Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

 

At the DSMMC 2016, there was a thread of empowerment alongside exciting news. From Disney’s Moana to social media tips, there was a plethora of great information with quality Disney entertainment to follow.

Last month I had the unique opportunity to attend the DSMMC 2016 (Disney Social Media Moms Celebration) and enjoy a day in the Anaheim parks.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

The event took place at Disneyland Resort Paradise Pier Hotel. It gave me the opportunity to experience the Resort’s 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebrations, which were ending in less than two weeks while catching up with Travelingmom.com bloggers and networking with fellow influencers.

Though this was a mini half day event (compared to the larger one that takes place in WDW), it was jammed packed with plenty of useful information, inspiration and of course, the typical Disney pixie dust welcome and swag.

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The magic started from the moment the invitees arrived. We were each gifted a goodie bag filled with the 60th celebration items and park hopper tickets for the day. The surprises continued as we moved onto the large ballroom. There were a dozen or so tables each decorated with a pair of light up ears and a “paintbrush” for each attendee, perfect to use during the “Paint The Night” parade. The paintbrush next to the ears is a wand that lets users change the Mickey ears of anyone nearby by choosing a color and pressing a button. Needless to say, all of us had fun switching the colors of each other’s ears!

 

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

But let’s get to the Exciting Disney News!

Michele Himmelberg, Director of Public Relations at the Disneyland Resort, who had recently attended Disney’s Shanghai park opening and Leanne O’Regan, Director of Content Relations for Disney Parks, started our day by sharing details of all the upcoming changes in the Parks.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

The Disneyland Resort

 

The not to be missed rides in the parks this season are ‘Frozen’ at the Hyperion theater and ‘Soaring Over the World’ which replaced Soarin’ Over California.

Both Anaheim parks are ready to celebrate another spooktacular Halloween season with the Haunted Mansion turning into a ghoulish attraction with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme starting September 9th.

Be on the lookout for Elena of Avalor, Disney’s first Latin princess who is an elegant warrior.
Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016 dolls

Also, this will be the final season for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, as it is closing in January to become Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout. Apparently, the Tower’s free fall drop will transform into an intergalactic experience featuring characters from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films.

Walt Disney World

The Orlando parks just got four new attractions: The Tree of Life Awakening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot’s Soaring Over the World and Frozen rides, and the ‘Frozen Ever After’ show at the Hollywood Studios. Last April, I got to check them out first hand during Disney’s Awaken Summer event for the media.

We also saw BIG changes to Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney. The new area is revamped and is worth spending an afternoon or evening in after spending the day in the parks.

However, the BIGGEST thing to hit WDW is going to be Pandora – the new world of Avatar in the Animal Kingdom slotted to open in 2017.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

The Disney Cruise Line

According to the PR team, the cruise line will be adding new itineraries and ports of call from San Diego and Galveston by next year. They will also be adding two new cruise ships by 2021 and 2023. If you still haven’t sailed with Disney, you should seriously consider doing so if possible. The experience is unparalleled when it comes to entertaining families. Did I mention the Disney Wonder will get a Frozen show, too?

Moana

We were shown a preview by Amy Smeed, first female co-head of animation on a Disney feature film. Moana, scheduled for release November 23rd of 2016, promises to be a huge success. Set in the islands of the South Pacific it has all the markings of a quality Disney franchise – a beautiful, strong-willed princess, an angry demi-god, Maui, and two quirky pet characters, Pua the pig and Hei-Hei the rooster.

Moana, played by Auli’i Cravalho, is the movie’s adventurous and tenacious teen heroine. She sails off on a daring mission in an attempt to restore her people’s past as explorers. The themes of female empowerment, culture, and heritage are thought provoking and inspiring.

Amy shared with us through the copious amount of research her studio staff put into recreating the customs and cultures presented in her slideshow. These included details like the culturally significant tattoos of the men.

Watch the Moana trailer here:

 

Tapping into Disney’s bag of tricks on social media

Erin Glover (Editorial Content Director for the Disneyland Resort) and Victoria Lim (Managing Editor of Content at Walt Disney World) shared their secrets to success in the constantly evolving world of blogging and social media platforms.

 

Erin discussed running the Disney Parks Blog and described the challenges associated with organizing content and editorial calendars. She reminded us of the importance of syndication and promotion of content on multiple social platforms.

Victoria shared her favorite digital apps that help her create short professional looking videos on the go. The apps, which include Magisto, Videolicious, Quik, and WeVideo, sounded useful and user-friendly for anyone with a social media presence. All of the apps allow users to create personal collages with pictures and short clips along with music and graphics. I will try them all out and see which one I prefer.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

Our surprise guests

Leave it to Disney to make our day more special by bringing two hard working celebrity moms to share their personal stories of balancing demanding jobs and family life.

