Jan 26

Disney’s Tower of Terror – TRIVIA!!

Trivia: pieces of information of little importance or value. Seems to me that depends on the person who has the information as to if it is important! I like trivia! I love games that involve trivia! Little bits of knowledge you can share with others that may make their day! Or, if they know it, provides a link between the two of you!

Disney trivia is one of my favorite things! There are so many games out there that rely on your knowledge of Disney trivia! Come on, I am not the only one, right?

How about trivia about your favorite attraction? Little known facts about Small World or Expedition Everest? Maybe Spaceship Earth?

For me it is Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

This is a love it or hate it attraction from what I have seen and heard! I love it! Absolutely love it and will stand in lines to ride it! My husband? Not so much! Our daughter wanted to go to Walt Disney World her senior year of high school. No worries! We love Disney! You bet! She loves coasters, loves the thrill, this will be great? Right? Um, no!

Several years before, she had refused to ride and waited for the rest of us:  me, her dad and her brother, to ride. This time would be different! I convinced her to ride my favorite ride – bribing her that I would ride Rock n’ Roller Coaster with her!

Well, we rode Tower of Terror! She didn’t speak to me for the next 30 minutes!

That brings us to some great trivia about the Tower of Terror!

First, before the trivia, we must begin:

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound. A dimension of sight. A dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into…The Twilight Zone.

Hollywood, 1939. Amid the glitz and the glitter of a bustling, young movie town at the height of its golden age, The Hollywood Tower Hotel was a star in its own right; a beacon for the show business elite. Now, something is about to happen that will change all that. The time is now on an evening very much like the one we have just witnessed.

Tonight’s story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a maintenance service elevator still in operation, waiting for you. We invite you, if you dare, to step aboard because in tonight’s episode, you are the star. And this elevator travels directly to…The Twilight Zone.”

“You are the passengers on a most uncommon elevator about to ascend into your very own episode of… The Twilight Zone. One stormy night long ago, five people stepped through the door of an elevator and into a nightmare. You are about to discover what lies beyond the fifth dimension, beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination… in the Tower of Terror.“

What fateful night did 5 passengers take a one-way trip to the Twilight Zone? October 31, 1939

When did Tower of Terror open to guests? July 22, 1994

How many Twilight Zone episodes did Disney Imagineers watch in creating Tower of Terror? 156! At least 2 times each!

What episode of Twilight Zone is replicated in Tower of Terror? None! Imagineers wanted the guests to be the stars in their own show as they enter the 5th dimension!

Are there any “hidden” Mickeys? Yes! Sheet music in the lobby is “What? No Mickey Mouse? What kind of party is this?”  And a Mickey Mouse doll is held by the child star in the images.

How tall is the Tower of Terror? 199 feet

There is only one attraction in Walt Disney World that is taller, do you know which one? Expedition Everest

Why is it not over 200 feet? Aviation requires a red light and Disney did not want to detract from the experience

Is the elevator drop planned and free fall? It is random and a controlled drop but faster than gravity! Faster than 39 miles an hour (keep your seat belt on!) It is random as you don’t know which fall you will experience.

You can see Tower of Terror from Epcot. What land does the exterior blend with at Epcot? Morocco!

Who is the elevator expert that worked with Disney to design Tower of Terror? Otis

Speaking of elevators, on the wall to the right as you enter the elevator is the Permit to Operate. What does the permit number 10259 refer to? This is the date that the Twilight Zone series began, October 2, 1959.

“A warm welcome back to those of you who made it and a friendly word of warning; something you won’t find in any guidebook. The next time you check into a deserted hotel on the dark side of Hollywood, make sure you know just what kind of vacancy you’re filling. Or you may find yourself a permanent resident of… The Twilight Zone”

Are you ready to be part of the story? Are you ready to drop in to the Hollywood Tower Hotel?

Note: Currently guests walk directly through to the elevators so you may not notice some of the details along the way.

Photo Credit: Myself and Donna Sharick

Nov 26

2020: The Year of Thanksgiving and Hope

2020.  The year that the use of the word “unprecedented,” became unprecedented.  The year where just about anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.  The year when the simple joys of life were suddenly taken away or forbidden.  The year when technology became our primary means of maintaining human contact.  So how could this possibly be the year of hope and giving “Thanks?” Granted, 2020 did not turn out to be the great beginning to a new decade we thought it would be – – but it brought more than what we dreamed was possible. 

Most of us would get up in the morning, get ready for work, get the kids off to school, and proceed with our day.  The greatest issue that plagued us was what to have for dinner, getting an assignment done, or meeting that work deadline.  As life passed, so did birthdays, holidays, and yet another year, leaving us wondering where the time had gone and how did our children grow up so fast.  Often times, we were left with the regret of not spending more time with loved ones, or paying closer attention to them.  This all changed when we had to work from home and really take part in our children’s education.  Yes, I know many of us spent the evenings just banging our heads on the wall in frustration, but we did develop a greater appreciation for our teachers.  More importantly, we managed to actually become involved in our children’s learning while learning more about our children.  We have been given an opportunity to become more involved in shaping the hope of our future.  As for loved ones, especially our elderly . . . I don’t think we will ever take them for granted again. 

We managed to get creative with our businesses and work environments.  We got pushed out of our comfort zones in order to accommodate the new lifestyle that was imposed upon us – – all driven by the hope that we could sustain what we had while hoping for growth and prosperity in the future.  Perhaps home offices and zoom meetings may have made us a little more comfortable than we should have been (i.e., pajama bottoms while on a call), but this was actually a dream come true for many.  After all, we eliminated the commute and took back some of our time! 

As for small entrepreneurs, I know that in my own little town, we formed community groups that actively promoted and shopped at our small businesses in hopes that we could keep those families alive and thriving.  I’m happy (and thankful) to say that we and they have so far, been successful.  I think we have also learned to never underestimate the work ethic of an entrepreneur and their small business – – they are the ones who have the will to transform themselves, no matter the circumstances, and accept failure as a challenge.  We also discovered that they are the ones who actually care, and give back to the community with gratitude.

Technology was forced upon us to keep up with the growing demand of distanced communication, learning and work.  The necessity of it never became more prominent than it did this year.  However, with the growing dependency upon it came the realization that we need to disconnect to regain our humanity.  The need to reconnect with ourselves, each other, and our surroundings made it blatantly clear that we have forgotten how to live.  In a sense, the demands for technology and its frequent failures has shown us that we need each other more – – that science was correct after all, and we need human contact for our physical and mental well being.

This leads us to the subject of vacation.  Having a vacation planned was the highlight of one’s year, and the opportunity to “disconnect.”  However, 2020 brought the shutdowns of our beloved theme parks, cruise lines, and other destinations.  Many of us were left to find more creative means to spend time with our loved ones and have that much needed break from not only work, technology, and the daily grind of life.  We celebrated the reopening of our theme parks which gave us the hope that the escape from the mundane, would eventually return again.  What we can really be thankful for is that we live in a country that has every type of climate (tropical, arid, temperate, cold and polar) and wonderful seasons all in one place that we can still explore.  Even though those beautiful cruise ships are not sailing yet, they are preparing to soon.  We are now left with the hope that we can still travel to amazing places across the landscape of our own great country. 

This year, we have actually learned to be grateful for things we once took for granted.  In a way, we have reset our perspectives and values.  We were forced to look at what was truly important, and reorder our lives.  We became more accommodating, learned to adapt, and perhaps, even to survive.  All of this is because of the hope that we will return to “normal.”  The question is, do we really want to?  Maybe, just maybe, we have rediscovered what it takes to truly live, and we will do so with a thankful heart for what we had all along.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Bensons and the entire Dreams by Design Travel Team!

Jul 31

Disney….A Beacon of Hope

Not too long ago, we humans around the world began to hear of a virus that seemed like something out of a science fiction movie.  Soon after, we began to realize that we were actually living in it.  As we made our preparations to stay closer to home, we found that our basic necessities were becoming scarce and suddenly, we were scrambling to find toilet paper.  The next round of reality checks came when we closed our schools and had to find creative ways to teach our children from home.  Then, going to work became an issue, and we had to get creative to find ways of still being able to work.  I think we can all agree that in spite of all of these challenges, it truly hit us when our beloved Disney Parks shut down.  Oh yes.  I watched it live when the President of Walt Disney World, Josh D’Amaro, Mickey and the Gang stood up on the platform of the train station at the Magic Kingdom, waving to all of the guests on the last night before Walt Disney World closed.  Yes, I cried.  Like many of you, whether you are a casual fan, die hard Disney aficionado, or somewhere in between, we all realized at that moment that the situation, “just got real.”  After putting on the brave mom face and channeling my inner warrior to get through these obstacles, telling my kids everything was going to be just fine, I found myself in despair – – Disney is the last bastion of hope. . . our Happy Place . . . and now it was gone.

