How to put on a successful Disney World travel event in your hometown

Disney World Mom’s Panelist Andi Sims1. Get to know your local Disney World travel experts. Surely you have a Disney World Mom’s Panel member or renowned guidebook author in your hometown. No? Well, keep searching, until you find someone. Or just …

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Author Bob Sehlinger

 Event planning is an emerging interest of mine. It goes hand-in-hand with my interest in social media — get to know people online, then get to know people in person. Event planning is something I’m practicing as executive director of the Alabama Social Media Association, especially as we move toward our annual conference this fall.

So it all came together this past weekend, as I coordinated the Magic City, Magic Kingdom Disney World travel event at AAA Alabama headquarters.

Want to do a similar event in your hometown? Just follow these simple steps:

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Disney World Mom’s Panelist Andi Sims

1. Get to know your local Disney World travel experts. Surely you have a Disney World Mom’s Panel member or renowned guidebook author in your hometown. No? Well, keep searching, until you find someone. Or just use yourself, silly.

2. Find an awesome travel agency to host your event. Surely your local AAA branch has a huge TV playing Disney travel video, plus lots of neat Disney decorations, activities for kids, and a conference room. No? Well, then use a public library meeting space, or the YMCA, or a restaurant, whatever you gotta do.

3. Find an awesome restaurant to provide food free of charge. Oh, so you don’t have an awesome chain based in your hometown, like Zoës Kitchen, that has such a sound commitment to community events? Well, then arrange for a discount for a large party at a local restaurant.

And so, voila! You have yourself an event.

In reality, it’s not always as easy as it was for me in this case to put on a Disney travel event. Not only am I lucky to know two great local experts – author Bob Sehlinger and Disney World Mom’s Panelist (and Disney cruise specialist) Andi Sims — but they were happy to take part. AAA Alabama headquarters was more than equipped to handle our crowd, and Zoës Kitchen provided a great spread for the guests.

Several families came out on Saturday to hear from Bob and Andi — we had DVC member families and complete Disney newbie families. It was the perfect mix. A Disney Mom Beth came down from north Alabama. Hi, Beth! And I look forward to hopefully having more events and meet-ups for Alabama Disney fans in the future. Mouse of Zen suggests a beach meet-up. I could definitely go for that!

I’ve compiled a Twitter list of Disney fans in Alabama. Let me know if you or someone you know should be added.I can’t wait for more Disney events in the future!

(I apologize for the photo quality – we had some technical Nikon issues. AND! video forthcoming as soon as my videographer returns from out of town)

Magic City, Magic Kingdom: Tracing the ties between Birmingham and Walt Disney World

As you may know, I’m a big fan of Disney World. I’m also a big fan of social media. Through my interactions with other Disney World fans through social media, I realized that there are a lot of Disney World fans right here in Alabama. (By the way,…

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As you may know, I’m a big fan of Disney World. I’m also a big fan of social media. Through my interactions with other Disney World fans through social media, I realized that there are a lot of Disney World fans right here in Alabama. (By the way, here’s my Twitter! @KristenHeptin).

If you think about it, this does make sense, considering that besides Georgia, we have the shortest travel distance to the World. Most families in Alabama have been to Disney World at one time or another because of the proximity — from our home, it’s just a hair under 600 miles and about 9.5 hours to the World. For those in southeast Alabama, it’s only about 6 hours’ drive.

In my interactions with fellow Disney World fans on Twitter, Facebook and through blogs, I was able to meet two very special Alabamians who are serious “VIPs” in the world of Disney. And what’s so great is they’re both right here in Birmingham!

First, there’s Andi Sims. She’s a busy mom of four here in the Birmingham area, and she is a member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, and the 2011 Disney Cruise Line Specialist Mom. She is a former marketing and PR executive, and with her bright smile and Southern charm, Andi is the perfect fit for Disney World as she helps spread the word about the magic of Disney World and Disney Cruise Lines.

Then there’s the renowned author Bob Sehlinger, creator of the Unofficial Guide travel series of books, including a cult Disney World “Bible” of sorts, the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. Bob is also founder and publisher of Menasha Ridge Press in Birmingham. Bob is not big on social media himself, but his coauthor Len Testa is, and Len is the force behind touringplans.com, the official home of the Unofficial Guide on the Web.

