Monthly Archives: May 2013

Epcot World Showcase Games – Family Challenge!

I hear all the time from families that Epcot is not their favorite park. I’ve learned that most people either really like Epcot, or they just don’t. Not much in-between. I’m going to focus today on those that say they “don’t”.

Yes, Epcot is a different type of theme park. And you know what? It was supposed to be! It’s original design was to be a fully functioning, working city. A city where people lived, worked, and played. Epcot actually stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tommorow”.  Many people think of it as the educational park, as opposed to the fun parks. I beg to differ. Epcot can be BOTH educational AND fun!

Epcot is split into two sections: Future World, and the World Showcase. Future World is made up of pavilions that explore different aspects and applications of technology. The World Showcase is consists of 11 pavilions that are themed as 11 different countries: Mexico, Norway, Germany, Japan, China, France, Canada, United Kingdom, Morocco, Italy and America. My blog today is about making a family challenge of games out of the World Showcase countries!

Game #1: Scavenger Hunt

I found this Scavenger Hunt at You can download the scavenger hunt, and enlist one person to tally the results. The answers can be found on their website

Epcot Scavenger Hunt

Epcot Scavenger Hunt

Game #2:  Native Language

This game is really not for points, but more just for experience and FUN! Epcot’s pavilions hire cast members from the countries that the pavilions represent. Disney thinks that this helps to give it’s country pavilions a more authentic appeal. I agree. You should find no problem finding a cast member in each country that speaks the country’s native language fluently. Ask a cast member in each country to write a sentence in your autograph book in their native language. You can come up with your own sentence beforehand, and ask each individual to write the same sentence, or you can ask them to write their own sentences, and the English translation under it. Bonus fun! Ask the cast members in countries of China, Japan and Morocco to write your name in the characters of their native language! We did this and learned that my daughter’s name means “chicken” in Japanese! (Her name is Tori)

Game #3: Photo Game Challenge!

Split your family up into teams. Make sure each team has a camera. The goal here is to create a truly unique family photo in each country, using props or specific landmarks in that country. For a prop example, find hats or costumes in the country’s gift shops. Make sure you take one photo in every country. Then, have a friend or family member not playing the game vote on which picture for each country is most unique. Family team with most points in the end wins! Family can determine the prize to be awarded.

***For a really fun twist to this game, if your family has multiple smart phones and Facebook accounts, you can upload the photos as soon as they are taken, and ask your friends to “like” the photos on Facebook! At the end of the day, which ever photos have the most “likes” wins!

Totems in the Canada Pavilion

Totems in the Canada Pavilion

Melissa Furches is a travel agent who specializes in Disney travel. If you are interested in booking your own family vacation to Walt Disney World, Disneyland or Disney Cruise Line, please contact Melissa at or on facebook at All travel agent services are free, and can take the questions and worries out of planning your family vacation! Contact Melissa today!

Character Dining – Who, Where, How and How Much?

As a travel agent, one thing I am often asked about is Character Dining. Seems as though most everyone knows about it, and is interested in it, but with all the dining options available at Walt Disney World, this just adds to the confusion around Disney dining!

So, I decided to give you my own opinions about Character Dining, and some information about it to see if your family should partake in this infamous Disney vacation tradition.

Dinner with Tigger, Pooh and Friends at Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom

Dinner with Tigger, Pooh and Friends at Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom

When it comes to having your children meet and take pictures with characters, you have two options.

1. You stand in line, or 2. You make reservations at a restaurant offering Character Dining.

Standing in line to meet a character is pretty self explanatory, so let’s talk dining. Basically, each restaurant that offers this will have a certain number of characters that are their “core” characters. In Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom for example, their experience features Winnie the Pooh and his friends. At Ohana at the Polynesian Resort, you will dine with Lilo and Stitch. In Hollywood Studios at Hollywood & Vine, you will dine with the starts from Disney Junior. Your first step is determining exactly which characters your family are most interested in seeing.

The way Character Dining works is that while you eat, the characters will come around to your table, and spend a moment with each person at the table, focusing mainly on the children, and will sign autographs and take pictures. The characters will rotate around the room, in a very specific order, so that you are ensured a moment with each character present for the meal. This can be an easy way to get your children’s autograph books filled up! After all, you are going to eat anyway, right? Often when you wait in lines, you only get to see one character at a time (unless you are at a few of the permanent character spots that feature several characters like Town Hall in MK where Mickey is, or in Adventureland where Tink and the Disney Fairies reside.

Tony (Lady & The Tramp) at Tony's Town Square in Magic Kingdom (also featured Minnie, Goofy, Donald)

Tony (Lady & The Tramp) at Tony’s Town Square in Magic Kingdom (also featured Minnie, Goofy, Donald)

In my own opinion, like I said above, you are going to eat anyway, right? Sitting down at a meal, indoors, not standing in a line, air-conditioned….all sound good to me!

