Friday, March 23, 2018

Epcot planning - Pro tip.

We prefer to use our Table Service credits towards dinner as there is more value in dinner then in a table service lunch or breakfast.
However, there is one exception to this rule. When we are planning our WDW vacation we always book a early morning breakfast in Epcot at The Garden Grill. Ideally a 8:00 - 8:20am arrival time as it take my family about 40 minutes to eat breakfast.

Epcot’s most popular ride/attraction is Soarin' around the World. When the park opens there is a mad dash to The Land Pavilion to ride this experience.

Having breakfast this early also guarantees us early access to the park. We wade through our breakfast head downstairs and ride Epcot’s famous Soarin' before the mad rush. Because the majority of the crowd coming into Epcot is now headed to the Soarin' attraction we head over to the The Seas pavilion where it’s generally quite quiet early in the day. We take our time exploring the huge aquarium, talk with crush a little and also ride with Nemo and his friends.
People often complain about lines at WDW- this system has yet to fail us as our early morning Epcot routine. It’s all about being strategic and planning out your day starting the moment you arrive at the park.

Breakfast at the Garden Grill is a character dining opportunity and one of the very best in our opinion. The characters take time visiting with our team. Lots of photo opportunities. Mickey Mouse usually offers the girls a kiss on the head making them blush. There is Goofy and also Chip and Dale. The food is served family style and it’s all you can eat. Starts off with with this unreal juice concoction of mango, orange juice , pineapple mixed together plus coffee or whatever you want really. A large skillet of iced cinnamon buns shortly arrives thereafter and then the normal breakfast fixings like bacon sausage tater tot’s scrambled eggs etc. etc
One of my favourites actually has to be the Mickey waffles that they serve with hazelnut chocolate sauce that’s been warmed up. Something I look forward to each trip.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Enchanted Tales with Belle

This is a cute interactive show for the whole family.  Its the second opportunity my team has experienced it.  It was around 10pm and we had just wandered over to Fantasy Land from Splash Mountain  in Adventure land.   I saw the sign 10 minute wait for Enchanted Tales with Belle.  Score!

You arrive inside Maurice's little cottage.  The theme is bang on here.  His desk, Belle’s books and all the tools and gadgets you see in the movie.  

We all gather in the room and the kids line up in front.  A Cast member gives us some simple instructions.  A large mirror opens and we all walk through an enchanted door way following our little ones.  We are now in a giant closet and the “wardrobe” from Beauty and the Beast tells us we are invited to reenact keys parts of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale for Belle on her birthday.
All 5 of our kids are given parts in the show.

Wyatt - The Beast
Christopher - Phillipe
Sophia - The Dishes
Georgia - The Dishes
Charlotte - Pepper shaker.


We are all invited into the Castles Library where we sit and wait.  Lumiere calls for Belle, she arrives in her yellow gown.  
The kids act out their parts and it ends with a parade around the room to the song “Be our Guest”. A pretty sweet Character Meet and Greet.  PhotoPass photographers are there to capture some one on one photos with Belle. 
Belle hands everyone a bookmark and we are on our way!

A short edited video of the kids.

Disney - January 2017

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Disney Dining Plan 

This is post is about our travels and how we do Disney Dining.   I understand there are so many more options and ways to cut costs on your overall Disney Vacation. One main one would be dining.

If you have decided to stay on the Disney property you’ll now be faced the with the choice of a dining plan or no dining plan. 

Occasionally when you book a vacation package through the Walt Disney Resort Vacation planning website they’ll offer free dining. However, that promotion is slowly fading out and if they do release it it’s for a limited amount of vacation packages and only for select Walt Disney World resorts. 

For example IF free dining is going to be released you’ll want to be up bright and early when reservations open that day to be able to score that deal. You’ll also have to really be in the loop of when the promotion will be released, however Disney is known to make a buzz in the travel agent world prior to making such a big announcement.  It always gets leaked to the rest of us waiting in Mickey’s shadow.

For my family the Dining Plan is a must do. 

We’ve done both options. Our trip last September we elected not to go with the DDP and we regretted it. It was hard to swallow a Disney restaurant meal and pay $200 USD out of pocket for my family to eat. Especially since my kids are such fussy eaters.

Then there were the times we’d pack up the kids and drive off site to have a meal to try and save a bit. Wasn’t fun. Picture rangling three cats into the bath tub. 

That’s what it was like peeling them away from whatever Disney activity they were doing and putting them in the vehicle. 

