MAPLEWOOD, NJ - There's a little bit of Disney magic right here in SOMA since January, when local Maplewood mom Jan Kaminsky was chosen from thousands of applicants to be one of 12 new members of the 2017 Disney Parks Moms Panel.

As a Walt Disney World Resort specialist, Kaminsky will use her exceptional Disney vacation knowledge to help families plan and make the most out of their visits to Disney parks.

A registered nursing professor and mother of three, Kaminsky is the first openly lesbian Disney Parks Moms Panelist. Kaminsky, her wife Samantha, and their three kids have lived in Maplewood for 12 years. Kaminsky also volunteers her extra time to local YMCA and LGBT pride community service organizations. 

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As a member of the decade-old Disney Parks Moms Panel, Kaminsky answers a wide range of questions from Disney-goers, who ask her everything from how to find a gluten-free snack to how to make sure everyone on an inter-generational trip is happy. Kaminsky, who has been on the panel for just a few weeks, said she has already helped lots of families, and that she answers two to three questions each day.

"The wonderful thing Disney is doing right is really emphasizing this diverse group of moms. And it's really moms and dads and aunts and grandparents on the Moms Panel," said Kaminsky.

Kaminsky said one of the reasons she loves traveling to Disney is because they do such an excellent job of providing accommodations for all travelers. "Disney is emphasizing how important all different families are to Walt Disney World and the Disney Companies, whether it's a food allergy, or other special dietary requests, Disney does amazingly well accommodating dietary restrictions."

For families who might have a member with mobility issues, Kaminsky noted that families traveling to Disney can be comfortable knowing "they can do everything at the parks," adding "sometimes on a family trip a disability or a food allergy can prevent that person from fully experiencing things, but at Disney you really can have a full experience."

Kaminsky recommends August as an especially good time for SOMA families to visit Disney, because while kids here haven't gone back to school, those in Florida and many other areas of the country have already started their school year.

"The travel tip I use, and it's only if you're willing to go to Disney when it's really hot, is to travel to Disney during the last two or three weeks of August," suggested Kaminsky. "Not only are the crowds manageable, but the prices are too. It's considered 'value season,' so the hotels are reasonable and the crowds are considerably lower than at other times of the year."

Specifically, Kaminsky suggests traveling during the last week before Labor Day, adding "it has a great, low crowd."

Not surprisingly, Kaminsky is the one who plans her own family's trips to Disney, with their most recent trip happening last August. "My wife relies on me to plan it, but loves to see the plans unfold," Kaminsky shared.

As for finding time to be a member of the Disney Moms Panel, Kaminsky explained, "I love having a little bit of the Disney magic part of my everyday life. It's been an unexpected perk of the job."