Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What is the Best Time to Visit Walt Disney World?


If you ask 10 people that question, you'll get 10 different answers. Everyone has their own definition of "best." For me, best is when the parks are quietest. I'm not a fan of huge crowds. I don't like waiting in long lines. I like to feel relaxed and calm on vacation, not worrying about everything we have to skip because the parks are so crowded.

According to TouringPlans.com, the lowest crowds are:

The week after New Year's Day
End of January into the beginning of February
End of February into first week of March
End of August through the first week of October
End of October through mid November
The week after Thanksgiving through mid December

It's best to avoid all holidays or school breaks. Even just a single day holiday like Martin Luther King Jr's birthday or Columbus day will draw crowds, though not as much as full school breaks do. The marathons draw crowds as well.

Highest crowds:

Mid February (President's week)
Pretty much all of March and sometimes April (Spring Break and Easter)
Memorial Day weekend
Fourth of July
Most of June, July, and August
Thanksgiving week
Mid December through the first of the year

But some of the busier times of year are also a great time to be there, if you can handle crowds. There are all kinds of fun events going on, such as:

Marathons (February, April, and November)
Flower and Garden Festival (Spring)
Food and Wine Festival (Fall)
Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (September and October)
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (November and December)

When's your favorite time to go to Walt Disney World??



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Pros and Cons of Every Age Range



Many parents struggle with the "right" age to take their kids on a Disney Parks vacation. In my opinion, EVERY age is a great age! I've heard many say they are waiting until they are old enough to remember. I understand that. A Disney vacation can be expensive, and may be a once in a lifetime event for a family, so I understand the need to get the most out of the experience. But there are drawbacks to every age, actually. Not just the little ones.

Here's my list of pros and cons for each age range!

Babies (Ages 0-18 months)

Pros: Babies are easy. They sit in their stroller all day and don't ask for every souvenir they see. Most are content to sit and watch everything going on around them and will nap right in their stroller. Disney has Baby Care Centers that are a great place for a meal (for baby) or just some quiet downtime. There are many attractions that are perfectly safe for babies to ride on mom or dad's lap, so the family can still experience much of the park together. (Unlike many other theme/amusement parks) And for the bigger thrill rides, Disney has a Rider Swap program to minimize your line wait times. Babies are FREE! No need to pay for a park pass or dining plan.

Cons: There are many attractions that babies cannot experience, or won't want to (dark rides). You will need to tour the parks at a slower pace and take frequent breaks for diaper changes and feedings. You'll need to lug quite a good amount of stuff into the parks with you- diapers, wipes, food, bottles, extra clothes. Babies won't remember it. You won't be able to ride thrill rides with your significant other. Someone will have to stay with baby.

Toddlers (18 months-3 years)

Pros: At this age they're starting to recognize who Mickey and other characters are and most will be amazed at seeing them up close and personal. They get so excited! Attractions will be very exciting for them too. You may be sick of the song from it's a small world, but they will love it. Many kids this age will still nap in the stroller. Kids under 3 are FREE! Even if they turn 3 while at Disney, as long as they are still 2 at check in, you're good!

Cons: They're still too small for bigger rides. Some kids will be scared of the characters. They might not remember it. This seems to be the prime age for being scared of dark rides.

Preschoolers (3-5 years)

Pros: This is the best age for character interaction. They just love meeting the characters they adore and still believe it's really the character and not just a person in a costume. The amazement and wonder is still there. Many kids are taller by this age and can ride the attractions with a 40 inch height minimum.

Cons: Still too short to ride thrill rides. They're no longer free. Some are still scared on dark rides.

Elementary Kids (5-9)

Pros: They're FINALLY tall enough for Space Mountain and Rock n Roller Coaster! And they are so so excited to ride! Kids on the younger side of this spectrum are still into the characters, any many of the older ones too. They're still considered a kid, so they're cheaper for park passes and dining plan. They understand more of what's going on at Epcot and Animal Kingdom and get a kick out of things like Kidcot Stations at Epcot and Wilderness Explorers at Animal Kingdom. They'll definitely remember it, and will most likely talk about it for months after you go home. (Is that a pro or a con? LOL!)

Cons: By the later end of the spectrum, most kids know the characters are just people in costumes. No more strollers, so you get lots of complaints about sore feet. And lots of, "Can you buy me this?"

Tweens (10-12)

Pros: They have more stamina at this age and can make it all day and into the evening without needing a nap or being tired. Most will be ready for all thrill rides and want to do them over and over.  Their palettes are expanding so they will be willing to try all the awesome restaurants on Disney property, not just ones with chicken nuggets and mac n cheese.

Cons: Starting at age 10, they are considered adults and must pay adult price for park passes and dining plan. Kids start to get embarrassed at this age and might not be as willing to play along and have fun. They might be over the whole character meet n greet thing. They might not be as impressed with slower rides.

Teens (13-19)

Pros: You finally have mini adults on your hands and can enjoy the parks together. Teens are more appreciative of fancier restaurants and shows like LaNouba. They will be able to shop with you without constantly asking for things (hopefully) and can better understand the cost of things.

