Showing posts with label planning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label planning. Show all posts

The 2022 planDisney Panel Search is about to begin!

www.runningonpixiedust.com


The most magical time of the year for Disney enthusiasts is here once again!  The planDisney Panel (formerly known as the Disney Parks Moms Panel) is searching for the next group of panelists. . .and it could be YOU!  I've applied to the panel every year since 2013 and have made it to the second round 4 times.  While there have been some variances from year to year, the general process follows a typical pattern.  But first, check out what planDisney has to say about the 2022 search!


The planDisney Panel is looking for people just like you!  All it takes is a love and knowledge of your favorite Disney destinations and a talent for sharing what you know with others. . .plus a whole lot of pixie dust!  Each year thousands of people apply, but just a small handful are selected.  You can apply for specialities in Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disney Vacation Club, or Disney Cruise Line.  To find out all of the details for eligibility, visit the planDisney Panel website.

The application usually opens right around Labor Day each fall and wraps around Halloween.  For the 2022 planDisney Panel Search, the first round of applications open at noon on September 9th and close at noon on September 14th.  Round one usually consists of a series of questions that let the selection panel know more about you and your Disney experiences.  After a few weeks, emails will roll in announcing if you've been selected to move on to round two.  In the past, round two has consisted of more written responses and a one minute video.  Here's an example of my round two videos from my applications for the 2019 and 2020 panels.

Ultimate Walt Disney World Planning Guide

Planning a trip to the most magical place on Earth can be overwhelming for those who are new to the experience - and sometimes even to those of us veteran mouseketeers!  There's so much to think about when planning a Walt Disney World Resort vacation, let's break it down to what you should be doing before, during, and after the all important 180 day mark.

More Than 180 Days Before Your Trip

  • Book Your Resort Reservation - It's never too early to plan your next Walt Disney World Resort vacation! In fact, there are some great specials you can find before checking out of your current WDW resort.  These deals, called bounce back offers, allow you to grab great percentage off rates or even something like free dining.  Regardless of whether your booking a bounce back offer or planning your vacation from your couch, booking your hotel is a great place to start.  You have choices when you book as to whether you are booking room only or adding a ticket and/or dining package.  Sometimes booking as a package will allow you to take advantage of even deeper discounts.  There are a number of properties to choose from when staying at Walt Disney World Resort, and you can find a guide to understanding those categories here!  By booking your WDW resort BEFORE the 180 day mark, you can take advantage of a little bit of a head start on your dining reservations as resort guests can book their dining reservations for their entire stay beginning at the 180 day mark.  Not sure if a Disney Resort stay is right for your family?  There are many choices around the Orlando area for all of your vacation needs! Here's a look at what to consider when staying off property.
  • Plan a Tentative Itinerary - Are you someone who wants to park hop 'til you drop or are you someone looking to relax more on your WDW vacation?  Looking to see and experience the newest attractions?  Want to book gourmet dining experience?  Need three days in Magic Kingdom or just one?  You can start answering these questions and lay out a tentative itinerary. My plan changes probably fifty times or more from when I start planning, so you don't have to set anything in stone.  However, having an idea of what you want to do on each day of your vacation will help you starting looking ahead to those dining and FastPass+ reservations.  I use a simple table in Word to layout my plans and track changes I make, but there's lots of ways to keep your itinerary organized.  
    With so many unique dining options, where will you eat?

180 Days To Go!

  • 180 days is a big milestone in your Disney planning timeline!  This is the time when reservations for many of the activities you are interested in become available for booking - namely, dining reservations!  Using the plans you made prior to this point, you can begin thinking making dining reservations to go with your trip.  Did you book the Disney dining plan?  You'll want to make sure you're using your credits and booking one or two table service meals per day depending on the plan you booked. Most days I like booking one meal per day as a reservation.  That gives us an opportunity to sit down together and take a break from the rush of the day without feeling tied down with too many dining reservations to make the day our own while we're there in the moment.  If you don't get those reservations you wanted at the 180 day mark, keep trying!  Guests are constantly changing and updating plans so days and times may become available that weren't before.  Other reservations also open up at this point including recreation activities, makeovers, and much more! Looking for dining ideas?  Check out my restaurant reviews and also other options to try when you can't get the dining reservations you were hoping to grab.
  • Update your itinerary - Now that you have some dining reservations you may want to switch park days around or change up your plans.  This is a great time to start utilizing the My Disney Experience app.  Here you can track all of your reservations and plans in one place.  Find out more about this helpful planning tool here.

It's The Final Countdown


  • 60 Days to Go! - If you're staying at a Walt Disney World Resort or a Good Neighbor Hotel, you can begin booking your FastPass+ reservations at 60 days out.  Each ticketed guest can book up to three FP+ reservations per day.  You need to have purchased your tickets in order to reserve FP+ so make sure you have that taken care of prior to this date.  
  • Confirm information in My Disney Experience - Double check your MagicBands order on the My Disney Experience website.  You are able to customize your MagicBands by selecting a color option and can even upgrade to a character design now!  This is also the perfect time to make sure your flight information is added to reservation so that your Magical Express transportation to and from Orlando International Airport can be confirmed.  There is also a spot in the website to add specific room requests for your Walt Disney World Resort hotel stay.
  • 30 Days to Go! - This is when the FastPass+ booking window opens for guests staying off-site.  History as shown that some new times come available when this window hits to allow off-site guests a chance to still get FP+ for popular attractions.  Like with dining reservations, if you don't get what you want on the first try, keep checking back.  Guests continue to change their plans right up until the day of their trip and you can sometimes find great options at the last minute.
  • FastPass+ helps you experience more
    rides with less of a wait!
  • Finalize your itinerary - As you get closer to "D-Day" (That's Disney Day in this context!), it becomes more and more difficult to change your plans because you likely have more and more reservations booked.  With that said, it's not impossible.  Most of Disney's reservations have a very liberal cancellation policy of only 24-48 hours notice.  Just be sure to check the fine print, when booking your reservations so you know what to expect!  
While some bemoan the work that goes into planning a Walt Disney World Resort vacation, it is really a fun way to get your family excited about the trip as your countdown to creating your own magical memories!  If you are using a travel agent, they can help you manage all of this at no additional charge - just make sure they have adequate knowledge of Walt Disney World vacations.  Have specific questions?  Why not visit my friends over at the Disney Parks Moms Panel where you can ask your own questions and get answers from expert moms, dads, and Disney fans!  Happy Planning!

An All-Star Stay at Disney's All-Star Movies

When travelling to the house of mouse, vacationers to the Orlando area know that there are many choices for your hotel stay.  On my most recent Walt Disney World Resort visit, I once again returned to the bubble of being “on property” and stayed at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort.  This was my first stay at a value resort in about 15 years as recent family trips have found us preferring moderates or deluxe resorts on property or choosing to stay for free using our Hilton points at one of the nearby off-property hotels.  I have to say that I was really impressed with my stay at All-Star Movies and wouldn’t hesitate to stay there in the future or to recommend it to friends and family!

If you are unfamiliar with the All-Star Resorts, there are a few things to know first before we dive into the specifics of Disney’s All Star Movies Resort.  First, the three All-Star resorts are built along the same stretch of road closes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and include the following themes – Music, Sports, and Movies.  Each resort is very similar (minus the theming obviously) and guests at one resort are welcome to enjoy amenities at the other All-Star properties.  The All-Star resorts along with the Disney’s Pop Century have been undergoing and are still working through renovations to update the rooms.  With these things in mind, the information I’m going to share with you about Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort would also be likely to translate well to the other All-Star properties.


In my opinion the two most attractive things about Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort is the pricing and the theming.  I may drink the dole whip flavored Kool-Aid with a fancy Mickey straw, but even I can admit that a Disney vacation is downright expensive.  This is really rock bottom pricing when it comes to a Disney hotel stay with pricing fluctuating between $100 and $200 per night depending on season, room preferences, etc.  During my stay, the average price per night for a standard room was $133 and on a trip that I priced out while writing this, it came up to $114 per night.  That’s a great deal when you consider that you get all of the perks of staying on Disney property including complimentary roundtrip transportation to and from Orlando International Airport on Disney’s Magical Express, Extra Magic Hours in the parks, access to the Disney Dining Plan, early access to Advanced Dining Reservations and FastPass+ reservations, and much, much more.  If you’re a family that spends most of your time out and about in the parks anyway, this is a very budget friendly option.
 
Next, let’s talk theme.  I LOVED the themes of Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort as everywhere you look there are larger-than-life tributes to your favorite Disney films.  I was solo on this trip, but my two young boys would go absolutely nuts here!  You will make no mistake about the fact that you are in Walt Disney World.  Each section of the resort has a different theme based on a Disney movie.  A quick walk around the resort will highlight Toy Story, 101 Dalmatians, Herbie the Love Bug, Fantasia, and The Mighty Ducks.   The resort also features two themed pools including the main pool featuring Sorcerer Mickey from Fantasia and a “quiet pool” featuring Goofy playing hockey in The Mighty Ducks area.  The theme was so amazing that it may make be break my own Disney rule of staying at a different resort each vacation just to experience it again.
A hidden playground!


Speaking of pools, the resort does feature some amenities for families to enjoy, although this where you will start to see a different between value resorts and those in other categories.  I found a nicely hidden and shaded playground for little ones in addition to the pools to enjoy some downtime at the resort with you need a break.  They also have an outdoor area where movies play at various times.  The food court features all quick-service items – no sit down restaurant at any of the All-Star properties.  The food was what you would expect from Disney quick service – good, but not great.  It was hot and service was friendly and fast.  There also is a gift shop (imagine that!) at the resort to pick up all of your Disney vacation goodies.  There’s nothing “fancy” here and certainly no amenity that stands out to make that the reason you book this resort in my opinion, but everything was clean, friendly, and certainly met my needs.

The rooms are also another place where you will see a difference in categories at the Walt Disney World Resort.  Again, my room was clean, comfortable, and certainly met my needs, but nothing to write home about – which was totally fine because most mornings I left my room by 6:30AM and didn’t return until 10PM or later.  I stayed in a room that had not been renovated yet and that was also handicap accessible so my pictures are probably very different than others out there.  My room featured one King bed, some furniture around the room, a TV, the dressing area with a vanity and sink, and then a bathroom that was all open including a wheel chair shower.  If you are considering a stay here soon, Google to get updated room pictures.  The rooms are being updated to include a Queen bed and then a Murphy bed to give guests more options in their room setup while not compromising space.  New carpet and updated bathrooms as well as new art will all give the rooms a fresh feel.  I booked a standard room and was located in The Mighty Ducks section which is the furthest away from the main building.  I was actually directly next to the main building for Disney’s All-Star Music Resort (literally just walked across an driveway to get there) so the front desk recommended and I took advantage of using that resorts restaurant each morning and bus transportation in the evening. 
Breakfast is always better when it's
shaped like Mickey!

The last thing I’ll comment on is the bus transportation because I often hear people criticize this when it comes to the All-Star properties.  Common complaints are that it is crowded and slow to these resorts.  I don’t think I would agree with slow.  After staying at a variety of properties from value to deluxe now in recent years, I think bus transportation is bus transportation and they all run on about that 15-20 minute schedule it seems.  I will say that busses were crowded, but again, I don’t know that I’ve experienced busses at park opening or park close that aren’t crowded when staying on Disney property.  There are times that a bus is shared among all three resorts so you do sometimes make multiple stops picking up and dropping off guests.  This isn’t always the case though.  Overall, I would not have any bus concerns scare you off from staying on Disney property.  You’re in Disney. It’s crowded.  

So, to wrap all of this up, I stand by my previous thoughts here on the blog that there's not a "bad" choice of where to stay on Disney property - just what's right for you and your family.  I really enjoyed my stay at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort and wouldn't hesitate to stay there again.  If your family prioritizes budget and time in the parks with young kids, this is probably a great choice for you.  If you are looking for a quieter, slower paced resort as you want to build more R&R time into your Walt Disney World Resort vacation, consider staying at a moderate or deluxe property to enjoy more of the amenities offered there.  I hope this helps you plan a stay that is "practically perfect in every way" for your family when visiting the Walt Disney World Resort!

Providing the Comforts of Home

One of the hardest things about traveling with young ones is making the time away from home feel somewhat "normal."  When you're vacationing with a toddler this is especially true.  And naptime and bedtime rituals are critical to keeping everyone on the trip happy.  My previous post talked about a very un-magical stay where bedtime became a battle that the kids won and the parents lost.  Luckily, our Walt Disney World vacation just 8 months earlier was a totally different story.

