Disney Trip Planning: Rebecca and the Accidental Upgrade

Like many Disney World enthusiasts, I have a likely-unreachable (for me, anyway) goal of staying at all of the resorts on property. If I lived closer and had the means to go twice a year or more, I’d probably be able to accomplish this goal, but as it stands over the past ten years I’ve stayed at four resorts.  So yeah. :)

In any case, because of this long-standing desire, I agonize a little too much about where to stay and I am not above an added hassle of doing a split-stay. For this trip, since it’s my first full LONG trip since becoming a travel agent, I planned on splurging and getting a room at Animal Kingdom Lodge using the Travel Agent rates.  I booked a package for the first half of the stay (more on that later) and then separately booked a Pool View with Bunkbeds room under the travel agent rates.  It was my first time booking under TA rates, and that process is different from general bookings, so I did it wrong (lol) and after some back and forth we cancelled my first reservation and made a new one.  I was told at the time that my deposit from the first reservation would be transferred to my second one, but in the end that didn’t happen. Things happened and long story short, the second reservation was cancelled too.

Bunkbeds! Solving life's problems!

Bunkbeds! Solving life’s problems!

These things happen.  The problem is, by the time I was able to go in and get together everything for the THIRD and hopefully final reservation… Only an Arusha Level Savannah View room was left under the TA rates. Well… um… I gotta think about that one, guys.  I know I said splurge but…

I'd be sleeping RIGHT NEXT to that horse! (Kids, how many errors can YOU find in that sentence?)

I’d be sleeping RIGHT NEXT to that horse! (Kids, how many errors can YOU find in that sentence?)

So long story short, I booked it at about $200 more than I had intended to pay. But this. Is. Important. I’m not talking just about my trip. I’m talking about staying at AKL.  I have been dreaming of a multi-day stay at AKL since I first set foot there in 2011, for dinner at Boma.  I stayed there for one night last trip, in 2013, and I HAD to go back.

Well, this map DOES kind of make a persuasive argument...

Well, this map DOES kind of make a persuasive argument…

So what would YOU do?  I upgraded the room and paid more. Because it’s ANIMAL KINGDOM LODGE.  And really, I guess it’s only $200. (I can’t believe I just wrote that.)  And having a savannah view … from everything I have read, all reviews and everything, Savannah Views are one case in which the upgrade is totally worthwhile.  Especially when you’re there with kids, or animal lovers, or just… there. ;D  The view in the morning on our last stay was not bad, we had a good sunrise with the balcony right there, but… it was the parking lot with a little of the pool and then in the distance some roads. I must admit, I’m looking forward to being able to extend my time in a fantasy world that I’m miles away from a city and just immersed in The Bubble.

Also: pretty.

Also: pretty.

I feel like a dummy for losing that first (and, well, second) reservation but… I think I made the right choice. :)

Head Games with Mary Poppins

A spoonful of sugar and some trust issues!

A spoonful of sugar and some trust issues!

So it’s no secret that Mary Poppins plays mind games. Most famously, she takes the kids out for a day trip in a chalk drawing, then when they return she tells them they’re making the whole thing up and she’s offended. She denies knowledge of the entire day’s worth of events and they’re flummoxed.
She also pulls a similar move on Mr. Banks:

Mr. Banks: Just a moment, Mary Poppins. What is the meaning of this outrage?

Mary Poppins: I beg your pardon?

Mr. Banks: Will you be good enough to explain all this?

Mary Poppins: First of all, I would like to make one thing quite clear.

Mr. Banks: Yes?

Mary Poppins: I never explain anything.

This is like Mary Poppins's Troll Face.

This is like Mary Poppins’s Troll Face.

Why, precisely, Mary Poppins does this is never overtly explained. Does she honestly not remember the chalk drawing adventure?  Did it perhaps not even really happen, and she’s telling the truth?  Given how she departs at the end, that’s not likely.  Perhaps we can assume that she’s got a contrary nature and it amuses her to mess with people… right?

But the other day while going over these events in my head, it dawned on me why she’s got this character trait. She was hired for it! Mary Poppins used the advertisement written by the children (and torn up and tossed into the fireplace) to draft her position requirements.  One of the specifics: Play games, all sorts.

The kids don't really mind. They get it.

The kids don’t really mind. They get it.

Be careful what you ask for, I suppose. :)

Disney Trip Planning: 180 Days Out (Well, more like 177)

Howdy friends and neighbours!  It’s been a long time – I keep meaning to come back and get into the blog habit again, but things keep getting in the way. :P So here I go to try again!

That's the spirit, Ralph!

That’s the spirit, Ralph!

