Contributor Post: Whats in Your Bag?

It’s Amanda again!  I wanted to share a little bit about Whats in My bags when I travel to Disney!  We are a family of 4.  We travel with two strollers, two book bags, two kids, probably even two cars if we could!!

 

Strollers: We have carried our own, rented through Disney, rented offsite from 3 different companies as well as purchase one in the gift shop when we arrived.  I carry travel size Lysol and clorox wipes to disinfect the ones I rent, but all of them have been cleaned so we haven’t had issues with dirty strollers. All of them worked for what we needed, so it depends on your situation!  I recommend bringing your own if you have small children that like to eat while being strolled or connect via travel carrier car seats.  Most strollers I have found for rent are missing the attachment for the food tray and car seat carriers.

Renting Offsite – We have used Orlando Stroller Rental, Kingdom Rental and Magic Strollers.
Great things: Cheaper then at Disney parks, delivered to your hotel, you have it your whole trip, kids can be wheeled out while sleeping after a long night at the parks, Comfortable, Extra storage area underneath. Downfalls: You have to collapse them to get in bus/car/tram/train (or leave at station), Reserve in advance – may not have them available once you arrive.

Renting at Disney – Hard plastic so not as comfortable, but you can get one on a whim if your kids gets tired.  You can get a multiple day ticket so its cheaper per day to rent one for the length of your stay.  You can leave them at the train station and get a new one at the next stop.  You can leave them at the park end of day…so less to keep up with. I recommend these for older, larger kids.  You will see 10 year olds in strollers, adults taking naps in them, so don’t think your child is too old for a stroller, that’s a LOT of walking for kids. If you don’t want to drag them around….stroll them to let them relax at least one day of the vacation!

Buying one in the giftshop – This happened last time because I forgot to reserve a stroller so tried to get one on the trip down and EVERY rental company was sold out!  Both of my children can not fit in a double stroller (and be comfortable) so we figured instead of renting two hard plastic buggies it was better to buy an umbrella stroller there.  So that $40 in the gift shop, still saved us more money then if we rented one! It was perfect for toddler and above, but with younger kids you need that storage space!  Then end of trip you can give it to another family, take it home and use it or whatever else you need to do with it!

Bookbags – We take a lot of stuff because you never know with kids and adults what is going to be needed….ok, “I” take a lot of stuff…My husband gripes about it 🙂 But we have used almost everything I pack, so it comes in handy!
Autograph item(s) and pens/markers, Trading Pins, Change of clothes for little ones, Water bottles/Thermos cups (For the free ice water you can get), Clip on fans and Mister Fans if its going to be hot, Sunscreen, Clip on cooler bag to keep leftovers or waters cool, extra shoes/socks on rainy days or after water rides, Camera, Batteries, Pain Medicine, Snacks, Mio or flavor packets for water,  Ziploc bags to keep things dry or leftover food, Vaseline and Band-aids for blisters, Ponchos, Bag to cover strollers, Jackets, Phones and Phone chargers, Games for kids, Hand Sanitizer and Wet Wipes, Body Splash or Deodorant for all those odors you may smell in line….those that have been, you know what I am talking about!! With younger ones – You can pack bread and get packets of PB and J and make them sandwiches in the park.  Carry single serve chips and apple sauce too for a easy meal! For Babies – Diapers, Wipes, disposable mats for changing in bathrooms, don’t forget bottles for babies – I used the drop-in bottles and carried bottle wipes to clean the nipple and used a new liner each time.  A lot less to keep up with! They have Baby centers in each park to help with some supplies and feeding, rocking but try to carry everything you need in-case they are out of something or its not convenient to where you are. Now with all this stuff we carry we break it down into two bags.  Our valuables and things we would need for bathroom stops stay with us at all times, the other items we typically leave in the stroller in the other bag so we aren’t weighted down the whole day!