So we’ve talked about pairing up the “who” with the “where” (as the where is mostly dependent on the who), so now let’s talk “how”.

It is STRONGLY recommended by any travel agent that you speak to make advance reservations for ANY table service, character dining or not. In Walt Disney World, you can make advance dining reservations up to 180 days before your check in date. Yes, 180 days! And believe me, there are people making those reservations at that 6 month mark. The larger your party, and the more preferred your choice = harder to get reservations, and greater need to make them as soon as that reservation window opens. If you speak with your agent about your preferred dining spots, they can start working as soon as your window opens, and take that load right off of your shoulders. But just know – unlike Sorcerer Mickey, they are not magicians! We can do our best for you, but some reservations are hard even for us to make, all the more reason why we don’t wait until the last minute!

And finally the “how much”. Almost every Character Dining experience in Walt Disney World accepts the Disney Dining Plan. If you pre-purchase this dining plan, you can use your dining credits to pay for your meal. Some reservations take 2 dining credits per person, so pay attention to the requirements! Otherwise, if you are paying out of pocket, please note that some of these reservations require a pre-payment, and some require a credit card hold. Not all do, but they certainly don’t want you making these highly sought out reservations and then bailing on them at the last minute. Disney wants to ensure that everyone who wants to experience dining with the stars gets the opportunity.

Take a look at this chart to get an idea of which experiences are available, what they cost, who they include, and where they are. Ready to book your vacation and your dining experiences? Let me know! I am happy to help you plan your Disney vacation!

Character Dining Options

Character Dining Options


Sister Hazel Returns to Epcot’s Eat to the Beat Concert Series – Food & Wine Festival

Okay, the schedule has been released for the Eat to the Beat Concert Series at Epcot’s 2013 Food and Wine Festival! And guess what, my favorite band is back again – Sister Hazel!

Sister Hazel

Sister Hazel

Favorite band is an understatement, but that in itself is a whole new blog post not yet written.

This year they will be joining lots of other great musical acts – you can see the whole calendar here:

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will return to the park Sept. 27-Nov. 11, and we just received the list of performers who will participate in the Eat to the Beat concert series.
Check out the full schedule below:
Sept. 27-29 – Starship starring Mickey Thomas
Sept. 30-Oct. 1 – Go-Go’s
Oct. 2-4 – Air Supply
Oct. 5-6 – Sister Hazel
Oct. 7-9 – Sugar Ray
Oct. 10-11 – Edwin McCain
Oct. 12-13 – Manhattan Transfer
Oct. 14-15 – Wilson Phillips
Oct. 16-17 – The Pointer Sisters
Oct. 18-20 – Night Ranger
Oct. 21-23 – Boyz II Men
Oct. 24-25 – Survivor
Oct. 26-27 – 38 Special
Oct. 28-30 – Smash Mouth
Oct. 31-Nov. 1 – Spin Doctors
Nov. 2-3 – Christopher Cross
Nov. 4-5 – Hanson
Nov. 6-8 – Dennis DeYoung
Nov. 9-11 – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Ken, Jett and Ryan on stage

Ken, Jett and Ryan on stage


The Food and Wine Festival is a lot of fun. I’ve got an earlier blog post on that, so I won’t go into it a lot here on this post. The Eat to the Beat Concert Series is just a great addition to the fun already going on at Epcot Center during the festival. A great trip for ANY music lover, and even if you’re not familiar with the band, check them out if you’re there, you might find some new music you’ll love!

Interested in seeing Sister Hazel or any of the other musicians who will be at the 2013 Eat to the Beat Concert Series? Let me know – I’ll be happy to help plan your vacation to check them out! Rock on!

Disney Dining Plans – To add or not to add to our reservation?

Disney Dining Plans

Disney Dining Plans

One of the most confusing puzzlers for the average “do it yourself Disney vacation planners” is the Disney Dining Plans. Why are they so confusing? Well, there are several different “tiers” of the dining plan, at several different costs and offerings. My first recommendation when it comes to choosing a Disney Dining Plan is to first contact a travel agent who specializes in Disney travel with any questions you might have. If you don’t already have a travel agent, I’ll be glad to be your travel agent!

But first, some quick information about the different tiers of the Disney Dining Plan.

Tier 1: Quick Service Plan

This plan is a great plan for those who are watching a budget, or with family members who are light eaters. The plan costs $37.58 per adult per night, and $14.32 per child per night during regular season. It includes two “quick” service, or counter service meals and 1 snack per day per person, plus a refillable resort mug. This plan does not require reservations for meals, and will work great for those families who aren’t looking to lock down their minute by minute itineraries during vacation.

Tier 2: Dining Plan

This plan works well for families who don’t mind a little structure in their vacation, and are possibly interested in the concept of Character Dining. This plan costs $55.59 per adult per night and $17.16 per child per night during regular season. This dining option includes 1 table service (think having a waiter or waitress serve you), 1 quick service and 1 snack per person per night of your stay, and also includes the resort refillable mug. With this plan, reservations for the table service meals are strongly recommended. One good thing is that your table service dining credits can be used towards Character Dining meals (although some of these meals require 2 dining credits per person).

Tier 3: Deluxe Dining Plan

This plan is best for the family who wants the totally inclusive vacation experience. It leaves no meal or snack left out, and gives you total flexibility between which meals are table service and which meals are quick service. This plan plan has regular season pricing of $99.97 per adult per night, and $26.84 per child per night. It allows for three meals of any type (table or counter) plus 2 snacks and the resort refillable mug, per person per night of your stay.

Disney Dining Plan Brochure

Disney Dining Plan Brochure

A travel agent who specializes in Disney travel should be able to help narrate these choices, and help you select the plan that best fits your family. Your travel agent should also be able to assist you in dining recommendations, and reservations, once you decide where you would like to dine. With the help of the Dining Plan informational brochures, travel agents can give you an accurate listing of all participating restaurants and snack locations for you to choose from. And while you’re on the Disney resort property, all you will have to do is look for the DDP logo, to ensure that a particular restaurant is participating in this dining plan.

Dining Plan Logo

Dining Plan Logo

Still not sure if the Disney Dining Plan is right for you? Let me make this one suggestion. Take some time to look up menus and prices for the restaurant locations within the Disney resort property. Then do the math. Many families will find that there is a definite cost savings included by purchasing one of the dining plans. And another thing that I certainly like is that the dining plans are pre-paid as part of my reservation. I don’t have to worry with budgeting for my meals as they are already paid for. This is a huge anxiety lift off of my personal shoulders. Still not sure or have questions? Contact your travel agent today. And don’t forget – if you don’t have an agent, you can always contact me! I’ll be glad to help you plan your family’s magical and memorable vacation to Walt Disney World!

Disney Pin Trading – What is it?

From time to time I get questions about Disney Pin Trading. People want to know what it is, and should they be a part of it. Well, my children and husband love it, and we all think it is a ton of fun! But you certainly need to know what it is to decide if it is for you!

Pin Trading

Pin Trading

Pin Trading – Disney pin trading is the buying and trading of collectible pins and related items featuring Disney characters, attractions, icons, events and other elements. The practice is a hobby officially supported and promoted by Disney. (From Wikipedia)

Disney Pin Trading was introduced in 1999 as part of the Millennium Celebration at Walt Disney World. It was introduced to Disneyland in California the next year, and has since spread across the continents to the other Disney Parks and to the Disney Cruise Line.

Most merchandise cast members wear pins on lanyards around their necks, or on a pin display card or hip lanyard (a 4” by 5” piece of colored nylon fabric) clipped to their belt. Additional cast members may wear lanyards if pin trading does not distract from their responsibilities; some managers choose to wear lanyards, but ride operators are not permitted. Some cast members wear a teal colored lanyard at Disneyland and a green lanyard at Walt Disney World with pins tradable only to children age 3-12.

Each lanyard contains around a dozen unique pins, and cast members must trade with guests if they are presented with an acceptable pin. The cast members may not decline a particular trade based on preference or rarity of the pin, but may decline if the pin is not acceptable or pin trading rules are not being observed.

Each guest may only trade two pins with the same cast member in one day. If the cast member gives his or her lanyard to a different cast member, a guest may trade again with the new cast member even though the physical lanyard is the same.

Pin Collectors can customize displaying their pins because of the wide variety of pin products Disney produces. Lanyards are available in a wide variety of colors and designs as are lanyard medals. There are many ways to store and display a collector’s pins: pin bags, notebooks, frames and cork boards. Collectors can be very creative in displaying their pins and are often easy to spot in the parks with their pin-covered vests, hats, lanyards and fanny packs.

See my kids here with their lanyards and pins on!



One good thing Disney does is set up special Pin Trading events in the resorts for the kids. They love trading with cast members in the parks, but they love meeting new friends in the resorts in this special trading time. And you might find adult collectors with their collections on display for all to see in the Downtown Disney shopping districts!

Pin trading can get a bit expensive, but it is a lot of fun. If you have any questions about Pin Trading, let me know. I’ll be glad to share with you our experiences with Pin Trading!

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