Disney Cruise Tips – Beyond Fish Extenders

It’s not like we spend every vacation at Disney World, you know.  We go other places…on Disney Cruise Line!  Two weeks from now we’ll be off on a new cruise adventure on the Disney Fantasy for the first time.  Eastern Caribbean…here we come!

When we sail for more than four nights, I like to get more involved in the Disney cruise experience than just visiting ports and participating in ship activities like eating constantly, attending cooking demos and playing trivia games.  I do this by joining a Facebook group for our cruise and signing up for group activities.

Disney Cruise Tips – Beyond Fish Extenders

Once upon a time, joining a Fish Extender group was all the rage.  We joined the fun on a couple of cruises and had a great time.  Now that we no longer travel with kids who’d get a kick out of the amazing assortment of gifts, we’re not so much into the whole FE thing.  However, we don’t have to abandon the fun completely.  There are alternatives to the traditional Fish Extender – same idea, but less geared towards children.  As a bonus, they also tend to take less prep time and not nearly as much room in your suitcase.

For our upcoming cruise, I found an excellent Facebook group with 400+ members.  This particular Facebook group has been one of the best I’ve experienced with lots of activity and newbies getting all their questions answered by seasoned Disney cruise fans.  The tireless group admin has organized several beverage tasting seminars for interested members and something like 19 different gift exchange groups.  In addition to traditional Fish Extender exchanges, there are magnet, postcard, ornament, and candy exchange groups.  It was hard to decide which to join!

I decided on the postcard group.  I ordered some Louisiana postcards from Zazzle and will include a favorite recipe with each one as I make the rounds to the staterooms in my group.  With postcards, there’s no actual Fish Extender necessary.  The card and recipe will fit neatly onto the Fish – or in the case of the Fantasy, the metal Seahorse beside each cabin door, whichever it may be.  We still get to do a fun group activity, but don’t need to bring anything to hang up and our “gifts” will be easy to bring along (and take home).

Have you joined a cruise group and participated in a Fish Extender or other gift-giving activity?  What type was it and how did it go?

Disney World in June – It’s Going to Rain

It’s almost here!  The Epic Mother/Daughter Disney Summer Road Trip is nearly upon us.  Megan and I are in the homestretch, bags are being packed and frequently checking the Orlando weather is our favorite pastime.  It’s going to rain.  Everyday probably.  That’s Florida in the summer.  Acceptance and preparation are key to powering on through the rain and still having a fun vacation.

Disney World in June – It’s Going to RainDisney World in June - It's Going to Rain

Shoes – The beauty of driving to Walt Disney World is practically unlimited packing space.  We’re taking lots of shoes especially.  If it’s not raining in the morning, we’ll start off in sneakers (a.k.a. tennis shoes, running shoes, trainers) and switch to rain-friendly footwear we can carry with us.  I like Croc’s ballet flats and any type of comfortable flip-flops with a textured food bed for safe and comfortable rain-survival.  In the Florida humidity, if our sneakers get wet they’ll take forever to dry, so we’re bringing multiple pairs.

Ponchos – Like wet sneakers, ponchos take a long time to dry and can quickly get moldy and unpleasant if wadded up wet and shoved back into a bag.  The key is to make like a boy scout and be prepared.  We’ll take along a few for each of us.  I’ve got leftovers from previous trips to bring along that were purchased at places like Wal-Mart, Target, and Walt Disney World – like a mini poncho wardrobe. Disney World in June - It's Going to RainPark Bags – Normally, I’m a minimalist when it comes to park bags and have even been known to go bag-free from time to time.  Being prepared for the expected torrential downpour will require more supplies and a larger bag.  Megan and I can fit everything in one backpack and take turns carrying it.  Extra shoes, first aid stuff, ponchos, some hairaphernalia for repairing our ‘do’s, snacks and drinks – we’ll be set for anything!  I got a new Mickey Mouse backpack a few months back as a purchase with a purchase…totes adorbs as the young folks say, isn’t it?Comfort and, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t care, appearance.  I appreciate the value of a good cap or visor.  In particular, I’m a fan of Headsweats visors.  They come in a bunch of colors and are excellent at wicking moisture then drying out quickly.  I especially like that the underside of mine is black to reduce sun glare.  They’re comfortable rain or shine and look nice too.  Wet weather and humidity are no match for any hairstyle on me other than a ponytail or bun which work well with my favorite visor. 

