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August 2012 Archives

August 2, 2012

Take a peek inside a kids club at Disney World

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Making memories at Walt Disney World often is a family endeavor, but there are some magical experiences designed just for kids and others just for adults. The folks at Disney have come up with solutions that allow parents to have a guilt-free night out while the kids are fully entertained and supervised.

Located inside most of the deluxe resorts are children's activity centers, which are designed for kids ages 3 to 12. Children have to be potty-trained to attend. You do not have to be staying at a particular hotel to use the activity center, though. I'd suggest selecting one of the six sites that is closest to your destination. That way, pick-up is easy and, if you need to pop in for a visit, you are nearby.

Your choices include:

** Simba's Clubhouse at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

** Never Land Club at Disney's Polynesian Resort

** Cub's Den at Disney's Wilderness Lodge

** Sandcastle Club at Disney's Yacht and Beach clubs

** Mouseketeer Club at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

** Camp Dolphin at Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan resorts

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My children spent a couple hours at the Sandcastle Club and enjoyed their time so much that they didn't want to leave when we arrived to pick them up. While in the Club, they could choose to play video and board games, participate in arts and crafts, color, read, play with a variety of toys and watch Disney movies.

When I saw everything that was available, I was sure my kids would have fun. I also felt comfortable leaving my children in the cast members' care because there were security measures to ensure no one else could pick up my children, and doors to the center were monitored. Parents also can request pagers if they want another communication tool besides their cell phones. In addition, the ratio of adults to children in the center was better than average. There were two adults and four kids in the center when we arrived. When we returned, there were three adults and about a dozen children.

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Most of the kids clubs are open daily from 4:30 p.m. to midnight. Dinner is included for children in the centers between 6 and 8 p.m. My kids loved getting to "order" their dinners. Choices included a hot dog with fries and fruit; macaroni and cheese with fruit; chicken tenders with fries and fruit; fish nuggets with fries and fruit; cheese pizza; and grilled cheese with fries and fruit. At the end of the evening, kids will be offered cookies and milk.

The cost is $11.50 per hour per child with a two-hour minimum. Call 407-WDW-DINE to make reservations, which are strongly encouraged. Walk-ups are welcome, based on availability.

If you'd prefer to have a babysitter come to your room, Disney recommends Kid's Nite Out caregivers. Get all the details on the AllEars.Net page.

Let us know what your experiences have been and read what others have to say in our Childcare Rate and Review Section!

August 4, 2012

What to know before you go to SeaWorld Orlando

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If you're heading to SeaWorld Orlando with kids in tow, there are a few things you might want to consider before you reach the turnstiles. Here are some tips for newcomers to help you enjoy your day to the fullest.

** Food: Everyone likes to eat, right? This can be an expensive part of your day at any theme park when you're feeding a family, but there are ways to minimize the expense. First, know that SeaWorld's policy is to restrict outside food and beverages from the park. The only published exceptions are for special diets or baby food.

SeaWorld does offer an All-Day Dining Deal, which allows guests to choose unlimited food from six restaurants, with a few exceptions. Adults pay $32.99, and kids ages 3 to 9 cost $17.99. This can be a good value if you're going to be in the park for more than one meal. My favorite deal, though, is the refillable soda cups, which can be used on the day of purchase and any subsequent days. The price of the cup is based on the style, but all refills are $1. And SeaWorld Orlando now features Coca-Cola products.

** Shows: There are so many amazing animal shows at SeaWorld Orlando that you could spend the entire day moving from stadium to stadium just to see them all. (Extra shows have been added, too, for Summer Nights, which runs through Aug. 12.) Most families don't take that approach, however, so you'll need to prioritize the shows and then work the rest of your day's plans around that schedule. The two Shamu shows -- One Ocean and Shamu Rocks! -- and the Blue Horizons dolphin show are among the most popular, so plan to get to them at least 30 minutes early. (For more on the summer shows, please see my previous blog post.)

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** Roller coasters: If your children like roller coasters, make sure you check the height requirements to avoid any disappointment in the park. For the two biggest thrill rides, Kraken and Manta, kids must be at least 54 inches tall. Journey to Atlantis has a height requirement of 42 inches.

