Showing posts with label Disney Social Media Moms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disney Social Media Moms. Show all posts

Disney Social Media Moms Celebration 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

"This is the best family vacation ever!" We heard those words several times during our second trip to Disney World. I don't know how they did it, but the team behind Disney Social Media Moms managed to outdo themselves from our first trip two years ago. The team that puts this event together really pay attention to every detail. They manage to find the perfect balance of learning, fun and 'soft pitches' from the different areas of Disney.

If you're wondering what the conference is all about, Suzanna from Zannaland wrote a very thorough description of what the event is all about. In a nutshell, the conference is an invite-only event designed to bring together bloggers from different genres for a combination of junket, motivational speakers and social media education. It's hard to recap eight days of fun without completely Disney-fying my blog so, for this post at least, I'll stick to the highlights of the conference itself.

Thursday, Conference Day 1
Since we were in Orlando so early because of the redeye flight, we had our first buffet at Cape May Cafe and then we walked around our hotel. The pool at the Yacht Club Resort is by far the best of the four hotels we've stayed in. The conference opened with a cocktail reception for the attendees. We learned about Disney's newest resort in Hawaii, Aulani and the Adventures By Disney program. After the reception we went to a dinner party.


One of the best things about attending this conference is how well our families are included. The Yacht Club which has its own beach, and dinner was buffet style. The pirate themed dinner was on the sand. I have to say, it's great to go to a conference where you aren't required to wear shoes! The kids had a blast playing the water and the sun setting over the hotels was beautiful. It was such a nice way to start saying hello to everyone attending.

(credit: 5 Minutes for Mom)

Friday, Conference Day 2
We always get an early start on the speakers so we can enjoy the parks before all meeting again for dinner. We had a great lineup of speakers: Amy Jo Martin, Peter Shankman, Chris Brogan, Ramon De Leon and San Diegan Lisa Druxman. It's great to go to an event that is equal parts practical takeaway and motivation. I connected with so much of what Amy Jo said, namely, that I've been approaching so many aspects of social media as a business entirely wrong! I have a lot to think about.


The dinner event was a private party in DinoLand. The park was closed to guests and the kids had free run of the arcade games. I'm still kicking myself that I did not know Expedition Everest (the best coaster in Disney World) was open for us to ride. A DJ was onsite as well as a few characters for photos.


When we got back to the hotel, we decided to hang out at the pool and give Tyler time to burn off some of the energy (and sugar) from the dinner party. Having cocktails in the jacuzzi while your child plays in the lazy river is a fantastic way to end the day.

Saturday, Conference Day 3
This was the day some conference attendees chose their breakout session. I heard so many good things about the Wild Africa Trek I didn't hesitate to sign up. I was a little sad to miss the hard hat tour of the new Fantasyland (it's going to be amazing!) and the session on video blogging from Sony. But, I can honestly say the Trek was one of the best things I've ever done on vacation.


On the tour, participants are strapped into harnesses with carabiners. We're hooked onto a central line and we got to stand about 10 feet above the hippo pool and the crocodile nest. Then we crossed over the crocs and hippos on a rope bridge. After that, we took a guided tour through the Savannah. We stopped for a bento style lunch and the views were incredible. If we go back to Disney, we're going to really make an effort to keep room in the budget for this. Tyler would love it! 

All the families met again for the closing party. We got to take a sneak peek at Disney's newest resort, Art of Animation. It was amazing! The property is divided by theme and we got to see the Finding Nemo property. All I could say, repeatedly, was Wow! The building is beautiful. It's bright and colorful. There's fantastic artwork, the arcade was top notch and the pool! Stunning. It was the perfect setting to end the weekend.



Thank you to all of the Social Media Moms organizers! We had a great time.

*I'll have all my photos up on Flickr soon. We paid a fee to attend DSMM and were offered various discounts, experiences and perks. I have not been asked to write about the conference or Disney. Thoughts and opinions are purely my own.

Epcot at Sunset | Wordless Wednesday

Live From Disney World

Friday, April 27, 2012

I'm in Orlando for my second Disney Social Media Moms conference. It's been a bit of a whirlwind and it's only our second day.

