Monday, May 31, 2010

Pins: Use Them or Lose Them


Before the Vinylmation craze, there was a different collectible.  This one was loved by many and still is:  pins.  I have some of my own pins, and I think it would be hard to find a Disney fan who doesn't have at least one or two.  Pins can be an awesome collector's item, but you have to get past the three main road blocks that caused me to stop collecting pins.

First of all, they can get very expensive.  I collected them for a while, but the price is one of the reasons I stopped.  The pins are relatively cheap on their own, but they start to add up very quickly.  On the Disney Store website, I see that pins are currently going for roughly $9.95 and up.  Even if you only bought ten, you'd have spent over $100 once you factor in tax.  And this is assuming that you only buy the cheapest of the pins.  If you have the money to spend, however, why not go for it?

My second road block is transporting the pins.  Counting right now, I have 17 pins.  Not bad considering I didn't collect them for very long.  This is where you run into a problem, however.  How are you going to carry them around?  Many people choose to wear lanyards with their pins, but that can get tiresome.  Plus it's really annoying when it's hot.  You can leave some at home, but what if you realize later that you wanted to trade that one?  Your chance is gone.  If you don't mind carrying the pins or leaving a bunch behind, this won't affect you, but it is something to take into consideration.

Finally, there's the whole trading aspect in general.  Unlike the Vinylmation figures, which you buy in a blind box, so you're likely to trade it, I found myself not wanting to trade pins often.  I would buy the pins that I liked the most, and usually there wasn't another pin that I would want to trade it for.  Sure you can always buy a pin you don't like and hope that you'll get a good trade, but why buy the pin you don't like in the first place?  Then if you don't find a good trade, you're stuck with that pin.  A solution to this would be buying pins in bulk for a low price from somewhere like eBay.  However, this creates more problems because you have to trust that the seller is selling official Disney pins.  If they're not official, you can't trade them.  And you're out that money.

These are the three problems that I had with pin collecting, but I do realize that these issues don't affect everyone.  Overall, I prefer the pin collecting phenomenon over the Vinylmation one, and I think they're a great thing for some people to collect.  I'm just not one of those people.   To a very small extent, however, I even continue collecting a bit, occasionally buying a pin or two that I like.  Always remember, however, if you're like me and suddenly stop collecting, you may have a bunch of pins in your house with nowhere to go.  So, like I said in the title, use them or lose them.

What do you think?  Do you collect pins?  Are you like me, and you've stopped collecting?  Or do you not collect at all?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Character Meet and Greets: Can You Be Too Old?


Here is a picture of my sister and I (I'm the older one) eating breakfast with Meeko.  I'm around four in this picture, and as you can tell, I'm very happy to be meeting the characters from my favorite movies.  Now that I'm in college, looking back on this picture makes me wonder if there's ever an age where you're too old to hang out with the characters. 

In my opinion, there isn't.  My boyfriend and I are both in college, yet we're going to be eating breakfast with the princesses one morning on our next trip (I may or may not have bribed him - princesses aren't exactly his thing).  I'm also thinking about checking out Crystal Palace on a future trip because I've heard so many good things about it.  And the people that talk about loving Crystal Palace don't necessarily have kids.  Adults are definitely welcome at character meals, and many choose to enjoy them even if they're not with children.

So what about your regular meet and greets?  Is it weird for a couple, a group of friends, or even an adult going solo to wait on line to meet a character?  I hope it's not because if I see a character I love, I'm going up for a picture.  I don't think that just because someone is an "adult," they shouldn't be allowed to be a kid at heart.  It's Disney... everyone should be a kid.

So I'm going to look forward to my princess breakfast.  I'm going to buy my autograph book.  And if I see a character I love, I'm not going to hesitate to act like I'm four years old meeting Meeko for the first time (okay, not EXACTLY like I'm four, but you know what I mean).  Plus autographs are a cool, cheap thing to collect (just buy the autograph book and a pen, and you're good), and I think I might try to get a bunch.  They even make awesome souvenirs.

