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Mar. 29th, 2010

Pt.5- My Itinerary

It's been weeks since I finally finalized my trip itinerary!

As I said before (I think), I came up with a tentative itinerary by looking at similar months to August and figuring out when the Extra Magic Hours were happening at which park, and when Fantasmic was going to be showing.

The official park hours for August came out in February. So with the help of that, I finalized my plans and know what I will be doing each day of my trip. You ready??

Day 1- Arrival
-fly to Orlando with those bothersome connecting flights and all
-arrive at Disney at around 3pm
-room should be ready by then, so we check in and leave our carry-on luggage in the room
-explore the resort a bit and but the refillable mug
-head into Epcot and have lunch at Sunshine Seasons in The Land pavilion (I heard great things about this counter service place)
-explore Innoventions East and West and check out the next attraction, Sum of All Thrills
-if we have some time, maybe do a Kim Possible World Showcase adventure
-get out of there before Illuminations starts at
-head to Downtown Disney and see if I can get some souvenir shopping out of the way
-eat dinner there when hungry
-head back to resort when tired
-go for a swim if we feel like it

Day 2- Resort hopping and Hollywood Studios
-wake up around 10am, 11am at the latest
-grab a birthday button from the front desk because it's my prince's birthday!!!
-head to DtD for lunch at Earl of Sandwich (also heard great things about this place)
-visit the Port Orleans resort, the Beach Club, and the Boardwalk Inn for a birthday cupcake at the Boardwalk Bakery
-go to Hollywood Studios at 5pm
-line up for Fantasmic at 7:30pm for the 8:30 showing (2nd showing of Fantasmic, thinking if I need to line up that early)

Day 3- Epcot (evening EMH)
-get to Epcot before rope drop at 9am
-follow the Unnofficial Guide's touring plan for Epcot's Future World
-after that, tour the World Showcase according to Kim Possible's World Showcase adventure
-get passport signed at every country (maybe not Canada's...)
-watch Illuminations at 9pm from the Japan Pavilion (I heard it's one of the best spots)
-re-ride Future World rides during EMH

Day 4- Magic Kingdom (evening EMH)
-get to MK before rope drop at 9am
-follow the Unnofficial Guide's touring plan for adults, skipping attractions I'm not interested in
-put on flip flops before Splash Mountain
-watch Wishes fireworks show at 8pm on bridge to Tomorrowland (one of the best spots to watch the show)
-re-ride anything open during EMH

Day 5- Resort hopping
-wake up by 11am
-visit Grand Floridian, Polynesian and Wilderness Lodge
-lunch ADR Whispering Canyon Cafe for 2pm
-head back to resort to relax and maybe take a swim
-head to DtD
-then head to Chip and Dale's Campfire at Fort Wilderness OR ESPN club at Boardwalk for dinner
-or just have dinner in our room or somewhere in DtD

Day 6- Animal Kingdom (morning EMH)
-get to AK before 8am (won't be seeing rope drop cause of EMH, but already saw it during last trip)
-order lunch from Picnic in the Park
-follow the Unnofficial Guide's touring plan, with revisions due to rides not being open during EMH
-dinner ADR at Boma for 8:05pm
-get back to resort to change for dinner and leave resort by 7pm
-explore Animal Kingdom Lodge before or after dinner

Day 7- Hollywood Studios
-get to HS before rope drop
-follow the Unnofficial Guide's touring plan, skipping attractions I'm not interested in (like Muppet's 3D)
-while people are watching Fantasmic, try to get on more rides

Day 8- Departure =(
-wake up by 9am
-get checked out and have breakfast at resort before Magical Express picks us up for the airport
-flight leaves at 2:45pm, so ME will probably be at resort by noon
-get home around 10pm

And that's it folks! I have all of this written down in DETAIL in my WDW notebook of course.

Jan. 12th, 2010

Breaking News Update 5

I bought mine and YC's Disney World tickets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They'll be here in a couple of days. Hooray for free shipping, eh?

I bought my tickets from Undercover Tourist at a discounted price. All the prices on the site include the Orlando sales tax, so the price you see on the site is what you're paying for! Also, if you sign up with MouseSaver's monthly newsletter, they'll give you a link that leads to a special MS tickets page with even more discounts!

Which is of course, what I did.

I also didn't buy the tickets I was intending to buy. Instead of buying 5 MYW tickets plus Waterparks and more, I just bought 6 MYW tickets. I initially wanted to volunteer for the Disney Give a Day, Get a Day program. But they require you to sign up for a position 60 days in advance. That would be no problem except that I wanted to volunteer with YC. Because we all know he's not going to be volunteering by himself. Which means I can only look for positions in 2 months, for after April. And I'm afraid by then, there won't be as many opportunities, or tickets left. Ofcourse, that's a pretty long stretch, since they have 1 million tickets to give out. But that's for USA, Canada, and Mexico.

