Talking To Your Family About Theme Park Safety

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Vehicle

 

Preparing for a Disney vacation is part of the excitement. The packing….the planning…the anticipation. Everyone in the household counts down the days and checks everything twice to make sure it is ready to go for a fun-filled week.

Vacation safety is often a topic that is left for those hurried minutes while running around a hotel room preparing for the day. Ensuring that the family is safe and prepared for most events can be  part of your planning process. Consider setting aside one evening before your trip to talk to your family about vacation safety.

Here are some of my suggestions for topics of discussion….

Keep your arms and legs in the vehicle at all times:

We have heard this phrase on hundreds of occasions at theme parks, but the warning is not simply Mickey Mouse trying to ruin your day.

There are real dangers in sticking a limb outside of a moving car or boat during a ride experience at the parks. Sure, that water on It’s a Small World looks tempting, but there are hidden tracks and moving parts under the boat that could cause some serious bodily harm. Talk to your family about the need to stay seated and keep their limbs in the cars of every ride, boat and transportation vehicle. Perhaps appoint a “safety expert” in your family whose job is to remind everyone of the rules before boarding each ride and keeps a close watch of the little ones.

Stay close to the family:

Crowds at Disney can get overwhelming. I have to admit that there have been times that I have gotten lost in a sea of people while looking for a family member. Talk to your family about sticking together; especially in largely populated areas.

What to do if you are lost:

Create a plan of “what-to-do” in case a member of the family separates from the party. Mobile phones are great for connecting; however for the little ones, it is important to tell them where to go if they become lost.

Cast members can be found at the beginning of each ride queue, in stores, kiosks and walking around the park. Instruct children to seek out a cast member if they should become lost. Cast members are recognized by their oval nametags and have training to handle lost family member situations.

The new MagicBand bracelets used in the parks identify family members and when scanned, gives the contact information for the family; including a phone number and resort information. Make sure when checking into the hotel, that you give the cast member a contact number for the mobile phone you will be taking into the parks.

Only go near the water when an adult is present:

There is water EVERYWHERE at Disney. Lakes, rivers, pools, lagoons….water is a plenty!  Instruct the little ones to hold the hand of an adult whenever they are around a body of water and to wait for the go-ahead before jumping into a pool.

The guard rail is there for a reason:

Balcony and guard rails look like a fun playground….especially at the themed resorts and lakes where the views are glorious. Talk to your kids about balcony and railing safety and instruct them to only go outside or go near a railing when an adult is present. The resorts have a security lock on the sliding glass door, but setting the ground rules prior to the vacation can be helpful in stopping unaccompanied balcony adventures.

Stay hydrated and cool:

The Florida sun is hot and standing in lines in the blazing sun can take a lot out of you. Make sure that each family member stays hydrated throughout the day. We take a backpack with water into the parks so when we need a quick drink, it is available. Monitor the little ones to make sure they are drinking plenty of fluids and instruct them to tell an adult if they are feeling overheated and need to take a break.

Cool down in an air conditioned theater or shop. I keep a list of attractions that are indoors or have ride queues that are housed inside that we can visit when the heat is unbearable.

Sunscreen is a necessity:

I am sure we have all witnessed a sunscreen meltdown. A child comes back from a splash ride and doesn’t want to put the fun on hold for another sunscreen application. Talk to your kids about the necessity of sunscreen and how a sunburn could ruin an entire vacation. Sunscreen should be applied every 2-3 hours or after a water ride or splash in the pool.

 

Stay safe…stay informed….stay connected…..and your vacation should be a magical experience!

Are there any tips that I missed?  Please feel free to share them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Get Wild at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Trek through Disney's Animal Kingdom Savannah. Photo Credit: Julie K.

Trek through Disney’s Animal Kingdom Savannah.
Photo Credit: Julie K.


Backstage tours at Disney give glimpses into sights that we normally would not see during a day in the parks. These tours are offered at an additional cost and cover everything from horticulture to costuming. Tours are a fantastic alternative to the parks and a wonderful addition to any Disney vacation.

The Wild Africa Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a 3 hour VIP tour that should be added to every Disney fan’s bucket list. Guests ages 8 and up have some very close encounters with the star residents of the Animal Kingdom Savannah. During the tour you will be guided through a viewing of hippos and crocodiles from a rope bridge 10 feet above. Don’t worry…you are securely harnessed to a cable, so there will be no unfortunate face-to-face meetings with Tick-Tock the Crocodile.

