PhotoPass+: The Pros and Cons

PhotoPass+: The Pros and Cons

PhotoPass+: The Pros and Cons

Who doesn’t want awesome pictures of their family vacation?  You’ve probably packed a camera, plus you’ve got your phone camera, maybe your spouse has one, too.  You’ll snap shots as you go, recording memories.  But sometimes you’ll forget to capture that iconic shot you meant to get.  Or yours will turn out fuzzy.  And worse, you probably aren’t getting everyone in that shot (who’s taking the picture?!)

Disney’s got a solution for that: It’s called PhotoPass.  And just in the last year, they’ve added the “plus” portion, as in PhotoPass+.  PhotoPass uses special cards that are scanned by professional photographers in the park each time they take a picture for you.  They are positioned throughout the parks, ready for all of those iconic shots.

 

To obtain those photos, you have a few options.

First, you enter the card numbers at the PhotoPass website to upload the pictures to your account.  Then, you can buy the photos for a (honestly, very expensive) price each.  The other options is to pre-purchase a PhotoPass CD or PhotoPass+ CD (also available as a digitial download), for a much better price, giving you access to every single photo that was taken by the photographers.

I decided to try PhotoPass+ on my latest trip to Disneyland.  The “plus” version includes not only all of the photos you have taken by the photographers but ALSO all of the ride attraction photos available (such as at Splash Mountain and Radiator Springs Racers) AND the photos taken at character dining locations.  At $69.95 when purchased at least 14 days before your vacation ($149 for Walt Disney World), this is an excellent deal.  That’s because a single photo download costs $14.95, ride photos are around $20, and the photo packages at dining locations can be upwards of $40.

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Yes, my husband is pretending to read a book.  No, I don’t know why.

Once I ordered it, Disney sent me a package that included my voucher for my special PhotoPass+ card, as well as a CD of stock photos and my special code for redeeming my free CD or digital package of downloads once I returned.

After arriving at my resort, I wanted to see if I could get my voucher exchanged for my card before my morning in the park – no need to waste time in the morning, in my opinion.  Knowing that one location to use this card is at character dining, I stopped into Goofy’s Kitchen to see about trading it in.  They could do a photo for me, they said, and give me a receipt to get it added to my card later, but they couldn’t give me a card at that location.  Darn.

The next morning was a park morning, and if you know me and the methods I recommend, there is no time to be wasted upon entering the park.  But I had paid for this card, so now I would just do my best to get there first.  The rope drop came a little early and I sped down to photo shop on Main Street.

I got to the door and – it was locked.  Nooo!  I looked up ahead and saw an internal rope holding back the crowds – it was not yet 9am.  So I sent my family up to the rope and told them I’d meet them at the first ride once I had my pass.  I, and a few other families, waited at the shop door.  And waited.

A janitor informed us it would not open until exactly 9am.  9am came, the internal rope dropped and my family went off to the first ride.  The shop door was still closed.  Five minutes later, the shop did finally open, but the cast member seemed unsure how to redeem the vouchers, so it took two employees to help those of us waiting.

Finally, I got my PhotoPass+ card (which is on a lanyard, but I’d not wear it on my neck – lots of people have lost it this way), and continued out to find my family.

The rest of our day was much smoother – using the card was easy (I had used regular PhotoPass cards in Disney World, the main difference here was that you only get one and can’t collect multiples).  We took some lovely shots along the way.

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sierra and cinderella

Having the card was a good reminder to take all of the opportunities for photos.  Where we may have blindly walked by something before, now we were looking for the photographers and stopping for some good family photos.  I really liked that aspect of the card.

We ran into one other issue the following day.  The only ride with a photo capability that ALL of my family wanted to ride was Radiator Springs Racers.  Therefore, this ride was going to be the one that partially made the “plus” in PhotoPass+ worth it.   We were lucky enough to ride this ride twice with almost no wait – once first thing and once later with a fast pass.  But both times, the camera wasn’t working, which meant no ride photo for us!  That was pretty disappointing.

On the other hand, we did enjoy a character breakfast at Surf’s Up with Mickey and Friends at the PCH Grill, and the photo package from that was great!  We got both the physical prints (two 8x10s and two 4×6, the larger photos in a cute cardboard frame), and the digital downloads.  That part of the deal was very worth it, as in the past we have declined to purchase the photos because of the price of the package.

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So would I get this package again?  Over all, I think the value is there if you plan ahead well to use it.  I think it will be more useful when we return to Disney World on our next trip, as there are more PhotoPass photographers and opportunities for pictures.  I enjoyed some of the photos we got from this trip, but some were definitely subpar quality.  You can see a few here that were not exactly fabulous:

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Mmm, yeah, I’m pretty sure those shadows completely ruin the effect going on there…  And the previous one is really really flashed out.

But most of the photos were much, much better quality!

If you think you’ll want some ride photos (and have family members who ride the “big” rides that have photo capabilities) and if you plan to do any character dining, you’ll easily find this package to be a good value.  Throw in all of the other photos you can capture on the way, and this is definitely a good way to capture memories.

 

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Why Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Why Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Why Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Why you need travel insurance

photo credit: Gary Knight via Flickr

You’ve just put down a big chunk o’ money on your next big trip, when your travel consultant asks you if you’d like to purchase travel insurance.  More money??  After all that money you just paid?  Well, that’s exactly the point, actually.  How much did you just invest in your vacation?  And if something goes awry, are you willing to lose it all?

It’s all very well and fine to think that nothing is going to happen…until it does.  If you are traveling with others, the chances increase, as well.  Travel insurance covers many things from trip cancellation to trip interruption, lost luggage to long trip delays at the airport, medical coverage to evacuation.

Maybe that all sounds like a lot that you think doesn’t apply to you.  But let’s take a look at some of the reasons your average traveler might find it necessary:

  1. You’re all packed and excited to leave – and then one of you comes down with a flu that makes it impossible to travel.
  2. You arrive at your destination…your bags don’t, and will take at least a day to arrive.  What will you do?  Travel insurance will cover a set amount for purchasing necessary items to tide you over.  And if they were completely lost, travel insurance covers that as well.
  3. Got a connecting flight?  You’ve landed, but the next flight has been cancelled.  The next flight isn’t until tomorrow morning.  Now what?  Travel insurance will cover food and hotel stay.
  4. No one wants to think of it, but it happens.  You’ve arrived at your glorious destination, but two days into it, your mom ends up in serious condition in the hospital.  You need to go to her, but not only are you losing out on the rest of the trip you paid for, the return tickets are far more than your original tickets.  Trip interruption is covered under your insurance and will cover these costs.
  5. You’re going on an awesome tropical vacation – but a hurricane is now shutting down the airports and you can’t get there.  Travel insurance has you covered.
  6. You are in a foreign country when you are accidentally injured on one of your adventures and need to see a doctor.  Where will you seek good medical care, and will your own medical insurance cover it or are there exclusions, provisions, etc?  With travel insurance you can have the policy become your primary medical so you don’t have to worry about who pays AND have access to a 24 hour helpline, in English, that can quickly help you find a reputable doctor and help you get there.
  7. You become severely ill or injured and adequate medical care is not available in your location.  You need medical evacuation (extremely costly!), and travel insurance covers this.
  8. You unexpectedly lose your job before your vacation – what now?!  Coverage for work related reasons can be added to the policy, or in some states, is already covered under the policy.

 

These are just a few of the reasons to consider travel insurance.  We all hope that nothing will go wrong before or during our travels, and many times, of course, nothing does.  However, the peace of mind you get from insuring your large vacation purchase is quite valuable in and of itself.  And should something unfortunate occur, you know that you will not lose the investment you have made, and that you will have assistance in your time of need.

 

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Polynesian Resort Review – Walt Disney World

Polynesian Resort Review – Walt Disney World

Polynesian Resort Review

Lobby of the Polynesian Resort

The Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World sits in the Deluxe category and is what many refer to as one of the “Monorail Resorts.”   The resort is spread out among several buildings, and the center focus is the beloved Volcano pool.  But what sets this resort apart is it’s extreme convenience, especially for families with younger children.

What’s so convenient about it?  If you’re spending time at the Magic Kingdom, you can get there and back in a snap.  The Polynesian lies on the monorail route, but what less people realize is that it also is right next to the Ticket and Transportation center, where the monorail hub is.  If you stay near this section, you can walk just a minute or two and hop on the monorail going directly to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, as well as pick up the ferry between the ticket and transportation center and the Magic Kingdom.  You can also, of course, take the monorail on the longer route from the main monorail stop at the Polynesian, and you can also take the much smaller boats from the dock at the Polynesian to the Magic Kingdom.  All of these options mean less travel time and less wait time when heading in and out of those parks, at opening, for an afternoon break and at close.  Being able to get in and out quickly, if you want to take a break, is incredibly valuable for families traveling with children.  In fact, this reason alone is popular reason for booking this resort.

This resort also features two well loved restaurants on property, Ohana, which features a character breakfast in the AM and a family style Polynesian dinner, and the Kona Café, well known for the famous Tonga Toast at breakfast.

The Volcano Pool is a fun theme for all ages and features a zero-depth entry, which is perfect for young children.  This allows little ones to play and splash without being overwhelmed.  There’s also a (very small) water play area nearby.  The Volcano features a waterslide, which is actually much faster than I anticipated.  It’s a tunnel for most of the ride, so the combination of dark and fast means it may not be a good fit for very young kids or those afraid of the dark, but is otherwise a very fun aspect of the pool.  One thing I loved is that the pool is bordered by the “beach” of the lagoon, meaning you can step out of the pool and into the sand for some sand castle play or to lounge in hammocks or lounge chairs on the beach.

Volcano Pool at the Polynesian Resort

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Speaking of the beach, this is a prime location for viewing the nightly Magic Kingdom fireworks without being in the huge crowd in the park.  You can see them directly across the lagoon, and the music is piped on to the beach so that you can enjoy the full experience.   There is also a small electric water parade that floats by nightly.

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The overall theme of the resort is lovely.  I love the tropical waterfall at the entrance and beautiful tropical garden in the middle of the lobby.   There are beautiful flowers along the winding paths inside the resort, as well as another small waterfall and stream area.  Disney always does an excellent job with themes, and this resort is no exception.

 

The rooms are nicely sized for a family.  Five can fit in these rooms, as they are equipped with a sleeper sofa.  The rooms were remodeled a few years ago, so feel contemporary and clean.  Each has it’s own balcony, something I always appreciate in a resort.

I’ve heard some people say that the resort is dark.  It’s true that the resort is painted in darker tones and that the rooms are furnished in dark woods.  However, none of the people I traveled with felt that this resort was too dark, either outside or inside.  It’s not bright and colorful but the décor matches the theme perfectly.

All in all, I could not have been more pleased with the Polynesian as a choice for my family.  The location wins hands down, and I love the tropical flowers and waterfalls all around.  Plus, having a beach to watch fireworks from is a major plus.   There are many great resorts within Walt Disney World, and I’d be happy to help you decide if this one is the best match for you.

 

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