Sunday, April 28, 2013

What Would You Take?

If you had just two minutes to evacuate your home - and assuming all human beings and pets are evacuated safely - what would you take?

Most people don't hesitate. They would take family photos, scrapbooks, family memories. In fact, I have a friend who keeps a packed suitcase in her front hall closet. It's not packed with clothes - just precious family photo, ready for the grabbing in case she needs to make a quick exit.

I've been scrapbooking for years. Photos and ticket stubs and other memorabilia spill out of boxes piled high in a spare closet. And I'm embarrassed to tell you just how many digital photos are hiding out on my computer's hard drive. 

So many memories! Our honeymoon. The days my daughter's were born. Their first steps, first haircuts, first day of school, first time meeting Mickey Mouse.

And there are historic family photos. Great aunts and uncles at holiday gatherings from back in the 70s and even earlier. Yellowing photos of days gone by that pull at my heart and make me smile.

I love my photos because they connect me to my fondest memories. They remind me of what's most important - my family. I'm rarely without my camera or at least, my smart phone, so I can snap memories as they happen. I'm definitely known as the family shutterbug and historian. And I love those titles.

Are you the family historian? How do you make and preserve your family's memories? And what would you grab if you just had minutes to run out of your home?  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Top 5 Tips To Save Money On The Disney Cruise

Mickey and some friends enjoying the white sand beaches of Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.

If you're anything like my me, you want the best of both worlds - a memorable family vacation that won't cost you an arm and a leg. 

You probably already know the Disney Cruise Line is a great option for families, couples, seniors or even singles. The entertainment is Broadway-style amazing. The food is spectacular. Kids race to their special clubs and activities. And the adult activities - like the spa, private restaurants and nightclubs - offer the perfect escape from daily activities. But did you also know the cost is virtually all-inclusive? As a mom and self-proclaimed penny pincher, believe me when I tell you that if you want the most bang for your buck, the Disney Cruise Line delivers.

Although there are many others, here are the TOP 5 ways you can save money on a Disney Cruise:

1. BOOK EARLY. Lock in the lowest rate and have more time to make payments. You don't have to pay for the entire cruise all at once. The earlier you book, the more time your Magical Travel agent has to apply discounts when available, which could lower your overall cost. 

2. BOOK LATE! This might sound unusual, but if you're footloose and fancy free and able to travel at the drop of a hat, you could very well land an excellent last-minute rate within 30 days of a sailing.  

3. BOOK DURING NON-PEAK TIMES. The savings are greater during these times. For Caribbean cruises: Sept., Oct., non-holiday weeks in Dec., and early Jan. to Presidents' Day. For European cruises: mid-March, April and Sept - Dec. For Alaskan cruises: May and Sept. are considered value seasons.

Have you cruised during these non-peak times? How was your experience?

4. WORK WITH MAGICAL TRAVEL FOR THE BEST SHIPBOARD CREDITS, DISCOUNTS AND PLANNING TIPS. Our free shipboard credits can be used right away on things like souvenirs, spa treatments, or excursions. And discounts pop up often, sometimes after you've made your initial reservation. Our agents are vigilant about passing every available discount on to you. As for planning tips, our agents have sailed the Disney Cruise Line with kids and without. They know the ships like the back of their hands. Lean on their expertise!

5. KNOW THAT ONE PRICE COVERS IT ALL. With the price of your cruise, you'll enjoy the world-class family entertainment, dining and accommodations you expect with Disney. You pay for alcohol, souvenirs, any off-ship excursions and photographs. 

There's nothing worse than feeling "nickel and dimed" while on vacation. You won't feel that way on a Disney Cruise.

So tell us, have you cruised with Disney before? Leave a comment and tell us what your best tip is for first-time cruisers!

Monday, April 8, 2013

3 Things I Learned from Annette Funicello

I didn't grow up in the 1950s. I'm a child of the 70s, which means I didn't see Annette Funicello's smile light up the black and white TV as an original Mousketeer. I first remember seeing her on the Skippy peanut butter commercials. Even then, I remember thinking how beautiful and radiant she was.

With the announcement of her passing today, it made me think about the woman behind the mouse ears. And three things came to mind that I think are really good life lessons.  

1. Keep smiling. I dare you to find a picture of Annette Funicello where she isn't smiling. Seriously. There really aren't any. Even when she was in a serious moment, the smile was there. It shone brightly behind her eyes.

2. Stay positive. Bad things happen to good people. For more than 25 years, Annette Funicello battled Multiple Sclerosis rather privately. She established the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases. And she continued to work for years after her initial diagnosis. She was an inspiration to me and many others for the way she handled her debilitating illness with grace and dignity.

Fellow Mouseketeer and long-time friend Sharon Baird observed, “Throughout all the years we were friends she never changed from that sweet person who cared so much about others. She always had time for everyone; family, friends and fans alike. It’s no wonder she was America’s sweetheart.” - (courtesy of the Disney Post blog.)

3. Honor your past. We've all seen child stars who have tried to rid themselves of the image or character they portrayed as a child, so they could further their pursuits on the big screen. Instead of fighting against it, Annette Funicello embraced her Disney heritage. She was the only Mouseketeer who remained on contract with Walt Disney when the show ended and she went on to appear on other Disney shows and in movies. She was true to herself and her authenticity shone through in all of her work.

And for that, I thank her.

What's your favorite memory of this Disney legend?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Salagadoola Mechikaboola...

Is there anything more magical than dressing up like a princess? Not if you're a little girl at the Magic Kingdom!

Do you know about Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique? It's a magical beauty salon that transforms your little girl into the princess of her dreams - right before her eyes.

I brought my daughter there a few years ago when she was three. We weren't sure what to expect, but I can tell you we weren't disappointed.

The boutique we went to was in the castle at the Magic Kingdom. You can purchase any one of the princess dresses right there in the salon: Snow White, Princess Tiana, Sleeping Beauty, Belle. My daughter's favorite is Belle.

Do you know which princess is your daughter's favorite?

We also got to choose her hairstyle and makeup - which is subtle in soft hues of pink and peach - and nail polish. Once you're set, your own personal fairy godmother-in-training works her magic...

But here's the really neat part. The room is oblong with mirrors on the wall; however, the chairs the girls sit in are turned away from the mirrors. This way, they can't see what their fairy godmother is doing. Once the princess makeover is complete, the girls are slowly turned around for the big reveal.

That moment is so magical. The look on my daughter's face was priceless. She almost didn't recognize herself. We snapped photos, thanked our wonderful fairy godmother, and then my little "princess" walked around the Magic Kingdom the rest of the day...with a beautiful smile on her face. 

If you want to create this kind of magic for your little girl, a word of caution! Make a reservation as early as possible. This is such a popular place, so you don't want to wait until the last minute.

Also, they can work their magic on little boys, too. "Knight" makeovers include colorful gel and spiked hair, a sword and shield, and confetti.

"It'll do magic believe it or not! Bibbidi ~ Bobbidi ~ Boo!"