Monday, June 1, 2015

I love Disney, so why not RunDisney ??

Growing up I never joined any teams in school, never played any recreational sports. It's not that I'm particularly nonathletic, it's more that I'm not much of a fan of being on a team. I've always been more of a 'lone wolf' if you will. Not to say I don't enjoy the company of people and have friends, it's more along the lines that I don't like relying on others. If I succeed or fail, I want it to be on my terms. Control freak? Maybe. So when it came to playing sports, I never really had the desire to do so, that was until I discovered running.

Running and I used to hate each other. In high school, the end of the year final was a mile run. Run. Ha. Run. No. It was more of a casual jaunt or low speed jog. I was lucky if I crossed the finish line under 20 mins. No joke. It wasn't until I had my adult life with work, job, kids, husband, house that I found a comrade in running. With running, I was alone. I had that oh so beautiful moment of solidarity. Where it was just me and my headphones and the road. No one asking for a snack, no bills needing to be paid, no emails needing responses. Instead I found peace. I found quiet. Something this mid-thirty year old mom needed.

So just as anything in my life, I found a way to incorporate Disney into it! And that was with RunDisney. My first half marathon was the Disneyland half in 2013, my second was the Inaugural Avengers Half in 2014. (*side note...I did register for the Disneyland Half for 2014 and the Star Wars Inaugural 10K in January of this year, but due to a condition and surgery with my knee I was unable to, and deferred them..I'll talk more about deferrals later). And my triumphant return to running after a massive knee surgery is scheduled for January 2016 where I'll run the Star Wars 10K.

The next sign up for a RunDisney event is June 16th, 2015 at 9am. If you're interested in signing up for this, or just want to know a little more about it, here are my tips:

1. Sign up EARLY.

RunDisney events historically sell out the same day registration opens, if not within a few hours. A tip to get a first chance to register for the races is to utilize or sign up for other Disney memberships you may already have. Disney Visa, DVC and Annual Pass Holders get an early registration link to sign up for the races before the general public.

2. Know what races you want to sign up for ahead of time. 

While it's called Half Marathon weekends, there are more than just half marathons to run! They have Kids Races (diaper crawl to 400m dash for 7-8 year olds), 5k, 10k, Halfs and challenges! Challenges usually consist of running the 10k and Half, but they also have ones like the Dopey Challenge, where you run the 5k, 10k and Half! So budget accordingly and have everyone's information in front of you when you are online. You don't want to be caught looking for that credit card number or address and lose your spot for registration.

My 3 kids and 2 nieces after the Kids Fun Run Races at the Avengers Half 

3. Train

I didn't train for my 1st Half Marathon, nor for my second....and I finished uninjured, but I realize I am lucky in that respect. You're counting on your body to take you anywhere from 3.2 to 13.1 and beyond miles, so you have to prepare it to do so properly. There are 100 apps on iPhones that can help you train, but RunDisney has an in house running expert, Jeff Galloway who also has programs you can download for free and follow based on which race and distance you're running. Jeff Galloway is a great resource for all things training. You can check out some of his tips/tricks and training guides here:
Image courtesy of Jeff Galloway and RunDisney

4. Visit the Expo early. 

With each race there is an Expo that starts a few days before the actual races are to take place. The Expo is not only where you will be picking up your packet, it's where you get to become completely overwhelmed with all the running gear, hydration and fuel you never knew you needed. You think you've got all this running stuff figured out, and take one step in the Expo and you feel like a transfer student into a new high school where everyone has known each other since kindergarten! If you have the time though, walk around and check out some of the stuff the vendors are selling. You never know, there may be a pair of princess socks you can't live without.

In addition to the gear being peddled by vendors, there's all the actual RunDisney merchandise you'll want to get your grubby little hands on before anyone else. For the Avengers race, the line just to get into the merch area was about an hour and a half wait.(I was terribly disappointed when I realized it wasn't the line for Space Mountain once I hit the front of the line... ;) If you don't arrive early to get in line for the merch, chances are the size you're looking for in that one shirt you have to have will be sold out. I still think Disney needs to figure out a better system to this whole process, as many times it's not even the runners who are buying all the merch and turning and selling for a profit on e(vil)-bay.
The back half of the line for RunDisney merch at the 2014 Inaugural Avengers Half
5. Arrive early to your corral, but not TOO early. 

My first RunDisney race I was up and ready to go at 3am. I had my husband and kids pile into a car and drive me to the drop off area. (Since then I've learned to stay much closer to the park and just walk). I arrived at 4am, just as they said to do in the little booklet. And I was so ready, adrenaline pumping, I was fueled and hydrated. And then.....I waited. And waited. AND WAITED. I waited until our corral (which happened to be the last since I had not previous time to submit) to cross that start line at 6:50am. Yes. 6:50am. I had waited nearly a full 3 hours in a mass of thousands of people. By this time I was tired of standing/sitting, I had to pee, I was thirsty and my fuel had all but left my body.
My second RunDisney race, I showed up at 5am. Found my corral and waited again, but this time, was only for about an hour. They had planned it much better, however still there were some massive problems RunDisney didn't account for..but you can search on that later.
So make sure you show up in time to start the race, but don't bother coming as early as they suggest. Or if you do, be prepared to wait.

Me. Waiting. 

Other people. Waiting

6. Take pictures with characters! 

That is of course if time allows. RunDisney works with Anaheim PD and for the Half Marathon they have to close a large section of public roads, so they do put a time limit on the race. Last I remember it was 3hours and 30mins. If you're under that time, great. If you're looking like you may just squeak in under the time limit, you might want to fore go the character pictures and just focus on finishing without being swept (yes, swept. Like Cinderella cleaning up the tower, there are people who follow the end of the line with golf carts, and if they catch up to're swept up onto a bus and driven to the finish line. (Yes, you still get a medal. Basically if you cross the start line, you get a medal.) But I digress...IF you have time, stop and take pictures with the characters that are along the route. They're there to support and cheer you on. But if you don't you can always do like I did....the run by selfie! Yeah, that's right. Captain America think's I'm nuts, but I don't mind. I love him!

You know you wanna smile for me Capt'n

7. Mile markers make good photo companions too! 

I used these to send updates to my family along the way, and to keep myself motivated. The timing thing never worked for me though, as the time on the clock was from when the 1st Corral super star runners took off. So don't panic if you see 3:30 on mile marker 10. You're probably only 2 hours in. :)
Nope, not me. I didn't have time to stop and take a picture with it. Another run by photo! 

8. Take it all in. 

All of it. Take in all of what you're doing. Be proud you're running, that you're in Disneyland! You get to see some parts of the park no other guests get to! Whether it's watching sunrise over PeterPan and the Castle, or it's seeing what's behind that wall you've always wondered about, be sure to snap pictures and take it in! (While they frown on and discourage you from taking any pictures of back lot areas, it doesn't mean you can't try!)

9. Look for your crew. 

That last little push I needed. My family cheering me on at the finish line. Just when your legs say you can't, your heart says yes, yes you can.

10. Wear that medal proudly! 

After the race, for the rest of they day, your trip or week. Even at home! Wear that thing like a badge of honor because you did it! There is nothing anyone can do or say to take that away from you. Be proud of it and show it! Plus in the park, you get a lot of 'ooohhhs' and 'ahhhss' from people and high fives from CM's!

And in the very sad and off chance that you can't run your race as anticipated, RunDisney does offer deferrals on races 10k and farther. Just visit the RunDisney site for steps on how to defer your race. But let's not think about that, instead, get read to RunDisney! Click here on June 16th at 9am PST to register for the Star Wars Half Marathon!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Disney Magic and Club 33 : Then and Now.

