Shopping 'round the (Disney) world

Hi, I would like to live here forever please. (Source:
If you're anything like me (and I don't mean the short female part), you likely love to buy cool stuff to put in your home, eat, remember where you've been or give as a gift.  And if you've ever been to Disney World before you know the Disney is chock full of this kind of stuff.  I mean, seriously - challenge yourself to walk into a merch shop and not come out with a bag of stuff or an unfulfilled desire to buy at least one thing there.

I've already discussed sticking to a budget and have given my advice over good ways to spend your money while on the program, so if you're already good on that front brace yourselves - today I'm going to talk about some of my favorite places to shop on Disney property!  Note that this is entirely my own opinion and that I may have tastes that are very different from yours, so don't be afraid to explore and find your own favorite places when you get to Florida!

(NOTE: I received word after finishing this post that Sid Cahuenga's One-of-a-kind in Hollywood Studios is now closed to make way for a MyMagic+ station so you will no longer be able to shop there.  I haven't heard if another shop will start selling the signed memorabilia now.)

Top Five Favorites Overall

Though I'll discuss these shops in more length later on in this post, I thought I would start off by listing my top favorite five shops in all of Disney property.  I like these shops for different reasons - in terms of good deals, unique merchandise, location, whatever - which I'll explain in a bit.
  1. Mitsukoshi Department Store, Japan Pavilion in Epcot
  2. Sid Cahuenga's One-of-a-kind, Hollywood Studios
  3. TrenD, Marketplace in Downtown Disney
  4. Basin, Marketplace in Downtown Disney
  5. Mobassa Marketplace, Africa in Animal Kingdom
Now, it's on to the main body of this post!

Shops in Magic Kingdom

Shopping in MK can be a ton of fun, although if you're looking for non-Disney merchandise you'll have slim pickings.  Main Street, however, has some fantastic higher-end merchandise for those who are feeling a bit picky.  Among the shops, I like visiting Crystal Arts and looking at the beautiful pieces on display.  Everything is a bit on the pricier side - and is definitely not the sort of thing you'd give to a child - but there are good deals and lots of eye candy.  There's also a shop that routinely sells paintings and other pieces of art, though I can't remember the name right now.  It's close to the Confectionery on Main Street, though.

Outside of Main Street, I really enjoy Big Top Souvenirs, located in New Fantasyland.  Though most of the merchandise here can be found elsewhere (except for Dumbo's stuff - Dumbo fans rejoice, there's a place for you to get merch now!) the theming of the shop is super adorable and it always smells good thanks to the food counter in the center that sells sweets and slushes among other things.  Buy something from them, they're delicious!

A good shop to stop in if you're shopping for mostly non-Disney stuff is The Yankee Trader, located in Liberty Square.  It's full to the brim of stuff for the kitchen and other nice household-y things like that, and usually has a bit of stuff that isn't overtly Disney.  (As a side note, it also stocks Haunted Mansion stuff - if you're as obsessed with the ride as I am this is your kinda place).

Shops in Epcot

Epcot is one of the coolest places to shop (at least for me) because of the World Showcase.  Though a chunk of what's sold is pretty much cheap tourist junk there are some fantastic items to be found in some of the pavilions.

As I mentioned earlier, Mitsukoshi Department Store in the Japanese pavilion is one of my favorite places in all of Disney property to shop.  It's easily one of the largest shops in the World Showcase and contains everything from nerdy stuff (anime, manga and video games in particular - which I love) to traditional wear like kimono to snacks and cookware.  If there's something you want, chances are Mitsukoshi has it - and everything is really good quality.  If there was a downside I'd have to say it's that products here tend to be priced higher than in other pavilions so it's not the place to go on a budget, but since a lot of the stuff is really unique and hard to find in America otherwise I always think it's worth it.

Another place I like to poke around is the United Kingdom's pavilion, and even though I don't have a favorite shop there I have a special love for The Tea Caddy.  This is mostly because I was raised drinking tea and love it more than any other drink... and also because I adore the teacups and tea sets they have there! (The shop in China also has some nice tea sets by the way, though theirs are made of metal and the UK's seem to be porcelain.)

Lastly, all of the little stalls in the Mexican Pavilion are beyond fun to look through.  There's everything from spices to ceramic wall decorations, and the theming of the indoor market they're located in is beautiful.  It's modeled to look like a courtyard at dusk and the darkness is very soothing to your eyes after the harsh Florida sun.  Since Florida is close to South America it's highly possible you can find the stuff sold here in various other local places but here it's made a unique experience.

Shops in Hollywood Studios

If you're a fan of movies (especially Disney movies or movies from studios owned by Disney) you'll find a lot of fun places to look through here.  My favorite (and my second-favorite WDW shop overall) is Sid Cahuenga's One-of-a-kind, which is right to the left of the entrance as you enter.  Sid's has TONS of signed prints, movie memorabilia and the like, and it's not all limited to things Disney owns so it's yet another place to go gift hunting for non-Disney things.  Prices here can be high - signed photos start at about $40 and get more expensive depending on the celebrity - but it's more than worth a look around.

If you like the idea of Sid's but want more Disney stuff, there's also the Animation Gallery (located in the Animation Courtyard) which stocks hand-drawn prints of the characters along with original paintings and other art.  There's an artist who sketches every day and you can request your favorite character if you don't see it - just remember that they can get pricy!

Lastly (though it's hard to pick only one more store), you can't go wrong with Tatooine Traders if you're a Star Wars fan - and trust me, I'm a fan.  This shop is almost always crowded since it's part of the exit from Star Tours, but there's tons of fun Star Wars merchandise to be had for those willing to brave the crowds.  Unfortunately CPs aren't allowed to partake in the main draw of this shop, the build-your-own lightsaber station.  Sigh.

Shops in Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is the park I worked in last time so I might be biased on this, but it has the most interesting and unique assortment of things to buy than any other park.  Seriously!  If you're willing to be surprised you will find plenty to be surprised about.  My fifth-favorite shop in WDW is located in the Africa area of the park and goes by Mobassa Marketplace.  There are some really lovely things here past the standard Disney souvenirs like beaded animal statues, jewelery and hand-painted items and they're relatively reasonably priced.

Over on the other side of the park, Asia also has some interesting merch though its shops are much smaller.  The Serka Zong Bazaar, located at the exit from Expedition Everest, is the biggest and offers both general merchandise for the land and Everest-themed stuff.  I got some really cool Tibetan prayer flags here once and remember seeing some very pretty women's clothes and bags as well, so if that sounds good to you make a point to visit!

Lastly, when you're on your way out of the park Disney Outfitters is a cool place to stop by.  Though some of it is just standard Disney merch there's a few interesting things to look at and the building it's housed in is lovely too.  It's a great example of the colorful architecture on Discovery Island!

Shops in Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney is essentially an outdoor shopping mall and there are TONS of cool places here - too many to describe, in fact.  So since two shops were listed in my top five list I'll discuss them in more detail now - though you should go look through all the shops :)

TrenD is the place to shop for fashionable clothing for young women and teenagers, and if you're looking for pretty Disney things to wear look no further.  Guys are unfortunately left out here (though the shop is attached to a sports-themed clothing store so you can send any men in your party there if that appeals to them) and for the most part so are children, but hey!  They've got their own places to go.

Basin is part of a chain selling stuff for the bath like soap, bath bombs, lotions, bath salts and the like and if you like to smell good things then this is your kind of store.  There's even a station where you can sample things like sugar scrubs so you can try a product before you buy it.  The staff is usually very pleasant and helpful too, so if you're shopping for someone you're in good hands.

Shops in the Resorts

Though most resorts only have your basic souvenir shop that sells basic Disney merch, there are some with pretty cool shops.  The Boardwalk, of course, has an excellent selection since it's half shopping/nightlife area and half resort, but it's a pretty unique hybrid in that regard.

If I ever need to go to a resort to kill some time shopping I usually choose either the Polynesian Resort or the Contemporary Resort.  The Polynesian features some pretty Hawaiian-themed apparel in addition to the typical merch, and the environment is very laid-back and relaxing.  The Contemporary's shops, while it doesn't have a lot of unique merch, are located in a pretty cool area since they're on the floor of the main atrium.  They also have a good selection of H2O+ products (a line of hair care and skincare products), which I love - their lotion got me through a terrible sunburn on vacation once and since then I have been obsessed with it!

Outside of those two, an interesting shop I like to stop by whenever I'm visiting is the Zawadi Marketplace in the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Much like Mobassa Marketplace, it sells a lot of African-inspired gifts and books in addition to typical stock.  If you missed out in shopping in Africa while you were visiting DAK or don't have time (or money) during your vacation to visit it this ensures that you at least don't end up having to skip some really cool stuff.

So that's my list of places I like to shop!  Do you have any places you like to go to that I didn't mention?  Are you looking forward to visiting any of the ones I mentioned?  Let me know!
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When Grandma Joan comes to town: how to request work off or trade shifts

We request work off at this hub, right? (Source:
So you've started working at your job (which you are likely in love with - or at least don't mind doing) and are getting into the routine of working all the time.  However, one day your parents call you... and they're coming to visit for a week!  You're super excited but there's only one problem - you have to ask work off and you aren't sure how!

Never fear, friends - today I'll do my best to explain to you how you ask work off, request a schedule swap or trade a shift with a coworker!  Please note that this post will not cover how to call in sick/personal, however (which isn't the same thing as getting work off).  It will also not cover shift giveaways or exchanges for performers, who I believe use an entirely different system.

Can't Wait Until You Get There?

If you have an event that you absolutely must attend and feel you cannot wait until you start work to request shifts off, you are able to email a request to the Recruiting office for up to five days off in a row.  You may be asked to produce documents verifying that you have a legitimate reason for requesting off so early so make sure you have these on hand.  Also, keep in mind that this is just a request - you aren't any more likely to get it approved than if you had waited.

Please note that while you are able to send in requests ahead of time for any reason, Recruiting does this mostly for those who need work off for important events like weddings, graduations or anything or the sort.  If you want work off for something like a family visit, personal vacation or concert wait until you start work and request off using the normal method (the Hub).

Asking Work Off

Once you gain access to the Hub you'll be shown the page where you put in requests to get work off.  It'll be located in the same place as the page you use to swap shifts with or give a shift to a coworker, which I'll talk about in a minute.  Requesting work off is probably the easiest thing to do through the Hub, since it doesn't require any other cast member or advanced knowledge about schedules.  However, keep these points in mind:
  1. You can only request up to ten days off in a row.
  2. You are still responsible for paying your rent each week, which is taken directly out of your paycheck.  If you don't work enough hours to pay rent for a week you'll be sent a notice of how much you owe and a deadline to pay it by.
  3. If you need days off immediately (for a medical/family emergency or a funeral, for example) don't bother with the Hub.  Contact your managers directly and they'll be able to work something out with you.
  4. Your request may take up to a few days to process and you may get waitlisted.  It is your responsibility to keep an eye on the status of your requests, as you won't be emailed when they get approved/rejected.
The form is pretty simple to fill out so I won't go into too much detail.  When it comes to stating a reason for requesting off you'll get a drop-down menu with a lot of options - Regular Day Off and Personal Day Off are your best bets though your stated reason usually doesn't matter much (unless you need work off for something specific, like jury duty).  Regular Day Off means that you want the day you're requesting off to be one of the two days you usually get off per week.  Personal Day Off means that you want an additional day off.

Giving A Shift Away To Another CM

If you can't get work off for a certain day, you might consider giving your shift to another cast member.  These requests will always be approved unless you or the person you're giving the shift to aren't qualified to give/take the shift.  These reasons include:
  1. The shift you are trying to give away is a training shift or one that only you can complete (like one with a meeting with your managers already scheduled).
  2. The CM you are trying to give the shift to doesn't have the appropriate training for the role (for example, you can't give an Attractions CM at Space Mountain a shift for Soarin' because they aren't trained for that attraction).  Sometimes the system gets mixed up with training, however - if this is the case let a manager know and they can override the system to put the request through.
  3. You are giving a shift to someone who already has too many hours for the week, making your shift overtime.  They can only accept an OT shift if you were already getting OT for it, though this may differ between roles.
  4. The CM you are trying to give the shift to works at the same location as you but doesn't have the same proficiencies (for example, as a merch CM you can't give a cashier shift to someone who hasn't been cleared to work the cashier yet).  Again, the system may get messed up and your manager may need to step in.
If you and the CM you're giving the shift to are totally able to make the exchange all you need is the other CM's login ID and the date and time of the shift you're giving away.   Again, you won't be notified if you get the request approved or denied so you will both need to keep a close eye on your schedules.  If the request is approved the shift is no longer your responsibility, though I have heard rumors that you can still get penalized if the CM you give your shift to doesn't show up for work.  In this case, make sure that you can trust whoever you give the shift to.

Trading Shifts With Another CM

Trading shifts with someone is a good deal like giving a shift away (and it uses the same form), but it is a bit more complicated.  You might want to trade a shift if you need a certain part of the day off but still want to work (for example, you might want to trade a night shift for a morning shift so you can go out to dinner with your family in the evening).  You might also want to trade a shorter shift for a longer one, or a shift at a position you don't like for one you do.  However, along with the tips mentioned above also keep these in mind:
  1. The shifts you are trying to trade must BOTH be either non-OT or OT.  You can't give a shift that is OT for you in exchange for a shift that wasn't OT for the CM giving it and vice versa.  This rule may change depending on role.
  2. The shifts in question do not have to be on the same day, but both CMs must be able to work on the day and at the time of the shift they are receiving.
  3. Three-way shift swaps are possible but you may not be able to use the Hub's form.  Contact a manager if not.
Again, keep an eye on your schedules afterwards to make sure that you know if/when the request gets approved.  You are responsible for keeping track of your new schedule.

Finding/Posting About Shifts

So you have a shift you need to get rid of or trade, or you want to pick up more hours for a week - but you don't know how to get the word out.  Luckily, you have several options.  The Hub has its own shift post board that you can search for your role specifically in addition to the EHH (Extra Hours Hotline), which has shifts you can pick up no matter how many hours you already have scheduled.

In addition, depending on your role and location there may be a Facebook group of coworkers as a sort of virtual bulletin boards.  These may be secret, however, so you'll have to find someone willing to let you in in order to use it.  In addition there may be additional rules you have to follow in order to post on the page so keep an eye out for those.

Finally, you can go the old-fashioned route and post papers in your breakroom or base, if there's a place to put it.  Keep in mind that some managers won't let you, however, and will throw your notices away if they see them.  Ask if it's okay before you put anything up.

For the most part that's all you need to know about anything shift-related!  Your particular role may have different procedures but most should be the same for all cast members.  I hope this helps, and if you have any questions you can contact me through the blog or Twitter.
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The Boy Who Lived (in Florida): A walkthrough/review of the Wizarding World at Universal (minus Diagon Alley)

AKA Welcome to Crowds and Lines
In May of 2007, Universal Orlando announced that they would be building a themed land based around the insanely popular Harry Potter series and would allow guests to immerse themselves in the world of the title character and his friends.  Construction took about three years, and the land opened to the public in June of 2010.  Lines in those early days were INSANE.  I didn't have the chance to go until last year (2013) so I can't say from first-hand experience, but according to various blogs Universal actually had to start limiting the number of people who could be admitted to the area at any given time.  Thankfully, it calmed down now but it still a very popular area of the park.

