Category Archives: Trip Report

Disney Photography – New Trends

Standard

On our recent trip to Disney World, we discovered a few new photography trends.  First, of course, is that there were no more “selfie” sticks.  The use of them didn’t bother us, but it is nicer to get pictures of say, the castle, without a backdrop of selfie sticks.

Although we never owned or used a selfie stick, we did utilize a couple things to make phone photography better in the parks.

First, is the Shoulderpod S1.  This is a smartphone grip with a handle and strap that we purchased from Amazon.  The grip is adjustable to hold various sizes of phones/cameras and tightens securely.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 10.05.27 AM

The handle was a little short for my husband’s taste, but perfect for our daughter and me.  So nice to not worry about dropping your phone off of Astro Orbiters!

smartphone grip at Disney World

You can see it in use here.

The second smartphone grip we purchased was the Reticam, also purchased at Amazon.

reticam phone grip

You can see the grip fits a larger hand more easily.  Using these grips made taking video much more steady.

The 3rd phone accessory we purchased is the Gostrap.  These are on our phone cases at all times and make it a lot easier to securely grab a photograph or send a message with just one hand on the phone.  It has been particularly great with our larger phones.

smartphone go strap

The second photography trend we noticed was an almost absence of iPads as cameras in the parks!  It was wonderful to watch parades, fireworks, and shows in real life and not through the screen of someones iPad.

Chinese acrobats at Epcot

In fact, as this picture shows, most people were just enjoying the show as it happened and not filming every second of this show with any device.  It is a trend that we saw throughout the week we were there.

The 3rd trend is that again, we took even more photos than the previous trips.  We were in the parks for 6 days again this year and took a total of 1320 images.  Last year, in 6 days, we took 1242.  I was a little surprised to see the number go up, but attribute it to a couple of things.  Isabella only took a rest once or twice during the week, so we were active all day every day.  This year seemed a little less crowded, so she was able to meet many more characters and she was enough taller to be able to ride several new rides.

It sounds like a lot of pictures, doesn’t it?  But, from all those images, we’ve printed a photo book and edited the photographs and video into a movie already.  More images will be used in our Project Life Disney album which will also include the journaling from the trip.  And, because you can see that these memories matter a lot to us, they are all backed up multiple times.

Advertisements

Another Gift for the Minimalist Disney Lover

Standard

It’s always a challenge to find gifts for people who don’t like to accumulate more possessions, so, as we shared in the last post, we like to give each other the gift of an experience.

We thought it would be hard to top the fun we had sampling our way through Epcot, but our daughter came up with yet another great gift idea for our last Disney trip – our very own “Magical” app!

Now, it does help if your daughter is in the midst of getting a PhD in computer science for this gift.  But, it also helps that she knows a lot about Disney.  This year, she made an Android app that led us on a scavenger hunt through Epcot so we could experience things we might not usually notice.

Magical Disney Android app

We have been to Epcot many times, but never even noticed the first stop on the scavenger hunt – the Coca Cola tasting area where you could sample sodas from around the world.  Let’s just say, the Beverly was unique.

Fiesta de Navidad Epcot

Other stops included everything from participating in the Fiesta de Navidad in Mexico to guessing which of the totem poles in Canada was wood.

Magical Disney Android app

The coordinates were all programmed in for each stop (including to the wooden totem pole) and all we had to do was follow the arrow.

Looks like the signal is strong in the back yard.  That must mean we need another trip!

Giving the Gift of Disney Memories

Standard

Some of us were born minimalists and others of us had to learn it.  The good part about a more minimalist home is that it is easy to keep clean, you know where things are, and shopping doesn’t hold much appeal.  The bad part is that it makes it harder for people to know what to give you as a gift so our family loves to give and receive the gift of an experience more than anything.

In 2013, our Disney trip was over Isabella’s birthday and Christmas and our daughter came up with the perfect Christmas gift for us:

Disney gift card idea DIY

We received an envelope that contained a Disney gift card and a card our daughter made with a Contemporary resort graphic with instructions for how to use the gift card.

It was the gift of a an experience sampling foods from all the countries in Epcot.  We had so much fun and the memories of doing that as a family are more precious than any item we could ever receive.

The Good, Bad, and the Ugly – Photography at Disney

Standard

20140118_125814

Not too many years ago, there were only film cameras and a trip to Disney might mean upgrading from a 24 exposure roll of film to a 36 exposure roll that had to last you for the whole day or even trip.  One or two shots were taken per character and you didn’t realize the image would have bad lens flare until you got your prints back from the developer.

