Every trip we take to Walt Disney World includes a meal at Chef Mickey’s. Not only is the food delicious but it is a great way to see the characters without standing in line at the parks!

Chef Mickey’s is located inside the Contemporary Resort. The menu is an all-you-can-eat buffet with a wide variety of foods. This is perfect if you have a picky eater! They offer breakfast, brunch, and dinner. During your meal, the characters will come right up to your table for autographs and photos. The characters you may see are Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Donald Duck, and Goofy. There is also an opportunity to dance in your seats with the characters. It is so much fun to watch your child swing their napkin above their head with a smile of pure excitement on their face!

Chef Mickey’s is a popular restaurant so advanced dining reservations are strongly suggested. You can make these up to 180 days prior to your visit.

chef mickeys

Lori Steinnerd

Travel Specialist

Situated on Main Street USA, around the corner from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, is one of my favorite restaurants and a hidden gem at Magic Kingdom……..The Plaza Restaurant!   
 
This full serve restaurant has plenty of turn of the century charm and is reasonably priced for a sit-down restaurant on property, with adult entrees ranging from $12 – $18.  The Plaza is open for lunch and dinner and is 1 table service credit on the Disney Dining plan.  This quaint, cozy ice cream parlor is small, which I feel is part of the charm of dining here.   If you happen to be dining during a parade, you will enjoy glimpses of the floats and Cinderella’s Castle too.  
 
The menu is made up of mainly soup, sandwiches, burgers and salads.  The Chicken  Strawberry salad is a signature dish here.  Choosing a dessert may prove to be difficult as there are SO many tasty treats, like hand-dipped milkshakes, New York Style Cheesecake, Ice Cream Floats and The Plaza Restaurant Sundae.
 
The citizens of Main St. have also been known to make appearances at The Plaza Restaurant! While the menu is not  the most adventurous on property, it is certainly delicious and you will fondly remember your dining experience here.   
 
You will want to include The Plaza Restaurant on your dining itinerary on your next trip to Walt Disney World.  As with all table service restaurants, advance reservations are HIGHLY encouraged and can be made up to 180 days in advance.

Tressa Krippel

Travel Specialist

I recently returned from my second Disney Cruise with my husband.  Yes, you read that right.  NO kids!  Much to my four sons dislike, they remained at home with Grandma while Mom and Dad enjoyed a relaxing, fun-filled Disney Cruise to themselves for the second time.

I know what you are thinking, “Isn’t a Disney Cruise catered to families?”.  Disney Cruises are for the entire family.  Whether you are traveling with your family, the extended family or just adults.  There is SO much to experience and enjoy while onboard a Disney cruise.

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Our days were spent relaxing at the Senses Spa, watching first run movies in the theater such as McFarland USA.  We spent time enjoying the sun and reading books on the “Adults Only” deck.  When we felt the need to cool off a bit, we headed to the “adult only” pool onboard the ship.  Because most guests seem to be traveling with children, we found both these areas to be very peaceful with very few guests.   We had the opportunity to sign up for a Mixology class, where we sampled and learned how to make various cocktails for our next holiday party.  We loved soaking in the sun at the “adult only” beach on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.  Snorkeling, enjoying watercraft and running the Castaway 5K were all highlights while we spent the day on this amazing private island.   After dinner, we had an amazing view of the fireworks from the deck at the Meridian Lounge.

While there is fantastic “adult only” dining onboard the Disney Cruise ships, we decided to enjoy the rotational dining that all guests enjoy on ship.  We found ourselves seated with 2 other couples, also  traveling without children, which led to fantastic conversations about travel, life experiences and interests.  By the second night, we found our table laughing and enjoying each other’s company so much that we were one of the last tables in the restaurant.

After dinner, we enjoyed cocktails in Skyline Lounge or one of the other amazing lounge/bars onboard.  We played TV trivia in the Sports bar one evening, enjoyed an Oscars party being held another night and participated in an 80’s Music Trivia contest.

As a Disney fanatic, I still found time to see Captain Mickey, laugh with Chip and Dale, walk the deck with Elsa and Anna and hug Minnie Mouse.  There is SO much to see and do while onboard a Disney Cruise that you will be planning your next one before you disembark.

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A Disney Cruise is the perfect vacation for any family looking to enjoy the magic of Disney, along with the outstanding customer service you have grown to know from Disney.

