The Holdiay Season kicks off tonight at Walt Disney World with the start of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom and The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios. November and December are two of the best months to visit WDW as there are many holiday events taking place. The average high temps in Nov and Dec are 79 & 73 with the lows being 59 & 53. Rainfall is at a minum this time of year.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
I’m often asked exactly why I love Disney so much. My initial answer is “The detail. There is detail in everything.” The obvious answer, however, is, “Who wouldn’t love a place whose primary function is to create enjoyable moments that make for lifelong memories?” This is one thing that sets Disney apart – at least in my humble opinion, from the other amusement parks dotted across the globe. Whereas amusement parks may make for a good time, and even some memories, the Disney details allow for truly, well, magical moments.
Now, I realize that there are some extra special moments in your life, or in the lives of your children, that may indeed be magical unto themselves. Getting engaged, graduating, obtaining a driver’s license, getting or losing a first tooth, and a first hair cut rank among so many others. The neat thing is that, in many instances, these special moments can be enhanced with Disney Magic.
Such is the case with a small shop located around town square, nestled between the fire station and the Emporium on Main Street USA. The Harmony Barber Shop may be one of the best kept secrets of WDW. Sure, many guests know about its existence, but so many others are unaware of this hidden treasure. The Harmony Barber Shop is reminiscent of a turn of the century barber shop, complete with three stations that are ready for you take a seat.
This is the perfect place for a child’s first haircut. In fact, if your child receives his or her first haircut, he or she will also receive Mickey Mouse stickers, a little pixie dust, a certificate, and a pair of Mouse Ears that proudly proclaim “First Haircut”. I highly recommend partaking in this monumental moment in such a special place.
Already experienced your first haircut? No worries, licensed hairstylists are available to give you a trim and a memorable experience of your own. Haircuts range from $14 - $20, once again proving that not everything in WDW is overpriced.
Don’t need a haircut? There are still many special treats you may like. Colored hair gel and pixie dust, the image of one prominent Disney character shaved in closely cropped hair, or even a mustache trim are all available for very little charge. So, just find the barber pole out front, step in and step back to a simpler time, and have a seat; but get there as early as possible, because there may be a wait. Though it is worth it!
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
A favorite Premium event of mine is the Party for the Senses. With the Party for the Senses you get a reserved seat at the Eat to the Beat concert playing that night as well as a beautiful dinning experiece featuring international cuisine. Entertainment is provided by Cirque de Soleil. This event is pricey (60 dollars per person) but it is worth it. You won't be disappointed.
The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is a great event, but because it is one of the most popular events at WDW the crowds will be large. Start your day early as it tends to get busier as the day goes on. If you plan on attending one of the Eat to the Beat Concerts plan on getting a spot in line at least 30-40 minutes before the show so your sure to get a seat. If you do attend the festival we hope you have a great time!
Monday, August 6, 2012
Walt Disney World - the happiest place on earth, where it never rains, the temperature is perfect, birds land on your shoulder and tweet along a tune with you, people are always smiling and where absolutely nothing can go wrong. Well, not quite.
I love Disney – as is apparent by the mere existence of this site – but regardless of the measure of my admiration for all things Disney, regardless of the unquestionable ability to escape nearly all parts of the “real world”, stuff still can and still does happen at Disney World; especially when you have children. The good news is that the magic of Disney customer service allows certain provisions when Murphy and his law tag along on your vacation.
One memorable occasion occurred a few years ago as we visited WDW. Our youngest son was 4 at the time and we still used a stroller for him in the parks. Although we have rented the strollers available in the parks, we decided to bring our own jogging stroller for this visit to EPCOT. My son was so excited about another day in the park, he decided to leap into his stroller as he exited the Disney transportation bus. The only problem, the stroller had not been fully extended, and as a result, his finger got caught in the locking handle. I’m not sure who screamed the loudest – him, my wife, or me. Our kids just stood crying and praying out loud as we struggled to get his thumb unstuck. Though it doesn’t happen often, I panicked. I thought his thumb was crushed, or severed.
This is when I realized that a cast member had called the Disney EMT. After a few short moments, my son’s finger was free and he was being attended to by the Disney professionals. Miraculously, my son’s finger was fine. No broken bones, no lacerations, nothing. Yet, the Disney EMT professionals kept watch for a few moments – and all free of charge. Amazing!
Hopefully, you will never be forced to meet these Disney professionals. However, in the event that you fall victim to illness or ailments while in the parks, just know that Disney has a place for you to receive special medical assistance.
As any parent knows, there always seems to be some health related need when it comes to babies and toddlers. Whether your child needs a moment out of the sun, you want to nurse your infant in private, or you need an essential baby related item, this is your place!
Band-Aids, formula, nipples, powder, diapers, sipper cups and diaper crème, are all available here (for a price of course – it is Disney after all).
And, for those like me who have more than one child, there is a nice waiting room, complete with TV and other items, to keep everyone occupied while you wait.
So, if you are worried about taking your infant or toddler on a trip to WDW, please lay your fears to rest. A little peace of mind as a parent is sometimes the best customer service possible – and the First Aid Stations and Baby Care Centers offer more than simple peace of mind.
Have you ever used the Baby Care Center or First Aid Station at Disney? What is your story?
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Monday, July 23, 2012
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to work for Disney? Or, if the college intern program was all you might imagine it to be? Well, thanks to Nikki Bechtel - who has penned the second guest post for DLuminations - you too can get a brief glimpse into the college intern program and just a few of the personal and professional growth benefits it provides so many lucky participants. So, without further ado, I pass the conch (Lord of the Flies reference) to Nikki.
By the time I was 18, I had been to Walt Disney World more times than I could count and secretly dreamed of working at the most magical place on Earth. So, when casting calls for the Disney College Program were posted around campus at the University of Southern Indiana, I needed no one to convince me to interview. I had decided to live at home when I started college, so the thought of leaving home for the first time to work at Disney? Well, that was magical in itself. Still, I thought I would interview and they would politely tell me that I was not what they were looking for. When I received the invitation a few weeks later to be a part of the College Program, I was beyond thrilled! Soon, I packed up my bags and headed south.
Upon my arrival, I learned the three principles of the experience- Living, Learning and Earning. They were very quick to tell us that there would not be much earning, but we would have the opportunity to experience Disney in a way that we never could as a guest. As for the living, I had roommates for the first time. We were quite an eclectic bunch of girls; we hailed from the New York City borough of Queens, Mississippi, Michigan, Indiana, upstate New York and Indonesia. It was truly not an ideal situation, as we were in a very small 3- bedroom apartment, but at least we had two bathrooms. The learning part of the semester started almost right away, as we had to juggle work, responsibilities in the apartment and a social life; all of us for the first time. I am happy to say that almost 15 years later, I am in touch with all but one of my roommates!
I was placed at the newly opened Animal Kingdom as an attractions hostess. In August of 1998, the park had been open a mere five months, and it was both exciting and intimidating to work in Disney’s newest masterpiece. The real kicker was that I don’t like animals. I think even then I was being prepared for what laid down the road for my life- but I’ll get to that part. Suddenly, I was a cast member, stopping at Wardrobe for my costume, going “backstage” for lunch and breaks...all the (Disney) world is a stage, as Shakespeare would sort of say. Animal Kingdom turned out to be an amazing experience, despite my initial reservations. I had never really met people who were different from me in every sense of the word: from background to religion to lifestyles. I spent a semester in a very different place than my fairly conservative, Baptist background. It was a change that I desperately needed, even with (and especially because of) the personal challenges that came with daily interactions with many who simply did not believe the way I did. I love thinking back on what Animal Kingdom looked like that semester; everything was brand-new and had that “I’ve just been planted” look, even though it was a beautiful park. It is even more so now, whether you are an animal or landscape lover, or really just enjoy the magic Disney creates.
Throughout the semester, I worked a lot of long hours (though being at Animal Kingdom had its built-in benefits as it’s typically the first park to close) and also had the added perks of enjoying Disney in very unique ways. I was privileged to be part of the “soft opening” of Test Track, when only cast members and other invited guests ride. My first Test Track ride occurred at about 1 in the morning, and it was well worth the late night. Every Sunday, we would go swing dancing at The Boardwalk, and on our days off we very often took advantage of free entrance to all of the parks. On one occasion, a roommate and I went to the (then MGM) Studios explicitly to ride the Tower of Terror 13 times. I am proud to say we did it, and that day turned out to be one of my favorite memories from the semester. That Christmas, all of my shopping was done in the parks and it was a bit of a fairytale life for a while. All of the cares of my “real world” were put on hold for a few months of bliss.
This is not all to say that there were not moments during which I wanted to fly back home, because there were. For the first time in my life, I had become great friends with a young man who was openly homosexual. I was strongly disliked by a co-worker because I didn’t share her lifestyle, and didn’t pretend like I agreed with all of her choices. Those relationships challenged my beliefs in a way that sweet, safe, Southern Indiana never had before. I had a roommate who cleaned out a box of ice cream sandwiches every week and was upset that she was seriously overweight. I had to clean (REALLY clean) a kitchen for the first time in my life. I lived in an apartment complex just for College Program students that was on overdrive for parties and promiscuity, two things with which I was not comfortable. But I wouldn’t give back that semester for anything. It was my first taste of independence, and I loved it. Upon my return, I transferred universities almost immediately and finished my degree away from home at a school that allowed me to have a “real”-whatever that is- college experience.
Now, I think that semester paved the way for many of my adult decisions, from big and serious to small and fun. After graduation, I actually moved to Florida to teach, and stayed for 6 years. I had always been the daughter that everyone thought would come back home. As it turns out, in my tenth year teaching this fall, none of them have happened in Indiana. With my own children, I love Disney even more than I think I did as a kid, and I have sucked my husband in with me. In 2007, I was able to see him experience Disney for the first time, and it was incredible. However, he has nicknamed me “The Magic Killer” because he sometimes tells me that I know just enough of the secrets to be dangerous. When we visit with our family (December will be my then 5-year-old daughter’s 6th trip), Animal Kingdom is always our first stop. As we wander the beautiful pathways that look nothing like they did in the fall of 1998, I can still see myself along the bridges as a 19-year-old with no clue what her grown-up life would look like. Turns out, with a little Disney magic, it’s pretty great.
Nikki with husband Josh and daughters Aiva and Millie
If you would like to submit a guest post, please select the “Actively Contribute” button at the top of the page (located just below the DLuminations Header).
Monday, July 16, 2012
This week’s installment for our series on “Plussing” looks at three different attractions throughout the WDW parks as we attempt to determine if “plussing” is always a positive. Maybe you can notice the loose theme relating to all three attractions.
Let us know what you think. Have the changes to these attractions been positive? Who offered the best narration of Spaceship Earth? What do you call the TTA? Out of all the possible tours, where would you like to travel on your Star Tour? Add your comments below.
Monday, July 9, 2012
We are pleased to announce our first Guest Post on DLuminations. Many thanks to Lori Reynolds who penned this great advice on how to take advantage of DVC perks without being a DVC member. If you would like to contribute by submitting a post of your own, please click the “Actively Contribute” tab below the header at the top of the page. Now, on to Lori’s advice…
Disney calls their Vacation Club the best kept secret on Disney property. However, there is still one magical Disney secret still available to help everyone experience Disney Vacation Club (DVC) amenities without having to purchase a Vacation Club property. The DVC runs off of a point system, owners purchase so many points to help book their vacations on property and at partnership sites around the world. Points are given annually and can be banked to help owners build up towards larger international trips; however points do have an expiration date on them. Therefore, owners have two years to use points or they will lose them. Disney gave the owners one additional option, an option that helps the rest of us hear one of the most magical statements on all the Disney property, "Welcome Home!" Owners can share or specifically rent their points to someone else.
Renting DVC points can be accomplished two different ways. The first is using a third party broker. The price is a little higher than doing the work yourself, but they handle all the work and you are able to book the room quickly. Dave's Point Rental is a great example of a third party broker. However, we love doing the work ourselves. Using the "DIS" board, owners list the points they have available, how much they want for their points and when they expire. Renting the points yourself requires a series of emails back and forth between you and the owner but it will save you money. Once you email an owner your interest in their points, and give them your dates and desired DVC resort, the owner will call Disney and check availability. They respond back giving you the option to rent their points and book the room, or walk away. The owner usually has a simple contract to protect both parties, which offers great piece of mind! The reservations are in your name as well.
We recently purchased points for a 4-night stay at the Boardwalk Villas. Look at how we did:
Regular rate for a deluxe property at Disney world: Boardwalk Villas is $345 a night. We selected the Boardwalk Villas Studio room. The description of this room incorporates view of resort grounds, pools, canals courtyards or even the boardwalk. The room includes a queen size bed, a double size sleeper sofa, bathroom and a mini kitchen. The private balcony is wonderful! Even with all this…$345 is a lot of money to pay for one night. If we booked through Disney World directly, we would have paid, at a minimum of 4 nights $1380 plus tax.
I always look for the lowest per point price offered. I was able to find someone renting his or her points for $9 a point. The weekly point rental for the Boardwalk Villas was 15 points a night. Our 4-night stay was a total of 60 points. 60 points times $9 = $540 total for our stay!!
How awesome! Once you check in, you receive all the rights and privileges of a vacation club owner! Lunch discounts, shopping discounts, free valet parking if needed, and more!!
I am not sure if anyone can beat this deal! That almost beats the price of a value resort!!!
Have you used a Broker to purchase DVC points? If so, who have you used? Or, who do you recommend? Have you purchased DVC points as Lori has outlined above? If so, what was the best deal you found? We look forward to hearing from you and remember, if you would like to submit a post, please find out how by selecting the “Actively Contribute” button under the DLuminations header near the top of the page.
Monday, June 25, 2012
This week finds me struggling to retain focus on anything non-Disney. Though this particular member of the DLuminations team spends several weeks a year in the WDW parks, each approaching visit is still replete with anxious anticipation. So, as I work through a few last minute items on my packing list, I thought this post would provide the perfect opportunity to discuss packing essentials, and packing tips for a WDW vacation.
I think it is pretty safe to assume that you have already figured out items such as basic toiletries, clothes, reservation information, extra cash, photo ID, insurance card, etc. should already be packed. Thus, I will focus only on those items that you may not have considered as a part of your normal packing list.
1. Frogg Togg Chili Pad: With projected summer temperatures hovering in the lower to mid-90s, there is absolutely no way I am traveling to the parks without a few of these in my bag. To save money, we purchase 2 Frogg Toggs and cut it in 4 smaller strips. These are easy to fold, slip into a zip-lock bag and pack. They are also big enough to make a difference in comfort, while small enough to wrap around your neck comfortably. There are more tips for keeping cool in an earlier post.
2. Sun Block: Sunscreen isn’t just a poolside or water park essential. It is absolutely recommended for the parks. I’ve recently heard of an increase in the number of skin cancer diagnoses for lips, so some form of Chap Stick with sun block is also highly recommended. Two other great options are thin, long sleeve shirts (dry-fit running shirts are ideal) and sun / bucket hats. Though long sleeve shirts may sound warmer, they actually protect your skin while keeping you cool.
3. Pocket size bottles of Hand Sanitizer: Remember, millions of people visit the parks annually, and even though Disney works amazing feats of magic, they can’t sanitize everything daily. So, as you move from the attractions to the restaurants or snack locations, hand sanitizer proves highly useful!
4. Running Socks: You can find these at any sporting goods store. Unlike traditional cotton blended socks, these socks are moisture wicking, so they help prevent blisters. This is a packing essential when you are walking through the parks on hot summer days. (It may also be important to remember that you will be walking a lot, so wear sneakers if at all possible.)
5. Body Glide: Popular with runners and other endurance athletes, these balms help prevent blisters from forming on your feet and inner thighs during long durations of movement – especially in the heat.
6. Pictures of Your Kids: I’m sure you would jump at the chance to show a picture of your kids to any willing stranger, but that isn’t the purpose here. In case your kids get separated or lost, you can have something to show park officials as they help your kids reunite with their lost parents. It may also be a great idea to have some sort of separation plan. In the event that you and your children become separated and anyone finds himself or herself lost, plan ahead to meet at a specific location inside the parks. For instance, if I were to find that my son had walked away for a moment and we could not find each other, already having a plan to meet at the entrance to the Hall of Presidents in that case may save a lot of trouble and anguish.
7. WDW Trading Pins: Years ago we decided we would not get caught up in this craze. Unfortunately, we did succumb to the phenomenon. That said, pin trading is a great way for you and you kids to collect souvenirs, while keeping busy in the long lines. (More on this in a later post.)
8. Batteries: We love to take photos and video using cameras, Flip Cameras, phones, etc. Extra batteries are useful and are much cheaper if you bring your own! Also, don’t forget any battery chargers you may need.
8. Batteries: We love to take photos and video using cameras, Flip Cameras, phones, etc. Extra batteries are useful and are much cheaper if you bring your own! Also, don’t forget any battery chargers you may need.
9. Rain Poncho: Years ago, you could find Yellow Ponchos with Mickey prominently depicted thereon moving through the parks on a rainy day. The design has changed somewhat over the years, but the price has always remained high. I recommend taking a trip to the Dollar General where these are more affordable.
10. Sunglasses – for obvious reasons.
11. Mobile Phones / 2-Way Radios: If you travel to the parks with large parties, or if you have older kids who might like to venture off by themselves, these items may be a great way to keep in touch when you need to.
12. Sandals / Flip-Flops / Boating Shoes / Crocs: For the water parks and resort pools, but not the parks.
13. Glow Sticks: I must admit, I learned this one from a friend. A big hit with the kiddos, these come cheap at the local dollar store, but similar type items can break the back in the parks. So, load up beforehand.
14. Light Jacket / Sweatshirt: For those traveling to the parks in the winter months, Orlando can be rather chilly. So, bring something to cover up with.
15. First Aid Pack: Disney Parks do have first aid areas, but I recommend a small kit of your own – especially if you have kids. 4 – 5 Band-Aids, antiseptic wipes, Aspirin (or other pain reliever), sinus medication (Nose Spray, etc.) are all items that you may be thankful for on any given day.
16. Back Pack: After looking at the list above, you shouldn’t need to wonder why this is on the list.
So, there you have it, a few additional packing essentials for your trip to WDW. Good luck gathering your essentials for your next trip. Feel free to add any tips or essentials on your list in the comments section below. We would love to read about any items that you feel are absolutely necessary to pack.