The amount of photography taken at Disney parks is insane.  One site states that 100-200,000 photos are taken each day just by Photopass photographers and that is probably a conservative number.  Add in cell phones, iPads, digital cameras, etc. and the numbers must be staggering.

Now, I will go out on a limb and speculate that many of the images/videos/etc. that are taken, will not make it beyond Facebook or Instagram and stand a good chance of being lost when a hard drive crashes or phone gets dropped in the lake.  But, that is each person’s individual problem and their responsibility to prevent.  And to be honest, it’s easy to assume that many of the images are never looked at again, anyway.

ipad blocking view at WDW

That is what makes some of the photography trends at Disney parks kind of interesting to look at.  This was what we saw over and over in 2013.  Huge tablets with full keyboards videoing EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of the Christmas parade.  We even saw one person carrying a 17″ laptop through the park during Christmas week.  Crazy.

ipad as camera at disney world

Luckily, it seems as if the iPad is not a Camera message was getting through, because 2014 was the year of the “selfie stick”.  And in my opinion, it is a HUGE improvement over the iPad craze.  At least you can see through it and don’t have to watch a live event in the screen of the person in front of you.

Disney sketchbook

I didn’t take any pictures of the selfie stick craze, but you can see it in my sketchbook.

A lot of articles are floating around seeking to ban the selfie stick at theme parks, but if that means the return of the iPad as camera, I say keep the selfie sticks around.

No matter what the trend of the day is, it would be fascinating to know if many of the thousands of photos and videos get edited and make their way off of the phone/tablet/etc. and into a easier to view format?

As for me, I will stick to whatever images I can get while carrying the least amount of gear – a Sony RX100 II.  At 2.3 inches by 4 inches and a weight of about 9 ounces, it is a great theme park camera.  Unobtrusive, lightweight, and a battery that lasts 2 days since the flash is almost never used.

ISO 3200, f1.8, 1/250

ISO 3200, f1.8, 1/250

Disney Trip Sketchbook

Standard

This is the second year that I brought along a watercolor sketchbook to WDW.

The reason I bring a sketchbook (even though my artistic abilities are minimal and we don’t stop for a lot of sketching breaks) is that there are things you just can’t capture with a still or video image.

For instance:

Disney sketchbook - Donald in Mexico

While waiting in line to see Donald in Mexico, it was fascinating to watch the family in front of us.  This year, we saw many children (big and small), sitting in strollers glued to iPads.  The boy in line in front of us never looked up until his parents insisted he get out and get a picture with Donald.  A couple of quick snapshots and he was back in the stroller playing a game on the tablet.

It seemed kind of sad that even Disney World was not enough entertainment for so many children, much less the adults who couldn’t pry themselves away from Facebook or Instagram to enjoy the experience.

Last year, I used my beloved Circa punch and discs to make a sketchbook.  This year, I brought a Strathmore 400 Series Hardbound Journal.  This year’s choice was a mistake.  I didn’t like not being able to fold the book back on itself like a disc or wire binding allows.  And a small water bottle leak in my backpack caused the binding to disintegrate, even though none of the pages were damaged.  I’m going back to a Circa disc bound sketchbook as soon as I finish the Strathmore one.  The flexiblity of adding and removing pages at will just works better for me.

Christmas 2013 Trip Report – Day 2 – Epcot

Standard

Today was Isabella’s birthday!  We woke up and got ready to go to Epcot.  After getting dressed and eating breakfast, we headed over to the Contemporary to catch the monorail.

Contemporary monorail

Of course there were a few photo ops along the way.  Even though we were early getting to the park, it was still pretty crowded.  We saw Pluto immediately after the entrance and had to stop.  Isabella warmed up to him even more than Santa Goofy and liked touching his nose.

Pluto

While some of us were using a Fastpass+ for Soarin, the rest went to meet Chip and Dale.  I didn’t know if Isabella would go by herself to a character!  We went to the Character Spot, where she got pictures with Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy.  Isabella officially became character-obsessed!Mickey Mouse

Minnie Mouse

We headed over to World Showcase next.  After a little shopping in the stores at the entrance to WS, we made our way to Mexico to try our first snack, churros.  We then went into the pyramid and rode the Gran Fiesta boat tour.  Isabella liked looking at all the jewelry in the gift shops inside the pyramid.  Outside, Donald Duck dressed in Mexico attire was meeting, so we hopped in line to see him!  He was great – he acted like he fainted when Isabella blew him a kiss.  I think he was one of the best characters we met the whole trip.

