If capturing photographic memories of your vacation is a priority, then it is most certainly worth it. Now let me explain.
First we have to address what it is – and how much it costs.
What IS Disney’s Memory Maker?
Memory Maker is the package that you can buy at Walt Disney World Resort to give you the ability to download all of your PhotoPass photos and videos. These are the pictures and videos taken by the Disney photographers and on select attractions.
How else would you capture this shot on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train?
How much does Disney’s Memory Maker cost?
For one day – the current price is $69.00 USD
Advanced purchase (more than 3 days in advance) is $169.00 USD
Of course ‘worth it’ is very subjective. It has many factors considering what is important to you, and how much money you’re willing to spend for it.
In my opinion, if you are visiting for more than 5 days and are willing to stop at PhotoPass photographers to grab some fun shots, then it is absolutely worth it!
When Figment shows up – that’s my favorite time!
I have 5 reasons why I think it’s worth it to buy Memory Maker at Walt Disney World
1. Everyone is in the picture
You’ve spent all this money to have your whole family or friends together for this epic trip and all of your pictures are selfies or someone is missing. If you’re good at selfies (I am not) then you can get everyone in, but not a good background. If you can find a stranger to take your picture, you’re getting one or two shots and hope that they know what they’re doing. With the PhotoPass photographers they are professionals using professional equipment to get you all in the shot, and sometimes when you’re not even paying attention.
I didn’t even realize they were taking pictures while we were talking
2. Magic shots are so fun
Some photographers have what is called “magic shots”. Some are a fun surprise when your pictures are available for viewing, and others you are expecting because you need to have a fun pose to create them. Either way – they are FUN!
You might feel silly posing, but the pictures are so fun when you see them later!
3. You get the attraction photos
How cool is it to get a picture of yourself ON the attraction? It might be right at the point when a Dinosaur jumps out at you, or a ghost – or it might just be some fun shot of you winning on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Whatever it is – it’s a picture that you couldn’t get yourself.
Trying to capture the winning moment!
4. You can SHARE it with your friends and family
You can share this with up to 25 members of your Family & Friends who share media with you on your My Disney Experience account. That makes it even more economical if you’re travelling with other friends and family. I do know of some people who link up on social media to split the costs – but I’m not sure that I would feel comfortable doing that with strangers.
You can get a video that zooms in and out on you in the Magic Kingdom. How cool is that?
5. The PhotoPass photographers make the pictures different than you would on your own.
I have had the pleasure of interacting with SO MANY great photographers over the years. They make me laugh and have made me do so many silly poses that I have some fantastic shots that I would have otherwise not gotten. I always ‘pose’ the same way when I’m getting a picture taken – I think we all do that don’t we? But these photographers can make you step outside of your comfort zone and just have FUN with it!
Posing in my poncho on Main Street. I would NEVER have posed like this if it wasn’t for the photographer.
Sure, you can buy all of these photos individually if you wanted, but why limit yourself? Having ALL of your memories captured and available for download is the best way to re-live the trip when you get home.
Do you think it’s worth it? Have you bought it before?
When the world shut down in March 2020 I had just returned from vacation. We had just done the Pixie Dust Fan cruise plus some time at Walt Disney World. I had plans to return in May, because I normally would visit 3 or 4 times per year.
As I settled in to life in ‘quarantine’ I discovered that it didn’t really bother me much in my everyday life. I had zoom calls with friends, I already did all of my grocery shopping via delivery services anyway and I was quite happy to have a built in excuse to avoid the outings I didn’t want to go to. The fact that my unmagical job went 100% “work from home” was amazing – I could have my corporate meetings on video from my house in my track pants! No commute and endless cups of tea that I got to make myself. If it wasn’t for the actual pandemic – I was ok with some of these changes.
As the months passed I missed Walt Disney World more and more. With all of the horrible things going on in the world I couldn’t get back to the place that really gave me joy. I didn’t like watching videos from people in the parks and I really struggled to stay positive and produce content on social media and the podcast. The only reason I kept going was that I knew people were counting on ME to share some Disney joy and positivity so I couldn’t lose hope. All I knew for sure was that when things opened up, I would NEVER take it for granted again.
I knew that once I got back to Walt Disney World my normal “week” vacation was not going to be enough, I would need to make up for lost time. I had to figure out how to stay longer.
I debated using all of my vacation days, but could I leave my responsiblities at work for that long? That really wouldn’t be fair to my team. Then it hit me:
Why can’t I work remote from Walt Disney World?
It was like all of a sudden things made sense. I had heard of people working from their cottages during the pandemic. I don’t have a cottage but we could consider Disney my home away from home right?
As I started to formulate my plan, a 4 day cruise popped up with my friend that happened to align with the dates of my trip so why not? Let’s do it ALL! And after 562 days, I finally returned to Walt Disney World.
Week 4 – A few days at the park with my friend before a 4 day Disney cruise
Many of you had questions about how this worked and the logistics, so I have tried to answer the most common questions below. Who knows, maybe you can figure out how to do something similar in the future!
How was the Disney resort WiFi?
This was actually one of my biggest worries about working from Disney. I spend a good portion of my day on video calls so a strong connection was critical.
I was VERY happy I was not trying to work from Bay Lake Tower the first week. The WiFi in my room was non existent. I have stayed here multiple times but I guess I never noticed how bad the WiFi was.
For my first week of working at Disney I strategically booked the Grand Destino Tower at Coronado Springs. I figured that since Coronado Springs was a convention hotel that they SHOULD have decent WiFi and I was right. The WiFi was incredibly strong and I never lost connection. In fact one day I went to do laundry and worked from there – no issues at all, I even kept the connection in the elevator on the way to the laundry room!
Gran Destino Laundry Room
At Saratoga Springs I was pleasantly surprised by the connection as well – I had no issues with any of my video calls. It was strong and consistent and worked perfectly!
Did you go to the parks at night after work?
Most nights – yes. While I was at the Gran Destino I went to the parks in the evenings. I used Lyft a lot to avoid wasting time waiting for a bus. When I was at Saratoga Springs I spent a lot of those nights at Disney Springs since it’s a quick walk over the bridge. I took advantage of the time browsing and shopping and I tried a few different dinner spots!
Did you feel you were as productive working at Disney as you are working at home?
100% yes, in fact maybe more productive. There were a few reasons I felt that way.
1. I had no distractions. Other than mousekeeping coming to change the towels, it was really just me in the room with my kettle making tea all day. I didn’t have a dishwasher to load, my home phone ringing or any of the other “I should be doing” things at home. In this room there was really just me, my computer and my kettle.
2. I think because I was away from home I felt a responsiblity and obligation to be extra focused. I concentrated on my deliverables much more clearly.
3. This was the most important reason – I was HAPPY. It’s amazing how being really happy can change the way you work. I refer to it as my ‘unmagical’ job because it does not bring me joy – it’s purpose is to pay my bills. Somehow it just seemed like a much more pleasant day at work when you’re genuinely happy! Seriously-this was my Instagram story!
How did you afford to stay in Disney for a month?
It’s always shocking to me that people ask me how I afford things – but they do! I wrote a blog on it before about how I go to Disney so often, but obviously this trip was different so I’ll provide a little more insight.
For Bay Lake Tower and Saratoga Springs I had my Disney Vacation Clubpoints. Since I hadn’t been in a while, I had points to spare (which never happens!).
For the rest of the trip I have to say that I was financially irresponsible. I hadn’t been to Disney in 18 months and I didn’t care what anything cost. It was a “put it on the card and worry later” mentality. I didn’t go overboard with dining and extras, I ate quick service the majority of the time. I also ordered water and snacks to have in the room so I wasn’t buying 12 cups of tea a day! I did splurge on Lyfts a lot to avoid buses and waiting for transportation. It was all on the card waiting for me when I got home.
What did you eat during the day?
I have a terrible addiciton to tea. I drink a lot of it while I’m working so I actually brought a kettle with me. I bought a cheap one on Amazon and brought my own tea bags from home. For the most part during the day I didn’t eat – I would grab something for breakfast before I started and worked through lunch so I could be done just after 5.
I couldn’t drink from paper cups
I would ocassionaly have a treat though – a extra cupcake from dinner the night before always served as a good afternoon snack!
One of the great things though about being at Saratoga Springs was the proximity to Disney Springs. I was in a preferred studio but it was still a bit of a walk to the bridge.
One of the days I was really hungry at lunch time, I hadn’t eaten breakfast and I was famished. I decided I was going to see if I could get from my building to Disney Springs and back in an hour. I’m not a fast walker – but I was craving Earl of Sandwich.
I timed myself – I was on a mission, and what a fun one it was! Imagine ‘taking lunch’ from an unmagical job to go to Disney Springs? I was grinning from ear to ear as I walked over and even sent some selfies of myself to some of my closest work friends. They all commented at how happy I looked. I got my sandwich and was back at my desk in 45 minutes!
Was it comfortable to work there?
Yes and no. I mean lets face it, they definately weren’t ergonomic desks. At Gran Destino it was a full desk, but the chair was less than ideal to sit on for 9 hours per day. It was a good thing I had to get up and stretch a little when filling the kettle and making my tea.
The table at Saratoga was a lot more comfortable because it was in front of the couch.
But let’s be real, I’m not going to complain about comfort while at Disney. Am I right?
Were you lonely being in Walt Disney World alone?
Nope. Not at all. I have discovered that I am quite comfortable and happy being on my own.
Although – I wasn’t really alone the whole time. I spent some time with friends in the parks, for dinner and drinks and I spent my days on video calls with people from work. I was happy for the quiet time some days!
Walking around Coronado Springs
How many suitcases did you bring?
I am always a bit of an overpacker anyway – but I did bring two suitcases. I had brought down a bunch of stuff from Canada for my friends and knew I would need the room on the way home for any souvenirs I bought. It wasn’t all clothes, I did laundry twice while I was there.
Did your work know you did this?
I didn’t hide it. People who worked at the cottage didn’t, so I didn’t either. My team and close friends were happy for me and my boss never felt like I wasn’t pulling my weight. In fact one night I was on a call with her at 6pm and said “You know, I’d love if we could finish this tomorrow because there is a drink at Epcot with my name on it!”. She had forgotten I was there and encouraged me to hang up and get to the park.
Did you get bored?
Not at all – I still felt like I could have spent another month there! There were quick service meals I didn’t have, attractions I didn’t ride and pictures I didn’t take.
Would you go to Walt Disney World for a month again?
No question – ABSOLUTELY!
This was really a dream trip for me. I figured out how to work AND be in Disney at the same time so that I could stay longer. It was everything I could have imagined. I did things that I wanted to do when I wanted to do them. I experienced the parks in such a leisurely stroll that I can’t describe the pure JOY I felt there. It was honestly one of the happiest times I have had in a very long time.
As the ‘unmagical job’ starts discussions for us to return to the office, I worry about not getting this opportunity again. Then I remind myself that I know what my priorities are – and one of them is my OWN happiness. I will find a way to do this again! I don’t know when, but it WILL happen 🙂
Now that you’ve read how I did it – can you do it. Is this something you could see yourself doing?
Do you have any other questions that I didn’t cover? You can also listen to the podcast where I covered a lot of the trip starting on episode 110.
Trying a new option for Covid testing to return to Canada from Disney.
Once I had made my first trip back to Walt Disney World in 2021 after 18 long Covid months, I knew I couldn’t un-ring the bell. Being back in the magic was everything this Canadian Disney fan had been missing and I knew I would never take it for granted again. Crossing the border had never been more confusing and anxiety inducing with all of the tests and protocols, but now I knew how it worked. If you haven’t read my experience GETTING to Florida – you can find it here.
My first experience returning to Canada from Orlando I had my PCR test at the airport. I didn’t have a lot of time after getting off of my cruise, so I needed a place that guaranteed results within a certain time. If you want to read about that experience, I have detailed it here.
With my next trip, I was only doing a resort stay so I had time to try out a new service – Beeper MD.
Why I chose Beeper MD for my Covid test
First things first – Beeper MD is free if you schedule 2 or more tests. Given there were 4 of us that would need testing so we qualified for FREE. That’s a big difference from the $175 USD per person I paid at the airport on the prior trip.
I scheduled our tests a few weeks in advance online and we each had to upload the following to the Beeper MD site:
Our passports (or government ID)
Patient intake form
Insurance info (if available)
You do not need insurance to use Beeper MD. According to the site:
The US government wants everyone to get tested and therefore they are covering the cost of testing for anyone that doesn’t have health insurance.
On the patient intake form, it’s very general information including your name, address and date of birth. For address we entered the resort address where we were staying.
We originally scheduled 5-7 PM as our window online when we booked. After hearing that my friends had experienced delays with their appointments, I called in to update our window to 3-5 to give plenty of time that evening.
Beeper MD appointment times
The day before the test was scheduled I called to confirm our appointment. They assured me that we were booked for between 3 to 5 PM the following day, but once the scheduling was done we would be given a time.
At 5:43 PM that day I got an email confirming the appointment for 3:50 PM – a more precise time.
The following day we were at the Beach Club waiting when we got a call saying she was running late due to traffic. She called twice to keep us posted and she arrived at 4:30. We met her in the driveway and she performed the tests there.
We had to provide our passports for verification and she did the swabs. The test was painless and quick.
After the swabs were done, we needed to speak to the nurse practitioner via video call to confirm who we were and to answer any questions we had. We were done. For all 4 of us I think it took 30 minutes and it was free (we did give her a tip).
Then – we wait… that was the part that we weren’t sure about, how long the results would take. We needed to have our test within 72 hours of our flight, but Beeper MD said it could take 36-48 hours for the results of the PCR test. (NOTE – One of my readers pointed out that if you have a connection in the US before returning to Canada, you must incorporate that in to your timing for the testing!)
For PCR tests, you’ll receive the results directly in your email’s inbox within 36-48 hours.
We had a backup test booked for 2 days later at the airport just in case.
Beeper MD test results
The tests were done by 5PM on the Wednesday and at 4:30pm the following day we all had our results in our email.
So the question is:
Would I use Beeper MD again?
Yes, I would. You can’t beat FREE and the fact that they come to your resort. But I would always have a back up plan just in case. My experience was terrific, but I know others who didn’t have such a great time. Given the service is free though, can you really expect the same service as if you were paying $175? I don’t think so.
I will reiterate that this was my experience. You should do your own research to determine what your comfort level is and risk tolerance.
Have you used Beeper MD? What was your experience like?
After 562 long days, I finally made the trip back ‘home’ to my happy place.
Here’s how I travelled from Toronto to Orlando during Covid.
Before I start telling you about my journey, I need to be very clear that this was MY EXPERIENCE.I will provide the links I used to investigate my options, but it’s important that you also do your own research.If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that things can change quickly!I only hope that my experience can help provide you some guidance and reassurance that it is possible for Canadians to get back to Walt Disney World.
My trip dates were August 8, 2021 to September 4, 2021 and I was flying with WestJet from Toronto, Ontario to Orlando, Florida.The land border was still closed at this time and driving was not an option.
Before leaving Canada you must have negative covid test to enter the United States. The airlines are responsible for validating that passengers have met the criteria before letting you board the plane. The most up to date requirements can be found on the CDC website.
For my trip the requirements were:
Get a viral test no more than 3 days before you travel by air into the United States (US) and show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight, or be prepared to show documentation of recovery (proof of a recent positive viral test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).
Notice that it says 3 days? I stressed about the hours vs days and under the frequently asked questions they detail why –
The 3-day period is the 3 days before the flight’s departure. The Order uses a 3-day timeframe instead of 72 hours to provide more flexibility to the traveler. By using a 3-day window, test validity does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test was administered.
They even have examples of the days of the week to help you calculate your “3 days” if you need.
Here’s where I got paranoid – What types of tests are acceptable?
Here’s what it says on the CDC website:
Passengers must be tested with a viral test that could be either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). Examples of available NAATs for SARS-CoV-2 include but are not restricted to reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP), transcription-mediated amplification (TMA), nicking enzyme amplification reaction (NEAR), and helicase-dependent amplification (HDA).
Since I failed science in school – this was major anxiety for me. I read it so many times it started to look like a different language to me.What if I got the wrong test?
I decided (after reading it 32 more times) that the Shoppers Drug Mart $40 test was what I needed.What made me nervous was that they call it “Rapid Antigen Screening” and not TEST –the CDC says “antigen test”.
I got tested on the Thursday night after work before my Sunday flight.The requirements for the test results:
A test result must be in the form of written documentation (paper or electronic copy). The documentation must include:
Type of test (indicating it is a NAAT or antigen test)
Entity issuing the result (e.g. laboratory, healthcare entity, or telehealth service)
Specimen collection date. A negative test result must show the specimen was collected within the 3 days before the flight. A positive test result for documentation of recovery from COVID-19 must show the specimen was collected within the 3 months before the flight.
Information that identifies the person (full name plus at least one other identifier such as date of birth or passport number)
I got my test result and validated it all before leaving the drug store.
I was still stressing over the difference between “test” and “screening”, so I tweeted WestJet to confirm. At first they directed me to the CDC site – but I had to clarify.
The other thing that is a little hidden on the CDC site that you should have:
“Air passengers will also be required to confirm that the information they present is true in the form of an attestation.”
You can find the attestation here on the CDC site. It says that this would be submitted to the airline.
On the Sunday of my flight, my arrival at the airport was the same as always, with the added benefit of some MASSIVE anxiety.I was nervous about it all, what if I got the wrong covid test?What if they said I couldn’t go?What if I caught covid in the airport?Honestly, 18 months in my house had brought back every ounce of anxiety I ever had.
The energy at the airport was a bit chaotic. At the check-in machines, the WestJet representative that was helping me get my luggage tags said “Ok, you have everything?Your passport, boarding pass and negative covid test?”I replied that I did and I was on my way.
It is possible for Canadians to get back to Walt Disney World.
I dropped off my luggage and headed toward security.The Nexus line wasn’t open that morning.With Nexus you don’t have to take your laptop out of the bag or your shoes off – so I forgot my laptops.After a full screening of my bag and the contents I was on my way to customs.
At customs I had a lovely lady who asked the purpose of my trip.I told her mostly pleasure and a little business doing social media.She asked for my passport and I was fumbling everything.Our conversation:
Customs:Relax, take your time, there’s no rush
Me:I’m so anxious you would think I’ve never travelled before in my life
Customs:Don’t worry – EVERYONE feels that way right now
That conversation was so reassuring to me for some reason.It was nice to know everyone was feeling the same way.
After customs I headed to the gate.There were many families with children and solo travellers – quite a mixture of people.
When boarding began the gate agent checked my passport and asked me to lower my mask to see my face.Her only question was “Oh, your hair is longer – covid hair?” We had a giggle about covid pounds and she told me to have a nice flight.
As I was getting on the plane they handed me a disinfecting towel to wipe down my seat.
Masks were on always at the airport and on the plane unless you were eating or drinking.I didn’t notice anyone without their mask for my entire journey from the curb to the plane.
The other thing that didn’t happen?Not one person asked to see my negative covid test!Not customs, not the gate agent – no one!!Now that is not the norm. My friends were all asked at the gate and a few were asked a couple of times, but I wasn’t asked at all. It’s funny how much I stressed and never had to show it. My friends all got the same test as I did so I am confident it was the right one.
