Have Courage and Be Kind - Lessons from Disney's Cinderella

Saturday marked my 31st birthday and my wonderfully tolerant husband agreed to take me to see Cinderella at a local movie theatre.  I had heard good things about the movie and was excited to see the costuming, the scenery, and a new twist on an old favorite.  What I didn't expect was to walk out of the movie theatre with some takeaway life lessons.

"Have courage. . ." - Cinderella relies on her courage to endure the tragedies she faces and the mean spiritedness she endures from her stepmother and stepsisters.  She reminds us that acts of courage don't have to be found only in the extraordinary, but can be found in littlest of things.  Sometimes courage can be going out on a limb and trying something new or maybe standing up for what you believe in.  The chance to be courageous is available to us each day.  

". . .and be kind" - Such a simple statement, but one that bears repeating.  It's Cinderella's kindness that opens doors of opportunity to her and her kind heart that wins the Prince.  Even in the face of horrific treatment by others, Cinderella shows nothing but kindness.  Too often today it seems that we as a society are quick to judge and tear down one another rather than lend a helping hand and a friendly smile.  Perhaps with a little kindness, we can each find our own magic happening in our lives too.

Your prince will love you for who you are - When Prince Charming finds Cinderella at the end of the movie, she is back to being a simple country girl serving her stepmother and stepsisters in her home.  She is dressed in rags, her hair is mess, and she is certainly not the perfect princess from the ball.  But a funny thing happens.  When she asks him if he will take and accept her for who she is, now, in that moment, he says yes.  Now that's true love.  When you find the person who will love you in sweatpants, when you're sick, or when you just can't seem to lose that baby weight post pregnancy - that's when you know you found a winner.  Sure, it's fun to dress up once in a while, but don't try to change who you are to find love.

Part of the beauty of Disney movies is their ability to transcend the generations.  Whether introducing a child to the story of Cinderella for the first time or seeing it for yourself for the 100th time, everyone can take something away from this timeless classic.

Saving Pennies for Disney

I love being a Disney loving mom.  Planning Disney trips for my own family and talking about Disney with those who are just as passionate as I am or with those going for the first time brings me almost as much joy as the actual trips themselves.  In recent years, I've been successful in convincing my loving and supportive husband that annual Disney trips are essential for our family.  After all, "happy wife, happy life" right?

In order to go on a Disney vacation each year, I'm always looking for ways to save money.  In the past I've highlighted buying Disney gift cards at Target to get 5% off, using David's DVC rental store to book deluxe villas at moderate prices, and using Garden Grocer to save money on food while in Walt Disney World.  Today's tip is not Disney specific, but I plan to use my rewards towards a Disney vacation.

Back in the Fall, my sister-in-law began sharing her experiences using Ebates.  You may have seen commercials for this website, but if you're not familiar, here's the basics.  Ebates is a referral website. You create an account with them and log into their website before doing any of your online shopping.  They offer a percent cash back on purchases from A LOT of online retailers.  All you do is access the retailer through Ebates website and the cash back magically appears in your account.  Every few weeks, Ebates will transfer the cash back you've earned to your linked PayPal account and then it's yours to spend as you see fit.  

Are you going to pay for an annual Disney trip with the cash back you earn from Ebates?  Probably not.  I'm a "casual" online shopper.  I buy diapers for the baby, clothes for the kids, and some gifts online - by no means am I purchasing things everyday or spending large amounts of money.  Also, Ebates tends to offer between 1% - 5% cash back - not hundreds of dollars at a time.  I've had some purchases where I've earned less than $1 cash back, but others where I've earned $10.  You can also watch their website for double cash back specials and extra cash bonuses.  For example, my recent diaper purchase not only earned me the usual 2% back from my Diapers.com purchase, but Ebates was also running a special where you earned $5 extra cash back on any purchase from select kids retailers when you spent more than $25.  So the diapers I had to buy anyway ended up netting me over $6 back in easy money!