Now I want to know what you think.  Does meeting the characters have an age limit?  Is it weird for adults to go to character meals or wait on line at meet and greets if they don't have kids?  Or should everyone be a kid at heart and meet the heck out of those characters?  Tell me your opinion in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Least Favorite Rides: Why, Disney... Why?

Last Wednesday, I wrote a post about my favorite ride in each of the main four parks in Walt Disney World.  This Wednesday, I'm going to follow that up with my least favorite ride in each park.  In order for this to be fair, I will only include attractions that I have actually been on (so I can't judge something like Dinosaur, even though I'm sure it's ridiculously terrifying).  Here goes nothing... again!

Epcot: I started with Epcot in last week's post, so I'll start with it again.  I love almost everything in Epcot, so I'm going to have to go with an attraction that has recently left (hopefully for good!)  My least favorite attraction in Epcot was Honey I Shrunk the Audience.  Aside from the fact that it's completely outdated, I'm pretty sure this movie scarred me for life.  Apparently my parents didn't read the "don't bring your adorable, easily frightened small child into this show" sign.  The effects freaked me out as a kid, and I'm still not enthused over them.  Having never seen Captain EO, I'm excited for it.  It's outdated as well, but at least something's replacing Honey I Shrunk the Audience.


Disney's Hollywood Studios: I might be taking the easy way out with these, but Sounds Dangerous is my least favorite attraction here.  It's seasonal, which means it's hopefully on its way out, and for good reason.  It's sort of dated (The Price is Right host?  I mean come on.  You wouldn't put Bob Barker in an attraction, so get Drew Carey out.), and it's completely in the dark.  As much as we all love sitting in the dark listening to Drew Carey getting into shenanigans... oh wait, I don't think people love that.


Disney's Animal Kingdom: Another easy one for me:  It's Tough to Be a Bug.  I don't love bugs.  I don't love A Bug's Life.  I don't want things crawling on me while I'm watching a 3D movie about bugs based on A Bug's Life.  Did my parents really think that a "cute" movie about insects would somehow alleviate me of the apprehension of "4D" movies that I had as a direct result of Honey I Shrunk the Audience?  And Disney, can you stop making things touch me because it freaks me out.  Water's fine, wind is cool, but please nothing that people get exterminators for.  Thanks.


Magic Kingdom: I thought this one would be hard until I remembered the crown jewel of disliked attractions can be found here: Stitch's Great Escape.  Remember what I hated about the other three attractions?  In the dark and things touching you?  Well welcome to my life.  Disney has decided to make an attraction that combines these things.  Plus you're strapped in!  You are not in a mobile vehicle of any kind, but they have decided that your motion needs to be restricted.  And Stitch is going to painfully jump on me.  And burp in my face.  Come on, Stitch.  Learn some manners and stick to 'Ohana breakfast, please.


So there are my least favorite attractions in each park.  I have the feeling that a lot of you are going to agree with me, but I want to hear it from you!  Let me know what your least favorite attractions are in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

All images are from allears.net because they rock and have images of basically everything.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Disneycollegeblog.com!

Hooray!  Thanks to the awesome Jeff Chaney, who let me know about an amazing discount code on Go Daddy, I have bought a domain name!  Now you can find the Disney College Blog at disneycollegeblog.com!  Woot!

Unfortunately, all comments that were written before the switch over to disneycollegeblog.com have mysteriously disappeared on all posts, but Google says that they'll be back, hopefully within 24 hours.  So don't freak out if your past comments are gone.  Plus, I tested it, and any comments made after the switch will appear immediately.

So yay, but sorry about the inconvenience of the comment thing.  Hopefully that'll sort itself out soon!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Vinylmation: I Just Don't Get It

Image from Sam Howzit's Flickr photostream

I get the pin thing.  I have some of my own pins from when I was younger.  I get the Dooney and Bourke thing.  The bags are super cute, and I have one of the wristlets.  But there's one Disney merchandise trend that I just don't get: Vinylmation.

