The Ultimate Download on Disney Trip Planning
When we talk about the magic of travel here on Out Travel the System, we often mean it figuratively… but this episode is literally about travel magic – yes that’s right, it’s time to get the inside scoop on planning your trip to Disney, the Magic Kingdom!
Host Nisreene Atassi is joined by Courtney Quinn of Color Me Courtney and the Instagram accounts Color Me Courtney and Color Me Magic. Listen in as we learn about Courtney’s lifelong Disney fandom, and what she’s looking forward to as Disney looks forward to marking some big anniversaries (the Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration alone sounds epic!)
This episode will help you wrap your mind about how you want to incorporate Disney into your travel experience, whether you’re heading to Disney Land, Disneyworld, or going next-level Disney with a Disney Cruise. Grown-ups can always get into the fun by Disney Bounding – we’ll let Courtney explain that with a video from her YouTube channel here.
Have your trip-planning notepad ready as Courtney reels off a wealth of huge Disney hacks, from why downloading the Disney app is key, to when to go and where to stay (she loves Animal Kingdom.) If you want to know how to make sure you get your chance to check out hugely popular attractions like the Star Wars Rise of the Resistance ride, or the Toy Story Slinky Dog Dash, you’ve got to listen. (Shout out for other coming attractions related to Big Hero 6 and Ratatouille.)
Get a sense of Rise of the Resistance while you’re planning your next Disney adventure, by checking out our Season One episode, where we take you right inside it!
And don’t forget to check out all things Expedia and Disney on our blog, here!
*Thank you to the Disneyland Resort and Courtney Quinn for the images in this blog post.
**Please note some services may be temporarily suspended as health and safety protocols continue to evolve. Please double-check all of the details of your specific itinerary shortly before your Disney experience begins.
The Ultimate Download on Disney Trip Planning
Nisreene Atassi: Fun fact about me. I think I may have only actually been to Disney once in my life. And to be honest, I barely even remember it. It’s a little bit embarrassing, especially now that I have a daughter. I’ve been thinking a lot about wanting to take her there, which is why I’m actually really excited for the show today. I’m Nisreene Atassi and this is Out Travel the System.
As we continue emerging from the pandemic, lots of people are thinking about how to get the most out of their travel experiences. In many cases that can mean planning out a trip to the Magic Kingdom. My guest today is Courtney Quinn, the creative director behind colormecourtney.com as well as the matching Instagram account. She is also the mastermind behind Color Me Magic. Welcome to Out Travel the System, Courtney.
Courtney Quinn: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Nisreene Atassi: For anyone scrolling through any of your social media accounts, they can see just how much you love Disney and how much color it has brought into your life. Tell me about your journey with the world of Disney and how it all began.
Courtney Quinn: Yeah, absolutely. I grew up living in Arizona, but we would travel to Disneyland pretty much annually. I was a competitive dancer and so we would do like a Disneyland performance or competition usually once a year. And that was kind of my first experience to magic. And then I also was like always watching the films at home, always watching Disney channels, playing dress up and experiencing Disney magic was like a part of my DNA from an early age.
Nisreene Atassi: How has that connection with Disney evolved over the last five or 10 years for you?
Courtney Quinn: There was a lot of almost shame, I would say. I remember there was a point where I was like, oh, I’m too old for this movie now, I need to do adult stuff. And because of how social media has allowed us to connect with other like- minded individuals, it has helped me realize that these things that I like don’t make me weird. There’s other people who like it too.
There are people who take trips with other adults and kind of experience all of the magic that is Disney, despite what age they are. So it’s kind of the coolest time to be a Disney fan because you can find all these people that you never would have met in your real life, who have the same interests and connections as you. And you can just celebrate your fandom.
Nisreene Atassi: I love that you were able to find that because I think that is the beauty of travel. It has this ability to connect people to their passion points and to be able to actually recognize and identify that Courtney, is actually something really special that I think most people haven’t been able to really tap into yet.
Courtney Quinn: I think having that ability to go to someplace that you feel is on your level because it is as extra as you are, is what’s exciting for me and what has drawn me to experiencing it as an adult.
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah. I know for myself, whenever I’m flying internationally or things like that, I actually have a tendency to watch old Disney movies on the airplane. We were flying on Emirates in business class. I think I was watching Beauty and the Beast or something like that. And my husband looked over and he was like, are you really going to watch a kid’s movie while we’re sitting in business class? And I was like, you know what, I’m going to do me.
Courtney Quinn: For sure.
