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

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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

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

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

Disney Social Media Moms Celebration “On-The-Road” in New York City 2015

I had the honour and privilege of being invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration “On-The-Road” in New York City on June 15, 2015. I was thrilled beyond my wildest dreams for the invite and was super excited!

The event this year had a different venue. It was the Disney owned New Amsterdam Theatre where the hit musical Disney’s Aladdin is currently playing. What an incredible venue!

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Bright and early on Monday, June 15, I hopped in a cab and arrived nice and early to check in. I received a warm welcome by Maria Bailey, CEO at BSM Media, followed by a bountiful, hot breakfast. It was there that I had the opportunity to meet fellow social media influencers/bloggers as well as many of my Disney loving friends from years past. As well, I had the opportunity to meet  people who I respect and follow in social media named, Leanne Jakubowski-O’Reagan, Jamie Neilsen-Langdon and Danielle Bellini (Madden NFL Sideline Reporter & Emmy Award-Winning Host-Electronic Arts, The CBS Dream Team, The Walt Disney Company). Meeting these inspirational women was such a thrill for me as a Disney Parks Moms Panelist hopeful for 2016.

After breakfast, we were led to our seating area directly on the stage facing the audience seats. I can’t tell you what a stunning view that was of the magnificent New Amsterdam Theatre with all of its Art Nouveau splendour. The stage area had a podium and the presenters used the power point presentation style. I will outline the presenters in the order they appeared and briefly discuss their topics.

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Leanne Jakubowski-O’Reagan

Leanne Jakubowski-O’Reagan, Director, Social Media; Walt Disney World Resort, led the dynamic and exciting event for the entire morning, keeping the pace fun and filled with *Pixie Dusted* surprises at every turn. Available for questions, information, greets and photo opportunities was a highlight for all attendees, including myself.

Jamie Nielsen-Langdon

Jamie Nielsen-Langdon, Managing Editor, Walt Disney World, talked about the DisneySide campaign, Disneyland Resort’s Diamond Celebration and the new entertainment awaiting Guests. Great information was shared about Disney Cruise Line’s news such as new sailings to Northern Europe, sailings from New York City into the Canadian Maritimes, vacation pairings between Adventures By Disney and Disney Cruise Line and new shows aboard the ships, such as Tangled: The Musical, which will debut on the Disney Magic this November, 2015. Finally, Jamie discussed how much fun it is to bring children to the Disney Parks at any age, through the initiative that ‘pre-schoolers love Disney’.

Jennifer Fickley-Baker

Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager, Disney Parks Blog, shared many insightful and informative tips on writing to capture an audience. Jennifer expressed how ‘finding the story in every situation’ is important towards inspiration in writing. How to tell stories using creativity and brainstorming techniques using ‘listing’ strategies and expanding real stories to capture creativity. Jennifer stressed, “pushing past logic, is where creativity begins”. A wonderful #GrandDisney video of grandparents taking their grandchildren to the Disney Parks was a useful tool to augment this type of creative story-telling.

Victoria Lim

Victoria Lim, Managing Editor, Walt Disney World Public Relations, expanded on the usefulness of incorporating videos in a blog which supports visual story-telling. Great tips and advice was shared on capturing the best images and filming. Useful information was shared on popular equipment editing apps used to aid in photo taking and the filming of videos.

Greg Josken

Greg Josken, Digital Marketing Manager at Disney Theatrical Group, discussed creating digital content in promoting live theatre by building strategies, content creation and trend watching. It’s important to mix old with new, create new stories in the same story and how engaging an audience is vital. Tactics discussed included how to increase social mentions with a positive sentiment, how to strengthen brand affinity and how to increase engagement across all platforms.

Babble

Representatives from Babble, an online magazine geared to urban parents which was acquired by Disney Interactive Media Group in 2011, discussed strategies on projecting oneself in social media in an effective and dynamic manner. All social media platforms were dealt with and the tools and techniques in reaching a greater audience shared.

Barby K. Siegel

Barby K. Siegel, the CEO of Zeno Group, presented an energetic account of her persistence and “fearless” approach to life. Her inspirational message and attitude instilled motivation and a great desire to keep trying. “The glue that holds us and allows us to go big. The fearless pursuit of the unexpected.” Truly, an inspirational person!

Marissa Kraxberger

Marissa Kraxberger,‎ Creative Director at Ivanka Trump, presented many useful, effective ideas and tools on how to transform a brand through social media and elevate that brand to a broader spectrum of people. Tips were shared on how to attract and connect across all platforms and how to maintain interest.

Beyond the Conference

When the conference was completed, the fun and surprises continued with a personal meet and greet with Mickey Mouse and a personal tour of the theatrical prop archive room at the New Amsterdam Theatre. There we saw past set designs and primary costumes for hit theatrical Disney productions and had the opportunity to try outfits on and handle some of the props.

Below, Leanne Jakubowski-O’Reagan and Mickey Mouse.

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Here I am meeting Leanne Jakubowski-O’Reagan (left photo) and Jamie Nielsen-Langdon (right photo).

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The set designs and props in Disney’s Theatrical Group Prop Storage, from Disney’s The Lion King, Disney’s Mary Poppins and Disney’s Tarzan.

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Here I am trying on one of my favourite character outfits from Disney’s Mary Poppins, and posing for a photo with Mickey Mouse.

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The description of the history and restoration of the New Amsterdam Theatre was so informative and interesting. Here are photos of the stage and balcony seating depicting the accuracy of the Art Nouveau genre.

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Making a wish,……a big, big wish for one of my biggest dreams to come true.

OTR 31I wish to extend my sincerest gratitude and appreciation for having had the opportunity to be a part of such an informative, inspirational and exciting event.