Friday, November 9, 2012

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.

 Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party takes place on select nights from November 9 thru December 21 from 7:00 p.m to 12:00 midnight.  A separate ticket will need to be purchased for this event, we recommend purchasing your ticket in advance as this will be less expensive then purchasing them on the day of the event.  Tickets can be purchased from the WDW website.
 If you're like me and you love the Christmas Season, you will find no more festive place then the Magic Kingdom during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.  When you enter the park you will first notice how beautifully it has been decorated for the holidays as well as the sounds of Christmas music playing throughout.  The first thing you will want to do is get a schedule of the events taking place so that you can plan your night.  Mickey's Very Merry features the enchanted Castle Dream Lights on Cinderella Castle, live entertainment featuring Disney Characters, meet and greet opportunities featuring your favorite Disney Characters, complimentary cookies and hot chocolate, snow falling on Main Street, as well as special access to many of the most popular attractions at Magic Kingdom.
 In addition to the features mentioned above, Mickey's Very Merry also includes the exclusive fireworks show, Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season as well as Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.  These two events are not to be missed so plan on arranging your evening around them.  The parade takes place twice a night and we've found that the second is the least crowded.  While the first parade is taking place this is a great time to hit your favorite attractions as they will be less crowded.  For fireworks viewing we recommend a spot near the middle of Main Street.
 The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights takes place nightly at Disney's Hollywood Studios from Nov 9th thru Jan 6th.  No separate admission is needed for this event.  During the OFSDL you will see 5 million multicolored lights all perfectly synchronized to Christmas Music as well as a magical snow fall.  The effect is breathtaking and again should not be missed.
The Christmas Season is truly a magical time at the Walt Disney World Resort.  The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas will be the least busy.  If you plan on attending Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party try to attend one of the earlier parties as these will be the least crowded.  As it gets closer to Christmas the parties tend to sell out.  If you decide to visit WDW for the holidays we hope you have a great time!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Magical Memories: Autumn at Walt Disney World

 Fall arrived this weekend and its the perfect time to visit the Walt Disney World Resort.  The weather is starting to cool down and it doesn't rain as much.  In October the average high is 85 and the low 65 with rainfall being about 2.7 inches.  Now that the kids are back in school the crowds aren't nearly as large as they were during the summer.
 There are a lot of great events that take place at WDW in the Fall.  A previous post talked about the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival that starts next weekend (9/28).  The Food and Wine Festival is a great opportunity to sample food and wine from around the world.  The Magic Kingdom has been beautifully decorated for fall.  Banners of fall colors are hung throughout the park along with pumpkins and scarecrows to really give you the feeling of autumn.  At the Magic Kingdom you can also experience Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party that runs select nights from Sept. 11 to Nov. 2.  Mickey's Not So Scary takes place after regular park hours so an additional event admission ticket is required to attend.  Depending upon the date, prices can range from $55.95-$62.95 + tax for ages 10 and up and $50.95-$59.95 + tax for ages 3 to 9.  The tickets are pricey but the event is well worth it.  If you are visiting during this time we highly suggest you attend.
At Mickey's Not So Scary you can expect to see the Magic Kingdom transformed into the "Spookiest Place on Earth" through lighting and fog effects, music and special theming.  Candy stations are set up so you can Trick or Treat throughout the park. Character Meet and Greats allow you to  have your picture taken with your favorite characters dressed up for Halloween.  Not So Scary is also a  great time to enjoy your favorite attractions at the Magic Kingdom.  Because a limited number of tickets are sold the lines for the attractions a practically non existant.  You will be able to experience attractions as many times as you wish.
The two highlights of the party are the "Boo to You" Halloween Parade and Happy HalloWishes the night time fireworks display.  The "Boo to You" Parade takes place twice a night (check the schedule for times) we recommend that you plan to see the second parade because it is the least busy of the two.  Anywhere on Main Street is a great viewing spot.  Be sure to get there before the start of the parade so you can see the Headless Horesman make his ride down Main Street.  Main Street is also a great location for the fireworks show.  The Halloween Party is the only time Happy HalloWishes takes place and it is a must see.  During the show the Villains take over the sky above Cinderella Castle.  If you decide to attend Mickey's Not So Scary some things to consider are:  buy your tickets online so you save money, think of attending one of the earlier party's because as it gets closer to Halloween the partys will start selling out,  plan on wearing a costume as its the only time guests can  wear costumes at the Magic Kingdom, check the weather and dress accordingly as some nights it can get pretty cool out. If you do attend Mickey's Not So Scary we hope you have a great time and let us know what you thought about it.  Maybe you will come up with some tips that would be great to share.  Have Fun.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Magical Moments: Harmony Barber Shop

            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

Magical Moments: Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

 Starting on Sept. 28th and running thru Nov 12 of this year is the 17th annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, one of WDW's most popular events.  During this fesival you can sample delicious food and wine from around the world, see some of your favorite singers from the 80's and 90's in concert and attend special events throughout the park.
 Located in Future World is the 2012 Food and Wine Festival Welcome Center.  It is here where you can plan your day by picking up your Marketplace Discovery Passport which identifies the food and wine kiosks or "marketplaces" set up around World Showcase.  The Welcome Center is also home to a variety of events including book signings and cooking demonstrations.
 The theme of this years festival is Taste Your Way Around the World.  There will be 29 marketplaces set up througout World Showcase where you can purchase sample sized portions of food.  You will be able to try food from places as diverse as South Africa, Ireland, Greece and China.  New this year are the Terra and Florida marketplaces.  Terra is the first ever vegan marketplace while the Florida marketplace will put new twists on local cuisine.  The samples range in price from about 3 to 8 dollars.
There are a number of Special and Premium Events that take place during the Food and Wine Festival. Special Events include book signings, bottle signings and seminars.  One seminar is the Home Entertaining Seminar hosted by your favorite personalities from HGTV.  Premium Events, in which there is a separate admission, include: Mixology Seminars, Culinary Demonstrations and Wine and Beverage Seminars.

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

Magical Moments - First Aid and Baby Care

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.

Two notable places for such attention are found in the Magic Kingdom, between Casey’s Corner and the Crystal Palace.  The First Aid Station (also in the 3 other parks) is more than a benefit if you fall suddenly ill.  However, the real focus of this post is the Baby Care Center located next door to the First Aid Station.
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

Attractions: Soarin'

 This past weekend I visited Epcot with some family members.  They had not been in many years so it was great to be able to experience some of the newer attractions with them.   The first thing we did was head over to Soarin' to get a Fast Pass,  Soarin' is probably my favorite attraction in all of Walt Disney World and I couldn't wait to do it with them.
 Soarin' is a simulated hang glider tour across California that takes you over such places as The Golden Gate Bridge, Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, San Diego and many more.  The ride vehicle consists of three sets of rows and once you've been fastened with your sealt belt, the rows are lifted into the air in front of a giant screen giving the impression that you are really soaring over California.  The feeling is incredible.
 Soarin' is definitley thrilling, but I wouldn't really call it a "thrill" ride in the sense that it is an "extreme ride".  Soarin' can be enjoyed by the whole family, adults and children alike (you must be at least 40").  This is the only attraction at WDW that I've experienced where the whole audience applauds at the end, it's that good!
 In addition to being in the air in front of the screen, there are other added effects which enhance the ride experience.  Wind effects really make it feel like you are flying through the air. Scent machines add the smell of evergreens, orange bloosoms and sea breeze to some of the different scenes.
 One last feature of Soarin' that I love is the musical score by Oscar winner Jerry Goldsmith.  It is a remarkable piece that really adds to the overall attraction.  I like the score so much that I bought one of the CD's that it appears on that are for sale throughout WDW.  If you plan on visiting Epcot, we highly recomend that you check out Soarin'.  This is a very popular attraction so a Fast Pass is a must.  Plan on getting your Fast Pass as soon as you enter the park so you are sure to get on, otherwise the standby line is usually about 70-90 minutes long.
We really hope you enjoy Soarin' as much as we do.  Have a great flight!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Magical Moments: A Little College Program Life (Guest Post)

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

Attractions: The Art of Plussing (Star Tours, Spaceship Earth, TTA)

             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.

Star Tours:  This is the most recent and well publicized attraction to be updated.  The Tour to Endor has been replaced by a host of 54 possible 3D destinations that carry you throughout the entire Star Wars saga.  Alas, Rex (voiced by Pee-Wee Herman) has been replaced by C3PO as the pilot and many portions of the queue have been updated as well.  Though the ride itself has undergone significant changes, there are some very interesting surprises to be found in the queue.  In fact, these changes almost make the queue the first part of a 2-part attraction.  Most notably, the addition of the luggage check droid, which is almost as fun as the ride itself.  Look for a lot of little surprises in this protion of the queue.  Want a real challenge?  Find the homage to the original version found in the queue.  Can you guess what it is?  (Hint: Look for REX, your original pilot)  Click the link here to catch a glimpse at this recent addition.
 Spaceship Earth:  Housed in that large “golf ball” (or geodesic sphere), Spaceship Earth carries us on a tour of advancements in human communication.  One of the most controversial changes to the attraction occurred in 2000, when a 25-story magic wand held by Mickey’s hand was erected next to the geodesic sphere.  This horrific addition (my personal feeling) remained until 2010.  Other than the changes in narration from Vic Perrin to Walter Cronkite, Jeremy Irons and now Judi Dench, the biggest and possibly most enjoyable change came when the new interactive, touch screen ending was added in 2007.  Though I must admit that I can still hear the echos of "Tomorrow’s Child” ringing in my ears.

 TTA:  The biggest change with this attraction seems to be the name.  It is amazing how many fans refuse to accept the name change that took place in 1994.  Also known as the Blue Line, TTA, Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover, Tomorrowland’s Super-Skyway, and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, this attraction is still referred to by many fans as the WEDWay PeopleMover.  As for this author, I refer to the attraction as the TTA; but regardless of what you may call it, I love this attraction.  A slow troll through Tomorrowland’s skyway, this attraction not only allows a moment to relax, but provides some of the most unique views offered in WDW – including a glimpse at how Walt originally envisioned EPCOT.  I often imagine Walt himself riding on the TTA, beaming with pride at what he created. 


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

Resorts - Booking DVC Vacations without being a DVC Member (Guest Post)

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

Magical Moments - Packing Essentials

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.
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.  Sunglassesfor 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.