Suitcases – Florida weather can be hot, cold, rainy or beautiful!  It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, you are never guaranteed perfect weather! If you are travelling Oct – April I recommend at least a light jacket because some nights it can get cooler even if you were wearing shorts that day the wind can make you cold! Just because you are travelling in December….doesn’t mean you must take Eskimo suits and all pants and long sleeves…..We have wore shorts MANY times in December and it was plenty warm for it!!  We have packed for warm weather and it get colder at night than we expected and had to go buy several Disney Sweatshirts so either plan ahead or bring extra money to purchase in the park. If you are onsite you will probably have a mini-fridge in your room.  So get waters and capri suns for great pick me ups! Swimsuit and floaties- ALWAYS bring your swimsuit, kids swim year round so don’t leave your tikes out….they may jump in fully clothed if you forget! Shoes – Bring extra shoes for everyone!  With that much walking your feet will be screaming at you so get your best, broken in & comfortable, shoes you have and bring an extra pair to alternate with.  Coins and Detergent/dryer sheets – With kids expect messy clothes, accidents and laundry.  There are laundry rooms onsite if you need them, but bring plenty of coins!! Pop-Up Hampers – they fold flat but are great at holding dirty clothes. Snacks or Breakfast items for your room, Dry Erase Board (this was fun last time to leave thank you notes with Mouse-Keeping). Fan – If your kids need white noise to go to sleep with or the rooms just don’t get cool enough for you, bring a fan! Stuffed animals and Disney toys for the rooms, and all the Princess gear you have at home because your daughter will want to be a princess like all the other girls she sees, so plan ahead and bring stuff from your house!

 

Ok Thats about all I can think of for now.  Have fun packing!!

 

The most Magical Disney CM

Hey howdy hey, it’s finally Friday!! And I’m going to chat just a bit about my photopass experience. Remember when I posted about how I lost all of my photos? Well, I’ve got an update for you all!

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This past Tuesday was a crazy day for me personally. Our car engine had completely died and we were looking at anywhere from $5000-$10,000 to fix it. So, needless to say, I was NOT having a great morning. My husband and I visited a local car dealership to see if we could get any trade-in money for it and purchase a new one. After leaving that dealership sans new car, I was quite upset because honestly I just wasn’t sure what we were going to do to solve our dilemma. As we pulled into our driveway that day, we noticed a large UPS box sitting on a chair under our carport. Tim asked me if I had ordered anything because the package said Disney Imaging and I told him that the only thing I had purchased was the digital downloads that I’ve already downloaded and shared with you all.

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We got inside and opened up the box to find a large WDW photo album filled with our photos!! I was shocked and completely speechless. Here I was having this terribly awful day and the Disney company delivers this little bit of incredible magic right to my door! It also included 4×6’s of 104 of our photos to add to the album or have framed, etc. There was no packing slip and/or printed receipt; only the album and photos themselves. I just couldn’t believe it and wondered how much all of this would’ve cost us if we’d actually ordered it. Turns out that 4×6’s are sold in sets of two for $14.95 which means that the cost for just the prints alone equals a value of $777.40!!!!! Ya’ll that’s just INSANE!! I also found the Storybook WDW resort album they included on the products page of the photopass website and it’s $19.99. So, altogether this FREE and totally unexpected set of photos is valued at whopping $797.39. There are no words to adequately describe how I felt receiving this amazing gift. To think that this sweet cast member listened to my story, and not only retrieved and extended my photos on the photopass website but she actually had all of these wonderful prints sent too and that’s nothing less than amazing.

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Ya’ll know that I’ve always loved WDW and everything the Disney company represents, but this act of kindness truly goes beyond what ANY company would do for their customers. And just to be clear, I am in NO WAY being compensated to say this and the CM that I spoke with that day had no way of knowing that I actually blog about my Disney obsession. In fact, I actually called the photopass service CM’s again and requested if they could check my account to see exactly which CM helped me that day. And while they weren’t able to connect me to her, the CM that I spoke with this time was so happy to hear my story and thanked me just for letting them know how much happiness they’ve brought our family. She also said that she couldn’t wait to share this with her managers because they absolutely LOVE hearing stories like this from thankful WDW guests. You often hear that Disney’s CM’s are truly the magic of WDW/DL and this just proves it beyond a doubt. So, to that AMAZING CM who helped me and sent these wonderful printed memories, I can never thank you enough. You really are the magic of Disney <3 ~M °o°

 

Have you had an amazing experience at Disney? Leave us a comment or share with us over on our fb and twitter accounts. We’d love to hear why Disney is special to you too!

p.s. Our car dilemma was solved too and I’m now the proud owner of a 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe and am sooo thankful for all of this week’s blessings. 🙂

PhotoPass CM saves the day!

