Magical Blogorail: Preparing for Your Disney Vacation

Welcome to those of you joining me from Makin’ Memories and
those of you just hopping aboard. I am the final stop on our
Magical Blogorail

This month, the Magical Blogorail Red line is here to talk to you about what we do in preparing for our next Disney Vacation.  There is a ton of information that needs to be thought about when planning and preparing for your vacation, and there is no way that I could write about all of the things that go into it, so hopefully all of us together will give you plenty of ideas on what to do if you are uncertain.

When we first started taking our trips to Disney World, we made our travel arrangements through AAA.  Our first year on property was 2007, and we were able to get the free dining program, which was great, and my friend Tarah at AAA took care of all of our reservations.  So, from a planning standpoint, all we needed to do was decide on the dates, the restaurants, and the location we wanted to stay at.

However, all that changed in 2010, when we purchased our Disney Vacation Club membership.  At that point, planning our vacations became something that we were going to do on our own.  Since we bought our DVC membership in part so that we can take our friends and loved ones with us to Disney, it makes a lot of sense to involve all parties in the planning process, which we did.

Basically, though, here is my list of some of the things that we look at when we are planning our next Disney vacation:

  1. What time frame are you looking to go?
  2. Where do you want to stay?
  3. How long do you want to go for?
  4. Who is going on your vacation?
  5. Do you want to get Disney World tickets for each day of your trip, or are there some days where you don’t want to go to the parks?
  6. What do you want to do for dining arrangements?  Do you want to do the Disney Dining Plan, Tables in Wonderland, or none of the above?
  7. Are we driving or flying to Disney World?

What time frame are you looking to go?

For DVC owners, when you stay makes a big difference because the number of points required for your room changes based on the season.  For example, in 2012, if we check in at Animal Kingdom Villas (for a 2BR, Savannah view) on June 8, and check out on June 15, it will cost us 345 vacation points.  However, if we stay June 14-21 (which would allow our visit to fall on Sophie’s birthday), it would cost us 372 vacation points, all because of the season that we stay in.

Where do you want to stay?

One of the biggest decisions you can make is where to stay.  This past June, we stayed at Bay Lake Tower, and loved it.  But this next time, I would love to stay at Animal Kingdom Villas if it’s available.  However, it’s not just my vacation, so this is something that all of us that are vacationing together will decide.

How long do you want to go for?

For us, our standard vacation time is usually one week.  That is something that we don’t vary a whole lot, but it is certainly something that we need to be clear about with all the people in our party.

Who is going on your vacation?

Being DVC owners, Cindy and I have the ability to invite those that we love and want to share our vacations with.  As a result, we both talk quite a bit on who we want to invite, and when we have that decision, we act on it.

Do you want to get Disney World tickets for each day of your trip, or
are there some days where you don’t want to go to the parks?

Probably the biggest expense on a Disney World vacation is for the tickets.  With every family on a budget, it is important to plan out how many days you want to go to the parks on your vacation.  It is also great to get started on this planning earlier rather than later, because it will allow you to start making the investment in the ticket costs a little at a time, which will help pay off that expense easier.  Also, Disney ticket prices do get an annual increase, so if you are able to purchase your tickets earlier, then you can get them for today’s cost, rather than waiting and possibly having to pay more for the same ticket.

What do you want to do for dining arrangements?  Do you want to do the
Disney Dining Plan, Tables in Wonderland, or none of the above?

When we went in June, we decided early on that the cost of the Disney Dining Plan was too much for our big group to be able to justify the expense.  As a result, we decided to plan a few table service dinners.  We originally started with Akershus over in Norway, Boma (for the adults) at Animal Kingdom, and 50’s Prime Time Cafe in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  We added in a reservation for Biergarten in Germany while we were there, so we ended up with four table service reservations.

Since we had such a big group, having nine of us, it made a whole lot of sense to purchase the Tables in Wonderland card for our dining.  We paid $75 for the card since we are Annual Passholders, but we ended up saving over $200 off of our dining by using the card!

Are we driving or flying to Disney World?

The last, and simplest, question, is whether you are driving or flying to Walt Disney World.  This is, in a lot of ways, a no-brainer, at least for us it is, but it is also a question that you need to ask and answer.  For us, we’ll be driving.

As you can see, there are a lot of details that go into planning and preparing your Disney World Vacation!  For that reason, one of the biggest things that you can do to help yourself is to enlist in the aid of a Disney authorized Travel Agent.  These special agents are wonderful people who love to plan Disney vacations for their clients, and they are really great at making sure that their clients get the best deals possible.  Best of all, a Disney TA does not charge for their services!  If you need any recommendations for a Disney TA, just leave a comment and I’ll post who we are using for a small getaway weekend in September/October.

Thank you for joining Magical
Blogorail Red this month. We will be back September 16th with an all
new theme. Keep checking in with our blogs in between loops to keep up to date
with our Disney info, photos and stories. If you are looking for more Disney
magic, you can make your way over to The Magical Blogorail website to see
all our members and their blogs, as well as all our previous

Here is the map of our Magical
Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to

1st Stop ~ A World View

2nd Stop ~ Growing Up Disney
3rd Stop ~ WDW Backstage
4th Stop ~ Makin’ Memories

Final ~ My Dreams of Disney

Cars Review

Hello again, 

Sophie here with another exciting review. Today I’m reviewing the movie Cars. It’s main characters are Lightning McQueen, Mater, and the rest of the gang from Route 66.

On his way to Los Angeles, California McQueen’s truck door is opened and he awakens to find himself about to crash into not 1 but 3 incoming trucks! Then he found himself in a parking boot. He was set before Doc the Hudson Hornet an old retired race car with three piston cups. If you want to hear more then you’ll have to watch the movie. Adios amigos.

Lightning McQueen at Epcot


Mater at Epcot


Arrival Day at Disney World

The Disney Vacation Club — What’s it all about?

The Disney Vacation Club’s old logo

On Facebook the other day, I posed the question “Are you a Disney Vacation Club owner?” and received a myriad of answers.  Most of the people that answered were DVC members already, but one told me that she had been thinking about it, but that she wasn’t sure what it was all about, and hadn’t had time to take the tour.  So Jennifer, this post is written especially for you and those like you that are not entirely sure what the Disney Vacation Club is all about.  I hope that I can help explain what “The Best Kept Secret” is, and how you too can have your own slice of Disney! Disney Vacation Club Resorts The Disney Vacation Club, or DVC for short, started with the opening of the Old Key West Resort on December 20, 1991.  During the years, DVC has opened several other “DVC Resorts”. Here is the complete list:

  1. Old Key West
  2. Vero Beach Resort
  3. Hilton Head Island
  4. Boardwalk Villas
  5. Villas at the Wilderness Lodge
  6. Beach Club Villas
  7. Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  8. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas
  9. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian® Resort & Spa
  10. Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  11. Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, Ko Olina, Hawaii
  12. Grand Floridian Villas

How Does the DVC work? The concept behind the Disney Vacation Club is quite simple; you, the owner, purchase an allocation of points.  For our family, we purchased 220 points.  The points can be used to stay at any of the DVC Resorts listed above, and each resort has Studio, One-Bedroom, Two-Bedroom, and sometimes Three-Bedroom suites available to reserve.  Of course, the number of points you need for each resort will vary based on location, room size, and time of year that you are staying.  Of course, the resorts are marketed such that a resort like Bay Lake Tower will require more points for the same type room than at Animal Kingdom Villas. What makes DVC different from a standard timeshare is that you are able to use your points at any of the resorts, and if you purchase your points directly from Disney, you can also transfer your points to use at other types of locations, which are listed below:

  • The Disney Collection
    • This collection is comprised of traditional Disney resort rooms, for example, a room at Port Orleans French Quarter
  • The World Passport Collection
    • This collection is made up of resort locations that are available in an exchange with RCI or Buena Vista Trading Company.  There are something like 400 resorts available all over the world, and if you elect this route, the cost for you is a $95 transfer fee.
  • The Concierge Collection
    • This collection offers a select choice of fine hotel choices in various locations, with fine dining packages and other amenities.
  • The Adventure Collection
    • People who select this collection will be able to examine the Adventures by Disney selections, and can use their points for these destinations!

The first thing to do if you are considering purchasing DVC is to either take a tour when you are visiting one of the parks, order the Disney Vacation Club DVD, or call the phone number on the image below.  If you tell them that I referred you, I believe that we will both get a special reward!  However, I’ve never referred anyone, so I could be wrong on the reward.

Call or visit (click to enlarge)

Special Incentives Upon occasion, the sales folks at DVC will offer incentives to people that are buying ownership in DVC. When we purchased, we were looking at purchasing as our home resort (more on that later) either Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort or Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas.  However, we ultimately decided to purchase our points through The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian® Resort & Spa.  There were a couple of reasons, which I’ll elaborate on next.

