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

 

I mean who doesn’t want to look cute in their vacation pictures?

Denim & Capri Outfit at Disney I don’t know about you, but vacation week is the ONE time of year I can get out of yoga pants and put on clothing outside of spandex.  With busy days working from home and continuously entertaining my 2 boys, I have limited times when putting on something cute is practical.

I also look forward to wearing more stylish clothing on vacation because this is a week I take more pictures with my kids than I do ALL year.  It’s my chance to take candid or Memory Maker photos to replace the older pictures around my house.

Some say, “It’s Disney, I’m going casual, no need for the ‘cute’ factor”.  But why can’t you be practical AND stylish?

~My top style choices~

  • Comfortable lightweight shorts: I love elastic waist shorts in various colors!  Pair them with a solid or patterned top for a fun outfit.  In Disney, we tend to eat more than usual, so having shorts that do not push on your belly is key.
  • Loose fitting tops: With the heat and the amount of food consumed {again}, loose clothing is comfier!  With tighter shirts, you may also deal with unwanted stickiness from Florida heat.   Loose tops are more breathable!
  • Flowy dresses: Flowy dresses in summer are great!  Dress it up or down to wear to the park or dinner.  Again, flowy = breathable and expandable for food consumption.
  • Rompers: Don’t like dresses?  Try a romper!  They’re easy to wear to the parks or dinner for a night.  Material is light and cool and I love that they aren’t tight…all good things, all good things. If you’re concerned about trying a romper, take a look below at this extremely easy & carefree outfit I put together. This makes for easy packing & cute pictures!Wear Cute & Practical Clothes at Disney!
  • Cute shoes: Ok…you may not want my advice on this one.  Because I hate hot/enclosed feet in the summer, I always wear sandals!  The last couple trips, I’ve worn flat strappy sandals with zero support.  I don’t recommend this, but if you’re like me, I’d save them for a nice dinner or night where you plan on doing little walking {because my feet ached!}. I love Clarks sandals for park days which offer great support {just be sure to break them in before you go}.
  • Safety Sweater: Disney restaurants are COLD, which is great in Florida heat, but with less clothing, it’s….brrrr!  I take a limited amount of sweater options since I’m only wearing them at restaurants or on a cool morning/night.  Take a jean jacket {goes with everything} and a black and a white cardigan.  These options are light and easy to throw in a park bag.
  • Capris: I tend to travel in warmer months, so pants/capris are not something I bring a lot of.  I prefer a looser pair of boyfriend capris for days I need something heavier.

Take a Look at Some of My Outfits!


 

These are my top clothing styles for my Disney trips.  The clothing is light and minimal which also makes packing easier!  With a few accessories to tie it together, it’s easy to complete your outfit.

Putting “real” clothes on for this mom of 2 is just ONE of the highlights of my vacation…it’s the little things in life.

Looking for more than just fashion advice? We’d love to help plan your dream Disney or Universal vacation! Contact a Me and The Mouse agent today to help take the stress away from your planning!

 

Megan Thompson

Travel Specialist

 

 

Leaky Cauldron - Universal StudiosIf you are like most Universal Orlando guests, you start your morning by running to the back of Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure to beat the crowds to see all of the Harry Potter attractions.  After some playing, you are bound to feel hungry.  Good news!  You can continue to feel the magic of the Wizarding World with meals and snacks inspired by the series.
On the Universal Studios side, immerse yourself in London, get all of your Wizarding supplies and grab a meal at the Leaky Cauldron.  This restaurant serves breakfast,  lunch and dinner in the setting of the famous pub right out of the movies.   I prefer to grab breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron just after my ride on the Escape From Gringotts and before heading over to Hogsmeade on the Hogwarts Express.  On the Islands of Adventure side, head over to Three Broomsticks from some traditional English fare.  The ordering stations are laid out to look just like you are checking in as a guest of this famous inn.  This restaurant does a fabulous job of immersing guests into the movie while they enjoy a tasty meal.

 

Do I need to make reservations?

Leaky Cauldron - Universal StudiosNo!  Both of these restaurants are considered counter service locations so simply decide when you want to eat, walk up and order.  Prices range from a reasonable $9.99-$16.99 or 1 counter service credit on the Universal Dining Plan.  Both of these restaurants are pretty busy all day, but don’t let a line deter you.  They move people very quickly and there is always room to sit.

