Sunshine Villa Florida

Do I Need A Disney Magic Band?

Disney has always been at the forefront of using innovative technology in their parks.  MagicBands are just one.  Those brightly coloured bands are cute, and some even collectable but they do serve some important functions.

How do they work?

Despite being called “magic” bands, there is certainly no magic behind them. It’s a technology called RFID or Radio Frequency Identification.  Inside your band are 2 different type of antennae:  a long range & short range.

The short range is what interacts with touch points like the Mickey heads that light up when you tap it with your band at places like the FastPass+ lines.  The long range is what is used to track guests for things such as crowd trends, to ride photo’s.

You will need to activate your band through your My Disney Experience App.

What can my MagicBand do?

  • Scan it to gain entry into any of the Disney parks
  • Redeem your FastPass+ reservations
  • Link photo pass images to your My Disney Experience account
  • Unlock the door to your Disney Resort hotel room
  • Charge items to your Disney Resort hotel room
  • Redeem Disney Dining Plan credits

Do I need a MagicBand if I am not staying on Disney property?

A MagicBand isn’t necessary however, as someone who never stays onsite I do find it extremely convenient.  Gone are the days of rummaging through my bag looking for my park ticket, panic setting in thinking I had lost it, all this while holding up the line for people behind me with bands on!

Although it’s not necessary as you still do most things that guests with MagicBands do with your park ticket, I do suggest a magic band for the sheer convenience.   Plus, they are super cute & fun to wear while you scan your way through the parks.

How much do they cost?

MagicBands start at $14.99US for a solid colour band, and could go upwards to $29.99 for Limited Edition bands like this one. 

Annual Pass holders and guests staying at a Disney resort will get a standard band at no cost.

Do they have bands for children?

The MagicBand was designed as a one fits all. They are adjustable to fit small wrists.

Is my personal information safe?

Little information is stored on the MagicBand itself. Disney claims that each band is assigned a random code that securely links to an encrypted database. As an extra level of protection, each band also has a personalized PIN number attached to it.

You can read more about the privacy and safety of the bands on Disney’s website here

Some other cool features of the MagicBands:

  • One size fits all
  • Waterproof
  • You can have multiple bands activated at once
  • Reusable
  • Multiple colours, designs & limited edition bands
  • Customizable

We hope we’ve helped you with your decision on whether or not a MagicBand is for you.

What is your favourite MagicBand to wear in the parks?

Santa At Disney Springs

santa claus

Once again, Santa will be at Disney Springs for the ultimate HO-HO encounter!

From now through to December 24, 2019, Santa and his helpers will be mixing, mingling, and jingling with Guests of all ages—naughty or nice! Just head over to their charming Christmas Tree Trail chalet at the Disney Springs Marketplace with your smile and camera.

Meeting Santa’s Easy… Here’s How:

  • Check in at the podium
  • Give your mobile phone number to one of Santa’s helpers
  • Shop, eat and enjoy the hustle ‘n’ bustle of the Marketplace
  • Upon receiving a text message from Santa’s helpers, return to the podium within 10 minutes
  • Take your place in line to meet Santa!

Santa’s schedule is Sunday-Saturday 11AM-11PM

Don’t forget to hit up the Christmas Tree Trail again this year. You don’t want to miss the multiple themed trees from your favourite Disney movies and characters like Mickey, Frozen, Haunted Mansion, Mary Poppins and more!

*Image courtesy of Disney

Trick Or Treating In Orlando

trick or treating in orlando

Visiting Orlando during Halloween and want to experience trick or treating?  We’ve come up with a list of fabulous and free events in & around the Orlando area where you can take your little ghouls and goblins out for some Halloween fun!

First up is Halloween at Old Town 5770 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy
Kissimmee FL, 34746:

Bring your bags and stop by one of the many candy stations and participating merchants to load up on sugary treats.

Stay and participate in the annual costume contest.  Judging is based on audience participation but everyone will walk away a winner for trying out.  Contests will include different age groups.

Trick or Treating and the costume contests are FREE for all ages.

Trick or Treating: Oct 31 5:00-7:00 (or while supplies last)

Costume Contest: Oct 31 7:00-8:00 at the Old Town Main Stage

Full details here

2. HALLOWEENFEST, Plant Street, Winter Garden:

October 31st 6:00-8:00pm

Trick or Treat along Plant St with the downtown merchants featuring live entertainment, local vendors and family activities: Hay maze & free crafts!

Full details here

trick or treating in orlando

3. SPOOKY HOLLOW, Sanford, FL

October 31st 6:00-8:00

Trick or treat with the downtown vendors on First St & Magnolia Square in downtown Sanford

Carnival games, prizes & surprises

Costume contest at 7:00 & 7:30 by age groups in Magnolia Square

Full details here

4. HALLOWEEN @ CRANES ROOST, 274 Cranes Roost Blvd.
Altamonte Springs, FL 32701

October 31st 5:00-9:00

The event features:

  • Trick or treating around the lake for candy and goodies
  • Costume contests
  • Kids’ games and activities
  • Live music and dance performances

5. PUMPKINS & MUNCHKINS TRICK OR TREAT TRAIL, in Winter Park:

Oct 31 6:30-8:30 in Shady Park at Hannibal Square, Winter Park FL, 32789

This free event will have a ton of activities including games, bounce houses, a costume contest, Trick-or-Treat Trail, and lots of fun for the entire family!

Full details here

Happy Halloween!

Losing A Child In The Disney Crowds

lost children at disney

How to handle a lost child in Walt Disney World

This has got to be one of the most terrifying moments a parent could go through.  And in a place surrounded by thousands of people, it’s quite often that a child loses their way.  I am going to share some tips with you that will help keep your child safe, or know how to handle one that is missing

  1. Help your children identify Cast Members:  Before you enter the park, stop and have a discussion with the kids in your party.  Tell them that if they lose sight of you, the first thing they should do is to find a cast member and explain how to look for them. Ie: name tag, uniform.
  2. Pick a meeting area:  During the above conversation, select a meeting area that is easy to recognize.  If your child gets lost and they are old enough, when they find a cast member they can tell them I am to meet my mom at XX location and the cast member can take them there safely.
  3. Don’t panic.  This may be a tough one but you need to think calmly and get prepared to follow all of the necessary steps and provide the necessary details and information you will need to seek help to find your child. 
  4. Find the nearest cast member:  Immediately notify the nearest cast member that your child is lost.  Disney has a process in place for these situations and will put it in motion after the child is reported missing.  Every ride operator & cast member will keep an eye out for the child
  5. Be prepared to give a description:  Look back at those photos and tell the cast members exactly what your child is wearing and what they look like to help them definitively identify the child while they are also looking
  6. Stay in the last place you saw them:  Chances are they are not very far from the last place you were together.  Stay visible in the last place you saw them as they are likely close by
  7. Send other adults to look :  if you have other adults in your party, there is no sense is staying together.  Get them to go to your designated meeting spot while you wait with a cast member.
  8. Don’t be too hard on yourself:  It can be easy to beat yourself up when something like this happens.  But know that it can happen to the best of us, especially in a world full of wonder and magic.  It’s easy for kids to stray and get lost in the crowd rather quickly.

If the child cannot be reunited with the parents in the immediate area, the child may be escorted to “Lost child room” which is an inviting, fun area fully stocked with Disney movies and staffed with professional care workers who do their best to help your child feel safe.

Where are the Lost Child Rooms Located?

Magic Kingdom – right next to the First Aid Center on Main Street on the left walking towards Cinderella’s Castle.

Animal Kingdom – located on the way to Africa – on the left-hand side just past Pizzafari restaurant and before the bridge.

