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!!

 

Tomorrowland Travels With Amy

I’ve been bitten by the Disney bug for the last few years, and become somewhat obsessed with all things Disney. When Sarah, Meredith and I started this blog and I began to do research on various things, it always stuck in my mind that *one* day I would like to become a Disney travel agent so that I could put all my new found knowledge to work for me, since I love to help people plan for their Disney trips. Well, that day has come!

I’ve become a certified Disney vacation planner through mickeyvacations.com and successfully completed the College of Disney Knowledge which taught me everything Disney has to offer, which is a lot! I’m able to book vacation packages for Disneyland, Walt Disney World, the Disney cruise line, Adventures by Disney (amazing vacation packages, by the way), and Aulani, which is Disney’s Hawaiian resort.

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If you are considering an upcoming Disney vacation of any kind, email me at tomorrowlandtravels@yahoo.com, or visit me at my FB page, and I would be happy to put together a quote for you. When you book with me, there is no additional fee for my services. My commission comes from Disney. And I might get you a better price in the end! Disney often puts out promotions that can decrease the cost of, or increase the value of your vacation. I watch for these and to see if you might benefit from one. If you can, I will make the change and let you know how much money you have saved!

I will help you plan as much as or as little as you require. Some people might want help every step of the way, while others just need help with some things like Advanced Dining Reservations or questions about Fastpass+. Whatever your needs, I’ll help you with them!

So drop on over to Tomorrowland Travels with Amy Wade on FaceBook, and “like” my page to keep up to date with the latest travel promotions that Disney is offering, such as Star Wars Weekends coming up later this year. I will also be posting about travel sales, which are always great to hear about!

11016983_1044536935562883_6614005709420901305_nYou are just one click away from planning a Disney vacation of your dreams, and I’m happy to help in any way possible! ~A ºoº

Star Wars Weekends Experiences

Hi everyone! I’m back to tell you all about the actual experiences Star Wars weekends has to offer. I’ll start by saying, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out yesterday’s post. It details some of the things you need to know before going. And remember, you have to have a valid park admission to get into Disney’s Hollywood Studios to access all things Star Wars!

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There are loads to do at SWW and every year they add something new and special. From the dining experiences to the fireworks, the days are loaded with all things Star Wars. As a family of 4 that includes 2 young girls (then 2 and 6), you’d think that this event wouldn’t really appeal to us. But you’d be wrong! My girls loved almost all of it!

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If the girls had been interested in the Jedi Training Academy, we would’ve headed there first! This experience is available throughout the year and is fun because it allows kids to become a Jedi and battle Darth Vader and his stormtroopers live on stage. However, the Jedi Training experience during SWW also allows for padawans (jedis-in-training, a.k.a your kids) to be selected to participate in the actual SWW themed parade for that day! My girls though, were just a bit stage shy and didn’t seem into it. So, we headed first thing over to Darth’s Mall.

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Darth’s Mall was setup as a special place (indoors and air-conditioned thankfully!) that had all of the special SW related merchandise. It is also the place where you can meet Jedi Mickey, Leia Minnie, Darth Goofy, and Stormtrooper Donald! They even Admiral Akbar’s Snackbar where you could purchase snacks and drinks in specially themed cups and containers. If you plan on buying anything SW-related while there, this is the place to go. And while they do sell some SWW merchandise in the Tattooine Traders gift shop (you know, the gift shop that the Star Tours ride conveniently exits you through), I would recommend purchasing from Darth’s Mall because not only is it not as crowded because they control how many people are allowed in at any given time, but the selection is much better. Not to mention, the Tattooine Traders gift shop is tiny anyway, and gets congested very quickly on SWW days.

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After finishing up at Darth’s Mall, we headed back out to get us a spot for the Legends of the Force Motorcade. The SW motorcade is a fantastic SW-themed parade that is led by Jedi Mickey himself. This is also the parade that features your padawans! If you’re a SW fan, you’ll appreciate just how many characters they have represented in this parade, from storm and sand troopers to droids to sandpeople to Darth Vader himself, you’ll get to see them all. They even include the newer generation of SW characters from the Clone Wars and Rebels animated series! This is also where you’ll get to see some of the actors and voice talents for past SW movies and series. This is definitely one of the must-see experiences during your day at SWW.

After that, it was time for some lunch, and while we didn’t do the SW-themed dining because our trip was a last-minute decision, I’d encourage you to try out what they have to offer! You can check out the dining options by visiting Disney’s own website here.

After refueling, it was time to enjoy some of the other meet and greets as well as the actual Star Tours ride. Be sure to keep an eye out all around you because as you walk around the park, they have certain characters patrolling and perusing. We got our picture with some and my husband and 2yo got to see the Mos Eisley cantina band! Also, be sure to check your special park map for the locations of the special meet n greets. They range from Ewok Chip and Dale to Chewbacca to the “real” Luke and Leia.

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Can you tell Boo wasn’t so sure about this Gamorrean Guard? ^_^

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We just missed out on Leia as she switched with Luke just as it was our turn. It just so happens though, that Luke was fantastic with the girls! He chatted with them all about moisture farms!

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After riding Star Tours a couple of times (thanks to child swap since Belle wasn’t tall enough to ride yet) we headed back to Darth’s Mall to see if we could get a photo with Jedi Mickey and Leia Minnie. They too swapped out for Darth Goofy and Stormtrooper Donald right before our turn earlier that morning. Thankfully, this time we got it!! The look on Boo’s face when she saw Leia Minnie was unlike any other Minnie Mouse meet and greet for her and I’m so glad we went back!! She could NOT stop hugging her! <3 And while you’re there, if you’re a fangirl, then don’t miss out on Ashley Eckstein’s (she’s been a voice talent on Star Wars the Clone Wars as well as more recently, Sophia the First!) Her Universe merchandise. She had some really fun shirts, dress, hoodies, and jewelry there last year and I’m sure she won’t disappoint this year. (Note: If you’re also a whovian, you can check out her Doctor Who merchandise in the UK pavilion at Epcot!)

There are also opportunities to get autographs by some of the Star Wars celebrities and I HIGHLY recommend getting in line for these first thing that morning. Now, I just have to stress to you how you should NOT miss James Arnold Taylor!! If you don’t know him chances are you’ve heard him and didn’t even know it, so for your own reference here’s his website. We actually got to meet him and he even talked to the girls in Obi Wan Kenobi’s voice! He’s a super nice guy and amazingly talented. We caught his stage show, called Obi Wan and Beyond, and it was worth every second of the around 20 minutes we waited to get in. Seriously, don’t miss this! You’ll be entertained, captivated, and completely in awe of how talented he really is. Even our littles loved the show!

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You can watch our GoPro video of the motorcade if you skip to 22:47 (anything before that is from the day prior when we partied for 24hrs in the Magic Kingdom!). This is also includes the video of us meeting James Arnold Taylor, meeting Luke Skywalker, a good portion of the Obi Wan and Beyond show, and the entire Symphony in the Stars fireworks show!

And to end the night off right, a day at Disney wouldn’t be complete without some amazing fireworks! Symphony in the Stars fireworks is a fantastic fireworks display set to the wonderful music of John Williams. It’s a great way to end the evening! If you’d like even more detailed info on specifically this year’s SWW, then be sure to check out this website.

 

And there you have it! I hope you all go and get to experience all the fun! And if you do, please share with us either here or over on our fb page! ~M ºoº

6 Things to Know About Star Wars Weekend

Hey there folks and thanks for supporting our blog and our new name! I’m here today to talk about Star Wars Weekends coming up in May at Walt Disney World. This year’s event is longer than ever running from May 15 until June 14. Here’s 6 things to know and remember when planning a trip to WDW for Star Wars Weekends.

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1. The SWW events only occur on weekends!
This is a special event that is held every spring at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. And unlike some other special events (like the flower and garden festival and food and wine) the special features of this event ONLY OCCUR ON THE WEEKENDS. That’s one thing that seems to confuse some people. If you head to WDW expecting to experience SWW, be sure that you’ll be visiting DHS on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
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2. Expect large crowds.
This one really should be understandable considering the events are only on the weekends and there are so many people that plan their WDW vacations to coincide with this event. Be prepared to stand in lines and don’t fret if it takes a little longer to ride Star Tours!

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3. Plan only to experience things unique to Star Wars Weekends.
Do your homework by researching what exactly is going on and plan to only do and experience the things from your list. Don’t however, expect to get all your Star Wars stuff in AND hit the usual rides and attractions. If you’re going for SWW, really make the best of it by doing as many of the attractions that interest you as possible.

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4. Get there early!
As I mentioned earlier, the crowds are heavy and they don’t sleep in til midday. The rope drop show is unique and in the past has included Storm Troopers! BUT, you can only experience this if you get to the park at least a half hour before park opening. The lines for the Jedi Training Academy, celebrity autograph signings, and most all of the SW character meet and greets also fill up fast and if you’re looking to do any of these, it’s best to head for those first.

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5. Get your Star Wars themed dining experiences booked early!
This year, there’s not only the Sci-Fi Dine In Galactic breakfast, but there’s also a new Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine. The Hollywood and Vine one is even being offered with a Fantasmic Dining plan! I would highly recommend that you get your ADR of choice in as early as you can to ensure the experience and time you’d like.

