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Moms Panel Monday: Your Resolution? Casey Jr. at Walt Disney World Resort Has The Right Idea!

posted on January 14th, 2013 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

The start of a new year brings with it the promises and plans of people who are looking to drastically change their lives. I don’t subscribe to resolutions New Year’s Day because frankly, it’s too much pressure for me. I’m like Casey Jr., chugging down the same track every year. My mantra is to “be grateful, gracious and giving.”

Today our Disney Parks Moms Panelists are sharing some of their resolute traditions with us.


“For New Years resolutions, I like to pick something that I know I can do, but need a little motivation. Each year, whatever resolution I choose, it can’t be too easy (why bother?) but it can’t be easily unattainable either (why set yourself up for failure?). I suggest you start with something that will be a bit of a stretch but not make you feel like Mrs. Incredible. That way, it’s much easier to keep trying to stick to it and you’ll feel great knowing that you’ve accomplished something.”Andrea Houston-Lingman, Walt Disney World Moms Panelist


“Our family does something unique for New Year’s resolutions. We keep them secret from each other by writing them on a piece of paper. I put them all inside a Christmas cookie jar and the jar gets packed away on New Year’s Day. The following year, it sits on top of our refrigerator until New Year’s Day, when we fill it again.

But before we do that, I take out the previous year’s resolutions. We talk about what we accomplished and what we didn’t. This is all happening usually while we’re polishing off the last of the holiday goodies! I encourage the children not to make resolutions about changing themselves but to make resolutions that will help improve the lives of other people. When you make a resolution to help someone else, you most likely will not give up plus you are giving back to our community. Perfection!” – Anna Skamarakas, Walt Disney World Moms Panelist

How are you going to make this “Year of the Ear” special? Do tell!

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Moms Panel Monday: Splish, Splash! at Disney Parks

posted on December 31st, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney water parks and pools are a popular destination for our guests looking to cool off during the summer months. Although in many parts of the world it is cold in the fall and winter, you can find swim-worthy temperatures at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts! Between them, members of our inaugural Walt Disney World Moms Panel Darcie Maranich and Erin Foster have seven children. These ladies know how to make being soggy spectacular!

Blizzard Beach at Walt Disney World Resort

Darcie says that she thinks about safety first. “Life vests are provided for use free-of-charge at Disney’s water parks based on availability. But I know from experience that when it comes to water safety, nothing beats a pair of vigilant eyes.”

Even during the summer months, the sun keeps shining. Darcie makes sure not to forget that, although it might not be hot, you must still use sunblock. “We always make sure to lather on waterproof sunscreen, but for extra protection against the sun’s harsh rays, I try to keep my kids in wide-brimmed hats and swim shirts when we plan to spend a whole day at the water park or pools.”

Erin loves the food at the water parks. “The mini donuts with dipping sauces are one of my top favorite Disney foods. Yum, yum yum!” she says. Erin likes to keep sunscreen, water shoes, swimsuits, cover-ups, hats and other gear in zip lock bags for easy access and keeping them dry.

But Erin’s best advice is to use modern technology. She says, invest in an inexpensive, waterproof camera for underwater shots. “They often sell disposable waterproof cameras right there at the parks. It’s a great way to get awesome action shots of your family.”

What are some of the watery ways you have fun at Disney Parks?

See more from the “Moms Panel Monday” series in the posts below:

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Moms Panel Monday: At Walt Disney World Resort, a Beautiful, Bucolic Treasure and…Bulldogs?

posted on December 24th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Many people know that Imagineers have for decades placed thousands of “Hidden Mickeys” throughout the resorts and attractions of Disney Parks. Some are incredibly difficult to spot and only those with a keen eye and patience, basically everybody but me, can find them. But there is one hidden gem that even I can’t miss. It is the gorgeous 700 acres of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

Moms Panelist Kay Belin is a huge fan of this special place. She parks what she calls her “bus,” a spacious and luxurious motor home, at the resort for long periods of time throughout the year. Kay is drawn to the tranquil, peaceful atmosphere of the resort. She loves watching birds and other wildlife such as deer and foxes make their way around the thick forest in the early morning hours.

This resort has three different accommodation choices: tent camping, recreational vehicle sites, and fully equipped family cabins. Kay tells me that for the family who wants to be budget-savvy, the camping option is an ideal solution. The loop for tents offers each site water and electrical hookups, and she says that the bathhouses are kept clean with showers and laundry facilities nearby.

“I really love Fort Wilderness. The recreation options are endless. They have archery lessons, Segway tours, canal fishing, and many playgrounds. My family likes to rent bikes and tour the back wood paths. It is a serene experience,” she said.

I love my high heels, but I happily give them up to go horseback riding at Fort Wilderness. My daughter shares my love of horses. Spending time riding and enjoying the outdoors together is a rarity in this technology-centric time.

