A few months ago, I wrote a post about my first Disney trip taking the entire family (Wife and 3 Kids). The year after that trip, we decided to do another Disney vacation and give it to the kids as a Christmas Present. Mom didn’t have a conference to attend and they could pick the attractions and restaurants of their choice. And this time, we’d fly, meaning we would get to ride the Magical Express. We went the first week of May which is a very busy month for our family. Our Anniversary is the 6th, Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday of the month and my birthday is the 14th. On top of that, our trip overlapped with my brother’s first trip with his family. So what does a person like me do when there is so much to celebrate at Disney? BUTTONS!!!!
Welcome to Believe Vacations Top 10 where today, I’ll look back on a Disney Trip I took 2 years ago that allowed me to celebrate 4 events that I was able to get Park Buttons for – Birthday, Anniversary, I’m Celebrating, Family Reunion. For this post, I’ll share with you how we celebrated each and then provide random advice based off things that happened during that trip. But to start, we need to remember that for many occasions, Disney offers:
10) Park Buttons – One of the little perks that most Disney fans know about is that you can pick up free celebration buttons or request them when you make reservations. They include celebration events like birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, engagements, family reunions, first time visits, graduation or simply “I’m Celebrating.” When we made the decision on what dates for our vacation, I laughed and said “I qualify for 4 of those when we go.” Sure enough, when I made the reservations over the phone, I requested all 4 buttons and they were waiting in my packet when I checked in. They still sit on my window ledge in my office.
Advice – If you do not mention them on the phone or when you book your reservation, there are plenty of places to get these buttons. Starting with your resort lobby and numerous places in the parks, just ask if anyone has buttons. Cast Members will direct you. Especially for young children, these are musts. They will get a little more attention from Cast Members and even some princesses and princes. Who doesn’t want Snow White wishing you, a grown man, “Happy Birthday, Your Majesty!”
9) Anniversary Button – Without a doubt, the best button of the four was the Anniversary button. Of course, my wife will tell anyone who listens “We did NOT go to Disney for our 10 year anniversary.” My response is always the same, “Yeah, sure!” But it was a great celebration, especially having our 3 children with us. We did not do anything remarkably special on the day of our anniversary at Disney but again, the small mentions from Cast Members saying “Happy Anniversary” was awesome. For an extra Disney touch, the Cast Member who gave us the buttons wrote “10 Ears” on them. Simple but effective stuff here folks!
Advice – While we did not do a celebratory dinner, show, horse-drawn carriage or other adventure to celebrate just the both of us, those options are available and very popular at Walt Disney World. Let our Authorized Disney Travel Agents help you find that perfect restaurant or spa treatment to help you celebrate your loved one!
8) Birthday Button – Technically, my birthday was not until the week after we left Disney but sometimes you have to celebrate early! In this case, I put that button at the top of my backpack strap and once again, got a lot of people wishing me “Happy Birthday, Sir!” Thankfully for my family, I’m easy to please when it comes to my birthday. I do not care for gifts as much as I do experiences with my family and friends. But I will say the new T-shirts I received for the trip were a hit!
Advice – Again, if you have a birthday anytime close to a Disney vacation, promote it proudly. Tell the wait staff at your dining locations and maybe even look into a decorating package add-on you can purchase on property to make your room a little more festive!
7) I’m Celebrating Button – Departure day that week was bittersweet because you never want to leave Disney. But to be in a Disney Park on Mother’s Day was better than any date night I could’ve planned on my own. First, the Cast Member greeters handed each lady a flower which was an automatic win for the rest of the day. Then, one of the photographers gave a little extra attention to pictures of my wife with me and our children as we posed in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Finally, we were able to share our own bit of “Pixie Dust” by giving away some hard copy fast passes we acquired during the week to other moms.
Advice – Some moms may want a day of rest and relaxation, a nice gift, a quality meal or even experience a foreign country. You can do all of these during your stay at Walt Disney. But for our money, the best Mother’s Day gift you can get her is the Memory Maker Package that provides unlimited photos and on-ride videos of you and your family as keepsakes. Some of our favorite family photos of all-time came from the Cast Member photographers at Disney!
6) Family Reunion Button – Using the power and expertise of Believe Vacations, my brother and his wife and 2 boys decided to take their first vacation to Disney that week as well. It was fun to compare schedules, where we would eat, Fast Pass selections, resort accommodations, etc. So while our “reunion” was technically 9 people who see each other a few times each year, once again, why not celebrate? I’m just thankful that during our reunion, my brother and I had the opportunity to save the galaxy. You’re welcome everyone!
Advice – When booking for a larger group, you may be inclined to look for rooms that fit a larger number of people. When in fact, multiple rooms at value resorts may be the most affordable route. If you are in need of more than 10 rooms, you may qualify for a group rate.
5) Flying and the Magical Express – We flew from Birmingham, AL straight shot to Orlando. Of course, any child that has special embroidered shirts that shows they are going to Disney will get some type of attention at security checkpoints. And while it was not the first flight for 2 of the kids, this one was the first they remember. In fact, the highlight of the flight was my son Luke, at 30K feet, asking the valid question, “When are we going back to earth?”
