Friday, September 27, 2013

30 Magical Moments: #2 Ride Ellen's Energy Adventure

LaRae and I thought we would sleep in and stay out late on this trip. However, our internal clocks had a different idea, so most mornings we woke up fairly early and went ahead to a park. This first morning we decided to go straight to Epcot.

All photography this trip is iPhone only!

As we entered the park we encountered our first "new" experience: we didn't have a FastPass runner! Independent, strong women that we are, we forged ahead to Soarin' to grab our own FastPasses. Turns out the standby line was only 15 minutes long, so we got FastPasses and then rode in standby.

Living with the Land was at its typical 0 minute wait, so after Soarin', we took a cruise through one of my favorite attractions.
LaRae was Disney-Bounding this day! More on that later!
Can you read the lettuce?

Hidden Mickey in the lettuce

Our FastPass time for Soarin' came up quickly, but we didn't really feel the need to ride again, so we handed our FastPasses to a nice couple who was about to pull some of their own. This was the first of MANY times on this trip that we were asked if we're twins. Folks, LaRae ages amazingly well; she is 7 years older than me. Granted we both are the same height, have very dark hair, and wore red lipstick the entire trip, but only one of us was wearing a birthday button. I'll give you a second to work that one out. ;-)

Even without the kiddos, The Seas with Nemo and Friends is still a favorite. Again, this had almost no wait.  Afterwards, LaRae got a pressed penny for each of the kids.

I tried to take lots of pics with a Birthday Vinylmation
but failed at that endeavor. Whoops!

From here we pulled a FastPass for Test Track. This attraction was closed in November, so we were excited to see the upgrades to it. Then we made our way to Magical Moment #2.
Magical Moment #2: Ride Ellen's Energy Adventure
This attraction was on my "haven't done's" list. It takes 45 minutes start to finish, and while I think Ellen is a hoot and a half, that's a long time for a tired kiddo or a potentially bored adult! Thankfully the ride was pretty fun, and it gave us mini rest time.
Ellen's Energy Adventure spends a lot of time with dinosaurs.
Watch out! Some of them spit!

Grateful for our rest, we strolled over to the World Showcase. Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival was in full swing making this the second trip where we've happened upon this event. There were queues to take photos in front of many of the topiaries!

Remember how I said LaRae was Disney Bounding? That means that her outfit suggested a Disney character. It's a subtle way to dress as your favorite character in the parks. She got compliments all day on her Snow White outfit!
A quick stop for the Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico!
China Pavilion

Now I think I'm caught up! Got things a little backwards there where I was telling the Magical Moment at the end of the post. Whoops! Now the posts will start with the Magical Moments and end with stories. :-) The next magical moments involve food and drink in the World Showcase. Can you guess where we went?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

30 Magical Moments: #1 Get a Birthday Button

Aside from the "I'm Celebrating" button I wore when we were at Walt Disney World for Kyle's birthday, I have never had a celebration button to wear at Disney. These buttons are MAGICAL! Cast members and park guests alike stop to say "happy birthday," and they make the wearer feel like a princess! The first order of business was to get my Birthday Button. Since we noted the birthday on our reservation, the cast member gave me one at check in.

Magical Moment #1: Get a Birthday Button
I wore this button every single day we were in the parks! It was so much fun to get random happy attention while walking through my happy place!

Here's the back story up until this point: when we got to the airport, our flight was super delayed. We wanted to wait to have dinner at Pop Century, so we ate a small snack as we walked around Dallas Love Field Airport. Honestly the delay wasn't a big deal as we made the best of it and enjoyed the quiet time to chat and let the Disney excitement build.

Once to Orlando, we were HUNGRY, but we'd made it that far, so we were determined to wait for dinner at the resort.  We got on the Magical Express and got going fairly quickly. Before we knew it, we were home:

After a quick stop at check-in, we rolled our luggage right to the food court to grab some dinner. I think we both ended up with Chicken Alfredo which isn't the best of foods, but it was hot and food... Then I dug into some Tie-Dye Cheesecake, the dessert my mouth had been watering for ever since we started planning the trip!
Red Velvet Cake for crust and vibrant, multicolored cheesecake
make this a treat for the tummy and the eyes!

Tummies full we rolled our luggage to the room, unpacked, and crawled into bed! The next morning we planned to start off in Epcot. If you were heading to Epcot, what would be next on your Magical Moments list?

