Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Disney Parks Moms Panel, MagicBands, Walt Disney World, Walt Disney World Resort

There’s Something Unique About the Disney Parks & Resorts & Destinations

I remember our very first visit to Walt Disney World Resort back in 1998, with my then, four-year-old daughter. It was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list vacation where we would make and capture our special memories as the fairytales and Disney characters came alive. Little did we know, that these types of vacations would quickly embed themselves into our life.

What kept us coming back?

The unique and ever-evolving events, experiences, and attractions. The multitude of Disney Resort Hotels that offered unique theming at every price-point. The personalized experiences, and treatment. The inclusion, especially with our special needs son — no person is left behind from enjoying themselves fully.

In theme parks that could accommodate over 50,000 people on a given day, we were made to feel as if the theme park belonged to us, as if we were the only guests visiting that day.

Disney employees, lovingly referred to as Cast Members, are everywhere, you can easily spot them, and they’re always approachable, helpful, very friendly, and accommodating. It matters not what your needs are, they are always there to help, in a sincere manner. The services provided by the Walt Disney World Resort Guest Experience Team is like no other. They’ll assist with anything from personalizing a complimentary special occasion button, all the way to helping with a lost item. And believe me, when I say that they try, they do. My cousin accidentally left her sunglasses on an attraction, and before she knew it, the sunglasses were found amidst a sea of sunglasses, and magically shipped home.

Disney Cast Members strive to afford all guests an exceptional experience, which stems from Disney’s “Four Keys” – in priority being; Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency. Each ‘Key’ is important and plays a part with the rest to ensure incredible guest experiences.

The conveniences are like no other. Where else can you vacation and be fully entertained? Who else will provide complimentary return shuttle service from Orlando International Airport? Or, complimentary MagicBands, an all in one device that contains theme park ticket admission, attraction, and dining reservations, unlocks your Disney Resort Hotel Guest Room door, and even enables charges to your Disney Resort Hotel Guest Room account. Where else do you not see your luggage until your arrival in your Guest Room? Where else can you be transported around 47 square miles of theme and water parks, and shopping via bus, ferryboat, Monorail, and gondola? Where else can you push a button and magical fireworks will twinkle on your headboard anytime you wish?

There’s something about all of this. A pull, like no place else. It’s the way we are treated. It’s about how we forget about all our troubles and enter a world where it’s all about fun stuff, and yummy stuff, and stories coming alive, and making new friends, and seeing old ones — especially the many Cast Members, who are like family now.

It’s because Disney cares.

It’s about exceptional customer service.

That’s why.

Posted in Autism, Disney, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Parks, Uncategorized

Disney Cast Members

Recently, a poignant story came out about an autistic boy’s positive experience with a Disney Character at Walt Disney World Resort. I must admit, this is not a unique experience amongst guests with special needs at “The Place Where Dreams Come True”. It’s commonplace, as Disney continually strives to afford all guests as enjoyable, enriching, and as inclusive a vacation experience as possible — and to this very day, I can honestly say that every single Disney vacation holds a unique and special moment, and compassionate accommodations for our son that ensured he had a magical visit.

So, this is why…

  • to Winnie-the-Pooh who was easy-going about Andrew nuzzling against his snout…
  • to Buzz Lightyear who captured and maintained Andrew’s attention in mere seconds…
  • to Simo, our delightful server at ‘Ohana who knows exactly what to bring Andrew and when…
  • to Eeyore who lets Andrew pull off his tail and thanks him for noticing…
  • to the Guest Relations Cast Member who nods with understanding with no further explanation…
  • to Donald Duck for not losing his feathers when Andrew stepped on his big, yellow webbed feet…
  • to Cinderella for her feather-light embrace and the first girl that Andrew smiled at…
  • to Mickey Mouse for noticing Andrew’s shyness and for stepping out of the tent to tickle Andrew’s feet and make him giggle…
  • to the countless Cast Members for making us feel like a ‘normal’ family…
  • to the Cast Member who spotted us on the Monorail platform and who came over with Mickey Mouse stickers and a set of FastPasses…
  • to the place where Andrew told me he loved me and gave me a peck on the cheek for the first and only time in 2012…

Great customer service with The Walt Disney Company stems from their  “Four Keys”, which guarantee exceptional Guest experience – Safety, Courtesy, Show and Experience!

They’ve unlocked the magic when it comes to customer service.

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Posted in Attitude, Autism, Decluttering, Disney, Jackie's Adventures, Life

FREE At Last!

The biggest mistake I ever made was the ‘art of collecting’ and storing things in boxes when I first got married. I actually thought I was demonstrating organization. Everything was important, everything mattered and everything was tied to a special memory – even the tiniest piece of paper filled with doodles opened a flood of memories while learning about Louis Leakey in university.

I was the person, who as a kid, felt sorry for any kind of candy wrapper, or scrap of paper and who would stuff the wrapper in a box, between pages in a book, or a coat pocket. I felt sorry for a piece of paper and what would become of it, so imagine my anxiety when recycling programs came about and the great relief of the emergence of fancy storage boxes.

I saved everything. Even receipts from our meals at Disney. I’m not kidding. It was, after all, a great example of explaining how to keep track of Disney Dining Plan Meal Credits, which, at the time was really important.

But, at some point, after the move to our second home, after our kids began to get older, there was a shift, and all those boxes of ‘things’ began to cause me great grief. I would think of the closets, and the piles of books and papers and bags of memorabilia which I just HAD TO HAVE at the time, but would now send me into a panic. My closets were filled, organized, but filled and sadly, excessive.

But, there was a problem, I was physically exhausted from being up most of the night with my son and his nighttime behaviours for fifteen years. Fifteen years of walking around like a zombie during the day, trying to catch a wink here and there, fifteen years of struggling with my weight and mobility and yo yo diets which left me anemic and unhealthy. The struggle was real and the motivation at an all time low. I just had no energy, so all I did, was to focus on what I loved to do, something that fed my soul and boosted my moral. For me, that was anything related to Disney. And then came the internet and chat rooms and social media and cyber-friends and the distraction was massive and it took me away from my task at hand and made and continues to make me very happy.

Over the next few years, we would attempt to clear ‘the piles’, but stuff still had a way of creeping into the house- well I was the one who brought it all in, I’ll take the onus.

I would bag stuff, I would donate it, I would run things over to schools and shelters, but that wasn’t enough and those donations did not even make a dent in the clutter that lurked around my home and that kept coming in. This was all I began to talk about with family and friends, even more so than my chatter about Disney and this is when I knew this was a huge problem that had to be dealt with.

Something else had to happen. I wasn’t getting very far stuffing bag upon bag for donation. My biggest problem, was that there were items that couldn’t be stuffed into a bag, such as thick binders and books and papers and frames and you name it. So, I decided to rent a residential bin and to set a time limit. This, for me, was the only way to get anything done because I paid for the bin and didn’t want to send it back empty.

So there it sat for ten days and with each purge, I felt a release. With each toss, I felt a sense of freedom and more importantly control. As the house began to open up, I felt a growing momentum to let go of all those things which were burdens and as I did, I felt more free and strong. When they came to pick up the bin, I actually felt a pang of panic because of not having the luxury of being able to toss something out so easily.

This had a huge impact on me and I vow, that, because of the immeasurable anxiety the clutter and junk had on me, I vow, to never bring in another item on a whim. I vow to let go of something when I do bring in another item, no matter what. Otherwise, I’ll be in this same position before I know it, and I cannot and will not live like that!

I don’t need knick knacks, I don’t need new pots, or pans, or coffee makers, or irons, or things to stuff in bowls, or containers filled with sand or shells, or even testimonial mugs – I have many, many mugs. Years ago, I paid good money for a few cooking pots and small appliances and they’ll do their magic until their end. I won’t visit those home stores which will tempt me to buy this or that, I don’t need anything. What I have serves its purpose and I’ll never be able to make my house look like the pages of a magazine, or what have you. I’d rather save my money for what truly makes me happy, and that’s travel, experiences and making memories.

Now, I love my empty corners, tabletops and shelves because they give me a sense of peace and make me feel in control. Best of all, dusting is a breeze.

That’s what works for me.

The 20 yard residential bin rental was from “Bin There Dump That” which I thought was at a very reasonable cost, and I highly recommend this company. For me there was no other way.

I hope you remove the clutter from your life, because it’s very liberating and empowering.  And now, I can proudly state that my household ‘To Do List’ for 2018 is finished. For the FIRST time in forever, I don’t have that nagging feeling that I have to do this or that, and I can now focus on my daily and weekly tasks at hand.

I can’t express how great that feels.

Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Disney Parks Moms Panel, Jackie's Adventures, Vacation Planning, Walt Disney World, Walt Disney World Resort

Walt Disney World Resort’s Lost and Found

Years ago, I was having fun at an all girl’s weekend at Walt Disney World Resort and brought along my favourite Nick & Nora pyjamas, you know, the one’s that have these huge, bright red cherries all over them? They’re still my favourite pj’s because the cotton is light and smooth, perfect for getting me through those hot flashes and I just love the whimsical cherries and little frilly things. Perfect for me!

Well, sadly, I forgot them back at the Disney Resort hotel, but to my great surprise, after a quick, friendly and very helpful telephone call, the Cast Member found them herself, sitting atop the change area shelf and she called me back with the great news! Why, before I knew it, my cherry pj’s were back home within a few days, along with the cutest little Gus & Jaq figurines sitting in the pocket of the pj’s.

Recently, my cousin was visiting Walt Disney World Resort and lost her sunglasses. To her great surprise and immense satisfaction, Guest Relations was able to locate and return them – she was astounded with the expeditious and courteous manner in which the entire matter was dealt with and resolved, all for a pair of sunglasses. Now, I’m not promising or guaranteeing that everything lost is found, some items of course, just like to stick around for all the Disney fun, but my experience has been that Cast Members do try their very best.

And now, the official Disney Parks Blog announced an even greater and more convenient service. If a Guest happens to lose an item on Walt Disney World Resort property and even while travelling on the convenient Walt Disney World Resort Transportation, they can use their mobile device, head over to DisneyWorld.com/lostandfound, and with a few quick taps, Guests can report their lost item. Best of all, the Lost and Found magic makers will keep Guests updated regarding their lost item. How great is that!

Read all about the Walt Disney World Resort Lost & Found via the Disney Parks Blog and, if you have any questions about your next Disney Resorts, Parks & Destinations vacation, be sure to stop by the Disney Parks Moms Panel for great tips & advice from folks like myself, with first-hand Disney vacation experience.

Thanks for stopping by!

Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Disney Parks Moms Panel, Disney Social Media Celebration On The Road, Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, MagicBands, My Disney Experience, Travel, Vacation Planning, Walt Disney World Resort

Why Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel? Grab a pen and some paper!

At Walt Disney World Resort it’s all magical, every single experience you’ll have is magical. From the people that work there, called, Cast Members, right down to the Guest Room you’ll sleep in, the magic is all around and begins the moment you book your Magic Your Way Vacation Package online, seamlessly!

The minute you’ve booked online, you’ll receive email prompts for next steps to make sure you optimize every aspect of your vacation. Best of all, you will have complete control over every detail of your vacation to make decisions based on the needs of your family. If you need help, head over to the Disney Parks Moms Panel to ask questions from everyday people who have first-hand Disney Destinations vacation experience. You can read answers to many questions, look through the popular Moms Views, watch the fun and informative videos and much more! As well, you can Watch Free Disney Vacation Planning Videos which are perfect for your planning.

Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel will present you with unique benefits and many conveniences to help you maximize your vacation experiences and to help you create a magical, enjoyable stay.

Now, let’s talk about the benefits:

  • you’ll enjoy spectacular, unique and authentic theming at your Disney Resort hotel where you can seriously enjoy a complete vacation there alone, these hotels are unbelievable and true-to-theme!
  • you’ll have the advantage of Disney’s Extra Magic Hours to enjoy extended morning and/or evenings at select Theme Parks to enjoy select attractions (valid Theme Park admission is required)
  • if you are flying into Orlando International Airport and you select Disney’s Magical Express during your booking – then you’ll receive luggage tags well in advance of your departure from home to affix on your luggage so that when you arrive at the airport you can bypass Baggage Claim and head straight to your complimentary motorcoach transportation for a magical ride to your Disney Resort hotel. Oh, and at the end of your vacation, Disney’s Magical Express will take you back to the airport!
  • you’ll enjoy complimentary Walt Disney World Resort transportation Resort-wide
  • you’ll receive complimentary MagicBands which add even more convenience to your stay by connecting you to all your Walt Disney World Resort vacation choices made with My Disney Experience – you’ll travel lighter because you can use your linked MagicBand to enter the Theme Parks, it’ll unlock your Disney Resort hotel Guest Room, you can charge food and souvenirs to your Disney Resort hotel Guest Room account, so no need to carry your wallet, how great is that! And, you’ll enjoy little magical surprises during your touring!
  • if you’re a shopper, then don’t worry about lugging your parcels around, you’ll be able to have the souvenirs sent directly to your Disney Resort hotel
  • now here’s where it gets even better – staying at a Disney Resort hotel enables you to book your FastPass+ experiences 60 days before your arrival check-in date, where Guests staying off Walt Disney World Resort property can only book their FastPass+ experiences 30 days before their scheduled Theme Park arrival (valid Theme Park admission must be linked to your Disney account)

This is why when we vacation at Walt Disney World Resort we book a Disney Resort hotel – so why not get started and book your vacation at the Place Where Dreams Come True at the most Magical Place on Earth!

Partners Statue Gold

Posted in Autism, Disney, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Parks, Disney Social Media Celebration On The Road, Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, Special Needs, Travel, Vacation Planning

Private Cabanas at Disney’s Paradise in the Bahamas

Did you know that when you sail with Disney Cruise Line, most itineraries make one or even two stops at Disney Castaway Cay? This Disney island is located in the Bahamas and offers many excursions (Port Adventures) for Guests of all ages. You’ll find a Family Beach, Adult-Only Beach called, Serenity Bay and a Teen Beach, where you’ll enjoy complimentary beach loungers, chairs and large umbrella. As if that’s not enough, you’ll be treated to a delicious and bountiful beach barbecue!

We love renting a private Cabana for our day at Disney Castaway Cay because it offers peace, shelter and a lot of privacy which is perfect for keeping our son comfortable, enabling him to enjoy a full day on the island. The private Cabana offers, a roomy interior with sofa, chairs, a stocked mini-fridge, face towels, magazines, sunscreens and lotions, a corner change area with curtain, an outer covered verandah with large, cushioned loungers, a hammock, outdoor shower – great for rinsing off the sand, beach loungers, chairs and umbrella, the use of beach floatations, snorkel equipment, bikes, beach toys and a buzzer near the entrance, which will beckon a Cast Member who can restock your mini-fridge with water bottles, juices, fruit and snacks…and yes, they’ll bring you a Konk Kooler, or libation for a cost.

My experience with booking private Cabanas is that you have to book within your booking window for Port Adventures and do so as soon as possible, because they’re popular. I have a few tips (not guaranteed but worth a try) if you can’t book one online. Keep checking back online because someone may cancel. As well, when you board the ship on the first day, check again and every day of your sailing with the Port Adventures Desk. The day you dock at Disney Castaway Cay, catch the Tram to Pelican Point and go to the Cabanas Check-In Booth and inquire again – this is how we scored our very first Cabana the year they became available. Now, as Platinum Castaway Cay Club members, we have an earlier booking window. As well, if you are sailing in Concierge Level, you too, will have an earlier booking window.

As a mom of an autistic teenage boy, I cannot say enough how helpful it is utilizing a private Cabana. My son, enjoys the beach, but will tire easily, so he has the option of resting on the covered verandah on a cushy lounger watching his favourite Disney movies, or swinging to his hearts content on a hammock all to himself and for my motion seeker, that’s the perfect solution!

Disney Cruise Line, where “There’s Something for Everyone.”

Cabana Sign Psarianos

Posted in Autism, Disney, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Parks Moms Panel, Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, Europe, Jackie's Adventures, Special Needs, Travel, Uncategorized

Andrew Soared Sailing with Disney Cruise Line

Who would have thought that we could take our son to Europe? We never, ever thought this would be possible, ever, and we consider ourselves hopeless optimists which has kept us going year after year after year through these chapters called, autism.

We were blown away during our recent sailing on the Disney Magic throughout the Mediterranean seeing our son acclimate so well and I’ll say this – it’s because of our past sailings with Disney Cruise Line. It’s because of the familiarity having sailed all four ships in the fleet (with more to come in the near future). You see, while each ship has its own distinctive features, there are many similarities with the others that create consistency and through that, foster an environment of security. Here’s how they do it:

  • the staterooms all have similar layouts, furniture design and fabrics
  • the basic colours both inside and out are similar
  • the basic layouts of the ships are basically similar
  • the rotational dining system in the three main dining rooms carries throughout the fleet
  • the youth clubs, while slightly varied, do evoke a sense of familiarity offering a welcoming and friendly vibe in all

Andrew can take you almost anywhere onboard. In fact, he quite often leads the way, usually ten paces ahead of us. Yes, it’s become that easy for us. He knows the routine well now. When we open our stateroom door, he knows exactly what to expect and where he will sleep and proceeds to ‘organize his space’ if I may, where he lays out all his comforts from home – his iPad, his tactile, sensory toys to name a few things. It’s all become systematic and seamless. You can see him doing this in the photo below – he’s organizing, as he calls it.

Then, let’s talk about the Port Adventures. We did all of them in Europe because of all the logistical planning and mostly the peace of mind. With Disney Cruise Line you get all of that and much more. On each and every Port Adventure, the guides did all they possibly could to ensure Andrew was comfortable, safe and happy, but most of all, they valued him for who he was and made him feel included. One example, is how Andrew was asked to lead the Port Adventures group straight to the Acropolis of Athens by carrying the group sign. I cannot tell you how his confidence soared right before our very eyes and what great hope that gave us, seeing him so proud and happy. He was all smiles for the entire cruise.

This is what keeps us coming back for more with the cruise line where “there’s something for everyone.”