You’re a Sorcerer, Mickey!

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Here’s a fun manicure memorializing the main magical mouse, Mickey, and an even funner video I made for our YouTube channel showcasing one of our favourite related games to play when we’re at Disney, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.

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I’ve spoken about Sorcerers before – it’s the free-to-play, card-collecting, interactive scavenger hunt you can only play at the Magic Kingdom, and Mr. Finger Candy is completely obsessed.  No trip is complete without finishing off at least a couple of games of Sorcerers, and more than a couple of visits to the Firehouse on Main Street USA.

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Sorcerers is a cute, not-so-little diversion (no joke, you will walk for MILES completing a single game) that always provides tons of fun while we’re bounding about the Magic Kingdom.  If you’d like to join in on the RFID-enabled scavengering and hunting, please watch this video I recently made for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, featuring fun tips on making the most of your magical Mickey.  Thank you so much for watching, and happy spellcasting!

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Been There, Disney’d That: Tips and Tricks on Having Your Best Disney Vacation

Halloween to Xmas Pooh Collage

We somewhat recently returned from a week and a half long anniversary trip to Disney World that encompassed two holidays, the end of the Halloween season and then the very beginning of the Christmas holidays.  No joke, we left the Magic Kingdom around 1 am November 1st after spending the evening attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and by park opening eight hours later, all of the Fall decorations had been removed and nearly all of the Christmas ones had been added.  Two days later the entire park was “done,” up to and including Queen Elsa’s Griswold-worthy lighting job on Cinderella Castle and the giant, towering Christmas tree in the entrance hub.  Disney decorating services move lightning fast.

Magic Kingdom Castle Collage

But impressive work on the part of the decorating team aside, I think the truly impressive feat is that we got through 11 holiday days at the Happiest Place on Earth without incurring a mountain of vacation debt, or suffering hideous sunburns, or eating anything truly appalling, or losing our sanity and murdering one another.  I mean, we came awfully close on that last one, but we pulled ‘er back (I kid; Mr. Finger Candy and I travel remarkably well together.)

Also, this was our fourth trip to Disney World in a year; it’s almost like we know what we’re doing now!  Here’s a few things we’ve learned along the way – I hope these practical tips and tricks from a couple of nerds-in-the-know help you maximize your time and enjoyment on your next Disney trip. 🙂

Set a fun vacation challenge for yourself: It may seem counterintuitive to add to-dos to an already packed and stressful vacation schedule (yes, Disney’s loads of fun, but it can occasionally feel like a death march.  With churros.)  But we’ve found that adding a side mission of sorts – like, say, bridging two holiday seasons by attending Mickey’s Not So Scary on Halloween and then Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party a week later – keeps us on task and ups the fun quota significantly by giving us silly little challenge parameters to goof around within.  Or maybe I just like looking down at my list of to-dos for the day and seeing “Ride every roller coaster after dark” or “Eat nothing but snacks.”

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Be prepared for every weather eventuality: Again, how helpful, my advice here simply being BRING EVERYTHING.  But the only predictable thing about Orlando weather is its unpredictability, and if it’s not 90 degrees and humid like it was every stinkin’ day we were there, it’s raining.  And sometimes it’s both!  So pack a travel umbrella and a poncho and maybe even a pair of flip flops that you can throw on in the event you’re caught in a ferocious downburst while sitting at the outdoor Fantasmic amphitheater at the very back of Hollywood Studios one evening.  True story.

Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated: Based on the number of people I saw spackling themselves and their kids with spray sunscreen, I probably don’t need to preach my lifelong gospel of sunscreen (does a Celtic body good!) Well done, Disney travelers.  But I also know there are a ton of people who run about the parks all day long powered on nothing but sugary soft drinks and desserty coffee concoctions (shout-out to the utterly befuddled Southern woman aghast that one establishment “ain’t got no Coke!”)  Man cannot live on Powerade alone!  So go grab yourself a water.  But if you’re not down with paying $3.50 for a bottle of Dasani (geez, who is?) simply roll on up to any counter service location and ask for a couple of cups of ice water, and they’ll give them to you gratis.  Last thing Disney wants is for you to face-plant in front of the Carousel of Progress, so drink up.