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6. Be sure to get your parade and fireworks spots early.
With the sorcerer’s hat officially gone this year, seating and space for the fireworks might be a little easier to get, but in both cases, it’s best to get your spot early. Especially considering the parade route has, in the past, only run from the park entrance down Hollywood Boulevard.

 

And that’s my list for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with a list of actual experiences being offered and tips on how best to experience and plan for them!! So be sure to check tomorrow!! ~M °o°

Guest Contributor: Amanda-Slightly Addicted

It’s time for another of our brand new guest contributor posts!! Thanks to all our new contributors and be sure to give her some comment love!

 

Hello everyone! I’m Amanda, and I’m a new contributor to The Mouse & The Monorail. I know a lot of you are probably like me and a little addicted to the magical world of Disney. Where else can all your worries be washed away and you can be like a kid again?  I began my Disney addiction at the young age of 2.  My family tried to get us down to Orlando every other year.  I remember the days of the 20,000 Leagues under the sea, The Skybuckets, Mickeys Toontown Fair, and the days of paper tickets!  While I miss all the old rides,  they have replaced them with some great ones!

I got married in 2004 and our honeymoon destination was none other than Disney World.  My husband had never been, so I was excited to share it with him.  We opened and closed the parks every day we were there and came home exhausted after the 9 hour drive.  My hubs said, “I hope you enjoyed that, we are never doing that again!” Well our first Anniversary, Disney offered an amazing deal, so yea…we went again!  And then the next year another fabulous deal.  Do you see a pattern here?

So here we are now in 2015….2 kids later, we have managed to visit the world every year except 2007, but we made up for it and went twice in 2008 and twice in 2014.  I have seen Disney when I was 8 months pregnant (ummm wow!), I have taken kids as young as 3 months old, and vacationed with friends as well as grandparents.  We have stayed in the Value resort almost every time, used the Dining plan or the Quick Service Dining plan, and ventured to several other “optional” experiences.  We try to see and do a lot for all ages and we have fun every time!  I cant wait to share adventures with you all, and I hope each of you can get a little more addicted with me!

Now, I’d like to share with you a little advice based off of the questions I have been asked over the years.

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Traveling with children -I hear so many people say “My kids are too old for Disney” or “My children are too young, they wont remember it.”  Well I can say I have taken my son yearly since 9 months old and my daughter yearly since 3 months old, and they both have remembered rides since they were around 2 years old.  Disney makes it easy to travel with children, and they even make them free up to 3 years old!  If you are thinking its like Six Flags and they cant ride anything, you are in for a treat.  At 3 months, my daughter was able to ride at least 85% of the rides at Disney.  Of course she couldn’t ride the major rides, but there is a lot more that babies and toddlers can ride than people think.  Some of the rides I was able to wear the baby carrier on, and others I held her in my arms.  I would say the fastest moving one is Toy Story Mania and we had her in the carrier for that one.  The rides they can’t ride, Disney offers a rider swap option.  This works as a FastPass for the parent staying behind with the little one.  That way if you have other kids, you can take turns riding with them, without waiting in line twice!  So believe me when I say, Disney is a park for ALL ages.  Your kids are not too young or too old for Disney (unless they are a few weeks old, then I understand!)

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Best time to visit – I would say the Best time to visit for lowest crowds is September.  For overall best Experience – November or December (excluding the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas.)  September is awesome for riding as many rides as you want and they usually offer Free Dining during this time.  However, the heat can get to you and sometimes its pretty rainy as well!  November and December – Great temperatures, the crowd level is up a little but its manageable.  Many times Free Dining is offered certain dates.  The Christmas lights though, are AMAZING!!!  And if you are going around this time, try to take in the Very Merry Christmas Party too!

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Best place to stay –  There are amazing properties all around Disney.  Offsite vs Onsite – I am onsite all the way!  I love free parking, buses constantly running, extra magic hours, magic bands, get your FastPass picks earlier, free dining promotions, need I say more?!  Now that you know I say onsite, what is the best Disney hotel to stay at?  This depends on your budget and how you vacation.  If you are going to hit the park in the morning, lounge around the hotel and sight see some and enjoy some downtime, then I would recommend a Moderate level resort or above and check their amenities.  If you are going to Disney to see the parks and go to the park every day….you probably just need a value resort!  If you are like us, we open and close the parks so we only see our hotel room to sleep and shower…the rest of the times we are in a park.  It would be a huge waste of money for us to look at a Deluxe hotel, even though they are awesome, because we are not around the hotel enough to take in the amenities that make it worth the extra money.  So consider your plans before choosing a hotel. 

 

Hope this helps a little bit! I look forward to sharing more Disney magic with you! ~Amanda

 

Thanks for the great post Amanda! If you’d like to become a guest contributor, simply shoot us an email at mouseandmonorail (at) gmail (dot) com! We’d love to feature you too!! ~M º0º 

Top 5 Know Before You Go Tips

photo(8)We at Memory Makin’ Moms are unapologetically obsessed with Disney, hence this little blog of ours. We plan and research all the aspects of our trips, and when we get back, we start dreaming about our next trip. We have had lots of questions from first time WDW park visitors lately on our FB page from parents and grandparents that are planning their trip, and they honestly don’t know where to begin. I got to thinking about it, and came up with this list of the top 5 “Know Before You Go” tips to share with newbies, or people that haven’t visited in a long time. Here goes!

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1. Plan your trip! Sounds basic, right? Wrong. Gone are the days of showing up at a Walt Disney World park with no game plan in mind, and expecting to see and do everything in the parks. You need to have a plan. For our family, that involves a touringplans.com membership which helps us map out the parks, and plan our route to avoid the crowds. It is worth every penny for the membership for the amount that we utilize our touring plans in the parks.

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When planning, do research on the rides. Don’t just assume that because it is a Disney attraction, that it is suitable for all children. If your child is deathly afraid of the dark, then Stitch’s Great Escape is NOT the attraction for you. If your child has never done a roller coaster, chances are you don’t want to put them on Expedition Everest for their first experience. Pull up youtube and watch some videos of the rides together and see what their interests are. My son loved The Haunted Mansion, but I know other kids have been scared by it. When planning out your rides, make sure you utilize rider swap if you have a young child that won’t meet the height requirement, and an older child that can’t live without that ride. Rider swap ensures that everyone leaves happy, especially the child that gets to ride twice!

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2. Book Dining Reservations! Decide which restaurants your family would like to eat, and book reservations 180 days out. If reservations aren’t available, keep checking periodically and see if time slots open up. Please, please, please don’t be “that” person that walks up to Cinderella’s Royal Table and expect to walk right in and be seated. It’s not going to happen, and you don’t want to have a devastated little girl on your hands expecting to meet the Princesses. If you want to eat a sit down restaurant on Walt Disney World property,  you need to have reservations. If you don’t want to bother with reservations, there are loads of counter service restaurants that you can choose without any of the reservation hassle.

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3. Book FastPass+! Disney no longer utilizes the paper fast passes. You need to log in to your Disney account 60 days prior to your trip and book your FastPass+ reservations for the rides/attractions that your family considers your top priorities. If time selections aren’t available for your top choices, keep checking. Chances are something will open up before your trip. Don’t give up!

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4. Choose your hotel and tickets! Do you want to stay in the park, or do you want to stay off property? WDW resort guests can utilize extra Magic Hours to get into the parks early or stay late, as well as free transportation within the resort. This works great for our family, but you might have a timeshare that you want to utilize when you are in the Orlando area. Do you want to stay in a value resort with basic amenties or in a deluxe resort? Only you know! We love staying at Pop Century, but the Grand Floridian might be more your speed.

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As far as tickets, we choose park hopper passes meaning that we can bounce from park to park during the same day, but you could also choose to buy the base ticket which only allows entry to one park per day. If you are able to visit for a week or so, the base ticket might be a good choice since you can take your time in the parks more than we can when we only visit for 3 days. With our limited time, the park hopper ensures that we can maximize our experiences, but someone not in a rush might not benefit from the additional cost.

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5. Know Your Needs! You need to know what your family really wants to do to make this a memorable vacation. We want to squeeze out every bit of pixie dust from our WDW vacations, so for us that means that we arrive to the parks an hour before they open, and we are always first in line to get to the parks. That doesn’t work for every family, but our kids rise with the chickens, so they are ready to go! Have little ones? You might need to factor in time to return to your hotel room during the middle of the day for rest time. Night owls? You need to know which nights the parks are open late. If your kiddo is a huge princess fan, then you need to do your research to see what princess experience she would love the most. If budget is a concern, you can search our blog with the search button at the top of the page for loads of money saving ideas. No, you can’t do every single thing at the park, but that’s the beauty of Disney World…it will still be there when you come back!

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Planning a trip to Disney takes research, but it doesn’t have to be a burden. Don’t be afraid to ask, ask, ask! Talk to moms, dads and anyone that you know has been to the parks in the last few years about their experiences. We have a dedicated FB group that would be happy to help you in any way possible, or you can email us with your questions at memorymakinmoms (at) gmail (dot) com.  We love Disney so much, and want to spread the pixie dust in any way possible. You can have an absolutely amazing trip to Walt Disney World with a little bit of effort, and I promise it will be the trip of a lifetime! Toodles! ~A ºoº

Trivia Tuesday

Here are yesterday’s trivia answers:

Question 1: Can you name the only three times that WDW has closed since its opening day in 1971? ~M ºoº

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Answer 1: WDW was closed due to Hurricane Floyd in 1999, 9/11/2001, and in 2002 due to a park power failure.

Question 2: Christmas is a big deal at Walt Disney World. Over ____ million lights are hung, ____ miles of garland is used, and _________ yards of ribbon and bows are draped over ________ Christmas trees around the Walt Disney World property. ~ A ºoº

Answer 2: Over 7 million lights are hung, 11.3 miles of garland is used, and 300,000 yards of ribbon and bows are draped over 1,360 Christmas trees around the Walt Disney World property. I’m impressed! (Source)

 

Question 3: When Epcot first opened, it had no _______. ~S ºoº

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Answer 3: When Epcot first opened, it had no thrill rides. Can you believe that?? What’s your favorite thrill ride there now?

 

Thanks again for playing with us today!

It’s Time for Some Food!

Hey howdy hey, it’s Friday! Today’s topic is one of my personal favorite reasons for going to WDW. Food!!

Several days ago I asked our secret MMM Moms over on fb to share their favorite places to dine at table service restaurants. And I was going to let that post go for a while and then ask what their favorite quick service restaurants were as well, but Trish beat me to it! So today, I’m going to list out our favorite places for both TS and QS restaurants at the world.

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We’ll start with quick service first. QS restaurants are great for those who don’t want to have a reservation for a specific time. My family always splits it up and does both a TS and a QS each day. That means that we’re always hitting up the yummy, quick foods at some point too. It seems as though our Moms liked Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (MK), Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe (MK), and Pizza Planet Arcade (HS) the most. Each of these offer yummy foods that should satisfy most all of your family members. All also offer indoor seating, a.k.a. air-conditioned relief, though Cosmic Ray’s has the most seating by far. The Yak and Yeti Local Foods Cafe and the ABC Commissary also got several nods. And while the Yak and Yeti qs counter doesn’t have any indoor seating, it’s delicious and offers an opportunity to eat outdoors in the shade of the AK’s Asia land. On the other hand, the ABC Commissary has loads of indoor seating and is a great place to rest and cool off while at HS.  Other MMM Epcot favorites include Yorkshire County Fish shop for Fish and Chips while in the UK at Epcot, the Tangierine Café in Morocco, and the Electric Umbrella in Future World. The Flametree BBQ and Restaurantosaurus  also got votes for favs in the Animal Kingdom. Be Our Guest Restaurant and Pinnochio Village Haus also got votes for yummy Magic Kingdom favorites. (Though be warned, BOG is incredibly tricky and tough to get into currently). And lastly, the Earl of Sandwich earned the top qs restaurant at Downtown Disney. Delicious!!

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For table service restaurants, I’ll start by saying that you should definitely do a little research before you decide where you and your family will be dining. You’re going to HAVE to have reservations for these locations, as walk-ups for any of the TS locations are almost unheard of. You’re allowed to book reservations (ADR, or Advanced Dining Reservations) up to 180 days in advance and the closer to that 180 day mark, the more likely you are to get all the restaurants you want. I prefer actually calling Disney Dining directly because they can oftentimes find reservation times that the online booking system just won’t. They’ll also be able to answer any questions regarding your restaurant choices that a computer system can’t. Now, onto our MMM top Table Service picks!

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I’ll start with the Character Dining options as they seem to be crowd pleasers. The Tusker House (AK), O’hana (Polynesian resort), Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary resort), Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Norway, Epcot), and Cinderella’s Royal Table (MK) are all top stand-outs. You can check out Disney’s website to see which characters you’ll get to meet at each location. Amy also loves the Garden Grill (the land pavilion, Epcot) too in case you have a hard time snagging an ADR at one of these restaurants.

