Run – Week One Disney Princess Half Marathon Training

This week marked the beginning (officially) of my training for the 2017 Disney Princess Half Marathon! While I’d love to be able to say that I pulled it all off flawlessly, I can’t.


The last couple of weeks have been CRAZY around here. My busy season for work is in full swing. I’m still trying to finish a Halloween costume. I had a field trip to attend, and I’d volunteered to donate treats for an event at the school. That would have been more than enough to do, but then, we had several things break down in the house and on my car. It feels like I’ve spent all my time either driving back and forth to the service center or waiting on repair men at home, trying to squeeze the other things I need to do in between. Oh, and the day after I picked up my car for the second time? I totally backed into another mom after school.


I was supposed to have done a 45-minute maintenance run on Monday and Wednesday, and a 3-mile long run on Friday. What I actually did? I managed one 45-minute maintenance run on Tuesday and a 5-mile run on Friday. I guess I technically just skipped one maintenance run, and I ran too far for the long run. I’m not too terribly heartbroken. Next week will be better. It has to be.


A new race on the calendar!

As many of you know, registration for the 2017 Disney Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World opened up to the general public last week. I’ve wanted to repeat this race since I first participated in 2013, but I haven’t had the opportunity. All the stars have aligned, and I will be going back in 2017!


What’s really fun is, once I put it out there on the Internet that I’m registered, I learned that a lot of people I know are running. AND I recruited a friend to come and make it her very first half marathon! AND she is inviting everyone she knows to come along, too. If I’m honest, so am I. “Come! Run with me!” “Come! Be my cheerleader!” I’m pretty excited. I just can’t seem to help myself.

Once the kids are back to school (in less than a month?!), I’ll have to get serious about running again. We haven’t broken up completely, but I haven’t trained for any kind of long distance since January. Of last year. I’ve lifted weights and done a lot of other things, but I haven’t run farther than three or four miles in quite some time. It will definitely be a challenge with the hills and altitude that I have to contend with now.


I snapped this photo one morning while walking Hank. It’s a little tricky to tell, but our neighborhood is nestled right up next to the mountains. There’s a running/biking path…at the bottom of the hill. No matter what I do, the last mile back to my house? Straight up. I may need to leave the neighborhood to find a path that won’t try to kill me.

Regardless, this is happening. I’ll have another one of these beauties to add to my collection come February! Now, to figure out my costume….



Royal Coronation


A “chill” is in the air! “Freeze” the date of September 24th 2014! More “icy” details for this exclusive event, coming soon!

What can it be??? I promise, I will share as soon as I can. Just know that it’s exciting!

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 – 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.


In the beginning, there were four parks.


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.


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.


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.


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. 🙂