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!

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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?

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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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Be Our Guest – Which Meal Is Best?

Be Our Guest Restaurant is one of the most popular dining spots in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, and tomorrow actually marks 5 years since the Beast’s castle opened its doors to guests.

Situated in Fantasyland, the restaurant opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and each meal offers guests a different dining experience. I recently ticked breakfast off the list of meals I’ve had here, so now I’ve done the set, here’s the low-down on what each meal offers!

Breakfast

BOG is one of the three restaurants in Magic Kingdom that opens for breakfast at 8am, meaning that if you can get a reservation then you get early access to the park, and the perks that come with that AKA empty Main Street and castle photos! Now don’t let the word reservation fool you – while advanced reservations are usually for table service meals, breakfast is actually quick service, so a worthwhile use of a QS credit if you’re on the dining plan! That said, however, while you do visit a counter to pay for your meal, the food is brought directly to you at your table. And to add more magic to the experience, you can actually pre-order your food on the Walt Disney World website so that you don’t have to even worry about deciding what to eat on the day! As for the food..

This is the Croque Madame, which was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had in WDW, but there are a few options from classic breakfast dishes to sweet options, and every table also gets a selection of fruit and assorted pastries to tuck into as well!

If you’re not on the dining plan, entrees are $25.

Lunch

Lunch is also a quick service meal, but as with breakfast its highly recommended that you get a reservation, but if you can’t snag one, try to get to the restaurant for when it opens and you stand a good chance of a minimal wait! Again, while being technically classified as a counter service, you order at a booth but the food is brought to you wherever you choose to sit, whether that’s in the West Wing, the Ballroom or the Gallery.

The menu is primarily sandwiches and salads, but there are some soup and other veggie options. I tend to stick to the Croque Monsieur, which is basically a ham and cheese toastie but it comes with a good helping of fries and definitely worth a quick service credit!

Entrees at lunch are all around the $17 mark.

Dinner

I did dinner for the first time here in February this year. Dinner is table service, and as such guests receive a bit more of a magical experience, including each party being given a Lumiere to light their way to the table. The restaurant is a little more packed in during dinner (or at least it felt like it the one time I was there!) so it can be a bit louder.

The food is also a lot fancier, which you’d certainly hope for with a table service meal. I really enjoyed the food – I mean when do I not? – but compared to other amazing meals I’ve had in WDW it was average, so personally I don’t think I’d do dinner here again if I wasn’t on the dining plan.

That said though, once you finish your meal you get to experience the other magical moment that having dinner here gets you, and that’s meeting the Beast himself!

Dinner entrees range from $22-36, appetizers are $10-15 and desserts are $5.

Good things to know

With it being such a popular destination, the restaurant can be pretty noisy, especially during the quick service mealtimes, but if you get breakfast early it can be quite quiet, depending on the time of year. The restaurant is also well set up with plenty of different table sizes, including big round tables that can fit a party of 10.

What I cannot fault about the restaurant in any way is the decor, so be sure to explore each of the three rooms of the restaurant, including seeing the Enchanted Rose in the West Wing! My favourite room is the Grand Ballroom, and I love watching the snow fall outside the window.

Whatever meal you choose, you’re in for a magical meal and its an absolute must for any Beauty and the Beast fans!

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Owning the Magic

So Matthew and I kinda did a crazy thing when we were in Florida..

I’ve been to a Disney Vacation Club presentation before; Dad and I went to one on our trip back in 2016 for the sole reason that we were sucked into talking to a rep, who offered us a $50 gift card and some free fastpasses to give up an hour of our time, and we figured why not?

Well Matthew and I did the same thing. There was a $100 gift card offered this time, and I knew the presentation was quite interesting and not pressured, so when Matthew showed some interest in wanting to go, and we knew we had a day that was relatively unplanned, we let the nice rep at the booth in Epcot talk us into it.

To cut a long story short, we were sold. We crunched a gazillion numbers, double and triple checked all of the information that was given to us, and at the end of it all it seemed like the right decision for us. It was way more affordable than we had originally thought, and we know that with the trips we’d like to make over the next few years, we’d end up saving a LOT of money. We didn’t rush into anything – in fact, we actually walked away from the first meeting and booked to go back another time so we had a few days to properly mull everything over, and that was definitely the right thing for us to do. Everything made sense and now..

WE’RE DISNEY VACATION CLUB MEMBERS!

So we now own something silly like 0.2% of Unit 65 at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, yay! Poly will be our home resort, meaning we can book stays 11 month in advance, and stays elsewhere 7 months in advance, but as well as Walt Disney World we have big plans for our membership points, including Disneyland California and my absolute dream of going to Aulani, Disney’s Hawaiian resort!

I’m excited for all the adventures that this will bring for us, as well as the fact that technically this is the first property that Matthew and I own together!

Stay tuned for more!

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Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

One of the things I was most excited to do on our recent WDW trip was attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. The party is a special ticketed event at Magic Kingdom that runs on select days from the end of August through to the start of November, and we actually attended the very last party of this year’s season on November 1st.