** Additional costs: Some experiences at SeaWorld Orlando are not included in your admission. For animal feedings, such as dolphins and stingrays, you'll have to buy the food. (More details about the dolphin feedings in another post.) There is a $5 charge per 20 minutes in the paddle boats, and up-close tours also are a separate price. If you would like to skip the long lines for popular attractions, you can purchase Quick Queue for one visit per major attraction or get the unlimited version for the day. Prices for Quick Queue vary, based on the option you choose and date of your visit. Currently, Quick Queue one-time is $14.99 per person and Quick Queue Unlimited is $24.99.

** Photos: If you're used to relying on Disney's PhotoPass photographers who are dispersed throughout the parks, you may be surprised to find only a handful of professional photographers at SeaWorld. They usually are concentrated near the entrance to the park and by the Dolphin Cove pool. So, if you want a lot of photos from your day, be sure to bring your own camera.

** Extra clothing: SeaWorld has more opportunities for guests to get wet than other theme parks -- from water rides to animal feedings to splash zones at the performances. There is even a water play area in the Happy Harbor kids section. If you are concerned about your kids walking around in wet clothes, you'll want to bring extra outfits or maybe rain ponchos.

Forgot something? Don't fret; it happens to all of us. SeaWorld is more than likely to have what you need for sale. Even this theme-park veteran had to buy sunscreen on her last visit.

August 7, 2012

Back-to-school shopping with Disney style

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It's back-to-school time and, for some of us, that means the search is on for Disney-themed binders, backpacks, lunch boxes and more.

The first stop for Disney fans likely is a Disney Store in their local mall or DisneyStore.com, where you can find the newest characters and school styles every summer and fall. This year, my daughter chose the "Brave" princess, Merida, to adorn her backpack, lunch box and water bottle. (A tip: If you order the backpack online, you can add personalization, which you cannot do at a store.)

We have purchased many backpacks from the Disney Store over the years, and I especially appreciate the quality of these products. They usually survive until the end of the school year without any rips and tears, which I cannot say for some other brands we have tested. Plus, my kids think it's cool that the lunch box attaches to the front of the backpack. This week at DisneyStore.com, backpacks are on sale for $12 and lunch boxes are $8.

Disney Store also sells school supply kits that include a folder, notebook, pencil box, pencils, scissors, glue stick, ruler and eraser themed to each character. These are priced at $14.50. Customized binders start at $20.95, and there is even a Minnie Mouse composition notebook for $4.99.

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The last two items are more expensive than their counterparts at a big store, such as Target, which also carries some Minnie Mouse school supplies this year. We spotted a binder for $5, a lunch box for $10 and a backpack for $15.

At Toys 'R' Us, there are several backpacks with Disney characters: Disney Princesses, Ariel, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Minnie Mouse, Cars, Tinker Bell and Disney Fairies. They range in price from $13 to $17 and come with a free lunch kit this week.

If you're a Walmart shopper, the store carries a wide selection of Disney-themed backpacks, priced from $10 to $15 and some even include matching lunch boxes for that price. The store also has Mickey and Minnie binders and Disney portfolio folders at various prices.

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What's a mom to do when an older child wants a more "grown-up" looking Disney-themed backpack? My suggestion is to look for Disney theme park merchandise, which may be designed for adults. If you're not going to be vacationing at Walt Disney World before school starts, you can call the mail order merchandise department toll-free at 877-560-6477 and ask what is available. Also, some theme-park backpacks are available at DisneyStore.com. One of the current Disney World promotions allows guests to purchase a traditional black backpack with a Mickey Mouse icon and the words "Walt Disney World" when they spend $40. You must be on property to get this deal.

Speaking of deals, if you're looking for the best prices for your family on all things Disney, be sure to sign up for email alerts from the new website, disneyfamilydeals.com. It's described this way: "Disney Family Deals is an online resource for parents and Disney enthusiasts to find exclusive offers on Disney products and experiences, as well as daily local and online deals we believe will interest our Disney family audience."

August 9, 2012

Tips for adding extra magic to your Disney Cruise Line vacation

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Part of the fun of a vacation as magical as a Disney cruise is the anticipation leading up to the embarkation date. In my family, while the kids are busy marking off the days on their calendars, I get to work planning some extra surprises. Here are a few ideas that are pretty simple and inexpensive, but they add a whole bunch of magic to your vacation.

Make magnets for your stateroom door

If you're artistic, put your talents to work and create some fun Disney designs to decorate your metal stateroom door. Not a graphic artist? Look online for designs to download.

