Friday, April 12, 2013

Approaching the 12 month countdown

We are quickly approaching our 12 months count down to our trip to Disney. After much research and conversation, we are sticking with our original plan of doing Disneyland vs a Disney cruise. We just feel that it will allow us a lot more flexibility and room in our schedule to do exactly what we want to do while chasing around two toddlers.

Nothings been booked yet.
We have to wait until September/October to try and reserve a two bedroom suite at Grand California Villas. For those who are unaware, this is the place to stay at Disneyland Resort. In fact, for a one week stay it will cost almost two years worth of time share points, which is more then we've ever used for anything before. There is only about a 50/50 chance we will get in too, as we get 'second' dibs after Disney Grand Vacation club owners. But we have timed our trip after talking with our company and being told we have the best chance at the beginning of May. Still, we will have to reserve on the very first day of availability if we want a shot. We are keeping our fingers crossed!

The pool at Disneys Grand Californian
We will plan to book flights in the fall once our accommodations have been figured out. If we cannot get into the Grand we will book into Staybridge Suites as usual and book our flight together with it. This usually saves us a few hundred dollars. Otherwise our flight will be booked separate. This time we'd really like to fly into John Wayne airport if possible. It's only 30 minutes or so closer to the Disney area, but with two kids and LA traffic it certainly would make our trip a little easier. The plan is to fly out of Vancouver or at the furthest, Bellingham.

We had high hopes of getting a 6 day park hopper pass, but sadly Disney has recently ousted it. Before you could simply add on an extra day for very little cost, but now if you want anything more then a 5 day you have to buy a full single priced ticket or an annual pass. Sorry, not happening Disney. We will stick with our 5 days and enjoy a few others by the pool or out shopping.

Blue Bayou inside Pirates of the Caribbean
As far as dining, we have decided on a Minnie & Friends character breakfast in celebration of our soon to be born babies first birthday. I am hoping we get the opportunity to try out Big Thunder Ranch BBQ for lunch one day and then perhaps a dinner reservation one evening for the husband and I at Blue Bayou (for our fifth anniversary.) Those decisions and reservations will be made much closer to our travel date though.

So what can I do in the mean time while I wait? Save for it, think about it, talk about it with the family and fellow Disney lovers and watch videos of what's to come! After all, anticipation is half the fun!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Disney Alaskan cruise vs Disneyland

To help me better decide on our Disney vacation plans next year I have decided to make up a pros/cons list for both options. I don't know about you but it makes it so much easier for me to have things laid out like this. Blogging helps me clear my head and make sense of things, so it only makes sense for me to do this here and share it with anyone interested :)

Disneyland PROS:
- Warm sunny weather! I could even get a tan laying by the pool...
- Character meet n greets for the boys (and me)
- Rides!
- We would get to check out the new Cars Land.
- Not stuck on a boat with two wandering children (more space to roam)
- Possibility of getting into the Grand Californian Villas. Once in a lifetime opportunity?
- Great entertainment!
- Grandparents would come and help (sharing hotel suites)
- It's just plain magical!

Disneyland CONS:
- Requires a plane trip of 2.5 hours each way plus airport transfers.
- My toddler can't stay awake past 7pm and may be too old at this point to sleep in a stroller.
- Have to go back to our hotel room every afternoon for naps.
- Toddlers early bed times (affecting our late night plans)
- Travel time (though mininal) to and from hotels rooms/parks.
- Food isn't spectacular.
- Tiring! Getting up early everyday and crashing every night.
- Potential meltdowns in ride lines.
- I've been 7 times already (not that thats a bad thing!)

Disney Alaskan Cruise PROS:
- We could pretty much walk right onto the boat since we are local.
- Gorgeous scenery.
- Character meet n greets for the boys (and me)
- The food. Need I say more?
- Babysitting availible between 8am-11pm.
- Clubs for Toddlers to run around (supervised by us)
- Great Entertainment!
- Get to see 3 Alaskan cities (one of which hubby and I have never been to) and another glacier.
- Grandparents would come and help (connecting rooms?)
- Being that entertainment, food, etc is all on board everything is very close. It would be easy for hubby and I to switch off and on and go enjoy something while the other watches the kids.
- the toddlers would probably love to roam the ship decks and look out the windows.

Disney Alaskan Cruise CONS:
- Toddlers may not/probably won't sit through dinners.
- Toddlers early bed times (affecting our late night plans)
- Port activities may be out with toddlers.
- Toddlers not allowed in pools until potty trained.
- Colder weather.

Hmm, they seem pretty close don't they?

Disney Cruising with toddlers?

Cruises have majorly been on the brain lately. Maybe it's because my parents and siblings are currently on an 11 day cruise of the Souther Caribbean (lucky bums!) Perhaps it's because I received an email this morning letting me know that there was currently a 25% off deal on the local Disney Alaskan cruise for Canadian residents. Or maybe it's because I read a lot of fellow Disney bloggers blogs and one is big on Disney Cruises (thanks Williams family...)
Whatever the cause may be, I have officially added a cruise with Disney to my lifes bucketlist.

