The 5 Basics of Disney Vacation Planning: Part 4-Should you get the dining plan?

I am going to come right out and say it, I am a huge fan of the dining plan and always have been. While I realize it might not be for everyone, I strongly encourage you to look into before you just brush it off as a rip off or scam.

Like everything else, Disney offers you option in your dining plan choice. There are three main dining plans:
Quick Service
Plus Dining
Deluxe Dining

Before you get lost delving into the basics of what differentiates these plans let me give you a few reasons I like the dining plan and why you should consider it:

The prices are higher than you think. You won’t find grocery store pricing in WDW and its resorts, and prices on even the “cheap” items will be more than you bargained for. A bottled water is $3 so you can imagine what a hamburger and fries will set you back! It adds up!

You’re going to eat anyway! The thought of packing something from outside the parks to eat or go off property to get a more affordable meal doesn’t always work (especially if you aren’t staying at a villa resort and therefore have no kitchen). By the time you pay for transportation off property to get your food, package it and bring it to the parks and it faces the elements…the chances of you wanting to eat it are slim. Likewise scheduling time to utilize transportation to go back to your resort or travel off property for a meal won’t be as cost efficient as paying for the dining plan.  

There IS a value. The estimated savings aren’t fake…the dining plans really do offer a value and you can certainly maximize it if you know what you’re doing or use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (like myself) to help you.

So what are the differences and how do you choose? The dining plans are based on a per person, per night rate, so each allotment listed is per person, per night. Here are the basics: 

Quick Service Dining Plan:
Save approximately 10% per adult on dining
(2) quick service meals 
(1) snack 
(1) resort refillable mug per person

Year round pricing:
ages 10 and up $34.99 per night
ages 3-9 $11.99 per night

Plus Dining Plan:
Save approximately 15%-20% per adult on dining
(1) quick service meal 
(1) table service meal
(1) snack
(1) resort refillable mug

Value and Regular Season Pricing:
ages 10 and up $51.54 per night
ages 3-9 $15.02 per night

Peak Season Pricing:
ages 10 and up $53.54 per night
ages 3-9 $16.02 per night

Deluxe Dining Plan:
Save approximately 30-35% per adult on dining
(3) table service meals
(2) snacks
(1) resort refillable mug 

Value and Regular Season Pricing:
ages 10 and up $85.52 per night
ages 3-9 $23.79 per night

Peak Season Pricing:
ages 10 and up $89.52 per night
ages 3-9 $25.79 per night

There are also 2 other plans: The Premium package and the Platinum package

Premium Package:
(3) table service meals
(2) snacks
(1) resort refillable mug

Unlimited use of select recreation:
Golf: Four 18-hole championship golf courses with inclusive green fees, electric cart, shoe and club rentals and range balls
Unlimited use of select watersports at Sammy Duvall’s Watersports: parasailing, water skiing, wake boarding, tubing and personal watercraft rentals
Boat rentals, guided fishing excursions, horseback riding and more* 
Admission to Cirque du Soleil show La Nouba (one admission per person, category 2 seating) reservations are required.
Unlimited admission to select Disney Tours 
Unlimited admission to select children’s activity centers
Admission to Grand Gathering experiences

*Some restrictions may apply and advance reservations may be required 

**Standard Disney guests accompanying a Premium or Platinum guest can enjoy a 10% discount on all activities at Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Center 

For more information on the Premium package click here 

Platinum Package:
(3) table service meals
(2) snacks
(1) resort refillable mug

*The Platinum package includes everything outlined in the Premium package plus the following: 
Personalized pre-arrival itinerary planning
Accommodations in either a Deluxe Villa Resort or a Deluxe Resort
Preferred fireworks viewing for Wishes or Illuminations
Magical Evening Events: Reserved seating for Fantasmic (some restrictions apply), a fireworks cruise to view Illuminations or Wishes (one cruise per reservation, some restrictions apply)
A complimentary spa treatment
Richard Petty Ride-Along experience
Disney’s PhotoPass CD

And now you have a million questions about the dining plan and where you can eat and if the food is any good…and I can tell you, most of it is pretty darn good if not fantastic! Head over to the Disney Food Report, a website designed by the faithful foodies at Pixie Vacations to read about the dining delights at Disney!

