“The View” inside Walt Disney’s Apartment in Disneyland

The ViewDisneyland

DWDads are not regular watchers of “the View” on ABC, but this week we have had a good reason for tuning in. All week, November 18-22, ABC’s “the View” has been broadcasting LIVE at 11am eastern or 10am central/pacific from The Disneyland Resort with a variety of guests and entertainers in order to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 85th birthday (November 18).  Although all of the programming on “the View” was in some way linked to ABC/Disney this week, the espisode I am looking forward to seeing most, is on Friday, November 22nd.

Fri., Nov. 22:  Kurt Russell, who had a 10 year contract in the 1970s with the Walt Disney Company, takes Barbara Walters on a magical walk in Walt Disney’s footsteps as they take a “step in time” into the past and tour never-before-seen places including Disney’s private apartment and a private club. Music sensation Pitbull appears. Singer and co-host Demi Lovato performs.  The hosts bid farewell to the Disneyland Resort during a magical finale celebration.

Since the show hasn’t aired, I can only assume Barbara will document the highlights of a tour that is offered daily at Disneyland called  “A Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps”.  This 3½-hour guided tour covers the life of Walt Disney and how his vision became reality.  Basically, this tour tells you stories about the man behind the magic and you will learn some behind-the-scenes secrets to the theme of the various lands, and special touches by the Imagineers and Walt himself. This show might give you a taste of what that tour has to offer or it may leave you wanting the to experience it on your own.  So if you want to book this tour as part of your Disneyland vacation or you would like a quote please contact us.

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 Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps:

  • Passage on the Disney Railroad and two other attractions
  • An exclusive look at the lobby of the famed Club 33
  • An exclusive look at Walt Disney’s private apartment
  • A private Lunch on Main Street USA
  • An exclusive collectible trading pin

Price:

$109.00 per person; Discounted to $87.20 per person for Annual Pass holders, AAA, Disney Visa, DVC members.

Tours are available every day at 9:30am and have a capacity of 15 people per tour. Not recommended for small children.

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A Target Disney Shopping Trip

Christmas shopping season is in full swing, and retailers have been breaking out the big sales since early October.  If you have kids, you have probably noticed that nearly all of the big box stores have Christmas Toy Catalogs that include deals that run until Thanksgiving.  Even if you are just shopping for some special kids in your life, you can find some good prices on popular toys for Christmas.

I recently took a trip to Target to take advantage of a few coupons.  I wasn’t that surprised to see that the items I came home with were all Disney (we’re pretty predictable!). The Target toy catalog is filled with coupons for various popular brands.  Many of these brands sell Disney-themed items, so it worked out that I could use multiple coupons.  Also, there was a $5 off of $50 toy coupon attached to the back of the catalog that was mailed to my house, so I wanted to break that threshold (that was pretty easy!). Here’s how my list broke down.

1. The Baby

It has been a few years since our older boys have been babies, so certain toys are in need of replacement.  Our supply of bath toys is especially low, since they don’t last as long as other toys. I spotted the $5 off Fisher Price coupon and went to the baby toy section.  There were lots of fun Disney-inspired Fisher Price toys, including toys that featured Dumbo, Dalmatians and the Lion King, but then I found what I was looking for:

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Fisher Price Finding Nemo Nesting Bath Toys: $19.99 ($14.99 after the $5 coupon)

2. 4-Year-Old

Next up was our 4-year-old, who is at that weird age when he can play with age-appropriate toys one minute, but be totally into whatever his 8-year-old brother is playing with the next minute.  With a new baby brother in the house, it makes buying younger kid toys easier, knowing they will get used by a few children over the next couple of years. There is one brand that immediately came to mind that would bridge all of these gaps: LEGO. We love LEGO in our house.  The older boys love the regular LEGO sets, but can also be found playing with DUPLO (the bigger blocks) from time-to-time.  There are some fun Disney Duplo sets out right now, including Disney Princess and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  I finally settled on this set:

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Skipper’s Flight School: $39.99 (on sale this week for $38.00 – $5 LEGO coupon = $33.00)

3. The 8-Year-Old

I knew my 8-year-old would be a little tougher since he is getting to the age where he doesn’t really want toys anymore.  Instead, he’d prefer movies, video games and electronics. Luckily, there are more than a few Disney items in those categories, including one of this season’s hottest gifts for Disney fans: Disney Infinity.

We LOVE Disney Infinity and have been picking up most of the guys and discs as they come out. There are a few items, though, that would be nice for under the tree.  I picked up one of the newer sets that we didn’t have yet:

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Disney Infinity Toy Story Playset ($34.99 – $5 coupon = $29.99)

The Final Tally

So, the three items I purchased came to $78.  I also had that $5 off $50 toy coupon, so that dropped it $73.  After my RedCard 5% savings, the total was $69.35.  Not bad! It was nice to pick up Disney-themed gifts from some very popular brands and save some money at the same time.

We’ll feature some other Disney-inspired shopping trips over the next few weeks.  If you really want to put an amazing gift under the tree, why not contact DW Dads and let us help you plan that surprise Disney trip you’re giving the family this Christmas? Don’t forget, our services are FREE and we’ll always help you find the best deals for the vacation that fits your needs!

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

This past weekend marked the opening of Christmas season in Walt Disney World with the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) of the year. For many, planning for the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party can be both exciting and overwhelming.  Since this event requires a separate ticket ($62-$71 ages 10+; $57-$66 ages 3-9) and some make this a one-time experience, most want to get the most out of this evening and DWDads is here to help.

The most important way to prepare yourself for MVMCP is knowing what to expect.  The event is held November 8, 11, 14, 15, 17, 21 and 22 and December 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 20 from 7PM-12AM, though the park opens to those that have party tickets at 4PM  Given that this party begins at or around many of our little children’s bedtimes, taking a late afternoon nap, might allow your group to prolong your night later than a typical night – after all, it is Christmas. Eating dinner prior to the start of the party is also a good idea, unless you plan on eating cookies and hot chocolate for dinner (no judgment here).  Pick a few things that you list as your Must-Dos and prioritize the rest.  Since the party is only 5 hours long, it nearly impossible to do it all and that is ok.

Here is our list of the 12 best things about the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – the Twelve “Yays!” of MVMCP.

The 12 “Yays!” of MVMCP

12) All you care to enjoy cookies, hot chocolate and cider

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These posts mark the places where you can find these treats

11) Glow with the Show Mickey Ears – new in 2013

10) Special Party Edition Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Cards

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9) Character Dance Parties – Club Tinsel (Cosmic Ray’s) & Woody’s Hootin’ Holiday (Diamond Horseshoe)

8) Seeing Santa Claus in Disney World (Parade and Meet & Greet Next to City Hall)

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7) Very short lines at attractions – most rides are walk-on throughout the night

6) A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show

5) Celebrate the Season Cinderella’s Castle Stage Show

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4) Special Character Meet & Greets in Holiday attire – especially All of The Seven Dwarfs

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3) Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade

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2) Holiday Wishes!

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1) Snow falling on Main Street

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DWDads’ MVMCP plan:

In 2012 we went to the first MVMCP of the year on November 9th.  At the time, our boys were 3 and 18 months.  We spent that morning at Animal Kingdom and left right after lunch. All four of us went back to our resort and took a 1-2 hour nap and got ready to be on the bus by 4:30 or so.  We arrived at the Magic Kingdom just after dark and we watched the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party coming down Main Street.  After picking up some hotdogs and snacks at Casey’s, we immediately headed toward Frontierland to line up to meet the Seven Dwarfs.  We got there at about 6:30 and the line had already formed and continued to build as we enjoyed our dinner in line.  The party started at 7 and we were able to meet the 7 Dwarfs and get pictures by 7:30.

Clare and Charlie then walked toward Main Street to get a spot for the parade while Jack and I rode Splash Mountain (no line).  We then met up with them on Main Street and waited for the parade.  You want to make sure you watch the parade from in front of the shops ON Main Street in order to capture the full effect of the snow falling during the parade.  As you wait for the parade, there are cast members in the street entertaining you and the kids. Charlie even got called out with other kids to dance in the street. As soon as the parade ends, you should make your way into the street and grab a spot for the special Holiday Wishes! somewhere in the street before the hub.  As we waited for the show, Clare ran to get some cookies and hot chocolate for all of us to enjoy.  It was truly one of the best displays we had ever seen.

Once Wishes! was over, we made our way down toward Cinderella’s Castle to get a spot to watch the Celebrate the Season Stage Show which started soon after the end of Wishes!  During that show, our 18-month-old fell asleep. It was at that time that I realized how important seeing the early parade and naptime had been.  Our 3 year old continued to party, though, at the Character Dance party in Cosmic Rays.  We enjoyed a few more cookies and he and Clare rode the WEDway People Mover once again. We caught the end of the 2nd parade as we walked down Main Street and stopped in the shops. I picked up my special Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards.  The thing I remember most, though, about that night was that as we walked down Main Street and glanced back at the castle, how softly the snow fell.  It was truly a magical night!

If you want to give Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party a try, please contact us and we can help make it happen!

MVMCP Show times:

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade – 8:15pm, 10:30pm
Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Spirit of the Season – 9:30pm
A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show – 7:45pm, 8:45pm, 9:55pm, 10:50pm, 11:45pm
Celebrate the Season Cinderella’s Castle- 7:45pm, 10:05pm, 11:20pm

Disney Dining Plans 101

One of the most popular add-ons to a Walt Disney World vacation package is one of the three Disney Dining Plans.  As popular as they are, the most frequent question we get at DW Dads is: Are the Dining Plans worth it? Let’s try to answer that question today!

Here is some general info to keep in mind:

  • Dining plans can only be added onto a vacation package, which is defined as a reservation that includes both a room and tickets. Annual Passholders do not have to purchase tickets in order to purchase the Dining Plan, as long as they are staying on property.
  • Everyone in the room has to be on the same plan.
  • Dining Plan meal/snack credits are per night, not per day.
  • There are some ways that the plans can be used – ahem – beyond the stated policies. For the purposes of this article, however, we will play strictly by the rules!
  • Meal and snack credits are issued all at once to every member of your party at check-in; they can be used whenever you’d like.  For example, 2 adults checking in for 5 nights on the quick service plan would immediately have 20 quick service credits (2 per night per person for 5 nights) and 10 snack credits available. Theoretically, they could go and use all of them on day one.
  • Some meals, like Signature restaurants and Dinner Shows, require 2 table service credits for 1 meal.

The Plans

There are three common plans available (plus Premium and Platinum plans that include more than dining; we’ll cover them another time).

Quick Service:
Includes 2 quick service meals per night, 1 snack per night and a refillable resort mug
Adults: $39.64 per night, Children: $15.75 per night

Basic Dining Plan:
Includes 1 table service, 1 quick service and 1 snack per night and a refillable resort mug
Adults: $58.66 per night, Children: $18.88 per night

Deluxe Dining Plan:
Includes 3 meal credits per night (can be used at quick service or table service; Signature and Dinner Shows still require 2 credits), 2 snacks per night and a refillable resort mug
Adults: $102.94-$104 per night (depending on season), Children: $28-$29.50 per night (depending on season)

Are They Worth It?

The value of the Dining Plan is going to vary wildly by person.  A lot of it depends on, of course, what and where you plan on eating; some of it, however, is a little more intangible. There are a couple of ways to figure out if a plan  would be worth it for you: the thorough way, and the rounded way (that is not a reference, by the way, of the way you feel after a week on the Deluxe Dining Plan!).

Eating whole chickens will greatly improve your chances of breaking even on the Dining Plan.

Eating whole chickens will greatly improve your chances of breaking even on the Dining Plan.

The Thorough Approach

The best way to know if the plans are worth it is to do the following:

  • Plan your meals
  • Visit a site, like allears.net, and check the menus for all of your restaurants
  • Put together sample “orders” and total the costs
  • Compare it to the price of the plan

The problem with this approach is having to know what you may eat months from now.

The Rounded Approach

OK, let’s break a few things down and use some rounding.

Every plan comes with a refillable mug, which is worth about $18. Since the value per night is so dependent on the number of nights you’ll be there, let’s consider this a bonus.

Snacks are valued at about $4 each.  So, that brings the cost of the quick service to $36 and the Basic to $55.

Every meal comes with a drink and a dessert. For quick service meals, that’s worth about $6.50. So that brings the cost of the quick service plan down to $23 and the cost of the basic down to $48.50. Table service drink and dessert is worth about $11, so that brings the basic down to $37.50.

Where does that leave us?
Quick Service: You would order entrees valued at approximately $11.50 each to break even.
Basic Plan: Your quick service entree and your table service entree would have to equal $37.50.

That’s going to be real close. Quick service meals hover around $10 each, but there are some that are closer to $14-15; then there are some that are around $8. Table service meals also range, but if you’re committed to eating steak and ribs at every meal, you should fine!

The Intangible

There is one main intangible most people cite as the reason they ultimately decided to get a dining plan: convenience. Many people can put some value on the idea that your meals are paid for in advance and there won’t be any surprises while you are there.  If that is worth even a couple bucks a night to you, then the dining plan sounds like it may be a good choice for you.

Taking my family of 5 to Disney World (on-property with tickets & meals) for under $999

First I need to give you some facts.  My children are ages 4, 2, and an infant, so in Disney’s eyes we only need to pay for 1 child; therefore we qualify as a “Family of 3.”  Second, I have not included transportation to Orlando, which could cost us another $300 (driving) to $2,000+ (airfare for 5).

Intro to DW

Last week Disney released a new Discount Package called Intro to Disney.   With this special offer, you can purchase a 3-night, 2-day Magic Your Way Room and Ticket Package PLUS Quick Service Dining at select Disney Value Resort hotels (Pop Century and All-Star resorts) for under $1,000 for stays most nights Jan. 5 – Feb. 12, 2014 (based on a family of 3).   This is the Pop Intro Offer quote I ran for my family and it came out to $977.22 for the 5 of us at Pop Century.  This package is ideal for families with young children or any family who wants to give Disney World a test drive, or those that want to take a short trip over a long weekend.  Because the crowd levels are typically lower during this period, you should be able to get a lot accomplished with a good touring plan on this quick getaway . The availability on these packages is limited so if you are interested we can run you a quote.

There are great rates for other lengths of stay, alternative family configurations and other Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights Jan. 5 – March 5, 2014.  If you have any questions about this discount package or any other question, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Planning Tip: Adding the Park Hopper Option

When Disney switched to the Magic Your Way ticket system in 2005, the ability to Park Hop became a much more conscious decision on the part of the visitor.  Prior to 2005, the Park Hopper and Park Hopper Plus were the standard choice of most guests.  Today, you have the option of adding Park Hopping to your ticket. But is it the right choice for you?

Park Hopper Basics

Disney’s Magic Your Way tickets are priced so that the first few days of your trip are more expensive than the last several days. For example: a 1-day ticket is approximately $100 and a 4-day ticket is approximately $300.  After 4 days, it is only $10 for each additional day; so a 10-day pass is approximately $360. These prices DO NOT include park hopping.

Adding the ability to Park Hop – that is, visit multiple parks on a single day – costs $59 per ticket.  It is a flat fee, so it is the same $59 whether you are there 2 days or 10 days. (The only exception is a 1-day park hopper, which costs slightly less as an add-on option.)

This means the park hopper option is costing you $30 per day if you are there for a weekend, but only $6 per day if you are there for a 10-day trip.

Is it worth it?

This is a topic of some debate.  For longer trips, it’s hard to argue against $6 per day; that’s a drop in the bucket when compared to other vacation costs.

Many feel, however, that park hoppers are much more valuable for shorter trips; this makes sense.  If you are only there for 3-4 days, you may need the park hopper to try to see as many of your must-do’s as possible.  For longer trips, you have the luxury of time in each park.  Park hopping is a nice option to have, but it takes time to do it and by the time you get to your second park, the crowds (and lines) may already be building up.  With a week-long vacation, it may be better for your itinerary to simply include one park per day.  But, again, it’s hard to argue against $6 per day.

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“We’re only here for breakfast. We’re heading to Magic Kingdom after this!”

Here’s some fine print

You can not use more than 1 “day” on your ticket on a single day.  So, if you bought a 5 day ticket because it only costs $10 more than a 4-day ticket, but you are only going to be on vacation for 4 days, you can’t use your 5th “day” ticket on your 4th day to enter a second park. Thought you were slick, didn’t you?

Most people have a pretty clear itinerary before they go on vacation.  They know what park they will visit each day and when and where they are eating.  You should be able to make a pretty informed decision before you leave about whether or not you’ll need to hop.  But NEEDING to hop is different than WANTING to hop.  There are a lot of fun scenarios that are only available to those who hop. Here are a few:

  • Watching IllumiNations at 9:00 in Epcot, running to the monorail afterwards and making it to the Magic Kingdom in time for the 10:00 Wishes!
  • Participating in an unofficial Disney fan challenge: 4 parks in one day.
  • Broadening your dining options: Don’t like what Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios is offering at dinner, but there are more Epcot restaurants you want to try? Hop over to Epcot for dinner, then hop back to your original park for some nighttime entertainment.

Here is some advice that we offer to clients who aren’t sure whether the park hopper is right for them: Don’t buy it as part of your package.  You can add it to your tickets when you are in Disney World, so if you decide to hop while you are on vacation, simply go to a guest relations office and have them add it.  It will cost you the same $59, so why not wait?

Happy Hopping!

Ways to do Halloween “Disney-style”

Disney Costumes

Halloween provides us all with a great opportunity each year to enter a world of make-believe and dress up like our favorite characters from books, movies and television. Disney provides a wide array of characters to transform into every Halloween.  For costume inspiration you can look to characters from Disney’s traditional animation, Pixar, Disney Channel/Disney Junior cartoons as well as the newly acquired franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel. Here are some examples of Disney inspired costumes that the Dolewhiplets have worn over the years.

Boys Best  Halloween with names

Sully and Mike Wazowski ("Monsters Inc" - Pixar) &  Dipper Pines ("Gravity Falls" - Disney Channel)

Sully and Mike Wazowski (“Monsters Inc” – Pixar) & Dipper Pines (“Gravity Falls” – Disney Channel)

Phineas & Ferb with Woody ("Phineas & Ferb" - Disney Channel) and Jessie ("Toy Story" - Pixar)

Phineas & Ferb with Woody (“Phineas & Ferb” – Disney Channel) and Jessie (“Toy Story” – Pixar)

Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Donald Duck (Disney animation)

Donald Duck (Disney animation)

Aladdin ("Aladdin" - Disney animation)

Aladdin (“Aladdin” – Disney animation)

COSTUME POLL

Check out the trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood tonight and try to keep track of how many Disney-themed trick-or-treaters came to your house tonight?

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

If you are lucky enough to be in the DisneyParks throughout parts of September and all of October, Halloween is celebrated with special Halloween lighting and decorations.  There is even a special ticketed Halloween-themed party called Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) which Disney hosts at the Magic Kingdom on various nights in September-November.  This party lasts from 7pm to midnight includes a special Halloween parade (twice per night), a special fireworks display over the castle, Halloween-themed stage shows and dance parties as well as meet and greets with characters that are only available during these parties.  There are also trick or treat stations set up throughout the park where guests can collect treats.  Costumes are encouraged during these parties for children and adults, although in Disney Parks, you really don’t need an excuse to dress up at any time throughout the year.

Juliet & Sylvie got to trick-or-treat through the Magic Kingdom this year!

Juliet & Sylvie got to trick-or-treat through the Magic Kingdom this year!

Carve a Disney Pumpkin

One more way to bring a little Disney into your Halloween is to carve your pumpkin with a Disney theme.  Just tape a stencil onto your pumpin and score the shaded areas with a point.  Then carve the marked areas out of the face of the pumpkin.  Drop in a tea light candle or an LED candle and watch your character come to life.

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A quick google search for FREE + DISNEY + PUMPKIN + STENCILS and I was able to find hundreds of free templates to use.