Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Disney's Memory Maker

Add neat borders with Memory Maker!
You may have heard of Disney's PhotoPass that has been around for a number of years.  In 2012, Disney launched PhotoPass +, and as of December 2013,  PhotoPass+ is now known as "Memory Maker". Memory Maker is a photo package where you purchase the digital rights to all your vacation photos!

PhotoPass is basically a service where Disney has photographers stationed at different locations throughout the parks who will take your photo for you.  The PhotoPass photographers are Cast Members with varying degrees of photography skills. While some may indeed be professional or semi-professional photographers, many are just friendly Cast Members who are trained how to use their fancy DSLR camera.

How do I get my photo taken by PhotoPass?
When you see a PhotoPass photographer, you can get in their line to have your photo taken (if there is one).  They will often guide you in how to stand, smile and even make silly poses!  You can also ask them to take a photo with your own camera. There is no charge to do this, and they will happily oblige.  This is a great and inexpensive way to get a few good photos of your entire family!  Once your quick photo shoot is done, the photographer will need to scan your photo information onto a your Magic Band or your Memory Maker/PhotoPass card.  If you are staying off property, you will need a card. If this if your first PhotoPass photo, and you do not already have a card, or if you can't seem to find it at exactly that moment, the photographer should have a handy stack of them.  I recommend taking a photo of the back of the card in case you lose it.  You can link multiple cards up to your account. While most of these PhotoPass cards are a standard basic card, you may occasionally run across a photographer with a special card! For example at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, or at Enchanted Tales with Belle, specialty cards may be found. These can be fun to collect too.  Now, with Memory Maker and Magic Bands, if you are staying on property you simply have the photographer scan your Magic Band and you are ready to go!
My son as "The Beast" captured by a PhotoPass Photog

If you are off property and do not have a Magic Band, every so often, or even at the end of your vacation, you'll want to take your Memory Maker/PhotoPass card(s) to one of the PhotoPass Centers in the parks to view your photos and to have them added to your account.  You can also do this on the computer when you return home, but I think it is easier to do it periodically in the parks.  You can even upload your own digital photos from your camera to the same account, so everything is in one place.  Memory Maker now has the option to upload photos from your Facebook account (if you are sharing mobile photos on your vacation) to your Memory Maker account.  These features are valuable if you are going to use these different photo forms to make a Disney Photo Book, or calender or if you just want the convenience of all your photos in one location. 

If you are staying at a Disney Resort and therefore have a Magic Band and a My Disney Experience online account, there is no need to visit the PhotoPass Center to link your photos, though you may want to stop by to view them, or to double check and make sure everything has linked properly.  Until the roll out of the Magic Bands is complete and all the kinks worked out, I think it would probably be a good idea just to double check your PhotoPass account occasionally during the trip to ensure no photos were lost. If there are photos missing and you know approximately when and where they were taken Disney can often find them for you!

What does all this cost?
If you do not want to purchase Memory Maker, you can purchase individual prints from the PhotoPass Centers to be printed while you wait.  If you are only wanting a single copy of that one special family photo, this is probably the best option for you. Prices vary based on the size of the print, but they are in the $15-$30 range.

If you know you will be planning on purchasing several prints, pre-ordering Memory Maker may be worth it for your family.  If you pre-order, it is currently priced at $149.  You do need to pre-order your voucher at least 3 days in advance if you wish to include all your vacation photos.   If you wait until you get to the parks to decide you want Memory Maker,  you will pay the full price of $199.  Don't think because Memory Maker is digital you can fool Disney, and hop online the first night of your trip and add the pre-order price.  Photos taken within three days of the Memory Maker purchase will NOT be included if you purchase it online via the "pre-order" link. You will need to purchase in park and pay the full $199 to get all your photos.