The Truth About Paleo (Or Whatever Diet this is)

A couple of weeks ago my husband said he wanted to try this diet that his friend had a lot of success with, he said he wanted to cut out wheat and see if he could lose some weight.  I immediately jumped on the bandwagon because thanks to the holidays I have some extra meat on my bones.  I knew this would be super hard for me because I live on bread and pasta and I have a huge sweet tooth, but I thought I would give it a try.  So it started out as just cutting wheat and sugar but has turned into cutting out all grain and pre-packaged foods, more like the Paleo (Paleolithic, or Cave Man) diet.

Since it has been a little while, I think its safe to say I have learned some truths about this diet, so here goes.

1.  The first few days will be the worst of your life, period.
2.  The cravings go away after about day 5
3.  You will rarely go down about 50% of the food isles at your supermarket
4.  You will be cooking all the time (all the time)
5.  You will have a ton more dishes to do (due to all the cooking)
6.  Your kids may not be so easily persuaded to follow this diet.
7.  There is no way in hell I’m giving up cheese
8.  You will consume a whole lot of eggs, especially if baking something
9.  Your kids will look in the cabinets and say there is no food in this house….because you won’t be buying pre-packaged food, it won’t take up space in the cabinets
10.  People will doubt you
11.  You will doubt yourself
12.  You will cheat at least once
13.  Soon you will realize how much better you feel, how much more energy you have and just how good real, clean food is compared to boxed Mac N Cheese
14.  Best place for Paleo recipes is Pinterest
15.  You may start to see the number on the scale go down, or clothes fitting looser, or your midsection shrinking (hell to the yeah!)
16.  You will wonder why in the world it took you so long to try eating like this
17.  You will also realize that you are now paying less for groceries because its cheaper to buy ingredients and put meals together yourself
18.  You will succeed!

I walked through the bakery section at the store, where normally I would stop and grab some fresh baked french bread, rolls and sandwich bread…..and it felt so good to pass it all by.  I’m sure that I will have ups and downs with this new lifestyle but I am feeling pretty confident that I will stick with it,

Zoo Run Run at Brookfield Zoo

Registration is now open for Brookfield Zoo’s Zoo Run Run for the Animal Care and Conservation Fund, a 5K race that promises to be a wildly fun time on Sunday, September 21. Runners, walkers, adults, and children alike are invited to sprint, scamper, and stride past the animals at Brookfield Zoo during the annual fundraiser, which is dedicated to making a difference for animals across the globe.Zoo Run Run features a choice between a 5K chip-timed run and a 5K fun run/walk. Proceeds from the event benefit the Chicago Zoological Society’s Animal Welfare and Conservation Fund, which supports research and education efforts around the world and at Brookfield Zoo, including the Society’s Center for the Science of Animal Welfare and the Center for Conservation Leadership.

“The fund is an important part of the Society’s conservation efforts and we certainly appreciate the efforts of the run’s participants who help raise significant donations,” said Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo.

The chip-timed run begins at 8:00 a.m. in the zoo’s Discovery Center parking lot, with the fun run/walk starting at 8:20 a.m. The course takes participants under a forest canopy of 100-year-old oak trees and continues past the American white pelicans at the Formal Pool,; the bison at Great Bear Wilderness; the giraffes, zebras, and camels along 31st Street; the kangaroos at Australia House; and the endangered black rhinos outside Pachyderm House. The final stretch of the run routes participants past the lions, sloth bears, tigers, and snow leopards.

Runners can register as individuals or maximize their fun by forming a race team. The more funds that participants raise for the Animal Welfare and Conservation Fund, the more prizes they win:

Anyone who raises $100 receives a special long-sleeve commemorative Zoo Run Run shirt.

Anyone who raises $250 receives a $25 Brookfield Zoo gift certificate plus the commemorative shirt

Anyone who raises $500 receives an additional $25 Brookfield Zoo gift certificate, a complimentary upgrade on his/her next purchased membership, plus the previous levels’ premiums

Anyone who raises $750 receives a voucher toward a Backstage Adventure experience at Brookfield Zoo, plus the previous levels’ premiums

Anyone who raises $1,000 receives two tickets to the Chicago Zoological Society’s Wines in the Wild, held on Saturday, October 18, 2014, plus the previous levels’ premiums

The top fundraiser for Zoo Run Run will receive a VIP Red Carpet Day of experiences at Brookfield Zoo, plus the previous levels’ premiums

In addition to individual fundraising prizes, teams are eligible to win prizes. Each team that raises $2,500 or more will receive a private reception for 20 that includes a unique animal experience at Brookfield Zoo. All members of teams are eligible to win the individual prizes listed above as well.

Registration for the chip-timed race is $35, and the fee for the fun run/walk is $30. (Members can enter a promo code to receive $5 off their pricing.) For participants who register on the event day, the fee is $40 for the chip-timed race and $35 for the fun run/walk (there is no member discount on race day). In addition, registered participants may bring family and friends to cheer them on and enjoy the zoo afterwards at no additional charge.

Zoo Run Run is presented by Walgreens, Aquafina, and Gatorade. Details of race packet pickup will be announced closer to the race date. For further information and to register as an individual or a team, go to CZS.org/ZooRunRun.

The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, inspires conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service. For further information, visit www.CZS.org.

LEGO Fans Mark Your Calendar! #Chicago

CALENDAR ALERT
LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago Celebrates Buddy’s Birthday!
You’re Invited to the Brick-tastic Birthday Bash on Aug. 11
WHAT: LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago is celebrating Buddy’s Birthday on Aug. 11, and everyone’s invited to join the brick-tastic celebration! We’ll be partying it up with goody bags, games and plenty of cake. But that’s not all! Kids who bring Buddy a homemade, LEGO-themed birthday card will receive free admission and be entered for a chance to win a birthday party package (value $395)The grand prize includes:
  • Admission to LEGOLAND Discovery Center including all rides and attractions
  • Exclusive party room for 90 minutes with party host
  • Each child receives an Activity Lanyard
  • Private Model Builder Workshop and each child gets to take home the LEGO model they build
  • Free Annual Pass for Birthday Child
  • 3 Cheese Pizzas
  • Unlimited Pop
  • LEGOLAND Discovery Center Birthday Cake
  • 1 LEGO Framed Birthday Party Photo
  • Birthday Party Crowns
  • Gift for the Birthday Child
  • 10% off in the LEGO Retail Shop for all guests
  • Each child receives a free ticket to return to LEGOLAND Discovery Center
WHEN:             Saturday, August 11
                        10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
WHERE:           LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago
Streets of Woodfield
601 N. Martingale Rd.
Schaumburg, Ill.
 
About LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago is an indoor family entertainment destination with over 3 million LEGO bricks and nine attractions including: Model Builder Workshop; Jungle Expedition; Kingdom Quest Laser Ride; LEGO City Construction Site Play Zone; Technicycle Ride; LEGO 4D Cinema; Build and Test; LEGO Factory Tour; and MINILAND featuring iconic Chicago landmarks.
Located at the Streets of Woodfield, 601 N. Martingale Rd. in Schaumburg, LEGOLAND Discovery Center is 30 minutes from downtown Chicago by car. Adult Admission is $19. Child Admission is $15. Special annual pass and ticket discounts are available at www.LEGOLANDDiscoveryCenter.com. Last guest admission is two hours before closing. Extended hours are available on school vacation days and national holidays. Visit www.LEGOLANDDiscoveryCenter.com for updated daily opening times. LEGOLAND Discovery Center is a part of the Merlin Entertainments Group.
 
 

We Have our Banner and are Ready for Cookie Season!

We had another super fun Girl Scout meeting tonight, I love girls that we have in our troop they are really a great group of girls.  There is something else I love about Girl Scouts and that is cookies of course!  When the weather gets cold, you know its almost time.  This year we prepared in advance, we ordered a really cool vinyl banner from Signazon.

