A strategy for successfully navigating your next vacation!

Uncle "Tim" EffectOver the past several months, I have written many blogs about different strategies that my family has utilized to help make our visits to Walt Disney World successful {You can read those here & here!}. My oldest son, Matt, is living with Fragile X Syndrome. It is the leading cause of inherited mental impairment and leading known genetic cause of Autism.  My son often struggles with becoming overwhelmed by even preferred activities, and this can lead to less than desirable behaviors.  We have used many strategies as I have discussed in previous blogs.  This blog is focused on our most successful strategy.  We affectionately call it “The Uncle Tim effect”!


Over the years, we noticed a marked difference in my son. When we would have someone else visiting the parks with use, he would have a better ability to manage his environment and to keep the undesirable behaviors under control.  We have been very fortunate over the years to experience the parks with a wide variety of friends and family.  Our expectations are realistic {you can read about that, here}. W
e are continually aware and mindful that Matt may be reaching his limit and in need of a break.  

Uncle Tim Saves the Day

When Uncle Tim is with us, things are different. Uncle "Tim" EffectWhen a preferred person is with us, Matt is incredibly motivated to be a part of the experiences much longer.  For example, when we visit with my immediate family only we know 3-4 attractions/hours are his limit before he needs a break, a meal, a bus ride, or we have to pull out the ultimate reward, a ride on the monorail.  Although, Matt may not want to participate/ride all the attractions that others may prefer, when we have Uncle Tim with us he patiently waits.  On our most recent day trip, we visited two parks over nearly 11 hours!!!!  No undesirable behaviors, no extra breaks and not even one ride on the monorail!  

A vacation to a Disney destination, Universal or Disney Cruise Line is not inexpensive.  There is no value you can put on the experience, in my opinion.  The memories, the excitement, the wonder and awe we experience together as a family will be with us for the rest of our lives.  Bringing a support person(s) with you will only enhance your experience and well worth the additional investment.  This concept is not exclusive to families who have special needs and can be beneficial to a wide variety of visitors and families.  

Uncle "Tim" Effect

So maybe you don’t have an actual Uncle Tim in your life! However, I’m sure you have a family friend, a preferred peer, or even an Uncle Tom! They would love to accompany you on your next trip. It would be an honor to be asked to be the support person for your family. They would know they were making a difference in your family’s next vacation experience!  

I look forward to helping you plan your most successful strategy for your next vacation. I know my family has been able to experience more because of the careful time that has gone into planning each of our vacations.

 

Ready to plan your next Disney Destination Vacation? Contact a Me and The Mouse agent, today!

 

Missy Zolecki

Travel Specialist

 

We’re celebrating Fun Fridays at Me and The Mouse with a collection of our favorite PhotoPass moments. We love the PhotoPass services! They are offered at Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani, and ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. If you didn’t know, PhotoPass allows you to preserve your magical Disney vacation. This special service provides you with professional photography throughout the different Disney destinations. We love that we don’t have to lug around a big camera! Plus, it also helps us have peace of mind that we won’t lose our new expensive camera! PhotoPass photographers are strategically placed throughout the Disney Destinations to not miss a moment of your fun. Take a look at the fun Me and The Mouse agents have had while using the PhotoPass!

If you’re considering using the PhotoPass services that are throughout Walt Disney World, we highly recommend purchasing the Memory Maker Package. If you don’t purchase this package, you will have to pay a decent charge for each photo. The great thing about the package is that once you purchase it, you can download as many pictures as you’d like! This is especially great if its your first time visiting, your celebrating something special on a trip, you have a young child and you want to capture every moment, or like we mention before you want to have tons of pictures, but you don’t want to carry an expensive camera around all day.

To add the Memory Maker Package on to your Disney Destination package, contact a Me and The Mouse agent today!

Now, enjoy some of our fun photos!!

Disney Destination PhotoPassThe Beast - Disney Destination PhotoPassDisney Destination PhotoPassDisney Destination PhotoPassTinker bell - Disney Destination PhotoPassDisney Destination PhotoPass

Ready to learn about some extra adventures you can take on your next Aulani Getaway?!

