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Are you a Pixie Planner?

Angela Ragno

Angela is the Walt Disney World shopping queen.

Are you a Pixie Planner?

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My family calls me the "Pixie Planner."

Why? Because I'm the daughter who lives in Central Florida. The one who know Walt Disney World like the back of her hand. Which is why friends & family members are always asking me to serve as their personal tour guide during their WDW vacations.

(Do I sound like I'm complaining? I don't mean to. After all, I actually enjoying having an excuse to take yet another trip to the Disney theme parks. More to the point, I'm a real pro when it comes to planning.

Seriously, folks ... I don't mean to sound like I'm bragging ... But the company that I work for actually plans for & stages these massive corporate events all over the country. And I'm so good at my job that I've actually won awards for functions that I've staged. Where hundreds of people had a perfectly wonderful time at events where everything went off without a hitch.

So -- with that sort of experience -- do you seriously think that I'm one of those people who gets a little intimidated by the idea of having to lead a few family members around the Magic Kingdom on a crowded Saturday afternoon? ... Please! Give me a break!)

Anyway ... Getting back to my whole "Pixie Planner" persona. Let me give you an example of what I typically do when friends & family are in town. The lengths to which I'll go to make sure that they have a truly memorable Disney World vacation experience.

The most recent guests to stay at the "Hotel Disneyangela" (AKA my apartment) were mother & my Gram. Now, my mother ... She comes down to Orlando most every year to visit me as well as tour Walt Disney World. Whereas my Gram ... She hasn't been back to WDW since February of 1972. Which was her first and only trip to the Magic Kingdom.

Now let me give you a little background on my grandmother. She was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Which was why I was really rather anxious to make sure my Gram's WDW vacation experience was truly something memorable.

So what did we do? Well -- for starters -- my Gram has always wanted to go to Hawaii. Which is why on the very first night that she & my Mom are in Orlando, I took them over to Disney's Polynesian Resort Hotel for dinner.

Gram had no absolutely no idea where we were going. But as soon as she saw how much that hotel looked like Hawaii, she was in heaven.

Given Gram's limited dietary needs, we decided to go with Kona Kafe for dinner that evening. The food was wonderful and dessert was unbelievable. (HINT: The very best dessert at WDW is served at the Polynesian's Kona Kafe. I don't spoil the surprise and reveal what this tempting treat is actually called. All I can tell you is that it involves ice cream, Mickey Confetti candy and cotton candy.)

After dinner, I took Gram on a tour of the hotel. We arrived at the Poly's waterfront area just as the shells for "Wishes" began exploding over the Magic Kingdom. Which, to be honest, wasn't something that I had planned on us seeing. But - what the hey - my grandmother seemed to enjoy this nightly fireworks spectacular. So I was just happy that the timing of events had worked out the way that it did.

Next on Gram's wish list was a trip to the Magic Kingdom. Where - out of all the attractions in that theme park - the one that my grandmother most wanted to see was (of course) "It's a Small World."

Well, as regular readers of JHM already know, WDW's version of "Small World" has been down for rehab for the better part of a year now. This Fantasyland favorite isn't even scheduled to re-open 'til sometime later this Spring. So - try as I might - I couldn't make that particular piece of Gram's wish list come true.

Still, I did my very best to try & make the rest of my Mom and Gram's visit to the Magic Kingdom more enjoyable. We hit all the attractions that I knew would give my grandmother the best experience. More importantly, the ones that she's actually be able to ride (I.E. No "Splash," no "Big Thunder," no "Space Mountain," etc.).

Over the course of that day, the three of us visited "Mickey's PhilharMagic," "Snow White's Scary Adventure," "Peter Pan's Flight," "The Haunted Mansion," "The Hall of Presidents," "The Enchanted Tiki Room," "The Jungle Cruise" and "The Country Bear Jamboree" (My grandmother loves Big Al!), "The Carousel of Progress," as well as taking a trip on the WDW railroad & attending a performance of the "Share a Dream Come True" parade.

Of course, when you're the infamous "Pixie Planner," you want to make sure that the meals you have while you & your family are in the Magic Kingdom are also magical. Which is why we wound up having lunch at the Plaza as well as dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table.

Now you have to understand that my grandmother's very favorite motion picture is Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." So when we visited with the Princesses (Gram didn't know that she was going to encounter characters during her visit to this theme park), Princess Aurora and Cinderella were in the room. But - just as we were about to leave -- Snow White made her grand entrance.

