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It’s perfectly normal to plan your next trip to Disney while you are still there…

Because, who really goes to Disney and doesn’t start thinking of when they might get back for another magical visit.  Yes, that was the underlying rhythm of my time at Disney Social Media Moms.  “It’s ok if we can’t do that because we’ll be back in November.”  “Won’t IT Boy enjoying doing that…in November!”

In December of last year, I started looking to 2012 to try and plan a vacation for the family to WDW.  I knew that Grandma and the kids were in, I just had to work on Mr. IT.  Once I got consensus from the whole crew, I started looking for a hotel.

At first, we thought staying at one of the Disney Vacation Club villas was the way to go.  A one bedroom would give us a good amount of room…and beds…for the family.  Unfortunately, since I didn’t want the kids out of school for a long time, we were going during Thanksgiving week and that means peak season rates.  The villas were just crazy expensive.  So I checked out Art of Animation, where they have family suites.  At this point, the resort wasn’t open and I knew little about it.  But it sounded nice, so I looked.  I could get a suite for a decent rate.

My last step was to check out the Swan and Dolphin.  We’ve stayed here a lot.  So much so that Soccer Girl and I are truthfully a little burnt out on them.  They are lovely properties in an ideal location, but they aren’t Disney.  They’re operated by Starwood, which means they are top notch hotels, but a little lacking in the pixie dust.  They also cater to a convention crowd, which means their peak times aren’t necessarily in sync with Disney properties, and sometimes you can use it to your advantage.  I was able to do just that, securing two rooms for about what the Art of Animation suite would run.

However, once Soccer Girl saw the Art of Animation resort, she was determined to stay there.  And I really couldn’t blame her.  It’s new, it’s stunning, and it’s dripping in pixie dust.  But I kept thinking about how our ROOMS at the Dolphin offered 4 beds for 5 people – nice heavenly beds too.

Leave it to K, who has the office next to me at work, to come up with a solution.  She patiently listened to my dilema and suggested we stay one or two nights at the Art of Animation to give us a feel for the place, and then transfer to the Dolphin.  I initiatlly resisted, because I just hate packing and unpacking.  But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  One day would be enough to allow IT Boy the time to climb on every car in the Cars area, and allow Soccer Girl to soak up all that the Nemo pool has to offer.  It would also provide us with the Magic Express service to Disney, which you don’t get at the Swan and Dolphin hotels.

In the end, I think we’ll be really happy with that compromise.

Taking on Disney and Food Allergies

I’ve seen a couple of people participating in the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Twitter stream talking about how Disney works with food allergies and special needs.   If you or someone in your family has food allergies, please check out  this post  I wrote a year ago after coming back from a rather successful trip to the Mouse.  My daughter has severe food allergies and we need to be most cautious anywhere.  It’s anxiety inducing on the best of days, and I dare not even imagine what the worst would be like.

The good news is that Disney is rather good about dealing with any special needs, especially food allergies.  Check out my prior post, but also go to Disney’s own food allergy page to be fully prepared for any issues.  The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) posts travel tips to get you through the rest of your trip.  Anyone affected by food allergies should be a FAAN member and use their site – it’s most literally a lifesaver.

New since I wrote the post last year – booking restaurant reservations online!  Saves time and energy (I hate being on the phone!) and you can note any food allergies and accessibility requirements on your reservation.

Not only can you be safe at Disney when it comes to food allergies, you can also relax a little knowing that they get allergies and want to help.

Disney Junior at BlogHer

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Disney Junior breakfast at BlogHer.  As you know, ANYTHING Disney has me from the get go and this was no exception.

When we approached the ballroom at the Hilton, we could see a grouping of those tell-tale Mickey Mouse balloons.  At least I knew I was in the right place!

Once we came in, we could see the room was decorated in magical style.  There were also a few friends that I was able to reconnect with.

At our seats was a lovely gift bag with an iPad case (a really nice one, I might add) and a Mickey or Minnie stuffed pal.  I took a seat with a Minnie because Jordan already has a Mickey from my trip to Disney Social Media Moms (ok, we *share* it) and I knew he would love Minnie.  I had a good chuckle when another attendee asked if I would trade Minnie for her Mickey because she had a girl and I had a boy.  She knows not of my son’s love for the she-Mouse!

Once we settled in and had our meal, we were greeted by Catherine Connors, aka Her Bad Mother, who is Director of Blogs and Social Media at Babble, a Disney-owned company.  The connection wasn’t clear at first but it soon was.

Disney Junior is going to be launching a series of shorts called Night Lights.  These parent-targeted, kid-friendly short-form segments will be “powered by Babble” and begin airing September 4.  Nancy Kanter, Senior Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide, talked about how parents often watch Disney Junior at night with their kids.  Often, it’s because a child is sick or had a bad dream and needs comforting.  The idea was to have something between the channel programming to appeal to moms but be kid appropriate.

Jordan is a HUGE fan of Jake and the Neverland Pirates and has viewed their special “Peter Pan Returns” about a 1,000 times.  I was thrilled to hear there is a new Jake movie coming this fall.  “Jake Saves Bucky” will air in prime time on the Disney Channel on September 19, which just so happens to be International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  Nancy Kanter also talked about some of the “stunt casting” that “Jake” employs through the seasons to keep parents entertained.  She pointed out that she doesn’t normally attend voice tapings, but when Josh Duhamel was recording his part, somehow she found a need to be there, along with many other female staffers.

Doc McStuffins was a favorite show of Jordan’s from the moment it premiered.  I love that it appeals to boys and girls equally.  I was hugely regretful that I did not get to attend the session with the creators of Doc that was at Disney Social Media Moms.  Nancy Kanter talked about how successful “Doc” has been, and how there is a grassroots effort among female African-American doctors inspired by the show.  On one slide, there was a group of pictures that these physicians had taken next to a picture of Doc, with the caption “I am Doc McStuffins”.  She’s a cartoon role model, that’s for sure – how great is it that these women are using Doc and their own work to insipre young girls to think about medicine as a career!

We also got a preview of a new show coming in the fall called “Sophia the First”.  Suffice it to say that I was in stitches when I recognized the voice of her butler.  Stunt casting at it’s finest.  You’ll have to wait for the premiere, but it is well worth it.

We also saw some new Jake toys that are hitting shelves now.  More about that in my next post.

Thanks to BlogHer and Disney Junior for a most excellent way to start my day!

Disclosure: I received a gift bag as noted above from the breakfast.  Oh, and I got fed.  And there was bacon.  But I would have gotten fed at BlogHer anyhow.  This was just a whole heck of a lot nicer.  This post originally appeared on on August 12, 2012.