Wednesday, May 29, 2013

10 Garage Sale Tips: Get their cash & clear your treasures. Selling baby clothes and gear

Want to sell your baby & kid clothes & gear in a garage sale?
Here's how I got buyers to pull out their cash & clear out my treasures.
I made $800 and just a couple of afternoons preparing. 

These folks are out at the crack of dawn for a bargain. Give it to them. Get them thinking "I won't get a deal like this elsewhere" and they won't walk through, scan the merchandise, and walk away.

I started out with bins full of excellent used condition (stain-free, showing little to no wear), brand name baby & kid clothing & shoes. I wanted to end up with empty bins. Do you?  

Price that outfit that people pay $15, $30+ for at $1 and it will be scooped up right away. Of course it was worth much more. But now, with no other kids on the way in our family, it's all just folded $1s in bins in storage.
Some folks start out higher priced & slash mid-sale, but the die-hard shoppers are out in the beginning, so make your sale the one they get their cash out for! 

My clothing pricing approach:
All folded items: $1, Hanging Items $2, unless marked. 
Nearly everything was folded & $1.
$2 hanging items:
2pc outfits, nicer sweaters & anything w/tags-on, jeans $2 (all hanging)

Coats & puffy vests (RL, Gymboree, Gap) $4 (hanging)
Shoes $2 (Stride Rite, Sperry, Sketchers, & designer adult shoes too)
(Adult clothing was $2 too, all hanging. People were shocked & handed over their cash!)

*I took photos of this set up the afternoon before the sale & posted them on Craigslist. I had several customers arrive in search of specific things they saw in the photos. Worth the time & effort.

Nearly everything from toys to crystal bowls was $1! And very little was left at the end. 

I spent my prep time setting it up like a shop with sections. Clothes were organized by size & gender (okay & season too, b/c I enjoy organizing!)

I priced bins & tables rather than items.
Ex: Bins of shoes $2, Toys $1, Purses $5, Books .25 or 5 for $1, DVDs .50

Clothes simply: $1 Folded $2 Hanging, unless marked. I wrote it on an easel that was set up in front of the clothing section & I greeted customers with the line: "Hi! All folded clothes $1, Hanging $2 unless marked."

Main gear items were listed individually on Craigslist mid-week before the sale. These items were priced as I'd sell them on Craigslist, rather than the discounted Garage Sale price. ($40 Jumperoo, $30 Baby Bjorn & cover w/box, $15 Bumbo seat, $30 pack & play, $10 pack of Aden & Anais blankets, $10 Bundle Me, etc.)  I didn't accept less on these items. I was counting on making up for the low prices on everything else by selling these items for what they were worth.

I offered to arrange purchase the Friday evening before the sale, if they contacted me (since I'd be out setting up anyway).

You are going to list your Sale on Craigslist.
Listing individual items in their corresponding category appeals to your target customer.
Make the most of your effort by including all of your like-kind "bigger ticket" items & your sale info in each individual ad.
Each ad allows 8 photos, so I chose 8 like-kind items & included ALL of those in EACH individual post, along with a concise list & description of the sale.
EX: Jumperoo had it's own post. In it the Jumperoo was described first, with photo uploaded first (1st photo appears in "pic view" on Craigslist).
Cut & paste the list of the other like-kind items, their prices, and a brief ad for the rest of the Garage Sale, including location & time to the end of the ad.
Same approach goes for non-baby/kid items.

Neighborhood and multi-family sales are high-traffic attractions. Get in on yours or consider organizing it yourself, asking other families to join on your street or even at your house. You can split a newspaper ad. Our neighborhood had a balloon tied to each participant's mailbox.
In addition to our neighborhood association's plentiful signage, I added a couple pointing toward our house, since our street tucked away and I didn't want folks skipping us in favor of the main streets.

6. GET CHANGE: lots of it. and keep it close, never unattended. I kept mine in a borrowed bank bag that I tucked in the pocket of an apron I wore all day.

7. GET IT OUTSIDE. Set your big, attractive items outside near the end of your driveway to appeal to passersby. If it's good weather, get it all outside. This is what I did. 

8 START EARLY. Be ready for early birds by setting it all up the night before ready to be pulled out of the garage. Set the timer on the coffee pot & wear something to bed that you can wear for the sale. I'm serious, you'll want the extra time to brush your teeth. Crowds form at the crack of dawn.

9. BORROW:  
  • hanging racks (key if you have loads of clothes), tables, etc.
  • display items from your house. Hunt around for shelving, benches, toy storage items you can clear off & pull outside.
  • a cash box or bag (I got mine from the bank when I stopped in for change, had to return it.)
10. CLEAN your stuff. Dust it off, give it a once over with a wipe or glass cleaner. Consider the price-tag. Selling it for over $10? Make sure it's clean.

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Disney World Dining Tips & Tricks

*Updated 2019
Let me start by saying, I am a fan of the Dining Plan. It makes the trip feel all-inclusive, & saved us money since we used our credits to book character dining & other expensive dining options. There is plenty of food, even for those with hearty appetites. If you are NOT staying on-site & therefore, can't buy the Dining Plans, skip down to Character Meals & Recommendations mid-post.

I recommend the Disney Dining Plan (inclusions have changed since 2017)
1 Quick Service (QS), 1 Table Service (TS), & 2 snacks, per person, per night of stay. Guests over 21, get 1 serving of an alcoholic drink (or specialty drink-smoothie, shake, etc., if you prefer). Guests under 21 can choose a fountain drink, milk, or 1 serving of milkshake, smoothie, or special drink at the restaurant. 