But perhaps my favorite Fort Wilderness memory is watching my little one toast marshmallows through the large bay window from the living room of Kay’s home away from home. Except for one little thing. She has two bulldogs who enjoy taking naps on me. Where I sit, they nap. I’m sure they are quite dapper to each other, but their mom dresses them in these ridiculous cheese hats for some strange reason. Odd indeed.

Even with the gargled and loud snoring of Kay’s four-legged “children” ringing in my ears, a visit to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is peaceful, quiet and an incredibly fun way to experience Disney.

What are your favorite campfire memories?

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Moms Panel Monday: Guests with Special Needs at Disney Parks? Hakuna Matata!

posted on December 10th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Traveling with a family member who has special needs can seem like quite a challenge to some. For those getting ready to hit the road, a million and one questions come to mind. Moms Panelist Anna Skamarakas loves to help plan vacations for families traveling with challenges. She brings her own unique travel experiences to those looking to plan a Disney Parks vacation.

“If you have someone who is unable to transfer from a wheelchair to an attraction vehicle, there are attractions that have specially designed vehicles that can accommodate a wheelchair guest. My dad’s favorites always were the classics! He loved being able to ride ‘it’s a small world’ and Pirates of the Caribbean with the rest of the family,” said Anna.

Whether you want to spend your vacation relaxing and enjoying your resort, or you plan to hit the theme parks all day, Anna feels that cast members do their best to help you during your stay. “The staff is amazing and can help before you even leave home with requests for accessible accommodations, show you how to automatically open doors and some of the resort pools are even zero entry.”

Transportation options for moving around the vast resort include the monorail, watercraft and buses. Guests with mobility issues who are walking or using wheeled assistance can be seen navigating the high ways and byways of the resort daily.

Disney Parks Accommodates Those Vacationing with Special Needs Guests Disney Parks Accommodates Those Vacationing with Special Needs Guests

As someone who has had gastric bypass surgery, Anna knows a lot about making sure her dietary needs are also met while on vacation. “They barely bat an eye at special dietary needs, so you can eat just about anywhere,” she said. She feels that whether you have allergies, strictly dictated diets, experienced various types of surgery or have cognitive or sensory disorders, Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Parks are can be your oasis from the everyday.

“The best advice I can give is to leave your worries behind when you are on vacation. Enjoy the attractions and parades. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The cast members are always ready to help make your experience magical.”

For more updates from the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, read the posts below:

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Moms Panel Monday: Disney Parks After Dark

posted on December 3rd, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

The last few weeks when I leave the office I have felt a bit like Madam Leota. Cue spooky music here. It takes my internal clock at least three months to get acclimated to daylight savings time. In the fall and winter The Sunshine State seems more like a Doom Buggy, but that also means cooler, longer nights. Nighttime at a Disney Park is a horse of a different and magical color.

Evenings at Walt Disney World Resort offer nocturnal fun for the whole family. What better way to celebrate the holidays than with fireworks, lights and parades? Moms Panelist Krista Curtis loves visiting the theme parks at night. In fact, several of her family traditions are held while Disney is dark.

At Magic Kingdom Park, Krista and her family set aside time to watch their favorite nighttime shows including Main Street Electrical Parade. With its twenty-three illuminated floats, over eighty performers and lively Disney theme songs, this parade is a perfect companion to Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. “Whether we watch from Main Street, U.S.A., one of the great spots inside Magic Kingdom Park or from a resort beach, ‘Wishes’ is a must-see for my family,” Krista says.

Another long-time family favorite is the Electric Water Pageant. This quaint, nostalgic floating parade takes place on the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. “Watching the ‘Electric Water Pageant’ from the shores of Disney’s Polynesian Resort is a lovely ritual for us along with dining at Hoop-Dee-Do Musical Revue.”

On starry nights she suggests viewing IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you definitely need to stay for Fantasmic! said Krista. For cooling off and spending quality time, the Curtis crew takes in a game of golf. That is, mini golf at Fantasia Gardens. “After the sun goes down the courses are cooler and my family loves a good game with friendly competition.”

My favorite “Disney After Dark” attraction is the holiday version of Cinderella Castle. Princess Mini-Me and I had a girls-only night a few weeks ago and attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Arm in arm, we walked down Main Street, U.S.A. Actually it was less like walking and more rushing, as her long, coltish legs speed toward SpaceMountain with me dangling behind her like a Mickey balloon. That child hates gym but can move like greased lightening toward a thrill ride.

The castle glowed like a pixie-dusted sugarplum. It was truly larger than life. I know that I looked ridiculous holding her hand and intermittently placing kisses on her cheek. She was in full-scale “tween mode” and viewing me with embarrassment and horror. I don’t care. That castle, those kisses and the memory of the wafting scent of hot chocolate and cookies is a moment I will treasure forever.

