Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Search of Disney Stars!

Once upon a time, a long time ago, seeing your favorite Disney character required a great deal of searching and a whole lot of luck.  For the sake of “keeping it real”, characters would never be at two places at the same time keeping the experience of running into your favorite mouse or duck as authentic of an experience as running into your favorite celebrity on the streets of LA.  Okay, well maybe a little easier but you get the point.  It soon became clear that Disney’s guests wanted more.  In fact, we were down right adamant about it.  Thankfully, the powers that be listened and now getting the opportunity to meet and greet your favorite is not as difficult as you might anticipate.  Today I’m going to share how best to make the introductions happen. 
First of course is the obvious.  Book  a character meal.  While the appearance of certain characters is never guaranteed, it is guaranteed that you will meet all the characters making the rounds during your meal.  If at any time you have finished your meal and a particularly allusive character has managed to miss your table, be sure to let your waiter/waitress know and they will ensure a meeting.    
Second, each park has areas where characters are scheduled to make an appearance.  Some meet and greets are actual attractions running pretty much throughout the day.  Others are at scheduled times at different locations.  When you enter a park, be sure to pick up a Times Guide.  All the scheduled characters will be listed along with the where and when they will make their appearance.  If you are ever in doubt or are struggling to find a particular character, simply turn to one of the many knowledgeable Cast Members and they will surely help.
Certainly stumbling across a character when you least expect it is one of the many magical moments you will be sure to experience.  You don’t have to actually get in line to enjoy seeing a character.  My teenage kids may not feel the need to get a hug and picture but it always gives a small thrill to spot a character along our way. 
Some final thoughts and Do’s and Don’ts:
If your child is into the characters and getting autographs, do have them make their own autograph book as you anticipate your vacation.  It makes a great souvenir to have hand drawn pictures of favorite princesses or characters which are then signed.  These make better treasures than the standard autograph book found in every souvenir nook around the World.
Perhaps turn your autograph book into a scavenger hunt.  Before you leave home, each child can pick ten characters to draw in their book.  Than as you walk through the parks, see who you find.  This way you don’t have to stop for every one.

Do be respectful of other family’s time with a character.  It’s not fair to carry on and shout out to a character when it’s someone else’s turn to interact.

Do respect the handlers.  Their job is to keep the characters safe.  This means helping with more “enthusiastic” guests but mostly keeping an eye on the time for regulated breaks.  As you can imagine, it can get incredibly hot, incredibly quickly inside.  When the handler says it’s time for a character to go, they need to go and when they say they will be right back in ten minutes, they will be right back in ten minutes.

Finally, many children are afraid of the characters.  This is okay.  The characters are great at dealing with this and you shouldn’t force them to get close or take a picture.  If your child is afraid, perhaps start with the face characters, ones without masks like Cinderella or Mary Poppins.  This may help them warm up.  But if not, that’s okay too.  Sometimes characters are more entertaining from afar.

Do let me know your child’s favorite characters when I book your next trip.  Or perhaps you’re the one eager to meet a Disney celebrity.  I will do my best to make sure you know how to navigate your encounter with the stars.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Overwhelming!  That is the adjective I hear most when first time families begin to plan their Disney vacation.  It is the number one reason why newbies seek me out.  But what about the seasoned Disney traveler?   You know the parks as well as I do.  You have your proven strategies to maximize your ride time and your family’s a well-oiled machine when it comes to working the Fastpass system.  You even know exactly which restaurants you like.  In fact, you’ve probably helped others plan their Disney vacation as well.  So why would you need or want to book through me when you can do it on your own?   The simple answer is time and money and not necessarily in that order.
When you call Disney to book your vacation, you are connecting to The Walt Disney Travel Company which is the services The Walt Disney Company employ to help guests book tickets and reservations.  As a travel agent, I too am booking your vacation through the Walt Disney Travel Company except I’m working through their agency hotlines.  There are absolutely no price differences or benefits to you calling in your own reservation directly versus me booking it for you.  The numbers are exactly the same.  I do however bring one critical advantage to the table. 

I work with Mouseketrips, where we are an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. This means we are recognized by the Walt Disney Company for our experience and expertise in planning Disney vacations.  What this means for you is I am in the loop for knowing about every offer and deal that Disney presents.  When I book your trip, I know exactly which offers you qualify for and will ask for those prices to be applied.  But typically, offers become available after people have already booked.   I keep track of all my families and when new offers come out, I automatically rebook every family’s vacation that qualifies to get them the same package at a better price.  You don’t even have to know the deals came out or ask me about it as you will probably first learn about the Disney offer when you receive an email from me telling you I just saved you money!   And you probably wouldn’t even be aware that I woke up early the day the offers became available and sat on hold for up to three hours to make sure my families got in on that offer.  When you call Disney directly, they will not tell you about the offers available, you have to know and ask.  They will not say to you, “Hey, if you adjust your vacation by one day, you would qualify for this deal that will give you free dining.”  I would.  I act in the same way your realtor or your attorney would.  I work on your behalf, and making sure your family has just the vacation you want, for the least possible price is my number one priority.

I love working with families who are new to “the mouse” but I also love working with seasoned Disney families as well.  I love our enthusiastic conversations that always end in a volley of “oh, have you ever tried…”.  And I always learn something new from your expertise and sometimes I offer something new to you too.  I know that for Disney families, the planning is sometimes a huge part of the joy of a Disney vacation.  I’m here to help you as much or as little as you would like.  My role is not to tell you how you should vacation in Disney -  you’re already an expert in that.  My job is to be your advocate.   I hope the next time you are ready to book another Disney vacation, you will be happy to call me knowing I am here ready to make sure you’ve paid the least amount for the most magic.  And if you need another Disney nut who is always ready to chat about anything from Astro Orbiters to Zazu encounters and anything Disney in between, I’m just a phone call away!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All-American Fun on Tom Sawyer Island!

The raft to Tom Sawyer Island
Bringing out the kid in us is what Disney vacations do best!  Some attractions seem to poke at our inner innocence a little more than others and one of my favorites is Toms Sawyer Island.  You could easily dismiss this attraction as you race by on your way to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Splash Mountain, but I invite you to slow down and take a closer look.  There are no high tech simulations or daring speeds or surprising ghosts to give you a scare.  It’s good ol’ all-American fun like we used to have when we were kids and summer meant exploring the woods behind your house with your pack of neighborhood chums.  

Fort Longhorn
Your adventure begins with a meandering raft ride across the lazy river where you disembark and set foot in a natural playground full of areas to explore.  There is no right or wrong way to go and you will need to forget trying to find a systematic way of approaching this island.  Let your imagination transport you back to the days of Mark Twain and you’ll soon find your whole family is feeling like one of Tom and Huck’s co-horts in mischief.  As you explore this island, the winding paths will lead you to suspension bridges and grist mills with turning water wheels.  You’ll discover Fort Longhorn with click guns, hidden caves and mines, and some neat animatronics tucked away in the barn.  For those in need of a rest while the children run around the fort, there are barrels with painted checker boards waiting for someone to play.  And there’s air conditioned bathrooms for those needing a pit stop.  One of my favorite features is the barrel bridges that are tricky to get across especially when someone is having fun making your crossing even more of a challenge by jumping on a nearby barrel popping yours out of the water!!
The Barrel Bridge!!
So next time you find yourself in the exciting Frontierland of Magic Kingdom, go get wild as you tackle the two mountains but don’t forget to slow it down a few gears and enjoy some simple and wholesome fun.  There’s magic around every corner at Disney just waiting to be discovered!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Disney and My Dad

I typically post every Tuesday but this week I am making an exception since today, July 7th is my Dad’s birthday and I thought I would share my very special Disney story with you on this day. 

Disney vacations were not something I grew up with.  My dad hated to travel (a result of his own traumatic childhood experience) and so I didn’t discover the magic of Disney until I met my husband.   Soon we were bringing my parents along on our Disney vacations and my dad completely fell in love with everything Disney World represented.  Sadly in 2004 he was diagnosed with cancer and we lost an amazing man in November the same year.   My family was scheduled to go to Disney World in early December.   During his last weeks, he knew the situation and told me it was important that we didn’t cancel our trip.  He wanted us to be happy and said we should think of him while we were there.  I asked him to name a specific favorite place that when we passed by, we could think of him.  He said “The Pirates of the Caribbean when you see the dog with the keyring in front of the jail cell.”   Needless to say, that trip to Disney World only two weeks after my dad’s passing was a very emotional one for me.  Everything reminded me of him and I completely felt his spirit with us every step of the way.  Soon we were off to Magic Kingdom and I found myself in front of Pirates of the Caribbean.  It was quite a bittersweet walk as we made our way through the queue to board our boat and of course the tears were flowing as the ride proceeded as I thought of my dad and how much we both loved this ride.  Then we approached the jail cell and as if my dad’s spirit was totally in sync with Disney magic, when I was the absolute closest to the dog, our boat just stopped.  There were no boats clogged ahead of us.  We simply stopped for a solid 20 to 30 seconds with the dog holding the keys directly in front of me.  Thank goodness I had my husband and kids around me to witness this otherwise I would have come away questioning if this was all in my head.  The next two visits to Disney World brought the same thing, my boat would stop (although not for as long) while I was in front of the dog.  Then the ride was reimagined to include Captain Jack Sparrow and other features from the movie and after that, my boat didn’t stop there anymore.  BUT, it did reopen on July 7th, my dad’s birthday!

Disney World is a special place.  The magic begins with the experience of loved ones laughing and playing together the moment your Disney vacation begins.  Amazing and magical things will happen with every visit, you just have to let the magic come to you.    This is what makes it the happiest place on earth.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Stress Free Packing

Vacations are important.  We need them to regroup and relax and give our souls a chance to rejuvenate.  What we don't need with vacation is stress.  Hopefully you've taken the stress out of planning your Disney vacation by contacting me to make it simple and easy for you!  But with any vacation, there are a few stress factors that just can't be avoided and packing is definitely one of them.

 A good friend of mine, Evelyn Cucchiara, is the guru of helping people take the everyday stress out of life and creating the space to have more time to enjoy life.  Her business is called The Hopeful Life; Happy, Organized, Peaceful, Efficient and Full of Fun.  I asked her to come up with some helpful tips that will reduce the stress factor when it comes to packing.  She's shared her thoughts on this topic in her blog TheHopeful Life Blog - Summer Packing Made SimpleI hope you will check it out along with her website http://www.TheHopefulLife.com

Vacation planning can get overwhelming and the details can really drag us down.  I love working with families to bring them "Moore Magic" and I want to help create a Disney vacation that is tailored to your family's needs and keeps it simple for you.  As I always say, my job is to make your Disney vacation as stress free as possible and your job is to make magical memories with the people you love!