linking up

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Few things delight me more than "following" friends on their magical Disney vacations. I look forward to seeing their photos on Facebook, twitter, and instagram. I love reading their text updates (and answering their questions!!). It's almost like being there, isn't it? I get sad when they check out and head home. I share in their post Disney depression.


Tell me, is there a better Facebook update than this one?  
 



I watched Ann hop through the parks on instagram (attention kerry, this photo booth is calling our name)
 



Beth's family got to hold the timer card for Barnstormer. This always makes the wait just a little more manageable. It's one of those little Disney details that makes me smile.


I love the texts. I'm not shy. I won't give you space and silence because you are off on a magical Disney vacation. NOPE. I'll ask how crowded it is, if you had a cocktail while watching Wishes from the Poly, how hot it is, if the kids liked Animal Kingdom, and anything else I can to be closer to the magic with you.


I offer enthusiastic and genuine accolades for a perfectly executed Main Street Electric Parade viewing spot.


I react to photos and video. Ann's daughter was dressed perfectly as Belle and during her time with Jasmine and Aladdin, she completely turned her back to him because duh, JASMINE. We even shared a sad moment that even as I read it again now, gives me that lump in my throat. You are never really ready to go home from Walt Disney World are you?


As if all those social media updates weren't enough (and honestly, they weren't because I would have hopped into their carry-on), I recently discovered a sweet bonus to My Disney Experience (MDE).

have you downloaded the MDE app yet?

The "Friends & Family" options through MDE allow you to "invite a friend to plan and share." Once your friend accepts your invitation to share and checks off the boxes to allow you to "view my plans," you have the golden ticket to literally follow along moment by moment.

Here is an example from my own MDE account. (I did my best to block out last names to protect the innocent) In this example, my children are managed by myself and therefore thankfully cannot plan or share. Below them is my sister-in-law kerry, who will be my partner in crime for our upcoming Hop & Shop Holiday Spectacular. I have been doing all the planning thus far and haven't yet sent her an invite to plan and share. When I do, she can accept and view all our plans through her own MDE account and the MDE app. At the bottom, is my husband Steve. You can see that he has his own MDE account (noted below his name) and he can view the plans I have made AND can view and purchase PhotoPass Photos.




When you open MDE and click "my itinerary," it will open to the first day of YOUR plans. If you don't have any future plans (and why don't you???), it is completely tragically and un-magically empty. If, however, I am linked to friends like Ann & Beth who both just happen to be traveling this week with their families, I open MDE and see their plans. Two friends, two well-executed plans, two completely wonderfully different vacations!
 
These are Ann's Thursday plans on top and Beth's below. One chose to finish the trip at Magic Kingdom and the other is celebrating her daughter's birthday with a Princess dinner at Akershus tonight. I can see their FP+ reservations, the notes they wrote into their own itinerary, and I can get a sense of what kind of day they are going to have. I cannot tell you how much fun it has been this week to open the MDE app in the morning and see where they are each headed.
 
 
Consider linking up to your friends, sharing your plans with them, and adding yet another dimension to the game we play at home while friends and family play down there. My most jealous moment this week was O'Hana (TWICE). Our holiday trip is the middle of December, let's link up! I would love to share my moment to moment with you and follow along on your next trip! Don't have a MDE account yet? Why not??
 

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Don't tell Steve about the Ghosts

Friday, August 15, 2014


If anyone thought I could travel to CA, and more specifically to Los Angeles, without a stop at Disneyland, oh forget it. NO ONE thought that.
Steve and I continue to tweak our CA road trip plans; How long here? What things to see there? Where to stay? What to eat? Our current itinerary has us in the LA area for about a day and half.

A single day isn't even close to enough time to explore all that Disneyland has to offer with Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and Downtown Disney.  Sadly, in our case, we aren't even going to have a full day. This made me slightly pouty. HOW was I going to work in something Disneyland related without feeling completely gypped of the full experience???

Enter Disney Magic.

    (photo from Pinterest)

Our trip plan just happens to place us in LA in time for a mid-week Mickey's Halloween Party.  As I read all about the "Halloween Screams" fireworks, Disney Villains strolling about, trick or treat stations to keep us fueled up, and special overlays on the classics Haunted Mansion with Jack Skellington

    (photo from Pinterest)

and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy

    (Photo from The Examiner)

this was sounding more and more perfect. I lost Steve when I told him we would need to consider costuming and then got him again when I suggested a young Carl & Ellie in honor of our "Adventure is out there!" trip. He can handle some square frames.

    (Photo from Pinterest)

We need to lock up our itinerary a bit more, especially for this part of our trip, but it is looking more & more like this will fit in perfectly with our plans. An evening adventure is just what we need to soak in some Disney before we head to sin city.



You can learn more about this often sold out (!) hard ticket event happening between September 12th and October 31st at Disneyland here:

Mickey's Halloween Party

Did you know that Walt Disney World also offers a hard ticket Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party in the fall?? It's equally spectacular and the fireworks are absolutely breathtaking! Event dates begin September 1st and go through October 31st!

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

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adventure is out there!

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Steve and I honeymooned in Aruba. We chose it mainly because it was a direct flight from Boston and we thought it would be a destination we could return to many times in our life together to escape New England for a hot beach. We have returned to Aruba exactly zero times since our honeymoon. We kept saying “for our tenth” and as we began tossing around thoughts for our tenth anniversary this fall, it seemed fairly obvious that we would FINALLY be going back to Aruba. We kept talking about it and I just couldn’t commit. I just wasn’t feeling excited about it and though it took me some time, I realized a few months ago that though a tropical vacation would be restful, we would likely run out of things to say to each other by Tuesday.

 
I thought back to our younger days of marriage, when we were footloose and kid-free. We had always envisioned a trip to the West Coast, a baseball tour from Seattle to San Diego along the Pacific Coast Highway. I approached Steve with the idea for a CA coastal tour and at first he was NOT interested because there was no baseball in October. "It doesn't have to be about baseball," I told him before filling his head with possibilities and adventure. Our tenth anniversary will be celebrated with a drive from San Francisco to LA and Vegas and this trip is going to be so epic.
 
The difference is not in the locale (though the locale will be amazing), but in the opportunity for shared adventure and exploration. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate a decade of marriage than brand new experiences together. I might have vaguely recalled the plot of the book I read on that gorgeous beach in Aruba, but in fifty years I will instead have fond memories of Hearst Castle, picturesque Route 1 vistas, Central Coast wineries, and hopefully Conan O’Brien tickets. San Francisco, Carmel & Monterey, Big Sur, San Luis Obisbo, Santa Barbara, LA, Disneyland, Vegas.

 


I had heard a bit about Adventures by Disney, but not enough to realize that these amazing inclusive itineraries to destinations all over the world offer exactly what we are looking for in our tenth anniversary celebration; an immersive adventure and an opportunity to create lifelong memories together. We ruled out spending an extended time in San Francisco because we have both been there before and wanted a new adventure, but this long weekend could have been a perfect jumping off point for our entire trip. Tours of parts of the city we haven’t seen, Napa without worrying about a sober driver, Muir Woods, Angel Island, even a visit to Lucasfilm are included in this fantastic trip which includes accommodations and most meals! I drooled over the impeccably planned itinerary, mostly because I have been spending a crazy amount of time googling "things to see on a CA coastal drive." Who knew we were Carl & Ellie?

 
The reason I choose Disney vacations for my family is for the opportunity to make lifelong memories together and I now know that there exist many opportunities for both my husband and I or my family to travel here in the US and beyond with that Disney difference that keeps me going back to Disney time and again. I can picture our little foursome enjoying some truly spectacular travel in the future with Adventures by Disney and I think if you take a look, you will too!

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"Hop & Shop Holiday Spectacular"

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Have you started your holiday shopping yet? My sister-in-law and I are giving ourselves the gift of a little Disney Magic this upcoming holiday season and for two ladies in their mid-thirties, we are really excited about it.  

    (photo from Pinterest)

The Plan:
Resort Décor Hopping
Fancy Glamified Dinners
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
Candlelight Processional
Spa Day at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Shopping

    (photo from Pinterest)

The Details:
I’m in the middle of planning an amazing girls weekend with my fabulous sister-in-law that is the complete opposite of a typical Disney vacation. My sister-in-law has not been to Walt Disney World since she went with her own family as a teenager! Things have changed juuussst a bit in that time. How I convinced her to come with me, besides asking her during a cocktail hour of a wedding reception, was a promise of adult fun and magic. Our "Hop & Shop Holiday Spectacular" is full of laid back mornings, holiday décor drooling, fantastic meals, and of course plenty of opportunities to finish our holiday shopping. It wouldn’t be a holiday trip to Walt Disney World without Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or the stunning Candlelight Processional (narrator still a mystery for our weekend!). The gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian and the stunning Wilderness Lodge Holiday Tree are sure to get us into the holiday spirit. We won’t be going home with sore feet because we are also penciling in some time at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa for some special pampering. Sounds amazing, right?

    (photo from Pinterest)
Our holiday adventure is months away and we can both hardly wait! There are sure to be MANY more updates about our itinerary in the coming weeks. Time to work on that holiday #hashtag for our adventure!
Now is the perfect time to ink in some holiday fun at Walt Disney World and take advantage of the late fall promotion (up to 30% off!!) for a little holiday season getaway. I would love to put together a similar holiday magic package for you! There is still resort and dining availability, don’t delay, book today! 

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Day 4 - January 26, 2014 Part II

Monday, July 28, 2014

 


So there we were, the saddest family in all of Walt Disney World. We were feet from the entrance to the International Gateway at Epcot and I had literally emptied our bag onto the sidewalk searching every nook and cranny of our day pack for our missing tickets. I unzipped and zipped the "safe" travel folder I had placed them in. Panic began to set in and then settled securely in my throat.



When we collected ourselves and accepted the terrible reality that our tickets were missing and probably long gone, I approached the guest service booth outside the park to see how they might help. The first cast member I spoke to apologized for our inconvenience and shook his head because clearly, there was nothing we could do to replace them. A few minutes went by and I approached a second cast member and requested they call over to Hollywood Studios on the off chance that they might have been turned in to Lost and Found. She did and miraculously through some unknown force of Disney magic THEY HAD THE TICKETS.



We rejoiced. I cried tears of joy. Yes, real honest to goodness tears. Then I stopped and stood frozen and silent. They had the tickets...all the way back at Hollywood Studios. I abandoned Steve with our bag, the kids, the stroller and with that travel wallet and my phone in hand, I took off back to the Friendship Boat dock to head to Hollywood Studios.


I settled into my seat, took a deep breath and calculated that this slow leisurely trip had taken thirty minutes and this new round trip was going to cost us at minimum an hour, more likely ninety minutes if I allowed for time to collect the tickets and wait for a ride back. I briefly considered renting a boat somehow at the nearby Epcot resorts to garner a faster ride down the river, where I could leave it idling by the shore (obviously) while I raced to the entrance to get the tickets and then Miami Vice style it back to Epcot. If I am being transparent, I began a google search for Epcot area boat rentals, but then I had a moment of clarity and put my phone away. If the Friendship Boat had taken off as soon as I sat down, I wouldn't have had the time to jump up from my seat and literally and completely unnecessarily leap to the dock. This resulted in interesting looks from the crew as I jogged off towards the walking path. 

In my planning, I had come across information about the walking route between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. I planned for contingencies and because I had familiarized myself with the route and had a mental map of a shortcut through Boardwalk in my head, I knew I could run it faster. I hadn't run all winter (thanks you very much New England never ending winter), but today, today I was going to run.

I ran a 5K at Disney World, in denim, and I received no runDisney medal for my efforts.

 
I ran over the bridge near the Beach Club, cut through the pool area at the Boardwalk, and jogged along the water all the way to HS. I collected the tickets at Guest Services where they looked at me breathing rapidly, clearly disheveled and asked, "did you... run here???" I turned right around to start my run BACK to Epcot, passed the boat I should have taken still en route to Hollywood Studios, waved to the stunned crew who were now being lapped by a runner and tried to keep focus because DENIM.
 
By the time I arrived back at Epcot (approximately 30 minutes later), Steve and the kids were two shows deep on an iPhone and they had eaten all the snacks in the day pack, but I had the tickets. If you ever thought you were your kids hero when they cheer for you as you approach a finish line, I suggest you try it holding Disney tickets in your hand, waving them wildly and feeling like you just saved the universe... because you kind of did. Out of breath, sweaty, deeply in need of an adult beverage and a cronut we made our way into Epcot.
 
 
The cast members in the guest services booth outside MAY have applauded my efforts. As you can imagine, I am a big fan of linking park tickets to Magic Bands. I'll even spring for a Bit Belt to never have to go through that again.
 
We hit a kiosk to make our evening plan just before 3pm. This day was about to right itself and we were determined to finish strong.

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Day 4 - January 26, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014


This is the trip report that will never end. My subconscious goal must be to drag these out until the next trip to avoid the deep, post-Disney depression. Last I left you, we had taken in a full day at Animal Kingdom.

We planned a split day for Day 4 beginning at Hollywood Studios and ending with Illuminations at Epcot. To refresh your memory, we were using Kiosks to make day of reservations for FP+. Our strategy here was to save our FP+ selections for Epcot in hopes we could snag one for either Soarin' or Test Track for the second half of our day. We were stand-by only at Hollywood Studios. Reflecting on just how badly Expedition Everest had gone for Caroline, I had a feeling Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster were both going to be way too intense for her. The Great Movie Ride with the inclusion of the witch from Wizard of Oz and some scenes from Aliens ruled itself out as well. Our plan was characters, characters, characters all morning.

We started the day with what I noted as "the never ending bus ride." If I recall correctly, the ride seemed slow, we seemed to keep circling the lot, something was off and it definitely slowed us down. We headed straight for Toy Story Mania and the line was starting to get long. The kids were already spoiled with their Magic Bands and starting the day off with a longer than 45 minute wait, well, you would think we were punishing them the way they dragged themselves through that cue. The wait was unavoidable, we weren't going to use our FP+ options at this park and skipping the ride was not an option for Connor.
After Toy Story Mania, we went on a character streak that lasted almost until lunch with just one brief pause to see the Disney Junior Live show.



Remember the boy who was afraid of characters?? We split into pairs to meet Jake and Sofia. Steve had the autograph book, but came up with a brilliant solution to ask Jake to sign Connor's bandana that we just happened to bring along for the day. Kid was on CLOUD NINE, YO HO, Let's GO!!

 
 
 
 

Meanwhile,
 

Then deeper into the Animation Courtyard,

 




We snagged an outdoor spot at Backlot Express for lunch so the kids could watch Jedi Training while we ate. I opted for Buffalo Chicken Nuggets for lunch and there were more Power Packs for the kids. Steve again chose a burger and fries and again I asked him why? Connor liked watching Jedi Training so much, he asked to stay to watch the next show (12:40). Did he think he ever might want to learn how to fight Darth Vadar? "No."

video

The day was slipping by and we had dinner plans at Epcot for the Princess, not to mention FP+ experiences to schedule when we arrived.

We hit Muppets
 


 Phineas & Ferb


 
and got an up close view of Lightning and Mater



before bidding adieu to Hollywood Studios and hopping on a leisurely journey aboard a Friendship Boat to Epcot. I hoped the kids would rest and while there was no sleeping, there was quiet peace on our ride.

We disembarked, gathered our belongings, and headed toward the International Gateway. We didn't get too far before I realized that we had misplaced something very important, our entrance tickets!! Our park tickets were NOT connected to our Magic Bands. This was a moment of panic we all could have done without, but was entirely my fault.

What happened next? You simply won't believe how this unfolded.

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Tamu Tamu - Review

Thursday, June 12, 2014

We considered this little quick serve spot to be an absolute gem on our Animal Kingdom day.

The location was exceptional for our plan. We hit Everest first thing in the morning, then went on Safari with our first FP+ reservation, strolled the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, and we were in need of lunch before racing to our next FP+ at Finding Nemo: The Musical. Tamu Tamu was literally on our way to the theater and worth the stop.

Tamu Tamu is located in Africa, adjacent to the Bridge to Discovery Island, across from Dawa Bar and Tusker House. There is wonderful covered seated available behind and restrooms located conveniently around the corner. We were happy to snag some shade back here. While we were eating there was live music and dancing in the street which was great fun for the kids.


The food was really good! Steve looked at me skeptically when I ordered his lunch of Chicken Curry over rice. He later admitted that he almost ate mine while I took one of the kids to the restroom.


Unfortunately, the menu has changed since our visit so I can't review any of the current options on the menu. Looking at the new options and based on our very positive experience, I would definitely stop here on our way out of Africa again to try one or two new items, Quinoa Salad and slow cooked beef in a pita? YUM! Here is a review of the new menu from Disney Food Blog.

Power Packs! Tamu Tamu offers the Kids' Snack Pack which is the meal that keeps giving. We tucked the leftovers into our stroller and the kids picked through the remains all afternoon. My grazers really appreciated this option, as did my pocket. Look at all this glorious shade!


Give this little spot a try! I'd love to hear your thoughts on the updated menu.

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