My job gave me these puffy pants - how to navigate costuming

4/23/14
Yes, every costuming place is about this big. (Source: disneydose.com)
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

4/21/14
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.

FAQ

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

4/13/14
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.

Warnings

  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)

4/10/14
Source: finddisney.com
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.

Source: orlandoparknews.com
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!

Source: imagineeringdisney.com
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.

Source: waltdatedworld.bravepages.com
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!

Source: illuminatingepcot.com
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.

Source: waltdatedworld.bravepages.com
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.

Source: lostepcot.com
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.

Source: land.allears.net
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.

Source: land.allears.net
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.

Source: burningsettlerscabin.com
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:

Source: imaginerding.com
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)

4/9/14
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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Finding roommates for the DCP (AKA how to successfully speed date)

4/8/14
Choose us - we have party hats!
So, you've gotten accepted into the College Program.  You know your role, you've chosen your arrival date and you're starting to get a feel for the different housing complexes and know where you might want to live.  There's just one problem - you need roommates but don't know where to start.  Of course, you could just show up on move-in day and have housing assign you random roommates... but if you wanted to go that route you wouldn't be reading this advice over choosing roommates, right?

Random roommates have their advantages.  You don't have to join the crush of new CPs all over social media essentially pimping themselves out to prospective roommates and snatching others up like hawks.  With the new DORMS system, you can even state your preferences ahead of time and be matched up to those you may not have met otherwise.  However, for some (like me), being able to plan housing-related stuff and get to somewhat know your roommates before heading down to Orlando is too important to be left up to chance.

Let me just give any CP, regardless of how they get their roommates, a piece of advice before I start talking more on this post's topic - you never know what someone will be like until you move in with them.  I've seen both horror and success stories from people who chose their roommates, and similar results for those who let housing assign them randomly.  Never let anyone tell you that one method is better than the other - it's totally and completely up to whatever is most comfortable for you.

Anyway, since you're reading this post because you're looking to find roommates let's talk more about that.  First of all, where do you find these other CPs looking for roommates?  Well, the top three places I have seen people look is:
  1. Facebook (as in, the Facebook groups for the DCP program you're participating in)
  2. Tumblr
  3. The DCP board on many Disney forum sites, including DISBoards
In addition, a guy named Matt has started a whole site dedicated to finding roommates through whatever search criteria you want to use.  I have a link on the right-hand side of this blog under "Helpful DCP Links".

Each platform has its advantages and disadvantages, and since you are most likely familiar with how at least one of them works I won't go into too much detail there.  You'll usually find a good template for a roommate survey, including stuff like your name, favorites, sleep schedule and personality, on whatever site you choose to use.  It's up to you how thoroughly you want to fill these out - remember, you're publishing them in a very public fashion so be careful about what personal information you include.

Once you've published one, or if you decide to avoid doing one and just want to search for roommates, you can look around whatever site you use and find others' surveys.  If they sound like a good fit, you can reach out to them and discuss potentially living together.  However, keep in mind that roommate-hunting can sometimes be very competitive (yes, really!) so it's possible they'll tell you they've found some roommates already.  Also keep in mind that people are also constantly looking at your own survey if you published one.  You'll likely feel like a horse at an auction if a lot of people contact you.

Questions to Ask Potential Roommates

 

Though the surveys the various roommate-hunting grounds provide do a good job of laying down the foundation for what life with a potential roommate might be like, there are still some I feel are important to ask or keep in mind when deciding if someone will get along with you:
  1. Have you ever lived away from your family before?
  2. Have you ever shared a room with someone you weren't related to?
  3. Are you open-minded and willing to potentially live with roommates from various backgrounds with various beliefs? (especially important if you worry that someone might discriminate against you for whatever reason)
  4. Are you willing to contribute to chores around the apartment? (sounds silly, but you want to make sure that you'll have roommates that do their fair share when it comes to cleaning for inspections)
  5. Do you get sick easily, or have problems being around those who are sick?
  6. (for Wellness CPs) Do you feel you have any problems maintaining an alcohol-free apartment?  Can you promise to respect housing's ban on alcoholic drinks and paraphernalia?
  7. (for Non-Wellness CPs) Would you be comfortable living in an apartment where everyone drinks on a regular basis, or would you rather live with those who drink more rarely?
  8. How important is it that you live with roommates who have a roughly similar work schedule to yours?  Can you handle living in an apartment with roommates coming from and going to work at any and all areas of the day and night?
  9. Are you good at sharing space and resources?  Can you promise to respect the personal property of your roommates even if the property has been made available for the entire apartment to use? (especially important when it comes to things like cookware and any electronics placed in living areas)
  10. Can you provide yourself with necessities like food and toiletries, and do you promise to never consume another roommate's without permission? (trust me, this issue is common in CP housing)