I figure maybe I can make weekly updates on my planning for my family’s upcoming Disney World trip.  This is our first trip as a full family since 2011; my daughter was just about to turn 5, and now she’s 9. (If you’ve followed at home long enough you know that my daughter and I took a trip together in 2013, which was awesome! but now it’s time for my son and husband to get to come too ^_^)

I hate the fact that we typically have to wait, on average, 2.5 years between trips. Because of this prolonged and enforced patience, I tend to compensate by obsessive planning.  To many it probably seems like “Um, Rebecca? You’re 6 months out, this really isn’t obsessive” but I just haven’t been blogging before now about what I’m doing. ;) I’ve saved it up. LOL.

I have a problem.

I have a problem.

If you’re an experienced Disney vacationer, you know the significance of 180 days… that’s when you get to book your dining reservations!  This trip will be the third time we’ve done a free dining plan, and as that gets more popular each year, I decided not to leave it to crossed fingers when it came to getting our first choices, so I set the alarm, and…

Actually before I get to that point, funny story.

Since I’ve got all this time to plan, I wanted to get *just* the right restaurants. Last trip we thought having the dining plan for the full time was a little too much actually, so we are doing a split stay and only using the plan on the first 4 nights. That gives us 4 sitdown restaurants to hit up; they therefore had to be ones that were EXACTLY right. How many new? How many returns to favourites? How much character dining?  Can I squeeze in a trip to Sci Fi Dine In or is my husband going to kill me if I try that?

Tinay Fey likes it. And she's always right!

Tinay Fey likes it. And she’s always right!

I ended up getting methodical. Nothing beats a great plan!  We sat down, went over the restaurants, narrowed down, narrowed down some more, and finally got a husband-approved list of selections. (If it was just up to me and the kids we’d go pretty much everywhere.)  Then I had to wait 2 weeks for the 180-day mark, at which point I set the alarm and got up at 5:50am, ET so that I could be on the internet when the site opened up for booking.  I figured if I had to, I could call when the phones opened at 7, but this way I’d probably be able to get what I wanted. I mean, none of them were Be Our Guest or Cinderella, so it couldn’t be THAT hard even with free dining and the 10-day window for guests arriving a little before me.

Well, yeah, best-laid plans. :)  I think we’ve mostly finalized our dining plans now… MOSTLY. Half of the list changed and for one selection I’m still looking for an earlier dinner time. All this week there has been researching, shuffling, considering, menu-scanning, and finally “OK, that will work” and reserving.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first..." Wait, that's not this speech. And it doesn't even apply here! Worst blog photo effort ever.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first…” Wait, that’s not this speech. And it doesn’t even apply here! Worst blog photo effort ever.

Here’s the current final – compared to our original list:

Day 1: Lunch at Teppan Edo, 1:20pm (Never been! :D)
Original selection: Biergarten (husband’s first choice). It was full for lunch and dinner every day. EVERY. DAY. BIERGARTEN is booked solid! Huh. Our original backup was Captain’s Grille at Boardwalk, but then other restaurants opened up. Whew. And I’m happy to say that husband is well-sold on Teppan Edo!

Day 2: Dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe, 8pm (Also never been and sounds so fun! Still hoping I can get an earlier res time though)
Original selection: ‘Ohana. I was able to get a reservation there initially… but at 9:30pm. NOPE! Not with kids. :) I couldn’t get anything earlier than that on any other days, either, and now there is nothing available there at all. That’s OK. Another time I guess… Husband is not interested in a breakfast there, only dinner.

Day 3: Dinner at Garden Grill, 6:55pm (Favourite character dining)
We’ve done this on all our family trips. This will be my third time there. I know several people who don’t like the food, but I’m not picky about food. I really like meeting Chip and Dale. :)  The food is simple and as long as it’s not poorly done that’s about all I need.

It goes around and around!

It goes around and around!

Day 4: Dinner at Boma, 7:10pm (2nd time)
Our last big trip, I decided like 3 years before we actually went that I wanted to eat at Boma. We did and it was all I wanted it to be, plus I loved Animal Kingdom Lodge and vowed we would stay there someday. Happily my husband liked it too, so we get to go back! :D

Since counter service is usually a lot easier to do on the fly than table service (unless it’s called Be Our Guest), I’m not sweating that one yet.  I do have to go to Flame Tree Barbeque though. MUST DO!! <3

What would your list be? And would you recommend for or against any of my choices? I’ll tell you now, you cannot talk me out of Garden Grill, it’s no use trying!

Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I was thinking “Gee, what can I write about this weekend in my blog?” because I’m trying to get at least one new post up on the weekends. (High expectations eh?) And then it occurred to me that HEY!  Captain America is a Disney movie! I can review it and be on-topic!

Except… this isn’t going to be a specially popular review, because I will say up front that I didn’t care for the movie.  And, I can’t really say all of why without revealing spoilers.  So I’m going to briefly touch on why I didn’t like it, and get that out of the way, and then discuss both the things I did like and a general overview of the film.