Our surprise guests were Tiffani Thiessen (aka Kelly Kapowski from Saved by the Bell) and Ginger Zee (ABC News & Good Morning America meteorologist).

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

In their speeches, both women emphasized that though it wasn’t easy, women can have it all if they stay focused on goals and ‘just do it’ instead of being paralyzed by criticism or obsessed with perfection.

Tiffani spoke of her life as a mother, wife, and host of her own cooking show, Dinner at Tiffani’s, while running her blog. Ginger Zee relayed how she struggled to balance everything with her busy travel schedule and how she is frequently scrutinized on social media for ‘neglecting’ family.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

After listening and taking selfies with these two hard-working women, we were more than ready to head on to the parks and try out the new attractions for ourselves!

Mini tour of the Parks

After the conference had ended at noon, I headed into the Parks to check out all the exciting changes since I had last visited.

Disneyland

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

Walking around the Magic Kingdom filled me with nostalgia and memories of the times I had visited the park with my kids over the past two decades.

However, what caught my eye were two specialized shopping spots that are sure to be a huge hit with kids, particularly for holiday gifts and birthday celebrations – the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and the Star Wars store.

The boutique sells princess outfits complete with accessories. It houses a mini beauty salon perfect for young children. Here, they can get a mani, pedi, hair and makeup done and then get a souvenir photo of the experience.

In the Star Wars store guests can construct and personalize a light saber with different saber colors, hilts and even with dual blades. The sabers light up and can be folded in like any of the light sabers you can buy at the park. Perfect for fans of all ages!

California Adventure

Though I craved my usual Dole Whip at the Tiki room, the line was rather long. Instead, I headed to the New Orleans section instead and enjoyed a refreshing mint julep before moving on to Disney’s California Adventure Park.

Since it opened back in 2001, this park has been our favorite with its thrill rides and boardwalk atmosphere. I was sad to hear that Soarin’ Over California was gone but the new Soarin’ Around the World is even better! This ride takes guests over the iconic landmarks like the Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower, ending right over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

Attendees to the event had to select either ‘Soaring’ or ‘Frozen’ for their fast pass.Blogger friends that saw the show raved about it so I will be sure to go next time I’m in the park. For both attractions, I highly recommend a fast-pass! Even with a fast pass, there’s still a wait since the rides are currently insanely popular.

 

 

As I was heading out, I did stop to gawk at some of the eateries and stores in Downtown Disney. Here, my top picks for entertaining the kids are Build-a-Bear (currently offering unique 60th-anniversary accessories), the Lego store, and Ridemakerz, where you can build your own RC car from scratch. These are all fun options but are somewhat pricey; make sure you discuss a budget with your kids before entering.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

Though my one day in Disneyland was short, it was well worth the two-hour drive for the networking, information, inspiration and fun memories.

 

 

disney statue

Disclosure:

I was invited as a guest of Disney Parks to attend this conference and given a free park hopper for the day as well as a bag of souvenirs. Rest assured that all opinions are my own!

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go?

Our reader, Sarah Watson, couldn’t have chosen a better time to ask this month’s question since the National Autism Association Conference is right around the corner, and just like her, other parents are considering whether they should attend the conference or not.

Dear Margalit,

My name is Sarah Watson, and I’m a single mother living in Houston, Texas with my teen daughter. We don’t usually travel because my daughter has autism. My daughter suffers from high anxiety every time her daily routine is changed which makes traveling extremely challenging.
This month I was surprised when she asked me if we could attend the National Autism Association Conference in Florida. She heard about the Conference from a classmate whose family has been participating for a couple of years and told her it was fun.
I have looked at the conference website and mainly see it as a place to attend lectures about autism that I don’t think will be interesting to her. Also, the prices for the conference and hotel are pretty steep, so I’m confused whether it would be a place we’d even enjoy.
Have you ever attended the meeting?
What are your thoughts?

Hi Sarah,

Thank you for your question. In fact, you are the third person this month who has asked about the conference, so I guess it is slowly increasing in popularity. My family and I had the opportunity to attend last year’s conference and were very pleasantly surprised.
Here are my five reasons why.

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Sound advice from experts

The conference provided an excellent chance to meet parents with kids on the spectrum, network and listen to informative lectures from highly regarded speakers in the autism community like the inspiring Temple Grandin and Chantal Sicile-Kira. The list of guest speakers changes every year so check who’s on the list this year.


The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go chantal

Get informed about new products and services

In 2014, the year we went, the Exhibitor Hall was filled with companies presenting new products, services, and programs; some of which even I hadn’t heard about.
It was at the conference that our son was first introduced to ‘speed stacking’ and was totally captivated!
He was able to chat with peers and interact with them while practicing his stacking skills at the company’s booth.

