Monday, April 30, 2012


The newest Disney Baby is here!  I'm so happy to introduce Zachary!

Born at 4:06 a.m. on Thursday the 26th, we are having a wonderful time getting to know him.. or just staring at him!

Noah is a fantastic big brother, sharing his toys and helping (some of the time) when we ask!

Posts probably won't be very regular for a couple of weeks, but I promise I'll be back.  In the meantime, I'm still checking the Facebook page, so I hope to see you there!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tombstone Wednesday!

It's time again!  More insights into the Magic!

Dear Departed
Brother Dave
He Chased a Bear into a Cave

Brother Dave - Dave Burkhart - starting working for WDI (Walt Disney Imagineering) in 1967 as an artist/model-maker.  He helped in the building of architecture and models, including full scale props and sets.  He worked on attractions including The Haunted Mansion, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the Swiss Family Tree House.  He also worked on the Tokyo Disneyland Project before he left Disney to become Creative Director for Universal Studios to work on their Japan project.  

You can read his full bio here, where he works for a different theme park creating company!

Focused on the Magic

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chear Squad!

I realized when writing my post about our possible change of plans that I never wrote about my experience cheering on my husband and friends running the half marathon!
Adam running down Main Street, U.S.A.
Disney calls it the ChEAR Squad.  They set up tables at the expo to make signs (you can even buy different packages that include sweatshirts and more!) and open the parking lots, parks, and transportation to help people get in position to watch the runners.

I have to say - this is one of the best aspects of Disney races.  Other races may have a few people here and there cheering you on, but having literally thousands... it makes such a huge difference!

My favorite experience of the ChEAR squad was walking down Main Street, U.S.A. at 5:30 in the morning - it was dark and empty - perfectly peaceful and serene.
One of the first runners I saw!
Even the Characters of Main Street wanted to come out and watch!

She just couldn't bare to see the half naked men run past!
Casey's Corner was open for breakfast - which they only do on very crowded days, or special events!  I followed the lead of several members of the WDW Radio Running Team, including Lou himself, and ordered their breakfast dog.

Possibly the most disgusting, yet fantastic, meal I've ever had.. at least for breakfast.  A breakfast sausage topped with egg, bacon, and cheese - served in a hot dog bun.  And, it comes with a side of fries or tater tots (obviously I went for the tots!).  Along with a Diet Coke (sensible, right?), I enjoyed breakfast while sitting on the sidewalk on Main Street!

After my husband and our friend passed by, my friend (and occasional guest blogger, Katie!) and I hopped back on the monorail and headed to EPCOT - to the finish line.  I was lucky enough to see Adam cross mile 13 and I 'ran' to meet him at the finish line - he got his awesome medal and felt great with a personal record (20 minutes faster than his previous half marathon!).

If you happen to be at WDW (or DLR) the weekend of a race and wake up early, take advantage of the amazing events and cheer on the runners - you never know, you may be inspired to join in on the festivities in future races!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Possible Change of Plans!

For the past two years, we've taken an amazing family trip to Walt Disney World for their annual Marathon Weekend.  We've loved the events, the crowds, the weather - it's been fantastic.  And, we do hope to continue the tradition...
My hubby and me - post half marathon - January 2011
Unfortunately, it seems as though there may be a kink in our plans for 2013!  2012 was a change already, due to my pregnancy - I ran the 5k instead of the half, but Adam still enjoyed the half and I enjoyed watching!

Now, the past 2 years, Marathon Weekend has been the 1st full weekend of January.  2013, it's going to be the 2nd.  This is better for crowds, but not for me...  why? 

Inauguration! I've mentioned my job on occasion - I'm in a military band - and we happen to be a big part of the Inauguration.  My first, 2008, we started the day with the parade and finished up the evening with a ball.  A very cool experience, however, we potentially have rehearsal the Sunday of marathon weekend which I wouldn't be able to miss - which either means we fly back the day of the race or postpone until later..
Inauguration Day was VERY cold!
So, now we're thinking we'll be there Princess Marathon Weekend!  I sadly won't be able to be a part of the 'big group' of the Magical Blogorail Running Team, though I'll still proudly wear our shirt and help raise money for Autism Speaks, but I may miss out on meeting some awesome people!

I think I may have talked my husband into running in a tutu :)  May be worth it!  I have no definite plans and I'm slightly hopeful that I'll be able to actually make Marathon Weekend, but if you're there in February, I may see you then!