Vinylmation is the name for the plastic, Mickey shaped figures painted to look, well, like they're not Mickey.  They are all the craze in the Disney parks, and apparently they're sold on Disney cruises as well.  There are 3-inch figures that cost $9.95, and there are 9-inch figures that cost $39.95.  This isn't too expensive for Disney merchandise, but there are two things that really throw me off about Vinylmation.

The first is the fact that they're all shaped like Mickey.  A few are them are cool, but most of them just weird me out.  Mickey is supposed to have eyes!  And they shouldn't be on his ears!  And he shouldn't look like a different animal completely.  I realize that the Mickey shape is what makes them Disney-fied, but I think it's kind of weird

Additionally, another thing that throws me off about Vinylmation is the fact that the 3-inch figures come in a "blind box."  This means that you don't know what figure you'll get until you open it.  If I'm spending roughly ten bucks on something, I want to know it's something that I want.  I don't want to spend $100 until I finally get the figure I want.  Since there are very few that I like, I don't want to be stuck with one of the weird figures that I'm not crazy about.  It's too much of a gamble for me.

The final question is, will I buy any Vinylmation figures on my upcoming August trip to Walt Disney World?  I have to say that the answer is yeah, probably.  I feel like it's something that I have to buy just for the sake of buying it, and the 3-inch ones are relatively inexpensive if you don't care which figure you get.  If I do buy one, I can say I've done it, and move on.  I just hope I don't suddenly get addicted and feel the need to collect them all.  Hopefully this is unlikely.

So what do you think about Vinylmation?  Love it?  Hate it?  Haven't got a chance to try it yet?  Avoiding it because you know you'll end up spending all your money trying to get the figures you want?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or a Facebook comment!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Follow Friday: Walt Disney World: It's Not Just for Kids

Image from Walt Disney World: It's Not Just for Kids

As college students who love Disney, we all agree with the main sentiment of today's Follow Friday recommendation:  Walt Disney World is not just for kids.  And that's the main idea of the blog that I'd like to showcase today.

Walt Disney World: It's Not Just for Kids is a blog run by the lovely Hedy that showcases the many reasons why adults can love Walt Disney World.  The subtitle of the blog is "Come explore the love adults have for the mouse," and that is what Hedy does with each blog entry.  She discusses news as well as opinion pieces, and every week she tells her "Friday Favorites" and does "Wordless Wednesdays."  Her posts are generally on the short side (well, compared to mine), and they're always fun to read!

According to my Google Reader, there are 8.2 posts per week on WDW: It's Not Just for Kids, so there's at least one post every day.  And I always look forward to reading them!  If you'd like to check out her blog, go to wdwnotjustforkids.com.  You can also follow Hedy on Twitter at @wdwnotjustkids.  I hope you take a look!

So what do you think?  Do you read/subscribe to Walt Disney World: It's Not Just for Kids?  Are you going to start?  Let me know in comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or a Facebook comment!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Favorite Rides: Harder than It Looks

So today I tweeted a call for help ("I have no idea what to blog about. =(") at 1 am fully expecting no one even be awake, let alone help me out.  But one of my lovely tweeps, @mfeige, came through in the clutch with a fabulous list of blog ideas.  Thank you!

One of these ideas was to tell about my favorite rides, but this proved harder than I had expected.  For some parks it was easy, but for others I wasn't really sure.  So I decided I'd talk about my favorite rides from easiest-to-determine to hardest, and maybe give a runner-up or two (or four) along the way.  Here goes nothing!