How do I make sure we get all of our photos?
When you purchase Memory Maker you will receive a code number that you will need to link to your Magic Bands in My Disney Experience.  Once it is connected, everyone in your linked party can add photos to the account with their own Magic Band! This is great for larger families.  If you are separated in the parks, you can each continue to add your photos to your account wherever you may be! So if my brother and his family are getting photos of my niece at Bibbiti Bobbiti Boutique, and we are on Space Mountain, we can both add our photos at the same time.

Part of the new next generation technology in the parks with your Magic Bands, is that hopefully in the near future, you won't even have to remember to add your on-ride photos. The new My Magic + system will recognize your Magic Bands as you ride the attraction and your photos will be added automagically! Just be sure when planning your vacation in My Disney Experience to link up to everyone in your travel party so that all the photos will be linked as well.  Currently, you do have to stop after the ride and have it added to your Magic Band.  So until further notice, be sure to stop and manually add your photos to Memory Maker.

If you are off-property and using Memory Maker without a Magic Band, you will receive a voucher. Once you arrive at Walt Disney World you will need to take the voucher to a PhotoPass Center to exchange the voucher for the Memory Maker RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) card.  There are PhotoPass Centers at each of the theme parks and several of the deluxe level resorts.  While you can add regular in-park photos to your account easily by linking any basic PhotoPass card to your Memory Maker account, on-ride photos and meal photos MUST be added directly to the special card.  The card is not sensitive enough to be picked up automagically while you are on the rides, so you will need to have it added manually by a cast member as you exit the ride. If you do not have your card after getting off a ride, (maybe you left it with the hubby like I always forget I have done) write down the number, and the Cast Member can usually add the photo to your account for up to 24 hours.
Daddy trying to beat DS5 despite a cranky baby girl, in this on-ride photo.

What is included?
So what exactly does your $149 get you?  You will receive a digitally downloadable copy of each of your vacation photos and the rights to copy and use them however you want!  You will still need to go online to view your photos.  You can also add fun borders and edit them. The Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin photo here has had a border added. There is a time limit to order, usually 45 days. You can however, purchase a time extension if needed. Unlike the original PhotoPass, Memory Maker includes all the shots you have taken by photographers in the park, any and all on-ride photos (available at select rides only), and photos taken at character meals that include photography.  You are also given the rights to print and use these photos however you would like (personal use only). While Disney does have a service where you can order a photo book or other items using your photos, with Memory Maker you can copy and print your photos via other vendors such as Shutterfly, CVS or on your home printer.

A single on-ride photo, say of your son or daughter's first ride down Splash Mountain, will run you $14.95.  A character meal photo from 'Ohana or Chef Mickey's will run you $29.95.  Purchasing one meal photo package, one on-ride photo, and one family photo in front of the castle will therefore run you around $60. Suddenly that Memory Maker is sounding pretty good isn't it?

Besides typical posed photos, photographers may surprise you with fun poses such daddy kissing mommy by the castle, and even "Magic Shots".  Magic Shots are photos that Disney digitally enhances to add extra magic to your photo. One of the most common is Tinkerbell.  The photographer may have you look surprisingly at your open hand and take the photo. When you see your photo though, Tinkerbell will have magically appeared!
A Disney "Magic Shot". We have a visitor!

While we never bought the basic PhotoPass, we have purchased the PhotoPass+ (now Memory Maker) on our past two vacations, and we have felt we have gotten a good value.  Especially if you will be going with a large group of family, will be going on rides that include an on-ride photo, you have reservations for meals with photography, will be doing Bibbiti Bobbiti Boutique or Pirates League, or will be doing lots of character meets with your kids, I think Memory Maker is a good deal.  If you won't be spending much time in these areas, and are only interested in maybe that one family shot in front of the castle, than purchasing your one print might be better for you.

