9.29.2009

Fall 2005

Here are a few pictures from a Disney trip my family took in Summer 2005--that seems so long ago! This was obviously before I met and married my sweet husband :) These are the people I've been going to Disney with from day one: Dad, Mom, Alyssa, Will, and Andrea. I love you and am thankful for our Disney memories together! I know more are to come!









9.26.2009

Last Fall...

My husband and I were having an incredible time and enjoying the beautiful fall weather and decorations at Disney World for our "babymoon!" I was only the "Mouseketeer" and hadn't added the Mommy part yet---our mini Mouseketeer arrived 4 months later. I'll post more pictures from this trip in an upcoming post, but these show off the beautiful decorations and fall atmosphere. I'm missing it so much right now!








9.19.2009

Disney Series, featuring Junebug


The premise of the series: For every installment, I will interview a fellow Disney fanatic (like myself). I've composed a list of questions that cover a lot of bases when it comes to Disney World, planning your vacation, making the most of it, etc. I hope this will be a great tool for some people out there to learn more about the World, plan their vacation, or will just be fun to read for others!

For this installment, I interviewed "Junebug." We know each other from church, and of course, share a love for Disney! This interview is a great perspective from a WDW veteran with kids. What's funny is that her answers so closely resemble mine, I'm not sure if I should fill out the questions myself--haha! She gives great tips, so read thoroughly!

How long have you been going to Disney World?
My first trip was in 1974- way back in the beginning. There was a single admission price and you bought tickets booklets for the attractions. “E-tickets” were for the biggest crowd-pleasers. Also, parking was 50 cents for the whole day.


How often do you go?
Since having kids, we try to go every year.


What is your favorite ride? Why?
I have alotta favorite rides. I have favorite ones at each park. Splash Mountain at MK. Midway Mania at HS. Expedition Everest at AK. But, the best overall would have to be Soarin’ at Epcot. There’s just nothing else like it. Disney just gives you a sensory overload. From the wind in your face to the smell of the orange trees, you are simply immersed! The best experience, though, is when you get to ride with someone on their first flight! Like I said, there’s just nothing else like it.


As someone who has been to the World many times, what tips do you have to make the park experience easier?
Do some research before you go. Check the parade/fireworks schedule and decide which days you are visiting each park. Make some sort of a plan so that you are not overwhelmed upon arrival. Definitely use the Fastpass system. Plan one table service meal each day. If you are traveling with kids, make a “souvenir plan” before you arrive. You will be surrounded by stuffed Mickey’s and Minnie Mouse purses and the like. It’s good to give your kids a limit before they ever walk in the first store.


What is your favorite time of year to be at DW?
We’ve been in every season. The best times are when the crowds are low and when the Christmas decorations are out. Early January, right after New Years, is a great time. Also, September is great. We just got back from a Labor Day trip and experienced days when the Fastpass machines were closed due to the low park attendance.


Are there any websites, etc. that people should utilize in planning?
I love allears.net. I also use touringplans.com. Disboards.com is a good site for discussing things with other fans and travelers.


The great debate: staying on Disney property or off?
Definitely stay on Disney property. It’s the only way to get the full experience. When you arrive in your room, you almost always find towels on your bed shaped into the classic Mickey head. It’s those little extras that make your trip memorable. Also, you can walk right out your door and hop on a bus that will take you wherever you want to go. What is your favorite place to stay? Disney’s Pop Century. That may change as my kids get older, though.


Do you use a "touring plan" in the parks or do you just go with the flow and wing it?
Well, mostly, I use my own plan. I’ve used bits and pieces from the Unofficial Guide and further developed my own plan. I almost never go with the flow. Disney is way too big and can be way too overwhelming if you don’t have a plan. Also, it helps me to get all the decisions made before arriving so that we can just have fun once we get in the parks.


Your tips for clothing and gear to wear in the parks:
Make sure you are comfortable in whatever you are wearing. Most people say definitely wear good tennis shoes, but I wear Croc flops a lot and don’t have any trouble. You do the most walking in Epcot, so maybe no flops there. Also, when it’s cold, we take an extra bag with a lightweight blanket to throw on the ground for parades. I usually take my camera backpack and empty it of all the cords and such when we go to the parks. I can use that portion for money, tickets, tissue, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, etc.


Name your favorite restaurants in:

Magic Kingdom: Cinderella’s Royal Table is excellent. Pinocchio Village Haus or Peco Bill’s for counter service.
Disney Hollywood Studios: 50’s Prime Time Café for table service. The Backlot Express for counter service (free refills on drinks).
Epcot: The old Italian restaurant was my favorite. Now, it’s been changed to Tutto Italia and I’ve never been there. Electric Umbrella in Future World and Cantina de San Angel in Mexico for counter service.
Animal Kingdom: Pizzafari. That’s it.


I’m adding one…favorite resort restaurant: Whispering Canyon Café at Wilderness Lodge. Incredible food and more fun than you can imagine.


Do you have any tips for stretching your dollar on meals?
We share from time to time. You really get more food that you can eat, even in counter service meals, so we split sometimes. If you are on the dining plan, you cannot share at table service meals, but its okay to do so at a counter service. Also, do the dining plan when it’s free. Disney has extended the dates this year and it is well worth it.


How many days do you recommend staying for a good Disney vacation?
You have to have 5 days. That is really a minimum. I’d really love to go for 10 days or 2 weeks so that we could pace ourselves a little better. With 5 days, we arrive at the park before rope-drop and stay till they absolutely kick us out. Seriously. Your best tips for going to Disney with kids: Spend 2 days at Magic Kingdom. This park is really where the magic begins. Also, Epcot may not be the most fun for kids. Get online and read about it before deciding to spend more than one day. Some people say go back to your hotel in the middle of the day and let your kids nap. I say put them in a stroller and let them sleep there if they want. We just came back from a trip with 5 kids, ages 14, 11, 8, 5 & 2 and had no trouble with any of them. Also, like I mentioned early, make a plan for souvenirs.

Character meals/breakfasts: worth it?
Yeah. Go to Chef Mickey’s for the traditional characters. The food is great and the characters are awesome. Also, if you wanna see the princesses, go to the Castle. Cinderella’s Royal Table is simply fabulous. You will see plenty of characters in the park, but lines are sometimes long and they take regular breaks so it may not always be easy. With a character meal, they come right to your table and you are guaranteed both an autograph and a picture with your kids.


Fly or drive (if both were an option)?
I believe in flying. We usually calculate the expense of driving (including a rental car so we don’t put the added mileage on our car) and then watch for plane tickets to go lower. Now, if driving is the only way you can go, then do it. Either way, it’s worth it.


Do you use or have you used the Disney Dining Plan? Your thoughts?
We’ve used it. It’s a lot of food. We don’t normally eat that much, so we only do it if it’s free.


Do you try to split time between time in the parks and time at the hotel/swimming pool/Downtown Disney?
We do the resort stuff/Downtown Disney stuff on our arrival day or our departure day, depending on flight times. Also, because AK closes early, we sometimes do Downtown when we finish AK. Our park days are total park days. Rope drop till closing time.


Tips or favorites in Downtown Disney:
Everybody has to go to World of Disney. If there’s a Disney item out there, World of Disney has it. We like to eat banana splits at Ghirardelli and my kids enjoy pin trading with the pros at Pin Traders. (Consider starting a pin collection. It’s really fun and an easy souvenir.)


Best place to see/meet characters?
Mickey’s Toontown Fair in MK (this area usually opens an hour later than the park.) Epcot Character Spot in Future World- go early in the day. The Magic of Disney Animation in HS. Camp Minnie-Mickey in AK- go during a showing of The Festival of the Lion King. (Also, DO NOT miss The Festival of the Lion King. It is one of the best things in all of Disney!)


