Meeting the Big Cheese - The Basics

Dancing With Goofy
It is mandatory.  Children or not.  You simply must meet Mickey.  Ok, that may be a little dramatic, but for my crew, no trip to Disney would be complete without meeting lots of characters. I thought I would share a few tips to help you get the most out of your character experience.

Be Prepared
As the family in front of you greets the character, that is your cue to get yourself ready:
  • Have your stroller or other gear ready to move. 
  • Have autograph books (or whatever else is being signed) open to an empty page. 
  • Un-cap your pen, so it is ready for action.
  • Find your PhotoPass card....Yes, it is there...somewhere!
  • Take your camera out of the case and turn it on.
  • "Fluff" your kids.  You want to remember the experience, not the crusty nose!
Watch the Time
When it finally is your turn, take your time to enjoy the experience.  I am a bit guilty of rushing my kids through, often to the point that they characters themselves are trying to get us stick around a bit longer.  Yes, there are other people waiting, but if your child wants to take a moment to make sure Donald is ok after flying into the wall at Mickey's Philharmagic, let him!  If he feels the need to lauch into his life story, then it is time to move him along. I always try to be mindful of the crowd, but getting an autograph, a picture, and taking a moment to tell Tigger that he is your favorite is ok!

Snuggling Pooh
Play Along
Ask Belle if she has a suggestion for your next book club.  Call Captain Hook a codfish.  Let the gentleman in the group kiss Minnie's hand for a cute reaction.  Ask about their movie, or their friends.  You can have a wonderful impromtu conversation that is somehow completely real and total fantasy at the same time.

Be Nice
Not to sound like Miss Manners, but I am amazed at how many people forget their manners when they are on vacation.  It can be hot, which can make folks very irritable.  Pleases and thank-yous go along way.  Remember, no matter how hot you may be, under all of his fur, Pooh is MUCH hotter!

Be Gentle
(No matter how much your little guy thinks Hook deserves a kick in the shins!)  I was shocked that I had to remind my otherwise staid husband of this on our last trip.  He was so excited to see Tigger that he gave him a big bear hug.  Even with his giant head, my hubby was a good bit bigger than his orange friend.

Be Patient
Sometimes your favorite character might be called away for a moment.  Snow White may need to slip away to check on the dwarfs, or Pooh may have a rumbly in his tummy for some honey.  While it really stinks if you are the next person in line, understand that everyone needs a little break.  You can ask the attendant when they will return.

Be Creative
When you are taking your photo think of a creative pose.  Drink some tea with Alice or try out your best snarl for Lady Tremaine.  One of my favorite pictures is of Snow White and my reluctant husband.  My then 4 year old daughter "assigned" Snow White to be her dad's favorite princess (we were all required to have one and they had to be different.)  When Snow White approached our table my little darling loudly announced "Snow White, you are my Daddy's FAVORITE!"  Seeing the blush creep up his neck, Snow White proclaimed in the breathiest of voices, that she "Simply MUST  have a picture with this prince!"  She made him stand up and do the "Prince Pose" while she sidled up along side him.  I smile everytime I see that picture.  I would share it with you, but I fear the repercussions.

Just Ask
If you would like to have a separate picture with each child, or if you want to do something a little different, ask the attendant.  They will accomodate you if they can.  Also, if you are not sure where to find your favorite pal ask an attendant.  They should be able to find the information for you.

I hope you enjoy meeting your favorite characters.  Be sure to blow Mickey a kiss from me...and tell Snow White that she can borrow my Prince anytime!
The Whole Gang

Let the Memories Begin

The next chapter in Disney history was announced today...a new campaign called "Let the Memories Begin".  In 2011 Disney will honor memory making by featuring family vacation photos for the whole world to see.  Disney is asking that you send your most precious vacation videos and snapshot so they can share them with the world.  On select nights images taken throughout the day and images sent in will be projected on Cinderella castle in Disney World and it's a small world in Disneyland. This night time spectacular will be accompanied by a new original song titled "Let the Memories Begin".  This campaign will also include more traditional outlets such as web, print and tv ads. 

So what do you think?  Do you like the idea that your can be a star in a Disney commercial?  Or be part of the "show"?  Or does the idea of looking at someone else's vacation photos sound like torture?  I am a little on the fence with this one.  Perhaps a spectacular execution of this idea will when me over.  I guess time will tell!

Update: Check out the projection test and see what you think!(Right now I think I am sticking with "neat", but it is not as cool as "Year of a Million Dreams" or even "What will you celebrate?"

If you want to get in on the act dind your favorite photo or video clip, describe it, and submit it to:

It's all about the feet! Part 2

In my last post, I discussed my search for the best athletic shoes.  Ever.  If you would like to catch up on click here.

Most people I know stay in the parks as long as their feet or children allow.  Hopefully, some of these quick tips that will help insure you feet outlast your kids so you can have maximum park enjoyment.  While this is certainly not one of my more glamorous posts, it is one of my most imminently practical. 

  • Wear Good Shoes - If you read the previous post, you know I am giddy over my latest shoe purchase (and the label says neither Louboutin or Jimmy Choo).  Well fitting comfortable shoes are a must.  Put your fashion sense aside and focus on what really feels good on your feet.  I know that many swear by Crocs or Fit Flops, but my finicky feet need more support for longer distances.  I may slip on my sandals for dinner at the resort and Wishes, but for my commando mornings I need a big bulky not so cute sneaker.
  • Break in Your Shoes - Don't wait until the last minute to purchase your park kicks.  Wear them for increasing time and distances to make sure they fit perfectly and do not cause any hot spots.
  • Leave Your Old Sneaks Behind - A shoe can be too "broken in"...which is a nice way of saying old.  The support structure in sneakers wears down after about 500 miles of use.  Try buying your shoes 2-3 months before your trip to make sure they are "just right" 
  • Alternate Shoes - Try to bring a second pair of shoes and wear them on alternating days or switching at your mid day break.  You will be especially glad to have a back up pair should you be soaked by an afternoon shower. 
  • Be Prepared - If you follow the advice about, wearing good shoes, you will never need it... but in case someone else in your party doesn't, be sure to bring some bandages, moleskin and an anti-blister stick (such as BodyGlide).  Addressing a hot spot before it turns into a full fledged blister will save your vacation!
  • Wear Good Socks - If you can read a newspaper through the threadbare heel of your socks, it is time to get a new pair.  Avoid 100% cotton socks, as they hold moisture close to your skin which is not only feels icky, but will cause blisters.  Look for a moisture-wicking synthetic blend (such as Cool Max) for maximum comfort. 
  • Practice Makes Perfect - Start a daily walking routine.  It will help not only break in your shoes, but your body.   Walk until you can do several miles comfortably.  Plus, it is just plain old good for you.
  • Skip the Pedicure - Yes, you heard me!  By all means get those toes polished, but do not let the technician take a pumice to your callouses.  Callouses are natures own blister protection.  Instead, save your pedi for when you get home...a little vacation from your vacation is a good thing.
  • Have a Nice Soak - I am not so much a bath girl (particularly in a hotel!) but I have no problems filling up the tub, sitting on the edge and soaking my feet.  The husband and I take turns going out at night after the children are in bed.  One night he goes, the next night is my turn.  On my night in, I will grab a book and soak my tootsies while my girls fall asleep.  Once they are down for the count,  I can quietly watch tv while I rub some  Bert's Bees Peppermint Foot Lotion on my feet and put them up.
There you have it... my best tips to help your feet keep up with the rest of you.  (And I REALLY am sorry about that whole pedicure thing!)


It's all about the feet! - Part 1

It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out; it's the grain of sand in your shoe. --Robert W. Service

I am sure that quote rings true for many folks who set off for their Disney vacation in a pair of ill fitting shoes! 

I have never had the best feet in the world.  Last year, I injured the ball of my foot and I still have lingering pain if I "overdo" things, or shop too many miles in my flip flops.  Knowing that I am a few months away from a week long trip to the world, I decided it was time that I heeded my Doc's advice and get a really good pair of athletic shoes.

I headed off to the local runners specialty store and I was AMAZED at what I found!  I was greeted by Emily, a great lady who more than knew her stuff...
  • She watched me walk in my shoes to analyze my gait as well as examining the wear pattern of the shoes I wore into the store.  (From this she determined that one foot slightly over-pronates)
  • She examined my foot.  (Apparently, the ball of my foot is a little wide, but my heel is quite narrow.  ...who knew!)   
  • She actually measured my foot.  (I felt like a child a Stride Rite, when she pulled out that metal thingy-ma-bob!)  
  • She asked questions about my foot injury, examined  my custom orthotics, and asked what I would be using the shoes for. 
She disappeared behind that famous shoe store curtain and came back with loads of boxes. Notice what did not happen?  She did not ask me which shoe that I liked or wanted to try on.  That is not how they work - you get the shoe that fits YOUR FOOT not the one that fits your fashion sensibility...a total change from every other shoe store that I have been in.  As I tried on the first pair, she told me exactly why she thought it would be a good match for my foot.  Once I had them on she watched me walk around the store and then put me on a tread mill with a video camera aimed at my feet.  I was able to watch my feet walk on the monitor in front of me.  How cool is that?!?