During your tour, you will also have the opportunity to try some African-inspired snack foods. Depending on the time of day you select for your tour; you will be given either breakfast or lunch menu items.

The tours start at 8:00AM and run every 45 minutes until the last tour of the day at 2:30PM. The expedition does also require theme park admission as well as a charge for the tour. Current tour admission rates can be obtained by calling Disney at (407) WDW- TOUR. Additional details, including restrictions and clothing requirements can be found here.

Will you plan a tour for your next Disney vacation?

Holiday Shopping at Walt Disney World

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Mickey Mouse figure purchased by my parents on their honeymoon. He is still greatly cherished after all these years.

Mickey Mouse figure purchased by my parents on their honeymoon. He is still greatly cherished after all these years.

There is nothing like spending the holiday season at the Disney Parks. The decorations, the music and the SHOPPING! Speaking of shopping…if you are traveling to the Walt Disney World resort prior the holidays, it’s the perfect opportunity to get all of your shopping done for everyone on your list.

Create a Shopping Plan

Just like Santa, you will want to make a list of all the people who you are shopping for and come up with a plan. Make sure to decide in advance a general idea of what you are purchasing, so you are not spending your entire vacation in the retail stores. Also keep in mind that if you are flying, you will want to purchase items that pack and travel well without taking up a lot of space in your bags.

Disney’s website has a search tool for finding the stores that sell the items on your list. Simply type in the item that you are looking for and all of the stores that carry the item will be listed.

Here are some ideas of simple and easy gifts for everyone on your list:

Ornaments

Every one could use one more ornament on the tree, right? This is an item that receivers can use year after year. They are both inexpensive and travel very well, so they are the perfect gift for anyone on your list!

Disney has entire walls dedicated to Christmas decorations in several stores as well as specialty Christmas shops in two locations; Disney’s Days of Christmas in Downtown Disney and Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom.

T-Shirts

T-shirts can be found in many stores in the parks. When deciding to buy shirts or any type of clothing, be sure to check on sizes and ask recipients about their favorite Disney characters before your trip. This will simplify your shopping and cut down on those calls back home.

Jewelry

Disney trading pins make excellent gifts for the collectors in your life, and they are really portable. Retail locations throughout the resort also offer necklaces, rings and bracelets adorned with your Disney favorites. Add a little Disney “bling” to someone’s life!

Toys

There are thousands of toy options to choose from at Disney; from light up swords to Legos, you are sure to find the perfect gift. Stuffed animals are wonderful presents and knowing that they came from the resort, makes them even more special.

Mugs

One of the easiest and most cost-effective gifts is a Disney-themed coffee mug. They come in all shapes and sizes and are adorned with almost every Disney character. They are portable and make the packing process a breeze.

Global Treasures

For the world-traveler in your life; think about visiting the shops within the World Showcase at Epcot. Items from each highlighted country can be found in their resident shops. You will find jewelry, art, housewares and even apparel items that are specific to each country. Plan on at least an afternoon exploring each country and their corresponding retail shops.

What About All Those Bags?

While staying on the Disney property, there is an option to have your purchases sent back to your hotel room, so you aren’t walking around the parks lugging bags. If you are staying at an off-site resort, purchases can be sent to a location at the front entrance of the park. You can pick up your merchandise when you leave at the end of the day.

“The Deals”

If you want to go offsite during your stay, the local Orlando outlets can be a nice place to visit for some deals. The Character Warehouse is Disney’s outlet shop and offers some discounts on clothing, accessories and toys. The stores can be found in one of two Orlando Premium Outlets; International Drive near Universal Studios and Downtown Disney. Something to consider: If you have a car, this may be a way to save some money on merchandise, but when taking a taxi or paying for a shuttle, the cost of the trip may outweigh your savings.

The Disney Store

Souvenir shopping can be effortless if you wish to purchase items before you leave for your Disney vacation. Select Disney Parks Products can be found on the Disney Store.com website. Sales on the site occur often and free shipping options are available for purchases of $75 or more. Have the items shipped to your home and save them for your return. This could save a lot of time in searching for those perfect gifts in the parks.