Tressa Krippel

Travel Specialist

maya grill

Who doesn’t love it when a last minute dinner reservation, one of only a handful you are able to find with such short notice, turns out to be such a pleasant surprise? This was our experience with the Maya Grill at the Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World. We had shuffled reservations around during the week to accommodate changes in plan due to the very hot weather. We were tired and worn out, so we ended up back at our resort mid-afternoon when we realized…..we’re going to be hungry soon!

I quickly checked on MyDisneyExperience.com to see what was available for the evening and not too far away, and there were only a few options that popped up with dinner reservation at a reasonable time  for our family. The Maya Grill at our resort had looked nice when we peeked in earlier in the day, so we decided to give it a try. Our kids do not eat Mexican food often, but I thought they would be able to find something to please them.

We were seated quickly in a quiet area of the restaurant. Our server, Tanya, was all smiles and happy to strike up conversation with us as we looked at all the options on the menu. I love when not only have they tried everything on the menu, but they are excited to tell us about their favorites. Tanya was perfect – she explained what items she liked, how they are prepared, and what ingredients are used in the recipes.

While we were waiting for our entrée, she brought out flatbread and cornbread with dipping sauces. Had I known they would be that scrumptious, I would have held off on the guacamole, but….really, who doesn’t love guacamole?

Oddly enough, my husband and the kids all chose a New York Strip Steak, but it was served with Mexican sides, as you would expect, and my family devoured them! I chose the fajita skillet. Fabulous, plenty to eat, and the meat was cooked perfectly.

Throughout the meal, Tanya was coming by to check on us and to chat about our visit, where we are from, our kids, her kids, bucket lists of where we want to visit,…. She really should have just sat down because we were all having a nice time sharing a small bit of our lives with each other!

Then dessert. We ordered the coconut flan to share, but Tanya also brought HER favorite sweet, Dulce de Leche ice cream. While the flan was delicious, the ice cream was a hit with all of us.

Some people like to get in and get out for a quick dinner so they can hurry and get to the next thing on their list. While we certainly could have eaten and headed back to the parks faster, we enjoyed a leisurely meal with great food and great service, and it was such a nice surprise when the Maya Grill wasn’t even on our radar for this visit. It was one of the best meals of our trip!

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

All my dreams the night before were all about the tour even though I didn’t really know what to expect. My husband and I had planned the Trek months before our vacation, and the kids were completely in the dark. We got up early for our pre-park tour (which was also great because we were allowed to wander around Disney’s Animal Kingdom before the general public got in!) and headed straight for the park.

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We were greeted by one of the guides dressed in his safety equipment, and the kids quickly figured out we were up to something. The guide gave us a brief rundown of what we would be experiencing before sending us on our way to get our gear. After storing our belongings in lockers, we each were fitted with a safety vest and harness, and our cameras and glasses were all secured to our vests. We were also supplied with a water bottle to help stay hydrated during the 3 hour trek.

We had two wonderful guides to accompany our small group (tour groups are limited to 12 people, so you get to know your guides and fellow adventurers!) who were able to tell us about the animals we encountered, habitats, and Disney’s conservation programs. Andy and Bryn were very friendly, excited for the adventure with our group, and they got to know each of us (and remembered all our names!) very quickly. They were also pretty funny, and I think everyone in our group enjoyed their company. They also had a camera to take beautiful photos of all the wildlife we encountered as well as making sure there were plenty of photos of all of us on the adventure. (All the photos – over 200 of them! – are included in the package!)

We started in an aviary and through the research center at the Harambe Wildlife Reserve before taking a private dirt path up a gently sloping hill. At the top, we met a guide who was a hippo expert and could talk with us about the hippos’ habitat, behavior and interactions with other hippos in the reserve, and answer any questions we had. We stood just feet above two large male hippos while they were treated to lettuce which provided a great close-up view of my favorite creatures. As we were enjoying our experience so close to these magnificent animals, the Kilimanjaro Safari vehicles passed by in the distance for a brief glance at the hippos before moving on. We were definitely enjoying a VIP tour!

Next, we had to carefully cross two rope bridges over huge crocodiles to get to another vantage point where we could really get some more close-up looks with our crocodile expert guide. The rope bridges were what I was worried about with my youngest, not sure if he would be able to make the cross over alone. Silly me – this ended up being his favorite part!

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On to a private vehicle where we were able to drive through the savanna and make stops along the way when we observed animals. (The Safari vehicles did not share these special look-out areas, so we were free to park and stand up to look around and get great photos). We drove to a private outdoor patio overlooking the savanna where we could watch elephants while we were treated to a delicious African-inspired morning snack. This was another thing I was not sure my kids would take to, but they both loved the foods and juice prepared for our group which included fruit salad, prosciutto and cheese, dried fruit, yogurt, salmon roulade, and more. It was all packaged beautifully and included an edible flower which adorned the tasty treats.

