How to surprise your kids with their first Disney trip!

We all love to surprise our children with treats from time to time, and one of the best surprises can be their first trip to Walt Disney World! But how many of you have heard stories of parents who planned and saved and “kept the secret” until the day of the Big Reveal, and got the video camera ready… only to be met with blank stares from the kids, when they heard the big news? It happens more often than you think!

The secret is all in preparing your kids for the trip, without them knowing! Young children especially love familiar things (Read that book again, Daddy!), so your surprise will be that much more wonderful when they are already familiar with some Disney World information. Here are some ideas to help prepare your children:

Order the Walt Disney World planning DVD. It’s free! When you watch with your kids, tell them you’ll go there “someday”.

Watch youtube videos of some of the rides and parades you plan to experience.

Many young children have seen the recent Disney movies like Toy Story and Monsters Inc., but it’s great to have them watch the classics like Dumbo, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland, so they’ll be excited when they see those characters in the parks too.

Listen to Sorcerer Radio online ( or on your smartphone. They play music from the parks and resorts all the time!

Download classic songs from the rides. “It’s a Small World”, “Grim Grinning Ghosts”, and “Zippity Doo Dah” are some great ones to start.

With a little preparation for the children, your surprise vacation can be a big hit!

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If you have any questions, or would like help to make a magical vacation for your children, contact me at or call 800-670-4312 Ext. 140 and use my FREE planning services! I’d love to help make your family’s Disney dreams come true!

A Tour of the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World

Tucked in a quiet corner of Liberty Square, in the back of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, is a stately manor with a rather spooky feel. Come visit Disney’s Haunted Mansion, home to 999 Happy Haunts (there’s room for one more ~ any volunteers?).

The outside of the mansion is what you might find in the Hudson River Valley of New York and is perched on a hill overlooking the Rivers of America. It was important to Walt Disney that nothing inside of the Magic Kingdom would look run down or shabby so the mansion itself is quite beautiful.


As with many Disney attractions the experience begins in the queue. As you walk up to the front of the mansion an old, worn out, horse drawn hearse greets you with a taste of what’s to come. The queue includes an interactive pipe organ, a musical crypt, stone busts and infamous headstones such as “Here Lies Good Old Fred ~ A Great Big Rock Fell On His Head” and “In Memorium Uncle Myall ~ Here You’ll Lie – For Quite A While”.


These tombstones are all nods to those imagineers and artists who contributed to the Haunted Mansion and the early years of Walt Disney World.


You are greeted at the door by the housekeeper or butler and enter into the foyer of the mansion. Don’t rush through this room, take time to watch the portrait over the fireplace and take in the décor. We also meet our Ghost Host who will be our tour guide along the way. He invites us into the next room which contains portraits that look normal enough until the room begins to stretch (or is it just your imagination?). Is the ceiling moving up or is the floor moving down? This room at the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland moves one way while the room at Walt Disney World moves the other direction. Can you figure it out? When the doors open move forward, don’t drag behind or the gargoyles on the wall will whisper for you to “get out”.

You will now board a Doom Buggy, an egg shaped vehicle with sound speakers, for the rest of your visit. Beginning your tour in the portrait gallery, the pictures eerily follow you on your journey down the hallway. This hallway leads to another hallway, this one without an end and with many ghosts who are dying to get out. Then in the conservatory you find you are a bit too late for a funeral.

In the next room you will attend a séance with Madame Leota. Named after Disney imagineer Leota Toombs, you might recognize Madame Leota’s voice as the same voice as Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. Here creepies and crawlies are summoned as you join in the séance and are sent a message from somewhere beyond.

Your next stop on the tour will be to the ballroom. This is an area full of details and no matter how many times you visit the mansion there will always be something new to see here. Your Ghost Host invites you to this swinging wake so sit back in your Doom Buggy and enjoy the party. Notice the place setting at the far left hand side of the banquet table – it’s in the shape of our favorite mouse! The organ is a replica of Captain Nemo’s organ in the Disney film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Look up and down and all around this room – these ghosts know how to celebrate!

Moving into the attic you meet the bride who’s had her fair share of grooms. Something seems to have happened to all of them leaving her with wedding gifts and a heavy (and loud) heart.

Your Doom Buggy will now leave the mansion and take you through the graveyard. Here you’ll meet spooks and ghosts singing along with the Haunted Mansion’s theme song, Grim Grinning Ghosts. Can you find the grim reaper by the opera singers? Look for the cloth he is holding and you’ll see yet another Hidden Mickey.

Passing out of the graveyard you are told to hurry back and to be sure and bring your death certificate. Our friendly Ghost Host catches up with us here for his farewells. I’ll leave you some surprises but one word of caution – beware of hitchhiking ghosts!

The Haunted Mansion is a fun, tongue in cheek look at the spirit world. While there are a few loud noises and dark scenes that may be scary for young children, overall this is a light hearted experience that is one of the most beloved attractions at Walt Disney World. It is so detailed that each time you experience the attraction you will see something new. This is Disney Imagineering at its best!

My name is Susan Heidenrich and I am a Disney Destination Specialist with Travel with the Magic. I’d love to help your family plan their dream Disney vacation. Contact me at You can also follow me on facebook

Who knew Terror could be so much fun

I don’t know if it’s my love of Hollywood or my love for Disney but when I took part in the Tower of Terror attraction I was taken from 2012 to 1939. I’m not sure if you know the premise behind this incredible attraction so let me fill you in. This Twilight Zone Inspired attraction feels true to life as you enter. The story goes something along the lines of 5 unfortunate souls are at the Hollywood Hotel on Halloween night in 1939, they are in the hotel elevator when a storm come through and they are never seen again…strange yes, but it makes for an incredible attraction that often has long wait times. The fastpass is a definite to insure your ticket on the mysterious elevator.
As you approach the ride you will walk through a dusty library that looks abandoned and you will be greeted by a bell hop however it is not your normal friendly greeting so prepare yourself for great acting and a feeling of terror. It’s fun but I must say every time I ride this ride I get that scary feeling in my stomach. The fun kind but definitely a sense of “Do I really want to get on this elevator”?
When the ride opens and you enter the elevator you will buckle in be ready for a ride, a fun little fact is that you never have the same sequence so you can ride time and time again and never be able to tell weather your going up or down. As the ride starts you get start in complete darkness, when the door opens you will find yourself in the the hallway which explains the unfortunate event that lost 5 souls. You will not know if your dropping to the ground or sailing  13 stories to the top of the elevator. It is really the ride of a lifetime and one that makes great memories, I would suggest not eating before you ride it. It is definitely a ride for people of all ages however it might be a little much for children under 9.
When you finish the ride and are “released” back to the real world you will go through a gift shop filled with lots of memorable trinkets  don’t forget to take a look at your picture from the ride, even if you do not purchase it, it is sure to make your day!
If you would like some help getting to Hollywood Studios please contact me for help at 1-800-397-4674.
Amy Blades