Disclosure: I received a conference rate to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. I also received gifts from sponsors. All opinions are my own.When I first started blogging years ago, I saw other respected bloggers attend the invite-only Disney Social Media Moms Celebration for influencers. I always dreamed of receiving that coveted invite, but had no idea how to score one (it’s still a mystery to bloggers). As such, I just carried on and focused on growing my blog.
Last year, Disney finally sent me an invite (hallelujah!). However, the dates conflicted with the return of our family trip from China so I passed. I wondered if I’d be asked again and hoped some Pixie Dust magic would bring a future invite.The Pixie Dust must have worked because this year Disney invited me to its 8th annual Disney Social Media Moms Celebration (February 2-12). For the first time, the Celebration would be a Land and Sea conference. As a first-time attendee, I did not know what to expect. Now that I’ve attended, I can knowledgeably share what worked regarding planning as well as things I wish I had done differently.
One of the most helpful resources for everything related to the conference was the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Facebook group. The closed group included Influencers old and new as well as conference administrators. All of them provided a rich source of information.
Prior to the start of the conference, Disney set up a website with detailed itineraries. I made sure to print them as they were our daily activities lifeline. I also brought plenty of business cards since the conference provided many opportunities to network with both bloggers and brands.
KNOW THE DRESS CODE
Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Influencers were encouraged to dress business casual for sessions. I wore layers per the advice of conference alumni. It was a smart move because while the weather outside was warm, the temperature inside the conference centers was much cooler.
I brought outfits that could transition from day to night since sometimes there was not much time between events to freshen up. It was imperative to bring comfortable shoes like sneakers, flats or nice sandals given the amount of walking required. During the two days on land, Influencers visited all four parks plus Disney Springs. My FitBit tracked about 15,000-20,000 steps a day.
There’s one exception about the dress code. Anything Disney — accessories and clothes — was acceptable. Plenty of Influencers wore Mickey beanie hats or Minnie headband ears at sessions. As for kids, pirates, princesses, and other Disney costumes were worn at just about every event. It was all good when it came to Disney gear.
PLAN FOR A PACKED SCHEDULE
Many Influencers brought their families along, but just note that the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration was first and foremost a business trip. This meant the itinerary was packed so there was little unscheduled free time to hang out with family. For example, I spent only 3 hours visiting Magic Kingdom with my family before heading back to the resort to prep for evening activities (these were primarily scheduled family events). It was important that every family member was on the same page in order to manage expectations.
I suspect families who came with older or no children had greater opportunities to see and do much more. My children were young, and one required a nap. Both kids went to bed early. As such, we needed to pace ourselves to avoid meltdowns. The good news was that Influencers and their families received Media Fast Passes. These allowed us to enter Fast Pass lines without reserving them beforehand. This perk enabled me to visit about six attractions in the short amount of time I spent in Magic Kingdom.
One major aspect we regretted was not flying in earlier. This would have allowed us to explore the parks and our resort in depth at a pace that worked better for my young children. We had already booked our flights before learning that Disney had provided us with multiple day park passes. Many conference alumni said they learned the same lesson after their first trip, and therefore made sure to book extra days. I’d highly encourage conference first timers to do the same.
LEARN DISNEY CRUISING CULTURE
One thing I learned about Disney Cruises was that they had a distinct culture. Through the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Facebook group, I discovered the world of door magnets and Fish Extenders.
Disney Cruise guests tend to decorate their metal cabin doors with magnets. Not just random magnets, but with Mickey-shaped ones customized with each family’s name or a version of them. It was not mandatory, but it did add to the spirit of the cruise. I had the good fortune of meeting Gayle Feldman Turner in the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Facebook Group. She generously offered to create custom Mickey-shaped magnets for my family. This amazing grandmother and blogger did an awesome job. Thanks, Gayle!
Fish Extenders was one cruise tradition I had never heard of. The concept was to hang a pocket organizer from the fish-shaped hook by the cabin door as part of a friendly gift exchange between families. Families often customized each pocket with the names of their family members. Some people gave gifts all at once while others chose to spread them out over the trip. I’m told it was a great way to share Disney love with others. I didn’t participate as I was a bit overwhelmed before the trip, but plan to do so the next time.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THE DISNEY SOCIAL MEDIA MOMS CELEBRATION
The best way to give first time Influencers a sense of what the conference was about is to recap what we did this year.
Day 1: Travel Day/First Day of Disney Social Media Moms Celebration
After arriving in Orlando International Airport (MCO), we boarded a Disney Magical Express bus for the one-hour ride to our resort. I highly recommend making reservations for this free service. Once we registered, Disney mailed us luggage tags which enabled them to pick up our luggage in baggage claim. They then delivered our luggage to our room. Just make sure to pack a carry-on day bag since luggage may not be delivered for several hours.
