Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Pirates League Review

Alas, my beautiful daughter feels she's outgrown the wonderful Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. She still enjoys photo ops with the princesses, however the frills of the dresses are no longer "her style". No fear though, because we found an awesome alternative- The Pirates League at Magic Kingdom. Which is wonderful because my little guy was finally big enough to want to partake in some of the fun extras as well. This suited the both of them perfectly!!

We made our reservations at 180 days, but were able to find some availability to change dates later. When making your reservation, be sure to reserve a spot for each member of your party who will be participating. This is an all ages activity! 

Finally, our trip had come! We signed in approx. 15 minutes prior to our reservation time and only had to wait about 5 minutes or so. It started with the kids getting their official pirate names from the captain's log
A few minutes later we were taken back to the Muster Stations. Each of the kids got their own veteran pirate to give them their makeovers and turn them into the adventurer of their choice
Options include The First Mate and Empress Packages (starting at $34.95 plus tax), Jake and the Never Land Pirates Package (starting at $29.95 plus tax), and The Mermaid Package (starting at $39.95 plus tax) (**Ask about The Mermaid Deluxe Package for $74.95 plus tax**)

My kids chose the First Mate (Captain Hook) and the Empress  Packages.

At the end of the makeover each new recruit is sworn in

Once they were sworn in we were taken to a secret hidden chamber where we found treasure we cannot even begin to speak of... Dead men tell no tales... This is also where a PhotoPass Photographer snapped some great shots. (They're available for purchase, but you can have them scanned to your Magic Band. This is especially great if you've pre-purchased the Memory Maker, as we all know I am a huge proponent of doing, because you'll receive whatever photos they take free for you to download at home!)

I was very fortunate to have received some Disney Magic while we were there. Someone noticed my 30th birthday shirt and asked if I'd be interested in receiving a complimentary Mermaid Makeover. Turns out they have a veteran pirate in training that I suppose they thought could get a few more makeovers under her belt. It didn't matter- the kids thought it would be awesome, and I jumped at the opportunity.
It was a lot of fun, and I certainly wasn't the only adult in the room getting a new look. I noticed this was a very cool family activity for several!! It's definitely something I'd do again, but I would probably opt for the pirate next time (it's more my style).

Though there is a parade, we didn't participate this time. We did, however, stop outside with a PhotoPass photographer for some cool photos.

And later we got this awesome magic shot in front of the castle. I love that our photographer suggested it when he saw my Little Captain Hook.

Oh, and back to the Memory Maker, you can add some pretty cool borders to your photos when you get home before downloading.

All in all, this was an awesome experience. We'll certainly do it again!

For more info, check out my previous post here.

Oh, and the kids' totally awesome pirate shirts and my festive birthday shirt were done by my friend Belinda of Time4MommyCreations. She does excellent custom work for shirts, both in embroidery and vinyl. She also does a multitude of other custom creations. If you can dream it, she can likely do it! Check her out!

This post carries a disclosure Level of 0/1. I paid for my children's makeovers and while there was offered some Disney magic for a free makeover of my own. Disney had no way of knowing I may one day blog about the experience. These opinions are my own and were in no way persuaded by the free service. I definitely recommend trying this out! Please see my disclosure page for more details.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Pirates League at Disney's Magic Kingdom

"Avast! Captain Jack and his crew of scallywags are scouring the high seas in search of treasure—and new recruits! Sail away with The Pirates League, and transform ye self into a living, breathing swashbuckler from the days of olde.

First, be ye christened with yer Official Pirate Name from the leather-bound captain’s log. Then, make yer way o’er to the Muster Station, where the League’s veteran pirates will give you a marauder’s makeover as the adventurer of yer choosing"

Photo Courtesy of Walt Disney World

The First Mate and Empress Packages (starting at $34.95 plus tax):
  • Your choice of facial effect: Cursed Pirate, Captain Hook, Captain Jack, Blackeyed Jack or shimmering makeup*
  • Reversible bandana
  • Earring and eye patch
  • Sword and sheath
  • The Pirate League bag
  • Temporary tattoo
  • Unique pirate coin necklace
  • Personalized pirate oath
  • Official pirate name
  • Participation in a daily Adventureland Pirate Parade
*The Empress Package also includes vibrant makeup, lip gloss, nail polish and face gem.

