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

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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.

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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!

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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
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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

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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!

Our Tower of Terror video!

09/06/2014 - Leave a Response

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If you purchase the Memory Maker photo package, it now comes with a little something extra:

We learned of this new feature just days before our trip, and had a blast going on Tower of Terror over and over to thoroughly test it out. Here’s a version of the video with us in our pirate garb for the Villains Unleashed event:

If you’re not familiar with Memory Maker, it’s a photo package that you purchase from Disney. If you buy it before your vacation (at least 3 days before your first picture is taken), it costs $149. After that, the price goes up to $199. I know, that’s a lot of money! But, if you use it wisely, it can be a good deal. Here’s what you get:

  • digital downloads of all pictures taken by Disney’s PhotoPass photographers (including character meet-and-greets).
  • digital downloads of pictures taken at select dining locations. For us, this included Cinderella’s Royal Table, Chef Mickey’s, and Tusker House.
  • digital downloads of select attraction photos. For us, this included Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Test Track, Expedition Everest, and Dinosaur.
  • The Tower of Terror video. (And, so I’ve heard, possibly more ride videos to come!)

With the number of pics we had taken, we only paid about $1 per picture or video. Now that’s a good deal!

Another cool thing about this program is that it’s linked to your MagicBand. After the PhotoPass photographer takes your picture, he simply scans your MagicBand and the picture shows up under the “Disney PhotoPass” section of your My Disney Experience account. Ride photos are even easier – they just automatically show up, no need to scan your band!

I might not purchase the Memory Maker for a quick trip, but for our week-long trip for a party of nine, it was great! When we split up into smaller groups to do different things, everyone’s PhotoPass pictures were still linked to my account. And when we were all together, we could all be in the picture:

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Have you used Memory Maker? How did it work out for you?

My Disney to-do list: the results

09/01/2014 - Leave a Response

Remember my to-do list from a few weeks back? Here’s how I did:

Magic Kingdom

- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – done!

- Festival of Fantasy parade - done!

- Cinderella’s Royal Table - done!

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Dining with my favorite princess at Cinderella’s Royal Table

Epcot

- American Adventure - done!

- Voices of Liberty - sadly, we got there just after their last performance of the day.

DHS

- Butterfinger cupcake at Starring Rolls - done!

- Animation Academy - nope

Animal Kingdom

- spiked Dole Whip at Tamu Tamu - done!

- Pangani Forest Trail - done!

- Festival of the Lion King - done!

- Finding Nemo - nope

- Rafiki’s Planet Watch - nope

Final tally: 8 out of 12. Not as good as the 11 out of 12 on my trip last January, but not bad considering we were a group of 9. What’s on your next Disney to-do list?

Villains Unleashed: really average

08/28/2014 - 4 Responses

There’s a phrase in my family to indicate that something was not very good. Since we’re positive people, we put a positive spin on it and say that it was “really average.” Hence my assessment of the Villains Unleashed event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on August 23, 2014.

What made it less than the usual Disney level of awesomeness? In a word, crowds. Since this was a hard ticketed event, we were led to believe that only a set number of tickets would be sold, justifying the rather steep price per ticket, and ostensibly leading to a lower crowd than on a normal evening. Our suspicions were aroused when we went to Hollywood Studios the day before the event and saw “Villains Unleashed – tickets still available!” signs all over the park. This did not bode well for our low-crowd plans.

We caught some of the opening show, hosted by Hades, which was cute. The crowd was so massive, however, that we could only get a good view on the big screen. Two members of our nine-person group went to Oogie Boogie’s Freaky Funhouse and said that it was, indeed, freaky – featuring such things as fire artists and a sword swallower. Did they like it? Kind of. At least parts of it.

As for the special hot dogs with villain-themed buns, we tried to order them, but were told that they were out of the buns. Note that this was three hours before the event ended.

As for most of the event-specific offerings (merchandise, specialty drinks, entry to “Club Evil” for special food and drink items, meet-and-greets with the villains), the wait times were at least an hour. In most cases, the wait times were multiple hours. I’m not going to stand in line for four hours out of a five hour party to meet Maleficent. Would you?

The swag bags given out as guests departed were nice. However, only two out of our party of nine received them. Try explaining that to the kids.

Okay, enough of the negative. Let’s get back to the positives. In my opinion, there were two:

  • The wait times for Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Star Tours were virtually nonexistent. They were pretty much walk-ons. (Toy Story Midway Mania still had quite the line.)
  • It was super fun to wear costumes into a Disney park.

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Yup, that’s it. Worth the hundreds of dollars we dropped on event tickets? No way. Not even close.

Oh, one last thing… I heard the fireworks were really good. A couple members of our group stayed for them. The rest of us had gone back to the resort long before the closing fireworks, disheartened by the lack of Disney magic on a very expensive evening.

It’s time to make the Mousekeeping envelopes!

08/14/2014 - Leave a Response

DSC00504-sting ray towels

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Mousekeeping is awesome! It’s so nice to come “home” from the parks each night to a tidy room, freshly restocked toiletries and kitchenette supplies, and ~ Disney bonus! ~ towel animals. Plus, if you bring a few stuffed animal friends along for the trip (or pick some up as souvenirs), who knows what kind of hijinks (with a little help from Mousekeeping) they might get up to while you’re gone all day!

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For all that effort, your Mousekeepers deserve a little something special. Why not decorate a few envelopes in which to place their tips? It’s a fun pre-trip project, helps show your appreciation, and lets your Mousekeepers know that, yes, this tip is most definitely for them.

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Do a little research before you go to find out the going rate, have fun making up your envelopes, and leave one out in your room each morning before you head for the parks. (Someone different may make up your room each day, and you don’t want to leave anyone out!) Spread the Mousekeeping love!

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