Thursday, June 6, 2013

Best Souvenirs Ever!!

So, I'm that person who collects decorative shot glasses.  I've got shot glasses from almost every place I've been in my adult life, including most of the casino's on the Las Vegas Strip. :)  That being said, most people are constantly looking for that special souvenir, whether it's just for a memory, or to display that you've been somewhere, or even just as a keepsake for later on in life, looking in the vacation boxes to reminisce. 

Pressed Pennies
Our family has found what we think is possibly the best souvenir ever, and it costs pennies....litterally!!  We've fallen in love with Pressed Coin, specifically, Pressed Pennies from Disney.  Well, we actually get the pennies everywhere we go, from amusement parks to museums, but Disney is where we cut our teeth in this whole process.


Pressed Penny Machines
On our first trip with our princess, we let her press a few pennies, just to have her create some buy-in and ownership in the memories we were making.  Unlike many places, a majority of the pressed coin machines in Disney World are machines that have graphic buttons that indicate the pressed penny that will be made, so all we had to do for our princess was allow her to choose the picture she wanted...more to the point, which character she would like on the coin.  She'd reach out of the stroller, press the button (after we've put the money in) and out would pop the penny.  We didn't think much of it until we got home and realized that we made nearly 20 pennies on that trip! 

That got me thinking...How many pressed pennies were there at Walt Disney World?  Well, I found out...and I've never been able to vacation to Disney normally again!!

I found a site called Press Coins (, the Unofficial Walt Disney World guide to Pressed Coins.  They have lists, locations, excel files, descriptions, codes...basically everything a treasure hunter would want in their effort to find every pressed coin in the world!

A quick point of clarification...I've been mentioning pressed pennies for much of this post, but there are machines that will press nickles, dimes, and quarters as well.  It's up to you how deep you delve into this obsession...I'm in REALLY deep! 

Using Press Coins, I've been able to track which coins we've pressed, which characters we've gotten, and which numbers we've gotten in various series (did I mention that there were series?  Oh well...and deeper I go!).  I even bring the lists into the park and, while I'm waiting for my queen and my princess on rides (I'm not a big ride person...motion sickness, you know), I'll go and seek out certain coins that are missing from our collection.  To date, I believe we have about 250 coins from Walt Disney World, and they change and add more every year.  I'm both excited and scared to go back soon, as we've not been back since winter of 2011, to see all the new designs and machines throughout the parks and resorts. 

The best thing about pressed coins as souvenirs is the cost.  Where else can you get a lasting memory for a whopping $0.51 each!!  That right...two little quarters and 1 penny is all it costs to get your prince or princess a neat souvenir that they make and choose themselves.  (The quarters cost $1.25, and the dimes and nickles are each $0.75 plus the pressing coin, where you can find the machines)  We truly do love this hobby.
Pressed Penny Money Tube, from

Planning for the coin pressing isn't as hard as you'd think.  Many place on the net will provide you with coin tube, or ideas for ways to keep money handy as you tour the places where pressed coins are available.  Our favorite way to keep the coins handy is an empty film canister (I know...who uses film any more) or, even better, is an empty M&M Mini's tube (you know...the yellow flip top tubes??).  We even take it one step further and for packing purposes, we put all our quarters into cardboard tubes that used to contain those glow sticks that make the bracelets and necklaces.  It's the perfect size for the quarters, and it keeps them from rolling all over your luggage. 
M&M's Mini's tube

Public service announcement number 2!!  If you are traveling by air, please be aware that a large stack of coins will throw up some red flags in both your carry on as well as your checked baggage as the X-ray machine can't see just looks like a solid piece of metal.  Be prepared to explain your obsession with pressed coins to the TSA agent, or be prepared for your checked bags to be searched. 

For our times in the park, we take the M&M's tube and alternate the coins in the tube, starting with 2 quarters, followed by a penny, then 2 quarters, then a penny, etc. until the tube is filled.  I also bring another tube each of extra pennies and extra quarters, just in case.

Filled Album
After you press each coin, you can either just hang on to the coins either in a bag (we use a zip top baggie) or you can purchase a coin album anywhere in the parks.  They have multiple designs, many colors, and there are places in the album for you to put the pennies as well as the quarters you press. 

Tinkerbell Pressed Coin Album
How deep you go with this is completely up to you, and how obsessed you get.  I'm pretty obsessed.  I've even trained my princess to be as obsessed as I much so that she can spot a penny machine anywhere we go from about 50 yards! 

Joking aside, I really think that pressed coins are definitely a great way to have some souvenirs of your magical vacation without spending an arm and a leg.

Until next time, have a Magical Day, and always be looking for your Enchantment Destinations!!!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Character Dining...Twice the Disney Magic!!

Whew!  It's been over a week since my last post!  Wow!  I guess I got a little behind. :(

Oh well.  Today, I'm gonna talk about something that is pretty close to the magic for my family, and for many of my client's families...Character Dining.  For many, this is where the true magic happens as far as the characters are concerned. 

Let me start by saying that all of the parks, from Disneyland to Disney World, from Disney Paris to Tokyo Disney, and even Shanghai, Hawaii, and the cruise line, have characters that meet and greet guests.  It's just part of the whole Disney package.  In fact, the only Disney travels item that don't overtly contain character opportunities are the Adventures By Disney, and even those have a few that will (i.e. Southern California Adventure).  I certainly believe that seeing your prince or princess meet their favorite character in person for the first time is something that has to be experienced...picture and words just don't do it justice!

Of course, much of that magic can be lost when you are waiting in line for an hour only to be told that the character needs to take a break!  Thankfully, we've been lucky enough many times over to be the proverbial "Last Family" in line to meet a character before they take a break, and some of those have been the most magical times for us.  That being said, if you have the chance to have a one-on-one with a character, that makes it so much better.

Today, I'm going to focus on Walt Disney World and the character dining experiences there, and in later posts, I'll hit the dining experiences at the other parks.

Disney World has over a dozen character experiences, ranging from Mickey Mouse and his pals to Lilo and Stitch.  You can find the list of character dining experiences by doing to, clicking on Parks & Travel, choosing your resort, and selecting Dining from the Things to Do menu.  Search there for your character dining experience and make your reservation as early as possible (within the 180 day window, of course) to ensure that you receive the time you desire. 

But Jason, you may ask....Why should I pay to see the characters, when I can just plan to see them in the park?  Good Question.  The real reason is your time.  You have a set amount of time at Disney.  Your days will be chock full of shows, meals, rides, parades, and, well, magic!  In my opinion, why would you wait in line for something if there was a way to, well, kill two birds with one stone?  By combining the meal with the characters, you have the ability to greet the characters during your meal, and get to have some one-on-one time with your favorites (my family even made me get up and take a picture with my favorite princess, Ariel!).  Additionally, many people choose to have the meal plan, and the character meals are included in the table service portion of your Disney Dining plan. 

Every family will gravitate towards their favorites, based both upon the characters that are there and the food that is offered at that location.  For our family, we've found that these are truly the ones that top our must do list when we go:

Chef Mickey's - Contemporary Resort - Mickey and Friends
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall - Epcot, Norway Pavilion - Princesses (Belle, Snow White, Ariel, Jasmine, Aurora)
Hollywood & Vine - Hollywood Studios - Disney Junior Characters (Jake, Little Einsteins, etc.)
1900 Park Fare - Grand Floridian - Mary Poppins for Breakfast, Cinderella for Dinner
Donald's Safari Breakfast - Tusker House Restaurant, Animal Kingdom - Donald and Pals
Crystal Palace - Magic Kingdom - Winnie the Pooh and Friends

That is certainly not all of them.  Our friends Matt and Melissa almost always go to the 'Ohana breakfast at the Polynesian, where Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and Pluto are regulars.  The Garden Grill at the Land Pavilion in Epcot is another popular spot, featuring Chip, Dale, Mickey, and others. 

