Festival of Fantasy Parade

This week’s “Wordless Wednesday”

is devoted to the Magic Kingdom’s afternoon parade, the Festival of Fantasy.

 All photos were captured by Tracy Hurdle.

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Tracy Photo

 

 

Tracy Hurdle, Magical Vacations by Tracy, tracy@magicalvacationsbyme.com

 

Universal Studios Orlando-Diagon Alley

This week’s “Wordless Wednesday”

features photos from Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando.

All photos captured by Tracy Hurdle.

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard Puppet Show

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Tracy Photo

Tracy Hurdle, Magical Vacations by Tracy

tracy@magicalvacationsbyme.com

Mousekeeping Envelopes: Waste of Time or Your New Favorite Craft Project?

First, let me address the Dumbo in the middle of the blog…..  I hardly ever see a more controversial topic on Disney chat boards.  For whatever reason, whether or not to tip a housekeeper seems to get folks handily riled.  Personally, I’m almost always going down on the side of pro.  Housekeeping is a hard job and some of these men and women go above and beyond to make a vacation special all the while doing a job that I shan’t be bothered to do while I’m on vacation.

At Disney World, these folks are affectionately referred to as Mousekeepers.  Most of the time, they get the job done and often with a little Disney flair (towel animal, anyone?).  Are there poison apples in the bunch?  Of course there are.  But, I want to devote this post to the ones we love and a fun craft to work on prior to your trip with which to reward them.

A few notes on tipping:  My personal philosophy and what I recommend to my clients is to tip $1 per person for each night of your stay and maybe a few dollars above that on the day you check out.  So, my little family of 3 tips $3 per night and usually $5 on check out day for the more extensive overhaul they’ll be doing to prepare the room for the next guest.  It’s important to leave a tip each morning before you leave as your Mousekeeping staff may fluctuate so you don’t want to miss someone by leaving one big tip at the end of your trip.  If you forgo the envelope, leave the money in a prominent place (like by the Mousekeepers little calling card) as they will not take money that is not clearly intended for them (yes, I know poison apples will take it, but again, we’re not talking about them today, ok?).

Typically in the month before we leave, I start planning my Mousekeeping Envelopes.  There are many ways to do this; here are two of the easiest:

  1. Buy some envelopes, and amass your stash of stickers, glitter, markers, glue, etc. and sic your kids on those babies while you sit back and watch the next episode of The Voice.  It’s a fun craft for the kiddos and a great trip countdown activity.
  2. Print them from a template and assemble them.  The only supplies required are a color printer, paper (I prefer card stock to give it more of a heft), scissors, and glue or tape.

There are some super cute Disney themed templates available online.  Here are a few links to some great Disney blogs with available templates:

WDW Prep School Mousekeeping Envelopes

The Main Street Mouse Mousekeeping Envelopes

The Mouse for Less Mousekeeping Envelopes

If you don’t have a good color printer, you can also download the templates to a thumb drive and have them printed at an office supply store.  Most of the templates include the assembly instructions (basically fold here, glue here) so this really doesn’t take that long to do.  Once assembled, I pre-load them with cash and pack them in my purse so they are ready to go once we’ve arrived.  There was at least one trip in which I came home with a few unused envelopes because we chose the “Do Not Disturb” option for a few days.  It’s nice to have one less thing to worry about once we’re there and I’m less likely to forget to do it because it’s already done and ready to go each morning.

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Making Mousekeeping envelopes is one of my favorite pre-trip rituals.  It’s my way to share a little magic with a cast member at a place where I’ve been shown so much magic over the years.  It’s a small gesture, but aren’t those the ones we need day-to-day?


Feel free to contact me at any time for more information or to assist you in booking your next vacation!  You can find me on Facebook at Magical Vacations by Tracy or email at tracy@magicalvacationsbyme.com.  You can also follow me on Instagram HERE.  See you soon!

Tracy PhotoTracy Hurdle is a work-at-home mother of one and a former social worker turned travel agent.  She’s always had a love of travel planning and couldn’t be happier at being given the opportunity to do so on a broader scale with families just like yours.

