Tag Archives: #disneysmmoms

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opening Summer 2012 at WDW

It’s all about the swimming pool for this family. When booking any hotel or resort or vacation of any kind, I have to look first at the pool situation. My kids are water babies, and we all four love some play time in the water.

When we visited Walt Disney World in March of 2011, I knew the Parks would take precedence over the pools, but it was still important to have good pools for our downtime. Considering the possibility that this trip may very well be our only chance to visit Disney World, we chose to spend a few days at all three levels of resort at Disney World: Value, Moderate and Delux.

Obviously, I prefer the Delux! We were fortunate enough to get to stay at The Grand Floridian during the Disney Social Media Moms celebration, and it was amazingly wonderful. Just stunning, and lovely. Truly luxurious.

We arrived for the conference a few days early so we could get our sea legs, so to speak, and chose the Port Orleans Riverside for this leg of our trip. We chose a Moderate level resort for these few days for a couple reasons: we didn’t have park passes yet, and we wanted a fun pool experience. Plus it was a short boat ride to Downtown Disney, for which you also don’t need park passes. This resort was great for us: nice pools and amenities. In fact, the pool at Port Orleans French Quarter was our favorite pool at any of the resorts we stayed at. We did in fact spend a lot of time in the awesome pools there, so I know we made the right decision.

I highly recommend the Riverside. The food court was great, the pools were awesome, the rooms were nice, there was a nice running trail that I used each morning, and I liked being able to stroll or boat down to French Quarter to use that pool and grab some beignets. I’d totally stay there again, especially now that they are adding “Royal Guest Rooms” as part of the new Disney Story Rooms experience available at some resorts.

After the conference, we moved to All Star Movies, a Value level resort. The kids really like the giant statues from Toy Story, and the room was perfectly adequate (and a great price), but it was hard not to be disappointed in the amenities after spending a few days at The Grand Floridian. Particularly, the pool left a lot to be desired. It really just felt like a giant bland pool – no slides, no extra features. It’s too bad, because the Value price level certainly is appealing – but I know we couldn’t stay there again.

So I was delighted to see that Disney is adding a new level to their Value resorts! The new Art of Animation resort seems like a good solution to some of the issues we had with ASM.

Courtesy of Disney1. Three pools, with the Finding Nemo pool being the largest pool outside of a Disney Water Park. Awesome.

2. Family suites, for families with more than 2 kids, or if you’re traveling with grandparents or other family members.

Courtesy of Disney

3. More diverse dining areas. Though we had a fantastic breakfast at ASM, the food offerings really felt limited in comparison with the other resorts. Art of Animation will have more healthy options as well as specialty restaurants, such as a Mongolian Grill. My brothers would be thrilled. Maybe it’s time for a whole family vacay?

There will be four different themes at this resort, Finding Nemo opens first, on May 31, 2012. Cars, Lion King and The Little Mermaid will all follow throughout the year. The first three theme areas will be all family suites, and the Little Mermaid will have conventional hotel rooms (opening by the end of 2012).

This resort looks great, and I love that guests can feel like they’re part of the movies. Brian and I had so much fun at Toon Town in Disneyland when we got engaged, and we were looking forward to introducing the kids to that at Disney World. It no longer exists, but I think this Art of Animation experience will make up for that.

Happy Travels!

I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and some other fun perks. Disney did not ask me to write about this, and all opinions are my own.


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My kids are loving the games on DisneyJunior.com. usually, they’re all about Jake & The Neverland Pirates. Today, it’s Winnie the Pooh! Ever since we attended the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Disney World in March, these kids have been obsessed with all things Disney! I have to admit, I have too...


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I couldn’t figure out where Anna got the idea to hide treasures around the yard, and make treasure maps for the neighbors to find the treasures. Very imaginative play going on here, and we keep finding these cute little treasure maps.

treasure map, this one was in the mailbox

Pretty soon the neighbor kids were making their own treasures and treasure maps, and they all spent an entire afternoon being creative, hiding, searching, drawing. I was impressed that my daughter had come up with this activity. Now I know she’s smart and clever and brilliant and beautiful (OK, I’m getting carried away), but this is fairly awesome, right?

