Walt Disney World Day 1

Well gang, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve blogged a Disney trip, but would you believe in the last few months I’ve done two trips that I haven’t blogged? So unlike me, right?

Well, I’m now back in Walt Disney World for some magic and some running, and I’ll be back blogging the whole thing, starting with today..

So we’re staying at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, our DVC home, which meant that this morning was far more chilled out as we only had to hop on the monorail to get to Magic Kingdom, and did security at the resort so didn’t have to queue at the park. There had been an early morning magic event on so the park was already a little busy, but we went down to the castle for the welcome show, and then Sammy wanted some breakfast so she grabbed a Mickey waffle at Sleepy Hollow, took a trip to the Tangled toilets and then went for our first ride of the day: Pirates of the Caribbean.

On our way from there to Fantasyland, we met Mary Poppins and the ugly stepsisters, and then met Rapunzel and Tiana in Princess Fairytale Hall, and then headed for Haunted Mansion for our first fastpass of the day. By that time it was pretty much lunch time – Sarah and I hadn’t eaten breakfast either – and we ended up going to Pinocchio Village Haus so that we knew there would be vegetarian options for Sammy.

After lunch, we had to spend a little bit of time at guest services sorting out our annual pass magic bands, and then headed back to the castle to watch Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire and from there grabbed a parade spot. Once the parade was over, we grabbed a quick Starbucks, and then did our second fastpass of the day, Buzz, and also did a lap of the TTA Peoplemover.

The My Disney Experience app was telling us that Big Thunder Mountain had a 35 minute wait time, so we headed over there, but unfortunately so did everyone else in the park.. The cast member said the queue was at least 70 minutes when we got there, so that was a no, and instead Matthew and I got in the queue for Splash Mountain, but after a while we realised that the queue was going to be too long and we would miss our Seven Dwarfs Mine Train fastpass, so instead we grabbed a Mickey waffle and headed over to Fantasyland.

I’ve never done Mine Train in the dark before and it was so good!! Because most people were camping out for Happily Ever After by this point, the queue for Big Thunder had dropped to only 20 minutes, so we practically ran back to Frontierland, and had the best time riding the back of the wildest ride in the wilderness. With a little bit of time before HEA, we got some food at Cosmic Ray’s, and then got our spot to watch the show – despite showing up just as it was starting, we got a decent view!

On our way out of the park we hit the shops and Main Street Confectionary, and then we decided to forgo the monorail in favour of the ferry back to Poly, and the Electrical Water Pageant was going so we got to see a lot of that while we were waiting which was really cool because I never stop to watch it when I’m leaving Magic Kingdom.

We’ve got day 1 feet right now, so we got back into quickly and are just spending the evening chilling in the room ready for Animal Kingdom tomorrow!

The Happiest Wrapping on Earth*

Honestly, November has FLOWN by. Its now officially less than a month until Christmas, and I’m feeling super unprepared, but one thing I have got under my belt now, courtesy of the wonderful CoconuTacha, is some incredible Disney inspired wrapping paper, so at least when I do get my Christmas shopping done, the paper is all wrapped up, if you pardon the pun..

Tacha is an incredibly talented UK based graphic designer, and I love the unique style of each of the park icons featured on this wrapping paper. In each set you get 3 A2 size sheets of wrapping paper, plus 4 gift tags, so you’re completely covered for all your wrapping needs.

The paper is a really high quality – way nicer than your regular supermarket roll! – with a glossy finish, and its so beautiful that this is the kind of paper that you’ll want to unwrap carefully so you can keep it again! Also a great secondary use would be as a photo backdrop for blog photos – I may just keep a sheet for myself for this very reason!

And if you’re on the hunt for a cute little stocking filler, Secret Santa gift or just something to treat yourself with, Tacha also has this limited edition ‘Magic Castle’ enamel pin available on her store. Its so pretty and so different from any other castle pins I’ve seen and the colours are stunning together, and for £5 its a steal!

Cute wrapping idea: attach a pin to the gift tag of your present!

There’s currently 10% off both the wrapping paper and pin until the end of today so if you like what you see, head on over to Etsy now, and even if you’ve got your wrapping paper sorted, you should definitely check out Tacha’s designs on both her Etsy store where you’ll find an amazing selection of stationery, planner stickers, art prints and more, and also on Redbubble where you can get her designs on everything from t-shirts to phone cases.

Are you Christmas ready yet?

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram
*The items featured in this blog post were sent to me, but all views are my own.

