Part 2: D23 – Planning for the Expo!

Well readers, plans have changed since my initial article about D23 – but I’m here to let you know what the planning stages entail for getting to the 2015 D23 Expo in Anaheim, California. Hopefully the information I provide will give you the edge to plan for, and attend, the next D23 Expo in 2017!

Without further ado – How to get to the Expo in 10 easy steps:

Step 1: Join D23!  

  • It’s really simple.  Just follow this link to join D23

Step 2: Save your pennies!

Step 3: Purchase tickets early!

  • You could save anywhere from $10-$50 per person

Step 4: Plan your costumes now!

  • You and your family are invited to cosplay!

Step 5: Prepare yourself!

  • There are long lines, panel discussions, many vendors, pricey foods, and long days!

Step 6: Search for Hotel Rooms early!

  • See hotels HERE.  Do your research for the hotel that has the right amenities for you.

Step 7: Plan your travel early!

  • Are you flying? Search the best airlines from your airport to John Wayne, SNA, airport
    • Why not LAX?  
      • It’s is considerably farther away, and any rental car, shuttle service, will break the bank! Resorts have parking fees too!
    • Driving or taking a train?  Plan your routes, allocate money for gas or tickets early!  And always plan for rush hour traffic in these areas!
    • PLEASE NOTE: The Disneyland Resort does not have a free, direct shuttle service.  Every shuttle service has a price.
      • Super Shuttle is reputable – save for the private service so you are directly dropped off at your hotel!

Step 8: Purchase your specially discounted D23 park tickets!

  • D23 members have access to special event park tickets at a slight discount
    • “Twilight Tickets” are also available at a greatly reduced rate that allow you entrance into each park after 4pm until close!

Step 9:  Budget!

  • Remember those pennies you were saving? You’ll still need to make a budget for while you’re at the Expo for food, D23 exclusive souvenirs, photo ops, autograph ops, incidentals – they will add up!

Step 10: Don’t forget to bring your D23 Membership card!

  • Arrive and have fun!
  • Enjoy it!  It will be amazing!

Your Me and the Mouse travel specialist can help you with all the details.  Feel free to contact me if you have questions!

Amy Sowinski

Travel Specialist

Everyone Is Family at Ohana’s!  
 
Welcome Cousin!  ‘Ohana is a Hawaiian for “family” and that’s how you will feel when you enjoy you Best Friends Breakfast with Lilo and Stitch, and their friends (usually Mickey in his favorite Hawaiian shirt and Pluto) at this beautiful Polynesian Village Resort restaurant.
 
‘Ohana’s is a popular dining destination for guests, so you will want to book early (dining reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance) to ensure this dining experience is on your itinerary    This restaurant is located on the upper level of the Polynesian Village Resort and easily accessible by the monorail.  This character breakfast  is all-you-can-eat and served family-style, which my family appreciates.  This allows us to enjoy our breakfast as a family and talk about our day without having to interrupt our conversations while someone heads off to a buffet.
 
Your “Cousin” will warmly greet you and show you to your table.  If you are lucky to be seated near the window, you will enjoy breathtaking views of Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon.  Guests will love the basket of Hawaiian “welcome bread”, which is  flavored with pineapple and coconut, as well as iced cinnamon bread.   Both were delicious and you will find yourself thinking about that warm, delicious bread months after your Disney vacation.  Next a plate of fresh fruit and melons arrives,  followed by the family skillet, which includes the traditional breakfast favorites: Hua Paka (Scrambled Eggs), Uala Kahiki (Fried Potatoes with Carmelized Onions & Scallions), Pua’a (Pork Offerings – Sausage Links & Bacon) and biscuits.  Everyone’s favorite Mickey Waffles are also included with this memorable meal.  Stitch’s favorite juice, a blend of Passion Fruit, Orange and Guava juice,  is a great compliment to the meal.ohana1
 
This delightful character breakfast featuring Lilo and Stitch, as well as Mickey and Pluto, has been a family favorite and on our dining itinerary for our last 5 Walt Disney World vacations!!!  Stitch went “crazy” for our 5 month old son on our first visit.  He insisted on joining us at our table to hold the baby!  We have found the character interactions to be wonderful and not rushed.  My children love participating in the “Ohana Family Parade”, where Lilo, Stitch, Pluto, and Mickey form a conga line and dance and sing around the restaurant accompanied by a ukulele player. 
 
