Oct 062010
 

By Erica Colmenares

Blogging is where it’s at these days. Even my son has a blog (topic: video games; surprised?). My preference runs more towards Disney blogs (again, surprised?). I especially enjoy the guest blogs from members at TheMouseForLess.com. These blog entries are not the direct scoop from the Mouse himself. Rather, they are what I enjoy most about Disney. They are the stories of true Disney fans and their magical experiences and memories with families and friends.

A quick look at the MFL Guest Blog can quickly turn into hours of reading. Here are some of the blog posts I enjoyed during a recent leisurely read:

Dinner for 12, please…

When you hear “Grand Gathering” what comes to mind? I know that Disney wants you to have a fairy tale image of happiness and laughing and everyone getting along. Young and old and in between, everyone is thrilled to be together, sharing in the magic of the “happiest place on Earth!” (Right. Have you ever seen my family?) I have those thoughts, all the time as a matter of fact. That is why I continue to plan grand gathering types of trips, because we do have those moments where it seems that everything is right with the world and I never, ever want to go home again.

Leading up to those wonderful days takes a lot of planning, mostly on my part, but every now and then I venture out and ask the opinions of my family members. It is their vacation too and since they are pumping thousands of dollars into the trip, I feel obligated to seek their thoughts for some things. Mostly this happens when I am trying to choose our evening meals. We have been fans of the basic Dining Plan since it’s early days when it included tips and appetizers. Through all the changes we have remained supporters of the plan, the number one reason being that it makes the trip have that all-inclusive feel and I don’t have to feel like I am constantly plucking out the charge card. So how do I go about choosing those table service locations?

To find out how, click here.
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Sep 232010
 

By Kristi Letsinger

I often find myself longing for the sights and sounds of Disney. It doesn’t seem to matter if we have just returned from a trip or are getting ready to leave for one, there are days that I just need some instant “magic,” if only for a little while. My children seem to feel the same way. Our conversations often start with, “Do you remember when we rode…” or “Do you remember when we saw…” and they all end with a trip down Disney memory lane.

In order to keep some of the magic alive while we are at home in Tennessee, we have come up with a few ways to put a little pixie dust into our nights or days. Most of these are simple and require little if any planning.

Disney Theme Nights
These nights are wonderful if you need more than a moment or two of magic. Pick a Disney movie that you and your family enjoy or one that you want to introduce to your kids. What food reminds of you of this movie? Prepare that food for dinner! What is a game or craft that you could do that ties in with the movie? Plan for that during or after the movie! You can make a theme night out of any movie!

We recently planned a Monsters Inc. night. We ate Chinese food (the restaurant in the movie is Japanese but we like Chinese), ate off of green plates (like Mike), made Mike faces out of the green paper plates, painted our own monsters, and played hide and seek around the house (BOO!). My children loved this and still talk about this when we watch the movie!

Pictures and Memories
One of the things that we enjoy as a family is to look through pictures from past Disney trips. My children bring out their old autograph books that I have put character pictures in. We look through scrapbooks and look at home videos and even occasionally videos on the internet. This sounds so simple but it does so much to keep that magic alive and growing!
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Aug 102009
 

By Erica Colmenares

“Is it this hot in Africa?” my son asked, as we pulled up to the guard booth at Animal Kingdom Villas’ Kidani Village. I fumbled for an answer, wondering if anywhere could be as humid as Orlando in July, as we were waved through the gate for our lunch at Sanaa, the newest addition to the Animal Kingdom Lodge/Villas culinary choices.

SavannahLuckily for us, the first thing we learned about a visit to Kidani Village is that self-parking is covered. Woo hoo! We made the mistake of parking in an area that was a bit of a hike from the lobby and Sanaa (ask at the guard booth for the best section), but it was a quick elevator ride up to a beautifully decorated air-conditioned hallway with savannah views. Not a bad trek to the restaurant. If you don’t have a car, Kidani Village is serviced by bus; if you are coming from another Disney resort, you’ll have to transfer at a theme park or Downtown Disney, so perhaps consider taking a taxi ($15-$20 with tip).

I had been looking forward to eating at Sanaa since it was first announced. Disney describes the cuisine as African with Indian-inspired flavors. Sanaa (pronounced sah-NAH) is located on the ground floor of the lobby section of Kidani Village. It’s open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and for dinner from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. It’s a one-credit table-service location on the Disney Dining Plan, and offers a Disney Vacation Club discount at lunch and Tables in Wonderland discount at both meals.

tablesWe were greeted by the friendly hosts almost before we got off the stairs, and were quickly ushered to our table (even though we arrived a full hour ahead of our scheduled ADR time). Sanaa means “work of art” in Swahili, and the locale lives up to its name. The walls are decorated with African beading pieces, and the lighting is playful and colorful, evoking hanging paper lanterns at a summer party. The theming is an African marketplace, with the tables nestled among “rocks” and “trees.” And of course there’s the savannah view, with nine-foot windows looking out to the Sunset Savannah. Our table was right up against the windows, but had a view partially obstructed by bamboo fencing. While all the tables we saw seemed attractively situated, not all diners had savannah views (something to keep in mind when booking this restaurant).