Tips for Finding and Evaluating Potential Roommates

  1. Don't assume that just because you know someone personally or are close friends with them they will make good roommates.  Well, unless you've lived with them before.  You never know what living with someone is like until you move in together.
  2. Finding like-minded roommates is always nice, especially when it comes to things like religion, partying, drinking and cleanliness/messiness.  However, you will meet many people from many different backgrounds on your program and it can't ever hurt to branch out a little and find interesting people with a different outlook on life than you!
  3. Be honest and upfront about what is important to you - don't hide facts or distort them out of fear of being rejected.  If you're LGBT and it is important to you to find roommates who support and respect you, make it known.  If you're a devout Christian and need roommates who are willing to attend church or religious group meetings with you, make it known.  If you're deathly allergic to something that you feel might inconvenience those you live with, make it known.
  4. Be courteous to those who have made contact with you, even if you have no interest in living with them.  Thank them for considering you and be kind if you must turn their offer down.
  5. If you're making contact with a potential roommate, respect them if they don't want to live with you.  It's nothing personal, and if the other person is making it so they weren't worth living with anyway.
  6. If you have multiple offers from potential roommates and choose which one(s) you want to live with, don't leave those you didn't choose hanging.  Tell them that you've made a decision right away so they can continue with their search.
  7. Don't stress out too much if you can't find roommates that fit what you need for your program.  Not choosing roommates doesn't put you at a disadvantage when you arrive in Florida - most us are moving in with people we don't know well at all.
  8. Avoid choosing roommates simply because you share similar interests in things like TV, food or anything of that nature.  Those make good friends, but not necessarily roommates.  It's far more important to find roommates who are responsible, will pull their weight in maintaining a clean apartment for inspections and understand how important the program is to you.
  9. Once you've chosen roommates, COMMUNICATE!  Figure out house rules, work out a list of who needs to bring what and make sure you know what everyone's travel plans for the days leading up to move-in day will be.
  10. Don't be afraid to say "no" to rooming with someone.  If you don't feel you'll be a good fit with them it's not worth it to force it.

Important Items to Ask About

Depending on how many roommates you want to live with, there may be many people all trying to bring the same thing.  This can get both expensive and inconvenient as you don't have unlimited space to store items that aren't needed.  This is especially important if a majority of you are arriving alone and can't send extra things back home with your travel  companions that easily.  In my opinion, roommates should always coordinate over who will bring what for these items:
  1. TV for the living room (since these are usually larger than TVs in bedrooms) - and don't forget the cable to hook into the cable outlet on the wall!
  2. DVD/Blu-Ray player
  3. Kitchen appliances
  4. Router
  5. Video game consoles (if most of you want to game)
  6. Large furniture pieces not intended for the bedroom or bathroom

Warnings

  1. Always, always, always be careful about what you post online.  Only give contact information to someone once you've established they're a real person and honest about their identity.  If someone is being too pushy to get private info out of you stop responding immediately and block them if necessary.  You might think I'm being paranoid but I'm not - I've actually seen things like this happen before.
  2. Avoid harassing a potential roommate - if you've contacted them and they haven't responded give them time to read your message.  It's fine to remind them to let you know when they have reached a decision, but don't force them to decide more quickly than is comfortable for them.
  3. While on your program, if at any time a roommate becomes aggressive or dangerous in any sense of the word report them to housing immediately.  Don't wait until something happens to make your concerns known.
That about wraps it up for this post!  If you're still looking for roommates or are just about to begin your search I hope it helps you in some way.  If you have any questions or want to suggest a topic for me tackle next I'm always listening on this blog and on Twitter.  Have a great evening!
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History time: the Disney College Program

4/6/14
Source: disneyadventureblog.wordpress.com


Hey all!  So this post will be a slight departure from my usual posts - instead of giving advice today, I'm going to be giving a bit of a history lesson over the Disney College Program!  I find that many CPs don't know much about how the program came to be or how long it's been around, and even though this information isn't vital to your program it's always interesting to know.  However, if this doesn't interest you then never fear - I'll go back to posting advice over the program of today soon. :)

