Want to relive the time you rode the Hulk? Do you want to forever keep the moment you posed with a dinosaur? Consider adding My Universal Photos to your Universal package. I purchased this package on my last Universal trip and I absolutely loved all of the memories I get to keep forever. Here’s what you need to know:

Where do you purchase My Universal Photos? There are a few different ways to purchase My Universal Photos. My first recommendation would be to mention your interest to your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist. He or she can add it to your package at the time of purchase for the best price. If you forget to add it early, there are several kiosks located throughout Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure that will add the photo package. Once purchased, you will receive a lanyard and a card that will be scanned at all photo locations to save your images.

Where can we have our photos taken? Universal photographers and photo stations are located through Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay. Character Meet and Greets like Transformers, Spider Man and Shrek are all photo locations, as well as the Raptor meet and greet in Islands of Adventure. There are also several areas within the parks with a timed, automated camera. I loved the ones at Volcano Bay! However, my absolute favorite moments are the ones you can’t capture yourself. The on-ride photos at Rip Ride Rockit, Hulk and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey were a family favorite for us.

How much is it to add the photo package? There are two different options: a one-day pass is priced at $69.99 plus tax and the three-day pass is priced at $89.99 plus tax if purchased ahead of time. With the package, you get unlimited downloads of all of your photos, view and share through the Amazing Photos app, 1 free 4×6 and 5×7 printed photos as well as discounts on any other prints or photo products. It is definitely a great value!

For any questions regarding your Universal Orlando Vacation or to add My Universal Photos to your package, please speak to your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist.

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist

 

Those traveling on a Disney Cruise in the Bahamas or Caribbean can experience an exciting day on the white, sandy beaches of Disney’s Castaway Cay. Whether you are an adult, a couple, or a family, there is much for everyone to enjoy. But what if you could partake in a unique experience that not only creates fun memories, but also helps to preserve native wildlife? Sounds exciting, right?! Then why not try the Stingray Adventure at Castaway Cay?

You and your family can schedule this amazing excursion once your excursion date has opened and you have paid your cruise fare in full. At $52 per adult (10 and up) and $41 for kids (5 to 9), you will have an hour of exclusive time with multiple stingrays in ‘Stingray Lagoon’. It is important that your children are at least 5 years old and are comfortable swimming with life jackets and goggles/snorkels, and are gentle with animals. If they are not, it may not be the excursion for them!

Once on the island, travel to ‘Castaway Ray’s’ rentals, and they will direct you to the ‘Stingray Hut’. In the hut, a Marine Biologist (who lives and works with the sea life ON the island!) will give you a crash course on the animals themselves, how humans should behave around them and what to expect from them, as well as what you will be doing to interact with them. It’s fascinating to learn about these beautiful creatures! And even better knowing that the Marine Biologists with Disney have rescued these animals and are rehabilitating them.

Next, you’ll walk to Stingray Lagoon where the stingrays are swimming…and are hungry! Biologists, trainers, and feeders have taught the stingrays how to get used to humans, as well as how to eat. There is a special U-Shaped tray they must swim over to get their special food, and they will eat STRAIGHT FROM YOUR HANDS on a Mickey Plate!

Once they have been fed, you are free to swim about the lagoon with the stingrays. They may swim up to you and bump you, thinking you have food. They will allow you to pet them, chase them, and swim with them! Stingrays are so soft and very gentle! Well, their “bumps” into you can be forceful if they think you have food in your hand. It really is a unique, swimming-with-wildlife experience!

We enjoyed this excursion this past summer, and I have to say, was the most fun we’ve ever had on an excursion. We have memories that will last a lifetime – whenever we see a ray at the zoo, at the aquarium, or in the Living Seas at Epcot, we recall what we learned and the experiences we had!

Want to take part in this excursion? Make sure you book your next cruise with a Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist and have your agent assist you in booking this amazing experience!

Amy Sowinski

Travel Specialist

 

It’s finally here! You’ve been waiting in line for the last 50 minutes to meet the man himself, Mickey Mouse! Your 4-year-old has been talking about this moment since the trip countdown started. You have your phone ready to video the reaction on her face and then you realize…you only have 3% left of battery life.

