From Paper to Pixels: How Walt Disney World Resort Planning Has Evolved by Rachel Horsley

1983 Tickets Front

*Setting out to write this post, I wanted to explore how Disney Vacation Planning has changed in the last 30 years. But, what my research led me to was so much more. Some of my first, and favorite, Walt Disney World Resort memories took place before I ever set-foot on Main Street USA.

I take after my father. I’m a planner. And when I say “planner,” I don’t mean, “Today I plan to…”  I mean, buy the book, make a spreadsheet and PLAN. That’s not to say I can’t be flexible when life’s more “challenging” moments intervene. I just like to have as much information as possible when decisions need to be made (whether 180 days or 18 minutes before)

One evening in early 1983,my dad was hard at work at the dining room table, paging through a book and making notes in his green ledger. Asking what he was working on, I learned we were going to vacation at the “Happiest Place on Earth.” And, in order to take full advantage, it would require planning.  I love this memory.

birnbaumsThe book was Birnbaum’s The Best of Walt Disney World 1983, and my father was planning every detail. I love paging through it, seeing his notes for dining and prime park hours. His final product was a very detailed (and hand written) plan for 4.5 days broken into 15 minute increments. Our last day was left open to repeat our favorites.

rachel age 7Rachel (age 7) with Figment and Dreamfinder

Epcot had only opened the year before, and my dad made sure we saw everything on offer. I met Figment AND Dreamfinder. We toured The Land and traveled the world (showcase.)And most importantly, at the newly revealed Horizons attraction, I learned that “if you can dream it, then you can do it!” Yes I can!

king stefansKing Stefan’s Banquet

At the Magic Kingdom, his plan was near perfect. The only line, in which I recall waiting, was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (and really, who didn’t wait in that line?) We dined with royalty at King Stefan’s Banquet, and Had Wings with Eastern Airlines (you’re singing the song now, aren’t you? I’ll wait…)

Such a near flawless vacationleft a real impression on me.I learned that a little planning goes a long way and a lot of planning means you don’t have to wait in line for Dumbo, the flying elephant.  Never once did we get lost. There were no fights about what we were going to do next, and when we were hungry there was a table waiting for us nearby. Truth be told, my bother’s ear infection on day 2 and a sudden cold snap were the only hiccups.

My father’s tools were a mechanical pencil, a single paperback book and a green accounting ledger. I’m humbled when I think of the detail he managed with just these.

booksA sample of some of my favorite planning tools!

I’m lucky to have far more (and more accessible) tools in my war chest. for crowd information, Disboards and AllEars for (sometimes instant) updates and reviews, countless blogs (like, Excel and a laptop all enable my passion for Disney planning.

gridPlan from our last vacation

Until last year, I had printed (and laminated) itineraries for myself & others, the old fashioned way. Today, they are viewed via Dropbox from smart phones anywhere,anytime. Meanwhile, apps like TripIt and PackingPro have made tracking and packing a cinch.

And don’t even get me started on how texting has revolutionized the “meet-up mix-up.” You know, when you agree to meet at the castle (or wherever) at an appointed time. Inevitably, someone is late,in the wrong place, or they’ve come and gone. Now I just text, “Where the heck are you?” and go about my day, instead of standing there like an idiot wondering which of the above has happened.

MyDisneyExperience, FastPass+ and Magic Bands promise planners ever more options and possibilities.  Scheduling a FastPass+ for Toy Story Midway Mania vs. participating in the daily rope-drop cattle drive to Pixar Place? Don’t mind if I do! Keeping all my ADR’s & plans in the same place with the official maps and wait times? Sign me up!

rachelFamily Picture

Sadly, that vacation would be our last as a family. The next year my parents would divorce and I my beloved castle would elude me for a dozen years. For this, and countless other, reasons I’m thankful my dad worked so hard to make our Walt Disney World Resort vacation “practically perfect in every way” …and for teaching me how to work a good plan!

* Here’s the bonus…he saved everything! Coming up next…A Trip Report 30 Years in the Making!

Boggy Creek Airboat Rides by Contributing Author Jane Glanville-Duckworth aka British Disney Diva

boggy1The majority of visitors to the Orlando area won’t appreciate that the Central Florida Everglades in-fact form the head waters of the world-famous Florida Everglades!
Making an exhilarating 40 MPH wind torn, hair flapping, nature adventure on an airboat much closer than you first believed; Boggy Creek awaits only 20 miles distant from the fantasy creations of both Walt Disney World® and Sea World® Orlando. 
Boggy Creek Airboat Rides has sites in two locations on the 22,000 acre Lake Tohopekaliga and on East Lake Fish Camp or as the locals prefer call it Lake Toho.  Interestingly the lakes are interconnected by small bayous and sleepy backwaters. 
boggy2Airboat Rides are fully accessible for the less-abled traveler and absolutely will provide both fun and education for each and every generation. 
Speaking as a British tourist, a drive out into the wide open agricultural spaces of the countryside surrounding the city of Kissimmee is quite a revelation in itself!  It’s almost worth it for just those vistas alone. 
We arrived at the rather rustic looking Boggy Creek Airboat Rides location on Lake Toho and to be quite honest found it to be a very welcome break from all the razzmatazz of the theme parks.  There are plenty of free parking spots and some shaded picnic tables just to sit at and take in the natural beauty of the lake. 
boggy4You do NOT need to make reservations for either location as scenic nature tours leave every 30 minutes, 364 days a year, from 9am – 5pm. 
A visit to the small gift shop is a great way to pass the time as you wait for the next available airboat ride.  The ever-present and obligatory souvenir photographs are also available to purchase here. 
A good tip would be to pre-purchase and print your tour tickets on-line before you leave home.  Tickets purchased this way are often at discounted rates. 
However, if you are an after dark adventurer and wish to explore for American alligators by search light you will need to call ahead and make reservations for this swampy 1 hour night tour! 
boggy5As you board your airboat and meet your U.S Coast Guard Captain it will be apparent how safety conscience the folks at Boggy Creek are.  Children are obliged to wear life vests at all times and everyone on board is duty-bound to sport the very necessary, but quite unglamorous ear protectors.  
boggy3During our 1/2 hour scenic tour we were lucky enough to see baby American alligators, American bald eagles, egrets and many other types of water fowl.  Because nature is so unpredictable there’s no guarantee that you’ll witness some ‘gators lazing around Lake Toho, but I have it on good authority that the best time to spot them is the first thing in the morning!  
I assure you a trip on the airboats at Boggy Creek is the most fun that you can have outside of the Orlando theme parks and in my opinion can only be described as ‘the real Florida’s most natural thrill ride!’ 
Check out the Boggy Creek Airboats website here –
This is a fully independent review for which I received no payment or incentive.  


