Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Planning a Disney Honeymoon

Look at the size of that medal!
Ohhh you guys. I just found out that the coronation of Merida as an Official Disney Princess is happening WHILE I AM IN DISNEY WORLD, and the event is by invitation only for Disney Social Media Moms. You can't even imagine. Every fiber of my being is twisted up in jealousy. I must look like Maleficent right now. So, I guess if I am going to aspire to being a Disney Social Media Mom, I need to do some Disney blogging (also: have kids).

Meghan says she probably didn't need all that stuff. Disney says, Yes, yes you did.

Since I don't have kids yet, let's talk about how awesome a Disney vacation can be for grownups. I joke all the time that Disney wants all of your money from birth until death, and they have all kinds of ways to get it out of you. My favorite is RunDisney, which puts on many events throughout the year - you may remember that I did a half marathon at WDW in 2010, and we're doing Expedition Everest Challenge on our Honeymoon. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like a Disney medal. If you go for Endurance Weekend, when they do the Goofy Challenge (and coming in 2014, the Dopey Challenge), you can hear those people coming for miles because those medals are so big and heavy. It's like Corinthian Bells windchimes. One of my top Bucket List items is to get the Coast to Coast Medal, and they are taunting me this year with the new pink princess version of the C2C. Also new this year: Disney sneakers from New Balance, which can only be purchased at race expos at RunDisney events.

Who doesn't love the aquarium at the end of the Nemo ride?
There's a Flower & Garden (& Food) Festival at Epcot in April & May, as well as a Wine & Dine Half Marathon in the fall. There's even an entire website covering Walt Disney World for Grown Ups, detailing the best food, restaurants, and resorts. The best part about a Disney vacation without kids is that you can go at the lowest-traffic times of the year. When I was there in January 2010 with my parents, we did no planning or strategizing at all, and we easily made it through each park in a day without getting up at the crack of dawn or using Extra Magic Hours.

Former CM Brad from his World of Disney days
Let's talk Honeymoon! Disney actually has their own Honeymoon Registry, good for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani in Hawaii, Vero Beach in Florida  and Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. You can have your wedding at any of those places, too, of course, and do it in a Disney wedding gown. I stuck with just the honeymoon. I like staying on Disney property because of the Extra Magic Hours, Magical Express (airport transportation), and transportation between parks & resorts. Since Disney renewed the Armed Forces Salute offer and we got 40% off deluxe resort rates (and $156 4 day Park Hopper tickets), we splurged and booked Animal Kingdom Lodge. Someday we plan to tell our children that we cannot afford any of these things that we are about to do.

Cardinals & Buzz Lightyear - both winners!
When you're an adult able to travel at off-peak times, you can do as much or as little research as you want when it comes to Disney vacation planning. I will say this: if you start planning too far in advance, you'll get burned out. I don't want to look at any more guidebooks or websites right now. You can (and should, if you are going at a high-peak time of year) making reservations 180 days in advance, and my best recommendation would be to start serious planning about 210 days in advance. I used My Disney Experience and a Google Calendar that I shared with Francis to map out our itinerary. I'm still not entirely happy with the new My Disney Experience website. It doesn't allow you to add "celebrations" to reservations like the old system did (more on this later). I found that they very best resources for planning are the r/Disney and r/WaltDisneyWorld subreddits, because those people will link you to the best blogs to answer your questions. I also enjoyed flipping through 2013 Complete Idiot's Guide to Walt Disney Worldwhen I was in neurotic planning mode and will be bringing Birnbaum's Walt Disney World 2013 with me for just-in-case.

As I mentioned, we decided to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge. If you are planning a family vacation, the Value resorts are good, but everyone I've talked to has said that they are best for when you want to spend every possible moment in the parks. I think a honeymoon should have some built in resort time. We have 8 days, which is really more than enough in early May, so I intentionally left some days on the calendar "blank". Animal Kingdom Lodge has two top-rated restaurants - Jiko and Boma - as well as a wine bar and lounge, two pool bars, and a spa and fitness center. It also has it's own savanna with 30 species of animals, and we can (and did) book the Wanyama Safari, which includes dinner at Jiko. Money saving tip: get a standard room, rather than a savanna or arusha view room. There are plenty of places on the property where you can watch the animals.

Tiffany & friends at the Disneyland premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Dining is probably one of the most exciting parts of Disney World for adults. One of the best restaurants in Florida, with a Zagat rating of 29 out of 30 is Victoria & Alberts at the Grand Floridian hotel. We are not including that in our week, but it is most certainly a restaurant for foodies. Check out the Chef's Table menu. We are excited about Be Our Guest, the new French restaurant modeled after Beauty & the Beast, 'Ohana at the Polynesian, and the Hoop De Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness. Another bonus to being a grownup with no kids: You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. I couldn't get a reservation at 'Ohana until 9:30 pm on Sunay. No problem! No kids or bedtimes to worry about on this trip! Another popular activity for grownups: Drinking around the World at Epcot! With 11 countries represented in the World Showcase, you should take your time on this challenge. Be sure to see the O Canada! movie, with Martin Short.

Castaway Cay - Disney's Private Island
A final note on "celebrations" mentioned earlier: Whether it's your birthday, anniversary, or honeymoon, be sure to get a Celebration button when you check in, and mention your special occasion when you make reservations. It's best not to expect any special treatment, but Disney cast members love to surprise people celebrating special events! If it's your honeymoon, I've heard you should wear the bride and groom Mickey & Minnie ears everywhere you go, and I will certainly test this out in the name of science and my blog.

 Thanks to Meghan, Deanna, Brad, Tiffany, & Sara for sharing Disney pics with me! This was really fun and I hope to do it again in the future!

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