Sep 092015

In each issue we share tips from our readers. If you have a tip to share send it to us at

We’re looking for your best tips to share with us all about touring during the summer and tips for experiencing the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. In addition we are looking for your best tips for experiencing Halloween events at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

Disney gives out a pretty nice selection of candy at the party, including “fun-sized” Snickers, Twix, Milkyway, Almond Joy, Hershey bars, Heath bars, Nestle Crunch bars, Reese’s cups, Kit-Kat, M&Ms, Skittles, SweetTarts, Smarties, gummy “Toy Story” characters, SweetTarts, Tootsie Rolls, Starburst, Now & Later, Twizzlers, Bottle Caps, Mike & Ikes, Bit ‘o Honey, Jolly Rancher, Goofy Candy Co. lollipops, Werthers caramels, Candy Corn and more. You can collect as much as you want! Those with special dietary needs can do a “candy swap” at City Hall; they’ll exchange your goodies for treats that meet your dietary restrictions. Just ask to see a list of your options which included Jelly Belly (sugar, dairy, egg and nut free), Chocolate Pumpkin and Bat Suckers (gluten, sesame, egg & nut free), Mixed Fruit buttons (sugar, dairy, egg & nut free) and Butterscotch Buttons (sugar free).

Best of Be Our Guest Podcast


Each issue we will feature a snippet of what you could learn by listening to the Be Our Guest Podcast. Be sure to check back each issue for more fun.

Episode 907 – When Illness Strikes At WDW

Today we are excited to have April joining us from Houston, Texas to talk about her recent trip to Walt Disney World with her family.  While staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, one of her daughters got very sick.  Hear what April learned about what options are available if you or a loved-one gets sick on your next WDW vacation.
Listen to the podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Be Our Guest Podcast!

Sep 092015

By: Ann Dunnington



Those of us seasoned Walt Disney World travelers know all about the changes that have occurred over the past few years in regards to Disney vacation planning. FastPass+, Dining Reservations, Hotel Reservations, Dining Plans, Ticketed Events, Behind the Scenes Tours… you name it. In many different “Disney Fan Communities” around the internet, travelers have begun complaining that you can no longer have an unplanned, unscheduled trip to Walt Disney World, and the previous spontaneity that vacationers used to feel is now gone. But is it REALLY gone? Can you not have a fantastic trip to Walt Disney World unless each minute is pre-planned 60-180 days before your trip? I say, you absolutely can!

In July, my husband and I took a very unplanned trip to Walt Disney World. We decided to book a last minute long-weekend trip two weeks ahead of time. We had never traveled to central Florida in July before, but since we, like many of you reading this, are “in the know” about all things Disney, we absolutely knew what to expect (hot, crowded, and afternoon rain storms). With just two weeks to “plan”, we decided that we wanted to try to wing it WITHOUT set plans, just to see what would happen.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I did plan a tiny bit. However, the only planning I actually did was to see what parks had Extra Magic Hours (and avoid them, since we were staying offsite for the first time since the early 1990’s), and to make sure my touring backpack was packed with water, snacks, bandages, an umbrella, wet wipes, a big floppy hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and my phone and wallet. We didn’t, however, have even one FastPass or Dining Reservation made. In July. Were we insane?! Spoiler alert, it was just fine, and so much more relaxed than in previous trips. How?

Of course, there were a few things that we knew we needed to do if we weren’t going to go by a detailed touring plan for the first time ever:

  • We knew we needed to arrive at the parks a little past park opening. Why not prior to park opening? It gets crowded when the vacationers have nowhere to go before the parks open, so we wait about a half hour to let the crowds enter the park before we head in. Our first day we decided to park our car at the Transportation and Ticket Center and leave it there for the day. First up was the Ferry Boat to the Magic Kingdom. It was packed, so we decided to go up to the upper level to get away from the crowd a bit. We stood near the Captain and got to watch through the window his amazing boat parking skills! So fun, and something we had never seen before.
  • We knew that we had to go with the flow. Once the boat docked, we let the crowds go ahead of us. No need to rush! We were the last off the boat and walked at a leisurely pace, saying “hi” to every Cast Member we passed. At both the bag check and the ticket scanner, there was always a Cast Member that had little to no line (generally those on the far ends). We knew this was going to be the case, so that’s where we headed! We were in the park in no time! Once inside the parks, we knew there would be large tour groups and crowds at every turn. We knew that it was probably going to rain each afternoon. We knew it was going to be hot. And that was ok! If we got hot, we went inside a gift shop. If we got thirsty, we picked up a free ice water from the various Counter Service restaurants. If we got hungry, we stopped in a shady spot for a snack. No need to rush to our FastPass attraction to meet our time since we didn’t have any. We just went with the flow.
  • We knew we weren’t going to be able to ride everything we wanted to.   This was ok, too. We decided to explore areas of the parks that we had never been to before. Like, the Main Street Train Station. How many of us just walk right past it when we enter the park? Or the new Hub by Cinderella Castle. Or the back of Morocco at EPCOT. Or the smaller paths behind the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom. There are so many places to explore! And, we had a blast finding them. While wandering around the parks, we used the My Disney Experience app to see what the wait times were at the various attractions. Believe it or not, there were tons of attractions with very little wait if you knew where to look. Sure, the headliners like Splash Mountain or Space Mountain had wait times of upwards of 120 minutes, which we were expecting. For those attractions, we had a different strategy… ride after it rains, or during the summer extended park hours. Perfect.
  • We knew it was going to rain, and used that to our advantage. When it rains in Florida, only a few attractions go down. Those rides that go outside like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Test Track, or Expedition Everest generally do not run in the rain. Nor, apparently, do guests. When it rains, the restaurants and gift shops become packed with guests waiting out the storm. We were able to ride a number of attractions right as the rain was dying down, in the middle of July, with no wait at all. This was all because everyone was waiting for the rain to completely stop before they went back out again. So put up that umbrella, and keep on touring! You won’t melt, I promise!
  • We knew that the most popular restaurants wouldn’t have tables available. We weren’t even going to try to get a table at the Be Our Guest restaurant. We knew that it would be nearly impossible, so, we packed and brought our lunch and some snacks in a cooler, and opted for a later dinner at the various restaurants at the resorts. Resort restaurants are generally less crowded than park restaurants, which we knew, so we walked up restaurants like Kona at the Polynesian, Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club, and il Mulino at the Walt Disney World Swan, and we were seated in no more than 20 minutes, tops. Amazing food, relaxed atmosphere, and no problem getting a table at all. And now that the Disney restaurants have started rolling out their Allergy-friendly menus, those of us with food allergies needn’t worry about letting the chefs know ahead of time that we’re coming- they’re already prepared!

So, can traveling to Walt Disney World without a plan be an enjoyable vacation? Absolutely! We rode some of our favorite rides, ate some amazing food, ventured off the beaten path, and had an amazing time! Have you ever taken an unplanned Disney trip? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook your best strategies for touring without a plan!

Aug 262015

In each issue we share tips from our readers. If you have a tip to share send it to us at

We’re looking for your best tips to share with us all about touring during the summer and tips for experiencing the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. In addition we are looking for your best tips for experiencing Halloween events at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

Trick-or-treat bags are provided at any of the candy stops or at the gate as you enter the party. The bags are on the small side and fill up very quickly. You may want to bring your own bag to avoid carrying several of Disney’s bags. If you’ll be using the Disney bag(s), be sure to get them as early as possible as, unlike candy, Disney tends to run out of bags early. As an alternative, you can purchase larger trick-or-treat bags or plastic pumpkin buckets with Mickey ears at the Emporium to gather treats or buy popcorn in one of the Hitchhiking Ghost or Hatbox Ghost Mickey popcorn bucket (available at popcorn carts) to enjoy during the parade and then use the empty bucket to trick-or-treat afterwards.


Best of Be Our Guest Podcast

BOGPLogoEach issue we will feature a snippet of what you could learn by listening to the Be Our Guest Podcast. Be sure to check back each issue for more fun.

Episode 901 – 30 Years Between Disney Trips

We are excited to have Bev from New Jersey with us today to talk about a couple of fun Walt Disney World vacations!  She had 30 years between her first trip as a kid and then taking her own family in August 2014.  Hear about this multi-family adventure!  We discuss nice stays at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, fun meals at Biergarten and Cinderella’s Royal Table, kid’s club experiences and much more!

Listen to the podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Be Our Guest Podcast!

Jul 152015

By: Jennifer Retzlaff


Dos and Don'ts of a Disney vacation

Summer is prime time for families to head to Walt Disney World for their family vacation. With that in mind, I wanted to share a few dos and don’ts to help make your trip as magical as possible.

Do Go With a Plan; Don’t Try to Wing It

Magically Speaking Do and Dont June 2015  Be Prepared

Summer is one of the busiest times at Disney making crowds heavy most days. With that in mind, do go in with a plan for the day. Even if it is a light plan with lots of flex time, having a general idea of where you want to go and where you would like to start the day will lower your standing around time, whether that is in line or out on Main Street determining what you want to do. You can tell the families that are trying to wing it as they often can be seen standing around “discussing” the next ride, show, or food kiosk that they are going to visit. Please do not misunderstand me. I know that not everyone is like me and don’t need nor want a detailed plan for the day; that isn’t what I am suggesting. What I am strongly recommending is that you have a general idea if your group wants to hit up Adventureland or Tomorrowland. Knowing your general plan for the day will help your stress level.

Do take breaks; Don’t try to go for 12 hours straight

Magically Speaking Do and Dont June 2015 Breaks

It is extremely hot in Florida in the summer months making it extremely important to take breaks. Trust me I get it. You have spent thousands of dollars on this vacation and darn it you are getting your money worth. My question would be if everyone is burnt out by day three, will you get everything out of the remainder of your trip? I see the complaints online of teenagers not wanting to get up before noon even though they are in Disney. Again a break doesn’t have to mean leaving the park, although if you are able, I highly recommend those few hours away; a break means taking some time to relax and just be for a while. Grab a snack, a seat and settle in for a few minutes. Taking an hour or so every day will give your family that second wind they will need to see those evening shows.

Do be realistic; Don’t get blinded by the magic

I will admit that I struggle with this one. As I am planning our daily plans, I often get wrapped up in trying to do it all which isn’t possible in it the world that is Disney. When planning for your trip, be realistic with what you will be able to accomplish each day. Know up front that you won’t be able to get everything in while you are there. Also be realistic while actually at the parks. Realize that although Disney is full of magic sometimes rides breakdown, bathrooms are needed at the wrong time, and tantrums will happen. I know it is hard to keep this all in the back of your mind, but it will make your trip more magical.

Do be aware of others; Don’t think you are in a bubble

Summer, as mentioned before, is a busy time of the year making walkways, bathrooms, restaurants, buses and rides busy. With this in mind, as you are moving throughout the parks, buses, etc, make sure you are being aware of your surroundings. Try to be aware of where you stop to tie that shoe or have that conversation. Be considerate on the buses when others need to get on. Help that mom with the stroller, offer up your seat to Grandma who has been going all day with the grandchildren. These small things, if we all do it, will make all of our trips that much better.

Do use your snack credits early; Don’t feel like you have to save them

Magically Speaking Do and Dont June 2015 Snack Credits

We learned this when we first used the dining plan a few years ago. We kept holding onto our snack credits throughout our trip leaving us with more than enough to frantically use on our last day. Instead of getting items we would have liked, we spent them on random things we could find at the resort. Last summer when we went we used our snack credits when the desire came. We also used it to get some breakfast items and munchies to take into the park with us. We did end up spending an extra ten on our last day but we were happy to do that instead of trying to force ourselves to use them.

Do come prepared; Don’t be caught off guard

Doing just a little research before you arrive at Disney will greatly help you be more prepared once arriving. Knowing when the parades, fireworks, and other shows are each day helps you know where you want to be at night instead of finding yourself in Epcot when you wanted to see Fantasmic in Hollywood Studios. Be aware of the park hours, extra magic hours and other special events going on throughout the parks during your visit will again help you take advantage of these offers. You don’t want to think you are hitting extra magic hours only to realize that the park opened up early to everyone. Being prepared also relates to weather. If you are visiting in the summer months, know that it will be hot and there will be daily rainstorms. With that in mind, make sure you pack that extra pair of socks, umbrella, and rain poncho. It can be extremely frustrating to take time out of your vacation because you are caught off guard by something that could have been planned for ahead of time.

Do enjoy the magic; don’t forget to smell the roses or popcorn

Magically Speaking Do and Dont June 2015 smell roses

I had to remind myself of this a few times on previous vacations. I am a planner and sometimes during our vacation I find myself getting worked up in what our next step is instead of just enjoying where we are at the moment. As parents, it is easy to be so caught up in our kids that we forget to really stop and see our kids and the joy that they are radiating. One of my favorite moments from our family trip was watching my kids play with their bubble gun in front of the castle. This wasn’t plan, we weren’t riding any rides, but it was a magical moment as they were so happy to be together and enjoying the moment. You don’t want to miss these moments during your trip because you are so busying worrying or planning.

Walt Disney World vacations are for many a once in a lifetime experience and I hope these quick tips will help all of us enjoy the magic that Disney has to offer.

Jun 172015

By Tim Rogers

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Part of the magic of Walt Disney World is that it is a place where visitors of all ages can recapture the spark, joy and imagination of childhood. And while many adults embrace many facets of the Disney magic, some still resist one of the opportunities that can be the most magical – character meets. My advice and challenge to those adults: embrace the character meet!

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Specifically, I have discovered a few pointers related to character meet and greets and would like to share them here. First, do your research. Each of the Disney parks have an abundance of scheduled character meeting times and locations, and understanding this schedule can help you plan your top choices without spending all day waiting in line. Moreover, knowing which characters have Fastpass+ availability can help save even more time.

3 tim mickey character spot

This brings me to the second tip, which is have a plan. Some characters appear in multiple parks, so you might be able to focus your time and energy on the more unique characters in each location if you know this ahead of time. Additionally, some characters have different outfits depending on where they appear, so if you are looking for a specific look, you need to plan accordingly. For example, Donald has a wide array of outfits, from safari to fiesta.

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Third tip, watch out for special events, and take full advantage of them. Throughout the Disney year, there are numerous events that have unique and exciting character meetings. One of the events with the most unique character meetings is Star Wars Weekends, where you can see everyone from Jedi Mickey to Chewbacca.

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Two of the other character rich events are the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. These parties are essentially the only way to get a picture with the Seven Dwarfs, but also give you the possibility of seeing other rare characters, from the Genie to Scrooge McDuck.

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Additionally, many Run Disney events feature special and rare characters along the course for participants, so if you are running make sure you bring a phone or something else that can take pictures with you.


My fourth piece of advice for meet and greets is to dress accordingly. The first time I really saw this in action was when my wife and I tried to get to Toy Story Midway Mania right as Disney’s Hollywood Studios was opening, but when we got there the wait was already over an hour. However, Buzz Lightyear and Woody had just started greeting right across the way, so we walked in and were the third group in line.

That day I happened to also be wearing my Toy Story aliens t-shirt, and when we met Buzz and Woody they preceded to take turns using “the claw” on my stomach. The combination of this and my extreme ticklishness not only had me doubled over, but had my wife laughing to the point of not being able to breathe as well.

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After that, she made me start wearing character shirts to their meet and greets. One of the other fun ones on that trip was Mr. Incredible, who liked my shirt, and Frozone, who seemed upset that I wasn’t wearing a shirt featuring him.

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Giving the characters something to interact with, and then playing along, can make these greets a lot of fun.

The last piece of advice I have is to be flexible and ready for anything. While many characters are available at regularly scheduled times and locations, sometimes you will just happen upon them.

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After a rainstorm, we ran into Marie near Town Square, probably the only time we’ve seen her without a line.

Being in the area when Santa Goofy was just coming out let us see him with only a short wait, where he was normally swamped.

12 tim santa goofy

The main point, though, is to just have fun. Disney World is a place where you can visit places and friends you have only seen in the movies, and in doing so ignite some of the child-like joy we are all capable of. After all, as Walt Disney himself said, “adults are only kids grown up.”

May 202015

In each issue we share tips from our readers. If you have a tip to share send it to us at

We’re looking for your best tips to share with us all about touring Star Wars Weekends.

This is a very crowded event and you simply will not be able to do it all in a single day. As such, you’ll need to decide what is most important to you ahead of time and do those things first. If you have children eager to take part in the Star Wars activities such as the Jedi Training Academy and Padawan Mind Challenge, plan to arrive early and sign up for these events as soon as the park opens. Want to ride the popular rides, make sure to get a FastPass+ in advance for Toy Story Mania and ride Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster as soon as you can. Then relax and take in some of the Star Wars fun. If you would like photos with some of the Star Wars-themed characters such as Jedi Mickey line up early; consistently, Darth Vader seems the most popular with the longest lines. If you’re looking for “limited edition” Star Wars merchandise, buy it early before it sells out!

Best of Be Our Guest Podcast

BOGPLogoEach issue we will feature a snippet of what you could learn by listening to the Be Our Guest Podcast. Be sure to check back each issue for more fun.

Episode 856 – Thanksgiving on the Disney Fantasy

Join us and listener Jeff who discusses his family’s Thanksgiving 2014 7-Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Disney Fantasy.  Hear about the ports of St. Maarten, San Juan, Castaway Cay and more!  Also hear about the stateroom for a family of 5 and great dining and entertainment onboard!
Listen to the podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Be Our Guest Podcast!