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.

 

 

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!

 

I’ve Got 999 Problems But Haunted Mansion Merchandise Isn’t One

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Haunted Mansion Winnie the stew use this

Hold on to your DoomBuggies!

After months of rumors swirling, The Disney Parks Blog finally announced that there will be an entire line of Haunted Mansion related merchandise introduced at the parks within the upcoming months to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the ride. For those of us who are beyond obsessed with the ride, this may be the best news since the new interactive queue was introduced in 2011.

Over 100 new items will be sold in the parks and includes artwork, t-shirts, bookends, jewelry and shoes bearing the wallpaper design from Mansion. Even the illusive Dooney and Bourke bag that sells out every time it is replenished will be available as well as a wristlet and letter carrier purse.

Two of the most buzzed about items are the t-shirts that look like the castmembers’ maid and butler uniforms. They are truly a remarkable recreation of the costumes and would make the perfect addition to any Disney fan’s wardrobe. There is always room for one more t-shirt….mwah haha!

Another interesting item is the bookend set that bears the likenesses of the ghost writer busts from the library scene. Just imagine being creeped out every time you go to grab your favorite novel and thinking to yourself, “Are they watching and following me?”

The merchandise will be rolled out within the next couple of months and some of the items will appear on the Disney Store website.

Look alive and head on over to the Disney Parks Blog website to take a look at the photos of some of these haunting items…there’s no turning back now.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make Your Own Souvenir: Pressed Pennies At Walt Disney World

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Save those pennies for your next Disney vacation!

Save those pennies for your next Disney vacation!

If you are looking for an inexpensive souvenir option or simply an interesting activity for the whole family; consider pressing pennies at the Walt Disney World theme parks.

Whether you are a collector or new to pressed pennies, it surely is a treat to accumulate those shiny wonders with the likenesses of Disney characters, iconic buildings and rides.

How to Prepare.

During vacation planning, decide with your family which coins you would like to collect and work it into your daily schedule. With a few family members, performing the task can be time consuming, so creating a game plan is essential.

Presscoins.com has listings of the machines in all of the parks, as well as photos of designs that each machine produces. The photos and locations are conveniently broken down by park with additional information about where to find the machines. Print off a map of each Disney park and circle the locations so you can easy find them while on your trip.

The money needed to create the pennies does add up and rummaging through a purse to locate the change can also take valuable time away from your Disney Day. The machines take two quarters and a penny for pressed pennies and four quarters and a penny for the pressed quarter machines.

Use an empty pill bottle.

Use an empty pill bottle.


Empty pill bottles or long candy tubes work extremely well for keeping the change in order and do not take up much room in a backpack or purse. If you opt to use a prescription bottle, make sure to remove the pharmacy label prior to filling with change.
Use address labels and stickers to personalize your bottles with each family member’s name. When filling with coins be sure to alternate: 2 quarters (or 4 for the pressed quarters)then a penny and keep repeating the sequence. This is a time saver for when you are standing at the machine and ready to get started.

What to do with these pennies?

What to do with these pennies?

What Can You Do With Pressed Pennies?

Disney sells pressed penny books within the parks. The books contain slots to hold and display the pennies.

As an alternative to the Disney book, you could glue your pennies onto scrapbook pages and attach photos from your trip that correspond with the location. For example, a photo of your family standing in front of The Haunted Mansion pasted next to your Hitchhiking Ghosts penny.

Make jewelry. There are several sites, including Pinterest that have photos with inspiration for pressed pennies jewelry. You can make pendants, earrings, cufflinks, bracelets, tie tacks and key chains. Get as creative as you wish and turn it into a craft night. These jewelry pieces also make great gifts for friends and family!

Pressing pennies at Disney is pure fun…from locating the machines to the event itself…they are a wonderful visual reminder of a memorable family vacation.

Will you plan time to press pennies on your next Disney trip?

Princess Fairytale Hall To Welcome Anna and Elsa

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Move over Cinderella and Rapunzel… the cast of Frozen is set to take Disney’s Princess Fairytale Hall by ice storm!

Anna and Elsa will be moved from their temporary home in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot and will begin appearing at the Magic Kingdom on April 20th, 2014.

While this is going to be extremely effective for crowd control; Norway truly was the perfect setting for their home.

The shops are bustling with Frozen merchandise and the character dresses are the hot ticket item in the parks. Cast members are stationed by the dresses because they are flying off the racks…in fact, they are so popular that most are being purchased while still in the plastic shipping bags.

