Thursday, December 1, 2016

Irritating Commercials

I don't watch many commercials. As a rule, I either mute the TV when they come on (in the rare instance where I am watching live TV) or I brush right past them. Heck, I even pay another $3/month to get the Hulu with no commercials. (Best money EVER spent.)

But on occasion I will see a commercial here or there that just make me wonder, and some of them have inspired this post.

Now before you say - They're just commercials, it's not serious - you're right. It's not serious. But it DOES make me NOT want to use their products, which I think is kind of the opposite effect you want when spending dollars and dollars on a TV commercial. Just a hunch.

* Dominos Pizza - Order online instead of calling us

This is an "oldie" that came out a while ago, but when I was thinking about this topic it immediately came to mind. For those who didn't see it, the gist was - the Dominos employee says that instead of calling them to order a pizza, you should do it online. Because basically, their people are either too dumb or too lazy or whatever to get your order right, so just email us.


What marketing person gave this the A-OK? You mean NO ONE in that presentation raised their little paw in the air and said, "Uh guys? Maybe we shouldn't be telling our customers that we're inept and can't get their order right?" It really threw me for a loop, so much so that I actually REWOUND the live TV and watched it again, thinking I couldn't possibly have heard it correctly.

I would guess that what they were going for was the message that you can order online, it's easy, you can make sure you get what you want, etc. But they totally missed the mark.

Pro tip - When advertising your company, it's best to inspire confidence about your brand, not tell people you're not bright enough to take a pizza order over the phone.

* Any car commercial over Christmas

I should have put this first, because this is my #1 "GOOD GRIEF, Charlie Brown" commercial.

You see it all holiday season. Nearly every car company does it. The "story" lines vary but the general idea is - man surprises his lady with a brand new Lexus or Mercedes or Range Rover, complete with giant red bow. They embrace, then run to the car to take a spin around the neighborhood.

Now, I think we all have lists of "If I had the money, I would do such-and-such." Bucket list purchases, if you will.

But I can 100% guarantee you, right here and now - I don't care how much money we had, if my husband surprised me on Christmas morning with a Lexus, we would NOT be smooching on the front lawn.

With me, it could go one of two ways (neither of which would be good, by the way):

"Gee honey...thank you for spending $50,000 of OUR MONEY and not talking to me about it!"


"Gee, honey....thanks for taking out a loan and not talking to me about it!"

Mr. Lexus would go right back to the dealership, big red bow and all.

* Cable and Internet for the Grandkids (I think it's XFinity)

This commercial is a recent one this year, and oh boy is it a doozy.

Let me set the stage for you. The grandparents are home, preparing for their holiday guests and are reading Granddaughter's tweet about going to her grandparent's house for the holidays. The little cherub is just beside herself because it's SO BORING at their place since they don't have internet, and how is she ever going to survive?!

So what do Granny and Gramps do? Why, they call their local telecommunications provider and hook up a sweet cable and internet package! Because the right way to reward a snarky, nasty grandkid is by giving into them, right?

OH MY WORD. That would not fly in my house.

First - you do not talk trash about your grandparents. Period the end. Your grandparents, if they're anything like the great ones I have, have poured into your with their time AND money over the years, and they adore you. The last need they need is your entitled hiney giving them hassle about the internet.

Second - why are the grandparents giving into this little monster? I get it, they want her to be happy.....fine. But what will she throw a fit about next? Not getting a $400 purse as a Christmas gift? Where does the insanity end?! (Oh and designer purse marketers, if you take that last part as an idea for Christmas Ad're welcome. That little gem is all yours.)

Again, I know it's not meant to be serious, they're trying to sell TV and internet packages. And I get the idea behind it - you'll have guests around, and they might want to surf the internet or watch TV while at your house so time to load up the offerings. I get it. But come on, guys. What a ridiculous commercial.

So what about you? What commercials are your least favorite? Share with the class!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"Controversies" That Need to Go Away

There are certain topics that when I see them on Facebook, or on social eyes roll SO FAR back into my head, they might stay that way.

There are certain "controversies" that we need to kill. They need to go away.  NO MORE, America. No more. Can we all agree - these "super important problems" just need to just GO AWAY immediately.

* Starbucks and the Christmas Cup Caper

If I were to write a novel with this incredibly important topic (spoiler - that was sarcasm), this would be the title.

For the last few years, people have been clutching their pearls in horror because - wait for it - the Starbucks Christmas cups don't have reindeer or twinkle lights or mangers on them.

They were RED last year, and they are GREEN this year. THE HORROR!

