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

 

The trip of a lifetime to the most Magical Place on Earth comes with a price tag, but with some tips and tricks, I can show you some ways to save several hundred dollars with some planning and minimal effort. In this month’s blog, I am going to discuss two credit cards that can save you a lot of money, for Disney and other vacations.

First, a word of caution, I only encourage the use of credit cards if you can use them responsibly. And if you can use them responsibly, then I highly encourage them for the rewards (sorry, Dave Ramsey)! The first recommendation that I will make to maximize your rewards is to put every expense on your credit card and pay it off monthly. I do a monthly budget, so I am not saying spend frivolously here, just buy what you normally buy.

My husband and I got married just last year and had the lofty goal of travelling like crazy before we started a family, so we decided to try and obtain a Southwest Companion Pass by utilizing the Southwest credit card. If you’re not familiar with the Companion Pass program, a Rapid Rewards member who has earned 110,000 points in one year can designate one person to fly with them for free wherever they fly in the year the Pass is earned, plus the following year. There are a few ways to earn it, but I’ll just tell you about the easiest.

Southwest offers up to 60,000 bonus points when you open one of their credit cards and spend between $2000 and $3000 (depending on the offer) in the first few months, putting you halfway to your goal. If you have a small business, you can also apply for the business credit card on the same Rapid Rewards number and go through the same process, getting you within a few thousand points of your goal very quickly. However, it’s not necessary to get both cards. We were able to earn a Companion Pass utilizing only one of the cards. Fair warning that there is an annual fee, but the benefits far outweigh the nominal fee in comparison. We haven’t paid for a single domestic flight this year as I get to fly for free everywhere my husband goes. Additionally, he booked all his flights from our bank of points. This little gem has saved us from buying 14 roundtrip tickets this year! Southwest flies into Orlando and just announced plans to fly to Hawaii in 2018 (hello, Aulani), so you can take one trip with the kids and one without!

In addition, Disney also features a few credit cards that are geared towards helping you save money towards your next Disney vacation, by offering special room rates, discounts on Disney merchandise and dining in the parks, and Disney Reward Dollars. The difference between the two cards is the annual fee; the Premier has a $49 fee and the regular card does not have a fee. The Premier earns you higher rewards, like $200 back after spending a certain amount, as opposed to $50 back on the regular card. In addition, the Premier card earns you 2% back in Disney Rewards Dollars in many categories whereas the Disney Visa only earns you 1% back. I think one of the coolest perks about this card though is the referral bonus. You can refer your friends to sign up for the Disney card, and for each friend who signs up, you can get $50 back, up to $500 per year.

From my point of view, $500 back plus free flights to Orlando puts you that much closer to Club level at the Grand Floridian! Happy saving!

Jen Morrison

Travel Specialist

Leaning upon the success of Star Wars Day at Sea cruises, Disney Cruise Line recently launched Marvel Day at Sea cruises. We recently sailed on the Disney Magic and experienced this special day…and we were not into Marvel movies before the cruise.

Character Experiences

Character experiences are available through three different methods.

  • Advance tickets: When your booking window opens, Guests can reserve tickets to see Groot and the Heroic Encounter (Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Tony Stark/Ironman). Groot times are available throughout Marvel day and Heroic Encounter is available multiple days and times.
  • Posted times: Times are listed in the daily Navigator and on the DCL app for Thor, Loki, Black Widow, and Captain America meet and greets. They are held multiple times throughout Marvel day.
  • Roaming: Hawkeye, Doctor Strange, Star Lord, and Gamora roam decks three and four and are available for photos and autographs.
  • Most of the Marvel characters also roam the ship the following day and are available for impromptu photos, autographs, and a handstand contest even occurred between Spider-Man and my daughter in the atrium.

Activities

 

  • Games, activities, and arts and crafts are held in the Marvel Avenger’s Academy in the Oceaneer Club throughout the cruise. Kids can “Become Ironnman!” – and even adults can join the fun during open house sessions.
  • At the Costume Celebration, Guests show off their costumes and the Disney characters join the celebration with a short photo session at the end.
  • Several talks with Marvel creators, drawing classes, and trivia contests are held all day.
  • Movies are shown on Funnel Vision and in Buena Vista Theatre. We even had the opportunity to see Thor: Ragnarok before the rest of the US.
  • Journey into the Mystic Arts is a short participation show for kids on the stage of Walt Disney Theatre where they learn from Doctor Strange to master special powers. Children are selected by cruise staff once doors open, and they must have closed-toe shoes to participate. Certificates are delivered to participants’ staterooms the following day.