We’re planning to get wet.  The weather forecast says 60% chance of scattered showers everyday we’ll be there except one (when the chance is 40%).  Sometimes being prepared makes the difference between a good time and a GREAT time.  Who knows when Megan and I will get another chance to take a Disney vacation alone together – let the fun begin!  We are ready!

What are you favorite items to pack for the rainy summer days at Disney World?

Headed to Disney World – Time to Pack!

I’m a week away from our short trip to Disney World for the Dark Side Challenge.  It may be for only four days, but the same packing strategies I use for longer vacations still apply.

Headed to Disney World – Time to Pack!

I think about what I’ll be taking along in three categories:  Must-go items, things I’d like to have, and “if there’s room” extras.

Must-go Items

  • Magic Bands, IDs, money (gift cards, credit cards, small amount of cash), medical insurance card, DVC membership card, and Tables in Wonderland card. (Note:  I would never choose gray for a Magic Band color.)
  • Phone & chargers (both plug-in and on-the-go varieties)
  • Rain Poncho, cap and/or visor, and sunglasses
  • One outfit per day and as few pairs of shoes as possible (I’m a reformed vacation shoe over-packer).
  • Sweater or light jacket (I tend to get cold during sit-down meals)
  • Sunscreen, hair and makeup bare necessities
  • Running outfits for runDisney events & armband or waist carrier for my phone
  • Headphones
  • Mini first aid kit (Tylenol, antacid, Band-Aids)
  • Carry-on and park bag
  • Disney pins for tradingHeaded to Disney World - Time to Pack!

Things I’d Like to Have

  • 2-3 Extra shirts & an extra pair of shorts or pants – Sometimes it’s nice to have a fresh outfit to put on if we get back to our resort before going to dinner.  Especially if we’re eating someplace nice.
  • Swimsuit & Cover-up – We almost never swim, but it’s nice to be ready just in case.
  • Extra park bag(s) – I can make do with one, but having a couple of different sizes to choose from is better.
  • Snacks and/or Pre-race fuel – If I can bring Cliff bars or granola bars, I’m going to be much happier on race day(s) without the stress of trying to find something to eat that I’m sure won’t bother my stomach.  If I’m not going for a runDisney event, it’s nice to have snacks or breakfast items along to minimize the possibility of becoming “hangry”.
  • Flat iron – I don’t use one every day at home, but with the way my hair behaves in Florida, it’s certainly nice to have.

If There’s Room

  • Disney Exchange Podcast tees and pins to give away – I love meeting listeners and having something handy to give them.
  • Book and/or magazine – Nice at the airport and on the plane, but not a necessity.  I can always listen to music on my phone.
  • Extra cap(s) – I like choices and I like to color coordinate if I can.
  • My own hairdryer – Silly, but I’m used to it and get better results with my own versus the one supplied by the resort.
  • Laptop – I don’t have to have it, but it sure is nice if I want to whip up a blog post while I’m in the Disney Bubble.
  • Extra space for souvenirs – Yep, I’d like a little unused room.  There’s nothing worse than wanting to do some shopping and realizing you’ve got no way to carry anything home.  Sure, Disney will ship, but that adds a lot to the price.

That’s it.  On each and every Disney trip we take, I use this strategy and almost always come home with only one or two things I didn’t use or wear.  In the winter I pack a couple of extra layers and more pants, fewer shorts.  I refuse to pay for overweight luggage so I weigh my bag at home before we leave just to make sure.  Honestly, if I could get by with only a carry-on this trip, I’d be thrilled, but I doubt even the minimalist-packing me could pull it off.

What’s your Disney vacation packing strategy?

 

 

 

 

Disney World Vacation Photo Must-Haves

This is just me talking.  Part of my overbearing big personality is that I never experience a shortage of opinions and as usual, I’ve decided to offer you some of them.  I’ve always been a picture-taker and am particularly photo-snappy on a Disney vacation.  After 25+ years of said Disney trips, I’ve noticed certain patterns in my photography and decided to share.  Hopefully, this will cause you to examine your own Disney picture-taking style and share your favorite types of pictures with me.  Sharing is good, dontcha think?

It’s like a Friday Five times two!  I’ve compiled a list of TEN…

Disney World Vacation Photo Must-Haves

The Classic Shots – You know the ones.  The iconic must-haves in front of Cinderella Castle and the other park weenies (Yes, that’s the correct term for a Disney park’s centerpiece.  Really.  Look it up if you don’t believe me.).  I particularly like the Tree of Life and have pictures from every possible angle and time of day.

The Character Meet & Greets – In-park Characters, Character Dining Experiences, the random encounter – all are exceptionally tempting as memory capturing moments, no?  It might make me a little nostalgic to look back at the ones from when Megan and Joseph were little, but the ones from our last trip make me just as happy.

Foodies’ Favorites – Not quite as good as the real thing, commemorating an excellent snack or meal with a photograph allows me to remember my favorite flavors of Disney and better plan my dining and snacking strategies for future trips.

Attraction Action – Pictures or it didn’t happen, right?  You never know exactly how ride photos will turn out, but they are absolutely some of my favorite pictures!  Yes, I love the ones from Memory Maker, but I also like the ones I took myself.

Tropical Paradise – I can’t help myself.  I have to capture at least a few pictures of the lush Florida landscapes and the amazing sunrises and sunsets.  When I’m at home, I’m usually getting ready for work as the sun comes up and in the evening I’m likewise occupied with cooking dinner or some such activity.  On vacation, though, I stop to soak up those spectacular moments and you should too. 

Five Down, Five to Go…

Hidden Mickeys – If you’re constantly on the lookout for those little, sometimes elusive Mickeys, you probably snap a pic or two of your favorites like I do!

The Group Selfie – What ever did we do before the wonders of technology allowed us to take pictures of ourselves so easily?!?  I’m a huge fan of the group selfie.  Unless maybe it’s a really hot day and we’ve been hitting the parks pretty hard.  Looking back, we seem less likely to clump up for those close-together shots as the day wears on.  Huh…just now noticed that.

Boredom Busters a.k.a. queue pics! – Even if you plan everything just right and book FastPasses for all the most popular attractions, you’re bound to wait in a line or two from time to time.  Don’t waste the opportunity to create some awesome family memories!  We have even developed photo traditions for some particularly taxing waits…like the one for Fantasmic.

EarHat Fashion – How could anyone not love a good EarHat photo?  Not into amazingly fun headwear?  Certainly someone in your family is, right?  There’s nothing like capturing the happiness of a loved one sporting their favorite Disney chapeau in a Disney park.  Look at those happy faces!

Cast Member Memories – Sometimes you just get extra attached to a particular Cast Member and want them to be part of your photo album.  They don’t mind if you take their picture – the best ones are used to it!  If you’re on Twitter and you’ve had an awesome Cast Member experience, you can tweet to @WDWToday with the #CastCompliment hashtag and say a few words about how the Cast Member made your vacation extra special.  Disney will then track down that Cast Member and present them with a certificate.  They will photograph the moment and tweet it back to you.  It’s an excellent way to ensure your favorite Cast Members get the recognition they deserve.  We did this for Kile from Tiffins because he’s wonderful!

BONUS – This one has almost reached the ridiculous.  I’ve been on Kilimanjaro Safaris at least a dozen times.  Each and every one of my tours of Africa involves me madly taking pictures and videos as if I’ve never seen any of these animals before in my life.  Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this!  Drives my family crazy, I’m sure, but they love me enough to let me sit on the outside and stay out of my way.Rhino on Kilimanjaro Safari Kilimanjaro Safari / Animal Kingdom One last thing about taking pictures on a Disney vacation…

Even though I love Memory Maker, you should not feel like you have to spend the money if it’s not in your budget.  Cast Members are always happy to take pictures for you with your own camera or smart phone.  You’ll still have amazing memories to look back on!!!

Okay, now it’s your turn!  Share with me!!!  What are your favorite types of Disney vacation pictures to take?