Now what? Hopefully you at least purchased the Memory Maker package to capture the still shots of the moment, but you really were looking forward to watching her videoed reaction with her grandparents when you returned home.

What went wrong? You had the phone fully charged before leaving your room, you took a few pictures walking into the park, took a short video of the morning show and afternoon parade, posted pictures to Facebook while waiting in line and reorganized some of your FastPasses on the My Disney Experience app. All of these things can cause the battery life to fall…fast.

The resolution is simple, pack a portable phone charger before you go. There are many out there, so you may need to research which one will work best for you.

If you are already there and forgot to get one before leaving, Disney still has your needs covered. Throughout the parks and the resorts, they have FuelRod stations. There are some very positive things about these FuelRod chargers:

  • You can purchase them on property if you underestimated your need to have a portable charger.
  • If you use the FuelRod charger in the park and you drain it, you can easily swap it out at another station for a fully charged one at no cost.
  • If you choose to keep the same one, it is fully rechargeable with a USB adapter.
  • They come with an adapter plug for both an Android and iPhone.

If you know you will benefit from the ease of swapping dead chargers for fully recharged ones, you may want to consider purchasing a FuelRod before you travel. In Disney, the FuelRods currently sell for $30 each. Online, these chargers start at $20 (with a $5 delivery charge **pricing may vary at some locations). So, if you wanted to get a couple for the guests in your group, you are paying $45 versus $60 in the park. It is a great option to save some money.

Although we would all love to be able to put our phones away on vacation, the functionality of a phone is ideal depending on your needs. Whether you want to capture candid photos, videos, vlog, or use the My Disney Experience app while there, a phone’s functions are a necessity to fulfill those needs. It is best to be prepared from the start to alleviate any stress something as simple as a dead phone could cause.

Megan Thompson

Travel Specialist

 

Walt Disney World is home to 27,000 acres of land. Spread throughout the property are resorts, theme parks, water parks and shopping districts. There are multiple ways to navigate these areas – busses, monorails, boats or cars. Today’s blog will explore the option Disney transportation or driving yourself.

First, I must declare that because I’m a former Cast Member, driving is my preferred option as I know the roads quite well. However, that wasn’t always the case. Prior to working for Disney I relied heavily on their transportation. I will focus this blog on the advantages of Disney transportation and driving rather than the disadvantages.

Let’s first take a look at the advantages of Disney transportation. Disney’s fleet includes over 400 buses, approximately 40 boats, 12 monorail vehicles and the new Minnie Vans by Lyft. Taking a bus, monorail, boat or Minnie Van will get you close the entrance of the park. You skip the step of parking and boarding the tram then going to the entrance. Knowing the roads and routes of Disney World isn’t necessary and you avoid the stress of driving in theme park traffic. Finally, you save money by not needing to rent a car and pay for fuel.

Now let’s take a look at the advantages of driving. You have complete freedom to leave when you want and go wherever you feel like it. You get in your car and you’re off! You can also go wherever you like on or off Disney property. (Outlet stores anyone!) When dining at other resorts there are no transfers of Disney transportation, you drive up to the security gate and they scan your MagicBand and you’re in! Plus, you get free parking. Here is the added bonus of driving yourself. You can explore Walt Disney World. That means driving past the new entrance to Hollywood Studios or seeing other construction take place, (both things that a Disney nerd like myself enjoy).

Lets recap! If you want dependability and convenience you stick to Disney transportation. There are few headaches here except for the occasional tired child who happens to be a little fussy on the bus ride back to the resort when the park closes. (Yeah can’t blame them and I’ll be honest I think that is me some nights!) If you want a little more freedom and exploration opportunities than you take the car. You’re in control with this option but you will walk a little more in parking lots and at the end of the night you will be asking “did we park in Goofy row 97 or Donald row 57?”