Do you think souvenirs are a waste of money?
Not at all. I just think you have to have a plan where the kids are concerned. Also, I usually go with an idea of what gift(s) I want to buy myself. I always get a picture frame and I used to always buy some sort of Disney tote bag. Now that I have so many, my hubby has banned me from tote bags. This trip, I got a new watch. It is big and gaudy and has the original Mickey & Minnie on the face and the band. It is just fabulous!


Do you use the Photopass service, do you solely take your own pictures, or both?
Both. The Photopass service is good if you want a big group shot or if you want a shot at night. Their cameras always seem to be able to capture the perfect shot. Also, they usually don’t mind taking a shot with my camera, as well. I only buy Photopass pics if I didn’t get it with my own camera. On this last trip, my sister-in-law and I took a combined total of almost 1,900 pictures.


Any tips for money-saving in general?
Stay at a value resort. They are really kid-friendly. Take a few snacks in your bag- granola bars, goldfish crackers. If you’re gonna eat in your resort, buy a refillable mug.


Do you use the Fastpass system? How do you best utilize it?
Oh, yes. Definitely. Pick the most popular ride. Go there immediately and get Fastpasses. If the wait is less than 20 minutes, go ahead and ride. Then, come back later for your Fastpass ride. Look at the bottom of your individual Fastpass. It will give you a time when you can get another Fastpass. Go immediately to the next popular ride (or your favorite) and secure your Fastpasses. Also, the time frame for your ride is not as set-in-stone as you might think. If it says you can ride between 1pm and 2pm, they will actually let you in any time for the rest of the day. You can’t ride a second before 1pm but you can ride way after 2pm.


Is there a ride that should be especially avoided with children, people with motion sickness, etc.?
Stitch’s Great Escape is scary and, in my opinion, out of place at MK. I avoid it all together. The Teacups at MK are not good for people with motion sickness. Also, Mission: Space at Epcot is very intense and not good for people with motion sickness. Disney added a “less intense” version, but I’ve never done it so I can’t vouch for it. Primeval Whirl at AK is very rough and may not be good for people with back problems. Dinosaur at AK is probably too scary for most children.


Is there are ride that's overrated (in your opinion)? No. I just have that whole Stitch issue.


Best parade watching spots in each park? We like to sit near Cinderella Castle for MK parades so I can get perfect pictures. It’s very crowded, though, so if you want this spot, you have to sit down early. There are a couple of spots where the Block Party Bash at HS stops and performs. Look at your Guide Map or ask a Cast Member where you need to sit. Anywhere in AK for Jammin’ Jungle Parade is good.


Do you own Mouse Ears? Of course. We all do. My favorite ones are blue and silver and they were given to me by a Disney Dream guy during the Year of a Million Dreams Celebration. You cannot buy them anywhere. I also have some Christmas ones that are just divine.


One of your favorite memories from Disney World: Celebrating my son’s 14th birthday in MK was special. He wore a great big ole birthday cake hat with candles that lit up and we ate breakfast in the Castle. He had his picture made with all the Princesses and Cast Members went out of their way to make him feel special. We arrived that morning before rope-drop and stayed through the Kiss Goodnight making a 16-hour day in Magic Kingdom. I simply loved that my 14 year old boy still loves MK and all the magic that surrounds it.


What is your favorite Disney movie? The Lion King, Beauty & the Beast, and The Emperor’s New Groove


Anything else that you have to say about the Happiest Place on Earth:

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve stood on Main Street with tears pouring down my cheeks. There’s just something magical about this place. I cannot explain it, and you probably think I’m crazy, so you’ll just have to go. It’s so much more than just rides. It’s the “red carpet” concrete that Walt himself envisioned making us all feel special. It’s the Cast Members dressed in pastels, holding huge bouquets of balloons on Main Street. It’s the way you feel when you round the corner at the Confectionery and see Cinderella Castle for the first time. It’s the sounds of “Main Street Medley” being sung as you walk toward the statue of Mickey & Walt. It’s the way my 11 year old still runs when they open the gate so she can ride Cinderella’s own personal horse on the Carousel. It’s the look on my kids’ faces as they watch the fireworks exploding overhead. It’s just magical. That’s all I can say.



Thank you, Junebug! May all your dreams come true!



Have a magical day!---


9.17.2009

Planning: First Steps

In this post I was going to write about your options in deciding where to stay when you visit Walt Disney World, but the first order of business is always deciding when to go, how to get there, and how long to stay!

When to go:


Generally speaking, when kids are involved, there are two philosophies out there:

1. Take the kids out of school and travel in off season to avoid crowds, hot weather, lines, and get better rates.

2. School is too important to miss. Suck it up and go in the summer.

I don't want to offend any teachers out there, because school IS important! However, this is my advice: when Disney is concerned, take some days off of school and go during off-season. Here is my rationale: Sure, there's more legwork in the sense that schoolwork has to be made up (depending on the ages), and you might be criticized for taking your kids out of school for a pleasure vacation. But the time and money you save, as well as the quality of the vacation, just can't be beat.

Season dates change annually. Here are the dates for 2009:

Value Season
January 1 - January 15
January 19 - February 12
August 9 - October 1
November 29 - December 17
Martin Luther King Weekend Jan. 16-18
Presidents Day Weekend Feb. 13-15
Regular Season
March 30 - May 21
October 2 - November 24
Thanksgiving Nov. 25-28
Summer Season
May 22 - July 2
Independence Day Weekend July 3-5 (July 4)
Peak Season

February 16 - April 3
Easter Week April 4-18
Holiday Season

December 18 - 31


Most people agree that fall is the best time to visit WDW. My husband and I visited last fall in late October (right before the time change), and it was absolutely perfect. The weather was fantastic, the crowds were low, and it was just an incredible visit. {I'll post pictures from that trip soon!} We used a touring plan {future post}, but hardly needed it. Wait times were low and when we did wait, the max was 20-30 minutes {that was for Toy Story Midway Mania in DHS--the ride was brand new and POPULAR!}.

However, there are plusses to going anytime. I have personally visited Disney in every season, and although summer is my least favorite, you still make memories. It's Disney!

Understandably, not everyone can take off work and/or school and go during the off season. So in future posts I'll talk about planning, touring the parks, and making the most of when you DO visit.

How to get there?

You have two options: fly or drive.

For some, driving isn't an option; it's just too far. You will have your share of challenges, but if you stay in a Disney Resort {more about that in another post} you will have the amenity of the Magical Express, a shuttle system from the airport. The plus-side is that you don't have to allow as much time for travel (in theory). However, with the way airlines and air travel has been latley, sometimes it takes just as long if not longer than driving.

If you drive, you have the freedom to make stops, pack what you want, and you have a way to get around the parks without having to rely on Disney transportation. My family has always done this. Driving just suits us better, is more cost-efficient, and gives us more freedom.

Just weigh your options and think about what's best for your family!

How long to stay?
{Including Ticket Info}

I have been on Disney trips that have ranged from 2 days to 6. With children, you have to find that happy compromise between being able to take your time in the parks and not rush, and staying too long and having vacation meltdown.

My family has always done it this way:

We prefer the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios parks. Animal Kingdom just isn't our thing, but that's just our opinion. Our schedule is based on that, and yours will be difference based on your preferences.

We allow 1-2 days for driving, one day for each park (3 days), and then one extra day for recapping our favorite things. We always have the Park Hopper option on our tickets {future post} so we can skip around to the different parks and places we want to see. Then there's travel time to get home. So generally, our vacation lasts about 6 days, with usually 2 days going to travel and 4 days in the parks.

