Friday, June 10, 2011

Getting in Shape

Every spring I cringe when I look in the mirror. Do you know what I am talking about? There seems to be extra weight around my middle and it does not look pretty. This spring, however, I am rejoicing. Before you ask why... let me tell you.

In January my husband decided enough was enough and set out to find a plan that would work for him to get into shape. He found someone to hold him accountable and a program he could use. Being somewhat jealous I began asking him for advice.

You see I had been going to the same gym, doing the same routine, for over five years. It wasn't working and I had struggled with my weight loss. I was completely discouraged. That's when he challenged me to try working out at home. We have cable and so they have a channel on demand called Exercise TV. I began working out on my non-gym days and found that I loved it!!! After a month I quit my gym membership and am now working out six days a week at home.

After a month I was only seeing minimal success in my struggle with losing weight. I needed another plan. That is when he introduced me to a program that he found online, my fitness pal. What is it? I simply would say that it is calorie counting for dummies (me). This has been a wonderful tool and has helped me to realize how much I was really eating.

I began at the end of February and now, more than 3 months later I have lost 22 pounds. Is my body bikini perfect? Oh no.... but, I am continuing to try to find healthier ways to eat and stick to my daily calorie count. It's not easy and I find having an accountability partner makes it much easier for me.

So, what does all of this have to do with going to Disneyland? Well, this year instead of dreading wearing a swimsuit I actually am excited that I might have to shop for a smaller size. I am not dreading getting into the pool with my daughter. Instead I am praying for wonderful warm weather and am hoping to soak up as much of it as possible. If you are struggling with your own weight loss, I feel your pain. Head on over to and check it out. It's free and they even have an app for your smart phone that I love.

Blessings to you.

Until Next Time,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Getting Paid to Shop Disney

That's heard me correctly. You can get paid to shop Disney. If you have an ebates account you can earn 5% cash back on your online purchases at the Disney Store. How? It's easy.

  1. Sign up for ebates: by clicking here. You'll recieve a $5.00 cash back bonus just for signing up.
  2. Each time you want to make a purchase at the Disney Store login to your ebates account and search for the Disney Store. (For me the easiest way is to click on toys in the left hand menu.)
  3. Once you have selected the Disney Store ebates will automatically send you to the Disney Store website. All you have to do is shop and complete your transaction as normal.
  4. Once your transaction is complete you will receive an email from ebates telling you about your cash back rewards. (This can take some time, but for me I have never waited longer than 24 hours.)
  5. All you have to do now is wait for your check to arrive in the mail. They send out checks four times a year.
Of course you can use ebates for many other purchases as well. There are hundreds of online stores to choose from. All of my ebates checks go straight into my Disney Savings Account to be used on my next vacation. It is an easy way to save on purchases you are already making. So next time you are going to shop online, stop by ebates first and see if your store has a cash back bonus award.

Until Next Time,
Sean Brown

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Airfare Woes

For those of you that know me it won't be of any surprise to you that I check airline prices everyday. We have set our dates of travel and now we are just waiting for airfare and hotel expenses to come down to a price point that will fit within our budget. Lately the airlines are making me crazy!!! One day I will check and tickets are $114 one way. The very next day I will look and they are up to $160.

How is that possible? How can a ticket change that much in 24 hours? The other day I had found a ticket for $99 on a different airline into a smaller airport. I almost bought it. However, upon checking on hotel prices I realized that the hotel was still to expensive for me and I would be locking myself into a specific number of nights at Disneyland not knowing if I could afford it.

I have found that there are many days lately where I have panicked over the cost of airfare. If you are in the same boat...relax. If you have set a budget stick to it. Sometimes the best deals are found within 30 days before your trip as airlines are trying to fill still empty seats. Also, I have heard to check airlines at the beginning of the week and not to buy until Tuesday evening. Often times airlines will drop prices at the beginning of the week. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

My point is...anxiety over airfare isn't helpful and can lead you into making a rash decision out of fear. Don't be ruled by fear it will hurt you in the end.

Until Next Time,

Friday, April 15, 2011

Disney Dining Discount

Are you planning to travel to Disneyland between April 17-23, 2011? If so, then this post is for you.

Today as I was doing my daily review of all things Disney I stumbled across something I had not noticed before. They will be giving a discount on dining at specific restaurants in Disneyland Park. Sound to good to be true? Well, it's not.