My DVC Bucket List

Its so crazy to think that its been over 9 months since Matthew and I became Disney Vacation Club members, and we’ve already had one amazing trip as members, with another trip creeping up at the start of the new year. Its safe to say that we’re loving it.

Joining DVC not only opens up all of the resorts that we never thought we’d be able to afford to stay at, but it also gives us some pretty cool exclusive opportunities that I’m dying to start taking advantage of, and as I’ve been spending an unhealthy amount of time on the DVC website lately, I’ve curated a little bucket list of things I would love to do now I’m a member*.

  • Stay in all of the DVC resorts – I think this is a total given, but I want to get ticking things off the list! So far I’ve done Polynesian and Aulani, but I’ve got all the other WDW resorts to work through, plus Disneyland’s Grand Californian, and then there’s Vero Beach and Hilton Head Island so I guess its a good job its a 50 year contract, right?
  • Watch Happily Ever After from the Top of the World Lounge – The Top of the World Lounge is a DVC member lounge located at the top of Bay Lake Tower, and apparently its an amazing spot to watch the fireworks at Magic Kingdom.
  • Soarin’ Around The World tour – On select mornings, there’s a free, first-come, first-served hour long behind the scenes tour of Soarin in both Epcot and Disneyland’s California Adventure park. I’m totally fascinated by Soarin’ so I’d love to see everything that goes into making the ride so amazing!
  • Moonlight Magic – I mean, an after hours park event with character meets and so much more isn’t really something that anyone would pass up, right?
  • Fitness in the Park – I really hope that when I’m in Disneyland next year that this is on! Its a free pilates class that takes place in Disney’s California Adventure park on select mornings before the park opens and that’s got my name all over it!
  • Member cruising – Each year, there are a couple of exclusive DVC cruises and while there’s a part of me that can’t imagine anything worse than being on a ship with thousands of other DVC members (ya know, the super entitled ones), I do love a Disney cruise..
  • Get some merch! – Aside from our freebie joining tote, I don’t have any DVC exclusive merchandise, so that’s gotta change – even Matthew is ahead of me with a set of DVC pins! I’ve got my eye on the Alex and Ani bracelet to add to my collection for starters, but who knows what else might take my fancy!
*These are all benefits available to members who buy direct through Disney, so may not be available to resale buyers.

I guess I better get started, right?

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

My RunDisney Medal Collection

So I know I have been totally AWOL for the last two weeks, but moving house is insane y’all! I honestly thought I’d only be away from blogging for a few days to maybe a week but I have had NO TIME lately with sorting the house out.

But I’m back! And as today is registration day for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share my existing RunDisney medal collection! I managed to get registered on Tuesday in the DVC early registration window, which I’m so happy about, and I wish everyone registering today the best of luck!

Walt Disney World races

2016 – If you’ve been following me for that long, you’ll know that I started doing RunDisney events in 2016, and every single race has been an amazing experience for me. My dad and I started off in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend , taking part in the 5K and the half marathon, which was actually our first half marathon. Back then, 5K medals were 2016 rubber ones (you get a proper metal one now), so Pluto here was our first RunDisney medal. The half marathon was one of the hardest races I have ever done because a few days before I developed a chest infection and I honestly felt like I was going to die before we’d even hit mile 4, but we did it and it was so worth it.

2017 – Running solo for the first time, I started off the year with the Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February. By this point I had the bug for challenges, so I did the Glass Slipper Challenge (10K and half marathon). The races were all Beauty and the Beast themed that year, which I was so happy about as I had already planned to run as Chip before the medal designs had been released, although the challenge medal was still glass slipper themed.

Disneyland races

2016 – The week after doing the marathon weekend in 2016, we left Florida and flew across to California to take part in the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend, and this was where we completed our first race challenge, Rebel Challenge, which was completing the 10K on the Saturday and the half marathon the next morning on the Sunday. By this point my chest infection had cleared up, and I actually set my half marathon PB on this course.

2017 – In May I did the Pixie Dust Challenge at the Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend. I saw a lot of hate on social media over these races but I had a total blast. The Disneyland 10K course is my all time favourite RunDisney course (RIP California races) and I think my favourite medal was from the 10K, although they are all so stinkin’ cute!

Coast to Coast

Both in 2016 and 2017 I earned a Coast to Coast medal for completing a half marathon* in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland in the same calendar year, but in 2017 I got a bonus of the ‘pink’ Coast to Coast, which was for doing the Princess and Tinkerbell weekend in the same year. The medal was essentially the same as the normal Coast to Coast, just in a pinky colour palette instead! 2017 was also the 10 year anniversary of the Coast to Coast challenge, so the blue medal was extra special!