If you have a little princess of your own who adores Anna and Elsa and you are currently planning a Disney vacation, please make sure to save a Fastpass selection for your meet and greet. These experiences have very long wait times in the Standby lines. (It was 1 hour when we were in the parks the other day.)

For more information on the Fastpass selection process click here.

Disney Inspired Fashions

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The “Show Your Disney Side” ad campaign is in full effect this year. Print ads as well as TV commercials are showing Disney fans headed into the parks dressed as their favorite characters.

2014 is all about showing your love of Disney through character inspired fashion.

Part of the excitement of a Disney vacation is people watching and viewing all of the incredible outfits that guests have put together. From matching family t-shirts to all out character themed ensembles; there is so much creativity to be found in the parks.

If you are planning a Disney vacation and want to leave those character shirts at home; consider putting together a few Disney inspired outfits to take on your journey. By using colorful shirts and accessories, you can achieve the look of your favorite Disney characters.

These looks can be attained by purchasing items at local or online stores, finding pieces from thrift shops, discovering hand crafted pieces on Etsy…or you may already have some of these styles in your closet!

For my Disney inspired fashions, I used one basic black pant as the staple piece.  I fell in love with the new crop pants from Chicos because they are comfortable and versatile. You can wear them rolled during the day when it is warmer and unroll them in the evenings when it gets a little chilly. They are currently on sale ($30 discount) and can be found here.

Most of the outfits are paired with pearl style earrings from Target that can be found here. The more items that you reuse from outfit to outfit….the fewer things you need to pack.

So without further ado…I present Disney Inspired Fashions by Winnie the Stew!

Peter Pan inspired look.

Peter Pan inspired look.

It’s so easy being green!  Show off your Neverland style with a simple shirt, sparkly green accessories and a fascinator.  The shirt I am using is from L.L. Bean, jewelry from Target and found this amazing green hair clip in the clearance section of a local fabric store.

Accessory ideas.

Accessory ideas.

I attached a tiny red feather to the back with some hot glue…and…ta-da….instant Peter Pan fascinator!  There are some great tutorials on Youtube for making felt flowers for hair and hair bows for your Disney inspired looks.

Winnie the Pooh inspired style.

Winnie the Pooh inspired style.

Dressing like Pooh is never a bother with a few simple clothing pieces.  The shirt pictured is from L.L. Bean, infinity scarf from Walmart (in store) and earrings by alliteration on Etsy.com.

Earrings by alliteration on Etsy.com.

Earrings by alliteration on Etsy.com.

I couldn’t open the mail soon enough when these earrings arrived. They are darling and the perfect addition to a Disney wardrobe!

Minnie Mouse inspired look.

Minnie Mouse inspired look.

An easy Minnie Mouse look can be achieved by wearing her signature colors!  The bold red shirt is by L.L. Bean, scarf from Target and the pearl earrings that I listed above.

For a date night Minnie look….you could wear a red dress, black leggings and add a polka dot scarf….

Minnie Mouse date night look.

Minnie Mouse date night look.

Red dresses can be found almost everywhere right now. The one above has been sitting in my closet for a while; however Old Navy sells a similar style.

Date Night Accessories

Date Night Accessories

The scarf pictured above is made out of a stiff heavy cotton that works for the colder Floridian evenings. SewEMG on Etsy makes the scarves available in several colors and styles. There is also a lovely yellow polka dot scarf that would work for a Winnie the Pooh look! Of course there are those pearl earrings again. Going to get a lot of wear out of those on this trip.

When dressing in Disney style the whole point is to have fun and be creative. Have a blast showing off your Disney side on your next vacation and remember to take lots of pictures!

Wishing you the most magical of wardrobes. 8 : )

– Winnie

Magic Kingdom Date Night

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Magic Kingdom Date Night
It’s that time of the year…romance is in the air!
The Magic Kingdom park is brimming with exciting date night activities for you and your special someone.

If you are considering going to Disney for Valentine’s Day, your anniversary or honeymoon, make sure to plan some special moments to ensure a date night that you will not soon forget.

Here are a few of my tips for a memorable Magic Kingdom date.

Walk Down Main Street U.S.A.

Take some time to discover the shops on Main Street U.S.A.
Be silly and try on some hats, find some souvenirs for your loved ones…maybe a keepsake for your own collection. The products that each store carries varies and includes collectables, hats, Christmas ornaments, baked goods, jewelry and t-shirts. Have a blast and make sure to get your photo taken on while on Main Street with the castle in the background!

I Can Show You the World

Soar high in the sky like Aladdin and Princess Jasmine over the bazaar in Frontierland on the Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride. For a truly remarkable experience, plan your ride during the Wishes Fireworks display… or if you want to really impress your sweetie… ride after dark and quietly play, “A Whole New World” on your iPod or phone as you fly!

Get Cozy on Dark Rides

The Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion are both eerie rides that are perfect for snuggling or holding hands. Pirates also has a neat gift shop at the end that is fun for some interactive window shopping. I can’t help myself when there are pirate hats around…I have to try them on! Remember to keep that camera handy for some great candid shots!

Take a Stroll on Tom Sawyer Island

This site is very easy to skip with so many other incredible attractions in the Magic Kingdom. It is however, a great escape from the bustle of the park. Take a motorized raft over to the island and spend some time exploring! From caves to a fort…even an underground escape tunnel… the island is the perfect place to stroll, chat…or sit for a few minutes to catch up.

Got a Competative Streak?

Check out the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade or the Tomorrowland Arcade. Try to beat one another’s scores or jump into the photo booth at the Tomorrowland Arcade for some funny pics to take home! Both arcades require additional cash to play.

Fireworks Just for Two

Wishes is the spectacular of fireworks that occurs nightly at the park. The best places to view the fireworks are either in front of the castle or on one of the bridges in Tomorrowland. Buy a popcorn or sweet treat to share while you are enjoying the light display with your Valentine.

Make sure to end your evening with another photo to commemorate your special day….and pick up a Mickey balloon on the way out of the park.

Wishing you a magical Valentine’s Day!

– Winnie

Healthier Dining at Walt Disney World

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Is it possible to eat healthier at Disney?

Is it possible to eat healthier at Disney?


Those who have traveled to Disney before know that you are bombarded with food at every turn.

From baked goods to turkey legs….to popcorn and ice cream…snack temptations are everywhere. It is easier to gain 5 pounds over the course of your Disney vacation than to score a FastPass for Toy Story Midway Mania. (OK, that might be a slight exaggeration)

It is possible to eat healthier while on vacation without missing out on some of the treats that Disney has to offer guests.

Here are some of my tips for healthier eating on your Walt Disney World Vacation…

1. Plan your meals ahead.

Although Disney does not offer calorie counts for their food items (with the exception of the Be Our Guest restaurant) you can read through menus of restaurants to determine what meals are healthier choices.

While those famous turkey legs do not look like they are unhealthy, each has a whopping 1,000 calories! Look for menu items that include salads, fresh sandwiches, fruits, and grilled meats. Disney resort hotels have Quick Service restaurants that offer packaged fruits and veggies, yogurt, deli meats and other selections that are filling and have significantly less calories than their fried counterparts.

2. Consider one “big” meal a day and several smaller meals.

When we plan our vacations, we will reserve one sit down meal that acts as our main meal and we book it in the early-mid afternoon. Later in the evening we will have a smaller meal or sandwich after walking around the park all day.

3. Take healthy snacks with you.

Make up little snack bags before you leave your hotel in the morning and bring them into the park. When those hunger pains hit, you have a healthy alternative to sugary or high calorie snacks.

4. Drinking water makes you feel less hungry.

Bring some water bottles with you and a few of those one serving low-calorie drink mixes that are a great alternative to soda.

5. Eat meals in your room.

Use a grocery delivery service like Garden Grocer to fully stock up on breakfast foods, snack items, sandwich ingredients and beverages. Eating breakfast or lunch in your resort room can be a money saver and a much healthier option. For our next trip we are dining in our room for breakfast and several lunches and will be saving over $150. That’s some major souvenir cash!

6. Limit those sweet snacks.

I will admit…Disney cupcakes are incredible…and I have to indulge in one every vacation. They are large enough to share. So buy one, grab two forks and enjoy! The famous Dole Whip soft serve treat found in the Magic Kingdom has significantly less calories than one would think. A 1/2 cup serving (without the juice) will only run 80 calories….a much better option than a Mickey’s Premium Bar at 330 calories. Aloha!

7. Use a helpful app.

Prior to your vacation, think about downloading the My Fitness Pal app to your phone. It is free and will let you track your meals for the day. Some of the Disney food items are listed; however for those that are not, you can put in the ingredients and estimate the calories.

Would love to hear any tips or tricks you have for eating healthier at Disney! Please email me or share them here.