Five Ways to Ruin Your Disney Vacation

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There are countless things you can do to make a Disney vacation magical. We could spend days writing about the fabulous memories that a Disney vacation can bring. Today, we are not going to focus our attention there, rather we are going to discuss five ways you can turn a magical Disney trip into a mess before you can say Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo (Hoo)! So, listen up, read carefully and take note…..these tips are written from experience.

Five Ways to ruin your Disney vacation

  1. Go to Disney without a plan. Don’t make dinner reservations, don’t decide what parks you’ll visit, don’t do any research at all. This is the first way to ensure your trip will be a total mess. Without reservations for meals you might as well kiss any character dining experiences goodbye and you can be sure you’ll never step foot in the Castle! If you don’t decide what parks you’re going to visit on the days you’re there you’ll put yourself and your family at a deficit. Make plans. And, for heaven’s sake know how you’ll tour the park. Don’t stand around pointing aimlessly without a plan as to where you’ll go next. Know what type of rides and shows your family wants to focus on and what you are alright missing so that you don’t waste valuable time in the parks wondering what to do next. The parks are HUGE so don’t walk to and fro without a plan!
  2. Make regimented plans that you aren’t willing to change. I know, this seems counter to number one on the list, but stick with me. I am a planner. My family’s joke is that on our Disney trip our bathroom breaks are planned out. While that is a bit of an exaggeration, I have been known to be a bit of a control freak at Disney- well, maybe more than a bit. So, I speak from experience when I say…..let it go once in awhile. While I would NEVER venture to Disney without a plan, I’ve learned to allow myself and family the flexibility to take the magic in. Let the plan take a backseat to the magic…..sit on a bench and people watch…..listen to Merlin’s talk at the Sword in the Stone…..watch a street performer….browse a shop. Just soak it in. You’ll thank yourself and your family will thank you.
  3. Wear high heels, flip flops, or other unsupportive shoe choice. Go ahead, try it. I mean if you walk the desert barefoot at least 15 miles a day then you’ll probably be alright. But, If you are just the average folks going on a Disney trip….for the love of Goofy, wear good, supportive, comfortable shoes. Tennis shoes are a best bet. I often wonder as I see a person walking around in high heels at Disney just what the end of their day is like. Are they actually able to walk the next day? I just don’t get those shoe choices. Take my advice, the best way to ruin a Disney trip is to have feet full of blisters by the afternoon of day one!
  4. Don’t take naps or breaks. Oh sure, there are folks that can go all day in the parks without heading back to their resort for a break or nap. I actually used to be one of those folks. Forget it now. There is actually a time at Disney when you can see the Disney villains take hold of people….it’s around 2:00 every afternoon….you see children crying, parents yelling, heck, you even see some parents crying and children yelling. Let’s face it, there is such a thing as The Disney Wall and when you hit it you are rendered worthless, like Tinkerbell without Pixie Dust, like Dumbo without a feather, like Lightening McQueen without wheels. You need a break. Trust me, not taking a break or a nap will make even the most amazing trip a wreck. Just give in and rest. Swim. Nap. You’ll be better for it!
  5. When it begins to rain, give up and go back to the resort for the day. Just stop right in your tracks, turn around and stay at the hotel. You entire vacation is over when it rains. This is a wonderful way to ruin your vacation, because it rains virtually everyday in Florida! My advice is to gleefully watch all the folks who didn’t read this blog run for cover and leave the park while you get into the shorter lines and ride till your heart sings! My favorite times in Disney parks are during or after rain showers. Very few rides at Disney close because of rain or storms so just keep swimming, swimming, swimming! Don’t leave. Wait it out. This too shall pass, and then you’ll be happy you are still there because everyone else will be gone!

So, there you go. If you want to ruin your Disney vacation that you’ve saved 3 years for….go ahead, don’t plan, be rigid and not flexible, wear crummy shoes, stay till you drop, and run for the hills when it rains. Oh, you’ll thank me!

Here’s to the Magic!
Tanya

Tanya’s Top 10 Tips for Character Greetings

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Character Greetings

Ask any child what they want to do at Walt Disney World and you will likely find that eventually they will say,”Meet Mickey Mouse!” Character greetings can become intimidating to even the seasoned Disney traveler. There are a few things you can do to make the character greeting experience smooth, fun and successful for your child.

Tip #1 Prepare Your Child–  Any mom will tell you that they long for that precious picture of their child looking up longingly at Mickey Mouse or Rapunzel.  After all, many of our children have big ideas of what will happen when they meet their favorite character for the first time too.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go the way that we expect it.  Meeting Disney characters for the first time can be likened to meeting Santa Claus at the mall.  It just isn’t always pretty!  My suggestion is to prepare your child.  Many of the characters are BIG.  Bigger than you might even expect.  Woody for instance has a HUGE head, Sully from Monster’s Inc. is enormous, and Mr. Incredible (although he has a great smile) can be very intimidating.  Prepare your child for the sheer size of the characters.  Talk to them and let them know that they won’t be their size.  They will be the size of an adult or even larger.  You should also prepare your child that the characters will not talk to them.  We told our children that Mickey and the other characters would “interact” and nod, but wouldn’t talk to them.  “Face Characters” such as the princesses, however, will talk and interact with your child.  Our first visit with one of our twin daughters proved difficult when greeting characters.  We have an entire set of photos from that trip without her in them!  I would encourage you if you have a reluctant child to watch the characters from afar to begin with.  Don’t get into the line yet.  Find characters that are out in the open and allow your child to wave, interact and see them prior to lining up for the greeting.  This time to warm up helped our daughter immensely.

Tip #2 Prepare for Autographs– Disney takes the chance to market any and everything while you are visiting, and greeting characters is no exception. You will find that the quest for Disney character autographs sucks in most children….even the reluctant middle schooler and an occasional adult!  Disney, of course, has cashed in on this quest and sells (while affordable) autograph books for signatures. A quick search on Pinterest, Google or Etsy will yield a myriad of adorable options for gathering character signatures. Our family has used a spiral bound notecard book with success. When we return we remove the notecards and slide them into a photo album opposite the picture of the child with the character. On our last trip I had personalized pillow cases made for my children and at our Character Dining Experience we had the characters sign the pillowcases with fabric markers! They love sleeping on their Autograph pillows!  All this to say, prepare yourself that eventually your child will see that the characters give autographs and will want to gather their own.  It is best to prepare for this prior to your first greeting and have your autograph book ready to go.

Tip #3 Take in a Character Dining Experience–  Any parent and child will eventually find standing in line in 100+ degrees awaiting the return of a character tiresome. Consider knocking out your child’s favorite group or most desired group of characters in one breakfast, lunch or dinner excursion. Of course the castle experience seeing the princess is the most sought after dining experience, but I can highly recommend Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus in EPCOT’s Norway for a cheaper and more easily booked princess dining.  Consider getting the Mickey and Friends characters at a Character Dining Experience as well.  If your child is into Winnie the Pooh the Dining Experience at The Crystal Palace in The Magic Kingdom is lovely.  You just can’t go wrong with a Character Dining Option!!

Tip #4 Be Prepared–  Nothing is more irritating than being in line behind the family that fumbles around for their camera, autograph books, Photopass card, or video camera.  To make character greeting the most efficient experience for everyone (cast, guests, and children) please be prepared when your turn comes up.  My rule of thumb is to allow my children to handle their own autograph books while my husband or I handle cameras and Photopass cards.  The bottom line is have everything out prior to your turn so that the folks behind you can also have a positive experience.

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Bouncing With Tigger

Tip#5  Have Your Child Interact With the Characters–  This one is a biggie for our family.  It just makes your experience that much more fun if you interact with the characters!  We have the best pictures of our kids Bouncing with Tigger, getting Pixie Dust from Tinker Bell and talking to Mickey with hands on hips.  We encourage our children to always have a question ready for a face character.  I’m telling you, you can’t throw these characters off!!  They are ready with an answer every time and they love it when children interact with them!!  Our son had a wonderful time telling Alice to have a “Very Merry Unbirthday” and asking her where the Mad Hatter was.  Our daughter asked Tinker Bell for Pixie Dust and she had a lovely reaction and answer.  Our other daughter talked to Ariel about a “Dinglehopper” at our character breakfast.  I won’t spoil the fun you can have, but I encourage you to interact with the characters….especially the “face” characters which are ones that can talk to you.  Encourage your child to have something ready to discuss when you get to the front of the line!!  It will add to your experience ten-fold!

Tip #6 Take in the Parades–  One of the BEST ways to see characters is at parades!  In fact, if you have a reluctant child when it comes to meeting the characters, parades are the best fit for you.  Parades offer you a wonderful experience to watch, interact and snap photos of the characters from a safe distance.  If your child just wants to “spot” the characters, then the parade is the way to do it.  You will see so many characters in a very short time when watching the Disney parades and you can get some wonderful pictures of your children during parade time because they are resting, relaxing and enjoying themselves.  Get a cold drink, and some cotton candy and consider taking in a parade to see characters!

Tip #7 Where There are Character Handlers There are Characters–  When you arrive for your first Disney Character greeting take note of what the “Character Handler” is wearing.  This is the helper that is with the character, the cast member who closes and opens the line, and the one who will take a picture of your family if you request.  Note what they are wearing.  If you see a Character Handler just milling around a random spot be sure and ask them what character is about to come out and jump in line!!  I’m telling you, it works.  We have been the first in line for characters so many times because we’ve spotted a handler just waiting for the character to arrive.  This also works for a Photopass photographer as so many are at the character meet and greets.  If they seem out-of-place, they are only out-of-place for a moment.  Pretty soon a character will pop out of nowhere for your child’s enjoyment!!

Tip #8 Wait and Be Patient–  If you miss a character, ask the handler when they will be back out.  Disney now has these character greetings down to a science.  If you miss a character by mere moments be willing to hang around for a few minutes.  It may mean that Pooh is just going to grab some honey and will be back in 2 minutes–wink wink–so stick around!!

Tip #9 Use Your Park Map–  Some of the best places to hunt characters are where you least expect it.  We find that EPCOT in The World Showcase is a wonderful place to spot characters.  Check your park maps for the Character Greeting image and times.  This will help you find the characters you are looking for in a more efficient way.

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Getting Pixie Dust from Tinker Bell

Tip #10 Enjoy Watching Your Child–  I love standing back and watching my children greet characters.  In fact, my favorite pictures are the candid ones before any of the characters pose for a picture.  Those times when you get the FIRST reaction (tears or smiles) of your child seeing his or her favorite character LIVE for the first time are priceless.  Stand back and take it all in!  You’ll be glad you did!

Here’s to Family Fun,

Tanya

Tanya’s Tips for being selected as First Family at Disney!

image By Tanya.  Have you ever opened one of the Disney Parks? One of my Disney dreams is to someday have my family chosen to open the Magic Kingdom, ride in on Casey Jr. with Mickey and throw Pixie Dust over the crowd! What a spectacular memory that would be!

Our family has been chosen to be the first family in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and we opened the park with our son when he was 6. It ranks as one of our favorite Disney memories. We shook rain sticks, banged drums and then raced toward Expedition Everest while everyone else was fiddling with turnstiles and tickets! We also got a certificate stating we were the first to enter the park that day, our own Photopass photographer for the event and a free 5×7 voucher to choose one of our photos!

So just how are you chosen to open a Disney park? Disney would have you to believe that this is a random occurrence. And, while some “randomness” does come into play. I believe there are a few tips any family can use to up their odds so to speak.

First and foremost, arrive early, arrive early, arrive early. If you are not at the turnstiles well before opening, you will not be in the running. There is no chance to be chosen if you are not at the park’s gate well before opening time.

The next tip is to befriend the turnstile cast members. In my experience, there is usually a cast member or two that are “in charge” of making the selection. It’s hard to tell who they are exactly, but when we were chosen for Animal Kingdom’s opening family, it was clear there was a cast member that was in charge of the selection and she was roaming about the “early” crowd looking for candidates! Talk to the cast members, ask questions, tell them about your kids, your trip and where you are from. I believe this helps your chance of being chosen. Our son had fallen down after standing on a planter box and skinned his knee. A cast member was asking us if he was alright after I gave him a band-aide and we struck up a small conversation. It happened to be the same cast member who chose us for the opening….coincidence? While I don’t recommend tossing your child off a Disney planter box….it might help. Be lively! Be “the” Disney family. Make your presence known, but don’t be obnoxious….there is a fine line to walk here.

My last tip is to dress your family alike. I know, I know, I hear the collective sigh of every dad in America. Don’t be afraid to walk on the wild side here dads! Sacrifice your pride for a wonderful family memory. I can’t promise it will happen, but I do believe it helps! First of all, you will be able to spot your family and children in the crowd….and so will the cast member looking for a family to open the park!! While this is not the deciding factor…and not always the case, start watching the families who are chosen. Often they are dressed alike, in Disney gear, or in bright colors! When our family opened Animal Kingdom, you guessed it, matching shirts!

So, try these tips next time you go to a Disney Park. If you are selected to open a Disney Park, remember to be gracious for the honor! Thank your cast members, smile and live it up! After all you likely were selected for some reason. (And, matching shirts really might help!)

Here’s to Magical Memories,
Tanya

Tanya’s Review of Fantasmic! at Walt Disney World!

Image courtesy & ©Magical Mouse Schoolhouse

Image ©Disney Parks

By Tanya.  Fantasmic! is the premiere nighttime show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It is truly a spectacular show which follows the storyline of what would happen if we could look into Mickey Mouse’s dreams and nightmares. Fantasmic is filled with pyrotechnics, water projections, music and live entertainment that rival any nighttime show in the Disney Resort. Any evening in the Hollywood Studios park should be capped off with this beautiful display!

Fantasmic! takes all that is wonderful about Disney and rolls it into one amazing adventure! I rank it among the best live entertainment Disney has to offer in the entire resort and highly recommend it for everyone. While this show is recommended for all ages, bear in mind that the show may be loud or intense for younger viewers. Don’t let this discourage you and your family, as young visitors will see every major Disney character (and some surprises) in one fun filled, beautifully choreographed show that ends with the good guys prevailing!

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Keep in mind that this show has limited seating and is subject to the evening’s weather. Ask any cast member or check your park map for show times during your visit. I highly recommend you arrive at least an hour prior to show time and enjoy the pre-show entertainers, resting with your family, and doing the “wave” with the crowd. Consider grabbing dinner from a quick serve restaurant or snacking on goodies from the vendors inside the amphitheatre area for your evening dinner. You may also consider making reservations with one of the reserved seating dinner packages Disney offers.

Fantasmic! is an impressive display of Imagineering and a must see attraction in the park. This is not a “fireworks” show. It includes a cast of entertainers, characters, and oh so much more. Get your smile ready, put your camera down, fix your eyes on the stage, and enjoy all there is to take in during the amazing show! You’ll tap your toe, bite your nails, and believe in Magic when it’s all over.

Image courtesy & ©Magical Mouse Schoolhouse

Image ©Disney Parks

Valentine’s Day Ideas for Romance at Walt Disney World!

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and while many consider Disney a place for families and children, romance can be found at Walt Disney World as well.  Here are a few ideas for  experiencing Disney’s romantic side.

Characters in Flight Take in a Resort-You do not have to be staying at a resort to enjoy the ambience and theming that Disney so carefully crafts at their resorts.  Wouldn’t it be romantic to find a quiet nook at the Animal Kingdom Lodge to sit and talk?  How about looking out over the savannah with your love?  It was suggested by a fellow writer that a visit to the butterfly garden and a carriage ride at Port Orleans Dixie Landing would be a romantic resort excursion.  The Grand Floridian is so grand and beautiful, it drips of romance.  When my husband and I visited we enjoyed a young bride taking pictures with her groom on the grand staircase….so sweet.

Visit the Boardwalk-  Disney’s Boardwalk is one of my favorite places to visit.  First, one of my favorite (and romantic) restaurants is there, The Flying Fish.  After enjoying dinner, take a romantic walk along the boardwalk.  Get a balloon, visit the candy store, and enjoy a shop or two.  Just after dusk, entertainers, jugglers, magicians and street performers come out to offer entertainment right along the beautifully lit water.  Grab a funnel cake and a bench and cuddle with your darling while taking in the Coney Island feel!  When Illuminations begins at nearby EPCOT you’ll be able to see part of the show.  And, The Walt Disney World Florist is located at the Boardwalk….hint, hint.

Wishes_110_310 Stroll along the Beach- At Disney’s Polynesian and Grand Floridian Resorts you can take a walk along the beaches of The Seven Seas Lagoon.  Around 9pm, The Floating Electrical Pageant begins on the water.  Just after, you can watch the Wishes fireworks show from the beach where the show’s music is piped in.  Fireworks, beaches and music….romance at its finest!

Visit the Eiffel Tower-  What says romance better than Paris and the Eiffel Tower?  At the France Pavilion in EPCOT you can enjoy a sidewalk cafe, eat a French pastry and take a cheesy picture of yourself holding the Eiffel Tower in your hand with your Valentine. Don’t forget to ask a cast member how to say “I love you” in French!

See a show-  There are so many sights to see at Disney, but if you want to take in a world class show, there is no equal to Cirque du Soleil La Nouba.  It is truly a treasure to see.  And (in my opinion) worth every penny.  La Nouba is entertainment at its finest and a must see for couples!  After the show, enjoy shopping and free street entertainment at Downtown Disney or a ride on the newly reopened Characters in Flight balloon.

Take a cue from a Prince & Princess-  Walk hand in hand down Main Street.  Share a Mickey Shaped ice cream.  Take a fun picture in front of the castle at night.  Enjoy an evening boat ride.  Scream on a roller coaster.  Go horse back riding.  Bow and curtesy.  Ride a train.  Wear silly hats.  Laugh and enjoy one another.  After all you are at Disney World!

Here’s to your Happily Ever After,
Tanya