Disney Vacation Planning – in a Digital World

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Our family in front of Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World in February, 2017

We had the opportunity to go on an amazing family vacation in February, to Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Florida. This fun-filled, week-long adventure was a truly magical experience for our family, part of which was due to all the planning and preparation we did before we left. I have many amazing child-hood memories of fun family getaways to Disney World and wanted to create some of these similar memories with my family. Lucky for us we also had our extended family with us for part of our vacation to enjoy the magic with us.

Many people say that Walt Disney World is the most magical place on earth, with a princess-crazed four-year-old and a happy-go-lucky one-and-a-half-year-old, it really was exactly that for our family on our recent vacation.

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Our four-year-old was enchanted by the magical touches they added to our photos!

When I was younger, I can remember my parents sending away for a free planning VHS, where you could see video footage of the resorts and parks to help you decide what resort you wanted to stay at and what restaurants and activities you might want to book for your trip. Sitting down as a family to watch the video was part of the excitement of the planning process, after reservations were complete the countdown to vacation would begin!

As the roles have changed and my husband and I were now the planners for our own Disney vacation I was amazed at all of the resources and planning tools available to help vacationers book their ideal family trip.

My Disney Experience  – this Disney website allows you to create your own profile and store your entire itinerary on it, hotel reservations information is stored here, restaurant reservations can be booked and managed here, fastpass reservations (reserving specific ride times for three rides per day) can be booked here, photopass photos can be viewed here, and MANY more functions as well. This is also available as a mobile app, which made it easy and accessible to use when we were on the go and in the parks each day. We could view our schedule, manage reservations and even find certain things on the map using this app. Amazing to think of all of the tools on this app not being available to people traveling to Disney years ago – pretty great to have all this information in one handy location at your fingertips.

Disney Tourist Blog – in the early stages of planning I used this site quite frequently to read reviews on hotels and restaurants. Another neat function on this website is the ability to check out their draft itineraries for a day at the park. This blogger factors in a number of different things, how close certain rides are to each other, what time of day is best to ride certain rides, what rides can’t be missed and other factors too, to determine a user-friendly system to navigate the parks and optimize your ride vs. line time. There are also some great photos on this site – I enjoyed looking at them and sharing them with my family to get excited for our upcoming trip.

Under Cover Tourist Crowd Calendars -there are a few different sites that offer crowd calendars that assess a variety of factors, including: time of year, events happening, statistical information and data from other years, extra magic hours, etc. To determine ideal days to visit Walt Disney World and each of the parks. We used this to plan in advance which parks we would visit each day, it worked out to be a very helpful resource!

Walt Disney World Insiders – Facebook Group – this group has almost 94,000 Disney Fans and they are all happy to give advice and help with any questions you may have. I found just following the conversations and listening to the advice and answers that people were getting to their questions helped me to learn so much, many of the questions I would have never thought to even ask! I also asked the group for my own advice a couple times during the planning process and also when I was at the park. One of the evenings we were trying to figure out the best way to get transportation from our resort to another so I asked who had done it before and whether we should take the Disney bus system or a taxi or uber. It was great to get fast feedback from others that had been in the exact same situation! Even after our vacation is now over, I still enjoy following the conversations and seeing pictures of other people enjoying their Disney World vacations!

These are just a small sample of some of the online blogs, Facebook communities and websites that I found to be very helpful in planning and partaking in a wonderful Walt Disney World vacation. I feel lucky that we had so many resources available to plan such a memorable vacation. My parents came along with us and they commented on the changes in the technologies available and utilized in planning and in your park experience.

Have you been on a Walt Disney World vacation? Did you use blogs or websites and apps to help in your planning? Do you look to travel blogs as a resource when you are considering visiting a certain destination? Are you in any social media communities or groups that are related to travel and travel questions? I’d love to hear your experiences!

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Planning a @WaltDisneyWorld vacation? Check out these online resources to help plan your trip! http://bit.ly/2smaP6a

 

facebook  Are you considering a vacation to the most magical place on earth? Check out some of my favourite resources for planning a Walt Disney World vacation http://bit.ly/2smaP6a

 

 

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Social Media Etiquette – Would you say that in person?

I, like I’m sure many of you, have embraced and enjoy the way social media allows me to connect with family and friends on a regular basis and feel like I have a small window into their lives and what they are up to. There are many positive aspects to social media and the way we can connect to people and share different things that are going on in our lives with our social “community.” While I see many positives of using social media, one of the negative features that I sometimes see is when people don’t use appropriate social media etiquette. People have different views and opinions about many topics and I find it is sometimes surprising that some people may be polite in person, but when it comes to their reactions and responses on Facebook they are rude and inconsiderate. I’m not speaking of my social network specifically, I am referring to the types of comments and feedback I see on Facebook page posts or online discussion forums.

I find a large majority of the posts I share on a regular basis are pictures of my kids or pictures of life around the farm. Below is an example of the types of images I share online with my social media community.

I enjoy following the lives of many of my friends that are online as well, many of my friends live further away and we don’t get to see them on a super regular basis, so staying connected and watching as their families grow is a great way to stay in touch and keep connected. My day-to-day interactions on social media on my personal accounts (primarily Facebook and Instagram), are generally happy and positive conversations, typically about family, travel and agriculture and leave me with a good feeling after the social interactions.

I also follow a variety of Facebook pages about parenting and children – this is where I am sometimes shocked to see such mean and hurtful comments to other people. I follow these pages to find good ideas for learning activities, recipe ideas and parenting advice and hacks from other parents, going through similar stages in life. When I first joined these networks, I thought it would be a happy and supportive community – to help other Moms like me, when they are looking for an ear to listen or advice, while these communities are generally happy and supportive places – much to my surprise, there are some parents in these groups that can be so mean and cruel when people are asking for advice or input. After following some of these groups for a while, I have found the following posts are always controversial and will make some parents say super inappropriate things, when the parent has only politely asked for advice:

  • Car seats – conversations around car seats ALWAYS spark controversy, many parents encourage extended rear-facing and when parents talk about moving their child to a forward-facing car seat or a booster seat there is always someone in the group who feels they are TOTALLY wrong for feeling that way. The same goes for posting pictures of kids in car seats – many parents are VERY quick to point out that harnesses are done up incorrectly or they shouldn’t be wearing a coat or bulky clothes underneath the buckles. While I understand that many of these parents are sharing their opinion based on thinking they are helping a parent to make a safe decision for their child – I think a more appropriate way of getting the message across would be to politely give advice, some people feel like they somehow have the right to be rude and accusatory, when the person was just asking for simple advice and help.
  • Discipline / Setting Rules or Boundaries – often in a parenting group a parent will bring up that their child is doing something that is a behaviour they don’t like (for example: hitting, biting, yelling, etc.), they ask for feedback on what they should do and this ALWAYS sparks controversy. Understandably, everyone has different views on how to put limits on children’s behaviours and on how to teach them appropriate and inappropriate behaviours and actions – but again it comes down to having RESPECTFUL conversations with others. I can’t help but wonder – is this behaviour online something you would like to see your child saying or acting like? These parents are obviously looking for help with an issue they are having but don’t need to be the target of mean and cruel words from other parents.
  • Sleep questions – sometimes parents will ask questions about changing or improving their child’s sleep habits (whether it is naps or nighttime sleep). This is another topic that many parents feel strongly about, whether they are supporters of gentle sleep coaching methods, co-sleeping or cry-it-out methods, many have a strong opinion that their sleep solution is the BEST solution for everyone. Again, a parent asks a question and is looking for some positive reinforcement or some helpful suggestions – and then some parent decides to share why the specific method they used is the best and only sensible solution.

The three examples of controversial topics on parenting groups are only a small selection of some of the topics that seem to get parents worked up and feisty. I can’t help but wonder, what makes these kind of responses seem like an appropriate way to HELP another parent that is looking for advice? Is this how they act in public? Do they talk to friends, family and other people in their day-to-day life in such inappropriate ways? I personally avoid posting on forums about things that may be controversial, as much as it is nice to get input and feedback, I don’t want to feel like I’m being “attacked” by these other parents and no amount of reasoning with them seems to work or move the conversation back to a positive interaction.

There are many articles online about social media etiquette, outlining some of the things to consider when posting online. I found an article by Grace Bonney, that I liked the tone and message of and she also referenced my same thoughts, “Treat others the way you want to be treated and don’t attack people with pitches.” I would think that this shouldn’t need to be said and should just be the common way people treat others, but it appears some people don’t take this into consideration. Grace also shared a simple list of Do’s and Don’ts, some of my other favourite pieces of advice from her included: comments follow you, be aware the overshare, consider the tone and think before tagging. I think these are all great things to consider when posting on social media.

What are your biggest pet-peeves on social media? What do you consider to be cringe-worthy behaviour on social networking groups? Do you have any other pieces of advice for people participating in online discussion groups or just for general social media use?

 

facebook If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all! Social media etiquette, what is an appropriate way to behave and interact online? Do you think before you post? Check out my latest blog post at: http://bit.ly/2s08igT to see more about social media etiquette.

TwitterSocial media etiquette – are you careful not to offend people online? Check out my latest blog http://bit.ly/2s08igT #bekind

Finding REAL news – who to believe?

Social media has increased our access to a wide variety of media and news options available at our fingertips. The access to free news so readily is certainly a great feature of social media, but one drawback is finding REAL and credible information and news.

Dairy farming and agriculture is something that I am passionate about, we involve our kids in life on the farm and hope that someday they will also have the passion for the industry we love. When I see information that portrays our industry in a negative light I strive to share positive messages and help to get the real story out there – so that consumers know the true facts.

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Milking time on the farm – teaching the next generation of farmers how it’s done

 

In this course, we are seeing how accessible it is for people that want to share their ideas and give their thoughts a voice to create a blog and have a platform to share their ideas. In my last blog, I highlighted the importance of being an Agvocate and sharing good news about Agriculture and where our food comes from. I touched on the importance of making sure that REAL news is out there for consumers.

I’m sure you have all, at some point, seen bad press about Agriculture, as a social media user myself I have seen content shared in my newsfeed that casts a poor light on Agriculture and farmers. Perhaps that has made you form a poor opinion of our industry – but like everything, there is definitely another side to the story and it is important that “myth-busters” are out there to help people make informed choices. That brings me to the topic of FAKE news and how important it is to check your source of your information and question what you read – don’t take everything at face value!

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No pus in this milk – or any milk for that matter – feeding time on the farm along with a little helper

 

This particular blog post, from Dairy Carrie addresses one of the fake news stories that sometimes circulates around Facebook and social media titled, “Is there Pus in Milk?” I have seen a couple variations of images sourcing the same false information, as I see it shared by my friends on social media – I encourage them to dig deeper and look for more information – and not to believe everything they read online. Dairy Carrie is a great example of a blogger who myth-busts false information that she sees on social media, rather than losing her cool and fighting with someone over sharing misguided information she talks about the science behind what milk is made up of and shares REAL information. Thanks to social media this real information can also be shared readily to consumers – you just have to hope that consumers are also looking for the other side of the story.

Another controversial topic that often comes up around agriculture and food is the topic of Genetically Modified (GM) foods. I have seen friends on social media share “news” about conventional agriculture and GMOs. It is great when bloggers like Sarah at Nurse Loves Farmer writes blogs backed up by research and science to bust the myths about GMOs. In her post she link articles and studies that show the science behind GMOs and encourages her readers to dig deeper and not take things at face value.