We all settled into our new-found seclusion as words like “quarantine,” and “lockdown,” became our new normal.  Watching the nightly news didn’t seem to help much either.  It’s during that time that I found myself looking for inspiration and hope.  What was supposed to be a couple of weeks, turned into months.   The magical trips I had so diligently helped my clients plan were being cancelled, rescheduled, cancelled again, and rescheduled.  I felt their pain with each announcement and each change, spending hours just talking with them until our conversations turned into more personal ones.  Each and every one of them had a unique story as to why they wanted to take their trips, and why they loved Disney.  It was through their stories that I rediscovered some of that much needed hope.  Going to the Magic Kingdom was exciting, but it was the idea of Walt Disney, himself, that gave it all meaning and what made everything feel familiar – – like being “home,” and being welcomed by a comforting parent with open arms and a warm embrace.

If it’s one thing we all immediately recognized, it was the lack of physically being with one another.  Yet, we found ways to stay in touch via video conferencing.  We checked up on one another to ensure everything was still o.k., and we became more charitable with our time and resources to help each other out.  As Walt said, “There is great comfort and inspiration in the feeling of close human relationships and its bearing on our mutual fortunes – – a powerful force, to overcome the ‘tough breaks’ which are certain to come to most of us from time to time.”  We discovered that in spite of being isolated in our homes, we could still reach out and bond with our fellow humans in far deeper and meaningful ways that we didn’t realize were possible.  Instead of being pushed apart, we became bonded in the face of a common, unseen enemy, and we began to appreciate each other a little more.

Perhaps one of Walt’s greatest quotes about life is when he said, “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”   Now, I hardly think Walt had a pandemic in mind when he said this, but he certainly experienced some great hardships in his life which shaped the man he became.   Walt took those hardships and looked at them as an opportunity and a reason to move forward and onto new adventures.  After all, if he hadn’t lost his treasured Oswald to Charles Mintz, he would never have created our beloved Mickey.  Walt described this defining low point of his life when he said, “He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner.”  

If we take the time to look at our circumstances differently, we begin to see the opportunity to make something new.  For example, when schools closed, so many of us found ourselves struggling to keep up with helping our kids with assignments and various subjects.  We found a new appreciation for our teachers, but we also started to identify where our children really needed help, and perhaps, even what our children were missing from us.  We have been given insight and the opportunity to teach our children about behavior, respect, expectations, science through cooking, problem solving through play, or compassion and responsibility by helping around the house.  If we really think about it, how many times have we wished we could just roll out of bed and work from home in our pajamas?   That was a projection of our future as technology developed, and we just got to experience it in our present!   Perhaps we have created a new way of balancing work and home life because of it!   We’ve certainly been, “kicked in the teeth,” but we are becoming more creative in our problem solving, and more resilient in the face of adversity.

Many people think of Walt Disney as a great man with a big imagination.  Although this is true, he was also a realist.  He once said, “I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.”  Walt was no stranger to the hardships of life on a national and international level.  In fact, Walt lived through two global pandemics – – the Spanish Flu in 1918 which claimed the lives of 50 million people worldwide, and the Asian Flu in 1957 which claimed about 1.1 million souls.   He lived through two World Wars, the Korean War, and saw the beginning of the Vietnam War.  Yet, he also witnessed the first long distance phone call, Charles Lindberg’s first non-stop transatlantic flight, the first American satellite (Explorer I) launch, and color television.  Out of all of his experiences, he chose to focus on the hopes and dreams of the future, and to create something new and innovative.  Walt had a passion and a knack for trying to solve contemporary problems, which was his original plan for the building of EPCOT.   In the 1950’s, Walt collaborated with NASA’s Werner von Braun to create films that educated people on the basics of space flight, spurning the imaginations of every American as we moved towards the dream of landing men on the moon.   The realities of life gave him the impetus to solve complex issues, creatively, and he showed us that ideas and dreams are worth working for.

