June 27, 2012

Matching Outfits add to the Fun!

If there is one place in the world where it’s acceptable (and definitely fun as far as I’m concerned) to match every person in your family, it’s Walt Disney World. It is fun for photos but it’s also a great safety idea. If you all match, then it’s easy to keep an eye on the group in the crazy Walt Disney World crowds.

We loved these t-shirts from Disney that were available in a variety of colors.

You can pick up matching shirts at Disney World or even get customized matching shirts at the Disney Design-A-Tee shop at Downtown Disney Marketplace or online before you leave from the Disney Store.  This is a great option for a family reunion. 

This year we’re all going to be sporting tie dye. I’m sorry, but I can’t get enough tie dye and I’ve just become friends with Cassi over at 1 Great Thing on Etsy, who makes the MOST AMAZING tie dye shirts, dresses and even Toms shoes. Many styles even feature designs and shapes.  She can do any color you’d like as well as special design requests. What could be better?  Cassi is even offering WDW Hints readers free shipping until July 31, 2012 with the code: FREESHIPPING  Go take a look!!!

I think we’ll all wear matching blue tie dyes this year, but I’m still debating.  Are you convinced?  Have you and your family sported matching outfits on vacation?

Happy Planning,

June 24, 2012

Ten (less thought of) Items for Your Packing List

I love planning trips to Disney World. My husband and I (somewhat obsessively) look at every hotel on property to choose the best fit for our family and then map out every day of our trip. I also start my packing list as soon as we start planning. Any time I think of something to bring, I add it to the list. Then when it’s actually time to pack, I don’t need to worry about forgetting anything.

I’ve found some great packing lists for Disney vacations online, and I’ve also thought of some unique items to bring during my time planning. Here are 10 things to bring to Disney that you might not have thought of, but that you’ll love having!

1. Glow sticks – I’ve found glow sticks and glow wands helpful on many occasions at Walt Disney World. I handed them over to my toddler when he got scared in the Haunted Mansion and he spent the rest of the ride happily playing with his new toy. They’re also great in the evenings when kids are getting tired and need something to help perk them up a bit. Granted, you can buy glow items in the parks, but I’d rather get them in the dollar section at my local superstore.

2. Giant lollipops – See my note above! Why spend a fortune on a lollipop in the park when you can easily bring them from home and pull them out when a parade starts or you want to surprise your child with a sweet?

3. Address labels (filled out) for postcards – We always send postcards from Disney World and we usually send a lot! We send them to my kid’s classes, their cousins, neighbors, etc. But, I don’t want to waste a minute at Disney, writing out all of those addresses takes up precious time! So, I pre-print them before I leave home. The addresses are all ready to go and I don’t need to worry about forgetting anyone.

4. Night Lights – If you’re traveling with kids who are used to a night light in their room, you most likely won’t find one in your room at Disney World. We always bring one or two with us to make them feel more at home.

5. Zip Lock Bags – Bring lots of sizes! You’ll use them for unfinished snacks, to hold wet clothes or to carry sunscreen bottles to the parks.

6. Plush Characters – You’ve got a plush Mickey Mouse at home, right? Well, they sell thousands of cute Mickeys all over the "World." I find that if we don’t bring a Mickey with us, then we end up with 1 or 2 new ones before heading home. So, Mickey comes with us to Disney! The same goes for Mickey ears - don’t get news ones every trip! Bring them from home on repeat visits.

 (Don't let this happen to you!)

7. Art Supplies – There is, believe it or not, down time at Disney World - In the car…on a plane…at a restaurant.  It can’t hurt to bring something along to entertain the kids during these times. I especially love sticker books since crayons can melt in the Florida heat!

8. Travel Size Hand Wipes – Go to the travel section at your local drug store and get a few packs of the travel size wipes. You won’t regret it. We use them before snacks, after snacks, after playing on playgrounds… you name it!

 9. Autograph Books – Picture this... it’s your first day in the parks. You walk in and see Pinocchio! But, you don't have an autograph book!! Run! Go buy one before he’s gone. But, you know he’ll be gone... OK, it’s probably unlikely that this will happen, but you will probably want an autograph book shortly after you arrive. I pre-order them from the Disney Store. It’s just one less thing to worry about after we arrive. Plus, we’ve told our kids about trips by handing them new books, which is a lot of fun.

10. Mini Fan – It is HOT in Florida! Before our last trip, I stopped at a drug store and got mini hand held fans for about $1 each. They fit in my backpack and we all loved having them during the trip.

I hope you find these hints helpful on your next Disney trip. What do you bring with you to Disney that makes your vacation easier and a bit more magical?

June 18, 2012

Celebrating a Birthday at Walt Disney World

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Amy B.  She has written this wonderful guest post on how to celebrate Birthdays while at Walt Disney World.  Enjoy!

Most people spend their 21st birthday hopping from bar to bar with their friends. Not me. When I turned 21 (many years ago), I celebrated at the best place in the world, Walt Disney World, with my family. The first drink I ordered was a margarita from the San Angel Inn at Epcot’s Mexico pavilion. The wonderful wait staff noticed it was my birthday, brought out a cake and sang to me, in Spanish of course, and gave me a card they had all signed. It was wonderful celebrating my birthday at Disney World. (Side note, I also celebrated my 22nd birthday at Disney World, which was my first day on the Walt Disney World college program!)

Any trip to Disney World is fantastic, but there are many ways you can help make someone's Walt Disney World birthday extra special! Here are some hints that will help with your planning:

1. Buttons – Complimentary birthday buttons, and buttons for other occasions, are available from cast members at various locations in each park. Your best bet is to try Guest Relations, a Vacation Planning Booth or check with a cast member. Pin one on and you’ll be wished a Happy Birthday more than any other birthday in your life!

2. Disney Floral and Gifts - Did you know that Disney can help you create an extra special gift for someone’s birthday? They can send flowers, balloons or a plush Mickey Mouse (amongst other choices) to your hotel room or an onsite restaurant as a special surprise. There are a variety of price ranges and theme options. (And, let’s be honest – this is Disney! They can help create anything you can dream up for your celebration!)

3. Cakes – You can order a Mickey Mouse cake or a Disney themed cake from the Walt Disney World bakery (407) 827-2253 and have it delivered throughout the resort for your celebration. Note that a basic cake should be available just by asking at any restaurant. Anything more “themey” will require 48 hours.

4. Parties – Goofy’s Candy Company at Downtown Disney offers birthday parties if you’re looking something a bit more traditional. This is a great option if you’re traveling with a large group of kids or if you live close to Disney World.

5. Dress the birthday boy or birthday girl – One of my favorite party hints is to always “dress your guests” with fun party wearables. That goes for a birthday at Disney World too!
  • Grab a Mickey or Minnie balloon as soon as you arrive at the park and tie it to the birthday boy or girl to wear during the day.
  • There are also Mickey birthday ears (customizable, of course) or princess ears that let everyone know it’s someone’s special day!
  • Then there are always beads, feather boas and glow necklaces to highlight your celebrant that you can grab at your local party store and bring from home.

6. Special experiences – For an older birthday boy or girl (or birthday adult!), sign up for one of the many tours offered in the parks. For a child, how about a magical trip to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for a birthday girl or to the Pirates League for a birthday boy? Don’t forget your camera!

7. Fantastic meals – There are so many wonderful choices for a birthday celebration. Be sure to mention if there is a birthday celebration as part of your meal. You may be treated to singing waiters, free cupcakes or other special treats.

How do you like to celebrate a birthday at Disney World? Any special plans? If you’re not going to be at Disney World, you can, of course, plan a Disney theme birthday party at home. Here are some Mickey and Minnie birthday party ideas from Party411.

Amy B is a Disney loving Mom of two boys, ages 4 and 6.  She, her husband and her boys love talking about Disney World, reading about Disney World, planning for Disney World and most of all, visiting Disney World!  Amy works as an event planner and web designer at www.party411.com.

June 9, 2012

Free Subscription to Disney FamilyFun Magazine!

Here's an offer for a FREE subscription (20 issues) to Disney FamilyFun Magazine.  No strings attached ~ you will never receive a bill!  I just snagged my free subscription!  This magazine has great ideas that families can do together - crafts, party ideas, kid friendly recipes and more.  This offer is good until the limited amount of subscriptions run out.


June 7, 2012

I'm guest posting today at... My Favorite Finds!

I'm guest posting today over at Carrie's blog called My Favorite Finds.  Carrie and I are both writers for Chip & Co., and we both love Disney!  In fact, Carrie's at Walt Disney World right now (lucky duck!) which is why she invited me to post on her blog.

Today, I shared with the My Favorite Finds readers about a few of the lesser-thought of items to put in your Park Bag.  Go check it out!

Click the button below to view My Favorite Finds and take a look around!  Carrie has a lot of great recipes, craft tutorials, and organization tips.  You can also visit the My Favorite Finds facebook page too!  Thanks for allowing me to post on your blog, Carrie!

June 6, 2012

Take a Picture of WHAT?! You won't be sorry!

Walt Disney World is one of the most photographed places in the World.  Almost everyone brings a camera to Walt Disney World, even if it's just a camera built into their cell phone.  But have you ever thought to take a picture of the following?  Taking these pictures just might save you from a lot of unwanted stress!

The Contents of your Luggage.  Should your bags not arrive at the airport when you do, having a picture of the contents of your luggage will help in claiming your bags.

The BACK of Admission tickets, Photopass Card, and Disney Gift Cards.  Turn your cards over and take a picture of the BACK of each.  By having the number from the back of your admission ticket, guest relations will be able to quickly reissue you a new ticket with the correct amount of remaining days should you accidentally lose it.  The same goes for a lost Disney Gift Card - guest relations can cancel the lost card and transfer the balance to a new gift card.  Lost your photopass card?  No worries, you can be reissued a new one containing all of the photo data from the lost card.  If you've lost your photopass card at home, all you need is the number from the back to log into the photopass site and view your pictures.

HINT: Consider taking pictures of the back of your cards with more than one camera (cell phone + digital camera) just in case your cards are lost with your cell phone (or camera).  Also, if you've received your tickets prior to leaving for WDW, photocopy them!  Keep a photographed copy of your tickets in your room as backup.

Resort Room Number.  Take a picture of your resort door showing your room number.  For security reasons, your resort room number is NOT on your Keys to the World Card, even though it serves as your room key.  Save yourself an embarrassing trip to the front desk admitting you've forgotten where your room is and take a quick picture of your room number.

Parking Spot and Rental Car.  If you drove to a Disney Park, take a picture of your parking spot AND the area markers nearby (parking row # and character marker) in the parking lot.  After a full day in the parks, you may have forgotten where you've parked.  A photographic reminder will certainly help you out!  Some people forget what their rental car looks like.  Take a picture of your rental car, including the plate #, to save you from the embarrassment of not knowing which car is yours.

Photograph your Kids EVERY Morning.  Take a picture of your kids before leaving your resort each morning.  If a child wanders off in a Park, parents can panic and completely forget what their child was wearing.  Having a picture with them (on a digital camera or cell phone) will allow them to show Cast Members who they're looking for.

HINT:  Take a picture of your kids from behind as well.  Cast Members can find that helpful too!

Hopefully you won't experience any of the problems listed above.  But taking these pictures will at least give you peace of mind and you'll be prepared just in case!

June 5, 2012

How to Tour the Magic Kingdom (Part 2)

If you missed it, here's Part One of "How to Tour the Magic Kingdom."  In it, I told you how to tour 4 lands before lunch time!  Now, we're moving on to what can be accomplished after lunch through Closing...
Afternoon Touring:
  • Between Noon and 3 PM is the most crowded and hottest part of the day at the Magic Kingdom!  Some people (including me) choose to head back to their Disney Resort for lunch and an afternoon break (nap or swim.)
  • If you choose to stay at the park - no problem!  Return to Liberty Square, Frontierland and Adventureland and hit many of the less popular attractions such as: Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree, and the Tiki Room.  All of these attractions are indoors and air conditioned!
    • Intermix the above "air conditioned" attractions with these others: Aladdin's Flying Carpet Ride, Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, and Tom Sawyer's Island.
    • Visit some Characters if you're into that!
  • If you went back to your Resort for a break - consider eating an early dinner there so you can maximize your evening touring time at the Magic Kingdom.
Evening Touring:  
(You're either coming back from a break at your hotel, or you've just finished your afternoon touring.)
  • Head to Tomorrowland!  Pick up a FP for Space Mountain.  Ride these less-popular attractions while you wait for your FP time to approach: Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Monsters Inc Laugh Floor, and Carousel of Progress.  
    • Grab a FP for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin once you're allowed (by now it may not even be necessary if there's less than a 20 minute wait.)  Return to Space Mountain and ride it.
  • Eat dinner whenever your ready for it.  :)
    • If you took a mid-day break and ate an early dinner... head back to any attractions you may have missed but want to see - the lines are likely shorter by now.
  • View the Main Street Electrical Parade (check your times guide).  
    • If you're not into the parades, this is a great time to hit headliner attractions that you want to ride again!
  • The Magic, the Memories, and You is an evening show at the Castle.  Again, if you skip this you'll be able to hit more attractions with little wait times.
Closing Touring:
  • Wishes Fireworks takes place right at park closing.  It's worth the watch.
  • Once the fireworks commence, the park attractions close-down.  Many people rush to the exit at the end of the fireworks show.  I say, DON'T do that!  Here's why:
    • All of the Gift Shops remain OPEN for one hour after the Park's closing time!  This is a great time to shop if you're looking for souvenirs.  Or grab a sweet treat from the Main Street Bakery while you're waiting for the crowds to thin out.
    • See the "Kiss Goodnight" from the castle!  About 30 - 45 minutes after the park's official closing, the castle lights up with special colors, and a special goodnight message is played.  It's a fun and simple treat to see that many others haven't!
    • If you're staying at a Disney Resort and have hung around the Magic Kingdom for a bit after closing, chances are your bus ride isn't going to be so packed on the ride back - you'll likely have a seat on the bus which is a plus after walking all day.
      • I understand that with small children these "late night" tips aren't going to work.  That's okay... you can look forward to these treats in the years to come!
I know I didn't include every attraction in this touring plan.  There's so much to do and see, that it's hard to do it all in one day.  Just swap out my suggestions with your "must see's" early on in the day, then return to those "lands" in the afternoon or evening for the less popular attractions that you'd like to experience.

Finally, use an Itinerary Chart to help plan out your day(s) in the Park.  Figure out what you want to see and where to eat.  You don't have to follow it to a "T," but it sure helps to have at least something in place. 

I hope you take a few of these ideas to try out, if not the entire plan.  But most of all, I hope you truly enjoy your time spent at Disney's Magic Kingdom!

    June 4, 2012

    How to Tour the Magic Kingdom (Part 1)

    I hate crowds and I hate hot weather.  So why am I crazy enough to keep going back to Walt Disney World where they have both?!  Plain and simple - the Disney atmosphere far outweighs these negatives.

    To spare myself from the worst of the crowds and the hottest temperatures, I created my own touring plan for the Magic Kingdom back in 2005, and it hasn't failed me yet.  I'm going to share it with you in two parts.  You may disagree with my logic, and that's okay... because it means a few less people for me to deal with crowd-wise if you're somewhere else in the park.  ;o)

    This touring plan for the Magic Kingdom works best for those who want to avoid crowds, long lines and the brunt of the heat:

    Early Morning:
    • Wake up EARLY!  It's hard, especially when you're on vacation, but so worth it!
    • Get to the Magic Kingdom before opening.  If you're staying at a Disney Resort, be at the bus stop an hour before park opening.
    • Watch the Opening Show (which begins 10 minutes before official park opening time!)
    • If you've completed all of the above, you're ahead of the game!  Now you'll be able to accomplish A LOT within the first hour of park opening.
    Morning Touring:
    • Once you're in, hit your "must-see" attractions in Adventureland and Frontierland.  
      • Most people (due to being right-handed) head to the RIGHT.  If you ever stand at the "hub" in front of Cinderella's castle.  Look at the entrance path to Adventureland, then turn around and look at the entrance to Tomorrowland - it is nearly twice as wide!  Walt Disney knew that most people head to the right and planned for it in his park design.  Smart man!
      • We head to the left and enjoy Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with very little wait time.  (The cues for Splash and Big Thunder are both outside... better to do them both now, than to wait outdoors in the afternoon heat!)
    • Continue touring the park in a Clock-wise motion moving on to Liberty Square.
      • We ride Haunted Mansion and then go straight to Fantasyland (we'll come back later for the Riverboat and Hall of Presidents).
    • Next up is Fantasyland!  
      • Grab a FastPass for Peter Pan's flight (unless the wait is less than 20 minutes - but often it's not).  While waiting for your FP time to begin, hit the less popular rides like Small World, Mickey's Philharmagic (great way to sit and enjoy some air conditioning!), and the Mad Tea Party. 
      • There are many other fun rides in Fantasyland such as the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Cinderella's Carousel, Dumbo and Goofy's Barnstormer.  Try them out now if the wait is 20 minutes or less.  If the wait is longer and a FP is offered - grab that.
        • My rule of thumb is "Go ahead and wait in a line if the time is 20 minutes or less.  If the wait is longer, grab a Fast Pass or come back in the evening."
      • I understand Fantasyland is under it's expansion construction right now.  I will certainly update my touring plans as each phase is complete.
    • If you're into Character Hunting, you may want to check out a Character Schedule and plan your attractions around the Character meet and greet times.  
    Hopefully you will have been able to complete your must see's in these first 4 "lands" before lunch time!  Now it's time for a break!  Either have lunch in the park or head back to your Resort hotel for lunch and a swim or a nap.   If you're eating lunch in the parks, I recommend Columbia Harbour House in Liberty Square.  (HINT: Many people don't realize the Columbia Harbour House has two floors.  If the first floor seems crowded, head upstairs for a more quiet setting to enjoy your meal!)

    Continue reading about this Touring Plan in Part Two!