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!

 

My Disney Experience: The FastPass Selection Process

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My Magic +

My Magic +

Guests staying onsite at a Walt Disney World Resort are now wearing bracelets called MagicBands that act like a room key, theme park tickets and dining passes ( if you have added dining plans to your stay). We officially hit the 60 day mark of our Disney vacation countdown the other day, which meant that it was time to select the FastPasses that will be added to our MagicBands.

If you are unfamiliar with FastPasses; they are a way to schedule a ride, character meet and greet or a live show time so you do not have to wait in a lengthy queue. Guests arrive at a designated time (an hour increment) and wait in a much shorter line or get priority viewing at a nighttime spectacular…thus freeing up more of your day.

The new MagicBand technology allows guests to add FastPasses to the bracelet…so no more walking around with paper passes that could get lost in your backpack. Gone are the days of running to a FastPass kiosk in the morning to score those coveted gems. Guests are now scanning their MagicBands at the rides and experiences during their FastPass timeslots.

How does the new process work?

On your 60 day mark (or shortly thereafter), log on to the My Disney Experience site. Under the “Plan and Manage” section, select “FastPass+”.

You will select your vacation dates, park you will be attending each day and make your ride selections. Disney also asks you to list the priority for each ride, in order of most important to the least important to you. There is a limit of 3 FastPasses per day.

The Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom group their selections into one category from which you make your selections. Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot have separate categories since some of the rides in the parks are significantly more popular.

Here is the current breakdown of the selections for each park. They are subject to change as the FastPass process progresses.

Magic Kingdom

Select 3 from this group:

  • It’s a Small World
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyears’ Ranger Spin
  • Dumbo
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • The Haunted Mansion
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Ariel Meet and Greet
  • Cinderella Meet and Greet
  • Mickey Mouse Town Square Meet and Greet
  • Rapunzel Meet and Greet
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain (currently closed for refurbishment)
  • The Barnstormer
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Under the Sea- Journey of The Little Mermaid

Epcot

Select 1 from this group:

  • Illuminations: Reflections of Earth
  • Maelstrom
  • Epcot Character Spot Disney Pals Meet and Greet
  • Soarin’
  • Test Track Presented by Chevrolet

Select 2 from this group:

  • Captain EO
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • Living with the Land
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Spaceship Earth
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends
  • Turtle Talk with Crush

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Select 1 from this group:

  • Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage
  • Fantasmic!
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Toy Story Midway Mania!

Select 2 from this group:

  • Disney Junior- Live on Stage
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show
  • MuppetVision 3D
  • Star Tours
  • The American Idol Experience
  • The Great Movie Ride
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Select 3 from this group:

  • Dinosaur
  • Expedition Everest
  • Finding Nemo- The Musical
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Disney Pals Adventurers Outpost Meet and Greet
  • Primeval Whirl

 

The system will give you several Fastpass options and will specify if there is a conflict with a dining reservation. Once you make your selections, the FastPass times will be added to your daily itinerary. Guests must manually make selections for each day of their trip.

If you wish to change the times of your FastPasses, you can easily go into the itinerary and make the corrections. The system will even allow you to choose a timeframe if you ask to see all of the available timeslots.

Are there any drawbacks?

While selecting our FastPasses, I noticed that the system tended to plan most of the passes for the morning hours. When vacationing, we really like to take our time leaving the hotel and are not at the park as soon as it opens. There were several occasions when it gave us evening hours; however some of the times conflicted with our dinner reservations. Disney should consider allowing guests to select the times that work for them, prior to offering choices of timeslots.

After choosing the FastPasses, I continued to get a “Server is Busy” screen during every selection. It said that the system was down and suggested to try again later. Upon checking the itinerary, the FastPasses were indeed scheduled, so this is obviously a glitch they need to fix.

This new system does not take into account if the guest is park hopping between two or more parks a day. Your FastPasses can only be scheduled for one park per day.

With the introduction of any new process, snags and issues are to be expected.  While I encountered several situations that will surely require some adjusting, overall the process will simplify our days in the parks.  It will be nice to be able to use the My Disney Experience app on our phones to view our daily itinerary and note the FastPass times, rather than relying on my paper lists of the past.  While spontaneity is lost with this process, it will be nice to know we won’t be standing in hour long lines for our favorite rides.

Do you think this process will make your vacation more magical? Do you like being able to schedule FastPasses before your trip?

 

‘Twas the Night Before Our Disney Trip

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Winnie the Stew Christmas1
‘Twas the Night Before Our Disney Trip

By: Winnie the Stew

_____________________________

‘Twas the night before our Disney Trip,
When all through the house,
Every creature was readying to see a mouse.

The suitcases where placed by the front door with care;
With hopes that a ride to the airport soon would be there.

The children were wound up and jumping on beds;
While visions of Space Mountain danced in their heads.

Mama in her Tink PJs and I, in my Goofy Tee,
Had just settled in to check the PC.

