We just finished up our 14 days in Orlando.  This is the longest we have spent anywhere on this trip.  It was nice to be in one spot, but our reason for being here was exhausting.  We did 6 days in the theme parks, 2 lazy days of visiting relatives in St. Pete, some poolside days, and a few days just sleeping and trying to recover from the theme parks.  The theme parks are too tiring.  Nothing was shorter than a 9-hour day and we had some 14-hour days!  I certainly racked up the steps on my Fitbit.

First, the RV Stuff, we stayed in a private RV park that was near Disney, had cheap weekly rates, and a nice pool.  It was just a sea of RVs, but the location and the pool saved it from being boring.  Plus it had the fun name of Magic Lake and it was in the same town as my mommy grew up, Clermont, Florida.

Everyone tries to give advice for Disney visits.  Here’s mine – if you can afford it, spread out the days, buy an app that give you a suggested itinerary, bring your own snacks, and then completely block out how much you paid to try to enjoy yourself.   (By the way, the app that we liked was called touringplans.com.  It suggests a list of rides and parades based on the age of your kids – you can add and delete from the suggested list – it then continuously optimizes the order based on times and where you are.   Having an app ends the thought process of ‘where should we go next’ and you can just blindly follow the app if you so desire.)  After the first day, we made the kids come up with itineraries.  Carter took this very seriously and read additional articles and some library books on the parks.

Summary, we had one day in each of the Disney World Parks, one day in Universal (for Hogwarts), and one final day in the Magic Kingdom for just the boys and me while David caught a spring training baseball game of the Minnesota Twins.  The kids had a great time, the Disney Corporation awed David and me and we don’t want to see another theme park for a long, long while.  It also cost more than a months rent at a nice house for a family in most cities in the country.

To make the blog post more interesting, I thought our foray into Disney pin trading gave me insight into my boys and was somewhat informative.  First, a pin trading explanation is in order.  Here’s a Wikipedia article, but basically, you buy a starter set of pins ($7.95 and up each) then you can walk up to any Cast Member (that’s what you call ANY Disney employee) that has a pins on and trade one of your pins for one of theirs.  They have to accept the trade as long as yours isn’t a fake / knock-off pin.  The pins that the Cast Members have on are PROVIDED BY DISNEY.  When they get their uniform on, they are given 9-20 pins on a lanyard and they have to come back with the same number.   Here is what a trade looks like, you walk up to the shop attendant who has a lanyard with pins, and you stare at her chest to decide if you like any of hers better than yours, if so, you trade.  If not, you move on.

Some think that this is a fun way to talk to employees or other park visitors.  It is a whole sub culture, with conventions and forums, and massive amounts of eBay listings.   It didn’t really sound like my thing because, you know, you have to talk to people.

However, we had dinner with my lovely cousin, Katie and her husband David who works for Disney.  David has been a Disney photographer for over 30 years and has amazing Disney stories to tell.  You’ve seen his work if you have ever seen a commercial or print ad for Disney!  He and his team will photograph an attraction or even a whole resort months before it is finished construction.   The marketing department has to make it look ready to go so you want to be there opening day.

Katie gave each of the boys two exclusive pins for their last day at Disney so that they could experience the art of the pin trade.   The pins she gave us were super cute of Mickey and Goofy saying “CHEESE” for a photographer.

If you know my boys, you can make a prediction of how our trading day went.   Bennett got really into it and traded quite a few times.  He struck up conversations with employees and other guests. Carter really, really liked the exclusive pin he started with and could not find anything he liked better.  I finally forced the issue around 7:00 at night and told him the next look had to include an exchange because Aunt Katie didn’t want us to keep these pins and she had promised the boys that she would send them a duplicate if they really wanted.  (Carter really wants that.)

Here, in pictures is the day:

The original pin (we had 4 total of these).

We had four of these to start!

Bennett: Got a cute starburst Donald Duck one.  I actually liked this one and was sad to see it go.


Bennett: Got a puzzled Mickey.


Carter: Got a nice one of Donald and Mickey hugging.


Bennett: Puzzled Mickey gets exchanged for Goofy and Mickey hugging.


Bennett: Cute starburst Donald gets traded for Chip n Dale.  Bennett really likes Chip and Dale and I’m not sure why, but he likes them.


Carter: Forced getting of an ostrich.  (Katie really wanted us to trade our pins, so yes, I’m a mean mom and forced a trade.)