For reference, rides that currently offer on-ride photos for Memory Maker are:
   Space Mountain
   Splash Mountain
   Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
   Test Track
   The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
   Rock ‘n Roller Coaster
   Expedition Everest

While the two princess meals already include a photo package print in their prices, Memory Maker allows you to add the digital file for those photos to your account to be printed at home.  For the restaurants that do not include the photo package in the price of the meal, our experience with PhotoPass + was that not only did they add the photos digitally to our PhotoPass account, but that they did physically give us the print package at the meal!

Meal photos that you can add to Memory Maker include:
   Cinderella's Royal Table at Magic Kingdom (printed photo is already included with meal price)
   Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus, Norway in Epcot (photos included with meal price)
   Tusker House at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
   1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
   Chef Mickey's at Disney's Contemporary Resort
   Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Disney's Polynesian Resort
   'Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Resort
   Mickey's Backyard Barbecue and Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Disney's Fort Wilderness

While we have hundreds of photos from our most recent trip to Disney, I made a video showing some of our PhotoPass photos to give you an idea of what you will get if you choose to purchase Memory Maker/PhotoPass+.  While this is not all of our photos its a pretty good selection of the various shots. I found the character interactions to be one of the biggest benefits of the package. Not only do you get the perfect posed shot, the PhotoPass Photographer often captures the entire interaction between the child and the character.  One of my favorite Disney memories is when my daughter (17mo old) met Sophia the First. The PhotoPass Photographer did a wonderful job capturing those special moments for me, and I included them in the video.

*** 7/25/14** Traveling with a large group? See my guest post on Memory Maker for Large Groups over on the MouseQuest Podcast Blog!

Here's many of our wonderful photos thanks to PhotoPass:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Continuing My Magical Quest, the Moms Panel 2014 Recap

My "I'm Celebrating" pin I received the day I learned I was in Round 2

I love being an RN, and I went into nursing because at the end of the day, I wanted to leave work knowing that I had made a difference.  Making all the money in the world means nothing if you can't feel good about the person that you are each day.  Every patient brings new experiences, new skills and new challenges.  And with every patient and family I learn a little bit more about myself. More than a decade in obstetrics has taught me many things, but a few stand out the most:

Babies are amazingly resilient.

You can endure more pain than you thought possible and live to tell the tale.

Sometimes life just doesn't make sense, nor is it fair.

The best things in life are worth waiting for.

My Disney pins make a great ice breaker with my patients!
These aren't just things I see on the labor and delivery floor, but themes that extend into our everyday lives. We are all incredibly resilient!  We can take on amazing amounts of physical and emotional turmoil and come out a better person on the other side.  Sometimes, I want to revert to a child on the playground, upset because life just isn't about how much you want something.  Then I remember I'm supposed to be a grown-up. Walt Disney said, "Adults are only kids grown-up, anyway", and when you are hurting, it's easy to let the kid in you take over. The past few days that little kid in me has wanted to come out and play.

But indeed, sometimes the best things in life are worth waiting for.  My husband wasn't the first man I dated, my job is not the first occupation I tried, and I certainly appreciate the gift that is my daughter more as the fourth child, than I would if she had been the first.

This past Friday, five years of hoping, dreaming, working, writing, rewriting, videoing and interviewing came down to a single email. Sadly, it did not say what I hoped it would.  I know in my heart that I did my absolute best, and I can look back and feel good about what I submitted.  I don't think I could have done anything different that would have changed my fate this year.  But making it to the final round, out of thousands, is still an honor, and I hope it means "maybe next time", because the Disney Parks Moms Panel is something I am willing to wait for.  In fact, in a generous gesture, anyone who made it to the final round and completed the entire application process, but was not chosen, has been given a FastPass of sorts.  Next year, I have already qualified as a Round 2 Semifinalist for the 2015 Disney Parks Moms Panel.
"Even Miracles Take a Little Time" - The Fairy Godmother

I did meet a ton of fabulous folks, who like myself want so much to be part of the pixie dust.  My twitter account is blossoming with new Disney friends! It also means I'll have all the time in the world to continue to help my friends, their friends, and random folks I meet on the street, plan magical Disney vacations.