To “Wrap” This Up

Planning ahead for your Disney souvenir shopping could potentially save a lot of time and money…and allow more time for magical memories.

Do you plan to do your holiday shopping at Disney? Have any tips or tricks?

Caw! Caw! Roar!

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Adventure is out there

Have you ever dreamed of going on an adventure like Carl and Russell from the movie, “Up”?  Searching the land for new discoveries and exploring the world around you? Consider making your wishes come true on your next Walt Disney World vacation. Here are some suggestions for the most exciting “Up” themed day at the resort.

“Caw! Caw! Roar!”

Begin your journey at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and become a Wilderness Explorer for the day. Pick up your free official Wilderness Explorers Handbook and earn badges by completing activities throughout the park. Disney cast members serve as your Troop Leaders and Badge Guides and help you along the way with some direction and answers. By finishing your tasks, you will learn about wildlife, culture and even recycling!

“Adventure is out there!”

Grab your grape soda pins and head on over to Downtown Disney to soar on the Characters in Flight balloon. This giant helium balloon takes guests on a tethered 10 minute flight up to 400 feet in the air. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Walt Disney World Resort and surrounding landscape.

Fly during the day to see up to 10 miles away, or at night to see the twinkling lights of the city. You can even plan your flight during the fireworks in the parks to further enhance your experience. Check your park map or My Disney Experience app for nightly fireworks schedules.

The Characters in Flight balloon does not fly during storms or if the wind speed is greater than 22 miles per hour. Guests under the age of 9 must be accompanied by someone 18 years of age or older. The cost associated with this experience is currently $12.00 per child and $18.00 per adult. The hours of operation are 8:30 AM- 12:00 Midnight.

“Chocolate, I smell chocolate!”

After your flight, grab a meal at the Rainforest Café in Downtown Disney and dine amongst a setting that will remind you of Carl and Russell’s destination; Paradise Falls. Enjoy the lush trees and tropical birds as you enjoy American-style cuisine. Russell’s bird friend, Kevin would approve of the Sparkling Volcano dessert. Made for three or more people, this giant chocolate brownie cake is served warm and topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce!

After dinner, stroll through Downtown Disney, check out the shops and start planning your next Disney adventure.

Do you plan theme days for your Disney trips?

Renting Disney Vacation Club Points

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Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Photo Credit: Julie K.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Photo Credit: Julie K.

The Disney Vacation Club is a timeshare that allows owners to stay in Deluxe category accommodations at Disney resorts.  Owners purchase points to vacation in various sized suites within Vacation Club resort locations. Sometimes Vacation Club owners do not use their allotted yearly points and rent them out to other guests. Renting Disney Vacation Club points from an owner can save you a significant amount of money on your Walt Disney World vacation depending on the time of year and the type of room that you select for your trip. You have a greater chance of renting the villa of your choice, the sooner you book your stay.

We decided to rent points for our upcoming trip, so I wanted to share some tips and information with you about the process.

(Please note: This  is simply a review for informational purposes.  I am in no way affiliated with or compensated by the organization mentioned in this review.)

Where to go to rent points:

The safest and most convenient way to purchase points is through a broker that specifically handles these types of transactions. They have knowledge of the process and most communicate through email so your transaction is documented. There are several organizations that broker Disney Vacation Club points and act as a mediator between owners and renters.  For our transaction we used David’s Vacation Club Rentals. Other Better Business Bureau accredited rental organizations also offer point purchases and can be located with a Google search for a comparison.

My advice would be to stay away from Craigslist. There are horror stories of guests booking with someone they thought was a Disney Vacation Club owner, only to be scammed out of their vacation budget. Stick with legitimate businesses that have excellent online reviews, rather than attempting a risky transaction with someone you don’t know.

How the process works with David’s Vacation Club Rentals:

You rent points on a scale depending on the length of stay, villa size, resort requested and date. Traveling on holidays and during peak periods means a higher point purchase.

The villas available through the Disney Vacation Club consist of studios, 1 and 2 bedroom suites, Grand Villas and the TreeHouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs. Some resorts also have preferred rooms at a higher cost offering scenic views of the water, Magic Kingdom or even the savannah at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Using a point calculator on a broker’s website is the best way to determine how many points you will need for your stay. David’s Vacation Club Rentals’ calculator can be found here and allows you to put in your requested dates and compare points needed per resort and villa size.