The banner we received is a  2 ft x 4 ft vinyl banner that was really easy to create and came in the mail lightning fast.  Signazon offers templates that you can use or you can custom design your banner from scratch.  I wanted our banner to be simple and easy to read so I chose big bold letters and just the Girl Scout emblem.  The banner is great quality that will definitely withstand the cold wind and snow that is sure to show up the day we decide to sell outside.  This size banner is under $30 which is a great price for a nice, re-usable sign.  I’m sure we will also use this one in other events such as parades.  You can use these banners to advertise your business or use them for Holiday parties or family reunions, they are really versatile.
 
Of course Signazon offers tons of other products such as yard signs, window lettering, stickers and car magnets, and you can check out everything that they have to offer by clicking HERE.
 
 
 

**I received a banner for review purposes, all opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review**

What to do On a Rainy Summer Day?

We love summer and warm weather and we like to spend a lot of time outside, but what do you do when its raining out and the kids are home on summer vacation?  We love snuggling up on the couch and watching Netflix.  The kids take turns choosing episodes of theirr favorite shows, complete with blankets and snacks.  For the same price as a couple of movie rentals, you can stream Netflix on any TV, computer, iPad or tablet in your home, in fact Netflix is available on hundreds of devices that you probably already own. You can watch as many shows and movies as you want and there is no worrying about returning anything by a certain day and time.Our favorite feature is the just for kids section.  This section is perfect for ages 2-12 and is filled with my kid’s favorite shows such as Transformers Prime, Johnny Test and H2O.

He is a cute little claymation penguin who is always doing silly things.  I love hearing the kids laughing at this show.  The best part about the kids only section is that every show and movie there is for children, and I don’t have to worry about them clicking on something that is for adults.  Netflix is really the best value for your money and you can take your favorite shows with you everywhere you go.  Whenever we have a long wait, like at the doctor’s office, I can just log on to my Netflix account on my phone and the kids can watch their shows.  Some nights I like to let them stay up a little later and watch a good movie, then I know they will sleep in the next morning and so will I.
Someone is really cold and wants to wear her footie pajamas for movie night
What are you watching on TV with your family? Netflix has family favorites from Disney, Disney Jr., Hasbro, Cartoon Network and Dreamworks that are available to stream anytime, anywhere.
And streaming is easier than you think! Download the free app on your iPad, click on the Netflix app on any gaming device, go to the website on your computer – and you’re in business. Check it out here!
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of NETFLIX.

Take Them Out to a Ball Game #FamilySunday

One of Americas favorite past times has always been baseball and nothing is better than spending a Sunday afternoon with your family watching a game.  We took a little trip into the city, Chicago of course, and spent a beautiful Sunday at US Cellular Field watching the White Sox Play.  This was our first time at US Cellular and it was such a positive experience.  We got there a little early so that the kids could watch batting practice and get some autographs.

 

If you thought taking your family to a game was out of your budget, you really have to check out the Sox Family Sundays.  Tickets start as low as $5 for the upper level and $15 for the lower.  Parking is a breeze and is only $10.  You can get autographs from current and former players as well as broadcasters.  After the game the kids can also run the bases.

We got treated to an extra special day where we got to talk to some of the White Sox staff about all the great happenings with the team.   Brooks Boyer, the White Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing welcomed us to the game and shared with us details about this awesome Family Sunday promotion.
“For many years, we have worked hard to create one of the very best family environments in all of baseball.”  said Brooks Boyer, “As we continue to closely listen to fans regarding the cost of the ballpark experience, the Family Sunday promotion is our next move in creating affordable seating options in both the lower and upper levels of the park.  Welcoming fans of all ages on a day that is traditionally dedicated to family time, we hope Family Sundays become a popular way for fans to share a baseball experience together.”
The White Sox are passionate about giving back to their community and love to involve their fans.  They created their Volunteer Corps to better their communities and have already had a great response with over 5,400 fans joining them on their mission.  You can learn more about how to join by clicking HERE.
We got to hang out with Southpaw as well.

The White Sox have an awesome kids club (free and paid options), membership includes coupons for tickets to games!

We had an amazing day, the staff was so friendly and the ball park was amazing.  This will be something that we will continue to do as a family for years to come.
I want to thank the White Sox staff, Brooks Boyer and everyone else we met for the great experience at US Cellular field.  
 
Disclosure:  I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own, we were invited to a complementary game at US Cellular, which we enjoyed very much.
 
 

Free Comic Book Day

May 2nd marks this year’s Free Comic Book Day!  Free Comic Book Day is an annual event where comic book shops across North America open their doors and give free books to anyone who visits (while supplies last). More than two million books will be given away to readers of all ages, with the ultimate goal of introducing a whole new generation of comic book fans.For younger comic readers, DC Entertainment will be releasing two special editions including TEEN TITANS GO! Chapter 12, based on the hit television series currently airing Saturday mornings as part of Cartoon Network’s DC Nation programming block, and SCOOBY DOO TEAM UP! #6, an all-new adventure featuring the Scooby gang teaming up with the Super Friends.

Additional details, including a list of participating locations, can be found at www.freecomicbookday.com

Six Flags Great America Brings Summer Early

Six Flags Great America, the premiere thrill destination for all ages in Gurnee, IL, is ready to launch its 41st season in superhero style. The park is getting ready to open April 23rd and guests will have the opportunity to be a hero to a child in the community at the Superhero Cape-A-Palooza opening weekend event. The 2017 season also marks the debut of an all-new 4D interactive thrill ride, JUSTICE LEAGUE: Battle for Metropolis.

Be a hero! When guests purchase a cape, Six Flags will donate a cape to a child patient at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Capes will be sold at the Six Flags front gate for $15 each and donated capes will be delivered by Bugs Bunny himself the week of May 2.

Super Deal  
Guests that visit on opening weekend, April 23 or 24, can purchase a ticket in advance, online only at sixflags.com for just $24.99. That’s a savings over $40 per ticket! Opening weekend tickets can only be purchased online and in advance at sixflags.com  
      
JUSTICE LEAGUE: Battle for Metropolis  
This 4D interactive thrill ride was named by USA Today readers as one of the Top Ten New Amusement Park Attractions of the year and was most recently awarded Best New Product by International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. JUSTICE LEAGUE: Battle for Metropolis will open late spring.
 
 This season is going to be a fantastic year for our guests,” said park president Hank Salemi. Not only do we have world class roller coasters, but this summer we will be introducing the JUSTICE LEAGUE: Battle for Metropolis awardwinning 4D thrill ride that features the world’s first virtual vertical loop. Our guests are in store for an amazing summer!”  
  
The best value to visit all season long, including Fright Fest, is to purchase a 2016 season pass which is on sale now for $73.99 each when buying four or more and includes one free season parking passSeason passes can be purchased online at sixflags.com.   
  
The park opens April 23 for select days with daily operation starting May 24. Visit sixflags.com for a complete list of operating hours and more information about Six Flags Great America tickets, shows, rides, attractions and events.    
  

 

A Giveaway for All Downton Abbey Fans

Its a show that takes you back to tradition, manners and upper class dinner wardrobe changes, Downton Abbey has taken us by storm and pulled us in to all of its scandal.  One of my favorite characters on the show is Mr. Bates played by Brendan Coyle. Mr. Coyle is in a new movie called Noble that is giving you the chance to win big!This giveaway is made possible by the new film, NOBLE, about Christina Noble, an Irishwoman who’s saved over 700,000 orphans in Vietnam. Deirdre O’Kane and Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates on Downtown Abbey) star in the award-winning film.

For another chance to win, enter the She is Noble contest, inspired by Christina’s story. Go to the website and nominate a heroic woman you know who’s quietly changing the world around her. You could win a free 5-day/4-night trip to Ireland!


What does it mean to be a noble woman? It’s living fearlessly and loving recklessly. Who is that
woman in your world? In your neighborhood or school or church? We want to tell her story.

I am also giving away a fantastic prize pack to sweeten the deal!   If you are a fan of the show Downton Abbey you do not want to miss this giveaway! You could win the following:



In accordance with FTC regulations, you will need a disclosure that you will receive the same prize pack. Example: “I will receive the same the same prize pack for posting this giveaway. All opinions are my own.