So why am I discussing a single area of Universal, rather than discussing the entire two parks at length?  It'd be helpful if I did, right?  Well, I have several reasons.
  1. I am a huge Harry Potter fan, and have been since I was nine.  I was one of those lucky kids who literally got to grow up with the series, and to say it was a big part of my childhood is an understatement.  Putting it simply, there was a time in my life where it was my everything.
  2. People have been super fascinated with WW since it opened, and people who wouldn't have considered buying tickets to Universal otherwise are now making plans to visit.  I want to tell them what to expect!
  3. To be honest (and disclaimer here: I am speaking as an individual, NOT as a Disney cast member) I've found most of Universal to be underwhelming.  They're not bad parks by any means, and have a couple of rides (Spider-Man and Forbidden Journey, for those who care) that I will say are among the most amazing I've ever been on, but overall I don't feel that same connection to what I'm seeing that I do when I'm in a Disney park.  It doesn't help that more of Universal's rides are aimed at thrill seekers and I'm picky about what thrill rides I do or do not enjoy.  But by all means, if you enjoy them that's totally okay.  They're fun and well-staffed.
So here we go!  I'll discuss the area, the shops, the food and the rides, and along the way give my opinions on each.  And once again, this post is entirely for fun - I am speaking as my own individual person, not as a Disney cast member or someone who is getting paid to write.

Getting Around

We're on a bridge!
Every inch of WW is accurate to the books and films - from its stone pathways to its crowded rooftops to its window displays.  If it weren't for the fact that hundreds of guests are walking around in T-shirts and fanny packs you could almost swear you've stepped into the real Hogsmeade.  Of course, Potter purists will point out several inconsistencies - Hogwarts is too close to Hogsmeade, Ollivander's is in Diagon Alley rather than Hogsmeade, etc etc etc.  (I've heard conflicting reports on whether Ollivander's will be moved to the new expansion area when it's opened; this post was written before its official opening.)  Overall, though, it looks awesome.

So what could be wrong with this level of detail, you say?  Well, a lot.  Anyone who has seen any of the films or read any of the books knows that a lot of wizarding areas are very crowded and feature narrow passageways - and, unfortunately, this detail is faithfully replicated.  Did I mention that WW is still super popular?  Trying to simply get from the land's entrance to Hogwarts Castle, which houses Forbidden Journey, can be an exercise in patience and aggressiveness - and for the most part, don't expect to be able to shop comfortably.  This problem is only magnified in summer, when crowds are larger and feature those obstacles known as tour groups.

In short, this is something you're not going to be able to avoid if you want to visit though it is doable to get where you want to go - you just have to be patient.  And while you're wading through the crowds, take the chance to check out the super-cool buildings!

Stuff for Sale

Cue the nerdy squealing.
Warning: if you are a Harry Potter fan with a bad spending habit you may want to avoid this section (and avoid all gift shops as well).  It's gonna get hard to resist the urge to buy things.

So much merchandise has been released for Harry Potter over the years - licensed, unlicensed, mass-produced, handmade by fans, etc.  It's everywhere and on everything.  However, I am very pleased (and still somewhat shocked) to announce that WW actually stocks merch that I have never ever seen anywhere else!  They have just about everything you might want from keychains to stuffed animals, pillows to T-shirts and knickknacks to wands.  They even have costume replicas of student robes, Hermione's Yule Ball dress (fun fact: the real dress that Emma Watson wore is on display in one of the shop windows on the street) and Voldemort's black garb.

However, not all is perfect - some items, such as the aforementioned costumes, are a bit overpriced for the quality they are.  Seriously, go touch the robes when you visit - they're unpleasantly scratchy and the fabric feels cheap (though this may change at any time, I haven't visited in a while).  You're paying for the licensing, of course, but I found that most of the costumes could probably be done better and for less money if you made it yourself.  Some people won't care, but I find it a bit disheartening.  There's also the issue of congestion in the shops, though I discussed that above so I won't get into it again!

Eating and Drinking

Butterbeer: contains 0% beer and 100% sugary goodness.
Prepare your stomachs!  Dining in WW is limited to one quick-service location and several snack stands but everything is themed to the land (except for water bottles and the like, of course).  Among the themed foods is the famous butterbeer, which is drunk by various characters quite often from the third book/movie onwards and has created a sort of strange cult among Potter fans as they tried to recreate it.  This iteration (which is now considered the "official" recipe depending on who you talk to) is a lot like cream soda, though richer and creamier, and comes either in liquid or frozen form.  Yum!

The Three Broomsticks, which should be instantly recognizable to any fan as the pub located in Hogsmeade, is where you go to eat anything besides candy.  It's easily my favorite part of WW theming-wise - I mean, just look at it:

The food served here is pretty decent - the menu goes beyond serving up typical stuff like hamburgers and tries to serve up dishes that feel accurate to the setting, like shepherd's pie and rotisserie chicken, though how well it succeeds depends on how picky you want to be about the food.  It's all pretty good for being quick-service and is definitely among the better places I've eaten at, but doesn't serve up anything especially impressive or gourmet.  (Tip: don't get the pasties.  They taste good but are a lot smaller than they look and aren't very filling.)

Snack-wise, Honeydukes sells a wide variety of candies and other packaged foods form the series including ones that haven't been seen on Muggle shelves before like Acid Pops and Pepper Imps.  Old-fashioned jars of classics like lemon drops also appear with Honeydukes' logo on the front.  Of course, old favorites return as well, including the Chcoclate Frog (which you can buy for about $10 - it includes a holographic card).

Yummy!  Chocolate!
There aren't many let-downs here, since everything is pretty much just candy (overpriced candy, but what did I say before? You're paying for the licensing!) - although in my opinion, there's one notable exception.  Please don't attack me Potter fans... but I really don't like the pumpkin juice WW sells.  It's way too sugary and rich for me (and this is coming from someone who loves pumpkin pie), and doesn't taste at all how I imagined it would.  It comes in a cute bottle though, I'll give it that.

Adventure Time!

You may come across this very  familiar car while waiting in line...
Good news: every ride in WW is really-cool looking and well-themed!  Bad news: there are only three rides in the entire land!  However, the ride shortage is more than made up for, in my opinion, by Forbidden Journey, which as stated before is located in Hogwarts Castle.  There's also two roller coasters - a junior coaster called Flight of the Hippogriff and a much more intense dueling coaster called Dragon Challenge.  Their entrances can be hard to find among all the scenery with all the crowds around so keep a careful look out when going to the attraction you want to ride.

Now I'm not much of a roller coaster person so I haven't been on Dragon Challenge myself (I wanted to ride Flight of the Hippogriff but my traveling companions didn't want to).  However, I've heard that it's a very fun coaster for those who like high-stakes thrills.  Just be aware that the queuing area is pretty dark and it can be hard to see if you're pretty much night-blind like I am.  In addition, there's a pretty nice area (and by that I mean it's nice because it exists) for rider swap or party members who simply don't wish to ride, but there's constantly dragons roaring and other somewhat creepy noises so if you're coming with little kids keep that in mind.

A ride that is a bit harder to describe is Forbidden Journey, which is easily the main draw of the land.  You are strapped into robotic coaster arms and taken along a track, though the cars don't travel along the track that fast so it's not a roller coaster.  You're basically swung all over the place by the arm (though you never go upside down) and might find yourself dangling over scenery or tilted all the way on your back.  I guess you could describe it as a much more active Soarin' (comparison is not entirely mine but one I saw on another blog - and it's much more accurate than anything I could've come up with myself).  You'll also be placed in front of large wraparound screens at some points, and if you easily get motion sick I suggest finding a focus point and sticking with it.

