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

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

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

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

Now, let’s talk about the benefits:

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

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

Partners Statue Gold

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The Presentations at the 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.

The 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World Resort staying at the popular conference Resort hotel, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and with Disney Cruise Line, sailing the third ship in the fleet, the Disney Dream, was a huge success. This conference provided a massive learning, collaborative and networking opportunity for all attendees, empowering them with the motivation and tools needed to create meaningful content to grow their following.

At Walt Disney World Resort, while staying at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, presentations in the spectacular Conference Halls were presented, after a warm welcome by George Kalogridis- Walt Disney World Resort President;  Leanne Jakubowski O’Regan- Director, Communications and Public Relations, Walt Disney World Resort and Mark Daniel – Social Media Host, Disney Parks & Resorts.

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Bob Chapek, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, oversees The Walt Disney Company’s travel and leisure businesses including Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, six resort destinations in the United States, Asia and Europe. Mr. Chapek provides successful leadership over 145,000 Cast Members, Crew Members and Imagineers who help to create magical Disney Destinations vacations for millions of Guests every year.

Photo below courtesy of Lisa Arneill, founder of GrowingYourBaby.com, World Traveled Family and TheWorldWeShare.com.

Bob Chapek Lisa Arneill

 

Mr. Chapek emphasizes that each Disney vacation affords Guests unique and immersive experiences, bringing families together to enjoy fun for all creating the feeling that sets Disney vacations apart from anything else. The magical memories created on each Disney Vacation affords Guests a true Disney experience.

 

Minnie Vans

Walt Disney World Resort recently introduced another new mode of stylish, private transportation Resort-wide and it was so popular that Disney decided to double the fleet number of the Minnie Van service.

The Minnie Vans are driven by Cast Members and can be ordered using a mobile device, currently with the Lyft app from many Disney Resort hotels, all four Walt Disney World Resort Theme and Water Parks and from Disney Springs and the service transports Guests throughout Walt Disney World Resort for a fee. The majority of the vans can accommodate 6 Guests and standard vans offer up to two car seats with front and rear facing capabilities. The service offers accessible vans which can accommodate up to 4 Guests. For more information, please contact the Minnie Van Service at (407) 828-3500.

“Since we’re all about exceeding guest expectations and making every aspect of your vacation uniquely Disney, we’re creating a new point-to-point transportation service in a way that only Disney can do.” –Bob Iger

Photo below of the Minnie Van vehicles is courtesy of the Disney Parks Blog.

MinnieVans

Disney Skyliner

Yet another unique mode of transportation featuring Disney Characters in true gondola style is coming to Walt Disney World Resort – the Disney Skyliner which will add more magic and convenience to a Guest’s vacation by affording them a birds-eye view of the pixie-dusted land connecting Disney’s Art of Animation, Disney’s Caribbean Beach, Disney’s Pop Century Resorts and some other Resort locations with Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot’s International Gateway.

Photo below courtesy of Disney Parks Blog.

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Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway

“It was all started by a mouse.” Walt Disney

Mickey Mouse’s big-screen debut in “Steamboat Willie” took place on November 18, 1928. At the D23 Expo Japan, and during the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, announced that in honour of Mickey Mouse’s 90th year, there will be worldwide celebrations. Mickey’s first attraction, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will be at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort!

On this new attraction, Guests will enjoy a catchy theme song along with a new “2 1/2-D” experience requiring no glasses as they head out initially driving alongside a train conducted by engineer Goofy and in a magical moment Guests are immersed into the movie, riding in Goofy’s train for a wild and wacky experience as stars in the unpredictable world of a Mickey Mouse Cartoon Short.

Photo below courtesy of Disney Parks Blog.

Runaway Railway WDW

Hong Kong Disneyland

There is great excitement in the air for the  expansion at Hong Kong Disneyland through 2023! Get ready for themed attractions bringing Disney Characters and stories to life, entertainment and attractions that will immerse Guests in Disney experiences like no other. Guests will be transported to the kingdom of Arendelle, with a new, “Frozen”-themed area bringing Characters to life, ample opportunities for shopping and dining.