As a guest at a Disney Resort Hotel, you'll get 1 mug, refillable (with fountain soda, tea, coffee, juice, etc.) at the resort. There is PLENTY of food for the day. We pack meal bars & small items we can eat for breakfast on-the-go. (More on what I bring from home below)

Quick Service (QS) you are not served at a table, counter-service
Table Service (TS) you are served at a table. Tip is NOT included in Dining Plan. 
Snacks: This varies from a water bottle to a decadent sundae or Starbucks drink and at many resorts, can be used to purchase a side of fries or yogurt. A purple decal is listed on the menu next to items that qualify as a "snack". A QS meal can be converted to 3 snack credits, usable at the same location, in the same transaction. Generally, if the snack is $5 it is a good value for your credit. 
Each meal includes: an entrée and drink (and dessert for Table Service Dining at lunch & dinner)
·      Credits are applied to your account, accessible by your Magic Band (or card.) 
·      Use credits HOWever/WHENever you choose from check-in until midnight on the day of checkout. Meaning, if you are staying for 6 nights, you’ll have 6 QS & 6 TS & 6 Snack credits (per person in your room, over age 3) Eat all 6 snacks one day, if you wish, or spread them out;it’s up to you. Cast members are very helpful & knowledgeable regarding the DP.
*Remaining credits will be printed on the bottom of your dining receipts, so you can keep track.  
 YES! You can use TS credits for Character Meals! In fact, you'll get the most value out of it, if you choose them and other more expensive TS options.
A few locations will require 2 dining credits per guest, this is indicated online when you click "dining plans accepted" for more info.
Items on the Dining Plan are noted with a purple square decal on the menu.
The Dining Plan does not include gratuity with the exception of some locations that require 2 TS credits (Cinderella's Royal Table, Hoop de doo Musical Revue, etc.) 

Dining TIPS:
·      Table Service credits are designated as Adult or Child according to your party. Quick Service are not. If your child, (3-9) has a hearty appetite or you wish you have extra to share, consider ordering them an Adult Quick Service meal.
·      Guests under 3 are complimentary when Table Service (TS) dining. The cast members are very gracious regarding them. 
·     Dessert comes with every table service lunch & dinner. We're often too full for dessert. Dessert choices can be fruit or something easily transported, (possibly even saved for on-the-go breakfasts) so keep that in mind when ordering. Ask for carry-out containers for the irresistible cupcakes & pastries!
·      If you’d like to get your dessert a bit later, ask. The cast members do whatever they are able to satisfy you. We were accommodated on several occasions, especially at the resort.
We often split quick service meals between our family of 5 because of how much food is included. For example: at Wolfgang Puck Express where a pizza is 1 QS credit and we don't need 5 pizzas! 

If you have young kids: 
·      Consider grabbing a banana or an apple from buffet meals to bring out in the park for later.
·       Bring along a couple sandwich-size Ziploc bags to store the barely eaten snacks. These are perfect for waiting in lines or for parades.
·      Ask for to-go beverage from your server 

(you can use Dining plan credits!) 

Characters come to your table, pose for family photos & sign autograph books in an orderly fashion. Meeting characters while eating is a win! Opens more time in the park for attractions and is a valuable use of dining credits, as they are expensive meals.
Cast members & characters do parades & activities with your kids too. 
They only guarantee certain character appearances. Check the WDW dining page or call 407.WDW.DINE.
*PHOTO TIP: Sit with your back to a window so that your subjects are facing the light when you're taking photos. 
TIMING TIP: Character breakfasts booked first thing in the morning are a great way to get into the park early. Try 8am reservations. There is a special entrance for this purpose when the park isn't open yet. If you cancel within 24 hours or do not show up, you are penalized $10/guest= extra incentive to make it there.

*I don't recommend spending precious early hours on a meal at Magic Kingdom, however. Those early hours are far more valuable spent in the park on rides with no wait.

Book your reservations online or by calling 407.WDW.DINE, like NOW! (Up to 180 days in advance)

 Our TOP picks
Character meals
Cinderella's Royal Table: (Magic Kingdom) Inside the castle. Requires 2 TS dining credits. This experience is fantastic. Meet Cinderella & other princesses. The food, while pretty tasty, was secondary to the ambiance.

Akershus: (Epcot) Storybook Princess breakfast. We met Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel, & Sleeping Beauty. Egg, bacon, sausage, potato platter served to your table (all you care to eat) & fruit/pastry buffet. 1 TS dining credit. Fills quickly since Frozen Ever After is next door. 

Chef Mickey's: (Contemporary Resort) strictly for the enthusiastic character meeting of the Fab 5 & not necessarily for the food-which is certainly decent American standard food, but nothing exceptional. 

OHana. (Polynesian Resort) Mickey & friends breakfast (We met Mickey, Pluto, Lilo, & Stitch) You’ll get a Hawaiian lei greeting at check-in!
We adore the family-friendly atmosphere & service at OHana. It’s a quick Monorail ride from Magic Kingdom.

Tusker House breakfast (
Animal Kingdom).  Mickey, Donald, Daisy, Pluto, Goofy in safari gear. American & African fare.

Hollywood & Vine (Hollywood Studios) breakfast. Disney Jr. *Sophia the First and Doc McStuffins are now here with Jake & Handy Manny
We also LOVED the Minnie's Holiday Dine dinner here at Christmas time, meeting Goofy (dressed as Santa!), Mickey, Donald & Daisy.

