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Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Monday, January 26, 2015

Random Thoughts As We Get Closer To Our Summer 2015 Disneyland/Legoland Vacation

I sort of have this running check-list in my head along with other random thoughts and questions leading up to our summer Disneyland/Legoland vacation.  In addition, I’m keeping an eye out for anything we might need for our next Disney Cruise in December.

While our vacation is booked (and even some portions paid for) I have yet to figure out transportation.  I logged into Super Shuttle’s website to inquire about costs—it’s going to be expensive—only to have my e-mail inbox ding with a 5% discount message from Super Shuttle.  That’s a start!

Good thing that Disneyland has a 60 day window to make Advanced Dining Reservations as we are not ready.  Oh, I’m sure we could be ready.  I remember pulling together a twelve day Disney World vacation right at the 180 day mark and very quickly compiling a list of restaurants.  So far, we’ve printed the list of restaurants from the Disneyland website and have selected ones we would like to try.  Interestingly, some of the restaurants we want are part of special dining packages such as World of Color and Fantasmic.  And, we’ve added character dining to our reservation—prepaying for vouchers that include the meal, tax, and gratuity. 

Packing is another random thought.  I know, we’ve got PLENTY of time.  First, we needed a new suitcase—one with wheels!  Each year, we’ve added a new suitcase/duffle to our arsenal and I just ordered and received a new rolling duffle to complete the checked luggage.  Our luggage takes a beating and the wheels are the first to go—though the suitcase we acquired two years ago is still going strong!

Another packing issue is that we are flying with a new-to-us airline this trip and there checked baggage weight limit is 40 pounds.  Every other airline we have flown with has a 50 pound limit.  And, I’m pretty good at estimating when we are close to or have hit the 50 pound limit (to .8 of a pound!) so I’m going to have to readjust my “scale”.  And, I may also employ the same type of packing we did last summer which was a bag for all of us for each “leg” or portion of our trip.  That way, the other bags can remain closed until the contents are needed for their portion of the vacation.

Also, this trip, no rolling carry-on bags.  Again, this new-to-us airline charges for carry-on bags!  $15 per bag per way--$30 round trip!  That would make it $90 for each of us to take a carry-on rolling bag with us and there is a weight limit for those, too!  Historically, I have packed at least one rolling bag full of shoes.  So with a reduced weight limit on checked luggage and no carry-on bags, I told the husband that each of us would be carrying a pair of shoes in our “personal” carry-ons, which are still allowed free of charge.  I’m actually looking forward to navigating the airports without the rolling carry-on bags—just not the packing challenge.

As far as the December cruise goes, I’ve got alerts set for Kayak to notify us of flight price changes.  Since our sailing includes a formal night and is over New Year’s I’m looking at dresses and have added several to my Amazon “save for later” cart.  My goal is to get the dress for FREE using gift cards earned through Swagbucks.  Speaking of free and wardrobe for our winter Disney vacation—I snagged a new denim jacket for the boy on Amazon for free.  I had the jacket in my “cart” and noticed that the price was reduced dramatically—over half—so I used gift cards already in my account and it is on its way along with a new rash guard.  I told the husband that I was already working on the wardrobe for our December trip.  He just smiled, knowingly.  He’s well aware of the running check-list!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

You Know Your Child Has Stayed In Too Many Hotels When. . .

In the lobby of the Hyatt Regency at Orlando International Airport

You know your child has stayed in too many hotels when. . . 

The boy’s middle school has a great travel program and offers trips for students in all grades.  Later this spring, the boy will be taking his first trip with the group—a week-end, overnight trip with a one night stay in a hotel.  The other evening the conversation went something like this:

“What hotel?”  asked the boy, which meant what hotel brand would the group’s residence for the evening.

“I don’t know.”  Really, I couldn’t recall.  The hotel was shared at the informational meeting attended by parents in October, but I could not say for sure.  Hampton Inn maybe?

“Is there a pool?”

“I don’t know.”  Okay, most hotel chains such as Hampton Inn have an indoor pool, but since I didn’t know for sure which hotel brand I couldn’t be sure about the availability of a pool and whether or not the traveling group would be using the pool.

“What time will we go to bed?  What time do we get up?  Can I watch TV?  Can I have coffee with breakfast?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t know. Yes.  Yes.”  Oh, I love our guy!  I could tell by his questions he was planning and visualizing his stay.  And, yes, I know exactly where this comes from! 

