Luggage lessons – Learn from my mistakes!

Why write a blog post about luggage? Well, it is an often overlooked item when planning for a trip and was almost the cause of a major meltdown on our last holiday.

In preparation for our family holiday I purchased two new pieces of luggage.  I’ll admit I didn’t put much thought into luggage when I was buying the first piece.  I just knew that Heys was a well-known brand and it had Mickey Mouse on it, what more did I need?

Can you see the faint Mickey image in the dark purple that I copied and added in lilac vinyl to stand out at the airport.

Can you see the faint Mickey image in the dark purple that I copied and added in lilac vinyl to stand out at the airport?

I used that bag for a work trip to PEI and loved it being hard sided and the way it rolled on four wheels so when I returned home I purchased another one, knowing that we needed one more piece of luggage for our vacation.

I never thought to inspect our two old pieces of luggage that we would be using as well.  Mistake # 1.

After 15 minutes on the road, we got off the highway at the next town so my husband could pick up an item he had forgotten from his shop.  At a stop light we felt a funny bang in the back our truck.  What the heck was going on?  My husband got out to find a man behind us saying he had put our tailgate up for us.  OMG, panic attack, had we lost anything in our drive down the highway?  Were our clothes scattered all over the road?  We pulled over and checked.  Everything was still there, thankfully. I apparently hadn’t put the tailgate up after putting my luggage in or had put it up but the latch did not engage and it came down again.  I’ll double check next time. Mistake # 2.

Since we live in Canada and fly out of Syracuse, New York, surprise surprise we get snow. The airport parking lot hike (and I mean hike) with luggage being pulled along behind us through the snow led to a rather difficult and soggy journey for the two old soft sided bags, especially when one of the bags apparently had a slightly bent wheel. Refer back to Mistake # 2 – check your luggage before packing.   Additionally, never buy soft sided luggage if you don’t want to deal with wet belongings. Mistake # 3.

We finally made it to the airport to check in and I had a nice chat with the Jet Blue customer service lady about all the snow and heading to Walt Disney World for a holiday.  All was going well until she started to check our luggage.   After sending my bag down the conveyor and through the little trap door, the service rep picked up the second piece of luggage and said “I didn’t see the yellow Disney tag on the last one, oh well”.  I didn’t think much of this comment until later.  How could she not see a neon yellow luggage tag hanging off the handle of my bag or have not made the connection from our conversation?  If using Walt Disney World’s Magical Express luggage tags ALWAYS specifically and blatantly point them out to your airport service rep before handing them your bags, instead of thinking they are smart enough to make the connection from your conversation or are actually paying attention and can see them.  Mistake # 4.

For those of you who don’t know, Walt Disney World has this wonderful system called Magical Express that will pick you and your luggage up at the airport for free if you are staying at one of their hotels.  About a month before your trip they will mail you bright yellow luggage tags with bar codes on them that need to be affixed to your luggage before it’s checked at the airport.  Then Magical Express luggage services will pick up your luggage for you when it gets to Orlando and deliver it to your hotel room a few hours after landing.  I love this service.  ** If you are Canadian and have not already crossed the border you will need to collect your luggage in Orlando to take it through customs but can then hand it back over to the Disney Magical Express luggage people.**

Magical Express tags

We finally made it to Orlando, checked into our room and headed to Magic Kingdom Park for some late night fun.  We returned to our room at 2:30 am to find no luggage.  After I called luggage services, three of our four bags were delivered to our room about an hour later.  Can you guess which one was missing?  Yep, mine.  The one the sales rep said “oh well” about after she obviously realized she had not processed something properly for it.

I won’t bore you with all the details but my bag finally showed up (about 36 hours later) after MANY calls to Jet Blue and Disney luggage services.

You might think this was the end of our luggage drama for the trip but unfortunately not.

For this holiday we decided to book a split stay at two resorts.  On the morning of moving day we rolled our luggage to the front desk and checked out of Pop Century Resort and asked luggage services there to transfer our bags to Art of Animation Resort for us.  We walked over to the new resort and checked in but it was only 9am and obviously our room was not ready.  We didn’t want to hang on to our small carry-on bags, that we still had with us, until our room was ready so we checked these bags with luggage services at Art of Animation Resort to hang on to until we came back from Animal Kingdom Park.

