Monday, August 31, 2015

Disney on the Cheap

Disney on the Cheap: Saving Money at Walt Disney World

I consistently travel to Disney on the cheap.

1. Do not use a travel agent! 

Some travel agents charge you $75 a person to book your vacation. I only stay at Disney hotels. You can easily cancel any Disney hotel reservation through Disney or rebook your hotel with Disney. You don't need a travel agent to do that for you. On the Disney website, you can also ask questions to a representative. There are enough blogs out there with information that you can research regarding hotels and dining on your own. Only use a travel agent if you do not have time for your own research. For instance, review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Disney Food Blog, Micechat and several other websites.

2. Keep looking for better prices.

If you are from the states, you can easily use Southwest Airlines to get to Disney and change or rebook your flight with ease. In fact, I can change my reservation with Southwest Airlines for less money or points. I recently did this with my August 2015 flight reservation. Instead of about 8k miles each way, it was only 3k saving me about 10k miles on Southwest. Also, I have rebooked Disney hotel reservation based on specials that Disney offers through their web site. Sometimes even Disney will send you snail mail with special codes.

3. Don't use the dining plan

Unless you have teenage boys with you, do no use the dining plan. I don't use the dining plan because I bring a bag with snacks with me such as granola bars, pretzels and popcorn. It also helps that my two bags are free on Southwest Airlines. I usually check a bag with clothes and snacks and bring a small carry on with a change of clothes, basic toiletries and swimsuit. These are good for breakfast and snacks throughout your day. Also, the dining plan is too much food. For instance, a counter service meal includes a drink and dessert. When was the last time you had dessert for every meal? There is also a snack daily. For $41.99 a day per person for the two quick service meals and one snack, you can pay less (meals $10-13 each without drink and dessert) and snacks ($5 each) without using the plan. I bring Crystal Light packets with me and my own water bottle to create my own lemonade in the parks. You can get free water and ice at any Quick Service food location and put in your Crystal Light for a cheap drink and meal.

4. Use Magical Express

Transportation from the airport to your hotel can be expensive per person. If you are staying at a Disney hotel, you get free transportation to your hotel from MCO (Orlando, FL airport) to your resort. Make sure you set up the transportation with your reservation or call Disney's Magical Express (also known as Mears) before your vacation. I recently screwed up and ended up calling the morning of my hotel reservation and made the transportation arrangements.  However, I was one person and not a big deal. For families and large groups, please call weeks beforehand. If you call weeks beforehand, you will also receive luggage tags for your trip meaning you can let Disney deal with your checked luggage and bring it to your room. If you do need other transportation, Uber is now in Florida and are often cheaper than Taxis or Cabs in the city. Need and Uber code for free rides, please email me.

6. Bring your own detergent.

Laundry is $2.50 to wash and dry (total $5.00). You can buy detergent for $1.00. However, I bring my own with me in my bag saving the price for detergent. If you are trying to save money and only bringing on bag on your flight, bring less clothes and do laundry. A box of feminine products at the hotel are more expensive than a load of laundry.
Individual Laundry Detergent

7. Bring an extra pair of shoes

It rains in Florida alot. That means you are likely to have at least one day with wet shoes. Bring an extra pair of athletic shoes with you. Since they are heavy, wear one to the airport. Bring also a pair of flip flops for the pool or in an emergency in the park. Disney does have flip flops available at merchandise stores such as The Emporium at the Magic Kingdom on Main Street, or MouseGears at Epcot, but it is cheaper to bring your own from home. Those $2 flip flops at Old Navy from home are cheap and you can easily toss them away if they get ruined during your trip.

8. Get free things from First Aid in the Parks

You can get free band-aids, Ibuprofen, and Acetaminophen from the nurse at the theme parks if you forgot them in your hotel room (or at home). You can also get collagen jell (that has Benadryll) for things like bug bites. I always bring my own things from home, but it is nice that I can get something in a pinch in the parks. First Aid in Magic Kingdom is between Casey's and Crystal Palace. At Epcot it is near the Odyssey by the Mexican Pavilion. At HollywoodStudios, at the entrance of the park on the left near Guest Services. At Animal Kingdom, it is on the left side near the new Starbucks or Pizza Planet. Check your guide map if you are having trouble with your headache or blisters finding the First Aid office.