About the waterparks, I've decided to opt out. Including them in my plan would have to include somehow figuring out where we could keep our important things when we're playing, where to keep our towels, and how to hold onto our Crocs. It also includes BUYING Crocs, buying a more secure bathing suit, and me trying to see if I can play in water with contacts on (which I'm sure I can, but I'll be rubbing my eyes a lot). Yes, the water parks option also included tickets to DisneyQuest. But if that's the only thing I'm going to use, might as well just buy a DQ ticket. It's a lot cheaper than the water park option.

So because I've taken water parks out of my plans, it means we'll have an extra day to just relax and sleep in. It also means I have to redo my itinerary, but that's nothing. Lastly, it means we'll have some extra money to spend! =D

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Dec. 11th, 2009

Breaking News Update 4

I booked mine and my prince's flights! =D

We'll be flying a lot of first time companies for the sake of a cheaper flight. Airplane tickets only get more expensive, so it made sense to just buy them already. I was waiting for WestJet deals, but that was taking too long. And they just didn't have the prices I want.

So, the details?

On our flight to Orlando, we will be flying American Airlines, with a connecting flight with United Airlines in Chicago. Connecting flights are cheaper than direct flights of course. Our flight departs at 8am on Aug.17th and will be arriving in Orlando by 2:30pm.

There were later flights, but I wanted to get to Orlando as soon as possible, but also closer to the time our rooms will be ready (at 3pm), so we can drop off our things in our hotel and head to some DISNEY FUN already.

On our return flight from Orlando (blech >_<), we will be flying Delta Airlines, with a connecting flight with Continental Airlines in New York/Newark (this part is confusing me, but I'm checking it out). Our flight will be departing at 2:45pm and we will be back in Toronto Pearson by 10:30pm. Yes, it's about $10 more than the flights that leave at 8-9am, but for only $10 more, we get a much more relaxed departure day! And I don't mind coming home late that night anyways.

So there ya have it folks, I'm finally well on my way to DisneyWorld! =D

Another update, I've been looking at the opening and closing hours of the theme parks on the Disney calendar. Since Extra Magic Hours tend to be on the same days for each park, I was able to come up with a tentative itinerary for my trip! It's not exactly what I wanted, but it's not bad either. And unless there are big changes to the EMH scheduling, this is looking like my set itinerary! Very exciting indeed. ^_^

I can't wait to start making my Advance Dining Reservations! But I have to wait 180 days before my trip to do that. Which is in February. Yes, I calculated it. Or rather, they calculated it for me. Ahh, did I mention how much I love the internets?

Fortunately, I only have two meals to plan for. My friend wants to have lunch with the Princesses on her first day after we arrive, and I want a nice sit-down dinner with Andrew in a popular seafood restaurant in Downtown Disney.

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Dec. 10th, 2009

Pt.4-Packing

I am a compulsive list maker. In fact, I have a special notebook that I keep around me specifically filled with lists. I make lists for everything because I just can't rely on my memory anymore.

So before I even start packing, my packing list begins. I tend to start on this list a couple of months before my vacation. If it's a small trip like to the local amusement park or the beach, I start about a month before I go. This is so I can continue to add to this list as time goes by, so I don't forget anything. I've learned that I can never write up a complete list the first time, so I rely on time to get it completed. The actual packing starts about a week before my vacation. It involves the process of buying all the new things I'll need on the trip. Everything actually gets stuffed into my suitcase(s) the night before.

So in my excitement for this trip, I have already started working on my list! And believe it or not, I had to do research about what to pack. Of course, I needed to know what wouldn't be included in my room so I can pack for it. Since the Pop Century isn't as luxurious as most other hotels I'm used to (even though it's more EXPENSIVE), I'm going to have to bring my own creature comforts.

This includes:
-a hot water boiler (I'm not sure how else to call this. A kettle? Not really...A hot plate? It's not that bulky)
-plastic cups for brushing (since there isn't a coffee maker in the room, there are no cups to use)
-a collapsible cooler for ice (the ice bucket is too small and the room doesn't come with a free fridge)
-a hairdryer (ok, the room DOES come with one, but there will be two girls and one dryer? You do the math)

I'm starting to consider bringing a multiple outlet bar (is that what you call it?)...there are typically about 2 outlets in the room and one near the vanity area...Ok, adding that to the list too. I know for sure there will be multiple electronics that will need charging.

