Nested in the heart of Jacksonville Beach is a lovely throwback to olden beach days, The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. The Inn is located 10 miles south of Jacksonville and boasts plenty of family… More
A few weeks ago, our agents had “boots on the ground” at Walt Disney World and learned quite a bit about the new measures the Walt Disney World parks and resorts have implemented to make guests and cast members feel safe. As you know, Walt Disney World closed on March 16, 2020, making it only the 7th time in 50 years that the parks have closed. During the 117 days the parks were closed, the Walt Disney World team was working tirelessly to find a way to reopen while at the same time making certain all the returning guests would feel safe and have zero reservation about the “MAGIC” they were known for providing.
When our team made the decision to see and experience firsthand all the new implementations, there was never any hesitation. We booked rooms and dining electronically as usual, and then used the “now required” mobile check in to receive our room number and to eliminate contact with the front desk. It is a seamless process. Upon arrival, at our resort, we noticed all cast members with face coverings on, multiple hand sanitizer stations throughout the lobby, gift stores, hallways etc. It was very refreshing to see other guests being so compliant.
As we took the elevator to our room, we noticed they only allowed one party per elevator, which was nice and made everyone feel comfortable. Inside the resort rooms, Disney has implemented new housekeeping practices, “Enchanted Cleaning.” You will see remote controls covered with a plastic sleeve and marked “clean,” as well as the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash dispensers in the showers also. They have limited housekeeping services due to new “contactless” cleaning, meaning you will need to request clean towels and linens if needed and this can easily be done with a quick phone call down to the front desk.
Dining was fairly easy as well, if you are interested in visiting the outdoor pool or bar area, depending on your resort, you will find tables spaced 6 feet apart or in some restaurant areas, they have placed signs on the tables indicating which ones are available for seating, to keep within the 6 ft of required social distance. The servers and bartenders all adorn face coverings as well as face shields. We also noticed that the waiter would only bring one parties beverages or food at a time. It seemed to work well. They do allow you to remove your face covering while you are seated within the restaurant, but if you leave the table for any reason, you will be required to put you face covering back on. Several restaurants had the wait staff bring us the scan code, which enabled us to view the menus on our mobile devices and other restaurants had them on the tables when we were seated. We felt very safe and this was even the first time several of us had experienced dining in a restaurant, since March.
If you are interested in using a quick service meal option, they will require mobile dining. This program has been active for a while, but it was never required. Now that it is, we found it to be an easy process and very efficient. When you place our order with Mobile Dining, you are required to wait outside the restaurant until you receive a notification that your meal is ready. Once you receive this, you proceed to the entrance, where a cast member checks your notification, verifies it on his tablet and then directs you to the numbered bay to pick up your meal. All meals are bagged and stapled with your name on the outside. There was a friendly cast member behind the table that greets all guests with a smile as they match you with your order. Once you have picked up your bag, you proceed to the dining area, whether that be inside or outside and find a table that is available. Again, all tables adhere to the social distance guidelines. After you and your party have finished, a cast member will ask you to please leave all trash, trays etc. on the table and they will clean up. I would assume this is because the table needs to be cleaned and made ready for the next guest.
If you want to visit the International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, we found they will require you to be stationary while eating and drinking. This allows you to eat and drink, and take your face covering off. It was not any less enjoyable and because there were plenty of areas to sit, and no fast passes or fireworks to rush off to, we genuinely enjoyed sitting, eating, drinking, and talking with each other.
We visited all four parks at Walt Disney World and experienced all the modes of transportation offered. We took the Skyliner gondolas to Hollywood Studios, the monorail to Magic Kingdom, the bus to Animal Kingdom and walked to Epcot. Currently the monorail is not travelling to Epcot, so depending on your resort, you may walk, or a bus is provided.
Every single encounter we had with the transportation was first class. There were markings on the ground indicating where each party needed to stand, so you were exactly 6 ft apart while waiting to board the monorail and gondolas. We felt that everyone was very compliant, and the traffic was heavier in the mornings than in the afternoon, but it was exceptionally smooth. All guests must have face coverings on and above their noses at all time, except for, certain aged children. As we approached our vehicle, we saw several hand sanitizer stations and cast members constantly cleaning railing, trash cans and any other physical things you could touch. The cast members once again wore face coverings and face shields for their protection and ours.
The bus transportation was a little different than normal, when we approached our designated area to wait for the bus, we noticed each party social distancing and when the bus arrived the bus driver departed the bus and asked who was there first. He then counted the number in each party, directed them to which end of the bus to enter and gave them a number. Each seat is labeled with a number, our party was all told to sit in the seats labeled with a “2.” There were exactly four in our party and we noticed there were only four seats with the number “2.” The bus had several partitions installed between seats and they did not take up any additional room and allowed parties to sit next to other parties and be separated at the same time. I found this to be awesome! I like the partitions, and its so nice on the bus, I would love to see them keep these when the parks are at full capacity. There were a lot of positives about social distancing in Walt Disney World!
Each park entrance worked the same way, you were directed towards a tent, where a medical staff took your temperature. Depending on the direction of the sun, they either scanned your forehead or the area behind your ear, this went quick and then you were off to bag check if you brought one. Again, all the medical and security staff were wearing face coverings, face shields and gloves. The security staff did not physically inspect your bags, like pre covid. They now asked that you take anything metal, such as umbrellas, phone chargers, bracelets, keys etc. out of the bag, place the bag in a bin and carry the other items through the metal detectors. Animal Kingdom has a brand-new contactless system that is now open, and you simply walk through an opening like a metal detector and that is it. Super easy!
After the bag check, we scanned our magic bands and noticed the bio metric fingerprint scanner is no longer there, it has been covered so no one can use it. It was all a very quick process.
Cast members still wave to you as you enter the park, now with face coverings and face shields, but always happy! Park maps are still available, but you will not see the traditional “Times Guide” because the parades, shows and fireworks have all been suspended. They do have spontaneous cavalcades and characters out and about, but no designated time or area to avoid people gathering.
Each retail store offered hand sanitizers at each entrance, exit, checkout line and throughout the store. They did direct guests to enter through one door and exit through another to avoid any congestion. Depending on the size of the retail establishment, they did have cast members counting guests as they entered and there were a few times they made you wait outside until another guest exited, only allowing a certain number inside at one time.
The attractions were amazing, low wait times, fast passes have been suspended for now, and each attraction has the social distancing markers on the ground, throughout the queues. Several queues spaced out the lines, avoiding the switchbacks altogether if they had the room to do so. Others simply installed glass partitions between each switchback, so lines could move as normal, but you would have no contact with other guests as you passed them in line. The glass was marked with several stickers that said, “No touching.” This is another safety feature that I could see Disney keeping in the future. Attractions were very enjoyable, depending on the type of attraction, social distance guidelines were adhered to, whether that meant your party enjoyed “It’s a Small World,” in their own boat or parties were seated on every other row, car, cart or train. It was nice to see all guests being compliant and everyone having a good time!
