Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Five Photos: Spaceship Earth

 These are some of the photos I took of Spaceship Earth 
at EPCOT's 30th Anniversary on 
October 1, 2012

EPCOT Spaceship Earth Growing Up Disney

EPCOT Spaceship Earth Growing Up Disney

EPCOT Spaceship Earth Growing Up Disney

EPCOT Spaceship Earth Growing Up Disney

EPCOT Spaceship Earth Growing Up Disney

EPCOT Spaceship Earth Growing Up Disney

Monday, October 29, 2012

Guest Post: Top Ways to Save So You Can Afford Disney!

Disney offers many surprises, from great times to lasting memories to expensive price tags!  To help you better afford your Disney vacation, here are some top tips on how to save money on your everyday life.  Track the savings you receive from these tips and earmark the money for your Disney vacation.  You will be surprised at how quickly the savings accumulates!   Let begin saving:

·         Sign up for in-store reward programs.  There are a wide variety of programs you can take advantage of.  For instance, Best Buy allows their shoppers to sign up for their Reward Zone program.  When purchases are made, you receive 1 Reward Zone point per $1 spent.  Once you have accumulated enough points, you get a free gift card.  This will help you to reduce the cost of future purchases.  Also, you may want to consider getting a Best Buy Credit Card.  If you typically pay cash for items, if you instead use your Best Buy Credit Card, you receive 2 Reward Zone points per $1 spent.   If holding a balance on a credit card is not your style, head straight to the customer service desk and pay off the balance.  This will allow you to get the extra points without holding a balance.

·         Make purchases of items online and use a company such as eBates.com for making the purchases.  Here you can make purchases from most of the popular stores and combine the percentage rebate from eBates.com with any coupons you may have for the store.  For instance, if you own a Red Card from Target, you first log in at eBates.com and follow the link to Target.  Following the link from eBates.com to Target will allow you to receive an extra 2% back by check at the end of the month on your total purchase.  Once at Target.com, find and purchase the items you need.  Pay for the items with the Red Card and receive 5% off your purchase automatically AND receive FREE shipping!   

·         Use Coupons.  If you do not receive a newspaper to receive the coupons, many coupons are now available online from websites such as Coupons.com.  Here you can find many great coupons that can be used to save you weekly on your grocery bill.  Even if you only save $6 off of your weekly grocery bill using coupons for purchases of items you typically buy, that is a total savings per year of over $300. 

·         As for a discount or if discounts are available.  For instance, many medical companies will allow you to receive a discount if you are able to pay off your medical bills in one payment.  They only offer the discount sometimes and ONLY if you ask!  You can find these discounts on everything from hotel rooms to workout equipment, so ASK!

·         Use apps such as PriceCheck by Amazon.com for purchases of larger items.  For instance, a few days ago, a game was in Target for $20.  I used the PriceCheck app to “scan” the barcode of the item and found that online it could be purchased for $13.  Amazon.com offers free shipping for many of its items when purchases cost over $25.  I decided to wait to purchase the item online when I have another product to purchase along with this one so I can get the free shipping.  $7 off of a $20 purchase is a 35% discount!  Pretty good savings! 

These are just a few of the suggestions you can use to help you save money.  The faster you save money, the faster you can get to Disney!  For more great savings tips, be sure to visit Strategies For Paying For Disney for weekly articles giving suggestions on additional ways to save money so you can get to (or back) to Disney! 

About Natalie:  I live in Tennessee as a wife, mother, writer, and CPA. I enjoy writing articles about Disney and other favorite travel destinations. Find me on Twitter and Facebook. Also, be sure to check out my book Strategies for Paying for Disney where you can learn how to save your money so you can afford the Disney vacation you want!  (And she's one of our Minnie Moms!)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Disney Surprise Pack Giveaway!

Disney giveaway 
My buddy, Kelly from Travel with the Magic, has sent me a box of goodies to share with one lucky Growing Up Disney reader.  There is lots of fun stuff in here and we've kept the entries simple, so ENTER NOW!

Posted by Picasa
a Rafflecopter giveaway

From travelwiththemagic.com:

With access to all the latest Disney discounts and specials, Travel With The Magic® will create your dream vacation at your dream price. All of our Disney vacation planning services are FREE! We offer personal concierge services such as itinerary planning, discount monitoring, handle dining reservations, book excursions, transfers, and so much more! We are continuously checking Disney discounts so that we can offer you the best value for your vacation dollar. If a better deal is released we will work to have that code added to your existing reservation. All of our Disney Destination Specialists are College of Disney Knowledge graduates and have years of Disney travel experience. If you need pricing for a Magical Disney Vacation, please fill out our quote form for a free, no-obligation quote. Choose us and let’s add some MAGIC to your vacation!