If you have Pooh fans, try Crystal Palace (MK). Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit. We had dinner. Tasty buffet food; nothing special for us but, no big Hundred Acre Woods fans in our party.

VERY High-risk of sell out at these 3:
1. Be Our Guest. Dinner with the beast in his castle. Book this at 6am EST on the 180th day prior to your trip online or you'll likely be unable to get a reservation. *We eat here for lunch-no Beast, but all the ambiance. 
2.    Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary Resort), accessible by monorail from (MK) Fab 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, Goofy). American fare. 1 TS credit.
3. Cinderella's Royal Table (MK in the castle!) 2 credits every meal, not an economical way to use dining credits but for the unique experience it was worth it to us. We had delicious food and excellent service.
*Character Meals count as Table Service (TS) credits at any time of day, in and out of the parks.

Favorite Quick Service meals
Be Our Guest Restaurant, Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest: (MK) eat inside the Beast’s castle!
The line gets long quickly for QS, so my best tip is book a LUNCH RESERVATION as soon as you are able (180 days before, if you're staying on property) or arrive immediately at opening (10:30am-11am).
 The French-inspired menu may be more palatable at lunch than dinner, especially for the younger set. In the dark West Wing, it frequently thunders & the enchanted rose dwindles. Outside the ballroom windows, it snows! It’s pure magic in this place.
Wolfgang Puck Express (Disney Springs)
If we had to choose, this is the best food at Disney World. Quality ingredients & absolutely delicious food! The pizza is among the best I've ever eaten in my life. From rotisserie chicken to Cobb salad, you're likely to exclaim, "this is the best meal I've eaten at Disney" Literally everything we've eaten here was delicious. Even the packaged cookies & brownies were yummy. It's worth the trip for any meal, if you prefer to eat tasty, good-quality food. 

Pecos Bill: (MK, Liberty Square) Mexican fare. A bar with toppings is available with salsa, cheese, sour cream, etc. to top your burrito or salad. The parade goes by here, finish lunch & grab seats before it begins!

Captain Cooks (Polynesian Resort) My crew gobbled the juicy Angus burgers, & my grilled Chicken sandwich was tasty. An easy monorail ride from MK, if you want a break from the park. 

Pork Shank (an alternative to the turkey leg) Gaston's Tavern
Columbia Harbor House (MK) Lobster roll
Turkey legs. (Frontierland @MK, Epcot, Futureworld-cart& Hollywood Studios) 
Flame Tree BBQ (AK)
Yak & Yeti (AK) does Asian-type QS 
Create-your-own salad or pasta at resort is always a hit for days off at the resort pool & is a large enough portion to share. 

Favorite Table Service Meal: 
OUTSIDE the parks: (no park admission required)
Hoop de Doo Musical Review (Ft. Wilderness Resort) Requires 2 TS Dining credits. It's a rambunctious dinner show with all you can eat comfort foods like BBQ ribs, fried chicken, potatoes and the most delicious strawberry shortcake. 

OHana (Polynesian Resort) Family-style service of tasty foods with polynesian flare-noodles, dumplings, chicken wings and skewers of beef, chicken, and shrimp fresh off the grill. All-you-care-to-eat. Save room for dessert! The servers were enthusiastic and attentive. It is hard to get a reservation here, reserve as near to 180 days as possible!

Raglan Road (Disney Springs) Irish singing & dancing. Irish pub atmosphere. Our kids were invited onstage. The food is tasty too. Relatively easy to score a reservation. We opted to wait for a table closer to the stage, which ended up being just a few minutes but, well worth it.

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop:(Beach Club Resort) American fare, famous for the Kitchen Sink dessert. But the Peanut Butter & the Banana Bread sundaes are among the most delicious desserts we've ever had.

Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge) Go for the exotic flavors of Africa on buffet and the ambiance.

TRex: (Disney Springs) This is a chain restaurant with over-the-top immersion in the Dinosaur experience. It's loud & family friendly. The food is typical chain-restaurant fare. 

Others recommend:
Kona Cafe (Polynesian) arguably the best steak in WDW. Sticky wings appetizer. Tongo Toast at breakfast.

Whispering Canyon Cafe: we didn't love it. People get a kick out of the rude-on-purpose customer service & bottomless milkshakes to wash down loads of American BBQ-type foods. It wasn't bad, but not a favorite.

Cape May Cafe: seafood buffet. If eating-your-weight in crab legs, breaking for shrimp is your idea of a yummy meal, book this dinner at The Beach Club resort.


Via Napoli: (Italy) Delicious pizza-not your average park pizza, for sure. Save room for pistachio gelato or tiramisu.  The service varies, ours was friendly. 
Biergarten: (Germany) it doesn't look like much from the entrance, but inside you'll be entertained with music & dancing while you eat from the buffet. Sausages, potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and salads, etc. 
Teppan Edo: (Japan) Hibachi style. Very minimal/sleek atmosphere-quite a departure from overly-thematic Disney.  
Rose & Crown Pub: (England) fish & chips, English fare. Outdoor viewing of Illuminations. 