There were just the two of us eating lunch, and unfortunately our stomachs weren’t big enough to order all the wonderfully appealing items on the lunch menu. I ordered two appetizers for my lunch. The Indian-style bread (a choice of three breads and three spreads) was $8.99 and served two. I chose naan, paratha, and paneer paratha breads with cucumber raita, mango chutney, and roasted red bell pepper hummus. My son nabbed most of the naan — it was super yummy and completely accessible to the pickiest eater (aka my son). All three breads and accompaniments were tasty, fresh, and attractively served.

SanaaI also ordered the salad sampler ($6.99 for a choice of three salads). I chose roasted beets, chickpeas with cucumber and tomato, and roasted potato, corn, and spinach. The roasted beets were the most flavorful, but all three were appealing, and with an additional dash of salt, the chickpeas and the potato, corn, and spinach salads were delicious.

My son opted for a less exotic lunch of mixed fruit salad, grilled cheeseburger, and eggless chocolate cake ($7.59). The appetizer/entrée presentation was good (classic Mickey-head plate) and the cake rivaled any we’ve had on Disney property. There are also plenty of adult options for those with a less adventurous palate. You can get a hamburger (with naan serving as the bun, $10.99) or an even more traditional club sandwich, on multigrain bread ($11.49). Go to TheMouseForLess.com for the complete lunch and dinner menus.

Overall, our trek to Sanaa was well worth it. The space was peacefully vibrant, the service was friendly and professional, and the food was perfect for a hot summer day. My favorite thing about this new restaurant is that it offers an easy mid-day break from Animal Kingdom, which was lacking before (neither Boma or Jiko serve lunch). Despite the Florida weather, a visit to “Africa” was the perfect lunch-time adventure.

Jul 132009
 

By Jane Jones

One thing everyone plans for on a Disney vacation is shopping! Whether it is to buy an autograph book and pen, the perfect T-shirt, or a special collectable, everyone loves to shop while at Walt Disney World. But are there any souvenir bargains to be had?

As the official MouseForLess Walt Disney World Shopper, I’ve been to just about every store, so another visit to the World of Disney at Downtown Disney wasn’t all that exciting…except this time I would be attending a Passholder Sale. What’s that all about? Would I find bargains? Well, read on…

In the summer 2009 issue of the Mickey Monitor (the official WDW Passholder publication) I ran across an article announcing “the World of Disney Passholder Sale Returns.” RETURNS? Does this mean there has been one in the past and I missed it? I immediately contacted my friend who works at WoD and asked her for the scoop. While she didn’t have much information, she did tell me that that it occurred last fall, and that information is pretty “hush hush,” but that the upcoming sale would offer some good deals. Not one to shy away from a sale or crowds, I planned to be there.

The “invitation” stated that the sale would be held on Saturday, June 6, starting at 6:30 a.m. OK, maybe I wouldn’t plan to be there THAT early, but I did make it in the doors by 7:30 a.m. I should have been there earlier — the first 1,000 people received a free Disney Cruise Line beach towel. I would have LOVED that. signOh, well!

Wow, the joint was jumping! There was only one allowable entrance to the store (via the Princess room entrance) and you were asked to present your Annual Pass. I discovered that while the announcement in the Mickey Monitor stated it was a Passholder-exclusive event, the signs allowed for Disney Vacation Club members to also participate. I don’t recall any mailings on this, but I could have missed that info (I am DVC, too). This increased the size of participation (i.e. the CROWD). I was OK with it — I was there to observe.

I found out that last fall’s sale had “doorbusters” or special sale items that were announced throughout the morning, but this year the doorbusters were all displayed when guests arrived. They were marked by yellow balloons. There were also a number of 50% off racks, shelves, and carts. These were marked with blue balloons. Also, there were “super secret” surprises at the registers when you checked out.

This was a real event! There was a meet-and-greet with Goofy set up in the back of the Jewelry and Pins room where you could get your photo taken (yes, PhotoPass available). While the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique was not open, there were “fairy godmothers in training” to take your reservation and show off the salon. Plus, some of the many shops at Downtown Disney were open early with their own special savings for Passholders and DVC members. This was all listed on a handy little map given to you at the WoD entrance. (Click here for a list of discounts, too!)

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Jun 152009
 

By Stephanie Rouse

It’s your first full day at Walt Disney World. You made it to rope drop and you know you should be on a mission…whether it’s to Toy Story Midway Mania or heading for one of the mountains, the most popular rides get crowded quickly, so you must go.

