Monthly Archives: July 2012

Single Digit Dance

Today at my house we  are doing the “Single Digit Dance”

What in the world is that, you ask??

The Single Digit Dance isn’t so much a dance, as it is, well, celebration of reaching another milestone in our “Countdown to the Magic”.  As our countdown officially stands at 9 Days, we are now in “single digits”.  🙂

So, how do you celebrate a ridiculous, made-up, never before heard of event??  

Of course you break out all of your Disney gear, and wear nothing but Disney Shirts, Mickey Ears, sandals, and shorts to work.  You listen to nothing but Disney music at home, work, in the car…..

Alright, maybe that’s a little over the top.  People would think you were weird or something.  (Well, or at least more weird than normal in my case)

At any rate, here are some things you could do to prepare for your upcoming trip:

Countdowns

If you haven’t already started an official countdown, now is the time to do it.  Nothing makes the final days move faster than marking them off the calendar.

There are many different ways you could choose from to do your countdown.

Some people make construction paper chain links.  Each night your children (or you, I promise I won’t tell) can tear off a link at bedtime.  It’s a great visualization for younger children to get an idea of how many days are left.

Others may choose to do something more elaborate, like creating a wooden countdown peg board with mini Mickey heads with the numbers 0 – 9 on them.  Each day, they could change the date. Although this approach would take some time to set up, it would be a fun craft for the family to work on, and you could use it year after year.

We typically print calendars that count down the days.  On the day we travel, I print a little mickey image.  The kids look forward to marking the days off, and at any point, if you ask them, they can tell you EXACTLY how many days are left.

Then, of course there are electronic countdowns including several apps for the iPhone.

Getting Ready . . . For the Fun of it

We generally take this opportunity to get our Disney nerd on.  This is when we break out all of our Disney music and Disney themed games.

Now is also the time to watch Disney movies and home movies from past trips.  Time to reminisce by looking over pictures and scrapbooks from days gone by and anticipate making new memories.

Getting ready . . . For the Necessity of it

While this time can certainly be fun, it can also be stressful.  There are many things to remember to take care of, a list of things to do, and thousands of things to pack.

Here’s a brief checklist of items you should consider:

  • Begin packing – the earlier you can do this, the better.  Nothing is worse than starting your vacation exhausted because you were up all night the night before packing
  • Renew your prescriptions (make sure these go in your carry on luggage.  See the link below for my post about the Magical Express)
  • Check the Orlando Weather – this may assist in what exactly to pack.
  • Which brings up the next point…keep packing
  • Confirm all your reservations – Airline, Hotel, Car Rental, Dining – better safe than sorry.
  • Make sure that friends, family and neighbors know that you will be gone, and how to get in touch with you in case of emergency
  • Make sure you do the laundry you will need while on vacation – You don’t want to be doing it the night before.
  • Re-Check the Attraction Refurbishment schedule – this has been known to change over time.  It’s best to be prepared if your favorite attraction will be closed
  • Charge the batteries for your Camera, Video Camera, iPod, GPS, etc.
  • Continue packing
  • Stop your mail & newspaper
  • Make arrangements for your pets
  • Pick up some Disney Gift Cards – this is a great way for the kids to feel that they “paid” for their souvenirs.
  • Do Online Check-in (if staying on Disney property) – You can do this up to 10 days in advance of your arrival.  By doing this, you can recapture some of the time you would normally spend standing at the counter when you arrive at your resort
  • Did I mention Packing? – Don’t forget Park Tickets, Magical Express Vouchers, Airline Boarding Passes, Passports (if going on a cruise)

Enough of the “Necessity”, I want FUN!

OK.  I’ll end with some things you can do to keep the excitement going over the last week or so.

Now is the time to make sure you have your itinerary locked down.  We always begin with what parks are we touring on what day.  From there, we make a list of the “must-do” attractions.  These are ones we want to make sure we see.  Now, starting with this list, we make a list of the first 3 – 5 attractions we want to see when we arrive at each park in the morning.  Nothing is worse than taking the time to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn so you can beat the crowds, then upon arriving at the park standing and staring at a map trying to figure out what you should do first while the masses head to the attractions.

With these thoughts in mind, I’m sure you can have a magical experience.

Are there things you do to prepare for your trip that I didn’t mention?  Rituals that your family has as your vacation approaches?  I’d love to hear them!

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Categories: Cruises, Destinations, Disneyland, Walt Disney World | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Passport to Happiness

So last week we had an exciting mail day!  I know…I know.  Really?  Mail?  Exciting?  Doesn’t mail just mean bills, catalogs, credit card offers, and other junk?  Sure…usually.  That day, however, was one of those rare days when you get something special.  You immediately run to the house to show your spouse.

So, what was it that caused today to be one of those days, you ask?

Well, that day we got this:

Your passport to happiness  :-)

Ok, I still don’t get it.  What exactly is that?

Well, I generally look as this little packet as my “passport to happiness”.  It is the travel vouchers and luggage tags from Disney’s Magical Express, needed for my upcoming trip (16 days, but who is counting) to Walt Disney World.  Receiving this in the mail each time we travel is, in my book, a vacation milestone.  Once I receive this, I know that my trip is imminent, and I can start to get excited and start the official countdown.

Not familiar with Disney’s Magical Express?

What is Disney’s Magical Express

If you are staying at one of Disney’s resorts during your vacation, Disney provides complimentary round-trip shuttle service from the Orlando International Airport.  Disney’s Magical Express also includes luggage delivery.

By using this service, you can step off the airplane, and head directly to the Magical Express bus for your transportation to your Walt Disney World Resort hotel.  There is no need to wait for, or transport your luggage.

How it works

After you have secured your flight arrangements, contact your Vacation Planner (me of course 🙂 ) with your flight info, or of course if you have decided to do something crazy like do all of the planning yourself, and not use my services, you can contact Disney directly to reserve your spot on Disney’s Magical Express.

Approximately 3 weeks prior to your departure, Disney will mail you your very own magic envelope (and you too can begin celebrating).  Inside the envelope, you will find your travel vouchers and luggage tags.  When you are checking in at your departure airport, make sure that you have attached the luggage tags to your bags.  If you do this, you won’t have to worry about your bags again.  The next time you will see them is when they are delivered to your room at Walt Disney World.

An important side note here.  When packing, make sure you pack your travel vouchers in your carry-on bag.  You will need these vouchers in order to board the Magical Express motor coach.

Now, back to your trip….

When you arrive at the Orlando International Airport, you can pass right by the baggage claim area, and make your way downphoto credit:  Disney to Level 1 of the Main Terminal (B Side).  At the Magical Express check-in, they will check your vouchers and direct you to board the correct motor coach.

Now, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and let your vacation begin.  As you travel on board the motor coach, you will be treated to a cute video that will give you all the highlights of Walt Disney World.   This is one of our family favorites, and something we look forward to each trip.  To me, it is the official start of vacation.

Disney’s Magical Express will transport you to the front door of your resort.  All you need to do is check in, and start soaking in all the Magic.

But wait, what about your luggage ??

Disney’s Magical Express service will collect your bags and deliver them directly to your room within 4 hours of the time you check in at the resort.

Time for another Public Service Announcement:

Something else you will want to keep in mind is since you will not have your luggage with you when you check in to the resort, you will want to make sure that you pack anything that you will need for the first couple of hours in your carry-on bag.  (Medicine, park tickets, reservation numbers, etc).  

So, on your next trip to “the World”, don’t stress out about transportation from the airport.  Sit back and let Mickey handle the driving!

Have questions, or comments?  Feel free to contact me.

Categories: Destinations, Walt Disney World | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Birthday America!

On this day, 236 years ago, Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.  In all 56 individuals, two of them future Presidents (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson), signed that document.  Some of the signatures didn’t come until years later.  And because of the courage of those “Founding Fathers”, the greatest country in the world was born.

The love of this great country is something that we can share with Walt Disney:

“Actually, if you could see close in my eyes, the American flag is waving in both of them and up my spine is glowing this red, white, and blue stripe.” – Walt Disney

Walt’s love for the United States of America, is evident even inside The Magic Kingdom.

(photo credit: Walt Disney World Gallery)

Starting as you pass into Liberty Square from Cinderella Castle in the central hub, you cross a bridge that was inspired by the Old North Bridge.  The Old North Bridge is the site of one of first battles for American Independence, the Battle of Concord.

As you continue through Liberty Square, you will pass by a large oak tree.  The Liberty Tree, was transplanted and moved to Walt Disney World.  The 130 year old tree weighed 38 tons at the time, and had a root ball about 18 ft x 16 ft x 4 ft deep.  The tree symbolizes the original liberty tree in Boston, Mass that was the gathering spot for a group of individuals called the “Sons of Liberty”.  Hanging in the branches of the Liberty Tree, you will notice 13 lanterns, one for each of the original colonies.

Next to the Liberty Tree is a replica of the Liberty Bell.  In fact, it is the only replica to be cast from the mold from the original Liberty Bell.

Across the walkway from the Liberty Tree, you will find the Hall of Presidents.  The Hall of Presidents, a 22-minute show inside the hall features audio-animatronics versions of each of the 44 Presidents of the United Sates.  Well actually, only 43 of them since Grover Cleveland served two separate terms as President (22 & 24).  Throughout the show, you will see each of the Presidents gesture, sway, sit, stand, and in some cases speak.  The show is well worth your time.

If you look closely in the windows of the Hall of President, you will see two glowing lanterns.  These lanterns are meant to represent the beacons that Paul Revere watched for as he made his famous ride announcing the coming of the British army.

“In America, we are guaranteed these freedoms. It is the constitutional privilege of every American to become cultured or to grow up like Donald Duck.” – Walt Disney

As you spend some time in Liberty Square, some of the other things you may take note of:

  • The shutters on the buildings hang crooked – During the Revolutionary War, Britain was still sending supplies to the colony, but obviously would not send them ammunition.  What they did provide, however, was shutters…with metal hinges.  Resourceful Independence fighters stripped the hinges from the shutters and melted them down to make musket balls.  They replaced the metal hinges with leather straps.  As time went on the leather stretched out, causing the shutters to hang crooked.
  • To keep up with the themes, since during Colonial times there was no indoor plumbing, you will find no bathrooms in Liberty Square.  This is sort of a technicality, however.  There are two restaurants in Liberty Square, Columbia Harbour House, and Liberty Tree Tavern.  Although each of these restaurants have bathrooms, they are technically across the line into the next “land” in the Magic Kingdom, so don’t physically sit within the borders of Liberty Square.

There are a couple of other hidden gems in Liberty Square, that I won’t tell you about, you will have to discover them for yourself.  (If you really want to know, I’ll tell you if you ask nicely  🙂  ).

I’ll end with one more quote from Walt:

“Tomorrow will be better as long as America keeps alive the ideals of freedom and a better life.” – Walt Disney

If you would like to hear more about Liberty Square, the Magic Kingdom, or Disney in general, drop me a line.  I’d love to hear from you.

(If you are interested, I’ve also included several links for you to check out).

Happy Independence Day!!

Categories: Destinations, Walt Disney World | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Storybook Circus Now Open!

The largest expansion in Magic Kingdom® Park history is underway, a project that will nearly double the size of Fantasyland at the Walt Disney World® Resort. And now the Storybook Circus area of New Fantasyland is open!

Some of the new elements of Storybook Circus include:

  • Not one but two circling carousels of airborne pachyderms on Dumbo the Flying Elephant. And, before taking to the skies on this Fantasyland favorite, you can experience an array of fun-filled family games and interactive wonders for kids of all ages inside the Big Top.
  • The classic Barnstormer got a bright new look as well, featuring Goofy as The Great Goofini. It’s a twisting, turning roller coaster “flight” high above the circus fun.
  • Fantasyland Station: You can delight in the newest addition to Walt Disney World Railroad.
  • Casey Jr. Splash ‘n’ Soak Station is a circus-themed water play area. Water squirts from playful monkeys, elephants, camels and from Casey Jr. when he lets off billows of cooling “steam.”
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A Night on the Savanna

The countdown has begun! 

In 27 days (but who is counting) we will be returning to one of my favorite places in all of Walt Disney World! Animal Kingdom Lodge!

Animal Kingdom Lodge Sign   (Photo credit: rustyalaska)

As you pull up in front of the resort, you can tell that something is different about this place.  Not only is it the size of the place, it just has a different feel to it.  You can’t quite put your finger on it though.  When you step out of the car (or usually in our case, the Disney Magical Express bus), you feel so completely enveloped by the sights and sounds.  (If you listen carefully, you can hear African-themed music playing in the background.)  You don’t know quite what to expect.  You walk up to the front doors, and as they open, you start to get a real appreciation for the size and scale of this resort.

030113-FL-WDW-animal_kingdom_lodge-lobby

Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby (Photo credit: obfusciatrist)

The Amazing Lobby

As you step through the front doors, you will most likely hear a collective, “Wow!” coming from those who walk through the door with you.

Animal Kingdom Lodge, an African-themed deluxe resort at Walt Disney World, opened in 2001 and hosts more than 1,300 rooms.  The resort boasts thatched ceilings, large beams and showcases many real African artifacts.  The lodge is situated in a way to allow for an expansive view of the 43-acre African Wildlife Preserve.

The Animals

If you pass through the lobby, you will step into an area called Arusha Rock.  It is a rock platform that gets you up close and personal with the wildlife roaming the savanna.  Animal Kingdom Lodge wouldn’t be called that without the animals!

More than 30 different species of wildlife roam 4 different savannas.  Among the animals that call this place home are, Reticulated Giraffe, Zebra, Antelope, Okapi, Thompson’s Gazelle, Ostrich, and White-Bearded Wildebeest.

Giraffe at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Giraffe at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the greatest things about the savanna, however, is the fact that many of the rooms come with views of the savanna.  It’s a wonderful thing to be sitting on your balcony and see a Giraffe wander by.  Sometimes they feel close enough to touch!  The last time we stayed there, we had the pleasure of two giraffe coming over just under our balcony and bedding down for the night.  It was a breathtaking sight.

And, if you are really ready for an up-close view of the animals, you may choose to reserve a spot for a tour of the Wanyama Safari.  This is an adventurous guided drive through one of the safaris that offers the opportunity to spend some time with the members of the Animal Kingdom Lodge animal program team.  You will enjoy wonderful photo opportunities of the animals and architecture of Animal Kingdom Lodge.  After the safari, you will return to Jiko (one of a few restaurants at the resort) for an amazing dinner.

Restaurants

Speaking of restaurants, Animal Kingdom Lodge offers two award-winning restaurants, Jiko-The Cooking Place and Boma-Flavors of Africa, as well as a The Mara, a counter service restaurant.

Other Activities / Amenities

If the adventure with the animals is too much for you, or you are just looking to kick back, you could also choose to relax at the resort’s 11,000 square foot zero-depth entry pool.  Uzima pool also offers a 67 foot long slide.

With all of this and more to offer, Animal Kingdom Lodge is an amazing place to stay, and would be a wonderful choice for a family stay at Walt Disney World.

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