Anyway, let's go back!  Back to... would you believe it... 1981!  Yes, the program was started with just 200 college students in 1981 as The Magic Kingdom College Program, or MKCP.  Since the Magic Kingdom was the only park open at the time (Epcot, or EPCOT Center, wouldn't open until the following year), this name makes sense.  Rather than having the housing we know today, however, participants stayed in a mobile home park called the Snow White Village Campground, located about a 15 minute drive from the Magic Kingdom on a road fittingly called Seven Dwarfs Lane.  Here are a few images of what the park looked like:

Source: disneyadventureblog.wordpress.com
Source: panoramio.com
Source: thedcpblog.tumblr.com
Just like today CPs were transported to work, although the buses looked quite different from the ones we're used to:

Source: disneyadventureblog.wordpress.com
Although graduation for CPs nowadays is a very simple (and optional) affair that usually includes food, getting free stuff and saying goodbye to Mickey and the gang, it used to be a more formal affair that included a dance (Fall participants still have a sort of formal, however):

Source: disneyadventureblog.wordpress.com
Many thanks to the Disney Adventure Blog, who had a fantastic post over the early days of the College Program (and most of the images I used for this lesson).  If you want to read more information, head right on over there!  As for whatever happened to the Snow White Village, well, I'm not in Florida to visit the site myself yet but I had manage to snag this Google Maps image of what became of the entrance to the campground circa 2011:

From this image, it looks as though the land was eventually used as another place for tourists to stay during their vacation but it has long since been abandoned.  However, since this is so far out-of-date it's possible that something has been constructed here since then - I hope to visit and see for myself when my program starts.

Now, the program was rapidly expanding at this point as CPs were also working at Epcot (and the program, by the way, was renamed The Walt Disney World College Program in 1982 after it opened).  So, in 1987 all CPs were moved much closer to property into more permanent housing called Vista Way Apartments... though I'm sure you've never heard of them, right?

The 1990s brought further expansion as this is when The Walt Disney World Resort hit its major growth spurt (hey, that was how the economy was then).  The Commons was the first additional complex to built in 1998 and was originally reserved for international students (though it has recently opened up to everyone).  Chatham Square soon followed in 2002, and Patterson Court in 2008.  (Thanks are due for Lauren, who has a post on her Tumblr about the opening years for each complex.)

Over at Disneyland, offerings for college students may or may not have also been around as long as those at WDW (I haven't managed to find any good information over it).  However, what I do know is that in 2004 Disney World and Disneyland both had a College Program that was promoted under the same umbrella as the. Disney Theme Parks and Resorts College Program.  Nowadays we simply call it the Disney College Program.

As of today no definite numbers for how many apply and how many participate are available, despite what a lot of people will tell you.  However, it's estimated that at least 8,000 students are involved each year, which comes out to about 4,000 for each cycle (Fall/FA or Spring/SA).  That's where we all come in!  We are part of that now-massive number participating in a program that is about 33 years old as of this post.

Well, if you ever wanted to know more about the DCP from a historical standpoint I hope this was fun for you!  If not... well, I hope you at least enjoyed reading it over.  I'll be sure to post a follow-up when I get to Florida and visit the old campground, but until then... have a great day!
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The DCP bucket list (and how to make yours too!)

4/4/14
Mission Get in a Parade was a success!
Every CP's favorite pastime before actually starting their program is to make a bucket list (for those of you who somehow don't know what that is, it's essentially a list of things that someone wants to do or experience on his or her program).  These bucket lists can range from very short and simple to very long and full of different things to do and are completely unique to the person that wrote it.  However, some people may not be sure where to start in making one, especially if they've never been to Disney World before.  Never fear!  Today I'll help you figure out how to build the perfect list for you, from finding things to do to prioritizing them on your list.

Where do I start?

If you've never been to Disney World you're likely only found out about different Disney-related stuff through friends, other blogs, CPs, etc.  This is a good way to learn about some things, but there are some that you might want to put on our own bucket list that no one you know has done before - for example, you love fishing but never knew that Disney has fishing excursions because no one has ever said anything about that to you.  Take time to do research!  Read guidebooks (your local library will likely have at least one, and you can always purchase copies as well), check Disney's official site, do Google searches... you'll find all sorts of things you never knew you could do before!

Too many things on the list, not enough time!

