FRIEND FRIDAY

FRIEND FRIDAY – The Packard Family Trip Report

There is nothing like running into friends at Walt Disney World. It makes the Happiest Place on Earth just a little happier. My girls were in for a huge treat when we had the pleasure of running into two of their neighborhood dearest at WDW!

Sending out a huge shoutout to Bethanne for this fantastic FRIEND FRIDAY submission. Read on to find out about Bethanne’s awesome trip.
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Since I have never actually won an Oscar, I can only imagine the sense of honor I feel right now is pretty much the same. I have been asked by the esteemed Mouse Boss for a Friend Friday submission.

We left for Disney World the day after Easter, and just arrived home this past Sunday. I traveled with my mom, and my two daughters. My husband stayed home with our two year old son- he will have his special trip someday, too! My mom and I really wanted this to be a memorable trip for the girls. We had visited Disney one other time a few years back, but the girls are both at perfect ages to enjoy all that Disney had to offer. Our decision to go was made a little late in the game, so airfare was high, but hotel and park prices were comparable to any other time of year. So, we planned for months, and since I luckily had befriended Mouse Boss, had some great inside tips to work with! Another friend’s sister is a travel agent who specializes in Disney travel, so we used her to make our Disney arrangements. We decided on a 5 day park hopper with accommodations at the Port Orleans French Quarter Resort. In addition, we purchased the meal plan and the memory maker option.

Another fun detail was that we decided to make this trip a surprise – we did not tell the girls until it was time to leave for the airport. This was really hard to keep a secret, but the reactions were worth it- I would highly recommend that everyone tries this once. Although we did not get the jump up and down reaction that you see on Youtube, we did get to enjoy a moment of pure joy and shock that crossed both of their faces when they learned the big news!

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So, off to the land of magic and mice we flew! We had made all of our dining and Fast pass plans well in advance, so there was little to do but enjoy our time there. Well, and obsess over the my Disney experience app, of course, and make little tweaks to our plans constantly! I really liked the new fast pass system, but it was a little bit of pressure only being allowed three fast passes a day. But this was the joy of staying on the Disney property and having access to our fast passes online. Running a little late? Well, jump online and change your Space Mountain fast pass from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. Careful not to wait too long, though. Just like the old fast pass system, the fast passes for popular attractions were gone pretty early in the day…if not by the day, or week, or month before!

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Some definite highlights were the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for the girls’ hair and make up. Although, my six year old, Abigail, enjoyed this far more than my eight year old, Anna! Abby also enjoyed Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom, which we had never been on before. Anna was a big fan of the Tomorrowland speedway, and her personal Everest – Space Mountain! The big winner by a landslide was of course, the meet and greet with Anna and Elsa- the only fast pass option made in advance that we never could have changed. Fast passes for Anna and Elsa ran out almost immediately after they were released as an option. I know this, because as I already mentioned, I obsessively worked with that Disney app. It’s a problem. I still check it. Are there any support groups for this?

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The Port Orleans French Quarter was great. The pool had a great kids’ water slide, and there were always plenty of seats. Our room was always clean and had all the necessities. It was also fairly quiet – or we were so exhausted that any noise did not have a chance at disturbing our slumber. The buffet at the restaurant there was really good for your basic buffet, too. Although we’ll probably try another resort next time just to sample the other great hotels at Disney, I would definitely recommend this resort to other families. Our travel agent made our stay here a little extra special by having a package delivered with homemade autograph books for the girls, and Princess lanyards to collect their pins! They did love getting a few pins, but after a hot tip from Mrs. Mouse Boss, we switched to the more budget friendly Pressed Pennies!

We got the most of our meal plan, and booked several character dining experiences – which I was thrilled to learn are included in the basic dining plan. Cinderella’s Royal Table at the castle is still a favorite of the girls, and they also love Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary. We also met Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins at the Hollywood and Vine at Hollywood Studios for breakfast. Non character dining was done at via Napoli at Epcot, 50s Prime Time Café at Hollywood Studios, and a casual last night meal at the Plaza back at the Magic Kingdom. We were not looking for gourmet during this trip, but we were pleased with all of our dining choices.

Have to end this by one adding one more highlight – meeting up with Mouse Boss and company a couple times! Disney is a great experience in and of itself, but meeting up with friends there makes it extra special. Several times over the course of this trip, I reminded the girls that this was their big trip, and we would not be going back to Disney for a long time. Of course, I am already adding notes and memos, and counting the days til we can plan our next trip!

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Thanks, Bethanne! I don’t have a gold statue to send you, but hopefully a snazzy MouseBoss T-shirt will be a greater consolation.

I know you had a great time and it was a blast running into you! It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.

I can’t wait to help you plan the next one.

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FRIEND FRIDAY – Trip Planning Tips from Robin

Last week I asked for submissions for our FRIEND FRIDAY feature. Robin quickly stepped up to the plate. Today, Robin offers us some great insight into her tips and tricks for her WDW trip planning. As a DVC (Disney Vacation Club) member, her accommodations planning will differ from most, but the meals and FP+ strategies are top notch.

Enjoy and Happy Friend Friday.
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Planning a Disney trip can be tedious and confusing. I am a DVC Member since 2004 and have been planning Disney trips for my family and friends even before that. To me it is second nature. But when you decide to visit at one of the busiest times of the year planning is important.