We were driving back through the savannah when my son asked if we were almost done. Our guide responded that we were nearly done, thinking he’d perhaps had enough. “I don’t want it to end yet!” was his reply.

In our group, there were adventurers from 11 to the well-retired. We had two families (ours with younger children and another with an older child), newlyweds, and two sisters who met at Disney before heading back to their own home states. We all had fun joking and chatting together.

The Wild Animal Trek was a splurge treat for us, but it was the highlight of our trip. We met wonderful people, got to see areas of the reserve that the average person doesn’t get to see, we got very close to some amazing and dangerous animals, and we enjoyed our time adventuring as a family. It was absolutely a special experience that our family will remember forever.

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

It is always a sad day when it is time to disembark from your wonderful Disney Cruise vacation. Even though you don’t want the cruise to end, you may be anxious to get off the ship to spend time at Walt Disney World or to get to the airport to catch a flight. Disney Cruise Line has created Express Walk-Off to allow passengers to be the first off the ship. As a general rule, you will be able to walk off the ship around 7:15 AM if you participate in Express Walk-Off, however, please keep in mind it does depend on when Customs clears the ship, which may cause delays.

There are a few important steps to follow in order to use this process:

   1. You MUST be able to carry your own bags off the ship, which means you will not be following the regular procedure of setting your bags out in the hallway the night before departure. Therefore, this may be an incentive to pack light. (I would suggest advising your stateroom host that you are doing Express Walk-off so they are not concerned when they see your bags in room).

   2. You will be skipping the sit down breakfast the morning of the departure since you will be departing at the same time breakfast is served. However, you may go to Cabanas and grab a quick bite since they open prior to 7:00 AM. Our family finds it easier to have one person run up to Cabanas to grab some fruit, pastries and juice and bring it back to our stateroom. This gives me a little more time to get ready and do final packing.

   3. Disney does request that you are in line by 7:00 AM. Plan to get in line early since the elevators tend to get very busy.

   4. If you are using Disney transportation to go to the airport or to a Disney World Resort, you will still need to wait until the bus is full prior to heading out. This is where private transportation may speed up your departure.

I hope you have a fabulous cruise.

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Janene Jaroscak 

Travel Specialist 

Minnie, Goofy and Donald are ready to spend the day at the beach but before they head off, they need a tasty breakfast to get them going. You will find this lively bunch at Disney’s Beach Club Resort every morning at Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast at Cape May Cafe.

Cape May Cafe Sign

This charming, beach-themed character breakfast buffet offers a variety of breakfast favorites, including Mickey Waffles, a fresh fruit and yogurt bar, fresh-baked pastries, breakfast pizza, biscuits and gravy, and other options. This character breakfast is one dining credit on the Disney Dining Plan and breakfast is served from 7:30 am – 11:00 am.

Cape May Cafe’ is tucked away at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, which I feel adds to the charming atmosphere of the restaurant. This dining location seems less busy than other popular character dining locations, like Chef Mickey’s. In my experience, there have been very minimal wait times at this restaurant. Once you’ve checked in at the podium, you’ll soon be making your way to one of two dining rooms — a large main room, or a smaller one adjacent to the restaurant’s entrance. I prefer the large main dining room since it has a lot more to look at and has slightly easier access to the buffet. The buffet is not generally crowded and we have found the characters spend more time with guests than other character dining locations. While characters are subject to change, typically you will get some one on one time with Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck. (Mickey is not present as he is already busy building sandcastles on the beach) Please be aware that characters only appear here for breakfast. So if it’s a character dining experience you’re wanting, book the morning meal.

Cape May Goofy

With its wonderful offerings on the breakfast buffet and an opportunity to visit with some of your favorite Disney friends, Cape May is a highlight for any Disney vacation. In addition, I love the convenient location of this character meal and it’s great way to start your day if you are planning visiting either EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After breakfast, you are only a 5 minute walk to the International Gateway of EPCOT or your a brief walk (or boat ride) to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Cape May Donald

Character meals are a great option for interacting with your favorite Disney friends in a comfortable, air-conditioned setting. And if your a character junkie like me, you’ll love visiting and taking photographs with your favorite Disney pals wearing a wide variety of beach attire! On your next Disney vacation, add Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast at Cape May Cafe to your dining itinerary.

Tressa Krippel

Travel Specialist

Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, a Disney Vacation Club resort, is one of the BEST resorts on property – at least according to this travel specialist!