We repeated the process with close to a dozen other shoes.  This lady was not going to let me leave until I had the perfect pair.  She experimented with different ways to tie the shoe as well as small adhesive pads in the tongue to help keep my heel from slipping.  After almost an hour we settled on the best pair, which, of course, the first one she put on my foot!  (Amazing that she knew which shoe would be the best, but still had me go through the process of trying on the others.)

I know you are all thinking that I must have ended up with a pair of shoes that cost a small fortune.  Well, truth be told, I did spend  a little more than usual on these shoes than I normally do.  But I also got a shoe with  better construction, better materials,  and better support than their less expensive cousins at your regular shoe store.  I was still out the door for less than $95 and I have to say they are the best shoes that I have ever had.  My feet feel good, my knees feel good and I know that I will be able to tackle a full day at Epcot with out the "dogs barking".  I was so excited, I am sending my husband over to find his perfect pair of shoes.

Check back later this week for another post about taking care of your feet at Disney World.  In the mean time hit the yellow pages and find a specialty shoe store.  If you are any where near the Triad in NC, I highly recommend Off'n Running.

It's all about the feet - Part 2


The Early Bird Gets the Mouse

The most important tip that I pass on to all of my clients is the importance of being at the park prior to opening. Any Disney veteran knows it is rope drop or bust!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that I am not so much a morning person...(especially if I am on vacation!). So if I tell you that I never miss rope drop, you know I am serious about arriving early!

I originally planned this to be a pithy little column. After all, how much space does it take to tell you to set your alarm, even if you are on vacation? But the more I thought about it, I thought it might be best to illustrate my point with some hard numbers.

I consulted to find an "average" day (a 5 of 10 on the crowd calendar). I chose 10 attractions in Magic Kingdom and the Lines application (also by to get an average wait time for those attractions. The morning I chose happened to have early Extra Magic Hours. (On a side note: and the Lines app are both great. I highly recommend you finish up here and go check them out. And yes - the subscription is totally worth it!)

The first hour the park was open, the combined wait for the 10 selected attractions was only 24 minutes. The second hour, the wait jumped to 56 total minutes. That extra hour in bed comes with the cost of almost twice the wait! For you extra relaxed park goers who sleep in, eat a late brunch and then head off to play around noon may want to rethink your plans. The same 10 attractions have a combined average wait time of over 163 minutes! Almost seven times longer than the early birds had.

I know many of you have picked up on the fallacy of my cannot do 10 attractions in an hour..and the wait time incrementally increases as you go! Of, course you are correct. I am not suggesting that this is any sort of a feasible touring plan. This is just a quick snapshot of the numbers to prove that wait times stack up during the day. So get there early, people!

To make sure you arrive on time (and by on time I mean 30 minutes prior to park opening):
  • Be sure to set your alarm clock. (duh!)
  • Schedule a wake up serves as a great back up. Let you kids answer the phone to enjoy a great character moment.
  • Allow 45 minutes to an hour for transportation. Mornings are a busy time for Disney transportation, and that first bus might be full!
  • Once you arrive, allow 15 minutes to get through security.
  • If you are staying off property allow plenty of time for traffic, parking, taking a tram to the TTC, getting tickets if necessary, and then taking the monorail or ferry to the Magic Kingdom.
Since we have already covered the fact that I am not a morning person, I can confess that once I am safely through security I pull out my morning granola bar and wait for the train to pull into the station. I take a moment to review my touring plan (I'm coming, Dumbo!) and get ready for a great day. And you know what?....I don't miss my nice cozy bed one bit!


Quick Tip: Packing for the Kids

I am a mom to a pair of fashionista princesses. From the hair accessories on the tops of their pretty little heads, to the shoes covering their pretty little toes...getting dressed in our house is a big deal. Needless to say, when it comes to packing their clothes for a trip it is a short trip to crazy town for this poor mama.

On our last trip to Disney World, I tried a new "system" for packing...the Ziplock bag. Each little princesses' outfit (including shirt, shorts, socks, undies, and the required hair bow) was carefully rolled and tucked into a zip top bag. I labeled each bag with the appropriate daughter's name and the day it was to be worn. I pressed out all of the extra air and tossed it into the suitcase. I combined pajamas into one bag and swimsuits into another. One extra bag held additional clean socks and undies.

When we arrived, unpacking the girls' clothes was a piece of cake. I grabbed an armful of baggies and dropped them in the drawer...done! The best part was in the morning when I was trying to get myself ready and out the door, my husband was able to locate the "Monday" outfit for each kid and toss it their way. Everything was already nicely consolidated and coordinated. There was no questioning if Shirt A matched Shorts B, or which bow would be just "perfect". They were dressed in record time and without complaint. By the time they were dressed, I was ready to brush their hair and pop in the bow. No fuss, no muss!

I hope my "fancy" luggage tip comes in handy for your next trip...Disney or othewise. If I were a few sizes smaller, I think I would even go Ziplock myself!