We spent five days and six nights at two different Walt Disney World resorts and visited all four parks without feeling unsafe in any way. We experienced all the WDW transportation, attractions, a signature dining, quick service and the food and wine festival without an issue. It was truly an enjoyable trip and we were able to learn a lot by experiencing all the new guidelines in person. I would tell everyone that if this is your first time to Walt Disney World, maybe wait until some of the special character interactions are back. I know there are a lot of little girls and boys wanting to hug those special characters or visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and so I encourage you to wait. But for everyone else, I say… “What are you waiting for? Now’s the time to ride Flight of Passage back to back without waiting more than 20 to 30 minutes total, or Seven Dwarf Mine Train with a less than 30 minute wait. Heck Ride it all and have time to spare!” I can honestly say that the MAGIC is still alive and kicking at Walt Disney World and we cannot wait to help you plan your next trip!!
We know that for many of you this was not the Spring Break that you had originally planned but don’t worry!
Jolly Holiday Vacations wants to share our tips and tricks for helping to make your Spring Break stay-cation a little more magical.
Follow along on on social media pages for our Virtual Spring Break. Last week and this week, we will be virtually traveling to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, on a Disney Cruise and exploring different countries with Adventures by Disney. We will be posting in “real time” as we go on our various adventures.
Make Mickey Mouse Tie Dye Shirts
HERE is the tie-dye kit that we found on Instagram.
Host a Disney Movie Night in Your Own Backyard
There are lots of movies releasing early to entertain you while you are at home! Why not host a spectacular Disney movie night from the privacy of your own backyard!
Check out this amazing giant blow-up screen!
You could even add a little more magic to movie night by recycling your old Disney popcorn buckets like Jolly Holiday’s Anne Marie Wienkamp and her family!
There is so much nostalgic, fun, and educational programming on Disney+. Here are some of the favorites from the Jolly Holiday Vacations agents and their families.
The Mandalorian (recommended by Meredith Trobaugh)
The Imagineering Story (recommended by Marlee Marsh)
Be Our Chef (recommended by Gina Rodriguez)
Kennedy Space Center has launched science lessons on Facebook Live.
If you’re looking for a fun, creative way to add some Disney magic to your day, Disney’s sharing something special – a complete series of how-to tutorials on drawing Mickey Mouse through the years…from a Disney Parks Artist! Click HERE.
Our very own Gina Rodriguez (who is also a teacher in New Mexico) and her boys started homeschooling like many of you. They whistled while they worked by listening to Disney tunes and especially enjoyed their favorites from Epcot. Tune into DParkRadio in your own home for a little of that Disney magic. It can be found via Amazon Alexa and more. Click HERE to enjoy the music for yourself.
Experience Disney Magic at home with the free Disney Now app!
Not only can you stream some Disney Channel content for free you can also stream some of your favorite Disney Parks shows! Just go to Disney channel and scroll down to the Experience Disney Magic button! “We especially love Happily Ever After,” exclaimed Jolly Holiday’s Meredith Trobaugh.
Have a Disney-centric breakfast for dinner! Our very own Rebecca Lander made Mickey pancakes for her family and they reminisced about their favorite memories and rides! You could also create a little Mickey out of bananas for a fresh treat. Cute!!!
Imagineering fans, get ready! If you’ve ever been one of many guests who’s visited a Disney theme park and found yourself inspired to dream, build and create, there’s a new online program you just can’t miss!
‘Imagineering in a Box’ is a free online program that brings together the diverse talents of Disney Imagineers around the world for a one-of-a-kind learning experience and is part of Disney’s commitment to helping today’s youth create the future they imagine.
The series offers 32 videos in which Imagineers share how they use a wide range of skills – from story development and conceptual design, to math, physics and engineering – to create immersive experiences. The online curriculum aims to ignite curiosity, inspire creativity, and encourage innovation in the minds of students and teachers alike, while creating fun and engaging opportunities to explore new concepts. (courtesy of DisneyParksBlog.com)
Check out the Disney Parks channel on YouTube.com for virtual viewing of all of the magic of the Disney Parks such as the newest parade from Disneyland. Perfect for rainy day fun!
“We’re all looking for ways to bring a little joy, a little fun and, yes, a little magic into our lives right now. So to help make that happen, we’re bringing you the newest Disneyland Park parade, Magic Happens. Don’t worry though, you won’t need to move the furniture, rope off a parade route, or stake out your favorite spot. This is a virtual viewing direct from The Happiest Place on Earth. Sit back, relax and watch from the comfort of your couch as some of the most awe-inspiring moments from classic Disney stories unfold right before your eyes and ears—all set to an unforgettable score co-composed by singer-songwriter Todrick Hall. Make sure to check back often, because there are many more #DisneyMagicMoments like this one still to come!” (courtesy of Disney Parks)
You may have noticed some new notifications and featurettes in the Disneyland or My Disney Experience mobile apps recently – like Disney Parks Artist Studio or Magic Moments in History, where you can learn how to draw your favorite Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, discover fun facts about Disney Parks, or play games and trivia through the Play Disney Parks mobile app. We’re excited to share that there’s even more to come from these series and others within the Disneyland or My Disney Experience app – and they can all be enjoyed from home!
From fun recipes inspired by Disney Parks foods and animated stories, to highlights from your favorite shows and parades, PhotoPass wallpapers and more, there are videos, games and fun facts on the way, bringing some Disney Parks magic to you. In the coming weeks, you’ll even be able to enjoy the Jungle Cruise joke-of-the-day or experience Wilderness Explorers at home through a series of short-form videos, too. (courtesy of the DisneyParksBlog.com)
Harry Potter fans! J.K. Rowling launches Harry Potter at Home.
“Welcome to the Harry Potter At Home hub where you’ll find all the latest magical treats to keep you occupied – including special contributions from Bloomsbury and Scholastic, nifty magical craft videos (teach your friends how to draw a Niffler!), fun articles, quizzes, puzzles and plenty more for first-time readers, as well as those already familiar with the wizarding world. We’re casting a Banishing Charm on boredom!” (courtesy of HarryPotteratHome.com)
“Parents, teachers and carers working to keep children amused and interested while we’re on lockdown might need a bit of magic,” Rowling said on Twitter.
Check out more information on Harry Potter at Home here.
We also encourage you to participate in Jolly Holiday Vacation’s Harry Potter Challenge. Read more HERE.
‘Frozen’ actor, Josh Gad is reading children’s books to his fans daily via his Twitter account.
When you can’t go to the parks, the parks can come to you! Take a virtual spin on some of the most popular and amazing rides at all of the Disney Parks around the globe. Click HERE to experience Test Track and to find more amazing videos.
We hope that these ideas bring a little magic to your Spring Break stay-cations.
When it is time to book your next vacation, Jolly Holiday Vacations will be here for you!
Please share your ideas below!
This year has been very exciting as I have started the beginning steps to plan my wedding. My fiancé proposed to me February 2018 at the California Grill located in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. When we were brainstorming ideas on where we would like to get married, we thought that Disney World would be best fitting as that is where we were engaged and we enjoy our visit to Disney World every year.
If you were ever thinking of planning a Disney Wedding, whether it be at Disney World, Disney’s Aulani, or on a Disney Cruise Line, Disney’s Fairytale Weddings Showcase is the best way to get a taste of what a Disney Wedding entails.
Disney Weddings and Fairytales holds an event every year at Disney World and Disneyland Resort in California called Disney’s Fairytale Weddings Showcase. This event allows current and future Disney couples to tour wedding venues, taste immersive menus, meet with the Disney Weddings team, and more.
For this year’s showcase registration opened October 1, 2019. I have only seen this event promoted on Disney Weddings Instagram and of course the Disney Wedding Website https://www.disneyweddings.com/showcases/.