Jake and the Never Land Pirates Package (starting at $29.95 plus tax):
  • Jake and the Never Land Pirates bandana with faux hair
  • Jake facial effect
  • Sword and sheath
  • The Pirates League bag
  • Unique pirate coin necklace
  • Participation in a daily Adventureland Pirate Parade
**Ask about The Jake and the Never Land Pirates Deluxe Package for $44.95 plus tax**

The Mermaid Package (starting at $39.95 plus tax):
  • Luminous mermaid makeup and makeup palette
  • Mermaid hairstyle and color-changing hair clip
  • Distinctive mermaid necklace
  • Nail polish
  • Mermaid sash
  • Participation in a daily Adventureland Pirate Parade
**Ask about The Mermaid Deluxe Package for $74.95 plus tax**

Know Before You Go

  • Hours are subject to change but are likely 9:00am to 4:pm daily
  • Reservations for The Pirates League can be made up to 180 days in advance and are highly recommended
  • This activity is for children 3 years of age or older. Adults are also welcome!
  • Children must be accompanied by an adult (18 years of age or older) for the entire experience.
  • Please bring your own brush or comb unless you have a hairstyle that doesn’t accommodate one (such as braids)
  • If you're having nail polish applied, arrive with clean, bare nails
  • Please check in 15 minutes before your experience is scheduled to begin. The Pirates League is located between the entrance of Pirates of the Caribbean and Plaza del Sol Bazaar.
  • Tickets for Magic Kingdom are required
To book your Pirate Makeover call (407) WDW-CREW (939-2739) or speak with your travel agent.
Click Here to see my review of our pirate makeovers!

This post carries a disclosure Level of 0. Please see my disclosure page for more details.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Ways to Save for Disney

Thrifty Thursday
Ways to Save for Disney

I've got another Way to Save for ya this week! If you've missed the others so far you can find them all here. Most of you will be familiar with this one, or at least most aspects of it. I do have my own little twist on one way to get these little beauties though...

Use Disney Gift Cards

Gift cards are an excellent way to save for Disney, and you can get them for just about anything!
  • Don't really have any big wants or needs this year for your birthday (Mother's/Father's/Grandparent's Day, Anniversary, Christmas... you get the gist)?? Ask for a Disney gift card!
  • House-sit for someone who wants to give you a little thank you? Mention Disney!
  • Give your children gift cards in place of their allowance or "treats" for special tasks or achievements as the trip gets closer.
  • My work gives out gift cards for certain crowning achievements, does yours or maybe another group you belong to?... If you're comfortable with it, and you know you're due for one, ask them to make yours a Disney GC. (For example, we have a walking program at my work. When a person reaches 2.5 Million steps, according to their pedometers, they get a $50 gift card. As my milestone approaches, I'll ask that mine be a Disney GC!)
  • Enter to win them through all the fabulous blogs you follow. You often see contests and drawings for Disney gift cards in various denominations- take the time to enter!!
  • The list could go on and on!
As for my own little twist on a way to get these gift cards, I suggest getting them with refunds! Not sure what I mean? Well let me tell you... Say you get a cash refund at the Disney Store, or a place like Walmart, Kohl's, Kroger, or wherever else has the gift card centers carrying Disney gift cards- turn around and use that cash to purchase a gift card!! The money was already spent anyway! By turning that cash into a Disney gift card you've guaranteed that that money is now solely for Disney.

You can use the gift cards as payment on your vacation package, on purchasing tickets, on buying Disney goodies before your trip, as spending money while there, or for anything really! 

For what occasions do you get Disney gift cards? How do you use them?

This post carries a disclosure Level of 0. Please see my disclosure page for more details.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Ways to Save for Disney

Thrifty Thursday
Ways to Save for Disney

I'm back this week with another way to save for Disney. If you missed my previous articles you can check them out here. This week's may not be a new one to you, but if you haven't tried it yet, I definitely recommend!