This all got me to thinking, and I decided to take all this great local Disney magic public. Bob, Andi and others here in the state, such as Dr. Chad Emerson, author of Project Future and Four Decades of Magic, were my inspiration for my Ignite Birmingham talk, titled “Magic City: Magic Kingdom,” in which I shared why I love Disney World; introduced folks to these local Disney VIPs; and challenged folks to take a Disney World vacation of their own. (video below)

But I didn’t want the magic to stop there. I took it a step further and I’m now planning Magic City, Magic Kingdom: the event!It will take place at AAA Alabama Headquarters in Birmingham on Saturday, May 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with lunch provided by Zoes Kitchen. Starting at noon, Bob and Andi will both speak about their Disney World expertise. Then we’ll have a Q&A and meet-and-greet with the Disney experts. If you’re in the Birmingham area, I hope you can attend — and bring the kids, too! You can get full info and RSVP at a disneyinbham.eventbrite.com. Oh, and afterward, for those who want, we’ll be going as a group to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides at 2:10 p.m. at the Patton Creek Rave in Hoover. I hope to see you there! Let the Memories Begin!

Disney World writing round-up, 4/4-4/10

I haven’t blogged about this much over here at Southern Web Girl, but since summer 2010, I’ve been writing about Disney World at several Disney World fan sites in my spare time. It’s a lot of fun, and a big reason why I haven’t blogged as much ove…

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I haven’t blogged about this much over here at Southern Web Girl, but since summer 2010, I’ve been writing about Disney World at several Disney World fan sites in my spare time. It’s a lot of fun, and a big reason why I haven’t blogged as much over here in the past several months.

The sites I write for are:

WDW For Grownups – It’s a site geared toward adults who love Disney World, with or without the kids. It also has a very active message board and a lot of nice people – check it out!

Disney World Basics – A great site for Disney World beginners.

I also maintain the blogs for 5 Disney resort fan sites. I’ve been lucky enough to stay at 3 of these on our recent trips:

PopCenturySite – Pop Century is a popular Value resort with really fun themeing spanning the 1950s to 1990s. Oftentimes you can score a room there for less than $100 a night. We stayed here in April 2010 and will return here this fall!

DisneyCaribbeanBeach – Caribbean Beach Resort is a Moderate resort with a tropical vibe and a great theme pool. We stayed here on our latest trip in October 2010.

AKLResort – What can I say about the Deluxe resort Animal Kingdom Lodge? We stayed here for our honeymoon in April 2009, and it has some of the best themeing and dining you’ll find on Disney World property. I’d stay here again in a heartbeat.

WildernessLodgeSite – Haven’t yet had the pleasure of staying at this Deluxe resort, but I’ve eaten there and marveled at its themeing. Plus, it’s close to the Magic Kingdom!

DisneyContemporary – I have to admit, writing about the Deluxe Contemporary Resort can be intimidating, seeing as it’s one of the original resorts at Disney World — you know, the one that you drive through on the Monorail! It also has my very favorite Disney World restaurant, California Grill, which I’ve eaten at twice so far.

For those of you who are interested in Disney World, I thought I’d start to do a weekly round-up of my writing so you can see what I’ve been up to.

At PopCenturySite.com, I cover Pop Century Resort Discounts. A lot of Disney World die-hards make it a game to find the best discounts possible for their vacations – as they should!

Over at Disney World Basics, I discuss Best Disney World Rides for Teens. Hint: lots and lots of thrill rides.

Over at AKLResort.com, I’ve covered What’s Your Animal Kingdom Lodge Top Tip? with tips from AKLResort’s Facebook fans.

And over at Walt Disney World for Grownups, here’s a round-up of my posts there for the last two weeks:

When to go to Disney World – What time of year is best to travel to Disney World? It’s a personal decision, but I have some tips to share on times of year with lower crowd levels, and some special events you should look at, too.

Wishes dessert party Um yeah, so… take the Magic Kingdom Wishes fireworks spectacular, add a dessert buffet, and BANG! – you’ve got a fantabulous experience.

History of Horizons at EPCOT Center Do you remember this classic attraction? Housed where Mission: SPACE stands today, Horizons closed for good in 1999.

Most romantic times of year at Disney World Anniversaries and honeymoons can take place any time of the year. But consider other times of the year, too, for a special couples-only vacation.

How-to Disney cooking videos

Just wanted to share the first 3 how-to cooking videos that my husband Brian has created for some of our favorite Disney World dishes.I apologize in advance if some of the embeds are cut off — if you’re having trouble seeing them, just click thro…

Just wanted to share the first 3 how-to cooking videos that my husband Brian has created for some of our favorite Disney World dishes.

I apologize in advance if some of the embeds are cut off — if you’re having trouble seeing them, just click through to YouTube.

First, pot roast from Liberty Tree Tavern at the Magic Kingdom:

Then, Tonga Toast from Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Resort. YUM.

And finally, the Italian Breakfast from the former Spoodles (now Kouzzina) at the Boardwalk Resort.