Evening Celebrations

The festivities stretch into the evening with a special Marvel Day at Sea menu in all main dining rooms. Between the early and late dinner seatings is a Mickey and Friends SuperHero Celebration deck party with the Disney characters and a great message. The night is capped off with Marvel Heroes Unite, an exciting 30-minute stage show with all Marvel characters and a short fireworks display.

Tips:

  1. As soon as your activity booking window opens, be sure to get your tickets right away. Groot tickets go the fastest. If you are not able to secure tickets, go to Guest Services once on board and check for openings. Plenty of Heroic Encounter tickets were available on board.
  2. Go to the early posted time character experiences – lines are much shorter in the morning versus afternoon.
  3. Order the pre-cruise gifts. The Marvel Hero Power package was our favorite (pillow with secret zipper and a super comfy throw). Lots of gifts are also available in the standard ship gift stores and in a special Marvel gift shop.
  4. Each stateroom receives a complimentary bed runner on Marvel day. It is yours to keep. Take a Sharpie and have it signed. Contact your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist to book one of these limited sailings happening on 5-night Western Caribbean cruises from Miami in January through April.

Jenniffer Sheldon
Guest Contributor || Disney Cruise Platinum Guest

 

 

Embarkation day for your Disney cruise is quite exciting. If you’re like me, you want to get to the port early even if you have a later check-in time. But where will you go? Is there food available? Will you have to lug your luggage around with you? These were all questions I had the morning we were to set sail from Vancouver to Alaska. I’m happy to tell you that Canada Place is in a great location set up to help keep you comfortable and entertained while you wait to board.

  • Food and a Quick Break: Immediately across the street from Canada Place is the Waterfront Centre Food Court, complete with Tim Horton’s, McDonald’s, and plenty of other offerings where you can grab a bite to eat and relax. Restaurants open early, wi-fi is available, and youcan make a quick stop to the restrooms.
  • Stowing Luggage: Make sure you have secured your luggage tags to all bags you plan to check in. Cross the street to Canada Place and veer down the ramp to the right. You will find guests who have just come off their cruise and are exiting the port. As their luggage is cleared out, Disney Cruise Line will accept your luggage to check-in. You may be able to check your luggage in as early as 10 am depending on how busy the port is. Be sure to keep all your travel documents, id/passport, medication and all other necessities in your day bag that you will carry onto the ship with you.
  • What to Do: The port has great views across the bay if you like to sit and watch boats and sea planes go by.
  • Checking In: Have your documents and passports ready to check in. You will also be asked to fill out a quick survey regarding recent illnesses or symptoms. This is all part of Disney’s on-going commitment to guests’ health and safety.
  • Waiting to Board: Once you are checked in, you can advance into the general boarding area where you will sit until your group number is called. You can usually find Mickey and a couple of his pals for a quick photograph. There are bathrooms available, but there isn’t much else to do. Bring a book, a game for the kids, or talk to your neighbors.
  • Make New Friends: If meeting other people from all over the world is part of your fun while on vacation, take the time to chat with other guests around you. You will likely see many of them again on board, and you can compare adventures and highlights during your trip.
  • Just Have Fun! Getting all set and settled is just part of the process to getting to your adventure. As soon as you embark on your cruise, you can go straight to the buffet or the restaurant for a good meal before you start exploring the ship and the real fun begins!

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

 

I know, I know, this sounds like crazy talk – but doing “4 Parks in 1 Day” is doable…even if you have only 1 day to do it, versus multiple park days.  It’s giving brief attention to each park, for what you absolutely want to do…all while understanding that there will be a lot of travel, both on foot and between the parks.

Let’s set you up for success, with realistic expectations, and a time frame.  

  1. REMINDER: There is no guarantee you will get to do everything in every park.  Choose those must do’s (2-3 attractions, characters, or shows) in each park.
  2. Pre-planning is key. Look at park hours. Do you want to do early morning magic hours?  Would you rather do late night?  Would you rather not do either, and hit those ‘magic hour’ parks midday instead?  Find what works for you.  Put each park in order.
  3. Book your Fast Passes for the park in which you want to do the MOST.  This will maximize your time in that park, and move you through quicker!  
  4. If it coordinates, make the park you made the Fast Passes in be the first park you visit in the day. That way you can utilize extra Fast Passes later in the day.
  5. Whichever park you pick first, be there at park opening/rope drop (or as early as you are able).  You can accomplish a lot at that early time, even without your Fast Passes.  
  6. Remember that you can adjust Fast Passes for other experiences if your choices end up being shorter waits than anticipated!
  7. Don’t focus on table service meals. Quick service, and ‘walkable’ foods/drinks, will help you get through the parks faster.
  8. Utilize in-park transportation.  It is much quicker than your own. (water taxi’s may delay your time frame, so plan accordingly)
  9. If you get side-tracked, or something keeps you from your set plan – be flexible enough to modify your plans on the fly if necessary.
  10. Finally, realize that you will spend every bit of 12-14 hours in the parks that day – especially if you have utilized Extra Magic Hours.  Wear comfortable shoes and clothing!