All of the above will only use 1 table service credit for the meal.  Disney, however, does offer some options that are 2 table service credits.  These include Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review, Mickey's Backyard Barbecue, Spirit of Aloha Dinner (Luau), and Cinderella's Royal Table in Cinderella's Castle.  These are all phenomenal shows and meals, but keep in mind that they will take two of your table credits, and leave you most likely having to purchase a quick service meal down the line to complete your trip.

All in all, the character dining experiences are well worth the time, effort, and cost, even if you don't have the meal plan.  The intimate interaction between our princess and her favorite princess becomes a priceless memory, and eliminating the line waiting makes it all the more special.

Have a Magical Week!!


Friday, May 24, 2013

Healthy Disney...Walk your vacation off!

The Princess Half Marathon at Disneyland.

Walt Disney World is HUGE!  Yes...I know...surprise surprise!  Well, I don't just mean that to try to win me the title of Captain Obvious!  I literally mean the park is quite massive.  Even taking into account that you can go from park to park or from resort to resort on the Disney Transportation System, there is still quite a bit of ground that you have to cover.  That can be both a positive and negative for most people.

Let me try to shine a bit of positive light on this aspect of your Disney Vacation.  One of my clients...we'll just call her A....was concerned about the amount of food in the Disney Dining Plan, as most of the character meals that they would be attending are at All-You-Can-Eat establishments (Crystal Palace, Akershaus, Chef Mickey's, etc.).  Couple that with a quick service meal that in most cases could easily feed two people, and the snack, of which Disney is famous for stretching the definition, that can be a bit intimidating.  I reminded her that they would be walking quite a bit.  In fact, my in-laws have a clip-on pedometer that is linked to their computer to track their steps, and on their most recent trip to WDW, they logged miles...not steps...MILES of walking!  My client...A...emailed me back that they were planning the same thing (bringing a pedometer) because their health plan gave them credit for exercise (we'll explore that in a second).

That got me thinking.  First of all, how much walking do you actually do, on average, on an average length Disney vacation?  Can you really walk your vacation off?  We've all been on vacations where we go, indulge, and come back with what I'm going to call the Indulge Bulge.  Those few extra pounds that followed you home from your trip.  Let's examine the Disney Vacation.

Assume first that you are staying on property at one of the fabulous Disney Resorts.  Even if you happen to get lucky (or request it) and get a preferred room, or a good room spot, you'll still have a bit of walking just to get from your room to the transportation ( wife and I are convinced that we actually walk a shorter distance with a preferred room at Pop Century to transportation than we did when we were on the 5th floor, away from the elevator at Wilderness Lodge...I'll have to check that next time I'm visiting Mickey!!).  Okay...brass tacks time.  Let's say that you walk an average of 3500 feet from room to transportation.  Then, let's assume you'll be going to one of the smaller parks...say Hollywood Studios.  Well, depending on your resort, the bus stop alone could be as much as 3000-5000 feet from the gate.  Let's also assume that you'll be on your feet, walking for most of the day, rope drop to fireworks, so let's say that will be roughly 8 hours.  If you walk at a slow to moderate pace, you'll end up walking about 1.5 miles per hour.  Yes, yes...before you fill my inbox with all kinds of comments, I know you won't be walking that fast for 8 hours straight.  Let's assume of that 8 hours in the park, you're moving for about 1/3 of that, or about 2 1/2 hours.  That's fair, right?  Okay...lets math it out! :)  2 1/2 hours times 1.5 miles equals 3 3/4 miles.  Add the 8500 feet (or 1.6 miles) and you're at 5 1/3 miles.  That could equate to anywhere between 300 and 600 calories burned!'re not going walk yourself thin eating buffets and walking Disney, but it certainly helps.  And, I'm only speculating here.  Do you own math!  My in-laws said they logged over 15000 steps per day!  PER DAY!!!  That huge!  While each person is different, it certainly doesn't hurt that you're walking that much while on vacation.

Courtesy of
Now, I mentioned above that my client, A, said they would be logging their steps for their health insurance and that they would give you credit for those logged steps.  How do you do this?  Well, first off, buy a pedometer.  Don't skimp on this, guys.  The more you spend, the more accurate it is.  There are plenty...actually too many to mention...available at sporting goods stores, department stores, and online, but there is one that I really love.  My in-laws have it, as do many of my friends.  It's called the Fitbit.  It's available with different options, various accessories, and can even be linked to a smartphone app.  It's easy to use, easy to install, and will track all your activity daily.  It will even link up to your computer even without being in the dock via WiFi.  Then, all you do is have it on you every day, all day, and you'll get all the activity logged. 

Then, just upload to your health plan and Ta Da!  Credit for being on vacation!  :)  Isn't that great!    Who would have thought that you'd get credit for going to Disney?  You may be asking what plans allow you do this...logging your exercise for health credit. My client's plan is partnered with Virgin Heartmiles Program, but check if yours has a plan that is correlated with your insurance.  Most do, but it's definitely a case-by-case and sometimes state-by-state basis.

So, in short, don't worry about the calories.  They don't count when you're on vacation anyway, right?  Well, if I'm not right, then you can enjoy and even indulge with little worry as you will definitely work off some of those extra calories!

Make it a magical weekend!!


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Character Autograph Books...Create the Magic!!


So, one of my family's favorite memories when we go to Disney is the Character Greetings, whether that's in a dining situation or just in the parks.  When you meet the characters (even the ones who shouldn't be able to write), you can get them sign an autograph book.  Disney offers these at almost every gift shop and merchandise outlet in the parks, as well as on  They are a great option for first timers, or if you don't do anything fancy (like I'll explain below) for your autographs. 

Autograph Book  from
This example is direct from the Disney merchandise site on  It contains blank paper pages with a photo pocket in the front cover so you can place a picture of the trip after you get home.  It also has an elastic loop for holding the pen (which you can also get on or in the parks).  This is about as basic as you get, but it will definitely do the job fine for wanting the autographs of your favorite characters.

Photo and Autograph Book
This particular example combines the ability to get signatures, as well as putting pictures of each character in the book.  For example, if you meet Tinkerbell, and you get her to sign on a blank page, when you get home (assuming you've taken my advice and gotten the PhotoPass!), you can then print out a photo of your little prince or princess meeting Tink and place it in the protective pocket, opposite her signature.   I like this option because you can get the connection from each signature to each character.  If you wanna take it to a different level, our little one actually began to read by associating the picture with the signature and sounding out the letters.  Always find those teachable moments, right? :)

Now, if you are the creative type, or even if you're not and you're just into creating the most magic you can out of your trip, you can make your own.  There are plenty of ways to do this, from basic decorated spiral notebooks to elaborate scrapbooks containing Disney related graphics and fonts.  Our favorite thing to do is to make an actual book out of the photos from our previous trip.  We have to credit our friends Matt and Melissa for turning us on to this idea.  We use any one of the online photobook companies (i.e. Artcow, Mixbook, etc.) and actually create our own books.  You can also make them in local places (I know that Costco does great photo books).  Also, search for coupons on places like CouponDiva and for those online sources.  We use pictures from previous trips, add captions, graphics, and other visual aids, and then place a blank page opposite the picture for the autograph.  If there are characters you've not met yet, go ahead and create a page for them anyway, with graphics and fonts, leaving the blank page.