If you are looking for a delicious breakfast and a  great start to your morning, include ‘Ohana’s Best Friends Breakfast to your dining itinerary and your trip to Walt Disney World.


Tressa Krippel

Travel Specialist

Are you wanting the luxury of a deluxe resort without the price tag?

A great solution maybe staying Business Class at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

My family stayed in this hidden gem in June of 2015. First of all, I love the location of Coronado Springs. You can see the Tower of Terror from the property along with the statues that decorate the peaks of the Swan and Dolphin Resort. It is considered to be in the Animal Kingdom Resort Area. Therefore, it is a fairly short bus ride to Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. It can be a bit of a haul to get to the Magic Kingdom.

Disney’s Coronado Springs itself is themed in Mexican/American Southwest. There is a great swimming area with a Mezo-American pyramid, water slide, baby pool, bar and fire pit. The resort itself is visually stunning! The staff may have been the best service I have ever received at Disney.

The only issue we had during our stay was with the Pepper Market. This is the onsite quick-service/cafeteria. While we were there, it seemed to be consistently understaffed with slow service. We were visiting at the beginning of the summer season, so I am hoping we were staying during a transitional stage, and more staff were on their way.

Disney’s Coronado Springs is a very large resort, because it also houses conventions. It is split into different areas and four bus stops serve the areas so you don’t have to kill yourself walking. I was worried it would be a little less Disney, because of the convention center, but I was pleasantly surprised and my family loved this resort.

So what is the purpose of “Business Class” in the middle of all of this and why is it worth the extra money?

First of all, the Business Class building is located in Cabanas 9B. This is directly next to the main lobby and bus station 1, and a very short bridge walk to the main pool. The only downside to the location is that it is a bit of a walk to the quiet pool and laundry facilities.

The very best thing about Business Class is the complimentary Coconino Lounge. The lounge has tables, comfy chairs, sofa, television and some computers, fax machines, etc. It is a bit hidden to keep everyone from finding it and we had to have someone show us, because we could not locate it the first time. The staff said Disney did this on purpose, so that people who were not staying business class were not drawn to it. You had to use your MagicBand to enter the lounge, but you did not have to show any additional ID.bclass

In the mornings a light breakfast was served: pastries, fresh fruit, yogurt, milk, juice, cereal, etc. There also was an automatic espresso machine. Before we left breakfast we always asked for a soda or canned tea and took these into the parks with us. The staff was always kind and did everything they could for us. We would chat with the Cast Members and get the latest tips, etc. Many of the Cast Members knew us by name before we left.

At 5:00 PM they would lay out what I call an antipasto buffet: olives, prosciutto, salami, cheese, chips, dip, etc. Beer, Wine, sangria and soda was served during this time as well. At 7:00 PM the buffet was converted to serving just large soft cookies, with a few chips and dip, and it was a wonderful way to end the day.

Coconino Cove is open from 7:00 A.M.–10 A.M.[Serving light Breakfast] and 5 P.M.–10 P.M. [Serving light snacks, beer and wine] 7 days a week.

Overall, my family loved this hidden gem and we can’t wait for our next visit!

 

Epcot Dining….Beyond the Park!

While touring Epcot, you already have a lot of dining options from snacks, to quick service, to table service located throughout the park.  What some people may not realize is that your dining options go beyond the gates of Epcot through the International Gateway entrance near World Showcase.

There are a variety of dining options located right in the Epcot Resorts area.  The best part is, it can give you that much needed break from the park crowds and it can be as short as a 5-15 minute casual walk or boat ride away.  These restaurants range from snacks to table service with some quick service in between to fit many of your dining needs!

The immediate locations for food can be found at the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts.   These are two beautiful resorts that give you a place to leisurely walk or sit along the beach and get away from hectic days in the park.  You can also go to the Boardwalk area, which is an attraction in and of itself with a variety of choices for food.

Also included are the Swan and Dolphin Resort eating options.  They do not accept any of the Disney Dining plans, but still offer some amazing food choices if you are not looking to use the dining plan.

Below, you will find the following information listed:

  • Restaurant Name and Location
  • Meals Served:  Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), or Dinner (D)
  • Type of Dining:  Quick Service, Table Service, Signature Dining
  • Number of Table Service Credits

 

YACHT & BEACH CLUB RESORT AND BOARDWALK RESORT DINING

Restaurant

Which

Meal?

Dining
Location

Type of
Dining

Disney Dining Plan:  Table Service Credits

Yachtsman Steakhouse

D

Yacht Club

Fine/Signature Dining

2

Flying Fish Café

D

Boardwalk

2

Cape May Café

B,D
Character Dining for Breakfast

Beach Club

Casual Dining

1

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop

L, D

Beach Club

1

Captain’s Grille

B, L, D

Yacht Club

1

Big River Grille & Brewing Works

L, D

Boardwalk

1

ESPN Club

L, D

Boardwalk

1

Trattoria al Forno

B, D

Boardwalk

1

Beach Club Marketplace

B, L, D

Beach Club

Quick Service

QS Dining Plan Credit Accepted

Hurricane Hanna’s Grill

L, D
Check Hours

Beach Club

QS Dining Plan Credit Accepted

Boardwalk Bakery

B, L, D

Boardwalk

QS Dining Plan Accepted

Pizza Window

L, D

Boardwalk

QS Dining Plan Credit Accepted

Boardwalk Joe’s Marvelous Margaritas

Snack
Check Hours

Boardwalk

Dining Plan Not Accepted

Seashore Sweets

Snack
Check Hours

Boardwalk

Dining Plan Not Accepted

The To-Go Cart

Snack
Check Hours

Boardwalk

Dining Plan Not Accepted

Funnel Cake Cart

Snack
Check Hours

Boardwalk

Dining Plan Not Accepted

 

SWAN & DOLPHIN RESORTS DINING

Restaurant

Which Meal?

Dining
Location

Type of
Dining

Disney Dining Plan:  Table Service Credits

Shula’s Steak House

D

Dolphin Hotel

Fine/Signature Dining

Dining Plan Not Accepted

Todd English’s bluezoo

Dolphin Hotel

Il Mulino New Tork Trattoria

Swan Hotel

Kimonos

Swan Hotel

Cabana Bar and Beach Club

Lounge
Check Hours

Dolphin Hotel

Casual Dining

Dining Plan Not Accepted

Fresh Mediterranean Market

B, L

Dolphin Hotel

The Fountain

L, D

Dolphin Hotel

Garden Grove

D

Swan Hotel

Splash Terrace

Pool Bar
Check Hours

Swan Hotel

Picabu

B, L, D

Dolphin Hotel

Quick Service

Dining Plan Not Accepted

Java Bar

Lounge
Check Hours

Swan Hotel

Splash Grill

Pool Bar
Check Hours

Swan Hotel

 

Let your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist know which Casual or Signature dining experiences you are interested in enjoying, and we will do our best to get the date and time you want reserved for you.  Remember that we start making reservations for our clients 180 days before your vacation begins.  This is important, since popular restaurants can fill up early!!

These added dining options just gave you a lot more to consider when deciding where you would like to eat.  Not only do you now have added choices, but if you choose to eat at one of the restaurants, you will get to visit some amazing hotels and afterward can enjoy some casual time exploring the resort grounds or seeing what the Boardwalk has to offer!

