2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration

I couldn’t be more honoured in receiving the coveted invitation to attend the 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in February!

This is the ‘Most Magical Social Media Conference’ of the year and takes place at Walt Disney World Resort and with Disney Cruise Line, sailing on the Disney Dream, the third ship in the fleet and sister ship to the Disney Fantasy. Read all about Disney Cruise Line Awards & Honors such as Best for Families by the 2016 Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks Awards, Best Cruise Line by Conde Nast Traveller 2017, Best Private Island and Best Cruise Ships. 

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Photo: Disney Cruise Line

I am excited to learn all about all the unique experiences throughout all the Disney Destinations and am truly grateful to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Team for this coveted opportunity.

Please follow along for updates before my arrival in February and during my stay. I’ll be posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village, Walt Disney World Resort

No vacation to Walt Disney World Resort is long enough, be it 5-days or 5-weeks, in my opinion, so when we decided to return for our adventures with close family, we booked Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village for 2-weeks. The plan was to alternate Theme Park with Resort hotel days – the best of both worlds, and it worked like a charm. The benefits of staying on property are plenty, with the biggest convenience of being able to head back to your Resort hotel to relax and enjoy the unique theming, which for us was to watch an active savanna from our authentically themed main lobby or Guest Room balcony.  We truly were just as excited about hanging around Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Kidani Village, as we were to tour the Theme Parks and Disney Springs. The view of the savanna from our balcony was incredible. Disney Resort hotels can easily be vacation destinations all on their own.

Kidani Balcony

The best part? Andrew and his look of realization seeing the animals in their natural habitat right from our accommodations. Now that was something to see and hear about, with bursts of verbal animal identification that we didn’t know he knew.

Andrew Kidani

And, this look of wonderment at The Most Magical Place on Earth, where many think it’s all about amusement parks. Well, that may be, but Walt Disney World Resort Theme Parks are on another level – a level of uniqueness and immersion that magically transports you to a place where all your troubles are left behind – thanks to the creativity of talented, enthusiastic and dedicated Disney Imagineers.

For us? It’s about the entire vacation experience and all the surprises we see from Andrew. It’s about the bursts of language, the connections he makes to his beloved Disney animated movies when the Disney Characters come alive, or, when he walks into a storybook setting that he becomes a part of. This makes leaving our Disney vacation extremely difficult for fear of what we will miss upon our return home.

Andrew and Buzz

Such as this photo above with his buddy Buzz Lightyear, during our visit to Disney California Adventure Park, Disneyland Resort. The direct eye contact took mere seconds and Buzz had Andrew’s attention for a solid 20-minutes of fun and frolic. We can’t wait to take him to experience Radiator Springs Racers back at Disney California Adventure Park this summer, which I’m certain he’ll make the connection to his beloved Test Track attraction!

That’s the magic of Disney.

It’s Easier to Smile

Smile.

Go ahead and smile. I know it’s forced and a conscious action right now, and may seem fake, but smile.
Keep smiling, you can do it. Smile.
There you go.

Still can’t smile? Think of something that you like, a food, an item, a place, anything. No judgements here, these are your personal thoughts. Now smile.

Even the conscious act of smiling, albeit appearing fake, has benefits for your well-being. The action evokes neurotransmitters-serotonin and dopamine to start their magic naturally without the use of anti-depressants.

Now here’s the thing, the more you consciously smile, the easier it will become and before you know it, smiling will become natural for you. Best of all, you’ll be smiling practically the whole day through. Just imagine.

Did you know that smiling helps build your immunity? Did you know that smiling evokes positive feelings leading towards a more positive outlook towards life in general? Smiling does that and we all have the capability to smile. We were designed that way.

So smile, go ahead. There you go.
Great smile by the way, you should do that more often!

Smiling will attract positive things and positive people to you. It’s a natural magnet because it breaks barriers and is a universal language. A simple smile is all it takes.

All it takes is a simple, conscious smile to help brighten your day.
That’s a good thing.

Smile 🙂

Image courtesy of FanPop.com

My BIGGEST Personal Dream Came True

Disney MP 2016

The Disney Parks Moms Panel is an official Disney online forum where Disney travel enthusiasts with first-hand knowledge answer returning and potential Guests questions regarding Disney Parks planning. The advice and tips presented to Guests is unparalleled with the abundant depth of knowledge from first-hand experience. Panelists represent various Disney Parks destination specialties around the globe, such as Disneyland Resort in California, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, runDisney and ESPN Wide World of Sports. As well, panelists are well versed with Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa and Adventures by Disney. Best of all, most panelists have a rich tapestry of combined destination experiences, as well as knowledge of travel with special needs family members, and multiple languages such as Spanish, Portuguese and French.

After eight years of applications, (which typically begin in September), progressing through three rounds, and a telephone interview, I was invited for a coveted spot representing the Walt Disney World Resort Specialty! I couldn’t be more grateful and pleased for this important opportunity in assisting returning and potential Disney Parks Guests with their vacation planning. This year for me will be one that I cherish every single moment of answering questions and helping people create life-long, unforgettable memories with their visits to the Walt Disney World Resort. If you’re interested in applying, check the Disney Parks Blog for official application announcements late August or early September.

My Disney Parks experience begins with over 30 visits as a Walt Disney World Resort hotel Guest at over 12 of their resort hotels and Disney Vacation Club Villas. I have celebrated each of my children’s birthdays, except 5 at Walt Disney World Resort and with Disney Cruise Line. I have stayed and played at Disneyland Resort in California and at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa in Hawai’i. As well, I have sailed with Disney Cruise Line fleet wide on the Caribbean, and Mediterranean itineraries as a Platinum Castaway Club member with over 11 sailings.

That’s how much I love anything related to Disney! I would be honoured to assist you with your upcoming or potential Disney Parks vacation, just look for Jacqueline P. from Ontario over at the Disney Parks Moms Panel representing Walt Disney World Resort.

Jackie Acropolis

Stunning Mosaic Mural Panels in Cinderella Castle

Upon completion in July 1971, Cinderella Castle, stands 189 feet tall at Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort. A textbook example of forced perspective, (an optical trick giving the illusion of the castle being larger than it really is), Cinderella Castle goes further, with the impression of being constructed from marble. In fact, Cinderella Castle’s inner structure is constructed of six hundred tons of steel-braced frame construction, and a 10-inch-thick (250 mm) reinforced concrete wall and most of the exterior is a thick, very hard fiber-reinforced gypsum plaster that is supported by light-gauge metal studs. The fiberglass work is seen along the exterior walls and upper towers.

Along the interior archway, a series of five mosaic murals tell the story of Cinderella. The mural panels measure 15′ x 10′ and are shaped like Gothic arches. The mural panels contain over 300,000 pieces of Italian glass in 500 colors, rough smalti (mosaic Italian glass) and fused with sterling silver and 14-Karat gold.

The mural panels were designed by Disney Imagineer Dorothea Redmond and the actual placement and crafting was done by six mosaic artists led by mosaicist, Hanns-Joachim Scharff and took twenty-two months to complete.

The results are captivating with minute detailing throughout.

Cinderella Castle Mosaic Wall

Disney Social Media Moms Celebration “On-The-Road” Toronto

The Disney Social Media Moms and Canada teams, hosted, for the first time ever, the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration “On-the-Road” in Toronto, Ontario, Canada! The event took place at The Walt Disney Company (Canada) Ltd., at 200 Front Street.

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Special *Pixie Dusted* Greetings

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Leanne Jakubowski O’Regan-Director, Social Media for Disney Parks, Angela Saclamacis-Manager, Public Relations and Broadcast Programming, Disney Parks (Canada), Joyce Richards-Public Relations Representative, Disney Parks (Canada), and directed to the check-in area where Olaf was waiting. At the check-in, guests received a big bag of goodies and were greeted by Tyler Slater and Erin Glover, who are regular contributors to the Disney Parks Blog posts, which are featured on all social media outlets. The Disney Parks Blog shares daily updates from around the Disney Parks, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, Aulani- A Disney Resort and Spa, runDisney, ESPN Wide World of Sports,The Walt Disney Company in the Community and much more through all social media outlets, to keep readers connected to all the daily Disney related exciting news and events!

What is the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration “On-the-Road”?

The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration “On-the-Road” is a smaller version of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, (a unique press event, and bloggers conference, with a little Disney Parks vacation mixed in). Both events invited mom and dad bloggers, social media influencers and enthusiasts. The purpose of this “On-the-Road” event was to share sneak peek previews from the Disney Parks, Adventures by Disney Disney Cruise Line, Disney Consumer Products Canada and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada.

The event featured presenters from Disney Parks, Disney Parks (Canada) and local media personalities.

Leanne Jakubowski O’Regan, Director, Social Media for Disney Parks,  opened and hosted the event with a warm welcome and introductions.

Leanne

Presenters

Kevin Frankish, Host of Breakfast Television Toronto, gave an informative and entertaining synopsis of social media trends, the importance of interesting content and the thrust to inform, entertain and engage followers in social media. Kevin Frankish also discussed the potential future of public broadcasting.

Tyler Slater, Public Relations Manager Disney Destinations, gave an impressive, informative and engaging presentation about Disney Destinations highlighting the spectacular Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration #Disneyland60 and all the new entertainment created for the event. He shared the progress and re-development news of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Progress updates of Walt Disney World Resort’s Disney’s Animal Kingdom parks newest land, Pandora-The World of AVATAR, themed from the hit Disney movie Avatar by Director, Producer, Writer and Editor James Cameron.

Tyler shared the news of attraction development from Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort with a new land to be called, “Toy Story Land” featuring eleven acres of fun which will include “Andy’s Backyard” and enhancements at the current attraction, Toy Story Midway Mania!

News of the largest, single themed expansion ever at both Disneyland Resort, California and Walt Disney World Resort, Florida for  Star Wars Land was shared.

Reports on the exciting news of Shanghai Disney Resort, China,  the area’s first Disney destination were shared. The discussion followed by a description of the six themed lands planned for Shanghai Disneyland park, including how stories will come to life at the largest, tallest and most interactive Disney castle at any theme park.

Tyler noted how Adventures by Disney has paired with AmaWaterways to offer new, immersive, all-inclusive river cruise vacations world-wide.

As well, Aulani-A Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawai’i will celebrate four years of true to Hawai’i family vacations. This is a resort part of the Disney Vacation Club and can also be booked directly through their website: Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa

Tyler Slater

Barb Matheson, Director, Publicity at Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada, discussed the benefits of blogging from an editorial perspective and how creative and meaningful content reaches a broader range of potential readers.

Barb Matheson also gave a detailed account of new and re-releases of Disney, Pixar and Marvel’s movies for 2016. The upcoming year will prove to be another exciting year for Disney movies!

Walt Disney Studios Canada

Erin Glover, Social Media Director at Disneyland Resort, gave an informative and captivating presentation of effective, creative writing techniques and useful tools to use when creating blog posts. She stressed the importance in finding a system that works for you as a writer, so that focus can be on creating a unique perspective for content.

The importance of keeping things simple, yet capturing what you have to say in ways that connects with someone else is vital. Furthermore, customization of content in paying attention to the methods an audience is consuming that particular content is essential for reaching greater numbers of readers.

Erin Glover

Our dynamic host, Leanne Jakubowski O’Regan shared a heartfelt video about how unique, memorable and special Disney Parks vacations are when grandparents are involved. The video brought us all to tears, as the message ‘Grandparents are special at Disney’ #GrandDisney went straight to our hearts. Leanne also discussed the useful Disney planning information and links to taking pre-schoolers to Disney as well as Walt Disney World’s Best Day Ever #wdwbde initiative!

Leanne BEST DAY EVER

We had the honour of learning from Christopher Doyle, Director, Media Twitter Canada, who came forth with incredible statistics about social media! For example, Twitter sees one billion Tweets per day, with over 316 million active users and over 86% of Twitters users are on mobile apps. Twitter is the fastest social media vehicle for sharing news and in the moment excitement!

Christopher Doyle shared effective strategies and the best practises for increasing Twitter followings and/or interactions. He discussed the power of hashtags and about being authentic, how users need to create special content and how to optimize their handles.

Christopher’s main message? “Forging partnerships and making big things happen!”

Chris Doyle

When the representatives from Disney Consumer Products Canada walked into the room, it felt like a giant party! In walked Cast Members laden with bags and bags of gifts filled with Disney merchandise and a huge cart filled with the most delectable Star Wars and Frozen themed CUPCAKES!

The Disney Consumer Products Canada team discussed upcoming releases and new trends and incentives for 2016. The emphasis and message to the group was the importance of story-telling.

Disney Consumer Products Canada

Nearing the conclusion of the day, we were surprised by a talk by two of the energetic and passionate hosts Melissa Grelo and Cynthia Loyst of Canada’s hit show, “The Social.”

Jackie THE VIEW

Last but not least, we were all so excited to see our pal, Mickey Mouse come in to greet us all. We even had the opportunity for a character photo!

Jackie Mickey

The first-ever Disney Social Media Moms Celebration “On-the-Road” Toronto was a huge success! The stellar organization and efforts by The Disney Social Media Moms and Canada teams made for an informative, exciting day filled with learning opportunities at every turn!

I sincerely hope this event returns next year!

Thank you!

My special greets with the Disney Social Media Moms and Canada teams!

A photo with Leanne Jakubowski O’Regan, Director, Social Media for Disney Parks.Jackie Leanne

A photo with Angela Saclamacis, Manager, Public Relations and Broadcast Programming, Disney Parks (Canada).

.Jackie and Angela S

A photo with Joyce Richards, Public Relations Representative, Disney Parks (Canada).Jackie and Joyce

A photo with my two favourite Disney Parks Blog contributors, Tyler Slater and Erin Glover.

Jackie Tyler Erin

I finally had the opportunity to meet two Canadian members Joanne M. and Lynne C. of the Disney Parks Moms Panel, seen in this photo with their leader Leanne Jakubowski O’Regan! #DisneyMP

Leanne and Disney MP's

Tips For Planning a Walt Disney World Resort Vacation with an Autistic Child

Upon hearing the diagnosis of autism for our son, we thought that our visits to the Disney Parks in California and Florida would have to stop. We thought dealing with tantrums and meltdowns would be best handled at home rather than in public. That’s partially right, but what we didn’t realize at the time was just how much easier it would be dealing with the tantrum if a huge motivating distractor came into play.

That huge motivating distractor was Mickey Mouse.

That’s because during the throws of a transitional issue leading to a meltdown, a Disney character was always around the corner. In the majority of cases, it was Mickey Mouse appearing almost out of nowhere, waving or walking down a path. This would divert my son more often than not and make our day so much easier. While on vacation, we picked our battles and planned carefully.

In fact, when dealing with tantrums from my son alone at home, I often felt more isolated and deserted. I, when the meltdown was over, wasn’t distracted by fun stimuli to take my mind off the stress that the melt down caused. This would leave me in a state of defeat and sadness where I kept going over and over in my mind what I could have done better to prevent or reduce the severity of the meltdown. At home I felt trapped with the reel of the day playing over and over again in my mind, constantly re-evaluating myself and my actions. Most of the time, I became trapped in the aloneness and isolation. Not the case at the Disney Parks, I too, became distracted and focussed on what mattered. Best of all, there were people everywhere and always a Cast Member at hand anticipating my needs. Always.

Here’s the other thing to consider. While vacationing at the Disney Parks, I was organized and ready to handle my son’s situations, but I wasn’t stressed out in doing so because I was prepared and if a tantrum did happen, I didn’t fixate on re-evaluating myself, I picked my battles and moved on. I didn’t stay in that bubble of isolation and aloneness, instead, those huge motivating distractors helped me  move forward to the more positive aspects of the day.  I had, after all,  all my pegs lined up for our visit, which made each and every visit unique, fun and memorable in positive ways. Best of all my son emerged with huge developmental and social gains while at the Disney Parks….these spontaneous bursts of him coming into our world made leaving extremely difficult for fear of what we would miss out on next.

Here are my tips on planning a vacation at the Disney Parks with an autistic child, based on my personal experiences with my son.

PLAN AHEAD AND STAY ON DISNEY PARKS PROPERTY

I can’t stress this enough. Planning ahead involves simply registering on any Disney Parks websites. For example by going over to  Walt Disney World Resort you can plan and control every aspect of your vacation. It’s super easy and a lot of fun!

From there, you can easily book your own package with theme park tickets, dining, and accommodations (I recommend that because it ends up being more economical and convenient). You’ll be prompted to manage your entire vacation, controlling all aspects such as  FastPass+ selection times, your dining reservations and entertainment times easily through My Disney Experience and MyMagic+ right there on the website.

In fact, you can get into My Disney Experience right after you’re done with booking your resort package and they’ll automatically link everything up for you. You can even share your plans with family and friends who are travelling with you. You’ll have everything you need all in one place and it’s all available on a mobile app which allows you to make amendments, track attraction wait times and even locate characters. The personalization of your profile is available too, affording you your very own page. Isn’t that great!? It’s super easy with many user friendly prompts along the way.

Staying on property has many conveniences and benefits. The minute you hook into MyMagic+ the conveniences begin. You’ll be able to book your Disney Dining reservations, your FastPass+ experiences where you can reserve your favourite attractions ahead of time, you’ll be able to personalize your innovative Disney MagicBands which unlock your Disney resort room, hold your theme park tickets, store all your Disney Dining and FastPass+ information, allow you charging privileges and free you from carrying around important identification and money. Wait, there’s more….you can store all your Disney PhotoPass photos and videos on your account, so there’s no need to drag around cameras or video cameras, just go out there and have fun. All your personalized plans and conveniences are around your wrist and if your child doesn’t want to wear his/her MagicBand, no problem, Disney has attachable MagicBand Keepers which allow you to clip the MagicBand onto yourself or your child. Whatever is best for you.

The Disney Parks have fun all year long and we find visiting during the ‘less crowded’ times also helps with our navigating the parks, as well as buying separate hard tickets into special theme park events, such as during the Christmas season for “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party” and during Halloween season for “Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party” because the crowd is limited. I have discovered that the months of September, October, first two weeks of December, January and February have more manageable crowd levels.

That’s not all!

Even before you leave home the Disney’s Magical Express luggage tags arrive for you to place on your suitcases. Upon arrival at Orlando International Airport, no need to visit baggage claim, instead, head over to Disney’s Magical Express Check-In area and board your complimentary motor coach shuttle to your Disney resort. It’s that easy! Your luggage will follow and be placed right in your room a few hours later, ( I always pack a day bag with first afternoon essentials, such as medications, bathing suits, sunscreen, Mickey Mouse Ears etc.).

Once at your Disney resort be prepared to receive complimentary transport to and from your Disney resort and the four theme parks, two water parks and Downtown Disney. How much more convenient can that be!

One thing I try to do is stay at a Disney resort nearest the theme park we like to visit the most. It really cuts back on travel time and gives you the opportunity to whisk your child back for a quick nap or some down time. Plus, if you have your own car, Disney resort guests benefit from free parking anywhere on property.

Disney strives to provide an inclusive experience for all, regardless of ability. They have a system in place called the Disney Parks Disability Access System Service Card which provides accommodations for guests who are unable to wait in the conventional queue at a Disney attraction as a result of a disability, including a non-visible disability. We use this for our son only when necessary, as we are attempting to teach him proper conduct for waiting in lines. This card in conjunction with booking your FastPass+  attraction experiences in advance makes visiting Walt Disney World easier for you and and your child.

But here’s the best part with staying on Disney property. You’ll have Disney magic twenty-four hours a day, you’ll get to visit the parks earlier and/or later than non-Disney resort guests with Disney’s Extra Magic Hours. How great is that!

My favourite perk? Shopping and having the luxury of sending all my packages back to my Disney resort-no lugging parcels around. I just love that!

Did I mention that all Disney resorts have different budget points and all have amazing, detailed themes? The authentically replicated themes will leave you awestruck. Where do I begin?

If you need help with planning, you can even chat with someone on the Walt Disney World resort website if you like or click on the helpful link called the Disney Parks Moms Panel a comprehensive, informative planning site dealing with every aspect of travel to Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, ESPN Wide World of Sports and runDisney. These panelists are Disney enthusiasts with first hand experience and get this, they even have panelists who have experience with special needs family members. How great is that!

Stay tuned for tips for staying at Walt Disney World resort with an Autistic child….

Oh, and here’s Andrew on a character greet with Buzz Lightyear at Disney California Adventure Park. Just look at the joint attention there. It only took Buzz a mere two seconds to get that reaction from Andrew.

Priceless, unique experiences each and every time!

It’s what keeps us coming back.

Buzz and Andrew DCA