I said before that Forbidden Journey is one of the best rides I've ever been on and I'm not kidding - everything from the theming in the elaborate queue area to the ride experience itself is well thought out and insanely entertaining.  Even if you don't wish to ride you're allowed to "take the tour of Hogwarts" - that is, explore the queue without having to ride - and you definitely don't want to miss out.  There's not much more detail I can really go into here except to say that if you're a Potter fan this ride will incorporate everything you love about the series and you'll be sad when it's all over.

So is this ride right for you?  Well, I'd say that it's definitely not as terrifying as someone who has never been out before might make it out to be.  The ride is very smooth and avoids drastic movements where it would throw you around too much.  If you can handle riding Dinosaur or the Spider-Man ride at Universal I think you should be just fine on FJ, though it all depends on what makes you motion sick.  Stuff jumps out at you at times, though it isn't as sudden as if you were in a haunted house and you can kind of anticipate when stuff might happen.  Definitely give it a try unless you suffer from any health problems that would prevent you from getting on a thrill ride - in that case, you know what's best for you.

Overall Impressions

I don't agree with those who say that Disney is going to lose a chunk of their visitors because of WW - after all, Disney is still a lot more ingrained in the public's minds and one small land in a competing theme park isn't going to change that - but there's no doubt that Universal has outdone themselves working on it.  It is far and away worth the price of admission, and fans and non-fans alike can find something to appreciate.  It can be crowded and difficult to navigate, but it is no harder than some areas in Magic Kingdom so coming with an open mind and patience will take you far.  I look forward to visiting again when I go back to Orlando, and am very excited to tour Diagon Alley once it opens!
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My job gave me these puffy pants - how to navigate costuming

Yes, every costuming place is about this big. (Source:
One place that will be vital do doing your job properly is costuming, where you'll have to pick up the clothes you're required to wear for your role in the parks, resorts or Downtown Disney.  Unlike most workplaces, Disney provides you with pretty much everything for your costume (although you will usually have to provide your own shoes).  However, being able to get all of it can be tricky - costuming locations can be quite large, and not all costumes are available at all locations even if they're global.  For example, as Photopass on my last program I would pretty much need the same costume no matter what park I worked in (except for Main Street in Magic Kingdom), but not all parks had a costuming department that carried the DPI costume.  The worst part is that you're not told by costuming who has what costume as not all cast members there know about costuming outside of the park they oversee.

However, don't let this scare you!  Today I'll talk a bit about how costuming works, how to find the correct costume in your size, how to check pieces out and how to turn them back in.  Keep in mind that each location may work slightly differently - I'm going off of the Animal Kingdom location in particular because that was where my costume was carried.

So Many Racks, Not Enough Time

When you get your paperwork telling you about your first few days of training you'll most likely get a page with photos detailing what costume pieces you need.  It's important that you follow this list very carefully, as there may similar clothing items to yours that aren't what you need (for example, needing a black fabric belt instead of a brown belt or a leather belt).  You won't have to worry about searching for your costume for very long, however - at the end of each rack there should be a hanger with every piece of the costume on it.  This is the rack that contains your costume, though some racks share with different roles so make sure that what you grab is what your costume requires.

Depending on your costume, the rack may be further divided into male and female clothing.  Pick out whichever is appropriate (keep in mind, though, that if you have a role where men wear pants but women wear skirts you might be forced to choose whatever the option is for your gender).  They'll also have markers for sizes.  Here's where I talk about a few things that are important to know when picking out an outfit:
  1. Disney sizes are not the same as regular US sizes.  For example, in street clothes I wear anything from a 6 to an 8, but in Disney costuming sizes I can't wear anything smaller than a 12.  In addition, if you're from a country that uses different measurements from the US you might be even more lost.  A good rule of thumb is double the number of the US size you are in street clothes.
  2. Always try everything on beforehand.  The sizes listed can be misleading - a costume piece that has been washed a bunch before may be more shrunken than a newer piece of the same size.  You also have to keep an eye out for wear, stretched fastenings and things of that nature.  The Costuming CMs are usually pretty good at catching that kind of stuff but sometimes pieces fall through the cracks.
  3. You cannot have more than the allowed number of costumes.  For example, if you have a costume with shorts and a shirt you won't be able to get more than five of each.  Any extra pieces will net you a charge on every paycheck until you give it back.
  4. You cannot check out costume items that are not needed for your role.  If you work custodial, for example, you can't check out a Haunted Mansion costume.  If you pick up a PAC shift, however, you're welcome to check out one of those.  You can also try on the costumes for fun if you wish - just don't take away costume pieces from a CM that needs them and don't annoy Costuming.  And try not to take any photos.
  5. Don't rely on Costuming to direct you to pieces you need.  Costumes for certain roles are constantly changing and the CMs have to keep up with at least a dozen different costumes, not including stuff like rain gear and accessories.  On my last program I nearly walked out with the wrong coat because two Costuming CMs thought that that was the one I needed.  If you have questions, ask your managers - they are a lot more knowledgeable about your specific costume.

Checkin' Out The Costume

For checking out clothing you have two options - getting someone from Costuming to do it and checking yourself out.  There are a few situations where you can't check things out yourself, depending on what the costume consists of - if this is the case, you'll have to get Costuming to do it.  If someone isn't standing at the check-out desk there will be a bell that you can ring to call them up.  Give them a few minutes - they could be among any of the racks taking care of the costumes.  You'll need your employee ID for them to scan in order to open up your outfit.

If you're checking your own stuff out, you'll walk up to the opposite side of the desk from where the CM is.  Don't worry, everything is clearly labeled and you can always ask someone if you don't understand how to use the station.  However, be careful if you're wearing your costume while checking pieces out - the scanner can pick up on the sensors on the clothes you're wearing which can confuse it.  The good news is that you won't have to worry about finding a barcode to scan as you would in the grocery store - just wave the piece under the scanner until it pops up on the screen.  Rinse and repeat until you've checked out everything you need.  Make sure to close your account if needed.

Checkin' In The Costume (AKA "Please Do My Laundry")

You can check in costume pieces at any time to get new ones as long as you never exceed the maximum allowed number.  Basically, you have to check things in before you can check new things out.  The good news is that checking things in is super easy!  All you have to do is throw them into the return slot that every costuming location will have towards the front.  The slots are equipped with sensors that pick up on the sensors in your clothes so they'll instantly pick up on anything you push through.

There's also no limit on how often you check things in or out.  I knew some CMs who claimed that they never did laundry because they always took their dirty costume pieces back to costuming!  However, be careful doing this if you struggle to find pieces in your size, because there's never any guarantee that they will be clean pieces that you can wear.  Also, as with the check-out scanner you need to be careful about the slot picking up on the sensors on the costume pieces you're wearing if you're wearing any.

I Need...

In addition to supplying costumes, Costuming also supplies name tags.  Though you're given one when you go through Traditions, if you lose it or want a new one you'll have to come in and request it.  If you've lost your tag and need a placeholder (AKA Chris from Orlando) until you can get another one printed for you Costuming also handles that.  The fee for a new tag is about $5.  If you want to change the name on your tag the CM will probably require that it be a reasonable request - as in it will have to either be part of your legal name or a nickname that isn't too weird.  If you want to change the location it will have to either be your registered hometown or a place you've lived in for quite a while.  However, it's always possible to find a CM who is willing to put whatever you want on the tag.

That about wraps it up for costuming today!  I hope this post will help you successfully navigate the different areas of Costuming so you won't be too lost when it comes to checking out your costume pieces.  If you have any questions over this or anything else you are always welcome to contact me here or on Twitter.  Until then, have a great day!
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Calm before the storm: the first few days with housing and Traditions

See? Perfectly calm.
So, at this point in your program you've finished the stress and the madness that is move-in day.  You've probably bought everything you'll need for your apartment right away and have gotten acquainted with your roommates.  The question now is... what next?  The first week or so of your program will probably be an odd mix of orientations and training as you and your roommates start learning the skills for your respective roles.  A lot of people aren't sure what to expect so for this post I'm going to go over the different things you'll have to go through as well as some ideas for fun stuff to do during your time off.