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If you’re like me though, ADR’s are all about the food, and not so much the characters. Our top favorites for the MK are the Liberty Tree Tavern, and Tony’s Town Square. The Liberty Tree Tavern serves up their food family style and Tony’s offers delicious Italian favorites (think Lady and the Tramp). For delectable delights in Epcot, look no further than Germany’s Biergarten, Japan’s Teppan Edo, and Canada’s incredible Le Cellier. (If you have a steak lover in your party, then definitely don’t miss this one!) The Biergarten offers not only delicious and authentic German foods buffet style, but also offers some incredibly fun entertainment and ambiance. Teppan Edo offers authentic Hibachi-style dining. And Le Cellier, well just about everything we tried there was incredibly delicious.  For the Animal Kingdom, it’s hand-down the Yak and Yeti Restaurant! You can’t beat their authentic asian and himalayan-inspired delights. (The fried green beans are amazing!) And lastly, moving to Hollywood Studios, almost everyone agrees that Mama Melrose’s and the 50’s Primetime Cafe are where it’s at. You can find delicious Italian entrees at Mama’s while enjoying a bit of hidden Mickey game hunting and the 50’s Primetime Cafe offers not only some belly-pleasing comfort food, but some fun entertaining service as well. And don’t forget the resorts too!! The Polynesian’s Kona Cafe offers its famous Tonga Toast and has the best pot-stickers imaginable. If you head over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, you’ll find Boma-Flavors of Africa (one of my favs at Jambo House) and Sanaa (at Kidani), which both offer some of the best African foods in all of WDW. (If you like hummus, you’ll LOVE them both as they each offer a plethora of hummus variations to try!) Lastly, I have to add this because even if you’re not a fan of fine dining, the California Grill is a place to not miss because your dining reservation also earns you the ability to watch the MK’s evening fireworks from the very tip top of the Contemporary Hotel! We did it twice folks and it was awesome both times. And don’t forget about Downtown Disney too! We had a blast eating some delicious sushi and enjoying a couple games of bowling at Splitsville Luxury Lanes. Splitsville is perfect for a night at DTD. And don’t worry, they have loads of other foods besides sushi, in case you’re not a fan.

 

And there you have it! Our favorites for both quick service and table services at WDW. Of course, there are so many wonderful places to dine, so if your favorite isn’t on this list, then let us know!! ~M ºoº

Tuesday Trivia

Here are our trivia answers for today!

 

Question 1: What was the first roller coaster attraction at Walt Disney World? ~S °o°

 

Answer 1: The first roller coaster attraction was Space Mountain!

 

Question #2: Walt Disney World covers how many square miles of property? ~A °o°

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Answer #2: Walt Disney World cover 47 square miles of land!

 

Question #3: Name this Disney song. ~M ºoº

2014-10-07 14.55.20Answer #3: Don’t worry if you didn’t get this one! Just “Let It Go”! ^_^

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Leaving On A Jet Plane

In my post last week on Strollers 101, I shared that we had flown to Disney for our previous 2 trips. Cyndee asked me to share some tips on flying to Disney so here we go!plane

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We are lucky enough to live 30 minutes from a regional airport, and 1 hour away from an international airport. We have chosen to fly out of Birmingham, AL for both of our flights because we fly direct to Orlando. If we had flown from Montgomery (the regional airport), we would have had to fly to Atlanta or Charlotte, and then make a connecting flight to Orlando. I’m all about making direct flights because I have a huge fear of my luggage getting lost. I figure that flying direct is the easiest way to help my luggage travel with me. Not always fool proof, but tempts fate a little less than trying to make connections.

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There are 2 airports in the Orlando area, so if you are searching for flights, you need to search for airport code MCO. That is the main airport in Orlando, and the airport that is serviced by Disney’s Magical Express (more on that later). First things first….I cannot recommend Southwest Airlines enough when traveling to Orlando. They have amazing deals on flights, and you can travel with 2 bags per person for free! Amen, amen, amen on saving from checked baggage fees.

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Prior to our first trip I signed up for Southwest Airlines email newsletters. That’s when I found out that they occasionally run amazing deals on flights. Southwest does things a little differently than other airlines. You are able to buy one way tickets for much cheaper than round trip tickets. When combined with their sales, you can find some incredible deals. I was able to get 4 one way tickets to Orlando for $49 each, and then got 4 one way tickets back to Birmingham for $99 each. So I was able to fly our whole family to and from Orlando for less than $600. And fyi, you can fly from Birmingham to Orlando in one hour. Even with time factored in for security, it still beats an 8 hour car trip with kids. You can’t put a price on sanity, am I right?

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I have found that Southwest lowers their prices on Tuesday mornings, and flights during the week are cheaper than weekend flights, just so you know. I have bought their “Wanna Get Away” tickets for our flights because those are the cheapest, and cheap is how I roll.