This event does sells out so it is best to register for the event within the first week of open registration. Tickets are $45.00 per attendee and you can invite anyone you would like to be a part of your wedding planning. When you register you choose between a morning or afternoon showcase event time and they do ask a couple of questions:
|Anticipated Celebration Date|
|Anticipated Celebration Attendance|
|What would you like to take away from the Showcase?|
|Guest 2 Name|
|Guest 2 Role|
There is also a Welcome Dessert Reception that you may register for during your online registration for an additional cost. We opted out of this event but this is a great opportunity to taste an array of desserts that are available for your future wedding.
Disney’s Fairytale Weddings Showcase Day
The showcase was held at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. We arrived around 9:00am to pre-register. At the registration desk they only required a photo ID and we were given two Disney Weddings reusable bags, two lanyards with our name, a beverage coupon, and a map of the day’s events. The event did not start until 10:00am so we walked around the resort and took a look at the special merchandise store. There were water bottles, ring trays, clothing, and glasses with the Disney Weddings and Fairytales logo available for purchase. There was also a special edition Pandora bracelet that was just launched and is only available in Disney Parks for purchase. Disney also released a new engagement ring collection that was very affordable and beautiful.
After walking around the doors opened at 10am, everyone rushed into the ballroom and you were welcomed with a greenery and gate backdrop and the sounds of a live Spanish guitarist. To the left of the room there were tasting plates of Mediterranean, Italian, and Asian flavors. The middle of the room had dessert offerings and a beautiful photo opportunity with the Cinderella carriage. The right of the room had a dance floor and DJ entertaining attendees. There were many vendors scattered around the ballroom from photography, videography, bridal gowns, tuxedo rentals, and also many different themed table settings.
The showcase was only open for two hours, and we used almost the entire two hours to take in the sights, sounds, and tastings. Also available after the showcase was a self-guided walking tour, where Disney’s Fairytale and Weddings designed wedding venue examples to show off their talents. When leaving the showcase, we were greeted with a limo to transport us to the Wedding Pavilion to continue the day with the walking tour. Due to time we only visited the Polynesian resort but they had beautiful tropical décor set up in the sand overlooking the water, as well as a live ukulele player.
Overall I believe if you are engaged and were curious to see how Disney can make wedding dreams come true, I recommend attending Disney’s Fairytale Weddings Showcase. At the showcase there are many opportunities to speak to the Disney Weddings team and they also can schedule mini wedding sessions to speak with a representative one on one. Since I was already thinking of planning a Disney Wedding, I scheduled a session during my trip, and had the opportunity to visit venues and speak in more detail with my Disney Wedding consultant. My experience so far has been over and beyond of what I could ever imagine and I cannot wait to share more details about my future Disney Wedding!
If you would like to see live videos of Disney’s Fairytale Weddings Showcase 2020, please follow @JollyHolidayVacations on Instagram and visit their stories, Disney Wedding. Also please make sure to follow me along on Instagram @laura.jollyholiday to follow my Disney Wedding Journey.
See Ya Real Soon,
For more practically perfect tips, please contact Laura at email@example.com
Here’s the deal. I have boys. Two very boyish boys. They are self proclaimed “all girly thing” haters and can’t be bothered with any Disney Princesses. A little part of me cries inside everytime we pass a princess in a park and can’t stop, or another cute movie comes out and my boys snark at the mere mention of going to see it.
During a recent trip I sternly put my mama foot down and told the boys we were going to the Frozen Dessert Party, while saying in my best mom voice that they were “going to like it whether they wanted to or not”! The boys clearly began to envision having to sit on Anna and Elsa’s lap while wearing dresses and perhaps recreating the coronation. I may have told them once or twice that today “was Coronation day!” in my best Anna impersonation.
Having never done this enchanting Disney extra I really didn’t know what to expect. I hyped my boys up with the mention of endless sugar and maybe even a Sprite if all went well- hook, line, and sinker. They were able to see past the Princess theme and began to see visions of endless confections.
About an hour before arrival the rain started. They let me know that the event would be moved inside, thus furthering my unknown expectations. We walked the World Showcase to the Norway pavilion, where all the magic began to unfold. Cast members greeted us by name (still can’t figure that out) and directed us towards what the boys and I now call “behind the scenes of Norway, into the secret room.” We went up a spiraling staircase lined with cast members, again calling us by name, that opened up into a large room filled with tables, drinks, desserts, frozen decorations, and even Elsa’s throne!
Cast members immediately sprang into action encouraging us to load our plates, grab a drink, and sit and enjoy the food before being escorted to a roped off section for fireworks viewing. All in all we had about 1.5 hours to enjoy drinks and food before being taken outside.
When entering the private viewing area all was given special Frozen glasses to view the fireworks with. The glasses succeeded in making the fireworks appear to be snowflakes falling from the sky- really a cool effect. My boys loved it. We watched the firework show, with full bellies, front row seating, and no pushing or shoving from crowds.
Following the show, we were then escorted back to Norway where we got to ride Frozen Ever After with no lines or wait. A ticket to the party also grants access to the ride after hours. We had the boat to ourselves!
Overall, we all ended up loving the experience. The cast members went above and beyond to make every guest feel special and the food was excellent. I would highly recommend adding this on as an enchanting extra to your next trip!
Runs Select Nights throughout the week
Food: Beer/Wine, Soft Drinks, Desserts, Fruit, Charcuterie, Light Hour’D’Herve
Includes: Private Ride of Frozen Ever After, Beer/Wine, Soft Drinks, Private Seating
Weather: If the weather holds out desserts/bar is set up outside near the Mexican pavilion. For the event of rain the party is moved inside to the “behind the scenes of Norway, into the secret room”.
See ya real soon,
For more practically perfect tips, please email Kerri at Kerri.JollyHoliday@gmail.com.
Have you ever considered a RunDisney race at one of the Disney Parks? My girlfriends and I just completed the Princess 10K over the 2020 Princess Half Marathon Weekend and wanted to share some tips! It was our first race, and we had SO MUCH FUN!
Post-Race at Magic Kingdom
First, Registering for Your Race
The Walt Disney World Resort hosts 4 race weekends a year
- January- Disney Marathon Weekend (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon)
- February- Princess Half Marathon- (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon)
- April- Star Wars Half Marathon- (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon)
- Fall (Oct/Nov)- Wine & Dine Half Marathon- (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon)
- They even have one mile kids runs!
There are virtual races throughout the year as well.
Below is the RunDisney event calendar for 2020-2021:
The 5K and 10K sell out as soon as registration opens. Many people who are logged in and ready to register do NOT get a bibs. NEVER FEAR! You CAN book a race package with an agent at Jolly Holiday Vacations BEFORE registration opens at no additional cost to you!
For those super motivated runners, there are extra medals for running all races in a weekend. Check out the RunDisney website for more information.
For the 5K and 10K races, you can select the pace you think you will be able to run. For the half marathon and marathon, you must submit a proof of time. Your pace will dictate which corral you will be placed in to start the race.
Training for the Race
In my younger years, I could sign up for a run, not train at all, and show up and run. Not so much these days!
Be sure to download a training plan that suits your needs! My group had an accountability and support group text where we encouraged each other and posted our runs. It was such a fun way to stay motivated and to get excited and prepared for the race weekend!
The last thing you want to do is get injured due to lack of training and not be able to enjoy the race and the resort. I was determined to be able to run the race and have plenty in reserves to tackle the parks!
