Disney World is in the process of undergoing one of the biggest high-tech makeovers in Disney history with the new My Magic+ experience.  I recently had the pleasure being in the test group for this experience and found it completely impressive and a huge way to help get the most of my time.

 What is My Magic+, you may ask?  This is Disney’s way of linking anything and everything concerning your reservation to one specific place: your Magic Band.  On my most recent trip, I checked in at my resort and was handed an Iconic Gray Magic Band.  All of my dining credits, room entry, my annual pass, Fastpasses for four days and charging privileges were pre-loaded onto the band, I set a 4-digit pin and I was ready to go! I couldn’t wait to try it out so I then picked up my resort refillable mug by scanning my Magic Band at the register, entering my pin number and that was all there was to it! I headed to my room, held up my Magic Band to the Mickey icon by the door and entered my room. 

 Now, onto the part I was really excited about: testing my Fastpass+.   I had pre-loaded Fastpasses for four days into the My Disney Experience app several days prior, but my plane was delayed and I ended up getting to Disney World later than expected.  It was no problem to go into the app and edit the times for my Fastpasses.  They can be edited as much as you need them to be.  Basically, you’re allowed to choose three Fastpasses for one park per day.  The first park I was visiting was Animal Kingdom so I chose the Kilamanjaro Safari (9-10 a.m. , Dinosaur (10-11 a.m.)  and the character photo opportunity at Adventurer’s Outpost (11 a.m.-12 p.m.).  I entered the park by holding up my Magic Band and was greeted a “Welcome Julie!” by a cast member and headed to my first Fastpass at the safari.  I went to the Fastpass return line and held my Magic Band up to one of the posts, it made a “magical” sound and again, the cast member welcomed me with “enjoy your safari, Julie!” I walked right on the ride with no wait. 

 After doing Fastpass+ for four days with three Fastpass+ passes per day, I found it to be a huge time-saver.  I was in and out of the parks by 1 p.m. each day feeling like I had accomplished all of my favorite E-ticket attractions with absolutely no hassle.  There was one point at which a ride was down during my Fastpass time.  I was e-mailed immediately with four other selections available to me and I didn’t even have to walk back to find a disappointing ride closure. 

 As of right now, the Fastpass+ and Magic bands are only available for testing at certain resorts.  A cast member said they would be rolling out at a few more resorts each month until the end of 2013, when they should be available to all guests staying at Disney resorts. Making selections beforehand can be confusing to even the most experienced Disney guest so  please let your travel agent help you.  If you have technical questions please call the help desk.

 407-939-7849 (7am-11pm EST).

I hope you enjoy using the Magic Band as much as I did!

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist 


For many young children, to meet their favorite characters and get their autograph is a dream come true!

Most families choose an autograph book for characters to sign. Disney sells these books at all their shops both at the resorts and onboard the cruises. Some books even include a spot for pictures to be inserted. The outside designs vary and your child will easily find one they fall in love with. If you adore crafting, you can choose to make your own autograph books and customize them with stickers, die cuts, and even pixie dust sparkles. Be sure to save room for 25-30 characters if you are making your own book so you don’t run out of space. Maybe you’re looking for something different for the characters to sign. Many great ideas include a pillowcase, picture mat, t-shirt, baseball cap, or wall poster. If you choose to have the characters sign something like a t-shirt or pillowcase, bring along a piece of cardboard that can give some sturdiness to the item while they are signing it.  Also, remember that clothing items can’t be worn when the characters sign them.

Now that you have something for the characters to sign, you’ll need something for them to sign with. Disney characters, especially those with thick gloves, prefer pens and markers that are chunky for their hands to hold. Sharpies, especially the retractable ones, are wonderful for this and can be found at local stores and purchased in many colors. Disney also sells many chunky pens in their gift stores that perfectly suitable for the characters to use.

Lastly, you need to find the characters you want signatures for. The best, easiest, and far most relaxing way to get a lot of signatures without waiting in long lines is at a character meal. At a character meal, each character in attendance comes by your table and will sign autographs and take pictures. I love that while I eat, the characters come to me instead of having to always head to them! But even character meals don’t always get you all the signatures you are looking for and you may need to stand in a few lines at each park to get what you are looking for. At each Disney park, the Times Guide lists the times and locations for characters in the park that day. If you go earlier in the day for signatures, the lines tend to be less busy. Onboard a Disney cruise, you can find character appearances listed in the daily Navigator’s Guide, on screens in the main lobby, and via a designated ship extension number.  

Autographs are a wonderful souvenir of a Disney vacation. Be sure to get out books and mementos when you get home with your children and see how they become animated just recalling these special times they had with their Disney heroes!

Michelle Browne

Travel Specialist


Do you love watching the magical fireworks display above Cinderella’s Castle?  Looking to experience the magic in an entirely new way?  Walt Disney World offers its guest another memorable experience just outside the entrance of Magic Kingdom with its Pirates and Pals Fireworks Cruise.

 Pirates and Pals Fireworks Cruises launch from the boat docks at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, located just outside the Magic Kingdom and conveniently located on the monorail system.  Cruises go out on Fridays through Mondays and are limited to 60 people, so advanced reservations are encouraged.  The voyage costs $69 for adults and $41 for children and characters are subject to change without notice.rsz_img_1330

 Your evening starts with light snack and drinks and a visit from Captain Hook and Mr. Smee!!!  Once your children get their autographs and pictures with these two, your Captain “Patch” leads you to your boat for Disney trivia, storytelling and laughs.  As you cruise the Seven Seas Lagoon, you will get an up close look at the Electrical Water Pageant, a Disney tradition since 1971.  Your captain will then guide your boat to a perfect spot on the water to watch “Wishes Nighttime Spectacular” as the color and magic light up the sky above Cinderella’s Castle.

 The memorable moments aren’t over yet!  Patch will continue the fun by sharing the story of Peter Pan as you return to port.  Have your camera ready as there is a special “guest” waiting at the docks to welcome you home from your voyage!

Tressa Krippel

Travel Specialist 


A classic picture in front of Cinderella’s Castle, the moment that your little one meets Buzz and Woody, and experiencing the intensity of Rock n’ Roller Coasters 0 to 60 mph are moments not to be missed and are the moments you don’t want to miss.   With Disney’s PhotoPass+, you won’t have to!

PhotoPass+ allows guests to capture all the magical moments with the help of Disney PhotoPass Photographers that are located throughout the Disney World parks, resorts, water parks (May through September) and select attractions.

What does the PhotoPass+ include?

  • PhotoPass+ Card and Lanyard

  • Gallery CD with more than 400 Disney World stock photos

  • Code to create and order a photo cd with all your photos online at www.DisneyPhotoPass.com

  • Print packages at select Dining locations like ‘Ohana , Chef Mickey’s, Tusker House, 1900 Park Fare and more

  • Digital Downloads at select attractions, such as Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Tower of Terror, Rock n’ Roller Coaster,  Dinosaur, Expedition Everest and Test Track


When you receive your resort package documents, you PhotoPass+ voucher is included.  Just take that voucher to the parks or Downtown Disney and exchange it for your PhotoPass+ card and lanyard.  If you are staying at a select Disney Deluxe resort, you can pick up your PhotoPass+ card at your resort.  Pick-up locations are:

  • Town Square Exposition Hall at Magic Kingdom Park

  • Camera Center at Epcot

  • Dark Room/Cover Story at Hollywood Studios

  • Garden Gate Gifts at Animal Kingdom

  • Team Mickey at Downtown Disney

  • M. Mouse Mercantile at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

  • Trader Jack’s at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

  • Zawadi at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

  • Beach Club Marketplace at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort

When you get your lanyard you’ll also receive your cd with the 400 stock photos so be prepared to carry it with you for the rest of the day.

What are the benefits of PhotoPass+?

  • By pre-ordering you’ll save money!  Before you make your final payment, just let us know that you want to add PhotoPass+ and it will be added to your package for a $158.69 (this includes tax).  Cost at the park is $199.95

  • No fumbling with your camera.  Professional photographers are taking the pictures and will help you get just the right pose with your favorite character or Disney landmark.  They are ready to capture that second when your little one runs to give their favorite character a hug.

  • ALL family members are in the pictures!!!  With professional photographers, taking your pictures there is no one left out of the family photos.

  • Convenience.  You have 30 days to download your photos,  edit, add borders, and character signatures if you would like.

  • Once you have edited your photos, order your cd with your redemption code and your cd will arrive by mail.  You then can take it to any local photo processing location and print your pictures.


When you take advantage of adding PhotoPass+ to your resort package, you save money, get the convenience of professional photographers capturing your family’s moments at Walt Disney World and the ease of  printing your photos locally when you are ready.  Don’t forget to keep your lanyard, you’ll need this when you get home for the code inside!!


Tressa Krippel

Travel Specialist

 Disney has always been about making magical memories.   Those moments, no matter how old you are, make you reflect and smile.  This is what happens for me every time I think of Mouse Ears!!!  Walt Disney World has been a place for celebrations and milestones for my family.  Each symbolized by my collection of mouse ears.creighton mouse ears
Each pair of Mouse Ears that I have were purchased are one of my other favorite hidden
treasures,  The Chapeau, on Main Street U.S.A. at Walt Disney World.  “Chapeau” is French for hat or covering your head.  My first set of ears (which I have placed in a “safe spot” in my house.  And as any parent knows, it is so safe that I haven’t been able to find them in time for this blog article) were given to me by my parents to celebrate our first trip to Walt Disney World sometime in the late 70’s.    They are the classic Mickey ears with “Tressa” in gold stitching on the back.  I returned back to The Chapeau in 1996 on my honeymoon.  To celebrate this great, new adventure as a married couple, “wedding ears” were added to my collection.  When we returned to Walt Disney World in 2006 to bring our sons to the Magic Kingdom for the first time, we returned to The Chapeau to start the tradition for our boys and purchased their ears with their names stitched on back, as well as my Mickey “MOM” Ears.  We’ve returned a couple more times and our other children have received their Mouse Ears.  For our family, this is a right of passage for visiting Walt Disney World.  cashton mouse ears
Mouse Ears can be purchased throughout the parks at Walt Disney World, but our favorite is The Chapeau on Main Street U.S.A.  Guests can shop in this vintage Victorian looking hat shop and if they choose,  watch as their ears are embroidered with their name or other special moment being honored.  At the Chapeau, you can have any name embroidered on any Mickey (or Minnie) Ears you buy!  There is a choice of three different fonts…. traditional ($3.00 a name), while Script and Fun Fonts are both $7.00 a name.  If you’re worried about keeping track of your ears, they will gladly hold your ears at the store for you to return for them later.my mouse ears
This year, Disney has announced 2013 as the “Year of the Ear”!  Each month, Disney will introduce special Mouse Ears and Ear headbands for fans to add to their Mouse Ear collections.  January kicked off the “Year of the Ear” with 5 new Couture Ear Hats.  When visiting Walt Disney World, be sure to take time to stroll down Main Street U.S.A. and don’t forget a stop in at The Chapeau to see the collection of Mouse Ears, hats,  baseball caps and trinkets that make memorable souvenirs.

Tressa Krippel

Travel Specialist