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So after picking your flights, when thinking about packing just remember to keep it light. You have to keep bags under 50 pounds. Utilize a backpack as a carry on, and you can stuff it with some of your heavier items to make your suitcase a little lighter. Pack a small carry on for your kids with stuff that can keep them entertained for the flight. My kids were so excited to fly that they barely touched the stuff in their bags, but better safe than sorry. If you are worried about not having enough room in your luggage remember that you can always use the washers and dryers at your hotel. I even used a suitcase to pack snacks for the trip, and then used it for souvenirs when coming home. Win/win for solving a packing dilemma of coming home with more than you left with.

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So you have your bags packed, you have arrived at the airport with all your required papers, have your liquids in 3 oz containers in a ziploc bag to get through security, made it through the TSA checkpoints without having a cavity search, boarded your airplane with time to spare, eaten peanuts and drank Coke, flown to MCO and landed. Now what to do?

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Disney has an amazing, free little perk for travelers heading to the happiest place on earth via airplane called Magical Express. It’s how you get to your Disney resort hotel from the airport. If you link your airline reservation to your travel plans with Disney, and are staying on site in a Disney resort, about 3 weeks before your flight you will get Mickey Mouse luggage tags and hotel tags to put on your checked baggage. If you choose, you can check your baggage at the airport with these custom tags and your luggage will be delivered to your hotel room within a few hours after you arrive in Orlando without you having to lift a finger. Can’t get much easier! Or, if you like, you can leave off the hotel tags and collect your luggage like normal at the baggage carousel. You can then walk to the Magical Express boarding area (with your luggage) and they will store your luggage under the coach and you can take it to the hotel with you. We have chosen to get our luggage ourselves for our trips since there can be a delay of several hours before your luggage is delivered, and I’m always in a hurry to unpack and start my vacation.

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The coaches are deluxe and plush, and the staff are so friendly. You load the bus and then watch a short video highlighting different Disney venues and parks, and then get to watch a few minutes of a classic Disney cartoon before pulling up at your Disney hotel. The buses make stops at several resort hotels along the way, so keep that in mind if you are making dining reservations for your first night in town. Start to finish, we left the Orlando airport and we were in our hotel room in less than an hour.

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Your resort will give you a paper a few days before checkout letting you know what time you need to be back at the entrance to the hotel with your luggage on the day you depart. You hand your luggage over to the bell carriers, they weigh it and slap on the baggage tags and you will see it again when you arrive at your home airport location.  They handle checking your luggage in with your airline, so you don’t have anything else to worry about. Just make sure you don’t pack your identification and tickets in your suitcase because you won’t see it again. Pretty easy if you ask me!

rooI hope I’ve covered the basics of flying to Disney with your family. Flying isn’t for everyone, but we have loved it for our family, and it has been part of the excitement of the trip for our boys.  If you have any questions that I didn’t cover, please leave me a comment. As always, I’ll do the best I can to help you out. Have a magical day! ~A ºoº

Strollers 101 at Walt Disney World

s2The great stroller debate is a very common issue facing people planning a trip to Walt Disney World with small kids. We have been to Disney World twice in the past 2 years, once with a stroller and once without. We didn’t take the stroller on our first trip, because our oldest son, Tigger (not his real name in case you are new around here!) was old enough to walk. I had budgeted to rent a stroller from Disney if we needed to, but with the exception of one night where he flat out fell asleep in the middle of the street during Wishes, he kept up like a champ. For our second trip, we took our 2 year old son Roo (also, not his real name), and we did take our full size stroller. I had done tons of research from renting from Disney, renting from an outside company and having a stroller delivered to our hotel, or just bringing our own. We have flown to Disney for both trips, so that was also a factor when making our decision. Here are a few thoughts you need to consider when deciding on what stroller situation works for your family:

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1. How comfortable is your stroller? The Disney strollers are hard plastic and don’t recline at all. I knew that if we had any prayers of Roo taking a nap in the stroller, that we had to make it comfy for him. His personal stroller reclined, was soft and very comfortable for him.

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2. Is your little one flexible enough to go with an unfamiliar stroller? Roo was very used to his stroller, so I didn’t want to rock the boat and throw a hitch in my touring plans by renting a stroller.

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3. How are you planning on traveling to and from the parks? Is your stroller easy to travel with? Will you be riding Disney transportation? If you take a stroller on the Disney bus system, you have to collapse the stroller down completely to allow more people on the bus. Is this easy to do with your stroller? We test drove my sister’s jogging stroller to see if we would like it for our Disney trip and decided against it because of how long the stroller system felt to me. When space is limited (such as in crowds at WDW) I didn’t want to feel like I was driving a limousine down Main Street when navigating with the stroller. If you are flying to/from Disney, you can gate check your stroller right before you board the airplane, and it will make it much easier to get to your terminal with a child strapped in as opposed to them running like a wildebeest stampede through the airport.