 

Leaky Cauldron - Universal Studios

If you are having way too much fun to take time to sit and eat, but still want to experience some Harry Potter treats, there are plenty of options.  If Butterbeer is what you crave, there are plenty of Butterbeer carts in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley served regular, frozen or my personal favorite, Butterbeer ice cream.  If you want a more magical snack to take home as a souvenir, visit Honeydukes in Hogsmeade.  You can fill your own bag of Bertie Bott’s, take home some Butterbeer fudge or surprise your friends with some Exploding Bon Bons!

 

Leaky Cauldron - Universal StudiosUniversal does an excellent job of immersing guests in the magic of Harry Potter.  Eating like a wizard here is a magical experience for both adults and kids.

 

For more information about Universal or to book your vacation, please contact a Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist. We are highly trained in both Universal and Disney destinations, and we would love to assist you!

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist

Loews Royal Pacific at Universal Orlandoulie4Staying “on property” at Universal Orlando definitely has its perks, but what you might not expect is the high quality of their hotels.  I had the pleasure of staying at Loews Royal Pacific during my last visit and had one of my most enjoyable hotel stays to date in Orlando.

Loews Royal Pacific is a tropical, “South Pacific” themed resort just tenths of a mile away from the entrance of Islands of Adventure.  While you are just walking distance away from Universal Studios, you feel a surprising sense of peace and relaxation in this gorgeous resort hotel. Room types include water view and garden view rooms available with one king bed or two queens at 335 square feet as well as suites, including the popular Jurassic Park kids’ suites. Loews Royal Pacific at Universal OrlandoThese rooms provide an incredibly comfortable night’s rest so you are refreshed and ready for Early Entry to the Wizarding World the next day!

 

If you are looking for recreation and amenities, Royal Pacific offers some of the very best in the area.  The center piece of this resort is the huge lagoon-style pool with two hot tubs and an interactive water play area for little ones.  When you aren’t at the parks, you can take part in poolside activities such as ping pong, hula hoop contests, arts and crafts and poolside “Dive-In Movies” after dark.   If you aren’t too exhausted from enjoying your day in the parks, there is 5,000 square foot fitness center complimentary to guests.

 

Loews Royal Pacific at Universal Orlando

Another huge draw to this resort is the variety of shopping and dining located within the resort.  With two large Universal gift shops located within the hotel, all the souvenirs and items you may have left at home are at your fingertips.  You are also sure to never go hungry with a variety of restaurants located throughout the hotel.  Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, featuring Asian Fusion food, and Islands Dining Room for breakfast with some of my favorite Universal friends are some of the most enjoyable meals I have ever had in the Orlando area and are all very reasonably priced.

 

Loews Royal Pacific at Universal OrlandoWith any Universal Orlando resort stay, guests are treated to exclusive advantages to make the most of your time in the theme parks.  Guests can enjoy complimentary transportation to and from the parks and City Walk via boat, early entry into the Wizarding World and free Universal Express Pass for every member of your party.  Extras like these make this resort an excellent value that your whole family will be sure to enjoy!

 

To book a Universal package or hotel stay at Loews Royal Pacific, please contact your Me & the Mouse Travel Specialist.

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist

Experience this Deliciousness at Universal’s CityWalk

Toothsome Chocolate EmporiumLooking for a unique experience while visiting Orlando?  So was I – on Valentine’s Day while visiting my daughter. What comes to mind when you think of Valentine’s Day?  Perhaps flowers and candy?  Perhaps chocolate?  Yes, indeed.

The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen at Universal’s CityWalk is perfect for a Valentine’s Day celebration.  Let’s be honest – this place is perfect to visit any day of the year!  If I lived closer – I would be sure to visit frequently so I could try practically everything on the menu.

Toothsome Chocolate EmporiumThe Chocolate Emporium is a full service restaurant, bar and confectionary with a steam punk theme.  It is two stories with seating on both levels.  The menu offering is tremendous making it hard to choose just one item.  Their brunch menu is served all day featuring unique crepes, waffles, French toast and quiches.  Also served are soups and salads, sandwiches and burgers, flatbreads, pasta, and entrees such as steaks, pork chops and delicious chicken options as well. Unique milkshakes, sundaes and specialty desserts are offered to fulfill your sweet tooth. (Gluten Free options are available as well.)

Here are just a few of their unique offerings:  Black and Tan Onion Rings (Onion Rings with cocoa ranch dipping sauce.) – Pork Belly Sliders (Caramelized onions, mustard aioli, arugula, chocolate dipped bacon, pretzel bun)

What was on the menu for us you ask?