Can we all agree - there are REAL problems in the world?!  Look, I am a person of faith; I'm a Christian and I celebrate the meaning of the season. But a) Starbucks is not, nor have they ever been, a Christian company and b) Even if they WERE, what they chose to put on a throw away paper cup would be so far down my list of worries, it might even fall off completely.

(I am adding a caveat to this because there were reports that last year's Red Cup Scandal 2015 was only a problem to literally 5 people and the media whirled it up into a big frenzy because apparently we didn't have anything else of note going on the country during that time. This is my surprised face.)

* Mommy Wars 

Notice I didn't title this "Mommy and Daddy Wars" because men don't really seem to care about labeling how their fellow men parent. GOOD ON YOU, guys!

This is literally the ONLY THING that needs to be said in the "Do you work outside the home or inside the home" debate that I see, embarrassingly, at least a few times a week online. Some of the commentary is outright hostile, but the vast majority is super duper passive aggressive.

Do you work outside the home? YOU ARE A GOOD MOM and your kids will turn out great and everything will be wonderful.

Do you work inside the home? YOU ARE A GOOD MOM and your kids will turn out great and everything will be wonderful.

There are 2,000 more examples of these mommy wars (see: organic vs not, tv time vs no screen time, etc etc etc). It's pure insanity.

THE END. Let's stop. Just stop. BE THE CHANGE, ladies.


So what are yours? What are a few "problems" that come up that you'd like to squash?

Monday, October 24, 2016

New information about Vacation planning fees - Starting November 1, 2016

2016 has been an awesome year. I've loved working with you and your wonderful families. I love it when you send me pictures when you get home and tell me all about the great time you had, and I'm honored and flattered when you pass my name along to your family and friends who are looking to travel.

As my business grows, it's time for me to adjust my travel planning fees.

The process of planning a vacation goes beyond making the reservation. This can include my expertise, making dining and FastPass+ reservations for Disney vacations, speaking with the vendor if/when changes need to be made, monitoring current discount offers, double-checking existing plans when new information is released by vendors, creating custom itineraries, etc.  I also keep informed on changes and updates with different companies and destinations, take courses to stay up-to-date on their offerings, and attend site visits, conferences and take many vacations at my own expense to learn more about these places, so I can pass along the best information to you.

My new fee schedule reflects the time and attention I give to each family, because I truly want you to have a wonderful vacation!

Starting with vacations booked on November 1, 2016, below is my adjusted planning fee information.

A $250.00 planning fee will apply in the following instances:

* Room and ticket package vacations to Walt Disney World

* Room and ticket packages at off-site Disneyland resorts

* Hotel only bookings

* Package vacations (including but not limited to cruises, tour group vacations and all inclusive resorts) where the package is less than $2,500

If you are a previous client, the fee in the above instances will be $200.00

In addition, in honor of the brave men and women who serve in our nation's military, I will not have a planning fee for active members of the military and their immediate families.

Please do let me know if you have any questions. I am looking forward to an awesome 2017!

(Please note - this post was updated on 12/1/16 as I no longer assist with off-site Walt Disney World vacations. If you want to stay off-site and work with an agent, I can direct you to another Mouse World Travel agent who books those vacations.)

(The travel planning information above is for my business only and does not apply to every agent within Mouse World Travel.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dining Plan Review Part 2: Quick Service Credits

Happy Monday! Hope you have a fun week ahead of you. I am cramming lots of stuff in the next two days because Wednesday morning, I am leaving on a jet plane to go back to Iowa. I'm going to visit with family, see my niece for the first time (they have been in Hawaii for a few years and she was in her mommy's tummy last time I was there) and throw a baby shower for my sister in law. Then I go to NYC where I board the Disney Magic for a Canadian Cruise. It'll be a fun and whirlwind few weeks.

Today I want to talk about the Quick Service credits. I am going to do a similar breakdown as I did with the Snack credits. I am going to tell you what I ordered and if I "saved" money or not.

The dollar amount threshold for Quick Service credits is $18 (in terms of what you'd need to hit price-wise to at least even out on the dining plan) and so I am going to use that for the information below.

With Quick Service credits, you get a meal and a drink if it's breakfast, or if it's lunch and dinner you get a drink, your entree and a dessert item.

So without further ado - here is what I got.

* Tangierine Cafe - Morocco pavilion, Epcot

This was DELICIOUS and as you can see, lots of food. I got the Vegetarian platter which features hummus, tabouleh, lentils, falafel and olives served with fresh bread. I also got a bottle of water, and baklava which if I remember is your only choice there for a dessert item.

But when in Rome, right? Who would go to Morocco and not get baklava?!