I'll say up front, he's not in it and I missed him, to be frank.

I’ll say up front, he’s not in it and I missed him, to be frank.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park in 2015

This weeked on Twitter I asked what my friends thought was the Best Disney News of 2014. The majority of the answers that I got were about Turner Classic Movies partnering on/sponsoring the Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios, which is indeed fantastic!  Some related news is the fact that TCM is also showing “Treasures From the Disney Vault“, presenting vintage Disney shows and other material that has not been replayed on the Disney Channel for some time now. YAY, TCM! (Also noteworthy: many people were happy about the recent announcement that the Sorcerer’s Hat is coming down – this is also at Hollywood Studios. Hmmm. Coincidence?)

I nipped this from a recent post at takingthefloridaplunge.com - go there for lots of constant content!

I nipped this from a recent post at takingthefloridaplunge.com – go there for lots of constant content!

This led into a general discussion about Hollywood Studios, what it could be, what it is, what we hope will happen.  Admittedly the bulk of this discussion was with LeBeau, of LeBeau’s LeBlog (yes, this is just an opportunity to plus his blog, but it’s worth it), but a few others joined in here and there!

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Disney’s “Atlantis: the Lost Empire”

You might remember this. You might love this movie!  Or you might be all “I have skipped that one” or even “That’s a DISNEY movie?!”

Yes, this is a Disney movie.  Released in 2001, this is a Disney movie that doesn’t really look like a Disney movie (and, I think, is trying not to feel like one either). I really enjoyed it in the theatre, but looking back, I’ve always been less sure.  At this point, 13-14 years later, I could remember a very small handful of things. Michael J. Fox. Kida glowing and enveloped in light. And my personal fave, Don Novello AKA Father Guido Sarducci as Vinnie.

I could listen to this man read the phone book and enjoy it.

I could listen to this man read the phone book and enjoy it.

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Sometimes you just want to pull out the crayons

I was at Target today and I was tempted by one of my favourite sights: a full box of unused, pointy, perfect crayons. In our family this doesn’t last long; my kids are in the “Push So Hard The Crayons Break” school of colouring and thus none of our crayons last more than a few weeks at best. We do, however, have a large box of broken or flat crayons. :)

So, I broke down and bought a new box – it was only about $2.50 – of 48 crayons. It’s glorious! And already kinda worn down, of course, because we started colouring immediately. Or, if not immediately, within a few minutes of my printing out a bunch of Disney colouring pages from TV’s “The Internet”.*

I fully believe that everyone should take the time to break open a new box of Crayolas and put their mark on a nice blank colouring page. Disney-themed or not. I feel like I got my money’s worth out of these new crayons simply because I coloured this:

I called this "My terror that flaps in the night" and confused my kids with the possessive term.

Darkwing Duck is my jam, yo.

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Happy 2015!

Oh my, it has been a while, hasn’t it? I’m still around. :) I could post about where I have been, but it’s long and not very exciting and sadly, has nothing at all to do with Disney. Not even if I squint and stretch the truth a little bit. I’ll post about it eventually (it’s honestly nothing exciting), just to give everyone my boring excuse, but after all this buildup let’s change the subject tonight. :)

Right now, I just wanted to come in and say hello to everyone, and share a few New Years plans that I have gathered up:

1) I’m going to Disney World! That’s kind of a constant philosophical truth with me – I WILL always be going again someday, and that’s a given – but I currently have an actual trip planned with actual dates and actual everything. It’s coming up in November. I did tell the kids, because I can’t keep a secret THAT long, but we had a fun scavenger hunt on Christmas afternoon to break the news!

2) One of my New Years goals is to be more crafty in 2015. (Because after spending the second half of 2014 with hardly any spare time, I’ve decided it’s the perfect time to start new hobbies!) With that in mind I’m pulling out my cross-stitch supplies and going searching for Disney patterns! I found a few really nice freebies on Pinterest. Because you can find EVERYTHING on Pinterest!

I'm not very likely to actually do this one or in fact most of the ones I found. But wouldn't it be great if I DID?

I’m not very likely to actually do this one or in fact most of the ones I found. But wouldn’t it be great if I DID?

3) I’m going to try to upload some podcasts onto my mini iPod so that I can catch up. I am, no joke, somewhere around 8 months behind on most if not all of the ones I listened to. It’s sad. I have shed tears over this. …Metaphorical tears if you must know.

I missed you, blogosphere! I missed you so darn MUCH! <3 Let’s never fight again. If I don’t come back soon… have a great year!

Rebecca, Not Dead (Yet)

Review: “3500”, a sweet Disney love story

"3500: An Autistic Boy's Ten-Year Romance With Snow White"

“3500: An Autistic Boy’s Ten-Year Romance With Snow White” image (c) Ron Miles and Michael Montoure, used without permission here but I hope since this is a review it will be OK.

