Rescheduling a Walt Disney World Vacation

Rescheduling a Disney VacationFive weeks ago I had a very small medical procedure that was supposed to take about 2 weeks to heal completely.  3 infections later – I’m nowhere near the finish line.  I was scheduled to go to Walt Disney World today, but on Wednesday of this week we made the decision to reschedule for June to give me time to heal.  I hadn’t bought insurance, so it was going to be expensive – but my health is more important than the loss of money.

Some people said to me “it’s not like you won’t be going again, or you weren’t just there!” and I get it – I travel to Walt Disney World multiple times per year, but I was so excited about this trip!  We had all of our dining reservations that we wanted and even had planned to stay at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort – one of the very few I have not stayed in yet!   We had even purchased tickets to Disney’s After Hours and upgraded our flights to business class so that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable on the plane (both are non refundable).  The disappointment set in – I had just backed out of the perfectly planned Disney vacation.

Thursday was a bit of a mess as it sank in that we would have to try and ‘re-plan’ the perfect vacation without the benefit of months to do so.  We booked the week at Saratoga Springs and started looking for cancellations at the resorts we really wanted to try.  It might mean moving rooms a few times – but that’s okay, we’ve done that before and it’s a smooth process.

I felt horribly guilty that I had ‘ruined’ my sister’s vacation – even though she was so understanding about it.  I told her I would do whatever she wanted when we went in June to try and make it up to her, I would even try some of the restaurants that were for a more adventurous palate than mine because I know she would like them.  Morimoto is on the agenda!

Two days later and I have to say, I’m excited about our new trip!  While we are checking daily for cancellations for dining – we did manage to snag an Ohana’s dinner, a Be Our Guest breakfast and Toy Story & 7 Dwarfs fastpasses!  All in 2 days!  It pays to keep looking for sure.

Soarin’ has been closed for refurbishment for a while which is a big disappointment since it’s one of our favorites.  Guess what?  It’s reopening June 17th and we got a fastpass!  This was a bonus of delaying our trip, and has shown me that maybe things will work out for the best after all.

This has been a trying time for me, but I have learned a lot through this experience.

  1. Insurance might be useful!  I’m normally don’t buy cancellation insurance myself, and I’m not sure if it would have covered my scenario – but for the $1k I lost by rescheduling in flights and event tickets, it might have been worth it!  
  2. Medical procedures may or may not go as planned – and planning a Disney vacation within 5 weeks of one might have been overly optimistic.  Apparently I’m not invincible and cannot will myself to get better faster by using my Mum’s motto of  ‘it’s mind over matter’
  3. Having a family to support you through these challenges is priceless
  4. You CAN book a Disney vacation 5 weeks in advance and STILL get some awesome dining reservations and fastpasses!

Planning my Disney vacations are always fun – and now I get to do it twice.  Now it’s back to My Disney Experience to see if there are any more cancellations I can grab!

 

Disney Dollars Discontinued

Disney CurrencyIt’s true…  Disney Dollars are no more.

Lots of changes these days at Disney, some are wonderful (Toy Story Land, Star Wars Land) but some just leave me a little sad, purely for nostalgia.

Disney Dollars have been around since the late 80’s as a form of currency in the Disney Parks. I loved giving some Disney Dollars to kids that I knew were going to be visiting Walt Disney World so that they could buy themselves something special on their trip.  It was something unique that was nicer than giving a gift card or real cash.

With people using more digital means to pay for things in the parks like gift cards and Magic Bands, I can understand the dwindling interest in the Disney Dollars.   With all things like this that Disney discontinues, I would expect to see a bunch on ebay shortly!

 

 

Disney’s Free Dining, it’s a debacle every year

California GrillThere are thousands of Disney fan sites on the Internet, Pixie Dust Fan included.  Many are very reputable sites that offer accurate information and advice for planning your Disney vacation.  Sadly – not all sites are created equal and sometimes it’s hard for a new Disney fan to tell the difference.

 

Over the years I have watched some of these sites grow and gain a following and at least once a year they start the whole ‘free dining’ hype.   They post rumors and ‘insider details’ about a potential free dining promotion that is going to be announced.  Every April my Twitter and Facebook feeds explode with this ‘free dining is coming’ posts, including ones that show dates for next year!   Some of these sites get it right and must have an inside track, but others are just plain wrong.  They start the frenzy and modify the details as they go and create such chaos that the rest of us are left shaking our heads!

 

There are some things you should know about Free Dining that these less  responsible sites won’t tell you:

 

1  Free dining has quite a few restrictions

 

The resort you wanted may not be available, or you have to upgrade to a better room category or add water park options to your tickets.  Availability for the promos are generally limited and in the last year it looks like Disney is restricting them further to move people away from expecting free dining.

 

2  Not all restrictions are created equal

 

Did you know that some Disney promos are targeted to particular visitors?  That’s right – the UK visitors usually get a slightly better promo with much more advanced notice, I assume because they have to travel farther.  Canadians also get longer booking windows sometimes, even after the offer has expired for US residents.

 

3  Good luck getting dining reservations

 

Cape May

Cape May at Disney’s Beach Club Resort

People want to make sure if they get their free dining promo that they’re able to use it!  I really can’t blame them; I would want to do it as well.  The problem is that when it’s just a rumor, many people will start booking dining reservations ‘in case’.  That means they’re booking weeks of reservations to cover potential dates and availability.   Since most of these don’t need to be cancelled until 24 hours in advance – they have tied up many reservations for months that you and I might like to have!

 

4  A GOOD travel agent will cringe when they see these rumors

 

 – There is very limited availability on those first few days because other agencies have put holds on packages based on the frenzy of inquiries they generated with the rumors.  Some of these reservations will inevitably be cancelled a few days later and free up the inventory for other guests.  It’s safe to say the good agencies spend the next few days pulling their hair out.

 

 – They are going to sit on the phone for HOURS trying to get their clients the ‘free dining’ deal when the website crashes.  This will be the better part of their day (some years I have heard of 9 hour wait times!) where they will continue to rotate and recharge cordless phones. 

 

 – Disney doesn’t like its travel partners to engage in these rumors until it’s officially announced.  That means the reputable travel agencies are at a substantial disadvantage while trying to adhere to their ethical responsibilities to Disney.

 

 – They will frantically have to call all of their clients who are travelling during the dates once it’s announced to find out if they want to switch resorts, rooms or add ticket options if it means getting free dining.  

 

5  Free Dining isn’t always the best deal!

 

Bread Pudding Ohana

Bread Pudding at Ohana

Many times the room discount has been a better value.  If a room discount is 30% – was the dining plan worth 30% of your room rate?   For many people it has been much cheaper to add the dining plan to the room promotion.   It can be confusing when you hear the words ‘free dining’ – but trust me, it’s worth pricing out the difference!

 

I will never understand why Disney doesn’t reprimand these sites for starting these rumors and leaking information.  It causes confusion, stress, and in some cases a pretty bad guest experience when their expectations aren’t met.  For me, it ties up valuable dining reservations when I’m struggling to get one for California Grill for my trip!  C’mon Disney – it’s time to flex your muscles and get these sites to stop the madness!

 

So, the next time you see the “I heard free dining is coming” pop up in your news feed, don’t panic, you haven’t missed the boat.  Review it when it’s officially announced and see if it’s a good deal for you when you consider the resorts and ticket options.  If you’re working with a reputable travel agent, they’ll provide you with the best options.  Give them a few days (or a week) to get it all sorted when the availability opens up from cancelled ‘fake’ reservations.

 

California Grill View

The view from California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Whatever you do – please don’t book a bunch of fake dining reservations!  Remember that you may be forcing me to call the California Grill every day while I’m on vacation trying to find a cancellation 🙂

 

 

 

 

7 Reasons It’s Difficult Being A Canadian Disney Addict

Canadian Disney Addict

Thanks to the ever-growing social media networks I’m privileged to have so many “Disney Friends” online from all over the world.  I follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and I’m always so jealous of their ability to visit the parks so often.  It got me thinking – what’s the problem with being a Disney addict who lives in Canada?

 

1.  I can’t just decide to go for the weekend when they announce something ‘new’ at the parks that I’m dying to see.

Sure I could catch a flight and be there in 3 hours – but my budget won’t allow for how often I want to do that.

2.  Flights are not cheap.

I have a couple of options for flights – I can fly from Toronto and pay to park my car at the airport (maybe $100 for the week) or I can drive to Buffalo and get cheaper flights – but then I have over an hour drive home at the end of my trip.  I feel like I’ve won the lottery if I find flights for $350 from Toronto – tack on baggage fees and parking at the airport and I’m laughing that it’s under $500.

3.  Shopping at the Disney Store online costs us a fortune.

First it’s in US Dollars, then you add shipping and duty – even when they have sales it can become so expensive if you have a lot in your cart!  In case you didn’t know – we don’t qualify for the ‘free shipping’ promos they have.

4.  We don’t have Disney Visa!

Disney VisaI ask almost EVERY time I’m there when they’re going to launch this for Canadians.  Yes, there are perks and discounts that I would love, but if I’m telling the truth, I just want a Visa card with a castle or Darth Vader on it!

5.  We don’t get the Target discount cards.

I have seen so many people in the US buying Disney gift cards when they have a sale at a 5% discount – essentially saving 5% when they pay off their vacation using the cards.  They don’t sell these in Canada; I would have to drive across the border to buy them.

6.  Cool stuff that reminds us of the park isn’t available to ship to Canada or costs us an arm and a leg to ship it.

There are candles & scent machines that we love – they make our homes smell like Disney.  We have found a way around “do not ship to Canada” (though it adds to the price), but Shipllama works well and I now have a machine that makes my house smell like Bay Lake Tower.

7.  The dollar is killing us.

At the current rate of around $1.30 for one US Dollar – it costs us 30% more to shop, eat, stay and buy tickets for our favorite place.   We monitor the dollar and have US Dollar bank accounts so we can try and buy some when the price is better, but it hasn’t been ‘good’ in a while.

So for those of you who live close to the magic – I am jealous!  There are many wonderful things about being a Canadian, but being a Canadian Disney addict definitely has its challenges.   Are these challenges enough to deter us from visiting so often?  Not a chance, we will always find a way to make it work!  So the next time you meet a Canadian Disney addict in the parks you’ll know that we are a dedicated bunch who will do anything to get to Disney!

 

5 Rookie Mistakes When Planning A Walt Disney World Vacation

Disney Rookie MistakesBeing an avid Disney fanatic who has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1974, I’m always hearing about people who booked their Disney trip by themselves or with a travel agent who doesn’t have much personal experience.  I’ve compiled a list of the most common 5 mistakes I’ve heard.

1.  Buying only a 2 day park pass.

There are 4 theme parks to visit!  Walt Disney world is roughly the size of Ottawa – there is no way you’re going to see it all in a couple of days.  Trying to cram everything in to 2 or even 3 days makes for very long days and stressful times, especially with little ones.

2.  They don’t buy a hopper pass

Yes… this is one that some disagree with – but I really believe that a hopper pass is worth it.   For example – Fantasmic is only happening on Monday and Wednesday the week you’re there – guess what days will be busiest at Hollywood Studios?  With the hopper pass you can enjoy another park during the day and then head over in time for the parade at night.

3.  They don’t stay on property

Yes, there are Deluxe Resorts on property that would cost you hundreds of dollars per night, but did you know they also have Value and Moderate categories of resorts?  These resorts are on Disney property, they are well themed, convenient and affordable!  That’s right – these resorts will give you all of the benefits of staying on property (including extra magic hours) but there is real savings in the transportation! Disney’s Magical Express will pick you up at the airport and take you to your resort and back again when the vacation is over.  The transportation all over the property is includes buses, monorails, boats and it’s all included, there is no need to rent a car!

4.  They don’t book fastpasses & dining reservations

If you’ve never been to Walt Disney World – how would you know what you want to see?  Fastpasses can really help you make the most out of your days in the parks and avoid some of the lines at the more popular attractions. Dining reservations?  If all your little one wants to do is meet the princesses – arrange to have a meal where they will come to your table to meet them!

5.  They over plan!

I know, that kind of contradicts what I said in point 4, but there’s something to be said for just enjoying the moment.  If you want to eat with the Princesses – then yes, you need a reservation.  However, planning all of your attractions in a strict itinerary takes all of the fun out of being there.  I’ve seen many families racing around the park to make sure they are ‘on schedule’ and it really takes away from all of the wonderful things they could experience if they took a moment to slow down!

A Walt Disney World vacation can be an amazing experience making memories you will treasure forever.  Knowing how to get the most out of your vacation will give you time to enjoy the magic!

Have you made any of these mistakes?  We’d love to hear what tips you have, comment below!

 

Been there, done that – and you’re going to Disney again?

Rivers of LightSomeone asked me today “how can you be excited about another trip to Walt Disney World, isn’t it the same as it was the last time you were there?”.   They were implying that I had already ‘been there, done that’.  Yes – I was there 2 months ago, and multiple times last year – but no, it never gets boring.

