Friday, November 16, 2012

We're Going Back: Part One!

Click.  With a push of my finger on the mouse, it was official!  In ten months, we would be going to Walt Disney World!!  Again!!

It had barely been four weeks since we had trudged through the lobby of the Contemporary Resort for the last time, my son sobbing over our impending departure from the happiest place on earth.  Taking pity on my devastated child, one of the Contemporary's Cast Members ran over, gave Jack a hug, and said, "Oh, honey.  You drank the Kool-Aid for sure!!."  Then, with a wink and a smile, she whispered in my ear, "Don't worry.  You'll be back soon."  And she was absolutely right, although I didn't know it then!

We're going to Disney World--again!!
When I began planning our first Disney trip, I was operating under the naive assumption that this vacation would be a "once-in-a-childhood" experience for the McCutcheon household.  Approximately two days into our amazing trip, however, I abandoned this assumption entirely.  The touring plans had been incredibly successful.  They'd alleviated tons of stress, allowing us to experience more attractions and spend less time waiting in line.  Moreover, because we spent very little time in line, we had much more time to relax and explore the plethora of magical details that make Disney vacation destinations so unique.  We'd truly gotten the most out of our vacation, and I knew that I wanted to help other people get the most out of their Disney vacations, too.  I realized that I'd found my passion in the field of travel.  I also knew, however, that if I wanted to seriously pursue this passion as a career, I would need some formal training, so I enrolled in travel school.  Of course, I'd also convinced myself that nothing could compare to hands-on experience, which led me to an obvious conclusion: for the sake of my budding business, we needed to go back.  And this time, Grandma was coming along, too!

It was an easy decision to bring my mother with us on our second trip.  Although she is a lifelong Disney fan, my mom never had the opportunity to visit Disney World.  My parents had always wanted to take my brother and me when we were little, but it just wasn't financially feasible for them.  I knew that spending a vacation at Disney World with her grandchildren would truly be a dream-come-true for my mom.

Confident that I would finally get the wild reaction I'd hoped for the first time (see "The First Taste: Our Inaugural Trip to Disney World, The Big Announcement" on October 1st), I couldn't wait to break the news to Jack and Sadie.  This time, I was definitely not disappointed.  Jack and Sadie screamed and jumped and fell on the floor...everything I'd ever dreamed of.  To be fair, however, I'm still not sure who was more excited (my mom or the kids) when we officially invited Grandma to come with us.  After the hysterics ended, it was time to tackle a few basic decisions, the most pressing of which was lodging.  Specifically, we needed to determine whether we were going to stay at an onsite or on offsite hotel this time.

The Wilderness Lodge, one of Disney's 26 onsite properties
Tip Time: My Disney clients often ask me for hotel advice, usually wondering about the difference between onsite and offsite properties.  Impeccably clean and beautifully themed, Disney World offers lodging options at multiple price points to fit every budget.  Furthermore, with 26 properties (including 17 resorts, eight villas, and one campground), everyone is sure to find a Disney resort that caters to his or her own style.  In addition, all Disney resort guests qualify for exclusive perks such as Extra Magic Hours (during which a select park opens early or stays open late on certain days).  Finally, Disney provides free and dependable transportation from its resort hotels to its theme parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney area (but if you do choose to rent a car, parking fees are waived for resort guests).  While offsite hotels may sometimes offer attractive deals, shuttle service from many of these properties is less dependable (and sometimes nonexistent), frequently making it necessary to rent a car.  When car rental and parking fees are factored in, oftentimes the savings of staying offsite is negligible.  While there are exceptional circumstances (large groups or guests who intend to visit other Orlando-area attractions) under which staying offsite might be beneficial, I would almost always recommend booking an onsite hotel when visiting Walt Disney World.

After careful research, we decided that staying onsite was the best choice for our family.  The obvious next question was which hotel should we choose?  Because this was my mom's first trip to Disney World, I wanted to make it as special and memorable as possible.  I knew that one way to do this would be to stay at one of Disney's Deluxe Resorts, and I had a specific one in mind.

Stormalong Bay at Disney's Yacht and Beach Clubs
On the last day of our first vacation, we visited Disney's Beach Club Resort for a character breakfast at one of its restaurants, the Cape May Cafe (see "Until Our Next Glass" on November 9th).  We immediately fell in love with the resort's light and airy feel, its beachy theme, and Stormalong Bay (the gigantic pool complex share by the Beach Club and the adjacent Yacht Club).  The Beach Club's close proximity to the culturally-inspired fare at the numerous restaurants of Epcot's World Showcase was also a bonus, especially for "date night" when my mom would be enjoying special time with her grandchildren.

The only question remaining for now was when should we go?  Although I'm a strong believer that people should vacation when they can and that pulling young children out of school for a family vacation is by no means the end of the world, I couldn't quite justify allowing the kids to miss another week of school for another Disney vacation in the same year.  On the other hand, the thought of battling the intense summer crowds made me cringe.  So I was faced with a dilemma.  Should we wait until the following school year (when the crowds and rates would be lower) or should we put my touring plans (and our wallets) to the ultimate test by visiting Disney World during the high summer season?  After some more research, I came up with a viable solution, one that I was sure would please everybody...

Next Up: "We're Going Back: Part Two", including tips on the best times of year to visit Disney World

Note To My Readership: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, "Drinking the Kool:Aid" is taking a one-week break and will return on Friday, November 30th.  Have a magical and safe Thanksgiving!

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