If you’re where I’m at in this scenario, you’re wishing it weren’t true. You wish every single person was safe, physically and financially. You’re also wishing your life was back to normal. These things aren’t mutually exclusive and I’m going to just go ahead and say it…
It’s not selfish to miss your normal life.
Our normal life was bouncing around Walt Disney World together as a family and I miss it. Yesterday I was longing to take my daughter for a walk around Animal Kingdom, dancing and playing with her. I wanted to see her huge Mickey hugs and her awe of the larger-than-life Kevin. We could have come home to meet my husband and then walked around Epcot as a family, enjoying the flowers at Flower and Garden Festival, my favorite time of year. But instead it felt like the walls were closing in on us as we escaped the love bugs on our patio and read the same book we’ve read almost every day multiple times.
Disney isn’t just a place that is fun for kids or a place that makes a good vacation (although in my opinion it’s those things as well – I’ve never had an easier vacation with kids than at Disney). It is a place where families gather and create memories that will be cherished for a lifetime. And so much more.
Our family with Mickey and Minnie, enjoying our day together at Animal Kingdom
What I Miss
Walking the Safaris in Animal Kingdom, getting myself exercise and sunshine and teaching my daughter
The smiling faces of Cast Members reminding me that in this season of being a stay at home mom to a young child, it’s okay. Those moments where they’d play peek a boo and I could feel the pressure taken off even for a few minutes.
Sweet luxuries like a Starbucks latte to start my day or a dole whip to cool me off
The smile, giggle and wonder of my daughter while she rode on the Little Mermaid Ride
Watching my daughter around Elsa and Anna, her copying their every move because they are the people she looks up to the most
Super close snuggles on Frozen Ever After ride as Marshmallow blew us down
My husband stealing a kiss while my daughter was happy, entertained and playing and we had a brief moment to ourselves
Crying at the fireworks because I used to wish upon a star for my daughter and now I have her. Somehow everything about Disney reminds me how lucky I am to have my family, but especially the fireworks
A Disney Photo Pass Photographer caught this moment of us watching fireworks together
What I Look Forward To
Hearing the joyous songs on Main Street that give an energy to my day
Riding the Jungle Cruise and hearing all the punny jokes
Sitting in the Tiki Room remembering my own childhood wonder
Seeing my daughter’s childhood wonder come to life right in front of me
Having our Family Fun Night at Hollywood Studios, dancing together like no one is watching
Celebrating birthdays and the excitement of Cast Members adding to our celebration by wishing us well
Finding magic moments that you can’t ever predict, they just happen
Living my happily ever after with my favorite people, our family and friends
Mickey Mouse asked my daughter, Queen Elsa, for her autograph
So, no, in my opinion it is NOT selfish to miss Disney or to be mourning the family vacation you had planned. Please don’t let anyone make you feel badly for how you feel! There are many families that have more difficult situations. Truly, my heart goes out to families effected and for example Make a Wish families and those that had planned to be at Give Kids the World. The work they do there is absolutely amazing and you can see more on the fantastic things they do here.
You can give your heart to others and your own heart can still ache for your own situation at the same time. It’s not selfish. It’s normal.
Do you miss Disney too? What do you look forward to doing when you go? Let me know in the comments.
Maybe you’ve heard… Disney PhotoPass introduced a new PhotoPass session as of February 10, 2020. These “Capture Your Moment” PhotoPass sessions are times you get with a dedicated PhotoPass photographer. Read on for all of the details including what is included, how much these cost and some tips on making your experience the most magical!
*Note: The first seven photos in this post have been edited with my preset which you can get for free by signing up for my newsletter. To see photos as delivered by PhotoPass, see the end of this post.
What You Get and Pricing
For the 20 minute session you pay $50 or for 40 minutes you pay $100. There are no set amount of photos guaranteed. If you do not have Memory Maker or an Annual Pass that includes PhotoPass photos, then you will need to purchase the photos separately. Use of special props provided by Disney is included. Some of these props are not available at any other PhotoPass location.
