One Thing Most Disney Travellers Don’t Plan For

Empty PlaneThe one component of the perfect Disney vacation that most travellers don’t prepare for is the airport.  Sure you’ve planned your dining, tickets and resort, but what good is it if you can’t get there?  Do you know what the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expects from you?  Are you ready for what is waiting for you at the airport?

The mission of the TSA is to “Protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce”.  Sounds kind of generic but there are specific things that the TSA do every day to keep us safe – and they could very well disrupt our travel plans!

While each airport has different procedures, there are some general guidelines that can help make your flights as painless as possible.

Here are 9 things you need to know before you get ready to fly.

1.  ARRIVE EARLY

When the airline suggests arriving 2 hours before your flight, it’s for a reason.  Security check points can have extremely long waits for a variety of reasons.

Recently there have been many posts from travellers at Orlando International Airport that the TSA has been swabbing each package of candy in a carry-on.  This has created some rather long lines given so many families flying home from Disney are bringing home lots of treats.  Do you want to miss your flight because you didn’t leave enough time for your 20 bags of candy to be swabbed?  And if you don’t have the candy – you can bet someone in front of you will!

This is a view you don’t want to miss!

2.  HAVE PROPER DOCUMENTATION AND IDENTIFICATION

Seems like a no brainer, but you would be amazed how many people don’t know what the required documentation is!  Your airline will have all of the information about what is required based on the cities that you’re flying to and from.  Make sure if both parents are not travelling together that you have the required paperwork to allow you to take the child with you.   Make sure these documents are in your carry-on, and not your checked bag!

3.  KNOW WHAT YOU CAN CARRY ON

While some items that are not allowed in your carry-on are obvious (like a firearm or dynamite) – others are not.  Did you know that you Christmas Crackers and foam toy swords are not permitted?  What about the cordless curling iron your teenager always has in her bag for those last minute touch ups?

It’s important to check before you get to the airport!  For the TSA list of items you can and can’t bring click here.

Disney Shopping

What can you put in your checked luggage vs your carry-on?

4.  KNOW THE LIMIT FROM YOUR AIRLINE

Each airline has their own guidelines to how big your luggage and carry-on can be.  Know the dimensions allowed and the weight.  Having your checked bag be overweight can be very costly!  Invest in a luggage scale like this one from Amazon – we weigh our luggage ourselves before we leave to avoid surprises and delays.

5.  DRESS ACCORDINGLY

When you’re going through security you may be asked to remove your shoes, jackets, belts and jewelry.  Anything that could set off the metal detectors can delay the process.  FYI – those lovely Alex and Ani bracelets trigger it every time!  I make sure mine are in my carry-on or checked bag.

6.  REMOVE YOUR OLD LUGGAGE TAGS

Still have that airline tag on your bag from your last trip?  Remove it.  While the airline will probably catch that one, it’s best to avoid any possibly confusion for the baggage handlers.

Have a luggage tag with your name and contact information attached to your checked bag.  Consider using your work address for security reasons and your cell phone number since it will be with you.

Disney luggage

7.  HOLD ON TO YOUR BOARDING PASS!

I wish I could tell you how many times I have been travelling with someone who has ‘lost’ their boarding pass.  It’s easy to do – you use the restroom, get a drink, do a little shopping and leave it on the counter.  You’re going to need it to board the plane – so make sure it’s always with you.  I have a ‘passport wallet’ like this one to make sure I have everything together at all times.

8.  KNOW THE AIRPORT LAYOUT

Don’t waste time trying to find your airline or your gate.  Some airports are HUGE and can take a great deal of time trying to get from one place to another.  Connecting flights can be disastrous if you haven’t left enough time in between them to get to where you’re going.

9.  KNOW WHERE TO GET RELIABLE INFORMATION

Your airline website and the airport websites are the place to get the best information.  Check your flight status for delays, expected wait times and terminal maps before you go.  Lots of well meaning strangers on Facebook & Twitter will give you advice, but they won’t be there to help you if you get denied boarding.

Orlando International Airport site:  https://www.orlandoairports.net

Flying is a critical piece in your vacation that deserves attention.  With the right planning you can avoid unnecessary stress and enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Have you experienced issues at the airport that you weren’t prepared for?  Leave us a comment below!

*Disclosure:  We are a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites.

Dogs Welcome At Select Walt Disney World Resorts

Mickey and PlutoBeginning Sunday, October 15th, 2017, the Walt Disney World Resort will welcome guests – and their dogs – to four of its resort properties, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

Guests at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and the cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will be permitted to have up to 2 dogs in their resort room for an additional charge.

Each property’s per night / per room pet-cleaning rate is:

  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort $50/night
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort $50/night
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort $75/night
  • Cabins at Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort $50/night

While Disney states that the guests are responsible for the proper care, behaviour and waste maintenance of the dogs, I struggle to see how it will be enforced.

The rules indicate that the dogs must be well behaved and should not be left unattended in the room for more that 7 hours.  If the dog is making noise while you are out (at the parks enjoying your vacation) they will call you to address the issue within 30 minutes.  Given that Disney recommends up to 90 minutes to travel on property for dining reservations, I’m not sure how they expect owners to come back to their resort within 30 minutes to address ‘noise’.

I must admit that when I read the announcement, my first reaction was “NO”, this is not a good idea.  I love some dogs, but I’m afraid of big ones – I have been all my life, so the thought of a big dog being in the hallway with me at my resort makes me very uncomfortable.  There are people with severe allergies who would be concerned about checking in to a room where the previous occupant had 4 legs, but that is an issue today with service animals.

Otis

Anna’s dog loves Disney too!

I know that Disney will do whatever they can to make ALL of their guests happy, but I think I may have to reserve judgement on this one until I see it in action.  I was not affected adversely by any of the dogs on property during Hurricane Irma, it was quite the opposite.  I loved seeing them playing around outside of the resort and they were all lovely, gentle dogs that I had the pleasure of being around.

On the other hand, I know that not all pet owners are responsible and not all dogs are well behaved.  My sister has 2 west highland terriers, and while I love them dearly – they bark at their own shadows.  That’s not a metaphor or exaggeration – if there is too much sunlight, it drives them CRAZY and they will spend hours barking at their own shadows.  I will reiterate again, I do love them – but I wouldn’t want to be in a resort room next to them… especially on a sunny day!

Angus and Dug

Angus & Dug Looking Well Behaved – no shadows!

Disney Facebook groups and Twitter have been very active with people sharing their opinions.  Guests feel very strongly both for and against it, but it’s big news!  Even People picked up the story today!

Service animals have been in the parks and resorts for years, and while there has been some chatter about people taking advantage of the ‘service animal designation’ – the volume of animals was pretty limited.  How will this change with this new policy?  Only time will tell.

I believe it will still be a small number of guests who will pay the cleaning fee in addition to their resort reservation to bring their dogs with them.  Who would want to pay $50 per day to leave your dog at the resort while you’re at the Magic Kingdom?   Why not have them at the Best Friends Pet Care Centre where they would not be alone and have plenty of activities to keep them entertained?

Otis 2

How much trouble could this guy cause??

While the logistics of how this will work are still to be seen, it will be interesting to watch how Disney handles the negative feedback to this and multiple requests for ‘deep cleaning’ of the rooms before check in.  Many resorts outside of Disney have this option and it’s a positive thing for many whose kids have 4 legs.  The question is how Disney will manage it.  Will Mousekeeping be overloaded trying to thoroughly clean the rooms?  Will the landscaping crews find more than just dirt around the flowers?  Or will everyone be responsible, respect the other guests, follow the rules and enjoy having their dogs with them at the happiest place on earth?

Angus and Dug 2

Angus and Dug looking sweet!

We shall see… but just so you know – my sister’s dogs (Dug and Angus) will NEVER be on vacation with me 🙂

For full details – please see the official information here

Will you take your dogs on vacation to Walt Disney World?  What do you think of this decision?

 

5 Reasons To Use Disney’s Minnie Van Service

Minnie Van Grand Floridian Car 32Minnie Vans are the newest form of transportation at Walt Disney World, and worth every penny to me.  They operate similar to Lyft and Uber, but are a flat rate of $20 to take you anywhere on Disney property.

Here are the top 5 reasons you should try the Minnie Van service the next time you’re in Walt Disney World

1.  It’s a Disney Service – Safety First

There are car seats for the little ones and each driver goes through a rigorous 8 hour training class on how to install them.  There are vans that are equipped to transfer guests with wheelchairs and ECVs.  The Cast Members driving know exactly where they’re going without looking at the GPS on their phones.  Safety first – and it shows.