With what do my vacation-mode eyes do I view;
But my FastPass confirmations and Advance Dining Reservations, too!

When out in the hall there was a sudden commotion,
I opened the door to see our kids in motion.

“Go to bed little ones for we need our rest;
I know you’re excited but we want to be at our best.

Park hopping, long lines and character meetings await;
Don’t you want this Disney vacation to be great?”

As they scuttled to their rooms they squealed with delight…
“Magical dreams to all… and to all a good night!”
_______________________________________________________________________________________

Wishing you love, peace and magic this holiday!
-Winnie

Will MyMagic+ Make Your Disney Vacation a Little More Magical?

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MyMagic+ Kit

MyMagic+ Kit

Are you a meticulous Disney vacation planner like me? Then you may absolutely LOVE the new MyMagic+ process of Disney vacationing.

Our next trip is scheduled for the Spring of 2014, and we just received our MyMagic+ starter kit in the mail.

The kit included the following:

  • An introduction leaflet to the packet
  • Personalized booklet with information about the process, planning tips and important dates for your trip. (In the photo, the little Mickey ears are strategically placed over our last name.)
  • USB Flash Drive
The flash drive lights up!

The flash drive lights up!

Upon plugging in the flash drive….my eyes widened as I watched that thing light up. The flash drive is reminiscent of the MyMagic+ Mickey icon that we will now see throughout the parks.

The flash drive takes you to a welcome video starring Edna Mode from “The Incredibles” and a knowledgable computer friend. Edna introduces viewers to the MagicBand; a bracelet that guests of the resort will be wearing throughout their vacation.

The MagicBand will serve as your Disney Resort room key, admission ticket, dining plan card, FastPass, and can be used to make purchases at onsite shops, food vendors and restaurants.

The second part of the welcome video takes viewers to the MyDisneyExperience website to begin planning. You will need to login with your established Disney.com username and password. If you do not have one, you can easily set it up through the link.

Once you are logged in, you will be shown instructions on how to link your hotel and dining reservations to the MagicBands. You will also have the option of selecting your MagicBand color and the name you wish to be printed on the bracelet in order to further personalize your experience.

Two months prior to your vacation, you are permitted to start making FastPass selections.
This is a newly introduced process that allows guests to select their FastPasses for each day of their vacation in the parks.

Currently, you are permitted 3 FastPasses daily:

1 FastPass for what they are calling a Tier 1 ride (rides that are the most sought after in the FastPass world)

and

2 FastPasses in a Tier 2 category (rides that are less crowded)

I am also hearing that you are only allowed to select FastPasses for one park each day…..so park hopping won’t grant additional passes.

This tier system is something new that Disney is trying since the FastPass selection system was causing FastPasses to be unavailable to non-MagicBand users. The FastPass method is constantly evolving until a solution is found that will be a positive experience for guests.

Draw-backs of MyMagic+

Errors and issues will arise during the trial stages of any new process or service. This testing phase lets Disney know what is currently working and what is not up to the standards that guests look to from the organization.

The process so far as been very smooth, with the exception of adding our dining reservations to MyMagic+. Even though I have my confirmation numbers, I was getting error codes from the site, telling me that the service was unavailable. After a few more tries, I was able to link the reservations to my name, but not to my husband’s MagicBand. I will try this again in a few weeks and if it is still unavailable, I am sure it can be easily corrected with a quick call to Disney.

The other issue that I can see as being an issue is the over planning. While I enjoy a creating a daily park plan to schedule which rides we go to and when to ensure we make the most of our day; scheduling a FastPass 2 months in advance takes away some of the spontaneity of the vacation. We have to make sure that there is enough time in between the FastPass and our dining reservations, for example. This process will take some additional planning, but it will be interesting to see how it all works out!

More to Come

I will know more about the MyMagic+ within the next coming months as we continue to plan and eventually make it to the resort. I can post more details as we go through this exciting new test phase.

What do you think of the new MyMagic+ process? Do you think this will enhance your Disney vacation?

Disney Childcare Options

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View of the Walt Disney World Swan From the Dolphin Hotel

View of the Walt Disney World Swan From the Dolphin Hotel

Family vacations are a great time to reconnect, have some fun and unwind. They are also the perfect opportunity for Mom and Dad to have a little alone time or a date night within the Walt Disney World resort.
Children’s Activity Centers located at select resorts throughout Walt Disney World offer a supervised play environment for kids. The centers offer a range of activities including games, crafts, movie watching and even dining! This is a fantastic child care option because it allows your children an opportunity to make friends and have some fun while you are enjoying some quiet time.

The Details

The hours for the centers vary; with the majority being open from 5:30 PM- 12:00 midnight.

Children ages 3-12 are welcome (ages 4-12 for Camp Dolphin) and must be fully potty trained.

Kid-friendly dinners are included in the cost of care and parents can make dining selections upon checking into the center. There is also an evening snack offered at 10:00 PM for those staying into the later hours.

Children’s Activity Centers are located at the following resort hotels:

Simba’s Cubhouse at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Never Land Club at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
Cub’s Den at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Sandcastle Club at Disney’s Beach Club Resort
Camp Dolphin at Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel

While reservations are not required for most of the locations, except Camp Dolphin, they are highly recommended….especially during peak seasons.

What is the Cost?

The cost of childcare is $11.50 per hour/per child with a 2 hour minimum; Camp Dolphin is $10 per hour/per child with no minimum.

Free Childcare

If you dine at one of Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort’s signature restaurants, you can enjoy free childcare! For each adult entrée purchased at bluezoo, Il Mulino or Shula’s Steakhouse, one child will be admitted for 2 hours of complimentary childcare at Camp Dolphin.

What about a relaxing spa day with your sweetie? The Mandara Spa at the Dolphin resort boasts a wide range of salon and spa services. For each spa treatment booked that is 75 minutes in length or more, Camp Dolphin will admit one child for 2 hours.

Have you ever used one of Disney’s Children’s Activities Centers? Will you be planning a date night for your next trip?

 

Plan an In-Room Getaway

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Pop Century Resort Photo Credit: J. Kulak

Pop Century Resort
Photo Credit: J. Kulak


Disney is all fun; however there may be days that you just need to get away from the non-stop excitement. I usually try to plan meals for times when I know we will need a break, but there are moments that even the restaurants can be over-crowded and loud. Sometimes the best way to unwind and settle down is to step away from the magic and head back to the hotel.

How to plan an in-room getaway:

Dinner time– Plan to go back to your hotel in time for dinner. If you have the Disney Dining Plan, use your Quick Service dining credits for a meal at your hotel. You can even grab your dinner selections and take them back to your hotel room to eat picnic style or on your balcony if your room has one. Room service is another dining option…but this can be costly since it requires two Disney Dining credits. Ouch! In my opinion, room service is not worth spending two Table-service dining credits.

Entertainment- Bring a long some travel games that pack well like Go-Fish, Memory or Pictionary. You can also plan a simple craft or watch a Disney film on your laptop/tablet. Some hotels offer nightly activities that may include campfires, storytelling and family movie nights. Check with your hotel’s concierge upon check-in.
Many rooms afford excellent views of the parks’ fireworks. You can use your snack credits to purchase some sweet treats to bring back to your room and host your own Dessert and Fireworks viewing party.

Relax- Stop by the pool for a leisurely evening swim. Stroll the beautifully manicured grounds of your hotel resort. Visit one of Disney’s several spa locations and enjoy a massage or pedicure. Or, take advantage of your night in and get some much needed zzzzz’s so you can wake up refreshed for another Disney day!

Do you plan in-room getaways for your Disney vacations? Do you have any tips?

Disney Surprise!

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Let's Go!

Let’s Go!


Many of us have probably seen the videos online of the elaborate ways that parents tell their children that they are going on a Walt Disney World vacation. Some tape their child’s reaction as they reach that famous entry gate, others plan for a magical reveal at home. Surprise vacation announcements can be a fun part of your Disney Vacation planning process.

Here are some of my suggestions for a Magical Disney Vacation Announcement:

  • Have a “Foods That Are Shaped Like Mickey” dinner theme. Arrange your dinner foods in the iconic Mickey ears shape and listen to Disney tunes as you dine. For dessert, bring out a cake with writing that announces your upcoming trip.
  • Pick up your children from their activities or school with a car sign that reads, “We are going to Disney World!”
  • Write and mail an invitation to Walt Disney World from your child’s favorite Disney character.
  • Plan a treasure hunt in your backyard. Make a map with instructions and hide clues that will eventually communicate the big news.
  • On a dry erase board, reveal one word a day;
    Monday “We”
    Tuesday “are”
    Wednesday “going”
    Thursday “to”
    Friday “Disney!”
  • Order some personalized Mickey ears or customized t-shirt and leave them on the dining room table for a Good Morning surprise!
  • If you want to make your announcement on the day of your trip, lay out a Disney Princess dress or pirate outfit and explain the occasion for the fancy dress up.

You can even plan your vacation announcements around birthdays, holidays and special family events. However you decide to make your announcement, be sure to capture the moment on video so that you can enjoy it for years to come!

Have you ever surprised your family with a magical vacation announcement?

Spice Road Table At The Morocco Showcase

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The Disney Parks Blog announced yesterday that a new dining experience will be coming soon to Morocco in the World Showcase at Epcot.

Disney stated that Spice Road Table will feature small plates; which I am assuming means a tapas- style restaurant. The menu will be quite eclectic; featuring a variety of food options and cocktails. The restaurant will be located by the World Showcase lagoon and is a perfect spot for viewing Illuminations!

No firm opening date has been announced, and the restaurant is not currently accessible through the Dining Reservation System. Hoping to get some more details soon!