Monday, April 23, 2012

How I have spent my time off running...Disney planning part 1

Sometimes we just need a break to re-focus our brains. I had mentioned before that I was going to take the month of April off from "training". Mainly because I had spent a year pretty much on a training schedule every week. That schedule helped me to lose 50 lbs and run 15 miles non stop. However with my next venture being the Marine Corp Marathon on October, I knew I needed a non schedule break to regroup and refocus my goals. So I chose in the month of April to run when I wanted and go to the gym when I wanted, making sure that I still run one long training run a week. And man that is exactly what I have done. So let me catch you up to speed on my fun non schuduled month...

I have been planning a 7 day Spring break "surprise" trip to Disney World for my kids for quite sometime. And let me tell you it is hard to surprise my nosy kids, they have found Christmas gifts every year:(! LOL. Ok so this is going to get long and be a couple of different post, so bare with me and hopefully yall will get some tips on how I planned my trip.

My parents were going with us, so I had a total of 7 people to plan for 4 adults and 2 kids. Park tickets were the main focus at first. My stepdad is military so we were able to get half off 4 day park hopper passes, which cost my around $1021. You might be thinking WOW, thats alot. Regular price for one 4 day park hopper pass cost $292 times that by 7, $2044. So it was definitely a savings. I suggest taking someone with you that is military when you go:)! Once we had purchased our passes. The next step was where to stay...

Because my father n law works for Choice Hotels International, we are able to get a pretty good rate through his hotel, usually ranges from $39 to $69 a night depending on where you stay. I knew we would need 2 rooms, so I did the math, Even if we stayed in the lower end hotel, which is usually Econo Lodge or Quality Inn. It would have cost us roughly $468 for the 6nights/7days. Now thats not a bad price, but we are talking about a hotel rooms which means limited space to move around and function. 1 or 2 nights ok, but not 6 with 3 small children. So I decided to look into timeshare. Now we have done a timeshare presentation before in Las Vegas and it was great, you sit through a 90 minute presentation in return for something. So I came across a timeshare resort called The Westgate Lakes Resort. It was only about 9 miles from the park and di offer free shuttles to and from the parks, and the pictures were fantastic. The resort had everything and more we would need for our vacation. They were running a special for 3 days for $99 in a studio suite, however it said they had specials for 1,2,3,and even 4 bedroom suites, to call for rates. Donald called and inquired about the 2 bedroom 1250 square ft suite for 7 days. I was surprised at the rate, $399 for the whole week. Thats crazy, look at this place...

All we had to do was sit through a 90 minute presentaion on the last day we were there. Of course we jumped on that. So we booked right then for 6 days 7 nights in a 2 bedroom suite for $399. That was a much better deal than staying at the hotel for the week and saved us $70+ and now we had a full kitchen, living room, 2 huge bedrooms and a beautiful screened in patio, check out the view on our 5th floor suite...
(The presentation lasted about 2 hours and it was a not a pushy sell at all, we all shook hands and went our ways. Its a great way to stay at resorts you wouldnt normally go to. Also they have free supervised kids club that the kids can go to while staying there, kids activities, mini golf, paddleboats, fishing, basketball coaurts, shuffleboard, sunday night movie by the pool, ice cream sundaes by the the pool, and activity center for arts and crafts, and lots more. All free:))

So we spent $1021 for tickets and $399 for the suite. We had figured out that for us 2 drive our truck, we would need about $350 for gas round trip. Tickets to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios for 4 days, resort cost for 7 days, and gas cost us roughly $1770. Now when you do the math on that, we are at $36 per day per person. CHEAP for Disney World.

I also had planned some surprises for the kids while we were there. I had heard of some people buying cheap Disney things at home to wrap and give them while at Disney, to cut down all the "I wants" in the park. My kids are 5,7, and 10, so I came up with making them travel bags. I went to the thrift store here in town (Americas thrift store on Govt blvd in Tillmans Corner, if you live here:)), and found 3 Disney small backpacks, for the last month, I have been filling them up with disney coloring books, water bottles, pens, pencils, markers, any cheap disney things I could find that would travel well in the car and keep them busy, remember I have 3 kids that only like each other every other 5 minutes, so car rides for 8 hours are NOT fun! lol...
I also had come across these really cool free downloadable Mickey heads that I could could print onto iron on sheets (Walmart $9) and make them shirts. So what I did was I went to the dollar tree and bought each of them 5 shirts, 1 for the surprise and 1 for each of the 4 parks. And I made them a surprise t-shirt that the "Disney Fairy" left for them every morning along with a note. I bought 4 of the transfer packs $36 and 15 shirts at $1 a peice, so it was a $51 investment, but each of them got 5 shirts. 1 shirt at Disney World cost around $18 and up. They loved seeing what shirt the fairy was going to bring them the next day. Here is a couple of the shirts I made...