Disney recommends that you check in 10 minutes prior at Town Square Theater. Once you meet with your photographers, they will explain the process and walk to your preferred location. Your time starts as soon as they take your first “good” picture not when you check in or start walking. Disney is providing some props or you may bring your own so long as they fit within park guidelines. Clothing also must abide by park rules for example no wedding attire is allowed for these sessions. Over the phone I was told anyone over 18 must have photo ID and proper admission tickets; however, they did not check our IDs. Your session can include up to 8 people. There are no changes due to weather changes unless Disney makes the change due to extreme weather. So if it’s raining, which it’s known to do here in Florida, the session will continue so be sure to make the best of your rainy day session with an umbrella or poncho!
Locations and Props
When we met with the photographer, we were given options of several areas around Main Street and Cinderella Castle. We asked for a location where you could see the castle and less crowded. A spot to the left of Cinderella Castle was recommended and I was happy with it. You can have your pick of locations though! Some props are available such as a special “&” sign with a not-so-hidden Mickey, a pair of ears that say “Future Mouseketeer Fall 2020,” some magnetic letters and more. You may also choose to add your own props. Some ideas would be your own letter board or wooden sign, balloons from home or from Disney, a stuffed animal side kick or some treats like a Mickey bar or cupcake.
When and How to Book
To book, you call Disney reservation line at 407-939-7758. You can book up to 180 days in advance. Times available are generally from 9:15 AM to 7:45 PM on the :15 and :45 of the hour. So, for example, you can pick 12:15 or 12:45. If the park is open later, they may have later times available so you’ll need to inquire about exact times when you call to book. When you book, full payment is due that day and Disney’s 24 hour cancellation policy applies where you can receive a refund so long as you cancel 24 hours prior to your reservation.
My Personal Review
When we arrived, our PhotoPass photographers were extremely nice and professional. It was very nice to have two photographers, one acting as an assistant. One was helping with props and trying to get our daughter to look toward the camera. The other was actually taking the photos. We had two amazing photographers: Ricky and Chase. We have had Disney PhotoPass photos taken by both Ricky and Chase previously. Both are very talented and kind and actually two sets of my favorite photos ever taken by PhotoPass were by them so I do believe that Disney chose some excellent photographers for this program. They helped us choose a location and happily walked us to the location and were great with my daughter.
We chose this as a way to celebrate my birthday. As a photographer, I have many photos of my family but I’m rarely in them outside of Disney PhotoPass photos so it was nice to be able to celebrate in this way.
Our photos were, in my experience, typical of the better PhotoPass photos I receive. As a professional photographer, I can tell you the quality is good and you can definitely print these even at a pretty large size. You could use a preset to brighten them and get the colors a little more to your style and that would perhaps make them even more to most people’s liking. For more tips on editing, find my post on using Lightroom Mobile here.
Is it worth it? Only you will be able to determine if this will be worth it for you. We saw a gender reveal being done on Main Street at the exact same time and it was done very well and I am confident it was captured well. I once waited for 30 minutes for a photo on front of the castle and it was completely blown out and unusable so PhotoPass in general is not a guarantee whereas with this session there is a higher standard and more time. Using Capture the Moment, you will get the time and attention of a highly qualified photographer with no waiting and they will make sure the photos are of good quality before you walk away. If you do not want to wait in a line and you want to make an announcement at Walt Disney World, I believe you would love this experience. For less than $1 per photo, we got a fun and unique experience that we enjoyed!
Tips on Making the Most out of Your Experience
I recommend arriving early to ensure that you are in the right location. Getting to Magic Kingdom almost always takes longer than expected and it can take time to even get around Magic Kingdom and I wouldn’t want to miss any time for being late. It is also a good idea to have a general idea of which location you would like. I also recommend bringing along some props to make your session extra magical!
We chose to have our session at 5:15 PM which is within the golden hour – the hour before sunset. A time a little closer to sunset may have provided a better sky although photos also may have been even darker. For best lighting, photos will always be optimal the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. If you would like nighttime photos, they do offer after sunset photos as well. PhotoPass photographers use on camera flash.
