What is a Disney Fish Extender?
What is a Disney Fish extender?
That was a question I was figuring out just a few short months ago.
We just got back from our very first cruise – and it happened to be a Disney one at that! My husband and 2 kids and I were on the Disney Fantasy 7 night cruise to the western Caribbean. We sailed on March 29, 2014 out of Port Canaveral. I am excited to blog all about it, but! I want to first start at the very beginning. Which was preparing for the cruise! I of course shopped for new outfits and what not… but on a Disney cruise you can join in something extra special called the Fish Extenders.
What the heck is a Disney Fish Extender? Well, it got started in 2005 for the first magical sailing on the Panama Canal by a Disboard.com member named Epcotkilterfan ( Debbie ). She thought it would be a fun way for Disboard members to exchange gifts. And hence the phenomenon of the Fish Extender gift exchange was born. Disboards is the biggest Disney online fandom. From there you can find a group for your particular sailing that may only be on Disboards.com or you might also be able to find a group for your dates on Facebook as well. I was fortunate to find someone had started our sailing dates on both. That’s the first step. Once you’ve either started the group for your sailing or joined one already started, you’ve now found the people you can participate with. Now, if you don’t want to participate in the FE’s ( that’s the abbreviation of course ) you can still join your group and make friends and be excited to count down to your trip together! Its also a great way to help your kids find other kids their age ahead of time. We even had a big mixology class scheduled together with several of our group members!
So once you’ve found your cruise, see if there is a Fish Extender group started. If not, feel free to start one or ask if someone would like to. Its a bit of a responsibility. I was blown away by the family who took charge that were on our cruise and did an amazing job of making a spreadsheet that had everyone’s info on it. Info on it? Spreadsheet? Just what all is involved here you might be asking?!
Fish Extenders is a gift exchange. There are no rules really. This link on the Disboards is the best place for a description of what it is. You can do one gift for each cabin you sign up with, or you can do something for each individual or kids or whatever you prefer. You can spend a lot, or a little. You can hand make every little detail or just shop for each thing. Its all up to whatever makes you happy to participate and give. I did a mix. I did one main gift per cabin and then something specific for each child. I bought some things and made some things. I did what I liked, and I really enjoyed the whole process. This is why the person organizing it will need your info. That way you will know who is in each room and if there are boys and girls and what ages. And kids aren’t mandatory for being able to participate! This is Disney after all, where age doesn’t matter!
Your next step is deciding what kind of Fish extender you will have. Are you good with the sewing machine or duct tape? Or is clicking on Paypal more your thing. I went the Paypal route. I found an excellent seller on Etsy.com called Magical Dreams Boutique. She made our Fish Extender, pillowcases and place holder. ( More on the pillow cases and place holder in my next blog post! ) She had a ton of ideas to chose from and did a great job! That’s one option. On Pinterest you can view my Disney Cruise board where I pinned a ton of other ideas for a Fish Extender. Really – it just needs to be something that you hang from the fish hook that is outside your cabin stateroom door. Its a hook – that is a fish. And the thing you hang from it extends down…. and so its called a Fish Extender. Get it? 😉 You’ll find ideas on Pinterest for making them out of duct tape even! There even is a holder at Ikea that can be converted into one as well for a less expensive way to go. Its called the Pysslingar wall pocket and is only $4.99. Then all you have to do is decorate it to your liking. My advice is to have one pocket per child. Then its up to you as to whether you want one pocket for mom and dad or one for each. It doesn’t make any difference, its just a matter of preference! Even Gramma can have her own pocket if she’s traveling with too!
For me, it was all about decorating the door and making my Fish Extender and door match! So after I picked out my Fish Extender, I ordered a Mickey Captain Hook magnet. I found mine on Etsy and this seller has endless possibilities. Your cabin door is metal and Disney allows only magnets on the doors. I do advise heavy duty magnets to ensure a good stick. I’ve heard the newly painted doors on the Magic are having even more trouble if the magnets aren’t super strong. As we started to receive our gifts, our decor started to grow! I just loved all the magnets that were gifted to us!! We got bottle cap ones, and painted cloths pins and even a sign saying Keep calm and wish upon a star. I have them all saved together so that they will one day be used again on our next cruise!
In order to receive Fish Extender gifts, you have to give some too! Our cruise ended up broken into 4 groups. I joined in on the first 2 groups and ended up with a total of 26 cabins. In those cabins were 26 girls and 27 boys. We had a grand total of about 150 people in all 4 groups! I could have joined all of them if I had wanted to, but seeing as this was my first time I’m glad I didn’t as it can easily get overwhelming.
After searching through Pinterest and on Facebook’s fish extender groups for Fish Extender ideas, I decided to do a sand removal kit. I ordered the brushes off of Amazon in bulk. Then I painted them and hot glued them and got them all sparkled up and voila – a sand removal brush was created! I made a label for the travel size baby powder in photoshop and turned it into Mickey’s magical sand removal powder. Then I bagged and tagged them and they were good to go. I did wonder what a TSA agent would have thought if they saw 26 bottles of baby powder! I mean Mickey’s magical powder! I also searched Pinterest for tags made for these brushes and then copied the wording from one of them. I got the ribbon and paint from Michaels and used my Mickey punch to cut out the blue Mickey head from glittery card stock.
Now it was on to the kids… I broke it up into ages for the boys.
On Amazon I was able to order a pack of pirate inflatable beach balls. I had 3 little boys under the age of 3 and lucky for me the package was a set of 3! I made a sign and put them in a clear cellophane bag.
For the next age group of boys, I again turned to Amazon. I was able to find these felt bags with pirate coins inside for even cheaper then Oriental Trading Company. I came up with a saying that turned hiding the coins into a game and then added in a glow stick and a couple pirate themed tattoos.
And then for my older boys, I found these flash lights in the dollar spot at Target. I wrapped them in a pirate themed note and they were perfect. The batteries cost more then the flashlights! Flashlights are a great idea that can also be Disneyfied up by adding a Mickey head to or the cruise date or all kinds of possibilities. Those cabins are super duper dark at night! And the inside cabins are pitch black if the lights are turned off at any time. So flash lights are a nice practical idea.
I found this template free on Pinterest! Feel free to use it as well for your future projects!
I am fortunate to have a hair bow making guru/friend who I enlisted help from. I purchased the clips and ribbon and gems all at Michaels. A little hot glue and wire and time and I had hair bows! I also found Princess glow wands and plastic Easter eggs filled with trinkets like lip gloss and plastic rings in the Easter section at Target. I also got the Ariel and Princess notepads and pencils from Target’s dollar spot. A clear cellophane bag and Minnieish red polka dot tissue paper and they were good to go! I separated things by age a little such as the littler ones got the plastic easter eggs and bows, the middle ages got the wands and bows and note pads and the older girls ( like 16 and 18 ) just got notepads and pencils.
It took me just under 2 hours to deliver everything to the 26 different cabins. I went floor by floor and organized it as best I could. Seeing as I had a sand removal kit, I wanted to get my gifts out before our first port day. However – there is no set time that you have to deliver them nor do you get an assigned day. I will say though that most were received by the end of our first full day at sea. The other day we received the most was on our Pirate day. I think as long as you have them delivered before the afternoon of the last day, you can chose to do it as you like.
Now that you’ve seen all the goodies we gave out, lets take a peek at the avalanche of goodies we got in return!! It was overwhelming! All the work that went into this was returned tenfold. I was blown away by the generosity of the good folks that all participated. This was one of the highlights of our trip. Seeing my kids get excited to run back to the room and check for “mail” was awesome. They were constantly getting presents and it cut down big time on any desire for having to go to the gift shops. Both kids made out like bandits! I couldn’t even keep up with taking pictures of everything and I know I missed some. My son was already tearing into things before I could say wait! So many things were used during the trip. Pirate eye patches were a huge hit with all 4 of us. My daughter spent a lot of time with her new crayons and markers and coloring books and note pads and stickers. They made down time in our cabin so nice. They were also all welcome new goodies for the plane ride home and when we stopped for a few days to visit at Gramma’s house afterwards. Our door was decorated with the new special magnets. We had a special “light card” for keeping our room cool and lights working without the need of our KTTW ( key to the world ) card. Glow sticks and Flash lights and flashing Mickey necklaces! Luggage tags and a back pack! And one of the coolest things in my 8 yr old’s eyes – was the Lego cruise ship!
One of our fellow cruise families was from Australia and gifted us with a fun Tasmania cloth bag full of chocolates and candies from there! ( I might not have shared it all with the kids as much as I should have! ) Laminated bookmarks and sunglasses and giant pens and the neatest personalized snack bag for Julia – which we ended up using to hold all her crayons and markers. We received Mickey ear bud headphones both in white with black polka dots and black with white polka dots! The kids got Mickey Slap bracelet watches! I especially loved the gift of pineapple juice w Coconut rum! We also got mini bottles of vodka that I didn’t even get a chance to snap a pic of!
Julia got 2 other sets of hair bows that got used through out the rest of the trip. Teddy got a wallet made out of Mickey Mouse Duct tape! How cool is that?! Those were for sure some of my favorite things. A lot of effort went into those. We used the dry erase boards right away and they now hang at home. The Music CD will forever be in our car to remind us of our trip.
And blessed is the family who gave out the poo-pouri!! HAHA! that was hilarious! Especially with the laminated beautified note that came with it. Simple helpful things are the best! Like I would have never thought to use the cloths pins to pin the curtains closed! They wrote it right on the cloths pin and I happily used them every night. The luggage tags already adorn my luggage and always will remind me of this trip. I know I’m forgetting things as there was so much! But for sure – joining in on doing the fish extender gift exchange was well worth it. I’m grateful to every family that participated with us! I will be looking forward to my next Disney cruise and joining in again.