Ryan Gross

Travel Specialist

 

Visiting Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is the perfect destination for a relaxing vacation. But on the days you want a little more than just relaxing by the pool or on the beach, there are plenty of scheduled activities happening around the resort, but venturing off the property is a fun addition to a great trip.

  1. Savannah, GA – Taking a drive to Savannah, Georgia is a fabulous full day activity. We opted to do the Hop On Hop Off Trolley tour through Old Town Trolley Tours. It was a great way to get around the city. The drivers gave us a brief description of what you could explore at each stop. If the trolley tour isn’t for you, there are plenty of other tours available, such as a historic homes tour, a riverboat cruise, ghost tours and so much more.
  2. Bike Rentals – You can rent bikes at Disney to take advantage of the bike trails around the island. It is also a great way to get to the Beach House. We took our bikes and road for miles along the beach.
  3.  For the serious shoppers, Tanger Outlet Mall has 2 different locations, which you will pass shortly after you enter the island.
  4. Water Activity – Across the harbor from the Disney resort there are plenty of activities at the Shelter Cover Harbour. You can arrange inshore and offshore fishing, nature and dolphin tours. For water fun, you can reserve kayak tours, waterskiing, paddleboards and for the more adventurous guests – parasailing. Reservations are highly encouraged, so this is a great place to start your trip after checking into your Disney resort.
    5. Art Center of Coastal Carolina is a beautiful and quaint theatre that is within walking distance of the resort. Visit their site prior to your arrival to see what is scheduled and order your tickets in advance. http://www.artshhi.com/
    6. Harbour Lighthouse – If you want a great look at the island, there is no better view than the views from the lighthouse and museum, where you will not only have great views, but you can learn the history of this iconic lighthouse. https://harbourtownlighthouse.com/
    7. Civil War Forts – For the history buffs, Hilton Head Island is home to four Civil War forts that housed Union troops. You have an opportunity to learn their role in the war.

With all the daily activities scheduled at the Disney Hilton Head Island resort and everything there is to explore in the area, you may want to plan another visit to continue seeing more of the low country.

Janene Jaroscak

Travel Specialist

 

On a recent visit to the Magic Kingdom we encountered the Main Street Philharmonic. I will be honest, we have seen countless parades that include them and have often seen them playing along Main ​S​tweet​ USA​, but this was the first time we stopped to enjoy their performance. In fact, we were trying to head to Tomorrowland for our expiring fastpass. The kids were very engaged listening and watching them perform. They quickly sat down and asked to stay for their performance. We almost even missed our fastpass, but no one seemed to mind.

The Main Street Philharmonic is a 12 piece brass and percussion band. As we were approaching them, they were playing traditional Christmas songs. There were even a couple of small children that were dancing in front of them as they played. In between songs, members of the group would step forward and speak. They would explain what they would be playing next and even asked for requests!! We truly enjoyed their medleys, especially the Christmas songs. They are a small but mighty band and their music filled the air in front of Cinderella’s ​C​astle. Each member was introduced throughout their performance and many humorous puns were shared!

The band played for approximately 20 minutes before they headed back up Main street. Although their times and/or locations of their performances are not published, one of the band members did verbalize to the audience when and where their next performance would be. Although, this was not our first time hearing them play, it was our first time taking the time to stop, listen and enjoy! They are a classic Disney entity and one that I am certain we will stop to enjoy again soon​.

What song are you looking forward to hearing the Mainstreet Philharmonic perform on your next visit?

Your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist is ready to assist you in planning for your next vacation!

Missy Zolecki

Travel Specialist

 

When it comes to transportation at Disney, a flying carpet, a pumpkin carriage, or some pixie dust with happy thoughts may seem like just the ticket to get from one place to another.  Making sure you know some of the basics of the transportation options is very important, that way when the clock strikes 12 you aren’t rushing out to your pumpkin (or late for a dining reservation).

