Disney World Bound? Under Versus Over Planning

Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, finding the just right when planning a Disney World vacation can be challenging!  With all there is to see and do, it’s easy for seasoned Disney vacationers to imagine the horrors of under planning.  For the uninitiated or infrequent visitor, knowing how to plan appropriately can be highly intimidating.  Again – So much to see and do!

Disney World Bound? Under Versus Over Planning

Under Planning – This plan is too small.

I understand a low-key, go-with-the-flow vacation mentality.  If you dream of drifting through quiet days in a tropical paradise, rethink that decision to visit Disney World.  It’s huge, often crowded, expensive and requires at least a little bit of planning.  Some advance research is advised.Memory Maker - Rafiki

Luckily there are many books and websites like Tips From the Disney Divas and Devos, All Ears.Net, Your First Visit, WDW Prep School, Disney Tourist Blog, and more.  These sites offer a variety of perspectives on how to plan a successful Disney getaway.

At a bare minimum…

Review Park Attractions – You can’t do it ALL, but you can do a lot.  Pick some attractions in each park that you think your family will enjoy.  Check out point-of-view videos on YouTube to get an idea of a particular ride’s scare-factor.  Prep for vacation by letting your little ones watch these videos.  They’ll have realistic expectations about what’s going to happen – for many children, this preparation makes trying new attractions less scary.  If you’ll be staying on Disney property, 60 days pre-trip book those FastPasses (like ride reservations to skip the long lines) for your top must-do choices.  Off-property guests can book up to 30 days in advance.Memory Maker - Tower of Terror

Review Restaurants – (menus are always available at Disney’s site) and please, make some Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) for at least a couple of places.  Popular restaurants like ‘Ohana (Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort) and Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom) and many Character Dining experiences book up way in advance.  You can always cancel up to 24 hours before your dining time with no penalty.  Please!  Better safe than sorry.

Over Planning – This plan is too big.

Four parks, Disney Springs, Advance Dining Reservations, FastPasses, special events, nighttime spectaculars, Memory Maker – What do you need, what don’t you need.  Are you planning too much?  I’ve been guilty of over planning.  Once you get the hang of ADRs and FastPasses, it’s easy to try to cram too much in and leave little for spontaneous fun.

When Megan and Grant honeymooned at Disney World, they had the Deluxe Dining Plan and made a ton of dining reservations.  Later, Megan felt they’d have been much better off with fewer meals booked.  They often felt like they were rushing around to fit attractions in between dining reservations.  They got to experience some fantastic meals, but the travel time to and from restaurants really cut into their vacation.Yellow Monorail / Walt Disney World

I’m a fan of park-hopping and will often plan a morning at one park with no FastPasses, get there at park-opening and go, go, go!  Then hop to the park where I’ve scheduled our three FastPasses before moving on to a dinner reservation, usually at a resort.  This plan maximizes the attractions we get to ride/see, but is not relaxing and leaves little room for simply soaking up the amazing Disney details.  Classic case of over-planning.

Too busy for Memory Maker.  If you’re prone to over planning, you may want to skip the Memory Maker photo package (currently $149 purchased 3-days in advance of your trip / $169 regular price).  We’ve found that planning time for pictures is critical or Memory Maker can be a waste of money.  If you’re rushing to a FastPass or dining reservation, you won’t stop and wait for a Disney photographer.Memory Maker Buzz Lightyear

Making plans that are just right for your family depends on what’s important to you.  A successful Disney vacation takes at least a little advance prep, but trying to do too much can lead to a less-than-relaxing experience.

Have you been guilty of planning to little or attempting to do too much?  What’s the best planning tip you’ve learned?

Walt Disney World’s Memory Maker Review Round Two

STUDIO_TOWEROFTERRORBRIDE_7071419898Please note:  The advance purchase price for Memory Maker has increased to $169 (from $149) since this post was originally published.

If you read my first review, you already know that our initial experience with Memory Maker was not a good one and it was entirely our own fault.  Raymond and I decided to have a do-over, a Memory Maker Mulligan, if you will.  Perhaps it seems silly to spend $149 (advance purchase price) to have Disney photographs of just the two of us, but hey!  We are not the type to ask a bunch of strangers to take our pictures AND we aren’t the best at selfies (perhaps our advanced ages are a disadvantage?).  No matter the reason, we took this most recent trip to Walt Disney World to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary and I wanted pictures to commemorate the occasion.

So, how did we do with round two of Memory Maker?  I’m proud to say much, much better!  MM-Animal Kingdom EverestWe got 105 pictures from many different settings in each park.  We absolutely love the new ride videos included with our Memory Maker purchase!  We are completely happy with our investment this time around.

What we did differently:

  • We deliberately located a photographer immediately after park entrance every day and waited (if the line was short) when necessary.
  • We took advantage of photographers a little off the beaten path.  (One we found near Epcot’s Italy Pavilion was especially great.)
  • When we saw a character with a short line, we jumped in it.  Our pictures with Duffy are priceless (we sent one to our children right away since they are most decidedly NOT Duffy fans!).  Our pictures with Chip and Dale in Frontierland are hilarious because we were still soaking wet from Splash Mountain!
  • MM-Magic-Kingdom-Hat-KissWe didn’t just stand side-by-side.  When Raymond kissed me behind his hat in the middle of Main Street U.S.A., a nearby snack vendor started calling out tips which in turn got the crowd involved.  “Kiss her again!” “Without the hat!” “Ma’am!  You’ve got to pop the foot!” – which meant we got even more cute pictures!
  • We asked if “Magic Shots” were available and ended up with Olaf in one picture and Anna and Elsa in another.  The ghost driver of the hearse in front of Haunted Mansion during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was our favorite.

Note:  You can view your photos almost immediately by logging on to My Disney PhotoPass.  Even if you make sure everyone is linked, you still may not be able to see all the pictures.  This happened to us – when Raymond’s Magic Band was scanned after pictures were taken, I couldn’t see them.  A quick stop at (of all places) a FastPass+ Kiosk in Epcot got the situation resolved.  A very helpful Cast Member named Jennifer was able to quickly fix the problem.Magic Shot at MNSSHP

Tip:  If any of your pictures are missing, call (407) 560-4300 (Monday – Saturday from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm) and see if they can be located.  The Cast Members are excellent and will do all they can to find your missing photos.

Have you used Memory Maker?  How was your experience?  Where were your favorite pictures taken?  How many pictures did you get?

  • Expedition Everest Ride Photo

Walt Disney World’s Memory Maker Reviewed

Character Meet-and-Greet with SullyPlease note: The advance purchase price for Memory Maker has increased to $169 (from $149) since this post was originally published.

We (I should really say I ) decided to fork over the $149 advance-purchase price for the Memory Maker photo package for our recent trip to Walt Disney World.  (You can check here for what really prompted the purchase.)  I believed we would absolutely get $149-worth of happy vacation photos and would have plenty of time to take advantage of those awesome Disney photographers situated throughout the parks.  Well, as it turned out, not so much.  What went wrong?  I’ll tell you – it wasn’t Disney’s fault!  We didn’tMemory Maker Photo in Disney's Hollywood Studios make the most of a great opportunity and I wouldn’t want you to make the same mistakes we did.  Here’s a complete recap of our experience, where we went wrong, and how you (and we) can make Memory Maker a good investment in the future.

Click here for details about what is included in the price of Memory Maker.

Okay – about OUR Memory Maker experience:

We started having pictures snapped on our arrival day.  We were at WDW for a full 5-and-a-half days, so you’d think we would have ended up with a huge bunch of pictures, right?  No.  Here’s where we went wrong – we passed up great opportunities early in the day when we Test Track Ride Photostill looked pretty fresh and well-rested.  Why did we not stop for pictures?  We would have had to wait in line behind at least one, but usually two or three other families.  I had never noticed much of a wait for pictures before, but as with many things in life, as soon as you want something, it’s not as readily available as you thought it would be.  See, we didn’t want to wait – we wanted to make the most of those early morning Extra Magic Hours, so we passed up loads of photo ops.  That was mistake #1 in a series of poor Memory Maker decisions that resulted in a less-that-optimal use of our vacation dollars.The Fam on Rock'n' Roller Coaster

Here’s what we ended up with and our Do’s and Don’ts for the future.  I hope this helps you avoid making the same errors we made and end up with a lot more great pictures.

Our Memory Maker efforts netted us a total of 43 pictures.  Of those 43, 11 were ride photos.  So, there were 32 “other” pictures to choose from in 7 different settings.  Of those, about 18 were likeable enough to possibly want to have them printed.  Ride photos are tricky!  If Memory Maker Photo at 1900 Park Farewe weren’t all in the same vehicle, we’d end up with only two of us in the picture with complete strangers.  We did not get all of our ride photos – even after a call to the PhotoPass people for help.  They did manage to recover some of them and Disney’s rumored use of the MagicBands’ RFID capabilities for linking on-ride photos to My Disney Experience may help with that in the future.  Details here.

Tips for Using Memory Maker:

1.  Get photos early and often.  If we had just stopped two times each day, we’d have ended up with 12 different settings with pictures to choose from (instead of our measly 7, not including ride photos).

2. Break up the group – yes, it’s nice to have all of you together, but we should have had just the kids in some pictures and just Raymond and I in others – or even father/daughter, father/son, and so forth – which we did not do!Family Picture in front of Sorerer's Hat in Disney's Hollywood Studios

3. Check your clothing!  My shirt rode up on one side from carrying a backpack and nobody told me to pull it down – made me HATE a bunch of pictures.  Don’t let this happen to you!

4. Wait in line when necessary or go off the beaten path if you want a good many pictures to choose from.  There are photographers available in more places than just Main Street U.S.A, Hollywood Blvd., in front of Space Ship Earth, etc.  They’ll be on hand for most character meet-and-greets as well.

5. Ask if any “magic” pictures are available.  The addition of Tinker Bell or Baby Simba (among other magical add-ons) to your group (or solo) shots may make you happy!  In our case, we think the Animal Kingdom Magic Picture with Tinker Bellphotographer may have thought our children were a couple (not sister and brother) and added Baby Simba in Megan’s arms – we found this awkward.

6.  The photographers will be happy to take pictures with your camera!  Be sure to have them do this!!!  That way you’ll have different photo types/quality to choose from.  Also – you can post those all that much sooner to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram if you’re so inclined.  We should have done this at 1900 Park Fare – every one of those pictures came out too saturated with color in a weird way.

7. Make it fun.  Be silly – take the time to shake it up a bit.  We were too boring and in a hurry to make the most of our chances for some fun pictures – don’t make the same mistakes we did!

8.  Be sure everyone is linked in My Disney Experience – that way if your group splits up, you’ll get all the pictures taken of everyone, even if you weren’t there.  After the pictures are taken, the photographer just needs to scan one person’s MagicBand – that’s it!Family Picture in Fantasyland

There you go – that’s the best advice I can give you.  If you part with $149 for Memory Maker, hopefully this review and tips will help you get the most from your investment.  Got pics?  I’d love to see pictures from your Disney vacation!  Please hop on over to Living a Disney Life on Facebook and share a picture with us there.






Why We’re Purchasing Disney’s Memory Maker

Selfie at Walt Disney World

Maybe selfies would be better if I had longer arms

Please note: The advance purchase price for Memory Maker has increased to $169 (from $149) since this post was originally published.

As you may be aware (it seems to be all I talk about lately) – The Fam and I are headed to Walt Disney World next month.  ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations) have been booked for a while, FastPass+ rides and attractions have been selected, touring plans have been meticulously mapped out.  Park tickets have been purchased – annual passes for Raymond and I, 6-day park-hoppers for the offspring.  Everything and everyone has been entered and linked in My Disney Experience.  All set.  Until Raymond said, “What about Memory Maker? Do we want that?”  Oh, Gosh, I’d overlooked it – completely forgot that PhotoPass had been replaced with the new Memory Maker program.

Great Disney Photographer in Epcot

Disney Photographer – a good one!

Did we want to fork over the advance purchase price of $149 (buy early and save $50, purchase at Walt Disney World, $199) for all the theme park photos we can gather?  That’s a pretty steep price.  The Disney photographers are variable in their photography skills – some are super awesome and some are just okay.  We’d have to take the time to have a big bunch of pictures taken for a decent chance of getting $149-worth of good pictures.  What’s the most I’ve spent on PhotoPass photos in the past?  About $50 – not counting the photo book I ordered for $75 for Father’s Day a few years back. So, back to the question at hand – to shell out some pretty substantial clams or not.

I actually didn’t hesitate.  YES!  We must have Memory Maker!  And do you want to know why I enthusiastically insisted we part with the cash immediately?  Ride photos (which we rarely buy) and PhotoPass pics are practically the only ones we have with ME in them!  No kidding.  I take nearly all the My Feet on Vacation at Walt Disney Worldpictures – there are literally thousands of pictures of Raymond, Megan, and Joseph.  Pictures of me? Yeah…not so many.  I’ve resorted in recent years to taking pictures of my feet and my shadow sometimes – proof that I was actually there.  Once in a while, someone will offer to take a picture, but not very often and I have been reduced, in a desperate moment, to taking the dreaded selfie – I never like the odd angles and how close up they are – I’m no spring chicken and those close-ups are NOT flattering.  Maybe my arms are just too short.  So – off we go next month to rack up hopefully a hundred pictures in which I will appear!  Me!  As seen on vacation with my family!  And that will be, as they say in a certain television commercial…Priceless.

My Feet Waiting for Winnie the Pooh

My Feet rode Winnie the Pooh

So what about YOU?  Who takes your Disney vacation photos?  I’d love to see one, so go share on Living a Disney Life’s Facebook page, okay?