What do you think? Brian has been having a lot of fun playing around with iMovie.

My guest post: Disney’s California Grill

Hey y’all!I wrote a review of our 1st anniversary dinner at California Grill at Disney World’s Contemporary Resort. It would mean a lot to me if you would check it out!Here’s the link.

Hey y’all!

I wrote a review of our 1st anniversary dinner at California Grill at Disney World’s Contemporary Resort. It would mean a lot to me if you would check it out!

Here’s the link.

Amazing video of my two favorite Disney parks

These videos are absolutely beautiful and capture the essence of why I love Disney World so much.First up is a day at the Magic Kingdom.Now, a day at Epcot.Disney Parks has also added a video of a cruise on the Disney Wonder if you’re interested!

These videos are absolutely beautiful and capture the essence of why I love Disney World so much.

First up is a day at the Magic Kingdom.

Now, a day at Epcot.

Disney Parks has also added a video of a cruise on the Disney Wonder if you’re interested!

FINALIZED honeymoon plans!

Wow, so much has changed since yesterday!! First off, we changed our Disney resort reservations from Port Orleans- Riverside to Caribbean Beach. We are getting a king bed in the newly renovated Martinique section of the Caribbean Beach resort, whi…

Wow, so much has changed since yesterday!!

First off, we changed our Disney resort reservations from Port Orleans- Riverside to Caribbean Beach. We are getting a king bed in the newly renovated Martinique section of the Caribbean Beach resort, which is next to the main area that houses the dining hall, main pool, lobby, etc. Caribbean Beach was originally our first choice, but at the time we first booked, they were not able to guarantee a king bed.

The Caribbean Beach resort!

Secondly, ALL of our dining reservations have been made. I’m linking to the menus for each restaurant on allears.net. I’m also including some other small plans we have made.

Monday, April 27 – No park

Breakfast: Olivia’s Cafe at Old Key West – 9 a.m.
Lunch: Contempo Cafe at the Contemporary Resort (quick-serve – no reservations needed)
Afternoon: Mini golf at Fantasia Gardens. We get a free voucher for this with our dining plan.
Dinner: Dinner out with some of Brian’s friends who live in Orlando. This will help save some of our meal credits.

Tuesday, April 28 – Magic Kingdom

Breakfast: Kona Cafe at the Polynesian – 8:55 a.m.
Lunch: Liberty Tree Tavern at Magic Kingdom – 1 p.m.
Dinner: Citrico’s at the Grand Floridian Resort – 9 p.m. We decided to go to Citrico’s rather than Victoria & Albert’s on the advice of a Disney dining lady. She said Citrico’s is nearly as good, if not better than V&A’s and it is included on the dining plan.

Wednesday, April 29 – Epcot

Breakfast: Spoodles at the Boardwalk – 9 a.m.
Lunch: Tutto Italia at Epcot – 1 p.m.
Dinner: San Angel Inn at Epcot – 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 30 – Animal Kingdom then Hollywood Studios

Breakfast: No breakfast – just snacks!
Lunch: Yak and Yeti at Animal Kingdom – 11 a.m.
Dinner: Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios – 4:50 p.m. This is the Fantasmic Dining Experience where we get preferred seating to the Fantasmic show at 9 a.m.

Friday, May 1 – Magic Kindgom

Breakfast: Grand Floridian Cafe at the Grand Floridian – 9:40 a.m.
Lunch: Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom – 1:45 p.m.
Dinner: California Grill at the Contemporary Resort – 7:50 p.m. This is on the top floor of the Contemporary and gives a great view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks at 9 p.m.

Saturday, May 2 – Epcot

Breakfast: Captain’s Grille at the Yacht Club – 9:50 a.m.
Lunch: Rose & Crown at Epcot – 2 p.m.
Dinner: Le Cellier at Epcot – 8:25 p.m.

Sunday, May 3 – no park

Breakfast: Old Port Royale Food Court at Caribbean Beach
Lunch: Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney for the way home! We’re going to buy this on our own. We had Earl of Sandwich for the first time in West Palm Beach recently and it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had!

So that’s the schedule! As you can see we are really all about the food. I’m really glad we have 2 days apiece in Magic Kingdom and Epcot, because I know all the table services will take up more time.

Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios have just a few attractions we’re interested in. If we get bored at Magic Kingdom or Epcot on Friday and Saturday, we may go back to HS or AK, but I doubt it. We are really all about Epcot and Magic Kingdom, and there’s still a few attractions at each that I’ve never done before, so we want to be sure to cover all of them.