We took a redeye Wednesday night. I'm still trying to figure out if it was a good idea. Our idea was to have dinner, get on the plane, go to sleep and wake up in Orlando. A medical emergency on the plane changed that plan a little. Thankfully the person is OK. But it made for a really long day.


Yesterday we walked Epcot for a few hours and then met up with the rest of the conference for dinner on the beach in front of the Yacht Club. After dinner we let Tyler go back into the lazy river while we had cocktails in the jacuzzi. It was a great day and perfect evening. Until.


Phil accidentally dropped my phone in the jacuzzi. Now, since I've had a smartphone, I've become somewhat of an addict. I'm very overprotective of my tech. Kudos to the ladies at the bell desk for getting a bowl of dried rice up to our room within minutes. They must have seen the distress on my face. The phone is still in the rice. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I like attending this conference because it's different from some of the others I go to. We've had two fantastic speakers talking more about personal branding, purpose and passion than working with products. It's refreshing.

Yesterday was Take Your Child to Work Day. Sometimes I wonder if Tyler understands what I do and that it's more than playing on the internet. On the way here, he said, "thank you for being a blogger so we can go to Disney."

*sigh*

I love that kid.

*Disney is providing fantastic meals and entertainment during the conference.

The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbok: Hot Deal on Amazon

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I met Erin of $5 Dinners when I went to General Mills last year. Erin is one of the reasons I started taking couponing more seriously. I had been reading her blog for awhile and was excited to meet her in person.

Me and Erin in the General Mills Test Kitchens
Her first cookbook came out at the end of last year. I've been meaning to buy it and I'm glad I came across the great deal on Amazon today. It's only $5.42 and ships free if you have an Amazon Prime account (or if you're buying $25 in qualifying merchandise). Erin is a doll in person and I'm so happy for her and her success!

I try to be supportive of my blogging friends whenever I can, especially in ways that help their bottom line. Heck, I ordered The Pioneer Woman Cooks and I don't even read her blog. But I think it's amazing and wonderful that so many in the blogging community have been able to turn their passions into viable careers.

The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook has a limited quantity at this price. At this price it's a great book to have on hand for the holidays as a hostess gift, teacher gift or an I-didn't-know-you-were-going-to-get-me-a-gift gift. Get it before it sells out! 

Other books by some of the bloggers I read:

Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats by Angie from Bakerella (I got to meet her at General Mills too!)



(I met Chris and Scott at Disney Social Media Moms. We sat at the same table during the sessions. It was one of the highlights of the conference for me.)


Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment by my friend Denene from My Brown Baby. She a rockstar and I totally want to be her when I grow up.

Have you read a book by a fellow blogger that I should know about? 
Let me know!
*All links are Amazon Affiliate links.

Disney World: Tips for First Time Visits part 2

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

*This is the second part of our post on tips for people planning their first trip to Walt Disney World. Read the first part here.


5) Use the Disney Mom Panel advice. Research the different hotels in your price range. The Port Orleans Riverside is not the same as the Port Orleans French Quarter. Take into account location and transportation hubs. The Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary sit in prime locations, with water taxis, monorail, and bus service. You can walk from the Contemporary to one park. Animal Kingdom Lodge on the other hand has only bus service. Not necessarily a deal breaker, but something to consider when planning your days. Some resorts offer convenience and modern amenities while others focus on charm and immersion in themes.


6) Use the Key to the World. Having your room key as a charge card, fast pass, and park ticket all in one is tremendous. This conceivably allows you to leave everything else in the wall safe and just carry that and your I.D. We had a bunch of American Express and Visa gift cards [to use for out of pocket expenses], but keeping track of the different cards and their balances was a pain. Using the room key to cover all charges and then using the different gift cards to pay the final balance at the end was a great help. To illustrate how awesome the dining plan is again, the final bill for a 7 day stay was about $170. This was mostly from gratuities on the sit down meals, with a few souvenirs and adult beverages thrown in. The dining plan virtually guarantees you won't be buying [a lot of] food out of pocket.