Once on the plane, the lady behind me said to her daughter who was afraid of flying “It’s mind over matter” – that’s what my Mum used to always tell me and it gave me such an odd sense of comfort.
When the plane took off I got teary.I was FINALLY headed home to Walt Disney World! After 562 long days in my house, this Canadian Disney fanatic was finally on her way. I would never take it for granted again that I could hop on a plane and get to Disney whenever I wanted.
Arrival in Orlando was so familiar.When I saw that carpet I got a little teary again. That carpet at the Orlando Airport is iconic!
Hopefully my journey gave you some insight (and dare I say hope) for travelling from Toronto to Orlando during Covid.
For your research – I found the best resources were:
Your airline – make sure you understand the requirements specific to the airline including testing.When they say arrive early – do it.The lines are LONG with all of the extra questions they are asking.
The CDC – use this site for all requirements to the United States.
The Government of Canada website to ensure you have met the requirements for travelling.You should always read all of the advisories before you travel
Traveling at this time is not for everyone, I’m not going to encourage or discourage anyone. This should be a personal decision based on your own comfort level.
If you do decide to travel, make sure you do your research, be well prepared, have realistic expectations and have FUN!
On podcast episode 110 I shared my adventures as well – if you’d like to have a listen, you can find it here.
I have the full report on my return to Canada from Orlando HERE.
What questions do you have about travelling to Orlando from Canada?
Travelling from Walt Disney World back to Canada in 2021.
I had the most epic adventure returning to Walt Disney World after 562 long days, but at some point I knew it would end. I had to prepare for my return to Canada.
If you haven’t read my experience GETTING to Florida – you can find it here.
I will reiterate like I did in that post, I need to be very clear that this was MY EXPERIENCE.I will provide the links I used to investigate my options, but it’s important that you do your own research. Things can change and you need to have the most up to date information.
My return flight with WestJet was on September 4, 2021 to fly from Orlando to Toronto.
First I had to understand what the airline and the government required for me to get home.
If you are fully vaccinated you are exempt from quarantine and the 8 day testing requirement providing you have no signs or symptoms of Covid-19 and have completed your last dose of the vaccine 14 days prior.
If you are not vaccinated there are mandatory quarantines and testing required. Validate your eligibility here. If you are travelling with children who are not vaccinated, there are testing and quarantine requirements as well.
The testing requirement to enter Canada is:
All travellers 5 years of age or older, regardless of citizenship, must provide proof of a COVID-19 test result to enter Canada.
All travellers must provide one of the accepted types of tests, not an antigen test, including those who are fully vaccinated.
The accepted list of tests is long – and confusing for those of us that failed science!
These tests are considered acceptable molecular tests:
PCR – Polymerase chain reaction
RT-PCR – reverse transcription real time PCR
Quantitative PCR (qPCR)
Nucleic acid test (NAT) or Nucleic acid amplification test (NAATs)
Droplet digital PCR or digital droplet PCR (ddPCR)
Transcription-mediated amplification (TMA)
RNA (Ribonucleic acid)
Ct (cycle threshold)
Next generational sequencing (NGS) or whole genome sequencing (WGS)
Oxford Nanopore sequencing (LamPORE)
Detection of the N gene
Detection of Orf1a/b
Detection of the S gene
Detection of the E gene
Detection of the RdRp gene
These tests use methods such as a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, nose swab, or saliva sample. At this time, proof of having a vaccine will not replace a negative test result.
I did a TON of Googling and I was more confused than ever! What I recognized in all of that was PCR – that’s what all of the sites I was researching were offering. I decided I needed to be methodical because I was getting overwhelmed. I ruled out some of the obvious “scam” sites and narrowed my search to 6 places I needed to investigate further:
Orlando Airport Testing
Fast Test Now
Covid Testing LLC
I read every post I could find on these 6 places on social media about experiences. I read the reviews of the businesses and even tried to call a few (it’s amazing how many businesses don’t answer the phone!).
I knew that I needed a place that was reliable, efficient and would give me my results THAT DAY. I was going to be getting off of my Disney Cruise on Friday morning and flying home Saturday – there was no time to waste. That fact ruled out Walgreens and a couple of other sites.
I decided that Fast Test Now or the Advent Health/Centra Care at Orlando Airport were my 2 top choices.
I had some friends who used the airport testing so I figured that was as good as any.
While the website does say they accept walk ups –
Yes, appointments can be made online in advance. Due to demand, we accept walk-ins based on availability, and cannot guarantee a test without an appointment
We made our appointments over a week in advance and secured our spot. We had 10:50 appointments giving us enough time to get off the ship, rent the car and drive to the airport. FYI – parking at Orlando airport is not fun, I would take a taxi next time so I didn’t need to worry, we arrived 5 minutes late.
The site is located in Terminal A Atrium before security, next to the Universal store on the 3rd level.
When we arrived – it was a bit chaotic. I can’t blame the people working there, they had 20 people asking questions and the anxiety level was high. They didn’t have any PCR tests available for walk ups. Passengers were upset – they were going to miss their flights and they had one person fielding all the questions AND getting us all in line.
Here’s the process and the timeline for my experience at Advent Health at the Orlando Airport:
10:55 We arrived and got in line. There were about 15 people ahead of us.
11:15 We were given a form to fill out in line and were done filling that out by 11:20 when she came back to collect it.
11:25 We were called in one at a time to pay for the test. We were getting the Rapid RT-PCR test that was $175 USD.
11:30 They called about 12 of us who had paid into a holding area.
11:35 They gave each of us a seat number – we were sent in to the room to wait for the swab (I was in seat 1). They confirmed again who was getting an Antigen test vs a PCR. We were told Antigen was taking about 30 minutes for results while PCR was averaging about 45 minutes.
11:40 My swab was done and I was sent back into the airport to wait for my results. It’s very important to note they DO NOT EMAIL THEM. You must wait in the terminal for the paper copy.
12:25 They came out with a stack of papers yelling our names to collect our results. YAY! We are negative.
That was my experience at the airport, but I did have two friends who used Fast Test Now with no problems at all. They took a taxi/uber/lyft to the office that was close to Universal Studios and were in and out in less than 30 minutes. My friend Brenda was really impressed with her process. The results were emailed to her so she didn’t have to wait for them at the site. She paid for the RT-PCR Test Same Day Results by 11PM for $199 USD. They took a few minutes for the swab and then went over to Hollywood Studios in time for their Rise of the Resistance boarding group 5.
After our tests we left the airport relieved and went back for our last night at Walt Disney World where we completed the ArriveCan requirements.
Before return to Canada you must complete your information on ArriveCAN. There is an app as well as online form.
Some of the information they collect:
Arrival airport, flight number, date
Identification like Passport/Nexus/PR Card etc
Vaccine status, vaccine type and dates of each dose
Self assessment to ensure you have no symptoms
After you complete the process you get a confirmation on the app and they email you the same. This is to be shown to the airline at check in and at customs when you arrive in Canada.
The next morning we drove back to the airport. At the WestJet check in they checked my ArriveCan receipt and validated my PCR results. Unfortunately there was a couple at the next agent who were being turned away as they didn’t get the PCR test. They were told to try the testing site in the airport, but I didn’t have much faith they would get the PCR in a walk up scenario and I didn’t see them board the flight.
The rest of the process was the same as always until landing in Toronto. We were kept on the plane while they explained customs was backed up and we needed to wait for some to clear. After about 15 minutes they started letting us off of the plane 50 people at a time.
When I got to the customs area I understood why they did that, it was packed. I couldn’t help but notice the irony of the situation.
I spent all my time in Florida telling people how serious we are in Canada about physical distancing, we have been locked down for so long. When I arrived home, they immediatedly escort you in to a mandatory line with no ability to distance from any of the 600 other people who just got off of flights from multiple different countries. I spent 4 weeks in the Florida “hotbed” and had the highest risk in the customs line in Canada.
Thankfully I had my Nexus and my line was shorter, but still in the same room. The customs agent asked a lot of questions about my trip – including why I would travel alone to Disney. Is that even a real question? I told him it was for my mental health. He checked all of my documents, test results and ArriveCan receipt and they told me I was randomly selected for another Covid test.
I got to the carousel and all of the luggage was out – that tells you how long that process took! I got my luggage and followed the signs to the testing.
Upon arrival you need to register for a Switch Health account. They direct you to a booth where you are swabbed – it’s just the outer nostril, nothing terrible. The worst part of that experience was seeing the signs in the booth asking people not to yell at the staff. How horrible we live in a world where you have to ask people to be nice to those who are doing their job.
The entire process probably added 20 minutes to my arrival and I was on my way. The results were emailed to me in 24 hours and the test was negative.
I think my conclusion is that I would be happy to use either Advent Health at the Orlando Airport or Fast Test Now on my next trip. My only concern with the airport is that I wouldn’t want to do it the DAY of my flight – I think it would be too stressful if there were lines. I might try Fast Test Now on my trip in October for comparison.
If you want to hear more about my arrival and my time on the Disney Cruise – check out my podcast episodes here.
For full details on my departure from Canada to the United States, check out this blog post.
Would you travel to Walt Disney World from Canada now?
When Disney announced in January 2021 that it would be retiring the much loved Magical Express service, many guests were left to wonder if there would be a replacement service (For more details on what the service is – visit my blogWhat is Disney’s Magical Express)
Mears (who operated Magical Express for Disney for 16 years) has announced they will be filling this void with Mears Connect beginning in January 2022 to coincide with the Magical Express shut down.
According to Mears website:
Same reliable, safe service guests have been using for decades to Disney area hotels. Service starts January 1, 2022.
And since Mears have been running it all these years, it really is the same service – only now it’s an additional cost and not included in the price of your Disney resort stay.
Reservations for this new service are available on the website and initial pricing is as follows:
Introductory Rates – Standard Service
Adults – $16.00 one way ($32 round trip)
Children – $13.50 one way ($27 round trip)
I did play around with different Disney resorts and this is the pricing that came up, but it is an “introductory rate”. This suggests the pricing could change at a later time.
There is the option for a premium service as well. This serivce boasts “limited wait time and direct service” for $200 round trip (up to 4 passengers). Each additional passenger is $55 right now.
Check out the FAQs on the site as well – quoting that you will be on your way within 20 minutes of check in and that they will have “Enhanced technology to offer you real time information regarding your transportation.” This could infact be an upgrade to the Magical Express.
Being an avid Disney Fanatic who has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1974, people are always asking me for help booking their vacations. I hear horror stories all the time about people who booked their Disney vacation by themselves or with a travel agent who had very little personal experience. There is so much to see and do at Walt Disney World that you can’t just show up and wing it.
Here are 5 rookie mistakes people make when planning a Walt Disney World vacation
1. Buying only a 2 or 3 day park ticket
There are 4 theme parks to visit! Walt Disney world is roughly the size of San Francisco, there is no way you’re going to see it all in a couple of days. Trying to cram everything in to 2 or even 3 days makes for very long days and stressful times, especially with little ones. If you experience an attraction that you love, don’t you want the opportunity to do it again and not be stressing about the next thing on the itinerary? There is nothing worse than being rushed and anxious all the time while you’re trying to stay on schedule. You will miss the magic of BEING there!
2. Not buying a hopper pass
Now many will disagree with me, but I really believe that a hopper pass is worth it. For example – Fantasmic is only happening on Monday and Wednesday the week you’re there – guess what days will be busiest at Hollywood Studios? With the hopper pass you can enjoy another park during the day and then head over in time for the night time entertainment elsewhere. The flexibility of the hopper pass is extremely valuable in my opinion, and you won’t realize how much until you’re there. My only caveat to this would be if you have really little ones and you don’t envision having enough energy to hop around.
3. Not staying on property
There are some fabulous Deluxe resorts on property, but if those aren’t in your budget there is still a place for you! The Value and Moderate resort categories have some great places to stay to fit any budget. These resorts are well themed, convenient and affordable and include the benefits of staying in a Disney resort including transportation to/from the parks. The transportation options include buses, monorails, boats and the Skyliner!
4. Not knowing what to plan in advance
If you’ve never been to Walt Disney World – how would you know what you want to see and do? Walt Disney World planning is always evolving. Disney Genie and Lightening Lanes, Park Reservations and Dining – how do you know what reservations you need before you go? It is quite possible if you book your trip far in advance that things will CHANGE between the time you booked and the time you travel, Disney is ALWAYS mixing things up! It’s imporant to know these things and having a Disney travel agent will help you with all of that. There are a lot of myths about using a Disney travel agent, but I can guarantee you that the RIGHT agent can help you plan the BEST vacation.
5. They over plan!
I know, that kind of contradicts what I said in point 4, but there’s something to be said for just enjoying the moment. If you want to eat with the Princesses – then yes, you need a reservation. However, planning all of your attractions in a strict itinerary takes all of the fun out of being there. I’ve seen many families racing around the park to make sure they are ‘on schedule’ and it really takes away from all of the wonderful things they could experience if they took a moment to slow down!
A Walt Disney World vacation can be an amazing experience making memories you will treasure forever. Knowing how to get the most out of your vacation will give you time to enjoy the magic!
Have you made any of these mistakes? We’d love to hear what tips you have, comment below!
You’re planning a fantastic Walt Disney World vacation, you have the flights, hotel and tickets – what else do you need to know?Â Plenty!Â If it’s your first time going to Disney and you have little ones, there are some things you really want to consider before you go.
On episode 99 of the Pixie Dust Fan podcast, we chatted with our friends Amy and Kimberley about things that they have learned over the years that helped them travelling with kids to Walt Disney World.Â These guys know what they’re talking about, they have tons of experience between them.Â They were gracious enough to put together a top 10 list that we discussed in depth on the podcast, and I’m sharing that list below.
1 – Bring a Stroller
Don’t underestimate how much walking there is to do in the parks and how valuable a rest is to the little ones.Â Having a spot they can sit and relax (and maybe have a little nap) is critical.Â It’s also a great place to store your purchases, hold your bags and your drinks!
2 – Get Memory Maker
You’re busy making memories on this trip, it’s important to capture the pitures with EVERYONE in them.Â And don’t forget the magic shots and attraction pics, those are priceless!
3 – Have snacks and water handy
The last thing you want is a meltdown because they’re hungry or dehydrated.Â While there are snacks available all over the parks, sometimes it’s good to have a familiar snack from home – something you know they like that won’t be an argument to have them eat.Â Also a good idea to have some for the adults too – no one is happy when they’re hungry.
4 – Have a souvenier strategy
The masters of marketing, Disney knows how to display merchandise so that we want to buy everything!Â Now imagine how the kids feel when they see everything they want to buy.Â If you have a strategy for souvenirs before you go, it makes these debates a little easier.Â Plan in advance what they will be allowed to buy.Â Do they get a set dollar amount?Â Or can they just choose one thing?Â So much will also depend on their age, but it’s never a bad idea to set those expectations with them before you go.
5 – Pack a pharmacy and insurance
Have typical medicines from home that you know work well with your child are so important.Â You can’t always get the same over the counter cough syrup or ear drops that you do at home.Â If your child is prone to needing certain allergy medications – bring it with you so you’re not testing a new brand while on vacation.Â The other thing that is crucial is making sure BEFORE you travel that you have some medical insurance for everyone, including the kids.Â On the podcast Kimberley explained one of the trips where her son was ill and ended up in Emergency – scary stuff, it’s always best to be prepared.
6 – Expect the unexpected
You’ve planned the absolute perfect trip – down to the hour with dining reservations, itineraries and matching outfits, it’s all fantastic until it isn’t.Â Be prepared that your plans may (and probably will) change.Â The weather, unexpected closures or even a meltdown (kids or adults) can mean a big diversion from your meticulously planned day.Â Roll with it, don’t sweat the small stuff, it will still be magical.
7 – Ask the kids to help you plan
Asking for their input while you plan gives them the opportunity to be involved.Â It helps build the excitement and it’s a good time for you to walk through the details.Â It’s their vacation too – if they’re old enough, get them involved in deciding the ‘must dos’.
8 – Plan for a rest
The parks at Walt Disney World are magical, but can also be exhausting!Â Make sure you’re planning a day to relax, enjoy the resort, maybe do some swimming and chill.Â It’s really important to rejuvenate during the week so that you don’t burn out.Â It’s also a great time to explore all that Walt Disney World has to offer outside of the theme parks.
9 – Don’t wait
Don’t wait until your kids are ‘old enough’.Â They are never too young for YOU to remember their first time.Â Those memories are just as important to you, and seeing Disney through their eyes is something pretty special.Â There’s also a small window of time when they’re little that you don’t pay for them – so really it’s a win/win!
10 – You can’t do it all
Go with the plan that you can’t see and do it all.Â Seriously.Â I have been going all my life, multiple times per year – I haven’t seen it all.Â Make your list of ‘must do’ items, and be realistic about what you can get through.Â Don’t overplan because there will never be enough time anyway.Â Prioritize what is important to you and your family and let the other stuff just happen.Â It takes the pressure off, after all – it’s vacation right?Â It shouldn’t be stressful.
Using a Disney travel agent can help guide you through all of the steps for planning your trip.Â When you’re ready – contact Kimberley or Amy for help, they have a lot more tips than they gave here!Â It was really just the tip of the iceberg.
Have you been to Walt Disney World with little ones?
Disney announced in January 2021 that it would be retiring the much loved Magical Express service. Many guests and fans were disappointed after relying on this transportation from the Orlando International Airport to their Disney Resort for years. (For more details on what the service is – visit my blogWhat is Disney’s Magical Express)
Mears (who operated Magical Express for Disney for 16 years) has announced they will be launching Mears Connect in January 2022 to coincide with the Magical Express shut down. Reservations for the new service are said to be available to book starting in May 2021.
In a news release, Mears said “Guests can expect scheduled service, luggage handling, convenient airport terminal staging, and return trips to the airport,” *
Mears spokesperson Roger Chapin said in a statement*:
“We plan to offer the same level of experience, service and convenience we’ve provided for the last 16 years, on behalf of our longtime partner, as returning guests and first-time visitors can expect nothing less,”
Pricing for these services are expected to be released later this year.
More to come – but I can’t wait to try out this new service!
Disney’s Magical Express was launched back in 2005 and quickly became a popular option for guests of the Walt Disney World Resorts for getting to and from the Orlando International Airport. Given the service was complimentary to resort guests, it could save hundreds on your vacation by avoiding car rentals, shuttles or taxis. There were many benefits to using the service and I had outlined them in my blog “What is Disney’s Magical Express“
Vacationers have more options to choose from than ever for transportation, including ride-share services that save time and offer more flexibility to go where they want, when they want. In light of this shift, when Disney Resort hotel bookings open for stays in 2022, we will no longer offer Disney’s Magical Express service for airport transportation, starting with arrivals Jan. 1, 2022. We will continue to operate the service for new and existing reservations made at Disney Resort hotels for arrivals throughout 2021. Additionally, complimentary transportation options – such as buses, monorails and Disney Skyliner – will continue to be available within Walt Disney World Resort for Disney Resort hotel guests, including to and from all four theme parks.
Many Disney fans took to social media to share their disappointment of the announcements. Some were actually quite funny and comical:
No Magical Express, no Fast Pass, No Extra Magic Hours - guys, this is just part of the 50th celebration to make it more like 1971 again!