If you feel that your list is too long, take a closer look at what you've included.  Are you sure you can do some of the things you put down?  Maybe some of them aren't really possible (for example, you probably aren't going to convince Disney to let you and a bunch of your CM friends perform a flash mob routine in the middle of Magic Kingdom) or will be too expensive for you to complete.  There are plenty of fun things to do that are within your grasp - don't get upset if you have to give up on some of them!

Tips for building your list

  1. Check to make sure that there aren't any laws or rules that will prevent you from doing something.  For example, having a beach party with alcohol may sound like fun but Florida likely has a law about consuming it in public (not to mention that most beaches have a ban on glass bottles and the like anyway).
  2. Don't let others make you feel that you "have" to add something to a list.  Dole Whip and giant turkey legs are pretty iconic Disney snacks but if you're not interested in trying them, don't be forced into changing your mind because you feel your list will be "incomplete" otherwise.
  3. This list is about you!  Your apartment may also want to put together a list of things to do together but your bucket list is about what you personally want to do.  Who cares if your roommates don't want to do some of the things on your list?  You can find other people who will!
  4. Make sure that whatever you want to do is still being offered.  On my last program I had Leave a Legacy on my bucket list... but little did I know that it hasn't been offered since 2007 (only one year after my first visit to WDW!).  You don't want disappointments like that!
  5. Only put things down that you're willing to commit to doing.  Yes, we only do bucket lists for fun and it's not a necessary part of our program - but why have a long list of things you don't really want to do?

My bucket list

I am not one for making bucket lists.  I tried on my last program then realized that I had done pretty much everything that I wanted to do already (or, as in the case with Leave a Legacy, the things I wanted to do were no longer possible).  However, for this program I have a better knowledge of what Disney and the central Florida area have to offer so I feel I can make a good one this time.  I'll also add this as a separate page on my blog that you can access from the menu above, so I can tick things off as I do them!

  1. Meet a rare Disney character at least once and take a photo with him or her.  Autograph is optional as some characters can't sign their names.
  2. Eat in every pavilion in Epcot, not including The American Adventure.
  3. Buy something from every pavilion in Epcot, not including The American Adventure.
  4. Try to "Drink Around the World".
  5. Go to the beach.  This beach must be somewhere other than Cocoa Beach (I love Cocoa Beach but I want to see what other beaches and beach towns look like!)
  6. Volunteer for Give Kids the World.
  7. Visit the Asian Market at least once.
  8. Visit every resort that the CP bus goes to, and either eat something or buy something unique to each resort.
  9. Visit Blizzard Beach.  (I went to a CP pool party last spring at Typhoon Lagoon so I have technically been there!)
  10. Go back to DisneyQuest.
  11. See a show at the House of Blues.  This does not include cast member nights on Sunday.
  12. Go to Jellyrolls at the Boardwalk Resort.
  13. Go bowling at Splitsville again.  Food must be bought while there.
  14. Walk out on the balconies on the upper floors of the Contemporary Resort.  This can be at any time of day or night.
  15. Ride the Magic Kingdom monorail and the Epcot monorail around for entire circuit without getting off.
  16. Ride the new Mine Train coaster at Magic Kingdom when it opens (assuming that it will open between now and January)
  17. Visit the new expansion to the Wizarding World at Universal when it opens.
  18. Tackle the Kitchen Sink once again.
  19. Ride a surrey bike with either my roommates or my friends.
  20. Take a selfie with a character.  Any character will count as long as they fit in the frame with me.
  21. Attend Dapper Day if possible.
  22. Visit Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.  Costume required.
  23. Meet an ICP or CRP from another country (preferably from another continent) while they're not at work.
  24. Go on a backstage tour.  Since I've already been on Behind the Seeds before, that tour will not count towards this.
  25. Become the Rebel Spy on Star Tours once again (I was chosen once, which was awesome!)
  26. Walk to Publix for groceries at least once (assuming that I end up living in either Patterson or Chatham, otherwise this entry doesn't count).
  27. Visit two of the non-Disney restaurants near housing - Sweet Tomatoes is at the top of my list!
  28. Go to a mall at least three times.  Something substantial like a dress, jacket, pair of shorts, swimsuit, etc. must be bought each time.  The three visits don't have to all be at the same place.
  29. Hit all four parks in one day.  In each park, at least three rides (no shows allowed) must be gone on.  Something must also be bought in each park - either some merchandise or food - that is unique to each one.
  30. Take every transportation method offered to leave Magic Kingdom - the resort boats, the buses, the monorail and the ferry.  These don't all need to be done the same day.
  31. Take a photo of me and anyone else I am with at the time while visiting every resort.  If the resort has a main building the photo must be taken in there.
  32. See at least five live entertainment shows (meaning the street performers) at Epcot.
  33. See the dancers and DJ in Asia (Animal Kingdom).
  34. Use the Photopass-enabled photo booth in the Space Mountain arcade at least three times.  (Remember that you must pay for the photos in order to get them on your card.)
  35. Eat at California Grill and every other restaurant on my list of places I want to visit from an earlier post.
  36. See La Nouba again, or at least purchase something from the gift shop.
  37. Eat every sandwich on Earl of Sandwich's menu, except for sandwiches containing ingredients I can't eat.
  38. See the Voices of Liberty and record their entire performance.
  39. Give advice to a family of strangers while waiting in line for something.  This may also go along with line babysitting (if you don't know what that is, read my "CP etiquette" post).
  40. Send a present home for my mother, father and sister on their respective birthdays.  These do not have to be Disney-related nor do they have to be bought on Disney property.
  41. See the Candlelight Processional.  Alternatively, get into the cast member choir and perform in the Candlelight Processional!
  42. Get a video of a face character speaking to one of my friends back home.  This can be for a birthday, other life event, just to say hi, etc.
  43. Manage to see or meet a celebrity while on the program.  This can be done while working or not working, but I must not be actively seeking them out because that's like stalking and its creepy.
  44. Have at least two family dinners with my roommates.  They can either be at restaurants or at home, but all roommates must be present for this to count.
  45. Visit a park or parks one day with a strict $20 budget.  This budget is for any expense like food, souvenirs, etc.  This does not include gas charges.
  46. Buy a replacement PS3 for my dead unit.  This unit must be bought new.
  47. Buy a birthday gift for each of my roommates who has a birthday during the program.
  48. If someone I know well comes to visit while I'm on my program, I must see them at least once.  If possible, I must take an entire day off.
  49. I must take a photo with the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom at night.  Since it closes early, the only times this is possible is during the winter months when the sun goes down early.
  50. I must drink every soda at Club Cool whenever I visit Epcot.  No exceptions.  This includes Beverly.
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When your money goes to Wonderland - how to make and keep a budget (sort of)

4/3/14
Must not buy... must not buy...
This will not be your traditional budget talk.  Why?  Well, first of all I'm not a very big budget person myself. I'll make plans to save money for larger purchases, but from month to month I usually just follow a general philosophy of purchasing things I need at the moment and reminding myself that I can buy things I want later.  So how will this post work?  Well, consider this post a bit of a way to coach yourself through grocery shopping, playing in the parks and mall trips without breaking your bank.

The Steps to Happiness

  1. Identify what is most important to you - whether it be food, clothing, services like concerts or shows, your car, etc.  This does not include basics like groceries.  If it's not important to you, don't get pressured into paying for it later.
  2. Figure out how much money you need to live each month.  This includes groceries, toiletries, gas for your car (if you have one) and any bills you may pay.  You'll need to make sure you have this put aside by the time you need to pay each week/month.
  3. If you also want to give part of each paycheck to savings, work that out with your bank right now.  I'm not a banker and am really stupid when it comes to bank-related stuff so I can't help you there.
  4. Make a plan on how often you might go out to eat, go clubbing, take road trips, see shows, go to the mall,etc.  Most of you probably already have bucket lists - identify how much certain things will cost you and save that money.  Don't let it cut into your living expenses, ever.
  5. If you find yourself coming up short each month, look at your spending again and cut back on spending for things that aren't essential.

