Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Guest post- A Magical Experience: Family of the Day




Kingdom Konsultant client Mandie and her family recently experienced some extra Pixie Dust at the Magic Kingdom- they were randomly selected as family of the day! Today, she shares with us her exciting experience, along with her appreciation for the magic that Cast Members help to create every day: 
   
The number one thing I learned on my recent trip to Disney World is not what restaurant to book (O’hana), what snack is the best (Dole Whips, baby!) or what ride to avoid with a toddler if you want them to trust you for the rest of your trip (I’m looking straight at you, It's Tough to be a Bug).  It’s something that is far easier to remember, needs no reservations 180 days out, and requires only one word: “Hi”. 

               Ok, I’ll be honest.  It doesn’t have to be “Hi” because “Hello”, “Hey There”, and if you’re feeling verbose, “How are you?” will also work.   You’re probably asking where this advice is leading so I’ll get to straight to the point.  The most magical and memorable moments at Disney World are not something you plan for, something you schedule, or something you reserve, they are things that happen when you no longer see your time at Disney as getting from point A to point B, but take the time to appreciate what makes Disney World much more than the sum of all of its numerous attractions.  I’m speaking more specifically to what makes the magic of Walt’s dream come to life every day, the Cast Members.

For those of us (and I used to be one of them) that see Cast Members as faceless means to some end, we’re really missing out on some fantastic experiences and some magical moments.   Most people don’t realize that Cast Members have the ability to turn a standard trip into a truly memorable and magical once-in-a-lifetime experience. 
The week we spent at Disney was an incredible one full of many awesome memories, but looking back at the pictures and my notes, there is an obvious trend to the ones that stick out the most.  It was the first trip for both my husband and our “almost three” year old son (lest anyone refer to his highness as a measly “two year old”) so of course it was full of “oohs” and “ahhhs” and wide-eyed wonder at seeing “My Mickey” for the first time, but the quieter moments…those are the ones that pull my daydreams back to Disney. 

 There was Roberto, the captain of the boat that took us back from 'Ohana to the Magic Kingdom.  He invited us to sit up to the front and talked with my son about everything we passed and indulged his new Pirate obsession with lots of “Ahoys” and agreed when my son renamed it from it’s given name to “The Jolly Roger!”.  There was Natalie, a new college program cast member from the East Coast that not only patrolled the Fastpass viewing area for the electrical parade, but also held hands with and walked my son across the street when he said he wanted to hand out glow sticks to the kids waiting over there.  There was our waitress from a town 20 miles south of us who offered to bring us back down after Thanksgiving; the waitress at Teppen Edo who taught all of us the correct way to say Konnichiwa; and most importantly, the friendly red-headed woman at the front turnstile of the Magic Kingdom who introduced us to Tran. 

                Tran was a sharply dressed gentleman with a mischievous smile and the key to one of the coolest experiences I think we’ll ever have as a family.  Tran was our guide when we were the Magic Kingdom’s Family of the Day. 
To lead us up to how we met Tran, I need to start at the beginning. An unfortunate side effect of routinely getting up at 5:30 am for work is the difficulties we have shaking that habit when we are on vacation.  So there we were, at 6:30 am, awake, waiting to start our day at the Magic Kingdom.  The park was scheduled to open at 9 am and I knew that anything we could do (breakfast, a swim, watching TV) would either take too much time or not enough.  We decided that we would just head to the Magic Kingdom and eat our breakfast there while we waited for the Opening Ceremony.   
The bus stop was empty at 7:15 am and the bus driver greeted us with a booming “Good Morning!” as we climbed aboard.  Sitting up in the front on a completely empty bus, the driver answered questions we had and when we arrived, went out of his way to ask if we were collecting the transportation trading cards.   While we already had been collecting for a few days and had the cards he offered, it was nice to have someone offer instead of feeling like you were bothering someone by asking. 

The sun hadn’t even broken the horizon when we approached bag check.  Instead of having to wait in line, we had a great time talking with all of the cast members working there.  We had a good laugh when one of them followed my lead, teasing my husband about all of the hassle of the numerous pockets that made up his back pack.  

