My Parents :)

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I was in Tennessee for Easter weekend, to meet my new nephew Henry and spend time with family. This morning, I finally began moving the photos I took from the camera to the computer. I haven’t even looked at every single one yet, but this is my favorite so far. 🙂 I love my Mom & Dad. Aren’t they adorable?

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Taking Care of Myself

I feel like such a big girl. I went to the doctor today for a physical! I’m being completely serious when I tell you that this is something I have never done as an adult. I know. What?!

I go to the dentist regularly. I have my eyes checked (sort of) regularly. I’ll make an appointment when I’m sick, but I guess since for a few years of my life I was constantly having my weight, heartbeat, and blood pressure monitored by the OB/GYN, I didn’t think it was necessary to have another doctor poking at me.

I’m five years beyond having my last baby at this point, so I figured it was finally time to be a real grown up and go to the doctor. I did the easy part today, and I’m in pretty good shape. I do have low-ish blood pressure (who knew?? no one has ever told me this before), but since I don’t faint or have dizzy spells, it’s all good! I’ve got to go back later in the week, when I’ve fasted for at least eight hours (yuck!), and get blood work done for cholesterol, diabetes, thyroid, etc. No news is good news, so here’s hoping I don’t get a phone call when it’s all said and done. 🙂

How about you? Has everyone else been getting a physical regularly? Am I weird?

Magical Monday – Accommodations (Value Resorts)

It’s Magical Monday again! I’ve talked a lot over the last few months about Walt Disney World’s parks, where to eat, what to do, etc. I even went on a complete tangent and talked about Disney Cruise Line for a week. I’ve taken the long way around to get to something that is really at the crux of your vacation – accommodations.

Disney resorts are unlike any other. Each one has a theme, and everything, I mean everything, at each resort revolves around its theme. There are fun surprises around every corner, and Disney’s tiered system ensures that there will be a room to fit every family’s budget. This week, I’ll share with you what I know about value resorts. In the coming weeks, I’ll move up the chain and discuss moderate resorts, deluxe resorts, and villas.

Your stay at ANY Disney resort includes complimentary airport transportation and luggage service, complimentary resort transportation and parking, extended park hours (also known as Extra Magic Hours), complimentary WiFi anywhere on Disney property, unique room offerings (story rooms, family suites, and many ADA rooms), Magic Bands, and the ability to add a Disney dining plan to your package.

The most economical of Disney’s resorts are called Value Resorts. There are five of these resorts with over 10,000 rooms between them to accommodate Disney travelers. The rooms at these resorts will have double beds and smaller square footage, as they are geared for the most park-focused guests. If you don’t intend to spend much time in your room, a value resort will be perfect for you. These resorts offer basic amenities – pools, playgrounds, arcades, a gift shop, a quick-service restaurant, and bus transportation to all the parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney. Since you’ll be playing at the park all day, you won’t need much else! An added bonus is how close you are to the parks, so you won’t be wasting time driving back and forth, parking, and hiking in from the far corner of the parking lot (or riding the tram).

I toured Art of Animation for the first time on my trip. This is Disney’s newest value resort, and it has a fresh, vibrant feel. I love the character development wall as you enter the lobby. The drawings begin in black and white and gradually become more detailed and add color as you move further into the hotel. There is even an artist stationed near check-in to teach your kids (or you!) how to draw Disney characters. At Art of Animation, your room will be in one of four themed areas – Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, or The Little Mermaid. Most of the rooms here are family suites. The only standard rooms you will find here are in the Little Mermaid area.

Standard rooms feature two double beds and can sleep four, plus an infant (age 2 and under) in a pack and play crib. Family suites can accommodate up to six guests, plus an infant, in a queen bed, sofa bed, and Murphy bed. Suites also have two bathrooms and a kitchenette with a microwave and mini-fridge. These rooms have three distinct sleeping areas, so you don’t feel like sardines in a can.

Art of Animation’s main pool, the Big Blue Pool, draws its inspiration from Finding Nemo. It is a centrally located, zero-entry pool with underwater speakers and a fun splash zone for smaller children. This is a keyed-access pool to keep it exclusive to Art of Animation guests. There are also three other pools at this resort. My personal favorite is the pool in the Cars area. There are adorable Cozy Cone cabanas that are free to use!

At Art of Animation, you can also find a playground, an arcade, a pool-side lounge (by the Big Blue Pool), a business center, and Movies Under the Stars each evening by Pride Rock in The Lion King area.

Other Disney Value Resorts include – All-Star Movies, All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, and Pop Century. These will all be comparable in price and amenities.

Have you ever stayed at one of Disney’s Value Resorts? Which is your family’s favorite?

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?

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