Thursday, 12 May 2011

More from Goofy's How to Guides

This post is less of a how to, more of a FAQ. Now that lots of people have their visas today's topic is the first week of the ICP. So here we go....

What do I need to take with me to Orlando?
Well, obviously exactly what you take is up to you but here are some things you will need:
- Your Passport (containing the visa "stamp" that looks more like a sticker with Abraham Lincoln on it.
- Your DS-2019 (which should have been returned to you with your passport)
- Mears Shuttle discount coupon (It'll save you a few $ when you arrive in Orlando)
- Confirmation of your Program Assessment Fee payment and associated documents (You should get emailed about this by Disney a few weeks before your departure date)
- Proof of medical insurance
- Money for the first 2 weeks (more on this later)
- Professional Attire (more about this later)
- A padlock (for the locker/safe in your room)

Should I take my Laptop?
Now I'm a bit of an e-mail/computer addict so for me the idea of not having my laptop with me is just CRAAAAZY and no computer would mean no vlogs or blogs. BUT there are computer labs at each of the housing complexes. From what I'm told the one at Vista Way is the biggest and is open most of the day. Having said that there are no webcams (so no Skype), some websites are blocked (don't ask me which), and you will be working some weird hours. WDW is a 24 hour operation and your shift may start at 5am or finish at 5am so you've got to ask yourself if you'd be happy heading over to the lab after a 12 hour shift or sacrificing some extra sleep or park time to check your email.

How much money should I take with me?
How long is a piece of string? I can't answer what exactly you'll want to buy when you land in the US but there will be a few things that you'll need to buy:
- food for two weeks
- work shoes (and socks)
- transport to Vista Way
After that it really depends on what you've taken with you, so you may find that you'll also need bedding, towels, etc. What I suggest is visiting Walmart and Walgreen's websites (because those are the places you'll probably end up buying the stuff) to get an idea of how much things will cost. You don't know your location yet so you can't buy your work shoes in advance but you can still get an idea of pricing by doing a little online research. You'll probably end up buying your shoes from either Walmart or the Outlet mall behind the Commons and the shoes will probably be one of the following:
- trainers (all black or all white)
- non-slip shoes
- hiking boots
- black work shoes
So if you do a bit of a google you can get an idea of how much shoes will cost. I know that you could buy shoes for as little as $10 from Walmart.

But aren't we supposed to pay the first week's rent on arrival?
That's what we were told before we travelled last year, and it seems to be the same advice this year BUT.... Last year it turned out that we didn't have to pay any rent in advance. Instead all the rent is taken out of your pay check.

So when do we start getting paid?
Pay day is on the Thursday the week after you start work. I'm pretty sure that all the ICPs are arriving on either a Sunday or a Tuesday so it'll be pretty much the same situation for everyone which will look a little like this...
Sunday 19/6 - arrive
Monday 20/6 - orientation meetings
Tuesday 21/6 - more orientation meetings
Wednesday 22/6 - Traditions
Thursday-Sunday - Park orientation/start of location training
Monday-Sunday - Training in location
Thursday 30/6 - First pay check (covers Traditions and any training days prior to Sunday 26/6)
Next 10 weeks - "normal" work schedule
Thursday 7/7 - Second Pay check (2 weeks of went deducted)
Thursday 14/7 - Regular pay check begins (hours worked minus 1 week of rent)
Wednesday 31st August - last day of work
Thursday 1st September - Day off to pack/enjoy Disney
Friday 2nd September - Leave :(
Thursday 8th September - last pay check

