Disney World: To park hop or not to park hop – THAT is the question!

Park hopping at Disney World

It’s an age old argument among Disney veterans, should your family park hop when visiting Disney World? Generally, my answer is yes! I think it gives you a lot more flexibility in planning, extra time in your favorite theme park(s), and opens up additional options for dining and FastPass. Let’s break it down!

Planning 180+ from your arrival

If you’re planning beyond the 180 day mark, you can first see how easy it is to make your preferred dining reservations. At time, a day you were hoping to be in Epcot is the only day Be Our Guest has availability for dinner or Cinderella’s Table has that pre-park opening for breakfast. It’s a good time to consider park hoppers here! Then you can start your day with Cindy at breakfast end end in Epcot, or spend most of your day in Epcot before heading to Magic Kingdom for Be Our Guest for dinner.

How many dining reservations do you want?Tips and Tricks for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Do you have 3 different dining requests in Epcot and none for Animal Kingdom? Sounds like a PERFECT case to park hop!

Length of stay.

Planning on less than 5 days of theme park tickets? Then most definitely park hop! This gives you the opportunity to spend more than just 1 day in Magic Kingdom. I think it takes 3 full days to get through most of the magic (I still maintain it’s impossible to do everything in one trip – there are still things we haven’t done there). It also lets you combine a 1/2 day in Animal Kingdom with a 1/2 day in another park since currently it’s still a park that closes around sundown.

Time of year.

Traveling during a more peak travel season? Park hopping is a way to maximize your time. You can start your day in a park with extra magic hours in the morning and get out of dodge as it starts to fill up mid-day. Have a swim break, take a nap, or just relax and then hop to another park for the afternoon/evening and to use your FastPasses.

If you are planning on traveling in fall during the Halloween or Christmas party season, you also may want to park hop. It gives you time in Magic Kingdom to enjoy a morning in the park and head somewhere else when the parties start. Typically, these are not incredibly crowded days because those with base tickets do no want to “waste” a Magic Kingdom day without the opportunity of fireworks!


Hoping for dining cancellations. 

So let’s be real. This fall has been difficult to say the least to get the big ticket dining reservations. I’ve never had so much trouble finding the big ticket items for guest stays. When park hoppers are involved, it does make the process a little bit easier to find the high value items like Cinderella’s Table because it gives me the opportunity to look at multiple days instead of just a single day and hoping that the stars align. You don’t necessarily need to start with park hoppers, just be open to the option of them and be flexible. It’s also deciding of an additional $50-$60 per person is worth the cost of getting that high value dining reservation as that’s the general cost of park hopper tickets.

Time.

The only complaint I get from park hopping is that you lose time. I won’t argue that point. It takes a little bit longer to get everywhere in Disney without a car. Going from park to park – plan on about a 60 minute trip while you wait for your mode of transportation to arrive. With a car, things definitely move a little more efficiently, but still can take 30-45 minutes going from one destination to another. Disney property is HUGE after all!

So as a quick wrap up, park hopper tickets definitely give guests a lot more flexibility during their stay as well as opens up some doors to enjoy more time in the theme parks. The additional cost is often worth the expense. Remember, park hopper tickets are good for your length of stay whether you use them or not. Don’t feel like you have to park hop every day to get you money’s worth. 1-2 uses will still make them worth their while! In our last 10 stays, we’ve done park hoppers for 9 of them. The time we did not, we had 7 days of theme park tickets over a 10 day trip which makes it easier to stretch things out with an extended period of time!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 or 2016 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. We can talk about the best park tickets, resorts, and package inclusions for you! The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Friday Five:  5 ways to have a successful Disney Water Park day!

 

While this time of year doesn’t really spark the water park conversation, the weather in Florida stays warmer longer, so today’s Friday Five is how to have a successful Disney World Water park day. There are lots of little tidbits here and there, and most of them agree on many of the tips below. 