Being a special ticketed event, one of the biggest selling points of the party is that it offers exclusive access to Magic Kingdom for the evening, while all other guests are booted out early, and runs up until midnight each night, so you’ve got a good amount of time to play in the park with a restricted number of guests. Other big factors for most guests are the rare character opportunities, and the fact that guests, including adults, are allowed to dress in costume for the party. Oh, and did I mention trick or treating?!

The party runs from 7pm until midnight, but guests can enter the park from 4pm, and rather than heading down Main Street USA, you’re directed down a backstage route into the park, and along this path you’ve got a bunch of photo opportunities, but this is also where you’ll be given your trick or treating bag and your first handful of candy. Trick or treat spots are located throughout the parks, and each visit will gain you a huge helping of sweets and chocolate! The standard issue bags are fairly small and aren’t anything special in terms of decoration (ours was a plastic bag with adverts for upcoming films, nothing Halloweeny at all!), so if you want something a little more fancy, you can bring in your own bag or bucket to use. I would also definitely recommend that you don’t put anything valuable in your candy bag as its really easy to get them mixed up with someone else’s, or leave on a ride as Matthew did.. But don’t worry if you do lose your bag, just head to a trick or treat station and they’ll give you a new one!

If candy isn’t your main priority, there’s a tonne of other entertainment for you, from the Tomorrowland Dance Party where I met Sully and Boo, to the Hocus Pocus Castle Show, Hallowishes fireworks and Boo to You Parade. As I’m not a fan of Hocus Pocus, we didn’t bother to see the castle show, but we did make sure we saw the fireworks and the parade. The night we did the party, the fireworks were only on once during the evening, which meant that it was very busy in front of the castle, but we still managed to get a decent spot on Main Street near the hub grass and despite not always being that impressed by firework shows, I really enjoyed them!

Boo to You Parade is generally on twice each night, so we did the later one, which was a proven good idea as after the fireworks a lot of people started heading out of the park, and we decided to get in a spot straight away to ensure a good view and about 5-1o mins before the actual parade began, the Headless Horseman graced us with his presence as he rode down the parade route! I’m a sucker for a parade, so of course I loved it, with my favourite floats being the Haunted Mansion and villain floats.

And what characters can you expect to meet? Well there’s all your favourites dressed up in their very own Halloween costumes, and then some rarer appearances such as the Seven Dwarfs, Lotso and Jack and Sally, but be warned, these lines can be killer! We waited about 30 mins for Lotso, and just under an hour for the Seven Dwarfs, although I know people who have queued for a lot longer than that!

Ticket prices vary from night to night, with October 31st being the most expensive at over $100 per person, but if you hit an early September weeknight, you can pay as little as $40-50 per person (prices based on 2017 tickets) so its definitely worth being flexible with dates if you can! Dates get released late April/early May and tickets go on sale mid-May normally.

As someone who really isn’t a Halloween person, I had so much fun being not-so-spooky with Mickey!

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My November Disney Trip Haul

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the only good thing about unpacking after a holiday is being able to get out all the cool things you bought during your trip. I can leave my clothes in my case for days but I’ll always be digging out souvenirs as soon as I step in the door.

To be honest, it felt like I bought a lot more on this trip than I actually did, mainly due to the fact that I actually bought quite a bit for other people, and also because I splurged on a lot of non-Disney purchases, so while my credit card took a bit of a hit, I’ve not got much to show you today, but what I did buy, I love.

I have been waiting for Disney to release a proper Mrs Potts teapot for FOREVER. I know Primark released a knock-off money box and various other products, but I’ve really disliked all of the ‘dupes’ that have been going round, so when I walked into Village Gifts in Fantasyland and saw this beauty on display I knew I’d be coming home with her! My only gripe is that the Chip that comes with her is a lot smaller than the Chip teacups, and probably too small to be used as an actual teacup, but I’ve decided that he will be the little sugar bowl for my now complete tea set! She’s also fully dishwasher safe!

How adorable is this little Mickey? I’m a sucker for Alex and Ani, but I especially love this bracelet because its a bit different with a sliding charm rather than a dangling one, which makes it a bit more practical for wearing day to day, whereas my other ones can be a bit too jangly! PS. They also had a Minnie one, and both are available in gold as well as silver.

Much like a trip to Lush, I love a trip to Basin in Disney Springs. I love looking at the different soap designs, but I especially love snagging a bargain with their variety bags. These bags contain off-cuts of 3-4 different soaps, but whereas you’d pay $5-8 dollars (weight dependent) on a single slice of one soap, these bags vary from $3-4 and you probably get a little bit more soap out of it, as well as getting to try a few different ones!

My final purchases were also from Disney Springs, but this time Uniqlo. First of all, I’d highly recommend hitting Uniqlo if you’re after Disney t-shirts – they have so many designs which are all really cute, and they’re a fraction of the price of the shirts you’ll see in the parks – but what I actually bought was trousers! They had a whole wall of these sweet 3/4 length culotte-style pants in various prints but all featuring little Mickey heads in the design. I chose two different pairs, the first being the all-over Mickey print, and then I also picked up a more subtle striped print that has tiny little hidden Mickey’s dotted randomly over it. They’re so comfy, and they have pockets!

My other US purchases were primarily makeup, and if you’re interested in seeing what I got keep an eye out as there’ll be lots of review posts coming up soon!

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