Walt Disney World provides on-site transportation to ALL of their guests via:

  • Magical Express

  • Bus

  • Monorail

  • Ferry, water taxi, or boat

Also,

  • “Minnie Vans” by Lyft

Coming soon

  • Disney’s Skyliner

Magical Express

Walt Disney World Resort guests that will be flying into Orlando International Airport (MCO) will enter the magic of Disney soon after exiting their flight.  They will go to the main terminal and head down to Level 1, Side B and prepare to board the “Disney’s Magical Express”.  Disney’s Magical Express will transport guests to their resort from the airport and back again at the conclusion of their stay at Walt Disney World.

Magical Express Tips

  • Magical Express is complimentary although it is customary to tip your driver ($1-$2 per bag driver stored for you).

  • Do NOT pack your magic bands in your luggage.  They will be scanned to check you into the Magical Express and will be your room key when you arrive to the resort.

  • Disney will pick up any checked luggage for flights arriving into Orlando between the hours of 5am – 10pm.  It typically takes 3-4 hours for the luggage to be delivered to your room.

  • Make sure to pack anything you will need in your carry-on for the time before your luggage is delivered.

    • Swimsuits if you plan on swimming

    • An extra outfit for everyone

    • Medication

  • Car seats are not needed on the Magical Express but if you have one it will be stored under the shuttle in the luggage holding area.

  • If you have small children or babies be prepared with snacks or entertainment in case you have a wait.

  • It will take you about an hour to get to your resort from Magical Express.

  • You will receive a transportation notice from Magical Express the night before stating your pickup time back to the airport.  This is typically 3 to 4 hours before your flight.

  • If you are flying domestically you may be able to take advantage of your resorts airline check-in.  This allows you to check your luggage and print your airline boarding pass.  Make sure to do this at least 3 hours before your flight.

Disney Buses

Disney buses are the most common form of Disney transportation on property.  The buses are complimentary and will help save you the stress of navigating WDW.  Disney states that the buses run “roughly” every 20 minutes.  There are screens at the bus stops that will let you know when you can expect your buses arrival, which is very accurate.

Disney Bus Tips

  • Buses do not travel to the theme parks from Disney Springs.  You will need to take a bus to a resort and then take another bus to the theme park you are going to.

  • Bus service does not travel from resort to resort.  You will need to take the bus from resort A to a theme park and then take another bus (or monorail or water taxi) to Resort B.  Please allow up to 90 minutes when traveling from resort to resort via Disney’s bus system.  A good rule to follow when catching a bus transfer at a theme park is to go to a theme park that is closest to the resort you are trying to go to.

  • Disney buses ONLY travel on Disney property.

  • If you have a stroller with you it will needed to be folded up before you are allowed to get on the bus.

  • No food that is uncovered or liquids in an open cup are allowed to be brought onto the bus.

  • Allow an hour to get between resorts and theme parks via the Disney buses.

  • Bus service isn’t offered from resorts-to-parks when there are other means of transportation offered (monorail, ferry, etc).

Monorail

The monorail system operates on 13.6 miles of track on 3 different lines: Express Line, Magic Kingdom Resort Line, and Epcot Line.

Express Line has stops at:

  1. Ticket and Transportation Center

  2. Magic Kingdom

Epcot Line has stops at:

  1. Ticket and Transportation Center

  2. Epcot

Resort Monorail Line has stops at:

  1. Contemporary Resort

  2. Polynesian Village Resort

  3. Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

  4. Ticket and Transportation Center

  5. Magic Kingdom

The monorail starts running for the day 30 minutes prior to the earliest park opening and closes 1 hour after the latest park closing transporting on average 150,000 people daily.

Monorail Tips

  • Guests may no longer ride in the front car with the driver.

  • For guests with small children you may generally keep the kids in the stroller.  If it is during particularly busy time cast members may request that strollers be folded to be able to fit accommodate more guests.

  • The monorail does accommodate guests in wheelchairs or ECV’s.

Ferry, Water Taxi, or Boats

Ferry

The Ferry boats typically begins operation 30-45 minutes before park opening and cease operation 45-60 minutes after park closing.  When heading from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Magic Kingdom, you have a choice of riding on either the monorail or a ferry (located to the left of the monorail).  I’ve found that although the timing is supposed to be similar,  I enjoy taking the ferry.  The ride is about 6-10 minutes long.  If you notice a long line at the monorail forming, I would head over to the ferry and take a nice relaxing ride, taking in the scenery across the Seven Seas Lagoon.  Seating options are very limited but if you are traveling with a stroller there is no need to fold it while on the ferry.

The ferry boats are named:

  • Admiral Joe Fowler

  • General Joe Potter

  • Richard F. Irvine

Water Taxi

Water taxis are available from some of the moderate and deluxe resorts on property to the theme parks and Disney Springs.  Each of the routes run on 15-30-minute intervals.   Strollers are required to be folded before entry.

There is a boat launch at Magic Kingdom that water taxis to the following resorts:

  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort

  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge

  • Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

  • Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground

Hollywood Studios and Epcot are both available via waterway from the following resorts:

  • Disney’s Boardwalk Inn

  • Disney’s Boardwalk Villas

  • Disney’s Yacht Club

  • Swan and Dolphin Resort

  • Disney’s Beach Club Resort

  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas

Disney Springs is available from waterways via these resorts:

  • Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside

  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa

  • Disney’s Old Key West Resort

Disney Minnie Vans

Disney’s “Minnie” Vans by Lyft are a wonderful option for a direct way to get where you are looking to go on Disney property.  They are currently only running from certain deluxe resorts.  Check out our Disney Minnie Van’s article for more information!

Beth Rodgers

Travel Specialist

Walt Disney World is a very magical and the happiest place on earth. Everyone is happy and eager to help. There is a hidden gem of a restaurant that things just aren’t what they appear. The restaurant is Whispering Canyon Café located in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort.

Walking up to the podium, you’re surrounded by headdresses of past Native American chiefs and other relics from past times. The restaurant’s theme has the same motif. It’s an Old Western eatery that has bottomless platters and chuck wagon favorites will please the whole gang.

Breakfast starts with an all you care to enjoy family platter that’s loaded with breakfast meats, eggs, potatoes and buttermilk biscuits. Lunch and dinner also have some finger licking delicious food. For lunch, there’s a very expansive menu to order from and come dinner time, the family platter isn’t to be beat. It has an all you care to enjoy selection of foods such as chicken, sausage, ribs and amazing sides.

If you’re lucky enough to be at Disney over Thanksgiving or Christmas, be sure to check out the special menu at Whispering Canyon Café. Be sure to make your reservations early, as they will fill up quick! Even though the food is spectacular, the hidden secret are the cast members. While these cast members have the same happy and eager to help attitude, they also have a reputation for sassing customers. They like to play along with the customers and get into some shenanigans. There’s also plenty of fun for the kids! They’re encouraged to play with Lincoln Logs, coloring, spirited sing-alongs and even hobby horse races.

Along with the rustic atmosphere, the fantastic food, and the good natured fun of the cast members, this is a restaurant that you don’t want to miss on your next trip. One tip though, be careful when you ask for refills!

Leigh Miller

Travel Specialist

 

We all want to share that special Disney magic with our children, but determining when is the right time to start visiting the Happiest Place on Earth can prove more complicated than a simple visit to meet Mickey Mouse. Here are some tips to help you decide if your child is ready to experience all the magic that the World of Disney has to offer!

When is the right time?

  • Everyone around you will offer differing opinions, but no one knows your child like you do. When determining if your child is ready, there are several things you should factor in:
  • Does your little one require a nap?
  • Do you have a schedule that is hard to stray from without major meltdowns?
  • Does your child have any special requirements that will require extra planning or
    assistance?

You can plan half days for playtime in the park which would accommodate naps back at the resort, or you can take an extended break in the park if the stroller is a comfortable enough spot for a rest. Allow a few extra days to build in rest and pool time to keep everyone happy. Disney can be go, go, go all day, or it can be very relaxed.