1. Research ahead of time Know the routes you are going to take and the first few slides/rides to do first. At Blizzard Beach, if you dare to do Summit Plummet, you better know to go straight there. Do not pass go, do no collect $200. It’s actually better if someone in your group (like me for my family) doesn’t want to ride. That person can be the designated towel holder, chair grabber for the day and can even grab a locker for your stuff. Another piece of important research is to know what your park tickets offer you. If you are purchasing a 1 day water park ticket, it is now technically a water park hopper ticket so you can visit both water parks in the same day. If you have the water park fun and more tickets with your package, you can use 2 allotments to visit both water parks in the same day. Why is this important? Well, if you are renting a locker, it’s a money saver. Keep your receipt and just pay your refundable deposit (which you will get back at the time you return your key)

2. Bring your own towels & rent a locker Did you know that towels are not free at the water parks? There is a non-refundable deposit required at each of the water parks. If you water park hop, they are also not included in the cost. We take towels from our resort room and bring them with to save the fee. We also bring big beach towels from home and keep them in our car. If you are using Disney transportation, rent a locker and bring a change of clothes before your return back “home” at the end of the day. The worst feeling is leaving the water park wet and cold and then getting a freezing cold bus!

3. Arrive early (or arrive really late) The old Disney adage – arrive early! If you’re ready ANY of my previous posts, it’s the key
to every Disney vacation. This holds true for the waterparks as well. It is very important to be on one of the first buses there and wear your swimsuit there. Don’t waste time changing after arrival. The first 20-30 minutes of the park opening is precious. The earlier you arrive, the closer to the front of the line you will be in. Many of the water park buses share with another resort, so be aware of that as you plan your departure time. If you can’t arrive early, plan on arriving really late – meaning arriving within the last 2 hours the park is open. This is about the time many people are leaving for dinner reservations or evening theme park time (especially when the park closes at 5 or 6 pm). We found the parks fairly empty and enjoyed walking on to almost everything!

4. Important things to purchase prior to your arrival. Sunscreen, water shoes (or decent sandals) and some sort of holder for sunglasses (if you don’t want them lost or broken). You may need to take your shoes or sandals off for some of the rides (especially body slides) but for most slides, you can wear them. It’s a great way to combat the HOT sun on the sidewalks. Disney does have little misters to cool some of the sidewalks but there were lots of people with very hot feet running from one place to the ends. Not for me! I like to saunter 🙂 

5. Use the lazy river as transportation For the ultimate in laziness…if you are going from one side of the water park to the other and not in any hurry, hop in the lazy river! It was our preferred mode of transportation. There are several entry and exit points around both parks, so you might as well enjoy the ride!

Disney water parks are well themed, a fun diversion from the water parks, and an enjoyable way to beat the heat during the warmer months of the year! For those with little ones – a little bonus tip – Typhoon Lagoon felt a little more family friendly than Blizzard Beach. It also always feels a little less crowded when both water parks are in full operation.

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015  or 2016 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

How Disney World Crowds have changed over the last year and what it means for your next vacation

wdwcrowds

The biggest request I get when guests start to plan their Disney vacations is “what are the lowest crowd times?” I have always told guests that September is historically the best time to travel as well as much of January and Feburary. In the past couple of years, Disney has made great strides in increasing crowds throughout the year so there’s no one time of year that you’ll see a consistent low crowd or empty parks. With conventions, competitions, and promotions for guests across the world, I wouldn’t expect a completely empty park anymore!

Don’t fret, there are still some great times to travel to Disney World and it’s very similar to the best times you’ll see throughout the year which include…

  • January outside of marathon and MLK Jr. weekend
  • February outside of half marathon, Valentine’s Day, and President’s Day
  • End of April into early  May
  • Mid-May at least 4-5 days prior to Memorial Day weekend
  • September (the earlier in the month the better)
  • Mid to late October (especially on Halloween if you you are ok being outside of Magic Kingdom)
  • The week after Thanksgiving
  • First two weeks of December

I’m not saying ONLY go during these times. I understand that it’s hard to take kids out of school (especially as they get older and schools become more strict on attendance policies) and that it’s hard to get days off of work outside of the holidays. What I AM saying is that these are likely going to be the lower crowd times you’ll find in Disney.

This was our view in Animal Kingdom walking from the Expedition Everest to Kilimanjaro Safaris right after the park opened. Not a person in site!

This was our view in Animal Kingdom walking from the Expedition Everest to Kilimanjaro Safaris right after the park opened. Not a person in site!

My family was fortunate enough to travel twice in 2015 – once at the end of April and a second time at the beginning of September and the feel around the parks is that crowds were LOWER in April than in September which goes against everything I’ve ever thought of Disney vacations and planning. April had a blip of time with a cheer competition that flooded an afternoon at Magic Kingdom and a morning in Epcot, but the entire trip in September was much more crowded than we expected as it got toward the middle of the day. One day in Hollywood Studios the wait was 105 minutes which is UNHEARD of for that time of year!

As you start to plan your Disney World vacation, the best advice I can give is to have realistic expectations of your travel time! Know that Disney World will come with lines. Throughout all of our travels, my husband and I joke that the longest line we stand in is waiting for a bus after fireworks even on busier than anticipated days in Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Patience and a little bit of planning truly make the biggest deal! Flexibility is also key to make sure you accomplish everything you’d like to do. Arriving early is truly the biggest marker of success. Plan on arriving to your preferred park 20-30 minutes before the scheduled park open and know what your plan of attack is as you start your day. Plan your FastPasses appropriately (or have a professional do it for you) and know how to make changes to FastPasses on the fly once you arrive in Disney.

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015  or 2016 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Friday Five: My 5 Favorite Disney World character meet & greets

Happy Friday before a long weekend my friends! It’s no secret that my family is big on meeting characters (mostly because of my daughter). Today I’m gong to highlight 5 of my favorite character meet and greet experiences. Hopefully some of them are new to you or a little unique option.

  1. Pete’s Silly Sideshow. As an adult traveling without kids, I saw this on all sorts of Disney touring plans and Petes Silly Sideshowthought “what the heck is this?” Well it’s a great Fantasyland (Magic Kingdom) character meet and greet. You have 2 sides to this meet and greet – Goofy & Donald and Daisy & Minnie. We try and get there about 5 minutes before the scheduled opening time as the characters come and invite guests in (my daughter got to hold Donald’s hand all the way in – she was in LOVE! For some reason, these characters are extra amazing and fun. It’s a great little place to do a Rider Switch break for those with little kids and outside of peak travel time, it’s a quick way to meet a character or two or four.
  2. Disney Visa Card Holder Meet & Greet in Epcot. This one is especially for Disney Visa Card holders and is available in the Innoventions building from 1-7 pm. Every time we have gone it’s been Minnie & Pluto inside but from what I’ve heard from other guests, you may see some additional characters available. Unless you got right as the experience opens, don’t expect more than a 5-10 minute wait. You will need to show your Disney Visa card to obtain entry and you will receive a coupon for a free printed 5×7 photo.
  3. Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater. This may actually be my favorite experience even though it’s not listed as the top experience on my list. Mickey TALKS here with the perfect Mickey voice everyone knows and loves. He’s got a couple of different “spiels”. For younger kids I’ve seen him ask them to do the Hot Dog Dance, bounce like tigger, or pose like a princess if the girls are in a fancy dress (and he is their prince of course). He can speak a little bit of Spanish and do card tricks. It’s truly a unique experience. We’ve done it countless times and I still can’t figure out how it works!! Town Square Mickey
  4. Meet Goofy & Pluto in DinoLand USA. This is one of the few recommendations I will have that’s outside, however the line is rarely long that it would be an exhausting wait. Goofy and Pluto here are FANTASTIC! A little silly, a lot fun and amazing. We love them. It’s also a good diversion for rider switch families who want to enjoy Dinosaur (and it’s not too terribly far from Expedition Everest if you’re willing to take a little walk to get there).
  5. Meet Woody & Jessie. This is located in Frontierland in Magic Kingdom (near Splash Mountain). Again, a good rider switch opportunity with both Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the area. Woody & Jessie are known to have a rootin’ tootin’ good time with their friends who want to say hello! At times you may see just Woody here (but Jessie is likely shortly behind). If you’re not sure, ask a cast member! It’s how my daughter truly fell in love with Jessie after hugs and snuggles.

What are your favorite character meet and greets? I obviously left a few big ones off the list – Anna & Elsa, Cinderella and Rapunzel, Ariel in her Fins! We’ve done them all, but the above 5 are the favorites of my family!! You’ll likely find your child’s favorite character somewhere around at least one of Disney’s theme parks!!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015  or 2016 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

How to Make the Most of Your FastPass+ Selections!

 

If you’ve been to Disney World or Disneyland you’re probably familiar with FastPass service which allows you to skip the line for some of your favorite Disney World attractions. As technology continues to move forward, so does FastPass+. This change allows guests to make their reservations prior to their arrival. It’s great for families that want a day to sleep in (which I don’t recommend), park hop, or start their day with a dining reservation. Rules and available passes are different for on and off site guests. We’ll start for guests staying at any Disney World resort:

  • Each guest with valid theme park admission is able to make 3 FastPass+ reservations for each day they have park tickets. These first 3 reservations must be in the same theme park. These initial reservations can be made up to 60 days prior to guest arrival date for the length of their stay.
  • Guests will be able to make one additional selection at a time, based on availability. After they redeem that additional selection, they can go to a FastPass+ kiosk to make another selection, and so on. (The additional FastPass+ selections must be made at a kiosk only.)
  • Guests will be able to make their additional selection(s) for an experience at which they already redeemed a FastPass+ selection earlier that day.
  • Guests with valid park-hopping privileges will be able to make their additional selection(s) at another park. Those selections must be made at a kiosk in the park where the desired experience is located.

It’s a little different for day guests (a.k.a. non-Disney resort staying guests);

  • Each guest with valid theme park admission is able ot make 3 FastPass+ reservations for each day they have park tickets. These reservations must be made in the same theme park. Initial reservations can be made up to 30 days prior to arriving in the park and do not qualify to make reservations for their length of stay as Disney has no way of knowing what their length of stay really is!
  • No additional FastPass+ reservations will be given to non-resort guests.
  • Not much of any advantage – sorry off site guests!

FastPass+ Reservations, Strategy & Planning for Disney resort guests:

  • Make your three FastPass+ reservations online 60 days prior to your arrival (the window opens up at 12 am EST on the 60th day). You can make the reservations for your entire vacation.
    Choose FastPass options for the most popular attractions and for lines that get the longest (see below for list at each park)
  • Make your choices earlier in the day. I start passes for my guests sometime around 9:45 or 10 am with a headlining attraction and then continue back to back until all 3 passes are used (pending any dining reservations during that time).
  • Arrive at the park before opening and ride one popular attraction standby (ideally one you don’t have a FastPass for); Based on the time you exit the attraction, continue until you hit the middle of your first FastPass time.
  • Continue riding standby as attractions allow. Do your next FastPass as close to the end of the window as possible to use your last 2 FastPasses back to back (it feels so much more successful!)
  • After you use your 3rd FastPass, find the closest kiosk and make a reservation for after lunch
    Grab lunch and then continue your afternoon (or take a break after lunch and schedule a FastPass for your return).
  • Be flexible! If you see the line for Splash Mountain is short at 10:30 am and your FastPass is for 11, hop in the standby line and change your FastPass attraction (or ride again!)

I know it’s A LOT of planning, but you have the ability to get through 5-6 different attractions before lunch which is HUGE! This works best in Magic Kingdom as there are the most attractions in the least amount of space, however the strategy can be used in any of the 4 theme parks. It becomes more important than ever to know the parks before you arrive.

Choosing FastPass+ Attractions

This is where the process gets a little bit easier. Below is a breakdown of all the available FastPass choices. I have put them in order from longest to shortest wait time (on average). Once you get past the first couple, they are fairly interchangeable. I would highly recommend, you choose FastPasses from the top of the list for your initial reservations as these will be the first to go (and likely will be unavailable by the time you get to a kiosk later in the day). As a reminder, the bold selections in Epcot and Hollywood Studios are the tier one choices. You may choose one RED attraction, and two non-red attractions for your three reservations.

MAGIC KINGDOM

  • Meet Anna & Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall

    Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

    Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Enchanted Tales With Belle
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Meet Rapunzel & Cinderella at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Meet Ariel at her Grotto
  • Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater (Mickey Mouse talks here!)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • The Barnstormer
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh
  • Meet Tinkerbell in Town Square Hall
  • Main Street Electrical Parade (Reserved Area)
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • it’s a small world
  • Mad Tea Party (Spinning teacups)
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Wishes (Reserved Area – new Gardens near Casey’s corner – it’s a more desirable location the the previous rose garden option!)

EPCOT

  • Soarin’
  • Test Track
  • Mission: Space
  • Turtle Talk With Crush

    Just a little fun in Epcot character spot!

    Just a little fun in Epcot character spot!

  • Captain EO
  • Meet Disney Pals at the Epcot Character Spot
  • Illuminations: Reflections of Earth
  • Journey Into Imagination With Figment
  • Living with the Land
  • Spaceship Earth
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

  • Toy Story Midway Mania
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Star Tours
  • The Great Movie Ride
  • First Time in Forever: Frozen Sing-along
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
  • Disney Junior – Live on Stage
  • Fantasmic
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Expedition Everest. Are you brave enough to take on the dreaded Yeti?