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Find the good air conditioning: Disney attractions are notorious for ending in a gift shop.  But the gift shops are air conditioned!  As are the rabbit warren of shops that line Main Street in the Magic Kingdom – you can actually traverse the entire length of Main Street without ever going outside.  Duck into these air conditioned cold spots as often as you can for a quick refresher (fun discovery?  The very best AC in the Magic Kingdom is directly over the oil paintings in The Art of Disney store on Main Street.)

If it makes you sick, don’t ride it: This is advice we only just heeded this past trip, and I think our vacation experience was all the better for it.  Typically we soldier on through rides that have proven to disagree with our old ass constitutions (Space Mountain, Everest, Flight of Passage, Star Tours) and then feel like sweaty, nauseous butt for the next 30 to 90 minutes.  This time we just eschewed those attractions altogether, choosing instead to double or triple up on some kinder, gentler rides (or sextuple – that’s totally not a word – in the case of my beloved Haunted Mansion.)

Work those FastPasses: Three of these express passes are available to every guest every day either physically, in park at a kiosk, or virtually through the My Disney Experience app.  Save the extremely popular, always-slammed attractions (Slinky Dog Dash, Flight of Passage again, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) it’s relatively easy to schedule and obtain these passes.  Yet based on the amount of grumbling I heard from the standby line as I zipped past in the express line at my designated time, few guests know about this awesome perk.  So download the free app or show up in park and schedule a day’s worth of FastPasses so you don’t spend more time than necessary waiting – and grumbling – in line.

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Make advance dining reservations: The immense popularity of the Disney Dining Plan, a pre-paid food plan not unlike the ones you may have enjoyed at college, means getting a walk-up table at virtually any restaurant in any of the parks is a real chore.  So if there’s somewhere you really want to dine, make an advance reservation.  Disney allows you to book your dining up to 180 days out from your trip, which is generally overkill unless you’re talking about Be Our Guest, in which case it’s not enough kill; that place is wildly popular. We certainly love it, and we make it a point to eat there at least once per trip.

Be Our Guest Collage

Take screenshots of your FastPass plans and dining reservations: The My Disney Experience app is a great resource for the more technically-minded Disney traveler, but it is a battery killer, particularly when you’re calling up the app every 15 minutes to see which ride or restaurant you need to dash off to next.  Take a screenshot of your plans and make it the temporary wallpaper to your phone; now your plans are available at the quick touch of a barely-battery-draining button.

Consider becoming annual passholders: Every family’s break-even point is different, but generally speaking, if you’re going to be in park for 12 or more days a year, like we were in 2017 and 2018, it makes the most financial sense to become annual passholders.  APs also enjoy some nice little passholder-only perks, as well as discounts on food, merchandise and accommodations, and unlimited access to the Memory Maker photo service.  It’s a pretty decent deal, and we’ve been really pleased with our first year as annual passholders.

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Add funds to a reloadable gift card: Not only will this keep you mindful of your budget (it’s easier to track your spending when it’s in pre-paid, round dollar increments) but it’s a fuss-free way to pay at merchandise shops, counter service dining locations and all of those little booths at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival.

Stay flexible: Rides go down, the app crashes (repeatedly), your bus doesn’t show up on time, weather concerns cancel the fireworks – these things happen all the time, and the best you can do is just roll with the punches.  Allow yourself lots of time to get to your reservations, engage Guest Services when technical or weather problems derail your plans, move on if the going gets tough, and always have a plan B.  And don’t snipe – or worse – at the cast members for things that are beyond their control.  I’ve yet to meet a CM who could control the weather.  Unless the Thor who strides about the Norway pavilion in Epcot actually is the God of Thunder!  In which case, I think he is quite underpaid.

Don’t be so serious: Cast members love us because we’re polite and will do literally anything for a laugh, whether it’s gossiping about Gaston’s purported addiction to manscaping (seriously, when we met him he was SO waxed!), pretending to Force choke each other in a goofy lightsaber battle or posing for an every-park series of cheesy prom pics.

Prom Photos Collage

You’re at Disney!  Live a little and snuggle up to that dinosaur statue already. 🙂

Dino Collage

Remember that there is so much more to Disney than its rides: I’m always a little dismayed when I overhear other guests planning their entire Disney vacations around the rides.  Sure, Disney attractions are groundbreaking technological marvels, but there is SO much more to Disney than the rides.  So take in a musical show (or four) at Hollywood Studios.  Hop on the monorail and explore the deluxe resorts across from the Magic Kingdom.  Take a scenic boat ride over to the Boardwalk for ice cream and tequila (preferably separate, but hey, you do you.)  Spend a day playing Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, a free-to-play interactive card game.  Enjoy a special meal at one of Disney’s incredible themed restaurants.  Spend the evening bopping around Disney Springs.  Have your picture taken with a favourite character.  Take a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the parks.  Or…

Attend a fireworks viewing party, one (or both!) of the holiday parties or some other special event: Some of the most fun we had this trip was at Mickey’s Not So Scary and Mickey’s Very Merry.  Having attended a Not So Scary earlier in the season, we didn’t feel pressured to cram in a bunch of gotta-dos, preferring instead to explore the Magic Kingdom at our leisure, riding rides, meeting cool characters, explaining our costumes to people who didn’t know who we were (and fanboying out with the people who did) and pulling down some serious loot on the trick-or-treat trails.

Halloween Collage

Mickey’s Very Merry was a first for us this year, although we caught quite a bit of the entertainment – the stage show, Elsa’s castle-lighting and the parade – last year when we were actually at Disney on Christmas Day itself (and yes, it’s every bit as busy as everyone says it is and you fear it will be!)  We enjoyed all of those attractions this year, including the beautiful and moving Holiday Wishes fireworks and projection show, some cool character meet-and-greets, cookie and cocoa-collecting and a whole mess of walk-right-on attractions.

Very Merry Collage

We also started off that day with the first ever seating of breakfast at The Plaza Restaurant on Main Street, which was utterly, utterly delicious; a month on I’m still thinking back fondly, and often, on the delectable lobster Eggs Benedict (on fried green tomatoes) I enjoyed.  It was such a special dining experience – as Ice Cube might say, it was a good day.

The Plaza Collage

But the best day had to have been the evening we attended the Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam Holiday Dessert Party at Hollywood Studios.  What fun!  We had such a blast!  And it had nothing at all to do with the fact that we both got pretty tipsy on generously poured holiday cocktails and attempted to eat our combined weight in cheese fondue and naan bread, nothing at all. 😉  Jingle Bam, the Prep & Landing-themed fireworks show that closes out the night at Hollywood Studios, is an awesome show; I love its odd mix of P&L, the Nightmare Before Christmas and schmaltzy holiday standards.

Jingle Bam Collage

We really got our merry on at the dessert party.  I also danced quite a bit, which I showed off in this video I made for our YouTube channel that I have posted before, but hey, one more time for the cheap seats in the back.

These were all super fun events that yes, we paid extra money to attend, but I think the payoff was worth it for these incredible experiences.  Sometimes you just have to treat yourself, you know?

So there we have it, tips and tricks from a couple of semi-pros on how to have your best Disney vacation.  Although hey, you’re at Disney, so isn’t every vacation really the best? 🙂

Tyler Two Pilots! Or How We Spent our Halloween Anniversary

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Hey!  Lest some of you mistakenly think that a poor resort stay at Pop Century was enough to completely undo our precious Disney vacation goodwill, allow me to reassure you that no, it did not.  We are remarkably resilient Disney travelers, and when the overall cruddy vibe at Pop Century began impacting our moods – seriously, who wants to be a grumper puss on holiday? – we got the heck out of there and got on with our trip.  No surprise here, but Disney vacations are expensive, time-consuming and require a ridiculous amount of what I call managerial oversight.  I realize how awful that sounds to those of you who prefer to vacation in “set it and forget it” mode, but once again, allow me to assure you we like these kind of vacations; if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have gone to Disney World four times in one year.  We always have a great time; we’ve just never had to work quite so hard at ensuring that great time.  But things got markedly better – and absolutely calmer – once we moved over to our new resort, in part because Coronado Springs is a really wonderful place to stay, and also because we just refused to allow the crummy time we were having at Pop Century to negatively impact our entire trip.  Ain’t no one got time for that on holiday!

Besides, by the time we decided to leave our resort, we had already been having a ton of goofy, good times fun, and we weren’t inclined to step off the party bus anytime soon.  And some of the most fun we had across our entire 11-day vacation was during an actual party, our second run at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on October 31st, which also happened to be our 14th wedding anniversary!

We attended Mickey’s Not So Scary in late August during our Labour Day trip, and it was an experience.  Bowled over by the oppressive heat and bonkers humidity, we didn’t attend in costume, and just sort of stumbled around from meet-and-greet to parade to fireworks to midnight stage show in a sucrose-enabled haze.  The whole thing is a blur of too much sugar and too much damp and not enough sleep.  We vowed to do better during our Halloween to Christmas trip.

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And so to celebrate 5110 days of wedded bliss and our second Mickey’s Not So Scary, we decided to don our first ever couples costumes, and spent the day – and the long party evening – bombing around the Magic Kingdom as two different video versions of Tyler Joseph, the lead singer of twenty one pilots.  Why two Tylers and no Josh Dun, the drummer?  With all adoration for Josh, neither one of us is confident enough to show that much sideboob – the man loves his low-cut tanks, if he’s wearing a shirt at all (never change, bro.) 😉

Mr. Finger Candy, resplendent in Tyler’s Stressed Out ensemble (complete with meggings and a whole lot of black gunk about his neck and hands) was being a terrifically good sport, but he was also convinced that absolutely no one would know who we were.  “Husband of little faith!” I mock-admonished him, in the act of smearing my own hands and neck with black stage makeup for my Lane Boy getup.  “Okay, so not everyone’s going to know who we are.  But the RIGHT people are going to know!”

Twenty One Backpack Collage

Turns out we were both a whole lot right and a whole lot wrong.  Virtually every cast member working the evening party knew exactly who we were, prompting much on-the-spot fanboy and fangirling over TOP’s new album, Trench.  In a park full of incredibly costume’d guests (wowza, some people turn it out) we had people running up to us to tell us how much they loved our outfits, and you could hear people all over gleefully shouting out, “Omigod, twenty one pilots!”  It was completely awesome.  I also think Tigger may have been a TOP fan – he kept enthusiastically gesturing to his neck and giving me delighted, double barreled thumbs up.

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Of course, there were also the people who had no clue who we were (“Are they video game characters?” was a common refrain, followed by a dismissive, “Oh, they’re that band”) and I still chuckle when I think of the little girl I overheard in the bathroom stage-whispering to her mortified mom, “Mommy, mommy, did you see the dirty girl with the black stuff all over her neck?”  Heh.

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Anyhow, that’s the story of how much I love twenty one pilots, and how much my husband loves me, and I him – I wouldn’t ask just any man to don meggings and a toque in 90 degree weather for me. 😉  And it’s not every man who would wear them for his wife either (though if we’re being totally honest here, he can go ahead and dress like that every day of the rest of our lives, because he looked hot as hell!  Nearly got us bounced out of the park after I tried to drag him behind the little Dutch kids on It’s a Small World to snog.  Joke, joke – although that is the number one way of getting kicked out of the parks.  Turns out Mickey’s not so down with the guests trying to bang behind the animatronics.) 😉  We had a blast, and it was a great party, Halloween, anniversary and day.  Can’t ask for much more than that.

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Pop Goes the Resort Stay

Pop Collage

Many months ago when we were planning our just-completed Disney anniversary vacation, we decided that because of the length of the trip (11 nights!) we ought to try to maximize our resort dollars with a first-time stay at a value resort instead of our usual moderate.  Out of the five value resorts on property, Pop Century was regarded as the very best, with a fun vibe to match its kitschy-tacky-cute aesthetic.

Potato Heads

So we booked our vacation, and as our long-awaited trip finally approached, we both became quite excited about our stay at Pop – the rooms had all recently undergone a much-needed refurbishment, and if they looked a bit sterile, well, they also looked bright and fresh and welcoming.  We had also heard great things about the kitchen in the food court at Pop Century – supposedly it was ultra accommodating of vegans and vegetarians like my husband, with special substitutions on offer of popular Disney favourites like over-the-top burgers and Mickey waffles.  And we had heard that it was just a fun place to stay, with a nice mix of small families and couples like us having a great time at the happiest place on earth.

I think you know where this story is going.  And I should have known where this story was going, but I had hope.