9. Check out buying tickets at Undercover Tourist or another discount ticket website.

10. Sign up for the Disney Visa Card.

Currently, there is a free $200 statement credit after you spend $500 in three months. The card has a $49 annual fee. So get the card two months before you leave. Change your credit card information on your Disney reservation and you now get $151 discount on your vacation. Make sure to cancel your card about 6 months later so you are not assessed another annual fee. This card also gets you a free photo session at Epcot with a character. Near Christmas time at the American Pavilion, there might be a lounge with free drinks.

Trip Advisor
Disney Food Blog
Also read, 5 Hacks for Saving on Your Disney Vacation from the Huffington Post

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review of Power Bank 2000mAh Phone Charger

So, I went to Walt Disney World for a week this August 2015. I was in Peco Bill's cafe sitting on a chair near the dining room. A couple comes up to me to ask to use the outlet by my stool. I said, "Sure!" The mother is so happy and says, "We have been without our phones since about noon as we ran out of power." I told her that I had a phone charger that I brought with me and bought just before my trip. She asked, "Did it work?" I replied that it has kept my phone charged.

In fact, I have a IPhone 5s and before I left, I picked out the Power Bank 2000mAh portable charger for the parks from my local Target. Cost: $9.99.

Pro: Small size to put in a purse/pocket

To use the charger and charge it plug it into the wall socket. If it flashes blue and red, it is charging. When it has a steady blue light, it is fully charged. When plugging it in your phone, make sure the blue light is on and it will charge your phone.

Pro: Charged my phone at least once in the park daily, small/portable, charged overnight in the hotel in an extra outlet since I brought a white apple adapter, cheap price of $10 to try a portable charger

Con: Charged my phone about only once, needs 5s charging cable to plug into my phone as it has a USB and older charge cable, the cable that comes with the charger is short so I had to place something under the charger to stay in the wall since the electrical socket is farther up the wall than the length of the cord, design too manly and would have preferred more geometric or feminine choices at Target
Con: length of charging cord and chord does not automatically connect to Iphone without Iphone cord
Con: charging cord does not allow you to charge with it on the floor so I propped it up on my bag in the hotel room

Disclaimer: I returned to my hotel every afternoon and recharged electronics in the room; however, I did have power throughout the day. For $9.99, I thought this little thing was worth it.
Hint: Get extra Iphone cords from Tanga online outlet, but make sure to order them a few weeks away from your trip. Check out Brad's Deal for some technology deals.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Magic Kingdom - Phone Chargers at Cosmic Rays in Tomorrowland

Update: As of Summer of 2015, these phone chargers are gone from Disney.

So, don't we love Disney. The MyMagicBand+ is a great invention. However, to change your FastPass+ times or attractions, you need to either wait in a long line or use your cell phone. Also, I did not travel all the way from Chicago to wait somewhere to charge my phone so that I can take pictures with Mickey and Minnie and upload them to Facebook. I am on vacation. That power strip at Space Mountain Arcade does not work for me. Since my phone is an HTC Sensation 4G from Summer 2011, my phone does not hold its power for very long. In fact, I carry an extra battery. I was *hoping* to use the cell phone chargers at Tomorrow's Cosmic Ray's restaurant. However, I always found them full.

Phone Chargers for Android and IPhone users at Cosmic Ray's in  Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland

All red = all full of phones
These machines are made by Brightbox. The red light means that one of the outlets is being used. The green shows that it is empty and the blue shows that your phone has been charged. I know that the top picture shows a green or open space, but it was for IPhone and I have an Android device. In fact, every time I would visit the phone charging station, they would have room for an IPhone. I do not know if it is because IPhones are less popular or hold more battery power. To open the door, you use your credit card and use the credit card again to pick it up later. Disney, we need MORE of these around the parks. If you require us to use the MyDisneyApp, I need a safe place to charge my phone. These would be great for around the park while people are eating or at a show.