Here is the price breakdown:

$18 if paying cash
Quick service credit on dining plan
$18 cash price - $18 quick service credit allowance = $0 break even

* Sunshine Seasons - Land pavilion, Epcot

My next quick service meal was probably my favorite of this vacation. I haven't been to Sunshine Seasons in a year or so, and so I was looking forward to it. This meal was wonderful and did not disappoint.

The best part? They have Perrier there and you can use it as your beverage credit on the dining plan! SCORE. That alone will make me choose it again and again. As someone who doesn't drink pop, I get a little bored with bottled water for the quick service meals so this was a nice alternative.

Here is what I ordered (and sorry, I don't have a picture; I took a video but no picture.) I got the spicy fish tacos, a Perrier and a key lime pie tart. Which was wonderful!

$19.29 if paying cash
Quick service credit on dining plan
$19.29 cash price - $18 quick service credit allowance = $1.29 in extra value

* The Daily Poutine, Disney Springs

This is one of the newest food offerings at Disney Springs. It's a walk-up kiosk where you can get all sorts of varieties of poutine (fries with gravy or sauce and toppings).

It's hard to tell from the picture, but you get a very large bowl which is nice. They don't have a dedicated quick service menu per se, but they told me I could get two beverages  as they don't have a dessert option (one as my beverage credit, and another as my dessert credit). I chose the All Day Breakfast Poutine.

You guys. It was INCREDIBLE. Oh my gosh, so good. It featured tator tots (instead of fries) and sausage gravy, cheese curds and a fried egg on top.

This was an unconventional choice for the quick service credit but I had been wanting to try it, and I just wasn't feeling Earl of Sandwich, which is my usual go-to.

So here are the numbers:

$14.50 if paying cash
Quick service credit on dining plan
$14.50 cash price - $18 quick service credit allowance = -$3.50 in value

So clearly, this is not the best use of a credit; as the poutine on its own was about $9, I would in the future just pay cash for it out of pocket. But it is large enough to share and would be a great little pick-me-up to share with a friend.

* Columbia Harbour House, Magic Kingdom

CHH is one of my favorite Quick Service locations at Walt Disney World. The food is always good, there is plenty of seating inside and  it's a nice place to sit and take a load off while you're touring Magic Kingdom.

We ate here the night of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, around 6PM. I chose the Anchors Aweigh Sandwich with chips (which is a tuna salad sandwich), a bottled water and a seasonal cobbler which was blueberry.

I love getting this sandwich because it's not too much mayo; I love a tuna sandwich but often when you get them at restaurants they are too full of mayo and that's not something I like. But this is PERFECT.

Here are the details:

$17.50 if paying cash
Quick service credit on dining plan
$17.50 cash price - $18 quick service credit allowance = -$.50 in value

So what was the final verdict?

$18 quick service allowance x 4 credits = $72 in quick service allowances
$69.29 had I paid for the meals in cash
Difference of -$2.71

If I had it to do over again, I would have not had the poutine as my credit, although it was very very good. It just wasn't a good value for the credit and thus skewed my overall savings to the negative. However, as I said in the snack post - I prefer doing the dining plan mostly because I am pre-paying for my meals and in that of course, it was a success.

Coming soon - the Table Service credits!

Have a great day!

Friday, September 16, 2016

What I'm Reading - And Want You to Read Too! (Giveaway time!)

Hey guys! You get two posts in one day. LUCKY YOU.

I am a voracious reader; I always have been. When I was younger our town library was only about 7-8 blocks from our house and I would walk back and forth, and back and forth on those sidewalks multiple times a week. I remember walking down the street with my arms overloaded with books, all genres. Mystery, fiction, non-fiction, historical works, etc.

I then parlayed that love into a degree in English literature, where for the last two semesters of college I basically just read and wrote papers. A DREAM. (No, that is not sarcasm. I love to write a paper. I would write a multi-thousand word essay over taking a 10 minute multiple choice test, all day long.)

I am always reading more than one book at a time. Anyone else? Right now, on my Kindle, I am in the midst of five books. Yes, five.

So today's post about what I am reading will be a bit different. I am going to make recommendations to you, and also we're going do a giveaway for the books! YAY! To enter, please share this blog post with your people. You can text it, email the link, share it on Facebook, on Twitter, on SnapChat...whatever floats your boat. You will get one entry to each person you share it with. I will be able to see the Shares on Facebook, but I can't on your other platforms or with email or your texting, so that will be on the honor system.  Just email me with how many people you sent the link to and I'll get you entered! ( Giveaway ends on Tuesday, September 20th at Noon Eastern. (You can choose whatever book of the three you would like to read, if you are chosen. I will pick THREE winners.)

OK on with the show, as they say.

* Love Warrior - Glennon Doyle Melton

You guys. YOU GUYS. I have loved Glennon for years and have been reading her Momastery blog and following her on social media for a long time. She's a great lady and a wonderful writer, and her new book about her struggles with addiction and in her marriage will break you wide open. But in the best way possible.

I am also listening to the book on Audible and I love hearing her voice, telling her story.

Oh, and the book was chosen as a must-read by someone kinda famous. Maybe you've heard of her? Oprah.

Her other book, Carry on Warrior, is also worth your time and a read.

She deals with hard stuff; this is not a light and fluffy book. But as Glennon says, life is Brutiful (brutal and beautiful). This book is both.

You can buy it on Amazon - the link is HERE.

* It's Not Fair: Learning to Love the Life You Didn't Choose - Melanie Dale

Melanie has a distinct writing voice; she is both poignant and serious, while also being funny and goofy and silly. Her love language is movie quotes and fart jokes. She is a gem.

I was introduced to Melanie's books by listening to the Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast, and was drawn to her candor and way of storytelling. In her latest book, It's Not Fair, she talks candidly about her struggles and her journey through those.

It is based in faith but does not come off at all preachy or "this is how you fix it." She gives her experience, some practical ideas and tips, and clothes it all in a unique combination of intense and light.

Melanie also has a podcast, Lighten Up with Melanie Dale, that is also worth a listen.

To buy It's Not Fair, go HERE.

* Modern Romance - Aziz Ansari

OK so I have a confession. I have not actually read this book yet.

BUT I have heard Aziz do many interviews and podcasts on the book, and I've read the bit you get for free on Amazon, and I'm super intrigued so I am 97.8% sure I will love it. It's on my Kindle as we speak.

Aziz Ansari is a comedian and writer, and you probably know him best for his role as Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation. (Who else loved that show?!)

Aziz talks about how, as a comedian, he could have pretty much written any book. Most comedians write books that are essentially their comedy routines, and so while funny are predictable and not very interesting.

But after thinking about the topic of dating (and especially dating in our modern world), he was inspired to dig deeper into the topic. He talked to people of all ages and backgrounds, and worked with a NYU sociologist to really dive into what marriage and romance is now, juxtaposed with what it was 30, 40, 50 plus years ago.

I think this will be super interesting and a fun read. You can buy Modern Romance HERE.

So there you have it - three recommendations from me. Remember - if you want to be part of the giveaway - the instructions are above.

Have a great rest of your day!

Dining Plan Review Part 1: Snack Credits

Hey guys, happy Friday! I hope you all have fun weekend plans ahead. I'm headed to my sister's house tonight, then this weekend will be getting myself ready to go gone for almost 3 weeks. I'm going back to Iowa to see family, then heading on the Canadian Cruise with Disney Cruise Line in early October.

I wanted to do a review of the dining plan and how I used it for this most recent vacation. I kept all my receipts, and also notes about what I would have paid out of pocket for the same items.

I also took pictures of how I used the snack credits, so you could see those items.

I've been doing the dining plan on all my personal trips; not only because it does save me money on what I choose to order, but also because I like the pre-paid aspect of it. I like being about to pay for as many of my vacation items as possible before I arrive, and the dining plan lets me do that.

So, to recap: for 2016, the Disney Dining Plan includes per person, per night of your stay:

* 1 refillable mug (you can use at your resort or the water parks for things like soda, tea, coffee, etc)
* 1 snack credit
* 1 quick service meal credit (which is a beverage, entree and a dessert for lunch and dinner; breakfast is your entree and a beverage.)
* 1 table service meal credit (which is a beverage, entree and a dessert or a buffet)

For today's post we'll be examining the Snack credits, and then I'll talk about the other items on later posts.

I found an article online that gave a good benchmark; they said you should aim to keep your snacks at $5 or more, as that will give you the most value for the dollars you paid for the dining plan. So keeping that in mind, I am going to assume that each snack credit costs $5 and base my savings (or not) on that dollar amount.

Ice Cream small bowl from Ample Hills at the Boardwalk Inn: $6.89 if paying cash
Snack credit on dining plan
$6.89 cash price - $5 snack credit allowance = $1.89 in extra value

Ample Hills is one of the newer offerings on the Boardwalk at the Boardwalk Inn. Anyone can go there; you don't have to be staying at the hotel, and the Boardwalk is a great place to shop, people watch and grab snacks as well as meals. With the dining plan, a snack credit gets you either a cone or a bowl; I chose the bowl as it was hot that day and I wanted to keep the melting to a minimum.

You can a decent amount of ice cream; I got a lemon sorbet and it was two very decent sized scoops. But at almost $7, that is pricey if buying on its own.

Candy Corn Ice Cream Cone from Storybook Treats, at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
$4.19 if paying cash
Snack credit on dining plan
$4.19 cash price - $5 snack credit allowance = -$.81 less value

I'm a firm believer that even on the dining plan, you should order what YOU want, even if it's not the best dollar to credit conversion. Yes, I lost money on this item but I won't get it again for that reason. I felt it didn't taste at all like candy corn and was just a very basic vanilla flavor. After I took the picture, the ice cream also fell and so they gave me another cone. I ended up throwing it away, though, as I didn't want to eat something I wasn't really into.

Fruit Tart from Starring Rolls Cafe at Disney's Hollywood Studios
$4.79 if paying cash
Snack credit on dining plan
$4.79 cash price - $5 snack allowance = -$.21 less value

Even though this was a "loss" dollars wise, I still LOVED it and thus felt it was a good value. I had two snack credits left as I was getting ready to leave and drive back to Ft Myers, so I got the fruit tart and a cupcake (below) to take home.

When I talk to many people on the dining plan, they end up having extra snack credits at the end of their vacation and so often I hear people will load up on bagged candy and other treats to enjoy at the airport, in the car or once they get home. It's nice to take a bit of Disney home with you and have a treat later that reminds you of your vacation!

I would get the tart again; it was nice and light and there was the slightest layer of chocolate between the cream and the tart shell and so it complemented the fruit very nicely.

Goofy Cupcake from Starring Rolls Cafe at Disney's Hollywood Studios
$5.59 if paying cash
Snack credit on dining plan
$5.59 cash value - $5 snack allowance = $.59 in extra value

The cupcake was huge, as are most of the cupcakes you find on Disney property. For this reason, I find these great to share; sharing also lets you stretch those snack credits!

It was very tasty; a yellow cake base with a vanilla frosting, and cute Goofy ears and hat. A basic cupcake, nothing fancy...but that tasted delicious.

So to are the dollars and cents:

$5 snack allowance x 4 snack credits = $20 in snack allowances
$21.46 value had I paid in cash for the snacks
Difference of $1.46

Now, this is not a giant savings - but I also didn't choose snack items based solely on their cash price. That is a great way to use the dining plan and perfectly acceptable but not what I did this time around. That being said, every little bit of savings is a good thing - and I do like pre-paying for as much of my vacation expenses as I can going in.

In the coming days I'll be posting about the quick service and table service credits, and how those dollars worked out in comparison to what I would have paid in cash.

Thanks for reading! Have a great day!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Frozen Ever After - Hit or Miss?

Earlier this week I got a chance to do the new Frozen Ever After attraction at Epcot. It was a total fluke, really. I was at Epcot with Mouse World Travel owner (and my friend) Michelle and we happened to be on the MyDisneyExperience app, updating a dining reservation for the next day. We were checking FP+ and then boom! I saw one so I grabbed it. About 15 minutes later, Michelle found another single time slot that was overlapping, so we could go together. SCORE!

The attraction is pretty new, within the last few months. Since it's both new AND features the juggernaut cash cow Frozen, it's been a huge draw at the parks. When I make FastPass+ selections for clients, often we have to grab whatever is available at 60 days out and sometimes I am not able to get them. To say they are in demand is a bit of an understatement.

(This is the same attraction, if you'll remember, that had 4 and 5 hour waits earlier this summer. No ma'am - no thank you. Not waiting in a line like that for ANY attraction.)

They re-purposed the Maelstrom attraction/ride at the Norway pavilion at Epcot and so it was the same ride track as Maelstrom, but of course themed for Frozen. 

I was very happy we were able to do it - because it was in such demand, and I hadn't done it yet - but I thought, it'll probably be a "meh" or just OK and I won't think too much of it. 

You guys - I LOVED IT. Freaking loved it. It was incredible.

The characters and scenes were gorgeous. The music was perfect. The little touches from Disney that we've come to know and love were in abundance.

I didn't get very good pictures but I'll share the ones I do have. It was just perfection, and after experiencing it I can see why people are loving it, beyond that it features the Frozen characters.

Michelle took a video and we're getting those worked up to put on our Mouse World Travel YouTube page; I'll be sure to link it when we have it ready.

Don't wait in a 4 hour line to ride this - because that is just insanity - but if the line is not too bad and/or you can get a FP+, please add it to your list. You will not be sorry!