Cons: They might miss their friends at home and want to spend a lot of time on their phones. They might want to spend time on their own at the parks, without you. And two words- hormonal meltdowns. Teen years are so so fun.....

So there's my list of pros and cons! Got a pro or con of your own for a certain age range that I haven't listed?? Comment below!!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Finding Happiness!

I'm pretty lucky. I've found a way to make money doing something I love. TWO somethings to be exact. They feed my soul in different ways, using different sides of my brain. For the first time in a long time I feel secure. I feel like I've really found my path....two paths that run along-side each other.

As you all know, I'm a Disney-certified travel agent/travel planner with Fairytale Journeys. I adore all things Disney. I love helping people plan magical vacations. I love helping families find that oh-so-precious and oh-so-rare family bonding time! I love helping them plan an escape from their everyday lives!




And I guess my other job is all about escape too! I'm also a romance author :)

I started writing years ago--like 10--on a whim and it just blossomed. I couldn't stop. I needed to do it. So much so that I often stayed up until two a.m. writing, and had to force myself to go to bed because I knew my daughter was going to be up in only a few hours! I learned the craft, met any many wonderful people, took baby steps, and eventually got to a good place. I currently have six contemporary romance novels published with the seventh releasing this July!




I love creating these wonderful worlds. I love creating these sassy characters and putting them into crazy situations. I love the love. I love when readers love my stories. I love that I create something that gives people an escape from whatever they need escaping from.

Check out my Author Blog here and my Author Facebook page here!

Never before in my life have a felt so happy and secure about my career/s. Who knew you could have passion for two things???!!!

My two careers fulfill me in different ways. The writing nurtures my soul, my creativity. It's my outlet for my thoughts and feelings. But it is a roller coaster, as any artist knows. I often doubt myself, but then later that day, I feel like a million bucks! I have very few answers and I don't think I will ever feel like an authority. But that's okay. I love what I create. I love what I give to others. I love the journey. And I can't wait to see where it takes me.

The travel planning is very different. I know all the answers, or at least know where to find them. I feel very in control, which is a feeling I rarely have when it comes to writing. And actually I think that's good for me. It's good to have control, but also good to know when you have to give it up. I love helping people create memories for their families. Life is so full of must-dos and I think families often run out of time for togetherness. When I help families plan a Disney vacation, I'm giving them peace of mind. I'm helping them create opportunity for quality time with their family. I'm helping them create memories they will cherish forever.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

My Guide to Disney's Photopass and Memory Maker!



Disney's Photopass has been around for quite some time. At least ten years. It's a wonderful service that we have used many many times and it has given us precious mementos we will cherish forever.

If you're not sure what it is, you definitely need to know! Disney has positioned professional photographers all over the parks, as well as the resorts and Disney Springs, ready and willing to take your photo for you. So everyone can be in the photo. They take photos with their own camera, but will with yours as well, if you ask. All photos taken by Disney's photographers are collected for you and linked to your reservation, via Magic Band, (if staying on property). If you're not staying at Disney resort, the photographer will give you a card. Hold on to it! After each photographer takes photos they will either scan your Magic Band or the card. When you go home, you can view the photos on your My Disney Experience account, or by visiting the Photopass Website and entering the code on the back of the card you were given.

The Photopass service has lots of options for what to do with the photos after your trip. You can order prints, download digital files, or order from a catalog of photo products like mugs and photo books. But the best product of all--and the most cost efficient--is the Memory Maker package. It has changed over the years, but currently, you pay one price and receive digital downloads of ALL your photos, even ride and dining photos. The cost is cheaper if you purchase before your trip, but can be purchased after as well.

Here's my best advice for using Memory Maker and Photopass!

* Keep an eye out for Photopass photographers and take as many photos as you can! Don't just do the park icons. Pose with characters (there are photographers at most character meet n greets, but not all).     The photographers hang out in front of popular attractions, like Rock N Roller Coaster and Space Mountain. They hang out in front of landmarks in the park, like the bridge into Africa in Animal Kingdom and the fountains in Epcot. Many of the countries in World Showcase have photographers too. Keep your eyes open for lots of fun backdrops.









* Ask if the photographer does magic shots! They're so fun!





* If you have a Magic Band, you can link your Memory Maker package. Then all you need to do is have the photographers scan your band. And for ride photos, no need to even scan at all. Through the magic of Disney, it senses your presence in the building and adds the photos to your account.






* You can view your photos almost immediately on the My Disney Experience app! But be forewarned, not all photos will show up there. They all should show up on the Photopass website though. If not, there is a lost photo form you can fill out in the Help section on the website. I've had to do it before and they recovered them for me :)

* You get more than just your photos! Some attractions take videos of you. Very cool! And some photos have fun animation added to them.





* If your kids participate in shows like the Jedi Training Academy, Pirates League, or Enchanted Tales with Belle, you can upload all those photos to your account as well. Just make sure you get the Photopass card from the photographer at the show with the special code. You will need to upload that manually, or you can visit a photo center in the park and they can add the photos to your account for you. That is probably the best way to go, since you can pick and choose which photos to add, instead of uploading every single child's photo onto your account, and then have to delete them afterward.





* When you get home, log into My Disney Photopass. You can view all your photos and make enhancements.

* IMPORTANT!!! When making enhancements, first make a copy of the original photo, then add a border or sticker. Save your photo when done. The you can go back and make another copy of the same original photo and add a different border or sticker. You can do this as many times as you want. There is no limit to the number of photos. Be creative! Crop them, turn them black and white, add every border and sticker to every photo if you want! You can easily turn 150 photos into 500!






* Make sure you do all your enhancements and download your photos by the expiration date. If not, you'll lose them forever!

I'm a big fan of Memory Maker and Disney's Photo Pass service. The photos they take are far better than the ones I can get, and I'm in every photo!! It's just one more way that Disney makes my family vacation easier. :)

Have a question about something I didn't mention in this post, go ahead and ask! Post below, email me at ftjbystephaniehaefner@yahoo.com, or visit my Facebook page!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dining pages are updated!!!



Hello everyone!! I have SOOOOOO much to share with you all after my most recent trip to The World!

First and foremost, I updated my dining review pages!!!! Dining is such a huge thing for me, as well as many others. I love to eat delicious food in unique restaurants, and Disney is FULL of great choices. Even the counter meals are special! This recent trip, I visited two new-to-me table service restaurants (Tusker House and Mama Melrose) and updated some of the other reviews I'd already posted. I also divided them up so each park has it's own page, as well as Disney Springs and the resorts, so it's easier for you to browse :) To view the pages, just look to your right- you might have to scroll a bit. They are listed under "Planning Tips."

Lots more updates coming soon! I've got some other things to take care of first, but my 2016 will definitely start with updating my blog!

Wishing you all a fabulous new year filled with magic, memories, and fun!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

UPDATES coming soon!!



So so excited for my upcoming Disney trip because that means I will be updating my blog! My plan is to take TONS of pics of EVERYTHING! And share them with all of you! Attractions, shows, decor, and most importantly, FOOD! I'll be experiencing two new-to-me restaurants: Mama Melrose and Tusker House and I plan to give you a full report. As well as updating some of my other restaurant notes. Is there anything specifically you'd like me to check out and report back on???

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to Maximize a Short Trip


A Disney Parks vacation is amazing. We simply adore it and try to get there as often as we can. But many times, for various reasons- time, money, etc... to get there, we have to keep it short. We've done 2 short trips in the past and one is coming up. My idea of short is 4 nights or less. Many may disagree with that and consider it a perfect amount of time. Others may gasp in horror at even thinking of only going for 4 nights. For us, 4 nights with 3 full days and 2 half days, is relatively short because most of our trips are 7 or 8 nights with 8 or 9 park days. And when you're not used to cutting the trip basically in half, it can leave you feeling as if the trip flew by and you didn't get to do nearly as much as you wanted. It can leave you disappointed.

But there are ways to avoid disappointment!

- First of all, remember you are in Disney! And any time there is better than none!! Savor every moment!!

- Limit yourself. You may have to limit the number of parks you visit, or limit the days you spend at each park. It's a personal preference. In my opinion, you cannot do everything there is to do at Magic Kingdom or Epcot in one day (each). So on a short trip, you will need to decide between visiting all parks for only one day each, or skipping one and spending two at your favorite park. I might get yelled at, but I'm gonna say it- Animal Kingdom is our least favorite park. There just isn't much there that appeals to us. There is nothing there that is a must do for us. We do love it and there are many awesome things, but we can survive without it. So on short trips we will skip it in favor of two days at Magic Kingdom. We prefer two at Epcot as well, but MK wins for us.

- Don't waste time. When you only have one day at each park, you need to skip things that just take up too much time. Like midday breaks, parades, browsing every gift shop, Kidcot stations, street entertainment, play areas such as Honey I Shrunk the Kids, character meet n greets, basic rides that seem to have really long lines (Tomorrowland Speedway, Astro Orbiter, Peter Pan, unless you have a fastpass). But if those things are very important to you, do them. You just need to realize you may not accomplish as much in the parks as you may be used to.

- Use Fastpass + to the maximum your day! Schedule your 3 ahead of time for as early in the day as you can. Then when you're there, you'll be able to get more sooner. Once you use your 3 you can book more, one at a time, using the My Disney Experience app on your mobile device.

- Keep meals simple. One thing that sucks up a lot of park time is sit down meals. Especially if you need to leave the park to get to them. An average sit down meal eats up at least an hour and a half to two hours, not including travel time. Depending on time of day, you can do a counter meal in half that time, or less, freeing you up to do more with your day.

- Skip Disney Springs (Downtown Disney). It's a great place and it can be really fun, but in the end. it's mostly just shopping. And as much as we all want the perfect souvenir, I'm not willing to pass on park time to shop for hours to find it. If you have time in the evening, sure! Especially on a day where a park closes early, like Animal Kingdom.

I think that's it! If you have questions, or more tips for maximizing your time, please post them! Enjoy every moment of your short trip! Suck up every second of Disney magic that you can!