The Future of PhotoPass Capture Your Moment
I went to experience these PhotoPass sessions on their very first day available so they may implement changes or improvements over time. For now, these sessions are only located at Magic Kingdom. Although unofficial, I was told that there are plans that Disney will offer them in Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios possibly as early as mid year 2020 and then offer them in Epcot 2025 after construction in Epcot has concluded.
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Examples of Unedited Photos Provided by PhotoPass
I received 66 photos during my 20 minutes. These are some the images I received in MyDisney Experience PhotoPass photos from my Capture Your Moment session so that you can see what was provided. These are all unedited, not even cropped, posted as I received them.
I would love to hear your opinion. What do you think of this Capture Your Moment session? Are you planning on booking one for yourself or your family?
Just when you’re missing the International Food and Wine Festival, Epcot International Festival of the Holidays arrives! Keep reading for information on the food, cookies, shopping, traditions and more!
Walt Disney World has a magical part of their world that includes all kind of different worlds from future land to many different countries, Epcot. Exploring Epcot is an excellent way to explore different cultures and learn while playing. For Christmas, it turns into a worldly celebration for Epcot International Festival of the Holidays.
My friend, Whitney at Simplifying Family, invited me to check out the preview of the Festival of the Holidays with her. Thank you to Whitney and Walt Disney World for inviting me to sneak a peek at all of the fun offerings starting on November 29, 2019 and going through December 30, 2019. I’m excited to share with you some of the fun things we learned and saw!
My friend, Whitney, and I met Belle all dressed up for the holidays!
Festival of the Holiday Booths
Similar to the other Epcot Festivals, the Festival of the Holidays has booths throughout the World Showcase offering speciality food and drink offerings. You can find all of the food offerings on Disney’s official booth list here. For those of us who eat vegan, the Aripes at L’Chaim Holiday Kitchen can be made both vegan and gluten free simply by asking at the booth. Disney can accommodate allergies at many of the booths, again simply ask and they often will call a chef to confirm for you.
Holiday Cookie Stroll
The holiday cookie stroll will include a passport so you can try each cookie! The black and white cookie at L’Chaim Holiday Kitchen is plant based / vegan! Cookies are one food I definitely associate with the holidays so I love the cookie stroll idea and that they have a vegan cookie! So special!
Plant Based Black and White Cookie
Special Country Offerings
Many of the countries have special shows or fun offerings that are specific to the way their country celebrates the holidays! For example, in the America Pavilion, you can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus. In the China Pavilion, you’ll be able to see a Chinese dancing dragon (check out the sneak peek in my video below). One of my favorites is meeting Befana in the Italy Pavilion. Also, while you’re exploring the different countries, don’t forget to do the Chip and Dale experience which you can see in the video below as well. You’ll just have to go experience a walk through the countries to experience it and tell me which one is your favorite!
Traditions: That’s what the holidays are about! One of our traditions has been to see the Candlelight Processional. I remember the first Candlelight Processional I saw with my family when I was younger. It was so magical and special. Now, my husband and I get to bring our daughter as we actually started the tradition when I was pregnant with her! We always make sure we see Neil Patrick Harris. I love his fun anecdotes about his own family fun at Disney mixed with his excellent narration. Many of the popular narrators are hard to see without seating, so a Candlelight Processional Dining Package is a great idea and makes an excellent gift for the family!
Speaking of gifts, another fun part of the holidays is shopping! While the holidays are not all about material gifts and are also about traditions, it’s so fun and can make your heart feel so warm when you get the perfect gift! There are plenty of adorable gifts to choose from at Disney overall but the cute Chip and Dale themed merchandise available this year is so fun, and a nod to the nostalgic scene of Chip and Dale dancing around the tree. Check out the video below to see all the fun shopping to be done. Can you imagine any of those gifts under your tree?
What’s Santa brining this year?
Floral & Gifts
Did you know that you can have flowers and gifts delivered to your Walt Disney Resort and even some other places locally (that’s right, if you’re local they may be available for you as well!). Be sure to check out the video below to see the cutest My First Visit Christmas Gift!
