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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Williams Family Blog Now On Facebook

Just a reminder that the Williams Family Blog is now on Facebook and you can find us at www.facebook.com/WilliamsFamilyBlog.  Highlighting our now almost four year old blog on Facebook was one of my goals for 2014.

So, what is the benefit of finding us on Facebook?  Interactivity!  While we can interact via the blog, the interaction on Facebook is more personal and, frankly, faster.

Ask questions about your upcoming vacation or share happy memories.

Interact with our "Where in the World" photo each day.

Get glimpses at our almost 8 year history with Disney Vacations and plan along with us for our upcoming vacation.

We are all Disney fans at heart and the Williams Family Blog on Facebook allows even more expression of our "Disney Side."  So, join us!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Packing Plans and Dilemmas

The packing list for 16 days of summer fun has already be drafted.  And, after multiple vacations packing is typically not an issue.  But, this is the first trip when we would have a short hotel stay, followed by a 7 night cruise, and then 7 days at Walt Disney World.  I'm starting to scratch my head at the best way to pack for this vacation.

Historically, each one of us has a large suitcase for checked luggage that contains our necessities for the length of the trip with accessories being delegated to the carry-on bags.  This strategy has worked well, though, it has caused us to live out of suitcases while on the ship.

I am wondering about packing all needed items for our cruise in one or more suitcase and then have our Walt Disney World items packed in another bag that would not require opening throughout the cruise.  That suitcase could go under the bed for the length of the cruise and then we could unpack  the other suitcase(s) while on the ship.

These are less than $15 on Amazon
Also, Disney Cruise Line has changed the rules and now prohibits using over-the-door organizers--you know the ones with the hooks that hang on a door with the many pockets that can be used for shoes or other items.  With this change, I thought that a closet organizer might be a better choice.  With two closets in our stateroom, there would definitely be enough space.

To be even more efficient, one of our carry-on bags could hold what we need for our two night hotel stay prior to sailing.  This way, we wouldn't have to open either of the larger, checked bags--except to get toiletries.

The more I think about this idea, the more I like it.  But first, I have to revise the packing list into smaller lists--what's needed for the cruise and what's needed for the parks.  I will get right on that!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A New Set of Matching Shirts!

Zazzle had a 4-hour sale with a 50% off code which meant. . . another set of matching shirts!  Can't wait to pack these for our Summer adventure.

Thinking these would be great on an EPCOT day to meet Anna and Elsa in Norway!

Want to know why we wear matching shirts?  Click here to read more.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

There Are Still "Tricky" Parts When Cruise Planning

We are less than five months from sailing with the Mouse for the 6th time on Disney Cruise Line.  You would think that by now we would be experts at planning and executing a magical Disney cruise.  You would think. . .

But in reality, there are still some aspects of planning a cruise that trip me up.  Here’s a list of what I find “easy” and “tricky” about planning a Disney Cruise:

  • Dining.  There’s no need for racing to the phone or website 180 days prior to our sailing to make dining reservations.  When we receive our Key To The World Cards upon check-in at the port, our dining rotation will be listed and we will also find it on our dining tickets in our stateroom.  Each evening at a specified time, we will report to one of the three main dining rooms on the ship and be treated to excellent service and cuisine.  If we are hungry any other time while on the ship there are many dining options to choose from including room service, which is included with the cruise.  And, I am sensing that the boy is planning on eating ice cream anytime he walks by the ice cream machines on board.
  • Deciding what to do during the day.  Each evening a Personal Navigator is delivered to your stateroom listing the next day’s activities so that you can plan your day.  Want to sleep late?  No problem as there is no need to rush to get Fastpasses.  It is also okay to do absolutely nothing but relax and not feel like you are “wasting” a park ticket day or valuable “park time.”
  • Packing.  No need for umbrellas, ponchos, moleskin for hot spots on feet, foot cream, or many toiletries as they are included.  A Disney Cruise is a vacation you can just “show up for” and still have an incredible experience.
  • Checking in.  The Disney Cruise Line web-site is a breeze to use which makes checking in prior to sailing easy peasy.
  • Transportation.  Just like our Walt Disney World stays, we relax and let Disney do the driving.  Port Transfers with Disney Cruise Line work similarly to Disney’s Magical Express except that there is a fee.  Typically $35 per person per leg—either airport to port, report to port, port to airport, or port to resort.  $70 per person round-trip is a reasonable fee.  If your travel party is 4 or more, private transportation options may be more economical.

Tricky. . .
  • Budgeting.  When at the World, I know our meals are already taken care with the Dining Plan and I can control the souvenir budget.  But on the ship, I don’t know how much some things are going to cost until I get there. . . such as photo packages or the deposit for our next cruise.  Shore excursions I do know prices and can plan accordingly and I can control souvenir purchasing on the ship similarly to on land.  Spa treatments are not typically on our “to do” list, but that could be another “unknown” if not making the reservation prior to sailing.  How many “tastings” will the husband want to participate in and how much will they cost?  These are things to consider when budgeting.  Thank goodness tips are now included in the total price of the cruise!
  • Pre/Post cruise travel.  If traveling to the World, your travel dates can vary, but when sailing, you have to make it to the ship on-time!  This means less flexibility when selecting flights both pre and post cruise.  Typically, we fly in at least one day prior to sailing, and for our most recent sailings, we headed to Walt Disney World when disembarking giving us more flexibility when flying home.  Though, guests traveling on day of embarkation need to make sure flights are early enough and late enough when disembarking from the ship.

Obviously, these tricky parts are not keeping us from sailing and we have instituted some strategies to make the tricky parts less tricky.  For example, we put the “sea” portion of our vacation prior to the “land” portion given that the cruise is most likely more expensive.  Imagine if we went to Walt Disney World first and I spent the time saying “no, we can’t buy that because I don’t know how much money we will need on the ship.”  That would not be fun at all!  By the time we leave the ship, I know exactly where we are budget wise.  And, by putting the “land” portion last, we have more flexibility in selecting flights for the trip home.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Another Answer To "How Do You Help Others Plan Their Disney Vacations?"

Our travel agent is "dropping" our names and using our experiences to help other potential guests! 

Last week-end, we escorted the boy to a Valentine Dance hosted by our local children's theater group.  While at the dance, another couple who were there with their daughter, started to visit with us about their upcoming Disney trip.  Seems they use the same travel agent we do--good for them!  How did I find that out?  Well, it goes something like this. . .

The family wanted to take advantage of AAA's discounts for Walt Disney World Resort and one of the resorts available for the time they wanted to travel was Disney's Coronado Springs.  The family had never stayed at Coronado Springs before and were a bit reluctant.  Then, the travel agent asked if they knew about our family.  The answer was "yes."  Then, our travel agent told them, "The Williams' really like Disney's Coronado Springs."

When the family was telling me the story, I was chuckling.  I thought it was funny that our travel agent was using our experiences and preferences to help others.

So, while the Williams Family Blog is designed to share our knowledge and help others, we now know our travel agent is also using our experiences as well.  Just another way I can answer the question "How do you help others plan their Disney Vacations?" on the Disney Mom's Panel Application!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Do We Pack To Show Our Disney Side?

The Disney Parks Blog asked yesterday, “What do you pack to show your Disney Side?”—click here to read the post.  Interesting question!  Here’s some of the things we pack to show our Disney Side:

  • Matching shirts.  Yes—we have at least one set for every day of our vacation including traveling to and from Orlando.  Did you read that?  At least one set.  That means we pack more than one set per day.
  • Glow sticks.  I just ordered and received 800 glow bracelets with connectors for less than $5 on Amazon to take with us to use and give away.  Use the connectors and combine bracelets to make necklaces, belts, you name it.  Where else would we do that, other than at Disney?!?

  • Hats.  If it is winter, Santa hats would be our thing.  The husband has an Animal hat from the Muppets that he actually lost while at Disney and had it magically returned to him.  And, we have a set of crazy top hats in the closet that we haven’t taken with us yet.  I am waiting until the boy is older so he can be completely embarrassed.

  • Lanyards.  Lanyards and pins.  Again, where else but at Disney can you show your pride and your Disney Cruise Line Castaway Club Level by wearing a lanyard.  One of us trades, one of us collects, and one of us does both!
  • Ponchos and Umbrellas.  Yes, we pack those as they show our persevering Disney Side.  Go ahead and rain, it won’t dampen our adventure or our spirits.
  • Inflatable seat cushions.  These are actually in Disney colors—yellow, black, and red, and are used solely at Disney to protect our bums from hard pavement and metal benches—click here to read more.
There you have it.  The items we pack to show our Disney Side.  What do you pack to show your Disney Side?

Check out this video of Gary Buchanan packing for his various Disney Sides!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Refillable Mug Design for 2014

Yippee, there's a new Disney mug design for 2014!  The husband and I were just talking about refillable mugs the other day.  We knew that the refillable mugs for our next trip would be Rapid Fill mugs with RFID chips for our next trip.  What we didn't know was whether or not the mugs would be the same design we've had for the last few trips, or a new design.  Now we know.  New design!

These new mugs come in 4 different lid/handle colors:  purple, blue, yellow, and orange.  The design is the same for all of the mugs.  I already know which colors will be picked by our family members!

The new mugs require an activation--for the Rapid Fill system--click here to read more.  For guests with Dining Plans, the refillable mugs are included.  Otherwise, guests pay based on the length of stay and/or how long they want to refill their mug.

The mugs can be found in food courts at Walt Disney World Resorts, when supplies of current mugs diminish.  And, for now, refilling is only at resort food courts; not the them parks.

These new mugs will come home with us after our trip and join the other Disney mugs that are used regularly.  We keep them filled with water and in the refrigerator for a magical, cold drink of water any time.  While microwaving is prohibited, we do wash them in the dishwasher.

What color will you pick?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Answering Trivia Questions For A Good Cause

The Junior Class at our local High School held a Trivia Night as a fundraiser for prom.  The idea was that trivia teams would be formed and would compete against each other, charging $10 per person on each team.

The announcement of the contest went out about 3 weeks prior, and the team started to form.  Eventually we had 8 plus a spare.

There were 10 rounds with each round consisting of 10 questions—all from different categories such as Geography, Sports, History, etc.  The same categories were used for all the rounds.  Foe example, question #1 was Geography is every round.

We wrote our answers on paper—10 sheets numbered 1 -10, and handed them in at the end of each round.  Answers were scored and points tabulated—10 points for each correct answer.  At the end of each round, balloons were distributed to tables.  Gold balloon for first place, silver for second, and the black balloon honored the team that was in last place.

Our team, The Mouseketeers, was very well rounded.  What was especially fun was that four of us used to play trivia games as kids, so it brought back a lot of great memories.  Some things NEVER change!

At the end of the third round, the gold balloon was placed on our team’s table, and never left.  We won the contest and each of us brought home a trophy.

One of my friends made this lovely crown for me to wear and deemed me the team captain. 

We must return next year to defend our title!

P.S.  There was NO Disney trivia.  Hint, hint. . . for next year!  Click here to read about Disney trivia contests.

Oh, and the boy got to bring home the balloon.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Finding Disney Junior Characters

A Williams Family Blog reader asked via Facebook about where to find and meet Doc McStuffins while at Walt Disney World.  The reader knew that Doc McStuffins was on the “menu” so to speak for breakfast or lunch at Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine at the Hollywood and Vine Restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  In fact, here’s what the Walt Disney World web-site tells about this experience:

A few of your Disney Junior favorites are coming to Hollywood & Vine—don’t miss this chance to eat, play and dance along with friends from Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Handy Manny during this fun and interactive dining experience.

But where else might this character be found?

In my response, I indicated that the Disney Junior characters can also be seen on a rotating basis in the Animation Courtyard between the Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Disney Jr. Live on Stage daily between 9:30 am and 4:40 pm.  This character meet and greet typically features two or more characters.  Information about this meet and greet would be found on the Park’s Times Guide.

While the boy considers himself beyond this stage, we did bump into Handy Manny and Jake from the Never Land Pirates just inside the Magic of Disney Animation building, which is where the characters from the courtyard go to meet guests during inclement weather.

If you are at Walt Disney World and there is a character you would like to meet, be sure to check at Guest Services at the entrance to each park and inquire about character meeting locations and times.  Also know that those times and locations can change based on weather and character availability.

On one of our trips the only Disney Princess we had yet to meet was Snow White and we knew she would be in the Germany Pavilion just prior to our dinner at the Biergarten—click here to read more.  When we arrived, we were greeted, instead, by a Cast Member telling us that Snow White was tending to a sick Dwarf.  While we were disappointed, we were grateful for the information from the Cast Member so that we did not wait around wondering.  We never did see Snow White that trip;  it was another reason for another trip!

Friday, February 14, 2014

All The World Loves A Parade

All the world loves a parade, especially those visiting the Walt Disney World Resort.  Though, guests visiting this summer will notice that there is one less parade.  Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade at Disney's Animal Kingdom, will go dark in June.  We were in this parade once--click here to read more.

Reasons include making room for Disney's Animal Kingdom's largest expansion to date with the addition of Avatar Land.  The construction will block much of the parade's route.  Also, Disney's Animal Kingdom will be adding nighttime entertainment to its list of activities in the future.

At one time, all four theme parks hosted parades.  EPCOT's Parade of  Nations, while we never experienced it, seemed to be a guest favorite.  We saw Disney's Hollywood Studios through two renditions of their afternoon parade--Block Party Bash (click here to read more) and Pixar's Countdown to Fun (click here to read more), though I understand there were other versions of afternoon parades previously.  Disney's Animal Kingdom had two version of Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade--the regular version and the holiday version--Mickey's Jingle Jammin' Jungle Parade.  With this parade going dark, the only park left with parades is the Magic Kingdom.

Changes are coming to Magic Kingdom in the parade realm as well with the addition of the Festival of Fantasy Parade during the afternoon.  The evening parade still exists and has had various versions as well.

Disney uses parades as both a celebration and an opportunity for crowd control.  When parks get busy and full in the afternoons, what better way to pull guests from long lines than a parade?  In the evening, when a full park is going to close in a few hours, what better way to get guests near the center of the park than to have a parade?  Just think about it.  How many guests leave the park when the parade and fireworks are over?  Disney uses roaming entertainment in the same way--musical acts, street performers, etc.

Seasoned visitors know this and plan on accessing more popular attractions during parade times.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Gateway Profanity and Auditory Hallucinations--This Is My Life!

Sometimes real life makes you shake your head wondering if comedy writers are writing your life as you couldn’t even make up stuff this good.  There were a couple of moments the other evening that left me feeling just that way.

It began with the boy telling me he had gotten in trouble at school that day for saying the “f” word.  I probed more—what happened, etc.  Seems he had said “What the flip!” and was tattled on and then got in trouble.  He told me with a “so surprised this happened” tone.  What he didn’t expect was my response which was “your intent was the same—therefore, you had every reason to get in trouble.”  He couldn’t disagree.  We problem solved and talked about the lesson learned.

The husband then proceeded to tell me that the boy got in trouble for using the “f” word at school that day.  I told the husband that the boy had already told me, but he continued on.  Seems the boy had told him with more of a “feel sorry for me, I am a victim” tone.  The husband’s take was that the boy probably did say it, got tattled on, etc.

That’s when I reminded the husband as to why I don’t even like words such as fart or crap to be used.  While not profanity specifically, I find then crass and vulgar.  The husband doesn’t feel quite the same way.  I explained that those words are “gateway profanity” and just lead to the use of more profane words.  He laughed and told me I should put that in my comedy act.  He got the last word on that one.

Later that same evening, the husband yelled from the other part of the house asking if I had said something to him.  “No.”  When he got a bit closer, I asked him if he was hearing things—having auditory hallucinations.  He replied that a medical professional had told him that when you are in a healthy, significant relationship it is perfectly normal to have auditory hallucinations; to hear the voice of your significant other in your head.

I told him that I find that ironic as when I am actually talking to him, he doesn’t listen!

He agreed.  Last word on that one: me.

Still smiling and shaking my head.  You just can’t write stuff as good as real life.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Looking Forward To The Disney Fantasy

Through these doors and on to the ship!
The main reason for our summer 2014 Disney vacation is sailing on the Disney Fantasy.  We booked this cruise, almost 19 months prior to sailing, while we were on board the Disney Dream.  Even with five Disney cruises under our belts, the 7-night itineraries of the Disney Fantasy had alluded us. . . until now!

Here's what we are looking forward to on the Disney Fantasy. . .

Splashing in the AquaLab.  The Disney Fantasy has a couple of additional water features as compared to the Disney Dream with the AquaLab being one of them.  This interactive splash zone on Deck 12 will definitely get some of our attention.

Riding the AquaDuck.  The only water coaster at sea will be one of our first stops once we set foot on the ship!

Dining in the Royal Court.  Each Disney ship has a signature restaurant located on the main level of the Lobby Atrium.  We have dined in each of those restaurants on board the other three Disney ships and are looking forward to the same on the Disney Fantasy--the Royal Court.  I bet the husband and boy share some escargot!

Playing miniature golf.  Yes, miniature golf at sea.

Easy access to ice cream.  Okay, this is something the boy is looking forward to--free ice cream almost 24 hours a day and varying flavors--even on Castaway Cay.

All of us are looking forward to our day in port at Disney Cruise Line's private island, Castaway Cay!  This island is a slice of paradise and we want to experience every breathtaking moment.

Jamaica!  While we have been to the other ports on this itinerary before, we have never been to Jamaica.  No worries, man.

Exploring the ship, including Midship Dective Agency, the various decks, adult areas, and kids areas.  The boy will be old enough for the "tween" hangout--Edge.

Seeing the shows!  Disney's Believe will be a repeat from sailing on the Dream, but the Fantasy has Disney's Wishes, Disney's Aladdin--A Musical Spectacular, and both a Welcome and Farewell show.  This is Broadway caliber entertainment provided on the ship.  Each night, as a guest, you are treated to a different show.

Meeting Disney friends.  The ship is full of characters. . . Disney characters that is and we want to meet and greet as many of them as we can.

Excellent service.  Part of what keeps us coming back is the world class service found when sailing on any ship in Disney Cruise Line's fleet.

What I am not looking forward to is trying to decide on our next cruise. . . that and disembarking from the ship.  That is a hard day.  Good thing we will be headed to Walt Disney World when we leave the ship; that will make me feel better.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Anticipation Is Building With Each Passing Day!

With each passing week and day, our summer 2014 vacation gets closer and closer and our anticipation builds.  You would think, based on our level of excitement, that we were first time visitors to the most magical place on earth.

Here's what we are dreaming about. . .

Using MagicBands and Fastpass +.  The planner in me cannot wait to have our Fastpass +'s selected and know we can leisurely make our way to the park on our first evening with attractions already waiting for us!

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Coaster.  We stood right next to this attraction while under construction and are anxiously awaiting our opportunity to ride it for the first time.

Seeing Festival of the Lion King in its new location near Tusker House and Kilimanjaro Safari.  I am anticipating spending a morning in "Africa" while at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Being immersed in the "Disney Bubble" and being as connected or disconnected to the real world as we want to be.  Other than posting about our adventure and checking return flight times, I imagine we will be rather "unplugged."  Being at Disney is truly a getaway.

At least one new restaurant--Via Napoli--in the Italy Pavilion in EPCOT.  Can you say pizza?

The husband would say any dining.  The eating is good while at the World and we look forward to every bite.

Experiencing Memory Maker.  Similar to Photopass + the photos are now downloadable rather than mailed on a CD.

Most importantly, we are looking forward to spending time together as a family and making even more magical memories.

Thanks for sharing the adventure and anticipation with us.  Check in tomorrow for what we are looking forward to while sailing on the Disney Fantasy.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sailing On The Same Date--Is That Weird?

I don’t know about you, but I am a bit of a “numbers” person.  Math was one of my favorite subjects and numbers, just like maps, give me comfort—they are predictable and orderly.   I can “see” calendar dates in my head which is both a gift and a curse.  So, it was a bit of a surprise for me to realize yesterday, that both our July cruise this year and our July cruise in 2011 sail on the exact same date.

I was posting on a Disney message board to see if there were any other cruisers for our upcoming cruise and the date for our July 2011 cruise popped up—seems I had done the same for that cruise.  It was then that I discovered that the embarkation dates were exactly the same.  Not the same day of the week, mind you, just the same date on the calendar.

I was so intrigued by this notion that I attempted to look up the dates for our July 2008 sailing.  Was it too going to be on the same date?  It wasn’t.  The embarkation date for that cruise was one day later than the other two.  Close, but no cigar.

I wondered how this could happen.  I am the one who selects the sailing dates, unknowingly that they are either the same date or near the same date.

Then it dawned on me.  There are a few reasons the sail dates are either exact or similar.  July is the month that I have vacation.  That explains the month.  July is also our anniversary.  All three sail dates were either just before or on our anniversary!  Can you think of a better way to celebrate your anniversary than with a Disney cruise?

Now, to figure out the dates for cruise #7!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Power of Mom!

The power of “mom”!  Moms can heal hurt hearts with a hug and scrapes and scratches with a band-aid and kiss.  Yet this week, I discovered that a space previously occupied by mom can also have healing powers.

The other morning, the boy woke up with stomach ache.  No fever.  A Tylenol was taken and then I offered my side of the bed.  The boy quickly took me up on the offer and climbed into the still warm bed.  He fell fast asleep after tucking.  (It was early but the husband and I were already up for the morning.)

A while later, the boy reappeared, feeling better, but headed to the bathroom.  And, after finishing his business we discovered the reason for the stomach ache—a bit if diarrhea.  The husband looked at me perplexed; with an expression of what do we do now. 

What do we do now?  We serve up the BRAT diet.  Bananas, apple juice, and dry toast were served for breakfast.  We didn’t have any white rice in the house—for the “R” in BRAT, or we would have cooked and served that with a sprinkle of sugar on top.

The boy was feeling better and headed off to school.  He was fully mended by the end of the day, announcing after swimming lessons that his “poop was back to normal.”

I am convinced that part of the healing was due to his brief sleep on my side of the bed that had a bit of “mom love” left over.  Silly, I know, but I think the boy would say the same.  Ah, the power of mom!

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Valentine's/Birthday Gift For Myself--For FREE!

My birthday is approaching, as is Valentine's Day.  While people who love me would love to shower me with gifts, I tend to be more practical.  I also tend to find those special things that I like for myself.  It used to bother my mom, who would ask me for a shopping list for the holidays, only to discover that I had purchased the items for myself as I have been earning an income since I was 15.

So while the husband and boy coyly try to conceal some sort of gift giving, I found a Mickey watch on-line that I snagged as a treat for myself for FREE!

How did I get that for FREE you might ask?  Easy.  Swagbucks.  I have written about Swagbucks before and the incredible earning opportunities.  Here's how it works. . . I use Swagbucks as my search engine, just like you might use Google.  I earn Swagbucks 2-3 times per day through Search and Earn.  Then, there's the on-line games, the videos, the surveys, the special offers, the daily poll.  There are over 15 ways to earn Swagbucks.

Once you earn Swagbucks, you can redeem them at the Swagstore.  My favorite redemption is the Amazon gift card.  Amazon gift cards NEVER expire.  The Amazon gift cards that I earned through Swagbucks is how I got my new watch--for FREE!

Another way to earn Swagbucks is through Shop and Earn, so I actually earned more Swagbucks when "purchasing" the watch.  Yes, there are some things in life that are FREE.

If you want to start earning Swagbucks--click here to get started.  It is easy!

We have used our Swagbucks to also earn Landry gift cards for T-Rex Cafe and Rainforest Cafe at Walt Disney World.  Click here to read more.

Swagbucks also helped us get Disney trading pins--click here to read more.  And, Swagbucks helped us get our new waterproof camera--click here to read more.

Happy Swagging!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Decision Fatigue--Does It Happen During a Disney Vacation?

“Decision Fatigue”?  I had never heard of decision fatigue until yesterday when a colleague forwarded me an article from the New York Times that was written in 2011.  Here is the link to the article, but I warn you—it is quite lengthy and full of science:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html?_r=5&pagewanted=all&

It was the science that kept be intrigued and propelled me through the article.  And, while this article has many implications in my work life—making decisions and working with people making decisions that rival only air traffic controllers—I also connected this phenomena of decision fatigue to Disney, specifically Walt Disney World.

The assertion is that people have a limited capacity—energy, focus, attention—to make decisions and as that “power” wanes, people either go to the “default” decision which is easier, make no decision at all, or make a "bad" decision due to lack of being able to overcome an urge--think willpower.

While I didn’t have a name for it, other than telling my husband that I was tired of making decisions, I have felt decision fatigue both at home and while traveling.

Walt Disney World is enormous and, as us seasoned travelers know, requires some planning.  Maybe that is why we plan—to get many of the decisions out of the way before our vacation so that we don’t have to make them there wasting both time and energy.

And, even if we make many decisions prior to travel, there are still decisions that have to be made during a vacation, even one as magical as a Walt Disney World vacation. 

Is the potential for decision fatigue the reason for the recommended “break” in the afternoon?

The article also suggests that using routines and systems helps combat decision fatigue.  Definitely!  I see that theory applied in my work life, my home life, and definitely when we travel.  Previously, I had written about how an organized resort room saves time by requiring less mental energy (after the systems are set up)—click here to read more.

I can tell that this idea of decision fatigue is going to stay with me for a while.  My favorite part was the last paragraph.

“Even the wisest people won’t make good choices when they’re not rested and their glucose is low,” Baumeister points out. That’s why the truly wise don’t restructure the company at 4 p.m. They don’t make major commitments during the cocktail hour. And if a decision must be made late in the day, they know not to do it on an empty stomach. “The best decision makers,” Baumeister says, “are the ones who know when not to trust themselves.”

What this tells me?  Find a park bench and have a Dole Whip. . . or one of those giant cinnamon rolls at Gaston’s Tavern.  (Click here to read more.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Disney Cruise Line Announces Several New Policies

Disney Cruise Line released changes to various policies in the last few days.  Check them out. . .

New Internet plans and pricing
Disney Cruise Line is rolling out a new Connect@Sea Internet plan in the coming weeks to its four cruise ships. The new plan is based on the amount of data you use, not the time spent online, with packages available. Here's the new pricing structure:
  • Pay As You Go – $0.25 per MB
  • Small package – 100 MB for $19 ($0.19 per MB)
  • Medium package – 300 MB for $39 ($0.13 per MB)
  • Large package – 1,000 MB for $89 ($0.09 per MB)
Guests booked in Concierge Categories S, T and V Staterooms will receive the Small package (100 MB) at no charge. If they exceed that, they can purchase one of the packages described above.
Concierge Guests will continue to receive special internet package benefits:

Guests booked in Concierge Category R Staterooms receive free internet service for the length of the cruise.

The rollout is effective for each ship as of the following sailing dates:
  • Disney Magic – Monday, February 3
  • Disney Dream – Sunday, February 16
  • Disney Wonder – Wednesday, February 26
  • Disney Fantasy – Saturday, March 8
Williams Family Take—this will be great news to many as the price structure is now about data usage rather than time used.  Since wireless service was first introduced in the ships—a couple of years ago—a change in data plans was needed.  Bravo, DCL!  
We have yet to need/want data plans while sailing.  I am okay to be “unplugged” until we reach the mainland again.  But this change does provide guests with more options.
New policy regarding passenger-carried food
This new policy will have little impact on most passengers, but is a huge win for passengers with food allergies or other dietary restrictions, as well as for those traveling with toddlers.

Effective immediate, passengers can take "non-perishable, government-approved snack food items in their sealed, original packaging" with them when they disembark the ship in ports of call, as well as at the end of their cruise.

Disney allows passengers to bring this food onto the ships, but until now has forbidden passengers from taking any food off the ship, regardless of whether or not it is sealed. For people with food allergies or other dietary restrictions, this has limited their ability to participate in day-long shore excursions because they could not ensure the availability of safe-to-eat food at the various ports of call. Parents were not allowed to bring baby food off the ship.

Even with the new policy, passengers are not allowed to bring opened containers of food back onto the ship, so it's best to bring single-serving packages of the desired food with you so you don't wind up tossing the rest of an opened container. This is important for families who pack larger containers of formula.

As always, passengers may not bring perishable food, homemade food, pre-cooked food, or open containers onto the ships in any port, and may not take open containers off the ship at any time.

Passengers may bring a cooler no larger than 12" x 12" x 12" onto the ship only for the purpose of storing medication or baby food.

Food brought onto the ship must not require any food preparation assistance, and cast members are not allowed to assist passengers in preparing the food items. Food brought onboard can not be stored in the ship's galley, and must be stored in the passenger's stateroom.

Breast milk is not impacted by this policy, and may be brought on or off the ship as needed. Breast milk cannot be checked, and must be in the passenger's carry-on luggage.
Williams Family Take—we have previously brought pre-packaged food/snacks onboard and taken unopened snacks off the ship with us when returning to port.  Being able to take packaged food off the ship at various ports of call will be a bonus and money saver while in port!  While pre-packaged sandwiches are not listed on the room service menu, they are available (think Uncrustables) and packaged chips are available at the quick service locations on deck 9 or 11, depending on your ship.  With a little planning ahead, guests can now pack a lunch for a port of call without breaking any rules.
New wine pairing dinner at Palo
The adults-only Palo restaurant has added a new "Esperienza del Vino" wine pairing option during dinner service. Esperienza del Vino is a five-course fixed menu of dishes from the current Palo menu, paired with a set selection of Italian wines. The dessert course is paired with Passito Di Pantelleria Pellegrino 08.

The price for this new wine pairing option is $59, in addition to the current $25 dining fee. No substitutions are allowed in the Esperienza del Vino pairing, but you can still order off the menu if you prefer, at the standard $25 dining fee, and choose your own wines from Palo's wine list at an additional cost.

Williams Family Take—this is good news for wine lovers who want to be pampered.  Bon Appetite!
New pregnant passenger policy
Earlier this month, Disney Cruise Line amended its Terms & Conditions to update the policy regarding pregnant passengers. Previously, DCL would not allow you to sail if you had already entered the 24th week of pregnancy as of your sail date. Under the new policy, you may not sail if you will enter your 24th week at any time during the cruise.

The new policy reads:
"Women who have entered their 24th week of pregnancy as of their embarkation date or who will enter their 24th week of pregnancy during the cruise will be refused passage due to safety concerns. Neither a physician's medical statement nor a waiver of liability will be accepted. In addition, Disney Cruise Line cannot be held responsible or liable for any complications relating to pregnancy at any stage."
This policy is already in effect, so expectant women who have a Disney cruise planned should double check their dates to make sure they are still OK to sail.
Williams Family Take—This represents a minor change.  We knew of a family who was ready to sail in a handful of months and then found out they were pregnant.  Surprise!  Since I was familiar with this policy, I asked and they were not familiar with the policy.  The family canceled the cruise and is going to Walt Disney World instead.  Not sure what Disney could do to make this information a bit more well know, but it would be hard to ask prospective travelers, “Is anyone pregnant or planning to become pregnant prior to your cruise?” when making reservations.
New pricing structure for nursery service
The cost of It's a Small World and Flounder's Reef nursery service has been increased on all four cruise ships. Pricing for the first child is now $9 per hour, a 50 percent increase over the current $6-per-hour fee. Pricing for the second child in a family (staying in the same stateroom) jumped from $5 to $8 per hour.
Williams Family Take—Got it.  Budget accordingly.
New embarkation day hours for poolside sundry shops
The poolside sundry shops on three Disney Cruise Line ships will be open on embarkation day while the ships are still docked in Port Canaveral.

Whozits and Whatzits (Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy) and Quacks (Disney Magic) will open once embarkation begins so passengers can purchase sundries, toiletries, and pool items. If you've sailed with Disney Cruise Line, Quacks on the Magic is the tiny kiosk near the Mickey pool that seemingly appears out of nowhere—it actually folds into what looks like a support pillar of the ship. Quacks sells towels, sunblock, goggles, and small water toys.

Whozits and Whatzits is a larger store on the newer ships, and has a much larger selection including bathing suits.

Hours are as follows:
  • Quacks – Noon to 6:30 p.m.
  • Whozits & Whatzits – Noon to 8:30 p.m.
Both shops are closed during the boat drill, as per regulation.
Previously, these stores were closed on embarkation day, leaving passengers no way to replace their forgotten sun block. One of my tips for families traveling with pool-crazy kids is to wear or carry bathing suits onto the ship, and use those first hours before the boat drill to get in some pool time before the other passengers get their luggage. It's one of the least-crowded pool experiences you'll get unless you stay on the ship during a port day.

All other DCL shops remain closed during embarkation as usual, and generally open once the ship is in international waters.
Williams Family Take—This is great news!  Now guests will be able to purchase forgotten or needed items once on board.  A rookie cruiser mistake is to pack all of that away, not knowing that staterooms won’t be available for a while and your luggage may arrive even later.  Carrying on swimsuits and sunscreen is the best, but in case you forgot, now you can purchase it once on the ship.  All of these shops are near the pool area too, making it very convenient.  Great change, DCL!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Just ONE More Set of Matching Shirts

Zazzle.com had a 50% code.  I couldn't help myself and ordered just ONE more set of matching shirts for our July 2014 summer vacation.  Told the husband I was done.  Then I told him that iff Zazzle comes out with one more design--Olaf from FROZEN on the beach--all bets are off.  Click here to read more about why we wear matching shirts.
I asked Zazzle if they had the image and they do not. . . yet.  I also tried to make a design using other Olaf images that Zazzle does have and each time the white of Olaf changes to the color of the shirt, rather than staying white. (Yes, this makes a difference for me and I have informed Zazzle of the issue.)

Right now, this Olaf on the beach is available as a beach towel at Disneystore.com.  Hmmm. . . I've got a discount code coming from pre-ordering FROZEN--click here to read more.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Pre-Ordered Disney's FROZEN

Pre-ordered Disney's FROZEN from Disneystore.com and scored this great deal!

FREE Lithograph Set Offer**
Just Pre-ordered FROZEN from Disneystore.com for $24.95 plus shipping.
It will ship on or before March 18, 2014.
In addition to the Blu-ray Collector's Edition DVD, we will also receive a set of 4 Lithographs AND a discount code off a future purchase! What a deal! I'm planning on this being the boy's Easter gift and will use the discount code to order the FROZEN figurine play set.

* Pre-Order 2-Disc Frozen Blu-ray Collector's Edition by March 17, 2014 and receive an exclusive set of 4 Lithographs, while supplies last. Each 10'' x 14'' lithograph features a special Disney seal stamped in gold foil.

** Pre-Order 2-Disc Frozen Blu-ray Collector's Edition by March 17, 2014 and get $20 off a future online purchase of $40 or more; or $10 off a future online purchase of up to $39.99. An e-mail will be sent at the conclusion of the pre-sale with a unique promotion code valid for a future online purchase made between 3/18/2014 - 3/30/2014.Disney seal stamped in gold foil.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Is Disney Trying To Edge Out Independent Travel Specialists?

My first clue was the delay in announcing the AAA member benefits for our upcoming Disney Cruise and the second clue was the lack of offering AAA member benefits for our upcoming Walt Disney World vacation—such as AAA Story Time—click here to read more, and Reserved Wishes Viewing—click here to read more.  Then there was the announcement of the Disney Vacation Savings Account—click here to read more—that made saving for and reserving a Disney vacation conveniently located all in one location.

What are these clues telling me?  They are telling me that Disney may be trying to edge out independent travel specialists, including AAA and other Disney certified travel agents.

Already, if a guest has a reservation for Disney that was made through a travel agent, Disney cannot touch the reservation—it has to be handled by the travel agent.  For us, there have been no issues, but we have seen and heard of instances where this has caused guest confusion and dissatisfaction.  And, while not technically Disney’s fault, it is typically while at Disney this dissatisfaction happens and Disney gets the blame.

When I asked about member benefits for our next Walt Disney World vacation and whether or not previous benefits would be offered, I was told no.  The best offer will be the 10% discount at World of Disney at Downtown Disney. 

And, we have been the folks that have taken advantage of the perks of both our travel agent and Disney Cruise Line when sailing.  For example, if we rebook on-board for our next cruise and give our travel agent the credit for the booking, we walk on the ship for our next cruise with an on-board credit from Disney as well as any perks or bonuses offered by our travel agency.  In the past, these perks have been on-board credits, or drink credits, or free tube/float rental for Castaway Cay, or photo package credits.  The perks vary based on the length of the cruise—the longer the cruise the better the perks.  For our upcoming 7 night cruise, the AAA member benefit will be photo credits, which was the same for a 5 night sailing.  And, there were no member benefits for cruises booked for later in the year; another hint!

If prospective guests use the new Disney Vacation Savings Account, they are expected (not required) to reserve their vacation directly with Disney.  Guests can use an independent travel specialist, but to access the savings account to make payments requires some extra steps.

We love Disney and we love our travel agent, so we are hoping that we don’t have to choose between the two.  And, we renew our AAA membership each year, not just for the travel perks, but the other services.  We appreciate our AAA travel specialist and appreciate AAA for the discounts and the service. 

I understand why Disney is doing this—edging out independent travel agents—I just don’t like it.  And, Disney does have the capability of providing service to assist guests in all aspects of the travel planning process—flights to dining.  Prospective guests will be able to experience the “Disney bubble” even before touching down in Orlando.  It is just that I don’t have Disney Reservations’ phone number on my phone, but I do have my travel agents.  And, I can tell you that more people ask for that number than any other!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Personalized Mail Arrived From Disney Destinations

An envelope arrived in the mail yesterday from Disney Destinations.  Inside was a booklet personalized for our upcoming Walt Disney World vacation.  Talk about incredible!

The reason for the booklet is to explain MyMagic + and how MagicBands work.  But it the booklet was so customized, it included information about the resort we have booked for our stay.

There was also information about the specific tickets we have attached to our reservation--Water Parks and More Fun.

Since we have the basic Dining Plan attached to our reservation, there was a page dedicated to the Dining Plan--how it works, how we will use our MagicBands.  The booklet even listed HOW MANY credits we will start our vacation with and told us it was a "great choice" adding the Disney Dining Plan to our reservation.  Good news--we will each have a Rapid Fill Resort Refillable mug--click here to read more about Rapid Fill.

The next page went on to say that since we have "already purchased Memory Maker" to be on the lookout for Disney Photopass Photographers.  Yes, Disney already knows we have purchased Memory Maker.  Click here to read more about Memory Maker.

The last page of the booklet contains a magnet that lists important dates--when we can make dining reservations, when we can reserve our Fastpass +, and of our course, when our magical Walt Disney World vacation begins!  The magnet can be peeled from the booklet and placed in a prominent location.  Ours is on the refrigerator!

People often ask us why we keep returning to Walt Disney World and it is  personal touches like these that are one of the many reasons we keep going back.  Where else would you receive a personalized, customized informational booklet mailed to you prior to your vacation?  I can only think of one other place and that is Disney Cruise Line--just waiting for that mail!