Aloha Aulani

This morning we were up super early once again to get to San Francisco airport for our flight to Hawaii which was at 9am. We boarded our United Airlines plane, got ourselves settled for the 6 hour flight, and then the captain announced that there was a problem with one of the engines of the plane, and while it was still legally acceptable to fly with this minor problem, he was refusing the aircraft and we all had to disembark.

Now United have had a lot of bad press lately, but I would just like to say how incredibly impressed I was with how everything went from that moment onwards. Within minutes of us all getting off the plane, trolleys of bottled water and snacks appeared at the gate for passengers to help themselves to while awaiting further information. As there was no immediate update, we asked to be transferred onto a flight scheduled for later in the day, but the lady we spoke to was kind enough to not only book us onto that later flight, but also keep our booking for this flight open so that when an update came out, if our original flight would take off earlier than the new flight, we could still get on it, which was amazing.

Luckily, a new aircraft arrived for us in just over an hour, and despite taking off 3 hours later than planned, we arrived in Honolulu only 2 hours after our original arrival time, so we didn’t miss out much at all. As we came in to land, we actually flew over Aulani, so my first sight of the resort was from the air and it was stunning!

We got an Uber to the resort, where we were greeted with fresh flower leis and cool citrus infused water and checked in by some lovely cast members who made sure we got buttons. For the first six nights of our stay, were in a standard view studio, then our last night is in an ocean view studio, so from this room we don’t have much of a view besides some greenery and a little water feature, but we do still have a little balcony type patio.

After checking out our room, we realised how starving hungry we were, so went off to explore and find somewhere for some dinner, opting for the Off The Hook Bar And Grill and some Disney classic chicken tenders which we ate in the shade with a view of the pool. The resort is so stunning, I can’t believe I’m actually here and I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it.

After eating we did a quick scope of two of the gift shops, and I’ve already spotted a few things that I want.. Then we headed back to chill in the comfort of our room with the sun still shining in, relax in the softest dressing gowns ever provided by a hotel and get an early night to recover from the long, slightly stressful day of travelling.

I can’t wait to update you with what we get up to tomorrow!

Hopping On and Off San Francisco

This morning was not such an early start, although I still woke up before 7am. I took the opportunity to eat the cheesecake that I’d taken away from the Cheesecake Factory the night before, because if you can’t eat cheesecake for breakfast in bed on holiday, when can you?

Once ready for the day, Matthew and I started to walk to Sarah’s hotel, but along the way managed to pick up two scooters which made the trip to Union Square a lot faster! The plan for today was to make use of the hop on/hop off bus that we had tickets for, and see as much of the city as we could with the ease of not having to navigate to many places ourselves. We rode the bus from Union Square and around the route through the city til we reached the Golden Gate Bridge. Being on the top deck of an open top bus made the ride across the bridge crazy windy but wow do you get a feel for how impressive that thing is. We got off at the Vista Point viewing stop for some photos, and then got on the next bus to continue the tour.

Undecided on the exact plan for the rest of the day stopwise, we went all the way back round the city til we hit Pier 39, grabbed some lunch in one of the restaurants there and with some food in us it was a lot easier to settle on a plan. We managed to nab a scooter each from around the area, and rode ourselves to Lombard Street (although we had to push the scooters up the ridiculous hill that is Lombard) to see the famous zig-zag road, then scooted back to Fisherman’s Wharf where we bought a quick drink and hopped back on another bus, completing a full loop back to Union Square but then continuing back round a few more stops as we had another adventure planned.

Sarah and I had really wanted to find two things in San Francisco: the rainbow crossing and the rainbow house, and it took some walking but we managed to do both. The rainbow crossing was pretty easy to find, but the house involved many many super steep hills and I still can’t believe we made it up there alive – it was a long walk!

Absolutely knackered, we got an Uber back to the Embarcadero and got dinner at In And Out Burger, then had a true San Francisco experience of riding the cable cars from nearby all the way back to Union Square, where we finished up the day visiting the Disney Store before saying goodbye to Sarah for the rest of our trip and heading back to the hotel.