Before going any further, ask yourself this one question: What is the first ride you want to do at Disney? Some would say one of the mountains at the Magic Kingdom. Others would be so bold to claim the Monorail as a ride (fyi, I’m in the camp that says it IS a ride). But my first ride at Disney is Disney’s Magical Express. I know, we can argue all day about it not being a ride in the parks and also that I called it a “ride” instead of an “attraction.” But the minute you see the first sign for your carriage located on the far side of baggage claim at MCO Airport, you get giddy. The build-up is almost over. Months of planning and research and saving your money is here. You board the bus and vacation officially starts! And if you have a cool driver, he or she may make you clap the minute you pass under the Walt Disney World sign.
Advice – Driving to Disney may be more affordable for some. Flying does offer a few experiences that are unique to Disney – not having to claim your luggage when you land, Disney’s Magical Express, not having to pay for parking, and the obvious, getting to your destination quicker. Just make sure your flight is linked to your reservation. And when in the Orlando Airport, get the orange chicken at Asian Chao. Perfect!
4) Attraction Photos….and Videos – When I quote families their next vacation to Walt Disney World, I always tell them I am tagging on the Memory Maker package and then I show them some of our photos. This one is a no-brainer. While it is convenient to take your own photos on your phones and other devices, the Cast Member photographers are amazing. They know the perfect shot for the entire family, how to capture the smiles on the kids faces and now even have the capabilities of adding special magic to certain photos. With the addition of on-ride videos as well as the always popular on-ride photos, bring home those moments and share with your family proof you screamed like a child on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train!
Advice – Use any chance you get to have your picture taken by a Cast Member. Touch your magic band up to any screen that shows your reaction on your favorite attraction. Download them within a half hour of it being snapped and you’ll have them for the rest of your trip and lifetime.
3) Gaston – When you have children, the characters interactions just mean so much more. The smile on my daughter’s face posing with the princesses was matched by the enthusiasm my boys had when they met Chewbacca. But when it comes to characters, I have a theory that is getting proven true more and more as the years go by. My theory is that all the men who play Gaston have gotten together and made a pact to be the most beloved and talked about face character within Disney Parks. Think about the Gaston character – while princesses have to be polite and uplifting, Gaston can be both but also crude and demeaning and still get away with it. In fact, people may be disappointed if Gaston does not show them up or outsmart them. He’s both the heartthrob to the ladies and the idol of who men want to be.
Advice – Before you go to the Magic Kingdom, do yourself a favor and YouTube “Gaston Magic Kingdom.” Watch how personalized they make every experience whether it is push-up contests with men, flirting with the ladies or attempting to win the hearts of little princesses.
2) Disney Dining – For our first trip with the children, we did not choose to do a Disney Dining Package. But this trip, our kids were into more foods than simply chicken, pizza and spaghetti. We chose the Dining Plan which gave us one table-service meal, one quick-service meal and 2 snacks per person per night. Our establishments of choice that week included T-Rex (tip: sit in the ice cave if you can!) and Ghirradelli’s at Disney Springs; Landscape of Flavors at Art of Animation; Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort; Cosmic Ray’s, Gaston’s Tavern, Sleepy Hollow, Pecos Bill’s, Liberty Square Market and Aloha Isle at the Magic Kingdom; Akershus at Epcot; Hollywood and Vine and Fairfax Fare at Hollywood Studios; and Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom. While we had plenty of options, we didn’t budget our daily allotment correctly and had a crazy amount of snack credits remaining that last day. Not a bad thing, but man were we full when we arrived back in Birmingham!
Advice – There are plenty of dining tips out there on the world wide web but our favorite 2 are: 1) You can still share plates. That way if you want to expand your dining selections to more places, you can. It’s not PER PERSON in the strictest sense, rather, more like a debit system where you get a total for your party or group and it counts down from there. 2) Don’t be a fool and only get the Ribs and Chicken Combo at Flame Tree Barbecue. Your quick-service credit is worth the same amount if you get the exact same plate but going with the option that includes Pulled Pork as well!
1) Art of Animation Resort – As long as I’m a Disney kid-at-heart, I’ll prefer this resort over any other simply for the large statues of characters from 4 of my favorite Disney movies of all time. If you’re the family who wants to have Disney all in-your-face from arrival to departure, this truly is the resort for you. My kids loved the theming and especially their Little Mermaid room. If the theming isn’t enough, Art of Animation is worth it for basically getting 2 resorts in one as Pop Century is connected via bridge over the lake. The resort has nice views of 2 of the parks’ fireworks and of course, home to the best pool on Disney property, The Big Blue Pool. If you have a family of 6 or less, I highly recommend checking out rates for a stay at this resort.
Advice: The Little Mermaid rooms are your standards with 2 beds and a bathroom. Families up to 6 can choose from the Lion King or Cars Family Suites. Also, you’ll need to actually be staying on this property to use the Big Blue Pool. For a value resort, the bus schedule is pretty quick and timely, the food court has a nice selection and there is plenty to keep you occupied on the grounds.
And there’s your recap. I hope you had a fun trip down memory lane with me and that I’ve offered some fun tips for how to celebrate without breaking the bank. Leave your comments in the section below and remember there’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow!