Show Hide
'World of Color' at Disney California Adventure Park

Moms Panel Monday: Celebrate Special Events at Walt Disney World Resort with Panelist Jodie Hilson

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

Spring is in the air and that means it’s time for me to break out my fuchsia, tangerine and teal stilettos. I also dust off my cinnamon buns wig and lightsabers. You read that right–lightsabers! In about a month, Star Wars Weekends, an annual special event, returns to Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. You can join Star Wars celebrities and characters for special shows and autograph signings, and even party with some stormtroopers!

The force is especially strong with one of our new Walt Disney World Moms Panelists, Jodie Hilson, who loves to visit Disney Parks with her husband and their four children during annual special events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. Jodie says that whatever time of year you plan to visit Walt Disney World Resort, you will find something special going on and something for every member of the family to enjoy.

Walt Disney World Moms Panelist, Jodie Hilson’s Family at Star Wars Weekend Seen Here with Darth Vader

“My sons are huge Star Wars fans so we surprised them a few years ago by planning a day just for Star Wars Weekends. They took photos with Darth Vader, got special posters and ended the day dancing at the Hyperspace Hoopla,” Jodie says. “There are so many fun elements to special events, from the limited edition merchandise to the rare-character encounters, these events have really been our favorite as a family.”

Jodie’s tip for making the most of your trip: plan ahead of time by looking at what events are taking place during your visit and make sure you experience all the special shows, parades and character meet and greets.

Walt Disney World Moms Panelist Jodie Hilson with her Family and Minnie Mouse at the Walt Disney World Resort

“These events are great for families who want to see special things and meet unique characters that you don’t always see in the parks,” she says. “During Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for example, you can go Trick-or-Treating in costume and still go on the classic rides you know and love.”

Ask Jodie more about her favorite special events at

  • Share: 

Tagged: , , ,

Filed: Disney's Hollywood Studios, Special Events, Walt Disney World Resort

Moms Panel Monday: Hola! Meet Malanie Rivera, Who Can Help You Plan a Walt Disney World Resort Stay in English and Español

posted on April 9th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

When we rang in the New Year and brought our 15 new Walt Disney World Moms Panelists onboard in January, we also announced an exciting new feature for 2012 – the panelists can now receive and answer guests’ questions in Spanish! Since then, our newest bilingual mom, Malanie Rivera, has been busy answering your Walt Disney World Resort vacation planning questions on everything from celebrating holidays at Disney Parks to “Is it OK to bring a canoe with me?”


Malanie told me that she especially enjoys these types of quirky questions and any questions about Disney Resort Hotels. “I have visited a lot of [the resorts] and there are some experiences guests don’t really know they’re missing, like yummy cookies and lemonade that are offered as a free snack when you check-in,” she says. “These little touches can really make their vacations different and special.”

As a single mom of two children and an occupational therapist for special needs children, Malanie always has her hands full. So, when this New Yorker likes to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, her favorite retreat is Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

“I love the colonial, Spanish feel there and I have two ‘tweens,’ so I’m always looking for something special that they would like to do,” Malanie says. “This resort hosts Movies Under the Stars at the pool and my kids were adamant about watching the movie every night—they loved it! There’s a lot of pool activities too, not to mention Disney trivia, hula hoop contests, s‘mores around a campfire and more.”

Malanie enjoys helping others plan magical Disney moments, including her brother’s engagement at Cinderella’s Royal Table.


“Now that I get to answer other guests’ questions on the Moms Panel, it’s awesome to swap stories of these special memories and help others plan future moments,” Malanie says. “And I’m thrilled to pieces that we can be available for the Spanish community!”

Ask Malanie a question en Español at

See below for more posts about the Walt Disney World Moms Panel:

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Hotels & Resorts, Vacation Planning, Walt Disney World Resort

Moms Panel Monday: Meet Elisabeth Lackey, Our Newest Adventures by Disney Mom

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

Let the adventure begin! Where to, you might ask? Well, I’m hoping somewhere with excellent shoe-shopping options… How about a camel ride excursion in Giza for an up-close view of the Great Pyramids, or a dip in the warm waters of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef?

If you’re wondering what this has to do with Disney, just ask our new Adventures by Disney Walt Disney World Moms Panelist, Elisabeth Lackey. She’s a wife, preschool teacher and mom of four who loves to travel the world Disney-style.


She, along with her family, has used Adventures by Disney for China, South Africa and Costa Rica family vacations, and can’t wait to plan her next getaway. I got the chance to pick Elisabeth’s brain a little and get her expert advice on what to do before embarking on my next journey.

Q: Let me in on the secret—what makes Adventures by Disney vacations so special?