How should I take my money to the US?
I'm going to start this answer with the fact that I lived in the US for a year. Why? Because it means I have a US bank account so what I do is not the same as for most people in terms of getting my US currency to the USA. I'd recommend taking at least $50 cash with you, especially if you're not flying direct to Orlando because you'll probably want something to eat and drink at the airport. Personally I'd take more like $100-200 in cash but to each their own. After that you probably have two options for any additional money you want to take with you:
1) Using your UK credit/debit card
2) Buying a US currency cash card
Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
A credit card will have one of the best exchange rates you'll find (although it will obviously vary depending on your card provider) and you shouldn't be charged anything extra for using your card. A debit card will have a much worse exchange rate and may charge you for using it. Note that if your debit card is maestro or Visa Electron you probably won't be able to use it many places in the US. The advantage of using your credit/debit card is that you don't have to guess how much money you'll need in advance and with online banking you can keep a close eye on your account and pay off any money you spend.
If you'd rather use a cash card you'll need to plan in advance so that there's time for it to be sent to you. It'll have a better exchange rate than a UK debit card. Some of them cost money to buy initially but if you do a bit of searching you can probably find offers where the charge is waived. A lot of people seem to be getting either the FairFX or CaxtonFX card. I've never used either. I did once use an American Express Traveller's Check Card which you could top up online but those no longer exist. You can use the card at ATMs or in shops like a debit card.
There is a 3rd option of buying traveller's checks. Personally I don't like them and these days most people don't use them but as I said earlier to each their own.
The advantage of all three compared to cash is that if you lose them you can stop it or get replacements whereas cash is obviously irreplaceable.

Do I NEED a FairFX card though?
No you don't. It's completely up to you and as I said I won't have one. You don't need it to receive your pay, Disney will give you a Pay Check card to which they'll auto-deposit your pay every Thursday. You can use the card in stores or at ATMs.

How many days will I need Professional Attire for?
This kinda depends a little on your role. Everyone will need to wear it for Traditions and after that it varies. Let me explain. First it depends on your location. if you're in a park you'll have a park orientation day and you'll need to wear professional attire for that. I'm not 100% sure what happens of you're in a hotel but it's probably safe to assume that you'll need to start the day in professional attire but you may change into costume later, once you've received it. Then it depends on your role. Certain roles require you to attend a class at Disney University (definitely the case for Merch, Housekeeping and probably QSFB if you're using MATRA aka the tills). So last year I did Merch at Epcot and had to wear professional attire for...
- Traditions
- Discovery Day (Epcot Orientation)
- Merch/MATRA training at Disney University

What should I wear for Traditions?
Remember being sent the Disney Look Book? Well that will be your appearance bible. follow the guidelines in there and on anything Yummy Jobs or Disney send you and you can't go wrong.

What should I do about my UK phone?
I'm guessing that most people these days have a contract phone rather than a PAYG one and here's the thing...if you've signed a contract, you've signed a contract. Unless it says otherwise in the terms and conditions your phone company doesn't have to freeze your contract while you're away. When I moved to the US a few years ago I had a student contract with Orange that specified that I could freeze my contract for up to 12 months without penalty. These days though I'm with O2 which, as far as I know, doesn't specify that. Last year my contract expired in June and I just phoned them up, went on a 30 day, SIM only rolling contract and chose the cheapest plan and then upped the number of minutes when I returned to the UK. there's no harm in asking your provider if they can freeze it but don't be surprised if they say no. I wouldn't recommend using your UK phone in the US. Costs WILL add up and no-one will want to phone a UK number from the US cos it'll cost them loads of money too.

So what about a US phone then?
Personally I have a PAYG SIM with AT&T that I've had for years. In the US you will be charged to send AND receive texts and AT&T let you buy a 30 day bundle for x number of texts which massively saves you money. Major US networks include AT&T, Verizon and T-mobile. Again do a bit of searching online to get an idea of costs etc. You can buy a cheap handset for most networks at Walmart or Walgreens and they'll usually come with credit included. You can then buy more credit online, over the phone or from Walgreens/Walmart/Publix/Petrol Stations/etc.

What do I do once I arrive at Orlando International Airport (MCO)?
Never fear, Suzie is here! And I have a plan! Look out for some kind of media-centric guide as to what to do once you arrive in Orlando. It should be making an appearance in the next week or so just in time for all you May 24th-ers.

What's the deal with Internet in the Apartments?
So here's the thing I LOVE about the ICP. In terms of living costs almost EVERYTHING is included (except for food) and that includes the internet. In every apartment there is a wired internet connection and to connect all you need is your computer and an ethernet cable. The location of the internet port depends on your complex (in Chatham the sockets are in the bedrooms and in Vista Way it's in the living room). I recommend either bringing or getting a wireless router so that there aren't loads of cables flying around. You can pick one up from Walmart fairly cheaply and if you split the cost between everyone in the flat it comes out as being only a few dollars each.

So what else is included in the apartments?
Here's the list:
- bus transport
- pool parties and other events (including free pizza, chips/crisps, sodas, fruit punch, etc)
- gym access
- computer lab access
- DVD, book and board game rental
- Plates, cutlery, cooking utensils, saucepans, etc
- Electricity, water, gas, any other utilities you can think of, etc
- Security

Which complex will I be in?
I have no idea! You won't find out until you arrive and there's absolutely no way to find out in advance. All the complexes have a reputation but honestly take them with a pinch of salt. I hate parties and last year was living in Vista Way and coped just fine. Last year a lot of the people arriving on the 2nd arrival date lived in Chatham but generally most people seemed to get placed in Vista Way. People were allocated to all of the three complexes and it all just depends on availability so just embrace whatever you get. If I was guessing though I'd say that most people will end up in Vista Way.

When can we start hitting the parks?
Once you've got your Disney ID you can go into the parks pretty much whenever you want, well, except when you've got a shift of course! You'll get your ID at Traditions and after that the world is your oyster.

Traditions isn't until day 3 so what can we do before then?
Well, believe it or not there's lots you can do in Disney World for free. Look out for a future blog post on things you can do for those first 2 days without it costing you loads of extra $.

How strict are the rules?
Strict. You break the rules and you'll either be disciplined or sent packing. Personally, I don't think it's worth it. Working for Disney is a once in a lifetime experience and you'll be able to do whatever you like when you get back in the UK. keep in mind that breaking rules can adversely affect those around you. People in your work location will have to pick up any slack created and people can also be punished for your actions. I recommend reading the sample housing agreement that Disney sent you in your pack so you're prepared well in advance. Now I'm well over 21 but when I first lived in the US I was 19/20 and believe me I do sympathise with those of you that like to drink but will be under 21 while you're in the US but here's the great thing about being in Orlando and working for Disney. You don't need to drink to have fun. There's loads of stuff to do in Orlando so cleanse your system and enjoy the summer.

How do we wash our clothes?
Well you put the clothes in the washing machine then add... Ok, seriously, so there are washing machines and dryers in each complex. In Vista Way there are 3 washers and 3 dryers at the bottom of each building and there were always machines available. The machines use electronic cards that you can get from vending machines near the clubhouses in each complex and you can top them up. Last year it cost $1 for a wash and $1 to use the dryer and you'll need to provide your own detergent.

So we wash our own costumes...
Actually no. Well you can if you want but Disney Costuming will launder and press your costumes for you, at least anything they provide anyway. You're allowed to check out up to 5 costumes at any one time so it's easy enough to drop them off and pick them up. Your costume isn't unique to you so you don't have to worry about waiting for it to come back. Think of Costuming as being a huge clothes store where you don't have to pay for anything!

Anything else I need to know?
One last thing I'll mention is electricals. If you've been to the US before you'll know that US electrical sockets look a little different to UK ones. That can easily be sorted by buying a UK to US plug adaptor. One thing though... US voltage is 110V while in the UK it's 240V so some electricals might require a power converter. This is most noticeable with things like hairdryers, straighteners, etc. So check your electricals to see if it is variable voltage or not. Usually laptops, ipod chargers, phone chargers,etc will all work fine with just the plug adaptor.

That's all for now! look out for the blog posts and such that I mentioned and for those of you that still have exams and assessments before you leave Good Luck!

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