Category: Walt Disney World Travel Tips

A Final Ride On The Monorail For This Year’s Holiday Decor

“Please Stand Clear Of The Doors.”

As some Disney fans celebrate Russian Orthodox Christmas today and other Christians are in the process of packing away their Christmas décor for the season, I thought it would be fun to take a final ride on the monorail and enjoy the outstanding decorations at Disney’s Monorail Resorts one last time. Why don’t you grab a cup of hot coco and join me for a quick ride on the rail?

First Stop ~ Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Inspired by Mary Blair’s “it’s a small world”, this Gingerbread Holiday Ice Castle is over 17′ tall, so we can easily see it as we zip through Grand Canyon Concourse!

Contemporary Holiday Display 2014

Next Stop ~ Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

We all love the beautiful interior of “The Grand,” but have you looked at the Victorian garlands that adorn the entrance?

The Grand Floridian's Entrance Holiday Decor

Here’s a close up!

Close of Grand Floridian's Christmas Garland

Our final stop~ Disney’s Polynesian Resort

New lobby at the Polynesian Resort

We’ll stay here a bit longer just to take in a few extra views of the newly renovated lobby.

Disney's Polynesian Resort new lobby

What a difference!  I hardly recognize the resort’s lobby! I do love the new furniture!

Disney's Poynesian Resort Lobby Furniture

Here’s a close up of the overhead lighting. Isn’t it beautiful!?

Disney's Poynesian Resort

One last look before heading outside!

Poly Holiday 2014

As our little tour of the holiday décor comes to an end, here’s a glimpse of the new bungalows on the lagoon!

Disney Vacation Club Polynesian Villas

Although they are currently still under construction, I believe a week-long vacation in one of these bungalows would be a perfect gift for Santa to bring me next year! What do you think?

Disney's Polynesian Resort DVC property

I hope you’ve enjoyed a final look at the holiday decor in the Magic Kingdom Resort Area!  I know I did!

I’d like to thank Vanessa Mroczka for the fantastic photos that I posted on the blog today! All of the images were taken by her with the use of her shiny new camera she got for Christmas!  Keep taking photos Vanessa! 

Top 10 Disneyland Vacation Planning Tips for a Walt Disney World Fanatic

Disney at Night

This is a photo of the train station at the Magic Kingdom.

Disneyland at Dark

This is a photo of the train station at Disneyland.

Notice the differences in the stations? Well, that’s just minor compared to these major planning differences I’ve stumbled upon while preparing for my family’s upcoming Disneyland vacation.

This Top 10 post is designed to help Walt Disney World fanatics as they start to plan their Disneyland vacations.  Planning a trip to WDW is a piece of cake for these “special” people.  The matriarch of a Fanatic Family will walk into any one of Disney’s four Florida theme parks and reach for a map for the sheer purpose of seeing the latest fun graphic on the front and then stashes a few in her bag just because they’re pretty.  The members of these families do not need maps.  The attractions, parade routes, restaurants, shops and even the rest rooms locations are already etched into their brains.  It is for these families, like my own, that I write this post.

Does this sound like your family?

As I mentioned, my family is included in this group.  We LOVE Walt Disney World and vacation there at a very minimum, once a year.  HOWEVER, our curiosity got the best of us and we booked a DISNEYLAND Resort vacation for the fall…for all 13 of us.

I’m the planner of my family.  For a typical WDW vacation, I make lists, upon lists and I’ve even made lists that included bringing lists.  I love planning!  I worked for a few years at The Walt Disney World Resort and know the place backwards and forwards.  Honestly I don’t need to do that much planning or list making for a WDW trip, but I believe that it’s part of the fun!  Needless to say, I’m having a blast planning for a trip to a kingdom I know very little about.

One thing I learned quickly was that there are many differences between the East Coast and West Coast Resorts.

Here are my Top 10 Disneyland Vacation planning differences that a Walt Disney World Fanatic must know to be prepared!

  1. Transportation to the resort:  If you are flying to Disneyland plan on taking care of your own ground transportation.  The Disneyland Resort does NOT offer Magical Express.
  2. On Disney Property Hotel Options: If you prefer to stay on Disney property when you visit a Disney theme park, be prepared that there are only 3 Disney owned hotels to choice from at the Disneyland Resort.  All of these hotels, I believe, would be listed as deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World, so expect a high price tag for these rooms.
  3. Tickets: Ranging from 1 day to 5 days maximum, these tickets will all have an expiration date printed on them.  Once you use the first day on the ticket, the remaining days will expire in 13 days.  Multi-day tickets also include “Magic Morning” options.  Magic Morning allows early admission into the Disneyland Resort Parks, meaning this is not a perk that is exclusive to on-property hotel guests.  In addition, at this point, Disneyland Resort does NOT use MagicBands.  Paper tickets are in use.
  4. Property Size & Layout: The Walt Disney World Resort is located on 42,000 acres. The Disneyland Resort is located on 510 acres.  To compare park size- Disneyland Park is 85 acres and Magic Kingdom is 107 acres. The other attraction areas are as follows:  Disney’s California Adventure Park is 67 acres and Downtown Disney is 20 acres. As you can imagine, this changes planning quite a bit!
  5. Transportation within the Resort:  Due to the property size, when staying within The Disneyland Resort, there are no buses or boats to take you to the parks.  You simply walk out your resort door and walk to the park entrance!  Talk about a time saver!  Disneyland does have a monorail and it has two stops: Downtown Disney and Tomorrowland within the Disneyland Park.  Be Prepared! You must have a valid theme park ticket to ride the monorail!
  6. Bringing Food into the Parks:  The Disneyland Resort offers a picnic area outside of its theme parks for guests to use if they chose to bring food from home.  Disneyland has clearly defined it’s stance on bringing food into the parks with this printed paragraph found within each Disneyland theme park guide-map:  “A picnic area is located west of the Disneyland Park Main Entrance for your convenience.  We request that no food or beverage be brought inside either Theme Park.”   I have read on-line that guests carrying small snacks into the park have not been turned away.  So use your best judgement when bringing food.
  7.  Advanced Dining Reservations: An ADR can not be booked until 60 days before your arrival date, quite a difference from Walt Disney World’s 180 days.
  8. Parking Costs: Parking is NOT FREE at The Disneyland Resort.  Regardless if you are staying in a Disneyland Resort Hotel, you have to pay parking fees and they’re hefty.  Currently self parking costs $17 per vehicle per night ($25 Valet) for a hotel guest.
  9. Theme Park Entry Time:  On select days (unannounced) Disneyland does something called Rope Drop.  What this means is that they allow guests into the park a half hour earlier than the stated park opening time.  During this half hour time period, guests are allowed to explore Main Street before cast members drop the rope that is being held at the end of Main Street, which allows guests to flow into the attractions part of the park.  The suggestion that I have read is to always arrive at least a half hour before park opening, in case Disney decides to make that day a “Rope Drop” day.
  10. Walt Disney History: Walt Disney had his hands and heart deep within the planning of every detail of his Disneyland.  To this day, there are still original details that were hand-picked by Walt and even his wife that are part of each guest’s vacation experience.  For example, The Plaza Inn, an eatery that opened 1955 during the park’s grand opening, still offering guests tasty options to this day.  It was one of Walt’s favorite places to dine and his wife, Lillian Disney, handpicked the Victorian furnishings herself.

Planning a Disneyland Resort vacation is definitely a new and challenging experience that has my family and I super excited for our journey to the west coast.   I can’t wait to share it with all of you through the blog. I hope if you’ve vacationed at Disneyland, that you’ll share your planning advice with me.  I’d love to read it and I’m sure you’d help other too!

Thanks for reading the blog today.  I hope the rest of your day is magical!

Disneyland photo credit: Justin in SD via photopin cc

Walt Disney World Spotlight ~ Can you believe she chose Belle over Elsa?

Walt Disney World Spotlight ~ Enchanted Tales with BelleIt’s shocking, I know.  How could a three-year old little girl chose to celebrate her birthday with Princess Belle over Queen Elsa from Frozen?

If you read my blog posts over the past week, then you know my daughter had a Princess Belle themed party to celebrate her third birthday.  She had a wonderful time and is still talking about it this week.  Yesterday on the blog, I had a lovely guest comment on the birthday party simply stating that she wishes her nieces would choose a party theme like Beauty and the Beast.  However, her nieces are obsessed with the film Frozen, so that’s going to win for the party theme this year.

I get it.  My daughter is crazy over the Ice Queen and her sister too.  She sleeps with both an Anna and an Elsa doll.  She wears a different Frozen-themed t-shirt to match her Frozen-themed underwear just about every day.  The Frozen soundtrack is on repeat in my SUV.  So what’s up with the birthday party choice?


Walt Disney World is an amazing place, filled with real-live Princesses, dancing mice and giggling bears.  HOWEVER, by themselves, whether in a storybook, on a movie screen or even walking around in a park, they fall short of true MAGIC.  True magic is the stuff you feel when your toes twinkle, your heart soars, and you know something special is happening.  True magic happens with an experience.  My daughter experienced a few precious moments with Princess Belle at Walt Disney World within the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland.  In those moments she fell in love with Belle’s dress, her gloves, her twirl and of course her kindness and beauty.  This was all before she ever saw the film Beauty and the Beast.  And to think, we almost “skipped” this moment.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

I should clarify.  We almost “skipped” this attraction experience.  My son, Gavin, is seven years old.  For seven years, my husband and I have looked for Captain Hook, Peter Pan, Handy Manny, Mickey Mouse and the gang, and a few other classic characters.  Not once did we give a thought to stop and visit a Princess.  Then along came the Fantasyland Expansion project, complete with Enchanted Tales with Belle.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle opened its doors to the public in December 2012 and I admit that during our first trip to the Enchanted Forest we skipped right over this attraction.  Maybe it was out of excitement for the Voyage of The Little Mermaid attraction or eagerness to eat at the Be Our Guest Restaurant, or quite possibly the thought, “I’m not waiting in THAT line to see Belle “, regardless we walked right on by Maurice’s cute little home.   Luckily my parents, whom had taken the time to experience the attraction, scolded us and ushered the entire family of 13 to visit Maurice’s cottage during our following trip in the fall of 2013 and then again in January 2014.  Our first visit was spectacular and Belle became a quick favorite.  However our last visit was unsurpassable.  What an experience it was!

Today, I’d like to share with you a brief overview of this attraction in hopes that you take the time to plan into your vacation schedule this opportunity to create an amazing magical memory.

When entering the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland, you’ll find nestled among welcoming trees and surrounded with creations by a true inventor, Maurice’s cottage.  Take time as you walk along the path leading into the cottage to notice the many special touches that remind you that you’re heading to one unique man’s home.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

When you enter the cottage, you’ll find yourself in the main room, which is a waiting area for the main event.  Now’s the time you’ll want to check out Belle and Maurice’s home.  My favorite find in the room is a portrait of Belle as a young child with her mother!  Soon a cast member will usher you into Maurice’s workshop complete with gadgets and gizmos of plenty! (a nod to Ariel that I couldn’t resist)  A few moments later you’ll be magically transported to Beast’s castle, where children and adults take part in performing a story for non other than Belle.

Storytime with BelleMadame Wardrobe will BLOW YOUR MIND!  She’ll fool any adult into believing that she’s a living, breathing wardrobe.  She interacts with the guests in the room and helps the new performers prepare for their big moment.  Once the actors are spot on in their roles, all the guests walk into the Beast’s library to get in place for Belle’s big surprise.  Now if you agree that Madame Wardrobe is pretty amazing, you’ll be in shock when Lumiere shows up.  You have to meet him!  You’ll spend a least a portion of your time trying to figure out how he works.  For a few adults I have to say he stole the show!

However, for the children ready to strut their stuff when Belle enters the room, a bit of stage fright can occur in a mere second.  Nonetheless, the lights turn on and it’s showtime!  Here’s where magic is made.

A little Chip hops up to Belle…

Enchanted Tales with Belle


 That was it!  That was the moment where magic happened and Belle defrosted the Ice Queen and took the throne in my daughter’s heart.

It happened in just a few seconds, but what a few seconds there were!  Shortly after, Belle posed with each child for a photo and gave them a bookmark to remember their meeting.

Let me just say, she didn’t need a bookmark…

You never know where Magic will happen.  It seems to be that these moments happen when you least expect it.  If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, live in the moment, slow down, take your eyes off your map and phone. Look around you.  A moment of Magic can strike at any moment!  I hope you make time on your Walt Disney World vacation to visit Maurice’s cottage.  It’s an experienced you won’t forget!

How to Become a Wilderness Explorer at Walt Disney World

Wilderness Explorer program at Disney's Animal Kingdom

“A Wilderness Explorer is a friend to all, be it plants or fish or tiny mole.”

If you’ve ever watched the Disney/Pixar film, “Up”, then you know how important being a Wilderness Explorer is to Russell.  Earning all those badges can be hard work!  Did you know that your little explorer can become an Official Wilderness Explorer while visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

Today we celebrate Earth Day.  The day where the world shows its support for environmental protection, is a perfect day to share with you information about Walt Disney World’s Wilderness Explorer program.  This educational and challenging activity involves your child participating on a self-guided adventure throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.  During his adventure, he can earn more than 30 different sticker badges to complete the 40 page Wilderness Explorers Handbook. The handbook and miniature challenges are included with the cost of your park ticket, so don’t worry about any extra fees.  It’s up to your child and, of course your family’s schedule, as to how many badges he earns in one trip to the park. Explorers are not required to fill the entire book in one day.

Wilderness Explorer HandbookThis past fall, my son Gavin became a Wilderness Explorer.  During our visit at Animal Kingdom, we stumbled upon the Wilderness Explorer sign-up kiosk located on the bridge between the Oasis and Discovery Island.  We noticed a bunch of children yelling “Caw Caw Roar“, so headed over to check it out.  There Gavin met a Troop Leader and a Badge Guide.  They welcomed him into the program and helped him earn his first badge, “The Wilderness Explorer Call Badge”.  Then his Troop Leader handed him a pencil and a handbook, which included a map showing all the badge-earning challenges he had before him, and sent him on his way.  We quickly discovered that we could spend more than an entire day earning badges, but didn’t have quite enough time that day to complete them all.  So we decided to complete badge-earning challenges which were at the attractions that our family already predetermined to see that day.  The one badge-earning experience that really stood out from the rest was at Conservation Station.

Disney World September October 2013 259At Conservation Station Wilderness Explorers can earn a handful of important badges in one location!

Conservation Station was where Gavin learned about conserving natural resources, caring for our planet Earth and the animals that inhabit it.  During the years of working at Walt Disney World and then over a dozen trips to parks after moving back to Pennsylvania, I never took the time to go to this attraction before our Wilderness Explorer day.  What a mistake that was!  It’s a wonderful experience where learning meets fun.  Of course it is, this is what Disney does best!

Disney World September October 2013 269Although earning badges was fun for Gavin, Victoria spent her entire time at Conservation Station brushing the animals.  Don’t forget to wash your hands when you leave this station.  You’re child will earn his “Hand Washing Badge”.

Gavin truly enjoyed participating in the Wilderness Explorer program.  We plan to take his handbook with us the next time we visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and we’ll complete some new challenges until he’s earned all the badges to complete his handbook.

I encourage you to stop by the Wilderness Explorer sign-up kiosk during your next trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  When you do, tell them we said “Caw Caw Roar!”

Wilderness Explorer discoveries




Easter at Disney: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort’s Easter Egg Display

Grand Floridian Easter Eggs in loggy

Have you visited Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa during the Easter season?

Happy Easter to you and your family!  Was the bunny good to you this morning?   Personally I was hoping to receive one of these beautiful chocolate eggs from the bunny.  However, unfortunately, the task was a bit unachievable for Mr. Rabbit. On the bright side, I’m happy to report that you and your family can still visit these outstanding works of edible art in the lobby of  Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa through April 22nd .

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa’s lobby is well-known for the life-size Gingerbread Houses that amaze the resort’s guests during the Christmas season.  But did you know that “The Grand” is in its third year of hosting a wondrous display of decorated chocolate eggs?  Below is a photo of the information you’d find about this display if you happened to stumble upon it today at The Grand.

Grand Floridian Easter Eggs
Photo courtesy of Jackie Mroczka

If you’re visiting The Walt Disney World Resort today, I hope you have the opportunity to see these exquisite eggs in person.  Wherever you’ll be celebrating today, I hope you all have a blessed day with the ones you love this Easter.  Happy Easter!