A: While I love helping people plan their Disney vacations, the great thing about Adventures by Disney is that you don’t have to do any extra planning! There is a set price, an Adventure Guide with you at all times, and everything from the hotels to your meals are included so there are little to no out-of-pocket expenses.

Q: Are these trips designed for the whole family?

A: All of the itineraries are family-oriented, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go as a couple on your honeymoon or on a girls trip without the kiddos! It’s really designed to make all ages happy and it’s also very educational. For example, our kids still talk about the different animals they learned about when we visited South Africa.

Q: You mentioned the Adventure Guides, can you tell me more about what they do?

A: There are so many special experiences that you simply would not get if you tried to plan a vacation on your own and the Adventure Guides are a huge part of that. The Adventure Guides are in-country guides who are extremely knowledgeable and provide you with so many extra facts and cultural activities throughout your trip—you’ll never want to come home!

Q: What’s a tip for families who are thinking about taking a trip with Adventures by Disney?

A: If you’re considering an overseas trip, it’s a big difference from a vacation to Disney Parks but provides the same exceptional service and attention to detail that Disney is famous for. One thing I love about Adventures by Disney trips is meeting other families traveling in your group. You bond with them just as much as you do with your Adventure Guides, and it’s nice to share these incredible experiences as a group.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories from the trips you’ve taken?

A: There are so many! Seeing the iconic Chinese landmarks and visiting Hong Kong Disneyland is definitely at the top of my list, but really it is the warmth of the people you meet and the chance to broaden your world that stay with me.

Do you have a question for Elisabeth? Visit

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Adventures by Disney, Vacation Planning

Moms Panel Monday: Meet Scott Houston, a Dad Who Loves Learning and Makes Walt Disney World Resort His Classroom

posted on March 26th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Spring has sprung here at Walt Disney World Resort! With the 19th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival in full bloom and warm weather all around, it’s the perfect time to take a spring break trip to come and enjoy the sunshine. The flower creations at Epcot literally blow up like a colorful fireworks display of horticulture! For Scott Houston, one of our newest dads on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, spring vacations are an opportunity for learning.


As an assistant principal, former math teacher, and dad to an adorable 3-year-old prince named Evan (who calls Spaceship Earth a geodesic sphere!), Scott knows how important it is to keep kids’ brains engaged even when you’re on vacation. “I want my students and my son to be lifelong learners, always growing and experiencing the world around them in new ways,” Scott says. “I think it’s important for parents and children to know that you can still have fun while you’re learning.”

On a recent trip to Epcot, Scott and his wife Christy took Evan to Innoventions to experience the Storm Struck exhibit for the first time. “After a tornado touched down near our home last year, the storm was all my son could talk about. When we took him to the exhibit, he just lit up with excitement and we realized he wouldn’t have an experience on that scale in a classroom setting.”


For more edutainment, Scott recommends Conservation Station, which is part of Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. He says the hands-on nature of the exhibit allows kids to get close up with unusual animals and teaches them about what it takes to care for the wildlife they see during their visit.

“When I’m helping people plan their vacations, I think it’s important to let them know about the amount of real-life learning that can happen at Disney. While it’s not necessarily math and reading in the traditional sense, the educational value is unmatched; it’s the practical, real-life experiences that will stick with kids.”

Need more of Scott’s ideas for sparking your child’s thirst to learn while on vacation at Disney Parks? Visit

  • Share: 

Tagged: , , ,

Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Vacation Planning, Walt Disney World Resort

Moms Panel Monday: Meet New 2012 Walt Disney World Panelist Kim Dillen

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

Look up the word “superhero” in the dictionary and you will learn that it is someone who is “a hero, possessing extraordinary, often magical powers.” Most moms wish we had stretchy arms like Elastigirl from the movie The Incredibles to easily multitask in our crazy lives. I secretly think that one of our newest Walt Disney World Moms Panelists, Kim Dillen, does!


Kim is not only a superhero to the many patients she helps as a Registered Nurse, but also to her husband Rich, 19-year-old son Andrew and 9-year-old daughter Nia. One of Kim’s superpowers is her wealth of knowledge to share with families who have questions about Walt Disney World Resort – in particular, helping plan vacations for families with children with mobility and medical needs.

“As the mom of a special needs child myself, it’s great to be able to share my experience with other parents and talking about what works (and sometimes what doesn’t work) with my own daughter,” Kim says. “I think it’s a great way to get the message out to other parents that you really can do a Walt Disney World vacation. In my opinion, Disney Parks are the most special needs-friendly destinations on the planet, and I’m happy to help other guests discover that.”