Epcot: Right away, I knew my favorite ride at Epcot:  Soarin'.  Believe it or not, I never rode Soarin' until last August.  You see, I was in Walt Disney World in 2005 just a few days before the ride opened, and we heard so many good things about it that we knew we had to come back and see it soon.  On our return trip in '06, our flight got snowed out, and our trip got cancelled.  Then in '07, we went back to Walt Disney World, but only for one day, and without hoppers.  We decided to do Magic Kingdom instead of Epcot and once again lost a chance to ride Soarin'.  So finally, when we returned in August 2009, I got to ride it.  We were right up at the front of the crowd at rope drop, did the group walk to the Land Pavilion, and were on the first ride of the day in the front row.  It was absolutely amazing, more than I ever expected, and being in the front row the first time made it even better.  I genuinely love Soarin'.  Runner-up: Test Track because it's totally a blast even though I've driven faster in my own car.

 

Disney's Hollywood Studios: There was yet another ride that I tried for the first time in August that also quickly became my favorite:  Toy Story Midway Mania.  To me, this ride is like Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin plus technology on steroids.  And I loooove me some Buzz Lightyear, so Toy Story Midway Mania was like the natural progression of this love.  Again, I had no idea what to expect when I got on this ride, and I was extremely pleasantly surprised.  I love that instead of slowly moving through the scenes like you do in Buzz Lightyear, you spin around to the next screen.  I love the 4D effects even though I'm not crazy about the 3D ones.  And I love the competitive nature of the game that makes it even more fun, even if I always lose.  This is yet another ride that I absolutely love.  Good job, Disney.  (By the way, I also have the Toy Story Mania game for Wii.  I may or may not have asked for it for Christmas.)  Runner-up: Muppet Vision 3D because, come on, it's the Muppets.


Disney's Animal Kingdom: It didn't take much thought to determine my favorite ride in this park either; it has to be Kilimanjaro Safari.  This attraction really is the centerpiece of the park to me.  You ride around in your cool little jeep thing, you learn a little bit about poachers, and, of course, you get to see the animals.  I especially love this ride because I get to see my two favorite animals: giraffes and elephants.  And how can you beat that?  Runner-up: Kali River Rapids because it's a little wild but not too scary for a ride wimp like me.


And finally... Magic Kingdom: This one's really, really hard for me.  It might be because there are so many rides, and I really love them all.  It's so hard for me to just pick one, but if I had to, it would probably be the Haunted Mansion.  It was really, really difficult for me to choose this one, but the Haunted Mansion is just special.  I can't remember ever going to Walt Disney World and not going on this ride.  For some reason, I don't remember ever being afraid of it, even as a little kid.  It's such a classic Disney attraction, and I think it's absolutely fantastic.  Plus it always used to (and still always does) crack me up when the ghost rides with you at the end.  Runner-up: Pirates of the Caribbean because it's another amazing, classic Disney attraction that epitomizes Walt Disney World for me.

So that's that.  Those are my favorite rides, per park, in Walt Disney World.  And now I absolutely want to hear from you.  I would love to hear your favorite rides in each park, and if it was hard or easy for you to choose.  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or a Facebook comment.  I can't wait to see if you agree or disagree with me!

(Another shoutout to @Disney_Alli who also gave me some great blog suggestions that you will be seeing in future posts.  Thanks Allison!)

All images in this post are from allears.net, an amazing website with an amazingly large amount of info.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Review: 'Ohana

Image from DisneyWorld.com

Do you like family fun?  Do you like to eat as much as you can and pay one price?  Do you, most importantly, love meat?  Then 'Ohana is the place for you!  'Ohana is a table service restaurant in the Polynesian Resort that serves family style.  The servers bring the various courses to your table, while you sit back, enjoy your family, and watch the kids in the restaurant (and some adults who are kids at heart) play.

When you are called to be seated, your host or hostess walks you around the restaurant and informs your party that everyone in 'Ohana is family, so all of the staff are your cousins.  It's this family feel that gets your dinner off to a great start.  Drink orders are taken, your individual plates are given (the non-skewered courses come large dishes for your whole party), and your first courses, bread and salad, are brought to your table.  The bread was delicious, and I didn't particularly dislike the salad.  If I remember correctly, the dressing was rather sweet, and I'm not a big fan of sweet salad dressings.  But the other members of my party enjoyed it.

