Sunday, August 24, 2014

Disney World Planning Binder

I wanted to share some follow up information to last week's post about planning a Disney World trip.  In order to keep everything for our up-coming trip straight, I put together a planning binder.
I used some leftover scrapbook paper and stickers to make my cover.

I got a pencil pouch to hold my Disney world planning DVD and some pens.  The pocket is holding the personalized maps I ordered and I put a scrapbook sticker along the top of the pocket.

I used scrapbook paper and sticky notes to make my tabs - Itinerary, Schedules, Resort, Packing Lists, Dinning Plan, Snow White, Characters, Misc, and then one for each day of our trip.

I got the idea for this binder and lots of resources from WDW Prep School's planning binder (be aware - it is an older post and some of the resources may have newer information).  Here are some additional resources I used:
Kenny The Pirates idea for character interactions
Press Coins list of pressed penny machines
Disney Dining Plan Snack Credit List
Packing List
Magic Kingdom Bingo Card
Disney Food Blog Bingo Card
Almost 130 Free Walt Disney World Resort Activities
Walt Disney World Height Chart
Movies to watch before your trip
Unofficial Attraction List
Fill in your own planning pages
World showcase Passport
Printable Planning Pages

If you are a more visual kind of person - I have a pinterest board just for Disney Planning Binders - Follow away!

I also used the book - From Screen to Theme to create a list of all the Snow White references around the World - minus the New Fantasyland changes.  I hope, after my trip, to have a more comprehensive list.  Look for posts and a list later this year.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Disney Geek's 15 Step Guide to Walt Disney Planning

For a slight detour from our regular Snow White feed, this is a post I've been working on for a while...enjoy!

Ah, the life of a Disney fan... who lives in Southern California.  I love being asked all kinds of questions about Disneyland theme park planning from friends and acquaintances.  I can be counted on to pull up an app and help them decide which day to go to Disneyland, where to eat, and what are not to miss things.  Generally, I want to give them way more tips and advice than they are looking for!

I'm currently in the process of planning my sixth trip to Walt Disney World.  Even though I've been to Disneyland so many times I literally have no way to count, I find planning for Disney World a fantastically fun experience.  Planning a trip is a great build up to the actual trip.  How else is one to kill the time before day zero?  But I find planning for Disney World a much more complicated process (as Disneyland is just a drive, albeit sometimes a long one, down the freeway for me).  So here is my 15 step planning guide. (15 steps?!?)

Step One: Decide to go


You've looked on the website, talked about going, thought about going, dreamed about going...Well the first step is deciding to really go through with it and book a trip.  At this point, request a planning DVD.  I do this every time I go, partly because it's fun to get mail other than bills, and if Disney wants to mail me some discounts or offers, I want them to have my address!

Step Two: Set a budget

It is extremely easy to overspend on vacation.  Especially at Disney.  Especially if you have a collection.  I feel it is critical to set your budget before you even look into booking.  What can your family afford?  Be serious and realistic about it.  What total amount can you do?  How much can you save leading up to the trip?  What is a realistic cost per day you are willing to pay?
Figure your budget with all expenses.  Calculate room, tickets, air fare, food, souvenirs...try to include anything you know you will need during the trip.
Once you set the budget, you've got to stick to it!  I always determine my set cost but allow myself to "earn" additional spending money for the trip with things like garage sales, gift cards, and other unexpected cash.

Step Three: Buy a Book (or E-book)

There are soooo many books about Disney World.  (Disclaimer: Contrary to what my friends say, I have not read them all).  Disney, of course, has official guide books too.  Now, you may be thinking, why buy a book?  The Internet has so much information, aren't books obsolete?
Not in my opinion!  There are two that I need to have to help me plan.  One is the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World book by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa.   This book is very user friendly and helps so much when planning, I've used it for all of my trips.  The reviews are honest and detailed.  I have highlighting, sticky notes, and dog ears all over mine.  The book is a great resources for people who have never been the Walt Disney World.  There is a wealth of information about every aspect of the World and even a chapter or two about off property (not that I'd ever do that!)
The second book I recommend is the new 102 Ways to Save Money For and At Walt Disney World by Lou Mongello.  I just downloaded the eBook, and it is fantastic.  It's written by a Disney World Podcast expert (see step 12 for more info about that ).  This book has many different tips for ways to save at Disney World - in fact, the author guarantees you'll save!  Even as a experienced fan, I found things to save and do in this book that I didn't know about.

Step Four:  Subscribe to touring plans

Remember that unofficial guide I mentioned above?  Well their website: touringplans.com is by far my favorite site!  It only costs about 12 dollars annually.  This website will be used in at least 5 more steps in your trip planning journey and the app can prove helpful during your trip.  And, if you have bought the book, you can save a few dollars too!  Subscriptions last a year, so you will want to do this no earlier than a year from your date of return home.  You can of course renew, as I do, so you can check the wait time for Soarin when you're waiting in line at the grocery store behind that lady who still uses checks...

Step Five: Decide when to go

This is a tough one, deciding when you are going.  Some people are pretty much locked into a time frame and this is really a negated step then.  However, if you are lucky enough to have flexibility in the time you can go, the books can help give you a feel for what to expect different times of year, but my favorite tool for this step is touring plans crowd calendar (the full calendar is only available to those who subscribe).  I've found the crowd rating system so helpful when choosing days to go. Each day is rated out of 10.  You can get a pretty accurate idea of what to expect and what times to avoid.
So now that you know when you are going, you need to decide how many days you want to go.  My preference is a week.  I like 2 days for Epcot, 1 for Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, with an extra day to decided about later (I often split it between Epcot and Animal Kingdom).  I typically spend only one day in Magic Kingdom because I am a Disneyland gal, and go all the time.  However, if you are not like me, I advise taking your trip up to 8 days.  I always think of my travel days as good Downtown Disney or resort days.

Step Six: Decide which resort

Got your budget?  Now it's time to look at resorts.  I am a stay on property gal.  The benefits outweigh everything in my opinion: Disney Magical Express, Resort Transportation, and the extra magic hours are some of the perks to staying on property.  Disney Magical Express is a transport service that will take you from the airport and to the resort.  You do not need to rent a car if you are staying on property!  Disney World resort has a complex network transportation system.  This includes boats, monorails, and buses.  It is pretty easy to get to theme parks and other locations, but it takes a little more time and navigation to get from resort to resort.  Read the Disney Tourist's Blog info on resort transpiration.  Additionally, there are extra magic hours available only to resort guests where one of the parks will open early or stay open later.
On property there are three basic categories of resorts; value, moderate, or deluxe.  How do you decide which category do you fit in?  That is largely determined by budget.  If you can afford a deluxe, I say go for it!  The location close to a park and the slightly better transportation make it worth it.  However, it can be a big finical jump to deluxe.  I usually stay in a moderate resort as that is where my budget lies.
Once you determine your category, go back to the touring plans website and check out the resorts.  They have video that is helpful to give you a feel for the resort.  I also find the rating system helpful.  You can even use the room selector and look at the view from each room!  Amazing!  I find this website able to answer pretty much any question I have when it comes to resorts.
It's very tempting to want to move up a category, but stick with your budget.  I have stayed in Beach Club (Deluxe), Contemporary (Deluxe), French Quarter (Moderate), Pop Century (Value), and off property.  Each has its pluses and minuses, but also consider -  how much time will you stay in the room?

Step Seven: Book with a travel agent

You can certainly book with Disney directly, but I like booking with someone who can apply discounts and offers a little extra.  I've booked several past trips and a cruise with AAA.  I've always been happy with them, but this current trip, I booked with Mouse Fan Travel.
AAA offers some additional perks at times, and they usually offer a discount.  However, once you book with AAA, you are locked into a price.  So if you book really far in advance, you may miss some of the promotions.
I choose to book with Mouse Fan Travel after hearing about it over and over on the two podcasts I listen to (see step 12).  I have been very impressed and, in fact, check out my blog post just about them.