Minnie Van Car Seats

Minnie Van Car Seats

2.  Access to Cast Member Only Roads

Did my drive seem shorter with a Minnie Van vs a regular Lyft?  Absolutely!  Our driver was able to utilize the Cast Member Only roads in the back of Fort Wilderness to get us to our destination quickly.

3.  Preferred Drop Points

Since this service is Disney, they obviously give preference to their drivers.  The drop off and pick up points are much more convenient to guests.  At the Magic Kingdom you will not have to go to the Ticket and Transportation Centre first, they will drop you at the bus dock right outside.  Regular Lyft drivers are not able to go to the bus stops at the Magic Kingdom so we found this a huge plus.  Less walking and much more convenient to be in a Minnie Van.

Animal Kingdom Pick Up

4.  Uninterrupted Cast Member Time

On a recent trip we took as many as 8 Minnie Van trips – all with wonderful cast members!  Having the time in the vehicle to chat with them one on one was such a treat, we even had the same cast member twice.

The Cast Members we met had such great stories about their careers with Disney, there were a few that we didn’t want the ride to end because we were enjoying the chat so much!

5.  Convenience and Comfort

Being able to see where the car was when it was on it’s way is one of the great things I love about Uber and Lyft.  Knowing the approximate arrival time is somehow comforting when you’re waiting after walking around all day.

Minnie Van Music

With Air Conditioning controls in the front and the back – we never had an uncomfortable temperature and the background Disney music was an added bonus.

Being able to go from resort to resort without transferring to a different bus made me very happy!

Minnie Vans are being rolled out slowly across property beginning with the Deluxe Resorts first.  With new ones being added every day, you should check with the concierge in your resort if they are available to you.  If you would like to know how to use the service – click here for instructions.

Is this something you would use?

 

How To Use Disney’s Minnie Van Service

Minnie Van At Walt Disney WorldWhen the Minnie Van service was first announced, I was pretty excited.  Having another option to renting a car or taking the bus was something I had been hoping for.  I love that Disney has so many transportation options, but it isn’t always the most comfortable at the end of a long night when I just want to get back to my room.

I had the opportunity to try the Minnie Van service on a recent trip and could not have been happier.  I didn’t just try the service once, I loved it so much I used it 8 times in 4 days!  My poor rental car stayed in the parking lot for 4 days untouched!

Starting to use the app was a bit of a challenge.  We assumed because it was rolled out to our resort that it would just appear on the Lyft app.  That wasn’t how it worked at the Grand Floridian, the Cast Members at the resort had to activate it for us.  When the Minnie Van option is activated, you can use it anywhere on Disney property going forward – not just at the participating resorts.

Once you download the Lyft app and have the Minnie Vans activated, you will see all of the options for cars – and one clearly marked “Minnie Van” (with ears of course!)

Minnie Van Lyft Options

You select the Minnie Van as the car you want – and then ‘Request Minnie Van Service’.  It will show you if any vans are in your area.  Mine was so close because it was literally parked outside while I was requesting it!

Minnie Van Request Service

You’l be able to see on your app the car number, the licence plate as well as the estimated time of arrival.  You can watch the car on the map as it’s coming and will get a text message (if enabled) when the car arrives.

Minnie Van Pick Up

The app itself takes care of the payment using the credit card you entered when you set up the app.  It’s a flat fee of $20 anywhere on Disney property.  After your ride you do have the option to tip the cast members, but they will tell you that tips are not required.

Minnie Van Car 40

The vans are Chevy Traverse vehicles that can seat up to 6 passengers.  Each Minnie Van has 2 car seats in the trunk if you need them for the little ones!  There are vans that also service guests with special needs such as wheelchairs or ECV’s, those can be arranged by calling 407-828-3500.

Minnie Van Car Seats

Minnie Van Car Seats

Minnie Vans are being rolled out slowly across property beginning with the Deluxe Resorts.  Check with the Cast Members at your resort if it’s available to you.

There are many reasons to use the Minnie Van service, you can read about my top 5 here.  From what the drivers told me the service has had quite a high demand, I’m hopeful it becomes a permanent transportation option at Walt Disney World!

Is this something you would use at Walt Disney World?

 

Updates To My Disney Experience App

My Disney Experience AppThe My Disney Experience app has upped its game by adding some features that we’ve all been waiting for.  In a move that integrates even more information in to your smartphone, it has made the app an even more important piece of your Walt Disney World vacation.

 

 

1.  Track Dining Plan Credits

My Disney Experience Track Dining

Tracking your Disney Dining credits has always been a bit of a pain for my family.  When we travel with 7 of us, it’s difficult to know how many credits are left – especially with snacks and quick service meals when we split up.  While we normally eat all of our table service meals together, the snacks and quick service are the challenge.

The newest update allows guests to track their dining plan credits and see how many were issued, redeemed and are still available for use.

This may mean that I won’t be trying to use up 20 snack credits in 2 days.  I think it will make things much easier for planning!

 

2.  Check Resort Purchases

Disney Resort Purchases Tracking

This one might be both good and bad for me!  Many times I’m standing in a store staring at a new Dooney when I wonder “how muchmoney have I already spent this week?” – now I won’t have to wonder.  The problem is that I’m usually able to convince myself I haven’t spent that much and then I buy the Dooney – this app will remind me, it is not in my budget!  Good thing or bad thing?  We’ll see on my next visit.

 

3.  Renew Annual Pass

I am an annual pass holder and this update will make it even easier for me to renew.  Disney is the master at making it convenient for you to spend money!

Disney Annual Pass Renewal

The My Disney Experience app has become the ‘hub’ for your Disney vacation planning and management.  From mobile food ordering to fastpass and dining plan management, it’s a “must have” when you’re visiting Walt Disney World.

Are you excited about these features?

 

 

 

Mobile Food Ordering At Walt Disney World

Mobile Food Ordering WDWMobile ordering quick service food at Walt Disney World has really improved meal time for me!

One of my biggest pet peeves was always having to wait in a HUGE line for a “quick service” meal.  It hardly felt like “quick service” when I had to stand in line for 15 minutes just to order.  Yes, you can avoid the lines if you don’t eat lunch at 12 or dinner at 5, but what happens if I’m hungry at noon?  Now I can order it from my phone and avoid those lines!

At select Walt Disney World quick service locations, you can pre-order your meal on the My Disney Experience app right from your smartphone.  I had the opportunity to try it when we ate at Satu’li Canteen in Pandora at Animal Kingdom and I have to say – I LOVE it!

Technology is a great thing – when it works.  I was a little hesitant trying this since there wasn’t much of a line and I was really hungry, but thought I’d give it a go for research purposes!

Selecting my meal

It allowed me to select my sides, sauces etc.

Adding dessert

So far so good. 

Payment screen

Payment was done right on my Visa that is linked in my Disney account.

Let them know I’m here to start preparing my order

When you select the “I’m Here, Prepare My Order” option – they start preparing your meal.  

Then you wait….

Order is ready confirmation in the app

The notification was in the app – but it also gave me an ‘alert’ notification on my iPhone too!

iPhone alert

And lunch was served!  It was a great experience, no lines.- quick food.  What more could I ask for?  Maybe that they roll it out at more locations in the parks AND resorts?

Satuli Pods

Have you tried mobile ordering yet?  Was it as easy to use as it was for me?

 

Minnie Themed Transportation Option

Minnie Vans DisneyI have always maintained that there is no need to rent a car when you’re staying on Disney property at Walt Disney World.  The Magical Express will take you back and forth to the airport and the bus, monorail, or boats will take you anywhere else for FREE.  Why would you pay extra to rent a car?  Because you want the convenience and comfort.

At the end of the night when you’re leaving a park it can be very crowded.  While Disney does their best to make sure they have plenty of buses, monorails and boats, there is inevitably a long line for some of them when a park closes for the evening.  If you’re willing to pay extra to avoid the crowds, a car rental, taxi or Uber were your only options – until now.

Guests staying at Disney’s Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach Club Resorts will are the first to test out this new mode of transportation.  Guests are able to arrange their own private transfer within Disney property from a smartphone.  Each van comes equipped with two car seats for children stored in the trunk if they are not required.  A trip is $20 USD flat fee for up to 6 passengers.

Minnie Vans D23With the launch of the Express Transportation option I was happy to pay extra for a little comfort when I was park hopping.  The new Minnie Vans are going to be a welcome cost at the end of a long night when I just want to get back to my resort and put my feet up.

I can’t wait to test them out!  Stay tuned for my full review!

 

Disney Park Updates From D23 Expo Recap

D23 ExpoBig plans were announced for Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts at the D23 Expo.  From new resorts, park expansions and Disney Cruise Line updates, it was so hard to keep track of it all.  Below is a summary of the big announcements that will impact Walt Disney World.    

