|Photpass picture of EJ fighting Darth Vader at the Jedi Training Academy|
How can we manage to stick to a budget during our vacation? Well, the largest expense for us, after passes, is accommodation. With careful management of points, signing up for all bonus offers, and having a Marriott Rewards Visa card, we were able to book the entire 30-day stay on Marriott Rewards points! It helps that they offer the fifth night free with every four points redemption night as well. We’re staying at an area Residence Inn where we have free breakfast daily and three nights a week they offer social evening (Residence Inn Mixes) that offer a variety of food items plus beer and wine. More help for our budget.
|Nothing like being greeted with a freshly barbecued burger
and an ice cold beer after a hot sunny day at the beach
|Our Residence Inn has coffee, tea, and hot cocoa (including whipped cream)
available all day in the lobby. A very nice touch.
|Watching butterflies emerge from their cocoons|
|Burning off some energy in the Music Garden Melodies Playground|
One of the fun things for kids to do at Epcot any time of the year is Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure. Your child will receive a special “secret agent” FONE (or you can use your own smartphone if you prefer) that directs them to various spots in each country to help defeat the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Our grandson is a fan of Phineas and Ferb and happily followed clues and searched out secret spots as we made our way around the lagoon.
|Signing up for Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure|
We love to find ‘bonus’ activities like this when we visit Disney Parks. Another one that we can get started at Epcot is collecting the Transportation Collector Cards. You can get these cards by asking for them from bus and monorail drivers and boat captains plus cast members who work in the transportation areas. Not all cast members carry them but even if they don’t we’ve found them friendly and helpful in directing us to someone who just might have some in their pockets. There are 27 cards in the current series (four) so you will likely have to do a lot of asking to get the entire set.
|Some of EJs Transportation Collector cards.
Each has a picture on the front and information on the back
Another activity that involves collector cards is Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. All you need to do is stop by the Firehall when you enter the park gates (to the right) and register. They will give you a map and a pack of cards and send you on your way. It is up to you to follow the clues and battle Hades henchmen as you work your way through a series of Magic Portals helping Merlin keep the park safe from these evil doers. At the final portal, Merlin will appear and welcome you to the ranks of “Master Sorcerer.” You can go back to the Firehall each visit and receive a new set of collector cards.
|Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom map and spell cards|
If your kids like the idea of a quest, there is also the Pirate’s Adventure where they follow maps (and Captain Jack Sparrow’s clues) to find hidden treasures while fending off enemies like Captain Barbossa. There are five missions in total that take about 20 to 30 minutes each. Just enough time for mama to take a break while papa joins EJ in his quest.
One of EJ’s favorites is to be Guest Skipper on the Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom. Again, not all of the skippers will say yes when you ask but being polite (and sitting near the front of the boat) increases your chances from what we have found. The kids have a lot of fun steering the boat through the jungles and receive a Guest Skipper card at the end of the trip.
|Someone was very excited to receive his Guest Skipper license from the Jungle Cruise|
We found another nautical opportunity for EJ this visit. He was fortunate enough to pilot the Liberty Belle riverboat on the Rivers of America. This is a great treat for a nine-year-old who loves anything to do with transportation and driving. At the end of the trip, he received a license (signed by Mickey himself no less) that he is licensed to act as a pilot at the Magic Kingdom for one year. I like that each of these activities provides EJ with a special souvenir to take home.
|Liberty Belle Pilot certification|
There are a number of other fun ‘bonus’ activities at Walt Disney World, including the Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios. This one requires an early arrival at the park and a long line-up as you (hopefully) get to sign up for one of the limited spots throughout the day. Trust me, it’s worth it when you see the excitement on your child’s face as they battle Darth Vader with their light saber as the crowd cheers them on. If your little one likes Star Wars (uh…ok that was a silly question) they can head over to the Launch Bay where they can see a bunch of stuff from the movies, meet Kylo Ren and Chewbacca AND have the opportunity to try their hand at trading with the Jawas. EJ had some luck trading a 2015 Disney eraser with one of them for a droid part. A great deal for him especially since we had picked up the erasers at the Disney Character Outlet at the mall. A great place to pick up pins for the kids to trade as well.
|EJ’s well worn Wilderness Explorer Handbook.
Must remember NOT to put it in the backpack with the water bottles next time.
|My travel journal/organizer/collecting spot for great travel ideas|