There are a few things to note:
  1. In order to get the discount you must print the coupon found here.
  2. The coupon is only good at:
  3. You must be traveling between April 17-23, 2011
  4. The coupon is valid  before 11:30 a.m. or between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  5. If used properly you will receive 25% off of your bill with the purchase of an entrĂ©e.
There you have it. Just one way of saving a little bit of money on your trip to Disneyland. Hope you have fun.

Until Next Time,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wished I Were in Disneyland

Winters are hard and when you live in the land of rain and gloom they are especially tough. There are days I would give just about anything for a bit of warmth and sunshine. It doesn't take long before I realize that all I have to do is get on a plane and fly south to "The Happiest Place on Earth."

Oh, how I wished that I was there. Unfortunatley for does not grow on trees and I can't sprout wings and fly. This became a moment of crisis for me. How was I going to experience Disneyland without even being able to be there in person? Then my husband suggested I take a trip to the nearest Disney Store.

Mind you nearest isn't really the right word. While I found the nearest one to me, it was still over 85 miles away. But I enjoyed every minute of it and decided that I needed to get there more often. The staff there was simply great.

We left the house early that Saturday morning and drove for an hour and a half to reach our destination. Once there we stood outside of the store waiting for them to open. Upon entering we discovered that it was Agent P day and Ainsley was given a mask that took her a bit to warm up to. Once she decided wearing it might be was difficult to get her to take it off.

There were many things that brought me back to my vacations spent in Disneyland. The costumes were cute and I wished that I had dressed Ainsley in one of hers from home. I would have bought her the new Rapunzel costume, but they were sold out of her size that day. It was adorable and I am contemplating buying online instead of waiting for our next trip to Disneyland.

Ainsley was able to find some lesser known characters and completely fell in love with a life size version of Bolt. Needless to say, we left with a smaller version that was easier on my pocket book.

Will I go back? You bet. I can't wait until my next trip that store.

Until Next Time,

Disney Dining Plans

Each time we visit Disneyland we try to eat somewhere we haven't eaten before. Of course, we always eat at our favorite spots, but it is always fun to try something new. One of the first questions I had on our trip in September of 2009 was "Should we buy the Disney Dining Plan?"

I asked around and read everything I could on the Internet about it. There wasn't a whole lot. I found things about Disney World, but not about Disneyland. Faced with a choice we decided to purchase it. Why? Well, simply, I wanted to have our food paid for prior to our arrival. Relieved with my choice I set out to plan where we would eat.

2009 Meal Plan

Let me warn you, we wanted to eat every meal in Disneyland. This was our daughter's first trip and we wanted her to experience all that Disneyland had to offer. As I sat down to plan all of our meals I realized pretty quickly that the Disney Dining Plan was not going to pay for everything. We would need more money than I thought. The Meal plan posted here shows the plan I made. If there is a dollar amount listed then that is what I estimated it would cost without the meal plan. Some meals state that we used the meal plan, but would also need additional money. If it just says meal plan, then my estimation was that the meal plan would be sufficient.

Each Disney Dining Plan provides you with a book of vouchers. Each voucher is worth a certain dollar amount. You will be able to use different vouchers together (meaning you can use a snack voucher with a dinner voucher, etc.). If your meal is less than the vouchers you provide to the cast member then change will be given in the form of actual cash. However, most vouchers will not cover the actual price of one persons meal. Most times Ainsley and I shared a meal to reduce our costs a bit.

Did we stick to the meal plan I prepared? For the most part, yes. However, I have learned a few things along the way. Ainsley does better if we let her decide when we are going to eat. Sometimes that isn't always possible, but we try to stay flexible. Meal plans are still important, because they help you budget. Consequently, I still make them. If you would like my vacation meal planner as a Word document, send me a message. I will be glad to share it with you.

Want to check out the Disney Dining Plan information click here

Until Next Time,

Friday, February 25, 2011

Keeping that Disneyland Feeling

My family loves Disneyland! We begin talking about our next trip before we even leave our vacation and head back home. There is something wonderful about our trips and we love to remember them over and over. How do we do it? Here are a few tips:

  1. Watch Disney Movies - It's fun to watch a movie that has a dedicated attraction in the Disneyland Resort. We love to watch each movie and point out all of the things that were in the movie and the attraction at the resort.
  2. Watch movies about the resort - There are many movies that you can purchase about the park. Some are even available on Netflix.
  3. Utilize YouTube - Our favorite is to search for the Disneyland Interactive Map. It has all kinds of videos of the attractions, etc.
  4. Look at pictures/create scrapbooks - We love to remember some of our favorite moments.
  5. Answer the Disneyland Question of the Day from their facebook page. One of my favorite questions is: "A trip to Disneyland is not complete without..."
  6. Send for a free Vacation Planning Video - Our family sends for a new video every year. While most of the information hasn't changed, some things do. Ainsley will watch them over and over again.
  7. Visit a nearby Disney Store - Recently I have been telling my husband I need a Disney fix and we must travel the 85 miles to our closest store. He tells me we can as long as I promise to leave my wallet at
  8. Listen to Disney Music - On our last trip we purchased several CD's that contain different music you will here at the Disneyland Resort. My favorite: The Official Album of the Disneyland Resort. You can purchase it at

These are just a few ideas. You may have your own. Please share them with me. I am always looking for new ways to experience Disneyland from several states away.

Until Next Time,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Long Wait Times

If you have ever been to Disneyland you will understand what I mean. Wait times for attractions can be brutal, especially the Peter Pan attraction. What should you do to keep your preschooler occupied while waiting in line? Here are a few tips:

  1. Play word games with your children - One of my favorite is the Alphabet game. Start with A and continue to Z naming Disney characters, movies, etc. that start with each letter.
  2. Play I spy - This is a fun game that can easily be done with the park maps or just your surroundings. If you don't know how to play, click here for some simple instructions.
  3. Take a bathroom break - Have someone in your party stand in line while you escort your preschooler to the restroom. Other guests in the park are understanding and usually allow you to make your way through the line quickly to catch up with the person waiting in line for you to return.
  4. Review your pictures or videos captured with a digital camera throughout the day - My daughter loves to watch videos we have taken of different rides or experiences with characters.
  5. Talk about what you would like to do next - Children love to be involved in planning what attractions to ride or where to eat. Allow them to voice their opinions then make choices as a family. Always have a back-up plan if your original choice doesn't work out as expected.
  6. Look for Hidden Mickeys - These are representations of Mickey Mouse that have been subtly inserted into the design of attractions, rides, decor and locations throughout the Disneyland Resort. They are everywhere and my daughter enjoys looking for them each time we are waiting in a queue. You might also want to buy a book that will give you hints on where to look. I purchased "Disneyland's Hidden Mickeys" by Steven M. Barrett, but there are others to choose from. Mr. Barrett's book is intriguing and even gives you a treasure hunt to follow.
  7. Use this opportunity for a light snack that is not messy - We like fruit leather. It is small, flat and easily fits into any bag or a back pocket.  

Not all rides have long wait times. The most I have ever waited with my daughter is about 35 minutes. The key: find what works best with your child/children and stick with it.

Until Next Time,

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel?

It's a beautiful day here in Washington. The temperature rose to about 51 degrees causing me to think about my spring wardrobe for the first time. As I wandered around my house I noticed that all of the ladybugs have come out of hiding and were crowding in my windows eager for the warmth of the sun. I suspect they wanted to get out. Amazingly these little bugs caused me to think about all of the spring cleaning activities that would soon need to be done. My mental list grew quite long quickly and I wanted to run away. Immediately the Disneyland Hotel came to mind and I wished I could go there sooner rather than later.

I have talked to a lot of people lately about my trips to Disneyland. The number one question they ask, “Where should I stay.” There is a simple answer to that question for me. Stay on property!

I know, I know, you may be saying, “That is a lot of money. Is it really worth it?” The answer is yes and let me tell you why. There are a few perks, like a room key with your name on it that you keep upon leaving, being able to charge any purchase within the park to your hotel room (except street vendors), multiple early entry days into the park, and the resort staff.

The staff at the Disneyland Resort Hotels were amazing. They have done everything they could to meet each and every need. Once I had to go down to the desk at around the park closing time and there was a huge line for the elevator. When I asked how to access the stairs they informed me it wasn’t possible and instead led me to the staff elevator to get to my floor quickly. My only regret in that experience was that I didn’t take a picture of myself on that elevator.

The room decor is wonderful, especially the newly remodeled rooms in the Disneyland Hotel. As a mother of a five year old who hates to sleep in the dark, those new fiber optic headboards are amazing. My daughter loved sleeping to the visual of exploding fireworks. They have taken great efforts to make sure that the decor is elegant. Mickey is not the dominate feature, but he is hidden in many places, like the tile on the bathroom shower walls, pictures on the wall, the headboard and more. To see pictures click here.

For my family, however, two of the biggest reasons we stay at a Disney Resort Hotel is the ease of accessibility and the feeling of immersion. Trust me there is nothing like the feeling that you are never leaving the park. Even if you stay across the street you still feel like you have left the land of fantasy and entered the world of reality again. I like feeling as if I never left the park and my daughter loves that she gets to hear a princess bedtime story every night. Only in a Disney Resort Hotel is there a special channel on television dedicated to Princess Bedtime Stories.

You may be wondering if we have ever stayed off property. In our trips we have stayed off property twice. Once was right across the street and another was one mile away. Staying right across the street is nice and allows you to get to and from the park easily. Hotels that are located farther away require that you either drive or ride the Anaheim Resort Transit bus to and from the park. The hotels we stayed in were nice and clean. However, we did not enjoy feeling like we left the park. Being able to hop on the Monorail and ride it back and forth and be only steps away from our room was a sure joy, especially when we were tired.

I could go on and on about my personal reasons for staying on property, but it would probably make a record for the world’s longest entry on a blog. If you have any questions, please send them to me. While I may not be able to answer everything, I will do my best.

Until Next Time,

Monday, January 31, 2011

Flying to Disneyland

We have flown to Disneyland now 4 times and the experience each time is has been very different. On those trips we have flown two different airlines, gone to three different airports and used three different types of ground transportation. Let me lay this out for you as best as I can.

We love to fly in to John Wayne Airport (SNA). It is a smaller airport. Lines for security are rather short. The longest it ever took us to get through security was about 5 minutes. There are no restaurants except beyond security. So if you think that you will eat once you get to the airport while you wait for ground transportation to pick you up make sure that you get food before you go through security to get your luggage. Ground transportation is about 30 minutes from this airport to the Disneyland Anaheim Resort in average traffic conditions.

Los Angeles Airport is our least favorite (LAX). There is nothing wrong with this airport. They have earlier arrivals and later departures than SNA. While that may be important to some, it makes no difference to us. It is a larger airport and wait times for security are much longer. Ground transportation from here to the Disneyland Resort will take you about an hour as long as you are not traveling during rush hour.

Longbeach Airport is the most recent airport we have flown into. It is a very tiny airport that needs some updating. The bathrooms are small and the only food available is similar to what you would find at an airport coffee shop (i.e. simple pastries and fruit). The waiting room here is crowded. The fun part about this airport is that to disembark the plane or to board the plane you must walk outside onto the tarmac. That was a fun experience for our daughter. Transportation from this airport is limited. You either need to hire a cab or find a shuttle service licensed for this airport. Ground transportation from this airport will take you about 30 minutes as long as you are not traveling during rush hour. On our way home it took us about an hour to get to the airport. Had I known that we would have left earlier than we did.

The view out our window just after take-off.
Alaska Airlines and JetBlue are the only airlines that we have flown to the Disneyland Resort. The staff for either airline has been wonderful to us and very accommodating. The biggest difference between the two is that JetBlue has televisions in the back of each seat. That was a nice feature when traveling in the morning with our preschooler. She was able to watch Nick Jr. the whole flight. JetBlue also has a wider selection for the beverage service and your first checked bag is free. That was a bonus on our last trip since we had an extended stay at Disneyland. One thing to note: If you are departing on the west coast JetBlue does not fly directly to LAX or SNA. On the east coast it appears (I looked at their webs route map) that you may be able to fly into LAX.

As for ground transportation...we have taken the Disneyland Express Bus twice. Once you depart the airport you are taken directly to the Disneyland Hotel. Here you will be required to either present a pre-paid ticket, voucher or pay for your travel. Once everyone on board has done this they will allow you to disembark the bus if you are staying at the Disneyland Hotel. If you are not, they stop at the Disney's Grand Californian and Paradise Pier Hotels, if there are passengers on board. Once those passengers have disembarked, they travel to all of the remaining hotels on their route. We have also rented our own car when we stayed off of the resort property and drove back and forth to the park everyday. That was my least favorite experience. The traffic stressed me out, because we are from a small community and don't normally drive around that much traffic. Make sure you check California State Laws regarding safety seat requirements for your child.

