Ups and Downs of a Very Rainy Disney Vacation (Part 1)

As expected, after months of planning, our Disney vacation went by in a flash!  It was mighty rainy, but hey!  We survived Hurricane Matthew at Disney World when they closed all the parks, so we poncho-ed on!  And had a fun time in spite of the showers.

Ups and Downs of a Very Rainy Disney Vacation (Part 1)

Bear in mind, we were expecting perpetual rain having obsessively watched the forecast for a 70% (or more) chance of rain everyday.  When we arrived early on Saturday, it wasn’t raining and we headed straight for Animal Kingdom and got busy!  By 3:00 pm, we’d found the Yeti, eaten lunch at Harambe Market, explored wildlife via Kilimanjaro Safari and Gorilla Falls, and took a little boat ride through Pandora.

By this time, that early morning wake-up (3:00 am!) caught up with us, so we headed to Animal Kingdom Lodge and relaxed by the Uzima Springs Pool Bar.  Refreshed by cocktails and lulled into a restorative nap, we were jolted awake by a band of children on a mission to catch lizards and pull their tails off!  I am not kidding!  Then they would take the squirming, disconnected tails and carry them around until they found a place to throw them near the flamingos.  Recovering from our horror (barely), we stopped them by yelling, “Hey!” all at once.  Stupid response, I realize, but we’d been sound asleep and it worked.

Demon children banished, we pulled ourselves together and headed inside.  Dinner at Boma was great and day one was almost over.  We needed to catch a bus from Animal Kingdom Lodge to Magic Kingdom so we could walk to Bay Lake Tower from there – the (seemingly) easiest and quickest way to get to our rooms.  Unfortunately, we had to wait for a long, long time for that bus – way more than 30 minutes.  We were so sleepy!  Eventually, the bus arrived and we called it a night.

On Sunday morning, I did two things I’d never attempted before at Disney World.  I went to the fitness center in The Contemporary with Raymond and Joseph and worked out for a solid hour.  Ran on the treadmill then did weight training and felt like I eliminated those Boma calories completely. Then, in a completely unprecedented move, I cooked breakfast for everyone with the groceries I’d ordered.  Scrambled eggs, toast, bagels, and a protein shake for me.  We took our time getting ready and headed for Epcot in the rain to catch the very end of the Flower and Garden Festival.

Ponchos on then off then on again, we made our way around World Showcase sampling the kiosks’ offerings.  The food and beverages were great!  So was the musical group at the Germany Pavilion – and they posed for a picture with us!

We rode Frozen, headed to Future World for Living With the Land, caught Turtle Talk and visited the aquariums and manatees in The Seas.  Finally, right before dinner, we rode Spaceship Earth.  We hadn’t been to Rose & Crown for many years and I was really looking forward to dinner there.  I’d forgotten that the menu is relatively limited, but the food was fantastic!  We had a great time.

So far, the taking-it-easy plan was working splendidly and the rain had been completely bearable.  We still had so many great plans ahead!

Please come back soon for the next installment of our Very Rainy Disney Vacation and watch for detailed restaurant reviews!

Finding Donald at Walt Disney World

Today I was invited to collaborate with some fellow Disney fans in posts about our favorite Disney characters and where to find them.  When Livy at emailed me about participating, I immediately responded with an enthusiastic YES!  Donald’s my guy!  How he went from a grumpy duck to my most favorite character was a story from another day (here) but he’s held a special place in my heart for a very long time.  When I’m at Walt Disney World, I find ways to add Donald to my vacation on nearly every visit.

Finding Donald at Walt Disney World

The best (okay, only) ways to locate my most beloved member of the Fab Five are 1) on purpose and 2) by accident.  The first takes a bit of pre-planning and the second just takes some careful observation.

To guarantee a brush with Donald-greatness, I schedule a meal at either Chef Mickey’s (Disney’s Contemporary Resort) or Tusker House (Disney’s Animal Kingdom).  Both places are great, but I’m partial to Tusker House for both the food and the fact that Daisy is there instead of Pluto, who’s at Chef Mickey’s.  Otherwise, guests will meet Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy in those restaurants as well.  In both places, the character interactions and photo ops are fantastic!

Meet-n-Greets are a fun way to see Donald, but can use up big blocks of time and only work out well if you make it in line before the queue is shut down.  Sure, you can check a park’s times guides for Donald appearances, but what fun is that?  I prefer keeping a lookout for Donald and try to catch up with him on the spur of the moment.  Finding Donald at Walt Disney WorldI’ve met Frontierland Donald, Fiesta Donald (Mexico Pavilion), Baseball Donald (runDisney event), and Donald and Daisy in the Studios.  I’ve also seen Donald around and while I wasn’t able to get in line to meet him, I was able to snap pictures of his adorableness.  My kids also love Donald!

Can’t do a character meal?  Don’t feel meeting by happenstance is reliable enough?  You can always count on seeing Donald in the Festival of Fantasy Parade in Magic Kingdom.  The parade is absolutely wonderful and there’s, you know, DONALD!  At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can now catch Donald and other beloved Disney characters in DinoLand U.S.A. at Donald’s Dino-Bash!

Shout on out if you’re a Donald fan too!

Be sure to check out these blogs for more Disney character love…

Hollywood Lassie – (Rapunzel)

Disney Insider Tips – (Ariel)

Zip A Dee Do Dah Travel

Luxury Disney Travel Blog – (Cinderella)

So Cal Style – (Alice)

Joe’s Disney College Program – My Role in Quick Service Food and Beverage

That elation over being accepted into the Disney College Program didn’t last long before being replaced by anticipation over that all important question…what would I be doing?  Would I be in a park?  At a resort?  Wide World of Sports Complex?  Parking lot?  Finally, I was notified that my assigned role would be….QSFB!  That’s DCP-speak for Quick Serve Food and Beverage.  This didn’t sound too bad and when I realized I’d be working in Animal Kingdom, I got really excited.Disney College Program - Quick Service Food and Beverage

Joe’s Disney College Program – My Role in Quick Service Food and Beverage

-by Joseph Green

My prior work experience consisted of strenuous summer farm labor as a child (just kidding, Dad, it was great!), working in a big-box pet super-store doing everything from ordering live fish to ringing up customers to stocking shelves and cleaning up dog “accidents” in the aisles.  My last job before the DCP was as a bank teller…great hours, lots of responsibility, and tons of customer service and cash handling.  I feel like that combination of work experience came in extra-handy when I joined the ranks of the thousands of Disney park employees who cook, serve, and clean up at all those counter service restaurants and kiosks.Disney College Program - Quick Service Food and Beverage

After the general DCP on-boarding training, I was sent to DAKlamation to get acclimated to DAK (Disney’s Animal Kingdom).  This training was interesting and fun.

TIPS for On-the-Job Training:  I highly recommend wearing something comfortable that doesn’t make you too hot. No jackets, if it can be helped. It will need to business attire or close to it at least. You’ll be walking around your location (resort, park, etc.) for a large portion of the day and some people who wore jackets or long sleeves were very obviously uncomfortable from the heat and the amount of walking. And on the first day of actual job training, expect to be sitting in front of a computer for several hours. Computer training comes first and prepares you for what to expect when you go to your actual work location. The computer is where you’ll first be introduced to things like handling currency and proper hold times and temperatures for food.  If your location serves alcohol, you’ll be required to learn about how alcohol affects the body and signs of intoxication.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Pigdon Twitter @Method2TheMagic

When I reported to my work area in Harambe Market, I was trained on some very basic duties (emptying trash, greeting guests and handing out menus) first.  Then as time went on, I learned how to assemble orders, ring up guests, and work at other locations like the Harambe Fruit Market (I roasted a lot of corn there).  I enjoyed the fact that I was able to train in different locations, and given the chance I highly recommend it. I’m not sure how much availability there is for cross-training around the parks and resorts and other areas, but I found it very refreshing. Being able to move to different locations throughout the day gave me a much-needed change of scenery and kept tasks from being too monotonous.

The fact that I had trained in multiple locations also allowed me more opportunities to extend and pick up shifts because I wasn’t limited to just Harambe Market, I could move to the Fruit Market, Kusifiri Bakery, or Tamu Tamu Refreshments when I was needed.

Being familiar with your park (or other location) is also extremely helpful. Not just your work area, but the whole park, resort, complex, etc.. Spend time in it, get to know it. Learn the fastest ways to get to each area and experience all the shows, shops, and attractions. Develop an honest opinion on the shows, rides, and dining options because you will be asked. You will be asked about things outside of your role MUCH more often than you think. I spent many of my breaks walking around Animal Kingdom just enjoying the scenery and people watching.

I always felt like guests really appreciated my honest opinion when they asked for it, and I was able to give that to them because of the time I’d spent in the park. If someone asked me where they could get a beer I wouldn’t just point them to the closest place that sold beer, I’d ask them, “what kind of beer do you like?” If they liked Bud Light I knew just where to send them, if they wanted something a little different I could tell them to check out the Dawa Bar by Tusker House and have Steve hook them up with a Golden Monkey.

Things like that create a really personal experience for you and the guests. It’s really unexpected for them and they honestly appreciate you taking the time to ask about what they want and what they like because it shows that you genuinely care about helping them. I’ve had many guests come back to find me after I sent them somewhere just to thank me for my recommendation because they really enjoyed it.Joe's Disney College Program - My Role in Quick Service Food and Beverage

If you have any questions about DCP roles, ask away and I’ll do my best.  Come back soon for more information about my experience including what to pack, how to stay out of trouble, what to expect day-to-day, and more.  Thanks for reading…Joe.




Walt Disney World in May – What I’m Packing

Walt Disney World in May - What I'm PackingTypically, May’s a pretty safe bet for a warm and sunny Disney vacation.  Not this time!  The forecast is for rain, and lots of it. Every. Single. Day.  Believe me, I know what you’re thinking…”A rainy day at Walt Disney World is better than a sunny day anywhere else”.  And I agree!  I’m pointing out the weather report because it’s causing to make adjustments.

Walt Disney World in May – What I’m Packing

Ponchos for everyone!  We’ll be carrying them on the plane with us and is sounds like we’ll be wearing them constantly.  I like these Frogg Toggs ponchos best (readily available at big-box discount stores for about $6 or so).  They’re plenty long and roomy, seem less suffocating that others, don’t mold easily, dry relatively quickly and are PVC-free.  Plus, we have the added bonus of not looking exactly like everyone wearing Mickey ponchos.Walt Disney World in May - What I'm Packing

Rain-friendly footwear.  I’m packing light shoe-wise, with only six pairs making the cut.  My trusty Crocs flip-flops have proven themselves again and again as reliably safe and durable in a storm.  Some sandals or flop-flops become ultra slippery in the foot bed and/or the soles.  These babies are awesome at assuring my sure-footedness.  If miraculously it isn’t raining when we leave our resort, I can wear regular shoes and carry the Crocs for when it rains.Walt Disney World in May - What I'm Packing

Extra Outfits.  I usually pack one shorts outfit per day with a couple of extra shirts so I can freshen up before dinner, if time allows.  I also bring one sweatshirt or jacket and a pair of jeans.  This time, I’m thinking I’ll want out of damp clothing more often so I’ll be dry and not freezing in restaurants in the evening.

Caps, Clips and extra Hair-aphernalia.  Even if it’s not pouring rain, the heat and humidity of May quickly take their toll on just about every cute coif.  I’m going with what keeps me looking as nice as possible for as long as possible.  Plus, a cap offers even more protection from a downpour.

Sunscreen and makeup that will hold up.  We’ll be trying this new SPF 100 Neutrogena sun block that I saw on TV (yep, I’m a sucker).  I’ve been trying and loving Tarte cosmetics lately, so I’m going minimalist with foundation, concealer, and pressed powder (I like it much better than loose for carrying with me everywhere) from that line.  I like to use a very light touch with the foundation over my moisturizer.  Seems not to settle into my wrinkles while providing lots of sunscreen.  Of course I’m also bringing blush, eye-liner and mascara.  Oh, and lipstick.  If trapped on a desert island, that’s the one thing I want with me.  I’m not myself without my lips.Walt Disney World in May - What I'm Packing

Multiple bag choices…all of them Mickey!  Large, medium and small bags give me options and I’m all about the options.  For all day touring, the large backpack, for half-day or light travel, the medium backpack.  And finally, for just going to dinner, the wristlet.  The big backpack will allow us to carry ponchos, snacks, caps, water, and extra shoes even.

There you have it…all the essentials.  As per tradition, I’ve provided everybody in our travel party with an itinerary and packing list so they know everything from park hours to restaurant reservations and FastPass plans along with what they should pack.  Am I wrong to take nearly as much enjoyment from the getting ready as I do from the actual Disney vacationing?  I don’t think so.  Now…back to wishing for sunshine.