Step Eight: What style theme parker are you?
It may seem way to soon to begin to think about this, but it will really help you with some decisions you'll make in future steps.  While this list is certainly not exhaustive, here are some common types of theme park touring styles:

The Commando
 These folks arrive with park opening and leave when security pushes them out.  They have the list of every attraction and go from line to line, possibly stopping for a quick service meal.  The goal is to do it all!  If you want to be able to go home saying you got on everything, you're a commando style theme park-er.  You may need a vacation to recover from your trip!


The Early Bird
These folks live for rope drop.  Each park has some sort of rope drop ceremony and then off you go, enjoying the morning in the park.  They ride everything thing they can and walk briskly (not running) from attraction to attraction.  By lunch time, these folks are dying down and leaving the park as the heat or crowds gets too much.


The Night Owl

Wake up early, on vacation?  Not you?  Then you are a night owl.  Arriving to the parks later, these folks are up all late and stay well after the fireworks exit rush.  They arrive at peak times, so they wait to do E-ticket attractions until the crowds head back to the hotels for the night.

The Napper

These folks enjoy the parks in the early morning, go back to the resort and relax when the crowds get to big, and then back into the parks to enjoy the evening.  It's a very civilized way to see the parks.  It's also much easier to do this if you are staying at one of the resorts nearby (think Deluxe)


The Park Hopper

Want to start your day riding Dumbo but end the night with some school bread in Norway?  You're a park hopper!  You can really be a park hopping commando, napper, early bird, or night owl.  To park hop will be an extra cost, but it is often low enough on a long stay for it to be a good option.  Especially if you want to enjoy just a few things in certain parks more than once.

Step Nine: Make dining reservations



If you are the commando style theme park-er, you probably will skip this step.  However, if you do want to sit down and enjoy a meal, you'll wan to do some planning.  I love the Disney Food Blog for ideas and review, and All Ears has a every menu posted online.  If you are not touring commando style, I do recommend going to one of the other resorts for a meal at least once.  The deluxe resorts have amazing themes and fantastic food.  Plus, getting out of the park for a meal really allows you to slow down and enjoy!
Once you have a list of restaurants you want to eat in, you're ready to start putting together what you want to do.
You can base the theme park of the day on the dinning reservations you make, or you can plan which parks to go to, then go for dinning reservations accordingly.  If you do the first, you'll want to go online at 180 days from the first day you're booked, and make your reservation.  If you're the latter, you will want to look at the touring plans crowd calendar and choose the lowest rated day to go to.
Either way, some dinning options fill up fast, remarkably fast.  If you choose to book with Mouse Fan Travel, you can fill out a request sheet of where you want to eat, and leave it up to them to book it for you!

Step Ten: Pick a Splurge

Almost every trip I've taken I've done what I consider a splurge: something extra that really enhances your trip.  The first trip, we did a Candlelight processional package (dinning reservation with reserved seating for the Epcot holiday tradition).  On my second trip, we did the character breakfast inside the castle (I ate inside a castle!!).  The third trip we went over the Grand Floridan for a character breakfast.  On trip five, it was the Hoop De Doo.  On this next trip there will be the Wild Africa Trek.
Consider having a character meal, taking in one of the dinner shows, taking a tour, going to a desert party or a fireworks cruise, attending a hard ticket event (Halloween party or Christmas Party).  There are a ton of options.  I try to book a new experience each trip even though it's been tempting to go back and re-experience some of the great memories, there is so much more to do at Disney World than just theme parks!
Once you've chosen what you want to do, be aware of booking times (dinning and tours are often 180 days out).  Talk to your travel agent about this one!