Round Up/Down in your Checkbook Register

I've been using this method to save for a couple years now. There's little effort required on my part and the savings add up quickly.

So, how does this work? Well, it's pretty easy once you train yourself to do it. You simply round your transaction up to the nearest whole dollar. Dinner was $26.32? Record $27 in your register, and you've just saved 58 cents! I'm also rounding down with my deposits (deposits or refunds). Say I'm depositing $100.98, I record $100. There's another 98 cents!

Periodically you can move your "savings" to a Savings account. I typically do this when I start a new checkbook register. I take the balance according to the bank and subtract any transactions that haven't cleared yet. From that total I subtract the balance I have recorded in my check register. I move the difference to my savings account and make a note on the cover of the register. Not only does that give me a little bit of a paper trail, but it shows me how much I saved in a certain time frame. 

For example, for one register that lasted me about 6 weeks, just by rounding up or down, I  saved over $60!! That $60 goes to the savings account and is there when I'm ready to make a payment for our trip.

I don't bank with them, but Bank of America offers a program that does this automatically. It might be worth checking into if you're interested.

Does anyone else do this? Has it worked for you?

This post carries a disclosure Level of 0. Please see my disclosure page for more details.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Beverly

This needs no words :-)
Have you tried Beverly?
This post carries a disclosure Level of 0. Please see my disclosure page for more details.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Orlando Stroller Rentals Review

Back in 2011, when planning for kids' first Disney World trip (then ages 7 & 2), I had a bit of a dilemma trying to decide whether I should take my own stroller, rent from each of the parks at Disney, or if I should use an external rental service in the area. Well, after careful consideration, based upon both research and the helpful responses of Facebook and Disney friends, I decided to go with a local company.

What led me to that decision? Well, for one, there was the layover in the very busy Atlanta airport to consider. My in-laws and I really didn't want to have to worry about gate-checking the stroller, getting it in Atlanta, trying to wield it through the rushing crowds and escalators/elevators, or risk damage while in flight (and after seeing one of my bags, I'm glad we didn't risk our nice stroller!), and then doing the same from there to MCO... all to do it all over again on the way home.

Why not rent from the Disney Parks? That just didn't make much sense to me at all! You're only able to rent a stroller for the time you are in a specific park. Yes, you can take your receipt with you to another park (on the same day) if you're park hopping, but what about the transition from park to park? Or more importantly, from the parks to your resort after a long, exhausting day?! Or how about Downtown Disney? I don't know about you guys, but my kids aren't exactly shopping enthusiasts, although my daughter is starting to come around :-) I couldn't go shopping without somewhere for my little guy to sit (or be strapped in, lol) so he wasn't getting into everything. Oh, oh!! And what about those sometimes long, but oh so lovely, walks from your resort room to your resort's food court/lobby? You get the drift...

What are the perks of renting from an area rental company? The obvious are all the things I just mentioned above. You have the stroller with you at all times, from parks back to the resorts, on the resort grounds, and at Downtown Disney. And for those that don't just stay on Disney grounds, really, you have them anywhere!! They deliver to most of the area hotels and even rental houses and condos! I loved the thought of simply making the reservation and picking it up at Bell Services at our resort. How easy is that?!

We utilized the services of Orlando's very first stroller rental company- Orlando Stroller Rentals!! And I'm sure glad we did!!

Shannon Tanner, with her husband Justin Tanner, founded the company after having visited Walt Disney World from Connecticut with her then 5 and 6 year olds whom had been out of strollers for some time. Once their little legs started to get weak her only option at the time was to rent in the parks. After having to return her rental and carry one sleeping child while the other tiredly (and I can imagine, grumpily) trudged all the way back to Beach Club Resort, she and her husband tried to figure out a better way... and you guessed it, this is where the Orlando stroller rental industry was born! She left her 12 year elementary teaching career and founded Orlando Stroller Rentals in June of 2008!!