An expansive deluxe resort that lines the lagoon overlooking Disney Springs, Saratoga Springs boasts luxurious rooms (Studios and Villas), two family friendly pools (with the main housing two water slides!), boat access and walkway to Disney Springs, world class Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, Senses Spa, as well as a delicious on-site table service restaurant – The Turf Club. Guests are sure to find this resort relaxing as well as full of fun activities!

The main building at Saratoga Springs plays host to an expansive walk-in pool, splash pad, kiddie pool, and hot tub. Recreation Cast Members are on duty for most of the afternoon to keep kids and adults entertained with a Pool Party, Trivia, and fun games for the whole family. Ping Pong tables, nightly marshmallow roasts, and poolside movies are offered for families to enjoy free of charge! An arcade is adjacent to the main pool, with evenings offering free video game play!

The Artist’s’ Palette offers a wide variety of quick service foods. The Turf Club offers delicious American Fare cuisine for a reasonable price! Near the Turf Club, families can enjoy a game of billiards or board games…and parents can relax with a bartender while the kids play! Outdoors, and just below the Turf Club, one can find another quick service window for snacks before heading to Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. Guests are invited to play 18 holes on this PGA/LPGA approved course!

Although the resort is expansive, no building is farther than a few minutes walk to the main building. Bus stops are sprinkled throughout with transportation to all Disney Theme Parks. Boat access to Disney Springs is located behind the Turf Club at the main building. The Disney Springs walking path is located on the easternmost side of the resort – linking you directly to the Marketplace. Guests can relax and still have almost immediate access to the best attractions!

And finally – the rooms! Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa is reminiscent of a Victorian Style 1800’s New York. It is easy to fall into the theming of the resort and its rooms. Soft color palettes, luxurious bedding and H2O Spa toiletries add to this deluxe resort’s charm. Studio rooms are standard queen rooms, 1 Bedroom Villas contain a King bed, and a kitchen/living room area with a pull out couch. 2 Bedroom Villas combine the two to sleep up to 8 adults. This resort also houses Grand Villas – 3 Bedroom Villas – that can sleep up to 12 adults.

While this is mainly a Vacation Club resort, any guest can stay here and take advantage of the many amenities it has to offer! Contact your Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist today to book!

Amy Sowinski

Travel Specialist

Nothing is more fun than having a secret to tell your children that you know will make them happy….ok, so if the secret is going to Disney World, it is extra fun!! How you announce to your kids they are going to the House of Mouse can be an added element of fun to your trip.


You can make the surprise all your own. Some parents will tell their kids in advance and enjoy the countdown with them, some give the surprise to them as a gift for their Birthday or a holiday, like Christmas, and some will tell the kids the day of. However and whenever you choose to tell them, you have a chance to make the announcement extra special! Your kids will not forget how you surprised them and kicked off such an amazing trip.


This is how I announced our recent trip to my kids: My boys are exactly one month apart, which was nice for me, since they could both share in this birthday surprise I had for them. I planned our trip for the month of October, where we would be enjoying Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. For the trip announcement, as well as partial birthday gifts, I ordered their Halloween costumes (Jake and Cubby from Jake and the Neverland Pirates), had Mickey ears made with their names on them (my mom picked these up on her summer trip), Mickey Mouse t-shirts, and a couple of stuffed animals. I wrapped everything in a box and made it look like Mickey’s shorts. I had a friend make Mickey Mouse cupcakes and I had a giant Mickey balloon. I also made a special card written to the boys from Mickey Mouse, inviting them to join him and his pals down in Disney World. There was also a countdown chart where we would use Mickey stickers to countdown the days till we left.

surprise box
To plan your family’s announcement, here is a small checklist of things you need to consider or prepare:
1. Decide when you will announce the trip? Will it be months in advance, one month, a few days, or the day of?
2. Is the trip a part of a holiday or birthday present? If so, think of a creative way to tie the theme together (Mickey birthday cake, Mickey Christmas Stocking, Princess themed Easter Basket, etc).
3. How will you announce the trip? It could be through a scavenger hunt where the kids need to find clues/words that will spell out the announcement, will it be a present with Disney themed items they open on their birthday or a holiday, or a surprise while they sit in the car getting ready to go to “school” for the day?

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There are ideas all over Pinterest to help customize your announcement. It will take some prep work, but in the end it is worth it to see the excitement build on your child’s face when they realize they are going on a Disney Vacation!

