reservations (this is what you need if you plan on eating in one of the many table service restaurants on property)

DAK - Animal Kingdom (the full name is "Disney's Animal Kingdom")

Dark Rides - A "genre" of ride that involves getting in your vehicle and riding through various scenes, usually reliving the movie from which the ride is based.

DHS - Hollywood Studios (the full name is "Disney's Hollywood Studios", also known as "the Studios, formally known as "MGM Studios")

Epcot - formally known as the E.P.C.O.T. Center (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow)

The Fab Five - This refers to Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy. The fifth member of the Fab Five often switches between Daisy and Pluto.

Gate Buster - an attraction that draws the big crowds. Expedition Everest and Toy Story Mania are examples of gate busters

MK - Magic Kingdom

MNSSHP - Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (An annual event running from September through the beginning of November)

MVMCP - Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (A annual event beginning shortly after MNSSHP ends, through the beginning of the following year)

TTA - Tomorrowland Transit Autority - A slow moving ride in Tomorrowland. Not thrilling, but a great place to rest and get out of the heat (or rain) and gives you a great view of Tomorrowland

Friday, January 20, 2012

Life is Like a Good Queue Line

One thing that Disney does really well is the queue line. For those that don’t know what a queue line is, it’s where you stand for two hours so you can ride a two-minute ride.

In most amusement parks, the queue line weaves back and forth but not much else. Then you go to a theme park like Disney World and realize what a queue line could be. Disney has actually put some thought into the waiting areas for their rides, like walking through the courtyard and lobby of an abandoned hotel.

Or being shrunk to the size of a toy

Or transporting you to Tibet

Now, Disney is raising the bar even more with interactive queue lines

The Haunted Mansion

And The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

I love a good queue line. It sets the stage for the ride and get you prepared, and excited, for what you’re about to experience – the main attraction.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

Movies to Watch - Main St., U.S.A.

I wrote a series of blogs for WDWradio.com about using Disney movies to prepare kids for their trip to the parks. I wanted to use this blog to expand on that idea with specific movies and cartoons.

First up, Main Street:

Animated movies:

The Lady and the Tramp - Tony's Restaurant on Main St. is straight from the movie - complete with Lady and the Tramp having their candle lit dinner in the back (Also, be sure to check out where they left their marks on the cement).

Cartoon shorts:

This is a great opportunity to introduce yourself and/or your kids to classic Disney cartoons

Casey at the Bat

Casey Bats AgainLink

Casey's Corner at the corner of Main St. and the Hub has its roots in these cartoons. You can also watch other Disney sports cartoons (many starring Goofy) in the restaurant as well.

Magician Mickey - Mickey and Minnie have a new meet and greet area at the front of Main St. themed around magic. I haven't been there yet, but the idea conjured up this cartoon that I enjoyed from my childhood

Presto - Another magic related cartoon. The lack of Mickey in this cartoon makes this only indirectly related to the meet and greet area, but it's such a great cartoon that I had to add it to the list any way. (I tried to find the video on Youtube, but came up with nothing. Check out the DVD or Blu-ray of Wall-E to see this short).

Non-Disney related:

Hello Dolly - set in the same time period as Main Street, this isn't a Disney movie, but my wife recommends it non-the-less (though there is a connection to Wall-E).

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review - Mousejunkies

When I worked at a bookstore, one of my favorite sections to secretly peruse while on the clock was the travel section, specifically, the Disney travel section. Since I can only visit the parks once a year at most, I have to get my fix from other sources, one of the main ones being travel guides.

After working there for over a year, I had bought all of the Disney travel books that they offered except one: Mousejunkies. It’s not that I hadn’t picked it up and flipped through it a few times, I did. It just never appealed to me like the other books did. It didn’t seem as interesting. I wanted to know secrets about Disney World, not somebody’s personal travels there.

Like I said, it was the only one I didn’t own by the time I left that job. Then my two-year anniversary with my wife came around, and guess what she bought me. That’s right, the one Disney travel book that I didn’t own. As I stated earlier, we had gone down for our honeymoon and we were planning a trip with my parents and brother later that summer, so it made sense.

When she gave me the book, I wasn’t disappointed; in fact, I was relieved that she hadn’t bought one of the books that I did own. So I started reading it and, to my surprise, by the time I was done, it had become my favorite book about Disney World.

First of all, it’s hilarious. My wife and I would crack up as I read passages aloud to her. For example, he lays out what he believes to be essentially the two ways to approach Magic Kingdom:

“1. At a leisurely pace, enjoying the details

2. Go! Go! Go! Go! Eat! Go! Go! Blister! Argue! Collapse!”

Probably the most significant reason that this book is my favorite is that it has helped me more than any other that I’ve read to see what Disney World has to offer outside of the theme parks. Using this book as a guide, I’m working on a plan for our family vacation this summer that involves one day at the parks and the rest at Disney but not the parks.

Also, this book makes me yearn for Disney in a way that the others don’t. I read other books and I think, “That’s cool. I’ll have to check that out next time I’m down there.” With Mousejunkies I think, “Man, I want to be there right now!”

One negative aspect of the book that bothered me every time it came up is that they encourage going in to debt over Disney. “Go big or go home” is their motto.

I’ve got a whole post (or two) more on this subject, but I can pretty much sum up my thoughts with a quote from Dave Ramsey: “The best vacation is the one that doesn’t follow you home.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Just For Fun Comics

As an example of what I was talking about on Monday, here is a comic that I drew up after I first heard the plans for the New Fantasyland

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why You Won't See Touring Plans on this Blog

I have no issues with touring plans or guide books. I used an Unofficial Guide to help plan our honeymoon. But you won’t see me posting them on here. I’m not going to tell you the best way to “do Disney World” because, to be honest, there isn’t one.

I can’t plan out your vacation because I don’t know you or your situation. I can tell you that you absolutely have to ride the Dumbo ride because it’s a Disney classic but if you don’t have young kids and/or have no desire to stand in line for what is the epitome of a kiddie ride, why should you listen to me. Besides, it’s closed right now anyway, so it can be moved from Fantasyland into Storybook Circus. Which actually brings me to the other reason I won’t do touring guides.

Theme parks, by nature, are fluid. The Disney World of my childhood is not the same Disney World of today. On my first trip to WDW, Animal Kingdom wasn’t there, the closest thing to a thrill ride that Epcot had was the Maelstrom, Hollywood Studios went by MGM Studios (and didn’t have Rockin’ Roller Coaster or Fantasmic!), the Enchanted Tiki Room was under new management and the Pirates of the Caribbean was Jack Sparrowless just to name a few examples.

If I were to give you a touring plan, it would be obsolete within a year or two. I prefer to focus on the more timeless aspects of the parks.

This doesn’t mean that I won’t talk about and review certain rides, even ones that no longer exist. To me, that’s about history and should be preserved.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Best. Night. Ever. or The Real "Epic Mickey"

After our honeymoon, the next opportunity we had to go down to Orlando was with some married friends of ours. The wife used to be a Cast Member and she had some perks that she wanted to cash in on before she lost them.

We spent two days down there. The first day was spent at Disney Quest and the second day we park hopped. We started at Animal Kingdom, moved to Epcot (where we raced through the World Showcase in order to get some food). Our goal for the evening was to watch the early showing of Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios because the husband had never seen it and then jump over to Magic Kingdom for the Spectromagic parade because it got rained out during our honeymoon and my wife wasn’t able to see it (the wife and myself were Disney nuts from way back so there is very little that we haven't experienced).

Our plan was to sit in the back towards the exit of Fantasmic so we wouldn’t get caught in the crowd at the end. Unfortunately, we got to the park too late and we would have ended up sitting as far away from the exit as possible.

Instead we opted to wait for the later show and still try our hand at making it to the parade. We jumped on Rockin’ Roller Coaster while we waited. After that, we went back to the stadium and grabbed seats in the back, exactly where we wanted to be. Fantasmic was great, just like always and as soon as it was over, we jumped up and sped walked out of the park.

We had a little trouble locating our car, but once we did, we hit the streets of Disney like crazy people. I was driving and there were points where my wife had her entire upper body out of the window trying to look past the trucks in front of us to see the road signs telling us where to go. Did I mention that this was all at night?