*to earn a Coast to Coast medal, a minimum distance of half marathon must be done in each park!

Disneyland Paris races

In 2016 I took part in both the inaugural 5K and half marathon in Disneyland Paris (there was no 10K in the first year), and then in 2017 I did the 10K and half marathon, earning the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Challenge medal! Both years I also got an additional challenge medal, the Castle to Chateau Challenge, for completing races in the US as well as Paris – the medal was the same for both years, just with a different ribbon.

Virtual Running Shorts

I only did the virtual shorts in 2016, which was the first year RunDisney did virtual races, mainly because its quite expensive to do considering you don’t get an actual event, but I loved the medals I got because they were huge!

This year has been totally RunDisney-less for me, which has been really sad, but I’m also quite happy as I’ve had so many injuries to deal with! I’m also still a little heartbroken that the California races have been cancelled until further notice, but I’m just praying they’ll return soon and I’m so excited to get back into training for the marathon next year!

Have you ever done a RunDisney event?

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

Staying Onsite as a Disney Vacation Club Member

After joining Disney Vacation Club back in November, our recent trip to Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii was our first experience of staying in a Disney resort as members, and it would be an understatement to say that I was pretty excited for that.

DVC members get a slightly difference experience when staying on site to other guests, whether that’s in Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani or Disney’s Vero Beach or Hilton Head Island resorts, and although there can be further variations in this treatment depending on where you are, there are some things that DVC guests do and don’t get.

Welcome Home

You know when you arrive in a Disney park and feel as though you’re finally back where you belong, as you technically own a teeny tiny part of the magic, DVC members are greeted by cast members by a signature ‘welcome home’. This might seem totally insignificant to many, but I think its a really nice way of acknowledging membership without too much fuss.

There are a few different ways that cast members can identify you as a DVC member: in Walt Disney World, when tapping your Magic Band against the scanner, after the initial green light, the scanner will flash with purple, and in Aulani guests are given a special shiny version of the daily pool wristband, and of course your room reservation will also show as DVC to cast members at the front desk.

Mousekeeping

So part of the deal with being a DVC member is that you sorta have to sacrifice some of the perks of staying in a hotel. That means no daily room clean, and in fact in some resorts your rubbish won’t even be collected, and no clean towels until the 4th day of your stay – only recently has this been updated to daily trash and towels in WDW resorts only. Personally, I didn’t really mind this, especially staying in Aulani where we were popping back to the room so often that I doubt there would have been time for anyone to clean it, but also if you’re staying in a 1 bedroom villa or larger, you’ve got a washer and dryer right there in your room if you do want to clean your towels/sheets more often, and even if you’re not, laundry facilities are in every Disney resort.

Oh, and say goodbye to calling mousekeeping for a bunch of extra free tiny Disney toiletries – you can do it, but they now come with a price tag if you request more!

Comforts of home

In any DVC room, whether its a studio or a 3 bedroom grand villa, you’ll have some sort of kitchen facilities. Studios have a sink, fridge, microwave, coffee maker and toaster, along with disposable plates and bowls, cutlery and glasses all as standard, and you also have the opportunity to request additional items such as a blender should you want one. In larger rooms, you’ve got a full kitchen with all of these things, plus fridge-freezer, rice cooker, oven and hob, and all the relevant cooking tools. This means that you can make one quick supermarket trip (or even get groceries delivered to the resort), stock up on as much – or little – food and drinks as you want and know that you can avoid steep park prices by doing a lot of the catering yourself.

Most rooms also come equipped with a DVD or Blu-ray player, and if they don’t you can request one, and you can even borrow films too, although we (and several DVC members I know) actually good our Amazon Fire TV stick which meant we could watch Netflix, Prime Video and everything else – not that on a Disney trip you spend too much time in front of the tv!

Parking

Disney’s decision to start charging resort guests for overnight parking was quite a controversial change, but DVC members are in the clear, not having to pay for parking at resorts or at the parks.

Pool access

Although pool-hopping can be done by most Disney resort guests, there are a few resorts, such as Beach and Yacht Club and Boardwalk, where the pools can only be accessed by guests of that particular resort.. oh and DVC members! We can hang out at any pool on site, unless said pool is already at capacity.

