The 2016 Disney Parks Moms Panel Search starts tomorrow, at 10am ET on September 8th. I’ve got my calendar marked to get my application in on day one! I made it to the finals last year (my second time applying) so I’m one of the lucky few who have the golden FastPass+ to Round 2. I’ll still have to apply, but should automatically advance to the semi-finals. Talk about pixie dust! Because the 2016 Disney Parks Moms Panel Search is on my mind, I thought I’d share some background information about the Moms Panel and the whole search process.
Q. What is the Disney Parks Moms Panel?
A. The Disney Parks Moms Panel is a group of moms, dads and grandparents who help guests plan their Disney trips by answering questions submitted online. These amazing Disney gurus are specialists in Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, runDisney and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Q. What makes the Disney Parks Moms Panel different?
A. The Moms Panelists combine an extensive knowledge of all things Disney with their own family’s experiences to give accurate, informative and personalized answers to guest questions. Some of the most interesting responses to read are in the Mom’s Views section where a single guest question is answered by several of the Moms Panelists. Reading the different answers from varied perspectives helps highlight the strength of having a diverse group of Moms Panelists with a wide range of experiences.
Q. I’m planning a trip, how can the Disney Parks Moms Panel help?
A. There are three ways you can use the Moms Panel to help with trip planning. The first place to start is to just browse questions and answers. You can scroll through chronologically or click on “Select a Specialty” and then just use the navigation bar on the left of the screen to narrow your browsing.
Next, if you have a specific question, use the search field to search for previous answers related to your subject. Say that you’re curious about where you can change your child’s diaper at Walt Disney World. Just search “diaper” and a whole slew of useful answers pops up!
Finally, if you browse and search and just can’t find your answer, you have the option to submit a question to the Moms Panel. Just click on “Submit a Question” and you’ll be well on your way to getting a personal answer.
Q. I am the go-to person for my family and friends for anything Disney. I’d love to help even more guests have the best experience possible. How can I join the Disney Parks Moms Panel?
A. The selection process has historically opened up once a year, usually in the late summer and the selection process lasts through the fall. The first step is to keep an eye on the official website, where the selection process announcements are made. Decide on the specialty you’d like to apply for (Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, runDisney and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex) and make sure to apply during the open period.
Q. How competitive is the process?
A. There are a limited number of spots on the Moms Panel and an awful lot of amazing Disney moms, dads and grandparents who would love to share their expertise. No one knows the actual numbers, but some (probably wildly inaccurate) estimates from last year’s process were that:
- 15,000 Disney gurus applied in Round 1
- 1,500 made it to Round 2
- 120 made it to the finals (Rounds 3 and 4)
- 22 made it to the Panel (each panelist generally serves two years, so the total panel size is around 40)
Remember, these are unofficial and absolutely not in any way correct numbers, but do give you some scope on how thorough the process is.
Q. Wow, that’s daunting. What can I do to help my chances of getting selected?
A. Well, if I knew that answer, I’d be answering questions from guests on the panel instead of making up questions to answer on my own blog (ha ha). That being said, there are some tips that will help:
- Know your stuff. You don’t have to know everything, but you should genuinely love Disney and you should be an expert in your chosen specialty. My first year of applying I selected runDisney as my specialty. I loved the ONE runDisney race I had run at the time and I’d read all about the other races, but I just didn’t have the personal experience that I needed to make it out of Round 1. Personal experience is the special pixie dust the Moms Panel offers, so make sure you have a wealth of it in your chosen specialty.
- Grammar and nomenclature. The questions will have word limits, but don’t let them tempt you into typing “MNSSHP at WDW is a real treat.” Many guests won’t know what those abbreviations mean, so spell it out! And brush up on your (not you’re) spelling and grammar. While the answers are personal, they need to be both accurate and understandable. Grammar and nomenclature errors can be confusing and distracting. You can write your answers in Word to help check for errors, but don’t copy and paste into the application or you risk it being turned into jibberish due to formatting issues. It’s possible to do it if you’re an expert at that sort of thing, but I think it’s safest just to retype.
- Apply early. It didn’t happen last year, but in prior years the Round 1 process was closed early when the number of applications hit 10,000. You don’t have to submit in the first hour, but I wouldn’t recommend waiting until the last minute either. Of course, I’m a worrier AND someone who gets everywhere early.
- All that being said, use your own voice. Write like you’re sharing information with a friend. Make it come from your own experience and style. Don’t write what you think “they” are looking for. Let your true self and your genuine love for Disney shine through.
- Stick with it. Some of this year’s panelists had applied for years. More than five years in many cases. Every year you learn a little more, make a few more friends, expand your own experiences. Many of us who made it to the finals but didn’t make it to the Moms Panel called our letters “not this year” letters instead of rejection letters. I truly believe that last year just wasn’t my year but that it will be my year sometime. Maybe it’s just the nature of Disney lovers to believe in big dreams and wishing on a star.
- Enjoy the process. You’ve seen the odds. It’s tough when you try your best and you don’t make it to the panel but you can still get a lot out of the process (I have a whole post about it here). Even though I haven’t made it to the panel (yet!) I’ve made lots of like-minded friends. One great Facebook group is the Amazing Adventures of the DisneyMP Search!. It’s a great resource for tips and support during the process and for Disney information all year-round.