With baby princess getting more independent, my goal this year is to grow this little blog of mine. So if you like it, please share it!  You can also sign up in the upper left corner to "follow" this blog and you will get a copy of my newest posts in your inbox (don't worry, not too many! Probably once or twice a month).  You can also follow me on Twitter! @dizkrazkate

Upcoming for this year is a trip to run my first race longer than a 5K, Disney's Princess Half Marathon (I'm only half crazy), and a possible trip to the Disneyland Resort in April.  Since this year I elected to apply as a specialty mom for the Disney Vacation Club (DVC), I hope to spend a bit more blogging time on my beloved DVC.

"When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming!" - Dory from Finding Nemo

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dreams CAN Come True! Moms Panel Update 11/15/2013

My long held dream of being part of the Disney Parks Moms Panel, is in part, what inspired me to begin this blog.  Though it has been woefully neglected since the birth of our little princess, my goal early yesterday afternoon was to start dedicating more time to it, now that little miss is a year and a half.  This thought came to mind yesterday, because I was very anxiously awaiting my likely rejection from the Disney Parks Moms Panel.  When faced with a disappointment or obstacle, I find setting a new goal helps me through the tough times. Thus, resurrecting and expanding my little blog would be my goal as I pursued the 2015 Moms Panel.

However, I don't think you can possibly imagine the utter craziness that occurred in my living room at 3:02 yesterday afternoon.  As I continually refreshed my gmail, waiting for that promised 3pm message, it suddenly appeared, and the very first word was "Congratulations".  For about a half of a second I thought this was some mistake, and that it was going to congratulate me on making it to the second round which I had indeed made this year, but sadly, we have not chosen you to move on to round 3.  As I realized I was not mistaken, I really WAS moving on to ROUND 3, I was joined in lots of excited hoopla by my three boys who had recently come home from school!  All five of us were dancing around the living room.  My boys know how much I would like to be on the panel, and have been living the dream with me these past few weeks. Even baby princess could sense the excitement, and she loves any opportunity to clap and use one of her words, "YAY!" This was followed by several important phone calls to my Disney BFF @RNawaymama and of course, to the hubby.  I was then so wrapped up in twitter, Facebook and the DisBoards thread, I completely forgot to call....MY MOM! Once that was rectified I was able to spend some time on social media seeing which of the hundreds of very qualified candidates had moved on to the next phase with me.

Disney Moms Panel Meet and Greet 10/1/11
It appears that there are at least three of us fine Disney moms who are in the running for the Disney Vacation Club panelist position.  We will each have a phone interview sometime next week.  They are both fantastic candidates as well, so this is no easy in for me.  My goal is to simply be myself, and hope for the best! I should know one way or the other by this time next week.  If you have any extra Pixie Dust to spare, please feel free to send it this way!

In my lovely new hidden Mickey dress at the entrance to the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, one of the DVC properties. We stayed here just last month, and we loved it!

Friday, March 8, 2013

So Many Different Parks, So Many Choices!

Recently, a friend planning a trip mentioned that the sheer size of Walt Disney World and trying to decide on which parks to visit was quite daunting. She is certainly not the only one to feel this way, and I think it is common for a first time visitor to either be overwhelmed, or to underestimate the magnitude that is Walt Disney World. When planning such an elaborate and expensive vacation, you want to be able to get the most for your money. To do that at Walt Disney World, I think you really need to have an understanding of each park and allocate enough time to enjoy and appreciate it.

A lot of folks find themselves confused right from the start when they are planning what they think is a trip to Disneyland. Disneyland, in fact, is in California. Disneyland Resort is composed of Disneyland park, and Disney's California Adventure. If you are traveling to Florida, you are traveling to Walt Disney World Resort.

Walt Disney World Resort is vast in size, and is in fact larger than the island of Manhattan! The resort is composed of four theme parks, Magic Kingdom, Epcot (known when I was a kid as EPCOT Center), Disney's Hollywood Studios (originally Disney's MGM Studios), and Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Downtown Disney is a shopping and dining area located within the resort, but it is not a theme park, and it does not require a park ticket. There are also two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon, and Blizzard Beach. These require a separate water park ticket.

The Magic Kingdom

The Magic Kingdom is what many people think of and mean when they say Disney World, or Disneyland. The Magic Kingdom is the original theme park that opened at Walt Disney World in October of 1971, along with the Contemporary and Polynesian resorts. The Magic Kingdom is composed of the famous areas of Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Liberty Square, and Frontierland, all surrounding the famous Cinderella Castle. It is here that you will find the world famous attractions known as Space Mountain, It's a Small World, Peter Pan's Flight, the Mad Hatter's Teacups, Dumbo, the Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Magic Kingdom is jam packed with a lot to do in a relatively small space, and has so very many things to do, that it is really difficult to see them all in one day. This is the one park that really should not be missed. Magic Kingdom is usually the favorite of both adults and kids alike, with its vast array of shows, rides and attractions there is something for everyone, and most things are enjoyable to do more than once, especially for children who may never tire of riding a flying elephant. If you have multiple days to enjoy Walt Disney World, I would strongly recommend scheduling two days at Magic Kingdom. If your primary reason for visiting Walt Disney World is for the benefit of small or elementary school children, even if you have only 3 or 4 days at Walt Disney World I recommend skipping one of other parks in favor of spending 2 days at Magic Kingdom.

Epcot was the second theme park to open at the Walt Disney World Resort in October of 1981. Epcot is often thought of to be a more adult oriented park, and in many ways it is more adult, but there are still many fun, kid oriented things to do here. In recent years, Disney has really tried to add more kid friendly attractions. If you are pulling your kids out of school for a trip, Epcot is a great place for your kids to do lots of hands-on learning. Epcot is composed of Future World and World Showcase. If it seems like two theme parks smashed together into one, that's because it kind of is! Originally they were plans for two different parks, and imagineers shoved two park models next to each other and decided it was a winner.

Future World does have some headliners that have been added in recent years to draw in crowds looking for more rides. Test Track, Mission Space, and Soarin' are all rides that were not part of Epcot on opening day, and if you haven't been there since the mid 90's, they will be new to you too. They all have a height requirement though, so still not much in that aspect for the toddler set. Fun for all ages is available with lots of hands on activities and a few rides at Innoventions East and West, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and the Imagination Pavilion.

World Showcase is a bit slower paced, with mostly shopping, eating and entertaining shows. There are two slower paced boat rides in Mexico and Norway, neither of which has a height requirement. There is a very patriotic show in "The American Adventure", and 2 movies to see in France and Canada. This part of Epcot is decidedly more adult in nature. That said, my boys really enjoy it.
The park itself is HUGE. It is often said EPCOT stands for "Every Person Comes Out Tired" as touring this park involves a lot of walking. If you have the time, you could most certainly spend more than one day at Epcot. Especially if your group consists of foodies, wine enthusiasts, or those that like to skip the rides in lieu of touring and shopping, consider spending more time at Epcot. If your goal is to just hit big rides and keep the kiddos happy, one day would suffice. If you are only visiting WDW for a few days with children, and must eliminate one park, this might be the one to skip.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Originally opened as Disney's MGM Studios in 1989, the contract with MGM has since expired and this is now known as Disney's Hollywood Studios. This is not to be confused with Universal Studios. Universal Studios (where Harry Potter is located) is an entirely different movie company, has nothing to do with Disney, and is across town. Hollywood Studios was originally themed to the golden age of movies. When you walk in, you feel like you are walking down Hollywood Boulevard during the 1930's and 40's. At the end of the street is a replica of the famed Chinese Theater housing The Great Movie Ride. Now the view of theater is obscured by a giant Sorcerer Mickey hat, and the golden age of Hollywood is mixed in with one part Pixar, one part George Lucas, a couple of princesses and a dash of Aerosmith. Hollywood Studios can definite seen in one day.