Hey howdy hey, it’s Friday! And I’d like to take today to blog about what happened to me  last Friday. You see, I usually blog here on Fridays but when I sat down to write about my fun times at Star Wars weekends (naturally, since I couldn’t be at comic con) I noticed that I didn’t remember to download my PhotoPass photos in time. Yep, I had let the expiration date come and go. FAIL!

Back in June, my grandmother got sick and passed away as did my great uncle. And between all the funerals and traveling, I hadn’t really had time to think about photos and such. Then, I honestly just hadn’t been back in the right frame of mind to even think about checking them. And yes, the expiration date was July 15.

 

If I had remembered to get the extension, I would’ve still been within the 60 days. But of course, I didn’t.

 

And why does this matter? Because I wasn’t lying when I said that I let the PhotoPass photographers do their thing (take photos!!) and I enjoy my time with my family. After all, that’s what they’re there for. What that means, however, is that almost all of the characters we met both at the 24hr Disneyside party AND Star Wars weekends were just GONE. No Skywalker Mickey and Leia Minnie. No Tink, no Belle, no, no, no…

Well, with the encouragement of Amy and Sarah, I decided to go ahead and call just to see. It couldn’t hurt, right?

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Once on the phone with the Cast Member, I was just honest. (Yeah, I shared it all with that poor CM lol). Life happened and I just forgot. And thankfully, I got a very sweet CM who completely understood and found them!! She retrieved them and gave me an extension. And I’m not gonna lie, I cried happy tears. Those sweet photos popping back up on my screen truly made my day. So, to that awesome Cast Member, whoever you are out there, thank you for sprinkling a little pixie dust and making that happen for me!! Truly a magical moment!

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Luckily, all I had to do was logout and log back in again to refresh my account. Once my photos were all back, I had a fun time actually using the PhotoPass website to add cute Disney frames to some of the photos. They have loads to choose from! You can choose from a basic calendar year frame (says 2014 on it) or stick with theme of the photo (like choosing a Fairies theme for your pic with Tink. And for these types of edits, I chose to save a copy of the photo rather than just save with the decorative edit, just in case I might want to use the photo for something else as it originally looked. It’s easy to do too! Just pick your frame and click the little button that says “save a copy”. This works great for those planning to purchase all of the photos either as a digital download or an archival cd disc. Because you’re already paying for “all” of your photos, adding these in as copies is essentially free! More bang for your buck! 🙂

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And lastly before I go, I’d like to mention that these downloadable or archival disc files have their own licensing agreement between you and Disney. Each download comes with a .jpg that states what rights you have to the photos and what you can do with them. Basically, you can do whatever with them as long as you’re not selling them or profiting from them in any monetary way. I’ll admit, I’ve been hesitant to post my purchased PhotoPass photos here in the past because I wasn’t even sure if I had the rights to do so, but thankfully I can share away because I’m not profiting from them.

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So very glad I was able to get my photos back! Here are some of the photos that I would’ve otherwise had NONE of! I didn’t even have a photo of us meeting up with our sweet friends while in the MK!

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So that’s it folks! Have any of you had a similar experience? What did you think of PhotoPass or MemoryMaker? Is it worth it to you? Let us know by commenting here, on fb, or tweeting us!  ~M °o°

 

*all photos (except the screenshots) featured on this post are Disney PhotoPass photos and are not edited and will give you a good idea of the quality of photos the PhotoPass and MemoryMaker options offer you.

M’s Tips for Capturing Memorable Photos at WDW

Hey howdy hey, it’s finally Friday! And that means part 2 of my series on how to take more memorable photos at WDW. So let’s get to it!

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1. Prepare your cameras before you leave home.