  • One thing I didn’t mention is that when you purchase an interest, your ownership interest is for fifty years minus the length of time that the resort has been open.  For example, if we had purchased at Old Key West, which opened in 1991, we would have been able to have our ownership interest until the year 2042, which is about 50 years after OKW opened for business.  So, for us, we would have been able to stay there for 32 years since we purchased in 2010.  However, since the Grand Californian opened in September, 2009, the DVC end date is January 31, 2060, so we’ll have our interest for a full 50 years.
  • When we purchased, GC was about to sell out — so the sales folks were all about finishing up that resort.  Because of that, when we purchased our points, we were also given the current years points as a free add on, so for 2011 we had 440 points available for use.
  • We also got a discount on the cost of the points by purchasing at Grand Californian, so our purchase price was less than at other resorts.

Home Resort Pros and Cons When you purchase your points, you purchase them at a certain resort — that resort is known as your home resort.  The advantage of your home resort is that when you want to reserve a room there, you can reserve your room 11 months out from your date of check-in.  For example, if we want to go to the Grand Californian next year and check in December 14, 2012, we will be able to reserve our room on January 14, 2012.  However, if you want to reserve a room at a resort that is not your home resort, like we did at Bay Lake Tower, you can only reserve your resort seven months out.  So in my example, if we wanted to check in on December 14, 2012 at Bay Lake Tower, we would have to wait until  May 14, 2012 to reserve our room, and for that time of the year, there may not be any inventory available at our point level. Banking and Borrowing Points With DVC, you get a certain number of points each year, in our case it is 220 points.  If you don’t use all of your points in one year, you can bank the remaining points to the next year.  As an example, here is what we have done so far with our points:

  • Received 2010 points in June 2010 when we purchased
  • Also received our 2011 points in September, 2010 (which is our use year)
  • In June 2010, we banked our 2010 points to 2011, which gave us a total of 440 for 2011.
  • We reserved a two bedroom suite at BLT in November 2010, which cost us 384 points.
  • This left us with 56 points.  We banked those points from 2011 to 2012 use year.
  • So, for 2012, we now have 276 points.

For 2012, we are looking at staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and since we will have some family and friends with us, we are thinking about getting our two bedroom suite with a Savannah View, if it’s available.  Because of that, the cost for that view in points is 345 points, based on the dates we want to go.  Since we only have 276 points available for 2012, we will borrow some of our points from 2013.  To make this reservation, we will have to borrow 69 points, which will leave us with 151 points for 2013. Summary In essence, a purchase of a membership in the Disney Vacation Club is a purchase for hotel lodgings for the next fifty years.  What makes the Disney Vacation Club different is that you can stay at Disney Resorts near the parks, or you can stay at Hilton Head Island, or Vero Beach, or you can decide to trade your points for other lodgings at destinations across the world!  Also, you can choose to use your points at any time during the year that you want, not for a certain week at a certain resort every year.  All of these things, plus the proximity to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, made the choice for us a really simple one.  Couple that with the realization when we were doing the tour that we could have paid about half of our ownership costs if we had purchased a few years earlier, just really made the cost a smart one for us. One thing that I didn’t cover in my discussion was the maintenance fees.  Every resort has maintenance fees, and for us, we are paying them with a monthly draft.  You can also pay them in one lump sum each year.  Your ownership cost can be paid with cash, credit card, or you can finance them through DVC.  A purchase in DVC is basically a purchase of a second home, so any interest you pay if you finance the purchase is considered real estate interest, and may be deductible on your taxes depending on your circumstances. I hope that I have helped you all to understand the Disney Vacation Club a little better.  I know that there are a lot of details, so if you are at all interested in DVC, I urge you to call them up.  Just tell them that Michael Ellis from Raleigh, NC sent you!  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments!  Welcome Home!

Walt Disney World — My Top 5 places to relax


Planning and taking a trip to Walt Disney World is one of the best vacation destinations that you can make, in my opinion.  There is so much to do at Walt Disney World, everything from experiencing the awesome roller coasters, to checking out all of the incredible talent on display in the stage shows, movies, and parades, to just picking some of your favorite attractions and riding them over and over and over again!

But, for me, some of the best reasons to take a Walt Disney vacation is to enjoy all of the rich details that the parks provide, and to take time to enjoy the things that exist in Walt Disney World that you can’t find a FastPass for, or don’t have wait times of 30 minutes or longer.  So today, this post is focused on my top five places to relax at Walt Disney World.

For some of you, planning and taking your Disney vacation is such that when you get there, all you want to do is go all out, commando style, if you will, and go from park opening to closing, riding every ride, catching everything you can non-stop.  I’m not like that, though; oh sure, there are certainly moments when we go out for quite a spell, focused on riding this popular ride and that popular ride, but for me, I truly love the way I can be in the middle of thousands of people, and still find ways to slow down and smell the roses.  My list isn’t in any particular order, because where I am at a particular moment will dictate which of these favorite I choose.  I hope you enjoy!

1) First on my list is a favorite place of mine, the top of the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.  I know that a choice like this seems quite odd, but it always amazes me every time I take the time to enjoy this leisurely climb up the big tree that serves as this attraction, and when I am up there, I can almost always take a great picture of something in the Magic Kingdom.  During this climb, I caught a shot of this building — anyone recognize it?

Space Mountain as seen from Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse

2) One of my favorite things to do anywhere, not just at Walt Disney World, is to take photographs.  However, when I am on vacation at Disney World, a lot of my view is seen through that of my viewfinder on my camera!  I am always looking for that shot that I will be able to look at for years to come, and instantly be transformed back into the memory of when that shot was taken.  One of my favorite subjects to photograph is the beautiful architecture of the buildings, and also couple that with the incredible foliage that you will find at the Magic Kingdom.  So, to make a long story short, I really enjoy relaxing with my camera, near the hub, looking at some of the incredible foliage and buildings, such as this one, taken in August, 2009:

The Crystal Palace

3) One place that I think gets overlooked a bit — at least by most — is over at Epcot, in the Germany Pavilion.  If you haven’t explored it much, you might want to take a few minutes to examine all of the incredible details that you can find in the miniature train layout that they have there.  I love trains, and that train set is awesome.  Did you know that they decorate the train set throughout the year with various things that pertain to whichever special event they are hosting at the time?  Here is a picture that I like showing part of the town.

The village on the Germany Pavilion Train layout

4) Another favorite location of mine is the Canada Pavilion!  As you may have seen on a post I wrote for Chip & Company, the Canada Pavilion is home to some great things to explore, including the gardens there.  I really enjoy taking extra time to check out the beautiful scenery of that pavilion!

The gardens over at Canada Pavilion

5) Perhaps one of the most relaxing things I can do at the Magic Kingdom is to take a train ride.  No, not this train:

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Rather, the train that I really enjoy taking a relaxing ride on is this train:

The Roger E. Broggie Locomotive on the Walt Disney World Railroad

To me, there is just something nostalgic, relaxing, turn of the century about riding on the authentic steam trains that travel around the Magic Kingdom.  If Cindy and Sophie would let me, I’d probably ride on the train for two or three laps before getting off.  Perhaps part of the reason I like it so much is because we don’t ride on the train all that often.  Maybe it’s because I love trains.  Maybe it’s because of the grandeur of those classic steam engines, and the beautiful detailing that accompanies them.  Or maybe it’s for none of these reasons — perhaps it’s just because I have an old soul, as someone once told me.  Whatever the reason, I love riding the train around the Magic Kingdom, and it never gets old.


Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort Pool

You know, I could go on for hours about all the relaxing things that I like to do.  I thought I was going to write about relaxing at the pool over at Bay Lake Tower (or whichever resort we happen to be staying at), but that didn’t make my top five.  Although, the pool at BLT is awesome — if you haven’t seen it, here it is as taken from our balcony when we were there last month.

I also thought that I was going to include the incredible shows that you can watch at the parks, including Mickey’s PhilharMagic over at Magic Kingdom, Finding Nemo: The Musical over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Those shows are awesome, and still relaxing because you are able to take a load off after a long day of walking to all the incredible rides you have ridden.  But they didn’t make the list either this time.

In the end, I guess what really matters to me is that you can find probably a thousand different places to relax at the Walt Disney World Resort.  While I have listed my top five relaxation points, there are many more that I didn’t include.  Tell me, where are your favorite relaxation places at Walt Disney World?

Revue Winnie the Pooh

Hi, I’m Sophie. I’m a new reporter of my dad Mike. Today I’m writing my first revue on the new movie “Winnie the Pooh”. It’s about a bear named Winnie the Pooh or Pooh for short. And Eeyore has lost his tail and then Pooh discovered a note that said: “gon ott bissy back soon (C.R.).” Then all the animals thought Christopher Robin was kidnapped by a backson, so they set up a trap and Pooh fell for it. And so that isn’t all the events and there are a lot of funny events in the movie… (like the part when all the animals go brain dead.) You see owl flew out of the pit, not realizing what he was doing (neither did the other animals) after giving a speech he jumped back into the pit. The animals stared at him then said “Owl what a spectacular speech that was!”

Overall, I recommend you go see this movie!