Questions, answers and pixie dust

Howland woman selected for Disney Parks Moms Panel

(Special to the Tribune Chronicle) After a decade of applying, Andrea Wells of Howland was one of 11 people worldwide added to the Disney Parks Moms Panel this year. She volunteers her time to help other families plan Disney vacations.

Wishing upon a star wasn’t required, but it probably didn’t hurt. Either way, Andrea Wells finally landed her dream assignment.

The Howland resident was one of 11 people worldwide selected to join the 2018 Disney Parks Moms Panel. She’s an official consultant for families seeking tips from an expert on how to plan their Disney vacations.

Why not? She’s been planning Disney trips for decades.

“When I was 10, I asked to go to Walt Disney World for my birthday. My uncle said that I would have to help him plan the trip. I was so excited! It was a big deal to me at that age,” Wells said.

Her first trip to Walt Disney World Resort was at age 4, and she calculates she’s been there 35 to 40 times over the last 45 or so years.

“I have grown up with Walt Disney World. I’ve had at least one trip in every decade of my life. I have taken my daughter (2013 Miss Ohio Heather Wells) as a toddler, a preteen and as a young adult woman,” Wells said.

She’s planned her own trips, and planned trips for friends, neighbors, family and strangers.

“I can be in a long line at the grocery store and in 15 minutes, I am talking Disney with the person in line behind me,” Wells said. “I have learned a lot by trial and error over the last 10 years or so when it comes to planning the perfect vacation. I would say my qualifications are based on how I am able to share my personal experiences with others.”

As part of the Disney Parks Moms Panel, Wells will answer at least 15 questions a week asked by people planning Disney vacations, including where to stay, where to eat, how to take advantage of services and how to order the day.

“Some guests might also want the opinion of a mom that has been there and done it before. My goal is to make sure that I share my personal experiences with them to help them plan what will work best for them,” Wells said.

More than 2 million people a year visit the Moms Panel website, according to the Disney company. Panelists from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Brazil have answered more than 200,000 questions from site visitors. The 40 panelists of real moms, dads, grandparents and assorted family members themselves have tallied a combined 1,250 Disney vacations, according to Disney.

“What makes the Disney Parks Moms Panel so special is the ability to receive Disney tips from seasoned vacationers who have been there,” Leanne O’Regan, Walt Disney World Resort director of communications and public relations, said.

“Since the Moms Panelists are handpicked from all over the globe with a variety of Disney experiences they can to speak to, the forum gives each user a fresh perspective that allows for personalized guidance to help turn their dream Disney vacations into a reality,” she said.

“As a seasoned multigenerational traveler with years of Disney vacation experience, Andrea stood apart from the thousands of applicants for this year’s Disney Parks Moms Panel. Knowing Andrea has a passion for sharing her Disney vacation tips, we believe she will make the planning process seamless for all of our Disney Guests,” O’Regan said.

Wells said, “I am used to traveling with my extended family of aunts and cousins, as many as 13 of us on one trip. Guests planning trips with multigenerational family members can speak to me because there are usually at least three generations of family members on most of our trips. I am also a huge Star Wars fangirl, so anything that has to do with Star Wars attractions or merchandise is also a specialty of mine.

“Pretty much any guest that has a question, I am able to offer them advice on planning a trip,” she said.

The Disney Parks Moms Panel launched 11 years ago, and Wells has applied for it almost as many years.

“I discovered the Disney Parks Moms Panel on Christmas morning in 2008,” she said. “The panelists were featured during the celebration and my daughter said to me, ‘Mom, that is right up your alley.’

“We had a vacation planned in May of 2009 and I decided to apply that September. After nine years of applying since then, I’m proud to have made it onto this year’s panel.

“The application process begins online every September, with thousands of applicants a year. Each round of the selection process required me to answer questions regarding my personal experiences as well as my recommendations to guests planning upcoming vacations. The process is a lot of fun.

“In the years that I was not selected, I couldn’t take it personally. I would just have an excuse to visit Walt Disney World the next year and try again,” she said. “To apply, I must have made at least one visit to the Walt Disney World Resort within the last 12 months prior to the application date. Other than that, it is simply my love of all things related to a Disney vacation that I feel qualified.”

Wells, a Mahoning Valley native, said she is a teacher by profession who now is a caseworker with the Trumbull County Department of Job and Family Services. She is a graduate of Howland High School and Youngstown State University. Her other volunteer work includes Cats Are People Too! Club in Warren, an organization that helps control the feral cat population.

Serving on the panel is not a paid job, but panelists receive a trip to a Disney park of their choice.

“I love helping people with their vacation plans. I did it unofficially before I was selected to the panel and I will continue to do it after my time has expired,” Wells said. “It gives me and others something to look forward to during our cold winters.

“I remember my Uncle Johnny asking me and my cousins what our favorite rides and attractions were in the Magic Kingdom,” Wells said. “He would plan our vacations whenever we had snow days as a way to get our minds off the frigid weather.

“I am so honored to have been selected from the thousands of qualified applicants for this opportunity. Being selected to the Moms Panel has been a dream come true for me. Walt Disney himself said, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.'”

This year, Wells is living her “pixie-dusted” dream.


Trip tips from a Disney veteran

From decades of personal experience, 2018 Disney Parks Moms panelist Andrea Wells of Howland offers a few of her favorite tips for planning a Disney vacation:

* Stay at a resort hotel on Disney property. There are so many benefits to staying on property, (such as) Extra Magic Hours (when the park opens early or stays open late), complimentary transportation from your Resort Hotel to the theme parks and Disney Springs. Also, complimentary transportation from Orlando International Airport to the Walt Disney World Resort.

* Make your dining reservations at table service restaurants 180 days in advance because the popular eateries get booked quickly. I personally have at least one meal that we splurge on during a trip.

* Use the Disneyás FastPass+ system to reserve your spot in advance for the most popular rides and attractions to minimize your wait time. Usually 30 days in advance; 60 days in advance for resort guests with admission paid in advance.

* Lastly, take lots of pictures and videos too. I love using Disneyás PhotoPass photographers. They are happy to take your photo, for free, in front of the most iconic landmarks on Disney property. This will allow everyone in the family to be in the picture and preserve your magical moments.

* The Disney Parks Moms Panel also assists guest with planning trips to the Disneyland Resort and with Disney Cruise Line.

* You can ask me or my fellow moms (and dads) your questions at If you are planning a Disney vacation, we are here to help you.