Nisreene Atassi: Planning a trip to Disney can actually be overwhelming and a lot of people I think know that they want to do something Disney, I know myself included. I was having this conversation with my sister. She’s got two young kids as well. And so we were like, well, we should go and do something Disney related, but should it be Disneyland, Disney World, international Disney, maybe a Disney cruise? How would you recommend people start embarking on their Disney experience?
Courtney Quinn: There’s almost three different tiers. Tier one, which is maybe you want to go to Paris, but you also want a magical experience. So you’re planning a trip to Paris, but then you’re setting aside one day or two days to experience Disneyland Paris. You can also kind of check that box in doing Disneyland in California. You want to go to the beach, but then you set a few days aside, or one day to experience the parks. Then there’s more of the full Disney experience where you’re only planning a Disney trip. You’re not planning to do anything else. And for that, I would definitely recommend going to Orlando because there are four parks at Disney World. And so you could do one park a day. You could go for four days, you could go for a weekend, you could go for two weeks, and you could be entertained, just purely consumed by Disney magic.
And then if you’re maybe a little bit even more extreme than that, and you’re like, I don’t want to know what the real world is like, I just want to live a magical life for a week, two weeks and I just want to escape from everything, then there’s probably a higher package where you can do the parks and combine them with a Disney cruise. And there’s a few options with that. You can do the parks first, which is what I recommend. And then go relax on a Disney cruise.
Nisreene Atassi: That is next level right there. Yeah.
Courtney Quinn: It’s next level. Maybe the misconception about a Disney cruise, and it’s one I had two before going on my first one, my first Disney cruise was actually an international Disney cruise. Sailed out of Copenhagen and I did not do the parks. It was not like a combo experience. It was just truly an international cruise with that added Disney magic. And it was by far the best cruise experience I had because it was like the familiarity of having those Disney moments. But then we would dock in Germany and you could leave Disney behind and go experience Germany and then come back and watch a show or go to a restaurant and Mickey was there. So it really was kind of that comfort of both. I would say, if you do more of an international cruise, that almost falls into that first tier of where you’re experiencing XYZ country, but then you have that added magic kind of home base.
Nisreene Atassi: I love that. I did not know that you could do like proper international Disney cruises. I guess I just always assumed that they were in the Caribbean or Central America or things like that. That really does broaden your horizons. And I love this idea of being able to sort of kill two birds with one trip. That’s a really great tip. We actually are going to do a really specific episode about how to pick the right cruise and everything you need to know about cruising these days. So make sure that you like and subscribe there so that you can get that cruise episode as soon as it drops.
Is time of year something that people should consider when they’re planning out their Disney trip?
Courtney Quinn: Well I would say the parks first and foremost, were probably built for kids. And so that’s why you’ll see them being the busiest during the time when kids are out of school. So the summer, sometimes that’s maybe the best option for a family because that’s when you could go for five days and not worry about school or anything like that. It is definitely hot. I think Disney’s done a pretty good job of providing a lot of shaded places, a lot of moments where you can kind of step out of the sun. You can have really cool dining experiences. For me personally, I found the best time to go to both parks actually is February. Coming from New York City to like leaves, get a breeze. You’re maybe wearing a t- shirt and jeans and you’re very comfortable. It’s not hot. It’s a little bit less busy. If you’re into Halloween, you have to visit the parks during the Halloween season because it’s like nothing else. As someone who’s obsessed with Disney and obsessed with Halloween, it’s like the coolest thing.
Nisreene Atassi: What about Disney at Christmas time?
Courtney Quinn: Yeah. I’ve only been Disney at Christmas time a few times, but it is so beautiful and so magical.
Nisreene Atassi: I bet.
Courtney Quinn: Especially for me growing up in Arizona in a desert, being able to experience that kind of felt really holiday and fun. They have decor that’s crazy and it changes the night after Halloween. So Halloween, it’s pumpkins, everything. You wake up the next day and you’re at the parks and it’s Christmas. It’s wild how fast they change it over. If you want to stay for like a week, you can experience Halloween and then start to experience Christmas too, which is really fun. If you’re going to do a cruise, that’s another opportunity. You could go to the parks during Halloween, go on a cruise and then come back and hit the parks for another two days and experience both holidays.
Nisreene Atassi: Oh, I love that. That’s such a great tip.
Okay, so there’s a bit of a difference between people going to Disney for the first time and those who are going for, let’s say the 40th time. What are some of the ways that people can continue that level of interest and excitement in a way that they engage with Disney?