You can make your announcement as big or as low key as you would like….no matter what you choose to do, your children will love not only the trip you and your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist have planned, but also all the hard work you put into the announcement. One important thing…..do NOT forget to video tape their reaction…it is a moment you will definitely want to relive!!

 

Megan Thompson

Travel Specialist 

While this list was compiled with a Walt Disney World visit (by airplane) in mind, it can certainly be modified for any Disney destination.

Carry-On / Immediate Access
ο      Wallet with ID, credit cards (including Disney Visa for discounts!), cash, ATM card, and insurance cards. While children do not require a photo id for domestic flights, it’s a good idea to have a recent, clear, close-up photo of each child in case they are separated from you
ο        Airline confirmation and boarding passes
ο        Rental car information or Magical Express documents
ο        MagicBands
ο        Resort reservation information (including confirmation number, park tickets or annual passes, special event tickets, dining reservations and FastPass selections
ο        Smartphone with MDE installed (with login and password), phone charger
ο        Medication (adult’s and children’s)
ο        Antacid
ο        First Aid kit
ο        Hand sanitizers and wet wipes
ο        Tissue
ο        Gum
ο        Contacts case and solution
ο        Pens
ο        A couple large baggies
ο        Activities for the kids (coloring book and crayons, book, iPad with games that can be played offline, small tubs of Play-Doh)
ο        Book or iPad (with charger)
ο        Headphones
ο        Snacks (granola bars, crackers, fruit snacks)
ο        Water bottles (empty until you pass Security!)
Carry-On
ο       Camera/film/cards/batteries/charger
ο        Hat
ο        Glasses, sunglasses and strap
ο        Neck pillow for plane
ο       Touring book
ο        Park maps
ο        Light sweater or jacket
ο        Jewelry/jewelry pouch
ο        Liquids bag for Security (mostly Toiletry items)
Families with Infants / Toddlers
ο        Clear shower curtain to protect stroller in rain
ο        Stroller with tag
ο        Pack n Play sheets
ο        Favorite stuffed toy or blanket
ο        Bottles or sippy cups
ο        Plastic, reusable fork and spoon
ο        Formula or baby food
ο        Pacifiers
ο        Nightlight
ο        Bibs and burp cloths
ο        Diapers, wipes, rash cream
ο        Bottle brush, dish soap
ο        Potty seat
ON Your Luggage
ο       Yellow Magical Express tags on check-in baggage
ο       Luggage tags on all bags, including carry-ons
Suitcase / Check-In
ο        1 outfit per day
ο        1 pair of socks per day
ο        1 pair of underwear per day
ο        1 extra pair of shoes or sandals
ο        Extra bra or other undergarment
ο        Rain jacket or poncho, or umbrella
ο        Jammies
ο        Bathing suit and cover-up
ο        Belt
ο        1 dressy outfit (for Signature Dining), including shoes
ο        Beach towels
ο        Goggles, floaties
ο        Work-out clothes
ο        Theme Park bag
ο        Water Park bag
ο        Collapsible cooler
ο        Mousekeeping envelopes
Toiletries
ο        Toothbrush and toothpaste, floss
ο        Brush/comb
ο        Shampoo, conditioner, product
ο        Make-up and remover
ο        Moisturizer
ο        Soap – facial and body
ο        Sunscreen, lip balm
ο        Razors, shaving cream
ο        Hair accessories
ο        Baby powder, Rash guard
ο        Feminine products
ο        Deodorant
ο        Tweezers, nail clippers, nail file
ο        Q-Tips
ο        Nail polish and remover
ο        Moleskin, blister pads
* All liquids and gels in a carry-on need to fit in a quart- sizebaggie and be easily accessible at Security
Special Items
ο        Halloween or Christmas outfits
ο        Disneybounding Outfits
In-Park Fun
ο        Autograph book and pen
ο        Mickey ears
ο        Lanyard, pins
ο        Glow sticks
ο        Quarters and (clean) pennies for Penny Press machines
ο        Postcard stamps and addresses
ο        Misting fan and batteries
ο        Walkie Talkies and batteries
ο        ID tags for kids (bracelets, temporary tattoos, contact information in shoe, sock or lanyard pouch)

My family of 4 takes ONLY carry-on bags when we travel – 1 roller-board for each adult, 1 roller-board for BOTH kids’ belongings, a backpack for each person, and the camera bag. It’s critical to be aware of the current size and weight restrictions for your bags, and please remember to stow all smaller bags under the seat in front of you.

We travel with the motto – “If you can’t carry it, it doesn’t come!”

 

Nancy Wideman

Travel Planner