MagicBands – Love ’em or leave ’em?

Today I have a guest post from my friend and former cast member, Jo Anne!  She has been an annual passholder, is a DVC member, and when we first met I thought she was a Disney fanatic (in a bad way.)  I still think she’s a Disney fanatic, but in a good way!  She used the new MagicBands in September and this is her review. 

Since this review took place during the test phase, things may have changed since then. Be sure to check Disney’s website for updates to policies and procedures.

In late October/early November we took a family vacation to Walt Disney World with family and friends to celebrate several birthdays (including my daughter’s first birthday.)  As DVC members, my parents stayed in a 1 bedroom villa and my family and our friends stayed in a 2 bedroom villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We were all super excited to find out we would be able to participate in the soft launch of the new Disney MagicBand program. Marketed as a colorful, all-in-one band that connects all of your vacation plans and reservations through My Disney Experience, we weren’t sure what to expect. My friend and I were super excited about the colorful bands and a free souvenir for the kids’ first trip to WDW.  However, our husbands were very cynical – they made comments about how Disney will know everything about us, can track us, help us spend money…but deep down they were excited too.

Once we were registered in My Disney Experience, I linked all of our ticket and dining information to our bands. I still brought my trusty spreadsheet, but I could see phasing this out now that I have this great tool.

I highly recommend taking the time to customize your MagicBands through My Disney Experience. We assigned a character to each person and had fun picking the colors of our bands. The packaging on them is amazing as well. We were so excited when we finally got them in the mail. If you don’t customize your band, you will be issued a gray one at the front desk when you check in. Boo…gray is so boring!

When we checked into our resort, we were flooded by MagicBand merchandise. Continue reading

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Disney World vs. Disneyland

After vacationing at Disney World many times over the past five years, I was excited to get the opportunity last year to go to Disneyland for New Year’s Eve.  I was anxious to compare the park that started it all to the parks I had grown to love.  Before we left for California, I did research online and saw a lot of familiar sights – many rides looked exactly the same as Disney World, which was very comforting to me.  However, after spending 4 days at Disneyland, I’d have to say there is no contest on which I like better – and that’s Disney World!

Here’s a quick comparison of the two: Continue reading

Holidays Around the World at Epcot

One of my favorite Christmas holiday features at Disney World is the ‘Holidays Around the World’ at the World Showcase in Epcot.  I didn’t expect it when we went during Christmastime so it was quite an exciting surprise.  In college I majored in International Business and French, so I’ve always had an interest in other cultures and I think that is probably why Epcot is my favorite park (along with the food and drinks!)  So when I saw that each pavilion in the World Showcase had a short performance about that country’s holiday traditions, I wanted to see them all!  Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the performance in every country because of the scheduling, but the ones we saw were perfect for getting in the Christmas spirit!  For a listing of the different holidays-around-the-world events, check out Disney’s website here.

In Germany, Helga tells a Christmas story about her first nutcracker, which *spoiler alert* comes to life during the show!

Holiday story with Helga in Germany pavilion at Epcot

Holiday story with Helga in Germany pavilion at Epcot

Holiday story with Helga in Germany pavilion at Epcot

Holiday story with Helga in Germany pavilion at Epcot

In Norway, there was a completely amazing performance that we came back to see a second time!  It’s the story of Sigrid and the Mischievous Christmas Gnome, Julenissen.
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Giant Gingerbread at Disney World

When we went to Disney World last December I expected to see elaborate Christmas decorations everywhere, and I wasn’t disappointed!  What I didn’t expect to see were the giant gingerbread structures, using hundreds of pounds of sugar, chocolates, icing and eggs!  Two of the displays we saw in 2012 were at the BoardWalk Inn lobby and in the American pavilion at Epcot.  They are quite amazing when you consider the sheer volume of ingredients that is somehow whipped together to form giant houses with every tiny detail in tact (not to mention the hidden Mickeys!)  There are even Disney pins depicting the gingerbread houses at the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, BoardWalk, and Beach Club according to the Disney Parks blog.

Gingerbread house at Disney's BoardWalk Inn

Gingerbread house at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn

Gingerbread house at Disney's BoardWalk Inn

Gingerbread house at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn

Gingerbread house at Disney's BoardWalk Inn

Gingerbread house at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn


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What I’m thankful for at Disney World

Often times when we are planning a trip to Disney, we keep it on the DL. Not because we’re not super excited, but because we know that not everyone is able to go to Disney World as often as we do – and maybe not ever. I never take for granted how blessed our family is to be able to go on a few vacations a year to get away and spend time together, especially when it’s in the Disney bubble.
Today on Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the countless things God has given us. Going to Disney World has provided so many amazing memories that we’ll share as a family forever.

Here are some of the things I’m most thankful for – be sure to vote below on what YOU are most thankful for!

  • Being an annual passholder
  • Getting to go to Disney World and Disneyland in the same year
  • Air conditioning in August
  • San Angel Inn margaritas
  • Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table with my daughter dressed as Cinderella
  • Beauty and the Beast show at Hollywood Studios
  • The Magical Express
  • Perfume in Norway Pavilion
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority
  • Everything about Epcot
Thankful at Disney World

Thankful at Disney World

Hopefully we’ll be at Disney again soon, but until then I’ll just stay thankful for all the memories.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Christmas Magic at Disney World

One of the best things about Disney vacations is that something unexpected and magical seems to happen on every trip.  Last November, my husband and I went to Disney World to celebrate our 10 year anniversary and we definitely experienced some unexpected magic!

Christmas Minnie and Mickey

Christmas Mickey and Minnie

We planned our trip the week following Thanksgiving, knowing that we would beat the holiday crowds that grow as Christmas break approaches.  Upon arriving at Magic Kingdom, we saw some commotion and a stage set up in the Main Street square, not to mention people lined up along Main Street wearing Santa hats and Christmas-themed attire.  It didn’t take too long to realize something was going on and we soon found out they were setting up to tape the Christmas Day parade that airs on TV Christmas morning — and we were going to be there to witness it!

The timing of the parade happened shortly after the news of Disney taking over Lucasfilm, so there were tons of storm troopers lined up to march in the parade, lead by Darth Vader.

Star Wars Christmas Parade at Magic Kingdom

Star Wars Christmas Parade on Main Street

It was so cool to see the behind-the-scenes instructions given to Vader by the director and it only took a few takes to get the scene right.

Darth Vader Christmas Parade at Magic Kingdom

Darth Vader in the Christmas Parade at Magic Kingdom

Storm Trooper Parade at Magic Kingdom

Storm Trooper Parade at Magic Kingdom

After the parade was over, we made our way up Main Street towards Cinderella Castle.  Once we got there, it was obvious there was going to be a show. Continue reading

Golfing at Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course

I love to golf.  My husband and I used to golf nearly every weekend in the summer when we were first married.  It was a great time to bond, relax and enjoy the outdoors.  However, after our daughter came along it was harder to find time (and a sitter) to make it out to the course very often.

Once she turned about 6 years old, we had the great idea that we’d just teach her how to golf and then we could go back to our weekly golf habit!  I know Tiger Woods started golfing at age 3, but we soon learned that taking the average 6 year old on the golf course (even a par 3) is tough.  Carrying clubs, walking up hills, and the 4-5 swings needed to make contact with the ball were too draining for her to make it for 9 holes.  But over the next three years we persevered, continuing to teach her and from time to time golfing a round with her as scorekeeper in the cart (I think she’d rather drive the cart than golf most times anyways.)

On our last trip to Disney, I felt like we had reached the point where we could try to golf as a family.  After some research I was pleased to find a Disney course that was labeled as “family friendly,” which is pretty rare on a regular length course.  The age range on the website even listed preschoolers … which made me wonder if it was going to be the equivalent of a mini-golf course with lots of kids running around.  As soon as we arrived I realized that was not the case at all.  There was an attendant to greet us, take our bags and escort us into the pro shop, which had all the Mickey golf paraphernalia you could ever want!

WDW Golf

WDW Golf

Since we are annual passholders, our rounds were FREE!  Yes, I said FREE!  (Greens fees are a benefit for passholders at Oak Trail, but not the other courses.)  In addition, our taxi from the resort to the course was FREE! (Complimentary transportation is available for guests from most Disney resorts – check with the concierge desk to confirm.)  Free golf and free taxi – – how could we pass that up?  To save on the baggage fees at the airport we combined my clubs with my husband’s and I was able to get a complimentary bag at the course as well.
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