Toothsome Chocolate EmporiumFor starters, we began with their signature temptation of Warm Chocolate Almond Bread with Salted Carmel butter.  We continued our culinary journey with a ½ pound house-made hamburger patty, Colby andouile queso, cheddar cheese, grain mustard on a pretzel bun, and we upgraded our kettle chips to truffle fries.  Finally, we pondered how we wanted to finish our heavenly visit, and we decided to add a milkshake for dessert.   What did we choose?  The Salted Dulce De Leche {Salted Carmel ice cream, dulce de leche, salted pretzels, fresh whipped cream, and chocolate cigars.}

After all these choices, if you are still craving chocolate, visit the confectionary located on the lower level to enjoy later.  I give this Emporium two thumbs up.

 

See more pictures in the gallery below!

 

Trying to figure out your next Orlando vacation? Contact a Me and The Mouse agent today! We’re specialized in Disney, Universal, and much more! We’d love to help take the stress away from your vacation planning.

 

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist

 

Are you ready for some Muggle Magic?

Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one of the most immersive and impressive themed lands ever created.  It is no wonder that this area is very popular and always crowded.  In order to get the most out of the Wizarding World with the least amount of hassle, you must go in with a plan.  By following the steps below, you are sure to experience all that your Muggle heart desires without the aggravation of lines, crowds and excessive waiting.

 

Step 1 – Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Park 

Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Escape from Gringotts!

Congratulations!  You’ve been accepted into Hogwarts so now you must pick up all of your supplies.  Stepping into Diagon Alley is like stepping into the movie.  Never have I experienced such a feeling of being a part of the story.  You will want to spend some time here experiencing all of its beauty.  Do the attractions in the following order to get the most out of your time here:

  • Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts
  • Purchase your interactive wand from Ollivanders and if you are lucky, your wand will choose you!  Interact and cast spells all over Diagon Alley. (Read more about the Wand Ceremony, HERE!)
  • Grab breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron before catching the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade.

 

Step 2 – Arrive in Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure Park 

Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Hogsmeade

You’ve made it to Hogsmeade and now you are ready to become a wizard!  Stepping off the Hogwarts Express, pause and take it all in.  The snow-topped buildings with the awe-inspiring Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will be like heaven for muggles so make sure you get plenty of photos!  Explore Hogsmeade in the following order to make the most of your time:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Compete in the Triwizard tournament in Dragon Challenge (Use your Express Pass)
  • Hop on board a Hippogriff in Flight of the Hippogriff (Use your Express Pass)
  • Interact throughout Hogsmeade with your wand
  • Have lunch at Three Broomsticks (Learn more about Universal’s Dining Plan, HERE!)
  • Grab a Butterbeer from one of the carts: regular, frozen or ice cream. Wizarding World of Harry Potter

 

Other tips and tricks to make the most of your visit to the Wizarding World 

  • Stay at a Universal on-site hotel to get early entry into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  For an even more convenient experience, add Universal Express Pass to your tickets or Unlimited Express Pass free with your stay at one of the three premier Universal resort properties.
  • Make sure you have a Park-To-Park Ticket to be able to ride the Hogwarts Express between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not, you are sure to fall in love with this area of the Universal theme parks.  Take your time, tour with patience and enjoy your journey into this magical world. For more information or to book your Universal Orlando vacation, contact your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist.

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist

 

A Universal Orlando Character Dine Review

Character Dining at Universal If you want to see characters on your next Universal Orlando vacation, avoid the long lines for character meet and greets and enjoy breakfast with some of your favorite friends.  Often overlooked is the character breakfast at Islands Dining Room located at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. {Read more about this incredible resort, here.} This breakfast has wonderful character interaction and a wide variety of breakfast foods all for a great value.

Every Sunday morning Islands Dining Room comes alive with characters from The Simpsons, Despicable Me, Hop and more while guests enjoy an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet.  Each character visits your table for photos, autographs and meaningful interactions.  Unlike many other character meals, I found the character breakfast at Islands to be peaceful, low key and very relaxing. Character Dining at Universal

Included in the buffet are many breakfast favorites like scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, waffles, pastries and an omelet station.  While nothing on the buffet is particularly original, I felt the quality, variety and taste were all excellent.  There is truly something for everyone, even the pickiest eaters.

I also really enjoyed the environment and the feel of this restaurant.  Islands is a beautiful, tropically-themed restaurant with views of lush tropical plants and the and  South Pacific-inspired décor.  It is easy to kick back, relax and forget you are just walking distance from the hustle and bustle of City Walk, Universal Studios-Florida and Islands of Adventures. Character Dining at Universal

The character breakfast at Islands Dining Room is offered only on Sundays between 7am-12pm.  At $26.99 per adult and $14.99 per child, this is an excellent value for an all-you-can-eat character breakfast.   During the off season, it is fairly easy to walk up and be seated within 10 minutes, however, reservations are recommended.  To reserve your breakfast at Islands, please contact your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist.