I also did the same on some small pillow I found at target for 75 cents...

This is what the bags looked like that we actually gave them on surprise day...

There are lots of things that kids can do at Disney world that has nothing to do with riding rides and sightseeing.

Pin Trading
Disney has a really cool thing called pin trading, you collect these pins and trade them with cast members, characters, disney employees, etc. This being the first time we have taken the kids wanted to do this so I ordered some pins from EBAY, now you have to make sure that you order from an official disney pin seller, there are alot of fakes out there. This is who I ordered from HERE, she sent me 100 different pins for $62, the cheapest pin at Disney World is $6.99 for 1. I know that some people may not agree with ordering them in bulk off of Ebay, however I would never beable to afford enough pins for trading with 3 kids. And Disney people are ok with it, I asked of course;). So we did buy them each 1 new pin while we were there. Here are the pins I bought...
Out of the 75 pins you see (25 went to a friend of mine), I didnt come back with a single one like them. they traded all of them for different ones. I think they had a better time trading pins in all 4 parks than they did riding the rides, lol! it was great. My mom even got into and started a collection. Its a really cool thing to do, and we were able to come home with a 75 new pins. including some older retired collection pins. whats great is you get to pick the one you want AND you pick the one you give, so its easy to start a cool collection of pins. AND the employee has to trade, so look for the cool ones. Def something I suggest you do if you are going. SO MUCH FUN. (FYI, Animal Kingdom and Epcot had the most pin trader people. Also they have kiosk that are for buying pins and alot of them actually have a book of pins that you can look through for trading, but you have to ask for it. Also alot of the Disney merchandise store have pin boards that they bring out and you can trade too. In Epcot there is a big board downstairs in the food court by Soarin'.) ENJOY!

Autograph books
All of the characters will sign an autograph on pretty much anything as long as you arent wearing it. So if you have a boy, a hat would be cool or even a tshirt. I chose to get them autograph books it was easier to carry. I found these on clearance at Walmart for $2 and put there names on them. Also if they have a friend or a cousin that likes the characters and cant come, you can get autographs for them too. I thought that was cool. The books were cool and a great keepsake for them.

Kim Possible scavenger hunt
At Epcot, find the Kim possible secret agent recruitment area. it was inside the futureworld and also right past Mexico in the around the world section. They give you a real cell phone and when you start it, it gives you clues to go to specific countries and find these differnet clues. Each clue you find does something. Like one of Peytons made us stand on this balcony and look across at this restaurant and when he got there and pushed the button it made the volcano go off in the restaurant across the building, it was awesome. It does last around 20 minutes, but def fun thing to do while you are there. You can also get a passport and get a stamp in every country that is there, we didnt do this but would be cool for your scrapbook.

So as I mentioned earlier, we surprised our kids, so the planning was crazy. Also the packing was crazy, this is how I packed for us...
When you have a truck you have to pack for elements, like rain, lol! So I packed us completely in 5 totes. It worked out great because I packed us up and the kids didnt think anything of the totes in our room. So on Sunday morning we loaded the truck with totes and a big ice chest and woke them up at 5:30am to go "yard selling", I told them we were on the look out for plastic chairs for the backyard, lol! it worked! Well you always think that its gonna be this great reaction and everyone will run around crazy and be so happy. Well that didnt really happen for us. they were more massively confused than crazy happy...heres the video


Yeah they were more excited in the parking lot when they realized we were really going. LOL

I know that is has gotten long but i hope you got some pointers from it.
 Part 2 coming soon, arriving in Orlando!

QOTD...Do you have any other cool things you do while on Disney Vacation?


  1. Loved this video! I could never keep the secret from my kids. I have a hard enough time holding off on their birthday and Christmas presents. So cool, thanks for sharing!

    1. it was really hard keeping it secret for the past couple months, but so worth it. lol