Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why I love Japan in the World Showcase part I

I have had a number of people tell me that they skip EPCOT because they think that their children will be bored.  Or tell me that they only do Future world because the World Showcase doesn't have much for kids to do.  Or tell me that they only go to Mexico and Norway because those are the only countries with rides.  So, I am here to tell you about some of the things that you are missing.

I have two girls - aged 14 and 10.  Their first trip to Disney they were 8 and 5.  And from the beginning - EPCOT has been their favorite park.  And the world showcase - their favorite part.  There is soooo much to do and see there.  And so much that your children will love.  But.  They are hidden treasures.  And I am going to tell you about one of them.

Japan is probably my girls' favorite country.  And one of their favorite things to do is to dress up in Kimonos (yes - even as a tween and a teen - they still enjoy doing this!).  At the back of the Mitsukoshi department store is a whole room of kimonos (for both men and women; boys and girls) and accessories such as obis (the part that goes around the waist), getas (the traditional shoes that look like wooden flip flops), ornaments for your hair and even parasols.

 (The girls in the beginning of the process - picking out the kimonos in the right size and color)

 (This is my daughter Madalyn and her friend Hannah on our trip last summer - aren't they beautiful?!)

 (This is my oldest, Katie - enjoying a moment of playing dress up.  I think she really liked the flowers in her hair!)

 (The back of Madalyn's kimono.  They didn't put the traditional Obi on her like they did in Katie's in the picture above, but used a pretty scarf)

 (This is Madalyn several years ago in full regalia - including her shoes!)

 (My girls a few years ago and the Japanese cast member who helped them to dress.  Please ignore my children's dirty feet :-) )

 (One of the hair ornament options in Katie's hair)

If you speak with one of the cast members there, they will help you to get fully decked out.  It's great fun.  So not boring.  And it's great experience for you and your children to embrace a bit of another culture.

This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Head over there to see more great Disney-related posts and articles.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Need some Captain Jack?

One of my favorite things about Disney are all the "little" shows.  And these little shows are full of big details and excellent theming.  One that you can find at the Magic Kingdom park is the "Pirate Tutorial" with Captain Jack Sparrow and his trusty sidekick, Mack.

In this show, Captain Jack will teach the intricacies of being a pirate.  Such as sword fighting.  How to bail water from your boat.  The pirate oath.  And when to run away!

It's interactive so the kids get to be part of the show - and even get a certificate to prove that they are pirates.

To find this show - it's just next to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride - and be sure to consult your times guide when you get to the park for the list of performance times throughout the day.  This show does not allow time for autographs or individual pictures - let me know if you find this has changed!

So...what about you?  Are you a Pirates fan?  Have you done the Pirate tutorial? 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Disney's photopass

Disney offers a wonderful service to you while you are on your vacation - they will take great pictures of you and your whole party.  There are photographers stationed throughout the parks (and waterparks) - typically in front of the icons and sometimes they are even paired with characters.  When you first get to the parks, request a photopass card from the first photographer that takes your picture.

This card - about the size of a credit card - will have a unique number on the back that you can register online so that you can view your pictures.  When you get that card, take a clear picture of it with your own camera or phone (or both) so that if you lose the card, you'll still have access to your photos.  You can register more than one card to your account.  This is a great thing if you are part of a larger group that splits up - everyone can be sure to have their photos taken while they are in the parks.

At the water parks, you'll be given a smaller card that you can attach to your wrist - and it looks like this:

Photopass is great because you'll be able to get pictures of everyone - including the usual photographer!

When you've registered your card, you can edit your photos online - and you can even add borders to your pictures:

Let me tell you about two of those pictures above.  The first is of my daughter, Madalyn - the one with the photopass around her wrist.  That picture was taken in the "kids" section of the water park.  They have a zipline and "icebergs" for the kids to walk across.  It's not really accessible to the adults.  Actually my teens weren't permitted to go in because they are too tall.  So - with photopass, I can see all the neat things that they did - and what I "missed" while I sat at my chair reading my book!

The second photo I want to mention is another at the waterpark - the one of the girl going down the very steep slide.  That is my daughter's friend Hannah who went on vacation with us last summer.  There were photographers taking pictures of you as you went down the slide - and then expression you wore when you got to the bottom.  Again, this is a picture I would never have been able to get - and am so thankful that there were tons of memories captured through this great service.

You can also add another type of border - a character autograph.  This option is not always available - but I love when it is there:

When you go to look at your pictures, you may find that you have received some "magic" shots.  There are a number of ones that might be taken (and feel free to ask your photographer if they can do one for you - I know that the photographers working with tripods cannot) - but this is my favorite:

Another cool thing that you might find when you login to your account are "bonus" pictures.  These are stock Disney photos that you now can use for your own personal albums.  Here are two that came with our last photopass CD:

Your photos expire after 30 days - so be sure to do your editing and your borders pretty soon after you arrive home.  When you receive your cd, it will include all your photos.  When you put a border on a photo, the website saves it with the border - and there is also a copy without the border - so you still have an "original" print.  A lot of photos fit on a CD - I think that my last one had over 300 images!

The cost of the CD is $149 plus tax and shipping.  However, you can use this link - purchase the CD before your trip, you will only pay $99 plus tax and shipping!  It really is risk free - if you don't like the pictures the photographer took - or you couldn't find photographers - or you only really like one or two pictures - Disney will give you a FULL refund!

So...are you the main photographer in your family?  Do you make sure to have someone take pictures of you?  What do you most like (or want to) to photograph at Disney? 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The BEST Disney advice

Today I was talking with a friend that is headed to Disney World over spring break and she asked me for some advice on dealing with the expected crowds.  We talked about a few ways to deal with the crowds.  About some touring plans.  And then I offered her my best advice.  And that advice holds true year round - whether you have spring break crowds, Christmas crowds, or off season crowds.  And that advice?  Be there BEFORE the park opens.

Yes.  BEFORE.  In crowded times, 45 minutes before is a good option - 15 or 20 minutes before it opens in the off season.  WHY?  Often Disney will begin letting guests into the park 15 minutes before the posted opening time (and over Christmas break, they were letting in guests 30 minutes early).  By being at the gate, ready to go into the park you have a HUGE head start on the majority of guests who will visit Disney that day.  So many people - when they go on vacation - want to relax.  Sleep in.  And then mosey on over to their park of the day.  So, when those families arrive at the parks at 11am or noon - you have probably seen at least half of the park (if not more) and you are ready to head back to your resort for a nap.  Or even an afternoon by the pool.  You are now doing that relaxing while those other families are standing in long lines.   

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why you should use a travel agent

There was a really good article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today explaining how to have a fabulous Disney vacation.  The main point of the article being that you have to PLAN a Disney trip.  And there is a lot of planning that goes into making a Disney vacation magical.  However, the author of the article left out a very important ingredient - A travel agent.

So - how does a travel agent help you?  Let me explain:

1.  A travel agent - and specifically a Disney travel agent has a lot to offer - the main thing being expertise. I have been in the parks HUNDREDS of times.  I can offer insights, ideas and ways to "zig" while all the other guests are "zagging." 

2.  Concierge level service - this service can be a huge time saver for you!  I will make all of your reservations for you - from your resort to your dining to any events you'd like to attend.  Reservations for meals are essential when visiting Disney - and I can help you to plan out your days so that you will know where you are going to be 180 days before you get there! 

3.  Cost savings  - the best part of my service?  It's completely FREE.  The next best part of my service?  I am going to save you money!  When you use my service, I will be watching for specials that Disney will offer after we've made your reservation - and I can make those cost saving changes free of charge.  And to tie in with point number one, expertise, I can also help you to save money in the parks.  For example, did you know that you can bring in your own snacks and drinks?  Watch for future blog posts about other ways to save money in the parks!

4.  Individualized touring plans - Once we have decided when you are going to go.  And which park your group will enjoy each day of your vacation.  And we have made dining reservations.  And event reservations (such as tours or an experience like "Pirates League").  Then we can discuss touring plans for your day.  Such as not to be missed rides or shows.  What you should do early in the day versus what could wait until later.  And we can talk about hidden treasures in the parks.

5.  Support a small business - I am so grateful for your support of my small business - and I depend on your referrals and testimonials for my growth.  I LOVE what I do - and am honored to help you attain your own "keys to the magic!"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Discounts available mid April through mid June

If you have been considering a trip to Disney, now is a great time to book.  There are discounts available from mid-April through mid-June.  Check out our "current deals" page for the specifics.  I'd love to help make your trip a reality!