The end result: As I am currently planning our trip for fall 2011 here is what I prefer for transportation:

Airline: Alaska
Airport: John Wayne (SNA)
Ground Transportation: Disneyland Express Shuttle

These are my preferences. You may like another airline or prefer a different airport. Whatever you choose, remember that if you do not take a direct flight you will be required to pay airport fees for each airport you land in. In those cases it may seem that your flight is cheaper, but could end up costing you more. There are many times when I almost booked on Southwest Airlines. After carefully looking at the airport fees I was able to book on JetBlue or Alaska for the same price. Southwest and JetBlue do give you one checked bag for free (at the time of this posting), but I am willing to pay for my luggage if necessary.

Until Next time,

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Planning That First Trip to Disneyland

I have been watching airfare prices now for about two months for our Fall Vacation to Disneyland. It's early, but tickets have actually risen by $3.00 one way if you can believe it. This got me to thinking about our first trip and what planning it was like for me being somewhat of a novice.

In November of 2008 my husband and I decided we were going to take Ainsley for her first trip to Disneyland. She had just turned three and we decided she was old enough to really appreciate the park. We just needed to decide when and how. Danny and I had taken our nieces to Disneyland before, so we were not total novices to Disneyland, but that was 10 years ago and so much had changed. Disney's California adventure didn't even exist back then. They had barely begun excavation and I remember thinking how exciting it would be go again after it was completed.

We talked about what to do first. Honestly, we had no idea. I checked the Disneyland website, read a few tips, but was still feeling lost. Danny remembered that his sister had recently made a trip to DisneyWorld and decided to ask her for advice. She said that we needed to buy a guide book.

When Birnbaum's Disneyland Resort 2009 arrived I was oober excited. Sitting down with a highlighter I was  bound and determined to read it from cover to cover. It was packed full of information. Some of the things in the book brought back memories frou our 1998 trip, but much of the information was brand-new to me. I learned about peak periods for travel vs. off-season, price points for meals within the park, traveling to and from the park, rides within the park and more. I was overwhelmed and not sure what to do.

It's possible that you have had this feeling too, especially if you have never been before or at least never taken a preschooler before. That's what I am here for. Having taken my daughter now four times since 2009 I hope to share with you what I have learned. I recommend getting yourself a notebook (3-ring binder worked best for me) to store all of your notes and travel plans in. Let's get started...

The first thing you need to do is determine your travel dates. If you have a flexible schedule I would avoid the peak travel times which include Mid-June through Late August and Thanksgiving or the Christmas Break at the end of December. While none of our most recent trips were during those times I have seen pictures of wait times for popular rides. Trust me...there are better times to visit the park.

Second thing you need to do is determine a budget. This is important. How much you are willing to spend on your vacation will determine a number of things for you, such as, transportation, where you will stay, where you will eat and so much more. Set a budget for your hotel, transportation (air and/or ground) food, souvenirs and anything else you might need. Once your budget is set, start shopping for vacation deals.

We have purchased our trips to Disneyland in several different ways: Travel Agent, Online and through the Disney Travel Company. Our first trip was done through a travel agent. I loved this experience. My travel agent was very helpful and shopped around for me to find the very best deal that she could. I told her my travel dates including arrival and departure times and she handled the rest. Of course, me being the mom that I am, I continued to shop on my own for prices over the internet. She ended up finding a deal that was $300 cheaper than anything I could find online. It pays to shop around.

The third step is to set up a savings plan. If you're like me it is easier to save if you have a goal in mind. Once I set a budget for my vacation I determined how many paydays I had left and how much I would need to save from each payday to reach that goal. Based on past experience, it is important to note that if you are booking a vacation deal from either your travel agent or the Disney Travel Company your vacation package will need to be paid in full at least 30 days prior to arrival. Please check with your travel agent for exact information regarding payments.

There are many other details to planning a Disneyland Resort Vacation, but I am going to stop here. Stop back soon and check out my next blog on my airline and airport experiences.

Until Next time,

Friday, January 28, 2011

Safety and Your Preschooler

A cousin asked me recently about the safety at Disneyland in regards to a preschooler. It's not like walking into a Chuck E. Cheese and having your hand stamped with the same number they stamp your childs hand and require that they match before you exit. In fact, there is nothing even like it.

I recommend that before you leave on vacation you pack an updated portrait of your child to carry with you at all times. Ainsley has her own state issued I.D. card. Each year I take her in and have her picture updated on it. There is a fee for that, but it makes me feel better. The I.D. goes in my wallet and does not get taken out unless I need it.