Who's running with me?

Friday, April 20, 2012

I'll Sit This One Out!

As many of you may know, the space shuttle Discovery recently retired to the Udvar-Hazy Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, located in the suburbs outside of Washington, D.C.  Discovery, perched a top a NASA 747, flew from Cape Canaveral to D.C. for it's last flight, touring the city and making a very exciting day in the D.C. area!

I thought I was going to miss it - I had my last pregnancy appointment that morning at almost the exact time it was scheduled to arrive.

Luckily, thanks to being early, I was able to make it all the way out to Dulles Airport (well, a highway overpass overlooking the airport!) to wait with hundreds of others, hoping for a fly over.

I always loved the idea of being an astronaut, but I never excelled at math or science, so that wasn't going to work!  I was always jealous of my brother, who had been to space camp when I was younger - but I never got to do anything like that, either!

Instead, I rode Mission: Space.  The only ride I've ever seen that included barf bags.  I rode it back in 2005, before it had options - there was no "green vs. orange" it was just "go."
Image from

Borrowing techniques from NASA, this simulator uses a multiple arm centrifuge to give the allusion of accelerating.  You're spinning and tilting, getting up to 2.5 G's of gravity (2.5x your weight pushed against you) all while watching a screen that's shooting you to the moon.

I can still remember thinking "if this goes on for 5 more seconds, I'm going to need one of those bags" and walking off a bit woozy.  Everyone walking off looked slightly green and headed for the water fountains.  With my friend Jen, we had to sit and relax and couldn't eat for a good while after.  

In the times I've visited since that one occasion (and that's a lot!) I've either successfully convinced the others that it's just not worth the pain or enjoyed some people watching time while waiting for others.  

This is one attraction that I don't plan to ever ride again - and that's a short list.  Actually, this may be the only attraction on that list.  

What attractions do you avoid?  Have you had a similar experience or do you enjoy this ride?  I'd love to hear your experience, either in comments below or on the facebook page!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Things I'll Probably Never Do

*I'm hoping by the time this article is posted, I'll be the mom of 2 boys.. trying to get ahead while I have time!  But, as I'm writing this, I'm still pregnant and waiting!*

My husband and I are comfortable stopping after this pregnancy.  Two boys is enough for us.  My husband is the youngest of 3 boys and I'm pretty sure that if we tried for 3, no matter how much "planning" we would do, the 3rd would be a boy.  Not like that's terrible, but we're happy stopping with 2 kids.

I do LOVE my Disney boy!
But, having only boys leaves me with a few Disney dreams that I'll probably never get to live!

1st - Bibbity Bobbity Boutique - This overpriced Princess Makeover always seemed amazing.  Honestly, I always feel bad for the little girls that come out it with that tight bun on top of their heads, but they seem so happy that they are princesses.

Luckily, we enjoy the Harmony Barber Shop and it's only $15 for a haircut!  Or maybe one day we'll do a Pirate makeover... I did see 2 brothers dressed up once as Peter Pan and Captain Hook.  I would be okay with that!

2nd- Cinderella's Royal Table - Okay, it doesn't say anywhere that I can't take my sons to the overpriced Princess meal at CRT, but it really is just that: an over priced Princess Meal.  I ate their twice in college - before it had characters for dinner - and loved being in the castle.  My 2 year old has no interest in princesses - I've tried the movies, he gets bored in under 5 minutes and asks for Cars!  So, maybe my boys can treat me for a birthday or something in the future.  But, I doubt it will be high on our priority list!

Instead - I would love to take my boys out to Disney's California Adventure to explore Radiator Springs, opening this June!  We're currently planning to take that adventure (and our first DLR trip) in 3 years!

3rd - Mother/daughter Princess tea at the Grand Floridian - This tea looks lovely! Sigh!  Maybe one day, one of my sons will marry a Disney girl and I can take a daughter-in-law.. or join Melissa and her girls there.

As of right now - most of the 'extras' seem to be geared towards little girls... Luckily, there is plenty to see and due included with the high cost of admission.  We'll save our extras for the water parks, mini golf courses, and whatever else may come around!

One thing I am looking forward to?  Pirate Cruises!  Many of the resorts have these cruises - for children 4-12 without their parents for a tour around the different resorts and lakes!  Love this idea!

Have you tried any of these?  What am I missing as a mom of *soon to be 2* boys?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tombstone Wednesday!

**Today is my due date!! 40 weeks.  Will there be a baby boy in my day?  I don't know!  Make sure to check the facebook page to keep up - I'll post pics there as soon as I can!**

In Memoriom
Uncle Myall
Here You'll Lie For Quite a While

Chuck Myall was an art director and worked on the overall development of Walt Disney World.  Two of the main attractions he worked on were Haunted Mansion and Small World.  Prior to WDW, he worked on the Monorail and several attractions at Disneyland for WED.

Focused on the Magic

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Princess Decal Giveaway!

About a month ago, in one of my many nesting trips to Target, my husband and I found some great wall decals - to decorate our boys rooms and their play room.  The walls in the play room were far too bland, and in our standard indecisiveness, we chose several options (Mickey Mouse, Cars, Toy Story, and Winnie the Pooh) and ended up spending a lot more than expected on wall decorations.

Then, a couple of weeks later, I noticed the company Peel and Stick over on facebook.  For a comparable price, they have SO many more options - the variety is incredible!

The border and Nemo stickers are both available.. and may be appearing in a bathroom in my house soon..  This is just one example of the dozens of Disney wall appliques available on their website!

And, they sent me a set of Princess wall decals to giveaway to one of you!

These could be yours!
I will warn you - they may take a few extra days to receive once a winner has been chosen, but I will send them out as quickly as I can (considering the new baby and all!)!  They promised me that the crease in the paper will disappear when they're applied to their surface, so no worry about that!  I would love to see that Belle go into a beautiful little girls room, wouldn't you?

Entering is easy!  As always, I love Rafflecopter and I hope you do, too!

**If you enter on facebook, please comment with your name since Rafflecopter doesn't have that option!  I would love to know who the winner is!!**

Monday, April 16, 2012

Magical Blogorail - runDisney edition

Welcome to the first stop aboard our Special Edition Magical Blogorail Loop. Enjoy the ride as we take you through a year of runDisney events

There's something about pregnancy that makes me want to run.  It was during my first pregnancy that I decided to start running distances - when we signed up for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, which we completed in January of 2011 (my son was 13 months old - I ran my first 13.1 miles).

I actually wrote an overview about Marathon Weekend a while back for another Special Edition of the Magical Blogorail.   But, that was more about the full weekend, not just the races.

This past January, 6 months pregnant, I "ran" the 5k and cheered on my husband, friends, and other runners in the half marathon - a completely different experience than my Marathon Weekend 2011 experience, but still amazing.
I met Mary Poppins, Bert, and a Penguin outside of the Grand Floridian!
Marathon Weekend - early January at Walt Disney World - hosts several different events:

  • Marathon Weekend Race Expo (Thursday-Sunday) - the ESPN Wide World of Sports fills up with vendors of different athletic apparel and accessories, as well as lecturers, race options, and more
  • Family Festival Kid's Races (Friday/Saturday) - for crawlers on up, there are races from the 50 meter diaper dash all up to a 1 mile race.  They have DJ's and entertainers - in true Disney Fashion - entertaining the masses!
  • 5k - 3.1 miles (Friday, early a.m.)  Themed differently every year - 2011 it was Buzz and Woody and Friends, 2012 it was the Three Caballeros.  This event literally leads you through the World Showcase and Future World - in and out of EPCOT.  This event is not officially timed - there are clocks around so you can figure out your own time, but no time chips or anything to worry about.  Characters are set up for photo ops throughout the parks - lines move fairly quickly, but without thinking about time, we stopped and didn't even worry about it!
  • Half Marathon - 13.1 miles (Saturday, early a.m.) - Be warned - for this event, you must be at the Epcot parking lot before 5 a.m. - in your corral (starting place) by 5.  The race starts behind Epcot, leads you towards the Magic Kingdom - passing through the Ticket and Transportation Center - inside the Magic Kingdom - running down Main Street, U.S.A., through Fantasyland, through Cinderella Castle and back out on the streets, headed back towards Epcot.  You enter Epcot and do a quick tour of Future World before exiting to complete the race.  Exhilarating barely begins to explain this! 
  • Full Marathon - 26.2 miles (Sunday, early a.m.) - starts at the same place in Epcot, but instead of just running through the Magic Kingdom, you run through all four theme parks.  (I can't tell you the exact route, because I haven't taken this challenge yet!).
    • During the Full Marathon, like the half and 5k, there are tons of photo opportunities.  Characters, musicians, djs, local high school bands, and more are out to entertain you and cheer you on while you run
    • Water/Sports Drinks/Food Stops are placed conveniently along the course.  Exact distance and locations are available before so you can be prepared - whether or not you want to carry your own beverages or not
    • Fast Passes are often available for some of the major attractions, such as Tower of Terror and Expedition Everest.  The parks are open and running by the time many runners reach these points, and I've seen many attraction pictures with runners wearing their race bibs!
  • Goofy Challenge - 500 started this challenge the first year and in 2012 there were around 5,000 runners.  This challenge - run the Half Marathon Saturday and finish up running the Full Marathon on Sunday.  On top of the individual medals you receive for completing the half (Donald) and full (Mickey), you receive a 3rd medal (Goofy) for completing both the same weekend.
  • Dopey Challenge - This is unofficial - but Dopey runners complete the Goofy as well as adding the 5k the Friday before.
Though there are many race weekends at the Disney resorts, this weekend is the most popular - over 20,000 people run in each of the big races.  The Christmas lights are still up through the weekend, so you can still see all decorations throughout the theme parks.  And, if you hang out for a few days after, you'll be pleasantly surprised by one of the most empty times of year.  I love marathon weekend!

