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Processed Cheese Food

I am going to take a little break from my ongoing series on restful little break spots to share how to keep from being a big sad emo blob if a lack of funds keeps you even from the heady heights of Disney hobodom. As is pretty clear by now, the hubs and I have annual passes to the ‘World, which is how we can dash over at a moment’s notice and explore the joys of having a Disney dinner on a shoestring, or justifying that a few hours at the Kingdom work out to less than the cost of a movie when you have the passes paid for.

But alas…

We have had our passes, how to say, in hock, since unemployment became a factor recently. That is going to be remedied this weekend, but even still, a trip may still be a few weeks off as we get out from under that whole “oopsie, must pay rent” thing. But my friends, this is not a bid for sympathy or scorn. We have made the most of our sabbatical time and I wanted to share what we have for our entertainment, and have actually since last year.

Disney movies can be pricey. Unless you get them second hand or on a steep sale, collecting your favourite films on DVD can really add up in a huge way. And I am not going to lie. I really don’t need commentary from a two hundred year old animator on Snow White or hear about “Baby Mine” making a studio exec get the weepies, or whatever I might be treated to in the extras. There are certain movies that I am going to get all SQUEE over and will want the whole can of Spam. Dumbo, to be frank, ain’t one of them. Bambi II: Thumper Gets Pissed really ain’t one of them. But there is something cool about the idea of having a huge Disney library.

Man, I heart thrift stores.

Disney movies at thrifts stores will cost you a buck, maybe two or three tops for “rare” titles. Do not pay more than this. Do not believe the Comic Guy from The Simpsons-esque collector at the flea market when he says that the first run tape of The Little Mermaid is worth $100 because of the wiener castle on the cover. Sure, maybe, but if you care about the movie, get another edition. Or wait until you find a copy at Goodwill that someone got rid of, not realising that cartoon weenies are collector gold. What about a VCR, you ask? No one owns a damn VCR anymore. No, because they all took them to Goodwill with their weenie tapes. We scored a sweet VCR (yeah, I said “sweet” and “VCR” in the same sentence) for seven dollars. We set it up, using ancient tools we found in a cave somewhere, and admired it at length. “This was about about three hundred dollars new. This was a state of the art machine.” I purred, gloatingly. “Yup”, agreed my husband. “In 1995. We are the cutting edge of twentieth century technology.”

And so every night, we can watch a different Disney movie, complete with 90s trailers and commercials for Disney’s high tech interactive CD Rom computer games. The film is not high def, there is more grain than a bag of cattle feed, and the colour is a tad dim compared to today’s superb remastering techniques. But these are the flickering images of my childhood, and that is something no amount of money can buy.


Cheese and Crackers Part Deux

As promised: the continuing tales of a woman on the verge of a Disney meltdown and where to go to chill it all out.

Epcot. YAY! Epcot is, in my opinion,by far the most restful of the parks. The biggest reason for this, other than enormous quantities of expensive, but high quality liquor, is the vast expanses of lawns and gardens available for hobo-like napping. As stated in my previous offering on the subject, Magic Kingdom has landscaping that is extremely pretty and fairy-tale-esque, but tragically is fenced off to within an inch of its life, a decision I can’t even fault, given the huge numbers of sugar fueled children that frolic there. (Though, an argument could be made that the lands of Epcot are no safer from the average adult guest post-margarita. ) At Epcot, however, while some lawns are off limits behind friendly but firm fences and gates, a surprising amount of lush green turf is yours for the lounging.

My personal favourite of these sylvan spots is the gentle slope outside of Mission: Space. It is important to note I spend a fair bit of time here each visit, mostly because it is located outside of Mission: Space, and this is a ride that I will happily wave my husband on to while firmly refusing to set one motion-sickness prone and claustrophobic-as-all-crap toe on my own self. Even when the lines are tame, there is usually enough time waiting for my wannabe hubs-tronaut to return from his flight to catch a Z or two, and the grass is warm and welcoming every time. A memorable snooze took place on my honeymoon, as I curled on the tiny hillside, bridal ears askew on my head, which was resting on a shopping bag filled with our accumulated stuff, I heard a voice from further down say “That is one tired bride,” with a sightly knowing smirk in his voice. “not for any kind of  ‘fun’ reason”, I murmured back, eyes still blissfully closed. I have barely lazed and downright SLEPT on this hill, and it holds a special place in my thalamic reticular nucleus. Word of warning, while delightfully sun splashed and warm during cooler months, in heat of summer, the sun will fry you on this unshaded expanse. Wear sunscreen during your doze.