Moana fans will revel in a new entertainment area, an “Adventureland Show Place,” inviting Guests to “Moana’s Village Festival” featuring a lively stage show and interactive entertainment environment.

Photo below courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Hong-Kong-Disneyland-Moana

Marvel-themed areas will captivate Guests with thrilling attractions and entertainment and will continue to grow as Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters will be reimagined into a new experience allowing Guests to fight alongside the icons of the Marvel Universe. As well, a captivating and thrilling attraction themed after one of Marvel’s most popular franchises will be added to expand the epicentre of Marvel Super Heroes.

Photo below courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

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Sleeping Beauty Castle will be transformed to showcase the new daytime and nighttime spectacular entertainment that will highlight every princess and prince who dared to follow a dream and wish upon a star.

Photo below courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Hong Kong Disneyland

 

Star Wars News

A new Star Wars-themed hotel is coming to Walt Disney World Resort and it will be seamlessly connected to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – the upcoming Star Wars-themed land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This uniquely themed Resort hotel will immerse Guests in the Star Wars experience as they board a starship for their galactic adventure while they enjoy outer space views from their Resort hotel Guest Room – stay tuned for an opening date by the Disney Parks Blog.

 

Star Wars Hotel

The outstanding Star Wars-themed land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will blast into both Disneyland Park and as an extension to Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort. This new land will offer Guests opportunities to fly the Millennium Falcon, they’ll find themselves inside a Star Destroyer for the battle between the Resistance and the First Order and many other epic galactic experiences. This amazing land is set to open in 2019.

Disneyland Paris

There will be a multi-year expansion for Disneyland Paris which will include a transformation of Walt Disney Studios Park with three new areas building on Marvel, Frozen and Star Wars live entertainment and attractions. This will prove to be one of the most ambitious projects since the Theme Park opened in 1992.

Disneyland Paris is re-imagining one of their Resort hotels into Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel, set to open within 2020, which will be designed to reflect the world of Super Heroes such as The Avengers, Spider Man and Iron Man in the style of a contemporary art gallery. Only Disney Imagineers will be successful in affording Guests an immersed experience in the Marvel universe.

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Disneyland Resort in California

Pixar Fest” begins on April 13, 2018 at both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park  with a first-ever celebration of friendship and beyond which will feature an all-new fireworks spectacular and the return of the beloved “Paint the Night” parade and Pixar Play Parade.

Photo below courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

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California Adventure Park’s Paradise Pier will become “Pixar Pier”, which will feature the highly anticipated, Incredicoaster, themed after “The Incredibles”.

The-Incredicoaster-2

Disney California Adventure Park will expand the Food & Wine Festival to a glorious six weeks this year and will feature more activities and experiences for Guests to enjoy the delights of the Golden State with more than a dozen Festival Marketplaces offering demonstrations, presentations and the opportunity to enjoy California-inspired sips and samples, entertainment and live music.

Photo below courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

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David Roark – Manager at Creative Photography

David Roark offered many creative tips and useful advice for creating images that are effective in carrying out a message. Capturing the perfect setting and ensuring background sound levels are optimal which will foster success with both video and photography. The perfect location and time of day is critical for photography at any Disney Destination. Disney photographers utilize many composites and photoshop techniques to optimize their photo messages. Capturing a more spontaneous moment that evokes a feeling is effective and powerful, rather than a stiff, posed, manipulated image, because people will readily identify with the feeling evoked. The mid- 80’s saw the emergence of World-wide Disney visuals which became more prominent.

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Terry Cox, Manager, Search Engine Marketing

Terry Cox “joined Disney 13 years ago as the first Cast Member dedicated to paid search advertising and search engine optimization at The Walt Disney Company” and is currently the head of search marketing for Disney Destinations. Terry and his team strive to maximize Disney’s presence in online search results and stressed the validity of adding proper links where necessary to facilitate this goal and discussed strategies to incorporate in a Blog post, such as:

  • Classify -for the phrases consumers are looking for (keywords). Write an individual post for each announcement (classify).
  • Weight -add links pointed to that piece of content (votes of confidence) to build a website…and quality.
  • Utility –Google determines results how fast your pages load …create security with “https”. Use the “H1” tag which is critical informing Google that title has emphasis.
  • Image -optimization is key – make sure the image is a good size and is named.