I Have a Free Day...

So your first day after check-in day will either be entirely free or free except for a housing meeting.  The housing meeting will seem pretty standard to anyone used to living in college dorms but for those who aren't, just think of it as "101 Things You Can't Do In Housing".  So, you'll have a lot of free time.  What do you do?

Well, unless you're willing to shell out the cash to buy a ticket to go to one of the parks you won't be able to go there, as you don't get your cast member ID until Traditions.  And no, the folks at the turnstiles won't let you in even if you show them your housing ID because they can't swipe it to record that you visited.  Depending on when you have Traditions you might not be able to stay out too late either, as some sessions start very early in the morning.  Starting to feel you might be bored? Never fear!  Here are few suggestions on stuff to do both around housing and around the WDW area:
  1. Cook a "family dinner" for you and your roommates - use it as a time to bond as well as save energy for the long days of training and work ahead.  If none of you really wants to cook, you can drive to one of the nearby restaurants (if you have a car) or travel to Downtown Disney/a Disney resort (if you don't) to eat out.  You don't have to go too crazy buying expensive meals - eat light and fill up at home if you have to.
  2. Resort hop around the Disney resorts!  Each one has a unique style and they're free to visit - you can take the buses if you need to because you'll have your ID at this point.
  3. Visit the other housing complexes!  You can use the buses to get there and will be able to freely visit until 1 AM.  You can also use any of the facilities in the complexes - gyms, pools, tennis and basketball courts, etc.
  4. Visit Downtown Disney.  If you want to drop a wad of cash and don't mind that you'll miss out on the cast discount, you can pay for DisneyQuest (only do this if you really love arcades, though, as it's essentially just a huge arcade and is a bit dated).  If you don't have much cash to spare, take some photos of everyone in front of the giant LEGO statues!
  5. Again, if you don't mind missing out on the cast discount and paying quite a bit, you can go to one of Disney's water parks.  They're both amazingly themed and have some really great pools and slides, but may be crowded depending on when you go.
  6. Visit some tourist traps in central Florida.  There are TONS and some don't charge that much for admission.  If you go to a visitor's center for Florida you will probably get a bunch of ads for them so I won't name too many here.
In addition, here are some things you can't do or might not want to do your first day:
  1. Attempt to enter the parks for free by going through backstage areas.  I'm mostly talking to alums who don't have a cast ID (aka the ones who will have to go through Traditions again).  It's just a bad idea, plus your ID is the only thing that will get you through security gates and the like anyway.
  2. Go to the beach.  Even if you have the whole day off, you'll probably have to spend a lot of time driving there and back.  However, if you want to go anyway it's cool - just remember not to stay out too late.
  3. One important thing to suggest: DON'T BUY DISNEY MERCH. DON'T BUY DISNEY MERCH. DON'T BUY DISNEY MERCH.  You won't have your discount at this point and will essentially be wasting money on stuff you can buy after you get your ID.
  4. Go clubbing.  Um, if you have Traditions the next day you probably won't be able to go all out... and what's the fun of going then?  Plus, it'll take a while to commute depending on what club you go to.
  5. Sleep.  Okay, you might have some sleep to catch up on depending on how little you got the last two nights... but you have a free day!  Get up!  Go play!  You'll be starved for them later on so take advantage when you get the chance :)

And Now There's Traditions

About two days after your arrival (though it may be sooner or later than that, two's just the average) you'll have Traditions.  Essentially, think of it as a general orientation for the entire company and lectures over basic stuff like the Four Keys (principles to follow when working) and safety.  Pretty much the only thing anyone cares about for today is the fact that you finally get your name tag and employee ID (AKA the thing you use to get free admission), though you really should listen to and make note of everything else ;)

If you tend to fall asleep during classes at school, be aware that a lot of Traditions is sitting in a classroom and occasionally doing work (plus, you might be taken on a field trip to the Magic Kingdom) so rest up the night before.  Also, there's the dress code.  Traditions is strictly business professional wear, not business casual or any other type of dress.  Since this may be your very first job (or your first formal job that requires business wear) I'll take a moment to discuss it all with you.

My Traditions outfit from my last program, shown through an obnoxious mirror selfie.

Traditions Wear Tips (And Fashion Advice)

(NOTE: These tips are mostly geared towards women - sorry guys!  However, some can easily apply to both genders so feel free to read through and modify my advice as you see fit.)

Business professional wear is not simply formal wear - for example, most of the time you can't simply wear whatever you wore to your sister's wedding last month because that's a different kind of formal dress.  It is also not business casual wear - you won't get away with wearing denim no matter how nice it is, and you can't just throw on a gauzy cotton top with spaghetti straps.  However, don't get too overwhelmed!  Dressing in professional wear can be easy as long as you know what you're looking for.
  1. Look around you for professional workers - they're even on TV.  Lawyers, politicians during formal events, college deans, bank tellers in large banks - they all have been known to wear business professional wear and it will give you a good idea what to look for.
  2. If your school or city has some sort of career prep office, visit it.  The folks there will know exactly what you need to wear and will be able to aid you in buying clothing that's appropriate.
  3. Be prepared to spend money.  You can find bargains on professional wear in consignment stores, department stores and even Goodwill but for the most part it's a bit pricier than casual clothing.  It's worth the cost, however, especially if you're planning on a career with Disney afterward or one in a corporate/business field.
  4. If you decide to go with a shirt and pants/skirt combo you should expect to always tuck your shirt in.  It looks neater and (at least for women) looks much more flattering in a business setting.
  5. Try to avoid patterns outside of stripes and polka dots.  They can get distracting and make the outfit look more casual than it is.  HOWEVER, if you're going to be wearing a blazer then the shirt or dress top under it can have a nice pattern - it won't be too noticeable.
  6. Shoot for neutral colors unless your entire outfit can be color coordinated.  If you can't find neutral-only clothing that's totally okay - business professional wear doesn't really have too many rules in the way of color.  However, you might look silly if you're entirely in bright colors that don't go together so plan it out.
  7. Length requirements are super super important - if you feel your dress or pants are too short don't even try to wear them.  There are PLENTY of places that sell flattering, professional clothing in appropriate lengths so it shouldn't be too hard to find.
  8. Go simple.  Don't go overboard with sequined clothing, jewelry or makeup.  You're not dressing to look fashionable so much as you're dressing to look professional (though you can, of course, look fashionable and professional at the same time).  And I promise you that no one will judge you for showing up looking a little plain, you'll still look beautiful :)
I've created a board on Pinterest for those of you who need visual suggestions on what might be appropriate (and all are linked from stores so you can buy them if you wish).  However, always make sure you try on your outfit before you need it - height, body type and other similar factors may make something inappropriate to wear for Traditions.  My suggestions are by no means a guarantee that you will be able to wear that particular clothing item.

What Next?

Depending on your role, you might start training the day after Traditions or might not have to start until days later.  On my last program I had about two or three free days between my Traditions class and my first day of training, which I obviously used to play in the parks since I could get in at that point.  However, don't plan out this part of your first week until you get your work schedule - especially if you have friends or family coming to visit right away.

You'll receive papers telling you when your training sessions are (at least the ones in the classroom) and may also get costume information for your role.  If you need something for your costume (usually shoes), get it right away.  Your managers will usually expect you to be completely in costume by your first day of training (though you'll usually be taken to costuming beforehand with one of your training classes - for me, they did it at my park orientation).  Past that I can't really tell you what to expect since every role is different - just that you'll probably keep a pretty regular schedule of mostly days until you finish training and start getting regular shifts.


There have been a few questions I've seen asked quite often by new CPs (mostly on Traditions and professional dress) that I haven't discussed yet so here we go.