Don’t take my word for it, here’s some advice on why to apply and tips to succeed from other Moms Panel hopefuls who made it all the way to the finals last year (so they must have been doing something right!):
Melanie A: Planning a Disney trip is second nature to me. I’m always planning a Disney trip, whether it’s mine or I’m helping friends or coworkers with theirs. There is so much misinformation out there, and nothing frustrates me more than seeing someone take incorrect advice. People deserve to have a place where they can be confident they are getting the right scoop. If I know anything about myself, it’s that I can get the right information to people in a fun, meaningful way.
Tip: Be yourself! Don’t try to morph yourself into what you think the selection committee is looking for.
- Tiffany G. (follow her at @TTownTiffany): I think the most important tip is simply to be yourself. I’ve applied 7 years and last year was the first time I made it to the final round. Looking back on my answers, it’s easy to see why I never progressed in previous years. In the past, I wasn’t being true to myself but last year, my answers were 100% authentic to who I am. However, during my phone interview, I completely choked and definitely wasn’t true to who I am. And here I sit ready to apply again… For me, the most exciting part of the application process is seeing the enthusiasm from the other applicants. It’s a wonderful feeling to know there are so many other hopefuls who have such a love for helping other Guests plan their Disney vacations. Of course, the close friendships I’ve made through the process are absolutely priceless as well.
- Andrea W.: This will be my 7th time applying and my 2nd year with a FastPass. Be yourself, make new friends and enjoy the process. Remember quitters never win and winners never quit!
- Danielle M.: This is either my 5th or 6th time applying. For me, applying is half the fun. Of course, I’d still like to cross the finish line, but I’ve loved meeting so many amazing other Disney loving friends and the comradery that goes along with the search process. I don’t know if I have a best tip as I haven’t made it onto the Panel. But, I will say I think my applications have grown stronger with each passing year. You learn a little bit more about yourself and the process with each passing year.
- Brandi M.: I have applied to the Disney Parks Moms Panel every year but one. This is my first year with a FastPass. I love research and planning. As a library media specialist, I do this everyday but it’s different when I research and plan a Walt Disney World Resort vacation even if it isn’t my own trip. I love hearing from friends and family that say I helped them have a magical trip or that the restaurant I suggested was amazing. I love helping them get to know my happy place. Every year I learn more about my personal writing style, the importance of research and keeping up with new events and attractions. My favorite part of this almost decade long adventure is the friends I’ve made along the way and how I’ve grown personally and professionally from the experience.
- Anne F.: Planning a vacation to Walt Disney World Resort is almost as much fun as going. With over 300 restaurants, more than 25 resort hotels, plus the rides, shows, tours and experiences, no two vacations are the same. Helping friends plan their practically perfect vacation and then hearing their stories and seeing their photos brings so much joy! To be able to multiply that to thousands of Guests, knowing that a tip or recommendation added pixie dust to their vacation, is a dream come true. Oh and the most exciting part: The people. I absolutely love the moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles that I have met along the way. The folks who apply to be a part of the magic that is the Disney Parks Moms Panel are some of the most generous, upbeat, hopeful and spirited people that I’ve ever encountered. They radiate pixie dust and positivity.
Kim S.: I’ve applied maybe 6 or 7 times? I keep all of my past answers so I can see how much I’ve grown with writing and knowledge of WDW over the years. Last year I made it to the final round and was very happy with my answers – that is until the final question that I totally blew. That was a lesson in itself. The process helps me to gain more confidence in lots of areas every single year. I’m excited to apply again this year although it will feel a lot different because we are missing a special someone. So my best tips – always be genuine and let your passion for the Disney experience shine through.
Julie B.: I would definitely say “be yourself and have fun with it”. Last year was my first time applying and I made it to the final round (for Disneyland). It’s definitely a heart breaker not to make it through at the end and it’s easy to get frustrated. This year, I’m determined to just have fun and let the process take me where it will!
Big thanks to last year’s fellow finalists who shared their experiences and tips with me for this post! And thanks for all the friendship and support along the way!
As a special treat (I feel like a reporter who got a big scoop!), I’m excited to share a first-hand account from a current Disney Parks Moms Panelist who was kind enough to give us a glimpse into what it’s like to actually realize the Moms Panel dream (thanks Brandy!!):
Brandy B.: Every day is a magical day on the Disney Parks Moms Panel! I get to help Guests plan their trips, clear up any confusion they have about the planning process (180-, 60- and 30-day windows, oh my!), and share with them the best tips I have gathered over the years. Even better, I get to talk with 21 of the most amazing friends every single day. I always knew that if this goal was attained then it would be a life-changing experience. I just didn’t realize how true that would be. My fellow Moms (and Dads!) have been a wonderful sounding board for everything from, “Does this sound ok?” to, “You aren’t going to believe what happened today.” They have kept me sane on so many days and I will be forever grateful to the Panel for bringing us all together. I love that any time I get to spend in Walt Disney World Resort, one of them is bound to be there with a big ol’ “Welcome Home” hug!
So, will you be applying this year? If you have applied in the past, what are your best tips? Feel free to send some good luck and nomenclature pixie dust my way over the next few months!