Disney for Two: the sequel

11/24/2014 - 6 Responses

My first “Disney for two” experience was last winter, when my husband and I took a romantic getaway to the World. In the ten months since that trip, a lot has happened. The biggest change was our teen being diagnosed with celiac disease and our subsequent decision to homeschool him. (If you want more details on how those two things are related, check out this blog post on the common core.) My second Disney-for-two trip, which concluded so recently that I’m still suffering post-Disney depression, was completely different from the first one. It was a trip to the first annual Food Allergy and Celiac Convention. And it was fabulous!

Peoplemover selfie!

PeopleMover selfie!

I’ll get into more detail on the convention in future posts, but for now I’d like to share the results of my “to do” list for this trip. Mainly, I wanted to get photos of specific ride vehicles (for my updated “Rides for Five” series that is coming soon). I’m happy to say that we accomplished this mission! I also wanted to take the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom. We did this, and it was great! The final item on my list was to see Voices of Liberty perform at Epcot’s American Pavilion. This had been on my wish list for my last two Disney trips, and I’d been thwarted both times. This time would be different. After lunch at Akershus and before our FastPass+ for Soarin’, we had the perfect window to catch a performance of this a cappella group. We strolled from Norway to America, found a comfy spot on a bench, waited a few minutes, and then… a jazz trio was introduced.

“I’m so sorry!” I whispered to my son. “I dragged you over here for nothing!”

“It’s fine,” he replied. “They’re good!”

And they were. It was an excellent jazz trio. But they weren’t the Voices of Liberty. Maybe next trip…

I have so much great information to share with you about the convention and gluten-free dining at Disney, but first I’ll be doing some Christmasy posts and the Rides for Five series (before they make any more ride changes!!). Stay tuned!

Disney Must-Do: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

11/15/2014 - Leave a Response

7DMT entrance

The newest attraction in the Magic Kingdom is a delightful combination of family-friendly roller coaster (note: height requirement is 38″) and adorable dark ride. First, you swoop around outside, then you travel through the jewel-and-dwarf-filled mine, then back outside for a few more dips and curves. Due to its innovative system, the ride is incredibly smooth.

Two bits of caution, which I’d heard of prior to my trip and can confirm after riding Seven Dwarfs Mine Train multiple times:

1. When you first embark, pull the safety bar down SLOWLY. If you push it down too far, there is no way to lift it back up. You’ll feel like you’re being squeezed for the entire ride, which can’t be pleasant.

2. The ride is quick. It lasts a little over two minutes, which seems to go by in a flash. If you’re taking a long enough trip, I’d recommend booking a FastPass+ for it on more than one day so you have a second (or third) chance to absorb the experience.

That said, it’s a fun, lovely, instant classic of a ride. I can’t wait to ride it again!

7DMT cottage

Having fun with ride photos!

11/01/2014 - 2 Responses

One of the awesomest things about Memory Maker is that it comes with all of your ride photos. Rather than paying $15 – $20 a pop, you get all of them as part of the photo package. This allows you to let loose and get a little, um, creative with your ride photos (once you figure out where the camera is). We took full advantage of this on our last family trip to Disney World.

It seems like every year, we have some sort of theme or inspiration for our Disney pictures. This theme is usually both random and silly. During 2013’s Disney trip, our theme for photos was “the Sheldon smile.”

For comparison purposes, here is 2013's theme: the Sheldon smile.

2013’s theme: the Sheldon smile.

Here's an example of the boys doing their Sheldon smiles (2013).

An example of the boys doing their Sheldon smiles (2013).

For 2014’s Disney trip (the first time we purchased the Memory Maker photo package), our picture theme was “the Shane.”

Shane, from The Walking Dead, in the middle of one of his ubiquitous head rubs.

Shane, from The Walking Dead, in the middle of one of his ubiquitous head rubs.

Our goal, sprung from a moment of random inspiration (as the best traditions are) became to “Shane” in as many ride photos as possible. Here are a few examples:

space mtn

The boys did pretty darn good on their first Shane.

My first attempt at Shaning left a lot to be desired.

My first attempt at Shaning left a lot to be desired.

My husband had the presence of mind to Shane on Buzz Lightyear.

Bonus points for Shaning on Buzz Lightyear.

Our Shane timing was a bit off on Tower of Terror, but we tried!

Our Shane timing was a bit off on Tower of Terror, but we tried!

My husband Shaning on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Sort of.

My husband Shaning on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Sort of.

A Shane spotting on Test Track!

A Shane spotting on Test Track!

Dude! You blocked our Shane!

Dude! You blocked our Shane!

Getting better at our Space Mountain Shane timing - though we had one kid on a Shane strike.

Getting better at our Space Mountain Shane timing – though we had one kid on a Shane strike.

By Shane, I think she's got it!

By Shane, I think she’s got it!

After all that Shaning, we were plum tuckered out. We needed a quick nap:

space mtn nap 1

space mtn nap 2

Of course, there was still time left in the trip for a couple more Shanes…

Splash Mountain Shane.

Splash Mountain Shane.

One last Shane before we go home...

One last Shane before we go home…

Playing around with ride photos sure added to the fun! Do you have a good ride photo story? I’d love to hear it!

Test Track of Terror

10/26/2014 - 4 Responses

test track outside

In the spirit of Halloween, please let me share with you my most terrifying ride experience ever…

It started out just like any other ride. We entered Test Track’s FastPass+ return line. After waiting a few minutes, we were ushered into that room where lots of people stand at monitors to create their virtual test cars. After designing our car, the doors at the far end of the room opened. We obediently moved into the relatively smallish room where you make your way up a ramp, go through another door, and have a short wait before climbing into your ride vehicle.

As we made our way from the “monitor room” to the “ramp room” (I don’t know what they’re really called, but this will do for our purposes), things seemed a bit off. It was more crowded in there than usual. You see, the ride was temporarily shut down. (Which is not unheard of. Part of it is outside, and during thunderstorm season, it can shut down quite often.) The line ahead of us wasn’t moving, but the line behind us still was. As we stood in the ramp room, the doors leading from the monitor room swung open. More people poured into the already too-crowded space. The monitor room doors swung shut, and we could hear the sounds of yet another group of people shuffling in there to design their concept cars. The line going up the ramp still wasn’t moving. No one was being let out of our room, and more were about to come in. My claustrophobia flared up.

“Talk to me,” I said to my husband, my gaze locking with his.

“What do you want to talk about?” he asked innocently.

“Anything.” I stared him dead in the eyes, feeling panic trying to claw its way out of my throat. “Just keep my mind busy.”

He started talking about going for lunch after the ride, naming a few places around World Showcase. Then he stopped, awaiting my input.

“Keep talking!” I begged.

He talked about where we could get dessert after our lunch, again pausing for my thoughts.

“Please just keep talking!” I frantically pled.

More people poured into the room. I kept my eyes locked on my husband’s, listening to his gentle voice, pretending it was just the two of us alone in the space. As I felt my panic near the breaking point, the mass of people on the ramp finally started to move. It was slow, but there was definite movement. As we inched out way up the ramp, I felt my nerves start to calm. As we passed through the doorway at the top of the ramp, I felt like I could breathe again. A short wait later, we boarded our ride vehicle to find… an e-cigarette! Ewww!

The moral of this story: always do the single rider line at Test Track. It doesn’t go through the potential bottleneck of the monitor room/ramp room. And don’t use e-cigarettes. They’re gross.

Disney Must-Do: Festival of Fantasy Parade

10/17/2014 - Leave a Response

The newest Disney parade was high on my wish list for our last family trip to Disney World. I’d heard wonderful things about it and, I admit, even watched the parade online the day it premiered! I didn’t make a FastPass+ for it, but had a tentative plan for Day Five of the trip: catch the parade in Frontierland after using a FP+ on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. That plan was happily preempted when we strolled into the Magic Kingdom on Day Two at a little past 3:00. I knew that was the Festival of Fantasy Parade’s start time, but being on vacation, I didn’t have my eye on the clock. It was a lovely surprise to be strolling up Main Street when we realized the parade was headed our way. We quickly found a spot along the sidewalk (carefully, so as not to disturb those who had waited patiently for the parade), and enjoyed its splendor. If you get the chance to see this one, I highly recommend it (and I’m not much of a parade person)!

Here are a few pics captured from my last-minute, non-staked-out spot. They totally do not do justice to this parade’s magnificence.

Belle and Beast

Anna and Elsa

Rapunzel

Ariel

Tink

Merida

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Winter 2014-2015 discounts are here!

10/09/2014 - 2 Responses

all star music towel mickey

Walt Disney World has just released the latest Special Offers. For details, check out their website. In a nutshell, here’s the scoop:

1. “Play, Stay, Dine, and Save”: Book a vacation package including resort room, park tickets, and dining plan, and receive a discount on the package price. This applies to most nights 12/14/14 – 12/20/14 and 1/5/15 – 3/7/15.

2. Resort room discount: Save 20% to 30% on a resort room only. This is for most nights 1/5/15 – 3/28/15.

Both offers must be booked by 12/29/14. They can’t be combined with each other, so see which one will save you more and book it before they’re gone! A Disney World vacation is not cheap. When traveling with a big family, it’s especially important to take advantage of discounts. If you need any help, contact Fairytale Journeys by Rebecca Kelly. Rebecca has helped me plan multiple Disney trips, is always on the lookout for discounts, and is awesome to work with!

A trip 30 years in the making

10/02/2014 - 4 Responses

Okay, the post title is a bit of an overstatement. Let me back up a little.

When my brother Dave and I were kids, our family lived in Florida. We were lucky enough to visit Disney World whenever family or friends visited.

Dave, our friend Chuckie, our friend Mickey, our sister Tricia, and me.

Dave, our friend Chuckie, our friend Mickey, our sister Tricia, and me.

Although we moved back up to NY a few years later, our family visited Disney World when Dave and I were teenagers.

Our sister Carlie and Dave in front of a Fort Wilderness cabin.

Our sister Carlie and Dave in front of a Fort Wilderness cabin.

Rockin' my totally 80s look on the boat to Magic Kingdom.

Rockin’ my totally 80s look on the boat to Magic Kingdom.

A couple years later, I went back to Disney on my senior class trip. Then my twenty year dry spell set in. It wasn’t until 2009 that I returned to the magic, this time with my husband and our three boys.

Disney 5

My brother and his family went to Disney a few years after that. But it wasn’t until this year that Dave and I (and our families) returned to Disney World together. It was wonderful!

wd004wdw2014236112713847

Being part of a big group at Disney World was so much fun! There was a very natural ebb and flow to our activities. Sometimes we were all together for a certain ride or a special meal. Sometimes we broke up into smaller groups so we could all accomplish our must-do’s. And being back at my beloved Disney with my awesome brother almost 30 years after our last trip together was amazing!

What are some of your special Disney family memories?

my “My Disney Experience” experience

09/28/2014 - Leave a Response
Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 3.58.57 PM

Click to enlarge

You’ve probably heard of My Disney Experience  – the “online and mobile tools that make it easy to dream, plan and share—at home and on the go” (according to the Disney World website). Let’s see how this worked for us, shall we?

Pre-trip: Using my laptop, I was able to link our resort and dining reservations to my My Disney Experience (MDE) account. I was also able to link my brother’s MDE account to mine, which was great since we were going to be at Disney World together. Once our accounts were linked, we could see each other’s reservations and plans. I made our FastPass+ ride reservations promptly at the 60 days pre-trip mark, securing everything we wanted. I needed a bit of help getting everything coordinated (for example, if three of us wanted to do one ride, the other two of us wanted to do another ride, and then all five wanted to do a ride together), but a quick(ish) call to Disney’s IT department got this all straightened out.

During the trip: For the most part, things went smoothly with our FastPass+ reservations. However, we encountered two areas of the new system that need improvement:

1. The FastPass+ kiosks: Once you use your allotted, pre-reserved 3 FastPasses for the day, you must visit a FP+ kiosk if you wish to make more. You can’t make additional FP+ ride reservations from the MDE app, which I find frustrating. Hopefully, they will add this feature in the future. The kiosks themselves are a bit tricky. Their touch screens are difficult to use, and we usually had to ask a Cast Member for help.

2. The MDE mobile app: This worked great, at least for the first day of our vacation. On the second day, I made the mistake of installing an update to the MDE app. The app then stopped working. This happened while at Epcot, and I spent about two hours on the phone with various Disney IT employees trying to get it back up and running. The best they could come up with was to uninstall and reinstall the app. Unfortunately, this didn’t work. With the app not working properly, I could no longer check my FP+ and dining reservation times. I did find a work-around, but this shouldn’t be necessary. The MDE app should work in the parks.

This is not a good thing to see on an app that supposedly keeps track of your FP+ reservations.

This is not a good thing to see on an app that supposedly keeps track of your FP+ reservations.

So, our experience using MDE and FP+ was, overall, good. But there is definite room for improvement. How is Disney’s new system working out for you?

Olaf’s return to Norway!

09/19/2014 - Leave a Response

IMG_5383

As part of the Frozen Summer Fun at Hollywood Studios this year, you could pick up a cute (and free) Olaf cut-out. We didn’t participate in the Frozen Summer Fun activities (since we were too busy going on Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours, etc), but we did grab an Olaf on our way out of the park. Headed to Epcot for the evening with Olaf in tow, it just seemed right to document his visit to the Norway Pavilion.

Olaf on Maelstrom. I think he's going to miss this ride.

Olaf on Maelstrom. He loved it!

Olaf disembarking from the Maelstrom boat. He thought this area was cute.

Olaf disembarking from the Maelstrom boat. He thought this area was cute.

Olaf waiting for the post-ride movie to begin.

Waiting for the post-ride movie to begin.

Hangin' with the troll in the gift shop.

Hangin’ with the troll in the gift shop.

Trying on a souvenir T-shirt.

Trying on a souvenir T-shirt.

A visit to Norway isn't complete without school bread and viking coffee!

A visit to Norway isn’t complete without school bread and viking coffee!

What happened to the off season?

09/14/2014 - 2 Responses
Disney World in August - hot hot hot!

Disney World in August – hot hot hot!

This August was our third in a row visiting Disney World. In years past, it was a delightful—if hot—time to visit. Crowds were light, wait times low. This year, however, was a different story.  There were simply more people. Lots more people. Add that to the heat, and certain members of our party were a tad uncomfortable. We still had a wonderful time, but it felt like our “mid-to-late-August-is-a-great-time-for-WDW” secret was out.

So, what happened? Is this a sign of a stronger economy? Are there just more Disney nuts (like me) out there now? Do you have any suggestions as to a better time of year to visit Disney World? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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