Q: I'm tall and most dresses are too short on me.  Can I wear a maxi dress to Traditions?
A: It depends, though I would err on the side of caution and say no.  The problem is that most maxi dresses are in very casual styles and might not fit a professional setting.  If you're very tall, I'd suggest wearing pants (Disney also allows you to wear shorts and capris as well, as long as they are long enough and are made of professional material) and there are plenty of stores out there that sell all lengths for different heights.

Q: I don't understand the restrictions on footwear.  What can we wear?
A: Basically, find shoes that are leather, faux leather or pretty much any material that's not canvas or cloth (silk is fine) and not sneakers or tennis shoes.  Flats, pumps, and other similar footwear are all fine.

Q: Does Disney Look extend to our accessories like purses, wallets, etc?
A: No, the only thing you'll have to worry about is your jewelry.  Bring whatever other stuff works you for you.

Q: What do I have to bring to Traditions?
A: You'll be told on check-in day, though I believe all your have to bring is yourself (and keep your housing ID with you so you can get back into your complex afterwards, obviously).  Also bring money in case the cafeteria is open (it wasn't during my last Traditions class, but others have said it was during theirs).

Q: I have a visible tattoo.  Do I have to cover it up for Traditions/classroom training?
A: Most definitely yes.

Q: How much walking will we have to do for Traditions?
A: You'll probably do at least a mile through the Utilidors and the Magic Kingdom.  Definitely make sure that your shoes are comfortable enough for this, because you can't opt out.

Q: Can I call in for training or get those days off?
A: You may be able to call in if you're seriously ill (though it'll screw up your entire schedule), but you can't get training days off.  If you trying to get off training because your family's in town, they will just have to wait for when you're free.

Q: I'm female but don't feel comfortable wearing dresses or other feminine clothing.  Is that okay?
A: Sure, I've found that Disney is very understanding about things like that and won't penalize you just because you're not wearing a dress.  You can get away with wearing a nice button-up shirt and slacks to Traditions, it's listed under the guidelines on the Onboarding site.  You may also want to put on a blazer.

Q: Will my roommates and I all have the same days off between Traditions and training?
A: Probably not, even if you all share the same role (though it's more likely if you do).  On my last program a few of my roommates were sent to train right away while two of my roommates and I were off for days.

Q: I want to wear a dress/blouse but its straps are too narrow (Disney Look says they should be at least three inches wide).  Can I still wear it if I have a blazer over it?
A: Yes, Disney Look only worries about what is visible - as long as you don't take your blazer off you should be fine.

Q: Can I go to Traditions with all of my roommates?
A: Traditions has two sessions per arrival date that I've seen, and they're divided up by last name (so A-J might meet in the morning and K-Z in the afternoon).  You will probably have to split up with your roommates unless you all happen to have last names with close first letters in the alphabet.

I hope this post helps you plan out your first week!  It'll be hectic no matter what but just take everything a day at a time and you'll be able to work it all out :)  If you have any other questions I'm always listening both here and on Twitter, so ask away!
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Welcome to paperwork: the joys and agonies of check-in day

This crappy snapshot does not even BEGIN to show how bad lines can be!
One thing that can get pretty complicated to explain is check-in day - after all, a lot of important things like filling out the last of your job's paperwork and getting your housing assignment happen and there's a lot of getting shuffled around.  It also requires quite a bit of preparation on your part beforehand, though unless you're reading this as you're checking in it's all easy to do.  Never fear!  Today I'm going to explain, albeit in broad strokes (my last program was before DORMS so I don't know much about how that works yet) what you should expect on your first official day of CP duties.

Before You Go

About ten days before your scheduled check-in date, you'll be sent emails to fill out your preferences in DORMS and fill out your new hire paperwork.  Fill this all out right away!  It'll save you a ton of time come check-in day and it's pretty much expected that you'll do it before you come anyway.  Plus, it's all relatively easy or quick stuff to fill out, like putting in account information for direct deposit and filling out a simple tax form or two.

If you've already found people you want to room with, ensure that you get all of their ID numbers before entering DORMS, as you'll have the chance to request them all as roommates.  This is a big improvement over the last program, where you had to essentially tie everyone together and hope that the line didn't separate you along the way (it almost did with my roommates on my last program).  Besides that, however, I can't really give too many details as I haven't had the chance to use it yet.  However, based on things I've heard from my CP friends this segment of check-in day, which usually took an hour or so to get through at least, is now really fast as they've already assigned you to housing by the time you arrive and just hand you your room key.

A few things to remember to keep on you at all times during check-in day:
  1.  Your forms of identification - If you have a US-issued passport you only need to bring that.  If you don't, you need two forms of ID.  One should be a government-issued form of ID like a driver's license, and one should be something that proves that you're a US citizen (like a birth certificate, or some sort of naturalization paperwork if you weren't born a US citizen but are one now).  If you're not a US citizen, you likely already know the appropriate visa you need to bring.  If you're an ICP/CRP, your stuff is completely different and I'm afraid I can't help you there!
  2.  Your DORMS form - I've heard that DORMS spits out a form with a barcode that you need to bring to check-in day in order to get your room assignment.  It'll likely be very clear what you need to print out and bring with you, so again I'm sorry that I've never used it myself so I can't be more specific than that!
  3. An uncanceled check - You need this only if you didn't complete the paperwork for it online but still want direct deposit.  If you opt to go for the card Disney offers instead, I think you can skip having this.
  4. A large bag, purse or backpack - You're going to have a lot of paperwork and other junk thrown at you, and although I think you might be given a goodie bag when you check-in I don't remember for sure.  Bring a bag just in case anyway!

Getting to Vista Way

Vista Way is where everyone checks in (and no, it does not mean that you'll be living at Vista - they just have all of the appropriate buildings and space to accommodate everyone) and you'll be here for most of the process except for when you go to Casting.  Since housing is determined through DORMS ahead of time it's no longer necessary (or really wanted) to show up any earlier than when check-in starts at 9 AM (exact time may change depending on program, know before you go).  When you show up there will likely be loads of signs directing you to the pavilion where check-in takes place, so don't worry about getting lost.  If you can't see any signs, just walk straight from the security gate as far back as you can get and you'll probably find what you're looking for.

I don't know if this bit has changed since the advent of DORMS, but if it hasn't your first stop will be to get your housing assignment.  As I said before, this is likely a no-muss no-fuss affair nowadays so you'll probably be in and out quickly.  You'll also get your housing ID made at this point which includes a photo of you, so... just be aware of that if you want to look pretty!  Make sure to pick up a Program Guide when you come across them - they'll have times and dates for housing meetings on the back.  If you're arriving with your roommates I encourage you all to find planners with the same time and day printed on them, as there are several slots available and it wouldn't make sense for you all to not have it together, right?

Next comes the paperwork.  You'll have a Program Guide/planner at this point; a cast member will give you a very important sticker.  What's the sticker?  Why, your job location!  However, depending on your role it can be very vague about what your assignment is - while globally-trained roles like custodial and Photopass only need to know which park they'll be working in, attractions may be given the name of a complex of attractions that they will be trained on but the actual names won't be used.  Other roles have similar things happen.  But... you'll know what park/resort you'll be working in, at least!

After this, you'll be given the first of several contracts.  They're all your basic stuff - there's one for housing that essentially says that you'll follow the rules while living there, and there might be one for your new job.  Most job stuff will be handled at Casting though, which I'll talk about in a bit.  You'll also be asked if you have a car you want to be able to park in the complexes - basically, if you want a car on your program you'll say yes to this.  You'll be pulled out of the line and given another form to fill out with your car's info (so I'd suggest knowing things like its make, model and plate number in case you need to record those).