Things to do on Oahu - Aulani ResortAulani is a fabulous destination with many activities on the property to pique the interest of all age levels. But there is also so much to do on the island of Oahu. The excursion desk in the lobby has a variety of planned tours, but if you would like to venture out on your own, you can also rent a car through Alamo with a location on the Aulani property.

  1. Hawaii Plantation Village

    Learn the history of a sugar cane plantation and the island. You will leave with an understanding of the culture and life on the plantation. It is a short 11 mile drive from Aulani. Tours start on the hour between 10:00 and 2:00 and last roughly 2 hours.

  2. The Dole Plantation

    Another plantation tour that is highly recommended is the Dole Plantation Tour, which is located 16 miles from Aulani. You can take a train ride through the plantation and see how to pick and cut a pineapple. You will also learn about all the tasty treats to make with pineapple. After a visit to the plantation, continue driving up the north shore and experience the beautiful beaches, which are less crowded than those in Waikiki.

  3. Golf

    The Ko Olina Golf Club is a short walk from the Aulani resort. As a guest of Aulani, discount rates are also available. The pro shop is a great place to pick up gifts/souvenirs from your vacation.

  4. Pearl Harbor Things to do on Oahu - Aulani Resort

    Visiting Hawaii would not be complete without a visit to this historic site. Tours include the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Missouri Battleship and Bowfin Submarine Museum.

  5. Hawaiian Railway

    The boarding area is about 5 miles from Aulani. The train runs on Saturday’s at 3:00 PM and Sunday’s at 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. You ride along the coast and make a stop for ice cream. A perfect leisurely way to spend a weekend day. It is a great experience for young and old.

  6. Diamond Head State MonumentThings to do on Oahu - Aulani Resort

    Pack your hiking shoes and grab a bottle of water and head out on the trails on Diamond Head. The views of the ocean and the island are spectacular. Diamond head is 36 miles from Aulani.

 

With so much to do at Aulani and throughout the island, you will certainly want to book a second stay to take advantage of all the sites. If you’re interested in booking an Aulani vacation, or want to learn how you can include this fun in your current trip, contact a Me and The Mouse agent today!

Janene Jaroscak

Travel Specidalist

Pack your bags and visit the oasis you’ve been dreaming of…

Every once in a while it’s good to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and take an adult only vacation. You are able to visit a destination like never before and experience different events, activities, and places you might not have with kids. Disney is known for its fabulous parks and magnificent cruises, but what many people often forget is Disney’s amazing island getaway on Ko Olina, Hawai’i. Aulani- The Best Adult Giveaway

Aulani is Disney’s Hawaiian Resort. This tropical oasis is a perfect spot to plan an adult vacation getaway. The cast member’s at Aulani work hard to provide you with an authentic Hawaiian experience. All of the living spaces include pieces of the Polynesian culture and make you feel right at home. If you’re looking for a vacation spot with plenty to do, Aulani has you covered! If adventure is what you seek, Aulani has over 40 different excursions for you to join. These options range from zip-lining, see dolphins, and snorkeling. If you are an avid golfer visit the Ko Olina Golf Club. This outstanding golf club is next door to Aulani and is in walking distance {or a short shuttle ride}.  When you’re ready to relax, you can visit Aulani’s full-service spa, Laniwai. The spa includes an outdoor hydrotherapy garden, incredible massages, and refreshing facials. Aulani- The Best Adult Giveaway

Aulani has so much more to offer guests with its refreshing pools, morning and evening activities, and dining. Now is the perfect time to book your Aulani adult getaway. You can save up to 35% on consecutive stays of 5+ nights* with their special anniversary offer. To learn more about this limited time offer visit the promotion page.

 

Contact a Me and The Mouse agent today to book your adult vacation getaway!

 

Working with a travel planner who specializes in Disney vacations can save you money and time, but how do you find a travel planner who will work well with your family?