Throughout the nations of World Showcase, additional such lawns can be found here and there, and most are open and available. I have even seen families having a little picnic now and then, and it is great way to relax kids and adults alike.

It must be stated that for a restful interlude, it is hard to beat the relatively new tequila bar located in the giant pyramid of the Mexico pavilion. Combined with a trip down what I will always stubbornly refer to as “El Rio del Tiempo” (the overhaul of the ride added various poultry and changed its name to the Gran Fiesta Tour) or, if I am feeling really smart alecky, “es el mundo pequeno”, the Mexico pavilion is practically a vacation from your day. For one, it’s dark in there. For another, there is tequila in there. The tiny nook off to the right hand  side of the large inner chamber, down the ramp, is low ceilinged, well but atmospherically lit, and nicely appointed with a combination of tables, booths, a standup table, and one area with a low couch and barrel seating around a wide slate coffee table. While clearly intended for larger parties, my husband and I have shamelessly appropriated it for our midday beverage. The available snack options are strictly bar food, Mexican style, natch, with spicy and delicious salsa and queso offerings. The real star is the tequila, and, of course, the accompanying magnificent buzz that only comes with having a drink or two in you in broad daylight in a place populated by large, living, plush animals.

Each pavilion has its special spots where rest and relaxation, not to mention festive beverages, can be found. Another great one is in Japan, and it amazes me that more people still don’t know about it. Up behind the quick service sushi restaurant is the prettiest little garden spot, with tables and chairs to nosh surprisingly good sushi, and little fountains and creeks that tumble along beside you when you are ready to walk back down to the hustle and bustle of the park. Look for the source of that rhythmic hollow clacking sound and you will find a shishi odoshi nestled in the creek off to your left. Japan’s pavilion has so much neat stuff and so many restful spots, we have been known to spend hours in that nation alone.

These are just a few places to catch a little rest at Epcot. Stay tuned for even more ideas. Being lazy usually means knowing where all the best lazy spots are.

Cheese and Crackers, part one

Staying sane. Usually fairly easy. Staying sane at 1 pm in June at Disney World. That’s a bit harder. Add 100 crazy points per kid (or spouse) and eighty beskillion points per ten degrees over 70 or under 50 (it happens). By the time that magic hour called “just after lunch wears off” hits, you have a whole bucket of meltdown waiting to happen. And I will just start out by saying that I often have no kids with me, if I do it is my teenaged niece, and there are still meltdowns that would make Pripyat go “Holy s^&%!”

The problem with being an on the cheap, Florida, annual passholder type is that unlike those lucky buggers with their on property hotels and their pools and cool, dark, nearby rooms, we have little alternative than to remain at the parks, sweating, or freezing, definitely unhappy and worn out by mid afternoon, and often miles to go before we sleep, and that at the end of a two hour trip home. Folk with young children have access to the Baby Care centers which provides a nice, calm, cool, out of the way spot for families to take care of babies’ needs and even grab a quick nap should they need it. But not having wee bitlets attached to me, I would look creepy and unsettling hanging out with the toddlers and nursing moms. Blech and blerg. What is the cheap Disney wanderer to do?

Plenty, my friends. In a word, plenty. There are some surprisingly awesome places to recoup and get a second wind both in the parks and out. You can spend some scratch on them, such as one of the many fine lounges around property, but we rock it cheap-like up in this parts, and I am going to point you towards the cheapest of the cheap.

You must first keep in mind the layouts of each park. Magic Kingdom tends to have the most “don’t touch me! Keep off the grass!” landscaping, while, say Epcot is filled with lush expanses of grass covered in Brazilian tour groups. Animal Kingdom is shady, but hot as the blazing Gates as no wind moves through the thick vegetation. And Hollywood Studios is pretty much a parking lot.

First, Magic Kingdom. The noise and crowds of the most kid-friendly park are tempered by the blessed proximity of the the “monorail” resorts nearby. All offer a number of benefits to a weary traveler anxious to get away from the crowd for a little bit. The Polynesian, of curse, has the most lovely beach, and wait…what’s that by the pool? Hot DAMN! It’s a bar! A BAR! Yay! After the dry lands of the Magic Kingdom, a frosty margarita or rum and coke goes down right smooth. The bar is excellent, the drinks are reasonably strong and not too expensive (though not cheap), and the view sublime. Access to the Poly is by monorail, or my favourite, groovy little launches that take you around the lake in a leisurely “I’m on vacation” kind of way. Recently, we went another way and headed over to the Grand Floridian to have a midday break, and I will be honest, I fully expected that at this most exclusive and glamorous resort, that the staff would look down their noses at us, grimy and sweat covered and declare “Zat yu are too nasteh to come to zis niiice ‘otel.” (in my imagination, they developed outrageous French accents…for the snootiness) Imagine my delight when I found every person we came across to be warm and kind. Make no mistake, we CLEARLY did not belong there and were obviously not guests. They weren’t being nice because we were spending 800 a night in their lovely rooms. We were simply welcome. Now don’t go cannonballing fully clothed nto their pool, but come on in, have a seat in the stunningly beautiful lobby, listen to the piano player often in attendance there, look for hidden Mickeys, and check out the adorable little Mary Poppins garden. Also in the lobby are televisions showing classic Disney toons, though the furniture was a bit wee for us. Didn’t stop us.