Something more formal & less kid-friendly. Requires 2 Dining Credits per person.
  • Le Cellier(Epcot) What a steak! The pina colada was yummy too. Reserve dinner in enough time to make it out for the Illumination show, viewable from just outside the restaurant. Our date-night choice
  • California Grill (Contemporary resort) With a panoramic view of MK, as well as an observation deck, if you time this right, you can watch the Wishes fireworks here-they even pipe in the music! Can't imagine a more romantic dining option.
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht Club Resort) Steak!
  • Narcooses (Grand Floridian) views of Magic Kingdom fireworks 

Snack Credits: (Identified by a purple square decal on the menu) 
If it's $5, it's a valuable use of the snack credit. 
In Parks: 
Starbucks drinks
Scoops. (HS) Homemade chocolate cookies & vanilla ice cream. Hot fudge sundaes.
Dole Whip. My favorite. MK (Adventureland) by Magic Carpet ride. Also at a walk-up window at the Polynesian
Main St. Ice Cream Parlour, Storybook Treats, & Sleepy Hollow (MK) "homemade" chocolate chip cookie & ice cream sundaes, floats (they had a Nutella & fruit topped waffle that looked decadent. Not on the snack plan.)
Las Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie (Epcot, France) SO many decadent baked goods! 
Vivoli il Gelato (Italy, Epcot)
Lotus Blossom Cafe (China, Epcot) Egg rolls
Writer's Stop (Hollywood Studios)
Peanut butter cookies & Large Mickey Mouse-shaped chocolate chip cookies
Gaston's Tavern (MK) cinnamon rolls
Out of parks:
Goofy's Candy Company Disney Springs Marketplace. the BEST place to use snack credits. Besides candy, you'll find a variety of candied apples, the best peanut butter cookies, fun shaped & decadently topped rice crispy treats, pecan/chocolate, fudge, the list goes on & on. When you have snack credits to use up, make time for a stop here instead of using them up at the resort.  
Beignets (New Orleans French Quarter Resort) 3 for 1 Snack credit. They make them to order & they're devourable. 
Resort QS spots: gelato, smoothies, scones & other baked goods, dirt & worms cups for the kids.
Cupcakes! Almost too cute to eat! Resort QS restaurants, bakeries in parks.
Epcot World Showcase features delicious varieties of each countries' specialty treats:
Napolean Cake (Epcot, France) Boulangerie Patisserie Les Halles
Schoolbread (Epcot, Norway)

And there's always Mickey ice cream bars & sandwiches 

Let's talk about a few other dining-related things.
1. Water is FREE in every park. Sometimes they'll only give you ice, you fill it with water. You could use the cup or bring your own bottle.Orlando water has a reputation for being yucky. You may want to bring a flavored pouch or drops. I hit up Starbucks locations in the parks for (free) filtered water.
Disney Resorts provide a FREE mug, refillable at resort only-(soda, coffee, hot chocolate). Resort mugs are not spill-proof enough to bring into the parks with you. 

2. Should I bring snacks from home?
I recommend bringing a few snacks from home, especially if you have kids. (For a complete packing, including what to buy beforehand guide read this post.)
LaraBars or Kind bars (any meal replacement bar) work well.
If you have young kids, Goldfish or other crackers, fruit squeezable pouches, and lollipops work well while waiting in line or for a show to begin.
Pack them in your bag on park days.
If you'd rather not bother, be sure to grab a banana or apple from the buffet meals to have with you.
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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Disney World with a Baby or Toddler tips & tricks

Wanna have a magical time at Disney World with baby in tow?  
This is a guide to make meeting their needs convenient and your time magical!

Like many families, we have children that are “old enough” by conventional standards and others who are not. Do we wait?

For us, the deciding factor was the Rider (baby) Switch Pass! Wait 'til you hear about this! (*Still in effect with new FastPass+ system
The Rider Switch pass (pictured above, left) allows each parent to ride with tall-enough siblings WITHOUT waiting in line twice.
It's FREE. It works with the FastPass and without. It is available on rides with height restrictions. The cast members are happy to hand it to you. Simply approach with your entire party in tow & ask for the pass.

Many Baby/Toddler positives:
1. They’re FREE! Kids under 2 can fly FREE. Kids under 3 get FREE admission into the parks. 1 & under do not add to your party size for room reservations. It’s not like they aren’t getting your money’s worth!
2. On the Dining Plan, kids under 3 are FREE to eat at table service meals (incl. character meals) The cast members are great about it; no sneaking from your plate necessary!
3. No car seat needed if you stay at a WDW resort, with FREE transport to/from airport on Magical Express & within the WDW.
4. Early park arrival is among the most widely-advised MUST DOs. Babies often wake early anyway, so you’re used to starting your day at dawn!
5. Baby Care Centers (BCC) are in every park. A/C rooms with private areas, changing tables, sink/heating elements for food, and supplies for sale. They’re marked on park maps. Perfect place to nurse/feed your baby and meet their diapering needs.
6. Baby's 1st haircut: The Harmony Barbershop (Magic Kingdom) makes this occasion special as only Disney can, with My 1st haircut mouse ears, bubbles, & pixie dust. ($18)

    6 Tips for conveniently & efficiently meeting baby's needs:
    1. Backpack & Cross body bag  
    When you park your stroller (which is often) you want everything valuable in a bag you can easily bring with you to attractions. 
    Bring a unisex backpack & a small cross-body bag & nix the diaper bag.
    Backpack holds your camera, along with diapers/wipes, change of clothes, snacks, water bottles, etc.
    Small cross-body bag (with zipper close for extra protection) holds your phone & small essentials. 
    This Camelback backpack (hydration pack removed) worked perfectly & has ventilation along your back, along with water bottle pockets on the sides.
    2. Shipping.
    Use Prime Now to have items sent directly to bell services at your WDW resort. There is no fee for these packages delivered to bell services.
    WDW resorts will accept packages on your behalf. *They now charge $5 per package when shipped. Ship your baby’s needs: diapers, formula, shelf-safe Organic milk, fruit pouches, etc. to your resort ahead of time.  Just add your name & reservation # & date of arrival to the shipping address for the resort. Call your resort to confirm address & details. There are also local delivery services for groceries like Garden Grocer. 

    3. Stroller. (& infant carrier)
    If you plan to rent from Disney, it is only available for your use INSIDE the park. You must return your stroller before you leave the park, leaving you without a stroller getting to/from/around the resort. 
    Several outside rental companies are available, with reasonable prices and will deliver to your resort (ex: Kingdom Strollers) some also do grocery delivery.
    We (are SO glad we) brought a BOB double stroller. My 4 & 7 year old often needed a ride  (getting places quickly in crowds, all 3 asleep after nighttime shows, etc.). We checked it at the gate in the airport, using bungee cords to secure it.
    A Baby Bjorn or other infant carrier for carrying an infant around the park is very useful.

    4. FastPasses are the key to getting the most magic into your day (complete info on FastPass+ here). FastPasses become more valuable when you have a baby in tow. Rides that don’t have a height requirement, don’t generally give rider switch passes (Toy Story Mania (HS), Peter Pan’s Flight, Little Mermaid Ride, Dumbo, It’s a Small World (MK) for example) so you can bring them along with you; with a FastPass you can skip the line.
    You'll be pleased to find play areas & entertainment while waiting for many popular rides.
    FastPass+ has expanded to include character meetings & parades.
    *More on Character meetings and also Character meals here)

    5. Feeding 
    See Baby Care Centers above.
    Ship shelf-safe organic milk or formula using Prime Now which delivers to bell services at your resort or use local delivery services like Garden Grocer. Most WDW rooms have mini-fridges and if not in room, microwaves are in the food courts of your resort. Consider single-serve powder &/or pre-mixed formula. ½ Gal milk is available for purchase at resorts. There are grocery delivery services in the area, if you need enough to justify the fee. *Get a refill before leaving TS meals to fill an insulated sippy cup to-go. We grabbed a banana or apple from breakfast buffets for snacking in the park.

    6. Sleeping
    Pack-n-play or cribs are likely available in your WDW resort room upon request. Check w/your resort as to which is available.
    Does your baby sleep well in a stroller or in an infant carrier? Or will you need to leave the park for naps in the room? Do you need a suite? Art of Animation is a resort comprised mostly of family suites. The 5 of us share one standard room and in our experience, everyone is exhausted so sleep is a non-issue.

    What to pack:

    1. Sun protectioncooling matextra sunshademisting spray fansunscreen, sun hat
    2. Snacks. You'll have plenty to share with your little one if you buy the dining plan for yourself. But, be prepared with a stash. We like goldfish crackers, cereal bars, applesauce (fruit) crushers, etc. *Consider shipping these & other dietary needs (see #2 Shipping above)
    3. Bottle brush & travel size dish soap (also useful for Resort Refillable Mugs)
    4. Noisemaker for sleeping. We like this App also (just be sure to plug in your phone during use).
    5.Muslin blankets. Lightweight, easily packable in a backpack for sun protection & added warmth in a cool weather.
    6. Stroller rain cover. *A shower curtain liner & clips ($1 store) works. *I thought this advice a bit much, but during a downpour, it was a day-saver! "How smart!"came from every direction as we passed by guests huddled, stuck in one place while we headed to attractions with no wait!
    7. Insulated sippy cup. Bottle/baby food insulator. bottles & utensils
    8. Stroller and/or infant carrier
    9. Milk, formula, baby food & utensils
    10. Swim diapers, along with diapers & wipes
    11. Entertainment: bubbles, lolipops, glow sticks (check $1 bins at Target & $1 store) Cast members give stickers freely. 

    Enjoy the simple moments!
    baby enamored with big sister's autograph book
    Strip the baby down to a swim diaper & let her splash over at Casey's by The Barnstormer while the big kids ride. Watch his fascination with the mist in the Coke cool spot by Test Track.
    Sitting with my little one on a bench with bubbles and playing on one of the shaded playgrounds (Splash Mountain has a nice one) was part of the experience.
    We do not regret bringing our 1 year old and were pleasantly surprised by how much she took in as opposed to just being along for the ride. She marveled at attractions & buried herself in characters’ arms.
    Our older kids getting to go at their current ages was worth any extra hassle of having baby in tow.

    2 Reasons NOT to bring your infant/toddler:
    1. The sun. Those little bodies work hard to regulate temperatures. Ask your pediatrician if it's safe.
    2. You'll resent being isolated from the group meeting baby's needs. 

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    Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    Disney World Planning Tips: Resorts, Itineraries, Fast Pass+, MemoryMaker & Magic Bands

    *UPDATED May 2017
    Your savings is bursting & you're ready to spend it at Disney?! 

    *MORE detailgalblog DISNEY WORLD SERIES:


    1. Choose your week.
    Consult crowd-trend calendars (like this one). Peak & Off-peak times contribute not only to crowds, but affect resort pricing as well. Generally, when children are in school, the crowds will be lower. Conversely, holidays, like Easter & Christmas & Summer break draw the masses. Sept. & Oct. offer lower crowds, likely discounted rooms or dining plans as well as wonderful weather. Jan & Feb offer low crowds, potentially coolest temps. Consult closings and construction info on Disney parks blog to be sure your plans aren't affected.
    If you're looking for Room Rate discounts or Free Dining (often offered in April for the Fall-Winter, for example), be advised: as long as your trip begins on a date during the time of the offer, your entire trip will qualify for the discount. Check Mousesavers for the dates discounts have been offered in recent years.
    2. Transportation. 
    Flying: Booking a nonstop flight limits delays & stress. Book the earliest departure & latest return, to condition your party for an early wake ups throughout your trip & maximize your time in the World.
    A note on driving:
    You do not need a car (or car seat) if you stay at a WDW resort (FREE transportation is available everywhere you need to go within WDW, including to/from the airport.) 

    3. Stay "INSIDE" at one of the WDW Resorts for these perks:
    • Book FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days prior to your arrival online-for the entire week. (Non-resort guests can book up to 30 days before each park day.) This perk, if you haven't yet visited, is big; especially for high volume attractions that others wait hours to enjoy. More on FastPass+ below.
    • Magical Express: FREE transportation to/from the airport,along with FREE baggage delivery to your room. NO visit to baggage claim or rental car necessary. It’s smooth & hassle-free. You can even check-in& check your bags from your resort for returning home, if you wish. (you’ll receive bag tags from Magical Express, if you choose this option, prior to your trip to identify your bags along with instructions). Your Magical Express voucher is now linked to your Magic Bands (more on Magic Bands below)
    • FREE transportation to/from parks &resorts during your stay. Buses, ferries, and monorails are FREE, run regularly, early &late each day. A welcome break from the independence of a car, considering cost& crowds affiliated with parking. NO CAR SEAT necessary.
    • Dining Plan. Resort guests only. Saved us money & stress. Plenty of food. Easy & convenient to use. You will not be hungry. (More on Dining here)
    • Dining Reservations 180 days prior to date of arrival for the entire trip. This gives you a better chance at scoring the hard-to-get reservations, even if they are planned for the end of your stay.
    • Extra Magic Hours (EMH) certain parks,daily, open either before or after regular park hours for resort guests. EMH are published in advance. Consult calendars before planning your itinerary & making dining reservations.
    • FREE souvenir delivery to your resort room from the parks. Go ahead & buy that breakable or cumbersome item. If there's enough time before you are checking out, they'll deliver it.
    • Entertainment. Nightly outdoor movies & pool activity coordinators during the day make breaks from the park highly entertaining. Some even have campfires nightly. A weekly schedule is available at the front desk.
    • FREE Refillable mug. Soft drinks, coffee,hot chocolate. Refillable at your resort only. Very nice for morning coffee and for days spent at the resort.
    Choosing a WDW Resort: (*Skip to #4, if you are staying offsite*)
    Budget. Categories include: Value, Moderate,& Deluxe (Campground & Deluxe villas also) 
    Party Size matters. Click here for resorts with rooms accommodating a party of 5 & more.
    Transportation. Certain hotels are on the monorail (quick & easy access to MK & Epcot) some are accessibly by ferry, and many by bus. They are all accessible from every park and you can get anywhere within the World using FREE transport, but some are more direct routes than others. Consult your plans, consider how important convenience is to your party (disabilities, children in tow, etc.) We had no trouble using buses, with a stroller & kids.

    I found this website to be an excellent resource for summarizing the resorts.
    You can find virtual tours on YouTube also.

    A few things of note on lodging:
    • From what I’ve gathered, the Standard Rooms are pretty similar regardless of the classification of the resort. While size increases they’re all relatively no frills, yet sufficient, considering room-time is limited.
    • Not all resorts have elevators, so if this is a concern, request a bottom floor.
    • Resort Dining: This is a major distinguishing factor between resort levels. The Deluxe have the best of dining options, including character dining at many. Moderates have a table service (except PO French Quarter). Values have only cafeteria-style quick service dining. Guests are welcome to dine at and can use Disney transportation to get to any resort for dining.
    • The Value hotels do not have water slides or hot tubs in their pools as the rest do. For the most part, these feel like motels rather than resorts. (*I'd choose a value resort, if it was all I could afford, in order to stay on-site & reap the benefits.)
    • Moderates are spread out & some complain about the extra walking & extra waiting for the bus. Didn't bother our family of 5 (including little ones.)
    • If Deluxe is in the budget, it's worth it. For convenience, dining, and luxurious amenities. 
    •  My Deluxe Pick: Polynesian. Aloha! Delicious dining choices (incl. Mickey at breakfast, cult-favorite: Ohana & a terrific steak at Kona Grill, plus Dole Whip for dessert at Captain Cooks), monorail access (to MK & Epcot & other resorts on the monorail), new splash playground & sandy beach with nightly campfire and views of the castle. One can even view the castle fireworks from the beach. The Neverland Club: themed kids activity center for a night in Disney without kiddos. This is a great choice for parties of all sorts from Honeymooners to Families with youngsters. Monorail transportation makes this a convenient home-base.
    • Another Deluxe favorite: Beach Club Resort. New England seaside themed. Standard rooms accommodate up to 5, (suites: up to 7) Tasty dining options (including Mickey & friends at breakfast),(Beaches & Cream for outstanding ice cream desserts & very good steak at Yachtsman) Sandy-bottomed pools, relaxing & pretty resort with The Sandcastle Club activity center for a night out with out kids. Easy access to Epcot & Hollywood Studios. via boat or walkways.
    • My Moderate Pick: Port Orleans Riverside (full review here). Lush grounds, nice pools make walking around feel similar to a deluxe resort. Affordable rooms can accommodate a party of 5 (using a murphy bed for a small guest). Royal Rooms (party of 4 or less) have fiber-optic princess headboards! Guests rave about Yehaa Bob's piano entertainment. Bus Transportation everywhere and Boat transport to Disney Springs & FQ resort.
    • We've also enjoyed staying at Caribbean Beach Resort; the Fort pool is most fun for our kids. Hammocks in the sand is a nice touch. Currently (2017) this resort is undergoing construction on their main food area and gift shop. We have chosen this resort repeatedly because of the bargain during Free Dining Promo for our family of 5. 
    • Value Resort Pick: Art of Animation. No departure from Disney themes here! For some extra cash (more like Deluxe room prices) Family Suites are decked out in beloved characters & allow you to spread out a bit. The big blue pool is the largest of all resorts & under water you can hear characters voices! It's zero-entry at one end, with a splash pad nearby. The standard rooms (Mermaid) book quickly, fit a party of 4, and are Value-priced. These rooms are often excluded from the Free Dining & other discount promotions. (If Value budget is your goal & AoA is booked, try Pop Century.) Bus transportation.
    • ALSO worth mentioning: Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is a magnificent resort, with extraordinary dining options, and animal-watching opportunities. It is a Deluxe resort. Though, because it's located over by Animal Kingdom (farthest removed), it doesn't have the convenience of monorail or boat access but you're paying Deluxe prices. It offers bus transportation only. 
    4. Draft a MUST DO Attraction List.
    First, research park rides & attractions. Read descriptions, reviews, watch YouTube videos of rides & attractions. Consult height requirements. 
    If you have under 36" kids in your party, do you know about Rider Switch Pass?
    *Note FastPass+ availability. FP+ availability is indicated on each attraction here

    This will help you to determine how much time you'll need in each park & how many park admission days you'll need to buy. I have an ENTIRE post devoted to TOURING PLANS: How many days in which parks? Which rides to choose Fastpass+

    5. Consider Dining options: Reservations for Table Service meals, (including character dining) start booking up to 180 days in advance. They book up more quickly than you’d imagine.
    Depending on how far in advance you are planning, you may wish to secure reservations and plan around what is available. Certainly book the hardest-to-get reservation 1st, even if it's planned for the end of the trip. (Be our Guest, Cinderella's Castle, Chef Mickey's, Ohana, etc.) Complete post on Dining here.

    If you're buying the Disney Dining Plan (which I recommend, if you're staying at a WDW resort) make full use of your $ spent. Character dining is included, mostly requiring 1 TS credit, and is a super way to meet characters without spending precious park time. 

    6. Draft an itinerary
    Click here to read this complete post devoted to Itinerary planning. How many days? Which parks?
    Based on your must-do list, your dining picks, roughly designate your days to parks. You do not have to do this "officially" when you book through WDW, you'll buy a certain # of days pass & use it as you wish when you arrive. You will need an itinerary to book dining & FP+.
    Generally, parks with Extra Magic Hours (EMH) have higher volume crowds. I choose a park that had EMH the day prior, because it will generally have lower attendance that day. Google "Disney World Crowd Calendar + year" for calendars to consult-some break it down by park, per day. Special events draw crowds too.

    *With kids: what do they want to do more than anything? Consider doing it first to avoid a recurring soundtrack of "when are we gonna _____?" until it happens.

    7. Reserve rides with FastPass+ 
    Complete FastPass+ details here
    • Fastpass+ is available for FREE to all guests. Up to 60 days prior to date of arrival, WDW guests can reserve FP+ through My Disney Experience (MDE) website. (offsite guests can begin up to 30 days prior by linking tickets to MDE account). There are kiosks in the parks available and a MDE smartphone app you can use to make changes.
    • You're allowed 3 per day, in one park, initially. Bonus FP+ become available after you've used your 3. Currently you can book bonus FP+ in the park at kiosks or using the APP. You may hop to another park & use your bonus FP+. You get a 4th after your 3rd is used, and a 5th after your 4th is used, and so on.
    • Certain FP+ are high-priority & risk being unavailable very quickly. Some parks have a tiering system, where you can choose 1 of the most-popular attractions and the other 2 from a separate tier (including the lesser popular).
    • Consult the park map prior to choosing FP+ to avoid walking from one side of the park completely to another & plan sufficient time for dining & other attractions nearby.
    • Book FP+ for 11am-2pm (when the park is crowded & the sun is hot). If you get in the park at opening, you'll do plenty with little-to-no waiting & won't need to waste the FP+.
    • For more complete details on Fast Pass+ & a few tricks that have helped me get FP+ for Frozen, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Toy Story Mania, Soarin' & Test Track. Click here for my Fastpass + tricks

    9. Schedule Sufficient Downtime
    One day in the parks, and one day out, and so on is ideal with kids especially. Try 2 parks back-to-back & a day off in the middle, if you're staying 6 nights. If you choose to visit parks each of your days, plan for the one with the least appealing attractions to your party mid-week. If you have children in your party, I highly recommend quality over quantity. Disney, of course, does a great job of spreading out the attractions between parks, so you'll find something for every one in each, but consider skipping 1 altogether or spending more time in a favorite and leaving 1 out. Be flexible if you notice your party is over-stimulated & exhausted.