We had a fun day getting wet on Kali River Rapids and returned to Art of Animation Resort just before dinner to put on dry clothes.  We collected our carry-on bags and asked about our luggage.  We were told it would be in our room.  Off we headed to our room only to find our luggage was not there.  I made more calls to luggage services and it finally showed up.  We were in a hurry to change and head out again so did not look closely at our luggage when it arrived.  Mistake # 5.

The last night of our holiday we were all sleeping when suddenly in the wee hours of the morning there was a knock on our door.  Luggage services was trying to deliver someone else’s luggage to us.  It really made me wonder where my luggage had been when it was missing.  Aside from that disturbing thought, if you don’t want to be disturbed in the middle of the night make sure to put the do not disturb sign on your door.  Mistake # 6.

After having been woken up at whatever time that was, we all slept in and then had to hurry to check out and catch our bus back to the airport.  We packed all our bags and headed out the door only to find that during the transfer from one resort to the other the wheel on the old piece of luggage that was slightly bent was now totally missing so the bag had to be carried.  There was no time to complain to anyone or wait for a bell hop to bring us a trolley to load it on.  Refer back to Mistake # 5 – inspect your luggage when you receive it from anyone so you can complain then if something is wrong.

Thankfully there were no issues with our luggage on the return flight home.

Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes but also remember, as I did, to find the humour in the unexpected and don’t let it spoil your trip.

We had a wonderful time and even with all our luggage issues will not hesitate to do it all again; after I purchase two more new pieces of luggage and next time I’ll be sure to pack two emergency changes of clothes in my carry-on instead of one.

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My Disney Parks Moms Panel Experience

Everyone who knows me knows that for many years now I have been trying to make it onto the Disney Parks Moms Panel and every year I’ve been shut down in Round 1; that is until this year.

Early in September, Disney Parks Moms Panel puts out the call to apply to be on the panel for the next year.  In the first round you have to pick your specialty, which for me is always Walt Disney World Resort, but includes such others as Disney Cruise Line or Disney Vacation Club. You need to answer a series of questions. Some are short and factual and others are essay style but all have a maximum number of characters allowed for your answers.  The number of characters is often an odd figure and I have fun trying to understand the significance of these numbers.

Every year I fret over my answers and spend many hours debating and changing them.  This year I was away at a work conference and didn’t have as much time to dedicate to my answers as I have in the past and actually had to submit my answers from my iPad mini.  The process is challenging enough without the added issue of sporadic internet and such a small screen to work on so when I hit submit and realized my iPad had autocorrected a word to something I didn’t want I felt my heart sink.  It was going to be another year of me not making it past Round 1.

With the realization my dream would be on hold for another year I watched and waiting along with everyone else and commiserated with others on the Facebook pages who were in the same situation.  The wait to hear seemed like an eternity but I kept telling myself the longer the selection panel took the longer I was still in the running.

On the day we were to hear who made it to Round 2 I tried to stay away from social media so as not to feel more upset with myself over not catching my mistake than I already did when I saw all my friends make it through.

Imagine my surprise when I received the email saying I made it to Round 2.  Shock can’t begin to explain how I felt. After the shock wore off I started to wonder what I did different this year that I hadn’t in the past and the only thing I could come up with was writing from the heart without second guessing myself or worrying about what the selection committee was looking for. Trying to be what I thought they wanted hadn’t gotten me anywhere before, so why continue.  With this piece of information I decided to do the same thing for the next round.  I would be myself.  I’m not a flowery writer.  With my experience in the legal field I tend to stick to the facts with my own personal experience on things added in and that is how I would continue to answer the questions.