Someone asked me today “how can you be excited about another trip to Walt Disney World, isn’t it the same as it was the last time you were there?”. They were implying that I had already ‘been there, done that’. Yes – I was there 2 months ago, and multiple times last year – but no, it never gets boring.
The next question I hear is “haven’t you seen it all?” – and the simple answer is NO! Walt Disney World is always changing so there is something ‘new’ to see or do every time I visit.
Here’s why I’m excited about my next trip!
I have stayed in all of the Walt Disney World Resort properties. It took me a while to get to stay at the Yacht Club (I don’t know why I kept missing that one!) but I finally did it! With each trip there is always something new to check out at a resort, so I like to mix it up! There are so many different room types too – sometimes it’s nice to splurge on a more “resort based” vacation where you hang out and enjoy the resort more than the parks. Splurging on a Cabin at Copper Creek would give you the whole “home away from home” feel to relax and enjoy, and you’re not far from the pool!
Night Time Shows
I’m always so excited as I love the night-time entertainment! The big concern is how to decide between Rivers of Light, Epcot Forever, Star Wars fireworks & Fantasmic at Hollywood Stuidos and Happily Ever After and the Magic Kingdom? I think I need more nights…
Pixie Dust Fan’s Tee Public Store
There is ALWAYS something new to eat – and this trip is no exception! I could seriously eat the new desserts all week for every meal, but I do want to try at least 1 new restaurant on each trip. It’s hard to decide sometimes because there are some great options. Each trip brings a new dilemma of deciding between our tried and true favourites, or something new.
Shopping & New Merchandise
Yes – shopping is a bit part of my trip. Wandering through the stores and seeing the new, unique and custom merchandise? It’s so much fun. I love to visit Disney Springs for just a regular “shopping day” but then I also have to hit all the stores in the parks. Resort shops? You don’t want to miss those because sometimes they have different things too! You can find a lot of the merchandise online at ShopDisney.com but it’s not quite the same as when you can touch it.
Walt once said ‘Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.’ I’m so glad this vision is carried on at Walt Disney World, I continue to be amazed and inspired each time I step on the Disney property and revitalize my own imagination.
Whether it’s your first Disney vacation or your hundredth, you should use a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations. This topic is debated frequently in many Facebook Groups, but I often see some big misconceptions given for reasons against it. I decided it was time to correct some of that misinformation.
A good Disney Travel Agent does not charge fees when you book a vacation package. Your Disney vacation will cost the SAME as if you booked it directly with Disney yourself. Instead of costing you money, they will tell you where you might be able to save some money or what ‘upgrades’ would be worth it.
2. You lose control of your vacation
Nothing could be FURTHER from the truth. You can control as much or as little as you like! You can book all of your own Lightening Lanes, dining, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique reservations and special events if that’s what you want to do. The beauty is that if you don’t want to book those things – you have an agent who will do it for you free of charge. Yes – they will get up at 6am or 7am to do this for you, but if you are an early bird – you can do it all yourself if you prefer.
Donald Duck Dream Along With Mickey
3. You don’t need one
Honestly, I need one…. and I’ve been visiting for over 40 years! I don’t need one to do my Genie Plus reservations or dining (my sister does all that stuff!), but doing the legwork for changes to a vacation is priceless. If there is a promotion, event, or website glitch that requires a call to Disney – the agent calls for you. You don’t have to sit on hold for hours and HOURS when the room promotion comes out, or when you have to change dates because of a hurricane coming or a pandemic closing the parks – an agent does that for you.
4. All of the information is online anyway
Sure, and you still can do your own research when you’re using a travel agent, but they’ll help you decipher the truth from the ‘click bait’ online. We all have friends who have advice or read something somewhere, but how do you know what’s really going on? Use an agent to bounce around ideas with your specific goals and family in mind. Good agents draw on the tribal knowledge within their team and their own frequent experience to provide specific information tailored to your needs. Why would you not want that extra resource at your disposal if it doesn’t cost you anything?
5. They’re all the same
No, they aren’t all the same. There are so many variables when choosing an agency to work with, and you need to make sure that they know what they’re doing! Find an agency with a team of people who have relevant and recent personal experience who love what they do – that’s where you find the right one! When you’re looking to plan, reach out to my friends at Playcation Travel LTD for assistance.
Do you use a travel agent to book your Disney vacation?
Traveling with small children can be no easy feat, but the memories you make will be worth it in the end. I took my kids to Walt Disney World for their first trip when my daughter was 5 and my son was 2.5. They were, in my eyes, the perfect age to enjoy the magic but I got some valuable insight from the experience of traveling with 2 children under 5!
I have listed my top 5 tips based on the experience with my kids.
1. Choose Your Commute Carefully!
Depending on where you’re traveling from, getting there can be a big decision. Are you going to drive or fly? It really comes down to what you think is best for your family, considering the cost and practicality of it. We chose to fly for the kids first trip so they could experience a plane and Disney’s Magical Express for the first time. If you’re flying make sure you pick good flight times, sometimes the cheapest, isn’t always the best. We had a 6am flight out of Toronto which meant having to leave our house at 2am! This was really hard on their little bodies (so much that my daughter was sick before we even left home). They ended up sleeping on the plane, which was great but if I had to do that again, that would be the one thing I’d change! If you choose to drive (which we have done since), make sure your kids are well entertained with books, movies, colouring books, etc. Maybe try doing a long day drive to test for motion sickness ahead of time.
All buckled up and ready to go!
2. Bring Comforts From Home
When we were getting ready to go on our vacation, we wanted to make sure we packed comforts from home to not only help them feel safe and comfortable but also in case of any meltdowns that may happen (and they do happen). This could be a stuffed animal or toy, or even their favourite book. These small things will make a world of difference when your little one is feeling tired or overwhelmed with the busy days. My daughter had fun buckling in her stuffed sheep on the plane and one evening we came back to our room to find her barbies set up on the bed from the Mousekeeping Cast Members!
3. Bring Your Own Snacks
We made the decision to bring our own snacks and juice boxes from home. Yes, this added to the weight of our suitcases but it was a great idea that helped get through the days, and let’s face it, it’ll offset the weight of souvenirs coming home. We made our own trail mix and put it in Ziploc containers so that we could grab a cup a day for the kids to snack on. This is huge for parents with picky eaters! Then you know for sure they are going to eat something they like. The juice boxes we wrapped in a garbage bag for the way down, just in case a few decided to leak in our suitcases, and then the garbage bag doubled as a dirty laundry bag for the way home! We also put granola bars in containers so they didn’t get squished which helps give everyone, not just the kids, a little energy boost through the day.
4. Bring A Stroller
If you have kids 5 and under, I strongly recommend bringing a stroller from home or renting one. We chose not to bring our double stroller so that we didn’t have to worry about it on the plane, but we made sure to put the rental in our budget when planning. We rented a double-stroller from Kingdom Strollers that could seat 100lbs on each side, came with a rain cover, shades that pulled all the way forward and the backs of the stroller laid down completely! It was a life (and back) saver! Not only was it great for giving the kids little legs a break, but it gave them a shady spot to sit and enjoy and snack. It also provided my son a great nap area because the back laid down completely. Even my daughter who was 5 used it to rest even though she wanted to go, go, go! Which brings me to my final point…
5. Know Their Limits
If your little one is tired and needs a nap, let them! Don’t be worried about them missing out on things because everyone will feel better after they’ve napped. My son slept through the Festival of Fantasy parade in Magic Kingdom and Finding Nemo: The Musical in Animal Kingdom. They make for pretty cute pictures! You can also find shady areas to relax, like the Rapunzel rest area, or do a quiet, indoor attraction, like The Enchanted Tiki Room or Tomorrowland Transit Authority’s PeopleMover. There’s also no harm in going back to your resort for a rest and continuing with the day once everyone is freshened up! This reduces the risk of those unmagical meltdowns happening.
Traveling with my kids when they were so young was such a rewarding and memorable experience. If I had to go back, I would take them again but even younger! I absolutely love the memories we made and the pictures we have from that trip, it’s still one of my favourite trips to Walt Disney World that I’ve ever taken!
Ashley at Pure Magic Vacations
Ashley’s love of Disney started at a very young age, watching Disney movies and sing-alongs. Her family was fortunate enough to travel while she was growing up so she caught the travel bug quite early.
Ashley was only 10 years old on her first trip to Walt Disney World and she still loves it just as much as she did then. In fact, she loves it so much that she honeymooned at Walt Disney World when she got married. Now Ashley enjoys her Disney vacations with her family and when she’s not there – she’s helping other families plan their magical adventures.
I don’t know about you, but Facebook a part of my every day routine. I love that I can sign in and see tidbits from people’s lives and connect with those that I don’t get to see often enough. I have made some wonderful friends on Facebook from the Disney community, and it’s always fun to follow along on their vacations, getting ideas of things I might like to try the next time I visit. I keep up to date on news and little gossip, but I always remember to take each piece of information with a grain of salt unless it comes from an official Disney source.
Disney groups on Facebook used to be a real source of entertainment for me. I was always amazed by how perfect strangers can get so angry with each other over silly stuff, it was like the online version of the Real Housewives series. I have to admit that I used to read these posts, but I rarely commented. I would get out my popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show until an admin deleted the thread, but I just can’t do that anymore.
While there are a LOT of Dinsey groups on Facebook, there are a few that are managed by some real characters (pun intended!) that really bother me. I’m not sure if it’s just my love of Disney that finds them offensive or the manner in which the Admins conduct themselves that disturbs me. It’s expected that any really frequent visitor will have a few negative reviews or experiences in the parks. We won’t like everything, but we can and should share those opinions in a manner that is useful and constructive to the community who are planning their vacation.
There are a couple of groups that drove me crazy that I had to remove myself from. The first is one that is run by a local who sells merchandise with Disney copyright images, I often wonder why Disney hasn’t shut it down. While the admin doesn’t work for Disney, he represents the ‘ultimate fan’ to some people online. He has posted about restaurants that give him tummy issues (only he isn’t so delicate with his words). He’s made videos ranting about guests suggesting that the majority of them don’t shower and has called them idiots and morons. His representation of what is wrong with the parks is inflammatory and creates hostility in those that follow him. He has many social media posts that are bullying, racist and downright unkind, not the kind of ‘Disney fan’ you would want to follow.
Pixie Dust Fan’s Tee Public Store
The second group that makes me cringe is one that is actually sponsored by a BUSINESS that rents out Disney Vacation Club points. I bring up the sponsorship because it’s fascinating to me that a business would want to be associated with this group. The admins are mean – and take great pride in BEING mean to others. They have entire threads in the group meant for shaming guests! They encourage pictures of guests doing things that they deem ‘not right’ in the parks and then they each take turns shaming them. For example – they will post a picture of someone sleeping in a resort lobby and call it ‘hobo napping’. What they don’t know is if this person is ill, or if they have some kind of disorder, or if they are unbelievably tired because they were up all night with a sick child. They don’t know the circumstances, but feel like making fun of them is the right thing to do. I think it’s horrible and for that reason, I would NEVER support the business that sponsors them and will go out of my way to make sure others don’t either. Can you imagine finding YOUR picture online because someone caught you nodding off at Disney?
There are people who are researching their first trip to Walt Disney World in these Facebook groups. It’s sad because they’re reading these rants and reviews, and their expectations of their vacation are being tarnished by them.
I think it’s important for people to have a safe place to ask their questions and share their love of Disney! You can’t be in an environment where you may get a public shaming for asking a question. That’s the real reason I decided to create a Pixie Dust Fans group on Facebook. It’s a place where everyone is nice – and welcoming! We talk about the Disney stuff that makes us happy – after all, isn’t that what Disney is all about?? Stop by and see us, you’ll be glad you did!
What’s your biggest pet peeve about Facebook groups?
UPDATE JANUARY 11, 2021: Disney’s Magical Express will no longer be offered beginning January 2022. See updates here
Disney’s Magical Express is a complimentary transportation to and from Orlando International Airport (MCO) for guests staying at a select Walt Disney World Resort hotels. I’ve got a full post on What IS Disney’s Magical Express, but here you’re going to learn:
How do you use Disney’s Magical Express?
Here’s step by step what you need to know to enjoy this fantastic COMPLIMENTARY service!
Make your reservation
If you’ve booked your Walt Disney World resort package with a good Disney Travel Agent, they will make the reservation for you. If you booked yourself, you would need to submit the request for transportation with Disney direct or online here.
When you request Disney’s Magical Express you need to provide:
Resort Reservation Number
Number of Guests (they must be on the reservation to use the Magical Express)
Mailing address for the luggage tags
Recieve your information package:
UPDATE – Beginning July 2020 – Luggage transfers will not be provided. You must pick up your luggage at the carousel and take it with you to the bus. It’s unclear if this will revert back at a later time.
Your luggage tags will arrive in advance of your trip if you have provided enough time for them to send them – usually 2 or 3 weeks is sufficient but the more time the better!
The luggage tags will have all of the information that Disney needs to retrieve your luggage from the carousel and deliver it to your ROOM at your Walt Disney World Resort IF you put the tags on your luggage before you check them at your departure airport. This service of luggage delivery is NOT available if your flight lands between 10PM and 5AM.
Some things to keep in mind if you choose to have Disney bring your luggage:
Your luggage may not arrive until 3 hours after you do
Keep medications and important documents with you
If you plan activities for as soon as you arrive at the resort – make sure you have the necessary things with you (like your bathing suit!)
If you have your Magic Band already – keep it with you and don’t pack it in your luggage
If you did NOT get your luggage tags in advance, not to worry! You can still have Disney pick up your luggage for you – just head to the Magical Express Service location and give the representative your claim tickets from the airline!
You can also choose to NOT put the tags on and pick your luggage up yourself and take it to the motorcoach with you. If you decide that you are going to retrieve your own luggage – do NOT put the tags on.
Get on the plane in your home town – you’re going to WALT DISNEY WORLD!
Make sure you’re prepared for ALL of the things that go with flying… here’s a list of some simple (but often forgot) things you should plan for
Arrival at Orlando International Airport
When you land (YAY!) it’s so exciting, you just can’t WAIT to get to Walt Disney World. Now – you need to find the Magical Express!
Orlando Airport (MCO) is probably one of the best signed airports I’ve been to, they have signs everywhere.
Jump on the first ‘ride’ of the trip – the train from your arrival gate to the main terminal
Upon arrival in the main terminal, follow the signs
Either pick up your bags at the carousels here
Keep following the signs to the Ground Transportation Area in Terminal B on level 1
When you get off the plane, enter the US Immigration Checkpoint
After you get your luggage – proceed to the Customs Checkpoint
After completing the customs and immigrations process, decide if you’re taking your luggage with you or if you want Disney to transfer it. If you would like Disney to transfer it, put it BACK on the carousel.
NOW YOU get to experience the first ‘ride’ of the trip – the train from your arrival gate to the main terminal
Upon arrival in the main terminal, follow the signs to the Ground Transportation Area in Terminal B on level 1
Arrive at the Magical Express Counter in Terminal B Level 1
As you pass all of the car rental companies etc – you’ll see the Magical Express counter. Here is where you will present either your Magic Bands OR your resort reservation confirmation. Don’t worry if you don’t have your Magic Bands in advance, Disney can only ship to some countries. If they can’t be shipped – they will be waiting at your resort for you.
When you check in with your Magic Bands or Resort confirmation, the cast member will validate the members of your party are all there and then direct you to a ‘lane’ – the bus line for your resort. Resorts in the same area share buses, so there could be 3 or 4 stops on the bus route, but it’s generally pretty quick. People on the bus don’t dilly-dally because they are anxious to start their vacation!
Get on that bus!
When your bus arrives the cast member will direct you to the bus in the bay. Here’s where the driver will load your luggage in to the base of the bus if you’ve brought it with you. If you didn’t bring it – it will be coming separately and NOT on this bus. Take your seat on the bus – remember that the first couple of rows are reserved for guests with mobility issues and they will be marked as such.
Each seat is comfy and you get a great view of the overhead TVs that will show you some fun things you need to know before you start your vacation. It’s the perfect way to get you excited for what’s to come!
Individual lighting and vents are above the seat for comfort and there is a restroom at the back of almost all of the buses.
No car seats required, the little ones can sit on their own seat or your lap.
Sit back, enjoy the show on the TV – you’ll be at the resort in no time!
The driver will call out the name of the resorts as they pull in – make sure you’re getting off at YOUR resort! Gratuities are appreciated by these drivers.
Now you’ve arrived – go check in and start your vacation!! Remember if you didn’t bring your luggage it will arrive up to 3 hours later.
Have FUN! UNTIL…….
IT’S time to go home
The wonderful people at Disney’s Magical Express will drop by your resort room the day before you are set to check out and hang the ‘eviction’ notice on your door.
Inside the envelope will be all of the information you need for a smooth ride to the airport.
HOLD ON TO THIS PAPER – this is your confirmation and “ticket” to get on the bus.
Make note of the pick up time – and be there EXTRA early!
Disney does NOT want to be responsible for people missing flights, so they keep a very tight schedule. If the bus says it’s leaving at 7:50 – its leaving at 7:50. Don’t be late.
The morning of departure
Arrive EARLY to the bus stop at your resort with your luggage. It will be transported with you on the bus to Orlando International Airport
Have your paperwork with you – make sure you have that letter they left you the night before! It confirms your seats and time on Disney’s Magical Express
When the bus arrives, the driver will load your luggage and you can take a seat on what is now known as “Disney’s Tragical Express“. You know – it’s tragic ’cause the vacation is over right??
Sit back in your seat and watch the cartoons… they try to cheer you up and make you laugh!
Upon arrival at the airport the driver will unload your luggage and be appreciative of any gratuities.
Take your luggaage, wave goodbye to the Mickey bus and find your check in counter for your airline.
*For select resorts and guests, there is a Resort Airline Check In service available so that you can check in for your flight at your resort. If you plan to use this service, make sure you allow plenty of time for it before your scheduled departure.
Enjoy Orlando International Airport
Even though the vacation is over, there is still plenty of shopping and fun things to see in the airport! On your train ride back to the terminal, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will thank you for coming. It’s funny, I’m always happy to hear is voice on the train when I arrive and when I leave… it’s like the two bookends of the trip!
Save money because you don’t need to rent a car, Uber or taxi to and from the airport to your resort.
Of course if you want luxury travel to/from the airport I would recommend a Minnie Van! But…they’re not free 🙂
Car Seats – Transportation is provided via motor coach and child safety seats are not recommended.Children can sit on their own seat, or on the lap of an adult.This saves you bringing and or renting a car seat!
Wheelchairs – the motor coach will accommodate wheelchairs too!Just make sure you indicate that on your Magical Express reservation or let your Travel Agent know.
Service Animals – Service animals can join their owners on Disney Transportation motorcoaches
No need to worry about directions on how to get there or fuss with a rental car, let Disney do the driving for you.
Select Disney Resort hotels offer airline check in before boarding the Magical Express.Full details are here
You’ve finally arrived in Orlando and you’re ready to start your vacation!What better way to start than with a bus ride with videos all about what you can expect on your vacation!This is when the excitement really kicks it up a notch!When you’re returning to the airport – there are some great cartoons you can watch!
On your next vacation to Walt Disney World will YOU use this service?
The Fuel Rod is one of my ‘must have’ items when I visit Walt Disney World, so I was very concerned when news broke that they were going to start charging $3 for every swap! I know that I could use the one I bought on Amazon instead and charge it myself, but it is convenient! I have to charge my phone probably 3 times per day while I’m in the parks. Taking videos and pictures, doing live streams – it drains the battery. Having the ability to swap the Fuel Rod is better than carrying one of the bigger batteries that would hold 3 or 4 charges worth, the Fuel Rod is much lighter in my bag.
In late 2019 Disney had started putting signs on the Fuel Rod kiosks announcing the $3 fee for a swap after they had previously had unlimited ones. They updated the website to say the same:
From the Disney site when the charges were first being communicated
My friend Carolyn from Pure Magic was there on October 27th and snagged a pic for me of the stickers on the Fuel Rod stations
Stickers showing $3 Charge as of November 1st 2020
There was quite a backlash from the Internet about the charges and a lawsuit was even filed? Really? A lawsuit over the fact that you were promised unlimited swaps and now it’s $3? I think the world has gone mad… and I refuse to link to the ‘lawsuit’ articles because I personally think it’s ridiculous. Anyway…
As of November 1st – Disney has reconsidered and has taken the stickers OFF of the Fuel Rod locations and has released the following statement:
“A decision has been made to not implement the $3 portable charger swap fee until further notice. Guests can continue to swap their FuelRod portable chargers using FuelRod’s owned and operated kiosks at Walt Disney World Resort for no additional cost at this time.”
The Walt Disney World website now shows this again:
Back to normal
I am happy about the reversal in the decision – but can’t for the life of me figure out why they would change it? Did they not KNOW there would be people complaining? Did they get more complaints than they realized? We may never know… For now – I’ll put the Fuel Rods back in my travel bag and enjoy the unlimited swaps!
UPDATED JULY 2020 – The company has created a “Founder” Status to grandfather people who bought the original ones under the impression it was unlimited free swaps. They released this statement:
“SAN DIEGO – July 10, 2020 – Tricopian, Inc. (DBA: FuelRod) announces the availability of the “Founders” status in recognition of the continued support and loyalty of the most valued customers and “early adopters” (*) of FuelRod’s world-first, power-on-the-go program. The creation of the “Founders” status also resolves pending litigation against it pertaining to changes in its policies regarding charges for swapping its devices.(**) As a Founder, the customer can continue to enjoy free, unlimited swaps at any FuelRod kiosks (***). There is no cost to eligible customers to become a Founder.
Once verified, Founders will use the FuelRod app in conjunction with the kiosks to obtain free swaps under the program. The app will generate a scannable QR code that will be input at the kiosk at the time of the swap. The kiosk will then allow Founders to swap their existing FuelRods for free, even at kiosks that charge to swap.”
The Fuel Rod is one of my ‘must have’ items when I visit Walt Disney World!
One of my biggest challenges at Walt Disney World has always been keeping my electronics charged. Taking videos and photos, posting on social media, my Iphone and camera would barely make it to lunch time.
There are places in the Walt Disney World parks that you can charge your devices. For example, over near the Tangled washrooms in the Magic Kingdom are some very cute little tree stumps with ports to charge your phone.
When I’m in the parks though, I prefer to be able to charge ‘on the go’ and not be stuck sitting in one place to top up my battery life.
The Fuel Rod is $30 USD + tax and available at many locations throughout the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts.
Inside of the Fuel Rod package you will find:
One fully charged portable phone charger
One 3.5” USB to micro-USB cable (for most Android devices)
One USB C Adapter (needed for some Android devices)
One 3.5” Apple Lightning to USB cable (for iPhone generations 5+)
Having that first one fully charged enables you to charge your phone immediately. When I purchased mine, it charged my iPhone fully from 15% battery. The convenience of the Fuel Rod vs the charges you buy on Amazon is the ability to swap it out in the machine for a fully charged one – at NO COST. There were some changes and updates to the program speculated in October 2019 – but Disney has reversed the decision to start charging for swaps. I believe there will be a charge in the future given the company has created a “Founder” Status to grandfather people who bought the original ones under the impression it was unlimited free swaps. They released this statement in July 2020:
“SAN DIEGO – July 10, 2020 – Tricopian, Inc. (DBA: FuelRod) announces the availability of the “Founders” status in recognition of the continued support and loyalty of the most valued customers and “early adopters” (*) of FuelRod’s world-first, power-on-the-go program. The creation of the “Founders” status also resolves pending litigation against it pertaining to changes in its policies regarding charges for swapping its devices.(**) As a Founder, the customer can continue to enjoy free, unlimited swaps at any FuelRod kiosks (***). There is no cost to eligible customers to become a Founder.
Once verified, Founders will use the FuelRod app in conjunction with the kiosks to obtain free swaps under the program. The app will generate a scannable QR code that will be input at the kiosk at the time of the swap. The kiosk will then allow Founders to swap their existing FuelRods for free, even at kiosks that charge to swap.”
The Disney Skyliner is a whole new way to get around at Walt Disney World! This state of the art system provides new transportation options for those visiting Epcot and Hollywood Studios from 4 Disney resorts. The gondola connects Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach and the NEW Disney Vacation Club property – Disney’s Riviera Resort to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
This map shows the routes and connections for the Skyliner!
There was a lot of talk before these were open because they weren’t going to have air conditioning. Each car has ventilation with a cross breeze that generates while the car is in motion. You can see the openings at the top of the cars that create the breeze to keep guests comfortable.
Of course with any Disney opening – there is special merchandise available to celebrate the ocassion!
This new option for transportation is giving us something special aside from getting from point A to point B, this gives us a view from ABOVE the Disney property. While you’re travelling along the routes you will have a new perspective, espcially over the water enroute to Art of Animation, coming in to International Gateway at Epcot and being above Caribbean Beach? These are all going to be very picture worthy shots!
The other cool thing about the gondolas is that they are equipped to handle ECVs and Wheelchairs without disrupting the flow of the cars. Much like the cars in Toy Story Midway Mania – the cars that are equipped for Wheelchairs and ECVs can be taken in and out of the rotation while guests board. This allows the guests to board safely without feeling rushed or holding up all of the other cars on the line.
Efficiency and fun – all rolled in to one. What could be better?
I have friends who are a bit afraid of heights that may opt for the bus, but I think I’ll be enjoying this new mode of transportation for years to come!
When the Minnie Van service was first announced, I was pretty excited. Having another option to renting a car or taking the bus was something I had been hoping for. I love that Disney has so many transportation options, but it isn’t always the most comfortable at the end of a long night when I just want to get back to my room.
I had the opportunity to try the Minnie Van service when it first launched and I could not have been happier. I didn’t just try the service once, I loved it so much I used it 8 times in 4 days! My poor rental car stayed in the parking lot for 4 days untouched!
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Once you download the Lyft app and have the Minnie Vans activated, you will see all of the options for cars – and one clearly marked “Minnie Van” (with ears of course!)
You select the Minnie Van as the car you want – and then ‘Request Minnie Van Service’. It will show you if any vans are in your area. Mine was so close because it was literally parked outside while I was requesting it!
You’l be able to see on your app the car number, the licence plate as well as the estimated time of arrival. You can watch the car on the map as it’s coming and will get a text message (if enabled) when the car arrives.
The app itself takes care of the payment using the credit card you entered when you set up the app. It’s a flat rate plus mile pricing structure to take you anywhere on Disney property. After your ride you do have the option to tip the cast member if you choose.
The vans are large and comfortable vehicles that can seat up to 6 passengers. Each Minnie Van has 2 car seats in the trunk if you need them for the little ones! There are vans that also service guests with special needs such as wheelchairs or ECV’s, those can be arranged by calling 407-828-3500.
Minnie Van Car Seats
Minnie Vans are available at all Walt Disney World resorts and anywhere on property.
There are many reasons to use the Minnie Van service, you can read about my top 5 here.
Is this something you would use at Walt Disney World?
Disney’s gondola system will be ready to transport guests beginning September 29, 2019. This state of the art system will provide new transportation options for those wanting to visit Epcot and Hollywood Studios from 4 Disney resorts. The gondola will connect Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach and the NEW Disney Vacation Club property – Disney’s Riviera Resort to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
I am excited for this skyliner, I think it’s going to be a unique experience with some fantastic views. Aside from the time I went Parasailing on Bay Lake – I’ve never really had a birds eye view of Disney property that wasn’t the top of Bay Lake or the Contemporary. The heights could be an issue for some, I know that I have friends who are already saying “you won’t get me up there”.
There has been a lot of fuss over these gondolas, especially discussions about air conditioning. Disney has assured us that there is ventilation. I mean, can you imagine Disney creating this whole experience and then making it so uncomfortable that people won’t want to be on it? Ya, I didn’t think so either.
I think they’re a fabulous ‘throw back’ to the ones that were in the Magic Kingdom when I was a kid – and I can’t WAIT to ride the new ones! What do you think? Will you be riding?
So you’re heading to Walt Disney World and thinking about how much spending money you’ll need each day for incidentals. For me – my biggest cost is my bottles of water. Really, the ‘healthiest’ thing I do is drink plenty of water – I always have a bottle of it with me and when it’s hot out – I drink a ton! First thing in the morning I drink a full bottle and at $3.50 each, it adds up quickly. How can I save a little money when I’m at the resort and have a fridge full of it? The answer is simple – have a case delivered to my resort.
There are a few options for Walt Disney World grocery delivery, here’s a few things you need to know.
There is a $6 USD charge for any deliveries at your Walt Disney World resort for which you need bell services to bring to your room. If you want to go to bell services to pick up your packages, they are at no charge. I personally prefer to have them bring them to my room – $6 is worth the convenience to me! Don’t forget to tip them as well.
There are also delivery charges from the grocery provider, don’t forget to consider those when you are calculating the savings.
2. Garden Grocer
Garden Grocer is a full grocery store near Walt Disney World that will deliver your groceries to your resort! It’s a great way to stock up on some of the things you’ll need – without having to rent a car or jump in a cab or Uber to go get it. You can order juice, bread, snacks, chips, beer/wine and cases of water! I always place an order before my trip and it’s waiting for me at bell services when I arrive. They even keep the refrigerated items cold for me!
My typical shopping order when travelling with children includes cases of water, juice, milk, bagels, bananas, cheese slices, chips, granola bars & beer. Yes, beer – the grown ups enjoy an adult beverage after the kids have gone to bed! You need to provide proof that you are over 21 for the purchase by submitting a copy of your photo ID.
The delivery fee is currently $14 USD, but there is no minimum order. Based on my bottled water savings, I’m still coming out WAY ahead by having cases delivered that I can fill our fridge with. If there’s an item you need that isn’t on the website – no problem, just fill in the special request form and they will let you know what they can get for you. It’s that simple. If you order in advance, they also have additional savings based on how far ahead you order it!
I have ordered ahead from Garden Grocer more times than I can count and I have always been pleased. My orders always arrive on time and complete – I have never had an issue where I didn’t get an item or the wrong thing arrived. They always deliver exactly what I ordered.
If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can use the Amazon Prime Delivery service! Amazon Prime NOW can be ordered on short notice – with a 2 hour delivery window, it’s quick!
You can also order with Amazon itself (without the NOW) if you’re not a prime member and that delivery time is generally 2 days.
I don’t normally recommend anyplace other than Garden Grocer or Amazon. Both are very reputable companies obviously! Garden Grocer works with all the Disney resorts and is a little more personalized. You can speak to someone who is local if you want to change/update your order. That’s why they will always be my first choice.
Have you ordered groceries for your Disney vacation?
Wedding season is upon us, which means that honeymoon season is upon us as well.
According to tripsavvy.com, couples spend an average of $4,466 (USD) on their honeymoon, with eight days being the average length of trip.
And while many people think of far-off destinations when they picture the perfect honeymoon, the majority of North American couples have stayed in North America for their honeymoons over the last five years. In fact, Florida is the second most popular US honeymoon destination in the United States (after Hawaii).
Gorgeously themed resorts, world class shopping, and signature dining experiences. What’s not to love?
We caught up with one Pixie Dust Fan, Kate Seftel, who honeymooned at Walt Disney World in 2007. Kate, an elementary school teacher, and her husband Chris, a personal trainer and wellness coordinator, reside an hour west of Toronto.
PMV Natalie: Why did you choose Walt Disney World for your honeymoon?
Kate: Chris and I decided on Walt Disney World because we are both active people who enjoy a “Go Go Go” vacation so that we can see and do everything! We also love rides!
PMV Natalie: Give us the details! What resort did you stay at?
Kate: For our honeymoon, we decided to do a six day/7 night vacation and we stayed at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. We did all four parks over the six days, and doubled up on Epcot and Magic Kingdom.
We also spent time at Downtown Disney and the West Side (now Disney Springs). We even spent a morning at Typhoon Lagoon.
PMV Natalie: What are some of the “magical” moments you remember?
Kate: One of the things that made our honeymoon super special was that we wore “Just Married” buttons (provided by Walt Disney World Resorts) wherever we went. Every cast member that saw us wished us “Congratulations” and some chatted with us about our special day while we waited in line. It made every day extra special! Some restaurants wrote “Congratulations” on our dessert plates, too!
PMV Natalie: Was going to Walt Disney World for your honeymoon something you had to talk Chris into, or was Chris equally on board?
Kate: This was definitely an easy choice for both of us. We had both been to Walt Disney World as kids in the ‘90s and we both really wanted to go back!.
PMV Natalie: Would you recommend a Walt Disney World vacation for couples? Not just for a honeymoon, but for any couple looking to get away?
Kate: For people that know us, we are a Walt Disney-obsessed couple. Our first trip was our honeymoon in 2007 and we returned in 2008, 2010 and 2012. We stayed off site once, and then at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter twice.
Disney is a place that is magical for so many reasons and you can make the trip whatever you want to be! If you want some days off by the pool, you can do that. If you want first class shopping, Disney Springs provides that. You don’t need to rent a car….or you can, and go to surrounding attractions like Universal Studios.
It really is a flexible as you want it to be.
PMV Natalie: Have you been back since 2012?
Kate: As I said before, we traveled to Walt Disney World four times as a couple. We had our fifth trip together in July 2016, but not just as a couple – that time we brought our 3.5-year-old son for his first trip. We had an amazing time as a family, staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and seeing it all again through his eyes!
We have taken our son a few times now, and have another family trip coming up this summer!
To contact Natalie you can email her at Natalie@puremagicvacations.ca
Natalie’s favourite park at Walt Disney World is Magic Kingdom. She finds nothing more magical than walking up Main Street USA and taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Natalie has a deep appreciation for how organized and efficient the Disney experience is each time she is there, and how nice and accommodating Cast Members can be!
A “grown ups only” Disney trip with her husband is currently just a dream, as her trips currently revolve around her two young daughters. Natalie’s oldest daughter is now transitioning from princesses to thrill rides – so every trip to Walt Disney World is a brand new experience.
Comfort Suites Bridgeport – Clarksburg. Photo c/o the Comfort Inn
As someone who spends her days planning vacations for people, I have found that many places are designed for families up to 4 people. Hotels are generally 2 beds, Cruise state rooms fit up to 4 people, you get the idea!Given that my family is 5 (my husband, our 3 boys and myself), I thought I would take some time to consider how a family of 5 or 6 or possibly more could travel together in the most efficient way.
Back when we would drive south with my parents, I can remember 2 out of the 4 of us were delegated to a sleeping bag on an air mattress or a line of pillows in the 2 bed hotel rooms. Hey, we were kids on an adventure, we didn’t care! Now a days I have to research our destinations and the plans to get to our destination more thoroughly to see how we can be accommodated. While I have lots of different trips to share, I thought I would focus on a recent trip that we did. We chose to drive from the Niagara Region in Ontario Canada to Orlando.We would be staying over at 2 hotels on the way, a night at a Disney Resort and then on to a cruise with Royal Caribbean.
We chose to get a head start in our driving and left on a Friday night and made 2 overnight stops so that when we arrived at our Disney Resort, we could spend some time there. The first evening we spent at the Comfort Suites Bridgeport – Clarksburg. It’s a place we had stayed before when driving to South Carolina, and thought it was a perfect place to check out again. What we like as a family is that it is quick off the highway, has an indoor pool (hard to find once you cross a certain point) and decent hot breakfast. The room we booked offered 2 Queen beds and a pull-out couch bed. Guess which bed the boys fought for!This room allowed us all to have our own space and beds to lay our heads on. This hotel was clean and located in a quiet area. We will absolutely stay here again if ever our travels lead us to that area.
SpringHIll Suites Jacksonville Airport
Our second night stay was at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Jacksonville Airport. Spring Hill Suites falls under the Marriot brand, and I’m quickly noticing how well this brand could work for a larger family’s needs. This room also had 2 Queen beds, and a couch/bed, that also offered a trundle under it. 6 people could sleep in that room fairly comfortably. The breakfast was great, lots of fresh fruit, and the staff there even packed us up a little to go bag of water, apples and a few other snacks! What a nice touch!
Contemporary Resort Garden Wing Room
The next day we had a quick 3-hour drive to the Walt Disney World Resort. This time around we chose to splurge at a deluxe property, and Disney’s ContemporaryResortwas the way to go! We wanted to be close to Magic Kingdom that evening as we were attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. We reserved a Garden Wing – Standard View room that was in a separate wing behind the main building. Let me tell you…BEAUTIFUL views! We watched the boats run behind us yet it was a quick easy walk to the pool. The room itself was very spacious and we were thankful to be not tripping over each other!Like most of the deluxe resorts, it offered luxurious, soft Queen-sized beds (so nice to fall into after a busy night), and also had a great day bed/couch perfect for our tall pre-teen. The bathroom area was also very large, with double sinks (yeah for lots of people brushing teeth at once) and even a separate water closet (toilet). Lots of closet storage that we didn’t have to use on our one-night stay, and a lovely little coffee center built in as well. We felt spoiled and would stay here again in heartbeat!
Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the seas stateroom
Lastly, we arrived in Port Canaveral to take a short 4-night cruise with Royal Caribbean on the Enchantment of the Seas. Originally, we had booked on the Majesty of the Seas and we registered one of our children in a friend’s stateroom so we could choose rooms of 4 next to each other. When our ship was re positioned we were assigned to the Enchantment, and when I called into choose our stateroom, a category 1B Spacious Ocean View Balcony, we found out that it could fit 5! We had one larger King bed (the twins pushed together), a Sofa bed for 2 and then Pullman for the last kiddo. Was it as spacious as our hotel rooms? Not quite.Since we only slept there (and the oldest boy crept into the Pullman at night on his own after Teen Club Curfew hit) we didn’t mind a bit and I would say having a balcony gave us some extra sitting space too. Royal Caribbean often offers a Kids Sail Free promotion, being able to all be in a room together saved us quite a bit (almost ½ off the original price).
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I hope this write up gives hope for you larger families to be able to travel together without always having to go a double room route! I have plenty of tips and tips to share, you can contact me to help you plan your next vacation!Happy Travels Big Families!!
Carolyn de Blieck
Carolyn was born and raised in the Niagara area in Ontario and worked in many hospitality venues over the years. She is a former Disney Cast Member and lifelong Disney fan. Her life revolves around her family, her husband Maurice and their 3 sons Ethan, Aaron and Gavin. When she is not spending time with her family she is helping others plan their most magical trips as an agent with Pure Magic Vacations.
There are rules you need to follow when you visit Disney property. Whether its a resort, theme park or shopping district – they have rules in place to ensure a safe and happy environment for all guests.
As you would expect, these rules need to be updated and refreshed at times. The changes in the spring of 2019 are outlined below:
1. Loose and Dry Ice is not permitted
I can only assume this was difficult at security check points to search.
If you’re planning to bring a cooler to the park with some food or beverages you must use reusable ice packs. You can no longer fill up your cooler with loose or dry ice. Keep in mind your cooler cannot be bigger than 24″ long x 15″ wide x 18″ high.
2. Stroller Size Restrictions
Strollers can not be any larger than 31″ wide and 52″ long. Many strollers on the market fit within these guidelines including double jogging strollers.
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3. Wagons are prohibited
Wagons were not allowed in the parks (something you pull behind you) but then there came ‘stroller wagons’ that you could push. Disney has specifically called out wagons of any kind – they are no longer allowed in the parks.
4. Disney Parks Are Now Non-Smoking
No smoking inside Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme parks, water parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex or Downtown Disney in California.
As of May 1, 2019 Diney Parks in both Florida and California will be smoke free. Designated areas will be provided outside of the parks.
I can’t tell you how happy I am that I quit smoking last year. This would have been really difficult for me to deal with – not being able to smoke in the parks. I know the smoking areas need to be out of the way – I’m just not sure they had to be OUT of the parks! I guess we’ll see what they have planned when it rolls out on May 1st.
You can always find the rules on Disney’s official websites
Did you know that Walt Disney World is the world’s #1 honeymoon destination? I had my honeymoon at Walt Disney World in 2010, and we had so much fun, we’ve returned every year since! And because we don’t have kids, I’ve become a bit of an expert in planning adults-only trips.
One of my favourite things to do is to help my clients plan special Date Nights together, whether they’re going on a romantic adults-only vacation, or leaving the kids with the grandparents or onsite babysitting services for the night. There are an almost-endless number of options for your special evening out with your sweetheart, but these are my five favourite Date Night activities.
1 An Evening On The BoardWalk
Disney’s BoardWalk is one of my favourite places to spend an evening with my sweetheart! Just like with Disney Springs, you don’t need a park ticket to visit the BoardWalk. There are tons of great bars and lounges, romantic ambiance, live entertainment, carnival-style games, and a huge area to explore together.
Disney’s Boardwalk is one of my favourite places at night!
Before your meal, stop for a pre-dinner cocktail at Abracadabar, a magic-themed cocktail bar, full of fun little details.
The AbracadaBAR is a fun place to stop in for a drink!
My favourite dining location is Flying Fish. We have been here several times, and we’ve always had incredible meals! The menu is modern, inventive and exciting, with an emphasis on seafood, although they have lots of non-seafood options as well. The appetizers here are especially delicious, and if you’d like to share them, the kitchen is great at splitting them up between two plates! Dessert here is also great, but consider going a few doors down to Ample Hills Creamery instead, for some incredible, homemade ice cream. Split the Ice Cream Flight, where you get to choose 6 flavours to taste – I highly recommend the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake.
The Yacht Club Resort is a short walk from the Boardwalk
Alternate dining recommendation: Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, just a few steps from the BoardWalk.
2 The Monorail Tour
This is one of my favourite Date Night activities! Head over to the Magic Kingdom and hop on the monorail – you can visit all three of the incredible Disney Deluxe Resorts on the monorail loop. Get off at each resort and do some exploring.
A must-do is visiting Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. There will likely be a bit of a wait to get a seat inside, but it’s worth it! Take a pager and they’ll call you when your table is ready. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that when you order certain drinks, magical stuff happens in the bar.
The view from California Grill can’t be beat!
For dinner, the ultimate Date Night dining experience is going to California Grill. The food, service and atmosphere are among the very best that Disney has to offer. The restaurant is located at the top of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and offers incredible views of the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, both from your seat, as well as from their own private viewing platforms. Try to book your reservation so you’re there during the fireworks, but if you can’t, hold on to your receipt, and you’re welcome return, to watch them from the viewing platforms! Another option is to watch the fireworks from a number of locations throughout the monorail resorts, such as on the beach in front of the Polynesian Village and the Grand Floridian Resorts, or the bridge linking the Contemporary Resort’s main tower to Bay Lake Tower.
Alternate dining recommendation: ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
Even if you’re not eating at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, it’s a great place for an evening stroll
3 Epcot After Dark
Without question, Epcot is the best park for table-service dining in general, but even more so when you’re planning Date Night! Arrive in the evening and spend plenty of time wandering through the World Showcase pavilions. I especially love Morocco, the UK, China and France at night.
Shop my wish list of products!
Head over to Mexico’s La Cava del Tequila, for an authentic cocktail made with imported, top-shelf tequila. This is a very small, intimate spot, and it may be difficult to get a seat. If you don’t want to wait, you can get your drink “to go” from the bar!
Canada is home to Le Cellier, it’s delicious!
For dinner, there are SO many options to choose from but for Date Night, my personal favourite is Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion. The dining room is quiet, with romantic lighting, and the food is delicious! Unlike at many other steakhouses, your steak comes with a side dish, which you are allowed to swap with any other side dish on the menu. There are excellent non-steak options on the menu as well. Try to book your table at around 7pm, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your meal and find a spot for the fireworks, which usually begin at 9.
After the park closes, if you’re not ready to head back yet, exit through the International Gateway entrance, and you’re just a 5-minute walk from the BoardWalk, where you can have more fun before returning to your hotel.
Alternate dining recommendation: Monsieur Paul in France or San Angel Inn in Mexico.
4 Exploring Animal Kingdom Lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge is a bit off the beaten path, but there is SO much to do once you get there! There are two resorts to explore – Jambo House and Kidani Village, and they each have their own animal savannah. For this itinerary, I would consider getting there a bit earlier. Look up the sunset time during your travel dates, and aim to arrive at least an hour before then.
You could spend hours exploring this resort and all it’s details
Begin by walking around the resort, spotting the animals, appreciating the incredible architecture, viewing the authentic African art, and finding all of the hidden nooks and crannies. Have a drink at Victoria Falls Lounge.
Then, have dinner at Jiko – The Cooking Place. This is one of my favourite Disney Signature Dining locations! The menu is adventurous – you can find wild game meats, fresh-baked flatbreads, and authentic African offerings, as well as many non-intimidating dishes. The dining room is beautiful, and your server will do a great job of explaining any menu items that are unfamiliar to you. They have one of the largest South African wine lists outside of Africa!
Some very comfortable spots to relax and enjoy the resort atmosphere
After dinner, step outside and sit by the gigantic fire pit, or borrow a pair of night vision goggles to see the animals at night.
Alternate dining recommendation: Sanaa in the Kidani Village wing of Animal Kingdom Lodge.
5 Under The Stars At Disney Springs
In the past few years, Disney Springs has become a must-do location for many guests. When it comes to Date Night, there is no lack of wonderful options! Begin by taking some time to walk around the stores – spend time in The Art of Disney, the Christmas shop, the Marketplace Co-Op, and other adult-friendly shopping locations. Stop for a drink at Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, the Indiana Jones-themed lounge – taste the incredibly inventive offerings, and appreciate the little details that surround you. You can also have a great drink at the top of the Coca-Cola Store, or sit and have a drink or a snack at the bars of Paddlefish or The Boathouse, two of my favourite restaurants.
Both Paddlefish and Boathouse are exceptional choices at Disney Springs
For dinner, you have so many restaurants to choose from, but my favourite is Frontera Cocina. This restaurant is from celebrity chef Rick Bayless, whom many consider to be the Julia Child of Mexican food – he travels throughout Mexico, to learn the most authentic, regional dishes, and introduces them to Americans. This is not your typical Mexican restaurant! There are often special, limited-time menus, showcasing specific Mexican regions like Oaxaca or Mexico City.
After dinner, go for a walk around the newer section of Disney Springs, populated with mostly non-Disney stores. For dessert, stop into Amorette’s Patisserie for a fancy cake for two, or go to Ghirardelli Soda Fountain for one of the best ice cream sundaes you’ve ever had!
If you have a sweet tooth, Amorette’s has exactly what you’re looking for!
Disney Springs’s shops and eateries are open later than most other places on Disney property, so if you’re a night owl, this is the Date Night location for you.
I asked the Pure Magic Vacations team for their favourite Date Night restaurants, and here are our top picks:
Beaches and Cream
The view of Disney Springs from Saratoga Springs Resort
Date Night Tips
Book early. If you want to catch the sunset or dine during a popular time, you’ll want to book your table as early as possible.
If you’re celebrating something like an anniversary, engagement or birthday, let the restaurant know in advance. Phone Disney’s main dining number (407-WDW-DINE), and have them note your celebration on your reservation.
Consider making your Date Night even MORE special with Disney Floral & Gifts, who can deliver a beautiful bouquet or cake to the restaurant, or even better, have a special surprise waiting for your sweetie when you return to your hotel room at night!
Choose your clothing wisely. Many of the fancier dining location have dress codes, but if you visit during the hotter months, it can be difficult to choose what to wear. For ladies, it’s easy to pack a comfortable, flowy skirt or dress, or Capri pants. For gentlemen, consider bringing a dressier pair of shorts (such as golf shorts – skip the cargo shorts) and a short-sleeve button-down or polo shirt.
Don’t waste too much time on transportation. To get from your own resort to another Disney resort hotel, it can take a long time on Disney transportation. Consider using Uber, Lyft or a Minnie Van instead. These options are quite inexpensive, and when you factor in the value of your time, it’s a very reasonable option.
Be careful with the drinks! The bartenders make delicious cocktails, and when you’re in a very hot climate, you’re sometimes a bit dehydrated to begin with. Drink lots of water before, during and after your Date Night.
What Do You Think?
Do any of these Date Night ideas appeal to you? Do you have any favourite Date Night activities that you would like to share? Leave us a comment below!
This article was written by Aydin Turgay at Pure Magic Vacations
Anyone with a child or family member on the Autism Spectrum knows that routine and controlling outside stimulation is important.Stepping out of what is familiar can be scary and lead to meltdowns which can be uncomfortable for everyone involved.That’s why a family vacation can be both exciting and stressful.I hoped that visiting the parks would be a great experience for us and I used all the resources I had to plan our days to fit closely to our regular routine.
I arranged everything important for the early morning so that after lunch, we could decompress and just go back to the resort for some pool time.I knew we were missing out on some attractions and precious park time, but I also knew my son had a limit for waiting in lines and having to behave amongst all of the different sights and sounds that can become too overwhelming.
Pool time was always important for us to decompress
This worked well for us, but as he got older and became more of a thrill seeker, those wait times increased and I needed another plan.I learned about DAS (Disability Access Service). It is a game changer for us.
Here are 5 tips you should know before visiting
1 Setting Up DAS
To set up DAS is actually quite a simple process. Disney tries accommodate guests who could find long waits uncomfortable and difficult to handle. I was nervous to ask for it. Looking at my son you cannot tell there is anything different about him.
He loves to have fun!
What if they wanted proof? As soon as I explained our situation, the cast member nodded and turned to my son. She explained to him that he was the leader. His band was a magic key that would get his family onto attractions through a VIP line. This was all he needed to hear to perk right up!
2 How DAS Works
Once DAS is loaded to your family member’s Magic Band, you are eligible to use the system.You simply visit the attraction that you would like to see and explain you will need a DAS return time.They will program it to your family member’s band and let you know when to come back.It’s that easy.Sort of like an instant FastPass.Return times vary depending on the actual wait times, so head for those with longer wait first if you didn’t get a regular FastPass (yes, you still get to prebook your original 3).
The Tower Of Terror is one of his faves!
You can only have one DAS return programmed at a time.When it’s time, you simply walk in through the FastPass entrance.I love that at no point do we feel centered out or the need to explain our situation again.(We had a terrible experience with a local amusement park’s version of this).The important thing to note is your VIP has to be riding and they have to scan their band first to activate the DAS pass for the rest of your family members.
3 Take Breaks In The Park
If there’s a longer wait between return times with DAS, use that opportunity to grab a snack somewhere nearby or find a play area and let the kiddos cut loose.We love the play areas inside the Flying Dumbos tent and near Splash Mountain in Magic Kingdom,the Boneyard in Animal Kingdom.
I never really understood them before I had kids.Who needs to play on a little slide and some climbers when they are in Walt Disney World?NOW I GET IT!In Epcot, a lot of the attractions in Future World have hands on games and play structures that are a great to pass some time.Most of them are after you exit the attraction, but you can simply walk in through the exit and head right for them.They are also greatplaces to cool off in the air conditioning if it’s a hotter day.The aquariums in the Seas with Nemo and Friends are also great, open spaces.
4 Plan For Triggers And Things To Avoid
Planning for possible triggers and knowing some things to avoid also helps us have better experience in the parks. Disney provides resourcesthat goes through many of the attractions and indicates some of the more sensory aspects that might be experienced (darkness, loud noises, restraints, surprise, etc.Some of these might have an easy fix like wearing ear defenders to lessen the noises, but for those who cannot handle ride restraints or extended periods of darkness, it’s great to be aware of what you might encounter.We also check out YouTube videos to get a better idea of what to expect if we are concerned about an attraction.Being able to talk about what might happen in advance helps with some of the anxiety of experiencing something new.
5 Know The Limits
Even with the FastPasses and DAS to help keep wait times down, our son can still hit a wall. As much as we’d love to stay a little longer and do one more attraction or show – we know that sometimes it’s time to head back to the resort. We try to stay Deluxe as often as possible since we do spend a large amount of time at the resort. Many of the Deluxe resorts have some great, low key activities for kids so even our down time still has some Disney flare. And the POOLS! They have some great feature pools with slides and activities planned throughout the afternoon.
Hopefully if you are considering visiting the Walt Disney World Resort and you will be travelling with someone on the Autism Spectrum, this helps you prepare so that you can spend more time experiencing the magic and not the meltdown!
It happens every time there is an increase, fans are up in arms saying they’ll never visit again, but sometimes you have to put things in to perspective like this Twitter fan.
I saw that the prices of Disneyland’s Signature Plus APs went up to $1400. Doing the math, if I bought just single tickets this year based on the amount of my visits to the Parks last year, it will cost me $19,000.
It is clear that the increase is meant to curb the crowds they anticipate will visit for Galaxy’s Edge. The over zealous Star Wars fans will not be discouraged by a price increase, in fact I know many who would pay extra for the opportuity to visit with lower crowds – myself included. I suspect this increase is to encourage more locals to purchase the tickets with blackout dates – this way Disney can control the crowd levels to some extent.
What do you think of the increases? Will it deter you from visiting Disneyland?
How much are tickets to visit Walt Disney World? The answer now depends on the date you want to visit.
On October 16th, Walt Disney World will introduce a new pricing structure for park tickets where the cost is based on the dates you want to visit. Disney is rolling out this new model along with a new online portal that is meant to simplify these changes.
Disney has said the reason for the changes is to “better distribute attendance throughout the year so that we can continue to improve and deliver a great experience.”
The actual pricing has not yet been released, but it will be interesting to see how different the price is for different dates. The value of course will be in off peak times, and you will pay a premium to be there on New Years Eve I’m sure! I think the problem will be with guests trying to compare dates and pricing – there are now more variables to consider when booking your vacation. First you have to decide how many days, what parks, to hop or not? Now you have to also consider if you’re arriving on the peak day of the week in peak season? Should you arrive Sunday instead to get the better pricing than Tuesday? The resorts have always fluctuated in price for peak times and weekends, but now that tickets will as well – the packages could have a substantial difference depending on when you arrive.
The change has not been well received on social media:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Going to need an MBA to plan a Disney vacation soon.</p>— annie armes 🍦 (@anniearmes) <a href="https://twitter.com/anniearmes/status/1044257294949785600?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 24, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Have your systems been upgraded to deal with this? Is the website going to work? MDE hasn't exactly been functioning properly for a while now. Will these new tickets be seamlessly integrated into the existing systems?</p>— Ydnam (@ydnam) <a href="https://twitter.com/ydnam/status/1044287404532789248?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 24, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->
With all of these changes, it highlights yet another reason to use a travel agent who specializes in Disney travel. I can’t imagine the big booking engines will be able to explain this one! It will also make the comparison shopping that much harder – how do you know you have ALL the same components?
Stay tuned for more updates as they are released, this currently only applies to Walt Disney World in Orlando.
How much does a Minnie Van cost? Well, it all depends where you’re going!
When Disney launched this service as a pilot in 2017 it was $20 USD for a trip anywhere on Disney property. I was a big fan of the Minnie Vans and have used them on multiple trips. The service is so easy to use and has become a permanent fixture on property. As the program has evolved over time, so has the pricing. What started out as a flat fee has now become based on distance.
The price for a Minnie Van is now $15 USD flat rate PLUS $3.15 per mile.
Price details found in the Lyft app when requesting a Minnie Van
While Uber and Lyft generally have a price surge model (fares go up when demand is greater), the two companies are very similar on pricing. Both Uber and Lyft charge around $1.00 to start a ride and $1.50 per mile, and .25 cents per minute. When we average that out, it equals about $2.00 per mile. These are just general estimates and vary by city – but it gives you an idea of the pricing comparison.
There are many reasons that I would prefer a Minnie Van vs an Uber or Lyft, but the biggest one is peace of mind. I know that the person driving me is a cast member and not a random stranger. I know that effectively a cast member is a stranger – but I think I trust Disney’s ‘screening process’ a little more than those other companies.
Price of a Minnie Van from the Grand Floridian to Epcot
The biggest challenge in my mind now is the price. It is more expensive than ever to take a Minnie Van on property, unless you’re going a short distance. $29 USD is quite a bit in my opinion for a lift from the Grand Floridian to Epcot – but I can tell you that at the end of a long day… I will gladly pay $30 to take me back to my resort if I don’t have to wait for a bus or monorail and get to travel in style!
It always amazes me that I get asked the question “How can you afford to go to Disney so often?”.It’s an uncomfortable question because I never know how to answer it.Are people expecting me to tell them how much money I earn?I can assure you, I don’t make any money from Pixie Dust Fan at the moment, but I’m hopeful one day it becomes a full time career. If you have tips on this I’m all ears!
I do have an unmagical job in the corporate world that pays my bills, but it doesn’t afford a big disposable income.I have to prioritize Disney vacations over most other things in order to visit as often as I do.While I still think it’s an awkward question – I’m going to answer it in hopes that you can learn a trick or two so that you can visit more often!
These are 10 things that I do to prioritize and save money for my Disney vacations.
1. I don’t buy clothes, and when I do – they’re not expensive
Ask anyone I work with in my corporate job, I don’t have an extensive wardrobe. I keep my work clothes until they don’t fit anymore or fall apart, whichever comes first.They aren’t expensive to begin with – and I purposely buy things that are mix and match so that I can appear to have more outfits than I really do.
2. I buy no name and discount brands at the grocery store
Yes – I scrimp everywhere else that I can.I buy no name paper towel and no name frozen pizzas.My garbage and recycling bags are no name and tend to rip easily – but that’s okay, I just make sure I’m careful when I carry them to the curb.Each dollar saved can go towards a treat in the parks!
They do the job!
3. I don’t spend money on entertainment
I’m too old to go clubbing and I don’t really go ‘out’ and spend money on entertainment anymore.It’s rare for me to go out and spend money on dinner, food or drinks unless I’m in Disney.At home, I’m normally at work or at home checking in on Pixie Dust Fans, I don’t have time to go out spending money, my big splurges are going to the movies when a new Star Wars movie is released!
4. I do my own repairs
It’s amazing the repairs you can do with a toolbox and YouTube video!I have fixed many things around my house by myself (the toilet running, the shower leaking and resetting the pilot light on my water heater to name a few).All of these have saved me a bunch of money on professional service calls.When I can’t fix it myself, I weigh the price of the call out vs the inconvenience.For example – my washing machine ‘errors out’ during the spin cycle.I can bypass the error by restarting the machine.It’s a royal pain, running up and down the stairs twice for every load of laundry – but the price of repair is the same as 4 nights at Pop Century.It’s okay – I could use the exercise anyway!
I don’t look quite so glamorous!
5. I measure all spending in relation to Disney vacations
Before I buy anything, I think about what I could do in Disney for the same money and then determine if it’s worth it.For example, if I wanted to spend an evening out for a nice dinner and a concert, I could easily spend $150.For that money I could pay for a Halloween or Christmas party ticket, or 2 really great table service meals, or a night at a Disney resort – I know what I would rather have!On a smaller scale, 3 steeped teas at Tim Horton’s would be the same as a chocolate covered pineapple spear or a dole whip.When you put it in to those terms, it makes it much easier to save money!
I’ll trade the lovely Tim Horton’s tea for these any day!
6. Each pay has something for Disney
I have friends at work who say they ‘pay themselves’ on every pay day – they put X amount in a retirement plan or RRSP.I do something similar, but it’s the Disney fund!I have a separate savings account that automatically transfers money on pay day for vacations.
7. I use the tools that my bank offers me
I have a USD bank account where I deposit money whenever I can.When I do it in smaller increments, I don’t feel the ‘sting’ of the exchange rate so much.I also have a prepaid USD Visa from my bank.I load that up so that when I’m there, I have a limit of money I can spend.Well… I like to think I limit it, but when a new Dooney is released, that’s when the OTHER Visa comes out.
I like having a balance sitting on my card – it helps me budget (sometimes!)
8. I quit smoking
After 30 years I finally quit smoking!Feels weird putting it in writing – but I’m calling it FINAL!What I spent in cigarettes was insane, but I never gave it a second thought because I NEEDED it.Now I choose to use the cigarette money for flights (believe it or not, it’s the same price for a round trip flight as it was for 1 month of smokes). Every time I think to myself “that’s crazy to go down for 4 days” I remind myself that not so long ago I would have literally set that money on fire. It’s how I rationalize it – and it works for me!
9. I buy an annual pass and I am a Disney Vacation Club Member
Buying an annual pass is a no brainer when you visit as many times as I do during the year.My Disney Vacation Club purchase was the right investment for me when I bought it before Bay Lake Tower opened because I didn’t have to finance it for long and the dollar was good. When you finance a DVC membership and then add the maintenance fees – you won’t be ‘saving’ money for years.
I don’t know what I would do without my annual pass!
10. I use a travel agent
While I have DVC points, I never have enough points to cover all of my trips, so I use Pure Magic Vacations for those ones.Even with ALL of my trips to Walt Disney World – I still book with a travel agent because I don’t want to have to research what promotions are available or sit on hold long distance if I want to change it.I don’t have them book my dining or fastpasses because I like to do that myself, but the room booking or cruise bookings they do for me.This is their profession – they know what they’re doing and it’s no cost to me, why wouldn’t I use them?
It really is my happy place, so I make it a priority in my life.
There you have it, my list of things that I do at home to make sure I have money for my Disney vacations! It’s clear that I prioritize my Disney vacations, because they are important to me. These trips are what make me happy – so how could I not make them a priority in my life?
The one component of the perfect Disney vacation that most travellers don’t prepare for is the airport. Sure you’ve planned your dining, tickets and resort, but what good is it if you can’t get there? Do you know what theTransportation Security Administration(TSA) expects from you? Are you ready for what is waiting for you at the airport?
The mission of the TSA is to “Protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce”. Sounds kind of generic but there are specific things that the TSA do every day to keep us safe – and they could very well disrupt our travel plans!
While each airport has different procedures, there are some general guidelines that can help make your flights as painless as possible.
Here are 9 things you need to know before you get ready to fly.
1. ARRIVE EARLY
When the airline suggests arriving 2 hours before your flight, it’s for a reason. Security check points can have extremely long waits for a variety of reasons.
Recently there have been many posts from travellers at Orlando International Airport that the TSA has been swabbing each package of candy in a carry-on. This has created some rather long lines given so many families flying home from Disney are bringing home lots of treats. Do you want to miss your flight because you didn’t leave enough time for your 20 bags of candy to be swabbed? And if you don’t have the candy – you can bet someone in front of you will!
This is a view you don’t want to miss!
2. HAVE PROPER DOCUMENTATION AND IDENTIFICATION
Seems like a no brainer, but you would be amazed how many people don’t know what the required documentation is! Your airline will have all of the information about what is required based on the cities that you’re flying to and from. Make sure if both parents are not travelling together that you have the required paperwork to allow you to take the child with you. Make sure these documents are in your carry-on, and not your checked bag!
3. KNOW WHAT YOU CAN CARRY ON
While some items that are not allowed in your carry-on are obvious (like a firearm or dynamite) – others are not. Did you know that you Christmas Crackers and foam toy swords are not permitted? What about the cordless curling iron your teenager always has in her bag for those last minute touch ups?
It’s important to check before you get to the airport! For the TSA list of items you can and can’t bring clickhere.
What can you put in your checked luggage vs your carry-on?
4. KNOW THE LIMIT FROM YOUR AIRLINE
Each airline has their own guidelines to how big your luggage and carry-on can be. Know the dimensions allowed and the weight. Having your checked bag be overweight can be very costly! Invest in a luggage scale like this one from Amazon – we weigh our luggage ourselves before we leave to avoid surprises and delays.
When you’re going through security you may be asked to remove your shoes, jackets, belts and jewelry. Anything that could set off the metal detectors can delay the process. FYI – those lovely Alex and Ani bracelets trigger it every time! I make sure mine are in my carry-on or checked bag.
6. REMOVE YOUR OLD LUGGAGE TAGS
Still have that airline tag on your bag from your last trip? Remove it. While the airline will probably catch that one, it’s best to avoid any possibly confusion for the baggage handlers.
Have a luggage tag with your name and contact information attached to your checked bag. Consider using your work address for security reasons and your cell phone number since it will be with you.
7. HOLD ON TO YOUR BOARDING PASS!
I wish I could tell you how many times I have been travelling with someone who has ‘lost’ their boarding pass. It’s easy to do – you use the restroom, get a drink, do a little shopping and leave it on the counter. You’re going to need it to board the plane – so make sure it’s always with you. I have a ‘passport wallet’ like this one to make sure I have everything together at all times.
Don’t waste time trying to find your airline or your gate. Some airports are HUGE and can take a great deal of time trying to get from one place to another. Connecting flights can be disastrous if you haven’t left enough time in between them to get to where you’re going.
9. KNOW WHERE TO GET RELIABLE INFORMATION
Your airline website and the airport websites are the place to get the best information. Check your flight status for delays, expected wait times and terminal maps before you go. Lots of well meaning strangers on Facebook & Twitter will give you advice, but they won’t be there to help you if you get denied boarding.
Beginning Sunday, October 15th, 2017, the Walt Disney World Resort will welcome guests – and their dogs – to four of its resort properties, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.
Guests at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and the cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will be permitted to have up to 2 dogs in their resort room for an additional charge.
Each property’s per night / per room pet-cleaning rate is:
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort $50/night
Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort $50/night
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort $75/night
Cabins at Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort $50/night
While Disney states that the guests are responsible for the proper care, behaviour and waste maintenance of the dogs, I struggle to see how it will be enforced.
The rules indicate that the dogs must be well behaved and should not be left unattended in the room for more that 7 hours. If the dog is making noise while you are out (at the parks enjoying your vacation) they will call you to address the issue within 30 minutes. Given that Disney recommends up to 90 minutes to travel on property for dining reservations, I’m not sure how they expect owners to come back to their resort within 30 minutes to address ‘noise’.
I must admit that when I read the announcement, my first reaction was “NO”, this is not a good idea. I love some dogs, but I’m afraid of big ones – I have been all my life, so the thought of a big dog being in the hallway with me at my resort makes me very uncomfortable. There are people with severe allergies who would be concerned about checking in to a room where the previous occupant had 4 legs, but that is an issue today with service animals.
Anna’s dog loves Disney too!
I know that Disney will do whatever they can to make ALL of their guests happy, but I think I may have to reserve judgement on this one until I see it in action. I was not affected adversely by any of the dogs on property during Hurricane Irma, it was quite the opposite. I loved seeing them playing around outside of the resort and they were all lovely, gentle dogs that I had the pleasure of being around.
On the other hand, I know that not all pet owners are responsible and not all dogs are well behaved. My sister has 2 west highland terriers, and while I love them dearly – they bark at their own shadows. That’s not a metaphor or exaggeration – if there is too much sunlight, it drives them CRAZY and they will spend hours barking at their own shadows. I will reiterate again, I do love them – but I wouldn’t want to be in a resort room next to them… especially on a sunny day!
Angus & Dug Looking Well Behaved – no shadows!
Disney Facebook groups and Twitter have been very active with people sharing their opinions. Guests feel very strongly both for and against it, but it’s big news! Even People picked up the story today!
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Attention Disney Lovers! Now Your Dogs Can Stay at Disney World Hotels with You <a href="https://t.co/LD4EvCWvpJ">https://t.co/LD4EvCWvpJ</a></p>— People (@people) <a href="https://twitter.com/people/status/918954458758942720?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 13, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Service animals have been in the parks and resorts for years, and while there has been some chatter about people taking advantage of the ‘service animal designation’ – the volume of animals was pretty limited. How will this change with this new policy? Only time will tell.
I believe it will still be a small number of guests who will pay the cleaning fee in addition to their resort reservation to bring their dogs with them. Who would want to pay $50 per day to leave your dog at the resort while you’re at the Magic Kingdom? Why not have them at the Best Friends Pet Care Centre where they would not be alone and have plenty of activities to keep them entertained?
How much trouble could this guy cause??
While the logistics of how this will work are still to be seen, it will be interesting to watch how Disney handles the negative feedback to this and multiple requests for ‘deep cleaning’ of the rooms before check in. Many resorts outside of Disney have this option and it’s a positive thing for many whose kids have 4 legs. The question is how Disney will manage it. Will Mousekeeping be overloaded trying to thoroughly clean the rooms? Will the landscaping crews find more than just dirt around the flowers? Or will everyone be responsible, respect the other guests, follow the rules and enjoy having their dogs with them at the happiest place on earth?
Angus and Dug looking sweet!
We shall see… but just so you know – my sister’s dogs (Dug and Angus) will NEVER be on vacation with me 🙂
For full details – please see the official information here
Will you take your dogs on vacation to Walt Disney World? What do you think of this decision?
Minnie Vans are the newest form of transportation at Walt Disney World, and worth every penny to me. They operate similar to Lyft and Uber, but use a slightly different pricing model to take you anywhere on Disney property.
Here are the top 5 reasons you should try the Minnie Van service the next time you’re in Walt Disney World
1. It’s a Disney Service – Safety First
There are car seats for the little ones and each driver goes through a rigorous 8 hour training class on how to install them. There are vans that are equipped to transfer guests with wheelchairs and ECVs. The Cast Members driving know exactly where they’re going without looking at the GPS on their phones. Safety first – and it shows.
Minnie Van Car Seats
2. Access to Cast Member Only Roads
Did my drive seem shorter with a Minnie Van vs a regular Lyft? Absolutely! Our driver was able to utilize the Cast Member Only roads in the back of Fort Wilderness to get us to our destination quickly.
3. Preferred Drop Points
Since this service is Disney, they obviously give preference to their drivers. The drop off and pick up points are much more convenient to guests. At the Magic Kingdom you will not have to go to the Ticket and Transportation Centre first, they will drop you at the bus dock right outside. Regular Lyft drivers are not able to go to the bus stops at the Magic Kingdom so we found this a huge plus. Less walking and much more convenient to be in a Minnie Van.
4. Uninterrupted Cast Member Time
On a recent trip we took as many as 8 Minnie Van trips – all with wonderful cast members! Having the time in the vehicle to chat with them one on one was such a treat, we even had the same cast member twice.
The Cast Members we met had such great stories about their careers with Disney, there were a few that we didn’t want the ride to end because we were enjoying the chat so much!
5. Convenience and Comfort
Being able to see where the car was when it was on it’s way is one of the great things I love about Uber and Lyft. Knowing the approximate arrival time is somehow comforting when you’re waiting after walking around all day.
With Air Conditioning controls in the front and the back – we never had an uncomfortable temperature and the background Disney music was an added bonus.
Being able to go from resort to resort without transferring to a different bus made me very happy!
Minnie Vans are available at all Walt Disney World Resorts. If you would like to know how to use the service – click here for instructions.
Have you tried Disney’s Minnie Van service? What did you think?
The My Disney Experience app has upped its game by adding some features that we’ve all been waiting for. In a move that integrates even more information in to your smartphone, it has made the app an even more important piece of your Walt Disney World vacation.
1. Track Dining Plan Credits
Tracking your Disney Dining credits has always been a bit of a pain for my family. When we travel with 7 of us, it’s difficult to know how many credits are left – especially with snacks and quick service meals when we split up. While we normally eat all of our table service meals together, the snacks and quick service are the challenge.
The newest update allows guests to track their dining plan credits and see how many were issued, redeemed and are still available for use.
This may mean that I won’t be trying to use up 20 snack credits in 2 days. I think it will make things much easier for planning!
2. Check Resort Purchases
This one might be both good and bad for me! Many times I’m standing in a store staring at a new Dooney when I wonder “how muchmoney have I already spent this week?” – now I won’t have to wonder. The problem is that I’m usually able to convince myself I haven’t spent that much and then I buy the Dooney – this app will remind me, it is not in my budget! Good thing or bad thing? We’ll see on my next visit.
3. Renew Annual Pass
I am an annual pass holder and this update will make it even easier for me to renew. Disney is the master at making it convenient for you to spend money!
Mobile ordering quick service food at Walt Disney World has really improved meal time for me!
One of my biggest pet peeves was always having to wait in a HUGE line for a “quick service” meal. It hardly felt like “quick service” when I had to stand in line for 15 minutes just to order. Yes, you can avoid the lines if you don’t eat lunch at 12 or dinner at 5, but what happens if I’m hungry at noon? Now I can order it from my phone and avoid those lines!
At select Walt Disney World quick service locations, you can pre-order your meal on the My Disney Experience app right from your smartphone. I had the opportunity to try it when we ate at Satu’li Canteen in Pandora at Animal Kingdom and I have to say – I LOVE it!
Technology is a great thing – when it works. I was a little hesitant trying this since there wasn’t much of a line and I was really hungry, but thought I’d give it a go for research purposes!
Selecting my meal
It allowed me to select my sides, sauces etc.
So far so good.
Payment was done right on my Visa that is linked in my Disney account.
Let them know I’m here to start preparing my order
When you select the “I’m Here, Prepare My Order” option – they start preparing your meal.
Then you wait….
Order is ready confirmation in the app
The notification was in the app – but it also gave me an ‘alert’ notification on my iPhone too!
And lunch was served! It was a great experience, no lines.- quick food. What more could I ask for? Maybe that they roll it out at more locations in the parks AND resorts?
Have you tried mobile ordering yet? Was it as easy to use as it was for me?
I have always maintained that there is no need to rent a car when you’re staying on Disney property at Walt Disney World. The Magical Express will take you back and forth to the airport and the bus, monorail, or boats will take you anywhere else for FREE. Why would you pay extra to rent a car? Because you want the convenience and comfort.
At the end of the night when you’re leaving a park it can be very crowded. While Disney does their best to make sure they have plenty of buses, monorails and boats, there is inevitably a long line for some of them when a park closes for the evening. If you’re willing to pay extra to avoid the crowds, a car rental, taxi or Uber were your only options – until now.
Guests staying at Disney’s Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach Club Resorts will are the first to test out this new mode of transportation. Guests are able to arrange their own private transfer within Disney property from a smartphone. Each van comes equipped with two car seats for children stored in the trunk if they are not required. A trip is $20 USD flat fee for up to 6 passengers.
With the launch of the Express Transportation option I was happy to pay extra for a little comfort when I was park hopping. The new Minnie Vans are going to be a welcome cost at the end of a long night when I just want to get back to my resort and put my feet up.
I can’t wait to test them out! Stay tuned for my full review!
Big plans were announced for Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts at the D23 Expo. From new resorts, park expansions and Disney Cruise Line updates, it was so hard to keep track of it all. Below is a summary of the big announcements that will impact Walt Disney World.
1. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Set to open in 2019 first at Disneyland and later that year in Walt Disney World, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge promises to be a fully immersive experience with 2 major attractions. One attraction is reported to make you feel like your on a Star Destroyer, but I am MOST excited about the second – flying the Millennium Falcon! The lands will give you an opportunity to dine at the cantina and see some of your favorite characters!
<blockquote class="twitter-video" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">You're home. Get a glimpse of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StarWars?src=hash">#StarWars</a>: Galaxy's Edge. Coming to <a href="https://twitter.com/DisneyParks">@DisneyParks</a> in 2019. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/D23Expo?src=hash">#D23Expo</a> <a href="https://t.co/l3PfJDzLOK">pic.twitter.com/l3PfJDzLOK</a></p>— Star Wars (@starwars) <a href="https://twitter.com/starwars/status/886402594372853761">July 16, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
2. Star Wars Resort at Walt Disney World
No opening date has been set, but this new resort is just what Star Wars fans have been looking for! According to Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, this will be a revolutionary new vacation experience.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Why stay in a Galaxy Far, Far Away? Our new <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StarWars?src=hash">#StarWars</a>-themed Resort will have you right in the middle of the action! <a href="https://t.co/2UOB7vBcME">https://t.co/2UOB7vBcME</a> <a href="https://t.co/Ai2lyQxgmm">pic.twitter.com/Ai2lyQxgmm</a></p>— WDW Today (@WDWToday) <a href="https://twitter.com/WDWToday/status/886364998183923712">July 15, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
3. Epcot Getting 2 New Attractions
Guardians of the Galaxy attraction will be added to Future World and will replace the Universe of Energy. A Ratatouille inspired attraction will be added to the France pavilion in World Showcase. Guests will be “shrunk” to Remy’s size inside of Gusteau’s restaurant in this 4D experience, similar to the attraction in Paris. Specific opening dates have not been released for either attraction but they are scheduled to be open before Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Attractions inspired by Guardians of the Galaxy & Ratatouille are coming to Epcot! More: <a href="https://t.co/LA37kZBG4m">https://t.co/LA37kZBG4m</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/D23Expo?src=hash">#D23Expo</a> <a href="https://t.co/JICy5vKMxy">pic.twitter.com/JICy5vKMxy</a></p>— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) <a href="https://twitter.com/DisneyParks/status/886359426105528320">July 15, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
4. Mickey Themed Ride
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios! An attraction inspired by Mickey Shorts will put you inside the world of a Mickey cartoon! No opening date has been announced, but the Great Movie Ride will be closing to make way for this new adventure.
5. TRON Is Coming To The Magic Kingdom
Being built next to Space Mountain, we can’t think of a better spot for this new attraction. TRON Lightcycle Power Run is a coaster style attraction at Shanghai Disneyland and we can’t wait to see it here. No opening date has been announced, but it will be open in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.
6. Space Dining At Epcot
Epcot is a great place to visit for dining reservations and will be even more appealing with the opening of a new themed restaurant! Sitting next to the Mission: Space attraction, guests will be dining in space – with views from high above Earth!
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Adjacent to Mission: SPACE will be a new table service restaurant with great views! <a href="https://t.co/8ISQEa5aUl">https://t.co/8ISQEa5aUl</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/D23Expo?src=hash">#D23Expo</a> <a href="https://t.co/pimY9c43m8">pic.twitter.com/pimY9c43m8</a></p>— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) <a href="https://twitter.com/DisneyParks/status/886360678851907585">July 15, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
7. New Transportation Options and Disney Vacation Club Resort
Disney Skyliner gondolas will soon connect Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach Resorts to Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot. The gondolas will also connect Hollywood Studios and Epcot’s International Gateway to a new Disney Vacation Club Resort called Disney’s Riviera Resort. New Minnie themed vehicles will offer point-to-point transportation options for guests. Rumored to be something of an Uber type service, it could be a great way to avoid the buses. No costs or opening times have been released.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">We're excited to roll out in style in Minnie Vans with easy access to all areas of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WaltDisneyWorld?src=hash">#WaltDisneyWorld</a>! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/D23Expo?src=hash">#D23Expo</a> <a href="https://t.co/vw9aUCXAsy">https://t.co/vw9aUCXAsy</a> <a href="https://t.co/0X9LG2OYzH">pic.twitter.com/0X9LG2OYzH</a></p>— WDW Today (@WDWToday) <a href="https://twitter.com/WDWToday/status/886365451000983553">July 15, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
8. A New Theatre At Magic Kingdom
Main Street U.S.A will have a new theatre based on a 1920’s theatre from Kansas City where Walt Disney lived when he left Marceline. With the success of shows like Frozen Live at the Hyperion in Disneyland, this is sure to be a great addition!
9. Toy Story Land
During the summer of 2018, Toy Story Land will open at Hollywood Studios! This new land will let guests explore Andy’s backyard with all of their favorite Toy Story characters. Along with the exploration there will be 2 new themed attractions. The Slinky Dog Dash will be a family coaster while the Alien Swirling Saucers will have aliens trying to capture your rocket toy vehicle with The Claw! How exciting does this sound??
Disney Cruise Line announced last year that they were building two new ships. At the D23 Expo it was revealed that there is a third new ship coming!
California Adventure Park Super Heroes
Spider-Man and the Avengers will join guardians of the Galaxy at Disney California Adventure Park. More details on this to come!
More updates for Disney California Adventure Park include a new look for Paradise Pier by creating neighborhoods filled with stories from some of your favorite Pixar movies. This permanent addition will open during a limited time celebration in 2018. The very popular Paint The Night parade will return, but this time to Disney California Adventure park!
Disneyland Paris Marvel Characters
Disney’s Hotel New York will be updated to include Marvel theming! Who doesn’t want to stay in a resort that reflects the worlds of The Avengers, Spider Man and Iron Man?
Which update are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments!
Simply put, a Magic Band is a wristband that contains all of the information stored in your My Disney Experience account. Inside of the band there is a small chip that interacts with different terminals throughout Walt Disney World. Magic Bands are complimentary with your Walt Disney World resort stay or you can purchase them if you’re not staying on property.
Magic Bands are incredibly convenient – here are 6 ways you will love using yours!
Access to your Walt Disney World resort room
Instead of keys or key cards, your Magic Band will unlock your resort room door. Tapping your Magic Band to the small device on the outside of your door will unlock it! The doors automatically lock when you leave, so make sure you’re always wearing your band!
Your park tickets
When your Disney park tickets linked to you’re my Disney Experience account they are accessible via your Magic Band. When you arrive at the parks you scan your Magic Band for entry. There is also a finger scan that connects your band to you personally in case you lose it.
The My Disney Experience Site where you can plan your adventures!
Once all of your fastpass reservations are made, you use your Magic Band to redeem them. When you arrive at the attraction, tap your band to the fastpass device and it updates your account that you have used your fastpass. When you make more fastpass reservations they are automatically added to your band!
If you have the Disney dining plan, your dining credits are stored on your magic band. When you want to redeem them for a meal or snack credit you tap the band to the terminal and enter your personal pin. The pin protects you in the event you lose your band, no one can take your dining credits.
Charging and shopping
If you’re staying at a Disney resort, you can charge your purchases to your room or credit card! They also have a pin associated with this feature to protect you if someone else has your Magic Band. Disney really does make spending money easy…
When you see a Disney photographer in the parks, you have to stop and get a picture! They are a great way to make sure everyone is in the shot. After the photographer takes your pictures they scan your magic band and your photos are magically added to you’re my Disney Experience account. If you have purchased Memory Maker you’re all set, if not – you can purchase the photos individually.
Magic Band helps you organize your vacation and manage it through your My Disney Experience account. You can customize the color, add decorative pins to them and reuse them until the battery dies (approx. 2 years). If you’re a stickler for matching them to your outfits, you can collect all the different colors like Carrie did! They really are the perfect accessory to any outfit when you’re at Walt Disney World!
During a trip last year there were a few ‘mishaps’ where I needed to change outfits a few times one day. It might have been chocolate icing from my cupcake, mustard from my burger or my Pina Colava (okay, it was all 3), but they ended up on my clothes. I knew I needed to do laundry.
I gathered up all of the dirty clothes and headed to the laundry room at Bay Lake Tower where I was staying. I purchased my soap from the machine for $1 each with my credit card. So far so good.
I loaded up two machines (might as well wash all of the dirty clothes we had), then I saw the sign.
Disney laundry is high tech!
Using the website laundryview.com/Disneyworld I was able to view the progress of my washing. I could set up an alert to let me know when it was done, or I could just keep checking online. No need to sit in the room or remember what time I put the load in. My vacation brain does not let me monitor time well and this was exactly what I needed.
Doing laundry was a great excuse to have some down time outside of the parks and enjoy the pool or resort. I chose to enjoy my balcony with an afternoon cocktail and relax in the sun.
About 40 minutes later, I checked the status and the laundry was ready to move to the dryer. I could see online that there were 4 dryers available for use before I went back to the laundry room. I purchased my dryer sheets from the machine, turned on a couple of dryers and had another little break.
Before I knew it, the site was saying the dryers were done. Within 20 minutes I had folded the clothes, brought them back to the room and put them away. I felt relieved, now I didn’t have to worry about any ‘spills’ during future meals. Doesn’t that happen to everyone? Put on a white shirt and immediately spill ketchup on it? Happens to me ALL THE TIME, especially on vacation.
While I dreaded the thought of laundry while on vacation, it turned out to be a relaxing afternoon that we now plan for almost every trip. If I know I’m going to do laundry on vacation, I don’t pack extra clothes for the inevitable spills. I save valuable space in my suitcase for all of the stuff I buy, and I’m guaranteed a couple of hours at my resort, sitting in the sun with a drink in my hand. Somehow doing laundry at Disney isn’t as painful as it is at home!
I’m scrolling through Facebook tonight and reading the random posts on various pages when I come across one that is posted to the official Walt Disney World page. It’s a post from a couple that have allegedly been ‘scammed’ by a Disney Cast Member.
In their claim, they say they directly paid a Disney cast member $1900 to book a vacation for them. The cast member told them that she got a promotion and could no longer help them and would request a refund for them. After limited communication – they reached out to Disney to confirm the refund was coming and were told that the reservation was made – but was never paid for. It was then clear to them that the cast member stole their money.
This couple have taken to social media to complain that Disney will not reimburse them for the money they allegedly gave to the cast member.
After reading the posts and the couple’s responses, there are a few things that bother me about this story:
They clearly gave this person money because they believed they were getting some kind of deal – maybe a cast member discount? Does that mean they knew the cast member personally? Why else would they give the money directly to this person vs. through a travel agency or Disney itself?
They paid them through pay pal – I don’t know about you, but I don’t pay large companies via pay pal. I don’t shop at Best Buy, The Disney Store or Alamo and submit my payment that way. If they asked for a pay pal payment – I’d be suspicious, but that’s just me.
Disney isn’t accountable for what their cast members do when they’re not on the job. If this cast member was ‘on the job’ – they wouldn’t be paying for their vacation through pay pal (see point above). This is like asking McDonald’s to pay a bank that their employee robbed. Would you ask a movie theatre to reimburse you for the bootlegged video you bought from their ticket taker? I think not.
If this cast member really does work for Disney and was using that privilege to scam people – you can be sure that they won’t be working there for long. That is what Disney will and should do to address the situation.
If in fact these people lost their money, I feel bad for them. It’s a horrible thing to be robbed and $1,900 is a lot to lose – but how it that Disney’s fault? There are many people on social media posting that Disney is supposed to be ‘all about customer service’ and they can’t believe they aren’t ‘making this right’ – but it isn’t Disney’s to fix. This is a matter for the police and if they have all of the receipts and communications that they say they have, the police should be able to handle it quickly.
Too often people think they can force a company like Disney to pay for their mistakes by bashing them on social media, and they may just get what they want. While $1,900 is nothing to a company of this size, it speaks to the larger issue of guests believing that no matter what goes wrong “in the name of Disney” – that they will fix it. This isn’t a culture that Disney should encourage, and I hope that they don’t give in.
UPDATE: AS OF MAY 1 2019 No smoking is permitted inside Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme parks, water parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex or Downtown Disney in California.
Before we begin, I have to confess – I am a smoker. Hold on to your pitchforks before you start with the lectures of how bad and disgusting it is – I’ve heard it, and I assure you – I know it. I am well aware that it is detrimental to my health and how gross it is. I’m an intelligent woman in my (dare I say it) mid 40’s who has heard it all. Am I proud that I have not been able to quit? No, I wish I could, and I still hope someday I will. But that is a whole other blog. (update – I quit smoking! I use the money to visit Walt Disney World now!)
For those of you who are heading to Walt Disney World for the first time, you need to be aware of the 2 important rules about smoking.
All resort rooms are non-smoking, including your balcony. There are designated areas at each resort.
All of the parks and Disney Springs have designated smoking areas, outside of the parks as of May 1st 2019. You cannot smoke outside of these areas. They can be difficult to find and may change frequently, so it’s best to check the Disney app for locations.
If you have not selected your resort yet – it’s wise to look at the maps online to see how many smoking areas there are and were they are located. The majority of resorts that I have stayed at have been relatively convenient to reach a smoking area, with the exception of Animal Kingdom Lodge.
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It makes sense to me that there wouldn’t be smoking areas near the animals, but I didn’t realize how FAR I would have to walk, essentially to the parking lot. I don’t know if it was just my luck that the room was at the end of a very long hall, but it felt like I needed to wake up an extra 45 minutes early in the morning just to walk to the smoking area! At the end of a long day in the parks, it felt like miles….
In the parks, it was a whole other story. While Epcot seemed to be the most “smoker friendly” park, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom were not at all. Essentially, they just didn’t have enough smoking areas. Now there are none – anywhere in the parks.
I remember the days when you could walk down Main Street with a cigarette in your hand. It wasn’t a good idea as it was too easy on a crowded day to have a child come close to the end of your cigarette in their excitement. It made perfect sense to me when they banned smoking except in the designated smoking areas for this very reason.
I was happy to go to the designated areas back then. There were a few sprinkled throughout the park and they were never crowded. Not because there were no other smokers, but because there were quite a few areas! Normally there was only ever 2 or 3 people in each one, so there wasn’t a big cloud of smoke hanging over them. They were out of the way, yet easy enough to find. Those were the good ol’ days.
Fast forward to now – and the smoking areas are outside of the parks. What does that mean? 30 people in this ‘out of the way’ smoking area at a time, and the big cloud of smoke is above it, around it, and wafting every way it can.
Let me stop here to say, I would never smoke outside of one of these areas. It is my choice to smoke and I respect the other guests at the park. I have noticed over the last couple of years a significant increase in guests smoking outside of the designated areas and I have to wonder what changed? I don’t think the smoking population has increased – but the available places to smoke have substantially decreased.
Is the lack of availability a good reason to break the rules? Let me clearly say NO. I would never condone any of the reasons people smoke outside of the designated areas. I am merely pointing out that with the limited areas, we seem to have created another problem.
I am a Disney fanatic who happens to be a smoker and should be able to enjoy my vacation as much as anyone else – as long as I am respectful of others.
I understand that people have allergies, asthma, and host of things that are impacted by second hand smoke which is why I am in favor of designated areas so that people with these conditions do not have to be in them. The smoking areas need to be easily avoidable for these people. Now I only wish I could avoid the overpowering perfume of some guests that give me a severe headache – but again, that’s a whole other blog too.
What is the BEST answer in my opinion? More smoking areas. Before you start with your outrage, let me tell you what I believe this would have been the best solution.
1 The smoking areas should be more ‘out of the way’.
I don’t mean ‘impossible to find’. They need to be in locations that are not walkways. I’m never happy sitting in a walkway where guests have to walk through the smoking area to get where they’re going. They need to have a choice to walk through or not – and the one that was on the walkway to Tomorrowland didn’t give them a choice.
2 There should be more of them.
You need to have more – to have less people in them to make them less of a ‘polluted air zone’. When you cram 30 smokers in 1 area, it’s much more toxic and noticeable to those people in the vicinity. Overcrowding also causes the smokers to spread out – outside of the designated area.
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3 They need to be easy to find.
I know the app has the map – but they can’t be so well hidden that a first time visitor can’t find them. Put them in the background and have a little sign or something that ‘points this way’ so that no one is wandering for 20 minutes trying to find one
4 Smoking outside of the areas must be strictly enforced.
Many cast members don’t enforce this rule because they don’t want a confrontation with the guest when they tell them they have to leave the park. If they were a little more convenient it might be easier to approach them.
So there you have it, my view on the smoking at Disney debate. I’m sure many of you will disagree – but some will see my point. It’s a very passionate debate and I’m anxious to hear your comments!
I quit smoking cigarettes in March 2018. I still agree with everything I wrote 🙂
Walt Disney was a smoker himself, who died of lung cancer.
We have all read the horror stories online about a Disney vacation that went wrong. Guests standing at the gates of the Magic Kingdom with their “Universal” ticket wondering why they couldn’t get in, or they are at the park asking for Harry Potter. Maybe it was the family that was very athletic that thought they could walk from Epcot to Animal Kingdom not realizing those were highways on the maps and not walking trails. These might be extreme examples of misinformation – but you get the idea.
I’ve said it before and will say it again, when booking your Disney vacation you should always enlist the help of a Disney Travel Agent. They don’t cost you anything and can help you avoid so many mistakes! There are many benefits to booking with them, but now the question is – how do you find a GOOD one? How do you make sure that the agent you’re booking with is a well-versed Disney travel agent? What questions could you ask to make sure they know what they’re doing before you book with them? It would be hard to come up with those questions if you’ve never been, so I’ve done it for you.
Here are the 6 questions you should ask your Disney travel agent before booking with them
1 When was the last time you visited Walt Disney World?
Walt Disney World is probably the most complicated of the Disney destinations. You might need to arrange Genie+, park reservations, virtual queues and dining. There are 4 parks to consider, parades, shows, fireworks and transportation options so many things that can impact your stress level on vacation. If your agent hasn’t been to Walt Disney World in 5 years, how will they know what options are best for your family? Reading online doesn’t put things in to context and sometimes they are completely misinformed opinions. You have to experience the crowds at the Magic Kingdom fireworks in order to tell you a good spot to watch them from! You can’t beat personal experience when someone is advising you.
2 Do you get the dining plan, memory maker, or hopper pass when you go?
These are valuable insights that only someone who visits the park can give you. If your agent tells you that their family gets the dining plan because it’s a good value for the character meals her son likes, you’re more informed about the best use of those dining credits! All of these ‘add ons’ are really personal choices for your trip and you need someone that can guide you through them based on what’s right for YOUR family.
Scar Art of Animation Disney Resort
3 How big is your team and are they all Disney focused?
Having someone that is part of an agency that is Disney focused will ensure that you have back up in the event your agent is sick or is on vacation when you have a question. It also means they have a wealth of knowledge to tap in to if they don’t have personal experience on the subject you need. For example – one agent on the team may have a child with allergies that can share that first hand knowledge about the process of eating at a buffet with allergies. If they are a good team, they’re sharing all of that stuff with each other regularly. Lone agents or people who work in agencies that aren’t Disney focused don’t have that wealth of experiences and resources behind them to make sure you are covered. No one agent will have experience in EVERYTHING Disney has to offer – but a good team will.
4 How much is your service and what is included?
This is a tricky one as some agencies will not charge a fee – but won’t give you advice for dining or Genie+. Other agencies will do all of that for you, but they charge a fee for that service. Depending on the package you are booking, most agencies will NOT charge you for their service. It’s important to have the conversations about what is included in the service including promotions. Be cautious of agents who tell you that if Disney releases a promo that they will absolutely get it for you. What they don’t tell you is that the space can be limited and sometimes not available for the resort you have booked. A good agency will monitor the promotions for you and apply it to your reservation if you qualify. If your reservation isn’t eligible because the resort is not included, they will work with you to see if you’d like an alternate one. Beware of false promises!
5 What is your favourite resort and park?
Asking your agent a personal question about what is important to them gives you some insight in to their personality. It should be a conversation that helps guide the discussion about what is best for YOU and your family!
6 The last (and most important) thing you should ask your agent before booking with them is “why do you do it?”
This is such an important question, and you should listen carefully to the answer. A really good agent is also a Disney fan that will want you to go and love it as much as they do. That’s the thing about us ‘Disney people’, we get so excited when someone comes back from vacation and says they understand the Disney magic we were talking about. When you find an agent that is a real Disney fan, you can be sure they’re invested in making sure you have the most fantastic and magical experience ever!
While the concierge desk at your resort and front desk agents are very helpful and I encourage you to go to them with your questions, sometimes you can wait in a very long line to get a simple answer – “what time is the 3pm parade?” (Yes, that is a real question that I have been asked). Thanks to the My Disney Experience App, you can now make dining reservations, fast passes, view your Photo Pass pictures, and get more information on your smart phone. Why wait in more lines when you can find the answers for yourself?
Here are 5 of the most commonly asked questions that you can actually find the answers to without waiting in line:
What time is the 3pm parade at the Magic Kingdom?
The 3pm parade is actually called Festival of Fantasy and it takes place at, you guessed it, 3pm every day. However, pick up a times guide at the park entrance to ensure that it is taking place that day. You will also want to take note in the guide of where the parade starts in the park. For example – if the parade starts in Frontierland at 3pm – it won’t reach Main Street until 10 or 15 minutes later and vice versa.
How late is the food court open?
Most resorts have their Quick Service dining areas open until midnight. Instead of waiting in line at the Front Desk to ask this question, pop into the dining area and ask any of the Cast Members walking around; that is their area of expertise after all.
What characters can I meet at (insert park name here)?
Thanks to the new My Disney Experience App, you can look up all characters and their appearance times depending on the park you are going to.
Do I have to wear my MagicBand all the time?
Use you common sense. Of course no one is going to monitor to ensure the band is on your wrist 24 hours of every day of your vacation, but it is your room key and in most cases, your park passes, dining plan, and even credit card. If it is not on your wrist there is always the chance of it falling out of a bag, becoming unclipped from your belt loop, or otherwise risk being misplaced. It is designed to be easily accessible and since it is on your wrist, you can see that it is with you at all times.
When is it going to stop raining? (Yes, this is also a real question).
While we as Cast Members are good friends with Mickey and Minnie, we aren’t with Mother Nature. When you ask a Front Desk Agent or Concierge this question, they will simply go to the Weather Network and find some sort of radar to give you an approximate answer. This is something you can most definitely research on your own
Once again, I encourage you to ask Cast Members questions and seek assistance when you need it. But there are many resources available to you, like the My Disney Experience App which are incredibly helpful; take advantage of them 🙂
*About the Author* – Darci is a former Cast Member who worked Front Desk at various resorts at Walt Disney World. She was a member of the Disney College Program which allows students to work all over Disney property – not only EPCOT’s Canada Pavilion. She now resides in Ontario and feeds her Disney passion by assisting family and friends with their Disney vacation planning, watching live streams of park shows, and even got engaged at the Magic Kingdom. Disney is and always will be a part of her life. She believes that you can take a girl out of Disney World, but you can’t take Disney World out of the girl.
Disney is an incredible company that gives a large amount of freedom and empowerment to their Cast Members. All Cast go through extensive training (especially Front Desk, Concierge, and Guest Relations) and Disney therefore trusts that their Cast Members will use their judgement when making decisions as to how to ensure that families have the most out of their Disney vacations. That being said, sometimes things do happen that can be rather less than magical. When this happens, there are a few ways to deal with the situation.
At the parks – go to Guest Relations as soon as possible and let them know what has occurred. Becoming irate with the Cast Member at the attraction or dining area will not accomplish anything. It will only cause a scene and take the magic out of other people’s day, including the cast member who most likely did not do something personal to you. Guest Relations will be able to understand what occurred, possibly explain to you how or why it occurred (each situation varies), and may even compensate you for your negative experience.
At the resort – if it is something regarding your room itself, call Housekeeping from your room phone. Even call the Front Desk, they can get Housekeeping or Maintenance in touch with you. Walking down to the front desk to most likely wait in a line, will only irritate you further and there is a slim chance that the Front Desk Agent that you speak with will be able to do something in that instant. If it is an issue with your reservation and the Front Desk Agent is not giving you the answers or information that you are looking for, ask to speak with a Leader (supervisor in Disney terms).
Regardless of who you speak with, please remember that these Cast Members are humans too. They are people who are highly trained and are doing everything in their power to assist you. No Cast Member intentionally sets out to ruin your vacation. Be patient and be kind. As the old saying goes, “you get more with honey than with vinegar”.
If a Cast Member does go out of their way to do something magical for you, ask to speak with their Leader and let them know. The 2 minutes you spend recognizing a Cast Member for their efforts can make their day, and even week. That little bit of kindness goes a long way.
*About the Author* – Darci is a former Cast Member who worked Front Desk at various resorts at Walt Disney World. She was a member of the Disney College Program which allows students to work all over Disney property – not only EPCOT’s Canada Pavilion. She now resides in Ontario and feeds her Disney passion by assisting family and friends with their Disney vacation planning, watching live streams of park shows, and even got engaged at the Magic Kingdom. Disney is and always will be a part of her life. She believes that you can take a girl out of Disney World, but you can’t take Disney World out of the girl.
Visiting Walt Disney World for over 40 years, I’ve seen my share of foolishness on property. On one visit I was so shocked at some of the things I saw and I had to write this public service announcement for those who may leave their brains at home while on vacation at Disney.
1. Disney Cast Members are NOT your babysitters (unless you’ve left them in the kids club of course!)
During my recent visit I was at Bay Lake Tower in the lobby watching cast members trying to help a young girl that was maybe 7 or 8 years old. Apparently she was swimming in the pool and wanted to go back to her room. Her parents were in the room and had left her at the pool to find her own way back, but she couldn’t remember the room number… Ummmm really? Please don’t leave your young children unattended. Who do you think is watching them #WhatAreYouThinking??
2. Keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times
Eating at Pinocchios we selected the window table overlooking It’s A Small World. Do you know how many people leave their children on the end of the boat with their hands in the water?? Do you know how many adults I saw doing the same thing?? In the 30 minutes we were sitting there, I was amazed at the foolishness. Safety is Disney’s top priority, but you can’t fix stupid people. #ThatsHowYouLoseAFinger
3. Trying to make your child appear taller
Attractions like the Tower of Terror, Space Mountain and Everest have height restrictions. Why? Because it isn’t safe for if you are shorter than the required height. Don’t try to convince the cast member that your child is slouching or that they can meet the requirement if they stand on their tip toes, it’s just not smart. The cast members are not letting you on because it isn’t safe – listen to them! #NotTheTimeToArgue
4. No flash pictures
Okay – this one just irks me. They ask you not to use your flash in the dark rides as it can ruin the magic, and for stage shows it’s a safety issue for the performers. If you don’t know how to turn off your flash on the huge iPad you’re holding up then ask someone. Also, if you’re on the Haunted Mansion and you’re texting someone – all I can see is the light from your screen! You are not the only guest on this attraction and you’re irritating the rest of us. #Selfish
5. Cutting the line
Seriously – how old are you? Where is your sense of civility? Lines are expected at the parks, if you’re not prepared to wait your turn – don’t visit. It’s really simple. We’re all there for the same reason and pushing, shoving, cutting the line is just going to aggravate everyone and possibly start a verbal exchange of unpleasantries. #GrowUp
6. Yelling at Cast Members
The Cast Members at Walt Disney World are the best in the business. Sure there are some bad apples, but overall they offer first-class customer service. Seeing a guest berate a cast member for silly things like the length of a line, the price of a meal or their inability to make it stop raining is insane. Disney Cast Members don’t really have a magic wand that can bring out the sun and make you less of a jerk. #DontBeAnIdiot
7. Trying to get something by security
They search everyone’s bags and send random people through metal detectors at the parks, but did you know they have undercover security as well? I will say no more about them as I don’t want to give away any of their methods, but if you manage to make it through bag check without your flask of vodka being detected under your shirt – don’t be surprised if some random stranger approaches you later and ejects you from the park. They are everywhere! #YoureNotSmarterThanThem
8. Waiting in line for 10 minutes without deciding what you want
It’s busy, you’re standing in line at the quick service for 10 minutes waiting your turn. You finally get up to the cast member to order and you haven’t decided what you want! Really? What were you doing for the last 10 minutes? This happened to me at Sprinkles at Disney Springs, and I was not amused. #UseYourTimeWiesely
9. Feeding the wildlife
When you feed any wildlife – you make them lose their natural instinct to be afraid of humans. This one always bothered me especially since my sister has a horrible fear of birds. We were always aware of the people feeding them because it made them comfortable to swoop in and grab a fry out of your hand. I watched adults let their little children feed the ducks their french fries and wondered what would happen when the duck bit the child – who would be to blame? Given the tragedy of the young boy who was drowned by an alligator, experts have suggested the alligator was probably fed by people at some point. I’m not saying the people who fed the alligators could have predicted this tragic event – but maybe if they had used some common sense, things would have been different. If you want to feed animals, visit a petting Zoo, Disney parks are not the place for it. #CommonSenseIsntCommon
Walt Disney World really is the place where an adult can be a kid again… Just remember to use your common sense and be courteous to others while you’re there and you will have a magical time!
I’m at my unmagical job, it’s Friday, the weather looks great for the weekend – and it’s almost time to go home! I’m listening to music from the Disney parks on my iPhone, I’m singing away in my head as people walk by, I’m feeling pretty good.
I decide to take a break and sign in to Facebook, my source for the important things that are happening in my world. I get excited about the posts in the Disney groups about new things happening and the merchandise that’s being released.
I keep scrolling, and then I see them – TONS of pictures, check ins, status updates…. I have a bunch of friends at Walt Disney World right now, and some are sailing on the Dream this weekend. I start going through their posts and pictures. The food looks good at Morimoto, Ohana dinner – yes please, a check-in at the Mine Train and another for Soarin? I almost feel like I’m experiencing it with them! YAY!! Disney fun!!
Then, suddenly… the discomfort and confusion – what am I feeling? I’m happy for them and excited to follow their adventures, but what is this that I’m feeling??? I contemplate for a while and then it hits me… I have DVE – Disney Vacation Envy.
In case you weren’t aware – DVE is a real condition. It’s a wave of confusing emotions where you feel happy for your friends, but sad for yourself – sad that you’re not there with them. You do what you can to fight these feelings of jealousy, but they’re there, right below the surface. While you do the customary ‘likes’ or ‘comments’ on their posts, you’re fighting the urge to just close Facebook and ignore it, but you NEED to see what they’re going to do next! The inner conflict begins – do you have your next vacation already booked? Or should you book a quick getaway to get your next fix? Can you afford it? Does it matter? It’s an addiction, and if you can relate, you may need help.
If you’re suffering from DVE it’s important to know that you’re not alone. We all feel it, but we rarely talk about it. There’s no shame in suffering from DVE, it’s the struggle that all members of the Disney community face when they’re active on social media. We all deal with it differently, but the cure is the same… book another trip to Disney.
So the next time you’re resembling the jealous step-sister and suffering from DVE, like the post and move on. Then check your count down app to see how long it is until YOU are the person with the posts and check ins that will give the rest of us Disney Vacation Envy!
Five weeks ago I had a very small medical procedure that was supposed to take about 2 weeks to heal completely. 3 infections later – I’m nowhere near the finish line. I was scheduled to go to Walt Disney World today, but on Wednesday of this week we made the decision to reschedule for June to give me time to heal. I hadn’t bought insurance, so it was going to be expensive – but my health is more important than the loss of money.
Some people said to me “it’s not like you won’t be going again, or you weren’t just there!” and I get it – I travel to Walt Disney World multiple times per year, but I was so excited about this trip! We had all of our dining reservations that we wanted and even had planned to stay at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort – one of the very few I have not stayed in yet! We had even purchased tickets to Disney’s After Hours and upgraded our flights to business class so that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable on the plane (both are non refundable). The disappointment set in – I had just backed out of the perfectly planned Disney vacation.
Thursday was a bit of a mess as it sank in that we would have to try and ‘re-plan’ the perfect vacation without the benefit of months to do so. We booked the week at Saratoga Springs and started looking for cancellations at the resorts we really wanted to try. It might mean moving rooms a few times – but that’s okay, we’ve done that before and it’s a smooth process.
I felt horribly guilty that I had ‘ruined’ my sister’s vacation – even though she was so understanding about it. I told her I would do whatever she wanted when we went in June to try and make it up to her, I would even try some of the restaurants that were for a more adventurous palate than mine because I know she would like them. Morimoto is on the agenda!
Two days later and I have to say, I’m excited about our new trip! While we are checking daily for cancellations for dining – we did manage to snag an Ohana’s dinner, a Be Our Guest breakfast and Toy Story & 7 Dwarfs fastpasses! All in 2 days! It pays to keep looking for sure.
Soarin’ has been closed for refurbishment for a while which is a big disappointment since it’s one of our favorites. Guess what? It’s reopening June 17th and we got a fastpass! This was a bonus of delaying our trip, and has shown me that maybe things will work out for the best after all.
This has been a trying time for me, but I have learned a lot through this experience.
Insurance might be useful! I’m normally don’t buy cancellation insurance myself, and I’m not sure if it would have covered my scenario – but for the $1k I lost by rescheduling in flights and event tickets, it might have been worth it!
Medical procedures may or may not go as planned – and planning a Disney vacation within 5 weeks of one might have been overly optimistic. Apparently I’m not invincible and cannot will myself to get better faster by using my Mum’s motto of ‘it’s mind over matter’
Having a family to support you through these challenges is priceless
You CAN book a Disney vacation 5 weeks in advance and STILL get some awesome dining reservations and fastpasses!
Planning my Disney vacations are always fun – and now I get to do it twice. Now it’s back to My Disney Experience to see if there are any more cancellations I can grab!
Lots of changes these days at Disney, some are wonderful (Toy Story Land, Star Wars Land) but some just leave me a little sad, purely for nostalgia.
Disney Dollars have been around since the late 80’s as a form of currency in the Disney Parks. I loved giving some Disney Dollars to kids that I knew were going to be visiting Walt Disney World so that they could buy themselves something special on their trip. It was something unique that was nicer than giving a gift card or real cash.
With people using more digital means to pay for things in the parks like gift cards and Magic Bands, I can understand the dwindling interest in the Disney Dollars. With all things like this that Disney discontinues, I would expect to see a bunch on ebay shortly!
There are thousands of Disney fan sites on the Internet, Pixie Dust Fan included. Many are very reputable sites that offer accurate information and advice for planning your Disney vacation. Sadly – not all sites are created equal and sometimes it’s hard for a new Disney fan to tell the difference.
Over the years I have watched some of these sites grow and gain a following and at least once a year they start the whole ‘free dining’ hype. They post rumors and ‘insider details’ about a potential free dining promotion that is going to be announced. Every April my Twitter and Facebook feeds explode with this ‘free dining is coming’ posts, including ones that show dates for next year! Some of these sites get it right and must have an inside track, but others are just plain wrong. They start the frenzy and modify the details as they go and create such chaos that the rest of us are left shaking our heads!
There are some things you should know about Free Dining that these less responsible sites won’t tell you:
1 Free dining has quite a few restrictions
The resort you wanted may not be available, or you have to upgrade to a better room category or add the hopper option to your tickets. Availability for the promos are generally very limited and in the last year it looks like Disney is restricting them further to move people away from expecting free dining.
2 Not all restrictions are created equal
Did you know that some Disney promos are targeted to particular visitors? That’s right – the UK visitors usually get a slightly better promo with much more advanced notice, I assume because they have to travel farther. Canadians also get longer booking windows sometimes, even after the offer has expired for US residents.
3 Good luck getting dining reservations
People want to make sure if they get their free dining promo that they’re able to use it! I really can’t blame them; I would want to do it as well. The problem is that when it’s just a rumor, many people will start booking dining reservations ‘in case’. That means they’re booking weeks of reservations to cover potential dates and availability. Since most of these don’t need to be cancelled until 24 hours in advance – they have tied up many reservations for months that you and I might like to have!
Cape May Breakfast is character dining too!
4 A GOOD travel agent will cringe when they see these rumors
– There is very limited availability on those first few days because other agencies have put holds on packages based on the frenzy of inquiries they generated with the rumors. Some of these reservations will inevitably be cancelled a few days later and free up the inventory for other guests. It’s safe to say the good agencies spend the next few days pulling their hair out.
– They are going to sit on the phone for HOURS trying to get their clients the ‘free dining’ deal when the website crashes. This will be the better part of their day (some years I have heard of 9 hour wait times!) where they will continue to rotate and recharge cordless phones.
– Disney doesn’t like its travel partners to engage in these rumors until it’s officially announced. That means the reputable travel agencies are at a substantial disadvantage while trying to adhere to their ethical responsibilities to Disney.
– They will frantically have to call all of their clients who are travelling during the dates once it’s announced to find out if they want to switch resorts, rooms or add ticket options if it means getting free dining.
5 Free Dining isn’t always the best deal
Many times the room discount has been a better value. If a room discount is 30% – was the dining plan worth 30% of your room rate? For many people it has been much cheaper to add the dining plan to the room promotion. It can be confusing when you hear the words ‘free dining’ – but trust me, it’s worth pricing out the difference!
I will never understand why Disney doesn’t reprimand these sites for starting these rumors and leaking information. It causes confusion, stress, and in some cases a pretty bad guest experience when their expectations aren’t met. For me, it ties up valuable dining reservations when I’m struggling to get one for California Grill for my trip! C’mon Disney – it’s time to flex your muscles and get these sites to stop the madness!
So, the next time you see the “I heard free dining is coming” pop up in your news feed, don’t panic, you haven’t missed the boat. Review it when it’s officially announced and see if it’s a good deal for you when you consider the resorts and ticket options. If you’re working with a reputable travel agent, they’ll provide you with the best options. Give them a few days (or a week) to get it all sorted when the availability opens up from cancelled ‘fake’ reservations.
Whatever you do – please don’t book a bunch of fake dining reservations! Remember that you may be forcing me to call the California Grill every day while I’m on vacation trying to find a cancellation 🙂
Thanks to the ever-growing social media networks I’m privileged to have so many “Disney Friends” online from all over the world. I follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and I’m always so jealous of their ability to visit the parks so often. It got me thinking – what’s the problem with being a Disney addict who lives in Canada?
1. I can’t just decide to go for the weekend when they announce something ‘new’ at the parks that I’m dying to see.
Sure I could catch a flight and be there in 3 hours – but my budget won’t allow for how often I want to do that.
2. Flights are not cheap.
I have a couple of options for flights – I can fly from Toronto and pay to park my car at the airport (maybe $100 for the week) or I can drive to Buffalo and get cheaper flights – but then I have over an hour drive home at the end of my trip. I feel like I’ve won the lottery if I find flights for $350 from Toronto – tack on baggage fees and parking at the airport and I’m laughing that it’s under $500.
3. Shopping at the Disney Store online costs us a fortune.
First it’s in US Dollars, then you add shipping and duty – even when they have sales it can become so expensive if you have a lot in your cart! In case you didn’t know – we don’t qualify for the ‘free shipping’ promos they have.
4. We don’t have Disney Visa!
I ask almost EVERY time I’m there when they’re going to launch this for Canadians. Yes, there are perks and discounts that I would love, but if I’m telling the truth, I just want a Visa card with a castle or Darth Vader on it!
5. We don’t get the Target Discount Cards
I have seen so many people in the US buying Disney gift cards when they have a sale at a 5% discount – essentially saving 5% when they pay off their vacation using the cards. They don’t sell these in Canada; I would have to drive across the border to buy them.
6. Cool stuff that reminds us of the park isn’t available to ship to Canada or costs us an arm and a leg to ship it.
There are candles & scent machines that we love – they make our homes smell like Disney. We have found a way around “do not ship to Canada” (though it adds to the price), but Shipllama works well and I now have a machine that makes my house smell like Bay Lake Tower.
7. The dollar is killing us.
At the current rate of around $1.30 for one US Dollar – it costs us 30% more to shop, eat, stay and buy tickets for our favorite place. We monitor the dollar and have US Dollar bank accounts so we can try and buy some when the price is better, but it hasn’t been ‘good’ in a while.
So for those of you who live close to the magic – I am jealous! There are many wonderful things about being a Canadian, but being a Canadian Disney addict definitely has its challenges. Are these challenges enough to deter us from visiting so often? Not a chance, we will always find a way to make it work! So the next time you meet a Canadian Disney addict in the parks you’ll know that we are a dedicated bunch who will do anything to get to Disney!