The Key To a Great Disney Vacation: Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

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Disney World

Let’s Go!

Many bloggers follow Disney groups on social media to determine what is currently a “buzz” topic. We want to know what people are talking about, what is new in the parks and where people are focusing their attention. Most group members post about how much fun they had on vacation, their countdown to the next trip or questions about resorts and parks.

Every once in a while, you see a post that is regarding a negative experience. Someone got stuck on a ride, a hotel room wasn’t ready on time or dinner at a park restaurant did not meet expectations. Sometimes these blips are perceived to be “Day Ruiners”.

Things happen. Vacations are never 100 percent perfect. We all have expectations of what the experience should be…but sometimes we do hit those minor inconveniences.

How should we as guests handle situations that don’t meet expectations?

Firstly…don’t panic.

If you hit a snag, Disney generally is very accommodating. If you find yourself stuck on a ride or a longer period of time, Disney will most likely give you a Fastpass for a later return. This way you can skip the line and enjoy the ride when it’s convenient for you.

Are you running late for a dining reservation and it’s out of your control because you were stuck on a ride or couldn’t get through a crowd? Explain this to the host/hostess when you arrive at the restaurant and they will  most likely do whatever possible to seat you. We were in this situation last December. We could not navigate through a crowd because of the holiday castle lighting and were a 1/2 hour late to our dinner. The Hostess at Liberty Tree Tavern was great and immediately assisted us in getting us back in the queue for a table.

It is difficult to stay calm when vacation snags occur, and Disney has a fantastic Customer Service model. Cast Members are trained to support Guest needs and offer options.

The front desk of your Disney resort hotel can assist with many requests and handle questions about both your park and resort experience. There are also Guest Service desks at the front of each park that handle guest questions and issues that arise.

Always remember that Cast Members want to help make your trip memorable…but it is important to have realistic expectations and to prepare for a little road block here or there.

If it happens, put on those mouse ears, dance or grab a Dole Whip…those things can turn any frown into a smile.

 

 

Is That Vacation Contest Real?

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Social Media Scams

Have you noticed those photos being shared on social media sites that promote contests for free Disney cruises and vacations? The caption reads that in order to be eligible for the contest, you must “like”, “share”, and “comment” on the photo as well as “like” the page associated with the photo.

With every share, the photo ends up in Facebook’s Newsfeed and it begins to grow in popularity as more people “like” and “share” to enter the contest.

Scammers on social media sites are getting extremely active and crafty with their tactics to gain followers by offering incredible prizes that draw interest. One photo that is currently circulating has gained a lot of recognition and had over 90,000 likes the other day. The more “likes” a photo gets, the more people think that it is indeed a legitimate contest. The Facebook page associated with the photo claimed that 50 families would be selected to win a Disney cruise and would receive $3,000.00 in spending money.

These Facebook pages are not associated with Disney in any way and are giving false hope for non-existent vacations.

The scammers use Disney branded photos and use wording that appears to be legitimate….so how can you tell if this is a scam?

Disney does not set up separate Facebook pages for their contests. You will find all contests are promoted through their official websites and social media sites.

Disney does not host “like” and “share” contests…ever. All of their contests are either performed through their website with a contest entry form or button, or if it is a photo contest, they have entry opportunities through their website or official Instagram accounts.

What to look out for? Before hitting that “like” and “share” button, check a few things…

Official Disney Facebook pages have a blue check that confirms it is a company sponsored page.

Official Disney Facebook pages have a blue check that confirms it is a company sponsored page.

  • Was the page set up recently…within the past week or month?
  • Does the page only have a few pictures in the “Photos” section of Facebook or a few photos on Instagram?
  • Is the Facebook page an official Disney page? All of the Disney Facebook pages have a blue check next to their name in the search area, as well as next to their name on the Facebook page. This blue check states that they are a certified official Disney page.
  • Look in the “About” section to see the additional info. Most scammers post websites that redirect to survey sites. They are pretty crafty and do use “Disney” in their website names and Facebook pages to appear legitimate.

Why do scammers want you to “like” them?

  • Some of these contests ask you to click on a link that redirects you to a site that asks for personal information. Do not share your personal information with anyone. Scammers can use this information to steal your identity which can cause a host of problems.
  • Scammers can use these contests to gain “likes” on a Facebook page, which could then be sold and used at a later time to promote unrelated products and services.

Before you “like” and “share” anything on social media sites, please check the source to ensure it is not a scam. If it looks too good to be true…it generally is too good to be true.

Making Birthdays Special At Walt Disney World

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Birthdays at Disney

Are you celebrating an upcoming birthday at the Walt Disney World Resort? Want to make the day extra special?

Here are some thoughts and ideas to celebrate the grand occasion that happens just once a year.

Before You Go

When planning your Advance Dining Reservations, make sure to tell the cast member that someone in your party has a birthday. They will make a special note in your reservation and ensure that there is a magical happening during your dining experience. The surprises vary; however generally a celebratory cupcake or small dessert should be expected.

Add a Special Event

Think about adding on a special event to your vacation plans. (These options do have an additional fee associated.)

For the kids…consider booking a makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or The Pirate’s League. Plan a special meal like a character meet-and-greet at Cinderella’s Royal Table or one of 8 other restaurant options found throughout the Disney Resort.

Sail the Seven Seas Lagoon with Captain Hook and Smee on the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage for a celebration full of singing, adventure and storytelling. The cruise anchors so that guests get an incredible view of the Wishes fireworks from the Magic Kingdom park.

Cakes

For family celebrations, custom cakes are obtainable through the Disney Bakery. Chocolate and vanilla cakes are available for purchase in most table service restaurants and do not require advanced ordering. If you wish for a more elaborate cake, or one bearing a favorite Disney character, contact Disney at (407) 827-2253 to place your order. Disney cake creations can be as simple or as magical as you wish!

Room Decorations

Room decorations are a wonderful surprise for a special day. Disney Floral has in-room celebration packages that include everything from a bouquet of flowers to a full room decoration to enjoy upon your arrival to the resort or back from a day at the parks.
The room decorations through Disney can get rather costly. You can bring your own decorations and create an in-room celebration! Stop by your local party store for garland, paper table toppers, balloons and special treats to create your very own Disney themed party! You can decorate your room either while the little ones are sleeping or out for a walk at the resort.

Get a Birthday Pin

When making your reservation at a Disney hotel, be sure to note if a member of your party is celebrating a birthday. Upon check-in, the cast member may give you a special birthday pin. If one is not available in your hotel, go to the Guest Services location at the entrance of any Disney Park to get a pin.

Wearing a birthday pin is a fun experience in the parks. Cast members and even other guests will grant “Happy Birthday” wishes throughout the day. Sometimes cast members walking in parades will high five or shake hands with a guest celebrating a birthday. Disney knows that guests enjoy a little extra on their special day and they make sure to go out of the way!
Plan ahead and ensure that your birthday celebration is truly a magical experience!

 

 

Try a Ticketed Event To Get the Most Out Of Your Trip.

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Ticketed Events

Hey there…Hi there!

It’s been a long time since I blogged, so I need to shake off some of the dust from my computer and get back into the routine of writing about the most magical place.

This year’s dates for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party have been officially announced and I have been anxiously wanting to share about our adventures there in December.

Here we goooooooo……..

During our recent holiday trip to Walt Disney World, my husband and I lost a park day due to an illness. It was our Magic Kingdom day and I began to scramble to find an alternative since we love those late evening Extra Magic Hours in the parks. The Magic Kingdom was holding Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for the next two nights, so we decided to give it a try. I can honestly say that it was the best Disney vacation decision that we could have made.

If you are thinking about planning a trip during the holidays, I highly recommend considering attending The Magic Kingdom’s ticketed events. Guests with tickets to the events are permitted to enter the gates at 4PM….so that means a 8 whole hours of Disney-style goodness!

The dates for this year’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will take place on certain nights between November 8th and December 18th, 2015. The tickets will most likely go on sale in April or May of this year and those who purchase in advance generally get a discount. Be on the lookout for the presale!

The event has a special holiday themed parade and fireworks spectacular. One of the benefits of attending this party is that fewer guests are permitted into the park which results in smaller crowds and easier navigation around the parks.

We attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on December 5th, and it was one of the less attended events. The crowds get larger the closer it gets to Christmas week.

As soon as we arrived at the gate, we were given a special event-themed wristband that we had to wear throughout the evening. We immediately noticed while walking down Main Street U.S.A. that we were walking at a normal pace and actually enjoying the sites. The only places that seemed to be crowded were Town Hall (The Guest Services location) and the Emporium store where everyone seemed to be holiday shopping.

After a really calm dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern, we decided to check out the ride situation.

This was where we got our money’s worth. There were little or no lines for the rides that we experienced. We skipped the Christmas parade and the fireworks in order to miss the crowds.

The only rides that we waited for were Pirates of the Caribbean (15 minutes) and Peter Pan (20 minutes). Those who have waited in line for Peter Pan know that it can be over an hour on some days to get the opportunity to fly to Neverland…so this was a big time saver! Since I am still recovering from an accident last year, there were a bunch of rides that we could not go on, however the waits seemed pretty short (about 30 minutes) for the thrill rides as well.

Free hot chocolate and cookies are also offered to guests at several Quick Service restaurants in the park. This was an added bonus that we really enjoyed. Mmmmm cookies!

The fireworks that we skipped were explained to us by a cast member to be lengthier than the regular show and holiday themed. He tried to talk us out of going on a ride because we would miss the show. We did catch a glimpse of the fireworks as we were running around Fantasyland and they were outstanding from our vantage point. As we were entering “It’s a Small World”, we were surrounded by the breathtaking finale and it was stunningly beautiful!

Access to the characters for picture taking and autographs was easier than a normal day. There were characters throughout the park in holiday attire and most of the lines were extremely manageable.

Everything about the party was done right and as we exited the park, we spoke about how much fun we had…and how we would definitely plan to experience it again.

My tips for a great night:

  • Book early to save on party tickets.
  • Check the weather before you go. You may need a light jacket or sweatshirt if there is a chill in the air.
  • Consider a sit down dinner before you go into the park so you don’t miss any of the fun. Grab a snack later from one of the Quick Service restaurants at Magic Kingdom.
  • Arrive at the Magic Kingdom at 4PM to get the most value out of your evening.
  • Take the opportunity to dress up the family in holiday themed shirts and snap a photo to use for your holiday cards.
  • The parade route fills up quickly. Grab your free hot chocolate and cookies to enjoy while you snag the perfect viewing spot and wait for the festivities to begin.
  • If your family is not a fan of parades, use the time to get on some of the more popular rides. The wait times diminish during parades and fireworks.

 

If you do attend a ticketed event, make sure your phones and cameras are charged and at the ready. You never know what wonderful surprises Disney has in store!

 

Once Upon A Time’s Frosty Return

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Once Upon Returns With a New Addition.

Once Upon Returns With a New Addition.

Tonight is the highly anticipated return of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” and Queen Elsa will be making a chilly appearance in Storybrooke. It will be interesting to see how her introduction will shake things up in our favorite little fantasy town.

Will you be watching…or will you simply Let It Go?

 

 

 

Swimming With Nemo’s Friends

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Divequest

During our last visit to Epcot we spent a lot of time exploring the pavilion where The Seas with Nemo and Friends ride is located. We were amazed while viewing the giant aquariums full of some of the stars of the Nemo ride. There is also a  manatee room that showcases Disney’s commitment to the rehabilitation and care of marine life. The entire pavilion gets guests up close to these beautiful creatures and cast members are on hand to answer questions about the residents of the seas.

We are currently planning another trip to Walt Disney World and I was excited to learn that there is a scuba tour of the aquarium that is offered for an additional fee!

The tour lasts 3 hours with 40 minutes of dive time and includes the gear (tanks, mask, etc.) needed for a trip under the “sea”.  During the tour, guests will see a variety of fish, turtles and even sharks!

In order to enjoy the tour, guests must have a valid SCUBA certification. Those with a Padi certification and Annual Passholders enjoy a little discount off the $175.00 price tag.

SCUBA certified guests ages 10 and up are permitted to sign up for the experience. Children between the ages of 10-12 must be accompanied by a paying adult (over 18) who is also SCUBA certified.

I recently booked this experience as a Christmas gift for my husband and was given the following instructions:

  • No jewelry of any kind can be worn during the experience. This includes wedding rings.
  • No photography or videography is permitted while in backstage areas. Photos and video are permitted in non-backstage areas. A video of the experience will be available after the tour for an additional fee if guests choose to make the purchase.
  • Guests should bring their SCUBA certification and check in at the Main Entrance of Epcot 15 minute prior to the tour.
  • Guests who are not going on the tour, are not allowed backstage but can view their friends and family members from the tunnel in the upstairs viewport of the pavilion. You can see your SCUBA diving companions 1 hour after the tour begins. The first hour consists of the divers preparing and getting their suits and gear ready.
  • Diving equipment is provided, however guests must bring their own bathing suit. Guests are also permitted to bring a mask if they do not wish to use the one that Disney supplies.
  • You will forfeit the cost of the tour if you are a no-show or cancel within 2 days of the experience.

Guests must book this experience in advance by calling 407-939-8687. The tour has limited availability so book sooner rather than later. More details regarding the tour can be found here.

I am really looking forward to sharing photos and more details when we experience it first-hand in a few months!

Saying Goodbye To A Legend

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Source: The Walt Disney Company

Source: The Walt Disney Company

 

Sending out thoughts and love to the family, friends and fans of Robin Williams.

Mr. Williams was a tremendous talent and gave us the gift of laughter through his characters both on the big screen and on television.

He will be greatly missed.

 

Journey Into Your Local Comic Book Shop

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Growing up a Walt Disney World vacationer in the 1980’s was truly a gift. We got to experience Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Scary Adventures and the first (and greatest) version of Epcot’s Journey Into the Imagination.

Thanks to an outstanding artistic and writing team at Marvel’s Disney Kingdoms, we can relive some of our childhood through their highly successful new comic, “Figment”. This series is already so popular that Marvel did not print enough copies of the first issue to keep up with demand. I had to place an order through our local comic shop for the second printing and received my copies of issues #1 and #2 today…and may or may not have torn into them as soon as I arrived home.

In the first issue we are introduced to Blarion Mercurial, who was known as the Dreamfinder in the original ride at Epcot. Mercurial has been actively experimenting with ways to harness new sources of energy, per the demands of a tyrannical Chairman at The Academy Scientifica-Lucidus in London. Issues arise, however Mercurial is set on discovering energy through brain power. Our favorite little Disney sidekick appears in this issue as well and entertains and enlightens.

I don’t want to give away too much about this comic series.
There are several nods to the original ride in the issue and the steampunk edge of the artwork is really something special. The storyline is interesting and headed into an unexpected direction. Fantastical would probably be the best word to describe the comic series.

I would say this is a must-read for any Epcot fan or those who enjoy a good sci-fi comic series.

Planning the Perfect Disney Honeymoon

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Winnie Honeymoon

Walt Disney World is one of the most sought after and romantic honeymoon destinations not only for its location, but the many resort offerings. With themed restaurants and hotels, couples are sure to find a place to stay that is both relaxing and memorable. Prior to booking your Disney honeymoon, make sure to take the time to plan out both your budget and discuss your expectations for the trip to decide how you will allot your money and where you will spend your time.

Where to start?
Create a honeymoon budget. Be realistic and decide how much you want to spend on your room, entertainment (including park tickets), food and travel.
Disney vacations can be quite costly, so knowing your budget will ensure you are getting the best value and you will avoid the dreaded overspend.

Once you have created your budget, then comes the fun part…deciding where to stay.

Do your research.

Prior to contacting Disney’s Reservation line or booking your vacation online, do some test planning through Disney’s online reservation site. Put in your requested dates and decide on hotels that fit closely within your budget. If you contact Disney prior to having a basic game plan for your stay, the cast member may hear the word “honeymoon” and start offering rooms that are not only pricey, but wayyyyy too large for a party of two.

When planning my honeymoon a few years back  I called the Disney Reservation Line and after the cast member heard the word “honeymoon” the first hotel option I  was given was  a town-home style suite at Disney’s Beach Club that would cost us over $4000 for the week. Ouch! The place was enormous and more suited for a family or royalty so I knew going forward to plan a head and have a basic understanding of the price range and hotel theme we would consider.

For honeymooners, I would suggest avoiding the value resorts if possible. These hotels are themed out for families and young kids and offer nothing in the way of romance. There are several resorts in the moderate cost range that are more adult friendly and quieter than the value resorts. For moderate hotel honeymoons, I suggest Port Orleans French Quarter or Riverside and Coronado Springs. All of the Deluxe resorts offer accommodations that are excellent for a honeymoon week with a variety of themes and amenities. My favorites are the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club and Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The Swan and Dolphin resorts are reasonably priced hotels located on the WDW property; however are not owned by the Disney Company. They are generally frequented by convention-goers and have a more corporate feel. You won’t find over the top Disney themed decor, however the resorts do have access to transportation and some even boast excellent views of the fireworks at Epcot.

Plan your meals.

Disney permits guests to book their Advance Dining Reservations 180 days prior to your arrival. Decide where you would like to dine by using Disney’s dining search tool and keep in mind which parks you will be visiting each day.

Think about scheduling at least one table service meal per day. This will give you time to relax and enjoy spending time together without the hustle of running around the parks. Romantic dining locations can be found throughout the resort. **Be sure to explain to the Dining Reservation Agent (or make a note if you are planning through the website) that you are celebrating a special event.**

Some of my restaurant picks for honeymoons and date nights include:

California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Ask for the Wishes seating so you can have dinner and enjoy the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the hotel’s observation deck. We recently enjoyed an anniversary here and were completely impressed with the service and attention to detail. They even gave us a few special surprises to make our event even more magical.

Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian Resort. This waterfront gem serves seafood and has an exceptional view of the Seven Seas Lagoon. Consider booking your reservation later in the evening to enjoy both the Wishes Fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant.

For those who want to splurge a lot and have a one of a kind dining experience, Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian is the most intimate restaurant on site. With a strict dress code and limited seating, the location is the perfect setting for an evening out for two.

The Flying Fish Cafe at the Boardwalk Resort serves seafood and offers some interesting seashore inspired desserts. Have dinner at the restaurant, then take a stroll on the Boardwalk and enjoy the sights.

Tokyo Dining at Epcot has quite possibly the best view within the park. Book your dinner close to IllumiNations Reflections of Earth and enjoy the fireworks spectacular from one of the large windows of the establishment.

Don’t overbook your days.

Because there is so much to do within the Walt Disney World Resort, guests have the tendency to plan out their stay and go… go… go… the entire time. Not only is this exhausting, but it doesn’t allow for honeymooners to relax and enjoy their stay.

Keep your days simple. Think of a few rides and experiences that you want to enjoy each day, and then plan for some downtime whether that be your meals, pool time at your hotel or even just a few minutes sitting on a bench within one of the parks and chatting.  Trust me, the last thing you want to do is to run around a park all day and then be so exhausted that you don’t enjoy your dinner or the fireworks.

Consider the other happenings at the resort.

The WDW resort has some neat activities outside of the parks that are fun for couples hoping to make lasting memories. Sure some of them cost extra, but just think about the stories that you can tell when your vacation ends.

Enjoy a high flying adventure on the Characters in Flight balloon in Downtown Disney. Soar hundreds of feet in the air and look at the resort below. For an extra special touch, think about taking your flight during the fireworks to watch them like you never have before.

Go golfing. Disney has two mini golf courses on the property; Fantasia Gardens, themed out with the characters from that beloved film and Winter Summerland,  a Christmas themed golf experience with a Summer course and a Winter course. Play a round of golf or two…take lots of photos and enjoy the friendly competition.

Take a spin. Canoes, mini motorboats and sailboats can be rented for a fee from various locations throughout the resort. Take a spin on the lagoon and take in the views of the sprawling landscape.

Stroll around and explore the resort. One of my favorite memories from our honeymoon was walking from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to our resort after park closing. We avoided the rush at the buses and boats and just casually walked the paths and reveled in the quiet time. We ended up at the Boardwalk…played some carnival games…grabbed a funnel cake and sat on a bench for a while. There are many fun little pathways and trails and are best enjoyed in the evening hours when the temperatures have dropped.

Let’s go to the movies! The Downtown Disney AMC 24 is a Dine-In theatre experience that offers guests the option of having a meal while they watch a film. Enjoy a sandwich or pizza  and a beer as your watch a blockbuster movie in a comfy theatre setting.  After your movie, explore the shops of Downtown Disney. It is the perfect place to handle all of your souvenir shopping!

Why don’t you take a picture…it will last longer.

You will want lots and I mean LOTS of photographs to remember your honeymoon. Disney’s PhotoPass Photographers can be found throughout the parks and sometimes are located in the hotels. Plan out where you would like your photos and think about getting at least one photo in front of a major location at each park. The musts are Cinderella’s Castle, Spaceship Earth at Epcot, The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom and the Sorcerer’s Hat at Hollywood Studios. The PhotoPass site has some handy maps with locations of photographers so you can better plan your day.

If you purchase your MemoryMaker PhotoPass prior to your vacation, you will save $50. Log in to MyDisneyExperience.com for current pricing. The MemoryMaker can be added to your MagicBand and you simply allow the photographer to scan your band before each photo. Although the cost of this option is daunting, it is significantly more cost effective than purchasing the photos individually. (I learned that lesson the hard way on a prior trip)

Think about some fun photo ops…get creative and you can even bring along small props to make it more fun!

 

The best advice that I can give you regarding honeymoon planning is to just be realistic with your time. Plan exciting entertainment options that you will both remember.  Remember that sometimes what seems to be the simplest of moments can really be what is most memorable about your trip.

Wishing you a magical honeymoon!

– Winnie