1.  Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Set to open in 2019 first at Disneyland and later that year in Walt Disney World, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge promises to be a fully immersive experience with 2 major attractions.   One attraction is reported to make you feel like your on a Star Destroyer, but I am MOST excited about the second – flying the Millennium Falcon!   The lands will give you an opportunity to dine at the cantina and see some of your favorite characters!

 

2.  Star Wars Resort at Walt Disney World

No opening date has been set, but this new resort is just what Star Wars fans have been looking for! According to Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, this will be a revolutionary new vacation experience.

 

3.  Epcot Getting 2 New Attractions

Guardians of the Galaxy attraction will be added to Future World and will replace the Universe of Energy. A Ratatouille inspired attraction will be added to the France pavilion in World Showcase.   Guests will be “shrunk” to Remy’s size inside of Gusteau’s restaurant in this 4D experience, similar to the attraction in Paris. Specific opening dates have not been released for either attraction but they are scheduled to be open before Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021.

 

4.  Mickey Themed Ride

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios! An attraction inspired by Mickey Shorts will put you inside the world of a Mickey cartoon! No opening date has been announced, but the Great Movie Ride will be closing to make way for this new adventure.

 

5.  TRON Is Coming To The Magic Kingdom

Being built next to Space Mountain, we can’t think of a better spot for this new attraction.   TRON Lightcycle Power Run is a coaster style attraction at Shanghai Disneyland and we can’t wait to see it here. No opening date has been announced, but it will be open in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.

 

6.  Space Dining At Epcot

Epcot is a great place to visit for dining reservations and will be even more appealing with the opening of a new themed restaurant! Sitting next to the Mission: Space attraction, guests will be dining in space – with views from high above Earth!

 

7.  New Transportation Options and Disney Vacation Club Resort

Disney Skyliner gondolas will soon connect Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach Resorts to Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot. The gondolas will also connect Hollywood Studios and Epcot’s International Gateway to a new Disney Vacation Club Resort called Disney’s Riviera Resort.   New Minnie themed vehicles will offer point-to-point transportation options for guests. Rumored to be something of an Uber type service, it could be a great way to avoid the buses. No costs or opening times have been released.

 

8.  A New Theatre At Magic Kingdom

Main Street U.S.A will have a new theatre based on a 1920’s theatre from Kansas City where Walt Disney lived when he left Marceline.   With the success of shows like Frozen Live at the Hyperion in Disneyland, this is sure to be a great addition!

 

9.  Toy Story Land

During the summer of 2018, Toy Story Land will open at Hollywood Studios! This new land will let guests explore Andy’s backyard with all of their favorite Toy Story characters.   Along with the exploration there will be 2 new themed attractions. The Slinky Dog Dash will be a family coaster while the Alien Swirling Saucers will have aliens trying to capture your rocket toy vehicle with The Claw! How exciting does this sound??

 

Outside of Walt Disney World

  • Disney Cruise Line Expansion

Disney Cruise Line announced last year that they were building two new ships. At the D23 Expo it was revealed that there is a third new ship coming!

  • California Adventure Park Super Heroes

Spider-Man and the Avengers will join guardians of the Galaxy at Disney California Adventure Park. More details on this to come!

  • Pixar Pier

More updates for Disney California Adventure Park include a new look for Paradise Pier by creating neighborhoods filled with stories from some of your favorite Pixar movies. This permanent addition will open during a limited time celebration in 2018. The very popular Paint The Night parade will return, but this time to Disney California Adventure park!

  • Disneyland Paris Marvel Characters

Disney’s Hotel New York will be updated to include Marvel theming! Who doesn’t want to stay in a resort that reflects the worlds of The Avengers, Spider Man and Iron Man?

Which update are you most excited about?  Let us know in the comments!

 

What is a Magic Band at Walt Disney World?

Magic Band TerminalSimply put, a Magic Band is a wristband that contains all of the information stored in your My Disney Experience account. Inside of the band there is a small chip that interacts with different terminals throughout Walt Disney World. Magic Bands are complimentary with your Walt Disney World resort stay or you can purchase them if you’re not staying on property.

Magic Bands are incredibly convenient – here are 6 ways you will love using yours!

  1. Access to your Walt Disney World resort room

Instead of keys or key cards, your Magic Band will unlock your resort room door. Tapping your Magic Band to the small device on the outside of your door will unlock it! The doors automatically lock when you leave, so make sure you’re always wearing your band! 

  1. Your park tickets

When your Disney park tickets linked to you’re my Disney Experience account they are accessible via your Magic Band. When you arrive at the parks you scan your Magic Band for entry. There is also a finger scan that connects your band to you personally in case you lose it.

The My Disney Experience Site where you can plan your adventures!

  1. Fastpasses

Once all of your fastpass reservations are made, you use your Magic Band to redeem them. When you arrive at the attraction, tap your band to the fastpass device and it updates your account that you have used your fastpass. When you make more fastpass reservations they are automatically added to your band!

  1. Dining credits

If you have the Disney dining plan, your dining credits are stored on your magic band. When you want to redeem them for a meal or snack credit you tap the band to the terminal and enter your personal pin. The pin protects you in the event you lose your band, no one can take your dining credits.

  1. Charging and shopping

If you’re staying at a Disney resort, you can charge your purchases to your room or credit card! They also have a pin associated with this feature to protect you if someone else has your Magic Band. Disney really does make spending money easy…

  1. Photopass

When you see a Disney photographer in the parks, you have to stop and get a picture! They are a great way to make sure everyone is in the shot. After the photographer takes your pictures they scan your magic band and your photos are magically added to you’re my Disney Experience account.  If you have purchased Memory Maker you’re all set, if not – you can purchase the photos individually.

Magic Band helps you organize your vacation and manage it through your My Disney Experience account. You can customize the color, add decorative pins to them and reuse them until the battery dies (approx. 2 years).   If you’re a stickler for matching them to your outfits, you can collect all the different colors like Carrie did! They really are the perfect accessory to any outfit when you’re at Walt Disney World!

What color Magic Band will you get?

 

Laundry At Walt Disney World

Laundry room at Bay Lake Tower Walt Disney WorldDoes anyone WANT do laundry at Walt Disney World?

No, but sometimes it’s necessary.

During a trip last year there were a few ‘mishaps’ where I needed to change outfits a few times one day. It might have been chocolate icing from my cupcake, mustard from my burger or my Pina Colava (okay, it was all 3), but they ended up on my clothes. I knew I needed to do laundry.

I gathered up all of the dirty clothes and headed to the laundry room at Bay Lake Tower where I was staying. I purchased my soap from the machine for $1 each with my credit card. So far so good.

I loaded up two machines (might as well wash all of the dirty clothes we had), then I saw the sign.

Laundry Instructions Disney

Disney laundry is high tech!

Using the website laundryview.com/Disneyworld I was able to view the progress of my washing. I could set up an alert to let me know when it was done, or I could just keep checking online. No need to sit in the room or remember what time I put the load in. My vacation brain does not let me monitor time well and this was exactly what I needed.

Doing laundry was a great excuse to have some down time outside of the parks and enjoy the pool or resort.  I chose to enjoy my balcony with an afternoon cocktail and relax in the sun.

Laundry View Website WDW

About 40 minutes later, I checked the status and the laundry was ready to move to the dryer. I could see online that there were 4 dryers available for use before I went back to the laundry room. I purchased my dryer sheets from the machine, turned on a couple of dryers and had another little break.

Laundry Machine Disney

Before I knew it, the site was saying the dryers were done. Within 20 minutes I had folded the clothes, brought them back to the room and put them away. I felt relieved, now I didn’t have to worry about any ‘spills’ during future meals. Doesn’t that happen to everyone? Put on a white shirt and immediately spill ketchup on it? Happens to me ALL THE TIME, especially on vacation.

While I dreaded the thought of laundry while on vacation, it turned out to be a relaxing afternoon that we now plan for almost every trip. If I know I’m going to do laundry on vacation, I don’t pack extra clothes for the inevitable spills. I save valuable space in my suitcase for all of the stuff I buy, and I’m guaranteed a couple of hours at my resort, sitting in the sun with a drink in my hand.  Somehow doing laundry at Disney isn’t as painful as it is at home!

Do you do laundry on your Disney vacation?

 

Fuel Rod at Walt Disney World

Phone charger DisneyOne of my biggest challenges at Walt Disney World has always been keeping my electronics charged. Taking videos and photos, posting on social media, my Iphone and camera would barely make it to lunch time.

There are places in the Walt Disney World parks that you can charge your devices. For example, over near the Tangled washrooms in the Magic Kingdom are some very cute little tree stumps with ports to charge your phone.