The Unofficial Guide-Universal Orlando Book Review

Photo provided by Amazon.com

Photo provided by Amazon.com

I just love a good book, don’t you?  I’ve been a pretty voracious reader ever since I was tall enough to slide a library card across the librarian’s desk.  I’ll admit that I don’t seem to find as much time as I once did to devote to reading but I still love it.  Aside from actual travel, there’s no better way to explore new lands and experience new things than we do when we lose ourselves in a book.  Maybe I’ll do a post someday on my absolute favorite travel books….. (back in a sec, making a notation on my blog post to-do list…..).

Anyhoo, today I’m bringing you a quick review of The Unofficial Guide’s new travel tome on Universal Orlando, written by Seth Kubersky with Bob Sehlinger & Len Testa.  If you haven’t perused your local bookstore in the travel section, then you may not have come across The Unofficial Guide before.  There are many titles to choose from and one of the most comprehensive (re: thick and heavy) TUG’s out there is The Walt Disney World edition.  There is a new edition published yearly and it is an amazing resource in planning a Walt Disney World vacation.  The 2016 edition devotes a mere 70 pages to Universal Orlando; there is also a book titled “Beyond Disney: The Universal Guide to Universal Orlando, Sea World, and the Best of Central Florida” that is written by the same team.  These and several other books by these writers are available for purchase in most bookstores, and online in both paper and e-doc format.

As Universal Orlando has grown in size and scope, the writers decided to expand upon their previously written material to offer a more in-depth guide to the other big draw in Central FL.  I wanted to focus on a few of the pros/cons and my general impression of this guidebook.  I’ll start with the Cons first:

  1.  The biggest disappointment I have with this book is the lack of photos.  First let me say that I absolutely understand why photos are not included in this guide.  I believe the writers intend for you to be able to carry this book with you while touring if needed.  The addition of photos would add more pages, more pages equals more heft.  I totally get it.  But, I am a visual person; I learn information better when I can see it so not having any photos as a frame of reference is a little disappointing.  Can I search on Google Images or You Tube?  Sure, but if I’m feeling lazy or don’t have a computer or smart phone, I’m not going to do that.  Minor complaint, but a complaint nonetheless.  I’ll note that there are several drawings of property maps.
  2. As with any travel destination, Universal Orlando is not static; more so than any theme park in recent years, Universal Orlando is ALWAYS changing, always updating in its bid to stay current and exciting.  So, this is a problem that plagues every travel guide out there.  Despite being published in August, some of the information is already dated.  Again, this is a very minor issue that typically a few Google searches can correct (in terms of attraction closures, new attractions, etc.)

There’s very little I have to complain about with this guide.  Let’s get to some of the Pros:

  1. The size is right.  At 12 ounces and 8 inches tall/5 inches wide, there should be little problem in fitting this guide in your back pack or touring bag if you need it.
  2. The ride descriptions are easy to read and informative.  For example, here is a snapshot of the initial ride description for Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit:  USO Guide Ride Review  They give stars to indicate not only the popularity of the ride but they also break it down by age group.  I have a 4-year old so I know that our ride selection will be limited (as USO is pretty transparent about its suitability for the 8+ crowd).  With an attraction like Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, it’s pretty evident in the title that this will be one to skip with a young kiddo.  But, not all titles are as discernible so I appreciate the heads up so that I can better plan our touring beforehand (the height requirement in the description is a big help also).
  3. An honest review is important for any guide-book.  Granted, everyone is going to have an opinion that may not jibe with yours and services reviewed will have good and bad days so I guess you can take it or leave it.  But, I appreciate a guide-book that will tell me what to explore and what to avoid, particularly when it comes to food.  One of my favorite aspects of travel is dining.  I love reading dining reviews and planning my meals for a vacation.  As the designated cook extraordinaire in my household, I relish the opportunity to spend a week being showered with other’s delectables.  If a restaurant sucks, I want to know about it before I’m $20 into a dish my 4-year old could have made.  Here is an example of the book’s review for Moe’s Tavern:  Moe's Tavern Review  Again, the simple header gives you an idea of the value by telling you the average portion size and a grade.  You can read the full description but when you’re sitting on a bench with a screaming child and/or irritable hungry teens, it helps to have a short, bold reference to refer to quickly to help you make a decision.
  4. The last big pro I want to discuss are the touring plans.  What I believe makes this and the WDW Unofficial Guide truly stand out are the touring plans.  Simply put, they give you a step by step guide on how to spend your day in the theme park.  There’s an explanation in the books about how they developed these plans.  There are formulas, equations, perhaps some crystal ball gazing (not really), but it’s a basic predictor of how the crowds typically manifest during the day and gives you a guide to hopefully avoid standing in line.  Len Testa, a contributor to this book, runs the Touring Plans website (found here), which is another incredible resource in Disney/Universal vacation planning.  I will admit that I use this site in planning vacations both for myself and for my clients.  I believe the touring plans are an indispensable part of touring effectively and can attest to their helpfulness in moving through a park efficiently.

    Touring Plan 2

    One Day Touring Plan for Adults at Universal Studios.

Each touring plan has a map with numbered dots on top of the attractions listed in the order in which they suggest that you tour.  These maps are meant to be “clippable” for even easier portability but keep in mind that there are no perforations so either rip them out or get your scissors to work.

There is so much more to this book than can possibly be covered in a single blog post.  Bottom line, I believe this book is worth your time and cash when planning a Universal Orlando vacation.  I purchased the paperback version of this book for $13.49 from Amazon.com here.  As of this writing, it is listed for $13.27 so you never know with Amazon’s pricing; it could go up or down.

If you have any questions about this post or would like assistance in planning a Universal Orlando vacation, feel free to comment below and/or contact me at any time for more information!  You can find me on Facebook at Magical Vacations by Tracy or email at tracy@magicalvacationsbyme.com.  You can also follow me on Instagram HERE.  See you soon!

Tracy PhotoTracy Hurdle is a work-at-home mother of one and a former social worker turned travel agent.  She’s always had a love of travel planning and couldn’t be happier at being given the opportunity to do so on a broader scale with families just like yours.

Disney Cruise Line Must Do: The Rain Forest Room

Hello, Lovelies!  I’m back with the promised report on my favorite activity aboard my recent Disney cruise: The Rain Forest Room!

For the uninitiated, let me lay the ground work for you.  Each of Disney’s 4 cruise ships has an amazing spa on board; the Wonder features the Vista Spa while the Magic, Dream, and Fantasy ships have the Senses Spa.  The Senses Spa on the Dream is located on Deck 11 forward, to the left when you get off of the elevators.  Tucked away in each of these areas is The Rain Forest Room (which I’ll shorten to “TRR” for simplicity).  What is so special about this room that I’m devoting an entire post you may ask?

Money talks, so let me start by saying that this is by far the most economical spa experience of your life.  Rain Forest RatesThe prices reflected are for a 3-day sailing and cover THE ENTIRE sailing.  That’s right, you’re not paying those fees for each entry into the room; that’s a one-time only fee for entry throughout your sailing.  If you want to spend all day in TRR, have at it-you won’t be charged again.  Now, the prices you see there don’t include the tax (and may vary or change without notice), but I paid roughly $20.13 per person per day for the Deluxe Couples Package.  $20, People!!!!!!!

The Deluxe Pass includes a 4 oz jar of their handmade, salt scrub per day.  You receive a little loofah pad with your jar so that you can scrub yourself up good and proper.  There were six to choose from with typical scents like Tahitian Vanilla, Tangerine, Peppermint, Lavender, etc.  We ended up only using part of a jar on the first day so I brought home two full jars as a souvenir.  After scrubbing and rinsing, our skin was soft, smooth, and the good kind of smelly.

The next feature I’d like to mention that makes this package so special is the exclusivity.  I’ve heard unconfirmed rumors that DCL only sells a limited number of these packages per sailing (as little as 20).  So, that means on a ship of 2700-4500 people, only a literal handful will be allowed into TRR.  Again, I have no idea if this is true but I can say that my husband and I were the only people in there whenever we visited.  We might have seen someone coming out or in as we were arriving or leaving but that was it.  We got to experience that all to ourselves for the majority of our time there.  If you’re a bit of an introvert like me, you’ll really appreciate a calm haven to descend upon occasionally without having to hide in your cabin.

Rain Forest and Water Fun Showers

Laconium Sauna on the left, two of the available showers on the right.

When you enter the spa, you will sign in at the front desk and receive your green wrist band (similar to the magic band) that will allow you entry into the room.  You will also receive your fluffy white robe (there are locker rooms available if you need to change into your swim suit and store your things).  When you enter the room, you’ll see the steam/sauna rooms and showers to the left and the water station and additional robes to your right.

Water Station

Water Station

First, spend some time in one of the sauna/steam rooms.  If I remember correctly, they recommended no more than 10-15 minutes in the rooms.  Laconium is your typical sauna (it has a large window with a nice view), Caldarium has heavy steam, and Hamam is a sauna room with sinks so that you can use your scrub.

Laconium SignCaladarium SignHamam Sign

Once you’ve gotten all steamed up, it’s time to head to the showers.  There are 4 distinct showers (Rain Forest, Water Fun, Cool Mist, and Tropical Thunder), each with 2-3 different streams to choose from.  All but one of the showers are cool (I’ll let you figure out which one has the warm water!) and my husband and I were a hoot going through each one.  Literally, they probably heard us squealing in the crew’s quarters.

Water Fun Shower

Water Fun Shower Buttons

Rain Forest Shower

Rain Forest Shower Buttons

Cool Mist Shower Buttons

Cool Mist Experience Shower Buttons

Tropical Thunder Shower Buttons

Tropical Thunder Shower Buttons

After your cold shower torture, you move into the next room that has rows of loungers.  These loungers are amazing as they have heated tiles from head to toe.  I could have easily napped there and actually returned to that area to relax more than once without visiting the sauna first.

Heated Tile Loungers-Amazing!

Heated Tile Loungers-Amazing!

Once you’re all warm and toasty, you can move to the final area that features two hot tubs.  The wrap around window in this area had one panel missing so that you can feel the breeze.  Again, we were typically the only people in the room for a long period of time.  Warm hot tub + cool breeze = one relaxed momma.

Hot Tubs

Hot Tub area

TRR was open from 12 p.m.-10 p.m. on the first day of sailing and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the other days.  You may spend as much time in there as you like and come and go as often as you please during opening hours.

Some important info:  Rain Forest Passes are not available for booking pre-cruise.  As the availability is limited, we elected to board the ship at the earliest opportunity to ensure that we could purchase our passes.  Booking was simple; you give the attendants your name and room number and the charge is applied to your on board account.  If you prefer a more hands on spa experience, you can book additional services from the menu available.

If you have any questions about the Rain Forest Room or any of a Disney Cruise’s features, please comment below or you can find me on Facebook at Magical Vacations by Tracy or email at tracy@magicalvacationsbyme.com.  You can also follow me on Instagram HERE.  I’d love to talk to you about planning your own Disney Cruise!  See you soon!

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Tracy Hurdle is a work-at-home mother of one and a former social worker turned travel agent.  She’s always had a love of travel planning and couldn’t be happier at being given the opportunity to do so on a broader scale with families just like yours.

I Did The Unthinkable: I Went on a Disney Cruise WITHOUT My Kid!-Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of my short series on Disney Cruising without my kid!  If you missed Part 1, you can find it HERE. Picking up with where I left off at #6:

6.  Fireworks on a cruise ship is cool. No explanation needed (though it should be noted that they shoot the fireworks off of the Starboard side so if your room is on the right side of the ship, you can watch them from your room!).

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Serenity Bay at Castaway Cay

7.  Castaway Cay (Cay is pronounced “Key” by the way) was a neat little island and though some may argue that it is not an authentic island experience as it is owned by Disney, I’ll admit that it was nice to not be harassed by the occasional aggressive local that you may find on other islands. We spent the majority of our morning at Serenity Bay, the Adult’s Only Beach. This section is on the far side of the island so it’s a bit of a hike if you choose to walk.  We took our time getting down there; stopped for pictures with Mickey and Pluto, browsed the shops, etc. and still had plenty of time to grab some prime seating in the shade in a typical plastic beach chair.  There were a few hammocks available as well.  The bar staff was friendly and delivered drinks to you on the beach (I even saw one poor guy go into the water to serve a guest!).  Lunch was served buffet style and consisted of various grilled meats, fish, and vegetables with typical Caribbean island flavors.

8.  With Disney’s new policy regarding onboard booking (allowing you to make a return reservation without choosing a sailing), it’s silly NOT to make a booking if you think you might be even remotely interested in cruising with them again. With onboard booking, you will receive a slightly discounted sailing, a slightly discounted deposit, and up to a $200 onboard credit for your next sailing. There is a dedicated desk on each ship that is open at various times throughout the day.  Because I was not booking a specific sailing, the process only took a few minutes.  As you can book up to 2 staterooms with the onboard offer, I elected to do this so that my parents can travel with us next year.  It should be noted that when booking two staterooms, you and the other adult in your stateroom will be the lead guests on these rooms.  The logistics will be worked out later.  To book the onboard offer without choosing a particular sailing, you will need to place a deposit of $200 per stateroom.  You have 2 years from that date to sail again so once you’ve chosen your next sailing, you will contact your travel agent (ahem) or Disney to complete your booking and pay the additional balance for your deposit.

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You never know when you will run into a character or two. On Castaway Cay, Mickey and Pluto had no lines!

9.  Three nights was not enough time for a cruise only vacation, but the perfect amount of time for a land & sea vacation. If you don’t have a lot of time or cold, hard cash (OR if you’ve never cruised before and want a teaser before you commit to the real thing), then your average 3-day cruise is certainly a stellar option. I had actually cruised once before; it was a budget sailing on an older ship and I was not impressed and in fact swore I would not cruise again. Forgive me for the bad pun, but Disney Cruising is “A Whole New World.”  This is a luxury cruising experience in every sense of the word so after only 3 days, I was looking for a place to hide on board to avoid having to disembark.  Our plan for next year is to sail for 4-days but then combine that with a few days at Walt Disney World as well.

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My husband, Joe, posing by his sweet birthday ride.

10.  Hiring a limo to get us to and from the port was cheaper than Magical Express and WAY cooler.  Magical Express is the complimentary transportation to/from the Orlando Airport to a Walt Disney World resort. For a fee (currently $70 per person ages 3+, roundtrip), you can take the same bus to Port Canaveral.  However, if you have a larger party traveling, you may find that a private transport will actually be cheaper and it has the advantage of being, well…. Private!  As I mentioned in the previous post, we were celebrating my husband’s 40th birthday so I decided that a limo ride was just the ticket for a big time surprise for him.  My agency, Magical Vacations by Me, frequently contacts Charlie and his crew over at Park Avenue Limos (407-688-0850) for our clients so I knew we would receive outstanding service.  We couldn’t have been more pleased with their services.  The rates were fantastic, the limo well maintained, the driver was friendly but professional, and it was such an amazing surprise for my husband.  And let me tell you, after being herded off the ship and through customs, it was AMAZING to be immediately whisked away in my private limo back to the airport instead of cramming onto a large bus with 40 other sad travelers.

I hope this short series was informative, or at the very least, a little entertaining!  My next post will go into more detail about my experience in the Rainforest Room at the Senses Spa on the Disney Dream and why I believe it is a must do.  Until then, feel free to contact me at any time for more information or to assist you in booking your next vacation!  You can find me on Facebook at Magical Vacations by Tracy or email at tracy@magicalvacationsbyme.com.  You can also follow me on Instagram HERE.  See you soon!

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Tracy Hurdle is a work-at-home mother of one and a former social worker turned travel agent.  She’s always had a love of travel planning and couldn’t be happier at being given the opportunity to do so on a broader scale with families just like yours.

I Did The Unthinkable: I Went on a Disney Cruise WITHOUT My Kid!

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The Disney Dream at it’s home port in Port Canaveral, FL.

That’s right, folks.  The cruise line catering specifically to families.  The cruise line so dedicated to family travel they engineered the boats to be more family friendly (tubs in the bathrooms!)  Full disclosure: I absolutely intended to take my almost 4-year old son on this trip.  But as fate would have it, about 6 months prior to the cruise, we tried to spend one night with him in the same hotel room.  Whenever we’ve traveled with him previously, we always opted for a suite so that he could have his own sleeping space and we wouldn’t lose our minds.  But on this night, we opted to bunk together.  At 1:30 a.m. when our son was still bouncing off the walls, we very nearly got back out on the road after a long day of driving because we had no idea what else to do.  And right then and there, my son sealed his fate.

I booked this Disney cruise for two reasons: 1) I’d never been on one and I wanted to experience it for myself so that I could better inform my clients about Disney cruising.  2) My beloved hubby’s 40th birthday coincided brilliantly with a 3-night Bahamas cruise on the Dream and I thought that would be an ultra-nice way to celebrate.  So, my son stayed with his grandparents and Mama and Dada went cruising!

I posted this list on my Facebook travel page after we got back so I thought I would share that here and then elaborate on it a bit (the original list consisted of 10 bullet points that I have split into two blog posts).  These insights pertain to our time on the Disney Dream.  I am writing this with the assumption that you have at least a cursory knowledge of how Disney cruising works. I’m sorry that I can’t fully explain everything (you would be sending kids to college before I got done) but if you have specific questions about anything in this post, please feel free to comment below.

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Adults Only Pool Area

1.  Traveling without my child on a Disney Cruise was not weird at all. There were frequent exclamations of “Man, our kid would love this!” but otherwise we didn’t skip a beat. The Adults Only areas of the ship were quiet and relaxing.  On Deck 11 near the spa, there is a small area (seemed like maybe 1/3 of the entire deck area) that was separated from the main pools by a partition on both sides.  I was amazed at the lack of sound transfer as I don’t recall being disturbed by the main pool activities at all.  The loungers were comfortable, towels were plentiful, and bar staff were very accommodating.  There were families with children passing through the area so it wasn’t like it was a COMPLETELY kids free zone, but these families did not linger.

2.  The Adults Only dining at Palo was worth every penny of the extra $25 plus tip per person that we spent there. The food was amazing, the atmosphere was divine, and it was literally the best meal I’ve had in a long, long time.  Our server was friendly and attentive to our needs without hovering.  We received an appetizer plate, a soup or salad, an entree and a dessert.  I had a filet that you could cut with a fork.  There are plenty of reviews out there so I won’t go into specifics but I would highly recommend this experience, especially if you are celebrating something as we were. <It should be noted that both Palo and Remy recently instituted a price increase up to $30 and $85 per person>

3.  It is totally fine to skip a port if you’re not excited about it. I didn’t get off of the ship in Nassau and had a great time tooling around for the day. The shops are closed when the ship is in port though so don’t count on any shopping during that time.  I’ve been to Nassau before so I wasn’t compelled to visit and I really wanted to explore the ship. There are numerous activities available for all ages throughout the day. I participated in a Disney Trivia contest with a few other families (any guesses as to who won?), hung out in the spa, and just generally relaxed.

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Fruity Beverages are a must; there’s a different one featured each day!

4.  I enjoyed the early boarding time; we were able to secure our spa selections and change our dining rotation very early in the day.  We chose the earliest boarding time available-10:45 a.m.  I wanted to purchase Rainforest Passes in the Senses spa (you can only do so on board) and the early boarding time ensured that I got one as they only sell a small number of passes per sailing.  I also wanted to change our dining rotation as I noticed that we were assigned Animator’s Palette on the same night we had reservations at Palo.  Since I really wanted to experience Animator’s Palette, I went to the designated spot at the earliest available time to speak with one of the dining room managers about changing our rotation.  We were provided with a ticket with the new rotation printed on it and had to bring that with us at each dinner.  The only drawback to this process is that we did not have a designated table so we could not just walk in and sit down.  We had to wait each time for the manager to find us an open table. Not a deal breaker but it was mildly inconvenient.

5.  Rainforest Passes in the Senses Spa is a must do (I’ll do a separate, more detailed review on that in a later blog post).

That’s all for now, folks.  Part Two of this post will come to you in a couple of weeks.  Thanks for following along and if you have any questions or would like to talk to me about booking your own Disney Cruise (you can even take the kiddos; I won’t judge!), feel free to contact me at my Facebook page, Magical Vacations by Tracy or by email at tracy@magicalvacationsbyme.com.  You can also follow me on Instagram HERE.

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Mickey’s Crew Members can regularly be found in the main atrium!

Tracy Hurdle is a work-at-home mother of one and a former social worker turned travel agent.  She’s always had a love of travel planning and couldn’t be happier at being given the opportunity to do so on a broader scale with families just like yours.

Shop Disney Parks App-Most Dangerous App Ever?

If you have an affinity for Disney merchandise and a smart phone, then the answer is “yes, it just might be”, at least in terms of your wallet.  Disney released the Shop Disney Parks app in mid-August for use on Android and Apple smart phones.  This free app is available in your device’s app store; I initially had a little difficulty downloading the app (an error message about the script) but was successful on the second try.  I thought I would run you through the basics and give you my opinion of its performance.

As the title of the app implies, this little online store gives you access to Disney Parks merchandise.  What I love about this app already is that it features products that I have not been able to find on the regular Disney Store website.  I’ve been working on my family’s costumes for this year’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.  We love the Haunted Mansion attraction and decided to dress in that theme for the party this year.  I was interested in purchasing the Ghost Host tees for my husband and I and was able to easily find the male version of that shirt on the Disney Store online.  However, the female Ghost Host shirt was missing from the site.  A quick Google search revealed the female shirt available for purchase on Amazon if you are a) a size Medium, and b) willing to shell out $65, of which I am neither.  Ebay didn’t fare much better so I was resigned to do without.  Much to my extreme delight, I immediately found the shirt I wanted on the Shop Disney Parks app in both the size I needed and at a much more reasonable price (by Disney merchandise standards, anyway).

When you open the app, you will see this screen:

Opening app screen

Opening app screen

It allows you to scroll down to see 4-5 featured items.  On the top left, you see the little magnifying glass search icon that allows you to enter your search terms.

Search screen

Search screen

For my purchase, I searched for “haunted mansion” items and received 141 options.  You can use the filter key to the top right if you’d like to narrow down your search but I actually scrolled through to check them all out.  When you select a clothing item, you can scroll down to select from the available colors and sizes.

Screenshot_2015-08-25-09-12-55

This is where it gets cool.  The three blue buttons below the item allow for you to “Add to bag” which you will do if you have more shopping to do, “Order Now” if this is the only product you need, or “Find on Map.”  This is a really neat feature that I can’t wait to try when I’m at Disney World in October.  When you are in a Walt Disney World park, you may search for your item and then select “Find on Map” to see from which store this item can be purchased.  I’ve seen several posts about guests being so disappointed because they never found such and such after searching all of the stores on their visit.  This app should eliminate those issues.  Your kiddo suddenly has to have that Stitch plush?  Boom, find it on the app, and then use the map to track it down.  Screenshot_2015-08-25-12-31-09

Now, let’s get back to my experience using the app.  I selected my shirt and went to my shopping bag.  I was given the option to “review and purchase.”  At that point, I was instructed to sign in using my ‘My Disney Experience” account information.  You are given the opportunity to create an account if you don’t already have one.  Once you sign in, you can enter your shipping and payment information (or it will automatically enter for you if you have this info saved to your MDE account; you will be asked for your saved credit card’s security code).  The one bummer about this is the shipping.  There are no options to change shipping type (for expedited service, for instance) and there is no discount for purchasing a certain amount of product (like on the Disney Store online, in which you can often receive free shipping if you purchase at least $75 worth of merchandise).  Once you agree to the Merchandise Return Policy, you click the green “Purchase” button and you’re done!

Almost immediately after my purchase, I received my confirmation email.  Three days later, I received an email indicating my shirt had shipped and the tracking link so I could obsess about my package.  Five days after that, I had my shirt in my hands!  Not a bad turn around time if you ask me.  My package arrived in the typical brown, nondescript box.  The shirt itself was wrapped in cutie-patootie Disney tissue paper.  The box also contained a note thanking me for the purchase and the larger merchandise return form.  A separate shipping receipt was also included.  Overall, this was a super easy process and I was beyond excited to receive my shirt after previously thinking I would be missing out.

My cute little package all wrapped up in Disney tissue.

My cute little package all wrapped up in Disney tissue.

Thank you note

Thank you note

Return form

Return form

My shirt, My shirt!

My shirt, My shirt!

One last thing:  The other super cool feature that I can’t wait to try out is the barcode scanner.  On the home page of the app, you’ll notice at the top a small barcode. Screenshot_2015-08-25-09-09-54Once opened, this will allow you to scan an item you find in the park and purchase the item in the app.  Why is this useful? Have you ever been inside a park store and saw THE souvenir, but it was fragile, huge, or otherwise inappropriate for air travel?  This feature on the app will allow you to purchase THE souvenir and have it shipped directly to your home.  Bypass the awkward packing dilemma and get that baby on its way to you before you even leave Orlando.  Eureka!

My plan is to do a follow up to this article after my visit in October so that I can update you on both the “Find on Map” feature and the barcode scanner.  In the meantime, feel free to contact me at any time for more information or to assist you in booking your next vacation!  You can find me on Facebook at Magical Vacations by Tracy or email at tracy@magicalvacationsbyme.com.  You can also follow me on Instagram HERE.  See you soon!

Tracy PhotoTracy Hurdle is a work-at-home mother of one and a former social worker turned travel agent.  She’s always had a love of travel planning and couldn’t be happier at being given the opportunity to do so on a broader scale with families just like yours.