Disney Character Autograph Ideas

Disney Character Autograph Ideas

Disney Character Signature and Autograph Ideas

Looking for character autograph ideas for your next Disney vacation?  If you’re looking for something beyond the typical autograph book that you can purchase from Disney stores or in the parks, this blog post is for you.

Collecting autographs as you go through the Disney parks can be a lot of fun.  Having something to sign that can be turned into an inexpensive souvenir makes it even better!  One way to do this is to create your own autograph book, with custom pages and a cover tailored to your children.  There are many autograph page designs out there if you search Google.  For example, a large collection can be found here: https://disneyautographpages.shutterfly.com/pictures.

Getting Started

To use these, open a program like Publisher, choose a 4×6 page size, and insert the images you have saved.  You can create a cover page with clipart or other pages you find around the web, or if you are talented with graphics, you could design your own.  Add the child’s name and the date of the trip as a reminder of the trip for the future.  Next, print out your pages on card stock.  Then, head to a printing place, like Fed Ex or Staples, and cut the pages to size with their paper cutter.  Ask to have the pages spiral bound, and for the first and last pages to be laminated.  Tada!  Your very own custom autograph book for your Disney trip!  Here’s an example of one that I made for my kids a few years ago:

 Disney Autograph Book

Disney Autograph book

Disney character autograph book

DIY Option

If that sounds like too much work for you, I’ve got another, easier, DIY option.  Head to your local craft store and pick up a photo mat.  You’ll want one that has a fairly wide border, and you’ll want to consider the size of it since you’ll be carrying it around the parks.  If you want something that you can easily slide inside a backpack, an 8×10 photo mat, with a place for a 4×6 photo insert, works great.  It’s big enough to fit a decent amount of character signatures while still fitting easily into a backpack or shoulder bag.  However, if you want a LOT of character autographs, say in Disney World where it’s so much easier to find a wide variety compared to Disneyland, you may want to consider taking something bigger.  Now, while shopping, be sure to grab a good assortment of colors of sharpie pens.   You’ll have the characters sign the photo mat as you go, and when you return home, you can select your favorite picture to insert the middle.  This makes an adorable keepsake for your child’s room!  I brought one for each child to Disneyland on our last trip, allowing for them to each pick their favorite photo when they got home. 

 Disney character autograph frame

I’m always happy to help my clients map out their favorite characters in the parks, as well.  So if character meet and greets are important to you, plan to have a fun way to collect their autographs and I’ll help you put a good plan together!

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Disneyland Side Trips: Huntington Beach

Disneyland Side Trips: Huntington Beach

Disneyland Sidetrips – Disneyland to Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

One of the great things about a Disneyland trip is that there is often time for a few side trips.  Huntington Beach is a great day trip, or even a good place to stay a few extra days after Disneyland.

How Far is Huntington from Disneyland

Getting there takes roughly 30 minutes depending on traffic.  If you’re staying at Disneyland without a car (not a bad idea in general since it’s so easy to stay close to the parks), you can easily pick up a rental car in Downtown Disney for the day.

Arriving at Huntington Beach from Disneyland

When you arrive at Huntington Beach, you’ll see an impressively wide stretch of sand bordering a true Cali surf town.  Here, you can try your hand at surfing or just watch the surfers do their thing.  Kids are sure to love playing in the vast amount of sand here.  You can easily pick up sand toys at the nearby Walgreens if you don’t feel like packing any with you.

Huntington Beach

Then, head over to Ruby’s on the dock for some classic burgers and milkshakes with an amazing view.  The restaurant is at the very end of a long dock, with expansive views of the Pacific Ocean.  Their milkshake menu is pretty amazing, and reason enough to stop here.

Ruby's on the dock, Huntington Beach

Ruby's on the dock, Huntington Beach

What To Do After Lunch

After lunch, you can explore a cute downtown area, full of small surf shops, restaurants and the like.  Or, head back to the beach for more fun in the sun.  You can rent beach equipment, ranging from surf boards to beach umbrellas to bikes, at Zack’s Surf shop.