  • Friends and family are a great resource – ask them how they planned their Disney vacation, and you might find they have a great referral for you!
  • You can search on the internet for travel agents specializing in Disney. There are a lot of them, so how do you weed them out? Look for a professional-looking website, certifications and affiliations, and even the Disney EarMarked logo (showing that the agency is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner).
  • Talk with an agent and ask if there are any fees. Most agents do not charge a fee unless you booked on your own and they are only providing planning services.
  • Be clear about the services you’d like the agent to provide. Some agents will do your dining reservations and FastPass reservations. Others will only make suggestions.
  • What happens if Disney offers a promotion after you’ve already booked with your travel planner? Will your planner be aware of any new promotions? and will they automatically apply the promotion to your qualifying reservation?
  • If you have any special requests or requirements, be sure to mention them at the onset of your discussions. Your agent may have information that may help you with your requests, or they may have recommendations that they might not have made had your requests remained unknown.
  • Understand the value of your travel planner. We are there to take the stress out of the planning process and do everything to ensure you enjoy your vacation. We spend many hours fine-tuning all the details. We will often include extra pixie dust for your family. The services and little surprises your agent can provide you with outweigh any small discount or gift card you might be offered by another company simply trying to get your business.
  • And don’t forget – even families who have been to Disney dozens of time can still find value in a travel planner. We make sure we are aware of all the newest rides and attractions, restaurants, and any changes. The World of Disney changes very quickly, even from month to month. When you are settled in your comfort zone with what your family enjoys at Disney, something new will be introduced that you might have otherwise overlooked!

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

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Some of my favorite photos of my kids are from Disney parks, and I have HUGE scrapbooks to prove it! I’m one of those moms who will plan an outfit based on where we’ll be, what characters we might meet, coordinating colors,… I also enjoy taking candid photos – photos when they’re looking somewhere else and all you see is the joy in their eyes, photos while walking behind them, and the simple things that make up what a Disney vacation means to our family. I am in no way a professional photographer, but I do like to pay attention to my shots.

1) Get down to their level. Sure, have some fun taking some artistic shots looking straight down at your kids or looking up at them from the ground, but the best photos are those that are at the same level as the subject. Experience things from a child’s perspective, and you’ll be amazed what comes into focus!

2) Mind the background! Sometimes what is behind your subject can be totally distracting when looking at a photo. Make sure that plant won’t look like it’s growing out of someone’s head! On the other hand, maybe you’d like to include something or someone in the background to show where you are. Offset your subject to the side so you can include the background in the frame!

3) Watch them when they don’t know you’re watching! Kids will get lost in the parade. They’ll be in awe of the castle or in seeing their favorite characters. Those are the moments to fill the frame with that pure joy!

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4) A great photo doesn’t necessarily require the subject’s face to be in the picture. Walk behind them and take a photo of their back, and show what they are walking towards!

5) Don’t be afraid to get up close! I always try to snap several different shots of a scene – zoom in, zoom out, portrait, landscape,…. I am drawn to images where I can really see someone’s face. While it’s good to be able to know where your subject is in a photo, sometimes it’s the expression on his/her face that is more important.

6) And lastly, what I struggle with – Learn when to put away the camera and just enjoy the moment. Dark rides and nighttime photos can be difficult with a point and shoot camera. Take a few photos if you must, but then sit back and enjoy the rest of your time.

7) Let’s not forget – Disney’s PhotoPass photographers can be found all over the parks and even at select resorts! Be sure to get a family portrait and, if you’re up for some fun, have them do a special pose with you!

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Friendly reminder – Don’t be “that guy!” Although many of us are tempted to take photos on dark rides, please refrain from having the flash go off at every scene. It ruins the magic for everyone else, and unless you’ve got a great DSLR camera, it’s very difficult to get a good, clear shot worth taking.

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

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Visiting Hawaii is always a special vacation, but taking it a step further and spending your Hawaiian time at Disney’s Aulani is a magical treat for the entire family. From the time you are greeted at the resort entrance with your lei your luxury vacation as begun. This is truly a vacation that can be as relaxing or as active as you like. With spa services to exciting excursions, there is something for everyone.

Activities/Pool

There are plenty of activities to keep every member of your family busy. Excursions include Pearl Harbor, horseback riding, surfing lessons and shopping.  The Daily ‘Iwa will list the daily activities, which is broken down by age group and family focused, including character appearances.

There are pools and whirlpools scattered throughout the pool deck catered to both children and adults. The highlight for many is the lazy river, which runs throughout the pool deck.  By spreading out the multiple pools into separate areas, you don’t get a sense for the number of people and makes it feel less crowded.