We fly to Aulani first thing tomorrow morning!

A Proper San Francisco Day

Today has been a pretty great day. Our jet lag actually helped us out quite a lot, as we had stupidly not remembered to book Alcatraz in advance, but as we were up at 5.30am, we could get to the ticket office for 7.30am (courtesy of a very chatty Uber driver) as they release some on-the-day tickets and we got onto the first tour of the day with no problem at all, grabbing breakfast between buying tickets and boarding the boat.

Alcatraz was really interesting – I admit I didn’t know all that much about it before today other than the basics, but there’s a lot to learn even if you do know a bit about it! We started off watching a mini documentary about the history of the island, then walked up to the cell building where audio guides are provided to guide your whole way round and through the building and sharing a tonne of interesting info along the way.

Once we’d seen everything we wanted to see, we got the boat back to the city and walked along to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, stopping for a bit of time to watch the sea-lions, then continued along the waterfront to the Boudin sourdough bakery to walk around the mini factory tour and then grab lunch in the cafe there. SO GOOD.

Next on the agenda was the Walt Disney Family Museum, which we got an Uber to. The museum is in a really pretty area just outside the main city, and we spent a good amount of time learning even more about the wonder that is Walt Disney. As the museum was quite close to the Golden Gate Bridge, we decided to walk from there along to a grassy park area near the bridge, which gave us stunning views of the landmark, although it was quite a walk there and back to a place where an Uber would pick us up from again, but along the way we did discover something pretty cool..

So the night before and during the day today, we’d seen a number of people riding this electric scooters, but also they could be found just lying around the streets, so while we were walking I decided to google them to find out what the deal was. Well they’re kinda like Boris bikes crossed with Uber – you find a scooter, activate it with your phone and pay for the time you use it. Well, we also happened to come across one, so there was some scooter riding involved, but I digress.

We Ubered back to Sarah’s hotel, where she and I disembarked for a trip to the Sephora round the corner, and Matthew left us to it and met us in Union Square to go for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Macy’s.

We were all so knackered from the early morning and busy day that we could hardly keep our eyes open at dinner, let alone tackle those enormous portions so we picked at what we could and I took my cheesecake to go and we got back to the hotel as quick as possible so I could finally get my feet up!

Hello San Francisco

Well gang, another adventure has begun, but as most of today was spent travelling, this is really just a check in to say that we’ve arrived in San Francisco, which is one of my favourite cities in the world and I’m so happy to be here.

We flew with Norwegian for the first time (full scoop on what it was like when I’m back!), it was a 10 hour flight but it flew by pretty quickly as it was essentially a 10 hour catch up with Sarah and my god can we talk for England..

We landed at Oakland airport and got a train into San Fran, checked into our respective hotels and then Matthew and I walked to Sarah’s and we grabbed Panda Express for dinner (another favourite of mine) and headed back for bed as our bodies were feeling the fact it was 4.30am in the UK!

Stay tuned for two more days of jam packed San Francisco fun before Matthew and I head off to Aulani!

What I’m Packing for Aulani

Its holiday weeeekk!

On Thursday we jet off on the start of our adventure and off course that means my suitcase is already pretty much full, and as I haven’t really shared all that much in the way of outfits, I thought I’d show you some of the things that are filling up my case.

This trip will be the debut of the amazing Donald Duck suitcase that Matthew bought me for Christmas. Its the first four-wheeled suitcase I’ve had, and while this might not seem like anything particularly strange, its meant a completely different packing experience for me!

Outfit planning has also been a different experience for me as I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I’ve been really enjoying picking swimsuit/cover-up combos, including this Sleeping Beauty inspired look featuring a pom-pom edged cover-up of my own making!

Outfit wise, I’ve mainly kept things subtle on the Disney front, but I’ve got accessories from a few of my favourite Disney small businesses, including my new favourite headbands from Closet Geek

I’ve got so many swimsuits packed, ranging from one-pieces to bikinis, and I have a feeling I’ll be spending most of my time in them!