EPCOT – located in the Odyssey Center between Test Track and the Showcase Plaza.

Hollywood Studios – located on the left as you enter the park via the main entrance.  

I hope these tips will help you and your children enjoy a magical vacation.

7.5 Acre Crystal Lagoon In Central Florida

The Tampa area is home to a crystal blue 7.5-acre man-made lagoon and beach featuring a 6 million gallon swimming pool that will stretch the length of five football fields.  The crystal-clear bodies of water are unique because the water is clarified using a patented ultrasonic filtration technology

The expansive pool is surrounded by white sand beaches, and many features including a swim-up bar, cabana cove, floating obstacle course, giant slide, rock climbing wall, surf shop & more!  

Here you can enjoy your watersport activities like kayaking and paddle boarding without worrying a massive wave will hit you or even worse, encounter an alligator. The wading pool on Gasparilla Island is perfect for children, as well as a pavilion that offers games and music.  There is even a calendar chock full of daily activities like water aerobics and live music.

If you just want to relax, rent a private cabana and enjoy the views while being served your favourite drink.

Once only open to residents, Crystal Lagoon is now open to the public for all to enjoy.

Admission is $20/person, $10 for the slide or rock wall, $90 cabana rental $15 for double chair rental or $20 for quad.

*Images courtesy of Crystal Lagoons

New Ice Cream Parlour At Regal Palms!

ice cream

Florida is the Sunshine State and what’s the best way to cool down on a hot Florida day? Well ice cream of course!

Frankie Farrells opened earlier this year serving up some delicious meals and pool side snacks and they are now serving up some sweet, cool treats to go along with it!  The new Ice Cream Parlour is now open offering soft serve ice cream in a cup, cake or waffle cone, sundaes and milkshakes.  It’s open to the public, so you don’t need to be a guest in order to enjoy the cool new treats.  And it just so happens that July is National Ice Cream month so stop on by and cool off with a refreshing treat!

Some fun ice cream facts:

  • It takes about 50 licks to finish a single scoop ice cream cone
  • Brain freeze occurs when ice cream touches the roof of your mouth
  • California produces the most ice cream in the US
  • New Zealand consumes the most ice cream world wide

Visit here for more fun ice cream facts!

Why Does Disney Scan Our Fingerprints & Should We Be Concerned?

Disney has been using biometrics as part of their entry system since 2013.  Merrian Webster defines biometrics as the measurement and analysis of unique physical or behavioral characteristics (such as fingerprint or voice patterns) especially as a means of verifying personal identity”

Disney is not the only organization who uses biometrics.  Orlando International Airport recently announced implementing small facial recognition stations to verify the identities of all incoming and outgoing travelers, including U.S. citizens.

In Disney’s case, to enter a park, all guests from age 3+ are requested to scan their ticket media (or your Magic Band) and then place their finger onto a scanner to confirm your ID.

But why? More importantly, are there any implications on our personal privacy?  You can find the answers to this and more here:

Essentially, Disney scans fingers as a preventative measure against fraud, and matches your ticket, to you and you only.  Disney discards the measurements and uses a tag ID instead.

Disney explains this on their site:

We offer the convenience of Ticket Tag at the entrance of many of our theme parks and water parks. Ticket Tag helps to facilitate ease of re-entry into our parks and helps prevent fraud.  In order to use Ticket Tag, you simply place your finger on a reader. The system, which utilizes the technology of biometrics, takes an image of your finger, converts the image into a unique numerical value and immediately discards the image. The numerical value is recalled when you use Ticket Tag with the same ticket to re-enter or visit another Park. Ticket Tag does not store fingerprints.

The security, integrity and confidentiality of your information are extremely important to us. We have implemented technical, administrative and physical security measures that are designed to protect guest information from unauthorized access, disclosure, use and modification. From time to time, we review our security procedures to consider appropriate new technology and methods. Please be aware that, despite our best efforts, no security measures are perfect or impenetrable.