Anyone else remember the commercial jingle?
We cashed in our credit card reward points for a pre-paid Visa and combined it with Christmas presents, some pre-paid Visas I won and one with a leftover balance from Tastemakers and took all them with us for our out of pocket expenses. Combined with the Disney gift cards we got from the Vacation Club presentation and we had about $700 to use (and came home with almost all of it). 

It took a few days for Phil to think of this, but we started charging everything to our room. Hot chocolate, the tips on our sit down meals, the hats and scarves we bought because it freezing. It was nice not to have to keep track of cash or the balances on the various cards. The key is this (and it's important!): you MUST settle those charges the night BEFORE you are to check out or they will automatically go onto the card you used to reserve the trip! 

We stopped into the hotel lobby on the way back from a late dinner and took care of it. The most money we spent out of pocket was in the airports on breakfasts and Starbucks. If you have any means of earning pre-paid cards, answering emails or taking surveys and buying cards with that money I highly suggest it.

7) Plan your trip carefully on the website. The website is very helpful, but there are some snags with it. Two [things] that bothered me the most were the itinerary function, and the initial booking function. You have to be very careful when booking your trip because there are several defaults in the system. 

When you pick your initial date, number of people, and hotel range, it will kick out a recommended package. This is when you can go in and change options around such as dining plan, room choice, and ticket options. Be careful, because when you select an option for one thing, it may effect other categories you didn't intend. 

For instance, the default ticket option gives you the park hopper and water park. If you select a dining plan, it resets that option to the base ticket, which is what comes with the dining plan. The itinerary function is just buggy. I had a hard time making and editing notes. I wanted to keep dining reservations there, but it was difficult, and didn't always display right. Also, the printout isn't as functional as it could be.
Hollywood Studios stunt show
8) Make dinner reservations. Early. If you don't have reservations when you start your trip, you aren't getting in to any restaurant during peak hours. Period. If you find yourself without reservations, your best bet is to hit the place right when it opens for lunch or dinner. If you try at noon or 6 without reservations you can forget it. The resort restaurants are less crowded then the park ones, so you may have better luck there.

This is definitely necessary but leaves little room for flexibility because reservations need to made at least 180 days before your trip! Say you're in Magic Kingdom waiting in a 90-minute line for Space Mountain. You have 6:00 reservations for dinner at Animal Kingdom. You have to be very aware of your time, factor in travel times around the park and be prepared to give up your fast passes.

If you're late, your reservation is gone. If you make a reservation plan on being in that park for the day. There were a few times we didn't want to leave where we were. We also had some rain that we didn't feel like venturing out into but didn't want to lose the chance to eat at the various place in the park (there's some awesome food at Disney!)

Phil originally had eight tips but I wanted to add one item.
9) Check, re-check and check the weather again. We had a freak cold because of the snow the east got. We were under dressed and not prepared. I was at the conference on the day it poured and Phil wasn't sure where to go to spend a rainy day. We didn't know there was a movie theater in Downtown Disney and we hadn't gone to Epcot yet and didn't know about Innoventions either. It's easy to kill about 2 hours there. The couches for tired parents are a welcome bonus. Have a back up plan for weather.

What We Learned From Our First Trip To Disney World (part 1)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

*This post got really long so I'm splitting it into two parts. We weren't asked to do this and aren't getting anything for posting about it. 

Going to Disney World for the first time was a little overwhelming and was definitely a learning experience. During the trip we talked about what we'd do differently if we were to plan it all over again. Phil was nice enough to type his observations out for me. I cleaned up a few spelling and grammar errors but copied it directly from his email. My editorial is in purple (natch).

Here are my [eight] lessons learned from the trip. Your mileage may vary.
Animal Kingdom
1) Research the Disney Vacation Club ahead of the trip. There will be plenty of opportunities to purchase it while you are there, but if it's something you really are interested in [pursuing], it only makes sense to get it before you go and immediately cash in your points for the trip. You can also purchase it for less then you would at the parks from re-sellers. This leads into number two.

There are a ton of opportunities to listen to the vacation club presentation. We had time to kill between checking out of the Polynesian and into the Port Orleans and the gift cards were a bonus. We had no intention of signing up. We did join while we were there but then un-joined for several reasons. Buying from re-sellers has its own risks. If you really want to know the details I'll be happy to email you about it. 