If you are going to Disney for the first time, plan to devote one day to each park. Give every park a chance, but be prepared for you or your kids to have preferences to one park or another. That's why the Park Hopping option on your ticket is great. I'll explain this more later in a more detailed post, but basically it's an option that you add on to your base Magic Your Way ticket so that you can go to more than one park in the course of a day. It's great, because you're not as limited.

So, if you're a first-timer, you'll need at least 4 days for parks. If you really want the best experience, I would plan 5-6 days in the parks. Sometimes, if you buy your tickets from the right place, you'll get an extra day or two free.

Here's my best ticket source: Undercover Tourist. This isn't a sketchy black market of tickets. Disney acknowledges this site and it's also recommended by Mousesavers (another great resource).

If you need questions answered about tickets, email me or leave a comment and I'll address it in a post. However, it's pretty self-explanatory.

Whether you're traveling with children or just as adults, you'll want to take your time and not kill yourself trying to race to the next ride, attraction, or parade. It will kill the magic---trust me. In a nutshell, you want to enjoy the details while following a plan.

Ask me any questions you have!


9.15.2009

Disney Series, featuring Chelsea O.


The premise of the series: For every installment, I will interview a fellow Disney fanatic (like myself). I've composed a list of questions that cover a lot of bases when it comes to Disney World, planning your vacation, making the most of it, etc. I hope this will be a great tool for some people out there to learn more about the World, plan their vacation, or will just be fun to read for others!

For this installment, I interviewed Chelsea O. I know Chelsea from my Baylor days, and we connected immediately over many things, one of them being our love of Disney! Chelsea is one my friends that had the opportunity to work at Disney! She is so much fun and I know you'll enjoy reading her answers!


How long have you been going to Disney World?
I think I was about 6 the first time I went.

How long did you work at Disney, and how often to you go to Disney World?
I started on the college program from Jan-May of 2005, then worked for the summer May-Aug 2006, then have been back since June 2007--as a cast member I probably visit the parks about once or twice every 2 months (mostly when visitors come or for a special event going on).

What is your favorite ride? Why?
I have always loved the Tower of Terror because of the thrill and great effects, but now I think Toy Story Midway Mania is--such great theming and details, wonderful use of technology, fun for everyone.

As someone who has been to the World many times, what tips do you have to make park experience easier?
Definitely to use the fastpass, if you're staying in the Disney resorts to use the Extra Magic Hours--maybe start your day a little later but stay later at night, add the Dining Plan to your package.

What is your favorite time of year to be at DW?
Christmas for sure!

Are there any websites, etc. that people should utilize in planning?
I definitely recommend planning but I'm not sure which websites--disneyworld.com--I'm sure there are fan sites that are great too.

The great debate: staying on Disney property or off?
I say on property--you have the Magical Express complimentary shuttle to and from the airport, free transportation to the parks, Extra Magic Hours, option to add the Dining Plan, and great service.

What is your favorite place to stay?
I love the Animal Kingdom Lodge--that's the first place I worked so it feels like home--I love the cozy feeling, the animals, the theming, and my favorite restaurant, Boma, is there.

Do you use a "touring plan" in the parks or do you just go with the flow and wing it?
I normally just wing it, but if it's your first time it would probably be good to have some kind of plan but still be flexible.

Your tips for clothing and gear to wear in the parks:
Comfort over fashion for sure! comfortable shoes--tennis shoes or boat shoes, prepare for heat and rain.

Name your favorite restaurants in:
Magic Kingdom: Liberty Tree Tavern--Thanksgiving food!!!
Disney Hollywood Studios: Sci Fi Dine In--my family's favorite, fun place
Epcot: Chefs de France is great--but I've always wanted to try Le Cellier
Animal Kingdom: I haven't eaten at any of the restaurants but I've heard Tusker House is really good

Do you have any tips for stretching your dollar on meals?
Use the dining plan if you can afford that--you'll save a lot in the long run; my family normally packs food to bring in. We'll bring sandwiches and add lettuce and tomatoes and condiments from one of the quick service restaurants, and high energy snacks throughout the day like fruit, granola bars, pretzels...we might splurge on a turkey leg or roasted nuts!

How many days do you recommend staying for a good Disney vacation?
If you've been before and don't have to get everything in, a shorter vacation is fine, but I hate for families to run run run for 4 days and by day 3 they're so exhausted and can't enjoy the trip--so I think 5-7 days would be great

Your best tips for going to Disney with kids:
make the trip long enough to not push it too hard, they're usually satisfied with the little things--like the swimming pool, but a wonderful treat girls will love is the bibbidi bobbidi boutique to make your girls into princesses! I think it's a must! the dining plan can still be great but if kids are big eaters what's included on their plan may not be enough food--they can't eat off the adult menu

Your best tips for going to Disney without kids:
definitely do the dining plan and enjoy the nice restaurants, maybe see Cirque du Soleil, you will probably be more effective later in the day because there will be less kids then

Character meals/breakfasts: worth it?
I think they are worth it! So fun, lots of good food, and guaranteed time with the characters--I love them!

Fly or drive (if both were an option)?
If you have plenty of travel time then driving would be nice to have the flexibility of getting around while on property--Disney transportation is free but it's certainly not seamless and can take up a lot of time

Do you use or have you used the Disney Dining Plan? Your thoughts?
I haven't used it, but I think it's wonderful and a great value

Do you try to split time between time in the parks and time at the hotel/swimming pool/Downtown Disney?
I would recommend this--especially with kids

Tips or favorites in Downtown Disney:
EARL OF SANDWICH!!!! I love that place--one of my favorite restaurants on property, I also love the Christmas Store, and a great cheap souvenir is a Candy apple or pretzel rods or marshmallow stick, etc at Goofy's Candy Company

Best place to see/meet characters?
character meals, other than that it's probably about equal

Best age to take a child for the first time (in your opinion, if applicable)?
5ish

For those of you who have worked at Disney, what was it like? Did it "spoil" the magic for you or not? Are there any insider tips?
you definitely get a different perspective...but it's fun to be the one making the magic, but you do get a little jaded, unfortunately...especially as a manager most of what I hear are the complaints and everything that's going wrong :(

Do you think souvenirs are a waste of money?
some of them probably are...a lot of things look really cute while you're here but realistically won't be useful at home--maybe just limit what you purchase, set a limit before you get here

Do you use the Photopass service, do you solely take your own pictures, or both?
I take my own--photopass cast members will take them for you with your camera

Any tips for money-saving in general?
bring your own food and snacks, drink water, don't go crazy on souvenirs, stay in value resorts

Do you use the Fastpass system? How do you best utilize it?
definitely! get a fastpass for one of the most popular attractions first thing, ride rides with shorter lines until your time comes, get another fastpass, etc--also if everyone in your party is old enough I recommend using the single rider lines

Is there a ride that should be especially avoided with children, people with motion sickness, etc.?
Mission Space is pretty intense, but the less intense option on the ride is great

Is there are ride that's overrated (in your opinion)?
Of course I think they're all great! :)

Do you own Mouse Ears?
yes

One of your favorite memories from Disney World:
I think one of the best times was when a bunch of my best friends from college came to visit--we had the best time just being silly, having fun, and enjoying the magic!

What is your favorite Disney movie?
Mary Poppins

Anything else that you have to say about the Happiest Place on Earth:
See all the shows! They're wonderful and a great break from the heat--my favorite thing in all of Disney is Festival of the Lion King! I also love HSM3 pep rally and American Idol Experience. And as soon as you can, DO A DISNEY CRUISE!! They are absolutely wonderful--one of the best times of my life! If you are visiting during a Special Event, go to it! Mickey's Not so Scary and Very Merry Christmas parties are so fun and worth the price. The best time to visit is when school is in session--I think the few weeks between Thanksgiving and when school is out for Christmas is the best time--and be sure to see the Candlelight Christmas Processional at Epcot.


Thank you, Chelsea, for contributing to my Disney Series! May all your dreams come true :o)


Coming next: Starting to plan your trip and figuring out where to stay!



9.14.2009

How Exciting!!!

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo describes the planned expansion of Fantasyland at Walt Disney World coming in 2012. This is part of a session on Imagineering the Future of Disney Parks given at the D23 Expo on Saturday September 12th 2009!

Pause my music playlist on the right and watch this exciting video!




I am so incredibly excited about this! Disney never disappoints when they expand or bring in new rides/attractions. As long as they keep the classic look and feel and don't take away the well-loved elements, I welcome new changes! You better believe I'm going to be counting down the minutes until I can get to these new attractions!


9.12.2009

Friendly Disclaimer

In order to make this resource easy to use and convenient, I'm going to be labeling all of my posts. I'll categorize rides, restaurants, etc. by park, but there will also be separate "Ride/Attraction" and "Dining" labels. Hopefully this will make everything easy to find.

Also, I am going to give a disclaimer:

-This site is in no way affiliated with Walt Disney World. I encourage you to visit the official Walt Disney World website for all of your official information.

-I am going to give my opinions on restaurants, rides/attractions, hotels, etc. Please know that I have not stayed in every hotel, eaten at every restaurant, or even ridden every ride. These are my opinions, and they will probably change the more I visit the parks.

-I am not a Disney World expert, nor a certified travel agent/planner. I just know what has worked for my family in the past, and I started this blog to share that information with you. There are people who know far more than me! I just wanted a place to give my opinions, help/interact with others, and celebrate all that Disney is.

Feel free to leave a comment or email me anytime and if I don't have an opinion or answer, we'll figure it out!

Have a magical day!

9.10.2009

Know the Lingo

Once I start writing out my advice, tips, etc., it will be helpful for you to know some of the most common abbreviations:

MK: Magic Kingdom Park
ECT: Epcot Park
DHS: Disney Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios) Park
AK: Animal Kingdom Park

ADR: Advanced Dining Reservation

QS: Quick Service Restaurant
TS: Table Service Restaurant
DDP: Disney Dining Plan

FP: FastPass (A quick way to get on Rides and Attractions)

MYW: Magic Your Way tickets/packages

More tips and fun things to come!

Have a magical day!



9.09.2009

A Tribute




As all of you know, I am a Disney fanatic. I'm going to take a minute and tell everyone WHY. :)

-I love how when you are driving onto the Disney property, you KNOW you're there. The landscaping is suddenly meticulous, the colors are brighter, and you know you're entering another world.

-I love how you get on the monorail and the same message always comes on. Everytime.

-I love how my heart swells when I first walk into the Magic Kingdom. I am surrounded by early 1900's America, full of nostalgia and quiant buildings, but right in front of me is a medieval style castle.

-I love how there's a barbershop quartet singing, horses and carriages, and characters signing autographs.

-I love how everything is CLEAN. You rarely see messes, or anything else that's typical of a theme park. Why is this? The night crew at DisneyWorld repaints anything that is chipped, pulls dead leaves off of flowers, and dusts every single thing (including the rides) EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.

-I love how every single person says "Have a magical day!" whenever you talk to them.

-I love how I know what's going to happen on every ride, but I get more and more enthusiastic everytime I go on them. Small World makes me tear up, Peter Pan's flight makes me feel like I'm flying, Philhar Magic wows me everytime, and I still cover my eyes at the beginning of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Oh, and the Haunted Mansion still scares me to death. It's the only haunted ANYTHING I go in, but I do it. Because Walt Disney invented it.

-I love how the shows are wonderful, magical, and exciting. I cried during the Coronation of Cinderella show, because all the Disney Princesses danced with their Prince when their theme song was played. I was instantly 5 years old again.

-I love how I discovered Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios. For awhile, I was solely devoted to Magic Kingdom, but these parks are just simply amazing. You can sit in a square in Paris, eat in Mexico, and be romantic in Italy, all in one day. And the new ride "Soarin'" at Epcot is amazing. There's nothing like it.

-I love how no one can be grumpy at Disney World. I mean, are you really going to have a pouty attitude while getting your picture taken with Belle? NO. Are you going to sulk while you're riding Dumbo? NO.

-I love how my dad and I have an intense plan to do everything efficiently, and it works. We aren't psycho about it, but we also know what we're doing, unlike 90% of those who visit.

-I love how instrumental songs from all of my favorite movies are playing in the background.

-I love how when you eat in Cinderella's castle, it is so believable it's ridiculous.

-I love how, after all these years, I still cry when I leave. My family expects it, and I embrace it. It's just hard to leave a place that represents all of my favorite things in this world: Innocence, laughter, nostalgia, memories, different decades, beautiful music, and happiness.

Thank you, Walt :)



Book Review



The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World
by Susan Veness is one of the newest Disney books on the shelf. This book shares secrets, little-known facts, and other interesting insights from Disney Imagineers.

I have really enjoyed the book so far. This would be a good book for those looking to get a little more meaning out of the parks. If you're new to Disney World, have small children, or just aren't a "details person," this wouldn't be quite as interesting. I already knew of some of the facts and secrets, but I'm learning lots of new things, too. The beauty of Disney is that you will always notice new details and have a different experience each time you visit.

This would be fun to read on the plane or car ride to Disney, to get in the Disney zone. It would also be a good tool to use to engage "I'm soooo too cool for this" teenagers.

Bottom Line: Interesting, fun, and light. Good read!





Disney Series, featuring Heather M.


Welcome to the first edition of my Disney Series! I am so excited about this. The thought literally came to me while I was in bed the other night (when I do all my thinking), and I just couldn't wait.


Here's what will happen: for every installment, I will interview a fellow Disney fanatic (like myself). I've composed a list of questions that cover a lot of bases when it comes to Disney World, planning your vacation, making the most of it, etc. I hope this will be a great tool for some people out there to learn more about the World, plan their vacation, or will just be fun to read for others!


For this edition, I interviewed Heather M. I know her from college, and she and her family LOVE all things Disney. They go all the time! I always start craving a Disney fix when her pictures show up on Facebook...they're usually from the latest Disney vacation! She's around my age, and she and her husband don't have any children yet, so this is a good perspective for that crowd.


I'm so excited about sharing this with you!


How long have you been going to Disney World?

Since 1988 when I was three years old.


What is your favorite ride? Why?

Toss up between Test Track, Soarin, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Big Thunder and Test Track give me just enough of a thrill without getting scared and Soarin is just SO cool, I love it.


As someone who has been to the World many times, what tips do you have to make park experience easier?

Oh gosh I could write a book on this. Go to the parks early before they get crowded, only stay a couple hours and ride key rides (utilize Fastpass) then go back to the hotel and nap, swim, go to dinner etc. then go back to the parks later in the evening when it is cooler. Have a plan of "must do" rides and "I would like to do" rides so you can prioritize your day. Also, if you are going somewhee like Disney Hollywood Studios where they have a lot of shows that only play at certain times, find out those times so you can plan around them. Let you kids take a nap! Most of the time the reason they have a meltdown in the park is because the parents are pushing them to do too much at once. There is no way you can do EVERYTHING so pick a few things, and say you will come back next year! Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours. In the summer, sometimes the Magic Kingdom stays open till 1 or 2 am and its a good time to ride rides that are normally crowded.


What is your favorite time of year to be at DW?

September! Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, value season, low crowds, not to hot, Food and Wine Festival. Can it get any better than that?


Are there any websites, etc. that people should utilize in planning?



The great debate: staying on Disney property or off? Without a question, ON!!! If you stay offsite, when you get to your hotel you are not feeling the disney magic. You are in a boring hotel. On property, it just never ends!


What is your favorite place to stay? Hands down, The Grand Floridian. We are always so pampered and relaxed there! It is our favorite place to be. Being on the monorail is a huge plus as we love the Magic Kingdom.


Do you use a "touring plan" in the parks or do you just go with the flow and wing it?

I make up my own plan. We know what rides we want to hit, so we get a fastpass for one, go in the standby line for another etc. It's different every time. I am very type A and have to have some kind of plan though! Also, we eat a lot of sit down meals so we have to plan around those.


Your tips for clothing and gear to wear in the parks:

I bring a popular bag a lot of Disney people bring called a Baggalini. You can get it from ebags.com. It is waterproof and has lots of great compartments. Also if going in the summer wear light weight clothes, and I always wear sunscreen! I do like to bring a light sweater though because the restaurants and buses are freezing! I wear running shoes if i know we are going to be walking all day and I bring blister bandaids! Also I bring one of those mini battery operated fans. Great for when you are standing in line. Bring extra batteries! I also always bring hand sanitizer and sunglasses and sometimes a hat.


Name your favorite restaurants in:

Magic Kingdom: Crystal Palace. My husband loves buffets and we love getting to see the characters. Lots of good variety and very fun atmosphere!
Disney Hollywood Studios: Sci Fi is our favorite because of the atmosphere. The food is basic but who can beat eating in a car at a drive in? Good burgers and milkshakes!
Epcot: Coral Reef. More of a fancy feel and we love the huge fish tank! Great selection of meat (steak!) and fish. Good desserts and service.
Animal Kingdom: We really like Yak and Yeti. Very cool atmosphere, good food and a huge brownie sundae for dessert. But beware its always freezing in here!

Also, a favorite place to eat at the resorts: NARCOOSSEES!! It's at the Grand Floridian and it's awesome. Tt's on the lake overlooking the Magic Kingdom. Best filet and almond crusted cheesecake! Amazing service. All around A + for this one. We eat here once if not twice every trip! For a cheaper resort restaurant we LOVE Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge. It is so much fun and they have great "country comfort foods."


Do you have any tips for stretching your dollar on meals?

Order water! Sodas dehydrate you anyway and in the summer heat that is not a good thing! Share dessert. They are expensive and usually huge. Skip the appetizer or split one. Eat at counter service meals for lunch, or split a big breakfast platter at a counter service location. Bring your own bottles of water from home or buy one and refill if during the day.


How many days do you recommend staying for a good Disney vacation?

We usually stay for 7, but I have also done as little as 2. I say you need at LEAST 4 nights and that's pushing it!


Your best tips for going to Disney with kids:

Don't make them stay in the parks all day! They will have a meltdown! They love to swim at the pool so set aside a day for that or do it every afternoon for some downtime from the parks. Try and remember you can't do it all!!! Enjoy a few fun things instead of getting stresed out trying to fit it all in.


Your best tips for going to Disney without kids:

Stay at a nice resort and spend time relaxing there! There are days we wont even go to a park and will just stay at the hotel by the pool! Eat at some of the nicer table service restaurants, go later in the evening as well. Take is easy and just enjoy being there. You dont have to stand in an hour line for Dumbo! Save it for when you have kids and HAVE to stand in that line haha.


Character meals/breakfasts: worth it?

Yes/No. If you have never done it then do it, and if you enjoy buffets (like my husband) do it. Disney deos a good job of having the characters go to every table so you dont feel like you have to "fight" for your turn for time/a picture. I think it's part of the experience!


Fly or drive (if both were an option)? Being as far away as I am, and having driven from here I say DEFINITELY fly! Disney's Magical Express is a wonderful thing and I love not having to claim my bags when I get to Orlando! The only thing is where to put all those souvineers with that 50 pound weight limit.


Do you use or have you used the Disney Dining Plan? Your thoughts?

I have gone with no dining plan, regular, and deluxe. My husband LOVES deluxe and I do too because it allows you to eat at some of the nicer places. I do not recommend this plan for people with small children because table service meals can get lengthy, especially multiple ones in a day! The regular plan is good as well. When we stay concierge (and have food out all day including breakfast) the deluxe plan is a LOT of food, but we still like it. :) Sometimes, price wise it can be cheaper to not do a plan at all. For instance, the trip I just went on last week was cheaper for us to just book room-only because the discount was bigger that way than if we had booked a package with a meal plan.


Do you try to split time between time in the parks and time at the hotel/swimming pool/Downtown Disney?

Yes. We always go to DTD at least once or twice and have a day or two or morning or two at the pool. You need that downtime, an when parks are crowded (or on a weekend when locals are there) a pool day is a good option.


Tips or favorites in Downtown Disney: Earl of Sandwich! Goofys Candy Shop is where we always make our own chocolate covered rice krispy treats to bring home! Shopping at World of Disney is a must because annual passholders and disney visa cardholders get 10% off their entire purchase.


Best place to see/meet characters? They are always all over the parks but unless there is no line we dont take pictures wth them anymore since we have so many! In front of Animal Kingdom you can find them as well as in EPCOT's World Showcase and in the front of DHS and MK. Some maps even have specific times to come see characters.


Best age to take a child for the first time (in your opinion, if applicable)?

In my personal opinion, when they are out of diapers. Babies are not going to remember it anyway and I would probably be so stressed out with the heat and germs anyway! And when I have my second child God-willing, it will stay with grandma and grandpa until he/she is old enough to go. Also, we met a family on our last trip who said (the grandparents) they always pay to take each grandchild when they graduate from kindergarten. I thought that was so cute!


For those of you who have worked at Disney, what was it like? Did it "spoil" the magic for you or not? Are there any insider tips?

Never worked there and I am afraid that would happen if I did!


Do you think souvenirs are a waste of money?

NO WAY! I have tons of Disney clothes, picture frames, kitchen items, etc. It helps to remember your trips when you go home!


Do you use the Photopass service, do you solely take your own pictures, or both? Both. On our honeymoon we bought the prepaid Photopass cd, but now since we go so much we still get a Photopass card and take a few pictures for fun, but you can also hand your camera to a Photopass person and they will take pics with your camera as well!


Any tips for money-saving in general?

Go in value season, watch websites for deals and discounts like free dining in the fall, if you plan on going multiple times a year invest in an annual pass. Share meals or eat snacks from home when possible (bring granola bars, cereal, etc.). You can even have Garden Grocer deliver groceries to your room.


Do you use the Fastpass system? How do you best utilize it?

Yes! First thing when I get to a park I get a Fastpass for somethng I want to do that has a long wait, then I go stand in the standby line for a different ride and do other things until my Fastpass time. Then I go Fastpass seomthing else!


Is there a ride that should be especially avoided with children, people with motion sickness, etc.?

If you get motion sick do not do Soarin, Mission Space, Tea Cups, Star Tours.


Is there are ride that's overrated (in your opinion)?

Everything in Fantasyland! While I love Fantasyland, I am not standing in line for 2 hours to ride Peter Pan or Dumbo. [Note from Ashley: kids LOVE Fantasyland, so this is just from an adult perspective.]


Best parade watching spots in each park?
I refuse to sit and wait an hour before a parade for a good spot. Plus we are both tall so we usually just wait until they are starting. Frontieerland is a good place to watch parades b/c for some reaosn EVERYONE wants to see them from main street. I don't really watch parades in other parks.


Do you own Mouse Ears? Maybe :)


One of your favorite memories from Disney World:

Getting a free upgrade last year at the Grand Floridian to main building concierge. We were so excited we literally jumped up and down on the beds! I have the pictures to prove it! Another favorite is on the birthday trip I did last week, my best friend had a birthday cake sent to the room and I got a free chocolate mickey from the hotel. I felt so special and spoiled!


What is your favorite Disney movie?

Beauty and the Beast!!!


How often do you go to Disney World?

It depends. At least one week-long trip a year, the maybe one or two 2-5 night trips. We have an annual girl's trip too! Our next goal is a Disney Cruise!


Anything else that you have to say about the Happiest Place on Earth:

I just love it so much. You can't get tired of it because if you try a new hotel each time its like a whole new trip! There are so many things to do and see you can never do them all. I have been 6 times since 2007 and I am ready to go back for more! January is the next scheduled trip to run the half marathon!


Thank you, Heather, for contributing to my Disney Series! May all your dreams come true :o)


Have a magical day!-------



Disney Series, featuring Ashley S.


The premise of the series: For every installment, I will interview a fellow Disney fanatic (like myself). I've composed a list of questions that cover a lot of bases when it comes to Disney World, planning your vacation, making the most of it, etc. I hope this will be a great tool for some people out there to learn more about the World, plan their vacation, or will just be fun to read for others!

For this installment, I interviewed Ashley S. I know Ashley from going to the same church a few years back, and we recently reconnected when I was planning my latest Disney vacation in October. Out of the five people that I am interviewing for this series, Ashley is one of two that has had the experience of working at Disney World (JEALOUS!!!). I think this will give her interview an interesting perspective, and I'm excited to share it with you!

How long have you been going to Disney World?

I went to Disney World for the first time when I was 6 years old. I have
good snippets of memories, but nothing too big aside from remembering that it snowed (yes, snowed in Florida). The next time I went to Disney World was for my honeymoon in March of 2008. My husband, Trevor and I both fell in love with WDW and decided to go back
to work the summer and fall semesters with the Disney College Program.

How often do you go to Disney and/or how long did you
work there?

We were at Disney for 6 days in March 2008 for our honeymoon. We moved onto
Disney property May 27th, 2008 and lived there until January 2, 2009. We
have not gotten to go back since we have been busy with school and work,
but we hope to go back as soon as we can financially. :)

What is your favorite ride? Why?

Oh, that is a hard one. I think I might be able to narrow it down to one or
two per park. My favorite ride at Magic Kingdom is probably Big Thunder
Mountain. My favorite interactive ride at Hollywood Studios is Toy Story
Midway Mania but The Great Movie Ride also holds a special place in my
heart. :) My favorite rides at Animal Kingdom are Expedition Everest and
Primeval Whirl (only because it jostles you around and makes you feel like
a little kid again. Strange, I know). I love Epcot more for its theming
than anything else but if I had to pick one ride to do there it would
probably be Test Track.

As someone who has been to the World many times, what tips do you have to
make park experience easier?

Utilize the FastPass system. Don’t wear yourself out in an effort to fit everything in.
Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours if you are staying on property. EMH isn’t only at night, it is also includes morning hours for some parks. This is great at Animal Kingdom so you can come even earlier in the morning before the heat of the day. Animal Kingdom is climate controlled because of the animals, so no matter what time of year you go it will be warmer than
the other parks. If there are things that you would like to do at the parks that have
specific times (shows, parades, etc) make sure you plan it out so that you can fit it all in.

What is your favorite time of year to be at DW?

My favorite time of year for visiting and being in the parks is during the fall. Mid-September through the first week of November, there are fewer people in the parks and the weather is (usually) nice. You get to avoid waiting in really long lines and get away from the heat and rain of the late spring/summer. This is also value season, so you get access to better discounts.

Are there any websites, etc. that people should utilize in planning?
wdwinfo.com, mousesavers.com and allears.net

The great debate: staying on Disney property or off?

I am all for staying on Disney property. While it can be pricier than an off-site hotel, the advantages make up for it. Off-site hotels usually offer shuttle service to the parks but from what I have seen and discovered is that they offer limited shuttles. It isn't very flexible and limits what you can do on Disney property. Disney shuttles run constantly throughout
the day. Other advantages include use of the Disney Dining Plan and Extra Magic Hours which help you make the most out of your day(s) in the parks. Disney hotels offer the added benefit of the Disney Magic, nowhere else in Orlando is going to have the same effect as a Disney Resort.

What is your favorite place to stay?

The Grand Floridian is my favorite resort overall, but the price is the highest and I would not recommend it for someone with small children. Animal Kingdom Lodge is very well themed and great for kids while staying in the moderate resort range. What kid doesn't like looking out of their hotel window to see giraffes and rhinos? :) I personally have stayed in 2 value resorts: Pop Century and All-Star Music. Both were well themed and had good service. Whether you are working on a budget or not, don't rule out the value resorts. They are just as nice, if not nicer, than most off-site hotels in the vicinity of WDW and you still get the added benefits of staying on property.

Do you use a "touring plan" in the parks or do you just go with the flow and wing it?

Since we lived and worked at Disney, we never really had to worry about needing a touring plan. For vacations and in the future I will definitely have things planned out to an extent. Work around your meal reservations, show and parade times and the ride and activities on your “must” list for each park.

Your tips for clothing and gear to wear in the parks:

I suppose the answer to this question depends on the season in which you
visit. If you come during the summer, definitely bring your own ponchos and carry them around at all times. The showers don't last long. It is better to be prepared than to get soaking wet or pay extra for a poncho in-park. For winter months, it is all according to what temperatures you feel comfortable with. If you are used to cold weather, you will probably still be comfortable in shorts. :) Bring sunscreen, fans, etc. Whatever you think will make you more comfortable as you go through the parks. Tennis shoes are almost always the best footwear choice. If you are cold natured, you might like to bring a light jacket. Some areas are colder than others (monorails, buses, restaurants).

Name your favorite restaurants in:

I am going to list both Quick Service(QS) and Table Service(TS) because I know that few people can afford all table service meals on their magical vacation. :)

Magic Kingdom: QS - Pinocchio's Village Haus (great theming, variety of food for any tastes), TS - Liberty Tree Tavern or Chrystal Palace (amazing buffet!)
Disney Hollywood Studios: QS - Sunset Market Ranch (ok, I might be slightly biased since I worked here part of the time I was at WDW - but it has a nice variety of food) or ABC Commissary (indoor quick service), TS - 50's Prime Time Cafe (I adore the theming here and the food was always delicious!)
Epcot: QS – Sunshine Seasons (great alternative to typical QS fair such as salads, rotisserie chicken, salmon and pork chops as well as vegetable sides), TS - Teppan Edo (marvelous Japanese food served hibachi style and sushi)
Animal Kingdom: QS - Flame Tree Barbeque, QS and TS - Yak and Yeti (this restaurant is divided into 2 parts, outdoor QS and indoor TS. Delicious Asian food)

Do you have any tips for stretching your dollar on meals?

Drinking water is always a better choice, free and keeps you hydrated. Most proportions are large, especially at Table Service restaurants. Don’t let your let your eyes be bigger than your stomach (or wallet). :) When my family was here, we made a trip to a grocery store and bought breakfast foods. That way everyone can eat when they are ready and it cuts down on costs.

How many days do you recommend staying for a good Disney vacation?

I would recommend at least 4-5 days. Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios easily take a day a piece. It is possible to squeeze Epcot and Animal Kingdom into a day together but I wouldn't recommend it, especially if you have children. I personally like 5 (or more) days - 1 day in each park and a day to recap anything you really enjoyed or anything you missed.

Your best tips for going to Disney with kids:

Take time to rest and do relaxing things, as well as all of the rides and other activities. When they kids are miserable, so are the parents. Take lots of pictures because, depending on the age of the child, those will be the foundation of their memories. I do not have a whole lot of tips for
traveling with children since we don’t have any yet.

Your best tips for going to Disney without kids:

When we were on our honeymoon we went to the parks first thing in the morning, ate lunch at a park or resort, took a nap or had some down time, then hit the parks back up in the evening. Enjoy yourself, be a kid, and enjoy the freedom of not having children with you. ;) You get to skip out on most of the longer lines for the children's rides. If you have never done them before, you might want to ride them but don’t feel like you have to wait in line forever for It’s a Small World.


Character meals/breakfasts: worth it?

I have only done one character dinner. When my family came for vacation we went to the Crystal Palace for their buffet style dinner. The food was great and the characters were entertaining. My 13 year old sister, Winnie, finally came out of her shell at this dinner. Up until that point, she thought it "wasn't cool" to take pictures with the characters. That completely changed when she saw we were eating dinner in the company of Winnie the Pooh and friends. :o) Great pictures and great memories!

Fly or drive (if both were an option)?

I think I would prefer flying, though we drove when we went for our honeymoon and, of course, when we moved down there. Depending on the distance, flying will save you time and money. The sooner you get to Orlando, the more time you have for vacations and relaxing! Disney’s
Magical Express makes travel from the airport to your resort very easy and convenient. You don’t have to worry about having a rental car if you stay on Disney property because of the Disney buses, monorail and boats.

Do you use or have you used the Disney Dining Plan? Your thoughts?

When we went to Disney World on our honeymoon, we did not use the Disney Dining Plan. When my family was here, we used the Disney Dining Plan (regular) and we loved it! Since we bought our own breakfast foods, used the quick service and table service meals for our lunches and dinners, and used the snack whenever we wanted a drink or snack. When I worked in a QSR [Quick Service Restaurant] at Hollywood Studios, I cannot tell you how many times I had people rushing around trying to use up all of the meals they have left on the Deluxe plans. I have never used the Deluxe Dining Plan but it seemed like it was almost too much food. Comparing with or without the Disney Dining Plan, it was a lot less expensive to use the Dining Plan.

Do you try to split time between time in the parks and time at the hotel/swimming pool/Downtown Disney?

We always saved Downtown Disney for the first day and last day, when you are not in town for a full day and don’t want to use a full day park pass for only a few hours. Time at the hotel and swimming pool are good for breaks from the upbeat pace of the parks.

Tips or favorites in Downtown Disney:

Wolfgang Puck and Earl of Sandwich are my favorite dining choices for Downtown Disney. Do not miss out on Ghirardelli’s Soda Fountain and Ice Cream shop – it is a definite must for dessert one night!

Best place to see/meet characters?

We never sought out any characters for pictures. If we were passing by an area where a character was present, we would decide whether we wanted a picture by the length of the line and the specific character.

Best age to take a child for the first time (in your opinion, if applicable)?

It might seem too obvious, but take them when they will actually remember it. I would suggest when they are 5-6. They will have better memories of the vacation and it will be easier on the child and the parents. Bringing infants and babies to the park makes things a little bit more difficult –the child will have no memory of the trip and the parent’s memories are
less likely to be good ones. :o)

For those of you who have worked at Disney, what was it like? Did it "spoil" the magic for you or not? Are there any insider tips?

I LOVED working at Disney World and would go back in a heartbeat. I worked in Merchandise in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom and Quick Service Food and Beverage on Sunset Ranch in Hollywood Studios. It did not spoil the magic for me at all! I loved being on the inside and knowing all of the secrets… and the discounts make it easier to go back again and again! Insider tips? Hmmm, I think I am supposed to be sworn to secrecy on thatone. I don’t want to ruin anyone else’s magic! :o)

Do you think souvenirs are a waste of money?

That depends on the type of souvenirs. Anything that creates or enhanced a memory is not a waste of money in my eyes.

Do you use the Photopass service, do you solely take your own pictures, or
both?

It does not hurt to use Photopass. You are not committed to buying any pictures but you can go back and look at them either way (though only for a limited period of time). We always took our own pictures but kept a Photopass card with us for certain times and places.

Any tips for money-saving in general?

You CAN bring your own food and drinks into the park. If you feel comfortable with this (and having to carry extra baggage around), go for it! If you are staying at a Disney resort, DEFINITELY invest in a resort mug. This is refillable (though ONLY at the resorts) but also doubles as a souvenir – great money saver! Go the parks during value season and look for
“package deals”. You can often get the Disney Dining Plan for free depending on how long you stay and if you buy your room and tickets as a package.

Do you use the Fastpass system? How do you best utilize it?

As soon as you get in the park, go straight to get a Fastpass for a ride you want to do that has a long wait. There are two sets of times on the card, though most only pay attention to one of those times. The first set of times is the time you can return during. The second time is when you can
get your next Fastpass. Often times you can get another Fastpass before you can actually use your first Fastpass. So keep them rolling and get a new one as soon as you can. :)

Is there a ride that should be especially avoided with children, people withmotion sickness, etc.?

Most of the rides are very well labeled as to whether they are good for people with motion sickness. I wouldn’t suggest any roller coasters, Mission Space, Soarin, etc for someone with motion sickness. Though it is meant to be a children’s attraction, I can honestly say from my experience working in Tomorrowland Merchandise that more children came out crying than smiling when they exited Stitch’s Great Escape. It is very scary to small children. If your child is afraid of the dark, loud noises,or weird smells – avoid this attraction.

Is there are ride that's overrated (in your opinion)?

Everyone needs to (at some point in their life) do each ride once. Some you will never want to do again but it is all about the experience. I love/hate the Carousel of Progress and I do not ever want to go on It’s a Small World again – the songs will be stuck in your head for a long time. =)

Best parade watching spots in each park?

I never watched the parade at Animal Kingdom. I would suggest Frontierland for the parades at Magic Kingdom and anywhere within the vicinity of the Sorcerer’s Hat for Hollywood Studios. Keep in mind that it is ALWAYS going to be crowded watching the parade.

Do you own Mouse Ears?

My husband and I both have Mouse Ears. They are ears that cannot be purchased in the park that we received for our graduation from the Disney College Program.

One of your favorite memories from Disney World:

My honeymoon in general was amazing. There is no way I can sum up the memories that I made in the 7+ months of living, working and playing at Disney. I also treasure the friendships I made while there and the people I met.

What is your favorite Disney movie?

Oh goodness – I am a Disney movie fanatic!
Disney Princess movie – Beauty and the Beast
Disney/Pixar movie – Cars
Honestly, I am an old soul. My favorites are all of the classic, older Disney movies, especially the live action movies (One and Only Genuine Original Family Band, Summer Magic, Candle Shoe, Parent Trap, etc).

Anything else that you have to say about the Happiest Place on Earth:

Disney is my happy place, my favorite place in the world. One of my favorite things to do in the Disney parks are the 3-D shows. If you can, go to them! Most people want to get in front of the castle for Wishes, but you can see the fireworks without as much of a crowd in Tomorrowland.
Don’t be afraid to resort hop. I have never had anyone say anything to me about going to resorts that are not your own and visiting, eating, swimming. Beaches and Cream at the Yacht and Beach Club resorts is an absolute must – ask for “the kitchen sink”! ;o)

One of my ABSOLUTE favorite Disney memories ever was going with my family to the Hoop-De-Doo Revue. It was great, hilarious family entertainment and the food was delicious!





Thank you, Ashley, for contributing to my Disney Series! May all your dreams come true :o)


Have a magical day!----



Disney Series, featuring Bryce Y.


The premise of the series: For every installment, I will interview a fellow Disney fanatic (like myself). I've composed a list of questions that cover a lot of bases when it comes to Disney World, planning your vacation, making the most of it, etc. I hope this will be a great tool for some people out there to learn more about the World, plan their vacation, or will just be fun to read for others!

Note: A reader named Jolene emailed me and wanted me to share this Disney tip for any Star Wars-loving family:
"I have 2 little boys who absolutely love Star Wars. Our boys have gone to Disney 3 times and the last time was by far the best. We took them last summer (2008) and surprised them with the Star Wars weekend festivities. It was amazing & they got to meet lots of characters as well as some of the actors who were actually in the Star Wars movies! Here are my posts that I did when we went: http://stootsfamily.blogspot.com/2008/07/day-8-hollywood-studios-lots-of-star.html http://stootsfamily.blogspot.com/2008/07/day-2-hollywood-studios-formerly-known.html The Star Wars weekends are every weekend in June so we planned our trip so that we could go on 2 weekends."

Thanks, Jolene!

For this week, I interviewed Bryce, a friend of mine from college. He really loves Disney, and has been going for ages. He introduced me to Podcasts (LOVE IT, Bryce!), and I especially love his answer to the last question---it's worth reading!

How long have you been going to Disney World?
My first visit was when i was 3 and a half years old

How often do you visit Disney World? I try to make it down once every two years but more if i can make it!

What is your favorite ride? Why? The Jungle Cruise and the reason is simple, I have always wanted to be a Jungle Cruise Skipper.

As someone who has been to the World many times, what tips do you have to make park experience easier? Plan, plan, plan. Most people don't realize how overwhelming WDW is until they arrive. Making a schedule of ADRs helps with the organization. You can't just go and expect to do it all without a little thought put in.

What is your favorite time of year to be at DW? Definately the Fall, beautiful weather and lighter crowds.

Are there any websites, etc. that people should utilize in planning? Absolutely. There are hundreds! Allears.net and touringplans.com are wonderful. Also Disney Podcasts are extremely helpful in planning and getting your "Disney Fix." A few of my favorites are, All About the Mouse, Inside the Magic, WDW Today, The WDW Radio Show, Magical Definition Podcast, Communicore Online, A Window to the Magic, Mouse Guest Weekly, and MouseMagic HD.

The great debate: staying on Disney property or off? On of course. 1) The best customer service. 2) the best atmosphere 3) Use of Disney transportation 4) Use of extra magic hours

What is your favorite place to stay? Port Orleans French Quarter

Do you use a "touring plan" in the parks or do you just go with the flow and wing it? touring plans are the best way to maximize your effort in the parks. I have my own that i use.

Your tips for clothing and gear to wear in the parks: I bring the minimal inside the park so that I don't have to carry anything around. I use a ziploc bag to hold my money, debit card, and park map when i ride water rides.

Name your favorite restaurants in:
Magic Kingdom: Aloha Isle for a Dole Whip! and Liberty Tree Tavern
Disney Hollywood Studios:
50's Prime Time Diner
Epcot:
Le Celliar, Cantina in Mexico
Animal Kingdom:
Yak and Yeti, Flametree BBQ

Do you have any tips for stretching your dollar on meals? At sit down restuarants share meals, the portions are usually big enough to share. Eat breakfast in your room before you leave (poptarts, fruit, etc.). Keep your snacks to one a day ( Dole Whips, churros, Popcorn, etc.)

How many days do you recommend staying for a good Disney vacation? Depends on how Disney you are. I prefer a week of 7 days in the parks.

Your best tips for going to Disney with kids: Take afternoon breaks for naps and the pool, then go back in the parks for the fireworks.

Your best tips for going to Disney without kids: Use this time to take it slow and embrace the details of the parks. It is also a great time for the more adventurous dining experiences like Restuarant Marakesh in Morocco

Character meals/breakfasts: worth it? Not usually, however, you do get personal interaction with the characters for extended periods of time and if that is important to you then yes they are worth it.

Fly or drive (if both were an option)? Fly and use magical express

Do you use or have you used the Disney Dining Plan? Your thoughts? Yes. It is not a HUGE savings, however, it is very convienient to have the dinner paid for and you dont have to worry so much about what your family chooses to eat. However, it is a lot of food, even with the regular dining plan.

Do you try to split time between time in the parks and time at the hotel/swimming pool/Downtown Disney? No I spend most of my time in the parks

Tips or favorites in Downtown Disney: Ragland Road is amazing ( go later in the evening to catch the band). Also check out La Nouba

Best place to see/meet characters? Epcot character meeting spot close to Mouse Gear and the Electric Umbrella

Best age to take a child for the first time (in your opinion, if applicable)? Bringing toddlers makes memories for the parents, bringing older kids makes memories for them.

For those of you who have worked at Disney, what was it like? Did it "spoil" the magic for you or not? Are there any insider tips?sadly i have not worked for the mouse.......yet

Do you think souvenirs are a waste of money?No Way, you just have to find the souvenirs that you like.

Do you use the Photopass service, do you solely take your own pictures, or both? solely take pictures on my own, however Photopass is a great service

Any tips for money-saving in general? Use a travel agent to find any discount codes. Go during free dining in the fall. Buy packages and not just tickets or just hotel rooms. Plus lets face it, Disney is expensive, but it is completely worth the cost.

Do you use the Fastpass system? How do you best utilize it? Yes. I get a fastpass for an E-ticket ride, then i get in line for that ride. By the time i am done with the ride, the fastpass time is ready and i go again, back-to-back. Also I tend to get multiple fastpasses during the day and just horde them til the end of the day and ride all the big rides in a row.

Is there a ride that should be especially avoided with children, people with motion sickness, etc.? Snow Whites Scary Adventures (its in the name people), Tower of Terror tends to make my extremeties go numb....

Is there are ride that's overrated (in your opinion)? Dumbo, I mean it is Dumbo, but thats a county fair ride

Best parade watching spots in each park? The Hub or Frontierland at Magic Kingdom, Near Sounds Dangerous at the Studios, and by Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom ( I know its congested there, but when the parade passes you can jump right in line on the Safari.

Do you own Mouse Ears? Naturally

One of your favorite memories from Disney World: After seeing the Luau at the Poly when I was 12, my family wanted to shop in the gift stores so I sat down in the kids area and began watching a Disney movie that was playing on a TV there. All of the sudden a plate full of warm chocolate chip cookies came into view next to me with a front desk cast member holding them. He said, "would you like a cookie sir?" I said of course and he told me to take two. So I did. It made me feel special and appreciated for just being at Disney World.

What is your favorite Disney movie? Beauty and the Beast and Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Anything else that you have to say about the Happiest Place on Earth: I love Disney because it truly is a bridge between different cultures. Disney brings people together the way a good song does. Disney has brought down huge walls that have been built between me and the outside world. I love Disney because it reminds us that in the world full of evil, there is good that overcomes it and that love will prevail in the end. We all want to be kids again and Christ said that having a childlike heart was important in order to inherit what He has to offer.

Thank you, Bryce, for contributing to my Disney Series! May all your dreams come true :o)


Have a magical day!-----