So, in doing research on what I should pack, I came across Mouse Saver's Ultimate Packing List. They've done it again! Seriously, this is one of the best beginner sites. This list contains smaller lists for packing for any vacation! It includes what to pack for water parks, what to pack in the car for road trips, and everything else you can think of. I basically downloaded this list and trimmed it down to make it relevant for me.

Before I came across this list, I had already started on my own, so I just merged the information. All you have to do is tailor it to your own needs and you're good! I recommend this list to anyone packing for any trip. Except maybe back-packing through Europe. I'm sure there are lists specific to those trips. I can't help you there.

So now that we've got the general items on the list, what are some of the things I've learned to include in MY list?

-plastic bags for used underwear (you'd be surprised at how many people don't think of this)
-flip flops to use at the pool (yes, it seems obvious, but somehow, I tend to forget these when I pack)
-a brush (again, this seems to escape my memory quite often. If you're a guy with short hair, you probably don't have to worry about this)
-pajamas (I will often have ALL my clothes packed, but forget a pair of PJs and end up sleeping in my underwear. Which would be ok if I had the room to myself, but that's never the case)
-air freshener (for those times the bathroom doesn't smell very good after a.....#2. Unfortunately, most people forget this one CRUCIAL item)
-a pair of chopsticks (oh, how often these escape my mind until I NEED them)
-a cup/box of instant noodles for every night I stay
-filling up a suitcase for food is a great way to save on midnight snacks and it also gives you a near empty suitcase to put all your souvenirs in!
-yes, this is why I need chopsticks and a hot water boiler
-instant milk tea/coffee mix (I've developed a habit of drinking caffeine before I go to bed when on vacation. It's a comfort thing)
-stamps (ok, this is a new item. What I've learned from my last time in WDW is that I LOVE the postcards they sell, but if I don't use them when on vacation, they will NEVER GET USED)
-a folder to keep my park guide maps (yes....I collect them. Leave me alone!)
-and last but not least, Mimi. I bring him EVERYWHERE with me.

Included in my big list, is a list of things I have to pack for the airport. The Ultimate List didn't have one for that. I had to decide what I needed to carry on the plane with me. From reading lots of tips on the internets, my basic list is this:

-plane tickets and passports
-hotel papers
-wallet
-swim suit
-flip flops
-small snacks
-notebook and pen
-camera and vid-cam
-Mimi
-and misc.

Why swimsuit and flip flops you ask? Well, since I'll be using the Disney's Magical Express to get to my hotel, they will also be delivering my suitcases straight to my room for me. That process takes about 2-4 hours after our plane lands. From what I have read from other people, they advise that I keep a pair of bathing suits on me so I can hit the hotel pool after I arrive, but before my suitcase does. Even if I don't end up doing that, it never hurts to be prepared.

For people that come in on late flights, they recommend that you pack everything you might need for that night, so you can get ready for bed, even without your suitcase. I think that's a very smart thing to do.

Ok, I'm sure you're all dying from my lists already. This ends part 4.

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Nov. 22nd, 2009

Breaking News Update 3

My BMO Airmiles MasterCard has FINALLY arrived!

I registered for this card more than a month ago. The person that helped with my registration told me that the card would arrive in 2 weeks. 2 weeks later, I finally receive a letter from BMO. Unfortunately, this letter was to tell me that the card will be arriving in less than 2 WEEKS. You can imagine how mad I was at that point. The Canadian dollar went up and came back down within the month that I waited for my card.

So it arrived a few days ago in the mail. The actual card. For a few reasons, I can forgive BMO (but not fully). I registered for an Airmiles MasterCard because I knew I would be spending a lot of money with it, so I couldn't pass up this great opportunity to get miles. The card I got was an SPC Airmiles MasterCard, so I can also get student discounts when I use it. It doesn't matter much now, because I already have an actual Student Price Card, but it'll come in handy next year so I don't have to buy a new one.

Another thing, the card is BEAUTIFUL. Ok, maybe not in your opinion. But this card is a special University of Waterloo card, with the crest of the university, and also a picture of one of our libraries on the card! This was very unexpected, and I love the card for it. Makes it so much better than any other MasterCard out there.

So I've finally put down a deposit for my hotel room. Plan to have it fully paid soon. And if discounts come later on, I can deal with how to split the refund money at that time. Not bad, $800 CDN for 4 people for 7 nights with a CAA discount. It would've been $140 USD cheaper, because Disney's Value rooms are made for 2 people, and charge $10 USD extra per person/per night of stay. This price isn't much if you consider that we each only have to pay $200 for the room, as opposed to $330.

magicalkingdoms.com Ticker

Nov. 17th, 2009

Breaking News Update 2

I have finally visited the Student Health Plan Office at my school to ask about travel insurance coverage. I found out that I'm covered!

According to the plan that I paid for along with my tuition fees, I'm covered up to 120 days of travel and around 500K of medical insurance. This also includes insurance on cancellation policies and lost baggage. Meaning I will be reimbursed if that happens.

Yay! This means I won't have to pay about $100 for travel insurance. That's another $100 that's going into my souvenir cache.

If you're a student and am not sure if you have a health plan that also covers travel, check out I Have a Plan and see if your school is on the list.

magicalkingdoms.com Ticker

Nov. 3rd, 2009

Breaking News Update 1

I got my contacts! I ordered them from Clearly Contacts. They're pretty much the same as the US site with the same logo, but this site deals with Canadian prices and ships to Canadian locations.

I ordered them a while ago, maybe a month ago...So it took them a long time to get here. I was almost going to cancel it! But I'm glad I didn't because they showed up at my door today.

I bought this. I read a lot of reviews for Bausch and Lomb before I made my order. It wasn't easy looking for a non-fake review, but I also asked some of my friends, and they said it was a reliable brand. I also chose it because of the price. It's pretty inexpensive. I bought 2 boxes, one for each of my eyes because of the different prescriptions.

Along with the contacts, I bought an Aqua Refresh travel pack. It looks like it was a promotion on the site because I can't find the product anymore. It's basically a multi-purpose contact cleaning solution. The box came with small travel-size bottles and a contacts carrying case.

All of this was sent to me in a cute Clearly Contacts box and came with a CC contact case, stickers to label the contacts as left or right, and a pair of sunglasses! These extras all came free and without me knowing. I definitely recommend this website. They also have a sale on for glasses right now. $38 including lenses. If I didn't need glasses, I would check it out.

So, onto me trying them on. The first contact went in pretty easily, after about 3-4 attempts. The 2nd one took me forever though. It was a mixture of one eye being able to see clearly, and the other being blurry that really threw me off. Also, I forgot to read up on how to put on contacts...But I remembered what my friend had told me about lifting my eyelids open, looking up, and putting it in top first, that finally did the trick! I was trying to put it on from the front of my eye but that was failing immensely.

I'm wearing them right now to get used to them. It's been about 30 minutes since I put them in. At first, they felt itchy and I could very easily feel the contact on my eye. Now, I'm starting to be less aware of it. My vision is slightly dizzy, like getting used to a new pair of glasses.

So my thoughts? It feels GREAT to not have blurry peripheral vision! I can look down and up and left and right, and it's all clear to me! =O I can't remember the last time I've had this sort of vision. Pretty darn cool, I tell you.

I'm going to keep them on for a couple of more hours, to really get used to them, then put them away. This is such a monumental moment for me right now. I've been against getting contacts for so long! But I know it's the most practical solution to my glasses-at-the-theme-park problems.

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Oct. 26th, 2009

Pt.3-In the Parks

So after all that important research, I moved onto the details of the trip. What exactly there is to do in the parks and what I can't miss, and how I will survive 6 straight days of walking around theme parks without dying. I'm also researching how to make my own experience of the parks even better for myself.

Let's start with making the theme park experience more enjoyable for me. I wear glasses. I also LOVE thrill rides. Roller coasters are my love. Unfortunately, that means that every time I go on a ride, I either have to take off my glasses, or pray that they stay on my face. Not being able to see the spectacular view at the top of a ride is really disappointing, and worrying about my glasses also ruin the experience for me a little bit.

Also, many many attractions at WDW require you to wear 3D glasses. A Bug's Life and Phillarmagic to name a couple. Having to wear 3D glasses over my own glasses have always been something to bugged me. I would have to constantly push it up and I wouldn't get the full experience of the film because of the gap between the 3D glasses and my eyes caused by my own glasses.

A simple solution to these problems is contacts. The problem with this is, I've never worn contacts. I've never even TRIED to wear contacts. I have absolutely no experience in wearing contacts, other than what my friends have told me. They all say that wearing contacts at first is very hard. It's not easy to put in contacts and taking them out is just as hard. So to help me prepare for wearing contacts in the park, I've purchased some contacts online (after reading reviews on the best kind for me), and am still waiting for them. I'll update when I finally try them on.

One problem I've had from spending a whole day at a theme park is that around 4-5pm, my feet start to KILL me. So to help me solve this problem, I research what people were saying about appropriate foot wear. Of course, everyone recommends comfortable running/walking shoes, which is what I always wear to a theme park. So I did a bit of my own research and went to my local dollar store to buy temporary foam insoles.

To help with this research, I bought a season pass to the nearest theme park. The first time I went, I wanted to see how far I could go before my soles start to ache. As usual, about mid-afternoon, I had to stop to rest my poor feet. On my next trip, I would go about my day as usual, but when my feet started to hurt, I would slip in my insoles.