Epcot Mexico

Disney World

We traveled on to Norway, where we looked through the Stave Church with a Frozen exhibit and got our second snack, a sweet almond pretzel.

In China, we played with the animal marionette puppets at an outdoor gift shop.  The snacks at Joy of Tea were not that appealing, and most of the tea was caffeinated, so we skipped it.

We stopped for a while in the African Trading Post.  Isabella liked banging on the drums and sitting in the jeep.

In Germany, we got some caramel corn.  The first batch was pretty stale tasting, so we asked for another, which was unfortunately not much better.  Not one of the most successful snacks ever.

Italy was the first country we stopped at that we saw street entertainers.  There were a group of ladies doing an act all dressed in red, the Ziti Sisters.  We got some gelato as our fourth snack and sat to eat it in the back of the Italy pavilion.  After Italy, we stopped at the American pavilion where Isabella ended up taking a nap.

Epcot Christmas

We moved onto Japan where we got kakigori as our snack.  It is basically like a snowcone, which is one of my favorite foods ever.  We watched the drummers perform, which was really neat.  Then, we saw the Holidays Around the World performance where a Japanese lady told the story of daruma dolls.

By that time, we had to head back to get ready for our dinner reservation at 5:45, so we took the boat across the lake from Morocco, where we saw a belly dancer, to Future World.  We rode the monorail back to Bay Lake Tower, changed clothes, and walked over to the California Grill in the Contemporary (see my full review here).

California Grill

The atmosphere was great, but the food was very underwhelming.  It was neat to see the castle all lit up in sparkly ice lights from the roof top.  We saw a bride and groom, and Isabella made friends with a little boy from France.  After dinner, we went back down to the lobby of the Contemporary and met Chip and Dale dressed as toy soldiers!  They were adorable.  We looked around in the gift shops and then went to our villa so that Isabella could open birthday presents.  We finished off the night with another fireworks display from the BLT Skybridge.  Isabella even stayed awake this time!

Disney fireworks

Christmas 2013 Trip Report – Day 1 – Arrival and Hollywood Studios

Standard

Welcome to the Year of Living Disney Christmas 2013 trip report!  I’m going to be doing the trip report 1 day at a time, so stay tuned for the next part coming soon!

Isabella’s birthday happens to be two days before Christmas, so what better excuse to make a trip to Disney World?  We rented points through David’s Vacation Club Rentals to stay in a 1 bedroom villa at Bay Lake Towers at Disney’s Contemporary Resort from December 21 through December 27.  Although this was our first time renting points, the process was very smooth.  We are actually renting points again for our next trip!

We left home after eating breakfast on December 21st, staying overnight in Lake City, FL.

20131222_130558

We got up the next morning around 6 or 7, ate breakfast, and drove the rest of the way to Disney World, which was about 2 or 3 hours.  We stopped at Target for last minute groceries and lunch, and we arrived at Bay Lake Towers via the back way through WDW around noon.  We checked in and were told our villa wasn’t ready yet, so we let the bellhop store our bags and  went out to the bamboo courtyard to eat lunch.  While we were eating, I got a text saying our villa was ready, so we went to the villa and called for our bags.

Bay Lake Tower

Bay Lake Tower was amazing!  The room was huge and I loved the decor of the whole resort.  Read my review of Bay Lake Tower here.

After our bags arrived, we packed a few snacks and headed over to the Contemporary to catch a bus for Hollywood Studios.  We had to stop at a few other resorts on the way, but we arrived at DHS still with plenty of time to do what we wanted.  We stopped for a few quick pictures by the huge Christmas tree at the entrance.

Hollywood Studios

(Twinkle lights courtesy of Google)

When we got inside, Isabella seemed overwhelmed by the crowds, but she just stayed quiet and took it all in.  She wasn’t fussy at all.  We stopped near Star Tours where the Jedi Academy was going on.  She got a little scared of Darth Vader, but seemed okay when I told her he wasn’t real.

Hollywood Studios

We walked down the Streets of America.  We could tell where the Osborne Lights would be later in the night.  We saw Santa Goofy, and there wasn’t much of a line, so we hopped right in!  I wasn’t sure how Isabella would react to him, but she liked him!  She wanted me to hold her while we saw him though.

