Monday, September 8, 2014

Yet more Disney inspiration... Tinkerbell Gifts

As the 1 year anniversary of our trip to the Mouse's house approaches, I am still reminded of all the fun we had.  I'm also finding some useful tips, tricks and fun information that was useful during out trip, that would be useful for others.

Last year was our now 5 year old's first trip to the World, and we wanted to make sure it was the most magical trip ever.  I scoured the web for any helpful information.  The result.... an overflowing Pinterest board.

Let's talk Tinkerbell Gifts, because this is one of the most fantastic ideas to add a little extra magic to any kid's trip to WDW.  The idea is that Tinkerbell, or whomever your child's favorite character happens to be, leaves a little something special in your room each day.  I personally thought this was brilliant!  Not only does it have that magic factor. it also creates a method of reducing the
meltdowns for souvenirs, and may even encourage good behavior.  In the weeks leading up to our trip, I searched through the clearance section at Walmart, the $1 spot at Target, and our local Dollar Tree for gifts.  I also made use of my creativity for a few of them.  The biggest purchase was pins for trading/collecting from eBay.

***Time for a Public Service Announcement... when purchasing pins from eBay... DO YOUR RESEARCH!!  Google "Disney Scrapper Pins".  They exist, and unfortunately, the trading pull on any given Cast Members' lanyard in a park has been "diluted" with these scrapper pins.  They are not illegal, and some are cool, but still...  Also, make sure you purchase from an eBay seller with a high ranking to reduce your chance of being scammed.   ***

Back to Tinkerbell Gifts... I did end up with a pretty darn good stash of gifts for my littlehead.  Next step was to organize and write cute little messages to accompany them.  This is definitely fun.  Let me show you how my notes turned out.

The first gift was came the night before the trip.  Littlehead found a nice surprise waiting for him on his bed.  Mickey had somehow left a package with new Disney PJs and a set of activities for the plan.  He also included a reminder to wear the "I'm going to Walt Disney World Resort" shirt littlehead had gotten for his birthday.




Then next gift was delivered very early the next morning (it's amazing how Mickey mail works).  Russell (from Up) was kind enough to send a note of encouragement for littlehead's first plane ride.  There was also some animal guides and an invitation to become a Wilderness Explorer at Animal Kingdom, as that was the planned for after check-in at our resort.



Every morning, a new gift was waiting somewhere in our room at Caribbean Beach, and sometimes next door in Mimi and Poppy's room.  The character who sent the package usually corresponded with the activities of the day.  Gifts included:

    • Glow sticks for nighttime activities
    • Activity books
    • A printed passport for EPCOT
    • An autograph book for Universal Studios
    • A Trick or Treat bag for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
    • Buzz and Woody figures


And each day, there were pins to either use for trading purposes, or just to add to the collection.

Here are the notes that were left each day.  The littlehead was very excited to see who left him a gift each day.  There was one day taht two gifts were delivered.  That would be the day we had breakfast with Lilo, Stitch, Mikey and Pluot at 'Ohana's before heading to Magic Kingdom for half of the day.  We took time for a nap, during which the second gift was found, before heading back to Magic Kingdom for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

                                                     
 




                                                     








For the day that we visited EPCOT, this "communicator" note was left by Major Monogram, in addition to the note from Duffy.  M.M. was recruiting our little agent to take part in the Agent P Adventure throughout EPCOT.  That was a fun addition to the World Showcase.




Were the Tinkerbell gifts a success?  I'd say so. Littlehead did not pester us every minute of the day for a souvenir.  We did find some special items through the parks, like tshirts and even took the time to have a silouhette done.  oh, and Pressed Pennies.... those were a hit as well.

About those Pressed Pennies... littlehead loves them.  And they do make a pretty cool souvenir.  Collect your pennies and quarters prior to your trip.  Then get a container.  Those M&M Mini cannisters are the best.  You can easily find printable wraps around the Internet, or you can design your own.  Use this pattern to load your quarters and pennies for the most efficient method:  Quarter, Quarter, Penny.  You will need $.51 cents per each pressed penny.  Want to be even more efficient, have a list or map of the pressed penny locations printed, or saved on your phone.  You can find a good up to date list here or some maps here.

I hoe your find this helpful.  If you have any questions about Tinkerbell Gifts or the notes I created, don't hesitate to ask.  And if you're planning your next trip to Disney, good luck and I hope you have a magical time.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Yes, we're pin collectors...

All of these Thursday that have passed me by and I have yet to take advantage to make one a "Throwback Thursday".  Today, I have the opportunity to do a little Throwback to 2001.

It was my 3rd trip to Walt Disney World.  I was almost 20 years old, and it was Spring Break in my college days.  My parents decided to take myself and my cousin, Shannon, on a trip to Universal Studios Orlando and Walt Disney World.  AWESOME!!!

I'm pretty sure this is the trip where I was on the plane with my short hair up in crazy pig tail things on top of my head.  The airline attendant walked by and reminded my mom that we were seated in an emergency exit row, and wanted to confirm that I was at least 12 years old.  12?!?!?!  We all looked at her and my mom blurted out "SHE'S 20 YEARS OLD!"  I've hear looking younger, but wow.... 8 years younger.  

Anyhoo - fast forward a bit through the trip. We noticed folks walking around with lanyards and such around their necks, weighed down by numerous pins.  Then we saw the carts selling these various shiny pins.  We checked out one of the carts finally and asked what the deal was with these pins.  That's how I first learned about Disney pin trading.  I was debating joining the craze.  I did't know the history, didn't know how long it had been going on, didn't know how long it would last.  The Cast Member realizing my hesitation informed me that pin trading had been going on for 2 years, and it wasn't going anywhere.  Okay!  SOLD!  Sign me up.  What do I do?

So, we bought a lanyard and a pin or two.  The Cast Member who sold it to us, also gave me my first official pin trade: a very cool musical Mickey conductor.  


I acquired a few more pins throughout the trip, including one from the Caribbean Beach Resort where we were staying.  And of course, I HAD to have an Indiana Jones pins, especially since I was finally on a trip that I was old enough to be in the Indiana Jones stunt show and was selected to be in it!


And here we are, posing under the Tudor Lane sign ('cause my maiden name was Tudor) and my pin lanyard around my neck.


Now, fast forward 12 years. It was back to Walt Disney World for my 4th visit, and my littlehead's 1st visit!!  What did I make sure he received for his birthday prior to the trip, his own pin trading starter set!  It came with a lanyard and four 2013 pins representing the four WDW parks. 

Littlehead's first "trade" was the very pin I received as my first "trade" - the musical Mickey conductor.  The other pin he received as part of his Disney theme bday gift was a really cool spinner with Mickey and Friends.

We acquired a few more pins for trading purposes.  When we arrived in WDW, the littlehead and I were ready to do some serious trading.  We ended up with some great pins.  Some traditions had to be repeated.  For instance, littlehead was in need of a pin to remind us of the resort we stayed: Caribbean Beach Resort.  On the left, if my pin from 2001, the right is his awesome Mickey pirate pin.  Yeah, I was way jealous that his is much cooler than mine.  But the folks at CBR did appreciate my older pin.



So, after we acquired a collection we needed a way to display them.  Where else to look, but Pinterest?  I found my inspiration for a great pin display at these two sites:

Utilizing two shadow boxes (which happen to be on sale at JoAnn Fabrics), two foam boards from the dollar store, and free customized maps from Disney, we created two awesome pin displays that now reside in the littlehead's room.  The Disney customized maps are fantastic!  You can select your favorite rides and attractions to be listed on your maps.  They will have your family's name on them as well.  You can choose from a Character or Classic theme.  For these, we chose the Classic theme.  The only problem I have with these is that they are double sided.  Luckily the two maps I wanted to use for this project are on two different sheets.  


Above is the Magic Kingdom map display.   The littlehead and I sat down with our pins and chose ones that fit in with the Magic Kingdom.  We even included our band from Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.


This one is a map of all of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.  This was a fun one.  We actually had pins that represented each park.  And, our Caribbean Beach Resort pins were a great addition as well.


Littlehead's 1st Visit button also found a home on the WDW resort map!