Monday, September 23, 2013

30 Magical Moments: How Sisters Trip 2013 Came to Be

This year I celebrated my 30th birthday on February 22nd. I'm a single gal, and I've always identified with Carrie Bradshaw's rant in the "A Woman's Right to Shoes" episode of Sex & the City. She logically states: "Think about it. If you are single, after graduation there isn't one occasion where people celebrate you... Hallmark doesn't make a 'congratulations, you didn't marry the wrong guy' card. And where's the flatware for going on vacation alone?" If Hallmark made that card, let me tell you, I'd have a collection of them by now! I digress! Anyhooo... when my 30th rolled around, I kept telling my sister, LaRae, that I wanted to do something big for my 30th. I wanted to go on a trip, I wanted to celebrate me, I wanted something memorable. What I really wanted? A trip to Walt Disney World!

I looked at a ton of options: a staycation at one of the cool hotel/resorts in the area, a road trip to a nearby state, something that would take a weekend, but I couldn't justify spending the money on a "quasi what I wanted" trip. LaRae started to help me look, and we found some fairly cheap non-Disney cruises for various times this year, but we both were hesitant to cruise without the Mouse for this celebration.

Finally I priced it out for us to go to Walt Disney World over Spring Break, mid-March. After some budget finagling, we both decided we could afford the $1000 each price tag. We knew we needed to stay on budget, so with the help of an emailed Disney PIN, we got a great rate on a room at Pop Century. We did purchase Park Hoppers, but we bought our tickets on a discount through Undercover Tourist. After careful consideration, we also ditched the Disney Dining Plan in favor of paying out of pocket and eating light. We picked ONE special table service dining; we were both happy make reservations to go to the Garden Grill in the Land Pavilion in Epcot for dinner one evening.

Let me tell you, LaRae telling me we could go to Walt Disney World, just the two of us, for a 30th birthday trip was possibly one of the happiest moments of my life! The crazy part was we planned this so spur of the moment (for us) that we only had about a month to get ready.  I had a trip to Austin, TX to an educational technology conference for almost a week in early February. My mom was coming in town for my actual birthday which was the first one I spent with her since I turned 21 (at least we do the big ones together), but after that we got right down to Disney dreaming while we counted down!

Hand-blinged by me - we each had this design on our shirt with
the heart "tattoo" on the back right shoulder.

To help gear up for the trip, we used an old design I'd created, but never used, to make a Sisters Trip t-shirt. LaRae hand-blinged a Birthday Princess shirt for me as well as a similar one for herself. We counted down and talked about the trip to the point of annoying those around us (sorry)!  I got my Disney nails done again too!
Hand-blinged by LaRae - each of those jewels, aside from the crown,
were individually heated & affixed the shirt!
This is LaRae's shirt - the crown & words were pre-laid out, but she
individually affixed each of the jewels in the Mickey head!
This is one of my most-pinned Pins on Pinterest!
I saw nails like this on there and took the picture to my
nail guy. Didn't he do a great job?

In the midst of our planning and crafting, LaRae was researching ways to make a birthday trip awesome, and she pitched the idea of "30 Magical Moments" to me. Over the course of the trip, we'd take photos of 30 special moments trying in particular to knock more of the "haven't done's" off of my list. We brainstormed together and came up with a list of about 40 things that could qualify as "Magical Moments," so just in case we didn't make them all, we had backups planned. I photoshopped some numbers that were modifications of our t-shirt design to hold up in the photos:
There were 30 of these numbered 1-30.
I had these printed on heavy card stock at an office store and put them in a ziploc baggie in my purse on the trip. The plan was to pull one out at a time and cross Magical Moments off of the list. One of my favorite things to do while I'm at Walt Disney World is to post photos on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for those at home to follow along. The idea was that I could stay more in the moment at Disney by guaranteeing I would post at least 30 photos and extras would be bonuses. Basically it would kept my viewers in the know without flooding their feeds. (Supposedly...)

Since I'm a teacher, we planned the trip for Spring Break, a peak season we had not mastered yet. We flew out after school the Friday before Spring Break and flew home Wednesday evening. That gave us 4 full days plus a half day at the end in the parks. In fact, the day I was leaving, a teacher down the hall knew how excited I was to get out the door and what a rush I was in to get the dog to the PetsHotel and to the airport that she surprised me by showing up to watch my last class of the day, so I could leave early. Gotta love amazing co-workers like that!