Frozen 2 Fun
As you’ll know if you’re following my stories on Instagram, my daughter wears Anna and Elsa dresses day and night and sings Let it Go and Into the Unknown all day. She 100% has Frozen fever so we were excited to see that Anna and Elsa have new Frozen 2 outfits! Meeting Anna and Elsa is in the Norway Pavilion along with Frozen Ever After ride.
Elsa’s New Dress
There is also plenty of shopping to be done to grab new Frozen 2 gifts too!
Living with the Land for the Holidays
Living with the Land is one of my favorite rides and this year they have added some more holiday decor to make it even more festive! Be sure to check out this cute holiday version of a classic ride available after dark, with a preview in the video below.
During the preview, we also got to experience the Dessert Party and the Epcot Forever Fireworks show. This is the perfect end to a perfect day! There were plenty of treats and drinks for everyone, including for vegan and gluten free. They offered several dessert cups as well as cookies, fruit punch, coffee and more. Everyone will leave happy and full ending the night this way!
One of the many vegan and gluten free, allergy friendly options available!
I really enjoyed this preview of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays and I’m really looking forward to enjoying it with my family in just a few days! What is your favorite part of Epcot Holidays? Tell me in the comments below.
I hope you’re having a magical day and always feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
The Kilimanjaro Safari has always been one of my favorite things to do at Animal Kingdom. We used to go come to Walt Disney World for vacation and now that we live here, it still remains one of my favorite things to do at all of the parks. No two safari rides are ever the same. You often see different animals, they grow and change, they sometimes are closer or more active. It’s a joy to see every time!
Now that we live about 20 minutes from Animal Kingdom, taking a ride on the Kilimanjaro Safari is one of my favorite ways to spend a half hour. The ride is about 20-30 minutes, depending on if there are any surprises like a giraffe-ic jam! It’s such a calm, peaceful experience. When my daughter was younger, she always fell asleep by the end. I hope you enjoy seeing these 30 minutes in our daily life and be sure to go check out the next 30 minutes blog at the end, as this is a photography loop blog.
The hippopotamuses are one of my animals to see. When I was nursing my daughter, a mother hippo was also nursing her baby. The Safari driver told us that while the hippopotamus is a generally a peaceful herbivore, she will do anything to protect her baby, which is very relatable to this plant-based mama!
This is what they call a giraffe-ic jam! The giraffes often hold up the truck while they cross the path. I think they enjoy doing this as I see it often, and it’s one of our favorite parts too.
Another animal I always look forward to seeing is the elephant. Mother elephants are also very nurturing and protective and elephants spend about 12-18 hours a day eating grass, plants and fruits (which sounds fantastic, minus the grass part haha). Asian elephants are categorized as Endangered and African elephants are categorized as Vulnerable due to hunting elephants for their tusks which have no practical use to humans. I hope that we continue to strongly advocate for these beauties so they can continue to live safely in their natural habitats.
I love all of these images, the way they showcase the animals and we get to see a little glimpse of them living their daily life as well. I hope you enjoyed seeing something we love to do with 30 minutes in our life and I will see you next month to share another 30 minutes!
Some technical information about this photography: This session was taken with a Canon 5D Mark IV and a 70-200 2.8 IS II lens. Photos were edited in Lightoom, adjusting for warmth to give that African glow feeling and to highlight the details in the animals. It is a bumpy truck ride, making it difficult to get some images. However, I am pleased with the clarity I got.
Please be sure to check out my friend, Jennifer, at Blueberry Hill Images and her 30 minutes about Bedtime Stories here.
Tell me in the comments, which is your favorite photo or animal on Safari?
Thank you for visiting today and I hope you have a wonderful day! – Jess
This post contains affiliate links, which at no extra cost to you help me support my family.
Have you been wondering what to get the Little Princess in your life? I’m bringing you a list of ALL of the BEST things to gift your little princess this holiday season.
We have a princess obsessed toddler in our house and several friends who have little girls who love all things princess, glittery, fancy and fun. So we are very familiar with all of the princess favorites. In this list you’ll find gifts ranging from big to small, younger kids to older kids and for a variety of activities. But one common theme is these are all perfect for your little princess!
The Ultimate Princess Gift List
I like to theme gifts with one large item and a few smaller items that complement the larger item. If you’re looking to do this as well, you could start with a wardrobe for your princess to display dresses, shoes and accessories and add a few new dresses, shoes and accessories too! Or a small vanity to sit and play.
Little Adventurers makes beautiful, durable and washable dresses. Here are a few examples of princess dresses available from Little Adventurers.
We also love the Disney dresses! My Daughter can’t get enough of Elsa and Rapunzel right now. She loves both the original Frozen and Frozen 2 dresses.
Of course, all princesses need to accessorize!
The Wet Brush is one of my favorite brushes ever and now you can get a Princess Wet Brush, which is as practical as it is adorable!
Jewelry sets help complete an outfit.
Every princess needs a tiara, and these are the perfect option!
Every Princess loves nail polish, of course! And Piggy Paint is a very natural option even for younger princesses.
Wands and scepters make little princesses feel excited and ready to take on the world!
“If you wear a dress and have an animal side kick, you’re a princess” – Maui (Moana). So obviously, you’re little princess needs a side kick!
Your little princess may also love dolls. My daughter loves the plush dolls and sleeps with them at night.
Play castles are a huge hit in our house too and provide hours of entertainment.
For bath time fun, here are a few options like the swimming Ariel or Sparkling Light Swimming Barbie.
For your princesses who love games, these games are adorable!
I always love the products from Melissa and Doug and so does my daughter. Quality and princess approved!
Princesses also love to learn and read, so don’t forget to fill their stockings with a few good books, too.
And last, but not least, little princesses love castles to imagine, play and read and use all of their amazing gifts in!
Tell me, what is your princess getting this holiday season? My daughter has many things on this ultimate princess list and is getting a few more for Christmas!
I want to thank Walt Disney World and my friend, Priscila at Social Parenting, for inviting me to experience my very first time at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!
A few of my favorite things in life are my family, Disney and the holidays. So getting to experience all of these things at once was incredibly magical for me! I’m happy to help you by sharing some tips and photos so you know what to expect when you go.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) is a special ticketed event at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom during the winter holiday season. This party will run through December 22, 2019. For more information on dates and tickets, see Disney’s website here.
As a local Annual Passholder and a parent of a toddler, I’m bringing you some special tips to get the most out of your experience as well as share a few of my favorite parts.
You can arrive at 4 PM on your party night with your party ticket even without a regular admission ticket. Four to seven PM on party nights tends to be a quieter time, so you may experience lower than normal wait times. If you also have regular admission tickets, you may schedule Fast Passes during that time. There are no Fast Passes after the party starts but waits for rides tend to be reasonable.
Plan your dinner sometime between 4 and 7 PM too. Whether you are eating at home, a resort or in the parks, it’s a good idea to make sure you have had a solid meal before the party starts so you’re prepared to have some treats once the party begins.
Make a priority list and a general itinerary.
Be sure to grab a map / brochure immediately. This will have the time guides and locations of special “party only” things like treats and rides. Even if you’re familiar with the park, this will still be immensely helpful for you.
Two things to make sure you get right away are your Sorcerer’s Card (available by the fire station on the left side of the entrance) and your first cookie (on the right side of the entrance).
Make sure you take plenty of pictures. If you have a ticket that includes Memory Maker / PhotoPass, you can take advantage of the magic shots available throughout the party. If you don’t have it, they do have a special one night Memory Maker price available.
Plan your outfit! You can wear Christmas Jammies or Ugly Christmas Sweaters or some festive Minnie Ears. Many people are dressed for the holidays and it’s a lot of fun!
Do not miss walking through Main Street! At the beginning of the party, during each parade and at the end of the night, it SNOWS on Main Street and it is simply magical.
There are treat stations throughout the park and you can get treats by going through those lines. If you have a food allergy, you can request an allergy cookie which is the Enjoy Life chocolate chip mini cookies (they are not available at every station). There are cookies, snowman pretzels and drinks such as hot cocoa and cider. What is available and where to get it is listed on the map/brochure.
