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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Saving for a Disney Vacation: Tips & Tricks

I was just looking for some other information on the internet, and came across a list on Mousesavers.com that I think is really great (CLICK HERE for their page). It's a list of ways to save for a Disney vacation. So I thought I would share some of my favorite ideas from them, and add a few of my own.

Savings for Disney Vacation Ideas:

  • Open a savings account just for your vacation. There are all kinds of ways to do this, but the best way is through ING direct as they have the best interested rates. I have been using them for years and LOVE them!
  • Keep a change jar. My family used to do this all of the time for vacations, and it was surprising to me how well this worked. Every time you make a cash purchase keep the change and don't spend it. Just stick it into a big jar and watch it add up.
  • Maintain a financial management plan. If cash is tight, keep reminders of your goal of a Disney vacation around the house, and then when you're about to buy something that is "extra", hold off on that purchase and put that amount into your savings account. This can be tough, but the skills you learn from this exercise can be beneficial for all aspects of your financial health.
  • Redirect money from useless expenses. This is a supplement to the last suggestion. Take a look at your financial management plan and decide if there are things you spend money on every month that don't deserve it, and switch that money over into your savings account.
  • Do a yard/ebay sale. Go through your house and find all of that old or newer junk you don't use and hold a yard sale. Maybe you can even put up a sign that says something like, "Saving for Disney". Then whatever you have left over after the yard sale put up on Ebay. If you have a really cluttered garage/storage area you will be surprised how much money you can get this way, and how much cleaning you can get done.
  • Have your kids start a small business. This can be mowing lawns, delivering newspapers, whatever! Get creative! If you want all kinds of wonderful ideas to helping your kids make money, you need to check out the book Young Bucks: How to Raise a Future Millionaire by Troy Dunn (click on the book title link for more info).
In my experience if you really want it, you'll find a way to do it. However, for many people in this age of easy credit that means putting it all on credit cards and regretting it later. I STRONGLY urge you to try and save for your vacation. The experience and memories should be things you savor for a lifetime - don't pay double or triple for your vacation later.

With a little patience and hard work the whole family can work together to save for your vacation. Even more importantly the time focusing on a goal together can be so valuable in building a stronger family unit.

Happy Saving!

Saving for a Disney Vacation: Tips & Tricks

Monday, April 28, 2008

Disney Dining Plan - Is It Worth It?

There has been a lot of discussion as the whether or not the Disney Dining Plan is worth it, and I though I would put in my two-cents here.

The Disney Dining Plan is a package you can get which they say saves you up to %30 on dining and it is included in the "Magic Your Way" deal. You get 1 table service meal, 1 quick service meal, and 1 snack per person per day on the plan. (For more details on the plan itself and to find out what all that means, CLICK HERE)

As with any packaged "savings" deal or other coupon, you only save money if that's what you were planning to do in the first place. And as I have said in a previous post, the Magic Your Way package (like any other Disney package) is designed for convenience, not savings.

In other words, there are plenty of other ways to save on your Disney dining and still have a great experience.

For my previous post on saving on Disney Dining and other Disney Dining tips, CLICK HERE.

Disney Dining Plan - Is It Worth It?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

YouTube Disney Channel - all of your old Disney favorites!!

I just had to blog about this because I was so excited when I stumbled upon it. Having grown up with the old Disney channel I have always greatly missed their old shorts and classic cartoons. Well, there is a YouTube channel dedicated to collecting and showing all of those old classics.

The channel is extremely easy to use, and I am amazed at the number of videos they have collected. Check it out today!

CLICK HERE to see the channel.

And just for a sample, here is Disney's Classic "The Three Little Pigs". (Did you know that this short was so popular that at one theater when they failed to show it when it was billed there was a full-scale riot. The theater then stopped the movie that had already started just to make show they showed the cartoon, then continued the movie where they had left off.)

YouTube Disney Channel - all of your old Disney favorites online!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Walt Disney - What He Stood For

I mentioned before that I was reading a biography about Walt Disney called The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life by Steven Watts, and I must say I truly enjoyed getting to know Disney more as a person. I came to appreciate him as a creator, particularly with how he faced the question of whether or not his work was "art".

Near the end of his life Walt Disney was more and more the target of critics and cynics. Most of the time Walt would simply saw something along the lines of, "yes I know I make corn, and I will continue to do so". But on one occasion a critic managed to get under his skin, and this is how he responded:

He said that his films "go straight out for the honest adult, not the sophisticate, not these characters who think they know everything and you can't thrill them anymore. I go to people who retain that, no matter how old they are, that little spirit of adventure, that appreciation of the world of fantasy. I go for them, I play to them...These sort of lost souls, sophisticates, who are so bored and turn their nose up at everything, they say it's childish. Well, what the he$#'s wrong with something being childish, you know? You can't have everything profound...It's the equivalent of getting so stuffy you can't laugh."

I wonder if that's not what is wrong with Hollywood today - they're not aiming for the "honest adult" with "that little spirit of adventure" anymore. They target all that is base and vulgar in us to draw us to the box office.

Disneyland itself also came under attack for being "fake" or even "distasteful". Disney's top "imagineer" John Hench explained life as being a series of experiences, and that a place like Disneyland is a place to have a few more. His quote is as follows:

"The only thing we really keep in this world are experiences. We have to give up everything else. We can't keep our favorite shirt or car. Everything we have finally wears out or we have to throw away, or it loses its usefulness or its zest. But our experiences we keep. They're not only what we are, but they're added to that great big bundle we carry around with us - the experience of our ancestors...Walt was trying to...really give people a kind of package experience that they wouldn't be capable of having on their own."

One of the greatest compliments ever paid to Disney was shortly after his death by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He said:

"To many tens of millions, Walt Disney brought good cheer and happy hours with entertainment that lightened their hearts and refreshed their minds. To Americans of all ages and all walks of life, he was unique. Children loved his characters and his portrayal of them. Parents honored him and were obligated to him for his far-reaching aid in the sensible upbringing of families. Grandparents saluted him as a genius with films that were messages of fun and education and character building...His work will endure so long as men and women and children retain a sense of wonder, a need for bright laughter, a love of the clean and decent. Consequently, Walt Disney's name and his creations will endure through generations. In honoring him, we salute an American who belongs to all the world."

Being one who believes that the success of any nation rises and falls based on the strength of its families, I salute Walt Disney for his efforts in helping families be happy and effective, and seek a little adventure and fun together. I hope we can restore some of what may have been lost when we lost Disney.

Walt Disney - What He Stood For

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Disney Waiting-in-Line Games (and other line strategies with small children)

No matter how well you plan, inevitably while at Disneyland or Walt Disney World you will have to do some waiting in line with your kids. Here are a few simple strategies and games that may help make it fun, or at least a little more bearable:

  1. This is the most important one - use FASTPASS whenever possible so you don't have to wait in line!
  2. Count how many Disney characters you see, or play other "I-Spy" games.
  3. Play "Name that tune" humming Disney songs to each other.
  4. If you're waiting for a show bring along some paper and play games like tic-tac-toe, hangman, etc. You could also play travel games, or color on paper or coloring books. (Of course, while waiting in lines that move, this is completely impractical)
  5. Take advantage of last-minute entry possibilities - in other words, if it is an attraction that holds many people at once, sit in the shade, eat snacks, play around, then when the line is almost in, go on in. This works on the Riverboat for example, where it holds around 450 people and that many are rarely in line to get on. For shows, ask the greeter how long until the show starts, then relax until just about show-time. Remember, now is a great time to use the bathroom, eat snacks, and get a drink as you can't do that once inside.
  6. If the line will allow it, have one adult stand in line while the other occupies the small children, then once you are close enough have the adult with the children pass the child to the one in line over/under the railing. Of course, make sure your child isn't too old (this doesn't work if you're trying to pass teenagers), but also is tall enough to meet any height restrictions.
  7. Switch off - most rides will allow you to all wait in line together when a ride has a height restriction. When you get to the ride just tell the greeter you want to swap and he/she will hand you a little piece of paper. Then one adult can ride the ride, and when finished the other can get on immediately with their pass. (FASTPASS rides are a little different - they essentially give you another FASTPASS for the non-riding adult & two other people, then the non-riding adult & child leave the line until ready)
  8. Here is one of my favorite strategies from The Unofficial Guide, and it's called the "Chucka Bubby Relay". This one allows a child to ride twice with no waiting. All you do is have one parent and the child go ahead while the other parent counts off a certain number of people in front of him, then gets in line. When the ride stops, the parent who just rode with the child hands him/her off to the other parent. If you would like to know how many people you should count off for specific rides, get the guide (see links to the right)!
The number one thing is to be creative. I have found that many of the same games that work on road trips also work in lines, so if your family has any favorites, you can use those. If you have any suggestions on ways to make lines more enjoyable, please share them!

Disney Waiting-in-Line Games (and other line strategies with small children)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Disney Channel - Info On Every Disney Channel Show Ever!

For all of you Disney Channel fans out there I found a couple of really neat resources. These links all include history information, current showings, and much more.

First of all, for a list of every program ever broadcast on the Disney Channel, CLICK HERE.

Next, for all of the original series on the Disney Channel, CLICK HERE.

Finally, for a list of the all of the original movies on the Disney Channel, CLICK HERE.

I grew up watching a lot of these shows, so this was a real walk down memory lane.

Much more to come soon on the Disney Channel, it's history, and current programing.

Disney Channel - Info On Every Disney Channel Show Ever!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Walt Disney World Daily Climate/Temperatures

The following table lists average temperatures and climate conditions for each month in Orlando.

Of course it is always a good idea to check ahead for current and upcoming weather conditions just to know what to bring in preparation (sunscreen, umbrellas, what kind of shoes, etc.).

Check the weather below:

Happy vacationing!

