Aug 29

Walt Disney World – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Tips

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party starts September 1st.  It is cute to be a pumpkin until you try to get on a ride. Heavy costumes will tire you out, much like walking around carrying 50 pounds of pet food. Buy your tickets in advance and apply discounts if you can get one. Be prepared for bad weather as it is starting to get cooler at night and it does rain a lot in Florida. You do not want to end up like Scout who was dressed as a ham and could not see thus falling down. IMG_3385Shoes should be able to keep you from sliding on wet ground. Disney prohibits offensive costumes; anything that could be mistaken as a hand gun or weapon; costume parts that stick out so much as to hit other guests; and any sharp point costume parts.

Upon arrival at the Magic Kingdom you will want to have one person take bags and the other take the kids. To make the line shorter it helps that those without bags use the bagless line and for others to leave their bag with one person who goes through the security check point. Be in line so that at 4 p.m you will be heading to rides. Get fastpasses online for attractions you must see, so that from 4 to 7 p.m. you are doing rides and shows while the park has regular guests in the park. This is a good time for picture taking and eating dinner at Crystal Palace, Cinderella’s Castle, and Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. Your goal should be to see and do everything with short lines so that during the event you can focus on the parade, fireworks, treat stations, activities, and other things you paid for.

IMG_3408Before 7 p.m. be in line for your favorite character meet and greet as the wait time is over an hour long later in the night. Get popcorn and snacks for the wait. This is a good time for you to rest up and plan your next move. As soon as the event map and schedules are out they will be online, which you should study. You will have a wristband that you got when you entered the park. Cast members will start denying access to anyone without a wristband at about 7 p.m just like a nightly sweep. Villains, Snow White and Seven Dwarves, and Nightmare Before Christmas characters will have the longest lines. The best place for characters is designated meeting areas, dance parties and the Villains Mix and Mingle.

The best place for HalloWishes is Main Street near Plaza Restaurant and to the side of the hub. You will need to stake out your parade spot as adults like to stand on the parade route which makes it hard for kids and disabled guests to see. The fireworks can be seen anywhere on Main Street, though some spots are better. After HalloWishes you can hit the Villains Mix and Mingle to try to meet some characters. The best place to see the parade is as far from Main Street as possible. IMG_3393Main Street is packed with people while Frontierland has spots open and room to stretch out. If possible, have one person stake out an area while the the rest are off having fun but remember to take turns.

I cannot tell you how to see everything as it depends on the speed of your group especially with disabled guests and little kids. It is best to use the first three hours for shopping, rides, dining, and shows the line up for your favorite rare character. Once you are done with that you can do everything around the HalloWishes show and fireworks. Some do the parade afterwards and others beforehand. A person with kids or a disabled person might prefer to do things by land such as treat stations, parties, and rides. A single person or couple might hop from one end of the park to the other doing what they prefer to do. Just make sure everyone knows the rules you have set for the night. Let the group know your general plan of doing things so everyone knows what will happen.

IMG_3439Save treat stations until the last moment if possible unless there is a short line. It is the same penny candy and mini bars you can buy at your local grocer. Bring a pillowcase or tote bag as it is easier for cast members to put a big handful of candy in the bag. With sheer joy say “YOU HAVE LEMONHEADS!” Cast members usually will respond by picking out your favorite candy. Patient guests who do not whine, say Happy Halloween, and are polite, tend to get more candy. Sometimes at closing they give out more candy. Remember that there is a warehouse full of candy to last the whole season. Telling the person that you cannot have a candy will get you something else. There are healthy options such as grapes and apple slices available. City Hall has special treats for those with food allergies and other dietary limitations.

There will be merchandise such as t-shirts and pins that are only available at the event. Watch for special editions of buckets at popcorn carts. Check the event map and guide for what special treats will be for sale, such as holiday flavored ice cream and Halloween cupcakes. Casey’s Corner, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, The Lunching Pad, and Gaston’s Tavern will offer pork shank, hot dogs, burgers, chicken nuggets and other quick service meals. Not all restaurants, attractions, and rides will be open so check the map to see where you can eat.

Aug 20

Is There a Doctor on Call?

Many of you asked about this and I have been waiting to write about this to see if I actually got reimbursed from from insurance company.  As of today, August 20, 2014, I am still waiting to hear back from the forms I submitted.  Yes, I did submit them a few weeks after our return so that is why there probably hasn’t been a response yet.

We (my son and I) went to Disney in July with a good friend of ours and her two kids.  We left the husbands at home since we knew they would not enjoy the heat and the crowds.  The kids were forewarned and did amazingly well.  We shared a room to help with cost and then on top of that Pixie Vacations (my agency I work for), had an AMAZING deal at the Grand Floridian.  This was available to anyone that wanted to book with me but not publicized since the offer was sooooo good!  I tell you about this because I wanted you all to know we shared a room for the purposes of my story.

pink eye

This was actually the next day, after we had seen the doctor.

We got up really early and drove down to Disney and arrived about 2:30 p.m.  I noticed that my son’s eyes looked a little red but thought it was just due to lack of sleep because we got up so early that morning.  By the time we got there, they were really red.  We got in our room and I noticed he was rubbing them and they seemed to be bothering him – and yes BOTH EYES!  I looked closer and pretty much figured out the diagnosis myself.  He has pink eye!  YIKES!  And we are sharing a room with 2 other kids.  I immediately told him not to touch his eyes and made sure he kept his hands clean.  We had hand sanitizer and used it often.  Yes, I know this is highly contagious, but I felt we were doing a good job at keeping mine and his hands cleaned and away from his eyes that we went on to the park.  I asked him several times if he was o.k.  I also encouraged him to keep his sunglasses on so it would remind him not to touch his eyes too. We went first thing to first aid in Animal Kingdom Park.  They couldn’t do anything but give me some eye drops, which I already had.  They told me of a service that would pick me up and take me to the urgent care and bring me back.  Well, we had just gotten there and he wasn’t feeling too bad so I said thank you and went on.  I really didn’t want to leave because we had just gotten there.  BUT, I remembered a number that my agency has for a Doctor who will come to you!  Yes, he comes to you!  I texted my boss because I left the number either in the room or at at home.  She called for me and said they wouldn’t come to the park but would come to our resort.  I called them and got them scheduled to come that evening (later).  By this time it was getting close to dinner time anyway.

We went on to dinner and decided to skip Downtown Disney because by that time my son told me that his eyes were really starting to bother him.  It started to rain anyway so we just missed walking in the rain at Downtown Disney.  We got a bus back to the resort and waited for the doctor to come.  Sure enough he was there right at the time we had scheduled if not a few minutes early.  He asked my son and I SEVERAL questions and got his medical history.  He was very thorough.  He explained that pink eye was a virus that didn’t need any antibiotics because it would runs it’s course.  He did say he could prescribe us eye drops (he described them as “heaven in a bottle”) that would help lessen the itchiness but not the redness.  I opted to get the eye drops for my son and just in case someone else in the room ended up with pink eye we had something that would help.  He gave my son his first dose of the eye drops right there and my son’s response, “AAAAHHHHH!!!”  So it must be some good heaven in a bottle – we joked.  Then off to sleep he went.  The doctor finished his paperwork and talked with my friend and I and he was on his way.  He said most insurance companies will reimburse for the visit and the prescription.  Yes, it was VERY VERY expensive but the fact that I didn’t have to take my car and find the urgent care or take the other service that would take us to the urgent care and be exposed to anyone else that might be there sick and have to leave the park, was worth it.  Now if he was extremely sick this still would have been great because we wouldn’t have had to leave the room and expose others either.  The doctor even called the prescription in for us and had it delivered to our resort for a delivery fee of $7.50.  The best $7.50 I spent.

photo (11)All in all the visit was expensive but well worth it in my opinion.  No, I am not going to disclose how much the visit was but you can always send me a message and I can tell you if you are just dying to know.  By the next day his eyes were looking so much better and believe it or not we spent 9 days with our friends and NOT A ONE of us got pink eye from my son.

So if you need a doctor while at Disney and do not want to leave the comforts of your resort, call Doctors On Call at 1-407-399-DOCS.



Aug 14

AMC Downtown Disney Lobby Dining and Bar

Laurie popped into the AMC Dine-In Theatre located next to Harley Davidson and across from Planet Hollywood. Recently they have opened up dining that uses the AMC Dine-In Theatre’s menu. The place has good lighting, disabled access, and friendly staff. There are a few sofas, a few stuffed armless chairs, some regular 4-top tables, and tall 4-top tables with tall barstools. Like lounges, guests seat themselves. Overall the staff do their job with a smile.

They have few gluten free and special diet items but management is addressing this issue. I had a salad with diced tomatoes, julienned carrots, and lettuce. I was delighted with their bacon ranch dressing. The dressing has all of the flavor of bacon and ranch with big bacon bits but its runny nature allows the dressing to flow over the salad. Less dressing eaten is less calories!! They gave me 4 corn tortillas to make my burgers with. They use a loose grind that gives the burger flavor and juiciness. They included cheese, onions on the side, tomato slices, and bacon for a delicious thick burger that was nearly perfect.
You do not have to watch the movies to partake in the bar and lobby dining! They offer truffle Parmesan fries, salads, quesadillas, chicken tenders, fish, Asian inspired dishes, cheeseburgers, pizzettas, and sandwiches. They have popcorn, waffle sundaes, pumpkin spice cake sundaes, and New York cheesecake. Their menu is an eclectic medley of pub grub, Asian, Hispanic, and comfort food. I highly recommend them unless you have dietary concerns. It is a main gathering place, waiting area, and bar so at times it can get loud but I feel that few guest would be bothered by what is typical restaurant noise.
They try hard to make guests satisfied. Most guests with one or two limitations should find something to eat. They have a patio with seating out in front.

Aug 13

A Tribute to Robin Williams

The loss of life is always so sad but to know the loss was due to suicide is tragic.  If you are depressed, get help.  There is always a better way, suicide is not the alternative.  Whitney is back and this time she shares her love for Robin Williams and why he will always be remembered.

I know that there have been countless pieces written about Robin Williams in the few days since his passing, but I felt that I had to contribute my two-cents as well. This man was a comedy legend who could bring us to tears with laughter as well as his dramatic roles, but he was also a Disney legend. The first movie I can remember seeing in the theater is Aladdin. There was just something about that big crazy blue guy with the heart of gold that drew me in instantly. I cannot think of another person in the entire world who could have brought Genie to life as he did. This movie, and more specifically, the character of Genie, only helped to solidify my love for Disney. I could go years without watching Aladdin, but could still remember the exact inflection of each of Genie’s lines. He had something so special, that he could make the simplest lines become either so hilarious or heart wrenching that they would jump right off the screen and touch people to their core. Watching his interviews always intrigued me as much as watching any of his movies, because he was just so genuinely funny and always kept everyone on their toes. You never knew if he was going to bust out in song or the slow drawl of his John Wayne impression. Even though I never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Williams, I feel like I have known him my whole life. From his roles in Popeye, Hook, Aladdin, Flubber, Jumanji, Patch Adams, Jack, Awakenings, Dead Poets Society, to the unforgettable Mrs. Doubtfire (and the list goes on and on), I don’t think there is one time period of my life that hasn’t been touched by Robin Williams in some way. It feels like he has always been a presence in my life in one way or another. Maybe that is why his passing has hit me harder than any other celebrity’s. Of course it is a tragedy when any life is lost, but there is something about his passing that has hit me especially hard. I think this is the first time I have just sat and cried over losing someone I have never met. He had a way about him that just made everyone feel comfortable; like they knew him. It feels like we have all lost a lifelong friend, and to some extent that is true. I have seen people write things that say the world will never be the same because he is gone, and in some ways, I would totally agree. However, I like to think that the world will never be the same simply because he was here. He was a unique source of light, love, and lots of hyperactive randomness. He was truly one of a kind. There never has been, and never will be another like him. I hope he knew even in the slightest, how much light and life he brought to the world. I hope he never lost sight in the midst of everything he was going through, that he had millions of people who adored him, and the world was a much better place because he was in it.

Aug 13

Review of “Creativity, Inc.”

I have some amazing writers here.  And we have a new writer to welcome!  Whitney loves to read and LOVES Pixar.  She read the new book by Ed Catmull and shares her review of the book. Thanks Whitney and welcome to “Mouse”cation.


creativity incAnyone who knows me knows the depths of my love for Pixar. It is my dream to one day work in its story department. No, really. I’ve read several books about Pixar and its movies, so when I heard that Ed Catmull, Co-Founder and President of Pixar Animation and President of Disney Animation, had written a book, I could not wait to read it. The book is called Creativity, Inc.:  Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. I know that the book was written primarily as a resource for, especially in areas where originality and creativity is key. I am not the manager of a company, but I knew that in order to pass on the leadership wisdom he has gained, some great stories were bound to surface. I am a bit ashamed to say that I began reading this book assuming that loads of really valuable managerial information would be totally lost on me, and sprinkled thinly throughout would be stories about the animation studio I so admire. I am pleased to say that I was wrong. I almost expected the format of a self-help book. You know, the type that gives you “10 Simple Steps” to doing whatever it is you want.  What I found instead was a detailed chronological account of how Pixar began, chock full of the stories I’d been hoping for, the lessons learned through those experiences, and how those lessons shaped the way the studio is run. What I found was that this book was not only for managers of companies (and Pixar fanatics), but also has valuable information for leaders of families, especially on the topic of failure.

Failure is generally assumed to be negative. Most people, myself included, spend extra time and effort in the hopes of avoiding failure. Yes, making mistakes is part of life, but normally, it is not a welcomed part of life. I learned that the same is not true at Pixar. To those at Pixar, failure is not seen as simply something they are required to deal with and work through. In fact, it is seen as a welcomed and positive part of their process. It might seem strange that a studio that has consistently produced hit after hit would be so openly accepting of failure, but I think that is exactly why they are so successful. A quote that is seen throughout the book is one from Andrew Stanton, director of Finding Nemo and part of the Pixar Braintrust.  Andrew has said to “fail early and fail fast,” and “be wrong as fast as you can”. This shows not to submit to failure, but accept it as a stepping stone to something better, and the faster you fail, the faster you can rule out what doesn’t work and move on toward what does. Thinking this way not only takes the stigma off of failure, but actually helps view it as a necessary part of learning. By not allowing themselves to be paralyzed by fear of making mistakes, they are able to chase ideas that might seem crazy, but end up as amazing successes (like maybe an elderly gentleman flying his home across the world by helium balloons).  I think this can be an important thing to remember, especially as a parent. When we (or our kids) are not so worried about the possibility of failing, we tend to be more open to trying new things and when that happens, the possibilities for the future truly are limitless.

This book has taught me to think differently about failure and how it can be a force for positivity in my life and for my family. I hope that because of what I have learned in this book, I can be a model of this to my kids. I hope they see me deal with failure as an opportunity to keep trying. Most importantly, I hope they learn not to let fear of mistakes hold them hostage from trying new things. I never expected to have such a strong reaction to what was meant as a resource for managers, but what this book has shown me is invaluable.



Aug 11

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – Laurie’s Complaints

I grew up with the Pike, San Diego Zoo, and amusement parks with my first documented visit on October 24, 1960. I have ridden many roller coasters except the newfangled ones. I cut my teeth on the bobsleds in Disneyland. I was excited to see a new roller coaster at Walt Disney World that I could ride.

IMG_6030There were issues from the beginning. I was in line at night so I did not appreciate the fans blowing full force on me. The lines are dark at night so it was hard to see where I was going. The interactive area was fun but the line was moving fast. There were kids running around trying to get back to their family as well as a few lost adults. I loved the spinning barrels where the characters come onto the ceiling.

Disabled guests stay in line like everyone else until it is time to board. The trains must wait for them to load even if it takes a while. I prefer side boarding like at Toy Story Mania but that would not work here. OUCH OUCH OUCH!!! I am 60 – 64 inches tall and about 280 pounds. I was in pain from having the lap bar squish my legs together. Mine trainThe whole ride was me with my knees pressed together even though the lap bar had plenty of room for my girth. The seat back was something molded that did not fit my back. It seems that the seats were designed for dwarfs not linebackers.

Overall this is a great ride with too much hype. I did not notice the cars moving until we entered the mine and were slowing down. This is very close to, but not quite as thrilling, as Big Thunder Railroad. The trains zip along on the smooth steel rails then STOP to check out the dwarfs in their mine. Splash Mountain has that same big drop then lull as you float along until the next drop. You do not get nonstop heart pounding thrills instead you get two short bursts. At the end comes the cottage where the dwarfs and Snow White are dancing while in the other half of the house are animals. That is not how it was in the movie, was it? Look hard right to see the Hag at the door with her apples. It is a great ride not to be missed, but the poorly designed seats will have me heading to the Wilderness for the Wildest Ride.

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