So there you have it.  According to Disney there is no need to be concerned about privacy, but if you still feel uneasy about it, you can always opt out.

Express Train Will Connect Miami And Orlando By 2022

virgin express train orlando

Exciting news for the cities of Orlando and Miami as Virgin Trains USA starts a new project in Florida.  An express train that will connect Orlando and Miami in just 3 hours while riders enjoy a fast, clean ride with food and drink service and Wi-Fi.

Virgin Trains broke ground on its station at Orlando International Airport’s Intermodal Terminal on June 24th, a project that will be completed by 2022.  It will connect existing rail service in South Florida with new tracks in Central Florida, creating a rail line between Orlando and Miami.

The project includes about 170 miles of new track that will be built over the next three years by more than 10,000 construction workers, which Virgin Trains calls the largest private infrastructure project in the nation.

On those new tracks, the train will reach speeds of 125 miles per hour between Cocoa and Orlando.

According to a breaking piece from the Orlando Sentinel, a station at Walt Disney World, as well as a link with SunRail’s Meadow Wood station are set to open at about the same time as Virgin Train USA’s Orlando airport station. “It’s our expectation to get it done and to build out to Disney,” Virgin Trains president Patrick Goddard said about the lines. Construction is expected to take between 30 to 36 months. And so you know they’re serious, Goddard also mentioned that Virgin Trains signed a letter of intent with Disney last year.

What’s particularly attractive about this project is the opportunities it will create for visitors who now can jump on a train in the morning after visiting Orlando attractions like Disney World or Universal Studios and be relaxing on South Beach by the afternoon.

With Miami International Airport being a leader in international visitors, who are used to taking trains in their home countries, and Orlando International Airport leading in domestic visitors to Central Florida’s amusement parks, there’s a natural synergy for linking the two airports with a train.

Additionally, it will also provide relief for local travelers who will be able to choose whether they want to deal with highway traffic to get from one city to another.

*Image courtesy of Virgin Trains USA

6 Ways To Stay Cool In The Parks

6 WAYS TO BEAT THE ORLANDO SUMMER HEAT

Snowbirds like to visit Florida during the winter months to escape the cold in exchange for some Southern heat. But for people who are parents like me, we prefer to visit the parks during summer break when the kids aren’t in school. But that likely means sweltering, humid temperatures. So how do you deal with the Florida summer temps? Well we’ve come up with 6 ways to beat the Orlando heat this summer.

  1. Resort Pool

If one thing is certain about visiting Orlando during the summer, it is that you’re going to need to spend some time in the pool. Luckily for those who stay with us, they will have full access to the community pool.  It features a zero entry for your little ones, a ripping water slide, and lazy river in a lush tropical setting.  Disney properties also have several pools at their resorts to cool off.

  1. Cold & frozen treats

Icy treats are the perfect accessory on a hot summer day. While at the parks, you can indulge in one of the many frozen or cold food and beverage options available to purchase. You can find some satisfying sweets or icy beverages dining locations and carts scattered throughout the theme parks. My personal favourite – Dole Whip! Another (non-park) personal favourite is Twistee Treats. You can spot these cone shaped buildings scattered around the Orlando area and they offer creamy soft serve ice cream in a combination of flavours. Don’t forget you can also visit our onsite restaurant Frankie Farrells for a cool beverage.

  1. Indoor attractions & entertainment

When you aren’t soaking up the sun at pool, chances are you’re in one of the theme parks. Although many of the attractions and entertainment are outdoors, there are plenty of indoor options in each park that are out of the sun and into the air conditioning.

Many of the classic attractions at the Magic Kingdom such as The Haunted MansionPirates of the Caribbean, and, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, are perfect for visiting on a hot day. It’s a great way to relax and enjoy some of the old school attractions that you may not have experienced in a while.  Don’t forget our resort has an indoor arcade that you can escape to when in need of some A/C and some gaming fun.

  1. Cooling Towels

Cooling towels are re-usable chamois like cloths that absorb water, but does not drip wet, thus keep you cool and dry.  We always bring them with us to the parks.  You can wet them throughout the day and drape them over your neck or head to provide relief from the blistering heat.

We happen to own Frogg Toggs, and they work great, but there are many brands on the market some of which stay cool for hours. They are also machine washable.

  1. Frozen water

Luckily Disney permits guests to bring in their own food and drinks.  We happen to use a cooler bag that is from the Disney store to carry our drinks.  We freeze plenty of water bottles the night before, and they gradually thaw out through the day providing cool refreshments all day long.  This is a double whammy because it will also save some money on buying water in the parks.  Win win.

  1. Reservations

If you take away 1 piece of advice from this article, let it be this one.  Assuming you are spending at least 1 day at a theme park during your visit to Orlando, spending all day outside in 30+ degree weather while the hot sun is beaming down can make you hot, sweaty, cranky & hungry.  We used to have lunch by lining up in the scorching sun waiting to order our food at one of the quick service places, and then if you were lucky (I mean really lucky) you’ll find an outdoor table in the shade.  Never again.

Make dining reservations in advance through your My Disney Experience app at one of the many restaurants located throughout the parks. It allows you to cool down, re-charge and get you ready to hit the attractions again.

Don’t forget to check out our many other great tips on our blog!

Saharan Dust. What Is It And Should You Be Concerned?

saharan dust

If you are in Florida at the moment, you may have noticed how hazy it’s been the last couple days.  That’s because there’s a layer of Saharan dust over Florida that travelled through the atmosphere all the way from the Sahara Desert. That’s an amazing 5,000-mile-long journey!

Known as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), this dry dust plume commonly forms from late spring through early fall, moving out into the tropical Atlantic Ocean about every three to five days, according to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division (HRD).  The HRD says the SAL is typically located between 5,000 and 20,000 feet above the Earth’s surface. It is transported westward by bursts of strong winds and tropical waves located in the central and western Atlantic Ocean at altitudes between 6,500 and 14,500 feet.

Saharan dust is nothing new. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, strong winds can transport dust several thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean, tracking as far west as Texas.

So is it a good thing? We’ve broken it down for you.

The Bad:

Day-time skies may appear a little hazy. You may even notice a little orange dust on your car.

In high doses, Saharan dust can be dangerous. The extremely fine particulates can pose a hazard to those with sensitive lungs, frequently prompting the National Weather Service to issue air-quality alerts. This time around, the aerosol’s concentration is low enough to stay below any threshold for concern.

Iron in the dust can act as a fertilizer, helping trigger a localized red tide bloom.  A study by NOAA & NASA showed that dust from the plains of Africa contains high levels of iron. When this dust settles in the Gulf, a bacteria called Trichodesium converts the iron into nitrogen. Then nitrogen acts as a fertilizer for karenia brevis, the dinoflagellate responsible for red tide.  During the study, the large amount of Saharan Dust arrived on July 1st and by October, red tide had developed in the area with biologically-accessible nitrogen.

This Saharan Dust may end up having no impact on red tide in the Gulf this summer and fall, but it should be one of the variables to watch.  Furthermore, it takes time for this entire process to occur. Even if this current increase in Saharan Dust does have an impact, it could take months to see red tide develop in the impacted area.

The Good:

The arrival of Saharan dust might be good news for Gulf Coast residents & visitors alike, particularly those beleaguered by a destructive 2018 hurricane season. The reason? Saharan dust tends to quell Atlantic hurricane activity.  It’s not the dust that does it per se but, rather, that the dust is a tracer embedded in a layer of desert air. Having air that dry in the middle atmosphere puts a damper on any attempts for a tropical cyclone to form.

Saharan Dust makes for beautiful, vivid sunsets.

You can track the Saharan Air Layer here.

*Image via WINK News