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.

DSMMToronto

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

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Why Stay at Walt Disney World Resort!

Orlando is home to more than 140,000 hotel rooms of varying themes and budgets including over twenty Disney owned and operated resorts on Walt Disney World Resort, in the Lake Buena Vista area. Having stayed both on and off Walt Disney World Resort I can personally attest to experiences comparing both. There is no doubt that the majority of hotels in the Orlando area may have lower nightly rates and also offer  amenities (free breakfasts for example), but where you might think you’re saving money, you’re actually not, when you factor in the conveniences and amenities offered to guests staying at Walt Disney World Resort.

I’m going to discuss why, but let me back up and explain our situation. We own a Hilton timeshare, with our home resort in Orlando, yet we still opt to book Walt Disney World Resort packages. And if I can’t get in on a Magic Your Way Vacation Package then I book a Disney Vacation villa through my timeshares RCI Exchange resort program. The reason? Magic Your Way Vacation Packages save us a lot of money and secondly, the amenities and conveniences are unparalleled. Our family also includes a special needs teenaged son afflicted with Autism, so we also consider his needs for opting to stay on Disney property as well. We are going become Disney Vacation Club members in the near future, which will make our future vacations with Disney or anywhere around the World for that matter much easier. Here’s more on that: Disney Vacation Club

Where you think you might be saving by staying off property, you’ll be paying for the extras such as car rentals, daily theme park parking fees and your dining. We’ve stayed off Disney property on a few occasions, just a mere minutes away from the ‘main Disney gates’, yet our vacation ended up costing us significantly more money and we were exhausted at the end of the day. When you stay at a hotel off property, you’re more inclined to try to pull those ten plus hour days at the Disney theme parks and it can be exhausting. If staying at a Disney resort hotel, you can easily head back to your resort mid-day to rest, swim or just hang out. Then, in the evening, you can return to the theme parks for more fun all rested and ready to go. Besides, there are too many logistics to consider and plan for when staying off Disney property, we prefer to let Disney take care of us.

Here’s the Disney difference.

Firstly, from the moment your luggage tags arrive at home, two-three weeks before your departure, you don’t have to worry about baggage claim at Orlando International Airport, because Disney’s Magical Express is a complimentary motor coach shuttle service to and from the airport and Walt Disney World Resort. Simply get off your plane and head straight to the Disney Magical Express Check In area and you’ll be whisked off to your Disney resort, where your luggage will appear in your room a few hours later. A car rental is not needed now, unless you opt for one. Even if you bring a car to Walt Disney World property and you’re a Disney resort guest, your parking is complimentary at all four theme parks. How great is that!

Speaking of being a Disney resort guest, transportation to all four theme parks, two water parks and Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) is complimentary. You don’t have to worry about getting around when staying on Disney property or paying for parking and that’s a big money saver right there.

Booking a Walt Disney World Resort package, called the ‘Magic Your Way Package’ is the best way to stretch and optimize your dollar. The packages include your Disney resort hotel, Disney Dining and theme park tickets. Best of all, historically, there have been and currently are offers for discounted Disney resort hotel rooms, free Disney Dining Plans through the Magic Your Way Vacation Packages affording you the option of eating at Walt Disney World Resort’s spectacular dining establishments, which total over 150! What’s more, is that these package vacations always have Walt Disney World Resort Vacation Package Special Offers with seasonal discounts, discounts for Disney theme park ticket Passholders, discounts for members of the U.S. Military and discounts for Disney Visa cardholders. So as you can see, there are savings to be absorbed.

Furthermore, Walt Disney World Resort hotels fit every taste and budget, from the lower priced ‘value resorts’ to the ultra posh ‘deluxe resorts’, click here for more info: Walt Disney World Resort Hotels They even have accommodations for larger families with suite-like rooms, villa style rooms and cabins. Why, you can even camp at Walt Disney World! There is something for everyone, not to mention the incredible theming…unbelievable! Staying at a Disney resort hotel is like a vacation itself!

Once you book, you’ll be guided to link all your vacation details through My Disney Experience which is an amazing planning site allowing you to customize your vacation through  My Magic+ and have full control over every aspect of your vacation. Here, you’ll be able to reserve those favourite, sought after attractions, book your Disney Dining reservations, view reservations, customize your day to day plans, create a family and friends list, and the list goes on and on.

