Sunday, December 28, 2014

Adventures in Big Family Vacation Planning (part 6)

So Disney is all about planning - and now that we had our dining reservations, we had a few months to hang out and just wait for the next step.

We have the big spreadsheet that dictated which parks we would go to on which day, which was helpful. Looking ahead to the next step needed that info! Since the invention of the My Disney Experience app, you can now book up to 3 FastPass+ reservations a day - basically guaranteeing that you will ride your favorite three rides in any given day. Of course, some parks have rules about which rides can go together - there are tiers that prevent you from getting the most awesome rides in a single park each day. That means you have to strategize if you want to get all the rides in over a single stay, since they won't all be done in a single day.

With 23 people going over 11 days, it was going to be a challenge to get our rides booked. I read a bunch of blogs and got suggestions from the podcasts we listen to. They say to focus on the hardest to get rides or the ones of the busiest days. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (the new coaster in the Magic Kingdom) or the Anna/Elsa meet and greet (the new hotness) are the main ones you want to focus on, for example, since they are so hard to get at 60 days out.

I stayed up late on October 30 because I heard a rumor that the system opens up at midnight Eastern - or 11 pm central! Sure enough, I refreshed my browser at that time and the FP+ window had opened!

Since there were so many of us, I started booking a single FP+ for me for the rides on the busiest days, and for the 7DMT ride that we wanted both in the daytime and the evening. When I got all the days booked for me, I then started to copy those reservations over to the whole party. Which worked for a while.

And then we hit a roadblock. Apparently one cousin's annual pass expired before our trip started, so I couldn't book their passes. My in-laws weren't hooked up to my account appropriately in the system and so it didn't show them as eligible to get FP+ (since they didn't show as having a hotel reservation) and then something else went cattywompus.

UGH. So I did what I could and then went to bed. I woke up early the next morning when the customer service line opened up, I was one of the first to call. The lovely cast member spent over an hour on the phone with me to get everybody linked up appropriately (which I thought I had done weeks ago) and our cousin renewed her annual pass.

But it actually worked out in the end - the cast member was able to copy the FP+ I had for our family staying on property and then to those who are staying off property too! Plus, she was able to do the same for the family checking in later in the week who technically weren't able to get their reservations for a few more days. That was some Disney magic right there!

The planning is almost done at this point! Just a few more things to cross off the list now...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Adventures in Saturday Evening Musings

This whole blogging thing is kind of amazing - I get to write about what is going on in my life, read about other people's adventures and make wonderful connections. I've even met some of my blogger friends in real life and attended concerts (hi Sonya!) as well as the St. Louis bloggers who get together every quarter for dinner and drinks (gals, are up for January?).

I even received a Christmas card from a few of those lovely STL bloggers. What amazing ladies I've been able to meet through blogging!

So when a few of them started getting products and tagging #influenster, I just had to figure out what was up! Liz from sent me a link and I signed up. 

And I just got my first box! It's the #FrostyVoxBox - and boy am I love with some of this stuff! Husband had opened the box when I got home, and the first thing we did was try the Fruit Vines® Bites. I'm in love with licorice and even with all the chocolate around for Christmas, it was the perfect snack after a really long day at work. We are going to be getting more of them later!
One of the other items I was really excited to see was the EcoTools hairbrush! How did Influenster know that I needed a new brush? This one is coming with me on the Grand Winter Adventure in a few days. 
And need I mention the tea? We visited the Celestial Seasonings factory a few years ago when we were in Colorado and had so much fun. It's one of my favorite brands of tea so the holiday version was lovely!
There are a bunch of other things but given that we have this crazy holiday coming up, I'm hoping I'll have a chance to use some of the other stuff in the box in the new year.
DISCLOSURE: I received the products described above complimentary to test and/or review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Adventures in Big Family Vacation Planning (part 5)

Disney is so much more than rides - there's all that FOOD! 

Our family loves to eat, and one of our bucket list items is to eat at every single restaurant on property. To that end, we try to pick a few new places each time we go down to the World.

Based on the schedule we created earlier, that helps us decide which places are options for dining while we are there.

I sent an email to the whole group to ask their requests - did they want a special character breakfast or a particular family favorite? I know that we don't necessarily have the most adventurous eaters (cheeseburgers and chicken fingers are usually the norm) but it's sometimes fun to try something new.

Husband and I decided that we were going to splurge and have a date at Victoria and Albert's, the only five star restaurant in Orlando. We cannot wait! 

When I got the requests from the family back, I went to town with the schedule. Since we are in Magic Kingdom on December 30 for the pre-New Year's Eve fireworks, Liberty Tree with the whole family is the perfect option.

Then again, we look to when my family joins us - my cousin loves animals, so we wanted to have a sit down dinner at the Animal Kingdom Lodge where they are staying. So since Husband and I haven't been to Jiko and my mom loved Sanaa the last time we were there together, we picked Jiko for the six of us for dinner one night. That plus a few other favorites, and our schedule was set! I'm so hungry just looking at this list... 

  1. Liberty Tree
  2. Via Napoli
  3. Crystal Palace
  4. 50’s Primetime Cafe
  5. Victoria and Albert’s
  6. Jiko
  7. Rose and Crown for Illuminations
  8. Spice Road Table
  9. Chef Mickeys
  10. Be Our Guest (dinner)

The next step is the reservations themselves. Dinner allows on-property guests to book ADRs (advance dining reservations) up to 180 days out from the first day of check in. The little known fact is that those reservations open up for your whole trip, up to 10 days. So you can make reservations almost 190 days out from your trip! Since we were hoping for some hard to get reservations like Be Our Guest, we focused on those first.

I got up early on that 180 date and got online. You can make reservations online or on the phone, but online opens up a bit earlier. We had a bit of a hiccup because I can't remember my time zones - it's in Eastern time zone and so I got up extra early. But after a few calls and a hour of work and we had our reservations!

I had to make some additional ADRs when my family decided to join us, but those were relatively easy to get. 

And now I'm crazy hungry...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Adventures in Big Family Vacation Planning (part 4)

The hotel choice is always a big one for any trip, but especially for Disney. Once we decided where to stay, we started to look at our dining reservations.

However, we thought we knew who was coming on our big trip, but apparently we didn't get everybody! A few weeks after we had settled the dates of when we were going and after we had made our dining reservations (more info on that in a bit), my mom and brother started talking about going.

Then my cousin and his wife started asking questions. Before we knew it, we had added more hotel rooms for them and added them to our dining reservations!

So now we're up to something like 23 people coming for portions of the long trip.

That's a lot of people to organize for meals!

When Husband and I start our planning, we look to the park hours of operations as a starting point. We have a big ole spreadsheet that is color coded and everything! Every day we're there has a column, and each hour of the day has a row. We start with the park hours and mark those, plus the Extra Magic Hours for each park. Each day one of the parks is open early and one is open late so we try to arrange our schedule to make one of those extra times in the park. You can ride a bunch of rides in those extra hours when (in theory) the park is less crowded. We also pay for a membership in, a website that helps us in the planning process.

It may seem like a bunch of work, but it really is fun for us and the family! The schedule of the park hours allows us to choose which day to tour each park.

We use this schedule to figure out where to eat and when.... but that's for next time!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Adventures in Big Family Vacation Planning (part 3)

So there has been a lot going on since we decided who was coming on our big family trip.
Now that we knew who was coming, we had to decide where to stay. For most people, this is a big decision to make because it's such a huge chunk of change, next to the park tickets.

One of our Disney Bucket List items is to stay at each resort on property at some point in our lives. This trip allowed us to get one new property - the Boardwalk.


We decided that since it was such a long trip and because the Boardwalk is so expensive, we will start the week at All Star Sports.

My MIL is a Disney Vacation Club owner so we can get our stay at the Boardwalk for a bit less - but we still need to split the stay to make it work for the points we have.

Staying for ten nights is kind of a long time, so splitting the stay will be a good break. Some of the extended family won't stay on property with us, so we'll meet them at the parks most days.

I cannot wait until we get to experience the Board Walk during this trip!

Next up... dining reservations!