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.
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!
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:
Have you used Memory Maker? How did it work out for you?
Remember my to-do list from a few weeks back? Here’s how I did:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – done!
- Festival of Fantasy parade - done!
- Cinderella’s Royal Table - done!
- American Adventure - done!
- Voices of Liberty - sadly, we got there just after their last performance of the day.
- Butterfinger cupcake at Starring Rolls - done!
- Animation Academy - nope
- 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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
With our next trip fast approaching, it’s time to think about packing. It’s not time to pack, mind you, just time to strategize. With three boys, I have a lot to think about before I can actually put stuff in bags. I have to make sure that everyone’s favorite clothing items are clean and ready to pack, which means taking those items out of rotation a few days ahead of time. I have to be certain that all toiletries are sufficient. (They tend to wait until they’re actually out of deodorant or toothpaste or whatever before telling me they need more. A simple “I’m getting low on <insert toiletry here>” would be most helpful.) And this year, I have to make sure our costumes for the Villains Unleashed event are good to go. There’s no way I can wing it. I need a list.
There are tons of printable packing lists out there. I read through lots of them, gave a significant amount of thought as to how to pack as little as possible and still take everything we need, and came up with my own list. Let me repeat: I try to pack as little as possible. I don’t like to lug tons of stuff around “just in case.” I’d rather pick up a random item at an exorbitant Disney price than pack everything we might need under every possible permutation of what could possibly occur while we’re there. All that to say…here’s my list:
Suitcases (I pack these for the whole fam):
- outfits for # of days you will be there (Note: with kids who are old enough to pick their own clothes, you must stress, “bring me (x number of) outfits INCLUDING socks and underwear”).
- pajamas (Note: with kids who are old enough to pick out the pj’s they want to bring, you must stress, “bring me CLEAN pajamas”).
- flip flops
- breakfast food (We eat a light breakfast in the room while simultaneously getting ready to hit the parks.)
- cups for holding toothbrushes (Disney’s Value resorts don’t give you actual glass drinking glasses, and the plastic cups are too flimsy to make adequate toothbrush holders.)
- waist bag (In case the boys want to go off on their own for a while, this gives them a way to hold a cell phone, hand sanitizer, etc.)
- Mousekeeping envelopes (For more info, see this post.)
Carry-on (this is for me; everyone else does what they want):
- light jacket (I get cold on planes.)
- shorts (If I’m traveling to FL when it’s warm there and cold here in NY).
- twizzlers (Our ear-popping treatment of choice.)
- 3 each: gallon bags, quart bags, sandwich bags, snack bags (These just always seem to come in handy.)
- Kindle (Loaded with something awesome.)
- quart bag with travel size: sunscreen, hand sanitizer, hand lotion
- quart bag with any necessary meds
- Disney packet (You know, that booklet they send you with your Magical Express vouchers, etc.)
- Boarding passes
- Disney purse: phone & charger, sunglasses, band-aids, Tums, Dramamine, ID, credit card, cash for tipping, chapstick, hair scrunchie, oil absorbing sheets. And, of course, my tiara.
This year, we’re adding a brand new, hard-sided suitcase that we bought specifically to transport our Villains Unleashed costumes. Normally, however, we can get by with three or four suitcases for the five of us.
So, what do you pack? Are you an over-packer or a lean, mean packing machine? And how far ahead to you do it?
Yup, I know I said I wouldn’t be posting much this summer, but I wanted to share Disney World’s latest Special Offer with you. Save up to 30% (depending on resort level) on rooms at WDW hotels. This offer is for most nights 10/4/14 – 11/25/14 and 11/29/14 – 12/23/14. The offer has to be booked by 10/3/14.
Remember… the time frame for this offer overlaps with the Free Disney Dining Plan special offer previously announced, so be sure to figure out which deal will save you more. Happy planning!
As our next WDW trip approaches, I’ve started thinking about the things I’d like to do while there. This time, we will be touring as a group of nine. With so many people along for the fun, I realize the chances are slim that I’ll get to experience everything on my list. But I’ll give it my best try!
So, here we go! These are some things that I’ve either never done before, or did so long ago that I barely remember them:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Festival of Fantasy parade
- Cinderella’s Royal Table
- American Adventure
- Voices of Liberty
- Butterfinger cupcake at Starring Rolls
- Animation Academy
- spiked Dole Whip at Tamu Tamu
- Pangani Forest Trail
- Festival of the Lion King
- Finding Nemo
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Well, there you have it! How many do you think I’ll get to? What’s on your next Disney to-do list?
With the arrival of summer, my posts will likely be fewer and farther between. The boys and I have lots of fun things planned for this summer – including a trip to Disney World – yay!! So I’d like to take a moment to say thank you to all who have followed along with my Disney ramblings. Your comments, kindness, and friendship are much appreciated!
And with that, I leave you with my favorite summer anthem. From Disney’s High School Musical 2, here’s the video for What Time Is It:
Have a great summer, everyone!