Kim’s advice to all parents planning a Walt Disney World vacation is to schedule a lot of downtime when you’re organizing your family’s schedule. Kim’s daughter Nia loves traveling to Disney Parks, and while squeezing in time to meet princesses and seeing all of her favorite shows, Kim says allowing time for both mom and daughter to recharge is a must.

“Nia has some sensory issues so you can imagine that might be difficult for her to navigate in a place with so many bright colors, lights and loud sounds,” Kim says. “But we take things at her pace and make sure she doesn’t get overwhelmed. It’s really important to be able to take a few moments or even an entire day while on vacation [at Walt Disney World] to just relax by the pool at your resort or take breaks if your child seems like they need some rest time.”

As a self-described “Disney fanatic and Type A planner,” Kim is someone who loves making vacation magic happen for her own family and for others. She has planned dozens of trips that each required unique needs; from special diets to traveling with a preschooler and a teenager at the same time, Kim has done it all.

“I love seeing questions directed to me involving guests with disabilities or diet restrictions because I’ve been in their shoes,” she says. “And for them to have a vacation where they don’t have to worry about some details and are treated just like everyone else, that is truly magical.”

Do you have a question for Kim about traveling with children with special needs? Visit

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Vacation Planning, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney’s Dreamers Academy Graduates 5th Class of Dreamers

posted on March 12th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

“Dreamers of 2012, you are dismissed to follow your dreams!” With those words, the 5th class of Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine was released into the world reborn. Over four days, 100 students – known as Dreamers – were inspired to dream big, discover a world of possibilities, and get a jump start on their dreams from some of the most well-known and respected professionals in their fields. This year’s speakers included Steve Harvey, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, singer Sean Kingston, American Idol winner and star of the upcoming movie “Sparkle” Jordin Sparks, BET’s Terrence J, Victoria’s Secret model Selita Ebanks, Essence Magazine editor-at-large Mikki Taylor, celebrity chef Jeff Henderson, Grammy-winning gospel singer Yolanda Adams and many others.

In honor of the 5th anniversary of the program, one Dreamer from each of the past four classes was invited back to speak. 2009 alum Taylor Thomas is our correspondent for the event’s emotional commencement day.

The graduation is just the beginning for Dreamers and the entire Disney’s Dreamers Academy community. During commencement, the Disney’s Dreamers Academy Ambassadors program was announced. The program will provide Dreamer alumni the chance to reach others with the Disney’s Dreamers Academy message through participation in events across the country and speaking engagements. Everyone can join the DDA community by following on Facebook, Twitter and to find video, photos, conversation and the latest news on Disney’s Dreamers Academy, including when applications for the 2013 class will open. In the meantime, continue to dream big!

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Community Outreach, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney’s Dreamers Academy Kicks Off Year Five

posted on March 7th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Tomorrow, the fifth annual Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine will kick off when 100 students from across the country descend on the Walt Disney World Resort to take part in a weekend full of education, inspiration and fun! The weekend starts with the teens – referred to as “Dreamers” – being honored with a parade on Main Street, U.S.A. This special group was selected from among nearly 5,000 applicants to take part in this once-in-lifetime opportunity.

Steve Harvey and the Disney’s Dreamers Academy

Over the course of the four-day program, Dreamers are encouraged to dream big, discover a world of possibilities and get a jumpstart on their dreams and goals. Activities include career-specific workshops, inspirational and informational sessions with notable professionals and celebrities, networking events and, of course, some fun in the theme parks.

Informational Session for the Disney’s Dreamers Academy

Some of the celebrities participating this year include Steve Harvey, gospel singer Yolanda Adams, sports personality Stephen A. Smith, BET’s Terrence J, recording artist Sean Kingston, and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks.

To honor the 5th anniversary of the program, one Dreamer from each of the past four years has been invited back to share their insights with this year’s group. Each has already made significant strides towards their dreams: Tevyn Cole (’08) is an entrepreneur with his own T-shirt company; Taylor Thomas (’09) is a cast member with the Disney College Program; Nikki Dawson (’10) was a contestant on the first season of NBC’s The Voice, and Princeton Parker (’11) is a communications major at the University of Southern California and a regular contributor to the national news web site, The Huffington Post.

While the weekend is an unforgettable experience for the select 100, you too have the chance to be part of the 2012 Disney’s Dreamers Academy and hear from some of the inspirational speakers and celebrities. Like Disney’s Dreamers Academy on Facebook and follow on Twitter (hash tag #DDA2012) to see daily recap videos, photos and live updates. For more information on the program, visit

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Community Outreach, Walt Disney World Resort

Moms Panel Monday: Ahoy There! Meet Nancy Walshe, Our Newest Disney Cruise Line Mom

posted on March 5th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

I had the honor of helping welcome Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Disney Fantasy, at a celebrity-studded christening ceremony in New York City last week.


Of course, seeing such luminaries as Ty Pennington, Jerry Seinfeld and Mayor Bloomberg was amazing. And in keeping with maritime tradition, the dazzling Mariah Carey is the ship’s official godmother and christened her with bubbly!

What truly made an impression on me was the beauty of the Disney Fantasy against the wintry backdrop of New York’s skyline. I was breathless when I first arrived at the pier. I walked over the gang plank and into the atrium to the gorgeous art nouveau lobby and front and center I saw the ship’s welcoming statue, “Mademoiselle Minnie.”

In keeping with our own maritime tradition, we debuted earlier this year Nancy Walshe, one of the newest members of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel and a Disney Cruise Line Specialist Mom.

Whether you are traveling with kids of all ages, looking for tips while selecting an itinerary or picking which exhilarating Port Adventures to book, Nancy will help you get your vacation ship shape. A mother of two, Nancy sails on our fleet often and she knows the ins and outs to help make your Disney cruise magical.

“The first cruise that we took included three different generations and one of my favorite memories was watching the kids playing in the ocean with their grandparents on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.” But Nancy feels that the ship is truly a destination in itself.

“I love that my kids always ask when they can go again even before we get off the ship!”

Do you have questions about the four grand ladies of our fleet? Just ask Nancy or our returning panelist Marisol Lopez about setting sail Disney-style at!

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Disney Cruise Line

Moms Panel Monday: More Time, More Walt Disney World Resort!

posted on February 27th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

How would you spend One More Disney Day?

As we gear up for a marathon of memory making during One More Disney Day on February 29, when Magic Kingdom Park and Disneyland park will stay open for 24 hours straight, I thought it would be fun to hear how master vacation planner and Walt Disney World Moms Panelist Erin Foster would make memories if she had a few more hours at Walt Disney World Resort.

“I’m an avid Vinylmation collector – I lost count when I got to about 600 different ones – but I’ve never had the opportunity to meet the artists who design them. I would love to take my daughters and spend two hours meeting one of the artists at The Art of Disney at Downtown Disney while they make them come to life.

I really like how they have to think inside the box and continue to make creative designs with one little mouse figure. That process would be really cool to watch and learn about, and I think it would be something my family would remember each time we look to collect a new one.

These collectibles have become small reminders of our different Disney trips, and it would be nice to let the artists know they’ve rocked my world!”

What would you do with One More Disney Day at Disney Parks? Let me know in the comments section below!

  • Share: 

Tagged: , , , , ,

Filed: Downtown Disney, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Moms Panel Monday: Who Runs the World? Princesses, of Course!

posted on February 20th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

As a tiara wearing mom, I tell my daughter that there is more to being a princess than nice clothes, jewelry and a cute guy (although those ain’t bad!). Princesses must be smart, strong, fearless, and sometimes fight for themselves and those they love. Mulan led an army, Jasmine broke tradition and entered a whole new world, and Tiana started a business. So running 13.1 miles is not even a challenge for any true pinkblood!

Lori Lovell Joins the Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World Resort

In just a few days, thousands of princesses will travel here to the Walt Disney World Resort to embark on a regal journey during Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend February 24-26. Among those running is our very own Walt Disney World Moms Panelist and runDisney specialist, Lori Lovell.

As Lori’s completes her fifth runDisney half marathon this weekend, she shares that getting her whole family involved in physical fitness fun helps her stay motivated.

“When I first signed up to run in a marathon at Disney, I wasn’t a runner,” she says. “But I quickly realized what a great thing this would be for us to do together as a family. My sons, who are eight and 11 years old, take part in the kids’ races and it means so much to see them out there cheering me on too.”

For Lori, being fit is about setting an example for her family and having fun doing so, especially if it includes a trip to Disney Parks along the way. “It promotes activity for my sons, and I hope this will inspire them to be active,” she says.

Lori says that while running in marathons and half marathons may seem overwhelming at first, starting off easy is key. “There is a quote I love from Jeff Galloway, who helps people train for runDisney events, that says the momentum of putting one foot in front of the other is more important than the pace,” she shares. “That is always very inspiring to me.”

I ran my first half marathon after turning 29 years old two or three times. OK. Seven times. It was at the Princess Half two years ago. Running under the finish line, I choked up thinking about my own princess and wondered if achieving this goal would be a good example to her. There were also tears for the Dooney & Bourke purse I promised myself if I finished.

Any running princesses out there? Let Lori and I know your Disney stories below!

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Special Events, Walt Disney World Resort