Misplaced hope, as it turns out, because we had a most unsatisfactory experience at Pop Century.  The kind of unsatisfactory that finds you begging for a room change at 5:00 in the morning.  The kind of unsatisfactory that maroons you at a packed bus stop in the pouring rain for 50 minutes with 200 other furious, soaking wet guests.  The kind of unsatisfactory that finds you just not eating dinner one night because, after waiting in a half hour lineup at the food court, they misplaced your meal.  The kind of unsatisfactory where there’s long, blonde hairs in the shower, even though one of you is a brunette and the other has no hair at all!  And ultimately the kind of unsatisfactory that leads to you booking a room at another resort at 1:00 in the morning after you’ve grown utterly exhausted with all of the above.

Oh man, what a gong show.  Where to start?  With the gargantuan Roger Rabbit figure stationed outside our building?  In hindsight, this was an omen – I hate Who Framed Roger Rabbit? with the fire of 1,000 burning suns.  I hate it about as much as I hate The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, which I also heard twice whilst waiting in line for the bus.  Omens on top of omens!

Roger Rabbit

The rooms themselves were nicely, but inexpensively, appointed.  Can’t say I blame Disney for going low on the quality of the furnishings given that people seem to have used these rooms as their personal playpens – there was not a surface in either of our rooms that wasn’t peppered with nicks, dings and scratches.  And I think the damage may be inevitable given the tiny size of these cramped units – you’re never not on top of yourself, and that’s just with two people in the room.

Pop Century

Transportation to the parks, via Disney’s internal bus system, was usually pretty great, with buses departing from the front doors of Pop Century every 20 minutes.  But travelling between parks and resorts or leaving the parks at night was a nightmare of queuing and standing and grumbling that I came to actively dread.  Most evenings we’d wait for 45 minutes to an hour for a bus back to the resort with 200 other angry guests, miffed that the THIRD bus to Wilderness Lodge had just passed us by while the second Pop Century bus in a row had been scooped by a disabled guest and their 20 accompanying family members.  One night it rained, the kind of weather event that’s more mini hurricane than rainstorm; I’ve never experienced anything so furiously intense.  Umbrellas and rain gear did nothing – we were both soaked straight through to the bone (our bones eventually dried off; our shoes and underwear…not so much!)  With the usual hundreds of guests in line, now cold, sodden and utterly exhausted, it would have been a great time for Pop to allocate a few more buses to usher us all home.  Instead we waited, and then caught sass from our bus driver for not packing ourselves in tightly enough for the stand ‘n’ drip back to the resort.  More than once or twice or five times I overheard fellow guests griping about the lack of timely bus service, questioning what exactly they were getting from their stay at Pop, with one deeply aggravated gentleman saying that were it not for the non-refundable tickets he had bought for an event at the end of the week, he’d pull the plug on his entire Disney vacation, full stop.

Pop Bus

The food court, far from being the accommodating foodie mecca I had envisioned, was an exercise in chaos studies so extreme, Dr. Ian Malcolm would have thrown up his hands and stalked out in frustration (little non-Disney, Jurassic Park humour for you there.)  Forget personalized vegetarian substitutions – the one and only time my husband ordered a vegetarian burger, it still magically showed up layered with drippy back bacon.  One evening I waited in line for 35 minutes for a basic meal of chicken nuggets and waffle fries, only to arrive at the front of the line just in time to be completely and utterly ignored.  I am apparently invisible.  Well, after that, I certainly made us disappear – disappear right off property and straight over to Coronado Springs.  But more on that necessary resort change in a moment.

Coronado Collage

Cleanliness was an issue.  Our first room was cleaned once in five days.  Disney does this thing where they offer you $10 a day if you forego “Mousekeeping.”  We’ve done this before on shorter trips, but this time we weren’t even presented with the offer.  Which we absolutely would have taken had we known that our room wasn’t ever going to get cleaned in the first place.  There were also long, blonde hairs in the shower that clearly didn’t belong to either Mr. Finger Candy or I.

