September 29, 2012

Who wants to WIN a $100 Disney Gift Card?


WDW Hints has teamed up with Mouse and Memos.com, MouzeKateerz, Disney's Cheapskate Princess, Picturing Disney, Distinctive Journeys and Disney Vacations by Distinctive Journeys to bring you a fun contest for a chance at winning a $100 Disney Gift Card!  

To enter, you must like all 7 of the Facebook pages mentioned here:  
You can earn additional entries by sharing the contest or by following some of these websites on Twitter or Pinterest.  There are other ways to enter as well - just take a look at the official Rafflecopter entry form at My Dreams of Disney!  

The $100 Disney Gift Card giveaway starts on Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 12:01AM, and runs until Monday, October 8, 2012, at 12:01 AM (effective all day Sunday, October 7, 2012.)  Good luck!

Enter here to win!!

September 25, 2012

Disney Cruise Line - A Great Alternative (or Addition) to a WDW vacation

I've heard the statement "A Disney Cruise is less expensive than a Disney World vacation."  I believe this to be true, and I also think it's a great alternative if you (or someone in your party) are "too Disney'd out."

While a Disney Cruise does seem like a large chunk of money to pay upfront, once you've paid for it - you're practically done shelling out money (except for tips and any souvenirs or excursions you choose to purchase - but those are all optional.)  The food and entertainment is all-inclusive... and those 2 items alone are enough to keep you occupied!

We sailed on the Disney Dream from Sept 13 to 16 and had a wonderful time!  Here are some of the activities we enjoyed:

Broadway-style, Disney-themed Live Shows.  These shows were great!  Entitled "The Golden Mickeys," "Villains Tonight!" and "Believe," each one was captivating - never a dull moment.  I was impressed that they used every feature on stage - from the trap-doors in the floor, to the flying harnesses above.  The performers were top-notch.  Each show definitely had that "attention to detail" that Disney never fails to give.  These shows are a definite must-see!

The Food!  Every evening we were served a 5 course meal in one of the three main dining rooms.  You are assigned a different dining room each night so you can experience all 3 restaurants, however, your serving staff follows you.  This is handy because they get to know you a little bit and figure out what you like in terms of food - how it's cooked, and what beverages you prefer.  This was an extra bonus in my case, because I require a gluten-free diet.  Once they knew I needed a special diet, they worked with me to pre-order every meal and ensure it was gluten-free.  The food was wonderful!  And to top it off, the Chef made me a surprise dessert every night.  To read more about my dining experience with a food intolerance, check out my article on Chip & Co [link coming soon].

Movies.  We actually only watched one movie in the Movie Theater - Finding Nemo in 3D.  The movie premiered in the States on Sept 15th, and because the Ship is Disney-owned, the ship had the rights to show it onboard as well (at no extra cost to us!)  The Movie Theater on-board played movies almost constantly - all included in the price of the cruise.

Castaway Cay.  Disney leases it's own private island in the Bahamas.  There are several beaches, water slides, 3 quick service restaurants (again, all free food).  The only items you had to pay for (and certainly your choice) were bike rentals, snorkel gear rentals, cabana rentals, parasailing, souvenirs or alcohol.  If swimming isn't your thing, there were plenty of other activities such as volleyball, crab races, Character greetings, and a 5K race to name a few.

Character Greetings.  There are plenty of Characters on-board each Disney Cruise ship!  The Characters we saw often were: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Chip and Dale.  These characters often had different outfits on - from beach wear to formal dress.  Other Characters that made daily appearances were: Ariel, Belle, Tiana, Snow White, Aurora, Capt. Jack Sparrow, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee.  They all posed for pictures and signed autographs just as they do at WDW.


Deck Parties and Fireworks!  Did you know Disney is the only Cruise Line allowed to shoot Fireworks off at sea?  On Pirate Night, they put on a great Deck Show that even includes Capt. Jack Sparrow!  It then transitions into fireworks over the sea set to music from "Pirates of the Caribbean."  Once that show is over, it immediately becomes a deck dance party.  There are several other deck parties throughout the cruise - all filled with a fun show and dancing.