If your time is limited, and you are traveling as a family this may be one park to keep in your plans. Hollywood Studios does seem to have a few things for folks of all ages. There is Disney Junior Live on Stage and the Muppets for the preschool set, the Voyage of the Little Mermaid and the Beauty and the Beast shows for your little princesses, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and Star Tours for your budding Jedi, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Aerosmith's Rock-N-Rollercoaster for thrill seekers, and Toy Story Mania for the entire family. The entire family can find something for them at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney's Animal Kingdom Park

Opened in the spring on 1998, Disney's Animal Kingdom is one part theme park and one part elaborate zoo. While the actual number of rides and attractions may be less at this park, it really is a park to be leisurely enjoyed. While Magic Kingdom will always have my heart, I truly think the Imagineers did an outstanding job with the storytelling and theme of this park. If you want to escape to Asia or Africa on a tight budget, it doesn't get better than this. Every last detail of this park is done to perfection.

The showcase ride of Animal Kingdom is Kilimanjaro Safari. You are loaded onto a seemingly decrepit safari truck and driven out to the savanna for a two week (okay, 20 minute) safari. While the big cats are cleverly contained, and pose no danger, you are usually unaware of their enclosure, and it really feels like you are out on the real savanna. The less dangerous animals can come right up to your truck, and I have had to actually wait for a rhino to get out of the road so our trip could continue! Also at Disney's Animal Kingdom are several walk though exhibits to view other animals such as giant bats, and our favorite, Bengal tigers. For ride junkies there is Expedition Everest, a backwards in the dark roller coaster not for the faint of heart, and Kali River Rapids a moderately tame rapid ride. For the family I recommend the Birds of Wonder show, Festival of the Lion King, and Finding Nemo the Musical for great entertainment. The latter two are also in air conditioning which is harder to find at Animal Kingdom than any other park.

Animal Kingdom can be done in one day. You can even plan it for a part day, say opening till 4pm, leaving time in the evening to head to Downtown Disney, swim at your resort, or hit up another park in the evening if you have a park hopper pass. If you have plenty of time, it is not to be missed. If you only have a few days, you might want to decide between this and Hollywood Studios, depending on your family's interests and ages.

So what parks should you visit and which to miss? This made it clear as mud right?

My best advice is this: Go for a long trip. Don't try to squeeze Disney into 3 days. I think folks really want to visit, and in the interest of finances and lack of understanding of the enormous size of Disney, underestimate the time needed. If you are already spending a big chunk of money to travel down there, and this is going to be a once or twice in a lifetime trip, take an additional year to save your pennies and go for 6 to 7 days rather than a quick 3 night trip. A 6 night trip gives you time to relax at your resort, spend two days at Magic Kingdom and at least one day at each of the other three parks. You will be able to slow your pace and enjoy what each park has to offer instead of running though commando style with a checklist of rides.
My baby girl is tuckered out.

If you are traveling with kids and  you only have:
2 days- consider spending both at Magic Kingdom, or if you have a Park Hopper Pass, one full and one       half day at Magic Kingdom, and one morning at either Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios.
3 days- spend 2 days at Magic Kingdom, and one day at either Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom.
4 days- spend 2 at Magic Kingdom, and pick two of the three of Hollywood, Animal Kingdom or Epcot depending on interests. If you have Park Hopper Passes, you could do one full day at Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood, and on the fourth day you could do a half day at Animal Kingdom and then spend the second half of the day back at the Magic Kingdom.

If you are only taking a short trip, try to be there when the parks open, and have a touring plan of what you want to see before you arrive, so you can make the most of your limited time.

The DizKrazKate Family September 2012
Do you have a park plan or strategy for making the most of your limited days in the parks? Leave a comment below to share your experience!