We approached the turnstiles and promptly sat down and started our granola bar breakfast.  Our son, who has the natural curiosity and socially-driven personality of your average “almost three” year old , had developed a habit of saying “Good Morning!” and “So where are you from?” to everyone he encountered.  A habit, which by the way, also included greeting his own parents when one of us returned from a solo adventure to the restroom or as he woke up in the morning.  
Sitting there with our breakfast, we simply enjoyed the sights and sounds of a quiet (yet bustling) Magic Kingdom, singing along with the music that played quietly in the background and talking with cast members as they warmed up the new RFID turnstiles.  Little known fact, although the Mickey Heads most often glow green, white or blue, they actually have the ability to shine in an entire rainbow of colors. 
It was approximately 7:45 when a familiar red-headed cast member approached us.  We had joked with her earlier when she realized that she actually had opened up the wrong turnstile and had to repeat the process on the correct one.  She asked us where we were from and if we wanted to help with something special. 
I’m going to pause here and tell you the second most important word to know at Disney: “Yes”.  “Sure”, “Of Course” and “Naturally” also would work here, but the idea is the same.  If a cast member ever asks you if you want to do something special, go on an adventure or to help them out, the answer is always “YES”.  Trust me, other than missing your flight home, there is very little that would make me tell a cast member “No thanks”. 
We were then escorted to the bench next to the Penny press machine and we waited.  While the wait seemed to take forever (the anticipation was awful!), we spent our time greeting all of the families with pre-park opening reservations and talking with the cast  I believe his name was Michael and he was really quite the character! If any of you have ever had a breakfast reservation and the opportunity to see him in action, you know exactly what I’m talking about. 
member leading that area.

Tran approached us around 8:15 and asked us if we were up for an adventure.  The mischievous glimmer in his eye and the loud ring of his laughter was contagious.  We answered “of course!” and he led us into a nearly empty Main Street where we boarded the empty double decker bus.  He drove us down Main Street and we stopped along the way to take pictures.

Tran made us feel like royalty, making a big show out of unclasping the safety rope from the top of the Double Decker bus and escorting us from place to place.  We are one of the lucky few to have a picture of us in front of Cinderella’s Castle without another soul in sight, a rare treasure for sure. 

Once we were done along Main Street, he drove us back to the train station and introduced us to Scoop Sanderson.  While many millions of people have witnessed Scoop’s antics from afar as he helps open the Kingdom in the mornings, getting one-on-one time with him was something special.  He led us upstairs and introduced us to the Main Street citizens that would help us say “Good Morning! Good Morning!” to everyone waiting anxiously below. 
              
  Before we knew it, the familiar whistle blew and the train arrived with all of the familiar friends.  We crossed the tracks and joined Scoop and the gang to greet the rope drop crowd and to count down the opening to the park.  It was surreal, I held tight to our small hand held camera in an attempt to capture the whole experience, but my attention was everywhere else and the video is less than spectacular. 
              
  The fireworks signaled the start of a truly magical day and before we knew it, we were down on Main Street saying goodbye to Scoop and Tran.   We came away from our magical morning with a few stickers, a special main street pin, a golden fast pass (good for any ride in the park!), and some awesome memories.   As we wrapped up our amazingly magical moment, we met the PhotoPass photographer who had been snapping away the whole time.   Later, as I looked through them, I realized that we had some amazing pictures of the whole event, including a wide angle picture of all of us, Scoop Sanderson and Mickey as the fireworks shot off behind us.  Front and center, along the bottom of the picture, is the all-too-familiar banner: “Let The Memories Begin” a simple statement that all too often is pushed aside by the throngs of tired and cranky families. 

We didn’t get a chance to ride every ride.  We missed the three o’clock parade.  My son was even so tired he slept through every single firework show (which actually, thanks to the trauma of “It’s Tough to be a Bug”, was probably for the best for everyone).  Now that I think back, we didn’t even get to eat a Mickey Ice Cream Bar.  But what we did do, even if it meant missing those things I “planned on”, was worth all of the Mickey Bars in the world.  Don’t go to Disney and try to force the magical moments, don’t go there and force the memories to happen.  Slow down, smell the Turkey Legs, talk up the guests and cast members around you, investigate the nooks and crannies, let out your inner child, pull the ropes and let the magic come to you. 

1 comment:

  1. Amazing story! I love your advice to " Slow down, smell the Turkey Legs, talk up the guests and cast members around you, investigate the nooks and crannies, let out your inner child, pull the ropes and let the magic come to you." Couldn't have said it better myself! :) Thanks for sharing your story!

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