As a current Disney Cast Member I run into a lot of guests that don’t know much about Walt Disney World. Many guests come to Disney with only passes to the parks and hotel reservations, no dining reservations or Fast Passes. While you can still have a magical vacation with hotel reservations and park passes, you will mostly be eating hot dogs and hamburgers and waiting at least 30 minutes for each ride. Today I wanted to share some Disney basics with you so you are prepared for your first trip to Disney and have a magical time.

FastPass+

Disney FastPass+, referred to as Fast Passes, let you reserve times for rides, entertainment, and more. Once you’ve purchased a ticket to Disney World you can make Fast Pass selections 30 days ahead of time. If you booked a Walt Disney World resort hotel you can make your selections 60 days in advance.

Fast Passes are a free benefit in the Disney parks and you can make up to three passes for each day online or through the My Disney Experience app (more on the app later in this post). Once you have used your three passes for the day, you can add another selection to your day on the My Disney Experience app on your phone or at one of the Fast Pass kiosks in the parks.

And for reference from a Cast Member, here are some of the current most popular FastPass+ rides by park:

Magic Kingdom: 7 Dwarves Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, and Splash Mountain

Animal Kingdom: Avatar Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, and Kali River Rapids

Hollywood Studios: Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania, and Star Tours

Epcot: Frozen Ever After, Test Track, and Soarin’

My Disney Experience App

My Disney Experience is a free app that you can access from your cell phone that is an easy guide to the parks. You can view your Fast Passes, reservations, see wait times, access digital park maps, make Fast Passes, find restrooms, find character spots, view your Photo Pass photos, and more. This app is truly a great resource to have while visiting the parks and I highly recommend downloading it before your vacation so you can play with it for a bit.

Resort reservations

Staying on property in a Walt Disney World resort is nothing short of magical. By staying in a Disney resort you have bus/monorail/boat transportation to the parks, meal plan options, and the magic of Disney Cast Members and all things Mickey shaped. Many resorts will also have dining areas to stop by for a quick breakfast as well. The basic break down of Walt Disney World resorts is value, moderate, and deluxe. Here’s a bit of a breakdown as well, just remember that there are more options such as campgrounds and villas that you can check out on the Disney website.

Value resorts: These resorts have bus transportation to the parks, Disney Springs, water parks, etc. and range in price from $100-300 a night. Value resorts include Pop Century, All-Star Music, All-Star Movies, All-Star Sports, and Art of Animation.

Moderate resorts: These resorts have bus transportation to the parks, Disney Springs, water parks, etc. and range in price from $200-400 a night. Moderate resorts include Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Coronado Springs, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness.

Deluxe resorts: These resorts boast bus, boat, and/or monorail transportation (when making reservations you will be able to view what transportation is available) and range in price from $300-$3000 a night. Deluxe resorts include Animal Kingdom Lodge, Polynesian Village, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club, Contemporary, Yacht Club, and BoardWalk Inn.

Dining reservations

Not making dining reservations is one of the most common mistakes that guests make when coming to the parks. Disney has a lot more guests than it did 10 years ago when you could walk in and wait for reservations. Now starting 180 days before your arrival date you can begin making dining reservations for your trip. There is a limit on reservations if your stay exceeds 10 days.

While I highly recommend doing your own research on Disney dining, as I could make a full post on this topic alone, if you are wanting to dine at Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table make it 180 days in advance or 99% of the time you will not get a spot.

Also, the character dining options are some of the best dining experiences Disney has to offer. Some of my personal favorites are Chef Mickey’s, The Crystal Palace, Be Our Guest, and Ohana.

I also highly recommend 50’s Prime Time Café, Blaze Pizza, Coral Reef Restaurant, Flame Tree Barbecue, Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, and Kona Café.

Book experiences

Disney Magic is a wonderful thing and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I highly recommend looking into many of the amazing experiences that Disney has to offer. While there are many more than what I will be listing today, I’m sharing the two experiences that guests never seem to know about.

Magic Kingdom’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: One of the hidden gems for princesses and knights between the ages of 3-12 is this wonderful place tucked into Cinderella’s Castle. You can be transformed into a princess or a knight by a fairy godmother in training. This experience is always completely booked, so be sure you make your reservations 180 days in advance.