Then, when you’ve had your fill of beach fun and sun, you can head back to your Disneyland hotel and enjoy a dinner in Downtown Disney.

Or, for a longer stay, you might consider the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach.  If you’d rather end your Disneyland trip with a few days relaxing in a beach down, this lovely resort is perfect for families.  Just across the street from the beach, with a pedestrian bridge over the highway for easy access, and with gorgeous landscaping and tropical pool area, this resort will give you a luxurious, pampered end to your Disneyland vacation.

Hyatt Huntington Beach duck by John-Morgan

photo by John-Morgan via Flickr

Hyatt Huntington Beach room by Sylvain Leprovost

phot by Sylvain Leprovost via Flickr

Hyatt Huntington Beach Pool by Angry Julie

photo by Angry Julie via Flickr

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Disneyland: Commando Weekend or Vacation Experience?

Disneyland: Commando Weekend or Vacation Experience?

Disneyland: Commando Weekend or Vacation Experience?

Disneyland Hotel

 

Let’s clear up a common misconception: Disneyland is not only about theme park til you drop for 2 days and then heading home.  Sure, that’s how a lot of people do it.  And if you’ve only got a weekend and want to make a run at it, that’s fine.  But if you’re thinking Disneyland for your next vacation, and actually want it to be, you know, a VACATION, then it absolutely can be!

First off, let’s start with the idea that you actually want to enjoy the entire experience.  You’ve got kids in tow, you want this to be special for them, and you want to enjoy your time, maybe even (gasp!) relax a bit.  If we’re starting there, let’s maybe throw the Motel 6 idea out the window.  I know, I know, it’s so common for people to say that the hotel is “just somewhere to crash at the end of the night.”  Except, what if it isn’t?  What if you could actually enjoy your hotel?  What if it was part of the overall experience?

Well, in that case, let’s consider an actual resort.  There are several to choose from in the area, but I’m talking nice rooms, nice services, and a super awesome pool.  Because honestly, most kids are all about pools and a super awesome pool just makes the vacation so much better.  For example, at the Disneyland Hotel, we’re talking about gorgeous hotel rooms, with Disney touches throughout, on property restaurants (including character breakfasts), characters visiting in the lobby, excellent customer service, and when you walk out your hotel lobby, you walk into Downtown Disney.  How’s that for staying in the Disneyland experience?  Plus, the pool area is amazing.  Two pools and a an entire monorail themed waterslide splash area, with three sizes of water slides.  Now add in cocktails by the pool for the parents – perfect.

By now some are thinking, “When would I use any of that?  I’ll never be at the hotel, I have to get through the parks.”  Back up – we’re trying to avoid that commando approach, remember?  Instead, we’ll head to the parks at opening to beat the crowds, have lunch and then head back to our (super close) hotel for an afternoon break.  Now we’ll have plenty of time for swimming and relaxing.  After we’ve cooled off and had some resort fun, we can head back into the theme parks for the evening.

Is two park days enough if we’re doing it this way?  Nope.  But we’re aiming for a full vacation experience here, so that’s ok.  In this case, you’ll want at least 3 park days to allow for a good pace, afternoon fun and plenty of time to get all of the rides in.

What else?  How about a day just for pool fun, exploring Downtown Disney and trying out some of the fun and delicious dining choices there?  Next up, we can take a day trip to nearby Huntington Beach for some ocean fun and relaxing views.  Universal Studios can be a fun day trip, and older kids may enjoy visiting Hollywood as well.  Have a few more days?   You can pack up and head down to San Diego to a lovely resort near the beach, for a visit to Sea World, Legoland and to explore the city of San Diego.

There are so many ways to make your Disneyland trip into an enjoyable, fun paced vacation.  If that’s what you are looking for, don’t be fooled into thinking Disneyland is a one weekend only destination.  That version is fast, furious, and tiring.  I’d love to help you turn it into a fabulous week of family vacation fun instead!

 

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Disney Vacation Planning with The Enchanted Traveler

Disney Vacation Planning with The Enchanted Traveler

Help with Planning Your Disney Vacation – Meet Your Travel Consultant

This week I thought I’d post a video introducing myself to you.  Planning an amazing Disney vacation for your family is a lot of work, but I’m here to help you with that.  Watch this video to see me give a short explanation of what I do, and why you might want to work with me.

 

 

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Club Level at the Disneyland Hotel

Club Level at the Disneyland Hotel

Club Level at the Disneyland Hotel

When you want something a cut above, a simple luxury to make your vacation that much more special, the Club Level rooms at the Disneyland Hotel are waiting for you.  Want to find out more?  This week’s blog is a video post, so click on the video below to learn about the benefits of club level!

 

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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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Blue Bayou Review – Disneyland

Blue Bayou Review – Disneyland

Blue Bayou Review – Disneyland

 Blue Bayou Disneyland

Blue Bayou is quite possibly the most famous restaurant in Disneyland.  If you’ve ever ridden the Pirates of the Caribbean, you’ve seen it as you glide through the first part of the ride.  I’ve heard many people remark that they’d love to eat there someday, and I’m here to tell you, do it!  Plan for it on your next Disneyland trip, because it really is a great experience.

Blue Bayou – Disneyland vs. Disneyworld

One big difference between Disney World and Disneyland is the comparable lack of sit down restaurants in Disneyland.  For those who really enjoy a nice meal in a restaurant, there just aren’t as many choices.  And as such, I think a lot of people just go with the flow and eat the quick service options.  But if you are someone who really enjoys good food, Disney theming in your surroundings and nice place to cool off while you eat, you will like Blue Bayou.

Blue Bayou Reservations

Scheduling a reservation is a must.  If you’ve booked your vacation with me, this is one of the things I’ll take care of for you, of course.  But just showing up hoping for a table?  Unless it’s a super low season, I wouldn’t chance that.  When we arrived for our reservation, there was a line of people trying to get in for lunch and all of them were told there were no openings.

Inside, the restaurant is set to a nighttime Louisiana theme, along the bayou, complete with hanging paper lanterns and fireflies over the water.  If you are lucky enough to get a table along the railing at the water, you’ll see the boats drift by as well.

The menu is definitely higher priced that your quick service options, but the food is also substantially more interesting and higher quality.  The menu was just recently updated, including new (delicious) sweet potato biscuits in the bread bowl.  We had to request a refill of them to keep everyone at our table happy!

Blue Bayou Menu

The most famous menu item is the Monte Cristo Sandwich.  Ok, now I realize that doesn’t sound very fancy.  But this is unlike any I have seen.  And it was AMAZING.  Seriously, my husband and I both ordered it and we were talking about it all day, that’s how good it was.  It was almost like eating a beignet sandwich, it was so fluffy and crispy all around!  It came with two dipping sauces, raspberry and vanilla bean, which were a perfect compliment to the flavors of the sandwich.  It came with a spear of fruit, too.  It wasn’t just like grapes and strawberries, either, it was interesting fruit!  And, it was preceeded by a really delicious (and nicely presented) salad.

Blue Bayou Salad

Monte Cristo at Blue Bayou

You may think this looks big enough to share, and you’d be right.  The only downside of this restaurant is that there is a split plate fee of $15, so sharing may not be worth it to you.

And, of course, I’ve always got kids in mind when eating at restaurants.  The kids menu here was a nice departure from the constant mac and cheese or chicken nuggets found at the quick service locations in Disneyland.  My daughter had the baked chicken and pasta, and my son had a steak.  Yes, the kids menu has steak!  He loved it.  You can see that the kids meals also came with a nice portion of grapes.  Not shown here is the appetizer for the kids which is included in the price, which was a nice plate of carrot and celery sticks with ranch dressing.

Blue Bayou - Kids meal

Blue Bayou Kids Meal

The only slightly negative note I had regarding Blue Bayou was that service seemed very slow.  So to that end, do plan on using this restaurant as a nice, cool break in your busy Disneyland day, and don’t book it at a time when you hope to rush off to do something else.  Give yourself time to enjoy the ambiance and the delicious food!

 

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