Courtney Quinn: There are a few things I would recommend. Number one, I would recommend taking someone who’s never been before because it’s really fun to experience it through their eyes. We go maybe four or five times a year. And just recently I brought my best friend for the first time and watching her experience it was so much fun. She has different fandom interests than I do. So she is super hyper- obsessed with Star Wars. So watching her experience stuff I didn’t know about because I’m not as hardcore a fan as her was really fun. There are so many new things that are always being introduced to the parks and they just opened Avengers Campus. The Spider- Man WEB SLINGERS ride is like the must- see ride. The other thing, because I’m very food focused, that is so exciting for me, is there is Pym’s itchen and basically in the Avengers movies, there’s Ant- Man, where he shrinks down to size and Ant- Man is one of my favorite movies because I love that he’s small and all the things are big. Like there’s an action scene where he’s fighting and you see candy flying and it’s so cool. So at the Food Experience there, they actually have oversized giant pretzels and small food and big food. That’s really where I will be at Avengers Campus, is eating the pretzels that are the size of my face.
Nisreene Atassi: So much fun, so much good stuff to talk about. It’s a very, very big world of options when it comes to getting the full Disney experience. And when we come back we’re going to talk to Courtney about Disneybounding and her Disney fashion sense. So stay with us.
Nisreene Atassi: You’re listening to Out Travel the System. I’m your host, Nisreene Atassi. Let me put it simply. We’re here to make travel easier for you. Whether that’s answering some of the questions you have, finding sources of inspiration, or sharing travel stories that let you live vicariously through others, it’s all here. Take in our handy city guides featuring some of America’s most vibrant locations and journey along with us as we deep dive into international destinations like Spain and France. What’s top of mind for you when it comes to travel? Tell us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, or at Expedia.
Nisreene Atassi: We are back with Courtney Quinn, AKA Color Me Courtney and Color Me Magic on Instagram. So Courtney, there’s a common idea that Disney is just for kids. And of course they’ll have tons of fun there, but how do you find grownups are continuing to enjoy Disney?
Courtney Quinn: So there is this community that was started by Leslie Kay, and it’s called Disneybounding. And it’s essentially you create an outfit inspired by a Disney character. Adults can’t dress up as a Disney princess because it would be confusing and it totally makes sense. It doesn’t break any of the costume rules. It’s fashion first. It’s created from things in your closet. You’re using the color palettes of the character. You’re not wearing masks. You’re not wearing headpieces or using props. It’s very much a nod to that character, but still done in your true style. I started creating essentially collages just from photos or outfits that I would find on the internet that felt like they were certain Disney characters, but made from outfits. The first year when I started Color Me Magic, which is my second Disney focused page, where I did a hundred bounds in a year. It’s a cool way to experience the parks or to bring some of the magic to you. So you might go to the park and be inspired by a character and want to bring that more into your everyday life. And I think that’s totally okay.
Nisreene Atassi: It’s so fun. And I actually had no idea Disneybounding even existed until I was prepping for the show. And I was just looking at some of your Instagram photos. They are absolutely amazing. And then I went down this sort of hashtag rabbit hole. So in terms of other ways that adults can really start to enjoy the magic of Disney, are there specific resources that are available for adults in terms of giving them itineraries or tips or planning suggestions for the adult Disney experience?
Courtney Quinn: Yeah. So I would direct you to the Disney Parks blog. There’s a lot of great information there. They used to do a hashtag #adultsatdisney. So you could also check that hashtag. And if you can find a creator who has similar interests, like maybe you’re a foodie, you can find a lot of Disney food creators and they can show you the best experiences in the best restaurants to go to. And then I would also say Disney Springs is essentially almost like a shopping and dining district. You don’t need a ticket to get in, so we’ll go to the parks and then we’ll leave and go have a really great dinner at Disney Springs because they have some of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to.
Nisreene Atassi: Oh my gosh Courtney, it’s so funny that you mentioned Disney Springs because we actually had a previous episode. One of the guests that I had on the show was chef Ramon Martinez from the Jose Andres restaurant, Jaleo. And he was actually doing the episode from the Jaleo restaurant actually in Disney Springs. So it’s funny how everything sort of all comes full circle.
I am like absorbing so much information. It’s genuinely making me want to plan a trip to go. I’m so excited to really start thinking about actively planning this trip. Before we talk about how to pick the right place to stay, I want to talk about how far in advance people need to actually start planning their trip.
Courtney Quinn: The beauty is you can plan things in advance because of how their system works, but you can also kind of wing it too. I assume most of the people listening here are more on the extreme planning side because they want to be prepared. You could plan in advance and be really, really happy with your trip and not miss out on anything. And as new things are coming up, they’ll usually let you know. We usually like to plan about two months out, but our lives change a lot. And with work, we’re traveling a lot and sometimes we have to make quick adjustments and it’s always pretty much worked out for us.
