July 31, 2009

Disney Series, featuring Heather M.

Welcome to the first edition of my Disney Series! I am so excited about this. The thought literally came to me while I was in bed the other night (when I do all my thinking), and I just couldn't wait.

Here's what will happen: for every installment, I will interview a fellow Disney fanatic (like myself). I've composed a list of questions that cover a lot of bases when it comes to Disney World, planning your vacation, making the most of it, etc. I hope this will be a great tool for some people out there to learn more about the World, plan their vacation, or will just be fun to read for others!

For this edition, I interviewed Heather M. I know her from college, and she and her family LOVE all things Disney. They go all the time! I always start craving a Disney fix when her pictures show up on Facebook...they're usually from the latest Disney vacation! She's around my age, and she and her husband don't have any children yet, so this is a good perspective for that crowd.

I'm so excited about sharing this with you!

How long have you been going to Disney World?

Since 1988 when I was three years old.

What is your favorite ride? Why?

Toss up between Test Track, Soarin, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Big Thunder and Test Track give me just enough of a thrill without getting scared and Soarin is just SO cool, I love it.

As someone who has been to the World many times, what tips do you have to make park experience easier?

Oh gosh I could write a book on this. Go to the parks early before they get crowded, only stay a couple hours and ride key rides (utilize Fastpass) then go back to the hotel and nap, swim, go to dinner etc. then go back to the parks later in the evening when it is cooler. Have a plan of "must do" rides and "I would like to do" rides so you can prioritize your day. Also, if you are going somewhee like Disney Hollywood Studios where they have a lot of shows that only play at certain times, find out those times so you can plan around them. Let you kids take a nap! Most of the time the reason they have a meltdown in the park is because the parents are pushing them to do too much at once. There is no way you can do EVERYTHING so pick a few things, and say you will come back next year! Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours. In the summer, sometimes the Magic Kingdom stays open till 1 or 2 am and its a good time to ride rides that are normally crowded.

What is your favorite time of year to be at DW?

September! Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, value season, low crowds, not to hot, Food and Wine Festival. Can it get any better than that?

Are there any websites, etc. that people should utilize in planning?

The great debate: staying on Disney property or off? Without a question, ON!!! If you stay offsite, when you get to your hotel you are not feeling the disney magic. You are in a boring hotel. On property, it just never ends!

What is your favorite place to stay? Hands down, The Grand Floridian. We are always so pampered and relaxed there! It is our favorite place to be. Being on the monorail is a huge plus as we love the Magic Kingdom.

Do you use a "touring plan" in the parks or do you just go with the flow and wing it?

I make up my own plan. We know what rides we want to hit, so we get a fastpass for one, go in the standby line for another etc. It's different every time. I am very type A and have to have some kind of plan though! Also, we eat a lot of sit down meals so we have to plan around those.

Your tips for clothing and gear to wear in the parks:

I bring a popular bag a lot of Disney people bring called a Baggalini. You can get it from ebags.com. It is waterproof and has lots of great compartments. Also if going in the summer wear light weight clothes, and I always wear sunscreen! I do like to bring a light sweater though because the restaurants and buses are freezing! I wear running shoes if i know we are going to be walking all day and I bring blister bandaids! Also I bring one of those mini battery operated fans. Great for when you are standing in line. Bring extra batteries! I also always bring hand sanitizer and sunglasses and sometimes a hat.

Name your favorite restaurants in:

Magic Kingdom: Crystal Palace. My husband loves buffets and we love getting to see the characters. Lots of good variety and very fun atmosphere!
Disney Hollywood Studios: Sci Fi is our favorite because of the atmosphere. The food is basic but who can beat eating in a car at a drive in? Good burgers and milkshakes!
Epcot: Coral Reef. More of a fancy feel and we love the huge fish tank! Great selection of meat (steak!) and fish. Good desserts and service.
Animal Kingdom: We really like Yak and Yeti. Very cool atmosphere, good food and a huge brownie sundae for dessert. But beware its always freezing in here!

Also, a favorite place to eat at the resorts: NARCOOSSEES!! It's at the Grand Floridian and it's awesome. Tt's on the lake overlooking the Magic Kingdom. Best filet and almond crusted cheesecake! Amazing service. All around A + for this one. We eat here once if not twice every trip! For a cheaper resort restaurant we LOVE Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge. It is so much fun and they have great "country comfort foods."

Do you have any tips for stretching your dollar on meals?

Order water! Sodas dehydrate you anyway and in the summer heat that is not a good thing! Share dessert. They are expensive and usually huge. Skip the appetizer or split one. Eat at counter service meals for lunch, or split a big breakfast platter at a counter service location. Bring your own bottles of water from home or buy one and refill if during the day.

How many days do you recommend staying for a good Disney vacation?

We usually stay for 7, but I have also done as little as 2. I say you need at LEAST 4 nights and that's pushing it!

Your best tips for going to Disney with kids:

Don't make them stay in the parks all day! They will have a meltdown! They love to swim at the pool so set aside a day for that or do it every afternoon for some downtime from the parks. Try and remember you can't do it all!!! Enjoy a few fun things instead of getting stresed out trying to fit it all in.

Your best tips for going to Disney without kids:

Stay at a nice resort and spend time relaxing there! There are days we wont even go to a park and will just stay at the hotel by the pool! Eat at some of the nicer table service restaurants, go later in the evening as well. Take is easy and just enjoy being there. You dont have to stand in an hour line for Dumbo! Save it for when you have kids and HAVE to stand in that line haha.

Character meals/breakfasts: worth it?

Yes/No. If you have never done it then do it, and if you enjoy buffets (like my husband) do it. Disney deos a good job of having the characters go to every table so you dont feel like you have to "fight" for your turn for time/a picture. I think it's part of the experience!

Fly or drive (if both were an option)? Being as far away as I am, and having driven from here I say DEFINITELY fly! Disney's Magical Express is a wonderful thing and I love not having to claim my bags when I get to Orlando! The only thing is where to put all those souvineers with that 50 pound weight limit.

Do you use or have you used the Disney Dining Plan? Your thoughts?

I have gone with no dining plan, regular, and deluxe. My husband LOVES deluxe and I do too because it allows you to eat at some of the nicer places. I do not recommend this plan for people with small children because table service meals can get lengthy, especially multiple ones in a day! The regular plan is good as well. When we stay concierge (and have food out all day including breakfast) the deluxe plan is a LOT of food, but we still like it. :) Sometimes, price wise it can be cheaper to not do a plan at all. For instance, the trip I just went on last week was cheaper for us to just book room-only because the discount was bigger that way than if we had booked a package with a meal plan.

Do you try to split time between time in the parks and time at the hotel/swimming pool/Downtown Disney?

Yes. We always go to DTD at least once or twice and have a day or two or morning or two at the pool. You need that downtime, an when parks are crowded (or on a weekend when locals are there) a pool day is a good option.

Tips or favorites in Downtown Disney: Earl of Sandwich! Goofys Candy Shop is where we always make our own chocolate covered rice krispy treats to bring home! Shopping at World of Disney is a must because annual passholders and disney visa cardholders get 10% off their entire purchase.

Best place to see/meet characters? They are always all over the parks but unless there is no line we dont take pictures wth them anymore since we have so many! In front of Animal Kingdom you can find them as well as in EPCOT's World Showcase and in the front of DHS and MK. Some maps even have specific times to come see characters.

Best age to take a child for the first time (in your opinion, if applicable)?

In my personal opinion, when they are out of diapers. Babies are not going to remember it anyway and I would probably be so stressed out with the heat and germs anyway! And when I have my second child God-willing, it will stay with grandma and grandpa until he/she is old enough to go. Also, we met a family on our last trip who said (the grandparents) they always pay to take each grandchild when they graduate from kindergarten. I thought that was so cute!

For those of you who have worked at Disney, what was it like? Did it "spoil" the magic for you or not? Are there any insider tips?

Never worked there and I am afraid that would happen if I did!

Do you think souvenirs are a waste of money?

NO WAY! I have tons of Disney clothes, picture frames, kitchen items, etc. It helps to remember your trips when you go home!

Do you use the Photopass service, do you solely take your own pictures, or both? Both. On our honeymoon we bought the prepaid Photopass cd, but now since we go so much we still get a Photopass card and take a few pictures for fun, but you can also hand your camera to a Photopass person and they will take pics with your camera as well!

Any tips for money-saving in general?

Go in value season, watch websites for deals and discounts like free dining in the fall, if you plan on going multiple times a year invest in an annual pass. Share meals or eat snacks from home when possible (bring granola bars, cereal, etc.). You can even have Garden Grocer deliver groceries to your room.

Do you use the Fastpass system? How do you best utilize it?

Yes! First thing when I get to a park I get a Fastpass for somethng I want to do that has a long wait, then I go stand in the standby line for a different ride and do other things until my Fastpass time. Then I go Fastpass seomthing else!