I’m really excited for our first DVC stay in WDW in January, we’ll be staying at the Polynesian, which is also our home resort!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

My Top 8 Most Underrated WDW Dining Locations

Cheeseburger Bao Bun from Satu’li Canteen

When it comes to planning a trip to the most magical place on earth, choosing where to eat is a big decision, and one that has to be made quite far in advance if you want to snag all the right places.

I love planning for advanced dining reservations (ADRs), and I’m always on the hunt for somewhere new and different to try; I like to believe that one day I’ll have eaten in every restaurant on Disney property, but I’ll always end up going back to my favourite spots, plus I doubt I’ll ever keep up with the expansion and addition of new eateries, but I can dream, hey?

And you don’t even need to be a total Disney buff to know of some of the most talked about dining locations of WDW; places like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table are so iconic that I defy anyone who wouldn’t want to take a trip to these magical places. But are they the best?

These are some of my favourite lesser-known dining options that you may want to visit on your next trip:

Table Service

Grand Floridian Cafe – over 1900 Park Fare

I must admit, when I used to think of a good place to eat in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, my mind always used to jump to 1900 Park Fare. I’ve never eaten there before myself, but I see lots of people going there all the time, although I have heard some mixed reviews. Instead, I’ve always opted for GFC, and I’ve had both breakfast and dinner there, both of which have blown me away.

Sure, you don’t have the character element that 1900 Park Fare gives, but the menu is absolutely flawless in my opinion, and if you’re not on the dining plan, its actually one of the most reasonably priced table service meals I’ve ever seen – our dinner there should have cost around $65 plus gratuity for the two of us (main and dessert), and when I had breakfast there it would have been only $41 for two of us.

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ – over Hoop de Doo Revue

Again, I’ve never actually done Hoop de Doo, but having had the BEST time at Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, I’m in no rush to switch. Both cost the same both in cash and dining credits, both are unlimited buffets which included beer and wine for over 21s, and both have musical entertainment but Mickey’s Backyard has the added bonus of character meets and the opportunity to get up and get involved in the dancing with Mickey and the gang, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a night of more fun on Disney property. I’ve got a full review here.

Skipper Canteen

I was actually really surprised by the lunch we had here back in November – I had booked it because I wanted to try somewhere new, and then when we looked at the menu both Matthew and I felt a little meh about the offerings, but when the food actually arrived it was amazing! Yes, its a Jungle Cruise themed restaurant so there’s puns flying everywhere, but its also got a real Joe Rohde vibe to the place and the cast members were all really lovey, plus it was pretty quiet when we went!

Tusker House

I feel like I rarely hear people talking about restaurants in Animal Kingdom, so this may not be as underrated as I think it is, but absolutely rate this place. Now I haven’t been since 2014, so there may have been some changes but my whole family were blown away by the food, which not only catered for my picky-eating cousins (who at the time went as young as 5) but also for the adventurous adults in the group. Its a buffet – bonus – and although we had no idea when we booked it, its also a character meal!

Quick Service

Flame Tree Barbecue

If you ever need to make your dining credits go further, or need good value for money on your meals while in Animal Kingdom, this is the place you need to go – one meal could easily feed 2-3 people with the portion sizes you get! Also, if you want a decent view of Rivers of Light without queuing or paying for the dinner packages, grab your food from here early on and head down to the seating area on the edge of the water. Sure, you’re a little further away from the main seats, but you still get a great view!

Satu’li Canteen

This may not be underrated exactly, but if you’ve heard that its good, then that’s wrong because its AMAZING. Hands down, this is probably the best quick service meal I have ever had.

Yak and Yeti Local Food Cafes

Last Animal Kingdom place, I promise! If you’re a fan of the table service restaurant, but maybe you aren’t on the dining plan, I’m gonna share a secret with you: the honey chicken that you get in the restaurant for $18.99 is identical to the quick service alternative at $10.99, its just in a plastic container rather than served on a proper plate. This is also a good place to grab breakfast if you’ve run to Expedition Everest at park opening rather than joining the 3 hour queue for Flights of Passage..

Pinocchio Village Haus

Now this may be out of date as I’ve heard rumours that PVH is changing/has changed its offering, but this was always one of my favourite places to grab lunch when in Magic Kingdom. The flatbreads make a wonderful alternative to the normal doughy pizza bases you get in most quick service places and there’s always a tonne of seating available, plus I like waving to the Its a Small World boats as they pass below the window!

What restaurants do you think don’t get enough attention?

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

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!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram