Monday, October 10, 2016

Shop Disney Parks App Review





I've been meaning to post this review for a long time but now that I've used the app for about 9 months, I feel that I can give a more thorough analysis of what it does and how well it works!


Released in summer 2015, I first learned about this app before my December 2015 trip to Walt Disney World. Being the kind of shopper that prefers to do research ahead of time (I love store websites that allow you to check the stock of an item in nearby stores. That way I can be in and out - try on or scope out the potential purchase and then head for the register), I had an idea of some of the kinds of items I was looking for at WDW. For example, I'd wanted to pick up some Duffy merchandise, but knowing that Duffy ended his meet-and-greet run at Epcot just 2 months before my trip, I wanted some insider info on what stores were my best bet for things Duffy. So I headed over to the best place for a specific Disney insider info - Disboards.com - and asked this very question. Someone there let me know about the existence of this fabulous app and the rest is history!

This app is useful in 3 main ways and I have utilized it extensively with 2 of them:


Low Stock and In Stock icons

Locating items on property - as described in my introduction, this app proved to be a huge time-saver while shopping at WDW, both in locating potential purchases as well confirming the in-stock status of an item at a given store. Here's an example of a real success story: on my visit last December, I really wanted a pair of the green sequin Minnie ears headband with the red bow for MVMCP. This proved to be a more challenging task than I assumed and I would have went home empty handed if it wasn't for this app. (There were plenty of the black Minnie ears headbands with the light bulb design but I really wanted this other specific style.) After searching to no avail in nearly every store in Epcot, I was ready to give up. However, with some exploration of the Shop Disney Parks app, I searched for the item on the app, I clicked "locate" and found the places these particular ears were carried on property - from Main Street Emporium to even the shops in the resorts. Something I quickly learned is that the yellow "Low Stock" triangle symbol actually means "Out of Stock," and while these ears showed yellow triangles all over the map, there was ONE store on property that still had a green "In Stock" circle for these Holly Ears. It was the Magic Kingdom Newsstand - a store I never even noticed and is probably overlooked by most MK guests. Situated on the left side of the entrance, it's located right past bag check but before the "tunnels" that take you on to Main Street USA. Most people, I would imagine, are eager to get into the park and don't usually stop to shop in this tiny little outpost they encounter in the first 30 seconds they are admitted in, especially with the huge Emporium only steps away. Well, true to the app, I could spot a stack of them at 20 paces. God bless my sweet husband, who, despite this being a silly quest (truly), bounded ahead of me and beelined right to them for me! I think he was as happy to snatch them up for me as I was excited to own them :) Without this app, I never would have looked in this store and I wouldn't have gotten them!

An additional benefit (which I learned after the fact) is that you can see if an item is in stock at a more convenient location on property. Even though the WDW gift shopping mantra is "if you see it, buy it now!" since nothing is guaranteed to be in-stock elsewhere, I found that there were some items that I'd purchased in Mouse Gear that I later found were plentifully in stock in the Wilderness Lodge Mercantile which I could have picked up on my way back to my room. Even though Disney makes shopping in the parks easy with package pick-up and resort delivery, knowing that the mug I had to have could be located an elevator ride away from my room would have made it even more convenient. 






Above: Search results for a common item. In stock in the parks AND my resort!




Above: Want to browse all products in a specific category? Not only can you see all the results but you can pinpoint the location of the harder-to-find items (like those unique to a park/resort/theme).



Shopping in the parks - I have not actually made a purchase through the app while on property but I did use the bar code scanner frequently in store and ended up purchasing some of the items when I got home (see below). One of the things I loved about this is that you could just walk around and zap items with the app that recorded the sku number, a picture, and all necessary data all in only place (instead of jotting down information from a tag or snapping a photo of them item for future reference). Otherwise, this allows you to shop while waiting in attraction queues and with the benefit of merchandise pickup and delivery https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/package-pickup-and-delivery/ Easy peasy!




Shopping from home - for those of us who don't feel fulfilled by DisneyStore.com (though I shop there regularly, it's more of a toy store to me), this app is everything to those who want to have the virtual experience of shopping essentially every item in WDW from home. The inventory on the app is incredibly extensive. This works like any other shopping app - you can search for items, add them to your cart and check out. It also keeps the items in your cart long term and allows you to save items in your cart for later. There is no extra charge for this service - the items arrive with the original price tag which matches the price you pay. Each time I have shopped through here, the items have arrived via UPS in about a week. The app frequently offers discounts and free shipping, especially around the holidays. (I even shopped through here for Christmas and their "guaranteed by Christmas free shipping" was true!)





I will admit however that there are a few parts of the app that could use improvement. As I mentioned, "low stock" actually means "out of stock" (but I understand why it would work this way for the sake of inventory upkeep) so knowing that distinction is helpful. The only other area I found that could use some fine tuning is the search feature. Generally, it works fine, but in some cases, you really need to know what you're looking for to find it. For example, though this key chain is clearly Minnie holding Duffy, this item won't come up in the results when you search "Duffy." You kind of have to know that it's called "Park Fun Keychain" to find it. Similarly, with my aforementioned search for the "green sequin Minnie ears headband with the red bow," if I searched "Christmas ears" nothing came up. When I searched generically for "Minnie ears," I scrolled through all the options and found these are called "Holly ears." If I search "Christmas," I'd hope to see all the holiday related items. However, I really cannot imagine the kind of programming it takes to create and maintain this extensive shopping app, so I am sure these features will improve with future updates.

Overall I am extremely pleased with this app and will continue to use it as my primary Disney shopping source. I give it 5 out of 5 Dole Whips!






Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Free Souvenir + Cheap DIY: Walt Disney World Coaster

One of the reasons so many love staying at the Walt Disney World Resorts is the attention to detail. Certainly we love the theming, the environment, and the dedicated Cast Members, but it's also the special little touches that are uniquely Disney.

I try to bring little subtle touches of Disney into my home and there are none better than those right from your Walt Disney World Resort stay. Everyone thinks to take the little soaps and shampoos and lotions from your resort room, but on my last stay, I grabbed two of the thin paper coasters under the drinking glasses on top of the refrigerator near the ice bucket  I looked up on Pinterest a number of techniques to DIY coasters (using photos, for example). Well, with the cost of supplies and effort involved, I could have just purchased a set of Disney World coasters! Also, I love the idea of using an item at home that you can only get visiting WDW.

So all I did was take the two coasters to be laminated. I went to Staples but you can go to any store with laminating services. I asked for the thickest laminating they had available, 7mm or 10mm. The cost is by sheet (the two easily fit on one sheet). I cut them out myself at home with just a regular scissor, being careful to leave at least an 1/8 inch boarder. My total cost was around $3.00. If you have your own laminating machine, you could do it at home; however, mine only takes flimsy laminating sheets and I wanted something much thicker, almost rigid, that I knew would hold up and last.

I keep them on my nightstand and they add just a little magic to my bedtime routine. What other free/cheap and creative souvenirs have you taken home and used from Disney World?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Candle that smells like Disney World

I, too, I have Googled those exact words.

In the ongoing effort to make my home more magical with little accents that remind me of Walt Disney World, I'd been looking for a candle that reminds me of any of the unique scents of the Disney parks. I was very surprised that no Disney branded or partnered line exists! Seriously, Disney Parks people, get on this!


Then I found Strawberry Buttercream by Yankee Candle. This is the closest you can get to inhaling the divine aroma of Main Street USA at home. The Strawberry Buttercream candle definitely evokes the Main Street Confectionery Smellitizers...aka heaven.


The candle has a sweet light scent without being cloying. It has a medium throw... Not in-your-face like its being pumped into your living room, but you get whiffs every now and then of powdered sugar, berries, cookies, vanilla, and cotton candy all at once.  


Now I cannot take credit for this find. This candle I.D. was made over at Sparkly Ever After, one of the best Disney and lifestyle blogs around. Check out that original post here: http://sparklyeverafter.com/at-home-disney-favorites/ 


Have you found any other candle scents that remind you of Disney? Comment below!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blogger / Vlogger Obsession: Pretty Neat Living

A couple of months ago, I stumbled on to a blogger known at the time as OrganizedJen. Jennifer Ross, queen of all things organizational, maintains a regularity updated lifestyle blog and a YouTube channel with over 120,000 subscribers. (Which is crazy to me since I get excited when my blog view count for the day skyrockets to 8.)

Just click on one of her videos and you can see why she's so addicting to watch. As if I didn't love her content enough (she's inspired me to do a home purge and upped my cosmetics game by about a thousand), she's also an avid Disney fan. She and her husband are regular vacationers at Walt Disney World and she has quite a number of Disney-related vlogs - everything from booking a Disney trip to what she packs for visiting WDW. They are definitely worth a watch. Here are some of my favorites:












She just relaunched her brand as Pretty Neat Living which represents well the content she's been putting out there for five years now. Far more than just organizing, Jen invites you into her delightful little slice of the world in which suitcases are always big enough and no task is insurmountable with help from The Container Store. Go check out Pretty Neat Living!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Garden Grocer Rave Review


Today I want to share my review of Garden Grocer, an online grocery delivery service based out of Orlando that specializes in deliveries to the Walt Disney World Resorts. 

Before our second trip to Disney World last summer, I’d done a lot more research on sites like MouseSavers and DISboards than our first go around…Disney is really just one of those things you need to experience to understand how it all works. Don’t get me wrong, first-timers will have an incredible trip without reading all the guidebooks, but for subsequent trips, you definitely know what you need to prepare, pack, not pack, and plan ahead. For my family, one of those things was strategizing a way to cut down breakfast time to be able to get in a little more sleep and a little more magic. Additionally, we found that, for us, that the meals at WDW are so filling, it’s unnecessary to have a full breakfast every day.

Now, while I’m not usually looking for more than a big mug of coffee and a piece of toast, my husband is a “breakfast person;” but even he insisted that a bowl of cereal and piece of fruit was more than sufficient, especially considering all the fabulous Advanced Dining Reservations at Signature restaurants we had planned for dinner throughout our stay. My research led me to the wonders of shipping items to your resort to arrive ahead of your stay. Enter Garden Grocer. 


Every aspect of ordering from Garden Grocer was perfect start to finish. The website is easy to navigate and the prices are reasonable (an absolute bargain compared to New York City prices, and certainly WDW food costs). Before even signing up for an account, you can browse the online shelves a bit to get an idea of what they have (answer: everything). When you create an account, you can even favorite items so that you can mull over your list before putting them in your shopping cart. What really sold me on this particular service was the communication. The follow-up phone call order confirmation gave me confidence in dealing with this company for the first time and the text message I received letting me know my groceries were waiting for me at the Wilderness Lodge while I was en route on Disney’s Magical Express from MCO gave me great peace of mind. Furthermore, the accuracy of my order and the freshness of the products I received were of the best quality (– fresh fruit salad and milk were part of my order). 

The products I ordered were there as promised. I simply mentioned it at the check in desk and I was sent just a few feet away to the bell hop counter. Less than 10 minutes after I got to my room, the bellhop was there with our groceries! And as promised, all of the refrigerables (not a word but I’m making it a word!) were kept cold by my resort until I was ready for them. 

One of the features of having placed an order (and therefore having an online account) with Garden Grocer, is that you can view past orders to remember what you purchased last time. Based on 4 adults for a 6 day stay, I ordered:

1 package of bakery fresh blueberry muffins
12 cereal single cups, assorted cereals
2 packages of Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars
1 box of Quaker Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack
1 half-gallon of milk
6 pack of yogurt, assorted flavors
1 container Tropicana orange juice
1 bowl of fresh mixed fruit
2 cases of bottled water, 32 count each

Including the $14.00 delivery fee, sales tax and gratuity, the bill came to $100 on the nose. This was more than enough food for all of us for breakfast (I wanted to have a variety for my husband and brothers-in-law to choose from) and came out to $5 per person, per day, including ALL of the bottled water we used on the trip! (At $2.50 a bottle in the parks, we paid $.25 a bottle using Garden Grocer.) Everything fit well in our little refrigerators, split between our two rooms and we restocked the water in the fridge nightly. For just one of the mornings we made an ADR for Kona Cafe which was a great experience and a nice break from the small and quick in-room breakfast. Needless to say, lunch was skipped that morning! (Tonga Toast = HEAVEN)

The only thing I would add for next time is either purchasing some disposable bowls, plates, and cutlery or bringing some light plastic reusable ones from home. We ended up having to take what we needed every morning from the quick service cafeteria when we went to go fill our Resort Mugs with coffee. 

It was a real luxury to eat breakfast in our rooms and to not have to pay extra or use a Quick Service credit on such a small meal. I highly recommend using Garden Grocer for anyone staying at a Walt Disney World resort. I won't hesitate to use them on all of my next stays at WDW!

This post is neither endorsed nor sponsored by Garden Grocer or gardengrocer.com. My opinions are based on my own research and experience. I did not receive any compensation, discount, or incentive for using this service.  

Friday, May 22, 2015

Disney Savings Jar D.I.Y.

Hello all! Long time, no post! Sorry about that...I work at a university and April and May are months we tell ourselves to "just keep swimming!"

My husband and I already did a bit of traveling this year, so there will be no summer trip to Disney World for us, as we've done for the past two Augusts. My next Disney goal is to visit WDW during the various holidays that Disney does up so famously. So I am shooting for a trip this December for the Christmas season.

In order to do that, I've got to start saving up. I've received a bit of cash as gifts over the last few months which I'd stuck in an envelope, considering it as the start of a savings plan for this trip. Since I'm a big visual learner, I wanted to have a special piggy bank I could display to encourage me to save. 

I first checked Etsy and found some adorable options for less than $10... which are completely worth it if you're not a crafty person...but I was discouraged by the idea of spending money in the effort to save up money, so I decided to try my hand at making something with [mostly] stuff I had around the house. 

I started with an empty plastic jar (this one had jelly beans in it). I chose this particular one because it's plastic, it has a flat side (for ease of writing on it), and it has a black cap which I thought went with the color scheme. 

I used this great trick for stenciling on a jar. Type out on the computer (in Word or similar) whatever you want to write on the jar and/or any images you want to use. I used the Disney font "Waltograph" (here for free at dafont.com) and some Mickey heads (found here on family.disney.com). I found all sorts of cute ideas for wording on Pinterest: "Mickey Money," "Disney Stache" (adding a little mustache to a Mickey silhouette!), or simply "Our Disney Trip," but I went with "Disney Dollars." 

Play around with the font size and print. Then, cut out your design and tape it steady on the inside of the jar, facing out. Now all you have to do is trace! I used a plain old black fine-point Sharpee marker that I had, but a paint pen would have worked very well, too. (Actually, if you're using a glass jar, you'll want to go with the paint pen. You could use a paint brush but I found a pen to be much easier to control.)


I was very happy with the finished product and it would have been cute as-is but I wanted to add a little color. The cap of my jar was a 1/2" thick, so I used a combo of 3/8" ribbon (red) and 1/8" ribbon (yellow) to glue around the cap using tacky glue. Now I didn't have the size ribbon in the colors I wanted around the house, so I went to my local craft store and bought just a yard of each for under $1 total. I measured how much I would need to wrap the cap, I lined the cap with tacky glue and affixed the red ribbon, and then beaded a bit of glue over the red to attach the yellow. Voila! 

You can search around Pinterest for some magical additions... gluing a tiny Mickey figurine on the top of the lid, tying a red polka-dot bow around the neck of the jar, or using vinyl lettering instead of a marker...but for me, these would have cost extra money, and personally, I'd rather throw it in the jar than use it to decorate the jar. (The $100 dollar bills, by the way, were gifts I received for various occasions....I found that if I received a gift in twenties, I'd spend it immediately but the three $100 bills stuck around on my desk waiting for deposit for a while.... so I think when I save up another hundred dollars, I'll go to the bank and ask for a single bill so I won't waste it on Starbucks!)

Whatever you come up with and whatever trick you use, it's a fun way to stash away some Disney cash for you and your family. I know there are lots of great sites out there with advice, like mousesavers.com... What are some of your ways to save for Disney?






Monday, March 30, 2015

Catholic Commentary on Cinderella

Since I'm still inflicted with Cinderella fever, I wanted to share this vlog from one of my favorites: Fr. Robert Barron comments on the Christian symbolism he finds in the movie. Naturally, I loved it because finding a way to combine my love of Disney with my love of my Catholic faith pretty much makes my head explode with joy. So if you're interested, check out the 8 minute video below. Enjoy! And happy Holy Week!