My Hong Kong Disneyland Adventure Continues! by Contributing Author Shannon Dill

So, after a great day at Hong Kong Disneyland®, see my post on that magical adventure here: Hong Kong Disneyland Up Close and Personal, we were so excited to check-in at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel. Though you can take a Disneyland Bus, we decided to take the short stroll through the gardens via the Park Promenade from the park to the hotel. The details were as fabulous as they were in the park – familiar Disney tunes, character banners, and impeccable landscaping.

PICTURE_1 hong kong
Park Promenade – photo: Shannon Dill

Upon arriving to the hotel entrance, we were in a state of déjà vu – it looked like one of our favorite Walt Disney World® resorts – The Grand Floridian! Take a look and let me know if you agree.

PICTURE_2 hong kong
Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel – Photo: Shannon Dill

Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel – photo: Shannon Dill

At first, I couldn’t decide if it was disappointing that it was so similar to the Grand Floridian, but once inside, we realized that the familiarity made for a magical experience. And it was the very best part of our experiences from the Disney Parks in the U.S. that really made an impression in Hong Kong, too – and that is the Cast Members! From the cast members’ wardrobe to their amazing service, we were thrilled to  feel right at home. I think Walt would be proud since he seemed to always know that, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it takes people to make the dream a reality.” We loved that it is as true in Hong Kong as it is in Florida or California.

Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel – photo: Shannon Dill

Our room was spacious and filled with lots of amenities that we have found sadly lacking at other Disney Resorts lately. Check out some of our favorite goodies in our room – the Mickey slippers to take home and enough toiletries for all the Dwarfs!

Amenities – Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel. photo: Shannon Dill

Amenities – Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel. photo: Shannon Dill

And the view from our balcony?  Well, we found it to be picture perfect.

Balcony View – photo: Shannon Dill

Though we didn’t see anyone enjoying the pool, it sure looked great and that water slide was rather tempting!

Pool – Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel – photo: Shannon Dill

One of the most asked questions about Hong Kong Disneyland was, “How was the food?”  Let’s be honest, the food in the park was marginal – and that might be generous. However, the food at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel was delicious! For breakfast, we all tried something different so that we could get a flavor of the breakfast menu. It was all fresh, healthy and the presentation was lovely!

Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel Breakfast – photo: Shannon Dill

Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel Breakfast – photo: Shannon Dill

Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel Breakfast – photo: Shannon Dill

It seems like every time I check the Hong Kong Disneyland website, they have added something new to the Resort. I guess I’ll have to go back!  So, if you find yourself on the other side of the world, you really should check out this other land and real home away from home – Hong Kong Disneyland.

Entrance Arch – photo: Shannon Dill

Connect with me on Twitter @PurveyorofPD and on Facebook at

Editors note: All photos property of Shannon Dill/Purveyor of Pixie Dust

Take Some Tips From Jane – the British Diva!

Living in close proximity to Walt Disney World® we often take for granted how easy it is to travel to our favorite vacation and getaway spot. I follow closely the posts of a good friend, the British Diva, over at Tips From the Disney Diva site. I enjoy her style of writing, her wit and her tips for those traveling from the U.K. or other international spots to Walt Disney World. Recently she has published two posts that I wanted to share with my readers.

A British View of Advance Dining Reservations explains how to use the ADR system to your advantage and explains some of the Disney “slang” to the less initiated WDW traveler. You can read her full post here.….. Her post truly makes the entire process seem as easy as pie!

Many of us also take for granted the Florida sun and humidity – throw on some sunscreen – and keep on going. Well, as I learned from my good friend, British Diva, fair skinned travelers from the U.K. have to be extra careful! She published a very informative post a while back – Sun Smart Tips for Walt Disney World Travelers – that everyone should read at least once! You can read her full post here……. British Diva’s Sun Smart Tips was so well received, she was recently invited to participate and be interviewed on the Special Mouse Podcast on an episode called “Hot! Hot! Hot! Managing the Florida Heat, Sun and Humidity.” Her interview, delivered in her proper British accent, is a pleasure to listen to, informative and creative. Take a listen – here! 

Photo courtesy of

While visiting the podcast site, take time to listen to some of Kathy’s other shows – she has a great site dedicated to Disney Parks Travel planning for guests with a wide variety of health issues and concerns.