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First we had to decide when to go. We usually do not go during spring break. Not only is it very busy, but also it can be up to 70% more expensive. Due to my daughter’s school schedule this year, it was our only choice. Second, we had to decide where to stay. Our home resort is Beach Club, so that was a no-brainer. For those of you who are not DVC members, I would suggest you figure out your budget, go to http://www.disneyworld.disney.go.com, and price out hotels for your dates of travel. During spring break rooms can be from $179 at allstars to $600+ per night at deluxe and everywhere in between.

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Now I sit back and wait for that 180 day mark. At 180 days you can start making reservations for dining. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during spring break. As I waited for that day to arrive. I went on to my disney experience, customized our magic bands and linked our tickets for the parks. I did need help from Disney to do this. They were very helpful and it was very smooth. I have never used magic bands before so this is a whole new type of magic for me. I will let you know how it went when we get back.

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I also figured out which restaurants I wanted to eat at. One of my favorite websites for restaurants and menus is http://www.allears.net. They are very accurate and have a full list. I have a very picky eater for a husband and I have to see what each restaurants has to make sure he will eat.

We also like to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours (EMH). I like to plan meals around them so we are guaranteed to be in a park on the days that EMH are happening. EMH schedules usually come out 6 months in advance. For example, we are eating at Le Cellier on Easter Sunday in Epcot. The Magic Kingdom has EMH till 1am that day. We will leave Epcot after Illuminations and go to MK and eat ice cream while looking at Cinderella’s castle until 1am. It is one of my favorite things to do.

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Now I have to decide if the meal plan is worth it for us on this trip. We have only used it once before and I will tell you that was one of my best trips. First I called DVC to price out the dining plan. Here is a little info on the dining plan. Everyone on your reservation (3 and older) must be on the plan and you must have it for your full length of stay. It is activated at the moment you check in and it expires at 11:59pm the day you check out. DVC members do receive a slight discount. For non-DVC members it is $63 per adult and $34 per children per day. It includes 1 snack, 1 quick service (QS) and one table service (TS) meal per day. You will also receive a refillable mug per person ($18 value). These prices are for the time of spring break and they can change at anytime.

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So after visiting http://www.allears.net many times to price out restaurants and QS meals I decided to go for the dining plan this year. Not only will it be more convenient for us with the new magic bands but it will save us money. With two growing girls, and all the running around, we do we get hungry.

Here is a list of restaurants we chose. Le Cellier (2 TS pts) Cinderella’s Royal Table (2 TS pts), Chef Mickey, one of our personal favorites, Kouzzina by cat cora (closing this fall/winter), and Hollywood Dine and Vine (now featuring Sophia the First and Doc McStuffins). Even though I have 2, two point restaurants it still is worth it.

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Since we will be there for Easter, I had the Easter Bunny call the Disney florist to make sure the kids get an extra magic easter basket delivered on Easter. It saved a lot of lugging extra stuff.

Now I have our room booked, tickets linked to my disney experience, magic bands customized, dining reservations and an itinerary of our trip. It does not stop there.

We get 10 day park hopper plus no expiration tickets. It comes out to about 35$ per day. And they last us 3-4 years and more on the plus options which is water parks, golf, etc.. Now I can book FP+ 2 months in advance. After some trial and error I figured it out and got the times and rides I wanted. I have never been on Toy Story Mania. I finally get to go:). At this point you have to be a park resort guest or have an annual pass to reserve your FP+. If you are not, you can schedule your FP+ once you get in the parks. You must pick one park and only 3 FP+. We also worked the system a little and scheduled different fastpasses for Soarin’ and Test Track so we can ride both. We couple the FP+ with the baby swap. It has worked in the past. Let’s hope it still does. The baby swap is wonderful. If you have a child that is too small for the ride, ask the cast member standing outside the attraction for a baby swap. This insures that when the first group comes off the ride the second does not have to wait in the long line again.

After I got my FP+ set, I am ready…or so I thought.

I was all done with my planing and here comes a little fun twist. My brother in law and his family decided to go to disney during spring break. Unfortunately, their break is the week before easter and ours is the week after. But we could be there the last day they are there. After I helped them plan their trip, I adjusted our departure day from Friday to Thursday (we drive, no fun). We booked a room at the same resort. They decided to stay at the Caribbean Beach. We requested Martinique, since it is very close to the main pool and we linked our reservations together. When we check in on Friday it will bring up their reservation and we will get a room as close to them as possible.

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Now I have my days all planned out, especially my park days. I know where I am going and eating. I know I am guaranteed 3 rides with minimal wait time per park day, and between our FP+ reservations we are going to take advantage of the places that we usually overlook, like the beautiful buildings, tom sawyer island, parades and shows in MK. In Epcot we are going to enjoy everything the flower and garden show has to offer. For me, the most important thing is we don’t waste time trying to figure out want to do. Now we can now sit back, relax, let the magic come to us…and let the memories begin.

Here are a few tips on what to bring to the parks with you.
Cheap rain ponchos 2 each. Big and small ziplock bags. great for putting left overs in and wet clothes. Pack a change of clothes for the little ones, an extra tee shirt for adults (you never know when or how you will get wet). Bring water and wear comfy shoes.

Robin R. B.
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Thanks, Robin. Sounds like you have a great trip planned.

Have a great time!

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FRIEND FRIDAY – Shannon: A Picture (or two) Is Worth a Thousand Words

I asked my wife, Shannon, to be my guest blogger today. Her retort was quick and swift. “No.”

I asked was there nothing she could share? She agreed to submit a photoblog of her two favorite WDW pictures. So, without additional commentary, I hope you enjoy today’s Friend Friday.
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SHANNON DONOVAN – FRIEND FRIDAY

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