Terry Cox shared a powerful and timeless quote: “You don’t build the social media content for yourself. You know what the people want and you build it for them.” Walt Disney

Amy Stanford, Sr. Editor, Babble

Real parents can share real moments that help you think, help you learn, and help you laugh. Babble is geared to Millennial parents.

Taking content to next level to build growth by:

  • Selecting four core words such as: be real, be authentic, be inclusive, be stimulating to form a connection.
  • Create a mood board of images that visually represent your brand.
  • Which platforms are you willing to invest in?
  • Incorporate Podcasts which are popular.
  • Pick a social media platform and do it well.
  • Find out where your audience is most engaged (which social media platform).
  • Think beyond the blog post.
  • Remember that the content must be social first and be mobile friendly.
  • Built for the feed and be engaging.
  • Create microcontent > shareables, GIFs, Memevids, Infographics, Pinnable Images.
  • Stay informed and be up to date.
  • Be flexible because this keeps you constant.
  • Develop partnerships to create new content and grow readership like Babble, consider partnering with Babble.
  • Take a look at the content from @aspiringkennedy on Instagram, which is good example.

How to Pitch?

  • Write a concise, stream-lined concept.
  • Proofread.
  • Learn from feedback as it has a strong message.

 

Vera Sweeney:  Lady and the Blog (Alamo) The Importance of Family Travel

Vera Sweeney grew up with the love of travel, adventure and exploration, who founded, “Lady and the Blog.” She is constantly on the search for new content, upcoming trends and her Blog covers a wide range of topics such as beauty, fashion, recipes, travel tips and personal notes. Her Blog, “Lady and the Blog” has been featured on Oprah’s O Magazine, The Today Show and Rachael Ray Magazine. She stresses that travel with children is a must and to simply adjust, fine-tune and lower expectations during travel. Focus on the more spontaneous, simple moments in your photography and don’t stage, focus on engagement.

 

Kristin Burr, Producer “Christopher Robin”

What an extreme pleasure it was to see and hear from Kristin Burr, a producer with Burr! Productions, a film production company based at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. Her current project includes the live-action adventure “Christopher Robin”. We had the pleasure of hearing about the production, captivating characters and set design for this adorable, soon-to-be-loved film.

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Sharon Siskie – Senior Vice President of Commercial Stategy

Sharon Siskie leads marketing and sales for high-growth businesses with Disney Parks & Resorts and supports Disney Vacation Club, Adventures by Disney, Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa and Disney Cruise Line.

Disney Vacation Club just opened the newest magical Resort at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and is looking forward to the upcoming, Disney’s Riviera Resort which will be adjacent to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, will offer its own dining –including a rooftop restaurant offering spectacular views of the nighttime shows at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, and recreation experiences. The new Disney Skyliner transportation service will have a stop at Disney’s Riviera Resort which will transport Guests faster access to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot.

Photos below of Disney’s Copper Creek Villas & Cabins and artistic rendering of Disney’s Riviera Resort respectively, courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Adventures by Disney

Adventures by Disney has had great success with the variety of destinations and will be adding new adventures, such as Berlin to the German itinerary. They’ll be adding “Short Escapes” to both Spain and Denmark, Costa Rica, Iceland and River Cruise experiences in partnership with AMA Waterways, along the Rhine River.

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Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa – a most family-friendly resort, continues to immerse Guests in the Hawaiian culture where they can begin their legend as they relax and enjoy their adventures on Ko Olina Beach.

Photo below courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Aulani

Disney Cruise Line will continue with more enchantment at sea with three new ships on the horizon, seeing the fleet nearly double by 2023, taking Guests to incredible destinations around the World. All three new ships will be constructed at Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany with scheduled completion in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The three ships will offer their own unique experiences, they will be powered by clean-burning liquefied natural gas and they will all be the same size, 135,000 gross tons and offer 1,250 staterooms. As well, itineraries for the summer of 2019 will be released in early March 2018.