Having this type of book does a few things for you and your magic creation.  First, it puts the great memories from the previous trips on your mind every time you look through them.  Second, you form a connection to the characters immediately.  If I may share a few stories here...our friends Matt and Melissa have given their custom books to "real" characters (not in full costume with heads) and they've looked through the books and found their friends, and sometimes even themselves!  We had a Tinkerbell find herself (we happened to meet the same person twice) so she actually had a conversation with our little princess about how much she's grown, and has she been good.  One time, we were meeting Chip and Dale and Chip refused to give the book back until he finished looking through it.  He actually gave my wife "The Hand" know..."Talk to the Hand?...until he was finished.  Those memories are absolutely priceless and have made for some great magic long after we completed the trip.

It's completely up to you whether or not you get the autographs.  They are certainly not unique, not high in monetary value, but the pricelessness of the memories outweighs any uniqueness that can be offered from other traditional autographs (i.e. sports stars, movie stars, vintage autographs, etc.).  As I'm fond of saying, take the time to do a bit of research.  The Disney autograph books are less expensive if you purchase them prior to your trip.  The custom books generally take 5-10 weeks to produce, so proper planning is important.  I promise...the memories of meeting your favorite character, from Mickey to Minnie, or Goofy to Mater, will be one of the longest lasting memories your prince or princess will have for their entire life!

Until next time, Have a Magical Day, and Always be looking for your Enchantment Destination!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Disney's PhotoPass + ....worth it or Disney Hype??

So, one of the newest offering from Disney for the 2013 season (actually, it was talked about in November of 2012, but who's counting!), is the additional option of the PhotoPass + that can be added to your vacation.  For those unfamiliar, let me start with a little bit about photos at Disney...and if you'd like to read more, I reviewed the PhotoPass previously on another blog entry, so feel free to peruse that as well, as I'm more than likely going to miss something.

For most Disney vacationers, the biggest memory maker is the photos.  Taking pictures of the scenery, the magic, the fireworks, and the general jubilation that comes from a Disney vacation.  For us, the photos provide the needed fodder for next year's autograph book (look for my next post for this info!), or at the very least, our scrapbook/photo books that we keep of each trip.  One big issue, however, is that either me or my wife are out of almost every picture!  Of course we are!  One of us has to take the photo, right??  Well, the PhotoPass along with Disney's very talented group of professional photographers makes this an issue of the past.  Throughout the parks (both at the Disneyland and Disney World parks, as well as Aulani), there are wonderful cast members with tan photographer's vests that are set up at the best locations to take pictures.  They are also at all the character greeting spots, character meal experiences, and parade/fireworks locations as well.  The process couldn't be easier.  Unlike those other photographers in other parks that pressure you as soon as you walk in for a photo, these photographers are no pressure.  In fact, you'll soon find your self waiting in a line to get your photo taken!  Weird..I know...but totally worth it.  When you get your first picture of the trip taken, ask for a PhotoPass Card and then hang on to it.  Each card has a unique QR tag that the photographers log each time they take a picture.  Just get with a photographer and hand them the card.  Do it every time!  With out Fail!!  Don't lose the card!!  Then, when you are done with the trip, all of those pictures are available for purchase/download when you get home.  You can customize them with borders, or special messages, and you can even get some stock Disney images that you can use (privately, of course) in your memory books.

I know what you're thinking....Why would I pay for photos when I own an awesome camera???  Well, you may be right, but somewhere, somehow, you are not going to get the shot you want.  As I said before, someone is out of the picture, or you have to trust someone else to take the shot for you.  At Disney, I honestly feel most people can be trusted, but just in case, it's always better to hang on to your own property and leave the photos to the professionals.

Okay...lets get down to brass tacks, shall we?  What is the cost for this Magical service from Disney??  Well, the good news is the card is free.  Completely Free!!!  The pictures are even taken for free!!  Where the costs come in is when you want to download or print the photos.  Even then, Disney offers an option to pre-purchase a CD with all the photos you take during a 14 day period as well as many stock photos just for giggles.  The current price of the CD is $119.95 pre-order, or $169.95 on sight or after.  Definitely pre-order this CD.  It's worth me!! 

**Quick Tip!!  If you, your family, or your close friends are all visiting at the same time or close to the same time, get a separate card for each group or family.  Then, after pre-ordering the CD, you can link each of the cards up to one PhotoPass account and then get copies of the CD made for your family.  Then you can each have everyone's pictures from the trip..all on one CD!

The other option available is the PhotoPass+ option.  This is another case of pre-order prowess and, in this blogger's opinion, well worth it.  The cost is slightly higher (although, with the pre-order pricing, it's not bad at all for what you get), $149.00 per, but the benefits are definitely there.  Here is what the PhotoPass+ option gets you:

All the Benefits of a standard PhotoPass CD Plus:
1) Additional Stock Photos unique to PhotoPass+
2) Photos from selected Character Meals included (this is an extra cost for standard PhotoPass holders)
3) Downloadable photos from selected attractions (again, an extra cost for standard PhotoPass holders)
4) Photos from other Disney Experiences, i.e. Bippity Boppity Boutique, Pirates League, etc. (again, not included in the standard PhotoPass.  Also, these experiences are an extra cost above the park entry.)

And others.....

Should you get it?  Short answer is yes.  If you are planning on photo's being any part of your memories of your Disney Vacation, then either of these is a great options....I might even go a MUST HAVE for your Magical Vacation.  Explore the options, do the research, do your due diligence before you go.  The PhotoPass and PhotoPass+ options are two that make the Magic happen at Disney.

I've included a few pictures below of my own family and some of the things you can do with the options on the PhotoPass. 

Until next time, Make Each Moment Magical, and Always be looking for your Enchantment Destinations!!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

New Exciting Changes....

So I'm now the proud owner of my very own domain names!  I've never had my own domains, so it's quite exciting.  Obviously, you're here reading, so it redirected, but the new address for the blog is:

Also, for those interested in Disney Vacation Planning, my new address for Enchantment Destinations is:

You can also link to that with the page listing above.

This is huge for me!  I'm excited to push on to the future!!

I'll be back this week with a look at the PhotoPass Plus, which has become very popular these days.

Have a great weekend!

And, as always, Make it a Magical Week!!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Daily Funny for travel with children.

I'm not going to go too much into this right now...I'll post a bit more later...but I had to jump on and get this picture out there. 

I've been traveling since I can remember.  I, in fact, had my second birthday in 1978 in South Africa while there traveling with my parents.  Truth be told, I've only had a handful of birthdays total at home, or, more to the point, in this country.  I'm, what you'd call, an expert (self-proclaimed, of course) in air travel.

From those of us who've been traveling a while to those who've never been on a plane, kids on airplanes are a HUGE red flag!  And this is from someone who has a young child!  Of course, we all would like to have the best case scenario...a child that behaves, is quiet, and does the trip like most of the adults on the plane (even though there have been adults on air flights that have acted worse than ANY child EVER on an airplane).  In a worst case scenario, you are dealing with the constant crying, kicking of the seat, air sickness, and general malaise that is associated with children in these situations.  Personally, I've not had much of that, but I know that it exists, or the picture below wouldn't have the impact that it does.

Which leads me to this point.  Parents!!  I'm talking with all parents of children, whether it's a newborn or a teenager.  Control and decorum must be maintained on a flight.  99.999999% of people on that flight already assume that you're child will cause a problem.  It's your job to help the situation as much as you can.  Bring distractions, interact with your child, schedule cockpit visits, ask for items from the fight crew...anything to help the time go faster. 

This set of parents, however, deserves a prize for their solution.  They've taken the "Baby on Board" concept that lets you know if there is a child in the car to a new level.  They've created a pre-fabricated, ice-breaking, absolutely GENIUS handout for the flight.  Take a look:

I apologize for the blurry and grainy texture of the pic...I found it on iFunny.  But this is fabulous!  They took what has the potential to be a hot button situation on that flight and turned it into not only something funny, but something that basically takes the fight out of everyone on that flight!  Well done, parents!  I wish I would have thought of this (although my little princess has been wonderful on our flights :) ).

You can come up with your own wording (we had Vidiya at Disney refer to us while she was talking with my daughter as "The Rentals"...that would be funny), your own inclusions, and take it as far as you'd like to.  It can be expensive, sure, but I think its a small price to pay for turning a situation that can cause much strife into one that embodies the old adage "It Takes A Village....". 

I wish I knew who this was because I would definitely shake their hand and thank them for their thoughtfulness. 

Until next time, have a Magical Day!


Friday, May 10, 2013

Photopass...a definite must have!!

So today, I'm going to talk a bit about the Photopass at Disney.  For those who don't know, the Photopass is a photo card that is available from any Disney Portrait Photographer anywhere in the parks.  It's a small card with an electronic scan signature that logs all your professionally taken pictures to one place for you to have, use, or leave behind.  The card itself is free, however, getting the pictures has a small fee associated with it, depending on what you choose to purchase.

First off, one small bit of advice for those going...and I'll be as subtle as I can....GET THE PHOTOPASS!!!!  Okay...not so subtle...but I believe this is the best..the absolute BEST thing that Disney does to help you get the most Magic out of your trip.  The card is free, and taking pictures is free, so there is no harm in it whatsoever.  The best part is that these authorized photographers (like my college friend Dan!) have the best spots for picture taking in all of the parks!!  It is a win win for all involved, so definitely stop, get a picture taken, and get a card.

Next bit of advice would be to pre-order a CD of your pictures.  This, again, is a small cost, but very worth it.  The CD includes all pictures associated with your Photopass ID# as well as some stock photos that are included for you to use (with certain limitations outlined in the CD's use policy).  As an added bonus, you can associate multiple cards to one CD.  For example, our good friends and neighbors Allen and Mairo as well as Melissa and Matt and us all went to Disney within about 4 weeks of each other.  We all got Photopasses, and linked each of our cards together, but only ordered one CD.  Then we copied the CD for each other and all had a great time looking at each other's pictures.  It saved costs as well as got us some great pictures of our close friends.

Many times, it's these professional photos that are the most memorable.  The best photographers will keep snapping pictures of you, your family, or your kids in various situations, linking them all to your Photopass account.  Lots of the best "candid" shots we have of our little princess are the ones where the photographer just kept snapping pictures while our girl was interacting with the characters or while we were waiting for something else (like a crowd to move out of the short, or something similar).  It's definitely a more magical thing to see these photos, not knowing that they were taken.

Another great feature is the ability for you to go online after the photos have been uploaded by Disney (within hours in some cases) and be able to edit, right there on their website, the photos for your use.  For instance, you can add things like borders, characters, messages, backgrounds, or even change it from color to B&W, all before you place the order for your CD to be delivered. 

Lastly, and this is very specific to the pass itself, for those who are like me a lose things all the time, the pictures can even be retrieved if you lose the card.  We lost ours at Hollywood Studio once, and all my wife had to do (yes...she did this...she was actually the one to lose the card.  Normally, it's me....) was head to the nearest Photopass office (generally at the front of the park) and ask to find the pictures.  As long as you know the last time (approximately) you took a Photopass picture with a photographer, they can search and you can then retrieve all the pictures to be linked to a new card.  How cool is that!  No worries about losing a memory card, erasing a memory card, losing a camera, running out of film (I know...who uses film any more!) or anything like that.  It's all there, ready for you when you get home to make a great scrap book of your trip!

I'm sure there is something I missed, but that gets you the gist of  it.  Definitely worth the time and money, and I think it only adds to the Magic. 

Until next time, have a Magical Day!!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Disney Discount....Myth or Reality?

A funny title, I know.  But it's quite true.  Sometimes, even for travel professionals, it seems that nothing we do or nowhere we look will gather discounts for us and our clients.  I have a friend...we'll just call him MS for now..however, who seems to have most of the answers when it comes to discounts.  He is nothing short of amazing when it comes to finding deals and then taking advantage of those deals to make a magical trip for his family. 

Here are a few of his tips to finding the best deals....and then I'll add my own below! :)

1) Register on the Disney Website and make sure you log in and are active.  Price trips, save trips, order planning DVD's.  All of these things get you noticed and will, occasionally, prompt them to send you special Pin Numbers via email for various room/package discounts or even free dining (without it being public!)

2) Be active on all the message boards.  Disboards, Disdads, Allears, etc. all list multiple places where you can look for discounts and special offers.  It never hurts to look, and sometimes you'll get lucky.

3) Be patient!  If you are looking to plan a trip, begin looking early.  Know what you'd LIKE to pay and be prepared to book when you see it.  He's going in November and just booked air a bit ago at, what I believe, will be the lowest we will see.  He knew what he wanted, waited for it, and pounced when it was available. 

4) Be quick to act.  If a discount comes along, it's definitely not there forever.  If you see one you're looking for, book it right then...don't wait!  Disney routinely offers only a certain number of discounts for each promotion, so if you don't book right away, it's possible the discount won't be available to you later.

5) Try to travel off season.  By his admission, this is harder now that our kids (we have kids the same age) are in school.  It was much easier when they weren't in school and days off didn't matter as much.  Mid Spring, and Mid Fall on weeks that don't fall on events such as The Flower and Garden Show or the Food and Wine Festival are great times to travel, and you can usually find great deals!

6) Take advantage of Bounce Back deals.  When you finally do pull the trigger on the your magical vacation to Disney, before you check out, ask about Bounce Back deals.  Many times, if you reserve a trip for another time before you leave, they can offer great rates, or even free nights.  It never hurts to ask.

I think that's all I've learned from him.  If he gives me any more, I'll be sure to steal them here for you all to see. :)

One of my biggest tips would be (and this is in no way self serving...I've taken advantage of this before as well) is to use an Authorized Vacation Planner.  A Disney Vacation Planner can take your reservation and, if a discount comes along for the time you are going to be there, can apply the discount to your reservation with no hassle.  Sometimes...not all of the time...if you book  yourself through or another travel site, it's difficult to add the discount to the package because you've paid your entire balance.  Using a travel planner, you can pay a deposit, and then not pay the full balance until closer to your travel date.

Do you have any tips for finding discounts??  Feel free to comment below.  I'll try to compile them for everyone and post them here.

Have a magical day!!


Am I tall enough, Mom??

