“Life is tough, but so are you.”

20 Things We Should Say More Often. I concur, Kid President. I especially love this one:

“If you can’t think of anything nice to say, you’re not thinking hard enough.”

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Magical Monday – Using Magic Bands

I took a break from my regular programming last week to talk about Disney cruises, but it’s back to the most magical place on earth this week. Today, let’s talk about Magic Bands.

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Magic Band packaging. I love it!

Disney World rolled out the Magic Bands for testing back in August 2013. Officially, the bands are still in the testing process, but all Disney resort guests have been able to use them since January. As of last week, anyone visiting a Walt Disney World park has the option of using a Magic Band.

What are they? A Magic Band is a waterproof armband that, during your Disney World vacation, holds your room key, park ticket, FastPasses, photo pass, meal credits, and credit card for incidentals while you’re touring Disney’s parks. An RFID chip inside the band holds a code that, when you scan it at touch points throughout the property, links to a secure database where your vacation information is stored.

You'll see touch points like this when you enter the park when it's time to use your FastPass+

You’ll see touch points like this when you enter the park when it’s time to use your FastPass+

What’s the point? To make your vacation as hassle-free and seamless as possible. You may begin customizing your band and selecting FastPass choices up to 60 days in advance of your trip using the My Disney Experience website. This website helps you plan every detail of your vacation. Your reservation links here, showing where you will be staying, for how long, what kind of tickets you’re using, etc. When we make your dining reservations, these will show in your account on this site. All of your FastPasses will be saved here. There is also an app for smartphones and tablets that you can use while you’re traveling. Disney is now providing complimentary wi-fi in all of their resorts and parks to make Magic Bands very user-friendly. They are even beginning to add charging stations in the parks, knowing that as they encourage visitors to use the My Disney Experience app on their phone, they’ll likely be needing to power up throughout the day.

If you’re staying at a Disney resort, Magic Bands for each member of your party will be included with your package. They are available in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, and gray. You can customize each one with a nickname that will be printed inside the band, so if multiple members of your group want the same color, you’ll be able to tell them apart.

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If you are staying off property, you can now set up an account on My Disney Experience and link your tickets before you go. You’ll also be able to make FastPass selections. Once you arrive at the park, you can purchase a Magic Band in one of the gift shops and link it to your ticket through My Disney Experience. A cast member will be nearby to help if you need assistance with this process.

A few other fun facts about the Magic Bands?

  • They are waterproof and designed for cool comfort. There were definitely some warm days while I was in Florida, and I don’t remember feeling any discomfort because of my Magic Band. (Some of my shoe and clothing choices are another story.)
  • Magic Bands are made from a hypoallergenic, non-latex material.
  • The battery can last for up to two years.
  • You can link multiple bands to the same ticket/account. Think of this like accessing your e-mail from two different devices. If you’ve traveled to WDW more than once and have multiple colors, you can use them all on your next trip. Match them to your outfit, if you’d like!
  • There is a peel-out option to make the bands smaller for kids. This is printed in the instructions on the box, but people must not be noticing it. I can’t tell you how many little ones I saw with their band wrapped around their wrist 3 times.
  • Magic Bands do not contain GPS tracking devices. You cannot use them to find a lost child at Disney World.
  • If you want the Magic Bands shipped to your home, you have until 10 days before your trip to customize them. Otherwise, they’ll be waiting at the front desk of your resort for you when it’s time to check in. (Resort pick-up is a good choice for surprise trips or if you’re afraid of forgetting them at home.)
  • There are over 60 experiences that you can choose a FastPass for using your Magic Band. (If I’m helping plan your trip, I’ll make sure you know which attractions you don’t really need one for.) At the time of posting, you may choose 3 FastPass experiences per day, and they must all be in the same park. As part of the test and adjust period, Disney is still determining how many people want/need and how to accommodate park hoppers with the new FastPass system.
  • If you don’t use a smartphone, Disney still has you covered. There are kiosks throughout the parks where you can change or add FastPasses while you tour. You can also ask a cast member to help out.
  • Your children will not be able to make charges on their Magic Bands. That option will only be accessible on the adult bands. In addition to scanning the band at a touch point, you will enter a PIN code to make charges, much like the old Key to the World cards. Even if you lose your Magic Band, it would be very difficult for someone to steal it and purchase souvenirs on your dime. ;)
  • Don’t think you’ll use your Magic Band again? Or maybe you just don’t want it taking up space when you return home? That’s OK. You can turn it in at the front desk when you check out, and it will be recycled or repurposed.

My only, tiny, minute complaint about the Magic Band is that the positioning of the touch point on the hotel room doors is a little…odd. I wished for arms like Mrs. Incredible a time or two. Easy fix? Remove the band when it’s time to unlock the door. You’re not going to wear it while you’re sleeping anyway.

So….any questions?

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Dream Week – That’s a wrap!

Is the week already over? Some of you may be cheering, but I hope that the rest of you have learned a lot about cruising with Disney. Maybe the next time I write about a Disney cruise ship, I’ll have actually been sailing on it.

I know I covered a lot this week, but I welcome your questions. I want you to be a well-educated cruiser. :)

Disney Cruise Line offers a wide variety of cruise itineraries. You can sail to the Bahamas, Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island in the Caribbean), the Caribbean, Alaska, up (or down) the California coast, through the Panama Canal, or to destinations in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. There’s a great big world out there to explore, and cruising is such a fun way to do it!

If you book your next Disney cruise through me, you will probably get a fun surprise in your stateroom when you arrive. :)

audra@atimetotreasuretravel.com

 

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Dream Week – Staterooms

Today’s post requires a disclaimer. I’ll only be sharing one stateroom photo, and it is borrowed from dclnews.com. While I toured the ship, it was in port, the crew cleaning and getting it ready for a new round of guests. I was unable to take my own photos of staterooms, because none were really photo-ready. I saw several staterooms, and I do have a broader knowledge of the different types and categories, in addition to all the little nuances in between.

Disney Cruise Line’s smallest staterooms are the same size as mid-level rooms on other cruise ships. Their staterooms are designed with families in mind. If you have cruised on other ships before, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the staterooms you find aboard the Disney Dream.

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When you enter the room, there is a holder where you will insert your room key, known aboard as your Key to the World card. This activates the electricity in your room. When you leave and remove the card, everything turns off. You won’t be wasting power on this ship.

Most of the staterooms will have a nautical theme and colors similar to the photo above, with a few Disney touches, of course. The queen bed is raised, so you can store luggage underneath. There is also a closet with ample storage space. The sofa toward the back of the photo above turns into a twin bed, and a second twin bed pulls down from the ceiling. A curtain divides the two sleeping areas, so if you are traveling with children, you’ll be able to put them to bed without having to hang out in a darkened room earlier than you’d normally have to. Most of the staterooms will have a split bathroom. That means the sink and toilet are in a separate room than the shower. The separated rooms make it much easier for families to clean up and get ready for the day, or for dinner after a day by the pool.

The largest room on the ship will sleep five. If your family is larger than this, you can be accommodated in connecting staterooms. These are available within every stateroom category on the ship.

I’ll share a quick list of the different room types aboard the Disney Dream from smallest to largest:

Standard Inside Stateroom - These rooms are best for families of 3 or 4. 169 square feet. All will have a queen-size bed and single convertible sofa. Some have a upper berth pull-down bed. Most have a bath with tub and shower, but these rooms will not have the split bathroom. Inside staterooms have a Magic Porthole that shows real-time footage of the sea outside the ship, with virtual appearances from beloved Disney characters.

Deluxe Inside Stateroom – Also sleeps 3 or 4, slightly larger at 204 square feet. All will have a queen-size bed and single convertible sofa. Some have a upper berth pull-down bed. Most of these rooms have the split bath, but not all of them do. You will also have a privacy curtain between sleeping areas and a Magic Porthole.

Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom – Specs are exactly the same as the deluxe inside stateroom, only you will have an actual porthole window. Some do have obstructed views.

Deluxe Family Ocean View Stateroom – Sleeps 3 to 5 guests, 241 square feet. All will have a queen-size bed and single convertible sofa. Some have a upper berth pull-down bed or a wall pull-down bed. Most of these rooms have a split bathroom with round tub. It even has a seat to make bathing little ones easier. There are a few different categories within this room type to do with the window. Most will have one large porthole window with a seat (shown in the photo above), but some will have two.

Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Navigator’s Verandah – Sleeps 3 or 4, 246 square feet (this figure includes the verandah). All will have a queen-size bed, single convertible sofa, and upper berth pull-down bed, if you need it for a fourth guest. Most have a split bathroom. The navigator’s verandah will be smaller than most, or it will have an obstructed view.

Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Verandah – Same as above, only you’ll have a private verandah, full-sized with no obstructions.

Deluxe Family Ocean View Stateroom with Verandah – Sleeps 3 to 5, 299 square feet (including verandah). This room is just like the deluxe family ocean view stateroom above, with a private verandah instead of the porthole window seat.

Concierge Family Ocean View Stateroom with Verandah – Sleeps 5, 306 square feet (including verandah). These rooms have a queen-sized bed, double convertible sofa, upper berth pull-down sofa, full bath, and half bath. You will also have a private verandah. This stateroom has a little bit “fancier” decor than all the other staterooms. Concierge level rooms are tucked away on Decks 11 and 12 and feel very private. They have their own lounge, and you will receive extra personalized service. There is a private adult sun deck for concierge level guests. You have a private waiting area in the terminal before boarding the ship, and you get to board first. Another added bonus? These rooms are located very close the spa!

Concierge Suites – There are only 3 of these on the Disney Dream. The two Royal Suites are named after Roy and Walt Disney. Each is 1,781 square feet with one bedroom, two bathrooms, a dining room, media library, pantry, and wet bar. They are swanky. You get concierge level service on steroids. The other concierge suite is a 622 square foot suite with one bedroom, two bathrooms, living area, and walk-in closet. Again, your amenities and service in this room will be stellar. If anyone wants to call me and book one of these, you will make my year…probably more. ;)

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Dream Week – Adults Only!

On to Day Three of our Disney Dream week! We’ve explored spaces for families and children, so it’s time to see where you can go for some relaxing adult time once you’re dropped the kids off at the Oceaneer’s Club.

Our first stop is the Senses Spa & Salon. There is a large fitness center inside with treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical machines, and weight training equipment. Instructional classes are also offered, or you can hire a personal trainer, for a fee. There are men’s and women’s changing areas, lockers, towels, water, and showers for you to use as well.

Next, we toured the Rainforest room. This was easily my favorite spot aboard the ship. Look at that row of gorgeous heated lounge chairs with individual lights for reading. This area is so relaxing. There are also two open-air jacuzzis, a quiet indoor relaxation room, a steam room, dry sauna, and a steam bath. You can use the Rainforest room for $16 per day, or there is a length-of-cruise option.

Also inside Senses are couples villas, where you can go to enjoy spa treatments together. The salon offers haircut and hair styling services, manicures, pedicures, and more! There is even a barber shop featuring traditional men’s services.

Maybe your idea of relaxation involves a pool and a tropical drink? You’ll want to spend some time at the Quiet Cove Pool. Adult music is played, instead of the upbeat, family-friendly music you’ll hear on the main pool deck. The Cove Bar offers adult refreshments, without having to leave the comfort of the pool area. There are plush lounge chairs where you can sunbathe and relax. Glass-bottomed jacuzzis overlook the ocean. The Cove Cafe is also here, offering coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages.

In the evening, you can enjoy an adult exclusive dinner at Palo or Remy. You must make reservations to dine at these restaurants, and there is a dress code. Palo has a Venetian theme, offering Northern Italian cuisine for $25 per person. This price does include gratuity, and every table offers a stunning ocean view.

Remy is the place to go for foodies. At $75 per person, Remy offers a true fine dining experience. Plan to be here for 3-4 hours. You will be served several courses of French-inspired food. Remy is small and elegant. It feels very intimate. They even provide a little stool for your handbag! I took a picture. I couldn’t help it. I had never seen such a thing.

The District is the Dream’s adult entertainment area. Inside, are several nightclubs and lounges with distinct themes. The District Lounge offers karaoke. Pink is an elegant lounge, designed to look like the inside of a champagne bottle. Evolution is a dance club whose theme is based on the evolution of a butterfly. 687 is a sports bar where you can enjoy a drink and watch live sporting events. Yes! On a cruise ship! Skyline was my favorite. It feels very swanky and metropolitan. Behind the bar are screens showing a famous city’s skyline – Chicago while we were inside. The skyline changes throughout the evening, so you might also be in New York, Paris, or Hong Kong. Another really neat thing about that skyline? It also transforms from day to night as the day progresses.

From the daytime to the evening, the Disney Dream has adult time covered. I think I could take a Disney cruise without children and still have a wonderful time. It is a common misconception that Disney Cruise Line is only for families. While I do think Disney cruises are fantastic for families, what I saw on this tour showed me that adults can have just as much fun without kids as they can with them. If I had known anything about it, I might have begged for a Disney cruise line honeymoon 10 years ago. I’m super serious. I’m begging him to take me now. :)

Ready to book? Please contact me for rates and sail dates.

audra@atimetotreasuretravel.com

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Dream Week Day Two – Kids’ Areas Aboard the Disney Dream

If you missed yesterday’s post, I’m sharing photos of the Disney Dream from the ship tour I took a few weeks ago. Yesterday, I gave a general overview of the ship.

Today, t’s time to talk about the littles. The children’s programs aboard the Disney Dream are just spectacular. You can sign your children up for the youth clubs and activities in the terminal before boarding the ship, or you can wait until you’re onboard and get them enrolled at Disney’s Oceaneer Lab or Oceaneer Club.

Just inside the entrance, after checking your children in with a youth counselor, you will find these really fun washing stations. They’re like a car wash for your hands! Disney Cruise Line is on top of cleanliness. I was very impressed with this during our short tour. These stations make sure nobody’s kiddos are bringing in funky germs to share.

Disney’s Oceaneer Lab is a play area focused on exploration and adventure. There are movie screens. There are computers. Kids can play games, perform scientific experiments, make crafts, and much more! I captured photos of the Sound Studio, Media Room, light-up dance floor, Craft Room, Animator’s Studio, and The Wheelhouse. If you have a techno-geek child like mine, this is where they’ll want to be.

Disney’s Oceaneer Club is for imaginative, immersive play. There are four themed spaces inside. The Explorer Pod, a submarine found in Finding Nemo, houses a virtual play area. There are several computers where kids can play games individually or together. Pixie Hollow is inspired by the Tinkerbell movies. Children can play dress up, sit for storytelling, or enjoy craft time in this area. The Monsters Academy area has a Monsters Inc. play structure where kids can burn energy. There are also computers with interactive games. Andy’s Room brings Toy Story to life. Kids can climb, play, and really feel like they are one of the toys.

There are also special activities held in each of these kids’ clubs throughout your voyage. The hours of operation are 9:00am to midnight, and kids are welcome to eat lunch and dinner while they are in the clubs. If you want to enjoy an evening at one of the Dream’s adults-only restaurants, your littles will be well taken care of.

Who gets to go? I’m glad you asked. Kids ages 3 to 12 are welcome at Disney’s Oceaneer Lab and Club. All of Disney Cruise Line’s children’s programs have a slight age overlap. The It’s a Small World Nursery (which I’ll talk about in a minute) is for children aged 3 months to 3 years. The kids’ clubs are for children ages 3 to 12. There is a tween club for children 11 to 14, and the teen areas are for those not-quite-kids/not-quite-adults ages 14 to 17 to hang out. Disney knows that children don’t all develop at the same rate. Your 11-year-old may be mature for his/her age and be more comfortable in the tween club, where mine might want to play with the younger kids. I love that Disney thought this through so well.

The last few photos are of the It’s a Small World Nursery. Its hours of operation are 9:00am to 11:00pm. This is the only one of the Dream’s children’s programs that will cost you extra. Babysitting services are available here for children ages 3 months to 3 years old for $9 an hour for the first child, $8 an hour for each additional child in the same family. You can schedule 10 hours’ worth of time beginning 75 days before your cruise. You are not limited to 10 hours. You can schedule more time once you arrive. The ratio of counselors to children is 1 to 4 for children 3 months to 12 months old. For toddlers, the ratio is 1 to 6. (Fun fact, though, Disney only books a certain number of children in each age group for every sailing. Over-crowding shouldn’t be an issue.)

The only problem you may have is when the counselors have to push you out the door because you want to stay and play with the kids! ;)

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Magical Monday – Dream Week Begins!

I’m getting ahead of myself as far as the chronological order of my week at the Agent Education Program goes, but I couldn’t wait any longer to show you all the photos I took of the Disney Dream. It is such a beautiful ship.

However, I took waaaaaaay to many photos to post all at once. I’ll be breaking them into manageable pieces and sharing them each day this week. I’m calling it Dream Week. :)

The Disney Dream is designed to remind you of 1930s cruise ships. You’re meant to be transported back to the golden age of sailing and feel as though you are going on a voyage. The entry is grand, classy, and luxurious. A bronze statue of Admiral Donald greets you in the atrium. Your name is announced, and you are welcomed aboard by crew members. From the moment you board, you are an important guest.

What does the Dream offer for entertainment and activities? On the main pool deck, there are two swimming pools for families, a water slide, Nemo’s Reef (a splash pad area for smaller children), the AquaDuck (the very first water slide of its kind on a cruise ship), lounges and deck chairs for relaxing, and several locations where you can grab food, drinks, and ice cream. There are racks of tiny life jackets, in case your little one isn’t a strong swimmer yet. If your goal for your Disney cruise vacation is to have lots of “we” time, this will be where you spend your days. There is even a huge television above one of the pools where Disney shows and movies are played while you enjoy the water.

The pools on this deck will be covered when it is time for the ship’s deck parties – the Sail Away Celebration and Pirate Night – complete with character greetings, music, and dancing. On Pirate Night, you will get to see fireworks at sea!

On Goofy’s Sports Deck, you’ll find a miniature golf course, basketball court, virtual sports simulators, and incredible views. If you want a break from the water, this is a great place to spend some time.

Disney Dream’s main dining experience is different than most cruise ships. Disney uses a rotational dining system, where you rotate between three restaurants each night of your cruise. Your personal waitstaff travels with you, so you get to experience unique settings with familiar service. On the Disney Dream, these three restaurants are Enchanted Garden, Animator’s Palette, and Royal Palace. Enchanted Garden is inspired by the Gardens of Versailles. Animator’s Palette is vibrant and fun for kids, from the Mickey-inspired chairs to the paint pot centerpieces. The art in the restaurant is black and white at the beginning of the evening, and by the end of your meal, it will be in full color! Watch the screens nearby while you dine as well. Crush from Finding Nemo will swim by and interact with guests. Royal Palace is the most elegant of the three restaurants, with its princess theme. Check out the glass slippers on the chandelier! Disney outdoes themselves with the details every time, and the main dining restaurants aboard the Disney Dream are no exception.

After dinner, enjoy first-run movies and 3-D films in the Buena Vista Theatre, or make your way to the Walt Disney Theatre for a Broadway-style live production. And yes, there is a snack bar nearby where you can go for drinks and popcorn. I asked while we were touring. Popcorn is a big deal, folks. :)

Have you figured out what I decided to focus on today? Today is about family time. These are all main areas of the ship where anyone in your family can go and where you can all be together. This should give you a general feel for the ship and what Disney Cruise Line vacations are about.

Are you worried about keeping up with one another on the ship? If we split up, will we ever find one another again? Each stateroom is equipped with two wave phones. You can use these to call or text one another while aboard the ship. If you need more than two, wave phones can be rented for a nominal fee.

If you have never cruised before, Disney makes it really easy for you to navigate the ship and feel comfortable. The decks are given numbers instead of confusing names. Trying to determine whether you are on the port or starboard side of the ship? Look at the hooks outside the staterooms. If it’s a fish, you’re on the port side. If it’s a seahorse, you’re on the starboard side. You also want to know whether you’re heading forward or aft? Ok. Look at the carpet in the hallway. There’s a map of the globe down there. If it’s right side up, you’re going forward. If it’s upside down, you’re going aft. Easy-peasy.

As the week progresses, I will share more about staterooms, areas designated for kids’ and teens, and the adults-only areas. Until then, enjoy these photos! Most are referenced in the text above, but if you have questions about anything you see, please ask.

Are you ready to book your next Disney cruise vacation? Please contact me. :)

audra@atimetotreasuretravel.com

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Eat – Muffin Fail

So. You know how there are people out there who love to bake and everything they make turns out beautifully? I am not one of those people.

I have this banana chocolate chip muffin recipe that I love. I don’t think I’ve ever shared it here. I should. Anyway, I seem to have a knack for letting bananas get super-ripe on my countertop, so this week in my effort not to let them go to waste, I had the audacity to mess with a good thing.

I thought I’d try to be all trendy and less gluten-y or whatever, and I replaced the whole wheat flour in my recipe with almond flour. Y’all, I know absolutely nothing about the leavening properties of almond flour. The batter tasted great. (Don’t worry, no raw egg!) It smelled great. Shoot, these little guys even looked great when I first pulled them out of the oven.

When I walked back through the kitchen 15 minutes later?

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Not so great. It’s like a science experiment that went bad. They totally fell out.

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This picture is a little better. They look like little muffin volcanos.

Who did I think I was kidding? I’m not Paleo or primal or gluten-free or any of those things. Why didn’t I just use flour? I have nothing against flour. I guess it was just because I happened to have a package of almond flour in the pantry. Don’t worry. I won’t make this mistake again. I’ll be sticking to the recipe that works! I promise I will share it when I get around to making them again. My baking ego is a little bruised, so you may have to be patient with me.

Also, a little “food for thought,” if you will…I Googled “how to bake with almond flour,” and the third entry down was titled “5 Reasons to Avoid Almond Flour.” The number one reason? “Almond flour skews perception about quantity. One cup of almond flour contains about 90 almonds!” Gross. No more almond flour. We are nutty enough around here.

 

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Magical Monday – The Four Parks of Walt Disney World

After much pondering and poring over my notes from the Agent Education Program, I’ve decided that the simplest way to begin sharing all this wonderful information is chronologically. I’ll be starting with the things I learned at the beginning of the week and gradually working my through, breaking it down into bite-sized chunks. Some of this may make you say, “Duh, Audra. I already knew that,” but I’m hoping there will be some “A-ha!” pieces in here for you, too. I know there were for me.

So…

In the beginning, there were four parks.

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Okay, that’s not even true. In the VERY beginning – October 1, 1971, to be exact – there was one park and two resort hotels.  The Magic Kingdom was the first park completed at Walt Disney World, and it is the most popular and well-known. Each of Disney’s four parks tells a story, and at the Magic Kingdom, the story is all about fantasy becoming reality. Whether you seek adventure, fantasy, or to venture into the future, the Magic Kingdom brings out the kid in you. There really is something for everyone here. I am a sucker for the nostalgic attractions – Peter Pan’s Flight, It’s a Small World, and The Haunted Mansion. I love taking my kids on the very same rides I loved when I was their age.

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The second park to open at Walt Disney World, in 1982, was EPCOT Center, later shortened to just “EPCOT.” EPCOT is twice the size (land-wise) of the Magic Kingdom and is Disney’s park of discovery. EPCOT is separated into two very different sections – Future World and the World Showcase. I love EPCOT. I always have, even as a child when the 1980s computers couldn’t understand my Southern accent. It feels calmer than the Magic Kingdom. I love spending the morning riding Soarin’, Test Track, and Journey Into Imagination, then in the afternoon, slowly exploring the 11 countries of the World Showcase (especially the yummy food). Then, you can end the day sitting by the lake, watching Illuminations. Even though I do a lot more walking, it is relaxing to me in an unusual way.

There is a common misconception that EPCOT is not a good park for kids. This is not true. Everyone loves Soarin’. Test Track is one of Disney World’s best thrill rides, and also one of its fastest, topping out at 65 miles per hour. When the ride was reimagined a few years ago, Disney incorporated an interactive aspect where you get to design the car you will ride in while you wait. My eight-year-old has never ridden Test Track (he wasn’t quite tall enough on our last trip), but whenever we mention visiting Disney World again, it is the first ride he talks about. He really wants to design his own car.

Also in Future World, you can ride The Seas with Nemo & Friends and see Turtle Talk with Crush in the same building. This is a funny, interactive show where kids get to talk with Crush from Finding Nemo.

As you tour the countries of World Showcase, there are KidCot stations where kids can do crafts and create their own souvenirs for free! If you want, you can purchase a passport where they can collect stamps from each country as well.

Last, but certainly not least, there is Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure. You go undercover as a secret agent and help Agent P defeat the Evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz, looking for clues throughout the World Showcase. You can do this as a group, and each mission takes about 30-45 minutes to complete. So you see, there is plenty to do to keep children busy at EPCOT, encouraging them to learn and discover new things.

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The third Disney World park opened in 1989 – Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (You may have known it by a different name then. I won’t go into that crazy backstory here.) The story behind this park? Show business! When the park originally opened, there was a working production studio on site. I remember seeing a live taping of Mickey Mouse Club on the Backlot Tour when I was a kid. If only I had known then what I know now, I might have taken some pictures. ;) There are a number of amazing shows here – Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, MuppetVision 3D, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show, just to name a few. Hollywood Studios is home to two of Disney’s most popular thrill rides – The Tower of Terror and The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. They’ve got Star Wars fans and Jack Sparrow fans covered, too with Star Tours, Jedi Training Academy, and The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Oh! And let’s not forget what may be the best Disney attraction to date – Toy Story’s Midway Mania! Even waiting in line for this ride is fun. You feel like you’re toy-sized!

Again, this park has a very different feel than the Magic Kingdom, but there is still something for kids of all ages here.

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The fourth and largest park is Animal Kingdom, Disney’s park of adventure. Animal Kingdom opened in 1998. From the moment you step through the gate, you are encouraged to explore, immediately immersing you in adventure. There are multiple paths to choose from, and you decide how your Animal Kingdom adventure begins.

One of the most popular attractions here is Kilimanjaro Safaris, where you get to see wild animals up close and personal. As with the other three parks, there is something to entertain everyone here – thrill rides, shows, and our favorite, The Boneyard playground. You can even become a Wilderness Explorer here (you know, like Russell, from Up) and earn merit badges. There are over 30 activities throughout the park to engage your kids’ interest and help explore the different areas. This park is a favorite with animal lovers, as well as adventurers. There is an exciting new expansion beginning at Animal Kingdom, too…an Avatar area. I can’t wait to see how it progresses.

One last tip? Animal Kingdom, and specifically Kilimanjaro Safaris, is a great park to tour in the rain. The animals herd together, and you actually get to see more of them!

I cringe whenever a client tells me they want to skip a park, or when they tell me they don’t think their kids will enjoy EPCOT. Each park is very different, but you truly can find a way to enjoy yourself everywhere. If we’re planning your vacation together and you’re unsure what to do in a certain park, I will gladly make suggestions. :)

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Friday Five!

take five design

This is new. It’s Friday. I feel like writing something, so I’m calling it the Friday Five. I may make this a weekly thing. I may not. We’ll see. I will limit myself to telling you five things. :)

1. My daughter is five. I couldn’t resist this one. She walked up behind me, so the number on the screen, and said, “Hey! That’s how many I am!”

2. On Monday, my newest nephew Henry made me an auntie again! It is times like this that I wish we lived closer to home. I have to wait until Easter weekend to meet him.

3. I have only had to watch/listen to Frozen twice this week. I think my mother-in-law bore most of the burden of excitement around this DVD release while I was away last week. It was a blessing in disguise, though, as I cannot even hear the first 15 minutes of this movie without suppressing sobs. I think this is because we saw Frozen in the theater the day after my grandmother died. The beginning of the movie is sad, yes, but I’m not usually this bad. Praise the Lord that it wasn’t Up we saw that day.

4. My little man’s birthday banner is still hanging in my kitchen. I might just leave it up until my birthday next month. I’ll start telling people I’ve decorated for myself early. ;)

5. I’ve been home almost a full week, and I am still dreaming about the Disney Dream. I may have to skip ahead in my chronology from last week so I can show it to you. The ship is aptly named. I really, really, really, really want to go on a Disney cruise.

Five things! I’m already done. Have a wonderful weekend!

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