2) Research your hotel. Not all are created equal. Based off of a 7 day stay in April for a family of two adults and one kid, Economy is $2133, Moderate $2668, Deluxe Villa $3680, and Deluxe resort $4558. The moderate is only $76 a day more than the economy, with the deluxe resort is running $345 a day more then the economy. The deluxe resort gives you the queen bed standard which is a must for two adults sharing a bed. The moderate comes with the double size standard, which is tough to accommodate two adults. 

We slept in separate beds and Tyler was on the pull out on the floor at the Port Orleans. Phil is over six feet tall. A double bed is hard enough for him let alone both of us. Tyler slept with me for the last three nights. He kicks. 

Epcot
The deluxe obviously is much nicer in several other areas, such as size, and amenities. I think moderate is the way to go however for bang for the buck (having only seen the moderate and deluxe resort, not sure what the others would rate). The economy is located pretty far south on the property so will increase your travel times, and it doesn't have the fridge standard which cuts down on your ability to keep leftovers and things like milk, etc.. This leads to three.

3) Get the dining plan. Using the above scenario, a mid level dining plan tacks on an extra $309. This is huge [in terms of savings]. The dining plans come in 3 levels. Lowest gives you 2 quick meals a day and a base 7 day ticket. mid level gives you the ticket plus 1 snack, 1 quick meal, and 1 sit down meal a day per person. Highest level gives you the ticket, plus 3 meals a day (sit down or quick) plus a souvenir refill mug and choice of accommodations. The mid level is again how I would choose. At a cost of $44 a day, this deal is incredible. An average sit down meal for a family of 3 will run $80. The quick meal for that family is around $30, and 3 snacks would run you between $7.50 and $12.00 dollars. So $44 is getting you about $130 worth of food.

The lowest plan I don't like because it doesn't offer sit down meals. Quick meals are fine once a day, but you can't survive on pizza and burgers for a week. The highest plan is just too much food, and the souvenir mug is wasted. This is the smartest way to use your quick meals: everyone has a large breakfast. This gets you the fuel for the day. 

The breakfast at a moderate hotel is huge, and each meal comes with two beverages, so it's perfect to grab an OJ for breakfast and a bottle of water or soda for later. Eat a small lunch at the parks, or rather skip it entirely and use your snacks to get some fruit or a pretzel. Use your sit down meal for a large dinner. The amount of food they give you is huge.
 
He looked like this pretty much the whole trip. Priceless.
I wish the plan had a little more flexibility. Dessert came with every meal. We don't eat sweets that often. The money we spent out of pocket came from adding a soup onto the meal. I would much rather have had the option to choose an appetizer OR dessert, not just dessert. We had a fridge full of cheesecake and brownies at the end of our stay. 

I also would have liked more snacks, for the same reason Phil described. We ate huge breakfasts and weren't really hungry for lunch but we had to share pretzels and fruit (rather than each getting their own) to space the snacks out and we still used them all before the week was up. On the day we left for home, Phil and Tyler were out waiting for the shuttle to the airport and I was in the hotel cafeteria using the last of our meal plan for sandwiches and drinks to tide us over in the airport. The dining plan gives A LOT of food. 
 
4) For stays of 7 days or longer, forget the park hopper. Definitely get the water park one if you're in the right season though. Realistically if you have enough time to hit each park once then a few days to re-visit your favorites, there is no need to park hop. It takes time to hop, as there are no buses going between parks. You'll have to transit from the park you are in, to a resort, then from that resort to the park you want to go to. Also, with fast passes on the best rides usually running out later in the day, you may hop to find out there is a 2 hour wait for the ride you want, and no fast passes available. The water park option also includes Disney Quest and golf, so it is worth the money if you plan on doing any of those three.

Part two with tips 5-9 coming soon.

Wordless Wednesday: Epcot Center Through A Child's Eyes

Wednesday, February 17, 2010



I gave Tyler the camera for a little while today at Epcot. I love seeing thing's through his eyes. There are more of his pictures on Flickr.
 
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