We got to the Ticket and Transportation Center and ran up to the monorail. We took a short breather on the ride over but as soon as the doors opened we were off again! We ran up to the main entrance. As we past under the train station we saw the perfect spot to watch the parade right in front of us. As soon as we got to the spot, literally as soon as we stopped moving, the lights on Main St. went out and the parade started.

It was awesome.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Honeymoon

(Normally, I will have a game or a comic or something lighter but since I'm still building the foundation, I thought that I'd make an exception this week)

When I found out that my fiancĂ© had never been to a Disney park, I knew exactly where we would be going on our honeymoon. She was a little hesitant at first because, let’s be honest, Disney parks are not known for being cheap and well, we are, but I was eventually able to curb her hesitations and even get her excited about the trip.

I spent weeks planning and re-planning our trip. Then I found out that we would be down there for one of the Star Wars Weekends, so I changed everything around again.

For three weeks before our wedding, we watched a different Disney movie every night. Ambitious? Yes. Worth it? You bet.

My favorite part of the trip was getting her hooked on Disney World too. I remember us walking by Peter Pan’s Flight and her asking me “Can we go on that ride?” It wasn’t on our itinerary but I could see it in her eyes. That sparkle that said, “I love this place.” Also, I figured it was best to start our marriage out right by not refusing my wife something that she wanted.

This was also the first trip that I took without my parents which was an odd feeling. They usually let my brother and I decide what to do while we were there, but they were still, ultimately, in charge. Now I was the one in charge and, to be honest, it kind of intimidated me. I wanted my new wife to have the best first experience at Disney World possible.

Did I mention that I left our tickets at home, which was roughly eight hours away? We spent a large portion of our first morning there running around trying to get new tickets and parking passes. Unfortunately that plus the fact that we weren’t smart enough to get fastpasses for Soarin’ meant that we kind of rushed through Epcot. To this day I don’t feel like my wife (or myself really) has had a real experience at Epcot.

Another fun thing we did was to take video of us in the parks (my favorite was one we did on the Mad Tea Party) to give updates to our friends via our joint blog.

While our trip was a lot of fun and there is very little that I would change about it, my favorite memory right now of my wife and I at Disney World actually happened on our second trip. I’ll save that story for my next post.

Monday, January 2, 2012

My First Trip to Disney or The Beginning of Something Beautiful

It seems fitting to start a blog like this with the beginning of my relationship with Disney World. Before I went, I didn’t know the difference between Disney World and Disneyland and my only experience with Florida was Panama City Beach where my family took a vacation every summer. In fact, Panama City Beach was where my brother and I thought we were going that summer.

My dad told us we were going to go a different direction to Florida so we could stop by and visit an aunt of his (well, I guess she's mine too, I just didn't know her at all). When we got to her house she starting telling us to have fun at Disney World. My brother and I just thought that she was crazy. In our defense, she gave us each a whole dollar to spend and she tried to give us wine to drink (I was 10 and my brother was 5) because she thought it was fruit juice.

We continued our trek to Florida and the further we went, the more I realized that nothing was looking familiar. “We’re not going to the beach are we?” I asked my parents. “Remember when I told you we would go to Disney World one day?” my mom responded, “Well, today is that day!”

I got really excited but my brother was actually offended that my parents would withhold such information from us.

To be honest, I don’t remember much from that trip. I remember having a lot of fun. I remember a character meal. I remember chickening out of Space Mountain after I found out it was a roller coaster (I used to be afraid of roller coasters until I realized that every one that I went on, I enjoyed). I remember walking past the Haunted Mansion in the evening and my dad wanting to go. I remember pleading with him to wait until the next day because I did not want to go on the ride at night. I remember going on the ride that night and enjoying it. I vaguely remember Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. My memories of Epcot and what was then MGM Studios aren’t great because I don’t remember liking them that much. This was before Test Track, Mission: Space, Toy Story Mania, Rockin’ Roller Coaster (not that I would have ridden it then) and before I would come to appreciate Disney as more than just an adrenaline rush. I just didn’t enjoy those parks. Also, Animal Kingdom wasn’t open then.

The other thing I remember was officially starting my squashed penny collection. That will be for another post though.

I also remember falling in love with the place and being extremely excited about our next trip, which was three years away.