Another popular pool area is Rainbow Reef, a snorkeling pool. Watch your snorkeler and take advantage of a great photo opportunity at the underwater viewing window.

The lagoon is a wonderful alternative to the pool. Since it is an enclosed area, you do not need to be concerned with waves or large sea life. It is perfect for paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling and swimming.

Character Interactions

It wouldn’t be Disney without a character meeting. There are plenty of opportunities to visit with Mickey, Minnie, Lilo and Stitch and more.  You can have a photo opportunity with your favorite characters at the Aunty’s Breakfast Celebration buffet.  You may even catch Goofy getting his paws wet in the zero entry pool.  But also check the Daily ‘Iwa for a listing of Disney Friends Meet and Greets.

Rooms

There is a room accommodation to fit almost any family size.

Rooms & Suites

Standard Room – Sleeps 4

1 Bedroom Suite – Sleeps 5

1 Bedroom Suite Deluxe – Sleeps 5

2 Bedroom Suite – Sleeps 6

 

Villas – 1, 2 and 3 Bedroom Suites include a full kitchen

Deluxe Studio – Sleeps 4

1 Bedroom Villa – Sleeps 5

2 Bedroom Villa – Sleeps 9

3 Bedroom Grand Villa – Sleeps 12

 

Dining Options

There are countless dining options onsite as well as nearby the resort.  Onsite there are quick service options by the pool and beach that are open from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Otherwise, sit down options include Makahiki Buffet for breakfast and dinner and ‘Ama’Ama for beachside dining. Reservations are recommended for both.

Off property options include Monkey Pod and Just Taco restaurants that are located across the street from the resort.  Monkey Pod has a Happy Hour from 3-5 with ½ off appetizers and $9.00 pizzas.

If you opt for a villa, the 1, 2 & 3 bedrooms also include a full kitchen. There is an ABC Store across the street as well as a Target and Costco a few miles away if you would like to grab groceries and have a few home cooked meals in your room.

Transportation

To get to and from the airport, you can rent a car, use a shuttle service or take a taxi.  If you plan on doing activities off the resort property during your stay, a rental car may be the most economical option. Using a www.DiscountHawaiiCarRental.com will help you find the lowest rates available.  Keep in mind, Aulani does charge $35/day to park, but is free for DVC members.

Rental cars are also available at the resort through Alamo if you would like to explore the island. Disney recommends www.speedishuttle.com and www.charleystaxi.com as other options to getting to/from the airport and getting around the island.

Weddings

I can’t think of a better setting for a wedding than Hawaii. For those looking for a destination wedding, there are 2 small wedding chapels located next to the property with the backdrop being the lagoon.

My family recently visited Aulani and I would be happy to help you plan your Aulani vacation as well as share some cost saving ideas.

Janene Jaroscak

Travel Specialist

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Yes, you can book your own travel online.  You can do everything yourself from  spending countless hours of research to reading hundreds of blogs until you are dizzy, but working with a destination specialist is invaluable.  Why?  Here are just a few reasons that will make your trip less stressful and more magical…

 Knowledge

When it comes to Disney World, more research is required than any other Disney Destination.  A Disney Specialist can save you so much time on the details from the best restaurants to eat at to which parks will be the least crowded, helping you avoid time-wasted searches in the parks and helping you simply enjoy your vacation.

 Free to you

It doesn’t cost you any extra to book through an agent vs. booking straight through Disney.  In fact, most Disney Specialists will give you so many fun “goodies” for your family that Disney won’t. 

 Saves you money

Not only is it free to work with an agent, it can actually save you money because agents are aware of all new discount codes and will apply them to your reservation as they become available.  When you make your own reservations, you have to be on the lookout for any sales.

 Dining reservations booked for you

Many of those very hard to get dining reservations require being online or on the phone at the crack of dawn 180 days in advance of your trip. Disney travel agents will make these reservations for you, allowing you to relax and sleep in.

 Other reservations too

Aside from dining reservations, agents will also make your reservations for special tours, as well as things like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and Magical Express.

Elizabeth Hollman

Travel Specialist