Is there a ride that should be especially avoided with children, people with motion sickness, etc.?

If you get motion sick do not do Soarin, Mission Space, Tea Cups, Star Tours.

Is there are ride that's overrated (in your opinion)?

Everything in Fantasyland! While I love Fantasyland, I am not standing in line for 2 hours to ride Peter Pan or Dumbo. [Note from Ashley: kids LOVE Fantasyland, so this is just from an adult perspective.]

Best parade watching spots in each park?
I refuse to sit and wait an hour before a parade for a good spot. Plus we are both tall so we usually just wait until they are starting. Frontieerland is a good place to watch parades b/c for some reaosn EVERYONE wants to see them from main street. I don't really watch parades in other parks.

Do you own Mouse Ears? Maybe :)

One of your favorite memories from Disney World:

Getting a free upgrade last year at the Grand Floridian to main building concierge. We were so excited we literally jumped up and down on the beds! I have the pictures to prove it! Another favorite is on the birthday trip I did last week, my best friend had a birthday cake sent to the room and I got a free chocolate mickey from the hotel. I felt so special and spoiled!

What is your favorite Disney movie?

Beauty and the Beast!!!

How often do you go to Disney World?

It depends. At least one week-long trip a year, the maybe one or two 2-5 night trips. We have an annual girl's trip too! Our next goal is a Disney Cruise!

Anything else that you have to say about the Happiest Place on Earth:

I just love it so much. You can't get tired of it because if you try a new hotel each time its like a whole new trip! There are so many things to do and see you can never do them all. I have been 6 times since 2007 and I am ready to go back for more! January is the next scheduled trip to run the half marathon!

Thank you, Heather, for contributing to my Disney Series! May all your dreams come true :o)

Have a magical day!-------


Teresa @ Grammy Girlfriend said...

Just sent you an email through Leslie...about Disney....I dodn;t have your email...but you will have a hard time finding more of a Disney addict than me.....

Loved this post.....


Courtney said...

Thanks so much for doing this. It has been about 10 years since I have been there, so it was nice to relive the magic. We are hoping to take my nephew when he is older(out of diapers, for sure).

Angry Julie Monday said...

Awesome. We are going to try and go to WDW for the first time next year. Angry Toddler will be 5 in May.

If you ever want someone to post about the small little "Disneyland" over in California, let me know..:)

I can even do a giveaway of some Mickey ears or something. I live 15 minutes from there.

lilly said...

Loved this post! I need to print out these helpful tips! I get motion sickness real easy, so it's nice to hear what rides to avoid. Great info on where to eat too! I hope to go to DW soon!

rachel said...

i stumbled upon your blog from my friend carrie's and just happened to see your disney world post. i had to comment!

my family and i just got back from Orlando and we spent a day at Magic Kingdom. By following the The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2009 by Bob Sehlinger we were able to do every single ride and activity, plus meet all the princesses and fairies, all in one day! his plan really really works and it just made the day so fun!

corny as it may be, magic kingdom is a truly magical place. and disney world can be an incredible opportunity realized, or an opportunity missed.

our trip would not have been the same wihtout "the plan" by the book! you won't regret it!

Leigh said...

I loved this post!! I am hoping that you think that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, because I copied your questions and used them on my blog - for all 5 of my readers ;) but mostly because I thought you did such a great job of covering all the important topics and I have really been wanting to record something like that just for the memories. So if it's not ok, just let me know and I'll take it down. But otherwise, you should consider doing a blog hop like this. I bet people would love that! I would :) Thanks for sharing!!

Mrs Bee said...

I found your blog through the home tours on kellys blog!
I love your home and how you have decorated it!
Anyway, there is a blog award over on my page for new blogs that I have found and like to read.
Hope you like it.

Brittany said...

I must say Ashley-you probably could write and publish a book on "How to do" Disney with pics and all! wait until after you've done a few times with Evy (and other children?). or maybe a little series..."How to do Disney" and "How to...with children"
lol. I'd buy it!
I still have never been...waiting for my kids to be sans diapers *fingers crossed*

Heather said...

yay glad to see you posted my "thoughts" lol. I am already itching for another disney fix!
About the fantasyland thing, maybe I should have been more clear...fantasyland is a MUST for children, but as someone who has done peter pan/dumbo 100 times and does not have kids i don't feel the need to stand in line for those anymore (for now haha)
thanks for letting me share my knowledge!

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