Yes, there are now other companies in the area, so how did I come to choose Orlando Stroller Rentals?
  • For one, after a bold move like the one Shannon made in starting this company, how could I not choose to go with her?! That chick rocks! She saw a need and came up with a solution!
  • Secondly, the other companies didn't have near the selection OSR provided. They have multiple selections of both single strollers and double strollers, accommodating higher weights and heights.

  • Thirdly, though we didn't need one, I liked the fact that they offered a special needs chair. Several of the blogs I read cover stories of children with special needs traveling to the parks. I can imagine some of them require special strollers and such, and I think it's wonderful that a company has thought of them as well!

  • The last thing considered, before actually deciding on them, was another addition they offered that I didn't see elsewhere- a glider board! Though my daughter and I were "training" for Disney, I knew it was inevitable that her little legs would get tired at some point. The glider board comes attached to the stroller and easily flips down for the older child to ride along for a bit.

After having made our decision, working with Shannon was a breeze! Their website was easy to navigate and very informative. You can even see videos of each of the strollers in use, how to fold them, demonstrations of the sun canopies, how easily they turn, etc. When speaking with her on the phone she was oh so sweet and personable. Emails were responded to quickly and efficiently. Facebook junkie like me? OSR is on Facebook and quickly responds to your questions and concerns. Not sure which stroller is right for your child? Simply leave them a comment on their wall and you'll have your answer in no time! Not to mention you can find many satisfied customers there!!

Though I was able to utilize these amazing services at no charge, I still placed a reservation as everyone else would, online. And let me tell you, the process was effortless! The reservations platform on her website was very easy to use, and I quickly had confirmation emails in my inbox. When making your reservation you also have the option of purchasing insurance to cover your rental stroller in the unlikely event of damage or theft. Like I said, these things are unlikely, but when given the option of purchasing insurance the first thing that always comes to mind is an episode of Fresh Prince where they've rented a car and somehow they end up off the road and in a tree or something... and they didn't purchase the insurance for whatever the minimal amount it was... Needless to say, I always opt for it now. There's always that "what-if"...

Had I been charged for the rental I still would have come out on top over renting at the parks. Yes, the parks have multi-day rates, but they still don't beat OSR! Other rental companies claim to be the lowest in town (and they may be cheaper by a couple bucks) but for those I'd researched, their insurance fee is higher. And as I said before, they don't have near the options that Orlando Stroller Rentals provided. I'd gladly pay the few bucks more for these choices, with the exceptional service!

So, what did we get and how did we like it? Based on our needs for my two year old son, and considering my 7 year old daughter, we ended up with a City Mini Single with a glider board! And as I'm sure you've probably guessed by now we loved everything about our experience! We also had a rain cover, but were fortunate enough to have no need for it.

We checked in to Caribbean Beach Resort and our stroller was ready and waiting with Bell Services. It had a large tag affixed to the bottom axle with our name and a packet attached to the handle bar, again with our name, a business card, and an information card. The card provided folding instructions, troubleshooting issues (if the wheel isn't turning- it may be locked, etc.), and how to return the stroller to Bell Services for pick up at the end of your stay.

Please feel free to double-click on any of the images to enlarge the photo to see more clearly

The stroller was very clean, and so very easy to use. I quickly figured out the quick-fold and L-O-V-E-D it! It was easy to carry, even with my being short. The kids loved checking it out once we made it to the room. The weight limit for this stroller was 50 pounds which covered both my children, and the glider board maxes out at 45.

Here's Tessa standing on the glider board in the room

Like I said, it folded effortlessly and I was surprised at how compact it got. I know the following picture doesn't focus on the stroller, but notice how little space it takes up. I like a clutter-free hotel room, especially since they're so space limited as it is. The stroller never got in our way and we could easily grab it and head out the door. To see more on how it folds down and how flat it gets watch this video.

This photo shows the storage pouch on the back of the seat. We placed our small backpack in there with no trouble, though it didn't have much in it. There was also a small basket under the seat.

I LOVED the multi-position sun shade. Again you can see more in the video, but basically there were two ways to position the shade... as shown below, and then you could extend it even further to cover their legs as well! This was a huge benefit!!

