Becoming A Florida Resident Annual Passholder

Becoming A Florida Resident Annual Passholder

It was the first thing on my agenda after becoming a Florida resident – getting our Disney annual pass.
And 8 days after arriving with everything unpacked, we headed to Guest Relations at Downtown Disney to do just that.
Disney offers a great opportunity for Florida residents to take advantage of purchasing their annual passes and having the cost split into monthly payments with no additional costs or interest! What a great way to make the annual pass a little easier on the wallet!
We were anxious to get to one of the parks and enjoy a few hours of evening park hours.
I was also curious about how different it would feel to be in Disney now that we live here and can visit the parks anytime.
I have to admit there was this sense of unhurried park enjoyment!
If we didn’t get to an attraction, no big deal…we’d be back soon.
Unlike vacationing here, we didn’t need to spend the entire day in the park. Instead, we can go for a morning or evening.
We can also see every season in the parks! Halloween items are starting to pop up in the gift shops but I imagine it won’t be long before the parks are completely decorated for fall and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, which begins in September. Also beginning next month is my favorite – Epcot International Food And Wine Festival!
And with the Christmas season approaching and 2 of our 3 daughters visiting over Christmas, we will get the opportunity to accomplish another Disney goal I’ve had – spending Christmas Day in the the parks!

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Seeing Disney From A New Perspective

EpcotI don’t have a lot of free time on my hands these days but when I do get a little time, I begin to imagine what it will be like living 24 miles from Walt Disney World.
On our most recent trip to Florida to find a home, I saw a Disney Magical Express bus and realized, I won’t be riding that bus anymore! In case you don’t know, Magical Express is the Disney-provided transportation from the Orlando International Airport to your Disney resort. It didn’t really bother me that I won’t be on that bus anymore since our new home is so close. I’ve always had this like/dislike relationship with Magical Express anyway. I liked it when I arrived and it was whisking us off to start our vacation, but I really disliked the bus when it was picking us up to return to the airport and go home.
There are a few things I’ll miss about planning my Disney vacations.
I’ll miss choosing a resort to stay at and I’ll miss the midday breaks we would take at the resort to go back and swim. I’ll also miss the anticipation and countdowns we always did to our Disney vacations.
But instead, we’ll have countdowns to the visits from our children and grandchildren, friends and family! We’ll also get to experience every season in Disney! I won’t have to go years without seeing the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. And I don’t have to wonder every year if I’ll get to the International Food and Wine Festival. I can spend my birthday in Disney every year.
I also won’t have to worry about how I’m going to get something home that I want to purchase. I won’t have to miss our dog, Tinkerbell. And if we spend a long day at the parks, I can take her to Best Friends Pet Care Center for the day! It’s located right near the Port Orleans resorts and is open an hour before the parks open and it closes an hour after the parks close, so I can drop her off on our way to the parks and pick her up after we finish!
I could flip a coin to decide which park to go to that day. Or I could park hop and go to all of them in the same day. We could go to the parks just for dinner and fireworks! We can track points we accumulate at Buzz Light Year and Toy Story Mania and have monthly competitions!
And if I take another Disney Cruise, we’re just a short half hour drive to Port Canaveral!
So as the list of “benefits” keeps growing in my mind, I think about, and am grateful for the one thing I will not have to do ever again.
Shovel snow!

Free Travel Expo This Weekend In Philadelphia!

Have you been cooped up in the house all winter dreaming of that warm and sunny destination?
The snow is gone and it’s time to get out! (Of the house that is!)
If you’re within driving distance of Philadelphia, Pa, you can explore vacation destinations at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pa. The event will be held Sunday 10 am to 5 pm.
FREE parking, FREE admittance, FREE vacations being given away every hour!
And if that’s not enough FREE, there will also be FREE seminars, FREE vacation planning assistance from vacation experts!
Get the information you need to plan your vacation, at no extra cost!
Bring the children to get their picture taken with a character. And bring your vacation dates because you will be able to take advantage of exclusive deals and book your vacation on the spot!
Here’s the address:
The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, Hall C

100 Station Avenue Oaks, PA 19456

Sunday April 6th, 2014

10AM – 5PM
Stop and see me in the family vacation area of the Expo. I’ll be near the Disney booth helping families plan their Disney vacations!

FUN FACTS ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF TAKING A VACATION

1. It relieves stress!
2. It gets you free Vitamin D!
3. It gives you something to look forward to – who doesn’t countdown to vacay?
4. It provides bonding time for couples and families!
5. It creates a lifetime of memories!

Top 10 Things You Need To Do Before Your Disney Vacation

1. Make dining reservations! Yes, it’s vacation and you don’t want it to be scheduled but I’d you wait till you arrive you will have very little to choose from!
2. Pre-register through My Disney Experience. You can download the app for your smart phone or go to http://www.mydisneyexperience.com. Or both! From here you will order your Magic Bands and choose the color. If you don’t register, you’ll get a grey Magic Band when you check in to your Disney Resort.
3. Make some Fast Pass + reservations! You can reserve up to 3 a day. It’s a great way to get in the short line for popular attractions!
4. Do some walking to get your feet and legs ready for all the walking you will do. We don’t pay much attention to how much walking we do in Disney but it really adds up!
5. Wear supportive sneakers or sandals and alternate them throughout your trip to avoid blisters. If you get a blister anyway, the Band-Aid Blister strips work well.
6. Complete your Online Check In with your Disney resort. That way if it’s full at check in, you can go in the line for guests who have done the online check in and it’s a shorter line!
7. Pack light! If you’re flying, the baggage weight limit is 50 lbs. All of the Disney resorts have laundry facilities if you need to do a load of laundry while there. It’s much cheaper than the overweight baggage fee airlines charge.
8. Find out what attractions are closed due to refurbishment during your trip! There’s nothing worse than looking forward to your favorite ride only to find out when you get there that it’s closed for refurbishment!
9. Countdown to your vacation! There are many apps to countdown to your vacation but you can make your own too! We used a small dry erase board on the refrigerator and the first person up each day would change the number of days (and sometimes add some art work!)
10. Plan to take a break mid- day, especially in the summer. Go back to your resort and take a swim. You’ll feel much more refreshed afterward!

Disney Cruising

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Taking a Disney Cruise is the natural progression for those who have made a trip or two (or 17) to Walt Disney World.

In the fall I  had the opportunity to take a Disney Land and Sea vacation  and spent a couple of days in the Disney parks while staying at Disney’s Yacht Club resort and then on to Port Canaveral where I boarded  the Disney Dream for a 3 night Bahamas cruise.

Many people think Disney Cruises are just for families with children, but I traveled with adults and there was plenty for us to do including some adult only areas of the ship!

A self-serve soda station offers free soda on the pool deck.

They also have an ice cream station near the pool – a great way to cool off after swimming.

I  purchased an adult beverage in a souvenir cup for $9.99 and that cup could be refilled with the drink of the day for $4.85. I had to ask the Cast Member to repeat the refill price because I couldn’t believe there could be a drink under $5 on a cruise ship!

As we all know, Disney knows how to entertain! And the Broadway-style shows – Golden Mickey’s, The Villains, and Believe – were all excellent and I recommend you don’t miss them.

The easy access to characters on the Disney Dream was another real treat! There were character meet and greets set up on the ship and when we got off the ship at Castaway Cay, there were no lines to get pictures with Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale and Donald Duck!

A signature attraction on the Dream is the Aqua Duck, the clear-tubed water coaster with Disney’s signature drops and turns. The line for this attraction can get long but if you ride it when you board the ship or closer to dinner time, you can have it almost to yourself! Disney has rotational dining in its restaurants on the Dream. You’ll be assigned a restaurant each night and your serving staff will follow you to those restaurants. Remy and Palo are the adult only restaurants you can choose to go to but reservations are a must.

Room service was complimentary so I woke up every day to my fresh pot of coffee.  I would pour a cup and sit on the balcony and watch the sun rise and the ocean go by.  I also enjoyed the view from there watching the ship docking at the port. I don’t think there’s anything  more relaxing.

The Disney-themed kids clubs on the ship such as “Andy’s Room,” made me almost want to be a kid again. And I loved the hand-washing station where children just insert their hands and the washing (via spraying with soap and water) is done for you!

Another feature that Disney Cruises have is their fireworks show that tops off Pirate Night on the ship – another not-to-be-missed night-time spectacular. Didn’t bring any pirate-wear? No worries! Everyone gets a pirate bandana for each person in your cabin!