 The creation of Disneyland and Walt Disney World came from what has, and continues to be, the greatest problem with our world today – – the lack of quality family time, which has plagued our society for over a century, and is no more an issue today than it was when Walt sat on that park bench in Griffith Park.  When interviewed about it, Walt said, “Disneyland really began when my two daughters were very young.  Saturday was always Daddy’s Day, and I would take them to the merry-go-round and sit on a bench eating peanuts while they rode.  And sitting there alone, I felt there should be something built, some kind of family park where parents and children could have fun together.”  Hence came the creation of Disneyland – – a place where families could actually play, explore, learn, dream and solve problems together, regardless of what else is going on in the world around us.

Therein lies our hope . . . the evidence that castles can be built, stories do come to life, and the manifestation of one man’s dream becomes the beacon of light in dark times.  The reopening of Walt Disney World carries so much more meaning than a vacation spot returning to, “business as usual.” Many of us call this place “home” for a reason.  When we see that Castle at the end of Main Street, the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom, Spaceship Earth at Epcot, or read the dedication plaque in front of Disneyland, we are welcomed to a safe place that is void of politics and negativity.  Instead, we are transported to a place where we can let our inner child take over once again, and imagine a future where problems are solved, but solved together as the human race. 

“To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past…and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America…with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

  • Walt Disney, Disneyland Dedication Speech, 1955

Jun 19

Disney Releases New Park Pass Reservation System!

As you may have heard, Disney is taking a measured approach to reopen their Theme Parks. In order to do this, they will be managing attendance through their new Disney Park Pass Reservation system. This new Theme Park reservation system will be accessed through the drop down in your My Disney Experience account. This new Theme Park Reservation system will require that all Guests make advance reservations for theme park entry.

In order to make your reservations, you will need a My Disney Experience account, which you may already have. Be sure that your reservation is properly linked to your account. Because there are new terms and conditions regarding Covid-19, you must sign off on, Disney is requiring the guest to choose the parks days, with advise and guidance of your travel agent, of course.  This new reservation system will require all guests to make advance reservations for Theme Park entry. You must make a separate park reservation for each date you plan to visit, even with a multi-day ticket.

If you are an existing ticket holder with a Disney Resort hotel reservation, you can access the Disney Parks Pass system beginning on Monday, June 22, at 7 am eastern standard time. Simply log into your My Disney Experience account and check for the date and Theme Park you wish to visit. You will need to do this for each day of your vacation. To enter a theme park, both a reservation and valid admission ticket to the same park on the same date will be required. Keep in mind park hopping will not be allowed until further notice and this portion of your reservation will be refunded if you currently have it. You will, however, have the ability to come and go to the same park during the day. Keep in mind that due to extremely limited capacity, these theme park reservations are subject to availability and are not guaranteed until confirmed*.  *Please remember to check the Disney Park Pass system (once available) from time to time as Theme Park reservation availability can change. ‌

We know your next visit will be different. But together, we can find new ways to enjoy magical moments and create memories to last a lifetime. Before you arrive, please check out some things to Know Before You Go and as always, please contact Dreams by Design Travel for the latest information. It is being released just about every day!!!

Mar 04

Traveling and the Coronavirus: It Truly is a Small World After All!

Walt was certainly a visionary when he brought us “It’s a Small World” to the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.  His sense of wanderlust and appreciation for world cultures demonstrated how close we all truly are in spite of oceans and land masses.  As our ability to travel farther, quicker, and easier evolved, so too, did our interconnectedness, and our ability to bring back foreign souvenirs from the exciting places we have visited.  However, lately, there seems to be an unwanted souvenir returning home with world travelers – – the Coronavirus or COVID-19.

The Coronavirus has obviously become the biggest concern for both international and domestic travelers lately.  As Travel Professionals, my fellow Travel Advisors and I have been spending a lot of time in webinars, viewing reports and official statements regarding this issue on a daily basis.  Although information is constantly being updated, this is what is known at the time of writing this article. 

What is the Coronavirus?

The Coronavirus is a broad term that encompasses both the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) viruses.  The current virus is a variant of the SARS virus, and has been renamed COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2.  This virus has been around for a while, but as viruses do, they will mutate and wreak havoc, just like flu viruses.  However, the Coronaviruses really focus on the respiratory system, making those persons with already compromised respiratory systems more vulnerable to the disease than others.  According to Dr. Geoff Tothill, Chief Medical Officer of the International Medical Group, and the World Health Organization (WHO), “The most common symptoms are fever, cough, and breathlessness.  Most patients have mild disease, with some 20% of patients progressing to severe disease.  Incubation period is 2 – 14 days, and most infectivity occurs when one is symptomatic.”

