Sunset Over the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Moms Panel Monday: Romance, Hearts and Mouse Ears!

posted on February 4th, 2013 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney Parks Moms Panelist Doug Ingersoll is a dad of two small princesses, but that doesn’t stop him from taking time to be romantical with his wife during their Disney Parks vacations.

Check out Doug’s Valentine’s Day advice for making your visit memorable.

To You From Doug, With Love

A Disney theme park is widely pictured as the quintessential family vacation. Images of pint-sized princesses in their gowns, grinning children peeking out from under a set of Mickey ears, or waving families atop Dumbo The Flying Elephant have become iconic. But it hardly inspires a vision of a romantic paradise. This, despite Walt Disney World Resort holding the title as the top destination for American honeymooners.

Have Kids? No Problem!
Your kids may not want to see you smooching poolside, but you can still enjoy a romantic night out on a family trip. Disney’s Child Activity Centers provide an answer for a common family vacation dilemma: Who will watch my kids when we want an evening alone?

These facilities, located within select Disney resorts, provide an ideal solution. My wife and I use the centers to free ourselves for a less hectic dinner at one of Disney’s many signature restaurants.

Give Your Spouse the Gift of Time
Give your partner time to recharge away from the kids. My daughters and I surprised my wife with an afternoon off. When she rejoined us for dinner at her favorite restaurant, the California Grill, we presented her with a framed picture of the family in front of Cinderella Castle. It may not be classic romance, but it certainly made her vacation special.

Just the Two of You
A romantic, adult-only trip to Walt Disney World Resort may seem counterintuitive, but it really can be an ideal getaway. Accommodations vary from the affordable to the luxurious.

The parks offer a romantic backdrop for any couple. A romantic stroll along Main Street, U.S.A., or sampling foods at the eleven national pavilions of the Epcot World Showcase can be magical.

For more in-depth romance planning, visit the panelists at the Disney Parks Moms Panel, and check out their bios to select a panelist with similar tastes, backgrounds, and interests as you and your loved one.

Those are Doug’s tips. How do you create romance at a Disney park? Do tell!

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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: 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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Be Our Guest at Walt Disney World Resort in 2013 with This Enchanting New Five-Night Vacation Package Offer and Save

posted on October 11th, 2012 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager

With so many new things happening at Walt Disney World Resort – the New Fantasyland expansion, a reimagining of Test Track underway, a new interactive queue at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coming, and enhancements being made to Pirates of the Caribbean, just to name a few – it seems like there’s always a new reason to visit our parks.
Be Our Guest at Walt Disney World Resort in 2013 with This Enchanting New Five-Night Vacation Package Offer and Save

And now we’ve made it a bit easier to do so in early 2013, with the launch of a new vacation package offer that could save you up to $600.

Here are the details: Guests planning five-night/six-day vacations at the Walt Disney World Resort for dates between January 2 and March 7, 2013, can book a special offer that includes a room, park tickets and a dining plan for select Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Click here to learn more or to book.

Read more news from Walt Disney World Resort in the posts below:

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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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Moms Panel Monday: Celebrate Dads at Disney Parks!

posted on June 18th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! I use Father’s Day to give my Prince Charming “boy band” clothes he only wears on dates with me. They make him look so handsome and cute it’s more a gift for me than him!
Walt Disney World Moms Panelist Terry McKinney

Did you know that we have six dads on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel? Our dads bring some extra manly magic to the panel each day to help you plan your next Disney vacation.

If you’re looking for ways to let the dad in your life know just how awesome he is, Father’s Day and all summer long, here at Walt Disney World Resort, panelist Terry McKinney has some tips to share:

“I was never able to visit Disney as a kid and my first visit was when I was 21, so I’m catching up on the fun as an adult alongside my children,” Terry says. “We love spending time together in the parks and try to do things that include all four of us, like The Pirates League. What’s cooler than becoming pirates together?”

Terry also knows that dads like to relax, so he recommends some downtime at any of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels. “They have so many fun things that Dad will enjoy, such as movies under the stars or even boat rentals if you want to go for a boat ride.”

For a photo finish to the fun, Terry suggests paying a visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to watch Fantasmic! “For a guy, that’s a phenomenal show: the special effects, fireworks and lots of action. It’s a great way to end your day at the parks and it’s something my family sees every time we visit.”

If you’re a dad, Terry says one of the most important things to do is let loose once in a while and act like a kid. “This is the only place you can act like a kid and no one will look at you funny! For me, it’s all about seeing the excitement in my children’s eyes, and we love being able to have fun together as a family.”

How did you celebrate this Father’s Day? Tell me the ways you celebrate Dad Mickey-style.

Check out more posts from the Moms Panel Monday series:

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Moms Panel Monday: It’s a Jolly Holiday with 2012 Panelist Sue Farrell

posted on June 4th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney Parks are an international vacation destination with magical locations in the United States, to France and soon Shanghai. I plan to take my pink high heels (umm and my family) to visit the parks all over the world. So it makes total sense that our Walt Disney World Moms Panelists live all over the world too! I am visiting the United Kingdom this summer and hope to have a spot of tea with our own Mrs. Potts, Sue Farrell!


Sue Farrell, a wife and mom from Cheshire, United Kingdom, is putting the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious into the vacation plans of guests with their flying umbrellas headed toward Walt Disney World Resort. Since Sue and her family usually spend at least two weeks at a time visiting Disney Parks and Resorts on holiday, she is the expert planner for families visiting from abroad and loves to share her advice.

What is your advice for families living outside of the U.S. who are planning a trip to Disney Parks?

“I would recommend having a look at MyDisneyWorldPlanner website, which has lots of useful videos for visitors from the U.K. From this website, you can also order a free planning book, ‘The Little Big Book of Magic’. First, it is worth taking things at a slower pace while you adjust to the time difference after long-distance travel. So, we like to schedule relaxation days in addition to the more busy days. We love to enjoy the resort pool, spend some time at Downtown Disney – a little shopping and a table by the waterfront enjoying coffee from Ghirardelli’s is one of my favorite ways to relax.”

What are your tips for planning a Disney vacation that is longer than one week?

“When planning a longer vacation, it is important to remember that you cannot do everything, and I ask all family members for their top three or four “must-do’s” so everyone gets to enjoy their favorite attractions or activities.

There are two things that I believe to be true: firstly, there is something for everyone at Walt Disney World Resort; and secondly you will need comfortable footwear! Do your research and make a plan, but be relaxed about changing your day and take a break if you need to. For just a moment or two, slow down and soak up the magical atmosphere.”

How does your family divide up your vacation time when you plan an extended stay?

“Over the whole holiday, we plan two non-consecutive days at each theme park, two mornings at the water parks, then pool days, shopping, miniature golf, and then return to any parks we wish to revisit. It’s nice to be able to take our time! We tend to visit the Parks early in the day until lunchtime, and utilize Extra Magic Hours (available to Disney Resort hotel guests when the parks are open outside usual hours for those guests only), to make the most of our time.”

What are some things you’ve learned and can share with families to make it more affordable?

If you stay on property there are more than 20 resort hotels to suit everyone’s taste and budget and you will receive use of Disney transportation around the Resort, and complementary shuttle from the airport on Disney’s Magical Express. Downtown Disney is always on our to-do list because it has no admission fee, great entertainment and there is lots to see and do.

I also recommend looking into purchasing one of the Disney Dining Plans and looking for promotions when it is offered at no extra charge as part of a package. We usually bring snacks for breakfast, which saves cash or dining credits for lunch and dinner later.

Want to know how you can make your vacation practically perfect in every way? Get yourself a spoon full of sugar with the panelists at

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Moms Panel: Meet Military Mom Ashley Forster

posted on May 29th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Many of us celebrated this Memorial Weekend with backyard barbecues or a quick getaway with family and friends. I also took a moment to reflect on brave men and women like the Tuskegee Airmen, Crispus Attucks and my ancestors past and present, who put their lives on the line for me.

If you are planning a trip to Walt Disney World Resort and are looking for ways to have some patriotic fun, Walt Disney World Moms Panelist Ashley Forster has a few special tips to share. As our “Military Mom” on the panel, Ashley assists guests with lots of questions, including information about military discounts and the best way to travel with little ones in tow.

“My husband serves in the U.S. Coast Guard, so Memorial Day is very important to our family,” Ashley says. “We live in a big military area, so we and most of our neighbors will have a cookout this year and watch the local parade.”

In the past, Ashley and her family have come to Disney Parks on Memorial Day weekend and spent their time going to shows and attractions that highlight America’s history.

“We decided to make it a patriotic day, starting with a stop at the American Adventure Pavilion at Epcot, where we watched the Voices of Liberty perform,” Ashley says. “We ended the day with something really special at Magic Kingdom: the flag retreat ceremony. When it’s time to take down the flag on Main Street, U.S.A., each day, Disney cast members will invite active duty or retired military members to help with the ceremony, and being able to watch that with my family was truly memorable.”

Ashley says that her best advice to military families planning their Walt Disney World vacation is to take advantage of the discounts offered to Members of the U.S. Military, which include special Walt Disney World Resort hotel and Disney Park ticket rates.

Ask Ashley a question about your next vacation at

Read on for more news from the Walt Disney World Moms Panel:

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Moms Panel: Melissa Joan Hart Live!

posted on May 18th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

So if you remember last week (remember the word “remember”!) I talked about how Disney Parks kicked off our “Summer to Remember” with a huge media event, announcements of new attractions, world-wide itineraries, and new ships. There are zillions of ways to make the few summers we have to spend with our kids before they grow up, magical and memorable!

Melissa Joan Hart, former star of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch and current co-star of Melissa & Joey on the ABC Family network, will join Moms Panelists Amanda Ficili and Jill Cooper for a live web chat next Tuesday, May 22nd, at 9:00 p.m. ET.

What will they be chatting about? You! Well, not exactly you, but they will be answering guest questions right here on the Disney Parks Blog. Did I mention that it will be live?

Melissa is no stranger to traveling to Disney Parks with her two little ones. She is currently planning an upcoming Disney vacation herself after the stork visits her home with her third prince or princess!

For a chance to participate in the live video chat with Melissa, email

You can also ask me your questions right here below! I will be printing them out this weekend and picking some of your Disney Parks vacation planning questions on my way to the studio.

What do you want to know about how to make this summer’s vacation one of your summers to always remember? Ask me now!

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