Saturday, January 30, 2010

FREE?? At Disney World?

Surprisingly, there are some freebies at Disney World. Most are small, but that doesn't make them any less fun. Today, I'll tell you about the freebies at the Magic Kingdom. The freebies start when you enter the Ticket and Transportation center. Sometimes, cast members will hand out Transportation Collector Cards as you walk up the ramp to the monorail. If you get there at the right time and your party is small enough, you may be able to ride in the front of the Monorail. They will give you each a Monorail License with a place for your name and the date on the back. 

When you reach the Magic Kingdom and pass through the gate, many of the cast members will sprinkle kids with Mickey confetti, which Bean loves to bring home. They also have round Mickey stickers that they give to children. As you pass under the railway station, don't forget to grab a map and times guide, a great free item with the date of your visit. At City Hall, they have free buttons that you can wear to let everyone know what you are celebrating. We usually go the week of Bean's birthday and make sure to get her a birthday button. All of the cast members who see the button wish her a Happy Birthday all day long. On one of our birthday trips, Bean went up to Stitch to have her picture taken and he gave her Stitch stickers. When she dressed up as Sleeping Beauty, a passing cast member gave her Aurora stickers. 

Another free item that you can request is a paper menu at many of the restaurants. The menus are usually colorful and quite decorative. It's a great way to remember a fun meal. In Fantasyland, cast members may give you a shield shaped sticker with "Honorary Prince of the Day" (Prince Charming) or "Honorary Princess of the Day" (Cinderella) on them. They are very cute. The Disney Vacation club also gives stickers to kids. Each has a photo of a character and the Disney Vacation Club logo. A slightly strange free item that you'll see a lot of is Disney World napkins. People usually end up carrying a few with them, due to eating at counter service restaurants and food carts. The napkin designs change during different times of the year and can be quite cute. 

At the Tomorrowland Speedway, kids can get an Official Speedway License with Mickey’s picture on it. There is a place on the back to enter their name and the date. Another great free collectible, which happens to be my favorite, is the Pirate scroll from Cap'n Jack's Pirate Tutorial. It's a great show with a lot of audience participation. At the end of the show, the kids who participated in the show, and often, every kid in the audience, is given a scroll proclaiming them a member of Cap'n Jack's crew. The scrolls are rather cool and are signed by Cap'n Jack himself. 

The coolest free item I've ever seen was the Tinker Bell pin that Smee gave Bean. She was getting autographs from Smee and Captain Hook outside of Pirates of the Caribbean and was using her new autograph book, which has the characters printed around the edge of each page. Captain Hook and Smee both drew all over the picture of Tinker Bell; Captain Hook X'd her out and Smee gave her devil horns and a tail. When Bean saw this, she said "Hey, that's not very nice!" Smee then pretended to be ashamed and handed her a Tinker Bell pin to make up for it. It was unexpected and very cool!

Friday, January 29, 2010

My favorite Souvenir - Pressed Pennies

My favorite Disney World souvenirs are pressed pennies. I've been a pressed penny fanatic for years, collecting them wherever I go. At Disney World, there are hundreds of pressed penny designs available, both in the parks and the hotels that make up the resort. Every time I go to Disney World, I make sure to bring quarters and pennies to feed my habit. I've tried several different ways of containing the coins in an attempt to make it quicker at the machines. My favorite method is to use M&M minis tubes. They are the perfect size to hold $12 in quarters, although the longer tubes will hold more. I usually carry two tubes, one with quarters and one with pennies. I always go to the bank to pick up at least one roll of quarters and one roll of pennies. I try to get a new roll of pennies, both because they are shinier and because I can then smash 2010 pennies in 2010. For kids, I decorate the M&M tubes with Disney stickers. After the pennies have been pressed, I put them into a small coin purse that I carry just to keep track of my pressed pennies. There are several websites out there that keep track of what penny designs are available and they update them frequently. My favorite penny site is Press Coins. They have great checklists for all of the pressed coin machines. Now that I've collected all of the pennies from certain machines, I carry a print out showing where the machines are and which designs are available in each machine. I check off the ones that I have to avoid duplication. It seems kind of silly, but I really only want one of each penny. I use the pennies in my scrapbooks, just like you would stickers. Last Christmas, I made ornaments using pressed pennies. I used a Mickey fried egg mold and a recipe for cinnamon applesauce ornaments, using a straw to poke a hole near the top center. After the ornaments dried, I glued a pressed penny to the front of each ornament. I glued a sticker to the back with the year and name of the person I was giving the ornament to. Each ornament has a pressed penny that represents the person I was giving it to. For instance, my niece loves all things French, so hers has a penny from the France Pavilion at EPCOT. I love pressed pennies, and they are one of the most inexpensive souvenirs available at Disney World. And if you save a few pennies, you have more to press!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Favorite Tip - Camelbaks

