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

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.”

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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New Aulani Offers Available Today: Kids Eat Free and So Much More, Plus 25% Off Fares from Hawaiian Airlines

posted on May 11th, 2012 by John McClintock, Disney Public Relations

Mickey Mouse and Goofy with Guests at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawai'i

If you’re planning a family vacation, we’ve got two more reasons for you to visit Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawai`i. In addition to the delicious food, fun-filled water play areas and activities for all ages, guests visiting Aulani can enjoy these new offers, when booking travel today through July 14:

Kids Eat Free and So Much More at Aulani*
Kids (ages 3-9) eat free from the Kids Menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner and receive a Length of Stay Rainbow Reef Pass with a five-night minimum stay, for travel between August 29 through November 3, when booked before July 14.

You can choose from the following table-service or quick-service restaurants for all three of your meals:

  • ‘AMA’AMA includes: 1 appetizer (lunch and dinner only), 1 entrée and one dessert (lunch and dinner only); 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage
  • Makahiki Buffet includes: 1 full buffet (breakfast and dinner only)
  • ‘Olelo Room includes: 1 continental breakfast (breakfast only)
  • One Paddle, Two Paddle, Mama’s Snack Stop or Lava Shack quick-service meal includes: 1 entrée or 1 complete combo meal; 1 dessert (lunch and dinner only); 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage

Save 25% on Hawaiian Airlines Fares**
Fly Hawaiian Airlines to Aulani as part of your vacation package and save 25% on round-trip airfare when you travel August 29 through November 3, when booked before July 14. Offer is available for flights out of John F Kennedy International Airport, Oakland International Airport, San Jose International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Los Angeles International Airport only.

Visit for more information!

* The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Not valid in combination with any other discounts or offers. Additional per adult charges may apply if more than 2 adults per room. Dining entitlements and Rainbow Reef pass are for registered guests only, expire upon check out and are non-transferable. Advance reservations required. Subject to restrictions and change without notice.

**Reservation must include a minimum one-night stay at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa. Limited supplies are available and discount may be applied over all travel dates (8/29/2012 – 11/03/12). Fares on some dates may be higher. Not valid on K & L fares. Maximum of 6 passengers per reservation. Travel must originate from one of the following Designated Airports: John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Oakland International Airport (OAK), San Jose International Airport (SJC), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), or Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Fare is subject to seat availability. Child/infant or other discounts do not apply. If ticket changes are made, the value of the original round-trip discount may not be applied and is subject to availability. Date and routing changes may be made with applicable penalties, and fare differential may apply. Cancellation penalties will apply. Discount will be applied to the published base fare at the time of booking, based on a round-trip itinerary originating from a Designated Airport to Honolulu, Hawaii and includes Base Fare, Fuel Surcharge, and U.S. taxes. Fare shown includes taxes and fees including a $3.80 ZP tax per segment (defined as one takeoff and one landing), a $2.50 per enplanement September 11th Security Fee (not to exceed $10) and PFC surcharge of $4.50 (not to exceed $18 round-trip) where applicable will be applied. For complete listings of fees and baggage charges, visit

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Moms Panel Monday: A Dad’s Tips for a Disney Parks Mother’s Day

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

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and that means it’s time for moms everywhere to sit back, relax and enjoy a day where it’s all about us! My perfect day would involve waking up late, spending some time at a spa, taking a nap, then having a light lunch, watching episodes of my favorite shows, taking a nap and then going to dinner, where I clink glasses of pink bubbly with my own mom.

If you’re a dad looking for ways you and your children can make Mom feel extra queen-like this Mother’s Day, Walt Disney World Moms Panelist, husband, and dad of two princesses Doug Ingersoll is here to share a few of his tips for celebrating Mom at Disney Parks and at home.

Q: What are some things dads and kids can do to make Mother’s Day extra special for Mom — either at Disney Parks or at home?

A: We always try to think of what she would want, not what we would want. So for a special “Mom day” we start with giving her some alone time to catch up on some reading, or just to relax. Then when she rejoins us, we make a point of having some activity ready to go, so that she does not have to plan everything as usual. The real key is to give her time for herself, but also time with the family.

Another fun thing we do is when Mom wants a little treat on the weekend, we go “get the newspaper” for her, which is code for us getting her a special drink from Starbucks. Now that there are going to be Starbucks at Walt Disney World Resort, we can incorporate that special tradition into our family vacations!

Q: Can you share some examples of things your family has done for Mother’s Day at Walt Disney World Resort that were a hit with Mom?

A: On one of our Walt Disney World Resort trips, we planned a special afternoon for my wife to thank her for being so great. At lunch in Magic Kingdom Park, I brought back a tray with only sandwiches for myself and the girls. For Mom there was card telling her to go to our room at Disney’s Polynesian Resort for an afternoon of relaxation. Waiting for her were some of her favorite magazines to read by the pool, lunch and a massage appointment. While she enjoyed herself, I took the girls to the pool, and later got them cleaned up for a nice dinner out. When she was done she met us at the California Grill (her favorite!) and we had a framed PhotoPass picture of us in front of Cinderella Castle for a present.

You can even re-create part of this later at home by going to a local craft store and creating a shadowbox just for Mom with memories and photos from a vacation.

Q: Since Mother’s Day is only one day to celebrate just how awesome moms are, what can you do to make her feel special all year round?

A: Once a month we have a themed dinner. Dad cooks, one daughter is the theme master in charge of decoration, and the other daughter is the server. While Mom relaxes in another room, we create a dinner themed to a Disney movie. We create a custom menu on the computer, decorate the room, and play the movie soundtrack during dinner. A recent hit was our “Mulan” meal, complete with ginger sesame pork chops, paper lanterns lighting the dining room and a menu from “Mushu’s Diner.” The hardest part is picking the next theme!

Watch some more ways to pamper Mom (or yourself) here. How are you adding Disney touches to your Mother’s Day? Let me know!

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