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

I've been a member since December and have earned almost $60 in cash back so far.  If my trend continues, by our Disney trip in November I should have over $200 saved up that I'll withdraw and spend on Disney gift cards.  That's a couple quick service meals in the park, or maybe an AMAZING 4 course meal for hubby and I at Artist Point, or an awful lot of food and wine tastes at the Food and Wine Festival in Epcot.  And of course when I buy my Disney gift cards, I'll purchase them with 5% off using my Target Red Card online through Ebates where I'll earn about 2% in cash back :) 

Taking your Princess to Walt Disney World

Most little girls dream of being princesses.  And why not?  A great castle, fancy dresses, the best shoes, and Prince Charming to sweep you off your feet.  I get it.

A trip to Walt Disney World is where little girls get to see their dreams come true in front of them and meet those real live princesses who inspire their dreams.  So when you take your little princess to Walt Disney World, here are a few experiences that can add an extra dash of pixie dust to your already magical trip.

Princess Character Dining - A great way to get to meet and interact with the Disney princesses is to share a meal with them.  Cinderella's Royal Table is by far the most popular.  It's location in Cinderella's Castle inside the Magic Kingdom makes this a fairytale experience.  Other great options are Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot and 1900 Park Fare (dinner) at the Grand Floridian Resort.  You can find more information on what characters appear at each on the Walt Disney World website.  Since princess meals are among the most popular dining reservations at Walt Disney World, be sure to book them 180 days in advance.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique - Watch your little girl become a princess in front of your eyes!  Packages here include a range of services (and a range of prices) including a princess gown, make-up, hairstyling, etc.  Each girl is treated like royalty by her very own Fairy Godmother who performs her makeover.  There are two locations in Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom and Downtown Disney.  This is another experience where you'll want to make reservations early!

Princess Meet and Greets - Chances are your little princess won't want to pass up an opportunity to share a hug with her favorite Disney Princesses.  At Magic Kingdom, you can always find Cinderella with Rapunzel and Anna with Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall.  Wait times can be extremely long to meet these princesses (over 2 hours for Anna and Elsa when we walked past in November!) so you may want to consider using one or two of your FastPass reservations for this occasion.  You can also find many princesses throughout Epcot's World Showcase.  Look for Alice in England, Belle and Aurora  in France, Jasmine in Morocco, Mulan in China, and Snow White in Germany.  These princesses are not out all day, but you will find them in their respective countries several times during the day.

Don't Forget Sofia the First - The Disney Junior fans will not want to miss out on their favorite TV princess.  You can find Sofia hanging out at a Character Greeting location just outside of Disney Junior - Live on Stage at Hollywood Studios.  Also in Hollywood Studios, you can find Sofia (along with Disney Junior friends Jake, Doc, and Handy Manny) at the Disney Junior Play 'n' Dine breakfast or lunch at Hollywood and Vine.

Of course you'll find lots of ways to interact with your favorite Disney princesses.  Don't forget autograph books and cameras to capture those priceless moments when dreams really do come true!

The Toughest runDisney Race

I'll be running my first runDisney races this year as part of the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend in November.  Follow my journey from registration into training and onto the big day!

I'm new to the wonderful world of runDisney, but I feel pretty confident that I may have passed the most stressful and toughest part of the experience - registration.  runDisney races are extremely popular and often fill up fast.  I knew all of this going into the process, but wasn't quite prepared for just how quick the race would fill up.  Here is my experience with registering for the 2015 Wine and Dine Half and Jingle Jungle 5K as well as tips that might be helpful for those of you looking to register in the future.

Registration begins at Noon (Sharp!!) - On the day that registration opens, you want to stop everything you are doing and be prepared to register at noon on the nose.  I went to www.rundisney.com at noon and immediately hit the "register" button for the Wine and Dine Half.  It took me to www.active.com where I entered the queue to wait for my turn to enter registration.  Initially, I was told it would be a one minute wait, but the number kept changing.  It was about 12:04PM when I entered the Active registration and began.  This year, both the Wine and Dine Half Marathon and the Jingle Jungle 5K sold out in less than 44 minutes - that's CRAZY!!