For an extra special touch, there are artists who take requests on Disboards.com cruise section for personalized designs. Some of these same artists also have their blank designs available for you to download and customize yourself. To request a design, though, you must register on Disboards.com, browse the collections and post a request. When the request is filled, the artist will post the image in the same thread. These artists generously offer their services for free; in return, you are asked not to sell their designs or use them to gain a profit.

Once you have the image you like, you can print it directly onto magnet paper, which can be purchased at your local office-supply store. I like this option because it's the easiest, but it also can get expensive if you plan to make a lot of magnets. Other cruise veterans suggest printing the image on cardstock, laminating it, and then sticking small magnet squares to the back. (Disney Cruise Line does not allow passengers to tape designs to the stateroom doors.) Decorated doors help kids find their rooms, and adults can't help but smile when they see them.

Fish Extenders

Located next to your stateroom door is a knob with a fish ornament on the end. We used this spot to hang a dry-erase board to leave messages for other family members. More industrious cruisers hang a decorative holder with pockets, usually Disney-themed, called a Fish Extender from the knob.

Fish Extenders are used for a Secret-Santa-type activity for people who meet beforehand, most often on roll-call threads online. Using a list of participants from those who expressed interest online, guests will place inexpensive gifts in each other's extenders during the cruise.

This sounds like fun, but it does take more planning ahead of time.

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Collecting special autographs

Instead of bringing an autograph book, why not collect character signatures on something you will use, or at least see, every day? On our first Disney cruise, I took Mickey Mouse and Disney Princess pillowcases (pictured here) that I purchased online for my children. That was a couple years ago, and they still insist on sleeping on them each night.

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On the next sailing, I brought stuffed autograph dogs that I found for a couple bucks at a local craft store. This year, I am planning to purchase blank 9-inch Vinylmation figures at Walt Disney World for all the kids in our group.

Another popular item to have autographed by the characters is the white border of a Disney picture or poster - or the mat inside a frame for your own photo. (Be sure to tape off the portion of the mat that is covered by the frame so complete autographs will be visible.)

For a really special signature, be sure to visit the Captain's Signing session. My kids enjoyed meeting Captain Henry, and my son had his cherished model ship autographed.

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Celebrate an occasion

If you're on a cruise, chances are someone in your group is celebrating an event or milestone, right? Let your travel agent (or Disney Cruise Lines if you booked directly) know so that it can be noted in your reservation. On the night of your choosing, your servers will bring a special dessert to the dinner table. The strawberry shortcake I received on the Disney Wonder was beautiful, tasty, and large enough for my entire family to share.

Themed cruises

Finally, many people enjoy cruising with fellow Disney fans or passengers with other shared interests. These cruises usually do not cost more, and participants are invited to special group events and often receive gifts. AllEars.Net hosted a group cruise on the Disney Fantasy in May and you can read all about it here.

If you have other tips for adding some inexpensive magic to a Disney cruise, please tell us in the comments.

August 11, 2012

Disney Junior's Never Land Pirate Band performs free concerts at Disney World

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Strolling through Pleasure Island last week with my children, I was reminded how much live music appeals to all ages. As we passed first a female singer on a restaurant's patio and then a male guitarist, my son asked to stop to listen -- even though he did not recognize the songs -- and my daughter started dancing down the sidewalk. The upbeat music definitely called to them.

And Downtown Disney is tailoring that appeal to the younger set with special performances by The Never Land Pirate Band, which includes Jake, Sharky and Bones from the popular Disney Junior show, "Jake and The Never Land Pirates." There's still time to check out one of these free concerts! Sunday, August 12, wraps up a 10-day gig for the band at Waterside Stage at The Marketplace.

The trio performs at 2, 3 and 5 p.m. daily. Guests are invited to dance and sing along to swashbuckling favorites, such as "Roll up the Map," "Castaway on Pirate Island" and "Talk Like a Pirate."

The Waterside Stage is home to daily performances by school groups and, during peak times, a DJ hosting kids' dance parties at night. It's an outdoor venue across from World of Disney that's rarely empty when performers are on stage and certainly adds a festive note to the shopping and dining district. (To find out about all the other inexpensive and fun things for kids to do at Downtown Disney, please read my previous blog.)

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The Never Land Pirate Band made its debut at Walt Disney World last December when the guys rode on a float in the annual Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade and sang an original holiday song.

Not going to be in Orlando this weekend? Your children still can see Jake at two locations inside Disney's Hollywood Studios the next time you visit Walt Disney World. At the Hollywood & Vine restaurant, guests can join Disney Junior characters for breakfast or lunch and some singing and dancing. Characters make the rounds to each table. Reservations are recommended. Prices range from $15 to $35, depending on age, meal and time of year.

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Jake and his pals also appear multiple times each day on stage during "Disney Junior -- Live on Stage!" This puppet show has several interactive elements for the audience, including bubbles, confetti, singing and dancing. When my children were younger, they couldn't get enough of this show. "Disney Junior -- Live on Stage!" performances are included in your theme-park admission. Characters from the show also do meet-and-greets outside the theater in Animation Courtyard.

August 14, 2012

New D-Tech Me Disney dolls may not be for everyone

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Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about a friend and fellow Walt Disney World passholder who was invited to test a new merchandise concept. The invitations were sent to a limited number of families with girls 3 to 16 years old, and during their sessions they helped determine how the new D-Tech Me customized princess figurines would be offered.

Last week, the Disney Parks Blog announced the figurines will be available beginning August 26 at World of Disney in Downtown Disney Marketplace. During the 10-minute experience, cameras capture images of each girl's face from multiple angles. The images are then used to personalize the face a princess figurine of her choice -- Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White and Tiana. While the gowns are traditional, the hair, skin and eye color of each princess also will match the guest's. My friend who participated in the test said the figurines were made of a rubbery material, not hard plastic.

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Guests must be ages 3 to 12 years to participate, and it takes five to six weeks for the finished figurines to be shipped to their homes. Participants can choose from a 7-inch figurine for $99.95 or a 3-inch model for $39.95. Each girl also receives a silver link necklace with gem. Reservations can be made now by calling 407-WDW-TECH.

I certainly can see the appeal of these products, even if they are not my taste or priced in the range I would spend for this type of merchandise. Little girls love personalized souvenirs, and parents on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation may be willing to spend big bucks for a unique gift.

I'm the mother of an almost -8-year-old girl who loves the Disney Princesses and identifies with the royal heroines that she thinks share similar traits. I get that, and I'm sure that's what Disney marketers are hoping for. Unlike some other mommy bloggers responding to the D-Tech Me dolls, though, I don't worry that my child's enjoyment of the Disney Princesses is damaging her ability to think for herself or develop into a strong woman. It's my job as a parent to help her develop those skills and self-confidence. Placing her face on a princess statute isn't going to sway my daughter's beliefs about herself.

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But for me, there's something just a little too weird about having my daughter's exact likeness on a princess statue. I guess it's like that uncanny valley hypothesis in robotics and 3D animation, which is defined as "when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers."

I'm more a fan of American Girl dolls, which come with a variety of hairstyles, eye colors and skin tones. Girls are encouraged to pick dolls that appeal to them for their similar "personality" or physical attributes, and they look more like siblings to their owners. For the same $100 price tag, girls are getting a toy they can play and grow with, rather than just a keepsake.

So, what do you think about the new D-Tech Me princess figurines? Would you purchase one?

August 16, 2012

Families will identify with Disney's 'Odd Life of Timothy Green'

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SPOILER ALERT: This post discusses the plot of "The Odd Life of Timothy Green."

Disney's "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" is a sweet but predictable movie that is sure to tug at any parent's heartstrings. The movie follows the tried-and-true story arc of most Disney movies that even my almost-10-year-old son recognized, and the themes are not complicated. Still, the feel-good ending has the potential to leave most in the audience satisfied with the film's story.

Cindy and Jim Green (played by Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) are a happily married couple who are desperate to have a child. They have exhausted all infertility treatments when they allow themselves one last night to dream about what their child would have been like. Then, the Greens literally and figuratively bury those dreams.

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And that's when 10-year-old Timothy (CJ Adams) unexpectedly enters their lives. Timothy is different from other kids, and he's not self-conscious or apologetic about it. His innocence and inability to lie charm most of the adults. When he meets his grandfather for the first time, the elderly man says, "Hello, young man." Timothy responds, "Hello, old boy."

But it's tough being the new kid in Stanleyville, where the main industry is the factory that produces pencils and everyone worries about the plant closing. Kids are cruel because he is not like them, and his parents walk a fine line, trying not to upset the town's leaders and bullies' parents. This feels like an all-too-familiar setup to explore the themes of acceptance and standing up for what you believe in.

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Timothy does find friendship in a kindred spirit, a girl who understands that being different makes them special. Joni (Odeya Rush) becomes Timothy's biggest champion, cheering for him when no one else does. The pair create their own magical outdoor world, where they both are most comfortable.

In the end, though, Timothy must return to his origins, despite the pleas of those who love him. This, of course, is the film plot device even my son saw coming: a sad event that so often precedes a happy ending like in so many Disney movies. Yet it's also the way for the movie to show that no one is ever fully prepared to be a parent, and by the time you think you know what you're doing, it's time to let your child go. In illustrating this, the film allows Timothy to leave the Greens ready to fight for the right to adopt a child.

Overall, my children and I enjoyed "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." My son better understood the plot nuances than my almost-8-year-old daughter, but she still was engrossed in the story. I think most children can relate to finding that one special friend who understands them, and parents certainly will appreciate what the Greens have to go through, making this a good choice for a family movie.

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Walt Disney Studios recently launched The Odd Life of Timothy Green Sock Drive, aimed at providing new socks for families in need across the U.S. People are asked to take new pairs of socks to any of the community drop-off locations nationwide listed on Facebook.com/OddLifeMovie between now and September 3. Hanes will match donations up to 10,000 pairs of socks, and the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM) will distribute them.

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest at a screening of "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." My opinions are my own, and this did not influence my review.

August 21, 2012

Disney's FamilyFun magazine offers great back-to-school ideas

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When it's time for kids head back to school, like it is here in Orlando this week, parents are faced with new challenges and schedules. Disney's FamilyFun magazine and its companion website help make the transition easier with lots of fun ideas for back-to-school crafts, fashions, homework charts, breakfasts and lunches, and even tips for parents.

I always look forward to my new issue of FamilyFun and, over the years, have adapted many of the writers' clever ideas. Here are some of my favorites in the September 2012 issue.

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Sandwich on a Stick

Make a school lunch interesting by turning the centerpiece sandwich into a Sandwich on a Stick. It's such a simple idea that I can't believe I haven't tried this. I feel certain my kids wouldn't let this main course go to waste.

Ingredients:
** bread
** cheese
** lunch meat
** grape tomatoes
** lettuce
** pickles
** olive

Instructions:
** Cut up cubes of bread, cheese, and lunch meat. (We ordered 1/2-inch-thick slices of ham and turkey at the deli counter).

**Slide the cubes onto a skewer with other foods your child likes, such as a grape tomato, a piece of lettuce, a pickle, or an olive.

** Set out a side of mayo or mustard for dipping.

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Colorful Coverup Notebook

The bright colors of this notebook remind me of stepping into the trendy girls clothing store, Justice. Color is everywhere and mixed in bright combinations. This notebook can be made at a fraction of the price one sells for at Justice, however. And, building on the idea from FamilyFun, you could help your child personalize it by adding her initial, which is popular with Justice products.

Materials:
** Spiral-bound notebook
** Tacky glue
** Pipe cleaner
** Colored paper

Instructions:
** Spruce up a plain spiralbound notebook with bold stripes by using tacky glue to stick pipe cleaners (the extrawide, fuzzy type work especially well) onto the cover.

** Fold the pipe cleaner ends against the top and bottom edges of the inner cover, then conceal them with a glued-on sheet of colored paper.

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Secret Code Backpack Chains

Sometimes it's hard to commit a phone number or locker combination to memory. Here are a couple of innovative ways your child can use letters or colors to remember those digits. This clever idea looks like it would work best with older kids.

Materials:
** Beading cord or hemp
** Lanyard hooks or key rings
** Assorted lettered or colored beads

Instructions:

** Tie a long piece of beading cord or hemp to a lanyard hook or key ring.

** Write the telephone number or locker combination your child needs to remember on a piece of paper. Then have her choose one of the codes below and string on beads as described.

** Tie a secure knot at the end of the strand and trim the ends.

** Letter Codes: For a phone number, follow the key (A-1; B-2; C-3; D-4; E-5; F-6; G-7; H-8; I-9; J-0) to select the appropriate letter for each numeral, and use ornamental beads as spacers between the area code, exchange, and last 4 digits. For a locker combination, use the letters to form double-digit numbers, if needed, stringing spacer beads between them.

** Color Codes: To represent a locker combination with colored beads, use one hue to represent units of 10, another for units of 1, and a third as a spacer. For a phone number, simply string together the same color beads so they add up to the correct digit, where 4 green beads in a row equals the number 4 and so on.

August 23, 2012

What families need to know about free Wi-Fi at Disney World's Magic Kingdom

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Finally! Walt Disney World has responded to the requests of so many guests who, like me, are tethered to their electronic devices. Earlier this month, free Wi-Fi became available at the Magic Kingdom.

For those of us who rely on Internet service with our smart phones and tablets, this could mean a boost in the ability to upload photos, videos and other dense data. Who doesn't want to share their memories in the making while they're visiting the Mouse? It's hard to resist in this era of constant status updates and tweets.

Be aware, though, that the new Disney Wi-Fi is not a guarantee of better connectivity because the bandwidth that's available depends on the number of users in your corner of the theme park. It does seem to help, though. On a recent visit to Storybook Circus, my family found the upload speeds to be slow in the crowded Casey Jr. area. On past visits, though, we often couldn't connect at all with our cellular service until we walked away from the splash pad and closer to the Dumbo The Flying Elephant attraction.

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For my family, perhaps the best thing about the free Wi-Fi is that it allows my husband and I to better keep in touch with our kids by texting them on their iPods, which need Wi-Fi for texting. We don't think they need smart phones at their ages, but they are getting old enough to venture out from us in small ways, such as going to a nearby bathroom or kiosk, and it's comforting to have a way to contact them. (I realize many parents would not allow their children out of their sight at the busy Disney theme park, but my children have grown up there and know the lay of the land.)

Texting doesn't take a lot of bandwidth, of course, so its functionality is more reliable than than that of uploading photos or video chatting, for example. Being able to use the free Wi-Fi at the Magic Kingdom gives our family another communication tool and my husband and I some peace of mind.

Walt Disney World has said it expects to offer free Wi-Fi at Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney by early 2013. All Disney World hotels have been upgraded to offer the complimentary Internet service.

August 25, 2012

Extra! Extra! Read all about Disney California Adventure's newspaper

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The entertainment company that gives guests a variety of ways to experience the past is offering them yet another relic. Walt Disney World and Disneyland guests can ride on steam locomotives, walk down an old-fashioned Main Street, U.S.A and step back into Tom Sawyer's era. Now, they also can get information from a 1920s- or 1930s-style newspaper.

As a former newspaper editor and writer, I find it ironic that The Walt Disney Company would choose to launch a newspaper of its own in this day and age. The industry has been struggling to reinvent itself in an era of instantaneous news and constant real-time updates so that it can remain relevant and profitable.

With consumers expecting -- and even preferring -- to get their news electronically, why would the Mouse think its busy guests would use such a product? It would seem more logical that they would be excited about the rollout of free Wi-Fi at Walt Disney World. (Read more about Wi-Fi here.) After all, they could stay abreast of the latest theme-park news via Twitter, Facebook and the like that way.

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Yet, The Buena Vista Bugle debuted this summer at Disney California Adventure as a short-term vehicle to explain the park's changes, and because of its popularity, the newspaper has published three editions. The Orange County Register reports that between 12 and 15 percent of surveyed guests used the newspaper for information.

So, what's Disney's secret? The four-page newspaper is designed in the print styles of the 1920s and 1930s. The Register describes the content this way: "The copy comes from an in-house writer but in the voice of the characters of Buena Vista Street. A snarky, fictional food critic, Inglebert Irving, gives recommendations on drinks and appetizers. A celebrity-sighting column shows where characters can be spotted. The back page is designed in the style of a want-ad section, but has listings of shows, entertainment and stores."

Frankly, that description reminds me more of a Disney Cruise Line navigator than a newspaper. And who doesn't use a navigator when you're on a cruise? It's packed full of useful information to help guests plan their day -- not lengthy narratives.

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Unlike today's newspapers, this one is free and handed to interested guests by cast members. Mimicking a traditional form of distribution, the newspaper also is available in metal racks throughout the park.

The Register notes that Halloween and holiday editions of The Buena Vista Bugle are planned.

August 28, 2012

First look: 2012 Halloween costumes and merchandise at Disney World

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Parents everywhere just finished shopping for clothes and supplies associated with a new school year, and already the store shelves are starting to show signs of the next retail opportunity -- um, holiday -- Halloween.

Is it too soon to start planning Halloween costumes and parties?

