Surprise We’re Going to Disney!

Photo courtesy of Disney Photopass.

Photo courtesy of Disney Photopass.

Yay, I’m still here!  Feels like forever since I’ve updated.

I talk a lot on here on how to make special Disney Memories with your family, especially with your kids.  One of the things I get the biggest kick out of is the Surprise trip.  I could never pull this off since I start packing a month out and my 5-year-old would know the second I started sneaking outfits into baggies (yes I coordinate by day and park and this just makes dressing so much easier but more on my packing tips in a later post).  That and I get just as excited about the kids and can’t help but talk about it.

I’ve had a couple of clients here recently surprise the kids with a trip and wanted to share how they did it as well as some other creative ideas.  I do plan on doing this one day with my kids and the grandparents….shhh big secret there.

The Holiday Reveal:  With Christmas approaching this is a great way to tell the kids, but can also work for Easter and Birthdays.  Get yourself a giant cardboard box and put a note in the bottom “We’re going to Disney!”.  Either fill the box with balloons, helium filled ones the night before if you want a big pop, streamers, paper shreds, or even more wrapped boxes.

The Fake Out:  If your like me and can’t hide the packing from a very attentive child or have older children in school, go for the fake trip.  Tell them your going to see a relative or friend.  Just be sure to hide all the Disney related mail that comes in a safe place.  See how far you can get before they realize it.  For some its the airport when they see where the plane is going others it’s when you get the Resort.  If you must reveal at the airport or as you get in the car, consider having a box or bag for them to open with Mickey Ears.  If you are driving consider doing up your car (you know like when someone gets married) with Disney or bust, or a banner on the door that reveals the location.

Character Call:  When booking a Disney package your get a character call from a character.  Schedule the call when the kids are home and put it on speaker…letting Mickey do the reveal.

Get up and Go:  I had a client do this one just a few weeks ago.  They worked on the travel plans, t-shirts and other trip related materials at Grandma’s house.  Mom’s would pack while the kids were at school and replace the suitcases so they would see anything was out-of-place.  When it was the big day they got everyone up and told them to get their suitcases because they were going to Disneyland!

Scavenger Hunt:  You can do this over the process of a few days or an evening.  Create a treasure map with clues around the house, park, or neighborhood, eventually leading to a treasure chest filled with your big announcement.

The Movie:  Now this one takes some prior planning or knowing someone who is going to be there before you.  On a previous visit ask one of the face Characters (the ones without masks) to record a special message to your family.  Something like “Hi, insert kids names, its Belle and I just can’t wait for you to come and see me insert trip time”.  The kids will get a kick out of being addressed personally by a favorite character.  You can have this video at the end of a scavenger hunt or put it in during family movie night.

Remember these ideas aren’t just for kids and you can surprise anyone in your family with it.  If you have a creative idea to add please leave it in the comments section!

Pinching your Pennies

Photo courtesty of Disney Photopass


Any Disney trip is amazing and for many it is  a once in a lifetime trip, taking years to save for.  And while we are blessed to be able to indulge our Disney addiction I am also a frugal mom and here are my best tips for pinching those pennies and getting to Disney.

When you go will have a huge effect on how much your trip costs.  Plan your trip during an off-season (away from Holiday’s and school breaks).  You’ll save money right off since the rates are cheaper and Disney is more apt to be running a special.  Ask a fabulous Disney Vacation Specialist…like myself… for the best dates.

IF you have a credit card or are looking to a credit card, considers a rewards card.  Look for one that will offer air miles or a Disney Visa Card, who’s points can be redeemed towards Disney Gift Cards.  I personally have  a Disney Visa and the points have paid for all of our dining and then some on our last 2 trips.

Even if you trip is years away, ask your travel agent for a quote.  Though prices will likely increase it will give you an idea of how much you need to save.

Now for the saving portion, and this can be hard.  But here are a few of my favorite tricks for building that Disney Fund.

  • The Disney Jar:  We have a bottle that we put all our spare change in at the end of the day.  I let the kids decorate with Disney stickers and while it’s not a ton of money, those pennies add up.  My daughter puts her ‘found’ money in here as well, coins she finds when we are out and about.
  • Separate Account: Set up a dedicated savings account that you can deposit into.  A tip for leaving this money be…don’t get a debit card or checks for it, makes it harder for your to spend out of it.
  • Couponing:  Now you don’t have to be like those ladies on TV with a spare bedroom full of cat treats for a cat they don’t have, but simply clipping from your weekly paper or online is a great  way to save $10-$20 a grocery trip.  Put that money into your trip fund.  Here are a couple of great sites to get you started or  A fantastic site for getting coupons?
  • Disney Gift Cards:  You can use Disney Gift Cards to pay for a vacation package or on your vacation for food and souvenirs.  Ask friends and family to give you and your family Disney gift cards for birthdays and holidays.
  • Pay Yourself:  Set a little bit of money out of each paycheck.  It doesn’t have to be a lot but its amazing how fast $5-$10 will add up.

Have the whole family get involved and you’ll be at Disney in no time!

Why a Disney Vacation Specialist?

As most of my family and friends know I am a certified Disney addict, so much so my 5-year-old daughter goes us up to strangers and tells them they need to go to Disneyland since its so awesome (and yes, I am very proud).  In the 8 years my husband and I have been married we have been to a Disney destination 7 times(those don’t include the trips I took growing up) and are already planning our next trip.  I have traveled as a couple, with kids (teens, toddlers, and babies), for Marathons, and arranged multi family/generational trips.  We love that each time we go we can find and do something new.  So how did I get into this?  I have a BA in Business Administration and for years said I wanted to become a Disney Vacation Specialist, family and friends always came to me for tips and advice, and I LOVED the planning aspect.  Then last year I was put down on bedrest for the last 4 months of my pregnancy.  I took that time to find a fabulous Earmarked agency, graduate from the Disney College of Knowledge, and get my business. going.  I continually keep up to date on the latest and greatest Disney has to offer and travel there as often as possible.

Why should I work with you?  It’s a question I get a lot especially thanks to sites like Ortiz and Expedia, where people can find their own deals.  And while I may not be able to beat the super discounted hotel I more than make up for in my other services.  We’ll start with the planning.  I love to plan, organize, short, color code, and reasearch.  However, most people can’t stand it and lets face it Disney can be overwhelming.  I will spend the time to look up different hotels and packages, research flights, and even check what attractions will be closed during your trip.  If you are dining, I will make recommendations and the reservations.  Even if that means getting up at 4:50am to get on the line to make reservations at Cinderella’s Royal Table.  In planning for clients I have found the most overwhelming thing is what to do.  Disney is full of so many fantastic options that trying to decide what to do and see when is too much.  I take that stress away and can offer anything from the best day to visit a park to a full on touring plan detailing what order to visit the rides to minimize your time in line.  Don’t you hate it when you buy something and the next week it goes on sale, I know I do.  If that happens with your trip I’ll let you know and adjust the reservation.  My final touch of magic, a custom autograph book featuring a favorite character.

Ready to see what I can do for you family?  Email me and we’ll get started!


Photopass Plus Review

I am a scrapbooker and as a scrapbooker I LOVE pictures. love to take them, hoard them, edit them, and of coarse scrap them.  So a few years ago when Disney came out with its Photopass system I was one very happy woman.  Finally a way to have our entire group in the picture together.  However, I always wished there was a way to add ride photos to it, for as much as a picture hoarder I am I could never bring myself to pay $14.95 for a picture (though I did try many times to take a picture of the picture without much success).

This year Disney listened and released the Photopass Plus!  An upgraded Photopass that allows you to add selected ride and meal photos to your account.  It will also come with  a number of ‘stock’ photo’s or the park and Characters.

You can purchase it (at a discount) before you leave or  upon arrival at the parks.  Disneyland $69.95 Pre Purchase $99.95 at the park.  Participating attractions/character dining Disneyland Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, Radiator Springs Racers, California Screamin, Goofy’s Kitchen, Ariel’s Grotto Mickey’s Surf’s Up Breakfast, and Minnie’s Plaza Inn.

Copyright Disney Photopass

Disney World $149 Pre Purchase $199.95 at the park.  Participating attractions/character dining Disney World: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, 1900 Park Fare, ‘Ohana (breakfast only), Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, Chef Mickey’s, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Tusker House (breakfast only), Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue, and Princess Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.  You will receive a special Photopass card to present at the picture counters following a ride and at your Character Meals.

Here are the super secret hard to find links to pre-order, well they aren’t secret but they are hard to find.  Disney World Pre Order Link  Disneyland Pre Order Link

Is it worth it?  I get that question a lot, and the answer to this one is YES!!!  The plus will pay for itself with a few ride photos.  Other perks we noticed with the pass the photographers would spend more time with us, often maxing out the number of pictures they could take, and were more apt to do Magic Shots.  For those that don’t know, a Magic Shot is where the photographer will insert a little something extra to the shot.  When you are taking it you may feel kind of silly but its worth it.

Frankenweenie Magic Shot Oct 2012
Copyright Disney Photopass

Here are my tips for making the most of any Photopass…

  • Pre Purchase at least 14 days prior to travel
  • Take advantage of every photographer you find
  • Ask for Magic Shots
  • Take a picture of the back of all photopass cards in case they get lost
  • Have your card ready when approaching characters, that way the photographer gets the approach
  • Visit during special times of the year
  • Have fun with the photographer, they will work with you more and give you some great shots
  • Wait your turn, if there is a ‘line’ respect it and don’t cut.  We noticed the photographers would only do 1 or 2 pics for guests who cut
  • Don’t hog the photographer, if there are 10 of you not everyone needs 5 or 6 poses (seriously had this last time)
  • Edit, edit, edit when you get home.  Crop, add borders, and signatures.

Copyright Disney Photopass

And today we learned that the Photopass Plus can be added to your Disney World Travel Package!  Fingers crossed Dinseyland will follow shortly.

Happy picture taking, and drop me a line if you are ready to plan your own Disney vacation

Review Westgate Towers Orlando Florida

On our 1 year Anniversary my husband and I were able to return to Disney World, this time traveling with my parents and siblings.  We wanted a place where we could all stay together (shared a room).  We had stayed with the Westgate Properties before while in Las Vegas and really enjoyed it.  So when we begun planning they were at the top of our list.  There are numerous properties around Orlando and we selected the Towers based on its proximity to parks and price.

The Westgate properties are timeshare however you can book rooms without having a timeshare, if you have an entertainment book check in there for a possible discount.  As a time share there are lots of activities such as dance parties and tie dyeing..non of which we took advantage of.  You don’t even have to go to a timeshare presentation!  Though they are offered and usually will have some sort of benefit for attending.  We selected a 2 bedroom suite wich gave us plenty of space.  A large master bedroom with a tub you could swim laps in, second bedroom with 2 twin beds, sleeper sofa, full kitchen, and washer dryer.  The room was clean and well maintained.  Our favorite part of the room, the balcony.  It overlooked a ‘marsh’  and in the distance we could see Disney World.  We could sit on the balcony in the warm night air and see some of the fireworks from Wishes, Fantasmic, and Illuminations all at once.

We did rent a car and were to Disney within 20 minutes, Universal 30, and Seaworld 20.  I can’t remember how long it took from the airport since we stopped at the store to load up the kitchen :).

If you need a little more room to spread out with a larger party this is a great option.

Happily Ever After

As we all know, Disney isn’t just for kids a families, it can be a fantastic place for couples as well.  Secretly I dreamed of a Disney proposal, under the lights of the castle with fireworks illuminating the sky, a ring presented with a glass slipper at dinner, or even a “Will you Marry Me?” sign held up while going down Splash Mountain.  And while I didn’t get that my husband and I honeymooned in Disney World and since then it has always been a special place for us, it’s where we started our life together, started our Happily Ever After.

For me true romance doesn’t have to be elaborate or grand, it can be found in the simple moments the two of you find together.  Like many we now travel with our children and a trip to the bathroom alone is a treat…a night out just the two of us just doesn’t happen.  Yes, I know there are baby sitters and kids clubs, but we like to stay together as a family.  So how do we make it special?  We always plan at least one ‘nice’ meal, usually at one of the World Showcase locations.  Here we let go of the budget a little and each one of us can order whatever we want.  Dessert?  A pastry from France.  While it’s not the real Eiffel Tower its fun to sit under it at night while all lit up and imagine your strolling the streets of Paris.  Thanks to Photopass we now can get pictures together, and we have to make a point of it, but get some without any of the kids or other party members.  We try to get at least one each trip.  The Photopass photographers are a lot of fun and will do some really sweet poses.  My absolute favorite…just holding his hand while watching the fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle.  I always find myself on the verge of tears here as I realized just how happy and lucky I am to have found my Prince Charming.

And if you do want to do something a little extra special…I hope said Prince Charming is reading this.  You can call the Disney Florist or  Here you will find tons of gift options that can be delivered to your resort room and in same cases to a table service meal.  They range in price and theme to fit anyone’s taste or budget.   My personal favorite?  Crown Her a Princess, pictured below :).

A Princess Dream Come True


Beyond the Mickey Ears









For many no trip to Disney is complete without a pair of Mickey Ears.  These classic pieces have been around for as long as I can remember and can even be customized with names.  Some bring the same pair every trip while others get a new one each time.  Disney brings out the kid in all of us and its one of the few places where you can wear mouse ears, a giant plush hat, or a tiara out and about and no one looks at you like you’ve gone nuts.  However, on my last few trips I have noticed a distinct evolution in the headwear options, and I for one like the variety.

Disney brings out the Princess in all of us and honestly what girl doesn’t feel extra special when wearing a sparkling tiara on her head.   Princess headwear is very easy to find.  Whether it’s a Tiara or blinged out Minnie Ears there is something to make you feel extra girly!

But on my most recent trip I saw a fun and fresh new option, adorable top hats!  They seem to capitalize on the popularity of fastenators thanks to the royal wedding and each one is patterned after a Character.  The most popular  ones we saw were the Queen of Hearts and Tinkerbell.  We saw them all over the parks and couldn’t resist trying one on myself.  Studio D 365 in Downtown Disney even offers a makeover that includes one of the cute little hats.  I choose the Tinkerbell one and you can’t see it but it has wings on the back, sorry forgot to take a picture.












Guys aren’t left out either, Goofy and Mad Hatter have always been popular.  The king of our last trip?  Perry the Platypus/Agent P, he was everywhere!

So on your next visit to Disneyland or Disney World have a little fun, experiment with a few new headwear options yourself, and let the Magic of Disney find you!