Here are the lanyards, displaying the pins that remain.  Yup, we are Disney Pin Collectors (ignore the Ravenclaw Quidditch pin on my lanyard. Besides being a Disney Geek, I'm also a Harry Potter nerd).  We are quite proud to be Pin Traders and look forward to more trading in Disney.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Paying the Magic Forward

Prior to our trip, I did quite a bit of online research for Disney tips, tricks and other miscellaneous information.  I came across so many interesting things.  One of my favorite little tidbits, was found on tipsfromthedisneydiva.com.  The Disney Diva shares an anecdote about a trip to Disney where a 12 year old girl approached the Diva and her daughter to share a plush Minnie Mouse.  The 12 year old's mother proceeded to explain that each trip they buy a toy for their children to give-away to another child to "create some magic for another family."  

The Disney Diva and her family started a similar tradition.  She shares; "throughout the trip they look for families with children in melt-down or just being pushed down the street in their stroller. When they feel the child is JUST RIGHT for their toy they approach the family and ask permission to give their toy away."  

She concludes her story with the following:
"So this is the Diva Family Challenge to you on your next trip. Are YOU willing to make some magic for another family? Give it a try and see if it doesn’t turn out to be the highlight of your trip."

Well, after reading the post, I thought it was the most brilliant idea EVER!  I was ready to take the challenge.  I shared the story with my 4 year old son, and asked him if this was something he was interested in doing?  His face brightened at the idea of sharing some magic with another boy or girl during our trip.  CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

So, we went on a search for a small plush Minnie and Mickey.  We happened upon some perfect ones at CVS (of all places).  We wrote up some notes and tied them to Mickey and Minnie's arms (a little rhyme to share a smile and an explanation of our new family tradition).  My son was very proud to pack them in his suitcase to Disney World.  

After we arrived, we made sure we had one of the plush dolls with us in a backpack at the parks.  My son kept an ear and a eye ready to identify a "friend" having a bad day.  Our first friend who needed a smile we found at Hollywood Studios.  We had just gotten off Toy Story Mania, and could hear someone crying nearby.  We looked around, and saw a mom with her crying daughter in a stroller.  I looked at my son, asked if this was someone he thought needed a little smile, and when he responded "Yes", we walked over together with of the plushes in hand.  As we approached the pair, I explained to the Mom that we have this plush, and can see her daughter was in need of a smile.  I asked if it was okay if my son could give her daughter the plush. After receiving approval, my son peeked into the stroller, offered the plush, and instantly the little girl stopped crying.  I read her the rhyme and told her that we hope she'll keep a smile for the rest of the day.  Even the mom had a smile.

Our second friend who needed a smile was in EPCOT.  We followed the same protocol as before, with my asking the mom and giving an explanation first.  Turned out, the friend we heard had siblings as well who were succumbing to a long day.  We spoke to the girl, and I even asked her if she could share the Mickey with her siblings to give them a little smile.  

After both encounters, my son and I had even bigger smiles, knowing that we shared a little magic with others.  We didn't ask for anything in return, we never gave our names.  We actually saw one of our "friends" later in the day, but didn't draw attention to ourselves.  We smiled as we noticed there was not an unhappy sound that followed.  We helped make a little extra magic, and it felt really good.  

So, as the Disney Diva issued in her blog, I am doing the same here and challenging YOU to make a little magic for another family during your Disney trip.  It really does add that special something that you will remember, and possibly a memory another family will have with them forever.



Friday, January 17, 2014

Passporter's Guide to WDW

As I mentioned, the Passporter's Guide to Walt Disney World was VERY useful for our most recent trip.  It's a pretty cool and useful book.  It's spiral bound so flipping pages super easy.  It has a nice sturdy cover that has flaps to tuck into the book to protect it, and an elastic band to keep it closed.  It also features "PassPockets" to hold all sorts of goodies and space for useful notes.  There is just SOOOOO much useful information about the parks, each of the resorts, restaurants and more.  Want to know everything about Caribbean Beach Resort?  There are 4 pages worth of information!  Easily find a standard room layout, a map of the property, tips and even a list of specific rooms to have great views.

Want more from PassPorters...join the online community (http://www.passporterboards.com/).  I get regular emails about updates on the blog, or the upcoming issue.  Even though I am not currently planning a Disney trip, I enjoy being able to keep up to date on all the goings-on at Disney, including the rollout of Magic Bands, Fast Pass Plus, new restaurants, new attractions and more.  I feel that I will be extra ready for our next trip, whenever that may be (hoping for the near future).

To my friends at PassPorters, I hear the new Walt Disney World 2014 edition is ready, and I would LOVE a free review copy, if possible.  And I hope that I can gather my thoughts enough to submit my own tips and tricks to future editions.

The most magical place on earth!

In September, the Goldmans packed their bags, donned their ears, and headed down to visit a particular Mouse at his house.  That's right, we went to Walt Disney World!   (Thanks Mimi and Poppy!!)

The first adventure of the trip was Aidan's very first plane ride.  He made it through his first flight like a pro.  He really enjoyed the experience having a ticket, a carry-on, and flying up in the clouds.

Throughout the 10 days spent down in "The World" was full of adventure of as well. It even included 2 days to detour to the Universal Studios.  Aidan definitely had such a great time on his first Disney trip.  And now....it's possible, we may have created a Disney Monster.  Even to this day, 5 months later, Aidan still talks about going back to Disney.  (Mindy likes that idea too.)

There is so much to recap, and so little time to write it.

But let me give a few quick recommendations for some things that really helped make the planning very efficient, and the trip itself very easy and enjoyable.  Between my own mother and myself, we had a good collection of Disney related planning books: Birnbaum Guides Walt Disney World,  Passporter's Walt Disney World, and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World [and with Kids version].  Each was useful in its own way.
They are FILLED with post-it tabs and highlighter marks.  I became a member of both the Passporter's and Unofficial Guide's Touring Plan communities and I am still an active "stalker" and occasional contributor, happy to provide my own 2 cents based on our recent experience.

A BIG shout out to Buena Vista Scooter Rentals (http://www.buenavistascooters.com/)!    My mom, "Mimi," took a spill during our 2nd day at Universal, with 3 days left in the trip.  She ended up breaking her foot.  The Buena Vista Scooter Rentals folks delivered the scooter to Caribbean Beach Resort.  It was a very big help.  My mom was able to enjoy part of the following day at EPCOT and also made it so much easier to get around the very LARGE property of CBR.

Another recommendation, Baby Wheels Orlando for stroller rentals (http://babywheelsorlando.com). Walking an average of 10-15 miles a day in a park with a 4 year old required some wheels.  Option 1 was to bring a stroller along for the trip through the airports and on the plane, the transportation to the resort. That seemed very cumbersome.  Plus, choosing the stroller to bring along was another headache.  The jogger would be better, but ours is HUGE with giant back wheels.  Or, we bring an umbrella stroller.  A bit more portable, but now we’re giving up the comfort for our preschooler.  On to Option 2…renting from a company in the Disney area.  But which one?  There’s quite a list of recommended stroller companies on all the various Disney blogs and boards and books.  I of course did my research comparing them all.  I looked at prices, accessories offered, reviews, and any other useful information.  In the end, we decided on Baby Wheels.

In a matter of minutes we reserved a City Mini GT Single Stroller through their online reservation system, which included a free Rain Cover, free Parent Console, and free Cooler.  We opted for the Rental Insurance in case the worse happened and the stroller was stolen or damaged.

Unfortunately, Baby Wheels was not chosen to be a "Disney Approved" stroller rental company in a recent policy change.  So, instead of picking up our stroller at the bell desk at our Disney resort, we met a Baby Wheels staff member in our resort lobby.  We had prearranged a meeting time that we estimated based on our arrival into Orlando.  We received a call from the staff member as we were a few minutes away from the resort informing us that she was in the lobby waiting for our arrival.  She took the time to show us the stroller features like brakes and how to fold it since we were unfamiliar with the model.

The stroller was in great condition.  And it was so easy to use.  Our 4 year old enjoyed his luxurious ride throughout World.  It folded easily when we needed to board the Disney transportation buses.  And the free accessories were super useful.  Especially that rain cover.  We knew that it rains for a period just about every day in Disney.  But on day 5 of our trip, Mother Nature decided to bring the after effects of Hurricane Ingrid and pour for a full day.  That rain cover helped keep us at the park for a few more hours, keeping a nice dry spot for our son, while the rest of us donned our ponchos.

I was hoping to post a photo of our stroller, but even with 5 bazillion photos from our trip, not a SINGLE one with the stroller.  All in all, I would definitely recommend Baby Wheels to anyone looking to rent a stroller while visiting Disney.

I have sooooo much more to add to recap this trip included other tips and tricks we figured out.