For an example, if you want to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge from March 10th- March 15th. Select your dates and then decide if you wish to stay in a studio, 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom suite. Then determine if you want a value room (no view), standard view, savannah view, or club level (concierge floor).   Get the points required and multiply them by $14 for the total cost of your trip.

Next steps:

Once you have your quote and the amount of points needed for your stay, complete the reservation form with the dates and your preferred Disney Vacation Club resort. The form lets you  choose up to 4 resorts in case your preferred resort is unavailable. Once your form is complete, a partial payment of $98 is required to secure your reservation.

If David’s Vacation Club Rentals is unable to secure your requested rental, the $98 is returned to you; however if a rental is found, the deposit is applied to your rental total and the balance in full is due immediately.

Important: David’s Vacation Club Rentals is based out of Canada. Check with your credit card company to determine if they charge a fee for transactions that occur outside of the US prior to entering your deposit. If there is a fee, you will want to add this figure into your vacation budget.

Rental agreement:

You will receive a standard rental agreement contract that specifies your dates, guest information, the resort details and your confirmation number. This number will allow you to log in to Disney’s online check-in system to view the details of your trip. 60 days prior to your vacation, you can pre-check in, add any special requests (like hypoallergenic pillows) and disclose if you are celebrating a special event during your stay.

Disney Dining Plan and tickets:

Your Disney Dining Plan and park tickets can also be purchased through David’s Vacation Club Rentals..

Benefits of renting:

We saved a significant amount of money on our upcoming vacation by renting points. If we had booked the trip through Disney, we would have paid over $1,000 more for the same studio villa.  Renting a villa also allows guests to use Disney Transportation (including the Magical Express shuttle to and from Orlando International Airport) and renters enjoy the same amenities that all Disney resort guests enjoy; with the exception of daily housekeeping.

Possible downsides:

When renting you must book in advance and plan ahead. It is recommended for example, that you rent the Animal Kingdom Lodge 11 months prior to your trip in order to ensure enough time to secure points. The recommended rental timeframes from David’s Vacation Club Rentals can be found here. Renting in advance means that you also pay for your trip long before your vacation begins.

Disney Vacation Club does not offer daily housekeeping. If you are staying longer than 4 days, a towel/trash service occurs on the 4th day. For stays of 8 days or more, a full cleaning happens on the 4th day and a towel/trash service is offered on day 8. You can request daily or additional housekeeping services for a fee.

To sum this up:

Renting Disney Vacation Club points is a great alternative to staying in a standard hotel room. Our experience thus far has been a very pleasant and easy one…I will be sure to update you with a review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas once we stay there in the Spring.

If you have any questions for me, please ask them in the comments. I would be happy to help!

Avatar Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Avatar Land

Source: D23.com

Some exciting announcements were made at the D23 Expo in Japan as reported by D23.com, including the addition of Avatar attractions and experiences within Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The expansion of Animal Kingdom has been long discussed and as explained at the Expo, the changes will most likely take effect by 2017.

What’s New?

Avatar land attractions including a jungle with lanterns, floating mountains and plants will take guests to the land of Pandora for an experience never before felt at the Disney parks.  An evening show at Discovery River featuring lights, water effects and animal images will be introduced.  As with any new Disney experience, the concept art doesn’t really give us a full picture of what we will see; however the Disney Imagineers have a huge task in front of them of bringing Pandora to life.

The new land will have a home in the Camp Minnie- Mickey area. The Festival of the Lion King is rumored to be moving to a new theatre in the Africa section of the park.

My Thoughts

Animal Kingdom has always been my escape from the loud and crowded theme park hustle and bustle. Riding on Kilimanjaro Safaris is truly an escape like nothing else…and probably the most relaxing experience in Walt Disney World.  While it is difficult to imagine Animal Kingdom getting a makeover, it will be interesting to be in the park after dusk. This will not only give guests a new experience, but allow for more choices in your evening entertainment; which could mean less crowds since everyone is spread out amongst several parks. My hope is that Disney will retain those quiet areas of Animal Kingdom and of course give the animals themselves a refuge from all the sounds and sights of these new attractions. After all, they are the stars of the show and should be allowed to feel comfy and safe.

 
What are your thoughts on the changes? Do you think this is a good addition to Animal Kingdom?