A Walk Around The World With Ridge -- Storybook Circus

Merch under the Big Top

When I was in Walt Disney World I the chance to see Storybook Circus and experience the new Dueling Dumbos. Also I got a tour of the new merchandise “tent” Big Top Souvenirs with friend and employee @deblady Dana. They do it all under the Big Top, snacks, hats, clothing you name it. Directly across from the shop is Dumbo’s new location.

In the Big Top everything is themed to a traveling circus, I’m just glad that clowns aren’t in here cause then I would be creeped out. The carpet around the middle of the room looks like it is a weaved together canvas ring. Around the center are the registers and a snack station where dipped apples and popcorn are available. There is a hat station to have your favorite ears embroidered in the back of the store as well. All the merchandise that you would normally find all around the park you can find here.
Treats under the Big Top
The Floor looks pretty cool.

Goofy’s Barnstormer is back and re-themed to fit the new area. But to me and probably all the kids the dueling Dumbos are the main attraction. The new design carries over the circus theme and if you can remember the movie the waiting area has elements of the movie. Floating around the ceiling is Dumbo and Timothy Mouse. Inside the waiting area you come up to a cast member who finds out how many are in your party then gives you a pager. The kids have a big play area while the adults can either chase the little ones or have a seat on the bleachers. Everything is wonderfully done and I have to say we waited about 20 minutes to ride Dumbo but it felt like five. I think it will be harder to get the kids to want to leave the waiting/play area to ride Dumbo. I can say that my niece Tink is going to love it. What I can also say is that it was my first time in memory that I have ridden Dumbo. Yeah that’s right I can’t remember ever riding it before. What of it?  Well there is still more to come from Storybook Circus. Pete's Silly Side Show will be open soon and when it ties into the Enchanted Forest it will be a story to tell.

Enjoy a few pictures of the area and know that the theming of the area is excellent.  

Store Front

The Sign telling you so come back! Leave your wallet!

Looking across to Dumbo

More Signs under the Big Top

A look around the at the detail

Signs heading into the waiting area for Dumbo

More signs

Telling the CM how many in our party

Dumbo Play area

More play area

still more play area

Even more play area

Go in here.

Bottom of the side is Sport the fire dog's house.

More of the room

Dumbo and Tim

About to ride


Details of Dumbo

Details of Dumbo

Other signs of things still to come

Pete's side show will be opening soon if it hasn't already

The circus train play area

Circus train play area

Everyone will get wet over here.

Jumbo! Dumbo's Momma

Oh no it's Me!

LOL, me "working"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Photo Flashback! Floating Beauty at Epcot

Spaceship Earth, Epcot, floating flower garden 
It's no wonder we've seen so many stunning images of Epcot in the last few weeks as the Disney community has been celebrating the anniversary of this unique park.  Spaceship Earth, the monorail beams and the gorgeous landscaping beckon photographers to take just one more shot.
Posted by Picasa

Focused on the Magic

Monday, October 22, 2012

Guest Post: Why we've preferred our Disney cruises over the other guys

We were fortunate enough to have cruised aboard the Disney Dream this past May and aboard the Disney Fantasy this past September. Previously, we had cruised on Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). Our favourite experience? Our Disney cruises... By far.

Our cruise on the Dream was the first cruise we had been on that actually felt like a family vacation. On our NCL cruise, for example, we felt very much in the minority having a child with us. On Disney Cruise Line (DCL), as like in Walt Disney World, we felt completely comfortable and at ease having a toddler and pre-schooler with us.

Everything onboard is constructed and organized for a family with children in mind. We can look at the stateroom itself for our first example. From the larger staterooms, to the bath tub in the stateroom bathroom, to the diaper genie in our room, we knew this was a place our children (and we, their parents) could feel at home.

cruise stateroom, family on cruise

Next, the pool/water areas are amazing. Despite the public health mandate that diapered children cannot be in the pool, Disney thought of everything for their younger guests. Both of my children loved Nemo's Reef (found on both the Dream and the Fantasy). It is a wonderful splash pad area themed after the Pixar favourite, Finding Nemo. For the older children, there is the Mickey pool (shallow), the Donald pool (deeper), Mickey's water slide, the Aqua Lab (on the Fantasy), and who could forget the water coaster, The Aqua Duck.

water coaster, water slide, cruise pool

family in pool, cruise swimming pool

While all cruise lines offer formal nights in their dining rooms to allow guests to dress up and enjoy premium meals including lobster tails, DCL goes one better and also includes a pirate night. While formal nights appeal mainly to the adults, pirate night gives the young and the young at heart a chance to dress up in costume and enjoy pirate-themed menus and entertainment. 

This brings me to the fact that DCL offers the only fireworks at sea. On pirate night, not only are the guests treated to Mickey's Pirates In The Caribbean show out on the pool deck, but this show is then followed by the Buccaneer Bash and fireworks. It is really a spectacular night. 

Pirate night, Buccaneer Bash, family in costume

All of the entertainment we saw on the Dream and Fantasy were top-notch. The shows are all directly or loosely based on Disney stories, perfect for Disney fans like us. What was really special, though, was the fact that all of us (parents and children) could enjoy the shows together. They enjoyed seeing some of their favourite stories and characters come to life, and we enjoyed watching the talent and special effects on stage.

Although we've enjoyed the food on all of our cruises, we really enjoyed the rotational dining that DCL offers. Switching dining rooms each night while retaining the same servers is a unique experience. The servers were truly the best we've ever encountered. They made the effort to entertain the children at meal times, and tried to diffuse situations (read: tantrums) when they were getting tense. They helped be that extra set of hands that we sometimes needed, like cutting up my son's food for us!

The restaurants on the Dream and Fantasy are experiences all on their own! The Enchanted Garden which, during the course of the evening, changes from dusk to moonlight, is a beautiful sight. The Royal Palace (Dream) or The Royal Court (Fantasy) is definitely the most elegant restaurant and certainly makes you feel like royalty. It is themed after the Disney princesses and the chandeliers in each restaurant are not to be missed. Last, but not least, is Animator's Palate. This was our favourite restaurant, although they were different in each ship. On the Dream, the big "show" in Animator's Palate is the Crush show. It is similar to "Turtle Talk" at Epcot. Crush swims through the restaurant stopping to talk to guests along the way. On the Fantasy, guests are asked to draw a person on their placemat prior to dinner. Throughout the evening, different scenes involving food from Disney movies are shown on the screens. Finally, to conclude, our drawings come to life on the big screen. If you're lucky, they may even be shown along some Disney stars in the movies! It is really something to see!

Lastly, Castaway Cay was definitely a highlight of both cruises. There is something there for everyone! For those wishing to relax: beautiful turquoise water, soft sand, an abundance of palm trees, but also varied activities for the more active folk. Rent a bike and ride around the island, or take the kids to Pelican Point and enjoy the water slides! Enjoy the sting ray encounter, or Spring A Leak water play area. Don't forget to do the Castaway Cay 5km run before  everyone even gets off the ship! 

Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line, cruise ship in port

We have heard only good things about the Oceaneer's Club and Oceaneer's Lab, however, we did not use these children's areas on our cruises. Our next cruise is scheduled for April 2013 and we intend to take full advantage of these clubs at that time. A report will most likely follow that cruise!

While this article was made to be a review of our experience, and not an in depth analysis of any particular area of the cruise, I would be happy to go into more detail of any part of our cruise. Please leave your request in the comments and check back, because it may be featured in an upcoming article about DCL cruises.

Contributed by Danielle from Ontario, Canada.  She and her husband are Disney Vacation Club Members and visit Walt Disney World several times a year with their two children.  She writes The Fairytale Family and has her own blog, Life As A Disney Mommy.  She is a Minnie Mom here at Growing Up Disney.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Magical Blogorail – My Favorite Disney Souvenir

Welcome to those of you joining me from A World View and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 3rd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

Magical Blogorail Growing Up Disney

For this edition of Magical Blogorail, Disney Dad shares some thoughts on some of the souvenirs he has collected over the years.

When Amy asked me to write this Blogorail article for Growing Up Disney, I thought; ”what is my favorite Disney souvenir?” I have been going to Walt Disney World since it first opened and have picked up many “things” over the years.  I have the requisite t-shirts, polo shirts, and baseball hats.  I have a few watches and some screensaver programs I picked up over the years.  I bought a wonderful EPCOT 30th Anniversary print (you can see it here) that I had signed by the artist, Larry Dotson.  We have purchased 3 prints of artwork by David Doss.  I have a copy of the 1980 D-shaped book “The Story of Walt Disney World” we bought at the Magic Kingdom.  And in a drawer is even a plastic wine glass that says EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival (no date, so I don’t know what trip that was from).

Disney Parks Original Mickey Mouse Watch, Growing Up Disney
My Mickey Mouse Watch
1980 Story of Walt Disney World, Growing Up Disney
1980 WDW "D" shaped book

All of my Disney baseball hats have collectible pins attached.  I have been asked many times by cast members if I would like to do some pin trading, which I’ve always turned down.  One cast member offered to give me every pin she had for my one, which I respectfully refused.  See, all of my pins are “special” I picked them out because I liked them, not to trade.  Most are attached with a “permanent” catch that replaces the Mickey-eared pin back so they don’t come off easily. (You don’t lose the pins and grandkids can’t pull them off the hat.)  On one hat I have a US Flag-Mickey icon shaped pin that DVC gave to members after 9/11.  I have a pin that looks like a Mickey Mouse Sheriff Badge on one hat.  I bought it because my great-uncle that I grew up next door to always called me “Sheriff” when I was little. I have a “Sorcerer Mickey” pin, as that is my favorite Mickey roll when he appeared in Fantasia.
Mickey Mouse Sheriff Collector Pin, Growing Up Disney

As I sit here writing this, I have a Mickey Mouse Clock on the wall my wife found at an antique store and there are 3 sericells bought at the Disney Store.  I have on my latest Mickey Mouse watch I bought at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort last January, but none of these are my “favorite”. 
Around the World with the Fabulous Five Sericel, growing up disney
Mickey Through the Years Sericel, Growing Up Disney
Mickey Mouse Fantasia Sericel, Growing Up Disney
The three sericels in my "computer room"
As strange as it seems my favorite “souvenir” from my trips may just be the Mickey Mouse socks I am wearing.  I have a drawer full of the short top white Mickey Mouse socks and I wear them almost every day.  If I have on a pair of “casual” - tennis/athletic/walking - shoes, I have on my Mickey socks.  Mickey Mouse socks – my favorite “souvenir” I have bought at WDW. 
Mickey Mouse Socks, Growing Up Disney
My Mickey Mouse Socks
My absolute favorite souvenir that I have brought back on every trip I have ever been on are the memories.  
  • I went to the Disney Preview Center in 1970.  
  • I have memories of going with my parent when the Magic Kingdom first opened in December, 1971.  I remember how tickled my mother got when, on the Jungle Cruise, she thought an elephant was going to “reload” its trunk and squirt my dad. 
  • I remember taking my new bride to the Magic Kingdom on our honeymoon on Christmas Eve 1973. 
  • I remember sitting on Main Street, USA with my daughter to watch the 3 o’clock parade when she was 3 or 4. 
  • I remember the joy of my son on his first trip and the Chip and Dale stuffed animals he had to bring home (which Ridge still has). 
  • I remember taking my in-laws and how much fun they had and my Mother-in-law (who had been sick) telling my Father-in-law that he “was tired, and he needed to go back to the room.”  To which he replied “I am?” then turning to us said; “I guess I’m tired, so I’m going back to the room.” 
  • I cheered my daughter along as she ran the Disney Marathon in 2005 and Mom and I ran the “we’ve got to get to the next park to see her run through” marathon.  We met with the wedding planners the next day. 
  • I remember walking my daughter down the aisle at the Wedding Pavilion and how happy she was and I was able to perform the wedding service to marry her and my new son(-in-law). 
  • When my father passed away, after the funeral, my wife and I went to WDW for a few days to “decompress”.  Amy asked could she come and crash on our couch at Old Key West.  The first night there as we watched Illuminations, she told us she was expecting.  Anyone watching us probably thought we’d never seen fireworks before. 
  • A few years later I took my granddaughter (Tink) by the hand on her first steps on Main Street (see the GrowingUpDisney logo for a picture of that).  
  • I repeated that memory with my second granddaughter (Minnie), holding her hand on her first steps down Main Street.
  • We learned of Minnie coming at dinner at Olivia’s at Old Key West when Amy brought Tink out wearing a shirt that said “I’m the BIG SISTER”.
There are so many more memories I have of trips to WDW over the years.  The memories I have brought back from WDW have to be the absolutely best souvenir.  We try to share some of those memories at Growing Up Disney.  I hope you enjoy them too.  There are even pictures of some of them.

1973 Walt Disney World, Growing Up Disney
Walt Disney World 1973
--Disney Dad

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is My Dreams Of Disney.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
2nd Stop ~ A World View
3rd Stop ~ Growing Up Disney - You are here.
Final Stop ~ Disney Donna Kay