Monday, June 27, 2005

Magical Express Service

As of May 2005, Disney is offering a complimentary service called “Magical Express” that allows us to check our baggage in at our hometown airport and bypass baggage claim when we arrive in Orlando. Instead our bags are whisked away by Disney representatives and magically appear in our hotel room.

Upon our arrival in Orlando, we will be met by a costumed Disney representative and directed to the Disney Welcome Center. Okay, realistically I know this isn’t going to happen, but in my mind I’m picturing Mickey Mouse waiting for us at the gate as we step off the plan holding up a sign with our names on it.

Next we board a themed, air-conditioned luxury motor coach for the 45 minute drive to the resort. During the ride, we can enjoy a video presentation which is shown on the video monitors located at each seat.

Once we arrive at the hotel, we go directly to the check-in counter. Our luggage will be delivered directly to our rooms within three hours of our arrival in Orlando.

When it’s time to go home, we check our luggage and get our boarding passes at the hotel before boarding the bus back to the airport. Our luggage is transported to the airport and loaded directly onto the plane.
What great about this (besides being greeted by a costumed Disney representative), is that we don’t have to worry about hauling our luggage around while we’re there. On the downside, this is a very new service and there have been a few bugs to work out, such as delays in getting luggage delivered to the rooms. It’s been recommended that you carry a few basic necessities and a change of clothes on the plane with you in case your luggage is delayed. I think this is a good idea. Hopefully, by the time we travel, things will be working smoothly.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Seat Assignments

Once we booked our trips and printed out our vouchers, we took a look at our itinerary. That’s when we realized that our seat assignments for each our flights were in different parts of the plane. We went to the airlines website and were able to change our sets for three of our four flights so that we were seated next to each other. On the fourth flight, the one from Orlando to Dallas, the only seats together were in the very back of the plane in the middle and window positions. We selected those seats, but after much debate decided that we would rather be seated separately and move up closer to the front of the plane. There still weren’t any aisle seats available, but we are both in window seats on the side of the plane with only two seats in the row. It’s sad that we can’t sit together, but it’s on the shortest leg of our return trip and we definitely don’t want to sit in the back of the plane. It’s much too noisy and wiggly.

Jason knew of a website will tell you which seats are the best in each model of plane. We printed out the diagrams and referred to it extensively when choosing our seats. It was extremely helpful as it told us the pros and cons of each seat location, which had power ports, which had more/less leg room. We ended up being very pleased with most of our seats. We’ll continue to check the website in case seats open up together on the one flight.

Booking the Trip

On Monday, I spent my breaks and lunch hour pricing out different options, visiting the WDW message board on, and trying to learn as much as I could to make the most informed decision. For some reason, I wasn’t able to price a trip on the Disney World website, as it would time out and give me an hour. I was a little nervous thinking that the reason it was doing this was because of such a high level of traffic on the site caused by many people booking their trips. I was afraid that by the time we called to book our trip, the limited number of packages offered would be gone.

I was able to price the trip on, but they aren’t my first choice since they charge your card immediately for the full price of the trip. Walt Disney Travel charges you a $200 deposit with the balance due 45 days before your departure date. I hoped to use my Disney Visa and get the 6 months, no interest financing that they offer to cardholders who book packages through the Walt Disney Travel Company.

Once I arrived home, I quickly sat down in front of the computer and went to the WDW website. Unfortunately, my computer immediately locked up and I had to reboot, not once, but twice. My computer has been doing this a lot and I probably should just reformat my hard drive and start over, but I really don’t want to deal with that. Anyway, that’s a whole ‘nother story and one I don’t really want to go into right now.

I finally got my computer up and running again. We also had Jason’s laptop open as well so we could have several things going at once. After calling the Disney Visa people to verify that the trip we were planning would fall within the guidelines for special financing, I dialed the WD Travel Company. Ironically, all the numbers for booking Disney vacations/cruises are 800 numbers, except the number for Walt Disney World. This was going to be a long distance call to Florida. I have free long distance on my cell phone, but I wasn’t sure how long the call would last and I have limited peak hour minutes.