And since that day, I HAVEN'T TAKEN THE INSOLES OUT. Ok, slight exaggeration. I took them out to replace them with a fresh pair. I loved them THAT much. On my 3rd trip to the parks, starting out with the insoles, my feet didn't hurt all day. Sure, my legs got tired, but my feet stayed pain-free. Now, I can't even wear shoes without insoles with them. Because these temporary insoles have been so successful in preventing feet pain, I've invested in a pair of gel insoles for my boots. I'll be purchasing a longer lasting pair of insoles for my running shoes in a few months. But because Winter is upon Canada, I'll be wearing my boots more.

To prepare for the water parks is a different story. Thankfully, my local theme park also has a water park in it. So of course, I made some trips there as research (and fun, duh!). Now, before this year, I've never been to a water park. Every time I went to this park, I just had NO TIME for the water park. It seemed like a waste to me to spend a couple of hours there, so I would always skip it. But since I bought the season pass, I didn't want have to worry about that.

As part of my research, I had to find out which type of swimming suits to wear, what kind of shoes to have, and what I can hold on my body to keep safe. I've found out that having a secure bikini top is VERY IMPORTANT, and that skirt bottoms, although cute, are VERY hot to wear because it sticks to your legs. So bikini bottoms are the best choice. For shoes, I wore flips flops because they seemed popular. But since flip flops have absolutely no structure, my feet started hurting really soon. So I took them off. But that was even worse! What I learned is that I need a pair of good water shoes.

I did some research and the practically unanimous answer is Crocs. Now, when they came out, I wouldn't dare go near them. They're hideous! And I heard they gave you blisters on your heel. But about a month ago, I was at my aunt's house and my cousin had a pair. So I tried them on and they were SO COMFORTABLE. I walked around and it was then that I knew Crocs really were the perfect affordable water shoe. That's the only place I'll ever wear them. I still think they're hideous, but gosh darnit, they're comfortable. I've looked at better looking specially designed water flip flops. Their prices were often above my budget, so Crocs is the better choice for me.

On my first visit to the water park, I put my important cards and cell phone in a tightly wrapped little plastic bag and secured it to my wrist. But after a couple of rides, it was too much of a hassle to have to hold onto that. So I have learned to just leave those with my bags and carry nothing on my body. It made moving through the water park a lot easier, especially on rides with inner tubes.

To learn more about what to do in the parks, I went to DIS. This site has a pretty good list and description of all the attractions at WDW. To learn of new rides opening up, I went to any good WDW site, including Allears, Jim Hill Media, and the official WDW site itself to keep me updated. Since my last visit in August 2006, there have been a bunch of new attractions that opened up. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor in Magic Kingdom, The Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom has been renovated, Toy Story Midway Mania in Hollywood Studios, and the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure in Epcot. I can't wait to go on them all!

On my next part, I'll talk about packing and what I've planned to bring along on this trip.

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Oct. 25th, 2009

Pt.2b-The Research

Continuing on Pt.2, I will finish answering the questions I asked during my vacation research.

4-Which company offers the highest-interest savings account?
This took me a while to do. But the process was sped up by Mouse Saver's handy page on "Ways to Save for Your Disney Vacation". I was given a list of savings accounts that the author has used and recommends to people. After looking through interest rates and types of accounts, I've settled on ING Direct. I've set it up so that every month, $20 gets sent from my bank account to my ING account. Ofcourse, I can put in money any time, but this way, I'm always saving up more money without having to really do anything. I also love that ING Direct doesn't charge fees.

I didn't choose my own bank to set up a savings account because it would be TOO EASY for me to dip into that account when tempted. I want Disney money to STAY Disney money.

Other ways I'm saving for this trip is just basically reducing my spending by a whole lot. And any extra cash I get goes into my savings account. I've also developed a habit of putting all my spare change in a piggy bank (yes, it's actually pig-shaped), excluding loonies, toonies, and quarters. And if I ever "find" money in my clothes, jackets, or bags, it goes straight into my piggy bank. Over this past year, I've been able to collect $100 in change alone.

5-What kind of insurance do I need and how much would that cost?
Again, following Mouse Saver's advice, I was able to find good insurance prices at Insure My Trip, which gave me comparisons of different travel insurances and what each one insures. I chose the most basic of travel insurance which includes trip cancellation, medical insurance, lost baggage and so forth, for only $85 CDN.

BUT, recently I have found out that my student health plan also includes travel insurance. So I'll have to look more into that. I'll post the news up as soon as I find out.

6-What kind of food are there at WDW and how much would I need per day for food?
WDW basically has 3 types of dining. Much like the outside world, they're based on prices.

They have their signature dining, which means the meal usually comes with some sort of a show or entertainment and the food is top-notch 5-star. These meals cost about as much as a meal at Medieval Times (which is understandable because it's the same kind of dining experience).

Then they have their regular sit-down restaurants called table-service dining, where you go into a restaurant, is seated at a table, and a waiter comes to take your order. Prices for these restaurants vary, but costs about as much as a dinner at a steakhouse. Part of this dining category includes buffets too. One of WDW's most famous buffets is breakfast at Chef Mickey's, where you can meet Mickey and the gang while you have a first class breakfast buffet complete with Mickey-shaped waffles and a make-your-own dessert table for children. These buffets even have child-sized buffet table so they can reach the food without adult assistance. And again, prices are much like a nice buffet you would go to anywhere.

The 3rd kind of dining are WDW's quick-service or counter-service restaurants. If you guessed that these are the fast-food restaurants of Disney, then you're right! But unlike your typical McDonalds or Burger King, these restaurants serve up a lot more variety, and the portions are HUUUGE. In one restaurant, you can get half a rotisserie chicken dinner for $8, and another, 1/2 rack of ribs for $10. The quality of the food isn't bad either. Of all the fast food places I've ever been to, the Disney ones are amoung my favourites. Especially the ones in World Showcase in Epcot, where almost each country has it's own QS restaurant serving food native to the country.

So again, it's no wonder that I've chosen QS as my number 1 dining option. Of course, I've planned to have at least one table-service meal, just because it's nice once in a while.

One thing I haven't mentioned are the SNACKS at WDW. Mickey-shaped ice-cream bars, popcorn, turkey legs, funnel cakes, etc. The prices for these snacks are about $3-$7(at most). I'm not sure why I didn't have a Mickey ice-cream bar on my last trip, but I definitely will this time!

For my research, I've even looked up the types of kids meals that are available. On my last trip, after 2 days of not really being able to finish a full combo I ordered from the QS restaurants, I tried a kids meal combo and it was just the right size for me! And it was SOO cute. Near the end of our trip, my siblings and I just opted to buy 1 or 2 combos to share per meal and have a snack later in the day. The portions were that big. What Disney fails to tell you is that even though their menus only show combos, you can order entrees a la carte! And the price goes down too.

So for our trip, I've decided to allot $20 USD per day for meals for myself. Kids meals are around $5 (and it includes a drink, a side, and a dessert). For my prince, he'll probably be eating under $30 a day, since adult combos are around $8-$10. I know, that leaves a lot of money for snacks, but gosh darnit, I love my snacks.

PS. I've looked through the menus of every QS restaurant at WDW to prepare myself for the prices and the kind of food I can expect from them. If you want to do this too, or are just curious about what they serve in WDW restaurants, hop on over to Allears and click on "Dining" at the top of the page. Then click on "The Menus!" at the top left of the page.

7-How much do the most common souvenirs at the parks cost(ie, mickey ears and t-shirts)?
From my research and experience of WDW souvenirs, the prices are so varied and so far apart that I've just made up my mind to allot $50 USD a day for souvenirs, and whatever I don't spend during the day, I can roll it over to the next day. Which will hopefully give me more money for souvenirs for my family and friends on the last days.

FYI, a pair of plain black Mickey ears (the Minnie ones are pink) cost about $13. Anything fancier than that can cost up to $50. I heard about a place on Main Street in Magic Kingdom where you can engrave names onto the hats for free. I don't think they have that anymore, but I'll have to check.

8-What will the weather be like when I go?
Since there's no way of predicting what the exact weather will be like when we travel until about 2 weeks before my trip, I have to rely on experience for this one. Internet and Guidebooks have the degrees in Fahrenheit. Being Canadian.....I didn't want to bother with the conversions. Maybe I will....sometime later....

From what I know, it's hurricane season when I want to travel. Which is probably why the hotel is at its cheapest. Well, ONE of the reasons. For the most part, the day starts off sunny and often ends with clear skies. I hear people say that it's TOO HOT or TOO HUMID or TOO WET at this time of year. But honestly, I thought it was peachy. I didn't get too hot. I don't remember sweating that much. And it would only rain for about 10-15 minutes a day, before the skies would clear up again. And those couple of minutes are easy to beat with all the places that shelter you from rain in the theme parks (like the line for a ride). I woke up every morning to sun and beautiful weather. I have no complaints about it.

So to prepare for the rain, I will be packing a small folding umbrella in my bag. Many families are recommended to buy dollar store ponchos for the rain, for easy hands-free travel. But having worn ponchos, I know what a hassle it can be. Fumbling in the rain to open the folded poncho, then pulling the thin plastic over myself to cover my body and head, then when I take it off, I have this wet mess to peel off my body. An umbrella just seems SO MUCH EASIER. Why would I need hands-free anyways when I'm walking? I certainly won't be doing much else in the rain if I need a poncho.