So much more!  I haven't even mentioned the AquaDuck (the first ever water-coaster at sea) or the Mid-Ship Detective Agency game.  There's plenty more to do and see... more posts to come!

What have you enjoyed on your Disney Cruise?

September 20, 2012

Think Twice about these Attractions with Toddlers!

I recently wrote about some attractions at Disney World that are great for toddlers.  The idea was sparked by a memory of my 2½ year old son flipping out during Mickey’s Philharmagic.  Who know that would scare him?!   I was really surprised by how many of the attractions that I didn’t think would scare him, really did!  If you’re planning a trip, here is a list of attractions that you may want to think about twice before attempting with a little one.  (Keep in mind; I’m not listing any obvious attractions like roller coaster style rides.)

Magic Kingdom

Mickey’s Philharmagic – Even though it’s in Fantasyland, this 4D movie (thank you Disney for that cool invention) has loud music, moments in the dark and water that squirts on you during the movie.  Not great for a little one.


Peter Pan’s Flight – Now, this is a very slow and very tame ride, but portions are in the dark, so you may want to avoid it if your little one is afraid of the dark.  We had no problems with my 2 ½ year old, but it’s worth giving a second thought.

Animal Kingdom

It’s Tough to Be a Bug – Disney does a pretty good job of warning people about this attraction before they enter with toddlers and I have to agree.  It’s another 4D movie with water squirts and a few funny for adults (but scary for kids) moments towards the end.  

Primeval Whirl – This fairly tame roller coaster may be the perfect introduction to your child to roller coasters, but it’s still pretty fast and may scare little ones.  There is a height restriction though which stops any child shorter than 48” from riding.

Hollywood Studios

Muppet Vision 3D – This is another 4D movie in the dark with loud sound effects that may scare small children.  We were able to distract my son with a glow stick when he got scared.


Studio Backlot Tour – My 4 year old panicked after the first explosion at the beginning of this attraction.  We didn’t make it past the outdoor area that shows the special effects during a movie.  Who knows what would have happened if we’d actually made it onto the tram.

EPCOT

Journey into Imagination with Figment – This is a slow moving ride through the Imagination Institute with one of my favorite characters, Figment.  It’s got bright colors, fun music and times of complete darkness and others when air is blown into your face.  It’s not too scary, but it may startle a little one.

Maelstrom – This is considered a family friendly attraction in Norway, but there is a decent size drop during the ride that may scare children.

So, there are plenty of attractions to consider before jumping on with a toddler.  I’m not suggesting you avoid them completely because your child may love them! And, keep in mind that Disney does a good job of restricting access to scarier attractions with height restrictions and warning signs outside before you enter.

What do you think?  Anything you feel you have to avoid when traveling with a toddler?

Amy

September 17, 2012

Campfire Sing-Along with Chip and Dale

Today we have a special treat.  Cheryl Koren, who specializes in Disney Destinations with Off to Neverland Travel, is sharing with us all about the Campfire Sing-along with Chip and Dale at Disney's Fort Wilderness!  Have you ever participated in this fun, free event?  Let's read Cheryl's take on it!

Looking for a fun, family-friendly, relaxed, and free (yep, I said free) activity involving characters at Walt Disney World?  If so, make your way over to the Fort Wilderness Campground for a Campfire Sing-Along with Chip and Dale!  This nightly event is free of charge, and includes entertainment, a chance to meet Chip and Dale, and even a Disney movie!  It starts around 7pm in the fall and winter seasons, and 8 pm in the spring and summer and is held near the Meadow Trading Post in the campfire area of the campground.  In the event of rain, the sing-along is still held on the porch of the Meadow Trading Post. To get exact times and the movie listing for the night you are planning on going you can call the Fort Wilderness Campground at 407-824-3200.  Or, if you are staying at Fort Wilderness Campground, the times and movie listings will be posted at all of the comfort stations.  


The program starts with the campfires being lit, then a Cast Member dressed up as a cowboy leads the group in a sing-and-dance-along.  You will definitely know most of the songs and dances – think Hokey Pokey and the Chicken Dance – so you can just jump right in and sing along!  During this time the hosts, Chip and Dale, make their way around the area, posing for pictures and signing autographs.  The whole sing-along lasts about 40 minutes, and then as soon as it is dark enough they start the movie on the big screen. Seating is available in bleachers or on benches, and there is also plenty of room to lie out a blanket or set up your own camp chairs.



Of course, while all of the signing and dancing and posing is going on, families are up roasting marshmallows and making s’mores at one of the two campfires.  You can bring your own supplies, or buy them right there at the Chuckwagon Snack Bar.  They sell roasting sticks, bags of marshmallows, Hershey's Chocolate Bars, and even a whole s'mores kit (which includes 2 roasting sticks), so your family can be all set for a around $10.  Other snacks such as pizza, hot dogs, popcorn, candy, and drinks are available as well. 


 
To get to the Sing-along, first you will have to get to the Fort Wilderness Campground.  You can either drive your car and park at the front parking lot or take Disney Transportation (to the front bus stop or the dock if you are taking a boat from the Magic Kingdom).  From there you will have to get onto another internal resort bus that will take you to the Campfire.  There are 3 routes within the campground, so you will need to take either the Yellow or Orange bus from the front stop.  But you can just ask the bus driver if you are not sure.  All of these bus trips take time, so be sure to leave enough travel time from your resort or theme park so you arrive on time.  A few other tips– bring bug spray and a flashlight if you have one. The Fort Wilderness Campground is in the woods, so there can be mosquitoes, and it gets pretty dark there at night especially after the movie is over, and you still have to walk back to the bus stop.  

If you have younger children, I recommend trying out the Campfire Sing-Along with Chip and Dale - both because it is an inexpensive way to see some Disney Characters and because it offers a low-key alternative to the often over-stimulating theme parks.  Even if you don’t stay for the movie, it is a fun-filled evening that is reminiscent of the ‘good old days’ of scout camp or fall bon-fires and marshmallow roasts.  Plus, you really can’t go wrong with melted chocolate on a graham cracker!!



About the Author: Cheryl Tennant Koren is a Disney Vacation Planner. A family vacation is all about creating lifelong memories, and she believes every family deserves an amazing vacation experience, created especially for them. As a Disney College of Knowledge graduate, Cheryl will help you create the perfect magical experience for you and your family. There are so many options available – accommodations, dining, tours, activities – she will work with you to tailor each to fit your family’s needs and desires.  She can handle every detail, from dining reservations to day-to-day itineraries, and take the stress out of planning so you can just enjoy your vacation – all for no additional cost.

September 12, 2012

10 Terrific Walt Disney World Attractions For Toddlers

I first took my youngest son to Disney World when he was 2 ½.  On our first day we went into Mickey’s Philharmagic (seems pretty tame, right?) and popped on a pair of 3D glasses.  Well, between the dark, the 3D and the noise, it completely scared him.  I didn’t think about how many times Disney leaves you (literally) in the dark on their attractions.  So, I took special note of attractions that he did love for anyone traveling with a toddler.  Here are my top 10 picks for toddler friendly attractions:

Magic Kingdom

Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Fantasyland is a classic Disney ride with very low “fear factor”.  Kids afraid of heights might not be thrilled, but you can control how high Dumbo flies while you’re riding. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin in Adventureland is similar to Dumbo in that kids can control how high you fly and also tilt the carpets forward and backwards. 

Tomorrowland Speedway in Tomorrowland – assuming the noise doesn’t bother them, driving their own car will thrill a toddler.  My kids love, love, love this attraction.  And, I usually end up hysterically laughing watching them crack up as they drive.


Walt Disney World Railroad – take a train ride around the park on a real train!  Perfect, of course, for any train loving toddler.

It’s a Small World in Fantasyland – now the boats might scare some children, but this gentle ride is fun and there is so much to see that most kids will love watching the children of the world dance and sing.

Hollywood Studios

Honey I Shrunk The Kids Movie Set – there’s nothing scary about this fun themed playground with giant grass, spider webs to climb through and a giant roll of film.  Granted, you’re going to have explain film to your children.  (Don’t forget, there are lots of playgrounds at Walt Disney World!)


Disney Junior, Live on Stage – what toddler isn’t into the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse?  This live show has characters from  the clubhouse, Jake and the Neverland Pirates and the Little Einsteins.  Oh, and lots and lots of bubbles.  Perfect.

Animal Kingdom

TriceraTop Spin – another Dumbo style attraction (when Disney finds something that works, they stick with it!) that will leave even the smallest riders giggling.

Kilimanjaro Safaris – I think this attraction is the best in the Animal Kingdom.  Climb on board and check out African animals in their “natural” habitats.  The slightly bumpy jeep ride has been known to put a cranky toddler to sleep and entertain any child who is wide awake!

(thanks Kilimanjaro safaris for the nap help)

EPCOT

Turtle Talk with Crush – after a short (and sweet) ride on a clam through the aquarium, you arrive at Turtle Talk with Crush, a hilarious (for adults and children!) interactive show where our favorite turtle, Crush, answers children’s questions about turtles and sometimes the meaning of life.  Even if you don’t have kids, it’s worth checking out! 

Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros - My children love this fun boat ride through Mexico.  There’s nothing scary here. It’s just Donald and the Three Caballeros seeing the sights in Mexico.

  
Of course, there are many more attractions that are great for little ones at Disney World. These are just my top 10 suggestions.  What are your favorite ways to entertain little ones at Disney?

Happy planning!
Amy

September 4, 2012

Fun Babysitting Options at Disney World


As expected, my Walt Disney World vacations changed after having kids.  Sit down meals became a bit stressful.  Our pace slowed down.  Some of our favorite attractions were put on hold for a few years.  And what about “Drinking around the World” at Epcot?  It’s just not going to happen for a while.

 Can you enjoy Epcot with the kids?  Yes!

Then again, you can still have some “grown up time” while at Walt Disney World.  A few years ago a friend of mine told me about the Never Land Club at the Polynesian Resort, a babysitting service for kids.  She and her husband dropped off their two kids for an evening and went to Epcot for dinner and drinks around World Showcase.  She said it was amazing and the kids had a blast!  Turns out that there are a number of kid only services offered by Disney that can let parents have a little grown up time and the kids can have fun with other children.

5 resorts offer unique “babysitting” options:
  1. Simba’s Cubhouse in Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is themed, of course, for the Lion King.  
  2. Cub's Den at Disney's Wilderness Lodge is a wilderness themed club.
  3. The Sandcastle Club at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts.  I wonder if this club offers actual sandcastle building!
  4. Never Land Club at Disney's Polynesian Resort.  A Peter Pan theme club – how cool is that?
  5. Camp Dolphin at Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan Hotel
These fun themed clubs are open nightly.  The hours vary, but they are usually open from about 4pm – midnight.   There are extra fees for this service and you have to pre-book your child by calling Disney at (407) 939-3463.

Along with these themed sitting locations, Disney can also arrange for private babysitting for your child in your hotel room.  They use an independent service called Kids Night Out and can be reached at (407) 828-0920.

Also, check out more information on the drop off Wonderland Tea Party that Lacey shared in a post.  There is also a pirate theme adventure for boys that is a drop off activity.  It’s called the Pirate Adventure, and it's a fun two hour pirate filled activity.  Both can be booked through Disney at 407-WDW-PLAY.

Photo courtesy of From Niceville with Love
These services are all a wonderful option for folks who might want a night away from the kids or are looking for a totally fun and unique experience for their kids. 

~Amy

September 3, 2012

'Magical Mouse Schoolhouse' Book Giveaway!!

Magical Mouse Schoolhouse is a great book that can be used by families with kids of all ages! There are plenty of activities and lessons geared towards little ones - such as making your own fossils using play-doh or trying 3 different recipes to make bubbles. Older students can attempt assignments such as making your own 3D pictures (using photo editing software), or making your own motion powered generator. There really is something for everyone within this book!  You can read my complete review here.

Would you like to WIN a FREE copy of Magical Mouse Schoolhouse?! It will even be AUTOGRAPHED by the author, Jodi Whisenhunt, herself!

To enter for a chance at winning this great book, please follow the Rafflecopter instructions below!  Contest begins at 12:01 AM, September 4th and ends Monday night, Sept 11th at 11:59 PM (eastern).

a Rafflecopter giveaway