When I’m in the parks though, I prefer to be able to charge ‘on the go’ and not be stuck sitting in one place to top up my battery life. The answer to this is the Fuel Rod.

The Fuel Rod is $30 USD and available at many locations throughout the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts.

Fuel Rod DisneyInside of the Fuel Rod package you will find:

  • One fully charged portable battery
  • One 6” USB to micro-USB cable (for most Android devices)
  • One Apple 30-pin to USB cable (for iPhone and iPad generations 1-4)
  • One Apple Lightning to USB cable (for iPhone generations 5+)

Phone Charged DisneyHaving that first one fully charged enables you to charge your phone immediately. When I purchased mine, it charged my iPhone 6 plus fully from 15% battery.
The best part of the Fuel Rod is the swap. After charging my phone, I located a Fuel Rod kiosk in the parks and swapped my depleted battery for a fully charged one for free! I inserted the battery in to the kiosk and it spit out a new one in seconds.

After my trip I have charged my Fuel Rod multiple times using the included cables so that I can always have a spare battery source with me wherever I go.

Have you purchased a Fuel Rod?  Did you love it?

 

When The Deal May Be Too Good To Be True

Disney ParadeI’m scrolling through Facebook tonight and reading the random posts on various pages when I come across one that is posted to the official Walt Disney World page.  It’s a post from a couple that have allegedly been ‘scammed’ by a Disney Cast Member.

In their claim, they say they directly paid a Disney cast member $1900 to book a vacation for them.  The cast member told them that she got a promotion and could no longer help them and would request a refund for them.  After limited communication – they reached out to Disney to confirm the refund was coming and were told that the reservation was made – but was never paid for.  It was then clear to them that the cast member stole their money.

This couple have taken to social media to complain that Disney will not reimburse them for the money they allegedly gave to the cast member.

After reading the posts and the couple’s responses, there are a few things that bother me about this story:

  1. They clearly gave this person money because they believed they were getting some kind of deal – maybe a cast member discount?  Does that mean they knew the cast member personally?  Why else would they give the money directly to this person vs. through a travel agency or Disney itself?
  2. They paid them through pay pal – I don’t know about you, but I don’t pay large companies via pay pal.  I don’t shop at Best Buy, The Disney Store or Alamo and submit my payment that way.  If they asked for a pay pal payment – I’d be suspicious, but that’s just me.
  3. Disney isn’t accountable for what their cast members do when they’re not on the job.  If this cast member was ‘on the job’ – they wouldn’t be paying for their vacation through pay pal (see point above).  This is like asking McDonald’s to pay a bank that their employee robbed.  Would you ask a movie theatre to reimburse you for the bootlegged video you bought from their ticket taker?  I think not.

If this cast member really does work for Disney and was using that privilege to scam people – you can be sure that they won’t be working there for long.   That is what Disney will and should do to address the situation.

If in fact these people lost their money, I feel bad for them.  It’s a horrible thing to be robbed and $1,900 is a lot to lose – but how it that Disney’s fault?  There are many people on social media posting that Disney is supposed to be ‘all about customer service’ and they can’t believe they aren’t ‘making this right’ – but it isn’t Disney’s to fix.  This is a matter for the police and if they have all of the receipts and communications that they say they have, the police should be able to handle it quickly.

Too often people think they can force a company like Disney to pay for their mistakes by bashing them on social media, and they may just get what they want. While $1,900 is nothing to a company of this size, it speaks to the larger issue of guests believing that no matter what goes wrong “in the name of Disney” – that they will fix it.  This isn’t a culture that Disney should encourage, and I hope that they don’t give in.

Smoking at Walt Disney World

WDW SmokingBefore we begin, I have to confess – I am a smoker.   Hold on to your pitchforks before you start with the lectures of how bad and disgusting it is – I’ve heard it, and I assure you – I know it.  I am well aware that it is detrimental to my health and how gross it is.  I’m an intelligent woman in my (dare I say it) mid 40’s who has heard it all.  Am I proud that I have not been able to quit?  No, I wish I could, and I still hope someday I will.  But that is a whole other blog.

For those of you who are heading to Walt Disney World for the first time, you need to be aware of the 2 important rules about smoking.

All resort rooms are non-smoking, including your balcony.  There are designated areas at each resort.

All of the parks and Disney Springs have designated smoking areas.   You cannot smoke outside of these areas.  They can be difficult to find and change frequently, check the Disney app for locations.

If you have not selected your resort yet – it’s wise to look at the maps online to see how many smoking areas there are and were they are located.  The majority of resorts that I have stayed at have been relatively convenient to reach a smoking area, with the exception of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

It makes sense to me that there wouldn’t be smoking areas near the animals, but I didn’t realize how FAR I would have to walk, essentially to the parking lot.  I don’t know if it was just my luck that the room was at the end of a very long hall, but it felt like I needed to wake up an extra 45 minutes early in the morning just to walk to the smoking area!  At the end of a long day in the parks, it felt like miles….

In the parks, it’s a whole other story.  While Epcot seems to be the most “smoker friendly” park, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are not.  Essentially, they just don’t have enough smoking areas.

There – I said it.  Now, let me explain.

I remember the days when you could walk down Main Street with a cigarette in your hand.  It wasn’t a good idea as it was too easy on a crowded day to have a child come close to the end of your cigarette in their excitement.  It made perfect sense to me when they banned smoking except in the designated smoking areas for this very reason.

I was happy to go to the designated areas back then.  There were a few sprinkled throughout the park and they were never crowded.  Not because there were no other smokers, but because there were quite a few areas!  Normally there was only ever 2 or 3 people in each one, so there wasn’t a big cloud of smoke hanging over them.  They were out of the way, yet easy enough to find.  Those were the good ol’ days.

Fast forward to now – and the smoking areas are VERY limited.  In the Magic Kingdom there are only 2 left on opposite sides of the park.  What does that mean?  30 people in this ‘out of the way’ smoking area at a time, and the big cloud of smoke is above it, around it, and wafting every way it can.   It’s so crowded that people are standing on the walkway and not really “IN” the smoking area because they can’t fit.

Let me stop here to say, I would never smoke outside of one of these areas.  It is my choice to smoke and I respect the other guests at the park.  I have noticed over the last couple of years a significant increase in guests smoking outside of the designated areas and I have to wonder what changed?   I don’t think the smoking population has increased – but the available places to smoke have substantially decreased.

Is the lack of availability a good reason to break the rules?  Let me clearly say NO.  I would never condone any of the reasons people smoke outside of the designated areas.  I am merely pointing out that with the limited areas, we seem to have created another problem.

I have heard the comments that they should ban smoking all together in Disney parks, but that isn’t the answer.  I am a Disney fanatic who happens to be a smoker and should be able to enjoy my vacation as much as anyone else – as long as I am respectful of others.  There is also the financial impact to the attendance to consider.  There are many countries where being a smoker is the norm, Disney would not want to alienate these visitors by banning smoking.

I understand that people have allergies, asthma, and host of things that are impacted by second hand smoke which is why I am in favor of designated areas so that people with these conditions do not have to be in them.  The smoking areas need to be easily avoidable for these people.  Now I only wish I could avoid the overpowering perfume of some guests that give me a severe headache – but again, that’s a whole other blog too.

What is the answer in my opinion?  More smoking areas.  Before you start with your outrage, let me tell you what I believe needs to happen.

1  The smoking areas should be more ‘out of the way’.

I don’t mean ‘impossible to find’.  They need to be in locations that are not walkways.  I’m never happy sitting in a walkway where guests have to walk through the smoking area to get where they’re going.  They need to have a choice to walk through or not – and the one on the walkway to Tomorrowland doesn’t give them a choice.

2  There should be more of them.

You need to have more – to have less people in them to make them less of a ‘polluted air zone’.   When you cram 30 smokers in 1 area, it’s much more  toxic and noticeable to those people in the vicinity.  Overcrowding also causes the smokers to spread out – outside of the designated area.

3  They need to be easy to find.

I know the app has the map – but they can’t be so well hidden that a first time visitor can’t find them.  Put them in the background and have a little sign or something that ‘points this way’ so that no one is wandering for 20 minutes trying to find one

4  Smoking outside of the areas must be strictly enforced.

Many cast members don’t enforce this rule because they don’t want a confrontation with the guest when they tell them they have to walk to the other side of the park.  If they were a little more convenient it might be easier to approach them.

So there you have it, my view on the smoking at Disney debate.   I’m sure many of  you will disagree – but some will see my point.   It’s a very passionate debate and I’m anxious to hear your comments!

Walt Disney was a smoker himself, who died of lung cancer.