    On a no-park day, take the time to recover so you'll be energized for the next park day. Skip a wake-up call and resist cramming in all the non-park activities (& there are plenty). Enjoy your resort pool & the activities they provide for the kids. Dine at one of the Deluxe resorts' restaurants (Hoop de doo Musical Revue and Ohana are among our family's favorites. Narcooses & California Grill can be booked with a view of the fireworks at MK & are more formal), or book experience-type dining at one of the resorts-all accessible by WDW transportation and a fun way to see other resorts.

    Disney Springs is an obvious choice for non-park days at WDW. It's accessible by bus and by boat. The largest Disney Store is there, the Lego store-with free play, is a favorite for families. An ADR at T-Rex restaurant is hard to come by, so book it right away if loud & prehistoric spectacles are your thing!  Snack credits are well used at Goofy's Candy Co. & everything at Wolfgang Puck's cafe is a delicious use of QS credits. Raglan Road with Irish Pub entertainment is a big hit for our family.
    For the adults, there's loads of appeal when the sun goes down with live music by the water & plenty of ways to have fun.

    Date of departure: you can swim, shop, & use up the Dining Credits you’ve been hoarding away if book your flight out as late as possible the last day. *Magic Express transportation will likely pick up 3-4 hours before flight departure. 

    10. Character Meet & Greet
    Characters are highly accessible, and meeting them is handled in an orderly fashion, whether you meet them in the park or at your table. Consult WDW site, under Character Experiences to locate your favorites. FastPass+ now includes many character greetings.
    Meet & greet times are listed on the map & updated regularly on the MDE app. Some have a permanent, indoor meeting area and meeting them is treated as an attraction. Some characters, lesser popular ones in particular, can be met out on the streets of the park-always handled by a castmember & in an orderly fashion-these times & locations are listed on the APP & on park map.

    Skip lines for meeting characters like we do & get your magical moment with your favorites through Character Dining Experiences (included in the Disney Dining Plan)

    Tips for meeting Characters:
    1. Character meals (using your TS Dining Plan credits)! Note: all but, Cinderella's Royal Table (meet princesses inside THE castle) require 1 TS credit. (Much more on Character meals here)
    2. Epcot! The World Showcase is chock full of characters. The Storybook Princess breakfast (held in Norway) is a jackpot. We had one-on-one time with Belle, Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White, & Sleeping Beauty at this meal. Meet Mickey & Minnie at the Character Spot. Alice, Mary Poppins, Mulan, Jasmine & Aladdin & many princesses are available for meet & greet.
    3. Princess Fairytale Hall: Rapunzel & Cinderella & Elena. Fastpass+ is available for them separately.  
    4. Meet Anna & Elsa in Norway at Epcot. They are visible in the Festival of Fantasy parade at Magic Kingdom and briefly in the stage show at Hollywood Studios, but this is the only place to meet them.
    5. Mickey can be met at Town Square Theater in MK, Fastpass+ offered. Mickey & Minnie (in Safari clothes) are at Adventurers Outpost in Animal Kingdom, Fastpass+ offered. In Epcot as mentioned in #2. There are many meals in & out of the parks where you can meet them.
    5. Hollywood Studios: Pixar Place (Woody & Buzz), More Pixar characters are inside the Animation Building. 
    6. Woody & Jessie are in the Splash Mt. exit area at MK.

    11. Photos.  
    Bring the "big" camera or just use your phone?
    With 3 kids in tow, I streamline what I need to bring into the park. I brought both DSLR & iPhone & used both. You'll want video clips too so consider this when making your choice. 
    Clear your photo storage on your phone prior to your trip & bring an extra SD card or two. If you're primarily using your phone, consider downloading DropBox or other online storage app, and clear up storage on your phone each night. WiFi is free in the parks and at WDW resorts.  
    *Note: The Disney photographers I encountered were happy to take a photo using my camera too. Some even went out of their way to get a great shot without request.

    What's the deal with Memory Maker? (replacement for Photo Pass)
    Memory Maker has replaced Photo Pass, with a few key changes:
    1. access to all digital photos included, no more individual purchasing necessary
    2. $149 if bought in advance otherwise, $169
    3. Your photos will be linked to your Magic Band. Or you may receive a card with barcode for retrieving them.
    *Smile pretty even if you aren't planning to buy it, because after your trip, you may decide to purchase it for $169.

    Disney photographers, situated at most prime locations in the park (incl. some meals, character greetings, and attractions. ) take your photo and link it to your Magic Band (by tapping) or card. Memory Maker includes photos & video clips on certain rides. 
    If purchasing at advanced rate, any photos taken within 3 days of purchase will NOT BE INCLUDED. So be sure to book further in advance.

    I wouldn't rely exclusively on park photographers & Memory Maker, as there are many personal moments to capture when there aren't photographers nearby.

    12. What are Magic Bands?
    Magic Bands replace Magic Your Way cards, using RF technology for convenient access to:
    • Magical Express voucher (Pack it in carry-on luggage)
    • Room Key
    • Dining Plan access
    • Park ticket
    • FastPass+ (click here for more on FastPass+)
    • Credit card (you may select this option on certain bands and will set a PIN # at check-in, required for every purchase. you may also select a charge limit.)
    • Memory Maker (photo pass replacement)
    They are automatically included for WDW resort guests & can be customized (colors and name imprinted on the inside) through My Disney Experience website. They are shipped to your house prior to your trip. They can be purchased and linked to your MDE account if you are not a WDW guest.
    Magic Bands work by tapping on the Mickey sensor at registers, attractions, and room doors.

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