Just keep waiting, waiting, waiting. . .

Prioritize - You can only register for one runDisney race at a time.  Since the half marathon was my big goal for this weekend, that's what I selected to register for first.  I didn't have an account on Active so I began registration as a guest.  I don't think it really slowed me down - maybe took me an extra 90 seconds to enter the information that they would have already had.  After completing registration for the half marathon, I then went back and started over again to register for the 5K.  When prioritizing your races for registration, remember that challenges often sell out first.  The kid's races are usually the last to sell out so save those for after you've already met your other priorities.

Yay!  I got in!

Credit Cards Ready - Have your information ready to go so you can roll through registration quickly. I read a number of stories of people who were in the middle of registration and then got booted out because the race sold out.  You don't want to miss out on your race opportunity because you can't find your credit card.

Registering a Group - This can be tough.  Since runDisney races can sell out in less than an hour, getting a group of people registered can be tricky.  Option 1 would be to have one person try to register everyone.  This would be slower and may mean that everyone won't get in.  The other option is to have everyone log in on their own and try to register.  However, there is still no guarantee that everyone will get in.  Our plan was a group of 3 runners for the half and 4 runners for the 5K and we had decided everyone would be on their own to register.  I got in for both races and so did one other person in our group.  The other two unfortunately didn't make it in for either race.  Again, I read a lot of stories online about husbands and wives or groups where one person successfully registered, but the others didn't which can be disappointing.  Remember that runDisney races are nonrefundable and nontransferable so make sure you're OK running if the rest of your group doesn't get into the race.

I have been so excited thinking about running my first half and my first runDisney race which made me really nervous on registration day!  After surviving the stress and nerves and flying fingers on my keyboard to get registered, I think running 16.2 miles in less than 24 hours will be a piece of cake, right??

Spring is in the Air

The title of this post is somewhat ironic.  Today is officially the first day of Spring and in the always crazy state of Maryland, we have snow.  While Springtime in Maryland can bring either flowers or snow, Disney has a more regular welcome to the Spring season - Epcot's Annual Flower and Garden Festival.

Dan and I attended the Flower and Garden Festival back in 2011 on an April trip to Disney over the Easter holiday.  It was truly a sight to see!  The detail that goes into each display is amazing and it's another reason why you need more than a day to experience everything that Epcot has to offer - especially from the adult perspective.  Below are just a few of the highlights from our visit:

The Flower and Garden Festival runs roughly from March - May each year in Epcot.  So what can you expect if you get the chance to attend?  Besides the great topiaries, you can also experience some delicious food from unique seasonal dining experiences and concerts in the park.  This is definitely an event the whole family can enjoy and is one not to be missed on a Spring trip to Walt Disney World!

Why I runDisney

I'll be running my first runDisney races this year as part of the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend in November.  Follow my journey from registration into training and onto the big day!

Running is something I do for fun.  I ran indoor and outdoor track during high school, ran in a local running club during college, and coached track during the beginning of my teaching career.  Let's be honest. . .I was never very good.  No state champion plaques or medals adorn my walls and my PRs (personal records) were considered a bad day for elite runners.  But running was always fun.  It was a time when I could push myself to the limit while also getting some time to be alone with my thoughts.

And then something happened.  I hit my mid-20s, fell in love, got married, started grad school, and stopped putting my health and alone time first.  I stopped running.  While I was very happy with my husband, my son, and my career, I felt like I was missing something.  I found it again last year when I made a commitment to start running again.  That alone time, that me time, is something important for everyone.  Some find it on a bike, others find it in yoga.  For me, it's on the road as I pound pavement.  Disney was part of my inspiration to get back to running and the Castaway Cay 5K on my April 2014 Disney Cruise was a training goal I was happy to achieve.  I wasn't the fastest.  I wasn't the slowest.  But none of that matters.  I was running again and it felt good.