Couch is exactly as small as it appears. The husband is actual size.

Another trick to getting some much needed down time, especially if you don’t want to leave the parks, is to ride long crap. There, the mysteries of the ages revealed. Most of us know to hit the old PeopleMover if we can’t take the heat anymore- the breezes that hit as the car whips gently around corners is legendary among the Disney-loving lazy. The Carousel of Progress is another tried and true favourite, renowned as a place to take a nap, or nurse a baby discreetly. A new favourite of mine are the tables by the race track in Tomorrowland. They are tucked behind a screen of planters, across from Auntie Gravity’s shop and I never really thought to stop there. They tend not to be busy, so there is no one to care if you pull up two chairs to prop your legs on and have a light snooze when you wait for the more adventurous to finish riding Space Mountain. Check out the Liberty Square riverboat for a nice gentle ride round the Rivers of America. Seating is sparse, and it can be warm, but it is still a relaxing getaway for 20 minutes or so. Tom Sawyer Island, maligned by some as a time waster (and I can see their point if you are aiming to get as much done as possible; it’s not exactly a thrill a minute) is the best place, hands down, to take a picnic lunch and get away from crowds for an hour.

From any of the parks, it’s merely a bus ride away to any number of resorts that offer cool quiet and a long frosty beverage. I won’t go into detail on all of them, but will cover a few more, as well as Epcot: Land of Naps in Part Two.

(Glow in the Dark)Easy Cheese

Anyone getting the Mitch Hedberg joke in the title wins a thousand internets!

Yesterday I talked about ways to eliminate “the gimmes” at Disney, by being prepared with some little trinkets for the kiddos. This, as previously stated, is fairly conventional wisdom amongst the Disney intelligentsia, and if you didn’t already know it, you learn those tricks pretty fast.

I am going to cover a specific area of Disney merch that I don’t think gets a whole lot of airplay in the blogosphere, and either it really should, or my even thinking it does is simply further evidence that I am distracted by shiny objects. This is in the arena of Light Up Nighttime Crap.

You know the crap I am talking about, yes? The spinner thingies mentioned yesterday, the glow sticks, that weird string sculpture thing that looks like you could perform a pretty clean limb removal with it and is thus as scary as it is pretty, and my personal favourite, the weird laughing skull necklace jobbie. As soon as the parade times start rolling around and people are lining up, out trundle cast members with carts groaning with more phosphorescence than the Marianas Trench. They wander about, catching the eyes of every child in a 500 foot radius. Guilty little secret, I also look rather longingly at the sparkling goodies as well, thinking how much fun the parade would be if I, too, was glowing and glittery, standing in the midst of all that light. It is pretty enticing.

A quick side note on, what to me, is NOT enticing. Giant freakin’ balloons. Ok, I know the ubiquitous Mickey balloon has been around possibly longer than written language, and a fresh new day at the parks with all those colourful heads bobbing down Main Street are perpetually screaming “WHEE!!!” in my inner child’s memory, too. But seriously. At night they drag out fistfuls of these sparkletastic monstrosities and sell them to people ABOUT TO LEAVE. That’s right, not only are they larger than my first apartment and destined to flicker and die like a Tamigutchi  pet just as your child is most getting attached to it, but there are people who buy them just to have them for all of an hour or so, and then struggle out of the parks and onto buses, monorails, and boats to plague passengers around them.

And it looks like a one man Pride parade, but enough about the upside.

The stuff on the magical glowing cart of wonders always starts to reel me in, however. But I am remaining strong, and have some ideas for how to fab up for the next parade for a much lower cost.

The easiest thing to do, of course, is load up on glow sticks. OUTSIDE the park, mind.  The same trip where I purchased my niece’s friend her sweet little Mickey ear headband, I also grabbed a couple of packs of glow sticks. At 99cents each, they were a bargain compared to park prices, and had a nice little side effect. The rain had just darn near ruined Kaylee’s very first Disney trip, by various nefarious means and after an late afternoon lull, had returned with a soggy vengeance. I was grumpy, the girls were grumpy, my husband was grumpy. We were dodging rain as we worked on about hour thirteen of our day and we were ready to give up. We ducked under the eaves of the far side of the Columbia Harbor House, near the staircase there. As we plunked down on the stairs, I remembered the glowsticks in my bag. “Time to be fabulous!” I called out, and we proceeded to rip open the bags and make bracelets, and in the case of the husband, a necklace, to adorn ourselves to wander through the night. It was an unexpected pick me up, and all evening, and during the ride home, seeing those little glowing circles felt like we were bringing a bit of magic home, even though we had brought it with us in the first place.

As for other sparkly wonders, the sky’s the limit and the fleamarket is your friend. All those cheesy lightup gadgets can be obtained there; the stuff isn’t even specifically Disney themed for the most part, except for the odd light up ears. Stuff the kids can wear (or the adults, for that matter) is the most fun, because it means no one has to carry anything in their hands to be lost. Even those light up ears, which are just round light up circles of tubing, can be duplicated with a little craftiness with two glow sticks and a dollar store headband. Wire all the pieces together and you are set! Consider painting a message on a tshirt in glow in the dark fabric paint. How cute would little Hitchhiking Ghosts look next to the parade? As always, you are only limited by your imagination and how much of the glowy goo you can have near your person before your start registering high on the nearest Geiger counter.

I Will Gladly Pay You Tuesday For Some Limburger Today

This article is going to seem like a no-brainer, and it does repeat some information found on far worthier sites, but how many sites show you a picture of a finger monkey first for no particular reason?

We, as a species, buy on credit, a lot. (not like that responsible little finger monkey up there…*stares for a minute*) It is kind of second nature to do so, and no greater time is this more prevalent than when one is getting ready to go on vacation. There are some things to do to avoid having your trip cost a lot more in hidden fees and interest after the fact, though, and they are easy to do.

First of all, if paying for everything all at once is an issue and the goal is paying it off over time, why pay afterwards? Why not pay in advance? Not only is there no interest, but where’s the fun in paying for something that is already over? “But I can’t save money, ” I can hear you pleading through a mouth of fine cheddar. I, too, experience this problem, and the solution is simple. Any number of places where gift cards are sold now sell Disney gift cards in various denominations. $25 here, a $50 one there, and after a few months you can have a substantial amount saved up in a form that you can only spend at Disney. They can be used for just about everything on property, including food and drinks, and if they are lost or stolen, and reported as such right away, you can have it frozen and replaced. Just make sure you write down the numbers in a safe place.  I recommend taking a clear picture of the number with your cell phone, so you aren’t in Fantasyland, and your card numbers aren’t in the desk drawer back in Iowa. (Note: the cell phone trick also works with remembering where you parked-take a picture of the sign, and being able to describe your kids if, god forbid, they wander off at Disney-just take a new snap each morning as you leave the hotel. ) Just keep in mind that vacation packages can currently only be paid for with gift cards in Disneyland, not Disney World. I recommend crying and stomping your feet until this is changed.

If you MUST have a credit card, be smart and cunning. There are some awesome cards out there, not the least of which is the Disney Visa Rewards card, that get you extra goodies and awesome things just for doing what you were going to do anyway, namely pay a buttload of money to go to Disney.  As I am not a financial advisor (my “portfolio” consists of a big blue piggy bank with “Vacation Fund” painted on the side), I won’t give any comparisons of cards; I will just encourage you to look into which cards might be best for you, and importantly which cards allow transfers of balances, so if you have already paid for your vacation package, you can reduce the interest. As for the Disney Visa card, there are a number of perks associated with it, most excitingly a chance to have a private Meet and Greet with characters.

Other ways to save in advance for Disney are covered in a far more comprehensive (though less finger monkey intensive) way over at Couponing To Disney and I highly recommend checking it out.

I, in the meantime, will keep feeding my piggy. He feel a little light, though…he must be lactose intolerant.


It’s all Gouda!

I have done it. I have joined the ranks of approximately eighty thrillion other Disney blogs out there.  I hope mine will have a difference, though. We all want to save money at the ‘Land and ‘World, but this blog is for reeeeaaal cheapskates, or realistically, folks that have dropped some money on their trip in general and what to know how to trim the fat once on property. We’ll look at topics like free souvenirs, saving money on food, and how to know what Disney exclusive items you can and cannot live without, among other fun stuff.