Step Eleven: Create a countdown calendar
Here is mine.  The jar to the left is my savings jar for spending money
 Once you're 179 days out from your trip, there isn't much to do for a few months for planning purposes.  I take up some of the time by making a countdown calendar!  Pinterest is your friend for inspiration.  It makes for some fun family time changing the countdown calendar every day.

Step Twelve: Research

So now you're at 176 days out, you made your countdown calendar, and while flipping the days is fun, it's not enough to keep you busy.  First, request personalized maps from Disney.  Second, I recommend a few podcasts and websites to fill that Disney need.  Third, subscribe to a Disney Magazine.

Now check out WDW Radio.  Lou has been doing this for something like seven years, and has so much great advice and tips.  It's a great listen in your car on the way to work, while cooking dinner, or at the gym. The podcast is available weekly for free downloads on iTunes.  He also has a blog, videos, and a live weekly show (Wednesday 7pm Eastern time).
Wedway Radio is a podcast by two brothers that spend lots of time delving into the history behind the parks.  They also produce a weekly news segment as well.  These guys spend lots of time researching and do a great job!  Definitely check them out.
There really aren't many Disney magazines anymore.  You can subscribe the the D23 by becoming a silver or gold member, but it is pricey.  There is also an unofficial, but amazing Disney World centric magazine: Celebrations.  This is a much lower price point than D23 and will focus on your upcoming destination!

Step Thirteen: Make FP+ Reservation
It's finally time!  As a Disneylander - the online fast pass experience is quite different.  There is lots of helpful information on the touring plan website here.

Step Fourteen: Create your touring plan
 Now that you have your fast pass plus reservations, it is time to go back to touringplans.com and actually make a touring plan!  I always choose the custom touring plans.  These allow you to select which rides you want to do, which shows you want to see, when you want to take breaks to eat, and to decide your start and end time.  Once you've done all that, the very smart computer software will give you the order to go on everything.  I used these in the past at Disneyland and it is so helpful!  You don't have to stick exactly to it, but using it as a guideline, will greatly help you avoid long lines and the big crowds.

Step Fifteen: Pack


What do I pack!?  There are lots of advice websites on this (try this list from WDW Prep school).  But there are a couple of things I won't leave without.  I bring a small power strip to recharge all the electronics at night.  I use hiking socks when theme park-ing, but other family members swear by the two thin sock rule.  Always bring a camera but decide what kind of shots you want: are you looking for professional shots that make lugging a big camera around worth it, or do you just need a pocket sized point and shoot.  Disney does offer a photopass where, for a pretty big fee, you can get all the pictures Disney photographers take of you on your trip on CD.  I will be doing this for the first time on this upcoming trip, and therefore am only taking a small point and shoot.  The other thing I don't leave home without is my booklet with reservation numbers and info.  I know that My Experience app wrangles all of that information for you on the app, but if your cell phone is like mine, it doesn't always make it through a full day.  (Note: the app does not include your tour information, the cast member informed me that isn't part of My Disney Experience yet, but they hope it may be...some day).  This is the new shirt I got:
From Look Human: Totally awesome, right?


So, there you are.  My 15 step trip planning guide! 

Clip art images from http://www.disneyclips.com/.  All characters are copyright Walt Disney Company.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Snow White Radios

I recently ran across Phil's Old Radios - a website dedicated to antique radios.  In the late 30's Emerson created several radios featuring Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Bellow is a page from my favorite price guide Offical Price Guide to Disney Collectibles by Ted Hake:
The radio picture bottom left and description is top right

The radio is a beautiful piece and would certainly be a top collectable to have...and I know nothing about verifying or authenticating something like this.  That is why Phil's Old Radios is so helpful.  Phil has a whole article on this Emerson radio.  The Disney price guide values this quite high ($825-$3250) so when looking at one it would be important to know what you are looking out.  I found the article very helpful in understanding a bit more about this fantastic piece.

In addition, Emerson made a second radio that Phil has taken the time to restore.  Again, it is a lovely piece and the process of restoration is a fascinating one.  I love the acorn radio dials on this one.  Check it out!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Do you Pinterest?

