October 31, 2012

Top 10 Tips for Introducing Children to Character Meet & Greets

Today's article comes from guest blogger, Sarah. She's got some helpful tips for parents whose children may be fearful of meeting Disney Characters.  Thanks for sharing with us, Sarah!

Character meet and greets are just as much a part of the Walt Disney World experience as riding Dumbo and the Tea Cups. And for some children a trip to Disney World wouldn't be complete without that hug from Mickey. But what if after planning your dream vacation your child takes one look at Mickey and screams in terror... now what!?!

The most important thing to remember is you need to go at a child's pace when meeting characters. Every child is different (as any parent with more than one child knows). Some children love characters, some children are ok with the characters, and some children just do not like them at all. If your child is nervous about meeting a character there are ways to help. Here are my top ten tips for helping your child overcome the fear of meeting a character...

1) Prepare your child before you even go on vacation.
There are many websites out there with lots of character pictures from Disney World (or even a friend on facebook may have a full album of pictures from their last trip). Show your child the pictures (focus on pictures that have children standing next to and hugging the characters) and point out how tall the characters are. This may help when they see them for the first time in real life. Don't be surprised though if they are overwhelmed by the size of the character. Some characters can be quite large and tall. As well, some characters have a more friendly appearance than others and because of this they may only want to see certain characters. 

2) Don't force your child to meet the characters!
I can't stress this one enough! You would not believe the screaming and crying children I have seen next to a character while mom and dad take a picture. I don't think that is the precious vacation memory you want to look back on five years from now?

3) Give your child time to adjust to the vacation and the idea of meeting characters.
On Day 1, he may not even want to look at a character, on Day 2, he may be blowing kisses, and by Day 4, he may be throwing his arms around them. Give them time to "warm up" to the characters. Let them observe other children meeting characters as well. Maybe after they see a few children get a picture with a character and come out of it alive they may be ok with the thought.

4) Introduce characters in a non-meet & greet setting first. 
Try some live shows (the Castle Stage show, Festival of the Lion King, etc.) or parades that have characters in them . Don't forgot to wave, blow kisses, or say "hi" from a distance.

5) Set an example.
You, yourself go up and meet the characters, and give them a hug or high-five. If your child sees you being friendly with the character it may help him overcome his fear.

6) It doesn't have to be intimate.
Not every interaction with a character has to include a full body contact hug. (Hugs are after all reserved for the special people or animals we know and love in our life, I can certainly understand a child not wanting to give out hugs to every "Mouse" he comes across!) Maybe your child would prefer just a high-five or to hand over the autograph book.

7) Be by their side.
Some children are more comfortable to meet a character if a parent or significant other goes with them. It's easier to smile for the camera if mom is holding their hand too!  Bringing a plush toy or doll along can help as well.  Characters love to interact with stuffed animals.

8) Try face characters.
What is a face character? Just that, a character which has a human face showing. These mostly include the Princesses but you have others like Aladdin, Peter Pan, etc. Some children find it easier to meet these type of characters instead of the full costumed ones. They can actually have a conversation with these characters and that can be a draw for some children. And don't shy away from the Princesses if you have a boy, they can be quite engaging for "knights in training".

9) Give them a purpose to meet the character. 
Get them to hand the character the autograph book or tell the child you need this picture for grandma because this is her favorite character. You'll be surprised how quickly they can change their mind if they think they're helping you!

10) Prepare the character ahead of time.
When your turn comes and as you approach the character it is perfectly okay for you to speak up and say, "Mickey, he's a little nervous today!" (or something along those lines, however I try to avoid the word "scared"). This helps the character to greet your child appropriately. Instead of holding out their arms for a big bear hug, they may hold out their hand or blow a kiss. The characters are very well trained!

And last but not least, don't stress about it! (I said I had 10 tips but I guess this is number 11!) Your child may never warm to the characters and that's okay. On the positive side you get to spend more time on all the attractions that Disney World has to offer.