And these are just a handful of the extra bits and pieces I’ve got on my packing list! I’m trying to pack fairly light to allow space to bring back lots of goodies, but I do still have to get a few things and pack shoes and such, and I haven’t even starting on my hand luggage yet!

Don’t forget that I’ll be daily blogging the whole trip, so you can keep up with my adventures on here, but Instagram will also be the main place I’ll post updates while I’m out there, so be sure to follow along!

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My Aulani Must Dos

Credit: disneyvacationclub.disney.go.com

So I can officially say that I go to Aulani THIS MONTH now, and its actually only like two weeks away which is crazy and I feel somewhat unprepared, but mainly just so stupidly excited that I spend a lot of time squealing. I’ve wanted to go to Aulani for so many years now and I honestly never thought it would happen, or that it would be a once in a lifetime trip, but now Matthew and I are DVC members, I’m so happy that I can actually visit this paradise on earth without selling a major organ.

Planning wise, we’ve kept it fairly low-key. Although it wasn’t originally intended to be, this trip is our pre-moving-house relax and refresh before everything goes completely mad, so I don’t want to have every second planned to a tee, but in the last few weeks we’ve been doing a bit more research on what the resort and surrounding areas have to offer, and I’ve compiled a list of a few things that I want to make sure we do while we’re living it up in Disney paradise.

Mickey shaped snow cones

The most iconic food in Aulani will get in my belly (you know, once I’ve got the perfect Instagram shot)

Go to the spa

So I have never actually been to a spa or had an actual massage, and I feel like I’m seriously missing out on this experience, so where better to do it for the first time than in Aulani’s full service spa? I feel more relaxed just thinking about it..

Sunrise and ocean yoga

I’m that super weird person that loves to check our gyms and fitness options wherever I go on holiday, and I cannot stay away from a Disney resort gym, but Aulani not only offer yoga classes held on the beach at sunrise (which I’ll definitely be doing), they also have a yoga class held on the lagoon floating on surfboards! I mean, I’ll probably fall off, but I’ll be giving it my best shot.

Exclusive merch

Y’all know I’m a sucker for some good Disney merch, and apparently about 90% of the merchandise sold in Aulani is exclusive to the resort, so I can’t wait to buy some unique beauties. PS. I’ll be doing a giveaway or two after my trip, so stay tuned!

All the water activities

Matthew and I have already scouted some amazing looking activities to fill our days with, including nearby Wet’n’Wild waterpark and Maunalua Bay for parasailing, banana boating, jet skiing and more, so while we’ll be chilling big time, there’s also gonna be a lot of fun going on!

Photos galore

I always take so many photos when I’m in a new place, and I can’t wait to explore the resort and document it in photos, not to mention the fact that Matthew is going to have to put up with being my personal photographer so that I can also appear in a bunch of these photos – I mean, Insta needs and all

I’m just so buzzing to get out there and get some sunshine and warmth and Disney magic!

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How Disney Vacation Club Actually Works

So back in November I shared the massively exciting news that on our recent trip to Walt Disney World, Matthew and I joined the Disney Vacation Club, and since then there’s been a lot of interest in me writing this post, so here goes!

Simply put, DVC is a timeshare, but its so much more than your typical 2 weeks in Spain every summer kinda thing. Yes, its a proper deed so officially you own the land and there’s a lot of official documents to sign, but essentially what you pay for is points.

Points

Getting points

So the price you pay for your membership depends the number of points you get. We own Disney’s Polynesian Resort, so this becomes our ‘home resort’, and our contract is for 130 points, which means every year we get 130 points to use within its allotted timeframe.

Using points

Every room at every DVC resort has a certain number of points, which varies based on the resort, the room size and the season – typically the bigger the room, the more expensive the resort if paid cash, and the higher peak seasons = more points. We chose 130 points per year as that’s the number of points it takes to have Deluxe Studio in Poly for 1 week during the season that we would typically travel, which is Oct-Nov time, but for the same amount of time in a Savannah View Deluxe Studio in Animal Kingdom Lodge, its only 88 points, so there’s a lot of variation which means we can be really flexible too.