This is one of Anna's more elaborate "treasures," which she made for our neighbor Sara

Brian and I were tickled when we stumbled across this “hidden” treasure…

Anna tells me this was the very first treasure, she made it for Caleb. It's still there, because after he found it he started making his own treasures and maps.

A few days after the big treasure map day, Anna was playing a Jake & the Neverland Pirates game on the computer. It suddenly hit me that this must be the inspiration for all the treasure maps! Not to downplay her creative skills, but finally it all made sense.

Jake & The Neverland Pirates "hidden treasure" computer game

We met Jake & The Neverland Pirates at Disney World. We were fortunate enough to be included in the Disney Social Media Moms celebration in March, and I gotta tell you, we all became Disney converts. The party hosted by Disney Junior was hands-down my kids’ favorite. Since then, it’s been Jake Jake Jake all the time.

We’ve almost switched 100% from Nick Junior to Disney Junior! The kids were about done with Dora and Diego, so the infusion of Jake has been just what they wanted. Same basic concept, BTW. Mind you, we don’t watch a ton of TV. In fact, I don’t even know exactly when any shows are on. We just set the DVR for their favorites, then whenever Brian or I needs a time out – or a shower and a moment of peace – we plop them in front of the recorded show. The beauty of this system is the shows are only about 30 minutes, then the DVR switches to the boring old menu, and the kids know they’re done with TV. If we let them just watch a channel, we might get carried away with our free time and let them watch TV all day. I’d like to think that wouldn’t happen, but I’m being honest here.

Anyway, Disney Junior has some good* shows, and they focus on making healthy choices – which totally supports what I’m telling the kids when they’re not watching TV.

Any show that prompts the kind of imaginative play I’ve been seeing around here is worth supporting!


*Good = entertaining & educational, with interesting characters

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I’m a mess. I keep crying randomly. And different things pop in to my head, like, “his little body was dragged on the pavement…” or, “I shouldn’t have been so far in front of him…” and I just lose it. I just can’t express enough how grateful I am that he’s not more seriously hurt. I really believe an angel must have been wrapped around him.

When I think about how close I came to losing Eric, I can’t even breathe.

I honestly don’t know how a parent recovers from losing a child. I know they do, I know it’s possible, but it’s inconceivable at this point.

When we were staying at The Grand Floridian for the Disney Social Media Moms conference, there were about 3 seconds when Brian and I thought Eric had fallen off the 5th floor balcony. We kept trying to keep the kids off the balcony, but we were distracted with packing, and they kept sneaking back out there. The walls were pretty high, but they easily stood on chairs to look over the top of the wall. We heard a **THUNK** and Brian said, “WHERE’S ERIC?”

I looked out on the balcony, and I only saw Anna. These are the thoughts that raced through my head during the three seconds it took me to get from the bed to out on the balcony:

No no no no no. Maybe he wasn’t out there.No, he just passed me, he was out there. Maybe there’s another landing below our balcony, and he landed on that. No, I don’t think there was. Is there any way a human being could survive a fall from a 5th floor balcony? Maybe a miracle kept him alive? If I look over the edge, will he be laying on the ground way down there? Maybe he wasn’t out there.

I made it to the balcony, and he was in the corner, obscured by the curtain from inside. The THUNK was him falling off his chair into the wall of our room. We got both kids back inside, and Brian and I looked at each other, shaking our heads. I’m shaking my head now. That terror of what might have been has haunted me since March. I had a hard time even writing about the conference, because I kept thinking about what almost happened to Eric.

I know it doesn’t make sense to dwell on what could have – but didn’t – happen, but we already live in terror as parents, right? Our most important job IN THE WORLD is keeping these kids safe. There are all kinds of other jobs that fall in line after that, like “help them be good humans” and “educate them.” But the most important one is certainly, “keep them alive.”