Lastly, before you go to Casting you'll be given a time and date for your Traditions class and a cast member will look you over to make sure that you fit Disney Look.  By this, I do not mean that you have to dress in Disney Look or even wear your professional wear - wear whatever you can have on comfortably for an entire day of unpacking and running around.  The CM will just be looking at your hair and face to make sure you don't have a weird dye job or facial piercings outside of the one piercing in your ears you're allowed.  If either of these is something you have to fix before arriving in Orlando, be warned that they'll check right at check-in and may delay your Traditions class or even send you home if you don't fit it.

Depending on your role, you may also get pulled aside for a drug test (though any role can be randomly tested - there are just a few where it's essential that they test you right away).  From what I've heard it's a standard urine test (I know, ick, but you gotta do what you gotta do), so don't worry about them wanting something weird.  However, if you feel there's anything in your system that might get you in trouble (no judgement), get clean now.  And stay clean throughout your program.  If you're taking prescription medication that might interfere with your test results, make sure you let the cast members know.

After that's all done, it's off to Casting!  If you brought luggage with you but don't have family to leave it with there's a luggage room you can stash it in until you come back from filling out all your paperwork.  It'll be clearly marked and close to where the buses pick you up so you shouldn't have trouble spotting it.  There's also a reception room for anyone who came with you, as they won't be allowed to travel to Casting with you.

The Holy, Glorious Casting Building of LINES

As far as I know you can't drive yourself to Casting - you'll have to take the CP buses.  However, housing security will direct you to a place to park your car when you arrive at Vista so it won't be a problem to leave it there.  Plus, Casting is literally right across the street (okay, highway - but who's being picky here?) so it's not a long ride there or back.

At this point, I'm going to get really vague on what to expect.  This is for two reasons.  The first is that on my last program I was going through check-in on about three hours of sleep so I could barely process what was going on.  The second is that you're essentially going to spend half of your time there in lines - through the atrium, down the hallways, in large rooms.  Lines everywhere.  Hey, what'd you expect - it's Disney! ;)

However, there are definitely a few things I remember doing distinctly.  You'll be fingerprinted so that Disney can have an independent security firm run a background check on you.  This is where that whole "have you ever been convicted of a crime" question from way back when you applied comes into play - if something pops up on your record that you didn't admit to at the time of your original application you're in trouble!  However, if you've already worked that out with your interviewer you'll be just fine.

Also, you know those forms of ID I said you had to have on you at all times?  Well, prepare to show them at least a couple hundred times (this is almost not an exaggeration).  Don't put them away, don't leave them with your luggage and don't lose them.  Actually, make that a general rule of thumb to never misplace important government documents, kay?

You'll also likely have a few cast members verify things you said both on your application and new hire paperwork, so make doubly sure all the information they're showing you is correct.  This is so Disney can make sure that they don't put you in the system with inaccurate information among other reasons.

After you're done with all the paperwork, you'll be told that you're free to leave! YAY!  However, don't be stupid like me and get lost in the building - there are signs pointing out but they may not be clear and Casting is pretty confusing to find your way around by yourself.  When you get back outside you'll have to wait for the bus to come back and pick you up - they come pretty often so don't worry about waiting for very long!  If you want to wait for anyone in the Casting building that's fine - just make sure the bus driver knows he can go on without you.

Back to Vista and Freedom

One you get back to Vista, pick your luggage back up from the luggage room along with your friends/family if they came with you.  You're free for the day!  If you don't have access to a car special shuttles will be available to take you straight to your housing complex - don't use the regular CP buses as there's not much room on them for luggage and they're likely busy with working CPs anyway.

Here are a few things you'll probably want to do now:
  1. Unpack your stuff in your apartment.
  2. Go shopping for any food/toiletries/other home essentials you don't already have.
  3. Get to know your roommates.
  4. Become familiar with your complex's layout - make special note of where the nearest laundry facility, pool, mail room, etc. is.  Also note where the front desk is - it'll be important for a lot of things over the course of your program.
  5. Make a game plan for the next few days, as they're likely to be the most free time you and your roommates get before you start training for work.
  6. If needed (and I highly recommend it), work out a few house rules with your roommates.  They don't have to be too crazy, just outline things like sharing property/chores/guest policies.
Make sure to get a good night's sleep!  Even if you aren't busy the next day, you'll want to be as well-rested as possible leading up to your first week or work.  Also remember that your family must be off the property by 1 AM, and if you have members who are younger than 18 they need to be gone by 7 PM.  Security might be more lax on this since it's move-in day but I wouldn't push my luck if I were you.


  1. You can never give anyone else your apartment key.  Don't give it to your family so they can move you in while you're at Casting; if you get caught doing this you will most certainly be termed.
  2. If you arrive to check-in with hair or face that doesn't meet Disney Look, you may either be denied a Traditions class until you fix it or even termed on the spot depending on how bad the offending feature is.  For example, it'd be much easier to dye your hair than it would be to shrink any gauges you might have.
  3. Your family cannot come on any of the buses with you - not the one to Casting and not the one to your housing complex.  Make sure they have a way to get to your complex with you if they're helping you move in.
  4. Don't wear yourself out too much.  Anything you'd want to do late at night can wait until you've had a chance to settle in.  Take the time to get comfortable with your new living space.
With that, I'm about finished explaining check-in day!  I may write another post over your first few days on the program will be like, including your housing meetings and Traditions, but it'll be a few days before I'll be able to get around to it.  Until then, have a great day!
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History time: EPCOT pt. 1 (the ideas, the grand opening and the long-dead attractions)

Epcot is the epitome of what could be called an "adult" theme park.  Its pavilions and rides deal with some very serious topics in the technological world, the architecture of the buildings can be very cold and impersonal, and the World Showcase consists of almost nothing else besides shops, restaurants and museum-like exhibits.  And let's not even talk about the sometimes-insane unofficial game that is Drinking Around the World.  (Seriously, let's not.)

However, as any Disney nut will tell you, Epcot wasn't always entirely like this.  In fact, Epcot wasn't originally intended to be a theme park at all!  Instead it was what would become Walt Disney's final big dream - a futuristic city and planned community which would revolve around the testing and implication of new technology.  In those days it was referred to as the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, which is how Epcot got its name (it's an acronym).  Some of Walt's ideas were pretty extraordinary, but unfortunately he passed away before any of them could be realized.

After Walt's death, Imagineers were split over what to do with EPCOT's plans.  While they all agreed that they didn't want to build and run a city without Walt there and would build a theme park instead, they couldn't decide what its focus would be - while some wanted it to focus on technological advancements, others wanted it to be a showcase of the world's cultures and customs.  The two ideas were eventually merged and construction began in 1979, in what was at the time the largest construction project in the world's history.  If you ever felt that it didn't make sense for having Future World and the World Showcase in the same park, I hope this answered something for you!

The central icon and original flagship attraction was Spaceship Earth when EPCOT Center opened in October of 1982, and is an extraordinary bit of construction itself.  I won't talk too much about it here but an interesting fact is that this was one of the first structures to be planned and drafted with the help of a computer - a fitting thing for a park focusing on new technology.  The original ride was much different from the one we're used to today - for starters, the ride was narrated (allegedly) by Larry Dobkin and sponsored by Bell System.

The rest of Future World was much different as well.  Rather than having eight major pavilions only four were standing on opening day - CommuniCore, World of Motion, The Land and Universe of Energy.  Horizons and Journey Into Imagination wouldn't arrive until the next year, and there's actually a souvenir video floating around the Internet that states that Horizons is "still under construction".  Ironic since the ride and the building no longer exist!

CommuniCore was the essentially the original incarnation of Innoventions, though its focus was a lot more on computers and other serious topics of the time.  Remember, back in the 80s personal computers were all but unheard of so there was quite a bit of apprehension over how they worked!  A show/tour called the Astuter Computer Revue was meant to help guide people through EPCOT Center's computer systems, but it became the first attraction to close when it was replaced by Backstage Magic.

The photo above also tied a theme from the World Showcase to Future World - it was a literal fountain of information from all over the world and symbolized what the future of technology could bring.  I think it's super-cool looking, even if it is dated :)

World of Motion, housed in the round building that now hosts Test Track, was a lighthearted and slow-moving look at the history of motion - from the invention of the wheel to trains to airplanes and everything in between!  It was sponsored by General Motors (GM) and usually featured some concept cars for the company in the post-show area - something that Test Track still does to this day.  However, GM eventually decided that they wanted to sponsor a ride that focused solely on cars - and more specifically GM's cars - and urged Disney to create a new attraction.  This new attraction, obviously, became Test Track.  We'll talk more about it later.

The Land was originally sponsored by Kraft Foods and has remained largely the same in terms of what it teaches about - agriculture and and environment - though most of its original attractions are no longer there.  The sole remaining survivor is Living with the Land, originally titled Listen to the Land, which in my opinion is a highly-underrated and fun attraction!  Other than that, the pavilion opened with Kitchen Kabaret - a cute show about nutrition and the major food groups housed where Soarin' is today - and an environmental film called Symbiosis.

The Land has also always been well known for having some delicious restaurants with fresh produce in its food - since there are greenhouses nearby this makes perfect sense.

Before Ellen took over the Universe of Energy pavilion, the attraction was... pretty much the same as it is now.  Long and dull, unless you really like energy.  However, the original preshow was a series of blocks with screens on them that could flip and rotate in sync to show various moving images.  I'm still pretty convinced that this is one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  If you can find a video of the original attraction with the preshow I highly recommend that you watch it.

A little somewhat-unrelated thought - the Universe of Energy ride might be the longest in all of Walt Disney World.  It clocks in at about forty-five minutes long!

So, that settles it for an overview of what was going on in Future World... but what about the World Showcase?  Well, firstly I hope that you aren't too attached to the Morocco or Norway pavilions - on opening day in 1982 they hadn't even been built yet!  Yup, originally Epcot only had nine pavilions even though it was designed to hold many more - every now and then a rumor will crop up about a potential new country being represented but usually costs or said country's government get in the way.

If you're anything like me eating in the World Showcase is probably one of your favorite things to do, but think back to 1982... how could one make dinner reservations?  Walking up is always an option, as is called ahead by telephone, but the Internet, cell phones and other forms of communication didn't really exist then.  However, EPCOT Center took a different route.  Remember how I talked about how computers were pretty alien to guests back then?  Well, here they were forced to use them if they wanted information or reservations through kiosks called WorldKey.

WorldKey stations could be found in Spaceship Earth's post-show lobby, near the bridge to the World Showcase and outside of the German pavilion.  At these stations, guests could use s touch screen (revolutionary at the time) to get information about operating hours, rides and the different countries represented.  If needed, they could also video chat with a cast member live - another revolutionary idea - which added a much more personal touch to a somewhat frightening piece of technology.

Without geeking out over the technical aspects of this idea, WorldKey stations were a cool way to not only get in-depth information over certain areas of the park but to also get guests acquainted with a piece of technology that would grow to become more and more important as the decade went on.  Though they were closed down in 1999, you can still see where they used to be near Guest Relations in Epcot:

So that just about wraps it up for this history lesson!  Next time I'll talk about the Future World pavilions that were added later on in the decade (Horizons, Journey Into Imagination, The Living Seas and Wonders of Life) as well as discuss the two countries in the World Showcase that were added after opening (Morocco and Norway).  And after that I'll talk about the new millennium, which brought the greatest parade that has ever been seen (no, really).  Until then, I hoped you enjoyed this and I'll see you again soon!
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A day in the life of a working cast member (plus the Hub)

This is not a day in the life of a typical cast member, but you get the picture.

So a little while ago I wrote something over how the record card and Disney Look guidelines work, but I realized that new CPs have a lot more questions over more general things - the most popular of which is "what will a typical work day look like for me?"  Though every role and location is vastly different both in when you'll work and what your responsibilities will be, today I'm going to give you a general idea how an average work day might look for you.  Note, however, that this post does not guarantee completely that this is exactly how your job will be so as before, take all of this with a grain of salt!

As a CP, a single shift can last anywhere from four to fourteen hours - there aren't any hour caps in place that I know of unless you've worked out that you're still an active student with Disney and therefore need time off to take your classes.  However, for the purposes of this post we'll say that a typical shift for you is eight hours long.  We'll also say that you have a role that only ever works mornings and early afternoons.

Arriving and Clocking In

There are two ways to clock in - through a typical wall clock or through the Cast Deployment System (CDS).  Wall clocks are mostly only used for cast members who don't rotate positions (office workers, or those participating in classroom learning) or those whose rotation is directly overseen by one person (like character attendants).  CDS is used for any role that have more than just a few cast members rotating through positions - attractions, Photopass and merchandise are a few roles that have CDS deploy their cast members.

No matter which method your role uses, you'll want to show up to work about fifteen minutes early at least (so if your shift starts at 8:30 AM, intend on being there at about 8:15).  This is for two reasons.  First, at least for CDS, the system opens up fifteen minutes before your shift starts and it's a good idea to put yourself in the queue for the first assignment of your shift as early as possible.  Secondly, if you have a role where your coordinator needs to prepare anything for your shift (Photopass, this is very important for you) it's good to come in early so they know you are there and can get you out to work on time.

Rotation, rotation!

So, what is rotation?  Essentially, it's a way to keep a single cast member from being stuck in one position for an entire shift (though days like this may still happen for you, especially if your location is short on people for the day).  Let's say that your typical shift that we discussed earlier is at an attraction that has the basic positions of load, unload, Fastpass queue, greeter and stroller parker in that order.  Your first assignment that you get at 8:30 AM is greeter.  This means that when rotation goes out, you'll be bumped from your position and sent to relieve whoever is parking strollers.  You'll also bring instructions to that person - "go to break", "go see your coordinator", "go to position X" or something along those lines.

Some roles have much more complicated rotation, however.  Photopass, the role I had on my last program, basically assigns a cast member coming off of break the position most needing to be given a new assignment and doesn't pay any mind to any sort of pattern or cycle.  This sometimes makes it difficult to know where you will go next, though it's also pretty fun.

Clocking Out and Going Home

If you're not closing a position for the day (and since we're using our example situation of someone who only works mornings and afternoons, you won't be in this post), you'll eventually be given instructions to return to your base/break room and prepare to clock out for the day.  You won't be able to clock out early unless your manager says it's okay no matter what method you use to clock in and out of work.  You need to still be dressed in costume when you clock out too, so if you brought a change of clothes don't put them on until after you're off the clock.

If you can't get to the wall clock/CDS computer right when your shift ends, that's okay!  You have up to fifteen minutes after your shift is over to clock out before you get penalized.  If your bumpout is late and no one has told you what's going on, you'll usually be extended until someone can come by and relieve you.

Bumming Around the Hub

So in the title of this post I mentioned the Hub, though I haven't gotten around to mentioning it yet.  Well, I'll take the time now to explain it a little.  The Hub is essentially a virtual center for all things related to being a cast member, from a place to send in requests for shift swaps and time off to a list of cast discounts to park news.  You'll be able to access it and all of its features once you start training and get your login information.

One thing to keep in mind, though - some of the information available through the Hub is very sensitive and shouldn't ever be shard with non-cast members.  This includes information that hasn't been released publicly, information on a cast member's work location available through Rostr and backstage maps.  You will get into serious trouble if you are found breaking this rule and breaching confidentiality.  Disney takes this stuff seriously.

So that's about it for work-related stuff for now!  I hope that this answered some of the questions you might have about how a typical shift might work for you, though of course every job is different and you may find that you will expected to do very different things.  Remember - if you have any suggestions on what I might talk about next you can always contact me and I'll do my best to tackle it!  Until then, have a good day!
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