Let me say that again. Prepare your camera BEFORE you leave home. You can’t take memorable photos if there’s no room to save them on your device. Seriously folks, I can’t stress this enough because the last thing you want is to get into the Magic Kingdom and find that your memory card or smartphone’s storage is full and you haven’t saved those old photos. Even if you have old photos on there that you could delete doesn’t mean that you’ll want to waste the time selectively deleting photos while at the parks. That’s especially true when you didn’t realize it was full until that special moment that Elsa (your kids’ favorite character) just happened to walk by and chat. (sidenote: that happened to one of our readers not too long ago! Okay, the Elsa part. Not the storage full part. ^_^ )  And one more thing to note about this: when you’ve copied your photos and are ready to wipe your memory card, be sure to format the card while it’s in your camera. Don’t simply delete the photos on your computer. Not to get too technical, but formatting from in-camera allows a full wipe and helps ensure that your card will continue to work properly.

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2. Use a cloud service to upload your photos each night of your stay. 

You’re probably thinking that has nothing to do with taking memorable photos, but I beg to differ! By uploading your photos to a cloud services like apple icloud and dropbox (my personal fav), you’re ensuring that you’ll have that day’s photos memories no matter what happens tomorrow. Think that’s not important? What if you accidentally get your phone wet on Kali River Rapids and it stops working, or you just happen to leave it somewhere? At least you have your photos up to that point! With this one, you’ll want to check your resort offerings to see what wi-fi services they offer and log-in (or whatever way they have set up) the night you arrive to ensure that it’s done and ready to go the next day. This is also beneficial if you want to take lots of photos but don’t have a device with a large amount of storage. You could shoot as much as you like, upload once you’ve got wi-fi access, and then delete and do it all again the next day. (Though, I’m not sure if I could delete vacay photos that quickly myself!) Personally, I always keep all of my photos until I get home and back them up, but knowing that I’ve uploaded to my cloud throughout makes me feel a lot better about snapping photos with my phone.

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3. Take your babies’ photos at WDW while they’re still babies!

Okay, say what you will but I’m a Mommy that will always recommend traveling with a baby to WDW. I know I’m crazy and there’s lots of you out there saying that they’ll never remember it and it’s such a hassle and, and, and… BUT here’s what I know: I’ve taken an 11mo and a 14mo (and they could’ve been younger, but that’s just how our trip planning times worked out) and while it can have its moments, it’s so completely worth it to have those memories of them as tiny babes in the parks. I still remember vividly watching Boo (11mo) enjoy her very first WDW parade. She smiled and waved and while I realize that she’ll never remember that parade or those precious fleeting moments, I WILL. And I love that. And that should be enough already, but what’s even better is I’m now getting to enjoy going back through our vacation photos with them. Belle really loves seeing photos of “baby Belle” (yes, I realize that’s a cheese as well. Quite good actually.) with all of the characters and really loves watching the videos. In fact, it’s hard to go through my photos for posts like this when she’s awake because if she sees it on my screen, she’ll be in lap requesting to “watch that!” before I have time to blink. Plus, they’re FREE until they turn 3! So, enjoy that while it lasts!

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4. Capture several photos from an attraction of experience and make a collage.

This is a great way to highlight a favorite ride or attraction for yourself! You can take photos as you’re entering, waiting in the queue, boarding, riding, exiting, and of course shopping in the inevitable gift shop that serves as the attraction’s exit, or just collage the day’s photos together for a quick and simple way to share lots of photos all at once. This is super fun because there are great apps like PicFrame, that allows you to select certain photos to arrange in a plethora of sizes and frame styles. You can customize the colors, add text, and export to your camera roll or upload directly to social sites. Like some of the other apps I’ve mentioned before, I’d recommend playing with this app before you get to WDW. It’s actually quite an easy and intuitive app, but it’s never fun to try and “learn” how an app works when you’re in a hurry.

 

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5. Look for new vantage points and ways to capture the “classics” in a new way.

Photos that have an exciting and different vantage point are almost always memorable, especially when they’re of your loved ones on your big WDW trip! That may mean intentionally visiting a certain part of the park either during the day or at night. The Rapunzel bathrooms area is quite lovely at night and is a great way to rest (and charge your devices!) and the perfect photo op at night. (Totally not as weird as it sounds).