The Tips of Happiness

I also have some tips for you:
  1.  It takes money to go home, whether you're driving or flying.  Get that money on hand right away, don't wait until the last minute to save it all up.
  2. When going shopping in the Disney stores, always keep that parenting advice for children in mind: if you feel you want something, leave it behind and only come back to get it later on or the next day if you still think about it.  This will keep you from buying things on impulse that you don't need or don't want.
  3. Don't let the cast member discounts lure you into a false sense of security - our discounts are great, especially around the holiday season, but Disney merch is still incredibly expensive at times and you need to stay aware of that.
  4. No one should ever pressure you into buying something you don't want or taking you someplace you don't want to go if it costs too much money.  We are all poor - even those who make good money as CPs can't afford to spend recklessly and no one should ever put you down for being responsible.
  5. Don't go crazy with cooking for your roommates unless they're willing to return the favor - cooking for many people can get more expensive instead of cooking for one, and you shouldn't spend extra just to feed those who won't compensate you whether it be in cash or their own cooking.  Sounds selfish, but you need to make sure you have enough money for yourself first.
  6. If you go down to the program saying "I'm going to save money to take home"... stick to that plan!  A lot of people will pull the "this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" card on you and they're right, there are a lot of things you can do in central Florida that you probably won't get the chance to do again.  However, if you want or need to save for something actually do it.  Consistently.
  7. Don't drink or gamble away your money.  Duh, right?  Well, depending on the context you're in you might not even notice you're doing it - so be careful!
  8. Save for special events!  Fall CPs are in WDW for events like the Food and Wine Festival, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween party and Christmas/New Year's festivities among others.  Spring doesn't get quite as much but if Disney really does make a habit of having an annual 24-hour day there's that.  Some of these events are hard-ticket, meaning that you have to buy a special ticket and CANNOT use your ID or main gate to get in!  And don't even try and sneak in because that's grounds for termination if your manager sees fit or you cause problems.
  9. Utilize the Trading Post on Facebook (the link is on the bar to the right), Cast Connection and the Disney outlet store in the outdoor mall near the Commons for good deals on merch.  But once again, don't go crazy buying things you don't need.  Go in with a game plan.
  10. Pin trading is fun, but pins are pricy.  My roommates usually bought pins in bulk off of eBay and traded them with each other's work lanyards and guests in order to get the collection they wanted.
Most of all, always check up on your bank account.  If you have a bank that isn't easily found in the WDW area use online banking to read up on your statements and ensure that everything adds up.  You don't want to start spending money you don't have.

So that's it for budgeting - for now!  If you have any questions, want more information or want me to discuss something else I'm always willing to take your suggestions on Twitter and on this blog itself.  Have a great day!
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CP etiquette (AKA how to not annoy people while out and about)

4/2/14
Empty seats on a CP bus?  Never happens!
Being a CP is fun.  Being a CP is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Being a CP also comes with quite a few stigmas, and any alum will agree that there will be those in WDW - your workplace, your favorite park, etc. - who won't want you around.  Don't take it personally, there are many reasons why they won't and there's not much you can do to change their minds.

However, trying to break the CP stereotype - mainly that CPs are lazy, overly wild and indulgent, and cause problems for guests - is always a good thing to do.  We want to ensure that we can have fun while ensuring that future programs will be treated fairly and respectfully.  And isn't it somewhat fun to break someone's misconception of you anyway?

This post will be a bit large, as I'm writing down some unofficial "CP etiquette" that might be useful for you to know no matter where you are, so if there's any particular section you want to read more closely just scroll (or CRTL+F to find) until you come across it.  And if any alumni would like to add their own etiquette tips feel free to contact me and I'll add them!

While At Home

  1. You don't have to be a mouse, no one is making you stay silent at night and being quiet doesn't mean you can't have fun.  However, remember that you're in an apartment with very little soundproofing and everyone else has a different schedule from you.  If you need to be noisy at night, consider going to a common area like the pool or out to a club or other public place.
  2. Respect your neighbors' complaints if something you've been doing is bothering them.  You don't have to dumbly go along with whatever they say but at least try to see the situation from their eyes.
  3. When doing laundry in a public laundromat, be prompt when it comes to removing laundry.  Not everyone has time to wait for you to come and remove it themselves is they need laundry done right away.  If someone else moves your laundry for you, it's nothing personal.
  4. That being said, try to treat others' laundry with respect if you must remove them.  Don't put them anywhere dirty.  If you have a dollar to spare maybe even consider putting their clothes in the dryer if they still need drying as well - just make sure to tell them where their clothes went!
  5. Be nice to the security guards.  If they need to see your ID up close don't get fussy with them - they are only doing their job.
  6. Be nice to the maintenance workers even if they aren't nice to you - treat them as you would any guest at work.  It doesn't help you to be snippy if they're being rude.
  7. Drive slowly around the complexes' parking lots.  There's a lot of foot traffic from CPs going to and from work, their car, friends' apartments, etc.
  8. If you see someone struggling with groceries (especially if they obviously don't have a car), offer to help them!  I had a few CPs help me with groceries on my program and it was so nice that they offered.
  9. Respect your roommates.  I've already written a more in-depth post about living with them so check there if you want to learn more :)
  10. When family comes to visit any of your roommates or neighbors, be courteous and give them their space.
  11. The pools can be small, so make sure that anyone who wants to use it gets the chance to.  Same for the lounge chairs.
  12. If you know your neighbors and one of them gets a package left outside their door, it might be nice of you to keep it safely inside your own apartment and give it to them when they get home.  Just make sure they, well, know you :P

While On the Bus

  1. If it's late or very early, please respect those CPs who want to nap or ride the bus in peace.  And never ever talk loudly on purpose just because you see someone sleeping.  I've seen it happen before and it's extremely rude, not to mention annoying for everyone else on the bus.
  2. Stretching out across a few chairs is fine if you're on an uncrowded bus, but if not let someone sit in the seats with you.  And don't pretend to sleep just so you don't have to move.
  3. If you haven't worked that day and you're riding a full bus, do the respectful thing and offer your seat to someone who's worked.  You may be tired but I can tell you that working CP is probably even more tired.
  4. On that same token, don't try to vilify other CPs because you think they didn't work that day and are sitting down.  Character performers go to and from work in street clothes, and anyone can change out of their costume after their shift if they desire.  If they really didn't work, sure, they might be being rude - but they're not worth wasting your energy on.
  5. If it's closing time at the park you're visiting for the day, try escaping to a resort that has a CP bus route without parks on it.  Not only will they be less crowded with CPs, but you'll also be allowing those who have worked a better chance of getting on a bus faster back at the park.
  6. Be respectful to the driver.  Don't impair their ability to focus or drive.  If the bus breaks down, don't harass them when they're calling for help.  Be understanding and flexible if the bus doesn't have air conditioning, windows that can be opened, etc.  The driver didn't choose to drive that bus.
  7. Feel free to engage fellow bus riders in conversation, but if they don't want to talk don't force them into it.
  8. When getting off of a bus, don't push past people who are also trying to get off.  You'll all be out eventually and being impatient doesn't help you get off faster.
  9. Don't mess with a sleeping CP on a bus unless you feel they may be missing their stop.  Even then, wake them gently.
  10. Be considerate about how much you bring on a bus with you - there are very few situations where you'd need something as large as a suitcase, for example.
  11. Don't chase the buses.  Not only will the bus driver probably not stop for you but even if he does, you're not being fair to those who were able to be there on time.
  12. Never tell a bus driver to wait for you at a stop while you get off and go do something.  This happens relatively often on the J bus (DAK) route because it stops at costuming.  The driver needs to stick to a schedule and everyone else on that bus has somewhere to be.  Accept that you will simply have to catch the next bus and let it go on its way.

While At Work

  1. If you get an assignment you don't like, don't complain.  You are needed to go and do something that your manager has deemed important, and it's not very adult to throw a fit about it.
  2. Don't take extra time on your break unless you absolutely need to.  And there are very few cases where you'll need to do it.
  3. Work hard.  You don't have to be a goody-two-shoes, a brown-noser or an overachiever but you didn't travel all the way to Florida to not work when you agreed to do just that.
  4. Accept that some of your coworkers may not want to get too friendly with CPs - or even openly dislike them - and that there may be nothing you can do to convince them otherwise.  However, don't take this as an excuse to treat them rudely.
  5.  On the other hand, some of your coworkers (especially the ones closer to your age) may really want to be your friend.  However, remember that you must act professional around them while at work.
  6. Thank your coordinators, character captains, managers and whoever else for their hard work.  They sometimes have to run themselves ragged keeping everything in their area in check even if they don't seem to be.
  7. Take criticism in a mature manner if you get it.  Even if you think it's undeserved, taking it too personally doesn't help you prove anyone wrong at all.
  8. If you don't get recognized for working hard, whether through Four Keys Cards or otherwise, don't throw a fit.  Your work is appreciated even it's not formally acknowledged.
  9. On your last day of work, be sure to thank everyone for working with you on your program.  Bringing food is nice if your work location allows it, but it's not necessary.

While Playing in the Parks

  1. Being a CM doesn't net you any special favors.  No worker is required to let you through Fastpass lines without a pass, access to VIP seating for shows, free food or merchandise or magical moments.  Insisting that someone do this will just make them very annoyed with you!
  2. Be courteous of other guests.  They may not have that much time to explore the parks before they have to go home and should be given the chance to do just that.
  3. Don't announce to anyone listening that you work for Disney.  This can make some guests veeeeery uncomfortable as they might feel that you are detracting from their vacation or get resentful because they know that you got into the park for free when they had to pay.  You don't have to keep it a secret either, just don't make a show of it.
  4. Don't visibly wear your IDs, CM or housing, while in the parks.  First of all, it's not allowed.  Second of all, it makes it obvious that you are a cast member and a CP.  If a worker tells you to put it away, do so politely.
  5. You can't go backstage as a guest.  Don't even try - it disrespectful to those that are working, disruptive, against the rules and confusing to guests who see who they think is another guest going into a cast member-only area.
  6. Watch your language.  You're around a lot of small children whose parents may or may not want them hearing swearing, derogatory language or dirty humor and they will not appreciate you doing it at all.
  7. Don't get in the way of another cast member doing their job.  If the CM is helping a family of guests find a bathroom, for instance, it's inappropriate to jump in the conversation and offer to help them out - unless the CM doesn't know, that is.
  8. Leave the park when it closes.  Just because you're a cast member doesn't mean you'll be allowed to stay someplace as long as you want.
  9. Cast members can't do Extra Magic Hours.  Period.  Don't try to make a cast member overlook this fact.
  10. Discounts do not apply to all things you can purchase in a park.  If a cast member says you can't use your discount, respect that and move on.  If asking if a place offers a discount, be polite.

 When Meeting a Character

  1. Sometimes, characters will need to go away for a short while even if you've just gotten to the front of the line.  The attendants will not make an exception for you no matter how hard you beg.
  2. NEVER HIT A CHARACTER!  Even if you think you're just playing around, the character might not appreciate it.
  3. Even if you don't want Photopass some photographers will give you a card anyway.  Don't freak out on them.  Just throw the card away when you leave if you really don't want it.
  4. Don't insist on the characters performing "magical moments" for you.  If you don't know what I'm talking about this probably doesn't apply to you, but if you do... just remember that the characters are not robots.  If they don't feel like performing a particular action for you you need to respect that.
  5. If you know a friend the character is hanging out with at that particular moment, don't harass them or break character integrity.  EVER.  They'll probably have talked to you before about what they and their character friend find acceptable and unacceptable things to say, but even if they don't be reasonable.
  6. Don't insist on taking too much time with a character.  We're all adults, even when we're meeting one of our favorite characters we know that there is probably a child somewhere in line who will get even more fulfillment out of seeing them than we will.  Five minutes is quite enough time for several photos, a bit of play with the character and autographs.  Most of the time you won't even get to stay for five minutes.
  7. When it's time to leave the meet-and-greet area, LEAVE.  Don't dawdle.  The character has said goodbye to you and is ready to meet the next family in line.
  8. It's okay to have fun with a character!  Kisses, hugs, dances and other games are all common things to do.  However, if a character doesn't want to play they just don't.  Come back another day and they may be in a better mood!
  9. One of my favorite things to do while waiting for characters is play "line babysitter" - where I talk to a family with small children and get to talk to the kids about their day.  Sometimes the parents appreciate having the kids occupied by something else and enjoy the fact that their children are being social.  However, there are also those parents who might not like them talking to a complete stranger, even if you don't look threatening, and don't want to be bothered.  Always gauge the parents' reactions before you start chatting with the kids.
  10. Men (and women), you can't kiss face characters on the cheek.  They may kiss you, but you can't do it yourself.  And don't insist that they do it for you because they may not want to.

While Traveling Around Florida

  1. Not everyone is young or a tourist.  Be kind to the older locals, especially if you go to the beach (why beach? Because a lot of them are located near small towns that likely have a lot of older folks out and about during the day).
  2. Share the road.  Be considerate of your fellow drivers.  Drive safely.
  3. When visiting the grocery store/Walmart/Target, don't pull stunts like putting people into your cart, running or messing up store shelves.  Act like an adult - you're there for food and other necessities, not to blow off steam.
  4. Respect the workers on toll roads.  If you didn't want to pay tolls, you would've found ways around the plaza.  (Meaning other roads, not blasting through without paying.)
  5. Beaches have many rules - make sure you know them all.  Don't litter.  Don't break glass.  If you bring food with you clean it up.  Don't throw things in the water.

Well, there is my super-long list of all things politeness.  Again, if any alums out there have any tips to add I'd love to hear them!  It's always good to hear different perspectives on an issue.
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