Disney’s Backstage Tours: If you want a backstage peek at Disney’s operation and to learn more about the history of Disney world, a backstage tour is for you. Fun fact: If you book the Key’s to the Kingdom tour you get to go back stage to view the tunnels. Yes, they are in fact real and you can see part of it too. I highly recommend looking up the tour options if you are a Disney kid at heart.

Extra Magic Hours

When planning what days you will be in the parks, look up when there will be Extra Magic Hours in the parks you are visiting. Extra Magic Hours are exclusive to those staying in Disney resorts and give you an hour before park open and 1-2 hours after park close to enjoy the rides with much shorter wait times. Each park typically only has one day a week with early Extra Magic Hours and one day a week with later Extra Magic.

Magic Bands

Magic Bands look kind of like a FitBit in that you wear it on your wrist, but it’s much different. Your Magic Band is your hotel room key, how you get into the parks, what you scan for your Fast Passes, allows you to charge things to your room, and more. If you booked a Disney World resort stay you should receive an e-mail and/or a pamphlet in the mail with information about making a Magic Band selection for your party as they can be personalized with your name on the inside and there are many colors to choose from.

Pin Trading

Now that I’ve covered booking your trip, I want to cover some of the things in the parks that you might not be super familiar with if you’ve never been to Disney. One of the popular things to do in the parks is pin trading. A lot of the cast members that aren’t in safety critical roles will be wearing pin trading lanyards that you can trade with. You can trade two pins with a cast member as long as they are not broken and they are Disney pins. I highly recommend looking on Amazon or E-Bay for trading pin packs so you have plenty of pins to trade.

Pressed Pennies

Pressed Pennies are also a very popular item in the parks. They are a perfect souvenir and are a fun thing to collect as you run into the penny press machines. I highly recommend going into your vacation with quarters and pennies packed. Keeping them in plastic M&M containers is the perfect way to go.

Buttons and stickers

You will see a lot of guests with Mickey stickers or buttons that say Happily Ever After, I’m Celebrating, Happy Birthday, or First Visit. Buttons and stickers are available in almost every retail shop in the parks. Insider tip: if you are ever talking to a cast member whether they are at the front desk, a bus driver, custodial, working in a retail shop, etc. ask if they have stickers. There are lots of fun stickers that cast members have although don’t be upset if they don’t have any or are out, sadly our stickers go pretty quickly and we do run out every so often.

Shop Disney Parks App

If you see someone with something you are interested in or if you want to know if there is any good merchandise for Minnie Mouse, the Shop Disney Parks app is for you. This app allows you to search merchandise sold within the parks, locate where particular items are sold in the parks, and even have merchandise sent back to your house.

Package Pick-up and Resort Delivery

The final thing that people don’t always know about in the parks is package pick-up and resort delivery. If you purchase merchandise in the parks you have the option to send it to the front of the park, just as long as you will be in the park for at least another 3 hours and send it to the front at least 3 hours prior to park close. Your package will be available for you to pick up at the front of the park after 3 hours. Another option is resort delivery which allows you to send your package back to your resort and then you can pick it up the next day after 1 pm in your main resort gift shop. Just make sure you send your merchandise to the resort three hours prior to park close and if you miss that time frame your merchandise won’t arrive to your resort for two days.

Are you planning your first trip to Disney? Was there anything new you learned from this post? If you’ve been to Disney before, are there any tips you would add to this post? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Disney World. It truly is one of the most magical places on earth. Where else can you go from being a Jedi to dining with princesses to adventuring to the ‘happy place’ on Splash Mountain? Disney is truly the place for kids and kids at heart. And while as cast members we understand that people are paying thousands of dollars to visit our ‘playground’ there are somethings that cast members want guests to know. I’m not saying this to ruin your pixie dust or ruffle any feathers, because I promise I completely understand that you’ve worked hard to go on a once in a life time trip. But in all honesty, I can say you will have a more magical visit if you take these tips to heart.

  1. We can’t control the weather

While it seems silly to include this on my list, let alone to have it as the first item on my list, it’s something that needs to be included. Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather. There is nothing we can do about rain, cold weather, hurricanes, strong wind, grey days, etc. While it isn’t fun to have to deal with rain during your trip, it is something to be prepared for. Plus, Splash Mountain is the best ride to head to during the rain.

  1. We have no idea which rides are down, how long they will be down, or how long the wait is

As cast members while we are here to help you, we aren’t up to date on what rides are down, how long they will be down, or how long the wait is unless we are a cast member that works at that attraction. While yes we are in the park, we aren’t informed about these things because our concentration is on helping on guests. Even attractions cast members won’t know other wait times or how long a ride will be down for. You typically will have to go straight to the source to ask a cast member there about what is going on and even then they sometimes don’t have information to give out.

  1. If you are nice to a cast member, we will go out of our way to make magic for you

I can’t stress to you enough how far out of our way we will go to make magic for you especially if you are nice even though you are having a bad day. We love seeing the smile and excitement a guest has when we have made magic for them.

  1. There is no such thing as a “perfect Disney day”

I heard this expression from a guest I was assisting and I couldn’t see it as more true. You can’t come to Disney and plan a “perfect” day because typically at least one thing will go wrong. The carts for turkey legs will close sooner than you expected, the souvenir you waited to buy until the last day will be sold out, your favorite ride will be closed, you won’t get the reservation you wanted, etc. But that’s were Disney magic comes into play. While it might not be what you had originally planned, there are always more amazing magical things to do and try in Disney. When the guest I was helping told me about this they said that they had been too late to get cinnamon rolls one day they ended up finding their favorite Disney treat, Dole Whips.

  1. Disney still has rules

Even the most magical place on earth has its rules. We can’t sell you the purchase with purchase items without you spending a certain amount, you can’t run through the park, a princess dress can’t have the ink tag taken off while your little princess is wearing it, we can’t give you the DVC or AP discount without seeing a physical card or seeing you pull it up on the My Disney Experience App, and so on. While it is a magical place, the magic still has restrictions.

  1. If we ever have to raise our voice when talking to a guest, yes, we absolutely are allowed to do so

While this happens more often with security, attractions, food, and non-merchandise cast members, if we have to raise our voice with a guest, yes, we are allowed to do so. While I won’t get into details about the reasons I’ve had to raise my voice with guests, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a guest then tell me that I’m not supposed to yell and I’m ruining the magic. Yes, it ruins the magic. I will admit that it isn’t so magical to hear anyone yelling in the parks unless they are on one of our thrill attractions. But I will say that if a cast member raises their voice, we are absolutely allowed to do so and it is typically for the safety of ourselves, our fellow cast members, and our guests. (It also isn’t very fun to raise our voices, so please be safe while in the parks)

  1. We want you to have a magical visit. We will give you all of our tips to a great day in the parks if you give us the chance to

As I said before, as cast members we understand that you’ve saved and sacrificed a lot to be able to come to Disney. We want to you get the most out of your trip and enjoy it. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have guests stop and ask what rides they should head to next only to have them walk away excitedly because you just mapped out where they should go and when to avoid long wait times. Remember: as cast members we typically spend some of our free time in the parks. We know which times are the best to hit up certain rides, which rides are worth a long wait, and where you can go for some great quick service food.

Are you a Disney cast member and have anything you would like to add to this list? Are you a guest that has anything to add or input for this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

As a blogger and vlogger myself it’s always been important to me to show appreciation to others in my community. At the moment I’m in Orlando participating in the Disney College Program, which introduced me to a completely new niche of bloggers and vloggers. Today I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my personal favorites. Please remember, these are in no particular order and I chose people no matter when their program was or if they’ve done the program. If they love Disney then they are eligible for this list. With that, let the favorites begin!

Cally Bloxam

Cally is one of the first people that I stumbled upon when I started looking into pursuing the Disney College Program. I knew that I wanted to do the program, but I wanted to hear about the program from someone who had done it. When I came across Cally I came across someone who has a true love and passion for Disney, which was something that I definitely needed to see. I watched her room tour, her DCP haul, her pin collection, her letter to her pre-DCP self, all of it. I fell in love with the idea of the program and doing the program because of Cally essentially. And I have to thank her forever for opening me up to one of the best decisions of my life. Plus, I copied her awesome autograph book idea, so there’s that.

Sarah Bellin

Sarah is one of my personal favorite DCP vloggers. I love her friendship with her former roommate Annie, I love her bubbly personality, and I love how she basically took the DCP opportunity by the horns and used every moment to her advantage. I found her channel through searching for DCP hauls and I’ve been in love with it ever since. I basically used her videos as hype videos before I left for my program. I seriously have my fingers crossed that I have the opportunity to meet Cally and Sarah during my program. As weird as it might sound, I have so much to thank them both for because they gave me the motivation to pursue the craziness that is the DCP.

Tales from the Tower

If you want informational videos about the ins and outs of the DCP, Jessica is your girl. Everything from move-in day tips to advice for surviving DCP housing, Tales from the Tower is the place to go. I found Jessica and her channel because I stumbled upon her DCP memory box video and cried my way through the whole thing. In fact, once I was accepted to the program I went back to her video and made notes on what I want to keep for my DCP memory box. I watched her videos all the way up until I left for my program and still watch them now on the program when I get the chance.

This DCP Girl

I stumbled upon the This DCP Girl through the DCP Spring 2017 Facebook page. Sarah shared the blog posts she had written from her experience during her previous program on the page for us newbies to share. Let’s just say, I was insanely grateful for her. She shared lots of tips on navigating Disney housing, the application process, and the craziness that is working for the Disney company. I’m insanely grateful to say that she’s become a dear blogging friend of mine through sharing potential blog post ideas with her and even being an admin alongside her on the DCP Bloggers Facebook page. I’m forever grateful and amazed by the amazing friendships that blogging has brought me.

Disney at Heart

Jared and Britt are two amazing Disney YouTubers that make me fall in love with Disney more every time I watch them. In fact, I kind of point my finger at Britt for getting me obsessed with Dole Whip, popcorn, and straw, strawberry, strawberry shortcake! I can’t help but have a smile on my face when I face them because they exude genuine happiness. I love their Disney hauls and Disney vlogs, but if I’m being honest they could review just about anything and I’d be watching because I have a slight obsession. In fact, I even told a few friends the other day that if I spot Jared and Britt in Disney I’m going to be way to excited to hopefully talk to them.

Oh Yeah Disney

Scott and Emily are another one of my favorite Disney couples. I love their vlogs that allow you to follow them through the parks and how they share their favorite camera equipment for their amazing photos and videos. I always look forward to their new videos and even seeing what stuffed animals Emily picks out for helping out with videos. If you check out their YouTube channel, you also need to check out their Instagram accounts as well. Their photos are always absolutely gorgeous.

Everything Disney Pins

As much shame as I feel in saying this, I used to laugh at pin trading. I thought it was silly and not worth the money. But those thoughts changed when I came across the Donoho sisters and that opinion completely changed. I saw their love of pins, collecting, and sharing the joy of pins with others and instantly I was hooked. In fact, because I them I hope to choose a series and attempt to trade to get each pin in the set. Along with their Everything Disney Pins channel they also have With the Donohos and Everything Disney Shopping. I honestly am subscribed to and watch each and every video. Nine times out of ten I probably fall asleep to their voices after a long day at work. And to spread the pin joy, check out their online pin store. It’s super organized and has some amazing pins.

Maias DCP

Maia’s DCP channel is another channel that I stumbled upon when researching the DCP. I loved that she shared so many steps of the process from finding roommates, pre-DCP haul, packing, and check in day. She even did Vlogmas while on the program, which is a huge task to complete during the DCP. Currently she posts videos that are Disney related, such as unboxing Disney Legos and sharing information about her online store. I personally own her “Once a Cast Member, always a cast member” t-shirt and I have my fingers crossed that she will add more designs as well.

Do you watch any of these YouTuber’s videos or read any of these blogs? If not, which ones would you recommend? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

In typical fashion I’m back this semester with a day in my life post. It’s basically become a tradition for me to sit down and write these out mainly so that after graduation I can come back and see what a crazy day in my life was like. In case you didn’t know I’m currently taking a semester off of school to participate in the Disney College Program and it’s definitely one of the craziest, most stressful, and fun things I’ve ever done. And while in all honesty I don’t actually have a “typical” schedule, most days go something along the lines of what I wrote below. Let’s be honest through-my alarm is either going off at 4am or I’m going to bed at 4am after getting off of a 3:15am shift. So here’s a ‘typical’ day in my life. Enjoy!