To be honest, I don't know who was more excited about seeing Snow White: Myself or my grandmother (Why was I excited? Because I knew how special this moment would be for my Gram). Now my grandmother doesn't normally like getting her picture taken. But - seeing as "The Fairest in the Land" was there - Gram readily agreed to having her picture taken with Snow White by WDW's official photographers. Which I happily bought for her later.

And -- of course -- no trip at the Magic Kingdom would be complete without a visit to Mickey's Toontown Faire to see if the old Mousetro is receiving guests in his judging tent.

Obviously, we all had a great day at the Magic Kingdom. The only other Disney theme park that my Gram, my mother & I visited during their recent trip to Central Florida was Disney-MGM Studios.

("Why not Animal Kingdom or Epcot?," you ask. Well, pushing my grandmother's wheelchair over all of those textured walkways in DAK wasn't going to be much fun for her or me. And - as for Epcot - the day that we were scheduled to go visit Disney's science & discovery park, it was much too cold for my Gram to be outside. Such is the fun of Central Florida in December. Anyway ..)

Our afternoon/evening outing at the Studios began with lunch at a restaurant that my grandmother had been dying to eat at for years now: The 50's Prime Time Café. For more than a decade, she has been hearing from various family members about how much fun it is to dine there. How my Dad had once gotten in trouble for wearing his hat indoors and/or how my brother had once been scolded for putting his elbows on the table.

Well, I am sorry to report that "Mom" didn't make it out of the kitchen to visit with us while my Gram, my mother  & I were there eating lunch. But - beyond that - the three of us had truly a swell time at the 50's Prime Time Café. Dining on comfort food as well as playing with our "cousins."

After lunch, we hit "The Great Movie Ride," the "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" as well as catching the special Christmas edition of Disney-MGM's "Stars and Motorcars" parade. After that, we attended a performance of "Fantasmic!" About which my Gram said: "If I saw nothing else this whole trip, it was worth it." So obviously she liked that show!

As an extra added bonus, I wheeled her on over to the park's New York Street. Where the three of us took in the new version of the Osbourne "Spectacle of Lights." (Me personally? I preferred the old version of the spectacle, where Disney-MGM visitors could stroll along that theme park's Residential Street as they "Ooohed" and "Aaahed" at the Osbourne Lights. But for my grandmother & my mother - who had never seen the earlier version of this seasonal show - thought that MGM's lit-up cityscape looked just great.)

As for what the three of us were able to accomplish during my Gram & Mom's recent trip to Central Florida ... Our only limitations were time, mobility and weather.

Since my grandmother can't do much walking these days, a wheelchair is a necessity. And - in all my other trips to the Disney theme parks - this is the first time that I've ever had to push a wheelchair around the place.

And let me tell you, folks, that I really got a work-out that week. Disney may do a wonderful job when it comes to handicap access for its rides, shows, attractions, parades, etc. But the theme parks themselves - what with all their textured pavements (like the Cobblestone streets in Liberty Square) - and/or the steep grades on all those ramps leading to the monorail don't exactly make life easy for those folks who are stuck in wheelchairs. Or - more importantly - the poor relatives who wind up pushing their family members around in wheelchairs.

I didn't need to go to the gym the entire time that my Gram & my Mom are in town. Heck, it still makes my calves hurt just to think about all the pushing that I did while those two were here visiting Walt Disney World.

But - in spite of all the stresses and the strains - I still think that it was all worth it. My Gram describes her recent trip to WDW as the most wonderful vacation of her life. She says that she can't wait to come back and that she doesn't know why she ever got on that plane to go back to Connecticut.

So obviously, this trip went well. Which makes the "Pixie Planner" in me proud.

In fact, even as you read this, the "Pixie Planner" is already putting together plans for Gram's return trip to Orlando. Of course, we're going to have to wait 'til things get a little warmer (So that my grandmother can then be sure to get in her trip to Epcot). We're also going to wait 'til the newly refurbishing "It's a Small World" finally re-opens its doors. So that my grandmother can once again experience her favorite Disney theme park ride.

So what about all you other Central Florida residents out there? Are you also a "Pixie Planner"? Someone who will always go the extra mile to make sure that your friends & family have a truly memorable Disney World vacation experience?

Well, if so, what do you do to help their WDW vacation that much more memorable?

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