I did it!  And I've got a Mickey medal to prove it!
Just as I was starting to hit my stride (both literally and figuratively), I found out that I was expecting baby #2.  I happily put aside my Garmin watch and my running shoes for nine months while we waited excitedly for our new little man.  In February, our family was blessed with the arrival of Caleb!  All I can say, is he's pretty awesome.  Now that I'm healed from the c-section, I'm ready to again lace up the sneakers.  And Disney is once again there to help me along the way.

Isn't he cute?  Well worth the break from running for this guy! 

Getting my runDisney shoes back out to start training!
I've been anxious to try a runDisney race and have also wanted to run a Half Marathon.  This November, I'll be doing both.  Today was registration day and I successfully registered for the Jingle Jungle 5K and the Wine and Dine Half Marathon before both races sold out in less than 44 minutes.  Running and Disney - two of my great passions joined together. . .and I can't wait to experience the journey!

Hot off the Press

On March 12, Disney's CEO, Bob Iger, met with shareholders at their annual meeting and announced a few exciting pieces of information for Disney fans.  For this Disney-loving mom, there were two newsworthy announcements that I'm excited to hear more about - Frozen 2 and a name change for Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando.

No one should be surprised that after the enormous success of Frozen that a sequel would be in the works.  Frozen not only dominated the box office, but became even a bigger success from a merchandising standpoint and has drawn visitors to Disney Parks for a chance to dance and sing with Anna, Elsa, and Olaf.  When we visited Walt Disney World in November, Frozen was everywhere.  Elsa used her powers to light Cinderella's castle each night, some favorite characters could be found in Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party parade, and Hollywood Studios featured several attractions including an indoor snow playground and a Frozen Sing-a-long.  In addition, the Malestrom ride at Epcot has been closed to make way for a new Frozen ride.  And if you want to meet Anna and Elsa in Magic Kingdom, you better get a FastPass+ reservation.  We frequently saw lines to meet the princess duo exceeding two hours - yikes!  Disney Cruise Line is also jumping on the Frozen fan craze by offering a cruise to Norway and special Frozen touches on board.  With success like this, Disney isn't about to "Let it Go" anytime soon when it comes to Frozen.

The second big announcement that caught my eye and ear was another name change for Disney's Hollywood Studios.  This was actually a "surprise" announcement, even for Bob Iger.  Apparently a young audience member asked the question to Iger who answered that there would be a name change coming to the park, and the quickly turned to other executives and asked if he was supposed to share that yet.  No information was given about what the new name will be or when the name change will occur.  Again, I can't say I'm surprised by this announcement.  Hollywood Studios seems to be a park with an identity crisis in my opinion.  Back in the day, when it was MGM Studios, the park was clearly devoted to classic Hollywood and a love of moviemaking.  When the name changed to Hollywood Studios, Disney tried to hang on to many favorites from MGM while also expanding into the world of Pixar.  Between tearing down the Sorcerer's Hat, refurbishing the Great Movie Ride, and closing the Backlot Studio Tour, it's clear Disney has something up it's sleeve.  My thoughts?  Hollywood Studios will lose some of the "classic" Hollywood touches and will highlight Disney's many movie connections.  Devotion to their own "classic" Disney movies, a bigger emphasis on the huge success of Disney/Pixar films (I've been patiently waiting for a WDW version of California's Cars Land), an area devoted to Star Wars that will draw in all of the fans of that franchise, and perhaps even a superhero part of the park featuring some of the Marvel characters are just some of my ideas.  The only thing that seems clear now is that change is in the air and it's definitely exciting for Disney fans!

Disney for Grown-Ups

When most people think of a vacation at Walt Disney World, the first thoughts that typically come to mind involve the magic and wonder in a young child’s eye.  While those memories with family and children are ones that I will certainly cherish and look forward to continue making for years to come, I’ve also grown quite enchanted by all of the wonderful aspects of Walt Disney World you can enjoy as a “big kid.”  So, whether you are sneaking out for a few hours of mommy and daddy time on your vacation or you plan an amazing grown-up getaway with friends or your significant other, don’t miss out on these tips to make your Disney trip one that you won’t soon forget.

