Editor’s Note: Please join the WDW Radio Blog Team in welcoming guest writer, Alyson! We are pleased she was willing to share her experience with all of our readers.
I was 29 years old when I went to Walt Disney World for the first time. It was a honeymoon trip with my amazing and indulgent husband, and I was determined to see and do EVERYTHING in the whole place. We walked 48 miles in 4 days and experienced every open attraction in the main theme parks. Little did I know, I had not even scratched the surface of opportunities for education and entertainment in Walt Disney World.
I’ve been on several Walt Disney World vacations since my honeymoon, but when I started planning for my trip in December of 2015, I knew I really wanted to make it magical. I was traveling with 2 girlfriends who hadn’t been since they were young children, and I wanted to make sure it was the most incredible trip imaginable. I found the WDW Radio Show Podcast in May 2015 and set out to listen to every episode, starting with the most recent and working my way backwards. The sheer volume of content was overwhelming, but I was able to get so much good stuff from it that the trip exceeded even my own sky-high expectations. Here are the “Top 5 Ways that Lou Mongello Made my Walt Disney World Vacation Better than I Could Have Imagined”:
5. Using a Travel Agent – It may sound ridiculous, but before the WDW Radio Show came into my life, I had no idea that there were people who could plan your trip FOR you. They make sure that you have the best discount available, help with all sorts of logistical arrangements, and are there if you have questions. As a bonus, many of the Disney specialty agencies’ services are provided FREE OF CHARGE to guests! Not only that, but the agency I used happened to have an after-hours event during my trip that enabled us to enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios after the park closed for a private viewing of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. What a magical evening, walking down the nearly empty streets and taking our time to see all the lights at a leisurely pace! I used Lou’s official and recommended travel partner, Mouse Fan Travel, and I had a wonderful experience, but I know there are other reputable agencies out there, too.
4. Details – I am totally guilty of being a “theme park commando” who makes an agenda for each day and plows through it as ruthlessly as a freight train. I have power walked from attraction to attraction, never seeing the wonder and detail that was right in front of me. Despite that, I have enjoyed the richness of the Disney details even if I never noticed them. Having learned from the podcast all the ways Disney brings detail into the environment, I was able to slow down and share the beauty with my travel companions, pointing out how the theming was carried through or a story told by what was above, below and around us.
3. Experiences – I was overwhelmed by all the experiences available at Walt Disney World that I had never heard of – some more incredible than I could have dreamed! Tours, Tea Parties, Grand One Yacht rentals, themed hotel rooms, pirate makeovers…the list was seemingly endless. I chose the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Cruise for our first evening. We met Captain Hook and Mr. Smee, took a boat out onto the Seven Seas Lagoon, saw the Electrical Water Pageant and enjoyed Holiday Wishes! from the water. The majesty and beauty is something we will never forget! I can’t wait to take advantage of even more add-on experiences on future trips.
2. Food – You knew it was coming! I’m an INCREDIBLY picky eater, as is one of my travel companions. We tried things like polenta, frittata, grits, gastriche, exotic cheeses, eggs benedict and more just because Lou recommended expanding your horizons in the culinary area while on vacation in Walt Disney World. I have to say, these tastes were all well worth it. We also stopped by the Friar’s Nook in Fantasyland for the Pot Roast Mac and Cheese, based on a video segment Lou did. At Epcot we visited the China pavilion for egg rolls and chicken curry pockets that we devoured in about 3 minutes. Lastly, we went to the Yak & Yeti Quick Service for Chicken Fried Rice and Egg Rolls because he has often praised them. Everything was delicious, and we ate more than I can believe! I am determined to try even more new and delicious foods in the future. Not sushi, though. Don’t think I will ever be that brave!
1. History – Regardless of the destination, a vacation experience is greatly enriched by a deep knowledge and understanding of the area’s history. In the case of Walt Disney World, the history goes all the way back to Walt Disney himself – his childhood ambitions, his failures, his triumphs and plans. It was fascinating to learn how the company evolved from making short animated films to feature length and live action, then to the creation of Disneyland and eventually Walt Disney World. Hearing the stories of Imagineers, animators, actors, creators and others who have influenced the parks, resorts and attractions we know today made me appreciate the level of storytelling that is present in what we see, hear, smell and taste while on vacation in Walt Disney World. I was armed with so much information – trivia books, scavenger hunts, facts and figures gleaned from hundreds of podcast episodes – that I had a “Fun Fact” available approximately every 10 minutes of our 6-day vacation. My friends really enjoyed them, and they made our visit truly meaningful as we experienced the magic the way it was intended – slowly, savoring every step and every moment.
Bonus Round – (Because what’s a list without a little cheating, right?) This one is so special, it had to come above #1. It’s the patented Lou Mongello “Handshake and a Hug” that I got at the December Meet of the Month. There was a special joy in the air as friends talked, ate, laughed and shared with one another, celebrating this amazing community that started almost a decade ago in Lou’s basement. That’s a wonderful kind of magic, my friend. Thank you for letting me share in it.
(Logo ©MEI and Mouse Fan Travel; Cinderella Castle, Grand 1, and Yak & Yeti photos ©Disney; Meet of the Month graphic property of WDW Radio.)