Tips as an Annual Passholder (AP):
Arriving around 6 PM will give you enough time to get your first cookie, a few photos and get in line for the first thing on your itinerary. You can arrive before 6 PM but as an AP, there are not many advantages to arriving much earlier. This gives you time to make sure you are rested and ready for the rest of the evening.
You can save money by signing into your account and buying your tickets with your Annual Passholder discount in advance – around $10 savings per ticket.
If your AP includes PhotoPass photos, be sure to take advantage of the many photographers. There are Magic Shots and photographers everywhere throughout the party.
Tips for Families with Young Children:
This party was seriously MAGICAL overall and my daughter LOVED it. The snow on Main Street and all of the magic around every corner was just so special. Prepare for your heart to melt with love and joy sharing these fun holiday traditions with your little ones.
Consider how late your child will stay up. My two-year-old surprised me by staying up the whole time for the Halloween Party but she was clearly done around 10 PM when she took her shoes off and she didn’t want to leave the stroller again after that. I made the first half of the night heavier on activities she would like to be up and doing. For this party, I only had her stay with me for the first hour so that I could have some much appreciated alone time. We plan on going back as a family in the near future.
Create a child-centric itinerary but also do some of the things you want to do. Balance your itinerary with things that will keep everyone happy.
Consider bringing a stroller and/or baby carrier, depening on what your child prefers. We always prefer to have both.
Rider Swap is available for rides like Space Mountain. Rider Swap is a program available to families with young children so that parents only wait once while the other parent stays with the young child(ren) and then the parents swap places and the other parent rides.
Be flexible. Flexibility is always the key to happiness with young children. You may think one plan may work, but they may have other plans and you just have to roll with it.
Plan for a longer nap before the party and a slow morning/day the day after the party. We were all tired the next day were all in bed early the next night!
Plant Based Eating
If you eat vegan and/or gluten-free, there are Enjoy Life Cookies available during the party. They are vegan. gluten free and allergy friendly. They are only available at the first stop and a few locations like Pinnochio House and the Launching Pad. They are not available at every location. The apple cider (more like apple juice but still good) is also available at The Launching Pad. The Snowman pretzel is vegan (but not gluten free).
I chose to pay for my own hot chocolate which is vegan and gluten free when ordered with plant milk at the Starbucks on Main Street. You could also choose to bring one from home and bring it in a stay warm mug. There are few vegan and gluten free options included during the party so I do think purchasing this extra is worth it.
Vegan & Gluten Free Cookies, Complimentary During the Party
Snowman Pretzels, Vegan, Complimentary During the Party
Very Merry Specials
Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show, Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade are shows you cannot miss! I chose to stay by the castle from about 9:45 PM until 11:30 PM to catch them all in a row. If you do this, it’s the Fireworks at 10 PM, Merriest Celebration (castle stage show) at 10:30 PM and then the Parade at 11 PM. Here are some photos of these merriest specials.
Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show was every bit as special and magical as I wished for. Tinkerbell does fly during the show, too!
Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration is a sweet show about inviting all of your friends to join in celebrating the holidays with you. My favorite part was when the prancing reindeer brought in Clarabelle. It was so fun, you’ll just have to see it… There’s even an appearance from Santa Mickey!
I don’t think I could pick an absolute favorite part of my night but seeing Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade directly in front of the castle was certainly in my top favorite Disney memories to date. There was something special about the music, the cheer and seeing all my favorite friends with the castle lit up in the background. With so many of our Disney friends waving right at us, it was just a perfect time! Who is your favorite Disney friend to see? I loved seeing the Prancing Reindeer because my sister and I loved them growing up and it’s a special memory for me.
For more snippets of my night at the party, head over to my Instagram and check out my pinned stories. Be sure to follow me while you’re there to stay up with our latest adventures.
Tell me in the comments – what’s your favorite part of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party?!
For me, it was seeing the magic in my daughter’s eyes as she experienced the snow and tree on Main Street.
I hope you have a wonderful, pixie dusted holiday with your family! – Jess