Trip Report 2012: Day 2

Shaow! What a week.

{shaow: pronounced SH-ow; a Jack Jack exclamation; meaning “Whew!” “That was a close one.” or “Man, that stinks!” (figuratively or literally).}

Just when I think I’ll be consistent in my blogging, a busy week creeps up. Quietly. At this rate, you guys will know all about our trip in about a year! Shaow!

Well, Day 2 started out grand. Like monkeys from The Jungle Book, we quickly swung into our new morning routine:

Tim hops out of bed, rarin’ to go. I moan and roll over. Jack pops up from a pile of sleepy stuffed animals and immediately begins to chat us up. “Munin, Daddy! Hi, Mommy! Dis bed is niiice. Daddy, I watch Mickey Mouse? Daddy, I go on walk?” Cue Cole waking up and clawing the side of his pack ‘n play. Jack climbs in. “Munin, Cole! Hey, Cole!” Jack attempts to hug Cole, but ends up smothering him in some sort of wrestling hold. Cole whines. I moan again, signaling to Tim some sign of life. Slowly, very slowly, I get out of bed. Tim is dressed, teeth brushed, hair perfectly foe-hawked. He quickly changes Jack and walks him down to the Roaring Fork to warm a bottle and get some hot water for Jack’s morning bowl of oatmeal. Upon his return I’ve gotten Cole up and dressed. I hand him off to Tim, who feeds him his bottle while I brush my teeth and hair and apply a little life to my face. Next, we triple-check our diaper bag for all the essentials of the day, still forget something important, and then all four of us head down to the Roaring Fork for some sort of breakfast. Yes, in case you didn’t catch that, Jack has already had a bowl of oatmeal. It’s now time for his second breakfast. He eats like a hobbit. All day.

This is how it went every morning. I thought I would give it to you in detail the first time, so you can get the whole picture, and so I will never have to do it again. Lets call it our NMR–New Morning Routine.

Tim’s NMR breakfast was a croissant, mine, a cream cheese danish. So good. So bad.Then it was off to the boat dock for our ride to the Magic Kingdom.

We made it there with about 15 minutes to spare before the opening ceremony. We love going every year in the fall. We just love all of the fall decor.

{Jack lovin’ that thumb and Cole lovin’ those fingers.}

{Lucky little lizard. See him?}

“Good morning! Good morning!” That opening ceremony never gets old. It’s always exciting. We saw it three times this trip, and each time they had someone different lead the show. Once it was the fire chief, once it was the train conductor, and once it was just a canned voice over.

With two kids and a limited amount of time before naps, we had our morning planned out. When those happy gates opened, we headed straight for Town Hall to meet the main mouse.

This was Cole’s first encounter with a 5ft mouse. We were jumping right in, and hoping his reaction was a good one.

He. Loved. Them. Kicks and giggles the whole time.

Yesssss.

Then it was time for Jack to see the castle! All he had said the past few months was, “I wanna go to the cass!” He was so excited. We were there. We were at the cass!

We walked straight through the castle, via 2-year-old request, and took in some of the new Fantasyland expansion. The new castle walls looked amazing! I can’t wait to see it when everything is finished. We took a few minutes to ooo and ahh, then we jumped on some rides. Winnie the Pooh, the tea cups, Dumbo; both of the boys loved every minute.

We had a fantastic first experience with the new Dumbo attraction. There was no one in line, so there were no pagers to give out. Jack and Cole were able to play to their hearts content. So cool.

{The new wait system. It’s similar to waiting for a table at a restaurant; when it’s your turn to ride, your pagers goes off.}{Empty.}{What moms get to do while kiddos play.}

The Casey Jr. water area was amazing too! We came so prepared for Jack to get wet. We brought his bathing suit and a plastic sack to put his wet clothes in when he was done playing. However, he didn’t want any part of it. Ugh! He loved the water all summer. Now, when we’re in Disney World at a water playground, he won’t have any part of it. Oh kids. They will make a liar of you every time.

{Trying to persuade him that it is okay to get wet.}

If you forget your suit and towel, they’ve got you covered…for a small fee, of course. We came prepared in our attire, however, we did buy one of those spay fans at this cart. Souvenir numero uno.

At about that time, we were reaching the 10:00 hour. We knew that squeezing in the 10:30 castle main stage show was a non-negotiable. We made the walk back towards the front of the park, whipped out some pre-packed snacks, and staked out our spot (which was a pretty great one, considering the crowds were light and we got there about 10 minutes early).

I sneaked away to get a couple of fun pictures of the hub. Jack loved the show and couldn’t stop talking about it throughout our whole trip. Cole slept through much of it until mean old Maleficent woke him up. He enjoyed the last few minutes. After the show, we grabbed a quick chili cheese dog from Casey’s Corner. YUM! We just love Casey’s Corner. There was absolutely no line, seeing as it was only about 11:15, and Jack and Tim ended up being able to see part of the Move it! Shake it! Celebrate it! Street Party, while Cole and I chilled at a table inside.

After that we headed back to the room, where the boys crashed just as hard as they did the previous day for naps. Tim and I sat out on our quiet balcony and recharged, as well. Tim and I will pretend all day long like nap time was just for the boys, but in all honesty, we really loved getting that couple of hours to go back during the heat of the day to relax and enjoy our resort. Some of those times ended up being some of my very favorite. Just thinking about it gets me a little homesick for that balcony, a cold Coke Zero from Roaring Forks in my hot pink refillable mug, a box of Whales, and DVC conversations with my hubby…sigh.

My folks vacation with us every year, so they were making the drive down that morning. By nap time, they had arrived and were waiting for their room at All-Star Movies. Once they got all settled in and unpacked, the boys were awake and it was time for us to head back to MK for our dinner reservations! My parents met us right in front of Town Hall. We walked around a little bit, and then headed to our reservation at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant.

We ate at Tony’s two years ago when Jack was only 3-months-old. We loved it. The food was great and our waitress was incredible. This time was just a tad different. The food was good, but honestly I felt I could get a better chicken parmesan at our local Carrabba’s. Tim got the steak and said it was delicious, so maybe I just ordered the wrong thing. Our waitress, however, was nothing to write home about. She was slow and forgetful; two things that you don’t want to be in the food industry. Our meal was a long meal, which is not the most desirable experience when you’ve got two kids two and under. Yes, Jack did have to have a “trip to the bathroom”, if you know what I mean. There were several other kids in that restaurant who could have used one too.

{See that man behind Cole? He was Cole’s best friend. Cole would not stop looking at him, smiling at him, reaching for him…I have no idea why.}

We did not get pictures of our entrees, probably because we were starving by the time they arrived, but we did manage pictures of our desserts.

{Tiramisu}{Spumoni} {I don’t know. Ha! Cheesecake is on the menu, but this does not look like cheesecake. It was my sister’s dessert. She loved it.}

After dinner, we rode a few rides back in Fantasyland again with my parents. We also went into Mickey’s Philharmagic, one of my favorite attractions there. Come to find out, it’s not one of Jack and Cole’s. Oops! Jack did not love the 3D effects and Cole did not love getting splashed with water in the Sorcerer Mickey scene. They both took turns crying throughout. Then, at the end, Donald gets blown out of a tuba and an animatronic of him appears in the back wall, as though he was actually blown across the room and into the wall. He wiggles and kicks in an attempt to get out, but only succeeds in falling deeper into the wall. This upset Jack to no end. He still talks about “Dongal” getting stuck in the wall. It’s 50% cute and 50% annoying, since we have to keep reassuring him that “Dongal” is A-okay!

From there, Tim took the boys back to the resort for baths and bedtime. As if he is not the best husband in the world for changing diapers and feeding bottles, he let me stay in the park with my folks for a few extra hours while he took care of the boys. Amazing, right? Oh how I love him. He knew that the past three years, for one reason or another (mostly because of pregnancy), I have not been able to ride all of my favorite rides, so he let me have that opportunity without having the kiddos to worry about. My dad and sister actually ended up heading back to their resort, as well, to swim and turn in early, so my mom and I were able to speed walk where we needed to go. We squeezed in Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and Splash Mountain in very little time. We had a blast. What a great “souvenir” from my hubs.

Elrod WDW Tip: For little to no wait times, hit rides and attractions during parade times and fireworks. My mom and I literally walked on to Splash Mountain during the Main Street Electrical Parade.

{Tim introduced the boys to co-bathing. Obviously, it was a hit, and much more efficient for vacation bathing.}

I headed back to the resort around 8:45 and was able to catch the Wishes fireworks display on my boat ride back to the Wilderness Lodge. It was a great ending to a great Day 2.

I’d say see ya soon for Day 3, but how about I just say, “See ya when I see ya!”

With love, Malorie

2012 Trip Report: Day 1

Hey howdy hey!

We’ve been back from WDW three days, and we are just now able to dry our tears; although waves of Disney homesickness do creep up unexpectedly, so don’t judge if I have sudden mood swings throughout this post.

Last Friday was Day 1 of our trip. We packed up the van the night before, so on Friday morning we snatched the kids out of their bed at 5:30 am and hit the road. Cole slept much of the time; Jack slept none of it. Wee! Luckily, he did very well, staying occupied with his Top 5 Favorite Things To Do on a Long Car Ride.

We arrived at the Wilderness Lodge around noon. Whoop! Tim was so excited, and okay, I was too. I’ve stayed at the Wilderness Lodge two or three times before, but the last time I did I was around fourteen-years-old, so it’s been twelve years since then. {Ay caramba!}

In years past, we have been avid value resorters. However, the difference in value and deluxe is evident in much more than just the price. Upon arriving, we pulled under the impressive overhang and stepped out with cast members at our door. Tim was greeted with a, “Welcome home, Mr. Elrod. Check-in is this way, Mr. Elrod. Feel free to leave your car here, Mr. Elrod. We would be happy to help you unload your luggage and deliver it to your room, Mr. Elrod.” Yeah. And not just that, they accidentally gave us a room with one king bed instead of a room with two queens {we do not, I repeat: do not, co-sleep. Two queens was a must}. This unlikely accident turned in to a very lucky upgrade! “This way to your courtyard view room, Mr. Elrod.”

Nice.

Our luggage was delivered and they installed a set of bed rails on one of the queen beds while we went down stairs to eat lunch in the Roaring Fork. Tim had the pasta creation of the day, which tasted an awful lot like the penne alla vodka at Mama Melrose’s in DHS. I had the pulled pork barbeque sandwich, which is not listed on the All Ears menu {Hey Deb!?! Oh wait. They’ve just updated the Whispering Canyon Cafe’s lunch menu. Hmm…a little product testing in the quick service atmosphere?}. It was fantastic. The sauce was delicious and it came with a peppery coleslaw on top, and homemade potato chips on the side. Yum! Between the five adults, I think someone in our party rotated eating this meal three or four times this trip!

Next we went upstairs and put the boys down for a nap. They zonked out.

While the boys slept, Tim and I unpacked our suit cases and organized our room. “Diapers go here, bibs go here, bag ‘o toys goes there…”

Up and at ’em at 3:30, because we had dinner reservations at the Coral Reef in EPCOT at 5:00. We gave ourselves an hour and fifteen minutes to get there via boat to Magic Kingdom, then monorail from there. I think an hour would have been enough time for two able-bodied adults, but with a double stroller and a two-year-old hollerin’, “I wanna walk!” it took longer than we thought to accomplish the boat ride, monorail, monorail switch at the transportation center, bag check, and then EPCOT entry gates. Ugh! I’m winded just saying it.

Oh, and did I mention the torrential downpour of rain? It rained on us our first day last year, too. I’d better not be seeing a first-day-in-Disney trend.

So we arrived at the Coral Reef soaked and winded, and the boys were getting cranky because they had been shut up in a car all day, and then strapped into a stroller for the past hour. They were hungry, but the last thing they wanted to do was sit nice and happy at a table for an hour long supper. The fish-filled aquarium was an initial hit, but the magic wore off fast; even when the scuba divers took the tank. The food Tim and I ordered was quite tasty, but we scarfed it down in an effort to get out of there faster.

{Tim’s grilled Mahi Mahi with rock shrimp, heats of palm, jasmine rice and a coconut lime sauce.}

{My seared chicken breast served over spaetzle finished with Applewood smoked bacon. That spaetzle was yummy!}

For dessert I had the Chocolate Wave {in the words of Rachel Zoe, “I die!”} and Tim opted for just some vanilla ice cream with Mickey sprinkles. A kid at heart, that one. Love him.

Finally, dinner was over! Whew, we made it. And we also learned our first Elrod Dis with Kids Tip: Don’t book a table service meal for the day you arrive. Sitting in a car or plane for an extended time does not make for happy hearts while sitting at a nice dinner. Maybe you could get away with it if it was a character meal, but we are going to stick with our new rule. Don’t do it!

After dinner Tim and Jack hit up the Nemo ride while Cole and I kept the stroller dry in the Mouse Gear gift shop. We didn’t do our weather research and had left our stroller’s rain cover in the room. Round of applause for the Elrods!

Jack and Tim met up with us after their ride in that big blue world. Tim had been reading all about the new merchandise for EPCOT’s 30th anniversary {which happens to be TODAY! Happy 30th Birthday, EPCOT!} and had his heart set on a new vintage inspired tee. He picked out this one.

{Sneak peek pic from Day 4}

After a bit more browsing, we decided to call it quits for the sake of the boys and head back to the resort. We crossed our fingers, said our prayers, and sang Jesus Loves Me, just like we do at home, and surprise! The boys went down just as easily as they do at home; Cole in a pack ‘n play and Jack in his queen-sized, stuffed-animal-packed bed, which he patted upon waking up from his nap saying, “Daddy, this bed niiiiice.”

“Oh boy!” we thought, as Tim and I snuggled under our newly-updated white Wilderness Lodge comforter. All good signs of a great week to come.

And a great week it would be. See ya soon for Day 2!

With love, Malorie

Hit the Road, Jack! Car Ride Tips for Toddlers

It’s Friday! Disney here we come!!

We are lucky enough to only live about 6-7 hours away from WDW, depending on how many potty breaks we have to take. However, 6-7 hours in the car with two kids can get a bit testy. Luckily (again!), we’ve figured out a few tricks to keeping our travelin’-toddler smiling. Here are

Jack’s Top 5 Favorite Things To Do on a Long Car Ride

#5 – Cheerios Books

Sure, we may have Cheerios all in our floorboards when he’s done, but how is that different from any other day?

#4 – Coloring

Our friend, Hannah, made Jack this adorable bag for his birthday. Isn’t it the cutest? It’s fantastic for taking his coloring books and crayons on the go; and recently we’ve discovered the magnificence of Color Wonder markers. They only show up on Color Wonder paper! No mess! Genius or what? And oh so perfect for car ride coloring.

#3 – Imagination Movers Pandora Station

{photo: Imagination Movers}

Pro to Imagination Mover radio: Tim and I kind of like their music too. Shh..don’t tell. [singing to myself] No, no! Don’t eat all the cookie dough…

#2 – DVD’s

Oh thank you, Lord, for the blessing of our van with a built-in DVD player!

#1 – SNACKS!

I don’t know if it’s just our son, or if it’s a common thread between all toddler boys, but as long as Jack has a snack in his hand, there is a smile on his face. Thus, on long car rides, we bring along copious amounts of snacks.

“Oh, I know, baby. I’m tired of being in the car, too. Don’t cry, have a snack!”

Works like a charm. See you when we get back!!

With love, Malorie

Who Wants S’more?

We’ve scored another money-saving find for our Disney trip!

Remember how I said we were going to the Campfire Sing-Along at the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds? Remember how I said that you could buy a s’mores kit from them or bring your own?

Well, we found our own. At SAM’s club. For around $5, you can get this whole box that has all the fixins to make 36 s’mores!

Y’all. That’s under 14 cents a s’more!

Whoop!

I’d say that’s a good find, wouldn’t you? Campfire Sing-Along, here we come!…with enough s’mores to share. Who’s in?

With love, Malorie

Shh! Here Comes Cole the Scaredy Cat

Want to know a little secret?

Cole is not the permanently smiley baby that my pictures make him out to be.

[Gasp!]

Grant it, he is a very happy baby. Even more smiley and content than Jack was, which is saying a lot. However, Cole is what you would call a scaredy cat. He has a tender heart and a jumpy disposition that can be rumpled at the drop of a hat. Literally. Have you ever stopped to think about how scary dropping hats can be? Here is a running list of things that Cole is afraid of:

balloons

loud noises

swimming pools

blocks being dumped into the floor

running water

Jack’s singing Santa toy (which, okay, I’ll give him a free pass on that one…)

You get the idea. I try to be sympathetic, but Jack was, and is, an unusually brave child. Nothing really shakes him. He rode the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in WDW at 15 months, and the pitch black plunge did nothing to him but raise his heartbeat a bit. I could feel his little heart thumping in his chest as I held him in my lap, but he never made a squeak and his thumb never left his mouth. When he falls, he gets back up. When he’s scared, his eyes will get as big as tennis balls, but he’ll look to Tim and I for our reaction, and if we are good, he’s good. So to have a child that is so fragile of spirit is a new thing for me. I have seriously started praying over him. “Please Lord, take his spirit of fear and replace it with one of power, love, and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV) I believe in the power of praying the word over my children. God gives us a peace that transcends all understanding (Phillippians 4:7) and God gave us these…for $14.99 on Amazon.

You see, Tim and I are slightly stressed about Cole’s experience in WDW this year. Is he going to freak out at the sight of a 5ft Mickey Mouse? Is the hustle and bustle of a park going to overwhelm him? Is he going to completely lose his mind during parades and firework displays?

Being the problem solver that he is, Tim hit the forums. Several families recommended these noise cancelling headsets for kids. They said that their babies were able to nap easier in the stroller while in the parks, and that they helped take out the loud noise factor during firework displays. Genius, right?

Cole obviously loves them.

Shall we add this to the list of things that scare him?

On the other hand, Jack really does love them! No sarcasm needed.

We’ve all taken our turn wearing them, at which Cole smiles and giggles. They really do work, too! Everything sounds very muffled, except for, of course, the sound of your own swallowing or voice, which I’m sure made Cole love them even more, as his scream was amplified in his own ears. Joy. I’m really hoping he warms up to them in the coming weeks before our trip. I plan to let him play with them on his own terms for a while. Hold them, chew on them, form a friendship; because we are really relying on that friendship for happy hearts all around on our vacation.

So lets raise our sippy cups to happy hearts and quiet fun; the true definition of a baby’s vacation.

With love, Malorie

Buy Now, Save Later

I’m a mommy to two amazing boys.

Who would have ever thought that me, Miss Girly-Girl, Barbie lovin’, doll collecting, ballet dancing, ribbons and bows, lace and frou-frou, would have BOYS?!

Well, it just so happens that I have adapted to boyhood wonderfully. I’m down with the cars and action figures, dirty fingernails and sticky jam-hands. And although there are not nearly as many cute boy clothes out there as girl clothes, it doesn’t stop me from wanting to shop and pick out cute new clothes for my little men. My latest trip was to the wonderful world of Target, where the clothes are cute and the prices are cheap!

When we are in Disney, we like to wear Disney! I think that makes since, yes? However, to buy a Mickey Mouse t-shirt in WDW is a lot more expensive than to buy them at home. I scored these babies at $8 apiece at Target, the two dinosaur shirts being only $5 apiece!

 IMG_5370

I know matchy-matchy can be a bit cheesy, but I say a WDW vacation is the perfect place to be cheesy, and my boys will be too cute eating dinner in their T-Rex shirts at T-Rex in Downtown Disney.

To top it all off, though, I found this little lovie at The Children’s Place for $1.99. That’s right! $2 and my little Cole bug is going to be dressed to match when we eat at Tony’s in Magic Kingdom.

So how about you? Do you like to buy while on vacation? Or do you like to stock up before hand?

Honestly, we do both, but we like to save our precious souvenir money for those one-of-a-kind, can’t-find-it-anywhere-else souvenirs. So here’s to a true “buy now, save later” moment!

With love, Malorie

WDW Vacation Trip Tips

As you know (because I just can’t stop talking about it!), we leave oh-so-soon for mine and Tim’s annual anniversary week-long vacation in Walt Disney World! We have been busy, busy, busy planning, getting ready, and getting excited about our getaway to The Happiest Place on Earth. We have been so many times now, though, that the getting ready has become almost like clock work. Today I would love to share a few of the things that the Elrods do before we arrive and very soon after we arrive, to make the most of our Disney vacation.

Make Lists

Maybe you are not a list person, but when it comes to productivity and remembering every little detail, the Elrods love lists. Tim tends to make them on his notes app on his phone, where as I’m a pen and paper kind of girl. We make lists for everything from “Things to Buy Before We Go” to a simple “Packing List”. In fact, we love lists so much that we have posted a few here on our site for you to use if you like! Click on the What to Pack link above to see those for yourself.

Buy It Here, Not There

Although Disney does have many simple things like toiletries, personal items, diapers, baby formula, and common medications available in many of their gift shops, the Elrods give a big thumbs down to buying those sort of things on property. I know opinions are just that, opinions, but in reading some Disney Goer’s advice to pack light and buy there, we shout out a resounding, “Aghh!” Yes, Disney has those things for sale, but they are so expensive! We highly recommend buying anything and everything you think you are going to need before you go! And if you are planning on going super thrifty, an Elrod WDW Tip is to buy even souvenir t-shirts and such before you go. I’ve seen super cute, authentic Walt Disney clothing and shirts at Walmart for little more than $5! By buying such items before you go, you can look cute and themed in your vacation pictures without having to drop the dough while you’re there.

Make a Vacation Packing Pile

I don’t know why this pile, that would probably look like a pile of clutter to any outsider, makes us so happy, but it just does. Admittedly, we are last minute type of packers when it comes to clothing and toiletries, but a couple weeks before we leave for our WDW trips, we start what we call our Vacation Pile. We pick a corner of counter space in the kitchen, a dresser top, or the dining room table and slowly add things to that spot that we intend to take with us on vacation. What is in our pile right now? New, unopened bottles of mouthwash, our favorite scented hand soap, dish soap, Gerber meals for Jack, a box of Teddy Grahams, and more! Things we don’t want to use before we go, and don’t want to forget to take. Passing by our pile and adding to it over the next couple of days just reminds us of the fun to come! We love it.

Pre-Plan Your Meals

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: If you have a Disney Dining Package, or plan on enjoying any sit-down meals while on vacation, make your reservation ASAP! Disney accepts reservations 180 days out from the day of your arrival. Take advantage of that because many of the restaurants book up quickly. This week, Tim and I are looking over our confirmation numbers and making sure we have them saved in a place where they can be handy when we arrive for our reservations.

Decide on Vacation Must-Do’s

Want to get your picture with Mickey Mouse? Ride the Tower of Terror? Eat a Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar while watching the Wishes nighttime fireworks display? Well, write it down! Or at least tell somebody; say it out loud. Make a list of all of the things that you feel like you must do while there; the things that you would regret and moan over not being able to do on the car ride home. That way they will be tangible, you will be more likely to remember them, and you will have made the most of your Disney vacation. Tim and I have made ours! In fact, we dedicated a whole post to that!

Pre-Plan Your Souvenir Spending Budget

Nobody likes to come home with an arm full of souvenirs and buyer’s remorse. I will be the first to admit that when in Disney, I want to buy up everything! Everything is just so darn cute! When I walk into the kitchen store in the Marketplace I always wish that my entire kitchen was decked head-to-toe in everything Mickey Mouse. Then I get home and realize, “Yeah…that would be a bit much.” Tim and I are budget-conscious people as it is, but even if you are not, I always think it is a great idea to decide ahead of time what you want to spend on souvenirs. That way you don’t over-spend, and you don’t go overboard. We have found that souvenir buying is even more fun that way. It makes you excited to find something you really want, or look for the better deals. It also makes the t-shirt that you can wear over and over look a lot better than the lolly pop or balloon that will be gone by the end of the trip.

Consider a Preferred Room

This is something that you can ask for initially when you book your reservation, or once you arrive upon check-in. Either way, Disney says it is never a guarantee to get a preferred room (although we have gotten one every time we’ve asked for one), and unless you get it as a free upgrade upon arrival, these rooms do cost a little bit more. However, the Elrods say that it’s worth it! Preferred rooms are commonly considerably closer to the eating areas, pools, and transportation areas of the resorts, which means a lot less walking. I don’t know about you, but after a long day in the parks, when I get back to my resort I don’t like having to take a ten minute trot to get to my room. I want to be there quickly so that I can shower, kick my tootsies up, and relax as soon as possible. We’ve already requested ours for this trip! Here’s keeping our fingers crossed! Of course, like we’ve said, we’ve never not gotten it.

Check In Early

Like way early! Like a week early! Yes, that’s right. You can check-in online up to a week early to your resort! We highly recommend this because it speeds up your check-in process once you arrive, and often we get our room earlier than expected, as well. Disney will often tell you that your check-in time is somewhere around 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. We usually arrive somewhere around noon! Once we check in they hand us our room key and take our cell phone number with the promise of sending us a text message when our room is ready. We have never waited longer than about half an hour before receiving our text. Often times it is around 10-15 minutes! What do we do while we are waiting? Browse the gift shop. Change into our swimsuits in the lobby bathroom and take a dip in the pool. Hop a bus to Downtown Disney. You name it. You’re in Disney World! There is plenty to do! Just leave your suitcases in the car.

Plan on Purchasing a Resort Mug

I’ve talked about how great of a deal these mugs are before. If you plan on drinking something other than water your whole trip, and think you will buy more than three or four drinks at your resort, then go ahead and spring for the resort refillable mug. It’s worth it.

Don’t Stress

Whatever you do, before or during your Walt Disney World vacation, don’t stress out! If making packing lists stresses you out, don’t do it! If you want to skip the budget and buy what you want when you’re there, do it! The whole point of vacation is to get away, enjoy time with your family and friends, and relax. Make memories. Savor the sweetness of life. You may have noticed that I did not blog this past Friday on Fun Facts ‘n Trivia Friday, but it was because I had just lost a dear friend of mine. An unexpected death is something that will always make you count your blessings and slow down to smell the roses a bit. It is so easy to get caught up in life’s busyness and routines. Vacation, Disney or not, is a great time to break away from all of that. So don’t stress out about it. Make the most of it.

Thanks for reading along! I am having so much fun in the getting ready, but I am so excited about being there, and sharing our trip reports with you when we get back! Happy Blogday Tuesday, friends! See you tomorrow for another [Almost] Wordless Wednesday.



Here’s What We Think: Enchanted Tiki Room Review

Just wanted to let you guys know that the Enchanted Tiki Room officially re-opened yesterday!

I think I briefly mentioned in a past post the refurbishment that it has been undergoing for the past 7-ish months. Back in January it experienced a fire in it’s attic and had to be closed. It was supposed to re-open shortly after, but somewhere in the mix Disney decided to go ahead a make a few changes as well.

The previous attraction was The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management. It featured animated rivals, Aladdin’s Iago and The Lion King’s Zazu, as the new co-managers of the sing-song, tropical hideaway. The newly opened show, however, is much more reminiscent of the Disneyland version of this attraction. With Clyde and Claude back in the lead, it features a few of the same songs as before with a few more Tiki Room classics added in. It has also been updated with LED lighting and enhanced audio equipment to make the show look and sound better than ever.

I have yet to see the new one, obviously, but I look forward to it in just a few weeks! I have seen the Under New Management version many, many times. In a quick review, I will admit that Tim has never been a fan of the Tiki Room. He always hem and haws over having to sit through the singing, animatronic show, but to me and my mother (the advocates) it is just a Disney vacation classic. You have to do it! My favorite part is watching the Tiki-men bang on drums around the top of the room, and watching the totem polls and flowers sing along with the colorful birds! I think the Enchanted Tiki Room is one of those classic Disney attractions that falls into the love/hate category.

You love it. Or you hate it.

Another example of this is the Jungle Cruise, It’s a Small World, or the late 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (R.I.P). My Elrod WDW Tip on the Enchanted Tiki Room: Do it at least once in your life. Don’t skip it just because you heard negative rumors or reviews about it. Just do it and see for yourself. Make up your own mind about it. You never know, you just might love it!

For all of you out there that have visited the Enchanted Tiki Room (new version or Under New Management version) where do you stand?

Are you a “Take Me Outta Here!” Tim, or a “More! More!” Malorie?

Well, whether you are a lover or a hater, you have to admit the tune is catchy, so..

All together!

In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room
In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room
All the birds sing words and the flowers croon
In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room

Elrod’s Disney Dining Plan FAQ

Happy Blogday Tuesday, friends!

Today I would love to talk about the Disney Dining Plan, since a surprising majority of our Just Ask questions pertain to that very subject. Unless you go to Disney often, the Dining Plan can be a bit confusing, so I’d love to answer a few of our frequently asked questions. As a pre-disclaimer, know that much of what I say in this post is fact, relayed straight from Disney, but some of it is pure Elrod opinion, so if you find yourself disagreeing that a Coke is a waste of snack-credit, then throw that info aside…because we all know that our own opinions are always correct.

Let’s begin, shall we?

1. What exactly is the Disney Dining Plan?

The Disney Dining Plan is a package that can be purchased prior to your Walt Disney World visit. It is a flat price per person over the age of 3 that is added on to your vacation package and once obtained, covers your meals while you are on Disney property. It is pretty much like taking an all-inclusive vacation in Walt Disney World.

WOW! So does that mean that you can pay a flat price and eat anything and everything you like while on vacation? Well, no. There are some limits to what you can get. This is how it works: You purchase a Dining Plan Package based on how much food you and your family would like to eat and what type of restaurants you would like to eat at while on vacation. Once you arrive, credits for each meal and snack is loaded onto your room key, a.k.a. your Key to the World! When you want a meal or snack, you present the key and the Cast Member taking care of your transaction will slide it like a credit card, removing one credit of whatever you’re using (a meal or a snack) from your card. The remaining number of credits will be printed on your receipt so you can keep track of how many you have left. There are three categories, or grades, of Dining Plans:

Quick-Service Dining Plan: Includes two quick service meals and two snacks per person ages 3+ for each day of stay, along with one refillable resort mug per person.

Dining Plan: Includes one quick service meal, one table service meal, and one snack per person ages 3+ for each day of stay.

Deluxe Dining Plan: Includes three table or quick service service meals and two snacks per person ages 3+ for each day of stay, along with one refillable resort mug per person.

A quick service (also sometime referred to as a counter service) meal is Disney’s version of a fast food meal, although you can often get more than your basic burger and fries at these restaurants. A table service meal is a meal you get at sit down restaurant where you will be served by a waitstaff. A snack is a Disney designated item that usually costs somewhere around $5 or less (ie. an ice cream, cookie, or popcorn). Disney makes ordering items on the Dining Plan easy. On each menu located throughout Disney property, Dining Plan symbols (like that which is below) will appear next to all items that apply.

Of course in addition, if you have any questions about what you can get with each credit, just ask the nearest Cast Member and they will be happy to help.

2. Is the Dining Plan “worth it”?

We always get the Dining Plan for FREE, since we book our longest WDW trips during the time of the year that Disney offers that promotion. So in that case, YES! The Dining Plan is worth it! In fact, it is beyond worth it; because admittedly, food on Disney property can be a pretty penny if you are paying out of pocket, so getting it for FREE saves you a lot of moolah.

However, if you are planning a trip for a time of the year that the FREE Disney Dining is not offered, then here is how I decipher if purchasing the Disney Dining Plan is worth it for you. Ask yourself these questions:

1. What type of dining experience to I expect on vacation? Do I like to eat a granola bar in the room for breakfast and pack a PB&J in my bag for a quick bite at lunch? Or do I like to just grab my room key and park ticket on my way out in the morning and purchase any meals I want to eat throughout the day?

2. What type of items do I typically order off of restaurant menus? The cheap chicken finger and fries or iceberg salad, no matter the restaurant? Or do I prefer more expensive items like steak and seafood?

If you answered “yes” to the second questions in each set, then maybe the Dining Plan is not worth it for you. You can probably get out a lot cheaper if you prefer to pack your own lunch and take it into the park, or if you are only going to eat the cheapest items off of any menu. However, if you answered “yes” to the third question in each set, then the Dining Plan will probably be beneficial and money-saving for you and your family.

Disney advertises that you can save 20% when you purchase the Dining Plan, but we find that this is only true if you are using each credit that you are given (because if you don’t use it, you lose it), and if you are prone to ordering the most expensive items on menus. Now, in real-life Tim and I are not “big spenders” when it comes to eating out, but when we are in Disney and using the Dining Plan, we are always conscious about allowing ourselves to get that filet mignon or huge breakfast platter. That’s what makes vacation…well, VACATION to us. But maybe that is not the case for your and your family, so deciding if the Dining Plan is “worth it” to you is based purely on your personal opinions and vacation expectations.

3. I’ve decided the Dining Plan is “worth it” for me and my family. Now which package should I purchase?

Once again, choosing which grade of Dining Plan that you want/need to purchase is based on what vacation expectations you have. I’ve created a quiz that you can take here to see which Dining Plan would work best for you. Of course, this is just a jumping off point. You may want to go “outside of the box” on your next trip and try more restaurants than you have in the past, or take less time eating meals than you have in the past, in which case you would change which package you choose based on what you want your vacation to look like.

4. Do I need to make reservations for table service meals?

Yes! Walt Disney World has so many wonderful places that you can use your table service credits, but because they are so wonderful, they tend to fill up fast! Yes, I have heard the random story of, “I didn’t have any reservations, but we just walked up to Liberty Tree Tavern and got right in!” Of course, walking up and putting your name on the list is always an option, but stories like these are few and far between. Usually you will have to wait a long time, or possibly not get in at all! Planning ahead and making reservations is always best. Disney accepts reservations 180 days out from the date of your arrival and you can make dining reservations online or by calling 407-WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463.

Elrod WDW Tip: If you are going during a time when Disney is offering the FREE Dining Plan, remember that where you stay determines what grade of Dining Plan you receive. If that plan is not in line with what you are wanting for your vacation experience, you can always upgrade to the Dining Plan you want by paying the difference. In fact, that is exactly what we are doing this September!

5. Do my meal credits expire at the end of each day, or at the end of the week?

Good news! At the end of the week. This means that if you are on the middle-of-the-road Dining Plan, where you get one quick service, one table service, and one snack a day, you do not have to use exactly that each day. If you stuff yourself at your buffet lunch and end up not wanting a snack that day, no worries. They roll over, just get two snacks the next day…or the next day! Just be sure to get them before you leave. Also, know that Disney makes it easy by keeping all the credits linked to your trip reservation number. That means that when you are at a table service meal and it comes time to pay, everyone doesn’t have to hand over their room key to have their credit deducted. Only one person does. The good thing about that is that each person’s name is not on their credits! By that I mean that if Grandma is a light eater and doesn’t use up all of her quick service meal credits, but Uncle Joe is always hungry and could use an extra one, well Uncle Joe can chow down on Grandma’s quick service meal! Disney doesn’t care who eats the credits, just use them if you got them!

Tim and I at Narcoossee's in 2009.

Alrighty, you Disney lovers, I think this is where I’m going to call it quits for the day. Look for more Disney Dining posts in the near future (since there has been such demand for it!) with advice, Elrod WDW Tips, and more! And as always, if you have any specific questions…Just Ask!

Christmas in July: Tips, Times, and Dates

Can you believe it?

It is the last Tuesday in July and August is literally just around this week’s corner. All this month we have been celebrating Christmas in July and jingle-jangling our way through the Walt Disney World resorts and theme parks. Today I just wanted to bring you a short to-the-point, just-the-facts kind of post with dates and pricing of the special holiday events, and a few Elrod WDW Tips.

The Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts will start decorating and celebrating the Christmas season just before Thanksgiving up until the first few days in January. Elrod WDW Tip: The best time to book your holiday trip is the week following Thanksgiving up to the week before Christmas. It is also best to visit during the middle of the week verses the weekends. Room prices will be cheaper and the crowds will be much lighter. If you are there the weeks of Christmas through New Years, be sure to go in with a positive, holly-jolly spirit; knowing you will see some crowds and that the parks often shut their gates at some point during the day because they have reached visitor capacity.

For Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2011 dates and prices, click the image below.

EPCOT’s Candlelight Processional will run November 25, 2011–December 30, 2011.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights will run November 10, 2011 – January 3, 2012.

Elrod WDW Tip: If you have little ones, be sure to check brochures or ask a Disney Cast Member where you can meet Santa! Last year Jack got his picture with the big man at DownTown Disney for free with very little wait! Santa, and sometimes Mrs. Clause as well, have been known to be spotted at the America Showcase in EPCOT, or even in your resort hotel lobby! Don’t miss your chance to see him so you can whisper into his ear your Christmas wish list.

Well, I hope you have had a Very Merry Jolly July! Thank you for coming along with me all this month to talk about Christmastime at Walt Disney World. Tim and I would love to go back this year to take part in the festivities. However, with Gummy Bear being due on the 2oth, it is not advised by our doctor to travel that far. If you and your family go, be sure to let me know! I’d love to hear all about it.

Until next time, Merry Christmas! And a happy New August!