And, yes, I did say “yes” to coffee with his breakfast.  Getting a coffee is a treat for him and it is more sugar and crème than coffee.  We first discovered he liked coffee on one of our family trips.  We were staying in a hotel for the night prior to flying to Orlando the next morning.  While breakfast wasn’t served at the hotel, coffee was available in the hotel lobby.  The husband went to a nearby fast food establishment to get breakfast and the boy wandered down the hall to the lobby (he was 5 or 6) while I finished up packing the bags in the room with the door open.  I’ll always remember him walking down the hall towards our room with one hand in his khaki pants pocket and the other carrying a cup of coffee that he had negotiated on his own in the lobby.  He looked decades older than he was.  Now, coffee is a treat—sometimes at restaurants or when we have lunch with Grandma Carol.  So, “yes” he can have coffee with breakfast at the restaurant at the hotel.

As this exchange wrapped up it dawned on me that this guy has probably logged 100 nights or more in hotel and resort rooms so he knows what he’s talking about when asking about hotel amenities. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Can A Disney Vacation Make You Happy?

 Can Disney make you happy?  We’ve all seen the Facebook posts about going to Disney makes you happy and that people who think money can’t buy happiness haven’t been to Disney—I’m assuming that implies paying for a Disney vacation.

I know I’m happier when a Disney vacation is on the horizon.  And less than a handful of years ago European scientists proved that anticipation is a more pleasurable feeling than surprise—which meant that all of my anticipation leading up to a Disney vacation was a pleasurable feeling.

Well, yesterday, I was reading an article (10 Ways To Get Happy Every Day) in a magazine (All You—February 20, 2015 edition) and was able to connect many of the ideas asserted in the article to either planning or taking a Disney vacation.

An idea shared in the article to increase one’s happiness was to savor events and moments by utilizing senses—such as the sense of smell.  I don’t know about you, but opening a bottle of shampoo we brought home from the resort or the tube of body lotion from a Disney ship takes me right back to the middle of the magic.  Or just imagining the tastes and smells at ‘Ohanas or the music in Soarin’.  Definitely savoring!

Another suggestion was to think happy thoughts and on tough days recall something made you happy.  I can do that!  Almost daily I peruse our Disney photos to post on Facebook and each time just looking at the photos recalls happy memories.  The sub-tip was to smile as it involves muscles and changes brain activity.  Again—when recalling happy Disney memories, I can’t help but smile!

The article also suggests that going on vacation—off the grid—can bring a greater, deeper feeling of joy. The suggested length of vacation—two weeks!  And, the article cites Dutch research indicating that the bliss associated with the trip can start months prior because of the anticipation!  Do I need to say more?  We definitely leave the world behind on a Disney vacation and for us, the bliss starts the moment we begin to plan and only becomes greater as the plans for our vacation take shape.  Disney=blissful!

“Social Snacking” or talking to strangers was another suggestion to build happiness.  Anyone who knows or has traveled with me knows that I talk to strangers, especially on a Disney vacation.  Cast members and fellow guests are all fair fodder for a short and happy conversation.  The article goes on to suggests that talking to strangers builds a sense of camaraderie, which is comforting.  Well, I know that talking to fellow Disney guests standing in the same queue as I am can be comforting—“we’re all waiting for the same thing!”

The tip of buying the right kind of happiness spoke to me.  The article suggests the adrenalin rush of a purchase of something over priced and trendy wears off quickly and that there is less happiness when purchasing “stuff” vs. purchasing experiences.  Several years ago, our family made experiences a priority.  So the next time I looked at purchasing that colorful knick-knack I said “no, no” as it wasn’t a priority for our family. I sure did admire the beauty in the moment, though.  Investing in a Disney vacation is a priority for our family as it is memorable and shared experience.  If the price tag is too much for your family, consider other experiences and enjoy the anticipation as the experience nears. 

Other tips throughout the article included planning your fun ahead of time—oh, my, oh, this is definitely Disney, being nicer, and strategic about what gets your attention.

All of the tips about being happier can and do apply to a Disney vacation—before, during, and after!  Therefore, the conclusion to my hypothesis and answer to my original question is that yes, indeed, a Disney vacation can make you happy!

Let the planning commence and anticipation build!

P.S.  I do have a subscription to All You magazine as a result of a free offer.  I do not typically purchase women's magazines as the juxtaposition of exercise and weight loss tips next to cooking and recipes or money saving advice next to articles about purchasing fashion items to boost your image demonstrate publishing hypocrisy.  I will say this particular issue had multiple coupons that have been removed for future savings!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

We've Got More Than One Disney Vacation In The Hopper

Yeah, we’ve got two Disney vacations in the hopper right now:  July and December.  A question I get asked regularly is “Do you go to Disney every year?”  My response:  Pretty much.  Then, usually, someone nearby chimes in with “or more than once a year.” 

The plans as they stand right now is a 12 day Disneyland and Legoland vacation in July.  Plane tickets are purchased, hotel reservations made, and the Legoland Hotel and tickets are already paid for.  All we need now is a summer Disneyland discount to be released.  My fingers are crossed!

Then there’s December.  When we disembarked the Disney Fantasy in July 2014, we had already booked and paid the deposit for a December 2015 sailing over New Year’s Eve.  Depending on the school calendar, which hasn’t been finalized yet, we will fly the days prior to embarkation and take in the most magical place on earth—Walt Disney World.  It will be great to see all of the holiday decorations and we will most likely spend Christmas Day in the middle of the magic. 

It’s too early to book flights as they have not been released yet.  Domestic flights are typically released 330 days prior so we’ve got a few weeks yet.  And, we may book our flights to Orlando first and then return flights later. 

Yes, we love Disney vacations!  How about you?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

We'll Be At Disneyland For the 60th Anniversay Celebration!

Did you know that we will be at Disneyland for the 60th Anniversary Celebration for the park?  Well, we didn’t know. . . at first.  But we do now!

I stumbled across the opening date of Disneyland with a “Daily Disney Trivia” question posed on the Williams Family Blog Facebook page.  I then dawned on me that we would be in the thick of the celebration during our vacation this summer.

Then, I called Disneyland, well, the reservation number, as I had questions.  A great Cast Member, named Peter who sounded more like he was from the East Coast than the West Coast and when I asked him about that he said he “gets asked that all the time” but assured me he was a West Coast native.  Back to the point—when talking to Peter he told me that many great things are planned for the 60th Anniversary Celebration.  Whew hew!

Already, announcements are being made for the celebration, like a new nightly fireworks show just for the occasion.  The new nighttime fireworks show will actually start sometime in May.

When the Williams Family was talking about this over dinner, we started to daydream about the possibilities. . . would there be new or unusual characters to meet?  A “dream squad” magically making guests’ dreams come true?  And then there’s the news of MagicBands and FastPass+ expanding to other parks.  We mused about the idea of being selected to test MagicBands at Disneyland this summer or better yet, that the service would get to Disneyland even before our arrival.

You might be asking if we planned our trip to Disneyland based on the 60th Anniversary Celebration.  The answer: No.  The timing of our trip and the celebration is serendipitous.  And at the same time, it’s not the first time we’ve stumbled into some Disney Magic!

Monday, January 12, 2015


There's a sleeping boy under there somewhere!

Give me an “S”, give me an “L”, give me an “E”, give me another “E”, give me a “P”.  What’s that spell?  SLEEP!  Now, let me sleep!

Sleep is an interesting topic at our house and the subject continues to make it into newspapers, television shows, and other types of media.  Seems others want to talk about sleep, too.

For the first time, I’m hearing and learning things about sleep that I didn’t know such as getting enough sleep can combat aging, boost your immune system, and reduce the probability of obesity.  All things I want and all I have to do it get some shut eye!

When the husband I first started dating, we were both in our mid-thirties and I warned him with “I’m a high maintenance sleeper.”  He needed more information to wrap his head around what that meant.  I need a fan for “white noise”, low room temperatures, two pillows, and specific blanket textures of optimum sleep.  It’s funny because he now needs all of those things plus an extra pillow.  Who’s high maintenance now?

When the boy arrived, we got him hooked on “white noise”—the fan—as soon as we could.  He now enjoys all the same sleep comforts that we do.

Then, there’s how much sleep and bedtimes.  When I was growing up, I never had or needed a bedtime.  Oh, I’m sure I had a bedtime at first, but 9:00 pm is about my limit and most of the time my head hits the pillowcase well before.  8 hours is my sleep preference though I am capable of sleeping up to 10 hours. 

Then, there’s the boy.  As he has gotten older, his bedtime has gradually been pushed back.  Our neighbors used to make fun of us as the boy headed into the house at 6:30 pm for “bubbles”—a reference to bath time.  Now, unless there is some change in the schedule to a specific activity, he’s in the shower between 8:00 and 8:30 pm and in bed shortly after.  Sometimes the husband tucks each of us into our respective beds around the same time—leaving the house free for him to enjoy.

What we’ve learned is that sleep begets sleep.  When the boy goes to bed earlier, he actually sleeps longer.  I then read a research study about children and sleep and that kiddos who hit the hay after 9:00 pm actually take longer to fall asleep and then sleep less.

There’s also some research about varying bedtime and wake-up times by more than an hour can have an impact on your heart health and natural Arcadian rhythms.  This is why during school breaks we try to keep the bedtimes (and routines) the same. 

Then, we take a vacation.  Oh, the bedtime routine stays the same, but bedtimes are a thing of the past.  On our last cruise the boy was closing down The Edge—the tween club on the ship—and returning at 1:00 am.  I was not awake to greet him!  Or, when we are at Walt Disney World and stay at Magic Kingdom through Wishes, which can be at 9:00 or 10:00 pm depending on the season you travel.  I can say that only the husband has taken advantage of PM Extra Magic Hours.  And given that Walt Disney World is on Eastern Time—it does give us the advantage.  EPCOT’s Illuminations is at 9:00 pm nightly (which is 8:00 pm Central) making not so big of a fluctuation in bedtimes.  But now we are going to try the West Coast—a 2 hour time difference and only in our favor in the morning.  Oh, my.  I can always sleep when we get home!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Which Disney Ship Do You Like Best?

When people hear that we’ve sailed on all four Disney ships, they want to know which ship we like better.  Well, it isn’t quite that easy, but let’s just say for now, our preference is the “Dream Class” ships—The Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy.  Two reasons—category 8A staterooms and The Edge—tween club for ages 11-14. 

The category 8A staterooms on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy are our dream staterooms.  They are HUGE—click here to read and see more.  They are just right for us, a family of 3.  There is no verandah—we are okay with that.  There is no Disney Cruise Line signature split bath or round rub and we are okay with that, too.  The space and location on the ship which is convenient to everything make up for any other cons—for us.  We feel like we can spread out and move around.

The other reason—The Edge tween club for ages 11-14.  Now, the other ships, the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, say that there is also a tween club on the ships, but the dedicated space is conference room and video game simulator turned into The Edge on Deck 2.  On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, The Edge has a dedicated space forward funnel and designed specifically for kiddos that age.  The boy loved it on our last cruise.  The Oceaneer’s Lab and Club are similarly designed on all the ships, so if the boy was younger, this would not be a deciding factor.  And, as he gets older, the Teen Clubs—The Vibe, with dedicated space on all the ships—may no longer be in the decision making matrix.  The Vibe has the forward funnel on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder and the entire front of the ship on Deck 5 on the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream including an outdoor space with splash pool.

After the ship preference, there are other deciding factors such as port, length of cruise, and whether or not Castaway Cay is in the itinerary.  We could go almost anywhere on a Disney Cruise and someday we just may.  For right now, our preference is to sail out of Port Canaveral and to have a minimum of 5 nights on the ship.  Again, these preferences put us with the Dream Class ships.  And, for us, a stop at Castaway Cay is an essential part of a Disney Cruise. 

Disney Cruise Line offers a variety of cruises sailing from different ports, with varying itineraries with its fleet of four ships.  Find your preference!  And, now is a great time to book a Disney Cruise as there is a special with only a 10% deposit needed to reserve your stateroom.  Usually the deposit is 20%.  Book a 2015 cruise by Feb. 15, 2015, to get this great deal!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Our Trip Out West Is Shaping Up!

Our trip out west is shaping up!  We are officially booked to stay 4 nights at the Disneyland Hotel, 2 nights at the Legoland Hotel, and 5 nights at Paradise Pier, a Disneyland Resort Hotel.  (The Grand Californian was a bit too grand for our budget.)

Disneyland has 3 on-site resort hotels for guests and several “good neighbor” hotels that offer some Disneyland perks.  Even though we are paying more to stay on property, the husband and I talked it over and we wanted that experience.  Even with the convenience of staying on-site, we are still navigating transportation, dining, etc.  Staying on-site was a decision to make at least a portion of our vacation planning “easy.”

Of the 3 on-site resort hotels, pricing varies with the Grand Californian being the most expensive, followed by the Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier, while not cheap, is the least expensive.  We designed our stay to take advantage of any savings. 

The first “leg” of our trip is 4 nights—all week-days.  Therefore it made sense to spend this part of our vacation in the most expensive, to us, resort.  Disneyland Hotel it is!

The week-end, Friday and Saturday nights, are the most expensive nights when staying on Disney property.  We, then, decided, to head to Legoland for the week-end.  We got a reasonable “advance rate” which does require full payment and a really good deal on tickets for Legoland Park, the Water Park, and the SeaLife Aquarium at a buy one day, get one day free rate.  More good news is that our stay includes breakfast!  There are also many fun things to do at the Legoland resort which we will do our best to take advantage of.  Oh, and guests get to select the theme of their room, based on availability of course.  Choices include Pirate, Adventure, and Kingdom all appropriate for either boys or girls.  The vote at the Williams' household was "Pirate."  (Our travel agent predicted that one!)

The last “leg” of our vacation is 5 nights.  Staying the least expensive resort made sense due to the length of our stay.  We are looking forward to exploring Paradise Pier.

Park tickets have also been secured—a 4 day Park Hopper on each leg.  This will give us plenty of time in the parks and some time to play on “non park” days. 

Now, to figure out dining. . .

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Adult Meltdowns--They Do Happen at Disney!

I was reading the message boards and came across a thread of posts about adult “meltdowns” at Disney.  I couldn’t help but read as we, too, have been there, done that! 

We have at least one moment in each trip where there is an unhappy parent of some sort.  And, the adults in our traveling party are more likely to meltdown than the boy.  Yes, even after numerous trips and one would hope, realistic expectations, there are still adult meltdowns.

Let me share mine from our July 2014 Universal/Disney Cruise Line/Walt Disney World vacation. 

We were several days into our trip and were headed to EPCOT for the day.  The plan was to spend the morning at EPCOT including have lunch at Via Napoli and then park hop to Hollywood Studios for the afternoon, and then return to EPCOT for our dining reservation at Rose & Crown to eat and watch Illuminations.  The FastPass+ for EPCOT were all selected ahead of time and we rode Test Track, Soarin’, Living with the Land, Finding Nemo and even had time to meet some characters before lunch. 

Instead of walking around World Showcase, we took the boat launch across World Showcase Lagoon which dropped us off in the Italy Pavilion.  We were just in time to check in for our lunch ADR at Via Napoli.

Here’s when things started to go sour.  It took FOREVER for us to get service at our table in Via Napoli.  Other servers would just sort of look at us and then walk on by.  We were seated in a corner, but the restaurant wasn’t THAT busy.  And, even though we had the Dining Plan, we were paying out-of-pocket for this meal (I sometimes book more meals than we have credits for so we pay cash.)  With the Dining Plan, I don’t worry about prices, but we looked at the prices and $30 for a pizza and $17 for a salad made me cringe.  Finally, we were waited on and ordered a pizza and two salads.  I will say the décor of Via Napoli was interesting.

After our “not the best” lunch experience we walked from Italy to the International Gateway located between the France and United Kingdom Pavilions.  We even stopped for photos in France.

A boat launch was waiting and we boarded to make the 20 or so minute journey to Hollywood Studios.  What I was expecting was 20 minutes of sitting in a somewhat cool boat and taking a quiet ride to Studios.  I got the sitting and the somewhat cook, I did not get the quiet.  One of the Cast Members managing the boat launch had microphone in hand and decided it was time for him to sing and engage the passengers in shouting, etc.  I leaned on the husband’s shoulder and closed my eyes.  The only time it was quiet was when the boat stopped at the resorts along the path to drop off/pick up other passengers.  Part of me wanted to warm the passengers coming on board with a “Stop.  Don’t.  Wait for the next boat.  You won’t escape.”  But I refrained.

Getting to Studios was not a problem, it was trying to make FastPass+ arrangements upon our arrival.  You see, the FastPass + system was allowing guests to make additional FastPass + selections after using the original 3 selections, but only in the park—not via the My Disney Experience app.  So, we asked a Cast Member at the gate where the nearest FastPass+ kiosk was located.  We were told “behind the hat.”  So, we headed to the icon (that is now being removed) and looked for the FastPass + kiosk.  Nothing.  I asked the Cast Members in the pin store and were told that the kiosk is only until 1:00 pm.  It was after 1:00.  We traipsed back down the street and found another location only to be told that FastPass + selections for what we were wanting were either gone or were for much later in the day—we had a reservation at Rose & Crown for dinner.  We scrapped the Fastpass + for the day.

It was time to split up.  I sent the boy and the husband to Wandering Oaken’s trading post to get the Olaf ornament, as it was all out at Downtown Disney while I went to get return tickets for the Frozen sing-a-long.  I bumped into a Cast Member who was management—you can tell by what they wear.  The meltdown hit.  I explained how hard and frustrating it was to accomplish what we wanted as of that moment while tears flowed beneath my sunglasses.  He listened. 

After our interaction, I proceeded on my way to get tickets for the Frozen sing-a-long and then met up with the family.  We turned and headed right into Backlot Tour, even though the husband was pre-meltdown himself and within minutes our moods changed and as soon as they did, the husband volunteered to be in the show.  We had a great tour—who knew it would be our last!

The Frozen sing-a-long was fabulous and a highlight of our trip.  It was then that we decided to use the magical FastPass ticket that we had received the day before when waiting for a bus to Typhoon Lagoon at the Poly took a very long time to arrive and the Cast Member decided to give us a special FastPass.  We knew it was a one-time-use so the boy had to decide:  Rock-n-Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror.  Rock-n-Roller Coaster was the decision.

When we arrived at Rock-n-Roller Coaster and presented the special ticket, the Cast Member did not take it.  We got to keep it!  What?  Another dose of magic!

So, we got to take another turn on Tower of Terror!  The magical FastPass was taken from us at the attraction.

We then went to the Magic of Disney Animation for some character interactions before leaving the park to take the boat back to EPCOT.

The return boat ride was much quieter!  And we returned to EPCOT in plenty of time to listen to some music in the United Kingdom Pavilion, meet characters, and check-in for dinner.  The boy was even asked to be a part of the starting Illuminations ceremony at Rose & Crown.

Thankfully, what started as a great day ended as a great day!  And, persevering paid off!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

We're Headed West to Disneyland!

The Williams Family is headed West this summer to tour Disneyland.  We’re excited, curious, and feeling like “newbies” when it comes to planning a Disney vacation.  So where are we with our planning for a vacation that is six months away from today?

Flights—the flights are booked.  We got a great deal on direct flights from an airport 90 miles from home.  As a part of the flight booking process, we also paid for luggage and seats.  Done!

So we know our dates.  We’ve got 12 days and would like to spend a few/days nights at one Disneyland Resort, then head off to Legoland to stay and play in their theme park, water park, and hotel, then return to the Disneyland and give another resort a try.  Always researching. . .

We’ve hit a bit of a snag and I sent an email to our travel agent to help us find out more.  Transportation to/from the airports to the Disneyland Resort is available—for a fee.  Motorcoaches have specific operating times, not like Disney’s Magical Express in Orlando.  The buses start running at 6:00 am and our return flight is at 8:15 am so I’m wondering if getting on that first bus would give us enough time to get to the airport and make it to our flight.  Otherwise, we will have to make alternative transportation arrangements.

Then, there’s getting to Legoland.  Just like Disney to think of everything and adding transportation to Legoland and/or other Southern California destinations is something guests can add on to their vacation package.  What I need to know is the timing of that transportation and is it such that we can take our luggage with us?  The answers to this question will determine the types of tickets we want/need for both Legoland and Disneyland.  And, we obviously want round-trip transportation, just not on the same day.

For example, if the transportation to Legoland is early in the day, then there is no sense in having a Disneyland park ticket for that day.  Maybe there is enough time to have a character breakfast before going to Legoland. 

Walt Disney World planning veterans would be making dining reservations as today marks our 6 month window, but not Disneyland.  Dining reservations are available 60 days ahead.  Good thing as we are not ready to make them yet.

We’re already noticing the differences, just in the planning stages.  We’ll keep you posted!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Boy Fared Well This Holiday Season

Yesterday I wrote about how Christmas turned out for me, but you may be wondering about the boy’s Christmas.

Let me begin with having an early November birthday works well for him.  He gets to create a “wish list” that can take gift givers through his birthday and the holidays.

For the last two years, he has saved up his birthday money to purchase a “big” item for himself.  Last year—2013, while his parents had wrapped up a Disney Infinity game (the original) for the Wii, he decided to use his birthday money to purchase a WiiU.  Good thing he decided that prior to taking the plastic wrap off the game as we were able to exchange it for a WiiU version.

This year, he decided he wanted to purchase a tablet with his birthday funds.  After an iPad debacle, he ended up with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4.  So, holiday gift givers, including Santa, could not go wrong with Google Play gift cards!  He ended up with several to the tune of over $100. 

For his birthday this November—2014, we came to the table with Disney Infinity 2.0.  This, too, allowed for various playsets and characters to be included as holiday gifts.  The boy ended up with several. 

New pajamas, a robe, slippers, headset and earbuds rounded out his haul along with gift cards from Target and Dominoes.  And, grandparents gave cash which burned a hole in his pocket until he bought two new games for the WiiU and additional Disney Infinity play pieces. 

I appreciate how he is using his money to purchase the expensive items!  I hope this trend continues.

P.S.  I'm also envisioning some movie purchases on Google Play that can go with us on our trip this summer!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I Got Everything I Wanted For Christmas!

I got everything I wanted for Christmas!  Did you? 

I’m a practical person with no illusions about grand holiday gifts.  And ever since I started working as a teenager, I drove my mother crazy at the holidays.  She would start asking around October or so, what I would like for Christmas.  Of course, I would have a list.  But that same list was my “wish list” of sorts and I would purchase items on the list as money allowed making my mother furious.  I never did figure out that I needed to give her a different list.  I wonder how many times she had to take something back. . .

Now, I’m married and have a family.  I told the husband all I wanted for Christmas was new black socks.  In fact, I was explaining the type of socks to him while waiting for one of the boy’s holiday concerts to start and the mom in front of me started laughing as she had a similar conversation with her mother.  My black socks, part of the daily winter uniform of black socks and white turtleneck, had holes, or lost partners.  It had become a challenge to find black socks in the morning and sometimes I ended up wearing navy. 

The husband came through bringing home 3 pairs of black socks after I had sent him to the store with an example.  He even added in a pair of tan socks—for my non black wearing days. 

Another gift the husband came home with was a lovely red cardigan sweater from Christopher and Banks.  I called our local store and asked if they had the sweater in the color and size I wanted.  They did!  I then completed the transaction over the phone including using a $15 off coupon making the total for the sweater $5 and change as the sweater was already 40% off!  All the husband needed to do was pick-it up (he said they were waiting for him when he came into the store and handed him the sack), bring it home, and put it under the tree.

Another item on my wish list was a new pair of winter boots.  These actually came after Christmas as I ordered them on-line from HSN as they were a Today’s Special sometime after the holidays.  Oh, and I found an on-line coupon saving $10 and made money back by shopping through one of my favorite money saving/making sites—Ebates.com (and there's a great $10 sign-up bonus!)

The husband’s mom delivered with her annual gifts of passes to our local pool/waterpark.  A gift that keeps on giving and a bargain when purchased in the middle of winter.  But, I had an additional gift—a heating pad.  Huh?  Okay—there are times when I get so cold that I go to bed after a hot shower with a hat on, wearing pajamas and a robe that have been warmed in the dryer and covered with a blanket that has also been warmed in the dryer.  It isn’t often, thank goodness.  And, then there are those times of the month when a heating pad can bring on major relief.  I have one that I keep at work, so while the husband and his mom were holiday shopping, they happened upon a heating pad and it became a holiday gift for me!

Add a new pair of slippers—free from Amazon using gift cards earned through Swagbucks, a pair of brown boots (no more hot gluing on the heel), a new skillet purchased at Kohl’s using a $10 off coupon, and two new sets of flannel sheets—one from Kohl’s using another $10 off coupon and another set on clearance at Target. 

Only the slippers, new red sweater, and heating pad were under the tree.  All the rest, I took care off—crossing them off the list as I went.  Oh, that would have driven my mother crazy!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Preference v. Priority--At Odds or Aligned?

After writing and publishing yesterday’s post, I felt happier, lighter.  I remembered that I enjoy writing.  Good thing I took a break so that I could have that realization—that remembering.  It’s not like I’ve been grumpy for over two months (honey, no commenting) it’s just that there was definitely a change in my feelings, my perspective after taking the time to write.  Which brings me to today’s topic:  Preference v. Priority—At Odds or Aligned?

Given that New Year’s is upon us, the TV and internet are full of tips on exercise, weight loss, and transformation.  One thing I did hear that caught my attention was the idea of making decisions based in whether or not something is a preference or a priority.  Hmmm. . . This idea definitely tickled the brain cells.

A preference is preferred.  The noun implies that this is the more comfortable and more pleasurable choice.  Some preferences might be chocolate, sleeping late, indulgent splurges. 

A priority is something important; top of the list.  This noun implies a goal, an aspiration.  Priorities might include health, family, a meaningful direction of time and energy.

The originator of the idea of making decisions based on preference or priority indicated that these two ideas are at odds with each other.  One cannot have a preference that is also a priority or a priority that is not a preference.  Really?  Is that the way I want to live my life?  Making decisions that are at odds with one another?  It’s the proverbial good/bad, angel/devil dichotomy
Instead, what if our preferences and priorities were aligned?  What if the decisions made daily were and felt that they were preferred and also led to reaching goals—priorities?  This sounds like a much more contented way to live.  I’m going to give it a try.

Beginning with the idea that a priority is for our family to have a Disney vacation this year—maybe even two!  So, our preference is to spend less money on other splurges throughout the year.  Yes, people make fun of our “big back” TV’s, but they still work and work well.  Having our preferences and priorities the same makes for easy decision making.

A preference, for me, is writing.  And, since it is pleasurable and makes me happier, I am also making it a priority—giving time on a regular basis to give my thoughts life beyond my brain onto the page.  Again, making decision making easier as the priority and preference are aligned.

This concept may be more about how one “frames” or looks at a situation, but when we change how we “see” something, it changes how we feel about it.  No more feeling deprived.  Instead feeling fulfilled!  

Friday, January 2, 2015

"Everything Ok?" Yes!

The comment came via email—“I miss your blog.  Everything ok?”   My response—Yes, everything is ok.  Took a break.  A big break.  A little over two month break.  Regrouping and recouping and ready to dig back in.

Why?  When I started writing and posting over four years ago, it was because it was fun; enjoyable.  The ideas would pop into my head and onto the screen.  I was one person producing more than a thousand posts with over a half a million hits.  Late this fall, it stopped being fun and felt more like work.  And, there are enough things in life that feel like and are obligations.  I did not want this to be one of them, so I took a break.  The ideas are flowing again!

There may be some changes to the Williams Family Blog over the next few months as I tackle topics beyond Disney—nothing controversial though.  You see, in my life beyond the screen there is much more to me and I haven’t always shared for no particular reason other than the topics were well “off topic.”   To that end, here are three things that you may not have known about me:

1.      I am passionate about couponing and saving money.  So much so that a friend and I teach couponing classes.  Having just finished the holiday season it was fun to see how much money I could save on gifts and other items.  Saving has become a family affair with the boy checking prices and the husband cutting coupons.  Our saving feeds our Disney addiction, too!
2.      Speaking of teaching. . . I am an educator in the public school system and have been for 25 years.  I work with a group of the most dedicated and passionate people who give their all for kids every day and at the end of the day go home and take care of their families.  Want to know who I would choose to be with in a crisis or an emergency?  It’s them (and my family of course).  They all have unique gifts and talents and use them to the best of their abilities. 
3.      I have helped people from across the street to across the globe plan their Disney vacations.  Farthest away?  Perth, Australia.  Yes, from right here in the middle of the Midwest!  It truly is a small world!

Three things you may or may not have known about the writer behind the posts yet all of those things affect the voice in the writing and offer a lens for our experiences. 

Thanks for checking on me, Anonymous.   Everything is ok.  Hope you keep reading!