Anyway, even if you don't like the salad, there are plenty more courses to come that will fill you right up.  The next things brought to your table are chicken wings, pork dumplings, noodles, and vegetables.  I can't exactly remember the order that these arrived in, but I do remember I liked them all.  I especially liked the noodles because they're lo mein style, and I love lo mein.  I believe I also really enjoyed the dumplings, but don't fill up too much yet!  The best part is up next!

The skewers!  Now it's time for the star of the dinner:  the meat.  The meat is brought out on skewers, and each cast member serving a skewer will come up to the table, explain what they're holding, tell which of the various dipping sauces go with it, and ask who would like some.  Anyone who chooses to have that type of meat will get it put right onto their plate from the skewer.  The meats served are shrimp, pork, steak, and turkey.  I don't really eat shrimp, but I had the other three meats, which were all delicious.  I remember especially liking the steak and turkey.

As if that's not enough, once everyone is done with their bread, salad, vegetables, noodles, dumplings, chicken wings, pork, shrimp, turkey, and steak (and wondering if they'll have to be rolled out of the resort or if the chef will just let them sleep in the restaurant tonight) the grand finale arrives: the (possibly famous?) 'Ohana bread pudding.

Image from DisneyFoodBlog.com

If you're wise, you'll leave room for this delicious dessert.  I can say nothing about it except that it is a fantastic end to a wonderful, extremely filling dinner.  You will definitely leave the restaurant feeling satisfied, though I must warn you that you may end up scrapping your plans to watch the Electrical Water Pageant so you can go back to your resort and lay down for a while (or maybe that was just us).

Overall, if you believe that all the food I just listed is worth a price of $30.99 per person ($14.99 for children), then definitely check out 'Ohana.  All of the food I tried was very good, and this is a great value if you're a big eater.  And if you come for breakfast, you'll be joined by Lilo and Stitch!  Now how can you beat that?

So what do you think?  Love 'Ohana?  Hate it?  Do you prefer breakfast or dinner?  I'd like to hear your thoughts in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or a Facebook comment! 

Friday, May 14, 2010

#confessfriday: I'm a Ride Wimp

Image from DisneyWorld.com

I have another confession to make to all of my lovely readers this week for #confessfriday.  I am a ride wimp.  A serious, serious ride wimp.  There are children that can't read yet that are braver than I am.  There are less than ten rides with height restrictions that I will willingly get on.  And for the most part, I'm okay with it.  I don't mind that I've never ridden Expedition Everest, and I doubt I'll ever regret that I've never been on Space Mountain.  The one problem I do have, however, is Splash. 

Believe it or not, I've been to Walt Disney World roughly around 8 times, and I've never ridden Splash Mountain.  When I go with my family, my sister always rides it with my dad while my mom and I take a spin on the railroad or hang out and get splashed by the water cannons.  And then my friend lent me the Four Parks - One World CD.  And I put it on my iTunes.  And I could not stop listening to the Splash Mountain music.  It's just so catchy!  I can basically sing it word-for-word having never ridden it.  But now I reeeally want to ride it.

Part of me says that Splash Mountain is no big deal.  I mean, someone dragged me on Escape from Pompeii in Busch Gardens, and I actually really liked it!  I rode it quite a few times, and I believe that the drop on that ride is the same length, if not longer, than Splash Mountain.  But part of me can't help but be nervous (the same part that gets a little nervous when I ride Test Track even though I've driven faster in my car).  My current theory is to get a Fastpass for it because a shorter wait time equals less time for me to chicken out.  Also, I watched a ride-through on YouTube, so I know when the big drop is.  I'm still nervous that I'll chicken out, but I really, really want to ride it this year.  And who knows, maybe if I like it, I'll try out Tower of Terror (hah, yeah right).