My only regret on this cruise was that I hadn’t cruised on a Disney Cruise sooner, and that I’d wished the cruise was longer. But taking the 3-day cruise was a great way to try a Disney Cruise and to determine  that I definitely want to take another (longer) one!

To Fly Or Drive Down I-95

For most of my Disney trips the decision to fly or drive is an easy one….FLY!
But this year the airfare is so high (over $400 per person!) that we’ve decided to drive.
The last time we drove to Walt Disney World was 2004, right after hurricane Charlie hit Orlando. Our flight was cancelled out of Philly because the terminal in Orlando was damaged from the hurricane. And they told us we wouldn’t get on another flight for days. I looked at my husband and said, “do you know how to drive to Florida?” He said, “two roads, I-95 and I-4.”
Next thing we knew, we were in the car, driving to Walt Disney World.
We had nothing prepared for a driving trip but a stop at a Wal-Mart in Virginia fixed that.
Looking back on that trip, it was one of our most memorable ones!
This year is a little different. We are actually planning to drive so we will be more prepared with cooler, snacks, and even better technology than the last trip! Did you know there’s an I-95 Exit Guide app? It gives you details on what restaurants, hotels and gas stations are located at each exit!
Another benefit to driving is no limits on luggage! Not that I would take too much, it’s always what I want to bring back!
I’ve made advance hotel reservations for an overnight on the way down and the return trip, based on where we expect to be. And even that was easier to plan with maps that show construction locations and estimated arrival times.
While there’s not really a need for a car in Disney ( since they transport you everywhere) it will be nice to see more of Florida than the road from the airport to our Disney resort.
Driving does add 2 days to our trip but it will be our 10th anniversary celebration, so driving will make it more of an adventure!

You Need A Plan…A Dining Plan

You Need A Plan…A Dining Plan

Everyone likes to save money when planning a Walt Disney World vacation. But something you should never leave home without (when heading to Disney) is some sort of dining plan. And by plan I don’t mean “meet us at noon at Pecos Bills for lunch.”
I’m talking about a Disney Dining Plan. The kind you can only get if you stay on-site at a Disney resort.
There are several dining plan options to choose from, the most popular one includes a sit down restaurant meal, a quick service meal, and a snack for each night of stay. All of the meal plans include for each person in your party a resort refillable mug that has unlimited refills at your resort food court for the duration of your stay.

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And did I mention you get dessert with lunch and dinner?
The only drawback I see to this particular plan is that you need to make advanced dining reservations for your table service meal which means you need to set up a time that you’re going to dine each day.
If you don’t want to commit to a sit down restaurant each day and you wait until you arrive for your vacation to make dining reservations, you will be very limited to what restaurants have available times as most people do make the dining reservations 6 months in advance.
If you want a meal plan without the restaurant reservation commitment, try the Quick Service Dining Plan. That plan gives each person 2 quick service meals and one snack per night of stay. And just because you choose the Quick Service Plan, doesn’t mean you have to live on hamburgers and hot dogs for the week. Disney does a fabulous job of offering many varieties of quick service meals including salads, wraps, spaghetti, and even roast chicken and mashed potatoes! (At Cosmic Rays in the Magic Kingdom…delicious!)
And if you want to dine at several Signature Dining restaurants which include some of the character dining that requires 2 table service credits, I recommend the Deluxe Dining Plan. With this plan you would get 3 meals and one snack for for each night of stay. And what makes this plan unique is that there is no distinction between Quick Service meals and restaurant sit down meals, so you can use those meals however you choose. Most people choose the Deluxe Dining in order to plan more character dining experiences during their stay.
The question I get asked most by families considering the dining
Plan: Is there a limited menu that you choose from. And the answer is no. While there are a few small restrictions, pretty much what you see on the menu you can order.
The biggest question: will a dining plan cost me more or save me money?
In my opinion it will save you money. If you keep the receipts of all your dining while on vacation and add them up, the total will be much higher than the cost of the meal plan. And who wants to worry about how much money to budget for meals on vacation?
Keep in mind that your dining plan must be added before you check in at your resort!
So make your vacation a true vacation and include a dining plan!