My friends and family are always asking me how I can afford to go to Disney World so often. Well, there are several things that make that possible, but they all add up to one thing, getting the most out of Disney while spending the least amount of money. My family and I went to Disney World in September of 2007. We stayed on site at Shades of Green, the military resort at Disney World. We ate all of our meals in the park or hotel and, as it was fairly hot that week, spent a fortune on drinks. When we got home, we added up the cost of buying drinks everyday and realized that we had spent approximately $70 per day for drinks for our family of 4. We were shocked. When you're in the parks, you don't always realize how much you are spending on the little things. So, we decided that, before we made our next trip to Disney World, we had to find a way to get the cost of drinks down.

As an Air Force family, Camelbaks were the obvious choice. They come in several sizes and styles, including one that is appropriate for small children. The adult packs hold 2 liters of water and the child's pack holds 1 liter. For my sister and Bean, who don't really like to drink water, we add Kool-Aid singles, Crystal Light singles, or Lipton singles. They last most of the day without needing to be refilled and keep everyone well hydrated. Bean loves her small pink pack, and we've added Disney patches and pins to dress it up. Inexpensive carabiners are a great way to clip items onto the packs, although you'll want to keep it simple as extra stuff can get caught in the bag bins on most rides. The various styles of adult packs have multiple pockets for holding whatever you need to carry. My pack has one large pocket, great for storing rain gear, snacks, extra napkins, etc, and one small pocket just the right size for park maps, autograph books, pens, extra pins, pressed pennies, and other small items. I have carried the pack for the last 5 trips and love it. I rarely run out of water before the end of the day but it's usually empty by the time I get back to the hotel. When using Kool-aid or another powdered drink mix, we rinse each pack out at the end of the night and allow it to dry. For water to fill the packs, we pick up gallons at Wal-mart and then just refill them at Wal-mart as necessary. It's a very economical way to keep the whole family hydrated and no one really misses the soda that we don't buy. The packs themselves aren't super cheap, (sometimes you can find other brands of hydration packs on clearance at the end of the back to school sale and they work just as well), but they are a great investment in your family's future vacations. So, when you start planning your next Disney vacation, consider purchasing hydration packs. They're fantasmic!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Disney Obsession

I have been obsessed with all things Disney for most of my life. As a child, I watched every Disney film I could get my hands on. My first trip to a Disney park was when I was 6. My family drove down to California and we spent a few days at Disneyland. From then on, I was hooked. Although I didn't make it to the parks often in the beginning, (I think I went 3 additional times over the next 20 years), once I moved to Georgia, I began to travel to Florida more often to experience a little more of that Disney magic. In the past 6 years, I've been to Disney World 9 times. While that may not seem like a lot to some, I've made the most of every trip and have learned many tips and tricks to get the most bang for the buck. I've read many websites and blogs over the years and have come to realize that somehow, some of the little things I do to save money at Disney World have been overlooked by everyone else. How this happened, I don't know, but I want to share my ideas with as many of the Disney obsessed as I can, so that we can all enjoy more frequent trips to the Happiest Place on Earth.