At the end of last year I had amassed some $50 in Barnes and Noble gift cards, and I figured I should do something I don’t often do, to wit: buy some books.  Why don’t I normally do this?  Two reasons, and neither one is because I don’t like reading.  The first is because I have so many books, I feel guilty buying more; and the second is, I have no idea where to start. I actually tend to read the books I own over and over. No joke.

 

Anyway, in this case I decided I’d look up some Disney books. I got some recommendations from friends of various kinds of Disney-related reading, and made my order on the website. They came one at a time.  One of the first to arrive was “3500: An Autistic Boy’s Ten-Year Romance with Snow White”, by Ron Miles.

 

I had read about this book when it came out, a few months earlier (now a year or so ago – it was published in 2013), and was very intrigued by it. A simple version of the story is that Ron’s son, Benjamin, fell in love with Walt Disney World, fell DEEPLY in love with Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and rode it over and over…3,500 times, in fact.  This is a very, very simple and actually almost misleading version of the story, as there is so much more to it.  You get an in depth picture of Benjamin, of the challenges of raising a boy with autism but also the huge rewards, and the whole story is glowing with the love that Ron feels for his son, the pride he takes in the accomplishments that Benjamin makes, and the joy he receives from not only Benjamin’s love of Snow White, but also the way the folks at Disney World treat Benjamin.

 

The story is a very easy read, personal but  not the kind of personal telling that shuts readers out (you know… the ones that are SO personal they feel like a journal, written for folks who already know the writer, and those stories leave you feeling like you’ve missed something somewhere).  This also is not an easy, level story being told.  Benjamin and his parents go through a lot on this ten-year journey; Ron, and Benjamin’s mother as well, make lots of changes to their lives, not the least of which is the decision to move to Orlando just to be close to Disney World so that they can pursue it as a therapeutic option for Benjamin’s development.  There are health struggles, personal struggles, and as we know, Snow White’s Scary Adventures meets an untimely end.  Benjamin, however, keeps going and the whole book leaves the reader with a sense of the growth that Benjamin has undergone and a strong affection for him.

 

I really highly recommend this book, as a memoir, as a Disney World love story, and as a story of meeting the challenges life has handed you with love and determination, and how that can pay off.  I hope Benjamin’s continuing story stays on the same path.  (And I have to wonder if he’s been on the Mine Train yet, and what he thinks!)

 

You can buy “3500” here on Amazon; this is a link to the Kindle edition, but I bought it in print, and like having it available in a hard copy. I am old-fashioned that way. :) The Kindle price is $2.99, paperback price is $11.66.  You can also buy it from Barnes And Noble here; prices are about the same, but the eBook is Nook format instead of Kindle.

Sunday Blog Showcase: Quest for the Vault Disney

The first question you might ask about this blog is “What is “the Vault Disney” supposed to mean?” And to get that, you have to be aware of the phrase “The Disney Vault”, referring to Disney’s business practice of rereleasing their films every few years for a limited time only, then returning them to “The Vault”.

 

As to how that relates to Quest for the Vault Disney, this blog – run by Jesse Stephenson – initially was started to chronicle the Disney releases and encourage them to “unvault” more of their huge untapped history of TV shows and movies, some of which haven’t seen the light of day in decades.  So hence, the name.  But the blog expanded from there as Jesse delved more into history as well, and now the blog covers not only Disney media but also history of the Disneyland park, and a lot more. It’s not defined on the “About” page, but he covers characters, company history, and even the infamous “Dining on $40 a Day” challenge made popular by (among others) Enchanted Tiki Talk podcast.

 

As a lifetime east-coaster, I do have a bias towards WDW. This isn’t a bias of “they’re just better!” but of familiarity; to me, “going to Disney!” equals Disney World.  Don’t ask me which is better: I can’t tell you, I can only say how much I love the one I go to regularly. :) But, due to that bias of familiarity, I do frequent more blogs that keep that same bias and talk more about WDW.  This isn’t intentional and so I’m glad to find blogs that fill in the blanks and look at Disneyland, which is after all the original Disney Park.  And the history is that much more meaningful to Walt Disney fans.  Jesse previously ran an entire series on ExtinctAttractionLand (note: this is not the first post in the series, just one I liked), looking over some classic attractions that are no longer with us – or in some cases, attractions that have been brought back.

 

As I mentioned though, there is plenty of general Disney history to go over, including Dick Van DykeWalt Disney and the Oscars! And a personal fave, the early days of Disney video rentals. I am just young enough that I did not know this. :D

 

OK, I have flung enough links at you. (Well, one more. Best of the Worst list, about Disney Villains, because I indirectly inspired it.) Now GO catch up for yourself on the blog!