5am: My alarm goes off and it’s time to get up and get my day started. As I stated above, there really is no in between for me. I’m either up at 4 or 5 am or going to bed at 4 or 5 am. Good bye to any kind of sleep schedule.

6am: Drive to work! Yes, I head out a full hour before my shift starts to make sure I get there on time. There are many instances where there is a car wreck right outside of the park and it adds quite a bit of time to my commute, so always thinking ahead so I don’t get that half point.

6:35am: If my drive to work goes smoothly I’m at work by now. During this time I put my stuff in my locker, grab a Tell-A-Cast, and head to clock in.

6:45am: We can clock in 15 minutes before our shift is scheduled to start, so I typically always am early to clock in. Normally several of my co-workers are there as well so we spend this time chatting about how we hope the day will go and if there are any upcoming events we need to be aware of.

7am: My shift begins! Typically the first few hours after park open are very slow so I spend a lot of time standing in the door way waving at guests. People that do come into the shops are typically just browsing to pass time before a reservation or FastPass.

3:45pm: After a long day of making magic, my day is over! I clock out, grab my stuff from my locker, and head to my car.

4:15pm: Home from work, grab a quick snack, change, and tell my roommates I’m headed to the store so we can pick up our groceries.

4:30pm: Head out to get groceries! I always stop at Trader Joe’s even if it is just to pick up peach salsa and then we head to Wal-Mart to get the rest of our necessities.

5:30pm: By this time we all decide that we are hungry and head to Chick-Fil-A because it’s our favorite and where else would we go?

6:30pm: This particular day we decided to go to Disney Springs to browse Sephora because of the VIB sale. Disney Springs is seriously so dangerous for my wallet!

8pm: Finally back at the apartment. Now I shower, eat a snack, and settle into bed with Netflix or YouTube before falling asleep. So exciting, I know.

How does your schedule currently look? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

Last week I mentioned that I would be doing a Q&A and was very excited by the number of questions you all e-mailed me! If you don’t see your question answered in this post, just know that it is because I decided to turn that question into its own post because I felt it was best to go more in-depth for my answer. Today I will be answering all of your questions (that I’m able to that is) relating to applying, interviewing, moving, and being a part of the program.

How many times did you apply to do the program?

I heard about the program right after applications for the Fall 2016 program had closed, so I definitely stumbled into it. I was very lucky and only applied once for the program.

How did you find your roommates?

The Facebook page! While I never posted a roommate survey of my own on the page, I did take the time to read through other surveys of those who were accepted and comment on them. I ended up meeting three girls that way, two of which ended up having different arrival dates, and one of which is currently one of my eight roommates now. I definitely suggest using the page to find roommates, it’s how I found all eight of mine.

Do you recommend saving money before the program starts?

Hands down, yes! I definitely recommend saving money before the program starts so you can cover program fees, the cost of purchasing things when you get down here, and buying souvenirs during the major cast discount. I definitely had saved a lot more money before my program than the majority of my fellow cast members did, but I was bound and determined to buy my stuff during the holiday discount.

As a merchandise cast member, how many hours do you work a week?

As a merchandise cast member I range between 35-50 hours a week. 35 hours is definitely at the lower point of the number of hours I work, I typically get 43-45 a week.

After rent has been taken out of your paycheck, do you still have enough money left over for fun?

Yes! After rent is taken out I definitely still have plenty of money left over to allow some fun. I definitely have to budget to make sure I can cover groceries, gas, and putting money back for the upcoming school year, but I always have at least $70 left over for some fun. Doesn’t sound like much, but it does cover pizza, ice cream, park food, and something from the gift shop if I’m careful with how I spend.

Would you recommend merchandise to others?

Hands down, yes! I would definitely recommend doing merchandise to others looking to do the program! Yes there are rough days, yes there are days that you want to yell at a guest that while this is the most magical place on earth there are still rules, it’s something that I would always recommend to others.

Will you be continuing your DCP posts after the program ends?

Yes! The posts will continue for a while after the program ends because there is a lot that I want to cover. I currently have DCP posts planned through December of this year, with definitely the possibility of adding more to the list.

Any questions that you want answered in a future blog post? Any DCP posts that you want to see in the future? I’d love your in put in the comments below!