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Spring 2017 – tractor and planter busy planting our 2017 corn crop

 

In this ‘social media age’ we live in it is getting easier and easier to have access to news, information and opinions – it is important that we pay attention to where we get our FACTS from and do a bit of homework to put the pieces together to see the bigger picture. We need to ask questions and find out more rather than taking someone else’s opinion as gospel.

As a social media user do you find you are bombarded with fake news? Do you question the news you see come across your newsfeed and look for the other side of the story? What other areas or industries do you see as having to combat the “FAKE” news?

 

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Are you getting the whole story? How do you find REAL news and filter out the fake news? #mythbusting http://bit.ly/2seuukq

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Look deeper at the news you read and ask yourself is this REAL news? What is the rest of the story? To read more about mythbusting news about your food check out my latest blog post http://bit.ly/2seuukq

From Farm to Fork – Being an Agvocate and Sharing Good News About Agriculture

Dairy cows in a barn, with feed in front of them and a little boy, a tractor and mixer in the background

Growing up on a farm – it is important to be an Agvocate to help inform consumers about where their food comes from

Growing up as a farm kid, on a dairy farm North of Toronto, I was exposed to the day-to-day of a farm, milking the cows, feeding the cows, helping pick rocks in the field, helping to load bales into the hay mow on a warm summer day. I took for granted the things I’d come to find as common place and everyday things were not those that many people were accustomed too. As my husband and I are raising our children (our youngest is pictured above) on our family dairy farm I see even more importance in sharing news about agriculture so that consumers understand more about where their food comes from.

As more and more of the population live in cities it is becoming increasingly important to share REAL news with people about how their food is made and where their food comes from. Social media is a great way to share information and to reach a larger platform to spread the word about a wide range of topics.

Recently, there has been a growing trend in Agriculture to share our stories and to be a voice for our industry to inform consumers of the great care farmers provide for their animals and the land. The term being an “Agvocate” was coined to encourage farmers to advocate for agriculture – it is important that consumers have a better insight into where their food comes from and the process food takes to get from the farm – to the store – to the table and then on to their fork.

In January, 2015 a Dairy Farmer from Middlesex County started a campaign  which he called #farm365. Andrew challenged himself to post a photo a day along with #farm365 on social media, so that consumers could follow along to see more about what happens on a real Canadian dairy farm.  The #farm365 project gained a large following and drew the attention of many news outlets, an article celebrating a year of the project was highlighted by Real Agriculture.  Andrew’s project allowed many people to get a greater sense of what happens day-to-day on a farm, however, it didn’t draw only positive attention, it also drew the attention of activists about animal rights who were critical of Andrew for producing dairy & meat products. The hashtag #farm365 was widely used on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to share the message about Agriculture, farmers across the country began sharing their story and pictures from their farm using the same hashtag so that consumers could get a good picture of Canadian Agriculture.

Andrew’s first campaign on social media grew such a great awareness that he launched a second project in 2017, where he is visiting a different type of farm each week for a tour and to teach people about how a particular crop is grown or animal is raised and cared for. The first video of the series was a visit to a sheep farm. Andrew’s Facebook page  is the platform that he shares the videos on and they are also tweeted and retweeted on Facebook. If you as a consumer want to learn more about your food and where it comes from it is a great resource for interesting information.

Another great way for consumers to learn more about agriculture and food is by attending events hosted by groups like Farm & Food Care, each year they host an event called Breakfast on the Farm that is a great way for people to see a working farm and learn more from farmers that are producing the food they eat!

Social media has increased the ability to share a message with your audience, the ability to share information and get it out to such a large audience has improved farmer’s ability to Agvocate. I encourage you to consider following Andrew’s travels as he visits 52 farms this year – it is a great opportunity to learn more about where your food comes from.

Are you currently using social media to share your message about your business or your life? As a consumer are you interested in hearing more from farmers about where your food comes from?

 

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