You have to be able to run or walk a 16-minute mile pace. There are a group of people who cross the start line with the last corral. They carry balloons, keep a 16-minute pace, and sweep anyone off the course who can’t keep the pace. Because it takes so long for everyone to get through the start, this shouldn’t be a huge concern.
Planning Your Race Day Outfit
Many runners dress up for the race based on its theme. For the Princess Weekend, my group decided to go as characters from Alice in Wonderland. We were Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, and the Queen of Hearts.
Alice in Wonderland Costumes
Some people go all out (there are great options on Etsy), some people buy or make a race tank, and some wear regular running clothes. Costumes are in no way required but add to the fun!
Be sure to think about how comfortable you will be running in your costume. You may even want to run in parts of your costume before the race to make sure you aren’t incumbered in any way.
Planning Your Trip Itinerary
Once you have your race registration secured, it’s time to plan the rest of your trip! Consider the number of people in your travel party, when you want to arrive, dining and park touring.
There were 5 adult members of our group so we chose a Family Suite at Art of Animation (WDW Value Resort). The Family Suites sleep 6 and most importantly, had 2 full bathrooms.
Art of Animation- Finding Nemo Family Suite
Again, you can book a travel package with an agent at Jolly Holiday Vacations in advance of the registration opening to secure your bib!
Our race, the 10K, was on Saturday. We had originally planned for a Friday early morning departure, but later decided to start the drive down on Thursday afternoon after work so we wouldn’t feel so rushed. Since Jolly Holiday Vacations can book Hilton and Marriott brands of hotels anywhere, we were able to get a great rate on a Hilton in Jacksonville (included free parking and free breakfast) to break up the trip!
We knew we wanted a one-day Park Hopper ticket so that we could spend some time in Magic Kingdom and Epcot, so we were sure to have those purchased and linked to our account 60 days prior to race day to take advantage of the best FastPass options!
We were very excited about our DINING options and made reservations when our dining reservation window opened 180 days in advance for best availability. Since this was a girl’s trip without kids, we chose signature restaurants that could really enjoy! With our plan in place, we were ready for the weekend!
Arrival at Walt Disney World & Runner’s Expo
All runners must head to the ESPN Wild World of Sports Complex to pick up their race bib before the race. EACH runner must show up with valid photo ID. You cannot pick up bibs for friends. Non-runners are welcome! Parking is free at the Expo. You also get a RunDisney t-shirt with the cost of registration. The Expo usually opens at least one day before the 5K, and you will have to pick up your bib at least one day in advance of your race.
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore the expo! There are tons of vendors, good food and drink, photo ops, specialized merchandise and more. It was a lot of fun and built on the excitement of the race!
RunDisney events start EARLY because they need to be mostly finished before the parks open. Be prepared to get a good’s night rest before the race! Have costumes set out and breakfast organized.
Disney provides bus transportation to the race start, which is usually in the Epcot parking lot. The 5K and 10K usually start at 5:30am, and the half-marathon and marathon usually start at 5:00am. Buses will start picking runners up around 2:30am (CRAZY, I know) and continue throughout the morning. We got up at 3:45am, headed out of our room a little after 4am, were able to hop right on a bus (there can be lines), and were at Epcot around 4:20am.
Like the Expo, there was a lot to see and do at the race start- vendors, character photo opportunities, a live DJ and more. We explored a little and then got in our corrals. It was very cold on our race morning. You can bring old/inexpensive jackets to wear in the morning, and then can shed them on the course. Disney will pick them up and donate your items to those in need.
If you want to get pre-race pictures with characters, get there early. We were more interested in getting a good night’s rest as we had a big park day planned. By the time we got to the race, the lines for character photos were pretty long and characters were headed in.
We were in different corrals, so we went our separate ways and had a plan about where to meet when the race was over.
One thing I learned that I had not quite expected is that although the race begins at 5:30am, it takes a WHILE to get up to the start line, depending on your corral placement. Our group was divided into 3 different corrals. One group got through the start at about 5:50am, I got through at 6:09am, and someone else in our group got through closer to 6:30am. Disney does this to spread the runners out and to allow for more distributed opportunities to take photos with characters along the way. So be prepared to finish the race later than you might anticipate.
The run itself was SO fun. Pocahontas was the character inspiration for the 10K. She and many of her fellow movie characters were stationed throughout the race in addition to Mickey and some other characters that you typically don’t see in the parks. I never stopped for the characters because the lines were usually 20 people or so deep, but it looked like a lot of people were having fun. There was music everywhere to keep you going and lots of good people watching of all the different costumes! Our course looped out onto service roads, came into Epcot’s World Showcase, extended to the Epcot-area resorts, and back through the World Showcase to the finish. There were water stations and bathrooms all throughout the course. We all LOVED the race!
You have the option to purchase Memory Maker (photography package) for a discounted rate ($169) before the weekend to cover your entire trip OR you can purchase a one-day memory maker for ($69). This will include all of your race photos and park photos from the day. Be sure to hang onto your race bib because the code to link your race photos will be on the back of the bib!
Memory Maker Race Photos
At the end of the race, you are given a nice medal, a mylar blanket, water and Powerade, and a snack box. I highly recommend drinking and eating a lot after the race so you don’t get dehydrated or low blood sugar. The 4 of us met up, got a quick photo, and headed back to the bus to our resort to shower and change as we had a full park day planned!
Highlights of Our Trip
Our Girl’s Trip was definitely about the RUN, but we had 3 supporters who came along so we also really wanted to enjoy all Disney has to offer. Here are some highlights and our basic itinerary:
- Thursday: Departed for Jacksonville to break up the drive, stayed in a Hilton with a great rate, free breakfast and free parking
- Friday: Headed to the Orland and the Expo, checked into Art of Animation, got ready for dinner at California Grill with Magic Kingdom fireworks viewing, early bedtime
- Saturday: Run, Magic Kingdom morning with FastPasses and Be Our Guest lunch, afternoon break and cocktails and Grand Floridian Resort, Epcot afternoon and dinner at Le Cellier
- Sunday: Sleep in, brunch at Chef Mickey’s, head home
We did the Deluxe Dining Plan since two of our meals were Signature meals, and we wanted the snack credits to explore the options at the Festival of the Arts in Epcot. We saved $100s on food using this strategy. Below are some pictures from our awesome Girl’s trip and RunDisney weekend. I hope you have enjoyed following along!
California Grille with Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing
Magical Day at Magic Kingdom
Afternoon Break at the Enchanted Rose Lounge at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Evening at Epcot & the Festival of the Arts
Maximizing the value of our Deluxe Dining Plan at Epcot
Such a FUN way to extend the MAGIC- departure brunch at Chef Mickey’s
See ya real soon,
For more practically perfect tips, please email Marlee at Marlee.JollyHoliday@gmail.com.
Cruising with Mickey!
Disney Cruises are fun for the whole family! You can enjoy a 3, 4, 5 or 7 day cruise to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Alaska & more! There are also extended cruises for other Ports-of-Call.
We often get asked “What can I expect on a Disney Cruise?” so this blog post gives a play-by-play from our family of 5 (Mom, Dad, 14yoGirl, 8yoGirl & 7yoBoy) on a Cruise to the Bahamas. We spent 5 days and 4 nights on the Disney Dream and a magical time was had by all!