Carter: Happiness!  Ostrich traded for a Pluto.  We love Pluto.  Bennett had wanted this trade, but Carter got his ostrich pin off faster so he won.


Carter: Last minute trade of Donald and Mickey hugging for a patriotic Donald.


Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?  Yeah, those exchanges are a SMALL percentage of the looks and conversations held around these pins.  It took the entire 14 hour day for Carter to get a system down of politely asking to see pins and then saying “no thank you, I don’t want to trade” instead of the brusque dismissal he started with.  Dude, you’ve been staring at the girl’s chest for a whole minute while she stopped her job and stayed absolutely still  – say something before you walk away!  He finally got the routine down.  Now that I look at it, they actually did the same amount of trades.  It just seems that every time I looked around, Bennett was 10 feet away talking to another Cast Member.

Anyway, I’m glad we did it for the experience, but I’m glad we didn’t do it until our last day and our second day in Magic Kingdom.  I want to thank Katie for giving my kids the experience.  We got into it and enjoyed the process, especially once I got used to the feeling that if I couldn’t find Bennett immediately, look for the nearest Cast Member as Bennett was likely chatting her up.

IF you like talking to people and want to add a twist to your Disney vacation, I’d recommend picking up a few at an outlet store or second hand store and going for the whole trading thing.   If you are cheap like me and don’t like talking to people, ignore the trend and spend all of your time concentrating on the experience that is Disney and wring as much fun as you can out of your 14 hour days.  Disney runs an incredible and admirable business and NOBODY does theme parks as well as they do.  They just do it right from the big idea to the smallest detail.

The boys are going to write up posts on the actual parks.

10 thoughts on “Orlando

  1. Loved reading and felt that I had been with you! Loved how much fun they had at Disney! Miss you all! Way to go, both Carter and Bennett!, Love. Me Ma, Millie, Mother


  2. Having just done 5 days Disneyland, and never been to Disneyworld I’m excited to see what your boys have to say about the actual parks! I noticed a few people pin trading, but had no idea what it was, so this was really interesting! And I totally know what you mean about not wanting to see another theme park for a long, long time. 🙂


  3. Sounds like you had a great but exhausting time. We have done pin trading for years. When the boys were younger, we spent tons of time wheeling and dealing. There are special Disney pins that certain cast members have, and one visit we spent almost one whole day just pin trading, trying to find these pins. It was fun!! I am happy to hear I am not the only one who is exhausted after a day/week in Disney. Thought I was getting old and losing my edge.


  4. Seems like my Dad and I should have gotten your Disney advice before we went two years back! We were a bit overwhelmed.


  5. Hi Betsy, jeez. I was exhausted after reading your post. Betsy, I appreciate the embedded links. I am enjoying being a vicarious traveler, exploring the diverse regions of our county. The RV park looks pleasant, and welcoming. I was surprised to learn a person can rent, up to 6 months, a “brick and mortar” unit. The link to Touringplans.com features graphs on wait times, crowd levels, and even traffic patterns. And the pin trading would be a fantastic way to meet new people. Thank you for sharing.
    Sincerely, Theresa


  6. Ah boys — now that you have the pin trading thing down you have to go to the Olympics and trade Olympic pins!! I really thought this was fun and, if I remember, will show you the Olympic pins that I have when you are here.



  7. Hi Ptak family,

    We enjoyed our dinner together together, and I it was fun counting the hidden bones on the boys cups, and reading the police trivia on Bennett’s menu, and talking for hours.

    David and I are so glad you had fun trading those pins. They’re exclusive pins and Carter, I promise to send you both another original pin. No worries. You’re both now official Disney pin traders.

    Betsy, Am so glad pin trading turned out to be a blast for everyone. But aren’t you glad I waited until your last day to get you started! It can get a little obsessive. A great way to meet and greet people though.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip,
    Katie and David


  8. I love Carter’s blissful smile with his Pluto pin, and Bennett’s sweet smile with Chip’nDale! We just went to Disneyland in January, and I saw those pins everywhere but had no idea about this whole bartering system. Of course, I mentioned it to Cole and he said, “Oh, yeah. I figured that out on the first day, Mom.” Betsy, I completely agree with your Disney park advice.
    We can’t wait to read Carter and Bennett’s entries on their trip!


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