The next question I hear is “haven’t you seen it all?” – and the simple answer is NO!  Walt Disney World is always changing so there is something ‘new’ to see or do every time I visit.

Here’s why I’m excited about my next trip!

  • I have stayed in almost all of the Walt Disney World resorts – with the exception of the All Stars, Disney’s Yacht Club and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.  I have toured all of the resorts at length, but these ones have escaped my vacation plans.  I’m excited that I will be spending the first half of my week at the Polynesian! I’ve dined at this resort multiple times and can’t wait to wander over for a dole whip before bed!
  • The new show “Rivers of Light” debuts as Disney’s Animal Kingdom on April 22nd, I will get to experience this in May! I’m so excited as I love the night-time entertainment!  My only concern is how will I decide between Rivers of Light, Illuminations at Epcot, Star Wars fireworks & Fantasmic at Hollywood Stuidos and my all time favorites Wishes & the Main Street Electrical parade at Magic Kingdom?   I think I need more nights…
  • A waterfront brunch at Narcoosee’s is on the menu! We will be checking out the Sunday Brunch now being offered in this gorgeous setting.  We have never eaten here before – so this will be a real treat. I can’t wait to try it!
  • Skipper Canteen opened last year in the Magic Kingdom, but we always had such busy itineraries that we never had a chance to visit. This is something that we’re definitely making time for this trip!  We love the Jungle Cruise, dining on dishes called “Dr. Falls’ Signature Grilled Steak” or “Trader Sam’s Head-on Shrimp” will be too much fun!

The Frozen Ever After attraction at EPCOT and Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire at the Magic Kingdom still say ‘coming soon’ on the official site.  I suspect they won’t be there when I go in May… I guess that means I’ll have to plan another trip?  It’s a rough life, but someone’s gotta do it!

Walt once said ‘Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.’  I’m so glad this vision is carried on at Walt Disney World, I continue to be amazed and inspired each time I step on the Disney property and revitalize my own imagination.

 

Disney Facebook Groups – Some Aren’t So Magical After All

I don’t know about you, but Facebook is a part of my every day routine.  I love that I can sign in and see tidbits from people’s lives and connect with those that I don’t get to see often enough.  I have made some wonderful Facebook friends from the Disney community and follow along on their vacations getting ideas of things I might like to try the next time I visit.  I keep up to date on news and gossip and take each piece of information with a grain of salt until there is ‘official’ word.

Disney groups on Facebook have become a real source of entertainment for me.   I’m always amazed by how perfect strangers can get so angry with each other over silly stuff.  I have to admit that I read these posts, but I rarely comment.  Instead, I get out my popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show until an admin deletes it.

I belong to a lot of Disney ‘groups’ on Facebook, but there are a few that are managed by some real characters (pun intended!) that really bother me.   I’m not sure if it’s just my love of Disney that finds them offensive or just the manner in which the Admins conduct themselves that disturbs me.  I believe that any frequent visitor will have negative reviews or experiences in the parks, it’s expected.  We won’t like everything and should share those opinions in a manner that is useful and beneficial to the community and people who are thinking of visiting.

The main group that drives me crazy is one that was showcased on a local news station because the admin visits the parks so often.   I have watched this group grow as they flog T-shirts with copyrighted material and I often wonder why Disney hasn’t shut it down.   While the admin doesn’t work for Disney, he represents the ‘ultimate fan’ to some people online.  He posts about restaurants and some of his tummy issues after eating there (only he isn’t so delicate with his words).  He’s made videos ranting about guests suggesting that the majority of them don’t shower and has called them idiots and morons.   His representation of what is wrong with the parks is inflammatory and creates hostility in those that follow him.  His twitter feed is full of statements that at best can be seen as bullying, racist or very unkind remarks about others.

There are people who are researching for their first trip to Walt Disney World in this Facebook group.   After reading these rants and reviews, they are expecting a park full guests who push and run you over with their strollers and restaurants that make you sick!  C’mon Disney – people wear these shirts in your parks to let others know they follow this nonsense.

Yes, I know I could leave this group, but I think I stay because I want to be there to read if Disney ever tries to shut them down.  I’m sure it is irrelevant now anyway as I will probably be banned if they hear about this post.   It’s okay though – I’ll hang out on the page I respect, you know – the one that’s ‘all’ about ‘ears’  🙂

 

 

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