Disney is great when addressing special considerations, including allergies, sensory overload, visual and auditory impairments, mobility issues, and more. Working with a travel planner who specializes in Disney can help alleviate your fears and provide you with information to best plan according to your family’s specific needs. Disney designates these agencies as “Authorized Disney Vacation Planners.” Not only can your Me and the Mouse specialist plan anitinerary specific to you, they can reserve strollers, wheelchairs, and scooters, notate allergies on dining reservations, help identify attractions with height or health restrictions, and even map out quiet zones for breaks.

The Experience

It’s important to understand what a visit to a Disney park will be like with a little one:

  • You will go at a slower pace, taking time to simply rest and people watch, maneuvering the crowds with a stroller, and taking breaks for diaper changes and snack times.
  • Much of your attraction experiences will be limited to areas where rides tend to be slower and calmer for younger guests. If a day at Disney isn’t complete without your favorite thrill attractions, perhaps just the big kids should go, or take advantage of the rider swap option which allows the adults to take turns enjoying the larger rides while one adult stays back with the smaller children.
  • Parades will be a highlight for all of you as you watch your children’s expressions! For very young guests, catch the earlier parade, if possible, as it often gets harder to keep them awake and happy the later in the evening you go.
  • The Baby Care Centers will be a blessing. Use them! Each park has a baby care center where you can find a quiet spot to eat, change diapers, use the toddler-sized potties, and nurse your young one. You can also purchase forgotten supplies, like diapers and formula. Read more about the Baby Care Centers here!

Will your toddler remember their visit to the parks? Probably not. Honestly, it really will be for Mom and Dad to experience the magic of Disney with them. You WILL, however, have some amazing photo opportunities when they see their favorite characters, take their first train ride, or fly high on Dumbo!

You know your children. If they can handle a busy day out and about in town, then it’s time to start thinking about that first Disney vacation.

Special note: Admission is free to children under the age of three.

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

Combine Disneyland and Christmas and what do you get? One of the most magical, spectacular, beautiful Christmas experiences that your family can ever enjoy!

Starting with checking into your Disneyland resort hotel, each resort is decked out with boughs of holly and Christmas trees reflecting the resort’s own theme including the sea, the woodlands, and adventure. Stop by the Grand Californian to see a huge gingerbread house version of the hotel and sit by the fire while enjoying some of the most amazing hot chocolate you’ll ever taste at the limited hot chocolate stand located in the lobby.

Disneyland Park welcomes you with a 60 foot tall Christmas tree covered with 2000 ornaments and almost 75,000 lights! During the day the tree is beautiful but when night falls and the tree lights up your breath will be taken away. Rivaling the tree’s lights is Sleeping Beauty’s castle which appears as a shimmering ice castle and stands as a beautiful foreground for Disney’s “Believe… In Holiday Magic”, Disney’s Christmastime fireworks show. Be sure to get there early for the fireworks as Main Street’s best viewing locations fill up well before the start of the show. When the fireworks end, stay in your spot and look up – you will become enthralled to see it’s snowing in California! Disneyland Imagineers have two attraction overlays that are set up during the Christmas season. For both the Halloween and Christmas seasons, the Haunted Mansion celebrates “The Nightmare Before Christmas” with jack-o- lanterns and wreaths, completely transforming the ride. “it’s a small world” is also transformed during the holiday season with celebrations from around the world coming to life in each scene. Be sure to get a FastPass for both of these overlays as the standby lines are quite long.

California Adventure Park headlines the holidays with its Festival of Holidays. Festival of Holidays is inspired by festivals of traditions from around the world and features musicians and dancers, Disney characters, festive food market booths, and a meet and greet with Santa himself! CarsLand is another favorite area of guests with its Christmas decorations and Mater’s Jingle Jamboree. Sing along to your favorite Christmas tunes as you swing on the tractor dance floor. At the end of your day in California Adventure Park, be sure to watch World of Color – Season of Light. In World of Color, hundreds of fountains dance to holiday music from around the world while holiday scenes from your favorite Disney and Pixar movies are displayed on the water mist screen.

Christmas holiday celebrations in Disneyland begin early in November and continue through the very beginning of January. Contact your Me and the Mouse Travel agent today to make sure you don’t miss out on making Christmas memories with your family!

Michelle Browne

Travel Specialist