Marathon Weekend 2011 - medals and all, no wait to meet Mickey Mouse!
If you're thinking about running, please consider joining some fellow blogorailers and myself to raise money for Autism Speaks - a great organization trying to bring awareness and find a cause/cure for Autism.  We'll be setting a small minimum for donations and then cost for a t-shirt, but we would love to have more friendly faces join our team!  Check us out on facebook!

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Adventures of a Disney Princess

Friday, April 13, 2012

History of the World: Part 1

Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Blue. Today, we are taking you on a tour through the history of our favorite Disney park lands.

When Walt Disney started out with his Florida Project, one of his main priorities was to find land.  Unlike in California, where he found enough room for a park, one priority for his next venture was seclusion.  A favorite anecdote about Walt goes something like this:
Walt Disney used to stand at the exit of Disneyland to talk to the guests.  One day, he noticed a family leaving early - no one left early.  He stopped them to ask them why they were leaving.  The replied that they noticed that traffic beginning to build on the freeway and wanted to get home before they were stuck.  
That scenario can't happen at the Walt Disney World Resort.  Approximately 47 square miles, there is still room to grow after 40 years.  However, in the beginning, there was only 1 park - the Magic Kingdom and two resorts: The Contemporary and The Polynesian.  Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds opened only a month after opening day, taking advantage of the popularity of camping at the time.
Thanks to Melissa from Disney on Wheels for sharing this beautiful pic of the Polynesian!

You may have known about those 2 original monorail resorts, but did you know about the resorts that never came to fruition?

Disney's Venetian Resort - Themed after Venice, Italy and located on the Seven Seas Lagoon, this resort sadly fell by the wayside.  When Michael Eisner took command as Disney's CEO and started to expand on WDW resorts, they tried again to make this landmark resort.  Unfortunately, the ground they planned on literally couldn't hold up.  According to Jim Hill, when they were putting in pilings to test the foundation, they literally sunk out of view every time.

Disney's Venetian lost it's opening day hope, but was pushed back to be a part of a second round of openings, along with the Persian and Asian resorts.

The Golf Resort opened in 1973, later renamed The Disney Inn in 1986, it eventually became The Shades of Green in 1994 as a hotel for the Armed Forces and their families.  However, after this resort originally opened, Disney didn't open any resort hotels until 1988.

It wasn't until Michael Eisner came in and realized that people were coming to Orlando and *oh no* staying off property that the resort expanded to what we're seeing now.  First came Disney's Grand Floridian - put into place when the Venetian failed again.  Just a couple of months later, Disney opened the Caribbean Beach Resort - the first "moderate" resort on property.

Eisner also had a hand in creating the Swan and Dolphin - he apparently became a "fan of architecture" and commissioned Michael Graves (anyone shop at Target lately?  He designs a lot of stuff for that mega store!) to create those two... eyesores may be an appropriate term!  They're not owned and operated by Walt Disney World, but he made sure to have a part in the design process, especially being so close to EPCOT and being the first EPCOT resorts (1990).

Hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the history of Walt Disney World resorts!  I find this trivia oddly interesting and I hope you do, too!

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Cooking with Mickey.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

You are here! ~ Disney Babies Blog
3rd Stop ~ Meet the Magic
4th Stop ~ Pursuing the Magic
5th Stop ~ Days in the Park
Final Stop ~ TheCanaDisney Blog

Preparing for Number Two

Due on the 18th, we've been trying to prepare Noah for the arrival of "baby brother."  We started early with a book called "I'm a Big Brother Now," which was highly recommended.. somewhere.

As we get closer, we have the baby room pretty much ready to go, the pack 'n play (bassinet) set up and ready to go, clothes washed, etc...  I'm sure many of you know the drill..   But, I worry about how my son will feel.  After all, he's been the center of our world practically for over 2 years now, and that is all about to change.  
He looks so tiny!

One tip a parent gave us was to buy a present for the baby from Noah.  I loved that, so we asked him "Noah, what do you want to give baby brother?"  His response stayed the same for several months "Nemo."

His Nemo plush, purchased on his first trip in June 2010, has been one of his favorite toys for as long as I can remember.  He has at least 5 plush Mickeys, a Minnie, Thumper, Dumbo, etc... but Nemo is the one that is consistently on his bed at night.  There was a time when they were all on his bed - leaving no room for him, but luckily he is over that.  But, Nemo remains.

And now, he chose that same Nemo (though not officially Disney Parks, it's the exact same toy.  Thank you Amazon!) for his baby brother!  When it arrived in the mail today, he was so excited, gave it a hug, and put it in the crib.  

Now if only I could go into labor...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Looking forward to...

Noah's first trip to Walt Disney World was at 6 months old - when we traveled with our good friends and their 1 year old daughter, Piper.  You may remember reading about them (since the mom is the one who helped me create this here blog!)

That trip, June 2010, came about when Melissa was talking about flying up to visit us - and then the military discounts came out and I suggested we meet there.  Other than our personal disappointment and discomfort at the Caribbean Beach Resort (I know, many love it, but our experience left us missing our off property comforts), we loved spending 4 full park days together, knowing that we wouldn't see each other again for a while.

Living 1,100 miles apart, our visits are far and few between.  When they decided they needed a couple of park days and joined us for a couple of days in January (though only 1 park day together), we loved meeting up and watching the two little ones play together!

Now that Melissa and I are both expecting our 2nd children - mine boy #2 due NEXT WEEK and Melissa's daughter #2 due on September, our joint travel plans are on hold.  The other problem - Melissa is a teacher, so visiting during our favorite Value Season isn't really possible, especially as she has to save up her vacation time for her maternity leave!

But, I think of the future - 

We'll have Noah and Piper - 6 months apart, and the next 2 (to be named) only 5 months apart to run around the parks together.  We've even talked about eventually saving up to take a Disney Cruise together.

I just love that we'll have more pictures - these kids growing up together, at our favorite place in the world!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tombstone Wednesday

Good Friend Gordon
Now You've Crossed the River Jordan

Gordon Williams - There isn't much information for this original Imagineer, but I did read in several locations that he worked on the Audio-Animatronics and sound effects for the Haunted Mansion!

To learn more of the secrets of the Tombstones of the Haunted Mansion and other Disney trivia, simply click on "Trivia" in the tabs above.  And to see some fantastic Disney photographs, click on the button below!

Focused on the Magic

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Value Season

Yesterday, I posted some major things to consider when scheduling a trip.

For the past couple of years, my favorite visits have been in January - Marathon Weekend and the days following.  Definitely the beginning of Value Season.  At the beginning of the week, the Christmas Decorations are still up, the Train Station Mickey Mouse is still red and green, and the Dapper Dans are still dressed in their holiday attire.  If you're so inclined, the Osborne Family Lights are still blaring in Disney's Hollywood Studios (usually ending the mid-marathon weekend in January).

Of course, I'm not trying to sell you on Marathon Weekend.  That's for a different post entirely :)  Now, I just want to share why I love Value Season.  And, why I think I'll have less of an issue taking my boys out of school (when the time comes, of course!).

  1. No Lines.  None.  Well, almost none.  Literally on a week day at 11 a.m., Space Mountain had no lines and my husband walked right into a waiting car (being pregnant, I hopped aboard the TTA!).  Heck, Peter Pan hardly gets up to a 30 minute wait!  So, in the 3 or 4 days we're in the parks, we can do everything we want with hardly any lines.
  2. It's cheaper!  On property or off property, there are discounts for visiting when the crowds are thinner.  For example - Pop Century during Value Season can run as low as $89 before any discounts while during Peak Season that same room runs around $139 and up to $174 during holiday season.  That's a big chunk difference in price!
  3. Easier to make Dining Reservations- Unless you are trying to get into Cinderella's Royal Table for breakfast, you are less likely to need to make those ADR's 180 days in advance.  Of course, that is still fun, but, sometimes it's fun to check Disney's Mobile Magic that morning to see what's available for dinner.  Or, simple walk up to the front of the restaurant and ask for openings! 
  4. Weather- Value season is generally while school is in session, so you'll be avoiding the heat of the summer (heck, in Orlando, that heat can start in March and last through November).  Even with our high's being in the low 80's this past January, it was never too hot to be in the parks.  Being 6 months pregnant, I was extra warm, but that's to be expected!
10 minute stand-by entrance for Buzz Light Year's Space Ranger Spin.  Pretty much all day!

But, with those perks, there are things you may miss out on:
  1. Water Parks and Pools- if you visit in the "cooler months" there is a possibility that the water parks may not open if the weather isn't warm enough.  The pools usually remain open, but do you really want to go into the pool if it's only 70 degrees?  Not me!
  2. Refurbishments - January/February are often used to take down the big attractions going for reburb.  January 2011, Splash Mountain closed for maintenance and this year, they closed Dumbo and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad the Monday after Marathon Weekend.
  3. Less Park Hours - During the summer, peak, and holiday seasons, the parks often offer more Extra Magic Hours and even regular operating hours are much later.  Generally in January, the park closes at 9 p.m. while in the summer, it often stays open until 11 p.m. or midnight, with Extra Magic Hours sometimes into the wee hours of the morning.  **Of course, with out having many people in the parks, you may feel that you don't need those extra hours, as you accomplish as much in the parks as you would in the more crowded seasons in 2 days!**

Monday, April 9, 2012

Scheduling a Trip

Choosing a time to visit Walt Disney World can be one of the trickiest parts of trip planning, yet one of the most important. In hopes of helping, here are my top 5 factors too be considered are as follows:
  1. School - Do you have children in school (or teach) that can't miss?  That's a very personal decision - some parents don't mind their kids missing a few days, but not all.  Disney has a lot of educational possibilities that are available, organized or on your own.
  2. Weather - Orlando is warm most of the year.  I've been in January when it's been 80 degrees (though I have seen it much colder then).  The summers are brutal.  High temperatures average in the 90's from through September - add in the Florida sun and humidity and it can make for a very  uncomfortable trip!
  3. Crowds - Holidays and times when schools are out tend to have more visitors.  Dates following and preceding the major holidays are often less crowded - though that is generally when school is in session.  For statistics and best bets in planning based on crowds, I recommend using Touring  For a low fee, you have access to a 365 day crowd calender based on years of statistics.  Click on the logo on the lower left panel to learn more!  Honestly - this is my first step when checking out dates to visit!  Higher Crowds mean:
    1. Higher Prices
    2. Less restaurant availability (make those ADR's as soon as possible!)
    3. Longer Lines
    4. Longer park days - peak times of year, the parks occasionally open early, but often stay open much later with Extra Magic Hours reaching to the wee hours of the morning during the peak season.  
  4. Cost- Along with the parks being more crowded during holidays and school breaks, the cost is often higher during these times, too.  There are 3 seasons - Peak, Moderate, and Value -  food and resort costs rise during the peak season - and discounts are often blacked out by major holidays.
    1. Discounts are often offered with short planning - if you're flexible, you could save money buy booking when some major discounts are available
    2. Pin Codes - I tend to receive a lot of these "personalized deals."  They are often an indicator of major discounts that will later be open to the public, but you will have first dibs at the savings!  To increase your chances at receiving this discounts, it is recommended to log in to the Disney Parks website - go in and look around.  If you have a Disney Visa, you'll continue increasing your odds.  No one is sure how these are chosen, but it doesn't hurt to get your email and address in Disney's system!
  5. Special Events - Disney hosts many major events throughout the years.  These events sometimes add higher crowds, but can also enhance your trip!  Some of these include:
    1. Hard Ticket Events such as Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party often a separate park entrance fee, but opens to the Magic Kingdom to a much smaller crowd and has a lot of special event perks (parades, trick or treating, etc...)
    2. Race Weekends - Marathon Weekend, Princess, etc... if you're into endurance events, Disney is home to possibly the best - or at least most entertaining.  Though pricey, they are generally during lesser crowded times of year and offer a fun and enjoyable way to schedule a big race (5k through full marathon)
    3. Food and Wine Festival - annually in the fall, Epcot's World Showcase opens up dozens of kiosks with food and beverages from different locations all around the world.  This event tends to be crowded, especially on weekends, late afternoon/evenings, and the opening weekends.
    4. Flower and Garden Festival - annually in the spring, Epcot creates incredible topiaries and more.  The past couple of years teamed with HGTV, there has been special events and classes about gardening and landscaping and more!
These are my top factors in deciding when to visit.  Hope this helps in your trip planning!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Learning at the World

Without school aged children, I can schedule a visit to WDW whenever my work schedule permits - allowing me to avoid the crowds and the heat.  But, what about when they are older?  My guess is that, for at least their first few years in school, I won't feel too guilty making them miss a couple of days for an amazing family vacation.  But, what if I do?

Disney has thought of everything.  They have the "Youth Education Series" - mainly to attract field trips or homeschool groups, but - on select dates - is open to individuals (with a minimum group of children required for the group!).  For children in kindergarten through high school, Disney leads series through the parks to show them education in motion.

Whether Science, American, or World History, Disney is a perfect place to educate.  Physics and magnetism are taught with the roller coasters. American History can easily be seen in Liberty Square.  Oceanography can easily be explored at the Living Seas Pavilion in Epcot's Future World.  Many of these areas have classes - each age group with their own activities - but taking education outside the classroom.
Studying the Fish in the Living Seas Pavilion
Not interested in a group activity?  For kids ages 8-14, teacher Tracie Cook wrote a fantastic book called "Walt Disney World Adventure: A Field Guide and Activity Book for Explorers" that I was lucky enough to review when it was being published.  This book leads you in an interactive trip through the 4 theme parks, learning the entire way.  

Disney's Imagineers created these theme parks with extreme attention to detail - Main Street U.S.A. ages as you walk down the street - showing life at the turn of the 20th century.  Liberty Square shows Colonial U.S.A. with extreme details - shutters hanging crooked to represent the leather straps once used to hang shutters when metal was scarce and so much more! 

With a little bit of research and planning, you can add "edutainment" into your Disney Family Vacation and help your kids learn while enjoying the wonders of such a happy place!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Disney Over the Years

Epcot June 2010
Traveling to WDW with a 6 month old, we knew that Noah wouldn't remember anything from the trip.  We went knowing that we would have a lot of fun together.  We also knew that it would be a chance for our son and our family friends daughter to spend some time together.  Living in Virginia with them in Louisiana, we stand very little chance of having our children play together regularly.  But, when they get together, we have fun making it memorable - at Walt Disney World.

Judges Tent - January 2011
At 13 months, we figured that approximately the same type of trip would happen.  Noah wouldn't remember much of the trip (if any), but that we would again have another great vacation.  Plus, all these trips to Florida allow time spent with my parents - not the best travelers, but I make them take the few hour drive up to Orlando when we fly down.

And again, we make great memories, take fun pictures, and enjoy spending time together.  All the while, Noah eats, sleeps, and plays for free.

At 18 months, I was more hopeful that he would be excited.  At 6 and 13 months, he was an observer - taking in the World, but mainly in awe, not really with the giddy excitement that I personally have.  Unfortunately, for the most part, 18 months was about the same.

Except with the water play at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  He had so much fun and that video is still one of my favorite home movies to watch!  He wasn't scared of anything, but still just observed instead of actively being involved in the trip.  And again, nothing stood out - he didn't have any specific memories or ask to meet any specific characters.

At 25 months, the trip changed a little.

1st - Fear.  Peter Pan's Flight we heard the word "scared" for the first time.
- Meeting Winnie the Pooh (just Pooh - none of the other characters and we met several of them!) was problematic.  He clung to me and refused to go near him!

2nd - Memories - He remembers.  He rode Dumbo the first day (and last day it was open before it closed to be renovated and moved to Storybook Circus) and loved it.  He kept asking to ride Dumbo again and then remembered "Dumbo broken"

3rd - Interactive - He willingly walked up with open arms to give Pluto a hug!  He loved Pluto.  He found Pluto a few times and those pictures and memories are fantastic!
**Also - he was so excited to see and ride on the Walt Disney World Railroad - and even enjoyed saying "All Aboard" over the intercom!  What an experience for a 2 year old!!

4th - He asks to go back!  Now that we're home, he asks to watch "Good Morning" (the Magic Kingdom Rope Drop show) and says "I want to go there!"
- When we see a water tower, he says "Epcot" and a tall building (usually a big fancy church) I hear "Disney"
I can't wait to see what 3 brings - other than park ticket fees!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Tombstones!

Master Gracey
Laid to Rest
No Mourning Please at His Request

Yale Gracey - Disney Legend and Imagineer, was also honored with a Main Street Window.  He led a varied career for Disney - working on animated shorts such as the Three Caballeros before working on Special Effects for Disney parks.  He designed many of the special effects for the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and also worked on the Carousel of Progress for the 1964 World's Fair.

Focused on the Magic

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dream Family Vacation.. or should I say Fantasy

With all the talks, posts, pictures, and videos of the brand new Disney Fantasy, I keep thinking and wishing we could go on a cruise.

I've only been on one cruise - a beautiful Royal Caribbean (Navigator of the Seas) that carries around 3,000 people.  Compared to all the other ships we saw on that excursion - aside from the Disney ship we saw - the ship was stunning.  We had a blast on that trip, but I had some motion issues so I knew that I would have to wait a few years to want to go back.

And that time is now.

Of course, I'm expecting a baby.  Any day (actual due date is April 18th, so we'll see when the little one decides to come out).   So, a big vacation like a cruise isn't really an option.  We're not planning to do much of any travel until Marathon Weekend 2013.

There's another problem we have booking a cruise - the price!  For WDW Vacations, I encourage taking little ones - it's a lot of fun, they're free in the parks, buffets- heck, under 2, they can even fly for free.  But, on a cruise?  Even infants cost.  A 1 year old that weighs less than 20 lbs and probably eats close to night costs around $450-500.  That's not terrible, but, but that costs more than both of us parents getting our 4 day park passes at WDW **note - I am military, so the prices on the park passes do vary** where the little ones still get in for free!

For children under 3, child care costs $6 per hour/$5 per hour for a second child.  While I've heard wonderful things about the child care facilities and cast members, I'm still not quite sure what the $450 per infant covers!  Do those 20 lbs make that much of a difference in gas usage?

And the biggest problem of all?  I can't convince my husband. :)  Our current plan is 5 years (our 10 year wedding anniversary)  when the kids are 7/5.

Anyone want to play devils advocate?  I'd love to hear the other side of cruising with little ones!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Movie Fun - Toy Story

I realized recently, as I was trying to organize (nesting much?) this little blog here, that I never finished off my list of movie trivia - finding all the Easter Eggs (hidden jokes) in the Pixar Movies.  I shocked myself when I realized I never even posted about all the eggs in the original - Toy Story (1995!)
Family Fun - June 2011
If you want to see the other ones (or see my other Disney trivia), follow that cool link up top that says "Trivia" or simply click here.
Image from Pixar Wiki

  • Pizza Planet - The originator of this restaurant that has been mentioned in pretty much every Pixar movie since!
  • Luxo Ball - The now famous Luxo Ball bounces down the hallway in Andy's house as Sarge is helping a fallen soldier!
  • A 113 - honoring the infamous classroom at Cal Arts that many of the famous animators learned in - here, it's the license plate number on Andy's mom's minivan
  • John Ratzenberger - Cliff from Cheers - has been called "Pixar's good luck charm" by John Lasseter himself - has had a voice part in every Pixar movie - he's Hamm (the piggy bank) in the Toy Story movies!
  • Dinoco - the goal sponsor of Lightning McQueen in Cars originated in Toy Story - it's the gas station!  That's where Buzz and Woody are left behind!
Since this movie in 1995, many parts of this movie are quoted in other movies.  And, tributes to other movies are featured as the movies go on!  Enjoy looking!