So, my daughter is almost 6, but she's been going to Disney since she was 2...actually she turned 2 the day we left the first time with her to Disney, so she's a Disney veteran like myself.  One thing we've had to learn (and with some disappointment at times) is which rides are appropriate, height wise, for her and our other cousins/friends who have come with us. 

Today, I wanted to share a chart that has been floating around among Disney bloggers, travel planners, and Disney Professionals.  It's pictured below, and it has all the height requirements for all the rides at Disney World that have them.  Boy...would this have been helpful before!

The first question I've been asked about this is "Where are all the other rides?  That's not all that Disney has!!"  You're right...there are plenty of other magical rides at Disney...but those don't have height requirements...just hop on and go!

Anyway, enjoy, and use to your liking! 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Disney Resources...first of many posts.

Happy Friday!!

I've been busy booking clients for the summer with Disney's incredible Monstrous Summer Rates, so I've not had a chance to post much on the blog.

Today, I wanted to give you all a bit of a start to help you plan your vacation.  As I mentioned in a previous post, there is no shortage of reference materials related to all things Disney, from guidebooks to TV shows, to DVD's to travel professional, like myself.

Of course, your first step should be speaking with a professional.  We have all been trained by Disney to offer superior customer service, information, and vacation pricing, and are all very happy to do it.  Look for the Authorized Disney Vacation Professional logo at your local travel agent or online.  When you see it, you'll be comforted to know that you are working with a Disney professional.

Another great source of information is the Disney planning DVD direct from  You can order it after you create an account and enter your shipping information.  It's, of course, a DVD designed to show you just the highlights and benefits of a Disney vacation, but it will, at the very least, provide you with a good starting point for your vacation and start you on your list of questions for either Disney directly or your travel professional.

Books are everywhere about Disney, but my favorites are still the Passporter Books by Jennifer, Dave, and Allison Marx.  Their website is also quite amazing, having travel information for Disney World, Disneyland, beyond Disney, and Disney Cruises.  Additionally, they have an amazing forum on their site...but I'll get to that below in a minute.  Other great sources include Fodors, Frommers, Hidden Disney, Birnbaums Guides, and The Unofficial Guide (but, as I've said before, there are comedic entries in the Unofficial guide, so don't trust everything).  Look for any of these at your local bookstore.

The internet is probably the best source these days, with various sites, forums, and information sources that are available to anyone.  Each of the book sources I listed above has an online version (Passporter even has their books available as Ebooks so you can take them with you on your favorite tablet device).  Additionally,,, and are some of the sources I use frequently to get user generated advice and tips.  Many times, you can find these sites will provide you with special pins and codes for extra percentages off, as well as tips to make the most of your vacation.

There are many more, and I'll probably review some later on, but that should get everyone started.  Explore the options.  Most people think of Disney as a once in a lifetime opportunity, as the costs appear to be very high.  The truth is, it's no higher than any other comparable trip, and the memories will last a lifetime.  If you've never been to Disney, you truly don't know what you are missing.  If you've been, you can't wait to go back.  If you're like me, you are already planning your next visit to the Most Magical Place on Earth!!

Have a great weekend, and until next time, Have a Magical Day and always search for your Enchantment Destination!!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Disney Cruise Line

I'm often asked, as a travel professional, about Disney Cruise Lines, and the comparison between their cruises and the other companies.  There is really more than can be written in one post about Disney cruises versus the other lines, but I'll try to hit the highlights and elaborate in later posts.

First, and foremost, a Disney cruise is one that is completely orientated around the family.  From the decorations, to the shows and activities, to the restaurants and amenities, a Disney cruise focuses on all members of the family, no matter how young or how old.

All cruises are similar in many ways.  All include your meals onboard.  All include some form of refreshment.  All include onboard entertainment.  All include most onboard activities.  All have exciting ports of call with the ability to book excursions and onshore activities sanctioned by the cruise line.  All, obviously, include a stateroom, appointed appropriately for the level for which you cruise.  All have dedicated staff, wonderful cruise and activities directors, and knowledgeable employees that can make your cruise the experience you hope and dream it will be.

One of the first and biggest differences between DCL (Disney Cruise Lines...I'm just lazy and don't want to type it out :)  ), is that the refreshment, or drinks, that are included also include soft drinks.  Most of the other cruise lines only offer coffee, tea, juice (in some cases), or lemonade.  The inclusion of soft drinks is a big deal to many that travel with DCL.  I, personally, think it's a great idea, as I'm a big diet soda drinker as my morning pick-me-up versus coffee or tea.  Many that are traveling with kids also enjoy being able to offer soft drinks as a treat while aboard a Disney cruise.

One of the other biggest differences is the onboard activities for kids.  Most cruise lines offer some form of children's recreation, whether it's a special children's area, or special activities on a daily basis for kids.  Disney, however, takes it to a new level, with included children's activities for ages 3 and up (for voyagers younger than 3, Disney does have nurseries, however an additional fee is required for that service).  From Disney's Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab (ages 3-10), Edge (ages 11-14), and Vibe (14-17), kids of all ages can find fun activities, onboard getaways, and lots of new friends while on a Disney Cruise.

Adults...don't thing we've left you out!  Private, Adults Only pools, spas, dining, and clubs offer a respite from the hustle and bustle of the cruise where you can get away an have some alone time.  There are even some adult only excursions on selected voyages (see your travel agent for more information).

Speaking of dining, another difference on a Disney cruise that sets them apart is what is referred to as Rotational Dining.  This is where each night, you and your seating party (which is your family plus others, depending on the size of your family and the table at which you are seated) rotate to a different restaurant
(there are three on each vessel) for a different, unique dining experience.  The best part...especially for those who are particular about certain aspects of their dining time...the servers rotate with you!  You get to know your server, and most importantly, your server gets to know you!  If you want coffee with 2 sugars and just a splash of milk?  Done!  They'll have it for you before you even think the thought.  Do you like Diet Coke with a wedge of lime?  No Problem!  It's there, and refills are just around the corner!  Your server will learn your likes, dislikes, and wishes and, with your help, can even suggest dishes to try in each restaurant.  It's a unique experience, only available on a Disney Cruise.

Of course, you can't have a cruise (or any destination/vacation for that matter) with the Disney name and reputation without having some signature Disney items built right in.  Characters abound on a Disney cruise, so seeing your favorites is no problem.  Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, offers many activities along with pristine beaches and wonderful grounds.  Adults, there is even a secluded adults only beach on Castaway Cay!  And for the kids, the activities continue on the island for those interested (always supervised, of course!).  On most voyages, nightly fireworks light the sky above the vessel and the ocean, creating a one-of-a-kind experience for your family at sea!  And, if that wasn't enough, on the Disney Dream, and the Disney Fantasy, you can cruise like Donald on the AquaDuck, a watercoaster at sea that even goes out beyond the rails of the ship!  Those Disney Imagineers think of everything, don't they!

All in all, a Disney Cruise is like no other.  From family entertainment, to quality beyond compare, a Disney Cruise vacation is sure to cover all your bases for a wonderful family trip!

Bon Voyage! and until next time, have a Magical Day and always be looking for your Enchantment Destination!!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

To Dine, or Not To Dine...That is the question!

Another quite popular discussion about Disney vacations is whether or not to purchase the Dining Plan.  I guess, for us, it really depends on a few factors, including time of year, where we are staying, and the destination we are visiting.
 Obviously, Disney Cruise Lines and Destinations by Disney are left out of this discussion, as meals (or at least some with DbyD) are included with your vacation price.  We are really talking about Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida. 

Let me first discuss the various options you have for dining.  This week, I'm going to start at Disney World in Florida (I'll hit Disneyland in California next post :) ).  The basic bottom level, Disney offers a Quick Service Dining Plan.  With this plan, guests are able to receive 2 counter service (think fast food type ordering) meals, 1 snack, and few extras per person per night.  The next step up is the Disney Dining Plan, where guests are afforded 1 table service (waitstaff ordering) and 1 quick service meal, plus 1 snack per person, per night.  The highest level is Deluxe Dining, which includes any combination of three meals (table service or quick service) plus 2 snacks per person per day.  The plan itself is associated with your room key (Disney calls it your "Key To The World") so there is no need to carry anything extra with you.  The tally of meals counts down each time you use it (snacks too), so the hassle is taken out of it.  

Generally speaking, the Quick service plan is for families or travelers who aren't concerned with anything spectacular or special and just would like an easy to follow meal plan for themselves and their families.  That is not to say that the food isn't fact it's quite good at all of the quick service restaurants (I particularly prefer Cosmic Rays in Magic Kingdom and Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom).  I'm
really referring to culinary experiences that are basically ordinary.  The benefits include ease of use, low cost, and convenience.  If you are going for the first time and don't know what you'd like, or you are not interested in anything like character meals, or upscale dining at the resorts or Downtown Disney, this is the plan for you.  Notice, however, that it only includes 2 meals per day, so there would still be one meal (assuming you eat three) you'd have to purchase.  Keep in mind, however, that you do get a snack...and Disney is quite generous with that term "snack."  The snack options are listed all throughout the parks and resorts and can include anything from candy or pastries, to pretzels or ice cream.  It's quite extensive and, with proper planning, a snack can easily bridge the gap between meals.  It's also important to note that many of the entree's that are offered as quick service options are truly big enough for 2 people.  Be creative!  Do some research about what is offered where.  You may be able to share meals and stretch the number you have out over the entire time you are there. 

The middle plan, the Disney Dining plan, is probably the most popular among families.  The combination of quick service and table service meals allows families to eat both the typical "fast food" style meals on the go as well as to slow down and eat a meal at a table with real plates and flatware.  For me, the biggest draw to this plan is the ability of those table service meals to be used for character dining experiences.

A quick side bar...meeting the characters is probably one of the most important things you can do on a Disney Vacation. The parks have the schedule (and now it's available through the My Disney Experience links) of where the characters will be and what times.'s a gamble whether or not you'll be able to see them.  Many of the characters have very limited times that they are available, and they will frequently close the line long before you make it there.  I've found that, especially for the big ones my princess cares about, it's easier to plan a character dining experience than to try to schedule our day around the possibility of a meet and greet with Mickey.

Getting back to the dining, the Disney Dining Plan is the middle of the road expense wise, however, in my opinion, gives the most bang for the buck for most families.  With the quick service as well as table service, the dining options are vast.  A pastry snack for breakfast, Quick Service shared lunch, and then an All-You-Can-Eat buffet as a table service for dinner.  That's a normal meal progression for families using this plan.  The best thing is that many of the character dining experiences that fall under the table service category are all buffet style meals, giving you a HUGE meal for which ever meal you choose (breakfast, lunch, or dinner).  Another way to stretch this plan is to forgo even the snack in the morning and try to make a breakfast reservation as late as you can (Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary generally has 11:30 breakfast reservations...that's pretty much lunch for most people!).  That will allow you to stretch the afternoon out even longer and take the quick service later on in the evening.  The possibilities are numerous with this plan, and for this Disney Freak, it's the best value for my buck.

The final plan at Disney World is the Deluxe Dining.  Not too much to say here, other than this one allows for any combination of 3 meals (quick service or table) for each person, thus allowing those with specific tastes or wanting specific experiences the chance to indulge in those.  For instance, if you wanted a buffet breakfast at Hollywood and Vine, then a hearty lunch at The California Grill, then a steak dinner at Le Cellier, it would all be included.  Again, this plan is for those who want their food experience at Disney to be as memorable as the trip itself.  While it's the most expensive package offered (of these three...there is one more that includes even alcohol...I'll elaborate on that later), it also offers guests with the largest number of fact, depending on the length of your stay, a choice doesn't have to be made.  You could, in theory, eat at every table service restaurant in the parks on this plan.  That would be a lot of food!  It's a good thing that the average person walks nearly 4 miles on a Disney vacation! :)

Joking aside, it's truly up to you whether or not you use the dining plan.  As a professional travel planner, I do recommend the Disney Dining (the middle) plan.  I feel it really does give the best of everything for those who wish to have the ease of not thinking about meal.  Research is key, however, and your family has to do what is best for you.  I would very much encourage anyone looking to travel to Disney World to discuss these options with your travel professional and see which (if any) fit your budget, your family, and your tastes!

Until next time, Have a Magical Day, and remember...always be looking for your Enchantment Destination!!


Friday, April 19, 2013

When should I visit?

First off, I want to apologize for my tardiness in this post.  Life, as it does sometimes, got the better of me, and I just flat ran out of time! :)  Oh well...not much you can do, I guess.

Anyway, I wanted to address a quick question that seems so benign, but can be the biggest determining factor when thinking about your Disney Vacation (or any vacation, for that matter):

When Should I travel to Disney?

The answer isn't quite as simple as you may think.  For many of us, our lives and our calendars revolve around the school calendar.  My daughter is in kindergarten and as a result, we are bound, to some extent, by the school holidays, and specifically the big ones (i.e. Christmas, Spring Break, Thanksgiving, Summer, etc.).  My wife is a teacher in a different district so we also have to take into account her schedule as well.

Others like to travel during "off season" times.  These are mainly during the school year, mid semester (either fall or spring) and generally during the week.  With Disney, while there may be days that have less attendance at the parks than others, a true "off season" doesn't really exist in my opinion.  Disney is a destination that is far reaching, with visitors coming from all over the world.  While most of us in the United States are on basically the same school schedule for our students, many in the rest of the world are not.  As a result, the patronage at Disney only slows...but never stops.

That being said, there are better times to visit than others.  The first thing you should look at are the events that are happening in the parks.  For instance, two of the biggest events held at Walt Disney World in Orlando are the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival and the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.  Happening on opposite sides of the calendar (Flower and Garden is in the spring; Food and Wine is in the fall), these events draw huge crowds during a normally slower time of the year for theme parks in general.  These festivals, however, both offer some significantly special events for those interested (I'll explore those in later posts.  For those interested, please visit or for those festival dates/information).

Other popular events include Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween, Disney Holidays featuring the Osborne Family Lights at Hollywood Studios, Run Disney and the Disney Marathon, and the various special weekends that are not annual, but are still special (like this year, 2013, they are having a number of Star Wars weekends, and specifically on September 13, there will be a Villain Day as this is the only Friday the 13th that is happening in the 2013 calendar).  These all offer special times and events, and in many cases, special rates for tickets, rooms, and vacation packages.

For our family, taking one of the holidays at the parks is our favorite time.  Specifically, the week of Thanksgiving.  We feel that the crowds are not too bad, the weather in south Florida is great, and we get to spend Thanksgiving in one of the most magical places on the planet!  Of course, it's during a vacation time for most of the country, so it's a balance of wanting to have the magic, but at the risk of a larger than average crowd.

It's best to look at a large picture of the calendar.  There are a number of resources available to help you decide on the time of year to go to the parks.  It is imperative to use all of the information that is presented to make the best informed decision you can.  You would never want to plan a trip, get there, and realize that you've misjudged the crowds, weather, day light, or any other variable and cause a trip that you've planned for quite some time to become less than stellar.

Some items to think about when planning when to go include:
School Holidays
Special Events
Special Offers
Family/Friends Going With You

Stopping to consider all of those will ensure that you have a truly magical time at a Disney property.

Last, but certainly no least, if you have any questions, contact an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.  They are specially trained to help you navigate the myriad of decisions that must be made in order to plan a vacation getaway.  Remember, their services are free, and you can rely on them to make the trip of a lifetime happen for you and your family.

Until next time, have a Magical Day and always look forward to your Enchantment Destination!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Disney Vacations...getting ready!

Getting ready for a Disney Vacation is, for me, almost as good as actually going.  Planning where to eat, where to go, where to stay, even which resort to visit, or which trip to take is really the meat and potatoes of what a Disney Vacation is to me.  I guess that's why I became affiliated with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner! :)

To make things easier, there are plenty of resources, both free and paid, that will make your planning easier.

First off, I would suggest (and most would agree, even if they aren't in the business) that going through an Authorized Vacation Planner can help with many decisions that you may not even think of.  I've used many in the past, and I still suggest to friends and family to use them.  Of course, I'd love for all of my friends and family to use me (as well as those fans who are now following my Blog! :) ) but honestly, any of the
Authorized Planners that you can find will be a big help in planning your vacation.  I'm sure I'll miss many, but some I've used in the past include Small World Vacations, Pixie Vacations, Fairytale Journeys, and working directly with the Disney Travel Company.  Google search (or use your favorite search engine) and look for the tell-tale mouse ears logo for an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.  Each of us have graduated from The College of Disney Knowledge, and have an intimate knowledge of everything having to do with any Disney Vacation, whether it's a cruise,
and Adventures destination, or one of the theme parks.  That is the best way to begin.

After that, it's completely up to you.  There are countless books, countless websites, and even more ways to make it a special time.  Our favorite books include The PassPorter guides, Frommers, Fodors, and The Undercover Tourist.  A good read (although it does have some comedic false info in the book) is the Unofficial Guide.  The Hidden Mickey's books are also fun to read (and can be a great scavenger hunt to do when you are at your destination...more on that in a later post).  I'd suggest one of those, or any one you are comfortable with, and definitely read it.  Disney (especially Disney World) can be intimidating to the first timer.  It's so big, and so spread out that you can easily get to the end of your well earned and deserved vacation and end up feeling like you didn't get all that you wanted to get done.  Worse yet is the feeling that you went so fast and so furious through the parks that you wore yourself out while on vacation!  That's like the total opposite of a vacation!!  Take you time planning now, and you can avoid that.

There are also amazing online sources.  If you're reading this blog, then you probably found some, but I'll include my favorites here.  The best sources for unbiased info are many of the blogs or bulletin boards that are available.  DisBoards, DisDads, Disney Food Blog, PassPorters Blog/Forum, and AllEars are some of the top on the list.  Additionally, most of the Authorized planners I mentioned above have blogs or links within them to various boards and forums.  That's a great place to find advice, ask questions, and even find discounts you may not have known about if you hadn't checked.  Explore what you can and see what you can find.  It never hurts to ask other Disney people how, when, where, and what to do on your vacation, whether you're a veteran or a first timer.

The last source that I'll mention (but certainly not the last source available to you) is the info directly from Disney.  First and foremost, get a Disney Planning DVD.  These are free through Disney and provide a wealth of information at your fingertips and include all of the Disney Experiences.  Also, watch your local TV listings for the different Disney Travel Company offerings on the cable channels.  These shows (Disney Behind the Scenes, Hidden Disney, etc.) can offer some great insight into the inner workings of the Disney parks and have even helped me, a Disney veteran, find some new and exciting things to do.  The Disney website also can offer a wealth of information.  Check all of them out

**Quick Tip!  A good friend of mine...another Disney Freak like myself...has been able to get special discounts emailed to him just because he's been on the Disney email list.  I've not gotten any, but he's been able to get such great perks as free dining, second night free, and room upgrades just for getting on the mailing lists.

All in all, if I could give you three pieces of advice when getting ready for your vacation, it's this.  1) Plan, 2) Plan, and 3)...well...PLAN!!  You won't regret it, and you'll have a blast doing it!

Until next time,  Have a Magical Day, and never stop working toward your Enchantment Destination!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Disney Vacation Myths

So, I'll have to credit my mother for today's post.  As I was speaking to her about beginning work planning Disney Vacations with an Authorized Disney Travel Planner, she promised me that she would make sure to pass along my information to anyone they new that was going to Disney World.  That got me many people think of a Disney Vacation and immediately assume it's a Disney World or Disneyland only vacation?  Or even how many think that a Disney vacation isn't for them because they don't have or don't want to travel with their own children (or anyone else's kids!)?

I'll be the first to admit that I was unaware of the many offerings that Disney had.  Of course, anyone even remotely familiar with the Disney brand knows of Walt Disney World in Orlando, and Disneyland in Anaheim.  Many also know of Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disney.  Thanks to recent commercials and, unfortunately bad press for another company, many are now starting to hear about Disney Cruise Lines and what they have to offer.  Fewer know that Disney just opened a brand new resort in Hawaii on the island of Oahu called Aulani, and only a select few have even heard of Adventures by Disney, where the traveler can take a road less traveled in parts of the world thought exotic and out of reach.

Let's begin where it all began for Disney...Disneyland.  Called the "Happiest Place On Earth", Walt Disney created a fantasy land where the average person could forget their problems and spend time with characters and in settings that allowed for the fun and fancy-free frolicking of youth to abound with rides, experiences, scenery, and interaction.  Fast forward a few decades and we come to today's Disneyland, still the fantasy it
once was, but with plenty for all walks of life.  Sure...there are still characters, experiences,  and rides for kids, young and old, but it's much more.  With upscale restaurants, world class spas, and high class accommodations, Disneyland has as much to offer an adult couple on holiday as it does a family with kids.  There is plenty more to discover, both within the resort, and beyond.  It's really a playground for all people, nestled just south of the thriving metro area of Los Angeles.

Heading across the country to Walt Disney World in Orlando, we find literally thousands of experiences for the traveler to have.  I recently had a conversation with a neighbor about where he and his wife were going to go on their next "adults only" trip (they have 3 kids...they just need a break sometimes, as we all do!  :) ).  I suggested Disney...he giggled a bit and said she wouldn't go for something that had too many kids.  One of the best things about Walt Disney World is that you can have as much interaction with others, both young and old, as you wish, with certain factors in mind.  The biggest is time of year.  Of course, going between September and December and the from February through April, most of the younger crowd will still be in school.  Of course, there are few exceptions, but the bulk of the youngsters will not be there unless it's a holiday.  The next biggest is what events are happening.  If you are visiting during events like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, expect plenty of kids.  If you are visiting with the purpose of attending Epcot's Food and Wine Festival, there won't be as many kids.  Do some research.  Check out the best times to visit.  That can help tremendously  if you are trying to avoid a certain crowd.  On the other hand, if it is the experience with the kids that is making you think Disney, then certainly look for time and dates that include experiences geared towards kids.  The Halloween Party is a great one!  The Holiday's are another great time to visit with families.  If you don't mind the heat and humidity, I love being there in the Summer.  I look forward to the evening fireworks and parades so much more after a fun, but very warm day exploring the parks. 

During our last visit to Walt Disney World, my wife and I discussed exactly how long it would take our family (of three) to experience all that we wanted to at WDW.  We settled on 14 days.  That may seem like a lot, especially if you are assuming that WDW or even Disneyland is only about rides and characters.  It's so much more...much more than I can even talk about on this humble blog.  Don't believe me?  Spend about 5 minutes in any book store in the US.  Find the travel section, and check out the section on Disnyland and Disney World.  It'll most likely take up not just a shelf, but SHELVES!  You can tailor an experience that fits exactly what you'd like, and avoid what you don't. 

Disney's Aulani and the Disney Cruise Lines are both in the same realm of travel, blending the family atmosphere with adult experiences.  Both offer adult-only areas, and experiences that won't draw young families.  Both also offer plenty of family friendly activities, and, in some cases, day care of sorts where the kids can do their own thing while the parents enjoy some alone time!  My biggest advice would be to talk with a Disney Travel Professional (like me!!) and they can help build a vacation that will make everyone...yes EVERYONE...happy!

Lastly, and I'll conclude with this, are the Adventures by Disney.  I've had an awesome younger life.  Due to the work my father was doing with Texas A&M (Gig 'em Aggies!!), I had the unique opportunity to travel all over the world, from Japan to Russia, from Australia to China, from Europe to South America, and plenty of points in between.  I even had my second birth day in 1978 in Cape Town, South Africa.  Most people never get to experience what I've experienced, and many would be overwhelmed if even asked to consider a 2 week trip to Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, or how to schedule a 10 day cruise through the Galapagos Islands.  Disney does that for you with the Adventures by Disney itineraries.

I can hear it now, though, all you naysayers..."Why would I travel half way around the world just to see characters and ride rides?!?"  Of course the answer is you wouldn't!!  These experiences are about getting to the destination and connecting with those that call it home, whether it's in Scotland, or Italy...Greece, or South Africa...Ecuador or Alaska.  The experiences are tailored to create a congruence with the destination for the traveler that is unparalleled among travel. can read, research, and book your own once-in-a-lifetime trip to one of the fantastic destinations that are offered, but you wouldn't get the same experience.  Having been to a number of the destinations listed myself, I'd be hard pressed to find a better collection of experiences than what Disney has put together.  It's truly designed to have a life long effect on those that take the trips.  For those of you who would like an experience with out kids, nearly every destination offers dates that are adults only kids on a Disney trip!  What a concept!! 

The bottom line is that Disney is more than the mouse and the castles.  It's about the destinations...the experiences...the memories...and the fun!  Whether its a 7 day cruise to the Bahamas, a 12 day trip in Australia, a short 4 day trip to the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot, a Honeymoon in Hawaii at Aulani, or even a 2 day excursion to Disneyland while on business in Los Angeles, Disney will truly offer you an experience that can be tailored to your likes and dislikes, and will leave you planning your next trip on the plane ride home from this one.

Until next post, have a Magical Day!!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why Visit Disney?

I've often been asked why our family loves Disney so much.  That's honestly a difficult thing to say, really.  It's a number of small things that, when combined, create an experience that is second-to-none for adults and children of all ages.

Let me first start with the biggest of those small things...the attention to detail.  I would wager that most of us have, from time to time, visited a theme park of some sort, whether it's that one with the number of flags, or the ones with the large black and white sea mammals, or another location with thrill rides, characters, restaurants, and lots to do.  Most are the same...general theme, well done, manicured grounds, lots to do, eat and see, etc.  What set's Disney apart from these other parks is their incredible attention to detail that is shown to every aspect of the theme park experience.  This permeates through everything that a guest experiences, from the time they arrive to the time they depart.  It's the little things like never seeing trash being taken out of a park (they have a series of passages so guests don't have to see it), or topiaries sculpted like the various Disney characters.  One of my biggest notices is the lack of anything that needs "fixing."  I'm not saying that the other parks have stuff to fix...just that Disney doesn't let anything even look like it needs it.  I've never (okay...well, maybe VERY VERY rarely) seen peeling paint, cracked sidewalks, missing or damaged signage, or any thing else that could detract from the whole experience.  I've never really even seen workers engaged in any type of maintenance either.  I know that they have to do it some times (I get periodic updates on which attractions, pools, parks, and other areas are being refreshed) because it ALWAYS looks pristine!  I've just never seen it!  It's like they have a group of fairies, or magical dwarves, or....wait....uh....never mind!  All in all, the parks, resorts, restaurants, and attractions all seem to emit an aura of perfection, and that's just they way Disney wants it.

Second is the experience as a whole.  From the transportation from the airport (via Disney's Magical Express) to the themed rooms at the resorts (we love Disney's Pop's like a home away from home), the experience is as much getting there, as it is being there, and, more to the point, wanting to go back as soon as you leave.  (We, as well as our close friends, have been known to begin planning our next trip on the plane ride home from the last trip!)  Almost every cast member (that's what Disney calls their work's the experience!!) that we've ever encountered has made our trips magical, fantastic, and really special for us all.  A true test for me as far as the experience is concerned is how the complete staff help with the overall environment.  It would be very easy for the support staff (housekeeping, grounds staff, maintenance, etc.) to allow those that are in the "front of house" to attempt to create the proper environment, while they do their jobs without concern for the guest's experience.  At Disney, from the grounds staff pretending to use magic to trim a hedge, to the housekeeping staff sculpting animals from towels, the support staff are just a big a part of the overall experience as the front desk clerk or the performer on stage at Beauty and the Beast Stage Show (in Hollywood Studios, but the way....I'll get to that in future posts!).  You are truly transported to Walt's imagination and get to experience the magic just the way he'd have wanted.

The final piece to the puzzle of the Disney experience is the ability of Disney to truly create an experience that EVERYONE can enjoy.  If you are a thrill ride person, they have it (the "Mountains" in Magic Kingdom, Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom, Aerosmith's Rockin' Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's California Adventure...and many more).  If you are a show person, they have it (Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, The Festival of the Lion King...and many more). Relaxation your key to a great vacation?  Disney has you covered, with world class spas, pools, beaches (yes...even at the resorts...check out the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney's by a lake, but hey!  It's sand, and's a beach!), and deluxe accommodations for even the most discerning traveler.  Have a little one traveling with you?  Still lots to do!  Many of the attractions are geared toward those princesses and princes who are not yet big enough to go on the big rides.  Our little princess loved Dumbo, Aladdin's Magic Carpets, and of course, the quintessential It's A Small World.  Disney even has many attractions where you can "Parent Swap", where both parents wait in line at an attraction and, as you arrive at the end of the line, one parent goes while the other stays with the child, and then, when the first parent comes back, the second goes with no wait.  What a great idea, right?

Truly, Disney has gone to great lengths to make their resorts and parks set apart from any others in, well, the world!  Take the time to check out all the offerings.  Not sure what to do, where to go, what to reserve?  No problem!  The Disney Travel Company staff would be glad to help, or you can contact a Disney Vacation Planner (I'm one, by the way!) who can help you decide how best to build a vacation that you and your family will remember for the rest of your lives!

Until next time, remember to Just Keep Swimming!