While I have never lost my daughter at Disneyland I have been right next to a woman who suddenly realized her daughter was gone. The cast members in the park immediately jumped into action and began to help her search. They found the child within minutes. I was amazed and relieved at the same time. Other parents have attached tags to their children's clothing with cell phone numbers and parents names in case they should lose their child.

Any missing children (up to age 10) who are not immediatley reunited with their parents are taken to Children's Services by First Aid. Cast members register the childs name in the log book and provide  movies and books as entertainment. Each cast member is trained to follow a very specific procedure in this regard.

Here is a checklist for you:
  • Pack and Carry a current picture of your child
  • Use a stroller to prevent them from wandering off
  • Attach contact information to your child's clothing
  • Locate Children's Service when you arrive so you know where it is if needed
  • Establish a set of safety rules with your children so they will not what to do if they get lost
  • Teach your child how to recognize a cast member and how to ask for help
  • Make sure you or your spouse knows where your child is at all times.
I am not saying that if you follow all of these steps you won't lose your child. However, they will help. If you have any questions, please ask. I'm not an expert, but I will do my best to give you the best answer possible.
My prayer is that I will never lose my daughter while on vacation in Disneyland, but if I should it is comforting to know that cast members will do all they can to help.

Until Next time,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Small World Show

I was so excited to read that Disney announced their new show in Disneyland Park. This new projection show will turn the facade of Small World into an "animated coloring pad." A new show will appear every night, because they will use pictures that PhotoPass Photographers take throughout the day to create the show as well as guest photos submitted online at Let the Memories Begin. Guests in the park not wanting to participate in the slide show will have the option to opt out.

Check the parks daily entertainment schedule for show times.

If you would like to see a preview before your vacation click here.

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Finding Characters - Disney's California Adventure

In my last post I shared with you details about finding characters in Disneyland Park according to location. Now let's take a look at Disney's California Adventure. Let me remind you that this is not an exhaustive list. This is by location and will include only the characters that my family has encountered.

Sunshine Plaza: Here we have seen Mickey, Minnie and Stitch. I am sure other characters have appeared, we just haven't encountered them. Our experience with Stitch was quite fun and I love the picture below with Ainsley giving him a kiss. Ainsley really enjoyed Stitch getting down  to her level and interacting with her.

Hollywood Pictures Backlot: This is a fun place to find many of the Pixar characters. Mr. & Mrs. Incredible, Sully and more. They are often in shady places when the sun is shining. The backlot stage show here has changed. When Drawn to the magic was appearing we saw Cinderella, Sorcerer Mickey and Woody. Check your park guide to see times for the new show appearing there. Outside of Disney Animation we have met with Handy Manny and Mulan.

Paradise Pier: The green army men are often seen wandering through Paradise Pier. They stop and put on a small show. However, I have not seen them give out autographs or pose for pictures. Across from Toy Story Mania we have met both Woody and Jessie. Ariel's Grotto Restaurant is located here. This is a fun place to meet many of the princesses. Our favorite thing to do is take Ainsley to Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique (we let her choose a princess costume and have her hair and nails done) and then bring her to Ariel's Grotto for a character meal. When you arrive you are taken downstairs for a picture moment with Ariel. During the meal Snow White, Belle, Cinderella and Aurora come out in intervals. They follow a path through the restaurant stopping at each table to pose for pictures and sign autographs.

Golden State: The only place we have seen any characters here is inside of the Redwood Creek Trail Challenge. Wandering through the trail we have seen Koda and Kenai many times. They are fun and really enjoy being silly. I have read that Chip and Dale have been known to make an appearance here.

Condor Flats: Outside of Soarin' Over California to the left (if facing the entrance) is an old plane. On our last vacation we were able to get a photograph with Goofy. Passing by later in the day we saw Minnie there and stopped for photos with her as well.

Bug's Land: We have not ever seen any live characters here. However, there are many fun places to stop and pose for pictures.

One last note: Some characters (such as Sully) have large paws and are unable to sign an autograph book.

Until Next Time,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Meeting Characters in Disneyland

I have been working on this particular blog for several days now. My biggest struggle is how to format this particular information in a way that is most helpful to you, the reader. The end result is…I am going to share my experiences with you based on location. Hopefully it will be helpful to you in your planning. Keep in mind that while we have met many characters there are still those we have not encountered and will not be listed here as a result. While characters can be found throughout the day after about 4 they are more elusive. Check the parks daily entertainment schedule for actual meet and greet times.

Town Square: This is a fun place to find random characters. Typically in the morning you will find Mickey or Minnie. We have also had wonderful experiences with Pluto, Pinocchio, Geppetto, Goofy, Donald, Mad Hatter and Cruella De Vil. Please Note: Mad Hatter has a rather large nose (as he does in the movie) and my daughter was a bit afraid of him the first couple of times she encountered him. Cruella is true to her character. She does, however, manage to be nice despite her bitterness at losing all those puppies.

Central Plaza (the Hub): Here we have encountered only Alice, Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, Mary Poppins and Bert. Alice and her friends were outside of Refreshment Corner. She was preparing to leave and Ainsley asked if she would sign her autograph book. Alice took her hand and led her across the way just behind the Corn Dog Cart and visited with her for a bit. As a parent it is shocking to see a character take your child’s hand and lead them away not knowing where they are going. It ended up being a special moment that I was most grateful for. Pixie Hollow is located just between the entrances for Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Here we have always met Tinker Bell and one of her fairy friends. For us that has either been Silver Mist of Rosetta. We did catch a glimpse of Vidia, but were unable to get a picture with her.

Fantasyland: We have encountered many characters here. Mary Poppins and Fairy God Mother have been seen to the right and the left of the castle just before entering. We had a great moment with Aurora right outside the entrance the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through. Alice and her friends have been known to perform a skit or two and Captain Hook has been seen looking for the elusive Peter Pan (he never finds him). Over in Princess Fantasy Faire we have met many princesses. However, Fairy God Mother did tell us that Cinderella, Snow White, Belle or Aurora typically open and close the attraction. Other princesses you will see throughout the day are: Jasmine, Belle, Ariel, and Tiana. Rapunzel was not greeting guests on our last trip. We are looking forward to seeing her for the first time in the fall of 2011.

Mickey’s Toontown: If you are looking to meet Mickey and Minnie this is a wonderful place to go. Head on over to Minnie’s House where she will welcome you and invite you to explore the inside of her home. Then walk through Mickey’s House to get to his Movie Barn. Mickey is working in the sound stage. Here you will be able to watch some of Mickey’s earlier movie shorts while you wait to greet him. Guests are ushered into the sound stage in groups, but given the opportunity to greet Mickey individually. Pluto is often found wandering through the streets here and Goofy likes to greet guests outside of his house. If you are able to participate in Mickey’s Toontown Morning Madness it is a fun time to greet many characters one on one. We have seen Goofy, Donald, Mickey, Minnie, Chip and Dale on the morning we were there.

Frontierland: Our experience meeting characters here is limited. We happened to be walking through one morning and ran into Woody on the backside of Thunder Mountain Railroad. On our only Christmas visit we were able to take some wonderful pictures with Santa at Santa’s Reindeer Round-up.

Adventureland: Aladdin and Jasmine can be found at Aladdin’s Oasis between the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Jungle Boat Cruise.

New Orleans Square: We greeted Princess Tiana inside of a wonderful little alcove here. 

Critter Country: Pooh and Friends can be found here. They have a wonderful little location right in the middle, you can’t miss it. Brer Bear and Brer Fox also wander around here, although, they are harder to meet.

Tomorrowland: Here we have met Buzz Lightyear. We saw him walking through Tomorrowland and followed him. He stopped right outside of the Astro Orbiters along the rock wall. That was a fun moment for Ainsley.

Minnie & Friends - Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn: This is perhaps our favorite character meal. While it seems a bit chaotic at first it is a wonderful experience. Minnie, Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Chip, Dale, Pinocchio, Fairy God Mother, Captain Hook, Max, Susie, Perla, Baloo and more have been present at many of the meals we have eaten there. They may not all be present at the same time, but Minnie is always there. If you are eating here with small children leave an adult at the table for picture time while another brings a tray of food for the children. My daughter is often distracted by the characters here so we try and eat around 10:30 and call it brunch. On that day we will then eat an early dinner around 4:30.

A couple of things to note in Disneyland: if you can’t find who you are looking for stop by the information board in Central Plaza. The Cast Member present will do their best to help you find the information you are looking for. The most important tip I can give you is to just keep your eyes open. Often times you will see Photo Pass Photographers is random places. They are usually waiting for a character to appear. You can also watch for cast members wearing a pin that says, “Ask me about characters.” Check in with them for tips on where to find a character you are looking for.
This list is getting quite long. Check back and I will share our experiences with Characters in Disney’s California Adventure.

Until Next time,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Meet-N-Greet Tips

As I sit here this morning it is raining outside and only about 40 degrees. Disneyland weather is sunny and 65. Who wouldn't rather be there. Maybe I will go sit in a tanning bed today for about 5 minutes and dream I am flying through the air on the Dumbo ride. 

On our first trip with Ainsley she was super excited to go. We didn't tell her until just before so her excitement wouldn't get the best of her. Honestly though, I have an amazing daughter. No matter how excited she is about an activity she still manages to sleep and maintain a calm level of anticipation. Don't get me wrong...she can be energetic like any normal 5 year old, but she can be really good at waiting too.

One of my biggest fears was how she would react to all of the characters. We saw a man dressed as Tigger one year handing out candy for Halloween and she hid behind me. Keeping that experience in mind I had determined that we need to be purposeful in how we introduced her to Mickey Mouse and friends. The plan was to arrive on our first day and immediately take her to Mickey's house in Toontown. Inside of Mickey's Movie Barn you can meet with the mouse himself. Cast members take park guests in small groups into Mickey's dressing room where you have an opportunity to meet with him and have a photo taken. Ainsley changed that plan when we first walked in the gate. Off to the right of the entrance in front of the Mad Hatter Hat Shop we saw Mickey and Pluto. She couldn't wait and wanted to meet Mickey right then. What a special moment that was.

Ainsley meets Mickey for the first time.

If you think your child might be afraid here are a few tips:

1. Be willing to stand in the picture with your child and ask a cast member to take a picture of your family. They will gladly use your camera and allow you to review it to make sure that it turned out well before you leave.

2. Use an autograph book. Ainsley loves to collect signatures of all the characters she meets. We like the autograph books with the picture pockets that can be purchased at the park.

3. Start with a favorite character. If you are not sure where to find them ask a cast member. However, Mickey is almost always at his house in Toontown and so is Minnie. Pooh and Tigger can often be found in Critter Country and many Princess can be found throughout the day at Princess Fantasy Fare.

4. While meeting the characters at Disneyland can be great fun, it’s not a must for a great Disneyland experience. Cast Members will do all they can to help you and your child have a great meet-n-greet with each character you encounter, but it's okay to wait until your child is ready.

Watch for my next blog for tips on where to find Character Meet-N-Greets at Disneyland.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I have been thinking a lot lately about writing a blog. There are many people in my life who keep telling me that I should write a book. Well, that seems a bit out of my league, so a blog will have to do. Finding a topic for a blog seems a bit easy for me. There are several things that I love and enjoy, but none of them compare to my love for Disneyland. I must warn you that I am not one to know everything about Disneyland. The trivia eludes me, but if I am in need of that information, I simply look no further than my husband. He loves to learn all of that and has a memory that amazes me still to this day. Neither have I experienced everything at Disneyland. There are some areas we have not been to and rides we have not done for specific reasons, but I will explain those for another time.

What I can speak to you of is my experience as a mom of a preschooler. Not that I have been an amazing amount of times, but for some the number of times I have been will be something they can only dream about. I have been 6 times in my life, 4 of those within the last 14 months. What a whirlwind year that was!!! I may never be able to make that many trips again in one year, but it is the intent of my family to make a least one every year J.

In the course of that year I have learned many things about Disneyland and feel that I must warn you. I am a 100% Disneyland fan!!!!! I have never been let down in a way that I felt slighted or cheated. The experience that we have at Disneyland is purely our making. We choose to enjoy everything about it (including the people we are surrounded by). That is truly our mindset. On our first visit with our daughter I had not been enjoying myself. Upon introspection I realized that I was the problem and not my surroundings. I had to let go of all of my own expectations and ideologies. Once I did that, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our trip.
That brings me to the purpose of this blog. I intend to tell you all about those four trips. The food we ate, rides we experienced, people we encountered and more. My daughter, now 5, had her first trip when she was three. Hopefully my experiences at Disneyland will help you in your planning. We are even currently beginning to plan our trip to in the fall of 2011. I have started now, because I am looking for a specific price point for airline and hotels. When I find what I am looking for I will make all of my necessary reservations.
I look forward to spending my time writing this blog and recalling all of my trips in the past and sharing what I have learned. However, I also hope to learn from you. Feel free to share with me your own thoughts and experiences. It’s always exciting to hear from others. Ask me your questions. I may not be able to answer everything, but I will do my best.

Until next time,