The news of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, was reported to the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019.  Since then, the virus has been exported via travelers arriving from affected areas to 56 countries, including the United States. 

How does it spread, and how to protect/prevent?

Again, according to the World Health Organization, “Cases are seen in higher numbers in specific geographic areas, usually as a result of close person to person spread.”  This would also mean travel destinations where tourism is high and congested, thus, practical measures must be taken.  We all know the drill regarding cold and flu season, and this is no different.

  1. Washing hands well, thoroughly, and often.
  2. Using an alcohol based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. (Yes, even hand sanitizer has expiration dates, so check those!)
  3. Avoid proximity to symptomatic people.
  4. Use cough etiquette!  Maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands.
  5. Avoid areas where people congregate when travelling and seek local help if you become unwell.
  6. Carry sanitizing wipes to wipe down trays and armrests on flights.

If you are concerned about picking something up from public places, then there is great news – – so is everyone else!  During cold and flu season, we all tend to get a bit lax about our sneezing, coughing, hand washing and general consideration of others when symptoms arise.  Children are one of the most vulnerable, yet they are perhaps the worst to keep reminding of these measures!  Sometimes, it takes something like the warnings of this current virus to keep us mindful of others and diligent in our own personal care.  Cold and flu season is not over yet, and it presents a bigger risk to us than the COVID-19.

Do I cancel my travel plans because of COVID-19?

Unless you are prevented from traveling to, or from, a particular area of the world where travel is restricted anyways, the answer would be, NO.  This includes places like Disney Parks.  Yes, all of the Disney Parks in Asia have been closed for a period of three weeks starting February 28th, but the Disney Parks in the United States and Europe have not.  Spokespersons from Universal and Disney in the U.S. are working closely with the Center for Disease Control to ensure the safety of guests and employees on a daily basis.  As of now, the Parks are running on a normal schedule.  Just use common sense, and the above preventative methods, especially washing those hands! 

Furthermore, if you are looking to cancel your trip in fear of the COVID-19, you probably won’t be getting that full refund of your travel money.  Speak to your Travel Advisor regarding your Travel Protection Plans.  Unless you cancel for very specific reasons as specified in your policy, even a “Cancel for Any Reason” policy will not fully refund you simply because you fear the virus.  Cruise Lines and other tour operators are implementing the same policy for domestic and international travel.   Cruise lines are also implementing strict pre-screening procedures to ensure the health and safety of all passengers and crew members.

Overcoming the fear…

Whenever an outbreak such as this occurs, it should always be taken very seriously.  However, we must understand what it is, and what it is not.  What is most important is that it is going to run its course whether we like it or not – – as have all the other viruses and diseases that have been spread throughout the years.  COVID-19 is more difficult to contract than the flu.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, out of all those who have been infected with COVID-19 globally, approximately 2,463 have died from it.  The flu, however, has claimed more than 4,800 lives so far this year.  The preventative measures to take in avoiding each virus is the same, especially WASHING THOSE HANDS!  

Any public place of transportation is on alert and taking great measures to ensure that surfaces are disinfected, air filters are functioning properly (though there has been no indication that this is airborne), hand sanitizing stations are plentiful and accessible, and medical staff is readily available should any person present a symptom.  Hospitals are being prepared and the CDC is issuing directives as to what should be done at home to prepare in the event someone should fall ill.( CDC Household Preparedness ) Even more so, the CDC is encouraging people to keep in contact with and watch over, those who may not have someone to notify or care for them in the event the become ill for any reason.  Oddly, we seem to be at a point where we want to keep our distance, yet it is bringing us closer together as a community out of concern for our fellow human beings.

People have, and will continue to travel.  Business will still be conducted.  Cruise ships will still sail.  Planes will still fly.  Fear can be used to keep us more alert and serve as a reminder of what we should and should not be doing, but it should never stop us from living.  We have all learned that lesson over the past century, time and time again.  More importantly, Walt, Mickey, Main St. U.S.A,  and the vision of that glorious Castle will still be there to greet us, giving us comfort that it is indeed a small world after all, and it is still ours to explore – – just with hand sanitizer. After all, don’t we need the magic now more than EVER?