This first post (of a two-part series) about my travels during my term on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel covers the first year of my tenure. Stay tuned to find out about sailing with Mickey on Disney Cruise Line!
The Walt Disney World Moms Panel has become the ultimate experience for Disney fans who want to share pixie dust with other guests by answering vacation planning questions on www.DisneyWorldMoms.com. As a glorious by-product, these Mouse-loving moms and dads also get to do a good bit of traveling to Disney parks, resorts, ships and destinations in order to attend press events, produce videos and commercials and make public appearances. Plus, they also use any and every excuse in the book to see each other as well as meet up at their “happy place.”
For me, my journey began a little over two years ago, as I traveled to Walt Disney World for the first time by myself. Our training week was fantastic as our group was treated to special VIP access to attractions, venues, experiences and even a tour of the Utilidor – the underground “backstage” area of the Magic Kingdom.
Shortly after settling back into reality at home, I received a call to request that I represent the panel at the annual Resort Showcase at Walt Disney World. This was an opportunity for media from all over the world to see and experience what was new and next at the parks and resorts, and I was afforded the chance to spend time with two other panelists – Terry from South Carolina and Joanne from Ontario. In addition, a few more panelists were there for the Social Media Moms Conference, and we were invited to a few of their events, too.
After the 22 of us became acquainted at training, we couldn’t help but devise a way that we could spend time together again soon. So, in February 2010, several of us from the Southeast met up at Amy Rueffert’s restaurant and inn in the mountains of North Georgia for a mini-reunion. Amy’s husband, Hans, is a fabulous chef, and it was a chance for our children to meet and become friends, too.
For our family’s Spring Break that year, we had already planned for a trip to Disney World and were so excited to meet up with another panelist, Dannee from Indiana, and her family. Each of our kids became fast friends, and we made special memories together that week. Later that spring, my husband was scheduled to attend a business conference at the Yacht Club, so we made plans to enjoy the Pirates & Pals Fireworks Voyage with Marc from New York, Allison from Georgia and Suzannah from Florida. It was amazing how these combined experiences brought us closer together as a group and began to create such a beautiful kaleidoscope of memories for which I now treasure.
Rumors started over the summer that many of the Moms Panelists were going to run in the Halloween 5K or the Wine & Dine ½ Marathon the weekend of our Disney Moms Panel Reunion in October. I quickly brushed off the offers with my usual, “I don’t run.” Then, with a little encouragement (and a few challenges) from my fellow panelists and family members, I reluctantly agreed. I did it all in the name of Give Kids the World – a local Orlando charity which provides amazing vacations for chronically ill children and their families. Yet, it’s what kicked me into gear, and I haven’t stopped running yet. (Since I’m from Alabama, you can insert a visual of ‘Forrest Gump’ here.)
Upon my return from the Moms Panel Reunion Weekend, I came home for one day and was back on a plane the next traveling to the Latina Media Week showcasing Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts to Hispanic travel writers and bloggers from the US and Mexico. Like always, the Public Relations Team at Walt Disney World scheduled incredible experiences, delectable dining and basically just showed off! We were treated to a rare, behind-the-scenes peak into the Holiday Services Department and even got to take home a souvenir ornament. I met such wonderful people and made life-long friends. It was like training week again, but I served as a hostess instead of a guest – providing tours and information and giving the writers story and photo ideas tailored to their readers. Carol (NYCityMama.com) and Sylvia (DisneyLandiaalDia.com) were two of my mommy blogger friends I made that week and still keep in touch with. I loved showing them my Disney World!
In November during our Thanksgiving break, I snuck over to Atlanta with three of my kids one day to spend some time with one of my dearest friends on the panel, Allison. She and I have become so close that we sort of have developed our own language, and it’s been incredibly enriching to have her in my life. Our families have become close, and she is the greatest “swag” I’ve ever received from being a member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel.
To cap off 2010, my family and I scheduled my Disney Moms Panel reward trip for the week in which our Alabama Crimson Tide was playing in the Capitol One Bowl in Orlando. We enjoyed a week of visiting the parks but also loved the entertainment and recreation opportunities throughout the property that we don’t normally take the time to do – DisneyQuest, mini-golf at Winter Summerland and Fantasia Gardens and Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. The time at Walt Disney World during the holidays also allowed me the chance to catch up with a few more panelists including some “newbies” who had just been through training in preparation for the 2011 term. My family and I actually rung in the New Year watching the most amazing spectacle of fireworks at the Magic Kingdom to fittingly symbolize the mind-blowing year we would experience in 2011.
Although I am a member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, my opinions do not represent Disney, and I received a week’s vacation for my family and me at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida for my 2010 term on the panel.