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Tom Warburton- Producer, “Muppet Babies”

Best known for “Codename: Kids Next Door”, “Doug,” “Schoolhouse Rock!,” Disney’s “Pepper Ann,” ”Fish Hooks” and “The 7D,” Tom Warburton was excited about discussing the reimagined animated series, “Muppet Babies” geared for an audience aged 4 to 7, that will air on Disney Junior in March 2018.

The show will follow the hilarious playroom antics and will retain younger incarnations of our beloved, classic Muppet friends – Baby Kermit, Baby Fozzie Bear, Baby Piggy, Baby Gonzo and Baby Animal and will see the return of “Miss Nanny”. A new, adorable character will come forth, by the name of Summer Penguin.

Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Muppet Babies

 

John Breckow- Director of Corporate Citizenship for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.

A most poignant and heartfelt session was presented by John Breckow, who oversees the philanthropic efforts throughout the Disney Parks worldwide. A touching wishes story about a special man named Richie was shared leaving no dry eye in the conference hall. The Walt Disney Company has a huge heart and was there to help with disaster relief by bring aid and hope to the people affected by this devastation. The Walt Disney Company has granted over 120,000 wishes to children and families.

Photo below of Richie and John Breckow, courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Richie Story Disney

 

Ashley Eckstein, Founder of Her Universe

A dynamic and inspirational session was presented by Ashley Eckstein known to Star Wars fans as the voice of Ahsoka Tano on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Ashley highlighted her life’s milestones with overcoming hardship, pursuing and achieving her dreams with her evolutionary Fangirl fashion. Her Universe is a licensee for Disney/Star Wars and Marvel, BBC/Doctor Who, CBS/Star Trek, Studio Ghibli and many other properties.

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Bob Hitchcock, Editorial Content Director.

Bob Hitchcock offered sage advice for projecting effective content with:

  • Try to make a connection by featuring emotional content to create a bond, such as touching people’s hearts, making them laugh and motivating them.
  • Video is popular – statistics demonstrate that there are more than five million viewers per day and more than 60-70% of the video content is viewed on a mobile device.
  • Try to engage your audience with emotionally based stories.
  • Find your act and build it. Determine what emotion you wish to evoke and determine what message you wish to send out there.
  • Incorporate a character to be a part of your message and find a location to create authenticity.
  • Create fun, bite-sized content.

I am truly grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration because I came away equipped with tools, techniques, many new passionate friends and a renewed sense of hope to help grow my social media platforms.

Thank you!

 

 

2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration

Have you ever heard of the Disney Parks Blog? Did you know that you can follow any official (and I take ‘official’ seriously because there’s merit to that word) Disney news and information by connecting with Disney Parks on Social Media? These social media outlets are where you will read about factual information so you can form your own opinion based on your personal needs and likes. Many enthusiastic contributors through many hours of dedication, create entertaining and pleasingly informative posts filled with news and photos that bring ‘happy’ news straight to you.

Through these social media platforms be prepared to connect and hear all about what’s new, what’s re-imagined and what’s on the horizon from the colourful palette steered by The Walt Disney Company at the 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration – from what I feel is the ‘most Magical & Happiest’ conference this year! This conference will take place at Walt Disney World Resort placing paying attendees at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort – (which itself is undergoing a massive re-imagination, so stay tuned), followed by a sailing on the third ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, the Disney Dream.

For all official announcements during this conference, please follow the handle @DisneyMoms with Hashtag #DisneySMMC on Twitter; the official Disney Parks Blog website; their Facebook Page – Disney Parks Blog; their Instagram page – @DisneyParksBlog; the Disney Parks and Resorts page using their Twitter handle- @DisneyParks.

I will be sharing official news during my attendance, as well as posting, at times, my personal experience (not opinions) as a parent travelling with a special needs teenage son, mostly in part to help other people in my similar situation understand the value and benefits of vacationing at the Disney Parks, Resorts and Destinations, so that, hopefully, one day soon, they too, may experience life-changing moments at “The Most Magical Place on Earth” at Walt Disney World Resort, “The Happiest Place on Earth” at Disneyland Resort, or where, “There’s Something for Everyone” sailing with Disney Cruise Line.

Those that have followed me on social media, know that for years, I have been diligently and consistently sharing the Disney brand throughout all my social media outlets, multiple times daily (not only when I believe it will benefit me) but because I have a passion for this brand and all that it has done to positively impact my family, especially my son. Testament to this, is that we’ve visited both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort a combined 45 times, sailed with Disney Cruise Line 12 times on all four ships in the fleet, including a Mediterranean sailing, toured The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank California and have visited Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawai’i all since 1998. We definitely love experiencing “The Disney Difference”!

Thank you and get ready for the “Most Magical & Happiest News on Earth” with the 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration!

 

 

Andrew and Disney’s MagicBands

Andrew would never tolerate wearing anything on his wrist in the early days, so when the whole Disney MagicBand system came about I knew I had to do something and not resort to relying on my Theme Park Admission Cards for fear of losing them. Not only that, taking them out of my wallet every time was something I really didn’t need to do. I also didn’t want to exclude him from wearing a MagicBand by carrying his. Andrew needed to learn, so I began with ‘first and then’ using the attraction visuals I could pull up with My Disney Experience mobile app. I would show Andrew the attraction photo paired with the actual MagicBand, because I knew he loved the attraction – thereby he would associate the MagicBand with ‘good things’. From there, I phased in ‘first MagicBand, then attraction’ with an immediate, tangible reinforcer – his ‘in a million pieces Oreo cookie’ from which I would give him a snippet so he wouldn’t be emptying an entire bag of Oreo’s – see where I’m going? Repeated trials? Many. Was it worth it? Yes. He eventually tolerated and wore the MagicBand. Today, he wears two MagicBands, one on each wrist – that’s how much he loves them!

Customizing the MagicBand with his favourite colour certainly helped a great deal, too. Once your Walt Disney World Resort vacation is booked and you’ve linked your Disney Resort hotel reservation to your Disney account, you can begin personalizing your complimentary MagicBand – one of many select Disney Resort hotel Guest benefits.

MagicBands

Photo Credit: The Walt Disney Company – Disney Parks Blog

Disney Parks has also helped us out a great deal with their FastPass+ Service at Walt Disney World Resort because we can book 3 select attractions for each Theme Park, each day, 30-days before our scheduled visit, or, 60-days before our select Disney Resort hotel reservation check-in date. All this is linked to our MagicBands (after we associate our Disney Resort hotel reservation to our Disney account) and managed with My Disney Experience online and through the My Disney Experience mobile app. So now, Andrew can see what his day will look like by viewing our FastPass+ selections, dining reservations, shows and much more, for each day of our visit, which resembles his daily schedule board at home. It’s a perfect ‘first & then’ scenario and Disney got it just right! There are a lot of dedicated folks behind the scenes, doing a lot of research and working really hard.

Then, to make things even better for Andrew – Disney Parks offers Services for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities in efforts to afford all Guests an inclusive and enjoyable experience. A plethora of services are offered with special needs Guests in mind, and if you need any help you can stop by Guest Relations inside any of the four Theme Parks and speak with a Cast Member, who will help you select the service that’s best for you or your family member. This is one of the many reasons we keep coming back – all of these services have assisted and fostered Andrew’s developmental growth over the course of our vacations, bringing him even closer to us and affording him the chance to experience true, sincere happiness.

Andrew is now able to look at all of our FastPass+ selections and direct us to the respective attraction. He is able to approach the FastPass+ queue, wait his turn and tap his MagicBand to the Mickey Touch-Point. He loves it when the light spins green (that’s a totally sensory-driven thing) which gets him all excited and thus reinforcing in itself!

That is HUGE for our family!

For Disney Vacation planning assistance please stop by the Disney Parks Moms Panel where you can ask my fellow dedicated panelists specific questions, or check out some of my answers on the site.

Thank you for visiting  my Blog and remember, “Life IS a Bowl of Cherries”.

Disney Cruise Line’s “Star Wars Day at Sea”.

Jackie WL Star W

Disney Cruise Line motor coach transport is super convenient from your Walt Disney World Resort hotel, which in my case was Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, to Port Canaveral. Doing a land stay before a Disney cruise is the ultimate vacation, combining the best of both worlds!

In this case we were on our way to our “Star Wars Day at Sea” aboard the fourth and newest ship, the Disney Fantasy.

Star W Port C

You’re made to feel super welcome by Minnie Mouse all decked out in her sailing attire just before you board the ship. Disney Cruise Line contracted photographers on hand for those professional photos, for which the collection can be purchased onboard at “Shutters Photography”, either in individual photos, or in packages. You can even customize your cell phone case.

Jackie Star W Gate

The best gate to a gangway at sea, Terminal 8-Disney Cruise Line at Port Canaveral. Loving those Disney Imagineering details!

Atrium Lobby StarW

Magical Guest introductions making Guests feel like royalty into the “Star Wars Day at Sea” adorned Atrium Lobby aboard the Disney Fantasy.

Stateroom 5022

We have always booked verandah staterooms, but on this sailing which I booked just short of a year out, I reserved a category 8A oceanview stateroom, #5022. The best selections of staterooms are at your feet, the earlier you book. This stateroom accommodates 3 people, offers a queen bed and a single convertible sofa bed. The restroom is not the traditional “split-bath” configuration, which is an industry first for Disney Cruise Line.

Star W Teacup Table

Booking far out enough (usually a year) in advance, affords you the opportunity to score these coveted dining tables, called, “Teacup Tables” in Enchanted Garden, one of the three dining rooms on Disney Cruise Line’s industry first, “Rotational Dining”. The unique convenience about this dining system is that your serving team follows you on your rotation through a total of three restaurants, Enchanted Garden, Royal Court and Animator’s Palate. We, on this cruise were greatly surprised, and I’ll tell you why.

I requested a “Teacup Table”, because we greatly enjoyed ours on our previous Disney Fantasy sailing. To our great surprise, we were seated at the very same table on this sailing, and I mean the exact table number, #59. The second biggest surprise, was the photobomber …our server from our Mediterranean cruise back in July 2014 aboard the Disney Magic, Eder G. Now what are the odds of that happening! It’s Disney *pixie-dust* at work, that’s what!

Eder and Jackie

Here’s what I love about dining rotation. State your needs to your serving team once and you’re taken care of for the rest of the cruise. I was on a special diet, not allowing any carbohydrates or sweets, and Eder worked with me to make my dining healthful, yet highly palatable. I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything.

Andrew Mini Golf

Here’s what keeps us coming back…the social interactions, and spontaneous developmental bursts from my son, who has Autism. You’d never know it looking at him here playing mini golf on “Goofy’s Sports Deck”. Andrew can take you throughout the entire ship, just tell him where you want to go and follow his lead. It’s incredible!

Captain Hook Goofy Sports Deck

Just when you’re involved with playing ping-pong and mini golf, a visitor strolls through for some greets!AquaDuck DF

The “AquaDuck” another Disney Cruise Line industry first. 763 feof water coastering, with a 20 foot extension over the side of the ship. This feature is found on both the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. Accessible only by stairs, right into and out of the funnel, in a tandem raft.

AquaDuck lazy river

Guests finish off in a mini lazy river allowing ample time to exit, although some, like my son like to splash about.

Set sail on your Star Wars Day at Sea and plan your voyage to a galaxy far, far away!

 

Planning on Visiting Walt Disney World Resort?

Are you planning a vacation to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando? Get ready for the most unique and unforgettable experience ever. For many visitors, these vacations become an annual tradition because they quickly realize they cannot see and do everything in one visit. People discover that each Disney vacation becomes a unique vacation because of the constantly evolving experiences, annual Special Events drawing in returning Guests, offering a stay at differently themed and priced Disney Resort hotels, which by the way, can be a vacation destination all on their own without even setting foot in a Walt Disney World Resort Theme Park. Factor in Disney Resort hotel Guest amenities and people are hooked for life, many of which have become Disney Vacation Club owners.

That’s not all. The Disney Vacation Planning tools far exceed anything that’s out there compared to other travel destinations. The level of control through Walt Disney World Resort’s website and My Disney Experience mobile application affords complete customization and control down to the last minute, including during one’s vacation through complimentary Resort-wide WiFi access for all Guests. If online planning is not desirable, official Disney Vacation Planners are available to help Guests plan over the telephone by calling (407) 939-5277.

Begin by visiting Disney Parks Vacation Planning Videos to watch free videos, helping you decide where to stay and how to tour. You have full control over every aspect of your vacation. If you have any questions, please head over to the official Disney Parks Moms Panel for free planning tips and advice from Disney experts who are frequent visitors and dedicated enthusiasts.

The conveniences and benefits of staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel begin the moment you book, with easy to use, step by step online prompts and fun email reminders along the way making sure you optimize all there is to benefit from, before, during and even after your vacation.

May I offer my suggestions in planning your Walt Disney World Resort vacation.

  1. Check for Special Offers and consider booking a Magic Your Way Vacation Package which will include important details such as your Disney Resort hotel, Disney Theme Park Tickets and if you wish, the added option of purchasing an incredible Disney Dining Plan package. Disney Resort hotel Guests have the added amenity of being able to book select attractions and experiences in advance, 60-days before check-in through Disney’s FastPass+ Service, over those visiting Guests who are not staying at a Disney Resort hotel, which is 30 days before their scheduled visit.
  2. Once booked, raise the level of your control of planning through MyMagic+ which will include guidance for Advanced Dining Reservations, securing FastPass+ experiences, and complete customization through My Disney Experience online and My Disney Experience mobile app. Customization and planning is fun, through the easy, step by step process, in the comfort of your own home, taking care of such details as your travel style, your budgetary considerations, and preferences.
  3. Make Advanced Dining Reservations up to 180 days before your arrival at popular Disney Character Restaurants, Table-Service Restaurtants, Signature Dining Restaurants and Special Event Dining Restaurants.
  4. Personalize your complimentary MagicBand through My Disney Experience which will store your Disney Resort hotel room entry, Disney Theme Park Ticket information, Disney Dining Reservations, Disney Dining Plan Meal and Snack Entitlements if purchased, FastPass+ selections, Disney PhotoPass Service information including Memory Maker if purchased, and your Walt Disney World Resort charging priviledges during your reservation package stay. All in one little RFID wristband so you can be free to enjoy your day without carrying a single item. Not only that, your MagicBand unlocks little surprises and personalized experiences!
  5. If staying at a Disney Resort hotel and flying into Orlando International Airport, consider reserving Disney’s Magical Express complimentary transportation to your Disney Resort hotel and back at the end of your vacation. A few weeks before your arrival, you’ll receive labelled luggage tags with your resort information. Tag your bags before you leave home and you’ll find your luggage in your Disney Resort hotel room a few hours after you check-in. All you have to do upon landing at Orlando International is head over to the Disney Magical Express Welcome Center, walk up to the Cast Member manned kiosk, place your MagicBand against the Mickey Touch Point for entry into the proper Disney Resort hotel motor coach queue. If you’re an International traveller, you’ll need to have your Disney’s Magical Express Transportation Voucher with the Bar-Code Scan containing your transportation information.
  6. Complete your Resort Online Check-In to make sure your room requests and credit card on file is accurate and complete, enabling you a speedier check-in at your Disney Resort hotel on arrival day where you’ll receive your Welcome Package.
  7. Upon your arrival, Cast Members are available at the entrance to assist with Check-In, as well, in the lobby of your Disney Resort hotel there’s a special “Online Check-In Counter” for those Guests who took care of their Resort Online Check-In before they left home. International Guests will receive their new, complimentary MagicBands during check-in at the Front Desk.
  8. Now it’s time to make Unforgettable Happens Here memories at the place where Magic Is Endless!

 

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

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.