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4. Is your stroller extremely valuable? In case  you didn’t know, thousands upon thousands of people visit Disney parks daily. Most are honorable and honest however there are always the bad apples that enjoy ruining other peoples days. Theft can happen at Disney, even under the best circumstances. If you park a $500 stroller outside Space Mountain and you come back and it is gone, you are going to be devastated and very, very angry. Keep that in mind when deciding your stroller plans.

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5. Does your stroller have good storage space? You can take food and drink into Disney. Make sure your stroller has a basket underneath for storing your diaper bag or backpacks, cup holders, and anything else you deem worthy of taking into the park.

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6. Will your little one use a stroller enough to make it worthwhile? Only you can determine the answer to this question. The average person walks 7-10 miles per day at Disney. That’s a whole lot of steps for little legs. Unless you plan on carrying your child around the parks in the blazing heat, I highly recommend bringing a stroller, otherwise you are going to be moving at a snails pace through the parks. And also, sometimes even older kids just get worn slap out from all the walking. Just keep that in mind.

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After you determine which stroller works best for your family, here are a few stroller recommendations to make your life easier in the parks.

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1. Make your stroller easily identifiable. Disney has designated stroller parking areas, generally indicated by a roped off area or signage around the park, and Cast Members (CM) frequently moves the strollers around within the parking area to make room for new strollers. Imagine walking up to a stroller area and there are 50 strollers that look exactly like yours! We attach a personalized stroller sign to our stroller handle bar with zip ties.  You can either use a plastic sheet protector or laminate your sign to protect it from water. This way, even if our stroller has been moved by a CM, we can glance around and easily spot the “Wade Family” sign. You can also attach bright colored balloons, fabric, etc. Basically, anything to make your stroller stand out in a sea of strollers. Meredith designed a free download for our Memory Makin’ Moms fans that includes our QR codes to help you out during the day if you need anything. You can download it here.

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s3 2. Make your stroller harder to steal, and steal from. 99% of the time, this won’t be a problem. However, there is always that 1% that could really ruin a vacation. I bought a cheap, flexible combination bike lock and loosely locked the wheels together. If a CM needed to move my stroller, it could still be moved, it just would have looked insanely ridiculous to wheel outside the park. And PLEASE don’t leave valuables in your stroller at any time. Cameras, souvenirs, money, cellphones….just don’t do it. They will disappear and you will be very sad at your misfortune. And who wants to be sad on a Disney vacation?

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3. Make your stroller easy to transport. Keep things in a backpack or soft sided cooler in the basket under your stroller so you can just grab and go when it is time to collapse your stroller before loading onto a bus. The last thing you need is to be frantically trying to hold everything (and your kids) as you are boarding the bus.

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4. Make your stroller rain proof. Before your trip buy a $2.00 clear plastic shower curtain to keep in your stroller. Before leaving the stroller parking areas, if there is even a hint of a dark rain cloud, throw the shower curtain over the stroller and tuck it into the crevices. If a pop up shower occurs, and they do a lot in Florida, your stroller will stay nice and dry. If it keeps raining, you can even keep the shower curtain over the stroller as you wheel through the park, and your kiddo will stay nice and dry. You will feel like Super Mom. Trust me on this. Even a CM commented to me about what a genius idea it was. Let’s just say, I’m a Mama that does her research!

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5. Make your stroller fun and relaxing. You don’t want your child kicking and screaming when it is time to ride. Have snacks and drinks handy, and recline the seat back when it is nap time. A sleepy child is much easier to push through the parks than tote. Trust me on this!

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So those are my top stroller tips. I hope they help you on your next Disney vacation. Leave me a comment if you have any other tips that could help other Memory Makin’ Moms as they plan their trips. Toodles! ~A ºoº

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. 🙂

Trivia Tuesday

It’s time for today’s trivia answers!

Question #1: Have you ever been to the world and experienced not so awesome weather? We sure have! Good thing WDW is prepared for everything! What’s the name of the Magic Kingdom parade that only appears when the weather won’t cooperate?~S °o°

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Answer #1: The parade featured is called the “Rainy Day Cavalcade,” and, while I hope you never have the kind of weather we had that would cause you to see it, it is a fun parade!

Question #2: Disney is great about making magic happen in unexpected places. Where in the “World” would you be if a statue started talking to you, and who would it be? ~A °o°

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Answer #2: You can find a talking Goofy statue sitting on a bench on Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom, right outside of Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. Pretty cool, huh?

Question #3: Aaarrrhh!! Where in WDW be these pirates? ~M °o°

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Answer #3: They be right under the giant spittin’ Stitch at Downtown Disney’s World of Disney store.

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