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist

Holidays at UniversalWhen you think of Christmas in Orlando, most people immediately think of Cinderella’s Castle decked out in gorgeous lights or the giant gingerbread house on display at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.  Lesser known, but very impressive, are the celebrations and special events at Universal Studios.  With the Macy’s Holiday Parade, Grinchmas and the Manheim Steamroller live in concert, guests are sure to get in the holiday spirit.

During the month of December, the streets of Universal Studios come alive with the floats, balloons, bands and dancers of the Macy’s Holiday Parade.  The parade happens daily at 5pm on the Universal Studios side of the park, kicking off in the New York area.  Spectators will need to reserve a spot no later than 4pm.  The best place to view the parade is New York Street across from the Mummy attraction.  Holidays at Universal

The Manheim Steamroller concert is also a big draw to Universal Orlando during the Christmas Season.  This concert takes place exclusively on weekends at 7pm on Hollywood Street on the Universal Studios park side.  This concert lights up the street with classic Christmas music and stage effects sure to put you in the Christmas Spirit.  To view this concert, it is best to start finding seats no later than 5:30pm.

Holidays at UniversalAt Islands of Adventure, Seuss fans can enjoy the story of Grinchmas.  Located near Circus McGurks, this indoor show blends acting, music and other theatrical elements to tell the story of the beloved Grinch.  The show takes place 6-8 times daily during the holiday season.

 

 

Holidays at UniversalEach of these special holiday events are free with park admissions.  For more information, or to book a Universal holiday vacation, please contact your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist.

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist

Want to make your Harry Potter trip a little more magical?

If you are a Harry Potter fan, you may already have your favorite Hogwart’s house picked out. To add to the fun of your visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, I recommend visiting the official site for J.K. Rowling before you arrive at the park (or while standing in line to get in!)  You can learn all about Harry Potter, Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and even get sorted into one of the four Hogwart’s houses!

Let’s get started!

  • Start the fun at www.pottermore.com and select “Begin Your Journey.”
  • If you are viewing the site on your computer, select “Sorting” at the top right. If you are on your smartphone, there is a drop down menu in the upper left corner.
  • You must provide your birth month and year.
    {Important to note: guests must be at least 13 years old to register.}
  • You will need a separate email address for each member of your family to register.
  • Once you complete the registration, jump back to the Sorting area and scroll to “Join Your Hogwart’s House.” Select “Be Sorted and Discover Your House.” Answer all the questions in the Sorting Ceremony (making sure to scroll to view all the possible responses) until you complete each question and are finally “sorted” into your house. Harry Potter Sorting

For true Harry Potter fans, you can also be sorted to reveal your Patronus (an animal that possesses characteristics from your own personality) as well as to select your wand.

Now that you have your house colors, go explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with confidence!


I will tell you that my family got ourselves “sorted” before our first adventure into the world of Harry Potter. For us, it made the visit more magical and fun, especially for my daughter. She was able to pick out a Hufflepuff scarf and a wand, and it definitely was more exciting for her knowing where she “belonged!”

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

* Pottermore.com is not affiliated with Universal Studios, but it is the official site for J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter stories

Let’s face it, packing your luggage for a vacation can be absolutely overwhelming! However, don’t forget to pack your day bag- it’s just as important!

Here are few ideas for what to pack and also how to keep your bag safe while at the parks.

Most of my clients, including myself, carry a backpack to the parks.  It’s handy and has lots of pockets for easy accessibility for things like water, sunscreen, etc.  It’s nice that you can throw it over both shoulders to balance out the weight.  Keep in mind, that security will be looking through your back… including all of the pockets which could slow down your entrance time into the parks!

Disney allows you to bring your bags on all the rides.  At Universal, they offer free lockers that you can store your bag while riding.What to pack in your day bag!

 

Here’s a detailed list of what I pack for the parks:

  • Poncho  (to wear when it rains and on the wet rides)
  • Small umbrella
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip Balm
  • First-Aid Supplies
  • Hats
  • Wet wipes
  • Tissues
  • Cell phone
  • Extra battery charger
  • Bottled water
  • Camera
  • Snacks
  • Gum
  • Glow sticks
  • Magic Bands
  • Autograph book and click pen
  • Extra socks (in case they get wet from the rides)
  • Extra Cash or Credit Card

 

Any questions?  Please contact a Me and The Mouse agent help you plan your next Disney vacation and we’ll help you get your bags ready!

Elizabeth Hollman

Travel Specialist