If you were counting down Magical Moments at Walt Disney World, what would be on your list? 

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I will post one of the Magical Moments along with the story behind it. I'll also share a few photos that didn't previously make it to social media! 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thanksgiving at Disney: A Trip Report - Is the PhotoPass CD Worth the Price?

Another popular question I get asked is if the PhotoPass CD is worth the cost.

What is Disney's PhotoPass?  In the Disney Parks, Disney has PhotoPass Photographers who take your photo in various locations. These spots include but are not limited to most character photos, in front of the iconic landmarks in the parks, scattered in random spots throughout the park, and in certain attractions like Enchanted Tales with Belle.  The photographers will take your photo with their fancy camera, scan a credit card-like plastic card, and hand the card to you.  You can have as many cards as you want, or you can keep using the same card for all PhotoPass photos. The cards are free.  When you get your first photo taken, just mention to the photographer that you need a card.  These photographers will also use your personal camera or cell phone camera to take photos for you (for FREE) as well!

Why use Disney's PhotoPass photographers?

  • Your entire family can be in the photo at once without asking a random stranger to take your photo while trusting them not to steal or drop your $1000 or iPhone!
  • Your family photographer can be in photos that aren't only selfies.
  • Magic Shots are featured throughout the park, so that characters can appear in your Disney photos when you look at them after your trip!
  • You can add borders, characters, and even character signatures to your photos on the site after your trip!
  • The PhotoPass photographers almost always have the best photo-taking spot.  They're right in the middle of Main Street USA at multiple distances from the Castle. They have tripods at night, so the photos aren't blurry too.
  • The photographers snap great candid photos as you meet characters taking the pressure of taking photos off of you, so you can enjoy the moment too.
What about the cost?  Well the PhotoPass and use of photographers are free.  The photos can be purchased multiple ways.  We opt for the special pre-trip price of $119.95 for the PhotoPass CD.  It includes all of our photos, lets us edit them & add borders after the trip, and then allows us to use and print the photos as we wish.  If we bought the CD after our trip, it would cost $169.95. You can also buy photos individually after your trip, but the photos are pricy.  The minimum price of an individual printed photo is $12.95.  (Just think, $119.95 will give you all the photos from your trip that you can print for less than $1 each at your local photo center.  That price equals a little more than 9 photos at $12.95 each.  See I'm not called goddessofmath for nothing!)

But is it worth it for my family?  When I used to visit the park with just one friend or when I've gone with just my sister, we did not buy the PhotoPass CD.  We used the PhotoPass Photographers, but there was no way just the two of us would stop at the PhotoPass spots enough to get enough photos to feel like it was worth it.  (Take $120 - the CD price - and divide it by the number of photos you hope to have taken to get your price per photo.)  We still look at our PhotoPass photos on the website after our visit, and if we like any of the photos, we purchase the few that we really like. I've done this in the past, but I always leave behind a lot of favorite photos because I can't afford to buy them all individually.

When our family of 5 goes to the parks, we buy the PhotoPass CD ahead of time.  Then we commit to stop at PhotoPass photographers as much as possible.  When I take one of the kids to do something with me, we stop for a photo. When I'm out in the parks solo, I have a PhotoPass cards and find photographers to do a photo shoot wherever I go.  When the whole family is together, we make sure to get photos in front of each iconic park landmark both in daylight and after nightfall.  We purposely get photographed the entire trip.  (Because of this, I am ALWAYS in full makeup with cute hair in the parks... think on that...) When we get home we love most of the photos.  There's always sweet photos of the kids meeting characters, photos of us as a family, and great pictures of each of us in pairs or individually.  We print a handful of favorites for frames and the fridge and use the rest as backgrounds or screen savers on our computers.  I use a TON of them on this blog.  

Bottom line: the worth comes from how much you stop for photos.  If you are going for a couple of days or a long weekend, you likely do not need to buy the CD.  If you are going to the parks for a week or longer or have a large family buy the CD in advance.  (If you're having a Magical Gathering - a huge extended family group - make sure every adult and teen has a PhotoPass card and put them all together on one CD after the trip! You'll definitely get your money's worth!)

I'll leave you with a few Magic Shots and favorite PhotoPass photos from over the years (this last trip not included).  If you want to know more about Magic Shots or photographer locations, I encourage you to head over to All Ears Net for their great write up on the PhotoPass.

Randy & the kids entered the park before LaRae & I
in January 2009 & got this photo taken!
A photographer in Disney's Hollywood Studios
captured this sweet smile on the Streets of America.
This photo is a family favorite. I add borders on the website usually, but
it always keeps the non-bordered ones on the CD for you too. 
Katelyn got a bit shy meeting the fairies back in
January of 2009. The photographer kept
snapping pics while we enjoyed seeing Katelyn's
reaction to Tink trying to "fix" her smile!
This is a Magic Shot with an old friend from June 2011. 
When LaRae and I go to ride roller coasters, we
always stop for photos to memorialize it!
Our entire family could get in this shot thanks to PhotoPass
photographers.  This was November 2010 in the
Disney VISA character spot in Innoventions in Epcot.
Josh and I were hanging out in World Showcase and got this photo.
Mom and I had wandered off from the group in
November 2010 and happily snagged this pic. 
A Magic Shot in Disney's Animal Kingdom 
Ready for Everest!
My flight was later than my family's flight the last morning of our November 2010
trip. I was feeling sick, but I wanted to go to one last park. I went to
Magic Kingdom alone just to get a few photos I'd always wanted to stop for.
The Partners Statue was one of these photos.
This spot to the side of Cinderella Castle is one of my favorite
photo spots!
Another Magic Shot!
Magic Shots are all kinds of awesome! :)

Coming up on the Interwebs: Another crafty giveaway and a new series, 30 Magical Moments, from LaRae and my's sisters trip for my 30th birthday.  Come back Monday for all new adventures!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thanksgiving at Disney: A Trip Report - Is MVMCP Worth the Price?

Before we continue the trip report today, did you know that this blog has joined with the Magical Blograil to offer you an amazing giveaway? You can win a Disney Dooney & Bourke Wristlet, pin set, and resort toiletries set from either Walt Disney World or Disneyland. You can enter the giveaway daily! 2 lucky winners will chosen on September 26th at 11:59 PM ET to win one of these two fabulous prizes! Enter here.

When planning a trip, many of my friends come to me asking for tips and help. I am always glad to share. The question I get most about holiday trips is usually "is the cost of the party ticket really worth it?"

Let's break it down a bit. There are a couple of parties in the Magic Kingdom. One is in the fall: Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP). The other is in the winter: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP). Both parties feature a special holiday specific parade and fireworks show, characters in costumes you don't usually see, characters you don't usually see doing mass meet and greets, treats (like trick or treating or hot chocolate and cookies), and smaller park crowds.

Both parties also come with a fairly high ticket price though especially when you take a family of 4 or more. When we visited MVMCP in 2012, the ticket price for advanced tickets was $58.95 per adult and $53.95 for ages 3-9.  That meant for my sister's family of 4, they had to shell out over $200 for this special evening and that was on top of the park tickets we had for the rest of the day.  Remember the party ticket only get you into the park at 4 PM, so if you want to visit another park before that, you'll need a regular day pass ticket.

As for the question of "is it worth the cost?" The last three posts on the blog described the party before the parade, the parade itself, and after the parade. I, myself, have attended MVMCP twice over the past few years, and I love it.  Let me share why:

  • The parade is awesome! Yes, Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade becomes the evening parade in the parks closer to Christmas, but I can't be away from work during those times.
  • The crowds, even during a sold out party, are still crazy small compared to most other days. It's like you have the run of Magic Kingdom!
  • I don't do the character meet and greets usually, but if I wanted to meet Snow White, her Prince, and all Seven Dwarves at once, I could. Cinderella, Prince Charming, and the StepFamily? Absolutely possible!
  • After the parade the "party crowd"dwindles to next to nothing!
If you decide to spend the cash on the party, I have a few recommendations to make the most of it though: 
  • Arrive at Magic Kingdom before 7 PM.  The park closes early, so people without Park Hopper tickets will not choose this as their park for the day.  The crowd leaves toward lunch.  Go after your afternoon rest time, grab dinner, and the crowds will be noticeably smaller when you're done eating.
  • Be aware of what attractions are not open during the party. Ride those attractions you love before 7 PM!
  • If you have small children or kids that go to bed early, make sure you have a substantial afternoon rest time (with a nap if possible).  The best value for the party happens after the second parade. You don't want to leave early because of grumpy, tired kids!
  • You should take a nap in the afternoon too. Grumpy, tired adults can ruin the party too.
  • Plan to go to the second parade. Enjoy the attractions before then.
  • If you are a Disney veteran, pick a nontraditional (not in front of the Castle) spot for fireworks or enjoy them while continuing to tour the park or while riding an outdoor ride. Sometimes the neatest view is from a spot you don't normally stand in!  This will keep you out of the exiting the park crowds after the parade too.
  • Plan to leave when the park closes. PhotoPass photographers stay out on Main Street, USA until midnight but close up promptly. If you want a family photo in the snow in front of the Castle, grab one before then!
  • Have fun and be flexible! It's ok to split up to let everyone do what they want to do, but remember that you came as a family and spend time together too. Everyone is there for the same reason: to have fun. Allow everyone in your family/party to do their favorite thing. 
So is it worth it? Absolutely! 

Friday's post will explore PhotoPass and if the CD is worth the cost. See you soon!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Coast to Coast Disney Giveaway!!

Most every woman who has been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland has drooled over a Disney Dooney & Bourke designer bag! While being practical and sturdy, these gorgeous bags are also works of art sure to gain the owner compliments as she carries it around town.  I, myself, own a handful of prized Disney Dooneys and actually recommend them as a smart buy while doing your Disney shopping.

**Hold the Monorail!** Wait, did I just say "prize?!" That's right! It's time for another giveaway, and this time it's the biggest giveaway to date on the Amazing Technicolor Interwebs! I've teamed up with my friends from the Magical Blogorail to bring you the 

Riding the Rails Coast to Coast Giveaway!

This amazing group of Disney bloggers has come together to offer TWO lucky readers the chance to win one of two amazing prize packages as seen below.

There will be 2 randomly drawn and verified winners of this giveaway.  Each winner will receive a Disneyland or Disney World themed Dooney and Bourke Wristlet, trading pin set, and resort toiletries. Giveaway begins September 16th and runs through September 26th at 11:50 pm US Eastern time. It is open to residents of the US only, ages 18+. (Giveaway value is ~$125 per winner!)

Use the PromoSimple form below to enter, and be sure to take advantage of the many entries you can gain. Come back daily for even more chances to win!

What else can I say about this amazing giveaway other than to ask you to please Pin this on Pinterest and share the opportunity to win with your friends! Can't wait to see who wins! Good luck!

PS - The trip report DID continue as planned today. The newest post went up this morning and is right below this giveaway. Join me in the Empty Dumbo Queue there!

Thanksgiving at Disney: A Trip Report - Day 8 - Empty Dumbo Queue?

Who'd of thought it could happen?

In Friday's post I mentioned that the Dumbo queue was completely empty when we visited the attraction close to park closing during MVMCP. The cast members told us we could go on through to ride the ride, but Katelyn and Joshua wanted to play in the play area. Normally guests are given a buzzer type thing that tells them when it's their turn to ride. The kids can play while the adults hang out. We were lucky enough to let the kids play as long as they wanted. I was happy to get to take lots of photos without worrying about looking like a creeper taking photos of other people's kids!

Empty Dumbos?? 
There's an area just for ages 2-3. It's a bit protected from the chaos that I'm sure must reign a bit in the rest of the room. There are benches for parents to sit on circling this area.

Other areas are for ages 4-8. They feature plenty of places to climb and slide!
Dumbo flies above the playing children.

Outside the ride has gotten a bit of an update with 2 Dumbo machines and water features.  (Was there water before and I missed it??)

In the past I would avoid Dumbo like the plague when the kids wanted to ride. Sometimes I would ride with them but typically I would use that time to go ride something alone. The new queue along with the 2 sides to ride makes the queue not so miserable for adults. No more just standing in a hot, crowded queue. Instead you can watch the kids play and wait in the cool shaded tent. Overall this was a smart choice from Disney Imagineering. I'd like to see it fully in action someday to see how it all works, but it was a treat for the family to get to experience it alone on this trip!

The rest of this week we'll finish out the series with a couple of "Is it Worth it?" posts exploring the price of MVMCP and the PhotoPass CD.  See you Wednesday and Friday!