Walt Disney World has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up, trips to Walt's newest vacation destination were a cherished part of my family experiences. My first visit was in November of 1971, just weeks after the park opened its gates for the very first time. My father loved Disney and what it represented, and he wanted to be there as quickly as he could (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, obviously). That first visit led to our annual pilgrimages to what would quickly become our "favorite family fun park."
And much like the Griswolds, we would load up the "family truckster" and make the drive from New Jersey to Florida. Even if Walt Disney World wasn't our only destination (much to my dismay), we visited the parks at least once a year. I realized much later in life that we went to Walt Disney World not because of the attractions and shows, but because of the memories we were creating on each visit. They were the days before cell phones, handheld video games, and many of life's other distractions. The journey was as much fun as the destination, as we played "The Cereal Game," "The License Plate Game," and other ridiculous time-wasters that (unbeknownst to me), were bringing us closer as a family.
When we visited Walt Disney World, I can fondly remember checking in to the Contemporary, always agape at the sight of the cavernous Grand Canyon Concourse, and fascinated that a monorail was whooshing by overhead. The sounds of the manual doors on the monorail cars would quickly become a comfortable sound, that let me know that my family and I were in our "second home." I think I spent as many hours in the Fiesta Fun Center as I did in the Magic Kingdom, but it was really the time spent with family that solidified these lasting memories.
Over the years, I would continue to visit Walt Disney World not just with my family, but with friends, as I found myself wanting to share my love of this place that meant so much to me with others as well.
While studying at Villanova University, my Spring Break trips weren't spent in Cabo San Lucas... but in the Magic Kingdom. After graduating from Seton Hall University School of Law, I celebrated with (of course), a vacation to Disney. I served as law clerk to the Presiding Judge of the largest vicinage in the the State of New Jersey, and practiced law actively for nine years.
In 1995, I formed Imagine Enterprises, a computer consulting and web development firm, and was formerly the Chief Technology Officer for a medical imaging company in Edison, New Jersey. But during this entire time, my love and passion for Disney never waned. And with each visit, I continued to try and learn all I could about this truly magical place that drew me (and millions of others) back year after year.
In 2003, as a personal challenge, I set out to write a book -- To see if I could do it, and to have it validated by being published. I learned everything I could about the book publishing industry, and eventually signed a multi-book deal. I wrote the book I wanted to read, which was a Walt Disney World Trivia Book (available on Amazon) So, the idea for the book was formulated out of my personal interest in some of the lesser-known facts about the parks, general Walt Disney World trivia, and the "magic" that drives tens of millions adults and children on recurring pilgrimages to the resort.
I created a small, two-page web site promoting the book, which eventually turned into articles (it's what we called blog posts back in 2004), discussion forums, a second Walt Disney World Trivia Book (available on Amazon.com) and much more than I had even anticipated.
I started podcasting in early 2005, realizing that this very new technology would allow me to share my passion for Disney in a new, much more powerful way. I didn't know if anyone would even find the show, let alone listen to me talk about Disney each week for an hour or so, but thanks to a growing group of incredible members of my WDW Radio "family," the show has been awarded Best Travel Podcast for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. I continued to grow my offerings to include a continuing series of Audio Guides to Walt Disney World CDs, as well as videos and live broadcasts for WDWRadio.com.
But the most important part of everything I've ever done has been the creation of our Dream Team Project to help grant the wishes of children with serious illnesses to visit Walt Disney World through the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America. To date, we have raised more than $250,000.00. To learn more about the personal reasons why I started the Project, or to find out how you can help be a part of it, please visit DreamTeamProject.org. (Dad, this is for you.)
So my little book idea somehow evolved into a business, and in 2008 I took a huge leap of faith. I left my "real-life" day job behind, sold the house I thought I would live in forever, packed up the minivan and drove to Florida -- for good. I wanted to pursue my passion, and follow a dream of sharing my love for Walt Disney World with others.
In addition to the site, show, videos, and live broadcasts, I also host events, have become a regular commentator on Fox 35 News in Orlando, and speak to groups, businesses, conferences and schools about the magic of Disney and the power of social and new media and following your own dreams. (You can learn more about me or book me to speak by visiting my web site at LouMongello.com)
Throughout my 40+ years of visiting Walt Disney World, I've continued to strive to learn all I can not just about the parks, their history, stories and details, but also about gaining practical experience and advice in order to have a more enjoyable, experiential, and memorable vacation. And with that comes getting the most value for your vacation dollar so you can do and enjoy more, while spending less.
I am writing this because I know how hard families work to save the money for a Disney vacation. I saw how hard my parents strived to give my brother and me the most magical experience, and as a parent myself, I now do the same for my children and family.
Today, Walt Disney World is a significantly bigger, in some ways more daunting, and certainly more expensive vacation experience for a family to plan for than it was for my parents. (Remember when it cost under $5.00 to go to the Magic Kingdom? The A through E ticket books!?) But the memories of my vacations are so precious to me, I want to be sure as many people as possible are able to give their children what my parents gave to me, and what I am striving to do for my own family.
By purchasing and reading this book, you will learn how to maximize your vacation dollar without sacrificing the quality of vacation￼￼￼￼￼ experience that Walt Disney World has to offer. In fact, I think you will have a much richer, memorable time because of all the new things you will be able to see, experience (and yes, even eat!) You will discover that there are many ways you can plan to save before, during, and even AFTER your Disney vacation. Look for the blue highlighted sections throughout the book to see just how much you can save! It's not difficult to save -- it's just a matter of doing your homework and putting together a plan that works for you and your family.
And I'm here to help! In addition to this book, you can find many other valuable Walt Disney World vacation planning resources at WDWRadio.com, including the podcast, blog, videos, live broadcasts, special events, discussion forums, my Walt Disney World Trivia Books and my virtual audio walking tours of the parks.