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go merchandise

 

The atmosphere and parties

You not only get to meet other parents but get to party with them, and everyone is incredibly understanding and willing to listen to your story.
There’s a “meet and greet” the first day, and a beach party the third day followed by a Karaoke dance party in the lobby later that night.
If you can’t afford the beach party (it is a bit pricey) then you can still attend the Karaoke one in the lobby and dance the night away with your daughter by your side.
If she’s noise-sensitive, remember to bring a set of headphones to block some of the noise.

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go dancing

Discover Resources

What better place to find resources for autism than at a conference especially for autism.
The exhibitors have booths and stalls set up, and they display their wares from the first to the last day of the conference between certain hours.
You can pick up brochures advertising the latest innovations and therapies for people with autism, as well as books, toys, puzzles for all ages and difficulty levels; and even possibilities to apply for scholarships.

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go therapies

The Resort

The conference is held at the Tradewinds Resort in St Pete Beach, Florida, a beach resort that is incredibly autism-friendly.
The staff is excellent; helpful and totally non-judgmental when it comes to behaviors; since they are all trained to accommodate guests with autism. The resort offers multiple land and beach activities, but it depends on if the  November weather cooperates or not.
When warm; you will be able to enjoy the pools and beach, if cold and windy like it was when we attended, you need to look for alternative ways to entertain your child.
Guests can take free fishing lessons, play Ping-Pong or try the trampoline, right there on the premises. We took the time and visited the Dali museum downtown.

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go beach

In Summation

The conference is a perfect opportunity to introduce your child to the beach, have him or her experience new things and make some new friends in an autism-friendly atmosphere, especially if you don’t travel much.
In fact, when we attended we  got to chat with several parents that told us they’ve been coming to the NAAC on the yearly basis and that they considered the conference as their ‘annual vacation.’

Disclaimer: Special thanks to the NAAC that provided us with complimentary tickets for the review. However, the tips and opinions shared are always our own.

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go temple

 

 

How to Survive Your First BlogHer Conference

Last month I finally got to attend BlogHer 2014, my first ‘mega’ conference with more than two thousand attendees.

I got a rare opportunity to meet new friends, connect with brands, had fun and above all., learned quite a few tips that I would love to share with fellow bloggers.
Ready? So, here goes:

Tips on How to Survive Your First BlogHer Conference bloggers

 

Lodging

Unless it is exorbitantly expensive; you are better off staying at the hotel the conference is held at.That way you can sleep in longer in the morning, quickly unload all those freebies you amass during the day and have a drink with new friends without worrying about driving alone late at night.
If you do stay at the hotel holding the conference and are a light sleeper makes sure you ask for a room away from conference rooms and hospitality suites where they hold the evening parties.

Packing

Bring shoes that are comfortable (not brand new) since you’ll have to stand on your feet and walk around quite a bit.Also, bring a pair of foldable shoes or flip-flops in case your feet swell.

Don’t forget to take a shawl or jacket for those rooms where the A/C is cranked up and keeps the room too cold.

Long skirts and pants are the best conference attire!
They transition well from morning to evening, and you can sit comfortably on the floor if there are no extra chairs to be found  (Yes, it can happen with popular presenters.)

Places to power up your phone in conference rooms are scarce so bring your extension cord in case you find a spot that’s far from where you are sitting.

Write your name with a Sharpie on all your electronics for easy identification.If you have colorful stickers with the name of your site, use them, since that will promote name recognition of your blog.

Tape a colorful strip of duct tape on your chargers and cords so others won’t confuse their belongings with yours.

Bring a power bank to power your phone up, as you will be continuously tweeting and Instagramming during the day.

Networking

Order business cards with your social media contacts and picture to make it easier for people to remember you and get in touch with you.

Print a sentence on the back of a business card that people can fill -“We met at…”

Check who else is attending and join FB or Twitter groups so you can make new connections with people who interest you.

Create a2-3 sentence  ‘elevator’ pitch to use as an introduction.

If you haven’t done it yet, learn to use hashtags on Twitter and Instagram.

Want company representatives to remember you? Wear a t -shirt printed with your blog name on it so you can stick out from the rest!

Sort nightly through the business cards you collect, photograph them and make files on your laptop for easy access.

Meals are the best time to meet fellow bloggers so make sure you attend all meals.
Water is the first thing you should grab at the buffets and meals since there always seems to be a water bottle shortage towards the end.

And ‘my tip’ for the road:

Make sure you drink responsibly and are on your best behavior at all times unless you want to appear as a total goofball on someone’s Twitter or FB feed.

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