There seemed to be absolutely no soundproofing between the units, particularly those with an adjoining door, like our first room.  One morning we were woken at 2:30 am by the 24-hour party people next door stumbling back to their room after what was presumably a long evening at Disney Springs.  I actually don’t think they were being particularly loud, but normal speaking voices – in addition to every creak, thud and toilet flush – registered as though they were happening right in our unit with us.  Another morning we were woken at 4:45 am by the screaming of a baby the next room over; it continued for the next three hours, while we took time out of our holiday to negotiate a room change.

To their credit, Pop Century quickly accommodated our request for a room without an adjoining door.  Of course, luggage services failed to move our luggage to our new room, necessitating a long walk back to the lobby for my husband in the middle of the night to fetch our possessions, but at least we could now enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, right?  Well, sure, so long as you could ignore the thuds coming from all around you as people lowered their already-creaky Murphy beds, threw the bolts on their doors, flushed their toilets.  In the very still of the night, if you weren’t fortunate enough to have jet engine-rated ear plugs screwed into your noggin, you could hear every ding of the elevator and every snick of the bathroom pocket doors sliding shut.  And speaking of the bathroom, you could also hear your neighbours tending to their nature needs, clear as a bell.

On the subject of the neighbours, I encountered precious few of the small families or fun-lovin’ Disney couples I had anticipated.  Instead Pop was inundated with gigantic school groups, frazzled runners in attendance for the Run Disney marathon, and large, nasty families who could seemingly only communicate in lobbed insults (in fairness, I’d be twitchy, too, if I had two adults and three kids in one of those tiny little rooms.  Oh no, wait, I DID have that one morning, thanks to the shoddy construction materials in use at this resort.)  Far from the goofy, easy-going vibe I had been expecting, the entire resort seemed steeped in a frantic, stressed-out mania that made every interaction feel like a competition for precious few resources.

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Perhaps most galling of all was that this harried, Lord of the Flies-esque vibe extended to the cast members at Pop Century, particularly those in the perpetually-slammed food court, who always let you know, if you needed assistance or, you know, food, that they had other, better things to do.  At 1 am the morning we finally decided to jump ship, my request to general Disney Services that we be moved to a new resort was punted down to Pop Century’s front desk.  I’ve no idea why the resort from which we were trying to flee would help us find new accommodations, and indeed, they couldn’t; supposedly there were no more rooms at the Disney inn.  But less than a minute later, after a quick online search, I had secured a room at Coronado Springs for the final four days of our trip.  Care to offer me a job, Pop Century?  Because supposedly I can work bookings MAGIC over here (actually, no, I do not want to work at Pop Century; I’m not very good at providing front line cover for back-of-the-house incompetence.)

Pop Lobby

Following the no-dinner debacle, I groused all the way back to our room – oh, how I wished we could move resorts!  “So why don’t we?” asked my imminently wise husband, reminding me in a flash that we were adults with the desire and – probably most importantly – the means to improve our vacation experience.  Was being forced out of our resort and into a more expensive upgrade how we wanted to spend our hard-earned money?  Of course not.  But any savings that we were realizing as a result of the value-priced room rate were completely undone by Pop’s many and varied negatives.  Ultimately, the situation at Pop Century had grown completely unlivable; the resort’s chaotic vibe was beginning to catch, if my griping and general dissatisfaction were any indication, and I didn’t want those bad feelings to infect the rest of our trip.  So we moved on, and enjoyed four great, Roger Rabbit-free days at Coronado Springs.  The only time I looked back was from the shelter of the half-filled bus to Coronado as I peeked at the 200-strong lineup of poor saps queuing up for another sleepless, dinnerless night at Pop Century and thought, “Thank goodness that’s not us.”

Sweet Tracking Tech

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WordPress was kind enough to just remind me that today is this blog’s 5th anniversary!  And here I am, shamefully red-faced and bearing no gift to, uh, myself, because whoops, I completely forgot/had not even remembered in the first place.  I believe this qualifies me for any and all bad blogger awards, does it not?  All the same, happy blogiversary, Finger Candy, you’re a wee trifle of a thing, but you make me so very happy. 🙂

Also making me happy is this bit of Disney wrist candy, a gift from myself to myself during our last trip, which I could certainly repurpose as a blogging gift from myself to myself right now, no?  This is a MagicBand, one of those RFID-enabled doojiggies that you’re tagged with the second you step on Disney property.  Once upon a time, in a Magic Kingdom not so terribly far away, the technology was used primarily to allow guests admittance to the rides.  Today your MagicBand is the next best thing to an actual key to the Kingdom – you can use them to pay for your purchases, bypass the front desk at your resort, open up your hotel room door, and access your dining reservations and FastPass selections.  They also have a range of over 40 feet, and occasionally do crazy things like allow you and your husband to completely sweep the goodbye boards on It’s a Small World despite never tapping your MagicBand at the front of the ride.  If you’re a believer in the Deep Disney Surveillance State, a MagicBand is probably your greatest nightmare.

