Jul 292015
 

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I knew I was in trouble when I staggered out of Epcot at the end of a long day. People say Epcot stands for “Every Person Comes Out Tired” and that certainly applied to me.

It does not, apparently, apply to active seven-year-old boys. Not only did my grandson Xavier skip happily towards the bus stop, when it was our turn to get on, he took a couple of steps back, ran and JUMPED over the steps onto the bus. The bus driver could only shake his head as I pulled myself up the steps behind him.

“Are you finding it a little tough to keep up with him?” he asked.

“Maybe a little…” I admitted.

I would have been ready to head to bed when we got back to Pop Century. But Xavier pointed out that we had not yet been swimming that day and we NEEDED to get into the pool. I briefly worried that I might fall asleep in the water and drown, but then realized Xavier’s antics would definitely keep me awake.

This was day two of our Grandma-grandson trip to Walt Disney World, and, yes, it was exhausting. But I promise you I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

I am lucky enough to have six grandchildren (and two more on the way). When the oldest, Sebastian, was eight years old I took him on a trip to WDW, just the two of us. His two uncles were working in Le Cellier at the time and I thought he’d enjoy hanging out with them and seeing them at work. The trip was such a hit that a few years later, I took his sister Callista, who thoroughly enjoyed having an all-girls outing and focusing on princesses and fairies for a change (she has three brothers).

This year it was Xavier’s turn. This is also the year I will turn 60. I have a very sedentary job and nobody would describe me as “athletic.” Or even fit. But I can still have a wonderful time at WDW.

Here are some things I’ve learned as a “mature person” visiting my favorite spot.

  • Comfort beats fashion. I know, we all want to look good. But those adorable sandals with the cute little heels are not going to be your friend at the end of a day in Animal Kingdom. Us mature people can get cranky when our feet hurt.
  • Benches are your friend, and fortunately Disney has lots of them. Walt wouldn’t have put so many in his parks if he didn’t want us to use them, now would he? If you don’t see an actual bench, look for concrete walls to sit on. Plenty of those, too.
  • Make FastPass+ reservations and give yourself plenty of time to get to each of them. Let’s face it, you’re not going to win the race at rope drop to be first in line for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. But here’s the good news – you don’t have to! Book yourself a FastPass time from the comfort of your home weeks in advance, and then just stroll over at your own speed when it’s time.

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  • Consider a sit-down meal in the middle of the day. Like most people our age, you’ve probably developed a real appreciation for good food (as opposed to fast food). And you probably have an even bigger appreciation for air conditioning on a hot day and a chance to rest those tired feet. Make an ADR and you’ll get a relaxing hour or two enjoying lunch – and maybe even a hug from Mickey Mouse.
  • Check out the not-in-the-parks activities. Many are perfect for the older guest. Some examples: Afternoon Tea at the Garden View Tea Room Grand Floridian has all the elegance of a Victorian tea room, and your server will make you feel like a queen; the Segway Tour at Fort Wilderness is a less-tiring way of checking out the trails and you’ll learn some history and nature lore along the way; Disney’s Yuletide Fantasy Tour shows you the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the holiday décor at the resorts and parks.
  • Take lots of photos – or get Disney to take them for you. My memory, I’m not ashamed to admit, isn’t quite what it used to be. Photos help me remember the special moments of my trip when I get home. I try to take a picture of the front of each ride before we get on, as well as any shots of character interactions or fun moments on the ride. This helps me afterwards to recall what we did throughout the day.  I’ve found that if I’m alone or traveling with a grandchild, the CMs are usually more than willing to take photos of us. All I have to do is ask. You can also get PhotoPass photos and either purchase the whole CD or just the ones you want. I usually buy some of those, too.
  • Push yourself a little! Some of us – myself included – can get into a comfortable rut. WDW is a great place to try something new or just a bit more challenging, in a safe environment. I’m a bit nervous about heights, but I decided to try the Wild Africa Trek a couple of years ago, even though it meant walking along a rickety-looking bridge with some open-mouthed crocodiles underneath. With our guides and the other group members cheering me on, I made it across and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the tour.

Or just go with a seven-year-old boy. I promise that will push you into whole new levels!

I’ve read that Walt’s goal in creating Disneyland was to make a place that parents and children could enjoy together. I’d extend that another generation – it’s great for grandparents too. I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to see what it’s like for great-grandparents. But that’s still quite a few years away…

Jan 072015
 

Disney and the New Girl - Traveling with a Disney Newbie

By Roye Ann Morris

One of my favorite things to do is to make a visit to Walt Disney World with someone who has never been, or who hasn’t been in many years. As 2015 begins, our family is again planning a trip with a friend who has not been to the parks since she was a young girl. After taking a friend last year who also had not visited in quite a long while, I came up with a list of some do’s and don’ts when planning a trip with a relative “Disney Newbie”! Here are a few things I wish I had thought of before we were in the middle of our vacation!

  • DO discuss your vacation style with one another before leaving! Maybe multiple times. My best friend and I knew a lot about each other, but having never taken a trip before, we didn’t really know anything about how we approached vacations. My style, especially at Disney, is to pack as much into every day as possible. I assumed that she would want to see as much as possible since she had not been to the parks in so long, and there were so many new attractions to see. I discovered while we were in Magic Kingdom on our third day that she was much more laid-back than me (it only took me three days!), and had to readjust my expectations. If we had talked about that before the trip, my plans would have been much different, and the disappointment I had to deal with over not riding every ride and seeing every show would have been alleviated.
  • DO make your plans for rides and restaurants together, even if your friend says she is confident that you will make perfect plans without her input! I know a lot about Disney, but I knew very little about what type of rides she would be interested in, or what foods she would like to eat. I planned our day at Hollywood Studios around riding Toy Story Midway Mania, only to find out as we were getting in line that my friend has vertigo issues! Because we had already ridden Star Tours, she was unwilling to risk ruining the rest of her day by riding Toy Story. As this is my absolute favorite attraction at Hollywood Studios, I was terribly disappointed. You definitely don’t want mistakes like that to spoil your day!
  • DO discuss in depth your likes/dislikes when it comes to how to spend your day at the parks. My friend had requested having afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian, so I had made reservations on the day we were spending at Magic Kingdom. My plan was to spend the morning hitting all the rides, then count tea as our late lunch. After a few rides, my friend made it clear that Magic Kingdom was not her favorite(how did we not talk about that before our trip??), and that she would rather spend several hours at the Grand Floridian shopping and people watching while waiting for our reservation time. Again, I had to readjust my expectations of the day, and spent a few minutes feeling resentful about all the rides I was not getting to ride. In the end, afternoon tea was lovely, but communication about expectations would have made the day much different.
  • DON’T forget to share the things you know about crowd levels, eating times, and food choices. My friend was happy to let me make restaurant reservations, but I didn’t think to tell her that eating meals early to avoid crowds was wise, so our counter service meals were a little hectic. Next time we will talk about ALL meals before we hit the parks, not just the table service ones!
  • DON’T let your friend wear flip flops to the park in February if you are coming from a city where it’s cold and you haven’t worn them for three months! My friend lives in flip flops all spring and summer, but walking around Magic Kingdom in them after not wearing them for a while caused a major blister on her toes, and we spent an hour walking back to the First Aid Station and waiting in line for BandAids. Which leads me to my next point….
  • DON’T walk all the way back to the First Aid Station if you just need BandAids! When we stopped to ask a cast member where the First Aid Station was, he told us that every shop has them behind the counter; you just have to ask for them. This was news to me! There is a charge if you get them at a shop, while at the First Aid Station they are free, so you have to consider whether it is more important to save the few dollars or to save time. On the plus side, the nurse at the First Aid Station was very kind, and there was a nice area to sit down in the quiet and let my friend rest her feet.
  • DON’T forget to plan some things that you love to do, even if they might not be tops on your friend’s list. I got caught up in wanting to do everything that I thought she would like, and didn’t plan on doing any of the things that are usually “must do’s” for me. After all, you are both there to have fun!
  • DO plan some down time when you are not in the parks. Although we were sharing a room, it was large enough that we didn’t feel crowded, and it gave us valuable time each evening to be in our own space, even if it was just our separate sides of the room! You don’t have to be doing something every single minute, and the quiet time each night made the next morning easier.
  •  DO share your ‘getting out the door’ routine. It may seem silly, but knowing how your travel companions approach getting ready in the morning is important. My friend and I are polar opposites in this respect. I like to get up a little early, have coffee and breakfast in the room, and have a few extra minutes to do make-up and hair. My friend is the jump-out-of-bed, grab-a-protein-bar-and-go type of person. Had I known that, I wouldn’t have stressed over whether to wake her up so we would be out the door on time!

And last, and to me, the most important:

  • DO share all your love for and knowledge of the parks with your “Newbie”, but DON’T get your feelings hurt if they don’t seem interested in everything you are sharing. The parks can be overwhelming on your first trip, but all the things they see and hear will come back to them as they think back over their trip and have time to process all the information. We still talk about our trip and laugh over the missteps and mistakes, but we would go again if we had the chance!

Introducing “Disney Newbies” to the wonderful world at the Disney parks is one of my favorite things to do! Hopefully some of these tips will make any trip with a Newbie a vacation to treasure!

Nov 122014
 

By Rikki Niblett

Top 10 Best Things About Cruising with Disney Cruise Line

I’ve been in your shoes before. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking about potentially taking a Disney Cruise Line vacation, but you just don’t know. You’ve mastered a Walt Disney World or Disneyland vacation, but would you really enjoy a Disney Cruise Line one?

I can answer this question with a resounding YES! Without a doubt, a Disney Cruise Line vacation is one of the best vacations around. But why? What makes cruising a great option? Well for that answer, I have 10 reasons…my top 10 Best Things About Cruising with Disney Cruise Line!

 

Disney Cruise Line Stateroom

  • Staterooms: Not only are the staterooms larger than most other cruise lines, but they come with some unique features too. For many rooms, the bathroom is a split bath; a shower and sink in one part and a sink and toilet in another. Another neat perk is lots of storage space to hide luggage (like under the bed) and for those who don’t have a view of the ocean, on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy they offer the virtual portholes, where you can see exactly what is going on outside, but courtesy of video screens! (Be on the lookout for Disney characters which may pop up!)

Disney Cruise Line Wait Staff

  • Rotational Dining: One of the things that is unique to Disney Cruise Line is rotational dining. Here guests rotate to the three different restaurants each night, but their dining staff rotates with you! This comes in handy because your staff knows what drinks you like, what items to recommend, and more. Honestly, the dining staff become like family to you too. You bond with them, chat with them, and yes, even take photos with them at the end of your cruise…like we always do.

Disney Cruise Line Pools

  • The AquaDuck/AquaDunk: These two water slides are one of a kind options only available on Disney Cruise Line ships! (The AquaDuck is on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy and the AquaDunk is on the Disney Magic.) If you are a water slide fan at all, you’ll want to experience these for yourself. If you’re not a water slide fan, there’s lots of areas to swim and play. There’s the Aqualab, the Nemo Reef section, and of course the Mickey Pool! Swimming in some form is a guaranteed must while cruising and what better way to do it than on these fantastic ships?

Oceaneer Lab

  • Oceaneer’s Club, Oceaneer’s Lab, Vibe, Edge, and every other kid’s section: Holy cow! What can I say? These kids sections are fantastic! There is just so much to do that oftentimes kids don’t want to leave. (Heck, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t want to leave…too bad I’m a grown up.) It’s playtime, all the time and it’s oh so fun! (And during the open house portion of these areas on the first day on the ship, I may have had some fun playing too!)

Palo Brunch

  • Palo Brunch: Want to know the ultimate in meals (at least according to me.) It’s Palo’s Brunch. Only offered on at sea days and for an extra cost, the brunch is a must do, can’t miss, if you can. There are so many different options to choose from. You have great breakfast options like fruit, yogurt, salmon, danishes, and more. Then for lunch choices you have different salads, shrimp, ahi tuna, etc. Then on top of that you can choose to order flatbreads. Oh then you can choose to order an actual brunch meal, such as pancakes, omelets, or even chicken parmesan. Finally it’s the dessert course. If you don’t roll out of here stuffed to the gills, you did something wrong.

Pirates in the Caribbean Night

  • Pirates in the Caribbean Night: Did you know that special to Disney Cruise Line is the Pirates in the Caribbean party? It starts with the guests who are encouraged to dress the part. Then guests get to partake in a special dinner menu. Guests are to head out to the deck where the Pirates in the Caribbean party is taking place. There’s a special version of the show for kids and then a version that’s a little scarier (I mean…as scary as you can get for Disney) later in the evening. Of course you will not want to miss out on the fantastic fireworks extravaganza. (Did you know that DCL is the only cruise line that offers fireworks.) Oh and then to top it all off, most of the time there is a wonderful midnight buffet, which features delicious dishes, along with turkey legs! It’s a arrgh-tastic!

Senses Spa

  • Senses Spa: Are you looking for a little luxury during your vacation? Look no further than Senses. Here you can have all the pampering you want done (of course for a price.) You can get manicures, facials, and even massages. Of course, my favorite section is the Rainforest Room, where guests can sit on heated loungers, enjoy “private” hot tubs, take a steam, or rinse off with the famous rainforest shower heads. (Do keep in mind that you can purchase a Rainforest Room pass, but they are only available on a first come, first served bases starting as soon as you board the ship.)

Disney Cruise Line Tiny Touches

  • Disney touches everywhere: While Disney Cruise Line is of course a Disney ship, the Disney touches aren’t so in your face. There are little things everywhere…some more open than others. You can see the touches in the stairwells, you can seem them in the artwork, heck, you can even see them in the elevator (look at the arm telling you what floor you are on.) Though there are times when you forget you are on a Disney ship, the details are so wonderfully hidden; like a giant Disney Easter egg hunt! It’s so elegant and regal. The whole ship! Of course, there are more overt touches too…like the Mickey Pool or Mike Wazowski’s Eye Scream Ice Cream. But you want to know one of the coolest Disney touches? You can be walking down the stairs and literally run into a Disney Princess. Yep…it’s happened.
  • Broadway Caliber Shows/Other Entertainment: Can I just say that the entertainment and the staff here on DCL is redonkulous! Oh my gosh! They are just so, so great. (Actually all the Cast Members are top notch. Really, you won’t find one who doesn’t work super hard to make your vacation fantastic.) But as far as entertainment Cast Members, they get the party pumping from the moment you step on the ship until you dock back home. The Broadway caliber shows are just incredible too. They are so special and most tug at the heart strings. Do not miss these! You also have the option of playing game shows, they keep the clubs thumping, and they have lots of activities going on the pool deck. There’s really just a ton to do. Don’t worry about being bored on a Disney Cruise Line vacation…it’s really the opposite…you’ll have too much that you want to do and not enough time to do it in!

Castaway Cay

  • Castaway Cay: How can you not talk about Disney Cruise Line and not mention Castaway Cay. For many, many sailings, stopping here is a requirement. It’s like an extension of the ship. It is the epitome of a tropical island. There’s so much to do too! If you want to go parasailing, you can. Want to feed a sting ray, you can. Want to go on a bike ride, yep. Want to run a 5k, that’s a yes. Want to play in the ocean…yes sir! Or if you just want to rest on a lounge chair and read a good book, you can do that too. Castaway Cay is the ultimate paradise and a major reason why many choose to cruise with Disney Cruise Line.  (And the ultimate is the Castaway Cay double dip, which I get to participate in next time. It’s where you visit Castaway Cay twice during your cruise!)

As you can see, a Disney Cruise Line vacation is a ton of fun! Honestly, this vacation is one of the best ones we’ve taken. I’m more of a go-go-go Walt Disney World vacation taker…my hubby prefers to relax…but on a Disney Cruise Line trip, we are always able to meet right in the middle. Preferably on Deck 4…but that’s another great hidden gem that I want to keep to myself. (Oops…I think I gave it away.  Darn!  Well, it’s between me and you, right?)

Jan 082014
 

By Rikki Niblett

 

I kinda want to still buy this coconut...

I kinda want to still buy this coconut…

The past couple of days arctic cold has been rushing through the country.  It’s been so frigid everywhere, yep, even in Florida, with lows dipping into the 30s!  (Somebody go find Elsa please and help change this winter back to summer).  While most people know how to better handle the heat in Florida, oftentimes, people forget about the cold.  Trust me, it can be quite difficult to navigate the parks when it’s this chilly out.

My first piece of advice is the most obvious.  Make sure to bundle up in layers.  This is especially true if you aren’t going to be returning back to your hotel before night sets in.  The layers will be key because they will keep you warmer.  Then, if by chance you do end up getting too warm, you can just take a layer off and put it in a bag.  (PS: make sure to bring a bag).  Then when it does get cold again, you can quickly remedy it.  I usually bring a hoodie that I can wear on top of my many layers.  That way I don’t need to wear a big, bulky coat, but I am still protected from the frigid temps.

Also, you really want to consider bringing scarves and gloves (And maybe a hat too.  Gotta keep those ears warm!).  Having these items with you is critical because there is nothing worse than being down there and realizing you really need them and then have to pay Disney prices for something that you already own  (Unless, of course, you want to bring those items back as a souvenir!).

My warm purchase...my expensive warm purchase

My warm purchase…my expensive warm purchase

I can’t tell you how important it is to be prepared.  When I visited Disneyland a few summers ago, I thought, oh…it’s summer…a dress will be fine.  That is until the evening started to hit.  Then, I was the one guilty of buying a sweatshirt, since I absolutely didn’t know that it gets cold in California in the summer.

Something else I like to suggest is to bring those hand warmers that you shake up and then can wear in your gloves or other places.  Seriously, those suckers are amazing!  One of the best inventions ever!  These have helped me in situations both at Walt Disney World and at home.  Such a lifesaver!

For those with kids, especially of the younger set, don’t forget to keep them warm too.  Consider bringing a little fleece blanket with you to keep them warm.  You can bundle them up when they are in a stroller and keep them content.  Also, this way they (or even you) can try to cuddle up in it while you’re waiting for a parade or a fireworks show.

You may also consider grabbing a hot beverage.   Many counter service locations will serve up hot chocolate as the temps dip, or you can always stop at Starbucks for a warm beverage to help!

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Daisy should be wearing a coat! Short sleeves….

The best thing about the parks when it’s freezing out, is that you can really manage most aspects of touring the parks without being forced into the elements for too terribly long.  Since most of the parks attractions are housed all indoors, you won’t have to remain outside for very long.  Also, when it gets colder, many people opt to stay away from the parks.  So it’s your opportunity to experience the parks with minimal crowds.

Alas, there is a worse thing though about touring the parks when it’s cold and that’s nightfall.  The daytime is usually fine.  Things tend to be more bearable because the sun is usually warming your body.  But once night falls and that sun disappears, the temps drop rapidly.  It can be hard to stay motivated to remain in the parks.  If you come prepared though and can stick it out, once again, you will likely experience the parks with lower crowds.

One way of working around the nighttime cool down is to make an later evening table service dining reservation.  This way you are still in the parks, but you aren’t outside in the nippy atmosphere.

My last tip is if you just can’t stand being outside in the elements when it’s this cold, I suggest heading over to the Wilderness Lodge and sitting by the fireplace, soaking up the atmosphere.  This resort just screams a homey feeling and there is nothing better than sitting by a warming fire in the arctic temps.

While the cold can put a bit of a damper on your vacation (especially considering Florida is the land of fun in the sun), if you take the right precautions, you can have a great time.  Because a cold day in Florida is still better than a cold day at home.

Aug 212013
 

By Kristi Letsinger

Many months ago, when the commercials for the new Cars Land were showing, my son wished to go.  This was big.  This was the first time that he had ever wished to go anywhere.  We began the paperwork and many months later we were on our way to Disneyland.  We can’t thank Make-A-Wish enough for their kindness in planning this trip for us.

We had more magical moments than I can share.  From our first moment on the airplane to the last moments each memory will be cherished!!!

IMG_1681We were booked at Paradise Pier and after traveling for much of the day, we arrived.  We were met by VIP services who showed us our room and shared information about our trip with us.  They showed us the elevator to take up to our room that had a magical view of the park just across the street!  Upon entering our room we saw glasses of milk, Mickey crispy treats and the most magical view of the park that we could have asked for!  We spent a lot of time just looking out the window when we were in our room!  Paradise Pier was awesome!

We were just a short walk to the park and took full advantage of walking to Downtown Disney and each park daily.  We even found that if we were loaded down with packages, pictures or other items my husband could quickly take them back to the room and meet back up with us.

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Dec 262012
 

By Rikki Niblett

 

What an entertaining 2012.  Disney certainly kept us on our toes with a lot of things that they brought to their domestic parks.  In a way, it was one of the most changing years that we’ve had in a while.  Big things happened, more than have in recent memory.

Here is a list of some of the most major changes this year:

 

©Disney

  • New Fantasyland:  They brought in new attractions with Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid and Enchanted Tales With Belle.  Plus, add in two great dining establishments with Be Our Guest Restaurant and Gaston’s Tavern.  What really does it for me about this new land though, is the theming.  Disney hit a homerun here.  These two new areas (I include Storybook Circus too because it was part of the expansion) are so richly detailed which is really what wows me.  Disney is doing an amazing job with the details which is something that I’d felt had been lacking a bit in recent past.

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