I think Disney needs some suggestions of charging stations:
American Pavilion - Epcot
You would be able to listen to the acapella group and then see the half hour show while your phone is charging. I think they could find a place or create an overlay on this with white to match the decor.
Electric Umbrella - Epcot
This cool purple color might even go with the decor.
Universe of Energy - Epcot
Maybe this would help make Ellen's Energy Crisis more popular as I might actually go to that area of the park.
Innoventions - Epcot
What says new technology like being able to charge your cell phone for free?

Test Track
Put some stations in the Chevrolet section then people will keep coming back to see the cars.

Magic Kingdom
Cosmic Rays
I know there are already two machines, but they were always full. How about adding more near the hallway where the bathrooms are located?

Space Mountain Arcade
Get rid of that long power strip and install these. It would be so much better.

Columbia Harbour House
Put them upstairs in the corner in the carpeted area. I used to work here. No one would go up there unless they knew it was there. This would be a great area for Disney diehards.

Hollywood Studios
Rock N' Roll Roller Coaster
Similarly to Space Mountain, this would be good in the exit area.

Pizza Planet
this also has a futuristic theme. The arcade setting is perfect and you could even put them upstairs to make people work for it.

Animal Kingdom
Lion King
Since they are redoing this area anyways, might as well put some African themed machines in to charge the phone while at the show.

Coronado Springs Convention Center
Nothing says a convention or Professional Development like needing your phone.

Star Wars Weekend - My favorite pictures

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fifty Shades

A friend is repainting her new condo. She is painting many of her walls gray. She joked that it was fifty shades of gray. She recently bought the book Fifty Shades of Grey and allowed me to borrow it this spring break. I have some PG views on the book:
-I read the first 75 pages the first night, all of these pages are PG
-The rest of the book gets a little interesting
-There are several vocabulary words that I do not know or use in my vernacular though Mr. Grey and Anastasia do (I should look them up or maybe someone else has these words somewhere)

After reading book #1, I moved onto book #2 (Fifty Shades Darker). Here are the views on the new book:
We meet Leila. She is more screwed up than Mr. Grey.
-Anastasia impressed me and Mr. Grey by donating the money from the sale of her bug to charity
page 300, things get a little interesting

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December 2013 Plus Size Finds

I recently ordered a few items from Asos Curve for Black Friday. This is my first purchase from ASOS curve for clothing. I bought a few belts before, but no clothes as I was getting them from Eloquii or Lane Bryant. It was 20% off and many items were on sale. I bought this new cold shoulder top from Asos Curve - US 16, UK 20. it was about $9 on Black Friday and is now on sale for just under $13. It seemed a little big in some areas, but I like the beautiful blue color. This will be great to wear in the summer, but the tan lines would be interesting.
Asos Curve - blue

Asos Curve - dress, US 18, UK 22 -it is too  big
I also purchased this Asos Curve Cold shoulder dress for $19.96. They were out of my size, so I ordered one size larger. Unfortunately, the Cold Shoulder dress was way too big. I don't think it looks like the dress on the model as the bottom of the dress seems to flare and be too large.  I think if I had a staff, I would look like I am minding sheet. Possibly a skater dress would be more appropriate for my figure. I don't even think a belt will help with this dress. I tried :(

This ASOS CURVE Shift Dress In Sparkle Lace (Orange dress) with sparkles does not look appropriate. It is very see through at the chest and I just am not comfortable wearing something like this in public or at my job. Since I am looking for different dresses/outfit to wear to work, this will not work out.
Asos Curve - Orange dress, size US 16, UK 20 - just under $40

I put on my favorite dress. I seem to wear this monthly to work. It also works well with leggings when it is cold in Chicago.
My favorite dress - Macy's Style&Co, Spring 2013