Nisreene Atassi: Let’s talk a little bit about lodging because that’s actually a really big factor potentially into when you should start planning, whether they should stay in the park or whether they should stay outside of the park. What are some of the things that people need to know about planning their lodging?
Courtney Quinn: So at any of the domestic Disney parks, so California or Orlando in either situation, I would for sure recommend booking at a Disney hotel. You get a little spoiled by the cast members because they’re so wonderful to you at the parks. And then if you have to step out of that magic to go to another hotel or to have another experience, it’s just kind of challenging. It’s more fun to just keep the magic going all the time. There’s also a ton of perks that you get from staying at the resorts, just accessibility to the parks. There’s things called magic bands that exist at Orlando, where essentially it’s your room key, it’s your ticket into the park. It’s where you can buy food and make purchases and all these things all done on your magic band. And they assign you a pin code and there’s a way to monitor it with your children. So they’re not just like charging up your card. For sure, If you’re experiencing the parks without the resorts, you’ll still have a magical time. But I think it’s next level when you combine the two.
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah. And it sounds like maybe a little bit easier to be fair. Like it makes things a little less complicated.
Nisreene Atassi: What about transportation? Are there like trolleys? How can we envision a Disney hotel at the park?
Courtney Quinn: So the cool thing about the Disney hotels is there are over 30 of them for you to experience. They’re all different. Characters will come and wear different outfits specific to those hotels. They have their own unique dining experiences. So I guess we’ll speak to one, which is one of my favorites, the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and this one kind of transports you to Africa. You feel like you’re on safari and you can see giraffes at your window.
Nisreene Atassi: Are they real giraffes?
Courtney Quinn: Yeah. Real giraffes.
Nisreene Atassi: On my gosh.
Courtney Quinn: Disney has a whole park called Animal Kingdom, which is all themed around animals. There’s no fireworks there. You can’t get a straw there because it’s all tailored specifically to the animals having the best experience. And you can go on this ride called the Kilimanjaro Safari where you’re in an actual safari car and you’re driving around and the animals are far away in an open experience. It’s unlike anything else. It’s really cool.
Nisreene Atassi: As you were talking, Courtney, I actually pulled up the Animal Kingdom Lodge on Expedia. It looks unbelievable to me. I’m obsessed. I’m so obsessed. I love this.
Courtney Quinn: I feel like it’s Disney’s best kept secret because we didn’t know until we were on a trip there and I experienced it and I was like, why isn’t anyone talking about this? This is all I want to talk about because it’s so amazing. It also has some of the best restaurants on property.
Every hotel has something different. They have the Disney Skyliner, which is kind of like a gondola and it will soar you between different parks. It will soar you between different hotels. So that’s like one way that you can transfer. They also have different bus systems that will pick you up and take you between parks. They have one of my favorite services, which is called the Minnie Van, which is exactly how it sounds. It’s Minnie Mouse’s specific van and it’s powered by Lyft and you basically order it like you would on the Lyft app, but a polka dot car comes and picks you up and will take you directly to other parks.
Nisreene Atassi: Is there a scenario where you would like literally walk out of your hotel and then just walk to an attraction?
Courtney Quinn: There is at Disneyland. So Disneyland has two main hotels that are directly on property. The Grand Californian, you can walk outside of the hotel, scan your pass, walk straight in to the park. It’s like a five minute walk, maybe seven minutes from your door. The Disneyland Hotel, it’s pretty close. You have to walk through Downtown Disney, which is a smaller shopping district, similar to Disney Springs. And then you can walk into the park again, maybe 10, 15 minute walk from your door to a ride. At Disney World in Orlando, because it’s so much bigger, it’s a little bit more of a travel time. There are some hotels where you are kind of sitting on the water and you’re looking across and you can see a park. So you will hop on a boat and the boat will take you across. And then you’re kind of at the entrance to the park.
Nisreene Atassi: That makes total sense.
Courtney Quinn: So that’s one of the things that you are going to want to book ahead. If you’re planning your trip ahead of time, you’re going to want to get reservations for some of those restaurants, because they are difficult to get into if you wait till the last minute.
Nisreene Atassi: I want to talk about budget a little bit. Do you have any cost saving tips for people who want to get the full Disney experience, but they want to maximize their budget as well?
Courtney Quinn: Yeah absolutely. So I think that’s one of the things I like most about Disney is there is something for every budget. If you want to splurge a little bit, you can go and get a VIP guide and they will take you everywhere you need to go on the property, and that’s just one experience. But I’ve had just as much fun experiencing some of the other tiered packages. They have meal plans where you can buy into that. And then that helps kind of cover some of your meals. And it kind of helps spread your money around a little bit more, even at the lower end of the budget, there’s always this enhanced experience of magic that you just don’t get anywhere else for any price point. Just choose to pay for what’s important to you.