Walt Disney World Daily Climate/Temperatures

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Best Walt Disney Quote (well, one of them anyway)

I am currently reading one of the best biographies I have ever read called "The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life". It is comprehensive, presenting both sides of Walt. The man certainly had his faults, but his ambitions were sound. I came across a quote by him that to me summed up his creative goals:

"Everyone in the world was once a child. We grow up. Our personalities change, but in every one of us something remains of our childhood...[that] knows nothing of sophistication and distinction. It's where all of us are simple and naive without prejudice and bias. We're friendly and trustworthy and it just seems that if your picture hits that spot in one person, it's going to hit that same spot in almost everybody. So, in planning a new picture, we don't think of grownups and we don't think of children, but just of that fine, clean, unspoiled spot down deep in every one of us that maybe the world has made us forget and that maybe our picture can help recall."

Maybe that's why we all love his movies and his theme parks so much - because they reach us at that innocent, child-like level. I'm grateful for people who do more than just comment on the world around them and point out to all of us how bleak it us. People like Walt Disney know that there is something important and special in all of us, and seek to bring that out to make us and the world better.

Have a fabulous day!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Walt Disney World Resorts - Choosing the Right Hotel

So, I figured it is time to compile some of my massive amounts of information and try to put together at least a first draft of a guide to figuring out which hotels to stay in while enjoying your Disney World vacation. There are several factors which go into this decision, money being only one of them, albeit a very important one.

If you really want all of the information you could ever hope for and more, then my first recommendation is to simply buy an Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. In the guide you will find detailed ratings and reviews on all hotels close and not-so-close, driving distances, links to sites with the best deals, and more. If you want to search a bit more on your own first, keep reading.

Before deciding on your hotel, you should ask yourself several questions:

  1. How much do I want to spend? Of course, this is the big question, and the one which affects all others. For the most part, more money leads to being closer to the park, though you may be surprised how close you can get for cheaper. So, determine how much of a hotel budget you have, and divide that into how many nights you will be staying. That number needs to include hotel prices and tax.
  2. With that budget in mind, check out prices for Disney Resorts and off-site resorts. Here are a couple of links that will help you out: a) for a complete list of Disney Resort rates, CLICK HERE for a great list sorted by season (thank you MouseSavers.com), and b) check out rates for outside the parks using a couple of options: 2000orlando-florida.com (CLICK HERE) for a comprehensive list of hotels outside WDW, and Octopus Travel (CLICK HERE) for the best rates on hotels outside WDW.
  3. Now that you have your list of hotels you can afford, you have a few more decisions to make. They are in no particular order:
    1. How close do you want to be to the park? This is where an Unofficial Guide really comes in handy, as they have a complete list of hotels in the area and their driving distance from the park. Otherwise you'll have to use the internet sites above and an online map service to figure it out. If you are close most hotels offer shuttles to the park just as if you were staying in a Disney resort, so transportation really isn't an issue.
    2. What kind of an experience do you want? Do you want the character breakfasts and the Disney themed rooms? Do you want to be close to other Orlando sites? Do you just need a place to sleep at night, or do you need to return several times a day for breaks and naps for little ones? You are going to want higher quality if you are going to spend more time there. Check out MouseSavers.com and TouringPlans.com for ratings on different hotels from people who have stayed at them.
    3. And of course, are there rooms available? Book quickly as rooms fill up fast.
From the simplest perspective, that is really it. After you have gone a couple of times and developed a feel for the area you may want to try other options (such as condos, vacation homes, etc.). As a side note, if you want to save money on hotels do not use Disney's vacation packages - those are built for convenience not savings. If you want more information on room-only savings, CLICK HERE for a previous post.

As a bonus treat, here are what visitors to WDW say are the top 10 hotels:
  1. Celebrity Resorts Orlando - great quality, a little far, very affordable
  2. Shades of Green - great quality, on the park, very affordable
  3. Extended Stay Deluxe Convention Center - good quality, close, very affordable
  4. HomeSuiteHomeEastgate - a little far, okay quality, quite affordable
  5. Palms Hotel & Villas Kissimee - a little far, good quality, very affordable
  6. Quality Suites Maingate East - a little far, good quality, very affordable
  7. Extended Stay Universal - close, good quality, affordable
  8. Vacation Village at Parkway - a little far, great quality, a little pricey
  9. Sheraton Studio City - close, great quality, affordable
  10. Quality Inn & Suites Eastgate - a little far, good quality, affordable
Again, for more info, check the guide!

Walt Disney World Resorts - Choosing the Right Hotel

Friday, April 4, 2008

Disney Coloring Books

Amazon.com offers a wide variety of Disney Coloring books. If you combine a few of these you can even get free shipping. For any of you who have been shopping around for these you'll notice the savings by ordering here - you can usually save up to 35%!

You can sort through some of my recommendations below:

Happy Coloring!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Toontown Online - Free Online Disney Game

Have you every wanted to be a cartoon character? Well, Disney is giving you the chance to do just that by creating your very-own toon for FREE at Toontown Online. It's family friendly and a lot of fun. You play by doing tasks, earning points for "laffs" and "gags", and giving gifts to other toons. CLICK HERE to sign up.

If you would like to chat with other Toontown Online players, CLICK HERE for the Towntown Online Forum.

Happy playing!

Toontown Online - Free Online Disney Game