We are both so amped for this trip it’s not even funny! I don’t see how we’re going to have time for anything we’re put on our registry, like a couple’s massage, boating, a carriage ride, and private golf lessons. But there’s no guarantee we’ll have enough funds put in our registry to pay for any of that. We’ll just have to see how it goes!

-K

Disney honeymoon plans and meal reservations!

I am so excited because starting tomorrow, we will be able to make all of our meal reservations at Disney World for our honeymoon!!I don’t have the exact schedule of where we are eating each day with me, but we are doing pretty much every meal as …

I am so excited because starting tomorrow, we will be able to make all of our meal reservations at Disney World for our honeymoon!!

I don’t have the exact schedule of where we are eating each day with me, but we are doing pretty much every meal as table service , because we can! We have the Deluxe Dining Plan which takes care of 3 table services and 2 snacks per day, along with some other goodies and a refillable mug that can be used at any soda fountain in the resorts.

We are checking in Monday and won’t be going to any parks that day since we’ll be driving overnight and probably be pretty exhausted! We also have a voucher for free mini golf so we’ll probably do that Monday afternoon. And if we end up getting the couple’s massage that is on our registry, I would like to get that Monday too.

Magic Kingdom and Epcot are our favorite parks so we’ll be spending the majority of our time there.

Tuesday: Magic Kingdom
Wednesday: Epcot
Thursday: Animal Kingdom/ Hollywood Studios
Friday: Magic Kingdom
Saturday: Epcot

So far we have made 2 meal reservations that were able to be made before the 90-day mark:

1. Tuesday: dinner reservations at Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridian, which is not a part of the dining plan. because it is so pricey. We have it on our registry though, so maybe someone will contribute toward our meal!

2. Friday: lunch reservations at Cinderella’s Royal Table at MK. I hear this is a great meal!

The rest will be made tomorrow. Brian will be on the phone with them at 8 a.m., wish us luck that the scheduling works out for us!

-K

Hair & makeup, honeymoon registry

Our florist that we have decided on (All Island Flowers in Orange Beach, Ala.) recommended a hairdresser to my mom. His name is Bryan Kersey at The Platinum Door in Orange Beach — boo, no Web site! He does a free trial run if you book him for the…

Our florist that we have decided on (All Island Flowers in Orange Beach, Ala.) recommended a hairdresser to my mom. His name is Bryan Kersey at The Platinum Door in Orange Beach — boo, no Web site! He does a free trial run if you book him for the wedding, so my mom went ahead and booked him.

The florist also recommended Top Nails at The Wharf, so I think we’re going to plan the morning/afternoon of the wedding around being at The Wharf. I found a restaurant called Ginny Lane Bar & Grill that does champagne brunch on the weekends from 10-2 (with complimentary mimosas — orange, cranberry or pineapple!). Their menu looks super yummy and the entrees are very reasonably priced.

So, my mom and I just decided that we will have our mom & bridesmaid brunch there, since a lot of the girls aren’t getting into town until Friday night. Then we will all get our nails done at Top Nails, then get our hair & makeup done at The Platinum Door, which is very close to The Wharf.

I’m just so excited and relieved to get a lot of these smaller details taken care of!

-K

Our Disney Honeymoon!

It looks like we can take a boat from Port Orleans – Riverside over to Downtown Disney, as evidenced by the photo to the right.We will arrive at Disney in the a.m. on April 27, and we plan to hang out at Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM) while they…

Brian put down the deposit on our Disney World honeymoon this weekend. We have a FREE dining plan and we got an upgrade to Park Hopper for very cheap.

We are staying at the Port Orleans Riverside resort. It is a moderate Disney resort near Epcot and Downtown Disney. It has about a bazillion pools. I think the photo to the left is the main resort pool.

We are going to start a Disney Honeymoon registry and put a few things on it like dinner at Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridian resort, which isn’t included on the Disney Dining Plan because it’s super $$$. I also want to add a massage at the Grand Floridian, the Mickey & Minnie wedding ears, and a Disney PhotoPass CD. We may also register for golf lessons, mini golf, and/or a fishing excursion.

I am just so excited about going to Disney for the honeymoon. I used to think that things like a Disney wedding or honeymoon were redneck or cheesy, but Brian has really taught me to embrace what it is I really love and just do what it is I want to do, regardless of what the Joneses think.

It looks like we can take a boat from Port Orleans – Riverside over to Downtown Disney, as evidenced by the photo to the right.

We will arrive at Disney in the a.m. on April 27, and we plan to hang out at Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM) while they get our hotel room ready. We definitely plan to spend full days at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, our two favorite parks. I’d also like to spend a full day in Animal Kingdom as we were only there for a half-day in 2006.

So excited and am really looking forward to it!

-K