Disneybounding at Walt Disney World

We just returned from a week in Walt Disney World in Florida. Of course we had an awesome time. This year, we tried something new. We decide to Disney Bound.

Once upon a time, visitors could wear costumes to visit the Magic Kingdom. But in order to avoid confusion between the workers at Disney who were supposed to be dressed up and the guests who went all out with their costumes, WDW banned costumes for anyone over the age of 12.

This means your little princess or Jedi can dress up but adults only can dress up when they attend Mickey’s Not So Very Scary Halloween party which happens on select days in September and October.

Many people still like the idea of dressing up and to get around the prohibition, they do what is called Disney Bounding. This is where guests fashion outfits that are inspired by a character.

As any of you who regularly follow my blog, my husband and I are all about dressing up for comic con so why not expand that to Disney?

Princess Leia and Han Solo

2016-11-28-08-16-57My husband is a major Star Wars fan so if we are going to Disney Bound, it was a certainty that one of them would have to be a Star Wars theme. My husband has dressed up as Han Solo before so it wasn’t hard to get him to do a toned-down version.

His Disney Bound outfit consisted of black boots, dark blue jeans, a white Henley and his Han Solo vest that I bought him many, many years ago. He fashioned a leather pouch that he could strap to his leg to simulate Han’s gun holster.

For Princess Leia, I wore a white dress which I got on a clearance sale for $7. I did my hair up in mini buns and wore white sandals. Because we were unsure of the weather, I also bought a white sweater for $10 for the cooler mornings. I also took a pair of white tennis shoes in case my feet hurt too much from the sandals. (Carrying all the supplies in a white bag of course to go with my outfit.)

Ariel and Prince Eric

2016-11-30-08-16-09-hdrWe did this one on our Epcot day. I guess it could have gone for any of the parks but I wanted to wear this outfit when Lexie and I went for our princess breakfast.

I had seen a picture of a couple Disney Bounding as Ariel and Prince Eric and knew my husband and I could pull that off. Many of the items used for Han Solo also worked for Prince Eric. My husband was able to reuse the boots, dark blue jeans and white Henley. All we needed to do was add a red sash to his waist.

For my Ariel Disney Bound outfit, I found a flowing dark teal skirt at Goodwill and paired it with a purple top I found on Ebay. I put starfish clips in my hair and wore a seashell necklace, anklet and earrings. I also carried a pink bag like Ariel.

We got a few comments on both outfits but for the most part I am not sure most other visitors knew what we were doing, but I still enjoyed doing it. However, wearing heeled sandals with the amount of walking we were planning to do probably wasn’t the best idea.

 

Our trip to Disney World starts this week

As you read this, I am off at Disney World in Orlando, Florida for the week. Who-hoo! I am so excited!!!

Now planning a Disney World trip is always a big production – if you want to hit the good attractions, shows and restaurants.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge

I am a big planner (as you might of guessed when I posted that we have the next 3 vacations planned out back in August). This trip came about on what I would consider short notice. We decided in April to rent Disney Vacation Club points and stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge during the holidays. (This is big for me as it means taking the kids out of school for a week – something I have never done before.)

DSCN2988But anyone who has been to Disney World in Florida (which consists of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, a mini golf-course, 4 regular golf courses, a sports complex, a mega-shopping/entertainment center in addition to fishing, sailboats, canoes and a whole bunch of other activities offered at their 20 on-property resorts) knows you need to have some semblance of planning on this vacation.

In the past I have shared some planning posts. I am going to link back to those posts here for any of you planning a trip. But because they were written in 2013/2014, they may contain information that is no longer accurate. I will try to note here any changes from the posts but when in doubt double check all info. I suggest either a good guide book or to visit the Disboards (a message board full of Disney enthusiasts including some employees who can give you the inside scoop).

Planning Post #1 – Includes suggestions for buying a guide book, a link to AllEars.net and the Disboards, as well as suggestions to make your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) at the 180 day mark if you want some of the more popular eateries. Everything in the post seems pretty up-to-date though Star Wars Weekends no longer happen.

Planning Post #2 – Covers staying on Disney property and buying a package that includes hotel, dining plan and theme park tickets. Again, it looks like this is all good info. We didn’t go with a package this year as we rented DVC points from David’s Vacation Club Rentals and bought our theme park tickets from Parksavers at a substantial discount.

Planning Post #3 – This one covers FastPass+ which allows you to skip the standby line on 3 attractions by booking an hour window which you plan to ride/view that attraction. Most of this information on Fastpasses is accurate but I would suggest checking out the FAQ on the Disboards for the most up-to-date info. Also, ignore what I wrote about Star Wars Weekends as they have discontinued that event.

Next week I will address Disney Bounding which is wearing clothing inspired by a Disney character without actually wearing a costume. Intrigued? Then be sure to check back in next Monday.

 

Vacation planning – Destinations picked for 2016, 2017 and 2018!

For those of you who regularly read my blog – you know I am a planner. I typically have our next vacation planned out 6, 9 or 12 months in advance.

But now I think I have reached the pinnacle of planning. Not only do I have our vacation this year (Disney) scheduled, but I know where we are going in 2017 (Houston) and 2018 (Alaskan cruise). Yep, I am feeling like the ultimate planner right now.

Let me start with our newest vacation plan – a family cruise to Alaska! In August 2015, my family, my parents and brother took a Caribbean cruise (courtesy of my parents). We had three balcony cabins in a row and took family excursions in all of our stops. Everyone had a great time.

I guess the kids got the cruising bug because they were all for going again. When I mentioned there were cruises to Alaska, they both jumped on that idea. So we have been mulling this idea around for a while. Research quickly showed us that these cruises book up early, and they are more expensive than a Caribbean cruise. Part of the additional expense is because we will have to fly to Seattle rather than just drive to Galveston to board our ship.

Alaska – 2018

So while I would love to go to Alaska next summer, it just makes more sense to wait, save money and get the cabins/dates we want. And it didn’t take much convincing to get my parents and my brother to agree to go with us.

At the end of July, we booked our cruise for August 2018. My parents and my family will have connecting balcony cabins while my brother decided to go with a cabin that has a French door that partially opens and offers a view of the lifeboats. The price for this cabin is much cheaper, but at least he has a door that will provide some natural light and a cool breeze if he wants to open it.

Now we need to start saving money for airfare and excursions. I have already shown the kids the activities they can plan at each stop and have an idea of what they might want to do but we probably won’t book any of those until 2017. (Yes, yes, we will be booking early. You can’t say you are surprised.)

Houston – 2017

Now next summer, we are finally going to make it to Houston. After a Disney World trip in 2014, we decided that we would do something more low-key (read cheaper) for summer 2015. That was the plan until my parents offered to pay for the Caribbean Cruise in August 2015. So we pushed back the Houston trip until summer 2016. And then it got bumped when we decided to take a November trip to Disney World.

But now it is set in stone that we are going to Houston for a week next summer. We will visit the zoo, NASA, museums, the boardwalk and maybe even throw in a quick stop at the beach in Galveston.

Disney World – 2016

WDW ChristmasA huge tax return and the desire to go once again during the holiday season is what made us decide to do a Disney World trip in November of this year. Originally, we had talked about going in June 2017 but the last few trips have been in the heat of summer. And I can’t say no to going to Disney World when all the Christmas decorations are up. So we decide to take the kids out of school for a week and go this November.

I think I am most excited because we are renting part of a time share and are staying at the Animal Kingdom lodge. We will have giraffes and zebras right outside our room!

So now that we have the destinations picked for the next three years, it doesn’t mean the planning is over. Part of the fun for me is the planning, and I look forward to many months of research what to do on all these vacations.

Our vacation plans changed yet again

Two years ago we took a trip to Disney World. Anyone who has stayed on Disney property knows that it is not cheap. So for the following summer we decided that we would just go on a vacation closer to home. We decided to go to Houston (about 3 hours from here).

But that plan changed when my parents decided to take my brother and my family on a Caribbean cruise to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday and my husband and my 20th wedding anniversary. So we pushed the Houston plans to the summer of 2016.

That was the plan when I wrote in January about our summer plans. We were going to save money and go on a vacation closer to home so that we could re-do the counter tops in our kitchen. Then we got a much larger than expected tax refund. And my husband mentioned going to Disney in December rather than waiting until June 2017 as was our original plan.

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Christmas Tree outside of the Animal Kingdom Theme Park. (2009)

Now, before the kids were in elementary school, we had taken them to Disney World a couple of times in December. The weather is great and the theme parks and hotels are all decorated for Christmas. But if you recall a post I wrote back in January, I try not to have my kids miss too much school. Typically they have only missed a day if they are sick.

OK…I admit to taking them out early for the rodeo and once for a beach trip. Every June Disney trip has had them missing the last day of school. I always thought I would feel too guilty to take them out of school for a whole week for a vacation.

I stewed over my husband’s suggestion for a week or so. I began looking at prices of hotels to see if it was any cheaper to go in December verses waiting until June. (Nope, not really much of a price difference.) I even talked to a few parents I know who have taken their kids out of school for a family vacation whether it was Disney World or a cruise. None of them regretted it. One, who now is a teacher at my school, highly encouraged me to do it.

“You won’t regret it,” she said. “Think of the memories you will make.”

Our principal is very family oriented. My kids are good students. If the teachers give make up work, we will do it. If they get zeroes on work for the days they miss, it won’t affect their grades that much. And honestly, who really cares what your grades were in third and fifth grade anyway.

So I decided we would do it. We would take them out for five days in December.

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Caribbean Beach Resort

Now each time we have gone to Disney, we have stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort. My husband and I spent our honeymoon there and an anniversary trip before taking the kids to that resort. But when I looked, there was no openings for the time we wanted to go. (9 months in advance and no standard rooms? Weird but it is the same time as a youth sports groups annual competition and they may be holding rooms for them.)

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Animal Kingdom Lodge

I have always wanted to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. But this is a deluxe resort and $$$$$. I was thinking if I could get it on a discount and it was only a little more than our normal resort then I would go ahead and do it. Pricing it out with the discount I assumed might be offered and it was still out of our range for what I am willing to spend on a resort.

Savannah View at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Savannah View at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Then I read about renting Disney Vacation Club points from a DVC member. This would make the Villas at Animal Kingdom Lodge affordable for us. After looking at room options and dates, we booked a Studio with a view of the Savannah for the week after Thanksgiving. I am so excited! I cannot wait to check out this resort!

Taking your kids out of school for non-health related reasons

I always tell my kids that their job is school. It is their job to learn and do their best at the lessons taught. Because I believe school is important, we try not to have them miss school.

I am a firm believer that if they aren’t really sick, then they need to be at school. If they aren’t running a fever (over 100) or throwing up, they are going to school. The one time I relented to this rule, I regretted it.

Of course, there are also doctor or dentist appointments to consider. We try to make those after school but that isn’t always possible, so I try to make them later in the school day, so they don’t miss too much. (School may start at 7:30 am but they have to be in class at 9:30 am to be counted for the day. Even if they come in later than that, they are still marked as absent.)

I know quite a few parents who have no qualms about taking their kids out of school for any reason – vacation, mental health day or whatever. Yes, places like Disney World are less busy during the school year, but I would feel too guilty taking my kids out for a week. There is no amount of makeup work that can replace actually being there.

Jase and Lexie on the tall slide.

Jase and Lexie on the tall slide at the rodeo.

Now, I must admit that I have taken the kids out for some not medical reasons. The last time was just two and a half weeks ago. Every year, San Antonio has a Stock Show & Rodeo in February.  This is a two-week event featuring not just a rodeo and agricultural exhibits but major singers nightly and a carnival.

We don’t typically go to the rodeo though it is very popular (read crowded). I took the kids when Jase was 6 and Lexie was 3 for what they call Dollar Days. Admission, all carnival rides and some foods only cost $1 on these days. Two years later, I took them again and then again this year.

The best way to beat those crowds on these discount days is to go early so I have taken the kids out of school around 11 am (or during the first year just waited until Jase was out of his pre-K class).

Lexie watching baby chicks hatch.

Lexie watching baby chicks hatch.

It isn’t all riding rides. We do some of the other kid activities and check out the petting zoo. I hope that some of it is at least educational for them. It at least lets them see another side of life if nothing else.

This is only one afternoon every other year, so I don’t feel too bad about taking them out. Last year, they also missed a day in the spring. My husband had a conference at South Padre Island, so we went up the weekend before. Since it is a 5-hour drive, we decided the kids and I would just drive back on Monday. But I knew the kids didn’t have any tests or major activities happening that day, so I felt fine with our decision.

And Jase missed the last day of school the first three years of elementary school. But then again, all the teaching is over by then, and we were going on vacation, so I didn’t feel bad at all about this.

As the kids advance in school, I actually expect it to be harder to feel okay with taking them out of school for a day here or there. Yes, there are some things like doctor’s appointments but most of their time is best spent in school learning.

Working on our plans for the summer of 2016

Anyone who follows my blog knows I am a planner. So yes, I am already planning our vacation for this summer.

cruiseLast year, we had plans to go to Houston, Texas as a cheaper vacation than the previous year’s trip to Disney World. Those plans got derailed when my parents opted to take the family on a Caribbean cruise at their expense. (I know we suffered there, right?)

So for this summer we considered returning to Disney World as it is one of my favorite places to go and this summer is the last of Jase’s elementary where we can have him miss the last days of school. (Next year, he is in the fifth grade and has a graduation ceremony on the last day.)

But as anyone who has been there or priced going to Disney World knows, it is not a cheap vacation. As much as I would love to go back, we also have some home-improvement projects in mind such as replacing the kitchen counters or putting in new carpet upstairs, neither of which is an inexpensive project.

In order for us to cross one of our improvements off the list, we opted to do a shorter, cheaper vacation and return to our Houston plans. In case you are wondering why Houston is a cheaper trip for us, we are in San Antonio, and Houston is only a 3-hour drive. (Orlando is an 18-hour drive, but we usually fly to save on time.)

nasaIn Houston, we plan to take advantage of the City Pass that allows you to visit five area attractions for about $50 per person. We plan to hit the zoo, the aquarium, NASA, the natural history museum and Kemah Boardwalk. (They also offer the children’s museum and the fine arts museum as options.)

I think we will have a blast. Now we are just trying to decide when to go over the summer. June is out because we have another trip planned. The kids and I are accompanying my husband to his seminar in Bastrop, Texas. It is at a resort that offers a water park in addition to hiking, bike riding and horseback riding.

During the summer, I also have a Parent-Teacher Association Leadership conference. This year it is in San Antonio so no extra travel for me. (If I don’t take an officer position in the PTA next year, I might skip the conference since I have gone the past two years.)

In addition to the conferences and trips, we will have the usual plans to hit the water park and other area attractions. Both kids have expressed interest in taking swimming lessons again. Lexie will also probably go to camp for a week. She went to Mermaid camp last year and Frozen (based on the movie) camp the year before. Jase skipped camp last year but the previous year he went to Lego camp. He hasn’t decided if he wants to try camp this year.

Already the summer is looking busy, and it is still a little over four months away. There is plenty of time to keep planning.

 

 

 

Disney World trip wrap up

Just four weeks ago, my family and I were in Disney World.  We had a great time. I mean how could we not? We were in the most magical place on Earth!

I thought I would review a few things that I talked about in my previous posts. (Planning post I, Planning Post II, Planning Post III and decorating your Magic Bands.)

Star Wars Weekends

One of the main reasons we went was to attend Star Wars Weekends (typically offered the last two weekends of May and first two weekends of June – though this year they did it for five weekends.) For a Star Wars fan, this is a must-attend event.

We didn’t stand in the autograph lines for the stars (Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams and Ray Parks were there our weekend), and we didn’t attend any of the special shows with these stars as we figured the kids wouldn’t be interested. wd022wdw201415783130927_19But it still was fun to walk around and run into Star Wars characters and do some shopping for Star Wars themed merchandise. And of course it was fun to have the magic shots taken with us fighting Darth Vader or knocking down some stormtroopers while using the force.

This year, Disney offered two special character meals featuring Star Wars characters. We attended both. The first was the Sci-Fi Dine-in Galactic breakfast. We got to watch clips of Star Wars on the big screen as storm troopers, jawas and Greedo came around. We had a photo with Darth Vader and Boba Fett upon entering the restaurant.

P1030744The other meal was a Jedi Mickey meal at Hollywood and Vine. We had a photo with Chip and Dale as Ewoks as soon as we entered the restaurant. As we ate, Jedi Mickey, Princess Leia Minnie, Darth Goofy and Stormtrooper Donald all stopped by our table.

I am glad we did both this time, but if Disney offered them again, I think we would just choose to do only the Sci-Fi Dine-in Galactic breakfast. It was more unique and featured the bad guys.

Magic Bands

We had no problems with Disney’s new magic bands. They worked great for park entry, fast passes and as our room key. We got many compliments on our decorated bands. Lexie did lose a few of her gems that I glued on. (Actually, I think she lost one and then picked at the rest since one was missing.) Jase’s band is the only one that showed any wear from being used. IMG_2253The purple nail polish began to peel slightly on the bend of the band. Next time, I will not use Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails. Not only did it crack, but it took me three coats to get a good purple on his blue band. I did love the purple color – just not how well it held up.

My band probably held up the best out of all four bands. The glow in the dark effect that I put on my husband’s and Jase’s worked in a subtle way. Jase was happy with it so that is all that matters.

Fast Pass +

Disney recently started allowing you to book Fast Passes (FP) for up to three rides BEFORE you get to the park. This means you bypass the long “stand-by” lane and pretty much get right on the ride during your Fast Pass window, which is open for an hour. After you have used your three pre-booked FPs, you can then book another one. (As this has been an evolving program, you will need to check to see what the current program entails. At the time we were there, you had to book your additional FPs at kiosks inside the park which we did with no problems.)

We loved having some of the big rides scheduled for the day we arrived. It also worked out nice to arrive at the parks early and hit some rides and then when the lines began to build to be able to use our pre-scheduled FPs for the most popular rides.

I only had two issues with the new system. One it was hard having the FPs scheduled an hour apart. When we had two rides next to each other, it was easier to arrive at the end of the first ride’s FP time so we wouldn’t have any wait for the next ride. (An example would be showing up at 3:00 for a Splash Mountain FP that would expire at 3:10. By the time you are done with Splash Mountain, your Big Thunder Mountain Railroad FP that was scheduled from 3:10 to 4:10 would be ready to use. If we had hit Splash earlier, there would have been time to kill in an area of the park with very few other rides.)

My other issue dealt with trying to change a FP on the My Disney Experience app. I accidentally hit copy and screwed up a whole day’s worth of FPs that luckily we were able to salvage by talking to the help desk. I seriously think it should ask, “Are you sure you want to do this?” instead of just trying to copy the current FP to someone else. Not to mention it didn’t even work but that is a rant for another day.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

wd011wdw201416084494367Lexie was so excited about being made into a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in the Magic Kingdom. We took her Cinderella dress from Halloween, which lights up. She got a ton of attention because of the light up effects. She also enjoyed the makeover. What I wasn’t prepared for was that she didn’t like her hair!

She didn’t choose the standard bun that I would say 70% of the girls picked. She chose a “Diva” look which included a hair piece to make her hair longer. Thankfully, her Fairy Godmother-in-training (FGIT) picked one that matched her natural hair color. I wasn’t looking forward to a pink hairdo that I had seen on some of the other girls. wd021wdw201416084505026But the FGIT teased up the hair into a high “bun.” Lexie hated it. She thought everyone would make fun of her even though we saw others with that same style. After an hour of her frowning about it, my husband and I tried fixing the hair so it wasn’t so poufy. She kept it up through dinner at the castle, but as soon as we were back to the room, she wanted to take it down all the way.

She has declared that next time she would pick a different style. In the end, I guess the cost was worth it. We had done the package that does hair, makeup and nails. I then added that pink tiara to the package. She got to keep all the makeup, nail polish, face jewels and hair clips. She also got a sash and pink bag.

Overall, our trip was wonderful and I would love to go to Disney World more often. As it is, we probably won’t be back for another three years – unless I can convince my husband to go in 2016!