WAIT! Your little prince or princess has spotted a familiar face on the way. Even the most experienced Disney vacationers can get sidetracked when it comes to getting that perfect picture, and maybe an autograph, with their favorite Disney character. You really want to get to your first attraction, but don’t want to have to seek out the character later, so, now what? We are going to take a look at where some of our most famous Disney friends reside, hopefully making your next rush to a favorite attraction a bit easier.

Magic Kingdom
The Holy Grail of character meetings! All you have to do here is enter through the Train Station and you will find characters everywhere. On Main Street USA, find them near Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, the Exposition Hall, the confectionary, the Main Street barber shop, and the Emporium. Due to the many locations here, there is often quite a variety of characters to meet. Daisy Duck, Aurora, Peter Pan and Wendy, and Pinocchio and his Pleasure Island buddies are just some of the faces you might encounter. There doesn’t seem to be a set schedule as to who will appear here.

You can also find characters in every land of the park. Fantasyland is home to Ariel, where you will find her seated in her Grotto available for pictures and autographs starting at around 10 a.m. Find Winnie the Pooh and his pals, including Darby from Playhouse Disney, near Pooh’s Playful Spot. Alice, often with her Wonderland pals, is sometimes located near The Mad Tea Party. Mary Poppins makes appearances near Cinderella’s Golden Carousel.

Moving onto Tomorrowland, you can sometimes find Stitch, Buzz Lightyear, and Mr. and Mrs. Incredible. Locations here seem to change quite a bit, so it’s always best to check your times guide for specifics.

Frontierland is home to both Splash Mountain and The Country Bear Jamboree, making it the perfect place to find their respective characters. Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear, and Brer Fox are often near Splash to meet with their fans, while the Country Bears stick close to their home attraction. Adventureland is home to Aladdin and Jasmine, as well as Captain Hook and Mr. Smee. On occasion, you can find Goofy hanging out in his best colonial wear, in Liberty Square.

But if you are looking for the Big Cheese himself, look no further than Toontown. Mickey can be found near his house in the Judges Tent. This is by far the most popular location for meeting Mickey in all of Walt Disney World, so the lines can get long as the day goes on. Consider visiting Mickey around Toontown’s opening time, usually around one hour after the rest of the park opens. You can also find Mickey at the other Walt Disney World parks, and usually with less of a wait!

The Toontown Hall of Fame is where both princesses and fairies can be found. There are two rooms, one set aside for princesses such as Aurora, Snow White, and Cinderella, with usually two or three different princesses appearing at a time, and in the other room, you’ll find Tinker Bell and the rest of the fairies. Pixie Hollow is fast becoming one of the most popular character meetings in all of Walt Disney World; the lines are long early in the day, and stay long all day. This is definitely an attraction to visit as close to Toontown’s opening time as possible.

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Apr 062009
 

By TheMouseForLess Listmembers

A is for…

Airfare. MFL members can quickly see the best fare prices for major US cities by visiting our Airfare page. There you will find a continuously updated scrolling list of them. Check our Airfare page before buying tickets to help you determine if you are getting a good rate. You can find our Airfare page at: https://www.themouseforless.com/tripplanning/wdwsavings/TravelAir.shtml

Answers. Find answers to all your Disney vacation planning questions from THIS GROUP! www.themouseforless.com! It is AWESOME! (Submitted by Carrie in GA)

B is for…

Breakfast. Pop Tarts and cereal bars don’t weigh much and are pretty easy to fit (out of the box) in the different pockets in suitcases. They’re something quick and easy to eat in the room in the morning or at the bus stop while waiting for the bus. We save a lot of money buy bringing Pop Tarts and cereal bars from home. (Submitted by Mary)

Breakfast. Try to get an ADR (Advance Dining Reservation) for breakfast in the Magic Kingdom before the park opens on a non-EMH (Extra Magic Hour) day. The PhotoPass photographers will be out at this time, so you can get a picture in front of the castle with virtually nobody else in it. (Submitted by Lindsey)

Be There! BE THERE when the park opens! This is probably the easiest but most missed tip…even when you have good intentions the time can just disappear and you don’t end up making it on time.

IF YOU WILL BE THERE when the park opens, you could possibly get all your “must see” things done within the first hour! Most of the time you can do them more than once or multiple times before the lines get long.

BE THERE to see the characters you want to see first (FAIRIES especially, and Ariel)
BE THERE to ride Toy Story unless you want to wait an hour!
BE THERE to ride Dumbo…no FASTPASS for this one!
BE THERE to ride Soarin’ AND get a FASTPASS for later!

All of these things can be done quickly and easily, but you have to BE THERE for the opening! NOT an hour later. (Submitted by Carrie in GA)

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