Expedition Everest. Are you brave enough to take on the dreaded Yeti?

  • Expedition Everest
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • DINOSAUR
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Primeval Whirl
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug
  • Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost

 

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015  or 2016 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

How does Disney’s Memory Maker works and is it worth the money?

How Does Disney's Memory Maker Work and is it worth the money?

If you’re planning a Disney World vacation, sooner or later you’ll see information about Memory Maker – Disney’s photography package. Disney touts it as “the most incredible way to capture and relive your vacation memories”.I was a bit skeptical of the entire situation as first. I didn’t think it would be worth my $169. I was absolutely wrong! The first time I tried it was November last year during a conference with a group of 7 adults. We enjoyed the experience going around the parks, meeting characters, and taking advantage of the opportunity to have us all in every photo without someone being stuck behind the camera. My 2nd experience was with my immediate family and thats where the magic truly happened! It was my daughter’s first Disney World visit and capturing the smile on her face as she got to meet her favorite characters was PRICELESS! I wasn’t required to be behind the camera to preserve those moments – Disney did it for me. We ended up with at least 70 photos I was truly happy with and saved from our collection of about 300. Our most recent trip in April afforded us another opportunity to use Memory Maker. Over 7 days of park time, we ended up with nearly 800 photos at our disposal and I had hundreds of favorites to choose from (two of which are on my wall above my desk!)

How does it work?

Once you purchase Memory Maker whether it’s through a package or as an individual purchase, the allotment is linked in your My Disney Experience account and all MagicBands linked to your account. If you have additional family and friends traveling with you, linking their accounts to yours will also allow them to use Memory Maker. Once on site, locate any PhotoPass photographer in one of Disney’s theme parks and ask to have your photo taken (if it’s a character experience, they will do it automatically). Scan one MagicBand from the group and voila! Your photos are uploaded to your My Disney Experience account. NEW Disney has added a preview of photos on the My Disney Experience app so you can view photos in the park in real time (allow a few minutes for upload, but it’s typically very quick) – something fun to do while you wait in line for another attraction.

How do a find a PhotoPass photographer?Fox family

Photographers are roaming around the parks and ready for your close up. You’ll see them at all of the major milestone locations and any location with a unique backdrop. Some photographers are only out at night while other locations are better during the day time. The My Disney Experience app now has a list of available locations for photographers. I think Disney heard the questions and feedback of all of you 2014 and 2015 travelers wishing to have more info on photo opportunities. You’ll find additional opportunities during special events and during the holiday season where photographers can also be found in the Disney deluxe resorts near the giant Christmas tree displays.

What are Magic Shots?

Magic Shots are fantastic little photos that Disney superimposes a character or little something special to Ellie MagicShotyour photo. The Disney photographer will pose you to make the shot work, set up their cameras and give you a few instructions for a face to make to truly make the moment memorable. You may ask for a Magic Shot from any photographer. Te general rule of thumb is that if a photographer has a camera on a tripod, they don’t have Magic Shots. If it’s a hand held camera, they may have something to help.

How long are my photos available?

You have 45 days from when the photo was taken to download them to keep them forever. You may purchase an extension if you need more time, but it’s best to just download them – throw them on your desktop and do the hard work of looking through the photos later.

I have a large group/multiple rooms. Do I need to purchase more than one allotment of Memory Maker?

Absolutely not! Guests will need to be appropriately linked through My Disney Experience under friends and family. As long as all guests are linked to the guest who purchased Memory Maker, the lead person will be able to download all of the photos. It’s best to have each party member linked to every other party member so everyone can see every photo taken online – it will have no affect on being able to download them.

I’m trying to view photos I’ve taken online but I only see a location to purchase or add it, what gives?

This is a common complaint from guests. You can view them from one of 2 places. The easiest way is by

One of my favorite photos from our April trip!

One of my favorite photos from our April trip!

visiting MyDisneyPhotoPass.com and logging in with the same credentials as My Disney Experience.You can also visit the My Disney Experience web site and go to the reservations and tickets page. The link to view photos from Memory Maker is all the way at the bottom of that page.

What do I do with my photos when I get home?