Santa Goofy

We then went over to the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area, figuring Isabella would want to run around a little bit.  It looked like it would be a lot of fun, but it was so crowded that it was hard to explore.  She had fun poking into corners and going down a slide.  We didn’t stay too long, and wandered over into the courtyard by Toy Story Mania, where a Green Army Man came over to give Isabella a high five!  We used child swap and went to go ride Star Tours with a Fastpass+.  I was the Rebel Spy on our first time riding it!  We all met back up in the gift shop where Isabella wanted to collect all of the stuffed Ewoks.

After Star Tours we had a Fastpass+ for the Disney Junior show.  It was a puppet show with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  We didn’t need a FP+ for it, as everyone seems to get in and the FP+ doesn’t get you any better seating.  Everyone sits on the floor.  Isabella knows about all the shows, but she doesn’t like any of them except Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, so it was only mildly entertaining compared to everything else.  She liked the bubbles and “coins” they released from the ceiling.  She kept trying to roll around in the aisle, and a cast member kept telling us to stay in the seating area.  Ha!

As it started getting dark out, we headed over to Rockin Roller Coaster to ride with our last Fastpass+.  It was amazing!  One of my favorite rides.  I had expected Isabella to fall asleep at some point, but she never did, and when we came out she was running in circles around the courtyard of RnR.

Disney World

We then went to see the Osborne Lights.  Wow!  They are amazing!  I especially love the songs that the lights are timed to.  There was fake snow, which was cool (literally).

 

After a lot of pictures, we finally decided Isabella was not going to fall asleep at Hollywood Studios.  We took the bus back to BLT.  We ate dinner and when it was time for Holiday Wishes at 10PM, we headed up to the Skybridge to watch.  It was a great place because there were not many people there plus they pipe in the music.  Isabella finally fell asleep on my shoulder, right in the middle of the fireworks.

Hollywood Studios Osborne Lights

When we got back to the room, the Electrical Water Pageant played outside.  We watched it from the balcony and talked about how happy we were to be back in Disney World!

Disney Princess Half Marathon

Standard

A little over two years ago, we did something we never knew we were capable of.  We ran a half marathon!

#DisneySide Princess Half Marathon

Mind you, we weren’t runners – yet, and Isabella was due a mere two months before the race.  These things didn’t faze us because it sounded like fun, so we sent in our registration and booked a resort.

We started running and walking more and more, including about 6 miles of hospital halls the day Isabella was born.   Obviously, there was no half marathon training plan that takes into account having a baby 8 weeks before the half marathon, so we just did the best we could and had a longest run of only 6.5 miles before we left, figuring that we’d do the rest of the mileage by walking if necessary.

There are a lot of recaps of this race already online and things might have changed since 2012, so we’ll just give a brief synopsis of our experience, along with a few tips we learned.

First, be prepared for it to be VERY CROWDED – at the expo, on the buses, in the corrals, and along the whole race course.

Second, read as many trip reports as you can so your expectations are in line with your experience.  And try to read the reports from people who pay their own way and aren’t given extra perks (eg race retreat tent) by Disney (unless you are lucky enough to be receiving them or are paying the extra fees for them).

Third, buy some throw away sweats and gloves to put on over your running clothes.  It can be really cold standing in a corral for an hour or two waiting to start.  As the race starts, shed the thrift store priced sweats and they will be donated.  Along with the sweats, bring one of those silver emergency blankets.  It was the key to keeping the night chill off of us while we waited to start.

Fourth, have someone at the finish line with warm clothes and food.  You will receive a banana and a little snack box, but the food inside was kind of odd.  Dried edamame, hummus, dry tasteless crackers.  We had quite a wait to get on a bus to leave and got chilled and hungry standing there waiting.

Fifth, just because everybody else is standing outside in a line with hundreds of people in it at 3 AM doesn’t mean you need to.

Princess Half Marathon 014

We stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside.  The buses pulled up right outside the main lobby.  We stood inside the lobby and watched person after person go out into the cold and stand in that line for over an hour waiting for a bus only to then stand in the cold in a corral after getting to the start.  We waited inside watching until the line got down to a few people and then headed out and got on a bus.  As long as there was still a line that hadn’t been transported, it seems inconceivable that Disney would stop the buses even if it got later than the 4 AM cut off time.

Sixth, bring your own coffee/food/etc. for the pre-race morning because Port Orleans did not have anything that early if you needed to purchase a beverage or food.

Seventh, be prepared to surprise yourself!  Although neither of us had ever run that far before and Elizabeth was a brand new Mama, we ran all but about 1 mile and finished much faster than we expected.  While you are not running through the parks for much of the race, there is still a lot to see and an energy  boost from running with 15-20,000 other Disney fans that is hard to match.

Princess Half Marathon 015

Would we do it again?  Absolutely, but maybe next time, we will try for 26.2 instead of 13.1!

Project Life album freebie!

Standard

I am creating a Project Life album for our Christmas Disney World trip.  Project Life is a new way to scrapbook – and I am loving it so far!  It makes it so easy to make a good looking album with minimal work.  (We are not affiliated with Project Life in any way – I just love the product!)

I will share my trip album when it is completed, but for now I’m going to share a free printable of Florida.  A bright colored outline is perfect for sticking in any trip photo album or scrapbook!

Florida-3X4

Bay Lake Tower Resort Review

Standard

We loved Bay Lake Tower!  The Christmas 2013 trip was our first time staying at BLT, and our first at a Disney Deluxe resort!  Check out this entrance:

20131222_130558

For those who aren’t familiar with Bay Lake Tower, it is the Disney Vacation Club property at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.  We arrived at BLT around noon.  Check in was very smooth.  We pulled up and immediately were greeted by cast members with iPads.  They unloaded and stored our luggage (Tip: they will refrigerate perishable items for you!  We didn’t know this until we got there.) and took us inside to check in.  I had done online check-in for this trip, so there was not much to do.

The whole resort is beautiful, in my opinion.  I like a very modern, sleek style, and this resort appeals to that style.  The lobby has some very cool woodwork  and a bubble chandelier that I loved.  While we waited for our room, we wandered outside and ate lunch in the bamboo courtyard.

Our villa was ready fairly quickly even though we arrived before our check in time.  We had rented points for a 1 bedroom villa through David’s Vacation Club.  Renting points allows you to purchase points from a Disney Vacation Club member who is not going to use their points for the year.  It can be way cheaper than booking the same room directly through Disney.  Our experience was easy enough that we are renting points again for our next trip!

Here our some pics of our villa:

20131222_130039 20131222_124024 20131222_124030 20131222_124036 20131222_124056

The one bedroom villas have a full kitchen, pull out sofa and chair, and master bedroom with a king size bed.  The villas at BLT also have two bathrooms which made the mornings run very smoothly!

The villa was a lot larger than we had expected.  We had a lake view, so we could see the Electrical Water Pageant, as well as some Epcot fireworks, at night from our balcony.  We could hear the fireworks and the pageant, but the room was soundproofed enough that we could not hear any other guests in other rooms, even though we were visiting at the busiest time of the year!

For all of this, the best part of BLT was being able to walk to Magic Kingdom.  We were able to get there early in the morning, stroll back and eat dinner in our villa, and return for the evening.  The walk took about ten minutes.  So easy!  We also were able to take the monorail to Epcot.

We liked being able to walk over to the Contemporary building and shop and see the Christmas displays.  We ate both from the Contempo Cafe and at the California Grill (watch out for our review coming soon!).  The Contemporary has a huge gingerbread tree on display in the lobby during Christmas.  We were able to get a picture with Chip and Dale dressed as toy soldiers.  On Christmas Eve, Santa was there!  Isabella had already met Santa several times, but since there were only two people in line, we hopped right in!

If you are staying at Bay Lake Tower, there are several places to watch the fireworks.  We liked watching from the sky bridge that connects BLT with the Contemporary Tower.  The music is piped in, and it is not crowded because only BLT guests are allowed on the bridge.  It was awesome being able to watch the fireworks in our pajamas!  You can also see the fireworks from the Top of the World Lounge if you are staying on points.  The lounge serves drinks and small appetizers.  Although the lounge was higher, I preferred the sky bridge.  Check out this view from the bridge:

Disney World

Overall, staying at Disney’s Bay Lake Tower resort made our trip so magical.  Being able to walk to Magic Kingdom, eating meals in our villa where we were able to relax and be comfortable, and watching the fireworks were the highlights of our trip.

What is your favorite resort?  Which Disney resort made your trip magical?