Now, what if you have elementary aged kiddos?  You know your kids better than anyone – and the list above can be adapted for kids as well.  

  • Add their list of ‘must-do’s’ in the mix – can they be achieved in a timely manner too? Or will you compromise for a little of each?
  • Are your kiddos early risers or night owls?  Do they need naps, etc?  This must go into your pre-planning as well.  
  • If you don’t want to go back to the hotel for naps – perhaps longer, air conditioned, attractions (i.e Spaceship Earth, a 3D show, etc) may be a good alternative ‘down time’ – and should be figured into your schedule.
  • Figure in ‘melt down’ times. It will happen. We know, and understand.  Just plan for it 🙂
  • And realize, at the end of the night, you may be carrying them out, sleeping in your arms!

Kiddos in strollers?  Well, while it is doable to do all 4 in a day with a stroller aged kiddo – It may be better to plan for 4 parks, but to stop when it’s appropriate for your family.  If they can sleep through anything, bring the stroller along!  

On our last trip, we squeezed 3 of the 4 parks into our day.  A table service meal, and a longer line to see Mickey than anticipated bogged us down.  Had we only done quick service, and utilized a Fast Pass for Mickey – we could have gotten to all 4.  Lesson learned!

Want to plan a jam packed day? Contact your Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist today!

Amy Sowinski

Travel Specialist

 

4 theme parks, 2 water parks, and a themed retail, dining and entertainment center called Disney Springs provides endless choices for you to spend your vacation.  It is very easy to feel overwhelmed with all the options.  Guests want to make certain they maximize their time and have the opportunity to enjoy everything on their wish list!  I have often heard guests say they need a vacation from their vacation!

When you plan a vacation, most are intending to take a break from the hustle and bustle of work and routine.  However, we often forget the rest and relaxation part of vacation when visiting Walt Disney World.  There are many options for fun and unique activities to bring the R & R back to your vacation.

  • Spa services: Who doesn’t enjoy a relaxing manicure, pedicure, facial or a massage?  Spa services can be scheduled at Saratoga Springs Resort and the Grand Floridian Resort
  • Horseback riding or Horse Drawn Carriage Rides at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
  • Watersports – Sammy Duvall’s Watersport Centre is located at the Contemporary resort.   You can choose from personal watercraft, tubing, water skiing or wakeboarding.  Parasailing is also available as an individual or tandem.  This will provide an amazing birds eye view of the Disney property.
  • Disney’s Waterparks – Blizzard Beach and Typhoon lagoon both have unique themes and waterslides as well as a relaxing sandy beach area.
  • Golf – There are 3 outstanding champion courses and a par 36 walking course located on property.  Forgot your clubs?  Not to worry, you can rent clubs at the course!  Don’t forget, there are 2 miniature golf courses available: Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland
  • Resort Pool – with 25 uniquely themed resorts, each resort offers multiple pools.  Although pool hopping is allowed at select resorts, there are black out dates as well as certain resorts that restrict the use to resort guests only.
  • Shopping – Each resort and theme park have multiple shopping locations.  Disney Springs offers several locations where you can find Disney souvenirs and home goods, but it also has multiple widely known retail locations.  Don’t forget while you are shopping to enjoy the vast dining/dessert options or even have a glass of wine at Starbucks!
  • Enjoy the music – There are often musicians performing throughout Disney Springs, the House of Blues, Piano Bob at Port Orleans Riverside, or my most favorite….Jellyrolls Dueling Piano Bar  at the Boardwalk Resort
  • Movie – You can watch the latest movie release at the AMC dine in movie Theatre at Disney Springs!  A movie theater and restaurant all wrapped in to one!! Many of the resorts offer outdoor evening movies.  Check with your individual resort.
  • Bowling – Splitsville at Disney Springs offers both bowling and an expansive menu!  From traditional snack food (nachos, cheese fries) to more eclectic(sushi) and everything in between!

Take a day during your vacation to sleep in, take a nap, or simply take a relaxing stroll throughout your resort!

Your Travel Specialist is here to help you plan your own downtime day!

Missy Zolecki

Travel Specialist

 

 

This past summer, Universal Orlando opened its gates to the most incredible and advanced water theme park I have ever seen.  It is no wonder this is a very popular (and very crowed) park! Here are three tips to enjoy your experience and dodge some of the crazy crowds.

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Tip #1 When Should I Get There? I have three very different recommendations on when to arrive to make sure you get in and not have to deal with horrible lines.  Your best bet is arrive at park opening and claim your chair at Waturi Beach.  This works even better if you are staying on site and eligible for Early Morning Hours.  You will be guaranteed entry and will have your choice of chairs and best view of the breathtaking volcano.  My second recommendation is after 4 pm.   Guests that have arrived in the morning are exhausted, sunburned and ready to leave, which means you will be walking into an empty park.  Similar to this strategy is a little more spontaneous, but very effective.  See a thunderstorm coming? If it is just one of those short Florida bursts, head over to Volcano Bay!  Most guests will not wait out the storm, and again, you will be walking into an empty park.

What to Avoid: Definitely do not try to arrive between 10-2 pm.  Since they have been closing park due to capacity, you would be risking being turned away at the gate.

Tip #2 – Use Tapu Tapu Wisely: IMG_0649Tapu Tapu is incredible technology launched by Universal to help you avoid standing in line for long periods of time.  You will receive your Tapu Tapu when you go through the entrance and feels like an Apple Watch.  To use, you will go to any of rides with a wait time listed and tap your band.  Your Tapu Tapu will buzz when it is time for you to ride.  To make the best use, go to the most popular ride in the park (Krakatau Aqua Coaster) and tap for your wait time, then go find rides with signs that say “Ride Now.” Tapu Tapu will hold your place in like for the Krakatau Aqua Coaster while you ride other lines, experience the lazy rivers, explore the caves or lay out on the beach.  While this doesn’t completely cut out standing in line, it does help you enjoy more during your day.

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What to Avoid: Don’t do a “Ride Now” without first tapping for one of the more popular rides.  Virtual lines fill up, too, and that can cause you to miss a ride you really want to do.   

 Tip #3 Lockers and Credit Cards: Right when you enter, test up your credit card to link your Tapu Tapu on the Universal Orlando app (you can pay for stuff with this, too with Taptu Pay!).  Next, take the path to the right to the very last lockers on the right hand side and rent a locker for the day.  These lockers will be the least crowded and in a more convenient location to the slides and restaurants.  Tapu Tapu actually controls your locker, too!

What to Avoid: Don’t go to the first locker area.  This is the most crowded and chaotic area of the entire park. 

To add Volcano Bay to your Universal package, contact your Me and the Mouse specialist.

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist

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Oh my favorite thing…food on VACA!! What’s even better? Having a meal where you can get a great portion and awesome food for the money (or quick service credit) you are spending. Below is the top 5 based on food quantity and/or quality based on my personal experience along with our agent’s and guest’s favorites!

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Megan Thompson

Travel Specialist

The relatively recent Fastpass Plus system is a great mystery to many Disney guests, even those who have been to Walt Disney World before.  Planning your Fastpasses too late, too spread out, or not doing them at all can completely derail your vacation.  Follow these tips to handle your Fastpass Plus reservations with minimal confusion and chaos so that your days in the parks go as smoothly as possible.

1) Stay on Disney property.   If you stay at a Disney resort hotel, you can make your fastpass reservations 60 days prior to your check in date for the duration of your vacation.  For offsite guests, the fastpass window will open up 30 days prior to your vacation and will require you to make fastpass reservations one day at a time.  If Frozen, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Avatar Flight of Passage are on your must-do list, you may be very disappointed if you don’t have a 30-day advantage by staying at a Disney resort hotel.

2)  Make your Fastpass Plus reservations for the mornings and as back to back as possible.  Once you use all three fastpasses, you have the ability to get more that day.  By having morning fastpasses, you are at way more of an advantage to get more throughout the day.  Since you have a one hour time frame for a fastpass reservation, make your reservations close together as possible.

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3) On your third fastpass reservation, get on your mobile app right after you scan your band.  While you wait to get on the ride, you can make great use of your time by immediately getting on your my Disney Experience app and securing your next fastpass.  For some of the less popular rides, you may be able to secure a Fastpass within the hour.

4) Use your Fastpasses on rides, not shows.  Whether you have a fastpass or not, you will still be waiting in the same line and the same amount of time for a show.   If Fantasmic, Rivers of Light, or the Festival of Fantasy Parade are on your must-do list, book a dining package instead.  Your seats will be better and you won’t be burning a fastpass.  Rides and absolutely must-see characters are the best use of your fastpass.

5) Make your Fastpass reservations for the rides that typically have the longest lines.  Do your research and check the wait times on your my Disney Experience app to see what rides have the longest lines.  Not only will you have short wait times for rides with longer lines, but rides with typically shorter wait times most likely have reservations you can make the day of (see tip #3).

Fastpass reservations can definitely be confusing for the Disney beginner, but if you use a Me and the Mouse Specialist, they will tailor your fastpasses to your family’s preferences so don’t forget to contact your agent!

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Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist.