Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Halloween or Christmas in the park?

Sorry guys... no advice from me today. I am asking for your help this time!

Every time my family does Disney it is usually during one of three times of the year; February, March/April during spring break or else September. I have never been fortunate to go when Disney is all decorated for a holiday.

We have been tentatively talking about our next Disney trip for 2014. Its far off still, but the planning and anticipation is half the fun in my books so I enjoy the wait. We want to go off season so that the lines are low and are leaning towards the end of the year so that we can:
(A.) Stay at the Grand Californian with our club points and
(B) Hopefully have warm but not hot weather.

So the question is, do we time it and go when the Halloween/Fall decorations are up, or wait for the Christmas decor?

I am not a huge fan of Halloween. I will be going with very young children and so I wouldn't be taking them to the special Scream themed firework show, onto the Haunted Mansion, etc. However, I do love pumpkins, fall decorations and treats. The trick or treating party would also be pretty cool with toddlers.


We go in November/ Early December when the Christmas decorations are going up. Anyone who knows me at all knows I am obsessed with two things; Disneyland and Christmas. So the idea of sticking the two together blows my mind. But my concern is that the weather would be really cold. Would mid November see much decorations up or a parade yet? Or would we need to wait until early December after American Thanksgiving?

So I have a few questions for any of you who have experienced either or both of these two holidays at the Parks to give me some insight.

* When did you go?
* What was the weather like?
* What were the crowds like?
* What what it extra magical compared to the rest of the year? (events, decor, food, parades)


Friday, May 25, 2012

Magical Moments

A Magical Disney Moment

This photo was taken in 1997 on my little brother Matthews first trip to Disneyland at 6 months old. I am happily enjoying our trip on the rivers of America on board the Mark Twain while we wear our matching yellow shirts and Mickey Mouse ears.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sophia Grace & Rosie go to Cars Land

As promised, Ellen sent Sophia Grace and Rosie to check out the new section of Disney's California Adventure. The segment wasn't nearly long enough for my liking, but it gives you an idea of what you'll see when you get a chance to visit.

Photo credt: http://sophiagracebrownlee.tumblr.com/ 

You can watch the clip Here (the Cars bit is about half way through the interview)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

CARS LAND TV preview - tonight

Interested in getting a sneak peek at the new CARS LAND in California Adventure before the official opening on June 15? You can! The official Disney blog announced that tonight's episode of Americas Funniest Home Videos was filmed in and around the new part of the park. So of you are interested in seeing how it looks be sure to tune it!Let me know your thoughts after watching.Our pvr is set for 7pm!

photo credit: http://mickeycity.com

Friday, May 18, 2012

Magical Moments

A magical Disney moment

My dad and I along with Joseph, Johnny and Randy Ruesch after our first Tower of Terror Experience in 2007.

I can honestly say that this was the scariest ride I have ever been on in my entire life. I can usually be dropped from any height, go upside down or backwards and come off feeling just fine. But I literally came off this ride shaking and couldn't stop for about 10 minutes.

To this day I am laughed at about it because I was apparently the only one who didn't realize there were handles on the side of my seat to hang on to. So whenever we dropped (which happens over, and over and over) I was totally disoriented and felt out of control without anything to grasp.

I know better now, but I still couldn't bring myself to go on it on our most recent trip. Why am I smiling so big in this picture? Probably because it was over!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Breaking news - Sophia Grace & Rosie going to CARSLAND

Photo Credit: http://www.justjared.com/

I was watching Ellen this morning, as I often do, and once again she had on the adorable Sophia Grace and Rosie. As always, Ellen gave them a gift, but this gift tops all she has given them before.
She announced that the two of them would be going to the opening of CARSLAND and will be two of the first people to see it. Oh the envy that struck me...
Cant wait to see the video montage of that adventure! Will be sure to share it with you when it goes up.

In the meantime, HERE is the clip of them finding out.
NOTE: Most of the clip is of the girls with Russell. The Cars bit is at the end.

How to avoid long lines at Disney.

I am reminded of a recent episode of 'Modern Family' that was filmed in Disneyland. A son is super excited to ride Indiana Jones for the first time with his father because he finally makes the height requirement. They cheer as they run towards the back of the line only to discover that there is a 45 minute wait. Talk about killing the mood! But it doesn't have to be that way. At least not if you do a little bit of planning. Here are a few tips that have worked well for us.

1. The number one trip? Don't go during Christmas, Spring Break or any other major holiday. I know what your thinking, "But then my kids would miss school and I don't want that!" But here's the thing, everyone else is thinking that too. If you hate crowds, this is the easiest way to avoid them. Period. The best time of year we have found for low crowds is January/February or September/October. I realize this just isn't an option for alot of people. Don't worry, there are other things you can do.

How nice does this look for crowds? credit to: http://www.themeparkreview.com

2. Don't plan your whole trip around a weekend. You should definitely be in the park for at least one day of a weekend as there are more shows, parades and entertainment on these days. But don't pick your park days to be Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Mondays can be busy too. Ride lines are at there lowest on Tuesdays through Thursdays, so plan accordingly.

Rope Drop: credit http://consumermachine.tumblr.com for photo

3. Get up early. This is one of those times that having children who wake you up at the crack of dawn has an advantage. Get to the park half an hour before opening. You will be let through the gates and onto mainstreet. When the rope drops, you are free to head straight to one of the most popular rides with a very minimal (if any) line up. Usually before 11am the park is fairly quiet, so its a good time to get on those coasters. We tend to head one of two directions; Adventureland (for Indiana Jones) or Tomorrowland (for Space Mountain.) These two rides tend to have the longest line ups throught the day. Fantastyland is another smart destination, as Peter Pans flight can get a pretty long line up too and its not really worth it considering the ride itself is about a minute long.

4. Stay late. Pretty self explanatory. Just realize when I say late, I mean laaate. As in an hour before closing (which may be midnight.)Not usually doable if you have young children, but great if you are a group without kids!

credit wikipedia for photo

5. Take advantage of the Fast Past system. To give you a quick idea, its a card that you can collect at some of the more popular rides that has an hour time window written on it. You return when that time comes and you get to enter a separate line that bypasses most of the wait. Our general rule is that if a line up is over 25 minutes, we get a fastpass to return later. I will elaborate on this system more in a later post.

6. Go when it rains! A little rain never hurt anyone, right? I must admit, I am not a fan of this one.  But it really does work! If you and your children are game to wear ponchos or don't mind getting soaked, then you will get on alot of rides! Main reason for this is that locals wont go when the weather is poor, because they don't need to. And if vacationers have a few days to play with, they will often choose to just try again tomorrow.

I know alot of these things seem like common sense, and they are. But believe it or not, alot of people give zero thought whatsoever to things like this and just go go go. By doing a little bit of planning ahead you can save yourself a whole lot of wasted time.

Hope Ive helped.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Disneys Photo Pass - Is it worth it?

Over the past few years, Disney has started something called their 'Photo Pass' system.
The basic idea is that at each of their parks, they have photographers with professional cameras spread out at all the popular scenic locations and with certain (usually popular) characters.
If you want a photographer to take a picture, you just walk up to them and they will get you and your party into the best position and start snapping away with their nice lens. When they are finished, they will give you a plastic card that they digitally scan so that you can access your pictures online later.
Once online, you can crop, add borders and special effects to your photos and then purchase them in the size you would like.

Here is an example of an added graphic

The benefit of this system is that your group can finally all be in a picture together - because one of you isn't fiddling with your own camera! Plus, the pictures are usually flattering because they are taken in good light or with a great flash. They are also really good at catching those extra special moments as they start snapping the second you approach a character.

Usually, the photographers are also more then happy to snap a picture with your own camera. But it really depends on the cast member you get, as they would obviously prefer you buy the photo they took.

The Photographer in Tinks Hollow was excellent. He snapped approx. 15 pictures of our sons meeting with Tink. Some of our favourite images by far!

It all sounds great, right? It is, but it comes at a price, and its expensive. If you were to buy only a couple of pictures you are looking at well over $30. However, at the Disneyland Resort you can buy a CD of all the photos taken over your whole trip for $59.00. My advice - use the photographers every single chance you get and buy all of them on the CD.
We did this on our last trip and it was totally worth it. We used the same plastic photo card for our entire group (although you can add on with others...), paid the $59.00 to download the whole CD (to avoid shipping costs), split the cost between us, and then printed off as many as we liked at our local WalMart. We got some really great pictures from it and it ended up not costing a whole lot.

I know for Disney World the CD is alot more expensive - $169.00 if I remember correctly. Reason being, they have alot more photographers around and they also have alot more parks for photo opportunities. We had well over 100 pictures on our card with only 2 parks. I'd image if you did like we did, you could easily get 300 photos at Disney World. But again, you would need to use a photographer every time you saw them.

I had a conversation with a cast member at the photo store on Main Street and they told me that the average family only had about 25 pictures on their cards. They were very impressed with the amount that we had taken and said they wished more people did that, since that was the whole point.

I do have one grudge with the system however, and that is about ride photos. You can get your pictures from different coasters added onto your CD but they charge you like $5.00 just for that one photo. So not worth it in my opion. We were those bad people who would take out our own digital camera and take a picture of the picture.

But besides that, we are fans of Disneys Photo Pass and will more then likely purchase the CD again.

Magical Moments

A magical Disney moment.

Me (Carolyn), at 11 years old, meeting Winnie the Pooh in Disneyland California.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tips - Doing Disney with a baby

Considering doing Disney with a young baby? No problem! Here are a few tips for those wanting to have a great vacation with a young child.

1. Be flexible and adjust your expectations. Don't expect to be at the park for opening, to get on every ride or to stay until closing. Go with the flow of your child and don't push it. And when you see a character - abandon all plans and get pictures! The moments that stick out in my memory of our recent trip with a 7 month old are those of him interacting with Mickey Mouse, Tinkerbell and Eeyore. He wont remember those moments, but I sure will.

2. Go with grandparents or other family. It was sure great to be able to leave our son with someone else so that we can go on rides too without having to use 'ride swap.' It also makes it a little more enjoyable and exciting to share.

3. Get a 5 day pass. I have gone with young children and without and it definitely takes alot more time to cover the park with a young child. You need those extra days if you want to see and do a decent amount of things.

4. Bring your child's comfy stroller that can recline. I know it can be a hassle and takes up lots of room, but without it our son wouldn't have been able to sleep at the park and that would have meant alot of back and forth and alot of meltdowns. Personally, I prefer to keep those to a minimum.

5. If you can - go to Disneyland vs DisneyWorld (at least when they are babies...)  I realise most people will probably just go to whatever is closer and that makes sense for them. But after our most recent trip we decided it'll be Disneyland only until our children are much older. We have done both - and Disneyworld is just so big we could never have covered it in a week with a small child. Disneyland is much more condensed and all the hotels and resorts are within a 5 minute drive. There are only two parks which means you can see alot more. And the food is better in our opinion. Plus, the bonus for us is that it is only a 2.5 hour plane ride from Vancouver. We were actually in the park the same day as getting home. Awesome!

6. Get a hotel room that is a suite and has a kitchen. So much more space for kids and its nice to have a full kitchen so that you don't have to eat out every single meal.

7. Go off season. We tend to go the same times of year. Either we go on March break, or else off season in fall or later winter. I think my favorite time is probably early fall. The park is pretty empty and the weather is still nice. After our most recent trip over Spring Break I was reminded how brutal it can be to deal with long lines. Just keep in mind that off season means shorter park hours (usually a 9am-9pm deal) and shows only on weekends.

8. The last thing to remember is that Disney is all about kids. The staff and characters were beyond wonderful with our little one. There is a baby station at each park, which has high chairs, change tables and extra baby supplies if you need them. There aer also change tables in every single washroom (both men's and woman's.) They even have a system set up in the parks called Ride Swap so that adults who are travelling with young kids can switch off without waiting in line for ride all over again.

In conclusion, if you are concerned about taking a young child, please dont be. I say as long as you are flexible and don't have super high expectations, just go for it. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Welcome to my Disney outlet

I may have a small obsession with Disney. My family would probably disagree with my concept of 'small' but whatever you may call it, its there.
Disney parks hold special memories for me. My first family vacation, my first roller coaster, my first time meeting a princess, the list goes on and on.

I have been to Disney eight times now - that includes both Disneyland and Disney World. Not once have I found myself thinking, 'Well this is getting old...'

I know its not like that for everyone (my husband included.) Not everyone walks through those front gates and starts feeling that 'Disney Magic' that I feel. But for me it really is pure magic. The excitement of whats to come takes over and I feel like that little seven year old girl on my first trip. I can't help but smile and be overcome with happiness!

On our last trip a few months ago I was talking to my mom about this 'feeling' and trying to nail down what exactly it is. Its like you are entering a protective bubble. The daily grind of life disappears and you are in a place with infinite possibilities. Princesses and cartoon characters come to life, people are singing happily in the streets, your favorite childhood snacks and smells surround you and the funnest rides are in every single direction. What more could you want on a family vacation?

So I decided I needed an outlet. Somewhere to talk about and share Disney thoughts and memories freely. If you too understand that 'Disney feeling', have experienced 'the magic' or are one day hoping to experience it, join me! Come along for the ride.

I would also love to have guest blogs on here written from others who would like to share their own experiences. So if you have been to Disneyland, Disney World or on a Disney Cruise and are willing to share something, please let me know. Id love to hear from you!