So I'm curious... are there any ride wimps out there reading this?  Have you ever been determined to ride something that you were afraid of, like I am?  What did you do to ease your nerves?  Do you have any advice for a person like me?  Or are you a ride daredevil that laughs in the face of danger?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or a Facebook post!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Disney's Magical Express: A College Student's Best Friend

Image from allears.net

People in college who are planning trips to Walt Disney World often come across a road block quite early:  you must be at least 25 years old to rent a rental car.  Luckily, Disney's on our side with this one; they've created Disney's Magical Express.

For those of you who don't know about it, Disney's Magical Express (DME) is a service that transports you from Orlando International Airport to your resort on Walt Disney World property... for FREE!  I know, right?  I've used DME once before, and I plan on using it on my upcoming trip in August.  It is really a godsend for us college students, but there are some things you should know about using it.

First, you must book DME; Disney won't just know that you want a ride, and you can't just show up.  The booking process is easy but important.  You have to let Disney know that you want to use this service.  However, you do not have to use DME both ways.  If for any reason you just want a ride from the airport to your resort or vice versa, that's perfectly okay.  Just book DME one way.  Also know that this service is only available from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to a resort on WDW property and vice versa.  You can't get DME from/to any other airport or from/to any non-Disney hotel.

Conveniently, Disney will take your bags to your room for you, and you won't have to see them from when you check them in at your home airport until they arrive at your room.  BUT it is important to note that they only do this on flights between 5:00 am and 10:00 pm.  If you have a very late or very early flight, you can still take DME, but you will have to get your own luggage from baggage claim before you board the bus.  Also keep in mind that if DME does take your bags for you, it may be several hours until they arrive at your room, so plan accordingly.

Finally, on the way home, some airlines allow you to check in to your flight at the resort.  You will receive your boarding pass, and your bags will be checked for you.  Check with Disney if your airline participates in this service as the list is everchanging.  Also keep in mind that, no matter what, DME will pick you up from your resort approximately 3 hours before your flight (you'll find out the exact time towards the end of your stay, and it may be earlier for international flights).  This may sound inconvenient, but it's really for your benefit.  Also know that you must get on your assigned bus on the trip back to the airport, as there is a specific list of people.  You cannot try to get on a later bus because they might not have room for you.

Overall, I really like DME.  To me, it's like my vacation starts as soon as I step on the bus.  On the drive over to Walt Disney World, they play a video highlighting different parts of the resort, and it really gets you in the Disney mood.  The only downfall is that it may take a long time to get to your resort as multiple different ones may share the same bus.  I don't mind it too much, though, because it's kind of cool to see the outsides of different resorts.  Also, I don't have much of a choice, seeing as I can't rent a car.  And Disney's Magical Express is way better (and free-er!) than taking a taxi.

And now, like usual, I'd like to hear from you!  Do you take DME?  Do you rent a car?  Are you like me and have no choice?  How do you feel about this free service?  Let me know in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on the Disney College Blog fan page!

This post is part of the fourth DisMarks.com Disney Blog Carnival. Click the link to see more great  Disney articles!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Free Dining: Friend or Foe?

Image from igougo.com

Early in the spring, my mom said something that every college student wants to hear: "I have these extra park hoppers, do you want to use them?  I'll pay for your resort."  Angels sang until she ended the thought with "...if the free dining offer comes out again."  And so I waited.  And waited.  And waited and waited and waited until I nearly lost hope.  I researched restaurants.  I checked the Touring Plans crowd calendar.  I made ADRs (advance dining reservations) online just in case.  And then the wondrous announcement came out:  Disney was offering the dining plan free from August 15 to October 2.  And so we booked it.

The reason that my mom was so keen on the dining plan was that we used it last summer, and we really liked it.  Even though we have a timeshare roughly 10 minutes away from Walt Disney World, we booked an All Star Music family suite figuring we'd save tons of money feeding a party of five.  And we did.  We ate at five table service restaurants and five quick service restaurants, not even including our snack credits.  We never went hungry for a moment, and we got to eat at places we probably wouldn't have visited if we weren't on the dining plan.  In short, we loved it.

So when my mom saw the opportunity for my boyfriend and I to go to the World, with one major expense free, she jumped on it.  We're booked to stay at the All Star Music, and we upgraded to the regular dining plan from the quick service that is now coming with the value resorts.  But I understand that the free dining plan is not for everyone.

For my family, and even for just my boyfriend and I, the dining plan is definitely worth it.  Since we plan on staying at a value, the room only discount doesn't match the amount we'd likely spend on food each day.  Additionally, once I became really interested in the Disney community, there was no way I couldn't try to get ADRs at Le Cellier or Jiko (which I did get, by the way).  And it would be so hard for two college students can pay for something like Jiko out of pocket.

On the other hand, if you plan on staying at a moderate or deluxe, or if you don't eat much, the room only discount may work out to be cheaper than the free dining plan.  It really comes down to crunching the numbers.  Also, depending on how late you book, it could be hard to work out the dining plan if you don't already have ADRs.  Like I mentioned earlier, I made ADRs far in advance of the free dining offer being released.  And I STILL had to settle for a lunch reservation at Le Cellier (okay, okay, I'm extremely grateful that I got a reservation at all).  If you don't have the ADRs made, the dining plan might not be worth it for you.  Also, if you are staying on DVC points, you aren't eligible for the free dining plan in the first place.

There's also the factor of the quick service vs. the "plus dining" plans if you plan on staying at a value resort.  The current offer dictates that those staying in value resorts get the quick service plan (2 quick service credits, 2 snack credits, and a refillable drink mug) for free, while the moderates and deluxes get the plus dining plan (1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and 1 snack credit).  It is $10 per person per day to upgrade from the quick service to the plus dining.  In our case, we upgraded because of the aforementioned reasons, but for many people, the quick service plan makes more sense.  For example, some people don't like the idea of making dining reservations so far in advance.  Unfortunately, without ADRs it's very unlikely to get table service restaurants during free dining season.  So if you don't plan on making ADRs, the quick service plan would probably be a better choice.  Staying with the quick service plan is also a good way to save money.

Overall, there are many different factors you have to consider when deciding to go for the free dining plan or a room only discount.  These are just a few.  So now I'd like to hear from you.  Why do you choose to get the free dining plan?  Why do you choose not to?  Has a past experience with free dining changed your mind about the whole thing?  How do you feel about the value resorts only getting the quick service plan for free?  Let me know in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on the Facebook fan page.  I'm interested to know how others feel about this offer.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Follow Friday: The Disney Driven Life

Image from thedisneydrivenlife.com

Are you a really big Disney fan?  Do you try to add all things Disney into your every day life?  Then you're likely a neurotic Disney person (NDP), and there's a place for you:  The Disney Driven Life.

The Disney Driven Life is a website where all Disney driven people can come together and discuss this "neurosis."  Of course, in this community, being a neurotic Disney fan isn't a bad thing.  There is a blog on this website, and my Google reader says that it is updated 6.3 times per week.  It's updated with pictures of hidden Mickeys, anecdotes from NDM (neurotic Disney mom) #1, and various posts from other members of the Disney Driven Life.  Overall, it's a fun, interesting blog that discusses lots of different Disney aspects.  I really enjoy reading the blog posts.

If this interests you, you can be counted as a neurotic Disney person by going here and sending an email to NDM #30.  I am NDI (neurotic Disney individual) #76, and it's an awesome community to be a part of.  If you're not interested in being counted, but you'd like to read the blog or view the website, you can find it at thedisneydrivenlife.com.  But if you're reading this, it's likely that you're a NDP.

Are you leading a Disney driven life?  Are you counted as an NDP?  Never heard of the Disney Driven Life before this blog post?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet, or a Facebook post!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review: San Angel Inn

Image from DisneyWorld.com

Hands down, one of the restaurants with the coolest atmospheres I've ever been in is San Angel Inn in Epcot.  This is the table service restaurant in the Mexico pavilion of the World Showcase, and it's awesome.  The restaurant is housed inside a big pyramid, so you definitely can't miss it.  Once you step inside the pyramid, walk towards the back.  There you'll find San Angel Inn.