Day 1-Boarding time of 10:30. We arrived at the Port and dropped our bags with the steward. Then we headed inside to the line for our check-in. The line moves quickly and you are given your Card. It is very important to keep it with you as it is your room key/charge card and ID for your time on the ship. We loved having our lanyards to keep it handy around our neck! While we waited for our boarding group to get called we caught a picture with Captain Mickey! We wore/packed our suits and went straight to Deck 11 for a buffet lunch at Cabanas. Kids enjoyed the pool & tried the AquaDuck waterslide. You can access your room when you board but bags will not be delivered until later so pack whatever you think you will need in your carry-on. (If you are choosing to bring bottles of wine or beer onboard these must be packed in your carryon as well). All non-alcoholic beverages are included in the price of a Disney cruise but you can purchase special drinks once you get on board.
We decided to purchase the Beer package for $74. It included a reusable cooler (that we still are using 2 years later) & 12 beers. It was a great fit for us and we used the cooler all week and restocked with the beers from our room. (You can also get the cooler with bottled water)
Around 1:30 we headed to our room and to our (pleasant) surprise our bags were already waiting! We took a few minutes to unpack & get sorted then toured the kids club. Children are given special bracelets (magic bands) and can be checked in and out of the kids club by their parents or parental designee. They were well-staffed, super clean and our children absolutely loved them the entire trip! We were called to our lifeboat area for the mandatory Muster drill & then headed back to the top deck for the Sail Away Party! Then it was back to the room to change for dinner! *You will receive a daily newsletter with activities for the day delivered to your room but I highly recommend you download the Disney Cruise Navigator App which will also have all the information you need to discover the magical things awaiting you on the ship!
Day 1 p.m.
We were a bit early so we started an On-Board Digital Detective game as the headquarters was just outside our first restaurant. (The kids loved these interactive pictures throughout the ship and we continued playing them throughout our cruise.) Dinner at the Enchanted Garden was fabulous with our Server Radu & his Assistant Sebastian. They catered to the children’s wants and needs and were very attentive. I tried the Scallops & Prime Rib! The ambiance was true Disney & they gave us the tip to come back in the morning for a quieter brunch buffet. Then we went to explore the shops (& we bought our son a jacket b/c we forgot his and it gets chilly at night-all the ladies needed jackets at dinner). At 8:15 we headed to the theater for the Golden Mickeys. We were in our seats a bit early which was perfect b/c the kids got chosen to go onstage for the Snow White Medley where they each wore a dwarf hat & beard! It was so cute & the show was first class! At 9:30 the kids were dying to go back to the kids club so we dropped them off for 45 min while our teen checked out Edge & the grownups toured the District & took a stroll around the deck. It was a very full first day.
Day 2 a.m.
We woke at our usual time (7:30) and watched the coast of Nassau appear in the distance. A quick call to room service brought coffee and allowed us the luxury of a first cup on our verandah. We dressed in suits/cover-ups & headed to a quiet breakfast buffet in the Enchanted Garden (again, delish). We chose not to get off the ship for excursions in Nassau but instead grabbed chairs on the deck & headed for a family AquaDuck ride. Then we warmed up in the hot tub. After some time enjoying the pool deck the Littles changed for a Stars Wars activity in the kids club & our teen headed to a drawing class at the Edge. Left to our own devices my husband & I went to the Adult Pool Deck before meeting back up with our teen for lunch.
Day 2 p.m.
We grabbed the Littles from Kids Club for some more pool time. The weather was perfect. Then it was back to the room to shower & change for dinner. It was the optional formal night and there were some that went total glam but plenty did not. The characters were in their fancy clothes though! We got dressed and finished our Detective game from the night before which sent us all over the ship! (I recommend starting a game early in your trip as it is a great way to explore the boat). Dinner tonight was at Tiana’s Royal Palace. I was proud of the girls ordering off the adult menu and trying new things, among them Broccoli cheese soup, Potato & Endive Soup, Fried Brie & Duck confeit. Our son really wanted to go back to the kids club so we let him while the girls and I went to get seats for the show. If you get to the theater early you can go up to the balcony and around the sides to the ‘box’ seats which we did this time. The show was Disney’s Believe and it was great! (If you sit in the ‘box’ you will see all the trap door action that you don’t notice from the floor. It may take away from the ‘magic’ for some but our girls, being theater junkies, loved it!) After the show we were worn out and it was back to the room for bed before our beach day.
Day 3 a.m.
We woke up to the ship already docked at Castaway Cay and the view was breathtaking. Crystal blue water & sky as far as the eye could see.
We ordered coffee, croissants & fruit to the room as soon as we woke up so we could maximize our island time. (You can also order ice from your room steward which we did every morning to refill our cooler and ice down our drinks for the day!) As the kids were stirring and we were getting into suits & sunscreen the food arrived and it allowed us a little extra prep time then we headed straight to level 1 to Disembark. (We also ‘uncrustables’ sandwiches for the kids for beach snacks just in case. We used room service a lot and always kept a little cash on hand for a tip.) When getting off the ship everyone MUST have their card (this is another time when those lanyards come in handy). We had our beach bag, cooler & an empty bag for towels (you pick them up as you get off the boat-make sure to get plenty as there are not complimentary ones on the beach). We also brought our own masks/goggles for use in the snorkel area. We did not bring snorkels/flippers but the goggles did just fine for our kiddos.
Day 3: Castaway Cay
We exited the ship, grabbed our towels and took the short walk to the tram. (Make time for a pic with the Dream!)
The tram stops at 2 beaches as we got off at the second ‘family beach’. It seemed very crowded but we persevered and kept walking towards the end of the line (past the Sand Bar) and got chairs for our family in the perfect patch of paradise. First we had to get wet and the water was chilly but that did not stop the kids! We had pre-reserved some floats but had brought our own sand toys. My husband went to get the floats while the kids discovered the sand was perfect for sand castles. We swam & played and then my husband took the littles to the water slides (Note-kids can not wear goggles on the slides). My teen and I stayed on the beach to soak up the sun. It did start to rain so we decided to get wet anyway & make our way across the cove via the water to see if we could spot them on the slides. Lunch was a buffet of BBQ ribs, burgers, chicken or hotdogs. The food on Castaway is included as ‘cruise fare’ and the only charge is for alcohol which the servers happily deliver to you on the beach. (Note: They do tell you if you choose not to visit CC there will be very limited food choices on the ship for lunch as it seemed much of the staff is on the island helping).
After lunch the Littles went snorkeling with their Dad while my teen and I read, basked in the sun & floated a little. By the time we needed a break it was time to return to the ship for a wash up and to don our pirate attire.
Day 3: p.m. Pirate Night
We chose not to eat in the dining room for our 3rd night (it was a repeat of Royal palace but with a different menu). Instead we took our time getting ready in our pirate gear and let Littles go to kids club while we had some time with our teen. We played theme park trivia in Pub 687 then picked the kiddos back up at 6:00 for a dinner at Cabanas. Cabanas opens at 6:30 for ‘causal’ dining which, while not a buffet, is still great food but more ‘full service’ than lunchtime and not quite as drawn out as other dining rooms. You still see a host for seating. The servers were decked out in pirate gear and were just as friendly and catered to the children. After our (much shorter) meal we went to the deck for a round of Mini-Golf and got a seat up front for Mickey’s Pirate show at 7:30! Everyone in their pirate gear was awesome (and yes-a LOT of people dress up and it is super festive). Then we walked downstairs to peek in the shops again and get seats for the Magic Show (again-fantastic). After the show we headed Back to Deck 11 for some ice cream and the tail end of a movie on funnel vision. We returned to the pool deck and moved up close to get seats (we just sat on the pool deck) for Captain Jack Sparrow’s show & fireworks.
They did not disappoint as Disney doesn’t do anything half way. Pure magic! On the way back to the room we passed through Cabanas which opened up for the ‘midnight’ (11:00) buffet where the desserts were too tempting to resist so we scored a few to bring back to the room!
Day 4: a.m.
Everyone slept in (until 8:45 anyway) and we were ready for our Sea day. We ordered coffee & croissants to stave off our hunger and got dressed in suits/coverups to head to Enchanted Garden for breakfast. A combination of our later rising & everyone being on ship meant slightly longer lines at the buffet but the dining room was still only half full. Then it was up to Deck 11 for pool time. It seemed super crowded (Tuesday spoiled us) and it took a minute or 10 to find chairs. My teen & I scoured the deck while the Littles got in line for Aquaduct. Luckily we found a family heading to lunch and we got their 2 chairs in the shade. Littles swam, slid & splashed while we read & took in the movie on deck. Flo’s was open for burgers/chicken/pizza for lunch and after filling up and swimming a bit more the Littles wanted to go to kids club. My teen & I read some more until she was ready for some quiet time so she went to the room and my husband & I went to enjoy an hour on the adult deck.
Day 4: p.m.
We all gathered back in the room for clean-up and family movie (while mom & dad packed the suitcases-which need to be outside the room between 8:30-10:30 at night). We were ready to hit the ‘town’ by 4:00 and made it to the atrium to shop for souvenirs & join in the fun of ‘Officer Pin Trading’. Our kids are just getting into pin trading and had brought lanyards from home with some they were willing to trade away. Officers come to the area and stand around the perimeter happy to trade with anyone who walks up. The kids ‘worked’ the room for a solid 30 minutes and came away happy. Then we waited to see Minnie for a quick pic & headed to dinner. Animator’s palate was whimsical decor with animated screen all around and was probably the kids favorite for ambiance. Characters from Nemo we’re constantly swimming by and Crush was there and periodically interacted with diners (ala Turtle Talk style from Epcot). The food was good and they reminded us that it would be our same table in the morning (at 6:45) should we choose a sit-down breakfast. We left before dessert as we had promised the girls a 7:30 princess greeting. It was good to get there early (at 7:15) as we were 5th in line to see Tiana & Belle. The Beauty & the Beast show was not to be missed so we headed to our favorite spot (top right balcony) to wait for the doors to open (they open at 8:00 for the 8:30 show). We bought popcorn but brought our own theater candy. It was a great show but afterwards we were worn out. We headed back to the room to put our suitcases out and snuggle down for our early departure. Note: Keep lanyards with Key-to-the-World card & passports with you (you need cards to get off ship and passports for customs. Also make note of the tags they leave in your room b/c the character & color is where you find your bags).
We set our alarm for 6:00 so my husband & I could grab showers. We kept one rolling carryon to pack our pjs & personal gear and we were out of the room by 7:00 to head to breakfast. It was a seamless buffet at Cabanas (one last Mickey Waffle) and then we headed out. Knowing we had a drive in front of us we thought it better to get on the road. We headed to the atrium to depart and there were still few crowds. Once off the boat we grabbed a porter (they are kindly waiting with hand trucks and worth every penny of the tip!). He found our bags with ease-walked us through customs and then across the street to our ride. We fell in love with Disney Cruises and we will definitely be back!
See ya real soon,
For more practically perfect tips, contact Meredith at Meredith.JollyHoliday@gmail.com.
Villains After Hours
Villains After Hours is a special ticketed event at Magic Kingdom with an additional cost from the normal park ticket. The tickets are limited so it offers low crowds and great theming! My family are fans of all the After-Hours events. Prices for these events can be high but the promise of low crowds and a unique experience is a draw for us. The price is $145 per person but there are discounts for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members. The price increases $10 per ticket if purchased the day of the event. To offset the price, some guests elect to not buy a regular park ticket the day of the After-Hours event.
The 2020 Villains After Hours will be running on select dates from February 7th – July 10th. We attended the February 7th date which ran from 9 pm – 12 am but for some dates, the time runs from 10pm – 1 am. The crowd levels are considerably less than the normal park day as well as the Holiday Parties (Mickey and Minnie’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.)
The Villains After-Hours event started at 9pm but guests are allowed to enter the park two hours early (7pm for our evening.) There is a new benefit recently added: guests can now book Fast Pass+ reservations for the two early hours even if they do not have a normal park ticket. During the Villains After Hours, Fast Pass+ is not available but guests do not need Fast Pass+ because the lines are so short.
Guests can check in for the party any time during that 2 hours period. Check in is available at the front of the park and inside the park. Checking in is important to get a wrist band. Once the park officially closes, guests will need to have a wristband visible to stay in the park and ride the attractions. We were asked multiple times to show our wristbands. At check in, guests are also given a map with the show times, parade times, food options, where to buy special villains Merchandise and Photo Pass opportunities.
Villains offers specialty “Villain” themed food for purchase for this Special Event at various quick service restaurants: Some examples of options: Body Language (Available at Storybook Treats) – Cookies and cream mousse with chocolate cake, meringue tentacles, and a chocolate shell.
Hades Hot Dog (Available at Casey’s Corner) – All-beef hot dog topped with buffalo chicken, diced celery, fiery cheese dust, and spicy ranch drizzle. There are many other Villain themed foods for purchase.
Also included with guest’s admission – all you can eat Popcorn, Ice cream bars and bottled soda and water. We love the “free” snacks and take advantage of it! Our evening was quite chilly, so we ate more popcorn than ice cream. The snack carts are all over the park and the Cast Members have snacks set out just for guests to take.
Disney offers many entertainment options for the night. Grab your popcorn, Mickey Bar and drink and head to the castle to check It out. (When you are tired of just walking on every ride)
- Villains Unite the Night show hosted by the Hades…. which includes many of the most infamous Disney Villains as they take over the castle. Each villain themes out the castle!
- Dance Party in front of the Castle in between the shows. It’s a great time to dance along and embarrass your kids.
- Villains Cursed Caravan – joining Maleficent this year are some other notable villains as the parade thought the park twice during the night.
- Villain special effects on Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain – very fun for the change up: Space Mountain was our favorite, but Pirates was also very fun!
- There are no character meet and greets at this After Hours which does make it different than a non-themed After Hours, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Guests for the Villains After Dark can also purchase special Villain Merchandise. The Cast Members check for a wristband before they allow guests to buy the special merchandise, Disney has new items this year which feature some of your favorite Villains. Just like last year, Hades is the Grand Marshal of the festivities and is featured on a lot of gear. I like to wear my Maleficent Ears.
20 of the most popular Magic Kingdom attractions are open for the night with very low wait times. Our longest wait time was 20 minutes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Low Ride times is one of the main reasons my family loves the After-Hours events. Walking on most of the rides is such a treat! Space Mountain is my favorite and we were able to ride it 3 times with the longest part being just the walk into the attraction and the walk off the attraction. The kids even talked me into the Mad Tea Party which may have been a bad call after my free Mickey Bar!!!
Photo Pass Special Pics
Photo Pass offers villainous special effects (aka “magic shots”) for Villains After Dark. We stopped to take advantage of a few of them, but the kids were tired of stopping when they could ride the rides with no lines. Did I mention that was our favorite part of Villains…?
Villains After Hours is so much fun and has more of a party atmosphere than the regular After-Hours events at Magic Kingdom but it comes at a price. We were able to take advantage of the Annual Passholder discount which helped with the cost. It’s nice to not wait on long lines for rides and plan fast passes ahead of time. The free snacks were a huge hit and we took a few bottles of soda back to our room. We loved the Space Mountain Villain makeover and the Villains Unite show was very fun! My family will continue to take advantage of these low crowds events when we can.
See ya real soon,
For more practically perfect tips, please contact Anne Marie at AnneMarie.JollyHoliday@gmail.com,
We rode Rise of the Resistance! It was an unbelievable attraction which needs to be experienced first-hand. I am going to describe our process of getting a boarding group and experiencing the attraction but there will be no spoilers!
After much anticipation for this Galaxy Edge “e-ticket” attraction, my daughter Caroline and I headed to Disneyworld in mid-January and planned to ride Rise of the Resistance twice. Currently, you can only get one boarding group per day, so this meant that we needed to start two of our days at Hollywood Studios and early!
The Boarding Group Process:
The process of obtaining a boarding group has changed a couple of times since the attraction opened but Disney has found a process that seems to work. To obtain a boarding group, guests and their entire party must be physically in Hollywood Studios. Meaning, guests must be through security /bag check and the tapstyles to be able to join a boarding group in the My Disney Experience App. Guests are admitted into the park about 45 minutes before the posted opening time (meaning through the tapstyles,) but cannot join boarding group until the posted opening time for the park. Once a boarding group is called, guests have 2 hours to return to experience the attraction. Guests do not have to stay in Hollywood Studios once they have a boarding group assignment so they can park hop or going back to the resort. They just need to be back within the 2-hour window.
Our Experience Obtaining a Boarding Group
Caroline and I decided we wanted to arrive at Hollywood Studios an hour before park opening to get through the bag check and the tapstyles with plenty of time to spare. We headed down to the lobby of the Contemporary at 5:40 AM, ordered a Lyft Ride Share (the buses weren’t running that early.)
There were several other groups also waiting for Ride Share’s, so we knew it was going to be busy. We arrived at Hollywood Studios at 6:00 AM and we were not alone!
We passed through security /bag check very quickly. The lines were very short – many people were there before us. After we passed security, we joined the crowd of people waiting to enter the park. They opened the tapstyles at 6:15. It took about 10-15 minutes to get through the tapstyles and we did have to scan our fingerprints.
The Starbucks line at Trolley Car Café was LONG!! The Contempo Café at the Contemporary had coffee to fill up refillable mugs (even though it was before the posted opening time), so we were able to skip that line! Plan accordingly if you need coffee!
The first day we went to get a boarding group, we headed towards Galaxy’s Edge to ride Smugglers Run -Millennium Falcon. The Cast Members held everyone back just past the Frozen Sing Along Theater. We all stood for about a half an hour. They made announcements every 10 minutes about how to obtain a boarding group number…. people around us had packed breakfast and everyone patiently waited. Exactly at 7am, everyone was on their phones obtaining their boarding groups on the Disney app. (use your data plan for getting a boarding group, not the Disney WIFI). We were assigned boarding group 17. Then the cheers started! Everyone was very excited to have gotten boarding group numbers
The walk to Smugglers Run felt like the walk to Flight of Passage but not quite as dicey. There were definitely people running to get a better place in the line. And like Flight of Passage, the crowd was a little overwhelming but the line for the attraction moved fast. We waited in line for about 40 minutes and we were completely off the attraction before 8AM. While on line for Smugglers Run, our boarding group for Rise of the Resistance was called. We went straight to Rise of the Resistance after getting off Smugglers Run. We waited in the standby line for Rise of the Resistance about 25 minutes and the attraction itself is 18 minutes. We were off the attraction by 9am.
Our experience was different on the second day we went to join a boarding group. We left the resort and arrived at Hollywood Studios at the same time as the day before. There was a sizable crowd but no different than the day before. We decided to head to Toy Story Land instead of Galaxy’s Edge. The boarding group process was the same whether we were waiting for Galaxy’s Edge or Toy Story Land. We waited and as soon as it was 7am, we joined a boarding group. – Group 9. We were so excited and expected to be called almost immediately.
We headed to Toy Story Mania but most of the guests for Toy Story Land headed to Slinky Dog which was an immediate 65-minute wait. Toy Story Mania was 5 minutes.
Rise of the Resistance was having technical difficulties and didn’t open right away. The delay caused us some trouble with other fast passes and dining reservations. Our breakfast reservations were in Epcot. After checking with the cast members and waiting as long as we could, we headed to Epcot via the new Skyliner Gondolas. Our boarding group was called while we were at breakfast. Having 2 hours to return was very helpful and we headed back to Hollywood Studios after we finished breakfast -again on the Skyliner Gondolas. We are big fans of the Gondolas!
The standby line was longer than the day before and the actual attraction took a little longer too due to some loading that occurs during the attraction. It was an hour between the standby line and the actual attraction.
The Cast Members on the attraction are amazing! No spoilers but one First Order CM didn’t like our Minnie Ears….
Our verdict, it’s amazing! And not like any other attraction we have experienced because it’s not just a ride or one type of ride…it is an experience with a detailed story and plot. And absolutely worth getting up early to get a boarding group assignment. Pack up some breakfast and your coffee…. I am a huge fan of the boarding group process. It’s much less stressful than rope dropping Flight of Passage or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
See ya real soon,
For more practically perfect tips, please email Anne Marie at AnneMarie.JollyHoliday@gmail.com.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! What is on your children’s wish list this year?!
Rather than shopping the big box stores and adding more toys to your children’s ever growing collections, why not give the gift of Disney!? Forget the video games and electronics, quality time is much more important than screen time.
There is nothing more exciting than announcing, “We are going to Disney World!” Our agents have compiled a list of creative ideas for you to utilize to surprise your family with the magical news on Christmas morning!
Best. Gift. Ever!
“Surprise! We Are Going To Disney World” Ideas for Christmas Morning
Create a personalized puzzle that when put together reveals – We are going to Walt Disney World!
Getting matching Disney-themed t-shirts for each member of the family and have everyone open the gift at the same time.
Wrap a Mickey Mouse ornament for a gift to announce an upcoming trip.
Utilize the Elf on the Shelf to make the magical announcement – Have the elf hold the magic bands & dress the elf in princess attire or add Mickey Mouse ears with a special note to the child.
Get each child a personalized Mouseketeer ear hat – so cute to wear in a castle picture during the trip!
Give Disney-themed beach towels, Jolly Holiday Vacations lanyards, and a cruise magnet to announce a Spring Break cruise.
Wrap the magic bands and/or a personalized letter from Mickey Mouse inviting them to Walt Disney World
For an Adventures by Disney trip, fill a gift basket with goodies relating to that particular destination that the whole family could enjoy – passports, a guide to that city or country, wine and cheese for France, a CD of popular Broadway tunes for NYC, hiking shoes for Montana, etc. Add in fun Minnie Mouse ears that represent your destination.
Create oversized tickets with the child’s name and date of trip and laminate them.
For a Spring Break trip, bundle together fun items like a Disney bathing suit, flip flops, mister fan, sunscreen, beach towel, and more.
Create a photo book of the resort, castle and other iconic Disney pictures and wrap the book as a present including a page that says – We are going to Disney!
Get a Disney-themed calendar and write the date of the trip on the calendar, use this as a fun countdown until the trip.
For a trip to Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, wrap a lei for each member of the family and give each person getting a clue to where they will be going.
Wrap up their favorite princess dress and accessories with an announcement that they will soon go to Walt Disney World for a princess makeover and more.
Put an autograph book in their stocking with a message from Santa as the first autograph.
Hid a new Disney-themed ornament on the tree and let the kids hunt for it. When they find it, then announcement the surprise.
Put Mickey helium balloons in a box with a tag that says, “You’re going to Disney World!” You can do the same thing with Universal.
If your trip is close to the announcement, give a countdown calendar to document the days until your magical vacation. There are tons of ideas for this on Pinterest.
Give Disney-themed luggage as a gift. Have it already packed if you are leaving within the next day or week!
Create a Disney-themed scavenger hunt and have clues hidden around the house that hint that you are going to Walt Disney World.
Make Mickey waffles or Mickey-shaped pancakes for a special Christmas morning breakfast and make the announcement.
Book a Walt Disney World or Disneyland vacation, one of the award-winning Disney cruises, a trip to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, or an all-inclusive vacation with Adventures by Disney and celebrate new experiences together!
Did you know for just $200 down, you can reserve a Walt Disney World vacation package! Give the gift of magical memories in 2020.
Share with us your favorite ideas for making that special surprise announcement.
For more practically perfect tips and information about booking a magical vacation or cruise, contact one of our agents today!
The Wild Africa Trek is a privately led VIP Tour that centers on behind the scenes of the Kilimanjaro Safaris. The tour is a remarkable experience! It provides insight about Disney’s animal care and conservation efforts at Animal Kingdom. It has been one of my family’s favorite tours at Disney World. It lasts about 3 hours and gives you greater appreciation of the expert care provided to all the animals at Animal Kingdom.
The tour runs every 45 minutes and there are usually discounts in the warmer months for the afternoon tours…because as all know, Florida is hot especially in the afternoons! We took advantage of the discount and our tour started at 11:45 am. If you would like an earlier morning tour, they start as early as 8:00 AM.
Know Before You Go:
There are a lot of disclaimers to be aware of before the Wild Africa Trek…from clothing requirements, health requirements, age and weight requirements…..all with safety in mind. A few that I thought were important: (the full list is on the Disney website https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/animal-kingdom/wild-africa-trek/)
- You should be in good health without any major medical conditions and expectant mothers are discouraged from participating. You should have decent physical stamina and not be afraid of heights, have motion sickness and be able to do some mild hiking.
- Wear comfortable clothes and closed toe shoes. No flip flops!
- Must be at least 8 years old, 48 inches tall and between the weight of 45 – 300 lbs (and they do weigh you for safety because you will be using harnesses)
- Finally, you cannot take anything with you that isn’t attached or hooked to your body including your Magic Band or your phone. I had a phone case with a cross body strap so I was able to take mine along, my husband was not. No personal items can accidently drop in an animal enclosure!
We checked in for the Wild Africa Trek in front of the Kilimanjaro Safaris at the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail Kiosk. It’s the same check-in kiosk for other Animal Tours such as Caring for Giants. They suggested we get there 10 minutes early to get checked in. They told us to make sure we used the restroom because we wouldn’t have access to a restroom for the first 1 ½ hours of the tour. They weighed us in (ugh!) and gave us lockers for our belongings. Our guides then helped us put on our harnesses and ear pieces so we can hear all the information during the tour. The guides went over the rules of the tour, how to work the harness lock and how to hook ourselves into the various harnesses we encountered on the tour. Don’t worry, they definitely double checked our harnesses to make sure they were locked in safely before we were in any animal enclosures. The check in process for our group took about a half an hour. They gave us sunglass holder straps (so they are strapped to our bodies) and a water bottle which was clipped to our harness vest and was also a nice souvenir. We were be able to refill our water along the Trek but being careful because the next restroom was an hour and a half away….
Pictures of Your Amazing Experience:
While our guides were both animal experts and safety experts for the tour, they were also excellent photographers. Most people were not able to take their phones and cameras so the tour guides took pictures of everyone on the tour as well as pictures of the animals and other interesting things that happened on the Trek. At the end of the tour, they gave us a code to download all our pictures. (All the pictures included in this article were taken by the Trek guides)
The Trek gave us the opportunity to learn more about the Safari animals then what is told on the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction. We were given the chance to get closer to the certain animals by experiencing them in their enclosures. Have you noticed the rope bridges over the crocodiles while you are on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride? We climbed on those on the Wild Africa Trek! We experienced the animals with our safety harness for about half the tour which allowed us to get close to animals such as hippopotamuses. When we took the harnesses off, we spent time in our own private safari truck to experience the animals on the Savannah. We were able to ask our tour guides any questions we wanted about the animals. We learned more about how the staff at Animal Kingdom care for and train the animals, conservation efforts etc…Each experience and tour is different. Each tour guide brings different experiences and of course, animals are never predictable. For example, our guide Ali was present for the birth of the baby giraffe on the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction in front of guests. She explained to us in detail how they usually handle pregnant giraffes and why this birth was so unusual (the giraffe gave birth very early and with little signs of being in labor.) She explained how they handled the guests on the attraction to make sure the giraffe and her new calf were healthy and safe.
Have you ever noticed the small hut that is in the back of the Savannah portion of the Safari attraction? During the Wild Africa Trek, we stopped at that hurt about halfway through the tour for a break including bathrooms and a snack/light lunch. Our tour was in the afternoon so we had more of a lunch snack but the morning tours offer a breakfast type of snack. Our snack included a curry chicken salad, cured meats, fruit salad, salmon roulade, hummus to name a few. Lunch included the Jungle Juice you may have tried at Tusker House…it’s irresistible! The food is made by the chefs at the Tusker House but it’s a special menu for the guests of the Wild Africa Trek. (if you have a food allergy, let them know when you are booking your tour) It was nice siesta where we took in the sites of the Savannah, got to know our fellow tour guests and guides and take some more special pictures.
The Wild Africa Trek is not cheap. The price for the tour ranges from $189-249 per person with the cheaper rates for the afternoon tours. We were told there were not additional discounts for Annual Passholders or Disney Vacation Club members. A good portion of the fee for the Trek is donated to animal conservation efforts. They even let you select which animal you would like your portion to go to. I chose elephants.
My husband and I love trying different tours at Disney when we are on an “Adult only” visit but the Wild Africa Trek isn’t just for adults. We loved it so much that we left our tour, went to the check-in kiosk and signed our older children up for the tour for our next trip to Disney on the spot. Our children did the tour in the afternoon in August (it was very hot) and they loved it too! I did remember to tell them my daughter has a shellfish allergy. I would do this tour again anytime. It was a truly unique experience that we thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend, escpecially If you are an animal lover and are interested in learning more about the care of the animals at Animal Kingdom. The Wild Africa Trek has been our favorite Disney Tour so far!
See ya real soon,
Anne Marie Wienkamp
For more practically perfect tips, please email Anne Marie at AnneMarie.JollyHoliday@gmail.com.