About the Column

Congratulations! You're going to Disney World, the Happiest Place on Earth! Now what? Do you have a plan? Do you know what to expect? Are you determined to 'see it all' - or die trying? Lesley Sawhook has been there, done that so many times that in her sleep she counts marching Mickeys, not leaping sheep. Her years of experience as a Disney mom, a Disney planner, and now a Disney Certified Travel Agent uniquely qualify her to dispense the Happiest Tips on Earth. Learn from Lesley how to have the Happiest Time at the Happiest Place on Earth.

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FROM: Happiest Tips on Earth Published Fridays

Disney's PhotoPass

At Disney, no matter your age, you may get 'carded' when your photo is taken. The card is the PhotoPass card, and it's a handy place to keep all of the pictures shot of your family by Disney photographers. Learn from Lesley how to get the most out of it.

Disney offers a pretty cool guest service called PhotoPass.

You'll find professional photographers stationed throughout the parks and resorts who will take your picture for free. Later, you can purchase a CD with digital copies of all the pictures you've had taken during your trip, or you can buy the pictures separately, as many or as few as you want.

Should you buy the CD? That's the question clients ask me most often.

Here's what I tell them:

Happiest Tip: How does PhotoPass work?

When you arrive at your first Disney park, look around for a photographer in a white shirt and tan vest with "PhotoPass" stitched on it. (Hint: they'll be holding cameras!) Approach that photographer. As soon as you get close enough, he'll ask whether you want your photograph taken. Tell him you do, pose for it, and then ask for a PhotoPass card.

The photographer will hand you a small plastic card, about the size of a credit card, that contains information about the photograph he just took of you and your family. Hold onto this card! Whenever you approach another photographer, or whenever you line up for an autograph session with a character that includes a photo, make sure to hand over your PhotoPass card. The Cast Member will scan it and add your new photo information to what you already have on there.

Best of all, it's free! Up to a point...

click an image to expand:


That's an illusion, right - she's not REALLY holding Tinker Bell... is she?


Make sure to have your autograph photos scanned on your PhotoPass card!


The PhotoPass site lets you enhance your photos in many ways - such as by converting them to black-and-white.


The classic: a family shot taken by a PhotoPass photographer and later enhanced with a decorative border.

When you get home, or while you're still in the parks if you brought a laptop, follow the login instructions on the back of the card to access your pictures on Disney's PhotoPass site. Once you're there, you'll have to enter the code that you will also find on the back of your card, and then by magic every photo you had taken and scanned onto your card will display on your computer screen.

Happiest Tip: Is purchasing the PhotoPass CD a good idea?

The PhotoPass site offers lots of great features. For example, you can add borders to your photos and autographs, convert them to black-and-white, and much more.

Then, you can order individual photos, which can be costly, or purchase a PhotoPass CD with all of your photos on it. Disney will send the CD to your home, and you can then print as many photos as you please.

Happiest Tip: How can I make the PhotoPass CD most cost effective?

We visit Disney World so often that we rarely purchase the PhotoPass CD. Last year, however, Disney offered a promotion where you could pre-purchase the CD for less money. As a DVC member, I got a further discount, and so it made sense to buy the CD.

I was thrilled with our photos! I loved how I could enhance them on the PhotoPass site. I added borders to some, converted others to black-and-white, and generally had a great time becoming creative with our pictures.

As of this date, Disney still lets you pre-purchase a CD, so if you even THINK you may want one, I suggest pre-purchasing it before you leave for your trip (doing so is a $50 savings!), and then make sure you have plenty of photos taken and scanned onto your PhotoPass card.

We would approach photographers and ask them to do 'fun things', such as having us pose in certain ways and then superimposing Tinker Bell in your gawking child's hands or putting a dozen Mickey balloons in your hand. If you're sitting, they can even make your favorite Disney character appear right next to you.

But you have to ask!

If you made an appointment for your child at the Bippiti Boppiti Boutique, or at the Pirates League, be sure to bring your PhotoPass card because Cast Members will be photographing the event. My son was picked to fight Darth Maul during Star Wars Weekends, and I was surprised that a PhotoPass photographer had captured the entire thing. I added a cool Star Wars border to one of the photos, which is now framed and displayed proudly in our home.

Make sure, if you do pre-purchase the CD, that you get the most for your money and have as many photos loaded onto it as possible.

Another thing you can do to save money is the PhotoPass Share. Now, of course, Disney does not publicize it (because it costs them money), but you can split the cost of a PhotoPass CD with another family traveling to Disney at the same time as your family. You each have to edit your photos separately, and within the given timeframe. One of you then orders a CD and, when it arrives, burns copies for the other families in the 'share'. We've done this ourselves, with no problems, and find it a huge cost-saver.

Happiest Tip: It isn't too late!

If you go to the parks thinking that never in a million years would you pre-purchase a PhotoPass CD, but then realize that you've had some great pictures taken and buying them separately would be quite expensive, you're not out of luck! You can still purchase the CD in the parks or on-line.

In addition to the CD, Disney PhotoPass also sells many great gifts, such as PhotoBooks, mugs, calendars, etc., all of which you can create from your PhotoPass pictures to guarantee that your memories will last a lifetime!

Lesley's Exclusive Food & Wine Festival Vacation Deal

The Happiest Tips on Earth can only get you partway to the Happiest Place on Earth. For the rest, you need Destination Magic. Drop Lesley a line and see what magic she can make for you when you're planning your next Disney trip!

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