  I like the idea of being close to restaurants either at our home resort or one along the monorail line. And of course dining in the parks mid day.

Knowing it’s prepaid sets my mind at ease.

Jason and myself can enjoy that premium steak for dinner with amazing sides a martini and dessert and the kids can go to town on their chicken nuggets and lame plain pasta. 

If it’s prepaid in my mind I don’t think about it.

When I’m on vacation I want to use the least amount of effort I possible can. :)

The cost of the plan can vary. We opt for the mid range dining plan which includes.

1 sit down, 1 quick service and two snacks.

Two typical scenarios for my team would be.

Breakfast at the Poly using our quick service credit - 

Mid  day snack of fries, fruit bowl, frozen lemonade, cinnamon bun, churro, Mickey waffle,or smoothie using a snack credit.

Dinner at one of the various Disney restaurants using our table service credit.

Late night snack using a snack credit. (Usually a cupcake) :/


The only other day this would change is our Epcot day.

We book a sit down breakfast at the Garden Grill around 8 am and use a table service credit. 

We then snack as needed around the World Showcase eating delicious decadent goodness.

Dinner would be a something like a giant turkey sandwich / pizza and side using a quick service credit. 

Along with the DDP you get a refillable mug that you can fill up at your resort for the duration of your trip. I always look forward to filling mine with Joffreys coffee before we start the day. 

The price of our DDP:

Family of 5 was around $1300 USD for the week. (6 nights) the plan is based on nights stayed not days. You have until midnight the day you check out to use your credits.

In the past when we have had leftover snack credits we will load up on things to take home like rice crispy treats, Mickey shaped snacks, cotton candy, goofy candy :-) not the best way to optimize your snack credits - but sometimes in the Florida sun you’re just too warm to eat. And with them recently changing the dining plan to make it TWO snack credits per day some days you don’t get the chance to use them up and they carry over until the end. Our last trip we had 16 left.

And that reminds me all of your credits will get carried until you use them. They don’t expire at the end of each day. 

Your credits are loaded onto your magic band and deducted as you go. Each time you use them the cast member will issue a receipt showing your balance.

Fun fact. 

Quick service credits are not defined between adult and child - so a child can order off the adult quick service menu. 

This is great for my kids because they eat an adult size breakfast. Bring on the Mickey waffles and sausage :-)

Dining plan or not you can start making your advanced dining reservations 180 days prior to your checkin.

Now of course there are cancellations and if you have the my Disney experience app on your phone you can refresh to check to see if there’s availability. In almost all cases and especially for the popular restaurants you cannot just walk up and ask to be seated same day. Even during the quieter times. Restaurants fill up quite quickly. But again if you have the app cancellations do come up.

We first look at the crowd predictor and determine which days were going to be in which park. We then reserve our dining based on those days. 

We get asked all the time to recommend restaurants. I’ll make that it’s own post.

Disney Vacation Club

Every family will have a different Disney vacation. So I can only tell you how we plan our trips.
There are few variables to consider but the main one is staying on or off property. For us we like the convenience and accessibility of staying inside the Disney bubble. To name a few perks to staying onsite vs off.
You can purchase the Dining Plan, parking is included, use of Disney transportation like the Magical Express and extra magic hours.
As Disney Vacation Club Owners we have essentially pre-paid for our accommodations for the next 50 years. (48 remaining). The points will transfer to our kids as they become adults and choose to table to Disney destinations with their families. We plan on buying them each a lot of points.
Call it a time share with a twist.
We purchased a set amount of vacation points that allow us to book 11 months at the Polynesian one of the Deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World in Florida for one week every year.
I sold it to Jason as ‘an investment in our future family vacations ‘
If we want to change things up and stay at a different Disney Vacation Club Resort we can do that 7 months prior to check in.
Of course there always won’t be availability at other resorts but DVC members services allow us to ‘wait list’ other resorts while still keeping our already booked room at the Poly. If there is ever a year we don’t plan on going ( I never see this happening) we can either bank our points and use them the next year where we can stay in a room with a better view/ have club level access or just book additional nights. Or we can rent our points to someone else through the DVC rental store.
We also enjoy smaller things like 20% off our merchandise. Discounted Annual Passes and access to DVC only events.
Essentially we own a piece of Disney property. Which means every year we have to pay taxes/condo fees. Disney refers to them as annual dues. We will have to pay dues as long as we are owners.
Our points hold value.  In our points have increased slightly in value - meaning if today we decided that we were never going back to Disney as Owners we could sell our points through a authorized reseller and actually make a bit of money.
In February we travelled to Disney World for the second time as DVC owners. Absolutely no regrets. Staying At the Polynesian in the Magic Kingdom area is certainly something we never thought would happen. To pay out-of-pocket to stay here we would be looking at $500 to $700 per night.

Located on the Monorail line that can quickly zip you over to Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

‘Please stand clear of the doors, por favor deje libre el acceso a las puertas’

I forgot to mention the pool. There are two pools located at the Polynesian. The lava pool which is the main pool big waterslide waterfall tons of kids activities going on. A good way to spend our down day between Park days. And then there’s the quiet pool a.k.a. the oasis pool located in the Disney vacation club area of the resort. We’ve made the best memories lounging around the pool. There’s actually a couple of ducks that coming to visit and swim in the pool with the kids.  They think it’s hilarious. (The kids)

Our room is beautiful and perfectly fits our family. Two bathrooms queen size bed and a pull out couch and then a pulldown Murphy bed. If you’re on my Facebook you’re often see me post pictures. It’s the perfect size. As owners of a Disney vacation club property the only thing different about staying in a regular room would be we don’t get daily housekeeping. They come every fourth day collect our trash,
change our towels. But that something we can live with.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Driving to Walt Disney World from Southern Ontario.

What’s the difference between driving and flying to Disney World from southern Ontario. Well, about 23 hours and the loss of some sanity.

We decided to rent a vehicle as our old van is getting up their in Kilometres. We highly recommend using budget Rent-A-Car. They allow you to cross the border easily. They also offer unlimited kilometres and if you book through Expedia you can score a deal like ours for around $250 for the 12 day rental.

The drive down actually isn’t that bad. Everyone is on a Disney vacation high, and the excitement of visiting the land of Mickey Mouse makes everyone happy! Including #mrhappy

Leading up to the trip we met a few times with the Aylesworth crew to discuss the details of the trip including how we would manage our time driving down. Having little kids we knew we couldn’t keep to strict of an itinerary but just had a idea of what each leg would look like.

We decided to leave after the kids were done school on Friday. I’m sure the kids leaned a lot that day. They were certainly over the moon with excitement.

 Sophia and Charlotte ended up being home anyway that day because they were both not feeling the greatest. (I will call it the Disney excitement sickness)
I picked Christopher up about an hour early in order to get himself changed and ready for the long drive. Georgia and Wyatt were picked up as usual and Georgia's class gave her a huge send off.

So cute!

4 PM we pulled out of the Aylesworth driveway and headed down the 401 corridor toward the Thousand Islands Bridge.

We drove straight through to Watertown where we had planned to make a stop anyway. Gas and supper. My kids enjoyed McDonald’s with their Dad while I enjoyed some Chipoltle and 5 Guys with the Aylsworth crew.

Around 7 pm with full bellies and full tanks of cheap American fuel we started our first leg of the journey. With a goal to get to the welcome centre in Pennsylvania.
No problem, our kids enjoyed some Home Alone and I enjoyed sipping my delicious sweet tea.

It was us and the I81. Around 8pm we flew through Syracuse with 2/3 fast asleep.

Around 10:30 we stopped outside Scranton PA. Quick stretch and we quickly jumped back on the high road.

With Jason excited and dreaming about 20 chicken nuggets for $5.00 and Hardee’s burgers we continued on. A stop in the Carolina's in the early morning hours had me woken up from my sleep and asked to take the wheel for a few hours. Behind the the Aylesworth’s decided to do the same.
Jenn’s take the wheel!

 A Few hours later we switched back and made our way into the bottom of SC.

A hour long stop let us refuel on Waffle House goodness. This kids were all rested and ready for a day of driving.

EditWe wanted to make a stop at the welcome centre in Georgia of course. We just had to get a photo of Georgia standing under the sign.

More and more palm trees lined the highway as we approached the Sunshine State .

Here we parted from the Aylesworth team as we had booked at separate hotels that night.
We made the three hour (felt like eternity) drive to central Florida where we spent the night at the old Nickelodeon hotel now newly changed to the Holiday Inn and Waterpark. (Thanks for the sweet deal using my Airmiles)
It was a great location. Located in the World Drive area. Which is very close to Walt Disney World. We spent the evening exploring the hotel. Enjoyed some delicious pizza a swim in the pool and watched a bit of an outdoor movie located in the pool, and finally to bed - Where we all slept really well. I of course was up bright and early at 6 AM filled with excitement because I knew we were going to my most favourite place. We packed up and we’re out of the hotel by 8 AM. We had to make a stop at Publix to pick up a few items I forgot to pack. We made our way through those famous gates to our second home.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Good-bye Parker

Dear Parker.