Nisreene Atassi: Love that.
Courtney Quinn: There’s also different resorts that you can experience that kind of provide different budget essentials for different families. Like one resort we like is Saratoga Springs because it’s more like a condo or a villa, if you will. There’s a microwave. There is a big fridge. So you can do things like buy your own groceries if you wanted to have breakfast there every morning and kind of save a little bit of money that way. And just in general from the resorts, Disney does a great job with having hidden beds. There’s always a hidden bed that you can pull out to like fit more people there. So depending on your budget, you can kind of make it work for everyone.
Nisreene Atassi: Good to know. If you had to give me your top five things that somebody would want to do, that you think they should do and really plan around what would those things be?
Courtney Quinn: So the cool thing is that every single park has one of those must have experiences: Animal Kingdom, Pandora, which is the world of Avatar. Expedition Everest is a great ride. At Animal Kingdom there are things that exist outside the parks, like different added- on experiences that you can get. One I’ve done is called Caring for Elephants. At Hollywood Studios, t here are two more must- see things. Number one is Toy Story Land. People often dash to get on Slinky Dog Dash, a rollercoaster, but it’s not like super hardcore. It’s pretty much everyone can ride it, which is great. Or the other option would be to go on Rise of the Resistance or Smugglers Run. There’s always like a longer wait, go there first. There’s a system where you essentially go get a boarding group and then they tell you what time to come back later on. So you’re not standing in line for four hours. It’s so nice.
Nisreene Atassi: Oh, that’s nice.
Courtney Quinn: Truthfully, the biggest hack out of everything is to talk to the cast members. And I think that’s how I’ve learned most things. So if there’s something that you really want to do, like I want to ride Rise of the Resistance and I would ask the first cast member, Hey, this is what I want to do. What’s the best way? And they might tell you something secretive.
There’s also the Disney Parks app where you can essentially sync everything to your phone. So placing your food order an hour before, two hours before. So you don’t have to wait in line and you can just go pick it up. Sync shows that you maybe want to go to and it kind of helps organize your trip. On the app that you can see which rides have a short wait time or which ones have a really long one. And that’s really helpful. The Minnie Van I would say is one of my most important hacks. It does cost a little bit extra, but with a Minnie Van they will drop you off at the gates of Magic Kingdom. And it’s the only way to get dropped off there. It’s a game changer.
Nisreene Atassi: Got it. Okay. Those are great. Is there anything new? I hear you’re a really big fan of Big Hero 6.
Courtney Quinn: Yeah, no, I am a fan of Big Hero 6. One new ride that will be opening this fall is the Ratatouille ride to Epcot in the Paris pavilion, which is really fun and appropriate. I’ve actually gotten to ride it because they have it in Disneyland Paris. You’re shrunk down to a mouse size and you see everything in giant perspective. Mary Poppins, they’re bringing that to the London Pavilion in Epcot. And then some of the international parks are getting more experiences for some of those movies that we don’t necessarily see represented in the parks. Like they’re working on things for Zootopia and Big Hero 6. All of that is in the works for international parks, which is really exciting. And one of the things that’s coming specifically, it’s the fiftieth anniversary of Disney World, starting this year. It’s an 18 month celebration. It’s going to be unlike anything we’ve ever experienced in the parks before. And then the year 2023 is the 100 year anniversary of Disney as a company. So they haven’t really announced what’s going to be happening yet, but I know it’s going to be a lot of amazing things.
Nisreene Atassi: My goodness, so much to take in. So much information. Thank you so much, Courtney for coming on the show and for making the World of Disney feel like a small world after all.
Courtney Quinn: Of course, thank you so much for having me. And I hope this helped. Please know that no matter what way you’re experiencing Disney, I think you’ll have a magical time.
Nisreene Atassi: Courtney Quinn is the creative force behind Color Me Courtney, and Color Me Magic. I’m Nisreene Atassi and this is Out Travel the System, brought to you by Expedia. Next up, we’re going to give you the inside scoop on travel related to Labor Day. Until then, happy travels Out travel The System is brought to you by Expedia. Our show runner and executive producer is Claudia Kwan. Our associate producer is Katie Doten, with sound engineering from Jill Constantine. Additional production support is provided by JAR Audio.
Show links: Expedia, Expedia’s Disney Blog// Courtney’s links: colormecourtney.com, ColorMeCourtney on Instagram, ColorMeMagic on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter // Expedia Social Media: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
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