Once upon a time, there was a kind and beautiful princess who lived in a humble castle with four dwarfs and a hard working prince. Her days consisted mostly of cleaning and caring for others while trying to tell her own story to
thousandsmillions on her blog. But what she really dreamed of doing, was to one day join the likes of fellow princess bloggers to learn and be inspired by the people behind the most magical kingdom on earth. The Twitter fairy allowed her to make this one wish by filling out a form to express interest in the event. As luck would have it, her wish was granted and she was invited to the ball. Now this ball was not the Grand Ball at the Magic Kingdom but rather a smaller ball that takes place throughout the land, On The Road. Regardless, it was an event to be cherished and she was grateful for the opportunity.
This may sound like a fairy tale to you but it’s actually my dream come true. Recently, I had the opportunity to experience Disney On the Road, a Disney Social Media Moms event in Washington, D.C. and what an experience it was! If you happen to know me personally or have read any of my Disney posts such as Cabins to Club Level or Tips for Planning Your Disney World Vacation I’m sure you know I’m a Disney fan. In fact, for as long as I can remember I have always admired the Disney brand, especially Disney World. The way they manage to stay classic while continually bringing new and enhanced experiences to their guests is quite impressive. So, any opportunity to absorb some of their “magic” is a welcome one in my book.
It was only just over a month ago when I first heard of this event. As I was
stalking following all the buzz on Twitter for Disney Social Media Moms Conference in Disney World , I came across a link that told about the On The Road event and offered a form to express interest. Not too long after I got the invitation in my email.
What to expect? I had no idea. What I got out of it? Let me tell you about it…
Maria Bailey, host of Mom Talk Radio, set the tone for the day when she stated that “Mom owned businesses are something we need to be focussed on.” This is one woman who clearly understands the power and challenges that go along with being a mother while running a business and I was eager to soak in all the knowledge possible. Overall, I think she shared just as many tips for handling the business side of life as she did for handling the parenting side of life. It was turning out to be a good morning, indeed.
There were several other wonderful speakers at the event as well. Gary Buchanan (@Gary_Jerry), Disney’s Social Media Managing Editor, helped to start things off by giving us a rundown of what’s new and happening in the Disney Parks this summer. Disneyland is celebrating the new Carsland and Disney World is gearing up for a Monstrous Summer which was kicked off with an “All Nighter” where guests could spend the whole day and night celebrating in the Magic Kingdom. If they were selling vacation packages right there I may have just handed over my credit card. Lucky for me (and my husband) they weren’t, since we just visited in January, but it does have me looking forward to our return trip.
The keynote speaker for this event was Jennifer Labit founder of Cotton Babies, a cloth diaper company. She started out by telling us her company’s humble beginnings of basing her business out of her home and eventually moving into a large warehouse space. Also impressive was how she realized the unique needs of different marketing segments and met that need by offering diapering systems for every budget. One of the things I loved most about hearing Jennifer speak was how authentic and down to earth she was, giving solid advice that even if you already knew, it was good to hear again. She spoke about writing down the things that are important to you “in a pretty notebook”(definitely my kind of girl), understanding what it means to get what you want and knowing your exit plan. The most memorable part for me was when she pointed out that you cannot get answers to questions you don’t know to ask and because of this encourages going back to school. Going back to school has always been a little whisper in my ear and I definitely welcomed hearing it spoken out loud.
We also got to hear from Michelle Stephanie, a contributor to Disney Parks blog ,who gave us some great information on interacting with the media as well as a panel of Momtrepreneurs who shared some of their wisdom and best practices with us.
I think that too many times, as mothers, we get caught up in the either / or scenario… either I can be a great mom or a great business person but not both. I know, I for one have been guilty of this for far too long. Putting off having a career until you can give it your everything. Truth is I will probably NEVER want to give my career everything. It’s just not who I am or who I want to be. For now my kids are and will be my number one priority. After that, if I’m lucky I’ll have some awesome grandkids to dote on and love. In between, I’m sure my husband wouldn’t mind a little extra attention. Long story short, I will work to live, not live to work. I loved meeting and hearing from these fellow moms who seemed to have similar attitudes but are making it work in spite of the challenges. This day surely left me feeling refreshed, reinvented and connected to some incredible moms.
As the clock struck twelve, the princess hurried off to begin her long journey home. It was a morning filled with information, inspiration, and of course imagination… dreaming of the one day she will be invited to the Grand Ball. Until then, she will return to her castle where she will live Any Given Day, happily ever after.
My family LOVES Disney World. We started taking the kids there in 2001 and have been going back just about every other year since then. So much so that the kids have caught on and pretty much expect that it will happen that way. Last trip was in January 2011 so, you guessed it, pressure was on to book our next trip for 2013. It wasn’t looking promising, when you have kids there never seems to be extra money lying around, but when we got some money back from refinancing we decided to put it towards a Disney trip. Of course, there are a hundred other things we could have spent it on but to us, Disney memories are priceless. I have had my father, grandfather and grandmother pass away and I would not trade anything for the memories I have of time spent with them there. Thankfully, my husband is on the same page as me with this.
That being said, I always try to get the most of our money when we go and that involves a bit of research and planning. To me that is almost as fun as the actual vacation though so I’ve gotten quite good at it. In fact, since my husband & I decided to go ahead with the trip I haven’t stopped
planning obsessing. Here are some tips I compiled to help get you started on planning your own visit to Disney World.
- Don’t wait for the “ideal” age to take your children. Our kids have gone as young as 3 months & nursing to diapered, toddler, preschool, and now school age. They have all got something out of it. I guarantee you that the look of a 2-year-old seeing Pluto for the first time will be just as memorable as your 7-year-old meeting her favorite Princess. And besides, as I am learning now, kids only get more expensive as they get older. Did you know that according to Disney, 10 year olds are considered “Adults” and get charged the same price for tickets and dining as you or I?