When Walt Disney opened Disneyland on July 17th, 1955, he wanted his cast members to bring what he called Disney Magic into the lives of all the guests. And for nearly 60 years now, I've heard story of Disney Magic being performed on a nearly daily basis from cast members. But what Walt probably didn't expect, was that Disney Magic started to leak out of the confines of the park. That this magic would find it's way into the hearts and minds of it's guests as they left. It began to show itself in daily actions of people. And lucky for me, it's found it's way into my life. I have been so fortunate I could write a book about it all, but for now, I'll just cover Club 33 and how lighting struck twice.

My first touch of real Disney Magic was in 2013. 

You know how they say if there is something you desire, just say it  out loud. Put it out there to the universe. So I decided to put my desire to visit Club 33 out to the universe the beginning of 2013. That year I'd be celebrating my 33rd birthday and thought how fun it'd be to visit Club 33 in my 33rd year of life. I had known how impossible it was to get in, and never even attempted to hunt down the elusive member and try and get my foot in the door, but thought hey, why not just put it out there. 

Insert a sprinkle of pixie dust and voila! You've got Disney Magic and a reservation for 6 at the Club! 

Now an unspoken rule of Club 33 is you don't reveal your sources. So I'll go ahead and skip to the point where we got to visit the club in June of 2013. ;)

Talk about being ready to die happy....
The Husband and I 

Ringing the bell!
She actually let us in! 

The lift Disney had made to match one he saw in Paris during a vacation. 

The hall was decorated with a variety of antiques collected by Lillian

OK, I have to admit this was very strange to use...

Just a few of the desserts offered at the buffet

The Husband and I again from the balcony above New Orleans Square

One of the most amazing paintings. Would love to hang this in my house!

The infamous animatronic vulture

No detail over looked! 

Was I really here? Pinch me.

We didn't get a chance to dine in the Trophy Room, but the CM allowed me to snap a quick few pictures

View from the balcony. I have to admit, I felt a little "better" than the commoners below! 

See that in the middle? Yep, that's a microphone. While it never actually got used, it was an interesting idea!

6 of the luckiest people in the park that day! 

So that was forward to a year later in 2014. No putting it out there, or wishing upon star created my second lighting strike with Club 33. Rather a true Disney Magic moment and appreciation for the Disney fan I am, led to my second visit.

Club 33 closed for a brief time during 2014 for renovations. I had read from various sources that they'd be closing my favorite location for the Club 33 expansion..the Court of Angels. Upset by this news, my family made sure to visit it one last time in December before it was lost to us forever. Little did I know, I'd be able to revisit my old friend later that next year. 

October 2014: Visit #2. 

As mentioned above the Club was closed for major refurbishment, so while this was a second visit, it was like the first time. 

I can't tell you how honored I was/am to have been able to visit Club 33 just before it's closing and just shortly after it's reopening. 

Initially I was sad to see all the changes that were made. The Club 33 I visited last year was completely gone. It was unrecognizable. Instead of entering from a small door located next to the Pirates ride exit, you entered farther over near the restrooms. Instead of waiting in a tiny cramped little space where you got to admire the Parisian lift, you got to relax in an open and spacious area (Court of Angels). That isn't where the differences ended. The design and look of the whole restaurant went from vintage classic Disney to more upscale swanky restaurant. It was an adjustment for sure in my mindset, but don't get me wrong.... While I'm a sucker for nostalgia and seeing things through the eyes and heart of Mr. Walt Disney, the new Club 33 was admittedly amazing. 

Mr. Disney even said {the park} will never be finished, so long as there is imagination left in this world. While the Club 33 wasn't what Walt, Roy and Lillian had designed in the 1960's, it was what I think they'd have dreamed up in this day and age. It was beautiful.

And it felt a lot more like what I'd expect if I were a member to have available to me. A 5 star restaurant with an air of sophistication. No more buffets. Instead a 4 person presentation from the service cast. No more little signs telling you what the food is. Rather a personal visit from the chef. 

Again, I loved, loved, loved Club 33 prior to the renovations, and knowing I had a chance to see it as it was initially imagined, is an honor I'll carry for the rest of my life. But also seeing it after the renovations was a blessing as well. I never thought I'd be able to see it as lightning rarely strikes twice. Having the chance to experience it afterwards just means it's a part of the park I got to see that millions of people will never be able to see. And to see it in it's transformation.... mind blowing. 

New entrance and bell...

New Bell and Logo
ahhh..There you are old friend. How I miss the Court of Angels.

Stunning tile work at the door to the new club atop the Court of Angels stairs. 
Again, 6 of the luckiest people in the park that day. 

Gone are the antiques collected by Lillian, but the walkway is still beautiful.

Ladies waiting room 
Swan anyone?

Why do I tell you all this? It's not to rub it in and make you feel sad if you've never visited Club 33. It's to tell you that Disney Magic is real. It really is.  Because if I've been able to see Club 33 in both previous and current states, ridden the Lily Belle, visited Walt's Apartment and toured the Dream Suite, it must be real. I'm no executive or rich CEO that gets special treatment. I'm just a Disney fanatic like you. So believe in Disney Magic...You just have to have faith, trust and a little pixie dust.

Monday, April 27, 2015

DVC : A conversation.

In my last blog post, I let you know about the benefits of getting an Annual Pass. Hopefully you found it useful and worth the read. Today I was going to write out all sorts of specifics and details on owning a Disney Vacation Club Membership, but instead, I remembered a conversation I had with one of my friends who was intrigued and wanted to know more about DVC. Since I had just come home from a Disneyland trip where we purchased the membership from the most amazing Uncle Andy (Andy Berry), all the info was on the tip of my brain and I was so excited, I just had to share. While not a typical blog post, I still think it is a great read! A lot of great questions were asked, ones I hadn't thought to ask in the pitch room. So here you go, sit back, read and enjoy! And at the end, be sure to head to the DVC Membership office and ask for Andy Berry. He'll be able to officially guide you through the amazing world of DVC! 
Tell me more about the DVC. We don't fully understand how it works
DVC.... One sec. Let me get on my computer
So DVC is a timeshare...obviously. But it's one that you can purchase points (from 50pts to 4,000 pts) which 50 pts get you like 3 days a year in a suite, and 4,000 is like 11months..The guy Andy Berry (he's on my friends list) was our agent. He's pretty cool. He said they've only sold 3 4,000pts memberships..anyways, I digress...
Basically you're buying a timeshare but no actual condo or physical address. You own these points for 50 years.
So what we did, is we bought 170pts (between my family and my sisters) to share for our family vacations we do together.
Since we bought into Aulani, (it's what they're offering) we have the ability to book rooms 11 months in the future.
But if we wanted to stay at the Grand California, we'd have to wait until we were 7 months out to give those who 'own' under Grand California a chance to reserve
The rooms are amazing.
BUT you don't have to stay at a location on property. They have over 4,000 hotels all over the world you can use points on
So for us, we pay (cause we had to finance it) $180/mo and will for 10 years, but after the 10 years, we'll have 40 years of a week of "free" vacations
170pts gets us a 2 bedroom villa for a week at really any property
YOu can borrow from future years, bank your points too if you don't use them
Gift them...
Am I helping at all? Lol

Yes. I'm reading to DH and you type haha
This is a 2 bedroom that my sister stayed in this last time. It can easily fit 9 people.
So like this year, we're banking our points, as we will be doing our cruise (which you can use points towards but cost doesn't really make sense to do cruises with the points..even Andy would say that)
But because we have the cruise next year, we're banking ,and will go to WDW at some point and have enough points to get us 1 week for us and for my parents
It makes sense for people like us to do it, because of how often we go. We spend easily 5-6k a year on vacations to Disney and other places. Might as well spend it towards that and after 10 years get the places for free.
They're partnered with RCI (which is a time share company I'm sure you've heard of)
So they have a points lock. Basically they locked in the amount of points it takes to reserve a room. It will never change (the cost of the points will increase over time) but the closed system guarantees that in 2015 it will take "X" amount of points for a 1 bedroom and in 2020, it will take that same amount of points.
There are annual fees for 'maintenance' and such...but it works out to like $640/year.
I'm kind of rambling. Do you have any specific questions?

No this is awesome

He actually said "I guess it does make sense for us since we go so much"



He has always been hesitant on time share stuff
And each level of hotels costs different points, and it's actually lower or cheaper to stay at the suites and villas they have than say the Disneyland hotel basic rooms
Then there are the premier collection, which is like the nice one up in Tahoe, the Coronado in San Diego...
And then there are 1,000's of them all over the US. It's really cool. AND
Oh this is the best part.

the pitch. Ha! It's supposed to take 60-90 mins, and the kids go off to play and be entertained, you get drinks and food and watch videos and then when you're done they give you fast passes that don't expire
Our 'pitch' was 5 hours (ha! ) but that was unusual due to our set up, but we got like 60 fast passes and will be taking them back with us next week...
we could even bring them back in a year to their office and they'll switch them out.
But the point is, it's NO pressure to go check it out. For us the 1st time, they were like so here's the info, go home, it's a big decision and just let us know.
Dude our guy Andy HOOKED us up with stuff, we got pins, hats, toys, cookies, sodas. We walked out of there with more swag than we could carry.
I'm stoked we finally went through with it. It just made sense for as much as we travel.
And we've been through Time share pitches before and they always felt too good to be true, but with Disney it's not. It's exactly what we wanted.

You should send them that as a testimonial hahaha that was awesome

So 5 hours?!

How in the hell!! What did the kids do??

Do you have to stay that long if you go in saying you want to do it?

I could not sit there for 5 hours

So how does it work if you want to let someone else use it? How do people sell their points? Just curious
Yeah our kids are rock stars, and they had a ton of entertainment, they offered to feed them lunch...
But it was only due to the way title had to be held and that was from pitch to signing papers. It should only take an hour to two hours for the whole thing for normal people
Plus we got up took a break, walked around the villas (they have examples of them there)
And to share points, you just make the reservation, but put it under someone else's name.

So if you have a week somewhere. Can you do 2 rooms for 3 days instead somewhere else?
No, if you went in saying you want to, you'd be out in an hour.
yes. You have your points and you can use them however you want. And if you're short between 1-24 points, you can pay $12 point to get what you need
You can always add points to your plan too.
So start at the minimum then see what you use and if it's more, you can add more.

Sooooo interesting

Super intrigued. It really does seem to make sense for us

What is the difference between the grand Californian and the Alauni? Do they do DVC for grand cal
Yes, but they sold all the 'points' they were offering in that hotel as being a 'home' hotel. It's kinda of like first dibs. They can only allow so many or there'd be no points for all the members.
So right now they're offering 'home' points in Aulani and Grand Floridian.
Rumor is the next one they're going to make DVC is the Polynesian in WDW

Oooh I see. So how often would points be available to use at the grand cal? Are they hard to come by?

We would want to use other places but since we mainly go to DL, it would be a bummer if we couldn't use them.
No you just have to be on it 7 months out. We have friends who just joined and they get put on a request wait list, and ended up getting 4 days at the Grand.
It really isn't an issue from my understanding.
Holidays and more peak times it may be harder

Gotcha! We don't do peak times so that could work
Yeah, I totally recommend you guys checking it out.

I want to find someone who has the DVC for the grand cal hahah

The idea of the waiting list freaks me out a bit haha

Does Paris have Disney hotels?

I guess I could look... Sorry hahaha I'm just thinking haha
It's something you'd have to ask them about. The availability at 7 months. I don't think we asked that but it was never something they said...

Gotcha. I want to go to one now. Where do they have them? Only at the parks?
Have what?

The pitch

What's it called... The timeshare appointment? Haha

That's the disney Paris point for 2013-2104
And I don't know.... Let me ask uncle Andy
It's what we call him. You'll want to go to him
And yes it's at the kiosks in the park. You can do it over the phone but where's the fun in that

Ya I want the swag! Haha

So the Disney hotel is 110 points for 1 night?

It's seems value, and peak are the same
hold please.
let me look

So that was Disneyland Paris I sent you

and yes, Fri-Sat during value season and peak season is the same

I saw Disneyland hotel
and that was for the standard room but sun-thurs is way less

Thought it was anaheim

We usually go thurs- sun
no, for disneyland anaheim is super value season, standard room 32 pts/night for premium view it's 36pts sun-thurs

I'm loving the idea

Oh wow!!
fri-sat it's 40 and 45

What the grand?
but peak it's 45/54
stand / premium
let me look..
hold please.

*insert disney park music here
and those were just for standard hotel rooms in the hotel. at the grand...for a studio (which holds 4) is sun-thur 17 fri-sat 22 and weekly 129
so one bedroom it's 31/ then fri sat is 40 and weekly is 235
and goes up from there
that's the adventure (low) season
premium season is 30pts sun-thurs
A deluxe studio is 1 queen bed, 1 queen size sleeper sofa 1 bathroom and kitchenette

one bedroom is 1 king size bed, 1 queen size sleeper sofa, 1 pull down bunk sized bed, 2 bathrooms and full kitchen
They really want you to stay in the villas, so they make the points more reasonable

So when you sign up. What's the final paperwork like? Do you have to finance?
If you're poor like us, yes. Lol. But no, you can outright purchase points.
Yeah it's like really any other loan documents. I was familiar with it. You have a purchase contract, a GFE etc.
You sign a note and a deed

So it's a 10 yr loan?
No prepayment penalty

And how ever many points you buy is what the monthly is

Is the a set pt cost? Or the more you buy the less they are?
I feel like i'm at work!
no worries. I like doing this
each point is a set amount.

i'm looking to see what it is now...
so that is with a standard 10% down payment. They give you incentives too. So we got an extra 'year' of points in our account
so right now we have 170 points we could use for this year, but we're going to bank them so come 2016 we'll have 3 years of points

The Maintenance fee. If you pay upfront, do you still have to pay it?

How is that paid for? Is it part of the financing?
Yes, that's an annual for the life that you own it.
Yeah, ours is all together. You don't have to though. You can just finance the points and then pay that on your own

It's $600 a year for the full 50 yrs?
yes. think of it as like an hoa fee
it's to maintain the grounds blah blah blah blah

I really should just go to the meeting haha

I'm going to have no questions for them because I bugged you to death about it hahahah
Ha! No worries. It's Disney and I love talking Disney

Does the fee go up by what they feel it does it stay at what you sign up as?
Yes, historically it's been something around 1%-3% per year.

Okay. That's good info.
Yeah, so it's not free obviously after the 10 years, but $600/year for a week or so in one of the villas isn't bad either.
Considering if we wanted to just stay at the Grand, one room for one night averages $700
And that's just a hotel room

Oh totally!!
And you get discounts from around the park too

Last time we went, we had our friend who used to work there contact a current employee for their half off hotel discount and it was still $350 a night. So $700 for the two nights. Ya. Totally get it! P

What are the discounts for the park?

I like that the points are the same year after year.
10% on meals at nearly every place in the park...10-20% off of merch

Oh that great. Like a pass holder
and you can pool hop. Like we went with our DVC friends to the Disneyland Hotel pool while they stayed at the Grand.

It all adds up!
It does!

We go in feb. I'm making him go to a meeting hahaha
Nice. Totally. Let me know when you go and I'll let Andy know and he can schedule you an appointment.

Oh good idea. When we book our dates. I will let you know to have him set it up. There has to be some kind of referral!
ha! I just love spreading Disney magic.


And if you haven't caught my name dropping, I'll say it one more time since it's worth being said, you'll need to visit with Andy Berry at the DVC Membership office. He's the best hands down....Tell him Michelle says Hi to Uncle Andy if you do!