We stayed at the Disney Port Orleans – Riverside resort located near Epcot. The theme of the resort reflected picturesque rural Louisiana with its stately mansions and quaint cottages. With its gorgeous water views and wide open spaces, the resort provided a relaxing, low-key setting. The resort was considered one of Disney’s moderately priced ones. It featured Ol’ Man Island – inspired by the story of Tom Sawyer – where families could fish, swim, and play in the playground. There were five leisure pools including a 95-foot-long water slide. For a slower pace, the Sassagoula Steamboat Company offered guests rides around the resort in its old-style river steamboat.
Dining options included Riverside Mill — a food court inside a cotton mill setting, and Boatwright’s Dining Hall — a table service restaurant cooking up Cajun-inspired dishes. Given the ages of our children, we opted for Riverside Mill. The food court offered a variety of options to satisfy the different tastes within our family. The Magic Bands made it easy to pay for purchases with just a swipe of our wrists.
Our room was spacious with enough room for a crib. The crib was a play pen, something to note for those who may have expected an actual crib. I appreciated the curtain divider between the sleeping and bathroom areas. This allowed my husband and I to get ready for bed without waking up the kids.
Once we were settled into our room, I attended a personalized Hanes Experience. Hanes, a conference sponsor, showcased its products to Influencers who could then pick items for their families. We learned about the advanced technology Hanes placed in its products. For example, Hanes X-Temp, a sweat-wicking soft cotton material, kept people cool while wearing t-shirts, socks, and underwear. Hanes also featured FreshIQ, a revolutionary technology which attacked odor-causing bacteria in clothes. I choose products ranging from Women’s Performance Capri Pants and bras to undershirts, polo shirts, socks and underwear for my entire family. Thanks, Hanes!
In the evening, Influencers visited the beautiful Festival of the Lion King Theater at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Director of Public Relations for Disney Parks, Leanne O’Regan, welcomed us as well as effervescent host Mark Daniel. There, we viewed a large-scale model of the new Pandora: The World of Avatar attraction opening on May 27, 2017. It looked pretty amazing! Afterwards, families joined for a dinner hosted by GoGo squeeZ (we loved their applesauce!).
Families then previewed the Rivers of Light Nighttime Experience located at the Tree of Life Awakenings at Animal Kingdom Discovery Island. The spectacular light and water show celebrating animals and nature opened on February 17, 2017. It was a mesmerizing show with lots of “Ahh!” and “Ohhh!” moments from the audience.
Day 2 – Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Sessions and Walt Disney World Parks
On our second day, a bus brought the Influencers to Epcot bright and early. Disney surprised us with an exclusive opportunity to ride the Soarin’ attraction at Future World. With seats moving up to 40 feet high and wind blowing through my hair in front of a 180-degree, 80-foot IMAX projection dome, I literally felt like I was flying. The attraction touched upon all senses – I could hear the sounds of animals while flying over tundra, feel the rocking motions as I flew over mountains, see majestic views, and smell fragrant flowers while soaring over the Taj Mahal.
After our exhilarating ride, we proceeded to the Breakfast Sponsor Showcase. During breakfast, we heard from sponsors Alamo, Hanes, and GoGo squeeZ. To our delight, Olympic Gold Medalist gymnast Dominique Dawes appeared. As a GoGo squeeZ Goodness Ambassador, Dawes took her passion for fitness and health to spread good nutrition habits to kids. I had the opportunity to hold her gold medal which was quite heavy!
I met with Alamo Rent A Car and learned about its family-and-budget-friendly services. Next, I was delighted to thank American Tourister for providing Influencers with super cool Star Wars-themed luggage. I also tried Joffrey’s coffee for the first time and loved its rich roast taste.
The all-new Disney Beauty and the Beast film is slated for release on March 17, 2017 starring Emma Watson as Belle. I viewed several brand partners tied to the film.
- Home Shopping Network (HSN) was offering an exclusive collection inspired by the movie. The public can start shopping on HSN.com on March 1 and view the TV event on March 15 (#BeOurGuest). Items included everything from heels and jewelry to rugs and pillows.
- Neutrogena offered to give Influencers Belle’s look with its Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint and Concealer, Nourishing Eyeliner and MoistureSmooth Color Stick, and Healthy Skin Blush.
- Twinnings provided samples of its special edition Beauty and the Beast branded herbal teas. Flavorings included Orange & Cinnamon Spice, Lemon & Ginger, Chamomile Honey & Vanilla, and Pure Peppermint.
- Luxe Bloom sent a red rose to our homes that was inspired by the movie. Luxe Bloom flowers used an innovative process that made flowers last up to 60 days!
After the brand sessions, Influencers participated in either the Social Media Challenge shopping Instagram contest or spent free time in the parks. Since this was my only opportunity to visit the parks with my family, I met up with them in Magic Kingdom.
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Fireworks
In the early evening, Disney bused families to Hollywood Studios for a delicious pizza party sponsored by Alamo at PizzeRizzo. Afterwards we went to Hollywood Studios, Launch Bay and Animation Courtyard for a VIP viewing of Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Fireworks. The show impressed us with its larger-than-life projection effects, fireworks, lasers, and sound. We ended the evening at a private Family Galactic Dessert Party to enjoy decadent sweets. We also had the opportunity to meet with Disney Jr. and Star Wars characters!