Maybe for some parents, but if you're someone who enjoys sewing it's understandable that you need to start now on your handmade creations. And if you have more than one costume to whip up, you certainly need the extra time. Or, perhaps, you need to spread out the cost of multiple costumes, so starting the shopping early helps with the budget.

And then there are those of us who just love the excitement of the holiday and aren't bothered by the extended retail season. I really dislike seeing Christmas merchandise before Halloween, but I don't mind the orange and black before there's even a hint of coolness in the air. Strange, huh?

Recently, we noticed some of the first kids' Halloween costumes have made their way into stores on Disney World property. The resort regularly stocks Disney princess dresses, including that of the newest addition to the royal family, Merida from Disney-Pixar's Brave. (To read more about where to find Merida gowns for girls of all ages, please see my previous blog post.)

Pirate costumes for both boys and girls also are a staple, and the widest selection can be found in the gift shop adjacent to A Pirate's League and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Magic Kingdom. There are two boys' outfits -- Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner -- and one generic Disney pink pirate costume for girls, as well as many T-shirts and accessories to create your own look.

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At Disney's Hollywood Studios, we recently saw a kids' furry Perry the Platypus costume that was adorable. With this costume, only your child's face would escape the blue and orange of Agent P.

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Also at the Studios, we spotted the new 2012 Halloween Minnie Mouse costume, and Mickey's girl is taking on a more traditional look. For the last few years, Minnie's costume sold at Disney Parks was orange and purple. This year, it is orange and black polka dots with green trim and a Minnie Mouse cameo on the neckline. Although the coordinating hat wasn't in the store we visited, it is already online at DisneyStore.com.

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So far, we spied two new designs on Walt Disney World treat sacks for this year. The iconic glow-in-the-dark pumpkin Mickey bucket wasn't yet available, but it, too, is already online at DisneyStore.com.

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New this year: a green Haunted Mansion Mickey Mouse lantern and orange door hanger. And, of course, the Halloween Mickey and Minnie plush have been updated with their new costumes.

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You can bet Disney World retail locations will have more choices for Halloween costumes as the holiday approaches. Be sure to let us know if you've seen something new for 2012's Fright Night.

August 30, 2012

Exclusive sneak peek: Disney Cruise Line holiday merchandise

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Forgive me, but I'm about to break my own rule about shopping for Christmas-themed items before Halloween so I can bring you the first look at some exclusive Disney Christmas merchandise. (That rule doesn't apply when you're on vacation anyway, right? If you're like me and millions of other tourists, you're likely to pick up a Christmas ornament to remember that year's travels even if it is the middle of summer!)

Disney Cruise Line has announced that for the first time, it will offer a collection of DCL holiday-themed merchandise. These items will be available only onboard its four ships -- Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy -- in gift shops. (Remember, too, that shops are only open when the ship is at sea.) Although some ship merchandise can be found online at DIsneyStore.com, that will not be the case with these 22 items.

Also, the DCL holiday merchandise only will be sold for a limited time, from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, 2012. There is no limit on the quantities guests can purchase, though.

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So, what should you start saving your money for? How about some plaid flannel pajamas for getting cozy in your stateroom or for the younger members of your family to wear to late nights in the kids clubs? The traditional nightwear comes in styles of men's boxers for $24.95, a women's nightshirt, women's 2-piece boxer set with tank top for $39.95, youth long eddies (tight-fit legging and top) for $29.95, and an infant's coverall. Each piece features a DCL logo in red or green.

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The holiday collection also will include apparel and other items with a character graphic and the slogan "Cruising Through the Holidays." Guests will be able to choose from basic T-shirts in youth and adults sizes for $19.95; girls' and women's fitted T-shirts (women's for $31.95); men's athletic T-shirt; long-sleeve T-shirts in youth and adult sizes for $24.95 and $29.95, respectively; and a wooden ornament for $12.95. (Disney Cruise Line ships also will carry the ornaments they stock year-round.)

If you're looking for stocking stuffers, you might consider the DCL holiday pen, the metallic red and green mug and shot glass, or a chocolate box with truffles.

This year I am fortunate to be sailing on the Fantasy in December, and I can't wait to go shopping. There is one thing missing from the lineup, though, that I'm going to have plead with Santa to bring: a Disney Cruise Line holiday-themed Dooney & Bourke bag. It's not part of the new collection this year, but I hope the elves get to work for 2013.

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About August 2012

This page contains all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in August 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2012 is the previous archive.

September 2012 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.