I love pinterest!  It has inspired me in so many ways (see last weeks crafty post) and it has made me aware of so many more things I need for my collection!  I've become completely addicted.  I heard recently on the radio that someone did a study that people, after an extended time frame on Facebook, actually felt sad.  Something to do with they realized the amount of time they wasted on reading posts and what not.  But Pinterest makes me feel more organized and I love that I find new blogs to follow all the time from pins.  Plus, if I ever decided to run a Disney marathon, I have a whole board of Snow White inspired running outfits!  Awesome!  My favorite board I've started is my Snow White production sketches, there is so much great artwork with this film.  Check out my boards and follow away!




Sunday, July 27, 2014

Getting Crafty: Snow White Inspired Minnie Mouse Ears

I love the Minnie Mouse ear hand bands sold at the Disney Theme parks.  I was thrilled when I saw there were some villain inspired ones, however, the evil queens ears (the apples on the wire) left a lot to be desired!  I so wanted to like them too.  I decided to try out my crafty-ness and make my own pair of Snow White inspired ears.  I spent a bunch of time watching videos and reading how-to articles, but most of them were for children (really?  Kids like these too? who knew!) and the ears were not like the plush versions you find in parks.  So I came up with my own version.  Here are my materials:

Here are the supplies needed: red and blue felt, yellow sequin ribbon, hot glue, thread (red and blue) and needle, foam sheet, fabric scissors, head bands (from Target) and batting (not shown).
And this is the process I used:
First, I came up with a concept sketch.  I wanted the headband itself to be yellow, but decided that that would no work well because the blue ears go around the headband.  So I changed that right away.  As you can see from the sketch, I meant the bow to be much smaller too.
Every template I tried was much smaller than I wanted (I am measuring against a pair of real Minnie ears.)
I ended up enlarging the template making a custom version.  I traced that and cut out two of blue felt
Next I stitched around the edges leaving a small area so I could stuff the ear. 
I turned the ear inside out and put in two foam circles.
I cut out four of these foam circles, two for each ear.
I put batting on both sides of the foam circles.
Next I cut felt that was twice as large as the thickest part of my hair band.  The felt sheets were not long enough to fit so I ended up using two pieces.
Wrap and glue the felt around and then trim-off excess felt

Next, slide ears into position and stitch the ears closed.
Time to start with the red - cut out two pieces of red for bow.
Cut a hole in the middle of the back and stitch around the entire bow
Turn bow right side out through the hole in the back
Make some gathering stitches and sew up the hole in the back (it will get covered - doesn't have to be pretty).  Cut some more felt to make a band in the middle of the bow.  I folded mine over to make it thicker and keep the edges pretty.
 I spent some time doodling the accents for the ears (inspired by Snow White's sleeves)
Cut four out - two for each ear, being sure to flip one of them backwards.
I used hot glue to attach the accents
I also hot glued the yellow sequin ribbon onto each side of the head band

And on the bow
 
Attach the bow by stitching it to the area you sewed close on the ears

And there it is...my finished product!

 I want to make a few changes in the next version.  I feel the bow is too big and I got the ears just a little off center, but otherwise, I'm ready to rock my Disney side!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Pocket Princess

I don't know about you, but I have way to many blogs coming into my Feedly account...and I just keep adding more.  Recently I bumped into work by Amy Mebberson.  She has done art for Disney and several of her prints were available in parks.  I fell in love with her pocket princess series.  They are cute and funny takes on what life would be like if all the Disney Princesses were roommates.  Check it out.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Disney XD to premiere 7D

I still find it hard to believe that I'm typing this, but Disney is ready to launch a new cartoon feature the... seven dwarfs?  Well, they don't look like the dwarfs I remember:

You can also download the app that was released to celebrate the opening of the Seven Dwarf Mine Train attraction in the Magic Kingdom.


 
And here is Disney's take on the most interesting man in the world: