Welcome to the Williams Family Blog!

Now that you have found us, we invite you to return often for more adventures!


Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Registered On-Line for Our Disney Cruise Line Vacation



I stayed up late Sunday night sure did pay for it on Monday.  Why? You might ask.  Well, Monday was the 90 day mark prior to our cruise and as Silver Castaway Club Members we could register for our cruise and any excursions on Monday.  But, the on-line registration opens at midnight Eastern, so at 11:00 pm Central it was open to us.

Log In Screen

Logging on was easy.  Just needed a member name or email address, password, birthday, and reservation number of the cruise.  Since we have logged in before on Disney Cruise Line’s web-site, the information, other than the reservation number, was the same.  If you are logging in for the first time, you will be able to create an account with an email and password.

On-line Check-in Menu


After logging in, a menu page appeared.  I was able to work my way through the menu pages and complete the on-line registration process including adding activities.  While it says that we have no activities on our second day at Castaway Cay, we really do.  One option is to reserve two days’ of float/tube rental and bicycle rental at a savings, of course.  The two day rental only shows up on the activities list on the first day at Castaway Cay.

On-board activities reserved listed by day

As a part of the on-line registration, Passport information is also entered.  Having sailed with Disney before, all of our Passport numbers and expiration dates were already in the system and just appeared for confirmation.  It was great to be able to check the expiration dates.  We have had to change the boy’s Passport number and expiration date as he is on his second Passport since children’s only last 5 years and they cannot renew, but have to get a new one.

Emergency contact information for each guest is also included in the on-line registration.  We have a different emergency contact for each of us just in case one person isn’t available.  The information we had entered for previous cruises was pre-populated but we had a chance to change or update.

Another part of the on-line registration is to determine the type of payment that will be used for the on-board account.  A credit card can be entered at this time.  We selected cash and will be depositing cash into our on-board account.  You also get to determine who has privileges to make purchases or charges to the on board account.  The boy did not get those privileges.

Guests also enter pre/post cruise information.  Dates and times of flights are entered as a part of the reservation along with any post cruise information.  We were able to select “cruise to resort” as our choice using Disney transfers.  I actually had to go back and change the flight information as our flights had changed after I had entered the information.

What has changed in the on-line registration is that only one page is required for printing and signing—it used to be that the whole contract/agreement had to be printed and signed.  AND, if you are unable to print, just let a Cast Member know upon check-in and they can print the document that requires signatures from all in the traveling party.

I was able to register the boy for the Kids’ club as well.  His basic information—name, birthday, etc. displayed when I came to that section.  I got to add a nickname if needed, a password for checking in and out of the club, designate who was authorized to pick him up from the club, and agree that I would return the electronic wrist band the last night of the cruise or be charged.  While this means he is registered, it doesn’t mean we are done with the process.  When we arrive at the port we will head to the kids’ club check-in on the far right side of the port terminal.  Here he will receive his electronic wrist band that includes information about his emergency assembly station.  The wrist band stays on for the entire cruise.  If the bracelet wears out, we just get another one from the kids’ club location being sure to keep the electronic portion secure. 

It is at this point that parents of children 8-10 determine if their child will have the privilege of checking themselves in and out of the club.  The last cruise, we thought yes, but said no once we got to this point.  The ship was new to him.  This time, we are thinking yes and preparing for a yes once we arrive.  Once he hits 11 we don’t have a choice anymore so we might as well give it a try.  (I already have a magnetic marker board to put inside our stateroom door for messages as to where people are and there are the Wave phones.)

Scheduling Character phone calls is also part of the on-line registration.  We have one scheduled!  Guests may schedule up to two free calls.

Then there’s more information available:  driving directions, printable packing lists, and other information.  I also registered my cell phone to receive updates via text message.  A message came right away.  I wish it had a text message countdown.  Wouldn’t it be great to receive a message like “83 more days until your magical Disney Cruise Line vacation Williams Family”?  DCL, are you listening?

A first time Disney cruiser would be able to login 75 days prior to their paid in full cruise.  As we are Silver Castaway Club Members, our registration window opens at 90 days prior.  Gold Level Members get to register at 105 days prior to their paid in full cruise and Platinum Level at 120 days.

We are all registered for our next and 5th Disney cruise vacation—our last one as Silver Castaway Club Members.  When we get to cruise #6 we will be at the Gold Level.  And, of course, the husband is reaching for the ever elusive Platinum!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Saving Money: A Little Time Can Mean More Memories



As a family we have prioritized spending money on experiences rather than stuff.  Our decision was confirmed the other day when I read somewhere about the memory of an experience will last much longer than the memory of stuff purchased, and even grows fonder over time.  And, while we make many memories with local experiences, our favorite experiences are our Disney vacations.  We have found ways to save on our Disney vacations but we have also found ways to save for our Disney vacations by cutting expenses at home and/or adding to our income.

Cutting expenses:  I have been a sale shopper since I can remember and the husband can identify the shirt I paid full price for a few years ago.  There hasn't been a full price purchase since!  Coupons, sales, rebates, on-line codes, and cash back incentives are all part of the strategy. 

We also prioritize purchases.  Is it a need or a want? 

When I was getting my haircut the other day (the salon was having a half-price sale on haircuts) the stylist asked me if I was going to the grand opening of a new store in town—starts with a “K” and rhymes with moles.  I replied, “No” to her surprise.  There was nothing we needed, so there was no need to go.  The $10 coupon I got in the mail I gave to a co-worker as I wasn't planning on using it by the expiration date.  I explained to the stylist that shopping isn't a sport for me—unless it is grocery shopping—and then it’s a game!

Then there are things I no longer buy.  Cards for instance.  Oh, yes, family still receives birthday cards, etc. but I have found ways to get them for free, including personalization AND mailing by looking for discount codes at treat.com and cardstore.com.  Yes, there are times that the discount code is available when I may not need a card, but I think ahead to the next birthday and order a card for that occasion and have it mailed to me, not the recipient.  Last year we even got our holiday cards for free! 

I also don’t buy photo prints anymore.  Yes, there are great specials available—buy 50 get 50 free at local retailers, but what would I do with 100 prints?  I already have drawers full of them.  Instead, I make a digital photo book (think scrapbook done on-line) and order it when there is a sale as well as get money back in my Ebates.com account.  For photos to frame and display, I wait for discount codes for free larger prints.

When I do make purchases, I want a value added experience by getting something in addition to my purchase.  If I shop on-line, I earn cash back through Ebates.com or Swagbucks by using Swagbucks.com Shop & Earn.

Last week I needed cartridges for our printer.  Walmart has a good price and the kind we needed.  Yes, I could have gone to the store and bought them.  I was heading to the store over the week-end anyway.  Instead, I went on-line and made the purchase.  Since Ebates was only giving 1% back, I went to Swagbucks.com Shop & Earn which was offering 6 Swagbucks per dollar.  The “rebate” for my total on-line purchase was going to be enough to redeem for a $5 Amazon.com gift card—bonus!  And, the printer cartridges were waiting for me at the store when I did the rest of my shopping, so no extra trip or shipping fees were required.

Earning the $5 Amazon.com gift card is an example of increasing the amount of money coming into the budget.  We take advantage of rebates, surveys, and contests to add a little extra to our wallets.

I went out to lunch the other day and paid for the meal with a paid on-line survey check and a rebate from an oil change last month (the husband filled out the rebate forms and we got two rebates from oil changes on both of our cars).

And, speaking of the husband, the boy gets in on the act, too.  He saved a Lunchables cardboard cover as it had a special code inside to win a prize. 

Our saving strategies have gotten the attention of others as I have been asked to co-teach a couponing class at our local community college.  I am looking forward to it and will be getting paid to teach the class which adds to our wallet!

Just yesterday I had someone tell me they didn't have time to find coupons, plan shopping trips, etc. and regularly I have people tell me they just don’t want to bother with it.  I get their point of view.  There are some weeks it seems overwhelming to me, too.  And, if that is the case, I scale down the list, the plan, etc.  One week, I watched the clock as I snipped and strategized.  Then, I calculated how much I saved and divided it by the time it took to prepare for the shopping to determine the cost per hour; actually my cost per hour wage.  $50 per hour was the average.  Who wouldn't have time for a $50 per hour job?  My time is valuable, too, and I want to spend it well, just like money.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Flexibility Is Key: Flight Changes




We are now less than three months from our next Disney vacation and our flights have changed. . . twice.

Let me begin with the fact that we have the best travel agent ever!  We love her and all that she does for us—which is a lot!

The first change came a couple of weeks ago.  I got an email or phone call, I don’t remember which, about our return flights.  They were being changed drastically, so we were able to pick new flight times at no expense.  The change went in our favor as the late morning flights would mean NO three or four AM trip on the bus to the airport.  We’ve done it and it isn’t pretty.  Score one in our favor!

The most recent change came yesterday with an email from our travel agent.  This change affected our outgoing flights and had us reaching our destination at midnight.  When I read the email I groaned, audibly.  When we purchased the flights we were arrived close to 10:00 pm which was not ideal, but midnight?  I immediately picked up the phone and Shauna, our travel agent, said she would try and work her magic.  Even if it meant an early morning flight out, that would okay as we would reserve a park-n-fly hotel nearby and make our drive to the airport the night before (the airport is 2 ½ hours away.)

Another email came in with good news.  Our flights had been changed and we now had a late morning flight with an arrival time of early evening.  Yeah!  And, we were flying on a different airline altogether.  Again, the changes were at no charge to us.  Score another one in our favor!

So now the decision is whether or not to reserve a park-n-fly room for the night before or drive the morning of our flights and pay for airport parking.  We are waiting a bit to make the final decision.  Weather and possible additional flight changes are factors in our decision making.

Flexibility is the key.  We purchased our flights 7 months ago and had we been rigid in the flight times these changes may have been difficult.  Also, we planned to fly to our destination the day prior to sailing on our cruise.  Imagine the frustration and anxiety if the flight changes were occurring the day OF the cruise!  We’ve been there, done that, and will try to avoid it if at all possible.

Also amusing in the whole story is that for our return flights on our new carrier, our seat assignments are not together.  Oh, the husband and I have been assigned to sit together, but not the boy.  When we were talking about it at dinner last night, the boy was thrilled to be seated away from us on both legs of our flights—that speaks volumes for his confidence and number of times flying.  The husband then segued into a story about how the boy would be seated next to a comedian and the story would then be used in a stand-up act, etc.  (He also wanted to know if we sitting in first class.  Answer: No.) 

Am I concerned?  No.  Either one of us will sit with the boy or we will check about switching seat assignments at flight check in or will wait until we get on the plane and see if someone will switch.  We have an aisle seat to trade for a window seat so the bargaining is in our favor!

I know that flight changes, seat assignments, late arrivals, and early departures are some of the reasons some folks choose not to fly.  I get it.  Yet, given the distance to our preferred destination and travel windows, we prefer the expediency of flight travel.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Character Meet and Greet Changes Coming to Walt Disney World




Some character meet and greet changes are happening at the most magical place on earth, mostly due to the New Fantasyland Expansion in the Magic Kingdom.

Beast will be greeting guests at Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom prior to dinner ONLY.  This is a photograph opportunity as the Beast does not give autographs.  This makes sense as it is his castle, after all.

Marie from the Aristocrats will be leaving the France Pavilion in EPCOT and will be meeting guests in Town Square, near the flag pole, in the Magic Kingdom.  Marie is taking Daisy’s place as she is moving to the circus in the all new Pete’s Silly Circus in the Storybook Circus area of the New Fantasyland.  Note that the France Pavilion is currently under renovation with a new covered character meet and greet location coming soon.

Chip and Dale in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom

Donald will be joining Daisy in the circus and therefore will no longer be greeting guests in Frontierland.  Instead, guests will find Chip and Dale in Frontierland.  Chip and Dale will no longer be greeting guests in Tomorrowland.
Winnie the Pooh at the Magic of Disney Animation at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The Winnie the Pooh meet and greet in the Magic of Disney Animation at Holywood Studios will be transforming into an area to meet characters from Wreck It Ralph by November 1, 2012.
Winnie the Pooh at Character Landing in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Eeyore at Character Landing in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Tigger at Character Landing in Disney's Animal Kingdom

It is also rumored that the Character Landing at Animal Kingdom featuring the lovable Winnie the Pooh characters will be closing.  This means that guests will have fewer opportunities to meet the characters.  Tigger and Winnie the Pooh can be found at the United Kingdom Pavilion in EPCOT.  Tigger and Winnie the Pooh rotate with Piglet and Eeyore in the courtyard in front of the Sorcerer’s Hat at Hollywood Studios, and of course, all four characters can be found while dining at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom for any meal of the day.
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger in the United Kingdom Pavilion in EPCOT

Piglet in Hollywood Studios

Tigger and Eeyore in Hollywood Studios

Most of these changes will take place October 1, 2012, just in time for EPCOT’s 30th Birthday!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What Will Our Dining Rotation Be?

Our first night on the Dream dining at Animator's Palate.


A, E, R, R, A

What do those letters mean?  They are the letters for the dining rotation during our 5 night sail on the Disney Dream.  A is for Animator’s Palate, E is for Enchanted Garden, and R is for Royal Palace.  The letters represent the order we went to each dining room, so our first night on board was A for Animator’s Palate.

One of the questions guests sailing on a Disney Cruise want to know is what dining room they will be assigned to each night of their cruise.  Guests want to know so that they can schedule dining at Palo and/or Remy, the adult only restaurants that require a reservation.
Check out the letters for our Dining Rotation from a 7 night cruise on the Disney Magic--LAPPALP

But the ever elusive list of letters can only be found on guests’ Key to the World Card they receive when checking in for their Disney cruise and on the dining tickets in their stateroom.

The rotation of the dining rooms is done so that each guest experiences the regular menu or “show menu” for each main dining room, a Pirate Night menu in a dining room that is repeated in the rotation, and a farewell menu of some sort on the last night of the cruise. 

The other night, the husband and I were speculating about what the dining rotation would be for our upcoming cruise. He is convinced that Animator’s Palate will be our assignment for the first night.  I’m not so sure.  Here’s my thinking. . . Pirate Night will most likely be the day the ship docs in Nassau which is the second day of the cruise.  It is also Christmas Eve, making it even more of a choice for Pirate Night as what better night for fireworks at sea.  Therefore, whatever dining room we are assigned to for the second night, we will have to have again in the rotation for the regular menu or “show menu.”  Since the Pirate Night menu is the same in the three main dining rooms, it really doesn’t matter which dining room you are assigned to, per say, just a matter of preference.

There are pros and cons to being assigned to Animator’s Palate on the first night.  Pro—the show is entertaining and keeps the boy happy as the kids’ clubs don’t open until later on the first night.  Con—the show can be noisy making it difficult to hear the servers, especially if they have thick accents, and difficult to make conversation with your table mates on the first night. Click here to read more about dining in Animator's Palate on the Disney Dream.

When will we find out our dining rotation?  Not until we check-in for our Disney Cruise at the counter at Orlando International Airport prior to taking the bus to the port.  Until then, we can only guess.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Made Stateroom Door Decorations for Our Next Cruise

A map of our itinerary!


We are counting down the days until our Holiday Cruise on the beautiful Disney Dream, so I decided to design some decorations for our stateroom door.  Yes, you can decorate your stateroom door—click here to read more.

We use magnets to attach our decorations to our door, as it is metal.  I use the peel and stick magnetic tape on the back of the decorations.

I had fun creating the designs and it is even more fun to see how others have decorated their doors.  It also helps you find your stateroom in a corridor filled with doors that all look the same.


To make our designs I used Word and inserted images as well as word art, changing the font to Waltograph which can be downloaded onto your computer, playing with color, and layering the images.  Since this was done in Word, I had to then take screen shots of the pages, paste them into Paint and convert them to jpeg format for uploading into the blog so you could see.  I was also able to edit the images just like I would a photo.  So, I learned more technology today in making the designs and getting them ready to share in this post.

Our door designs get packed in the carry-on bag that goes onto the ship with us, as I want to get the door decorations on as soon as we get to our stateroom.  The decorations fit nicely into the zipper pocket located on the inside of the bag’s lid or top.

Made one of these for each of us--Donald and Captain Mickey are used for the other designs.

How do you decorate your stateroom door?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

We Got Disney Fan Chairs!



I wrote a few weeks ago about how I wanted folding chairs to carry to various events that showed our family’s Disney affiliation, as others had chairs with various sports teams, colleges, even businesses emblazoned for all to see.  Click here to read the original post.

Well, we got the chairs! 

It was quite a journey.  Purchasing the chairs came first.  We were desperately in need of them.  The chairs we were using were falling apart, the thread on the seats was bare in some places, and the boy didn’t have a chair as his broke last summer.  We found 3 red chairs on sale!

Next came the first attempt at a design.  I called a friend of the husband who has their own screen printing business.  A vinyl design was cut and then heat pressed onto the chair.  The problem was the vinyl wouldn’t stick to the chair; something about a special coating on the chair. 

I then had another idea.  I knew of a man who does graphic design and his wife is a Disney fan.  I saw the wife first and asked if the project might be something her husband would take on.  

The answer was yes, but first he had to see if the paint would stick to the chairs—given the previous problem.  It did!  Then, it was time to pick a design.  He emailed me several and the final choice was a combination of one of the designs and some more imagination.  The design was applied to the first chair.  I was ecstatic!    Then it took a few days for the other two chairs to be completed.

Our Disney Fan chairs had their debut at the soccer fields on Saturday!

Interested in obtaining your own Disney chairs or other designs?  If so, here is the email of our graphic designer:  djgbuzz@gmail.com   (He gave me permission to post his email.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Disney Cruise Line and Walt Disney World--No Better Place to Be A Pirate!




National Talk Like a Pirate Day was September 19, 2012.  To commemorate, the boy wore one of his many pirate shirts to school.  When thinking about pirates, there’s no better way to be a pirate or celebrate pirates than Disney Cruise Line or Walt Disney World Resort.


While we have yet to experience the Pirate’s League at Walt Disney World, it is where ordinary guests are transformed into pirates with make-up, hair decorations, costumes, and accessories.  An pirate training session is also available with none other than Captain Jack Sparrow.  The Pirate’s League is located near the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Walt Disney World.  Another version of Pirate’s League is on Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Disney Fantasy.


Speaking of Disney Cruise Line, a highlight of any cruise is the Pirates IN the Caribbean meal, deck party, and fireworks.  This themed evening, also known as pirate night, offers something for the entire family.  Click here to read more.


Pirate Night is something we enjoy and look forward to participating in during a Disney Cruise.  And, that means bringing accessories from home—including a pirate costume for the boy (he’s on his second costume!).  We also bring eye patches, a blow up sword, and we added inflatable parrots and pirate hooks to our list of accessories for the last trip. 

There are also many pirate themed items for purchase on the ship.  We consider price and airport security when making any pirate themed purchases.  I don’t want to explain a toy pirate sword or gun to a TSA agent at the airport.

Gathering pirate gear can be fun and there are savings to be had.  For example, the boy’s pirate costume was actually a holiday gift from the red suited man himself, who found it on sale after Halloween.  The inflatable sword was a kid’s meal toy in 2005 and has definitely stood the test of time.  Our inflatable parrots and hooks came from the dollar store.  We also bring some pirate booty for treasure hunting on Castaway cay by using the colored bead necklaces that are passed out at parades and other celebrations.  When those necklaces come home, they go into our “pirate box” which stores all of our pirate paraphernalia.

If you are new to cruising with Disney or somewhat hesitant about showing your pirate colors, so to speak, please don’t be.  Pirate night is fun and everyone gets involved—including the crew!  And, the fireworks at sea are a bonus, too!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How Do You Take A Break When Park Touring?



We can all agree that time does equal money, especially when traveling to the most magical place on earth.  Disney knows this and that is why park hours are extended, seasonal restaurants are opened, and more offerings become available to guests during peak travel periods or when the crowds start to thicken.  So when I was reading an article on Mouseplanet.com the other day about taking time to rest during your Disney vacation can actually make the time=money equation come out in your favor in the long run—click here to read the article.

While this sounds counterintuitive—take time away from park touring to rest to get more out of your Disney vacation—it is actually accurate.  If the husband were standing beside me as I typed this he would be chiming in and saying things like, “Yeah,” and “See, I told you that.”  The premise is that taking time away from the stimulation of the Disney parks during your vacation may prevent meltdowns and tantrums that take up more time and take away the magic later in your Disney vacation; a break is a preventative strategy.

Most Disney travelers have heard of the “go back to your resort in the afternoon to rest, swim, relax, and then come back later” advice.  Even Stacie on your resort TV will tell you to do this.  Part of this advice helps Disney to “thin” the parks during the afternoons when park attendance is at its peak—especially true for the Magic Kingdom.  If Disney can get resort guests to leave for a bit and then come back it is a win, win strategy.  We have never done this, much to the husband’s chagrin.  It is the one travel tip that he has burned to his memory and reminds me of each trip.

What the Mouseplanet.com article did go on to say was that there are more ways to take a break other than the “leave the park and go to your resort in the afternoon” strategy.  For example, guests can take a break in or around the park.  Suggestions were made for taking a monorail ride to a monorail resort for a meal, snack, dessert, and break to browse the resort.  This, we have done!  This works well for guests touring the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT.  If you are touring Hollywood Studios or EPCOT, take a boat launch to the nearby resorts and do the same.  If you find yourself at Animal Kingdom, take the bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for a late lunch and animal viewing.

We have found lots of ways to take breaks in the parks—just to get a bit of “down time.”  I define down time as being off my feet and out of the elements—be it wind, rain, or heat.  There are many attractions that can offer “down time” such as the train at Magic Kingdom or the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  Carousel of Progress, Pirates of the Caribbean, Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, Laugh Floor Comedy Club, Hall of Presidents, Haunted Mansion, and It’s a Small World meet both of my criteria.  There are other indoor attractions, such as Peter Pan’s Flight, but waits can be long and take away any of the “down time” benefits.  The in park “down time” is one of the reasons we like Hollywood Studios as we have that feeling there more than any other park.


Another suggestion from the article about taking a break is to plan for a break day or morning.  Taking a break from park touring to chill at your resort or head to Downtown Disney can be refreshing and potentially money saving as guests may not use a day of their theme park tickets.  And, yes, we have done this too, especially on longer trips—6 or more days.  We will plan a break day that may include a character breakfast and visit to Downtown Disney, a trip to a Disney water park, or a round of miniature golf, Disney style, of course.  On our trip in March, we planned a break day that included breakfast at Cape May CafĂ©, lunch at Downtown Disney along with shopping and exploring, an afternoon at our resort including chilling by the pool, and an evening at EPCOT with lagoon side seating at Rose & Crown to watch Illuminations.  The thinking was that since we would be staying up a bit later that night, we could sleep in a bit and take it easy during the day.  It worked—see the break does pay off.

We have found the type of park touring break that works for our family.  While the husband would still like to give the afternoon break a try there are some reasons it is still elusive.  Part of the reason is that the “coming back later” means staying up later and that just doesn’t work with mine and the boy’s body clocks.  We are early to bed, early to rise creatures and the husband joins us as he knows the potential benefits of being at rope drop at the parks.  So, we compromise with taking breaks in other ways.

How do you take a break in your park touring?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Disney Cruise is Paid In Full--Our Vacation is Getting Closer!




Whew!  We have now paid in full our 5th Disney cruise!  And, almost a week early as the deadline for us as Silver Castaway Club Members was 90 days prior to the cruise—if we wanted to reserve our excursions at that time.  Otherwise, we actually had until 75 days prior to pay in full, but can’t book our excursions until the cruise is paid in full.

As if we weren’t excited before, this juncture has ramped up the excitement a bit.  The husband said he dreamt that he was in our stateroom being rocked to sleep twice last week!  The boy had a version of BBQ chicken pizza for dinner the other night that I had found in the frozen pizza section at the grocery store.  He thought it was okay, but it just wasn’t the same as he would find on the Disney Dream.

Our dinner conversation the other night was about the cruise we would book while on-board.  We are hopeful for a 7 night voyage on the Disney Fantasy the summer of 2014.  Our discussion became more about which stateroom to reserve.  Did we want to have the same stateroom again—that we would have had twice on the Dream—click here to read more—as the Dream and the Fantasy are laid out similarly, or another stateroom?  The husband voted for the same stateroom, if it is available.

While I agree that the same category of stateroom is wanted, I would like to try out the other side of the ship.  At that point, we would have sailed 5 times on the Port Side, or left side, of the ship.  The view is great, but I want to check out the view from the Starboard Side of the ship.  Well, if we sail on the Fantasy on the Port Side, it means we will have sailed on every Disney ship on the Port Side so we will just have to sail on every Disney ship on the Starboard.  Admirable goal, don’t you think?

Someone asked me what my favorite part was of a Disney cruise.  The question rendered me speechless.  It was so hard to pick out just one thing in an immersive, superlative experience.  I would have to say watching my family enjoy and savoring the small moments—character interactions, exquisite service, coming into our room each night anticipating the towel animal that will be on our bed.  After that, my favorites would be the anticipation and the planning;  knowing that with each small step we are closer to a marvelous Disney Cruise Line experience.

So, the countdown continues for our next Disney vacation!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Have You Tried Ebates Yet?



Have you tried Ebates yet?  If you have, you already know that you can get money back when you shop on-line.  If you haven’t tried Ebates yet, what is stopping you?

Here’s how to use Ebates::
  • Click here to get started.  You get to pick a $10 gift card as your bonus with first qualifying purchase of $25.  All you need is an e-mail address.

  • Start at Ebates.com every time you shop on-line.  Chose from the extensive list of stores.  On-line discount codes will also be listed with each store.

  • Click the “Shop Now” button and watch as an Ebates ticket window opens.  Just let the screen  change to show the store you have chosen.
  • Shop!
  • Your Ebates account will automatically be credited within a few days.  The percent of cash back varies by store.

  • Look for your Ebates Big Fat Check in the mail.  Checks are mailed four times a year.

To date, I have received over $100 in Cash Back from Ebates.  It really works!  For example, the boy is getting a new handheld electronic game for his birthday.  I checked all of the on-line stores for the one with the highest percent of cash back for the purchase and will make the purchase from that on-line store.  I am also keeping my eye out for the Daily Doubles where a new store is chosen each day for double the percent of cash back—I get an email each day telling me which store is the designated Daily Double.

Recently, I made a purchase from Disneystore.com.  I went to Ebates first and discovered a 25% off coupon code to apply to my purchase and got 4% cash back into my Ebates account.  Win, win, win!

I also earn money back from Ebates when I make a digital photo book after a Disney vacation as My Publisher is one of the stores on Ebates.

Ebates has a wide variety of stores.  Need skin cream or make-up?  There are drug stores on Ebates.  Need flea/tick treatments for your pets?  Ebates has pet stores, including those that offer pet medicine (you know, the one with the phone number!).  Want Walgreens to make photo prints or photo gifts?  Start at Ebates and get cash back.  Toys, purses, clothing, luggage, hotel rooms, car rental, restaurants, even automobile accessories can be found in stores on Ebates.  I got cash back when I purchased our new checks.  There is even a section on Ebates where you can get cash back for purchasing gift cards!

With the holiday season fast approaching; wouldn’t it be great to get money back on your purchases?  Click here to get started!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Growing Up Disney




It dawned on my the other day when I was watching a webcast for Disney Vacation Club on the computer with Samantha Brown about Kidani Village while the boy sat on one leg and recognized the shape of a hidden Mickey on a bird’s eye view of Kidani Village and Jambo House at Animal Kingdom Lodge, that he is growing up Disney.





No wonder.  His parents have a “thing” for Disney, not unlike other families who cheer on sports teams together, or do various recreational activities together, or celebrate in certain ways, etc.  Don’t most kids grow up being involved in something their parents are passionate about?  And, yes, eventually the children find their own passions, too.




So, what does it mean to grow up Disney, specifically from the boy’s point of view?  Well, you might have Disney clothing in your drawer or closet.  In addition to various shirts purchased throughout the years on our trips, we often purchase Disney themed clothing at other stores, too.  Right now, he has a flair for pirate shirts, and amazingly, he has at least four different ones.  He wore two in a row to school just last week.



Growing up Disney means you can recognize music of Disney.  When listening to the “Four Parks, One World” CD’s, the boy can name the attraction, show, or location the music represents.  Since we have watched almost all of the Disney “Sing-A-Long” videos, he knows other Disney songs, including songs from Disney movies.  And, he can recognize songs from various nations/cultures.  We were listening to music one time and he said, “Mom, that’s Irish music.”  He was right!  



When growing up Disney, your toys may lean towards Disney themes—even with Legos, plush characters, action figures, etc.  Since Disney has teamed up with Pixar, there are even more toys that fit this category.



Experiencing Moroccan belly dancers, Japanese drum performers, Cowboy trick rope spinning, and Chinese acrobats are part of growing up Disney, as are swimming with dolphins, sea lions, and stingrays.  

And, while most kids appreciate firework displays, growing up Disney means you expect them to be timed with music and create 3D designs in the sky. . . and happen nightly!




For the boy, growing up Disney has meant he has tried lots of different food—duck, oysters, clams, snails, lamb, fish, shrimp, mussels, lobster, crab, buffalo, rattlesnake, cactus, etc.  He knows a lettuce salad may not be all green leaves and will taste just as good, if not better.  He prefers BBQ chicken pizza to any others, will order lobster bisque as a soup, and enjoys pomegranate lemonade. 




Growing up sailing with Disney means the boy can tell you the difference between the Disney Dream and the Disney Wonder and Magic.  He knows what has been added to the Disney Fantasy to make it different than all the other Disney ships.  




Growing up Disney means he can swim.  Okay, I know this could be for any child, but with our frequency to Disney Resort pools and water parks, this was very important to us.  I can recall the faces of the folks on our Adventures by Disney tour when the boy got ahead of us going to the pool at the Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab, Utah, and he jumped right in the deep end.  He was six at the time and the youngest person on the tour.  Our tour mates gasped, saw that we were without worry, and realized that he was young but could hold his own in the water.  The boy had been swimming for almost six years at that point!  We did appreciate how our group had become an “extended family” of sorts, though.



Recognizing hidden Mickey’s and trading/collecting Disney pins are a part of the boy’s growing up Disney.  The dentist’s office had been through a remodeling and the boy found numerous hidden Mickey’s in the pictures and sculptures throughout the office.  And, he will often search for Disney trading pins on Ebay, though he hasn’t made any purchases yet!




YouTube offers numerous Disney videos of rides and attractions that the boy searches for, watches, and announces that we must do is part of growing up Disney.  I started this activity as the videos helped him to know what to expect prior to our trips.  Now he is watching videos of Disney parks around the world and telling us we need go and do certain things.

Growing up Disney means that the TV is tuned to the Disney Channel or Dixney XD daily.




For the boy, growing up Disney means he has been immersed in the magic that is Disney many times, and hopefully, many more.  As he grows up, I hope he carries a bit of Disney into the passions that he chooses.  And, I’m still dreaming of that Disney wedding! (Too soon to start planting seeds of that idea?)