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That's a Scrap! Preserving Your Disney Vacation Memories

By Bay Loftis, Guest Columnist and Scrapbook Aficionado

Five years ago as I was preparing for my family's biggest, longest and most luxurious Disney trip to date, I stumbled across a whole new obsession. I already had shoe boxes full of pictures we had taken at Walt Disney World: The 1996 trip, when we stayed at the All Stars; the 1998 trip, when we stayed at Port Orleans and saw a space shuttle launch; and a very old shoe box with a few pictures from our first trip in '89.

All these photos were just gathering dust, but as we prepared for our big day, my kids started going through the old photos and talking about them. And that's when it occurred to me, "Hey, maybe I should do something with those pictures.".

Lucky for me, I had a friend on the old AOL Disney boards who knew exactly what to do. "You should start a scrapbook," she told me, and thus began an affair that nearly rivals my love for all things Disney.

If you've already been to Walt Disney World, you know what it's like. You come home with at least 8 rolls of film, and the pockets of your PassPorter are stuffed with memorabilia. When you unpack, you put all these things in a safe place, either a shoe box or a photo album.

And the next time someone asks you about your vacation, you whip out your shoe box and start shuffling through the things. "Here's little Emily on Dumbo -- OK, you can't really see her, but she's there -- and there's Woodrow with Pluto -- right, you can't really see him, but that's his elbow on the other side of Pluto's ribs." It's enough to make a Disney freak cry real tears of frustration.

But if you put all those photos and resort IDs and menus in one scrapbook with a few paragraphs of explanation -- well! That just solves the whole problem, doesn't it?

I knew you'd see it my way. It was just a matter of time.

So here are a few tips to help you get ready for your next Disney scrapbook -- or trip, or whatever. And the preservation of your memories is just a little easier than all the planning you're doing for the actual vacation!

Before You Start Scrapbooking
I'm going to tell you a secret. Scrapbooking is easier than we insiders make it out to be. If you pick up a scrapbook magazine, chances are good you're going to freak out at the time and labor that goes into a page for the magazine. The illustrations and ideas you see in scrapbooking publications are the crème de la crème, the best of the best, the top of the heap, the Tinker Bell at the top of the Castle... Well, you get the picture.

You don't have to spend $20 and twenty days on a single scrapbook page. The entire purpose of a scrapbook is simply to get photos and mementos into a safe environment with a few words that tell the story behind the stuff. If art is your thing, the sky's the limit; but if you really just want to get the photos organized and neatly into a book, then it's just a matter of archival materials and some time.

So before you go to Walt Disney World, do yourself a favor: Check out a book on beginning scrapbooking at the public library. Some titles you may want to consider are: "Simple Scrapbooks: 25 Fun & Meaningful Memory Books You Can Make In A Weekend" by Stacy Julian, "Mastering Scrapbook Design with Michele Gerbrandt," "Budget Scrapbooking" (a Memory Makers Books publication), and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Scrapbooking" by Wendy Smedley.

If you're the sort of person who wants to have lessons with an expert, call a nearby local scrapbook store and ask for a class schedule, or check with the nearest craft chain store like Michael's, Joann Etc., or AC Moore. All of these businesses will be happy to help you get acquainted with the basics of the craft, and the better acquainted you are with the possibilities, the better equipped you'll be to discern what you need from what you merely want. (Knowledge will come in handy when you get to Downtown Disney and discover what's available in the way of scrapbook supplies onsite!)

Before You Go To Walt Disney World
There are a few things you want to think about before you get to Orlando, just to make the organization of your photos easier when you get home.

As you read through your PassPorter and decide which attractions are must-visits and which ones are "missable", go ahead and think a bit about what might be "scrappable". 

You may love Pirates of the Caribbean more than any other ride in the Magic Kingdom, but, of course, flash photography is not allowed in this dark ride. Make a note to yourself -- either mentally or in writing -- to get a quick picture of your entire party outside, near the ride's entrance. Think of photo ops that may not occur to others -- do your twin girls love to play with pirate swords? Flash photography is allowed in the gift shop!

There are lots of things available in the way of memorabilia -- Fast Passes (ask a CM for an expired Fast Pass; I've known more than one to let me have one for a time period that's already passed), postcards, bumper stickers, stickers, brightly colored fake parrot feathers, and lightweight, faux, pieces of eight!

These are the sorts of things that you want to think about before you get there, because when you're in the midst of the magic, you don't want to be looking around and thinking, "What can I grab for the scrapbook?" If you leave it to the last minute, you'll be making a scrapbook comprised entirely of the same old stickers and printed papers that everyone else is using.

While you are considering these possibilities, now is as good a time as any to consider your photography needs -- and your skills. You don't want to try out a new camera at Walt Disney World. Oh, if you're a skilled photographer with your own darkroom, sure, go for it. But otherwise, make sure you know your camera and its limitations -- as well as your own -- before you embark on your vacation.

I, myself, am a terrible photographer. Ask anyone who knows me. Ask my poor husband, who appears in my scrapbooks to resemble Papa Gepetto, despite the fact that he's years younger than the old toy maker. (Sometimes he looks a lot like Goofy, but that's another story.)

I have taken photos all over the parks and resorts, and I can tell you without the slightest humility or reservation that the vast majority of my shots look alarmingly like the murky, smoky images at the base of Spaceship Earth. And interestingly, many of my subjects look a lot like the cavemen in those same tableaus.

Because I was wasting tons of money on film development that yielded about 5% useful photos, I recently switched to a digital camera. It's not a fancy digital camera -- on today's market, it would cost about $175. But it has improved my photography skills immensely, because I only get prints of the photos that are actually focused enough to show the subjects clearly.

I highly recommend an affordable digital camera before you run off to Disney. The Kodak photo centers in all the parks now offer memory card readers that will download your photos, print, and even make a CD of photos that you can take home with you. It's an invaluable service, and it offers the sort of instant gratification that makes everyone happy, especially grouchy three-year-olds who want to sleep with the picture of them with Minnie Mouse at Chef Mickey's.

But if you can't afford a new digital camera or even a new point-and-shoot automatic camera, don't hesitate to purchase disposable cameras. I've gotten great shots out of those, and even some underwater photos at Blizzard Beach.

Another pre-travel consideration in the film vs. digital debate is the infamous x-ray machine at airport security. Despite lots of controversy among film aficionados, the x-rays aren't actually harmful to ordinary 200-speed 35-mm film. The radiation does affect higher speed films, especially 800- to 1000-speed, but hardly any of us actually use film that fast, anyway. If you're really concerned, carry your film separately, and ask the TSA agents to hand-inspect it.

About the Author: Bay Loftis is a free-lance writer whose articles have appeared in publications such as "Better Homes & Gardens Scrapbooks Etc.", "Legacy" Magazine and "Memory Makers" idea books.

This article appeared in our January 28, 2005 newsletter -- subscribe to our popular newsletter today for free!

Related Articles:

  • That's a Scrap - Part 2
  • Disney Scrapbooking

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    Updated 01/23/07 

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