Points do not have to be used every year, but if you aren’t going to use them, you have to ‘bank’ them by a certain time within your use year, and that means that if you want to do a longer or more expensive trip in 2 years time, you could bank this year’s points, and then use them on top of next year’s. You can also borrow points from the following year, for example, for our Aulani trip this April, we’ve borrowed 10 points from next year’s allocation, and then if you do need any extra points on top of banking and borrowing, members have the option of purchasing up to 24 extra points for a cash value.

Selling off

Your contract length varies depending on when you buy it, but if you’re purchasing direct from Disney, you’re looking at about 50 years. However, if its not working out for you, you can sell your contract back to Disney or sell it privately, as well as being able to transfer it into other people’s names, for example if you wanted to pass the contract onto your children.

Resorts

DVC covers every Deluxe resort or villas in Walt Disney World, plus Grand Californian in Disneyland, and also Disney’s Vero Beach, Hilton Head Island and Aulani resorts, so you can use your points at any of these places, plus they also have the RCI Network of thousands of hotels all over the world that you can use your points to pay for.

Booking resorts

Earlier I mentioned Polynesian being our ‘home resort’, and not only does this mean that this is the resort we actually own, but it also gives us the opportunity to book this up to 11 months in advance, while every other resort becomes available to us at the 7 month mark, and vice versa, those members who own other resorts cannot book Polynesian until the 7 month mark, so we sorta get a head start. Booking can be done directly through the DVC website, similar to the WDW website, or over the phone with DVC cast members.

DVC members can also book stays for anyone, so if for example we weren’t going to go one year, but my parents wanted to go, we book the stay for them using our points and our name doesn’t have to be on the booking at all, so gifting points is really easy. A lot of members also use this perk as a way of renting points out for monetary value, and there are a lot of Facebook groups and pages dedicated to point rental.

Staying in resorts

There’s no real difference between staying in a resort as a member or a regular guest, however while the rubbish is collected daily, the rooms are only serviced every 4 days, although you can request extra visits for a surcharge. However, DVC members do have the added perk of being able to use the pools in any DVC resort, even those that are normally off limits to guests not staying at that resort.

Paying for DVC

Membership cost

The cost of membership can be paid in full or Disney also offer financing, although there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from finding finance elsewhere. For US residents, finance is offered depending on credit searches, but if you’re from the UK, you’re automatically approved for finance through Disney at a rate of 12.5%. One of the great things about this, however, is that while it is a loan, because they cannot set up a direct debit with a UK bank account, the payments have to be made from a credit or debit card, and this means that it will not show up on any credit searches done in the UK, so this loan will not affect your credit score or affect your ability to get other loans of mortgages.

Dues

On top of membership fees, every year members pay resort dues, which is a one off payment in January that goes towards the upkeep of your home resort. Again, the amount of these dues varies depending on your resort, and typically the newer resorts have higher dues, but the dues also vary from year to year based on the work that’s predicted to need doing.

Member benefits

There are a tonne of perks that come along with being a DVC member. From the moment you sign your contract, you have access to a digital membership card to keep you going until your real one arrives, and that means that you can start to take advantage of the 20% discount off all WDW merchandise, 10% off dining and access to the exclusive DVC lounges such as Bay Lake Tower’s Top of the World Lounge straight away.

There’s also a whole bunch of other discounts available at other shopping and dining locations in Disney Springs, discounted park tickets, DVC exclusive events such as Moonlight Magic, and exclusive merchandise, plus early registration to RunDisney events.

Don’t worry folks, you’ve come to the end of my ramblings now! I hope this has been informative to anyone curious about DVC, but I’ll leave you with one little nugget of wisdom before you go. If you’re considering Disney Vacation Club, I thoroughly recommend that you go to a DVC open house and hear all this again from the experts – I’ve been to two open houses and I can honestly say that there is no one more knowledgeable or passionate about what they sell than the DVC reps, plus they do not pressure you in any way. If you have any more questions for me, feel free to drop me a comment and I’ll be happy to help!

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