It's been about two years since our last cruise. It wasn't with Disney and it was to the Caribbean. As fun as it was, I really wasn't a fan of the cruise line (Carnival.) The entertainment was more something you'd see at a Vegas adults only show and the food was just okay. Hubby and I's previous cruise back in 2009 was with Celebrity to Alaska and that was incredible! Everything was absolutely top notch and I would not hesitate to sail with them again.

The problem (and yes, my husband reminds me that this is a first world problem) is that pretty soon we will have two very young kids. Now I always said I wouldn't let kids slow me down as far as what we wanted to do. The problem is more that we just can't afford to vacation like we use to as we currently work our way towards our goal of moving out of a townhouse and into a 'house house.' We get one big vacation in the next 5 years or so. We have already decided that this will be a Disney vacation as it appeals to both myself and the children and we have been planning on Disneyland. And I am totally excited about that! But then I think to myself, 'Hmm, a cruise would sure be nice again.'

A Disney cruise from Florida is out. As much as I'd love to be soaking up some sunshine at Castaway Cay, there is just no way I am flying all day there and back with two kids under three for a week long vacation. Not my idea of relaxing. We'll add that to the bucket list for later.
A Disney cruise to Alaska could be a definite possibility. There was talk of this cruise being no more but dates for 2014 have now been released! It wouldn't require flying anywhere for us since the boat leaves from our home city. And I know Disney caters to children, even young ones as far as entertainment, food/dining and by providing things we would need like strollers, highchairs and teeny tiny utensils. There is even paid babysitting available if we wanted it. Several family members have expressed interest in doing an Alaskan cruise and we almost booked one last year, but we opted for Disneyland instead.
And again now, we are looking at heading back to Disneyland next May. I love Disneyland and I know we would have an amazing time in the sun, staying at a nice hotel and running around the parks. Both of our kids would be young enough still that we wouldn't have to pay for them either.

I guess I'm just wondering to myself what would be easier. In talking to other Disney vacationers on message boards who have travelled with toddlers, they insist the cruise is still way more relaxing then doing Disneyland. But I just don't know! Either location would require making the kids sit down for meals at times or to be isolated to a hotel room or stroller. Pricing for either vacation isn't that much different, but they are two totally different kind of trips.

Maybe I need to make up a pros and cons list? Check it out HERE

As always, suggestions and advice are welcome :)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Saving for a Disney vacation

Often when I mention the idea of a Disney vacation people automatically bring up how expensive it is to do and how they could never afford it. I'm sure this is true for many, vacations of any kind may just not be possible for some. But really, a Disney vacation is a lot more affordable then people think, especially if you prioritize your spending.

Everyone spends there money in different ways. Some eat out a lot, others love to shop and wear lots of nice new clothes. Some are really into decorating or renovating their homes, buying the latest technological gadget or driving the latest model of a vehicle. Cutting these kind of things out and putting that money towards a Disney trip makes it a lot more do able.

Since my husband and I married we have had a very well laid out budget that we try to follow as closely as possible. Every dime we spend goes onto that excel sheet so that we can keep track of where everything is going. This has allowed us to see how much every area of our life is costing us and how much we have to 'play' with.

Vacations are a priority in our family. The frequency depends on where we are currently at in life (ex. Savings, pregnancy, raises, etc) but we do plan for the next future trip. Right now we are planning on a Disneyland family vacation for early next May and we have begun putting money aside Into a separate account. It's been dubbed our 'Disney' fund and I find it very exciting to think about what that money will go too. So far we have our Disney passes taken care of plus a character breakfast. We've got a ways to go yet, but we still have another 14 months to get where we need to be, and it's fun to cross saved for items off the list.

I'm part of a Disneyland community board where we discuss these kind of topics often and it was interesting to hear how other one income families save for trips like this. Some said they don't do anything for their families birthdays except a home made cake and basic play date for the kids. Some skip eating out, others avoid local fairs and attractions like the aquarium and the museum. Whenever they opt to skip one of these activities, they tally up how much it would have cost them and instead put it into the Disney jar. Some are big on coupons, some sell items that they make via etsy or craigslist and others become consultants for companies such as scentsy or norwex.

I understand that many aren't willing to part with things like eating out or seeing the latest movie, and that's why I say that it all comes down to priorities. If you really want to take your family on a Disney vacaction, there is a good chance you can. It just may mean giving up other luxuries for the amount of years it takes you to save (wether it's 1, 2 or 5 years to get there.) Wether that is worth it or not to you is the real question.

To find out some ways to keep your actual Disney costs lower, read my blog Here

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Switching Gears: Disney for adults vs Disney with toddlers

Disneyland with toddlers. This very sentence strikes fear into many parents hearts and emits a reply of, "oh no! Why on earth would you want to do that!?"

I wrote a post all about how to best do Disney with babies after our last trip. You can find that locatedHERE.
This time, I am mentally preparing myself for Disney with toddlers. And not just one toddler, but two. Whew, I feel tired already.
This time we will have to be prepared for children who may actually have an opinion on where they want to go (or, quite simply, WILL go whether I follow or not - cause they'll be mobile!) They will be eating regular meals, are guaranteed to have melt downs and may be too old to sleep in the stroller.

Thankfully, when we plan for a Disney trip we are able to allow for lots of time. At least a full week and a 5 day pass to explore the two parks. We plan for afternoons back at the hotel and one or two pool days to catch up on sleep.

But I am realizing that this trip specifically will really be all about the kids. What hubby and I want to do will probably be put on the back burner for the most part. It means maybe only hitting up our favorite coasters once during the week. It means spending a lot of our time in Fantasyland riding children's rides. And it means a lot of schmoozing and photo opportunities with our children's favorite characters.

I'm pretty sure I'm okay with that though. Out of seven trips to Disney, my favorite so far was the last one we took with our 7 month old son. Seeing his reaction to parades and the different characters he met were the highlights of my entire trip. And I think that's only going to get better!

So as sad as I might be to not drop everything and rush into the Indiana Jones ride when it only has a 10 minute wait, I greatly look forward to all the random little magical moments we'll have as a family.

And besides... There's always Nana ;)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Celebrating a 5th anniversary & a 1st birthday in the parks

I've only recently realized that if we do indeed book our trip for May 2014 that we will be celebrating two very big events at the same time.

The first big event (and likely to be happening while actually IN the parks) is my husband and I's 5th wedding anniversary. We were married on the Big Island of Hawaii on May 7th 2009 and use to talk about returning there for our anniversary. However, we changed things up a bit and did Hawaii last fall instead. Although Disney may not be the most romantic place to celebrate, I'm sure we can convince the grandparents to take our kiddos for an evening while we go for dinner somewhere. We aren't fancy food people, but I have always wanted to eat at Blue Bayou in the Pirates ride (without children!) so maybe we'll make some reservations for there.

The other big celebration is that our second son (due this May) will be turning 1! Although he isn't due until the end of the month, we know Disney won't care and will gladly help us celebrate. I plan to grab him a special birthday button to wear one day and maybe book some kind of character meal for his 'birthday party.' Hubby and I talked last night about the idea of not even having a birthday party for him back home. He doesn't need the toys and what's better then a 1st birthday at Disneyland!? He can get a special present or two from there and it would sure save us the money and energy of planning something once back home.
A few years ago I was in DisneyWorld for my birthday and I gotta say, it was pretty fun! I wore the free birthday button with my name on it and I have never been told happy birthday by so many people in my life! Everywhere I went random travelers and park cast members wished me well. It was awesome. Unfortunately I ended up with a stomach virus of some kind that week and we were never able to go out and have my special birthday dinner.

Has anyone else ever celebrated something extra special in the parks? What did you do?
I'm open to ideas :)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Advanced planning

As previously mentioned, my family and I (aka my mother and me) are starting to look ahead to May of next year for our next trip to Disney. It's almost a year and a half away and while that may be discouraging for some, it's still exciting for me. Anticipation is half the fun! Plus, I've recently started a little home business as a cloth diapering consultant that is already providing us with some extra funds for our trip. Bonus!

There isn't a whole lot we can do to get ready at this point. No reservations to be made, park schedules to glance over or activities to look up. But I've already begun thinking through things.

Carsland and the new Buena Vista street will be the biggest change. Last time we travelled to Disneyland we missed the opening by all of two months, not that I would have wanted to be there during opening. But I am hoping that by next year things will have calmed down a little and we can avoid some of the craziness.

Since we will be travelling off season the likelihood of a major refurb or two is to be expected. However, since Indiana Jones just finished it's major overhaul I'm feeling pretty confident that my favorite ride will be good and open. The only thing that would really disappoint me is if Splash Mountain were to be closed. In all my many trips to Disney it has only ever been open twice. We somehow always hit the refurb time slot. We also be looking at shorter park hours and quite possibly shows only on the weekends. Not a big deal really, but something to keep in mind.

Our family is expanding this year from three to four, so we will be travelling with two children under the age of three. That on its own will take a little more planning (or a little less, depending on your perspective.) Nap/rest times back at the hotel will be a must as well as a shift in our thinking from, 'What rides do mom and dad want to get to' to 'What things would our toddlers enjoy?' We will absolutely be getting a five day pass as to allow as much down time as possible and we will for sure be doing our usual full week trip.

One big change we are looking at for this vacation? We are hoping to get into the Grand Californian. For those who are unaware, this is like the Mecca of Disney hotels. We are timeshare owners and have access to the 2 bedroom Villas at the Grand which can hold up to nine people comfortably. We always travel with my parents and two brothers, which would take our numbers up to eight people. The tricky thing is managing to get a reservations, as it fills up so quickly. We will hopefully be looking at booking it this coming fall as soon as availability is open.
If we can't get in, we will plan to stay at our usual and perfectly comfortable Staybridge Suites.

Another hopeful change? We'd like to fly into John Wayne airport instead of LAX. Cuts down on about half the travel time between the airport and the hotels and the price difference is very minimal. Hopefully ticket prices continue to be similar.

That's really all that is on the brain for now. I will be eagerly anticipating the release of the latest Unofficial Guide to Disneyland so I can soak up any new information and will continue to keep an eye on flight and ticket prices!