Disney magic isn't just for kids.

   Experience a Disney Signature Restaurant – Disney has some phenomenal dining opportunities that are oftentimes missed by families traveling with young children.  Restaurants like Artist Point, Jiko, and Narcoossee’s feature top chefs, unique entrees, and beautiful settings.  California Grill is another favorite in this category.  Perched on the upper levels of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, California Grill offers fine dining options with a beautiful view overlooking Magic Kingdom.  In fact, if you time your reservation properly, you can even catch one of the best places to watch the nightly Wishes fireworks as they light up the sky above Cinderella’s Castle. 

   Eat, Drink, and See the World – World Showcase that is!  Epcot features wonderful food and beverages from around the world.   The restaurants around World Showcase offer unique and authentic dining experiences for each country.  Some of the restaurants may have dishes that are too adventuresome for the littlest of travelers so this is perfect to explore on an adult getaway.  For my husband and I, no trip to World Showcase is complete without a stop by England’s Rose and Crown Pub for some of the best Bangers and Mash this side of Kensington Palace.  And don’t forget that each country also features authentic beer and wine that you can enjoy as you travel the world.

Dan and I enjoying som adult time at Epcot

   Stay Up Late – Disney Parks after dark can be quite an enjoyable experience.  Smaller crowds and cooler temperatures pair up to create a wonderful evening.  Be sure to take advantage of the nighttime Extra Magic Hours when traveling without kids.  Even though this vacation perk is offered to all Walt Disney World Resort guests, young families aren’t going to be crowding Magic Kingdom at midnight.  Late night hours are the perfect time to enjoy a more leisurely pace and some of your favorite rides.

Riding the carousel at Magic Kingdom after all the kiddies have gone to bed!

   Enjoy Some Down Time – Disney is home to many great amenities hiding on their resort properties that are often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of visiting parks.  Take some time to visit the pool or hot tub at your resort, enjoy a spa service at one of the hotels, or take in a round of golf.  When you're not feeling pressured to spend all of your time in the parks entertaining little ones, you may find that the Walt Disney World Resort can be downright relaxing!

Dan loves when I build in relaxation time on our Disney itineraries.
  So the next time someone says that Walt Disney World is just for kids, remember that both the young in age and the young at heart can have a magical vacation at the "happiest place on Earth!"

Understanding Disney Resort Categories

Recently, I've been chatting with my cousin about an upcoming trip that he is planning with his family to Walt Disney World.  In our conversations, I was reminded how overwhelming the seemingly simple task of choosing a hotel for your Disney vacation can be for those who aren't familiar with all of the options and categories.

Image from www.waltdisneyworld.com
Art of Animation Value Resort - My boys would love it here!
Value Resorts - All-Star Music, All-Star Movies, All-Star Sports, Pop Century, and Art of Animation - These provide the most basic accommodations on Disney property.  Rooms will vary a bit from resort to resort as the All Stars provide relatively small rooms while the Art of Animation resort offers family suites with multiple sleeping areas and 2 bathrooms.  Dining options are limited here as well with typically only a quick service restaurant.  Theming and pool areas are generally well done and kids will be impressed with the larger than life Disney characters at each of these resorts.  Out of this category, I've only stayed at the All Star Music resort and that was back in 2003.  I'm excited to check out Art of Animation and hope to stay there on our next vacation with the kids.  I think the over-the-top theming and the inclusion of some recent Disney/Pixar films make this a perfect place for families with young kids.

Moderate Resort - Port Orleans Riverside
Stately mansions and a fun pool (where I enjoyed being a big kid!) 

Moderate Resorts - Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside, and Port Orleans French Quarter - These resorts feature more "subtle" Disney theming while transporting you to another place.  The grounds of each of these are beautiful and spread out over the greatest distance - something that may sound wonderfully relaxing to some of you or incredible inconvenient to others.  Recently, Disney has updated some rooms in these resorts to make a more magical and themed experience including Pirate themed rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort.  I've stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort back in 1994 and Port Orleans Riverside in 2008.  Dan and I really enjoyed our time at Port Orleans Riverside and I would say it's my recommendation out of this category.  It seems to be universally well liked on all of the Disney Social Media groups that I follow and the laid back theming of an old Mississippi River plantation allows you to truly feel relaxed on your vacation.

Beautiful, modern, and close to the Magic Kingdom!
Deluxe Resort - The Contemporary
Deluxe Resorts - Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk, Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Animal Kingdom Lodge - The deluxe resort category offers convenient access  to the parks, spacious rooms, luxurious accommodations, exceptional theming, and fantastic dining. . .all for a pretty high price.  There isn't a deluxe resort that you'd be disappointed in - they are fabulous.  If you will be staying at a deluxe resort, the biggest thing to consider is which park you would like easiest access to or if there is a particular theme that you love.  My personal favorite in this category is the Contemporary because with two young kids, you can walk to Magic Kingdom and are just a monorail ride away from Epcot.  You are also int the same resort as Chef Mickey's and again just a monorail ride away from great dining at the Polynesian and Grand Floridan too.

Deluxe Villa Resort - Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village
Studio properties offer a larger room size and kitchenette matched with the luxury of a Deluxe Resort
Deluxe Villa Resorts (aka Disney Vacation Club properties) - Bay Lake Towers @ The Contemporary, Villas at Grand Floridian, Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk Villas, Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, Old Key West Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas, and Beach Club Villas - Most of these resorts are paired up with a deluxe resort so the perks of staying at a deluxe resort are the same, but the room quality is enhanced in this category.  Depending on the property you can find studios, one bedroom villas, two bedroom villas, or grand villas.  These rooms are great for traveling with larger parties or if you want more of a "condo" experience as opposed to a "hotel" experience on your trip.  This is the most expensive category to reserve directly through Disney.  Since these are also DVC properties, you can find third party websites and brokers that you can rent points from online.  We've used David's Vacation Rentals before for a stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas - Kidani Village.

Other Disney Options - Campsites and Cabins at Fort Wilderness - If you are looking for a "rustic" experience while visiting Disney, these are two options you may want to consider.  The campsites are available to rent if you are visiting with your camper while the cabins offer a woodland setting and accommodations for 6.  These are both over by Wilderness Lodge and offer boat transportation to Magic Kingdom (busses everywhere else), campfires in the evening, and easy access to the Hoop-Dee-Do Revue.  I can't give an honest review or recommendation here because I haven't experienced either of these.  Those who know me, know I'm not a big "camper."

Yeah.  This is me.
So that's it - a quick summary of Disney resort categories.  The magic of Disney is alive and well in each of them and the Disney service that is well known can be found everywhere.  The choice really comes down to your budget and family preferences.  You can visit the Walt Disney World website for a more detailed look at each of these categories and the resorts in each.

Our Cars #DisneySide @ Home Celebration!

I received free products in order to host the #DisneySide @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own. 

On February 28th, we hosted our Disney Side party!  We were excited to invite friends and family to our house to celebrate our love of Disney and gather young Disney fans to enjoy food, fun, and festivities.  With the cold, ice, and snow that have plagued the Mid-Atlantic this winter, the Disney Side party was a great distraction.  The guests at our party ranged in age from 3 weeks to 63, proving that everyone can have fun with Cars!

As everyone arrived, there was food and Cars coloring pages waiting along with the Disney Parks Vacation Planning DVD.  The menu consisted of some Radiator Springs favorites including Mater's Tater Tots, Sarge's Nuts and Bolts Trail Mix, and Luigi's Casa della Pizza.  All of the food was a hit and it was a great way to start off the day.

After the food, we headed off to play Pin the Smile on Mickey - one of the games included in our Disney Side celebration box.  Our partygoers enjoyed the game and we had one smile that was almost perfect!  We used some of the games and toys from our Disney Side box as prizes for the game.  We also had fun in our Show your #DisneySide photo booth.  Kids and adults alike enjoyed using some props show our Disney Side!  We were also planning on playing Disney Bingo, but our preschool crowd was losing focus on organized activities and just wanted to enjoy each other so we skipped the second game and let the kids play in my son's Jake and the Neverland Pirates bedroom.  Not surprisingly, our Disney Side is not limited to one party on one day - we show it everyday in our house!

The Mickey cake was a big hit with partygoers - especially the kids!  They all enjoyed the festive tie-dye Duff cake and the sugar rush was enough to keep them all partying straight through nap time.  While the kids ran and played, the adults enjoyed each other's company.  I even got the chance to talk with my cousin about his potential plans to take his family of 5 to Disney this fall. 

Each family left the party with a gift bag of goodies supplied in our Disney Side celebration box.  Guests received HP photo paper, Twinings Tea, Disney Parks luggage tags, and Disney Side chore charts.  The kids also took home Cars favor boxes with some candy and Cars stickers from our party box. 

I felt fortunate to have been selected to host a #DisneySide @ Home Celebration and want to thank all of the sponsors for their amazing generosity, especially BSM Media and Disney Parks.  Remember Disney fans, there are always wonderful ways to let your Disney Side shine each and every day.  For ideas about letting your Disney Side shine, visit www.disneysidecelebrations.com and follow #DisneySide on social media. 

I received free products in order to host the #DisneySide @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own. 

My Disney Experience (MDE)

Our last trip to Disney was the first that we had a chance to experience MagicBands, FastPass+, and My Disney Experience - oh my!  As you might recall from an earlier post, I was a both excited at the new changes and nervous about how they may work in the weeks leading up to the trip.  Now that I've had the opportunity to experience these changes first hand, I have a better idea of the benefits and some tips and tricks to help you navigate these new systems if you haven't traveled to WDW recently.  Rather than one long post, I'm going to divide this into 3 shorter posts to make it easier for you to digest.  Today is the final post in the series where I'll tell you about My Disney Experience.

My Disney Experience - This is a good one-stop-shop to organize all of your trip plans.  When you visit the Walt Disney World Resort webpage, you will see the link to My Disney Experience in the upper right hand corner.  If you have a Disney account, you can login using your information or you can create a new account if you don't have one previously.  Once you have created your account, you can add family and friends to your reservation by either creating them in your profile or sending them an email to create their own account linked to yours.  If you create them as guests in your profile, you control all of their reservations.  This works well if you are traveling with your immediate family.  If you are traveling with extended family or a group of friends, it's probably better to have them manage their own accounts so that adults can maintain their autonomy over their vacation plans.  Once you have your party organized, you can manage your hotel reservations, advanced dining reservations, FP+ selections, tickets, MagicBands, and even PhotoPass pictures from the computer based webpage.

The computer website was very user friendly and easy to navigate.  By linking all of your tickets and reservations in one place, you can easily view your daily itinerary to ensure that you don't have any conflicts.  Since a lot of people leave the computer at home when they travel, Disney created a way for you to use My Disney Experience on the go.  While you're in the park, you can access the My Disney Experience App from your mobile device.  My own experience with the app is that it is slower and not as user friendly as the website.  Some of that may be design issues, while others could be WiFi issues within the park.  It was great to be able to pull up and view reservation details for dining and FP+ while in the parks, but I found it slow to try and change plans from the app.

Plenty of time for hugs and smiles at Adventurers Outpost in Animal Kingdom thanks to our My Disney Experience App reminding us about the FP+ time we reserved!
My Disney Experience, FP+, and MagicBands work together in harmony to create a magical experience for family members planning their big trip to Walt Disney World Resort.  As always, remember that reservations at all things Disney are very popular and you should book as soon as your are able - 180 days out (+10 if you're staying on Disney property) for dining reservations and 60 days out (or 30 days if you're not on Disney property) for FP+ reservations.  Hopefully this overview will help you as you get ready for your next visit to "the happiest place on Earth!"

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