It seemed like I was on hold forever, but finally I was able to speak to a travel representative. I gave her our dates of travel and the package code for the free dining plan. This whole process took quite a while. When she gave me the total price, it seemed a little high. I asked her to check to make sure that I wasn’t being charged for the dining plan. While she checked, I priced out a vacation that included paying for the dining plan and it was the same price she quoted me, so I knew that she had overcharged me.

When she came back on the line, she said that because our stay extended past the expiration date of the special offer, the computer wasn’t giving me free dining for those days at the end of our trip. I explained that I was under the impression that as long as my check-in date was the dates of the offer, I would be eligible for the offer during our entire stay. She said that no, that wasn’t the way it worked. I still believe that information is incorrect, as I have read in several places that rate that’s in effect at your check-in date is the one in effect for your entire trip. I asked her to change the dates to the last week of September, and to also check for other value resorts. She willing did so, but came back to say that the computer wasn’t coming up with the deal so all the special packages must be sold out. I explained that I had just priced out the exact vacation on and was able to get the free dining plan. She suggested that I book through Expedia. I thanked her for her time and hung up.

With both of us at a different computer, we entered our own trip details into Expedia and were able to get the trip we wanted. I had a $75 off coupon from Expedia that I was able to use to further reduce the cost of the trip. We each clicked the button on our respective computers at the same time to book our trips. There was more than a moment of panic when Jason received a message saying that the flight he selected was no longer available. There was no way we wanted to travel on separate flights. Fortunately, he clicked the back button and tried it again. This time it worked.

Two Trips are Better Than One

We decided to make two trips in 2005; one in October and another in December. We chose October so that we can make one final trip with our annual passes before they expire. We are anxious to see all the 50th Anniversary things in the Park and also see our 50th Anniversary brick in the Esplanade. We also decided to go in December so that we can enjoy the Park with all its Christmas decorations. And, the best part of all is that my parents will be going with us in December. It will be great to show them what a wonderful time you can have in the Park without rushing around from attraction to attraction.

I had already made reservations for me and Jason at HoJo’s in Anaheim for October 8-15 and December 10-17 using the Mousesavers discount, so I called them up to add one more room for December. Jason and I had decided to reserve one king bed room and one room with two queen beds for the two of us to increase our chances of getting connecting rooms. It really made things easier last December when we stayed in a family suite at the Anaheim Plaza and had the connecting door between our rooms. Our rates at HoJo’s this year are $50 for the king room and $54 for the two queens, very reasonable rates.

With our hotel reservations made, there really isn’t much else to do for the trip. I continue to check air fare and car rentals, but things are still really high. Hopefully, as we get closer to the trip dates, and past summer, there will be some fall specials. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to visit Mouseplanet to pick up more tips and keep informed of all the happenings in the Park.

Change in Plans

I guess it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but yes, we’ve booked a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. Instead of going to Disneyland in October, we’re going to go to WDW instead. It all happened so quickly that I really can’t believe it. We haven’t had a chance to mention it to any other family members yet. We all get together for a family birthday party this weekend, so we’ll bring it up then. I knew that I wanted to visit WDW someday, but it was always sometime in the future.

I was browsing the website on Sunday and on the front page they list the latest hot deals. One of offers said that Disney is offering a free dining plan when you book a Magic Your Way Vacation Package of 3 nights or more at a Walt Disney World Resort between 8/21/05 and 10/4/05. Just for laughs, I went to the Walt Disney World website and priced a 7 night vacation. I figured that instead of getting our own rooms we would have to share one in order to make the trip affordable. However, the total price for the trip, with one room, was LESS than what we planned to spend on our trip to Disneyland in October.

I shared my discovery with Jason and he was as interested as I was. Suddenly, it became a real possibility. I spent the rest of the evening pricing different options, including one with separate rooms. Even though this ended up being a little more expensive, we decided it would be worth it. We have different sleep patterns and having two bathrooms would be nice.

We tried to think about all the negatives, such as the heat and humidity, the long plane ride, and, of course, the fact that it was in the middle of hurricane season. In spite of these negatives, we still wanted to go. With the free dining plan, the majority of our meals would be paid for. Hotel rates, ticket prices and air fare are always going up, so the cost wouldn’t likely be going down next year. In addition, we thought it would be nice to be able to visit both Disneyland and Disney World during the 50th Anniversary Celebration.

We decided to sleep on it and make a final decision the next day. If we still wanted to go ahead with this, I would call Walt Disney Travel and book the trip.

We now have a permanent place in Disney history!

After much debate, we went ahead and purchase a special 50th Anniversary brick that will be placed a special area located in the esplanade area between Disneyland and DCA. Neither one of us wanted for fork out the funds for two bricks, but we couldn’t figure out a way to word one brick so that it didn’t sound like we were a couple. As usual, my question was answered on Mouseplanet, where someone else posted that exact same situation. Taking their advice, we decided on “Patty & Jason”, “Mother and Son”, “October 2004”. We decided to include October 2004, as it is the date that we purchased our first annual passes and is the start of hopefully many years of wonderful trips to Disneyland. In addition, it also includes the 50th Anniversary medallion.

We made the decision to purchase the brick on the day before New Year’s Eve. December 31 was the expiration date of a special offer for annual passholders to get a brick for $50 off the regular price. Since I worked ½ day on New Year’s Eve, I planned to call and order the brick when I arrived home at noon. Unfortunately, the Disney office also closed at noon so we were unable to make the purchase. Unwilling at that point to pay regular price, we put the idea on hold indefinitely. A couple of months later, we decided to go ahead with it anyway and I called in the order. Because Jason has a premium annual pass, we were able to get 10% off the price which helped a little. In addition, we ordered the clear Lucite replica of the brick so that we would be able to enjoy it when we’re not at Disneyland.

Shortly after placing the order, we received a confirmation in the mail along with a legal agreement that we had to sign and return. Our brick is guaranteed to remain in place for at least 10 years unless it gets cracked or damaged. In that case, I believe they refund a portion of our money. They won’t repair or replace the brick.

A month or so later we received a packet in the mail containing a certificate “signed” by Roy Disney, along with a map showing the location of our brick. The projected placement date is scheduled for early June, in plenty of time for our next visit.

Recently, our brick replica arrived in the mail and it stands proudly in the living room. It’s nice to have something tangible to look at until we get to the Park.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Happiest Celebration on Earth!

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

On Wednesday, May 4, the day before the official kick-off of the 18 month long Happiest Celebration on Earth, Disneyland Park was closed to the public and a media event for specially invited guests was held. Among those guests were 5000 annual pass holders and guests who won tickets by registering on the website earlier in the year. Jason and I registered but unfortunately were not selected to attend. In a way it was a relief since airfare and hotel would have been outrageously expensive.

Just because we weren’t able to attend in person, didn’t mean that we didn’t get to enjoy the festivities. Throughout the day my favorite Disneyland Fan Website,, posted frequent updates and photos of the days events. Just about every time I was able to visit the site, new information had been posted.

One of the fun things that Disney did to celebrate the 50th anniversary was to replace one of the vehicles from each of the remaining original attractions with a golden vehicle. On May 4, the official unveiling of each golden vehicle took place. Some of the attractions that now have golden vehicles are: King Arthur’s Carousel, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Mad Tea Party, Autopia, and the Jungle Cruise. There may be more, but I can’t recall them right now.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Today, May 5, is the official kick-off of the celebration and people were lined up very early in the morning to get in. There were rumors that the park would reach capacity and stop letting people in, so no one wanted to risk missing out on this special day.

A ceremony was held in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, which had been decorated overnight with five gold crowns representing each of the five decades that Park had been open. Art Linkletter, who was present at the original opening day was the MC. Michael Eisner spoke and received a few boos from the audience. Julie Andrews is the official Ambassador of the celebration and was there to officially announce the start of the 18 month long celebration. Even though I wasn’t able to be there, I was able to download the entire opening presentation and watch it on my computer. I probably get a better view than some of the people who were actually there. The area right in front of the castle was filled by tons of media folks, making it difficult for “Average Joes” to see much of anything.

I can’t wait until our next trip so I can see all the special details that Disney has put in place for the big celebration. It’s time to begin planning our next trip!