Save Money And Stay Off Property In A Condo

Monday, February 25, 2013

Disney On A Budget-Part 2

This week we are going to learn ways to save on dining at Disney World. Disney is one of the few theme parks that allows guests to bring food, drinks and even cooleres into the parks! They do not allow any alcohol, glass containers (glass baby food is allowed) or hard sided coolers. Coolers must be a certain size, nothing bigger than  24"L x 15"W x 18"H is allowed. To save money on dining at Disney I recommend that you pack your own cooler, complete with lunch, snacks and drinks for your children for those hot Florida days. So what should you pack in your cooler?

  • Juice Boxes (I usually pack at least 2 per child)
  • Bottle Water
  • Fruit Cups
  • Applesauce (the squeezable kind is great!)
  • Fresh fruit
  • String Cheese makes a great snack
  • Sandwiches
  • Lunchables
If you are traveling with a baby you can use the microwaves located in the Baby Care Centers to heat up food. Another great way to save money on dining is to eat in your room before you go to the parks. If you are in a hurry and dont want to waste any time doing that then I recommend making your own 'breakfasts to go' bag. You can make these ahead of time at home. Include items that are easy for your children to eat on their own, mess free and that do not require refrigeration. Poptarts, cereal bars, etc also include napkin, sippy cup or orange juice box.

My family usually returns to our hotel after lunch time for a mid afternoon break. We relax, the children nap and this allows for us to be able to prepare a quick dinner before heading back to the park. If you do not have a kitchen you can order a pizza to be delivered to your room. Or if you have a microwave you can heat up some easy mac for your children or hot dogs. Eating dinner before returning to the park will save a significant amount of money. If you do not have a car to get to the grocery store or you simply do not want to have to go to the grocery store (when I'm on vacation grocery shopping is the last thing I want to do) you can have groceries delivered! Doorside Delivery is a professional and efficient grocery delivery service. They deliver to on and off property resorts, condos and homes. Just check their website for more information.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

1900 Park Fare Dinner Review

We had dinner at the Grand Floridian's 1900 Park Fare on our Magic Kingdom day. We found it quite convenient to simply hop on the monorail from the park. It is nice to check out the beautiful lobby and shops at the Grand Floridian also. Be sure to allow some extra time! We had dinner reservations for 6 pm. When I checked in with the hostess and let them know we were there she said it would be a 5 minute wait. We waited in the lobby and after about 15 minutes I went back and asked how much longer it would be. Luckily I asked on the status because the hostess had seated someone else in our place! Apparently another family shared our same last name and had a similar time for their reservation.
 
Once we were seated Prince Charming immediately came to our table to say hi and pose for some pictures. The step sisters and the evil step mother made their way around the room also. The step sisters were really quite entertaining, arguing with each other and being very loud. They really played the part! The food at 1900 Park Fare was wonderful. I felt like we really got our money's worth on this buffet ($38 per adult and $19 per child). There is a salad bar stocked full of fresh fruits, rolls, salad, strawberry soup and eve California sushi rolls. The carving station served beef and pork loin. The 'hot line' was our favorite and consisted of Guiness beef stew, salmon, chicken marsala, vegetables, shrimp, soups, etc. Be sure to try to the strawberry soup. It is so amazing and a must! My children really enjoyed the children's section of the buffet, it had pizza, chicken, elbow pasta and many fresh fruits and vegetables. The dessert buffet section was stocked full of yummy treats including gummy bears, brownies, cookies, pudding, etc.
 
 
Prince Charming stopped by our table to say hi

My birthday princess and Cinderella

The evil step mother really wasnt too evil :)

The step sisters were quite entertaining

Complimentary birthday cupcake

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Top 10 Rides/Attractions at Animal Kingdom For Babies/Toddlers



1. The Boneyard-Interactive childrens playground (similar to the Honey I Shrunk The Kids at Hollywood Studios). Children can discover the bones of T-Rex and Triceratops. There are many kid sized features and parents may not be able to follow children everywhere. It can get very hot in the afternoons so I recommend going in the morning.

2. Affection Section-Petting Zoo featuring sheep and goats.

3. Festival of the Lion King-This is a must see 'Broadway' type production of the ever popular Lion King! Children of all ages love this show, but arrive early (at least 30 minutes) to avoid waiting too long. The show takes place in an air conditioned theater, perfect spot to nurse a baby.

4. Finding Nemo-The Musical-30 minute adorable show featuring Nemo of course! There are puppets, dancers and acrobats featured that tell the story of Marlin and Nemo. A must see for children of all ages.

5. Primeval Whirl-Great 1st roller coaster for children who are tall enough to rdie. Guests must be 48' to ride this. *This is a tight squeeze for anyone who is Pooh sized* Fastpass is available.

6. Kilimanjaro Safari-This is a must see safari ride, but be warned the ride is extremely bumpy. (Fastpass is available and is a MUST) I recommend doing this first thing in the morning as I have heard that the animals are more active early in the morning. You will see all sorts of animals including giraffes, elephants, pink flamingos, hippo's and rare okapi.

7. Triceratop Spin--Very similar to Dumbo except you are riding in a cute little dinosaur. Each dinosaur holds 4 people as you fly up and down and all around. Great ride for all ages.

8. It's Tough To Be A Bug--Caution! This show can be scary to little children as there are certain scenes that may scare them (spiders, loud and dark etc.) Guests are given 3D "bug glasses" to wear during the show. The characters from It's A Bugs Life are featured in the show. Located inside the Tree of Life.

10. Kali River Rapids--Caution! You will get SOAKED! Riders must be at least 38' to ride. (Fastpass is available)

Don't forget about the Character Greeting Trails where you can meet Minnie & Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, Pooh and Tiger, Rafiki and and Terk. A great time to go is during the Festival of the Lion King show because it is less crowded at the trails.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Who Is Duffy Bear?

Many people do not know the story behind the popular Duffy Bear. Duffy "the Disney bear" made his debut in November 2010. Duffy is Mickey Mouse's teddy bear that Minnie Mouse gave to him to travel with on his many adventures. You can meet Duffy in Epcot and you can even purchase your very own Duffy bear and clothing!

Most young children do not know who Duffy is because he is not in any tv shows or movies. He is instead a retail creation of Tokyo Disney, where he is one of the most sought-after souvenirs! You can purchase this adorable little Duffy the Disney Bear online at the Disneystore.com for $10+ depending on what size you choose. Next time you are in Epcot keep an eye out for Duffy!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Disney On A Budget-Part 1

Over the next few weeks I am going to have a series of posts titled Disney On A Budget. These will include various money saving tips, advice and links to specific accomodations, restaurants, etc.

I am a stay at home Mom of three children. My family tries to save money as much as possible but when you have three children it can be hard to save money for a vacation. That being said I love a good deal. I love planning a vacation on a budget, well dont get me wrong, I would really love to be able to afford to stay at the Grand Floridian or Polynesian on the monorail, however my family truly is on a budget. I have spent a lot of time researching the best places to stay for the money.

Being that this is Part 1 of the budget series it only makes sense that we discuss your accomodations. When planning a Disney vacation you should first set your family budget and choose your hotel, resort or rental home. There are SO many options in Orlando Florida. The prices range from as low as $36 per night, yes you read correct, The Knights Inn has been known to charge a whopping $36 per night all the way up to $1,000+ per night for a 2 or 3 bedroom villa on Disney property.

Here are some great options for those wanting to save money on their accomodations. You can rent a condo, townhome or home close to Disney at Windsor Hills. To learn more about renting a home at Windsor Hills check out this website. Some of the homes even have super cute Disney themed bedrooms, private pools, baby equipment, fireworks views, etc. It is about a 15 minute drive to Magic Kingdom from the neighborhood. You will have use of the community pool, complete with water slide and beach entry.

Another great option is to rent from a Timeshare owner at the luxurious Wyndham Bonnet Creek. Be sure to rent from either www.VRBO.com (directly renting from the owners will save you a lot of money) or you can rent from a rental agency such as Vacation Upgrades. Bonnet Creek is literally inside the gates of Disney World. The later you wait to book the more you save. This may seem too good to be true, but if you wait until 60 days or less until your vacation you can get up to a 40% discount on your stay. The 2 bedroom deluxe condo with a balcony view of Epcot (and you can even see the fireworks!) goes for only $120/night! The resort has a 250 ft lazy river, pool bars, pirate themed pool slide, beach entry pool, splash park for little children, restaurants on property, gated entrace, etc.

Next week on Disney On A Budget Part 2 I will be covering money saving tips for dining at Disney World.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Top 10 Rides & Attractions for Babies & Toddlers at Epcot

I used to have this crazy opinion that Epcot did not have much to offer for babies and toddlers so we never made it a priority to visit Epcot with our young children (ages 5, 3 and 20 months)....until I read a great review about The Seas With Nemo and Friends. I had no idea that there were so many awesome attractions and rides for young children! I am going to share with you just a few of them.

1. Turtle Talk with Crush--located in Futureworld. Who doesn't love a talking turtle?!

2. The Circle of Life--located in Futureworld--20 minute film on conservation starring the Lion King and friends. Great place to rest and cool off.

3. Gran Fiesta Tour--located in World Showcase--this is a gentle boat ride through the Mexican Pavillion.

4. Journey Into Imagination with Figment-A fun ride for children of all ages.

5. KidCot Fun Stops--Great spot to let your children play and color. This is a great educational attraction and a must see. Your children can collect a stamp from each of the 11 different countries in Epcot. Children will be given a complimentary cardboard Duffy bear that they can color and collect stamps on. Or you can purchase a World Showcase Passport (comes with Mickey Mouse button and stickers) to collect the stamps. The Passort makes a great souvenier and costs around $10. This is a great way to learn about the different countries while having fun. If you're on a tight budget just purchase one for the whole family.

6. The Seas With Nemo and Friends--Allow at least 2 hours to spend time riding the clam moibles, exploring the 5.7 million gallong aquarium and Turtle Talk with Crush.

7. Spaceship Earth-this is a 16 minute slow moving ride where you travel through history. This is a great ride for children to learn how the Earth has changed and grown.

8. Ellen's Energy Adventure--this is a 45 minute attraction (great spot to nurse a baby) in the dark cinema where you learn all about prehistoric creatures and energy with Bill Nye the Science Guy.

9. Living with The Land-Take a leisure boat ride through the "land" and see all of the living labratories in Epcot. Many of your favorite foods are grown here, some even in a soil less environment. Really interesting for adults and children.

10. Soarin'-If your child is tall enough (must be 40') to ride this then I highly recommend it! Use the Fastpass option if there are long lines. You will take flight and literally feel like you are flying in the sky with the wind on your face as you fly high above California. This ride is so popular and is a must see! *If you are prone to motion sickness then avoid this ride*

Don't forget to save time to meet the many characters found throughout Epcot. Want to know where to find them? Check out this previous post.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Where To Find The Characters At Epcot

Epcot has a great variety of hard to find Disney characters. Where are the characters in Epcot you ask? We're not talking about the many people drinking around the World...haha The characters are located throughout the different countries.

Here is a list of where you can find your child's favorite characters:

Aladdin and Jasmine--Morocco
Alice in Wonderland--Tea Caddy in the United Kingdom
Aurora--France
Belle--France (located in the shade by the waters edge)
ChipNDale--Epcot Character Spot near Innovations West
Daisy Duck & Goofy--Legacy Plaza West in Future World
Donald Duck--Mexico
Duffy the Disney Bear--near Showcase Plaza
Mary Poppins--United Kingdom
Mickey Mouse & Friends--Epcot Character Spot
Mulan--China
Snow White--Germany
Winnie The Pooh & Friends--United Kingdom

*Be sure to check the times on your park map because all characters take a break throughout the day*



Monday, February 11, 2013

Top 10 Rides/Attractions for Babies & Toddlers at Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is a must see for anyone who has children no matter what age they might be. I hear some people say they skip going to this park because it does not have as many rides as Magic Kingdom, but let me tell you, this is one of our favorite parks! I am going to share with you the top 10 rides and attractions for babies and toddlers.

  1. Honey I Shrunk The Kids Movie Set Adventure--This is a great place to let the kids run wild and blow off some steam. This is a great playground complete with slides, secret hiding spots and life size ants!


     2.   Beauty and The Beast Live On Stage-Great show for the whole family. 25 minute show which will really captivate children of all ages, especially toddlers.


     3.   Disney Junior Live on Stage-This is such a fun, interactive show. The show is 24 minutes long and includes Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characteres, Handy Manny and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. My children absolutely loved every second of this show and wanted to go back again. Note that you do not have an actual seat, this takes place in an open room and you are asked to sit on a carpet. The children are encouraged to dance and sing along.


     4.   Voyage of The Little Mermaid-This was my personal favorite show that we saw out of all the shows we saw during our vacation! I have always loved Ariel but this show really brings her to life. The show is 17 minutes and takes place inside. Beware that the big huge Ursala can be scary to little children. The show is somewhat dark and loud.

     5.   Toy Story Mid Way Mania--Grab a Fastpass as this ride can often have an hour wait time. This is a super popular ride and a must see. We usually ride this when the park first opens and then grab a fast pass for later in the day. The ride goes quickly but sure is fun. It is a lot of spinning so if your children get motion sick they might have to avoid this ride. This is such a fun 4D ride that puts you in a carnival like game where each person is able to shoot a laser gun. Be sure to save time afterwards to meet Buzz Lightyear and Woody across the street from this ride.

 6. Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade--This is such a fun parade and a must see. Grab a front row seat in the shade if possible.





     7.    Star Wars Jedi Training Academy-If you are a Star Wars fan this is a must see attraction. Twelve guests between the ages of 4 and 12 years of age will be selected for each show. The young Jedis-to-be are then instructed to arrive 30 minutes prior to the assigned show so that they can receive further special instructions. I suggest going straight here when the park first opens if your child wants to be selected. There are usually about 10 shows per day.

    8.    Muppet Vision 3D-We did not check this out as my kids were just too tired. This is on my to do list for our next trip though :) I have heard it is great!

   9.    Studio Backlot Tour-This is a fun journey through a movie set complete with water and a huge fire (the fire scene can scare young children). My children loved this except the ride is a little loud and did startle my baby.

  10.    The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow-This is a new attraction and I have not yet been able to check it out but I have heard that it is just a recap of the movies and nothing amazing.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bibbity Bobbity Boutique Review

Reservations are highly recommended
 


sprinkling the magical wand with glitter


finished results
 
The Bibbity Bobbity Boutique has two magical locations. One is located at Downtown Disney inside of the Disney Store and the other location is actually inside Cinderella's Castle. The BBB is a sought after destination of all princesses ages 4 and up. There are many different packages available, prices starting at $54. This is such a magical place and I highly recommend a visit. Advanced reservations are highly recommended. To make reservations call 407-WDW-STYLE. The BBB at the Magic Kingdom is open from 8 am until 6:30 pm. The BBB at Downtown Disney is open from 9 am until 7:30 pm. Each princess will receive a sparkly crown, keepsake makeup and nailpolish. My daughter was celebrating her birthday so she received a special 'birthday' sash.
 
 


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Personalized Clothing For Your Disney Vacation

StitchesN'Bows is my favorite place to purchase adorable personalized Disney clothing for my children for our Disney World vacations. The owner, Jen is super sweet and will go out of her way to help clients. All of her clothes are custom made and great quality. My daughter is pictured below in an adorable pink polka dot pillow case dress that I purchased from Jen last spring.
 

"1st Visit" shirt

So many people commented on my son's super cute "1st visit" shirt

Check out Stitches N' Bows to see more of Jen's cute designs! You can also "Like" her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/stitchesnbows

Monday, February 4, 2013

Celebrating At Disney World

What better place than Disney World to celebrate a special occassion? Be sure to stop by the guest services booth located at all of the parks to pick up your complimentary button! The buttons are a great way to let cast members know that it is your special day. Buttons are available for "first visit", "anniversary" and "birthday". When we went to guest services everyone in our family was given a button to place on our backpacks, to save, etc. The button really brought special attention to my special birthday girl on her 5th birthday. Several characters even signed her autograph book "Happy birthday".
I made sure to have a fun action packed birthday for my birthday girl. We had breakfast at Chef Mickey's and my daughter was given a complimentary chocolate cupcake with the best icing I have tasted. It was such a rich chocolatey cupcake that my daughter could not even finish the whole thing! Next up we went to Magic Kingdom and I surprised my daughter with an appointment at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique! She was given a special 'birthday' sash to wear which was really cute. She loved every second of this experience. Then we rode more rides, met the Disney Princesses and Tinkerbell (the line for Tink was almost 45 minutes!). We had dinner with Cinderella at 1900 Park Fare located in the beautiful Grand Floridian. We hopped on the monorail from Magic Kingdom and were at the restaurant in just a few minutes. The meal was amazing and Cinderella spent quite a while visiting with my children, posing for pictures. The buffett was wonderful and this was probably one of our favorite meals of the week! My daughter received a complimentary birthday cupcake and a keepsake placemat that all of the characters had signed. What a special birthday!
 
Birthday breakfast at Chef Mickey's

Birthday dinner at 1900 Park Fare

Yummy complimentary cupcake
 
If you want to make the special day even more special contact the Disney Florist to arrange a delivery of a special present or gift basket. Want to order a custom cake? Call the Walt Disney World Resort at (407) 827-2253 (48 hours notice is required). If you're on a budget, I recommend bringing your own princess costume for a trip to the BBB to save money. They are much cheaper at a big box store like Walmart or Target. Also, bring a few surprise birthday presents and leave them in the room for when you return from your day at the parks.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Giveaway Time!

My friends over at Magical Mouse Schoolhouse are going to give one lucky reader an autographed signed copy of the super popular book Magical Mouse Schoolhouse: Learn While You Play At Walt Disney World AND a Mickey and Minnie plush stuffed animal!

You can enter below using the Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disney's Enchanted Phone Call

Did you know that for just $2.49 you can have a special Disney character call your phone? I just had to give this a try and let me tell you, it was worth the money! My daughter received a "Congatulations" phone call for receiving an award at school from none other than her very favorite Disney princess-Ariel! She could not believe it when she picked up the phone. It is so simple to set this up and this would make a great way to announce that your children are going to Disney World! You go to the website: Disneys Enchanted Call then you pick your character that you want to call and then you pick your occassion (Birthday, Congratulations, Good night, Good morning, etc.) and you simply schedule your call.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Mouse Keeping

Do you tip when you are on your Disney vacation? I have created these super cute "Mouse Keeping" tip envelopes with the help of my children. I purchased 7 envelopes for each day that we will be staying overnight at the resort. I also found a cute stamp that says "Thank You" and 1 sheet of super cute Mickey Mouse stickers. All of this cost less than $5. My children enjoyed placing the stickers on the envelopes and stamping "Thank You" on the back. Now I just have to fill them. I recommend making Mouse Keeping envelopes prior to your vacation and filling them with the cash ahead of time. This way it is easy to remember each morning to place them out for the Mouse Keeping staff (housekeeping). My family tips a daily rate of $5 because there are 5 of us. We leave out 1 envelope each day because there are many housekeepers that may clean your room throughout the week. Don't wait until the end of the week to leave 1 big tip because the person that cleaned your room earlier in the week may not be the same person at the end of the week. I also write a little note on the back of the envelope on our very first morning that my kids really enjoy the towel animals. :)
 
front of the envelope

back of the envelope