- Go during the “off-season” and avoid any holiday weekends if you can. Unless of course you enjoy battling crowds, 90° weather and paying more money. Late January/mid-February is my favorite time to go. Prices are cheaper, weather is usually in the 70′s and crowds are generally not a problem. Besides that, I love having something to look forward to during those dark winter months.
- Many times I’ll hear that parents don’t want to take their kids out of school for vacation. That’s a total judgement call… you know your kids and what they can handle. Mine are pretty adaptable and can bounce right back into their school work so we always pull them out for Disney. Others, not so much. Generally I have found if you are okay with it, the school should be okay with it as well. A simple note ahead of time to ask for make-up work is all it takes. And it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a small gift for the teacher’s trouble while you are there either
- Consider making your reservations for Sunday through Friday which tend to be the less expensive nights. Many Disney packages run on a 5 night, 6 day stay so this could work if you are doing a package as well.
- Don’t get discouraged when you go onto the Disney website to get a quote. Many times they include park tickets & dining which could be added separately for less money. You can uncheck these options to get a better idea of room-only pricing. Also check for any promotions by going to “Packages” and selecting “Special Offers”.
- A great & reliable place to buy discounted Disney Park tickets is Undercover Tourist. They are cheaper than Disney’s gate price & if you sign up for Mousesavers.com newsletter they will send links to get even greater discounts.
- If your family is composed of mostly members who generally aren’t big eaters (especially kids 10 or older) you might want to avoid the dining plan. For example, to add a dining plan to our vacation it would cost $2,066 or about $295 per day. For my family, I’m pretty sure we can manage to eat for less money without it. For other families it may be well worth it. Just another thing to consider.
- Don’t assume that the “Value” resorts are always the best value. I consider the hotel stay a significant part of the overall experience at WDW. Staying at a hotel in the Moderate, Deluxe or Villas category generally gives you more room to spread out, bigger & better pools, better location & transportation and overall more accommodations. These resorts typically can hold more people so if you have a family of 4 or more they are a great option. The BeachClub & Boardwalk Villas are both family favorites. We have stayed there several times by renting Disney Vacation Club points from DVC members. You’ll find more info on that here in one of my older posts. Basically, you get what you pay for. If you look at a hotel as just a place to sleep then go ahead & book your Value resort. If you want some bang for your buck, check out all the awesomeness that the higher-end resorts offer.
- Another great way to get the most out of your money is to familiarize yourself with the park layout & rides before you go. Invest (or borrow) a current guide book or visit one of the many Disney planning websites and read up on which rides will suit your family and which parks you want to spend the most time. Disney World can be very overwhelming so it helps to be as prepared as possible.
Of course, these tips are just the starting point to kicking off an awesome family vacation. I’ll be sure to add some more tips & ideas as I move along in my own planning process.
You may be a Disney World nerd if… you name your upcoming WDW vacation. But in my defense, it just seems a fitting title to one of our most unique stays at WDW. Let me explain the “unique” part. We have gone to Disney with the kids a total of four times and have stayed at the Polynesian, Beach Club Villas & Boardwalk Villas. Each resort we have stayed quickly becomes our “favorite” & we intend on staying there again & again. Fortunately, due to availability we have been forced to try new options which in turn broadens our Disney experience. I remember when I couldn’t imagine staying anywhere but at the monorail resorts. More recently, I couldn’t seem to move away from the Epcot resorts. This time we are splitting our stay between….drumroll please… Fort Wilderness & Boardwalk Inn. Not just any ol’ room at these resorts but rather a cabin at FW & Club Level Deluxe room at BI. Here’s how I came to choose these particular options…
Fort Wilderness always seemed like a fun place that the family would enjoy. Lots to do in addition to the parks like canoeing, horseback riding, fishing, campfire sing along, movie nights… you get the picture. Bonus is that the cabins can sleep six which most single rooms at Disney cannot. I happened to have an exclusive email code that gave me 40% off the regular rate* which made it less than $200 per night. So it seemed the perfect opportunity to give a different resort a try.
Now, I am a creature of habit so I wasn’t quite ready to give up the whole Epcot resort / hotel accommodations therefore I looked into splitting our stay between there and the Boardwalk. Initially, I intended on booking a 2 bedroom villa using rented DVC points** but then found out about the Deluxe Club Level rooms that sleep six. These rooms are basically Disney’s version of concierge with special amenities like complimentary snacks & drinks throughout the day (including Sam Adams =] ), turndown service, itinerary planning & special fireworks viewing area. Seemed to be a perfect destination after “roughing it” in the cabins for three nights. I happened to have another one of those special coupon codes & was able to snag 40% off this rate as well. Only $10 more than villas would have been and we can easily make that up in food & beverages. And so it begins… Cabins to Club Level.
*If you want to get coupons like these emailed to you, your best bet is to sign up for the vacation planning DVD on DisneyVacations.com & register on the Disney site. Not a guarantee but they seem to be a good way to get on”the list”. You can also use whatever discount is being offered to the public but these unique coupons tend to offer better deals.
**For my last four visits to WDW I have stayed at DVC resorts using “rented” points. Mousesavers does a great job of explaining this process. It ends of being significantly cheaper than renting straight from Disney even with discounts offered. Definitely worth checking into if you are traveling in a larger party. Two bedroom villas can accommodate up to eight people, grand villas up to twelve. I could go on & on about the awesomeness of these so just ask if you have any particular questions.