9-What do I want to do at each park?
EVERYTHING! Especially the rides and attractions that I missed on my last trip. Like the Backlot Tour and Lights!Motor!Action! at Hollywood Studios, Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom, Test Track at Epcot and Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom, to name a few. I want to do as much as I can. And with the help of the touring plans from The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2010, I WILL! =D

10-Which hotel should I choose?
Of the 4 Value hotels, I've chosen Pop Century. My other choices were All Star Music, All Star Movies, and All Star Sports. Surprise, surprise, they're all located next to each other. So why did I choose PC? Very simple reasons. For the buses that serve the All Star resorts, each bus has to make a stop at each of those 3 resorts before heading to the theme parks. PC buses only have one stop on the line, which is the PC resort. PC is also one of the few resorts in WDW that is situated in a different county. And this county has 5% less sales tax than all the other value resorts. That 5% is going to save me some bucks.

PC is also right next to a small lake, so the scenery is better than the All Star resorts. It also tends to be not as noisy as the All Star resorts because that set of resorts often play host to high school field trips or cheerleaders during the National Cheer leading Competition held in WDW.

And best of all, PC's food court has SLUSHIES!!!!!! Coke Slushies! This isn't available in any of the other Value Resorts. Finding that out pretty much sold the deal for me.

11-What does my hotel look like?
To answer this question, I went to PassPorter's photo section for WDW to find that out. I get so excited when I look at the pictures of what my room will look like, already planning where to put my suitcase and clothes and other such stuff.

12-Most important of all, HOW MUCH SHOULD I SAVE UP?
After some meticulous research and a lot of calculating (with a calculator of course), this trip is going to cost me about $1500 CDN. The number is smaller in USD. That's not including sales tax though. So in all, I've decided to save up $2000 to cover for that and any other unforeseen costs. And it doesn't hurt to have extra money for souvenirs and snacks either.

So now that I'm done my research, I moved onto even MORE research. This time pertaining to the theme parks themselves, and less about money (which is what Pt.2 was pretty much all about).

Oct. 24th, 2009

Pt.2-The Research

So now that I've figured out approximately when I'd like to go and what I'd like to do, it was time to start getting informed.

Other than MouseSavers, I started visiting the other top WDW sites. Including Allears, PassPorter, DisBoards, and many many other sites that offered tips on an affordable WDW vacation.

As part of my research, I asked a lot of questions:
1-How much would the hotels in WDW cost?
2-How much does a round-trip from Toronto to Orlando cost?
3-What are the tickets like and what are the prices?
4-Which company offers the highest-interest savings account?
5-What kind of insurance do I need and how much would that cost?
6-What kind of food are there at WDW and how much would I need per day for food?
7-How much do the most common souvenirs at the parks cost(ie, mickey ears and t-shirts)?
8-What will the weather be like when I go?
9-What do I want to do at each park?
10-Which hotel should I choose?
11-What does my hotel look like?
12-Most important of all, HOW MUCH SHOULD I SAVE UP?

So I spent a lot of time going through every website I could find to help me answer those questions. Believe it or not, I was able to find answers to all of them! Most of my answers actually came from MouseSavers. They had a lot of resources for me to go through and very good recommendations as well. They practically did most of my research for me! All I had to do was choose the one that was right for me.

1-How much would the hotels in WDW cost?
WDW offers three types of resorts. The most expensive and lavish being the Deluxe resorts. These hotels offered superb theming, first class dining, beautifully decorated rooms with plenty of space, pools with slides in them(or beaches) and hot tubs, and all sorts of amenities in the hotel rooms, including a fridge and a coffee maker. The hotels were also the closest hotels to the Disney theme parks. If you want to look out your window and see Cinderella Castle, these are the resorts for you. If you have the money of course. A night in one of these rooms costs $250 USD. And that's the lowest price!

The next set of resorts are the in-betweens called the Moderate resorts. Just as wonderfully themed as the deluxe resorts, they also offer pools with slides and spacious rooms, although not as spacious as the Deluxe resorts. They offer fine-dining as well as fast-food restaurants and all the amenities. They're not as close to the parks at the Deluxe resorts, but if you're lucky, you might be able to catch one of the parks fireworks from your balcony. Rooms for these resorts start from $149 USD a night.

The 3rd set of resorts are the bottom of the bunch, being the cheapest option available for a WDW resort, Value resorts. These hotels are more quirky with theming with giant statues of Disney characters and inanimate objects all over the premises. The pools are in the shape of bowling pins and pianos, depending on your resort, but they don't come with slides. The rooms are certainly not as big as the other two types of resorts, but they're about standard size with enough room to move around and adequate storage area. They don't come with fridges or coffee makers but still have irons, hairdryers and an in-room safe. Each of these resorts house giant fast-food courts with lot of variety on the menu. These resorts are the farthest from the parks and it takes at least 20 minutes on a bus to get to them. A night in one of these rooms costs as low as $59 USD on selected dates.

So take a wild guess which type of resort I chose? Since I'm a starving student, Value was my pick. It's the best value(haha) for that price because it also comes with all the perks of staying in a WDW resort. One other perk I haven't mentioned is that I get to purchase a resort mug to refill on drinks in the food court for as much as I like during my stay. It only costs about $13 USD. That includes coffee, juice, soft drinks and what else they have. I figure I can just fill up my water bottles with drinks using my mug and also get two cups of coffee out of it for me and my prince with our mug from home in the mornings. Drinks in the food court cost about $2 each, and since we're staying for 8 days, drinks for us will only cost about $1.60 a day!

Another thing I didn't mention is that the pools and food courts at the Value resorts are open until midnight. So I can still get in a swim if I get home after 10! Unlike a lot of other hotels I've been to...

2-How much does a round-trip from Toronto to Orlando cost?
This answer was a lot easier to find. I just asked adults around me how much they expect it to cost. I also looked online at Expedia and Travelocity for price comparisons and the cost of a round-trip during late August is about $300 per person.

3-What are the tickets like and what are the prices?
Disney World works on an a-la-carte system when it comes to park tickets. What this means is that they can sell you the very basic of tickets, then you can choose add-ons depending on what you really want.

The types of tickets are:
Magic Your Way base tickets: One of these tickets allows you entry into one of the four WDW theme parks for one day. One park-one day. It means you're only allowed to enter and re-enter that one park during that one day. You can use them on which park you want, in any order. And to clarify, it DOES NOT mean that if you have two of these tickets, you can go into two different parks. These tickets only allows you into one park a day. The more MYW tickets you buy, the more you save. For example, 1 ticket would cost you around $70 USD, if you buy 7 tickets for around $250 USD, each ticket would cost you around $35.
Add ons:
Park-Hopper Option: For a flat rate of $55 USD, you can add the option of being able to enter more than one park on one day. So if you buy 2 tickets and get this option, you would be able to go to all 4 parks within those 2 days by "hopping" around.
Water Park Fun and More Option: For a flat rate of $55 USD, you can add the option of going to the water parks, DisneyQuest, a game of golf and more depending on how many MYW tickets you bought. For example, if you bought 4 MYW tickets, you would have 4 WPFM tickets to go to the 2 water parks, get into Disney Quest, and play a round of golf. With more MYW tickets, you will have more WPFM tickets to do with as you wish. The number of WPFM tickets corresponds with the number of MYW tickets that you have.
No Expiration Option: Before 2005, all park tickets purchased had no expiration date. If you bought 6 tickets and could only use 4, you could use the 2 leftover tickets whenever you wanted. That is no longer the case. Since then, all tickets expire 14 days after you use your first ticket. The tickets don't expire if you don't use them. So you can buy these tickets well in advance of your trip, but from the first day you use that first ticket, the 14-day window appears. If you weren't able to use all your tickets within those 14 days, well then, tough cookie.
But with this option, you can make sure your unused tickets never expire! The price of this option depends on how many tickets you bought. So if you add this option onto a 10-day ticket, it will cost a lot more than adding it to a 3-day ticket. You're also not allowed to pick and choose which of your tickets you can add this option onto. If you have 6 tickets, all 6 of those tickets have to have the option. You can't just use 4 of the tickets, and decide on that day that you would like to put this option on your remaining 2 tickets. You have to pay for the full 6 tickets that you bought.

So now that I've explained the types of tickets you can buy, you'll understand me when I say I've decided to buy 4 MYW tickets with the WPFM option. This is because I want to go to the water parks and try out DisneyQuest! But that only uses up 3 of my WPFM tickets you say? Well, if I really liked DQ, I could go again! Because I'm buying from a discounted website that does free shipping of tickets recommended by MouseSavers, the cost will come out to be $305 for all those tickets. The website will also be giving me a free ticket, so I'll have 5 tickets! I'm also participating in one of the Disney World promotions starting next year where if I volunteer a day of my time at a chosen volunteering organization up here in Toronto, I get a free ticket to a Disney theme park! That means I'll have 6 tickets! =D Very well planned, I know.

Well, I think that's enough for this part. I'll finish answering the rest of my questions in Pt.2b.

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