The inside of the pyramid is amazing; it's like you go from a hot, humid day in Orlando to a cool, dark night in Mexico, and you can see another pyramid and volcanoes in the distance, all giving the effect that you're not really indoors.  Unfortunately, as much as the darkness makes for an awesome, romantic atmosphere, it's not so great when you're trying to read the menu.  Although I didn't really have too much of a problem seeing, those hard of vision may need a little extra light to see what's going on.  

 Speaking of the menu, although all the items are technically in Spanish, there are English descriptions right underneath.  But this isn't the food from your neighborhood Taco Bell.  My sister, for example, was surprised that they didn't seem to have the types of Mexican foods that she recognized.  She was expecting enchiladas and burritos, and she didn't realize that the menu items at San Angel Inn are rather different.  It is true, authentic Mexican food (or at least that's what they had me believing... I probably wouldn't know if it wasn't).

As for what we ordered, a few of the members of my party, including myself, chose to have a steak, but oddly enough, we all had very different meals.  Some of our steaks were tough, and I know that mine seemed overcooked even though I ordered it medium.  However, some of the others in my party had delicious steaks that were cooked perfectly and were extremely tender.  It was odd that though we all ordered the same thing, we had such different experiences.  As a result of my steak in particular, I would say that the food was mediocre at best, but if I had been given the steak of another person in my party, I probably would have said that it was incredibly delicious.  I'm going to give Disney the benefit of the doubt here and say that they were having a bad day, but I probably won't be visiting San Angel Inn for a while.  Though this is at least partially because there are many other restaurants in the World Showcase that I haven't visited yet.

Overall, I would say that if you're looking for a great experience, you should try San Angel Inn.  I mean, if you're lucky (as we happened to get), you can get a table overlooking the water below, and you can watch as boats on the Gran Fiesta Tour float by.  That's fun in itself.  Of course, if you don't feel like having a sit down meal, there will always the renovated Cantina de San Angel across the street (once it reopens, that is).  If you'd like to see the menus for San Angel Inn, you can find the lunch menu, dinner menu, vegetarian menu, and kids menu all on allears.net.

So now, as always, I'd like to hear from you!  Did you have an unfortunate experience at San Angel Inn like I did?  Or was your food fantastic, and I must have visited on an off day?  Or do you just prefer to get counter service across the street?  Or none of the above?  Leave a comment, send me a tweet (@discollegeblog), or post on the Facebook page!  I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Backpack or tote?

 Image from verabradley.com

There are lots of things that everyone knows you have to bring to the Disney parks.  You're going to need your tickets, some money, and perhaps a credit card.  You might choose to bring a pair of sunglasses or an autograph book.  Maybe you decided you'd pack some snacks or a water bottle or two.  But then you approach a problem:  what do you put it all in?

Image from leatherdiscountgoods.com

This is my problem.  I know exactly what I plan to bring to the parks; I simply can't decide if I'm going to use a tote bag or a backpack.  On my last trip, I decided to bring a tote bag, but it got heavier and heavier as the day went on.  After a while, my shoulder really started to hurt from wearing the bag for hours and hours, day after day.  I feel like a backpack would be better for my back (and general happiness) because it would split the weight between my two shoulders.

My problem with bringing a backpack is not being able to always keep an eye on it.  I know Walt Disney World is probably one of the safest places in the world, but I'm still not sure I'm comfortable keeping all my valuables on my back.  Also, since I don't plan on bringing a school-type backpack, I'd have to buy one of the cute, small ones like the one pictured above (except I'd wear it on both shoulders).  Not that that having to go shopping is necessarily a bad thing...

So, my lovely readers, I have yet another question for you.  Do you bring a backpack to the parks?  Do you bring a tote bag?  Or a different kind of bag?  Or no bag at all?  I'd really love to hear your opinion, so leave me a comment, send me a tweet (@discollegeblog), or write on the Disney College Blog Facebook page.  I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say!