What are your after-dusk customs?

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Moms Panel Monday: Happy Birthday Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa!

posted on November 19th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

With the holidays approaching, many of us are looking forward to cool wintery days, hopefully filled with family, hot cocoa and warm hearts. A little over a year ago, my family and I were blessed with the opportunity to stay at the soon-to-be-opened Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. Hawai’i was everything my family imagined and more.
Walt Disney World Moms Panelist Jill Cooper with Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

We literally bumped into Imagineer Joe Rohde in the lobby and he took us on a walking tour of the main floor and gave us his thoughts and vision behind the making of the resort. Wow.

Our Moms Panelist Jill Cooper fell in love with Aulani after attending the grand opening events. She is planning another vacation to the lush resort that’s nestled between the crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and the emerald green mountains of Oahu.

She has a few tips for making your vacation to this enchanting destination even more memorable.

  • Immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture. “Enjoy authentic Hawaiian music and dancing at the resort’s exclusive Starlit Hui. Take one of the free tours of Aulani’s art. The resort has one of the largest collections of contemporary Hawaiian art in the country. Learn a few words of the beautiful native tongue of Hawai’i in the Mo’ Olelo room.”
  • Fun for the kids. “Take your children to explore the offerings made just for them, throughout the resort. Have older children visit Painted Sky, the teen spa, and then have them relax at Rip Swirl, the smoothie bar! Tweens will enjoy the chance to meet their new friends at pool parties in the Waikolohe Valley. Aunty’s Beach House is for kids 3 to 12. They can spend hours in the dress-up room, science lab, high tech play area, and movie room if you let them!”
  • Fun for adults. “While your kids have their own fun, I highly recommend an escape to Laniwai, Aulani’s award-winning spa. I have never visited a more beautiful or welcoming place. Arrive early for your scheduled appointment so that you can take advantage of the relaxing outdoor hydrotherapy garden.”
  • Explore the island. “There are many adventures and tours you can book like kayaking right at the resort. Make sure to call in advance of your vacation to reserve your experience.”
  • Disney magic. “To me, Aulani is an immersive Hawaiian experience but you can also enjoy some traditional Disney fun here as well. Check the Daily ‘Iwa (a free guest newsletter) to see the times and locations when Disney characters will appear.”

Visit for more Aulani trip planning advice. Aloha!

See more of what there is to experience at Aulani in the posts below:

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For Fans Only: The 2012 Walt Disney World Moms Panel Fan Luncheon

posted on September 24th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

UPDATE: This year’s fan meet has reached capacity. Keep checking the Disney Parks Blog for future events.

Do you love the Walt Disney World Moms Panel? I know I do. Well, we are having our 3rd annual fan meet on Saturday. This year, it’s a luncheon and meet and greet at a fun place with a very “magical” view. Panelists from the very first year to our most recent additions will be there to chat, nosh and hang out with the guests they love to help plan vacations for. We will also have some special surprises planned, but I don’t want to give it all away.
The 2011 Walt Disney World Moms Panel Fan Meet

Space is very limited. If you successfully RSVP before the spots are taken up, you will be notified via email with your confirmation, time and location of the event. Good luck and see some of you later this week.

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Moms Panel Monday: What We Are Looking For at Disney Parks!

posted on August 6th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

The 2013 Walt Disney World Moms Panel search begins in September. Last year, we debuted our very first Disneyland Resort Panelists Amanda and Ari and our first runDisney Mom, Lori. We also began answering guest’s questions in Spanish!


This year we are looking for some interesting, new panelists. In 2013, we will have our very first Sports Team Panelist. This successful applicant is a mom who is heavily involved in planning sports events, from cheerleading, soccer, football to gymnastics. As the Moms Panel expands its reach around the globe, we are looking for seasoned international travelers and panelists who speak Spanish.


Of course, all successful applicants have to have the knowledge, passion and pixie dust needed to fill these big yellow shoes. If you think you hold the fairy wand with enough magic to join our elite team of dream makers, keep checking the Moms Panel site everyday in September to be one of the first to apply.

For more Moms Panel updates, see the posts below:

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Walt Disney World Resort Moms Panel: 2013 Search

posted on July 16th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

The 2012 Walt Disney World Moms Panel

The search for the 2013 Walt Disney World Resort Moms Panel begins in September. Stay tuned. That is all.

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Reality Star Trista Sutter Shares Her Disney Parks Memories

posted on July 2nd, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

You might recognize her from ABC’s “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” and even “Dancing with the Stars,” but these days, Trista Sutter’s main gig is being a wife and mommy.

Recently, Trista sat down to chat with me and share some of her tips for travelling with little ones, including what to bring on the plane. She also told me what her favorite Disney Parks memories are and how she hopes to make many more.

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