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If you stay on Walt Disney World property at one of their resorts, as we do, you will automatically be given new, basic model MagicBands at the start of your trip; you can even customize them with a bit of engraving on the back.  Or, if you have a specially purchased MagicBand, like, say, this adorable Disney treats one I picked up at Hollywood Studios when we were there at the end of August, you can use that – the (Disney) World is your trackable oyster!

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And because this is me, and because it’s only fitting on my blog’s quinquennial anniversary, here’s some inspired-by, matching nail art.  And here’s to tracking five more perfectly sweet blogging years. 🙂

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Passholder Pride!

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So here’s that thing I was so very proud of that I wanted to show you, but first needed a something to show, but the something got caught up in transit, and so I had nothing to show.  Thing thing thing, show show show!

*Ahem* So the thing I was so very proud of – the physical proof of which was indeed caught in a sort of transit – is that thanks to our year-long diligence in cutting back, watching our spending and enjoying that which we already have, we were able to become Disney World annual passholders!  That’s kind of big deal, right, it’s not just my imagination? 🙂  But for what we have planned for the next 365 days, it made the most financial sense, and that’s on a cost-of-tickets basis alone; the extra little perks like money off dining, merchandise, entertainment and accommodations and special, passholder-exclusive offers are just that – extra little perks (and already well-used, thanks to our Labour Day long weekend trip!)

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Anyhow, it’s been a donkey’s age since I’ve done any nail art, and so I thought I’d do a manicure celebrating this awesome – and awesomely fun – financial milestone.  I am so, so proud of us for making this happen, as silly as it may seem.  Which I bet to many of you is very silly.  And I’m cool with that; the Peter Pan approach to life is not for everyone.  But consider that Mr. Finger Candy and I have decided to just get out there and fully immerse ourselves in the Deep Disney State – anything we can do to save money while we’re out being dorky dreamers is going to be a help.

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TL;DR: While year-long passes to four of the world’s most popular theme parks may seem like a gigantic financial leap, it’s a chasm we easily crossed thanks to our very best efforts in reining in our spending and dedicating everything extra to this one financial goal.  I love that we worked toward a goal and met it.  Gotta say, it feels pretty darn great!  Just like these nails – I’ve missed doing nail art, must really aspire to feature more of it here on this, uh, nail art blog. 😉

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It’s a Fiesta at Coronado Springs!

Coronado Collage

We just returned home from an awesome long weekend trip to Disney World, during which we stayed on property at the Coronado Springs Resort – quite fitting, given that it was hotter in Orlando, Florida last weekend than I think it ever was in the actual Mayan Riviera!  Floridian friends, I know you have acclimated to a lifetime of heat, sun and humidity in the same way that I have acclimated to a lifetime of cold, snow and freezing rain, but I DO NOT know how you do it.  Mr. Finger Candy and I just wilted like a couple of pansies – and by that I really do mean the flowers; a near constant intake of water is all that kept us upright!

Coronado Springs’ reputation has – unfairly, I’d say – been somewhat tarnished on account of the great deal of construction being undertaken on the property at the moment.  There’s a large, multi-unit tower being built on the west side of the property, as well as a vast amount of landscaping work.  Given that razed flower beds and 15 stories’ worth of exposed rebar are the very first sights that greet you upon arriving at the resort, I can understand some of the dissatisfaction with the state of the place.

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But with the construction mostly confined to the front-most edge of the property, and only during reasonable daylight hours (during which we were never there), I didn’t find the ongoing renovations to the resort to be that obtrusive.  Besides, you don’t stay in the lobby of a hotel, a fun little accommodations fallacy Disney has disproved time and time again – it’s the rare hotelier that has rooms just as nicely appointed as its lobby.  Though if you were looking to bunk down in a public lobby, you could do worse than Coronado Springs’.  Please note the not-so hidden Mickey projected on the back wall of the reception area. 🙂

Lobby Collage

The property itself was gorgeous, laid out very much like another favourite moderate resort, the Port Orleans Riverside, and also like the Riverside, it was very, very quiet.  On our walk to the main Dig Site pool one evening, we had a mile-long stretch of meandering, lantern-lit path all to ourselves, with not another soul in sight.

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Of course, that’s because everybody else was at the Dig Site, an incredible resort pool (one of the best ones across the entirety of the Walt Disney World Resort) that we visited one evening.  The big Mayan pyramid is the Dig Site’s main showpiece, but there’s also a sweet little waterslide off to one side, a spa, a playground, lots of lounge chairs, Siesta’s, one of three on-property pool bars, and, present company excluded, many, many hard bodies.  I guess if you’ve got it, flaunt it, right?

Pool Collage

Not one of those hard bodies. 😉  Or sorry, did you say HOT bodies?  Because he definitely was one of those!  Did you know the tops of your kneecaps can sweat?  Well, now you do!  However, in Florida’s defence, Mr. Finger Candy is sitting by the pool in a long-sleeved sun shirt, cotton work shirt, full pants and leather high top sneakers, and I spent three days bombing around in all black, so really, who are the dummies now?!

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Of our actual room, I completely spaced and took virtually no photos – a true shame, as we were given one of the newly refurbished rooms, and it was lovely – spic and span, up to date and very, very comfy, a wonderful place to call home for three nights.  Show of hands if you also like sprawling out in front of Resort TV at the end of a long park day!

Room Collage

I did, however, take the time to film a quick room tour for our YouTube channel when we first arrived, and you can find that video below.

For all the talk of the disruption the construction has caused, I found it to be just that – all talk.  I suppose if your Disney experience is hanging out at your resort all day long, you would find Coronado Springs justifiably lacking – not sure how happy I’d be having my relaxing pool day scored by a symphony of jittering jackhammers and reversing backhoes.  But if you’re park-bound for most, if not all, of the day, then Coronado Springs – particularly with its slightly discounted, “Pardon our pixie dust” prices – is just the resort you’re looking for.  And not for nothing, but all of the usuals are present and accounted for here – a great restaurant in the Maya Grill, a fulsome food court, a cute gift shop in Panchito’s, and a great breakfast joint in Rix, the sports bar-turned-restaurant where we enjoyed an amazing end-of-vacation feast of Huevos Divorciados (that’s Spanish for heaps of Mexican breakfast yumminess on a bed of cheese quesadillas.)

Restaurants Collage

Coronado Springs is also home to a rather splishy convention center.  We whiled away an hour or so there as we waited for the Magic Express to not-so-magically return us to the Orlando International Airport and 10 solid hours of travel.  Holy cats, what a gorgeous facility!  The carpet was utterly mesmerizing, as was the fact that that salon I’m dancing in?  Is Salon L.  Which suggests there are Salons A through K, which are presumably just as large and grand as L.  And there are more salons beyond L!  The place goes on FOREVER.  I couldn’t stop contemplating the incredible (and incredibly large) wedding you could throw in one of those ballrooms.  And then I danced around a bit more. 😉

Convention Collage

The only nit I have to pick about our stay at Coronado Springs – indeed, it was THE nit to pick with regards to virtually all of our Disney interactions – was that during check-in we were really held at the mercy of some seriously misbehaving tech.  It’s no fun feeling like you’re missing out on the fun because you’ve been stuck in a line-up merely trying to reach the fun for 40 straight minutes.  Regrettably, this bad tech juju followed us straight to the parks, where our annual passes were failing to register (did I mention we became annual passholders?!), as were our PhotoPass privileges.  To paraphrase my new friend Peter Pan, I’m not that good at math, but even I know there’s nothing that screams vacation fun quite like account management and administration. 😉

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All in all, though, we loved staying at Coronado Springs, and I think we’d go back regardless of whether the construction had ceased or not – given how we vacation, it barely impacted our stay at all, and our experience was a great one overall.  Happiness is an awesome stay at a Disney resort.  Looking forward to our next one.

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