Walt Disney Smoking

 

6 Questions To Ask Your Disney Travel Agent

Port Orleans Resort Royal RoomLast night I was invited to a wonderful pizza party with a bunch of other Disney fanatics. The pizza was home made (it was SO good) and I’m thinking I’ll never be able to eat a frozen pizza again! We had a great time talking all about Disney and sharing our experiences, tips and favorite things. What happens when you get a bunch of self-proclaimed Disney experts together? We learn a LOT from each other! The discussion came up about Disney Travel Agents because many of the people at the table were agents. We have all read the horror stories online about a person who booked their vacation with someone who wasn’t a Disney professional. In fact, I read a story the other week about someone standing at the front gates of the Magic Kingdom with her “Universal” ticket wondering why they wouldn’t let her in. She thought that “Universal ticket” was literally ‘universal’. This might be an extreme example of misinformation – but you get the idea. I started thinking this morning about how someone would determine who is a well-versed Disney travel agent. What questions could you ask to make sure they know what they’re doing before you book with them? It would be hard to come up with those questions if you’ve never been, so I’ve done it for you. Here are the 6 questions you should ask before handing over a deposit.

  1. When was the last time you visited Walt Disney World?

Walt Disney World is probably the most complicated of the Disney destinations. You need to arrange fastpasses and dining, there are 4 parks to consider, nighttime shows and transportation options – there is a lot that can impact your stress level on vacation. If your agent hasn’t been to Walt Disney World in 5 years, how will they know what options are best for your family? Reading online doesn’t put things in to context and sometimes they are completely misinformed opinions. You have to experience the crowds at the Magic Kingdom fireworks in order to tell you a good spot to watch them from!

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

  1. Do you get the dining plan, memory maker, or hopper pass when you go?

These are valuable insights that only someone who visits the park can give you. If your agent tells you that their family gets the dining plan because it’s a good value for the character meals her son likes, you’re more informed about the best use of those dining credits! You also know that they have experienced the character meals and can tell you which ones they love.

Art of Animation Resort

  1. How big is your team and are they all Disney focused?

Having someone that is part of an agency that is Disney focused will ensure that you have back up in the event your agent is sick or is on vacation when you have a question. It also means they have a wealth of knowledge to tap in to if they don’t have personal experience on the subject you need. For example – one agent on the team may have a child with allergies that can share that first hand knowledge about the process of eating at a buffet with allergies. If they are a good team, they’re sharing all that good stuff with each other regularly.

  1. How much is your service and what is included?

This is a tricky one as some agencies will not charge a fee – but won’t help with dining or fastpasses. They give you the link and instructions to My Disney Experience and say “good luck”. Other agencies will do all of that for you, but they charge a fee for that service. Most reputable agencies will NOT charge you for their service (they get paid from Disney) and the prices are exactly the same as if you booked it yourself. If you book direct with Disney – there isn’t a discount, they just keep the commission they would have paid to the agent you used. The other part of the service to be cautious about is the “promo people” who tell you that if Disney releases a promo that they will absolutely get it for you! What they don’t tell you is that the space can be limited and sometimes not available for the resort you have booked. A good agency will monitor the promotions for you and apply it to your reservation if you qualify. If your reservation isn’t eligible because the resort is not included, they will work with you to see if you’d like an alternate one. Beware of false promises!

Epcot Monorail

  1. Is your agency an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner?  If you’re in Ontario – are you TICO certified?

Being an Authorized agency means that Disney has entrusted them to represent their brand. They must abide by the Disney regulations and not comment on or participate in the crazy rumors about promotions or announcements until they are officially released. Being a registered TICO agency means that they have governance around their bookings and protection for you as a consumer when booking your vacation plans. You can check out the website for more information on why this is important to you.

Polynesian Bungalow Bedroom

  1. The last (and most important) thing you should ask your agent before booking with them is “why do you do it?”

This is such an important question, and you should listen carefully to the answer.   A real Disney fan will want you to go and love it as much as they do. That’s the thing about us ‘Disney people’, we get so excited when someone comes back from vacation and says they understand our love for Disney. It’s hard to explain, but it’s almost like we have this club that we want everyone to join because it’s a happy place to be. When you find an agent that is a real Disney fan, you can be sure they’re invested in making sure you have a magical vacation so you can join the club!

If you’re looking to plan your vacation – contact my preferred agency!

Pure Magic Vacations Ad

Do you have a great question you think I missed that you should ask your Disney Travel Agent? Let me know in the comments below!

 

5 Common Questions Cast Members Are Frequently Asked

Cast Member QuestionsWhile the concierge desk at your resort and front desk agents are very helpful and I encourage you to go to them with your questions, sometimes you can wait in a very long line to get a simple answer – “what time is the 3pm parade?” (Yes, that is a real question that I have been asked). Thanks to the My Disney Experience App, you can now make dining reservations, fast passes, view your Photo Pass pictures, and get more information on your smart phone. Why wait in more lines when you can find the answers for yourself?

Here are 5 of the most commonly asked questions that you can actually find the answers to without waiting in line:

  1. What time is the 3pm parade at the Magic Kingdom?

The 3pm parade is actually called Festival of Fantasy and it takes place at, you guessed it, 3pm every day. However, pick up a times guide at the park entrance to ensure that it is taking place that day.   You will also want to take note in the guide of where the parade starts in the park. For example – if the parade starts in Frontierland at 3pm – it won’t reach Main Street until 10 or 15 minutes later and vice versa.

  1. How late is the food court open?

Most resorts have their Quick Service dining areas open until midnight. Instead of waiting in line at the Front Desk to ask this question, pop into the dining area and ask any of the Cast Members walking around; that is their area of expertise after all.

  1. What characters can I meet at (insert park name here)?

Thanks to the new My Disney Experience App, you can look up all characters and their appearance times depending on the park you are going to.

  1. Do I have to wear my MagicBand all the time?

Use you common sense. Of course no one is going to monitor to ensure the band is on your wrist 24 hours of every day of your vacation, but it is your room key and in most cases, your park passes, dining plan, and even credit card. If it is not on your wrist there is always the chance of it falling out of a bag, becoming unclipped from your belt loop, or otherwise risk being misplaced. It is designed to be easily accessible and since it is on your wrist, you can see that it is with you at all times.

  1. When is it going to stop raining? (Yes, this is also a real question).

While we as Cast Members are good friends with Mickey and Minnie, we aren’t with Mother Nature. When you ask a Front Desk Agent or Concierge this question, they will simply go to the Weather Network and find some sort of radar to give you an approximate answer. This is something you can most definitely research on your own

Once again, I encourage you to ask Cast Members questions and seek assistance when you need it. But there are many resources available to you, like the My Disney Experience App which are incredibly helpful; take advantage of them 🙂

 

*About the Author* – Darci is a former Cast Member who worked Front Desk at various resorts at Walt Disney World. She was a member of the Disney College Program which allows students to work all over Disney property – not only EPCOT’s Canada Pavilion. She now resides in Ontario and feeds her Disney passion by assisting family and friends with their Disney vacation planning, watching live streams of park shows, and even got engaged at the Magic Kingdom. Disney is and always will be a part of her life. She believes that you can take a girl out of Disney World, but you can’t take Disney World out of the girl.

Follow Darci on Twitter: @dmartindalee

 

What to do when your Disney vacation is less than magical

Art of Animation Resort ScarDisney is an incredible company that gives a large amount of freedom and empowerment to their Cast Members. All Cast go through extensive training (especially Front Desk, Concierge, and Guest Relations) and Disney therefore trusts that their Cast Members will use their judgement when making decisions as to how to ensure that families have the most out of their Disney vacations. That being said, sometimes things do happen that can be rather less than magical. When this happens, there are a few ways to deal with the situation.

  1. At the parks – go to Guest Relations as soon as possible and let them know what has occurred. Becoming irate with the Cast Member at the attraction or dining area will not accomplish anything. It will only cause a scene and take the magic out of other people’s day, including the cast member who most likely did not do something personal to you. Guest Relations will be able to understand what occurred, possibly explain to you how or why it occurred (each situation varies), and may even compensate you for your negative experience.
  1. At the resort – if it is something regarding your room itself, call Housekeeping from your room phone. Even call the Front Desk, they can get Housekeeping or Maintenance in touch with you. Walking down to the front desk to most likely wait in a line, will only irritate you further and there is a slim chance that the Front Desk Agent that you speak with will be able to do something in that instant. If it is an issue with your reservation and the Front Desk Agent is not giving you the answers or information that you are looking for, ask to speak with a Leader (supervisor in Disney terms).

Regardless of who you speak with, please remember that these Cast Members are humans too. They are people who are highly trained and are doing everything in their power to assist you. No Cast Member intentionally sets out to ruin your vacation. Be patient and be kind. As the old saying goes, “you get more with honey than with vinegar”.

If a Cast Member does go out of their way to do something magical for you, ask to speak with their Leader and let them know. The 2 minutes you spend recognizing a Cast Member for their efforts can make their day, and even week. That little bit of kindness goes a long way.

*About the Author* – Darci is a former Cast Member who worked Front Desk at various resorts at Walt Disney World. She was a member of the Disney College Program which allows students to work all over Disney property – not only EPCOT’s Canada Pavilion. She now resides in Ontario and feeds her Disney passion by assisting family and friends with their Disney vacation planning, watching live streams of park shows, and even got engaged at the Magic Kingdom. Disney is and always will be a part of her life. She believes that you can take a girl out of Disney World, but you can’t take Disney World out of the girl. 

Follow Darci on Twitter:  @dmartindalee

 

 

9 Annoying Things People Do At Walt Disney World

Annoying things guests do at Walt Disney WorldVisiting Walt Disney World for over 40 years, I’ve seen my share of foolishness on property.   On one visit I was so shocked at some of the things I saw and I had to write this public service announcement for those who may leave their brains at home while on vacation at Disney.

 

 

  1. Disney Cast Members are NOT your babysitters (unless you’ve left them in the kids club of course!)

During my recent visit I was at Bay Lake Tower in the lobby watching cast members trying to help a young girl that was maybe 7 or 8 years old. Apparently she was swimming in the pool and wanted to go back to her room. Her parents were in the room and had left her at the pool to find her own way back, but she couldn’t remember the room number… Ummmm really? Please don’t leave your young children unattended. Who do you think is watching them #WhatAreYouThinking??

  1. Keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times

Eating at Pinocchios we selected the window table overlooking It’s A Small World. Do you know how many people leave their children on the end of the boat with their hands in the water?? Do you know how many adults I saw doing the same thing?? In the 30 minutes we were sitting there, I was amazed at the foolishness. Safety is Disney’s top priority, but you can’t fix stupid people. #ThatsHowYouLoseAFinger

  1. Trying to make your child appear taller

Attractions like the Tower of Terror, Space Mountain and Everest have height restrictions. Why? Because it isn’t safe for if you are shorter than the required height. Don’t try to convince the cast member that your child is slouching or that they can meet the requirement if they stand on their tip toes, it’s just not smart. The cast members are not letting you on because it isn’t safe – listen to them! #NotTheTimeToArgue

  1. No flash pictures

Okay – this one just irks me. They ask you not to use your flash in the dark rides as it can ruin the magic, and for stage shows it’s a safety issue for the performers. If you don’t know how to turn off your flash on the huge iPad you’re holding up then ask someone. Also, if you’re on the Haunted Mansion and you’re texting someone – all I can see is the light from your screen! You are not the only guest on this attraction and you’re irritating the rest of us. #Selfish

  1. Cutting the line

Seriously – how old are you? Where is your sense of civility? Lines are expected at the parks, if you’re not prepared to wait your turn – don’t visit. It’s really simple. We’re all there for the same reason and pushing, shoving, cutting the line is just going to aggravate everyone and possibly start a verbal exchange of unpleasantries. #GrowUp

  1. Yelling at Cast Members

The Cast Members at Walt Disney World are the best in the business. Sure there are some bad apples, but overall they offer first-class customer service. Seeing a guest berate a cast member for silly things like the length of a line, the price of a meal or their inability to make it stop raining is insane. Disney Cast Members don’t really have a magic wand that can bring out the sun and make you less of a jerk.   #DontBeAnIdiot

  1. Trying to get something by security

They search everyone’s bags and send random people through metal detectors at the parks, but did you know they have undercover security as well? I will say no more about them as I don’t want to give away any of their methods, but if you manage to make it through bag check without your flask of vodka being detected under your shirt – don’t be surprised if some random stranger approaches you later and ejects you from the park.   They are everywhere! #YoureNotSmarterThanThem

 

  1. Waiting in line for 10 minutes without deciding what you want

It’s busy, you’re standing in line at the quick service for 10 minutes waiting your turn. You finally get up to the cast member to order and you haven’t decided what you want! Really? What were you doing for the last 10 minutes? This happened to me at Sprinkles at Disney Springs, and I was not amused. #UseYourTimeWiesely

 

  1. Feeding the wildlife

When you feed any wildlife – you make them lose their natural instinct to be afraid of humans. This one always bothered me especially since my sister has a horrible fear of birds. We were always aware of the people feeding them because it made them comfortable to swoop in and grab a fry out of your hand.   I watched adults let their little children feed the ducks their french fries and wondered what would happen when the duck bit the child – who would be to blame? Given the recent tragedy of the young boy who was drowned by an alligator, experts have suggested the alligator was probably fed by people at some point. I’m not saying the people who fed the alligators could have predicted this tragic event – but maybe if they had used some common sense, things would have been different. If you want to feed animals, visit a petting Zoo, Disney parks are not the place for it. #CommonSenseIsntCommon

 

Walt Disney World really is the place where an adult can be a kid again… Just remember to use your common sense and be courteous to others while you’re there and you will have a magical time!

 

 

 

Grocery Delivery For Your Disney Vacation

Groceries for DisneySo you’re heading to Walt Disney World and thinking about how much spending money you’ll need each day for incidentals.  For me – my biggest cost is my bottles of water.  Really, the ‘healthiest’ thing I do is drink plenty of water – I always have a bottle of it with me and when it’s hot out – I drink a ton!  First thing in the morning I drink a full bottle and at $3 each at the resort, it adds up quickly.   How can I save a little money when I’m at the resort and have a fridge full of it?  The answer is simple – Garden Grocer!

Garden Grocer is a full grocery store near Walt Disney World that will deliver your groceries to your resort!  It’s a great way to stock up on some of the things you’ll need – without having to rent a car or jump in a cab to go get it.  You can order juice, bread, snacks, chips, beer/wine and cases of water!  I always place an order before my trip and it’s waiting for me at bell services when I arrive.  They even keep the refrigerated items cold for me!

My typical shopping order when travelling with children includes cases of water, juice, milk, bagels, bananas, cheese slices, chips, granola bars & beer.  Yes, beer – the grown ups enjoy an adult beverage after the kids have gone to bed!

There are some restrictions with minimum orders (currently $40) and there is a delivery charge – but based on my bottled water savings, I’m still coming out WAY ahead by having cases delivered that I can fill our fridge with.  If there’s an item you need that isn’t on the website – no problem, just fill in the special request form and they will let you know what they can get for you.  It’s that simple.  If you order in advance, they also have additional savings based on how far ahead you order it!

Check out the website and order your necessities today!

 

Yes I’m suffering from DVE

Disney Vacation EnvyI’m at my unmagical job, it’s Friday, the weather looks great for the weekend – and it’s almost time to go home!  I’m listening to music from the Disney parks on my iPhone, I’m singing away in my head as people walk by, I’m feeling pretty good.

I decide to take a break and sign in to Facebook, my source for the important things that are happening in my world.   I get excited about the posts in the Disney groups about new things happening and the merchandise that’s being released.

I keep scrolling, and then I see them – TONS of pictures, check ins, status updates…. I have a bunch of friends at Walt Disney World right now, and some are sailing on the Dream this weekend.  I start going through their posts and pictures.  The food looks good at Morimoto, Ohana dinner – yes please, a check-in at the Mine Train and another for Soarin?  I almost feel like I’m experiencing it with them!  YAY!!  Disney fun!!

Soarin Sign

Then, suddenly… the discomfort and confusion – what am I feeling?  I’m happy for them and excited to follow their adventures, but what is this that I’m feeling???  I contemplate for a while and then it hits me… I have DVE – Disney Vacation Envy.

In case you weren’t aware – DVE is a real condition.  It’s a wave of confusing emotions where you feel happy for your friends, but sad for yourself – sad that you’re not there with them.  You do what you can to fight these feelings of jealousy, but they’re there, right below the surface.  While you do the customary ‘likes’ or ‘comments’ on their posts, you’re fighting the urge to just close Facebook and ignore it, but you NEED to see what they’re going to do next!  The inner conflict begins – do you have your next vacation already booked?  Or should you book a quick getaway to get your next fix?  Can you afford it?   Does it matter?  It’s an addiction, and if you can relate, you may need help.

Epcot Spaceship Earth from the monorail

If you’re suffering from DVE it’s important to know that you’re not alone.   We all feel it, but we rarely talk about it.  There’s no shame in suffering from DVE, it’s the struggle that all members of the Disney community face when they’re active on social media.  We all deal with it differently, but the cure is the same… book another trip to Disney.

Cinderella Step Sisters

So the next time you’re resembling the jealous step-sister and suffering from DVE, like the post and move on.  Then check your count down app to see how long it is until YOU are the person with the posts and check ins that will give the rest of us Disney Vacation Envy!

Follow us on Facebook for our updates!

 

Rescheduling a Walt Disney World Vacation

Rescheduling a Disney VacationFive weeks ago I had a very small medical procedure that was supposed to take about 2 weeks to heal completely.  3 infections later – I’m nowhere near the finish line.  I was scheduled to go to Walt Disney World today, but on Wednesday of this week we made the decision to reschedule for June to give me time to heal.  I hadn’t bought insurance, so it was going to be expensive – but my health is more important than the loss of money.

Some people said to me “it’s not like you won’t be going again, or you weren’t just there!” and I get it – I travel to Walt Disney World multiple times per year, but I was so excited about this trip!  We had all of our dining reservations that we wanted and even had planned to stay at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort – one of the very few I have not stayed in yet!   We had even purchased tickets to Disney’s After Hours and upgraded our flights to business class so that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable on the plane (both are non refundable).  The disappointment set in – I had just backed out of the perfectly planned Disney vacation.

Thursday was a bit of a mess as it sank in that we would have to try and ‘re-plan’ the perfect vacation without the benefit of months to do so.  We booked the week at Saratoga Springs and started looking for cancellations at the resorts we really wanted to try.  It might mean moving rooms a few times – but that’s okay, we’ve done that before and it’s a smooth process.

I felt horribly guilty that I had ‘ruined’ my sister’s vacation – even though she was so understanding about it.  I told her I would do whatever she wanted when we went in June to try and make it up to her, I would even try some of the restaurants that were for a more adventurous palate than mine because I know she would like them.  Morimoto is on the agenda!

Two days later and I have to say, I’m excited about our new trip!  While we are checking daily for cancellations for dining – we did manage to snag an Ohana’s dinner, a Be Our Guest breakfast and Toy Story & 7 Dwarfs fastpasses!  All in 2 days!  It pays to keep looking for sure.

Soarin’ has been closed for refurbishment for a while which is a big disappointment since it’s one of our favorites.  Guess what?  It’s reopening June 17th and we got a fastpass!  This was a bonus of delaying our trip, and has shown me that maybe things will work out for the best after all.

This has been a trying time for me, but I have learned a lot through this experience.

  1. Insurance might be useful!  I’m normally don’t buy cancellation insurance myself, and I’m not sure if it would have covered my scenario – but for the $1k I lost by rescheduling in flights and event tickets, it might have been worth it!  
  2. Medical procedures may or may not go as planned – and planning a Disney vacation within 5 weeks of one might have been overly optimistic.  Apparently I’m not invincible and cannot will myself to get better faster by using my Mum’s motto of  ‘it’s mind over matter’
  3. Having a family to support you through these challenges is priceless
  4. You CAN book a Disney vacation 5 weeks in advance and STILL get some awesome dining reservations and fastpasses!

Planning my Disney vacations are always fun – and now I get to do it twice.  Now it’s back to My Disney Experience to see if there are any more cancellations I can grab!

 

Disney Dollars Discontinued

Disney CurrencyIt’s true…  Disney Dollars are no more.

Lots of changes these days at Disney, some are wonderful (Toy Story Land, Star Wars Land) but some just leave me a little sad, purely for nostalgia.

Disney Dollars have been around since the late 80’s as a form of currency in the Disney Parks. I loved giving some Disney Dollars to kids that I knew were going to be visiting Walt Disney World so that they could buy themselves something special on their trip.  It was something unique that was nicer than giving a gift card or real cash.

With people using more digital means to pay for things in the parks like gift cards and Magic Bands, I can understand the dwindling interest in the Disney Dollars.   With all things like this that Disney discontinues, I would expect to see a bunch on ebay shortly!

 

 

Disney’s Free Dining, it’s a debacle every year

California GrillThere are thousands of Disney fan sites on the Internet, Pixie Dust Fan included.  Many are very reputable sites that offer accurate information and advice for planning your Disney vacation.  Sadly – not all sites are created equal and sometimes it’s hard for a new Disney fan to tell the difference.

Over the years I have watched some of these sites grow and gain a following and at least once a year they start the whole ‘free dining’ hype.   They post rumors and ‘insider details’ about a potential free dining promotion that is going to be announced.  Every April my Twitter and Facebook feeds explode with this ‘free dining is coming’ posts, including ones that show dates for next year!   Some of these sites get it right and must have an inside track, but others are just plain wrong.  They start the frenzy and modify the details as they go and create such chaos that the rest of us are left shaking our heads!

There are some things you should know about Free Dining that these less  responsible sites won’t tell you:

1  Free dining has quite a few restrictions

The resort you wanted may not be available, or you have to upgrade to a better room category or add water park options to your tickets.  Availability for the promos are generally limited and in the last year it looks like Disney is restricting them further to move people away from expecting free dining.

2  Not all restrictions are created equal

Did you know that some Disney promos are targeted to particular visitors?  That’s right – the UK visitors usually get a slightly better promo with much more advanced notice, I assume because they have to travel farther.  Canadians also get longer booking windows sometimes, even after the offer has expired for US residents.

3  Good luck getting dining reservations

Cape May

Cape May at Disney’s Beach Club Resort

People want to make sure if they get their free dining promo that they’re able to use it!  I really can’t blame them; I would want to do it as well.  The problem is that when it’s just a rumor, many people will start booking dining reservations ‘in case’.  That means they’re booking weeks of reservations to cover potential dates and availability.   Since most of these don’t need to be cancelled until 24 hours in advance – they have tied up many reservations for months that you and I might like to have!

4  A GOOD travel agent will cringe when they see these rumors

 – There is very limited availability on those first few days because other agencies have put holds on packages based on the frenzy of inquiries they generated with the rumors.  Some of these reservations will inevitably be cancelled a few days later and free up the inventory for other guests.  It’s safe to say the good agencies spend the next few days pulling their hair out.

 – They are going to sit on the phone for HOURS trying to get their clients the ‘free dining’ deal when the website crashes.  This will be the better part of their day (some years I have heard of 9 hour wait times!) where they will continue to rotate and recharge cordless phones. 

 – Disney doesn’t like its travel partners to engage in these rumors until it’s officially announced.  That means the reputable travel agencies are at a substantial disadvantage while trying to adhere to their ethical responsibilities to Disney.

 – They will frantically have to call all of their clients who are travelling during the dates once it’s announced to find out if they want to switch resorts, rooms or add ticket options if it means getting free dining.  

5  Free Dining isn’t always the best deal!

Bread Pudding Ohana

Bread Pudding at Ohana

Many times the room discount has been a better value.  If a room discount is 30% – was the dining plan worth 30% of your room rate?   For many people it has been much cheaper to add the dining plan to the room promotion.   It can be confusing when you hear the words ‘free dining’ – but trust me, it’s worth pricing out the difference!

I will never understand why Disney doesn’t reprimand these sites for starting these rumors and leaking information.  It causes confusion, stress, and in some cases a pretty bad guest experience when their expectations aren’t met.  For me, it ties up valuable dining reservations when I’m struggling to get one for California Grill for my trip!  C’mon Disney – it’s time to flex your muscles and get these sites to stop the madness!

So, the next time you see the “I heard free dining is coming” pop up in your news feed, don’t panic, you haven’t missed the boat.  Review it when it’s officially announced and see if it’s a good deal for you when you consider the resorts and ticket options.  If you’re working with a reputable travel agent, they’ll provide you with the best options.  Give them a few days (or a week) to get it all sorted when the availability opens up from cancelled ‘fake’ reservations.

California Grill View

The view from California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Whatever you do – please don’t book a bunch of fake dining reservations!  Remember that you may be forcing me to call the California Grill every day while I’m on vacation trying to find a cancellation 🙂

 

 

 

 

7 Reasons It’s Difficult Being A Canadian Disney Addict

Canadian Disney Addict

Thanks to the ever-growing social media networks I’m privileged to have so many “Disney Friends” online from all over the world.  I follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and I’m always so jealous of their ability to visit the parks so often.  It got me thinking – what’s the problem with being a Disney addict who lives in Canada?

 

1.  I can’t just decide to go for the weekend when they announce something ‘new’ at the parks that I’m dying to see.

Sure I could catch a flight and be there in 3 hours – but my budget won’t allow for how often I want to do that.

2.  Flights are not cheap.

I have a couple of options for flights – I can fly from Toronto and pay to park my car at the airport (maybe $100 for the week) or I can drive to Buffalo and get cheaper flights – but then I have over an hour drive home at the end of my trip.  I feel like I’ve won the lottery if I find flights for $350 from Toronto – tack on baggage fees and parking at the airport and I’m laughing that it’s under $500.

3.  Shopping at the Disney Store online costs us a fortune.

First it’s in US Dollars, then you add shipping and duty – even when they have sales it can become so expensive if you have a lot in your cart!  In case you didn’t know – we don’t qualify for the ‘free shipping’ promos they have.

4.  We don’t have Disney Visa!

Disney VisaI ask almost EVERY time I’m there when they’re going to launch this for Canadians.  Yes, there are perks and discounts that I would love, but if I’m telling the truth, I just want a Visa card with a castle or Darth Vader on it!

5.  We don’t get the Target discount cards.

I have seen so many people in the US buying Disney gift cards when they have a sale at a 5% discount – essentially saving 5% when they pay off their vacation using the cards.  They don’t sell these in Canada; I would have to drive across the border to buy them.

6.  Cool stuff that reminds us of the park isn’t available to ship to Canada or costs us an arm and a leg to ship it.

There are candles & scent machines that we love – they make our homes smell like Disney.  We have found a way around “do not ship to Canada” (though it adds to the price), but Shipllama works well and I now have a machine that makes my house smell like Bay Lake Tower.

7.  The dollar is killing us.

At the current rate of around $1.30 for one US Dollar – it costs us 30% more to shop, eat, stay and buy tickets for our favorite place.   We monitor the dollar and have US Dollar bank accounts so we can try and buy some when the price is better, but it hasn’t been ‘good’ in a while.

So for those of you who live close to the magic – I am jealous!  There are many wonderful things about being a Canadian, but being a Canadian Disney addict definitely has its challenges.   Are these challenges enough to deter us from visiting so often?  Not a chance, we will always find a way to make it work!  So the next time you meet a Canadian Disney addict in the parks you’ll know that we are a dedicated bunch who will do anything to get to Disney!

 

5 Rookie Mistakes When Planning A Walt Disney World Vacation

Disney Rookie MistakesBeing an avid Disney fanatic who has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1974, I’m always hearing about people who booked their Disney trip by themselves or with a travel agent who doesn’t have much personal experience.  I’ve compiled a list of the most common 5 mistakes I’ve heard.

1.  Buying only a 2 day park pass.

There are 4 theme parks to visit!  Walt Disney world is roughly the size of Ottawa – there is no way you’re going to see it all in a couple of days.  Trying to cram everything in to 2 or even 3 days makes for very long days and stressful times, especially with little ones.

2.  They don’t buy a hopper pass

Yes… this is one that some disagree with – but I really believe that a hopper pass is worth it.   For example – Fantasmic is only happening on Monday and Wednesday the week you’re there – guess what days will be busiest at Hollywood Studios?  With the hopper pass you can enjoy another park during the day and then head over in time for the parade at night.

3.  They don’t stay on property

Yes, there are Deluxe Resorts on property that would cost you hundreds of dollars per night, but did you know they also have Value and Moderate categories of resorts?  These resorts are on Disney property, they are well themed, convenient and affordable!  That’s right – these resorts will give you all of the benefits of staying on property (including extra magic hours) but there is real savings in the transportation! Disney’s Magical Express will pick you up at the airport and take you to your resort and back again when the vacation is over.  The transportation all over the property is includes buses, monorails, boats and it’s all included, there is no need to rent a car!

4.  They don’t book fastpasses & dining reservations

If you’ve never been to Walt Disney World – how would you know what you want to see?  Fastpasses can really help you make the most out of your days in the parks and avoid some of the lines at the more popular attractions. Dining reservations?  If all your little one wants to do is meet the princesses – arrange to have a meal where they will come to your table to meet them!

5.  They over plan!

I know, that kind of contradicts what I said in point 4, but there’s something to be said for just enjoying the moment.  If you want to eat with the Princesses – then yes, you need a reservation.  However, planning all of your attractions in a strict itinerary takes all of the fun out of being there.  I’ve seen many families racing around the park to make sure they are ‘on schedule’ and it really takes away from all of the wonderful things they could experience if they took a moment to slow down!

A Walt Disney World vacation can be an amazing experience making memories you will treasure forever.  Knowing how to get the most out of your vacation will give you time to enjoy the magic!

Have you made any of these mistakes?  We’d love to hear what tips you have, comment below!

 

Been there, done that – and you’re going to Disney again?

Rivers of LightSomeone asked me today “how can you be excited about another trip to Walt Disney World, isn’t it the same as it was the last time you were there?”.   They were implying that I had already ‘been there, done that’.  Yes – I was there 2 months ago, and multiple times last year – but no, it never gets boring.

The next question I hear is “haven’t you seen it all?” – and the simple answer is NO!  Walt Disney World is always changing so there is something ‘new’ to see or do every time I visit.

Here’s why I’m excited about my next trip!

  • I have stayed in almost all of the Walt Disney World resorts – with the exception of the All Stars, Disney’s Yacht Club and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.  I have toured all of the resorts at length, but these ones have escaped my vacation plans.  I’m excited that I will be spending the first half of my week at the Polynesian! I’ve dined at this resort multiple times and can’t wait to wander over for a dole whip before bed!
  • The new show “Rivers of Light” debuts as Disney’s Animal Kingdom on April 22nd, I will get to experience this in May! I’m so excited as I love the night-time entertainment!  My only concern is how will I decide between Rivers of Light, Illuminations at Epcot, Star Wars fireworks & Fantasmic at Hollywood Stuidos and my all time favorites Wishes & the Main Street Electrical parade at Magic Kingdom?   I think I need more nights…
  • A waterfront brunch at Narcoosee’s is on the menu! We will be checking out the Sunday Brunch now being offered in this gorgeous setting.  We have never eaten here before – so this will be a real treat. I can’t wait to try it!
  • Skipper Canteen opened last year in the Magic Kingdom, but we always had such busy itineraries that we never had a chance to visit. This is something that we’re definitely making time for this trip!  We love the Jungle Cruise, dining on dishes called “Dr. Falls’ Signature Grilled Steak” or “Trader Sam’s Head-on Shrimp” will be too much fun!

The Frozen Ever After attraction at EPCOT and Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire at the Magic Kingdom still say ‘coming soon’ on the official site.  I suspect they won’t be there when I go in May… I guess that means I’ll have to plan another trip?  It’s a rough life, but someone’s gotta do it!

Walt once said ‘Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.’  I’m so glad this vision is carried on at Walt Disney World, I continue to be amazed and inspired each time I step on the Disney property and revitalize my own imagination.

 

Disney Facebook Groups – Some Aren’t So Magical After All

I don’t know about you, but Facebook is a part of my every day routine.  I love that I can sign in and see tidbits from people’s lives and connect with those that I don’t get to see often enough.  I have made some wonderful Facebook friends from the Disney community and follow along on their vacations getting ideas of things I might like to try the next time I visit.  I keep up to date on news and gossip and take each piece of information with a grain of salt until there is ‘official’ word.

Disney groups on Facebook have become a real source of entertainment for me.   I’m always amazed by how perfect strangers can get so angry with each other over silly stuff.  I have to admit that I read these posts, but I rarely comment.  Instead, I get out my popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show until an admin deletes it.

I belong to a lot of Disney ‘groups’ on Facebook, but there are a few that are managed by some real characters (pun intended!) that really bother me.   I’m not sure if it’s just my love of Disney that finds them offensive or just the manner in which the Admins conduct themselves that disturbs me.  I believe that any frequent visitor will have negative reviews or experiences in the parks, it’s expected.  We won’t like everything and should share those opinions in a manner that is useful and beneficial to the community and people who are thinking of visiting.

The main group that drives me crazy is one that was showcased on a local news station because the admin visits the parks so often.   I have watched this group grow as they flog T-shirts with copyrighted material and I often wonder why Disney hasn’t shut it down.   While the admin doesn’t work for Disney, he represents the ‘ultimate fan’ to some people online.  He posts about restaurants and some of his tummy issues after eating there (only he isn’t so delicate with his words).  He’s made videos ranting about guests suggesting that the majority of them don’t shower and has called them idiots and morons.   His representation of what is wrong with the parks is inflammatory and creates hostility in those that follow him.  His twitter feed is full of statements that at best can be seen as bullying, racist or very unkind remarks about others.

There are people who are researching for their first trip to Walt Disney World in this Facebook group.   After reading these rants and reviews, they are expecting a park full guests who push and run you over with their strollers and restaurants that make you sick!  C’mon Disney – people wear these shirts in your parks to let others know they follow this nonsense.

Yes, I know I could leave this group, but I think I stay because I want to be there to read if Disney ever tries to shut them down.  I’m sure it is irrelevant now anyway as I will probably be banned if they hear about this post.   It’s okay though – I’ll hang out on the page I respect, you know – the one that’s ‘all’ about ‘ears’  🙂

 

 

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