Children change over time as well and if you have the luxury (like I do) to visit the Walt Disney World Resort multiple times your children may learn to love the characters in the future.

Just relax and enjoy your trip to Disney World... and if you do get in line to see Mickey say "hi" to him for me!

Sarah Barnes is a stay at home mom living in Newfoundland, Canada (a.k.a she's a Newfie).  She loves warm weather and is convinced she was born in the wrong climate. When she's not homeschooling her two children she spends her day thinking about, talking about, and planning her next trip to Disney World.

October 26, 2012

You Could Win a Dooney & Bourke Purse or Disney Gift Card!

We've teamed up with a number of excellent blogs, websites and Facebook pages to bring you another great giveaway!  There are 3 fun prizes up for grabs:
  1. An Official Dooney & Bourke Disney Cruise Line Purse
  2. One $75 Disney Gift Card
  3. One $50 Disney Gift Card

The contest is being sponsored by the following:
To enter, simply complete the requirements below in the Rafflecopter box. You can earn multiple entries daily, so check back every day to make sure you maximize your chances to win!  The contest begins at 12:01 a.m. October 27, and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, November 4, 2012.  Good luck!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

October 18, 2012

Are you a Hidden Mickey hunter?

Who doesn't love seeing Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World?  Everyone knows that you can meet him while you're at Disney, but did you know you can find him everywhere if you're looking closely?  Imagineers (the creative folks who design everything you see) have a great time placing "Hidden Mickeys" throughout Walt Disney World attractions, theme parks and resorts.  These Mickeys are typically the traditional three circle Mickey shape, but are sometimes Mickey's profile. 

My family and I love looking for them as we make our way through Walt Disney World.  Here are a few Hidden Mickey examples:
  Do you see it here on this art from the Maharajah Jungle Trek in the Animal Kingdom?

Here's a closer look. See his necklace?

 Take a look at this statue from Mama Melrose in Hollywood Studios

Notice the spots?
Here's a Mickey toy (yes, that counts!) hidden in the waiting area for Test Track in Epcot.

Look at Planet Earth on this mural in the line for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin in the Magic Kingdom.  This is a Mickey profile.

See the rubber duck on this fountain in Hollywood Studios?

Hidden Mickeys aren't only in the parks.  Take a look around your hotel for a fun and free activity outside of the parks!  Here's the carpet from the Beach Club Resort.

Here is a brand new Hidden Mickey from our friends over at Mouse and Memos.  It can be found outside of the Under the Sea, Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction in the New Fanstasyland area of the Magic Kingdom.  (Do you see it on the rock?)

Do you and your family hunt down Hidden Mickeys while you're at Walt Disney World?  What is your favorite Hidden Mickey?

Happy hunting,

October 16, 2012

This Disney Vacation Planner gave us a Better Deal Compared to what Disney Offered Us!

Some of you read our series on Authorized Disney Vacation Planners.  We interviewed 5 vacation planners whose services are free and got to know each one of them a little bit better.

Up until learning about ADVPs, I had always booked my own Disney vacations through the Disney World website.  Now that I know better, I figured I'd hand over my reservation-making skills and let a travel agent do the work for me.

I chose Darren Wittko with Magical Vacations Travel to assist me in booking our cruise.  (We sailed on the Disney Dream in September, which you can read about here.)  Darren responded quickly to all of my email - nothing fell through the cracks.  I told him what Cruise I'd like to take, the dates, our flight info, my food-allergy, and that we'd like ground transportation to and from the airport.

Darren took care of it all!  What a time saver!  I didn't have to click-through the reservations website and enter in all my info.  I didn't have to arrange the ground transportation.  I didn't have to make the phone call to Disney Cruise Line to make them aware of my food allergy.  Darren did it all!  And to top it off, he told us we qualified for a $50 on board credit from his Travel Agency!  What?!  Darren was doing all of the grunge work, yet we were being rewarded!

Now, before I officially booked through Darren, I did go to the Disney Cruise Line website and entered in our cruise dates.  I saw the price that I would have to pay... and I made sure Darren came back with that exact same price - not a penny more!  He did just that!  Exact same pricing, but even better - we received that $50 on-board credit.  We wouldn't have gotten that $50 had we booked the cruise ourselves through the DCL website.

So, give an ADVP a try!  Their services are free, no nitty-gritty work for you, and you just might receive an extra perk or two!

If you would like to book a vacation with Darren, you may contact him via his facebook page, or his website: The Best of Walt Disney World. To read our recent interview with Darren, click here!

October 9, 2012

Walt Disney World Character Boot Camp

As my family’s next Disney trip approaches, we're wrapping up a special assignment – Walt Disney World Character Boot Camp.  It’s a highly successful, kid-friendly (no push-ups), mother approved program that I highly recommend for your family before your next trip to Disney World.  My children are both graduates of the program and will earn their training certificate again before our next trip.

Since you’ve asked, (well, since you’re still reading), I’ll give you the two simple planning steps, the program, and then the method behind the madness.

Character Boot Camp Planning

Planning Step 1 – Take inventory of Disney movies available at home.  Research and make note of available titles from your local library or video rental store.

Planning Step 2 – Note which Disney movies you must watch before getting to Walt Disney World and create a schedule of movie watching for your family.  Pay special attention to any movies with characters you’ll be meeting at character meals that you have booked.

Character Boot Camp Program

The plan is simple - watch as many Disney movies as possible before heading to Walt Disney World.  Be prepared with popcorn and other snacks.

Behind the Madness

Boot camp for our family begins months before our trips for one main reason.  There are so many characters to see at Walt Disney World and I know my children will get more out of it if they know them by name and movie.  So, starting over the summer when life wasn't as hectic (yeah, right) we started watching all the Disney movies I have collected through the years.  Then we hit the library and grabbed titles we didn't have at home. 

Here’s the insane list of movies we have watched this year, with notes next to some about why they are especially important to us or any attractions where we’ll see the characters.  And, of course, they’ll get the chance to meet many of these characters:

  • 101 Dalmations (animated and live action) - one of the themed areas of the All Star Movies resort
  • A Bug’s Life – check out It’s Tough to be a Bug in Animal Kingdom
  • Aladdin – ride the Magic Carpets of Aladdin in the Magic Kingdom.  You can meet Aladdin in the Magic Kingdom and in Morocco at Epcot as well.
  • Alice in Wonderland – ride the Mad Tea Party (MK) and meet Alice and friends by this attraction or at 1900 Park Fare.
  • Beauty and the Beast – check out Beauty and the Beast, Live on Stage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Meet Belle in Epcot at Akershus in Norway and in France, or at Cinderella's Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom.
  • Cars and Cars 2 – a great section at Art of Animation.  Meet the cars at Hollywood Studios.
  • Cinderella – we're having dinner with the Cinderella crew at 1900 Park Fare.  You can also meet her, her stepmother and stepsisters in the Magic Kingdom.
  • Finding Nemo – another section at Art of Animation and The Seas with Nemo and Friends in Epcot.
  • The Incredibles- meet the Incredibles in Hollywood Studios.
  • James and the Giant Peach - I don't think you can meet them, but it did get my kids eating peaches!
  • Jungle Book - meet King Louie at Animal Kingdom.
  • Lady and the Tramp – Tony’s Town Square restaurant (MK)
  • Lilo and Stitch - Meet them at Ohana at the Polynesian Resort.  Stitch greets guests in Tomorrowland and at Hollywood Studios as well.
  • Lion King and Lion King 1½ - we’re staying in the Lion King section of Art of Animation.  There is also the Festival of the Lion King show in Animal Kingdom.
  • The Little Mermaid – another section at Art of Animation and Voyage of the Little Mermaid showing Hollywood Studios.  Ariel greets guests at Akershus, Cinderella's Royal Table and in the Magic Kingdom.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – we'll meet them at breakfast at the Crystal Palace.  See then on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction in the Magic Kingdom or meet them in all of the parks except Hollywood Studios.
  • Mary Poppins - you can meet her and at 1900 Park Fare, in the United Kingdom at Epcot and in the Magic Kingdom.
  • Monsters, Inc – we love the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.  Meet the guys in Hollywood Studios.
  • Mulan - meet her in China at Epcot.
  • The Muppets – see them in Muppet Vision 3Dat Hollywood Studios.
  • Peter Pan – ride Peter Pan’s Flight and meet him in the Magic Kingdom.
  • Pocahontas - meet her in the Animal Kingdom.
  • Princess and the Frog - meet Tiana and Prince Naveen in the Magic Kingdom.
  • Ratatoullie - we're having dinner in France with Remy and friends
  • Robin Hood
  • Sleeping Beauty- she can be met at Akershus and Cinderella's Royal Table. 
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - Snow White greets guests at Akershus, Cinderella's Royal Table and in the Magic Kingdom.  You can meet the dwarfs at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.
  • Tangled - meet Rapunzel in the Magic Kingdom
  • The Nightmare before Christmas
  • The Three Caballeros – we love them in the Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexican pavilion in Epcot!
  • Toy Story (all of them) – ride Toy Story Mania (Hollywood Studios) and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (MK).  It is also one of the themed areas of the All Star Movies resort.  You can meet Buzz in Tomorrowland and at Hollwood Studios, where he greets guests with Woody.
Keep in mind, character greeting locations often change.  This information is accurate as of October 2012.  We love and always use Kenny the Pirate's site for up to the date character greeting locations. 

Now, I promise I did let my kids out of the house this summer.  We watched a lot of movies towards the end of our very busy days.  The kids loved picking a new movie to watch.  And, as an added bonus, my children also learned the answer to the very valuable question, “What is a VCR?”.

I’d say our boot camp was a success!  Now, boot camp for Mom and Dad is slightly different.  For me, it meant months interviewing shoes for our trip, researching touring plans and creating a seemingly endless packing list...

Happy planning!

October 8, 2012

Midship Detective Agency - Help Mickey Find the Clues!

The Midship Detective Agency is an interactive game on the Disney Dream (and on the Fantasy too) that uses the Enchanted Artwork found all over the ship to help find clues and solve a mystery!
To begin, go to the self-serve kiosk located on mid-ship Deck 5 and pick up a game card and ship map which includes a list of suspects and locations of where you can find each clue.  The kiosk also contains a short video with instructions on how to play.  You can choose to solve 'The Case of the Missing Puppies' or 'The Case of the Stolen Artwork.'  (As soon as you solve one case, you are free to come back and select the other in order to play both!)
Stand on this icon in front of the Enchanted Artwork to activate clues!
To play, simply find any piece of Enchanted Artwork on the ship, stand on the icon, and hold your game card level with the screen.  The Enchanted art will then play a short video clip, possibly asking you to complete a small task (such as popping balloons by moving your game card forward and back) and then will reveal a clue to you.  You can usually eliminate one of your suspects from each clue given.
Enchanted Artwork appears "normal" to any passerby.
As soon as the Enchanted Artwork is activated, a short film will play!
Gather your clues and mark off suspects from your brochure.
You can play this game from start to finish all in one hour, or you can stop every now and then and come back later - the computerized gaming system "knows" where you're at in the game based on the code from your card.  Oh - and don't worry - if you happen to see someone else playing the game, chances are you'll receive a different clue from that screen.  Each game is randomized with a different criminal as the outcome!

After traveling around the ship and collecting all of the clues, you can typically solve the crime and become an official Midship Detective!