Pin Trading for the Shy

At the risk of stating the obvious, pin trading is a Big Deal in the Disney parks, and even outside of them. I was interested in getting involved, but I have an awful time talking to people, so trading was out for me.  Then I started taking my stuffed Stitch to the park with me, and an idea struck. I put a pin lanyard on Stitch, stocked it with a few pins I could bring myself to part with, and headed out into the World.

Suddenly, I wasn’t bringing it upon myself to stop a stranger and ask to trade. Now I was asking for Stitch. I imagined how Stitch would want pins of favorite characters– himself, of course; what little blue alien wouldn’t want pins of himself? Others because he had something in common with them, or for whatever reason they caught his fancy. Now that I was speaking “on Stitch’s behalf,” the whole thing was a little less daunting. Cast members seem to be amused when I ask if Stitch can trade with them, and so far no adults have looked at me strangely when I ask to trade and then show them a lanyard draped around a stuffed animal’s neck. People can be very patient in the parks so long as you’re nice, and it’s tough not to be nice when you’re playing with a stuffed animal.

So if you suffer from shyness the way I do, maybe a trading intermediary could help you, too. You may not be comfortable carrying around a stuffed animal, but perhaps someone else in your party would be willing to wear your lanyard. Letting someone start the conversation for you can be very helpful, and just might get you that pin of your dreams.

by Coreada—a lifelong Disney fan, and friend of  Wish Upon a Star with Us


New Fantasyland Preview

Today I had an opportunity to see the new Fantasyland that will be debuting on December 6th.  Three new attractions will be opening including the amazing scenery and the feeling of walking around Belle’s village and seeing the Beast’s castle that looks like it is in the distance.  I was able to ride the Little Mermaid Ride, walk through the Be Our Guest Restaurant, and also experience Enchanted Tales with Belle.  I wanted to get these pictures posted quickly, but since I’m leaving on my Adventures by Disney trip today I didn’t have time to give them all captions.  I will do that as soon as I can .  In the meantime…enjoy!
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Disney’s Photo Pass Plus

Attractions, dining and more!  Just imagine having all of your pictures in one place when you get home.  I’ve never been one to take many pictures with the PhotoPass because I typically use my own camera to grab pictures of my family.  Of course, I’m not usually in the pictures but that’s ok with me!  However there will come a point when the kids ask if I was even THERE on vacation?!?  So this trip I decided not only would I use the PhotoPass, but I would try Disney’s NEW PhotoPass Plus.  (If you add it on to your package prior to your trip, you can get it for $156, including tax, otherwise you can wait to purchase it when you arrive, but you will pay $199 plus tax so it is significantly more.)

So I didn’t purchase ours in time to get the discount, but I did find out that I could purchase it right at our Chef Mickey dinner reservation on our first night. I could have paid $30 to get our packet of printed pictures, but instead I purchased the PhotoPass Plus and they just gave me the entire folder of our pictures!  With the lanyard around my neck we stop at any PhotoPass Photographer that we see around the parks and get a couple of quick pictures.  There are photographers in strategic spots around the parks to take your picture.  You can find them walking down Main Street, as you near Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life, with characters at Meet-n-Greets, just everywhere you would want your picture taken.   The coolest part is we can use the pass on rides!  How many times do you wish you would have purchased the picture of your child’s first ride on Space Mountain?  Well, now you can ride it multiple times and just use your PhotoPass Plus badge to have them upload it to your account.  We rode Expedition Everest a couple of times so that we could each ride with our son and we have both pictures.  What fun!

The attractions that you can use it on are:

  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Rock ‘n Roller Coaster
  • Expedition Everest
  • Dinosaur

Dining Locations:

  • 1900 Park Fare
  • ‘Ohana
  • Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
  • Chef Mickey’s
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table
  • Tusker House Restaurant
  • Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue
  • Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

You can also use it at The Pirates League and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique which is a great feature.  The Enchanted Tales with Belle attraction has a PhotoPass photographer that takes hundreds of pictures during the attraction of the children (and adults) participating with Belle.  When you leave the attraction you are handed a PhotoPass card that you can also add to your account.  You are able to elect which pictures you want to add to your CD later when you are home and sign into your account.

A super tip by the PhotoPass photographers is to use your Smart Phone to take a picture of the 16 digit code on the back of the lanyard.  That way just in case you lose it you can still recover every one of your pictures.

Included with your PhotoPass Plus purchase will be a Photo Gallery CD with over 400 pictures that you can use for scrap-booking or just printing.  You also get a voucher for a Photo CD which will include ALL of these pictures that you have in your account.  You can print them in any size or format that you want–all with a license for personal use.

We’ve had so much fun getting these pictures taken and I’m proving that I’m actually here on vacation since I’m in most of the pictures!  (as long as I’m feeling photogenic at that moment)

Renting a house in Orlando

written by Colette Gill, specialist in Disney Destinations from St. Louis, MO

So your family has decided to take a group trip to Walt Disney World – what a wonderful idea!  Many people feel as if renting a house off Disney property offers the perfect solution to the question, ‘Where do we stay with a large group?’  The family can all stay together, usually have their own bedroom and bath, and have a common living room and kitchen to relax and eat in.  They can enjoy the Disney parks during the day and then drive back to the house at night to escape the hustle and bustle at the parks.  They would be able to eat their evening meal, relax in the pool and maybe watch some t.v. together.  Then in the morning, have breakfast and set out for the parks again, refreshed and ready for another day at Disney.  Sounds like the perfect way to save time and money on your vacation, doesn’t it?

But let’s examine this more closely.  How will the family get to the rental property?  A pay-per-person shuttle would be one option, but then…  How will the family get to the parks?  You’ll probably end up having to rent one, or possibly several, vehicles – depending on the size of the group.  How will the family get the food to cook at the rental property?  Finding a grocery store on the way and buying all the food needed – including any extras needed like spices, cooking oil, and condiments – can take considerable time, especially with children.  How do you know the rental property is well taken care of?  Is it clean?

What about driving to the Disney parks in the morning?  Unless you want to run into rush hour traffic as well as all the tourist traffic in the area (which is considerable) – an early start will be a must.  Disney Resort Guests will have early Extra Magic Hours available to them, so you will have to avoid that particular park because if you show up there, you will be denied entry.  So which park will you go to each day?  Is that a good choice based on  the crowd predictions?  And if two of the families want to visit Animal Kingdom and the other family wants to visit Epcot one day, how do you work that out?  What about fees for parking?  Each vehicle will have to pay a minimum$15.00 daily parking fee at Disney World when they’re staying at an off property location.

What about food?  There’s an endless choice of restaurants at Disney, both counter service and full service types.  There are character meals that the kids would love.  But with the house rental, you’ve decided to eat a quick breakfast before you leave for the parks and then come back to the house for lunch in the afternoon with a quick nap, back to the parks, and then back to your rental to have dinner.  This scenario can save you money, but consumes so much time that you don’t have much time in the parks to get your money’s worth out of your tickets.  Consider this:  If you want to be back to eat lunch at noon, you will need to start walking out of the park by 11am, take the tram to your car and get through traffic to your rental property.  Arriving back around noon, you eat and  grab an hour nap.  By this time it will most likely be 2pm and then it will take you approximately 1 hour to get everyone loaded back up, back down the highway, parked and back through the ticket turnstiles.  Since the parade starts at 3pm you will be vying for a spot to see at this point.  After you ride a couple of rides it will be close to 5pm, and needing to get dinner started  you head back to the car to get back to the  rental house.  It will take too long to stay for the nighttime parade, fireworks, Illuminations or any other evening show.

Your other option is to stay on Disney property.  At first glance, it seems like that would be the more expensive way to go.  But when you factor in the cost of the rental vehicle, the cost of parking, the cost of the food you’ll probably end up leaving behind (extra ketchup, extra butter…..), and the cost in time; both of driving back and forth to the park, and of time lost in the parks because you have to commute – staying on property is usually a much better option for families.  As a Disney World resort guest, once you arrive at the airport; the Disney cast members take care of everything for you.  Your luggage will be taken from the plane to your resort room.  You’ll be taken to your resort by the Disney Magical Express motor coach at no cost.  You’ll have the Disney World transportation network at your disposal – which is very extensive.  As for recreation; you can go in the pool, rent a bicycle, rent a canoe or a water sprite, go play miniature golf, even go para-sailing!  All within the confines of the Disney resort.  The dining possibilities are endless, from a quick muffin and coffee at the food court at your resort, to a Polynesian style luau dinner show.  And at certain times of year, Disney throws in the dining plan for free!  Once you’re there – if one family wants to take the little ones to Magic Kingdom again, but you want to go to Epcot; no problem!  You just take different transportation (which Disney provides free to all resort guests) to the park of your choice and meet back later.  You won’t miss any of the spectacular parades, evening shows, or fireworks displays that are offered at the parks because it’s time to get back – Disney transportation runs well into the night. They’ll always get you ‘home.’

As far as escaping from the hustle and bustle – you’ll find the Disney resort hotels very laid back and relaxing.  The real confusion comes when you leave Disney property and try to maneuver through the traffic and congestion outside the resort.

So why not let a Disney expert help you make your decision?  We can help you weigh the options, compare the prices, watch for specials that Disney offers on their vacation package, and help you choose restaurants and even make dining reservations for you!  Think of it this way; if you heard of a wonderful resort in the Caribbean with beautiful hotels, wonderful activities for people of all ages, and an endless variety of places to eat – would you stay at a hotel down the street and visit?  Or would you want to immerse yourself in an atmosphere of being treated like ‘Prince and Princess for a day’?

Guests pay one fee per day to receive a parking pass good for all theme park parking lots.

  • Car/Motorcycle/Taxi/Shuttle/Limo: $15/day
  • Camper/Trailer/RV: $16/day
  • Bus/Tractor Trailer: $19/day


To Stay or not To Stay….on Disney property

For many people planning their vacation to Walt Disney World in Florida, one of their first decisions is whether to stay on Disney property or not.  When you factor in cost, convenience and value; is it really ‘cheaper’ to stay outside the Disney resort?  There are really many things to compare when making this decision.
Consider the price of the room.  True, the prices of hotels outside Disney property can be a bargain.  But keep in mind the other expenses you’ll incur.  If you fly into Orlando, you’ll need to get from the airport to the hotel.  So you can either add the price of a rental car or a round trip shuttle service to your total budget.  Then you’ll need to get from the hotel to the Disney park.  If you drive, add the $17.00 a day price to park at Disney.  If your hotel offers a shuttle, it may go from one hotel to the next picking up additional passengers, could be very time-consuming, and will most likely have limited pick-up and drop-off times and locations.  Do you really want to miss that fabulous fireworks display over Cinderellas Castle because you have to catch the bus?  The traffic outside of Disney property can be very heavy.
The two other major theme parks in the area, hundreds of hotels, gift shops, restaurants, and small attractions can cause major congestion on the roads. Time is money – and time is also a very precious commodity on an already-too-quick vacation.Consider the perks of staying on Disney property.  They have something for everyone – from a campsite at Fort Wilderness to a Concierge level room at the beautiful Polynesian Resort.  The transportation is also included.  Disney’s Magical Express shuttle picks you up at the airport and brings you to your resort – your luggage even gets delivered to you room – at no extra cost for resort guests.  If you drive in, the parking is free for the length of your stay throughout the property and at all the theme parks.  Disney’s transportation network is very extensive and is at your disposal.  You don’t have to miss ‘One more time!’ on Space Mountain, or the last firework fizzle at Epcot’s Illuminations show.  You can take advantage of Extra Magic hours at the parks.  The parks open early or close late, but only for resort guests, on select mornings or evenings.  You can get the full value out of your ticket, not an inexpensive item, this way.
And then there’s the food…  Who hasn’t heard of the wonderful restaurants at Disney World?  When you stay on property, with the purchase of a room and ticket, you have the option of adding the dining plan to your package.  You can save up to 20% on the cost of your dining with this plan!  It’s a great way to plan for your food expenses and treat your family to a great selection of dining experiences.

When you take into consideration the value of your time, the value of the theme park ticket, having that ‘I’m home’ feeling that being at Disney from morning ’til night promotes – not to mention the cleanliness and security of being on Disney property – it may make more sense to stay at a Disney Resort.  Disney also has special promotions throughout the year.  It could be a package with free dining added, or a discount off the price of the room.  We make it a priority here at Wish Upon a Star With Us to check these specials on a daily basis and add them to any existing packages that meet the criteria.  Why not let us check what’s available for your family and help you plan your ‘Dream come true’ Disney vacation.
–Colette Gill, one of our experts in Disney Vacation planning

“Wanna Trade?”

written by Missy Tillman, one of our experts in Disney Vacation planning

This is a phrase that can be heard all over the Disney Parks.  Starting in the Fall of 1999, Disney came up with a way to slow down the fast moving pace of some of their daily visitors; a concept that made many of their guests stop and talk with Disney cast members.  What was truly amazing is all of this was done by something that might be as small as a quarter, the Disney Trading Pin!  Now instead of racing to your next location you might find yourself stopping to talk to cast members to see if they have the pin you have been searching for.  These pins come in all different shapes and sizes, from heroes to villains, from rides to aliens and searching for your favorite is part of the fun!  Disney also likes to create exclusive pins that represent special occasions that might be going on while you are visiting, however it is very unlikely you will find one of these while trading.  They are normally meant to be purchased as a souvenir and not for trading.

So here’s how it works…

You can start your collection by purchasing a starter kit from one of Disney’s many gift shops. Next, find a cast member with a lanyard of pins.  Check out what they have to offer and if you see something you like just ask them to trade for one of yours.  There is one catch though; each cast member can only trade two of their pins with you, so pick and choose wisely.  If you see a cast member with a green or teal lanyard those are for kids that are 3-9 years old only!

That’s it!  Happy hunting!

Hint: Get to know your cast members…

….while you are looking at their pins be sure to see where they are from, it might just be the town next to yours!  Also if you were wondering about the flags on their name badge?  Those represent the languages they speak.  This is a great way to meet and interact with people from all over the world!