You can then easily get back to Epcot to finish out your day, or (if you have the hopper), go to the resort bus stops and get to your next park destination.  If you are using your hopper option and are going to Epcot for the second part of your day, take a bus (or boat if coming from Hollywood Studios) to the desired resort location that has the dining you will be enjoying, and then easily walk to Epcot for the second part of your day!

Megan Thompson

Travel Specialist

Designing a Walt Disney World Trip Tailored to Your Family

Have you dreamed of your first trip to Walt Disney World but have put it off because the planning process seems so overwhelming? We won’t fool you – there is a lot that goes into proper planning of your trip unlike any other Disney destination. These basics will help you understand the big steps and the timeframe in which they should be completed in order to take advantage of all that Disney has to offer.

Unlike most travel agents, this is what the Travel Specialists at Me and the Mouse do! We know the ins and outs of the Walt Disney World Resort, and we are here to help you through the planning process! Me and the Mouse has received the distinction of being an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner and is known for our impeccable service. Our goal is to exceed your expectations with our customized planning to compliment the customer service that you would expect from any Disney vacation.

… The Timeline …

When to make your reservation
Ideally, you should start planning your vacation about 8-12 months in advance. Not everyone is able to plan this far ahead, but this would give you time to determine your priorities.
>> Contact your travel specialist when you have an idea of dates when you’d like to visit. We can recommend dates based on historical crowd levels, park hours and special events so you get the most of your time at the parks.

Resort Selection – Where do you want to stay?
If you wait to book inside of 180 days before you want to visit, you will, at the very least, be limited to resorts and rooms available.
>> Because we specialize in Disney vacations, we can help you find the perfect resort based on your family’s preferences and requirements.

Dining – Where do you want to eat?
Walt Disney World fans know there are amazing restaurants to dine at and character experiences to enjoy with your family. Dining reservations open up 180 days prior to your arrival. Yes – that is SIX MONTHS in advance, and the most popular restaurants book up very quickly. If you plan on quick-service meals throughout your visit, there is little to worry about. If you enjoy more relaxing meals prepared by Disney’s incredible chefs, or if your little ones want to enjoy dining with their favorite characters, you really need to be prepared to make dining reservations the day they open up for you.*
>> The Me and the Mouse team is ready to help you find the best restaurants based on budget, menu and experience. We can even coordinate all your dining reservations with your daily itineraries so you don’t miss your favorite parade or FastPass slot.

Special Experiences – What special events do you want to experience?
Also at 180 days out, you can start making reservations for special experiences – holiday parties, specialized tours, a private safari, dolphin encounters, and so much more!
>> Yes – you read those correctly – Disney really knows how to entertain and fully embrace you in its storytelling. At Me and the Mouse Travel, we make it our job to know all of these special little treats to make your vacation even more magical!

FastPass Selection
If you are making the most of your Disney World visit and are staying on-site at a Disney property, you can make FastPass selections 60 days prior to your arrival. This puts you ahead of everyone staying off-property to pre-select FastPasses to the most popular attractions and skip a portion of the lines. If you are staying off-site, you may pre-select FastPasses 30 days prior to your arrival.
>> Part of your customized itinerary that we will prepare will recommend specific parks for each day of your visit to help you avoid crowds and have the most fun during your day! FastPass selection is another of the many services we offer!

Spur of the Moment Visits
If you simply can’t plan months ahead, or if you can no longer resist the urge and must get your Disney fix NOW, you can still have a great vacation if you stay positive and do not expect to be able to experience everything on your wish list.

A dream Disney vacation is what millions of families save up for as their one special annual or bi-annual trip together. Avoid the stress of last-minute planning so you are free to enjoy your time together!

* Dining experiences cannot be guaranteed and are subject to availability.

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist