Sunday, 24 June 2012

Home sweet home!

I'm back!



I'm tired, a little jet lagged and looking like I need a holiday to get over the holiday but it's all been worth it! I had an amazing time in Orlando and still can't believe I'll be back there in just 91 days! I've got loads of ideas for upcoming posts, including lots of International Drive info, reviews, and planning tips etc for those who stay 'off site'. As well as lots of up coming posts about the other attractions/parks Orlando has to offer and how you can make the most of them during your vacation!

I learnt a thing or two more about packing and planning, including how to survive an extended flight delay (I was delayed for 12 hours on the way out!) and much more! It's crazy to think you can travel to the same place for over 10 years and there is always so much new stuff - no two trips are ever the same!

I'm working on my trip report as we speak, bringing it to you over several instalments starting next week!



Until next time,
Sarah  

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Look at this stuff...

...isn't it neat?

Unfortunately my collection is nowhere near complete!

source: lorenjavier
If only I knew what I was collecting, then maybe the memorabilia would make more sense!

It's safe to assume that after just one trip, you'll come home with more goodies than you realised, and after several trips those goodies will have doubled, quadrupled and before you know it you're over run with park merchandise, those tangible memory makers from trips gone by...and for those with little kids I can only imagine how much you've come home with over the years!

In the beginning I was a 'plush and pin' collector, completely swept up in pin trading mania and if it had 'Limited Edition' on the backing card then of course it was coming back across the Atlantic with me. Plushes where mostly special even / limited edition and they where all pretty small too so that wasn't so bad. The pins are all packed into a large over-filled trading book!

At the same time as 'plush and pins', the infamous and legendary Christmas ornament collecting started - though I blame my mum for that one! And that's one collection that's never stopped - our tree is quite literally Disney from top to bottom!

As the trips have gone by I've definatly become more 'selective' in what I bring home with me, after all there's only so much space in one house! I always try and make sure whatever I'm brining back now it's either usable OR it's particularly special to me. I've really got into the art work and sketches, especially when the artist is there doing signings. I don't get one every trip but I always have a good old look!

There's always that one collectable you can't leave WDW without isn't there? For some it's a vinylmation, a cap, maybe a new hoodie or character plush but for us it has to be a new Christmas ornament. Our tree is getting pretty full now but we can't come home without at least one dated ornament!

What's your must have merchandise buy?

Until next time,
Sarah

Monday, 18 June 2012

Keeping the magic alive...

PCD - Planning compulsive disorder!
source: thomwatson
I've been lucky enough to have several trips to Walt Disney World and Orlando itself over the last 10 years, the longest gap between trips has probably been just over 2 years...and it felt like twice as long! After this year I imagine those gaps are going to become more frequent but they are the 'norm' for lots of other holiday makers! I know of several travellers who only go once every 3+ years and some who now have their own children and haven't been since they where once little ones themselves.

There is something about these trips that gets right under your skin, in a good way of course! Something that draws you back and it's something worth waiting for...but how do you keep that magic alive when you have 4-digit countdown? Here's a few of the things I do that keep me going!

Community


The Disney community is immense, larger than I could have ever believed. I'm a member on several active forums and daily answer planning questions from to-be travellers to Walt Disney World, from dining to itinerary suggestions, ride restrictions and 'help! I'm drowning in planning' pleas. Sharing my knowledge, ideas, touring plans etc rekindle all the feelings I have when it comes to planning my own trips and keeps my own pot of pixie dust pretty full! Another popular feature on most forums are the trip reports people post up and through these, I probably travel to Orlando in my mind at least twice a month! These trip reports are a great way to get ideas for your next trip, especially dining options!

Podcasts


Podcast in the making!
source: 38476153@N04
An extension of the communities, there are some seriously awesome podcats out there that focus on Walt Disney World and the Disney company. Some are so dedicated they've turned it into a day job (of this I am very jealous!) and they are so well respected by both fans and Disney that they get some amazing 'access all areas' passes! My all time favourite has to be WDWRadio, run by the very talented Lou Mongello. One of my newest finds has to be Your MouseCast! I'll do a more thorough post on podcasts soon!

Books

Ok, this might be more for the 'behind the scenes' fans out there, those of us who like to know the nuts and bolts of what makes the world of Walt Disney World go round. There are some wonderfully crafted booked out there, rich in Disney history, not forgetting some well respected autobiographies on Walt Disney himself (An American Original by Bob Thomas is one of my favourites and has the backing of the Disney family, including a foreword by Diane Disney). Spinning Disneys World by Charles Ridgeway tells the amazing story of the Florida Project from a PR point of view, including the building and opening of Disneyland Paris!


I'll be back with some more creative ways to keep the magic alive later on!

How do you keep the magic alive between trips?

Until next time,
Sarah

Friday, 15 June 2012

Top 5 - Disney Resort Guest!


source: knight0323


I love staying on Walt Disney World property and have been lucky enough to do so many times! A lot of people always ask me is it worth the price, automatically assuming that because it’s Disney then it’s surely going to be expensive. Now, I won’t lie to you, compared to the price you might pay for two weeks on International Drive it will look pricey, but you’ve got to keep in mind that what your paying for as a Disney Guest and what you get for that money compared with what you might save staying off property.

Here are my top 5 reasons to stay on Walt Disney World property!



  1. It’s all in the theme work!

Where else will you find an African game lodge or an exotic Polynesian beach in Central Florida? You might just think of your hotel as a shower and bed for the night, but it can become so much more than that, it can become an experience within the experience! When I’m sitting around the fire pit at Disneys Animal Kingdom Lodge listening to traditional tribal stories, for a moment I forget where I am, everything around me tells me I’m in the heart of Africa, from the sights and smells to the sounds of the animals across the savannahs, I have been transported half way around the globe!  

Even little things like the sound of Dory singing ‘just keep swimming’ right underneath you as you splash about in the Big Blue pool over at Art of Animation resort? You just can’t beat little things like that!

  1. Transport

In all my years of traveling to Walt Disney World, I’ve never rented a car – not once! I can hear you gasping but it’s true, we’ve just never needed one! With free complimentary guest transportation to all Disney parks, water parks, resorts and Downtown Disney – there is nowhere you cant get to on those busses! No hassle to find change for toll roads, no parking in the back of beyond, no getting lost or arguing with the sat nav, I just board my bus, sit back and relax until I reach my destination. Some people think having a car gives them more freedom but I can honestly say I have never felt confined or like I cannot get somewhere – ever! Never worry about getting back to your resort; the busses never stop until every guest has got back to their resort!

  1. Magical Express

source: auntie_rain
For those of us flying into Florida and not renting a car, our magical holiday begins as soon as we step off the plane! As a Disney resort guest we can choose to have somebody else collect our bags as we make our way through the airport, be personally greeted and escorted onto a waiting coach that will take us straight to our Disney resort! It really does make you feel like a VIP or should that be, VIG – very important guest!

  1. Disney Dining Plan

Since Disney started offering free dining to Resort guests, we have been able to try some absolutely scrumptious restaurants that would never have made it into our budget! Free dining saves us well over £1000 every trip! I’ve eaten at so many different locations over the last few years and when the offer is on that’s when we are most enticed to book another Disney holiday! What we save on dining we can put towards our accommodation or air fare.

  1. Extra Magic hours

One of the biggest draws to staying on Disney property, especially during the peak seasons is the extra magic hours. Every day there will be one park that opens a hour earlier just for Disney resort guests, or one park that stays open for up to 3 hours after the park has closed to all non-Disney resort guests! These extra magic hours give you the best chance of getting in a few extra goes on your favourite – and what can be better than Big Thunder Mountain at 2am? I find I get more done in the morning extra magic hours but there is something pretty cool about any park after closing time!


What do you love most about being a Disney resort guest?

Until next time,
Sarah

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

What's in your park bag?


Before I start I just want to clarify that I do not travel with small children or children of any age, those that do will probably need to pack a bit more than what Im suggesting (I’ll find a way to cover that at some point!)


I’m one of those people who always have a bag, be it at home or on holiday, I always have one! I’ve noticed a lot of people asking lately about what to take to the parks on a daily basis, especially those who can’t get to and from their resort quickly if they’ve forgot something! So I thought I’d give a little run down of what I take into the parks, it might be of some use to you!



Lets start with the bag itself. I’ve gone thorough so many over the years and had more than my fair share of bag-sasters! From too small to too big, to the infamous ‘fanny pack’ aka ‘bum bag’, broken straps, leakages and so on – if it can happen to a bag it’s happened to me! I’ve tried all kinds of recommendations and even though it’s took a while I’ve finally managed to settle on something that works for me!

Back in 2010 I purchases a Walt Disney World canvas drawstring bag. The bag I’d originally brought with me met an untimely end at Universal that day so I needed a replacement. It was the closest to usable the Zawadi Marketplace at Disneys Animal Kingdom Lodge had to offer, I paid around $20 for it.

I love this bag! It has enough room for everything I need during the day, dries quickly if it gets wet, thickly woven straps that are extremely durable; as it is a material bag; it folds down to fit nicely into the belongings bags on all rides and can even comfortably stay on my back during some rides too!  

So now I have the bag, what do I put inside it? It’s pretty much the same everyday unless we’re going to a water-park;

·        Sunscreen
·        Frozen water bottles (also keeps your back cool!)
·        Snacks
·        Purse
·        Mini first aid kit
·        Hand sanitizer
·        Bug bit relief
·        Lip balm

The biggest thing is probably the water bottles but once the bottle is empty I’ll use it to fill up from fountains for the rest of the day, it saves me a fortune as I’m constantly drinking water!

The mini first aid kit really is tiny, it generally consists of a few plasters and some paracetemol – if I need anything else then I will head to a first aid station!

Of course, there are other things it wouldn’t hurt to bring along, like ponchos if you’ve had / are expecting rain. We’ve been caught out a few too many times in the parks and you’re looking at close to $40+ for ponchos! If you plan to have some handy (not just for rain but for water rides too) I’d suggest bringing them from home as you’ll save a fortune!

Sunglasses will be in one of two places; my face or atop my head. My camera goes in my pocket as I’m always taking pictures!

Of an evening, I will switch to a much smaller bag, usually just taking my purse and camera out with me!

I like to take as little as I can get away!


What’s in your park bag?

Until next time,
Sarah 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Where in the World is Saloca?

source: zund


I am currently writing this very post on the verge of heading out to the sunshine state – where, as you are reading this, I will have already been for 5 days! I’d love to say this all has something to do with Marty, Doc and a steam train but the truth is less…electrifying?

Blogger allows users to schedule posts so pretty much all of what you’ll read over the next two weeks has been written in advance in the days leading up to my trip and given a specific date / time to go live. I toyed with the idea of taking my laptop away with me but decided against it, I’ve never took a laptop on holiday and doubt I’d use it much anyway! I hope that the wifi at the hotel will be good enough that I can check in via my smart phone and access comments and possibly do some quick posting (Seen as though I’m writing this future post in the past then that could have already happened so yay – if it hasn’t then boo!).

So, between 9th – 23rd June all posts unless otherwise stated will be scheduled ones and if I fail to approve your comment or get back in touch with you then it means I’m failing to make a decent wifi connection!

When I’m back on this side of the Atlantic you can expect a surge of updates, including lots of food reports from around International Drive, lots of pictures, a overall trip report and anything else I feel deserves a mention!

If there is anything you want me to specifically hunt down and check out then drop me a comment and I’ll do my best!

Until next time,
Sarah




Friday, 8 June 2012

Twas the night before departure...

Well, the time has finally come! The suitcase is the packed, hand-luggage zipped up and my trainers are by the door ready for my 5.30am start tomorrow morning!

The last few days have revolved around last minute shopping, booking my Busch Gardens transfers and finalising the 'loose' itinerary I've got in mind. I've double checked and checked my tickets, passport, insurance and dollars and will probably do it several times more! The night before a trip is always a slow moving evening of staring at the suitcase and hoping I've not forgot anything!

The weather hasn't been great on either side of the Atlantic these last few days. Here I am hoping to leave the rain behind in merry old England but it looks like I could be flying straight into it! I've been in June before and usually there would be a shower or two in the afternoon, only brief and they dried up so quick you wouldn't know it had happened. So far this month that hasn't been the case and the reports I'm getting back are not brilliant! Looking at the predicted forecast it should start to get better after this weekend so cross your fingers, toes and tongues for me and send some pixie dust wishes too!

I've packed an umbrella...just in case! And I might pick up a poncho or two too!

Plan for tomorrow - up around 4.30am, out the door by 5.30am. We should reach the airport for 6.30am and check in will be ready and waiting for us. I've never flown Monarch before and also haven't been able to pre-book my seats so hopefully we get a good spot! Straight through security and off for breakfast at Frankie and Bennys - Yum! A little duty free shopping, some magazines and meal deal then it's sit back, relax and wait for the gate to open! I love spending those few hours at the airport, even before I'm on that plane I feel like I'm on holiday!

I've set up some scheduled posts whilst I'm away but if I get a good enough WiFi connection I will try and do a few updates!

Take care and I'll see ya'll real soon!

Until next time,
Sarah

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Sounds...Silent?

It looks like Drew Careys ‘Sounds Dangerous’ has finally closed it’s doors over on the ABC Sound Stage in Hollywood Studios. It’s been pretty out dated for sometime, especially with its airplane-esq head sets and it’s sound trickery can be found on countless mobile applications. I admit it was a great way to escape the heat for twenty minutes or so, but apart from that, it didn’t add much value to Hollywood Studios.

source: andycastro
Its been said for too long a time now that Hollywood Studios really needs some attention. Toy Story Mania and the updated Star Tours have helped breathe a few puffs of life into the park, but I still think it needs more! Hopefully they will (at some point) go ahead with the Monsters Inc themed ride and bring in more Pixar related rides. I’d love to see ‘Up’ brought in – think Flights of Character in Downtown Disney but instead of the hot air balloon it’s the infamous floating house. That would be awesome and give amazing views!

 The Great Movie ride is a classic, but it is desperate for an upgrade! Now that Disney has the rights to Marvel, they could refit the whole theatre with a journey through the super heroes – that definatly has a massive fan base and longevity. And as much as I love Indiana Jones, that show has been around a long time and the space is so massive the could put on something pretty fantastic. I even think it’d be great if they did some seasonal rotations over at Beauty and the Beast and gave some of the other princesses the stage OR, how about a …medley? Disney on Ice shows have been a huge success and could easily be adapted for that Broadway style stage!

Most of the money and effort right now is going into the Fantasy Land expansion in Magic Kingdom, and over at Animal Kingdom they are due to break ground for Avatar Land in the not so distant future. It feels like Hollywood Studios is being forgotten about and it really is one of my favorite parks! Who doesn’t love the movies? They have so much to play with; it is easily the most updatable park with new films out all the time! Next to Epcot, it has the most potential for updating on a regular basis and people really do love to see things (OK, most things) updated – we all love something new to come back to for each trip!

I imagine Sounds Dangerous will be used seasonally – at the minute they’re using it for signings and events during Star Wars weekends. The space would be great for a fully immersive audience participation show and most of its much-needed updates are technical give or take a few coats of paint!

What would you like to see on the ABC Sound Stage?

Until next time,
Sarah

Monday, 4 June 2012

Change your fate!





In anticipation for the release of Disneys’ upcoming film from Pixar, Brave, (22nd June USA, 17th August UK) Epcot will play host to the Highland Games! 1st June – 8th July 2012.

Situated on the Rose Walk, your little highlanders and take part in some traditional Scottish games and test their own bravery! 

Merida @ WDW
source: insidethemagic
  • Archery
  • Mini caber toss
  • Cake toss
  • Haggis flip
  • Spin the clan wheel
  • Rub a rune stone
  • Arts and crafts

There will also be giveaways, a playground and WiFi access. I thought the WiFi was a bit of a strange thing to boast about but Disney are hoping it will encourage parents to share footage of the games through social media – free advertising! I've yet to see many uploads though and it's been open a couple of days now!
The area is mostly geared towards younger children but I hope there will be something for the slighter older ones to get involved with too. After all, Merida is no toddler!

I really love how they are doing events like this to promote the films, it’s a great way to build excitement for kids and adults a like and if it goes well I can imagine they will be doing more of them in the future. They’re giving it a pretty lengthy run too, and I imagine the week after the film release it’s going to become even more popular! 

The Brave experience is at no additional cost but general park admission is required.

Can you change your fate?

Until next time,
Sarah


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