Whenever I think about that balcony incident, I have a visceral reaction. I shake my head and put my hands in front of my face, and take a step backward.  Brian is similarly haunted by a time he took the kids hiking, and Eric fell off a cliff. He doesn’t know what happened exactly, just that one second he noticed Eric was losing his balance, and the next second he was on the ground, holding on to Eric’s jacket in one hand, and his t-shirt in the other, and sliding down the hill himself, grabbing for an arm. Fortunately neither of them were hurt, and they got back on the trail.

I’ve had this secret dark fear since March. That my son is on borrowed time. When I saw that car turning in to him and dragging him under, that’s what I thought. That my fears were coming true. I hesitate to even write that down, and I’ve never spoken it to anyone. Because I don’t want to manifest it. But here’s what I say. Clearly, an angel was wrapped around my son yesterday. So OK, Angel – You keep at it! Keep him alive! I will continue to do my best, but I really need you! Thankyouthankyouthankyou



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We went to Disney World and didn’t spend a fortune on food.

This is a repost from my original blog; someone recently asked me how to save money on food at Disney World. Here’s how we did it!

I was a little nervous about how much money we would need for food on our trip. We packed snacks, I pored over menus of the various restaurants throughout Disney World. I even bought a restaurant.com* gift certificate for Garden Grove, a restaurant at one of the hotels (but not where we were staying).

I’m happy to say that we found the food to be fairly reasonable! Yes, we could have easily spent a LOT more. But we didn’t have to. Here’s what we did:
Brought granola bars, fruit snacks and jerky from home. This was our snack foundation. Oh yeah, and vodka.  Brian walked to a grocery store from Downtown Disney (about a mile walk) to buy orange juice, bananas, cheese sticks and our very important cocktail fixings. The taxi back to our resort was $20, which we figured was totally worth it. The protein was critical. So were the cocktails.

Most mornings, we started the day with our snacks, plus coffee in our refillable mugs at the resort food court. The refillable mugs were great. They cost about $15 after tax, and saved us a ton over the week.

One note about cleaning plastic mugs: if you have a lingering odor from a previous beverage~even after washing~simply fill it up with hot water, let it set for a couple minutes, then dump it and fill it with ice water for a few minutes. Dump, and you’re ready to go. It works every time. I shared this tip at the beverage station almost every day. I felt like making signs to post to save everyone the eww factor of drinking lemonade that tastes like coffee.

There were a few days that we ate breakfast at the food-court/quick service restaurant at whichever resort we were staying. So much food! Check out this breakfast I got at All Star Movies, for only $9:

Eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, biscuit AND a Mickey waffle.

Most days, we found we were too busy to want to sit down for lunch, so we often ate the snacks out of the backpack as we went about our day, then ate a real dinner.

The kids meals ~ breakfast, lunch and dinner ~ were all only $4.99 each and offered two sides plus a beverage. This seemed consistent at parks and resorts, and the sides were awesome. Grapes, carrots, apple sauce… it was nice to have healthy options. Since we have two kids, we usually chose four different sides and split them all between the two kids.

We had heard about the T-Rex restaurant in Downtown Disney, and wanted to check it out because the kids are soooo in to dinosaurs. Arriving at 7ish, we found a 45-minute wait. But look! Just to the left was a new little place that sounded right up our alley. Pollo Campero offered a family dinner of citrus grilled chicken, rice & black beans, tortillas, and chips & salsa – all for only $19.99. Plus they had free wi-fi which is rather hard to come by at Disney World. We did make it back to T-Rex another day. We realized we hadn’t spent any money ALL DAY. Not a cent. So we splurged on a big dinner. We got there at 5ish, and walked right in – no waiting. Kids were thrilled:

I’ve got to say that the biggest dining surprise and delight came from Gasparilla’s at the Grand Floridian. We ate so well there! I’ve been craving this ever since I had it:

Grown up Mac & Cheese with LOBSTER. Yes, LOBSTER, and a lot of it! $9.99 at Gasparilla's

I almost couldn’t eat it all it was so much, but I somehow managed. Delicious.
Since The Grand Floridian is so accessible from Magic Kingdom, I’ve recommended to several people heading to Magic Kingdom that they take the boat or monorail over to the GF and have a nice dinner before heading back to Magic Kingdom for the evening.