Banana Republic headband (Spring 2013)
I went to Fado in downtown Chicago this weekend. Tried a new beer from Belgium. I loved it. The holder for the glass was very interesting. The waitress explained that you are supposed to drink the beer with some head in the glass. I had to drink the beer out of the holder since the glass has a round bottom and will topple over if it is out of the holder.
Kwak Beer - Fado Chicago

Monday, October 14, 2013

My new bathroom

I was inspired by Pinterest this summer to redo my bathroom. (My pinterest: iillini24). Every summer, since I am a teacher, I seem to  tackle another room in my house. I really wanted to incorporate Chevron (or zig zag) into a new bathroom.

It was great timing because in the summer of 2013, West Elm's catalog had a Chevron shower curtain in it for a reasonable price, $39. Luckily, I have a West Elm in Lincoln Park in Chicago that has parking so I would be able to check it out. I actually went twice until it actually came in stock.
West Elm Gray ZigZag

I was inspired by Pinterest and 320 Sycamore.

320 Sycamore Master Bathroom 

I found this inspiration also from Target, but decided that I wanted to go with more bold colors for accessories so that I could change them without changing the wall color. I did not want teal walls.
Target Shower Curtain

I found out that HGTV's Kevin Grace was going to be at West Elm Lincoln Park giving out some design advice. Yeah! Help!! 

I attended the morning session with my towels in hand that I found from Home Goods that was the same ones as 320 Sycamore. I had already bought the shelves at Home and had them delivered. He confirmed my great choice with the towels. He also told me to go to my local Sherwin Williams on Halsted in Chicago as the manager John would be fantastic to help me. 
Kevin asked me what color I would want in the bathroom besides the gray. I told him that I did not want yellow (my childhood house for my first 9 years was yellow and the bathroom was a 60s yellow). He suggested teal such as one of the trays in the store. I asked him if I could go brighter, because I already purchased the Target teal lockers. He confirmed it was a great idea. 

Bathroom Before
This is my bathroom before I decided to do anything. I moved into my place in 2008 and purchased this lovely Crocill shower curtain from Bed Bath and Beyond. I did this because I had creme towels that would match.

Here is the bathroom in progress.
Bathroom Before
Some paint samples from Sherwin William's 40% off weekend meaning that they were still $5 per sample (At Home Depot, usually $3). I didn't like the color on the right. This is the area in back of the toilet that was  blank with no shelves. I had a picture up before on the right wall, but took it down to try some paint colors.
Choosing bathroom colors
Here is it up close, the color on the right that I did not like.
Bathroom color again
These were too dark for what I wanted. My mother said it looked like cement. This is above the toilet where I had to add the shelves. I put 3 pieces of tape to shower where I might want the three shelves to get an idea. 

French Gray by Sherwin Williams - too dark, looked like cement

Bathroom After

I bought the exact same exact shelves that 320 Sycamore bought along with the towels. Here are a list of items bought and their costs
-Sherwin Williams paint in Passive, brushes, supples, etc. about $100
-24" Floating Shelves from Home Depot $65 for all 3 ($19.99 each, but with Chicago Taxes..)
-Consultation with Kevin Grace from HGTV (free)
-West Elm gray ZigZag shower curtain $39 + 10% off coupon, + Chicago taxes
-Home Good Large Towels $7.99 X 4
-Home Good Hand Towels $5.99 X 2
-Marshall's Teal Bath Rug $12.99
-Target teal metal lockers, two for $7 (they were on clearance, no longer available)
-Home Goods Q-tip container $5
-Softsoap container (already had in my bathroom)
-Container store jars $8-$10each
-Puff Plus tissue box $1  (I bought a ton of them so that when they change the design, I will have plenty to spare.)

Update: December 2013
I found this rug at Target. Though it isn't appropriate for a wet environment like a bathroom, I am going to put it in the hallway outside the bathroom. It is 9 degrees here in Chicago, so I am keeping the old rug down also since the floor is so cold.
Target Rug, gray