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One of my favorite moments of my last trip was with my Belle at park closing. I ran with my “big camera” and Belle on my shoulders from Tomorrowland’s speedway back around to Dumbo at 8:55 (the park was closing at 9) and was able to board Dumbo ALL BY OURSELVES! The CM’s made her feel so special and flying through the MK right at park closing and being able to see the Castle and the Wishes fireworks show begin with MY “baby mine” was just magical. We had so much fun and sat in Storybook Circus to enjoy the rest of the show. It’s always nice to watch the fireworks shows from different locations and storybook circus provided a magically whimsical setting for my memorable moment with my little love.

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6. Consider visiting other WDW locations outside of the parks for new experiences.

We really enjoyed resort hopping this last vacation and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s looking at spending a day outside the parks. It’s completely free, there’s loads of different places to visit all with free transportation (by bus, boat, or monorail), and gives you a reason to take a day away from the parks mid-vacation. We parked at the TTC, then hopped on the resort monorail to explore the deluxe resorts. The Polynesian is tropical and has great photo ops including fireworks viewing from the beach areas! The Grand Floridian is, well grand. Very aptly named. Pretty much anywhere in that big beautiful building is a great opportunity for a photo that’s not just another Disney ride. The contemporary and Bay Lake tower provide a modern-looking interiors, a giant Mary Blair (think It’s A Small World) mural, and a the only chance to see the monorail actually run through the building! With a dinner reservation at the California Grill, it also offers the unique opportunity to watch the nightly Wishes fireworks from its own private viewing platform. (Don’t worry, your ADR doesn’t have to be at the time of the show either. Just bring your receipt from earlier that evening back at showtime and they’ll take you back up!) And don’t forget to take a bus over to the AK Jambo house because it’s just awesome. If you want to go see the savannah animals but can’t get to Kilamanjaro Safaris, then you can get your giraffe (and other animals) photos for free just by visiting their viewing platforms! They’ve also got a great playground with lounge chairs that we enjoyed while waiting on our Boma reservation. We will definitely be resort hopping more in the future!

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Well, that wraps up part 2. I might have to revisit more ideas in the future because as I’m typing this ending, I’m already thinking I could add so much more. Guess be on the lookout for that sometime? What would advice would you add? ~M °o°

 

Capturing Photos and Videos for Lasting Memories

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Hey howdy hey, it’s Friday again! And since the ladies have done such a wonderful job of posting on the best rides for your families this week, I’d like to take a moment to chat about how you can turn those amazing rides and experiences into lasting treasured memories. That IS what we’re all about here after all.

 

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1. Know your own equipment.

So, right about now, you’re rolling your eyes because I started with this one and thinking that I’m going to blab on about how you should be reading your manual and learning about f/stops, iso’s, and shutter speeds. And while all of that is true if you want the very best photos you can get, I’m bringing this up more because it’s about knowing the limits of your equipment. In 2012, we traveled to WDW with the intentions of visiting the water parks as well as the big four. So to prepare, I purchased a lifeproof case for my iPhone 4s and was able to capture videos and photos without worrying about dropping my phone in the water. I was able able to capture Boo’s very first experience on a water ride and can now watch it over and again because I did one long video. Now, I’m not saying this to make everyone go buy this case. I’m saying it simply because when you know what type of photos you want to capture while there, it’s easy to plan and make it happen. Did you know you can rent camera gear once you get to Orlando?

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Another thing that you should know is which camera to pull out at any given time. I’m a firm believer that the best camera is the one that’s closest, especially when trying to capture photos of little ones at WDW. Oftentimes, our most magical moments happened unexpectedly and I always used my iPhone because it was so easy to just pull it out of my pocket and start shooting. Well, why don’t you just walk around with your camera around your neck all day? Good question! And a lot of the time I did have my Canon near, but that didn’t mean that I had my setting corrects and ready to go. Truth be told, if you’re going to leave your fancy dslr on “auto” the whole time, then just don’t bother. Not to be rude (and I’m sure some of you are fuming while reading this because it means extra work to learn said cameras), but it’s not worth it in the end. Your auto features on your smartphone are well capable to capture the moment and as an added bonus, they’re already connected to the internet, so you can share instantly! If you’re not going to spend the time to learn how to use your dslr using at least aperture or shutter priority modes, then why would you waste more time to pull out that big camera when your smartphone can do the same thing?! Furthermore, (and not to sound know-it-all) but even though I know how to shoot with my dslr, that doesn’t mean that I FEEL like getting it out and setting everything exactly right just to snap a photo of something I want to remember.

1Meredith'sWDWPhotoTips_MMMI snapped this photo of Belle riding my shoulders as we were leaving the MK one night. We had separated from our group and I didn’t have anyone to take the photo even though I had my canon with me. Using the (let’s be honest, awful)  forward-facing camera, I was still able to snap the perfect photo of us with the castle lit. Is it the most technically perfect photo ever? Nope. Do I still love it? Most definitely. I knew that I was exhausted and couldn’t take her on my shoulders much longer and the best camera for me, was my handy little phone. It’s a great shot of a night I won’t ever forget. I’m going to end this one by saying that you don’t need to get caught up in the technicalities of photography if you want to have an enjoyable vacation. Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t use the big camera for that shot, just be glad you got the shot at all. 🙂

 

2. Be aware of everything in your photo!

Don’t just snap a photo of you or your kids close-up on rides because you may get home and not even be able to remember where you were. Instead, be mindful of what attraction you’re experiencing and be sure to include it in your photo with your child or family member. In other words, don’t crop it out!!!

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Case in point, this collage sure is cute of my Boo’s transformation into a mermaid at the Pirates League. They’re good enough photos and my close-up detail shot is pretty good. BUT, my favorite from that experience is the photo below because not only has it captured Boo’s adorable expression, but it also showcases the mirrors and atmosphere of that tiny yet authentic-looking space.

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Another great example is from the Pixar pals parade at Hollywood studios. I got loads of photos of the characters as they passed by as well as plenty of the girls waving, however my favorite shows both! Get behind your kids to capture both them AND whatever it is they’re experiencing. You’ll be so happy you did! This photo of Boo where Woody is clearly waving directly to her still makes me super happy and it’ll mean more because years from now, we’ll still be able to understand what she was doing.

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And here’s another one that I’ll always cherish. My sweet family, including my grandmother and my daughter, cuddled watching illuminations together. I love that they’re silhouetted against the fireworks and we have a photo of them experiencing the fireworks, rather than just another fireworks photo to add to my collection.

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3. Take photos that mean something to you.

In other words, think about why you’re taking a photo there. I like to take photos of the girls in front of the attraction entrances for rides that they’re excited to ride. Boo LOVED Journey into Imagination when she was 4 and when we returned the next time, I had to get her photo outside. I made sure to include the attraction itself too! When you take these types of photos, be sure to squat down and take the photo on their level.You can instantly turn a boring snapshot into a fantastic photo just by putting the camera eye-level with your kiddo.

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4. Capture the scale of things.

This photo of Boo wouldn’t be nearly as amazing if I hadn’t included the entire play-doh canister too. It just wouldn’t. Your kids are not going to be small for very long and you only have so many chances to capture their size while at WDW. So, be sure to exaggerate that a bit and really play-up their size! And that’s actually pretty easy to do at WDW because everything’s so grandiose that there’s always a great photo op.

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5. Shoot Videos!!!!!

This one I’ve mentioned before and really can’t stress enough. If you’re already paying for Memory Maker, then you’ve got someone YOU’RE PAYING to take photographs for you at stops like in front of the major landmarks as well as character meet-n-greets. If you let them do their job, then you free yourself up to shoot a video of them meeting their favorite character and that means that you capture their actual interaction with that character AND (through memory maker) you have a portrait of that moment as well! We loved meeting Ariel in her grotto and I got the best of both worlds. I was able to capture our fun interaction with her as well as frame that beautiful shot of my baby mermaid with THE little mermaid <3

 

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And that wraps up part 1 of this post, be sure to check back next week for part 2! Also, please feel free to share you own photos with us over on our fb fanpage or within our secret fb group! (Just pm us and we’ll add you too!) Until next time, always remember that there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day!! ~M °o°