Day 3 – Disney Springs and Disney Wonder
After checking out of the resort, Influencers and their families traveled to Disney Spring’s AMC Theatre for an exclusive screening of Disneynature’s Born in China. The engaging documentary is slated for release on Earth Day, April 21, 2017. Narrated by John Krasinski, the documentary followed the adventures of China’s pandas, golden monkeys, and elusive snow leopard. After the show, Influencers sat with Executive Producer Roy Conli who provided behind-the-scenes insight.
Families then checked into the Disney Wonder cruise ship. For more details about Disney Cruises, please visit my post HERE. Influencers attended a private lunch at Animator’s Palate where Disney drawings came to life. At the start of my meal I drew a character on a paper template using markers. By the end of my meal, my drawing was transformed into an animated character dancing on the walls of the restaurant. Please note this option was not available during regular dining hours.
Drawings Came to Life on the Walls at Animator’s Palate
After a brief welcome session for Influencers, my family attended our first restaurant. We were assigned a different restaurant each night to try. Our servers rotated with us. On this first evening, we ate at Tiana’s Place, a New Orleans-themed restaurant based on the movie The Princess and the Frog. Afterwards we danced at Family Night at Azure Club before heading over to the Walt Disney Theatre for the Golden Mickeys show. We left the show tired, but happy!
Day 4 – Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Full Day Conference Sessions
Day 4 was a full day of conference sessions sponsored by Hanes. Influencers heard from Dan Cockerell, Vice President of Magic Kingdom who shared thrilling news. The next generation of Magic Bands were here with new colors and formats! Users could change out the center disc and place it in one of the new Magic Band accessories. This flexibility allowed them to wear it beyond just on their wrists. In addition, Magic Kingdom was planning a new nighttime fireworks show “Happily Ever After” (opens May 12, 2017).
Dave Mullins, Director of Pixar Animation Studios, spoke about his new animated short titled Lou that will premiere with Cars 3 on June 16, 2017. We were privy to the first-ever showing outside of the studios. Lou was a short film full of heart and redemption featuring a playground bully. I found it to be very creative, witty, and relatable.Tom Smith, Editorial Content Director at Disney Parks Blog, discussed how his team decided on content. Listening to what their readers wanted has contributed to the Blog’s success.
Chris Ostrander, Disney Parks, Synergy Director, represented the hub of the wheel – his job was to coordinate different departments to make amazing things happen. He showed an 8 minute never-seen-by-the-public clip of the upcoming Beauty and the Beast. I was totally engrossed in the film. Who knew that Emma Watson could sing? She had a lovely voice and was perfect as Belle.
Amy Smeed, Disney Studios, Head of Animation, provided behind-the-scenes intel into the complex process of bringing animated characters to life. For the animated movie Moana, we learned that Disney chose 15-year-old Auli’i Carvalho, a Hawaii-born teen of Polynesian descent to voice Moana.
Chris Sonnenberg, Disney Channel, Executive Producer/Supervising Director spoke about his latest project, Tangled: The Series. His own teen daughter inspired much of what went into the episodes that will appear on The Disney Channel. He discussed the challenging yet fulfilling tasks of writing and producing a series.
After a private lunch at Tiana’s Place, Influencers gathered to hear Alex Ruiz, Disney Parks, Digital Marketing Director. He provided helpful information regarding digital trends and apps that his team used.
Our last speaker was Ginger Zee, Good Morning America, Meteorologist. She was on board not only for our conference, but also for work. Good Morning America filmed live from the Disney Wonder that day, and Influencers had the chance to be on national television. Zee touched upon topics many of us could relate to – working as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field (science), dealing with the challenges of work/life balance with children, and fending off online trolls. Zee inspired me with her confidence and grace, and she was the perfect ending to the conference sessions.
In the evening, my family ate dinner at the Art Deco sea-themed Triton’s. After dinner, we watched another amazing show, Disney Dreams. At 10 pm, guests gathered on the top decks for a rousing Pirate Night party. With performances, food, and fireworks, it was a party worth attending.
Day 5 – Castaway Cay
Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, was one of our highlights. I skipped the optional Castaway Cay 5K in the early morning, instead sauntered in with my family mid-morning. With water slides, shopping, food, and more, it was exactly what my family was looking for. I wrote about Castaway Cay in detail here in my Disney Cruise post.
That evening we enjoyed dinner at Animator’s Palate and then viewed Frozen, A Musical Spectacular. The Broadway-worthy show amazed the audience. In fact, the cast received a standing ovation. It was a great show to cap our trip.
Day 6 – Last Day and Disembarkation
After a quick breakfast at Animator’s Palate, we disembarked and took Magical Express to the airport. Some Influencers returned to the parks for a few more days of fun.
My family returned to snowy, frigid weather in New York. We missed the warm, sunny weather in Florida and the Disney magic that surrounded us. But I learned so much during the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration and am grateful to have attended. I hope Disney will invite me back next year so that we can continue to make new memories!