Thank you for joining our family. I still remember the day , January 17, 2007.

A very nice lady from the golden rescue delivered you to our home. They say you were about 18 months old at the time.

You had two previous names:  Dudley and Buddy. We didn’t want you to be tied to your past so renamed you. 

You were put into the rescue because you knocked up your previous owners schnauzer. So they said anyway. 

You were just so full of joy. Your whole body would jump in the air with excitement. I remember that day. I was sitting on our ugly green sectional couch in the living room. You jumped up and put your big head on my lap. You knew this would be your forever home.

At first I wasn’t sure about you though. We had Carley, Perfect Carley Perfect Carley could do no wrong. She was well trained and very well behaved. And you, well you were a little crazy. But it didn’t take long and my love for you was just a strong as it was for her. Every morning before my alarm you would wake me up with your slobbery face. You would jump right up on our huge king-size bed and rest your face on mine. Sometime you would even sleep beside me .

You didn’t lick or kiss. In fact you never licked or kissed . You just lightly sniffed. 

I remember I could ask you for a hug. You would jump up on me in the chair and wrap your legs around my neck. And just sniff my face. I loved it. We spent a lot of time trying to train you. But every time I enrolled you in a new training class you would bark aggressively at the other dogs. Not meaning to harm anybody but you wanted to let everybody know that you were in the room. You just wouldn’t give up until the class was over.

It was very hard to walk with you on a leash. You were very strong And would pull me. I was so used to Carley who didn’t require at leash to walk anywhere. That perfect Carley again.

You loved Carley. She hated you.. we actually adopted you so you could keep her company. You see we had bought this big house out in the country and Carley would be here by herself during the day for a few hours. So we thought you would be a good companion for her. You would be her sister. I even called you siblings. But she wanted nothing to do with you at all.

You didn’t care. You’d pounce at her from time to time annoying her. Trying to get her to take the bait. Like siblings do :)

One thing you did love was to swim. I discovered quickly that you loved dock diving. You and I entered the Belleville dock diving competition during the Bellleville waterfront festival in 2011. We had a great time the two of us. You loved putting on the show for all those people watching. 

I still remember the day that we brought Sophia home from the hospital. A human baby we weren’t sure how our dogs would react. You instantly fell in love with her. I remember you putting your giant head inside the bassinet as it gently rocked beside our bed. It was like you were rocking her. You would just stare at her. A gentle giant. Your big white puffy head. We used to joke that you look like the Tiotea Lion. 

We were so lucky. You were such a gentle dog two our three human babies. Never a concern that there was any kind of aggressive behavior. Unless of course a stranger came to the door when you would let them know that you were here. It actually gave me peace of mind at night knowing that you were here.

Before we had kids you and I would do home visits to potential golden retriever adopters. I would take you with me strangers homes and see how they would react with you. You and your crazy self. If they could handle you there, I knew they would be perfect Owners for a beloved golden retriever.

You lived until you were about 13 1/2 years old. It’s kind of unheard of in the golden retriever world. 

You were loyal boy. Everyday I would tell you that I loved you. I would call you my big handsome man you loved it. 

I would take you for rides in the Van. You loved to come with me in the Van to pick up the kids from school. 

If you didn’t come to pick them up though you were always waiting at the window when we got home. You absolutely loved Sophia. You would wait for her to go to bed every night. You would sleep on your soft pillow in her room. Every night.  

I loved sharing pictures of you on Facebook. You made a lot of people smile. 

I will never forget the time we took you to Woofstock in Toronto. We stayed at the Royal York Hotel downtown Toronto. The four of us. This was before we had human babies. You were terrified to stand on the escalator. And your dad had to hold you thrashing around. You loved spending the night in the hotel.  

I remember you and I looking after the booth for the golden rescue organization at the Toronto sportsman show one year.

You were such a good boy. I showstopper really. We had more people stop at our booth just to say hello to you. You just took in all the attention you could. You were such a good travel actually. He would ride of the car quietly with no problems. 

Three weeks ago we made the selfless choice to let you go. We didn’t want you to experience any pain or suffering with what was going on inside you. We did what no dog owner wants to do. I didn’t want to go through with it. But now as I reflect back I know it was right. You left us here on earth very peacefully. Like you knew it was time. I hope you and Carley have reunited. Keep a watch over us my handsome man. We will see you again.