But here’s the biggest convenience. You’re staying and visiting theme parks within the same parameters, so, if you’re tired mid-day, for example, or simply want to head back and swim, you can easily do that and then return in the evening for more fun. I reiterate this amenity because it’s a biggie and I am willing to bet that any dedicated Disney Parks fan will gladly attest to this as well. Also, as a Walt Disney World Resort guest you can have all your purchases sent back to your Disney resort, no lugging stuff around. People who stay off property are pretty tuckered out after a long, break-less day at the parks, because the inclination is to stay at the park all day instead of driving back and forth to their off property resort. Plus, you’re surrounded by Disney magic, twenty-four hours a day and that’s a lot of fun, believe me!

Best of all, because you’re a Disney resort guest, and have booked a Walt Disney World Resort vacation package, you’ll be able to book your FastPass+ sixty days in advance, which is thirty days in advance of those not staying on property. This amenity is complimentary with a Walt Disney World Resort vacation package. Wait, there’s more, as a Disney resort guest you’ll have extended hours at all four theme parks, called Extra Magic Hours allowing you even more fun at the theme parks over those not staying at a Disney resort hotel.

Disney resort guests also receive complimentary MagicBands which are secure, devices that store all your Disney resort hotel information, your Disney Dining Plan, Disney theme park tickets, FastPass+ information and check in at attractions, it connects to Disney’s PhotoPass Service and you can charge food and souvenir charges to your account. All through this little wristband which you can customize and have a lot of fun wearing. Finally, Disney offers resort hotel guests complimentary Wi-Fi access at their hotels and anywhere on Disney property.

How great is that!

So what are you waiting for, click here Walt Disney World Resort Vacation Packages to get started!

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

Disney Cruise Line’s Halloween Pumpkin Trees

Disney Cruise Line’s “Halloween on the High Seas” as part of their “Holidays on the High Seas” is in full swing right now. Our family loves Halloween because my husband is a Halloween baby and we sailed with Disney Cruise Line during his birthday back in 2006 before “Halloween on the High Seas” took place. I can’t wait to book the next cruise sailing over Halloween!

Guests sailing these unique sailings fleetwide, are in for real tricks and treats, elaborately Halloween themed areas, activities, parties, entertainment, and many special experiences in addition to the stellar services and amenities already in place for people of all ages.

A special event is the evolving Halloween Pumpkin Tree in the Atrium Lobby which transforms into spooky wonders throughout the sailing. Leave it to Disney Imagineering to go the extra mile with meaning and significance regarding the tree.

Of particular note with this Halloween Tree is that it has a different name on each of the four ships in the fleet. The tree is actually a pumpkin tree with a supporting legend during the mysterious time of the Pumpkin King, who needed someone to help keep his favorite, beloved Halloween holiday tradition alive.

The Pumpkin King reached into his head and collected four pumpkin seeds, each representing one attribute of his mean personality. When planted, the four trees grew into beautiful, yet morbid looking trees, which only bloomed once a year, on Halloween. Legend has it that when everyone learns the who, the what and the why, the Pumpkin King’s spirit will bring the pumpkin trees to life.

Each tree has a special name on each ship:

Reap– Disney Magic

Bog– Disney Wonder

Grim– Disney Dream

Muckelbones-Disney Fantasy

Pictured below is ‘Grim’ on the Disney Dream. Photo Credit: Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line will treat guests sailing this fall to a wickedly good time as the Disney ships transform into a ghoulish wonderland during Halloween on the High Seas cruises. For this extra-spooky celebration, each ship boasts its own signature Pumpkin Tree, which magically transforms throughout the cruise with the help of a storytelling caretaker. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

These special sailings are on right now through Holiday Cruises and Special Days at Sea with Disney Cruise Line.

Massive Enhancements are on the Horizon at the Disney Parks

The annual excitement of the D23 EXPO 2015 D23 last weekend had epic announcements regarding enhancements to some Disney theme parks and two new themed lands at Disneyland Resort in California and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. A trip to these impressive resorts is sure to be on the bucket list for many travellers in the near future.

Now here’s what is to come from the exciting announcements from D23 EXPO 2015:

Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Disney is heading ‘to infinity and beyond’ with the announcement of Toy Story Land scheduled to be constructed on approximately eleven acres of the park, emanating from the already popular Toy Story Mania! (also to be expanded). Two new attractions will be added, one being a spinning type flying saucer affording Guests the experience of riding in the green alien ‘claw’ and the second attraction will be a family-friendly coaster simulating a ride on Slinky Dog. Unconfirmed reports speculate an opening by either 2017 or 2018.

Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen at Magic Kingdom Park

Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort recently underwent a massive expansion with a new land called, New Fantasyland, which has proven to be a huge hit with Guests. Later this year a new restaurant near the entrance to Adventureland called, Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen will open where Jungle Cruise skippers as servers will take care of Guests in jungle themed rooms.

Soarin’ Around the World 

The ever popular flight simulator, Soarin’ at Epcot’s Future World, Walt Disney World Resort and Soarin’ Over California at Disney California Adventure Park, Disneyland Resort will be revised to include vistas from key points around the World. Expansion will also include yet another theatre to facilitate with crowd flow, reducing wait times for Guests. The enhancement of this attraction will take place at the present location in Future World, Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and at Disney California Adventure Park at Disneyland Resort in California.

Frozen Ever After at the Norway Pavilion, World Showcase, Epcot

Guests were disappointed with the closing of Maelstrom at Epcot’s Norway Pavilion last year, but Disney never disappoints. Disney’s passion to constantly evolve coupled with the imagination of Disney Imagineers will bring about a new attraction themed after the hit Disney animated movie “Frozen” called Frozen Ever After. As well, a neighbouring Royal Summerhus area will be constructed.

Iron Man at Hong Kong Disneyland

Guests visiting Hong Kong Disneyland will have the opportunity to meet and greet Iron Man and even pose for photos with the Super Hero during the Iron Man Experience set to open in 2016.

Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris

The popular Kilimanjaro Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park will be extended for a new nighttime adventure, the Sunset Kilimanjaro Safari taking Guests through the beautiful sunsets of an African savannah discovering two added species, the African wild dog and hyena.

Pandora-The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

Set to open in 2017, Pandora-The World of Avatar will be a richly themed area bringing the key elements of the hit Disney movie “Avatar” to life. Two major rides offering thrills on banshees and tamer leisurely canoe rides bring Pandora’s planet of bioluminescence to reality for Guests.

Star Wars Land 

The announcement of Star Wars Land was the most anticipated and biggest announcement at D23 EXPO 2015. A fourteen acre attraction at both Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort in California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, will take Guests well into the depths of the lore of the Star Wars universe, where they’ll be able to pilot the Millennium Falcon. Furthermore, the already existing Star Tours flight simulator will be enhanced to include new ride footage from the upcoming movie. Unconfirmed reports of completion have included such dates well into 2018 or 2019.

Many may contemplate the high, single day ticket prices, but there is great value, logistical wisdom and convenience in booking a Disney Parks package including theme park tickets, resort hotel and dining. Simply put, the Disney Parks offer: resort hotels which fit every taste (boasting incredible themes), packages that suit every budget, Disney offers dining plans (the ease to dine almost anywhere on Walt Disney World Resort property), complimentary airport transportation (Walt Disney World Resort), complimentary resort to theme park transportation, resort hotels offer Disney themes, and resort hotels offer accommodation for special needs Guests and families of five or more.

Book online easily at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort (which is celebrating their Diamond Celebration this year, celebrating 60 years of Disney Magic) and get ready for the best online booking experience ever! You will be prompted every step of the way.

If you have in depth trip planning questions be sure to head over to the Disney Parks Moms Panel where people with first-hand experience are waiting to answer any of your questions about your Disney vacation. Furthermore, peruse past Guest questions as a handy resource for your trip planning.

The best part? Every Disney Parks vacation offers unique experiences each and every time. I can personally vouch for that having completed more than twenty-seven combined vacations to Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, ten cruises with Disney Cruise Line and an unbelievable visit to Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa in Hawai’i!

MagicBand Keepers Are Available at Walt Disney World Resort

I love using the MagicBand system https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience/bands-cards/at Walt Disney World Resort! The system is convenient for Disney resort Guests once Disney resort hotel, theme park tickets, dining reservations, special theme park experiences and FastPass+ reservations are linked up. I know the list sounds long, but once linked through ‘My Disney Experience’ online, and it’s super easy to do, you’ll be all set.

MagicBands are soft, plastic wristbands that can be customized, and come in an array of colours and themes. They store all of your plans as I mentioned above, and even if you’re not a Disney resort hotel Guest and just visiting for a few days while staying off Disney property, you too, can have the convenience of using the MagicBands after you’ve purchased your Walt Disney World theme park tickets. Once you receive your admission card, you can easily transfer all theme park ticket and dining information onto a MagicBand (done online or by the help of Cast Members at specially marked kiosks at the theme parks) which can by bought anywhere on Walt Disney World Resort property.

Here is what my Disney MagicBand looks like.

MagicBand Jackie

I just love it! My son, who has autism, loves his too, but at times would ask to take it off because he experiences some sensory issues, especially when it’s hot outside. I would remove his MagicBand and would store it away, but I always checked to see its whereabouts and it was always on my mind.

As of a few days ago, the people at The Walt Disney Company solved this problem for folks who don’t feel like wearing their MagicBands, or for those people who for one reason or another cannot wear theirs. Disney created what is known as the MagicBand Keeper, a portable, stuffed, soft Mickey Mouse hand and Minnie Mouse bow where Guests can secure their MagicBand and then attach by clipping onto oneself.

This new system also benefits anyone who needs to keep track of MagicBands for loved ones and is so convenient! They are sold a most gift shops at Walt Disney World Resort and cost $14.95

Here is what MagicBand Keepers look like.

MagicBand Keepers

Disney Parks Moms Panel and The Year I Made Round Three

Years ago, before Facebook, there were chat groups on Yahoo that I followed. One in particular held my interest because it was about a topic that I love. A topic that got me excited and a topic that occupied my mind many times throughout the day. There, I met friends who shared the same interest and passion for anything related to Disney. They understood.

It was in the fall of 2008, however, that a new spark was ignited. One of my friends in the chat group announced that she made it on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, now known as the Disney Parks Moms Panel. So I went to the website to check things out and couldn’t believe my eyes. This was an online group of seasoned Disney enthusiasts with first-hand knowledge of travel to Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Adventures by Disney, Disney Cruise Line and Disney Vacation Club. You could ask any question you wanted about your upcoming vacation, buying a Disney timeshare, or sail on their ships. I was riveted. Here was a place dedicated to helping others plan their vacations. I had to get involved, especially with my need to break all barriers of travel to the Disney Parks and Disney Cruise Line with special needs children.

So began the journey of applying to the panel year after year from 2009 onwards. Every Fall, the applications would open up, historically there were three rounds, of which the third involved a telephone interview.

Then I discovered Facebook and Twitter, and all of a sudden I was connecting and meeting passionate people with the same dream as mine. I’ve forged such unimaginable friendships and bonds with these people who I proudly call my friends, many of whom are panelists.

I’ll never forget the spring of 2012, when I was invited to be a guest at the Walt Disney World Moms Panel reunion. I literally jumped around the house from joy and excitement. Now, I would get to meet the panelists and many of my friends who were also invited.

There’s more. Later that summer, Laura Spencer, one of the leaders of the panel, posted an invitation through the Disney Parks Blog Posts to attend the Walt Disney World Moms Panel FAN Luncheon. Sign up was limited, so you had to act quickly, which I did, and you should have seen my reaction upon receiving a confirmation to that event. Now, not only was I attending that special, coveted event, but I had the excitement of planning a visit to Walt Disney World. I cannot tell you how excited I was.

The thrill, the anticipation, the buzz on Facebook. It was epic.

But there’s more.

The fan luncheon took place in between rounds one and two of the application process. So now, not only were we all excited about that, but we had the reunion trip and fan luncheon to look forward to. None of my annual fall chores were completed that year, none. I had more important things on my mind.

The Walt Disney World Moms Panel reunion took place at Downtown Disney’s Portobello Restaurant the day before the FAN luncheon and was such a wonderful experience. Meeting everyone was a thrill and finally connecting face to face with all these online friends was an experience like no other.

Following that, the very next day, the fan luncheon was at the California Grill and it was beyond anything I’d ever experienced! The excitement could lift a rocket ship to space, that’s how much energy was in the room that day. I got to meet all of the panelists who came by to each of us for a greet and a photo. I think there were 200 people as guests that day. Here is my write up about that magical event, which I’ll never ever forget for the rest of my life. Stuff like that never happens to me.

Here is my write up, go ahead, have a look! Disney Parks Moms Panel FAN Luncheon 2012

Now here’s the thing, back then it was called the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, but at the fan luncheon we were given purple T-shirts that read Disney Parks Moms Panel. The banners read like that too. Not many people noticed, but a few of us did. Well, soon after, there was indeed a name change to Disney Parks Moms Panel.

After the luncheon, I had to meet my husband at Magic Kingdom Park to relieve him of my son and we decided, right at that moment, right on Main Street U.S.A. while I wore my purple Disney Parks Moms Panel T-shirt, to shoot my video for my ‘potential’ round two video. I didn’t have a clue if I would even make it to round two, but something was driving me to film it there. My instinct was speaking to me. So I did it. I filmed my video right there and then. I didn’t have a script or anything. While filming you could even hear a child in the background screaming to go potty. We didn’t even edit that out, because that’s reality and I didn’t want to look phoney.

Round two notifications historically would come out on our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and things were no different that year. Facebook was a flurry of excitement and pixie dust was flying around Twitter with Laura’s Tweets announcing that magical, Pixie Dusted news was about to come.

My magical news did indeed come and I was invited to round two. Essays about Disney Cruise Line (the specialty I applied to) and the video. I was ready.

Then the watching and the waiting began. All my notifications were on. I was dinged here and dinged there. I would stop everywhere to check my email. I watched Facebook and Twitter like a hawk. I had no interest in anything other than following conversations on Facebook in my various groups. Watching for the flutter of sudden, massive notifications and activity  awaiting  round three notifications.

I’ll never forget this, but the saying, “A watched pot never boils” is true. I was alone with my son one evening when I had to pick up my car from a maintenance check. It was after dinner, it was raining, but I was very busy making sure Andrew had his meal on the go. I completely forgot about the panel and Facebook and Twitter because I was involved in hearing about my vehicle and what had been done to it.

Then I got home. Facebook notifications were a blaze. There were oodles and oodles of red private inbox messages and regular notifications in my feed. People were asking me if I made it to round three.

With my heart pounding, I went over to my email and opened up my inbox and there it was. I knew it was good news from the subject  line. I was trembling so hard I couldn’t click the mouse. Somehow I did, my heart pounding out of my chest while doing so.

I clicked.

I was invited to round three. I went through the roof with joy. I was running around the house whooping (is that even a word?) all over the place. I made it to round three. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had to read and read the email over and over again in disbelief. I even printed it out for verification, in the event the invitation to round three was retracted or not real. Stuff like this never happens to me. It just couldn’t be real, but it was!

But,… as high as I was flying as a kite, it didn’t last very long, because I had to tell my friends, because we were all in this together. I knew that many wouldn’t be sharing this glee. That sunk me and anchored me right down. This was going to be a problem. It had to be handled carefully because people’s feelings would be hurt. I had been there and I knew how it felt. I felt for my friends, so I had to find a way to tell them that was considerate. I did, and was so well received with good wishes it broke my heart to see such kindness from so many people who were heartbroken. But that’s the kind of community this is. These fellow applicants are genuinely kind people and I know it’s because we all share the same love for Disney.

Round three involved an interview. I had to send in all my information to Jennifer, who was so gracious about it all and helped me with this and with that. I just had to make sure all my contact information was submitted properly. She was SO patient with and kind to me.

I was told I would receive a phone call setting up a time and day for my telephone interview. I’ll never, ever forget where I was…. I was driving on the freeway home from having lunch with Kirsten E. (a Canadian Disney Parks Moms Panelist) who was all excited for my making it to round three. She was so intent on finding me a cupcake that afternoon to commemorate my achievement, it was so sweet.

Anyway, there I was driving on the freeway home when the call came. It was a very friendly, helpful man who cheerfully set up my telephone interview for the following Monday morning at 8:45 a.m. I had to wait three whole days. I was in agony. I was pouring over all my Disney Cruise Line fact sheets, going over everything in my mind just in case they wanted trivia knowledge. I was so excited.

Monday morning finally came and there I was pacing in the kitchen waiting for that long distance ring.

8:45 a.m. and the phone rang. It was the interview team. I remember this so well. I couldn’t sit down, I was too excited.

I was greeted by Laura Spencer, who was so friendly and accommodating. She asked me a couple of questions and I was introduced to the other interviewers who were all so gracious. I was asked questions about various topics about travel with the cruise line which I answered to the best of my knowledge and remember having fun while doing so. I honestly don’t think I took a breath through the entire interview which lasted exactly fifteen minutes, which for me, flew by in a matter of seconds. It was all over so fast. That was it…..now the wait. I was told that I would be receiving a phone call near weeks end.

The phone rang on Thursday afternoon, three days later. My heart was pounding and I could barely breathe. It was Laura Spencer, who greeted me and told me what a great job I did on the interview and how my passion was so obvious, but unfortunately, a spot for me was not available for the 2013 panel.

I was crestfallen. The sting was so sharp and I remember the look on my husbands face as I was hearing my rejection over the telephone.

I went upstairs and had my pity party privately, thanked God for the opportunity and vowed that I would keep trying.

Three years later and I’m getting ready to apply once again this Fall. The specialty? Well, I have ten cruises with Disney on all four ships, over twenty-seven trips to Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort combined, a trip to Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa and Disneyland Paris in September….so which specialty?

I’ll decide that when the time comes and listen to my instinct, because it’s always right.

Here’s the link to the Disney Parks Moms Panel, you should check this out!

Disney Parks Moms Panel