It’s good that we were so prepared with snacks, but we almost had too much. Now that we know we can get reasonable meals, we won’t pack nearly as much next time.


*I declined to buy a $25 gift certificate for $10, but then saw a special on MouseSavers to buy the same $25 certificate for only $2! How could I pass that up? We didn’t even end up using it, but I’m not too worried about giving up $2.

I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and some pretty incredible swag items to take home. Disney did not ask me to write about this event, and all opinions are my own.


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Wild Africa Trek!

Do you like adventure, but not too much?

I vividly remember flying through the tree canopy in Costa Rica, the wind in my face as my body was suspended from a harness with carabiners attached to airline cable, careening 200′ to the next platform. As I neared the station, I noticed that the cable that was holding this whole operation together was secured with duct tape. I’m sure there was some other reinforcement as well, but seriously. Duct tape?

While we waited on the platform 100′ in the air for our turn on the next zip-line, Brian and I speculated about the safety standards of the Costa Rican adventure tourism industry. We leaned less on the railings, and stayed closer to the tree trunks from that point on. I guess a little real danger adds to the fun eh? That experience remains one of my all-time favorites of my life – danger and all.

Imagine my excitement when I was offered a chance to experience Wild Africa Trek while I was at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration! After zip-lining in the Monteverde cloud forest and rafting multiple class fives on the Pacaure in Costa Rica, I jumped up and down at the chance to have an adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Trust Disney to remove any chance of actual danger, but they did a great job of immersing us in the experience so it felt adventurous!

My excitement grew as I read the requirements:
We have to wear a harness? Awesome.

We can only carry things that are attached to us? It must be dangerous.

Sign a release of liability waiver? So cool, I’m there.

We set off early in the morning, and could barely contain our excitement as we walked through the temporarily deserted Harambe village in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom. I’m so glad I had that chance to see the village before it was completely full of people later in the day! It really felt like we were in a different country.

Our Wild Africa Trek group, from the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration

We harnessed-up, went through several safety checks, one last bathroom run (no bathrooms would be available for the first 2/3 of the trek!), and we were off.

Leaving the trail... (Official expedition photo from the PhotoPass CD)

Our tour guides did a great job of getting us in the story of the trek. Building in back-story to the interpretive graphics throughout the public side of the exhibits, they explained that we were exploring a wildlife sanctuary attached to a conservation school. Coming from a zoo as I do, I asked if they had some specific African animals that I knew lived in that part of Africa. I wasn’t trying to get them to break character, I was genuinely curious. I said, “Do you have any African Painted Dogs?” and our guide answered, “I haven’t seen any of them at the sanctuary, although I’ve heard there are some near here.” Well played, madam. I changed the nature of my questions from that point on, because I of course like a good story! “How many elephants tend to be at the sanctuary at any given time?” instead of, “How many elephants do you have?” See, I can play along!

Want to know the really cool part about the Trek, and what makes it affordable? You get a PhotoPass CD! I’m not sure of the actual cost of the Trek, as I believe it’s dependent on the number of people in your party and what time of year you go. The website says to call for rates. At the time we went, it was about $200. But the PhotoPass CD is $150 ($100 if you buy it in advance), so really the cost of the Trek is $50-100. Totally worth it, in my opinion. I was skeptical about the need for a PhotoPass CD before we went, but after experiencing it, I’d never go without it!

Here’s some of the Wild Africa Trek adventure…

Stop for a photo opp!

I took the opportunity to grill interview as many of the moms as I could. In between harnessing up, wildlife viewing, and learning from the “Wardens,” I asked some of the most successful bloggers around how they got started, and what they love about this crazy social media world. Here are Molly @MyGOMOM, Valerie @ADisneyFamly & Amy @ResourcefulMommy, on the precipice overlooking the hippos.

The hippos... strangely, this is a father-son pair. Strange because males don't typically live together. Says the zoo geek.

The first 1/3 or so of the Trek was spent walking through the “wildlands” in between animal exhibits. Along the way, we encountered animal biofacts (skulls, traces of scratching on trees, scat, etc) in between seeing the animals.

Two big suspension rope bridges took us over a bog full of giant crocodiles.

The view was so beautiful, I wanted to stop and admire for longer, but didn't want to hold everyone up.

For the middle section of the Trek, we boarded a safari jeep-like-vehicle and toured the Savannah.

We were handed binoculars, and the vehicle stopped often so we could take in the wildlife and get some great photos.

Just like a real safari?

Disney has done a BRILLIANT job of obscuring any containment barriers or animal care facilities. It really appeared to be one large open space, with all the animals having ready access to each other. It was inspiring from an exhibit-design standpoint. Sorry, zoo geek keeps coming out.

At this point, we were on the same road as the regular visitors. Riding the Kilimanjaro Safari is available to anyone visiting Animal Kingdom – it just tends to fill up, so you need a FastPass if it’s a busy day.

Finally, we arrived at a beautiful pavilion where we were served an exquisitely crafted and exotic snack. Everything was delicious, and the presentation made it all the more special. The meal you are served depends on the time of your tour, it could be breakfast or lunch or a hearty snack.

The private pretty pavilion where we dined

During the last leg of the trip, our guides told us about critical conservation issues facing some of the endangered animals at the Sanctuary. We were all given mancala stones, and asked to vote with our stones on which animal would get a portion of the proceeds from our tour. I chose white rhinos because I know how critically endangered they are. I really appreciate that Disney included the conservation messages in the tour, and the moms were all talking about it long after the tour.

I loved spending time at Animal Kingdom, and I highly recommend the Wild Africa Trek. It’s a fun and inspirational adventure that I won’t forget. I look forward to going back when the kids are older (you have to be at least 8 years old). It’s certainly more affordable than an actual trip to Africa… which I’d also like to do, by the way!

Yours in adventure,



PS: all of the photos in this post are from the PhotoPass CD that I received as part of the Wild Africa Trek package, except the first group shot, which was sent to me by my now-friend Cathi from Planes, Trains & Taxicabs.

Disclosure: I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and this Wild Africa Trek. Disney did not ask me to write about this event, and all opinions are my own.


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Travel with my Family

Wow, I have so much to process and write about from the fantastic trip we took to Disney World. I was fortunate enough to be included in Disney’s Social Media Moms Celebration March 17-20, and I’m still pinching myself. It was overwhelming and unreal, to be honest. I learned so much, experienced so much, and met some pretty incredible people ~ all of which I’ll be writing about soon!

But the biggest headline from the trip is that my family travels well together.

On the river boat from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney

Fairly early into my relationship with Brian, we realized that we could travel well together, and we were so relieved! It’s not that it would have been a deal breaker – or maybe it would have – but since we both love travel, it’s nice that we are such a good team.
As we were tucking the kids into bed upon returning from this big trip, Brian told the kids how proud we are of them for also being such good travel team members. I got all mushy when he said that. I’m sure it’s just because I was so tired…  But how sweet, right?

And really, the kids were awesome. We’ve been on many trips together, but nothing this complex or scheduled. We were trying to squeeze as much as possible into this trip! They were such troopers, and I just couldn’t be prouder of my little team.

At the airport for our red eye flight, way past their bedtime in jammies & backpacks

I saw so many families at the parks sniping and yelling at each other, and just generally being unkind. It was so sad, and made me that much more grateful that we all discussed it and agreed to be nice to each other. It made the whole trip better. Don’t get me wrong, there was tension at times. But we were committed to not taking any frustrations out on each other.

I actually came back from this trip more in love with my husband, and more in love with my kids. That’s pretty good for a 10-day extravaganza.

I’m so grateful. And so proud. And already planning our next trip!



I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and some pretty incredible swag items to take home. Disney did not ask me to write about this event, and all opinions are my own.

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