Round 2 was more questions along with a video about what sets Walt Disney World Resort apart from other vacations.  The questions didn’t give me anxiety but the video was giving me heart palpitations.  I’ve never done any videos before and neither had anyone in my family to be able to help me.  I wrote up a basic script of the main points I wanted to include and set my iPhone to video.  I did one take sitting in my favorite chair in my Minnie onesie pj’s with my ears on and my family all told me I looked like some crazy freak.  My next idea was to video on my front porch with all my carved Disney inspired pumpkins around me but my daughter refused to stand out there and video where anyone could see her.

photo 1 photo 2

Finally I settled on just standing in my backyard in the cold and wind that has settled over the area.  I was lucky I finished when I did because within hours it was snowing.  It took four takes to get one video that was satisfactory.  I won’t say I was happy with it but I wasn’t going to torture myself with dozens of takes when I knew I would never be thrilled with a video of myself. It wasn’t very creative but 71 seconds is not a long time to show your personality and still get your point across.  It was done and what would be would be.

photo 3

It was time to wait again.  I must commend Gary Buchanan, leader of the Disney Parks Moms Panel, on keeping all the hopeful panelists engaged, during the waiting periods.  He would post brain teasers and hints on what was to come and I loved them all.  It made the waiting fun.

I can’t adequately explain how I was feeling about my prospects of making it to Round 3. The realist in me knew it was a long shot, the optimist in me held on to hope and through it all I was thankful to have made it this far in the process when I’d never been given the opportunity before.

I was at work when I received the email about Round 3 and I was not sure I read it correctly.  I actually asked one of my staff to come in to my office and read the email to make sure I wasn’t imagining it.  I was moving on to Round 3.  I had tears in my eyes and was in a state of disbelief.  I called my husband to let him know and he later told me that he could barely understand what I was saying because I talked so fast and was so hyper.

The notification email said we would receive another email from Karen so we could provide her with our contact information for her to call us and set up an appointment for a telephone interview with Gary Buchanan.  I waited more than a day watching others say they had received their emails and spoken to Karen and had interviews set up for 2 days hence and I still had not received my initial email.  I was starting to panic. Maybe it really was a mistake. Self-doubt was creeping in.  Finally I received my email which indicated this was a second email as the first one was returned undelivered. I was happy this was real. I was on truly going on to Round 3.

All was booked for an early 8am telephone interview.  It dawned cold and nasty that morning.  A snow storm had blown in overnight and I had to contend with shoveling my driveway and salting my steps to get to work where I was planning on taking the call in peace and quiet.   The call came in and within the first few seconds I made a foolish mistake.  I spoke as I always did, with honestly, so instead of starting saying it was a great morning I admitted it was a miserable cold morning. Probably not the best first impression.  The call went by so fast I hardly remember what we talked about.

As the call was wrapping up Gary asked if I had received the email he had just sent. I opened my email and said I had so Gary promptly said you have 45 minutes to answer the question time starts now and hung up.  Wow, what a twist.  Although I wasn’t totally surprised by it, I still was not expecting only 45 minutes.  I did my best and hit submit with only about 2 minutes to spare.

It was time to wait yet again.

One of the things that was different in the application process this year was that they were going to be specifically looking for Portuguese and French speaking panelists.  We heard through social media that these people would be having interviews with someone from Disney’s International Departments in their language.  I was glad to see that the panel was expanding to include a more diverse group.

The panel has traditionally included at least one Canadian and I was hoping to be that person but during the waiting period it was leaked that the panel was looking for someone who spoke French to be the Canadian on the panel.  I must confess I found this very hard to deal with since I do not speak French.  I spent many hours wondering if this meant there was no hope for me.  There were a number of other Canadians who were debating this as well.  If the selection committee was only looking for one Canadian and that person needed to speak French then why did they bother interviewing the strictly English speaking Canadians? I held out hope until the bitter end that they would be selecting more than one Canadian.

When the emails finally came out letting us know if we made it or not it was no great surprise after seeing all the language debate on social media that I did not make the panel.  This still didn’t make it any easier to deal with the pain of not being selected.  Part of me felt defeated but the eternal optimist within me reared its head and told me there is always next year and I’d never made it this far before so I was thankful for the experience.  I will never give up on this dream and I hope that next year will finally be my year.

In the mean time I will continue to help friends, family and even friends of friends plan their vacations.

Whether I ever make the panel or not Walt Disney World Resort will always hold a special place in my heart.