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!!