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Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mike Wazowski Replacing Stitch and Mickey--For Wake-up Calls at Walt Disney World

Stitch and Mickey are being replaced by Mike Wazowski—for wake-up calls at Walt Disney World Resorts.  For a limited time, guests will hear Mike Wazowski’s voice on the other end of the phone rather than Stitch’s “wakey wakey” message followed by Mickey’s voice trying to get Stitch out of trouble.  This change in the wake-up call is part of the Monstrous Summer celebration at Walt Disney World.

Disney can even make something as mundane as a wake-up call magical!  Wake-up calls can be set from resort room telephones.  There is a special button on the resort room phone that will take you to the interactive setting that allows you to use the keypad on the phone to set the call.

Now, use this tip to make the wake-up call even more magical. . . answer the phone using the speaker button.  Instead of picking up the receiver when only the person answering can hear the message, leave the receiver in the cradle and push the speaker button to answer the wake-up call.  This way, everyone in the room gets to hear the magical morning message.

I can’t wait to hear what Mike Wazowski has to tell us!  Maybe he will tell us we need to get up and capture laughs to help power Monstropolis. . .

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Some Queues We Have Never Seen--Will We?

Walt Disney World—will there be lines?  Yes.  Will those lines or queues provide a story line?  Yes.  Often the queues are so well themed and/or interactive they become just as fun as the attraction.  Can you by pass lines?  Yes, by using Fastpass—which is FREE to every guest.

One could go on and on about lines with incredible theming and we and others have.  But what we discovered during an evening walk is that there are lines we have never seen or experienced. 

Splash Mountain—we have yet to experience the stand-by queue which winds before going into the mountain.  We have only experienced the Fastpass line which features various portraits of the characters guests will get to meet throughout the attraction.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad—while we haven’t been to the Magic Kingdom since the interactive queue has opened, we have yet to use the stand-by entrance for this attraction.  It has only been Fastpass for us and will most likely continue.  Do guests in the Fastpass queue get to use the interactive portions of the line too?

Soarin’—we have heard that there are interactive games and screens in the stand-by line, but we have yet to see or experience them.  Our entrance to this attraction has always been through the Fastpass lane.

Expedition Everest—as of this writing we have only ridden once but it was through the Fastpass line that we entered the attraction which was still incredibly themed.

Kali River Rapids—we have seen the stand-by queue wind throughout the sheltered area from the Fastpass line which has been our only way into this wet ride.

Then there are some attractions that we have used both the Stand-bye queue and the Fastpass entrance depending on time of day, wait time posted on the attraction, and availability of Fastpasses.  Those include Toy Story Mania, Star Tours, Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan’s Flight, Dinosaur, Maelstrom, and Living With the Land.

When the husband and I were discussing this subject, he said Astro Orbiter.  Huh?  Astro Orbiter does not have Fastpass.  It is one of the slowest loading rides and we only ride it early in the morning before the line begins to build.  Then he said, “ What about pirates?”  I think he was referring to Pirates of the Caribbean, so I again reminded him that there isn’t Fastpass at Pirates of the Caribbean and that is one of the fastest loading and unloading rides (It’s a Small World is one of the fastest loading, but not so fast in unloading).

Will we EVER see the stand-bye queues of those attractions listed previously?  Maybe.  In the meantime, we will use Fastpass to our advantage, even if it means missing a themed queue or two.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Williams Family Blog Reader Made My Day!

That face says it all--Magical at Disney!

When the idea of the Williams Family Blog was conceived and born, it was a surreal feeling to know that others “out there” were reading the words that I had composed.  At the same time, that is exactly the purpose of the Williams Family Blog—to get the words out of my head and onto “paper” of some sort.  Three years and hundreds of posts later, I am still amazed by what happens to the words “out there.”

When acting live on stage or in front of a camera, actors are not supposed to acknowledge the “fourth wall” or the audience.  I supposed writing for cyberspace is the same.  The writing is for the folks “out there” and yet there maybe some rule about acknowledging the readers.  I have broken that rule before and I am going to do it again.

The following was a comment on the Williams Family Blog yesterday made by an anonymous reader:  You are all incredible lucky and blessed- I think the CM's are choosing your family members for these special things because, magic looks like it's just beaming out of all of you in your joyful smiles. That magic is contagious- they know that you'll show everyone what it means to be a Disney Family. My family has been chosen to do a lot of special things too- and I think vivid matching outfits are a big plus!!!

The comment was in response to a post about how we make Disney World even more magical and memorable—click here to read more.

What struck me was the line about the magic beaming from us in our smiles.  Yes, that is exactly how we feel at Disney—most of the time!  (We all have grumpy moments sometimes.)  This reader was able to get that from my words—and pictures!  As a writer, it can be difficult to find the exact words to convey the message—feeling or idea—and it can elating when a reader does get exactly what you are trying to convey.  This anonymous reader did get it, responded, and made my day!  Thank you!

We have had other guests make mention of our “beaming” such as the time a guest told us we glowed.  That is a moment I won’t soon forget.  And, we have had Cast Members make comments about our relaxed demeanor portraying to them that this must not be our first visit or cruise.

So, to our anonymous reader:  Thank you so much for your comment—it made my day!  Yes, we are lucky and blessed at Disney and beyond.  Wishing you Disney magic today and everyday!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

August Travelers to Walt Disney World Will Discover Ride and Attraction Closures

Are you traveling to the most magical place on earth in August?  If so, you may experience ride and attraction closures for refurbishment.  August is considered a “slower” time of the year in Disney terms—heat but smaller crowds—and after the majority of summer travelers head back home Disney is taking advantage and will close and update some attractions.

So far on the list is the Liberty Belle River Boat located in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom, Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom,  Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel in the Magic Kingdom, and MuppetVision 3D in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  There may be other rides and attractions added to the list.

What can a guest do?  Well, knowing what rides and attractions are closed can be half of the battle.  There’s nothing like the build up to a much anticipated ride or attraction, only to find out upon arrival that it is not available.  The touring plan has to be revamped and sore feelings soothed.  This kind of disappointment can be avoided when you know what rides or attractions are closed ahead of time.

For example, during our last trip to the World, we were only going to spend one day in the parks.  Deciding between Studios and EPCOT was difficult.  But knowing that Test Track was closed for refurbishment helped us decide—we went to Studios.

Another strategy to combat ride or attraction closures is to change the time of your trip, if possible.  Guests traveling at “off peak” times know that while they will be treated to less crowded parks, they will also find shorter park hours and ride closures.  Guests traveling at busier times of the year, will find park hours extended, extra dining locations open, and special shows or attractions added to the list of all the other rides and attractions in addition to thicker crowds.  It is a trade off and guests traveling to Walt Disney World have to decide what is more important—access to everything OR smaller crowds.

If your trip is “once in a lifetime” then going during a time when all the rides and attractions are open will be important.  Also know that even when everything is open, it is difficult, if not impossible, to do and see everything.  For those of us who know we are coming back, there are no worries when a ride or attraction is closed.  We know we will catch it next trip. . . and look forward to experiencing the improvements!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Swimming Pools and Water Parks Overview for Summer 2013!

Memorial Day Week-end is the unofficial start of summer and the official opening of many swimming pools and water parks.  Here are the links to various swimming pool and water park reviews so you can plan your fun in the sun:

Adventure Bay in Altoona—Adventureland’s water park.

Albia—Monroe County Aquatic Center:  The best bargain around!

Centerville Municipal Pool—bring your inflatable rafts to this Olympic sized pool!

Fun City’s Huck’s Harbor in Burlington—indoor and outdoor water fun!

Honey Creek’s Buccaneer Bay—indoor adventure.

Indianola Veteran’s Memorial Aquatic Center—great area for little kids!

Mount Pleasant Family Aquatic Center—a gem, but hard to find.  Follow our directions.

Oskaloosa's Edmundson Park Swimming Pool--great example of renovation!

The Beach Ottumwa—wave pool!

Sigourney Swimming Pool—padded bottom in a park setting!

Washington Steele Family Aquatic Center—love the chairs and the park!

There you have it, our pool and water park reviews.  As we continue to make our rounds during the summer of 2013, updates will be added to the reviews.  And, we may be adding new pools to our list!

It was great fun visiting the various pools and water parks for our “research” yet the reason for the reviews is that this is the type of information I wanted prior to visiting and it wasn’t available. . . anywhere!  The idea for the pool reviews was born at our family’s kitchen table, just like many other ideas.  We hope the information helps you and your family to have fun! 

You are welcome to share this link via Facebook or any other method.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Williams Family Blog Reader Experiences Some Disney Magic

A Williams Family Blog reader, Michael, experienced some Disney magic of his very own recently, and he gave me permission to share.

Michael purchased his mom a jacket while at Walt Disney World a few months ago while at Walt Disney World.  Turns out, the jacket was too big and his mom is about to experience her first trip to Walt Disney World in December and wanted to be able to wear the jacket.

Contact with Guest Services and internet searches were not paying off so Michael contacted me to see if I might look for the jacket during our next trip.  Specifically he told me that the shop on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom would be best.  

I had the image and was ready to look for the jacket.  Then, Michael emailed me and told me that Disney magic had struck.  A Cast Member had opened a box of jackets with the size his mother needed and phoned him to let him know.  While I haven’t heard yet, I am sure the jacket is on its way to Michael or his mom.  Congratulations, Michael, on finding the jacket!

This is another story in the category of “only at Disney” as only at Disney would there be a note or communication of some sort that if this type of jacket was found that this person wanted one and the specific size.  We have experienced this magical Disney service before as well like when the husband lost his hat and it was returned to us still intact with Disney pins still attached even without his name on the inside.  And, this is one of the many reasons we keep going back.

Have you experienced magical Disney service? 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Purchasing Airfare--And Getting The Best Deal

Flying on our last trip
What cost us $660 when we bought it and is now $1,404?  No, not stock in Apple.  Airfare!  When we planned our upcoming trip and purchased airfare, round trip tickets for nonstop flights were $220 per person or $110 per “leg” of the trip.  If we were to purchase those exact same tickets today, the cost would be $468 per person or more than $700 more!

Buying airfare can be tricky.  And, even after dozens of flights, I still find myself double guessing and not trusting my instincts.  Very seldom though, have my instincts been wrong.  Here are some things we have learned about purchasing airfare:

  • It helps to know what a “good price” is for air, just like you would know what a good price is on any other purchase such as an appliance or something at the grocery store.  Message boards can help you as well traveled folks often post their “good deals.”
  • Let technology help you, along with a great travel agent.  We use Kayak and Airfare Watchdog to keep track of flight prices for us, setting notifications for weekly updates if we are a ways away from our trip and then changing them to daily when we are considering making a purchase.  Remember that Kayak.com does search major carriers, but discount carriers such as Southwest and Allegiant are not featured on their site, so you have to go to those airline web-sites directly.  (Southwest’s DING app can help though)
  • Major carriers release dates 335 days prior to flying while discount carriers release flights 6-9 months ahead.  So best deals can be found within that 6-9 month window typically as major carriers will adjust their prices when the discount carriers release theirs if they are in a competing market.
  • A caution to the previous bullet—the fares for discount carriers may not be the best when they are first released.  They know folks are waiting for them and the prices can be higher the first week or so of released fares—waiting may get you savings.  A caveat to this is around the holidays or other peak travel times.  For example, newly released flights for a Saturday before a holiday could be sold out before the price gets reduced.
  • If your travel dates are flexible, week-day flights are typically less than week-ends.  Play with your dates to find the best air deal.
  • Airfares are typically less when shopping on a Tuesday or Wednesday.  True.  It has to do with when airlines check the status of their flights and reconfigure rates, publicize them, etc.  So when you are tempted to book that getaway on a Friday, stop yourself and check the following Tuesday.  Patience may pay off!
  • You don’t have to book a round trip.  Flyers can purchase “legs” of their trips using different carriers for the best deals.  For example, if United had the best flight times and prices for the outgoing leg of a trip but Southwest had the best return times and flight fares, then take advantage and purchase separately.

When we made our airfare purchase for our upcoming trip, we only purchased one “leg” of the trip. . . the outbound flight.  The price was right, we had the money, and we were willing to make the gamble about the return flight.  The husband was nervous for a while thinking we might have to hitchhike home.  Sure enough, our gamble paid off, as flight prices for the return flight went down and we pounced.  It was a relief.

Purchasing airfare is a major portion of any trip budget and it can be nerve racking to find and pounce on the best deal.  I work in tandem with our travel agent; both of us checking to find a great price and flight times and dates that work the best.  But when you get a great deal, you know it!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tough Disney Questions

Sometimes the husband asks me tough questions.  Yesterday while at the soccer fields, we took a moment to savor the number of days until our next trip to Walt Disney World.  The husband then asks, other than Toy Story Mania, what ride are you most looking forward to?

I paused, speechless, as it is so hard for me to pinpoint something specific, as I enjoy almost every aspect of a Disney vacation, but I thought for a moment and then responded.  I told him I was looking forward to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, as we had yet to experience the new interactive queue.  I added Splash Mountain, Dinosaur, and Everest for the ride photos.  Tower of Terror is on my list because it will be the first time the boy is going to ride it AND the ride photo—ride photos are included with Photopass +.  But then there are some favorites like Peter Pan’s Flight and Soarin’.  It is too hard to pick ONE that I am most looking forward to.

Then, he asks another question.  What restaurant am I most looking forward to?  I almost growl as this question. . . it is too hard! 

I begin with ‘Ohana’s as it is a family favorite and never disappoints.  Then I add Nine Dragons as it will be new for us.  Rose & Crown was on the list as we will get to see Illuminations.  Be Our Guest is another new restaurant I am excited to see and we added The Plaza to our list for our upcoming trip.  Then there is Rainforest CafĂ© which will be a new adventure for us.  How could I pick just one favorite?

The table turned and I asked him a question, but it wasn’t at soccer.  It was while he was scouring around to pack items for a Scout campout, working from a list.  I asked if he now knew what it was like to pack for a trip?  He answered, “no.”  Because I have it laid out ahead of time which makes it easier.  What?  How does the stuff get laid out ahead of time?  Magically?  No, I do it.  But since I do it over time rather than in one hurried and harried moment, it makes it easier according to his perspective.  Hmm. . . packing for 3 people for multiple days and nights or packing for 2 people for one night—which one might be easier?  I keep telling him that he gets to pack for our next vacation and he keeps reminding me that I enjoy packing.  I sense this is a strategy on his part to stay away from packing.  In the meantime, he keeps distracting me with Disney questions!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Counting Down To Next Trip to Walt Disney World

One would think that after ten trips to Walt Disney World, the excitement and anticipation of yet another trip would wane.  Yes, one COULD think that, but for us, it is not the case.  We are just as excited for our next trip, our 11th, as we were for our first trip. . . maybe more so!  The countdown has been going since we confirmed our trip.  Our trip consists of 12 days, eleven nights at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort where we will be celebrating our 11th anniversary at the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Disney's Polynesian Resort.

It is now time in the planning, for us to check in on-line at our resort.  Using My Disney Experience, either the mobile app or the link on the Walt Disney World official web-site, checking in on-line is fast and easy.

Our reservation had our dining reservations attached and I was able to add notes and events to our reservation, even sharing them with family members electronically. 

Room requests were accessible via My Disney Experience and we were able to communicate check in and check out times.

This isn’t the first time we have checked in on-line prior to our trip, but this was the first time using My Disney Experience.  A difference this time was that we needed to designate a PIN for each person in our party, with an option to have one PIN for all party members.  My guess is that the PIN is for using the Radio Frequency cards or bands for purchases.  I will let you know if that is the case.

Prospective guests often wonder about the advantages of checking in on-line prior to arrival.  Here is what we have discovered since taking advantage of on-line check in when it first became available:
  • Guests need a picture ID when arriving at the resort.
  • There is a special line at the resort for guests who have checked in on-line prior to their arrival.  This line tends to be shorter and faster than the other line.
  • This faster arrival means less time checking in and more time on my vacation.  The adrenaline is pumping when I get to my happy place and I want to sprint into the rest of my vacation.

At this point, I see no downside to the on-line check in other than it takes a few minutes of your time at your convenience;  Disney does the rest.

Are you counting down to a magical Disney vacation?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How The 1% Does Disney. . . Really?

The New York Post published an article yesterday about how the 1% does Disney.  Seems wealthy Manhattan moms hire a disabled tour guide from Dream Tours and then use that person’s Guest Assistance Card, which allows the disabled person and up to six guests access to handicap entrances for rides and shows.  Click here to read the entire article.

The gist is that hiring the disabled tour guide is less expensive than that Disney’s VIP tour guides and allows these families to cut to the front of the line.  Various discussion boards have been “hot” since the article appeared yesterday.

Know that Disney offers guests with disabilities, visible or not visible, and with documentation from a physician if necessary, Guest Assistance Cards free of charge and for use throughout the guest’s stay at Walt Disney World. 

Let me begin with Guest Assistance Cards are not a “front of the line” pass.  They do offer guests with disabilities entrances that are handicap accessible.  We have seen those guests wait for ride vehicles that could accommodate their needs—whether it be a wheelchair or the size of their party—for sometimes longer than we have waited as a family.  It’s a Small World and Toy Story Mania both come to mind as there are a limited number of ride vehicles throughout the attraction made to accommodate handicap guests needs.

The article indicates that these guests have no need to use Fastpasses.  Well, that is true as guests with Guest Assistance Cards wouldn’t have a need for Fastpasses.  Yet again, I would argue that they would still have to wait, sometimes longer, than guests using Fastpasses.

The author of the article attempted to contact the tour guide provider with no luck and Disney did not respond.  The article indicates that the phone number was passed around secretly and serves rendered only after the name of the referral was given. 

So, what do the rest of us, the 99% do now?  Well, we give Disney time and space to respond.  Personally, I wouldn’t want to mess with the behemoth that has lists of names of former guests who have been removed from their parks and can never return again due to behavior.  I read a book recently where a friend of the author was caught “jumping the gate” in his late teens, only to be refused a reservation when he called to book his honeymoon stay—his name was still on the “list”—and he then had some explaining to do to his soon to be bride.  My prediction is that this will be handled quietly and will only make the news if the Orlando Sentinel gets a hold of any potential charges filed, etc.

And, we will continue to make room for families and guests with disabilities and special needs.  We will wait patiently as busses are loaded and unloaded and while ride vehicles stop or slow down to meet guest needs.  After all, we are at the most magical place on Earth!

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Surprise in the Mail from Adventures by Disney!

Surprise!  We got mail. . . from Adventures by Disney.  This personalized letter arrived along with a gift of a Blue-Ray DVD hinting that a new Adventures by Disney adventure would be announced and available on May 22, 2013.  This our second gift in just a few months from Adventures by Disney—click here to read more.

Adventures by Disney offers various tours world-wide with up to 40 guests and 2 adventure guides.  The service is personalized and includes most meals, tours, luggage handling, etc.  Many of the tours are designed for families, but some dates and tours are just for adults.

We took an Adventures by Disney tour in July 2009 to the Southwest aptly titled Southwest Splendors.  We toured Sedona, Arizona, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Moab, Utah, with a stop in Monument Valley.  From a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon to white water rafting on the Colorado River, our adventure helped us make many memories.  Click here to read more.

Now Adventures by Disney offers tours in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and both North and South America.  With the hint in the letter and the accompanying DVD, I am guessing a new Austria tour is being announced.  Isn’t that where the castle that inspired Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom is located?  If so, can you imagine experiencing that in person? 

Adventures by Disney isn’t advertised well and most people think it is only for those who belong to Disney’s Vacation Club—mostly due to the video the Magical Express bus returning to the airport when Adventures by Disney is lumped together with Disney Vacation Club for future Disney experiences.  Anyone can tour with Adventures by Disney including both members and non members of Disney’s Vacation Club. 

Adventures by Disney has only been around less than 10 years but continues to add tours to their line-up.

An Adventures by Disney tour is most likely going to be more expensive than a Walt Disney World stay—depending on your accommodations of course, or a Disney Cruise unless you are used to Concierge level.  Tours are to be paid in full within one week of booking and to/from airfare can be arranged by your travel agent, Adventures by Disney, or on your own.  Typical air is arrival at one city and departure from another—for example, we flew into Phoenix but our return flights were out of Grand Junction, Colorado.

When people ask if we ever travel anywhere else besides Disney, I can answer with a “yes” and we traveled WITH Disney. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

It’s Mother’s Day!  As a mom, it is an opportunity to reflect on my role in raising our son and coincidentally, yesterday was full of opportunities.

A Saturday in May brings soccer games and this week-end’s games were at “home”.  As the boy was getting ready he asked about the number of games his team would be playing.  One.  He asked if we were walking to the field.  Yes.  I loved that he asked that as this makes him both environmentally minded, but health conscious, too.  And, we usually walk to the fields if we are playing at “home” as the fields are nearby.  He also asked for his sunglasses, which demonstrated his planning.

Later in the day, after his game, I took a turn volunteering the concession stand and the boy came with me.  He helped at the counter and showed people to the restrooms when they asked.  But it wasn’t just helping, he was “selling.”  He wanted to give a holler to folks as they passed with “snacks here, get your snacks”—a sales technique he has picked up a minor league baseball games he has attended with is Uncle John.  And, when people did come to purchase, he would then try to “up sell” with a “would you like _________, with your ___________ “ in an attempt to get them to purchase something else.  It worked!  Who could resist the charms of this dimpled and freckled ten-year-old?

A two hour shift was more than he wanted and even after playing on the playground, he opted to walk home—independent as ever.  His dad was gone as he was volunteering at an event at our local event center, and it would be less than 30 minutes before I would arrive, so I knew he would be okay.  He had a key to get into the house, but had difficulty managing it, so what did he do?  He went to our neighbor’s and asked for help!  Excellent problem solving!  I arrived as our neighbor was leaving and thanked them for their help.  (We will practice using the key.)

What makes me smile as a mom is his confidence, his independence, and his enthusiasm.  Those are the greatest gifts this Mother’s Day!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Free Dining Plan Being Offered at Walt Disney World!

Dining at Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge
Free Dining at Walt Disney World has been announced!  If you are willing to travel between September 2 and September 25, stay at least 3 nights at select resorts, and purchase a minimum of a 2 day base ticket, then you can dine for free during your stay!

Guests selecting a value resort will receive free Quick Service Dining Plan and those choosing a moderate or deluxe resort will receive the Basic Dining Plan for free.  The Quick Service, also known as Counter Service, includes 2 counter service credits, a snack credit per person per night and a free refillable mug.  The Basic Dining Plan includes 1 counter service credit, one table service credit, one snack credit per person per night and a refillable mug.  Plans can also be upgraded by paying the price difference between the plans per person per night of stay.

This is a great offer and can save guests a lot of money.  In addition, September is considered a “value” season, so resort rates are at their lowest.  This also means crowds are thinner, hence the reason Disney is making this offer.

We have been able to take advantage of this offer during this time of year twice—September of 2007 and September of 2008.  Our travel agent sent me an email on Thursday when the offer became available to the general public—it was available for Disney Visa holders the week prior.  She asked if we were tempted.  Of course we were tempted, but since we are traveling in July and due to school and work schedules, it would not be feasible for us.  I thought it was great that she thought of us though. 

Since our first visit to Walt Disney World, we have stayed in moderate resorts, so the Basic Dining Plan was part of our offer.  It allowed us to try restaurants that we may not have tried under other circumstances such as Le Cellier—for lunch, Coral Reef, and Tony’s.

If you are considering a trip to Walt Disney World and are available to travel during this time, this offer can’t be beat.  Go ahead, call your travel agent or Disney travel specialist today! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

There Will Now Be Eleven Disney Princesses

The Boy meeting one of the eleven Disney Princesses--Princess Aurora.
Disney Princess number eleven will be crowned on Saturday, May 11, 2013, at the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort.  Merida, from Disney/Pixar’s Brave will have her royal coronation to crown her an official Disney Princess. 

If you know the story of Brave, Merida is an unlikely Princess, as she chose a different fate than what her parents and family had in store for her.  And, different from other Disney Princesses, Merida had no need for a Prince Charming to make her dreams come true. 

Oh, how I wish I had a picture of Merida, taken with at least one member of the Williams Family, but alas, I do not as we have yet to meet Merida.   Meeting Merida is on the top 10 list of things we want to do during our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World. 

Merida is currently greeting guests at the Fairytale Garden near Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Disney Photos Make Great Gifts

Photos make great gifts. . . anytime.  And, that is why I love Disney photo CD’s from either Photopass (at the parks) or Shutters (on the ships).  The professional, high quality photos on the CD’s can be used to make prints or other types of photo gifts—mugs, tote bags, etc..  And, the CD images also come in handy when making personalized greeting cards.

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, it is another great time to use photos as gifts.  My Mother-in-law’s gift is ready; a framed 11 X 14 collage of the photos shown in this post with textured red background.  The photos came from our December 2012 cruise on board the Disney Dream and were a part of the two hundred plus images that were included on the CD along with Copyright release.  The photo CD was purchased from Shutters on the ship.

While this gift is a larger collage, often Walgreens has specials featuring free 8 X 10 collages.  This is when photos from the Photo CD’s come in handy again and get grouped together to highlight a specific event from our vacation.  We have a photo collage of when the boy was chosen as Holiday Prince of the Sea and another of his participation in Jedi Training Academy (from Photopass).  I made another photo collage of our special holiday pajama photos taken on the Disney Dream.

Our family and friends have received many photo gifts such as coffee mugs and personalized tote bags all featuring professional images from the photo CD’s from Disney vacations either land or sea.  And even our Valentine’s cards featured a photo from our trip.

But aren’t the photo CD’s expensive?  Yes, but. . .  But, the Photopass CD at Disney parks can be purchased in advanced for a reduced price of $119 compared to $169 after you get home or if you decide to purchase at the parks.  The photo CD’s from the ships are a bit more expensive.  Ours was $249 but we had a $100 photo credit from our travel agent, which made the price $149.  When you compare the cost per photo-- 240 photos for $149 or over 300 Photopass photos for $119 if you pre-order the Photopass CD—it really does become more economical.  Then compare how much you might spend or do spend on other souvenirs.  That $45 sweatshirt may be outgrown, but the photos will be around for a long time and provide lasting memories of our Disney vacation.  Photopass has even done some cool things with Facebook—allowing guests to share their photos almost instantly.  Not to mention the addition of Photopass + which adds on ride photos and dining photos to the Photopass CD. (Click here to read more about Disney’s Photopass +)

Here’s the link to pre-order your Photopass CD—click here.  Know that it is fully refundable in case you end up not taking as many Photopass photos as you thought.  The pre-order can be done anytime prior to your vacation, including while you are on the plane!  It just has to be ordered and paid for before any photos are taken.  Say, cheese!

Monday, May 6, 2013

You Know You Are Helping Others Plan Their Disney Vacations When. . .

Don’t you just love it when you get to talk about or share your favorite things?  And, that is exactly what I got to do this week-end!  A shopping trip on Saturday afternoon not only elicited some “glow bracelets” from the dollar store for our upcoming Disney trip, but also some validation that the Williams Family Blog was helping people plan their Disney vacations (sometimes you just need a little validation.).

As our family was walking into Target, another family stopped to thank us for the blog as they were getting ready to take the grandchildren to Walt Disney World.  I thanked them and proceeded to ask for details. . . when were they going?  Where were they staying? Etc.  They were in good shape with their plans and then we laughed about how it wasn’t going to be a “restful” vacation, but a very busy one with their grand children while making lots of memories.  What fun! 

The Disney theme carried on with the following email from a Disney planner:

Thanks for you help so far!  I am excited to go!  What would you recommend that we don't leave home with out or need to make sure to pack that we will need at the parks?

Okay, I wasn’t exactly sure what the question was so I emailed back:

Are you asking if you need to pack what you will need at the parks or wait to purchase there?

Or are you asking if you will need to bring stuff with you for use at the parks?

Or are you asking if you need to pack park essentials in your carry-on luggage so that you can get to them right away without waiting for your luggage?

Let me know which question or if it is a different question altogether and I will happily reply!

Within a few minutes the email popped up with:

The first two questions.

Now I was ready to respond and realized that there had been previous entries on the Williams Family Blog that could possibly help this Disney planner.  Here was my reply:

Got it!

Ok. . . we are a pack what you need family as I don't like to pay "park prices" for stuff we will need and use.  Here's an article about thinking about shopping:  http://toddjodybrent.blogspot.com/2013/02/a-walt-disney-world-vacation-shopping.html

Now, having said that, there may be things you HAVE to purchase at the parks.  For example, Todd packed some shoes that gave him blisters and 2nd pair rubbed the blister, so we ended up spending $40 for a pair of sandals for him.  

Yes, we take park bags with needed items for the day.  Here are some helpful hints:  http://toddjodybrent.blogspot.com/2012/05/packing-bag-for-park-touring.html


Know that Disney allows food to be brought into the parks and that your bags will be screened by security before entering any park.  No knives, glass, etc.  

Hope that helps!

It is so fun to help others plan their trips!  Just imagining their family at the most magical place on earth and having an easier time rather than a stressful time because of the upfront planning brings me delight.  I want other people to “get it”; the magic that comes from a Disney vacation.

Oh, and the other thing I got to talk about this weekend?  Saving money.  But that story can be for another time. . .

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Castaway Club Mail!

We’ve hit gold!  Gold level Castaway Club membership level for Disney Cruise Line that is and some Disney magic came by way of U.S. mail yesterday.  Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Club mailed a special edition of the Compass to their gold and platinum club members that included information about the Disney Magic’s refurbishment happening later this fall—click here to read more.

In addition to information about the Disney Magic, ports for 2014 were also highlighted with the tagline “2014 is going to be the year to sail with us.”  I can buy that, especially since we are already planning to sail summer of 2014.

The thick envelope also contained several 6 X 8 pieces of artwork by Don “Ducky” Williams, featuring the updates to the Disney Magic and all contained additional information on the back. 

Every Disney cruiser is a part of Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Club after their first cruise—silver level.  After five cruises, members reach gold level, and after 10 cruises, platinum level is reached.  At each level, special privileges and amenities are offered.

Silver Level
Gold Level
Platinum Level
Access to website and update emails
Early Booking for shore excursions, Palo and the Spa
90 days before sailing
105 days before sailing
120 days before sailing
Members-only toll free number for booking your next Disney Cruise
Early booking opportunities for newest itineraries

Members-only line for boarding process
Welcome back stateroom gift
Savings on future cruises
Castaway Club reception with the ship's crew

Special shopping opportunities

Concierge priority boarding check-in

Special surprises just for Platinum members

Complimentary dinner at Palo


We are excited to have reached gold level and look forward to the Castaway Club reception with the ship’s crew on our next Disney cruise.