Remember that little packet that was hanging from the handle when we picked the stroller up? Well, it was attached with a cute little orange ribbon. This worked nicely in identifying our stroller in the masses when parked in stroller parking.

I also want to mention how very comfortable Colten was all week. This was very important considering he spent so much time in it for the week we were there. We really liked that it lay almost completely flat, and when laid flat it had a very nice vent in the back to allow optimum airflow to the sleeping/resting child. We only used this feature a couple times as Colten didn't want to recline too far because he felt as though he was going to miss something, lol.

The stroller was the perfect spot to watch the parades. We'd get to our spots early enough to scoot it right up to the curb and he could sit comfortably without anyone having to hold him up, which was nice for us adults who also wanted to use the parade times as a little rest :-)

Oh, and I forgot to mention how easily I was able to get the stroller on and off the buses, monorail, train, and every other mode of transportation we tried. It folded so compactly, I could easily fit it down the aisle of even the older buses which aren't as wide as the newer ones.

I even encountered another family renting from OSR on a bus to Downtown Disney. I asked how they liked the double they were renting, and they quickly told me how pleased they were with it. They said they were initially afraid it would have been too bulky, but they were surprised at how easily it maneuvered through doors and stores.

So, not only was I super-happy with OSR, I met another family who was genuinely glad they rented from OSR as well! Oh, and not to mention, I spoke with several others about the stroller while we were sitting waiting for parades, or parking the stroller. People noticed the rental tag (when the glider board was down) and asked where OSR was, were they in the park? When I replied that they delivered right to our room, they were surprised and said they wished they had known that before renting from the park "especially since it looks so much more comfortable than this one". Turns out I could have used a few extra business cards in my packet to give out.

Well, I didn't mean to get so carried away here, but as I'm sure you know, when you find such an amazing service or product, it's easy to get excited about it. I hope you'll remember them when planning your next trip.

Please feel free to ask any questions you might have. I'm happy to tell you more! And you can always contact Shannon or Justin directly, like I said, they were great!

Orlando Stroller Rentals
Shannon & Justin Tanner

By email:

By phone:

By standard mail:
Orlando Stroller Rentals
1420 Celebration Blvd., Ste. 200
Celebration, FL 34747

This post carries a disclosure Level of 1. Please see my disclosure page for more details. I am not in any way affiliated with Orlando Stroller Rentals. I did receive this service at no cost, but I assure you that did not influence my opinion in any way. These opinions are my own, and I will tell you time and time again how pleased I was with the service and the stroller!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Ways to Save for Disney

Thrifty Thursday
Ways to Save for Disney

Last week I shared with you an interesting way to save for Disney, a Flexible Spending Account. Not quite sure how that can be used to save for Disney? Well, check the article out here, and let me know if you have any questions!

I thought I'd share a couple more ways to save over the next couple weeks. Some of them I'm sure you already do, have heard of or thought of on your own, but in the event a new Disney traveler stumbles upon my blog, I'd like to have the info here for them, too. Today's Ways to Save are definitely some of the more common...

  • Yard Sales
    Cleaned out those closets lately? Yard Sales are a great way to save for Disney. Go through the house room by room. What does Oprah say? If you haven't used it in over 6 months, let it go (unless of course it has sentimental value or is collectible or whatever... you know what I mean). Go through old clothes, books and movies your children have outgrown, movies you've outgrown or lost interest in, kitchen gadgets someone gave you for Christmas or your housewarming party how many years ago that you still haven't used, clean out the garage... you get the idea. Have your yard sale and stash the money away for Disney! Have leftovers? Donate them to a local church, shelter or organization in your area. Not only have you saved for Disney, you've de-cluttered and will feel great!
  • Craigslist
    This is basically the same concept as that above, but works in a pinch if you don't want to mess with yard sales, live in an apartment, or just have a few items here and there. Remember to use caution and common sense when going this route. I've used this for several years and haven't had any bad experiences. Just use your head... and remember to put the money away for Disney!
There you have it, two pretty simple Ways to Save (aside from the work of putting a yard sale together, of course)! Have you done this before? How did you do?

This post carries a disclosure Level of 0. Please see my disclosure page for more details.