Once again, we stayed at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, but this time we were traveling with my parents too and had adjoining rooms.  At the time, Brody was 4 and Caleb was 1.  Having adjoining rooms was a glorious thing as it gave us a chance to put Caleb down for naps and bed in one room and then play and watch movies in the other while still being connected.  The other part of the vacation that made naps and bedtime doable was the fact that we opted to rent a crib from Kingdom Strollers instead of just electing to use a typical pack-n-play.

For a weeklong vacation, we found the portable crib to be a much nicer way to travel.  Caleb was comfortable with lots of room to wiggle and roll.  It also came with freshly cleaned sheets and blankets so we didn't have to worry about anything.  I think this was even more important on our trip as Caleb was sick the first three days were on vacation, so he spent quiet a bit of time resting and that good night sleep was even more essential.  The crib was delivered to Bell Services and then we simply broke it down and returned the crib and bedding to Bell Services to be picked up when we checked out.  The whole experience was easy and enjoyable for everyone.  And at the end of the vacation, we had a completely satisfied toddler - not the easiest customer to always please!

How to Survive a runDisney Expo with Your Sanity

If you look up the definition of "insanity" in the dictionary, you may see a picture of a runDisney event.  From the breathlessness that accompanies registration day ("Will I get in?") to the organized chaos mass of people loading into corrals on race morning - no race that I've ever experienced comes close to the excitement and adrenaline rush that runDisney enthusiasts know far too well.  The expo at runDisney race weekends is no different.  After having a few runDisney events under my belt, here are some tips to help make the expo a little less stressful and allow you to hopefully enjoy everything there.

1. As Scar would say, "be prepared." - At it's very core, the expo's prime purpose is for you to pick up your bib so you can actually run in the race.  In order to do this, you need to have your race waiver ready to go.  runDisney typically sends these out a week or two in advance and you can print it out to bring with you.  If you forget, the expo does have printers available for you to print there, but it just adds more time and another line for you to wait in.  Also, make sure you have your ID.  runDisney has a strict no transfer / no sale policy and they will verify that you really are the runner who registered.  Another thing to keep in mind is that you may only pick up your own bib; not for anyone else unless you are picking up for a child in the Kids Races.

2.  Choose your time wisely - I would not recommend going to the expo when it opens on the first day. . .unless you would like to be trampled by all manner of ebay sellers and crazy merchandise shoppers.  The pictures I've seen on social media in the first hours that the expo have kept me away.  I have attended the expo on the first day later in the afternoon and have been able to purchase official merchandise without any problems.  Now if there is something that you are desperate for, maybe you will need to go early - may the Force be with you.

runDisney celebrity sighting!!
3.  Shop the merchandise like a pro - First things first, if you want a jacket or pin go ahead and pre-order it through Active.  It will save you a lot of time and hassle at the expo to pick up what you ordered rather than worrying about whether or not they will still have what you want in stock.  The pre-order jackets are also unique to the online pre-purchase so you won't be able to find those exact ones there.  Secondly, when you go to the official runDisney merchandise section, be sure to shop the whole area before getting in line.  These lines can be lengthy and you don't want to have to get out and get back in.  It's also good to note that at the official runDisney location, you can access all of your typical Disney discounts - 10% off $50 or more with a Disney Visa and current percentage off discounts for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members.  They also accept Disney Gift Cards at that location.  Lastly, if you're in search of the runDisney New Balance shoes, sign up for the virtual queue to reserve your spot.  These are at the New Balance location at the expo, not with the runDisney merchandise.  Disney discounts and Disney gift cards can't be applied towards the shoes. 

4.  Take your time to enjoy - You have worked hard and trained hard for this race weekend, don't rush through it!  I love exploring the booths, checking out the medals for upcoming runDisney races, and listening to guest speakers.  I was so excited to meet Jeff Galloway and talk about my training with him.  Know your travel party on your Disney vacation.  I leave non-runners at the hotel or at the parks so that I can enjoy the expo at my own pace without my little ones (or my husband for that matter) asking "are we done yet?"

5.  Manage expo transportation - Transportation to and from the expo is provided from the Walt Disney World Resort hotels on a continual basis (about every 15-20 minutes).  The bus parking lot is well signed with which busses are going to which resorts.  If you are not staying on property, you can drive to ESPN Wide World of Sports or take a taxi.  Parking is free and taxis are also readily available.  Cast members are more than happy to help point you in the right direction whichever option you choose!  

The Week Before Disney

In the final days leading up to a Walt Disney World vacation, families have a lot on their minds - and their checklists!  Below is a list of everything that I do the week before our family vacation to get us ready to make some magical memories.

Packing - This is the the most obvious one. When packing for your vacation, there are so many things to remember.  From clothes to magic bands to diapers to food for picky toddler eaters (yes, I pack an entire suitcase of food. . .), it's easy to forget something along the way. I recommend making a list before you start with whatever the unique needs of your family might be for their trip. One new packing tip I've tried for this trip and have loved so far is packing the kids clothes in gallon sized baggies labeled with the day of the week they are going to wear them.  Each baggie contains the outfit, socks, and underwear so in the morning it's easy to grab what they need for the day without digging through an entire hotel room of clothes.  Don't forget to pack those mouse ears!!

Buying Gift Cards at Target - I made my run to Target and picked up the amount of gift cards I thought I would need for my trip.  Why do this?  You can buy your gift cards for 5% off when you use your Red Card.  Pretty sweet deal, right?!?  And if you're more organized than I am and can take care of this step a few weeks ahead of time, you can even order the gift cards online with your Red Card to save 5% and use Ebates to also get 2% cash back.  Just as a quick example, on $1000 gift card purchase, you only pay $950 and get $20 back in cash - a savings of $70!! Don't have Ebates yet?  Check out this link to learn more about ways you can earn cash back on a lot of your online shopping.

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Continue to Check FastPass+ and Dining Reservations - Don't forget that people are changing their plans constantly as their trip approaches.  I've been able to grab last minute reservations for hard to get restaurants like dinner at Be Our Guest or a pre-park opening breakfast at The Crystal Palace, just by being persistent.  And with the My Disney Experience app, it's easy to check dining and FastPass+ reservations anywhere.

Gather essential travel documents - Even though we live in a digital society where I have electronic copies of all of our confirmations and travel information, it still makes me feel better to print out a copy of everything and keep with me - just in case.  Don't forget if you're flying to Walt Disney World and have a lap baby, you will most likely need to present the child's birth certificate to get their Boarding Verification Document at the airport.  I also include packing my Magic Bands in this category too.  Make sure they are in your carry on and ready to use when you arrive!

With all of the excitement and energy in the house, be sure to get some rest as well!  All of the magic of your vacation awaits in just a few days - enjoy!

Managing Tantrums on Your Disney Vacation

Tantrums can quickly turn Disney smiles
upside down.
The dreaded temper tantrum.  If you have young children, you are all too familiar with these regular occurrences.  Like preparing for the heat during a summer Walt Disney World Resort vacation, you probably aren't going to be able to avoid the dreaded temper tantrum - they will happen. . .probably multiple times. . .each day.  The best thing you can do is to try to anticipate when they will happen and have a plan to deal with them when they do.  Here is my "expert" take on what causes tantrums and how to navigate through them. 

Tantrum Trigger - "I'm hungry."
This would seem like an easy tantrum to deal with.  You're in a theme park with endless food options - and therein lies the problem.  Finding an agreeable food option for the entire family or towing the line that Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars (no matter how tasty) do not constitute lunch, food can become a battle.  The other time food becomes an issue is when you're 20 minutes into a 45 minute ride line and this gem of a tantrum begins.  Advice - Carry small, healthy snacks in your bag.  Whether it's fruit, crackers, pretzels, or something similar, kids will be satisfied (for the moment) with something in their tummies that you know they like to hold them over until your dining reservation that is an hour away or while you finish waiting to ride Splash Mountain.  I pack an entire extra suitcase of food and/or order groceries online for delivery to our hotel so that I have a wide variety of snacks to offer to kids throughout the day.

Tantrum Trigger - "I'm hot."
Well kid, you're in Florida - get used to it.  Wouldn't it be nice if that answer works?  But alas, kids are not always rational creatures and when they're hot, they'll make you miserable complaining about it.  If you're traveling to Walt Disney World Resort in the summer months (or even late Spring and early Fall), this is likely to be a concern for your kids.  Advice - Take cool off breaks.  The good news is that you don't have to go back to your room in the middle of the day to do this - although you certainly could if you wanted.  Inside the parks, guests can take advantage of the Baby Care Centers as a quick place to take small kids inside the cool off.  We also bought a small stroller fan for less than $15 on Amazon prior to our trip to keep kids cool.  Keep them hydrated during the day and spend some time in indoor attractions.  There are even some fun splash areas inside the parks - just remember a change of clothes in case your kid gets soaked.    

Tantrum Trigger - "I want a toy."
Ever notice that just about every Walt Disney World attraction ends in a gift shop?  Well played, Disney.  Well played.  Guess what, my kids notice this too and are always looking for "something" to buy.  Advice - Have a plan and communicate it ahead of time.  There are several plans that can work in this situation.  The first is to give kids a Disney allowance.  Whether you use Disney Gift Cards, Disney Dollars, or cold hard cash, your child will have a finite amount of money to spend.  Another choice, not allow your kids to buy anything in the parks.  Instead, surprise them in the room with little Disney gifts that you've picked up on sale at home.  They still feel like they're getting something, and you save some money.  Lastly, you could explain limits to your child.  Maybe they get one or two toys on the whole trip to pick.  Whatever method you choose, I've always found it best to talk about it with my kids ahead of time so they know exactly what to expect.

Tantrum Trigger - "I'm bored."
Who knew the most magical place on Earth could be boring?  Toddlers and preschoolers - that's who. Granted, they have lots of fun when they are engaged in activities, but there is also a lot of "waiting" time.  The bus rides, dinners out, lines for rides or character meets, etc. can all be agonizing for children.  Advice - Carry small items to keep them entertained.  This can be games or shows downloaded on your phone, snacks, or those little play packs that have books, stickers, and crayons.  The good news with this tantrum is that fun is just around the riverbend, which usually helps them wait it out.

Tantrum Trigger - The complete meltdown.
This is when your little prince or princess completely loses their mind, with or without reason, in the middle of the park and resembles something akin to Stitch (You're badness level is unusually high for someone your size).  Instantly, you feel like the worst parent in the entire park and like all parents are staring at you and secretly judging you.  Since during this tantrum, most kids have lost the ability to rationally think or speak and can't communicate what is going on, it's exceptionally hard to solve.  The best advice I have - remove, redirect, and wait it out.  We were once in Epcot when a horrible summer storm blew in out of nowhere.  We ducked into a restaurant, grabbed a snack, and waited for it to pass.  Then went on to have a good rest of the day.  This is kind of what you need to do in this case.  Find a quiet(er) spot in the park to move to - off to a bench, behind a ride, wherever - to gain a bit of privacy for your little one.  Know that trying to talk to them probably isn't going to be very effective at first and yelling at them is just going to escalate the situation.  Once they start to settle themselves, redirect their attention back to next thing - a snack, a favorite ride, etc. Is this bribery?  Maybe.  Does it work?  Sometimes.  

One of the biggest things to remember when you have a tantruming child is that you're in Walt Disney World - everyone with a small child is going through the exact same thing.  So while you may feel stressed and terrible in the moment, be assured you are not alone.  Remember that you won't be able to avoid all of the tantrums, but you can be prepared when they occur.  This post pairs well with an older one that I wrote if you're looking for more lessons I've learned while traveling with my little ones - Things that May Terrify Your Kids in Walt Disney World. What are your favorite tips for traveling with little ones to minimize tantrums?

Plans On-the-Go with the My Disney Experience App

We are less than 30 days out from our next Walt Disney World Resort vacation and it's a busy time in our household making final preparations.  Advanced dining reservations have been in the works since the 180 day mark, but since we are staying off-property on this trip, I have just been able to start booking our FastPass+ reservations.  While I've used the My Disney Experience app before, I have fallen in love all over again during the past few days.



The My Disney Experience app links with your Disney account online to give you multiple ways to access your plans and make adjustments as needed.  With recent updates to the app, it's now even easier to make changes while you're away from your computer.  It was great to be standing in line at Panera Bread for breakfast and making my FastPass+ reservations for Epcot.

In the app, you select your friends and family and then the date and park that you are planning to visit.  The next screen then lets you see FastPass+ availability by time of day and hour-by-hour to get the most specific information you need.  From here, you can just select the time you want and confirm on the next screen.  Voila!  You're done!


Dining reservations work very similarly.  Even though I made initial reservations over 5 months ago, I frequently check back to try and grab coveted reservations like dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant.  You may also need to adjust dining times as you're making FastPass+ selections.  Once again, the app makes all of this easy to do.  You can select the party size, the date, and the time you want to see what is available.  The only thing missing from this app in my opinion, is a way to easily filter reservations by park or resort.



The home screen on the app gives you a summary of all of your FastPass+ and dining reservations.  I also really like the "add note" feature on the website where I type up a brief overview of the day.  Those notes appear on the home screen of the app too so all of my vacation plans are just a click away.  This is not only convenient in the weeks leading up to your vacation, but also allows you to easily see all of your reservations when in the park.  I know I planned many Walt Disney World Resort vacations prior to the My Disney Experience app, but now that I've been using it for a few trips, I can't imagine vacation planning without it!

Tips for Packing for runDisney

Getting ready to race can be a daunting task as you train, prepare, and figure out logistics.  Add to that, getting organized for a Disney Parks vacation at the same time and it may seem overwhelming.  Here are some of my favorite tips to get ready to runDisney so that you can enjoy your race weekend and your vacation!
Who is ready to runDisney??
  • Put essential race gear in your carry on. This becomes even more important if your flight is close to race day. I've read horror stories of runners who fly to their race location and have their shoes or racing outfit in luggage that was lost. This is a highly unlikely situation, but it doesn't hurt to plan accordingly.
  • Speaking of running clothes - pack what you know is comfortable and will work for you. One of the most enjoyable parts of any runDisney weekend is checking out some of the amazing costumes of runners. Personally, I have a lot of fun planning my own outfits, but I always make sure that the costume will be comfortable for the 13.1 miles ahead of me. 
  • Don't forget snacks and energy gel that you like to use. While you can find food in whichever Disney Parks location you're running in and there will be plenty of gel options for sale at the expo, you don't want to mess with success on race day if you know a certain protein bar or flavor of energy gel carries you through a race.  
  • Leave the bulky bags behind. runDisney provides each runner with a clear plastic bag and bib stickers to use for gEAR check - a process which runs amazingly smooth. This means you don't need to worry about packing bags to bring your change of clothes or end of race essentials. 
  • Bring a "throwaway" layer of clothes. I'm just going to point out that Florida weather is CRAZY. There have been some race weekends with freezing temperatures and others with heat and humidity warnings. Like the Girl Scouts taught me like I was young, you always want to be prepared. If it is a little chilly out while you're waiting in corrals or beginning the race, you can keep this extra layer on and then simply pitch it on the side of the road as you begin to run. runDisney will collect these extra clothes and donate to charity.
runDisney vacations are a lot of fun and a great way to celebrate your months of training.  Be sure to pack for success - and maybe leave a little room to spare in your luggage for those goodies you might want to pick up at the expo!

Kristi, you just turned 32. . .what are you going to do now?

I'm planning a trip to Disney World!

That's right, the Reppe family is headed back to Walt Disney World this fall!  For my birthday, my husband gave me tickets to Disney and told me he had already arranged our hotel and the time off of work for me.  I'm always excited for a Disney vacation, and the fun of planning now gets to begin again.


One of my favorite things about Walt Disney World is that I feel like there is always something new to explore.  This trip will be no different!  Even though our last visit was just November 2015, there are several things that will be "new" on this trip - whether it's for me or to the resort in general.

  • Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - In all of my Disney trips, I've never been in fall to enjoy the Halloween celebrations.  This year, we'll be there the week of Halloween and we will get the chance to enjoy this fun hard ticketed event.
  • Wine and Dine 10K - This isn't official until registration tomorrow, but I'm going to try to get in for the newest runDisney race which was just added to the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend.  
  • Minnie's Seasonal Dine at Hollywood and Vine - This new character dinner opened last year and we're hoping to score reservations as part of the Fantasmic Dinner Package.
  • Nighttime at Animal Kingdom - This spring, Disney's Animal Kingdom will be debuting several evening activities including Rivers of Light and a night safari ride.  The addition of night activities at Animal Kingdom means that this already fun-filled park will pack even more smiles and entertainment.
  • Epcot Updates - By our visit in late fall, there will be two big attractions unveiled at Epcot.  Soarin' is currently undergoing a major renovation that will expand your flight beyond California to a trip around the world.  And Norway is getting new guests from Arendelle with a ride and a royal meet and greet.
And one of the best parts of this trip - it will be our first multigenerational with my parents joining us and the boys!  Mouse ears on everyone!  Let's get started!!