Saturday, January 26, 2013

Preparing for Disney World

I've been meaning to write this post for a while but... life happens. Anyhow, last month for my birthday, my boyfriend and I decided to go to Disney World. My parents were super awesome (yes, super awesome) about it and after we booked our flight and car, they actually gifted us their timeshare to use. For context purposes, we purchased our tickets in August and then I promptly spent the following months immersing myself in all things Disney.

The Tickets

We ordered our tickets online through Undercover Tourist and had them shipped to us. They arrived in a timely manner and we had no issues at all with them. We should have opted to get our Islands of Adventure tickets also from there but at the time, we were still on the fence about whether we were going to go or not. The website says that you should allow up to 10 business days if you're in the United States and a few days more if you're not within the States, so make sure you plan accordingly (or be prepared to pick them up in Orlando).

The Restaurants

We waited till September to start booking the restaurants. Truth be told, I might have skipped this step entirely (and found my hopes dashed) if I wasn't paying attention to the Disney subreddits. Around that time, news about the Be Our Guest restaurants was coming out and when the first day for reservations started, that particular restaurant was booked immediately. I decided that it would be in our best interest to book in advance and I'm awfully glad we did. 

Through the DW Dining Reservations, we picked our restaurants and since we didn't have Park Hoppers, we knew that we'd be in particular parks each day. Which meant that our picking of the restaurants dictated what parks we'd be in. Luckily we knew that of the restaurants we chose (for lunch and dinner), only two actually had a no-show fee whereas all others ask that you cancel out of kindness to other guests (rather than just not showing up and not cancelling). 

Magic Kingdom

The Crystal Palace
Animal Kingdom

Rainforest Café
Biergarten Restaurant
Coral Reef Restaurant*
Hollywood Studios*
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater*
The Hollywood Brown Derby*
For any asterisks present, that means we ran into some issues with the planning of this. Let's start with Coral Reef -- sometime after we booked the reservation, we also realized that Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party was happening and it was on the day of my birthday. So we decided that we'd do it (even though it's a separate entrance fee) but forgot that we had a dinner reservation that night. Well... that night we ended up eating cookies, hot chocolate, and apple slices for dinner at that party.
For Wednesday, due to some mishaps with trying to meet up with my cousin who lives in the area, we ended up switching everything to Thursday. While the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater was easily able to accomodate us on Thursday without advance notice, the Hollywood Brown Derby has a no-show fee (the other restaurant being The Crystal Palace to have the same fee) so we called them on Wednesday to try to get it switched and they were greatly accommodating. It turns out that if we tried to cancel it, we would have had to paid the fee, but switching it to another day circumvented that fee.
Pin Trading

So something I've always kind of wanted to do since my previous visit to Disney World (and subsequent trips to Disneyland) was to start pin trading. But back when I was 15, my parents either said "You're too old," or "This is a phase," or "It costs too much," which all seemed like legit reasons. Even during my last two trips to DL, I found myself saying the same exact thing. But then I realized that Stitch was a pin mainstay and he's my favourite character of all time (not really, but he's pretty up there). 
Now when I first got my Stitch Starter Set back in July, I kind of just figured that I'd be trading at DL the next time that we went. Getting started at Disney World is... well, let's just say I wasn't prepared. But then I wasn't really sure what to expect. Overall, it was a lot of fun albeit frustrating at times due to the scrappers. I ended up just purchasing whole packs such as the red version of the Stitch starter set.
Toward the end of the trip when I was able to trade for a Storm Trooper pin, I ended up giving it along with a few tradeables for my boyfriend to get started. Which made the whole "hunting down pins" thing a bit more enjoyable since we were doing it together. He ended up getting quite a few pins that really commemorated the trip.

I'm not going to talk about the souvenirs that we brought back, but rather some of the ideas that was floating around before we went (and even some thereafter). While we got a few ideas from Mouse Savers, we took great care in trying to preserve all our maps, pamphlets, and tickets. 
In addition to the basics, we got ourselves our "commemorative badges" right away. While my boyfriend got his "First Visit" badge, I got the "Birthday" badge and we wore it every single day. We also played the game of trying to see who got the most reaction out of the badges. Whereas I won that one, he won the "most compliments on clothing" one. :)
Back to that point of preserving maps though... while you can order a free planning DVD from Disney, I think the greatest thing we got in the planning phase were some customized maps. We didn't take these maps with us, but we did keep them at home and recently we found a frame for them. Now part of the problem is that they are double sided which means you'd likely have to order them twice if two of your favourite parks end up on the same side and you can only order them every 6 months. But they are quite beautiful and now we know that we have two sets (the fancy ones we got customized or the ones we actually used in the parks) if we ever feel like switching them out from the frame.

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