The lead guest (the person who has Memory Maker assigned to them) will have a DOWNLOAD button available (use either option in the question above to view them). Memory Maker is a digital entitlement so once your photos are downloaded, you may do whatever you’d like to with them whether its post them on Facebook or Instagram for family and friends, make a photo book through Shutterfly, or just keep them for yourself. You may take those photos to any local retailer to have them printed as well. Disney provides you with a letter of “ownership” to take with you if the retailer has any questions.

Is it worth the money?

This little girl of mine tried to beep every character's nose she encountered!

This little girl of mine tried to beep every character’s nose she encountered!

In a completely unbiased capacity, Y-E-S! I love it. Any trip traveling with a child or children, I will most definitely add it on to my package. For anyone interested in meeting characters, it’s worth it! For anyone who wants to to capture memories from their trip – YES! For anyone who is always stuck being the photographer – absolutely yes!

I heard Disney photographers will take a photo with my camera as well, is that true?

Yes, if you stop by any PhotoPass photographer and ask them to take a photo with your camera after they are done with the official photos, they will. In my previous experiences, those photos are not as good of quality as the official shots and since most of them only snap one photo, you’ll lower your chances that the entire family is both looking at the camera and smiling!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

If you would like help planning your next Disney World vacation, I’d love to be a part of the process. Please feel free to contact me anytime for a free quote.he benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Friday Five: 5 things that could be disappointing with your Disney World vacation

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You spend months planning you Disney World trip from the planning phase to traveling. With all of that time spent, there are several things that could go wrong. The better prepared you are for the entire experience, the better you can manage the situation and calm the waters. Here are 5 of the biggest things (in my opinion) that can be disappointing:

1. Dining So you are 180 days before your arrival. Your (or your fantastic travel agent) get online at 6 am EST on the dot to grab a prime time Be Our Guest dinner during your stay. NOTHING! How is it possible? Well, the rule of 180 + 10 which means all guests can make their dining reservations at the 180 day mark. Those with existing resort reservations can make 10 days worth of dining reservations. It means that guests with longer stays have the ability to have the first pick over your. Don’t worry 100% as Disney seems to be holding back on some of the dinner reservations and while you may not be able to grab dinner, you can much more likely grab breakfast or lunch which is quick service but accepts reservations. You can always be on the hunt for a cancellation!

2. FastPass Let’s face it. The most difficult to get FastPass is Anna & Elsa. Because the experience is somewhat limited because both of the Frozen sisters take a decent amount of time with each guest (as they should for how long some guests stay in the standby line), it makes it a difficult grab. The best chance at success is planning a Magic Kingdom day toward the end of your trip. Similar to the +10 rule, on site guests can make FastPass selections 60 days in advance and can book for their length of stay. Other difficult FastPasses that may not be available are Main Street Electrical Parade, Festival of Fantasy Parade, and sometimes Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (may not be available at the 60 day mark but fairly easily available later in your trio). If you can’t get that elusive Anna & Elsa FastPass – LET IT GO! You may be able to piece together a family of 4 over the next 60 days, check the night before or the morning of your Magic Kingdom days as people finalize and change their plans for some options, or just use the standby line 1st thing in the morning. All are viable options to get you in the door if it’s Anna & Elsa or bust!

3. Magical Enhancements This is Disney’s world for “Melissa wants to throw her computer out the window”. Essentially someone broke the web site or they are doing some sort of emergency fix. Magical Enhancements is used by Cast Members when the system (any system – dining, reservations, etc.) goes down. By far it is my most frustrating experience with Disney. Many people may go an entire trip without seeing a single issue which is GREAT! I probably touch Disney’s web site or talk to a cast member 350/365 days a year, so I see issues more than most people. The only positive I have to say about things is that if you’re having issues, the person you’re up against to try and get a promotional offer, dining reservation, or FastPass selection is very likely having the exact same issue! Since the inception of My Disney Experience there have been issues (some larger than others). A huge benefit to my job is that I can save/shield my guests from most of that frustration!

4. Rain Needless to stay, rain can put a damper (haha, get it?) on any vacation, but especially Disney where you have to be outside. The best thing to do is to plan for it! If you’re traveling during summer, know that you’ll see some mid to late day showers. Bring a poncho, have some indoor options in your back pocket just in case. My best advice is go with your plan for the day! Head to the parks, enjoy what you planned, and a little rain never hurt anyone except the Wicked Witch of the West. As I mentioned in a previous post about rain – attractions usually only close in torrential downpours and when lighting is within 5 miles. So do as the ducks do!

5. Transportation A common concern/complaint I hear from guests all the time no matter where they are staying is that transportation takes longer than they expect it to. There is a good reason Disney says to allow up to 90 minutes of travel time when using Disney transportation. That rule of thumb is mostly used for Downtown Disney and when you have to make a transfer to get to a resort dining reservation, but Disney World is a large property and there’s not always a bus just waiting for you. Without dining reservations and FastPass, things used to be a little easier – you just hop on the first bus that gets to you and enjoy your day. Now with pre-planned schedules, I completely understand the frustration of seeing 4 Magic Kingdom buses, a Downtown Disney bus, and 2 Animal Kingdom buses before a single Epcot bus shows up and everyone waiting collectively thinks”FINALLY”! Just think ahead as you plan your days to make sure you don’t tax yourself too much to get to and from your end destination.

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

If you would like help planning your next Disney World vacation, I’d love to be a part of the process. Please feel free to contact me anytime for a free quote.he benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Disney Springs New Boathouse Restaurant


IMG_8759The old Downtown Disney is slowly turning into Disney Springs.  As a veteran of West Side and the Marketplace, I must admit that I was a little sad with all the changes. (I still long for the Adventure’s and Comedy clubs) However, I do like the new additions with the smart tech parking decks (see last post) to the great new dining options.

IMG_8762One new options is the new Boathouse Restaurant which offers upscale, waterfront dining.  The atmosphere is nicely nautical from regattas trophies, boat motors everywhere, and phenomenal artwork throughout.  Disney always has that attention to detail so make sure you walk around to soak it all in.  Hopefully you will be lucky enough to get to dine in one of the “boats” – how fun!!  If not, then no worries since every seat has a great view of the water.  I personally like the outside, dining area- if the weather will cooperate.IMG_8763 2

The menu made it hard to choose from all the great choices and a bit pricey however, the meals are good size so you are able to share many dishes.  My sister and I halved the Stuffed Crab BLT sandwich which was a special for the day and it was incredible.  It got two thumbs up from her as well who knows her crabs being from Annapolis!  I can’t wait to go back for the surf n turf!IMG_8761 2

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The best “show” is outside of the restaurant which is the new Amphicar which is a car AND a boat!  You can experience your own cruise experience with a guided captain for a 25 minute boat tour of Downtown Disney as it floats on the water.  The aqua-car has seating for four with the price tag of $125 and you can purchase the tickets in the gift shop.  We stood for a while and watched the Captain drive a family into the lake with a splash.  It was fun to cheer them on from the shore as they floated away from the dock.  I believe that this is the only place in the world to ride in these great vintage vehicles so don’t miss seeing it while around Disney Springs!

Lastly, do not forget the gift shop. I have to mention the ducks.  Yes, I said ducks.  They are in every “theme” you can think of and only $20.  My kids LOVED the ducks and they were fun to see all the many different ones to choose from.

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If you are ready to eat at the new Downtown Disney/Disney Springs restaurants or float away in the Amphicar then: Please contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, please feel free to use the contact form below.

Friday Five: 5 ways to plan for rainy days at Disney World

 

In Florida, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll see some rain on your trip. We’ve had a few lucky trips that we didn’t see a drop of rain until after we were done with our last day of parks or on our departure day, but those have been few and far between. I think it’s good karma for being completely waterlogged for 7 whole days during a fluke May soaking in 2009. Needless to say, my family are PROS in when it comes to doing Disney in the rain. Here are 5 ways to plan ahead and to make the most of those rainy days:

  1. Buy ponchos and WEAR THEM. You can spend less than $5 at your local Walgreens/CVS or even Walmart to get a good quality poncho that won’t rip after 2 wears. We’ve been going strong with our $3 ponchos for 3 years now. Make sure you don’t forget about the little ones. There are kid sized ponchos and really remember the strollers too! Your littlest passengers may not mind a little rain, but having a cover to keep the stroller dry will go a long way.
  2. Engineer ways to keep your feet dry. The fastest way to blisters and a rough rest of a trip is wet socks and shoes. You have a few good options to keep your feet dry. If there is rain in the forecast, think about brining a pair of sandals or flip flops (we always, always, always wear tennis shoes to the parks because it’s too much walking for a shoe with no support for my puppies). If you want to keep your tennis shoes on, bring 1-2 extra pairs of socks to the parks with you and switch them out as they get damp.
  3. Don’t let it ruin your day! We’ve had some of our best (and least crowded) park days in the rain. A day in Magic Kingdom in which we walked on almost every ride we were planning on doing for the entire week, met essentially every character more than once, and I rescheduled my FastPasses so many times, I lost track because I didn’t need most of them until the afternoon. And I got a new perspective on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the pouring rain so it felt a little like Splash Mountain. Make the most of it and have fun.
  4. Do a little shopping or grab a bite to eat. If walking around in the rain (if you get a day FULL of rain), isn’t your thing, duck into the shops, look for an interesting and unique dining reservation at the last minute (sometimes those last minute reservations can be great ones – We’ve snagged Whispering Canyon, Ohana, and even Be Our Guest in less than 24 hours before we’ve dined).
  5. Take advantage of indoor attractions. See a show or two, enjoy Hall of Presidents or Country Bear Jamboree or explore Innoventions in Epcot. If you’ve got park hoppers, head to Magic Kingdom or Epcot to check off all of the shows you want to see in the time it’s raining.

Rides and attractions will remain open in the rain. If there are torrential downpours or lightning in the area, you will see some stoppage of rides, but usually that is just temporary. Likewise, fireworks will go off in the rain except for very heavy rains or lightning or insanely windy. If strong weather is eminent, you may see fireworks go off a bit earlier than planned. If you have questions, please check with a cast member!

Always remember, you planned this vacation for months and a little rain is not going to ruin your trip! In the words of Dory… Just keep swimming and as Elsa says, LET IT GO! You can still have a great vacation rain, sun, heat, or cold!!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

If you would like help planning your next Disney World vacation, I’d love to be a part of the process. Please feel free to contact me anytime for a free quote.he benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Friday Five: 5 reasons to get excited for Disney holidays!

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So it’s Saturday, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late for the Friday Five. Today I’m talking about why I LOVE the holiday season in Disney World. Disney starts the “holidays” early – the 2nd week of November. All of the full holiday decor will be out after Thanksgiving, but if you want to get a taste of things without the crowds and the price of Christmas and New Years, there is plenty of good time and availability to travel. Here are some of my favorite things about the holidays in Disney:

  1. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This event occurs several times per week in Magic Kingdom. It requires a special ticket to enter, but it’s truly magical. What’s not to love? Snow on Main Street, Christmas Carols throughout the parks, special character meet and greets, an amazing set of holiday fireworks (set to Christmas Music), and an amazing holiday parade. Plus free cookies and hot chocolate (grab it from Crystal Palace so you can sit down and enjoy it!)
  2. Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree! Everywhere you look there are Christmas trees. Between all 4 theme parks and the resorts, you’ll find uniquely themed trees that are larger than life! These also become an additional photo opportunity (even in the resort). We got some great family photos in Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge after some appropriately timed dining reservations! Take time to marvel at the detail.
  3. Life-sized Gingerbread House. In true Grand Floridian fashion, you can find a life sized gingerbread house FullSizeRender 5with little details unique to each year. It is truly amazing to see. Similarly, you also have amazing edible displays at Beach & Yacht Club, Contemporary, and Boardwalk. Take time away from the parks for a little bit of an amazing experience
  4. Candlelight Processional. This event in Epcot is free with park admission but doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving. A celebrity narrator tells the story of Christmas with a huge orchestra and choir. It’s truly a way to get into the Christmas spirit. Seeing Neil Patrick Harris as a narrator is on my bucket list (maybe someday). While the event is free, you may see yourself waiting a long time to get a coveted seat. To guarantee a seat, book a Candlelight Processional dinner package at one of Epcot’s restaurants. It will give you an opportunity to sit and enjoy the whole show. Out of the budget or can’t snag a reservation? You can stand behind the stage and still catch some of the show (we stayed for about 15 minutes before my toddler had an “I’m tired” meltdown). Life still happens in DisneyIMG_4280
  5. Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. I saved the best for last! This is my favorite Disney World
    holiday tradition. I can guarantee you that a few tears where shed the first time I experienced the floor to ceiling lights, snow, and carols all around. It’s nothing short of magnificent. Photos, videos, and words just can’t do it justice. You’ll be able to see this amazing experience beginning the 2nd week of November and through the holidays. It does get crowded the first few days and Christmas through New Years so there may be specific walking paths. Both times I visited in 2014, it was open walking. I sat on a curb for awhile and just reveled in the beauty!
A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 or 2016 holiday Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!